At first glance, Ethan Happ, Wisconsin’s do-everything, still-growing sophomore forward, looks like a typical Wisconsin big. He’s the sort of player former coach Bo Ryan habitually used to recruit to Madison — this season’s Jon Leuer or Frank Kaminsky. Under-recruited in high school, he’s remarkably efficient within the arc, connecting on 58 percent of his two-point field goals, and is active on the defensive glass, hauling in a quarter of opponents’ misses. He appears to be a good college player but someone likely to crack an all-Big Ten first team — at most — at least once during his Badger career.But Happ has transcended his role. Thanks to a growth spurt in high school that boosted him from a guard to a big, Happ is a multidimensional player who leads Wisconsin in offensive (6.3) and defensive (9.5) Box Plus/Minus, assist rate (22.9), steal rate (4.0) and block rate (4.5). He also tops all of DI in Box Plus/Minus (15.8). Using those rates as parameters within College Basketball Reference’s Player Season Finder, only two other players since 2009-10 have come close to matching Happ’s statistical output.1To measure how Happ compared to other bigs, the tool sifted through players with a usage rate of more than 25 percent, an assist rate and a defensive rebounding rate of at least 20 percent, and a block rate of at least 4.5 percent. The search was further sorted by field goal percentage, which would weed out any players that hadn’t scored enough to qualify for national rankings.Similarly, through the beginning of the Big Ten tournament, Happ was one of just three players the past eight seasons to post a defensive BPM of 10 (or more) and an offensive BPM of 6 (or more). The other two? Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns.VIDEO: Our picks for bracket success But Wisconsin is not Kentucky, at least not this year. Towns and Davis led their Kentucky squads to Final Fours in their respective seasons with the school, but this season’s Badgers team has stumbled through February and early March, losing six of their last 10 games. Now they’re a No. 8 seed in the East Region. That sort of seeding isn’t usually indicative of a team with a player who possesses Happ’s unicornlike stat profile.But having just one unicorn — no matter how efficiently he plays — isn’t necessarily enough, and that is partly why Wisconsin has struggled this season. Happ is in the midst of a statistically anomalous season, and yet the Badgers — the tournament’s 29th overall team — enter March looking gassed. They’ve lost six of their last 10 and have an 18 percent chance to make the Sweet 16.I’ve watched hundreds of Happ’s plays this season, and what sticks out isn’t so much his offensive output, it’s how he mimics moves from other players and morphs those skill sets into his own. He then uses those moves to impact the game at different levels. Happ’s offense is entirely limited to attempts around the basket. His jump shot is non-existent — the ball knuckles as it leaves his hand without any rotation — and opponents realized midway through Big Ten play that the best way to defend Happ, and essentially shut down Wisconsin’s offensive flow, was to mix and match double teams (e.g., double on the catch or on the bounce).This strategic change led to the ball often sticking too long on the block and Happ looking like a rec league player who had stumbled into a game full of pros that just needed an extra body (he scored in single digits three of those six losses).That said, Happ is a bear for opponents to guard — a bundle of contained energy, he never stops moving. Whether setting a drag screen off a fast break, or bouncing on the balls of his feet as he roams from low block to the high post to the perimeter to set a pick, Happ is constantly seeking out the ideal angle that’ll give him even the slightest edge on the block. He scores .92 points per post up, which ranks 22nd nationally among other BCS conference forwards and centers (with at least 100 attempts, according to Synergy Sports), and he uses his vision to find fellow Badgers open on the perimeter or cutting through the middle. Since coach Greg Gard needs guards Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter to concentrate on scoring and stretching defenses with their combined 39 percent 3-point shooting, the Badgers invert their offense — it flows inside-out — to run plays through Happ. Happ makes a pass out of the block on 41 percent of his post-ups, and the squad has benefited from Happ’s touch, scoring 1.30 PPP following one of his dishes.One move that he “borrowed” was used initially by Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan, the Big Ten’s player of the year. According to Happ, Swanigan would “chin” the basketball, or bring it to his chin, and then elbow the defender’s chest to create separation for a jump hook. “It’s a very good move,” Happ said in an interview with FiveThirtyEight. “He did it to me this year. Most people put their shoulder down to create space, but when you use an elbow, a defender can’t stand his ground.” Or, if the defender is within the arc, take a charge.This adaptability also impacts Happ’s defense. The Badgers hold opposing teams to .913 PPP, but what is most interesting about the squad’s defensive efficiency rating this season is its steal rate — 19.9 percent. The Big Ten squad is infamous for rarely generating turnovers, preferring to control the glass and use a man defense to hamstring opponents. But since Happ took the court, the team’s steal rate has skyrocketed (from 15.8 percent in Ryan’s final season as coach to a combined 19.2 percent during Happ’s two seasons on the court). According to Gard, Happ is “a gambler,” a trait he picked up during his redshirt season in 2014-15 when he matched up with Kaminsky daily in practice. “Frank would score on me so many times that I would have to adjust and learn how to do something different,” Happ said.Happ is the only player taller than 6 feet 5 inches with a steal rate that ranks in Ken Pomeroy’s top 50. He showcases that same nimbleness by playing farther behind whoever he is guarding, which presents the illusion that man is open. As soon as the pass is thrown, Happ swoops around the opposing big to tap the ball away. That same speed helps when a ballhandler tries to take Happ off the dribble — per Synergy, Happ holds opponents to .63 points per isolation possession, which ranks within the nation’s 73rd percentile.Happ is nowhere near the level of Towns or Davis — or even Swanigan. He is far from dominant on either side of the ball, and he can’t take complete control of a game and carry his team; whether he continues to build his game into something worthy of a lottery pick is unknown. But Happ is a basketball cipher, and what he has shown this season is just a glimpse of a player who is starting to realize the extent of his multifaceted skill set: “I knew I wasn’t a finished product, and that I would have to stay for three to four years to become a pro. I am just a really weird player.”Check out our March Madness predictions.CORRECTION (March 17, 10:15 a.