Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thank You, Bulls

I am sitting here on a bright and sunny Memorial Day. The sun is shining, birds are chirping and it's finally hot outside. This has been the first weekend without our Chicago Bulls. They kept us engaged through a harsh winter, a frustrating "spring" and the daily grind that is life.

Who could have predicted a 62 win season, an MVP, a Coach of the Year AND a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals? I certainly did not. Some will speculate whether the Bulls overachieved this year (which is possible). At the end of the day, they had a great season and a respectable playoff run. When analysts and fans discuss the teams that can contend for a title next season, the Bulls will be in the conversation. A two-guard will come either via trade (OJ Mayo or Courtney Lee), free agency (I'd rather not see the JR Smith experiment for the second time), or the NBA Draft. The Bulls have two first-round picks this year (28, 30 respectively...I'm hoping they can trade up to grab an Alec Burks, Klay Thompson or a Marshon Brooks). Personally, I'd much rather see the Bulls trade up and throw in an additional piece to draft Marshon Brooks (he's probably the closest to contributing now). I think Vik Denic would agree:
He can score in a variety of ways, and thanks to his freakish 7 foot 1 wingspan finds no trouble finishing at the rim. But what makes Brooks so potent is his ability to create separation off dribble hesitation. Considering this draft’s weak crop of shooting guards combined with his rising draft stock, don’t be surprised if Brooks is long gone by the time the Bulls are on the clock with the 28th selection. That said, I give Gar Forman my full endorsement to trade up for this dynamic scorer out of Providence.
Despite the Bulls flaws, we see a team that has a bright future. The average age of the Bulls is 27.4 and they have an even younger core -- Rose(22), Deng(25), Gibson(25), Noah(25), Asik(24), Brewer(25). The Bulls will be competitive next season. David Haugh wrote:
Of most importance, this year announced the Bulls are back, the proverbial year-ahead-of-schedule team with a clear plan and bright promise. It defies logic to categorize the 2010-11 season as anything but outstanding despite their collapse in the finale.
I am not mad because the Bulls lost to Miami (or in the way they lost). I am mad because I can no longer watch this amazing team. Instead, I'm stuck with horrible baseball.

Wake me up when September ends.

Monday, May 30, 2011

NotGraphs: Superior Names Of Baseball History

Baseball's long and racist storied history has produced many big, All-American names: Ted Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and Ty Cobb. In the midst of these great names exist the more secret and generally awesome names of baseball's minor players. They may have had less impact on the game, but they had the game's most Superior Names.

This is my latest series on NotGraphs. Please investigate it. In this first endeavor, we peek into the lives of Eddie Stanky, Boots Poffenberger, Peanuts Lowrey, Snuffy Stirnweiss, and the Great Elmer Sexauer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

J.T. Thomas: Greatest Bears Rookie?

Sports are not very meaningful. Football, baseball, basketball — it's all just entertainment. Disney tries to romanticize it; writers try to glorify it; and fans try to draw greater meaning from it. In the end, though, it is a business not unlike the circus, where athleticism and showmanship wow the audiences and pay the bills.

So, when a player uses his circus platform for something good, it shows legitimate character. These athletes could just do their job like normal, then go home and secretly run some elicit empire of evil — and the world would still praise them.

Though athletes do not need to do anything truly good to earn praise, many are still praiseworthy — such as the great Warrick Dunn, who's on-field accolades could never hope to match his off-field accomplishments.

Anyway, Colleen Newport of Blogger of the Midway brought this great tidbit to my attention:
The season hasn’t started yet, hell, there might not even be a season. But, J.T. Thomas is already my favorite Bears rookie.

Thomas has an autistic brother whom he helps get on and off the bus for school. An eighth-grader, Joslyn Levell, rides the same bus and happens to be a Bears fan. When Thomas found this out, he made sure to introduce himself to Joslyn.

After talking for a bit, the young girl got a little teary-eyed as she told him she couldn’t get a date to the prom. She has spina bifida and is confined to a wheelchair. None of the boys at her school wanted to take her to the dance.
The article goes on to describe how Thomas took Joslyn to the prom.

