The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Archive for May, 2007

Eastern Conference Finals: Game 1

Posted by disappointmentzone on 22 May 2007

After last night’s game, a 79-76 loss, my brother called me to talk about the game. He was of the opinion that the Cavs — if they couldn’t win last night — had no chance in the series. He listed many of the factors Random Thoughts brought up in its recap:

Discouraged: Z had 22 points, Billups was shut down (7 TO’s), Webber was in foul trouble (and was useless on defense), Detroit’s bench was a non-factor, the Cavs grabbed 18 offensive boards (and out rebounded the Pistons 49-41) and yet they still lost.

I tried to cheer him up. My main argument was that LeBron James didn’t play his typical game. He didn’t attempt a free throw. He only scored 10 points. He had a lot of trouble navigating the defense. And in spite of that the Cavs still could have won had Marshall drilled that three-pointer. When your best player lays an egg and you still almost win — on the road, on shorter rest, in the team’s first trip to the ECF — you have to like your chances going forward. Maybe not to win the series, but who knows? If the Cavs can steal the next game…

But today I spent some time going over the boxscore and now I am not so sure the Cavs have any chance.

Let’s take a look at some numbers.

Through the first two rounds of the playoffs the players have posted these numbers:

cavsplayoffs.jpg

Numbers in red are negative. WS is Win Score. WS/min is Win Score per minute. WSminAA is Win Score per minute above average, where average is relative to a player’s position. For example, in the first two rounds of the playoffs Donyell Marshall had a total Win Score of 11.5. His Win Score per minute was .185. Marshall plays power forward. Relative to the average power forward Marshall was slightly below average (-.030).

Here are the numbers for Monday’s game against the Pistons:

ecfgame1cavs.jpg

Notice that the front court played extremely well. Ilgauskas was outstanding and so was Varejao. Gooden and LBJ were the only other players who played above average basketball. The rest of the team? A lot to be desired. Pavlovic was pretty terrible. So was Snow. Marshall and Gibson didn’t do much, but they didn’t play much either. Hughes was Hughes — slightly less productive than the average point guard. (1)

What can we draw from these two sets of numbers? Well, if we look at them side by side…

difference.jpg

As you can see, LBJ didn’t have an off game, at least not by his playoff standards this season. In fact, LBJ played slightly better than he has in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

The final play of the game notwithstanding, LBJ didn’t play poorly. He played about as well as you can expect him to and, given the stakes and the competition, he probably out-performed what any reasonable person should expect.

What does this all mean?

I don’t know. But here are two thoughts for game two:

1) The Cavs have to run their offense through the post. When the guards pass around the perimeter too often Larry Hughes ends up chucking a low-percentage jumper. When the Cavs swing the ball down low Pavlovic tends to get better looks.

2) As a corollary, I would try to bring Z and Gooden away from the block fairly often. Z is much better as a face-up post player than he with his back to the basket, but by moving Z away from the block the lane should open up. LBJ has to attempt at least eight free throws every game. As you saw last night, though, he won’t be getting any calls if he’s trying to drive into three defenders. But if he’s driving against his man and a help defender, then he’ll start to get calls. Clearing the lane will ensure that happens.

1: Thank goodness Hughes isn’t paid too much money.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers, statistics | Leave a Comment »

VERY quick ECF preview

Posted by disappointmentzone on 21 May 2007

The Eastern Conference Finals will come down to how well Larry Hughes plays. Forget about LeBron. The Pistons are going to throw Prince at him with help coming from all angles (much like what the Warriors did to disrupt Dirk). He’s too good of a player to be held down, but his success will come in proportion to the success of his teammates. The more problems the Not-LeBrons have in scoring, the more likely it is that the Cavs will lose.

