Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Stat Crunchin' on Stealing

In recent years, baseball has lost the need for speed. All the fastest players needed to do was beat out an infield chopper and wait around for the 57 players who smacked 25+ dingers. Last year, there were 89 players to steal at least 10 bags and 26 players with 20 or more (notable absentees from the 20+ club included Johnny Damon and Alfonso Soriano...who waited around for 30+ homer men David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Hank Blalock, and Mark Teixeira to knock them in). A much smaller number (12) stole 30 or more.

This season, with players like Barry Bonds (o HR), Sammy Sosa (4), & Scott Rolen (5) injured and sluggers like Jim Thome (2) & Adrian Beltre (5) struggling, power- while still everywhere- has given way ever so slightly to speed as a tool for winning. With about 50 games in the books this season, 54 players are on pace to steal 20 or more (that would be more than double last season's total). This list even excludes consistent sprinters like A-Rod (28 SB last year), Endy Chavez (32), Corey Patterson (32), Luis Castillo (21), and Carlos Beltran (42)- all of whom got off to slow starts on the bases this year.

A total 244 players have swiped at least 1 bag this year; last year, 337 players did so. There remains two-thirds of an entire season for only 93 major league hitters, minor league callups, and pitchers who get lucky to steal at least once safely to tie last year's total. With that much time remaining (and 111 games left for opponents to play the Mets and run against Mike Piazza's "arm"), the 2005 season seems to be going by a lot faster.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Bud Selig is a Genius

I mean that in the most cynical way possible, but he has found a way to avoid setting off a potential weapon of mass destruction for his league (sort of). Major League Baseball recently tested several members of the San Francisco Giants, including Mr. Bonds himself. Among the others were SS Omar Vizquel, RP Jason Christiansen, SP Kirk Rueter, and RP Tyler Walker.

GREAT JOB MLB! That is just who they should be testing- a class act veteran like Vizquel who is defined by defense and small ball, two middle relievers, and a starting pitcher that paints the corners and tops out at 86 on his best day.

And then there is Barry Bonds. Congrats to Selig for finally testing the number 1 suspect...who hasn't played in months, dating back to the offseason. OF COURSE THE MAN IS GOING TO BE CLEAN! He has had every doctor available looking at him since the last of his three knee surgeries on January 31st. If he was taking steroids at all, they would be long gone from his system by now.

Selig is doing a masterful tightrope act in attempting to show the public that he intends on testing the big names- but c'mon Commish, do you think the public is this stupid? Stop trying to avoid potentially exposing an asterisk-worthy player and start salvaging any credibility the great power hitters in your game have left- players like Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Vlad Guerrero, and Manny Ramirez. Until that action is taken, the MLB testing policy is bogus.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Spurs/Suns- Old School vs. New School?

To answer the question posed in the title- NO. If you consider the Spurs to be "old school," it's probably because of the Big Fundamental, Tim Duncan, but since when do fundamentals make somebody old school? I was under the impression that lacking fundamentals doesn't make a team "new school"- it makes them terrible.

There has been a lot of talk about how the Spurs are a boring, grind-it-out squad that gets about as fancy and creative as Chris Andersen at the Dunk Contest. Apparently these people are not true basketball fans, but rather Spurs-haters.

Duncan might be a bit bland at times, but he is one of the best players ever to lace 'em up and has suddenly learned to throw down on defenders. And honestly, the man is clutch (see Game 5 of last year's Lakers/Spurs series).

And then there are two of the most underrated players in the game- Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Parker is one of the purest PG's in the game with his passing. His numbers this year- 16.6 pts, 3.7 boards, and 6.1 dimes per game- are solid, but it's the way he pushes the ball and always manages to thread the needle to find a teammate while doing 80 as he runs.

Another full-speed yet savvy operator is Ginobili (16, 4.4, 3.9), who is by far one of the most exciting players in the game. Don't believe me? Go watch the highlights of his clutch, fourth quarter layup- behind the back, through defenders, reverse layup. And the way Manu weaves through defenders and finishes with circus layups each night- think liquid mercury sliding and slithering through the cracks- is truly amazing and has something pure about it for true basketball fans.

And one last, obvious point for the Spurs as a new school team- they have players from around the globe that contribute consistently. (Duncan: Virgin Islands, Parker: France, Ginobili: Argentina, Rasho Nesterovic: Slovenia). The Suns have 1 player (backup point guard Leandro Barbosa) from another country (Brazil). In this day, the globalization of basketball is a sure sign of the "new school."

So forget the new school/old school debate with the Suns representing modern-day basketball. And gimme the Spurs in 6.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

NBA Draft

Just like most college seniors graduating into the real world, NCAA men's basketball players will be worried about where their jobs will take them, or if they will even land a contract. These seniors, however, have to deal with a type of adversity most others do not- younger college and high school students. In this year's NBA draft, 75 early-entrants (high school seniors through college juniors) from the United States and 34 from Europe will compete with those players who dared to remain in college for all 4 years. Here are some things to ponder:

UNC's Sean May, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, and Marvin Williams all declared as early-entrants. That would be the Tar Heels' starting 5 and 6th man, also known as the top 6 scorers. UNC now has 1 player left (Quentin Thomas) who has any career starts (1).

