Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 10 games of 2010

Another year and another top 10 games list. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept I present to you to the top 10 games that where I was in attendance. Unfortunately this year's list isn't as impressive as 2009's top 10 games, but there were still some memorable games. Below are the top 10 games:

10. Warriors at Timberwolves - Warriors won 116-107. The last spot on this list goes to a game that was so bad it was good. The Timberwolves only had 4 more games to go (all losses) on a dreadful season (even for them) and a below-average team like the Warriors wasn't one of those teams that really inspired much passion. It wasn't that exciting of a matchup despite my top-10 reasons why I was excited for the game. The national news story associated with the game was that that the Warriors coach Don Nelson became the NBA's all time winningest coach with this win. However, the reason that this game sticks in my mind was that I witnessed the laziest performances by any NBA player I have ever seen. Ronny Turiaf made $4,140,000 last year, which means that in that game alone he was paid $50K to jog around the court a few times and make little effort to actually play basketball. Below is a picture of Turiaf warming up....keep in mind it is a little tough to shoot, rebound or pass the ball with both hands in your pockets.

Turiaf played 22 minutes and in that time he was 1-2 from the field and had zero rebounds. You have to really try not to try to play 22 minutes as a 6-10 center and not get a single rebound. It really overshadowed great games by Anthony Tolliver and Stephen Curry.

9. Twins at Royals. Twins won 9-7 in 12 innings. The night of my bachelor party in Kansas City featured a game that went back and forth as both teams tried to give the other a chance to win the game. It looked like a Royals win until Justin Morneau hit a 431 foot dead center field 2 run home run in the 7th inning. The Royals were a sacrifice fly away from winning in the 10th, but being the Royals (and being Yuniesky Betancourt) they couldn't manage that. Then the Twins looked to win in the 11th, before the Royals tied it in the bottom of the inning. By the 12th inning of a long, rainy game the Twins finally pulled away with a 2 run victory. The final out though was clearly a blown call by the umpire (Greg Gibson), who according to the sports talk radio hosts was "just trying to go home." In fact that was the real highlight of the evening. It was 17 games into the season and the Royals fans who called into the sports show sounded like they needed to be talked off the ledge. There was the memorable caller who talked about how Mitch Maier "can't run, can't hit, can't field..." It was nice seeing that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

8. Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs at Columbus Clippers - Clippers won 4-3 in 11 innings. What an incredible ballpark. The game like most minor league games was secondary to the experience and I came away incredibly impressed by Huntington Park on a nice end of May day. I even wrote a blog post reviewing the field and finished up by giving it an A-. The fact that the game ended on a walkoff single from one of my favorite former Twins players Brian Bushcer was just the cherry on top.

7. Jazz at Cavs - Jazz won 101-90. In college I lived with three guys from Cleveland, who would talk incessantly about the Cavs, Browns and Indians. I didn't particularly want to hear about Kelly Holcumb vs. Tim Couch or whether or not the Cavs were going to get Michael Redd in the off-season. From that genesis started the roommate rivalry games between my favorite teams vs. the Cleveland teams. There would always be bragging rights on the line when teams like the Cavs and the Jazz player each other. Well just a week ago my old roommate DG and I traveled from Columbus to Cleveland to see the Cavs vs. Jazz. The game itself wasn't the best, and I don't think many fans of either team will remember it when looking back on the season. However, we scalped great seats for little money and had a fun time watching the first roommate rivalry game in person.

6. Athletics at Twins - Twins won 4-2. Manager Ron Gardenhire can do a lot of things that frustrate Twins fans. Giving Nick Punto 536 at bats in 2007 as an example. However, in this game I completely agreed with his decision to pull Kevin Slowey after 7 innings and no hits allowed. He had pitched 106 pitches (a lot from someone coming off an injury) and hadn't look sharp in the previous inning. Gardy did the right thing. I don't blame him or Slowey for the fact that the bullpen blew what might have been my best chance of seeing a *no-hitter. I blame the bullpen and specifically Jon Rauch for giving up the first hit. Still it was a great game and a good win for the Twins. However, it will always stick out in my mind as the game that could have been.

*This would be #1 on the list if the Twins could have gotten 5 more outs without giving up a hit.

5. LA Clippers at Timberwolves - Twolves won 113-111. Ever since I moved up to Minnesota the Timberwolves have been on the decline. In consecutive years they won 33, 32, 22, 24 and 15 wins. It really is pretty amazing that the Cavs last year won as many games at the Timberwolves won the previous three years combined. One of the teams that has traditionally been the worst NBA franchise are the LA Clippers. The good news to watching too terrible teams (besides the cheap scalping prices) is that they normally have high lottery picks on their rosters. In the case of the Clippers and Timberwolves M and I were able to watch Blake Griffin and Kevin Love. Both were as good as advertised and Griffin's athleticism alone was worth the small price of admission. The fact that the game was high scoring and came down to a last second winning jump shot from Michael Beasley made it one of the best games I saw all year. Maybe two wrongs do make a right?

4. Ohio State at Wisconsin - Wisconsin won 31-18. It was a beautiful day in Madison that consisted of great food (State Street Brats) and a long, leisurely day of drinking before the night game between #1 Ohio State and #18 Wisconsin. Just like last year I ended up seeing the game that decided the Big Ten title. While last year it ended well for the Buckeyes as they beat Iowa, this year's deciding game did not end well. Wisconsin was clearly the better team and deserved to beat Ohio State that night. From the opening kickoff (which they returned for a TD in the end zone where our seats were) to the dominating rush attack to the final Pryor interception it was a game that showed the Big Ten that Wisconsin was the best team in the league. I wish I had pictures to show of the game, but the unfortunately I left my camera at Camp Randall stadium as the Ohio State fans I went with rushed out of the stadium once the final outcome was determined. It could have been a better night (with Ohio State losing and me forgetting my camera), but still it was a pretty great game to attend.

3. Dolphins at Packers - Dolphins won 23-20. The day after Ohio State lost to Wisconsin I went with my friends to see what I thought would be another road team lose in Green Bay. It turned out the Dolphins put together one of their better games of the year and won in overtime thanks to a Dan Carpenter's 44 yard field goal. Cameron Wake really played well in the game as he sacked Aaron Rodgers 3 times. It was a great road win and one of the rare highlights on otherwise depressing Dolphins season.

2.Tigers at Twins - Twins won 2-1. Something about the Twins-Tigers in September/October just seems right. The game was a low scoring game that ended with Danny Valencia singling in the winning run. It wasn't game 163, but to have the Twins beat the Tigers at home by one run was a close as I was going to get in the 2010 season.

1. Dolphins at Vikings - The Dolphins won 14-10. The second week of the season I went to go see the Dolphins-Vikings game at the Metrodome with three friends (one Dolphins fan and two Vikings fans). I didn't realize at the time that this would be the pinnacle of the Dolphins season or that it might be the last game I saw at the Metrodome. At the time I just enjoyed the Dolphins creating 4 turnovers by Brett Favre and stopping AP on a goalline stand to preserve a 14-10 victory. I wasn't worried about the Jets or the Patriots games coming up while singing the Dolphins fight song from the upper deck. I wasn't even worried about another terrible performance by the offense. That day my focus was on positive thoughts like the great defense and the fact that they had won their first two games on the road. It looked like an impressive win at the time for a team that was headed towards the playoffs. It takes home the number one spot in my top 10 games ranking of 2010.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Archie Manning

My boss called me into the office today and gave me a gift. It isn't much of a stretch to say that it is the best gift a boss has ever given me. Check it out:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas gifts - deadweight loss?

