'Sport' Articles

Save the Cap — Save the NFL!

[January 26, 2010. New York.] This past weekend’s NFC Championship game involved a team from Minnesota and a team from New Orleans.  Yet, there was an estimated 57.9 million people watching.  (And that happened with Joe Buck in the booth!)  This is the highest number in a non-Super Bowl game since “The Catch” in 1982 — and the highest number of any non-Super Bowl television show since the last episode of Seinfeld.  Truly amazing, considering the game was sloppy (frustrating to most football fans),  and included bad calls and more calls for an NCAA overtime rule.

Hopefully, Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith do not see these numbers.   The current collective bargaining agreement between the NFL (represented by Goodell) and its players (represented by Smith) will expire at the end of the 2010 season.  (That is next season.)

As for some background, the NFL has a salary cap.  Hence, we have a Super Bowl between Minnesota and New Orleans, and not between the Yankees and the Phillies.   The cap is set to expire this year.   Besides pushing communism out of the NFL, this will be a huge shock to the NFL system.   Brady will make more than Oprah.   Kickers will buy houses.  Quarterbacks will actually buy cars to their linemen; not just say they will.  And Goodell will not allow this.  A lockout will ensue.  What would those 50+ million people do?

Add comment January 26th, 2010

World Cup 2010: Group of Death?

[New York. December 10, 2009.]  After the groups were chosen for the 2010 World Cup, immediately, soccer (a.k.a. non-US football) fans and commentators  commenced the “Group of Death” argument.  As in prior years, the debate ended fast, with little controversy.  Few have chosen to disagree with the football brass on this issue.  (Note the usage of the term “football”; I do not know of any soccer brass.)  They have all dubbed Group G the Group of Death (such group includes  Brazil, North Korea, Cote d’Ivoire and Portugal).  Since this is the World’s game and means more to most than politics, we shall examine.


First, the basics.  World Cup football begins with eight Groups.  Each Group has four teams.  An elaborate selection process is used to determine which teams are placed into each Group.  This process seeks to offer the Groups parity, but, like everything else in sport, true parity cannot be achieved.  Each Group member plays the other three teams once (three points for a win and one for a draw).  The top two teams in each Group by points move on to the “knockout” round (essentially a quarterfinal).   At the December 4, 2009 selection “event,” Charlize Theron told us that the 2010 World Cup groups would be made up as follows:

Group A:  South Africa (86) / Mexico (15) / Uruguay(19) / France (7)
Group B:  Argetina(8) / Nigeria(22) / South Korea(52) / Greece(12)
Group C:  England(9) / United States(14) / Algeria(28) / Slovenia(33)
Group D:  Germany(6) / Australia(21) / Serbia(20) / Ghana(37)
Group E:  Netherlands(3) / Denmark(26) / Japan(43) / Cameroon(11)
Group F:  Italy(4) / Paraguay(30) / New Zealand(77) / Slovakia(34)
Group G:  Brazil(2) / North Korea(84) / Cote d’Ivoire(16) / Portugal(5)
Group H:  Spain(1) / Switzerland(18) / Honduras(38) / Chile(17)

What are  the numbers in the parentheticals?  They are the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings, which I will use to analyze the Groups.   For those that do not follow soccer, FIFA is the International Federation of Association Football, is the international organization that governs various tournaments, including the World Cup.  Of course, it is known by its French acronym, FIFA.

FIFA, along with its good friends Coke [NYSE:KO], issue internation team rankings, and the last such rankings were released on November 20, 2009.  Spain is number 1 in the world, Brazil is number 2, and so on.

The analysis I will use involves three components to determine which, if any, of the Groups is the “Group of Death” (in the soccer world, this is the most difficult group to get out of — reminder, only two of the four teams in each group advance).  Each component will rank the eight Groups from most difficult (1 point) to easiest (8 point); then, a weighted-average of each Group’s three components will give a final tally.  Of course, at TRP, we love our math.

Component 1 (25%):  The sum of each team’s FIFA rankings for each Group.  For example, Group A, with France (FIFA Ranking 7), Mexico (15), Uruguay (19) and South Africa (86), has a total of 127.  This is the second highest of all eight groups — so Group A will get a ‘7′ for this component.