As an outside linebacker, Thomas certainly faces a legitimate challenge: Finding playing time in the Bears linebacker corps is no small task. Here's hoping he does.

Here's the original story on NFL.com.

Brad On ESPN: Searching For The Real Matt Garza

I forgot to mention the other day (Sunday) that I had one of my pieces featured on ESPN.com (via FanGraphs). There is a paywall, so only ESPN Insider members can actually read it, but I'll put my good standing with ESPN at risk and tell you my conclusion: Matt Garza is rather good, but not as great as his FIP.

Also, we've installed a new commenting system. If you hate the system, please let me know and I'll switch back to the old stuff.

Monday, May 23, 2011

WHAT THE?!: A White Sox Season In Review

At the end of spring training, the White Sox looked great on paper. After a 7-4 start, they seemed to have the potential to give Minnesota a run for their money. Who would have thought that run would be a fight for their lives to stay out of the cellar, instead of for the division.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pessimism Cat: Real Cubs Fans Hope For Losses

The Chicago Cubs 2011 season has not taken the path for which we hoped. Well, maybe it has. I certainly like when the Cubs win, but I am also a big fan of justice: I like it when bad decisions and hubris lead to failure and punishment — or more importantly, learning and repentance (I'm fine foregoing punishment if the offender makes legitimate change).

The term repent means to admit you're lost, turn around, and then go a different direction. If the Cubs make it to the playoffs — or worse, win the World Series — then the Cubs leadership would essentially be receiving a reward for their mismanagement and obstinately backward ways.

Ailse 424, writing on the Obstructed View Blog, knows this strange pain distinctly — the pain of rooting against your own team:
Meanwhile the fans, and hopefully more of the media will finally notice that Tyler Colvin was sent down to the minors, Brett Jackson isn't anywhere on the horizon, we traded away valuable depth in the organization to acquire a pitcher heading into his most expensive years, Koyie Hill is now getting regular playing time, and the entire roster seems to have had it's extra-base capabilities sucked away by the ravages of time. Perhaps some [follow-up questions from beat writers interviewing the Ricketts] may be coming soon. I won't hold my breath, but I'm certainly more hopeful about that than I am about the Cubs ever reaching the .500 mark again this season.
The Cubs are not a great team this year, and they have only their own management to blame. I'm personally of the opinion that Hendry is a great scout, but if the Cubs want to be legitimate, they need more than just a good scout, they need a great front office.

Besides That, Cubs Fans, How Have You Enjoyed the Ricketts Era? | Articles

2011 NBA Playoffs: LL Taj G

After the Bulls beat Miami by 21 points in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, several of my female friends suddenly became infatuated with Taj Gibson (keep in mind, this is his second year on the Bulls — but I digress). Love statuses on Bookface combined with marriage proposals and wishes of carrying Taj Gibson’s baby led me to believe he had the same effect as an LL Cool J song. It’s true though, the 25 year old from USC has played a helluva post-season:

But after 2012, things may get dicey for the Bulls and Gibson. Taj has a team option for $2.2mil for the 2012/13 season (that will hopefully be exercised). But if the Bulls are strapped for cash, they may choose not to exercise the option and let Gibson walk (not good).

Given Taj’s age, potential, and productivity, he may be offered starter money after the 2012 season. This is a problem for the Bulls as they have massive amounts of money locked up in four players:

Player | Age after 2012 Season | Salary
Luol Deng | 29ish | $13.3mil,
Joakim Noah | 29ish | $11mil,
DRose | 24ish | $17+mil + Chicago tax revenue + 1 Rahm Emanuel
Carlos Boozer | 31ish | $15mil

I may be getting ahead of myself but I believe the future of the Bulls at PF is Taj Gibson. But the Bulls may be stuck with an overpaid PF [Boozer] while letting youth walk out the door -- a move typical of a team in Wrigleyville (that was for you, Tyler Colvin). The two players that the Bulls MUST keep around are Omer Asik and Taj Gibson. But for this to happen, one of the above players must be traded (and we know it won’t be DRose).

