Where Last Weekend Ranks Among College Footballs Craziest

There’s one word to describe Week 6 of the 2014 college football season: chaos.Three of the top four teams in the Associated Press’s Top 25 poll fell this past weekend (including unranked Arizona’s upset of No. 2 Oregon on Thursday night). And for the first time ever, five of the AP’s top eight lost in the same week. It was a flurry of upsets that had some calling Week 6 the wildest in the sport’s history.To objectively measure where this week’s disarray stands historically, I developed a quick-and-dirty hybrid computer rating that borrows elements from both the Elo rating system (yes, we admit it, we’re a little obsessed) and Sports-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System (SRS), applying it to all intra-FBS college football games since the advent of the Bowl Coalition in 1992. (Note: If you care about the particulars of my rating system, there’s a methodology section at the bottom of this post.)Like Elo, my system can measure ratings points “exchanged” between teams after a given matchup. If a team wins by more or less than the pregame ratings said they “should” have, its rating is updated to reflect the new result. So, we can track which weekends saw the most points exchanged from the favorites to the underdogs on a per-game basis. (This ignores negative points exchanged to the favorites, because all we care about is the frequency and magnitude of the upsets in a given week.)The weeks with the highest number of average points exchanged toward underdogs were ones such as Week 15 of the 1997 season, when there was a relatively limited number of games and the average was buoyed by a few huge outliers — in that case, eight-point underdog Michigan State beating Penn State by 35, and 19-point underdog Arizona winning by 12 at Arizona State. But most of the college football world was out of action that week; only 26 of the 112 FBS teams played games.A better comparison for Week 6 of 2014 would be weekends in which at least half of all FBS teams played against other FBS teams. And by that standard, only two other weeks since 1992 made a bigger dent power ratings wise in the landscape of college football than this past week’s games:Of course, a major point of focus for the tumult was also how many highly ranked teams were upset, regardless of margin. To measure this, we can assign each upset a value for how unexpected it was, based on the pregame power ratings. For example, No. 8 UCLA had a 77 percent chance of beating unranked Utah at home Saturday. Utah’s victory, then, gets an “unexpected win” value of 0.77. To look at the degree of surprise with which the Top 25’s losses occurred in a given week, we can sum up the unexpected wins for each upset involving a Top 25 team and divide by the total number of games featuring Top 25 squads.By this measure, Week 6 of 2014 was again the third-most upset-heavy since 1992, with an average of 0.35 unexpected wins per Top 25 game (among weeks with at least 15 games featuring one or more Top 25 teams):By the numbers, it’s probably an exaggeration to call this past week the most upset-laden in college football history. But it certainly ranks among the most chaotic of any in the past 22 years.Methodology notes: Like the Elo ratings, my system begins with a base rating for each team — in this case, zero — and updates after every game based on the game’s outcome (including scoring margin). Unlike Elo, my ratings are scaled like a points-per-game differential, making direct predictions about the final score line for each game. To avoid Elo’s problem of autocorrelation, it is possible to lose points in a win if the margin of victory is worse than that which would have been predicted from the pregame ratings.For a given game, the predicted margin for Team A is equal to Team A’s rating minus Team B’s rating plus or minus a home-field factor of three points in favor of the home team. After the game, the amount by which a team’s actual margin was greater or less than its predicted margin is then added to the pregame ratings according to the following formula: Rating_post = Rating_pre + 0.79 * LN((actual_margin – predicted_margin) + 1). For preseason ratings, the final ratings from the previous season should be regressed 10 percent toward the mean rating of 0.0.These ratings are not as sophisticated as the SRS. They are not iterative, nor do they take into account a team’s strength of schedule using subsequent games played by a team’s opponents. But going back to 1992, the end-of-season versions of these ratings have a 0.96 correlation with the final SRS ratings for all FBS teams. Over the same span, the previous season’s final ratings also correctly predicted future wins and losses at a 68.8 percent rate (SRS correctly predicted 68.6 percent of games) with a root mean square error of 18.3 against the game’s scoring margin (SRS’s RMSE was 17.9). Finally, at-the-time ratings had a RMSE of 16.4 against scoring margin; research by Wayne Winston and Jeff Sagarin finds that Las Vegas point spreads have a RMSE of 16.In other words, these ratings are only slightly less accurate than more complicated computer ratings, but are far easier to calculate for any given week of a college football season. read more

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How We Made Our Forecasts For The Womens NCAA Tournament

