All-22: Why did the Steelers beat the Ravens?

On Sunday, October 20, the Baltimore Ravens took an unfortunate journey to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. They were defeated by the Steelers, 19-16. Why did the Steelers win? Let’s look at some key stats along with some critical insights from the All-22 Film available via NFL Game Rewind (thanks NFL!). Continue reading

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Baseball: Whites v Minorities

I put together this evening all-white and all-minority lineups. Simply put, who’s better?

First (of course), the majority white race:
1. Troy Tulowitzki SS
2. Chase Utley 2B
3. Joey Votto DH
4. Josh Hamilton CF
5. Evan Longoria 3B
6. Ryan Braun RF
7. Mark Teixeira 1B
8. Matt Holliday LF
9. Joe Mauer C
Brian McCann C
EDIT: Ben Zobrist UTIL (replacing multi-racial SS Derek Jeter)
David Wright 3B
Hunter Pence OF
Shane Victorino OF
Cliff Lee
Roy Halladay
Zack Greinke
Tim Lincecum
Jon Lester
Long Relief Justin Verlander
Middle Relief Ryan Franklin
MR Billy Wagner
Setup Man Brian Wilson
SU Heath Bell
CL Jonathon Papelbon

Next, the all-minority squad:
1. Hanley Ramirez SS
2. Carl Crawford LF
3. Albert Pujols DH
4. Miguel Cabrera 1B
5. Carlos Gonzalez CF
6. Jose Bautista 3B
7. Alex Rios RF
8. Robinson Cano 2B
9. Victor Martinez C
Jorge Posada C
Adrian Beltre 3B
Jose Reyes SS
Angel Pagan OF
Shin Shoo Choo OF
Felix Hernandez
CC Sabathia
David Price
Ubaldo Jiminez
Johan Santana
Long Relief Matt Garza
Middle Relief Carlos Marmol
MR Neftali Felix
Setup Man Rafael Soriano
SU Joakim Soria
CL Mariano Rivera

Who should be on these teams? Who shouldn’t be on these teams? And – most importantly – who would win a 7-game series?

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2010 Mock Draft

Tonight begins the all-important 2010 NFL Draft. Fellow blogger Below the Crossbar and I have teamed up to produce a mock of the 1st round for your interest and amusement. Below the Crossbar (BTC) took the odd-numbered picks and I (OCB) took the even-numbered picks. Without further ado:

1) St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford – QB (Oklahoma)BTC: Sam Bradford is arguably the best QB in the draft.  Considering the Rams previous season and their need for a franchise player at QB, this pick seems to be screaming out to them.  Even if Ndamakong Suh is the best player available overall, the Rams will stick with the position they feel they need to fill, shoulder injuries be damned.

OCB: There’s no way that the Rams are going to get fair value for this pick in trade (much as they’d love to given the incredible amount of need they have) and Bradford will sell tickets and jerseys. Maybe not the best pick in terms of a pure football decision, but probably the best in terms of business.

2) Detroit Lions – Ndamukong Suh – DT (Nebraska)OCB: If Matt Millen still roamed the Lions’ front office we all know that Dez Bryant would be the pick here.    The Lions aren’t likely to get good value in a trade down so it makes good sense to take Suh. The Lions look to be trying to build their defensive line this offseason (signing of Vanden Bosch and trade for Corey Williams). They continue that process with this pick. This team is really hurting on defense, their only building blocks are Louis Delmas and Cliff Avril now that Sims has packed his bags for Philly. There’s a good argument to be made that Gerald McCoy is a better player or that the Lions should draft Russell Okung (covered here by, but I don’t see how the Lions can not draft Suh given his physical prowess, even given his inconsistency and health issues.

BTC:  Obviously with how much franchise QB Matt Stafford got knocked around last year the Lions would be smart to take Russell Okung to protect that left-side.  However, this pick simply comes down to value, and there is no way that the Lions draft Okung ahead of Suh or McCoy, barring an unforeseen trade down.  McCoy is a better pass-rusher, but Suh is a dominant player that has been so good in all aspects.  His knee is the only concern, but he has the game, and certainly the intangibles.  He has already pledged $2.6 Million to Nebraska, including money for a scholarship at the school of Engineering.  This guy is the real deal on and off the field.  The Lions have to take Suh, they will lose even more fans if they fail to take the popular pick.

3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Gerald McCoy – DT (Oklahoma)
BTC:  The Bucs would love to be able to take Suh with this pick, but it is unlikely he’ll be still on the board.  They will take the next best player available in McCoy.  What a consolation prize that is.  McCoy is considered by many sources the 1st or 2nd best player available in the draft and he is a can’t miss for Tampa at this pick.
OCB: Suh probably has more upside than McCoy, McCoy is probably more consistent – but that is splitting some pretty fine hairs. Both are excellent athletes and have shown the capacity to dominate at the next level.

4) Washington Redskins – Trent Williams – OT (Oklahoma)OCB: You think Oklahoma would’ve won the national championship if Bradford had stayed healthy? There’s a decent chance that 3 of the top 4 picks in the draft will be from that team. The Redskins would love to trade this pick to recoup a 2nd round pick after losing theirs in the McNabb deal. I don’t see anyone being willing to part with a 2nd rounder to move up to here, leaving them to choose between Okung and Williams. I think Williams is a better fit for this team and, given the McNabb trade, Washington needs to do what it can to win immediately – they don’t have time to wait for Okung to learn the offense.
BTC: Certainly Williams would be an acceptable pick here.  I think Washington will be shopping this pick around a lot, unfortunately, as usual with top 5 picks, it will be virtually unmovable for value.  They would love to trade down a few spots and still be able to get Williams around picks 7-9.  Perhaps they can find someone looking to jump all the way up and grab Okung or Berry here.  However, if they have to pick it will be either Williams or Okung.  Okung is the highest rated OT, but Williams fits better as OCB mentioned.  I could see either being the pick here.

