Monthly archives: March 2007
Meet the SWOBODA, Baseball's Newest Prediction Tool
The Juice Blog is excited to unveil the newest baseball prediction tool called the SWOBODA. This revolutionary new system is named after below-average New York Mets' outfielder, Ron Swoboda, who parlayed one great catch off of the bat of Brooks Robinson during the '69 Series, into becoming a minor celebrity. the SWOBODA is an acronym which stands for Statistically Worthless Official Baseball Operationally Designed Algorithm. While the acronym does seem a bit silly, it doesn't seem much worse than Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm (PECOTA).
Breaking down the SWOBODA into 3 parts I hope will make it easier to understand.
By the way, I had heard of the word, but had no idea what algorithms were until I looked it up in the Dictionary before I wrote this piece. Not proud to say this, but I've already forgotten what it means. My brain is filled with much more important stuff like Phylicia Rashad (Mrs. Cosby) was once married to the cop from the Village People, Victor Willis, but their union desolved because of the Macho Man's cocaine abuse. If you wanted clever insights on algorithms, you wouldn't be here in the first place.
A few unique elements that make Swoboda so special are...
While the SWOBODA is completely untested for baseball, I have used it for American Idol voting and it has spit out that Sanjaye! will be not be sent home, so that's good enough for me. (the SWOBODA predicts Sanjaye! will make it for 3 more weeks.) Considering that it's next to impossible to pick the National League this year, I have let my trusty system make the predictions.
the SWOBODA comes up with only one team (the Braves) reaching 90 wins. In the Central, there will be only a space of 8 games between first and fifth place. Same goes for the West. The Dodgers sneak by the Mets, Phillies, and Cards for the Wild Card. I like the Padres to make it to the World Series, as manager Bud Black will shape the best pitching staff in the NL.
I will post more features from the SWOBODA, when I have more time to make them up.
Guest Writer Series: I Picked the Wrong Off-Season to Quit Drinking
In the continuing series of having top Juiceblog readers offer up baseball pieces, Scott Fendley, better known around here as SMED, offers up his thoughts on the insanity that was this past off-season.
Scott is the Director of Advancement Services at Wabash College, which is a fancy term for managing the back office of the fund-raising machine. He’s been a baseball fan since he was a wee lad, and in love with baseball statistics since he bought his first package of baseball cards in1972 and saw all of those neat numbers on the back of Harmon Killebrew’s card. He’s owned baseball games by Sports Illustrated, Extra Innings, APBA, and Pursue the Pennant, and currently is replaying the 1976 and 1971 seasons on Diamond Mind.
Scott is a co-founder of The Baseball Clubhouse, a small forum set up to intelligently discuss baseball and other things, and also covers sports for the Paper of Montgomery County and writes about music, family life, and other nonsense at Smed’s Corner. He also somehow hornswaggled himself into being a commenter on Deadspin.
By Scott Fendley
The spring training games are starting to wind down, and while most of the country is either lamenting or praising their bracket predictions, or still recovering from their Super Bowl party, some of us are starting to scan box scores to see if they can uncover that one sleeper rookie that no one will select in their fantasy draft. (Like that’ll happen!)
However, some of us fans are still reeling from the inanity of this past off-season in baseball.
Lack of Star Power on American Idol
Like half of America, I have been suckered into this year’s American Idol. I was a very infrequent viewer up until last year, but got caught up in the show during 2006, as it had a nice variety of talent. This year I have kept watching the program, despite it having a very poorly constructed group of contestants.
While last season had the 2 best male voices in the history of the show, Chris Daughtry and Elliott Yamin, this year's "men" are a bunch of teeny-bopping eunuchs blathering their way through bad song after bad song. I can’t say that Kelli Pickler and Bucky Covington were good, but at least they brought some country feel to break up the Top 40 monotony. Katherine McPhee was inconsistent, but she did have some pipes, both inside and out, which made her appealing. Paris Bennett had a sweet appeal to her presentation and could really belt it out. Here’s a link to what I wrote about the show, last season.
