A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

A conversation with a friend earlier today sparked a thought. Let's compare the Matt Holliday and Jayson Werth contracts.


  • Matt Holliday: $120M/7 yrs ($122M in 2010 dollars)
  • Jayson Werth: $126M/7 yrs
  • Matt Holliday: +5.6/+11.3/+18.4/+22.4
  • Jayson Werth: +5.0/+9.9/+15.0/+18.2


  • Matt Holliday: 29
  • Jayson Werth: 31


Yeah. I think the Nationals overpaid a bit. I think these guys would agree.

The Chicago Bears 2011 Offseason Needs

1) Offensive Lineman

In 2010, the Chicago Bears had the worst offensive line in the NFL. Any Bears fan or even my mother could tell you, just by watching Chicago games, that this line were letting people pass them through them faster than Paris Hilton. Football Outsiders agrees with what we fans see with our eyes- as Da Bears actually did rank dead last in offensive line blocking.

Cubsfan and I were looking at the free agent pool for 2011 and there are some quality offensive lineman on the market. This is actually surprising, considering that most great O-lineman are found through the draft and not via trades or free agency. But with two great Patriots lineman (Matt Light and Logan Mankins) this years crop is pretty good.

I personally would love it, if every single one of the Bears draft picks, were spent on an offensive lineman- just because all of the current offensive lineman blow more donkey balls than a Tijuana hooker.

I have watched Jay Cutler throughout his two years in Chicago, and it seems to be his biggest fault (more than his mechanics) is the fact that he can not stay upright. In 14.5 games last year- he led the NFL with 52 sacks. And not only to help Cutler, a much improved line will help Matt Forte. It's really hard to run through the tackles to gain positive yardage, when the tackles are being squished together by defensive lineman every single down.

2) Defensive Tackle

The Bears are no need of defensive ends. Julius Peppers looks like a men among boys and even though Chicago lost their top four ends last year (Alex Brown, Wale, Mark Anderson, and Gaines Adams) Isreal Idonije looked amazing. However, both Peppers and Idonije only ended up with eight sacks. That wasn't because of a lack of talent or production, but mainly because of a lack of inside line support. Tommie Harris looks old and ineffective and I can't even name the other starting defensive tackle. An improvement in the middle of the line not only helps the ends, but will have a domino effect to the other seven players behind the defensive line.

When Brian Urlacher was named to the Pro Bowl, Anthony Adams (Oh, that's the other defensive tackle!) joked that the only reason Urlacher looked so good, was because of the line ahead of him. There's a lot of truth in Adams' statement and I'm sure if you asked any defensive lineman from the '85 Bears what made Mike Singletary so good, they will credit themselves (and rightfully so).

3) Number One Wide Receiver

I personally sort of like the Bears receiving corps. Johnny Knox is young and seemingly getting better and Earl Bennett looks really good in the slot as a possession guy. But the Bears top two wideouts are Knox and Devin Hester- guys who don't really strike fear in defensive backs' eyes. However, I think a number one wide out could help push all the Bears receivers back into their rightful positions.

This year has an amazing crop of free agent number ones. Normally, you're lucky if there is even one legitimate number one receiver out there- but this year we have three or four- with Vincent Jackson leading the list. During Game Of Inches' wide receiver rankings, Jackson ranked no lower than the 13th best wide out in the game right now with Cubsfan ranking Jackson 8th and myself ranking him 9th.

This year also has Sidney Rice has a free agent along with New York's Steve Smith, and to a lesser extent Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. Hell, I'm all for signing Shooter McShooty Plaxico Burress to a minor league contract.

4) Cornerback

A greatly improved defensive line really cures all woes. It improves the linebacking corps and thus in turn improves the corners. So while the Bears actually have some fine corners in Peanut Tillman and Tim Jennings and they can get away with being average to above average, however neither of them are a shut down long term solution. Peanut's getting up there in age and we'll see about Jennings, but there are still great options in the free agent market.

The biggest name being Nnamdi Asomugha- who is a long term solution and a shut down corner. There are still some other great names out there like Antonio Cromartie and Jonathan Jospeh- all would be upgrades for who Chicago has now.

5) Linebackers

OK, right now the Bears linebackers are amazing. There's a reason Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are Pro Bowlers. And during the few plays that Tino Pisoismoa is on the field (when the Bears aren't running nickel and dime sets) he looks pretty good as well. But the main reason the it wouldn't hurt the Bears to draft LB's is because Urlacher and Briggs are no spring chickens. Lovie's Tampa-2 scheme runs best when he has a Brian Urlacher-type guy in the middle linebacker slot. It wouldn't hurt for the Bears to look for guys like that within a year or two. Plus, as good as Brian Urlacher looked this year, I also saw the dude get juked in an open field by 6th round rookie James Starks in the playoffs. 2006 Brian Urlacher never would have let that happen.

6) Safeties

If the Bears are going to draft a safety in the 6th round like they always do, then I say screw it for this year. The Bears have a stable group of safties in Chris Harris, Daniel Manning, and 3rd round rookie Major Wright. But I'm not convinced on how well Harris can stay this good as he's getting closer and to being on the wrong side of 30. Safety is not a huge area of concern for Chicago this year, but it's not not 100% stable either.

The Best Team Ever: Made Up Of 2011 Free Agents

QB- Peyton Manning (IND)
QB- Michael Vick (PHI)
WR- Vincent Jackson (SD)
WR- Sidney Rice (MIN)
WR- Steve Smith (NYG)
RB- DeAngelo Williams (CAR)
RB- Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG)
TE- Mercedes Lewis (JAX)
TE- Zack Miller (OAK)
G- Logan Mankins (NE)
OT- Jared Gaither (BAL)
C- Ryan Khalil (CAR)
OT- Matt Light (NE)
G- Carl Nicks (NO)

DE- Mathias Kiwanuka (NYG)
DE- Ray Edwards (MIN)
DT- Haloti Ngata (BAL)
DT- Richard Seymour (OAK)
LB- Lamaar Woodley (PIT)
LB- Chad Greenway (MIN)
LB- Tamba Hali (KC)
CB- Nnamdi Asomugha (OAK)
CB- Antonio Cromartie (NYJ)
S- Eric Weddle (SD)
S- Quintin Mikell (PHI)
Nickel Corner- Jonathan Joseph (CIN)

KR- Braylon Edwards (NYJ)

My apologies to: Pierre Thomas (NO), Shaun Ellis (NYJ), Ike Taylor (PIT),

Running Back Rankings

This is Part Three of Game of Inches' Four Part set. You can read our Part Two WR rankings here and our Part One TE Rankings here.

1) This is not a fantasy ranking, this is an actual skill set ranking.
2) We said that if we had to draft players to play one game tomorrow, who would we choose. Now past and future performance was taken into account as well, but we felt this was the best way to accurately rank skill set of current players.
3) We only ranked 32 players- one from each team. The group used our best judgment to determine which was the teams best player to rank.
4) This is assuming all players are 100% healthy
5) Because we are ranking based off of talent alone, we assumed every running back on our list was playing behind the best run blocking offensive line

- Because we only chose one player from each team, there are some notable guys left off of this list. I was lobbying to rank Jonathan Stewart but he's clearly the inferior and #2 back in Carolina so I was voted down. Some other notable players left off of this list were LaDanian Tomlinson, Thomas Jones, Marion Barber, and Reggie Bush (although I might have left Bush's name off of this list just out of principle)
- There are really two different types of backs- the guys that can get 125 yards on 25 carries 16 games a season and the guys who can get 15 carries for 90 yards but also pair that with 5 catches for 80 yards. It was very hard (at least for me) to determine which skill set was better. However, I ultimately took the pass catcher over the non-pass catcher every time and I gave great weight to the backs ability to catch and not fumble.
- I was very upset at Cubsfan's rankings on Forte as he was by far the lowest on him. Considering all three of us are Bears fan and see most (if not all) of the Bears games, its obvious Forte's problems are offensive line related and not skill related.
- To me, the top of this list was very good. Hell, number 21 on my list was BenJarvis Green-Ellis who I praised to be a Pro Bowler. Although after my Law Firm ranking, I had no idea what to do. The only ranking I was 100% on was Beanie Wells because he sucks donkey balls.
- The 'Bright' One was by far the highest on Darren McFadden and he explains why here
- Both TBO and Cubsfan ranked Arian Foster #2. I personally didn't rank him that high not out of spite or because I don't like him, but because as good as he is, I think there are better

And now on with the show

(Click to enlarge)

TGS's Tracy Jordan On TNT Basketball

Really!? This was what got Tracy into trouble? That's it? Wow, and I thought the Ricky Gervais thing was blown out of proportion.