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated Ethan Happ’s offensive and defensive Box Plus/Minus stats. His offensive BPM is 6.3, not 9.5. His defensive BPM is 9.5, not 15.9. As a result, the article also incorrectly identified Happ as one of three players over the past eight seasons to post a defensive BPM of 10 or more and an offensive BPM of 6 or more. That was only true through the beginning of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Sixers Still Have Growing Pains To Work Out Related: The Lab CHICAGO — After the Bulls sparked controversy in June by trading their franchise star to launch a rebuild, the team’s floor — already below sea level — just kept dropping.In October, only days before the team’s season-opener, forwards Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic clashed during practice, with Mirotic suffering a concussion and fractured bones in his face. In November, the Warriors thrashed Chicago by 49 points — without All-Stars Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. Then earlier this month, things seemed to hit a new low. The Bulls, owners of a league-worst 3-20 mark, dropped a 10th-straight game, blowing a 16-point fourth-period lead to the Pacers.Fast forward two weeks, and that same ragtag collection of players who couldn’t buy a win in November is suddenly and mysteriously unbeatable. The Bulls, after blowing out Orlando on Wednesday, are winners of seven straight and own the East’s longest win streak. Only Golden State — 10 in a row — has more. If that seems bizarre … you’re right: Before this, no team in NBA history had ever lost 10 consecutive games (or more) and then rebounded with an immediate win streak of five games or more. Before this Bulls streak, FiveThirtyEight’s NBA projection system1Which, to be fair, doesn’t account for injuries like Mirotic’s. would have given Chicago just a 0.03 percent chance — 3 in 10,000 — of sweeping the seven games it’s won.The turnaround raises two questions for this young club: What, exactly, has changed in such a short amount of time? And are the Bulls at risk of jeopardizing their rebuild and a chance at a good lottery pick by winning too much? Mirotic’s return is the easiest thing to connect to the Bulls’ streak, considering that it began with his first game back. He’s playing unsustainably well — it’s almost impossible to imagine his continuing to be the NBA’s most efficient high-volume post player while shooting 49 percent from the 3-point line. And he’s averaging 35.8 points and 14.1 rebounds per 100 possessions, which puts him among a handful of superstars in the league posting at least 35 and 10.Part of this is opportunity. Mirotic comes off the bench2When Lauri Markkanen is healthy enough to play. but is clearly the No. 1 option when he’s on the floor. That’s a change from the past, when he had to defer to Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade or Derrick Rose. But to his credit, Mirotic has made one key change in his game: The 6-foot-10 forward has been more decisive with the ball than in years past. In particular, he has largely shelved a pump fake that often seemed to do the opposite of its intended purpose.According to an analysis published in 2015 by Vantage Sports, Mirotic fired off a shot attempt after using a pump fake more than anyone in the league during the 2014-15 season, yet logged the worst field-goal percentage on those shots among the league’s most frequent pump fakers.3If you broaden the sample by one more year, Mirotic was even worse. He shot just 22 percent from the field after pump fakes over the two-season stretch covering 2014-15 and 2015-16, the worst in the league among players who attempted at least 100 shots after pump fakes in that window. (Unlike Stephen Curry or JJ Redick, who pump-fake their way into cleaner looks by using a side dribble, Mirotic often stood fully stationary and faked his way into a worse shot, which gave defenders extra time to close out on him even further. You can see the difference in the clips below — the first shows a failed pump fake from 2014 and the second, from Wednesday’s game, shows Mirotic shoot in rhythm without any hesitation.)Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/miroticpumpfake.mp400:0000:0000:07Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/miroticquick.mp400:0000:0000:11Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Pointing solely at Mirotic’s impact would be oversimplifying the genesis of the streak, though. Kris Dunn — acquired in the Butler trade after posting the league’s worst true-shooting percentage among regulars4Who played 15 minutes per night and in at least 65 games. last season — has settled in nicely as the starting point guard after an initial rough patch. He has been getting to the basket regularly — ranking fourth in the NBA during the Bulls’ win streak, with almost 18 drives per game — and finishing more consistently once he gets there.Quietly, backup shooting guard David Nwaba — who also recently returned after being injured — might be having the strongest influence on the team’s winning. He aggressively pushes the ball in transition, arguably one of the bigger shifts in Chicago’s identity. The Bulls have ranked second in pace during this streak, up from 23rd before it. The 24-year-old generates nearly 32 percent of his offense from transition opportunities, the highest rate in the NBA5Among players who’ve checked into at least 15 games and gotten at least two transition possessions per game. and has scored on an impressive 65 percent of those chances. That and his energy on defense explain Nwaba’s presence in eight of the Bulls’ nine most efficient two-man lineups6With at least 100 minutes played. up to this point.“It’s a lot easier for our team to score in transition instead of having to break down a set defense that’s already set up, so I like to run when I can,” said Nwaba, who is on pace to become the first 6-foot-4 or shorter player7Who has played at least 15 games and 20 minutes per contest. in 30 years to shoot 55 percent or better from the field. That mindset is particularly valuable to a points-starved Bulls team that, even after reeling off seven victories in a row, is essentially tied for last in the league in offensive efficiency.These two plays — in which Nwaba catches opposing players off guard by taking an extra dribble or two into the teeth of the transition defense — are typical of how he generates scores for Chicago.