News broke Wednesday morning that Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees third baseman who was suspended by Major League Baseball for the entire 2014 season over allegations of performance-enhancing drug (PED) use, had admitted to federal Drug Enforcement Administration officials that he used the prohibited substances from 2010 through 2012. Rodriguez’s confession came behind closed doors last January, but in public he continued to deny the charges right up until the Miami Herald released its findings in a story Wednesday.The news confirms accusations that Rodriguez had augmented his performance during the 2011 and 2012 MLB seasons, in addition to his previous admission of using PEDs from 2001 to 2003, when he was a member of the Texas Rangers. Given the current climate of baseball’s Hall of Fame voting — neither Barry Bonds nor Roger Clemens has cracked 40 percent of the vote in either of their two years on the ballot — Rodriguez’s latest admission seems like the final nail in the coffin for his Hall of Fame candidacy, assuming it wasn’t already long buried. But it’s also worth remembering that, like Bonds and Clemens before him, Rodriguez was a magnificent player before taking PEDs, and likely could have been a Hall of Famer without them.Not only did Rodriguez rank first on Baseball America’s 1995 Top 100 Prospects list, but after hitting .311 with a .948 OPS and good range at shortstop as an 18-year-old at Triple-A in 1994, he might well have been the greatest prospect in the history of the draft era. And lest the hype seem unjustified, in 1996 — his first full season in the majors — all Rodriguez did was belt an MLB-leading 54 doubles, smack 36 home runs, hit .358 (!!), post a 1.045 OPS (just the second time a shortstop had ever topped a 1.000 OPS, creating a club with the incomparable Arky Vaughan), lead the American League in total bases and finish tied as the fourth-best fielding shortstop in the AL according to TotalZone runs saved.Did I mention he did all that at age 20?Between then and 2001, when Rodriguez was said to have begun using PEDs, he would also do things like hit .300 or better in three out of four seasons, hit 40 or more home runs in three out of four seasons, set the all-time single-season record for Bill James’s Power/Speed statistic in 1998 (when he became the third member of the 40-40 Club with 42 home runs and 46 stolen bases), and become, in 2000, just the 22nd player in baseball history to surpass 10.0 wins above replacement (WAR) in a single season.Rodriguez’s supposed last season before he began using came that year, his last as a member of the Seattle Mariners. Through age 24, only two players in baseball history — Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle — produced more career WAR than Rodriguez did. Current Los Angeles Angel Mike Trout has A-Rod beat (along with everyone else who ever played the game) on career WAR through age 22, but there’s no question that Rodriguez had the pure talent to rank among the game’s all-time greatest players even before he started using PEDs.James once developed a long-term career forecast model called Brock2 — essentially a very early progenitor of a full-fledged projection system like PECOTA — which could produce an expected career stat line for a player based on his career performance through a given age. Feed it Rodriguez’s age 20-24 seasons, and it produces an absurd set of projected career totals: 3,573 hits; 668 doubles; 1,075 home runs. As mean projections for anybody, those numbers are silly (Trout through age 22 also generates a forecast of 3,646 hits, 740 doubles, and 826 home runs), but they underscore how incredible Rodriguez’s first five full MLB seasons were. (Through 20 seasons, Rodriguez now has 2,939 hits, 519 doubles and 654 home runs.)All of this, it bears mentioning, matters only if you believe Rodriguez began using PEDs in 2001, and didn’t before that. At the time of Rodriguez’s initial suspension in August 2013, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci wrote a column that included the following quote:“If you believe he started using [PEDs] in 2001, when he said he did, you’re a fool,” a former teammate said. “The likelihood is that he never played a day clean in the major leagues. Why? Insecurity. Alex doesn’t know how good he could be without drugs, and didn’t trust himself to find out.”That remains speculation at this point. But based on what we do know, Rodriguez’s early-career numbers were so great, and his potential so vast, that he had a very high likelihood of making the Hall of Fame before he ostensibly began using performance-enhancing drugs. Wednesday’s revelations only add to the disgrace he’s brought to his legacy since then.
