Monday, May 31, 2010

Checking the Batting Order

After sitting through a silly weekend of Rangers offensive baseball, I hatched this idea in my head that I had to do some serious research this morning regarding how the Rangers are generating and not generating their offense. It is too easy to say they aren't hitting or aren't getting key hits.

We also have our suspicions on who is getting it done and who is not, but if one thing is becoming clear, it is that the bottom 3rd of the lineup is resembling a weak NL 7-8-9. That says something.

If we are to wonder aloud where the Rangers took a wrong turn, it would seem that it starts with allowing 1B, CF, and C to be such question marks. But, because of lack of money (Marlon Byrd) and perhaps too much optimism, the Rangers were ready to roll with Chris Davis, Julio Borbon, Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden, and if needed, Justin Smoak. These homegrown studs will be ready to advance just like Elvis Andrus, right?

Not yet, anyway. Not even close.

First, let's look at Batting Average. This is done by position in the batting order. Later, we will define who is most responsible for which spot, but for now, just now that the #8 hitter of the Rangers means the cumulative total of anyone in that spot versus the major leagues:

SpotTex RankAL Leader
1st.259 (9th).342 (Sea)
2nd.314 (1st).314 (Tex)
3rd.257 (10th).340 (KC)
4th.327 (3rd).358 (Det)
5th.308 (2nd).359 (NY)
6th.257 (6th).323 (Balt)
7th.179 (14th).292 (Ana)
8th.211 (10th).294 (NY)
9th.279 (1st).279 (Tex)

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The major issues here appear to be 1st, 3rd, 7th, and 8th. What is interesting is that lead-off has been great since Elvis moved there, which might mean that 9th is now the issue. 3rd has just not been right as everyone has waited for Josh Hamilton to get going. But, 7th and 8th? Horrid, and no help in sight unless Smoak figures it out. He did have a 4 hit week, but 4-17 is not going to get us too excited.

Now, on to OBP:

SpotTex RankAL Leader
1st.330 (8th).393 (Sea)
2nd.373 (3rd).397 (Oak)
3rd.321 (13th).409 (Min)
4th.357 (6th).453 (Min)
5th.390 (2nd).401 (NY)
6th.324 (6th).377 (NY)
7th.244 (14th).397 (NY)
8th.309 (6th).372 (NY)
9th.330 (3rd).346 (Oak)

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OBP observations include 3rd is not great again. This is an interesting way of calculating numbers because Hamilton's OBP of .335 is right about the AL Average. But, compared to #3 hitters, the 3rd position (primarily Hamilton and Kinsler) in Texas has been 2nd to last. Hamilton's 2008 OBP of .371 seems a long ways away. And of course, a .244 OBP from the 7th hole is so bad it is silly.

Also, have any Yankees' envy when looking at the chart? #1 for the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th spot in their lineup? Amazing. And those #3 and #4 hitters in Minnesota seem pretty salty, too.

Now, let's check the boomsticks:

SpotTex RankAL Leader
1st.289 (13th).441 (Det)
2nd.461 (4th).491 (Balt)
3rd.455 (5th).490 (TB)
4th.541 (5th).684 (Det)
5th.557 (2nd).601 (NY)
6th.465 (5th).552 (Balt)
7th.250 (14th).630 (Tor)
8th.247 (14th).524 (Tor)
9th.335 (6th).441 (Tor)

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I cannot imagine you can have a great American League offense if you have 3 slots in your batting order that are slugging below .300. That just seems impossible.

Now, I listed the 3 charts above in one easy box. Now, you can see each slot by ranking.

SpotTex RankAL Leader

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Perhaps the story that keeps this team from being a complete disaster is that Vladimir Guerrero was found for almost no money, and is not only having a nice year, but also actually holding his own with the American League's finest clean-up hitters.

Now, to define who is responsible for which spot, I tried to break it down by AB for each batting slot so you can see who we are talking about when we give credit or place blame:

1stAndrus 148Borbon 36
2ndYoung 203None
3rdHamilton 143Kinsler 47
4thGuerrero 191None
5thCruz 66Kinsler 56, Ham 43
6thMurphy 61Davis 48, Cruz 33
7thSmoak 81Treanor 33, Arias 24
8thTreanor 57Blanco 27, Arias 25
9thBorbon 102Andrus 31