FiveThirtyEight has been publishing forecasts of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament since 2011, when we were at The New York Times. Every year, readers asked us why we weren’t forecasting the women’s tournament, too. Wait till next year, we always said. But we got a little tired of that. So this year, we have March Madness predictions for the women’s tournament for the first time.The basic structure of the women’s forecasts is the same one we use for the guys:The forecasts are based on a composite of computer power ratings, along with how the teams were ranked by the NCAA selection committee and their rank in preseason polls.The forecasts work by playing out the tournament one round at a time, computing the possibility of any one team beating any other team at any given location. (Location matters a lot in the women’s tournament since the top seeds usually host the first two rounds on their campuses.)The forecasts are probabilistic — although you might hardly notice this given how heavily some teams are favored. Connecticut is almost a 100 percent favorite in its opening-round game, for instance.However, there are several challenges unique to the women’s tournament. One is the comparative lack of data — a persistent problem when it comes to women’s sports:Two of the five power ratings that we use for the men’s tournament aren’t available for women. Fortunately, that means three of them are: Jeff Sagarin’s “predictor” ratings, Joel Sokol’s LRMC ratings and Sonny Moore’s power ratings. We also use a fourth system, the Massey Ratings.1That’s still four rating systems for the women, compared with five for the men. We multiply the weight assigned to each computer power rating by five-fourths in the women’s model so that the computer ratings have the same overall influence that they do in the men’s model.In the men’s model, we use the 68-team S-curve published by the selection committee. Although we tried to get the NCAA to publish this data for the women, they weren’t ready to do so. So we use the teams’ seeds instead, with the exception of the four No. 1 seeds, which the selection committee does list in order. (This year, Connecticut is the top overall seed, followed by Notre Dame, South Carolina and Maryland.)The men’s model includes an injury adjustment, which relies on current injury reports and advanced statistics (specifically, Sports-Reference.com’s win shares) to estimate the impact that a player’s absence will have on his team. For the women’s tournament, there isn’t much in the way of injury reports or advanced statistics, so we don’t include this feature.These differences are pretty minor, though. If we applied the women’s formula to the men’s data, it would change the favorite in only a couple of games.The other issue is the one I alluded to before: There are far bigger talent disparities in the women’s game. In the men’s tournament, the biggest favorite we have in any one game is Kentucky, which has a 99.6 percent chance to win its opening game against either Manhattan or Hampton. That’s high relative to past men’s tournaments — often we don’t have anyone break 99 percent. But it’s paltry when compared with the UConn women’s 99.986 percent chance of winning their first game, against St. Francis College. Manhattan/Hampton have about a 1 in 250 chance of upsetting Kentucky — about 30 times more likely than St. Francis’s chance of offing UConn, which is just 1 in 7,000.These extremely unlikely events, sometimes called “Black Swans,” can be hard to model accurately. When we originally applied the men’s model to the women’s data, which estimates these probabilities based on a normal distribution, it gave St. Francis only a 1 in 2.5 million chance of beating UConn! That seemed dubious to us: There have been only about 2,000 games in the history of the women’s tournament,2And indeed, there was one No. 1 vs. No. 16 seed upset, although it came under unusual circumstances after the favorite, Stanford, suffered two key injuries. not enough data to distinguish thousands-to-one improbabilities from millions-to-one “Black Swans.” So we took a cue from the Massey Ratings, which apply fat-tailed distributions instead of normal distributions to estimate the probability of one women’s team beating another. St. Francis is still the longest of long shots, but it would be a great bet at 3-million-to-1 odds.The dominance of women’s teams like UConn and Notre Dame also creates another statistical problem. In the men’s game, the power ratings for the 351 Division I teams are approximately normally distributed. Based on a normal distribution, for instance, you’d expect eight teams to have a Sagarin rating of 90 or above, which corresponds to being two standard deviations above average. In fact, 10 of them do this year. Not perfect, but pretty close.3How does this matter for the FiveThirtyEight tournament forecasts? Our model depends in part on combining rankings (North Carolina is the 13th-best team, according to the S-curve) and ratings (North Carolina’s Sagarin rating is 90.9). To make an apples-to-apples comparison, we need to know whether the ratings are normally distributed or distributed in some other way.This assumption doesn’t work so well for women’s data, however. Since 2005, there have been 20 women’s teams with a Massey rating at least three standard deviations above average, when there only “should” have been five such teams based on a normal distribution.Put another way, it’s almost as though the top women’s teams (and particularly UConn) are playing in a whole different league. They’re huge positive outliers relative to the rest of the field. This is something we see more often in European contexts (like the Scottish Premiership, where either Celtic or Rangers have won the past 29 championships) than in American sports.And even though those dominant teams don’t need any help, the NCAA gives them some. The first two rounds of the women’s tournament are played at campus sites; under the NCAA’s current rules, the top four seeds in each region get to host. So Connecticut is playing its first two games in Storrs, Connecticut, and Notre Dame its first two games in South Bend, Indiana, and so forth. The only exception is Louisville, the No. 3 seed in the Albany region, whose arena (the unfortunately named KFC Yum! Center) is occupied by the men’s tournament; No. 6 South Florida gets to host the first two rounds instead. Our model accounts for home-court advantage as part of its geographic adjustment. On average, it’s worth about 3.5 points — about the same as in the regular season4We tested this assumption on data from the past few women’s tournaments and found home teams were outperforming their power ratings by about 3 points, not significantly different from the regular season. — but it depends on how far the road team has to travel.Add it all up, and UConn is a 74 percent favorite to win the women’s championship — a huge favorite even compared with Kentucky in the men’s tournament. And we hope you’ll keep checking out the interactive once the women tip off Friday — just as for the men’s bracket, we’ll be updating the probabilities throughout the tournament.Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions. read more

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Can Chris Paul And James Harden Play Together

