Friday, December 21, 2007

Illinois Basketball

I'll have to do a little bit of research to find out since I don't remember the last time at least one state team didn't make it the NCAA tournament. We are looking at a very real possibility of this happening in 2008.

Not a single team looks like they will be worthy of an at-large bid at season's end. Illinois State and Bradley might have a chance to win the MVC conference tourneys, and that looks like the only way a team representing Illinois will make it. Quite pathetic.

The state top ten:

1. Illinois State - No one deserves #1 - but they beat UIC who beat Bradley
2. UIC - - Beat Bradley head-to-head.
2. Bradley -Embarrassed at Butler.
4. Illinois - Beat at home by a MAC team - worst offensive team I've ever seen at Illinois.
5. Southern Illinois - I'm not sure why they were rated so high going into this year after losing Tatum and Young off last year's sweet sixteen squad.
6. DePaul - So much talent - so little coaching. Is Wainwright Pat Kennedy Jr.?
7. Northwestern - NU is in their usual cycle and are now 2 years away from being mediocre.
8. Loyola - 2006-2007 was the wrong year for Loyola to peak as Butler and Wright St. ruled the Horizon.
9. Chicago State
10. Northern Illinois

"on the verge": Eastern, Western

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wake Me When It's 2009

No, I'm not talking about the White Sox. Their future is probably a bit bleaker. I'm talking about the Fighting Illini basketball team. Is it too late to take back all the nice things I said a couple of weeks ago?

My optimistic projections were based on three premises:

a.) Shaun Pruitt learned how to pass out of a double team instead of forcing bad shots
b.) Chester Frazier improved his shooting enough to become a legitimate outside threat
c.) Brian Randle would be more assertive on the offensive end (I held out no hope he could stay out of foul trouble)

Last night's miserable performance against Maryland left all three of these premises in shambles. Playing poorly against Duke is one thing, but Maryland is not a very good basketball team, and last night's performance was an embarrassment.

I take no solace in the fact that the game was winnable and Illinois kept it close despite playing poorly. Illinois plays hard enough on the defensive end to compete with all but the elite teams in the country. But their complete ineptitude on the offensive end promises nothing but a repeat of last year's struggles.

One factor is that Weber has players woefully unsuited to his motion offense as no one can finish a drive or consistently hit outside shots. Throwing down low doesn't help much as Pruitt can't get it back it out when the defense collapses.

Some writers found Calvin Brock's production a sliver lining in an otherwise ugly game. But I'm less sanguine on Brock's performance and potential. How pathetic is it that a player who shoots 6 for 14 is your offensive star? And did I mention most of his shots were wide open?

I shouldn't harp on Brock since he was in fact their best player last night. But he has an awful shooting form which will never allow him to consistently hit jumpers. This really should have been fixed his freshman year as his shot greatly limits his potential.

Brock has a great sense for the ball and always seems to find space to get off an open shot. If he could consistently hit them he could be the game changing player the Illini need. Weber has failed to develop Brock into a great player. And Weber's failures are starting to add up.

While Jamar Smith will be back next year, the team figures to continue to struggle on offense until Richardson, Bertrand and Paul get to campus in 2009. Maybe then, with athletic guards and wings, this offense can get back in motion.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Garland to the Angels

A year ago at this time, the Sox needed a center fielder, a left fielder and a shortstop. So Kenny Williams went out and traded his fifth starter, Brandon McCarthy, for a bunch a prospects and ignored the gaping holes in his lineup. OK, he did sign Darin Erstad, but I'm trying to erase the Erstad era from my memory.

After predictably bad years from Podsednik, Uribe and Erstad, Williams again needs to fix holes in left, center and short this off-season. He took the first step by trading Jon Garland to the Angels for Orlando Cabrera.

Both are entering the last year of their contracts and the talent changing sides is basically a wash. Both are marginally better than league average players at their respective positions.

But I believe this trade makes the Sox better next year. The upgrade from Uribe to Cabrera will likely be greater than drop-off between Garland and the pitcher who replaces him (at this point it looks like Gavin Floyd). If the Sox do sign a top free-agent in center, they should be competitive in 2008.

You can read a long, but not very enlightening, thread on this trade over at BTF.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Illinois v. Northeastern

Illinois's opening game win over Northeastern was hardly a thing of beauty. The final score was 63-55. Even though the game wasn't as close as the final score suggested, Illinois did not have a good day. Like last year, there were missed free throws, bad outside shooting, and long scoring droughts.

I don't want to make too much of one game as they did get the win. But I don't know if I can take another year of great defense and horrible offense. It's just not much fun to watch.

Hopefully some of the younger guys will play better as none of them stood out except for Bill Cole (6 points). Randle and Pruitt did a good job in the paint but the guards can't seem to make anything happen in the half court set.

In other notable games over the weekend, DePaul blew an early 17 point lead over Creighton and lost their opener on the road. Both teams lost their two best players from last year's squad. DePaul was up by six at the half but Creighton dominated the second and ran away with the victory.

The big surprise in the state was UIC beating Bradley on Saturday. I thought Bradley would be contending for the MVC conference title. But now I'm not sure now as they had no business losing to a team which figures to be middle-of-the pack in the Horizon.

Friday, November 09, 2007

It's That Time

Who's ready for some college basketball? I watched Illinois scrimmage at Glenbrook North last week and there is a lot to be excited about. Illinois has a few good young bigs, Chester Frazier looked good shooting the three, and Pruitt is a beast down low. I think they can be better than expected this year and they have a solid freshman class that will be a good foundation for the next few seasons. Tisdale, Cole, Davis and McCamey have a chance to be part of another final four run. Here's a season preview from the Big Ten Network:

Since I'm feeling optimistic, I'll say the Illini will finish fourth in the Big Ten, even with a very hard league schedule (only Northwestern and Iowa for one game).

