The Belated 2016 Bracket Of Peril Results

by A.J. Coltrane

Congratulations to Annie S. for winning the 2016 Bracket Of Peril! She finished at the 94.7 percentile, despite not having the eventual winner, Villanova.

Of course, that means that nobody else picked Villanova either, despite the fact that they wound up #1 in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. They were likely only picked by Villanova alumni and a couple of other weirdos.

Annie S., have fun with your big prize — a great big bunch of nothing!

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I believe that this also makes it something like seven out of the last eight years that a top 21 defense has won the title — Villanova was #2 in defense. And #6 in offense somehow. Offense helps win games too.

 

Back From Vegas 2016

by A.J. Coltrane

The gambling on basketball didn’t go quite as well this year — the total was a few more losses than wins. Not a disaster, but it could have gone better. The over/unders didn’t go well. There were a few missed late free throws (two teams I picked combined to go 1-7 from the line late, blowing two covers in the process.) And so on.

So let’s see if I can make up my losses in real money with fake picks:

 

Thursday (selections are in CAPS):

MARYLAND +7 vs Kansas

MIAMI +4 vs Villanova

OREGON -2.5 vs Duke

OKLAHOMA -2.5 vs Texas A&M

 

Friday:

NORTH CAROLINA -6 vs Indiana

NOTRE DAME -1.5 vs Wisconsin

VIRGINIA -5 vs Iowa State

GONZAGA -4.5 vs Syracuse

 

Here goes nothing. Literally.

 

 

The 2016 Bracket Of Peril!

by A.J. Coltrane

The Most Perilous tourney bracket is back!

Link Here.

The group name is Cheap Seat Eats. Password is TakeMeOut. If you played in the group last year you can simply select “Rejoin Group”.

As always, the winner gets a whole bunch of nothing!

Join soon, the tournament starts Thursday, with the play-in games on Tuesday.

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It’s a commercial, but it features some funny “Life Advice” from Latrell Sprewell:

 

Double X, Hitting Home Runs and Some Guy You Never Heard of

By Blaidd Drwg

Part one of a two parter! In the immortal words of Mel Allen, “How about that?”

In the history of baseball, there have been 43 instances of a player hitting 50 or more home runs in a season. For reference, here is the breakdown of those seasons:

Number of HRs Number of Times Accomplished
73 1
70 1
66 1
65 1
64 1
63 1
62 0
61 1
60 1
59 1
58 4
57 2
56 3
55 0
54 7
53 1
52 6
51 5
50 6

 

Here is the same list with one additional column – Number of Times Lead League. That column represents the number of times that the corresponding number of home runs was the highest total in the AL or NL in its respective season.

Number of HRs Number of Times Accomplished Number of Times Lead League
73 1 1
70 1 1
66 1 0
65 1 1
64 1 0
63 1 0
61 1 1
60 1 1
59 1 1
58 4 3*
57 2 1
56 3 3
54 7 6
53 1 1
52 6 5
51 5 5
50 6 3

 

The asterisk is an unusual case – in 1997, thanks to a mid-season trade, Mark McGwire was in the unusual position of leading MLB in home runs with 58 without leading one of the individual leagues – he would hit 34 for the A’s, which ranked 9th in the AL in 1997, and 24 for the Cardinals, which ranked outside of the top 10. For the sake of this article we won’t consider that one.

This leaves 9 times that a player topped 50 HR’s without leading the league, which leads to my favorite list, the players who did not lead the league when hitting 50 HRs:

Year Player HR Rank Leader (HR)
1998 Sammy Sosa 66 2nd (NL) Mark McGwire (70)
2001 Sammy Sosa 64 2nd (NL) Barry Bonds (73)
1999 Sammy Sosa 63 2nd (NL) Mark McGwire (65)
2001 Luis Gonzalez 57 3rd (NL) Mark McGwire (70)
1961 Mickey Mantle 54 2nd (NL) Roger Maris (61)
2002 Jim Thome 52 2nd (AL) Alex Rodriguez (57)
1996 Brady Anderson 50 2nd (AL) Mark McGwire (52)
1938 Jimmie Foxx 50 2nd (AL) Hank Greenberg (58)
1998 Greg Vaughn 50 3rd (NL) Mark McGwire (70)

 

I feel bad for Luis Gonzalez and Greg Vaughn. They both had the misfortune of hitting a ton of HRs in years where two other player hit a ton more home runs than they did. Of course, then you have Sammy Sosa. Sosa lead the league twice in home runs – in 2000 and 2002, with totals of 50 and 49 and managed to lead the NL in HRs exactly 0 times in years that he hit 60+ home runs. Talk about bad timing.

