Archive for November, 2006

McGwire and The Hall: It’s about Perfomance, not Performance Enhancers

November 29, 2006

Much angst all over the Internet today about Mark McGwire’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Almost all of this anguish stems from allegations with which you are all familiar, that Big Mac used performances enhancing drugs (PEDs). Various voters are going on record with whether or not they will vote for the former A’s (and Cardinal’s) great, based on the PED issue.

From here, all that hand wringing is based on the assumption that his career performance makes him eminently deserving of being in the HOF. I’m not so sure. Let’s take a walk through the numbers.

In 16 seasons, Big Mac made 12 All-Star teams. He hit 49 homers in his rookie year and was named ROY. He won 1 Gold Glove. His career OBP is .394 and SLG .588. You may even remember that he hit 70 HRs in 1998. He finished in the top ten in MVP voting 5 times. Very impressive credentials.

On the negative side of the ledger, in 6 seasons he played fewer than 105 games, indicative of his injury proneness. He struck out 1596 times. His career batting average is .263. He hit below .240 five times. He stole 12 bases in his career and was one of the slowest players of his (or any other) era. He drove in 100 runs just seven times and more than 75 just three more times.

I’m just not sold. His career was a rollercoaster and difficult to measure against other sluggers. In his defense, injuries effectively robbed him of 1993 and 1994 when he was 29 and 30 years old. So let’s look at the comparable players list, using a Bill James formula as calculated by baseball-reference.com:

Of the ten most similar players, only two are in The Hall, with many of his contemporaries still playing or not yet eligible. If I had to guess, I’d say Man-Ram is the only lock from the rest of the list.

Let’s look at a few other baseball-reference provided metrics:

Black Ink: Batting – 36 (Average HOFer ≈ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting – 110 (Average HOFer ≈ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting – 42.0 (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting – 169.5 (Likely HOFer > 100)


These are again sabermetric measures. As you can see, he scores better than the average HOFer on two measures and worse on the other two. It seems that these metrics support my gut feeling that Big Mac may be worthy of The Hall, but his credentials certainly do not cry out “LOCK” the way the media is portraying his candidacy.

Speaking of alleged PED-tainted contemporaries of Mr. McGwire, you may have heard of Barry Bonds. Here are his ten most similar players and HOF qualifications:

Black Ink: Batting – 67 (Average HOFer ≈ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting – 287 (Average HOFer ≈ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting – 75.4 (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting – 345.0 (Likely HOFer > 100)

As you can see nine of ten comparable players have been enshrined and Bonds blows the doors off all four HOF metrics. Now that’s a player who is a lock, ignoring PED issues.

With all that will be written about McGwire in the next few months (and likely the next few years) I hope that some writer with a more widely read platform than I currently have at least raises the question of whether or not McGwire deserves to be enshrined based on his performance, not simply based on whether he used performance enhancers.

When he (or she) does, remember that you read it here first at The Splog.

That’s it for now…Dr. Dick

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A Bay Area Thanksgiving Splog

November 23, 2006

First, sorry I have not posted recently.  Life keeps getting in the way.  If I had no job or family obligations, I could really be more prolific.  At least one loyal reader has been on my ass to start posting…and I don’t want to lose my one loyal reader. 

So rather than crying over spilled Splog, let’s resume posting with a staple of all sports writers, the Thanksgiving List.  This year’s edition covers the Bay Area sports scene.  As a (nearly) lifetime resident of the East Bay, one of my desires when starting The Splog was to use my historical knowledge to offer biting commentary on issues from the Bay.  Here is the first attempt: 

1)     Be thankful that the Angels signed Gary Matthew, Jr.  A few stats: his career highs in HRs and steals are 19 and 15, respectively; he is 32 years old; in ESPN’s fantasy leagues, he was the 196th player drafted in AL-only leagues.  So the 200th best player in the AL is worth 5 years/$50 million?!?!  This deal saves the Giant’s from themselves and burdens the A’s primary rival with an awful contract.  Thanks Mr. Moreno. 