Quick 2011 Oscar Rant

- Did Christopher Nolan sleep with the Academy's girlfriend or something!? Why does he keep getting fucked? First the greatest movie of the past decade- The Dark Knight- doesn't get a Best Picture nomination and Nolan doesn't get a Best Director nomination for the movie. Now, Nolan doesn't get nominated for Best Director for Inception. I was talking with a co-worker of mine when the 2009 Oscar nominations came out and we were both discussing how TDK got screwed and he said to me, "The reason The Dark Knight made so much money was not because of movie hype or anything like that, but because it was good." And that's a great point. Movies like The Matrix 2 and Transformers 2 made so much money not because they were good, but because they had media hype and people loved their prequel (and to a lesser extent Avatar had this same effect- a not good movie making lot and lots o' money). But The Dark Knight made so much money because of the great quality of the movie.
- Not only do I think Nolan should have at least gotten a Best Director nod over David O. Russell (The Fighter), I thought Russell did a bad job directing the movie. That first scene where Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale are walking through the streets was piss poor directing and the whole first half of the movie I thought was so bad that it almost took me out of the movie.
- Although The Dark Knight absolutely would have gotten a Best Picture nod if the Academy had nominated 10 movies like they did last year and now this year, I hate nominating 10 over 5. I think it takes away from the prestige of getting nominated for Best Picture. Although I'm sure Nolan loves it because I'm convinced Inception wouldn't have gotten nominated with the five movie format.
- Inception deserved every single Oscar nomination except for the four acting awards (because the acting was pretty bad in the movie). Yes, it even deserved the nomination for Best Animated Short and Best Foreign Language Film.
- The Social Network is going to sweep the Oscar's this year. It's going to win Best Picture and Best Director (David Fincher). Now I liked The Social Network a lot. In fact, the first time I saw it I thought to myself "Hmmm, I don't know which one I liked more, Inception or this?". So the fact that's it's going to beat out the best movie of the year- Inception- is actually fine with me. And I like David Fincher a lot (Se7en, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) so I'm glad to see (fingers cross) him get an Oscar.
- I would have liked to see TSN gotten a Best Supporting Actor nomination. I thought Justin Timberlake (who played Sean Parker) was fabulous in it and I would have liked to seen him get critical support. Andrew Garfield (who played Eduardo) got a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor so I thought for sure he was going to get the Oscar nod as well. Hell, I also would have been fine with Armie Hammer (the guy who played both Winklevoss twins) get the nod. Either way, SOMEONE from that movie deserved at least one of the nominations.
- Although I haven't seen The King's Speech and Colin Firth's performance, I absolutely loved Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network. He's such an asshole (as seen in the opening scene where he's bantering with his then girlfriend) but he put so much depth into Mark Zuckerberg that deep down inside this is a just a nerdy, socially awkward kid who just wants to be liked. And don't we all feel that way. (At least in the movie character of Zuckerberg).
- I'm really happy Despicable Me did not get a Best Animated Movie nomination. It was a really bad movie in general and I'm glad to see How To Train Your Dragon did get a nod.
- Back to my Inception rant, it didn't get every technical award. It didn't get Best Editing!
- I saw the documentary Restrepo- a movie about an American army unit deep in enemy territory in Afghanistan where early on a soldier named Restrepo died- and it was really bad. I normally don't watch documentaries but every Oscar nominated documentary I've seen in the past 7 years I've loved or enjoyed. I guess Retrepo is now the exception. I heard great things about the movie Waiting For Superman and although I haven't seen it so I can't fully judge, it probably deserved the nomination over Retrepo.
- I can't decide which score I liked more. Nine Inch Nail's Trent Reznor's score in The Social Network or Hans Zimmer score in Inception that kept you on the edge of your seat for the five hours that damn white van was falling off of the bridge.

Here's who I think will win
Best Picture: The Social Network
Best Director: David Fincher (The Social Network)
Best Actor: Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
Best Actress: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Best Screenplay (Adapted): Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)
Best Screenplay (Original): David Seidler (The King's Speech)
Best Animated Movie: Toy Story 3
Best Foreign Language Film: Mexico (Biutiful)
Best Cinematography: Wally Pfister (Inception)
Best Editing: Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall (The Social Network)
Best Art Direction: Inception
Best Costume Design: Jenny Beavan (The King's Speech)
Best Make Up: Rich Baker, Dave Elsey (The Wolfman)
Best Score: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross (The Social Network)
Best Original Song: "Coming Home" (Country Strong)
Best Sound Mixing: Inception
Best Sound Editing: Richard King (Inception)
Best Visual Effects: Inception
Best Documentary: Lucy Walker, Angus Aynsley (Waste Land)

To me, the wild card in this whole race is The King's Speech. Not only did it garnish the most nominations, but it seems the Academy really loves lumping movies in with each other for wins. Let me explain via examples.

Last year, after Precious started building up steam, getting nominations, and Mo'Nique winning Best Supporting Actress, the Best Screenplay went to Geofrey Fletcher for Precious over the more deserving Jason Reitman an original leading front runner for Up In The Air. And with The Hurt Locker getting a nomination for Best Actor and winning Best Movie and Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow) it also stole the Best Screenplay Award from Quentin Tarintino (Inglorious Basterds).

In 2007, it was lock that Martin Scorsese was going to win Best Director for The Departed (which he did) but the movie rode that wave and took the Best Movie award as well over what was thought to be a lock for Little Miss Sunshine.

The point is, that The King's Speech is picking up steam at just the right time (as shown by its many nominations). However, The Social Network just won Golden Globes for Best Movie, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. Luckily for these two movies one is an adapted screenplay and one is an original so both movies that can that award but I think either the Best Director and Best Movie locks for The Social Network will spill over into a win for Jesse Eisenberg but I think most likely will happen is this King's Speech steam will steal either a Best Movie or Best Director award. Or both.
I guess this wasn't "quick" huh?

GOI Fantasy Basketball League January Update

Every month we look at the GOI Fantasy Basketball League which TBO and myself are in. I am currently holding onto first place by 5 points, with TBO in third place. This past month I made a trade with TBO with me trading Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon for Andray Blatche, Darko Milicic, and Kevin Martin. I needed to improve in Blocks and rebounds which this trade helps me with, but it was before Griffin started getting hot so yes I did get rip off and regret the trade!

The Overall Standings:

The Overall points:

The Overall Stats:

Final Words On The Cutler Situation

I had a grade 2 sprain of my shoulder just 7 months ago playing basketball. Not only was it extremely painful, to the point where I couldnt even lay down in bed without scorching pain, but it felt like the entire left side of my body was disconnected. Putting on a shirt was impossible, let alone trying to outrun the greatest athletes on earth.
Cutler got hurt getting tackled by 2 Packers in the endzone on an incompletion with 4:06 left in the 1st half- I looked it up on my Tivo. He played 2 more series that half, got a pain killer over halftime, and tried playing one more series to start the 2nd half. To sprain the MCL, a person needs to get hit on the lateral side of the knee to create the tension medially. Most athletes experience the so called "unhappy triad", a sprain to the ACL, MCL, and medial meniscus. Luckily, Cutler only hurt the MCL and will not require surgery and a lengthy rehab process.

Just because Cutler doesnt care about you, the media, it doesnt mean he doesn't care about his job or the fans. We can't all be as fake as Tim fucking Tebow.

Quick Thoughts On Cutler's "Performance" In The NFC Championship Game

I know Cutler is receiving a lot of flack for not finishing the Championship Game. While I'm sure everyone can agree he was injured, I'm also sure that he was still good enough to complete the game. Many former players and fans alike are criticizing that Cutler was still healthy enough to play in the game and that his lack of heart, not his injury, was the reason for his absence.

A fundamental assumption that everyone seems to be missing is that: Could Cutler have been effective if he completed the game? I think that answer to that question is "No" and that Caleb Hanie looked really good. I would prefer an effective quarterback (in Hanie) than a pretty banged up quarterback (in Cutler). Reports have come out that Cutler got injured at the end of the first quarter and if you saw how poor Cutler played during the second quarter, you would understand how the injury affected number 6.

Cutler has been sacked a league leading 52 sacks- 12 more than #2 on the list (Flacco)- and he got it in 14.5 games (unlike a full 16 for Flacco). He played behind the worst offensive line in football this year (literally 32 out of 32 according to Football Outsiders) and has- at best- a below average to average receiving corps. Cutler needs to scramble and run to be effective and if an injury prevents him from doing that (which it looked like it did) then he (rightfully) needed to remove himself from the game. Also, the guy never once called out his offensive line (which he had every right to) and I find it hard to believe that all those hits and sacks didn't take a toll on his body.

