Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring Sports Update

A mere few weeks into the Atlanta Braves season, and we're already seeing some patterns emerge. "Patient" is the word one day, as in hitters are too eager to swing at the ball. Then it's "depth", looking at whether the bullpen can sustain enough innings. (This was a horrible issue last year.)

Everyone's always said baseball is a game of statistics. It used to be benign things like ERA and batting average. Within the past few years, OPS has become a staple of analysis. That stands for on-base plus slugging percentage, and it somewhat intuitively gives a picture of total offensive power of a player. However, whenever the formula to calculate a statistic includes "hit by pitch" not once but three times (see Wikipedia if you don't believe me) then it's far too complicated. Now, with the advent of the internet, we've got wonderful things like "this guy has a .402 average with runners in scoring position when there are less than two outs and his team is playing a night game at home." Utterly ridiculous.

That being the case, I'll stick with things that make sense. Braves starters are among the league best in ERA and home runs allowed, but among the worst in innings pitched. That shows that we need to get more innings out of these guys... and more innings out of Smoltz and Glavine and Hudson is never a bad thing. Oh, and how about this Jair Jurrjens guy? Before the season started, the only thing I knew about this guy was a particularly insightful comment from my mom, who pondered whether Jurrjens might be Dutch. (He's not; he's from the Islands, but that probably means he has some Dutch in him somewhere.) Now he's one of the team's most promising starters. And is there any way this guy can pitch more?

An announcing theme I've had to sit through lately has been "feast or famine", as in, why is the offense so wonderful during wins and so horrendous during losses? That may not seem like any huge insight, but it is remarkable how a team that scores seven runs one day and gives up four can score two runs the next--and still give up four.

Finally, speaking of announcing, I really miss Skip Caray. He's only on the radio now (except for a slim few on Peachtree TV), and seeing as how I always watch the games on TV, I never get to hear Skip anymore. This move toward "neutral broadcasting" is complete crap. If he's my team's announcer, he gets to root for my team, plain and simple.

Last weekend, I went to see the T-Game, which is the traditional spring football game for Georgia Tech. It was rough. I want to say a dozen fumbles, but that might be an exaggeration. Or, it might be a conservative estimate, because I was hiding my head in my hands so much. The first half had about ten points scored in it, total, which has both positive and negative implications. Of course, it speaks well to the defense; the very best thing I saw was the defense, true to Tenuta's legacy. Michael Johnson looked wonderful and had some excellent plays. But can this offense score points?

More critically, is it interesting to watch? There's a bias in the viewership of football in general against running offenses. We want to see pass plays, exciting Calvin Johnson-style ones. "Three yards and a cloud of dust" is just not that much fun. That's not what our new coach, Paul Johnson, uses per se, but I'm afraid that's what it might turn into. And that's not to say that the running game can't be exciting. Lucas Cox, Mike's younger brother, looked decent. Dwyer is underrated. But we just don't have Tashard anymore, and that's going to hurt.

And that touches on the biggest problem that Tech football is looking at in 2008. Our best players all graduated, with the exceptions of Johnson and Dwyer. But look who's gone... Tashard Choice, who netted thousands of yards for Tech. Mike Cox, one of the best college fullbacks I've ever seen. Durant Brooks, the nation's best punter last year. Travis Bell, a solid kicker for Tech for several years. Philip Wheeler, an all-around amazing linebacker. Let's hope we can scrape together some talent and whip it into a respectable team.

Currently listening: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", the Beatles


Anonymous said...

No offense, dear, but Tech football hasn't been that great in some time.

As far as entertainment value, I think that for people who understand football, it's plenty entertaining enough. It's very strategic and in some ways like a warzone. I like watching the slow advances because, as someone who knows a good bit about football, I know the particulars of what they do.


Sorry I've been away for a while. Switching computers and such and your blog kind of got lost in the switch. :-)

Matt Pavlovich said...

No, we sure haven't been great. That's why we got a new coach to begin with, who could hopefully take us from mediocre to actually good. And at this point, I'm not sure how likely that is to happen.

Oh, no big deal. Are you keeping a blog these days?

Anonymous said...

Indeed,, my like... thirteenth attempt at a blog. lol