2)     Be thankful the Warriors have Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis.  Nellie’s willingness to get this pair of youngsters (20 & 21 years old) on the floor has turned the future of the franchise on its ear.  A big that rebounds, blocks shots and shoots a high percentage combined with a scoring ball handler should have Chris Mullin and company trying to dump some of their bloated contacts to tie these two up for the foreseeable future.  Any NBA GMs interested in taking Foyle or Dunleavy off Mully’s hands?  Oh, sorry we are supposed to thankful, not dreaming. 

3)     Be thankful the A’s are moving to Fremont.  As I have been digesting this reality over the last week, I have come to the conclusion that Bay Area folks should be pleased about this development.  While a move to Las Vegas (an excuse to make the roadie twice a year to check out a series was a HUGE positive) or Sacto (hey, its still NoCal) felt OK, in reality they would have hurt A’s fans like me.  Nearly all of my fandom is media based: TV, radio and newspaper.  Sure, I could have kept following Beane’s Boys via the ‘net, but it’s not the same as watching and/or listening daily and being greeted by A’s coverage in the morning paper.  Staying in the East Bay keeps me  (and millions of other long time local fans) in daily contact with the Green & Gold.  Plus, it keeps the bay as a two team market and we don’t want to lose any ground to LA, Chi-town or the Apple.  Moving the A’s to Fremont is, indeed, something to be toasted over Thanksgiving dinner.

Dr. Dick’s Dozen Surprises, Part Deux

November 10, 2006

Picking up where we left off yesterday, here are the surprising Eastern Conference players from the first week:


Q. Richardson
:  So maybe last year was an aberration.  After averaging 15 and 6 with nearly three 3s a game in PHO 2 years ago, Q seemed poised to be a star.  Then came his delivery to the hell that is the Knicks, coupled with injury problems that destroyed last season.  Now he is putting up 19 and 7 on 54% shooting through his first 5 games this year.  At age 26, he may be left standing after Zeke, Marbury and Francis are run out of town.  And remember, he is younger than Luke Walton.

Brevin Knight:  Could he really be playing 38 minutes a night?  As an undersized point guard playing the two spot?  It must be “truth is stranger than fiction time” here at The Splog.  Well through the first four games, Brevin is averaging 16 points and 7 assists, while shooting 49 percent.  And now Ray Felton is out with a rib injury and Knight will slide over to the point.  Aren’t smallish (5’10”, 170) PGs supposed to tail off when they reach their thirties?  Knight’s play has certainly been a surprise.

Emeka Okafor:  Not a surprise in the traditional sense, more just happy to see him back.  Remember the 2005 ROY?  Well after last year’s injuries limited him to just 26 ineffective games, he has returned scoring 17 per along with 11 boards and nearly 4 blocks.  With Dwight Howard’s pronounced improvement last year, it seems like a long time since we were debating the relative merits of these two big men.  Welcome back, Emeka.

Zaza Pachulia:  A solid contributor last year averaging 12 and 8 in 31 minutes per, Zaza has taken a big step forward this year with 18 and 7 in 33 minutes per.  At just 22 years old, he is a key for the division-leading Hawks.  I can’t believe I just typed the words division-leading Hawks.  And don’t forget he is 3.5 months younger than this year’s first rounder Shelden Williams.

Etan Thomas:  Averaging 11 and 7.5 is just the kind of productivity the Wiz were looking for from Thomas.  There is no chance he will keep shooting at a 76% clip, though his 31% FT shooting is likely to move toward his career mark of 60%.  The question becomes can he keep getting to the line 4+ times per game or is that outcome just the result of the small sample?

Charlie Villanueva:  One of the most important deals of the off-season was the Bucks’ stealing of Villanueva from Toronto.  While the Bucks likely would have been satisfied with last year’s 13 and 6.5, he has jumped his numbers up to 16.5 and 9.5 without an appreciable increase in minutes.  If he continues to play at this level, he will make Colangelo the Younger look even worse on this deal.