The 3 most marketable people left on the show are Chris Sligh, Blake, and Jordin. Chris is the first contestant on the show I’ve seen who actually understands the show and has some self-realization of how ridiculous the whole spectacle is. I’m not sure he is a great singer, but he has a really unique personality, which should get him on VH-1’s Celebrity Fat Club. Blake has an okay voice, but the whole “beatboxing in every song” thing I can’t imagine will wear that well, after a couple more weeks. Jordin is my sleeper pick, as she is young, pretty, and has a lot of vocal style for a 17 year-old. If she had Haley’s body, this contest would be over.
Probably the most interesting thing left is to see how far Sanjaye will last. Looking like Bollywood’s Tiger Beat version of Leif Garrett , Sanjaya has become a cosmic joke to the show. The combination of Howard Stern and a website called votefortheworst.com have made him their pet project, imploring their fans to vote for him as many times as possible. Actually, as long as Sanjaya’s sister continues to show up, I will throw him a vote, myself.
Late last year I did a review of Taylor Hicks’ and Daughtry’s newest releases. In it, I mentioned that I was looking forward to hearing Elliott Yamin’s record, when it came out. Well, last week I picked it up and while it has its moments, Daughtry still is the best rookie release by an Idol contestant.
Oh and one last thing. Rockstar: INXS and Rockstar: Supernova have had far superior talent singing far superior songs. Simon Cowell is the one thing that these other talent shows do not have, but even his witty snark cannot overcome this season's lack of star power. I will TIVO my way through the rest of the season, as it's my duty as a tax-paying citizen, but I just don't see anyone from this season being a break-out star on the level of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, or Chris Daughtry.
New Fantasy League, NCAA Tourney Thoughts, SNL etc.
Responding to the demand of the first league, I have opened up a second league. This one is through ESPN, as well. The draft for this league will take place next Sunday night at 9:45. Same statistical categories, except to try something new, the league will use quality starts, not wins. While quality starts is a somewhat dubious stat, don't see where it's any more so than wins.
If you want to get into this league, send an email to me at email@example.com
Please list your name and where you are from, as I'm trying to get a better feel for who my readers are. Thanks.
I want to be the first to (self) congratulate all of you that picked the Final 4 teams correctly. While my early picks were pretty dismal, I at least had the last 4 right. Here is a little blurb from my NCAA tourney preview.
Not a lot of surprises, with 2 one seeds and 2 two seeds here. The Ohio State/Georgetown game should be a war. I like the Buckeyes 3-point shooting as being the difference. Florida just has too much talent down low, as I don't know how the Bruins can cover both Noah and Horford.
I will stick with these picks, though Ohio State has no right to have even made it this far, as they should have lost to Xavier (and probably Tennessee, as well.) Both teams the Buckeyes would face, if they win it all, have 2 NBA quality big men. It will be interesting to how well Oden fares, when actually playing players his size, instead of the smaller players he has faced so far. It's been a long time since I've been as stoked about a Final 4, as this one. I bet the ratings are going to be great, with every region of the country being represented. Now if only CBS would have Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas announce the games, instead of Nance and Packer...
As someone who has seen every SNL hosted by an athlete, let me say that I put Peyton Manning into the top 3 of all-time. Just like in his commercials, Manning has great timing and gets the joke. While his United Way parody ad is getting all the play, he was good in every sketch he was in, despite some second-rate material. One of the hardest acting skills is physical comedy and the locker room sketch was hilarious. Will Forte was absolutely hysterical with his silly dancing and then Manning stepped up and matched him.
If you are interested in who the other 2 athlete-SNL hosts I would rate on Manning's level they are Chris Evert and O.J. Simpson. Evert and Al Gore are the 2 biggest positive surprises hosting the show. Both are known for being a bit robotic in their personal life, but they were great sports in poking fun at themselves. Evert's sketch being stalked by Martina is a classic. Don't think that I have included O.J. just because of the name of this blog. The Juice was really good, as I remember a sketch where he had a voodoo doll dressed like Walter Payton in his freezer, sticking needles in it in the hopes that he wouldn't break his all-time record. (no Knives were used in this sketch) I also really liked the Mandingo parody where O.J. ends up making out with Garrett Morris, which was the greatest moment of Morris' career, outside of "baseball been berry, berry good to Chico."
Scott's Top 6 Athlete's Who Have Hosted SNL
NOTE TO SNL: If you want to have a really funny show, without having to write any new sketches, hire Rex Grossman as the host and just show clips from his past season
Sometime I need to get around to asking Will Carroll how many hours he would estimate he has spent on the subject of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior? These guys have become the Paris Hilton of baseball, as at some point you hear the latest on them and think, whatever.
