Tiger Woods’ fired caddie, Steve Williams, said his former boss should have been disqualified after taking an illegal drop during the Masters last week at Augusta National, although he was not seeking an advantage.Williams, who was on Woods’ bag for a 12-year span that included 72 victories worldwide and 13 major championships, told 3 News in his native New Zealand that he didn’t think Woods was “trying to gain anything on the field” but he should have been DQ’d nevertheless.“From what I can gather, he took an illegal drop, signed a scorecard and left the course,” Williams told the television station. “Under most circumstances that would result in disqualification. … If the rules of golf are upheld, I believe he should have been disqualified.”Woods was deemed to have taken an improper drop on the 15th hole during the second round last Friday after his approach shot hit the pin and bounced back into the water. He made a bogey-6 on the hole, which the following morning was revised to a triple-bogey 8.Before 2012, Woods would have been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. But under new rules enacted by the United States Golf Association and R&A in 2011, a player can have penalty strokes added afterward when facts were not reasonably presented at the time of scorecard signing.Williams noted that he didn’t fully understand the relatively new rule.Masters officials were first alerted of Woods’ illegal drop by a television viewer, something Williams believes should not be allowed.“I don’t think people should be able to phone in and have any kind of affect on a golf tournament,” Williams told 3 News. “I don’t think people should be able to sit back and have an outcome on a tournament.“Tiger certainly wasn’t trying to gain anything on the field there. Obviously he was frustrated and he mistook the rule between a red line and a yellow line and where you can drop. … It was a mistake.”
While many professional athletes and sports teams make a habit of giving back to the community during the holiday season, the 21-7 Memphis Grizzlies went the extra-mile and found a way to make this Christmas one to remember for one of their interns in need.Brandon Henderson, a 24-year-old intern, had his 21-year-old Chrysler New Yorker stolen while he was on a date before Thanksgiving. Since his vehicle was stolen, Henderson quietly made adjustments to life without a car since he couldn’t afford to buy a new one. He didn’t tell anyone at work about what happened to him because he wanted to keep his personal issues separate from his work, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.Somehow, Vince Carter and other Memphis Grizzlies players heard about what happened to Henderson and they decided to chip in and surprise him last week with a new 2014 Nissan Altima, worth somewhere around $20,000.The gesture brought Henderson to tears as he hugged and thanked the players.“I don’t know how the guys found out,” Henderson told the Commercial Appeal. “It didn’t seem real. It seemed like a dream.”“My man had a tough time, you know,” Carter said in a video on Foxsports.com. “Everybody chipped in for him, for Christmas. This is the holiday season for giving and that’s what we wanted.”
Simone Biles (Wikipedia)Simone Biles confirmed she takes medication for ADHD after Russian hackers publicly released private medical records of U.S. Olympians. The five-time Olympic medalist posted two messages about her diagnosis Sept. 14.In order to clarify her use of ADHD drugs, Biles said she has taken them since she was a child.“Please know I believe in clean sport, have always followed the rules and will continue to do so,” she said.pic.twitter.com/tPxCJ1K2RZ— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) September 13, 2016In a follow-up message, Biles shared having ADHD and treating the condition is “nothing to be ashamed of” and “nothing that I’m afraid to let people know.”Having ADHD, and taking medicine for it is nothing to be ashamed of nothing that I’m afraid to let people know.— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) September 13, 2016Biles also shared USA Gymnastics’ tweet about the personal file reveal.USA Gymnastics statement regarding Simone Biles and WADA hack: pic.twitter.com/YTq2iVS7Vu— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) September 13, 2016The statement said Biles provided the “proper paperwork” for medications she took that are prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Those prescriptions are part of the Therapeutic Use Exemption.“By virtue of the TUE, Biles has not broken any drug-testing regulations, including at the Olympic Games in Rio,” the agency declared in part.WADA disclosed the hacking Tuesday, saying a “Russian cyber espionage group” called Fancy Bear was responsible. The agency said it “extended its investigation with the relevant law enforcement authorities.”Documents revealed personal health information about Biles and other Rio participants like Venus and Serena Williams.According to The Huffington Post, the documents alleged Biles tested positive for methylphenidate – known as Ritalin. Data also claims Serena uses drugs like anti-inflammatories to treat muscle injuries. Additionally, it points to medication waved for Venus.“These criminal acts are greatly compromising the effort by the global antidoping community to re-establish trust in Russia,” WADA’s director general, Olivier Niggli told The New York Times.Regardless, Fancy Bear wrote on their website they plan to release more athlete’s records.“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” they said explaining their goal. “Today’s sport is truly contaminated while the world is unaware of the large number of American doping athletes.”
