Baseball Toaster The Juice Blog
Monthly archives: November 2005


THE JUICE'S College Hoops Preview Pt. 3
2005-11-30 23:12
by Scott Long

My final college hoops interview is with Ken Pomeroy. Pomeroy's blog is the place to go if you want to read great statistical breakdowns of college basketball. There are two internet sites that are must reads on a daily basis for the college basketball fan and that is Pomeroy's and Yoni Cohen's yocohoops .

As mentioned in the other college hoops previews, I conducted an interview with Pomeroy in March, right before the big dance. He had the foresight to predict Michigan State to be the Final 4 sleeper*, so you have to give him major props for that. (Beware of self-gratuatory comment: The only other site I know of that had the Spartans in the Final 4 was here at The Juice.)

Below is my second interview with Ken Pomeroy that we did last weekend.

Scott: What subjects are you looking to explore this season?

A lot of the focus will be on the efficiency and possession-related team stats I'm tracking and the predictive value they have. The stats are informative and I really believe they give us a better understanding of how a team plays, but do they help us to analyze the future? That's the question that needs to be answered, and since we haven't been tracking this information for very long, we don't know what the answer is at the moment. I'm also collecting data on individual players, which is something that I haven't touched on in my blog too much yet. And then there will be a bunch of other stuff that I just can't foresee. Things will happen during the season that will deserve more scrutiny.

Scott: Can you explain to our readers how your rating system is calculated?

It's not too complicated as ratings systems go. If Virginia Tech beats Duke by 20 points, then the Hokies' rating is assumed to be 20 points better than Duke's for that game. Run though each team's schedule and average their game ratings and essentially that's the nucleus of my system. The system puts the most emphasis on games among equals. It also puts more emphasis on recent games so that the games being played in November aren't going to have much influence on the March ratings. There are some diminishing returns on margin of victory, so my example above is not totally accurate. Anything over about 16 points doesn't matter.

Scott: Have you ever tracked how your Pomeroy Ratings do versus the pointspread?

I don't, but there's someone that does. I generally do as well as Sagarin which I think is what most of us raters are striving for. Of course, that isn't helping the sick bastards that are laying wagers based on our formulas, because Vegas beats me in the long run. But the good news is that you won't lose your shirt *that* bad.

Scott: What is your National Pre-season Top 25?

I'm not much for polls. I know that sounds odd from a guy that devotes a page to rating all 334 teams, but that doesn't require any thinking. I just press a button and let the formula take care of itself. The thing about college hoops is that polls don't matter much. Plus, it's much more fun to let others make the top 25 and then take potshots at it.

Continue reading...

THE JUICE'S College Hoops Preview Pt. 2
2005-11-29 14:58
by Scott Long

When statistical analysis is discussed in sports, baseball is almost always the subject. Just think of how small Alan Schwarz's book would be if he did a follow-up to The Numbers Game and it was about all the other sports. I don't envy the job Aaron Schatz and the guys at Pro Football Outsiders have trying to make gridiron stats understandable to the layman. On the other hand, basketball seems ripe for deeper statistical understanding, as most college and pro teams appear about 20 years behind baseball in this category.

The work of John Hollinger and Dean Oliver have helped push hoops into the 21st Century, but outside of the Seattle Supersonics, it's not apparent that stats have much to do with how teams fill rosters or who ends up on the floor. While there has been a mad dash by math geeks to crunch baseball numbers, hoping for some small internet acclaim among their peers, I would argue at this point that basketball would provide the best chance to come up with a new statistical approach that could truly affect the game.

One blogger who is doing some really interesting things with stats is Ryan Kobliska at Hawkeye Hoops. I initially discovered Ryan, while searching for some info on my alma mater, the University of Iowa. While reading his stuff, I was extremely impressed with the information he had come up with, but was a little shy to tout him to others as I was worried I might be a bit biased, being a fellow Hawk. Well, after the top stats hoop blogger, Ken Pomeroy had mentioned similar feelings about Ryan, I decided my initial instincts were right. So the following is an interview I did with Ryan last week.
(Oh and by the way, Bryan Smith at Baseball Analysts also is/was a student at U of Iowa, so maybe the vaunted Writer's Workshop in Iowa City should add a sabermetrical wing.)

Scott: What was the initial impetus in starting Hawkeye Hoops?

I've been a Minnesota Twins for as long as I can remember. Their resurgence a few years ago had me seeking new information on the team, and I eventually stumbled across Aaron Gleeman's baseball blog. His writing was refreshing and so much more informative than the standard newspaper coverage, and it led me to a lot of other great writers. I initially wanted to start my own baseball blog, but the abundance of outstanding blogs, especially those dedicated to the Twins, discouraged me. I turned my focus to my other favorite sport, college basketball. There were so few people writing about the sport that I figured I had a better chance of at least being read by a few people.

Scott: Could you briefly explain the stats you focus on in evaluating teams?

I start by determining how many points the team scores and allows per possession, or its offensive and defensive efficiency. Then I break those down into Dean Oliver's Four Factors to determine what strengths and weaknesses are determining their performance level. Dean's Four Factors are shooting effectiveness (eFG%), turnover percentage, offensive rebounding, and free throw frequency (FTA/FGA).

Scott: Who are the influences that have inspired you to explore basketball through statistics?

