July 30, 2011

The Worst Rule In Sports

     There are rules that are annoying but understandable (such as that thing Calvin Johnson get ripped off on last year).  Then there's the rule in baseball where if a third strike hits the ground, the catcher must throw to first to get the runner out.  It makes the game way more confusing, and I can't figure out why it exists. 
The most notorious incident of this rule I can think of:  A.J. Pierzynski whiffs badly on strike three in the 2005 ALCS, the ball allegedly bounces, Pierzynski runs to first, and his pinch runner scores the game-winning run.
     
     Any other strike that hits the dirt plays like a normal strike.  Why is this one any different?  What possible way would there be to exploit this loophole if the rule didn't exist?  Would the pitcher keep throwing low pitches?  Good, then don't swing at them; they're balls anyway.  There's no way the batter would want to whiff at a really low pitch rather than a high one.  Would a pitcher try to throw a pitch that goes through the strike zone and then hits the ground?  If they can pull off such a filthy pitch, they deserve a normal strikeout. 
     I have no idea why this was ever a big enough issue to create a terrible rule.

July 26, 2011

QB Greatness Scale, Part 4: Weird Findings

-Matt Hasselbeck, whose career has been outrageously average, scored a 185.0 on the Greatness Scale.  The highest score was Joe Montana's 237.1.  Remember those as reference points.


 -JaMarcus Russell's career so far tests out at a 120.4.  Ryan Leaf's was a 98.5.  That puts that issue to rest for me.


-The worst player I could find with at least 50 attempts:  former Chicago Bear Henry Burris (40.6).

-Craig Nall had one of the strangest NFL careers you'll ever see.  In 48 career pass attempts, he amassed 402 yards and a 123.8 QB rating.  He threw 5 TD's and no interceptions.  Yet with great stats like those, he only managed to play in 7 games and never started a game.  So how does he fare on the Greatness Scale?  Shockingly well, actually.  He received a rating of 199.1, better than Boomer Esiason, Drew Bledsoe, and Warren Moon.

That must mean the formula is flawed, right?  Or could it be that our own logic is flawed?  Should Craig Nall be penalized because nobody gave him the opportunities he needed to have a lengthy career?  It's not like he could have done much better.  (Okay, even I'm not convincing myself of anything here.  Just trying to see things from a different perspective.)

Let's put Craig Nall in the Hall of Fame!

Craig Nall laughs at the pathetic career of Warren Moon.  "233 interceptions?  Really?  I never even threw one!"

QB Greatness Scale, Part 3: Best of 2010

    
     As you may or may not know, I am a Packer fan.  And Aaron Rodgers is probably my favorite player in the league, after his awesome handling of the whole Favre fiasco.  And I know that he led the Packers to a Super Bowl win last year.  With all of that being said, the best QB last year in my opinion was Tom Brady.  Four interceptions in a full season is just unreal.
     I was curious if the Greatness Scale would agree with me, and it turns out that it does.  By a lot.  Tom Brady received 229.8 points from the almighty scale, with Rodgers in second at 207.0, and Michael Vick in third at 202.1.
     How about the rookies?  The scale took an interesting approach on this one, selecting not Sam Bradford as the best but......Tim Tebow.  And I can't figure out how that happened. 

Oh well, congratulations to:

Tom Brady- Week 17 Legend Official 2010 QB of the Year
and
Tim Tebow- Week 17 Legend Official 2010 Rookie QB of the Year

QB Greatness Scale, Part 2: All-Time Best QB's

     Recently I introduced the Greatness Scale, a project where I would find a way to calculate how great somebody perceives a player to be.  The first test was finding who I should think are the best QB's in NFL history.  Before I put the numbers in, my top 5 would probably have looked like this:

1.  Peyton Manning
2.  Dan Marino
3.  Otto Graham
4.  Steve Young
5.  Tom Brady

     I know what you're thinking.  Steve Young?!?  Yes, I'm fully aware that I like Steve Young way more than I should.  But he became one of the highest rated passers in history, in a time when great stats like that weren't as common as they are today, and he might be better known for his scrambling ability.  If that's not a top 5 all-time QB, then I don't know what is.
     Anyway, after rating the 15 test QB's, I calculated the top 8 stats that correlated highest with my initial ratings, meaning I found them most important.  I ended up with 4 very important ones:

