We’re on the ground in Rio covering the 2016 Summer Olympics.So far in these Olympics, the 19-year-old freestyle swimming sensation Katie Ledecky has won four medals for the U.S., three of them gold, and shattered the 400-meter world record in stunning fashion. She has just one event left in these games, and it’s the one that rocketed her to prominence in 2012: the 800-meter freestyle. She swam a leisurely 8:12.86 in her qualifying heat on Thursday, which is both an Olympic record and faster than any other woman has ever swum this distance. A repeat swim in the final would assure her a gold medal.Ledecky’s world record in this event — set somewhat unexpectedly at the Arena Pro Swim Series in January in Austin — is 8:06.68. Even before these Olympics began, people have started to wonder whether she might — someday — be able to achieve the unthinkable: Ledecky tends to pace herself about a half-second faster (per 50 meters) in the 400. She swam the middle lengths of her pre-Olympics 400 record in an average of 30.2 seconds, compared with 30.7 in her 800-meter record. If she follows a similar pattern this time, she’ll need to approximately match that 30.2 — which she can do by essentially swimming exactly her 400-meter race, plus an extra 400 meters in the middle at around 30.4 seconds — barely slower than her worst split in that event of 30.3.This is a tall order, indeed. But there are reasons to think it’s not impossible. Ledecky improved her best time in the 200 meters by 0.68 seconds, and in the 400 meters by 1.91 seconds. Let’s compare those improvements to what she needs for eight minutes: A per-lap improvement over 800 similar to what she has done in the 200 and 400 would put her within a few seconds of eight minutes.Does her preliminary time tell us anything? A time of 8:12.86 is a far cry from 8:00, and many of the best world records set in these games have been preceded by near-misses in the earlier rounds. But as a distance event, and as close to guaranteed of advancing as is possible, Ledecky’s time doesn’t tell us much. She was in a comparable situation in the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia, when she put up 8:19.42 in her preliminary heat, a full 8.42 slower than her then-world record of 8:11. And here’s how that turned out: First, a note on how fast eight minutes would be: Since the ban on body-length and non-textile swimsuits in 2009, no woman other than Ledecky has managed to swim under four minutes in the 400-meter freestyle. So eight minutes would literally mean swimming 800 meters faster than anyone else can swim half the distance. But while that sounds crazy, it’s not out of character: Ledecky already swims the 1,500 meters at a faster pace than any other woman swims the 800 meters, and her present 800-meter time would already put her in the 10 fastest women in the 400 meters in the textile era.So can she do it? Perhaps even now?It would definitely take an incredible effort, great even among her great efforts. Using her splits from these Olympics and from her previous best times at each distance, I’ve constructed what this hypothetical 7:59.99 swim would look like, and it doesn’t look easy: She went on to break her record by 3.61 seconds (shattering what was then an 8:10 barrier in the process).A similar 12.08-second improvement on her leisure heat this year would be 5.9 seconds faster than her record, and would put her at 8:00.78. While a jump that large isn’t necessarily implied by the fact that she has done it before, it at least suggests that such an improvement — which would only be slightly larger than what her times and trends already suggest — is credible. And when you’re that close to such a milestone, who knows. A slightly faster reaction time here, a slightly longer sprint at the end there — plus it will be her last race of the games so she should hold nothing back — and the impossible looks a lot more plausible.
David Stern wants action, not acting.“Flopping” in the NBA is when a player goes through exaggerated motions to give the impression he was hit harder than he was to dupe the referee into calling a foul on the opposition. This bad acting is more than norm now than the exception, and commissioner David Stern wants to see it controlled.“I think it’s time to look at (flopping) in a more serious way,” Stern told ESPN, “because it’s only designed to fool the referee. It’s not a legitimate play in my judgment. I recognize if there’s contact (you) move a little bit, but some of this is acting. We should give out Oscars rather than MVP trophies.In Game 1 on the Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks first-round series, Tyson Chandler was assessed a flagrant foul 1 on league MVP LeBron James after James ran into a well-timed screen by Chandler. There was contact, yes. But the 6-foot-8, 260-pound James acted as he were blindsided by an NFL linebacker. He went stumbling to his side, his arms flailing. His stunt to the court, where he rolled around, grabbing his neck and grimacing as if he had been shot him in the back. Fake.James is not aone, as several other stars have become prone to “flopping.” Take the Los Angeles Clippers, as an example. They have come under fire as a team for excessive flopping. Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph claims Chris Paul is to blame, telling ESPN Radio, “It all starts with Chris, because Blake (Griffin) didn’t really used to flop like that.”Boston’s Paul Pierce is another who goes into a stunt fall or over-the-top stumble most every time there is contact. The game has been cleaned up from the 1990s to where there is no hand-checking and hard fouls are not flagrant fouls. If the floppers have their way, a “foul” will be called on most every play. Expect Stern and the league to come up with something to penalize “floppers.” And rightfully so.
