Three years ago at about this time, the Green Bay Packers were coming off a Super Bowl victory and embarking on a landmark season. They’d eventually become only the sixth team in NFL history to win 15 or more regular-season games. And while Green Bay’s campaign ended on a sour note, with an upset loss to the New York Giants in the divisional playoffs, the Packers had already won Super Bowl XLV with their current core of players (including the ever-coveted elite quarterback in Aaron Rodgers) and seemed poised to contend for even more over the next five to 10 years.But since the end of the 2011 regular season, the Packers have won 21 games, lost 17 and tied once (including the postseason), a record that would be a toss-up to make the playoffs most years. They went through a seven-game stretch without Rodgers last season, during which the team went 2-4-1. But even with Rodgers at the helm over the past three seasons, the Packers have won just 19 of his 31 starts — only good for about 9.8 wins per 16 games. That includes a 1-2 start to current season and the 19-7 egg they laid Sunday against the Detroit Lions.So, what happened? The Packers had used a historically great passing game to paper over other weaknesses. But Green Bay’s passing game hasn’t been elite this season. The luster is gone.The Lions have shown all the earmarks of a good defense in the early going this season, but it’s hard to imagine an offensive group as talented as the Packers mustering just 147 net passing yards and a measly 223 total yards against Detroit. The Lions combined outstanding run defense (Green Bay’s rushing plays cost them a staggering 10.37 expected points, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com) with opportunistic pass-rushing (they only pressured Rodgers five times per Pro Football Focus’s numbers but had two drive-killing third-down sacks). Detroit also limited Green Bay “explosives” (none of their 51 plays gained more than 18 yards), holding the once-vaunted Packers’ offense to a single touchdown.Even when Green Bay was at their best in 2011, they relied heavily on Rodgers and the passing game. The Packers posted the league’s top record and second-best point differential despite a defense that allowed the most passing yards in NFL history and a running game that was little better than average on a per-play basis. Rodgers earned MVP honors by spearheading the league’s best aerial attack in a season that rewrote the passing sections of the NFL record book.According to a Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) score I created based on Pro Football Focus’s player grades, Rodgers accounted for a larger proportion of his team’s total value than any of the other popular MVP candidates in 2011.But this year, Green Bay is scoring only 18 points per game, and Rodgers ranks just 18th among qualified quarterbacks in adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) thus far. Granted, that number has come against an above-average slate of pass defenses — headlined by the Legion of Boom opening night — but he’s still only 10th in the league if we use the ANY/A allowed by each opponent last year to set up an expected level of performance in each game.Rodgers’s completion percentage is down — despite settling for shorter completions than in the past — and he’s also taking more sacks. But it’s not all the QB’s fault. In 2011, he had a pair of very good wide receivers in Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson; this year, Nelson has been tremendous and that’s about it. Randall Cobb, the Packers’ fourth wideout last year (by targets), has been pressed into No. 2 duty. The results haven’t been great. In PFF’s estimation, Nelson and tight end Andrew Quarless have been Rodgers’s only above-average targets so far.And the Packers’ running game has provided even less support than usual, ranking 29th in the NFL if we sum and normalize their PFF rushing and run-blocking grades. You don’t need fancy stats to see they’re also averaging 3.6 yards per carry, despite running an array of draws and delays in an attempt to capitalize on the respect afforded Rodgers and the passing game.It’s still quite early to definitively boot the Packers out of the Super Bowl contender pool, but their Elo rating (1481) is below the league-average of 1,500 — the lowest it’s been since losing to a formerly winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad in Week 9 of the 2009 season. Rodgers and company rallied from that loss to win seven of their next eight games to close out the regular season, but it remains to be seen whether this Packers team has a similar recovery in it.
The NFL has suspended New York Giants‘ Will Hill for four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. This is the safety’s second drug suspension in two just years.Last year, Hill fought to make the Giants team after going undrafted, yet only played 12 games. Halfway through the season, he tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug Adderall and was suspended four games for the violation.Hill will sit out the first four games of the Giants’ season, however, he can still participate in training camp and all preseason games. He will be eligible to return Monday, Sept. 30.Hill commented on his suspension last year saying, “I accept full responsibility for this situation, and it won’t happen again.”Really?