If you thought Kentucky’s chances looked good over in the men’s tournament, it’s time to bet your house on the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team. The nine-time national champions return to the NCAA tournament this year looking for their second three-peat in school history, and our first-ever go at March Madness predictions for the women’s tournament gives the Huskies a really, really good chance of doing just that.Next to Connecticut, things look bleak even for the other No. 1 seeds in the tournament: Maryland has only a 2 percent chance of winning it all, while steering clear of the Albany region gives South Carolina and Notre Dame a 10 percent and 9 percent chance, respectively, of dethroning Connecticut.We’re thrilled to be forecasting the women’s NCAA tournament and look forward to seeing how our model performs given what little data we have to work with. Below, we break down the strengths and weaknesses of each region.AlbanyAlbany has rightfully been labeled the “regional destination of doom” because of the Huskies, who are so dominant this year that their opponents’ odds seem laughable: St. Francis College, their first-round matchup, has about a 1 in 7,000 chance of beating them. Our model all but guarantees that UConn will make an appearance in the Elite Eight — a 98 percent chance — and the likelihood of the team heading to the Final Four isn’t much lower, at 96 percent. With these odds, UConn seems to be a surefire winner, barring something like a teamwide food poisoning epidemic or a player strike against Geno.UConn is led by junior Breanna Stewart, who scored double figures in all but three of the team’s games this season and senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who is the school’s all-time career leader in 3-point field goals, with 341.But the near-perfect Huskies are just that: near perfect. They lost once this season, to Stanford (a No. 4 seed) 88-86 in overtime back in November, and finished the season with a 32-1 record.And even though we give No. 2 seed Kentucky just a 1 percent chance of making it out on top of the Albany region, remember that the Wildcats were eliminated from the tournament by UConn in two of the past three years and may have a thirst for vengeance.Oklahoma CityLast year’s runner-up, Notre Dame, is the No. 1 seed over in the Oklahoma City region, coming off a fresh ACC championship and looking for its fifth consecutive appearance in the Final Four (we think the team has a 58 percent chance). The Irish are led by standout shooting guard and ACC Player of the Year Jewell Loyd, who averaged 20.5 points, 3.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game, and ACC Freshman of the Year Brianna Turner, a forward who averaged 13.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.Notre Dame will have to get past strong teams like No. 2 seed Baylor and No. 4 seed Stanford, two programs that are used to Final Four appearances, and some dark-horse contenders in Minnesota and Oklahoma. The Golden Gophers have stellar sophomore center Amanda Zahui B., who averaged 18.6 points and 12.4 rebounds per game, with an incredible 39-point game thrown in there, too. We give her team a less than 1 percent chance of getting past the Irish, but maybe not if she has anything to say about it.SpokaneThe No.1 seed in the Spokane region is Maryland, which swept through its Big 10 season and tournament undefeated and has only two losses on the season. The team has one of the most potent offenses in the country, but a pedestrian defense. And the Terrapins have a tough road ahead. Our model rates them as the weakest No. 1 seed by far, with only a 37 percent chance of winning their region. While they hope to win the program’s second national championship, after beating Duke in a thrilling overtime game in 2006, we give them only a 2 percent chance of winning this year (not helped by likely facing UConn in the Final Four).But first they must get out of the region. And Maryland might face No. 2 seed Tennessee. The Lady Vols, who haven’t made a Final Four appearance since 2008, have a 33 percent chance of making it out of the Spokane region this year, the most likely No. 2 seed to advance.Even before that, Maryland’s second-round opponent might be the only undefeated team in the tournament: No. 8 seed Princeton, which is 30-0. Some projected the Tigers to get a No. 5 seed, but the committee obviously saw their Ivy League schedule as unimpressive. Still, scrappy Princeton has the third-toughest defense in the country, and our model has it as the fifth most likely team to win the region and the 17th most likely team in the entire bracket to win the championship.Also in the Terrapins way: Oregon State, with its 3-point happy offense, is the most likely No. 3 seed to advance to the Final Four by our model’s estimates. And Duke is also impressive, with a scoring margin of nearly 12 points per game.For an upset sleeper, don’t count out No. 6 seed George Washington, which despite losing to Maryland by 10 points in November has the 15th-highest scoring margin in the country — albeit achieved by tearing through the relatively weak Atlantic 10 conference.GreensboroTo the extent that UConn faces a threat, it comes from the Greensboro region, where South Carolina is the No. 1 seed. By our model, South Carolina has the second-highest probability of winning it all, at 10 percent. If the Gamecocks do face the Huskies, it won’t be the first time — UConn throttled South Carolina by 25 points last month, one of the Gamecocks’ two losses on the season. But the Gamecocks have a stout defense, ranked eighth nationally. Their interior defense is especially impressive, as they block 6.5 shots per game, and overall, the team holds opponents to fewer than 53 points per game.To get to the Final Four, South Carolina must fight through several obstacles. It might encounter No. 5 seed Ohio State in the Sweet 16 and thus have to contain freshman superstar Kelsey Mitchell, who leads the nation in scoring, at 25.0 points per game. North Carolina, the No. 4 seed, knocked off the Gamecocks in the regional semifinals last year and is the third most likely team to get out of the region — ahead of No. 3 seed Arizona State.But most of all, South Carolina must get past No. 2 seed Florida State, which boasts the eighth-highest scoring margin in the country. Our model gives FSU a 17 percent chance of winning the region.Regardless, the main story lines to watch this year are whether mighty UConn can fulfill statistical destiny and storm through the tournament like the dominant program our model expects it to be and whether Princeton takes its insulting seed as motivation and sustains its unbeaten, dream season.Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions.CORRECTION (March 19, 12:00 p.m.): Because of an error in data reported by ESPN, an earlier version of this article gave incorrect team scoring margins for Duke, George Washington and Florida State. We’ve updated those figures with the correct data.
Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan who was attacked and beaten by two men at Dodger Stadium on opening day 2011, was in attendance Thursday night as the Giants defeated the Detroit Tigers 2-0 in game 2 of the World Series.Stow, who was a guest on the behalf of the team, was accompanied by his family in what is believed to be his first game since the vicious attack. Where he was watching the game from in AT&T Park was not divulged because the family requested for privacy.Fans cheered during the game as the scoreboard greeted Stow with the message “Welcome to Bryan Stow and his family.”Stow’s presence in the park was not only felt from the fans, but management as well.“We are truly thrilled to have Bryan with us tonight at the World Series,” Giants CEO Larry Baer said. “It’s been a long road back. We’re very grateful he has progressed and could join us.”The March 31, 2011 attack left Stow in a medically induced coma at a Los Angeles hospital, which left him with serious skull and brain injuries, from some of which he may never fully recover. It has taken him months to speak and walk outdoors.Louie Sanchez and Marvin Norwood were arrested by the Los Angles Police Department on July 22, 2011, in connection with assault of Stow. The LAPD initially arrested Giovanni Ramirez for the attack, but later exonerated him of all charges.The two suspects have been ordered to stand trial after a six-day preliminary hearing that included graphic testimony from witnesses who heard Stow’s skull hit the pavement.The Giants have showed their continue support for Stow by raising more than $70,000 for the Bryan Stow Fund in 2011. Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum gave $25,000 to assist in the rehabilitation of San Francisco fan.In the Giants home-opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, they allowed Stows’ 13-year-old son Tyler to throw the ceremonial pitch, while his father appeared on the jumbotron.The family has been able to inform the public about Stow’s process through their blog. In their recent post Oct. 9 they stated:”As always, there are good days and not so good days. Despite the extra bone growth he developed, he still is working hard in all his therapies,” the update reads. ”It is painful for him and he is adamant that his fingers are broken (they aren’t) and one time insisted he had a broken foot. His memory is very unpredictable and we don’t know what he will remember and what he won’t. We imagine that this is something that will be a part of his recovery for a long time.”
22Rafael Devers98Ozzie Albies97Yordan Álvarez94 21Ronald Acuña Jr.99Bo Bichette84Carter Kieboom3 11Michael BrantleyHOU325.3 18Clayton KershawLAD314.1 Some of this onslaught of young star power was to be expected, such as with Trout and Christian Yelich — a pair of former MVPs — or Alex Bregman, who became that kind of player last season. Even Acuña, whose full-season breakout seemed apparent from the beginning of the year, could be included on that list. Some of it has involved precocious young players maturing quickly, as in the cases of phenoms such as Tatís and Juan Soto, or midseason call-ups like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Yordan Álvarez. Others still have either improved themselves to truly dominant levels (Bellinger, Marcus Semien) or seemingly emerged out of nowhere to become borderline MVP candidates (Ketel Marte, Pete Alonso). All have combined to give us the most potent group of under-30 position players the game has ever seen.WAR is adjusted for the league’s run environment and the overall value of various statistics, so this isn’t just a matter of today’s players seeing their value pumped up by record home run rates. There are always only so many WAR to go around in a given season, and this crop of young batters are grabbing a greater share than any of their historical counterparts. This is “Generation OPS,” and they’ve bent the game to their will. Instead of moaning about those changes, we should take a moment to appreciate the historic nature of what they’re doing.Of course, since WAR is a zero-sum game, other player groups have suffered at the expense of these bright young hitters. One cohort whose struggles aren’t all that surprising is older (age 30 and up) position players, who now account for just 13 percent of all the value produced in MLB. That’s the lowest share they’ve had since 1901, breaking the old record of 14 percent set last season and a far cry from the 28 percent mark which 30-and-over hitters achieved 20 years ago, at the height of the steroid era in 1999.Although the effect of performance-enhancing drugs on 1990s power numbers may have been overstated, one of the underrated effects of those chemical enhancements was the extension of productive careers beyond the normal aging curve. Now that those anomalies seem to be a thing of the past, aging hitters are less valuable — and less desirable — than ever before.A group whose struggles are perhaps more surprising, on the other hand, is the current batch of young pitchers. Pitchers under age 30 this season account for just 24 percent of all major league WAR, their smallest share since 2001, and the subgroup of pitchers age 25 or younger have produced only 7 percent of WAR, their smallest share since 1996.Some stellar young pitchers have bucked this trend. Atlanta’s Mike Soroka, 22, is having one of the best seasons ever by a starter so young, and the crop of slightly older hurlers — which includes Lucas Giolito of the White Sox, German Marquez of the Rockies and Shane “Don’t Call Me Justin” Bieber of the Indians — have