And now for the Eastern Conference Villanova player watch:

Allan Ray:  Has not yet played in the regular season.  Scored 29 points in 80 minutes during the preseason.  As John Hollinger of ESPN.com would say (write), “he averaged 14.5 points per 40 minutes played in the preseason.”  Likely will need several Celtics to be injured to see any game time.  Although with Doc Rivers’ substitution patterns, you never know.

That’s it for now…Dr. Dick

Dr. Dick’s Dozen Surprises, Part I

November 9, 2006

In yesterday’s post, I discussed my fantasy basketball team. Today, we take a broader look at surprising players from around the league. If I don’t get to your hometown (or fantasy squad) favorite, rest assured it is a LOOOOONG season. If a player continues to play well, he will undoubtedly be recognized here at The Splog. So without further ado, Part I of Dr. Dick’s Dozen, featuring Western Conference players:

Leandro Barbosa: Yeah, we learned last year that this 24 year old spark plug from
Brazil could play. His season totals were 13.1 points, 2.8 assists, 2.6 boards in 28 minutes per. This week: 18.4, 4.6, 4.4 in 35 minutes per. With the off-season addition of Banks (for the ridiculous sum of $20 mill over five), and the return of Amare potentially clogging the lane, I doubt if anyone saw this coming. Just wait until Nash’s annual injury to see what Barbosa’s production can become. One other note, Barbosa’s career FG% is 46.8, but he has shot just 40.6% in the five games this year, so by regressing to his career shooting percentage, there is potential for even better days ahead.

Andris Biedrins: After averaging 13 MPG in his first two seasons, he has averaged 24 per in the first five of 06-07. Seemingly a bad fit for Nellie’s go-go style, Biedrins has asserted himself as the most competent of a weak cast of interior players for the Goldies. He is averaging a mere 7.6 ppg/6.4 rpg, but is shooting an amazing 81% from the field. He shot nearly 64% last year, so there is some evidence that he could be Artis Gilmore-like. If Nellie doesn’t get impatient with him, there is good potential for continued solid performance. And remember, he is only 20 years old!

Andrew Bynum: After averaging 7 minutes per while appearing in half the Lakers’ games last year, Bynum has burst from the gate averaging 11 points, 7 boards in just 21 minutes a night. Other key indicators are his shooting: 56% on FGs and 78% on FTs. Can he sustain this pace? Hard to say. But after turning 19 on October 27th, it hardly matters whether the production is sustainable for this year; the Lakers have seen the future and it is Andrew Bynum.

Kevin Martin: Is there a greater joy for a GM than unearthing a player in the bottom third of the first round of the NBA Draft? If not, then Geoff Petrie in Sac must be one happy GM. Martin is averaging 23+ ppg on 54% shooting, while netting better than 90% of his FTs. Not bad for third year player from Western Carolina nabbed with the 26th overall pick. I doubt if he will be averaging 23 a game a month from now, but letting Bonzi walk is looking prescient after the first week of the season.

Luke Walton: Has Walton carved out a niche on Phil’s squad? Perhaps. Averaging 15 ppg on 58% shooting will turn some heads. Recognized as a “glue guy” who does not need to score to be effective, his new found offensive aggressiveness includes knocking down 1.2 threes a game after averaging fewer than .3 threes per games in his first 3 campaigns. Just a hunch, but he seems the least likely of The Dozen to maintain his current productivity. Hard to believe factoid: he is two weeks older than Q-Rich.

Hakim Warrick: Well, someone had to seize the minutes created by Pau Gasol’s absence and Battier’s departure. Based on one week’s action, that someone is Hakkim Ward. Averaging 16 and 7 in about 30 minutes per, the former Orangeman stand out has been productive. The key numbers to watch as the season progresses are his shooting percentage (currently 51%) and FT attempts per (currently 7.5). If those numbers remain consistent Jerry West may have uncovered another gem.