2002DALT. Hardaway & S. Nash70.159.845.444.3 Clint Capela25-0.9+1.3 COMBINED ASSIST %COMBINED USAGE % 2013CHAK. Walker & R. Sessions65.756.746.851.3 *This projection assumes the Rockets resign Nene. 2017DETR. Jackson & I. Smith74.562.853.046.9 One more factor to consider: the diminishing returns we have to discuss whenever we talk about superteams. If we’ve learned anything from the brief history of these lineups at work, it’s that teams with complementary skills — like the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors and 2007-08 Boston Celtics — retain more of their on-paper production than teams like the 2010-11 Miami Heat, whose stars (James and Wade) duplicated many of the same skills.In Paul and Harden, there are a lot of skills being duplicated. But the Rockets are hoping that it will be offset by the sheer talent and adaptability of the players involved. Either way, it should be one of the more interesting experiments ever conducted on an NBA court.CORRECTION (June 29, 11:17 a.m.): A previous version of this story listed Montrezl Harrell on the projected roster for the 2017-18 Rockets. Harrell was traded to the Clippers in the Chris Paul deal. The table has been amended with a new win projection for the 2017-18 Rockets, giving Harrell’s minutes to forward Troy Williams. 2009CLEL. James & M. Williams67.358.155.657.2 Team total240+7.1-0.4 Harden and Paul’s combined assist rate of 97.5 percent last season easily tops the list, and their combined usage of 58.6 percent ranks third (trailing only LeBron James’ partnerships with Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving). As far as teams with two world-class facilitators go, the 2017-18 Houston Rockets will be unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed in NBA history.(That history, it should be noted, seldom saw these kinds of team-ups at all until very recently, probably because teams worried about the defensive consequences of playing two point guards together — a concern that is vanished in the “positionless basketball” era.)VIDEO: Chris Paul and James Harden are a rare duo Chris Paul30+6.2-0.1 Ryan Anderson25+1.8-2.2 2003DALN. Van Exel & S. Nash71.260.749.847.2 2011MIAD. Wade & L. James78.258.468.463.1 2003MILG. Payton & S. Cassell73.763.454.551.5 2012LACM. Williams & C. Paul82.762.345.847.2 Replacement level player40-1.7-0.3 1997PHOJ. Kidd & K. Johnson83.076.746.939.7 The fact that the Rockets’ new pairing is unique doesn’t mean it won’t work. First of all, having more gifted passers on the floor is almost always a good thing — ball movement greases the wheels of the modern scoring machine, after all — which is probably why the teams above improved their offenses by an average of 3.0 points per 100 possessions (relative to league average) after acquiring their new playmakers. Secondly, both Paul and Harden are great shooters: CP3 knocked down 39 percent of his 3-pointers these past three seasons, and Harden was a 37 percent shooter from downtown as a member of the Thunder early in his career, before he was asked to carry so much of the Rockets’ offensive burden.To that last point, Harden’s workload has increased so much in recent seasons that he was doing nearly the work of two players anyway. If it weren’t for Russell Westbrook redefining just how much responsibility a single player can bear, we’d be talking about Harden putting on arguably the greatest one-man show in NBA history. Having Paul aboard will lighten the all-around load for a player who’s also proven he can be one of the most efficient complementary scorers in modern history.Of course, the Rockets also dealt away a number of players to get Paul, who missed 21 games with an injury last season. So depth might be a concern: even after picking up CP3, FiveThirtyEight’s preliminary CARMELO projections think the Rockets only have 56 wins of talent on hand for next year, only a game better than they did last year. (Though a bunch of the teams’ minutes will go to players who aren’t signed yet. The projection assumes the Rockets will resign Nene, which they haven’t yet.) 2016HOUJ. Harden & T. Lawson77.657.751.947.3 WINSLOSSES We’ve never seen a pairing like CP3 and Harden beforeTeams on which players with a previous assist rate of at least 30 percent and a previous usage rate of at least 20 percent played together Rockets’ projected record55.526.5 Trevor Ariza30-0.1+0.8 To qualify, players had to play at least 1,500 minutes the previous season, at least partially for different teams. They also had to play at least 1,000 minutes during the season in question.Source: Basketball-Reference.com Eric Gordon25+1.8-2.4 2015CLEL. James & K. Irving63.663.659.258.5 James Harden35+5.8+0.8 Nene15-0.6+1.5 Troy Williams15-2.7+0.5 2018HOUC. Paul & J. Harden97.5—58.6— 2015TORK. Lowry & G. Vasquez65.156.344.045.2 PLAYERTOTAL MIN. PLAYEDOFF. PLUS/MINUSDEF. PLUS/MINUS The Rockets are going to be good, but not Warriors-goodCARMELO projections for the 2017-18 Houston Rockets YEARTEAMPLAYERSAPARTTOGETHERAPARTTOGETHER With Wednesday’s bombshell that the LA Clippers are trading Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets, the main question on most NBA observers’ minds is this: How exactly is the new pairing between Paul and James Harden — two ace playmakers who’ve spent years as the focal point of their respective offenses — supposed to work together in harmony?Both Paul and Harden ranked among the league’s top four players in assist rate last season, and both were among the top 50 in usage rate as well.1OK, so it’s more Harden who dominated the usage rate rankings (he ranked fourth and Paul was 47th). But still. They’re both used to dominating the ball and calling the shots. But come next season, one (or, more likely, both) will probably have to adjust to a different role in order to coexist.In the modern NBA, we’ve never really seen a pair of playmakers be thrown together quite like this. I went back to the 1976 NBA-ABA merger and searched for any time two players who logged at least 1,500 minutes with a high assist rate (at least 30 percent) and a high usage rate (at least 20 percent) came together after playing some (or all) of the previous season on different teams.2I also ensured they played 1,000 or more minutes the next season on the same team. There were only 13 situations fitting those criteria; Paul and Harden would become the 14th.(And the cut-offs I used in each stat were liberal — Paul and Harden each had assist rates in excess of 45 percent and usages over 24 percent last season, far above the thresholds I imposed.) 2014TORG. Vasquez & K. Lowry79.564.243.345.1 read more

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The Celtics Didnt Mortgage Their Future — They Insured It

We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆  Join the squad. Subscribe Irving produced 31.4 in those seasons — a bit less than the average No. 1 overall pick (though his rookie season was shortened by the 2011-12 lockout), but better than the average second through fifth pick. He also did it while missing 85 games over those 5 seasons. That’s concerning in its own way, but it shows you Irving’s ability to fill it up when he’s on the floor. It’s far from certain that the Brooklyn pick will turn out to be No. 1 overall now that the team is no longer openly tanking, and even if the Nets do turn out to be the worst team in the league, their pick would only have a 25 percent chance of being No. 1. So the Celtics lose out on the early, below-market years of an uncertain draft pick, but they get a player entering his prime whose early seasons were better than those of most top draft picks. Irving’s $136 million projected value over the next five years, according to CARMELO, isn’t All-NBA-level, but it’s a solid baseline for a team that needed a new point guard.Boston was ridiculed earlier this summer for passing on Markelle Fultz, who was taken with the No. 1 overall pick that the Celtics traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. But Fultz’s strengths mirror Irving’s — pull-up jump shooting, pick-and-roll scoring — and remain hypothetical in an NBA setting. The Sixers would be thrilled if Fultz turns out to be as good as Irving. And while Fultz projects to produce like a superstar, there’s almost no chance he plays at Irving’s level this season, which happens to be Al Horford’s age-31 season and Gordon Hayward’s age-27 one. If the Celtics lost Thomas in free agency after next season, leaving them with no ready replacement for his star-level perimeter shot-making while they waited for Jaylen Brown and draftee Jayson Tatum to turn into star performers, they risked taking a step backward during what should be a prime year for their two big free-agent acquisitions.The argument for holding onto assets is that there’s a better chance to “keep the window open.” But that cuts both ways. A season lost at the front end or in the middle of the contention window is just as damaging as one lost at the end. Besides, Ainge’s Assets — a stockpile that he’s been building since the infamous Kevin Garnett trade with Brooklyn in 2013 — have been a running joke going back to the days when Kevin Love was a rumored Boston target. He spent the last year targeting All-NBA wings Jimmy Butler and Paul George but declined to include premium assets such as the exact draft pick he just sent to Cleveland. Seeing him now pull the trigger on Irving, a very good player who isn’t quite Butler or George, makes for good meme fodder, sure. Butler and George both went for cheap, but both also went for packages that catered specifically to the teams dealing them (the Bulls really like Kris Dunn, and new Pacer Victor Oladipo played his college ball at Indiana). It’s not really clear what kind of offer it would have taken to move Chicago or Indiana off those deals and keep their stars in the East.It was important for Ainge to find a deal sooner rather than later. Butler, George and Irving all signed their contracts before the salary cap spiked thanks to the influx of money from a new TV deal. This makes them far easier to trade than star players typically are because their salaries are easier to fit onto their new team’s roster and their original teams have to take back less money that’s tied to inferior players. If the Celtics hadn’t found a suitable place to spend their assets by the time the pre-TV deals had expired, they would have had a difficult time fitting a new star under the cap without also dealing away a star already on their payroll.Questions remain, including how good the Celtics’ defense can be after they shipped out Avery Bradley this offseason and are now sending Crowder to the Cavs, but these are mundane tactical concerns. Boston’s big, existential unrest finally seems to have come to an end. The Celtics’ core is more or less set. Now they have to actually play the games. Danny Ainge finally made a trade, and now he’s getting killed. The guy can’t win.The Boston Celtics are sending Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are sending back Kyrie Irving.For Boston, the trade means giving up the the last year of Isaiah’s bargain deal, plus the four seasons of additional surplus value (or cheap labor) created by the Brooklyn draft pick’s rookie deal. To put another way, the Celtics are paying to supercharge that draft pick, essentially turning it from an unknown quantity — in terms of both pick range and player quality — into a proven star. This comes with some downside: Getting an All-Star or All-NBA player on a below-market rookie deal is how modern superteams are made — just ask the Warriors. But given the team’s larger context, the trade doesn’t mortgage Boston’s future, it insures it.At the star level, a Thomas-for-Irving deal is close to an even swap. The two players share skill sets (scoring off the dribble, creating separation for pull-ups, historically bad defense) and both are likely to earn max deals when their deals are up. But Thomas, 28, is three years older and (at least) 6 inches shorter than Irving, 25. Thomas is also on the final year of his deal, which pays him about $6 million this season. Irving has two seasons remaining on his deal before he can opt out, and he’ll make about $19 million this season and $20 million the next.The Celtics’ ceiling for the 2017-18 season isn’t necessarily higher today than it was Tuesday morning, and their ceiling four or five seasons out, once the player drafted with the Brooklyn pick has matured, is undeniably diminished.But the worst-case scenarios are now off the table. The Celtics have done away with the risk of losing Thomas (leaving his crucial bucket-making role vacant) for nothing in free agency or close to nothing in a last-minute trade. Maxing out a 29-year-old 5-foot-9 scoring guard would have been a massive risk, and it would have been difficult to find a trade partner other than Cleveland. Contending teams that need a guard with Thomas’s skill set and can offer something in return are rare — practically nonexistent, actually, until Irving requested a trade. And while the Celtics do lose the surplus value they would have gotten from adding a future star on a rookie deal, here’s the crucial thing to remember: Irving is likely better than the player they’d draft with Brooklyn’s pick.We’d expect a player picked first overall to produce almost 35 win shares over his first five seasons, and a player selected between second and fifth overall will probably produce between 20 and 25: All newsletters read more