been lights out. But as a whole, pitchers age 25 or younger have put up only 17 percent of pitching WAR leaguewide and have logged only 20 percent of all innings across baseball — the lowest share of innings pitched since 1947.Ancient pitchers (age 35 and older) aren’t in great shape, but they’ve nearly tripled their share of pitching WAR from last year.3Going from 3 percent in 2018 to 9 percent in 2019. And prime-age or slightly old hurlers (between age 26 and 34) are doing great, recording 74 percent of pitching WAR4Trailing only 2017 for the largest share since 1996. and eating 73 percent of innings — the third-most ever for that age cohort.5Trailing only 1920 and 1938. Despite longstanding evidence that fastball velocity and overall pitching effectiveness peaks in the early 20s and declines progressively with age, the list of 30-something pitchers having great seasons this year is incredible, especially when juxtaposed against how few batters can say the same: 10Zack GreinkeHOU355.4 23Cody Bellinger100Alex Verdugo93Adalberto Mondesí91 27Mike Trout100Christian Yelich99Jeff McNeil96 16Whit MerrifieldKCR304.2 26Matt Chapman98Mookie Betts98Javier Báez98 20Fernando Tatís Jr.98Juan Soto98Vladimir Guerrero Jr.92 28Marcus Semien98Max Muncy96Nolan Arenado94 8Charlie MortonTBR356.0 1Lance LynnTEX327.8 AgeFirst placeSecond placeThird place 19Mike FiersOAK344.0 29Anthony Rendon98George Springer97Freddie Freeman94 6Justin VerlanderHOU366.2 *WAR is prorated to 162 team games.Ages are as of June 30.Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs 4Jacob deGromNYM316.6 rkPlayerTeamAgeWAR* 2Max ScherzerWSN347.6 12Carlos SantanaCLE334.8 7DJ LeMahieuNYY306.2 20Cole HamelsCHC353.9 17Brett GardnerNYY354.2 This year’s best old players are almost all pitchersMajor League wins above replacement (WAR) leaders for 2019 players age 30 or older, with pitchers highlighted in gray 9Stephen StrasburgWSN305.4 If you believe many media stories about the present (and future) of baseball, the sport is doomed. The current crop of young players are ruining the game: They aren’t famous enough, strike out too much and hit too many home runs. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, indeed.This is, of course, mostly just nostalgia-tinted silliness. We’re really going to complain that there are too many home runs? Really? Even if you do take offense with the prevailing style of baseball in 2019, it shouldn’t obscure the fact that today’s up-and-coming stars are objectively awesome. From Cody Bellinger and Ronald Acuña Jr. to Mookie Betts and Fernando Tatís Jr. — to say nothing of Mike Freaking Trout, who is only 28 years old — MLB is awash in young talent just begging to be properly appreciated, if we bothered to take the time.The truth is, this particular season might contain the best group of young or prime-age hitters there has ever been, which is saying something in a sport whose history runs back to the 19th century. According to wins above replacement,1Using our JEFFBAGWELL metric to blend WAR from Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs. position players age 25 or younger (as of June 30) have produced 17 percent of leaguewide value — the 25th-largest share in any season since 1901 — and those between age 25 and 30 have accounted for 28 percent of all WAR — the fifth-most ever, and second-most2Behind only 1995. since 1917.Added together, under-30 hitters are producing roughly 45 percent of all WAR in baseball this season, the highest share in modern history. Trout alone accounts for 1 percent of that (!) — his greatness is a whole story unto itself — but he’s not the only 20-something position player who’s shining in 2019. Here are the best players by WAR at each age and the percentile rank for their season, relative to other seasons at the same age in baseball history: 13Nelson CruzMIN384.5 Today’s young batters are historically greatPercentile rank in wins above replacement (per 162 team games), relative to historical* seasons at the same age, for 2019 batters under age 30 15Eduardo EscobarARI304.4 14Josh DonaldsonATL334.4 3Mike MinorTEX317.4 24Pete Alonso97Yoan Moncada96Bryan Reynolds95 5Hyun-Jin RyuLAD326.4 As good as those older pitchers are, however, their value still pales in comparison with the young sluggers who step into the batter’s box against them every night. Amid MLB blaming its own players for not being more famous and all the complaining about Three True Outcomes, it can be easy to lose sight of how exciting this young crop of stars is. But don’t be fooled by older generations pining for a version of baseball that doesn’t exist exactly the way they want it to anymore. The game now belongs to players like Bellinger, Acuña, Tatís and Soto — and it’s going to be greater for it.Check out our latest MLB predictions.CORRECTION (Aug. 14, 2019, 10:50 a.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly identified German Marquez’s team. He plays for the Colorado Rockies, not the Oakland Athletics. 25Ketel Marte99Alex Bregman99Jorge Polanco96 *Since 1901.Ages are as of June 30 of a given season.Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs
Mets pitcher Matt Harvey was caught in a tabloid cacophony last week after his agent, Scott Boras, spoke candidly about how many innings Harvey should pitch this season. Harvey, who came back from Tommy John surgery at the beginning of the year, was said to be on a soft limit of about 180 innings,1He’s currently at 166 1/3 innings, giving him about two more starts before he hits the limit. as recommended by his surgeon. The Mets want Harvey to pitch in the postseason, Boras wants Harvey to sit out if it means exceeding 180 innings, and Harvey … Harvey seems to want both things.Boras’s approach seems reasonable: Limiting the innings of a young pitcher who may still be recovering from a serious injury seems like it might be wise. The trouble is that we have no idea whether innings limits work.There’s no question that pitching puts great stress on the arm. Accordingly, some studies of adolescent pitchers have found a link between an athlete’s innings pitched and the probability of future injury. The logic is clear: The more pitches thrown, the more wear and tear on the arm. Based on that, a hard limit on Harvey’s workload appears to be a good idea.But there’s no guarantee that what goes for amateurs also goes for pros. Harvey and all other MLB pitchers are a particularly talented and hardy group of throwers relative to those who play in high school, the minors or even college. It’s plausible that each additional pitch does less damage to them than it would to your local high school pitcher. Supporting this idea, a recent paper analyzing MLB pitchers 25 and younger (Harvey is 26) found no clear link between the number of innings pitched and future injury rates.It’s possible that Harvey represents a special case because of not only his youth, but also his previous bout of elbow trouble. Boras made this argument by presenting a set of four pitchers comparable to Harvey, each of whom came off Tommy John surgery and pitched more than 200 innings in the next year. All four suffered complications.But a sample of four pitchers can hardly provide conclusive evidence, and the Mets’ own preseason study (using comparable players) produced the opposite conclusion. That two studies using similar methods could produce conflicting verdicts underscores the difficulty of predicting pitcher health. As Mets general manager Sandy Alderson put it, “It’s not science.”One of the major problems is that any simple calculation of workload (like IP) is a flawed measure of fatigue and thus injury risk. Not all pitches inflict the same damage upon the arm, and poor mechanics cause injury much more quickly. The future of injury analytics will likely depend on better ways of gauging pitcher health that measure not only the workload but also the technique of the pitcher and how it changes over time. Newer technologies such as motion tracking systems and wearable sensors offer the promise of novel metrics that could be predictive, but most such systems are in preliminary stages of development or are just being deployed. Until those new technologies develop further, the Mets, Boras and Harvey are flying blind.
With the NBA regular season winding down, the Golden State Warriors are 66-7 and need to go 7-2 over their final nine games to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record for most wins in a season. We have a guess for how this will play out: Our CARM-Elo prediction system says Golden State has about a 66 percent chance of getting there. But we’d be lying if we didn’t say that handicapping the Warriors’ run to 73 is just as uncertain now as it was a few months ago.Our CARM-Elo NBA predictions use a combination of a team’s (pre-season) personnel and its past performance to estimate its relative strength. For most of the season it has tended to have the Warriors as a little more likely to run up on Michael’s Bulls than other prediction systems.1CARM-Elo adjusts itself to very good (or very bad) teams in the middle of its simulations a little better than similar systems.As the season winds down, those predictions become less abstract and might seem to take on more tangible meaning. It ought to be easier to predict a team going 7-2 than 25-5, right? But there’s a circular sort of logic to forecasting like this. On the one hand, when the finish line was further out, any effects of late-season lineup-fiddling from the Warriors or their opponents were aggregated over many games. The system doesn’t know that Stephen Curry may sit down in the final week of the regular season because the Warriors secured a 1-seed, or because of a sore hamstring, or because of a bad run-in with room service sushi. But the estimated effect of a game or two without the MVP is smaller in the context of a full season. This can make forecasts from months out feel more precise, less vulnerable to natural rhythms of the season.On the other hand, it takes a certain kind of willful omnipotent to guarantee that a team’s basic state — three healthy stars and the supporting constellations mostly intact — will remain unmolested by fate. The long-term outlook is always vulnerable to genuine surprise.As it stands, with nine games remaining, we know the state of the Warriors going into this stretch — a little banged up, but still plenty good. We can be relatively certain there aren’t any big surprises left in the season, just the series of little ones we always knew were coming: The tension between chasing the record and run-of-the-mill rest before the playoffs, plus some nagging injuries to rotation players and the need to bonk the rust off of a few guys coming back from longer-term absences. Six of Golden State’s remaining nine games are at home, where the Warriors are 35-0 for the season. Two of those home games are speed bumps against the no-account Wizards and the incompetent Timberwolves. Those are the gimmes.Another two are a home-and-home against the Spurs. Those very well could be thrilling late-season playoff previews … or, more likely, 96 minutes of the Warriors’ regular rotation being trolled by one of Gregg Popovich’s “DNP-Old” lineups: 30 minutes of Boban