And now for the Western Conference Villanova player watch:

Randy Foye was hyped by NBA writers after his Summer League performance, drawing comparisons to D-Wade for his ability to get anywhere on the floor and having the strength to finish among the trees. So far his line is a bit disappointing, as he has averaged just 4 points and played 11 minutes or fewer in four of five outings. I did catch his performance against the Lakers the other night when he netted 12 points in 22 minutes, while getting to the line six times. That outing may a precursor to an increase in his productivity.

Kyle Lowery had a nice opening night with 10 rebounds in 28 minutes – not bad for a 6’1” PG. Since then he has not played much, but The Splog will continue to monitor his progress.

Tune in tomorrow for Part Deux examining Eastern Conference surprises.

That’s it for now…Dr. Dick

Fantasy Hoops: Week 1 Review

November 9, 2006

 

So, third post in a week    I had no idea I would be this prolific!  Yesterday’s post was more the “article” style, which I plan to occasionally post, but the conversational style of the first post (and this one) will probably be featured more prominently at the outset of The Splog.

 

Today, I thought I would get you up to speed with my Fantasy Basketball squad:  Commish BuZZZZZZZard in the Dr. Dick’s Hoops Pals league that I established on Yahoo!.  There are 10 teams in the league and over time (with permission from the other players, of course) I’ll fill you in on their unique qualifications that resulted in their invitations to compete in this fantasy forum.  For now, suffice it to say that they are friends with high Sports IQs and willing to waste the time necessary to be involved. The scoring is cumulative within the following categories:  FG%, FT%, 3s Made, Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals and Blocks.  One week in, I’ve surged to a commanding lead with the following roster: 

PG

Chris Paul/Carlos Arroyo

SG

Joe Johnson/Kevin Martin

G

Raymond Felton

SF

Donyell Marshall/Hedo Turkoglu

PF

Dwight Howard/Zach Randolph

F

Chris Bosh

C

Eddy Curry/Andrew Bynum

Utility

Drew Gooden/Chris Wilcox

BENCH

Nenad Krstic/Deron Williams/Jarrett Jack/Jason Terry/Marvin Williams

A few comments:  I have turned over five of my nineteen players already.  I dumped Mike Dunleavy – it has been 4 years, he won’t get any better…although I admit that I initially bought into the idea of Nellie’s turning Dunleavy’s career around (more on Mike D. in a future column).  I couldn’t dump Jason Williams fast enough.  Besides his injury, I’ve never liked him and his career seems headed downhill from a not so majestic peak.  I like Marquis Daniel’s game, but suspect based on the first week, that it will take him a while to carve out a role on Indy.  I’m keeping him on my Watch List.  Al Jefferson has been an intriguing prospect for three years now.  I became enamored with his potential based on the high praise doled out two season’s ago by ESPN’s Bill Simmons (The Sports Guy – from this point forward referred to as The SG).  However, Jefferson has never come through.  Speaking of tantalizing potential, Shaun Livingston was the third young payer I ditched for lack of production. 

As if to echo my thoughts (and actions), The SG today listed Shaun Livingston, Al Jefferson and Mike Dunleavy as three of the top six players on the D-Miles Memorial All-Stars, named after all-potential, small-production Darius Miles.  So parting with them was overdue in just the first week!

Here is how my draft unfolded:

Round              Pick                 Player                            

1.                     (8)                    Chris Bosh PF,C

2.                     (13)                  Chris Paul PG

3.                     (28)                  Dwight Howard PF

4.                     (33)                  Joe Johnson PG,SG

5.                     (48)                  Raymond Felton PG

6.                     (53)                  Jason Terry PG

7.                     (68)                  Deron Williams PG

8.                     (73)                  Zach Randolph PF

9.                     (88)                  Marvin Williams SF,PF

10.                   (93)                  Drew Gooden PF

11.                   (108)                Hedo Turkoglu SG,SF

12.                   (113)                Mike Dunleavy SF                    <<<Dumped

13.                   (128)                Jason Williams PG                   <<<Dumped

14.                   (133)                Nenad Krstic PF,C

15.                   (148)                Chris Wilcox PF,C

16.                   (153)               Kevin Martin SG

17.                   (168)               Marquis Daniels SG,SF            <<<Dumped

18.                   (173)               Al Jefferson PF                         <<<Dumped

19.                   (188)               Shaun Livingston PG                 <<<Dumped

The players I replaced Dunleavy, J-Will, Daniels, A-Jeff and Livingston with are:

Eddy Curry:  Woefully one-dimensional, but for my squad bereft of centers, he has value.  The wagesofwins.com blog has several posts about him, if you are interested in further investigating his uni-dimensionality.