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/nwaba.mp400:0000:0000:19Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/extradribble.mp400:0000:0000:17Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.The defensive improvement has been noteworthy as of late, too, especially since the Bulls have begun playing lineups with four defenders who can all switch their assignments and having their rim protector play pick-and-rolls less aggressively.But no one — well, except maybe Bulls forward Denzel Valentine — expects Chicago to continue playing at this level. (Tonight, the 10-20 Bulls take on LeBron James and the Cavs, who dominated them in a game just before this streak began.) It’s highly unlikely that the Bulls will maintain their Warriors- or Rockets-like shooting from midrange or that opposing teams will continue bricking wide-open threes against them in late-game scenarios.A quick look at the replies under this tweet (highlighting the Bulls’ streak) shows that Chicago fans are worrying about how this stretch of good basketball could hurt the team’s odds of landing a top lottery pick, a concern that still seems a bit premature considering everything that could take place between now and the end of the season.As good as Mirotic has looked, he has had to split playing time with Lauri Markkanen, the team’s promising first-round draft pick.8Also acquired in the Butler deal, although the Bulls traded their own pick to Minnesota as part of the deal. If Mirotic keeps playing anywhere near this level, the Chicago front office would have a nice asset once his contract becomes tradable9On Jan. 15. — a move that would free up more opportunity for Markkanen, who’s far younger and more athletic than Mirotic and has a similar skill set.Beyond that, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg told me and other reporters Wednesday that Zach LaVine is only two or three weeks away from seeing game action after tearing his ACL last season. His presence in the lineup will alter things considerably, for better or worse, as he knocks off the rust.All of this is simply another way of saying: Yes, the Bulls have been on a historic run the past couple of weeks, but they still have a fair number of flaws to work through. And for those worried about what the win streak means for tanking purposes, the educated guess here is that they’ll still lose plenty of games along the way to stay firmly in the lottery conversation.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
Source: ATP Anyone looking to knock off Roger Federer at Wimbledon will first need to break his serve. And if they have any hope of breaking his serve, it may die with the first point.Simply stated: Federer loves being up 15-0.When Federer wins the opening point of his service game, that pretty much means it’s already over. In his matches this year up to the start of Wimbledon, Federer won the first point in 278 games while serving, according to data from ATP. And in those matches where he served and scored first, he went on to win the game an overwhelming 270 times. That’s a success rate of 97.1 percent. Through the first three rounds of this year’s Wimbledon, the 36-year-old Federer did even better, winning 100 percent of the 33 games in which he served and won the first point.Although scoring first naturally increases a player’s odds of winning because it means that they held a lead at least once, for Federer, something about that first point on his serve seems to give him an outsize advantage. It’s possible that for Federer, winning the first point helps establish his service rhythm.How does he compare with the other top men in tennis? Favorably, of course. He’s Roger Federer, the winner of 20 Grand Slam singles titles, including eight at Wimbledon. He’s also one of the greatest servers in the history of the sport. John Isner25224296.0 Juan Martin del Potro30928592.2 In the 52 weeks heading into Wimbledon, Federer has been a maestro at holding serve — winning 92.1 percent of his service games, good for third best on the ATP Tour.For reference, Rafael Nadal, the world’s top-ranked tennis player, has won his service games 89.1 percent of the time, which is stellar but not on Federer’s level.The two players ahead of Federer in percentage of service games won are serving powerhouses John Isner and Ivo Karlovic.However, Isner, Karlovic and Kevin Anderson, who ranks just behind Federer in service games won, are all flamethrowers. They regularly serve at speeds in excess of 135 mph. Federer’s serves aren’t slow, but he’s a different kind of server than the other guys at the top of this list, whose height gives them a superior trajectory on that stroke. Rather than blasting his serve past opponents who can’t catch up, Federer hits his spots. He uses a variety of spins and placements to hang with the ATP Tour’s most successful servers.Through Week 1 at Wimbledon, Milos Raonic had recorded the tournament’s fastest serve, at 147 mph, according to statistics from IBM. Isner was second at 144 mph. Federer was way down the list, tied for 39th, with a max speed of 128 mph.Even without otherworldly speed, when it comes to holding serve after taking a 15-0 lead, Federer is outperforming even dominating servers like Isner.Still, critics will point out that Federer’s recent success rate in games where he leads 15-0 while serving has been made possible by his skipping the clay court season entirely this year and sticking to his favored surfaces. Rallies are longer on clay, which reduces the importance of the serve. In fact, anyone surprised to see Nadal and his sterling service stats hanging back in fifth place on the table above would do well to remember that he plays many of his matches on clay.But Federer has always done well on Wimbledon’s grass. During the first week of the tournament this year, Federer won the first point of his service game 80 percent of the time. Between 2004, when he first ascended to No. 1 in the world, and 2017, Federer was winning the first point of his service games 75 percent of the time at Wimbledon. And while he’s topping himself this year, he’s also crushing the field: Last week, all the men in the competition won the first point of their service games only 66 percent of the time, on average.This is not to imply that there’s only one way Federer can win — he also holds serve plenty of times when he loses the first point of his service game. In 2018, up to the start of Wimbledon, he lost that first point 80 times. In 62 of those games, he went on to win anyway. That’s 77.5 percent to the good for Federer. Not bad, considering he started the game behind, but still nearly 20 points worse than when he wins that point.That gap may offer his opponents an opportunity. Knowing that, statistically speaking, they have a much better shot at breaking Federer’s serve if they can steal the first point, they might choose to be more aggressive on the opening point of his service games, particularly if they see a second serve. It’s worth a try.But if an ambitious opponent looking to break Federer does lose the first point, that opponent better make sure he wins the next point or he’ll be left with only the barest sliver of hope. When Federer has won the first two points on his serve this year, up to Wimbledon, he went on to win the game 99.5 percent of the time.So what happened when he won the first three points? Federer went up 40-0 while serving 151 times, and he won every one of those games. PlayerGamesWinsWin rate Dominic Thiem38734990.2 Grigor Dimitrov29626489.2 Alexander Zverev34230589.2 When the first point decides the gameRate of holding serve when taking a 15-0 lead in 2018, entering Wimbledon, for the ATP’s top 10 men’s tennis players David Goffin21718886.6 Up 15-0 On Serve Kevin Anderson32830693.3 Marin Cilic33431995.5 Rafael Nadal24222593.0 Roger Federer27827097.1%