Fantasy Baseball League
Setting up a fantasy league for readers again. I have used ESPN this year, as they have went to free leagues, plus Juice Blog alum Will Carroll is connected to the World-wide sports leader, so I thought I would show the love. It is a sabermetrical type league, with the 4 offensive categories being OBP, SLG, Runs, RBI's, and the pitching categories are ERA, WHIP, Wins, Saves. It is a head-to-head league. Below are other specifics.
Type: Live Draft
The first 11 names I get will join myself and 2 other Toaster writers in the league. I want to create a league where the other members know who you are and where you're from, so if you don't want to give that out, then I suggest you join another league. If a second league is needed, I will set that up, as well.
Steel Cage Match: White Sox vs Baseball Prospectus
In my continuing series of potentially alienating people that I like and respect (Baseball Prospectus and most others in the sabermetrical world), I have put together 10 reasons why the White Sox and Baseball Prospectus have been at odds over the past few years. I'm trying to be chronological on these reasons.
1. Kenny Williams was slammed for his trades of Wells/Fogg for Ritchie and Foulke for Koch/Cotts. (Not good deals, but not as bad as originally considered.)
2. Traded Chad Bradford for Miguel Olivo. In Moneyball, Williams was seen as an idiot for making this deal, which wasn't so bad, considering Miguel Olivo had a decent OPS for his position and was outstanding in certain elements behind the plate, while with the Sox.
3. BP poster boy Jeremy Reed (and Olivo) traded for Freddy Garcia, which is almost universally seen as a horrible deal for Sox, by the sabermetrical community.
4. Traded Carlos Lee for Podsednik/Vizcaino. (Trashed for this move, even though it was done to free up money to sign Pierzynski, Hermanson, and Iguchi.)
5. One of my favorite writers, Joe Sheehan, says the team will be lucky to win more than 71 games in 2005. Most of the other BP writers pick them either 3rd or 4th.
Time for a Brief Intermission: At this point, the White Sox front office are seen as idiots by most in the sabermetrical world. After only managing 1 year, Ozzie Guillen doesn't help this by saying they need to play more small-ball to win games.
6. White Sox end up winning 99 games and having a starting pitching performance in the playoffs that was like something from the '65 Dodgers.
7. Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams, who both wear a chip on their shoulders the size of an anvil, are brash in giving it back to their detractors.
8. Baseball Prospectus' 2006 chapter on the White Sox is focused on the subject of LUCK, discussing how the team overachieved their Pythagorean record by 8 games. At the end, it gives them credit for trying to load up for the 2006 season by trading for Jim Thome and Javier Vasquez. The praise is faint, though, as they take the front office to task for not trading Podsednik or Brian Anderson, instead of Aaron Rowand and Chris Young.
9. BP's staff picks have the White Sox as a close second to the Indians. (This does nothing to prove my point, but to be fair I have to bring it up. Thanks a lot, Ali Nagib.)
10. PECOTA spits out a record of 72 wins for the 2007 White Sox, despite the team winning an average of 94.5 games the past 2 years and not having a losing season this century, so far.
I can't demonstrate the inner turmoil that both sides might have for each other, but I can say I'm petty enough that if I worked for BP I would root against the White Sox this season and if I worked for the White Sox I would want to rub it in BP's face, if PECOTA ends up being wrong once again. For those of you that think I didn't do enough to prove my point don't push me or I will bring out my trump card to show a bias by the sabermetrical world against the White Sox. Please allow me to introduce a man by the name of HAWK HARRELSON.
Are the White Sox PECOTA's Computer Virus?
Well, it's that time of year where PECOTA predictions come out and doom is the forecast for the upcoming White Sox season. Since the start of Ozzie Guillen's managing career, PECOTA has predicted win totals of 79 (2004), 80 (2005), and 82 (2006). The actual season-ending win totals have been 83, 99, and 90, respectively. So in the 3-year managing career of Guillen, PECOTA has been off a total of 31 games. I'm not going to look through every other team during this period, but I've got to guess the White Sox have made the system look worse than any other team.