Truly, at the end of the day, the only thing fans and teams care about is wins. Sure Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer were mediocre quarterbacks who won Superbowls, but do you think Bucs and Ravens fans really care all that much? Do you think they would have sacrificed those quarterbacks over say a Peyton Manning if those franchises hadn't won rings? Absolutely not. All I cared about is if the Bears won. Helping Jay's legacy would be nice, but at the end of the day- I would take a 30.0 passer rating from him in a win or I would take a win led by Caleb Hanie.

Either way, I'm sick and tired of national media outlets using Jay Cutler has a punching bag or a scapegoat. Unless someone in that locker room speaks out about Cutler or you just happened to be filming a documentary of Cutler right when that happened- stop talking shit about his personal life and speculating what's in his mind.
UPDATE: The Chicago Sun-Times just reported Cutler has a torn MCL. 1) There goes my initial assumption that Cutler was healthy enough to finish the game 2) For all of you fans you criticized Cutler while Tweeting on your couch, you try walking to the fridge to get a beer on a torn MCL. For all the players that called Cutler out, shut your fucking face.

Dan Bernstein Loses It

On our latest podcast, I referenced a massive blow up by Dan Bernstein over the summer on the Chicago radio airwaves. Not surprisingly it made it to youtube. First he loses it over Juan Pierre, cools down over Lebron, and loses it again over Dimiti Young. All capped off with his seizure at the 5:10 mark.

Jew York Jets

Caleb Hanie Still Thinks Jay Cutler Sucks

Some comments from my YouTube page today

HAHAHA, I'm not even a Bears fan but this qb gets my respect. This guy came out to win. He should have earned a spot as the starter with that type of performance. Cutler is a heartless joke. I've been saying it for years, and this 3rd stringer proved it.

Hanie should be a starter

Props to Hanie for stepping up in the NFC championship game. It was a pretty close comeback

Fucking Cutler is so bad

Well judging by the way Cutler wussed out on his team against the packers for the NFC championship imma say Hanie was right, he is better, Big Props to Hanie gained a lot of my respect

LOL, I'm a But I got to say that some of the bear fans are in denial. Cutler was playing like **** even before the so called knee injury. And if his knee was that bad with torn knee ligaments, than how was he able to stand and walk perfectly fine? He walked over to rodgers pretty damn quickly to give him a hug. If his knees really had torn ligaments than he wouldn't even be standing if it was that bad, much less walking fine!


DME's Top 60 Outfielders, Top 100 Starting Pitchers and Top 50 Relievers for fantasy in 2011

I have been AWOL for a little while, but my latest rankings for The Hardball Times, are out, finishing off my early preseason positional rankings. Click the relevant links below. I will be releasing an updated list in about one month.

New Podcasts Up!

Sexy Rexy talks with The 'Bright' One
Listen to Part One here
Listen to Part Dos here
You can also download this and every Game Of Inches podcast on iTunes. Just go to the iTunes store, type "Game Of Inches" into it. If you don't see the GOI logo (the one with the fuzzy black background and bright "GOI" lettering on it) then go to the left where it says "Filter By Media Type" and click on "Podcasts". You should see two logos. The second one has the newer podcasts.

Wide Receiver Rankings

This is the second of our four part series that Sexy Rexy, The 'Bright' One, and Cubsfan4evr1 have put together. You can read Part One on Tight Ends here

1) This is not a fantasy ranking, this is an actual skill set ranking.
2) We said that if we had to draft players to play one game tomorrow, who would we choose. Now past and future performance was taken into account as well, but we felt this was the best way to accurately rank skill set of current players.
3) We only ranked 32 players- one from each team. The group used our best judgment to determine which was the teams best player to rank.
4) This is assuming all players are 100% healthy

- Because we only chose one player from each team, there are guys like Jeremy Maclin, Austin Collie, and Steve Smith (NYG), etc. that very easily could have and would have made this list if it was only the 32 best wide outs in the league. But all those guys have a better talented player that they play next to and that we felt deserved to be ranked higher
- We could not for the life of us think of the Rams #1 wide out. If this question was asked at the end of the '09 season we probably would have said Donnie Avery. If we asked this question after Week 2 we would have said Mark Clayton. But if you can tell me the talent difference between Laurent Robinson, Brandon Gibson, and Danny Amendola then more power to you! It would not change our ranking in the least though
- I personally think Derrick Mason is the best receiver in Baltimore. But I was outvoted
- We choose Louis Murphy in Oakland because we felt he got targeted more and had a bit better numbers than the other guys, but really we got into St. Louis receiver territory here
- My apologies for Mohammed Mossoquoi's name from getting cut off but it was a necessary causality. And that's what he gets for sucking
- I think it's amazing our similar TBO's and my list are- especially compared to Cubsfan's list

Now on to the show

(Click to enlarge). That's what she said

It's Good To Be Good Now: A Look At Why Next Year's Free Agency Crop Is Going To Suck

MLB Trade Rumors has a list of prospective free agents for next offseason. Scanning this list, it is not hard to see why this year's market of players received player-centric deals all around. Let me highlight to you the top five names by position just to illustrate how weak next year's player market will be:

  1. Jorge Posada
  2. Ryan Doumit
  3. Jason Varitek
  4. Ivan Rodrigurz (Pudge)
  5. Rod Barajas
Three of those catchers are 40, and Barajas will be 36.

First Basemen:
  1. Prince Fielder
  2. Carlos Pena
  3. Derrek Lee
  4. Michael Cuddyer
  5. Edwin Encarnacion
I omitted Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols because they are almost 100% likely to sign long-term contracts with their current teams. Even 31-year old Nick Swisher will probably have his $10.25 million option for 2012 picked up so he can play more outfield. That leaves Prince Fielder, only 28 next year, as the only good first basemen likely to be on the market under the age of 32. Unless, of course, you count Edwin Encarnacion (29) . . .

Second Basemen:
  1. Kelly Johnson
  2. Mark Ellis
  3. Omar Infante
  4. Jose Lopez
  5. Freddie Sanchez
All of Robinson Cano, Rickie Weeks and Brandon Phillips are essentially guaranteed to have their 2012 options picked up. Aaron Hill is more of a wild card. The team has a boatload of cheap options for Aaron Hill's future seasons, but those are contingent upon whether they exercise all the options at once, if I recall correctly...but then again, the Jays did just acquire Brett Lawrire...assuming that the Blue Jays pick up at least Hill's 2012 option, however, Kelly Johnson will be the lone quality player at second.

  1. Jose Reyes,
  2. Jimmy Rollins
  3. Rafael Furcal
  4. J.J. Hardy
  5. Alex Gonzalez
Shortstop has never been a deep position, but 2012 looks to be the year of the (aging) shortstop! God help us all. Reyes and Hardy will be the only available and useful shortstops under the age of 32. None of these names are a picture of health.

Third Basemen:
  1. Jose Bautista
  2. Aramis Ramrez
  3. Jose Lopez
  4. Mark DeRosa
  5. Wilson Betemit
Rumor is that the Jays are working on an extension for Bautista.

  1. Johnny Damon
  2. Manny Ramirez
  3. Carlos Beltran
  4. David DeJesus
  5. Bobby Abreu
  6. Pat Burrell
  7. Magglio Ordonez
  8. J.D. Drew
  9. Juan Pierre
  10. Andruw Jones
If it was 2002, this would be an elite list of outfielders. But it is not 2002, it will be 2012. Most of these guys are DH-only types at this point in their careers. Grady Sizemore has a $8 million option for 2012, which I assume the Indians will pick up because replacing Grady will cost much more than $8 millions.

Starting Pitchers:
  1. Hiroki Kuroda
  2. Wandy Rodriguez
  3. Brandon Webb
  4. Javier Vazquez
  5. C.J. Wilson
  6. Mark Buehrle
  7. Joel Pinero
  8. Jon Garland
  9. Edwin Jackson
  10. Aaron Harang
  11. Rich Harden
  12. Paul Maholm,
  13. Vincente Padilla
  14. Chien-Ming Wang
  15. Oliver Perez/Jason Marquis
Given the 2012 options on Chris Carpenter, Roy Oswalt, and Adam Wainwright, both C.C. Sabathia and Ryan Dempster should seriously consider exercising their opt out clauses and decline their 2012 (and beyond) player options. I only listed the market as would exist without these five names. Try and guess how many of the above names are 30 or younger.