Source: Retrosheet 2001September3619-13 2012October3728-21 SeasonMonthGamesScoredAllowedDifference 42019Red Sox153942019Red Sox.270 If the Boston Red Sox harbored any hopes of returning to the playoffs after last year’s magical World Series run, they knew they’d need to make a very strong push over the regular season’s last couple of months. Boston entered the final week of July running eight games behind in the American League East race, though it had just taken five of six games against the division-rival Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees and were scheduled to play 25 of their final 56 contests against AL East opponents. The Red Sox would have plenty of chances, and the FiveThirtyEight model gave them essentially a coin flip’s probability of making the postseason as at least a wild card.But a weekend massacre at the hands of the Yankees has all but destroyed Boston’s playoff hopes. After New York swept the four-game series (which included a pair of losses in a double-header Saturday), the Red Sox are down to a mere 8 percent chance of getting back to the postseason, with basically no hope of winning the division. As the recriminations begin to fly for Boston’s lifeless title defense, we ask: What has happened to leave a team so good on paper sitting on the outside of the playoffs looking in?We knew the Red Sox would have trouble replicating some aspects of that charmed 2018 run. After a season in which few things didn’t go according to plan, regression to the mean loomed large. But our preseason predictions still called for Boston to win 95 games, with a 76 percent chance of making the playoffs despite tough division competition in the Yankees and the Rays. Even the most pessimistic of Sox observers wouldn’t have thought Boston’s playoff odds would dip so low by the beginning of August.What’s interesting is that, by most advanced measures, the defending champs have once again been one of baseball’s best teams in 2019. The Sox still rank eighth in our Elo ratings, seventh in total wins above replacement1Mixing FanGraphs’ and Baseball-Reference.com’s WAR versions using our JEFFBAGWELL metric. per game and sixth in the differential between StatCast’s expected wOBA for and against. They have the talent to stand right next to the Yankees, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers2All teams Boston dispatched in last year’s playoffs, by the way. as World Series front-runners.In fact, on a purely statistical level, these 2019 Red Sox have been far from the most disappointing team in baseball thus far. Last year, Boston’s total team WAR ranked third in MLB, so it has fallen only four slots as compared with its World Series season — only the seventh-biggest drop-off in baseball this year. (In this regard, a better candidate for “most disappointing team” might be the Milwaukee Brewers, whose top players have mostly returned and have mostly played worse3With the notable exception of outfielder Christian Yelich, who won the MVP in 2018 and is somehow playing even better this season. in 2019.)Although Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez have lost some shine from their dueling MVP campaigns of a year ago, and putative ace Chris Sale is on pace for his worst season by WAR in eight years, other breakouts have attempted to make up the difference. For example, Xander Bogaerts has continued his ascent to become a borderline MVP-level shortstop this year. The 26-year-old is tracking for 6.4 WAR by season’s end, thanks in large part to vastly improved discipline at the plate. Meanwhile, 22-year-old third baseman Rafael Devers has bounced back from a mediocre 2018 season (0.5 WAR) to play at a 5.9-WAR pace (per 162 games) thus far. And catcher Christian Vazquez has also jumped at the chance to be a regular starter behind the plate, producing at a career-high 3-WAR pace this year.Red Sox pitching has been a hot mess at times. Beyond Sale’s uncharacteristic problems — his ERA-minus4A park-adjusted index of earned run average relative to the league, where 100 is average and lower numbers are better. of 97 is essentially that of an average pitcher, easily the worst mark of his career — fellow starter Rick Porcello has struggled (115 ERA-minus), 2018 postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi has barely played (26⅔ innings), and the team has gotten practically nothing out of the back end of the rotation. The result has been a staffwide drop from third in pitching WAR (and sixth when looking at starters only) in 2018 to 14th this season (and 15th among starters only).But these individual efforts explain only a portion of Boston’s 2019 downturn. Collectively, the Red Sox have not played to the sum of their parts, either in terms of their talent or their ability to convert personal statistics into victories. The negative gap between the record we would predict from Boston’s WAR (65-51) and its actual mark (60-56) is tied with that of the Kansas City Royals for the third-largest in baseball. Red Sox hitters have the fifth-worst “clutch” score in the league, according to FanGraphs, and their pitchers are sixth-worst — including dead last among starters. (Clutch measures the difference in a team’s or player’s performance during high-leverage moments.) After a postseason in which Boston pushed all the right buttons during important moments, that ability has deserted them this year.That was on display over the weekend, when Boston went 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position against the Yankees and mustered zero runs (and only two hits) from the seventh inning onward across all four games. It was also evident in the bigger picture, where the Red Sox’s playoff odds could have gotten a big boost from a strong showing against their rivals. Instead, they were outscored 26-12 in one of the worst “Boston massacres” in the recent history of the game’s most famous rivalry. 12012Rays157112012Angels.277 RkYearTeamELORkYearTeamWAR/G The indignity of losing to the archrival Yankees with the season on the line is bad enough for Boston’s faithful. But the sweep could play a central role in helping make these Red Sox one of the most talented teams to miss the postseason under MLB’s current 10-team playoff structure. According to Elo, Boston’s current 1539 rating would be fourth-highest among teams that failed to play in the playoffs since 2012, trailing only the 2012 and 2018 Rays and the 2013 Texas Rangers. Along the same lines, the Red Sox’s 0.270 WAR per game would tie them for fourth among teams to miss the playoffs since 2012, behind the 2012 Los Angeles Angels, 2012 Rays and 2013 Rangers. Either way you cut it, teams as good as Boston usually play in the postseason. 52012Angels153652018Rays.270 The Sox would be among the best nonplayoff teamsThe best MLB teams according to Elo ratings and wins above replacement per game to miss the playoffs, since the 2012 postseason expansion 2006August52649-23 2009August4825-17 2019August41226-14 Sources: FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference.com 32013Rangers154032013Rangers.272 All is not totally lost for the Red Sox yet, of course. They are too good not to rattle off a streak of wins soon, although they have only split the first two games of their series against the rebuilding Kansas City Royals this week. Elo still considers the Sox roughly equivalent to the Rays and Oakland A’s, the two teams ahead of Boston for the final wild-card spot in the AL. (The Rangers are also tied with the Red Sox in the wild-card standings.) But it will be a tall order to make up a 6½-game deficit and leapfrog two good teams in the final few months of the season. More likely than not, the Red Sox will instead look at 2019 as a missed opportunity, a talented follow-up effort that never quite clicked the same way as the original despite running back mostly the same cast of characters for the sequel.Check out our latest MLB predictions. 22018Rays154322012Rays.277 Boston’s worst massacres (since 2000)Worst series sweeps suffered by the Boston Red Sox at the hands of the New York Yankees by total scoring margin, 2000-19 Runs