It’s a smart and subtle way to serve in the situation, and his success rate suggests that his opponent, potentially predisposed to Nadal’s T serve, does not see it coming.Granted, it’s also a bit of a “tell” for anyone lucky enough to find himself with a pair of break points against Nadal — those guys should look for the out wide serve. But more than that, it reveals a mental game-within-the-game orchestrated by Nadal.He turns balls hit to his backhand side into forehand winnersNadal’s forehand is his biggest weapon. Opponents try to dodge it at all costs, which means avoiding hitting the ball to the ad court as much as possible against the southpaw. A good way to understand the baseline is to divide it into four vertical zones — two in the deuce court and two in the ad court. In tennis, these zones are sometimes labeled A, B, C and D, with A being the out wide in the deuce court, all the way to the D zone, which is the out wide in the ad court.If you’re Nadal’s opponent and you’re trying to avoid his forehand, you would hit to zones A and B (the ad court). And that’s where he gets you.The King of Clay is also the King of Running Around His Backhand to Hit Forehand. He’s an expert at it. Indeed, he loves to run around his backhand to hit forehand so much that in some matches, he has hit about the same number of winners from what would be his natural backhand side of the court — zones A and B — than from his normal, left-handed forehand side of the court — zones C and D. Through five rounds at this year’s French Open, 54 percent of Nadal’s forehand winners (46/85) have been hit as run-around forehands from zones A and B, according to officially recorded statistics from Roland Garros.By comparison, consider the right-handed Djokovic, the number one player in the world. Through the first four rounds at Roland Garros this year, 42 percent of Djokovic’s forehand winners have been run-around forehands (14/33).Nadal is like a spider looking to snare a rally ball, and players would be ill-advised to hit toward Nadal’s backhand unless they can be sure he’ll only be able to use his backhand. At the same time, better not hit too far out wide or the errors will flow.Just when you think you know Nadal, think again. He will bend your mind more than he bends the ball. When you think of Rafael Nadal, you might think of a player who hits balls with hellacious topspin and grinds out points on clay. His RPMs and his sweat grab the glory. But the 11-time French Open champion uses a few insidious tricks that go beyond the obvious strokes and traditional tactics.All of Rafa’s ways and means traveled to Roland Garros in 2019 — the energy, the rituals, the patterns of play — it’s all been put to use in another run to the semifinals, this time at age 33. He’ll need every tactic at his disposal, the conspicuous and the cunning, as he takes on Roger Federer and potentially Novak Djokovic after that.Here are three examples of the subtle mental maneuvers that Nadal makes against his opponents.He makes them waitStrictly from a length-of-match standpoint, Nadal is one of the slowest tennis players of this era. And there are a host of things Nadal does to extend matches — and possibly distract and annoy his opponents in the process.The ultimate creature of habit, Nadal starts managing time with his first step on court. When the chair umpire prepares to toss the coin and the presence of both players is required in the middle of the court before the start of the match, Nadal is typically the second to arrive — after a delay of several seconds while he goes through his routines with water bottles.Once the match is underway, Nadal’s pre-point rituals have been fodder for everything from complaints to comedy routines. Even the typically chilled-out Roger Federer has been critical of the time that Nadal takes between points. By rule, players are limited to 25 seconds between points. Beginning this year at most events, the sport put in formal, visible shot clocks in an attempt to keep servers from abusing the rule.According to an analysis by Melbourne, Australia-based Data Driven Sports Analytics of more than 140 matches each for Nadal, Federer and Djokovic from 2008 through this year, Rafa averaged 26.1 seconds between points when serving — the longest of the so-called “Big 3.”1Djokovic averaged 25.2 seconds, while Federer averaged 18.6. Nadal’s average time between points is over the limit — and that’s just an average, which means that he regularly serves beyond the 25-second rule. Chair umpires can use their discretion in starting the clock, so, clearly, Nadal is getting some wiggle room.Nadal finds a way to play on Rafa time when he’s returning as well, going through a catalog of rituals and often turning his back on the server or lifting his racquet until he’s ready to receive.The overall effect is that Nadal asserts his own pace of play, which can be legitimately discomfiting for opponents.He conditions them like PavlovOne of the hardest things to do in professional tennis is return serves. Speeds regularly top 125 mph, and then there’s the spin. Professional tennis players also excel at “spot serving” — landing serves in precise locations. They most often hit close to the lines of the service box, placing the serve at angles to inflict the most damage. Those most-visited, go-to spots are either up the T, which is the middle of the court, or out wide, which is on the outer edge of the service box. Servers work hard to place their serves effectively on both the deuce side (serving from the right side to the servers’ left and returners’ right), when the game score is usually tied, and on the ad side, when one player is always ahead.Nadal has a curious modus operandi when serving on the deuce side. The effect is Pavlovian: It conditions his opponents for one thing and then kills them with another.Because Nadal is a left-handed server, the natural play for him in this situation is to serve up the T. The ATP Tour has collected serve placement data from 2011 to 2019 for Masters 1000 events, which are just beneath Grand Slams and the Tour Finals in terms of stature, ranking points and prize money. According to that data set, on clay, Nadal’s first serve has been up the T 56.4 percent of the time on the deuce side. His success rate for this location — meaning how often he wins the point — is a healthy 68.5 percent. Much less often — 27 percent of the time — Nadal takes his first serve out wide from the deuce court on clay. And in that spot, his success rate is eye-popping, 74.8 percent. In 2019 alone, it’s up to 79.2 percent.Why would Nadal use a serve that is statistically so successful for him so infrequently? It’s possible that the tactic is about mentally conditioning the returner, greasing the tracks as it were, and then flipping his pattern when he really needs it.Indeed, data from that same set of ATP Masters tournaments reveals this morsel about Nadal on clay: He habitually hits his first serve from the deuce court up the T on nearly all scores. The most notable exception: when he’s down 15-40. When Nadal faces two break points against him, his primary service pattern switches to his secondary, “money” spot — the out wide. At 15-40, he goes T only 39.7 percent of the time, and his primary pattern becomes out-wide, at 44.9 percent.How does the King of Clay perform with that deuce court, out-wide serve down two break points? Put simply, he crushes: 82.9 percent of the time he wins the point.