Andrew Bynum:  Another much needed Big (I love using the hoops jargon!).Production has been literally unbelievable, watched him last night on DirectTV (sadly the last night of the Free NBA Preview) and was visually impressed as well.  The Lakers and Mitch Kupchak must be doing back flips.

Trivia: Who did the Goldies choose one slot ahead of Bynum in the 2005 NBA Draft? Ike Diogu.  Trust me, that choice may haunt the Goldies as much as any of their other historic Draft Day blunders.  (Sounds like an idea for a future column: track the Goldies Draft Day woulda, coulda, shoulda…didn’t scenarios.)

Carlos Arroyo:  A pair of 20+ point games already.  Think the Pistons wish they had him back, along with Darko?

Jarret Jack:  Averaging close to 40 minutes per; should anchor the backcourt in the Rose City with Brandon Roy for the next decade.  The top couple of players on crummy teams (especially point guards) can be valuable in fantasy – I call it the Dana Barros Rule.  Sounds like another future column!

Donyell Marshall:  Should convert plenty of open 3s with LBJ on the floor; was cut by another team in my league after a couple of sluggish outings…hoping that owner will rue the day he made that choice.  As you can see from the rest of my squad, I generally steer clear of guys on the wrong side of 30, but if your SFs were Daniel & Dunleavy you’d be desperate too.

So, while three of the six players I dropped were mauled by The SG, he had a section in today’s column headed:  SIX GUYS WHO ARE SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER THAN THEY WERE LAST YEAR.  Five of the six are on Commish BuZZZZZZZard’s: Kevin Martin, Carlos Arroyo, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack.  The only one I missed was Hakim Warrick.  I guess I’ll have to get him via trade.

Final Analysis:  I’ve shored up the center position, my SFs remain weak, and my life-long fixation with point guards is again evident.  It is my hope that I will not post again about the Commish BuZZZZZZZard’s until after Christmas.  We’ll see if I can resist.  In the mean time I’ll start doing the research to capitalize on the three column ideas hatched while writing today’s entry. 

That’s it for now…Dr. Dick

Dumars and Hornacek: Two Hall of Famers?

November 8, 2006

 

Recently former Detroit Piston Joe Dumars was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  While reflecting on Dumars’ career accomplishments, one player kept springing to mind here at Dr. Dick’s Splog: former Sun, Sixer and Jazzman guard Jeff Hornacek.  Dumars and Hornacek are two players ripe for comparison, entering the NBA one year apart and each playing the same position for 14 seasons.  While Dumars is basking in his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, Hornacek has virtually no chance of receiving such an accolade.

                                                                                           

However, looking at the numbers, Horny was a consistently better shooter (from the field, the line and 3 point land), while Dumars took more shots, shot more free throws and scored more points.  Dumars scored 16,401 points to Hornacek’s 15,659.  Expressed as a percentage, Horny scored 95 percent as many points as Dumars.  However, Horny was more efficient, averaging 1.31 points per shot attempt to Dumars’ 1.26.

 

In other offensive categories Hornacek also holds the advantage.  In his career he had 15 percent more assists (669 more) and 5 percent fewer turnovers (113 fewer) than Joe D.  This data certainly suggests that Horny was a superior ball handler.  If Hornacek was a better shooter and better ball handler, it seems plausible to infer that he was the better offensive player.