MLB’s most improved teams since preseasonMLB teams with the largest change in FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings between opening day and April 30, 2019 Elo Ratingschange TeamDivisionRecordPreseasonCurrentEloPlayoff odds RangersAL West14-1314591473+14+4 RaysAL East19-915251539+13+32 CardinalsNL Central18-1015251537+12+23 D-backsNL West16-1314971510+12+12 Statheads know that it usually takes roughly 70 games for baseball results to really start meaning something. On the first day of May a year ago, the New York Mets were 17-9 and the Los Angeles Dodgers were 12-16. Needless to say, both these teams’ fortunes would change: The Mets immediately collapsed into oblivion; the Dodgers went 80-55 the rest of the way and made the World Series. So the sensible move would be to sit tight and ignore the standings for a few more weeks.But we obviously aren’t going to do that — it’s too much fun to speculate about which hot starts are for real. And MLB’s first full month had plenty of interesting results: As some favorites’ playoff chances have receded, other teams have put themselves in strong postseason position already. Here are the teams that have improved the most in our MLB Elo ratings since opening day: CubsNL Central14-1215211527+6+6 Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, Baseball Databank DodgersNL West19-1215621566+4+9 MarinersAL West18-1314911497+7+3 Blue JaysAL East14-1414821488+6+2 PhilliesNL East16-1215191521+2+9 TwinsAL Central17-915081520+13+26 We can break the most improved teams into a couple of groups. One features teams that were on the edge of contention before the season and whose hot starts solidified them as teams to be reckoned with in the playoff race. The other contains clubs who were not “supposed” to be this good (or even good at all) in the eyes of the preseason projections. These teams are in an interesting spot because their playoff odds are still low despite their promising showings. So how well they maintain their surprising performances will have a big effect on their decision-making around July’s trade deadline.Playing themselves into contentionNo team has improved its playoff odds more in April than the Tampa Bay Rays, who had a 42 percent shot at the postseason on opening day but as of Tuesday boasted a 74 percent chance to make the playoffs. Some of that is a byproduct of Boston’s poor start — the Red Sox had shed an MLB-high 39 points of playoff probability since starting the season — but the Rays are also a great example of a team that makes shrewd acquisitions and gets the most out of its talent. In addition to known commodities Tommy Pham, Kevin Kiermaier and Blake Snell, Tampa is also getting unexpectedly great performances out of infielders Yandy Diaz and Brandon Lowe, right fielder Austin Meadows1Who is currently on the injured list. and pitcher Tyler Glasnow. Some of that quartet’s early numbers are bound to revert to the mean, but Diaz, Lowe and Meadows all rank among the top 20 percent of hitters in exit velocity, and Glasnow has elite underlying indicators. Although the injury-plagued Yankees are the AL East favorites in our model, no team currently has better wild-card odds than Tampa Bay.As we mentioned before the season, the Minnesota Twins figured to be right in the most precarious zone between making and missing the postseason. A few extra wins here or there, and the Twins’ playoff odds would increase massively; a few extra losses, and they might be left out in the October cold. So Minnesota has done itself a huge favor by getting off to a 17-10 start, which is third-best in baseball. Obvious star candidates such as Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios have played well, but the Twins’ hot April was fueled even more by breakout seasons from the likes of Jorge Polanco (162 adjusted on-base plus slugging), Eddie Rosario (130) and even catcher Mitch Garver (203). Minnesota’s rotation has huge questions beyond Berrios and Jake Odorizzi, but with the Indians’ talent advantage in the AL Central diminished relative to previous seasons, the Twins have played their way into what could be the division’s most interesting race in years.The St. Louis Cardinals are a little different from the Rays and Twins because we basically listed them as co-favorites (with the Brewers and Cubs) in the NL Central during spring training. Still, with an 85-win projection on the heels of a three-year playoff drought, the Cards’ postseason fate was far from assured. The team’s hot start, however, has set St. Louis up with a 67 percent chance of making the playoffs as of Tuesday — 23 percentage points higher than it was before the season started. Prized offseason acquisition Paul Goldschmidt has been his usual self, while lineup mates Paul DeJong, Marcell Ozuna, Kolten Wong and Dexter Fowler have exploded for huge seasons so far. It’s fair to wonder how long some of that can last: At age 33, Fowler is a little old to suddenly emerge as a 5-win player, while DeJong has a .607 slugging percentage despite an average exit velocity in the bottom third of MLB. But by the same token, the Cardinals’ pitching is probably better than its current 25th-place ranking in wins above replacement,2Using a mix of the WAR versions found at FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.com. particularly once Carlos Martinez returns from injury this month. Whatever happens, St. Louis has given itself the early edge in a brutal division race.We’re good! OK, now what?The Texas Rangers got everybody’s attention over the weekend by blistering the Seattle Mariners by a combined score of 29-2 in back-to-back games. The Rangers are 14-14, but they also have a +9 run differential against a schedule that ranks second-toughest in baseball so far, according to the average Elo rating of its opponents. Texas wasn’t supposed to be competitive like this: They haven’t broken .500 since 2016, and they lost longtime franchise cornerstone Adrian Beltre to retirement over the offseason. But the team has seen a handful of pleasant surprises early on — starting with pitcher Mike Minor, who boasts the eighth-best adjusted earned run average (174) in the AL. Left fielder Joey Gallo has launched 10 home runs already, Elvis Andrus and Shin-Soo Choo have produced vintage seasons, and Danny Santana has recaptured the form that saw him vie for rookie of the year honors in 2014. But even with all that, Texas is still just third in the AL West, and our model gives it only a 7 percent chance of making the playoffs. In the race to the bottom for better