So is it any wonder that White Sox GM Kenny Williams would respond with the following quote, when asked by the Chicago Tribune's Dave Van Dyck what he thought about the PECOTA prediction of 72 wins in 2007?
That's a good sign for us because usually they're wrong about everything regarding our dealings," general manager Ken Williams said. "What can you do? We put the best team together we can, and we think we're going to end up somewhere in the mid-90s, although there are all kinds of variables off that.
Now, I don't believe that PECOTA's creator (Nate Silver) is some diabolical genius with an axe to grind against the White Sox, but I have questioned his findings in the past, when it comes to the South Siders. 72 wins for this season is the most ridiculous of all of them.
Let's focus on the starting pitching, as this is where PECOTA usually is the farthest off on, when it comes to the White Sox. I strongly disagreed with PECOTA in 2005 and even I couldn't have guessed how far off it would end up being. I'm getting the same feeling about the forecast for 2007.
NAME ERA WHIP
While these pitchers are hurt by throwing in park favorable to hitters, the PECOTA findings are staggeringly bad for the top 3 pitchers in their rotation.
Contreras is supposed to go from an ERA of 3.61 (2005) and 4.27 (2006) to one this season well over 5. His WHIP is projected to rise .21 from what he has averaged the past 2 seasons.
The statistical peak age of baseball players is generally considered between 27 and 28, which are the ages of Jon Garland and Mark Buehrle, respectively. Despite having an ERA of .3.50 (2005) and 4.51 (2006), PECOTA says Garland will drop 1.33 from what he did when he was 25. Buehrle, going into his free agent year is expected to finish with an ERA over a run more than his career average. Neither of these pitchers have ever had serious arm issues, but they are both seen by PECOTA to be falling off the cliff.
Few starting staffs were pushed harder than the White Sox of 2005. While these pitchers looked tired during 2006, Guillen has always done a great job of staying away from putting them in PAP situations. No team over the past 5 years has had fewer injuries than the White Sox, which does has some luck behind it, but more importantly speaks to how the organization selects players and how great their training staff is.
My projections for the White Sox pitching staff for 2007 are the following.
NAME ERA WHIP
While I do believe that Thome, Konerko, and Dye will be off their torrid hitting of 2006, I still think all of them will exceed their PECOTA projections of 2007. I think Uribe/Cintron at shortstop will be much improved over 2006, while the addition of Toby Hall will add more to the catching department.
The big question mark is the possibility of an Erstad and Podsednik tandem, killing the leadoff spots of the batting order. I fear this as well, but I'm hoping that sanity will take over and Brian Anderson will play most of the games in center. I think Anderson will show the biggest improvement in OPS of any regular from 2006 to 2007, if given the chance. Considering what a weak spot left field was for the Sox last season, Erstad and Podsednik splitting most of their bats in 2007 I think will actually be a slight improvement. A better option would be to put prospect Josh Fields in the mix, but it appears the White Sox don't want to add service time and plan to give him the starting 3b job, when Crede leaves for free-agency after this season.
Where the big improvement in the team for 2007 will be is in the bullpen. After being great in 2005, the pen has been almost completely rebuilt with Cotts, Hemanson, Politte, Marte, and Vizcaino gone and hard-throwing Thornton, MacDougal, Massett, Aardsma, and Sisco bringing a whole new look to the White Sox.. The one bullpen holdover from the championship season, Bobby Jenks, will close out the games again. Jenks is the one player on the team I worry about, but the Sox have plenty of options to replace him, if he physically or mentally implodes.
After beating the Pythagorean odds for the past 2 seasons, I do think the Sox will have a hard time doing it for a third time, but this year's model is not a team which will win only 72 games. The AL Central might not have the 2007 World Series Champ, but its top 4 teams have a good chance of winning at least 82 games.
Unlike their competitors, the White Sox seem to be in the best shape to add a contract or two around the trade deadline, which is a direct benefit in trading Freddy Garcia, who I suspect will have a higher ERA or WHIP than any starter the Sox have on their staff this season. In what I expect will be a very tight race, this could be the thing that pushes the White Sox over the top.
Let me finish by mentioning that I'm not knocking PECOTA overall. I've seen the data and it has done best of all the systems that predict player performance. I have owned every Baseball Prospectus annual since discovering it in 2003, so I'm a big fan of the website. As you might know, one of my best friends just happens to be a major attraction for BP. I've even appeared as a guest on Baseball Prospectus Radio a couple of times.