TRADE: KC Chiefs send #5 overall pick and the #144 overall to Jacksonville Jaguars for #10 overall pick, the #74 overall pick, and the Jaguars 2011 third round pick.

5) Jacksonville Jaguars – Eric Berry – S (Tennessee)BTC: Berry is too good of an athlete for the Jaguars to pass up, and KC is looking to move down and fill more needs later in the draft.  Berry is a can’t miss prospect at safety and he has rightfully been compared to Ed Reed.  It is up to him to prove the comparisons right, but Jacksonville has a serious need at safety and they can afford to fill their other needs later on in the draft.

OCB: As BTC noted, many prognosticators believe that Eric Berry is the second coming of Ed Reed – he’s definitely a top quality athlete with great potential. This would be a very gutsy move by Jacksonville because they only come into this draft with 6 picks and moving up here means they’re finished until the 4th round (barring another trade). All that being said, this is a pretty solid team in a tough division and if Berry is as good as advertised he could be key cog on defense to put them over the top, especially if Britton and Monroe (their OT draft choices last year) continue to develop.

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2010 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Review

On Saturday, March 7, I had the great privilege of attending the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Hosted by the MIT Sloan School of Management’s EMS Club, the Conference featured lively discussion about many exciting aspects of the present and future of sport. It took place at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in downtown Boston. The conference featured four sets of breakout sessions with a lunch session and the main session in the middle.

Image courtesy

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R.I.P. Chris Henry (1983-2009)

On Wednesday, December 19, 2009 Bengal wide receiver Chris Henry was involved in a ‘domestic dispute’ with fiancée Loleini Tonga. The dispute centered on their wedding plans.

A domestic dispute seems to constitute the same thing as domestic violence, but domestic violence isn’t necessarily physical – it can be verbal abuse or threats.

Henry suffered severe injuries when he fell off the back of Tonga’s truck while chasing her following the dispute. He was taken to the emergency room and subsequently placed on life support. On Thursday, December 20, 2009, Chris Henry passed away.

How many people have, in a moment of stress, said something that they later regretted? How many have, during wedding planning, said something to their fiancée or to another family member that they shouldn’t have said? I would venture that nearly every person answered one if not both of the previous questions with a ‘yes.’ Most people didn’t follow up an ill-chosen remark by chasing down a pickup truck. But most people aren’t Chris Henry. Continue reading

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Run and Shoot: NFL Week 1

After 7 months of hibernating, meaningful professional football returned this weekend. The week was marked by rust from players, coaches, officials, and broadcasters, but there were some very entertaining games and several excellent performances. What follows is my commentary on the games of which I saw at least a portion.


Pittsburgh 13, Tennessee 10 (OT)

The 2008 Regular Season Champion against the 2009 Super Bowl Champion: Pittsburgh needed to redeem itself a bit in this game. Even though they won the Super Bowl last year, they were embarrassed at home by Tennessee in Week 15. In that game, Tennessee dominated on both sides of the ball, particularly when the Titans were running the ball. There were a few faces on both sides of the ball, but these teams are largely the same as they were last year with one 6’6”, 350 lb caveat: Albert Haynesworth traded the greener pastures for a thicker wallet in Washington.

This was definitely the best-played game of the week: both defenses played superbly. Tennessee completely shut down Pittsburgh’s run offense. They seem to have adequately replaced Haynesworth’s impact on opposing rushers, but they haven’t yet replaced his pass rushing abilities: Roethlisberger had more time to pass the ball than he did last year and Tennessee struggled to force incompletions.

Tennessee’s offense struggled for most of the contest. Kerry Collins completed 63% of his passes but only averaged 7 yards per attempt. Kenny Britt had a very nice NFL debut (4 catches, 85 yards) and Justin Gage had good statistics (7, 78, 1 touchdown) but also dropped some passes. Collins suffered from his characteristic struggles with accuracy and didn’t often have enough time to demonstrate his arm strength.

These are definitely going to be two of the best teams in the league this year and I expect that we’ll see a rematch of this game in the playoffs, very likely in the AFC Championship.

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Run and Shoot: Chelsea v Barcelona

Earlier this evening I watched an internet replay of the second leg of the Champions League semifinal between Chelsea (of the English Premier League) and Barcelona (of the Spanish ‘La Liga’). Knockout rounds prior to the final in the Champions League are conducted in a home-and-home format where the team that scores the most goals overall is the victor – ties are solved by away goals: whoever scores more when they are away from home wins.
The first leg was a dry affair in Barcelona: Chelsea had been content to sit back on defense for the full 90 minutes, letting Barcelona muster up whatever chances they could, content to ride their goaltender (Petr Cech), his defensemen, and the midfielders who rarely dared advance beyond the field’s mid-line. Barcelona possessed the ball for most of the match but were unable to penetrate Chelsea’s guardians of the goal.
The contrast between the two sides is quite striking and indicative of the reasons why soccer is unpopular in the United States. Chelsea’s strategy is emblematic of the slow, low-scoring, dull contests that Americans identify when discussing their dislike for soccer. Barcelona seeks to score, and to score often, in beautiful ways preferring to gamble on their ability to out-score any opponent. Barca are willing to give up chances comfortable with their ability to create more at the other end.

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