Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Rockets take Game 1 from the Lakers. The media line on this seems to be that, basically, Houston overperformed while the Lakers were just rusty.

Couple of problems with this:

1) This ignores the problems the Rockets had. Von Wafer was awful in the few minutes he played. Luis Scola didn't shoot well, and neither did Battier, Lowry, or Landry. They made sloppy turnovers and.... well, Dave goes through this a lot better.

2) This ignores the impact of the Rockets' defense. It's fine to say that some of the Lakers' struggles have to do with "rust" or just being off. But how much of the Lakers' inefficiency and - frankly - gutless play had to do with those excuses, and how much had to do with coming into contact with the best defense in the Western conference? And, given the next point, I'm willing to bet that the vast majority have more to do with the Rockets' ability to follow the Celtics' prescription from last year: pack the paint, stop Kobe from getting to the basket, and force his teammates to take the important shots in the first half. And when it becomes clear that Ariza and Vujacic and Fisher simply aren't going to get the job done, Kobe will get frustrated and try to take the game over himself.

And maybe he'll get hot and do it. But he probably won't, and that's a recipe for failure for LA.

3) This is excatly what was said about Game 1 of the Portland series: the Rockets got hot, the Blazers crumpled under pressure, and they surely won't be able to do that again.

When are the pundits going to realize that this is what the Rockets do in big games? They catch the other team with their pants down - the Lakers underestimated the Rockets, as did the Blazers, and so did the Cavaliers. And what happened? The Rockets showed up ready to play, armed with information about their opponents' tendencies, and they exploited those tendencies over and over again.

We'll see what happens tomorrow night, but the Rockets have sent a very clear message to the Lakers: you aren't going to win anything if you think the title will be handed to you. The Rockets aren't the Jazz: they won't roll over just because everyone thinks they're outmatched. And neither will the Nuggets, and nor will the Cavaliers, Celtics, or Magic. Even if the Lakers make it past the Rockets, they won't win if they keep playing like this.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Correction: THAT was Christmas in April

Even though I missed the first half (fuck you, TNT), it was awesome seeing the Rockets blow out the Blazers in Houston last night (though I really didn't believe it - didn't trust the Rockets to hold a lead - until there were about 45 seconds left in the game, at which point I tried to strike up the Yao Ming chant to no avail). It was fantastic, it was beautiful, and it was better than seeing Paul Pierce foul out on a vicious Joakim "the People's Princess" Noah slam dunk.

But there was something even more beautiful, and that was the success of the Rockets sans-T-Mac.

Now, y'all know me. You know I'm a McGrady fan, and I want to see him come back strong next year, but there is something beautiful in tragedy. And, as Free Darko pointed out, there is very little that could happen to McGrady right now that would be more tragic.

In any case, this will make his comeback next season all the more poignant.

Rockets in 6. Shock the world, baby.

Monday, April 6, 2009

It's Christmas in April; Best Astros Season Ever?

We're all zero games back on opening day. Well, except for the Nats, Marlins, Phillies, and Mets, I suppose. They're all half a game back, except for the Phils, who are a full game back after their shellacking last night, courtesy of Derek Lowe. BPro makes a pretty convincing case that the Braves are real contenders this year, and after seeing Lowe pitch with that kind of stuff, I'm inclined to agree. The Braves are back, and they're going to give the other Wild Card contenders (D-Backs, Cards, Phillies, maybe the Reds or Giants, I guess) a pretty tough fight.

I'm much less confident in the Astros, of course. But who knows what will happen? Maybe Ortiz and Hampton find Mutombo's fountain of youth (or maybe Clemens hooks them up with his stash). Maybe Pence explodes into stardom. Maybe everyone has a great season. We'll see, I suppose.

Anyways, I got a copy of "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups" a while back, and I've been thinking about how the Astros' section might look now, six years after it was published. There are some obvious changes to be made, as Berkman and Oswalt have put themselves on HoF career paths and the Astros finally won a pennant (was it really almost four years ago?). But one of the sections for each team is on its players' best single seasons. For instance, the Cardinals' single-season second baseman is Rogers Hornsby in 1922, when he hit for a .402 average and led the NL in just about every offensive category.

The Astros' single-season starting pitcher is Mike Scott in 1986. That makes sense, even today. Scott was ridiculously good in 1986: he struck out 306 batters and led the league in ERA, K's, shutouts, and innings pitched (an underrated category, I think). What's more, he led the league in the K/BB, ERA+, hits per nine, K's per nine, and WHIP. He won the Cy Young that year, and he absolutely deserved it. It was the high point of Mike Scott's career and (arguably) the Astros franchise until either 1998 or 2005, depending on how you weight postseason glory.

In the years since RNBBBBL was published, however, Roger Clemens put in two spectacular seasons in 2004 and 2005, winning the CY in '04. In both years, Clemens summoned something (yeah, I know; I made that joke a few paragraphs up) to lead the Astros' pitching staff to their first postseason victories ever. Is Scott's '86 season still the best the Astros have ever seen?

Well, first we have to figure out which was the better season for Clemens. His age 42 and 43 seasons were among the best of his career - not the best, but certainly up there. In both seasons he pitched over 200 innings of sub-3.00 ERA baseball. He gave up fewer than 200 hits and walked fewer than 80, posting WHIPs of less than 1.2. He was one of the most dominate pitchers in the National League in those seasons, and he was unquestionably the Astros' ace.