Double X, also known as  Beast - and a beast he was.
Double X, also known as Beast – and a beast he was.

The player that intrigued me the most is Jimmie Foxx and his 1938 campaign. In that season, Foxx would reach 50 home runs for the second time, to go along with 139 runs, 197 hits, 175 RBI, 119 BB, a .349 BA, 1.166 OPS, 182 OPS+ and 7.6 WAR to win his 3rd MVP award, missing out on the triple crown in only the home run category. It would be the second time that Foxx missed out in one category – he finished 2nd in the AL to Dale Alexander in 1932 in BA by .003 points. You shouldn’t feel too bad for Foxx though, he did win the 1932 MVP award (posting an insane 10.5 WAR, a number that has only been reached 36 times in baseball history) and he did manage to secure the Triple Crown the following season as well as also winning an MVP.  The 1930’s were good for offense, what can I say, but Foxx is still arguably one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. If that isn’t enough, Foxx was also good enough to appear as a pitcher in 11 games in his career, including 9 in 1945, including 2 starts, when he was 37 years old. He posted a 1.59 ERA (albeit with not so stellar peripheral stats). It is also worth noting that when Foxx retired, he was #2 on the all-time career HR list, 170ish HR’s behind some guy named Ruth. For nearly 20 years, the 500 HR club was Foxx, Ruth and Mel Ott.

So why is this part 1 of a 2 parter? Well, it goes back to the guy who had a slightly higher BA in 1932 than Jimmie Foxx. Part 2 is going to answer the question I had when I was writing this piece – “Who the hell is Dale Alexander and why have I never heard of him?”

Dominating the AFC Championship Game

By Blaidd Drwg

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook about how the Pats have been to 12 AFC championship game and the Broncos to 9 in the last 3 decades. That is a pretty good run, but it got me thinking, what about Super Bowls? I decided to shrink the window and only look at the last 21 years. Why, you might ask, well, I figured I would be looking at the expansion era in the NFL, which started in 1995 and from 1991-1994, the Buffalo Bills were the AFC representative in the Super Bowl, so 1995 seemed like a good place to start.

So since 1995, there have been 8 AFC teams that have represented the conference:

Team Number Of SB Appearances % of AFC Total
Patriots 7 33%
Steelers 4 19%
Broncos 3 14%
Ravens 2 10%
Colts 2 10%
Raiders 1 5%
Chargers 1 5%
Titans 1 5%

 

There is a bit of rounding there, but, counting this year because it will be either the Pats or Broncos representing the AFC, the Pats, Broncos and Steelers represent 15 out of the last 22 AFC champions, or 68% of the appearances, with the other 32% represented by the remaining 5 teams on the list, meaning there are 8 AFC teams that have not made the Super Bowl in the last 21 years. What about the NFC you might ask? Well, in the same time period, no NFC team has been to more than 3 (Seattle, GB and the Giants are all at 3) and only 3 teams have been to more than 1 (SF, the Rams and the winner of the  Carolina/Arizona game this weekend). Talk about dominance vs. parity.

So it got me thinking, if the Pats, Steelers and Broncos have been to that many Super Bowls, how have the fared in AFC Championship game appearances? Well those numbers are quite scary:

Team Number of AFC Championship Appearances % of Total Possible Appearances % of Conference Total
Patriots 11 52% 26%
Steelers 8 38% 19%
Colts 5 24% 12%
Broncos 5 24% 12%
Ravens 4 19% 10%
Jets 3 14% 7%
Chargers 2 9% 5%
Titans 2 9% 5%
Raiders 2 9% 5%

 

The list of teams that have been to the Super Bowl is no less dominating when you factor in the AFC championship game. Heck the only team that has been to the AFC championship game that has not been to the Super Bowl in the last 21 years are the Jets, losing all 3 times they appeared in the conference championship.

So next time someone wants to talk about the “dominance” of the Seahawks, just remember, the last time that the Patriots were NOT in the AFC championship game was 2010 (they lost to the Jets in the divisional round) and the last time they did not make the playoffs was 2008, when Brady was out the entire year and they still finished 11-5 and managed to not make the playoffs because of tie-breakers for their division and the wild card. Actually the last time the Patriots failed to win 10 games was 2002 (they were 9-7) and the last time they didn’t make the playoffs was last century, when they finished 5-11 in 2000, with some coach named Belichick, who was in his first year with the team and that Brady guy was their third string QB, behind Drew Bledsoe and the combination of John Friesz and Michael Bishop.