Dikembe Mutombo, the shot-blocking, finger-wagging former NBA all-star center, was named as a finalist for the upcoming Basketball Hall of Fame class. It is debatable if he should get the call based on his 18-year career. But if humanitarian deeds were the criteria, he’d be a unanimous choice.The 7-foot-1 Congo native arguably has done more off the court for his country and Africa than perhaps any athlete has ever done for his native land. That alone should get him in the Hall. How can one not vote for a man who has been so committed to serving others, including in the United States?Mutombo showed the moment he joined the NBA in 1991 after a stellar career at Georgetown that he was cut from a special and unique cloth. He understood the value of his position and supported his troubled homeland as soon as his significant paychecks started being deposited.He’s done so much for so long that his basketball career would be considered secondary, except that basketball gave him a global platform and the resources to reach the masses. You’d think he graduated from Georgetown with a degree in humanitarian work instead of the double degrees in linguistics and diplomacy.In 2007, through his Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, he opened a hospital in Kinshasa—a hospital—called the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital. Named after his mother, it is a 170-bed facility that cost $29 million to build. It’s the first new hospital there in 40 years. Futhermore, Mutombo raised money through his rich friends and fellow former Georgetown centers Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning as well as others. He also donated about $8 million of his own money to have it built.In his deep, hoarse voice with a heavy African accent, Mutombo told the Wall Street Journal that he was pained visiting the Congo and seeing his people suffer.The Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital in Kinsasha, Congo“I got sick and tired of seeing people dying at a young age,” he said. “It hurt me a lot. People were dying from diseases that were treatable. I thought I could be part of the change and contribute to society and to mankind.”In 1994, Mutombo, Ewing, Mourning and others from the NBA office took a trip to Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, where they helped build basketball courts and speak to youths about achievement. Mutombo was the most comfortable person in the contingent. The Black South Africans were wowed by his height and connected to him because of his heritage.“These are my people,” he said back then. “We’re all from Africa.”Those who did not see Mutombo play in the NBA know him from the Geico commercials, where he blocks people’s attempts to discard things—and then waves his finger (as he did in the NBA) before running out of the scene.He is second all-time in blocks in NBA history, which is his strongest basketball case to make for the Hall. On the offensive end, Mutombo worked hard but was not a fluid or big scorer. But he was extremely fluid in business and charity.Here’s some of what he does: He’s active with Hughes Spalding Children’s Hospital Christmas toy drive, Hosea Feed the Hungry and the Atlanta Community Food Bank. For the past 12 years, Mutombo has been one of the leaders of Basketball Without Borders/Africa, the NBA and the International Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) global basketball development and community outreach program that unites young African basketball players from across the continent to promote the sport and encourage positive social change in the areas of education, health and wellness.He’s been a spokesman for CARE and on the Advisory Board for the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health. Mutombo has received numerous honors and awards including the 32nd Annual Thurman Munson Award, the Goodermote Humanitarian Award, the President’s Service Award from President Clinton, Big Brothers Big Sisters New York City Achievement in Public Service Award, the Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy, and the John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award. Mutombo is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta 2014. And that’s not half of what he does.Mutombo recently spoke in Atlanta about ending human and sex trafficking in Africa and America.“It’s not hard, because I love my job,” Mutombo said of being so charity-driven. “I thank the NBA organization for putting the trust in me to carry on this mission of social innovation worldwide. We’re having such a huge impact to our youth with our game of basketball. We invested more than $200 million in social innovation to improve health and literacy.”He said playing in the NBA has helped him see how important his work is.“It taught me how to be a good leader, a good competitor and how to win,” he said to the Journal. “It’s not easy to teach a child how to win. I’m glad I had a great mentor. [John Thompson] told me, ‘I know you want to be a doctor, but you can go out to make a lot of money and go out to save lives at the same time.’“I think it was the right choice, and I don’t regret that I didn’t go to medical school. I can go to medical school today if I want to. What I’ve done now is more than just treating people today—I’ve treated future generations to come.”Mutombo name might not be called when inductees to the Basketball Hall of Fame are announced in April. But no one who makes it can claim to have done more good for more people than Mutombo.