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The Home Run Derby Myth

On Monday night, some of baseball’s best sluggers will compete in the Home Run Derby. One of them is likely to have a more disappointing second half of the season, and someone is then likely to blame the derby.Case in point: At the MLB All-Star break in 2013, Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles had a stat line fit for a king. He had slugged 37 home runs, driven in 93 runs and had an enviable 1.109 OPS. Naturally, Davis was selected for the Home Run Derby, placing fourth. After the Derby, Davis’s season took a turn for the worse; he hit 16 home runs and battled with an injury on his hand — a blister he popped during the derby.The decline in Davis’s power numbers fueled the belief that participating in the Home Run Derby alters a player’s swing in the second half of the season. We heard a similar story when Josh Hamilton’s HR production fell after the 2008 derby. And Bobby Abreu famously blamed the derby when he had fell back to Earth in the second half of the 2005 season.But here’s the more likely culprit in these post-derby declines: regression to the mean. Data from the 2009 to 2013 seasons shows that although derby participants’ second-half stats do, on average, fall off, participants actually outperform the other top home-run hitters from the first half of the season.Consider the difference between the first and second halves of Davis’s 2013 season. In the first half, Davis was hitting a home run every 9.7 at-bats, tops in the MLB among hitters who qualified for the batting title in both halves of the season. In the second half, Davis hit a home run every 12.9 at-bats, still No. 1 among qualified hitters. This rise of 3.2 AB/HR seems large, but the top home-run hitters from the first half experienced an overall rise of 4.8 AB/HR from the first half to the second half. Additionally, Davis’s walk percentage rose from 9.9 percent to 11.7 percent in the second half, which is an indication he saw fewer good pitches to hit and thus had fewer opportunities to hit home runs.Another stat that relates to home runs supports the regression theory. Per the advanced baseball data site FanGraphs.com, Davis had a home-run-per-fly-ball ratio (HR/FB) of 35.6 percent in the first half of 2013, whereas that number was 21.3 percent in the second half. Davis has a career HR/FB rate of 22.3 percent. In his career, he has an average drop of 6.3 percentage points in his HR/FB numbers from the first half to the second half. The rate has dropped in three of the four seasons he has played at least 80 games.Davis isn’t alone in seeming to suffer after the Home Run Derby, when, in fact, that difference in statistics can be explained otherwise.For this study, we compared the first and second halves of players who qualified for the batting title in both halves and finished tied for 50th or better in total home runs in the first half. Home Run Derby participants were compared to these players in at-bats per home run, walk percentage, strikeout percentage and one other key statistic: hard-hit average.Hard-hit average is developed by measuring the number of hard-hit balls a player records per at-bat. Hard-hit balls are a subjective measure of contact quality gathered by Inside Edge scouting services — one of the baseball industry’s primary data providers.At-bats per home run are used rather than slugging percentage, isolated power or raw home runs, because we don’t want to punish hitters for doing other things. For example, if home runs per plate appearance were used, we would be punishing a hitter for taking walks. If we used slugging percentage, we may be hurting hitters who don’t gather many hits other than home runs. The goal is to measure home-run production, which can be done by looking at how often a player hits home runs in the opportunities he is given to hit them (at-bats).These numbers help show that the Home Run Derby has little to no impact on a players’ power numbers. Home Run Derby participants hit the ball hard with more frequency in the second half of the season while maintaining similar AB/HR ratios. Over the past five years, derby participants who qualified in both halves of the season had a hard-hit average of .253 in the second half, which is 11 points greater than that of the other power hitters in the majors. Additionally, they strike out less often and walk more frequently than non-derby participants in the second half.Second-Half Performance Among Top Power HittersAnother aspect to consider is the type of player who is picked for the derby. Consider 2009 participant Brandon Inge: He hit 21 home runs in the first half of the 2009 season for a home run every 14.2 at-bats. Inge’s first-half numbers warranted consideration for the derby. However, Inge’s career AB/HR is 33.0, which suggests he was a primary candidate to regress to the mean in the second half. After the derby, Inge managed a home run every 43.8 at-bats, second worst among the top 50 power hitters from the first half who qualified for the batting title in both halves.We can also consider that the average Home Run Derby participant over the past five years has had a first-half AB/HR rate of 15.6, the same as the first-half AB/HR rate of Miguel Cabrera over that span. We should not expect Home Run Derby participants to produce home runs at the same rate as Cabrera over an extended period.None of this means that the Home Run Derby has zero impact on a player’s second-half results. It does appear likely, however, that the decline in results — among participants and the majors’ other top-50 home-run hitters — is due to expected regression. The players selected for the Derby are typically among the best home-run producers of the first half, though they may not necessarily be among the best power hitters in baseball. Uncharacteristic performances help players get selected for the Home Run Derby, and the decline in their numbers in the second half is more likely to be due to natural regression than their participation in the event. read more

