World 100 and 200 metres record holder Usain Bolt and American World 100 metres champion Carmelita Jeter produced dazzling performances at the JN Jamaica Invitational IAAF World Challenge meet inside the National Stadium last night.Competing before a capacity crowd at the country’s premier sports venue, both clocked world-leading times in the men’s and women’s 100 metres, respectively.Bolt had the crowd cheering wildly after he breezed to the line in 9.82 seconds, finishing ahead of Michael Frater (10.00) and Commonwealth and Pan Am Games champion Lerone Clarke (10.03). The race had earlier been held up by two false starts.Good start to seasonThe 2008 Olympic champion was elated with his display.“This is a good start for me as I was not able to compete last time and to come and give the crowd a nice treat … , I am happy. I am looking forward to the remainder of the season with great hope,” Bolt said.In the women’s event, Jeter showed supreme speed and confidence in crossing the line in 10.81 seconds, beating the 10.86 meet record she set last year.World Championships bronze medallist Kelly-Ann Baptiste of Trinidad and Tobago was second in 10.86 seconds, as Jamaica’s Kerron Stewart finished strongly for third in 10.98 seconds.Olympic 400-metre hurdles champion Melaine Walker had a successful start to the season in her pet event, winning in 55.29 seconds.Walker took control of the race from very early and cruised home ahead of American Tiffany Williams (55.80) and fellow Jamaican Ristananna Tracy (56.62).Happy for victory“I am happy to come out and win tonight as it is always good to win at home. I am not too happy with the time, but the good thing is that I was able to finish the event injury-free,” a satisfied Walker said after her event.World leader in the men’s 400-metre hurdles, American Bershawn Jackson, competing for the first time locally as a senior, showed his class in the event by racing to an impressive 48.73 seconds, beating Trinidad and Tobago’s Jehue Gordon (48.98). Defending champion Justin Gaymon of the United States was third in 49.08.“The atmosphere in Jamaica is always great, and it reminded me of when I competed here at the World Junior Championships in 2002,” said Jackson.Read the rest of this story on the Jamaica Gleaner
Spike Lee (left) and J. Cole (right) have been outspoken about their support for Colin Kaepernick.(Paras Griffin/Stringer/Getty Images for Universal/Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images/Tim Mosenfelder /Getty Images)Spike Lee is continuing his support of Colin Kaepernick, who many have said has been blackballed by the NFL, by posting about an Aug. 23 rally for the QB.The iconic filmmaker said Tuesday, Aug. 8 that he is not the organizer of the event at NFL headquarters in New York City but is continuing to back Kaepernick.pic.twitter.com/AejLPaaWHD— Spike Lee (@SpikeLee) August 8, 2017 I Did Not Organize And Set Up This Protest. However I Still Support My Brother And His Stance On The Injustices In The USA— Spike Lee (@SpikeLee) August 8, 2017Lee has been openly questioning why the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback has been a free agent since opting out of his contract in March.“How Is It That There Are 32 NFL Teams And Kap Is Still A Free Agent? WTF. Smells MAD Fishy To Me, Stinks To The High Heavens,” Lee wrote on Instagram in March after having brunch with Kaepernick. “The Question Remains What Owner And GM Is Going To Step Up And Sign Colin So Their Team Has A Better Chance To WIN? What Crime Has Colin Committed? Look At The QB’s Of All 32 Teams. This Is Some Straight Up Shenanigans, Subterfuge, Skullduggery And BS. Ya Dig?”Kaepernick drew the ire of some die-hard NFL fans last season when he refused to stand for the national anthem. Although the star reportedly won’t continue his protest this season, he has been passed over by teams including the Seattle Seahawks and the Miami Dolphins.“The Dolphins aren’t anti-Black, they’re anti-idiot,” Fox News host Jesse Watters said of the team’s choice to go with Jay Cutler on “The Five” Monday, Aug. 7. “[Kaepernick] lacks respect and he’s bad for team chemistry and he’s bad for the franchise. … Colin Kaepernick wore a [former Cuban prime minister Fidel] Castro T-shirt, they’re gonna boo him outta there.”.@jessebwatters on @Kaepernick7 controversy: “The @MiamiDolphins aren’t anti-black. They’re anti-idiot” #TheFive pic.twitter.com/RvDb6x24Kt— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 8, 2017The Baltimore Ravens also have also expressed interest in Kaepernick but have not signed him, which rapper J. Cole blasted at his concert ahead of meeting with the QB, according to Billboard.“Baltimore, the type of s— that’s happening here, don’t you think somebody should risk they’re whole livelihood and their whole life to talk about this s—?” Cole said during thie 4 Your Eyez Only tour stop Sunday, Aug. 6. “Even if it cost them they money, they job, they life? Don’t that sound like Colin Kaepernick? Don’t that sound like what he doing? And he trying to come to Baltimore, the city that seems to need that s— for real.”