Serena Williams reacts after defeating her sister Venus during their women’s singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Serena Williams says she was taking a personal photo of her progressing pregnancy on Snapchat when she accidentally pressed the wrong button and made the post public.The photo of the tennis superstar in a one-piece bathing suit was captioned “20 weeks.” Despite the lack of information, it immediately made headlines around the world last week. Her publicist later confirmed the pregnancy to The Associated Press.Williams told Gayle King at the TED2017 Conference in Vancouver on Tuesday night that the mishap wasn’t a big deal because she planned to share the news shortly.Williams says she plans to return to the court after becoming a mom, adding, “My baby is going to be in the stands, hopefully cheering for me and not crying too much.” read more
Jemele Hill (Photo by John Salangsang/Invision/AP, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is calling on ESPN to apologize days after one of the sports network’s anchor Jemele Hill tweeted that he was a “white supremacist” and “bigot.”ESPN said Thursday it had accepted the apology of its “SportsCenter” host Jemele Hill for her tweets about Trump Monday. Hill said Thursday she was sorry for causing her employer trouble.ESPN has repeatedly said Hill’s comments don’t reflect the view of the network. But that apparently hasn’t satisfied Trump. He demanded on Twitter early Friday that ESPN “Apologize for untruth!”The president also took a shot at falling ESPN subscriber numbers, writing: “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers.”The network didn’t immediately issue a response to the president’s comments Friday. read more
A tough third-round matchup. Pittsburgh, despite a No. 9 seed, was a reasonably clear favorite against No. 8-seeded Colorado on Thursday, according to our model. And the Panthers dominated the Buffaloes, pulling ahead 46-18 by halftime and eventually winning by 29 points. Computer systems like Ken Pomeroy’s regard Pittsburgh as having the strength of a typical No. 4 or No. 5 seed. This could be a challenging matchup for Florida. The Gators played a tough out-of-conference schedule, but they’ve faced just two ranked teams since Jan. 1 in a weak basketball year for the SEC. Which NCAA team had the worst day on Thursday? The obvious answer might be Ohio State, Cincinnati or Oklahoma, all of which succumbed to lower-ranked teams in the basketball tournament’s round of 64. Or perhaps North Carolina State, which squandered a 16-point lead against Saint Louis and lost in overtime.But none of those teams had much chance of winning the championship. Meanwhile, Florida, a tournament favorite, ended Thursday in a worse position than it started, despite winning its opening game against Albany. (Of course, Ohio State would still probably trade places with the Gators.)In the latest FiveThirtyEight forecast, updated with game results and injury information as of early Friday morning, Florida’s probability of winning the tournament is 11 percent. Twenty-four hours ago, it was 14.5 percent.How did the Gators’ odds get worse? There are three contributing factors:A closer-than-expected game against Albany. Florida defeated No. 16 seed Albany by 12 points, a final score that conceals a game that was competitive until late in the second half. But the Gators were favored by 22 to 23 points according to Las Vegas sportsbooks and power ratings. Our research suggests that performance relative to power ratings and point spreads early in the tournament has a fair amount of say in predicting how a team fares later on. Florida’s performance was forgivable, and the team remains the favorite in the South region, but the Gators will need to be sharper as the competition improves. Threats in the regional finals. The South may not be as loaded as the East or the Midwest. But the No. 3-seeded team, Syracuse, turned in an excellent performance in its win against Western Michigan. The Gators will likely have to defeat either the Orange or No. 2-seeded Kansas to reach the Final Four. Meanwhile, Kansas coach Bill Self sounds increasingly confident that injured center Joel Embiid will be able to return at some point in the tournament, even as he confirmed that Embiid is likely out for the opening weekend. read more