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Conclusion: Michael Young, Andrus, Guerrero, Cruz, and Kinsler have been just what we expected, or in Vlad's case - better. Hamilton has been decent. But all of those hopeful spots below have been failed bits. With very few solutions to these problems apparent, and with Nelson Cruz headed back to the DL, we might be finding out that it may not be time, yet.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fun Baseball Trivia: Justin Smoak Has Actually Been Awesome This Year

The Following is from TC Fleming, intern, blog contributer, and sports thinker. Enjoy

Jeremy Moran, normal board operator in the mornings for Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket, started his summer vacation Monday morning. Since about Thanksgiving last year, I get to fill in during these vacations. It's really neat. But Monday, I had to sit quietly through two segments (one by the Musers, one by Norm Hitzges) about how badly Justin Smoak is doing. As a board op, folks (quite understandably) don't smile on the idea of you getting on the air to explain how the hosts' views are flawed. When you do that same thing on a blog though, that's showing initiative. So here we are.

Justin Smoak is having just an astounding start to his career. People do not believe this because he has a batting average of .165. There are about a million things that indicate whether or not a hitter is doing well, batting average being just one of those things. After taking into account that batting average, all of the other factors--seriosuly, all of them--indicate that Smoak is every bit as good as the hype suggested. Just to run through some of them real quick, as a means of demonstration: his Strikeout-to-walk ratio of 0.89 is third on the team and would be about 25th in the majors if he qualified; his line drive rate of 22.8% is second on the team and would be about 22nd in baseball; his homerun-to-flyball ratio of 11.8% and isolated power of .155 both rank fifth on the team and are very comparable to Michael Young. For a rookie, that's mighty impressive.

But what about that batting average? Batting average is one of those things where a lot of the factors go into it, and a lot of them are out of the hitters' control. Consider it: a batter can certainly hit a ball hard, hard enough to be a hit the great majority of the time, but it happens to be in the immediate vicinity of a fielder. Or, what about the quality of opposing defenders? If a batter were to have 100 at-bats against a team fielding Elvis Andrus and another against a team with Yuniesky Betancourt, the hitter could do all the same things and end up with fewer hits against Elvis not because of the hitter's talent but because of Andrus's. There are just a lot of things outside a hitter's control that have an impact on batting average.

Phoenix Suns Tattoo Report

One great thing about being a "free agent" blogger (which is another way of saying I am currently unemployed as a blog institution) is that I can take a nice break after the Mavs and Stars are done and before the Cowboys begin.

But, what if I wake up and realize I haven't done a Phoenix Suns Tattoo Report?

My Suns report is very unimpressive. I really thought they would do better than this, but it appears that they have one of the least inked teams in the league. Amare, Richardson, Frye, and 2 dudes I have never heard of.

As usual, my findings are done in a hasty search through google, so if I have something wrong, help me get it right.

Enjoy. And click on any "Y" to see a picture of their tattoos.

Phoenix Suns Tattoo Roster
Louis AmundsonN
Leandro BarbosaN
Earl ClarkY
Jarron CollinsN
Goran DragicN
Jared DudleyN
Channing FryeY
Taylor GriffinN
Grant HillN
Dwayne JonesY
Robin LopezN
Steve NashN
Jason RichardsonY
Amare StoudemireY

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Click on the "NBA Tattoos" Tag below to see all of the teams completed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Email: A Proper Champion

Periodically, I want to make sure I answer an email that might vocalize many people's thoughts on a given topic.

On Tuesday's show, we were discussing the way our sports crown their champions every year. The discussion started with Dan talking about how nice it is that the NBA generally has form hold in high seeds beating lower seeds. More than in other sports, it seems like the NBA Finals generally has heavyweights squaring off, rather than odd Cinderella stories like the NHL, MLB, and even occasionally the NFL.

I agree with his premise, but as a fan of many sports through-out the world, I have grown to desire a landscape where the history books show worthy champions every year. I just don't like a system where chance is a greater indicator than skill for determining who gets the trophy at the end of the year.

Is this a horrible view? John think so:

Hi Bob,

Love you and the show, but I gotta take exception to a topic from the past few days.

Most recently, your talk about "quality" in the playoffs is just all wrong. Do you really want to see only the Red Sox or the Yankees in the World Series every year? I don't. The regular season is important, but the playoffs is when it's on the line and good teams shine. That's what the Marlins did, they put it together when they had to and played great baseball. Why diminish that effort, even if they didn't sustain it for years? The Yankees are "quality" because they can buy anyone they want, but I don't think that makes them any more deserving than any other team. They get enough kudos and rings, just like the Red Wings. Don't diminish the 7th and 8th seed teams just because they have risen above the challenges placed before them.