Relief Pitchers:
  1. Heath Bell
  2. Matt Thornton
  3. Jonathan Broxton
  4. Jonathan Papelbon
  5. Matt Capps
  6. Kerry Wood
  7. Takashi Saito
  8. Francisco Cordero
  9. Mike Gonzalez
  10. Ryan Franklin
For a second, put Koji Uehara, Jose Valverde, and Joe Nathan from your mind. They have options which will likely either vest or be picked up by their new clubs. The same is likely true of Octavio Dotel, and in a blue moon, maybe K-Rod and Brad Lidge will have their options picked up too. Even still, even excluding all of these names, you can see the clear wealth of quality pitchers and pitchers with closing experience which will flood the 2012 market. 2012 will be a great season in which to need a closer or bullpensman. Heck, this is not even to mention the wealth of RHP/LHP relievers like Jason Frasor and Michael Wuertz who will be available. Heck, even Fernando Rodney will be in the market.

What is evidenced by the above is that 2012 will feature an elite class of relievers, a relative "deep" class of shortstops (though really only Reyes is a reliable FA option at this point in the careers of Hardy, Rollins, and Furcal), ten of the best outfielders from 2002, a weak and shallow class of starting pitchers (no "aces" on the market this time around (unless C.C. opts out), and a limited number of quality No. 2 starters), and a class of players from other positions who, outside of Prince Fielder, are old and have been bad in the previous few seasons. Expect Fielder and Reyes to get paid, but the rest of the market will be a big question mark of organizational desperation, at least assuming no player union strike occurs . . .

New Podcast!

Fantasy baskteball podcast aqui, for our hispanic fans!

So How Did Those Blackhawks Trades Work Out?

After the most amazing, spectacular, unbelievable playoff run in sports history, the Blackhawks were forced to gut their roster for the purposes of staying under the hard salary cup that the NHL emposes. With Kane and Toews both signing long term contracts worth 6 mil per, and Keith, Hossa, and Campbell already making the big bucks, there simply was not enough money to go around under the 59 million salary cap. And while everyone inticipated a couple of our beloved Blackhawks getting shipped away, no one could imagine that Stan Bowman would literraly gut half the team. So lets take a look at how the former Hawks have performed with their new teams.

Dustin Byfuglien - 16 goals, 41 points in 48 games. Previous career high of 36 points
Kris Versteeg - 12 goals, 31 points in 41 games
Andrew Ladd - 16 goals, 38 points in 48 games
John Madden - 7 goals, 15 points in 45 games
Ben Eager - 3 goals, 10 points in 34 games
Martin havlat - 13 goals, 43 points in 47 games - exiled in 2008
Antti Niemi - 11-13-2 2.79GAA 91%

As we can see, everyone outside of Antti Niemi is having a career season and flourishing in their increased role on their new teams. Bittersweat

Fantasy Outlook: Embracing Randomness and Playing for This Year

A few months ago, The Hardball Times ran a competition offering prospective fantasy baseball writers and fanatics the opportunity to compete in the inaugural Hardball Times fantasy league. The competition entailed the writing of fantasy baseball articles, the best of which would be chosen as our winner. While we could only choose one winner, we had so many great articles. What follows is one of my favorite submissions, which was written by Alan Gellin. I think you will enjoy this article as much as I did.

Each year, there are fantasy baseball team owners who decide that they will rebuild their roster and play for next year or some future year. These decisions are usually based on a team’s keeper list as compared to the other teams in the league. If I happen to be in a league where an owner declares his intention to play for next year, it is a time to rejoice because I have one less team to compete with for first place this year. While I look forward to competing with owners that play for next year, the purpose of this article is to build a case for the idea that you should always play for this year.

The basic premise underlying the argument to play for this year is the notion that we should embrace randomness. This concept of embracing randomness came to me after reading The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. A Black Swan is an event that occurs, positive or negative, that has great impact and could not be predicted. A positive example would be an unknown author’s first book becoming an international bestseller and a negative example would be the September 11, 2001 attacks. These seemingly random events cannot be predicted because we are not aware of the underlying factors at work that lead up to and contribute to making these events possible.

In fantasy baseball, the seeming randomness of statistics and the near impossibility of accurately predicting player performance from year to year can be challenging. The fantasy baseball industry has gotten better at predicting player performance but each year there are positive and negative Black Swans that impact team rosters. This year’s most famous example is the 54 home run season of Jose Bautista. This is a classic positive Black Swan event (if he was on your roster!) but there are hundreds of other examples of players not living up to or far exceeding the expectations placed upon them each season.

Since we are generally not privy to the information that contributes to unpredictable player performance, let us embrace this randomness. We really do not know for sure how any one player will perform, let alone an entire roster of players. There are always rostered players that underperform and there are always players in the free agent pool that outperform expectations. Your competitor’s unbeatable keeper list in the preseason can suddenly look beatable with unexplained drops in player performances and injuries. Taking this thought one or two years down the road: your rebuilt team’s keeper list will be subject to the same unpredictability as your competitor’s keeper list this year.

Embrace randomness. Play for this year. It’s a lot more fun than waiting around for a championship that may never happen.

Alan Gellin is a 26 year veteran of fantasy baseball and will be playing to win again this year. Comments are welcome at agellin@buffalo.edu.

THT Mock Draft Results

The results from The Hardball Times fantasy mock draft are in. Browse the teams, vote on your favorites. Both Sexy Rexy and I participated.

The post-draft analysis will come in the following weeks, but for now, just check out my amazing team.

Tight End Rankings

This is the first of a four part set of how Sexy Rexy, The 'Bright' One, and Cubsfan4evr1 would rank players. We obviously first started off with the tight ends. The main reason for this was because I initially wanted all three authors to do a brief write up how why they ranked the way they did but a few weeks have gone by and Cubsfan and TBO haven't written one yet so I'll start off with the "crappiest" of the four positions (next we'll do wide receivers, running backs, and then quarterbacks) so hopefully as time goes on, write ups will come. But for now, let's just get a post rolling!

1) This is not a fantasy ranking, this is an actual skill set ranking.
2) We said that if we had to draft players to play one game tomorrow, who would we choose. Now past and future performance was taken into account as well, but we felt this was the best way to accurately rank skill set of current players.
3) We only ranked 32 players- one from each team. The group used our best judgment to determine which was the teams best player to rank.
4) This is assuming all players are 100% healthy

(click to enlarge)

Brief Analysis Of My 2010 Fantasy Phenoms Mock Draft

In addition to The Hardball Times mock draft from this past Sunday (write up coming soon), I also participated in a mock draft with various blogs around the web, hosted by Fantasy Phenoms. Though I was only able to stick around for 10 or so rounds (technical difficulties, which inevitably arise, pushed back the draft such that it overlapped dinner plans...).

You can check out my largely auto-drafted team by clicking here. Below is a quick analysis of my actual draft and my first few auto-draft picks.

With the tenth overall pick, I was pleasantly surprised to get both David Wright and Chase Utley with my first two picks. On my personal rankings chart, I have them ranked as the fifth and eighth best players to draft in the first round. Some may think Cano is a better first basemen than Utley, but HR/RBI/R are a wash and while Cano has the age/AVG upside, Utley’s speed and SB potential blow Cano out of the water. For instance, Utley stole more bases last season than Cano has accrued in his career. Utley still paced 22/18 in his worst full major league season. Yeah, I want that.

I reached for two picks with my third and fourth selection – Jason Heyward and Alex Rios. I legitimately view Heyward as a top ten outfielder this season, capable of a .300+/30/10-15/100/100 campaign and he was the best player in my eyes on the draft board. Even if I could have waited another pick to get him, it was not worth the risk. Had I seen Wainwright still on the board, however, I might have waited a pick. Likewise, I spent big on Rios, who I view as a better version of Shin-Soo Choo in the counting stats.

I drafted two stud pitchers early – Dan Haren and Zack Greinke. I am prone to do this because I like to build up elite strikeout stuff with my starters and take some late round gambles. Getting two ace-studs to anchor my staff allows me to make some risks without buying pepto bismol. I also took Mat Latos a couple of rounds later. I really like this hard-throwing young stud. He does everything great and plays at Petco. He is legitimately capable of repeating 2010.

Hunter Pence has the consistency of Adam Dunn, but is consistently overlooked by owners. He is a lock for a .285/25/15 campaign with solid R/RBI totals. Round 7/8 is where he should be going at the latest, btu he should be drafted ahead of guys like Matt Cain and Kelly Johnson.

Unfortunately, after pick #10, I had to leave and I let the computer auto draft me. I’m not the biggest Cahill fan for fantasy (I like him in real life), so I was not happy to see him autodrafted in round 11. Guys I was autodrafted later, including Kurod and Danks, are much better pitchers for fantasy in my mind.