Component 2 (50%):  The same calculation as Component 1, but using only the top three teams in each Group.  For example, Group B, with Argentina (8), Greece (12), Nigeria (22) and South Korea (52), has a total of 42.  In my opinion, this is the most relevant component, so it is given double the weight of the two others.

Component 3 (25%): Since the third-place team in each Group does not advance, the FIFA ranking of that team will be used.  For this component, “third-place” means the third highest ranked team in the Group.  For example, Slovakia, in Group F, has the highest ranking of all third-place teams — so Group F will get a ‘8′ for this component.

Based on this analysis, the Groups are ranked as follows:

Group F (8.000) (easiest)
Group C (6.000)
Group D (5.125)
Group B (4.875)
Group A (4.500)
Group E (3.500)
Group G (2.250)
Group H (1.750) (most difficult)

There you have it. Are you confused? Let me try to make this clearer through another example, using the potentially strongest group:  Group H has the least total FIFA ranking of all eight Groups with a 74 (so they get a ‘1′ for Component 1); it has the second lowest total FIFA ranking for its top three teams with a 36 (a ‘2′ for Component 2); and it has the second lowest seeded third placed team with the Swiss 178 (a ‘2′ for Component 3). Now, do the math: 1 x 25% + 2 x 50% + 2 x 25% = 1.75.

Although Group G has been presented to the world as the obvious Group of Death (thanks to Brazil, Portugal and Cote d’Ivoire — three top 16 teams), the analysis above results in a Group H of Death.  Clearly, the reason is that Group G’s North Korea is 84 in the world, whereas, Group H’s weakest team, Honduras, is 38.  I have no doubt that Spain (number 1 in the world) would much rather be in Group H, than in Group G.  However, in Group G, the would get the guaranteed win against North Korea, whereas, Honduras is no guarantee.  With that said, I think we can take the following from the above analysis:

  • Groups G and H can share “Group of Death” status;
  • Groups A, B, D and E are actually evenly matched; and
  • Groups C and F are very weak at the bottom.

If you back U.S., English or Italian soccer, get ready for the knock-out round or for some tears.

1 comment December 10th, 2009

Home Grown Talent — Red Sox, Mets and Yankees (2008)

[New York. April 2, 2008.]  The 2008 baseball season has finally begun.  Let me reminder all baseball fans which team in the Northeast is truly the ‘home grown’ team.  If you listen to those who hate the Yankees (both on the street and in print), you will often hear that they are “bought,” yet, when you actually look at the rosters, it paints a different picture.  As compared to the Red Sox, the Yankees have twice as many players that are considered “Home Grown Talent” (a.k.a. HGT). The Mets have even fewer HGTs — only three “everyday” players are home grown (only two of which have any real impact).

The “everyday” players I pulled were (i) the starting 8 fielders (for the AL teams I used the better of the first baseman and designated hitter as the first baseman), (ii) the five starting pitchers, (iii) the closer and (iv) the set-up man — for a total of 15 “everyday” players.  I pulled this list from the actually players that have the job, irrespective of whether they are injured (e.g., Shilling is still a starting pitcher for the Red Sox, or is he?).

After crunching the numbers — at the start of the season — the Red Sox are 5/15 (33%), the Mets are 3/15 (20%) and the Yankees are 10/15 (67%).  Again, the masses and the media are incorrect!

Boston Red Sox

C  Jason Varitek (HGT)
1B David Ortiz
2B Dustin Pedroia (HGT)
3B Mike Lowell
SS Julio Lugo
LF Manny Ramirez
CF Jacoby Ellsbury (HGT)
RF J.D. Drew
SP Josh Beckett
SP Curt Shilling
SP Daisuke Matsuzaka
SP Tim Wakefield
SP Jon Lester (HGT)
ST Hideki Okajima
CL Jonathan Papelbon (HGT)

Red Sox Home Grown Talent — 5/15 (33%)

I give the Red Sox credit.  At least they are trying to build from within while they continue to be one of the best teams in the American League.  They have filled holes with quality minor league talent (Ellsbury, et al.) and have not sold off their future for another arm. Beckett and Dice-K will probably keep them rolling in the near future and Pedroia and Ellsbury look like stars. They even boast an HGT player that has spent his entire career with the team — Jason Varitek (although not drafted by the Red Sox, he is playing his 11th season with the squad). Although, 33% is still pretty pathetic, considering the way they won the 2004 World Series, this is an improvement.

