The Numbers Game – Week One
1. Hello Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome back into the Numbers Game laboratory. Since taking on the Sports Writer position at TSB, starting the spring semester of school, and coaching a youth baseball team, I have been up to my neck in stuff to do that I haven’t had the energy or desire to get back into the lab and compile together another edition of The Numbers Game. Well, whether it’s because I finally don’t have to talk about Tebow every week, or the fact that I just miss the weekly discussions as a whole, I am back to for what we are calling the regular season portion of The Numbers Game. We can just call those first editions to be the preseason games. Let’s get to it.
2. Who would have thought that Sportscenter could possibly make you miss the days of Tebow-mania? Well, they are getting dangerously close with their insane, wall-to-wall coverage of Linsanity. Seriously, I really do like the guy. In my eyes, Jeremy Lin is not a true point guard in the sense of the position, but more of a blend between a point and a shooting guard. People have compared his game to that of Steve Nash’s and the comparison is applicable. First off they run the same pick-and-roll offense that Coach Mark D’Antoni engineered in both Phoenix, where Nash currently resides, and in New York. Secondly, they never pick up their dribble until they absolutely have to and always keep the play alive. Now as Lin develops and begins to recognize different coverage’s and how to defeat them, his insane turnovers will decrease and his floor vision will continue to grow.
3. Looking at some of the ridiculous numbers that Mr. Lin has put up in his first six starts and you see two trends that are more blips than trends in the long run, but will determine which type of player he will develop into two or three years from now. We already talked about the turnovers and some of the records he holds are pretty bad. He is the only player in the league this season with two 8-plus turnover games, and he is the first player in Knicks history with four straight games of 6-plus turnovers. In his first six starts Lin has 57 assists to 36 turnovers. Compared to that of the first overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft John Wall, who was drafted by the Washington Wizards, he has 51 assists and 30 turnovers in his first six starts of his career. Now while Wall’s assist-to-turnover percentage is slightly better than Lin’s in that time frame, Lin has been credited with making his teammates around him better by running the offense and trying to get everybody involved. The biggest knock against Wall has been his inability to really develop into a true point guard in the league, and many have doubted his desire to turn around the Wizards and that organization.
4. What Lin has also set some records in this year has been his ability to score the basketball. With 136 points, he know owns the record previously held by future Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal as scoring the most points in a players first five starts since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976-77. Like Wednesday night where Lin only scored 10 points, his 27.2 PPG average he was holding through those starts will drop to about 17-18 PPG when the year is over with. For a point guard that is nothing to hold your head on, especially when you have guys like Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire as your team’s top two scorers. In comparison, Wall had 19.4 PPG through his first five starts in 2010.
5. Now I am not trying to get into a Wall vs. Lin discussion here, but it’s always fascinating to look at numbers and various data to try to come up with a reason why the No. 1 overall pick who had no shortage of potential in his game could soon become outshined by a kid from Harvard that was released from the Mavs training camp in 2010, cut from Golden State and Houston, (the Rockets releasing him on December 24th, 2011 for Samuel Dalembert,) and was living on various people’s sofas as of 10 days ago. In sports we as fans dream about these kinds of stories and the hope and inspiration they can bring ourselves and the youth of our country to try and succeed at something they love in life. The biggest thing that I hope doesn’t happen is the four-letter network blowing this “Lin-sanity” movement so much that even Knick fans can’t stand to watch Sportscenter in the mornings because the run list only contains bits involving #17. I knew this was going to get out of hand when they had a segment two days ago entitled “Top 5 Lin Nicknames.” That’s good ESPN; let’s have a top-5 nickname segment with more possibilities than Lin has starts in the NBA.
6. Overall, I believe the kid will average around 17.5 PPG and 8 assists throughout his NBA career, which in the Knicks offense with the pieces around him will bring a lot of wins and excitement to the city of New York. Boy, that city must be starving for a championship. Oh, wait.
7. It’s OK, Patriots fans; I am not going to talk about the two-week-old Super Bowl game. Instead, I feel like recapping some of the more important aspects of Super Sunday. So, it is my pleasure to introduce my Super Bowl XLVI Recap Number. Sponsor to be determined.