Baseball’s Hall of Fame voting has been especially contentious this year, as the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (which elects Hall of Famers) lurches toward greater transparency. More and more voters have been disclosing their votes publicly, and in December the association announced that all members must reveal their ballots starting in the 2018 election. That’s all good news for two of the best baseball players of all time: Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. Bonds’s and Clemens’s on-field accomplishments have been overshadowed by allegations of performance-enhancing drug use, but they’ve also tended to fare much better in the public voting results than the anonymous ones. With increasing voting transparency, Bonds and Clemens should be more likely to make the Hall of Fame — if not this year, then soon.For years, the writers group has been divided into two camps. Some writers have chosen to reveal their ballots — either in columns, on Twitter or via Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame tracker — while others have kept their votes to themselves. And these two groups differed in more than just the visibility of their ballots: The anonymous voters displayed significantly different voting preferences.Although we can’t directly observe the anonymous ballots, we know about the voting tendencies of the association as a whole. On top of that, an increasing fraction of the electorate releases their ballots, up from 53 percent in 2014 to 71 percent in 2016. So, using a statistical technique called latent class analysis on voting data from 2014 to 2016, we looked for patterns in the ballots that differentiated anonymous voters from public ones. Although we can’t say how any individual writer with an anonymous ballot voted, we can determine how the anonymous voters’ ballots leaned as a whole.By far the largest factor separating the anonymous and public ballots was support for three players: Bonds, Clemens and Mark McGwire. All three players are widely believed to have used PEDs, and although McGwire lacks the ironclad Hall of Fame case that Bonds and Clemens can boast, all three would have been leading contenders for the Hall if not for their alleged steroid use.1McGwire’s eligibility ran out last year. In 2016, for instance, an anonymous voter’s odds of voting for the Bonds/Clemens/McGwire trio2We looked at all three taken as a unit; differences in voting for those three as individuals were not statistically significant. were about 17 percentage points lower than those of a voter who disclosed his or her selection(s). The anonymous ballots made up a major source of their poor percentages in previous years — Bonds and Clemens lost 2 to 4 percentage points of support in private ballots, which adds up as both players try to make up the 11-point difference between their early public results and the 75 percent induction threshold.3All numbers are using ballot data as of Jan. 13.It’s impossible to know exactly how the coming loss of anonymity will affect voters’ attitudes toward Bonds and Clemens. But if the formerly anonymous ballots begin to look more like the public ones, Bonds and Clemens will be due for a bump in support. Social desirability bias may push voters toward a different conclusion than they’d make privately, for instance, even if some writers may react in the opposite way. It’s undeniable that voting support for Bonds and Clemens has already changed dramatically this year. Related: Hot Takedown We’re Still Talking About That Packers-Cowboys Game Given the storm of rule changes and public debate, we can’t offer a rigorously calculated probability that either player will ultimately make the Hall. It’s worth noting, however, that most eligible players who finish as high as this pair have in the voting eventually get enshrined. In 2016, Clemens and Bonds finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the balloting. More than 60 percent of all players who finish in those spots eventually get elected; those who didn’t tended to be near the end of their eligibility window; Bonds and Clemens have five years to go.6They would have had twice as much time left, but the Hall reduced the eligibility window from 15 years after a player leaves MLB to 10 in 2014. This year, extrapolating from the public ballots7We deducted 3 percentage points from Bonds’s and Clemens’s current totals to reflect the public/private split in voting tendencies and looked at what rank they would finish with. shows us that Bonds and Clemens ought to end up around fifth and sixth in the voting — rankings associated with a 70 percent to 80 percent chance of eventually making the Hall, based on the fortunes of previous players in those slots.It may not happen this year. Although both Bonds and Clemens have marshaled more than 60 percent of the vote in the public ballots so far, that number has decreased over the past few weeks, and it’s likely to drop even more as the anonymous ballots are counted (voting closed Dec. 31, and results will be announced Wednesday). But over the long run, the odds are in the duo’s favor.From a purely statistical perspective, Bonds and Clemens were always locks to make the Hall of Fame. Each ranks among the best players of all time by wins above replacement, so there is no performance-based reason to exclude them. Now, the baseball writers’ recent changes will only accelerate Bonds’s and Clemens’s ascents. Whether you view that as a triumph or a tragedy, Bonds, Clemens, and others who’ve been accused of using PEDs during the steroid era will probably join the Hall of Fame sooner or later. Since both first hit the ballot in 2013, Bonds and Clemens had seen their Hall of Fame fortunes largely stagnate — until this year. So far in 2017, both names have climbed above 60 percent support in the public voting, tantalizingly close to the mark necessary for induction. Part of that is likely due to another rule change that prevents association members from voting if they aren’t actively covering baseball.4With a 10-year grace period after a reporter stops covering the game. That alteration went into effect in 2016, and it also greatly diminished the pool of anonymous voters — by extension, reducing the number of voters who excluded Bonds and Clemens from their ballots, since anonymous voters were much less likely to vote for players implicated in baseball’s PED scandals and older writers were more likely to keep their votes anonymous.There are other factors working in Bonds and Clemens’s favor. Many public-ballot voters are adding the two to their ballots; so far this year, more than 20 voters have switched from “no” votes for the pair last year to “yes.” Some writers even point to the recent election of Bud Selig, the commissioner under whose watch the steroids era of the late 1980s-2000s unfolded, as a precedent to vote in the two most visible superstars of that period.5Selig was elected by a separate Hall of Fame committee and not the writers’ association.
