Glossary, plus odds and ends

I’ve added a glossary of basketball stats as a sub-page under the “basketball” main page.  This has been a long time coming, I know.  My goal was to be comprehensive for terms and acronyms that I use on the site, so if I left something out, don’t hesitate to let me know about it.  If something is confusing, I can re-word it.

I’ve also updated the “Team” and “Individual” stat pages under the “06-07 HU Stats” subpage through Saturday’s games.  Matt Hall keeps climbing the leaderboards on the individual side, while the Bisons sit in decent position on the team side.

On the team stats page, I tried to organize everything a bit more logically than they appear on my spreadsheets.  I put each team’s record in GSC play with their records overall and in D-II South games (the record that matters for getting in the NCAA tourney).  I stuck all the efficiency numbers together and threw in a table that lists pace and team performance in my modified version of Oliver’s key areas (true shooting, rebounding, turnovers).

I think this alignment makes it easier to see important stats while filtering out some of the noise.  For example, it’s easy to see why Henderson State has been so dominant: they’ve been almost 20% better than their opponents in shooting (mainly because of their defense), and they’ve been the best rebounding team in the conference (24% better than opponents).  It hasn’t mattered that they’ve been the worst team in the turnover battle, since they excel in other areas, but that’s one way a team like Christian Brothers (the best team in turnovers) could exploit them.

Take a look now at the efficiency numbers.  Arkansas Tech has been beyond awful, and SAU is looking pretty bad, too, but Christian Brothers, OBU, and UAM are pretty close together.  OBU looks like the wild card here, sitting at 4-3 despite a negative net efficiency rating in division games.  On the other hand, the 4-3 Bisons have been solidly in the positive numbers, which hopefully means that they will take out the Tigers in the Searcy rematch on 2/10.

Looking at the standings in general, the Reddies sit alone at the top and will be in the driver’s seat for the division championship.  Delta State has the best efficiency rating in conference games, so it seems reasonable to suggest that they will remain #2.  Then, things get interesting.

It’s early to talk tiebreakers, but my understanding is that head-to-head record vs. tied teams prevails, and after that, you use head-to-head record starting from the top of the standings.  I assume that GSC East, D-II South, and overall records follow next, with point differentials and coin flips somewhere behind that.  Right now, CBU, OBU, and Harding are all 1-1 against one another, so that doesn’t break the tie.  Then, OBU beat Henderson State, so they get third place.  Christian Brothers beat Delta State, so they would be fourth.

This is my long-winded way of saying that the Bisons could use a win against a top team, preferably Henderson State.  At the very least, they need to make sure they hold off OBU at home, and they’ll probably be okay (barring a slip-up against a lower team).  Harding probably needs to run the table in order not to have to worry about the conference tournament for an NCAA bid, but more realistically, I think a top-3 seed (and thus a GSC tourney first-round bye) is still perfectly reasonable.  I’m sure I’ll get into this more over the next month.

Harding knocks out reeling Christian Brothers team

Matt Hall, Matt Hall, Matt Hall.  Every post must start with Matt Hall.  That seems to be the case this year, which is remarkable given his injury last year and the pressure he has faced this year.  None of that seemed to matter in this game, which was nearly perfect for the junior forward.  Hall made all six of his shot attempts (two from long range) and all eight of his free throw attempts to lead the Bisons with 22 points.

Here are the stats:

HU CBU +/-
Eff 104.6 83.3 21.3
TS% 58.0 42.3 15.7
OR% 35.7% 40.5% -4.8%
TR 19.7 18.3 1.4
Player Name MIN GS TS% RR ISP ITP IPP Floor% %TP ORtg
Andrepont, Patrick  27 3.4 41.0 11.4% 2.99 7.59 7.12 39.3% 13.5% 93.7
Hall, Matt  36 22.7 115.5 12.0% 6.98 8.98 16.78 77.7% 16.0% 186.9
Sims, Brandon  32 10.8 59.9 11.5% 4.42 9.33 13.59 47.4% 16.6% 145.7
Hamilton, Rick  20 0.2 30.4 6.2% 2.87 9.20 6.25 31.2% 16.4% 68.0
Barnett, Steven  16 1.1 39.9 0.0% 1.32 5.66 3.95 23.4% 10.1% 69.8
Kee, Cole  6 -3.6 0.0 0.0% 0.00 3.04 0.00 0.0% 5.4% 0.0
Bibb, Reggie  27 2.1 64.7 6.8% 1.92 4.54 4.68 42.3% 8.1% 103.1
Morgan, Trent  25 4.5 64.3 4.9% 2.94 5.79 6.61 50.7% 10.3% 114.1
Howard, Brian  4 -0.5 0.0 46.2% 0.00 1.00 0.00 0.0% 1.8% 0.0
Thies, Jacob  7 -0.9 0.0 8.8% 0.00 1.00 0.00 0.0% 1.8% 0.0