8. Let’s start with the commercials, which for most people with little rooting interest in the actual game is what they pay attention to the most. My favorite of 2012 has to be the Doritos dog commercial where he bribes his owner not to rat him out to the wife about her cat’s true “disappearance." I think Doritos generally comes out with one really off-the-wall yet simple ad every year and they definitely didn’t disappoint in Super Bowl 46. I also really liked the Chrysler ad they ran during halftime with Clint Eastwood narrating the commercial. While the whole Detroit angle may be drawn out just a bit, I think he focus of the ad wasn’t just to Motown but to the entire country. Chrysler has done an outstanding job the last two years of getting big name celebrities (Eminem in 2011,) to come and headline the ad without taking away from the overall message the company is trying to send out. Those two took with them my Commercials of the Year. Speaking of egotistical celebrities, how about that MIA huh? Who would have thought that someone could make Nicki (I like to have exorcisms performed on stage of the Grammy’s because I want to be different and edgy) Minaj look tame? Sure enough, MIA’s little stunt with the bird truly took away from what was a pretty visually entertaining halftime performance. With little expectations from Madonna, I actually liked how she really was able to put on a true show and used the entire stage very nicely. She had a different playbook than the Black Eyed Peas did last year, who’s goal was to stay in the same spot for the entire performance and just jump up and down again and again and again. I feel bad for Madonna in the sense that after she tamed herself down and put together this incredible performance to entertain millions and millions of fans, only to have it ruined by some attention-starved artist who wanted to make the show about her. Overall, the biggest thing I took away from the off the field events of Super Sunday was that in this decade we will see Lady GaGa grace midfield for a halftime performance, where she will most likely bring in a tank full of dolphins and other exotic sea creatures to swim with while she sings “Bad Romance” to a completely stunned crowd. You can think it’s silly all you want, but trust me whatever stunt she pulls won’t be too far off from this. Mark this for future reference.
9. And that concludes the Super Bowl XLVI Recap Number. Still no sponsor.
10. By the way, my prediction for the game was New England 31, New York 28. Final score: New York 21, New England 17. Nailed it.
11. This Friday night I will be at Garland Naaman Forest High School, covering the McKinney North Girls Basketball team as they take on Dallas Bryan Adams in the second round of the 4A State playoffs. Bryan Adams is the #2 seed out of District 12-4A and defeated Dallas South Oak Cliff in the bi-district round 63-47. After knocking off the District 9-4A champion Frisco Wakeland High School 57-55 on Monday night, the Lady Bulldogs look to continue their momentum and try to upset another formidable opponent. The game should be exciting and will come down to North’s ability to win the turnover battle and getting solid play from the starting five. Should be a good one Friday night.
12. Thank the heavens that Ron Jaworski is leaving the broadcast booth at Monday Night Football next season. That now leaves Mike Tirico as the play-by-play voice and Jon Gruden as the color guy. A two-man booth is how sports broadcasting is meant to be done, and without two men trying to out due the other in how much they can endorse any player regardless of talent level or importance, it should make for a much more sophisticated and informative broadcast. I really like Gruden, but I love the QB Camp Gruden so much better than I do the broadcast Gruden. However, with his voice being the only one in the booth being heard I feel like his points are going to be more concise and much less homer-ish than in years past. The man knows his football and really does have some talent color commentating games. But similar to how Troy Aikman had to take a couple years to truly develop a flow to his games, I think Gruden will hit his stride with being top dog in the MNF broadcast in 2012.
13. Every week from here on out I will be analyzing a division in Major League Baseball as we all get ready for another exciting roller coaster ride that is the 162 game MLB season. To start things off I am going to cover what many who know the game inside and out regard as the league’s most competitive division, and that is the American League East. With four teams having realistic opportunities at a postseason berth in 2012 and the fifth intent on playing spoiler, the AL East is a sure lock to send two teams to the playoffs for the sixth year in a row. From five to one, here are my predictions for the final standings in the AL East for 2012.
14. Number 5: Baltimore Orioles – Here is the thing about the O’s: every time they build up momentum from the year before, they do an awful job of carrying it over into the next season and keeping things going. Last year’s final series with the Boston Red Sox, where they won 2 of 3 from the Sox to keep them out of the postseason, is an example of a chance for the young Orioles core to take the experiences of a postseason-like atmosphere and build on it. With Buck Schowalter at the helm for his second full season in Baltimore, the O’s, led by their group of young stars in Matt Wieters, Brian Roberts, and Nick Markakis, must find a way to stay relevant well into late June or early July before Buck’s seat might start getting real hot. No one expects much from this ball club, which may play to their advantage at times. But young arms like Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, and Tommy Hunter must be able to keep those great AL East offenses in check for the O’s to have a fighter’s chance at staying in the division discussion by the All-Star break.