Among players who increased their fly-ball rate, it was almost exactly a toss-up as to whether their wOBA would get better or worse.149.3 percent increased their wOBA, while 50.7 percent saw it decline. Similarly, players who decreased their fly-ball rate had about a 50/50 split of improving and worsening wOBAs. Overall, the correlation between a batter’s changing fly ball rate and his subsequent change in production is nonexistent. That same lack of correlation holds if you use the more advanced metrics (such as launch angle) tracked by MLB’s StatCast system.Although there are some fly-ball success stories, plenty of hitters have swung up only to see their wOBA dive down. For every Yonder Alonso there is a 2016 Kiké Hernandez, who spiked his fly-ball rate by 11.7 percentage points, only to watch his wOBA drop by 89 points. Or maybe you’d prefer Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, the owner of a dreadful wOBA 21 percent worse than the league average in 2016. The Cubs are at the vanguard of the fly-ball revolution, reportedly championing the phrase “there’s no slug on the ground.” Heyward seems to have listened, because he increased his fly-ball rate by almost 10 percentage points after joining the Cubs. But in contrast with the success stories of players such as Alonso and Martinez, the change has had a disastrous effect on Heyward.So adopting an uppercut swing won’t necessarily make a player great. But it will probably make them hit more home runs. (When players up their rate of fly balls, the consequence is usually more dingers.)2In my data, there was no inverse relationship between the change in rate of fly balls and the rate at which those fly balls went over the fence. The increasing rate of fly balls leaguewide seems to explain some of the explosion in home runs from 2015 to 2016 (although that still leaves the mid-year 2015 increase in home runs a mystery, even setting aside the speculation around — and puzzling evidence for and against — ball juicing).3In total, the league hit 701 more home runs in 2016 than in 2015. A simple regression of the number of home runs versus the fly-ball rate for each player would predict about 400 additional home runs in 2016.Home runs are great! But the problem is that fly balls also come with other, less desirable consequences. For example, players who hit more fly balls into the outfield also hit more pop-ups on the infield, which are about as valuable as striking out. Given his aforementioned criticism of fly balls, maybe it’s no coincidence that Joey Votto is also one of baseball’s best at avoiding infield pop-ups — he probably knows the two are related.Moreover, the conscious effort to adapt an unnatural swing plane could harm a player’s natural hitting motion. Heyward had been a productive hitter earlier in his career with similar fly-ball rates as last season, but his swing mechanics were notably confused a year ago, which resulted in an obvious weak spot against low pitches.In an interview with CSN Chicago, Cubs hitting coach John Mallee described the work he was doing to improve Heyward for the 2017 season. “He’s trying to mirror the swing that he had then…. It’s not actually making a change; it’s just getting him to who he was,” Mallee said. Bucking the revolution, Heyward has hit significantly fewer fly balls this season, and his production has improved, as well (although he’s still underperforming expectations).Stories such as Heyward’s show that the fly-ball revolution is not for every hitter. Notably, many of the players who have transformed the most by adopting uppercut swings were underperforming before. Alonso was a below-average hitter last season; Donaldson was a former high draft pick who struggled for years to come into his own. Tinkering with their swing planes might have been the secret to unlocking their full potential. But for players with established mechanics like Heyward, adopting a new philosophy is a riskier proposition. All told, it’s tough to predict whether more fly balls are the missing ingredient for a hitter, or just a harmful distraction. From J.D. Martinez to Josh Donaldson, hitters throughout the big leagues have been honing a new approach at the plate, hunting for big flies and eschewing worm burners. It’s a change rooted in the latest metrics, which say balls hit in the air tend to be more valuable than grounders — particularly since the home run surge of 2015 started turning a higher percentage of fly balls into home runs than ever. So, over the last two years, batters have adjusted their swings accordingly, sending ever more balls skyward.The resulting trend toward fly balls has significantly improved a handful of hitters, helping them achieve far better results than when they slapped more grounders. Some observers have even suggested it could be contributing to the surge in home runs. But a closer look at the data shows that, while there is a sweeping transformation underway, it seems to be hurting as many players as it is helping.A batter can hit more fly balls by changing the angle of his swing. Instead of the slight downward plane recommended by many instructors, more of today’s batters are adopting uppercut swings that drive the ball into the air. And across the league, the effect is palpable.Over the past three seasons, the ratio of ground balls to fly balls in MLB has dropped from 1.34 grounders per fly in 2015 to 1.25 this year. For individual players, the changes are even more significant. FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan documented a historic number of players who have dropped their ground-ball percentage by 5 percent or more since 2015.Some of those players have benefited greatly from these swing changes. Oakland Athletics first baseman Yonder Alonso nearly halved the number of grounders he’s hitting so far this year, and he also boasts a personal-best 178 weighted Runs Created plus, one of the best marks in the league. There are similar anecdotes for Martinez, Donaldson, Nationals All-Star second baseman Daniel Murphy and others.So there is definitely a fly-ball revolution underway in baseball. But that revolution is not without its discontents. Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto recently disparaged the trend towards fly-ball hitting in an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer. “I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things,” Votto said, as quoted in the Enquirer.Votto is right; being a more productive hitter really isn’t as simple as “elevate to celebrate.” Over the last three years, just as many hitters have suffered by increasing their fly-ball rate as have benefited. Here’s a chart showing each hitter’s change in fly-ball rate from the previous year, in comparison with his change in weighted On-Base Average (wOBA).