Shooting was the story in this one, as the Bisons had a 58.0 TS% to the Bucs’ 42.3, marking the main difference in the 21-point efficiency differential.  Christian Brothers was actually the better rebounding team and forced a slightly higher turnover ratio defensively, but it didn’t matter because of the Bucs’ outstandingly poor outside shooting.  The Bucs made just one of their 27 three-point attempts.  Kyle Couvion was responsibe for the only made shot, but he missed seven others, while Weybright (6), Reggie Peyton (4), Justin Ray (4), Brandon Shane (3), and Colin Flynn (2) combined for the other misses.  The Bisons’ 6-for-24 performance from outside must have looked positively unstoppable in comparison.

Two turnovers were the difference between Hall’s amazing 186.9 rating and a truly astonishing 200+ rating.  The rest of the team wasn’t bad, but the other scorers weren’t shooting particularly well, and Brandon Sims was the only other Bison in double figures.

Reggie Bibb played an uncomfortably large number of minutes (27), so I’m wondering if anything was wrong with Steven Barnett, whether it was an injury or just a coach’s decision.  On the other hand, Jacob Thies played only seven minutes as the Bisons went small against the Bucs from the beginning, starting Andrepont, Hall, Sims, Hamilton, and Barnett.  This arrangement seems to have worked, so it will be interesting to see if Coach Morgan sticks with it.

The Bisons basically stifled Kevin Weybright, holding him to 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting.  Reggie Peyton was actually the Buccaneers’ leading scorer with 19.  Nick Kohs, who has been CBU’s second-best player this year, was notably absent with an injury.  So, the Bucs were short-handed, but the Bisons’ effort is impressive nonetheless.

Elsewhere in the GSC

Memo Rodriguez’ 28 points powered the OBU Tigers to a home win over winless (in-conference) Arkansas Tech.  Derrick Woods added 17, helping to overcome the 30 scored by ATU’s Brandon Friedel.  Three-point shooting was not a problem in this game, as the teams combined to hit 18-of-36 (50%) from outside the arc.  Ouachita pulled into a three-way tie for third place at 4-3 with the win, while ATU is now 0-7.

Henderson State beat Delta State to take sole possession of first place in the conference.  Led by Dee Dee Drake’s 21 points and 7 rebounds, the Reddies remained very efficient on offense while shutting down the division’s top offensive team on the other end.  Johnny Hodge led the Statesmen with 17 points, but his team is now 5-2, alone in second place.

Arkansas-Monticello made an improbable turnaround after their impressive big win over Christian Brothers, immediately losing to one of the conference’s worst teams in Southern Arkansas.  The Nate Newell Experience turned out a 3-for-16, 13-point performance, prompting Coach Dad to become very displeased.  To be fair, J.B. Williams missed 9 of his 12 chances, and Ryan Nelson had six turnovers.  Mori Turpin scored 21 for the victorious Muleriders, who are now 2-5 in conference play.  UAM falls to 3-4 and sixth place.

Coming Up

Two GSC teams play non-conference games on Tuesday, with Arkansas Tech hosting Rhema and Delta State hosting Central State, a D-II opponent.  All 8 teams will be back in action on Thursday, with Arkansas Tech hosting Henderson State, the Bisons at home against UAM, Delta State visiting OBU, and Christian Brothers hosting SAU.

Bisons top Muleriders behind strong Hall performance

It wasn’t exactly the most exciting performance, but Matt Hall’s 16-of-17 shooting at the free throw line helped him get to 27 points for the game.  No other Bison scored in double figures, and the team only had 65 points altogether in a relatively slow-paced game.

You can find the story and the regular box score over at the official HU site, and here are some additional stats:

  SAU HU +/-
Eff 86.4 104.1 -17.7
TS% 47.7 59.7 -12.0
OR% 41.9% 26.9% 15.0%
TR 22.7 18.0 4.7

 

