Tag Archives: Sports

Which Comeback Was Most Unlikely?

Last night was ridiculous. Only Brady and Belichick can go down twenty-five points in the Super Bowl without their fans losing hope. And to score thirty-one straight points to do it? And to win the first ever overtime Super Bowl? And to do it while setting records left and right? Holy crap.

Then again, the Patriots are really just continuing a trend that’s been going on since June. This past year has been filled with tremendous comebacks and upsets. Like the Pats, the Cubs, Clemson, Trump, and the Cavs have all accrued huge deficits and overcome them. But which comeback of these five was the most improbable of all? Let’s figure it out.

5. Donald Trump (28.2% chance of winning)

This was a difficult probability to determine. While we can rely on Vegas and ESPN’s win expectancy for sports, there are a number of conflicting predictions out there. Accordingly, I went with Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight’s empirical prediction model, rather than predictions from places such as the New York Times (15%) and the Princeton Election Consortium (1%) that were less based on statistics.

Although the Trump’s victory seemed unbelievable and shocking at the time, statistically, it wasn’t all that unlikely. Accordingly, all four sports comebacks were more miraculous than the election results.

4. Chicago Cubs (21.7%)

The Cubs’ comeback seems unlikely, and it was, but they were favored in each of the fateful final three games, by significant margins. Vegas expected Chicago to win each of the individual final three games, so the fact that it did isn’t too surprising.

Based on the money line, Chicago was expected to win 67.7% of the time in Game 5, about 59% in Game 6, and 54.5% in Game 7. Combined, they had barely better than a one in five chance of winning three straight games and emerging victorious at their nadir, which, while improbable, isn’t quite the act of God that it appeared to be.

3. Clemson Tigers (9.6%)

Clemson’s low point came after a Calvin Ridley reception gave Alabama a first down. At that point, in the middle of the second quarter, Clemson was down two touchdowns against a dominant defense. Despite this, the Tigers came roaring back to draw within three.

Later on, O.J. Howard’s 68 yard touchdown catch pushed their odds of winning back down to 14%. Once more, Clemson fought hard and eventually took the lead for the first time, gave it up, and finally regained it with one second remaining.

This was an impressive victory against the Evil Empire of college football, and the situation for Clemson was dire for large chunks of the game. However, the deficit was only fourteen points at its largest, so it doesn’t seem like the Tigers had a major comeback, even though their win expectancy reveals they did.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (5.9%)

Both the Cavs and Cubs had to win three straight games, including two on the road, to break a mammoth championship drought. So why was Chicago nearly four times as likely as Cleveland to end its season with champagne?

The main reason is that the Cubs were superior to the Indians, while the Cavaliers were inferior to the record-setting Warriors. Furthermore, basketball is much less reliant on luck than baseball, so Cleveland needed to legitimately beat a dominant, otherworldly Golden State squad three straight times–a lucky, fluky win wasn’t possible.

Because of this, the Cavs’ championship comeback was the most unlikely of all until…

1. New England Patriots (0.03%)

The Pats had a huge comeback over the Falcons last night: after going down 28-3, New England roared back to score thirty-one points unanswered. The Falcons had a win probability of over 92% for thirty straight minutes, including a twelve minute streak when it never dipped below 98%.

The situation was bleakest after an incomplete pass from Julian Edelman left the Pats facing a 3rd and 3 from their own 46 with just over six minutes left in the third quarter while down 28-3. ESPN gave the Patriots a 0.03% chance of coming back to win the game at that point.

Even if you want to use the least optimistic Trump prediction, which gave him a 1% chance of winning the election, last night’s Patriots victory was three times as unlikely as Trump’s triumph.

Any way you slice it, this Super Bowl comeback was nearly impossible, and was the most improbable of the last year’s five unlikely moments. Of course, that’s just from a quantitative standpoint, which can’t capture the in-the-moment insanity that accompanies any spectacular event, along with all the other qualitative factors that go into making a memorable moment. Which one do you think was the craziest comeback of all? Let us know in the poll and in the comments!

Sources: FiveThirtyEight for Trump, ESPN for Clemson and New England, and oddsshark.com for Chicago and Cleveland. 

Sushi’s Week 1 Picks

As promised, I’ll be writing an article a week picking that week’s football games against the spread. Of course, I also promised that I’d write an NFL Preview but let’s not talk about that.

In lieu of a comprehensive four-thousand word NFL Preview, I’ll spend eighty words doing a half-assed job of it. Running through division leaders, I like the Pats, Bengals, Colts, Broncos, Eagles, Saints, Packers, and Seahawks with the Wild Cards being the Chargers and Dolphins in the AFC and San Fran (barely squeaking in) and Chicago in the NFC. I think Denver will make it to the Super Bowl against either New Orleans or Seattle, whichever one manages to get home-field advantage in the NFC. Since Seattle has a tougher schedule, I pick a Broncos-Saints Super Bowl, which I predict the Broncos will win.

Let’s get started with the Week 1 picks. Remember, each pick is against the spread. The home team is in caps.

SEATTLE -5.5 over Green Bay

This paragraph was written on Wednesday, the day before this game.

Super Bowl champs, playing at home, fired up and ready to defend their title and only giving six? Count me in! Yeah, I suppose Green Bay has a very good team and they’ve got Aaron Rodgers, but how are they supposed to compete with the Hawks, on their turf, on opening night?

I like Green Bay a lot this year, with Aaron Rodgers and the passing game, by and large Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, finally being supported by a strong running game in Eddie Lacy. I like them a lot, just not enough to defeat Seattle, even when getting 5.5 points.

New Orleans -3 over ATLANTA

Yes, Atlanta was wracked by injuries last year. Yes, Atlanta is now healthy. Yes, Atlanta now has Julio Jones and a full strength Roddy White. Yes, Atlanta will be better than last year.

However, this line seems to have overcorrected. While the Falcons got much better by merely getting back their injured stars, they also lost Tony Gonzalez, the future Hall of Fame tight end. This is all without mentioning the improvements that the Saints made. They traded up to draft Brandin Cooks, a wide receiver, in the first round. He’s been great this preseason and in camp, and while we all know that the preseason isn’t a good indicator of future success, he has gotten praise from Drew Brees which speaks to Cooks’ ability. In addition, Rob Ryan has gotten another toy to play with in Jairus Byrd, the star free safety signed away from Buffalo so their underrated defense should get even better.

There’s not even cold weather to mess with the Saints. The line should be higher than it is, but I’ll happily take New Orleans.

ST. LOUIS -3.5 over Minnesota

Let’s play a betting game I like to call Would You Bet Your Life On?

In this week’s edition of Would You Bet Your Life On? the question is:

Would you bet your life on…

  1. A fearsome defensive team at home giving only three points or…
  2. A team starting Matt Cassel (which in itself is enough) facing the aforementioned intimidating D-line?

If you want to bet your life on the shaky right arm of Matt Cassel then the real question is whether you’d like to die by lethal injection or by firing squad.

And by the way, there’s a 79.3% chance that Cassel leads a comeback win over the Rams causing me to lose whatever credibility I may have built up after my successful “Germany wins the World Cup” prediction.

Cleveland +6.5 over PITTSBURGH

Is it just me or does Cleveland seem like this year’s early favorite for the Sneaky Good Team, as the team that doesn’t necessarily have a great record but is surprisingly good and plays everyone close? (For reference, last year’s winner was the Rams.) I mean, they’ve got a top 5 corner in Joe Haden to shut down the opposing number one receiver, a pretty good defense overall, and a not-too-bad offense. Hamstrung by their offense, it’s unlikely they’ll win much, but their defense will at the very least keep things close.

That defense, against their overrated opponent, will make sure, if they don’t win outright, that at the very least they’ll cover the spread.

PHILADELPHIA -10.5 over Jacksonville

Let’s see, do I take a high-octane offense playing at home against a weak defense or the team starting Chad Henne? Hmmmm….

By the way, I’m all in on this game. In my main fantasy league I’m streaming both the Eagles’ defense and their kicker, Cody Parkey. Here’s to a 42-7 point old-fashioned ass-whupping by the Eagles!

NEW YORK JETS -5 over Oakland

New York’s intimidating run defense will swallow up MJD and Darren McFadden alive. Their impressive D-line (probably the second best in the league behind the Rams) should get after Carr enough to mask their deficiencies in the secondary. Last year’s horrendous offense should be improved with the Decker and Johnson signings, and again, Oakland isn’t good enough to stop even the Jets’ feeble offense.

Against superior teams to the Raiders (pretty much every team in the league) the Jets won’t be able to do much at all, but in this matchup, a 1:00 game on the East Coast, the Jets should roll.

Cincinnati +2 over BALTIMORE

This line mystifies me. The Bengals are superior to the Ravens in every single facet of the game. The only non-special teams position that isn’t clearly in Cincinnati’s favor is at QB, and even so, I’d rather have Dalton than Flacco this year.

Yes, the game is in Baltimore, but even so, having home field advantage is only an extra three points in your favor. I can’t believe that the Bengals are only considered to be a single point better than the Ravens at a neutral site. That makes this pick pretty easy for me.

This, by the way, is my Taco Bell Upset Pick of the Week, named in honor of what Taco Bell’s food will do to your stomach.

CHICAGO -7 over Buffalo

The Bears will have a top 3 offense, along with the Saints and Broncos. That’s one of my big predictions this the year. They’ve got Trestman running the show, Cutler’s healthy (for now), their offense has Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Santonio Holmes, and Martellus Bennett. That’s two superstars (Forte, Marshall), three studs (Jeffery, Trestman, Cutler), and two above average players for their position (Holmes, Bennett).

Last year, the Bills’ defense was criminally underrated. This year, it’s lost much of its luster. They’ve lost two important players off of last year’s squad in linebacker Kiko Alonso, who’s out for the year after an injury, and free safety Jairus Byrd, who went to New Orleans through free agency.

The Bears should smash through the Bills this game. Buffalo has no one to cover Marshall or Jeffery and their weak offense won’t be able to attack Chicago’s defense.

HOUSTON -3 over Washington

The Washington Professional Football Team (which will henceforth be known as the WPFT) is boom or bust this year. Their defense is okay, nothing special. Their offense has the potential to be a top 5 unit or a bottom 5 mess.

The WPFT has acquired a number of players to help RGIII shine on offense. Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Alfred Morris, and Jordan Reed all combine to form a formidable passing attack. However, they need someone to throw them the ball. If RGIII is hurt or ineffective, the WPFT will have to turn to Kirk Cousins, who, while he’s a good backup, is almost certainly not starting material.

Also, I’m looking forward to watching Jadeveon Clowney and JJ Watt in action. Not so much Ryan Fitzpatrick, but the WPFT’s defense isn’t good enough to properly take advantage of Fitzpatrick’s shortcomings.

KANSAS CITY -4 over Tennessee

Last year, Kansas City was the league’s Good-Bad team, meaning that they beat all the bad teams and lost to all the good ones. The only good team they beat last year that I can recall offhand was the Colts, 20-6, in Week 16.

Luckily for the Chiefs, the Titans aren’t a good team so they’re in good shape.

NEW ENGLAND -5 over Miami

Gronk is back! Gronk is back! Gronk is back! Gronk is back!

Seriously though, who are the Dolphins gonna use to cover Gronk? Dannell Ellerbee. Yeah, that seems likely…

For both my fantasy team’s sake and Tom Brady’s, GRONK IS BACK!!!! WOOHOO!!!!

TAMPA BAY -2.5 over Carolina

I was a little surprised at this line when I saw it. Last year’s Tampa Bay Staph Infections were favored at home against the 12-4 breakout team of the year! Then I thought about it a little and was kinda like “Huh”. Surprisingly, this line is actually quite reasonable.

Lovie Smith, the defensive guru, is now Tampa Bay’s head coach. He’s got a bunch of skilled players with which to mold his defense from Gerald McCoy to Lavonte David to Alterraun Verner. Now he faces the Panthers’ crappy offense, with a hurt QB who’s not going to run (which is his biggest skill), poor wide receivers, and a nonexistent line.

Carolina’s defense isn’t anywhere near as good as it was last year after losing three out of the four starters in their secondary, so they won’t be able to take advantage of Josh “The career backup who somehow parlayed a half season of playing unsustainably well into a starting job and a new contract” McCown and the rest of the Buccaneer’s offense.

DALLAS +4.5 over San Francisco

Dallas’ defense is nonexistent. They’ve lost players to injury, to free agency, and they’re hamstrung by cap concerns so they’re unable to sign any good new players.

Scott Linehan is their new offensive coordinator and he throws a ton. Also, they’re going to have to score to keep up with their horrendous defense, leading to more passing. Luckily, their offense is well built to account for that defense. Their O-line, led by Tyron Smith, is great, and should give DeMarco Murray a chance to run. They’ll also keep Tony Romo upright so he can throw to Dez Bryant. The Cowboys won’t be good this year per se, but they’ll stay in games, and will be able to steal a few. Anyways, the Cowboys are great at the two most important things in football: they’re gonna be fun to watch because of their high-scoring games, and because of their prolific offense and horrible defense, they’ll likely be the team that swings the most fantasy matchups (including mine as I’m starting Tony Romo and my opponent is starting the 49ers D/ST).

However, I don’t like San Francisco at all this year. Their defense is overrated after the defections in their secondary, the suspension of Aldon Smith, the injury to NaVorro Bowman, and the increasing age of Justin Smith and Patrick Willis. Their offense is okay, but nothing special. I think they’ll squeak into the playoffs, but barely.

Anyways, in this game, Dallas, even if they don’t win outright, should keep it close enough to cover the spread.

DENVER -7.5 over Indianapolis

The .5 scares me. I can’t lie. It’s the difference between getting your money back from the casino if Denver wins by a touchdown and losing it all. While we’re here, the two most important milestones in football lines are 3 and 7, as those are the most common margins of victory.

Still, I think Denver will mash Indianapolis. If you look at the Colts, their whole team is bad other than Andrew Luck. Only Luck (and luck) prevented the Colts from being a crappy team the past two years. The Broncos, on the other hand, upgraded their defense a ton this offseason with the acquisitions of TJ Ward, DeMarcus Ware, and Aqib Talib, and their offense is still great, even if it’s not necessarily going to be the unstoppable force it was last year.

The scary thing is that Denver might even be a little underrated this year, if that’s possible for the preseason favorite to win the Super Bowl.