But while Clemens won the Cy Young in 2004, 2005 is pretty obviously his better season. He posted roughly the same number of innings (three fewer in '05, though he added a complete game). In that time, he gave up significantly fewer hits, about thirty fewer earned runs, and walked almost twenty fewer. He led the league in hits/9IP, as well as in ERA. While his strikeout numbers decreased in 2005, Clemens was simply better that year than in 2004, and he probably should have won a 7th CY (fuck Carpenter). And if you want to get technical, he was worth about three WARP more that year, too. Clemens had his best season since he was in Toronto in 1998.

For convenience, here's a simple chart of some important categories:

Scott has clear advantages in innings pitched, WHIP, strikouts (by, like, a lot), K/9, H/9, K/BB, and BB/9. He displayed great control, great deception, and was all-around fantastic. Clemens' only advantages are in ERA, ERA+, and raw walks.

But I think we need to view these numbers in context. Scott gave up so few hits in the mid-1980s in the Astrodome. Clemens did it in the era of omnipresent sluggers in Minute Maid Park. Keeping that ERA so low is comparitively easy when the outfield extends roughly into South Park and Mike Schmidt led the National League in homers with a mere 31. In 2005, Andruw Jones (remember when he was great?) had 51. 31 home runs would have been good for 14th on the list, tied with Aramis Ramirez. Morgan Ensberg (who, by the way, easily takes over the Astros' single-season third baseman spot from Caminiti's 1992 season) had 36 home runs in 2005. Berkman, playing in only 132 games, had 24. Carlos Lee - still in Milwaukee - had 32, and the Pride of New Caney posted the first of four consecutive 40 home run seasons. Simply put, there was a lot more offensive production in 2005 than in 1986, and there's a reason why Clemens' ERA meant a lot more in ERA+ than you might expect. I don't really think a case can be made that Scott's '86 season was better.

The one area Clemens was truly weaker was in the postseason. Scott was absolutely transcendent in the NLCS. It's long been said by Astros fans (shit, I just told a Mets fan friend of mine it a few days ago) that, if only the boys in orange had gotten the ball to Scott in a Game 7, the Astros would have surely won (and they had every opportunity to do it, too. Nolan Ryan's performance in Game 5 was spectacular, and it's amazing that the Astros couldn't score more than one run in 12 innings that game). Scott was so good that the Mets accused him of cheating (except for Keith Hernandez, who just recognized Scott's split-finger fastball for what it was). Scott was so good that he gave up only one run and eight hits in 18 innings. He struck out 19 and walked only 1 in two complete games. Scott would've won a Game 7 handily and may have even delivered the Astros their first championship. This was - unquestionably - the best postseason pitching performance the Astros ever fielded (Johnson's 1998 NLDS performance was very similar, though not quite as good), and only the Jackal's efforts in 2004 could rival it for best performance by any player.

Clemens in 2005 was just nowhere near as good. Okay, we all remember him coming out of the bullpen in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Braves, and he was brilliant in those three innings, but it's just nowhere close. Maybe I'm just biased - Scott's performance was before I was born, so I only know it by a few clips and accounts, while Clemens coming out of Game 1 of the World Series, spent and injured and old, is one of the more profound memories I have of that series (along with Bagwell grounding out and me realizing he was very, very old and that this was probably his last game as an Astro) - but Clemens was just not that good in the 2005 postseason. Scott was unbelievable; Clemens was mediocre.

Maybe that means something. Maybe that outweighs everything Clemens did in the regular season, but I don't think so. I think Clemens' superior regular season pitching kept the Astros in the Wild Card race while Bagwell and Berkman were injured. He was the ace of one of the finest rotations ever put on the field, and I think that means more, especially when he did during one of the most offense-heavy eras in baseball history. WARP3 has Clemens' 2005 as worth one full win above Scott's 1986, even with the worse WHIP and fewer IP.

Clemens' season was the best single season by an Astros pitcher ever. Not by much, and with worse results in the clutch, but definitely the best. It's sad that Clemens' off-the-field escapades have come out in the years since, and that he's become such a distraction. He was set up to be remembered as something of a spaz and an asshole, but it was likely that he was going to be remembered as one of the greatest Astros ever, even after his bullshit in 2007. Now all of that is doubtful. Even if he gets into the Hall of Fame (and I think he deserves it and probably will, after a while), no team is going to retire his jersey or remember him particularly fondly - Drayton won't risk the PR hit, the Red Sox have hated him for two decades, and the Yankees are too uptight. He may very well have been the second-greatest pitcher of all time, but he won't be loved. He is, in so many ways, a quintessential Astro - spectacular but so obviously flawed.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Introducing the 2009 Ham Fighters

Haven't posted in a while - primarily because of a dearth of subject matter and an excess of vacation time. I've got a few ideas floating around, but right now I'll violate a basic rule of sports fandom: no one cares about your fantasy team.