Player Name MIN GS TS% RR ISP ITP IPP Floor% %TP ORtg
Hamilton, Rick…… 35 4.4 57.1 4.0% 2.41 7.44 6.31 32.4% 12.4% 84.7
Barnett, Steven….. 33 6.2 57.7 4.3% 3.41 7.00 8.47 48.6% 11.7% 120.9
Andrepont, Patrick.. 25 6.5 76.5 11.2% 2.69 7.21 6.40 37.3% 12.0% 88.8
Hall, Matt………. 33 22.4 81.9 14.9% 10.05 17.11 24.72 58.8% 28.6% 144.4
Thies, Jacob…….. 9 3.2 50.0 23.4% 1.18 1.94 2.45 60.8% 3.2% 126.2
Kee, Cole……….. 3 0.0 0.0 0.0% 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.0% 0.0% 0.0
Bibb, Reggie…….. 16 7.7 100.0 4.4% 2.53 3.53 5.31 71.7% 5.9% 150.3
Sims, Brandon……. 26 4.2 33.3 5.4% 2.69 8.24 5.44 32.6% 13.8% 66.0
Morgan, Trent……. 12 -0.2 25.5 5.8% 1.22 4.45 3.03 27.3% 7.4% 68.2
Howard, Brian……. 8 -3.2 0.0 8.8% 0.00 2.76 0.00 0.0% 4.6% 0.0

 

The Bisons’ shooting efficiency was the key to this game.  Hall’s contribution was obviously huge, with all of those free-throws turning an otherwise pedestrian 5-for-9 performance into a fantastic game.  The rest of the team as a whole was below average for the game, but it didn’t matter.  Their 27% offensive rebounding performance was uninspiring, and they struggled to shoot outside or get to the line themselves.  Aside from Hall, that’s not what you want to see against a bottom-feeding team like Southern Arkansas, but a win is a win.

Mori Turpin led the Muleriders with 17 points, but SAU turned the ball over too much and couldn’t hit enough shots to stay with the Bisons.  They rebounded well but couldn’t do enough other things right.

Matt Hall continued to climb the GSC leaderboards with this strong game.  You can see them all on the individual stat page or in the latest stat file, but here are the highlights:  Hall is now seventh in offensive efficiency, seventh in SUPER, and still second in efficiency contribution, which is my way of leveling the playing field for players on poor teams.

A statistical aside: 

Hall’s EC of 4.92 means that the Bisons would be scoring almost 5 fewer points per 100 possessions without him.  To put that in perspective using the pythagorean model to project wins, Hall’s contribution is worth about two wins, without even taking into account the fact that his playing time would be filled by players who are far worse than team-average in efficiency.

One of the drawbacks of using efficiency contribution (that’s my own name, so it may exist elsewhere in other forms) is that it may give too much credit to players who stand out above the rest of their team.  Since basketball is 5-on-5 and players feed off of one another, it’s tough to tell if the team makes a player good or vice versa.  For example, is CBU’s Justin Ray (5th in the conference in efficiency) a legitimately good shooter and ballhandler, or is he that good because opponents feel they have to focus on Weybright and Kohs?  How would he look if he played for Arkansas Tech?  These questions are difficult to answer decisively, but that’s part of what makes this analysis so interesting.

Elsewhere in the GSC

Delta State continued their usual highly-efficient, physical beating of the lower GSC West teams, blitzing past Arkansas Tech 90-77.  They could probably have played better defense (104.4 rating), but if their offense is for real, I underestimated them at the start of the year.  DSU is 5-1 and now alone in second place behind Henderson State.  ATU’s Terrance Whiters filled up the scoreboard with 27 points and 8 steals, but his missed shots and turnovers brought that performance back down to earth from the standpoint of actually helping his team.  He’s almost getting as bad as Nate Newell.

The reason DSU is alone in second is because Christian Brothers inexplicably lost at UAM, and it really wasn’t even that close.  The Weevils held CBU to 49 points, making this the second sub-50 scoring output for the Bucs in two weeks.  Even worse for the Bucs is that I would be kind saying that UAM’s defense doesn’t quite stack up to the Henderson State defense that stifled them three games before.  UAM has been quite clearly the league’s worst defensive team so far (114.0 schedule-adjusted rating entering the game), so this is embarrassing for Christian Brothers, whom I considered the top team in the division just a few weeks ago.  I feel obligated to note that our boy Nate made 5 of his 14 shots and scored 19, placing second to the real best player on the Weevils (Torre Doty) in scoring, at least for one game.

Another upset took place in Arkadelphia, where OBU took out their previously-undefeated across-the-street rival, the HSU Reddies.  Jaranimo Marks did the best job anyone has done recently of penetrating the Henderson State defense, scoring 24 points due in large part to his trips to the free-throw line.  HSU remained balanced and resilient, just not resilient enough to pull out a 19-point comeback.  Henderson State is 5-1, so the league’s elder statesmen (HSU in age, and DSU in name) are also the league leaders.***

Coming Up

The Bisons will travel to Memphis and hope to knock off a struggling Christian Brothers team.  Ouachita Baptist will host Arkansas Tech, which is just a few games away from mathematical elimination already.  Delta State will bring in Henderson State to battle for first place, and SAU will host Arkansas-Monticello.