It wasn’t easy, but the Pittsburgh Penguins kept their bid for a second-consecutive Stanley Cup alive on Thursday night, surviving the surprising Ottawa Senators with a double-overtime win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. On paper, there was little reason to think the Sens would pose much of a threat to the defending champs, let alone take them into the 85th minute of Game 7. But that’s the way things have been for Pittsburgh all playoffs long.Chris Kunitz’s game-winning goal saved Pittsburgh from what would have been the biggest conference-finals upset since 1996, when the Florida Panthers knocked off a very different version of the Penguins. According to Hockey-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System (SRS), Pittsburgh ranked fourth in the league during the regular season (0.59 goals per game better than average), while Ottawa ranked a distant 18th (0.01 goals per game below average).1In 1996, the Pens ranked third and the Panthers ranked eighth, though the gap between the two teams — 0.6 goals — was just as big as the gap between Pittsburgh and Ottawa this season.It was the second series in a row that Pittsburgh has been taken the distance by its opponent, after Washington pushed them to seven games in the conference semifinal. To their credit, the Penguins weathered each onslaught; they even outgunned the Sens by 45 combined shots in the East final, including 49 over the series’ final four games. But Pittsburgh has also been living dangerously. Its even-strength possession metrics over the entire playoffs are not as good as they were during last year’s run to the Cup final, nor do they compare well with the postseason numbers of the Penguins’ upcoming opponent, the Nashville Predators.The Preds didn’t play particularly great hockey during the regular season — they ranked 13th in SRS (in part because brilliant defenseman P.K. Subban missed 16 games with an injury). But they’ve saved their best work for the playoffs, where they rank second in possession rate (Pittsburgh is 12th out of 16 teams) and first in SRS2Playoff SRS is calculated by adjusting each team’s playoff goal differential for the regular-season SRS ratings of the teams they’ve played, with a home-ice advantage adjustment to account for where each game was played. (Pittsburgh is second). Pittsburgh was better in the regular season, but Nashville’s been the hotter team of late.So which situation would you rather be in, heading into next week’s series? Intuition might say it’s better to be the comparatively less worn-down Preds, rolling with the more impressive postseason stats. But history suggests otherwise. Going back to 1988,3The earliest season of data in Hockey-Reference’s indispensable game finder tool. there have been 14 cases in which one Stanley Cup finalist had the better regular-season SRS, but its opponent had the superior SRS in the playoffs leading up to the final.414 other times, SRS from both the regular season and postseason agreed who the better team was; those clear favorites won their series 79 percent of the time. Of those, the better regular-season team won the Cup nine times (64 percent). And that’s not even considering that the Penguins’ regular-season edge was slightly wider than the typical favorite’s, or that they’ll have home-ice advantage in the final.If we’ve learned anything about the Penguins these playoffs, it’s that they rarely make things easy. (And if we’ve learned anything about the NHL since 1998, it’s that repeating as a champion is really hard.) But a grueling, complicated postseason run isn’t necessarily a handicap in the Stanley Cup Final, if you’ve had a championship track record all season long.
chance of reaching level Which sport should Kyler Murray choose?Probability of reaching various performance levels in MLB or NFL for players similar* to Kyler Murray, by sport SportNever made ItScrubDecentGood/Great Baseball14.7%43.1%29.4%12.8% * Similar players in baseball are college hitters selected between no. 5-15 in the draft (since 1965). In football, they are starting QBs for a team ranked among the AP’s preseason top 10 going into the season (since 1990).Performance metrics cover the first 10 years of a player’s career.Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs, The Baseball Cube, Pro-football-reference.com, sports-reference.com/CFB Kyler Murray, a student-athlete at the University of Oklahoma, is facing a very good dilemma right now. Murray plays outfield for OU’s baseball team, and he was taken ninth overall in the MLB draft by the Oakland Athletics on Monday. Murray also plays quarterback for Oklahoma’s football team — and he’s currently the heir apparent to the No. 1 overall pick in April’s NFL draft, Baker Mayfield, under center.Murray won’t have to choose between baseball and football right away, but eventually, he will have to pick a path for his athletic future. (Or at least, the immediate future.) What’s a two-sport star to do?Murray is already in lofty company as a multi-talented athlete, since few players have ever been good enough to potentially start at QB for a top college team while also hearing their name called among MLB’s top 10 draft picks. But if you were in Murray’s position, which path — baseball or football — tends to offer the most success, historically speaking? This decision could mean the difference between Murray becoming the next Russell Wilson or the next Drew Henson.To help do the math on Murray’s decision, I used wins above replacement1In this case, an average of the versions found at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com. to