Friday, February 8, 2013

The Utah Jazz and the Curse of the Small Market

The NBA trade deadline nears and buzz about trade candidates and teams with cap issues/room has surfaced as usual. Living in Utah has given me valuable insight to the special concerns that "small market" teams like the Utah Jazz have in these situations. The hubbub surrounding the Jazz centers around the front court and specifically two players: Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.

It has been accepted among fans, analysts, radio personnel, and the general media that the Jazz cannot afford to keep both. Al is a legitimate NBA center who can score in the low post and often serves as the primary offensive option. Paul is a combo forward who can play both spots and is a statistician's dream, seemingly doing everything at an above average level.

The problem is that Al does not play good defense in almost any situation and Paul isn't a good enough defender to protect the paint for Al. Paul, on the other hand, does not dominate the game in any one aspect and has not shown the ability to carry his team offensively. These problems are compounded by the fact that Al and Paul play in front of young, athletic, but raw talents in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, both who need significant playing time to develop. Finally, both Al and Paul are in contract years (and are expiring contracts), and will eventually be paid by the Jazz or someone else.

Convention and popular opinion currently suggest that the Jazz need to trade either Al or Paul in order to A) increase salary cap flexibility that signing both of them would preclude, B) get back some good assets instead of letting either walk in free agency, and C) clean up the frontcourt situation to allow playing time to Enes and Derrick. So if the Jazz are forced to choose between either one, which should they trade?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

2012 Baseball Review, Part 2: National League

After taking a look at the American League, I wanted to switch to the more interesting of the two leagues, the National. In fact, the National League was made interesting by the Nationals, who messed with their fans, their season, and perhaps baseball history with their handling of Stephen Strasburg's injury situation, summarized very comprehensively in Jonah Keri's post on Grantland.

What happened? The Nationals shut Strasburg down for the year in early September despite having a huge lead in the division and almost certain to make the playoffs. This went against opinions from numerous pundits who like I, felt they should have managed the situation from the beginning, giving him scheduled rest throughout the season, or even starting his season in June or July so as to have him available in October. The  move infuriated their fans, who were legitimately excited about a playoff contender. This is the fascinating part: how good were the Nationals with Strasburg? Did they really have a shot to win it all?

I pulled the same charts as I did from the AL to find out, and I think D.C. fans will be disappointed.


NFL Super Bowl Picks

Better late than never! Especially compared to my MLB season review, half of which is still in draft form 3 months after the end of the season. For those needing a framework to understand today's game to those needing a few tips on game/prop bets, you've probably already found a smorgasbord of information from all over the web. But from years of watching and re-watching the game, remember, there are a few constants that hold true:

1. Pace Matters, Kind Of.

The Super Bowl is played at a glacial pace, with the average game time going well over the regular season averages due to more stoppages for commercials. According to NFL Team Rankings, last season's Patriots ran 67.2 plays per game in the regular season (1st), while the Giants ran 65.7 (31st), for a total of 132.9 between the two teams. In the Super Bowl, the script flipped with the Giants running 71 plays and the Patriots 62. The sum is exactly 133, which is what the season stats would predict. Let's look at a few more season's worth of pace in terms of offensive plays/game:

These numbers show virtually no correlation between regular season plays and plays run during the Super Bowl. A lot of teams thought that the Giants had success against the Patriots by slowing the game down and keeping it close. Well, that may be true from a narrative point of view, but in actuality, the Patriots ran more plays against the Giants in the Super Bowl than both the average winning team as well as the 2005 Patriots team that beat the Eagles with only 63 offensive plays. So teams that run a lot of plays, like the Patrots, Seahawks, and Colts have had success running lots of plays in the Super Bowl, too.