NFL player Colin Kaepernick received the pristine Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award on Saturday (Apr. 21) and acknowledged the killings of Blacks and Latinos in America.The Amnesty International ceremony in Amsterdam holds an annual event to honor a person or organization “dedicated to fighting injustice and using their talents to inspire others.” Kaepernick was selected as the honoree for his stance towards racial injustice and his monumental national anthem protests.During the 30-year-old’s acceptance speech, he blasted police shootings of minorities as “lawful lynchings.”“Racialized oppression and dehumanization is woven into the very fabric of our nation — the effects of which can be seen in the lawful lynching of black and brown people by the police, and the mass incarceration of black and brown lives in the prison industrial complex,” Kaepernick explained.Although he was criticized by NFL teams and President Trump, the former San Francisco player defended his stance on kneeling during the national anthem.“How can you stand for the national anthem of a nation that preaches and propagates, ‘freedom and justice for all,’ that is so unjust to so many of the people living there,” Kaepernick asked.The NFL player still remains a free agent after separating from the San Franciso 49ers in 2016. Many feel Kaepernick is being blackballed in the league, but that never dismayed the player from fighting for social justice. He’s donated at least a million to different organizations and plans to grant $90 million for the next seven years to social justice causes.Secretary-General Salil Shetty of Amnesty International named Kaepernick “an athlete who is now widely recognized for his activism because of his refusal to ignore or accept racial discrimination” the Associated Press reported.The football player’s speech included quotes from civil rights leader Malcolm X to “join in with anyone – I don’t care what color you are – as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth,” according to the Washington Post.“In truth, this is an award that I share with all of the countless people throughout the world combating the human rights violations of police officers, and their uses of oppressive and excessive force,” Kaepernick said during his speech.The NFL free agent was presented his award by a long-time friend and former teammate, Eric Reid who protested alongside Kaepernick.Kaepernick paid homage to Reid and his stance against racial injustice.“Eric introducing me for this prestigious award brings me great joy,” Kaepernick said. “But I am also pained by the fact that his taking a knee, and demonstrating courage to protect the rights of black and brown people in America, has also led to his ostracization from the NFL when he is widely recognized as one of the best competitors in the game and in the prime of his career,” Kaepernick stated according to AP.
40:12Stephen Gostkowski kicks onside 6 yards, recovered by Shiloh Keo and returned for 3 yards-16.4% 42:303rd & 6Tom Brady pass incomplete short middle intended for Danny Amendola (defended by Kayvon Webster). DEN challenged the incomplete pass ruling, and the play was upheld.-7.3% 27:463rd & 3Tom Brady sacked by DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller for -6 yards-6.4% 32:484th & 11Britton Colquitt punts 53 yards-4.6% 413:393rd & 1C.J. Anderson left tackle for 30 yards (tackle by Devin McCourty)-9.7% 42:332nd & 1Tom Brady pass incomplete short left intended for James White-4.2% Did you hear? Stephen Gostkowski, FiveThirtyEight’s Football Player of the Year,1Who actually uses his feet missed his first extra point since his rookie season, and it cost the New England Patriots a chance to win the AFC championship game and repeat as Super Bowl champions. For shame.Yes, Gostkowski was an important part of getting them there in the first place. Yes, he went 2 for 2 on 3-point field goals and sent all four of his (non-onside) kickoffs for touchbacks. And yes, the miss did come in the first quarter. But see, if he’d made that kick and everything else in the game played out exactly the same way over the next 47 minutes, and the Patriots — down 1 point after their counterfactual final drive — decided to kick an XP instead of going for two, and Gostkowski made that one as well, and the Patriots won in overtime, on the road, they would be getting ready for the big game right now. And in case that logic wasn’t proof enough, Gostkowski himself confessed!To some extent, this line of thinking is natural. Holding people who commit minor sins accountable for major negative results that flow from them is deeply ingrained in modern society. For example, if someone runs a red light and nothing bad happens, he may be cited and fined. But if he hits another car, he may incur civil liability and be sued for damages. If he hits and kills a pedestrian, he may open himself up to criminal liability and be prosecuted. In all three cases, the person may have committed the same sin, but its consequences would stem from the results.But if this were actually a tort case, there is no chance Gostkowski would be held responsible. Even if we presumed he did something wrong — which is a dicey proposition because some amount of human error is built into the expectation for kickers — it could never be considered a proximate cause of the Patriots’ loss, because from the perspective of expectation, things that happen early in games are all pretty fungible.For about the first two-thirds of a game, a 1-point lead is worth about the same as 20 yards of garden-variety field position. The following chart looks at game situations where both teams have all of their timeouts and an equal chance of winning before the game started. One team is at first and 10; the question is: Would that team rather have a 1-point lead and be on its own 20-yard line, or be in a tie game on the 40?2This chart uses an expected wins model created by Brian Burke of ESPN’s Stats and Info Group. 