The baseball writers I followed aroused my curiosity and got me to think about sports in a new way, but it wasn't until I read Dean Oliver's Basketball On Paper that I became so interested in the statistical angle. I also read and learned quite a bit from John Hollinger's Pro Basketball Forecast books. Finally, I found Ken Pomeroy's college basketball blog more interesting than anyone else's writing, so I tried to follow his approach.

Scott: Growing up, did you follow sabermetrical approaches in baseball? If so, who did you read?

Like I said earlier, Aaron Gleeman was my first exposure to the newer baseball analysis, and that was only a few years ago. Soon I was immersed in the writings of guys like Bill James, the crew at Baseball Prospectus, Rob Neyer, and John Sickels, among many others. Though I was on the standard tight college student budget when Moneyball came out, I finished it in a couple sittings at the local Barnes & Noble. I loved the way each of these guys asked questions new questions (and sought answers) instead of accepting the old traditions and assumptions.

Continue reading...

THE JUICE'S College Hoops Preview Pt. 1
2005-11-27 12:29
by Scott Long

Earlier this year, right before March Madness began, I interviewed two of the best college basketball bloggers on their tourney thoughts. Well, with the new season in its infancy, I decided to check back in with Ken Pomeroy and John Gasaway. This year I've also added an interview with the best young college blogger, Ryan Kobliska, who both Pomeroy and Gasaway had touted last year at this site. (See my links on the side to visit these great sites.) Part one of our College Hoops Preview is with the writer I consider one of the best 5 sports bloggers on the web, John Gasaway of Big Ten Wonk.

Gasaway has done something that a lot other bloggers could learn from. The Big 10 Wonk focuses on one conference to give its readers a complete look at the league. Maybe someone should start doing that with pro sports, like an AL West blog for example. So if you are out there and are an Oakland A's fan, instead of adding to the many good blogs already dedicated to the subject, take a wider look at the division as a whole. Instead of getting regular readers of one team, you have the potential of reaching fans of four. Enough on that for now, let's get on with my interview with John Gasaway.

Scott Long: Since you're an Illinois grad, I want to start with a question from last year. If the 2004-05 Illini would have played North Carolina 10 times, what would the overall record have been?

Big 10 Wonk: Can we get different officials for the other nine games? Ones who think it's actually OK to call fouls on Sean May? Then, without question, the Illini would go 9-1, and I have several VERY sophisticated statistical models that prove this incontrovertibly. (As you say, I'm an Illinois grad.)

What I do know is the other games would have featured much better shooting by the Illini and much better rebounding by Carolina. So I think you'd see a series of great games, ones with much larger contributions from James Augustine (obviously) and Marvin Williams.

Scott Long: Give me your predicted order of the Big 10 for 2005-06.

1. Michigan State
2-10. Everyone else except 11.
11. Penn State.
I'm serious. I'd be surprised if 1 or 11 changed but just about anything in between wouldn't shock me.

Scott's Big 10 Rankings
1. Michigan State
2. Iowa
3. Wisconisn
4. Indiana
5. Michigan
6. Illinois
7. Ohio St.
8. Northwestern
9. Minnesota
10. Purdue
11. Penn State

Scott Long: Rank the Big 10 coaches from first to worst?

Big 10 Wonk: I prefer to think of this in terms of "tiers"....

First tier
Izzo. Four Final Fours--not to mention he's the only coach in the Big Ten to have won the (D-I) national championship.
Weber. He's 68-9 at Illinois.
Ryan. He's 96-37 at Wisconsin.
Matta. Yes, Matta--anyone with the recruits he has on the way deserves membership here.

Second tier
Monson. For starting Gonzaga on its roll and for taking a team of who-dats to the big dance last year.
Carmody. Has the right system for the program--but needs to get them playing D.
Amaker. Class act but with his Ellerbe-esque record, it's a good thing he went to Duke. People might not be as patient if he went to Sonoma State.
Davis. Maker of odd statements but he landed the talent for this year, at least.
Alford. In the league all these years and we're all still trying to figure him out.

"Who can tell?" tier
DeChellis. You know, if anyone ever did build Penn State into a strong program they'd be the hottest coaching property around, wouldn't they? What would be more impressive?
Painter. I only make sweeping pronouncements once a coach has four career games at his school under his belt.

Scott Long: I agree completely with your first tier, though I rate Ryan and Matta above Weber, as Bruce won with Bill Self's players and hasn't proven he's a top recruiter. I would almost make a 3rd tier with Amaker, Davis, and Alford being listed as psudeo-underachievers. Davis took his team to a NCAA tourney final, while Alford when he was at Southwest Missouri State made a Sweet 16 appearance, so they both have resume highlights to point to, but both should be expected to get at least one NCAA tourney win this season to keep their jobs. Amaker has had some really bad luck with injuries, but if he can't get the Wolverines to the Big Dance this year, the Coach K sheen will have lost enough of its luster to keep him in Ann Arbor. What Big 10 teams do you see making the NCAA tourney this year?

Big 10 Wonk: Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State.

Scott Long: I agree, except I also see Michigan being the 7th team, as the Big 10 has better depth than they have had in a few years. What school would you add to make the Big 10 an even 12?

Big 10 Wonk: Longwood--because their coach does interviews with bloggers. If they turned us down, Notre Dame.