Also, an important lesson for a fledgling bettor to know is to never bet against Peyton Manning in a night game. Would you like to take the “unless it’s in the playoffs” joke, or should I?

DETROIT -6 over New York Giants

Can anyone cover Calvin Johnson? A double or triple team usually can (although not always (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8tCdCWB1LM), which is why Johnson is probably not quite reaching his immense potential stats-wise. Now he finally has the opportunity to dominate because of his teammates finally being able to take some defensive attention off him. Instead of the likes of Nate Burleson lining up opposite him, he’s now got big free agent signing, wide receiver, Golden Tate, and first round pick Eric Ebron, a tight end, playing with him, along with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.

Of course, that whole last paragraph is irrelevant in this game. The Giants have a bad defense and won’t be able to stop Matt Stafford and Co.

San Diego +3 over ARIZONA

Arizona’s impressive defense of last year is no longer as spectacular after defections and injuries. San Diego’s defense was never good in the first place.

The Cardinals’ offense is improving. Their offensive line could finally be more than a turnstile, and they’ve got three good receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown. Their rushing attack is led by Andre Ellington and Carson Palmer hasn’t been too bad on the downside of his career.

The Chargers have a three-headed committee and running back between Ryan Matthews, Donald Brown, and Danny Woodhead. They’ve got Keenan Allen leading the pass attack and a couple of good tight ends in Ladarius Green and Antonio Gates.

Based on talent alone, Arizona has a slight edge over San Diego. However, as far as I can tell, they’re more or less equal, leading me to take the points as the deciding factor.

Or maybe I should take the Cards with Peterson. Or the Chargers with Rivers. Or ‘Zona with Mathieu. Or San Diego with… You know what? I think I’m just gonna end this article before I go crazy trying to figure this game out.

Last Week: 0-0-0

This Week: 1-0-0

Total: 1-0-0

The NFL Gambling Preview

The NFL season is coming up soon. Woohoo! With that American pastime coming up, let’s take a look at another one of our favorite things to do: gambling.

Now, most of you are probably aware of game lines, (i.e. Team X -7) but although you can bet on individual games at this point, it’s a crapshoot for the most part because the games are too far away.

Luckily, before the season starts, you can bet on bets called “Futures Bets”.

Note for people who know all this stuff already (either geniuses or degenerate gamblers): the next paragraph is just explaining about betting so you can skip it if you want to.

What are futures bets? I’m glad you asked. Futures bets, as the name implies, are bets on the future (I’m happy I could clear that up for you). Specifically, you bet on something to happen far in the future. Also, futures bets aren’t on specific games, but on overall events. A future bet wouldn’t be predicting the Jets to win a game in Week 17, but picking the Jets to make the playoffs would be.

As an example of futures bets in practice, some of my regular readers might remember that I mentioned a few weeks ago that if I had followed my hunch on Germany before the World Cup, a futures bet on them to win the World Cup would pay out something like 1100$ for a 200$ bet. Another example is betting on the, let’s say, the Athletics to win the World Series. Again, you’re gambling on something for the future.

Okay gamblers (and geniuses)! Come back for this paragraph!

So we’re going to go through the best futures bets that are available right now. For the fun of it, let’s pretend I’ve got 2500$ with which to make bets (I end up using 2320$ of my allotment). At the end of the season we can check back with these picks to see how much money I would’ve lost and what lessons we can learn from my failures (other than the fact that I’m an idiot).

Just so you know, in the third to last paragraph of this column, there’s information on a football games picking pool for Sushi on Sports, if you want to check it out before reading the rest of the article.

(All lines are according to Bovada. All lines are accurate as of the writing of this article.)

Let’s start with a sample bet, just to show you how it works:

Kansas City Chiefs: 8 wins

Over: +105

Under: +135

Now that we have this sample line let’s take each part step by step.

The first part says that the over/under win total for the Chiefs is 8 wins. The next two lines show the odds on each bet. Let’s say I bet the under. If the Chiefs win more than 8 games, I lose. If they win less than 8 games, I win. If they win exactly 8 games, it’s a push, and the casino would give me my money back.

The numbers next to over and under refer to the odds on the bet. It’s pretty simple. The odds refer to a bet of 100$. If you bet the over, you’d bet 100$ to win 105$, because of the plus sign in front of the 105. If you bet the under, because of the minus sign, you’d have to put 135$ to win 100$. Not too hard, huh? With that, let’s get started!

Oakland Raiders

UNDER 5 wins: +105

500$ to win 525$

The logic is simple here: the Raiders have a crappy team, are stuck in a division with three good teams, and they play the NFC West this year. Then the casino gives you +105 odds to take them? Count me in. This, for me, is one of the easiest bets of the year, which is why I’m betting a lot of my (admittedly, fake) money on them.

Saint Louis Rams

UNDER 7.5 wins: +120

150$ to win 180$

In almost any other division, I’d take the over, but in the NFC West, every team’s win total is pushed down by having four good teams in the division. Sam Bradford is shaky and usually gets injured, when combined with the odds of +120 makes this a pretty easy call.

Dallas Cowboys

OVER 7.5 wins: +105

100$ to win 105$

The Cowboys have gone 8-8 for the past three years and always seem to be competitive down the end of the season. The NFC East is always wide open and has a lot of parity, meaning that it’s more likely than not that the Cowboys will win about 7 to 9 games. If a couple of bounces go their way, then they win 8 or 9 games and I win my bet.

Detroit Lions

UNDER 8.5 wins: -125

125$ to win 100$

Let’s just put it this way: it’ll be a lot more fun to watch Detroit self-destruct when I’m winning money (albeit nonexistent) out of it.

Pittsburgh Steelers

UNDER 8.5 wins: +120

100$ to win 120$

Pittsburgh’s old, with a QB who always misses at least two games a year. In their division are three solid teams. The Steelers have been on a downward trend for a couple of years, now, and it’d be surprising if they turn it around.

Also, Pittsburgh has to be over .500 for me to lose this bet, something I find laughable. I suspect that this is an instance of where the public has shifted the lines. The Steelers are a recognizable brand with recent success, meaning that the public is more likely to bet in their favor. That much is clear; the over on this bet is all the way up to -150. Anyways, here’s a gambling rule of thumb: always go against the public. They’re the ones who let bookies drive expensive cars. Always go against the grain when gambling.

Green Bay Packers

OVER 10.5 wins: -115

115$ to win 100$

Put simply: as long as Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers, they’ll be fine.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

WILL make the playoffs: +400

50$ to win 200$

I like this bet for two reasons:

  1. The odds are great, especially for a wide-open division and
  2. The Buccos have a sneaky-good team, with a great defense and a decent offense.

See, gun to my head, I’d say that Tampa Bay won’t make the playoffs. However, gambling isn’t always about what you think is going to happen. Instead, it’s about finding value in bets. Let’s say Tampa Bay wins their division 25% of the time, an average projection. Then, let’s say that the Bucs win a wild card 10% of the time. That adds up to 35% for those of you out there who aren’t exactly math geniuses. Now, the odds of +400 say that Tampa Bay has 4:1 odds to make the playoffs, implying that the Buccaneers will make the playoffs 25% of the time. Well, 35%>25%, which means that we’ve found value in this bet. Now, you can quibble with the specific numbers (which were rough guesses), but the overarching idea is the same.

Quick side note: I wrote this section one day and then a couple of days later I checked back for the odds to see if they had changed. They had. The line on this bet was moved down from +400 to +350. What does that mean? Glad you asked. It means that the bettors are betting heavily on Tampa Bay, meaning that they need to adjust the lines in an attempt to spread the bet evenly on both sides in order to ensure a profit, or at the very least not a huge loss.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

WILL win the NFC South: +550

100$ to win 550$

The biggest reasons are the same as before: a wide-open division and great value. Going back to the last section, the odds of +550 imply that Tampa Bay will win the division just over 18% of the time. That means that if the likelihood of the Bucs making the playoffs that we stated earlier was correct (or at least reasonably close), then we’ll have found value.

My secondary reasons are the strong defense led by Lavonte David and Lovie Smith and the offense filled with playmakers, although it’s led by a prime candidate for regression: Josh McCown.

By the way, you may be wondering why I didn’t bet on the Tampa Bay over/under for wins if I’m so confident in their ability. To answer the question you didn’t ask, the main reason why is because of the odds. For the making the playoffs and winning the NFC South bets, I feel like I’m getting good value. However, the over/under is 7 wins, which I don’t feel great about in the first place, but the line is -140 to take the over. Those odds are too steep for my taste, especially as I’m not exactly enamored with Tampa Bay.

Indianapolis Colts

WILL NOT make the playoffs: +175

40$ to win 70$

As with the bet on Tampa Bay, if pressed, I would pick Indy to make it to the playoffs. However, I think that there’s a decent shot they don’t, for two reasons:

  1. Houston will be rejuvenated and as long as Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t suck, they’ll ride a great defense and a solid running game to a playoff spot. Now, the caveat of needing Ryan Fitzpatrick to not suck is a rather big one, but on the off chance that he’s half-decent, I want to be there to take advantage of it.
  2. The Colts have been incredibly good in one-touchdown games, going 14-2 over the last two years. Teams are expected to win 50% of one-touchdown games over the long run. No matter how much of Indy’s success in one-touchdown games you attribute to Andrew Luck, they’re due for some regression to the mean, which could push their record down a couple of games.
  3. Outside of Luck, the Colts are horrible. Their horrible-ness includes their offensive line which has done everything other than put out a welcome mat for marauding defensive ends to get past them to maul Luck. If Luck gets injured for any significant period of time, they’re screwed. Now, you might say something like “Oh, Luck isn’t injury-prone. He’ll be fine”. However, even QBs that are considered to be healthy can get hurt in the violent game of football (see: Rodgers, Aaron, 2013 season). If Luck gets hurt for six games, the Colts will not make the playoffs.

Overall, I think those two concerns combined are enough to make it a decent bet to gamble against the Colts making the playoffs. However, the odds aren’t that great which is why I’m not making this bet a very big one.

Philadelphia Eagles

WILL NOT make the playoffs: +120

100$ to win 120$

Here are five reasons why I don’t think the Eagles will make the playoffs:

  1. They lost their biggest offensive weapon (outside of LeSean McCoy) over the offseason when Washington signed DeSean Jackson.
  2. Nick Foles, owner of an impressive 27-2 TD/INT rate last season, is guaranteed to get worse, due to the Plexiglass Principle and regression to the mean. It took that superhuman effort to pull Philadelphia into the playoffs, an effort that’s unlikely to be repeated. When Foles gets worse (even if he’s still a good quarterback overall) the Eagles will have to have other players on their roster get better. With Jackson gone, that task gets harder and harder.
  3. They play the NFC West.
  4. The NFC East, as it usually is, is pretty much a tossup. All four teams are more or less equal. If a couple of bounces don’t go their way, Philadelphia won’t win the division, meaning that they’ll have to win a wild card to get into the playoffs but…
  5. The wild card race is STACKED. One of the two spots is going to the loser of the dogfight in the NFC West between San Francisco and Seattle. That leaves one spot for the other two teams in the NFC West, the loser of the Chicago/Green Bay battle for the NFC North, and the second place team of the NFC South. If they don’t win the division crown, Philadelphia has almost no shot at winning a wild card, making this a great bet for me.

Miami Dolphins

WILL make the playoffs: +250

200$ to win 500$

This is a pretty high confidence bet for me. If you look at the AFC, you’ll see that it’s very top heavy and after the two or three elite teams, it’s a scrum for the rest of the playoff spots. As far as I can tell, Denver will win their division, New England and Indianapolis almost certainly will, and… well, that’s it for guaranteed playoff participants in the AFC. That leaves three spots for the rest of the teams, although one is earmarked for the AFC North. For the sake of this exercise, let’s say that the Bengals win the AFC North. That means that four teams (Houston, San Diego, Kansas City, and Miami) are competing for the two wild card spots.

By the way, I’m counting out the rest of the teams because they’re either too old (Pittsburgh, Baltimore) inexperienced and counting on an unproven QB (New York, Buffalo, Cleveland), or because they just plain suck (Tennessee, Jacksonville, Oakland).

Anyways, of those four teams in realistic contention, let’s pick nits with each of them:

San Diego: Tough schedule, facing the NFC West and KC and Denver twice.

Kansas City: Ditto, except they (obviously) play San Diego twice instead of themselves.

Houston: Relying on an unreliable QB (Ryan Fitzpatrick) and are unlikely to rebound from last year by winning eight extra games that they’d need to win to go 10-6 to win a wild card.

Miami: Relying on a porous offensive line, had a negative point differential last year, are starting an unproven QB.

All of these concerns are valid and warranted, but I believe that Miami’s are more easily surmounted.

Cleveland Browns

WIN the AFC North: +500

20$ to win 100$

The Browns, along with Tampa Bay, are my two big sleepers for this year. I doubt that Cleveland ends up winning their division but I think they’re the second best team in the AFC North (behind Cincinnati) and the odds were too good to pass up.

Cincinnati Bengals

WIN the AFC: +1600

30$ to win 480$

Again, if I were betting my life, I’d bet on the Broncos to win the AFC, however, the Bengals offer the most appealing combination of good odds and a good team…

Denver Broncos

WIN the AFC: +225

200$ to win 450$

…But I might as well go with the almost sure thing too, just to cover my bases.

San Francisco 49ers

WIN the NFC: +450

100$ to win 450$

Seattle Seahawks

WIN the NFC: +375

100$ to win 375$

I know that it’s uninventive to pick the two best teams in the league to win the league, but the main tenet of gambling is that you’re just there to make money. There’s no need to be a hero by betting on the huge underdog. If you do that then you’re just throwing your money away. Here’s a good tip for life: don’t throw your money away.

Anyways, the road to the Super Bowl runs through the NFC West. Whichever team comes in first place in the division will have the upper hand and will be favored to advance to the Super Bowl. Because of the importance of the division title, the two games between Seattle and San Fran will be even more hard-fought than usual (if that’s possible). It’ll be like having an extra two playoff games.

However, while I’ll bet anything that it’s one of those two teams that represents the NFC in the Super Bowl, the question is which one. To eliminate that question, I bet on both. Now, it doesn’t matter who wins; I make money either way.

