Thursday, July 09, 2015

MLB All-Star Game Thoughts and Midseason Awards

The full rosters (with the exception of the vote in candidates) have been announced for the 86th MLB All-Star Game in Cincinnati on July 14th. I always enjoy the scuttlebutt that surrounds the All-Star Game because it reminds me of the horrible marketing strategies of Major League Baseball.

There was controversy even before the lineups were announced as Kansas City Royals fans were stepping up their game in order to get their guys voted into the starting lineup. I don’t begrudge their fans at all, but it belies the purpose of “fan voting”. The original intent was for fans to vote in the players most worthy of starting the ASG. In my single years (the 90’s), it became a popularity vote wherein aging stars were voted in based on past accomplishments. Now it’s just a total debacle.  In the end, only four Royals ended up as starters – and only one of those doesn’t really deserve the accolade.

At this point, it’s left to media pundits and amateur hacks like myself to analyze who belongs and who doesn’t.  But before I get to those comparisons, let’s talk about why this is even an issue to begin with…

Other professional leagues have taken note of the apathy with their All-Star Games and have made appropriate changes in order to better appease the fan base. What a novel concept! The only change made to the MLB ASG was based on an aberration that was taken WAY too seriously.
In 2002 the ASG was held in Milwaukee and the game headed into extra innings. After 11 innings both teams “ran out of pitchers”. The game was called a tie. To me? No big deal. In 70 plus years it’s the first time it happened. Move on to 2003 and keep the status quo. But no!! MLB, in its infinite wisdom, decided the best move to make was to give the winning league home field advantage in the World Series. Say what?!?! How on earth does a tie game lead to the winning team getting home field in the Series? It makes ZERO sense. But of course, that’s how MLB operates. For years, the big-wigs at MLB have decided it is better to be reactive than proactive. Everyone knows that the team with the better record during the year should have home field in the World Series.

Back to the horrible marketing strategies – the MLB could very simply expand the rosters to include more players. This would allow the managers more players to work with should the game goes to extra innings. At the same time, it alleviates the issue of having a representative from every team at the ASG. How is that a problem? Well, let’s take a look at some of the pitching in the National League....

But wait! There is a precursor to my argument. I am a firm believer in advanced metrics. The new wave of statistics better represents a player’s value than the old statistics. For example, what are Wins anyway? If a relief pitcher comes in to face the opponent in the top of the 9th with a one run lead, but gives up two runs – that’s bad, right? However, if the home team then scores two runs in the bottom of the ninth that very reliever gets the win. Stupid, right?

ERA is the same way. It’s fielding dependent, which is completely out of the pitchers control. Therefore, I prefer stats like WAR, FIP and xFIP to measure true value of a pitcher. Should you want the definitions/explamations of any of these terms, I suggest browsing to Fangraphs. Their site is excellent for advance metrics measurement. Below is a chart of six National League pitchers. The information can be found here.

Player
Wins
Losses
ERA
FIP
xFIP
WAR
WAR Rank
Player A
5
6
3.08
2.55
2.12
3.1
6
Player B
8
5
2.80
2.72
2.72
2.8
13
Player C
5
4
2.07
3.08
3.70
2.2
20
Player D
8
5
3.34
3.22
3.13
2.1
23
Player E
10
3
2.66
3.17
3.51
2.0
28
Player F
9
3
2.70
3.57
3.17
1.3
53

As you can see, as I explained earlier, the Wins and Losses statistics are overrated. Player A is under .500 yet his FIP and WAR are outstanding. His true value is the highest of the group. Player’s E and F have great W/L records but their FIP and WAR rankings are lower than the rest. So who should go to the All-Star Game? Well, here is who those players really are:

Player A – Clayton Kershaw
Player B – Jake Arrieta
Player C – Shelby Miller
Player D – Madison Bumgarner
Player E – Michael Wacha
Player F – Carlos Martinez

Take note – the top two players in the rankings are not going to the All-Star Game. This is why the process is flawed. Bruce Bochy is taking his own guy – Bumgarner, over Arrieta and Kershaw. I kind of understand that seeing as he dominated the postseason last year. However, Kershaw and Arrieta should be going to Cincinnati. Expanding the rosters would alleviate this problem. At the same time, what if the MLB formed a committee to select the ASG reserves? They would ask the managers the number of players per position and pitchers needed for their roster. The committee would then choose the reserves for the game. Yes, it’s a stretch. But it’s better than the current system.

Let’s look at a position player perspective – the 3B debate in the NL. Todd Frazier is starting and he deserves it with the year he is having AND that the game is being played in Cincinnati.  Nolan Arenado is having an amazing year as well, so that leaves one spot for the last 3B slot.