Scott Long: I would go after Missouri, as it would help open up the only 2 major markets in the Midwest (Kansas City and St. Louis) the Big 10 isn't strong in.

Continue reading...

Unringing the Loudest Bell
2005-11-26 15:38
by Will Carroll

I'll preface this with something I often struggle with. In my job, I sometimes have to say things that make people I like angry. Sometimes, they think I'm saying it about them rather than about the work. It's something like the rule the umps have - you can say a call is bad, but you can't say that the ump is bad. To put it another way, it's always business, never personal. A bad trade is usually made for some reason, even if the reason is faulty. A signing isn't made in a vacuum. An article isn't written without purpose.


I like Steve Lombardi of Netshrine. He was very good to me early in my career. That has nothing to do with what I'm about to say.

Steve has written one of the most outrageous, factually deprived, baseless and purposeless articles I've seen recently, even in the usually outrageous and baseless world of steroids. He backs some of his accusations with numbers so thin as to be meaningless.

Did the Marlins have a homer jump when Ivan Rodriguez was in town? Sure, they had some career years, but did he look to see if Detroit had a similar jump? (I don't know - did they?) Did he find any evidence that steroids increase power numbers, as Jay Jaffe and Nate Silver have failed to find? No, of course not. This article is character assassination, a request to prove the unproveable and then, at the end, he tries to couch it in unringing the bell.

I don't know -- and Steve doesn't know - if his accusations are true. I don't know -- and Steve doesn't know -- if Rodriguez used steroids or any other drug. I don't know -- and Steve doesn't know -- if Canseco is telling the truth, but we all certainly know that Canseco, whether right on some things or not, should certainly be challenged on each and every individual point, especially in light of his congressional 180. If getting one thing right was enough, no one would criticize my "Will's Mill" columns!

Steve's a smart guy and can do better than this. We all can.

This Weekend's Football Picks
2005-11-25 21:43
by Scott Long

No big write-ups, but listed below are my selections for this weekend. I don't know if it's the holiday season or what, but I feel more confident about my choices than I have in weeks. We will see.....


4 star Tennessee (-8.5) Kentucky
3 star Georgia (-3.5) Georgia Tech
3 star Oklahoma (-19) Oklahoma St.
2 star NC State (-2.5) Maryland
2 star Stanford (-17) Notre Dame

If you have been checking out my college choices this year, you would realize that I'm a big fan of dogs. Well, this week I'm all about the favorites. The Vols would have been at least 3 TD favs at the beginning of the year versus the Cats. Impressive year for the Wreck, but the Dawgs have superior talent and won't take GTech lightly. Oklahoma really got screwed last week against TTech and will not look past the Cowboys, as they've done in past years. In a game to become bowl eligible, take the Wolfpack. Last game in Stanford Stadium sees the Cardinals keep it under the spread.


3 star Cincinati (-9) Baltimore
2 star New Orleans (+2.5) NY Jets
2 star Cleveland (+4.5) Minnesota

Short list of games, with the Bengals the best bet. While Cincy has struggled against top-flight NFL teams, they've beaten up on the weaker ones. Meet one of the weakest, as the Ravens have quit on 2005.
New Orleans plays their first game in New York which is considered a road game. Take the more talented roster. Why do I have the feeling that the Vikings can't handle success? Mike Tice+being favored= take the dog.

Switch Channels
2005-11-24 13:49
by Will Carroll

I've spent the last day listening to the new INXS album, "Switch." One of the benefits of working for a radio station in getting things early. (*wink*) This album is the first without Michael Hutchence and with new lead singer J.D. Fortune, chosen through this summer's reality show, "Rock Star." It's no secret that both Scott and I really enjoyed "Rock Star," far more than "American Idol." Where Idol has given us clones of Christina Aguilera, Luther Vandross and Barry Manilow, Macy Gray, and Faith Hill, the talent pool in Star ran a little deeper. The band could have gone a number of ways and any of the top three were hideously talented , though Mig Ayesa was far better suited to fronting the Bay City Rollers than he was INXS.

Add to this that INXS is one of my favorite bands and this is an anticipated album. Given the last couple years, where Jamie Foxx and perhaps Joaquin Phoenix will win Oscars for performances that go beyond imitation and into channelling of their subjects, it shouldn't surprise me that INXS, by design and fate, have done the same for this comeback. From the first phrase on "Switch," a song called Devil's Party, your eyebrows will raise and you'll check iTunes to make sure you're playing the new album and not a song from the Hutchence era.

INXS was smart to use "Pretty Vegas," a great single that got J.D. the gig, as the first single. If we hadn't seen Fortune singing and even writing the song, we'd have no frame of reference when this album came. With Vegas, INXS has a slight transition. It fits well into the INXS catalog, is a fun single, and still there's no disconnect between new band and old. Without that, the album and its sound would seem creepy.

Yes, Fortune -- my choice for winner early in the show -- turns out to be an adept channeller of Michael Hutchence in both timber and phrasing. It says something that it was a more jarring transition from the groovy rock of "Listen Like Thieves" to the more mainstream "Kick" than it is from Hutchence to Fortune. Played end to end over a series of albums, people that weren't familiar with the band would be hard pressed to pick out which were which.

Where Fortune falters is in originality and lyrics. Channelling doesn't leave much room for uniqueness and I'd imagine much of this was by design. INXS had to show that they were as good as they were, not that they were breaking new ground. (Of course, this makes you wonder if during the show, this was the plan. No other contestant could have made this album.) They accomplish that.