If you have followed the Cavs this season there is nothing about what I’m suggesting that is novel. What I am writing about this series is the exact thing I would write about pretty much any game the Cavs play. The difference here is that, whereas against lesser teams the Cavs could ride the crest of LBJ’s ability, against the Pistons those holes cannot be hidden by recourse to a singular talent. It takes five to beat the Pistons, which is a lot more than it takes to beat most teams. (1)

The games will all be low scoring, with 97 points as the upper limit of regulation games. 90 will be enough to win most games, but the first team to 80 points is what to watch. There will be fewer possessions in each game than in your typical NBA contest, which means that if Hughes attempts 15+ shots he’s probably attempting too many. Hughes cannot shoot his way into a shot streak if the Cavs have any chance. Every shot Hughes attempts is one fewer shot a better-able teammate could be attempting. The Pistons will want to lure the Cavs into forcing LBJ to take every shot. He can’t do that if the Cavs are going to win. Someone else has to step up and that person (probably) can’t be Hughes. He has demonstrated that he can’t shoot about forty different ways this season. If Hughes is hoisting shots, the Cavs are losing games.

So watch Hughes. He’ll be the key. If he plays well then I like the Cavs’ chances of stealing a game.

Pistons move on, 4-2.

1: I like this sort of shorthand for the quality of teams. Really good teams take 4-5 guys to beat them. Really bad teams can be bowled over by 1 guy. The Cavs are on the cusp of the 4-5 guy level, having proved they can handle a three-headed attack in the Nets. The corollary is that the Cavs are going into battle with only about 2.5 guys on offense. That’s a problem.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Sports | Leave a Comment »

Humanity and Cleveland sports

Posted by disappointmentzone on 15 May 2007

Cleveland sports teams don’t often inspire hope for on-field activities, but sometimes what happens off the field transcends the games and we can find players inspiring a different kind of hope. Take, for instance, the Cavaliers and the Indians.

12 Cavaliers have signed a petition expressing outrage over the genocide in Darfur and Ben recently linked to a nice PD piece about Ira Newble’s admirable involvement in brining attention to what is without a doubt the most pressing humanitarian crisis of the last fifty years. I try to refrain from politics on this blog but there is no political argument for genocide. The issue is as one sided as a game of one-on-one between me and LeBron (who, by the way, is painfully and regretfully following the path of MJ and staying out of all things that could prevent him from selling more shoes). Darfur not a political issue — it’s a humanitarian issue. It is nice to see those with power (NBA basketball players) use it for non-selfish purposes. If only we could expect the same from our representatives in office (oops! politics!).

In other news, SI.com brought my attention to Prepara, the adult education program the Indians organization operates for its Domincan players. This was the first I had heard of the program. From the article:

In the spring of 2004, the Cleveland Indians started requiring their Dominican prospects to attend Prepara, an adult education program that teaches players core subjects such as math, geography, and history. Depending on the time of the year and the intensity of the playing schedule, players become students anywhere from three to five times per week with classes lasting 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours, with at least a half-dozen completing their high school educations.

It is the first and only program of its kind and its popularity and impact is increasing. Angel Franco, the first player to graduate from the program, is no longer in baseball — an ill fate for many young Latino players but not for Franco. Thanks to Prepara, he is now in law school.

Some things are better than beating the Nets.

UPDATE: Brylon Edwards is getting into the act as well, pledging $1 million in college scholarships for Cleveland students.

Posted in Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Indians, flotsam and Jetsam | 3 Comments »

Thoughts on Roger Clemens

Posted by disappointmentzone on 10 May 2007

While guest blogging at the Wages of Wins Journal, economist Steve Walters lays out how it is that Roger Clemens lucked into such a fortunate payday and argues that there is NO WAY that adding Clemens will net the Yankees any money. By his most generous estimate, Walters has the Yankees losing $3.5 million and thinks the team will probably lose a lot more than that. It’s a worthwhile read. Here’s a teaser:

But you don’t even have to do this type of math to know that the Yankees overpaid. The other major bidder in the Rocket auction—the Red Sox (Clemens’s hometown Astros apparently stopped talking with him at the end of spring training)—reportedly topped out at a pro-rated $18 million for the year, or no more than $12 million for the rest of the season. How did Hendricks get an extra $6.5 million from the Yanks? He put the “prisoner’s dilemma” to work for his client, expertly playing on the fears of the Yanks’ brass that their arch-rivals would nab Clemens.