Predicted Standings
1. Indiana
2. Wisconsin
3. Michigan State
4. Illinois
5. Ohio State
6. Purdue
7. Penn St.
8. Michigan
9. Minnesota
10. Iowa
11. Northwestern

Unfiltered With Dennis Miller

I've always been a Dennis Miller fan. While he didn't quite fit on MNF, he was no worse than Kornheiser is now. Of course you would think Kornheiser would be better, being a sportswriter and all. But he will never get the criticism Miller did since his sport section colleagues don't have the balls to call him out.

Anyway, Miller has a new show on the Versus channel on Tuesday nights. I'm not sure if I'll catch it as Versus is pretty high up on my channels (I usually stop at FX - channel 58). But this clip that was sent to me by a PR person was pretty funny, even though it includes Curt Schilling.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Really Kobe?

I don't normally watch the Best Damn Sports Show, but the other night, as I raced through channels, I stumbled across one of their "lists" shows. Since I'm a sucker for any type of "list", I watched it for a few minutes. This show was called something like "Most Best Damn Memorable Damn Sports Moments... Damn" or something like that.

This list was actually compiled of different athletes and celebraties recounting their most memorable sports moments.

Kobe was one of the athletes interviewed and he related that his most memorable sports moment was the US Hockey team's "Miracle on Ice".

Now I found this peculiar for a number of reasons. First, I wouldn't think Black Mamba was in to ice sports. I figured it would be a basketball moment, or soccer, since he spent part of his childhood in Italy.

I also found it odd because Kobe most have been pretty young when this happened. I was six and I have no memory of it. Now, I know I'm older than Kobe, so I thought I would check out exactly how old Kobe was when the USA upset those red bastards.

Turns out, Kobe was 18 months old on the night of the "Miralce On Ice". So his most memorable moment was an event that he didn't even witness live. Strange.

Jonathan Chait on Charlie Weis

The Worst Football Coach in the Universe

Not really into Jonathan Chait's politics, but he is one heck of a writer. He rips Charlie Weis to shreds here, and on this subject, I couldn't agree with him more.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Things Aren't Looking So Good

Wow, my last post was over four months ago! Like the Sox, I decided to take the summer off. Maybe I'll be motivated to post a little more often with college basketball around the corner.

As for the Sox, I don't hold much hope for them. Of course, I didn't before the 2005 season either. But looking back, a lot of things broke the right way for the 2005 Sox. Things look a little bit bleaker now.

I think it's become clear that Kenny Williams knows how to put together a decent pitching staff but falls far short when it comes to building an offense. He got lucky before the 2005 season, signing Pierzynski and Dye off the scrap heap. But resigning them to extensions during the 2007 season exposed Williams shortcomings: not clearly understanding the aging effects of players and not understanding the value of getting on base. Neither Dye or AJ got on base much last year and they will most likely only get worse as they get older. Thank goodness we have AJ until 2010!

But seriously, I Like Pierzynski. I just think 2008 will probably be the last year he will be an effective starting catcher. I like Dye a lot, too. How can you not like World Series heroes? Dye's two year extension also made more sense as the Sox really didn't have any other appealing options for the upcoming year.

But it looks like the offense again will be at best mediocre and there is just too much talent in the division to think that will be good enough. Like this year, you never know when a bullpen might implode or a starter will suddenly lose it. And the Sox offense will not be able to pick up the slack if the pitching falters.

I would like to think that Williams can make some moves to help the Sox offense in 2008. But while I know he is willing to make these moves, I don't think he knows the right moves to make.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Top Ten Sports Movies

Sox fans need to look at the bright side of this complete mess of a season. For the first time since 2002 you don't have to spend the summer worrying about the Sox chances of making the playoffs. No more emotional roller coasters. No more spending countless hours in front of the television when you should be spending time with your family.

I've decided to take a few minutes of my newly found free-time to list my top ten all-time sports movie (inspired by this post on The Big Lead). I can't argue too much with the lists on TBL, but they did have a couple big omissions (Bad News Bears, Breaking Away, Hoop Dreams)

Before I get to my top ten, let me breakdown my contenders by sport:

The Natural
The Bad News Bears
Major League
Field of Dreams
Bull Durham
Pride of the Yankees

Hoop Dreams
One on One

The Big Lebowski

Rocky II
Raging Bull
When We Were Kings
The Champ

Breaking Away
American Flyers

Jerry Maguire
Remember the Titans
The Last Boy Scout
All The Right Moves



Kung Fu
Enter The Dragon
Karate Kid

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Olympic Sports
Revenge of the Nerds

Color of Money

Some aren't really sports movies so I guess I'll take out The Big Lebowski, Gymkata, enter The Dragon and Revenge of the Nerds (The Big Lebowski would definitely be top five). Anyway, here we go:

1. Rocky
2. The Natural
3. Breaking Away
4. Hoosiers
5. Caddyshack
6. Raging Bull
7. Hoop Dreams
8. The Bad News Bears
9. Jerry Maguire
10. Slapshot

Honorable Mention: When We Were Kings, Rocky II, Bull Durham, Major League, Karate Kid

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Run Differential Comes Down to Middle Relief

While the Sox came into Tuesday night's game against Oakland with a 22-19 record, their Pythagorean won loss record is the exact opposite at 19-22. The Sox have been outscored 168-182 despite their winning record.

If you break it down by innings it looks like the Sox have started games slow and ended them worse:

Runs Scored/Allowed
Innings 1-3: 41-57
Innings 4-6: 69-50
Innings 7-9: 54-71

Now Jenks has actually pitched pretty well this year, so most of that damage has been done in the seventh and eighth. In those two innings the Sox have been outscored 55-39.

The Sox did blow a couple of late inning leads against the Cubs, but most of this damage was done by letting a couple games they were already losing get out of hand.

Middle relief is still a problem, but I think it is one of the easier ones a team can fix. The Sox have internal options and can always make a deal if things don't improve.