In website news, I am working on a stat glossary page that will hopefully make some sense out of all these acronyms I’ve been using.  I’ve explained a lot of them, but probably not all of them, so it would make sense to put everything in one place.  So, that’s on the way.

***[UPDATE: I’m trying very hard now to remove my foot from my mouth.  I swapped the teams when I put in the scores for the HSU-OBU game, so initially I thought Henderson State held off a gritty OBU performance.  While it was still a gritty OBU performance, it was actually gritty enough to win.  I have changed the summary I wrote above to reflect this. Hat tip to ses21643 for only allowing me to look foolish for a few hours, at least on this subject.]

Shaping up and selling out, sort of

This blog is important to me and has been (in its various forms) for about 3 years now. I’ve been sidetracked a lot along the way and changed my site over and over again. Only in the last 8 months or so did I start consolidating all of my writing interests into one blog. Managing only one site has been both a relief in terms of work and an encouragement to keep things more up-to-date. Consolidation in and of itself isn’t really a great reason for change, but I want to project a more comprehensive view of myself from this blog, so I’m hoping this has helped somewhat.

Toward that end, I recently took the step to purge my site of pretty much everything but this blog. You will no longer find a page at http://www.jfwiii.net because it simply redirects here. Many of the subfolders are still there, so you can still access some of the Braves WPA analysis I did (until the amazing Fangraphs site came along and made my work pretty much obsolete) by browsing the /braveswpa folder. Unfortunately in this process, I did delete the /suite_boys folder of videos that my friends and I created while we were at Harding. They were good for some laughs (and still are), but I felt the need to conserve some space and didn’t really want to devote a page on the blog to keep hosting those videos. If you want to see them and don’t already have them, I can send them to you in a massive e-mail, mail you a CD, or temporarily host them again from the site. I promise I’m not embarrassed.

In keeping with the trend of change, I also have some good news about by Harding Basketball coverage, which has always been one of the main drivers of my site’s still-miniscule traffic (the superhighway here is still just a backwoods trail). Starting immediately, all of my basketball posts will also appear at MVN.com, a sports blog community with a home for pretty much every pro team and a growing college section. Harding will be the first Division-II team with a presence on MVN, which is incredibly cool (but don’t ask me, I’m biased now). Their site is currently being revamped and expanded, and I suppose I’m part of that expansion. My address there will be http://mvn.com/ncaa-harding.

Part of my goal for this site has always been to bring some exposure to a basketball program that I came to appreciate during my time at HU. Division-II basketball doesn’t get much love from the press, but I got involved enough to decide I wanted to change that. This will hopefully spread out the scope of coverage of D-II basketball and open up a lot of schools with great programs to similar opportunities.

Perhaps the best part of this opportunity is that I won’t be required to sacrifice anything on my own site. I can continue posting the same material both here and on MVN, so that those of you who read this site to keep up with me don’t have to bookmark two places if you don’t want to. On the other hand, I’d also encourage you, my loyal readers (both of you), to join the discussion there, if such a thing starts to take place.

I’ll be posting a couple of things there (and not here) to introduce my coverage of Harding basketball, but in the end, that coverage will be one and the same. The first post will probably be up sometime tomorrow (Wednesday), and hopefully I’ll have the stats introduced in time for a review of Thursday’s game.  Carry on now.

[UPDATE 1/24: The first post is now up.  Expect the site to be a bit buggy at first, since MVN is trying to roll out a bunch of new sites all at once.  The sidebars are not formatting right for me (I’m viewing it in IE7 here at work), but if you’re using Firefox (recommended) or Opera, maybe it looks good.]

Henderson State clamps down on Bisons to win 60-58

Before Saturday’s game, it was already clear that Henderson State was the best defensive team in the conference.  Their stingy 88.9 rating was only slightly better than Delta State’s 90.7, but HSU had played a far tougher schedule.

This is not an excuse for a poor shooting performance like the one the Bisons endured on Saturday.  Rather, it’s a testament to the physicality and philosophy of the Reddies’ players and coaching staff.  Fully aware that they can get away with pushing teams around on most nights (or find a way to make up for it when they can’t), Henderson State pounds opposing players into submission and uses their quickness to keep opponents from getting off great shots.