Love you,

One of the many John's in Plano

Let me be clear: I don't want to see the Red Sox and the Yankees winning the title every year...unless they are the best team.

My desire is that we provide a top-level challenge to our team's in each sport every year. And we have that - it is called the regular season. In baseball, we have a 162 game regular season. It takes 6 months and requires every imaginable aspect of a baseball organization to win a title. Then, the playoffs start, and if you are a wildcard team taking on a 1-seed, all you need to do is win 3 games out of 5 to take down their 6 months of hard work. Winning 3 out of 5 games is not a test of skill. It is a test of chance compared to the 6 month test that was just completed.

I understand that money is the root of all evil, and the playoffs make huge amounts of money. But it is not the most righteous way to find a champion. I suppose that is what makes us really admire the 1990's Chicago Bulls - they could win the regular season and then also win the playoffs. They could pass any test.

But, I just don't like how in the United States, we have cheapened the entire concept of the regular season to a point where none of us are really sure why we have 82 basketball or hockey games before April.

Despite the fact that many of you will recoil, I would request you consider how most countries in the world determine their soccer champion. Very simple. There are 20 teams in the league. So, the season consists of everyone playing the other 19 teams both home and away - (38 total games). At the end of the 38 matches, we add up the point totals and there is your champion with the most points. It is a totally and completely fair schedule. It is a regular season where every single game means something.

And where are the playoffs to determine the champion of the league? There are none.

And you know something? Never, in the history of the English Premiership, has there ever been a less-than-great champion. It is impossible. It is impossible to limp through the season, make the playoffs, and "get hot". The 2007 NY Giants would not have a chance. The 2010 Boston Celtics, neither. Nor, the 2003 Florida Marlins.

You might be wondering why we would get rid of the intense, amazing, and dramatic action that constitutes our playoffs? You wouldn't be getting rid of them. You would be moving intensity to the regular season. Yes, we would once again have meaningful seasons.

So, meaningful seasons? Check
No more games when they charge you silly amounts of money and then go through the motions? Check
A proper champion? Check

Will it ever happen? Of course not.

Nor will the awesomeness of relegation.

But, a boy can dream.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Suns-Spurs ADS

Before we proceed to the Conference Finals, I wanted to spend a little time on the new theory of ADS, and what it told us from the Phoenix vs. San Antonio Series. If you are not familiar with ADS, this might be a good time for you to read up on what the heck I am talking about:

ADS Explained and Kidd's first round .

As I explain in those, this is not a case of me thinking I got this all figured out and sharing it with the world. Rather, this is you joining me on this experiment of "is this new metric useful?"

One of the flaws with the Average Distance Per Shot is that it doesn't measure certain things like defensive objectives. For instance, if the Mavs' ADS for 10 games is 13, then it shoots up to 17, the question would be, "Did the Mavericks change, or did teams defend them better?" In this case, were the Spurs just that good defensively to stop the Mavs from doing anything but taking jump shots at certain parts of the series (especially in the 4th Quarter of half-court scenarios)?

Well, in the Suns vs Spurs, we luckily have that same Spurs team. Whether you think the Spurs are anything special or not, they are the same group of guys in the 1st Round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs as they are in the 2nd Round. We may actually have a constant. Now, admittedly, the Suns and Mavs are not the same offense or defense, and Greg Popovich had to defend Amare Stoudamire way differently than Dirk Nowitzki on the high pick-and-roll, just as Jason Kidd/Jason Terry run the guard spot 100% differently than Steve Nash, but at least we have some similarities.

Then, I have added FTA (Free Throw Attempts) to our charts. When a player is fouled while shooting, I am sure you know that it only counts as a field goal attempt if he makes the shot (the "And-1"). Well, this surely throws off the spirit of ADS, because if you don't get credit for an attempted dunk if you are fouled, it shouldn't be counted against you. You should not be labeled as passive if you are fouled each time. So, somehow, when considering ADS, I think we need to look at FTA, or at least FTA that result from shooting fouls. It would also seem useful if the NBA logged the spot on the floor where someone is fouled just like they do the spot on the floor where someone shoots. It would make this even more meaningful.

Another problem with adding FTA is that we don't always know the spirit of the foul. Many times the winning team can be fouled over and over to extend the clock. Also, we have hack-a-Dampier to consider. So, this is not exact, either.