The lyrics are iffy, downright corny in places. "Answer" is going to followed by "dancer", "remember" by "December" and in some places, Fortune finds a phrase like "touch you inside out" that he revisits multiple times. Hutchence was no great poet, using words more to get his mood across than to give a message. The lyrics of some of INXS's best are shaky on close inspection; I'll defy you to explain the lyrics of "One Thing" or "Devil Inside." To say that Fortune doesn't have the charisma of Hutchence is like saying that he doesn't have the looks of Brad Pitt - few do, if that many. He shown an interesting combo of vulnerability and bravado when on stage during "Rock Star", so I'm intrigued if he'll play well in arenas and grow into the role more as well.

It's a good album, not great, but packed with singles. "Pretty Vegas" is perhaps the best summer song in a while, albeit a bit late, while "Perfect Strangers" will be the song that most will remember years from now. Is it "Kick?" No, but again, few are. It's not as good an album as "Thieves" or "Shabooh Shabbah" either, but listened to with those, it stands as a solid INXS album. That in itself is a feat. The band has reinvented itself and stayed the same, all at once.

The Case
2005-11-22 16:00
by Will Carroll

I started to write this to praise Alex Belth. His piece on the death of his friend at Baseball Analysts ranks as one of the top reads this year, perhaps this decade. I often say that good writing makes you think while great writing makes you feel. I'm proud to call Alex a colleague, but honored to call him a friend.

Instead of calling Belth one of the best writers of his generation, something I imagine you already know, I realized that his writing and the rest of the Designated Hitter lineup, put together by Rich Lederer, is not only a great read, but is the best case I've seen for why 'net-based writers deserve recognition.

I've written on more than one occasion, here and at BP, about my desire to have one of those BBWAA cards hanging from my neck someday. I want to go in behind Joe Sheehan, Rob Neyer, Jim Caple, Eric Neel, and the others who blazed the path but I want the card just the same.

I had the chance to meet Jim Caple for the first time at the World Series. Great guy and great writer. It was a meeting that could best be called brief, perhaps in passing. He was grabbing food and was engaged in conversation with Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun ... and incoming President of the BBWAA. I'd been on a couple shows with Schmuck in the wake of the Palmeiro situation, so I had a nice segue into the conversation. Invariably, the conversation came around to net-based writers and Peter was gracious, but like most, doesn't think it will happen.

I know Peter reads BP, so maybe he'll stumble across this -- or maybe I'll send him a link. The awkward case I've tried to make is made brilliantly by the Designated Hitters series. Alex Belth and Eric Neel stand shoulder to shoulder with Bob Klapisch and Kevin Kernan. Even Klapisch, a young buck in the old school, shines given freedom from his format. I'm curious if Rich will continue to get great writing out of good writers, if more will test their metal in his crucible, and whether they'll notice that there are some great writers here, not just good.

There's been a subtle, small shift in how we follow the game. I'm as likely to read Alex Belth as I am Murray Chass, to check Dodger Thoughts as I am the LA Times, or to watch the MLB FastCast as I am to sit through Baseball Tonight. The vast baseball masses don't know we exist, but watch how BP is quoted over the last year. There's no explanation of what BP is and in its absence implies something.

Can we name most of the good off-line writers in baseball -- and of those, how many do we read on the net? I read Schmuck's work on Palmeiro on pixels, not paper. I read Gordon Edes, Joel Sherman, Drew Olson, Mike Berardino, Tracy Ringolsby and others without ending up with a pile of out-of-town papers in the recycling bin. (Perhaps we should make an environmental argument when pitching the BBWAA!) Are there new, good, notable writers in newspapers? Sure and lots, but the democratization of the 'net has loosed the floodgates and left the public as the decider rather than J-schools and the HR department from the Times, Post, or Daily News.

I've ceased hoping that the BBWAA will open their doors to us, yet I still lobby and dream. Like I told a GM recently, "you don't have to talk to me or read your column, but there's a kid out there who will have your job someday who does. I'm writing for him and hoping he remembers me."

Time for Your Annual Stapp's Smear
2005-11-21 07:41
by Scott Long

I received an email recently, asking when the Toaster would be getting back to what we do best here, music criticism. Still not sure if it was a compliment or a shot, but I did have a couple of things to discuss.

Last week, while watching the new video show on VH-1, Fresh, I witnessed something disturbing. Former lead singer of Creed, Scott Stapp, has a new release out. Now, if you were like me and thought that Creed was the musical equivalent of a queef, well, Stapp solo is even more queeful. Just when I thought the guy couldn't get more pretentious, I was in my car and listening to the local sports radio station, when it was announced before the final NASCAR race of 2005 that Stapp would be singing our National Anthem. If you thought the guy was bad doing his typical Eddie Vedder kareoke impression, his version of the Star Spangled Banner was bombastically beyond . I would rather listen to even Roseanne and Carl Lewis do a duet of the Anthem over Stapp. Hopefully his career will be ending soon, so he can get back to what he does best, being the perfect comic foil for David Cross on Bravo's Celebrity Poker show.