I think the quickest way to make the bullpen better would be to send Sisco down to the minors. His mechanics look horrible, he can't throw strikes, and he has one of the more pathetic change-up deliveries I have ever seen. He actually slows his arm motion down to throw the change as if he was a little leaguer believing a change-up just means throwing the ball slow.

He has a strong arm, but I doubt he ever gets his act together to become an effective pitcher.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Positive Post

Sox fans are displaying a lot of angst after dropping 2 0f 3 against the Cubs and watching the offense sputter for 4o games. But from my perspective the glass is definitely half-full.

Konerko and Dye started swinging their bats better this weekend and Thome returns to the everyday lineup tomorrow. This is a team that can average five runs per game and I think they will going forward. And for the record, I don't think firing Greg Walker will do anything to help the Sox score more runs.

As for the Cub series, what can you say. At least they didn't get swept. I thought they would drop two of three going into the series. That doesn't lessen the frustration of watching the bullpen blow two winnable games, but I take some comfort in the fact they avoided the worst case scenario.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

April Players of the Month

The Sox struggled in the opening month but at least they finished above .500. That's quite a feat given their horrendous offense.

Offensive Player of the Month - There were so many offensive players it's hard to just pick one. But seriously, I have to go with Darin Erstad. Only Jim Thome has put up better numbers, but since he is on the DL, I'll give POM honors to the grinder.

His 261/312/375 batting line is not very good. But is better than I thought he would do and his numbers are pretty much the best on the team right now. Obviously, it was a brutal month for the Sox offense.

Pitcher of the Month has to be Mark Buehrle for tossing the no-hitter. He also didn't pitch to poorly in his other starts, going 2-1 in 33.1 IP with 22K and only 5 walks.

The surprise of the month has to be David Aardsma who has struck out 23 in 15.2 innings. Unfortunately, he did blow a 2-run 2-out ninth inning lead against Detroit, but you can't expect him to be complete Cub-free after just one off-season.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday Ramblings

Those Under Armour advertisements on the outfield wall at Wrigley look horrible. They would have been better off going with something more elegant rather than white paint on the green background. Now the Trib not only looks greedy for putting ads on the outfield walls, but also cheap for putting up ads that are plain and ugly. Of course, cheap and greedy is how the Trib has always run the club, with this last off-season being the exception.

This off-season they spent money recklessly knowing full well that it wouldn’t be their problem once the team was sold.

Some have argued that the Cubs spent money on free agents in order to make the club more attractive to buyers but that makes no sense. The Cubs just increased their liabilities thus driving down the value of the club. They’ll still sell for an ungodly amount of money but don’t think for a second that any potential buyer won’t take into account the fact he is going to have to pay Alfonso Soriano $18 million when he is 38 years old.

The Tribune has a responsibility to shareholders to maximize profitability which is why they shouldn’t have been running the Cubs in the first place. But the one time the Trib brass needed to hold the line on costs to increase the sale price of the franchise, they screw shareholders over by signing overrated players to foolish long term contracts.

But enough about that Chicago team. The White Sox have been exact opposite of what I expected this season. Except for the first two games against Cleveland, the Sox have had dominant pitching coupled with very poor hitting. I believe the offense will eventually get going but I’m unsure of how well the pitching will hold up.

Ozzie came under some fire for his moves (or lack thereof) in Wednesday night’s gut-punch 2-1 loss against the A’s. He had multiple chances to pinch-hit to get a lefty-righty matchup and failed to make a defensive replacement for Pods in left before the tying and winning hits went his way in the ninth.

These criticisms are certainly valid. But I thought the biggest mistake was giving Todd Walker two curves with two strikes on him. Bobby Jenks obviously didn’t have his best fastball, barely getting above 90mph. But Todd Walker is a) old and b) coming in as a pinch hitter. He didn’t look very sharp swinging at fastballs early in the at-bat and I think Bobby could have gotten a high fastball by him.

Why don’t they ever climb the ladder when Bobby Jenks is in? The pitch sequences are entirely predictable. Get two strikes and drop the hammer. When Bobby is on it doesn’t matter; he is unhittable. But when he doesn’t have his best stuff they need to call better pitch sequences.

Of course, the pitch sequence wasn’t the only problem as Bobby left the second curve over the plate. If your going to give a batter two curves to look at, the second one better be in the dirt.

Anyway, the Sox got the game back yesterday by scoring five runs off the Duscherer and Street in the eighth and ninth innings, so I guess you could say things evened out.

My only complaint is that I had to stay up until midnight to watch them blow Wednesday’s game while they made the impressive comeback while I was at work.

DePaul sophomore Wilson Chandler announced he was making himself available for the NBA draft. He could probably be a first round pick if he stayed in school another year. But he will definitley make money playing pro basketball either here or overseas. If he doesn't enjoy college life, nd not everone does,I see nothing wrong with his decision.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Sox Win! Salvage One Game

Well, it only took a three games but the Sox finally got a W. Nearly everyone places way too much emphasis on the start of the season, but it's only natural after waiting all winter for the season to start.

I went to today's game and the weather wasn't that bad. If you had a seat on the sun it was comfortable without gloves or a hat - even with cold beer in hand.

The Sox are now 1-2, the same record they had after three games last season. It would be foolhardy to try and divine what will happen in 2007 after 27 innings of baseball. Of course, that didn't stop the local idiot from already claiming the season a disaster:

What a snow job, huh? And I don't mean the matinee weather Wednesday, a wicked blitz of blowing flurries and swirling hot-dog wrappers that rendered the White Sox even more miserable to watch. All offseason, Ken Williams talked down his nose at media and fans, actually lecturing us in his booming Lou Rawls voice to relax, stop hyperventilating and believe in his bizarre pitching-staff manueverings.