1.  QB rating + (how a QB's passer rating compared with the league average during his career, as calculated by pro-football-reference.com)
2.  Win percentage as a starter
3.  Wins as a starter
4.  Completion percentage +

And 4 slightly less important ones:

5.  Playoff wins as a starter
6.  Passing touchdowns
7.  QB rating
8.  Touchdown percentage

     My initial reaction was the disbelief that my favorite stat, yards per attempt, wasn't included at all, but completion percentage, wins, and playoff wins (which I hate using) were.  But I trusted in the formula and continued on, testing any great QB's I could think of, and the results surprised me.

1.  Joe Montana  (237.1 points)
2.  Peyton Manning  (235.0)
3.  Steve Young  (231.9)
4.  Tom Brady  (231.5)
5.  Brett Favre  (229.5)

     A formula that was derived without me telling it I loved Steve Young, correctly predicted that I loved Steve Young.  Otto Graham probably would have made the top 5 had I counted his AAFC stats and wins, but he did place 7th.  This thing worked better than I could have ever hoped.

     Joe Montana's stats are a lot better than you would think, given that all anyone ever mentions is his four rings and "coolness".  Therefore, I am proud to announce Joe Montana as Week 17 Legend's Official Greatest QB Ever!
Coming Soon:
Part 3:  Best of the 2010 Season
Part 4:  Weird Findings
Part 5:  Active Players/Looking Ahead

July 25, 2011

NFL Predict The Season Contest

     For the last few years, I've tried holding this contest at whatever sports discussion place I was at, and it never stuck.  But I think this could be the year it actually happens.  It's simpler than you might think after reading the last two sentences:  Try to guess the record of each NFL team, as well as playoff winners.  Whoever's closest wins.

     Just fill out the sample form at the end of the post, and then pick your winners for the entire playoffs.  The deadline will probably be late August or something, so take as much time as you need.  You should have a total of 256 wins for the regular season, and the totals in the conferences and divisions should be mathematically possible.  (I'll let you know if any of that isn't right in your prediction.)  The scoring works like this:

1. You will receive 160 points once your entry is submitted (5 for each team).

2. You will lose one point for each win your prediction for each team differed from its actual record.

3. If you correctly predict the number of wins for a certain team, you will receive one extra point.

4. Ties are counted as 0.5 wins.

5. You will receive points for each team that you predicted would be alive in each round of the playoffs as follows:

Wild Card Weekend- (12 predictions)- 1 point each
Divisional Round- (8 predictions)- 2 points each
Conference Championships- (4 predictions)- 5 points each
Super Bowl- (2 predictions)- 10 points each
Super Bowl Winner- (1 prediction)- 20 points

Let's make this work, and may the NFL season be awesome!

SAMPLE FORM (with numbers that I may have used last year):

AFC East

Buffalo 8
Miami 7
New England 10
New York Jets 11

AFC North

Baltimore 9
Cincinnati 12
Cleveland 4
Pittsburgh 6

AFC South

Houston 7
Indianapolis 12
Jacksonville 3
Tennessee 5

AFC West

Denver 5
Kansas City 6
Oakland 7
San Diego 11

NFC East

Dallas 11
New York Giants 10
Philadelphia 12
Washington 7

NFC North

Chicago 7
Detroit 3
Green Bay 10
Minnesota 11

NFC South

Atlanta 8
Carolina 9
New Orleans 11
Tampa Bay 5

NFC West

Arizona 8
San Francisco 9
Seattle 8
St. Louis 4

July 23, 2011

The Greatness Scale Experiment, Featuring NFL Quarterbacks: Part 1

     This is the beginning of a project that involves assigning a numerical value to greatness, starting with NFL quarterbacks.  How awesome and old do you have to be to be considered better than someone less awesome but older?  (Think Brady vs. Manning)  Who should you think is the best QB ever?  What are the most important stats to you?  These are questions that will hopefully be answered.  If you want your own personal Greatness Scale, start out by rating these players' careers (if they retired today) on a scale from 1 to 10.  Use as many decimals as you need.

