NFL Week 7 Elo Ratings And Playoff Odds

The Seattle Seahawks, No. 1 in our NFL Elo ratings since the start of the season, have relinquished that position after losing 30-23 at home against the Dallas Cowboys. The new Elo No. 1 probably won’t cause much controversy: It’s the Denver Broncos, who are also the betting favorite to win the Super Bowl and the top-rated team in ESPN’s panel of experts. But after that, there’s more disagreement. Should Dallas — now 5-1 and having won against Seattle head-to-head — rank ahead of the 3-2 Seahawks?The experts panel thinks so: It now has Dallas at No. 3 and Seattle at No. 5. But betting odds still prefer Seattle. The prices at Betfair imply Seattle has a 13 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl; Dallas is at 6 percent.Elo’s answer somewhat splits the difference. It still has the Seahawks ranked about 50 Elo points higher than Dallas, which translates to Seattle being 2-point favorites in a game played on a neutral field. The gap has closed: At the start of the season, Elo would have had the Seahawks favored by a touchdown in a neutral-site game. However, Elo ratings take past seasons into account. In the system’s estimation, Seattle’s accomplishments from last year still matter enough to outweigh what the Cowboys have done so far this year.But the Cowboys’ strong start does count for a lot. Because of it, they project to 11.5 wins on the season, as compared with 10 wins for Seattle. Dallas also plays in the easier division and otherwise has the easier schedule, having survived some of its tougher games.In fact, the Seahawks are at risk of missing the playoffs entirely. In part because San Francisco (No. 3 overall in the Elo ratings) and Arizona (No. 7) also play in the NFC West, Seattle made the postseason only 60 percent of the time in this week’s simulations. Dallas, conversely, made the playoffs 82 percent of the time. Seattle is more likely to win the Super Bowl conditional upon making the playoffs. But since Dallas is more likely to make the playoffs in the first place, the teams’ overall Super Bowl chances are about the same according to Elo: 9 percent for the Seahawks and 8 percent for the Cowboys.Here are the playoff odds for the those two, and the other 30 NFL teams:The AFC playoff picture has become surprisingly clear. The most likely teams to earn the conference’s six playoff slots are Denver (86 percent), Indianapolis (also 86 percent — there’s no one to beat them in the AFC South), New England (84 percent), San Diego (81 percent), Cincinnati (67 percent) and Baltimore (66 percent). Then there’s a big drop-off to the next tier of teams — led by Pittsburgh and Kansas City — none of whom is higher than 27 percent.The NFC’s playoff hunt is more crowded. The aforementioned Cowboys, at 82 percent, are the safest bet to make the postseason. But then there’s a glut of seven teams — San Francisco, Seattle, Arizona, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Detroit and Carolina — all between 53 percent and 65 percent. At least two of those teams won’t make it, unless they knock Dallas out.This leaves some perfectly decent football teams facing long odds. The Chicago Bears have just a 26 percent chance to make the playoffs. The New York Giants are at 13 percent (and that’s without accounting for the injury to Victor Cruz). New Orleans has a 30 percent chance of overtaking Carolina to win the NFC South, but in our simulations the Saints made the playoffs as a wild card team only 4 percent of the time.It isn’t very hard for a team with league-average talent like Chicago to back into a 10-6 or 9-7 record. However, the problem isn’t just the number of good teams in the league — the number of really bad ones is also causing issues. The Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Redskins, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers project to a combined record of just 18-62. That’s a lot of extra wins distributed to the other teams in the league. In our simulations, 9-7 teams are reaching the playoffs only 29 percent of the time — much lower than the historical average of 51 percent. Nor is a 10-6 record as safe as usual; those teams are missing the playoffs 25 percent of the time.Tie for the winWhat about a record of, say, 10-5-1? Both the Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals now have a tie on their resumes, having drawn 37-37 last weekend in Cincinnati (this was the highest-scoring tie in NFL history, incidentally). This is the third tied game in as many seasons since the NFL changed its overtime rules before the 2012 season; two of those games would not have been ties under the previous rules.Fans and coaches seem to hate ties — but as soccer fans know, there are some circumstances when ties can play to the teams’ mutual advantage. The Panthers’ playoff odds increased to 64 percent from 59 percent after the tie. The Bengals’ were unaffected, remaining at 67 percent, despite the best competition in their division, the Ravens, having won.The geeky explanation for this is that teams in a strong position — both Cincinnati and Carolina were favorites to make the playoffs before the game — would prefer to avoid variance. Imagine your team starts its season 7-1; such teams make the playoffs 95 percent of the time. Would you take the option of drawing your eight remaining games — finishing the season with the awkward-looking record of 7-1-8 — instead of playing out the string? If your sole concern is making the playoffs, the math says you actually should. A 7-1-8 record is equivalent to a 11-5 record the way that the NFL scores these things, and 11-5 teams make the playoffs 98 percent of the time.Indeed, there are some oddball scenarios where teams would have an even stronger incentive to play for the tie. Say the Bills and the Patriots are tied atop the AFC East at 9-6 (with the Dolphins and Jets well behind) and playing the last game of the NFL season on Sunday night in Week 17. Let’s say they know a 10-5 or 9-6-1 record would be good enough to earn a wild card, while 9-7 would not be. A tie gets both teams in (one as division champion and one as the wild card) while any other result knocks the loser out. You think Bill Belichick wouldn’t find a way to win tie?Elo point spreadsThe Elo point spreads are recovering after an awful start. They went 8-5 against Vegas lines in Week 6 (sitting out two games where they exactly matched the Vegas spread) and are 41-43-3 on the year. Elo’s straight-up record of picking winners is 64-26-1 on the year (10-4-1 in Week 6) or a 71 percent winning percentage. That probably reflects some good luck; historically, Elo ratings have picked the right winner about 65 percent of the time. Either way, we don’t recommend that you actually place bets on these.One of the games we highlighted last week was Arizona against Washington; I thought it was hard to explain how Vegas had the Cardinals favored by only a field goal at home. Indeed, the line expanded to 5 points to 5.5 points by game time. The Cardinals covered the spread, although barely, on an interception return with 18 seconds left (Rashad Johnson should probably have kneeled the ball) to win by 10 points instead of 3.There are again some big discrepancies involving the Cardinals and the Redskins this week. Elo has Arizona favored by 9 points on the road against Oakland, while Vegas has the Cardinals as just 3.5-point favorites. And Vegas has Washington favored by 6 points at home against Tennessee, while Elo has the Titans as (very slight) outright favorites.In a game that may be of interest to people aside from degenerate gamblers, the Broncos will host the 49ers on Sunday night. Elo, despite having Denver at No. 1 overall, is not quite as high on the Broncos as betting markets (it has the Broncos with a 13 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl versus 19 percent for betting lines). So Elo would take San Francisco and the points. read more