measure the careers of similar baseball players and Approximate Value2Pro-Football-Reference.com’s rough gauge for NFL productivity. to measure the careers of similar football players.3Specifically, I used a weighted sum of a player’s value produced in the first 10 years of his career, giving a player 100 percent credit for his value in his best season, 90 percent credit for his second-best season, 80 percent credit for his third-best season, and so forth.Who counts as “similar”? For baseball, I looked at college hitters since 19654The first year of MLB’s amateur draft. who were drafted between picks No. 5 and 15 overall. For football, I gathered data since 19905Roughly when the modern era of college offenses really began. on college quarterbacks who started6By which I mean, played regularly enough to be the team’s QB of record on Sports-Reference.com’s seasonal passing leaderboards. for a team that ranked in the preseason top 10 going into the year. (AP hasn’t released its preseason rankings for 2018 yet, but the Sooners seem like a safe bet to be included.) Because I looked at the first 10 years of a player’s career, those who were drafted by MLB or started at QB in college after 2008 were not included in the study.Broadly speaking, these groups represent Murray’s current status in each sport. I then broke their careers down into four categories based on their WAR/AV: “never made it” (players who never played a game in the big leagues),7According to Pro-Football-Reference.com’s data, this includes players who were on rosters or practice squads but never actually set foot on the field for a down of a regular-season or playoff game. “scrubs” (guys who played in the bigs but weren’t regulars and had little impact), “decent” players (those who were regulars but not stars) and “good/great” players (generally All-Star level players and above). Here’s how the players comparable to Murray ended up panning out in the pros: Neither path to stardom is guaranteed; in both cases, more than 50 percent of comparable players either failed to play in the big leagues at all or made a minimal impact once there. But the chance of washing out completely are much lower — by a factor of about three — for highly drafted baseball prospects than for college quarterbacks at top programs. Likewise, the odds of stardom, or simply having a solid career, are much higher for baseball players like Murray than for football players like him.As my research has shown in the past, college hitters (like Murray) tend to be very reliable picks relative to the rest of baseball’s draft crapshoot. Meanwhile, top-level starting college QBs can range from Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to Gino Torretta and Thad Busby. Add in Murray’s MLB draft signing bonus (the No. 9 slot carries a value of about $4.8 million), the higher average salary for MLB vs. the NFL in general (even the average QB makes only about a half-million dollars more per year than the overall MLB average) and the concerns that Murray’s height — he’s 5-foot-10 — might prevent him from playing quarterback in the NFL, and it seems obvious that Murray should pick baseball.In fact, to cut down on the injury risk, perhaps Murray should forgo football next season, even though the NCAA does allow players to retain their amateur status in football after signing in baseball. (I realize the temptation to put up ridiculous, Mayfield-esque stats in Oklahoma’s offense is difficult to resist.)Of course, if he doesn’t want to choose, Murray can always take the Tim Tebow path — the Mets are always looking for former QBs who are turning back to baseball in the twilight of their athletic careers. Football43.2%39.1%13.0%4.7%
TeamElo RatingWinsLossesRun Diff.Make PlayoffsWin DivisionWin World Series How Elo is forecasting the AL East race Avg. Simulated SeasonChance to… TeamElo RatingWinsLossesRun Diff.Make PlayoffsWin DivisionWin World Series Orioles142160102-198<1<1<1 Indians15539567+13382%73%8% Based on 100,000 simulations of the 2019 MLB seasonSources: Baseball prospectus, Fangraphs, Clay Davenport Yankees15699765+14782%47%13% Blue Jays14827587-5592<1 Royals14517092-10342<1 The division race: The New York Yankees didn’t sign Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. But they didn’t need to: They have Aaron Hicks (4.8 wins above replacement1According a mix of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs’ competing versions of the metric. last season) and young, burgeoning stars Gleyber Torres (2.4) and Miguel Andujar (2.5). While they will be without staff ace Luis Severino (5.1) for some time, our forecast likes them just a bit more than the defending World Series champion Red Sox. The Yankees’ position players set the single-season record for home runs last year and could threaten their own mark this year. And in a game increasingly decided by bullpens, the Yankees might have the best ever. The Boston Red Sox have the reigning AL MVP in Mookie Betts (10.6) and another MVP-caliber bat in J.D. Martinez (6.1), leading a lineup that could pass for an All-Star team. If David Price (3.4) picks up where he left off in the World Series (1.98 ERA in 13 innings) and returns to levels he pitched earlier in his career, he could give the Red Sox another dominant ace alongside annual Cy Young contender Chris Sale (6.5). Fellow starter Nathan Eovaldi (who had 1.9 WAR and his best season in the underlying skills) gives the Red Sox another high-ceiling arm. The Red Sox have had success getting more out of pitchers like