First, some housecleaning stuff.
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ESPN the Magazine's Bruce Feldman is a positive-thinking kind of guy. He's the kind of guy you'd hate to be caught in a collapsed mine tunnel with. He'd annoy the shit out of you with his optimism. How do I know? Because I just read what he has to say about the 2008 chances for several college football teams who ended 2007 somewhere between "they were a disappointment" bad and "alums are burning their diplomas in response to this performance" awful.
I think the Panthers' patience with Dave Wannstedt will pay off with a return to the Top 25 next season and maybe even a Big East title.
This is so blindly optimistic, I don't even know how to address it. Let's briefly review Wanny's coaching career W-L numbers.
1993-1998, Chicago Bears: 41-57
2000-2004, Miami Dolphins: 44-27 (good), 1 playoff win (bad)
NFL total: 86-84
2005, Pitt: 5-6
2006, Pitt: 6-6, no bowl
2007, Pitt: 5-7
Total so far with Pitt: 16-19
Career total: 102-103
It's especially worth noting that the Pitt team he inherited was fresh off a 2004 Big East championship and subsequent BCS appearance. It's not like he was trying to pick up the pieces of a shattered program. So someone please clarify for me- which part, exactly, of that career record (not to mention recent record) indicates this is a guy that's going to suddenly lead a 5-7 team past West Virginia, an improving South Florida team, an improving UConn team, a slightly above mediocre Rutgers team, a not half bad Cincinnati team, and a decent Louisville team? Really? Wanny is going to suddenly leapfrog all six of them next year? Man, I know the purpose of the column was to inspire hope in fans of some downtrodden programs, but that line really stands out as an unmitigated disaster. Here's a realistic goal for Pitt: go 7-5, don't get blown out at home, and get to a bowl. If no one gets injured and all their recruits pan out extremely well, I think they can do it. Let's leave a conference title to 2010 and a different coach.
The schedule also sets up nicely since the toughest of the first four games -- and the lone road trip -- is to Wake Forest.
This is obviously not as ridiculous as the Pitt comment, but it's still worth noting. First of all, Wake will probably crush them. Second, two of these other "easy" first four games are against Memphis and Vandy, neither of which are even close to sure things. They squeaked past Memphis by two in 2007, and Vandy topped them by 14. So it's entirely possible the Rebels could open 1-3, and then have a full slate of SEC games left on the schedule including trips to Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, and LSU. Being Ole Miss and saying "Hey, three of our first four games are winnable, probably!" is like being way out of shape and saying "Hey, miles one through six of this marathon follow a gentle downhill slope! Maybe I can finish in under four hours!" In other words: don't hold your breath for a bowl berth. Maybe you'll improve on your 3-9 record from 2007... maybe not. On the positive side, if conventional wisdom among guys who went to college in the Midwest holds true, your campus is crawling with incredibly hot girls. So you've got that going for you. Cherish it.
The Huskies won't have any established targets, but Willingham is bringing in an impressive class of receivers. He's even snatched blue-chipper Chris Polk away from USC.
That's great. Good for him. But much as I love him (see any of my comments on any of FireJay's Notre Dame-related posts... it's pretty obvious I hate Charlie Weis and am still an adamant Ty supporter) here's the thing about Willingham. Just like Wannstedt, it's pretty clear at this point that he doesn't know his asshole from his elbow when it comes to coaching.
Stanford, 1995-2001: 44-36
Notre Dame, 2002-2004: 21-15 (but oh, what a 2002!)
Washington, 2005-2007: 11-25
I take it back; he knows his asshole from his elbow... but barely. He can point to where each of them are on his own body, maybe, but I wouldn't trust him to pick them out of an imaginary police lineup that consists entirely of giant body parts. He's 6-20 in the Pac-10 in three years with UW. The odds of him bucking this trend and winning more than a handful conference games in 2008? Probably about the same as the odds of me moving out of my parents' basement in the next five years. Don't hold your breath. And bring me some Sun Chips next time you come down here. The sour cream and onion kind if you can find them.
Derek Dooley has really upgraded the talent level quite a bit. Not only did Dooley land one of the nation's top juco pass-rushers in Kwame Jordan, but he also has a batch of former SEC talent set to take the field. Former Auburn QB Steve Ensminger will battle Michael Moseley for the vacant quarterback job. On defense, Jordan will be joined by one-time Tennessee recruit Rolando Melancon, a cat-quick 270-pound defensive tackle, and Zach Schreiber, a hard-hitting former Alabama linebacker. The secondary returns safety Antonio Baker, the team's best defender.