We won’t be able to fully assess the quality of this year’s NFL draft class until all the players retire. But we can be pretty sure their success will depend on more than innate ability. One important factor will be something they have little control over: The more success produced by a draft’s immediate predecessor and successor, the less value that draft is likely to produce.It’s a surprising finding. Normally we’d expect talent to be roughly equally distributed each draft, with some fluctuations. The draft process isn’t entirely random: College players can leave school early. But that should smooth any fluctuations, because the draft is, after all, an efficient market, so rational players should time their exit for when they’ll have the least competition from their peers.And yet, total value from a single draft depends on the year before and the year after.Two explanations strike me as most plausible.The first is that the total talent entering the draft each year does oscillate. That could happen because a particularly strong college class will get a disproportionate share of playing time and coaching, leaving surrounding classes weaker.The second possible explanation is that NFL teams can only play 11 men at a time; being surrounded by other young athletes getting a lot of playing time makes it harder for rookies to get on the field. That suggests that the underperforming draft class’s sin isn’t being less talented, but having bad timing, and therefore less opportunity.I think one of these two explanations is more likely than the other. But before I explain why, here’s what I did:I downloaded the data for every draft from 1970 — the year the AFL and NFL merged — to 2013 from Pro-Football-Reference. For each drafted player, each year, the website lists his career contribution to team success. Its unit of measure is the player’s approximate value (AV), an all-encompassing estimate of a player’s usefulness, for all positions. For its draft pages, PFR doesn’t use a simple sum of AV, but instead an alternative measure that takes into account a player’s overall career contribution and his peak value. (100 percent of his best single-season AV, plus 95 percent of his second-best season total, and so on.)To compare adjacent draft classes’ total AV, I had to account for the varying number of draft picks in a given season: as low as 222 in 1994, as many as 487 in 1976. For each pair of adjacent drafts, I chose the lower of the pair’s number of picks, n, and summed the AV of the players selected in the first n picks, for each draft. I then restricted the analysis to the period 1970 to 2002, because many of the players for subsequent seasons remain active, which could affect the year-to-year correlations. Then I checked the correlation of one draft class’s total value to the total value of the preceding and subsequent drafts. Each correlation was -0.54. The negative sign means the higher one class’s value, the lower the preceding year’s and following year’s. And the correlation was even more strongly negative between the value of one year and the average of the value for the year before and after: -0.7.The most extreme fluctuation, as Brady Butterfield noted this week on his blog, was from 1982 to 1983. The 1983 class, which included six Hall of Famers in the first round, produced 53 percent more AV than the year before. It also produced 36 percent more AV than the 1984 class.I then performed similar checks of offensive stats to see whether they hinted at the reason for the negative correlation. I wanted to check whether the effect was due to opportunity or performance. Counting stats represent opportunity: If players are getting on the field more, they’ll put up better numbers and higher AV totals, on average. Rate stats represent quality of performance: The more a player does with his opportunities, the better his rate stats and higher his AV totals.What I found is that opportunity was the chief driver of the results. Counting stats exhibited the same sort of negative correlation from year to year, especially for quarterbacks: For completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns, the higher the numbers the classes before and after compiled in their career, the lower the numbers that year’s class racked up, with a correlation for each of about -0.4. Yet for rate stats, the opposite effect held: The higher completion percentage and passer rating were for neighboring years, the higher it was for that year’s draft class, with a correlation for each of about 0.5. Quarterbacks surrounded by draft classes with lots of QBs who got a lot of playing time got to play less, but when they did, they were better. That suggested they had to do better to even get the chance to play.Opportunity matters in sports, as in other walks of life. General managers are inclined to give top draft picks playing time in the hope they’ll justify the pick. The careers of Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell demonstrate this phenomenon on a micro level. The macro-level data tells the same story. read more