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Can The Mets Repeat In The NL East

And they got rid of Ruben Tejada.rob: At least Lagares should see the field as a late-inning replacement for Cespedes.heynawl-enten: Just in time for him to help watch the go-ahead home runs allowed by that awful Mets middle relief.rob: There we go. There’s some patented Mets Fan Pessimism™.heynawl-enten: I want to be perfectly clear: I am a Yankee Hater. I root for no team. The Mets lost me when they built an homage to Ebbets Field. No matter how hard the Wilpons try, the Mets aren’t the Dodgers, and they aren’t in Brooklyn. They are in Queens, next to a loud airport and a bunch of auto-repair shops.neil: OK, OK, ANYWAY…rob: Haha.Yes, the defense is a mess! But, the Mets can afford it because of their amazing strikeout-heavy rotation. The end of games is going to be a problem, though.neil: If you never let them put the ball in play, defense is less of an issue.rob: Exactly. And the one defensive strength they have is at catcher. Travis d’Arnaud figures to be an excellent receiver, helping those starters rack up the Ks.neil: So it sounds like the Mets won’t need to score a huge number of runs. But will they? The lineup seems better than people give it credit for, especially with Cespedes back.heynawl-enten: Oh, the Mets should score runs. That lineup has a lot of potential. I really am looking forward to whether Michael Conforto can have a breakout season. Neil Walker will replace Daniel Murphy just fine. And their offense was really, really good in the second half of last season.Let’s just put it this way: The statistics indicate the Mets will likely repeat in the division. The question is whether something unforeseen happens.rob: Yep, they should have a good offense, and I can easily imagine Conforto, d’Arnaud or Lucas Duda having breakout offensive years. Cespedes should cool down from last year, but the rest of the lineup will make up for it.heynawl-enten: If Cespedes doesn’t cool down, New York City will have five-alarm fires every night. New York Metsneil: We’re here to talk about the NL East, which seemed to be Washington’s for the taking a year ago but instead went to the upstart New York Mets. Do we think that order persists into 2016? Or was it a perfect storm of Washington underperforming — and New York’s young roster playing to the maximum of its abilities — both of which might signal a reversal this season?heynawl-enten: Well, all the advanced statistical projection stuff I’ve seen (FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, etc.) have the Mets finishing in first place. I’m not so sure, but the Mets have many of the same parts returning from their pennant-winning 2015 roster. In fact, their starting rotation will be one of, if not the strongest in the major leagues.rob: I agree with Harry. The Mets are legitimately good. The Nationals are as well, but a little older and a lot more dependent on getting production from their older players.neil: Do the Mets have the rare staff with enough depth to survive an injury to an ace and still be a great rotation?heynawl-enten: Anytime your fifth starter is the great Bartolo Colon, you got real depth.rob: And entertainment potential.neil: Yes, but that top four … Whoo, boy.heynawl-enten: I think injuries, as it is with many teams, are the potential downfall. We’ll see if Matt Harvey can stay healthy. We know Steven Matz has had some trouble on that front, too. And Jacob DeGrom is older than many people realize; he turns 28 in June.rob: Zack Wheeler should be coming back from Tommy John surgery sometime during the season, though, if one of the top five gets injured. So they are in a really enviable position in terms of their rotation depth, even though starters are never a sure thing.heynawl-enten: Great point. Wheeler had a ridiculous 187 strikeouts (9.1 per nine innings) in 2014.rob: Uber-rotations often seem to fall apart, though — just look at the Nats last year.heynawl-enten: Or the Mets from the mid-1990s, Generation K.neil: And if they need innings out of the bullpen, it seems merely … OK, right? Middle of the road?rob: Jeurys Familia is great. After that, the bullpen is “meh.” The flipside of bullpen instability is that a “meh” bullpen can perform amazingly over a season or a handful of playoff games. But I also won’t be surprised if it turns into a critical weakness and causes them to play below their Pythagorean expectation.heynawl-enten: They lost Tyler Clippard, which I think hurts. The bullpen outside Familia is so forgettable that Mr. Met has to carry around a freaking scorecard.neil: And, defensively, they also have some issues, it seems.rob: The Yoenis Cespedes Center Field Experiment is going to be fun.neil: Once he figures out whether a ball is playable or not, the rest is easy!heynawl-enten: Not to mix up my sports here, but you’d be forgiven if you thought the Mets’ defense was coached by Rob Ryan. Fielding whiz Juan Lagares is going to see only a few more starts on this team than 84-year-old Willie Mays will. David Wright looks like Roger Dorn playing third. Ben Lindbergh joins the Hot Takedown podcast to preview the 2016 MLB season. Philadelphia Philliesneil: The Braves were a 90+ win team as recently as a couple years ago, so you’d think they’d have pressed “reset” more recently. But the Phillies under Ruben Amaro were infamous for their refusal to admit they were rebuilding.heynawl-enten: I still cannot believe the Phillies are stuck under that awful Ryan Howard contract. Who could have possibly seen that the RBI machine known as Ryan Howard would possibly start sucking when he didn’t have the hitters in front of him in the lineup?neil: When does that finally expire?rob: Philly has a 2017 club option, so it looks like this is the last year.neil: Yeah, I’m going to guess they will decline that.rob: Unless the Phillies have a really strong episode of nostalgia.heynawl-enten: If the Phillies accept that option, they should be arrested immediately. No one not on crack cocaine would accept that option.rob: On the plus side, Maikel Franco might be good! He’s been tearing it up in spring training, with a 1.026 OPS.neil: Yes, leading those Phils to the NL’s third-best record during spring training.rob: Well, you’ve just devalued spring training statistics forever. Thanks, Neil.heynawl-enten: The good news is that, if the prices of spring-training seats are any indication, then maybe — just maybe — spring training is indicative of the regular season.neil: Franco should definitely be a bright spot. Unfortunately, the only other hitter FanGraphs projects for more than 1 WAR is Odubel Herrera, the former Rule 5 draftee.rob: They have some good prospects — the yield from the Cole Hamels trade, in particular — and some of them may make their debuts this year.neil: But the best Philly can realistically do sounds like fourth place, with fifth a real possibility.heynawl-enten: I should say that we never know who will be the