15:051st & 10Steven Jackson middle for 5 yards (tackle by Derek Wolfe). Penalty on Bryan Stork: unnecessary roughness, 15 yards-6.0% 40:213rd & 4Tom Brady pass incomplete short middle intended for Julian Edelman-5.6% 39:011st & 10Peyton Manning pass complete short right to Cody Latimer for 13 yards (tackle by Logan Ryan)-3.8% 112:543rd & 10Peyton Manning pass complete short right to Emmanuel Sanders for 11 yards (tackle by Malcolm Butler)-6.0% 47:301st & 10James White middle for -1 yards (tackle by Shaquil Barrett and Danny Trevathan)-5.1% 17:372nd & 11Peyton Manning pass complete deep middle to Owen Daniels for 21 yards, touchdown-7.7% 214:412nd & 10Tom Brady pass incomplete short right intended for Rob Gronkowski is intercepted by Von Miller at NWE-20 and returned for 4 yards-12.7% For the most part, early in games, points and yards are practically interchangeable, and 1 point — even when it’s the difference between having a lead or not — isn’t really a big deal.3In fact, even the difference between being up 1 and up 2 early in the game is almost identical to the difference between being up 1 and tied. Aside from its point value, having the lead early just doesn’t matter much.To that end, here are the 36 plays that most hurt the Patriots’ chances of beating the Broncos, sorted by how much of an impact they had on the Patriots’ expected win probability, from Pro-Football-Reference.com’s play-by-play:4Note that their win probability model may vary slightly from Burke’s (i.e., PFR suggests Gostkowski’s missed XP hurt the Patriots’ chance of winning by 3.3 percentage points, while Burke’s model says 3 percentage points). Also, ESPN and PFR don’t always agree on the exact times when plays took place. E.g., Gostkowski’s kick appears to have taken place with 1:49 left in the quarter, but PFR records it as 1:53 — the time of the previous play. However, on the field goal by Brandon McManus in the second quarter, ESPN records the time left as 33 seconds, when the clock had been stopped at 38. Rather than going through every discrepancy, this table reflects PFR’s version of events. 111:352nd & 11Peyton Manning pass complete short right to Jordan Norwood for 13 yards (tackle by Logan Ryan)-4.5% 16:563rd & 3Tom Brady pass incomplete short right intended for Rob Gronkowski-4.5% 42:303rd & 1Penalty on Marcus Cannon: false start, 5 yards (no play)-6.2% 10:463rd & 4Peyton Manning pass complete deep left to Emmanuel Sanders for 34 yards (tackle by Malcolm Butler)-10.5% 19:473rd & 6Peyton Manning pass incomplete short left intended for Demaryius Thomas. Penalty on Logan Ryan: defensive pass interference, 14 yards (no play)-6.0% 19:032nd & 3Peyton Manning pass complete short middle to Andre Caldwell for 15 yards (tackle by Justin Coleman)-3.4% 313:254th & 15Britton Colquitt punts 53 yards, returned by Danny Amendola for 1 yard (tackle by Cody Latimer)-5.1% 213:513rd & 6Peyton Manning pass complete short right to Owen Daniels for 12 yards, touchdown-7.6% 20:384th & 3Brandon McManus 52 yard field goal good-6.3% 46:512nd & 11Tom Brady pass incomplete deep right intended for James White-4.7% 40:124th & 4Two Point Attempt: Tom Brady pass incomplete intended for Julian Edelman, conversion fails-35.4% 36:421st & 10Tom Brady sacked by Von Miller for -6 yards-3.6% 113:173rd & 8Tom Brady pass incomplete short middle intended for Rob Gronkowski-3.6% 46:034th & 1Tom Brady pass complete short left to Julian Edelman for -1 yards (tackle by Chris Harris and Aqib Talib)-9.1% 48:231st & 10Tom Brady pass incomplete deep right intended for Rob Gronkowski-3.4% 22:344th & 14Britton Colquitt punts 48 yards, fair catch by Danny Amendola-4.3% 310:353rd & 10Tom Brady pass incomplete short middle intended for Danny Amendola (defended by Chris Harris)-4.0% 39:493rd & 10Peyton Manning right tackle for 12 yards (tackle by Logan Ryan)-8.5% 30:492nd & 10Tom Brady pass incomplete short right intended for Julian Edelman-3.4% 30:453rd & 10Tom Brady sacked by Von Miller for -4 yards-5.8% 42:254th & 6Tom Brady pass incomplete short middle intended for Rob Gronkowski (defended by Aqib Talib)-9.7% QTRTIMEDOWNDESCRIPTIONWIN % CHANGE 24:153rd & 5Tom Brady pass incomplete deep left intended for James White is intercepted by Darian Stewart at DEN-36 and returned for 8 yards-11.1% 11:53Stephen Gostkowski kicks extra point no good-3.3% The blame game that inevitably follows close outcomes in sports (and elsewhere) can be infuriatingly good fun. But people favor easy-to-score counterfactuals over murky ones and in general don’t create ad hoc narratives along the lines of, “Wow, that incomplete pass in the third quarter cost them a chance to win that game,” even though it may have been much more consequential than an early extra point.