Having put out these proclamations; let me say that I do think that there is an overall bias against the White Sox by the staff of BP. Michael Lewis' "Moneyball" made Kenny Williams appear to be a dunce to the brilliant machinations of sabermetrican's golden boy, Billy Beane. An underlying subtext not discussed by Lewis was that the White Sox use a mix of stats/scouting. (I don't blame Lewis for framing it this way. He was writing a story and it was a great one.) Like most in the sabermetrical field, BP has to have a rooting interest against the White Sox, as the brash Williams has taken shots at the sabermetrical followers, even though he and his staff consider statistical factors in their decision-making.
At least once a year, I defend Williams for his moves, as I think he is one of the best GM's in baseball. I would think that loyal readers here by now realize that I don't aspire to come off like a homer (I'm a White Sox fan), as I prefer the contrarian path. Having Jerry Reinsdorf as owner, Williams as GM, Guillen as Manager, and Hawk Harrelson as the voice of the team, doesn't exactly come off collectively as a group worried about being media friendly. While Harrelson is an idiot when it comes to his thinking about OBP and other statistical measures, I think the other 3 play-up their Ozzie-ball style, while actually understanding how a sabermetrical approach has its virtues.
During the period between 2000-2006 there have only been 5 teams who have not had a losing season; The Yankees, Red Sox, A's, Cardinals, and White Sox. I don't see where in 2007 it will mark the end of this streak for Chicago.
Please Explain: Tim Allen
Tim Allen is the Dave Matthews of comedy. Wait a minute, I take that back, as I've actually liked a couple of songs by Matthews. I can't point to one time that Tim Allen has entertained me. Unless he is the voice of a Pixar character, I just don't get the appeal of the guy. Somehow Timothy Dick has survived my non-patronage of his career, though, as he has been one of the most successful TV and Movie Stars of the past 15 years.
Allen began his entertainment career during the stand-up comedy boom of the 1980's. If you had even a decent mix of talent and personality, the comedy clubs were begging for you. It was a seller's market and Tim Allen is one of the great examples of being in the right place at the right time. (I started in 1992. Kind of like going public with an internet stock in October of 2001) Allen's act was based on the premise that "Men are Pigs" and by mixing tired premises with a few swine grunts, a star was born!
His hit sitcom, "Home Improvement" was the number 1 show on TV at one point. Now I should put out there that I have no interest in tools or fixing stuff, so I know some of the humor wasn't designed for me, but still the show was really abysmal. For awhile, "Home Improvement" actually beat "Seinfeld" in the ratings. Giddy-up!
According to Allen's Wikipedia article, he at one time had the number 1 TV show, number 1 movie, and number 1 book all at the same time. I can't think of anyone else who can say that. Spending just a little time thinking about this would make most comic/writer/actors contemplate wanting to take a shower with Richard Jeni. (Is it still too soon?)
Now, if you think that Allen's career is pretty much over now, let me mention that he was the star of the number 1 movie in America last week, a classic I'm sure entitled "Wild Hogs." Starring Allen, John Travolta, and Martin Lawrence, "Wild Hogs" is almost like a Please Explain segment in itself. Why would some movie studio want to put together these 3 actors, who haven't done anything good in 10 years, even if they have thrown-in William H. Macy to give it a bit of credibility? Well, from the financial success of the film, I guess I was off. I know I can't wait for "Wild Hogs 2" starring Patrick Swayze, Cedric the Entertainer, and Joe Piscopo!
So I need your help. PLEASE EXPLAIN Tim Allen.
Tourney Observations from the First Round
1. 2007 will go down as the most boring first-round of games since it went to a field of 64.
2. Coach K might have turned in the worst coaching job of the first round. I'm tired of these Bob Knight disciples refusing to go to a zone defense, because they believe in the sanctity of the man-to-man. Duke lacks quickness at almost every spot on the floor. At least mix up your defenses. Coach K not using a zone was the worst decision made by a citizen from Durham, since the citizens decided to elect Mike Nifong their District Attorney.