picks, the Rangers were looking before the season like they might get a top-five selection in next summer’s MLB draft, but now their hot start might have them rethinking their rebuilding trajectory for the time being.Similarly, the Arizona Diamondbacks seemed destined for a rebuild after trading Goldschmidt to the Cardinals and watching free agents such as Patrick Corbin walk during the winter. Yet those plans might need to be put on hold in light of the team’s 17-13 start. According to our model, the D-backs on Tuesday had a 35 percent chance to make the playoffs (up 12 percentage points from preseason) and are on track to win 83 games, which would actually be an improvement on last year’s record despite the offseason talent exodus. First baseman Christian Walker (151 OPS+) has come out of nowhere with a scorching start, Zack Greinke continues to pitch like an ace, and closer Greg Holland hasn’t yet allowed a run. Arizona has gotten strong performances up and down the lineup, including from the likes of David Peralta, Adam Jones, Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar, Nick Ahmed and Jarrod Dyson. The Dodgers look too good to realistically be chased down in the West, but the D-backs are still in the NL’s playoff race, however improbably.The Seattle Mariners have cooled off some after their 13-2 start, going 5-12 since April 11. Even so, they’re another team with better playoff odds (15 percent as of Tuesday) than we’d expect from their offseason dealings — which included losing free agent slugger Nelson Cruz and trading ace pitcher James Paxton, closer Edwin Diaz and star second baseman Robinson Cano. Even through its recent slump, Seattle maintains MLB’s third-highest batting WAR courtesy of big years from Daniel Vogelbach (224 OPS+ !), Omar Narvaez (140) and Tim Beckham (139), to go with the usual mashing by Edwin Encarnacion (136), Domingo Santana (131) and Mitch Haniger (131). Starter Marco Gonzalez has also delivered an unexpectedly great season thus far, with a 150 ERA+ that has him leading the AL in pitching WAR. Seattle’s big home run rate (4.7 percent of all plate appearances) is out of line with its batted-ball metrics, and the team’s defense remains abysmal, so it’s no surprise that a regression has already begun to set in. But by virtue of their early record — still among the best in baseball — the Mariners will have to decide whether to try to end the franchise’s long-running playoff drought by making upgrades this season or to keep biding their time for a future postseason run.Check out our latest MLB predictions.CORRECTION (May 2, 2019, 11:40 a.m.): An earlier version of the table in this story listed the wrong division for three teams. The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays play in the AL East, and the Philadelphia Phillies play in the NL East.
Ohio State has suspended football coach Jim Tressel for the first two games of the 2011 season for violating provisions of an NCAA rule when he failed to report information involving two Buckeye football players. As part of its self-report, the university also imposed a $250,000 fine; a public reprimand and apology; and attendance at a compliance seminar. Tressel, President E. Gordon Gee and athletic director Gene Smith addressed the media Tuesday evening at the Jack Nicklaus Museum. “The most pathetic thing is a leader looking for self-pity,” Tressel said quoting President George W. Bush. “So at no point in this time…am I looking for anything other than doing what needs to be done.” Smith said the NCAA still has to provide feedback on the self-imposed sanctions and additional penalties “could happen.” Yahoo Sports reported Monday that Tressel was made aware that quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four other juniors sold memorabilia to the owner of Fine Line Ink tattoos in Columbus in April. OSU reported the violations to the NCAA on Dec. 8, 2010. The NCAA handed down five-game suspensions to the five juniors on Dec. 23, 2010. The NCAA granted the players eligibility for the Sugar Bowl, which Tressel only allowed the suspended juniors to attend after they pledged to return for their senior seasons. OSU beat Arkansas, 31-26, in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4. An interception by defensive end Solomon Thomas ended a Razorbacks drive in Buckeye territory with less than a minute left, sealing the victory. Besides Thomas and Pryor, the other juniors suspended for the first five games of next season are: offensive lineman Mike Adams, running back Dan Herron, and wide receiver DeVier Posey. This isn’t the first time Tressel has faced scrutiny for NCAA infractions within the OSU football program. Running back Maurice Clarett was suspended for the 2003 season for accepting improper benefits. Quarterback Troy Smith was suspended for the 2004 Alamo Bowl and 2005 season opener after accepting money from a booster. Tressel was scheduled to sign copies of his book, “Life Promises for Success,” at Barnes & Noble on OSU’s campus tonight from 7-9. The store confirmed to The Lantern Tuesday afternoon that the event was postponed until Spring Quarter.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Correction: July 26, 2012 An earlier version of this story stated that Berry was on a yearlong probation in Ohio. In fact, that was only the plan in May when he was expected to plead guilty, but the case is ongoing. Former Ohio State running back Jaamal Berry will be continuing his college football career at Murray State, according to Scout.com. Berry was suspended from OSU’s football team Nov. 2, 2011, after being charged with assault, battery and disorderly conduct. The charges were based on an incident that occurred at 2:20 a.m. on Oct. 21 in the Arena District in downtown Columbus, involving Berry and a Columbus State Community College student. He was also arrested in 2009 for a marijuana possession charge in Miami, Fla. Despite his troubles while involved with the OSU program, Berry said he’s happy to be with a new team. “Everything worked out great for me and I’m excited to be headed to Murrary State,” Berry told Scout.com. “I should be the starting tailback the next two seasons, and I’m on track to graduate next year. Life is good for me.” About 9,000 students attend Murray State, which is located in Murray, Ky. Murray State is part of the Ohio Valley Conference. Murray State officials did not return The Lantern’s Tuesday request for comment, but WPSD, an NBC affiliate in Kentucky, reported that Berry was not yet enrolled at the university. Jerry Emig, athletic department spokesman, did not return The Lantern’s Tuesday request for comment. Berry is still scheduled to appear in court in Columbus on Aug. 27 for a jury trial. After three court continuations, the case was expected to be settled outside of court, however Berry is scheduled to appear in court in Columbus Aug. 27 for a jury trial. Robert Tobias, assistant prosecutor for the case, told The Lantern in May that Berry’s attorneys said he had returned to his home state of Florida. William Meeks, Berry’s attorney, did not respond for comment Tuesday. Berry played 11 games as a Buckeye and averaged 25.4 yards per kick return from 2010 to 2011.