When he was roundly doubted anyway, Williams whined to any national reporter who would listen about the mean cusses dogging him in Chicago. ''It's a little difficult to keep swallowing,'' he said of the second-guessing.
Well, swallow this: The starting rotation stinks. I can say that smirkily after watching a raggedy Jose Contreras, pitching much older than his press-guide birthdate, offer up the shortest Opening Day outing for a Sox pitcher since Claude Williams in 1917 -- the same Lefty Williams on the take during the Black Sox scandal. And I can say that snarkily after watching a wild Jon Garland, on a bitterly cold day made for a pitcher, blow a 3-0 lead to the walloping Cleveland Indians and allow five runs and four walks in barely five innings. I realize these are only two games. But if the performances are a hint of evils to come this season, as many suspect -- in an iffy rotation also involving a declining Mark Buehrle, an unreliable-past-the-fifth Javier Vazquez and mystery rookie John Danks -- I have just one thing to say to Williams.

We knew more than you knew.

Now, I don't want waste a lot of time this season on pointless rebuttals of ignorant criticisms. But I wanted to get a few things out of the way.

First, I hate how Mariotti uses "we" as if he is speaking for anyone other than himself.

Second, most valid criticisms of KW's off-season moves were for his failure to solidify the outfield, not for altering the rotation. The only people upset about the moves in the starting rotation were columnists, and fans like myself who wanted to see McCarthy get a chance in the rotation after following him for years in the minors (although admittedly I do have one friend who thought Garcia has some quality innings left in him).

Third, no matter what moves Kenny had made in the offseason, Garland and Contreras were going to be part of the rotation (unless Garland was traded, which Mariotti would surely have blasted). Despite their rough start, they will most likely be their two most dependable starters this year.

Fourth, Jay Mariotti does not know more than Kenny Williams. JAY MARIOTTI DOES NOT KNOW MORE THAN KENNY WILLIAMS! The fact that this moron would have the gall to write such a thing is infuriating.

I had no problems with William's offseason pitching moves. He tried to help the club long-term without damaging their short term prospects, and as far as the starting staff goes I think he succeeded.

The main criticism I have of Williams goes back to the Vasquez/Chris Young trade. I still think McCarthy could have started last year and that trading for Vazquez was unnecessary. Those dominoes continued to fall this offseason as McCarthy was shipped out and Vazquez was signed to an extension.

I would have a lot more respect for Mariotti if he would have criticized this move at the time it was made, but I honestly doubt he had ever heard of Chris Young before the trade. But of course that won't stop him from criticizing the trade if Chris Young ever becomes a great player and makes the Sox look bad.

Sorry for the rambling. Hopefully it will be the last time I write about Mariotti this year.

P.S. The misspelling of "manueverings" in the block quote was done by Mariotti and the Sun Times, not me.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Tribune Baseball Preview

Just a reminder that the Trib's annual baseball preview comes out with Monday's paper. I was sent the following press release for those interested (full disclosure: they are sending me a poster that will appear in select copies of Sunday's trib. What can I say, I'm a cheap date.) Also, Illinois' Mr. Basketball (presumably Derrick Rose) will be published in tomorrow's paper.

· Select copies of Sunday’s Chicago Tribune will include a free full-color, poster-sized season schedule for both Chicago teams. Measuring at more than three-feet high, this special insert is a keeper all season long. Be sure to pick up your free schedule in Sunday’s edition only available at Chicagoland newsstands, retail outlets and newspaper boxes.
· Monday’s edition of Chicago Tribune will include its annual baseball preview special section, complete with team rosters, season schedules, predictions, “9 Things To Know” features and loads of photos of your favorite Chicago players.

· Go to and interact with other fans, submit fan photos or browse others’, and don’t miss the return of “From The Cubicle” coverage starting on Monday.

· Help us celebrate the start of baseball season as we hand out free Mardi Gras beads in both Chicago team colors on your way home from work on Friday between 3 and 7 p.m. (or until supplies last). Catch us outside CTA Red Line stops (Addison, Belmont, North, 95th Street and Chinatown) as well as the IIT Green Line stop.

WHERE: Pick up the Sunday and Monday editions of the Chicago Tribune at your local newsstand, read our online coverage of Chicago baseball at and grab your free baseball beads on Friday afternoon at select CTA “L” stations.

Central Predictions

After giving this 30 seconds thought, and then spending 30 minutes building the tables, here are my predictions for the two Central divisions:

AL Central

I'm going with Detroit since they are the only AL Central team to improve themselves over the winter. Minnesota should threaten, but a lot of what they do depends on how long they wait to bring up Matt Garza and Scott Baker up from the minors and into the rotation. Of course, nothing would make me happier than watching Ortiz and Ponson make 30 starts this year, but I'm afraid that won't happen.

The 2006 Sox weren't good enough and nothing I've seen suggests this version is any better. Most likely they are worse.

You would think the Indians would be a great break-out candidate as their Pythagorean winning percentage last year suggests they ran into some bad luck in 2006. But with their weak bullpen, I can envision them blowing many late leads as they have done the past couple of seasons.

NL Central

I don't think the Cubs built a great team, but they should have half of one as they figure to put a lot of runs on the board. That should be good enough in the lousy NL Central. And as the Cardinals proved last year, once you get into the playoffs anything can happen.

But something tells me I will be celebrating a hundred year anniversary drought next year.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

AL Central 2006 Run Distributions

2006 was a pretty strange year in the AL Central. Cleveland had good hitting and solid pitching yet still managed to finish below 500 at 78-84. Detroit was the most consistent team all year but lost the division on the last day of the season after being swept by the Royals. Minnesota had the privilege of being outscored by more than two runs per game and April then turning around and doing the same to their opponents in June.

Below is where the teams stood according to their win distributions. RS eW is each teams expected amount of wins if you combined their daily offensive output and matched it with league average pitching (example: teams that score six runs win about 60% of the time - if a team scored six runs 20 times, that would give them 12 expected wins).

RA eW is the exact same thing done with runs allowed.