Eovaldi, Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes, which gives reason to believe they can overcome the losses of Kelly and Craig Kimbrel to free agency. Not only do the Tampa Bay Rays have the top farm system in the American League, according to Baseball America, but they won 90 games a year ago with the second-youngest position player group (27.1 years) in the league and the youngest pitching staff (27.1). The Rays have quietly put together one of the more talented rosters in the game that includes reigning AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell (6.2) and underrated star Tommy Pham (3.7). The Rays are a postseason sleeper team.The difference-makers: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. There’s nothing left for Vlad’s son to prove in the minor leagues. He hit .402 in Double-A last season and .381 across all levels. Most rate him as the game’s top prospect with elite bat-to-ball and power ability. The only thing that could slow him down is injury — and maybe the Blue Jays’ front office. He and fellow top 20 prospect Bo Bichette should be franchise cornerstones for an up-and-coming Blue Jays team. Once a highly touted prospect in Pittsburgh, Tyler Glasnow (0.8 WAR in 2018) came over to Tampa in the second half of last season in the Chris Archer deal. He’s always had command trouble but trimmed his walk rate in August while retaining his high strikeout rates. He has breakout potential if the Rays can help him optimize and harness his stuff. The Rays actually paid (gasp) for a talented free agent in Charlie Morton (3.2), who has an elite spin breaking ball and a high-velocity fastball. Morton, when healthy, has quietly emerged as a top-of-rotation talent. Top Rays pitching prospect Brent Honeywell, and his diverse pitch mix that includes a screwball, could be ready to help early in the season. New York landed the top arm available this winter in trading for James Paxton (3.3). Since his breakout 2017 season, Paxton ranks ranks sixth in the majors in strikeouts per nine innings (11.1)2Among pitchers who have thrown at least 150 innings. and 13th in wins above replacement per 200 innings (5.0). The Yankees also added elite reliever Adam Ottavino (2.3) — who actually began his dominant 2018 campaign in a Manhattan storefront — to an absolutely dominant bullpen that averaged 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings last season, a record.Gone tanking: The Baltimore Orioles The Orioles could be historically poor, but take solace in this, Orioles fans: Your club would still probably win the International League. Rays15258676+4642123 Angels15068082-72271 Avg. Simulated SeasonChance to… How Elo is forecasting the AL West race Based on 100,000 simulations of the 2019 MLB seasonSources: Baseball prospectus, Fangraphs, Clay Davenport TeamElo RatingWinsLossesRun Diff.Make PlayoffsWin DivisionWin World Series How Elo is forecasting the AL Central race Based on 100,000 simulations of the 2019 MLB seasonSources: Baseball prospectus, Fangraphs, Clay Davenport The division race: Because of an elite starting rotation, because Francisco Lindor (7.7 WAR) and Jose Ramirez (7.9) — if they can stay healthy — have become superstars by tapping into their pull-side power, because they reside in one of the weakest divisions ever … the Cleveland Indians are still heavy favorites in the AL Central despite one of the more disappointing offseasons in baseball. Only the Orioles and Reds spent less than the Indians’ $2.5 million in free agency. While the Indians can perhaps do nothing and still win the AL Central, they’ve been outclassed in the ALDS in each of the last two years — and the gap between the Indians and the Houston/New York/Boston super teams is perhaps growing. While the Indians are still slated to finish with the fifth-best record in baseball and 11 games ahead of the Twins in our projections, there are questions about their lineup after trading catcher Yan Gomes (2.5) and losing left fielder Michaely Brantley (3.5) to Houston in free agency. The Minnesota Twins are trying to close the gap with the Indians. Byron Buxton’s (-0.4) spring has offered hope that he could begin to tap into his offensive potential, and Eddie Rosario (3.5) is quietly emerging as a star. But third-year general manager Derek Falvey prides himself on developing pitchers, and that’s where the Twins are attempting to make up the most ground. The Twins’ starting pitchers ranked ninth last season in AL ERA (4.48) and fielding-independent pitching (4.54). (The top four AL teams in ERA and FIP all reached the postseason.)The difference-makers: The Twins signed Michael Pineda in December 2017 to a two-year deal despite knowing that he would miss all of 2018 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. They hoped the wait would be worth it to enjoy his bat-missing ability: He ranked seventh in swinging strike percentage in 2015-17. Martin Perez and his velocity spike and new cutter also looks like a find for the Twins, and the club signed free-agent Marwin Gonzalez (2.0) to a favorable deal. White Sox uber prospect Eloy Jimenez was the best bat in the minors last year not named Guerrero. He slashed .355/.399/.597 in Triple-A 55 games as a 21-year-old. The 6-foot-4, right-handed hitting outfielder will likely begin the season in the majors after agreeing to a seven-year contract last week, ensuring that the White Sox don’t suppress his service time. Jimenez was acquired from the north side in the Jose Quintana deal; the Chicago Cubs could regret the deal for years.Gone tanking: The Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox. While