Denver Broncos

WIN the Super Bowl: +650

100$ to win 650$

Seattle Seahawks

WIN the Super Bowl: +700

100$ to win 700$

San Francisco 49ers

WIN the Super Bowl: +750

100$ to win 750$

As far as I can tell, there are three genuine Super Bowl contenders: Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver. I’m almost completely certain that the eventual Super Bowl winner will be one of those three teams. There are no underdogs this year that I like enough to back them for a Cinderella run. There’s little parity at the top; after the top three teams, there’s a steep drop off to teams like New England, Indianapolis, and Green Bay. I figure that one of my bets will hit, which means that I’ll win between 450$ and 550$.

For the player props I don’t really like any of the choices. I feel like player props are even more of a crapshoot than the other kinds of bets. However, for the sake of completeness, here are my favorite bets for each of the player props, which combine a chance at winning with good odds:. Just keep in mind that I’m not making these bets personally because I don’t think they’re very good, I just think that these are the best of the bunch. Anyways, here they are:
MVP: Matthew Stafford +2800

If he cuts down on his interceptions and his team has a good season, then he’ll have a decent shot at the MVP. The odds make this a good bet, though.

Most Passing Yards: Matthew Stafford +750

It’s either Stafford or Drew Brees for this (with Peyton Manning looming as a dark horse), except that Stafford’s odds are at +750 and Brees’ are at +275, making Stafford a decent value play.

Most Rushing Yards: C.J. Spiller +3300

In a bet like this one, you’re looking for an explosive back who’s indisputably the starter and who plays for a team that won’t be a throwing very much. Spiller checks all those boxes and has decent odds to boot.

Most Receiving Yards: Antonio Brown +2000

Checks the same boxes as Spiller: explosive, the clear number one on the depth chart with no close competitors on a team with a good quarterback who throws a lot.

I was also intrigued by A.J. Green (+1600), Larry Fitzgerald (+4000), and T.Y. Hilton (+4000) before ultimately deciding against them.

At the end of the season we’ll follow up on these bets and see what happened, where we went wrong, and what we did right.

The next NFL related article to come out on this site is probably going to be some massive NFL Preview. That’ll be out by the end of the month.

Throughout the football season, I’ll be keeping our betting tradition alive. Each week I’ll pick each game against the spread. At the end of the season we’ll tally up the score and see whether I know nothing about football or almost nothing about football.

Speaking of which, I’m starting a Pigskin Pick‘em tourney on ESPN for Sushi on Sports. If you’d like to join (so you can show me how much smarter you are than me), the name of the pool is “Sushi on Sports Pool”. The passcode is (inventively, I know) SushiOnSports. If you’d like to join, feel free. It should be a lot of fun.

Anyways, if you enjoyed this article, a great thing you could do is merely click follow (I think it’s on the right hand side) and to share the link to this site with your friends, family, coworkers, and random people on the street.

Thanks for your help and I hope you enjoyed the column!

 

 

MLB Midseason Awards and Predictions

The All Star Break is generally considered to be midway point of the MLB season. It’s weird because teams have already played anywhere from 91 games (Detroit) to 97 (Tampa Bay and the Dodgers). For those of you out there who aren’t exactly mathematicians, that’s more than halfway through the season. The mathematical midpoint of the season was a couple of weeks ago making it weird that people consider the season to be halfway over now, but if you think about how little sense this makes too long, you’ll get a headache, so let’s just move on.

The All Star Break is a good time to make predictions about the rest of the season. With the four day absence of baseball (the All Star Game doesn’t count), people are pretty desperate for anything related to actual baseball. Also, the sample size of nearly 100 games is large enough to extrapolate semi-meaningful information, making it easier to make logical and smart picks for the rest of the season.

Before you think that I’m just some idiot who doesn’t know how to make these predictions, I’d like to direct you to the two columns that I’ve written on here so far that deal with making picks. Here’s The World Cup Preview: https://sushionsports.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/the-world-cup-preview/. In it, before the tournament started, I pick three of the final four teams correctly, I pick the winner correctly, I do reasonably well picking the order of finishers in each group, and I predict that Brazil will collapse against Germany in the semifinals. Here’s The Knockout Rounds Preview, in which I get 13 out of the 16 games correct in addition to doubling up on what I predicted before the tournament started: https://sushionsports.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/the-knockout-rounds-preview/. Read through the articles; you might be entertained, but you’ll also see that I wasn’t too bad.

Now I’ll admit that the last 130 words were pretty much just an excuse for me to brag about my successes, but still, can’t I be proud? If I made a 200 dollar bet on Germany to win it all before the tournament started (if gambling were legal), that 200 dollar bet would have returned 1100 dollars (according to Bovada). Not a bad profit.

All this aside, I like to think that I’m capable of foreseeing a few things, especially something as (relatively) predictable as MLB.

We’ll swing through the division winners and wild cards and move on to the major award winners before finishing up with the playoff picks.

Something you might want to know before we get started: this column is really, really, really long. Don’t worry: I won’t be offended if you read part of it and come back later to read some more. Anyways, after that 430 word preamble, let’s get started!

AL East: Baltimore Orioles

This is easily the most wide open division in baseball. All five teams are still in it, and no one would be particularly surprised if one team pulled off an incredible second half to win the division. I’m going with the safest pick in the Orioles.

For one thing, they’re already in first place, giving them a cushion over the rest of the teams.

They’ve also got some great hitting. Adam Jones has been spectacular as always, Nelson Cruz is having a breakout season at 34 (PEDs, anyone?) and they’ve had a surprise contributor in Steve Pearce, who’s been very good since he was brought up. Even Chris Davis isn’t too bad, although he’s certainly not at the heights that he reached last season.

The biggest reason is that they’ve got the least noticeable flaws of anyone in their division. Their only problem is a slightly leaky rotation, stemming mostly from the struggles of their prized free agent, 50 million dollar man, Ubaldo Jimenez.

The Blue Jays have been struggling since their hot start to the season and have no consistency at almost any part of their roster. Edwin Encarnacion got injured and will be out for a few weeks. All they have to do is find another guy who has 26 homers and 70 RBIs through the All Star Break because, you know, those types of players grow on trees.

Boston’s been completely unable to hit.

The Rays are shaking off a slow start but are still in last place. It’s impossible to pick them because of the risk that Andrew Friedman decides to rebuild their farm system by trading away David Price (who’s had an incredible two months worth of starts) and Ben Zobrist.

New York’s been dealing with injuries everywhere, (no surprise as the average age of their 25 man roster is probably around 48) they have no infield, their prized free agents haven’t worked out, and the only one that did, Masashiro Tanaka, is on the DL for at least six weeks.

If Toronto adds a big name player through the trade market as they’ve been rumored to be trying to do, it could change the whole outlook of the race. Outside of that, there’s nothing else that could make the division change much. The Yankees have too many holes to fix and Boston can’t find seven quality hitters to replace everyone in their lineup other than Brock Holt and David Ortiz. Tampa Bay never adds payroll and, if they made a splash, it would be more likely that they trade away David Price rather than trading for reinforcements.

The decision to choose the Orioles to win the AL East doesn’t stem from confidence in them as much as the lack of any serious competition.

For the sake of completeness, at the end of each division, I’ll put down my picks for the rest of the division. For the AL East, I’ve got Tampa Bay, Toronto, Boston, then New York.

AL Central: Detroit Tigers

Again, who’s going to compete with them? The Twins and White Sox are still rebuilding, they definitely can’t. Cleveland’s pitching has fallen apart outside of Corey Kluber. Kansas City can’t hit because of the hugely disappointing seasons from Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Norichika Aoki, and more. There are really no serious contenders other than the Tigers for the AL Central crown.

Detroit isn’t winning it almost by default like the Orioles are; rather, they have a very good team on their own.

Despite trading Doug Fister over the winter for 40 cents on the dollar (Fister has a sub-3.00 ERA this year for the Nationals) they have a deep pitching staff. Justin Verlander’s been a disappointment this year, but there’s potential for a comeback. Remember, Verlander won the MVP only three years ago, in 2011. They’ve got Rick Porcello, who had one of the strangest box scores in recent memory, with a complete game shutout with no walks and no strikeouts. Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer are both high strikeout pitchers with good ERAs. Even Drew Smyly, the guy who they gave Fister’s rotation spot to has been pretty good. That’s a pretty intimidating playoff rotation.

Their lineup is even better than their rotation. They’ve got Miguel Cabrera, looking to capture a third straight AL MVP, Victor Martinez, and Ian Kinsler. They’ve got a surprise star in JD Martinez who has absolutely mashed this year.

Overall, Detroit has such a deep team (outside of its shaky bullpen) that it’s impossible to go against them.

I think the rest of the division will go Kansas City, Cleveland, Chicago, Minnesota.

AL West: Oakland Athletics

The best team in the majors got even better after trading for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel of the Cubs. Oakland’s rotation is so deep that despite having multiple injuries to starting pitchers, they had to send down a guy with a 3.55 ERA (Tommy Milone) because they didn’t have a spot for him in the rotation. That’s some serious depth.

Their lineup is loaded as well, with Josh Donaldson following last year’s breakout season with 20 homers and 65 RBIs so far this year and Brandon Moss having already hit 21 homers and knocked in 66 guys. They’ve got the best catching platoon in the game with Derek Norris (who should have started the All Star Game over both Matt Wieters and Salvador Perez) and John Jaso. Yoenis Cespedes, who just won his second consecutive Home Run Derby, bats third. Quite simply, the Athletics are loaded.

The best thing about Oakland is how deep they are. They’ve got good players up and down the roster, from 1 through 25. This depth makes them less susceptible to injuries.

The Angels and Mariners are both good teams, but none have the depth of the A’s. We’ll delve a little deeper into those two teams in about three or four paragraphs.

Texas and Houston are both garbage and inflate the win totals of the three teams lucky enough to be in the same division as them.

Anyways, Oakland’s easily the best team in the majors and should win their division.

After Oakland, I think it’ll be Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, then Texas.

AL Wild Cards: 1. Los Angeles Angels (if you want to be picky) of Anaheim 2. Seattle Mariners

Most important question: why do the Angels feel the need to tack on “of Anaheim” to the end of the name? It sounds a little stuck up if you ask me (which you didn’t, but whatever).

In actual baseball, the Angels are a team built for the regular season with a loaded lineup, a passable rotation, and a train wreck of a bullpen. Luckily for them, the market is saturated with relief pitchers and it shouldn’t be too hard. In fact, they’ve already gotten started, grabbing Joe Thatcher from Arizona and swapping their failed closer, Ernesto Frieri, for Pittsburgh’s failed closer, Jason Grilli. I think they’ll comfortably end up with the first wild card spot in the AL and breath down Oakland’s neck for the division crown near the end of the season.

The choice for the second wild card spot is tricky. I don’t particularly like any of the AL East teams, skill-wise, and Cleveland and Kansas City are all young teams with flaws (pitching outside of Kluber and having a passable offense respectively). That leaves only the Mariners. I’m okay with that. They’ve got Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, Fernando Rodney and Robinson Cano. Their biggest hole is the lack of production from right field and first base. Their DH spot has also been shaky. If they can solve a chunk of that problem by acquiring Marlon Byrd, Josh Willlingham, or someone like them, they’ll be in good position to make a run.

Now, if you were paying any attention at all, you may have noticed that I picked three AL playoff teams to come out of the AL West. This is because of they play in a division with the Astros and the Rangers. The two Texas teams are among the worst in baseball. Their crappiness gives the rest of the teams in their division a boost up.

NL East: Washington Nationals

I’m a Mets fan but even I can say that this division is really really bad. I mean, you’ve got the retirement home Phillies, the lots-of-young-guys-but-not-quite-there-yet Marlins and Mets, the perpetually underachieving Nationals, and the never-quite-puts-it-together Braves.

The Phillies certainly won’t be winning anything this year, outside of shot at a top 5 draft pick (they currently have the seventh-worst record in the MLB). The Marlins started off hot but are finally coming down from that high. They’ve got no shot. The Mets are 45-50 but have been unlucky; they should be 50-45 with just league average luck. Still, they’re a young team and are more likely than not to do worse in the second half. They’ll be good in 2015 and beyond, just not this year (I’m gonna keep telling myself that, hoping that it’s true). The Braves are overachieving, leaving just Washington. I’ve always thought for the past three years that Washington has a really good team. They simply have no holes. Every position is manned by a capable player. I think that this is the year that they finally put it together and that they’ll easily win the NL East.

I think the rest of the division goes Atlanta, New York, Miami, and Philadelphia.

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals

Here’s another division (along with the NL and AL Easts) that no one seems to want to win. Four out of the five teams are within 3.5 games of the division lead so this division is completely up-for-grabs. We can easily rule out the Cubs because they’re continuing to build for the future, but outside of Chicago, the four other teams are more or less even.

In the end, I’ve got to pick St. Louis. They’ve got great pitching and their hitting should bounce back eventually. They’ve got a ton of injuries to key contributors such as Yadier Molina, Michael Wacha, and Jaime Garcia. Still, all of them (except for possibly Garcia) will be back by September, in time for the stretch run.
Cincinnati is dealing with injuries of its own. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Sean Marshall are all banged up. However, the Reds should find it harder to compensate for their injuries. Milwaukee wasn’t supposed to be a particularly good team this year, but after a surprisingly good start, they’ve cooled off considerably. Pittsburgh is doing the same thing it’s always done: having a far better record than their stats would suggest. It’s not unreasonable to expect them to drop off a cliff in the second half.

The best reason for the Cards is that they’ve done it before. They know what it takes to win the division. In a division with five lackluster teams, that’s the best reason to pick one of them.

I think the Reds will come in second, the Brew Crew will be third, the Buccos will take home fourth, and the Cubs will be comfortably in last.

NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s tough to go against a team that’s spending 238 million dollars. It’s also tough to go against a team that’s so loaded that elite, major-league ready prospects are stuck in the minors because the players in the big leagues are all too good to be sent down.

Three of the six worst teams in MLB reside in their division, pushing them up a few games. The only competition comes from the Giants, who, after a scorching start, have stunk for a month or two.

I think that the rest of the division will be, in order of finish, San Francisco, Colorado, Arizona, and San Diego.

NL Wild Cards: 1. San Francisco Giants 2. Atlanta Braves

The NL Wild Card race should be relatively uncompetitive this year. There are five teams that (according to my predictions) won’t win their division but are still competitive: San Fran, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh. The three NL Central teams should all beat up on one another, leaving the Giants and Braves standing. Additionally, the Giants and Braves have easy divisions and should be able to capitalize on that by taking advantage of the weaker teams they’ll face.