There’s a bit of a schism in sports fandom. On one side there are those who want more and more statistical analysis (Hi, everybody!); on the other there are those who think stats are overused and blanch at how sabermetrics and analytics have changed what it means to be a good fan.But I have a theory about this latter group: In general, they’re not really anti-stats. Virtually every argument about sports on TV or online is made using stats of one sort or another.1My wife, who is not a sports fan herself, describes “Pardon The Interruption” as “a bunch of guys shouting numbers at each other until a bell rings.” A typical exchange between talking heads includes one guy emphasizing one set of stats (“He throws a lot of touchdowns!”), which is then countered by another (“But he throws too many interceptions!”). Almost no sports fans are truly anti-stats, they’re just anti-complicated, hard-to-understand stats.And to some extent, they’re right. Over-reliance on advanced metrics can lose the forest for the trees, and vice versa. But, ideally, good stats aren’t meant to eradicate classic storylines or debates, but to lend context to them (and hopefully to shed new light on difficult questions along the way). As usual, let me illustrate with an example using Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers.The Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers each played the Buffalo Bills in Weeks 14 and 15 of this season, respectively. In both games, the MVP-candidate QBs “struggled” statistically. This shouldn’t be a total surprise: Despite having games against Manning, Rodgers and Tom Brady, Buffalo has had arguably the best defense in the NFL this year (judging by expected points denied per play).But Rodgers’s and Manning’s stats seemed particularly bad. Each threw two interceptions, no TDs and fewer than 200 yards. Manning’s 51-game TD streak ended, and Rodgers threw just his fourth and fifth INTs of the season.The media wasn’t kind to either quarterback, but much of it was particularly brutal to Manning. Here’s the Colorado NBC affiliate: “Denver wins despite Manning’s worst game as a Bronco.” Meanwhile, a number of stories about Green Bay’s loss emphasized Rodgers’s lack of interceptions this year or the fact that his receivers dropped or tipped some key passes.But not all no-TD, two-INT, 180-yard games are created equal. For example, Manning’s two interceptions were pretty “good” as far as interceptions go: the first was 42 yards downfield (which is practically a punt), and the other was 18 yards downfield on a third-and-12 — with the Broncos up 21-3. In general, it’s a bad idea to judge a QB who throws a small number of passes in a game his team led wire to wire.Besides, touchdowns and interceptions can be fickle: For example, sometimes a significant part of QB efficiency can be accounted for by whether his team likes to run or pass on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. But a QB often has just as much of an effect on his team’s ability to run the ball as he does on its ability to throw it. (If all teams played optimally, game theory suggests he should affect them about equally, because opposing defenses should adapt to a stronger passing game by devoting more resources to it.)With some exceptions, it generally makes more sense to judge a QB by the outcomes of his team’s offensive drives. From this perspective, the difference between Manning vs. Buffalo and Rodgers vs. Buffalo was pretty stark. Here are the outcomes of each player’s drives by situation:Denver started out its game against Buffalo with a punt, then scored TDs on three of its next five drives (also, one of those drives ended in field goal range after Jacob Tamme fumbled a completed catch). Up 18 points in the second half, its offense stalled, particularly as it attempted to run more. But even counting those possessions, 10 (non-end-of-game) drives were turned into three TDs and one field goal. This may have been a bit of an off day for Peyton Manning, but that’s a good day for most QBs. Denver’s 2.18 points per drive was only slightly below its season average of 2.33, and was better than 24 teams have averaged in 2014. Green Bay’s offense, on the other hand, started out cold (punting on three of its first four drives), and basically stayed that way — ultimately scoring only 13 points on 13 drives.The point here isn’t to knock Rodgers or Green Bay. The Rodgers-led offense still leads the league with 2.7 points per drive this year, and with his TD/INT ratio (so beloved by media everywhere) still a league-best 7/1, Rodgers is still probably the MVP frontrunner. But we should understand the limitations of first-order stats that people are shouting about, and how they can be deceptive. What context do they include, and what do they ignore?Chart of the weekThe Seattle Seahawks’ defense has its own deceptive stats. The defending champions are in an odd spot. If the playoffs started today, the 10-4 Seahawks would play a wildcard game on the road against the 6-8 New Orleans Saints. And depending how the next two weeks go, they could easily end up as the top seed in the NFC, or out of the playoffs entirely.Two weeks ago, I introduced some “scoring curves,” and showed how Seattle’s defense (with the team 8-4 at the time) flirted with league average in many situations (such as when its opponent has a long way to go for a touchdown). Many readers expressed skepticism, particularly because Seattle has the best defense in the NFL by the old “yards allowed” metric, and is among the league leaders in points allowed per game (as well as yards per play against).I partially agree: I find it very unlikely that Seattle’s defense is average or below average. And I’m tempted to go further and say that it’s unlikely this defense is much worse than last year’s squad. But the stats show the defense has had a pretty huge regression to the mean in measurable defensive outcomes.To show just how much these kinds of things vary from season to season, I’ve plotted each team’s expected points allowed per play on offense vs. expected points allowed per play on defense, and then shown how this year’s iterations compare with last year’s:Seattle has had a pretty big decline on the defensive side, but this is to be expected: Last year’s results were a big outlier, and outliers are more likely to regress toward the mean. For example, Denver’s incredible 2013 offense declined similarly. Both remain among the top tier of teams for each respective side, but are much closer to the pack than they were last year.Once again, the context here is important, and this time for either side of the advanced-stats debate: Simply looking at basic defensive stats and saying that everything is fine with the Seahawks’ D misses a dramatic decline. But simply looking at the magnitude of the decline without considering the context would overvalue its importance.Twitter question of the week Like many counterfactuals, this is not an easy question to answer definitively, since having a kicker who is automatic from long range might have all kinds of ripple effects on the game that we can’t really foresee.(Although unlike many counterfactuals, it’s not a completely crazy idea: Thinking about a kicker who can usually nail it from 70 yards seems ridiculous to us now, but NFL kickers have steadily gotten better for at least 80 years, and they haven’t slowed down yet. In the 1960s, kickers made 13 of 129 kicks — 10.1 percent — from 50+ yards. In the past five years alone, NFL kickers have made 422 of 675 such attempts — for 62.5 percent. Since 2010, kickers have even made seven of 31 tries from 60+ yards — 22.5 percent.)If we simply replaced all a kicker’s misses with makes, an “automatic” kicker wouldn’t be worth much more than the worst kicker in the league. There’d be a few salvaged points here and there, but nothing major (kickers these days just don’t miss that often).But the real fun starts when we think about how a team would use a truly “automatic” kicker differently.To simplify the question, let’s assume the kicker makes 100 percent of his kicks instead of 95 percent — he’s “RoboKicker.” Using ESPN’s expected points model, we can identify all situations where a team would definitely want to make a FG attempt on fourth down if it knew it could automatically earn three points. A made kick is actually worth slightly less than that because the kicking team has to give up possession whether it makes the kick or not, but we’ll charitably give it full credit.2The actual value is probably somewhere around 2.6 points, but I think the charitable number is appropriate since the kicker is likely to be at least moderately more valuable strategically. So if a team is in RoboKicker’s range, it should want to attempt a field goal any time it’s fourth down and the expected value of its possession is less than three points. The value it gains from having that option is the difference between the two, and the kicker’s total value added is the sum of all those differences.This plot shows how much RoboKicker would be worth for an average team (since 2006) in expected points added per game, based on his range:This assumes the kicker would be just a normal kicker from longer distances than the one he’s automatic from, though if he was automatic from 50 yards he would probably be pretty good from 60,3Though if he were actually a robot, this may not be the case, as he would probably make about the same kick every time. which would carry additional value. But this is a fair first-order guess.The second wrinkle to @MattGlassman312’s question is its bit about RoboKicker being a No. 1 pick or an MVP. To answer that, we have to start to answer how valuable a No. 1 pick or an MVP is.Let’s use Peyton Manning as our stand-in for “best player in the league,” which helps us to answer at least the spirit of the question. When Manning was injured, the Indianapolis Colts’ average margin of victory dropped by 14.6 points per game (though this may have been in part because they were tanking so that they could draft Andrew