You won’t find a bigger hater of the Pats than me, but, damn, even I have to concede that is a long time to be that dominant.

Memories of Monte Irvin

By Blaidd Drwg

Yesterday I as saddened to hear of the passing of Monte Irvin on the 11th of January at age 96. If you don’t know who Irvin was, he was a former NY Giant great and the first baseball Hall of Famer I ever met, back in the early 1980’s at a baseball card show at St. Peter’s College in New Jersey (I was probably 10 or 11 at the time). He appeared with another former Giant teammate Dusty Rhodes. I had the pleasure of sitting down with the both of them for about 20 minutes to talk baseball since there was no one there getting autographs. I remember Rhodes talking about how he became a tugboat captain after he retired from baseball and Irvin talked about his experiences in the Negro Leagues, which I knew very little about at the time. Thanks to Irvin, I became interested in Negro League history, which at the time, was not easy to find any information about and it is directly responsible for me being a long time supporter of the Negro League Museum in KC, a place that I sadly have not yet been to. Rhodes passed away in 2009 (not before I had a series of correspondences with him about his post-baseball career and I still have the letters that he sent – yep, we corresponded old school and I do have an unhealthy obsession with tugboats) and with Irvin passing on the 11th, we lost yet another link to the Negro Leagues.

I am sure that Irvin had no idea that a 20 minute conversation he had with a kid 30 years ago would have such an impact, and, frankly, I had not realized it myself until I reflected on my interaction with Irvin. A friend of mine sent me a link to an article on nj.com about Irvin’s passing, written by someone who actually knew him. I would suggest reading the article, but I wanted to include a snippet of it just to make a point about how much the Negro Leagues meant to Irvin:

There was a moment about a decade ago when I researched all the Hall of Famers who played in Newark for the New York Yankees farm team called the Bears, the Eagles and the turn-of-the-century Newark Indians. Joe DiVincenzo, the Essex County Executive had hung plaques for a ring of honor just above façade behind home plate at the Bears and Eagles baseball stadium in Newark.

Monte was one of them. He was in a wheelchair, and afterward I walked over to him and hugged him. Monte, being Monte, the conversation went like this:

“Listen,” he said, “I’ve got to tell you something. You can’t die.”

“Ever?” I said.

“Never,” he said. ”You are the last writer to ever see us play in the Negro Leagues. You die and that leaves nobody to tell our story. The kids won’t even believe we had a league. Don’t die.”

So in honor of Irvin’s passing, go read a book on tugboats, or the a book I highly recommend on the Negro Leagues, “When Only the Ball Was White.” Better yet, go make a donation to the Negro League Museum – a place that would not existed if it were not for the efforts of guys like Buck O’Neil and Monte Irvin and lets make sure a very important piece of American history does not get forgotten once those who were part of it are all gone.

TBT: September 20th, 2009

By Blaidd Drwg

I was looking through some old scorecards that I have saved and I came across one from 2009, September 20th to be exact, for a game between the Mariners and Yankees. That season, the Yankees would win 103 games and the World Series and the Mariners would win 85 through shear dumb luck (they had a -52 run differential but happened to go 35-20 in one run games.) It was a stellar pitching matchup between Ian Snell, who seemed to managed to stay in the M’s rotation despite being horrible and Joba Chamberlain, who was a mega-prospect at the time and the Yankees were in the process of trying to turn him into a starter.

The Yankees lineup was an impressive one:
Jeter, Damon, Teixieria, Arod, Matsui, Posada, Cano, Melky Cabrera, Gardner

The Mariners, not so much:
Ichiro, Gutierrez, Lopez, Griffey, Beltre, Hall, Carp, Moore, Jack Wilson

So predictably, the Mariners jumped all over Chamberlain, scoring 7 runs in 2 innings and chasing him out of the game. Somehow Snell managed to limit the Yankees to 1 run in 5 1/3 innings despite 4 hits and 4 walks allowed. The M’s bullpen shut down the Yankees the rest of the way and the final score was 7-1.