AL MVP: Mike Trout

Honestly, who else could it be? Miguel Cabrera has won the past two AL MVPs over Trout, largely due to old-school thinkers who don’t value advanced stats at all compared to the old stalwarts of RBIs and home runs. This year, however, in addition to thrashing Cabrera in advanced stats (as always), Trout is beating him in the regular stats as well, other than RBIs where he’s losing by two, 75-73. That difference is offset by his dominance in other categories. That combination, along with finally being on a playoff team, is why Trout should take home his first MVP.

NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton

Stanton is, quite simply, a beast. He boasts enormous power; with 21 home runs, he’s tied with Troy Tulowitzki for the NL lead in the statistic. He leads the league in RBIs, with 63. He hits for average and gets on base a ton. He’s getting better production now that he’s playing with some good hitters, like Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Casey McGehee, and Garrett Jones.

Still, the NL MVP is wide open. You could make a convincing case for Tulowitzki, Paul Goldschmidt, and Andrew McCutchen. Picking this race is pretty much a crapshoot but Stanton’s my best bet based on his immense power and his capability of turning in a monstrous second half.

AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez

King Felix is the obvious choice here. Chris Sale hasn’t pitched as many innings and David Price is still overcoming his poor start to the season, and he might get traded to an NL team. There are worries with Scott Kazmir and Garrett Richards that their seasons are outliers. Masashiro Tanaka got hurt. Justin Verlander stopped being Justin Verlander. There’s just not a huge amount of competition in the AL this year. That shouldn’t take away from Hernandez’s achievements, though. Through 144.1 innings, he’s got 154 strikeouts, a 2.12 ERA, and a 0.90 WHIP. If you care about wins, he’s got 11. He’s been the best pitcher on a playoff contender, and as long as neither he nor the Mariners suffer a prolonged second half swoon, he should win his second Cy Young in a landslide.

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw

Just like with the MVP races, the real intrigue comes with the NL. Does the award go to someone with a breakout season (Julio Teheran)? Does it go to an extreme outlier season that probably won’t happen again (Johnny Cueto)? Does it go to someone who missed a month of the season but is undeniably the best pitcher in the game (Kershaw)? Or, does it go to someone who’s been consistently spectacular all year (Adam Wainwright)?

I choose Kershaw, and here’s why:

  1. Best pitcher in the game
  2. Plays for a guaranteed playoff team
  3. The innings gap between him and the rest of the starters will be far less noticeable by the end of the season
  4. He’s been unbelievably good so far this year

That’s more than enough for me. In case that wasn’t enough, Kershaw is more likely to win because he plays for a guaranteed playoff team while Wainwright (the probable runner-up) plays for Saint Louis, a contender for a playoff spot, but by no means a slam-dunk.

A stat that shows the huge gap between Kershaw and Wainwright: Kershaw has pitched 41.2 innings less than Wainwright but has 11 more strikeouts. That’s called dominance.

AL Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu

This doesn’t have much intrigue either. It was shaping up to be a great race between Abreu and Masashiro Tanaka, but Tanaka got hurt, putting an end to that discussion.

Something reasonably important that I’d like to point out is that Tanaka is 25 and Abreu is 27. Wait, so why are these guys considered rookies again?

NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton

I racked my brains for ten minutes and couldn’t think of a single rookie in the NL worth noting, outside of Hamilton. There’s not much competition in this race either. Regardless, Hamilton is a well-deserving candidate. In addition to his well-documented speed (he’s got 38 stolen bases so far this year), he’s hitting .285, albeit with a pedestrian OPB of .319, quelling concerns that he wouldn’t be able to get on base to get steals in the big leagues. He’s even got 38 RBIs, a lot for a leadoff hitter. Hamilton is a solid choice for the NL ROY, despite there not being anyone else worth noting to compete with him.

AL Playoffs:

  1. Oakland
  2. Detroit
  3. Baltimore
  4. Los Angeles/Seattle

AL Wild Card Game: Seattle

The Angels are probably a better team overall than the Mariners, but they don’t have the shutdown ace that Seattle has in Felix Hernandez. King Felix should shut down Los Angeles in the wild card game, giving Seattle the victory.

ALDS: Oakland, Detroit

Oakland should easily put away Seattle with its superior pitching and hitting, along with its depth throughout the roster. The only position that Seattle is better than Oakland at is second base, where Seattle has Robinson Cano, compared to Oakland’s four-way platoon of Alberto Callaspo, Jed Lowrie, Nick Punto, and Eric Sogard. Outside of that position, the Athletics are better in every way.

Detroit should do the same to Baltimore, beating them with their combination of elite hitting and above average pitching. Baltimore doesn’t have great starting pitching which should doom them in a playoff series.
ALCS: Oakland

This sets up a rematch of Oakland-Detroit. Detroit has won the past two years, but neither team is the same. Justin Verlander’s not as good as he used to be and Doug Fister was traded to Washington, so the Tigers are at a slight disadvantage in pitching.

The two teams are just about neck and neck in hitting. Detroit has more star power, but Oakland has solid players up and down the order.

The place where the Athletics have a huge advantage is in the bullpen. Joe Nathan hasn’t been good at all closing for the Tigers, while the A’s have good setup men in Dan Otero and Luke Gregerson, along with an All Star closer in Sean Doolittle.

Oakland’s clearly a better team than Detroit, and that’s why I think they’ll exorcise their past demons to finally move on to the World Series.

NL Wild Card Game: Atlanta

As in the AL matchup, the team with the best starting pitcher will nearly always win. Julio Teheran is better than all of the Giants’ pitchers, like Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Hudson, Madison Bumgarner, and Tim Lincecum. Because of that advantage, I think Atlanta will beat San Francisco.

NLDS: Los Angeles, Washington

Los Angeles should thrash Atlanta with its incredibly deep rotation and its elite lineup, especially as Julio Teheran, Atlanta’s ace, won’t be able to pitch the first game of the series if he pitches in the Wild Card game.
I think Washington will avenge its loss to the Cardinals from two seasons ago. Although St. Louis has the best pitcher in the series, Adam Wainwright, Washington hasn’t been wracked by pitching injuries, with Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez, the likely members of their playoff rotation, all healthy. Even if one of them does get hurt, the Nats still have Tanner Roark as a solid backup plan.

NLCS: Los Angeles

Although Washington has great pitching, they can’t compare to the playoff rotation that the Dodgers can roll out: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett, and Hyun-jin Ryu. The strength of the Nationals is pitching; take away that advantage and they’re suddenly not so intimidating anymore.

This sets up a California World Series between Oakland and Los Angeles, a matchup which should be a treat for all.

The World Series: Oakland

I went back and forth between the two teams about a thousand times before finally deciding.

Despite having less than a third of Los Angeles’ payroll, I think the Athletics will win the World Series.

The Dodgers have a ton of star power and are very top-heavy, while the Athletics have some stars, but have a ton more depth. Los Angeles is an incredible regular season team, and an incredible postseason team, but what happens if an important player gets injured. Then what happens? We’ve already seen that worst-case scenario with Oakland’s pitching staff and they rose to the occasion.

Also, I feel like, in every World Series, there’s one random player who makes a huge difference. Oakland has a ton of those guys. The Dodgers? Not so much. That’s a big reason why I’m picking the Oakland Athletics to win the 2014 World Series.

 

The Knockout Rounds Preview

https://i1.wp.com/i.imgur.com/N3H6MAp.png

That certainly was an exciting Group Stage. There were blowouts, shutouts, high scoring games, and low scoring games, and that was all in just Group G. Favorites crapped the bed (looking at you, Spain), underdogs pulled off surprising and unlikely victories (nice job, Nigeria, Greece, Costa Rica) and there was craziness throughout. Luis Suarez even got so hungry during a game that he had a bite of Italian food. Of course, that “Italian food” was really the shoulder of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, but still.

In my pool, I came in second, losing narrowly in a competition that went down to the wire. In the end, I ended up losing on that horrible play by Ivory Coast when they fouled someone on Greece INSIDE THE PENALTY BOX, DURING EXTRA TIME, DURING A TIE GAME, WHEN ALL THEY NEEDED TO ADVANCE WAS A TIE!!!!! I mean, how stupid can you get?!?!?! In case you hadn’t noticed, I may be a little bit bitter about that.

Anyways, I figured that, rather than rehashing my picks again, I’d preview each match in the knockout rounds, along with my picks for each game, all the way to the championship game.

Round of 16:

Brazil vs. Chile:

Chile plays a frenzied and energetic style that often leads to high scoring games, either because they score a bunch of goals, or give a bunch of them up. Their game against the Netherlands was huge because the loser had to play Brazil, the favorite to win the tournament, while the winner got to play Mexico, a much easier opponent. Chile lost, 2-0, so here they are.

Brazil didn’t look very sharp in its first two games, but really rounded into form against Cameroon, winning 4-1, showing that they deserved the pre-tournament status as the favorite.

As you know, I like South American teams a lot, but, since both teams are from South America, there’s no advantage for either team. Although I like Chile a lot, I think Brazil has more than enough to beat them.

THE PICK: Brazil

The Netherlands vs. Mexico:
Mexico is a pretty good team. They drew an easy group, and took advantage of it, beating Cameroon 1-0 (should have been 3-0), beating Croatia 3-1, and tying the tournament’s favorite, Brazil, 2-2. Outside of a shaky few months during qualifying, Mexico has been a pretty good team for a few years.

The Netherlands have been one of the surprise teams of the tournament. In the tough Group B with three very good teams, most people (including me) predicted that the Netherlands would be the odd team out. Instead, they won their group in resounding fashion with the maximum nine points. They were the first to show the world that Spain was no longer a very good team, winning 5-1, regressed slightly against Australia, winning 3-2, before easily beating Chile 2-0, to capture first place.

The Netherlands have Robin van Persie, ripped through a tough group, and have been playing very well. Mexico did well in an easy group, and have been playing very well for three games. Although it’ll be closer than expected, the Netherlands should beat Mexico with relative ease.

THE PICK: The Netherlands

Columbia vs. Uruguay

Uruguay beat England and Italy, two good teams, with Luis Suarez. Without him, they lost 3-1 to Costa Rica, a team that is generally not considered to be among the soccer powerhouses of the world. Luis Suarez makes a huge difference for this Uruguay team, and without him, they’re crippled. After the biting incident, FIFA banned Suarez for the next nine matches (and four months), meaning that he’s out for this game, along with the rest of the World Cup.

Columbia ripped through a creampuff group, with a combined score of the three games of 9-2. Because of their easy draw, no one is quite sure how good Columbia is. Uruguay was supposed to be that test, but it seems as though it’s not meant to be. If they advance and Brazil doesn’t get upset by Chile, Columbia should be able to test their mettle against the Brazilians.

With Suarez, Uruguay would be a trendy upset pick to defeat Columbia. Without him, they have next to no chance. Columbia should easily defeat Uruguay.

THE PICK: Columbia

Costa Rica vs. Greece

Greece only advanced because of a brain fart by the Ivory Coast. A Greek player was fouled inside the box in a tie game in extra time, needing a victory to advance. They scored on the penalty kick and advanced.

Costa Rica took advantage of the weakened Uruguay team when they didn’t have Suarez, barely beat Italy, and tied against England. Although they’re probably better than what they were originally assumed to be, they’re still not a great team. Of course, the lucked into an easy matchup, so they’ll continue to seem like a better team than they are.

In the most underwhelming matchup of the knockout rounds, Costa Rica should beat Greece, continuing its Cinderella run for at least another round.

THE PICK: Costa Rica

France vs. Nigeria

Nigeria is not a particularly good team. It was good enough to advance, but that’s largely due to being in an easy group alongside Iran, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Argentina, not because of their own talent.

France, after years of disappointing showings by their national team, destroyed Honduras and Switzerland, 3-0 and 5-2, respectively, before tying Ecuador 0-0 in a game that they didn’t care much about.

France has looked dominant so far and against a weak opponent in Nigeria, they should easily advance.

THE PICK: France

Argentina vs. Switzerland

Switzerland, despite being ranked in FIFA’s top eight, is not a great team. It escaped against Ecuador, was whipped by France, and easily dispatched Honduras. They’re not a bad team per se, but when compared to other teams in FIFA’s top eight, Switzerland is found sorely lacking.

Argentina didn’t play very well in the Group Stage, despite being in an easy group. They won all three games, coming away with the maximum nine points, but never really dominated, only winning each game by a single goal. Still, they have Lionel Messi, the best player in the world, and in the end, that’s really all that matters.

Switzerland will show why it shouldn’t be considered a top eight team worldwide, Messi will continue to be Messi, and Argentina should easily advance.

THE PICK: Argentina

Germany vs. Algeria

Algeria was considered to be the worst team in the tournament but somehow managed to advance because of their easy group. Outside of an explosion against South Korea in which they scored four goals, they have mostly looked like the team people thought they were at the start of the tournament.

Germany was my pre-tournament pick to win it all, and, on the whole, they’ve largely vindicated my prediction. They dominated Portugal (albeit a ten-man one), tied Ghana, and beat the United States.

In a game between one of the best teams in the tournament and one of the worst, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a huge blowout by four goals, but Germany should dominate Algeria with ease and move on to the quarterfinals.

THE PICK: Germany

Belgium vs. United States

The United States have looked very good so far. They beat Ghana, dominated Portugal for most of their game, and played Germany tough. With the rising interest in soccer throughout the United States, they’re going to have the whole country behind them.

Belgium, although it advanced with nine points, did not play well. They won 2-1 against Algeria before winning consecutive 1-0 games against Russia and South Korea. They should have dominated in an easy group, but did not do as well as they should have.

Call me a homer, but I haven’t made an upset pick yet, and I think the United States has a better chance than most underdogs to upset their opponent to advance to the quarterfinals.

THE PICK: United States

The Quarterfinals:

Brazil vs. Columbia

Columbia, although less heralded than Brazil, is a very good team. Unfortunately for them, Brazil is a superior team to them on a neutral pitch. When they’re playing in Brazil, in a stadium with thousands and thousands of Brazilian supporters cheering on their team, I can’t imagine that Columbia manages to overcome the overwhelming home field advantage of the Brazilians.