Regardless of outcome, the best time to trade Boozer would be after this season. With his history of injury and age, Boozer may be untradeable by 2012. Otherwise, Gibson may continue to add limited value by coming off the bench until Boozer is traded (which no one can say at this point) or is released to free agency after 2012 (if the Bulls don’t pick up their team option); God forbid he ends up on another team in 2013 (Dare I say: the Heat?).

Love Taj while you can, ladies. Like most good men, he may be off the market before you know it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The 2011 Tyler Colvin Experience Has Ended

The Cubs have decided to send down the young Tyler Colvin. The former first round draft pick hit 20 homers last year, despite receiving only partial playing time. The hope this year, is that he would again clobber the ball and push Kosuke Fukudome for playing time.

Instead, Colvin hit .113/.191/.258 (batting average / on-base percentage / slugging percentage) over 68 plate appearances, while Kosuke underwent his typical April surge. Even though Fukudome has yet to hit his first home run of the season, the Japanese right fielder has dominated to the tune of .326/.434/.368.

Hopefully, though, full-time plate appearances in Triple-A Iowa will help Colvin not only find a groove, but work on his plate discipline. Even last year, when he hit 20 bombs as a rookie, Colvin was still only 12% above average (per the statistic weighted runs created plus, or wRC+) — that is on average about how good Darwin Barney has been so far, and he hits mostly singles.

It looks increasingly — with each day's passing and subsequent addition to the loss column — the Cubs will be well out of contention come the All-Star Break. As such, Kosuke, whose BABIP (batting average on balls in play) suggests he has been quite lucky so far, could either come back to earth hard (and consequently lose play time) or could find himself on another team (say, one in contention).

This would then open an everyday slot for Tyler Colvin, who will hopefully have resurrected his hitting in Triple-A. Granted, Colvin's poor performance this year could be attributed to his really low BABIP (.116), but at the same time, his batted ball profile does not give us anything to smile about: very few line drives, lots of ground balls, and lots of fly balls.

So here's to you Colvin: May you find your stroke and more among the Des Moines mighty!

Monday, May 16, 2011

2011 NBA Playoffs: How Taj Gibson Impregnated The Women Of Chicago

Taj Gibson's put-back dunk netted him a rebound, dunk, two points, posterized three Miami Heat defenders, and loved up on the ovaries from Lincoln Park to Hyde Park. Keep him away from your woman.

Taj has been to the mountaintop, indeed.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 NBA Playoffs: Bulls v. Heat Preview

The Chicago Bulls will face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Well, this is the matchup everyone has been waiting for. These, in my opinion, are the keys for the Bulls to win this round of the playoffs.

Lineup Changes

In Game 6, against the Atlanta Hawks, Coach Thibs changed his fourth quarter lineup. Us Bulls fans were waiting for a lineup change. Stat geeks (like me) were scratching our heads at the perplexity of leaving Kyle Korver in a close game for the hope he gets a good screen and a good look to hit an open jumper. However, Kyle is a liability when he is not shooting the ball well. I felt Coach Thibs system of implementing a defensive scheme, while leaving Korver in a close game, was -- er, contradictory.

But finally, Thibs went with the lineup of Rose-Brewer-Gibson-Deng-Asik "The Sheik" in the fourth quarter.

This lineup ranks 7th in minutes played but it has one of the higher success rates (68.5%); second behind the lineup of Rose-Brewer-Deng-Gibson-Thomas. Some would argue sample size (minutes played), which is a fair argument. But there is something to this lineup. The Rose-Brewer-Gibson-Deng-Asik lineup keeps the opponents effective field goal percentage (eFGA) to 28% and reduces opponent shooting from close range (dClose) to 26%, this unit also has a +5 turnover advantage (forcing more turnovers than committing). Personally, I would like to see more Gibson and Asik. Nick Friedell wrote:
Gibson’s strong play down the stretch only reinforces the fact that the Bulls have one of the best benches in the league. A key that most teams aren't able to lean upon this late in the postseason.
I hope Coach Thibs continues to put efficient lineups on the floor. Luckily, he has plenty to choose from against Miami.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Not Buying Barney: Is Darwin Barney For Real?