I was reading this Freakonomics blog post about the economic inefficiencies of Christmas gifts. The author (Stephen J. Dubner) asked the readers to fill out the below form to describe previous holiday gifts:

Cost (estimated)_______
Value (to me)_________

The point is that the author thinks there is a lot of what he calls "deadweight loss" with Christmas gifts. As Dubner describes it "the economic inefficiency that comes about when, for instance, someone buys you a $50 gift that you value at, say $10. That's a deadweight loss of $40."

The comments section in the blog post is funny enough when looking at what people received and how much they valued the gifts. There are a lot of gifts mentioned that cost a certain amount and are valued at $0 by the receiver because they are never used. However, I would like to bring up another example. It would be the reverse of a deadweight loss that I would like to call a "net positive gift." Net positive gifts are those rare gifts that you get that are more valuable than the cost. Those certain gifts that either the receiver didn't know they wanted or has some type of sentimental value in addition to the market value.

I can think of a few gifts that stick out in my head (ex. trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium for my 25th birthday), but for this post I would like to talk about one gift in particular. One gift that had serious deadweight loss potential.

Quick back story to set up the gift. It was the summer after I graduated from Miami University and my four main high school friends had one final summer before two of us had to go off to real world jobs in *distant cities with a promise of more pay, but less vacation. My other two friends were home from college and for maybe the last time we all had plenty of time to hang out and enjoy life as friends.

*From Jackson: Minneapolis is 1037 miles away, while Seattle is 2535 miles away.

In some ways this was the ultimate summer. I could write plenty more about those perfect, relaxed days or the fact that summer was the genesis to two of my friends getting married. However, that is off subject for this post. This post is about a gift I received that summer that ended up being one of those things that I consider an ultimate net positive gift. On one of the final nights in Jackson before I left to make the long drive to Minneapolis my friends presented me with a gift. The gift was a ceramic bunny about 1 foot tall, 1 foot wide and 1 foot deep.

This bunny was sold at the knick-knack store that my friend Marty worked at during the summer. I would visit her at the store often enough and whenever I walked by the bunny I couldn't help but laugh. My thought process was that I wondered who in their right mind would buy such an fat, ugly ceramic bunny. It made no sense to me. The bunny didn't do anything but take up space, and I couldn't imagine somebody thinking that this was the missing piece in their living room.

Of course my friends looked at this and thought that if I was so clear about hating this bunny then it must mean that secretly I really wanted it. They signed the bottom of it and presented it to me as my "going away" gift. I laughed about the gift and took up with me to Minneapolis.

Almost instantly the bunny was a prominent feature in my first apartment in Minneapolis. And surprisingly I loved it. It was so ugly, cumbersome and unnecessary that it fit in perfectly. I know that makes no sense, but for some reason all of the the wrongs made a right. I have sense taken that bunny from apartment to condo to duplex. It was one of those non-negotiable things that needed to be displayed when M and I moved in together, so we found a spot for it on top of the fridge.

Anyway, there isn't much point in this story besides bringing up a positive memory and sharing the hope that maybe the worst Christmas gifts you receive (the ones with a deadweight loss) might over time provide some unforeseen value. Or you can just do what my sister and I do and just pick out each other's Christmas gifts the week before. That is one way of eliminating any deadweight loss when the receiver is in the store (usually a book store) while the giver buys the gift.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Miami University - 2010 MAC champions

Inevitably as a sports fan you sometimes might wonder why you care. Why do you follow these teams? It might be during a boring Sunday game where your *team's quarterback throws his 3rd interception and officially ends any chance of making the playoffs. It might be during a heartbreaking national title game where your **team gives up more goals in the last minute then they did in the previous 59 minutes. I would imagine even the most optimistic fans have those moments of doubt.

*The Dolphins Chad Henne.

However, there are those other moments that make it all worth the time, effort and money you invest into something as seemingly insignificant as sports. Now I know most of you probably don't care about the MAC championship. Also, I know most of *you probably don't care that much about sports. I care about both and as far as MAC championships go this past Friday's game between Miami University and Northern Illinois was pretty sweet.

*Next post will be non-sports...I promise.

Let's set up the game real quick with a few facts:
  • Miami University won the 2003 MAC championship when I was a junior. Ben Roethlisberger was the QB and he led a 13-1 team to the 10th overall ranking in the final poll. They were dominating.
  • After Roethlisberger the program started declining. They went from 13 wins to 8 wins to 7 wins to 2 wins to 6 wins to 2 wins to 1 win. You don't need to graph those out to know that would be a declining trend.
  • Miami wasn't expected to do much this year. The first line in their Blue Ribbon preview was "When accessing Miami's talent this season, don't start with the returning starters. There's a good chance they won't start this fall. Year One of the Michael Haywood era was ugly." They were projected to finish 3-9 and 5th in the MAC East division.
Somehow they were 8-4 going in to the title game. That turnaround had secured the MAC coach of the year for Coach Haywood. However, that was were the fun was supposed to stop as Northern Illinois was a 17.5 point favorite over Miami. The Huskies had a great year and won their past three games 65-30, 59-21 and 71-3. Miami on the the hand had won their last three games 24-21 (against a BGSU team that won only 2 games all year), 19-14 (against an Akron team that won only 1 game all year) and 23-3. They were by no stretch a dominant or even maybe a good team. If anything they were a lucky team, who now had to rely on their freshmen backup quarterback.

I hope I painted a pretty clear picture that Miami was not supposed to win this game. I was planning on going out with friends and didn't want to miss the first quarter because I thought there was a chance Northern Illinois was going to destroy Miami very quickly.

Well Miami scored the first touchdown and in a sign of missed opportunities to come they missed the extra point. Northern Illinois then returned a little sanity to Ford Field when they scored less than 2 minutes later to go ahead 7-6. At that point you had to wonder if the underdog took their shot and now the real game/blowout was going to start.

However, it wasn't going to be that type of game. Miami scored again (pictured below...also all pictures are from to take the lead, which was then followed by a Northern Illinois touchdown to regain the lead.

It almost seemed like Northern Illinois could do what they want and Miami was just holding on. Don't get me wrong the freshmen QB Austin Boucher (pictured below) was playing well and the rushing game wasn't struggling. It was going well, but I knew the odds were against Miami winning.

Well Miami scored again and took a 6 point lead. Then they caused a turnover and had a chance to kick a field goal for a two possession lead. They called a beautiful fake that was surprisingly aggressive for Coach Haywood. Well that is probably the last time he calls that since the offensive lineman completely whiffed on a block that would have let the holder walk into the end zone. Northern Illinois scored a td to take a 21-20 lead and as the 4th quarter ticked away ESPN kept showing the missed opportunities for the Redhawks. You could almost see the media already writing their story about Northern Illinois surviving a surprisingly close game to beat Miami.

Miami got the ball back with 2:48, one timeout and 52 yards away from the end zone. An incompletion, sack, and another incompletion led to a 4th and 20. This is one of those moments where you know the game is about to end, but you are holding out hope for a minor miracle. Boucher rolled out and threw a terrible pass that was heading towards three Northern Illinois players. In a split second it was tipped and caught by a Miami player who was 5 yards downfield from where the pass was thrown. Like Miami's season it was lucky, but give them credit for at least creating the opportunity where luck might go there way.

Still they were 31 yards away and with the kicker already missing a 42 yard field goal and an extra point there was no guarantee. Also, Miami didn't have any timeouts. Northern Illinois promptly sacked Boucher for a 2 yard loss. As the clock ticked Coach Kill of Northern Illinois (who is now going to the University of Minnesota) went for the kill with an all out blitz. Boucher stood there and threw an easy pass to Senior Armand Robinson. It seemed easy because Boucher and Robinson knew what to do and didn't hesitate. Robinson was 33 yards away from having a season win total (9) that matched his previous three years with Miami combined. He raced into the end zone with 33 seconds left putting Miami up 26-21.