Senior safety Christian Bryant (2) is helped off the field after breaking his ankle during a game against Wisconsin Sept. 28 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 31-24.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorThe Ohio State football team earned its first Big Ten win of the season Saturday, beating Wisconsin 31-24 behind four touchdown passes from junior quarterback Braxton Miller. Going 1-0 in the conference came at a price, though, as the Buckeyes (5-0) lost senior safety Christian Bryant late in the game to an ankle injury.Bryant broke his left ankle on Wisconsin’s (3-2) second-to-last play from scrimmage. The three-year starter, and one of the leaders of OSU’s defensive unit, was attempting to make a tackle on Wisconsin senior running back James White at the end of a 13-yard reception when teammate sophomore linebacker Joshua Perry landed on his ankle.OSU coach Urban Meyer did not hide his emotional reaction to the injury during his postgame press conference. He slammed the podium with his hand at one point during his opening statement and called Bryant’s injury the “hard part of the game.”“That’s the hardest part of this whole job,” Meyer said. “That darn kid has done so much for our program, he’s come so far. Incredible leadership skills, and he’s going to be even more valuable outside of football. I love that guy.”Bryant was unable to put any weight on his injured ankle as he was helped off the field by two OSU trainers.Meyer said Bryant was transported to the hospital in an ambulance after the game to have surgery. He did not say how long he expects the injury to keep Bryant out.Bryant was “devastated” about the injury, Meyer said, and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said Bryant was “shedding tears.”“You know how hard he’s worked,” Fickell said. “You know how much he’s put into this, you know how much he’s grown. He had incredible expectations. When we put as much pressure on these guys as we do, sometimes those things hurt because they think they’re letting us down, they’re letting their buddies down.”Bryant’s teammates also expressed their emotions about the injury.“Heart-wrenching is the only word to say,” said redshirt-senior left tackle Jack Mewhort. “He’s a great friend and a great football player and leader. It’s hard losing a guy like that.”Junior outside linebacker Ryan Shazier said Bryant is “like (his) big brother.”“(Bryant’s injury) really hurt me deep inside,” Shazier said. “You don’t know what you’re going to do without your brother, so I don’t know what I can do without him.”Redshirt-senior C.J. Barnett, who starts alongside Bryant at safety, said the injury made Saturday’s win “bittersweet.”“We’re going to have to pick it up for him, find a replacement and his leadership’s going to be missed,” Barnett said. “Other leaders are going to carry some more weight.”In his third season as a starter on OSU’s defense, Bryant is one of the Buckeyes’ eight captains. He is one of three captains who plays defense for OSU, along with Barnett and Shazier.The Buckeyes are likely to turn to redshirt-senior Corey Brown and redshirt-sophomore Ron Tanner, who have both seen playing time at safety for OSU this season, to take Bryant’s place in the lineup. The injury could also be an opportunity for freshman Vonn Bell to see more playing time on defense. Bell is listed as a nickel cornerback on OSU’s depth chart, but as a safety on the roster.Bryant’s leadership will be difficult to replace, Meyer said, and Fickell called Bryant the “heart and soul” of OSU’s defense.“We say that sometimes about a bunch of different guys, but (Bryant is) a guy that’s come a long way for us,” Fickell said. “It’s not just his play on the field, it’s what he brings every day in the meeting rooms, in the classrooms, in those types of situations.”Bryant had 22 tackles, an interception and two pass breakups in OSU’s first five games. A second-team all-Big Ten selection in 2012, he was named to preseason watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe awards.Barnett said Bryant’s “fierceness and tenacity” will be missed.“He’s just like a little pit bull out there, man, and that’s needed on defense,” Barnett said. “He brings a lot of energy.”Shazier said Bryant is a “hype man” for the secondary.“He’s just a little wiry guy, he loves to talk junk,” Shazier said. “It’s just fun playing with him.”Bryant is “there when you need him” on the back end of the OSU defense, Shazier said.“He’s the backstop,” Shazier said. “He’s good on the run fits, he’s good on the pass, he makes hard hits.”Bryant’s experience and leadership, however, will make it tough for any one player to fill his shoes.“You can’t replace him,” Fickell said. “I’m not going to sit here and say that we’re going to have someone go in there and be the same heart and soul … but that just means that we gotta do something different. Maybe (junior defensive lineman) Michael Bennett’s got to be a better leader. (Junior linebacker) Curtis Grant’s got to be a bigger leader. (Junior cornerback) Doran Grant’s got to be a bigger leader.”Nonetheless, Fickell said the Buckeyes — including Bryant — cannot let the injury dip their morales.“We can’t drop our heads about it, we just got to continue to move on,” Fickell said. “I grabbed (Bryant) and said, ‘Hey, you can’t have your head down, man, you’re a big part of this, whether you’re on the field or you’re not. You’re going to be a leader, you’re going to be a coach, you’re going to be that guy that’s still going to be an inspiration to us.’”Shazier said the Buckeyes are going to “keep playing the rest of this season for (Bryant).”“We just going to keep grinding and keep focusing on what we have to do,” Shazier said.The 5-0 Buckeyes will not have Bryant on the field, but will be looking for the program’s 18th consecutive win Saturday at 8 p.m. when the team takes on No. 16 Northwestern (4-0) in Evanston, Ill.