Luck). And when Manning joined Denver, the Broncos’ average MOV rose by 17.1 points per game. But let’s assume that those years were outliers and assume that a typical MVP is worth about 10 points per game. To surpass that, RoboKicker would need to be able to hit from around 80 yards. (I confess, this is further out than I would have guessed.) Then, considering that even No. 1 picks have only about a 50 percent to 60 percent shot of ever making a Pro Bowl — much less of being MVP — I’d say being automatic from 50 to 60 yards would probably be sufficient to be worth the top pick in the draft most years.The Hacker Gods read FiveThirtyEight (or just love Andrew Luck)Last week’s games had a few outcomes consistent with this column’s most frequently asserted stereotypes. Most intriguingly, we saw win curve standout and two-time Gunslinger of the Week winner Andrew Luck4He won in Week 1 and again in Week 14 — you don’t remember? digging his own hole by throwing an early pick-6 that put the Colts down 7-0, and then climbing out of it to come back and win against the Houston Texans. This follows a similar Week 14 victory against the Cleveland Browns, when Luck was down 14 points in the second half after an early pick-6 (and a third-quarter fumble-6).If you’ve been reading Skeptical Football, you’ll know I’m generally pro-interception (at least certain kinds) — but as an indirect indicator of taking good risks. Normally, a quarterback will lose the games in which he throws interceptions. But so far in his young career, it seems like Luck has an uncanny talent for winning and throwing INTs in the same game. So, naturally, that got me wondering how these results compare to Peyton Manning’s and those of all other quarterbacks (since 2006):Luck shows a similar propensity for winning as his predecessor in Indianapolis, regardless of scenario. But the big caveat is that interceptions are often a function of losing as well as a cause of it. Generally this is because QBs make rational risk adjustments that lead to more interceptions when they’re behind.5There is also a smaller opposite effect, which is that QBs sometimes throw slightly more interceptions than expected in games they’re winning by wide margins, presumably because teams start playing a basic offensive set in blowouts rather than taking the extraordinary risk-avoidance measures they do to protect smaller leads. (Weird things happen in the NFL.) So to isolate the situations we’re most interested in, I limited the comparison to the number of interceptions thrown while the QB’s team was trailing (including only games in which the QB’s team trailed at some point):This is, of course, a small sample for Luck: He has two wins in the six games in which he threw two trailing INTs, and two wins in the five games he threw three. But those four wins in 11 games (36.4 percent success rate) are already more than Manning. Since 2006, Manning has just three wins in 24 games (12.5 percent) in which he threw two or more trailing interceptions, and all QBs since 2006 have only 56 wins in 1,025 such games (5.5 percent).Naturally, this relates back to my gunslinger hypothesis (that a quarterback can throw too few interceptions as well as too many). Andrew Luck is an example of someone who throws more interceptions than usual when his team is down, but wins more often. Overall, Luck has thrown one or more INT in 55.9 percent of games (19 of 34) in which he trailed and has won 52.9 percent of them (18 of 34). Other QBs have thrown one or more INT in 49.3 percent of games where they trailed, winning only 42.3 percent.You can continue like this for more drastic circumstances (more likely to require heavy risk-taking): Of the 19 games where Luck threw 1+ trailing INT, he threw 2+ in 57.9 percent (11 of 19) and won 36.8 percent (7 of 19). Other QBs have thrown an additional INT in 38.0 percent of such games and won only 16.3 percent (439 of 2,697).6And, if you need more: Of the 11 games in which Luck threw 2+ trailing INTs, he threw 3+ in 45.5 percent (5 of 11) and won 36.4 percent (4 of 11). Other QBs threw an additional INT in 30.3 percent of such games, and won only 5.5 percent.In other words, Andrew Luck is to gunslinging what Aaron Rodgers is to gunholstering.7However, for all that sound and fury about Luck, the actual Week 15 gunslinger winner was Mark Sanchez, who had two trailing interceptions for Philadelphia (in the third and fourth quarters), yet managed to take the lead (albeit briefly) in a game where the Eagles once trailed 21-0.Bonus chart of the weekAfter making the “team movement between 2013 and 2014” chart earlier, I thought it would be interesting to see how each team’s offensive and defensive performance has varied over the past five years. For this chart, I plotted expected points added per drive on offense and expected points denied per drive on defense for each of the last five years, and then connected them so you can see how each team has changed. Some teams have much tighter “shot groups” (Cleveland, New England) than others (Chicago, New York Giants), but I’ll leave you to look for yourself:Reminder: If you tweet questions to me @skepticalsports, there is a non-zero chance that I’ll answer them here.Charts by Reuben Fischer-Baum. read more