New York Mets

C  Brian Schnieder
1B Carlos Delgado
2B Luis Castillo
3B David Wright (HGT)
SS Jose Reyes (HGT)
LF Moises Alou
CF Carlos Beltran
RF Shawn Green
SP Johan Santana
SP Pedro Martinez
SP Oliver Perez
SP John Maine
SP Orlando Hernandez
ST Aaron Heilman (HGT)
CL Billy Wagner

Mets Home Grown Talent — 3/15 (20%)

The Mets are now down to three home grown players.  It is simply ironic that it is usually the Mets supporters in New York that claim the Yankees “buy” their teams.  Looking at this roster — the top 15 starters on the Mets — it is reprehensible that only three of them come from the Mets system.  In fact, if you remove their setup-man Heilman – who really has not won that role yet – the Mets would have only two home grown players playing every day. That must be hard to swallow for a Mets fan, but, I assume, if they win it all this year, those same fans will forget all about it.  As a side note, I will admit that the Mets have done a great job buying talent.  Santana and Beltran are at the top of their respective positions.  on the other hand, some of their minor moves and the older players purchased may come back to bite them.  At least they did not bring in Randy Johnson and Kevin Brown.  At the end of the day, the Mets have put together the best lineup and staff in the National League (assuming they stay healthy) and regardless how they do it, they are still a top contender.

New York Yankees

C Jorge Posada (HGT)
1B Jason Giambi
2B Robinson Cano (HGT)
3B Alex Rodriguez
SS Derek Jeter (HGT)
LF Johhny Damon
CF Melky Cabrera (HGT)
RF Bobby Abreu
SP Chien-Ming Wang (HGT)
SP Andy Pettitte (HGT)
SP Mike Mussina
SP Phil Hughes (HGT)
SP Ian Kennedy (HGT)
RP Joba Chamberlain (HGT)
CL Mariano Rivera (HGT)

Yankees Home Grown Talent 10/15 (67%)

It is pretty amazing to think they hold a HGT of 67% considering their reputation.  They may have a huge salary, but there is something to be said for rewarding players with big contracts that you developed in your own system.  Few teams in the league can say that — and it impresses me that the Yankees are one of them.  Ten of the Yankees fifteen starters are from the Yankees system. As compared to their rival Red Sox (who have only 5) and their New York counterpart (who have only 3), it is pretty impressive to see the Yankees continue to stockpile the youth on their roster. Looking back to this winter (although, Yankees fans may regret it), when we held on to the kids and passed on Santana, we really showed baseball which teams ‘buy’ their teams and which teams ‘develop’ their teams.

As a disclaimer, I happen to be a Yankees fan.  I despise the Red Sox and remain cautious with the Mets.  I have changed my idea of what Home Grown Talent is from last year and begin this season with the following definition — an HGT is a player that is (a) drafted by their team or (b) played in the minor leagues for that team, and (c) currently plays for that team.  Yes, there are holes in that logic, but until someone falls through the crack, no sense in developing a more detailed formula.

2 comments April 2nd, 2008

Home Grown Talent — Who Really has it? (2007)

[New York. September 13, 2007.] I have to admit, after years of hearing about how the Yankees “buy” their teams and have no “home grown talent,” I started to believe it. My response was always — what about Jeter and Posada, and Mariano and Pettitte, and now, Cano and Cabrera — and I thought I had a good argument. A good argument indeed!

After looking around the league, I realized very few competitive teams have a lot of Home Grown Talent, otherwise known as ‘HGT’ (not HGH)! In fact, the two largest groups of fans I see day-today (and find myself arguing with) sponsor teams that have a really palty HGT on their current teams. In fact, the Red Sox have only an HGT of 25%, and the Mets have only three really HGT players on their team.