THE PICK: Brazil

The Netherlands vs. Costa Rica

Here’s where Costa Rica’s Cinderella journey comes to an end: against a superior team that isn’t weakened by injuries that has rolled through its competition so far. It would be a huge upset for Costa Rica to play on an even level against the Netherlands, let alone defeat them.

THE PICK: The Netherlands

France vs. Germany

France has looked like a great team during this World Cup. They’ve looked like they deserve to be in the first tier of favorites, alongside Germany, Argentina, and Brazil, after dominating . However, they have yet to play a team that’s half as good as Germany.

Germany, on the other hand, has played some tough teams in Group G, and despite advancing past Algeria in an easy win, has proved itself worthy of the title “co-favorite”. Their run won’t stop against France, and Germany should continue to advance.

THE PICK: Germany

Argentina vs. United States

The United States have played well so far. They beat Ghana, dominated Portugal before tying them, played Germany tough, and beat Belgium. Still, they have yet to see an individual player as dominant as Lionel Messi, nor a team as good as Argentina (I think that Germany is slightly worse than Argentina). Their run to the championship game should fall short in the quarterfinals against Argentina.

THE PICK: Argentina

The Semifinals:

Brazil vs. Germany

While Columbia is a very good team, it’s clearly not on the level of Brazil. Germany is a different story. Germany, while slightly inferior to Brazil, is an elite team. This is the game where I think that home field advantage will turn out to be a curse for the Brazilians. I talked about this more in The World Cup Preview (go read it), but I believed then and I believe now that both the social and political pressure on the Brazilian team will finally make the team collapse. I figured that the pressure wouldn’t matter against inferior opponents, but Germany is on Brazil’s level. I thought then that the team that beats Brazil would be Germany, in the semfinals, and I still believe that.

THE PICK: Germany

The Netherlands vs. Argentina

Argentina will make it to the semifinals because their quarter of the bracket is the weakest one, alongside the quarter that the Netherlands is in. Argentina is a team that needs Messi to be incredible every game and to be otherworldly against good teams.

On the other hand, the Netherlands has a multifaceted attack, speared by Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie. This attack dominated Group B, winning all three games with a couple of resounding victories. In this game, at least, the Netherlands has the advantage, and will likely be rewarded with a second consecutive trip to the World Cup Finals.

THE PICK: The Netherlands

The Third Place Game:

Argentina vs. Brazil

Both teams rely on an elite attacker (Messi and Neymar, respectively). Both teams are not as deep overall as some other teams. Both teams are South American. There are a lot of similarities between these two sides.

In this potential match, the most important factor is the reaction of Brazil (not the team, the country) to their loss to Germany in the semifinals. Do they support the team? Are they disappointed or angry, further exacerbating the cracks in the team’s foundation? That question will determine the results of this match.

In the end, I’ll have to lean towards Argentina. I think that the Brazilian fans will be devastated by the loss and will blame the team for the government’s lavish spending on hosting the World Cup. Of course, I could be completely wrong as I’m not exactly an expert on the reactions of South American fans to brutal losses to their national soccer team, but this is my column and my picks, so you’re just gonna have to roll with it. Okay? If you disagree or just want to lob insults at me, just head over to the comments section to voice those complaints.

THE PICK: Argentina

The Championship Game:

The Netherlands vs. Germany

The famed home field advantage of the South American teams won’t come into play in this scenario as both teams are from Europe. This scenario will result in the first time a European team wins a World Cup on South American soil.

Germany is deep throughout its roster, with players young and old melding seamlessly into an elite team, the best offensive team in the world, and a member of the Elite Three (no longer the Elite Four after Spain’s demise).

The Netherlands is a little more top heavy than Germany, but still has a relatively even roster. It’s got elite players in van Persie and Robben and was good enough to dominate in a Group of Death and to advance this far in my predictions. Still, I think that for the second straight World Cup, the Netherlands will fall short in the Finals.

THE PICK: Germany

No matter what happens, it’ll be great to watch the best teams in the world go head to head in the battle for supremacy and I, like the rest of the world, can’t wait to see it.

World Cup Recap: First Games

 

With Russia-South Korea bringing an end to the first games for every team in the World Cup, I figured that it’d be a good thing to take a quick jaunt through the sixteen games played and to check up on my picks for each group (if you haven’t read about those yet, go read https://sushionsports.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/the-world-cup-preview/. The rules for this pool are outlined near the top of that article so for you to understand this one fully, it might be a good idea to go to that article.). And, another advantage of writing something like this is that it allows people who haven’t been following the World Cup so far to get into it. With that, let’s get started!

Group A:

My Picks:

  1. Brazil
  2. Mexico
  3. Croatia
  4. Cameroon

Brazil 3-1 over Croatia

Mexico 1-0 over Cameroon

Outside of an own goal by Marcelo, Brazil thoroughly dominated their game against Croatia, winning 3-1, while Mexico could have beaten Cameroon 3-0 if not for a couple of bogus offsides calls by the refs, instead beating them 1-0.

My picks are in very good shape. Cameroon looks to be the worst team in the group while Brazil is clearly the class of the group. It seems as though I chose correctly when I took Mexico over Croatia, as Mexico looked a lot better than Croatia did.

My picks seem to be very good. Of course, it’s not gonna stay that way for long.

Group B:

My picks:

  1. Spain
  2. Chile
  3. Netherlands
  4. Australia

Netherlands 5-1 over Spain

Chile 3-1 over Australia

Chile took care of business against Australia, winning 3-1, while the Netherlands utterly destroyed Spain, 5-1, in part due to the early frontrunner for goal of the tournament: Van Persie’s header.

My picks here… Not exactly so great. In a vacuum, I didn’t pick well. The Netherlands are likely going to win the group, with Chile in second, Spain in third, and Australia in fourth. That means I picked badly.

However, everyone picked Spain to be first. If Spain comes in third, then we all get zero points which doesn’t matter in a competition. However, everyone in the pool picked either Chile or the Netherlands to come in second. If the Netherlands comes in first and Chile comes in second, then I earn three points from getting Chile right, but the Netherlands completely wrong. If Chile wins the group and the Netherlands place second, then I get partial credit for each one, only netting me two points. In a nutshell, I’m a Netherlands fan from now until the end of the group stage.

Group C:

My picks:

  1. Colombia
  2. Ivory Coast
  3. Greece
  4. Japan

Colombia 3-0 over Greece

Ivory Coast 2-1 over Japan

Colombia easily beat Greece three-nil, while the Ivory Coast had a come from behind victory to defeat Japan 2-1.

My picks are doing quite well. Colombia showed that it’s easily the best team in this group while the Ivory Coast showed that it can defeat inferior teams but is inconsistent enough that a good team can beat them. The only part I’m not pleased with is the Greece in third, Japan in fourth picks. Japan showed that it isn’t a bad team and that it can play with some good teams, while Greece showed that they’re really bad after getting mashed by Colombia. Still, it’s not a huge problem as of now, because, assuming that Greece and Japan lose to both Colombia and Ivory Coast, their matchup will decide who gets third. Greece will probably need to either win or tie that game because their goal differential right now is -3, compared to Japan’s -1. At least I’m in good shape for now.

Group D:

My picks:

  1. Uruguay
  2. England
  3. Italy
  4. Costa Rica

Costa Rica 3-1 over Uruguay

Italy 2-1 over England

Costa Rica upset Uruguay, 3-1, although Uruguay didn’t have its’ best player, Luis Suarez, while Italy beat England 2-1 in an exciting and competitive game.

I’m not doing well at all with these picks. There’s a decent chance that I don’t get any points at all from this group. As Uruguay has a bad goal differential, it’s behind England in the standings. Its’ only hope for advancement is to run up the score on England in their next match while hoping that the game between Italy and Costa Rica isn’t a tie AND still having to win their game against Italy while hoping that the loser of Costa Rica-Italy either loses or ties, or tying against Italy while hoping that the loser of Costa Rica-Italy loses. Either way, I’m not in the best of shape. England needs the same scenario as played out above (with their opponents switched in for Uruguay’s, obviously) to advance as well.  Italy and Costa Rica each need a win in their last two games in order to clinch their ticket to the knockout rounds, depending on the goal differential.

Group E:

My picks:

  1. France
  2. Ecuador
  3. Switzerland
  4. Honduras

France 3-0 over Honduras

Switzerland 2-1 over Ecuador

France easily dispatched Honduras after a red card forced Honduras to play with ten players, while Switzerland and Ecuador were even throughout their game until a late goal by Switzerland in extra time gave them the victory.

Well, I’m, at least, in pretty good shape in this group. France looks like they’ll be able to run away with the group and Honduras pretty clearly looks like the clear favorite for last place, leaving Ecuador and Switzerland fighting for the group’s second spot in the knockout rounds. Ecuador is at a severe disadvantage in that race after losing to Switzerland. For it to vault past Switzerland, it’ll need to run up the score against Honduras, while hoping France beats Switzerland. Then, assuming that they have a better goal differential than the Swiss, Ecuador just needs to match whatever Switzerland does (i.e. win-win, tie-tie, loss-loss) in order to advance. If they don’t have a better goal differential, they’ll need to have a win to a Swiss tie or loss or a tie to a Swiss loss. If Switzerland manages to tie, or even beat, the French, then Ecuador will have almost no chance at advancing, although if Switzerland beat France, Ecuador would play France in their last game, meaning that they would just have to beat France in order to advance alongside Switzerland.

Group F:
My picks:

  1. Argentina
  2. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  3. Nigeria
  4. Iran

Argentina 2-1 over Bosnia and Herzegovina

Nigeria 0-0 against Iran

Argentina escaped against Bosnia and Herzegovina, winning 2-1, a close scrape for a team that is widely believed to be in championship contention, while Nigeria and Iran combined for a 0-0 tie, the first tie of the tournament, in the thirteenth game. Who says soccer is boring?

Everything is in good shape here. Argentina should run away with the group, Bosnia and Herzegovina (wow, that’s annoying to type) should beat up on the bottom two teams, while Nigeria and Iran will duke it out for third place. For me, all I need is for the top two teams to beat up on Nigeria a little less than Iran so Nigeria will have third place over Iran on the tiebreaker of goal differential.

Group G:

My picks:

  1. Germany
  2. America
  3. Portugal
  4. Ghana

Germany 4-0 over Portugal

America 2-1 over Ghana

Germany walked all over Portugal, winning 4-0, especially after Pepe received a red card, making the Portugese play with ten men. Thomas Müeller got a hat trick for Germany. America beat Ghana 2-1, in an exciting game in which Ghana dominated the flow of play for most of the game. America scored thirty seconds in before a stalemate for more than 80 minutes. Ghana scored to tie it up, but a couple of minutes later, the United States scored to take the lead 2-1 and to eventually win the game.

I’m in great shape in this group. Germany, especially with its’ huge goal differential after its’ 4-0 victory, is a huge favorite to capture the number one spot. America is likely to capture second place after their win and because Pepe’s red card which will keep him out of Portugal’s next game, against the Americans, making the United States more likely to win that game too. Portugal has a horrible goal differential and it’s at a severe disadvantage against the United States (because of Pepe’s absence) so it’ll need to beat Ghana in their third game to capture third place. Luckily for me, that’s a probable outcome as Portugal is a better team than Ghana.

Group H:

My picks:

  1. Belgium
  2. Russia
  3. South Korea
  4. Algeria

Belgium 2-1 over Algeria

Russia 1-1 against South Korea

Belgium dealt with Algeria, 2-1, while Russia let in an embarrassing goal to give South Korea a tie, 1-1.

My picks here are also doing quite well. Belgium has the lead by two points and are likely to take first place. Algeria has zero points and are at a disadvantage against South Korea in the race for third place because of South Korea’s tie with Russia. The gap between Russia and South Korea is smaller than it seemed before the tournament, but there’s still enough of a gap for it to be likely for Russia to take Group H’s second berth in the knockout rounds.

By the way, sorry for this being posted so late. I had finals and all the rest. Now that school’s over, hopefully I’ll have more time to write. Speaking of which, the next article out should be recapping the second game for each team. After that, there’s the NBA draft which I plan on writing a draft diary for. Then there’ll be an article recapping the third game for each team, then one previewing the knockout rounds, and then… who knows?

Anyways, there should be a bunch of great games on over the next few weeks and we’ll all be watching, alongside of the rest of the world.

 

 

The First Mailbag

Image

An article that I’ve always wanted to write is a mailbag, in which readers send in questions, comments, or insults, and in my column, I answer them. Of course, I wasn’t able to do that *cue dramatic music* UNTIL NOW!

I got a couple of questions from readers in the past few days, so I’ll answer them now. Here’s the first one:

So Mr Shshi, why don’t you comment on the possibility that teams that have runs of bad seasons have to reduce their ticket prices, at least for the cheapest tickets. Especially if the teams are getting public $$ as tax breaks. Thank you.

This is a good idea, albeit one that needs some alterations and one that has been advocated for before. Runs of bad seasons are OK. Taking a dump on your fans isn’t. The former is normal in the course of rebuilding. The latter is taking it too far.

Let’s tweak the idea a little bit to talk about just an individual season. A season is more than long enough to torture the fans. It shouldn’t be years before the league steps in to prevent a team from tormenting its fans.

Let’s swing through the four major leagues to see if this plan is reasonable and viable.

NFL- There are enough things that can go wrong in a season that, even when you’re trying to field a competitive team, you can get screwed by a big injury (think Peyton Manning with the Colts in 2011 when they went 2-14 or RGIII this past year when Washington went 3-13) or by your quarterback suddenly forgetting how to play football (think Matt Schaub with the Texans last year when they went 2-14). As this isn’t a team being purposefully bad, it’s them getting incredibly unlucky. It’s impossible to penalize a team for something outside of their control, so the idea won’t work with the NFL.

NHL- I don’t know as much about the NHL as the other three sports, but there’s a big problem with determining how bad a season is: the shootout point. How can you determine exactly how badly a team screwed over their team when they can earn points for losing?

MLB- MLB is a little more realistic for the idea offered up by the reader. The Astros have willfully destroyed their team over the last few seasons, opting instead to reload through the draft. While it hasn’t been pretty, they’re in good shape for 2015 and beyond with a number of good players on the way. However, in the process, the made their fans pay for horrible team after horrible team. That’s what the reader suggested teams have to pay for. However, other than them, only the Marlins (with the whole stadium and trading away star players fiasco) and Mets (says the depressed Mets fan) have really tormented their fans in the past few years, so there aren’t enough teams to make it a worthwhile proposition in MLB.