We drafted the TCB American League tonight, and I feel pretty good about what I came away with. I used the BPro fantasy projections, and (after snagging the first pick) got three of my top five players: Grady Sizemore (ranked #1 overall), Jacoby Ellsbury (ranked #2), and Brian Roberts (#5). So my starting lineup goes something like this:

C: Kelly Shoppach
1B: Jason Giambi
2B: Brian Roberts
SS: Derek Jeter
3B: Adrian Beltre
LF: Pat Burrell
CF: Grady Sizemore
RF: Jacoby Ellsbury
DH: Jim Thome

The bench is made up of David DeJesus, Ty Wigginton, Ryan Sweeney, Brett Gardner, and Elvis Andrus. Personally, I'll probably move either Sweeney or DeJesus sometime. I'm weak on the left side of the infield, but I think Jeter's status as a leadoff man should provide some extra runs. Hopefully Beltre pans out. I really like Shoppach, and all those experts were very right when they said that the catcher position is very deep.

The pitching corps is:
SP: AJ Burnett
SP: Zack Greinke
RP: Joakim Soria
RP: Troy Percival
P: Andy Sonnanstine
P: Gil Meche
P: Dan Wheeler

The Ham Fighters' weakness is clearly pitching, but I still feel pretty good about it. Burnett's health (and willingness to play like he's paid) is always a question, but Soria should provide a good number of saves. In any case, I've got three pitchers projected for over 150 k's.

Still can't get over the fact I got the possible AL MVP, 2008 stolen base champion, and possibly the best leadoff man in the AL in the first three rounds. Badass. The Ham Fighters are going to rock

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Worst Case Scenarios: Astros Edition

I consider myself a fairly savvy baseball fan. I know that spring training results don't mean anything, so losing 18-0 to the Mets doesn't really disturb me.

But I also recognize that the Astros aren't performing well on an indiidual basis. That the Astros are currently struggling at the plate and on the mound is not a comforting thing. It's not that the Astros are losing by 18 runs - it's that JR Towles isn't hitting for shit, and the only guys who are are Reggie Ambercrombie and John Gall. That's problematic.

Maybe that BPro prediction of a 67 win season isn't too far off. Frankly, it seems entirely possible that Drayton and Ed Wade will be forced to do some things that they never really considered before.

So here are some predictions for what will happen to the Astros by the end of July if they're significantly below .500 and out of any hope for the Wild Card spot:

The economy is going to make most teams unwilling to take on all but the best contracts. Fortunately, the Astros have four fantastic assets - Pence, Berkman, Oswalt, and Valverde. Wade would probably love to move Tejada, but (unless he hits like gangbusters) he's not going to garner much interest. Lee isn't a great value, but there are a lot of teams that need corner outfielders/DH types.

1) Valverde is traded. This is the most likely thing to happen, in my opinion. Teams love great relievers, and Papa Grande is in his final cheap season. Valverde could be worth a lot to a team making a playoff run. He good go pretty much anywhere, but I'd say the Giants or Angels would be the most likely.

2) Oswalt gets traded. This is the next most likely thing to happen, should the shit hit the fan. Of the three Astros with no-trade clauses, Roy is the most likely to waive it. ESPN almost always starts speculating about possible Oswalt trades around June/July, but I think they could be serious this year. The Mets would love him, as always, and so would the Dodgers, but he could go to anyone in contention halfway through the season.

3) Pence is traded. Pence means a lot to the Astros' future, but it's become clear that he'll never be a superstar. That's not bad, but he could get a lot in return. This would be a lot more difficult to predict, however. Again, the Giants are a good option (I've been saying Giants a lot, and they really seem like a team that could make a few moves at the dealine to put themselves over the Dodgers in the division. A few quality bats make them a real contender. He's likely to improve since last year, making him a good replacement for Winn in right or - with a slight downgrade in defense - Rowand in center) This would be an odd move, however.

4) Carlos Lee. Everyone needs a fat outfielder, right? The problem is that Lee is unlikely to accept a trade to anyone but Texas. But, were he to waive that clause, I'd say that - again - the Giants are a great option, as are the Mets. Christ, it would be great to get him off the books, too.

5) Berkman. It pains me to say it, but it might really be in the club's best interest to find somewhere for the Puma to go. The problem, however, is twofold: first, he's got that same no-trade clause and a stated desire to play for only the Astros or Rangers (who don't really need more offense). Second, he's the most popular player on the team. Berkman is a Texan, a Rice product, and Bagwell's successor. We all like Oswalt, and he's obviously the best Astros pitcher since JR Richard had that stroke, but Berkman is the face of the Astros franchise. Attendance would obviously suffer with Berkman gone, but that would probably happen, anyways. However, I consider this really unlikely, given his importance to the franchise. Any number of clubs could use him, but I can't think of any contenders without that 1B/DH/LF position set.

Maybe this will work as a reverse jinx.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Oh God this is just too hilarious

Location: Highway gas station; just outside of Nashville.
Terrell Owens: (open door, finds gas station to be dark) Hello? Anyone here?
Kerry Collins: (appears from behind front counter; visibly drunk) Well, well, well! A visitor!
TO: I'm looking for Bud Adams. Can you tell me how to get to LP Field?
KC: That's easy. (Pulls out shotgun, chambers it) It's right back the way you came, [redacted].

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fuck 'em

I gotta bone to pick cause I'm sick
Of you motherfuckers talkin shit
We pick you up, you put us down and I'm mad
Time to talk about your dog ass

EDIT: I suppose I should actually write about something, instead of simply putting up a shooped picture making fun of Jazz fans and Mormons.

That was a ridiculous game. Had it been officiated in any way CLOSE to properly, the Rockets would have won handily. Instead, Yao got into foul trouble about 4 minutes into the first quarter, and he fouled out late in the 4th on a bullshit charge.