The Warriors Defense Might Send Them Back To The NBA Finals

Best team performances of the 2016 NBA playoffs 4San Antonio Spurs6-4+0.9+4.9+5.8 16Memphis Grizzlies0-4-12.9-5.2-18.1 3Oklahoma City Thunder9-4+6.1+1.6+7.7 TEAMRECORDOFFENSEDEFENSETOTAL 7Miami Heat7-7-2.2+2.7+0.5 13Houston Rockets1-4-12.5+0.7-11.8 2Golden State Warriors9-3+5.5+4.8+10.3 9Atlanta Hawks4-6-1.3-0.0-1.3 8Toronto Raptors8-7+0.9-0.7+0.2 1Cleveland Cavaliers9-0+18.4+2.7+21.1 14Dallas Mavericks1-4-5.6-10.0-15.7 10Los Angeles Clippers2-4-3.2+1.2-2.1 6Indiana Pacers3-4-2.3+4.1+1.8 12Detroit Pistons0-4+2.3-10.8-8.4 15Charlotte Hornets3-4-11.5-4.5-16.0 11Boston Celtics2-4-10.4+2.1-8.3 One thing that’s often lost amid the spectacle of the Golden State Warriors’ record-setting regular season is that this squad’s style is quite different from the one that went on a dominant championship run a year ago. The 2014-15 Warriors were astonishingly balanced; they had the NBA’s second-best offense and led the league in defensive efficiency. This season’s version, however, was first in offensive rating by a healthy margin but sixth-best on defense — good, but not great. The resulting team was ever-so-slightly better, but less symmetrical.In the playoffs, though, the Warriors’ defense has helped the team battle through Stephen Curry’s absence and reclaim the mantle of NBA title favorite. Here’s the offensive and defensive efficiency of this season’s playoff teams relative to average, accounting for the regular-season performance of a team’s opponents:1These numbers also factor in home-court advantage (roughly 2.8 points per 100 possessions) and the championship leverage of every game. 5Portland Trail Blazers5-6+3.9-1.7+2.2 Team efficiencies adjusted for strength of schedule using opponents‘ regular-season stats.Source: Basketball-Reference.com The Cavs have blown away their playoff peers so far, but Golden State deserves credit as well for posting the best defensive performance of any remaining team. Indeed, the Warriors’ ratings look a lot like the balanced attack that drove their championship last season — even though Curry has suited up for just six of the team’s 12 games.When the Warriors require outbursts of unadulterated offensive brilliance — like, say, 12 points in 82 seconds or 17 points in an overtime period — Curry has been happy to oblige. But Golden State has also held the mighty Oklahoma City Thunder offense to an efficiency rate 10 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season standard through two games of the Western Conference finals. Even on nights when the Warrior offense isn’t operating at peak productivity, such as Game 1 against OKC, the defense can keep the game competitive into its final minutes.With Draymond Green leading the way, Golden State’s D in this series has already forced the Thunder into two of their 19 worst games of the season according to quantified shot quality, a player tracking-based measure that accounts for the location and conditions under which every shot is taken. In games 1 and 2, Kevin Durant’s shot quality has been his sixth- and 21st-worst of the year, and Russell Westbrook has been limited to his 31st and 24th-worst games. If it’s seemed like Russ and KD have been swimming upstream for long stretches in the series so far, this is why. The duo’s effective field goal percentage in the series is just 43 percent, far below their combined regular-season mark of 53 percent.There’s still plenty of time for the Thunder to wrest control of the series back from Golden State. But to do it, Oklahoma City will have to go through the Warrior defense, a unit that’s back to being as sturdy as it was during the team’s title run last season.Check out our latest NBA predictions. read more