Marjanovic, perhaps, or a team trainer wheeling Andre Miller’s sarcophagus around the court.The remaining five games come against the Blazers, Celtics, Jazz and Grizzlies (twice) — four playoff teams elbowing for playoff seeding and a combined winning percentage of .544.2Including the Grizzlies twice.Our NBA game predictions for these remaining games — upon which our broader forecast of the Warriors reaching 73 wins is based — pass the late-season sanity check, more or less. Your guess is as good as mine for those Spurs games, and the probabilities for the Grizzlies games are slightly janky because, honestly, the Grizzlies are pretty janky themselves. (Memphis tends to win games close or get absolutely annihilated, which kills its point differential and Elo rating, but the team has done this consistently enough that it’s essentially a bug turned feature.) Any discrepancies seem to come closer to canceling each other out than thumbing the scale, and it sums up as a tough but not impossible schedule for the Warriors to take at a 7-2 pace.That could be made easier if the Golden State roster gets healthy in the home stretch. According to Nathan Currier at Man-Games Lost, a website that tracks player injuries, Warriors players missed a combined 164 games through 72 games played (Sunday’s game against Philadelphia was the team’s 73rd), in the top 10 in the league in both total games lost and lost Value Over Replacement Player. Sixth man Andre Iguodala has missed the last few weeks with a sprained ankle; Festus Ezeli has missed 33 games; Harrison Barnes missed 16 straight games earlier in the season; Andrew Bogut hasn’t missed much time, but he plays just 20 minutes per game. The roster has seen enough tumult that Brandon Rush — a live body and a fan favorite who is nevertheless not, you know, good — has seen 25 starts.A healthy (or unhealthy) bench may not matter all that much, though: The core of Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green made it through the season intact and was overwhelming enough that the Warriors never teetered too far off course. Here’s a chart of the Warriors’ chances of getting at least 73 wins throughout the regular season, along with the same chances for the Spurs and the Cavs:3The other 27 teams aren’t included because they are for the most part a big, thick line at 0 percent. 3/30@ UTA61 4/1vs. BOS88 7588 728923 Now that we’ve arrived at the precipice, though, the step from 72 to 73 wins seems as large as ever. Our model thinks the Warriors have an 89 percent chance to at least tie the Bulls’ record at 72 wins, but those odds fall 23 percentage points, to 66 percent, for 73 or more wins; 74 or more wins is a 33 percent proposition, but let’s not go getting greedy now. These projections also assume teams will play to win, which is uncertain for the Warriors, who can probably coast to a 1-seed, as well as their opponents, who will deal with all the typical late-season machinations for playoff seeding or draft position.By all appearances, however, Golden State is fixing to up and do this thing.Coach Steve Kerr said last week that the Warriors won’t be backing down from the chase, at least as long as the players want it. “Yeah, this whole idea of setting a record does make things a little trickier,” he said. “It’s the players who are setting a record. It’s not the organization. It’s the players who are doing it. So they will absolutely have some say in matters down the stretch in terms of how we approach everything.”Well, the players want it:Kerr is a latecomer to this cause, as his best players have started to openly embrace the chase. In Dallas, Stephen Curry was asked if “deep down” he wanted the wins record. He responded flatly, “There’s a reason you’re still talking about that 1995-96 Bulls team. So yes.” Draymond Green upped the ante, after a loss against the Spurs, no less. He proclaimed, “I’m not going to shy away from saying we want the record. We want the record, and we’re going after it.”Sunday night, the Warriors made good on the bluster when they took a full clip into a home game against the now 9-65 Philadelphia 76ers on a night a starter or four could have taken some rest. It’s a good bet, then, that unless something puts a scare to them, the Warriors will be the Warriors. What their opposition will do is less certain. 69>99<1 743325 4/7vs. SA66 Warriors’ remaining schedule Source: ESPN 3/29vs. WAS90% There’s a whole spool of loose threads waiting to be tied off in the Warriors’ season. Curry has 350 3-pointers, already 64 more than his standing record, and on its way to something truly absurd. Meanwhile, Thompson is sitting on 253 threes of his own and needs another 17 to move into fourth place on the single-season list, which just happens to be the highest spot on the list that doesn’t belong to Curry. The list of records that are certain to fall once this season is over is long and rich and telling. But holding the record for home wins in a regular season or team threes per game doesn’t have quite the same ring as 73 wins. As for that, it’s still a two-in-three chance, give or take.Jay Boice contributed research. 4/10@ SA32 736634 4/3vs. POR90 Chances the Warriors finish with: 4/5vs. MIN95 4/9@ MEM81 WINSAT LEAST THIS MANY WINSEXACTLY THIS MANY WINS 4/13vs. MEM92 68>99%<1% DATEOPPONENTWARRIORS’ WIN PROB 71978 70>992