Boomer Esiason
Brett Favre
Dan Fouts
Dan Marino
Dave Krieg
Donovan McNabb
Drew Bledsoe
Fran Tarkenton
Joe Montana
John Elway
Johnny Unitas
Kerry Collins
Peyton Manning
Vinny Testaverde
Warren Moon

I'll write more later once I get farther with the project.

July 21, 2011

W17L Creates A Golf Course, Possibly The Greatest Golf Course Ever

     A lot of times when I watch golf, I always think about how awesome it would be to design my own course.  So after my post about bizarre things I would add to the game of golf, I decided to do the next best thing:  design a hypothetical course and put in online for everyone to see.  Though the name of the course would depend on where it is, for now let's call it Walden Hill.
     Walden Hill is situated on two relatively flat pieces of land separated by an 80-foot incline.  The higher half of the course is bordered by a cliff that drops to the ocean (or maybe it's a lake).  The challenge of this par-72 course is not in its length (just under 7000 yards) or its greens (most of which are pretty simple).  The challenge lies in the various obstacles of each hole, which make it "the greatest spectacle in golf".  Walden Hill requires excellent tee shots, and has rewards for longer hitters.

Note:  There are random slopes and trees on this course besides the ones in the diagrams.  They just aren't that important.

Hole 1:  The First Encounter  (Par 5, 507 yards)
     The first hole starts with an elevated tee shot that must carry the hill 270 yards away.  Shots that are too short will either hit the hill and just barely bounce over it, or roll back down.  If the drive makes it over the hill, players are left with a second shot of 220 yards or less that makes for a great eagle chance.  Players who don't make it over the hill will find themselves roughly 320 yards from the hole with a second shot made more difficult by the hill towering over them.

Hole 2:  Volcano  (Par 3, 132 yards)
     The second hole features 4 hole locations on top of steep, 2-foot-high mounds reminiscent of a miniature golf course.  The 130-yard approach is not difficult, but putting can become very frustrating.

Hole 3:  Cliffhanger  (Par 3, 123 yards)
     This short par-3 features a shot to a green that is roughly 100 feet below the tee.  The island landing area is about 50 yards across both ways at its widest.  It's difficult enough to judge the distance correctly on a calm day; when the wind is blowing this hole will produce many high scores.

Hole 4:  Mini-Sawgrass  (Par-3, 43 yards)
     The third of three consecutive par-3's, Hole 4 was inspired by the 17th at TPC-Sawgrass.  The Walden Hill version, however, is much smaller, involving a 43-yard shot that must land on an island maxing out at 11 yards across both ways.  Golfers must have the control to not only land the ball on the island, but also keep it from rolling off.

Hole 5:  Looking Up  (Par 4, 283 yards)
     The first shot on Hole 5 is all about maximizing distance while getting enough loft to make it back up the cliff 95 yards away.  While it's possible to hit the fairway with an iron, the safest play is to just use a sand wedge and worry about the second shot once the ball has safely hit land.  On especially windy days, this hole might start out on the blue tee, which is elevated to make it easier to get up to the cliff, or the white tee, which eliminates the cliff entirely but leaves an awkward approach to the green.  The second shot is 190 yards or less, and as long as it's straight there shouldn't be any issues.

Hole 6:  The Pit  (Par 4, 522 yards)
     The main feature on the sixth hole is a huge valley on the putting surface, 11 yards across and 6 feet deep, surrounded by a 2-yard-wide ring of flat green.  This allows the hole to play two different ways depending on pin placement.  The first version of the hole is a long par-4 with the cup in the middle of the green.  With two well-hit shots, an eagle is very possible, and most third shots will roll into the cup for a birdie.  The evil alter-ego of this hole is a 382-yard par-4 played from the blue tee.  In this setup, the pin is located on the edge of the pit, so any approaches or putts that fall to the middle of the green will take at least two shots to get back in the hole.