Like Stanton, Judge is much more than a one-trick ball-masher. (Or, to shatter another common comparison, a pinstriped Richie Sexson.) In fact, Judge’s value this year will probably end up surpassing even Stanton’s by season’s end. Judge currently leads the major leagues in wins above replacement (WAR),3I averaged together the different versions of WAR found at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com. with a total that projects to reach 10.4 WAR — the 40th-best season by a batter since 1901 — if he keeps this pace up over the entire season.Judge is unlikely to continue playing quite so well, of course: His batting average on balls in play is an unsustainably high .431, for instance, and he has hit an astonishing 41 percent of his fly balls out of the yard. Those numbers will probably dip before the season is over. Pitchers are smart; they’ll surely discover new ways to get Judge out. But his underlying stats are so impressive that the drop-off might not be too severe. And besides, Judge could play at an average level from here on out and still produce 5.5 WAR, the best season by a Yankee since Robinson Cano left town in 2013.The idea that New York would even get that much from Judge seemed farfetched before the year began. Among New York’s young major league talent, catcher Gary Sanchez and first baseman Greg Bird appeared to be the more likely headliners. Little about Judge — who hit .179 and produced -0.4 WAR after his debut last season, which dropped him 14 slots him to No. 90 in Baseball America’s 2017 prospect rankings — screamed “breakout superstar.” But Sanchez missed a month early in the schedule, and Bird has added practically nothing amidst multiple injury setbacks. Judge, meanwhile, is currently the American League’s MVP favorite, particularly now that reigning MVP Mike Trout is injured.If Judge does end up winning that piece of individual hardware, he’d be its most unheralded winner ever. Not only has no single-season WAR leader ever gone into a season with fewer than zero career WAR before, but no eventual MVP has ever entered the year with fewer WAR to his name than Judge’s -0.4 mark: 92002Lance Berkman26349597403588 Who does Aaron Judge play most like? 52005Nick Swisher24117779155044 42005Austin Kearns2537881175662 102001J.D. Drew25398595877498 YEARNAMEAGESOWLKPWRSPDFLDWAR 72013Jay Bruce2696387466076 61996Ryan Klesko25136985564872 The only MVPs who started from a place similarly close to nowhere were Ichiro Suzuki, who won the award in 2001 in his first year in the (American) majors — he played in Japan until 2000, so he had zero career major league WAR before the season — and Vida Blue, who exploded for 8.5 WAR in 1971 after an up-and-down first two years in the big leagues. Both had terrific seasons in their MVP campaigns, but neither led the league in WAR; Judge is trying to do both, and from an even less likely starting point.The Yankees aren’t used to having this kind of a superstar performance materialize out of thin air. This is a franchise with a proud history of big-name talent, but many of its marquee names were brought in as established commodities in recent years. In Judge, however, New York might just have a rare homegrown MVP on its hands. Given that the franchise was already ahead of schedule in its rebuild, that’s scary news for the rest of baseball. 22016Joc Pederson2499389377285 2017Aaron Judge25897999458100 Outfielders whose single-season performance was most similar to Aaron Judge’s in 2017, based on leaguewide percentile rankings in lowest strikeout rate (SO), walk rate (WLK), isolated power (PWR), speed score (SPD), position-adjusted fielding runs above average (FLD) and overall wins above replacement (WAR). To qualify for comparison, players had to have at least 400 plate appearances per 162 team games since 1995.Sources: FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference.com 32014Giancarlo Stanton24109899583997 It’s mid-June, and despite this weekend’s four-game sweep at the hands of the Oakland A’s, the New York Yankees are still playing some of their best baseball in franchise history. (A history that, as they’re fond of reminding us, includes 27 world championships.) New York’s current +108 run differential has been surpassed at this stage of the season only 12 times in club history, most recently during its 114-win 1998 campaign (and before that, in 1942). What started as an early-season curiosity has turned into a realistic bid for another pinstriped World Series crown.The Yankees are even fun to watch this time around, thanks in no small part to mammoth right fielder Aaron Judge. Every time he comes up, the 6-foot-7 Judge towers over the plate, threatening to obliterate all stray baseballs tossed in the south Bronx. Just a week ago Sunday, he launched one of the most monstrous home runs on record, this 496-foot tater at Yankee Stadium:Your browser does not support iframes.Judge’s stupefying raw power has quickly made him a folk hero in an era of hyper-analyzed ball-physics data. Although a this is hardly the first time a Yankees outfielder has gained fame for hitting the ball hard, it is the first time we’ve been so able to obsessively quantify the impressiveness of those hits. Judge is a superstar defined in large part by pure magnitude: his own unusual height, plus how far and how fast he smashes baseballs.In that sense, it’s easy to compare Judge to Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, another hitter whose legend has grown with every terabyte of data collected by Statcast, the radar system that tracks every batted ball on every MLB field. And the resemblance isn’t merely a superficial one between hard-hitting righties — the Yankees really do, for all intents and purposes, now have their very own Giancarlo Stanton clone in the middle of the lineup. Among outfielders of a similar age1Within a year in either direction. since the strike, with at least 400 plate appearances per 162 team games, Stanton’s 2014 campaign was the third-most similar season to Judge’s 2017 so far — as determined by which player has the smallest differences2Weighted by their relative importance to wins above replacement. between their percentile rankings and Judge’s in each of five key categories (hitting for contact and power; drawing walks; speed; and position-adjusted defense): PERCENTILE RANK 81998Manny Ramirez26307597334083 12011Matt Kemp26117796835099