Posted in flotsam and Jetsam | 1 Comment »

Verducci on Sizemore

Posted by disappointmentzone on 8 May 2007

SI senior baseball writer Tom Verducci has penned a profile of Grady Sizemore. You can read it here. Enjoy.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | Leave a Comment »

DZ Power Rankings

Posted by disappointmentzone on 3 May 2007

The Disappointment Power Rankings is back and, frankly, the minions who’ve been cramming the numbers are a little confused. It seems that there is a lot of, you know, good news to factor into the rankings this month. The high tech machines used to make the computations just aren’t equipped to handle good news. We’re installing a software patch that should take care of the problem. In the meantime, these rankings are straight from the hip and lack the rigorous analysis that usually goes into them. The rankings, therefore, are provisional and possibly inadequate.

1) Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs have waltzed into the second round of the NBA Playoffs after sweeping the lowly and undermanned Washington Wizards. Fret not about how close the games were. If there is one thing the Cavs are not about it’s wasting energy against lesser opponents (see: regular season losses to Bobcats, Celtics, et al). But if there is a thing the Cavs are about it’s expending that saved up energy in games that actually matter. I would be very afraid if I were the Nets or Raptors. LBJ just might start trying and that’s scary.

2) Cleveland Browns

When the Browns drafted Joe Thomas I was so happy I nearly yelped. Keep in mind that I was alone and in a library and am by disposition not prone to sudden outbursts. The team made the right draft choice for the first time since, well, at least since coming back to Cleveland. And then they got Brady Quinn, about whom I’d like to say something: Before the draft I was very much against the Browns drafting Quinn. This was in part because I thought the team needed to address the offensive line but it was also become Quinn went to Notre Dame and that’s just about as certain a way of securing my disdain as anything (going to Fichigan is more certain-er). But now that he’s a Cleveland Brown I gladly (if reluctantly) throw my support completely behind him and I will follow him…until/unless he turns into a bust.

3) Cleveland Indians

The Indians are tied for the best record in baseball (in terms of winning %) with our favorite NL team, the Milwaukee Brewers. Should the year play out as the first month has played out and we end up with a Cleveland-Milwaukee World Series, would Cleveland every really play an away game, and wouldn’t that be too huge an advantage for the Brewers to overcome? The answers: no, yes. Which means a World Series Championship for the Indians. But it’s still only May and the season is long. The good news is that the team is not playing particularly well. The Indians are outperforming their Pythagorean Expected Wins by two games — a nice departure from last season — and so who knows what the team is capable of when playing well. Actually, a lot of people probably know the answer to that: winning by more runs than they are now.

4) Ohio State Football Buckeyes

The good: Anthony Gonzalez was drafted in the first round by the Colts. This was one of my favorite draft choices by a non-Browns team. Gonzalez will have a better rookie year than Calvin Johnson. Mark my words. The less good: Troy Smith falling to Baltimore. It’s nice seeing Smith land with a team that’s a very good fit for him, but it’s terrible to see Smith land with the Ravens. Why? Two reasons. 1) In the same spirit that a US Citizen can’t be drafted into the French Navy (more or less…) no Cleveland native should be allowed to be drafted by Ravens. 2) I think Smith will eventually turn into a better-than-average NFL QB and loathe the prospect of having to watch the Browns play against him twice a year. Remember when I said that now that Quinn is a Cleveland Brown I’ll root for him? Is the reverse true? Now that Smith is a Raven do I have to root against him? Being a sports fan is tough sometimes.