Before I discuss further, let’s look at the stats:

  HSU HU +/-
Eff 88.5 85.1 3.4
TS% 53.8 43.8 9.9
OR% 26.7% 33.3% -6.7%
TR 23.0 16.1 6.9

 

Player Name MIN GS TS% RR ISP ITP IPP Floor% %TP ORtg
Hamilton, Rick  38 10.8 50.0 9.2% 5.64 11.40 12.27 49.5% 18.9% 107.7
Barnett, Steven  24 8.3 68.0 7.2% 4.11 6.18 8.81 66.5% 10.2% 142.4
Andrepont, Patrick  27 4.3 51.1 6.4% 3.78 10.87 9.55 34.8% 18.0% 87.9
Hall, Matt  32 0.0 31.4 14.5% 4.09 13.46 8.83 30.4% 22.3% 65.6
Thies, Jacob  10 -0.9 26.6 11.6% 0.28 2.02 1.15 13.9% 3.3% 56.7
Kee, Cole  4 -1.4 0.0 0.0% 0.00 1.07 0.00 0.0% 1.8% 0.0
Bibb, Reggie  16 6.7 125.0 7.2% 1.59 1.59 3.86 100.0% 2.6% 242.6
Sims, Brandon  22 3.1 44.4 5.3% 2.60 6.82 6.84 38.1% 11.3% 100.3
Morgan, Trent  9 2.3 50.0 12.9% 1.12 1.66 2.30 67.6% 2.7% 138.9
Bynum, Jesse  9 -0.8 0.0 6.4% 0.20 1.81 0.45 11.2% 3.0% 25.0
Howard, Brian  9 -3.0 21.6 0.0% 0.13 3.20 0.95 3.9% 5.3% 29.6

 

This was not a typical Matt Hall performance, and there was one major reason: the Reddies just destroyed him in the paint.  I’m typically wary of lending a lot of credibility to the radio broadcast crew’s relentless HU-favored slant, but having seen these teams battle in the past, I fully believe that the Reddies decided before the game to pummel Hall underneath and keep him from being the deciding factor.  I could be wrong, but this is my impression from previous years’ experience watching the games and from listening to the broadcast of this one.

The Bisons seem to lack the flexibility in their game plan to account for the “officials sit on their hands” scenario, which is understandable.  This type of thing can go both ways (and usually does), but it’s clear that the Bisons are not equipped to dole out equal punishment on the other end.  With this type of game, there’s often not much left to do besides trying to get better shots from secondary options.  That’s basically what the Bisons tried to do, but it didn’t work out for them.

Remarkably, Harding emerged as the clear winner in the rebounding battle.  Despite being mostly overmatched inside in both shooting and defense, the Bisons kept the Reddies from getting an inordinate number of second chances, which is part of what kept the game close.  Turnovers were the other factor, and Harding held a 7% advantage there.

I suppose there’s not much left to say about this loss, which was a great listen but an unfortunate end to an exciting game.  I’m not going to blame the officiating (I spend too much time doing that, anyway).  I think it could be more consistent, but it’s nearly impossible to say that any one team is favored or that another is at a disadvantage on a regular basis.

The Bisons will have to roll with the punches and find other options when Hall gets shut down, as was the case in this game.  Henderson State had the same problem with Dee Dee Drake, but they got solid games from Antoine Vinson and Omar Guinea, as well as some strangely good luck at the free throw line to push them over the top.  The trio of Hamilton, Andrepont, and Sims gave it a good effort, but their scoring wasn’t enough in the end.  Given the outlook for each team before the game, it looks like the Bisons played very well to make this one an exciting game.

Harding bounces back in Russellville

The Bisons notched their 13th consecutive wondrous victory over the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys last night.  Matt Hall, of course, led the way with 25 points and 11 rebounds, and Rick Hamilton added 22 to propel HU to victory.

Stats and such:

 

  HU ATU +/-
Eff 95.0 84.6 10.3
TS% 50.6 45.7 4.9
OR% 25.0% 27.3% -2.3%
TR 15.5 16.0 -0.5

 

Player Name MIN GS TS% RR ISP ITP IPP Floor% %TP ORtg
Andrepont, Patrick.. 24 2.0 35.0 11.1% 2.88 9.01 6.63 32.0% 12.0% 73.6
Hall, Matt………. 28 19.6 73.7 17.5% 9.02 17.35 21.45 52.0% 23.2% 123.6
Thies, Jacob…….. 10 -1.6 12.9 8.9% 0.57 3.97 1.73 14.4% 5.3% 43.6
Hamilton, Rick…… 32 19.7 57.7 5.6% 8.88 14.97 20.65 59.3% 20.0% 138.0
Barnett, Steven….. 23 5.2 51.5 3.9% 2.29 5.75 5.02 39.8% 7.7% 87.3
Kee, Cole……….. 4 -0.7 0.0 0.0% 0.00 0.73 0.00 0.0% 1.0% 0.0
Bibb, Reggie…….. 18 -1.1 0.0 2.5% 0.43 3.43 0.91 12.5% 4.6% 26.4
Morgan, Trent……. 15 1.5 43.6 8.9% 1.47 4.93 3.14 29.7% 6.6% 63.8
Bynum, Jesse…….. 2 0.3 0.0 22.2% 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.0% 0.0% 0.0
Howard, Brian……. 24 9.8 60.0 13.0% 4.40 8.18 11.80 53.8% 10.9% 144.4
Sims, Brandon……. 20 0.0 14.3 8.9% 0.90 6.30 1.81 14.3% 8.4% 28.7