At this point it was looking like Northern Illinois wouldn't have time to answer. They moved the ball down the field, but fell short when the Northern Illinois QB was tackled on the final play of the game. Miami celebrated. I celebrated. Miami won the MAC title 26-21.

There was an announced attendance of 12,031 and I can't imagine many people watched on TV. The win did nothing to shake up the bowl picture (Miami was going to Mobile regardless of the title game). The game won't be forgotten by most people because you can't forget something you never knew. However, for those players on the field and for the Miami fans watching in person or on TV it was a great win. They won their conference championship in dramatic fashion against a team that was supposed to smoke them. Congratulations to Miami for winning the 2010 MAC championship.

Friday, December 3, 2010

LeBron James and Cleveland

In my ways LeBron James and Cleveland made perfect sense. A somewhat local guy (Akron) played a sport so well that he inspired a football city to become a basketball city. He promised to bring a championship to a city that doesn't win championships. He made basketball fun and the city embrace him.

However, even before the decision one thing never quite worked between LeBron and Cleveland. One thing that was made especially clear last night while watching the Heat-Cavs. Cleveland fans might be a lot of things including irrational and mean, but the one thing that trumps all of that though is that Cleveland fans are passionate. Quite simply they care. They care more than they probably should, but they care. LeBron James doesn't care. And I write this as a fan of LeBron.

Since LeBron was a junior in high school he has been getting national attention thanks to the Sports Illustrated cover. Since then he hasn't had a life without national media attention. My theory is that he just basically blocks it out. The media attention isn't anything but white noise in the background of his life. He has his friends, his teammates and enough people to like him that it really doesn't matter what other people think. I could see that clearly last night when he was joking around near the Cavs bench and Cleveland fans were standing up shooting at him in a visibly upset manner. LeBron wasn't happy, upset or even affected by the shouts because I just don't think he gives a damn.

In some ways the fact that Cleveland fans care so much defines them as fans. It isn't that surprising when you read stories of Cleveland fans lamenting their title drought or talking about The Drive, The Shot, The Decision, etc. The fact that Cleveland cares is what made everyone know that LeBron was going to be treated with a lot of hostility last night. LeBron doesn't care and hasn't cared for awhile. He can wear Yankees hats to Indians games. He can do funny dances on the sidelines during games. He can even do interesting Nike commercials. He can pick a team like Miami and not be upset about the media's critique of him being a sidekick on a team with no fans and little chance of affecting his legacy. He can do all of this because he doesn't care. Michael Jordan has always cared even to this day. Kobe is the same way. LeBron is different. LeBron is a great player, who doesn't care and is hated because of that.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

BCS debate

There are many reasons why I cheer for the non BCS conference teams in college football. Not only did I go to a school that plays in a small conference, but I can understand the difficulty these teams have in competing with teams from the power conferences. They lose out more often than not when recruiting the top high school players. When given a chance the better coaches almost always *jump to more money and a better program. That is part of basic nature of college football and while it isn't equal it is fair. That is fine. What really upsets me is not the above points, but the unfair playing competition in college football.

*Miami University is known as the cradle of coaches, which everyone associated with the school is proud of despite the fact that it basically means that coaches come to Miami before going to another job. There is a reason why Ohio State isn't the cradle of coaches. If you are successful at Miami you go to Ohio State. If you are successful at Ohio State you stay at Ohio State.

A team from a non-BCS conference can go undefeated. They can be the best team in the country with plenty of NFL talent. They can keep their coach from going somewhere else and build a successful program. They can take 4 star recruits and make them 5 star players. A team like that can do all the right things and still not stand a chance. That is the frustrating thing. The 2008 Utah team and the 2009 Boise State team were playing blackjack with the aces removed.
Yesterday was a tough day watching college football. In a perfect world either Auburn or Oregon would lose and Boise State would win. I would have loved to see a Boise State - Auburn/Oregon title game because it would finally be a BCS title game with a team from a non-BCS conference. The reason I liked Boise State over TCU is I feel like they are a better team and would stand a better chance of beating either Auburn or Oregon. They beat TCU last year and returned almost every single player. They stood the best chance of a non-BCS conference breaking through the "cartel" as Michael Wilbon calls it on PTI.

Well Auburn won in a game that Alabama completely chocked on.

Oregon won in a typically impressive 2nd half performance over Arizona.

Then Boise State played another incredibly difficult road game (combined with the first game of the year against Virginia Tech) against Nevada. They had their chances and lost because of a Murphy's Law type of 2nd half. It might have been an instant classic, but it was depressing for someone who liked Boise State.

Now it is down to Oregon State and South Carolina to beat either Oregon or Auburn to give TCU a chance. Boise State is finished despite a team that I would still take over either Oregon (who they beat last year) or Auburn. TCU could be on the cliched outside looking in through no fault of their own. Consider me a fan of the Horned Frogs. More importantly consider me a fan of a playoff that would allow every team in the nation the chance to win the title.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When should we start worrying about Gordon Hayward?

My latest post on Salt City Hoops is up. It was edited and touched up by the Salt City Hoops team, but if you were curious about the unedited version below is the original draft. Hopefully the post gets picked up by espn, but regardless it was fun to write even if the subject matter is kind of depressing for Jazz fans.

Last as a Jazz fan I rooted for two things every night; a Jazz win and a Knicks loss. The reason being is that finally after all the years of the Knicks being terrible it was finally time for the Jazz to cash in on one of the more lopsided trades in history. In 2004 the Jazz gave up Keon Clark and Ben Handlogten for the Knicks protected 1st round pick. It was one of those *strange trades that still doesn't make much sense to me, but it worked out great for the Jazz. Clark and Handlogten never played a minute for any other NBA team besides the Jazz. Somehow the Jazz got Gugliotta, a 2004 1st round draft pick and this protected Knicks pick.

*Here are the trade details from Gordon Hayward's's page: "Traded by the Phoenix Suns (as a 2010 1st round draft pick) with Tom Gugliotta, a 2004 1st round draft pick (Kirk Snyder) and a 2005 2nd round draft pick (Alex Acker) to the Utah Jazz for Keon Clark and Ben Handlogten."

Well the protection finally ended last year and the Jazz had the Knicks 1st round pick regardless of it was the 1st pick in the draft. The Knicks ended up tied with the Clippers for the 8th worst record in the league, which resulted in the 9th pick in the 2010 Draft. Finally the time had come for the Jazz to cash in on the pick they had been waiting for since the *days when Isiah Thomas thought Stephon Marbury was the point guard of the future for the Knicks.

*Side note - On the day after the trade was announced the Jazz ironically enough played the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. The leader scores in order for the Knicks that day were; Stephon Marbury, Tim Thomas, Shandon Anderson (remember him Jazz fans) and Penny Hardaway. THAT might be the best way of showing you how long ago the trade was. Oh yeah the Jazz won 92-78 and the first line of the recap on espn was "Stephon Marbury had an unhappy 27th birthday, getting booed at Madison Square Garden in a Friday night fiasco."

With the 9th pick in the 2010 NBA draft the Jazz took Gordon Hayward from Butler University to help replace the impending departures of Kyle Korver and Wes Matthews. Hayward was a 20 year old wirey forward who had led Bulter to the title game. There were some concerns from the beginning as Jazz fans booed the pick. For a great recap feel free to check out the Gordon Hayward to the Jazz post on June 25th of this year.