WAR in table is a meta-metric that averages together several different versions of the statistic. Numbers accurate as of Friday morning.Source: TheBaseballgauge.com 5Joey Votto1BCIN54.366.695 18Carlos CorreaSSHOU14.467.056 12Buster PoseyCSF36.557.878 7Mike TroutCFLAA50.970.393 1Albert Pujols1BLAA100.666.6100% 4Robinson Cano2BSEA65.169.098 15Nolan Arenado3BCOL23.566.464 RKPLAYERPOSTEAMCAREERPOSITION HOF AVGHOF PROB. 16Jose Altuve2BHOU25.069.060 19Mookie BettsRFBOS18.771.255 8Chris SaleSPBOS36.269.883 24Kenley JansenRPLAD17.237.445 20Anthony Rizzo1BCHC26.066.655 11Manny Machado3BBAL27.566.480 22Bryce HarperRFWAS25.071.247 13Kris Bryant3BCHC18.766.473 WAR Hall voters probably won’t be looking only at WAR, which does help Verlander’s case. According to the more conventional indicators included in James’s Black Ink and Hall of Fame Monitor tests (which give more weight to peak performance), Verlander clears the traditional marks necessary for HOF inclusion. But he falls short in the Gray Ink and Hall of Fame Standards tests, which give more weight to long, consistent careers — underscoring just how much Verlander’s Cooperstown case swings depending on which factors you look at.Verlander’s postseason stats complicate his legacy even further. He’s no stranger to late-October baseball. He led the Tigers on two World Series runs, in 2006 and 2012, but both trips ended abruptly. Verlander was on the losing end of three of the nine games in those series. Aside from dominating sprints through the AL playoffs in 2012 and 2013 (in which he posted a microscopic 0.57 ERA2Weighted by innings pitched in each series.), Verlander has a 6.00 ERA in the rest of the postseason.3Also weighted by innings. So he has run both extremely hot and extremely cold in his playoff career.But the good news for Verlander is that the Astros will provide him with an opportunity to redeem those up-and-down postseason numbers. Houston has a world-beating offense, and one of its only weaknesses was a rotation that had enjoyed little health and even less consistency throughout most of the season. All due respect to Dallas Keuchel, who has been shaky since returning from injury — but with Verlander, the Astros have picked up a bona fide ace who can anchor the team multiple times in a series and let the big bats go to work.What makes this trade particularly rare is that players of Verlander’s reputation don’t tend to change addresses midseason, especially not while still producing strong numbers. Out of 1,608 regular-season trades listed on The Baseball Gauge since 1988, only 107 involve a marquee player as accomplished (by wins above replacement4Once again, using The Baseball Gauge’s meta-metric for WAR.) as Verlander. Swaps involving pitchers are rarer still, and once you consider that the Tigers ace still figures to produce 0.7 WAR over the rest of the season, only 30 trades are comparable to this one.This isn’t the first time that the Astros have picked up Hall of Fame-caliber pitching talent for the stretch run. In 1998, Houston swapped a trio of young players with the Seattle Mariners for Randy Johnson. Johnson performed admirably as the Astros clinched the division, but Houston lost to the Padres in the NLDS. Johnson would finally get his first (and only) World Series appearance three years later with Arizona.But the Johnson trade happened at the deadline, while the Verlander deal happened in August, which made this transaction even more unusual. Only 23 players who have been traded as the main piece after the deadline had as much total career value as Verlander; only six were pitchers. Even within that already small pool, half of the players made only minimal contributions to their new teams after the trade.Given Verlander’s strong performance already this year and Houston’s need atop its rotation, it seems a good bet that Verlander will make much more than a “minimal contribution.” For the sake of both parties’ long-term legacies, they’d better hope so. 6Clayton KershawSPLAD57.769.894 14Evan Longoria3BTB50.366.472 It was the trade that almost wasn’t (but then was). Just as talks between the Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers over ace pitcher Justin Verlander looked like they were breaking down Thursday, news broke overnight that the two clubs had agreed to terms — Verlander would be headed to Houston after all, as part of a deal that also included cash and prospects.This is a huge move for the Astros, who needed rotation help ahead of