Oh, and how did I get Carlos Pena in the 13th Round? That’s just stealing! .250/35/100/100 abound this year, mark my words.

Get A Sense Of Humor Golden Globes

After Ricky Gervais' performance, many critics and old stuffy white dudes criticized the hist for being too lewd, crude, and actually funny. These are the same people who hated on Chris Rock in 2005 when he hosted the Oscars. Yet these same people criticized Jon Stewart for not being funny. Well make up your mind, do you want these people to be tame or to be funny? You can't have it both ways.

I personally loved Gervais (and Rock a few years back). These award shows are a bunch of narcissistic blowhards patting themselves on the back. God forbid we can laugh at them while they do it.

A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words: Why Pujols Deserves More Money Than Teixeira and Mauer, But Not A-Rod Money

(click to embiggen)

Even if you look at cumulative WAR by age, the difference between A-Rod and Pujols by age remains constant (compare the area differential for the age 21 to 29 seasons). That's not to say Pujols age 31-40 seasons will not be comparable to A-Rod's, however...just a commentary on equivalent-aged production.

Why Is There Home Field Advantage? (Quick Version)

I love to poop. I love to read while I poop. So other day I was reading Sports Illustrated while throwing a curveball and there was a great article by Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim in it explaining why home field advantage exists (Although not for the 2010 Miami Dolphins).

No matter what sport you are looking at whether it's Premier League soccer or minor league baseball, a home field advantage exists. In fact, the home field advantage percentage it's essentially similar between sports as well (e.g. the NBA and WNBA; European soccer and the MLS).

It's not because of the crowd or the way stadiums are set up or anything like that.

The reason for home field advantage: the referees.

I won't go into full details right now, but the authors looked into things that solely the referees can control. They first looked at stoppage time in soccer and found a distinct advantage towards the home team. They then looked at MLB (with the help of DME's dominatrix Tom Tango) at called balls and strikes and also found a strong home field advantage. The authors next looked to the NFL with challenges and penalties. And again, found a clear cut home field advantage.

So as much as I still want computers calling balls and strikes in baseball and so that we can make it official that Armando Galarraga threw a perfect game, those douchebags in the black and white who can never get a call right (haha that rhymes) serve a great purpose after all. See: Calvin Johnson's TD "catch" in Week One at Chicago.

New Podcasts Up!

You can listen here.

You can also download this and every Game Of Inches podcast on iTunes. Just go to the iTunes store, type "Game Of Inches" into it. If you don't see the GOI logo (the one with the fuzzy black background and bright "GOI" lettering on it) then go to the left where it says "Filter By Media Type" and click on "Podcasts". You should see two logos. The second one has the newer podcasts.

Joe Flacco Update

For some reason Joe Flacco is my boy. I don't really like him all that much. In my quarterback rankings (post soon to come) I ranked Flacco 13th. But for some reason I have been following his career and posting about it. So why not write one more.

In the offseason before the 2010 NFL season began, the Ravens traded for Anquan Boldin. Therefore, I wrote a post predicting how well Flacco and the other receivers would do. This is what I predicted for Flacco before the season:
515 attempts, 345 completions, 4031 yards, 25 TDs, 11 INTs, 6 fumbles, 55 rushing attempts, 200 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs.
These were pretty ballsy numbers, mainly considering Flacco had never thrown for over 4000 yards in a season or thrown over 500 attempts. Here's the numbers Flacco did end up with:
489 attempts, 306 completions, 3622 yards, 25 TDs, 10 INT, 9 fumbles, 43 rushing attempts, 84 rushing yards, 1 TD.
I predicted a 25/11 TD/INT ratio for Flacco and he ended up with a 25/10 ratio so I think that's pretty damn impressive. But I also thought Flacco would throw it a bit more and thus get more yards. I thought the addition of Boldin would improve Flacco's numbers. But it did not.

I kind of think that the numbers Flacco put up this year are the numbers that he'll put up for his career. I think he'll have about a 63% completion percentage (63.1 in 2009, 62.6 in 2010) and he'll throw for about 485-500 times (499 in 2009, 489 in 2010).

Before I predicted Flacco's numbers I predicted his wide outs numbers. Anquan Boldin has had a great career so I predicted his numbers to fall in line partially with what he did in the past. By doing so that naturally raised Flacco's numbers (who I thought would improve and continue to develop as he got another year of experience under his belt).

Another major assumption that I made was that Anquan Boldin would be Flacco's number one target. Throughout Flacco's short career he's had a clear cut number one guy and a clear cut number two guy. It turns out that split was mainly because of the talent of Mason and Mark Clayton and not because of the system or how Flacco throws or what-have-you. While Boldin was technically Flacco's number one target with 108, Mason was not far behind with 100. Here's what I predicted for Anquan Boldin:
130 targets, 92 receptions, 1100 yards, 9 TDs, 3 fumbles, 4 carries, 40 yards, 0 TDs
Now right off the bat you should be able to tell that my prediction was way off because I thought he would get 130 targets and he only got 108. Here's Boldin's numbers on the year:
108 targets, 64 receptions, 837 yards, 7 TDs, 1 fumble, 2 carries, 2 yards, 0 TDs
Well at least I correctly predicted Boldin wouldn't get any rushing touchdowns.

Another big problems with my prediction/actuality split was that Boldin had one of the worst catch rates of his career. In 2009 and 2008, Boldin caught 71% of his passes. He only caught 59% of them in 2010. The lack of targets and catching his targets drastically decreased Boldin's numbers which seems to me shows a sign of lack of talent. Or maybe he was just in a new system and had an outlier year because of it. Whatever the reason was, it was a huge difference to why my Flacco prediction was so off.

Here's what I predicted for Derrick Mason:
85 targets, 52 receptions, 730 yards, 5 TDs, 1 fumble, 1 carry, 2 yards, 0 TDs.
I have a pretty good system in how to calculate targets but a poorer way ho to calculate catch rate and an even poorer way still to calculate yards per reception. Mason has had a sporadic catch rate and YPR the past three years as I pointed out in my original post. Here's the numbers Mason actually did get:
100 targets, 61 receptions, 802 yards, 7 TDs, 0 fumbles, 0 carries.
While Mason's targets did take a huge drop with the addition of Boldin (He averaged a shade under 140 the past few years compared to the 100 he got in 2010) my 85 prediction was WAY too low.

I did however hit Mason's catch rate (61%) right on the nose.

I did however guess incorrectly Mason's YPR. I should have averaged out in 2009 and 2008 campaign (which would have given me 13.5 YPR which was closer to the 13.1 Mason actually got as opposed to be 14.0 I gave him as opposed to adding that third year. But so is life.). However, for fantasy purposes, because of his increases in targets he far exceeded my expectations of him and he did well for anyone that drafted him.

Here's what I predicted for TE Todd Heap:
80 targets, 52 receptions, 588 yards, 4 TDs, 0 fumbles, 2 carries, 18 yards.
Here's what Heap ended up with in 2010:
64 targets, 40 receptions, 599 yards, 5 TDs, 0 fumbles, 0 carries.
Considering Heap had the best YPR of his entire career and by far did anything better than he's ever done, I think my fantasy prediction of him was pretty damn spot on.

Last, but not least, we have Ray Rice. I pegged him as the third best running back in fantasy (behind CJ and AD) and I sincerely apologize for that. I paid 70 dollars for him in one league and he severely disappointed me. I really don't know why the decrease in his production from what I thought but here's what I predicted for Rice:
290 carries, 1505 rushing yards, 8 TDs, 2 fumbles; 100 targets, 77 receptions, 658 yards, 2 TDs.
Here's what Rice ended up with:
307 carries, 1220 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs, 0 fumbles, 82 targets, 63 receptions, 556 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD.
In the past, Flacco's success has arisen because of his quick dump offs to his running backs so the decrease in the touches as I predicted for Rice and the decrease in the amount of passing yards I predicted to Rice was a huge factor in my poor prediction of Joe Flacco.

Here's how Flacco's targets broke down in 2010:

Boldin: 22%
Mason: 20%
Rice: 16.8%
Heap: 16.3%
Houshmandzadeh: 11.8%
McGahee/McClain: 9.0%
Other Receivers: 6.7%

Top 2 Receivers: 42.5%
RBs: 25.8%
Heap: 16.3%
Other Receivers:
RBs: 18.6%

As what the head of BP/DP kept saying throughout the Coon and Friends three parter of South Park last season, "Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry."