 

Though the Bisons were not completely on-target with their shooting and neither team rebounded very well, this wasn’t a bad performance.  Even though Hall only played 28 minutes, I like to see this kind of playing time and shot distribution.  They’re getting the ball to the players who can make the most difference offensively.  Andrepont and Sims didn’t shoot well, but Hamilton had a solid game, and Hall was strong except for his five turnovers.  Thies and Kee didn’t play much, and since Sims only got in 20 minutes, Brian Howard was allowed to benefit from some extra playing time.  Though he must have been frustrating to watch at the FT line (5-for-11), he was still quite efficient.

Terrance Whiters tried the one-man-show deal for ATU, and it didn’t work out so well for him.  He did score 23 points, but he took 25 shots from the field and made only 9.  Denarryl Rice, the team’s most efficient offensive player, put up just five shots in 21 minutes, and that’s something Tech’s opponents would like to see from him every game.

Elsewhere in the GSC

There were no real surprises in terms of outcomes of the other GSC games, but several were surprisingly close.  Four of the remaining six teams played in Arkadelphia, with Henderson State winning a close one over UAM (Newell 10-27 from the field, 29 points) and Christian Brothers needing two overtimes to knock out OBU.  Nick Kohs had 26 points and 12 rebounds, making up for an inefficient night from Kevin Weybright.  Delta State took out Southern Arkansas at home behind a 22-point, 9-rebound performance from Marlon McCoy.

The GSC West standings now show Henderson and Delta States tied at the top at 4-0, and Harding will get to host HSU on Saturday in the now-traditional blackout rivalry game.  Christian Brothers will host Delta State in another very meaningful game, and that should give the Bucs the chance to assert themselves in the division.  An HU win would be very helpful in clouding the picture at the top.  UAM hosts Arkansas Tech and OBU visits Southern Arkansas in matchups of the division’s bottom four teams.

So long, LaRoche

It’s been a while since I devoted a post to the Braves, but it’s also been a while since I’ve been excited about them.  With GM John Schuerholz making short-sighted deals (throwing away prospects for Renteria, Wickman, etc.) and writing narcissistic books, I soured on management while the play on the field also declined.  For the first time since I was a small child, the Braves did not win their division, so it’s tougher to be a Braves fan now than it has been for most of my conscious life.

Perhaps things are now on the upswing.  Since yesterday afternoon, a handful of sources have been reporting that the Braves have traded Adam LaRoche and minor-league OF Jamie Romak to the Pirates for power lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez and SS prospect Brent Lillibridge.

At first, I was fairly neutral on this trade.  LaRoche started taking ADD meds last year, and in the second half, he turned into the hitter my fellow Braves fans were hoping he would be, finishing the year with an impressive .915 OPS.  I was expecting him to regress maybe a small amount in ’07, but he would still be a solid 1B on a contending team.

Regardless of LaRoche’s progress, though, the Braves appear to be looking toward the future.  This is with good reason, because they’ve been facing a logjam at 1B for a couple of years now.  Chipper Jones may need to play there some as he ages, and it would really save the bat of either Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia to play one of them there.  Scott Thorman will be a stopgap, and it’s possible the Braves could still sign someone like Craig Wilson to play 1B in 2007.

Romak is basically a non-factor in this deal, so the exciting part to me is that the Braves got so much for a potentially fluky/inconsistent first baseman.  The addition of Mike Gonzalez actually makes the Braves’ bullpen look fairly strong, assuming they don’t flip him to the Yankees for Melky Cabrera and Scott Proctor, as has been rumored.  Rafael Soriano and Bob Wickman are already out there, and Gonzalez would presumably set Wickman up in ’07 before becoming the closer in ’08.

The other piece the Braves get in this deal is reportedly stud shortstop prospect Brent Lillibridge.  In 2 minor-league seasons between low-A and high-A ball (644 ABs), he has hit .289/.391/.467, shown excellent baserunning instincts (63 steals and caught 16 times for an 80% success rate), and played solid defense.  He doesn’t project to be a power hitter, but with that kind of OBP and speed, he could be a great leadoff hitter for years to come, and he could start as soon as 2008.  Both John Sickels and Baseball Prospectus rate Lillibridge as the Pirates’ #3 prospect, and BP’s Nate Silver is already calling him a steal for the Braves.