While on the subject of an American Idiot, Green Day's 2004 release just continues to grow on me, as even though I rated it the best of 2004, I would now list it as one of the best 100 albums of all-time. In a world of downloads where most new releases are lucky to be filled with quality on half of the disc, "American Idiot" is sensational from beginning to end. Also, I watched their live DVD "Bullet in a Bible" and it just demonstrates how great of a live band they are. "American Idiot" occupies the throne of best release of this decade, so it's up to someone over the second half of the decade to knock it off the perch.

Will and I will be putting together our Best of 2005 list, so I thought I would elicit some suggestions from our readers. Last year, after I put up my list, I checked out the acts readers suggested in the comments section. After listening, a couple of these suggestions would have made me revise my list. So to avoid an incomplete list in 2005, I'm asking you to put in the comments section your favorite record of this year and also the one that you would recommend that might have went under the radar. Thanks.

Thanks to the Minnesota Vikings, TO..........
2005-11-18 08:15
by Scott Long

As a sketch writer for the NFL on Fox pregame show, I have to keep a sharp focus on the underworld on Pro Football. I thought it was time to share some of my thoughts on the league.

For the past 3 years, the Minnesota Vikings have made my job progressively easier, so I want to take this time, with the Thanksgiving holiday almost upon us to thank them for their efforts. Even funnier is that this team is not out of the playoff hunt, as the NFC North is just looking for its own San Diego Padres to play sacrificial lamb in the post-season. What has been lost with all the party boat discussion is the other freaky stuff going on in the league.

The only subject I want to deal with in regards to Terrell Owens was his comments about Bret Favre and Donovan McNabb. Sure TO makes Omarossa look like a team player, but his point about Favre being superior to McNabb in 2005 is statistically true. Green Bay has been in almost every game they've played, despite a defense that has had less quality hits than the Miami Sound Machine. Look at the current roster of the Packers. I've seen more talent at an Alaskan strip club. The worst part of the team is its running game, which was putrid, until they found some guy name Samkon Gado (don't write this name in Microsoft Word, as it will cause your spell-check to explode.) The Packers offensive line is great at pass blocking. When Bret goes back to pass, they pass on blocking.

Remember when the Ravens were good? Many (including me) thought they would make the playoffs this year, but everything has fallen apart. Things started badly before the season even began, when Jamal Lewis was sentenced during the off-season. I'm surprised Fox didn't use him in their ads for Prison Break. Synergy people!
The Ravens have had one touchdown in the last 4 weeks. This team couldn't even score on Tara Reid. The best example of their ineptitude was when they had 21 penalties called against them versus the Lions. The game had more flags in the air than are in front of the United Nations building. Someone should fire Brian Billick.

Another big disappointment has been the New York Jets. It was amazing how many prognosticators looked the other way, pretending that Chad Pennington would figure out a way to play the whole year, despite having a worse arm than Mike Piazza. So the Jets brought back Vinnie Testerverde to be their savior. This despite Vinnie;

…needing to pop Levitra's just to keep the ball in the air.
…putting polygrip in his mouthpiece.
…filling his Gatorade cups with Ensure.
…receiving a senior citizen's discount when visiting the concession stand.
Nice backup plan, Jets. Sorry, but you know your quarterback's too old when Anna Nicole Smith thinks he's the "marryin' type."

With TO and the Vikings, Ricky Williams has stayed out of the limelight. Next to Lance Armstrong, I doubt there is an athlete under more scrutiny than him. I mean, Ricky must get tested even more than a double major during Finals week. Considering the price of gas, I suggest Ricky and Robert Downey Jr. should move into together, just so they can carpool to their daily piss tests. Hey, I'm just trying to find ways to conserve.

One of my favorite moments of 2005 was when Number one pick Alex Smith said after his first start that he was "encouraged" by his performance. This despite throwing four interceptions and only leading his team to a total of three points.
I can just imagine how different the quotes would have been in sports history, if Alex Smith had written them.

Scott Norwood- "Yeah it went a little to the left. Big deal."

Chris Webber- "Oh, we were out of timeouts? I'll make a note for next time."

Bill Buckner- "So the ball went between my legs. Shit happens."

Steve Bartman- "Don't worry, the Cubs will win next year."

NFL Picks

3 star Tampa Bay (+6) Atlanta
3 star Carolina (-3) Chicago
3 star Buffalo (+11) San Diego
2 star New Orleans (+10) New England

College Pick

3 star Oklahoma (+8) Texas Tech

I only have one college pick, because I've been in a slump over the past few weeks and couldn't find anything besides this game I felt strongly about. The Sooners have figured out a lot of their early season troubles and they have superior athletes, so the game should be close.

New Agreement
2005-11-15 19:00
by Will Carroll

Passed. Awaiting ratification, but that's essentially a rubber stamp from players and owners - this negotiation did not happen in a vacuum. More on this soon in BP, perhaps tomorrow.

However, if you'd like to discuss, this is as close to an open thread as I'm ever getting.

Looking Back at NFL Pre-Season Predictions, Plus the Weekly Football Picks
2005-11-10 22:13
by Scott Long

Had another mediocre week, splitting out on the college picks, while going 2-1-1 in the pros. On the subject of the NFL, my AFC pre-season picks look pretty good, as I had the Colts winning the Super Bowl, the Bengals being a surprise playoff team and the Steelers tying for first in the North. I chose the Patriots to win the East, but mentioned that their brutal schedule would make it difficult to reach the post-season. While the Chiefs have a chance, my choice of the Ravens being the other AFC playoff team appears to be way off. My biggest mistake, on the low-end, was the Broncos, but I suspect they will come back to the pack, with 5 tough road games out of their last 8 contests. The Texans, who I predicted a winning record for, well, I was off. Not sure what I was thinking, but considering the Texans would have a hard time scoring on Tara Reid, I have proven to be completely wrong on that pick.