Adrian Peterson Has Feeling He Will Be In Uniform

Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson – arguably the best running back in the NFL – said he has “somewhat” of a gut feeling that he will be in uniform on Sunday when the Vikings open their season against Jacksonville.This would be somewhat of an accomplishment considering Peterson wrecked his left knee nine months ago, having two ligaments repaired on December 31.Still, Peterson knows he’s an invaluable commodity that the Vikings will handle with the utmost care. So, being in uniform for the opener does not mean he will play.”I’m below; I got coach (Leslie) Frazier, then I’ve got the owner, there’s a lot of people that’s really calling the shots,” Peterson said. ”So, only thing I can do is control my part. I’ve been doing that this week. . . And before the game, I’m going to go out there and see what I can do and hopefully I will get the nod. I want to play, obviously.”Frazier has said Peterson’s participation won’t be determined until right before the game, but said a decision would likely come after watching Peterson in practice Thursday and Friday. He said there was nothing the back could probably show the team on Sunday to change any previous declarations.”I think we’d know Saturday where things are,” Frazier said. ”I don’t think we’d work him out pregame to see if he’s ready to play. We’ll have a good idea after we get through with Friday where he stands.”Frazier has pushed a cautious approach, insisting this week that if Peterson does play against the Jaguars his workload will be limited. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said the team has determined an appropriate number of carries for Peterson in the opener if he suits up.Peterson said it would be difficult to accept being inactive for Sunday’s game.”It will be a hard pill to swallow,” Peterson said. ”So, hopefully that’s not the case.” read more

Bad Karma Biting The Redskins Where It Hurts In

The waiting list for season tickets to Washington Redskins games used to be 100,000 diehards deep. Now they are selling tickets at FedEx Stadium for $4.Call it karma. . .  bad karma, to be precise.This is what happens when your owner refuses to change a nickname deemed racist by a large faction of Native Americans. This is what happens when a first-year coach publicly trashes and then benches the player with the most potential and any semblance of star power. This is what happens when you have just one winning season since. . . well, for a long time.This is a considerable departure for the Redskins, who have enjoyed a loyal and rabid fan base for some time. According to the website seatgeek.com, which resells tickets and also tracks the market, some tickets for Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams are $4. A java chip frappacino at Starbucks costs more.On stubhub.com, there were more than 6,400 tickets for sale starting at $5.25. The Virginia High School playoff tickets are $10.Some would say, “That’s what you deserve,” and they’d be pretty accurate. Not much has gone right lately for the Redskins. Worse, not much has been handled right by the team.Owner Dan Snyder has been arrogant in his insistence on keeping the team’s name, although even some legislators are asking for change. Snyder grew up as a fan and claims personal ties to the name, even as many consider it hurtful and racist.Coach Jay Gruden has been just as arrogant, with no room for arrogance. His first year as a head coach has been miserable; he has not impressed. He even treated Robert Griffin III as rudely as any coach ever has, blasting him in a post-game press conference for an extended period. Now word comes that Gruden “is done” with Griffin, who two years ago was the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year.He’s been impatient and mean-spirited in his handling of the one star player that fans have been excited to see play in the last decade.Now it’s all unraveling for the team. The average ticket price last week was $31, the lowest since they were a running joke under Jim Zorn. The erstwhile “Dream Seats” behind the Redskins’ bench are selling for hundreds of dollars less than face value, at $91.Never would have, could have, expected this from the Redskins. But then, they have not deserved much better. read more