Player
BA
HR
RBI
BABIP
OPS
wOBA
wRC
WAR
War Rank
Player A
.278
12
49
.378
.862
.376
139
3.5
10
Player B
.271
8
39
.322
.812
.354
128
2.0
58

For those who aren’t good at math – Player A is better in EVERY single regular and advanced statistic. So where’s the argument, right? It comes from fans.

Player A – Kris Bryant
Player B – Matt Carpenter

Once the backups were announced Cardinals fans went ballistic on social media bashing the choice of Bryant over Carpenter. It seems pretty petty at this point because of the statistics above.  Yet, that is not stopping Cardinals fans. It’s pretty hilarious to be honest. They should be defending the questionable pitching selections of Cardinals players than worrying about Matt Carpenter.

Anyway, there you have it. Major League Baseball, with a new Commissioner who is not a former owner, should look long and hard at the process to makes positive changes to the process. If it means eight KC Royals starting in the game to begin the ball rolling, then so be it…

Mid-Season Awards

MVP
NL – Bryce Harper, Nationals. This was pretty easy. His numbers are off the charts fantastic. 25 bombs and 60 RBI’s are just a start. Here’s the stat – his OPS is 1.180. That’s insane. Oh yeah, did I mention he’s younger than Kris Bryant? (22)
2nd Place – Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
3rd Place – Todd Frazier, Reds

AL – Mike Trout, Angels. This one was difficult. It was so close between Trout and Josh Donaldson. It came down to OPS and Trout’s was better. They are both fantastic defensive players as well. This will be a fun race to watch down the stretch.
2nd Place – Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
3rd Place – Jason Kipnis, Indians

Cy Young Award

NL – Max Scherzer, Nationals. Again, a no brainer. He’s been lights out this year. His WAR is a full point higher than the next NL pitcher. No-hitter (near perfect game), strikeouts galore, there’s nothing this guy can’t do.
2nd Place – Zach Greinke, Dodgers
3rd Place – Jake Arrieta, Cubs

AL – Chris Sale, White Sox. His strikeout numbers this year are otherworldly, as he tied a record with double-digit K’s in eight straight games. That’s Pedro Martine and Randy Johnson territory. That tells you the year he’s having.
2nd Place – Dallas Kuechel, Astros
3rd Place – Chris Archer, Rays

Rookie of the Year

NL – Kris Bryant, Cubs. You may say this is a homer pick, but look closely at the statistics. Bryant has more RBI’s than Joc, a higher BABIP, a much higher batting average and a higher WAR.
2nd Place – Joc Pederson, Dodgers
3rd Place – Matt Duffy, Giants

AL – Carlos Correa, Astros. Apologies to Devin Travis and teammate, Lance McCullers, but this kid is going to be a STUD for a long time. He hasn’t even been in the big leagues all that long and is probably the best SS in the American League right now.
2nd Place – Lance McCullers, Astros
3rd Place – Devin Travis, Blue Jays

It is interesting to look at the midseason awards and compare them with the preseason picks. Every year I make these picks to show my classes at school (and to have them on record). So far, not too bad I must say.... (just disregard some of my division and wild card picks). 




Until next time...

Shawn

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Ranking the NFL Uniforms, Part 2

In Part One of the NFL Uniform Rankings we covered teams ranked 32 through 16. I did have some dialogue on Twitter concerning my rankings, which was very cool. The best comment was a suggestion for another list ranking the alternates – duly noted and will make it’s appearance in the near future.

This half of the rankings were much more difficult to assess as there are numerous good looks in the NFL Uniform hierarchy. However, I needed to get very specific to distinguish amongst who were the best. As always, you can comment or tweet me at @illini3sc with your opinions.

So let’s pick up with number 15:

Tommy Two-Tones

15. Kansas City – While I love the general look of their uniform there has to be delineation between the rankings and for the Chiefs it’s the time when the bust out the blood clot uni’s. We discussed this before with the Texans and the awfulness of the look. Luckily, the original uniform for the Chiefs is cooler than the Texans, hence the better ranking.




14. New York Jets – Same as the Chiefs, except the dark green is slightly (and ever so slightly) more palatable than the Chiefs.




13. New Orleans – This marks a departure because I actually like their all black look. Why? One, because the gold helmet sets it off perfectly. But more importantly – they DON’T HAVE STRIPES ON THE PANTS. One thing I love about college uniforms is the color on color works when the pants are absent of stripes. I cannot explain the phenomenon, it just works. The Saints do it well. I realize this picture shows the gold pants with the black jersey. However, in most home game this year the Saints either wore the away set or the black on black.