TeamRS eWRA eW

As you can see, the Sox had the best offense and the fourth best pitching in the league which was good enough for 90 wins. Yet the Indians had the second best offense and third best pitching and finished with only 78 wins.

From May to July Cleveland outscored their opponents 409-398 while posting a record of 32-47! If I were an Indians fan I would sit here and try to figure out what happened. But since I'm not, I'll just give a Nelson Muntz laugh and move on.

According to the run distributions, Detroit was better than Minnesota in both offense and pitching. But the the distributions don't quite tell the whole story. If you could somehow combine your low scoring games with your bad pitching games you could in essence "save your runs" for times when they are most needed. Now, you can't do this intentionally, but this is in fact how the Twins season played out.

As you can see, April was the Twins worst hitting and worst pitching month. They scored 4.04 runs per game but gave up 6.17. If you took a half a run out of August and added it to their offensinve output in April, they probably still would have gone 6-15. Yet that half a run probably won them four games in August.

Now there were very good reasons the Twins got better after April. Their pitching shook off an early season slump, Liriano replaced Silva in the rotation, and Castro and Bautista were dropped for better offensive players (actually the replacements were better defenders too).

So while Detroit finished with better overall numbers, I don't think they were the better team at the end of the year.

I thought it was interesting to see that the Royals offense wasn't all that bad last year. They finished just a bit below average on offense, but the staff only pitched well enough to win 67 games. It makes overpaying for Gil Meche a bit more understandable.

As for the Sox, it is time to close the book on 2006. Lets just hope the monthly trends shown below don't extend into 2007.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

White Sox Runs Scored Allowed Compared to AL

Here are the charts for runs allowed last season. As you can see below, the Sox pitching ended up right around league average. I guess it only seemed worse. Actually, it started out fine but got worse as the season went along. I plan on looking at that in more depth in a future post. For now, I'll just say that the pitching was below average after April and May and you can't see that in the chart.

Overall, the Sox pitching staff would have been expected to win 82 games if combined with a league average offense.

Runs Allowed Distribution

As we saw in the last post, the Sox offense was much better than league average, which is why they won 90 games and not 82. The chart belows shows that they outpaced the league average in winning percentage for just about every run distribution point.

Winning Percentage

Now I need to add the Sox play in a pitchers park, so you might want to adjust these numbers accordingly. However, the Sox actually gave more runs on the road, so the park didn't seem to play that large of a role.

It seems a bit odd that the Sox would give up more on the road than at home, especially considering the AL Central has a few pitcher's parks in Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City (and I remember a low scoring series in Fenway, a hitters park). Just another of baseball's many mysteries.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

White Sox Runs Scored Compared to AL

Well, I procrastinated a bit posting the run distributions. It wasn't all laziness. The numbers didn't really show anything that we didn't already know, so I wasn't motivated to put the charts together. Hmm, I guess that would still qualify as laziness.

Anyway, on to the charts.

Runs Scored Distribution

As you can see, the Sox offense did better than the league average in putting runs across the board. For some reason, they had trouble scoring five runs as they only had 14 such games compared to the league average of 18.5. As we saw previously, the 2005 Sox has 28 such games.

Nevertheless, the Sox did have one of the better offenses in the American League last year. With league average pitching, the Sox offense would have been expected to win 88.6 games according to their runs scored distribution.

The Sox ended up with 90 wins, so 1.4 wins could be chalked up to pitching, defense, coaching and luck. Since I watched a lot of Sox baseball last year, I'll go with luck.

Winning Percentage

The win % chart highlights another fact we already knew: the Sox could not win low scoring games last year. The made up for it by winning more than their share of four and five run games. I'm not sure what to make of it, if anything. Your theories are welcome.

I'll post the runs allowed distributions tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Last Year of 2 Classes in Basketball

The boys basketball Class AA playoffs started on Tuesday night. It will be the last two class tournament as the IHSA decided to expand into four classes in 2008.

There was controversy when the tournament divided into two classes back in 1972, but the tournament continued to be successful. However, I think the latest change may have a lasting effect on the tournament's popularity.

Back in 1972, the IHSA didn't put into place an arbitrary class system. They simply recognized a state of affairs that already existed. There was a huge disparity between the quality of basketball played between the smaller downstate schools and the bigger urban schools.

Hebron, with a an enrollment of 98 students, was a great story. But a small school winning the state championshiop in a one class system was not likely to happen again.

So for the past 35 years, if you wanted to know who the best team in the state was, you simply had to follow the AA tournament. But as the IHSA moves to a four class system, that will no longer be the case. We won't know who has the best team in the state. I have no doubt that many years the 3A team might be better than the 4A team, but they won't have a chance to prove it on the court.

We've seen this happen in football which has expanded into a ridiculous 8 classes. No one knows who has the best team, and no one can keep track of all the state champs.

Now basketball titles will also be cheapened.

As it now stands, teams that will compete with each other in conference, will enter separate state tournaments. Does that make any sense?

At least we'll still have the city tournament. Until they decide we need more city champs, too.

Oh and the punchline:

The class-expansion vote comes after a recent survey of member schools showed 64
percent approval for the move. Fifty-seven percent of member schools (426 of
752) responded to the survey, which the IHSA released Dec. 20.

The IHSA made this historic change at the behest of only 272 of the 752 member schools. So there was not an outcry for a change, nor a reason for one.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Colleges :: Illinois among five NCAA locks

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Colleges :: Illinois among five NCAA locks

Not quite. I'm not quite sure why Herb Gould would make such a statement. If he pays any attention at all he would know that Illinois is probably in right now but far from a lock.

If Illinois loses Saturday and in their opening round BT tournament game they will not be an at-large selection. I don't think this will happen, but it is certainly possible. Therefore, they are not a lock in any sense of the word.

Even the one expert Gould consults, Jerry Palm of, lists Illinois as an 11 seed, which should tell you all you need to know about their "lock" status.