If this deal goes through as rumored (and the Braves hold on to Gonzalez), I’ll regain some of my lost faith in the Braves’ management, which has really shown a willingness to make necessary moves this offseason by turning Horacio Ramirez into Rafael Soriano and re-signing Wickman to a short-term deal.

References:
ESPN.com reports the deal
Discussion at Braves Journal
Adam LaRoche statistics at THT, Fangraphs and BR
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Get out of my head, you guys!

Daily Show CrewTomorrow night will be a TV night of epic proportions.  Of course, The Office is the anchor of any Thursday night TV we watch around the house, but it’s probable that we will watch both My Name is Earl and the musical episode of Scrubs.  To me, it was telling that of the five actors nominated for best lead actor in a comedy series at the Golden Globes (which aired on Monday), four were the leads of the Thursday night comedies on NBC: Jason Lee (Earl), Steve Carell (The Office, last year’s winner), Zach Braff (Scrubs), and Alec Baldwin (who won for 30 Rock).

Anyhow, The Office is great, and it received its highest Nielsen ratings of the season last week (a 5.0/13 share, combining with Earl to win the 8:00 hour in the coveted 18-49 demographic).  The season got off to a slow start in my mind, but it’s building steam with the assimilation of new talents and new plot lines.

Any Office night is a good one, but a couple of big personalities are trying to top everything with their hijinks on extended cable.  Tomorrow is the night of the long-awaited dual guest appearances for Stephen Colbert on The O’Reilly Factor (also at 8PM Eastern, Fox News) and for Bill O’Reilly on The Colbert Report (11:30 PM Eastern on Comedy Central).

Though I don’t watch his show every night, I’ve been a fan of Colbert’s since his performance at last year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, which you can probably find on YouTube or something.  His roast of President Bush during a usually-lighthearted event really got me fired up to follow his show, which is hilarious.

The remarkable thing about this appearance is that Colbert has built his persona as an even less-likable and more factually-challenged satire of O’Reilly and other blowhard news show hosts.  I’m not sure yet if it will be a mutual love-fest on the Factor, with Colbert playing his conservative on-air persona, or if it will be an actual interview, so that will be the thing to watch.

If you’re not familiar with O’Reilly, watchdog group Media Matters for America would be happy to enlighten you on his shortcomings as a journalist, or you can just take my word that he is just generally full of it.  I can’t wait to see how this goes down.  Since all the times of these shows overlap, I’ll be watching and recording The Office at 8:30 while the Factor airs, then I’ll record the Factor repeat at from 11PM-midnight while watching Colbert at 11:30, so that I can then fast forward through the Factor to get to the Colbert interview immediately after that.  O’Reilly will also air at 4 AM Friday, while Colbert will show again on Friday at 8:30 PM, if you can’t see any of the above times.

Here are some of my favorite O’Reilly headlines, documented by Media Matters:

  1. Former Rep. Joe Scarborough finds that O’Reilly exhibits “typical primate behavior
  2. The ongoing “War on Christmas
  3. He’s not prejudiced, but he judges based on appearance
  4. Calling out the Cleveland Plain Dealer for printing a Media Matters review of his book without pointing out any inaccuracies

Book Review: The Blind Side

The Blind Side: Evolution of a GameYears ago, offensive linemen were a commodity in the NFL.  They were essentially interchangeable parts until the New York Giants drafted a player named Lawrence Taylor.  LT’s rise, and the need of other teams to stop him, led the left tackle position to prominence, placing value on the players who protect the quarterback’s “blind side.”  Soon thereafter, left tackle became the second-highest paid position in the NFL, below quarterback only.

Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball, tells the story of how the rise of the left tackle collided with the life of a poor, but physically gifted kid named Michael Oher.  Now the left tackle at Ole Miss and a potential NFL star, Oher was invisible even to his own family until he enrolled at Briarcrest Christian Academy and met Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy.

The Blind Side is a far cry from Moneyball, which is not what I expected when I saw the author’s name and decided I wanted to read this book.  That’s also not a bad thing.  Lewis deals here with the story of a player and how he fit into the big picture, rather than discussing game strategy and economics.

Though it’s not revolutionary, The Blind Side is still a good read.  The story is almost surreal, and Lewis writes very well while remaining accessible and entertaining.  The story flows well, and it made for fairly quick reading.  Lewis did mix up a few little details, but they were mostly inconsequential.  I would recommend it to anyone looking for a football book with an intriguing meta-story, and I would especially recommend it if you’re in SEC country like I am.