Color Blind

12. New England – The Patriots struck an evil blow back in 1993 when they unceremoniously sacked Pat Patriot for Flying Elvis. The uniform itself isn’t so bad except for the changing of the pants. I’d like the consistency of the silver pants with both the home and away uniforms, but they chose to go with the blue option on the pants for the away set. Too much like Dallas? Maybe, but I’d prefer that look to their current set.



11. New York Giants – The changing of the helmet logo back to the original NY was a genius move for the Giants. However, I do not at all understand the red numbers and socks away from home. The main color is blue and all you get on the away set is the helmet. The slight splash of red at home works, but stick with the main colors on the road.




10. Dallas – While they are one of the very few teams who wears white at home (which I don’t mind), I’ve never gotten past the fact that the silver on the helmets looks different than the silver color on their pants. To be honest, it looks more like a bluish color than silver. Can’t be mismatched.


There’s Just Something…

9. Indianapolis – If you’ve read any of my uniform diatribes you understand that I enjoy simplicity. However, there comes a point where you need just a little more. This is the Colts. I absolutely love the shoulder stripes. But they’ve been the same for so long, sans the changes to the blue they use, that a change is needed. Add something, change it up, do something. Essentially, they’re boring.


8. Green Bay – Yes, I am a Bears fan. But that has nothing to do with this ranking. For me, it’s one simple aspect of their uniform I struggle with – the University of Georgia. Every time I watch the Packers play I always think of UGA because of the same G logo on the helmets. Sorry.


7. Chicago – I love the colors. A minor clarification – it’s midnight blue, not black and then add the orange. Love the wishbone C, the stripes, the curved numbers, everything….except the blue pants. HATE. THEM. And the white socks that go with the blue pants. Ugh.



Just Missed

6. San Diego – It was extremely interesting when the Chargers decided to go back to the white helmets back in 2007. I loved the change from royal blue to navy blue back in the day as well. I thought the LT Chargers uniforms were very cool. But, I also liked the change to the white helmets. I also like the shoulder stripes better as well. If only they’d go with the powder blue jersey’s full time they’d probably be number one.


5. Oakland – The classic silver and black combination. Nobody does it better and more appropriately than the Raiders. It’s clean, simple and sharp. And I love the fact that they wear the silver pants with both uniform sets. So why aren’t they number one? Look back at the Colts. It’s been the same for so long we’re callous to them.


4. Seattle – Surprisingly, I love the changes Nike made to their uniform set. Very nuanced, as in the 12 flags on the pants stripe for the fans (12th man), the hint of the highlighter green, the use of grey, I love it all. And it’s the only uniform set where I prefer the color on color look at home. They didn’t quite make the top three because of the grey set of uniforms they trot out on occasion. Stick with the navy and white.


The Best

3. San Francisco – Wise decision going back to the original red and gold colors AND the gray facemasks. Harkens back to the glory years of the 49ers. At the same time, like I’ve noted before, they use the gold pants with both home and away sets and it matches their helmet. Gorgeous.




2. Buffalo – There hasn’t been a better uniform change in recent history than the Bills. They created an alternate set which brought back memories of the old AFL uniforms. They were so well received the Bills changed the normal set to a fresher, more modern take on those old uniforms. Love the helmet stripe. The stripes on the shoulders and pants are fantastic. Love this set completely…unless they ever decide to introduce blue pants. PLEASE DON’T!!!




1. Pittsburgh – Absolute classic. Black and yellow, which compliments the Pirates and Penguins. The shoulder stripes are gorgeous. The change from the block numbers to the curved numbers was a subtle, yet excellent alteration. We can’t forget the logo on one side of the helmet either. It’s just the best uniform in the NFL in my opinion….as long as we’re not adding in the alternate uniforms. J




There they are, now the debating can begin!! As always, thanks to Chris Creamer's site for the uniforms. Check his site out. Also, if you love uniforms check the Uni Watch website. It's a mainstay for me. Finally, you can comment below or tweet me @illini3sc to discuss.

Until next time,

Shawn



Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ranking the NFL Uniforms

It’s time for another edition of Set Apart Sports Uniform Rankings!! If you missed my NHL uniform rankings, check them out right here. But today, it’s the NFL under the microscope. Following are the rankings of the NFL uniforms, according to….me

32-16 revealed today, 15-1 revealed later in the week. Let’s go!

The Seriously Ugly

32. Cleveland – The Browns weren’t that bad, unless they wore the brown pants. But Jimmy Haslem decided to make a change….and was it awful. First, there’s too much brown. The helmet is orange – accentuate that color. Turrible.