5) Ohio State Basketball Buckeyes

Goodbye Greg Oden, we hardly knew thee. Goodbye Mike Conley. I hope the fact that you don’t have a jump shot doesn’t ruin your chances of earning that oh-so-valuable second contract in the NBA (stay in school, young man!). Goodbye Daequan Cook. The fact that you are even putting your name in the ring makes me want to laugh. I hope you’re a fan of the D League. That’s where you’re headed if you don’t return to Columbus.

6) Aston Villa

Aston Villa is practically dead to me.

Posted in Aston Villa/English Premier League, Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Sports, flotsam and Jetsam | 4 Comments »

MLB.tv tip for mac

Posted by disappointmentzone on 2 May 2007

If you plopped down the money for MLB.tv Premium and you want to watch the games in full screen mode you probably do so through Mosaic. But say you are tired of using Mosaic because it eats your memory. What do you do?

Here is a tip for Mac users.

First you need to install Flip4Mac on your computer (free).

Second, in the system preferences click on the Flip4Mac icon and under the Plugin tab select “Launch QuickTime Player”.

Now when you watch a game a game outside of Mosaic it will load in a QT window that you can then resize to you preference.

Enjoy!

Posted in flotsam and Jetsam | Leave a Comment »

Platooning the lineup works

Posted by disappointmentzone on 2 May 2007

In last night’s Indians game the team faced RHP AJ Burnett. The Indians lineup went L, L, L, S, L, R, R, R, R. The first time through the order the Indians had some problems, but the next two times through the order the Indians scored seven runs and 9 of the next 18 batters reached safely. The seven runs came on two homers and a double. The first homer was by Dellucci (L) with Nixon (L) on base. The second homer was by Peralta (R) with Martinez (S) and Nixon (L) on base. Peralta hit the double as well, with Nixon and Garko (R) on base.

In other words, the guys who you would expect to have a greater chance of getting on base did, thus setting up the possibilities for big plays for the subsequent batters. Fortunately, tonight the subsequent batters got their hits.

Though the Indians have had problems with RISP this season, they haven’t had problems getting runners on base. Batting with runners in scoring position will eventually average out, as all of the run scoring last night attests. But getting multiple runners on base consistently is more difficult. So far this season the Indians have demonstrated an ability to do this exceptionally well.  Part of this must be attributed to the lineups Wedge has been using. Statistically it just makes sense.

The four-run third inning last night was reminiscent of the first game of the season against Chicago, when the Indians quickly jumped out against Jose Contreras. In that game Wedge had the same sort of platooned lineup. I was listening to the radio broadcast of that game here in Chicago. Steve Stone was doing the analysis. When a right-handed batter finally came to the plate in the first inning, Stone expressed relief for Contreras, who finally had a pitching match-up in his favor. Until then all of the pressure was on Contreras and as each Indians batter reached base safely the pressure on Contreras built. If memory serves the first three batters in that game (Sizemore, Nixon, Hafner), in their first three at bats, all reached base safely. The first three batters batted in each of the first three innings. The Indians scored five, four, and two runs in those innings.

Getting multiple players to the plate without recording outs is how you score runs. You do this by structuring your lineup so that you aren’t putting players less likely to reach base between players more likely to reach base (which is what happens in the L, R, L, R, L, R, L, R, L lineups). And you do this by platooning your lineup. It is nice to see Wedge break away from the idiotic practice of alternating handedness in his lineups.

I believe this is the first time I have complimented Wedge in this space. It really is a new year.

Posted in Cleveland Indians | Leave a Comment »

SI.com and ESPN.com envy each other

Posted by disappointmentzone on 1 May 2007

If you logged onto the internets this afternoon and went in search news from the sporting world, you might have looked at ESPN.com. Or maybe you would have checked out SI.com. Both are pretty popular websites for sports news. I routinely visit each site multiple times a day. You probably do, too.