3. If I had a program that was in the dumps, I would hire a coach who likes to full-court press. Most teams who do press, have a match-up advantage, as so few teams use one. If you think you have to have athletic talent like Memphis, you are wrong. Sure Nolan Richardson, Rick Pitino, Gary Williams, and Billy Donovan have had a lot of great players, but when they started, they didn't, but still won with this style. Many of these press techniques were taken from Dr. Tom Davis. Let me tell you that he never had much talent at Boston College, Stanford, and Iowa, but still had great success in the NCAA tourney, because it's hard to prepare for. Also, it's really fun to watch, which helps a struggling program draw more fan interest.
4. Bruce Pearl is my favorite coach in sports. Pearl's mentor was Dr. Tom and he has improved on Davis' system. He is one of the most dynamic people you will ever meet, which makes him a far better recruiter than the Doctor ever was. I met Pearl just once, when he was building division 1 success at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I talked to him for a total of about 10 minutes, but he just might be the most charismatic guy I've ever met. I mean who wouldn't want to play for a coach who's willing to do this?.
5. If you are at a struggling program, but too conservative to hire a guy who will full-court press, go the opposite direction and hire a Tony Bennett-type. Your fans might end up hating you after 5 years of watching the boredom that goes with ball-control offense, but it will give you a chance to win at an impossible place to do so like Pullman, Washington. College Basketball is about match-ups and if you aren't at a national power, have great facilities, or/and have a ton of prep talent within 100 miles, you need to run a system that is unique.
6. The Big 10 was better than I even thought. If Illinois doesn't get outscored 12-0 in the final 4 minutes of its game versus Virginia Tech, the conference would be 6-0. Ohio State looked scary. Let me mention again that Michigan State has a really good chance of sending the first 1 seed home (North Carolina). Since only the Buckeyes and Badgers are favored to win their second round match-ups, the Big 10's record will probably take a major hit, but their teams are so physical, I don't see any of them getting blown-out.
7. This year's Arizona Wildcats play with the least amount of passion of any college team I've ever seen. While the score wasn't a blow-out and Arizona did actually cut the lead to 4, the game always seemed to be dominated by the Boilers. Lute Olson's squad gave the effort of a bottom-dwelling NBA team hoping to get more ping pong balls for the Oden/Durant lottery. Even if he was the Wildcats coach, Pete Rose wouldn't bet on these lackadasical louts.
8. How do you have a FG% of .413 and win by 11? Play against an Old Dominion team who shoots .327 from the field. On this same subject, Virginia Tech shot .357 against Illinois and actually won. Ugh-Lee.
9. What do Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis offer for analysis? Even Dick and Digger offer more than these 2 talking heads. Kellogg is good doing color, but I don't get why they have him in the studio. Time for CBS to see about calling up some of the ESPN JV into the studio. Doug Gottlieb is a complete a-hole, but he is really knowledgeable and is willing to take on anyone. Jay Bilas has formed a great broadcast team with Dick Enberg, but help is needed back in New York. While his coaching might be a question mark, I think Steve Lavin has become one of the best breaking down the game and has a good sense of humor, as well. If you want to learn about the game, listen to Rick Majerus. I've even come to accept how he pronounces offense as oh-fence.
10. Best Chance for a Major Upset in Round 2
I think at least 2 of these will happen.
NCAA Tourney Preview Part 2
There are 3 factors that I look at when choosing who will do best during March Madness.
1. Coaching Tourney Success
During years when offensive talented teams rule the Top seeds, it leads to all lot of upset possibilities. With teams like Washington State and Texas A&M overachieving this year, it leads me to think most of the top seeds will be in the Sweet 16. Here is my brief synopsis of why I chose who I did.
North Carolina is the most overrated top seed, as the Tar Heels team defense is still coming together. While they might be the most talented team in college b-ball, their youth and Hansborough's mask trouble hurt them in March. Roy Williams has lost to lower-seeded, but more physical active teams many times. Meet super tourney coach Tom Izzo's Spartans. Playing in Winston Salem will be Michigan State's biggest obstacle to making the Sweet 16.
While not as good of a defensive team as the others I have in the Sweet 16, Rick Barnes demand physical toughness, which makes his young team dangerous. Of course, having the most dynamic player in college basketball, Kevin Durant, makes Texas just good enough to get by the improving USC Trojans.
Washington State and Georgetown play similar styles, with strong defense and the use of offensive back-cuts keeping their opposition off-balance. The Hoyas have too much talent to lose out to the Cougars. It would be fun to watch Durant face the Hoyas' Twin Towers of Hibbert and Green during the regional finals.