For instance, our model says there’s only about a 1-in-5 chance that all four current major-conference undefeateds make the playoff in the end. Some of that comes from the possibility of losses — according to our simulations (based on ESPN’s FPI ratings), there’s a 96 percent probability that at least one of the four loses before the playoff field is set — and more still comes from the uncertainty of how the committee eventually will sort out the top four.Texas A&M’s dropping out of the conversation — their CFP odds fell from 19 percent to 2 percent — helped crystallize the playoff picture over the weekend. Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington also saw their CFP chances rise because they either scratched a difficult opponent off of their schedule (the Tide squeaked past LSU) or improved their FPI with dominating wins (the Tigers and Wolverines won by 54 and 56, respectively, while the Huskies dropped 66 points on Cal).But there are still plenty of paths for teams currently on the outside looking in. Washington’s remaining schedule is notably difficult, starting with a matchup against FPI No. 12 USC on Saturday. A slip-up could open a window for, say, Louisville — if it keeps winning. Meanwhile, Ohio State would likely play its way in by beating Michigan in their annual tilt on Nov. 26, and two-loss Wisconsin could still feasibly make it by winning the Big 10’s opposite division and the championship game over the Michigan-Ohio State winner. (Our model gives conference champions a slight bonus.)With only two of the top eight in our current CFP odds having anything less than an 88 percent chance of winning their next game (according to FPI), this weekend might not make for many wild swings in the playoff odds and rankings. But soon enough, the chaos will set in — perhaps even for that neat, tidy four-team group atop the committee’s standings.Check out our college football predictions. Things have been relatively easy for the College Football Playoff committee so far this season. There are four remaining undefeated major-conference schools — Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Washington — which slide neatly into the top four slots of the rankings. Meanwhile, a couple of dominant one-loss teams — Ohio State and Louisville — wait in the wings, just ahead of the gnarled mass of two-loss teams in the field at large.Even when the committee invited controversy in its initial 2016 rankings, slotting then 7-1 Texas A&M ahead of unbeaten Washington for the No. 4 slot, it was quickly given the opportunity to fix the mistake when the Aggies lost at Mississippi State. And with the committee’s rankings aligning with outside opinion, our College Football Playoff prediction model sees more certainty in the “Final Four” than a week ago. Four slots, four undefeated teams — it seems as if things are shaping up to work out unusually well in the CFP’s normally chaotic world.Well, maybe. If those four teams win out, things would indeed be convenient for the committee. Our model even thinks a team as dominant as Alabama could afford to drop a game and still be more likely to make the playoff than not. But, as is often the refrain when peering into the college football crystal ball, a lot can happen between now and when the final rankings are released on Dec. 4. Will your favorite team make the College Football Playoff? See all of our predictions for the 2016 season »
Embed Code FiveThirtyEight Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s episode (July 3, 2017), we’re bringing you an Independence Day show on the fireworks of free agency in the NBA. Since free agency began on July 1, Chris Paul was traded to Houston, Stephen Curry agreed to the richest deal in NBA history, and it’s been reported that Carmelo Anthony is willing to go to the Rockets or the Cavaliers. FiveThirtyEight’s Kyle Wagner joins us in the studio as we discuss the latest trades and speculate about who’s getting the best deals.Here are links to what we discussed during the show:Check out ESPN for the latest buzz, rumblings and reports on the NBA free agency period.Back in January, Neil took a look at how to win with Carmelo Anthony.Kyle wrote that the Paul George trade makes the Thunder contenders again.FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver also takes a look at the latest NBA developments, noting that next season’s NBA heavyweights may include the Warriors, Cavs, Spurs, Rockets … and Timberwolves?Significant Digit: 73.5, the world record as of last year for the number of hot dogs consumed within the Major League Eating circuit. Joey Chestnut claimed the record in 2016 during a qualifying event for the annual Fourth of July competition at Nathan’s Famous on Coney Island. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed
Junior goalkeeper Cameron Stephens (1) protects the net during a game against Navy Jan. 25 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. OSU lost, 15-11.Credit: Ryan Robey / For The LanternThe Ohio State men’s lacrosse team has been living on the edge early in 2014.In both of its exhibition matches, OSU fell behind early, and even though the comeback was completed against Hill Academy Jan. 18, it was a different story Saturday against Navy.The Midshipmen, who finished 3-10 last season, took down the Buckeyes 15-11 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.Navy got off to a flying start when senior long stick midfielder Pat Kiernan scooped up a ground ball on the opening face-off and scored 10 seconds into the game.Junior midfielder Jesse King tallied the first goal for OSU to tie the game, but the Midshipmen scored the next four to find themselves leading, 5-1, at the end of the first quarter.After extending their lead to 8-2 in the second quarter, King and the Buckeyes took advantage of Navy penalties to get back in the game.