I prefer SI.com over ESPN.com because ESPN.com likes to hide all its content behind a firewall and I’m not about to pony up for Insider — certainly the largest boondoggle in all of sports media. SI.com employs good writers and allows anyone to read everything that is posted to their website, which seems much more in the spirit of internet journalism than Insider. There is much less fuss and bluster on SI.com (and, to be fair, and equal amount of sheer idiocy — Jenn Sterger anyone?) and a lot fewer annoying videos that automatically play — loudly, without fail — each time you reload the page.

Anyway, I’m firmly in the SI camp.

Which is why I don’t know what to make of what I saw today. (1)

From the front pages of SI.com and ESPN.com:

si.jpg espn2.jpg

You know, there is a lot of talk — a fair amount if it warranted — about the potentially crippling effects of the conglomerate-ization of media in a liberal democracy. An informed citizenry benefits from a multiplicity of news sources, each competing for the best coverage of any news event. The same argument probably does not extend to the world of sports, or at least not with the same potential ramifications, but still. Seeing both ESPN.com and SI.com feature the same news story with the exact same figures is bothersome.

It’s not like this story about the crappy Yankees is national news. This isn’t the Super Bowl or NFL Draft. It’s some historical statistics about the incidence of baseball teams making the playoffs after less-than-stellar Aprils. It’s a local story covered by the same angle by both organizations.

How curious.

The stories aren’t exactly identical, though. ESPN.com opts for the long view:

• Of the 144 teams that made it to the postseason [since 1982], only eight (or 5.6 percent) came out of April more than three games under .500.

Whereas SI.com is partial to recent history:

How many teams recover from that kind of terrible start to get into the postseason? Would you believe 4.8 percent? That’s right. From 1996 to 2006, 62 teams played worse than .400 baseball in April. Only three of those 62 teams made the playoffs.

This is remarkable news coverage. Seriously. It’s not just how outrageously obvious both stories are. Wouldn’t you know it, but if you play baseball very poorly you do not have a great chance of making the playoffs! Also, this just in from the Dept. of Sports Cliches and All Things Obvious: winnings games matters!

But it’s also how that obviousness masquerades as something else. I think the assumption is that the actual story of both articles — not winning baseball games hurts a team’s chances of making the playoffs — is covertly obscured by their reliance upon numbers rather than rhetoric, which render the stories somehow “original” or “insightful”. Which is just stupid.

Especially when both websites run the same story on their front page.

Anyway….

1: I really wish I knew that SI.com posted its story first and ESPN.com copied it. All I know is that Tom Verducci filed his story at 11:13am. I saw the ESPN.com page around 2pm, but the article on ESPN.com is not time-stamped. Which means that it could have been written in the three hours after SI.com posted its story. But I doubt it. Maybe the editors for both websites called each other last night and decided to mail it in today. Just run the same stuff, take the day off, and return tomorrow. Who knows.

Posted in flotsam and Jetsam | Leave a Comment »

Maybe this will stop Barry Bonds

Posted by disappointmentzone on 1 May 2007

By now everyone is well aware of the protest the Indians have filed with MLB over the three-innings-late run awarded to Baltimore in the game on Saturday, a game the Indians ultimately lost by three runs. The smart money is on MLB not upholding the protest, even though the wise move for baseball, as many are arguing, would be to replay the game from the point of the awarded run (which wouldn’t be awarded).

Should MLB rule in favor of Baltimore, the league would be setting a precedent for allowing calls to be overturned whenever it pleases the umpires under circumstances when no one properly requests an appeal of the call. Basically, the ruling could drastically change how umpires call games. One point that hasn’t been touched upon is how this might expose baseball to an informal replay rule. If an umpire sees a replay between innings on a television monitor that confirms that the call on the field was incorrect, could he then be allowed to overturn it? Or what if he sees the play on the jumbotron? This could be the World Cup all over again!

In light of all this controversy, a recent article — published the day before the Indians-Orioles game — from The Onion seems particularly prescient:

MLB Credits Hank Aaron With 50 Lost Home Runs

Posted in Cleveland Indians | Leave a Comment »

 
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