One last item for you to think about when you consider this data (and to me, the most important): This study is NOT saying that the team that shoots the closest wins. The number should NOT compare the Suns' ADS to the Spurs or to the Mavs. It is important to be good shooters from the perimeter and the Suns and Mavs have way better collections of perimeter talent than San Antonio. Also, the Spurs have Tim Duncan, one of the only true post producers in the game today.

What ADS measures for me is a player's tendencies (does he like to drive or is he always launching) and most importantly, a team's measure of aggressiveness against itself. If we have 20 Mavs games, we can see that the Mavs "took it to the hoop" more in this game or that game. Or against this opponents, they settle for more shots from deep.

So, with those fun facts in mind, here is what we found for the Phoenix sweep of San Antonio from an ADS perspective:

14.829Game 115.130
15.237Game 214.622
14.017Game 311.628
13.228Game 49.536

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(Winning team is in Bold)

A few things jump out at me here. The Suns rely on the 3-pointer as much as anyone in the league, so their ADS is going to be further out. But, with FTA, we can now make sense of how the Mavs and Suns had really high ADS in certain games (Phoenix, Game 2 and Dallas, Game 5) but it corresponded with a huge amount of Free Throws Attempted. So, I think the addition of FTA is a must.

Also, just like the Dallas series (which I reprinted below), we see how San Antonio gets so much closer to the rim when they are at home. This might be true with everyone, but in all 10 of their playoff games, it seems clear that the Spurs are determined to get in the paint more when they are at home.

Here is a reprint of the Mavs-Spurs numbers (with Game 5 now making more sense with the FTA added):

13.834Game 113.614
14.520Game 214.722
13.015Game 310.326
13.023Game 413.728
15.033Game 514.228
13.415Game 610.531

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It is also worth noting that although Phoenix shoots from further out than the Mavs, they also average 4 or 5 more FTA's per game. Ah yes, they shoot 3's AND take it to the rim every game. Interesting difference.


I also wanted to take a look at Point Guard Play in the famous Nash vs Kidd discussion.

From the post above, I was interested in how Steve Nash played the PG position differently than Jason Kidd. This will not factor in Kidd's flu, but since we have the data, let's see what it says:

STEVE NASH vs SAN ANTONIO, 2010 Playoffs

Game 113-1911.96
Game 27-1311.26
Game 36-1416.74
Game 48-1512.01

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What should jump off the page at you is how Nash can take long range shots, and still average "12" a game on his ADS because of the huge volume of trips in the paint. This is very Beaubois of him. And, this should be the name of the game of a point guard.

And here is Kidd from last series:

JASON KIDD vs SAN ANTONIO, 2010 Playoffs

Game 15-1413.80
Game 21-615.52
Game 31-625.04
Game 43-1019.22
Game 53-59.24
Game 61-623.00

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Nothing but launches for almost all 6 games.

12.9 versus 17.6??? Against the exact same defense 1 week apart? This demonstrates the issues the Mavs face. Both teams run the pick-and-roll in the half court set, but the Mavs with Jet or Kidd are trying to find an open launch point, whereas the Suns are attacking the rim with Nash and Amare taking parallel paths to the rim.

I believe Mr Nash shows that you can penetrate against the Spurs if you have the mind and ability to do so. His frame should not allow his ADS to be that much better than Kidd's at a similar age, but I think we all know that they are entirely different players at this portion of their amazing careers.

And now we have the ADS to prove it.


Now, here is the game-by-game and quarter-by-quarter data for the entire Spurs/Suns series so you can see for yourself where

Game 1 in Phoenix

Suns 111, Spurs 102

15.1 (17)41st Q14.3 (20)9
12.8 (18)72nd Q13.1 (14)13
14.8 (18)03rd Q15.1 (16)3
17.5 (11)184th Q17.7 (17)5
14.8 (63)29Total15.1 (67)30

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Game 2 in Phoenix

Suns 110, Spurs 102

13.0 (20)81st Q14.6 (19)8
18.5 (15)102nd Q12.6 (18)2
15.2 (18)63rd Q15.6 (17)2
14.8 (13)134th Q17.7 (15)10
15.2 (66)37Total14.6 (71)22

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Game 3 in San Antonio

Suns 110, Spurs 96

15.4 (20)01st Q14.6 (19)7
13.7 (18)82nd Q10.2 (18)8
14.6 (18)43rd Q14.9 (21)6
12.5 (21)54th Q12.0 (18)7
14.0 (77)17Total11.6 (78)28

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Game 4 in San Antonio

Suns 107, Spurs 101

12.5 (19)61st Q8.8 (19)3
14.0 (22)52nd Q8.3 (15)9
13.4 (18)83rd Q10.9 (22)9
12.6 (19)94th Q9.5 (16)15
13.2 (78)28Total9.5 (72)36

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

2009 Final Receiving Totals - Roy Williams Is Silly

All this talk about Roy Williams this week made me want to reference the only thing that matters - facts.