There are at least 30 websites the make bracket predictions and a majority of them have Illinois as one of the last teams in. My guess is Gould spends so much time actually travelling and watching games that he doesn't get to do a lot of bracketology research. In this case, the blogger sitting at home in his pajamas is more likely to have an informed opinion than the reporter on the scene.

Friday, February 16, 2007

2006 Run Distribution v. 2005 Run Distribution

I plan on posting the 2006 run distributions in three phases: against the 2005 team; against the AL average; and against the rest of the AL East.

Run Scored Distribution - % of Games

I posted these charts at the end of August but wanted to post the final numbers. Obviously, the 2006 did a much better job scoring runs. The 2005 squad was able to score fives and six runs many more times than the 2006 team. While that was often good enough for the 2005 team, the offensive output of the 2006 was still superior.

Run Scored Distribution - Win %

The winning percentages of the 2005 team in low scoring games was phenomenal and not repeated in 2006. As you can see in the chart above, the Sox just needed to score 3 runs in 2005 to achieve at least a .600 winning percentage and they didn't do too shabby when they only scored two runs. The reason they had so much succes in low scoring games in 2005 was because the pitching was much better.

If we look at how many games each team would be predicted to win with league average pitching (run distribution X league winning percentage at that run level)* the 2006 Sox come out ahead 88.6 to 80.4, a full 8 games better.

Run Allowed Distribution - % of Games

You can see why the Sox won so many of those low scoring games last year. The pitching staff yielded 3 runs or less in 49.38% of their games last year compared to 35.42% in 2006. As for the high scoring games, the Sox gave up 7 or more runs in 32 games last year. In 2006 that number was to 46.

Run Allowed Distribution - Win %

This chart shows how the 2006 Sox were able to win some games even when the pitching gave up runs. In 2005, the Sox only won 7 out of 45 games (15.6%) in which they gave up more than 6 runs. In contrast the 2006 Sox won 14 out of 61 (23%).

Overall, the expected wins by the 2005 pitching staff with a league average offense would have been 92.11 games compared to 82.04 for the 2006 team, a full 10 wins better.

What I found interesting however, is the fact the 2005 team actually had a better winning percentage than the 2006 Sox in games where they allowed either 4 or 5 runs. This should not be the case as the 2006 team had a much better offense. I'm not sure if the discrepancy can be fully explained. I would chalk it up to the small sample size (42 games in 2005, 37 in 2006), lucky bounces (or clutchness if you believe in such things), and a lockdown bullpen. In 2005, it always seemed that the Sox played with the lead and did enough to hold on for nine innings. In 2006, it always seemed, the Sox were digging out of holes created by their starters.

Like I said, I don't think it can be fully explained. Yet, at the same time it doesn't really surprise me that the 2005 squad had a better record when they allowed between 4 or 5 runs. I always expected the 2005 team to pull out the close ones and felt the exact opposite watching last year's squad.

* for example, AL teams won 59.1% of their games when they scored 5 runs. The Sox played 14 of these games and would be expected to win 8.27 games (14 x 59.1%). Adding up all their games would give their offense 88.6 wins.

Friday, February 02, 2007

In Defense of Tank Johnson

Bill Plaschke, Jay Mariotti, and others, have taken their turns ripping into Tank Johnson. They believe the Bears, the NFL, and the legal system, have been too lenient on Tank. Not only do they not believe he belongs in Miami, but I get the feeling they would be happy to see him in jail.

But for what exactly? I don't want to minimize his legal problems, but the least you can say is that they are not felonious.

Legal Issues
He was first arrested 18 months ago when a valet at the club Excalibur noticed Tank put a gun in the glove compartment of his car. The valet called police who went in and arrested Tank inside the club.

Now packing heat in your car might not be the brightest idea, but it seems to be somewhat common amongst black athletes. This is not something that should be condoned by anyone, but it's hardly a major crime. Tank pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge and received 18 months probation and 40 hours community service. He should have bargained for 12 months probation.

Then, as everyone knows, police raided his house in Gurnee and found six guns. Tank was then arrested for not having Illinois Firearm's Owner Identification Card. Now, this is a card you can receive by mailing in a form along with five dollars. This is an administrative oversight, not a serious crime! These are misdemeanor charges, and it boggles the mind that this justified a police raid and forcible entry into Tank's house.

Those are the extent of Tank's legal problems and I don't think they justify prison, home confinement, or suspension from the league. If anything, Tank has been treated worse by the legal system because he is a football player, not better.

Now I know there are other aggravating circumstances including:

Tank was arrested last February outside another night club after telling a cop,"You ain't the only one with a Glock. If it wasn't for your gun and your badge, I'd kick your ass."

Now, I think that is actually pretty funny as you can be 99% sure the cop was being a prick. I would say 100% but I am sure there is a nice cop out there that I just haven't met. Charges were later dropped after this arrest.

Tank's buddy was arrested after the raid on his his house for marijuana possession.

I don't think marijuana is a big deal and I am not going to pass judgment on those who use it anymore than I would pass judgment on someone who drinks martinis.

There were firearms in plain sight of Tank's children.

Now, this is troubling, but we really have no idea if this is true. The police have to cover their asses after over-reacting with a police raid and need something to justify their heavy-handed actions. Anything they say has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Tank's buddy was killed at a nightclub.

This is the one I don't get. How in the world is Tank responsible for this and what is wrong with going to a nightclub? It's not like getting shot at a nightclub is a common occurrence and it's not like Tank frequented clubs in shady neighborhoods. He was hitting trendy clubs in the River North neighborhood, one of the least likely places you will get shot in Chicago. He has no moral or legal culpability for the death of his friend.