In the NFC, my choices were Carolina to play the Colts in the Super Bowl, which I still like. While I didn't see the Eagles self-destructing like this, I did expect the East to be close, with the Cowboys making the playoffs because of a better schedule. Didn't know that the Giants were going to get an extra home game (Saints) or I might have put them in the playoffs. I chose Seattle to win the West, though I didn't think they would be this good. I foresaw Tampa improving, making them a surprise wildcard selection, but with the injury to Griese, I wonder if they will hold up. My best prediction might have been stating that "Dante Culpepper is a pretty average QB, who was bailed out often by the talents of Moss." I took the Lions, not knowing that the Bears defense could overcome the Herculean obstacle of starting a 4th-round rookie at QB. My biggest mistake was the choice of Atlanta to not make the playoffs. First the Braves and now the Falcons, I've got to start giving Atlanta teams more credit. My initial step--- I'm taking the Atlanta Hawks to win the NBA Championship.

3 star Rutgers (+21) Louisville
3 star Georgia (-3) Auburn
3 star LSU (-3) Alabama
2 star Illinois (+23) Purdue
2 star Michigan St (+5) Minnesota
2 star Iowa St (+3) Colorado

First game is my Friday night special of the year. Louisville has been exposed some this year, while Rutgers is better than in the past.
The bye week came at great time for Georgia, as Shockley is healthy and the Dawgs are the superior team to an Auburn team who lost their whole backfield from 2004.
I just can't see 'Bama staying undefeated any longer, as LSU is the more complete team.
How is Purdue a favorite of more than 3 TD's over anyone?
Michigan State has to win this game, if they hold any legitimate thoughts of playing in a bowl this year. A shoot-out, but Stanton's arm creates enough big plays to cover.
Iowa State has been a disappointment in league play, but seems to have found themselves over the past 2 weeks. Have been wrong about the Buffs all year, so I will stubbornly try one more time.

2 star San Francisco (+13) Chicago
2 star Oakland (+3) Denver
2 star Detroit (-4) Arizona
2 star Miami (+3) New England

As you can tell, I'm not a fan of this week's NFL games. Couldn't find one I would rate higher than a 2 star.
Chicago is good, but I suspect they will be too flat to cover 13 points.
I wouldn't be shocked if these teams flip-flop their records in the second half, as the Raiders have more talent. Can the Norv Turner jinx keep them from winning?
Injuries have really decimated the Lions, but they still are not dead in their division, while the Cardinals are a big disappointment.
Tough spot for the Patriots, coming off a Monday night shellacking, only to go on the road against a team in Miami which has a quality defense. What a lousy division the AFC East has become in 2005.

Arnold Indicted
2005-11-08 12:37
by Will Carroll

In the world of bodybuilding and nutritional supplements, there's still only one Arnold. There is however another one, Patrick Arnold, who keeps coming up in conversations, discussions, and now, indictments. Victor Conte mentioned him and how Arnold allegedly supplied him with THG, a heretofor uncreated steroid-like compound, that Conte then distributed to athletes.

Arnold may be best known now for THG or for his other supplements at his well-known companies. If you wander around the steroid underground, Arnold, in his various guises screen names, is often in the heat of discussion, often with other chemists and supplement researchers. If you imagine Bill James walking into a room full of SABR members, you'll understand how many in the bodybuilding world think of the man referenced as just "PA." [Note: I changed the wording in this paragraph because someone thought I was saying that Arnold was hiding himself. That would be disguises. Arnold, like most people, uses a "handle" on various message boards. Trust me, people know when he's in the room.]

The BALCO case has focused on Arnold for quite a while and the recent indictment shows just how weak the case is. He is charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Assuming they can prove that the facts as laid out by Conte in his statements are true - and would you want to build a case on Conte's credibility? - then you have to admit that THG was not a controlled substance at the time. There was no catch-all language in the Anabolic Steroid Control Act, as was added in 2005.

If Arnold created THG, if he sold it to Conte, and if THG is an effective steroid - all things that could be argued, some more than others - there's still no way to connect Arnold to the distribution. Certainly, you could argue that Arnold was selling to a middleman who's sole purpose was to distribute and that sale itself was distribution. I'll leave that to the lawyers.

I'll remind people that Arnold was also the mastermind behind androstendione, the substance that was legally used by Mark McGwire and hundreds of others. Andro's dubious efficacy had left it at the side of the road for bodybuilders, but it led to other pro-hormones and hormone precursors. Between andro and THG, Arnold has certainly left his mark on baseball, allegedly.

The indictment means that BALCO will continue to be the focus of the government's case against steroids and that the focus will continue to shine on baseball. In the face of the Bunning-McCain bill -- one that holds the specter of the "non-analytic positive" in its wording, more on that soon -- BALCO continues to be a marketing machine. It still sells its products - yes, thats Bonds on it's home page with two men headed to jail - and Conte is getting six figures for book deals and being the mastermind behind the continued ESPN coverage of the steroid era.