Greg Oden is the most dominant freshman defensive force I've ever seen. Oden's high school teammate, point guard Mike Conley is a great QB. Seniors Butler and Lewis are athletic 3-point shooters. Add to this that coach Thad Matta is one of the best in college basketball and I just don't see anyone challenging them in this region.
Tennessee plays a difficult style to match-up with, as they press and shoot 3's so well. I think the Vols will get past Virginia, but don't have enough to challenge the Buckeyes. Number 2 seed Memphis is nowhere as good as last year's team and I think the Creighton/Nevada winner will pull the biggest seeded upset of the tourney.
It's hard to find a place where Florida will lose, as no one in this region has the athletic ability or experience to hang with them. Donovan uses many of the unique schemes that he learned under Rick Pitino, which are tough to prepare for in a short turn-around. I think Maryland is the weakest of the 4 seeds and felt they would lose to Old Dominion in the second round. (oops) I don't see Florida challenged until the Elite 8.
Not a big fan of Oregon, as they are very streaky. Their athletic backcourt will get them to the Sweet 16. Wisconsin was a perfect match-up for Florida, but without their most offensive talented big man (Brian Beard), I think it will tough for them to make the Final 4. Time to break-out the clichés. Only Florida can beat Florida in this region.
Kansas is a little younger than I generally like, but Coach Bill Self demands physical toughness out of his players, which helps mask some of their youth. The Jayhawks have a nice path to regional finals, as Southern Illinois lacks the bigs who could hurt them on the boards.
Of the Number 3 seeds, Pittsburgh is the most fraudulent. While Duke is a little soft, I think the Coach K magic will be enough to get them past the Panthers into the round of 16. Ben Howland has brought a physical nature to the Bruins that have been missing. Their road to the Elite 8 is pretty sweet. The Kansas/UCLA battle should be a great game, with it being basically a coin-flip for me. I will take the Bruins, as playing in California and having more experience is enough to push them past the more athletic Jayhawks.
Not a lot of surprises, with 2 one seeds and 2 two seeds here. The Ohio State/Georgetown game should be a war. I like the Buckeyes 3-point shooting as being the difference.
What a great game Ohio State versus Florida would be. Championship experience of the Gators going up against the college's best true center since Patrick Ewing. Oden will provide enough defensive intimidation to slow down Noah and Horford, with the very underrated shooting of the Buckeyes pushing them ahead in the end.
But of course, I'm the guy that said Old Dominion would beat Butler.
The Juice Blog's Annual NCAA Tourney Preview
Let me begin by mentioning that no one had a right to truly feel cheated by the selection committee. Syracuse played their typical weak non-conference schedule and then made it worse by losing to almost every decent team out of conference they faced. The Big East was down from last season. Quit your whining Boeheim.
Drexel had the opposite type of season than Syracuse, playing great on the road, when out of conference, but then finished 4th in the CAA. While the CAA is pretty solid at the top, you can't finish 4th in that league and expect to make the tourney.
Air Force choked down the stretch. Kansas State was another playing a really soft non-conference schedule. On the surface, it appears like the Missouri Valley was hosed, just getting only 2 teams in. The problem was that the league was solid from top to bottom and the bracket busters games were really damaging, with Missouri State, Creighton, Northern Iowa, and Wichita State all losing home games.
Yes, Arkansas, Illinois, and Stanford could just as well be out of the tourney, but they are no less deserving than the 8 teams who missed out. There were about 12 at-large teams trying to fit the last 4 spots. The answer is not to add more teams to the tourney. None of these teams are going to win more than 1 game this year, so let's focus on the quality.
Richard Jeni is Forced to Cancel Comedy Tour
...because he killed himself this past weekend.
I have mixed opinions about Richard Jeni. He was a really talented performer and was one of the few comics prolific enough as a writer to create numerous hour-long comedy specials for Cable. While I was never really knocked out by his material, he was able to gain a large following, which very few comics are ever able to do.
During the early 90's, Jeni was arguably one of the 5 most popular touring stand-ups in the world. He was a regular on Carson and next to George Carlin and Gallagher, I can't think of anyone who put out more pay-cable comedy specials during this period.