This is my problem with the Jazz: they don't play like men. It's not that they swing elbows and commit fouls at every opportunity - it's that they do that and they flop whenever another team does it to them. If you attempt to play them at their own game, they just pull the acting jobs out and play the refs. I'd have some respect for them if they took whatever they gave, but they prefer to play dirty at one moment and then whine to the refs the next. More than anything else - more than the idiotic fans, more than their favorable scheduling from the league, more than the non-sequiter name - this is what pisses me off most about the Utah Jazz.

And it's also why Sloan will never win Coach of the Year. All the writers hate his style of play, as do all the opposing coaches. He and the Utah Jazz are the bitches of the league, and they know it. And instead of simply cleaning up their play, they just push for more and more, knowing that the refs won't call it.

Why won't the refs do anything? Mostly, it's because if they officiated Jazz games properly, they'd take close to five hours to finish. Hack-a-Shaq would be more interesting to watch. So they let the Jazz get away with a lot. They've done this for twenty years, and they're not about to stop.

The league needs to do something about this bullshit, and they needed to do it many years ago. Personally, I'd just stop calling fouls on Jazz opponents until Utah cleans up its act. I think another alternative is to allow NHL-style enforcers. Let Joey Dorsey wade in and crack some heads until the Jazz figure it out.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

On Justice

An article on the Obama administration's abandonment of human rights rhetoric.

Basically, his point isn't all that different from that made by Nick Cohen a few years ago. Because Bush adopted the language of the left to articulate a hawkish foreign policy (which really wasn't that different from that articulated by numerous leftists in America and Britain throughout the Cold War and into the 90s), the contemporary left went berserk, throwing away any pretense of the universality of human rights. The war in Iraq, which many leftists had been calling for in one way or another prior to the Gulf War in 1991, was thus opposed primarily because it was coming from Bush, rather than an old labor government in Britain or some shit.

Now, I had imagined that, when Obama got into office, he would articulate essentially the same thing (albeit probably in a less hawkish way, and with an attention to the rights of prisoners), his supporters would suddenly switch their position on the United States' calls for human rights, and we would all be struck by the irony of the situation but it wouldn't matter because justice was being fought for. The left these days might be spineless and compromising, but at least it would be doing what's right.

Instead, the Obama administration has decided to simply carry on the position of the left during the previous eight years, preferring to compromise universal rights for possible gains in international politics. I am not naive. I understand that governments do not always pursue justice as it should be pursued. But, as Barone points out, the administration has abandoned even the most minor push for human rights in China.

In truth, it seems to me that there is no such thing as a liberal anymore - at least not politically. Tony Blair arguably was, but he left office in disgrace. What we have left are two different types of relativists - those who believe that human rights only apply to those of us priveleged to live in the West, and those who believe the same but also think we should enact price controls. There are various organizations and writers who believe in something like universal human rights, but they have no power in government.

The cause of human rights - that of global justice - is going into a truly dark period if even the United States is unwilling to put pressure upon those who violate those rights. European powers have long showed they don't care. We're all there is left, and it doesn't seem that our government will do anything to advance that cause.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


In the grandest tradition of the republican cause, the Houston Rockets destroyed "King" James and his Cavaliers on Thursday. Despite the pre-game predictions of Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley, Shane Battier and Ron Artest were able to hold Lebron James to a mere 21 points on 21 attempts, 1 rebound, and (for the first time in his brief career) no assists. It was the first time he was held to a single rebound since 2007.

ESPN has a good analysis of how Shane and Artest stopped the best player in the NBA. Put simply, they allowed LeBron to take as many jump shots as he wanted, yielding everything outside of the paint. This makes sense, mathematically. James shoots something like 75% around the rim, making him an efficient scorer once he gets inside. But, as has been documented so many times, he lacks a great outside shot, even though he seems to believe that he's Kobe Bryant.

The danger, of course, is that you're also yielding three-point territory. But James' outside shot is inconsistent enough to take that risk, and you can adjust if he's able to score outside on that night.

To me, the game demonstrated the major flaw in the Cavaliers' design: while the Cavaliers have a group of solid role-players who can play great defense, they don't have any other real scoring threats, while their offense emphasizes Lebron's offense. There's nothing wrong with that, but, when faced with a Rockets team that can pack the lane and defends well on the perimeter, the Cavs had no answer. The Cavaliers, to be the unstoppable force so many beleive that they can be, need another offensive threat down low. Maybe Varajao will develop that sort of offensive game in the future, but I doubt it.

The only thing I don't like about the analysis given by ESPN is that it seems to miss a critical part of defending superstars. When LeBron was on the floor, the Cavs were -13. A similar stat was given for the Lakers when both Kobe and Shane are on the floor in that Michael Lewis article from a few weeks back.

Lebron, no matter what, is going to get his points. The Cavs' offense is run through him, and nobody is going to tell him to stop taking shots. But, when faced with the sort of defense he encountered on Thursday, he becomes less efficient and less aware, making his whole team worse. The same thing happens when any star player is ineffective. We see it when Yao has a bad night or when McGrady is injured. The things that they do that make their role-players better cease to happen, and so the whole team is worse.