Here are the painful facts from the 2009 season that Roy obviously isn't referencing when he talks about being "The Man".

"I'm going to look at this thing as I'm the man, like I've always been," Williams said. "And that's never going to change."

Pay special attention to the Catch Percentage:

Season Target Distribution To Date:

Table Tutorial

And then here are the 2009 totals for 3rd Downs:

3rd Down Targets - Season Totals

Table Tutorial

Roy, the Ball don't lie.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Looking Between the Pipes

Enjoying watching the NHL Playoffs when it fits in on the crowded sports plate. And as I watch the results roll in, I can't help but notice some level of trend in these playoffs.


Tuukka Rask is a 22-year old Finnish Goaltender who has taken the Bruins job from Tim Thomas, the American netminder in Boston. Rask has been great, and the Bruins are 1 win from the final 4 as a 6-seed.

Rask salary: $850k
Thomas salary: $6m

Jaroslav Halak is perhaps the single reason that the Washington Capitals are already 2 weeks into golf season. Halak is a 24-year old Czech goaltender who entered the season as the clear #2 behind Carey Price in Montreal.

Halak salary: $800k

Antti Niemi is a 26-year old Finnish Goaltender who has emerged from next to nowhere to lead the Chicago Blackhawks deep into the playoffs and is currently the best goalie on the ice in a series against Roberto Luongo. He was an undrafted free agent who was the #1 goalie last season for the Rockford Ice Hogs. Niemi has emerged on a team that paid a ton of money to acquire Christobal Huet last year to be their savior.

Niemi salary: $827k
Huet salary: $5.6m
Luongo salary: $7.5m

Perhaps the only series that goaltending salary and pedigree is proving to matter is San Jose vs Detroit, where Evgeni Nabakov, who makes $6m and is 33, is on the right end of a match-up against young rookie Jimmy Howard, who makes $750k and is playing in front of veteran Chris Osgood.

Rask, Halak, Niemi, and Howard.

Maybe paying a goalie a disproportionate amount of money only gets you so far?

Or, maybe this is just a blip on the radar that makes no sense to anyone.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

So Is Julio Borbon a Major-League Hitter?


Right now Borbon looks like the worst hitter on the Rangers. He was never supposed to have too much power, but save for a tiny stint at high-A, he has never hit below .300 at any level and walked enough to parlay that into a real nice OBP (.360 for his minor league career, and .376 over 179 plate appearances with the Rangers last year). So far this season, those skills have evaporated and left him with a line of .188/.207/.238. Today's Dallas Morning News will tell you that is the lowest OBP in the majors this year. So what is going on? Why have the skills he has displayed in his career so far deserted him this year?

It's because he swings at too many pitches. In sifting through all the stats about Borbon, there are about a million data points that indicate that he is doing poorly (his ISO has been cut in half, his BABIP dropped 140 points, his line drive rate dropped by 2%, his walk rate dropped from 8.4% in his Rangers' stint in 2009 to an unbelievably-low 1.2% this year), but I think that, to varying degrees, all of them can be traced back to the fact that Julio Borbon is swinging at too many pitches. And they're bad pitches, too. In his time with the Rangers last year, Borbon swung at 40% of the pitches thrown to him. This year, that number is up to 50%. To provide some context, of the 188 qualifying major league hitters this year, a 40% swing rate makes you about the 40th most patient hitter. A 50% swing rate, however, makes you about the 160th most patient hitter. That is a giant difference.

Even more alarming is the breakdown of Borbon's swing rates at pitches inside and outside of the strike zone. For pitches inside the strike zone, Borbon swung at 56% of them last year and 59% of them this year. A small jump. For pitches outside the zone, Borbon swung 27.4% last year (reasonable) and 40.5% this year (kind of insane). Only seven players this year have chased more pitches out of the zone.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A Short ADS Follow-Up

Jason Kidd Shot Chart - Game 3

Tons and tons of feedback on the ADS (Average Distance per Shot) study I wrote here. In fact, if you haven't read the comment section on the original post, please do. Also, The Dallas Basketball message board thread was quite active, too. Thanks for all of your interest.