Hole 7:  The Snake  (Par 5, 594 yards)
     The seventh hole begins with a shot to a snaking fairway, and there's a chance that the ball will bounce off the rough and create a longer second shot, or even settle in the rough, making the hole even more difficult.  The fairway straightens out 285 yards away from the tee, so longer hitters have a huge advantage here.  At 570 yards from the tee, it's possible to hit the green in two, especially with a long landing area for the second shot.  However, missing it short is very costly with a lake resting in front of the green.  Turning the 7th into a three-shot hole is much safer, and with a solid lay-up the third shot is very easy.

Hole 8:  Getting Rough  (Par 5, 503 yards)
     At Walden Hill, we believe that having a fairway to hit to is a privilege, not a right, which is why the 8th hole features almost 500 yards of rough.  The second shot is a doable 220 yards or so, but because we're nice, we allow an extra shot to make the green.

Hole 9:  U-Turn  (Par 4, 515 yards)
     The good news:  The green is only 70 yards away from the tee.  The bad news?  It's almost impossible to reach from a tee that's nestled up against the small forest that protects this hole.  The thing that makes this hole great is that there are so many ways to attack it.  Do you hit a long drive to the left side of the wide fairway, leaving a weird angle for the second shot?  Do you hit it short and to the right and try to follow it up with an iron play over the trees?  The method of solving this hole depends on the skills and instincts of each player, but every way takes precise ball striking.

Hole 10:  Greenbridge  (Par 3, 169 yards)
     The 10th hole involves a large green and a 7-yard-wide green that lies on an island.  The two putting surfaces are connected by a narrow, puttable bridge.  Like the pit hole, Greenbridge has two different personas based on the pin placement.  With one of the two easier setups in place, the 10th hole is nothing more than a straightforward par-3 with a decoy island.  With one of the two difficult setups in place, golfers must choose to aim for the small island or drive it to the large green and putt it across the bridge.  The edges of the bridge are sloped toward the water, so any putts that take a poor angle to the bridge will end up in rough or in the water.

Hole 11:  Going Downhill  (Par 4, 515 yards)
     The 11th hole begins with a tee shot toward the hill, 270 yards away.  Drives should get a boost by either carrying over the entire hill or by rolling down it.  The next shot is around 170 yards long, and involves a choice between a tough play over the front bunker or a safe play to the left side of the green, leaving a long putt.

Hole 12:  Extreme Bunker  (Par 4, 326 yards)
     Continuing in the tradition of the 8th hole, the drive on number 12 goes into a massive sand trap.  To prevent golfers from aiming for the rough on either side, those areas are designated as out of bounds.  Depending on the abilities of each player, the second shot is somewhere between 20 and 80 yards.

Hole 13:  Tree Wall  (Par 4, 302 yards)
     The 13th is another short par-4 made tougher by a crazy obstacle.  In this case, it's a wall of trees just 20 yards away from the tee that requires a lot of loft to get over.  In a unique twist, the easier tees are located behind the black tee because they allow for less loft, and therefore more distance.

Hole 14:  Tilt  (Par 4, 440 yards)
     The length of this hole runs along the hill instead of being perpendicular to it.  The tees are on level platforms constructed on the middle of the hill.  There is a narrow stretch of fairway on the high side that gets wider the farther it gets from the tee.  Any drives that miss to the right will roll away from the green, so aiming for the rough left of the fairway is a decent option.  The approach to the green is approximately 150 yards from the high side of the fairway, and as much as 230 yards from the low side, which can get pretty difficult with bunkers surrounding the entire green.

Hole 15:  Hill Green  (Par 3, 191 yards)
     Walden's trademark hill has already made many appearances on fairways.  Now it's showing up on a green.  Though listed at 191 yards, Hole 15 plays at either 155 (to the top part of the green) or 220 (the bottom).  The hill makes putting on the top section very worrisome, but can be helpful when the pin is located at the bottom.

Hole 16:  The Behemoth  (Par 5, 760 yards)
     A 760-yard hole may sound intimidating, but this one is pretty straightforward and not threatening at all.  With a 300-yard drive to a double-wide fairway followed by a 280-yard second shot, the player would be left with a diagonal, 185-yard approach to an enlarged green.  Though eagles are virtually impossible here and birdies are even hard to come by, Tour golfers should be embarrassed by any score over par.