The early 90's were the Golden Age for stand-up comics, as many were being signed to star in sitcoms. Tim Allen, Roseanne Barr, Brett Butler, and Jerry Seinfeld all ended up being major successes, despite not being as commercially successful as Jeni was before their shows went on the air. Jeni got his chance at his own show, which was titled "Platypus Man." I don't remember much about the show, except that I thought it was decent. If I'm not mistaken, it appeared on the first year that UPN existed, which I'm guessing didn't help the show's odds for success.
Just like all other artistic endeavors, who is the best and most creative does not mean these qualifications will translate to major commercial success. While watching some of your peers' eclipse you can be crushing, you have to be self-aware enough to also realize that there are people more talented than you that haven't achieved your level of success, as well.
At this point, it isn't known why Jeni blasted himself in the face with a shotgun, but it was known in the comedy biz that he was a bitter guy. We all at times suffer from myopia, especially creative types who crave the spotlight to feed their egos. (I would have to rate comedians/bloggers right near the top of this category.)
So while I can't say I was ever a large fan of Richard Jeni, I do remember enjoying his comedy. I know it sounds very self-absorbed to say that being able to stand-up in front of a large audience of diverse people and make them laugh for an hour is one of the most difficult things to do on the planet, but .
If he was a bittermun or not, I think the world needs as many funny people as it can get, so I lament the passing of Richard Jeni. I guess I'm surprised that Jeni decided to end his life this way, as I never took him for a prop act. Sadly, Richard Jeni won't be here all week, so no need to try the veal.
Please Explain: Alan Colmes
While it would be true to say that I think most of the Fox News Channel is dismal, I do understand its popularity. There is a segment of America that doesn't want disparate opinions, preferring to only hear just one side of an issue. This is where Alan Colmes comes in.
As part of the Sean Hannity show, Colmes basically plays the part of devils advocate on the program. (The "advocacy" role he provides has been created by FNC's head devil, Roger Ailes.) It's laughable that Colmes is described as a liberal. Anyone who could sit next to Hannity for 10 years and not strangle him at least once cannot even be a Democrat. In the delusional world of Sean Hannity, where the only good Democrat is the certifiable wacko, Zell Miller, it would take someone as strident on the left as Hannity is on the right to even come close to counterbalancing his nonsense. Instead, there is the conservative movement's most affable punching bag, Alan Colmes.
Colmes lacks personality or charm, plus looks like the freakish off-spring of some Vulcan parents. Now that's quite a TV trifecta, isn't it. Despite the constant flow of insane ramblings Hannity provides, Colmes rarely provides any argument that exposes him. His part is to play Sean's pawn, which Colmes has done for a healthy paycheck, plus other opportunities like his own radio show and book deal. Colmes' career reminds me of being one of those doctors who are on legal retainer to support Cigarette Companies claims in court. Hey, Colmes is the perfect protagonist for Christopher Buckley's follow-up to "Thank You for Not Smoking."
Now some of you might be thinking "why waste your time slamming a non-entity like Colmes when Hannity and Bill O'Reilly are sitting there to be taken on?" I despise Hannity, but I understand that some people need to hear the insane ramblings of someone who plays the part of "angrier version of Rush Limbaugh." A few years back I actually defended O'Reilly at this site and even though I think the constant attacks he has taken from people like Al Franken and Keith Olbermann has caused him to lose much of the little sanity he had possessed, I do respect that O'Reilly will go on shows like Letterman or The View, despite knowing they are against him on most substantive issues. As much as I disagree with a lot of O'Reilly and pretty much everything from Hannity, I can respect that they are talented propaganda artists.
It's a person like Alan Colmes who I need someone to Please Explain to me. I thought people at Fox News were strong believers in Open Markets and against Affirmative Action. Colmes is proof that when it comes to ideas, Fox News has protectionist policies set-up against liberal views and doesn't hire people on the basis of who is best for the job.
"Hannity and Colmes" is a show based on CNN's "Crossfire." If you liked them or not, the hosts sitting on the left and right chairs for "Crossfire" were pretty evenly matched. Hannity and Colmes is like a mis-matched fight where one boxer (Colmes) has already taken a bribe to take the fall, just so the illegimate champ (Hannity) can look invincible to his fans. Please Explain how this is entertaining?
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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