Best Movies Of 2010

This title is a misnomer because not only is this list really more like my favorite movies, but this post is mainly dedicated to whom I think the Oscar front runner(s) should be.

In full disclosure, while I have seen a shit ton of movies in 2010, I still have not seen many ones that are considered "good" like 127 Hours, The King's Speech, Blue Valentine, or Winter's Bone (and many more). So subject to me seeing those, here's my list.

Best Movie

Winner: Inception
Runner Up: The Social Network

Best Director
Winner: Christopher Nolan (Inception)
Runner Up: David Fincher (The Social Network)

Best Actor

Winner: Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
Runner Up: Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
NOTE: This runner up is subject to change because I was not all that sold on Bridges and essentially all the movies I listed above have contenders.

Best Actress

Winner: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Runner Up: Annette Bening (The Kids Are Alright)

Best Supporting Actor

Winner: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Runner Up: Justin Timberlake (The Social Network)

Best Supporting Actress

Winner: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Runner Up: Amy Adams (The Fighter)

Best Script
Winner: Christopher Nolan (Inception)
Runner Up: Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)

The Best (really my favorite) Movies Of 2010

10) Toy Story 3

9) How To Train Your Dragon

8) Paranormal Activity 2

7) The Other Guys

6) Frozen

5) The Fighter

4) Black Swan

3) Kick Ass

2) The Social Network

1) Inception

Worthless Playoff Predictions: 2010 NFL

Here's an excerpt of what I wrote on Twitter last Thursday, two days before the NFL playoffs began:
Playoff prediction: Every road NFL team wins this weekend, with the EXCEPTION of the Seahawks
While I misspoke and meant to say every road team but the Saints will win (because Seattle was the home team), I correctly predicted all four playoffs games for the Wild Card weekend. Let's see if I can do the same for the rest of games.

Conference Round

(2) Chicago def. (4) Seattle
(6) Green Bay def. (1) Atlanta

(1) New England def. (6) New York
(5) Baltimore def. (2) Pittsburgh

Divisional Round

(2) Chicago def. (6) Green Bay

(1) New England def. (5) Baltimore

Super Bowl

New England Patriots def. Chicago Bears

xWHIP 2.0 Challenge #1: Matt Garza's 2011

Using the new and improved xWHIP 2.0 calculator, here is Matt Garza's expected WHIP for 2011 on the Cubs. Keep in mind he is not only changing parks, but leagues, so perhaps this figure is not as accurate as it could be (different park dimensions and locations affect batted ball distributions):

When Baseball Writers Do Not Think

According to MLB Trade Rumors,
Mychael Urban of CSNBayArea.com thinks the Beltre signing "isn’t necessarily a loss for the jilted A’s" since the Rangers didn't solve their main need of pitching, and Beltre's production last year "represents a wash offensively" with the departed Vladimir Guerrero.
That would be all and well if baseball was an exclusively offensive game, but it's not. Even in the AL, eight of the hitters take the field. Michael Young posted a -5.4 UZR last season and has a career UZR/150 of -7.5 over 293 games played (2544 innings) at third base. On the other hand, Adrian Beltre posted a +11.8 UZR last season and has a career +15.3 UZR/150 at third base over 1818 games, 15676.1 innings played. That's a ~2 WAR differential there, assuming a wash in offense between 2010 Vladimir Guerrero (.360 wOBA) and 2011 Adrian Beltre (projected .355 wOBA). Oh, and don't forget that Big Daddy Vladdy won't be forced to butcher the outfield for the Rangers in interleague games next season either.

Better Late Than Never, Bert

Today, Bert Blyleven finally got recognized for being the great pitcher he was. It took fourteen years, but always better late than never. Congratulations, Bert.

In the long, traditional and tainted history of baseball, you will find few players who were as good as Bert Blyleven. A pitcher who spent 86% of his career in the AL, Blyleven was not only one of the most durable pitchers to ever play the game (14th all time in innings pitched), but he also played each and every one of those innings, up until the last few years of his career, remarkably well and consistently. Blyleven was not just "good" at baseball, he was nothing short of great, and unlike Javier Vazquez, he did not underperform his stellar peripherals.

In terms of the topical, traditional statistics, Blyleven's career 3.31 ERA puts him in company with current/future Hall Of Famers Randy Johnson (career 3.29 ERA), Fergie Jenkins (career 3.34 ERA), Phil Niekro (career 3.35 ERA), and Robin Roberts (3.41 ERA). His ERA is also lower than that of Tom Glavine (career 3.54 ERA). You like wins? His 287 wins are give him one more than Robin Roberts, and makes him 27th all time. Only six other players in the history of baseball who have more wins than Blyleven Tommy John (288), Bobby Mathews (297), Randy Johnson (303), Tom Glavine (305), Roger Clemens (354), and Greg Maddux (355)) are not currently in the hall of fame, and five years from now, that number will dwindle down to two. Many pitchers with less wins are already in. Furthermore, Blyleven was never known as a jerk or cheater or drug user during his career, unlike Albert Belle, Ron Santo (God rest his soul), Tim Raines, Kenny Rogers, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, et al. Tto the contrary,Blyleven has a great sense of humor. But wins don't really matter, at least not in measuring a pitchers talent, and attitude has nothing to do with his talent and production on the field.

While Blyleven performed remarkably well in the surface stats that most Hall of Fame voters obsessively oogle, his underlying skill sets are equally impressive. Bert Blyleven ended his career with a 3.19 FIP over almost 5,000 innings pitched, making him top 50 all time amongst starting pitchers who threw 2500+ innings. A 3.19 FIP puts Blyleven in company with such current and future Hall Of Famers as Steve Carlton (career 3.15 FIP) and Jim Bunning (3.22 FIP) and ahead of such guys as Don Sutton (career 3.24 FIP), Greg Maddux (career 3.26 FIP), Fergie Jenkins (3.28 FIP), Dennis Eckersley (career 3.40 FIP), and Phil Niekro (career 3.60 FIP). In fact, Blyleven's FIP was only above 3.00 twice during his first nine major league seasons (one of which was his rookie year). Over those first nine years of his career, his career high FIP was 3.27. In his career, his FIP was above 4 only three times. His BB/9 was only three times above 3.00 in a season and only once above 3.50. Blyleven's K/9 (6.70 career) was also above average each season until his final three in the majors. With the exception of his final three seasons -- over which Blyleven's K/BB was 2.98, 2.76, and 2.41 -- Blyleven's K/9 was never below 6.0.

Blyleven's numbers are so good because his control was superb. It was not Greg Maddux-like, but a career 2.39 BB/9 is none the less fantastic. Blyleven posted a career 2.80 K/BB mark, which is top 35 amongst all pitchers who threw 2000+ innings (top 25 amongst all pitchers with 2500+ innings). And just in case Blyleven's career 2.80 K/BB does not sound sweet enough, between 1970 and 1992, the league average K/BB was only above 1.75 once (1988).

Fangraphs does not have any groundball data available for any season prior to 2002, but it is well known that Blyleven had a fantastic curveball and he kept the ball in the yard plenty with a 0.78 HR/9.

In sum, we have the portrait of a pitcher with great peripherals and quality surface stats. Blyleven was an almost entirely AL pitcher with a good reputation, a lot of wins, great control (in terms of both BB/9 and K/BB), and a very quality FIP and ERA. His 3,701 career strikeouts are fifth all time and he's better than many of the pitchers who are already honored (some of whom should not be...but that post is for another time) in the halls of history in Cooperstown, New York. Blyleven was one of baseball's true greats and I am glad his is finally being recognized as such. With luck, Blyleven's entry will pave the way for Mike Mussina.

On one final note, I would like to point out that Jeff Bagwell's snub, garnering less than 50% of the vote, seems awfully ridiculous. As Chris Jaffee noted earlier this week:

Some talk has surrounded Jeff Bagwell as a steroid taker. He's never been named as one, never tested positive, and there's no solid evidence or even evasive statements before Congress linking him to steroids. But he might be dinged by the power of gossip and innuendo.

Rather than extol upon how unfair tainting innuendo is in our guilty until proven innocent until proven guilty society and rehash a long-winded argument in favor of Jeff Bagwell, I will instead let the numbers visually stand for themselves. Below, courtesy of Fangraphs's WAR graphs is a visual representation of the career of Jeff Bagwell (green) in comparison to the careers of the three most recently elected Hall of Fame hitters -- Roberto Alomar (congratulations!, orange), Andre Dawson (blue), and Jim Rice (purple):


Like I said, I think the image speaks for itself.

xWHIP 2.0: The Next Generation

The following article is from my most recent article for The Hardball Times.