Tank may, or may not be, a good person, and he sounds like a pretty shitty neighbor. But nothing he has done deserves the vilification he has received in the press.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Erstad Signing

Sox GM Prepares to enter lions' den

By any measure, Darin Erstad has been a pretty bad baseball player over the past six seasons. You do not have to be a stats geek to come to this conclusion. I'm not sure if Mark Gonzales looked at any stats before writing the garbage. Here are some choice selections out of his column today:

Erstad signing may take some of the heat off Ken

General manager Ken Williams will bring much welcomed relief to douse the verbal flames directed at him Friday when sold-out SoxFest opens.That break will come from Darin Erstad, who will bring more than 11 years of solid production when he's introduced to fans craving a return to the postseason after a one-year absence.

Are any fans excited about this signing? Most people I know just hope he won't be worse then Pods or Brian Anderson.

And if Erstad is recovered fully from a right ankle injury that limited him to 40 games with the Los Angeles Angels last season, he could provide the Sox with the same type of bargain Jermaine Dye has during his two seasons after being hindered by leg injuries.

Well, Erstad and Dye are the same age, so the chances of Erstad having a breakout season ar age 33 are much less than they were for Dye at age 31. Dye was also a much better hitter than Erstad throughout his career.

As a former Nebraska punter, Erstad provides manager Ozzie Guillen with the athleticism the Sox lacked last year. Erstad can bat anywhere in the top of the order, and his ability to bat second could allow Tadahito Iguchi to slide down to more of a run-production spot if leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik recovers from a sports hernia operation.

If Erstad was actually an athletic, top of the order type hitter, he would have commanded much more than a one year, one million dollar contract as a free agent. The Angels only offered Erstad a minor league contract.

The Sox most likely signed a player who is done, and the chances of him being out of baseball by the end of they year are greater than him earning a starting spot in the outfield.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bubble Watch

I wanted this to look better but unfortunately Google spreadsheets don't quite work like I thought they would. Anyway, in the future I will include a chart of the teams that should be in but for tonight I will just list my bubble teams and how I would rank them right now. I know you can get this information in a lot of places but my main focus is to see where the Illini stack up.

At most, eight of the following bubble teams will be selected for the tournament. Of course there will be some conference tourney upsets that will push a team into the tournament that would not have been otherwise invited, thereby reducing the amount of at-large bids available. You can expect five or six teams of the teams listed below to get an at-large.
  1. Maryland - RPI 29
  2. Florida State - RPI 27
  3. Georgia Tech - RPI 35
  4. Michigan - RPI 36
  5. West Virginia - RPI 54
  6. Stanford - RPI 38
  7. Kansas St. - RPI 58
  8. Illinois - RPI 42
  9. Vanderbilt - RPI 55
  10. Bradley - RPI 34
  11. Georgia - RPI 41
  12. California - RPI 45
  13. Northern Iowa - RPI 47
  14. LSU - RPI 63
  15. Virginia - RPI 66
  16. Xavier - RPI 49
  17. Miss. St. - RPI 74
  18. New Mexico St. - RPI 82

Illinois and Bradley find themselves just outside the bubble, but they only need to pass up a handful of teams to play their way in.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Countdown to Rexstasy

I was going to write a snarky post about how the city was a lot more excited about the baseball playoffs in 2003 and 2005 then they were about this years Bears team. There were even 6,000 no shows for last week's game against the Seahawks. Now that had a lot to do with the huge price tag - but I can't imagine the same thing happening to the Sox or Cubs in the playoffs.

But this week was different. Even if may fans are a bit pessimistic (at least I am) there is a palpable sense of excitement in the city for the game this week. Yet, I still don't think it compares to the what the city experiences during the baseball playoffs, but that's an argument for another day.

As for the game this weekend its hard for me to make any predictions. I do think the offense is good for 21 points. The bigger worry is the defense. They're just pretty mediocre without Tommie Harris and Mike Brown.

But the Saints are not as good as everyone thinks. Jason Whitlock's this week column was pretty enlightening. He argued the Saints are making a big mistake by splitting carries between McAllister and Bush, as Whitlock argues:

Deuce was averaging damn near 10 yards a rip. But Payton kept sending in
New Orleans utility back Reggie Bush to do grown man’s work. Bush was having
decent success. But every carry he got was once less chance for Deuce to break
Jeremiah Trotter’s arm ripping through a hole on a simple isolation.

Siragusa kept subtly pointing this out every chance he got. For some
reason, Moose Johnston was reluctant to fully pick up on what was obvious to
Siragusa and anyone with a brain. New Orleans’ marketing scheme, Reggie Bush,
was stopping the Saints from putting away the game.

It's hard to argue with Whitlock as Bush only averaged 3.8 yards per carry this year with a long run of 18 yards. Bush is still a dangerous weapon in the receiving game, but the Bears may be better off with him taking a lot of hand-offs.

So who do I think will win? Well, as a Bears fan, there is no way I'm putting that in pixels.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Going Nowhere - Illinois Division I B-Ball

There is no movement in the rankings of the state teams as they all continue to tread water (or sink at the bottom). In reality, there is not much difference between the top four teams. If they played a four team tournament I would be hard-pressed to predict who would come out on top. Illinois and DePaul have the biggest upside and both teams have a chance to prove their worth in upcoming games against top competition.

1. Southern Illinois (14-5 overall, 2-1 last week) The Salukis have lost their last three road games including their last one Wednesday against Evansville. The Purple Aces are the lowest rated team Southern has lost to with an RPI of 98. Salukis have a chance to redeem themselves Saturday at Creighton.

2. Illinois (14-6, 1-1 last week) Illinois has blown a second half lead in five of their six losses this season. This week it was a nine point halftime lead over Michigan State that the Illini couldn't hold. They came back to beat Minnesota on the road on Wednesday. This week they have Wisconsin and Indiana at home. If they win both they shoot right back into the field of 65. Split and they remain on the outside looking in. For Bruce's sake, at least beat the Hoosiers.

3. Bradley (13-7, 1-1 last week) The Braves got a good win at Indiana St. last week, but lost at Creighton. Still looking at an NIT bid.