The Cubs have not had a whole lot to be excited about this season. The offense has been offensive, the base running has been run aground, and the attendance has been... Bad.

Anyway, one of the few glimmers of excitement this year has been Darwin Barney, the glove-maven of a second baseman who earned some special accolades for his early season performance. Coming into yesterday's game, Barney had .315 batting average and a homer and 2 steals. Not bad for a fellow touted for his defense!

Here's the problem — and it's a big problem: Darwin Barney's strong batting average masks his otherwise pedestrian offense output, and his minor league numbers suggest he's playing way over his head right now.

In Barney's best year in Triple-A, 2010, he hit 16% below average, accord to weighted runs created (or wRC+, an all-encompassing stat that appropriately weights each batting outcome). In that year, he sported another decent batting average (.299), but was only average at getting on base (.333 OBP) and frankly devoid of power (.378 SLG).

In other words, Barney's 2011 MLB performance (which has been about league average, per wRC+) is unlikely to stay this good. Very, very few players are able to suddenly hit better when they reach the MLB level. Most regress instead of progress, hitting worse than they did in their previous AAA stint.

This is not say Barney is not valuable! He's cheap, he's good at fielding (which is a big unknown in value at this point), and he's half-Asian — what's not to like?! Just do yourself a favor and don't put him on your fantasy team anytime soon.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Missing Derrick Rose Jersey

Trekking through the wet streets and gloomy skies of a Chicago “Spring," I was on a quest to find the Derrick Rose jersey. I visited Wrigleyville Sports (in the basement of Macy’s — yeah, I didn’t know it existed either), Footlocker, and the Adidas store without much luck.

I went to the final regular season game of the Bulls, and I went inside the apparel store in the United Center. While elbowing little kids and stepping on women’s shoes I scanned the room from one side to the other for the Derrick Rose jersey… Nothing. I thought, with 100% certainty, that if any place had it in Chicago, this would be the place — after all, this is where the Bulls play — they couldn’t possibly be sold out. I maneuver my way to the counter like a shark out for blood and ask the cashier where I can find it, because at this point, I have exhausted all of my resources:

“Oh sorry, Sir. But we’ve been sold out for weeks. We’ve put in an order to the manufacturer [Adidas] but we’re waiting in line like everyone else.” He said.

“Seriously? The United Center is waiting in line? Isn’t this where the BULLS PLAY? This does not make any sense.” I responded with disbelief.

"Yeah. It seems like everyone is waiting in line for this jersey. Worse part about it is, we have NO idea where we are in the line” He responded. “But here’s a number you can call at the NBA Store or you can order it online…the trick is to “customize” a jersey with ‘Rose’ on the back — you could get it faster."

Finally, a solid lead to get this jersey.

I went to the NBA Store site, and I saw the red jersey and decided to “customize” it. I enter Rose and number one (1) then place my order. So far so good.


I receive an email the day before the jersey is to arrive at the NBA’s processing facility (keep in mind it has been three weeks since I placed the order) and they inform me that my order is being delayed...
We wanted to inform you that there is a delay in fulfilling the item listed below in your order. Please accept our apologies for this delay.

At this time we do not have a ship date for the item. If you choose to wait for the item to ship, you do not need to contact us, and we will continue to process and ship your order as soon as we can. Please note, your credit card will not be charged for the item until the order is shipped.
I called the NBA Store, irate; I implemented lamaze breathing to stop me from chewing out the unlucky bastard person that had to take my call. He informed me the expected date on when jerseys are to arrive is the end of May (at that point, it would have been 8 weeks since I placed the order) but still, he was unsure of the quantity of jerseys they would be receiving and could not commit to that date nor to my order being processed (it seemed as if there was a plethora of orders ahead of mine).

I appreciated his honesty and thanked him for his time. I think most businesses would string people along, selling them on false hope and/or timelines. He was aware of the risks (me cancelling my order), and he told me the truth anyway.

I ended up cancelling my order. To wait 8+ weeks (minimum) for a single jersey is a little too much; even by my standards. I’ll eventually find the jersey; I just hope I have a parade to wear it to.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

FanGraphs: What's Wrong With Ryan Dempster?