“We all move the ball really well,” King said. “We have a lot of the same guys from last year … I think it is just everyone being a threat and working together that makes our man-up really good.”OSU was able to cut the Midshipmen’s lead to 11-10 with just more than five minutes remaining in the third quarter after senior defenseman Darius Bowling registered an unassisted goal.But that was as close as the Buckeyes got as Navy went on to score four of the last five goals in the game to preserve the victory.OSU coach Nick Myers gave Navy credit for coming out of the gates quickly and putting pressure on the Buckeyes.“They got off to a great start on the very first face off,” Myers said. “We had five turnovers in the first quarter which really dug us into a hole.”The Buckeyes were led offensively by King, who totaled seven points on two goals and five assists, as well as senior attackman Adam Trombley and sophomore midfielder Charlie Schnider who both netted hat tricks in the contest.Sophomore attackman Carter Brown, who was third on the team last year in points with 43, has yet to dress for the Buckeyes in their exhibition games as he is recovering from an injury.Myers did not give specifics about Brown’s injury, but said the team will wait and see if Brown can play next week and has no doubt that he will make an impact offensively when he returns.“He is a little nicked up, so it is up to our medical staff,” Myers said. “Certainly, he will give us a little bit of a boost when he does get back in the lineup.”Buckeye senior defenseman Joe Meurer said the team has to learn from its mistakes in order to avoid a second consecutive loss when OSU takes on Robert Morris Saturday.“It’s just about continuing to work hard,” Meurer said. “We need to get in the film room and see what we are doing wrong in order to not make the same mistakes week after week.”The game against Robert Morris is set to start at noon Saturday and is the final time the Buckeyes take the field prior to starting regular season play at Johns Hopkins Feb. 9.
Members of the OSU offense huddle together to discuss a play during a game against Penn State Oct. 25 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. OSU won 31-24 in double-overtime.Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorThe Ohio State offense did not perform up to par in Saturday’s 31-24 double-overtime win over Penn State, and the stat book shows it.After four straight weeks of posting 50 or more points, the Buckeyes scored just 17 points in regulation against the Nittany Lions, something sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott said is disappointing.“(We were) very below average. We could have played a lot better. We maybe took a step back from the couple weeks we had before,” he said Monday.Elliott ran for 109 yards on 26 carries and a score in the OSU win.Redshirt-sophomore offensive lineman Pat Elflein echoed Elliott’s comments, adding the Buckeyes must improve.“We didn’t play like we should have. They were throwing a lot of stuff at us,” Elflein said. “It was hard to communicate, but definitely we didn’t play like we should have and we need to get better.”Elflein added that the performance against Penn State was unsatisfying.“We know we can run the ball. We know we can execute well on the offensive line,” Elflein said. “It’s just a matter of going out and doing it. It was kind of frustrating all game, knowing how well we can play and we weren’t doing it.”Heading into a matchup with Illinois on Saturday, OSU coach Urban Meyer said there is one area where the offense remains inconsistent.“Concern is the offensive line. We just faced a very good defensive line at Penn State and we didn’t play very well,” Meyer said. “It (the offensive line) has made great strides, but the standard was set the last two years with the offensive line play at Ohio State and we are not there.”The core of the offensive line the last two years included three players currently on NFL rosters — Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley and Andrew Norwell — who all started last week for their respective teams.The combination of Mewhort, Linsley and Norwell started each game in the 2012 and 2013 with the exeception of the Michigan game (Mewhort did not start) seasons, driving the Buckeyes to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons.Elflein said despite the struggles against Penn State, the standard set by the departed core group still remains. That standard however, is not always as strict as some may think.“Our room is awesome. I love it. Especially last year. Those guys started the culture,” Elflein said Monday. “Norwell, Corey and Jack (are) just really goofy. We have our own terms and lingo.”One of those terms, while not necessarily flattering, is something Elflein said still remains.“We’re the slobs, everyone on the team calls us the slobs. Norwell is king slob. He is the one who made that up last year,” Elflein said. “It’s fun to play with that, because it can get stressful around here sometimes.“It’s an awesome culture, I love going there (the offensive line room) every day.”While Mewhort now plays with the Indianapolis Colts, Linsley with the Green Bay Packers and Norwell with the Carolina Panthers, Elflein said he remains in contact with the former Buckeyes.“I stay in touch with all those guys, that’s a big part of all of our lives in the O-line room was that culture that was set last year,” Elflein said.Elflein added that Linsley is planning on being in Columbus on Saturday for OSU’s game against Illinois, which is set to kickoff at 8 p.m. at Ohio Stadium, as the Green Bay Packers are on a bye this week.