the White Sox’s collection of young talent might pay off down the road, they are unlikely to contend this season. The Royals have an even longer road ahead with no top 100 prospects, according to some analysts. The Tigers are also far from being relevant, but they hope they drafted a new ace and face of the franchise in Casey Mize, the No. 1 overall pick last June. The Houston Astros remain the model franchise in MLB entering 2019. They are on the cutting edge of player development and have built a club that won the 2017 World Series, won 103 games a year ago and project to win 98 games this season, according to our model, all while maintaining a farm system that has ranked fifth or better by Baseball America in three of the past four years. The Astros might be the best team in the game, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon: They’ve locked up Alex Bregman (7.2 WAR) to a long-term deal, they feature a young core of Carlos Correa (1.7) and Jose Altuve (5.0) in their primes, and they have more riches on the way in outfield prospect Kyle “Ted” Tucker. They’ve become masters of acquiring pitchers, often high-spin-rate arms, and getting more out of them than other teams, including Justin Verlander (6.5), Gerrit Cole (5.5) and Ryan Pressly (2.0). The Los Angeles Angels and Mike Trout (10.0) essentially agreed to a lifetime contract earlier in March. While Trout has never won a playoff game, the second act of the Trout era in Anaheim is looking more promising. The Angels’ farm system is improving, and Shohei Ohtani (3.9) gives the club a second legit superstar if and when he can pitch and hit again. There’s work to do, but the Angels might have the most enviable pair of players in the game. You may not have heard of Oakland A’s third baseman Matt Chapman (7.3), but the two-way star was sixth in WAR for all batters last season. The A’s had the fourth-most efficient offense in part because no team hit fewer ground balls. Getting the ball off the ground is the A’s latest hidden edge. The big question for the A’s is what kind of production they’ll get from a rotation that lacks dominant, ace-type arms. In their bullpen, they have one of the most impressive arms in baseball in Blake Treinen (3.9).The difference-makers: Astros pitching prospect Josh James wasn’t even on prospect radars last spring, but by the end of the season, he had taken his 100-mph fastball and wipeout changeup to the majors. James is one reason that the Astros were probably comfortable in allowing starters Dallas Kuechel and Charlie Morton to depart. James will begin the year in the bullpen, but he could become an important part of the rotation. The Mariners might hasten their rebuild with the offseason signing of Yusei Kikuchi, one of the best pitchers in Japan over the past several seasons. Kikuchi has a swing-and-miss slider, and his fastball sits at 93 mph but can reach 98. The A’s acquired Jurickson Profar (2.5 WAR) from Texas, one of a number of lower-profile but potentially useful additions. Profar was once the top prospect in the game, but he has dealt with a number of injuries. Still, he’s been effective when on the field, posting a .793 on-base plus slugging last season.Gone tanking: The Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto restocked a weak farm system with the trades of Paxton, Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz this offseason, but the Mariners have a long way to go to compete with the Astros. While the Rangers are exploring some innovative practices with Driveline Baseball, they have a team that will be challenged at the major league level and a system that lacks a prospect that projects to be a future difference-maker. It’s a long road from the bottom of the AL West to the top. Avg. Simulated SeasonChance to… White Sox14577191-9153<1 Welcome to our two-part guide to the 2019 MLB season through the lens of our MLB prediction model. In each division, we’ll outline the key teams in the division race, discuss the incoming players who will make the biggest difference and classify the tanking teams you should ignore on principle. Here is our preview of the American League (click here for the National League): Astros15779864+16286%74%16% Tigers14436894-11942<1 Twins15088478+2636202 Mariners14937983-23186<1 Rangers14597092-1033<1<1 Red Sox15629567+13176399 Athletics15188379+2632112
Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta capped off his impressive Cy Young case with the first no-hitter of his career late last month. Arrieta’s 2015 résumé lists a 1.99 ERA, 19 wins and the third-most wins above replacement (WAR) in the league.1Here, I’m using Baseball Prospectus’s version of pitcher WAR, which is based on its new pitching statistic Deserved Run Average. This incredible year builds on a 2014 season in which he was one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball. So it’s no surprise that this year, Arrieta has confirmed he’s an ace. But how he became one isn’t the usual story of a phenom flying through the minors and into hitters’ nightmares. Instead, it’s the story of a guy who kept changing the way he threw a baseball until everything started to click into place.Two years ago, Arrieta was a near-replacement-level player, worth a win or so as a member of the Baltimore Orioles and Cubs. His career to that point had been lackluster. As a fifth-round draft pick, Arrieta had already exceeded expectations merely by making it to the majors, but his performance there hadn’t been especially impressive: Arrieta recorded a grand total of 3.1 WAR