Hole 17:  Fork in the Road  (Par 4, 449 yards)
     The possibilities are endless with three fairways are three greens.  The left fairway is pretty accessible but any mishits are costly as bunkers and deep rough line the sides of it.  The middle fairway is the safest and leaves clean lines to all the greens, but it's only 15 yards wide.  The right fairway is wide and devoid of hazards, but shots that are too long or too far to the right will roll down the hill.

Hole 18:  The Minefield  (Par 5, 598 yards)
     The final hole at Walden Hill begins with a drive that carries over the hill and must enter "the minefield", a fairway littered with trees, rocks, and small patches of rough, sand, and water.  Fans sitting directly between the lake and the hill are treated to a unique view of tee shots flying directly overhead.  The safest play into the minefield is a short drive over the rock in the center, that rolls either through the center rough or not quite to it.  From there, hitting the green in two is impossible thanks to the tree in the way, but an easy three is a lot better than risking a hit into a hazard.

July 14, 2011

The Reader Feedback Post

     To you, the rare person that reads this blog, here's a huge "thank you".  Okay, fine, it was a normal sized one.  Anyway, I wrote this post to announce the end of The Dump, which was probably a terrible idea from the start, as well as solicit feedback on the layout of this blog.  Random splotches of thought will now be placed directly in the blog (they're too good to waste).
     The main issue I want feedback on is the color scheme.  I hear that white text on dark backgrounds is a bad idea, and I'm not so sure I like it myself anymore.  So I'm looking for suggestions on what I should do for the background to make it brighter and more user-friendly.  Feel free to let me know of any other types of ideas you have.

Miguel Angel Jimenez Is One Shot Off The Lead In The British Open

Cigar Guy must be stoked right now!


July 13, 2011

Why Americans Don't Care About Soccer, And Other Soccer Gripes I Have

Abby Wambach celebrates a goal in the stoppage time of extra time, which would twice have not happened if I was in charge of soccer.
    
     It's that time again.  The World Cup, the rare time when the U.S. gets excited about soccer, only to forget it exists the rest of the year.  There are a lot of theories about why Americans aren't passionate about soccer:  the lack of scoring, the perceived lack of toughness, a lack of advanced stats.  But there's one reason I put above them all, something I call "intermediate goals".
     Basically, "intermediate goals" are something to worry about between scoring.  In football, it's first downs.  In baseball, it's getting a runner on the next base.  I don't like watching soccer because I feel like nothing gets accomplished on 99% of possessions.  The ball gets kicked around, it gets close to one team's goal, and suddenly it's going the other way.  Very unfulfilling.
     Can this be solved?  Probably not.  So chances are we'll never embrace soccer like the rest of the world does.  But we'll be able to cheer 10 times as much!

Other Soccer Gripes:

-Soccer really does need more stats.  Do you know how hard it is to argue who the best defender is using only anecdotal evidence?

-Penalty kicks need to be worth less than normal goals.  They're so easy!

-Dumbest part of soccer:  stoppage time.  Having the ref add an arbitrary amount of time to the end of a game is ridiculous if not unfair.  If you're so worried about preserving time lost due to stoppage of play, just stop the clock when play stops!  We have that technology now, you know.  It would be a lot less confusing.

-Penalty kick shootouts are by far my favorite part of soccer.  Please get to them sooner.  The last thing I want to do after watching 90 minutes of soccer is watch another 30 minutes of soccer.