ESPN College GameDay will make its 15th appearance at Ohio State on Saturday for No. 2 OSU vs. No. 3 Michigan. Credit: Courtesy of @CollegeGameDayESPN’s “College GameDay” talking head Lee Corso is as much of a staple in college football as “The Game,” the annual clash between bitter rivals Ohio State and Michigan.On Oct. 5, 1996, with hundreds of fans in scarlet and gray behind him, Corso was wrapping up the final segment of the show which previewed the OSU-Penn State game that day in Columbus. When Corso picked the Buckeyes, he donned a Brutus Buckeye mascot head which sent the crowd behind the set into a frenzy.Twenty years later, the 81-year-old former football coach and the rest of the GameDay crew will return to Columbus for the matchup between the No. 2 Buckeyes and No. 3 Wolverines. “College GameDay” has been to Columbus 14 times before, the second most of any school trailing only Alabama. But only one game has rivaled the stakes of Saturday’s edition of “The Game.”Here is a rundown of all games that “College GameDay” has been on location at Ohio State.Oct. 5, 1996: No. 4 Penn State at No. 3 Ohio State, OSU 38-7The 1996 Buckeyes were possibly the best team in school history not to win a national title. Against Penn State, they proved it.The two-quarterback system of Stanley Jackson and Joe Germaine was executed perfectly versus the Nittany Lions. Coming off a dominant top-10 victory at Notre Dame the week before, the Buckeyes’ offense ran for 350 yards and threw for another 215 yards. OSU running back Pepe Pearson ran for 141 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5 yards per carry.Jackson and Germaine each threw for two touchdowns, and wide receiver Dimitrious Stanley caught five passes for 105 yards and two scores. OSU rolled through the rest of the season until coach John Cooper and the Buckeyes lost to Michigan in the final game.Oct. 4, 1997: No. 8 Iowa at No. 7 Ohio State, OSU 23-7OSU coach John Cooper was still rolling with the two-quarterback system that he installed a season ago with Jackson and Germaine. OSU scored 16 unanswered points through two-and-a-half quarters, but it was the ground game that lifted OSU’s offense.Pearson had 106 yards rushing, but running back Michael Wiley was the difference maker on offense. He had 14 carries for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver David Boston also caught a touchdown.In a span of two minutes and eight seconds, there were three fumbles by both teams — two by Iowa. The Hawkeyes totaled only 308 yards of offense but threw for more yards than OSU. The Buckeyes went on to lose at Penn State the following week.Oct. 3, 1998: No. 7 Penn State at No. 1 Ohio State, OSU 28-9Many who thought the 1996 Buckeyes missed an opportunity to win the school’s first outright national title since 1968 saw the 1998 Buckeyes as the team that would accomplish that goal.OSU began the season as the No. 1 team in the country and rode the shoulders of quarterback Joe Germaine and running back Michael Wiley. The Penn State defense limited an OSU offense that had averaged over 500 yards per game. The Nittany Lions made Wiley a non-factor, but the OSU defense had one of its best performances of the year.Penn State gained only 181 yards from scrimmage and had to punt 10 times. Germaine threw for 213 yards and a touchdown.OSU’s only loss of the season came at home to unranked Michigan State, who spoiled OSU’s championship hopes.Sept. 14, 2002: No. 10 Washington State at No. 6 Ohio State, OSU 25-7The Cougars and Buckeyes entered the Week 3 matchup at 2-0, each looking for its first statement win of the season. OSU mustered two field goals from Mike Nugent in the first half, but rallied behind freshman running back Maurice Clarett, who proved he was on his way to being a superstar.OSU scored 19 unanswered points in the second half, including two touchdowns from Clarett. The running back carried the ball 31 times for 230 yards — an average of 7.4 yards per carry. OSU only completed 4-of-10 in pass attempts, but Clarett’s play and the Buckeye defense that allowed just 17 yards on the ground sent the Cougars home with its first loss of the season.Nov. 23, 2002: No. 9 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State, OSU 14-9Jim Tressel and the Ohio State Buckeyes stood just one game away from a shot at the national title. This was one of the most anticipated OSU-Michigan matchups in half a decade.OSU had survived the last two weeks with a last-minute drive against Purdue and an overtime victory at Illinois to enter the final weekend of the season at 12-0 for the first time in school history. Against the Wolverines, OSU would need another set of late-game heroics to beat its archrival.The Wolverines took a 9-7 lead into halftime and both defenses stood tall for the majority of the second half. On OSU’s second-to-last drive, quarterback Craig Krenzel converted on a fourth-and-1, then later connected with Clarett on a 25-yard completion to set up a Maurice Hall touchdown run to take a 14-9 lead with 4:55 remaining.Michigan got the ball back with under a minute to go, and drove down inside the OSU 25-yard line. On the final play, OSU safety Will Allen intercepted the go-ahead touchdown. The Buckeyes headed to Tempe, Arizona and won the 2002 BCS National Championship.Aug. 30, 2003: No. 17 Washington at No. 2 Ohio State, OSU 28-9 In the 2003 season opener, the Buckeyes began their quest to defend their national title, but they would attempt to do so without star running back Maurice Clarett, who was suspended for his sophomore season for taking improper benefits.Even without Clarett’s services, OSU dominated on the ground, scoring four touchdowns from three different players. The outcome was never in doubt with OSU leading 21-0 at halftime and the Buckeye defense having allowed seven rushing yards at game’s end.OSU looked like a team that could repeat as national champions.Nov. 15, 2003: No. 10 Purdue at No. 4 Ohio State, OSU 16-13 (OT)Following an early October loss to Wisconsin, the Buckeyes rattled off four consecutive victories entering the game against the Boilermakers. Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton threw for 249 yards on 27 of 49 passing. Purdue gave a scare to OSU the year before in West Lafayette, Indiana, and nearly came out of Columbus with a victory in 2003.OSU defensive lineman Tim Anderson recovered a fumble by Purdue in Boilermaker territory with less than two minutes remaining. Mike Nugent came on for the game-winning field goal attempt, but it was blocked and the game went to overtime.OSU started with the ball and had to settle for a field goal after going three-and-out. On Purdue’s possession, OSU cornerback Chris Gamble dropped a would-be interception that would’ve ended the game. The defense recovered and held and Purdue kicker Ben Jones missed a field goal that would have sent the game into a second overtime.OSU lost the next week at No. 5 Michigan.Sept. 10, 2005: No. 2 Texas at No. 4 Ohio State, Texas 25-22Following a disappointing 2004 season that ended with a romping of No. 7 Michigan, the fourth-ranked Buckeyes were set to battle the Texas Longhorns and eventual Heisman trophy winner Vince Young in the first test of the 2005 season.OSU started the game with Troy Smith at quarterback over Justin Zwick. Smith ended the 2004 season under center. The Buckeyes trailed 10-0 early, but retook the lead 16-13 before halftime.In the third quarter, coach Jim Tressel put Zwick into the game trying to hold on to the 19-16 lead. Zwick led the team down the field on his first drive. He found tight end Ryan Hamby in the end zone, but Hamby bobbled the ball and dropped what would’ve been a touchdown that put OSU up two scores. Instead, OSU came away with three points and left the door open for the Longhorns.After OSU kicker Josh Huston missed a 50-yard field goal, his first miss on six attempts in the game, Texas only needed a touchdown and an extra point for the lead. Young gave them just that.With 2:37 left in the game, Young connected with Limas Sweed for the go-ahead and game-winning score.Texas went on to win the national championship over the Southern California Trojans.Sept. 23, 2006: No. 24 Penn State at No. 1 Ohio State, OSU 28-6The 2006 Buckeyes were heavy national championship favorites. After OSU beat the Longhorns in Austin, Texas, two weeks earlier, OSU welcomed the Nittany Lions to Columbus. It took 20 minutes for the first points to go on the board for both teams. Penn State kicker Kevin Kelly knocked home a short field goal for a 3-0 Nittany Lions lead heading into halftime.In the second half, OSU wide receiver Brian Robiskie and running back Antonio Pittman each had a touchdown, putting the Buckeyes up 14-3. Kelly trimmed the Penn State deficit to eight with another field goal before the OSU defense took over.Late in the fourth quarter, OSU safety Malcolm Jenkins and OSU cornerback Antonio Smith each had interception returns for touchdowns which sealed an OSU victory.Nov. 18, 2006: No. 2 Michigan at No. 1 Ohio State, OSU 42-39The Game of the Century. A game that this 2016 edition of the rivalry has been endlessly compared to. 11-0 Michigan against 11-0 OSU with a spot in the national championship game on the line. Both defenses were expected to make the difference, but the offenses consisting of multiple future NFL players exploded for a shootout.The game started quickly with Michigan running back Mike Hart, quarterback Chad Henne and wide receiver Mario Manningham charging down the field for a 7-0 lead just 2:28 into the game. OSU quarterback Troy Smith followed the act with a touchdown strike to Roy Hall to tie the game at seven.In the second quarter, freshman running back Chris “Beanie” Wells dashed away from the Wolverine defense for a 52-yard rushing score. On the next drive, Smith connected with do-it-all playmaker Ted Ginn Jr. off a play fake from 39 yards out to put OSU up 28-14.The teams traded punches throughout the night, ending with Ginn recovering an onside kick to preserve a 42-39 victory that sent OSU to the national championship game where the Buckeyes lost to Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators.Oct. 25, 2008: No. 3 Penn State at No. 9 Ohio State, Penn State 13-6The Ohio State Buckeyes had won five games in a row following a blowout loss at USC earlier in the season. Freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor had started in all five games, including a close win at Wisconsin. Penn State came into Columbus in first place in the Big Ten and 8-0 overall.OSU led 6-3 in the fourth quarter and had an opportunity to increase its lead following a Penn State missed field goal. With 10:38 remaining in the game, Pryor fumbled on third-and-1 and the ball was recovered by the Nittany Lions.Penn State backup quarterback Pat Devlin came in for the injured Daryll Clark hoping to take the lead with the ball in OSU territory. Running back Evan Royster gained a crucial first down on 3rd-and-2 inside OSU’s five yard line. On second-and-goal, Devlin ran a quarterback sneak up the middle for the game’s go-ahead score.Kelly connected on a field goal with 1:08 remaining, increasing the lead to 13-6. On the final chance for OSU, Pryor threw an interception in the end zone, sealing his first loss as a starter at OSU.Sept. 12, 2009: No. 3 University of Southern California at No. 8 Ohio State, USC 18-15OSU suffered an embarrassing 35-3 loss in Los Angeles in 2008, but this time the Buckeyes had the Trojans in Ohio Stadium. In front of a record crowd, OSU took a 15-10 lead into the fourth quarter.Freshman quarterback Matt Barkley was under center for Pete Carroll and the Trojans. Pryor was back with the Buckeyes for an improved sophomore season. In the fourth quarter, Barkley and running back tandem Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson took advantage of a tired OSU defense.The USC offense ran 14 plays and drove 86 yards in six minutes and 10 seconds for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:05 remaining in the game. It was OSU’s first non-conference home loss since Texas in 2005.Nov. 13, 2010: Penn State at No. 8 Ohio State, OSU 38-14The 8-1 Buckeyes squandered a No.1 ranking at Wisconsin two weeks before its home matchup against Penn State, but OSU