Before I give you my analysis, let me first explain how I came to my results. First, I consider, any “current” player that was either (i) drafted by the team or (ii) played their entire career with only that team. Then, I looked to each teams’ “top twenty” players, eight starting fielders, three other batters (a DH or bench player, an infield and outfield bench player), the five starting pitchers, three top relievers and the closer. If a starting player was recently injured, they remained on this list. The Red Sox, Mets and Yankees top-twenty players and their HGT status are listed below:

Boston Red Sox

C Jason Varitek (HGT)
1B Kevin Youkilis (HGT)
2B Dustin Pedroia (HGT)
3B Mike Lowell
SS Julio Lugo
LF Manny Ramirez
RF Coco Crisp
CF J.D. Drew
DH David Ortiz
IN Alex Cora
OF Eric Hinske

P1 Josh Beckett
P2 Curt Shilling
P3 Daisuke Matsuzaka
P4 Tim Wakefield
P5 Jon Lester (HGT)
RP Mike Timlin
RP Hideki Okajima
RP Eric Gagne
CL Jonathan Papelbon (HGT)

HGT — 5/20 (25%)

The Boston Red Sox have five home grown players of their top twenty players. That is not too impressive. At least the Sox can boast that five of their top-twenty have been on the team for at least seven seasons (Manny, Ortiz, Timlin, Wakefield and Varitek), although, only one of them is an HGT. (Yankees’ fans out there — remind yourself that four of the five current HGT’s were not on the 2004 Red Sox, nor were there any other HGT’s on that team.)

New York Mets

C Paul LoDuca
1B Carlos Delgado
2B Luis Castillo
3B David Wright (HGT)
SS Jose Reyes (HGT)
LF Moises Alou
CF Carlos Beltran
RF Shawn Green
OF Lastings Milledge (HGT)
OF Ruben Gotay
IN Endy Chavez

P1 Tom Glavine
P2 Orlando Hernandez
P3 Pedro Martinez
P4 John Maine
P5 Oliver Perez
RP Jorge Sosa
RP Guillermo Mota
RP Aaron Heilman (HGT)
CL Billy Wagner

HGT — 4/20 (20%)

The Mets offer a only four home grown players in their top twenty. To make matters worse, of these twenty top players, not one of them has been on the Mets for more than three seasons. In fact, their entire top-twenty has turned over since their 2000 World Series appearance. To their credit, they were in need of a rebuild after 2000, but, I wish they would start give time to some minor league youth over the Glavine, Green and Delgados…

New York Yankees

C Jorge Posada (HGT)
1B Jason Giambi
2B Robinson Cano (HGT)
3B Alex Rodriguez
SS Derek Jeter (HGT)
LF Hideki Matsui
CF Melky Cabrera (HGT)
RF Bobby Abreu
DH Johnny Damon
IN Andy Phillips (HGT)
OF Shelley Duncan (HGT)

P1 Chien-Ming Wang (HGT)
P2 Andy Pettitte (HGT)
P3 Roger Clemens
P4 Phil Hughes (HGT)
P5 Ian Kennedy (HGT)
RP Edwar Ramirez (HGT)
RP Luis Vizcaino
RP Joba Chamberlain (HGT)
CL Mariano Rivera (HGT)

HGT — 13/20 (65%)

Remarkably, 65% of the Yankees top twenty are home grown. I still find it amazing that people can insult any team that has so much quality youth — not to mention that half of the veterans are HGT’s (who are being compensated accordingly). Posada, Jeter, Pettitte and Mariano have all played for the Yankees for at least eight seasons and were a large part of the Yankees’ dynasty in the late 1990’s. You could argue that Mussina and Farnsworth belong on this list, but after the last few months — Kennedy and Ramirez appear to have taken their roles.

After crunching the numbers, it looks like the Yanks (with 65%) have more home grown talent than the Mets (20%) and Red Sox (25%) combined! The Sox may have two HGT’s in their rotation, but the Yanks have four (while the Mets offer their fans zero). Obviously, the more HGTs you throw out there, the less likely you are to be successful “today,” but it has to feel pretty good right now to know that during the next few years we will be watching our veterans (who we’ve know for a long time) play with our next generation of Yankees. Of course, it never hurts to bring in a non-HGT MVP. But in all honesty, last year, many fans would have reversed that trade and brought Soriano back to the Bronx. Luckily, Cashman was not listening.