15. Number 4: Toronto Blue Jays – I love what the Jays are doing up in Canada these days. Taking a page from the Tampa Bay Rays playbook in how to become competitive in the East, the Jays have seen their young farm talent begin to blossom in the show, providing tremendous support around their All-Star outfielder Jose Bautista. With Ricky Romero hoping to be the David Price or C.C. Sabathia of their rotation and young studs like Brandon Morrow and Kyle Drabek slowing figuring out how to pitch to hitters weaknesses, the Jays will rely on their pitching staff to carry them in 2012. J.P Arencibia, the Jays catcher, will have more responsibilities managing these young core of starters, but if they can hold teams to around 3 runs a night, that offense should be explosive with Colby Rasmus and Edwin Encarnacion leading the way, along with Bautista. Look out for the Jays to be possible wild card contenders if the league expands to two wild card teams, but if not they will have to settle for a fourth place finish despite hovering around 85 wins.
16. Number 3: Boston Red Sox – This is when things get really tricky in the East in trying to determine how the final three pan out. I ultimately believe that the top two teams will make the postseason, and whoever sits in this position will be left out despite a 92-win season. After the greatest September collapse in MLB history, Boston hired new skipper Bobby Valentine to replace Terry Francona, in addition to seeing long-time GM Theo Epstein leave the front office for the Chicago Cubs. Offensively there aren’t too many clubs that can compete with the kind of firepower the Sox can line up with night in and night out. But with serious health concerns with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz and their ability to pitch a full season on the mound, the Red Sox may lose some games in August and September to rotations with more staying power. Carl Crawford will miss the early part of the season recovering from wrist surgery, and the spotlight will be squarely on him when he returns to make a big comeback in 2012 and earn some of that huge contract he received after leaving Tampa Bay. I have no doubts they could be wearing the AL East Division t-shirts come the end of September, but the Rays are a team that have proven time and time again since 2008 that when big moments arise between the two teams, Tampa finds a way to come through and knock down the big boys from Beantown and take the crown.
17. Number 2: New York Yankees – I feel like I am going to catch some heat for this pick here but let me explain. First off, I think the Yankees are much more talented than the Tampa Bay Rays. Placing the two lineups up against each other and you couldn’t even argue that the Yankees shouldn’t score more runs than the Rays on paper. However, that left side of the Yankee infield is getting older every year, and despite reports saying that A-Rod’s experimental knee surgery is healing right of schedule, questions will remain what A-Rod we will see from this point on in terms of the power production at the plate. Only playing in 99 games in 2011, the Yankees need at least 120-125 games out of Rodriguez in order in ensure themselves the East crown, as well as hoping Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira become more productive in the middle of that ridiculous New York lineup that has 2011 AL MVP candidate Curtis Granderson in the two-hole. Michael Pineda will be a huge addition to the Yankee rotation, but will have to adjust to facing AL East batters on a more consistent basis and figure out how to pitch with offensive support, something he was not accustomed to in Seattle last year. Even with the dominant lefty CC Sabathia at the forefront of the rotation, I am selecting my AL East champion on what team can win games with starting pitching and defense. To me the Yankees are easily a playoff team and I think that they win 96 games to lock up the AL Wild Card spot.
18. Number 1: Tampa Bay Rays – Could their rotation be so good to start 2012 that lefty phenomenon Matt Moore would start the year in Triple-A? It is certainly a problem the Rays a glad they can attempt to solve, as many analysts around the league believe Tampa houses the best starting rotation in the entire Major Leagues. With David Price becoming a bone fide ace at the top of the rotation, James Shields becoming a innings eater, and Jeremy Hellickson a proud winner of the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year Award, the Rays rotation will once again carry the club to whatever heights they will reach in ’12. Joel Peralta, Fernando Rodney, and closer Kyle Farnsworth will head up the Rays bullpen that allowed the fewest losses (15) of any bullpen in baseball last year, a huge accomplishment considering the rebuilding that had to be done after it was decimated following the 2010 season. On offense, the best third baseman in the game in Evan Longoria will be thrilled to have a little protection behind him with the addition of fan favorite Carlos Pena. With future All-Star Desmond Jennings expected to start the season at the big league level after an impressive 2011 playoffs, the Rays offense will be asked to score when they need to and will continue to rely on tremendous starting pitching and strong defense to win games in ’12. Joe Maddon will be up for another Manager of the Year after the leads the Rays to their third division title in franchise history, and their fourth postseason berth since 2008.
19. Next week I think I’ll work my way across the country and tackle the AL Central predictions and leave the Texas Rangers and the AL West for the week after. I greatly enjoyed getting back into the lab and whipping up a little Numbers Game for you all. Look out for the premiere episode of the currently unnamed Sports Podcast with Steve Kirk and myself that will be released Monday night. We are looking forward to tackling sports problems in a fresh and innovative way for Town Square Buzz and hope that you can all join us for the ride. Until next time, ladies and gentlemen.