A few months ago, I debuted the first version of the expected WHIP (xWHIP) calculator, which took a pitcher's batted ball distribution and, in determining an expected number of hits, calculated that pitcher's expected WHIP. The tool was tinkered with and refined until version 1.4.3 was released and that, until now, has been the primary xWHIP tool available. xWHIP 1.4.3 overexpected WHIP a bit, but was otherwise pretty solid. Especially for relative comparison purposes, xWHIP 1.4.3 was a useful fantasy tool.

Not long ago, I was introduced to a fellow stathead by the name of Martin Alex Hambrick. He had done some number tinkering similar to what I had done independently with the xWHIP calculator, and he had an idea. He brought that idea to my attention, and from it a new formula for expected xWHIP was born.

Alex's idea was that a pitcher's actual innings pitched (aIP) are as much the by product of luck as expected hits (xHits). The theory is that a medley of defense, umpires, errors, random luck and the like skew the length of innings. The pitcher, for example, does not particularly control dropped third strikes by his catcher.

This idea is somewhat captured in the K% (K/TBF) and BB% (BB/TBF) movement of sabermetrics that rejects K/9 and BB/9 because the length of innings is largely out of the control of the pitcher, thereby skewing both K/9 and BB/9. Accordingly, we began work on a new denominator for xWHIP that incorporated an expected innings (xIP) total based on a pitcher's outs-creating events.

With this idea in mind, we began work on a new xWHIP calculation. Law school delayed my work on a final formula until this week, but with "way too much time on my hands" (i.e., any lawyers out there need a law clerk for the summer?), I finally got around to hammering out a reliable formula and user-friendly interface, calibrated to Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) data.

The current formulation for expected innings is as follows:

xIP = ((K*1.000075)+((BB-IBB+HBP)*0.00016)+((0.808)*GB)+((0.278)*LD)+((0.992)*IFFB)+((0.745)*OFFB)+(0.020099*(BB+HBP+xH)))/3

The coefficients in the above formula represent the expected outs by event rate. You might notice the two percent adjustment applied to both modified walks (BB-IBB+HBP) and expected hits (xH). That figure represents a ten-year average outs-per-runners-put-on-base rate (ORB). ORB encapsulates the ten-year league average pickoff and caught stealing rates.

Because catcher defense and a pitcher's pickoff talents are difficult to measure, and also not widely available, using a league average rate helps make the calculator more accessible. The final xWHIP figure should be mentally modified based on one's own perception of a catcher's pickoff ability or a pitcher's pickoff ability. If Jason Varitek is the catcher, you might want to raise the pitcher's calculated xWHIP, while the opposite would be true for those pitchers handled by Yadier Molina.

Alex is working on a simplified "Quick xWHIP" formula that simplifies the xWHIP calculation even further, to the point that you could do it on a calculator. He'll tell you more about that (and the accuracies of both xWHIP 2.0 and Quick xWHIP) in a (near-) future post. All I can say for now regarding the calculator's accuracy, at least to some degree of certainty, is two things. First, xWHIP works best—that is to say, it is most predictive—when you use multi-year data rather than year N-1 data. Second, the R^2 of the data seems to be solid for a predictive state.

Someone once told me (or maybe I just read it somewhere) that an R^2 of .30-.35 is strong for a predictive stat, while a .60 or greater R^2 is what is required of an evaluative stat. Using 2007 xWHIP 2.0 to predict 2008 actual WHIP resulted in an R^2 of .34 amongst the 78 pitchers who faced a minimum of 500 batters, compared to an R^2 of .26 for 2007 actual WHIP. Likewise, using 2008 xWHIP to predict 2009 actual WHIP resulted in an R^2 of .36 amongst the 80 pitchers who faced a minimum of 500 batters, compared to an R^2 of .30 for 2008 actual WHIP.

Strangely, however, using 2009 xWHIP to predict 2010 xWHIP amongst the 82 pitchers who accrued 500+ total batters faced merely resulted in an R^2 of .15 (compared to a .14 R^2 for 2009 actual WHIP). Maybe I crunched the 2009-2010 data incorrectly. Maybe this is a sample size issue. Maybe not. As I mentioned above, Alex will supply more details on the accuracy of xWHIP 2.0 shortly.

I also tinkered some with the expected hits formula, but the changes are relatively minor and hardly warrant discussion. The important thing to note about the new xWHIP tool is that it is now calibrated per the past five years of BIS data rather than Game Day. I have done this because I believe that Fangraphs utilizes BIS, not Game Day, as their source for ball in play (BIP) data. Accordingly, this should make the tool more accurate for the average user. Most of the data stood relatively stable, but here are the new expected hits by batted ball types:
  • Popups: .004
  • Groundballs: 0.236
  • Outfield Flyballs: 0.250
  • Line Drives: 0.716
These data points include home runs, which is why the Outfield Flyball expected hits rate is so high. If you take home runs out of the equation and account for them separately (as the xWHIP calculator does), the expected hits rate, per BIS, for Outfield Flyballs and Line Drives falls to .158 and .714, respectively.

You can download the new xWHIP tool, version 2.0, by clicking here. The password to utilize the xWHIP tool is still "soto 18" and the batted ball data you will need to plug in can be found at Fangraphs.com.

Picture below is a screenshot of the xWHIP 2.0 tool, which was used in my Zack Greinke forecast article. For explanatory purposes, this screenshot has the 2010 numbers of Roy Halladay plugged in.

As the instructions on the tool indicate, the gray cells are for data you should manually input. The magenta park factor cell is also a manual data cell, though the number should be left at "1.00000" unless you have the relevant park factor HR/FB index figure. You should not enter any data into any of the blue, green or yellow-orange cells.

The green cells feature the line drive-regressed expected-ball-in-play data. The yellow-orange cells display the expected innings, expected hits and expected WHIP for the pitcher, irrespective of defense. If you enter data into the Team Innings Pitched and Team UZR gray cells, then the blue cells will display a crude defensive adjustment to the expected hits total, assuming uniform defense and that all saved hits would be of the singles variety. All of the data cells are pre-formatted to visually round all numbers to keep the sheet clean, though cells will retain the full value of any number entered.

I also included a cell for xWHIP 1.4.3, calibrated from Game Day to BIS, in case people wanted to know a player's expected WHIP using expected hits and actual innings, rather than expected innings.

I hope everyone enjoys this. If you have any questions/concerns/comments/criticisms, please post them in the comments below or email them to gameofinchesblog@gmail.com, with the subject line "xWHIP 2.0 Calculator."

On a final note, I would like to give a special thank you to several of my THT colleagues who have been invaluable in the creation of the xWHIP 2.0 tool. Without the assistance of Derek Carty, Dave Studemund, and Harry Pavlidis, none of this would have been possible. I apologize to each of you for my incessant e-mailing in attempt to work out the mathematical kinks in the formula.

DME's Top 20 Fantasy Middle and Corner Infielders for 2011

My latest preseason rankings for The Hardball Times, the top 20 fantasy middle and corner infielders for 2011, are out. Enjoy.

Game Of Inches Football Results: Week Seventeen

I am still under the contention that Week 17 should not count for the Pigskin Pick 'Em contest. This is a week in which you don't know who's starting, for how long, and this week has gotta be awful for Vegas. Ef this week. I vote that this week should not count for next year. But nevertheless I, Sexy Rexy, won the contest this year after coming in last place last year.

Pigskin Pick 'Em

1) Sexy Rexy
Overall: 169-87
Last Week: 12-4

2) The 'Bright' One
Overall: 167-89
Last Week: 12-4

3) Cubsfan4evr1
Overall: 151-105
Last Week: 11-5

No clutch games or WTF games this week because of the nature of Week 17. And helps further my point of why we should not count this week. Ironically, this was one of all three of our best weeks this season.

Fan Fact: The 'Bright' One (including leading ties as a win) won the most weeks with 10. Sexy Rexy won 8, Cubsfan4erv1 won 4.

Who Deserves To Be A Pro Bowler in 2010? In Summation

After an extensive multi-week project and research, I am done concluding who deserves to go to Hawaii this year and who does not.

You can read my introduction here

You can read why I think Larry Fitzgerald is a Pro Bowler here

The Stats As A Basis For Which Players I Selected
NFC Offense
NFC Defense
AFC Offense
AFC Defense

The Actual Players I Think Deserve To Be Pro Bowlers
NFC Offense
NFC Defense
AFC Offense
AFC Defense

What Constitutes An All-Star "Snub"? Redux

Like I'm retweeting a tweet, here's an excerpt from a post I wrote on Januray 3rd, 2010 but I'm updating it to fit with 2011 Pro Bowl selections.