Now we are only 12 games into the season and even though I know that isn't much time and that Hayward still is four months away from being able to order a beer at the bar. I know all of these things. I also know that Coach Sloan can be tough on rookies and that even an All Star like Deron Williams struggled and even was benched for Keith McLeod for 32 games. Still I can't help but worry about Hayward. Here are the top 5 things that worry me:
  1. Shooting ability - I know that because of the color of his skin, the fact that he is from Indiana and his reputation that most people think of Hayward as a great shooter. He is a good shooter as long as we are talking about free throws. As for three pointers he shot 29.4% last college...with most of his games being in the Horizon League. Now Andrei Kirilenko is a career 31.2% three point shooter and I would never classify Kirilenko as a good outsider shooter. The reason why is because the worst three point shooting team last year were the Pistons and they shot 31.4%. So to recap Hayward has a reputation as a shooter, but in his last year of college he wasn't even an average NBA shooter despite playing against worse competition and having the advantage of a shorter 3 point line. It is time to realize that Hayward just might not ever be a good shooter?

  2. Advanced numbers - What do you want to pick? Win Score/48 minutes = -.07. PER = 3.5. Simple rating on = -22.1. You don't even have to know what these stats mean to realize that negative numbers are not good. The Jazz are losing by an average of 25 points per game when Hayward is on the court.

  3. Draft Potential - Coming out of the draft Hayward was rated as the 17th best talent using John Hollinger's Draft Rater. Hayward's peak PER prediction was 11.87, which would have placed him in between Wes Matthews and CJ Miles production from last year. Again this is Hayward's peak PER that should happen in years 4-5.

  4. The Miss - I don't know if anyone has ever received more credit for a miss than Hayward did with his halfcourt heave that almost beat Duke. The only comparison I can think of is Charlie Weis getting an extension for almost beating USC in the "Bush Push" game. Maybe he wouldn't have needed a shot like that to win if Hayward had hit more than two of his previous ten shots? While the 8-8 from the line is great, it is a little concerning that against Duke he was only 2-11 from the field and 0-3 from three pointers.

  5. Jazz 1st round pick history - This is not fair for Hayward, but it is hard to judge him without thinking about former first round busts; Kosta Koufus, Morris Almond, Kris Humphries, Kirk Synder or Sasha Pavlovic. What kind of odds would you give Jazz fans right now that the Jazz 2nd round pick Jeremy Evans is better than Gordon Hayward? Does anybody else feel like this might shape up like the 2006 draft when the 2nd round pick (Millsap) was better than the 1st round pick (Brewer).

I don't want to start worrying so soon about Gordon Hayward, but it is hard not to when I think about all the factors. If only one or two of the above were true, then I might be able to shake off my concerns a little bit easier. I might be able to better hear my former Stats professors at Miami University screaming at me "small sample size." Instead if I just keep thinking that if it isn't now, then when should we start worrying about Gordon Hayward?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Miami vs. Duke

When I was a kid my father took me to a spot in Jackson where some of the Civil War fighting had taken place. There were mounds set up, so that soldiers could set up shop and take aim at their enemies. My Dad asked me a simple question at the time "who were you going for in the Civil War?" I was a kid and didn't really understand anything about the Civil War, so I answered innocently enough "Mississippi." My Dad then told me that Mississippi was part of a group that was fighting against the United States. This confused me as a kid since I didn't know if I should root for my home state or for my country. (Again I didn't understand anything about the Civil War and please don't hold this as any sort of negative referendum on the South.)

I bring up that short story because tonight was a weird experience. I watched a Duke game and hoped the other team won. I literally have never had that experience before. Thanks to ESPN I have been able to watch plenty of Duke games every year. I have been known to react in a bunch of different manners (some I am not proud of), but always with the explicit hope that Duke would win. Tonight was different because Duke played Miami University. If there is anything that trumps my love for Duke basketball it is my love for Miami University.

(Miami University with two of my friends in the picture)

I rooted for Miami. They fought a not particularly good fight and lost by 34 points. It wasn't even that close.

Tomorrow is a better day because I can go back to throwing my support around Duke. It should be a great year in Durham even though I think people are glossing over the fact that the post players are below average. This Duke team is going to miss Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas. (I never thought I would write that.) Also, I know they are loaded with wings, but a team doesn't just lose a senior like Jon Scheyer without some adjustment. There will probably posts later on about Duke, but those are my initial thoughts after watching the game tonight.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Writing Style

I know my writing isn't perfect. Sometimes I misspell words. Sometimes I am not grammatically correct. Often I can be wordy and a little bit too focused on sports. My writing style is my own and I can understand that not all people (or not many) like it. That being written here are there four writing styles that I absolutely can't stand.

1. Excessive exclamation points - To tell you the truth I don't normally like even one exclamation point, but I can understand that when you are trying to convey excitement a well placed exclamation point can be useful. However, the people who write in nothing but exclamation points confuse me. Why do some people on facebook have to write like that? "I'm going out to lunch! The chicken bacon ranch at Subway was so good! I think I am going to take a nap!!!!."

2. Guys who use smiley faces - For some reason I don't mind as much when girls do it, but when a guy uses a smiley face in an email it makes me think that they are hitting on me. I know that isn't fair. I know that when guys use smiley faces in emails it is just a way of adding some levity to the situation. It creeps me out though.

3. People who space out every sentence.

For example there are certain writers who try to start every article with a dramatic statement.

And then they follow up with something even more dramatic.

Before asking a question that makes it more dramatic.

Why is this writing style dramatic?

Maybe I just don't understand?

4. Capitalizing random words. For example: "The show Community is on right Now and I really enjoy watching such a great Show."

I know this blog post will probably come back to haunt me. There are probably 10 different faults you can find with my writing style. I know I do many things wrong, but my one hope is that I never do one of the four things I highlighted above.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The undervalued Paul Millsap

The Jazz won of the most incredible regular season basketball games you will ever see. They were down 8 with 33 seconds left to the Miami Heat and someone how tied it before winning it in overtime. Paul Millsap was incredible all game with 46 points, which included 11 points in the final 28 seconds. If you want to read about the game check it out. I had actually written the below post before the game tonight. It seems more relevant now.

Paul Millsap has consisently been underrated. In high school he was rated as the 130th best prospect. He went to Lousiana Tech and ended up leading the NCAA in rebouding for three consecutive years. After a long, extremly productive college career (he did more than rebound) was over he might have expected to be drafted in the 1st round especially considering how *weak the talent was in the 2006 NBA draft. He fell to the 46th pick and the Utah Jazz. However, before you give the Jazz too much credit keep in mind that they passed on him twice to take Ronnie Brewer (14th) and Dee Brown (46th). In fact there is quite a list of of players that were taken before Millsap that haven't come close to his levels of production.

*Check out the 2006 Nba draft just in case you want to see the list of players taken before Millsap.

For a simple exercise let's look at the top 5 picks in the 2006 draft. All five players were between 6-8 and 6-11 in height and all five players were forwards. In fact everyone, but Adam Morrison just happen to play the power forward position that Millsap plays. In terms of wins produced in the NBA so far here is the order of those top 5 players:
  • LaMarcus Aldridge: 28.8 wins
  • Tyrus Thomas: 12.3 wins
  • Andrea Bargnani: 11.8 wins
  • Shelden Williams: 6.3 wins
  • Adam Morrison: -1.4 wins

Paul Millsap has produced 26 wins, which means he falls right below LaMarcus Aldridge in total wins produced. Now given the choice I would still take Millsap over Aldridge (even removing the salary difference) because Millsap has produced only 10% less wins despite Aldridge playing in 29% more minutes. Millsap has been a better shooter (53% eFG% > 49%), rebounder (Total Rebound 16.3% > 13%) and has produced a higher WS/48 minutes every single year. And oh yeah just in case you were looking at salary Millsap has made half what Aldridge has made so far.