On another note, listen to the TNT pre-game show from Thursday. The idiotic "analysis" from Smith and Barkley astounds me. Barkley says that great players can't possibly be stopped. Smith claims that "good offense always beats great defense" (which is why the Phoenix Suns have won the last three NBA Championships) . The best part, however, is when both claim that the Rockets "packed it in" when they traded Rafer "What the fuck are you doing" Alston. Excuse me while I go laugh my ass off.


The Texans traded Rosenfels to the Vikings for a 4th round pick. It's a good move, but I'm sorry to see the author of the most glorious moment in Texans history leave.

They also hired Bruce Matthews as an assistant offensive coach. Some are saying this means they might draft his nephews, but I doubt it. Clay Matthews is seen as a late 1st round or early 2nd round pick, and will probably be a great LB, but I don't think the Texans will trade down (or up) to get him, nor is there any connection between hiring the guy's uncle and drafting him.

Dunta is reportedly pissed about being franchised. Demeco doesn't like what the front office is doing with his contract negotiations. I sympathize but think they both need to get over themselves.

The Astros won their first Spring Training game, lost the next two. Chris Johnson is exciting a lot of people, and (as much as I'd like to buy into that) I have my doubts about his hitting ability. He's got a lot of power, (reportedly) a good glove, and has garnered a lot of support, but I don't see how a guy hitting .275 in AA and walking about 4% of the time has much chance. Maybe that's just me being pessimistic, though. We'll see how he does in AAA this year. Stranger things have happened. But it looks to me like Chris Johnson is a mediocre prospect who's getting a lot of attention because he plays in the upper divisions of a depeleted farm system. He was rated a three-star prospect and received some nice comments from BPro, but the criticisms against him - free swinger - aren't easy ones to overcome. Again, we'll see what happens.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jazz Fans sure are stupid.

Inspired by this post over at SBN's Jazz site (and by the fact that I'm a horribly lame individual who doesn't find Mardi Gras all that fucking interesting after the third or fourth time), I decided to compare the best point guards in the league. I chose the two best PGs in the Western Conference (and the two who started this conversation), Deron Williams and Chris Paul, and the two best in the East, Jameer Nelson and Devin Harris. So let's take a look, shall we?

Let's start with the basics:Paul has a massive advantage in assists, steals, and rebounds. Nelson is hurting for a lot of stats, but that's mostly because of his injury. Devin Harris has a slight advantage in scoring over Paul, however. Paul has also turned the ball over more than any other PG. But that's obviously not telling us much, right? We need to look at per-game stats.

Pretty much the same thing. Except that suddenly Williams' turnovers are the worst in the group. And he's the worst rebounder. Still, he's second-best in assists, even if he doesn't generate many turnovers himself. But Paul and the other guards play more minutes than Williams, so we need to normalize for that.

The assist gap between Paul and Williams closes, but the turnover gap widens. Harris' lead in points increases. But any good student of the game knows that it's not per-minute stats that matter, but per-possession stats. Maybe Williams looks better than Paul there.

Oh shit. That didn't help Williams' case at all. In fact, it looks like Chris Paul is obviously the best PG in the league. Look at the massive lead he has in Wins, PER, Assists, steals, rebounding (an underrated part of his game). And Williams is turning the ball over a lot. And, when we look at PER and Wins, it looks like (even with Nelson's injury), Williams might be the worst of the group. Let's look at why that might be.

Paul is the best field goal shooter, but Nelson leads in free throws and threes. Harris isn't quite the shooter that Williams is.

True shooting takes everything into account - threes, field goals, and free throws. Nelson is the best shooter of the four, followed by Paul.

Offensive and Defensive Ratings give us the number of points scored and allowed in 100 possessions. Personally, I'm surprised by how close Paul and Nelson are. But why are Harris and Williams so close together, given Harris' much poorer scoring? The answer lies in free throw attempts. Per game, Harris goes to the line about four more times than Williams. Despite his poorer accuracy, Harris gets enough foul calls to make up the difference.

There is absolutely no contest in who is the best point guard in the game. Chris Paul is head-and-shoulders above everyone else in the game. He was the best player in virtually every single category. Only Nelson did anything better than him. He should have won the MVP last year, and he has a good case this year.

The contest is between Harris, Nelson, and Williams for second place. And, looking at these numbers, I think that Nelson makes a good case for the title of 2nd best PG in the NBA. It's a shame that he's out with a labrum tear. But Harris might even come out ahead of Williams, which surprised me. It's important to remember how useful getting to the foul line is. Not only is it the most efficient method of scoring (doesn't take any time off the clock), it also generates more free-throw attempts after the opposing team gets in the penalty, and it can quickly remove opponents from the game.

The funniest part of the linked SLCD thread above was this: Jazz fans wanted to say that Chris Paul was worse because he was smaller. Never mind that Paul is the superior defender and scorer, somehow three inches meant that Williams was the better player. That's not the way it works. But let's take a look at our group's vital statistics. Maybe that will show something Deron Williams is best at:

Shit. Chris Paul is only 6 feet tall, and he's the lightest player in the group. But Williams is tied for tallest, and he has a big advantage over everyone in weight. Good for him.