in 78 games spread over four years, never putting up an ERA better than 4.66.While Arrieta’s surface stats were static and unimpressive, his mechanics were busy evolving. Where a pitcher releases the ball is one of his most important characteristics: High release points establish more downward plane on the ball, causing a pitch to sink as it enters the zone; release points far to the left or right create more horizontal motion through the zone.Most of the time, the horizontal and vertical coordinates of a pitcher’s release point are fairly constant, determined largely by mechanics learned long before he made the majors. In Arrieta’s case, however, his release point changed the more time he spent in the bigs. Every year, Arrieta’s release point increased in height and moved further toward the third-base side of the pitching rubber. The total change is extreme: Arrieta moved his release horizontally across the rubber by nearly a foot and upward by nearly six inches. Since Arrieta didn’t get any taller or wider during that time, the variation in his release point means that his pitching mechanics changed.2It’s popular to attribute the change to Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio, who has had success in developing other pitchers, but it appears as though Arrieta began his transformation long before getting to Chicago. Release points change arm angles, and those in turn affect platoon splits, or how well a pitcher does against batters of different handedness. Sideways arm angles — the product of low release points — establish more horizontal movement, which can befuddle same-handed batters. Typically, pitchers perform better against same-handed batters, and before the 2013 season, Arrieta was no exception. But as his release point drifted upward, Arrieta, who is a right-hander, began to show a reverse split: For the past three years, he’s been better at getting lefties out than righties.Beyond the modified platoon split, Arrieta’s new release seems to have allowed him to develop a consistency he didn’t have before. The standard deviation of Arrieta’s release is substantially narrower than average (meaning he was more consistent) in 2015 and 2014, after being wider than average in all his previous seasons. Release point consistency is correlated with walk rate, and along with Arrieta’s more steady release came a profound improvement in command, from 4.90 walks per nine in 2013 to 2.08 in 2015.Arrieta’s release point evolution is extremely rare. In a given year, most pitchers sustain a game-to-game standard deviation in release point of only a single inch. (Think about that! Hundreds of times, pitchers perform a motion as violent as hurling a 95-mph fastball with a consistency of plus or minus a single inch!) Even from year to year, so practiced are their mechanics that pitchers vary their release points by merely 1.8 inches on average.3For these calculations, I used Pitch Info’s corrected release point coordinates, which adjust for calibration errors between parks.Arrieta is a different story. His largest single-year change (from 2012 to 2013) ranks in the 90th percentile of all players’ single-year changes since 2009.4I got that stat after z-score normalizing the average horizontal and vertical coordinates for each pitcher, in each year since 2009. I limited my analysis to pitchers who threw more than 1,250 pitches per season, eliminating relievers and partial seasons. That was done to ensure that the other pitchers in the data set could be fairly compared with Arrieta. Arrieta’s ongoing trend toward a higher and farther-right release point is even more impressive over a longer time period. Over any two years between 2009 and 2015, Arrieta’s release point change is in the 95th percentile; over three, only 13 pitchers made larger changes to their release point. Over four years, only eight pitchers5Out of the 203 pitcher-spans that qualified. experienced as much release point movement as Arrieta did.Those eight pitchers are very different from Arrieta. Many are pitchers who have suffered extensive injuries since 2010, including Brandon McCarthy (missed 417 days), Clay Buchholz (306), J.A. Happ (235) and Tommy Hanson (238).6All data on days missed comes courtesy of Baseball Prospectus, in particular Corey Dawkins’s manually curated injury database. The only pitcher on the list who has missed fewer days since 2010 than Arrieta (161) is Cole Hamels (101), but Hamels was already an established frontline starter in 2010. His evolution since then has been more about coping with the normal effects of age, as opposed to growing into an ace, as Arrieta has.Perhaps the best parallel for Arrieta is Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada, who missed 222 days. Like Arrieta, Estrada seems to have embarked upon a program of steadily moving his release upward, becoming more of an over-the-top arm slot. But unlike Arrieta, Estrada — who is also a right-hander — has moved toward the center of the rubber and away from third base. Whether that choice is at all related to Estrada’s lack of success (his 3.31 ERA and 4.50 FIP in 2015 are uninspiring) is an interesting question. Maybe, like 2013 Arrieta, Estrada is only a few inches of release point away from becoming an ace.What makes Arrieta unique is not that he changed as much as he did — it’s that the changes were associated with such a drastic improvement. Most of the time, a release point transformation like Arrieta’s is the product of injury. But in Chicago, Arrieta didn’t just change; he adapted into one of the best pitchers in the league.