Pretty vanilla review there. So apparently they've got a couple transfers coming in, and a good safety coming back! Great. They also don't seem to have a QB. Last year they scored victories over Central Arkansas, New Mexico State, Utah State, Idaho, and San Jose State. They also lost by a combined 167 points to their other seven opponents. To be fair, that's a list that includes six teams that played in a bowl... oh, and also Ole Miss! Oops. LT got dumptrucked by the Rebels, 24-0. Based on that alone I'm going to go ahead and say they have a loooooong way to go to respectability. Like, the kind looooooong way that isn't covered by adding a few transfers and a juco guy. But I guess anything can happen in the "wacky" WAC!
Give me a pound for that joke. Blow it up. Someone. Anyone?
Pelini's expertise is defense, and he has his work cut out for him with a unit that surrendered 40 or more points six times in 2007. Four years ago, when Pelini worked as Nebraska's defensive coordinator, the Cornhuskers tied a school record by forcing 47 turnovers and ranked second nationally in takeaways. That was 36 more turnovers than the team generated this fall.
Pelini's obviously a smart guy. I'm sure there are some schematic changes he can make that will instantly help the Huskers in 2008. But when you're giving up 40 to Ball State, 76 to Kansas, and 65 to Colorado, it's pretty obvious there's a talent problem that's not going to be fixed in one year. Nebraska was 5-7 in 2007. Their 2008 schedule is a joke (they avoid Texas and Oklahoma in the conference, and are really pulling out all the stops by scheduling Western Michigan, San Jose State, and New Mexico State out of conference) so I wouldn't be surprised if they get back to 6 or 7 wins in 2008. But that's kind of like going from writing like Jemele Hill to writing like Bill Simmons and wanting a cookie and a sticker for showing such significant improvement. Whoop-de-shit. You're still a disaster. SMACK.
The Gophers weren't that far from winning a few more games, considering they lost six games by a total of 23 points.
Here are those six:
Wisconsin, by 7 (a respectable loss)
Iowa by 5 (presentable)
Florida Atlantic by 3 (well, FAU did go to a bowl)
Bowling Green by 1 (they did too)
Northwestern by 1 (oh God)
North Dakota State by 6 (THAT'S NOT A DIVISION I-A TEAM)
So yeah, there's nowhere to go but up from here. Maybe in 2008 Minny can get its shit together and not lose to Northwestern and a I-AA team. Reverse two of those other four close losses, add in their one win from 2007, and suddenly they're at 5 wins. Strike up the band! Play the fight song! Quick, impromptu pep rally! It's almost hockey season! Go Gophers! Sigh. Where have you gone, Lawrence Maroney and Marion Barber III? Being the worst team in the Big 10 is like being the crappiest show on CBS. Not only do you suck, but so does the organization you belong to. (Any of you Big 10 defenders out there who are offended by that, please justify your 3-5 bowl record. The Big 12 went 5-3. The Big East was 3-2. The Pac 10 was 4-2. And the SEC was 7-2. The ACC, who's hyped by no one, was 2-6. So, congratulations, you weren't the worst power six conference in the bowl season. I'm still making fun of you.) Being the worst character on that show? That's like being Minnesota kicker Jason Giannini, who missed 3 of his 4 FG attempts last year.
Now, let me clarify- this is not to say that none of these teams mentioned by Feldman (plus Notre Dame, Miami, North Carolina, and Marshall) will have an unexpectedly great 2008. Odds are at least a couple of them will right the ship and turn in a season that comes close to expectations. But Feldman's reasoning in most of their cases is shoddy at best. It's almost puff piece-esque.
I think the better move for fans of these teams (as I happen to be) is to assume 2008 will be even worse than 2007. That way, in order to be a pleasant surprise, your team only has to match last year's victory total. Lower expectations equals better results; it's the way I live my life. Ahhhhhhhhh, mediocrity. How I hope to achieve you one day.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
First, some housecleaning stuff.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
No less than three minutes ago, Tim McCarver said one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard from Tim McCarver. And that's saying a lot.
Situation: Red Sox/Indians, Bottom of the 5th. The Indians have scored six in the frame. The inning began with a Casey Blake solo home run. Tim, take it away (not verbatim because I don't have DVR, but I didn't fudge anything or omit anything important).
"You'd think a leadoff walk would lead to more multi-run innings than a leadoff home run. We did some research and ran the numbers... turns out that's not the case. A leadoff home run actually creates more multi-run innings. Go figure!"
Oh... so you mean... wow. Who'd have known? Just goes to show you, you can't always trust conventional wisdom. I mean, if I were a manager and were looking for a big inning, I for one would much rather have a guy on first with no runs in than no one on and one run in already. But as the saying goes, "That's why they play the games!"