1 comment September 13th, 2007

Interleague: Yes, the AL is that Dominant!

[New York. September 10, 2007.] So, interleague play is long gone and it is time to crunch the numbers — as expected, the American League is the better conference.  The numbers just do not lie.  Although, I have to admit, the American League East surprised me with a total .500 winning percentage against the National League.  I guess it does not help when Tampa Bay and Baltimore could not get out of their own way.

In the end, the American League won 137 of the total 252 interleague games.  That results in a .544 winning percentage –  and this sample is the equivalent of over a season and a half for any one team.  If you pull out the Devil Rays, the Orioles and the White Sox (the bottom of the AL), the rest of the America League played at a .606 pace against the National League.  In fact, taking out those three AL teams and not one of the other AL teams (the other 11 teams) had a losing record in interleague play.  That includes last place Texas (11-7) and a Kansas City (10-8) team that is currently 18 games under .500.

A summary of each teams final interleague record is as follows:

American League [137-115] (.544)

AL East
Boston 12-6
Yankees 10-8
Toronto 10-8
Tampa Bay 7-11
Baltimore 6-12

AL Central
Detroit 14-4
Minnesota 11-7
Cleveland 9-9
Kansas City 10-8
White Sox 4-14

AL West
Los Angeles 14-4
Texas 11-7
Oakland 10-8
Seattle 9-9

National League [115-137] (.456)

NL East
Mets 8-7
Atlanta 8-7
Florida 9-9
Washington 9-9
Philadelphia 4-11

NL Central
Cubs 8-4
Milwaukee 8-7
Houston 9-9
St. Louis 6-9
Cincinnati 7-11
Pittsburgh 5-10

NL West
Colorado 10-8
Arizona 8-7
San Diego 6-9
Los Angeles 5-10
San Francisco 5-10

An interesting fact — if you look at only the current four playoff teams and the top two teams trailing in the wild card standings (as of September 9, 2007), the six such AL teams (Sox, Yanks, Angels, Indians, Tigers and Seattle) finished 68-40 (.630) and the six such NL teams (Mets, Phils, Brewers, ‘Backs, Padres and LA) finished 43-47 (.478) in interleague play. That does not lend towards another NL World Champion, but of course, not of that really matters in a quick seven-game series in late October.

1 comment September 10th, 2007

Interleague: Is the AL Really Dominant?

[New York. June 11, 2007.]  We just finished our first weekend of the “real” interleague matchups.  Last month, we were greeted with the “rivalry” interleague matchups.  So, shall we start the debate as to which Major League Baseball Conference is superior?  These two interleague weekends have given us 84 total interleague games.  Luckily, there were no postponements.  Each of the 14 American League teams played in two series (6 total games each).  Since there are 16 National League teams, 10 played 6 games and the other 4 played in only 3 each (remember, those four had to play each other to keep it all even).  To preempt any arguments about where the games were played — there were 42 games played in National League parks and 42 games in American.

In those 84 games so far, the American League won over 60% of the games.  To be exact, the American League was 51-33 (.607) in those games, thus, the National League was 33-51 (.393).  Even though interleague play has only just begun, these numbers appear to be consistent with the overall power of the leagues.  But for the Mets, it is hard to imagine any of the other National League teams consistently beating any of the American League power-houses (the Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Indians, Angels, etc.).  And those Mets, they just lost two out of three against the Tigers.  That series puts the two leagues in perspective.  The Mets shut out Detroit in game one with an amazing outing by their number five starter, Jorge Sosa.  But, when they sent their top two starters out there in the next two games, they lost both, surrendering 23 total runs in those two games.

A summary of each teams current record, along with their interleague record, is as follows:

American League [51-33] (.607)

AL East
Boston 40-22 (.645) 4-2
Yankees 30-31 (.492) 4-2 
Toronto 30-32 (.484) 3-3
Baltimore 29-34 (.460) 3-3 
Tampa Bay 28-33 (.459) 2-4

AL Central
Cleveland 37-24 (.607) 3-3
Detroit 36-26 (.581) 5-1
Minnesota 30-31 (.492) 3-3 
White Sox 27-32 (.458) 2-4
Kansas City 24-40 (.375) 4-2