I would rather have Millsap than any of the top 5 picks and besides Aldridge it really isn't even that close. Still two of the top 5 players (Aldridge and Bargani) from that draft make more money than Millsap with a third (Thomas) being paid only $1M less.

Millsap has been extremely productive over his first four years of service to the Jazz and for that he has been paid $9.8M. That is obviously a lot of money in real world terms, but in the world of the NBA that has been a huge bargain. The Jazz paid less than $133K per win that Millsap produced in the first three years and with the huge bump in salary (an 864% raise) he was paid $900K per win (regular season and playoffs) last year. Over the first four years he was paid $395K per regular season win he produced for the Jazz. To give you some perspective Kobe Bryant was paid $1.8 for every win (regular season and playoffs) he produced for the Lakers.

In fact Millsap was the most cost efficient of all of the Jazz regulars last year with one glaring exception. Wesley Matthews produced 5 wins over the course of the year, which considering he made only $457K means that his COW (Cost of Win) = $92K. In fact I looked up a few NBA players off the top of my mind to see how their COW compared to the Jazz players from last year.

The Jazz have Millsap locked up for the next three years at a very reasonable rate considering his age and production. If anything the Jazz just have to play him more and they will start seeing one of the most productive players in the NBA. That is why it shouldn't be too suprising that now that his minutes per game has increased to 36.5 this year his wins produced ranking is now 12th in the league right after Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard.

If he keeps this up then maybe some day he won't have to sit and watch other less talented players get the headlines. Maybe then he will also be able to see his jersey next to Wiliams, Boozer, Kirienko, Malone, Hornachek and Okur when a fan searches for jerseys on (You can get a great white Millsap jersey on the so they are out there). Maybe some day he will also have a statue outside Energy Solutions Arena (or whatever it is called then). I for one don't want to be the next in a long line of people who to underestimate Paul Millsap.

Monday, November 8, 2010 Restaurant Guide

A couple weeks ago M and I went to dinner at Thom Pham's Wondrous Azian Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis. We had enjoyed the Japanese place that used to be in the spot and since it was close to where we had trivia that night we decided to try it out. Anyway, we ordered our drinks and did our usual quick toast, when we heard a click of the camera. This guy was taking our picture with what looked like a very professional camera. He introduced himself (Tom Wallace of the Star Tribune) and asked if we minded if he took a few pictures. Then to clear things up he let us know that the lighting was great in our spot. He said it a couple of times just to make sure that we knew we shouldn't quit our jobs to pursue a modeling career.

Anyway, the restaurant guide came out this week and sure enough on page 20 there is one picture of us. Well mainly it is of M, but there is definitely an out of focus profile picture of someone wearing his go to dark blue shirt. If you life in the Twin Cities you can probably pick up one of the free issues in most places (bars, restaurants) where you can find City Pages. However, below is the picture if you are interested:

Friday, November 5, 2010

John Stockton on Salt City Hoops

I wrote another post on Salt City Hoops. It was picked up on's TrueHoop blog. I am still not very confident with my writing ability, but this positive reinforcement doesn't hurt. Read it if you care about the NBA or John Stockton.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The top 14 things for Jazz fans to be excited about this season

In honor of former Jazz great Jeff Hornacek below are the top 14 things I am excited about with the upcoming season and how it relates to the Utah Jazz.

1. Al Jefferson playing with a real point guard. Jonny, Flynn, Sebastian Telfair, Marko Jaric and Delonte West are some of the better point guards that have been passing Big Al the ball. Now one of the best low post scorers in the NBA is playing with one of the best (if not the best) point guard in the NBA. Jefferson is now happy, motivated and in a great situation for him to succeed. I can't wait to see his first 30 point 16 rebound game.

2. The potential of Jeremy Evans - I have never seen Evans play even one minute of basketball. In fact if he walked past me on the street I don't know if I would even recognize him. Still it is hard not to be excited. The unbelievable potential is there that Evans is going to a really good player. I know it is preseason, but have you seen his preseason stats? There is a good wages of wins article about rookies which predicts his WS/48 (.211) to be twice as good as the average NBA player. Or what my fellow Salt City Hoops writer wrote about him when he wrote "Jeremy Evans will be the steal of the draft?" Or the fact that the Jazz have drafted Mo Williams, Paul Millsap and CJ Miles in the 2nd round, so obviously they know what they are doing with 2nd round picks. I am very excited to see Evans play to see if he is even 1/10 as good as the hype.

3. LeBron James and the rest of the Miami Heat - Come on it is hard not to be excited about watching this team play basketball. I know I am supposed to not like them, but it isn't like they are in the Western Conference. Also, last I checked I didn't grow up in Cleveland. In my mind there is nothing to dislike about the Heat until the Jazz face them in the NBA Finals. In the meantime I am excited about watching to see whether or not this season will be a success.

4. The downfall of the Denver Nuggets - Just the possibility of this happening with all of the off-season turmoil is enough for this Jazz fan to get excited.

5. Deron Williams winning his first of many assist titles. -Over the past four years he has finished in the top three in assists per game (APG) the past four years, so it isn't too much of a stretch to think that he might finish with the most APG this year. In Vegas his odds of winning the assists per game title is 2/1, which is tied with Steve Nash and just behind Chris Paul.

6. Paul Millsap winning the rebound title. A lot of people might think Big Al is the pick here of any Jazz player who stands a chance of winning the rebound title, but my best guess is Millsap. He won three of them in college and I think the possibility is there thanks to the next point on my list.

7. No more Boozer - Boozer was a great player for the Jazz and someone who provided Jazz fans with some memorable moments. I am a Boozer fan and while it was a good signing at the time it was time for Boozer to go. There should be no more trade rumors or speculation on what is going to happen with Boozer. I don't know how much it matters, but even the most ardent Boozer fan has to concede that he might have been a slight distraction the past couple years. The Jazz can now move on with Okur, Jefferson, Millsap and no more distractions.

8. The emergence of Gordan Hayward. Since the Jazz normally make the playoffs they don't normally get lottery picks. The last one they did they used (with the help of Portland) on Deron Williams. That worked out well.
9. Coach Sloan winning the coach of the year. I still don't know how he has never won the award, but this should be the year. I guess I shouldn't be complaining that much since six of the past seven COY winners (all but last year's winner Scott Brooks) are no longer coaching the team they won the award with. That might be the most crazy fact I have come across in awhile. Seriously check out the list.

10. The best home court advantage in the league. I don't know how to make this objective besides pointing out that the Jazz had the 6th highest attendance and 6th best home record. I guess that might point to them having the 6th best home court advantage, but like Raheem Morris of the Bucs said "stats are for losers" so I am going to go write they are the best.

11. Watching Wes Matthews make $5.7M for the Blazers as their backup. - It was fun watching him play last year, but I have no idea why the Blazers signed him for so much. I am on the record for thinking that he isn't worth the contract he signed.

12. Kosta Koufus as a Minnesota Timberwolves player. Some things just go well together.

13. The new uniforms look great - I can't wait for M to comment on their "outfits"

14. Andrei Kirilenko in a contract year. There seems to be nothing wrong with this situation as the Jazz finally are off the hook from paying Kirilenko $10M+ ($17.8M this year). The Jazz hopefully will get a productive player, who might be good trade bait as an expiring contract.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Post My Brother In Law Is Afraid To Write

Anybody remember my Sports Pinnacle blog post? I wondered if this was the best it was ever going to get for all of my sports teams. Since that moment Nebraska lost to Texas, the Dolphins have gone 1-2 with two division losses, and the Minnesota Twins were swept (again) in the playoffs. That kind of reinforces the fact that at the time of writing that post it really was the pinnacle since it has all be down hill from there.