LSU PF Brandon Bass is making his 2nd attempt at getting drafted, thus losing his final year at school for good. While athletic, he is a 6-7 'tweener in a league with 6-11 power forwards with even greater athleticism.

Duke PF Shavlik Randolph has entered the draft. With his career numbers (6.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg), who wouldn't enter the NBA draft? Smart move, he obviously doesn't need any more Duke University education after all...

Big underclassmen names entering the draft are leaving college basketball with a hollow feel- no more Jarrett Jack, John Gilchrist, Carl Krauser, Chris Paul, Kevin Pittsnogle, Christ Taft, Charlie Villanueva, Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Francisco Garcia, or North Carolina basketball program.

CollegeHoops.net ranks exactly zero college seniors in the top two tiers of players available, and it will be interesting to see how far talented and seasoned players like Hakim Warrick, Ryan Gomes, Julius Hodge, and Channing Frye drop because people draft today based on "potential."

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Diesel or Wilt the Stilt?

Many people feel Shaq should have been MVP this season (myself not included), and lots of modern basketball fans think he is possibly the best big guy to ever play the game. I'm going to have to remind those people, however, of Wilt Chamberlain. At age 23 in only his third season pro (1961-62) as a member of the Philadelphia Warriors, Wilt the Stilt averaged 50.4 ppg and 25.7 rebounds. I'll repeat- AVERAGED. That means half of the time, Chamberlain scored MORE THAN 50 points per game and 25 boards. In 80 games, he tallied just over 4,000 points. In ONE season (Shaq's highest was 2,377 in one season). Shaq's career-best 29.7 ppg in 00-01 with LA would have been Chamberlain's 10th-best scoring average, while Shaq's rebounding never surpassed 13.9 a game (which places dead last for Chamberlain, whose worst rebounding year saw him grab 18.2 per contest). While Chamberlain's final two scoring averages (about 14 and 13 per game) bring down his career average, it is impossible to overlook his scoring run between ages 23 and 29 (37.6, 38.4, 50.4, 44.8, 36.9, 30.1, 38.9). Just compare career numbers to see that Chamberlain was far and away the better player:

Chamberlain: 30.1 ppg, 22.9 rpg, 54% FG through 14 seasons
Shaq: 26.7 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 58% FG through 13 seasons

Monday, May 09, 2005

Temporary Suspension of AllStarBlog Posts

Some of you may have noticed that no posts have been written for several days now. This will continue until approximately Friday, May 13th. As to why, this will suffice as my explanation-
Today we salute you stressed out college student during exam week. As you sit in your lonely cubical in the library, doped up on starbucks & aderol, you think to yourself, am I ever going to need to know this stuff in life? The distractions are tempting and you have suddenly diagnosed yourself with ADD along with advanced delusionary schizophrenia with involuntary narcissistic rage. I'm sure by now you know exactly what everyone is doing because you have checked your buddy list 800 times. Summer break is just days away, and your prozac prescription will be in tomorrow. So crack open an ice cold bud light after that last exam, because for most of us, summer will be spent in rehab.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Baby Bronx Bombers

I don't know what it is, but there is something appealing about youth in professional sports. Unfortunately for me, New York teams are supposed to win now or never, so rookies and young players are few and far between. This is no different for the Yankees. I've seen a more-than-generous helping of winning from the Bronx Bombers in my lifetime (witnessing 4 championships), and the mediocre play this year is difficult to stomach; but I am elated to see young guys getting some experience...guys such as 1B Andy Phillips, SP Chien-Ming Wang, and 2B Robinson Cano (just called up to start at second, moving Tony Womack to left, Hideki Matsui to center, and Bernie Williams to DH). I'm glad to see some young guys playing for the Yanks, with their aging pitching staff and question marks in center and at first. As much as I love marquee players like Jeter, Sheffield, Rivera, and A-Rod, there is something refreshing about the concept of the Baby Bombers contributing to this team.

Monday, May 02, 2005

To Posterize or Not to Posterize

Amare Stoudemire is the hardest dunker in the NBA.

Shaq might put the most weight behind it and shake the backboard the most, but the Phoenix phenom is the biggest pound-for-pound dunker in the league. KG? Please, he takes off from a step out and doesn't bring down the house like Amare. King James can throw down, but he rules over the fast break dunk. This year's Slam Dunk Contest champion, the Hawks' Josh Smith, might elevate over and around people higher than Amare, and the dunker-formally-known-as-Air Canada might be able to twist, turn, write a short novel, and take a nap before he finally puts it through on you...

but the crown goes to Amare Stoudemire right now. This guy dunks over, through, and above anybody defenses can throw at him. He is the Prince of Posterization, the Duke of the Dunk, the Sultan of Slam, and any other title deserving of a guy who rules the skies and the shakes the earth with this throwdowns.