The biggest obstacle Memphis must overcome to contend for a title is its barely above-average offense. The Grizzlies took the second-fewest threes in the league last season, which should have limited them to the highest-percentage shots, yet they still ranked near the bottom of the league in accuracy. And for all their low-post strength, they hardly ever tried to dunk. The Grizz usually have to find points the hard way, which eventually undid them against Golden State last year — their effective field goal percentage was well below the worst regular-season mark in the league in each of the series’ last three games. The same weakness could undo them against the very best Western teams in the playoffs again.With the help of CARMELO, here’s what’s in store for the key Grizzlies in 2015-16: Since coming to Memphis from Boston, Courtney Lee has been a solid but unspectacular No. 2, with good shooting efficiency and few turnovers — but also a low usage rate. On this veteran team, few veterans are as veteran as Zach Randolph. He showed no ill effects of aging last year — instead, he got better. Players like him, though, usually drop off quickly after a decade or more of low-post wear and tear. We’re inaugurating our NBA player projection system, CARMELO, with 2015-16 season previews for every team in the league. Check out the teams we’ve already previewed here. Learn more about CARMELO here. To bolster its veteran-heavy, defense-heavy, frontcourt-heavy roster, Memphis added … two veteran defensive forwards. Matt Barnes has aged well, as his 3-point-heavy style often does. Another former Celtic, Jeff Green was a regular contributor last year. But his days of above-replacement-level contributions could be over. The Memphis Grizzlies have emerged from the NBA-best West to reach the playoffs in eight of 15 seasons, including the last five. This past spring, they played the Warriors as tough as anybody, forcing Golden State to come back from down 2-1 in their conference semifinal series. This year, the Grizzlies have a good chance to reach 50 wins for the fourth straight season, thanks mostly to their defense. They’re strong and deep in the low post, they have a core that has played together for years, and they’ve added more than they subtracted in the offseason.FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection system expects them to go 51-31. Always a top-notch defender, Marc Gasol is increasingly comfortable shouldering a big part of the Grizzlies’ offensive load. He used the ball — shot it or turned it over — on nearly a quarter of possessions last year, while increasing his shooting accuracy and assist percentage. Is he on track for more improvements, like Larry Nance, or a Brad Miller-like rapid decline? Mike Conley remains Memphis’s best offensive player, but his defense has dropped off in recent years. He’s playing fewer minutes, and, when he’s on the floor, he’s getting fewer steals — which we like quite a lot around here. Brandan Wright should guarantee little defensive drop-off when he spells starters, but he’s another low-usage, high-efficiency player on offense. Memphis has too many of those and not enough players setting them up.Read more:NBA player projections2015-16 NBA Previews
Ohio State redshirt-freshman defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle has been reinstated to the football program an OSU spokesman confirmed to The Lantern Monday evening.OSU coach Urban Meyer also confirmed at a Monday press conference following practice that Sprinkle had been reinstated, but said he will still face additional steps before he plays for the Buckeyes.“He lost his scholarship for the summer, so he’s going to have to pay for his scholarship,” Meyer said. “He’s going to be suspended for the first game. He’s got, every week, community service and a multitude of other things to take care of business before he’ll ever see the field.”Sprinkle was part of the morning session of the opening day of fall camp Monday.Sprinkle was arrested following an early morning fight outside a Lorain, Ohio bar July 5, and was originally charged with rioting, failure to disperse, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of cocaine before pleading no contest to a reduced failure to comply charge July 31.According to the court reports, Sprinkle received a 30-day suspended sentence in addition to a $500 fine and two years of probation. The felony charge for possession of cocaine was dropped.Meyer confirmed that Sprinkle’s reinstatement stemmed from the drug charges being dropped, in addition to his negative test for cocaine. Meyer said if anything had shown up on the drug test, Sprinkle would not have been part of the team going forward.The Elyria High School graduate has never appeared in a game for the Buckeyes after enrolling early and redshirting in 2013.OSU is scheduled to begin the 2014 season against Navy at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore Aug. 30. Kickoff is set for noon.
Members of the Ohio State field hockey team sing ‘Carmen Ohio’ after a 2-1 loss to Michigan on Nov. 2 at Buckeye Varsity Field.Credit: Grant Miller / Copy chiefOhio State field hockey fell short against top-seeded Maryland, 5-0, in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals Thursday morning in Ann Arbor, Mich.Maryland’s Sarah Sprink, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, scored a pair of goals in the victory. The junior defender started off the scoring 17 minutes into the game with a goal off a penalty corner from Big Ten Freshman of the Year, midfielder Moira Putsch.With less than 10 minutes to play in the half, Sprink was awarded a penalty stroke, and she connected to give Maryland a 2-0 lead at the half.The Terrapins (17-2, 7-1) didn’t hold up on their attack coming out of the half. Instead, they put the game away with a six-minute onslaught.Freshman defender Carrie Hanks scored in the 42nd minute off a crossing pass from Putsch to start Maryland’s second-half rally.Less than five minutes later, Sprink found space again and found junior midfielder Anna Dessoye for a tip-in goal.For good measure, senior forward Katie Gerzabek scored Maryland’s fifth goal with 22:39 to play to put the game out of reach for the Buckeyes.OSU was outshot, 22-7, and the Terrapins held an 8-3 advantage in penalty corners.Second-team All-Big Ten performer Peanut Johnson got three shots on goal during the game, but the Buckeye junior forward was not able to find the back of the net.OSU finished its season 6-12 after going 6-13 in 2013. The Buckeyes are set to return 12 freshmen next season, including leading scorer Maddy Humphrey, who finished the season with 32 points on 12 goals and eight assists.Johnson is also set to return for her senior season after finishing with a career-high 11 assists and combining with Humphrey for 59 points in 2014.Since defeating Indiana on the road to get coach Anne Wilkinson’s 300th victory, OSU lost four consecutive games to end the season.Maryland is set to face Penn State in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday at 1 p.m. at Phyllis Ocker Field in Ann Arbor, Mich.