NBA- However, in the NBA, there are more than enough teams to make it a good rule change. By my count, seven teams willfully lost games at some point last year (Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Utah, Boston, Los Angeles, Orlando), one team was planning on losing games but when they won them instead, ended up deciding to go for it (Phoenix), and one team tried to win games but messed up to hilarious degrees (Milwaukee). That’s a lot of teams. Should the Sixers be charging full price for their tickets this year after a 26 game losing streak caused by ravaging their team? I can’t understand how that could possibly be okay to rip off your fans like that.

The problem is that sometimes, stuff happens (and it’s not stuff, but I try to keep it PG around here) and makes you lose games. Milwaukee did its best to win this year but still ended up losing the most games in the league. Should it be penalized for sucking but doing its’ best not to screw over its’ fans? I don’t know, but that’s why, to institute a plan like this, the NBA would need to make a “Don’t Screw Over Your Fans” Committee to decide whether or not a team deserves to be punished. The NBA has committees for almost everything else, so why not this too? Keeping fans interested and committed to their team seems like a worthy goal, and the only way to do that is to take money out of the owners’ pockets by making their ticket prices for the next year after their offense was committed lower. So, yes, dear reader, I think that that’s a great idea and one that the NBA should certainly consider implementing.

The second question I received in the past couple days was from someone who would prefer to remain anonymous, but who has asked me multiple times to write an article about fantasy baseball.  I hope this’ll suffice. Here’s what he said:

What techniques can I use to get a leg up on the competition in my fantasy baseball league?

Now, this is a good question. I’m currently in one fantasy baseball league and I use two methods for improving my team, one common, and one rare: streaming and stacking.

Streaming is often used but I’ll explain it here anyways just so we’re all on the same page. Streaming when one picks up a player (generally a pitcher) for a specific matchup, before dropping them the next day, in order to add another pitcher for another matchup. This allows one to accrue certain stats such as innings pitched, wins, and strikeouts, in order to more easily win your matchup.

The way I generally use streaming is by choosing one pitcher, every day, that I like. I then drop my worst pitcher (or a hitter if I have an extra one) and pick up the new pitcher. Still, I have an imaginary line that I use to help me decide who’s able to be dropped and who I should keep under all circumstances. As an example, you wouldn’t drop Clayton Kershaw to pick up Charlie Morton, would you?

When you have too many good pitchers, it becomes impossible to stream, which is why, in my league, I’ve been trying to trade away good pitchers to create an extra roster spot or two for streaming.

While streaming is almost always used for pitching, stacking is exclusively for hitting.

Stacking is when you have a bunch of hitters from the same team on your team. On my team, I’ve been stacking the Athletics. I have John Jaso, Derek Norris, Brandon Moss, and Josh Donaldson, and I’ve been trying to trade for Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes.   

Why is stacking a good thing to use? Well, let’s say that John Jaso scores a run. Who’s likely to have knocked him in? One of Moss, Donaldson, or Norris! See, the idea behind stacking (which is an idea I came up with by myself) is that it magnifies each individual positive occurrence that happens to a team.

So far, it’s worked very well for me, and hopefully work for you too. The only pitfall is stacking a team like the Mets who are incapable of scoring more than three runs more than once a week. Aside from that, it’s great! Now I’ll be back in a few minutes. I just need to go mourn the Mets of my childhood. *sniffles*

Back! Anyways, so I have a lot more rules and techniques that I utilize to win at fantasy baseball, but a master has to keep his best secrets. Also, most of the people in the league with me are probably reading this, and I kinda want to make sure that I keep in advantage over them so I can win.

If you want to be in the next mailbag, email me at sushi.krox@gmail.com with a question. Make the subject line “SushiOnSports Question” and provide me with a name (or anonymous) and I may answer your question in the next mailbag. Hope you enjoyed!

 

The World Cup Preview

Image

Well, the biggest sporting event in the world is finally here after a long, four year wait. In my opinion, the World Cup is much like the Olympics, with the four year cycle, way too expensive stadiums, and worldwide attention, except that people actually want to watch the World Cup. I thought I’d write a short (warning: it’s really, really, really long) preview of the Cup, starting off with talking about the pool I started and created for the group stages of the tournament before getting to my picks for the aforementioned pool (you can post your picks in the comment section too!). Then we’ll talk about my picks for part of the knockout rounds and a few other things as well. Sound good? I can only assume you’re saying yes, as you’re reading this article and I can’t hear you through your computer screen, no matter how loudly you scream.

So here’s how the pool works. It’s quite simple:

For the group stages: Pick the order of the teams’ finish. For example in Group G, you might choose

1. Germany

2. Portugal

3. America

4. Ghana

For each pick exactly right, three points are earned, and for each pick that’s missed by one point, one point is earned. Outside of that, no points can be earned.

So that’s the pool. My picks later on in the article reflect the parameters put in place.

Now, when I make picks for a pool, I’m serious about doing so. I research, I use online tools, and I watch games. For the picks below, the ones I’m using for my pool, you’ll find my an explanation combining both my reasoning and a very useful online tool from FiveThirtyEight.

For March Madness, FiveThirtyEight made an online, interactive bracket using data and fancy stats, to create winning probabilities for every team in every game.

They used the same principles for the World Cup. Here’s the link to their interactive forecasting model: http://fivethirtyeight.com/interactives/world-cup/. For most teams, I agreed with their assessments. For teams that I didn’t know so much about, I followed their opinion. In a couple of rare cases, I went with my gut, against their predictions, including once that was caused by patriotism. ‘Murica!

Group A:

  1. Brazil
  2. Mexico
  3. Croatia
  4. Cameroon

Brazil is going to advance with ease. They’re at home and lucked into one of the easiest groups. They’re from South America, (which is important to me, as we’ll get to later) home field advantage matters a lot in the World Cup, and they have a very good team. In fact they’re good enough to be in the Elite Four (you’ll see that mentioned a few times throughout the article and I’ll explain later on, closer to the end of it). I suspect that the pressure of a riotous, soccer-crazed nation will get to them, but with this creampuff of a group, I doubt it will affect them in the group stage.

Mexico and Croatia are essentially a tossup for the second spot according to FiveThirtyEight. I picked Mexico as, outside of the recent stretch in which they were so bad that they barely made it into the World Cup, have been very good for years. Also, I suppose, if Mexico advances, then Americans can say “Well, we beat Mexico, so if we weren’t in the Group of Death, (which they really aren’t, as we’ll get to later) then we would have advanced too!” What can I say? I’m just a patriotic American.

Cameroon is clearly a cut below the rest of the group, although, as the gap between them and the Croatia-Mexico level isn’t a chasm, so if a couple of goals and 50-50 calls go their way, they can certainly advance as well.

And yes, I am aware that the Croatia and Brazil have played (Brazil beat Croatia 3-1) but I wrote this long before the game started, so my predictions are untainted by any future knowledge.

Group B:

  1. Spain
  2. Chile
  3. Netherlands
  4. Australia

This is the real Group of Death. Spain is the defending World Cup champions from when they won in 2010. That win is sandwiched between two victories in. the Euro Cup in 2008 and 2012. While their core is getting older, they still have enough left in the tank to remain in the Elite Four and to take this group with relative ease.

Chile is a very good team. In 2010, they were in Spain’s group and advanced to the quarterfinals where they were summarily dismissed by Brazil, 3-0. I’ve always been rather bullish on South American teams, AND in this World Cup, they’re playing close to home, giving them an advantage (although I’m not sure how big that advantage is). FiveThirtyEight’s model also sees them as a lot better than the Netherlands, and even gives them a decent shot to upset Spain to win the group.

The Netherlands were the runner-up in the 2010 World Cup, losing to Spain, 1-0. They’re also getting old, but they haven’t handled it quite as well as Spain has. Robin van Persie is still a beast, although he’s been hindered by injuries as this past year as he scored just twelve goals in 21 games, playing for Manchester United in the Premier League. Between van Persie’s injuries, the growing age of the team, and the tough group, it’s hard to believe in the Netherlands. Of the top three teams in this group, one has to be the odd one out, and I’m betting that it’s going to be the Netherlands.

Australia. Poor Australia. Not a very good team to begin with, they get stuck with three other title contenders? Kinda sucks for them. I’d wouldn’t be surprised if they failed to notch any goals, let alone any points. Well, the consolation for Australia is that at least they’re there at the World Cup. For them, it’s triumph just to have made it. Anything else they accomplish is just gravy.

Group C:

  1. Colombia
  2. Ivory Coast
  3. Greece
  4. Japan

This group one of the most balanced groups, although Colombia is clearly the class of it. It would be a major upset if they failed to make it out of the group stage.

The intrigue comes with the next three teams, the Ivory Coast, Greece, and Japan. The Ivory Coast has historically disappointed in big tournaments, but I think that this year is going to be the year they finally advance, due mostly to their relatively easy draw.

Speaking of draws, it’s impossible to overstate the foolishness of FIFA in continuing with their antiquated method of determining groups. Their methods may seem fine on the surface, but what method would have such disparities between groups as the one between Group A and Group B? Let’s say that Brazil and Spain are equal (which they are normally, although since the World Cup is in Brazil, Brazil has a big home field advantage). Which one is more likely to make it to the knockout rounds: the team with two okay teams and a bad team (all relative to teams in the World Cup) or the team with one very good team, one good team, and one bad team? It’s no contest. It penalizes teams for nothing other than dumb luck! How is that in the spirit of competitive balance and exciting games?
On the flip side, you have the Ivory Coast, which is likely to advance out of the group stage merely because of the group it was handed by FIFA. Then, when they advance, we get to watch them get blown out of the water by the first place team of Group D (which is close to a tossup). Not exactly an exciting game. For the good, of all, FIFA should finally get rid of its’ useless method for determining groups.

A good article that really hashes this out and explains it in detail, along with offering solutions is at http://grantland.com/the-triangle/group-of-fairness-how-the-world-cup-would-look-with-straight-seeding/. Grantland overall is great—I really enjoy it—and it might be worth checking out.

Wow, that was a long tangent. Getting back to business, I don’t know much about Greece or Japan, but the projection model favors Greece by a decent sized margin so I’m going to roll with it.

Oh, and another tangent, this time about the roll part of the sentence: I was once playing pickup basketball with some friends and I set a pick. The other guy says “Sushi, roll!” leading to us having to pause the game so we could all laugh for a bit. It’s great having an awesome name like Sushi.

Anyways, I seem to be always going off topic in my old age, so before I can run off on another tangent, on to Group D!

Group D:

  1. Uruguay
  2. England
  3. Italy
  4. Costa Rica

This is also clearly a Group of Death. You’ve got Uruguay, a team that I’m very bullish on, England, a team that’s rebuilding but still has very good players, Italy, a team who is also pretty good, and Costa Rica, a team that hasn’t been too bad and which solidly beat America, 3-1, only a few months ago.

I picked Uruguay to win the group because, as you know, I like the South American teams. In addition, they’re playing close to home, and they have Luis Suarez. For those of you who don’t pay attention to the Premier League, Suarez scored 31 goals for Liverpool this season, a staggering amount. That’s more than enough for me to take Uruguay.

I have England and Italy in the same tier for this group, the fighting-for-second-place tier, and was leaning towards Italy (because, after all, England is rebuilding) but FiveThirtyEight’s model thought England was almost as good as Uruguay in terms of likelihood to advance and to win the group, so I chose England to advance alongside Uruguay.

Costa Rica, in my opinion, not a bad team in and of itself, got screwed over by the selection process, and, while they may have even advanced in an easier group, will likely find themselves in last place due to the luck of the draw.

Group E:

  1. France
  2. Ecuador
  3. Switzerland
  4. Honduras

While France’s individual players are very good, their results have been highly inconsistent on the national team level. In a weak group, I’m hoping that their talent outweighs their history and that they place first in their group and advance to the knockout rounds. The projection system agrees with me, pegging France’s odds of advancing at just over 80% and their odds of capturing the top spot at nearly 54%.

I chose Ecuador for four reasons: one, the model believes them to be better than Switzerland, two, they’re South American, three, they’re playing close to home, and finally four, because of their easy draw. That’s enough for me.

Switzerland is third. I don’t exactly have a reasoned opinion about it, I just don’t like their chances. I like their chocolate, I like their cheese, I just don’t like their soccer team. So sue me.

Honduras comes in last place. While I’ve already outlined why I chose Ecuador and France to advance, I figured that there was probably a reason that FIFA put Switzerland in the top eight of the world (other than FIFA being based in Switzerland, bribes, or that FIFA isn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. That pun was unintentional, I didn’t mean to call attention to the fact that they’re bad at the World Cup drawing. Oh wait I just did! Wow, I’m really on a bad crappy joke run, I’d better stop now) so I ended up choosing them over Honduras.

Group F:

  1. Argentina
  2. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  3. Nigeria
  4. Iran

I picked Argentina to take the group for a bunch of reasons. I won’t rehash all of the reasons related to Argentina being located in South America, as you’ve probably memorized it by now and I’d bet that you’re a little sick of it. In addition to those aforementioned reasons, Argentina is in the Elite Four and they have Lionel Messi. I like Messi because he’s a beast, has beautiful passes, (while also scoring plenty of goals) and because, as he’s only 5’’4, he brings hope to smallish people like me.

Departing from the usual order of teams, I’ll talk about the second-place pick last. Why? I’m simply a daredevil, living life on the wild side.

Iran is a tough team to predict. They haven’t played much against international competition so it’s challenging to determine exactly how good they are. Still, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Iran isn’t a good team, and place them firmly in last place.

Nigeria also isn’t a great team. I’m bearish on African teams, partly because they’ve historically not done well in the World Cup, partly because of their lack of competition against elite teams. However, when in doubt, as always, let’s go check out the projection system. The model gives them a 68% chance of failing to advance and sees them to be worse than Bosnia and Herzegovina, so I’m going to trust the math and put Nigeria third.

Finally, we’ve got Bosnia and Herzegovina. They’re a solid team, by all accounts, and as there are two teams clearly a cut below them, they fall into the second spot, almost by default.