31. Tampa Bay – Another recent change that was botched. The numbers? What on earth happened there? It’s supposed to be as if a sword is writing the numbers. Not even close. And too much going on; too many colors, too many little “nuance’s”, too many everything. I do like the enlargement of the logo on the helmet, a la college. But definitely not enough.



30. Jacksonville – Three words. Pick. A. Color. The two-tone helmet is an absolute horrific choice. They should have stayed with black, with the matte finish. But it looks like they ran out of black paint and only had gold left. Terrible. Outside of that, the uniform is nice, but the helmet is SO bad, they fall here.


 


29. Tennessee – I do not like the logo at all. If you have seen the alternate logo, it is much cooler. I CANNOT stand the partial stripes on the helmets. You’ll see this later on as well. Add those to the all powder blue uniforms at home…yuck. When the Titans had the navy home jersey with white pants, it was acceptable…and would be higher on this list. The away jersey is serviceable.

 


28. Miami – I was intrigued when the ownership group announced that they were going to change the logo and the uniforms. Boy, did they miss. First thing that jumped out to me was the white facemasks. Did we take a time machine back to the mid-80’s? C’mon guys. Secondly, the stripes on the helmet and pants are too large. It suffocated out the little orange that they kept. The compliment of the aqua and the orange was perfect before they changed. Now it’s terrible.

 


The Busy and Confused

27. Atlanta – The change to black helmets back in the Jerry Glanville days was a great change. Even when the falcon on the helmet was changed a few years back, it wasn’t too far off from the original. However, the uniform change that came with it was subpar. I just don’t understand all the busyness around the shoulders. Is there a need for 800 different lines and delineations on the uniform? As far as I know there is no meaning behind all the stripes and compartments on the shoulder. Simpler is better.

 


26. Arizona – see above.

 


25. Baltimore – Pick. A. Color. Are you a purple team or a black team? If the main color is purple than change the helmet to purple. If it’s black, then get rid of the purple uniforms. And for the love of all that’s holy, don’t EVER combine the purple and black uniforms. Awful look. Plus, the raven on the helmet looks too cartoonish.

 


24. Carolina – As discussed earlier, if there are going to be stripes on the helmet, they shouldn’t stop halfway up the helmet. Terrible look. The black on black home look is terrible as well. If the helmet is silver, I think silver pants for both home and away would look very cool.

 


23. Cincinnati – The last of the busy looks. Why are they higher than the others? The helmet. I LOVE the helmet. But again, why is there a need for 46 different colors on the uniform? There isn’t a rule that states a team has to incorporate all of the colors of the team on each uniform. The Bengals had it right when they first changed the uniforms back in the early 80’s. Don’t do the black on black ever either. See below in Denver's description about the pants striping.


 


We Tried Too Hard

22. Denver – The transition back to the orange tops at home was a great change for the Broncos. However, the blue pants aren’t a good look. The stripes on the pants get a little crazy for me. I enjoy the distinction between college and the pros in terms of the uniforms. Colleges can try new and different looks, while the NFL is more buttoned up. The stripes on the pants twisting to the front of the pants look very college to me.

 


21. Philadelphia – BFBS. If you haven’t seen or heard of that acronym before, it stands for Black For Black Sake. Why add black for no other reason then its black? It isn't the 90's anymore where black sold everything. Chill. The black jersey for the Eagles is awful. I liked the change to the darker green, but the faux pas with Nike and the color caused issues last year and there have been rumblings that they Eagles may go back to kelly green. That would be awesome.

 


20. Detroit – Another BFBS team. The Hawaiian blue (yes, that’s the color) and silver looks awesome together. Why ruin it by adding black to the uniform and facemask? Stop!

 


19. St. Louis – The Rams are here for two reasons: the blue on blue look they used at home last year. Awful. And for changing from yellow to gold. Their “throwback” uniforms are excellent. Go back to those… PLEASE!!

 


18. Houston – Too. Many. Combinations. Ditch the blood clot look (that’s red on red) pronto.

 


So Close…

17. Minnesota – The Vikings realized the error of their ways after changing from the classic Vikings look to the…I don’t know how to describe their Favre era ugliness. They harkened back to the classic look with a few tweaks. The one that caused them to be this low? The black facemask. Why?!?!?

 

16. Washington – Love the change back to the gold pants for the Redskins. The reason they are this low is the red-skinned Indian on the helmet. They should go back to the spear look.

 


There's the first half. Once again, thanks to Chris Creamer's site for all the photos.

Interested to hear your comments. Tweet me @illini3sc or leave a comment.

Shawn