6Lance LynnTEX✓.486<16.8 +1.503034394449535863 Many of the other elite performers on this list are matching the mold Trout has fit all too often: great player, not-so-great team. Texas’s Mike Minor and Lance Lynn have each had unexpectedly outstanding seasons, but the Rangers are below .500 — and again, pitchers are usually undervalued in MVP voting anyway. Boston has two top-line candidates in defending MVP right fielder Mookie Betts and shortstop Xander Bogaerts (plus a third if you count third baseman Rafael Devers, who ranks 12th in AL WAR), but the champs have almost no chance of making the postseason. The best of the A’s duo, Chapman, is on pace to run nearly 3 full WAR behind Trout by year’s end. And Houston has hoarded enough elite individual performances to potentially dilute each player’s MVP case, leaving Bregman as just one of many Astros who could claim credit for the team’s blistering 104-win pace this season.Perhaps all of this is why Trout is such an overwhelming favorite in the betting odds for the award. As of Sept. 2, the money line on Trout winning MVP was -1000, which implies a 90.9 percent chance of taking home the hardware.5Before adjusting for the bookmakers’ “take” on each bet. (Running second in the odds, with a 12.5 percent implied probability, was actually DJ LeMahieu of the Yankees, who ranks only 14th in the league in WAR, followed by Bregman at 9.1 percent.)Seldom in the entire history of baseball would voters consider the best player on a 74-win team — even a player as great as Trout — worthy of the game’s top individual honor. But in a season when so many other top players are either also toiling on bad teams or facing vote-splitting amongst star teammates, Trout appears to be the choice regardless of whether you prefer the “best” or “most valuable” player as your MVP.Check out our latest MLB predictions. Mike Trout’s WAR as of Sept. 4, prorated over 162 games, was 1.9 WAR ahead of No. 2 Alex Bregman, and Bregman’s team is +.184 ahead of Trout’s in winning percentage.Source: Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs +3.003540444954596368 3Matt ChapmanOAK.583796.9 2Alex BregmanHOU.645>997.9 +2.003236414550556065 7Mookie BettsBOS.53636.6 (It’s worth noting that this effect is more descriptive than causal — we don’t know how Trout, or any other player, would play on a different team alongside better teammates. But for the purposes of illustration, it’s clear that MVP voters are traditionally very responsive to players on better teams, even if they have a much smaller WAR lead than Trout currently has over Bregman.)In general, MVP voters have long tended to smile more on players with solid stats on winning teams than players with dominant numbers amidst a string of defeats. Only seven modern-era MVP winners were on teams with a losing record: Giancarlo Stanton (2017), Trout (2016), Alex Rodriguez (2003), Cal Ripken Jr. (1991), Andre Dawson (1987) and Ernie Banks (1958 and 1959). And among those, only three played for a team whose record was as bad as the current Angels’ is: Trout in 2016, Rodriguez in 2003 and Ripken in 1991. Similar to his MVP bid in 2016, another Trout win would be a rare victory for great players on bad teams — and another sign that voters are redefining the way they make that distinction between the “most valuable” and “best” players.But Trout might also get some help from just how scattershot the competition is in this year’s AL MVP race. Aside from Bregman and fellow Astros Justin Verlander and George Springer, Oakland’s Matt Chapman and Marcus Semien are the only other members of the AL’s top 10 in WAR on a team with any kind of playoff odds whatsoever. WAR through games on Sept. 4, 2019.Source: Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs +0.5027%31%36%40%45%50%55%59% An MVP candidate can always use more team successModeled probability of a league WAR leader winning the MVP award, based on his gap over the No. 2 player in WAR and on the deficit in winning percentage between the teams of the two players The AL MVP race has a lot going onTop 10 players in the 2019 American League by wins above replacement, plus team record and playoff odds (according to the FiveThirtyEight model) 1Mike TroutLAA.461<1%9.7 +1.002933374247525661 +3.503741465156616569 +2.503338424752576266 5Mike MinorTEX✓.486<16.8 10George SpringerHOU.645>996.3 No sport loves parsing out the “best player” vs. “most valuable” argument in MVP debates more than baseball. Sure, the NBA hasn’t given its MVP to a player on a nonplayoff team since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1976. But the best basketball players exert so much more influence on the game than their baseball counterparts that it’s difficult to have individual success without the team coming along for the ride. For MLB players, however, we frequently see good — and even historically great — seasons on bad teams. That creates a perfect recipe for all those endless debates about what “value” really means.Will it happen again this year? Some of the ingredients are there in the American League. AL wins above replacement1Using our JEFFBAGWELL metric to combine Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs WAR figures. leader Mike Trout is tracking for 9.7 WAR (prorated to 162 team games), which would once again rank among the top 100 individual campaigns by a batter since 1901. (He’s already had three of those in his eight full MLB seasons, and he came extraordinarily close to a fourth in 2013.) But his Los Angeles Angels are, once again, lousy. Our predictions think they’ll finish 20 games out of the playoff race, with a lowly 74-88 record.But before we dig in for one more round of online MVP bickering, another factor should come into play: This year’s AL MVP landscape is weird. There’s so much else going on, Trout could very well avoid too much friction along his path to putting a third Kenesaw Mountain Landis Award on his mantle.First, how big is Trout’s edge in individual value? The gap between his WAR and that of Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, who ranks second in the AL, is 1.9 wins if prorated over 162 games. (That’s basically an entire season’s worth of value from an average player!) Limiting to cases in which the top two in WAR were both position players, the only league leader since 2002 with a wider gap came in the 2012 AL, when Trout himself was 2.5 wins ahead of No. 2 Robinson Cano. (Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera famously took home the MVP instead after winning