4. DePaul(12-7, 2-0 last week) DePaul won two games they should have won, at Rutgers and home against St. John's. The Demons have a chance to make some noise over the next two weeks with games against Georgetown, UConn, and W. Virginia.

5. Loyola (12-7, 1-1 last week) They lost at UIC but remain ahead of them in the rankings, thanks to the Flames losing at UW-Milwaukee and the Ramblers winning at Detroit. The Ramblers play their next four games at home and look to improve upon their 4-3 conference record. Butler comes to Rogers Park next Thursday.

6. Illinois State (10-9, 1-2 last week) Beat reeling Wichita State on Thursday but dropped home game to Missouri State.

7. UIC (9-10, 1-1 last week) Beat Loyola then turns around a drops a road game to UW-Milwaukee (RPI 178). Three winnable games coming up against Wisconsin-Green Bay, Detroit and Cleveland St.

The rest:
8. Chicago State (7-15, 0-1 last week) they played Oral Roberts (who beat Kansas) tough on the road before losing 59-53.

9. Northern Illinois(4-12, 0-2) Things don't look like they are going to be getting easier for Rob Judson up in DeKalb.

10. Eastern Illinois(5-15, 0-2) Boy, I had some good times in Charleston. None of those good times involved basketball.

11. Western Illinois(4-14, 0-2) I spent a weekend in Macomb too. Let me tell you, its no Charleston. Western has an RPI of 335 out of 336 teams. I think the Leathernecks should set up a game against Denver (RPI 336) to determine exactly who has the crappiest D1 team in the nation. And congratulations to Larry Dumas, from Bloom High School, on your scholarship to Western. Go Trojans(or whatever your calling yourselves these days)! I hope you're part of the solution and not the problem.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

State of Illinois Basketball - Division I

The state has seen better years when it comes to college basketball. Illinois will be lucky to have one team make the tournament in 2007 as the top teams all look pretty mediocre. None look like a top 25 team. Here are my rankings of the state's division I programs:

1. Southern Illinois (12-4 overall, 1-1 in-state) The Salukis have been the most consistent team in the state although their resume is not that impressive. Their best win came against Virginia Tech (RPI 44) and they have lost to the other four top 50 RPI teams they have played (Arkansas, Indiana, Bradley, Northern Iowa). All four loses have been road/neutral games. The Salukis are experienced and play great defense which makes them the most likely team from the state to make the NCAA tournament.

2. Illinois (13-5, 2-0 in state) The Illini suffered injuries and shooting slumps during the non-conference slate and did not pick up a signature win. Wins over Bradley and Missouri are nice but will not get them in the tourney come judgment day.

Weber has taken his lumps for a couple of poor recruiting classes, but the most disappointing players on this team were from Self’s last class: Randle, McBride and Carter. McBride and Carter, seniors, seem destined to leave Illinois without fulfilling their potential.

I’m more optimistic regarding Randle. He had his groin surgery less than two months ago, and understandably looked tentative his first few games back. But he showed the explosiveness fans have come to expect from him in Illinois’ victory over Iowa.

I’m less sanguine about the prospects for the team as a whole this year. They have the potential to make a run in conference play. If Randle continues to make progress coming back from his groin injury, if Carter doesn’t disappear in games, if they can get the ball to Pruitt down low, if Frazier can stay healthy, if McBride and Jamar Smith can consistently hit the outside shot, they can be good. But that’s a lot ifs and an 8-8 conference record and NIT invite wouldn’t surprise me.

3. Bradley (11-6, 4-1 in state) The Braves are the most surprising team in the state as they lost Patrick O’Bryant and Marcellus Sommerville from last year's Sweet Sixteen squad. The Braves lead the nation in 3-point shooting at 45% and have beaten Iowa State, Southern Ill., DePaul, Loyola, UIC and Rutgers. They only have one bad loss (Tennessee Tech, RPI 190) but are still a long shot to make the tourney. Probably NIT bound.

4. DePaul (9-7, 2-2 in state) DePaul has the best scalps of any team in the state, Kansas at home and Villanova on the road. So then how does this team lose to Northwestern and St. John’s? DePaul is not consistent enough to do great things in conference play, so unless they win their conference tourney, they are looking at an NIT bid.

DePaul is easily the most disappointing team in the state right now. Wainwright appears to be a better recruiter than coach. I thought the opposite was true when they hired him.

5. Loyola (11-6, 0-1 in state) My alma mater. This was supposed to be the year we made it back to the tournament. The preseason favorites out of the Horizon league are not living up to their lofty expectations. Their biggest win to date is against Northern Iowa. Butler’s great start means the Ramblers are no longer expected to win the Horizon and with UIC’s upset of Butler on Wednesday, it’s questionable if they are the best Horizon team in the state.

6. Illinois State (9-7, 1-1 in-state) Best win over Northern Iowa. Beat UIC. NIT is the goal for this team.

7. UIC (8-9, 1-3 in state) The Flames are playing better with Jimmy Collins on an indefinite leave. They did beat Butler last night in overtime, but I actually don’t think they will do much in the Horizon as they do not have a win on the road and have five losses to teams with a RPI of +100.

The rest:
8. Chicago State (7-14, 0-1) No conference, few home games, just trying to survive division. At least they’re doing better then the teams below them. Didn’t Kanye West drop-out of Chicago State? Why doesn’t he help the Cougars out? Maybe he doesn’t care….

9. Northern Illinois (4-10, 0-1) They are going to need a great coach to compete in the MAC. The Big Ten, Big East, ACC, Big 12 and SEC heavily recruit the state’s best players. Those who feel snubbed are likely to try and catch on with a MVC team. Where does that leave Northern?

10. Eastern Illinois (5-12, 1-1) Bad. Only team they have beaten in the past month is Western.

11. Western Illinois (4-12, 0-1) Very bad. Only two wins against Division I schools.