Breaking BALCO -- which this has thus far failed to do - doesn't address the other five to ten organizations and clubs that do the same thing BALCO did. They test athletes for supplementation using standard lab tests, then sell both valid nutritional supplements and (knowingly or unknowingly) increase the results with steroids. Arnold is not the only chemist that can make THG. He's not the only chemist smart enough to find the next steroid and market it. He's not even the man that formulated "the cream," the other BALCO-supplied performance-enhancer.

Naming names and indictments haven't slowed the problem. Sitting at a table with Rick Collins, Tracy Ollrich, and Denise Garibaldi showed me that there is a middle ground, one where we can solve the problem. My next article, likely at, will talk more about this.

There are some specific questions that I will not be able to answer if asked about this story. Prepare for some "no comments."

Jay Mariotti vs. Scott Long
2005-11-06 22:40
by Scott Long

I've been meaning to post this for awhile, but with Will's top-notch pieces on DePodesta and Epstein situations, I decided to hold off. On October 28th, I stumbled across Eric Zorn's blog, at the Chicago Tribune website. Zorn, who is the Trib's Metro Editor has a delicious breakdown of Windy City Woodie Page's (AKA Jay Mariotti) comments about the White Sox over the past year. This guy is so full of shit that any credibility he used to be able to cling to is now gone for sure. I decided to collect all my comments on the White Sox since the beginning of the year, as a way to show my work. While not anywhere close to the length that The Cheat, would have if he posted all of his writings on the subject from his excellent Sox blog, South Side Sox, I do think it gives a good representation of the 2005 season.

Despite underrating Jermaine Dye and overrating El Duque, I think the rest of my words hold up pretty well. While I don't expect most readers will want to go through all my White Sox posts, I wanted to have a single place that capsulated my thoughts on the World Champs for 2005. Oh and by the way, I want to state that my belief that there wasn't one great team in 2005, well, I stand corrected. An 11-1 overall record in the playoffs is the mark of a dominant team.
Now I would like to present my 2005 White Sox Compilation.

Baseball Free Agent Signings: A Confederacy of Dunces? (Jan. 4) Let me finish by mentioning that in a world where Jason Varitek makes 10 mil yearly and Damian Miller 8.5 mil for 3 seasons, A.J. Pierzynski sitting out there with a scarlet letter around his neck makes me think he might be baseball's best buy.

Maybe the Twins Don't Have the Central Locked Up (Jan.9) For the past 4 years, the White Sox have finished behind the Twins, despite being a pre-season favorite by a majority of prognosticators each season. My guess is that the Twins will be the biggest pre-season favorite to win their division of any team in MLB. Can't argue with that logic, but under the radar the White Sox have remade their team over the past year and it will be interesting, if nothing else, how it all comes together.

The latest signing of A.J. Pierzynski was a great move by Kenny Williams. (try to find those words used together in a Google search) Pierzynski was signed for one year at 2.25 million, not too bad for a catcher with a career OPS of .773. Considering that Jason Varitek is making 10 million annually for a career .798 OPS and is 3 and a half years older than AJ, this looks even better. Sure Pierzynski left San Fran with a reputation of being an irritant on the level of Simon Cowell, but bringing a solid left-handed bat behind the plate for this price is something the White Sox are willing to risk. Plus, the guy knows the Twins hitter's better than anyone else they could sign, so maybe his poor study habits won't be such an issue.
If Santana and Radke don't have similar stats to 2004, I think the White Sox will be neck and neck with the Twins, as the depth of pitching on the South Side is the best in the AL, outside of the Yankees. Trotting out a staff of Freddy Garcia, Mark Buehrle, Orlando Hernandez, Jose Contreas, and Jon Garland is the best starting staff the Sox have had since the days of Jack McDowell, Alex Fernandez, Jason Bere, Wilson Alvarez. The bullpen depth is the best I can ever remember the White Sox having.

(Jan. 28) Moneyball (the sequel): Starring......Kenny Williams? After many years of being focused on high slugging percentage baseball, the Chicago White Sox will definitely have a different look. It could be argued that no team over the off-season has changed the makeup of their team more than on the South Side of Chicago. Many in the SABR community slammed Kenny Williams for his trade of Carlos Lee, but it was about money redistribution. I've been discussing this for some time here and the Chicago Tribune picked up on the topic, recently.

As someone who was reading Baseball Abstracts as far back as 1982, I'm a strong believer in the sabremetrical approach to the game, but one place I feel many of my breathren fail is in combining this approach with team salary caps.
There is little doubt that Billy Beane has been far superior as a general manager to Ken Williams, but their past has shaped public opinion on their recent moves too strongly.

What would the response of the SABR community been, if Williams would have signed Jason Kendall? Oh I can hear the uproar over 34 million dollars going out over the next 3 years, with the trickle down causing the Sox to trade Mark Beurhle (see Hudson and Mulder) to cut some salary. Instead, Williams smartly signed catcher A.J. Pierzynski at 2.2 million for 2005. I realize this is a bit of a simplification, but not enough credit has been dished out to Ken Williams.

Besides the re-signing of (I don't want on my) Timo Perez, the rest of the signings look pretty good. I would argue that Pierzynski, Orlando Hernandez, and Tadahito Iguchi are 3 of the best of the off-season. It's time for KWilliams-haters to take a deep breath (I'm doing it as I write) and admit that there does seem to be a plan in place for 2005.