That last statistic is one of my own design: BQ. Blackness Quotient. It's a measure, similar to IQ, that measures a player's blackness in comparison to other prominent NBA players. 100 is neither Black nor White, lying roughly at the average. Some examples of different scores:

35: Brian Scalabrine - let me break it down for you: so very, very white.
50: Shane Battier - extremely white, but he gets points for being multi-racial.
75: Dirk Nowitzki - pretty white, but he gets points for foreigness.
90: Brent Barry - a white guy, but he also won the dunk contest, the high-point of the (according to Michael Wilbon) "black superbowl."
100: Tim Duncan - black guy, white game.
110: Tracy McGrady - black guy with a black game, but he's also very white-person-friendly. Gives hugs to big Asians.
125: Kevin Garnett - black guy who made all those references to shooting people.
150: Rasheed Wallace - it's the beard
165: Ron Artest - he's got a very white game, but he also terrifies people. Also a (moderately skilled) rapper.
190: Allen Iverson - drove many a Philly fan to start watching Duke.

Deron Williams has a big advantage in BQ, while Chris Paul, with his smiling, endorsement-ready mannerisms, is roughly as black as T-Mac. Hooray for Williams! He finally won something!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Shock the world

I had some half-written post about one of Jerome Solomon's recent columns comparing the T-Mac-Yao tandem with Kobe-Shaq, but I've grown disinterested with it. Suffice it to say that, while Yao is not quite the player Shaq was at 28, he is at roughly the same level Shaq was at 26. Yao has developed into the best center in the Western Conference, as well as the best-rounded center in the league. He is dominant, possibly as dominant as Shaq was in his early Laker years. Up until this season, when Kobe suddenly decided to start pssing and defending well and T-Mac's knee finally gave out, it could be argued that McGrady was better than his rival. Despite the lack of postseason success, Yao and McGrady formed one of the best guard/center combinations in NBA history.

No, what interests me right now are the comments of several other pundits in the Houston and national media. While BDL had correctly evaluated the Lowry/Alston deal as a good one for the Rockets, it also seems that some of its contributers feel this was a surrender signal from Daryl Morey and that, combined with the loss of McGrady, the Rockets are out of contention for the West and may even slip out of the playoffs.


The Rockets have proven that they can win without McGrady. Moreover, they proved they could win against good teams (Boston, Denver) without McGrady. I like McGrady, I love his game, and I think that the Rockets are a worse team without (the healthy version of) him. But he is not irreplacable. Von Wafer is not as good as the injured McGrady, but he fits within the offense and understands his role. Artest is starting to do the same. At the end of the day, this puts added pressure on Yao, but it also means he becomes even more of a focus on the offensive side. And even Rafer-lovers must admit that Skip is definitely not the lynch-pin of this Houston team.

I'm going to be honest: I get a real 1994 Olajuwon vibe from Yao. That year, Hakeem was surrounded with good roleplayers and a quality team, but he was the only legitimate superstar on that team. And he carried the Rockets to a championship.

And I get a real 1995 Rockets vibe from the media - they've been written off in favor of the Lakers, Spurs, and Nuggets, but the only team I think they are noticeably worse than in that group are the Lakers.

Lowry was a great defensive addition to the backcourt. Making a decision about McGrady means a lot for the team's chemistry. And, despite what a few uninformed writers think, I really believe that the Rockets still have a good chance of winning it all this year.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Daryl Morey is a Golden God (pt 2)

The idiots at ClutchFans don't seem to understand how fantastic of a move this is. Daryl Morey has dropped several million dollars in payroll. He has gained a young point guard with a lot of potential. He found a point guard who is roughly the equal of Rafer, offensively, and probably better than him defensively. And he did so by just giving away Rafer. That's incredible. Daryl Morey continues to play the other NBA GMs for chumps. And Houston's idiotic fans don't even fucking realize it. So welcome to Houston, Kyle Lowry. Don't fuck it up.

More fun with photoshop (I was going for a Chinese propaganda look; not sure how it comes off. I like how the first one turned out better than the second).

"Long live the Rockets! Long live Yao's fans!" (I intended for that second bit to translate as "Long Live Yao Ming," but my roommate informs me that it translates as "Yao's fans" instead. Still makes sense.)

"Yao is the people's hammer; Yao will lead us to greatness"

Monday, February 16, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hmmm....It's almost as if reason and statistical analysis is better than faux-moralistic grandstanding and nonsense!

Who knew?

Of course, this reasonable argument would never be expressed in the mainstream sports media. That would make too much fucking sense.

Sometimes, I think Plato was right - the philosophers should rule. Just replace "philosophers" with "philosophers and economists." The ideal and the pragmatic, meeting as one. It's only coincidence that both are my areas of study, I promise.


So Tejada got all teary-eyed yesterday. And, judging from internet reactions, people seem to have forgiven him. And I agree with that - he shouldn't have lied, and there are consequences for doing so.

However, very few in the media have pointed out what utter horsehit these charges amount to. Tejada was not charged with lying about taking steroids. He lied about knowing teammates who had taken steroids. So Adam Piatt tells him during spring training one year that he had used steroids, Tejada tells investigators years later that he doesn't know of anyone else using steroids (it's something of a ridiculous lie; both the Giambis were on steroids, as were several others in the Oakland clubhouse; I'm sure Tejada knew; on the other hand, Tejada doesn't seem too bright, so you never know), the investigators find out that Piatt had sold Tejada drugs later.

This seems, to me, to be an extraordinarily chickenshit charge. I'm so glad that the government has decided to devote its time, money, and personnel to investigating and prosecuting this bullshit. Sure, finding suppliers of illegal (well, mostly illegal) substances is important, but this seemed to be so overblown by the government and media.