 

However, Dumars was known as a much better defender, as evidenced by his being named to the All-Defense Team 5 times.  Yet Hornacek was a better thief, recording 70 percent more steals  – 634 more – in his career.  Horny was also a considerably better rebounder, gathering 66 percent more caroms than Dumars – a whopping 1443 more career rebounds.  Totaling these differences in steals and rebounds, Horny was responsible for his teams’ receiving more than 2,000 additional possessions than Dumars’ Pistons.  It seems unlikely that anyone – Dumars included – could be such an excellent on-ball defender as to benefit his team by 2,000 possessions.  Thus, despite the evidence from the voters, I am willing to assert that Hornacek was more valuable defensively than Dumars.

 

It appears Joe Dumars was elected to the Hall of Fame because his team won NBA Championships during the prime of his career.  As a result he won many awards including being named MVP of the 1989 Finals, being selected as an All-Star 6 times, and being named twice 2nd Team All-NBA, once 3rd Team All-NBA, and the All-Defense recognition mentioned earlier.  However, all of these awards were voted on by subjective observers. 

A critical analysis of their actual production suggests that Hornacek was at least as valuable, and probably more so than Dumars.  Another stumbling block in Hornacek’s candidacy is that his two trips to the NBA Finals were at the end of his career, dragging one leg behind him as his Utah Jazz squad lost in successive Finals to the Bulls.  Finally, Dumars has remained highly visible as the architect of the Piston’s recent successes, while Hornacek has retired to quiet obscurity.

 

This comparison is not an indictment of Joe Dumars’ fantastic career or the voters who selected the aforementioned awards.  Rather it is a cautionary tale of how the analysis of basketball players’ resumes remains tied to subjective evaluations made during their careers and can be prejudiced by players’ post-career visibility.  It may be more useful to consider playing careers in their entirety, rather than just totaling awards won, because those awards are heavily influenced by the publicity that comes with being a cog on a Championship team.

 

Perhaps fifty years from now an Old-Timers Committee will recognize Jeff Hornacek’s contributions to the NBA and elect him to the Hall of Fame, where he can join Joe Dumars, appropriately recognized as one of the greats of the game.

Hello world!

November 4, 2006

Welcome to Dr. Dick’s Splog.  In the first bit of news here at the The Splog, I might have made a critical mistake in dubbing this space a “splog”.  According to Wikipedia:

  Splogs are blogs where the articles are fake, and are only created for spamming.

Now of course in founding The Splog, I thought I was creating an interesting new term for a Sports Blog, not naming this space after a heinous crime in cyberspace.  So, perhaps the first litmus test of whether The Splog garners any reader interest will be the day that Wikipedia (or more precisely one of its contributors) alters the definition of splogs to include a second meaning as the preeminent sports blog in North America  (with plans to conquer the rest of the planet still pending). 

In other news, none of the articles here will be fake.

And of course, always check Wikipedia before coining any more interesting new terms.

 So, dear reader, you ask what will appear in The Splog?  Hopefully, clever analysis, insightful commentary and witty writing about the world of sports.  Yes, I realize that thousands of others are attempting to provide the same service, many of them paid professionals.  However over the years many friends, colleagues and students have encouraged Dr. Dick to enter the blogging fray.  Until now, I have resisted.

Which leads to two interesting follow up questions.  Who the hell is Dr. Dick? and Why now?

A bio and comprehensive background on Dr. Dick are being added soon, so I will let the anticipation build for now.  A brief bio is that I’m a professor at a California university with an interest in sports.  I have published and presented in many sport-related academic forums, but am now expanding my audience to include you, the intellectual and pseudo-intellectual sport consumer.  As future posts unfold (and the bio is posted) I’ll fill you in with more details.

As for why now?  I was sitting in the airport in Denver the other night after attending one of the sport-related academic forums, reading a post on the excellent wagesofwins.com, a blog from Dave Berri and company, used to support their recent book Wages of Wins.  I followed the link to wordpress, opened an account and the rest is blogging history.

I have no systematic plan for posting, no editorial staff and no readers.  But here at The Splog we like to dream big so I’ll be posting and hoping to develop a readership.  From your perspective, dear reader, you have a chance to be in on something from its inception.  Something free.  Tell you friends. 

 That’s it for now… Dr. Dick