Houston Astros of this season. It’s probably not the Phillies, given that they haven’t been rebuilding for too long, but perhaps in a year or two? Maybe.rob: Never discount #YouCantPredictBaseball. But I would say third place (if the Marlins implode) or fourth would be a great finish for them, with some good debuts and a brighter outlook for the future. Washington Nationalsrob: It’s hard to ignore the way in which the Nationals flamed out last year. I, like most analytically inclined baseball observers, am not a big believer in team chemistry. But to whatever extent chemistry exists and affects outcomes on the field, the Nationals do not seem to have it (see, for example, their surly closer choking their best player).heynawl-enten: This, to me, is an amazing fact: Bryce Harper was flat-out amazing last season — he put up a .460 on-base percentage, a .649 slugging average and 42 home runs — yet, it still wasn’t enough for Washington to make the playoffs.rob: Right, Harper had not only an MVP-caliber season, but one of the best seasons in baseball history last year: 11.2 wins above replacement, per Baseball Prospectus. Amazing as Harper is, he’s unlikely to repeat that feat. So even if he’s great again this year — in near-MVP form, let’s say — they will still have to replace four to five WAR just because of his regression to the mean.neil: And that number will be subtracted from a team-wide performance that, like Harry said, just wasn’t good enough.heynawl-enten: Now, here’s a question. The 2015 Nationals also underperformed given their runs scored and allowed. In fact, their Pythagorean record was 89-73 — the same as the Mets. Do the Nationals do better by regressing to where their run differential suggested they should have been last year?rob: Yes, and that’s around where both Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs have them projected: 87 wins from from BP, 90 from FG. But I don’t think that will be enough to beat out the Mets.neil: Here’s something that I don’t think matters, but I’ll bring it up anyway: Outgoing manager Matt Williams was (probably rightly) criticized for the way he handled that team last season; any chance replacing him with Dusty Baker helps with some of those aforementioned chemistry issues?heynawl-enten: I mean Baker has been a “winning” manager in the past. And he helped to invent the high-five.rob: Maybe, yeah. If chemistry exists, it doesn’t seem to be very consistent year-to-year. So maybe getting Baker in there will reverse the bad juju.On the other hand, Baker isn’t a great manager in most of the conventional tactical ways that we can measure, so that deficiency will likely undo whatever benefit they may get from his chemistry-enhancing abilities.heynawl-enten: Well, that’s why so many National fans were worried about that signing, if I recall. Many people wanted Bud Black instead.rob: Bud Black would have been a better choice.neil: At least they don’t have any especially stellar young pitching for Baker to burn out and run into the ground. Even Stephen Strasburg is getting older now.heynawl-enten: Remember when Baker basically put Mark Prior into the ground?rob: I do {sobs}.neil: Poor Rob.neil: Speaking of Strasburg, he had a somewhat disappointing year in 2015. Will he ever reach the lofty heights everyone was predicting for him all these years?heynawl-enten: It’s definitely possible. Who’s really to say? But there’s a long line of pitchers who never reach their full potential. (Heck, there are a whole bunch of humans outside of baseball who never reach their full potential.)rob: One of these years, I think he’ll turn in an amazing season. This could be it, although PECOTA predicts only 2.7 WAR. At the same time, great pitching is more and more a young man’s game, and Strasburg is now 27 with clearly fading velocity and a lengthy injury history.heynawl-enten: I will say, of course, that Strasburg’s fielding-independent pitching (FIP) the last two seasons was under 3.00. In fact, he’s only had one season (2013) where he was over 3.00. He’s still a very good pitcher. There’s been some bad luck. One real question is, can he stay healthy?rob: He did have a solid FIP (and he’s a very good pitcher, no question). But he also had problems controlling exit velocity, a part of pitching that FIP doesn’t measure. Strasburg will be an interesting test of whether exit velocity control holds steady between years.Also, losing Jordan Zimmermann hurts. Even though Zimmermann’s 2015 season wasn’t his finest, he was extremely reliable.neil: So it sounds like Washington’s pitching isn’t quite at the great level we thought they’d be before last season. And we also mentioned Harper’s potential for regression after his historic performance a year ago. Any hope in the rest of that lineup?heynawl-enten: I do admit I have a love for Ben Revere. Why? I have no clue.neil: Maybe because you and I were on hand to witness a rare Ben Revere home run last season.heynawl-enten: That lineup looks pretty “meh” to me. I mean Jayson Werth is getting close to earning his AARP card. Daniel Murphy is, despite what his playoff performance would have you believe, not the greatest hitter since sliced bread. It’s really just Harper carrying them.rob: Murphy could be the Mets Playoff Savior version, in which case they’d have another MVP on the team. It’s more likely that he’s the Mets Playoff Scapegoat version, a bad defensive player with an OK bat.heynawl-enten: I guess the Nationals can hope that Ryan Zimmerman stays healthy.rob: I was also going to say that Trea Turner could be a bright spot for the team, but then I noticed he was optioned to Triple A.heynawl-enten: Here’s to hoping their closer doesn’t choke their best hitter this year, at least. neil: For now, though, it sounds like we’re keeping our eye on the Mets and Nationals again, with a crossing glance at the Marlins. Hopefully this season’s battles won’t lead to any chokings.rob: That’s something we can all agree on: fewer chokings would be better.heynawl-enten: I think choking is generally a bad thing, and I prefer it not to happen.neil: Well said, Harry. And now, unlike Matt Harvey, I am going to use the restroom.heynawl-enten: YAY! More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed heynawl-enten: Guys — before we begin, I think we should make sure we don’t have to go to the bathroom.neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): Oof.heynawl-enten: Turns out that “Liar Liar” was onto something here: A FiveThirtyEight Chat rob: That’s true. In a way, it should be encouraging to see the Braves and Phillies bottom out like this, because it means they have gotten off the treadmill of mediocrity. The Phillies rode that for too long.heynawl-enten: There are no medals for finishing third. (I mean, unless you get the second Wild Card spot and roll from there.)neil: As someone who followed the NBA’s Sixers for a while, there are plenty who would agree with you there, Rob. (And perhaps just as many observers on the