One other note: The Pecota for the Sox starting staff, which has all 5 starters posting ERA's between 4.35 and 5.05 is a load. Yeah, US Cellular is unkind to pitchers, but these numbers would be career worst for almost each pitcher in the rotation. Pecota is generally a beautiful thing, but occasionally it misses the mark and I just don't see the staff putting up those huge ERA's.

Scott's MLB Rankings: 1-30 (March 31) 8. Chicago White Sox- The last 3 acquisitions in the off-season gives them a chance.

Continue reading...

College Dog 6-Pak, Plus a Lowest Common Denominator Joke
2005-11-04 19:39
by Scott Long

Welcome to this week's edition of Scott's mediocre football selections. I've been too busy to check my overall record, but I'm guessing it's just barely over .500. Last week was a tough one for my picks, as I had an overall winning week, but lost my NFL Game of the Year in overtime. (F-ing Lions offense.) I thought this week I would kickoff the football discussion with a short post by Juice reader "Mr. Buck", which is one of the finest examples of quality Dick joke material you will ever read. Enjoy.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Casey Dick, a freshman quarterback who's seen no action in Razorback games this year because he's been redshirted, will start for Arkansas against South Carolina on Saturday, coach Houston Nutt said the red shirt is coming off, Nutt said Sunday, because Dick has impressed his coaches with his passing in practices and has shown the skills to move the offense.

Robert Johnson started the first seven games for Arkansas this season. Nutt said he would take the blame for Johnson's struggles as signal-caller as the Razorbacks went 0-4 in the first half of their Southeastern Conference season, 2-5 overall.

"It's not that I'm saying it's Robert Johnson's fault," Nutt said. "Nothing could be further from the truth. Robert Johnson has done some good things for our program and he's still needed."
Nutt said Dick deserves a chance to show if he can spark the Razorback offense.

So, let me summarize. If your gonna whip the Cocks, then Dick is in, and Johnson is out says Nutt. Possible headlines?

Nutt Puts His Dick In, Hoping To Beat Cocks

Dick Outshines Johnson, Gets Nutt Nod vs. Cocks

Stiff Cock Test, Means Limp Johnson Pulled for Better Dick

Hey, if you want classy material go visit Humbug.

3 star NC. St. (+13) Florida St.
3 star Tennessee (+9) Notre Dame
3 star Wisconsin (+11) Penn St.
2 star Tulsa (+9) UTEP
2 star Vanderbilt (+19) Florida
2 star Indiana (+13) Minnesota

This is the time of the year I like to go with the dogs, as I think a lot of the favorites get overvalued. No standout game, like last week's 4 star winner on Oklahoma, but more plays are worth taking a look at. Wolfpack Coach Amato has done well against his former boss Bowden, plus this is a game they have to win to salvage a disappointing season. Similar issue for the Vols, as they are in danger of having a losing season. While I doubt either State or Tennessee will win the game outright, the big spreads make them the plays.
Despite their great play this year, I still don't believe the Nittany Lions will win out. Badgers running attack leads to a game going to down to the wire.
UTEP was my surprise Top 25 team at the beginning of the season and if they get past Tulsa, I suspect they will finish 10-1. Miners win, but a TD or less.
Vanderbilt has had their best season in a long time and don't be surprised if they give the Gators a battle. Florida QB Leak is really talented, but not a good fit for Meyer's offense.
Minnesota is a hard team to figure out and I'm not a fan of the Gophers when they play on a grass surface.

3 star Miami (+2.5) Atlanta
3 star New Orleans (+3) Chicago
2 star Oakland (+4.5) Kansas City
2 star Indianapolis (-3) New England

There is a real divergence of thought on Michael Vick. Put me on the side that doesn't think he will ever stay healthy enough to be a great QB. In a low-scoring affair, I like the Fish.
Who knows which Saints team will show up? This week, I see them playing better, while the Bears are flat off of their huge victory over the Lions.
Oakland has Top 10 talent, but their coaching has been shaky. They seem to be on a roll and hard to see the Chiefs defense stopping them, so expect the game to come down to a field goal.
I think the Colts are 10 points better than the Patriots, but considering the Pats voodoo on Manning, I can't make this more than a 2 star choice.

Gimme A Break!
2005-11-02 20:56
by Will Carroll

That was the title of an email I recieved from a friend, someone I respect, someone who you probably read. On the heels of the Matt Lawton suspension, his comment was "So that was the guy we cared about???"

My response, I think, is worth sharing widely: "All-star OF who played on a playoff team? What do you want? Do we all only care about gotchas and the next Palmeiro? Will we need ever increasing names or do we just want to headhunt Bonds until he admits he's the anti-christ, shot Kennedy, and impregnated our daughters with his steroid-ridden seed?

"Really, what player SHOULDNT we care about and if I say, on national radio, "No, we shouldnt care" what does that say about me?"

I'll have more on the case, factually, in tomorrow's BP.

Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
Frozen Toast
Google Search
The Juice

02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09 

Personally On the Juice
Scott Takes On Society
Comedy 101
Kick Out the Jams (Music Pieces)
Even Baseball Stories Here
Link to Scott's NSFW Sports Site