The past two seasons of Ohio State men’s basketball haven’t been easy to watch for the fan base, let alone the vast network of alumni who once competed for Big Ten and national championships. Former Ohio State point guard Scoonie Penn (1998-2000) was one of those alumni.But now as the program’s director of player development, Penn will have an opportunity to try to bring his beloved team back to the top.Penn had been looking to break into the collegiate coaching ranks the past few years. So when Chris Holtmann was introduced as the Buckeyes new head coach, the former Buckeye made it clear he was interested in joining the staff.“He grabbed me right after my press conference here and said, ‘I would love to get the foot in the door with coaching,” Holtmann said as he recalled the brief conversation with Penn. “‘I’ve been trying to do that, would love to do it at my alma mater.’”Following a few conversations between the two and a brief evaluation period, Holtmann made it official June 11, naming Penn the program’s director of player development.He was the choice all along, Holtmann said.“I think this really gives him a foot in the door and really a perspective into, ‘Hey, is this what I want to do long term?’” he said. “And it’s going to give him some experiences into how the inner workings of the program. I think he’s excited about that and we’re excited about that.”Penn spent over 10 years playing professionally overseas before he began coaching his son’s AAU team and working at several companies around Columbus. He said he had discussed with former Ohio State coach Thad Matta if there was a chance to become a full-time staff member, but nothing ever came to fruition.Yet, he has continued to stick around the program and build relationships with a few current players and several notable alumni, many of whom play for the Ohio State alumni team, Scarlet & Gray, in the $2 million basketball tournament known as The Tournament.“The way I look at it, I’ve been a coach my whole life,” Penn said. “I’ve always seen myself as a coach, as a leader. So for me here, this role doesn’t seem like anything new to me. This just gives me an opportunity to learn from the inside.“I think I’ll be a good asset to these guys because again, I’m a guy who’s played it and went through it. Not saying coach Holtmann and his staff won’t, but I think I bring something different to the table and I’m here to use it as much as possible.”Penn’s role will mostly be off the court as a member of the support staff, as he is not being able to coach or participate in practice against the players. He said he will still be active at practices, just not as involved as he’d like to be on the court.Away from basketball, Penn has been involved in the community, putting on skills camps for children and volunteering time at local recreational centers. He said some of that will end because of NCAA guidelines, but other charitable events will continue, such as his Cornhole 4 Cancer.Penn’s ties to the central Ohio area and the university are what made him an optimal candidate for the job, but there are plenty of similarities in the type of players Penn and Holtmann are both in search of.“You can tell how hard guys play. You can tell by the effort,” Penn said. “Yes, it’s about winning, but you also have to have the right guys on the court, the right guys in the program that’s willing to run through that wall because it’s bigger than the name on the back of the jersey. It’s about what’s on the front of the jersey.”Penn’s past success with Ohio State is a source of motivation. But it’s not just the rebuilding of the program that he is a part of now. Penn has begun a path that he hopes will lead him to being the primary man on the sidelines.“My goal isn’t to be an assistant coach my whole career. I understand the progression. There’s steps,” he said. “I just think knowing who I am — my personality — I would love to be a coach of a big program. The ultimate goal is to win national championships. If you’re not in for that, then what are you in it for.”
A mechanic of Fourth Street Campbellvile, Georgetown found himself in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday after being accused of defrauding one of his customers.Adrian Cole, 35, of pleaded guilty to the charge but explained that he is willing to refund the virtual complainant in full if he is given the opportunity.As such after taking that into consideration, Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan placed Cole on bail in the sum of $20,000 providing that he makes payment arrangement with the victim.It is alleged that between September 29 and October 6, 2017 at Campbellville, Georgetown while being solely entrusted by Harvey Suddand with $325,000 to purchase a vehicle transmission he converted same to his own use and benefits.According to police facts, the customer is the owner of a pick-up and had given money on separate occasions to purchase the transmission to fix his vehicle.Cole allegedly collected the money but failed to purchase the transmission. As such the matter was reported to the Kitty Police Station where an investigation was carried out and the mechanic was subsequently arrested and charged.In court on Thursday the defendant informed the court that he had already began to repay the money. According to him he had already repaid more than 2/3 of the amount.However, the customer indicated that they were negotiating an agreement when the mechanic disappeared without making any other payment arrangement.The mechanic was ordered to return to court on March 28. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)RelatedMechanic charged with fraud, granted bailAugust 29, 2018In “Court”Businessman charged with defrauding Mohammed’s Enterprise of $120MJuly 2, 2015In “Crime”Man accused of defrauding woman of $5M chargedJune 29, 2018In “Court”