Ledecky Has Company In A Renewed Assault On Swimmings Records

Given her 100 splits (not reflected), and 200 and 800 races still to come (there is unfortunately no 1,500-meter women’s event at the Olympics), expect this curve to fall even further into the absurd.1. Adam Peaty — 100-meter breaststrokeAdam Peaty may not have the most versatile program, and certainly didn’t generate as much buzz as Ledecky or Hosszu, but for one race at least, he was every bit as dominant. He initially set a record in his preliminary heat, which generally bodes well. His final time of 57.13 won his race by 1.56 seconds and broke his pre-Olympic record by 0.79 seconds, and puts him 1.33 seconds clear of his next-fastest competitor ever.For a 100-meter race, this is crazy good – even against this crazy competition. To show how much so, I plotted the top 50 times since 2010 for each of these four records, in standard deviations from the mean:2Note that since these are the top values of a huge sample of swimmers, these deviations don’t perfectly correspond to the insanely low probabilities you’d expect from 3-4 SD events if the underlying times were normally distributed. The dynamics for the specific probabilities would be governed by a Gumbel “extreme value” distribution. I’m just using standard deviations here to put all of the events on the same scale. Ledecky’s 3:56.46 was 4.77 seconds faster than second-place Jazz Carlin, and nearly 2 seconds faster than her own 2014 record (3:58.37). It’s over 4 seconds faster than any woman has swum in the post-ban era (4:00.65 by bronze-medalist Leah Smith this year). The only other woman ever to swim below 4 minutes in this event is Federica Pellegrini, who did it in 2009. Ledecky is getting closer and closer to making 400 meters a sprint distance: Her speed of 59.1 seconds per 100 meters is closer to the average speed of the 50 fastest 200-meter swimmers than it is to the average of the 50 fastest 400-meter swimmers. Her speed in the 800 is already faster than all but a handful of women in the 400, and her speed in the 1,500 is faster than anyone’s but hers in the 800: We’re on the ground in Rio covering the 2016 Summer Olympics. Check out all our coverage here.While Michael Phelps’s winning of his 19th gold medal may be the feel-good story of the swimming pool not involving Yusra Mardini so far, the most significant development of the opening weekend of swimming is surely the sport’s renewed assault on the record books.The ban of full-body non-textile (“LZR”-style) swimsuits at the end of 2009 had a dramatic effect on the pace of records broken in swimming. Of 32 events contested in the 2008 Olympics, 27 had records broken in 2009; in 2010, none did. But time marches on, and athletes improve. The London games in 2012 saw records broken in eight events — a far cry from the 19 events that saw records fall in Beijing, but a step in the right direction.If the first weekend of action in Rio is any indication, the swimming world has recovered, with a vengeance. Of the eight swimming events completed so far, five have led to world records, including one of two relays (women’s 4×100), and four of the six individual events (all three women’s and one of three men’s). Here are the most dominant individual swims from the first two days of competition, ranked:4. Sarah Sjostrom — 100-meter butterflySwedish 22-year-old Sarah Sjostrom is a name to remember. In particular, she has the fastest 200-meter freestyle time of any woman since 2012, and is thus probably the most likely to play spoiler to Katie Ledecky’s hopes of winning three individual golds when the two face off in that event Tuesday.Sjostrom looks even stronger after kicking off her meet with a world record. She originally set the 100-meter butterfly record in 2009 (at age 15!) but wouldn’t match her pre-ban time again until 2015, when she reclaimed her record from Dana Vollmer (who had taken it in 2012).Sjostrom finished in 55.48, nearly a full second clear of second place, and a half-second clear of the next-fastest woman ever. Usually, that would be a pretty amazing showing, but this was a big weekend for amazing showings.3. Katinka Hosszu — 400-meter individual medleyKatinka Hosszu, the 27-year old Hungarian, is the only swimmer on this list who broke a record that wasn’t already her own. She very nearly broke it in her preliminary heat, and then destroyed it in the final: LOL Katie Ledecky was celebrating and people hadn’t finished yet pic.twitter.com/qCaDbu2kSg— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) August 8, 2016 Ledecky’s 400-meter race was a thing of beauty, especially considering that 400 meters is supposed to be her third-best distance. But in terms of sheer field-busting dominance, Peaty’s wild win over just two lengths of the pool takes the weekend. Hosszu won the race by nearly 5 seconds – finishing in 4:26.36 – and cleared Ye Shiwen’s record by nearly 2 seconds. Though few expected a performance this great, Hosszu didn’t come out of nowhere. She was world champion in this event in 2009 and 2015, and has held the short-course record1There’s a separate set of records for times set in 25-meter pools, though most major competitions use 50-meter pools. in it on and off since 2013.2. Katie Ledecky — 400-meter freestyleIf there was any distance at which it seemed Katie Ledecky’s best times might have been flattening out, it’s the 400-meter freestyle, where she hadn’t broken the world record since 2014. Following unexpectedly fast 100 meter splits in the 4×100 relays and almost breaking her record in her preliminary heat, however, another record seemed inevitable. And then this happened: read more