the Triple Crown.) About three-quarters of WAR leaders in the modern MVP award era2Since 1931. lead the league by a smaller margin than Trout is on pace to beat Bregman by.Historically speaking, though, Trout’s MVP case would be better served if he were on a team with a slightly better record, even if his personal stats were worse. To examine this, I built a model3Using a Lasso classification regression on data since 1995. predicting a league WAR leader’s chances of winning the MVP based on his differentials (relative to the No. 2 player) in both WAR and team winning percentage.4I also accounted for whether the player was a pitcher — which significantly downgrades MVP odds after holding WAR constant — and whether the season came since WAR hit the big time as an MVP metric in 2012, which makes a WAR leader more likely to win MVP. According to the model, Trout would have better MVP odds than he currently does — with a 1.9-WAR lead on a .461 winning-percentage team — if his WAR lead got trimmed to a half-win but his team won just three or four more ballgames: WPCT Deficit 9Xander BogaertsBOS.53636.5 8Marcus SemienOAK.583796.5 WAR Lead-.200-.180-.150-.130-.100-.080-.050-.030 4Justin VerlanderHOU✓.645>996.8 RkPlayerTeamPitcher?Team WPctPlayoff OddsWAR/162
Fans and students alike, breaking last year’s national spring game attendance record, flocked to Ohio Stadium on Saturday to watch the annual intrasquad scrimmage by the Ohio State football team.The 2016 OSU spring game started with a moment of silence honoring both former OSU standout Will Smith and Columbus swat officer Steve Smith. Both men were killed over the weekend in separate instances, and the crowd of over 100,000 stood and remembered the two.This year’s spring game was a chance for Buckeye faithful to see how OSU coach Urban Meyer would answer many of the question marks left after a multitude of starters left for the NFL draft.Meyer did not shy away from the high expectations of the new starters.“We certainly don’t lower our standards just because a player moves on,” Meyer said. “That’s not what this place is all about.”Starting things off for the Buckeyes was the Scarlet team, led by redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett. After the Gray defensive line put on a display of pass-rush skills, junior Sean Nuernberger came on for a field goal attempt. In an example of an event unique to the spring game, after nailing a 43-yard attempt, he stayed on the field to drill a 51-yard kick.The Scarlet team struggled to score after the opening drive. Barrett was picked off twice, once by redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker and later by redshirt sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore. The pick by Hooker was returned for a touchdown, and even though the Gray was called for a defensive holding, the play stood, once again evidencing the unusual nature of the spring game.Gray capitalized off these miscues, finding the endzone twice in the first half. The Gray team’s starting quarterback Joe Burrow connected with redshirt freshman Torrance Gibson on a picture-perfect 18-yard strike over the defensive player for one of the scores.Burrow provided many over-the-shoulder throws when given time, and looked sharp on his reads.Gibson scored another touchdown on a two-yard end-around. The score put the Gray up 21-3 before redshirt freshman Mike Weber of the Scarlet side barreled his way into the endzone to end the first half.Weber impressed the coaching staff, finishing the day with eight carries, 38 yards, and two touchdowns.“They were starting to compare him to Carlos Hyde,” Meyer said. “Easy now. He hasn’t reached that level yet.”The second half began with a quick score by the Scarlet, set up by redshirt sophomore Stephen Collier. A 40-yard pass to redshirt sophomore Parris Campbell led to a short touchdown run by Weber.After a dazzling one-handed interception by sophomore Jerome Baker for the Scarlet, the Gray were given the ball right back immediately following an errant pass from Collier, of the Scarlet team, which was picked off by Hooker for his second takeaway of the day.“Our D-line got to (Burrow) and I saw Joe under pressure and I went up and got it … I just made a play,” Hooker said.Redshirt sophomore Terry McLaurin continued his stellar showing with a 47-yard touchdown reception. McLaurin carried two defenders into the endzone with him for the score and finished the day with four receptions for 111 yards.“I had a lot more confidence coming in,” McLaurin said. “I just want to take that next step forward, being a guy that this offense can depend on, trying to find my role in this offense.”The wide receiver corps for OSU provided most of the offense on the afternoon. A defensive presence in terms of pass-rush kept the quarterbacks for the Buckeyes on their toes for most of the game.Both the Scarlet and the Gray had four sacks apiece, and the offensive line appeared to struggle retaining the pocket at times. The occasional lack of protection can be directly credited to a majority of the line being replaced by underclassmen. Even with certain areas clearly needing attention before the Scarlet and Gray are set to take the field against Bowling Green on Sept. 3, the Buckeyes have shown the team has potential heading into regular season play. “What I didn’t like?” Meyer asked about the events of the afternoon. “I liked it all.” OSU redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) warms up before the spring game on April 16 at Ohio Stadium. The Gray team beat Scarlet 28-17. Credit: Muyao Shen | Assistant Photo Editor
Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died from lung cancer Sunday. Paterno, 85, who won more college football games than anyone in the history of the sport, passed away in a Pennsylvania hospital just months after a child sex abuse scandal damaged his reputation and led to his removal as PSU’s head football coach. Paterno was a member of the Nittany Lion’s staff for 61 years. “I am deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Coach Joe Paterno,” OSU football coach Urban Meyer said in a statement. “He was a man who I have deep respect for as a human being, as a husband and father, as a leader and as a football coach. I was very fortunate to have been able to develop a personal relationship with him, especially over the course of the last several years, and it is something that I will always cherish.” Editor’s note: Check back with The Lantern for more reaction from Meyer in an exclusive interview.