I've just posted my latest FanGraphs article, this one entitled, "What's Wrong With Ryan Dempster?" Here's the thrust of my assertion:
Dempster’s Pitch F/x data looks too similar to last year (similar velocities, possibly better movement) to say he’s lost a grip or some of his speed. Moreover, his strikeouts and walks are not out-of-whack, so basically everything has been held constant except his luck. His ERA is awful (8.05 ERA) but his FIP shows underlying success (5.75 FIP) and his xFIP wards off the luck beasts and shows the Ryan Dempster we know and love (3.92 xFIP).
Mosey over to FranGraphs for the remainder of that article.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chicago Bears And The 2011 UFL Draft

If you have been living in some walled-in complex without access to television or the internet, you may not have known about the NFL lockout. Yeah, apparently after the recent collective bargaining agreement (CBA) fell through, the NFL began what can only be described as a Molasses-Slow, Paint-Drying-Dull Court Battle.

Well, fear not pro football fans! The United Football League (UFL) is firing on all five cylinders, preparing for the league's 2011 season! Just yesterday, the league conducted their first ever Twitter draft — a draft conducted entirely online at Twitter.com. I honestly thought the idea seemed kind of silly, but in execution, I felt it was actually nifty. Seeing as how Twitter seemed to preempt basically every draft pick in the NFL 2011 Draft, it seems only right to skip the middleman.

Anyway, of note to Bears fans: The Virginia Destroyers (my team of choice until an Illinois or Florida team makes an appearance/reappearance) drafted two former Bears, running back Adrian Peterson (a long-time backup and special teams standout) and defensive tackle Ian Scott (who served in the Bears d-line rotation for several years).

Great news for me! I like both those guys, and because the Virginia Destroyers are pretty much the Florida Tuskers (my original team) in a different state, I'm pretty stoked this marriage has taken place.

Of course, most of these guys will be holding out for an NFL contract. A lot of the players drafted by the UFL yesterday were UDFA — un-drafted free agents — from the 2011 NFL Draft. Because there's no new CBA, the NFL cannot sign these guys as roster fillers and practice squad players like they typically do.

This uncommon opening has allowed the UFL to snatch some otherwise unavailable talent and actually develop these young players — or show signs of life for the older players, a la Dominic Rhodes in 2010. The UFL schedule, which ends in late November, allows these players to become the equivalent of September call-ups in baseball. I believe they must pay the UFL a substantial fee if they breach their contract and sign on with the NFL (similar to how the baseball minor leagues worked in the early 1900s).

Anyway, I'm excited about the UFL and think a minor league for football is long overdue!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Ultimate Decision: Sox Or Cubs

Greetings, Cubs Stats readers! Today, we're excited to announced the addition of our newest writer, Alishia. She is a Chicago southside native and — regrettably — a White Sox fan.

In our ever growing effort to expand our commentary on all Chicago sports matters, Alishia fits the bill. She's a talented writer and genuine person; we think you'll like her. :)

-Bradley Woodrum

When living in Chicago, there’s one question we’re all faced with at some point: Sox or Cubs. We’re all very familiar with this question and regardless of whether or not you’re a true die hard or merely a casual fan, the answer leaps instinctively off of your tongue as if you’d been asked your name.
For me, the answer is simple: White Sox. There’s no question, no doubt, and not a chance of indecisiveness. I’ve been a Sox fan for as long as I can remember, and while some Cub fans in recent years have started to jump from the mother ship of all happy hours that is Wrigley Field, for the most part, fans don’t stray once a side has been designated.

So why are we so loyal to whichever side of town we claim holds our hearts? Why am I a Sox fan and not a blind follower of Chicago and baseball’s once lovable losers? At first, I thought this question was much deeper and needed extensive thought and research to figure out.

In the Chicagoland area, there are roughly 10 million people, and while not everyone is a life-long, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generation Chicagoan, most of these people will pick a side upon inquiry. I wanted to break everything down, and assumed my findings would naturally back my assumptions.