The 2016 Cubs Won Just Like The 1997 Marlins Did

As the Chicago Cubs celebrated winning the World Series last month, much of the attention centered on the contributions of young, homegrown players such as National League MVP Kris Bryant and third-place Cy Young finisher Kyle Hendricks. But under the guidance of general manager Theo Epstein, the Cubs also loaded up on external talent — and salaries — in preparation for their title run. Even after adjusting for MLB-wide increases in the cost of a win,1For the purposes of this story, all references to payroll increases will be adjusted by measuring changes relative to differences in how much marginal salary bought a win above replacement (averaging together the two methods of WAR found at FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference) between the seasons in question. Chicago boosted their payroll by 169 percent between 2014 and 2016 — a record two-season increase among World Series winners.2At least since 1985, the first season for which Baseball-Reference.com has team payroll data.It’s a fitting coincidence that the previous mark was set by a team whose roster was basically completed about 20 years earlier. On Dec. 12, 1996, the Florida Marlins signed free-agent outfielder Moises Alou to a five-year, $25 million contract, the final major piece of a team built largely through a wild, two-year spending spree. When they celebrated their own championship 10 months later, Florida would face accusations of having “bought a World Series,” but they also set a model that many teams would follow over the ensuing years, sometimes to great success — as with the Cubs — and often to great failure. Either way, the era of the store-bought championship bid was at hand.As the hot stove burned in late 1996, the Marlins had only been around as a franchise for four seasons, and they’d never finished a season with a record above .500. But they were also trending upward: Florida had improved its winning percentage in each season the team existed, including an 80-82 record in 1996, which saw them post a 31-24 record (a 91-win pace) in August and September.Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga, already a ’90s business icon for his ownership stake in video-rental titan Blockbuster Entertainment, was also sinking more money in his teal-clad expansion club. Before the 1996 season, Florida GM Dave Dombrowski had upped the team’s payroll by 38 percent,3A raw increase of $6.6M, even as the MLB-wide rate of marginal salary per WAR slightly decreased. from 25th in baseball to 16th, reeling in such big-name free agents as Kevin Brown, Al Leiter and Devon White. The next winter, Dombrowski poured even more cash into Florida’s roster — increasing payroll by another 33 percent — when he signed more free-agent deals with Alou, Alex Fernandez, Bobby Bonilla and Jim Eisenreich.Unsurprisingly, all that aggressive free-agent spending gave new Marlins manager Jim Leyland significantly more talent to work with. If we use Tom Tango’s WARcel projections as a simple way to judge how many wins Florida could have expected to get out of its new acquisitions (as well as the cost of losing the players it jettisoned in the process), the Marlins picked up more than 15 net WAR in talent for 1997 alone through Dombrowski’s wheeling and dealing over the previous two offseasons, another modern-era4Again, going back to the advent of complete team-payroll data in 1985. record for an eventual World Series winner. But having an existing talent base is still preferable to buying one. According to my regression, each extra WAR a team starts with before a two-year stretch of acquiring players is worth about a 60 percent bigger boost to its World Series odds than a WAR of talent snagged from outside the organization over the following two years.9In a way, this makes sense: Existing talent is generally younger, with more potential production (and more cost-controlled years) ahead of them with the club than players poached from other organizations.Plus, the effect of supercharging a roster has lost some of its potency since Florida spent its way to glory. If we split up our data into two sets — one that covers the 1987 through 1997 seasons, and the other for every year since — a one-standard deviation increase in payroll and talent meant a 40 percent bigger bump in World Series odds back then than it would now.Anecdotal evidence bears this idea out, as well. Before the 2016 Cubs made good use of their massive talent influx, the 2004 Boston Red Sox were the last team to win a championship with anything close to the same expensive quick-build strategy as the 1997 Marlins employed. And they were the exception to the rule that most free-spending title bids fall short. For instance, extreme shopping sprees by the Yankees in the early to mid-2000s and, more recently, by the Los Angeles Dodgers yielded a grand total of zero titles, despite the huge financial advantages. (Yes, the Yankees won it all in 2009, but that year they spent about 21 percent less — relative to the MLB average — than they had at their peak in 2005.)Despite fears of a “bought” championship dating back to the advent of free agency (if not earlier), baseball is a tough sport to rig with pure cash. Not only is the postseason incredibly random, but it’s difficult to even predict whether a team will be good enough to get there in the first place. The very best team in baseball only has something like a 15 percent chance of winning it all going into a given season, and although there’s no such thing as having too much talent on a roster, putting that philosophy into practice gets mighty expensive mighty fast. That’s why World Series winners such as the 1997 Marlins — and, now, the 2016 Cubs — are destined to remain historical anomalies, ranking among the very few teams in history who ever saw a complex multiyear building scheme end in anything other than frustration. At the time, no modern team had ever won a championship following such a talent binge. When the defending-champion New York Yankees spent the off-seasons of 1994 and 1995 loading up on players, that meant adding 9 net WAR of talent and 56 percent more payroll5A raw increase of $8.2M over seasons where the cost of WAR was decreasing.. In terms of totally overhauling their roster from the outside, mainly through the power of free-agent shopping, the Marlins were on another level entirely.And it worked out well. Together, Brown, Fernandez, Alou, Bonilla, White, Leiter and Eisenreich combined for about 19 of the Marlins’ 37 total WAR, a big reason — along with 1993 trade pickup Gary Sheffield — why 77 percent of Florida’s wins that season were generated by players who debuted with other franchises. (No World Series winner had gotten less from its homegrown players in the previous 74 years.) In combination with a few homegrown talents such as Livan Hernandez,6Hernandez grew up playing in Cuba, but he defected in 1995 and signed an amateur free-agent deal with the Marlins. Charles Johnson and Edgar Renteria, Florida’s mercenary contingent powered the Marlins to 92 wins and the NL Wild Card, then navigated the team through a difficult string of postseason opponents en route to a seven-game World Series triumph over the Cleveland Indians — the first-ever Series win for a wild-card team.Of course, just as swiftly as it had been built, Florida’s talent machine was disassembled part by part. By spring training of 1999 — just 16 months after Renteria lined a walk-off single up the middle to seal Game 7 — 22 of the 1997 Marlins’ top 26 players by WAR had been purged from the team’s roster, scattered across the majors in baseball’s most infamous “fire sale.”Critics railed against the cynicism of instantly gutting a championship roster, a blight that still taints that Florida team’s legacy. But the Marlins were undeniably trendsetters: In the decade leading up to 1997, only 13 teams had been built in a similar manner, increasing payroll by at least 25 percent and adding at least 5 net WAR of talent over a two-year span. In the two decades since, 36 teams have tried the same tactic — nearly 40 percent more attempts per season.7And, again, this is inflation-adjusted — it measures payroll increases over and beyond changes to the MLB-wide price of a win. With MLB teams’ revenues exploding in the post-strike era, more and more teams began mounting Marlins-style tactical spending strikes.As for whether that strategy has been a reliable path to victory, well, it’s complicated. Based on a logit regression using MLB data since 1987,8With the dependent variable being whether a team won the World Series or not — yep, this is an all-or-nothing analysis, in the spirit of the 1997 Marlins’ build-and-tear-down model — and the independent ones being the amount of WAR a team started out with before its two-year spending spree, and the amount of WAR talent added and percentage change in payroll over the subsequent two years. increasing payroll and/or talent can certainly increase a team’s probability of winning the World Series: If an average team were to add as much to its roster as the 1997 Marlins did, its championship probability would increase sevenfold. read more