The Five Most Dramatic Sports Moments Ever

     Inspired by Abby Wambach's awesome game-tying 122nd-minute goal in the World Cup quarterfinals, Rob Parker and Skip Bayless of ESPN's First Take each did a list of the 5 most dramatic sports moments ever.  And having grown up during the 70's and 80's, Rob and Skip included mostly moments from the 70's and 80's.  That bothered me, because I've only been following sports since 2001 or so, and I felt offended that they didn't pick any of "my" events.  So after thinking about the best things to happen in sports in the 2000's, I decided to lump in all the other decades and create my own Top 5 Dramatic Moments in Sports, from the perspective of a 90's child.  Here it goes:

5.  Tiger Woods Winning the 2008 U.S. Open

     I considered a lot of different things for this spot:  App State over Michigan, Roger Bannister's 4-minute mile, Kirk Gibson's injured home run.  But as much as I tried to include more history in my list, I couldn't pass up this golf tournament.  Tiger Woods, with a stress fracture in his leg, made some amazing shots in the third round, made a birdie putt to force a playoff, made a birdie putt to force sudden death after that playoff, and went on to win the championship.  It was tense and exciting the whole way, and the best part about it was that you couldn't watch without picking a side.  Either you rooted for Tiger to exhibit his greatness by winning despite his injury, or you rooted for Rocco Mediate, a 45-year-old who had to go through qualifying rounds just to get in the tournament.  And even though I was against Tiger the whole time, I think his victory here was fantastic.


4.  Jason Lezak's Gold-Medal Comeback

     In the 2008 Summer Olympics, Michael Phelps had entered in 8 events in an attempt to win a record-breaking 8 gold medals.  In the second of those events, the 4x100 freestyle relay, the U.S. team fell behind France in the third leg.  Swimming the final leg for France was Alain Bernard, then the world record holder in the 100 meter freestyle, who had proclaimed before the race that the French team would smash the Americans.  Swimming the final leg for the U.S. was Jason Lezak, a 32-year-old who had yet to win his only individual Olympic medal (a tie for bronze, no less).  Going into the final 50 meters, Lezak trailed Bernard by 0.82 seconds.  You can probably guess what happened next:


     Lezak swam by far the fastest 100 meter relay split ever, and Phelps eventually got his 8 gold medals.

3.  NC State's 1983 National Championship Win

     I'm shocked that neither Rob nor Skip picked this one, because I wasn't even alive when it happened and I love it.  Houston was supposed to win the game easily, but NC State hung around and needed a late basket to win.  After twenty seconds or so of random passing, Dereck Whittenburg appears to attempt a deep three-pointer and misses way short, when suddenly Lorenzo Charles comes out of nowhere and dunks it in for the win.  The play isn't as awesome once you've seen it before, but watching the reaction of coach Jim Valvano and the players will always be priceless.


2.  Kevin Dyson Comes Up One Yard Short

     A lot of things can happen at the 10 yard line with six seconds left.  You can throw an incomplete pass.  You can throw an interception.  You can complete a pass in the end zone for the score.  Yet the Tennessee Titans made a far more interesting choice in Super Bowl XXXIV:  Throw a slant route short of the end zone and hope the receiver makes it in after the catch.  Linebacker Mike Jones makes a heads-up play and tackles Titans wideout Kevin Dyson, Dyson makes an exaggerated reach for the goal line, and Kurt Warner goes from second-stringer to NFL superstar/champion after one of the most decisive final plays in Super Bowl history.
     (Play starts at 6:10 in the video)


1.  Giants Game-Winning Drive in Super Bowl XLII

     This game was great because it had so much background.  On one side you had the 18-0 Patriots, fresh off of Spygate.  On the other side you had the Giants, a 5-seed that went 11-5 in the regular season, then got to the Super Bowl after three road wins, led by league laughingstock Eli Manning.  A team that played all their starters against New England in Week 17 despite having clinched a playoff spot.
     Most games with this much hype never live up to it.  All that Super Bowl XLII could offer was a crazy second-to-last drive that featured a dropped interception, a near-sack on third and five, an insane helmet-aided catch, and eventually a touchdown that all but sealed the game.


July 8, 2011

Sports Haiku 3: July

In honor of how uninteresting the sports world is in July:

Golf, Soccer, NASCAR
Baseball doesn't matter yet
I feel so bored now

July 3, 2011

A Quick Celebration Of America

     In honor of Independence Day, I'd like to give a quick shout out to the U.S., a place where Ron Artest can change his name to Metta World Peace just because he feels like it, Rashard Mendenhall can freely speak out against Osama haters, and Dwyane Wade can compare losing games to a terrorist attack.  Freedom is a beautiful thing.