For those who care, Nick Saban fans will be delighted at his portrayal, while Phil Fulmer fans (if any remain outside Knoxville) might not be so pleased.  Ed Orgeron fans probably are not capable of reading this, so I won’t bother discussing him.  (I jest.  Please don’t send hate mail.  I’m actually a Tennessee fan and I have no problem with Ole Miss.  Really.)

Ouachita Baptist beats Bisons at buzzer

With this defeat, Harding has lost their second straight conference game and their seventh in eight games against D-II opposition.  All but one of these losses were on the road, and this was another close one, but it’s not easy to watch the losses pile up.

The stats:

  HU OBU +/-
Eff 122.3 120.6 1.7
TS% 57.5 67.7 -10.3
OR% 47.1% 11.8% 35.3%
TR 14.3 14.1 0.1

 

Player Name MIN GS TS% RR ISP ITP IPP Floor% %TP ORtg
Hamilton, Rick…… 25 4.7 41.7 18.8% 4.20 11.18 10.47 37.6% 19.4% 93.7
Barnett, Steven….. 22 2.8 50.0 3.0% 2.00 3.99 4.12 50.1% 6.9% 103.3
Hall, Matt………. 34 20.4 82.2 9.9% 8.90 11.49 22.54 77.4% 20.0% 196.2
Thies, Jacob…….. 21 1.6 53.2 12.8% 1.34 3.24 3.84 41.5% 5.6% 118.5
Sims, Brandon……. 31 7.7 66.7 8.6% 3.35 5.84 10.06 57.5% 10.1% 172.4
Kee, Cole……….. 10 1.5 41.7 6.7% 1.72 3.71 4.30 46.4% 6.4% 116.1
Andrepont, Patrick.. 10 -1.6 37.5 13.4% 0.88 4.37 2.63 20.1% 7.6% 60.3
Bibb, Reggie…….. 18 6.4 100.0 3.7% 2.81 4.30 7.40 65.2% 7.5% 171.9
Morgan, Trent……. 21 -1.6 25.8 3.2% 1.55 7.43 4.34 20.8% 12.9% 58.4
Howard, Brian……. 9 2.0 100.0 7.4% 0.90 0.90 1.83 100.0% 1.6% 204.0

 

Matt Hall’s 24 led the Bisons, but he didn’t really have much help offensively.  Brandon Sims had a typically efficient performance, but he didn’t see enough shots to really make a difference.  Patrick Andrepont did not start the game and played just ten minutes, which was odd.  I’ll assume this was a disciplinary issue or a particular single-game matchup that Coach Morgan liked.  OBU does play a lot smaller than most GSC teams, so I can understand using Rick Hamilton to disrupt their particular style.  Then again, Hamilton didn’t play well offensively, so it didn’t work out.  Of course, Andrepont didn’t pick up any slack during his minutes, either.

This was a strange game statistically.  OBU blistered the Bisons offensively, just like DSU did two nights before.  However, the Bisons dominated the boards on both ends in this matchup.  They grabbed almost 50% on their offensive end and held OBU to 11% on their side, making it easily their best rebounding performance of the season.  I don’t actually know how they did it (they were credited with 10 “team” offensive rebounds), but whatever they did was working.

This week will be the time to put together all of the things the Bisons have done well in individual games.  It will be important not to overlook Arkansas Tech (if it’s possible to overlook anyone when you’re 1-2), and Henderson State will be a very physical test at home on Saturday.  I assume it will be a blackout game, and the Bisons will need the support of the home crowd very much.

Elsewhere in the GSC

Henderson State shocked Christian Brothers in a showdown between the division’s top two teams thus far.  HSU’s pressure defense won the test of strength against the usually-potent Bucs offense, holding them to an almost shockingly low 42.1 TS%.  Kevin Weybright was again the leading scorer for CBU, but he was held to his second-lowest scoring total of the season (11), while the rest of the team was similarly lost.  Dee Dee Drake had 16 to lead the Reddies to a 3-0 start in conference play.

Delta State came out on top against UAM at home, led by Marlon McCoy’s 28 points.  The Nate Newell Show tallied 26 points as the strapping young guard failed in his quest to outscore the rest of his teammates combined.  DSU is also 3-0, and the schedule sets up nicely for them to face fellow-undefeated Henderson State in the final game of each half of the conference schedule.

Southern Arkansas took out Arkansas Tech in what will almost certainly be their only road victory of the season.  Brandon Bealer had 19, and three other Muleriders scored in double figures.  ATU’s Denarryl Rice led the Wonder Boys in scoring with 20 points.  Sadly, the most notable thing about these teams’ matchups every season is that they have the two most ridiculous nicknames in college sports.

Thursday’s schedule will have Arkansas Tech at home against Harding, Henderson hosting UAM, Christian Brothers at Ouachita, and Southern Arkansas at Delta State.

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