In any case, I'm glad Tejada won't be going to jail.

In even shittier news, McGrady might be seriously injured. And he might need microfracture surgery. And that might end his career. Holy fuck, that's not good.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Gotta say, the news that Alex Rodriguez used steroids is some of the least surprising "surprising news" I've heard. Personally, I don't give a shit. I have yet to hear a convincing reason why augmenting the body through steroids is any different from augmenting the body otherwise. I think it's exactly the same, and - as such - it should be allowed. Nevertheless, the media is having a field day over this, despite their facilitation of the entire era.

I wish I could find Ken Caminiti's interview from about a year before his death. I remember one of his basic points was that, when the difference between being cut and having a job, or between getting $2 million in arbitration and getting $5 million is a few home runs a year, you're going to do whatever you can to make sure you have a job or get that extra money. When ownership is demanding more homers, your manager needs you to play every day, reporters grant you more exposure which gets you more money, and (this is the important part) all turn a blind eye to it, steroid use makes sense. Ownership, management, and the media all played a major part in this.

In the past few days, both Oswalt and Berkman have made very clear statements against steroid users. Now, as I've said, I don't think there would be anything wrong* with them taking steroids/HGH.

* I think we need to distinguish between the wrongness of cheating and the wrongness of breaking the rules. I think that steroids probably didn't help much, or (if they did) they did so in the same way as any other physical training or augmentation. Thus, steroid users certainly broke the rules, but they didn't really gain an advantage over their competitors. They broke the rules, but they didn't really cheat. (And, yes, I copied this paranthetical format from Joe Posnanski)

I would be legitimately surprised if it turned out that either the Puma or Wizard were steroid users. Very, very surprised. So what about other players? I think that the vast majority of steroid users were, in all likelihood, scrubs trying to get whatever advantage they could, but some other stars obviously were using, as well. Just a few:

I Would Be Entirely Surprised if They Were Not Using Steroids:

Albert Pujols (this isn't simply Astros homerism. That guy is on the 'roids. I'm sure of it. Just like I'm sure he's several years older than he claims)
Carlos Zambrano

Not a Big Surprise (A-Rod fits this category)

Mike Piazza
Ken Griffey Jr (a lot of people think he's definitely clean, and I'd like to believe that, but I find it doubtful)
Jeff Bagwell (same as the above. It would suck if he were on steroids, but I wouldn't be shocked. Slightly surprised, but not shocked)
Chipper Jones
Jeff Kent

Totally Surprised:

Frank Thomas
Biggio (this would blow me away)
Schilling (fat bastard makes too much noise)


Joe Posnanski, as it turns out, has written a very good piece on the A-Rod/Steroids story. Check it out. However, it quickly diverges into talking about the Serena Roberts vs. Alex Rodriguez thing.

Every article I've read on the subject inevitably comes down on Roberts' side in this, and that's probably a product of journalists seeking to protect their own. That's unfortunate, because Roberts is a hack.

She continued to hammer on the fake Duke rape allegations years ago. She seems to simply have it in for Rodriguez. She broke this story, which was a revelation of confidential information. She has, by breaking this story, probably helped commit a federal crime. As far as I'm concerned, she's an awful journalist and an awful person.

But journalists have a strange view of themselves. They think (wrongly) that they have a special "journalistic privilege" to not reveal sources. They seem to believe that reporting anything - no matter how private that information should be, or how wrongly it was obtained - is their duty and right.

So, inevitably, everyone from Posnanski to Justice is going to defend Roberts' actions. That's wrong.

Monday, February 2, 2009


It intrigues me that, whenever Bud has attempted to fuck over the city of Houston, karma somehow gets to him (I'll consider the massive opportunity cost associated with moving the Oilers from Houston to Possum Hollar a karmic response, too). When he attempted to move the team to Jacksonville (which led the city to give into Bud's demands and tear down the Dome's scoreboard for more seating), Bud's son died in an apparent suicide (My mom tells a story about that one. While the vast majority of her family was from Humble, my great-grandparents bought some land out in Waller back in the 50s. According to mom, the farm in Waller was located near a ranch Bud Adams owned. It was there that his son killed himself).

And now, after the NFL announced that the Sister-Fuckers will play two games next year in the Oilers colors, Bud's wife passes away.

Now, the obvious problem with believing that this is the universe getting back at Bud is twofold: First, you have to believe that it cares about football (it probably does, though). Second, you have to believe that the universe is asshole-ish enough to visit punishment upon Bud's family, rather than Bud himself.

Still, rest in peace, Ms. Adams and Bud III. You had nothing to do with Bud's crap. And the injustice of seeing a sports team move is nothing compared to the injustice of seeing one's loved ones die. So, if you're reading this Bud, my condolences (and go fuck yourself.)

What the hell is this shit?

That Star Trek trailer looks awful. I mean, I loved DS9, and I think the franchise should generally move in that direction, but the new movie just seems like it will two hours of shit blowing up. They've totally fucked up the whole Star Trek premise. And this whole "25 year-old Kirk" thing just doesn't work. The only major characters in the original series who should be even close to that age are Chekov, Uhura, and Sulu. Everyone else is in their mid-30s to 40s. Young McCoy doesn't make any fucking sense. God, they've probably totally fucked that movie up. JJ Abrams was NOT the way to take that franchise out of its current malaise.