Now the question has to come up; Is this the pinnacle for my brother-in-law's teams? Let's run through the list:

New York Knicks - The Knicks no longer employing Isiah Thomas should be reason enough for things to be looking better. Other than that though they just signed Amare Stoudamire and former UNC star Raymond Felton. Also, the Knicks "have made significant progress in recent days to aquire Carmelo Anthony" according to this espn report by Chris Sheridan. I am not saying they are going to be good, but haven't all of these moves at least made them relevant?

Washington Redskings - This would have been a lot better if the Redskins would have had one more drive in them on Sunday night against the Colts. Still they are only one game out of first place (in the division and the NFC) and three wins is only one less than they had all of last year. This is another improving team.

UNC basketball - This is tough to write and I am not just talking about trying to write this without making any jokes about being a runner-up NIT champion. If you were to look at UNC basketball objectively then you would be happy with two titles in the past 6 years, a #1 recruit (Harrison Barnes) this year, and a #3 ranked overall recruting class for 2011 led by James McAdoo.

San Francisco Giants - The Giants are making this whole postseason baseball thing look easy with five of their six wins being by only one run. First they beat the Braves in the NLDS and now they are up 3-1 against the Phillies. From all accounts they seem to be a fun team to watch. Also, in their corner is the fact that they will home field advantage in the World Series and it looks like they get to match up against the Rangers and not the Yankees.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The 2010 Minnesota Twins

The flight into Vegas is a long, strange experience. You can't help but tell there is a little bit of a different energy then say a flight to Memphis. The guys in front of me started off as strangers and after a few (too many?) cocktails were best friends discussing NFL lines by the end of the flight. Unfortunately the airlines had switched my seat and I wasn't sitting next to the two friends from Minneapolis that I was going with to Vegas. That gave me time to think about my expectations of Vegas since despite all of the media portrayals I had been exposed to I really didn't have many pre-conceived ideas on Sin City.

Vegas is a place of excess. There is really no other way of describing it. The lights are brighter, the food is better and the amount of money gambled can make sleeping at night a difficult experience. For me it was a relatively successful weekend. I won 8 out of 11 of my sports bets with the only losses being NC State (against VA Tech), the Colts (against the Jags) and the Seahawks (against the Rams). Those sports bets netted me a decent amount of money that I then conveniently lost playing blackjack, roulette and craps. Unfortunately I didn't win enough money to quit my job or even win enough money to come out head. I did have a great time and didn't lose very much money, which is better than a lot of people who visit Vegas can say.

Blackjack was the main game we played in Vegas. For those of you that don't know basic strategy in blackjack results in the house having a 52% advantage to the player's 48%. In the short term playing a hand of blackjack is close to a coin flip. In the long term that house advantage can add up, so that the casinos build bigger and bigger hotels.

There are two blackjack stories that I would like to pass along as I look back on the 2010 Minnesota Twins. The first one is my first time playing blackjack in Vegas. I lost my first 8 hands in a row with the first five being only one off (I had a 19 when the dealer had a 20 for example). Before I even had a chance to walk around I was down a decent amount of money. At that pace I would have hit my gambling limit before the Saturday morning college football games. It was not a good start that I was able to recover from later that night.

The other story is from watching my friend Brian at the blackjack table on Sunday night. He sat down and promptly lost 10 straight blackjack hands to this friendly dealer. The odds of that happening are less than 1%. Losing 8 to 10 straight hands in blackjack should not happen.

The Twins are now 0-9 in the playoffs since I moved up to Minnesota. There was the 2006 Twins with the Cy Young winner (Santana), batting champ (Mauer) and MVP (Morneau). They had home field advantage and promptly lost three straight to the Oakland A's. The Twins was 0-16 with runners in scoring position before a Rondell White single in Game 3 that resulted in Torii Hunter getting thrown out at home. The 2009 Twins led all three games against the Yankees and lost all three.

This Twins team was supposed to be different. They had moved into a new stadium that had provided the team with enough revenue to sign Mauer, Hudson Pavano and Thome.

They were a well rounded team that could absolutely crush right handed pitching. The regular season went about as well as expected as the Twins won 94 games and clinched the division with two weeks left in the season. They were able to rest key players and get their pitching staff in line. This year was going to be different.

This year wasn't different. The lost three straight to the Yankees. They lost from ahead and they lost from behind. The lost with another questionable call in another Game 2.
They lost because they couldn't pitch and because they couldn't hit. The lost to left handed pitchers and right handed pitchers. The same team that looked like they couldn't lose during the regular season suddenly became the Kansas City Royals.

This was not a successful year for the Twins. They sold out every game and Gardy might win the coach of the year award, but the time for just having success in the regular season is over. I would like to see a World Series game and the Twins are good enough to make it to the Series. I don't know if it bad luck or what, but I am starting to feel like MLB is like Las Vegas. Everyone knows the odds are stacked in favor of the house (Yankees), but that doesn't mean that in a small sample size (5 game series) that the underdog (Twins) can't win. As of now it feels like the string of blackjack hands where the dealer keeps getting a blackjack whenever you are holding two face cards. Maybe next year? Right?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A pesky problem

Normally I don't drink on a weeknight. It isn't that I think it is wrong or judge people who do, but really it isn't something that I normally do. I mean occasionally I might have a glass of wine with dinner or something a little harder if there is reason to *celebrate. Tonight neither situation is relevant, but as I write this a whiskey and coke is sitting two feet away on the coffee table. The reason is the story below.

*After every UNC loss I like to have a little Jameson on the rocks. Last year I might have a drank a little bit more than normal because of everyone's favorite runner up in the NIT.

This morning I was enjoying my cereal and oj and I heard a little rustling in our fireplace. I didn't think much of it until a squirrel popped its head out. At this moment I don't know who was more startled; me or the squirrel. *He ran out into our small duplex and scurried around until going into the bedroom. He was definitely afraid of me as he jumped from the floor to the bed to the lamp looking for a safe spot. Thankfully I was able to prop open the front door and then successfully lead the squirrel to the door. He happily (assuming) ran away in our front yard.

*I am assuming the squirrel was a he just because I don't want to use he or she every time. Sorry.

Anyway, that story was pretty funny when I retold it to M and some of my coworkers. I laughed about the situation and my reaction. The work day went fine and I was thinking it was going to be a little side story. Well it turns out that was just the beginning since when I came home the same squirrel (I'm assuming) was standing there in the middle of our living room next to a broken piece of stained glass and a turned over potted plant.

This time I was prepared and since no shotgun was available I grabbed a broom and chased the squirrel up and out through the fireplace. Then I spent the next 30 minutes cleaning up the squirrel hair and poop as well as the things he messed up around the place. It seems like every where I looked there was something else turned upside down that I hadn't originally seen. M came home and helped with cleaning up. We both were slightly upset about having this small rodent ransack our house. In terms of a having a squirrel in the house I didn't think it could get much worse.

Of course you probably know where I am going with this since it did get worse. M went to go clean behind the wine bottles in our kitchen. Little did she know that the squirrel that I thought had gone up the fireplace had actually come back down (before I blocked off the fire place) and was hiding out in the kitchen. When M got too close the squirrel jumped out in a way that can only be described as being shot out of a canon. M screamed in a way that would make any horror movie producer proud and I immediately jumped on the couch. The squirrel ran underneath the same couch I was perched on and M and I frantically discussed our strategy.