As I wrote initially, I am not saying ADS is a) useful or b) truth. I honestly don't know what it means, other than it has been an observational theory I have had for years and years and am now trying to validate through numbers.

Sadly, the only way to do this is to see the ADS of every player in the league from every game. And we don't have the time - unless some NBA team wants to hire me to run these numbers and quit my day job.

So, anecdotal evidence is the best we can do. We started with Team Data for the Mavs in the 2010 NBA Playoffs which only constituted 6 games - all against the same opponent. Many of you have properly pointed out that this opens up all sorts of flaws, which I agree.

Next, we will get individual numbers for each player. My plans from there are to then go back a few years and add the New Orleans '08, San Antonio '09, and Denver '09 playoff series (or, all of the Jason Kidd-era playoff games). It might also be useful to look at the playoff run of 2006 to see how they did it in the NBA Finals year, too.

Then, I hope to compare it to NBA Champions of the last few years, and cherry-pick players who I need to establish some levels of a baseline (Chris Paul '08, Steve Nash '10) for Point Guards who do effort to get in the paint.

But, as you can see, this is a ton of data to collect and perhaps a ton of tired head.

Anyway, here is a taste of what TC found from the Jason Kidd series:

JASON KIDD vs SAN ANTONIO, 2010 Playoffs

Game 15-1413.8
Game 21-615.5
Game 31-625.0
Game 43-1019.2
Game 53-59.2
Game 61-623.0

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A few observations:

* Pointing out that Jason Kidd is a perimeter shooter is as silly as pointing out Erick Dampier doesn't take a lot of 3's.

* He shot horribly in this series, and the Spurs were determined not to let him get comfortable out there for open 3's. Of course, he appears to have no counter to that defense at this point against that opponent.

* 17.6 is easily the worst on the team.

* His two lowest ADS games were the two games the Mavs won.

Sometime soon, I want to respond to many of your comments and concerns. Just haven't had the time yet. It will happen.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

April 2010 - Starting Rotation Profile

I try to keep up with the Rangers starting rotation as a group and as individuals as we navigate through the season, and I thought you might enjoy looking at the results, too. 2,328 pitches were thrown by Rangers rotation members in April, and only 5 men took the hill in 140 innings of work.

Just so we are all up to speed with the different stats, IPS is Innings Per Start and PPS is Pitches Per Start. Everything else will be metrics that I am sure you are familiar with.

Before you start, we need to establish league averages for the stats so you understand what consitutes "league average". So, here you go - These are the American League Averages for April 2010:

ERA - AL Average is 4.16
AVG - AL Average is .256
OBP - AL Average is .330
SLG - AL Average is .408
K/9 - AL Average is 6.85
BB/9 - AL Average is 3.59
HR/9 - AL Average is 0.97
WHIP - AL Average is 1.37

Rotation Splits

To compare to last year's rotation, Check out the Final 2009 Rotation Profile


Scott Feldman

Not totally sure what to make of Scott Feldman's April. He did give them 3 out of 5 Quality Starts, but was hit too hard to have a chance to duplicate his 2009 campaign. Lots of baserunners with a WHIP over 1.50, and he is back under 5 K's/9. We will continue to follow this story, because he is certainly being counted upon for plenty.

HRs: (2) Adam Lind, Vernon Wells

Rich Harden Splits

Let's be honest; April was a disaster for Rich Harden. His strikeouts are nice, but not when you cannot average 5 innings a start, walk almost 9 per 9 (I have never seen that before), and basically allow a OBP that is 100 points higher than the league average. Not good at all. He has promise, but that was not a great first impression.

HRs: (4) Alex Gonzalez, Shin-Soo Choo, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Quentin

Matt Harrison Splits

Matt Harrison's April was not great. You have to wonder about how much his start in Cleveland and the famous 8th inning Choo HR affected his whole month. Too many HRs and too many baserunners have sabotaged his early going. Surely a candidate to lose his spot as Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter lurk below.

HR: (5) Shin-Soo Choo, JD Drew, Mike Lowell, Darnell McDonald, Brandon Inge

Colby Lewis Splits

Colby Lewis has a 10.5 strikeouts/per 9 ratio right now. I could go on and on about his 1st month back with the Rangers, but instead, allow me to make the point again that he has a 10.5 strikeouts/per 9 ratio.