Oh, and there was some football game last night, right? Yeah, and it was pretty fucking awesome, too. I was rooting for the Cardinals, and I really believed that they could pull off the upset, but I began to have my doubts when they were down 20-7. But they fought back and let their fans down the right way - not with a boring beatdown for three hours on national television (2002 Texans), but with a spectacular, heartbreaking loss in the closing moments of the game (2008 Texans).

The comparisons between the Cardinals and Texans will invariably be drawn, and this isn't entirely accurate. Yes, the Texans have the ability to make the playoffs next year, and they might even go deep into them, but they have to face a significantly tougher division and conference. Just to make the playoffs, the Texans will have to take on a renewed AFC South. Jacksonville will have a lot of its offensive line back, the Colts will have a healthy Manning for the whole season, and the sister-fuckers might get Haynesworth back (doubtful, but entirely possible). The division will be exceedingly difficult.

Then, should they make the playoffs, they will have to go through the Colts, Patriots, Steelers, and probably Chargers (they'll have Merriman back, so there's that), as well as the other WC team (Ravens?).

To even have a fighting chance, the Texans' defense has to improve significantly in the coming months. The Cardinals' defense turned it on in the playoffs, but they certainly didn't get it done last night. Still, the Texans have one major advantage over the Cardinals: the running game.

But the comparison seems to make sense because they're both historically awful teams whom nobody expects to ever do anything, and they're both equipped with prolific passing attacks and one of the best recievers in football (Johnson is better than Fitzgerald, dumbasses).

But make no mistake: if the Texans ever get to the Cardinals' posisition, they will have been much more heavily tested, and they will be in a much better posistion.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Modernism and Sac Bunts

The Marlins have put up a bunch of renderings of their proposed ballpark on their website. I gotta say, it looks pretty cool. I like the modernist feel to it (oddly enough, it reminds me of Dodger stadium in LA, so it - ironically - has something of a "retro" look). Honestly, I think the Astros should have gone with something more like this. I can't stand the train theme at MMP (yeah, I know. Union Station used to stand there. But trains just don't go with Astros).

I'm watching the Cavaliers-Pistons game, and JVG was talking about some comment from Rick Barry concerning Lebron James. Mark Jackson said, "You don't tell Albert Pujols to sac bunt," and Van Gundy responds with something like, "I wish LaRussa had told him to sac bunt against the Astros." Yeah, me too. I miss Van Gundy and his defense.

Roll Wave, Kill Whitey

So, Thurday I was watching SportsCenter, and what do I see? Yes, my friends, the mighty Green Wave got a mention on national television, as the Yankee fucks in Bristol recapped Chris Simms' game-winning layup against Rice. Not only that, the play (and the resulting "incident" between the Rice coach and Dickerson) was mentioned on Deadspin. Holy shit! The Tulane basketball program is really moving on up now. They scored a few minor victories on the recruiting front this year, the media (both traditional and non-) gives them a mention, and now visiting professor James Carville (he teaches some political science course this semester; and he and his wife give a lot of money to the school) shows up at home games and gives the refs hell. Awesome.

Actually, Conference USA has suddenly made numerous appearances in the media, mostly because of Houston's Aubrey Coleman's face-kicking/tripping-over Arizona's Chase Budinger.

Now, the strangest part of this saga has been the racial angle that has cropped up. Seemingly every story written about this garners some pissed-off white man to scream about black "hate crimes" against whites.

I don't know whether or not Coleman did that intentionally. He might very well have simply attempted to step over Coleman and tripped. But that's irrelevant to this discussion. What's important is that this seems to have struck a very weird chord with white basketball fans.

I think, to many white basketball fans, the college game is a sort of refuge. While plenty of schools in plenty of conferences have, over the years, adopted the high-flying, athletic, "black" style of play (Houston under Guy Lewis was probably the most famous for this, and I'd say Memphis is a great example now, but even traditional ACC schools present this - Georgetown and Wake Forest being the best examples), fewer have kept to the old, less-athletic, "white" style of play. Duke is the prime example of this style. Programs like Duke provide a white alternative to the NBA, and I think plenty of closet racists choose college basketball for this reason.

So these people see a black guard on a historically black team kicking a white kid while he's down, and suddenly all the racist bullshit that these people brought with them comes out. Somehow, Coleman is a personification of every perceived injustice from "reverse-racism," affirmative-action, or black crime. Claims like "Coleman should be charged with a hate crime" are justified with "A white man would be charged with a hate crime." Think about that. That's not justice - it's injustice "justified" by the injustices of the past. This has become (for some very sick people) an opportunity to let out their rage against the black guy who stole their girlfriend or got that promotion over them. Coleman suddenly has become a symbol for the black race, while Budinger becomes a symbol for white men everywhere.

That's screwed up. If Coleman intentionally did that, he did it because he's an asshole, and not because he particular hates white people. Don't let this become anything beyond that.

I'm watching (like the rest of America) the Superbowl today. I hope the Cardinals win, of course (If you root for the favored team, and you don't really have a rooting interest, you're an asshole). Prediction: Cardinals 21-17.

Oh, Christ. Berman just mentioned Dire Straits (specifically "Industrial Disease" and the line "Two men say they're Jesus/One of them must be wrong"). WHY DO YOU RUIN THE THINGS I LOVE, YOU FUCK!