This year’s Senior Bowl features four Ohio State Buckeyes, all of whom need to impress scouts, coaches and/or general managers this week to improve their stock for the 2012 NFL Draft. The Senior Bowl, held annually at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., is the premier showcase game for NFL Draft prospects. Game participants have on-field practices in front of the decision-makers from Monday to Thursday and spend much of the rest of their time in Mobile in the meeting rooms to talk to coaches or attend football meetings. This all leads up to the actual game, which kicks off at 4 p.m. Saturday and will be televised on NFL Network. All four OSU players are on the North roster. Three of the four participating Buckeyes missed time this season due to suspensions. Offensive tackle Mike Adams, running back Daniel “Boom” Herron, and wide receiver DeVier Posey were among the five OSU football players (which also included former quarterback Terrelle Pryor and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas) suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for selling OSU memorabilia in exchange for improper benefits in the form of tattoos. Herron was also suspended an additional game, and Posey for an additional five games, for receiving payment from former OSU football booster Robert DiGeronimo for work they did not completed during a 2011 summer job. Adams is the best prospect of the four Ohio State participants. Adams is one of the best left tackles in the nation. Measuring in at 6-foot-7 and 323 pounds, Adams has ideal size for an NFL left tackle and is also a very good athlete for his size. That said, Adams came to Mobile with something to prove. He only played in eight games during his senior season, on an offensive line that struggled up front for an offense that ranked 107th in total yards. Throughout the week of practices, Adams has been among the standouts. He came into the week as a likely second-round pick, but after a strong week of practices, he has likely made himself a first-round draft pick. Adams has been mostly dominant against opposing pass rushers, and looks like a natural fit to be a left tackle in the NFL. Left tackle is a position of high importance, as the left tackle is the player responsible for protecting the quarterback from blind-side pass rushers. Because of the premium placed on left tackles in the NFL draft, Adams is now in position to be selected in the middle of the first round. Herron has a very productive career for OSU, rushing for 2,872 yards and 32 touchdowns over four seasons. Unfortunately for Herron, he is a player who fails to stand out among a running back group with plenty of productive runners. Running backs do not have many opportunities to stand out during the week of practices because it is hard to gauge a running back’s abilities outside of game situations with full tackling. For Herron, the focus should be on Saturday’s game. Herron needs to have a big performance on gameday to be selected in the first four rounds in April’s draft. He currently rates as a fifth-round draft pick. While all four players from OSU arrived in Mobile in search of big weeks, few players from any school needed a strong showing more than Posey. Posey is a very skilled receiver with an impressive combination of size and athleticism, but his draft stock is very much in question after only playing three games in his senior season. Posey’s on-field performance is certainly important considering the lack of game action from his senior season that coaches and scouts have to evaluate, but even more important for him during Senior Bowl week will be his interviews, in which he will need to address the off-field mistakes he has made that resulted in his being suspended for a total of ten games this past season. Posey projects to be selected on the third day of the draft, somewhere between the fourth and sixth rounds. The fourth Senior Bowl participant from OSU, and the only one of the four who played a full 13-game senior season, is center Mike Brewster. Unfortunately, while Brewster avoided off-field problems, he struggled on the field in his senior season. Brewster came into his senior season as the top-rated center in all of college football, but he has not been nearly as dominant as he was expected to be in his senior season. Two games in which Brewster particularly struggled came against Michigan State and Penn State. In each of those games, Brewster lined up against a likely first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft (Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy and Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still), and lost the battle at the line of scrimmage. OSU only managed 178 yards of offense and seven points against Michigan State, and only 289 yards of offense and 14 points against Penn State. Unfortunately, Brewster’s struggles have continued in Senior Bowl practices. While Brewster has looked good as a run blocker, he has struggled in interior pass protection and has had a difficult time with snapping the football. The North offense has been running many shotgun plays in their offensive drills in practice, and Brewster has struggled with accurately snapping the football to that distance, with many of his snaps going off to one side, which makes it difficult for the quarterback to handle the snap. Brewster came into the week hoping to rebuild his draft stock to