The strategy that we agreed upon was that she was going to open the front door and then I was going to try and move the couch out to startle the squirrel into moving. That didn't work as well as expected since the squirrel seemed content to stay behind the couch. In that moment M suggested that I move the couch in to try and get him to move. Well caught up in emotion I slammed the couch pretty hard into the wall. The rustling stopped. We slowly moved the couch away and saw what can only be described as a barely moving squirrel on it side. Upon further review the squirrel was barely breathing and did in fact die. It is weird to even write this, but I killed a squirrel with a couch.

Now if you have never been in this situation before here is a quick recap of what you do with a dead squirrel in the corner of your house. You panic. You call your jerk of a landlord, who proceeds to complain about his "bad day" and how he hasn't "even had dinner yet" while suggesting I wait till 8:15am to call his secretary to take care of the issue. You start calling all the pest removal companies that Google pulls up. The last one ended up being the most successful option since we were able to get a hold of Michael Tucker of Wildlife Removal Services who according to his business card is licensed, insured and experienced. That worked for us.

Michael came by our house and for $75 removed the squirrel, gave us advice and even cleaned up the small pool of blood from the badly damaged head. Even though I didn't know the social protocol I tipped him appropriately for all of this since what he did was something I wouldn't want to do for$75. He was about as nice as you can get and was extremely helpful cleaning up the squirrel and providing advise. If you ever have an animal in your house and you live in Minnesota I would call Michael at 952-884-3707.

Anyway, the exciting night ended and I am here enjoying my whiskey and coke (I might have a 2nd) and watching Ken Burns special on baseball. Hopefully this will be my first and last blog post on squirrels.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sports Update - the pinnacle?

I was thinking to myself the other day about how this might be it. This might be the pinnacle of my life as a sports fan. The reason for thinking this is because everything seems to be working out for my favorite teams. Here is a rundown:

Duke Basketball - They won the 2010 National Title and are ranked #1 in almost all 2010-2011 previews like this one from ESPN. They have a really exciting guard based team (Smith, Singler, Dawkins, Irving etc) coming back next year that includes the brother of one of my favorite players Stephen Curry. Also, in addition to that they signed a recruit from Brandon, Mississippi (Tyler Adams) and look to be the frontrunners to sign the #1 ranked player (Austin Rivers) in the Class of 2011. It is amazing how things have changed in a year since at this time last year I was lamenting the state of Duke vs. UNC.

Miami Redhawks football - With two wins they have already doubled the amount of wins from last year. Sure they aren't up to the same level as they were in 2003, but this year's team has definitely made progress from last year. Also, bonus points have to be given to keeping the Florida game close for all four quarters.

Miami Redhawks hockey - back to back Frozen Fours.

Nebraska football - I am not the same Nebraska fan as I was growing up, but it is still nice to see the Cornhuskers do well. This year they have had a great start to the season and are currently ranked 6th in the AP poll.

Utah Jazz - They are coming off another 50+ win season and improved upon the previous year by making it to the 2nd round. The team showed signs of progress last year, but that isn't the most exciting thing. Nor is the most exciting thing the rare Jazz lottery pick of Gordon Hayward. The thing that really makes me want to count down to the beginning of the NBA season is that the Jazz traded for Al Jefferson. Jefferson has been one of my favorite players since I saw him play in the Coliseum in Jackson, MS. I am expecting big things from him now that he is paired with a real team/organization/point guard.

Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins are 2-0 with two road wins against the Bills and Vikings. I was able to cheer on the Fins at the Metrodome this past Sunday and saw a really impressive defensive performance.

The Defense has been incredible with Cameron Wake providing an great pass rush, Karlos Dansby living up to his free agent contract and also great play from Koa Misi, Vontae Davis, etc, etc. Misi, Davis and Wake were highlighted by Peter King as some of his Defensive Players of Week 2 in his Monday Morning Quarterback column.

However, the most shocking thing of all was the play of former 1st round bust Jason Allen. He had two interceptions and looked like the best player on the field. This is the same Jason Allen who was regulated to only playing on the special teams pretty much since he was drafted in 2006. If Allen can now be a productive NFL player, maybe the Fins should think about bring back John Avery and Yatil Green? Anyway, I am not completely sold on Miami due entirely to the fact that the offense has been dreadful under Chad Henne. Still things are also looking up for this team and it should only get better on Sunday when they play on ESPN against the Darrelle Revis less and possible Braylon Edwards less Jets. Ted Cook's will be served at 7pm for those Dolphins fans are interested in stopping by for the game.

Minnesota Twins - While it is a little disappointing that there won't be another fun game 163 like last year, I think all Twins fans will be ok with a better chance of advancing far in the playoffs. This year's team just clinched the AL Central title with a week and a half to go. They became the first team to clinch a playoff spot and are only a half game behind the Yankees for best record in the American League. It has been a fun baseball year with the new ballpark, new players (Thome and Valencia specifically), Delmon's improvement and the return of Liriano. They have been winning and because of that they have gotten some national attention including this post on the team, this post on Gardy and then this cover story from this week's Sports Illustrated from the best writer in sports Joe Posnanski. SI cover, which features a great view of M's office building below:

Let's see how the Twins and the rest of my favorite teams do in the next 365 days.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Personal Finance - the salary question

My parents came and visited Minnesota over Labor Day weekend. The trip included Prairie Home Companion at the Fair, a roadtrip to Red Wing and a Twins-Royals game at Target Field. Also, we all went out to eat a few times. During our last meal (our grand finale as my Mom would call it) at Salut on 50th and France we had an interesting conversation about personal finance. Specifically the topic of salary came up.

I would describe our family as having good communication on finances. Not great, but good. My Dad and I talk pretty regularly on stocks and certain strategies. He has provided not only an excellent financial example, but also has provided sound advice. Also, he got me hooked on Money magazine, which is now one of those things I look forward to every month. Let's just say that I am happy to have been brought up in my family.

There is one thing that hasn't been discussed often in my family and that is the salary question. I think I might have told my parents my starting salary at Target and maybe let my salary at Honeywell slip at one time. However, I have never once known what my parents made, which never concerned me as a kid, but now I find slightly surprising. It is one of those things that is not talked about and is a topic that makes my parents uncomfortable.

Why is that? Why is the topic of salary such a tough subject? The only reason I think it is such an important question is that people place so much importance on it. In some ways people can define themselves by their salary. They literally place their worth on what they are worth to a company. This shouldn't be the case for a number of reasons, but from a strictly financial perspective salary is only part of the total equation. Knowing someone's salary doesn't mean you know how much they spend, how much they save or what their parents have or have not provided for them. There are plenty of people that immediately come to mind who either don't have a salary or have a very small salary who live in expensive houses and go on wonderful trips.

One advantage to people sharing salary information is that it empowers you in salary negotiations with your current or future employer. If you know the going rate for someone of similiar background then you might be pleansantly surpised (your salary > friend) or might realize that you should ask for more money.

Of course the reason people don't do that is because of social norms. There aren't many people out there who want to make others uncomfortable. This is a real concern if the salary question might lead to answers of amounts that are very different. However, I think most of those amounts should be anticipated. A cashier at Taco Bell obviously makes less than than a dentist. If the difference is that large then it probably doesn't matter one bit if either knows each other's salary. Where it does make a difference is when people are in the same or similar fields. And for that I propose something unique: I will tell anyone who asks my salary as long as you also tell me your salary. I don't take great joy or discomfort in my salary and don't think I will have any problem disclosing that information to a trusted friend. Maybe I will? If I do have reservations then I will admit that I am wrong and as M would probably tell you that doesn't happen too often.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New job

I realize it has been awhile since I posted and an even longer time since I posted something non-sports related. No excuses on the front. Anyway, I would like to update everyone on something (work) I don't normally write about. You see after 37 months as a Demand Manager of Combustion it is time for me to take my talents to the new SAP team at Honeywell.

