MLB Postseason Predictions
The Josh Freeman Saga
The Transitive Property
College Football Selection Committee
By Sam Pouncey
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First Down- MLB Postseason Predictions
The MLB postseason is upon us, and now that the play-in games are finished and the division series matchups determined it’s time to assess who’s left. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live down here in “Braves Country” may hear this time of year referred to as “Choptober.” I guess we will just have to wait and see if the Bravos have a deep postseason run in them.
One of the biggest surprises of this season has been the Pittsburgh Pirates, they made the playoffs this year for the first time since 1992. They may have a few more surprises though, as I predict them to shock the world and win the National League. They have a potent batting order with emerging leadoff hitter, Starling Marte, big-time power hitter, Pedro Alvarez, and five-tool stud, Andrew McCutchen. The middle of their order has also been improved with the in-season acquisitions of Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau. Their pitching staff is also ranked 3rd in ERA and 2nd in batting average allowed. Also, Jason Grilli has emerged as an elite closer converting 33 of his 35 save opportunities this season.
The Detroit Tigers are favored by many to win the American League and the World Series. There is no reason for them not to be. They have a potent offense, a solid pitching staff, and a great manager in Jim Leyland (who coached in his early days in my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama). Led by last year’s triple-crown winner, Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers led the league in batting average and finished second in slugging percentage. The pitching staff also has one of the top duos in the game right now in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. If there is a weakness for this team, it’s the bullpen. The Tigers finished 21st in the big leagues in saves this year, but they have managed all year without a great bullpen and should be able to continue to do that.
Second Down-Josh Freeman Saga
Certainly, one of the most bizarre stories of the NFL season so far has to be how the Josh Freeman era in Tampa Bay ended. Coming into the season, there were concerns over Josh Freeman’s relationship with head coach, Greg Schiano. These escalated as reports surfaced that he missed the team photo, come on Josh they even take these in “Y” ball you know the drill, and was not voted a team captain for the first time since his rookie year.
Then, the season started and the Buccaneers lost a squeaker to the New York Jets, thanks in large part to a major defensive gaffe at the end of the game. After losses in each of the following weeks, the team announced that it was benching Freeman in favor of rookie, Mike Glennon. On October 3rd, Josh Freeman was released and it was also revealed earlier last week that he is in stage one of the NFL substance-abuse program. The big deal is that somebody screwed up big time in releasing that information to the public, and many fingers have been pointed in the Buccaneers direction.
The question here though is: where does Freeman go from here? Reports have surfaced that the Raiders are pursuing to make him their starter. Other teams have reportedly also contacted him about backup positions including the Bills, 49ers, Packers and Vikings. If he went to Buffalo, however, he may have a chance to start for a few weeks until E.J. Manuel returns from the LCL sprain he suffered in Thursday’s loss to Cleveland. The logical thing for him to do is go to Oakland where he can start right away and prove to Tampa Bay and other naysayers that getting rid of him was a big mistake. He did throw for over 4,000 yards last year after all. The rest of us just want to know where the Jacksonville GM is? Does he think he’s a government employee? He dropped the ball on that one.
Note: Reports are surfacing from his agent and others that he has agreed to sign with the Vikings. They did not call me for advice.
Third Down- Transitive Property
How many times have we heard the argument “well Team A beat team B, and team B beat team C, therefore team A will beat team C”? All too often, sports fans of all levels use this flawed logic to predict the outcomes of sporting events. In mathematics, this is known as the transitive property. The main difference is it actually works in mathematics. This is most often applied in football and college basketball, where it is less likely that teams will see each other multiple times in a given season.
The main reason this argument doesn’t work is because of the differences in team’s schemes and personnel. For example, let’s say “Team A” has a potent Air Raid passing offense, virtually no running game and a weak defense. “Team B” is a Ground and Pound team that uses it’s massive offensive line and defensive front seven to run the ball and control the clock, and a secondary more suited to run support than coverage. “Team C” has a small, speedy front seven (good at generating a pass rush but susceptible to the run) and an athletic secondary that is good in coverage, and runs a West Coast offense.
In this example, we could easily picture a scenario where “Team A” beats “Team B”, who beats “Team C”, who beats “Team A”. To spell it out, “Team A” throws all over “Team B’s” secondary that isn’t suited to stop a team throwing the ball 50 times a game. “Team B” pounds the ball on the smaller defense of “Team C” and wins the game. “Team C” uses it’s pass rush and secondary to create problems in “Team A’s” passing attack, and in so doing wins the game.
Other reasons this argument does not work, is that teams change over the course of a season. Some teams improve drastically as the season progresses, e.g. Texas A&M last season, and others regress, e.g. USC Trojans last year. Also, things like bye weeks in the preceding week, injuries, and which team is home/away play a big factor in how teams play on any given Saturday or Sunday.
Fourth Down- College Football Playoff Selection Committee
David Pollack made some big waves on College Gameday last Saturday with his comments on the College Football Playoff selection committee that will determine the four schools that will make the playoffs next season. He said that he wanted people who had played football and knew what it was like to be out there, which was expounded upon to suggest that women not be included in the committee.
I’m not particularly interested in discussing Pollack’s comments. I don’t know him personally, but it seems to me (and I watched it live) that his comments were taken out of context a little. It is interesting to discuss who is, or should be, on the selection committee, however.
Several members have already been selected according to sources: Condoleezza Rice (to whom it is believed Pollack’s comments were directed), Archie Manning, USC Athletic Director Pat Haden, former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, former USA Today sportswriter Steve Wieberg, former NCAA executive vice president Tom Jernstedt, Air Force Academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, and former Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham. Barry Alvarez, Oliver Luck, Jeff Long and Dan Radakovich are also reportedly on the committee. They are the athletic directors at Wisconsin, West Virginia, Arkansas and Clemson respectively.
The problem some may have is with current athletic directors, who have ties to potential playoff schools, being able to objectively pick the best four teams. That is an understandable thought, but as long as the members are picked from a balance of regions and conferences it should not matter. The fact is that the people who make up this committee are going to be college football fans. That being said, it is likely they will have certain teams and/or conferences that they cheer on. The key though is finding people from all parts of the country, like I said earlier, and a wide variety of viewpoints on the game of college football.
Guys like Tom Jernstedt, Oregon graduate and long-time overseer of the NCAA basketball tournament, are good from an administrative point-of-view. Archie Manning is good from a former player’s perspective, and let’s face it it’s only fitting that a member of football’s first family be there and I think Peyton and Eli are pretty busy. It will be certainly interesting to see how the first NCAA football playoff shakes out, but it has to be better than the current system. Furthermore, until they let me down I have no reason not to put full confidence in the members of the committee to do what is best for the sport and put the four best teams, biases aside, in the playoff.