Group G:

  1. Germany
  2. America
  3. Portugal
  4. Ghana

Germany, the last member of the Elite Four, (yes, we’ll get to what that is soon) and is a very, very good team. It has exceptional players such as Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, and Phillip Lahm, their captain. There’s no South American team to upset them. They’re clearly a cut above the rest of they’re group and it’d be extremely surprising if someone other than them took first place in the group.

“Why in the world would you pick America?” you might ask. My answer might be that I’m a red blooded American, who likes guns, gets fat, and expects the government to pay for my problems. Whenever my Yanks take part in a competition, my patriotic pride swells up, and I have to believe in them.

Well, to be honest, none of that is actually true. The real reason why I’m picking America is because of their schedule. America plays Ghana first, and is likely to beat them according to FiveThirtyEight. If they can tie or beat Portugal in their second game, something the projection system gives a 58% chance of happening, then they’ll be in good shape heading into their third match, with Germany.

See, America can’t play with Germany—they’ll just be overwhelmed. America’s only chance is to hope that Germany beats Ghana and Portugal and rests most of their starters and plays its second team instead. If that happens, America would have a decent shot at winning or tying (although, even against Germany’s second team, there’s still a decent chance they might lose), which would push them ahead of Portugal and into the second spot. Of course, this might not play out the way I hope it will, but at the very least I can dream a little, for at least a few days.

Portugal is next. They’re a good team, but a more accurate team name might be “Cristiano Ronaldo and ten other guys”. Ronaldo is an amazing player so I couldn’t put his team any lower than third in this group, but if an opposing team can shut Ronaldo down, Portugal will be in deep trouble.

Ghana, as we all know, has eliminated America in the last two World Cups. Still, I think this’ll be the year that we finally get rid of Ghana for a couple of reasons: one, America has gotten better over the past four years while Ghana has stagnated, and two, Ghana’s in Africa which, as we talked about earlier in the Nigeria section, is generally a no-go for me. In a group with three superior teams, Ghana seems destined to finish last.

Group H:

  1. Belgium
  2. Russia
  3. South Korea
  4. Algeria

Belgium has a few good players, including Thibaut Cortois, the keeper who led Atletico Madrid to a second place finish in the Champions League, Eden Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku. In a weak group, their good players should push them to a first place finish in their group.

The projection model sees Russia as the likely second place finisher, although they have a decent shot to vault past Belgium and into firs placet.

Of the two other teams, South Korea and Algeria, South Korea has about a 40% chance of pulling an upset and advancing to the knockout rounds, while Algeria has about a 20% chance of doing so, deciding the last two spots in this group.

Wow, that was certainly a long-winded explanation and analysis. Now, we’ll move onto a couple of storylines to watch throughout the World Cup.

The Top Heavy Tournament:

Throughout the article, you may have noticed that I’ve referred a few times to the “Elite Four”. You may have wondered what that referred to. Well, now, you’re about to find out! *cue game show music and people happily screaming* When deciding on predictions for tournaments, drafts, and everything else, it’s useful to separate teams and players into different tiers to make it easier to choose between them. In this World Cup, the highest tier consists of Brazil, Germany, Spain, and Argentina. The next tier is just Uruguay, and there are a number of teams in the third tier. Still, as you can see, this years’ tournament is very top heavy. There’s a chasm between the Elite Four and the third tier. Because there’s very little parity, this tournament will not be conducive to Cinderella runs by any third or fourth tier teams. It’s too bad for fans of specific teams, but it’s incredible for fans of soccer. Why? The Elite Four are very likely to meet in the semifinals, meaning that those matches should be competitive and the best soccer in the world. It should be great.

The Many Groups of Death:

It’s annoying how often the term “Group of Death” is used, but even worse are the confusing qualifications to be one. Can there be multiple Groups of Death? Is it just the hardest group? The best team in the group or the teams in the group’s average level? There are so many befuddling and vague requirements to be a Group of Death to make sense of. If you think you have an answer to any of the questions, let us all know in the comments section.

America and Saving Face in the Group of Death:

Speaking of Groups of Death, Group G has been hyped up by the American media to be considered one of said Groups of Death. The question, of course, is why. While America seems to have a harder group than most, it certainly isn’t as hard as Group B (which is why we need clear rules for being a Group of Death like I outlined in the last paragraph). I think that the reason why the American media has decided that America is in the Group of Death is to lower expectations for the team.

To explain, here’s an example of that in every day life. Sometimes, a job of mine at home is to unload the dishwasher. Let’s say I dutifully unload the dishwasher every time that it needs to be done for a month. If I continued doing it, no one would notice it or thank me for it because it’s become expected of me.

Now let’s say that I rarely unloaded the dishwasher. If I unload the dishwasher, since the expectations for me were so low, I’d be praised and what I had done would be appreciated more.

Now apply that to what the media has been doing. They’re setting America up so that if they fail, it’s okay because it’s because they were stuck with in a Group of Death, and if they advance, they’ve exceeded expectations and are worthy of much praise. That’s a lot better than the situation that Brazil has been stuck with.

Pressure on Brazil:

Speaking of Brazil, they have a couple of inherent advantages in this World Cup, outside of the variables that are able to control. One, they have an easy group, as we discussed a while ago. Two, they’re playing at home, which has historically been a boon for whoever gets to host the tournament. Still,  I suspect that home field advantage might prove to be a curse in this year’s World Cup.

Think of the political situation in Brazil: people are rioting in the streets, upset that their government is spending money on a tournament when that money could be used to help get better schools, better housing, and more food. Think of the social situation in Brazil: a soccer-crazed nation is hosting the World Cup and which has a team that’s considered the favorite to win. That’s a lot of pressure on a team. The pressure won’t matter in Group A when they’re playing against inferior competition. The pressure will grow steadily until they finally face a team their equal. If they fall behind against a team as good as them, I suspect that the pressure will get to them and they will lose. That’s why I don’t have them winning the World Cup, although we’ll get to that in greater detail once we reach the knockout rounds.

I’m saving my picks for the knockout rounds until we actually know who’s participating, although I’ll be sure to let you know my picks once the bracket is locked. Right now, my final four teams are Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay (upsetting Spain in the quarterfinals) with the pressure finally getting to Brazil in the semifinals and Uruguay pulling of another big upset of an Elite Four team, this time Argentina, resulting in a Germany-Uruguay Finals, which I pick Germany to win.

I’m looking to possibly do a pool for the knockout rounds, so if you’re interested, send me an email at sushi.krox@gmail.com or just post in the comments section. If enough people answer, we can have a SushiOnSports pool, which I’ll be sure to write about.

Quick alert about the NBA Finals: the Spurs’ offense has been incredible, and after blowing out Miami last night, 107-86, they look like a lock to win the championship. I’m saving my extended thoughts for another time, probably in a new article after the series is over.

Anyways, enjoy the World Cup action! It should be great!

Week In Review May 26th-June 1st, 2014

Here is (and I reserve the right to change my mind as much as Brett Favre) the last Week In Review, or at least for a while. The explanation is at the end of the article. The big question is whether or not hearing this now will make you skip to the end of the column, read it, and leave in tears and never come back. Or, maybe, you’ll skip the first part and leave in tears and never come back. Or, (and here’s what I’m hoping for) you’ll savor the last Week In Review that you’ll see for awhile, then get to the end, read the explanation and understand, and come back as soon as my next column gets posted. Yeah, you’re right, it’s definitely going to be the first option. Oh well, it was worth a shot. Hope you enjoy the column!

 

Monday, May 26th, 2014

 

Los Angeles beat Chicago 5-2 to come within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals. This is not good at all. Remember what I said last week about the Rangers? They’re worse than the two teams from the West so they need the series out West to go to seven bloody games so they can hopefully steal a couple of games against an exhausted team. That’s their only chance. Now, the best case scenario is Chicago winning twice before the Kings manage to finish them off. Why? Well, if Chicago wins three straight to get to the Finals, then they’ll be on a roll and very confident but if LA closes the Blackhawks out faster, then they’ll be reasonably rested. If LA wins in 7, then they’re tired, not confident, and drained—the best case scenario for the Rangers.

 

The Heat beat the Pacers 102-90 to take a 3-1 series lead, all but putting away Indiana. I was gonna think of something funny to write but then I realized that the Pacers are hilarious by themselves and that I don’t need to add anything to that. But seriously, Lance Stephenson. What an idiot! He insulted LeBron, making LeBron find his inner Marshawn Lynch and go BeastMode by exploding for a 32-10-5. Don’t be stupid. Never insult LeBron.

 

This is also big because for years LeBron was unable to find his inner fire and take over a series. The only hope for opposing teams is to leave him alone and hope that he doesn’t decide to win. If you light a fire under him and get him motivated, then he’s unstoppable. Remember the Heat-Celtics series from a couple of years ago? The Boston guys were talking trash the whole series with no response from LeBron. However, by Game 6, LeBron finally snapped and went for a 45-15-5 to essentially put the series away, before the Heat won Game 7. The lesson? Don’t mess with LeBron. Lance Stephenson doesn’t seem to realize this. I’d look a lot smarter if the Heat didn’t have a 3-1 series lead, but even if they didn’t, I would say this anyways: the Pacers have no shot after insulting LeBron.

 

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Oklahoma City beat the Spurs 105-92 to tie the series up at two. Westbrook had a game for the ages with a 40-5-10 with 5 steals. A stat that the world has been in awe of is that the last person to do that was MJ. Well, as I seem to be doing often, I’m going to tell you how stupid that is. Saying that an arbitrary baseline for a stat line suddenly becomes significant so that there’ll be a story doesn’t make the stat impressive.

 

While it may be true that the last person to notch a 40-5-10-5 was MJ, and getting a 40-5-10-5 is very impressive, being the last person since MJ isn’t. It was a very, very good game, but when you narrow the criteria down for an achievement so specifically, it’s nowhere near as amazing as the media will make it out to be.

 

You see, stats aren’t all that important because individually, they don’t say all that much. For instance, let’s say that someone scored 45 points. Your first thought would be “Wow!”. But that stat doesn’t tell the whole story. To score 45 points, the player took 50 shots and made 20 of them. Then it’s a lot less impressive. To properly figure out the meaning of stats, you have to take everything into account to make sure that the numbers aren’t messed up by something else.

 

The Rangers lost to the Canadiens 7-4. It was pretty bad. While it’s great that the Rangers fought back from a 4-1 deficit to tie it up at 4, it also seems pertinent that they let the Habs regain the lead and were unable to score again. Also, the biggest thing: Lundqvist played badly enough that he was pulled. If Lundqvist isn’t playing at an elite level then the Rangers won’t play very well either. This is not good.

 

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

 

Well, Chicago managed to beat Los Angeles in double OT, 5-4, to narrow the series deficit to 3-2. All good. Two reasons why I’m happy Chicago won: one, by winning, they’re extending the series and two, as I said earlier, this is what the Rangers need.

 

The Heat lost to the Pacers 93-90. So much for what I said earlier. LeBron didn’t show up tonight, merely getting a 7-2-4. However, if LeBron manages to rip off a legendary performance on Friday night then I knew it all along. Still, something important to note, the Pacers starters all played their best tonight and still only beat the Heat by 3. Paul George scored 37, David West got a 19-9, Hibbert finished with a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Indiana played its best tonight and only won by 3 at home. That, in addition to LeBron, is why I’m confident Miami will easily beat the Pacers.

 

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

 

The Spurs blew out the Thunder at home, 117-89, continuing this series’ tradition of the home team winning in a blowout. Serge Ibaka was a non-factor in this game, only scoring six points and grabbing two rebounds along with a couple of blocks. This is another series tradition: if Ibaka plays badly then the Thunder lose. In Games 1 and 2, Ibaka was hurt so the Thunder lost. Ibaka returned for Games 3 and 4 and, while he wasn’t great, he was adequate, so the Thunder won. In this game, Ibaka was complete crap so the Thunder lost again. I’m happy. I’m hoping for a Heat-Spurs rematch so I’m cheering for Miami and San Antonio.

Lundqvist got mad that I doubted him and decided to prove me wrong. He blocked every shot he faced (although there were only 18) and outdueled Tokarski (who wasn’t too shabby himself in stopping 31 out of 32 shots) 1-0 to send the Rangers to the STANLEY CUP FINAL!!!! WOOHOO!!!!! THIS IS AWESOME! YOUR MIND-VOICE IS PROBABLY SCREAMING RIGHT NOW. YOU JUST SMILED AND LAUGHED. UH OH. I THINK MY CAPS LOCK IS BROKEN. I’LL BE SCREAMING IN PERPETUITY. THIS IS NOT GOOD. I SHOULD PROBABLY GO GET IT FIXED. DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE I CAN GET IT FIXED?

 

Friday, May 30th, 2014

 

Well, I managed to get it fixed, thankfully. If I hadn’t then I’d be in trouble. I can’t hand in HW in all caps. I can’t make review sheets for Finals while in all caps. It’d be like me screaming at them that the conjugation of tener is tengo, tienes, tiene, tenemos, and tienen! (By the way, I may or not be using this to help me study) I’d be kind of like a drill sergeant. Drop down and give me twenty! Hey, I’m pretty good at this. Anyways, back to the sports.

 

In hockey, the Blackhawks beat the Kings 4-3 to tie the series up at 3.This is going fantabulously (a combination of fabulous and fantastic. It’s a thing). Now the Kings need to pull out a Game 7 victory on the road for everything to be perfect. This is quite splendiferous. The Rangers made it in and all we need are the disheartened Kings. Los Angeles, New York stands behind you. Chicago should be scared. Although it’s the third best city in the country, when the top two cities team up against it, it’s going down. Number four is Boston and Miami probably rounds out the top five.

 

Miami closed out Indiana 117-92. LeBron rebounded from his crappy performance with 25 points and Bosh also has finally exorcised his demons against Miami, capping off a very good series with a 25-8. By the way, the Internet is hilarious. For instance, Lance Stephenson has given rise to a number of amusing GIFs. He lied down on the court and he blew in LeBron’s ear, lending good material to the enterprising photoshop wizards of the Internet. Much hilarity ensued. My two favorite pictures are as follows: First, with the lying down one.

 

 

And now for the blowing one.

 

Embedded image permalink

 

Speaking of 50 Cent, why haven’t the Mets signed him to a three year contract yet? In a related note, I hate being a Mets fan.