After 10 minutes and seven seconds, the No. 12 Ohio State men’s basketball team had just a seven-point lead against High Point on Wednesday night.Redshirt-freshman guard Kam Williams (15) shoots the ball during a game against High Point on Dec. 10 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 97-43, behind a career-high 23 points from Williams.Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / For The LanternThen redshirt-freshman guard Kam Williams was subbed into the game.Less than a minute after taking the floor, Williams hit a pull-up 3-pointer, then tacked on another five points in just over two minutes. By halftime, he had 13 points on four-for-four shooting from the floor as the Buckeyes took a 43-24 lead into the break.After the game, Williams said his success shooting the ball stems from the work he puts in between games.“Well I try to take all of my shots in the flow of the offense, and the shots I was taking today I practice those everyday,” he said. “The key is when you’re practicing to just take game time reps so when the game time comes it’s a lot easier.”After the game, coach Thad Matta agreed that Williams was shooting within the offense, and not forcing his attempts, which comes from an understanding of his job on the court.“Kameron obviously had a hot hand. I think he only hit the rim once or twice. All of his shots came within the system. I thought he did a great job of adjusting,” Matta said. “Kameron has done a great job of understanding his role and what he needs to do.”OSU’s first-half surge helped the Buckeyes (7-1) to a 97-43 win over the Panthers (6-3) for their second win in a row since losing to then-No. 5 Louisville on Dec. 2.Freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate said the loss to the Cardinals — which came after a fun-win run to start the season — was used as a learning point for the Buckeyes.“It (the loss) was an eye-opener, but you can’t really just keep thinking about that,” Tate said after the game. “You just gotta get up the next day and try to get better.”After High Point hit a free throw early in the second half, the Buckeyes took over to extend their lead to 30 with 15:50 to play. The lead ballooned to 36 just over two minutes later and then to 40 points with more than 10 minutes to play.By the 10-minute mark, Williams and freshman guard D’Angelo Russell each had 16 points to lead all players as the Buckeyes already had five different players in double digits.With 9:11 to play, sophomore forward Marc Loving hit two free throws, meaning all 10 OSU players to take the court had registered at least one point.Matta said he would like for the Buckeyes to keep up a balanced scoring output, but knows that won’t necessarily always be the case.“It is something that you hope can continue. We are going to play games where maybe we don’t have as many possessions or whatever,” Matta said. “The more balance you have as a basketball team, the better you can become down the stretch and without question, getting five guys in double figures, almost six is something that as a coach, it excites you.”Williams tacked on another four points in a row to give the Buckeyes an 85-41 lead with about six minutes to play. Those four points — coming on two mid-range jump shots — made him a 20-point scorer for the first time in his collegiate career.OSU shot 62.5 percent from the field, compared to a 32.1 percent clip from the Panthers.To go along with Williams’ instant-offense in the first half, Russell tallied 11 points in the opening 20 minutes as the Buckeyes shot 55.2 percent from the floor and made four of their first seven 3-point attempts.On its way to a 19-point first half lead, OSU outrebounded High Point, 23-11, and benefited from an eight-point advantage in points off the bench.Williams’ career-high 23 points led all players as Russell added 18 for OSU. Tate, senior guard Shannon Scott and senior forward Sam Thompson each finished in double figures as well, with 12, 11 and 10 points, respectively.Williams said the Buckeyes can be a dangerous team when every player on the floor successfully executes their role.“That’s the biggest key,” he said. “If everybody on our team does their job and brings energy, we’re gonna be a hell of a basketball team.”Williams finished the game eight-of-10 from the floor and four-of-five from beyond the 3-point arc.High Point redshirt-junior guard John Brown finished second in the game with 19 points.After outscoring his closest opponent by four points, Williams said he’s always had success as a shooter on the basketball court.“All my life that’s what I’ve been known to do, is put the ball in the bucket,” he said. “And that’s something that I’ve always had a knack for, so to me it wasn’t really a surprise.”Tate added that his teammate’s success shooting the ball wasn’t a shock to him, either.“He does that every day,” Tate said.The Buckeyes are set to return to the Schottenstein Center on Saturday to take on Morehead State at 1 p.m.