outside who would disagree!)rob: Yeah. It’s a little harder to discern a trajectory in the Braves’ moves, though. Sometimes internal politics play a bigger role in front-office strategy than we think, and the replacement of former GM Frank Wren may have been one of those times.neil: It’ll be worth seeing what the Braves’ front office does these next few years, especially with them moving to the new park.rob: Yeah — the external politics of the Braves’ stadium saga may also be affecting their strategy. Miami Marlinsneil: It seems somewhat safe to say either New York or Washington will probably win this division, but there are three other teams to talk about — of which the Marlins appear to clearly be the best.rob: If only because the other two are so bad.neil: Yes, we’ll get to the Phillies and Braves soon enough — and, egads, they are bad. But do the Marlins have some hope? They won only 71 games last season but there is talent there, if it can stay healthy.heynawl-enten: I mean, Giancarlo Stanton is very nearly the best hitter in the NL East if he stays healthy.rob: They have hope, but a big problem is that they happen to play in a division with two other good teams. That will deflate their win totals and prevent them from pilfering a Wild Card spot.They are also the Marlins, who seem at best slightly interested in winning. That team doesn’t seem likely to go out of its way to buy a superstar at the trade deadline if it’s doing well.heynawl-enten: The Marlins have shown that you, too, can trick a major U.S. city into building a stadium, and then fake-compete before showing that all you’re interested in is milking a profit. Truly an inspiration to us all.The Marlins could have a decent top of the rotation, though, with Jose Fernandez and Wei-Yin Chen.neil: It feels like their best hope this year is to be that “young roster where everything magically comes together at once” team. But like you said, Rob, tough to do that in this division.rob: Right, they have one amazing pitcher and one No. 3-caliber starter. And then … Jarred Cosart, Tom Koehler, and Justin Nicolino. If your initial reaction was “who?” you are probably not alone.heynawl-enten: In honor of the 2016 Major League Baseball season, which starts Sunday, FiveThirtyEight is assembling some of our favorite baseball writers to chat about the year to come. Today, we turn our attention to the National League East with FiveThirtyEight baseball columnist Rob Arthur and senior political writer / baseball junkie Harry Enten. The transcript below has been edited.New York MetsWashington NationalsMiami MarlinsAtlanta BravesPhiladelphia Phillies rob: They are so uneven, which is partially a product of their apparent lack of interest in competing. They have two of the best players in the game, as well as sub-replacement Ichiro Suzuki playing right field and terrible framer J.T. Realmuto catching.neil: How in the world did Ichiro get 438 plate appearances last year? He had a .250 wOBA — good lord.heynawl-enten: Ichiro was an MLB star before my bar mitzvah.neil: And you’re older than some of the other Marlins, Harry!rob: Ichiro was great, one of my all-time favorite players. Sadly, Ichiro is not great anymore.heynawl-enten: Watching Ichiro is like watching “The Simpsons.” They were great. One of the greatest. Now? I don’t even know what the heck is going on.rob: The whole idea of a sub-replacement-level player is that a random non-prospect in AAA would outperform him. I think that’s true of Ichiro, and the fact that the Marlins are giving him playing time is confounding. It’s not like he’s a Marlins legend, ya know? Sometimes you see the swan song of a very popular player with the team he got famous playing for (ahem, Derek Jeter, cough, cough). But that’s not what’s happening here!heynawl-enten: To me, it makes perfect sense. He’s still a name, and they will market the heck out of his chase for 3,000 hits.(Let me also add that I wish Jeter would get stuck in the rain every day for eternity.)neil: So is .500 a pretty good benchmark for the Marlins this season, then? Ever since they won that out-of-the-blue World Series in 2003, they’ve bumped up against .500 a few times, but then fell back into the abyss each time.rob: Yep. As Harry said, that’s apparently the sweet spot for maximum profitability. neil: OK, OK, enough about Matt Harvey’s bladder. Atlanta Bravesneil: Now — are you ready for it? — Phillies or Braves? It hardly matters, but which is better?rob: Braves, by a hair.heynawl-enten: The Philadelphia A’s are better, and they haven’t existed for 60 years.(Side note: I always thought Connie Mack’s full first name was “Conald” for some reason.)rob: Hahaha — Conald.Both teams have a few good rookies and second-year players that should make improvements this year. For example, Matt Wisler for the Braves, Aaron Nola for the Phillies. So they will still be worth watching, at least sometimes.neil: Between those two teams, maybe it was a race for who could start the rebuild soonest.rob: Neither is going to be anywhere near good. As I wrote in a recent piece, the Phillies are projected for the worst record since the 2013 Astros, which is an astounding feat of rebuilding.heynawl-enten: I mean, this will be one of the last years you can take public transportation to a Braves game, so that’s worth something.neil: Savor it while it lasts, citizens of Atlanta.In their favor, I will say the Braves seem to be following the Astros model somewhat with their aggressive rebuild these past few years. They have bottomed out quickly and, seemingly, with a purpose.rob: With an interesting twist being that they’re focusing more on pitching than hitting. I think both the Astros and (especially) the Cubs emphasized the latter more than the former when they rebuilt themselves.neil: Is that the way to go, Rob? Whatever happened to TINSTAAPP? (Or have teams like the Mets helped debunk that?)rob: I don’t think it is the way to go. We’ve seen the Cubs and Astros assemble very good rotations without having to make big investments in the draft. Hitters seem to be more predictable based on draft position, notwithstanding the Mets.That said, assembling a bunch of high draft picks will probably work out one way or another. That’s the beauty of competitive balance. It may just take a little longer for the Braves to return to relevance.heynawl-enten: You know, I’m old enough to remember when the Phillies and Braves faced each other in 1993 NLCS. Then I remember when they both won division crowns in the 2000s. I remember when the Mets stunk in the mid-1990s, were good in the late ‘90s, stunk in the early 2000s, were good in the mid-to-late 2000s, then stunk in the early 2010s — and are now good again. This stuff goes in cycles.I’d be far more worried about the Marlins not being good again than the Braves and Phillies. The latter two are rebuilding and will spend money again. The Marlins, on the other hand, are too busy doing this as they receive money: Embed Code read more