HRs:(2) Jeremy Hermida, Austin Jackson

CJ Wilson Splits

CJ Wilson is doing everything they dreamed he would do in the starting rotation. 4 out of 4 with Quality Starts, high strikeouts, and the beautiful premise of almost no extra-base hits. The moving of Wilson to the rotation has certainly caused unrest in the back of the bullpen, but I think they would have to agree it has been worth it to get this every 5 days.

HR: None

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Doesn't This World Need Another Stat?

In watching another Mavericks playoff disaster, I have had this twitch inside me to pursue something that has troubled me for almost a decade of watching Mavericks Basketball.

If you have heard the show at all after Mavericks playoff games going back to the Michael Finley-Don Nelson era, you certainly have heard me say, "The Mavs cannot win by trading 22-footers for 2-footers." What that means to me is simply this: The Dirk Mavs seem to design offenses that free Dirk and his mates up for open perimeter looks. This has served them well many nights in the last decade, but as is the case with any perimeter-based offense, there are just nights where you cannot "throw it in the ocean".

On the other end of the court - perhaps, again partly because you have a 7-foot power forward named Dirk - the Mavericks are usually not able to force playoff opponents to settle for jump shots in the 4th Quarter. Too many times, whether it was Mike Bibby, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Baron Davis, Manu Ginobili or someone else, the penetration into the paint doomed the Mavs when the game turned into a half court match of wits.

These playoff games often come down to a contest of execution in the half-court game. On offense, The Mavericks' best chance was the high pick and roll of Nash/Dirk or Terry/Dirk. On Defense, the inability to force contested jump shots, put the pressure on the offense to never lose serve. To make matters worse, the offense would not draw many fouls. The defense would be under constant stress as slashers ate the Mavs for lunch.

And that is how you lose 16 of 18 road playoff games. Simplistic explanation, but sometimes simple is all you need to explain basketball. You have one of the truly special players of this generation, and yet nobody has been able to figure out how to win in the playoffs with Dirk as your centerpiece.

And that leads me to this project. First, understand that although this project has been in my head for several years, this is the first time I have actually sat down and tried to figure it all out on paper. There are some flaws in the logic that I need to sort through (perhaps with your help). Second, my idea seems so simple that there is a good chance someone else has already thought of it. I don't want you to think that I believe I am the first person to ever think of this, because there are so many smart people following this game that surely this has been out there before. I just haven't seen it anywhere, and that is why I want to see what you think.

My idea is this: Rather than making the claim that the Mavericks "settle" for perimeter shots consistently and claim that the opponent does not, maybe there is a way to actually prove it. I can never measure defensive intensity. I cannot measure desire. I cannot measure the harshness of officiating. BUT, I can measure how far the Mavs and their opponents are from the basket when they shoot the basketball.

The NBA keeps a full play-by-play of every game in which they list the rough estimate of the distance from the basket for every shot attempted in each game. What if I merely tabulated all of the shots and found the average distance for that night's shots? It sounds so simple, and yet it would seem to reveal whether a team was "settling" or "taking it to the hoop".

So, I did. WIth tons of tabulation help from TC, below are the findings of the entire series between San Antonio and Dallas; Until we figure out a real catchy name for this simple metric, let's call it "Average Distance per Shot", or, "ADS".

Mavs ADSGameSpurs ADS
13.8Game 113.6
14.5Game 214.7
13.0Game 310.3
13.0Game 413.7
15.0Game 514.2
13.4Game 610.5

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Now, you may look at that chart and aside from a few observations the numbers might all seem very close. A few things like, Wow, according to the Spurs ADS in Games 3 and 6, in particular, they were getting a ton of shots from a very close range. However, I am not happy with the findings, because in Game 5, the Mavericks had their worst ADS of the series (15.0), but I think most of us feel that was the game where they took the ball to the basket the best. So why is their ADS so bad? Because late in the game when it was decided, the bench players started launching 23 footers to kill the average.

But, when I broke it down by Quarter, you will see that in the 1st Half, the Mavericks dominated the ADS stat on both ends of the court. They were shooting from close range more often, and forcing the Spurs further away from the basket, on the way to a 53-46 halftime lead. Then, up 82-64 entering the 4th, the game was basically garbage time for the rest of the contest. Look below at Game 5 by Quarter:

Mavs ADSGame 5Spurs ADS
12.91st Q14.6
12.62nd Q15.0
14.53rd Q12.2
18.64th Q15.3
15.0Game 514.2

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I think we are starting to see that a full game does not tell us a whole lot of information, but, when you start to break it down by Quarter, we see where the trends in the game were shown on the scoreboard.