Why is this game of note, well, because the pitching line for the Yankees bullpen, specifically Sergio Mitre (who was the only Yankees pitcher to appear after Chamberlain was chased) caught my eye:

IP H R ER BB SO Pitches-Strikes
Mitre 5 1 0 0 1 5 65-43

There was an error on the scorecard which I had Mitre throwing 5 no-hit innings, which is why I was even interested. If you don’t remember Mitre, he was a Cubs and Marlins prospect who never quite put it together in the bigs. Coming into the game on the 20th, Mitre had been the Yankees 5th starter and had a 7.63 ERA and had given up 18 runs in his last 2 starts.

Pitching down 6 runs in this game, Mitre got Ichiro to bounce out, gave up a single to Guti, struck out Lopez, walked Griffey and then ended the inning on a Beltre fielder’s choice in his first inning of work. Nothing spectacular and then he proceeded to do what you expect that Mariners lineup to do the rest of the game – nothing. He put down the next 12 hitters in order. It is how he ended the game that I thought was interesting – the last 4 hitters he faced were strikeouts. So Mitre recorded 13 consecutive outs – the first 9 were on balls in play and the last 4 were strikeouts. Nothing earthshaking or anything that is ever going to appear in a record book, but just one of those little weird things about baseball that I love. I reminded me of this game that I wrote about a few years back.

The Mariners and Their Playoff Chances

By Blaidd Drwg

There are Mariners fans out there who are still entertaining hopes of getting into the playoffs despite a 50 – 59 (as of August 5th) record and being 7 games back from the 2nd wildcard spot. Why not. The AL is very mediocre this year and the 2 teams that currently possess the wild card spots are sporting .533 and .523 winning percentages, so one good win streak puts they M’s into contention.

The problem here is that the Mariners need to pass 7 teams just to reach the 2nd playoff spot and that is no easy feat with 53 games remaining, although it has been done before. Here is how the M’s remaining schedule breaks down:

15 games vs. teams with a record worse than the M’s – 9 vs. Oakland, 3 vs. Boston and 3 vs. Colorado. They really need to come out of those 15 games with a 10-5 record.

13 games vs. Texas – the Rangers are currently 5 games ahead of the M’s in the standings (and 6 ahead in the loss column) and significantly upgraded their starting pitching, so making the assumption that both teams play at the same level for the rest of the season (let’s just say .500 for the sake of argument), the M’s need to go 9-4 just to pass them in the standings.

7 games vs. Chicago – it is surprising that the White Sox are still in this, just 4.5 games back of the 2nd wild card despite being horrible. This is the team that the M’s first need to pass, but once again, despite being just 2.5 games back of the Pale Hose, the M’s are 4 back in the loss column (how have the M’s managed to play that many more games than the other teams in the league?) It would take a 5-2 record in those 7 games to catch the Sox assuming they both play .500 ball the rest of the way.

3 games vs Baltimore – the O’s are 6 games up on the M’s and just 1 game back of the 2nd wild card. They do have a brutal schedule the rest of the way though – 28 of their remaining 55 games are against teams with better records and that doesn’t count the 14 games against teams that are within 2 games of them in the wildcard race. The M’s probably need a sweep here or at least winning the series and then hope that the O’s split most of the games against the teams that are ahead of the M’s in the wild card race. If the O’s go into freefall or go on a tear, it will pretty much end the Mariners season.

6 games vs Houston – the Astros lead the M’s by 10 games in the division and are 2 up on the first wild card spot. The ‘Stros have been tough to figure out so these games don’t help the M’s other than potentially swapping the Angels and Astros as division leader/1st wild card team. A couple of important series, but the M’s would do far more damage to themselves if they come out of those 6 with a losing record than the Astros would.

6 games vs. LA – They are up 8 on the M’s for the first wild card spot. Same as the Astros – the 2 series against the Angels could do more harm than good to the M’s chances, depending on how they play out.

3 games vs. KC – Same as the LA and Houston series, but just 3 games so it wouldn’t be the end of the world for the M’s as long as they don’t get swept. KC is really good, so there is no guarantee there.

The M’s have no games remaining against the following teams ahead of them in the wild card standing: Toronto (currently in the 2nd wild card spot, but a brutal schedule to end the season), Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Detroit. All of those teams are at least 3 games up on the M’s in the standings and at least 4 up in the loss column.

It is a long road for the M’s to even think about making the playoffs and they are going to need a ton of help.

My prediction: the M’s make a brief run in the last 2 weeks of August and then fall apart, finishing somewhere around 78-84 for the season. McClendon will be looking for a new job but Zdrenzick will be safe for another year.