After every sports' all star selection comes out, everybody's favorite word soon after is "snub". I think this is a word that is thrown around way too loosely. After the 2009 MLB's All-Star selection, ESPN's Peter Gammons said that Rangers' P Kevin Millwood was an All-Star snub. Yes, Millwood had a fine first half for the Rangers and you could have made an argument, as Gammons did, that Millwood should be an All-Star. But to call him a snub? I don't think so. So I think we need to define it. Now.

Snub. Noun. A player that was not selected for his professional sports all-star game and should have a spot in the game over another player that was selected.

The key to being a snub is not that you DESERVED to go, but that you deserved to go over another player. The second key is that the player has to OVERWHELMINGLY deserve to go. Maurice Jones-Drew is a great running back and while I personally would have selected BenJarvis Green-Ellis, The Law Firm did not OVERWHELMING deserve the spot over Mo Jo. Therefore, BJGE was not snubbed.

There are however (as there is every year) obvious snubs. Here is a list of my selections of clear cut snubs:
- Matt Cassel (KC) over Peyton Manning (IND)
- Aaron Rodgers (GB) over Matt Ryan (ATL) or Drew Brees (NO)
- LeSean McCoy (PHI) over Steven Jackson (STL)
- Dan Koppen (NE) over Maurkice Pouncey (PIT)
- Mike Wallace (PIT) over Reggie Wayne (IND) or Andre Johnson (HOU)
- Aquib Talib (TAM) over DeAngelo Hall (WAS)
- Earl Thomas (SEA) over any of the three safeties selected
- Anyone over Jay Ratliff (DAL) and Andre Gurode (DAL). Eff the Dallas bias.

Who Deserves To Be A Pro Bowler? Part X: Actual Players, AFC, Defense

Before you comment or bitch or anything, please read my introduction to this series here and the stats in which I am basing my opinions upon can be found here

Defensive End
Starters: Mario Williams (HOU), Jason Babin (TEN)
Bench: Dave Ball (TEN)
Apologies to: Robert Mathis (IND), Dwight Freeney (IND)

When I compiled my stats and when NFL players vote, Mario Williams was second in the AFC in sacks and first in WPA. He also currently leads the AFC in hurries. I think he's fallen off since Week 13 but that's after when NFL players vote for the Pro Bowl and I think him not being on the roster is a tragedy. Dave Ball was also top 3 in both WPA and Sacks. I'm also glad the AFC only took three defensive ends because I honestly don't know which Colts DE is better, but the slight slight slight edge I gave to Freeney.

Defensive Tackle
Starters: Haloti Ngata (BAL), Kyle Williams (BUF)
Bench: Richard Seymour (OAK)

I haven't been watching as much Pats football this year as I've liked to so I don't know if Vince Wilfork is having a bad year or not but I think Williams, based upon individual numbers, is having a really good year.

Starters: Cam Wake (MIA), Jarrod Mayo (NE), James Harrison (PIT)
Bench: Lawrence Timmons (PIT), Ray Lewis (BAL)
Apologies to: Terrell Suggs (BAL)

Without even intending to, I agree with the actual Pro Bowl selections for the most part. I have no problem taking Suggs ahead of Timmons but pretty good job guys. For once.

Starters: Troy Polamalu (PIT), Ed Reed (BAL)
Bench: Michael Griffin (TEN)

I still don't know how to accurately determine Pro Bowl safeties. It's possible Brandon Meriweather (NE) is better than Griffin.

Starters: Devin McCourtey (NE), Antoine Cason (SD)
Bench: Joe Haden (CLE)

I think this year Nnamandi and Revis are getting in on pure reputation. Last year, you could look at what great #1 wide outs like Andre Johnson and Randy Moss did against the Jets (poorly) and that was shown when the Jets were the best team at stopping teams #1 wide outs in terms of DVOA according to Football Outsiders. This year, the San Diego Chargers have the best defense and are the best at stopping other teams #1 wide outs. Cason is second in the AFC in interceptions so I'm just assuming he's better than Quentin Jammer. But I've only seen like two Chargers games this year so I don't know.

Joe Haden is tied for the AFC lead in interceptions but I originally dismissed it as the DeAngelo Hall effect- a bad corner/ defense that gets thrown on often is eventually going to get SOME opportunities for interceptions. But Haden is also 2nd in the AFC in WPA and is 7th in the AFC in EPA (right behind Cason).

Total Number of Selections According To Me:
- Baltimore Ravens (6)
- Buffalo Bills (2)
- Cincinnati Bengals (1)
- Cleveland Browns (1)
- Houston Texans (4)
- Indianapolis Colts (0)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (0)
- Houston Texans (5)
- Kansas City Chiefs (5)
- Miami Dolphins (1)
- New England Patriots (5)
- New York Jets (3)
- Oakland Raiders (2)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (4)
- San Diego Chargers (3)
- Tennessee Titans (4)

Seeing as how a bad Houston Texans team has five Pro Bowlers and a good New York Jets team only has 3, I may take away Center Chris Evan's selection and give it to Nick Mangold who leads the best offensive line in football. That way each team will at least have four. But honestly, the Texans have some great pieces in place and even some great pieces like Mario Williams, Brian Cushing and former Bears great Mark Anderson on that horrific defense, so it doesn't surprise me, that when praising individual talent, the Texans excel.

I am happy to report that the Colts inherently got no selections. I great argument can be made that either Mathis or Freeney deserves to be ahead of Dave Ball. But even still, that's only one selection. The Colts really are an overrated team and I hope they get bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Ravens.

The Chiefs are the only team to have a Pro Bowler (or one I think should be a Pro Bowler) from the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver position from either league. The Falcons, Patriots, Eagles, and Packers came close.

Who Deserves To Be A Pro Bowler? Part IX: Actual Players, NFC, Defense

Before you comment or bitch or anything, please read my introduction to this series here and the stats in which I am basing my opinions upon can be found here.

Defensive End
Starters: Julius Peppers (CHI), Justin Tuck (NYG)
Bench: Chris Clemons (SEA)
Apologies to: Kyle Vanden Bosch (DET), Osi Umenyiora (NYG), John Abraham (ATL)

In the NFC, the leaders right now according to FO in hurries is: Chris Long (STL), DeMarcus Ware (DAL), Charles Johnson (CAR), Julius Peppers, and then Chris Clemons. Besides Ware who's a linebacker, only Peppers and Clemons are top 4 in the NFC in either sacks or WPA as well so that's why I say they go to the Pro Bowl and Justin Tuck is the only guy who's both top 4 in WPA and sacks.

Defensive Tackle
Starters: Nddamukong Suh (DET), Justin Smith (SF)
Bench: Darnell Docket (ARI)

Donkey Kong Suh has nine sacks. As a defensive tackle. That's just amazing. To put that in perspective, in Albert Haynesworth's best year, he only had 8.5 sacks. And he was in the league for 7 years before he did that. Smith was named the alternate and i think he deserves to start. Especially over the overrated Jay Ratliff (DAL) who only went because he plays in Dallas. I chose Docket as the alternate because he leads the league in WPA.

Starters: DeMarcus Ware (DAL), Brian Urlacher (CHI), Clay Matthews (GB)
Bench: Chad Greenway (MIN), Patrick Willis (SF)
Apologies to: Brian Orakpo (WAS)

I think I need no justification for my starters, just watch them play and they do everything they're asked to do and then some. Chad Greenway leads the NFC in tackles and is second in the NFC in tackles for loss (according to when I compiled my stats). The only difference between my selections and the Pro Bowl selections is that I took Greenway over Lance Briggs (CHI). As much as I love my Bears, Briggs had a pretty bad second half of the season and did not deserve to go.

Starters: Earl Thomas (SEA), LaRon Landry (WAS)
Bench: Kerry Rhodes (ARI)

If you can give me a definite, clear cut way how to judge safeties and disagree with my selections, please let me know and I'll be glad to change my results. Otherwise I will base my selections upon interceptions and WPA.

Starters: Asante Samuel (PHI), Aquib Talib (TAM)
Bench: Charles Woodson (GB)

Total Number of Selections According To Me:
- Arizona Cardinals (4)
- Atlanta Falcons (4)
- Carolina Panthers (0)
- Chicago Bears (4)
- Dallas Cowboys (3)
- Detroit Lions (2)
- Green Bay Packers (5)
- Minnesota Vikings (3)
- New Orleans Saints (2)
- New York Giants (3)
- Philadelphia Eagles (3)
- San Fransisco 49ers (4)
- Seattle Seahawks (2)
- St. Louis Rams (1)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1)
- Washington Redskins (1)