Remember Game 3 in San Antonio? The game made famous by Manu's broken nose, JJ Barea's 32 minute stint, Danny Crawford's record continuing in Mavs games, and the Mavs fade in the 4th tells us plenty:

Mavs ADSGame 3Spurs ADS
10.11st Q11.6
14.52nd Q10.1
13.43rd Q9.3
14.04th Q10.5
13.0Game 310.3

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This game showed us that it wasn't just the Mavs offense. Actually, the offense is about as good as get it gets for the Mavs with an average shot distance of 13.0 for a full game is the best they did in this series. But, it was the defense in this game (and if you saw this game, you will remember that Manu and Parker got in the paint over and over and over again) driving the Spurs' ADS down into single digits! For the game, the Spurs ADS was barely above 10 feet (10.3) which is the lowest number of the entire series.

Look at each quarter of Game 3; In every Quarter but the 1st, the Spurs are standing a full 4 feet closer on EVERY shot! This is the fundamental problem that the Mavs are trying to fight every year at playoff time. When teams are "quality opponents", they generally have the ability to play their most vicious defense at key moments. If one team can make another team stand 4 feet further on every single shot, over the course of 50 shots, that will be next to impossible to overcome, it seems.

Now, look at Game 6:

Mavs ADSGame 6Spurs ADS
14.21st Q10.0
11.02nd Q8.6
13.23rd Q10.8
15.84th Q12.4
13.4Game 610.5

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In the elimination game, with both teams knowing how well the Mavericks opened Game 5 by attacking the rim and owning the paint, the Spurs decided to take it back in Game 6. Every single Quarter, the Mavs were forced much further away from the basket than the Spurs. 3 feet on average. When the Mavs took the ball to the basket some, the Spurs did more. And as the game continued, the Mavs creeped back because they hit some long shots, but no team can sustain it. You can get hot, but you can never stay hot. If you can stay hot for a game, you cannot sustain it for a series. Trading long shots for short shots is the formula for disaster.

Again, the average distance of every shot a player or a team takes seems like a rather easy way to determine how aggresive the team is attempting to be. There are surely flaws in it. Here are a few:

* If the sample is too big, it will not recognize the intensity drop of "garbage time". Not every position is against the same intensity. A possession in a tie game with 30 seconds to play versus a possession against a 25 point lead cannot be compared.

* Shots that result in fouls are not included as "Field Goals Attempted". Obviously, if a player is fouled trying to dunk, he gets rewarded with 2 free throws, but would not have any bearing on his "ADS". This is a problem.

* Desperation heaves from 75-feet would really throw off the sample. Therefore, I do not include desperation heaves in the statistics. I could not think of any other solution to that.

But, beyond that, I feel like this is so basic and yet so telling. It tells us that every team shoots from the perimeter, but some teams shoot much more from the perimeter. It tells us a team like the Spurs - due to penetration and the presence of a post scorer - shoot from very close to the basket quite often. And, of course, it tells us that the Mavs are trying to win a game in which they rely on 20-footers falling in crucial moments. In all of these games, as the game got later (And intensity is turned up) the Mavs had to keep backing up to get shots. Always a bad trend because sometimes those shots fall, sometimes, they get eliminated before May 1st.

Like I said, someone may already keep this stat. Or, maybe it is so simple it has no practical application to NBA minds. But, it would seem to me that if you take 10 footers instead of 20, you have a better chance of making them. Note: Of course, a wide open 20 footer is easier than a contested 10 footer, but over the course of a sample, I believe this evens out quite a bit. Uncontested lay-ups are way easier than uncontested 3's. Contested dunks are easier than contested 3's, and so on.

If the Mavs are more aggressive, their ADS drops from 15.0 to 12.0. When they get more passive it raises from 12.5 to 17.0. And we can see that when we watch the game. We also know that Jason Kidd is nothing but a perimeter shooter anymore. We see it, but now we know that his ADS in Game 6 was "23.0", but Roddy Beaubois in Game 6 had a shockingly low "10.3". Yes, Roddy took a few 3's, but he also took quite a few "1-footers" to show he was aggressively taking it to the rim.

In a future post, I want to look at every player on the roster from an "ADS" standpoint, as well as stars in the league like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James to see what all of this means.

But, for now, let me know what you think.