Ohio State looking to hold off Michigan in Big Ten Championship finale

The Bill and Mae McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion played host to the men’s swimming and diving Big Ten Championships and OSU swimmers gave the home crowd something to cheer about on Friday.“I’ve never experienced a night like this as a coach,” coach Bill Wadley said. To find a better night in Ohio State swimming history, one would have to go back at least 50 years, Wadley said.Coming into Friday night, the Buckeyes were tied with Michigan, but by the end of the night things changed. The Buckeyes started the night off with a bang, and kept it going, wrapping up Friday’s action in first place.In the 200-yard freestyle relay, OSU was able to bring home the gold and take sole possession of the lead. The relay was made up of Joel Elber, Andrew Olson, Lincoln Fahrbach and Tim Phillips.“It’s a really good momentum builder,” Olson said.The Buckeyes lost their lead for a moment, but the Buckeyes stayed positive.In the next event, sophomore Austin Mudd placed fifth in the 400-yard individual medley while teammate Justin Farra took place sixth in the same event. Both swimmers were able to improve from their morning swim.The next event was a battle of OSU against Michigan. Both teams had three swimmers in the 100-yard butterfly. OSU performed well, but Michigan was able to outscore the Buckeyes.Even though the Buckeyes were outscored, the team was happy about the finishes by all three swimmers. Phillips finished second, Quincy Lee finished fifth and Fahrbach finished in seventh.In the 100-yard breaststroke, the Buckeyes came close to a sweep. OSU was able to finish in first, second and fourth place. Junior Elliott Keefer was able to bring home the gold for OSU while senior Sam Pelkey brought home the silver. Senior Dani Malnik was just one tenth of a second from tying for third. She placed fourth.In that same event, Michigan had only one person in the top eight.OSU finished the night off with a bang. Sophomore Andrew Elliott placed first in the 100-yard backstroke.By the end of the swimming portion of the meet on Friday, the Buckeyes had 592.5 points to take over first place. Michigan checked in second with 512.5 points.The Buckeyes may have the lead but a Big Ten Championship is not in the bag.The Buckeyes will be in the pool Saturday to try to fend off Michigan and bring home a Big Ten Championship. read more

