Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Turnover Margin Volatility & You(SC)

Football Outsiders recently looked at year-to-year points-off-turnover margins, concluding about what you would expect: extreme values in Season A revert toward the mean in Season B.

Of interest to Gamecock fans is that South Carolina finished 2008 ranked 100th nationally in Turnover Points Margin (-3.5). The Football Outsiders piece notes that values for last season's Turnover Points Margins weren't as extreme at the, er, extremes as they have been in past years. Nevertheless, with (hopefully) fewer turnovers this season and some bad luck swinging back in our favor, there's reason to hope we weren't as bad as we looked last season.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Marcus McBeth called up by Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox recalled former South Carolina Gamecock Marcus McBeth on Friday from AAA Pawtucket. In 51 1/3 innings at Pawtucket, McBeth has struck out 54, walked 17, given up 31 hits, and allowed 13 earned runs.

Like so many Gamecocks, Marcus McBeth was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 2001 (e.g., former Gamecock Landon Powell is currently backing up Kurt Suzuki). McBeth was drafted as an outfielder but was converted to a pitcher in 2005.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nastalgia Trip: By Request

Some of you requested you're favorite players from your childhood be posted. Here's a few that I've found first. More to come.
Sammy Sosa in Chicago. No, the other Chicago.
Roger Clemens: The AL East. No, the other AL East. Also, notice how small his head looks...

Ozzie Smith enjoying himself. I'm guessing post back flip.

A little Otis Nixon action for ya.

Nolan Ryan.

Ken Griffey, Jr. Sorry about the sideways deal. It's late and I don't feel like re-scanning.

Cal Ripken, Jr.

Bo Knows: powder blue.

Bob Wickman: asshole!

Barry Bonds. His head sure looks a lot smaller too...

Curt Schilling pitching for the O's.

Nastalgia Trip: First in a Series

As some of you may know, I've recently happened upon my baseball card collection from the days of yore. I promised to upload some of them just for kicks, and I'll start with the Braves.

No tour de force of the early ‘90s Braves would be complete with manager Bobby Cox. Just look at this young star. A happier face there never was.

The Pride of my Braves collection: two Chipper Jones #1 draft pick cards. What a stud.
The immortal John Smoltz. Pre-beard.
Mad Dog: Pre Braves.
Tom Glavine: Pre-Mets.
Steve Avery: Pre-Obscurity.
Sid Bream. Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Going Gallardo

On Wednesday afternoon Yovani Gallardo blanked the Pittsburgh Pirates for eight innings, striking out eleven, walking one, and allowing just two hits.

Somewhat more impressive is that he scored the Brewers' only run of the game with a seventh inning homerun off of Pirates starter Ian Snell, Gallardo's second HR of the season. While a homerun hit by a pitcher is certainly a rare sight, Gallardo's feat was even more unusual.

Not since Odalis Perez (LAD) took Rick Helling (ARI) out of the park on August 28, 2002 has a pitcher's homerun accounted for his team's only run(s) in a shutout victory. That is, of course, until today.

Random Factoid You Want to Know of the Day

While we may lay claim to 2009's Mr. Irrelevant, we already know that's not such a bad thing. Plus, Succop still GOT INTO the draft. The ACC's career leader in receptions? Not so much.

Good work, ACC. Your greatest receiver of all-time did not even get into the draft. You're a talented bunch.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mr. Irrelevant? Try Mr. Important.

I recently read Michael Lewis’ The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game – detailing one young man’s journey from the wrong side of the tracks to what we now know to be an eventual first round selection in the NFL draft. Michael Oher, the book’s protagonist, is said to be such a valuable asset to a football team due to his incredible combination of size, strength, and agility. Specifically, his unique set of physical attributes makes him an ideal candidate to play left tackle; a position which the author argues (and average NFL salaries support) is the second most important in professional football. The logic follows that as the passing game has increased in importance, so too has the value of the left tackle because good play by the left tackle is essential in allowing a quarterback to perform his duty. The quarterback’s duty is to throw touchdowns, and, as we all know, the team that scores the most touchdowns wins the game.

But that’s not always the case. There is another way to score points in the game of football: namely, field goals. It has always baffled me as to why kickers get so little respect in the football universe. They are constantly admonished for their small stature and berated for their follies - all the while their accomplishments being largely taken for granted.

Consider the following. Peyton Manning’s career completion percentage stands at 64.4%. Tom Brady’s is an even 63%. The active leader in completion percentage? Chad Pennington at a whopping 66%. Meanwhile, the 2007 NFL season saw 15 kickers average better than 85% on field goal attempts. Jeff Reed led the way for Pittsburgh with a 92% completion rate. Kickers, the unsung heroes of the NFL, are outperforming their quarterback counterparts. And it’s not just in completion percentage.

The fact of the matter is kickers score points – a lot of them. In 2008 the kicking game, and Ryan Succup specifically, accounted for exactly one third of South Carolina’s total points. Not possible you say? Believe it. Well, you might then reasonably assert that South Carolina’s offense was so putrid in 2008 that it is just not representative of football as a whole. You would only be half right. While kickers accrued fewer points across the SEC and NCAA as a whole, the percentage still hovers right around 25% (25% and 24%, respectively). In fact, we can see that the kicking game could be counted on for about 6.5 points per game on average across the NCAA while the passing and rushing games accounted for about 9.3 and 9.7, respectively.

Add a kicker’s point scoring ability to his other on-field duties and he is even more indispensable. A good kicker can neutralize the opponent’s ability to score on kick-off returns via touchbacks – a very real threat if the opponent has a Devin Hester-type player. In Succup’s case, his ability to handle punting duties as well further increases his value. In a close game field position takes on extra importance. An opponent pinned inside its own 10 yard line from a punt provides the punter’s team with a greater opportunity for scoring. Not only will the team likely have shorter distance to drive toward the goal once the ball is punted, the team will also have a chance to earn two points through a safety.

For some reason, few coaches seem to catch onto the importance of the kicking game in football. Lou Holtz, in particular, was infamous for his policy of refusing to allow a scholarship kicker on his teams. In the years under Holtz, the Gamecock teams (and fans) suffered because of it. So Kansas City fans, don’t make the mistake of thinking Ryan Succop is actually Mr. Irrelevant. Come August, he might just be the second most important player on the field.