That's applicable here, right?
Thursday, August 23, 2007
sometimes looking on the bright side of things is the same as looking on the stupid side. cbssportsline.com's scott miller wants to trot out some "conventional wisdom" in this piece about how it might be a good thing that brandon webb's scoreless innings streak got snapped. he ends up trotting out some "terrible analysis" instead.
A gassed Webb got to say so long after seven stressful innings against a rugged Milwaukee lineup. And what could become one of the most lethal weapons this October, Webb's right arm, got a jump on a few extra innings of rest before his next start, Tuesday in San Diego.
Just maybe, as the first-place Diamondbacks begin a 34-game sprint toward the finish line with Friday's game against the Chicago Cubs, Webb's checking in with the fifth-longest scoreless innings streak since 1940 -- instead of pushing it higher and longer -- is just about right.
you see what he's getting at, right? phew! what a relief! good thing webb had his streak broken, because he got more rest. and hey, d-backs manager bob melvin agrees.
"It's been incredible to the point of getting uncomfortable," Melvin said during a conversation in his office about an hour before Webb took the mound. "How many nine-inning games am I going to run him out there?"
ok, thank you bob, you've just accidentally touched on the first HUGE problem with your/scott miller's analysis. that is: webb doesn't have to pitch a complete game every time he goes out in order to break the record! i know that once he got to 42 innings, the math was very convenient- two more complete games would have him breaking hershiser's record by 1 inning. and when hershiser set his record, granted, he did it with 6 straight complete games (one was 10 innings, plus the last 4 innings of the start before the streak of shutouts, thus 59 total). but no one said it had to be broken that way. webb could have done so with three straight starts of 6 scoreless innings. or two of 5 innings and one of 8. see? those are "consecutive" "scoreless" "innings", just acquired differently. hell, webb even started this streak with two straight 7 inning outings, so it's not like he was going exclusively with CGs up to this point anyways. there's problem #1. problem #2 is almost worse.
"There is some discomfort with making a guy throw five consecutive complete games," Melvin said.
as we just discussed, HE DIDN'T HAVE TO THROW 5 CONSECUTIVE COMPLETE GAMES. besides that- really? when it comes to measuring stress placed on a pitcher's arm, are you sure there's not a hidden statistic that matters more than innings, bob? for example- if they were the same price, would you rather buy a used car that was made in 1998, or a used car that was made in 2004? but WAIT- what if i told you the car from 1998 had 25,000 miles on it, and the car from 2004 already had 75,000 miles? would that change your answer? pitch counts, bob, pitch counts. it doesn't matter how many innings a guy throws. it matters how many times he had to strain his tendons, ligaments, and muscles in order to do so. i'm going to go way out on a limb and postulate that a 85 pitch complete game is easier on a pitcher's arm than a 110 pitch outing that lasts 6 innings. but wait! bob's got that angle covered... or does he?
"In Atlanta (last Friday) in the extreme heat, he did it in 102 pitches."
i just went on baseballreference.com, broke out my trusty slide rule, and spent 45 seconds figuring out how many pitches per start webb has averaged this year. the answer: 103.25. his pitch totals in the 3 consecutive shutouts prior to last night's outing? 102, 119, 102. so 2 of those 3 outings were actually below average for webb! granted, the 119 was a season high, but not by much. he's also gone for 118, 116 (twice), and 115 (twice). it's not like he was livan hernandez circa 1997 out there. don't be an idiot.
so use your imagination and rewind to last night. pretend prince fielder's 1 out RBI single in the first turns into a shallow fly out, and then webb strikes out ryan braun to end the inning. then pretend gabe gross's leadoff double in the 6th turns into a lineout to center, so he's not on base when craig counsell subsequently doubles. take the extra pitches webb had to throw to get out of those innings (in reality), which he now didn't have to throw because of the 2 extra outs in imaginary land, and scatter them around to other assorted 2 out fouls and such at various points during his 7 innings of work. well, looky there. ta-da! webb has now thrown the same number of pitches over the same number of innings, and his streak is still going strong. it's at 49. holy crap espn, get your people on the phone to arizona and buy up the rights to his next 2 starts! it's baseball history in the making! if you ran this thought experiment past miller and melvin, they would probably just stare blankly at you and blink a few times before walking away.
basically, although i did a terrible and disjointed job in attempting to do so, what i am saying is that these two guys are both very stupid. not smart, like me. all this time i spend down here in my parents' basement looking at wikipedia makes me way more intelligent than professional baseball writers and managers.