Buckeye Brainteasers OSU takes on the Spartans

Is the OSU coaching staff going to open up the playbook and let freshman quarterback Braxton Miller throw the ball more?After last Saturday’s 37-17 win against Colorado, first-year head coach Luke Fickell said he didn’t expect Miller to scramble and run as much as he did.The offensive coordinator and offensive line coach made it clear that they too want to see Miller drop back in the pocket and throw the ball like he should. The shared title was later vacated by OSU as part of its self-imposed punishment for NCAA violations.But though they shared the Big Ten title last year, the Spartans and Buckeyes didn’t play each other. So, while Michigan State beat Wisconsin during conference play last year and while the teams’ records dictated that they had to share the conference title, there was doubt about whether the Spartans were truly the same caliber of team as the Buckeyes and Badgers.This year, the Spartans have beaten Youngstown State, an FCS team, as well as Florida Atlantic and Central Michigan. The one blemish on their record is a 31-13 loss to Notre Dame (2-2).Which players on Michigan State could hurt the Buckeyes?Unlike OSU, Michigan State came into 2011 knowing which players would impact the team on the offensive side of the ball, and those players have done the job.Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins is third in the Big Ten in passing yards per game with 236.8. Cousins has completed 81 of his 117 passing attempts this season and has also thrown five touchdowns against two interceptions.The matchup between Cousins and OSU’s passing defense, ranked fourth in the conference, will be a crucial one.The Spartans also boast a formidable one-two punch at running back. Sophomore running back Le’Veon Bell has rushed for 217 yards and six touchdowns. Junior running back Edwin Baker has carried for 216 yards and one touchdown.Lastly, there’s senior wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, who leads the Big Ten with 29 catches and is averaging 107 yards per game.OSU’s cornerbacks will have to stick to Cunningham throughout the game. Missed tackles have also been an issue for the Buckeyes’ defense, and if it can’t hold Bell and Baker down, MSU may leave Columbus with a win.Are there any possible “X” factors that could help push OSU to a win?Home-field advantage could impact the outcome of this game.The Ohio Stadium crowd, especially OSU students, has a chance to play a meaningful role in the game against Michigan State.Since the win against Colorado, Fickell has twice voiced his appreciation to the OSU students that were in attendance.At a Tuesday press conference, Fickell said he hopes that students who attend games at the ‘Shoe “get better each and every week.”Sounds like an open invitation to make some noise, and possibly disrupt Cousins and the Spartans’ offense in the presence.Saturday’s game will be the 40th meeting between Michigan State and OSU in football. The Buckeyes lead the all-time series 27-12. Will OSU get win No. 28 against the Spartans?OSU will improve to 4-1 with a win against Michigan State this weekend.Both teams are nearly two weeks removed from bad losses — OSU’s 24-6 loss to Miami (Fla.) and Michigan State’s 31-13 loss to Notre Dame. The Buckeyes also narrowly defeated Toledo on Sept. 10, 27-22.Weighing the highs and lows that both teams have experienced throughout the young season, you’d have to say OSU has had more close calls and setbacks than MSU. The Buckeyes have had more of their weaknesses exposed and more time to correct them.If the Buckeyes sprinkle a few more passing plays into their game plan, Miller could prove to be too unpredictable for the Spartans.It could be a tight one at the ‘Shoe on Saturday but look for the Buckeyes to take the game. As OSU offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said after the Colorado game, it is Miller’s ability to present the “threat of a balanced offense” that will keep opposing defenses off-balance. This weekend’s game against Michigan State might not be ideal for testing Miller’s arm.The Spartans lead the nation in total defense, as well as pass defense. Michigan State’s six interceptions also lead the Big Ten. Miller was 5 of 13 passing against the Buffaloes last weekend, and the Buckeyes will need to throw more than that, but given the Spartans’ ability to defend the pass, don’t expect too much more. This weekend’s game is another opportunity for OSU’s stable of able running backs, especially junior Jordan Hall and sophomore Carlos Hyde, to take the reigns on OSU’s offense.Who is Michigan State?OSU previously held a share of the 2010 Big Ten title with Michigan State, along with Wisconsin. Final score prediction: Ohio State 27, Michigan State 23 read more