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The Weird History Of Olympic Sports Just Got Weirder

We’re on the ground in Rio covering the 2016 Summer Olympics. Check out all our coverage here.RIO DE JANEIRO — Earlier this week, the International Olympic Committee announced the addition of five sports to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo — baseball, softball, karate, skateboarding, climbing and surfing. Surfing’s Tyler Wright was beyond stoked, but others were less enthused about the IOC’s attempts at “bringing the Games to young people.”But concern trolling over the fidelity of the Olympics’ roster of sports overlooks just how capricious the traditional selection process has been. The 2016 games in Rio already feature a record 42 sport disciplines — rugby and golf are the newcomers this year — that make up more than 300 events. Both rugby and golf were part of the the 1900 Olympics in Paris — the second modern summer games — but by 1908 golf was out and rugby followed shortly thereafter. Other sports like basketball and boxing were added in subsequent years, but by the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea, far more obscure sports like synchronized swimming, taekwondo and rhythmic gymnastics were on the Olympic docket, decades before golf and rugby would return.Each Olympic cycle the executive board of the International Olympic Committee votes to add sports that have petitioned to be included based on criteria like “TV ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity,” according to ESPN. This can be an unscientific thing, as was made clear in 2013, when the board voted to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympics and then reversed that decision and reinstated it just a few months later.Taken altogether, the weird blips in Olympic history become even more apparent — like the absence of soccer in 1932, or the decades-long tennis hiatus from 1928 to 1964. Below, a look at all of the sports that will be played in 2016 as they’ve come and gone throughout modern Olympics history.1We used the categories of sports based on the results from the 2012 London Olympics, and included golf and rugby for 2016. A few categories of sports changed in 2012, however. Individual equestrian events are now all listed under “Equestrian” and individual wrestling events (Freestyle vs. Greco-Roman) are also now both listed under “Wrestling.” We removed two sports that debuted at the summer Olympics, ice hockey and figure skating, but are now winter sports. CLARIFICATION (Aug. 4, 5:33 p.m.): The chart in this post shows only sports included in the 2016 Olympic Games, not those that will be added in 2020 or those that were played in previous games but discontinued. read more

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Lawyer who emailed Tressel identified

Columbus attorney Christopher T. Cicero, a former OSU walk-on linebacker, was the man who informed Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel that members of his team were committing NCAA rules violations, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Cicero, 54, was a member of the Buckeyes in 1983, the first year in which Tressel was an assistant at OSU under coach Earle Bruce. OSU performed an internal investigation that uncovered that Cicero e-mailed Tressel in April 2010 to inform him that multiple OSU football players were selling memorabilia and receiving improper benefits from Eddie Rife, the owner of a Columbus tattoo shop who was under a federal investigation for drug trafficking charges. Cicero and Tressel exchanged eight e-mails between April 2, 2010, and June 6, 2010, regarding the matter. OSU released the e-mails between Cicero and Tressel on Tuesday with Cicero’s name and other content redacted. OSU’s internal investigation found that Tressel had failed to properly report the potential violations to the university and recommended on Tuesday that he be suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season and be fined $250,000. In December, six OSU players — Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, Mike Adams, DeVier Posey, Solomon Thomas and Jordan Whiting — were suspended for the start of the 2011 season for selling memorabilia and receiving improper benefits. In Cicero’s e-mails, he expressed concern about the players selling their keepsakes. “These kids are selling these items for not that much and I cant (sic) understand how they could give something so precious away like their trophy’s and rings that they worked so hard for,” Cicero said in an e-mail to Tressel on April 16. In that e-mail, Cicero went on to explain how his father worked two jobs to provide for his family before dying in 2001 at the age of 67. His father, Carmello Cicero, of Lyndhurst, Ohio, worked as a police officer, steel mill worker and volunteer firefighter at various points in his life. In a press conference to announce the violations, Tressel said he did not report the potential violations because Cicero had requested in his second e-mail that the information be kept confidential. “I needed to keep sight of the fact that confidentiality was requested by the attorney,” Tressel said. “I’ve learned that I probably needed to go to the top legal council person at the university.” Cicero could not be reached for comment. OSU director of media relations Jim Lynch did not immediately return comment. read more

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Baseball team makes 4 errors blows 4run lead in 2nd straight loss

The Ohio State baseball team blew a four-run lead in the ninth inning as Iowa shocked the Buckeyes with a 9-8 victory in 10 innings Saturday afternoon. Fans in Bill Davis Stadium sat in silence, stunned as they watched the Buckeyes fall apart in the final two innings of the ballgame. “We were in a really good situation with a four-run lead,” coach Greg Beals said. “We were behind, rallied and fought to extend the lead there, but we just couldn’t close the door.” OSU (22-24, 10-10) was trying to rebound from its 7-0 loss Friday night when it could not generate any offense against the Hawkeyes (20-27, 9-11). While it took five innings for OSU to record its first hit in the first game, it took just two batters Saturday. Freshman outfielder Tim Wetzel singled and later scored to give the Buckeyes a 1-0 lead. Iowa tied the game in the second and took the lead in the fourth, thanks to a two-out rally. The Hawkeyes had a walk and three straight hits as they scored three times to take a 4-1 lead. The Buckeyes tallied two more runs in the fourth and fifth to cut the lead to 4-3 entering the seventh. After junior second baseman Ryan Cypret’s single tied the game at 4-4, a walk and an error put runners at the corners. Sophomore catcher Greg Solomon then crushed a 1-2 pitch deep to left for a three-run home run, giving the Buckeyes a 7-4 lead. OSU added an insurance run in the eighth inning, taking an 8-4 lead into the ninth. After the Buckeyes handed the ball to freshman closer Josh Dezse, the game seemed to be in hand. It wasn’t. Iowa rallied to tie the game with four runs, taking advantage of Dezse’s off day and a Wetzel throwing error. With only one out and runners on second and third, senior reliever Theron Minium recorded the final two outs to escape the jam. After OSU failed to score in the ninth, the game went into extra innings. Iowa led off the inning with a single and bunted the runner over to second. A base hit coupled with a fielding error by junior outfielder David Corna allowed the Hawkeyes to score the tiebreaking run. It was all they needed, as the Buckeyes went down in order in the 10th. OSU looks to salvage the final game in the series at 1:05 p.m. Sunday at Bill Davis Stadium. Dezse drops the ball Dezse, who had been very reliable in recent weeks, was off his game Saturday. He was having trouble with his command, and some of his pitches didn’t have the normal zip to them. “For the last three weeks, he’s been lights out for us,” Beals said. “Today was just one of those days he didn’t have his stuff and the command on his pitches.” Errors, errors, errors OSU had four errors against the Hawkeyes. There were two crucial ones in the final innings, which possibly could have altered the outcome dramatically had they been avoided. “We didn’t play a very clean baseball game,” Beals said, “and obviously the four errors weren’t good.” read more

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