the playoffs. But it might prove to be a big turning point in Verlander’s career, too. Although Verlander has built an impressive résumé in 13 big league seasons, he might not be on a Hall of Fame track quite yet. So what he ends up adding to Houston’s postseason push this season might have an outsize effect on his eventual case for Cooperstown.Verlander is one of the best pitchers of his generation, of course. He has the fourth-most wins of any active pitcher and the third-most strikeouts. He’s one of only 22 pitchers to win an MVP award, and when he took home the honor in 2011, he was the first in nearly two decades to do it. But according to the advanced metrics — which are taking on more importance in the Hall of Fame voting process with each passing year — Verlander probably still has some work to do before locking down his status as a future Hall member.According to The Baseball Gauge’s wins above replacement meta-metric,1Which averages aspects of the WAR versions found at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, in addition to Baseball Gauge’s own WAR metric. Verlander currently has 53.8 career WAR. The average starting pitcher in Cooperstown has 69.8, so the 34-year-old Verlander would need to tack 16 more WAR onto his lifetime total to reach the typical HOF level. Using a variant of Bill James’s “favorite toy” (which estimates a player’s chances of hitting a statistical milestone given his age and recent track record of production), The Baseball Gauge gives Verlander about a 47 percent chance of putting up the WAR necessary to hit the HOF average. That puts Verlander in a tie for 22nd-highest among active players (and trails fellow pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Chris Sale and Max Scherzer) in Hall of Fame probability: 3Miguel Cabrera1BDET66.466.6100 25Andrelton SimmonsSSLAA23.967.037 21Giancarlo StantonRFMIA34.471.253 2Adrian Beltre3BTEX80.966.4100 23Justin VerlanderSPDET53.869.847 10Paul Goldschmidt1BARI35.066.680 9Zack GreinkeSPARI55.669.881 Verlander’s Hall of Fame chances could use some helpFor active players, probability of matching the average career wins above replacement (WAR) for a Hall of Famer at the same position 17Max ScherzerSPWAS43.069.858 read more
Starters from the Ohio State and Purdue women’s volleyball teams greeteach other prior to their match at St. John Arena on Friday, Oct. 27 in Columbus, Ohio.Purdue won the match 3-0. Credit: Jeff Helfrich | Lantern ReporterOhio State senior outside hitters Ashley Wenz and Luisa Schirmer led their team with 13 and 10 kills, respectively, en route to the Buckeyes’ 3-0 victory at Rutgers Wednesday night.The Buckeyes are now 14-12 overall and 7-8 in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights drop to 5-22 and 0-15 in conference play.The first set was the closest for the two teams. The Scarlet Knights picked up the lead within the first couple points before tying six times with the Buckeyes. Ohio State quickly regained its momentum with a kill by Wenz and a block by sophomore middle blocker Madison Smeathers and freshman setter Becca Mauer. Although Rutgers trailed closely, the Buckeyes won the set 25-21.Once again the Scarlet Knights took the lead in the second set, but it wasn’t long before the Buckeyes turned it around with two consecutive aces from Schirmer. Ohio State buried 10 kills and registered two blocks in a 25-12 victory.Ohio State dispelled any chance of a comeback with a 7-0 run to open the would-be final set. Although the Scarlet Knights put away eight kills and a block, it was not enough to catch up to the Buckeyes and freshman outside hitter Ayanna Swan, who recorded four kills in Ohio State’s 25-17 third-set win to seal the match.Ohio State’s victory against Rutgers marked the 400th win of head coach Geoff Carlston’s 18-year career. He has been at the helm of the Buckeyes for 10 seasons.The Buckeyes continue their season at 9 p.m. Saturday in Iowa City, Iowa, against Iowa. read more
Former West Virginia quarterback Chris Chugunov will transfer to Ohio State according to a report from Allan Taylor of The Dominion Post. Taylor also reported that the Skillman, New Jersey, native will be on scholarship for the Buckeyes. Ohio State currently has 85 players on its roster for the upcoming season. However, Chugunov has not enrolled at at the university yet, according to the report. A former three-star pro-style quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class, Chugunov has completed 12 of 21 career passes for the Mountaineers in two seasons, throwing one touchdown and one interception in four games played. Chugunov announced his intention to transfer on March 2, releasing a statement on Twitter. After graduating from West Virginia in May, he would have two remaining years of eligibility as a graduate transfer. Ohio State declined to comment for this story. read more