Softball Ohio State downs Michigan avoids sweep

OSU then-junior Alex Bayne (2) is welcomed by her teammates at home plate after hitting a home run during a game against Penn State on April 6 at Buckeye Field. Credit: Lantern File PhotoThe No. 21 Ohio State softball team (23-9, 5-2 Big Ten) defeated No. 16 Michigan (28-8-1, 8-1 Big Ten) behind a complete-game shutout from junior pitcher Shelby McCombs, snapping a 21-game losing streak to the Wolverines.“Oh my gosh, I can’t even speak,” McCombs said. “It feels awesome. The rivalry is there, that’s for sure.” McCombs opened the game with three and two-thirds no-hit innings and had four strikeouts against her first seven batters. She finished the game with 10 strikeouts through her seven shutout innings and allowed just three hits in the game.Her success was due primarily to her ability to get players to swing at balls outside of the strike zone which led to softly hit balls, Ohio State coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said.“Shelby was a master out there at getting them to hit non-strikes,” Kovach Schoenly said. “I think she picked and chose her time to throw a strike and got them to swing at pitches outside the zone. You want every pitcher to do that; it’s ideal.”Though she was undoubtedly the player of the game, McCombs was quick to deflect all praise to her teammates.“If it wasn’t for my teammates — Ashley (Goodwin) hitting that bomb, Anna (Kirk) starting off with a bomb, Becca (Gavin) hitting that changeup to right field — I don’t know what would have happened,” McCombs said. “Props to them. I wouldn’t have to do it without them.”The Buckeye offense supported McCombs with five runs, all coming against Michigan senior Megan Betsa, one of the nation’s top pitchers. Betsa entered the game leading the nation in strikeouts and the Big Ten in shutouts and hit allowed per game, but OSU lit her up on Sunday, forcing a pitching change in the fifth inning.“I honestly think she’s one hell of a pitcher,” said junior first baseman Ashley Goodwin. “She’s great, she throws good and she’s very consistent. We just kind of stuck to our game plan and took it pitch by pitch.”Betsa held OSU scoreless through two innings before junior third baseman Kirk hit a solo home run to give the Buckeyes a 1-0 lead after three innings. OSU added to its lead in the fifth with an RBI single from junior catcher Becca Gavin before breaking the game open with a three-run home run from Goodwin.“I was just trying to honestly get a base hit for my team,” Goodwin said. “We’d been waiting for something like this and it finally happened.”Michigan loaded the bases in the game’s final inning, but McCombs got out of the inning and the game unscathed, finishing the complete-game shutout and giving the Buckeyes a 5-0 win.OSU lost the series 2-1 after Michigan won both games on Saturday, but the Buckeyes were happy to celebrate their first win against the Wolverines in nearly seven years, snapping a 21-game losing streak to Michigan dating back to April 28, 2010.“It was awesome,” Goodwin said. “We wanted to do it for our team, our coaches, our fans. It was the best feeling ever.”With the win, the Buckeyes improve to 23-9 overall and 5-2 in the Big Ten. OSU travels to Penn State Wednesday for a mid-week doubleheader before returning home Friday for a weekend series with Indiana. read more

Football Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins makes case for playing time

Ohio State redshirt freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) waits for a snap in the fourth quarter of the 2017 OSU- Army game on Sep. 16. OSU won 38-7. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorThough he remains unlikely to unseat J.T. Barrett as Ohio State’s starting quarterback, Dwayne Haskins took the first snaps of his career Saturday on the Buckeyes’ final drive of their 38-7 win against Army.The redshirt freshman did not disappoint. Haskins completed all four of his passes for 46 yards, zipping the ball to four separate receivers on each throw and driving the Buckeyes to Army’s 10-yard line. “I thought he performed well when he was in there,” coach Urban Meyer said after the game. “He was 4-for-4. I wanted to throw him more, but you just didn’t want to do something silly.”His big-armed, pocket passing style starkly contrasted with Barrett’s dual-threat approach. In Haskins’ only drive, he completed passes of 14 and 15 yards. In the rest of the game, Barrett completed six passes for at least 14 yards.Meyer praised Haskins’ quick release after the game and said Haskins might have had a chance to score on his only drive, but did not want to score another touchdown and run the score up.After Ohio State’s first loss of the season, a decisive 31-16 defeat to Oklahoma, Meyer said he hoped to find Haskins some reps in regular-season games with the goal being to prepare the quarterback to be “game-ready.” Meyer did not believe Haskins earned that designation last week and believes he still has to work to earn the tag.Redshirt freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. (7) warms up prior to the season opener against Indiana. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorIn Meyer’s mind, a large experience gap exists between practice reps and game reps, and another lies in whether the game reps occur under pressure. At the end of the game against Army, Haskins did not have much to lose.“I’ve done that before where you put a guy in in the second quarter of a game,” Meyer said. “We’re not at that point yet. But you’d like to do that.”Whether Haskins earns earlier playing time to test his readiness or not, he is likely to remain backup quarterback. Instead of a battle to become the starter, he might re-enter a competition with redshirt sophomore Joe Burrow, who is about ready to return to action.Burrow broke a bone in his throwing hand near the end of fall camp. Before the past two games, he threw passes in pregame warmups, but he has yet to be listed on a depth chart due to the injury.“We’ve got to make some decisions who is the first one in there,” Meyer said. “Last year was very important to get Joe in the game and he did pretty well when he was in there as well. So, that is so important for backup quarterback spot.”In the spring and fall, Burrow and Haskins entrenched themselves in a battle to back up Barrett. In the spring game, Burrow went 14-for-22 for 262 yards with three touchdowns, while Haskins completed 26-of-37 passes and added three touchdowns.The primary backup last season, Burrow played in five games and completed 22-of-28 passes for 226 yards and threw two touchdown passes. A dual threat, similar to Barrett, Burrow rushed 12 times for 58 yards and a touchdown. read more