 

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

 

Wow that was an epic game. OKC was up seven at the half but after a 37-20 3rd quarter, San Antonio pulled away to enter the 4th with a ten point lead. Then the Thunder mount a ferocious comeback to take the lead, 99-97 with 32 seconds left. Naturally, Manu Ginobili hits a three to take back the lead, 100-99 with 27 seconds left. Then the Thunder foul Ginobili but Manu misses the second free throw! Westbrook gets fouled and nails both free throws to tie the game up at 101 before it goes to overtime after Manu misses a jumper. Then Tim Duncan turned back the clock and outscores OKC by himself, 7-6, in overtime, to finish with a monstrous double-double with a 19-15 and putting away the Thunder. What a game. And I’m so excited for the Heat-Spurs matchup. I think I may even have a column about it in me, although it’d come out on Friday, after Game 1, so my prediction wouldn’t be as trustworthy. Actually, that’s a good thing for me: it’s a lot less likely that I make a stupid prediction that I come to regret and that people will point at for years as proof that I know nothing about basketball (which may or may not be true actually).

 

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

 

Woohoo!!! Sports finally is working out the way I wanted it to!!! And no, I’m not talking about its abs. I got the Finals matchup I wanted, with the Heat and Spurs both advancing. Now, if you’ll remember, (and if you don’t, you might want to consult your local physician for a serious potential case of amnesia) earlier this week I talked about the best possible way for the series in the West to end for the Rangers. Remember? Chicago wins two straight before losing Game 7 at home? Yup, it happened exactly as I wanted it, if not better. The winners of the games happened the way I wanted, which is nice. Still, the Hockey Gods smiled upon me and gave me more than I had ever dreamed of. They sent a couple of games to OT (including Game 7) just to drain the Kings even more. What could be better?

 

For the actual game, the Kings won 5-4 in OT, capping a tiring run. They’ve played the maximum amount of games so far, 21, and a bunch of those games have gone into OT. How tired must they be? Of course, the Rangers played twenty, so I guess that’s not much of an advantage. Oh well.

 

That’s all for this week. Hope you enjoyed and I’ll see you guys later!

 

Wait a second, about this column, it’s tough to do. There’s not nearly enough fun stuff to talk about for every day normally, especially when, in a couple of weeks, all there is for a couple of months is baseball. Ugh. (By the way, some time during the summer I’m going to write a column about why I hate baseball. I can probably get a couple of thousand words out of that.) It was fun during the playoffs with nonstop action and lots of important games, but I think I’m going to shelve it for the time being.

 

However, I’ll still be writing, a lot, just not in the Week In Review format. I’ll find other things to talk about, and hopefully I’ll be able to say more about these more interesting topics. If people send in enough emails asking questions, then I can have a fantasy baseball article. In fact, send in emails with whatever you want to talk about and I can have a mailbag, in which I answer questions and comments from my readers.

 

In happier news, I can’t wait until Thursday! Here’s to a Finals for the ages!

Oh, and to all of you guys who skipped the whole article that I spent my time on, even though you probably can’t read this through your tears, screw you.

 

Damn it, I’m alienating my whole readership. I had better end this article ASAP. Bye!

 

Week In Review May 19th-25th 2014

Well, it’s time for everybody’s favorite recurring segment on this blog, the Week in Review! Of course, there only is one recurring segment on this blog so I suppose that people can’t afford to be choosy, but whatever.

 

Sorry for the day late post—I was sick over the weekend and I only started to feel a little bit better yesterday. Of course, I relapsed today so that kinda sucks. I still managed to power through for you, my loyal reader. No need to thank me for putting my career in front of my health! By the way, I’m fourteen.

 

So this column was going to be crazy long so I took out the lottery part and made it into its own column as you presumably saw (and if you didn’t, go read it, you slacker!) it made this a lot shorter… so it’s still very long, but not crazy long, so it’s all good. You’ll thank me after you’ve read through all of this.

 

Monday, May 19th, 2014

 

Carey Price is out for the rest of the series!!!!!!!! Sorry for all those exclamation points—I was excited. Let me explain: Carey Price is Montreal’s starting goalie and has been playing at an incredibly high level these playoffs. As always, for deep runs into the playoffs, a hot goalie is almost a requirement. The Habs were in good shape as long as Price was playing well. Then this happened:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSqo-FohCbQ

 

Yeah, so the Canadiens are pretty much screwed in regards to ending their 21 year Stanley Cup drought, as are the Canadians, who haven’t had a Stanley Cup won by a team from Canada since 1993, when Montreal won it. The drop-off from Price to backup, Peter Budaj, is a chasm and when the opposing team has the goalie who’s now indisputably the best and hottest goalie remaining in the playoffs, you’re not exactly in good shape.

 

With an injury causing ripples this serious, it’s easy to blame Kreider for gunning for Price but look at the video again. Kreider was tripped and then fell into Price. I can’t see anything that could possibly be misconstrued as him aiming to hurt Price. Clearly he’s not turning into Bernard Karmel Pollard, which is great for Habs fans.

 

In something too long and too important for mere parentheses, Bernard Pollard is a safety in the NFL. What relevance does this have to this situation? Well, over his career, Pollard was the one who hurt Tom Brady, Stevan Ridley, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker and was the last person to tackle Aaron Hernandez, leading to near universal hatred from every Patriots fan. Now, whenever someone takes out an important player for the opposing team, they get compared to Pollard.

 

In something I found out a few hours after I wrote this originally, apparently Budaj isn’t going to be playing and that the Habs’ third string goalie is going to be playing the series. The series changed from a tossup favoring Montreal slightly, to Rangers in six as the accepted view, to the debate if the Rangers are going to sweep or if they’re going to win in five.

 

Speaking of which, as I found out later, the Rangers beat the Habs 3-1 to take a 2-0 series lead with the series heading back to New York for two games. Rangers fans (like me) are hoping that the series in the West goes to seven games so the Kings and Blackhawks beat up on each other so that the victor emerges bruised and bloody, to play the rested Rangers for the Stanley Cup. On talent alone, the Rangers aren’t anywhere near as good as Chicago or LA, but with rest for them and the other team being exhausted, will that be enough to push them over the top?

 

The Spurs beat OKC 122-105, showing that Ibaka’s injury is a very big deal and that the wily veterans still have enough left in the tank to defeat the young and athletic duo of Westbrook and Durant. Now, imagine the Thunder with Harden. They would have had the best 2-guard (Harden), a top 3 PG (Westbrook), a top 5 center (Ibaka), and the second best 3/stretch 4 (Durant, behind LeBron, although you could make the case that he’s nearly LeBron’s equal). Unbeatable. And now, when Durant and Westbrook’s shots aren’t falling, what do they have left to score and keep OKC’s offense alive? Jeremy Lamb? Steven Adams? Perry Ellis? Puh-lease.

 

Harden would have been great: instant scoring off the bench who could carry the team for a quarter if Durant and/or Westbrook were in foul trouble or mired in a bad shooting streak. But instead, Clay Bennett decided to be a cheapskate and not pay the perfect player for his team what he deserved. This is after he stole the team away from Seattle, sending Seattle into a funk that they hadn’t recovered from until the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory a few months ago. Maybe Bennett should be added to the list of All-Time-Crappy-Owners that we talked about last week? (Let me know and send me an email). In case you couldn’t tell, I still can’t get over how bad that trade was for OKC.

 

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

 

In the horrible games that the Pacers have been wont to play lately, the Heat beat Indiana 87-83. How boring can you get? It’s funny, though, because the Pacers spent the whole year talking about how they were going to get home-field-advantage throughout the playoffs so they could beat the Heat, but now, in a best-of-five series, the Heat have home-court.

 

This is a problem for me. I like LeBron and, since the Nets got eliminated, I’ve been cheering for the Heat, but I need them to lose. Why? If Miami wins the championship again, then LeBron will almost HAVE to return to Miami so he can gun for a four-peat, something that neither Kobe nor Jordan ever accomplished. I want him to lose so he can go to a real contender. The Heat don’t have much cap space or good, young players, and LeBron will have to carry the team every night because Wade is always hurt and, even when healthy, he can’t dominate like he used to. If LeBron goes to Clippers (who have enough cap-space to accommodate him), he’ll get to play the 3, and he’ll get to play alongside Chris Paul (the best PG in the league), Blake Griffin (an elite power forward) and DeAndre Jordan (the shot-blocking menace playing center), meaning that he doesn’t have to carry the team every night, he doesn’t have to do everything himself, and he’s got by far the best team in the league for the next few years with a great shot at a championship EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. And all of this won’t happen if he wins again this year.

 

Should the Heat win it all this year, I hope that LeBron will opt into his option for 2014-2015 to chase the fabled 4-peat before entering into free agency in 2015 and going to the Clippers. Of course, basketball is stupid and it never turns out the way it should, so don’t bet on it happening.

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

 

San Antonio beat the Thunder 112-77, a 35 point blowout. Durant and Westbrook combined to shoot 13 for 40, a horrible display of shooting. As I said earlier, how much easier would it be for the Thunder if, when Durant and Westbrook aren’t able to score, to just let Harden carry the offense? And another thing that I forgot to mention earlier, as the Thunder don’t have much of an offensive system past “Hey Kevin/Russ, go score”, how much less of an offensive load would they have to carry if they still had Harden? As Harden is an offensive weapon in his own right, no opponent could swarm Westbrook and Durant while knowing that no one else on the Thunder will make a shot. Rather, because opponents would have to account for Harden as well, Durant and Westbrook would get far easier shots.

 

In hockey news, Los Angeles beat Chicago, 6-2. The Kings were down 2-0 before scoring six straight goals to win it. This is the first time all postseason that Chicago has lost at home. They’ve got a better advantage when defending their home than anyone other than the Byzantines in Constantinople. Yes! I made a reference to history! I’m totally acing this history final!

 

 

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

 

The Rangers lost to the Habs, 3-2, in overtime, in a very exciting game. Dustin Tokarski, the third string goalie for the Canadiens, let up only two goals in 37 shots, in a very impressive performance, outdueling Henrik Lundqvist, the hottest goalie remaining in the playoffs. The Rangers went up 1-0 in the first period, then the Habs tied it up. Then Montreal scored again to take a 2-1 lead, but after the Rangers pulled the goalie, they managed to score to send it to overtime, during which Montreal managed to score again to narrow their series deficit to 2-1 on the strength of their 3-2 victory. As far as I can tell, individual goalies aren’t particularly valuable in the NHL. For instance, Carey Price was playing incredibly, he got hurt, and Tokarski came in and played well in the first game and dominated the second. This is representative of the NHL overall (if you can think of any other examples, shoot me an email at sushi.krox@gmail.com).

 

Jurgen Klinsmann left Landon Donovan off the United States World Cup squad and there’s been serious uproar about it. I find that to be very foolish. Donovan, while he was very good a few years ago, is 32 years old and past his prime. While he may provide veteran leadership, the benefits of that leadership are apparently not enough of a boon in order to make it worth it to use up a roster spot that could be used for a younger, more valuable player. Of course, as always, there’s been an uproar about Donovan’s omission from the team. Why? Well, there’s one big reason. In the 24/7 world of sports coverage, there’s not enough real stories to fill up the whole time, so the networks will manufacture story lines to pass the time and make a big deal about things that really aren’t big deals. On the Internet, websites like Bleacher Report chase page views and create story lines that seem exciting so people will view their page. Remember what I wrote about Lance Stephenson last week (and if you don’t or if you haven’t read it, go read it)? Exactly the type of idiocy that people blow up out of proportion in order to get page views or to waste time. God, that really annoys me.

 

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

 

Yet another boring Friday in the sports world. As it was like this last week as well, I hope it doesn’t continue like this: I need content. I’m dreading when the playoffs for both the NHL and NBA end and the only sport going on is baseball for a couple of months until football starts again. Ugh.

 

Anyways, so the latest subject that I want to talk about is the World Cup. Yes, I know, I talked about it yesterday, but this is a separate topic, or at least as separate as it can be when you’re talking about the World Cup.

 

Maybe, the reason why Klinsmann left off Donovan is because he’s preparing for 2018. Think about it—America is stuck in the Group of Death, alongside Germany, Portugal, and Ghana. If America has nearly no chance to get anywhere, then why not give playing time to the younger players who are going to be better in four years, rather than worse? Get them their reps, get them to know how it is to play on the biggest stage in the world, let them play so they can say in 2018 “I’ve been here before, this isn’t a big deal anymore”. Clearly the United States doesn’t have a shot in this World Cup and I think it’s a good move by Klinsmann to recognize that and prepare for the future.

 

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

 

The Pacers were ripping through the Heat: they had a lead of fifteen points, they were outmuscling Miami, and Roy Hibbert had more than zero points and zero rebounds. Then, it all changed. Miami turned it on and, after a couple of 3s from Wade, Ray Allen hit a few threes, and Hibbert went back to being Hasheem Thabeet. All is well in the world. Wade and Allen are probably chuckling right now thinking “They said we were old and washed up? Haha, (censured to allow this blog to still be mostly PG) please!”

 

How bummed out are the Pacers right now? They spent the whole year talking about how awesome they are and how they were going to beat the Heat, traded for Evan Turner and Luis Scola (sacrificing picks and players to do so), and were playing well. Then they sucked for three months and got whupped by the Heat on national television. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

 

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

 

The Thunder managed to stem the bleeding, beating the Spurs 106-97, with Serge Ibaka returning to the lineup after he was supposed to be out for the rest of the year. Since Ibaka is emerging as a legitimate third banana to Durant and Westbrook, I can’t wait until Sam Presti and Clay Bennett trade him away for a low first rounder, a couple of second rounders, and that guy at your rec center who always dominates the pickup games. Bennett will get away with being a cheapskate too—all his mistakes are covered up by having Westbrook and Durant. And he also stole the Sonics away from Seattle. What a scumbag.

 

The Rangers beat Montreal 3-2 in overtime to take a 3-1 series lead! Just one more win, a seven game series in the West, and the Rangers have a good shot at their first Cup in twenty years! At the very least, they’re one win away from being in their first Final in twenty years. And, they’ve got a 3-1 series lead, almost insurmountable. The last time the Habs recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win a series was so long ago. Let me just look it up to lend credence to my argument. *looks it up* The last time Montreal came back to win a series from a 3-1 deficit was… four years ago, against the Capitals, in 2010. Gulp.

Hope you enjoyed, and remember to share this blog with everyone who you think would like it (and even those who wouldn’t). Thanks!