be selected in the second or third round in April’s draft, but a disappointing week should keep him from being drafted any earlier than the fourth round. While Adams’ stock has really improved as a result of his performance throughout the practices, the other three players really need to use Saturday’s game as another chance to stand out. After the Senior Bowl, these four draft prospects will set their sights on preparing for the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine, which will be held between Feb. 22-28 in Indianapolis, Ind. at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The OSU athletic department named Ben Schreiber as the school’s spirit head coach April 7.Credit: Courtesy of OSU athleticsThe Ohio State spirit squad has a new head coach — and he’s a former Buckeye.More than four months after former head cheerleading coach Lenee Buchman — who had been in the position since July 2009 — was terminated “for cause” following a sexual harassment investigation involving her assistant coaches and athletes, OSU announced Ben Schreiber as the squad’s new head coach in a press release Monday.Schreiber, who cheered at OSU from 2004-07, replaces interim coach Steve Chorba, who took over for Buchman Nov. 25, the day she was fired.“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to return to my alma mater and be at the helm of the spirit program, specifically as the head cheerleading coach,” Schreiber said in a released statement. “I look forward to working with each student-athlete and helping them achieve their goals and dreams as I am blessed to live out my own.”Schreiber spent the past five years as the head cheerleading coach and fitness coordinator at the University of Delaware.Schreiber led the Blue Hens to the 2014 UCA Division I Large Coed National Championship, while the team finished as national runners-up from 2010-13, according to the release. He said he looks to establish that kind of success at OSU.“My desire is to continue to build on the traditions of the program and develop new, cutting-edge concepts to help distinguish this program from others,” Schreiber said.Schreiber is set to earn a base salary of $43,000, OSU spokesman Adam Widman told The Lantern in an email. Chorba earned $37,000 as interim head coach, while Buchman earned $43,003 after receiving a raise Aug. 23.After becoming the spirit coordinator at Delaware in 2011, Schreiber expanded the cheer program by adding an all-female team, according to the release. In that role, he also oversaw the cheer and dance programs and took on marketing responsibilities for the athletics and recreation services department.“Ben has all the qualities we were looking for in our next head coach,” Martin Jarmond, OSU executive associate athletics director for administration and the cheer program’s administrator, said in the release. “His experience and success as a head coach and his passion for Ohio State and developing student-athletes holistically make him a perfect fit to lead our spirit program.”Widman said aside from hiring Schreiber, decisions on what the rest of the cheer staff will look like — including whether or not Chorba is to be retained — are forthcoming.“Our spirit squad coaches do not have employment contracts and no staff decisions have been made at this point,” Widman wrote in the email.Schreiber’s predecessor, Chorba, was appointed to interim head coach from assistant cheerleading coach after Buchman was found to have demonstrated a lack of “leadership and courage” by OSU Director of Athletics and Vice President Gene Smith while she was coach of the squad.In an email obtained by The Lantern, Smith told Buchman she was terminated for “several serious lapses of judgment and leadership.” An October report by the OSU Office of Human Resources found those lapses occurred after former cheerleader Cody Ellis’ attorney said he was kicked off the team by Buchman for reporting he was sexually harassed by two former coaches, Dana Bumbrey and Eddie Hollins.Bumbrey and Hollins were terminated in May following an OSU investigation, which found “sufficient evidence” both had violated the school’s Sexual Harassment Policy. That policy defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances” and “requests for sexual favors,” among other things.Although he was terminated in May, Bumbrey hosted a cheer camp in August that Buchman took her team to participate in — more than two months after he was let go.“Though I know that the camp was not run by Ohio State, you took our students and brand there with you,” Smith said in the email to Buchman. “All the while, you knew the nature of the behavior Mr. Bumbrey had been engaged in, that Ohio State dismissed him just a few months earlier and that the university had emphatically chosen to disassociate itself from him and his damaging behavior.”The report also found that even though Hollins showed up uninvited to a practice Sept. 9, Buchman did not tell him to leave.“When an assistant that had been fired for sexual harassment shows up at a team practice, it is obvious what is expected of a head coach,” Smith wrote in the email.In an interview with The Lantern Jan. 29, Smith did not offer any further explanation for the investigation or events that transpired after it when asked.“I’m not going to get into a personnel issue,” Smith said. “It was a personnel issue, there are legal issues around it, so I’m not discussing it.”