remained in line for a Big Ten championship.At halftime, Penn State led quarterback Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes 14-3, quieting the crowd at the ‘Shoe. However, in the second half, it was all OSU.Running back Dan “Boom” Herron ran started the half with a touchdown. He ran for 190 yards in the game. On the following Penn State possession, defensive back Devon Torrence returned an interception for a touchdown and OSU never looked back.Pryor threw for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and OSU used another pick-six to win a lopsided game against Penn State.All wins in the 2010 season were vacated following the Tattoo-Gate scandal.Nov. 21, 2015: No. 9 Michigan State at No. 3 Ohio State, Michigan State 17-14The 2015 Buckeyes had underachieved coming into the second-to-last week of the season. But it didn’t matter. If OSU won out, coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes had a chance at repeating as national champions.This was the first game in five years College GameDay had been in Columbus. OSU came in as 14-point favorites versus Michigan State, but the Spartan defense stymied the Buckeye offense all game.Running back Ezekiel Elliott had just four carries after the team’s first drive, which ended in an Elliott touchdown run. OSU had just 133 yards of total offense.Michigan State backup quarterback Tyler O’Connor played for the injured Connor Cook against an OSU defense that had not yielded much against opponents all year. O’Connor and running backs L.J. Scott and Gerald Holmes did enough to pull off the upset of the year, ending OSU’s 23-game winning streak.Nov. 26, 2016: No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio StateSaturday marks the 15th time College GameDay graces the OSU campus. The show will be held outside of the RPAC by the Tuttle Park Place turnaround. The final 90 minutes of the show will be broadcasted from inside the stadium.GameDay begins at 7 a.m. with the temperature at 35 degrees, wind chill of 30. Temperature is expected to be 42 degrees and mostly cloudy at kickoff at 12:12 p.m.
Ohio State will play under the bright lights of Memorial Stadium against Indiana Saturday night without senior safety and captain Kurt Coleman.The Buckeyes’ second-leading tackler, Coleman was suspended by the Big Ten for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Illinois’ backup quarterback Eddie McGee in the final minute of OSU’s 30-0 victory.That’s right, in garbage time against a backup quarterback in a steady downpour, the OSU coaching staff left its top defensive back on the slippery field.The slick conditions alone should have been enough reason to pull the first-string defense to evade any potential injuries.All but accepting defeat, Illinois pulled starting quarterback Juice Williams.But Coleman and Co. were kept in the game in a 30-point blowout as the clock wound down toward zero.So, Coleman, the team’s vocal leader, cannot be blamed for his aggressive instincts. Yes, under Big Ten rule, his “illegal” tackle might have warranted the penalty. But had the OSU coaching staff used enough common sense to pull Coleman from the game, the suspension could have been avoided completely.This isn’t the first instance of late-game incompetence on the part of the Buckeye coaches. Last season, running back Chris “Beanie” Wells injured his foot during the third quarter of the season-opening destruction of lowly Youngstown State.Coach Jim Tressel received plenty of heat for leaving his star rusher in the game when the contest was already out of hand. Wells needed the next three weeks to recover, missing OSU’s 35-3 letdown against Southern Cal.The dynamic of the Buckeye defense won’t change as much as the offense did during “Beanie’s” absence. Anderson Russell, a starter last season and the first two games of this year, will swiftly step into Coleman’s place.Still, this must serve as a notice to the OSU coaches who continue to play with fire by leaving their key players on the field when unnecessary. The team has nothing to gain by leaving its most crucial players on the field for mop-up duty. Hopefully, this serves as a much needed wake-up call.
The Ohio State women’s basketball team kicks off its season with the Women’s National Invitational Tournament this weekend.The Buckeyes face Eastern Illinois in the first round on Friday. EIU went 24-9 in 2009.This is the first ever meeting between EIU and the Buckeyes and EIU’s first ever appearance in the WNIT.The Buckeyes’ last appearance in the WNIT was in 2004, when they fell to Notre Dame in the championship game.This season, the Buckeyes are exploding with talent. The team boasts last season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, sophomore point guard Samantha Prahalis, and Big Ten Player of the Year, junior center Jantel Lavender.The duo has a connection unmatched by Big Ten competitors. Lavender feels confident in Prahalis under the basket, and Prahalis is able to find Lavender with her look-away passes. The team also returns the two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in senior guard Shavelle Little. Coach Jim Foster has recruited talented newcomers to the program as well. The Buckeyes signed the No. 1 recruit from Minnesota, Tayler Hill, one of four freshmen on the team. Hill was a two-time Player of the Year and scored more than 4,000 points in her high school career. “This year the talent in our freshmen will take our team to another level because they are so competitive,” Lavender said. “We have a lot of leaders which will change the team a lot.”After taking the Big Ten regular season and the Big Ten conference tournament titles last season, the team’s goals are extremely high this year. “I think we’re capable of winning the national championship,” Prahalis said. Preseason polls predict that No. 3 Ohio State will win the Big Ten for the sixth consecutive year and the Big Ten conference tournament title for the third consecutive year. The Buckeyes tip off Friday at 5 p.m. in St. John Arena. The victor will play in the second round Sunday 2 p.m. against the winner of the Bowling Green vs. Chicago State matchup. Semifinals will be Nov. 18-19, and the championship game will be played Sunday, Nov. 22.