AL West
Los Angeles 40-24 (.625) 5-1
Seattle 33-26 (.559) 4-2
Oakland 34-28 (.548) 5-1
Texas 23-40 (.365) 4-2

National League [33-51] (.393)

NL East
Mets 36-25 (.590) 3-3
Atlanta 35-29 (.547) 1-2
Philadelphia 32-31 (.508) 3-3
Florida 31-33 (.484) 4-2
Washington 26-37 (.413) 3-3

NL Central
Milwaukee 34-29 (.540) 2-4 
St. Louis 27-33 (.450) 1-5
Cubs 27-34 (.443) 2-1
Houston 26-36 (.419) 3-3
Pittsburgh 26-37 (.413) 0-3
Cincinnati 25-39 (.391) 3-3

NL West
San Diego 36-26 (.581) 2-4
Arizona 37-27 (.578) 1-2
Los Angeles 35-28 (.556) 1-5
Colorado 31-32 (.492) 3-3
San Francisco 28-34 (.452) 1-5

We will be back after the next set of interleague games to discuss.  I know St. Louis fans will argue that their team won the World Series, but that was a seven game series.  The data above gives us the analysis of 84 games thus far.  And trust me, I wish the National League would win 60%, so long as my American League team was in the 40%…

Add comment June 11th, 2007

Western Conference: Redistrict the NBA III


Western Conference Logo


As the final follow-up to my articles Western Conference: “Restrict the NBA” and Western Conference: “Restrict the NBA” II — after the NBA regular season is complete, I have worked the following analysis.  (As I did before, I have updated the non-conference standings, in bold, for all NBA teams below.)

Eastern Conference
[193-257 -- .429]

Atlantic [54-96
Rapters 47-35 (14-16)
Nets 41-41 (10-20)  
76ers 35-47 (11-19) 
Knicks 33-49 (11-19) 
Celtics 24-58 (8-22) 

Central [72-78]
Pistons 53-29 (17-13)
Cavaliers 50-32 (19-11)
Bulls 49-33 (13-17)
Pacers 35-47 (10-20)
Bucs 28-54 (13-17)

Southeast [67-83]
Heat 44-38 (17-13)
Wizards 41-41 (14-16)
Magic 40-42 (14-16)
Bobcats 33-49 (9-21)
Hawks 30-52 (13-17)
Western Conference
[257-193 -- .571]

Southwest [95-55]
Mavericks 67-15 (27-3)
Spurs 58-24 (20-10)
Rockets 52-30 (24-6)
Hornets 39-43 (16-14)
Grizzlies 22-60 (8-22)
Northwest [77-73]
Jazz 51-31 (19-11)
Nuggets 45-37 (18-12)
Trail Blazers 32-50 (13-17)
Timberwolves 32-50 (14-16)
SuperSonics 31-51 (13-17)

Pacific [85-65]
Suns 61-21 (25-5)
Lakers 42-40 (14-16)
Warriors 42-40 (14-16)
Clippers 40-42 (17-13)
Kings 33-49 (15-15)

In my prior to articles on redistricting, the Western Conference was beating the Eastern Conference at a noticable rate.  (After 112 inter-conference games, as of December 10, 2006, the Western Conference teams were beating the Eastern Conference teams 66.1% of the time, and after 369 total inter-conference games, as of March 7, 2007, it was 58.3%.)

At the end of the season, after the 450 total inter-conference games, the Western Conference won 57.1% of those game — the Eastern Conference won 42.9%.

Therefore, after a quick start, the Western Conference’s supremecy started to decrease, but still ended with a pretty big spread.  Most of that spread can be attributed to the Texas and Arizona (the Mavericks, Spurs, Rockets and Suns, which combined for a 96-24 record — 80%).  Ignoring the Grizzlies (8-22), every Western Conference team won at least 13 of their 30 inter-conference games — including the four teams discussed above with 20+ wins (no Eastern Conference team had 20 wins).  By division, all three Western Conference divisions, in total, beat out all three of the Eastern Divisions.

I guess we’ll have to wait for the finals to see if this even matters.  But regardless of the result, in my view, this analysis does lead my to believe that the Eastern Conference winner may have an advantage over the Western Conference winner in that they will be well rested.

Add comment May 7th, 2007

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