For those of you who are confused let me break it down for you. I am part of the SAP rollout for the ECC team with a primary focus on APO. The ECC team of course is part of ACS, which is one of the main businesses of Honeywell Corporation (ticker symbol HON). I hope this is clear for everyone since people at work use these acronyms without ever defining them. You either have to get a chip implanted into your head (very painful) or pick up what the acronyms mean through context, which is kind of like trying to learn the Egyptian language without the Rosetta Stone.

Anyway, in all *honesty I am excited to be joining a new team. This project should be a learning experience for me and worst case scenario is that I figure out I really hate working on projects. It comes with it a 13 month commitment, which means M and are staying in Minneapolis through at least October 2011. My joke is that will be enough time to see the Twins win back to back World Series.

*Does anyone else hate it when people use that phrase? Taken literally that phrase could imply that everything the person said before that moment was one big lie. The only phrase worse than that is of course when someone says "Can I ask you a question?"

I hope all is well. I have future posts coming up that I am tossing around. The topics include but aren't limited to; personal finance and the salary question, John Stockton vs. Steve Nash, the Twins 2010 review, fantasy football (I'm a genius - I took Arian Foster in the 4th round. I'm an idiot - I took him a round after I took Jonathan Stewart) and a few commercials that have been good (Ore-Ida) and bad (Michelle Bachmann). If you have a preference on what I write about it next just let me know.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Utah Jazz 2010-2011 Season Forecast: Steady with Sloan

My unsolicited advice for those readers with a large ego is to become a forecaster. I am confident that the size of your ego will dramatically decrease when you see just how difficult it is to forecast. The reason I can write this so confidently is that for the last three years I have been a professional forecaster for a Fortune 500 company. In addition to forecasting over 2,000 items I have participated in plenty of training sessions aimed at improving forecast performance. One might think that with this experience that I might be an expert forecaster. I am not. I try my best to increase the probability that my forecast will be accurate, but a good portion of the times the actual demand doesn't cooperate with the forecast.

Now that I have gone over my credentials (or lack of if you prefer) I am going to try my best to go over certain ways you can forecast the Jazz win total for next year. First I look over a few statistical tools for a top down forecast. For this I used total wins over the years where Coach Sloan was the head coach of the Jazz. After looking at those I looked at a bottoms up forecast by looking at the individual players on the roster for next year. For this analysis I used the Win Score per 48 minutes, which is just an estimate of the number of wins each player contributes to the team divided by the amount of time in a game. For more information on this stat please read the following from

Anyway, below are the forecasting techniques (in various levels of complexity) I used with the overall wins since the 1989-1990 season.
  • Mean - A simple average of the 21 seasons is 51 wins per season.
  • Median - The middle number of wins was 53 wins in a season.
  • 3 year moving average - The average number of wins over the past three years has been 52 wins per season.
  • Regression Analysis - 47 wins (This type of data looks at past data points and tries to create a "line of best fit"that reduces the amount of error between the model and the data. )
  • Simple Exponential Smoothing - 52 wins (This type of forecasting places greater emphasis on more recent data points. If you care I used an optimal alpha of 0.79)
  • Linear Trend Analysis - 45 wins (This type of forecasting technique tries place the best straight line through the data.)
There are other models I could use, but in the interest of time I stopped at those six. Overall the models predicted a pretty small range between 45 and 53 wins. This speaks to the consistency of Jerry Sloan has had in producing winning teams. Now let's see if the bottom's up approach to the forecast matches what we got above.

Using the stat Win Score and more specifically WS/48 I looked at each player and tried to predict their WS/48 and the amount of minutes they will play. For some players like Deron Williams it was easy because I used the same minute (2802) and same WS/48 (0.177) to calculate the same Win Score of 10.3 as he had last year. That means that according to this statistic Deron Williams directly accounted for 10.3 wins for the Jazz last year.

There was no reason to mess with those numbers, but with other players I made assumptions detailed below.
  • Paul Millsap will have the same WS/48 (0.151) but will play more (projected 2673) because of Boozer leaving.
  • Al Jefferson will have the same career WS/48 (0.119) and will play about the same minutes (2900) that he did in the 2007-2008 season.
  • Andrei Kirilenko will have the same WS/48 (0.171) as last year, but will play more minutes (1802).
  • Gordon Hayward was probably the most difficult player to forecast. I looked at the rookie year WS/48 for the past ten 9th picks in the draft. The average WS/48 was 0.0768, which included really good players like Andre Iguodala, Amare Stoudemire and Joakim Noah as well as busts like Patrick O'Bryant and Rodney White. The 9th pick of the draft seems to be very hit or miss with he lone exception being last year's 9th pick Demar Derozan, whad a WS/48 of 0.066 over 1664 minutes. For Hayward I used the average WS/48 of the past ten 9th picks (0.0768) and then estimated he would play 1700 minutes.
  • Raja Bell - I estimated 1500 minutes and then used his career WP/48 of 0.085.
  • CJ Miles - I increased his minutes to what Wes Matthews played last year (2025) and kept his below average WS/48 of 0.061 the same. The Jazz could really exceed expectations if Miles improves his game since there will definitely be minutes available for him.
  • For the other players (Price, Fesenko, Gaines, Evans and Jeffers) I made a few minor adjustments, but nothing that would affect that Jazz win total by more than maybe a game or two.
I then made sure the minutes played for the team equaled 82 games X 5 players X 48 minutes per game or 19,680 total minutes. After all of those calculations and assumptions the total win score totaled up to 50.1 wins. The 50.1 is in almost exactly between the 45 and 53 wins that we got above so that makes me think that it at least feels correct. Also, as a general rule I tend to agree with a bottoms up forecast approach since it takes more time and analysis to do. With all of that that being written my official prediction for next year's Jazz team is 50 wins. Now I can just sit back, enjoy the season and see how wrong my prediction is since that is the life of a forecaster.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Big news for the blog

I have been waiting for the right moment, but I would like to announce a big development in my blogging life. As my loyal readers know I enjoy spending a decent amount of time writing about my favorite NBA team the Utah Jazz. In addition to writing about them I like to follow them regardless of it is during the NBA season or not. One of the ways I have followed them is by checking out local blogs like Salt City Hoops. Recently they had an "open tryouts" to try and get new blog writers. I sent out an email asking to be a part of the team. The organizer sent me back a response saying that he would love for me to join. Therefore I would like to officially announce that I am taking my talents to the Salt City Hoops as a contributor to their blog.

One great thing about Salt City Hoops is that is affiliated with ESPN. If you go to, then click on the NBA, then on TrueHoop (the great blog run by Henry Abbott) then you will see Salt City Hoops as ESPN's Jazz blog. This is a great partnership because it will increase readership and get our opinion out through such a large sports media outlet. For example my post on Malone vs. Duncan has received 6 comments. As you probably know from following this blog that is a lot for me.

Anyway, my first post (which you can see unedited on this blog) is featured on ESPN's Monday Bullets and on Salt City Hoops. I am excited to be joining this team and hope to produce a few more pieces a year about the Jazz.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Is Karl Malone the greatest power forward of all time?

I was watching the Twins game the other day and they were honoring Dan “The Dazzle Man” Gladden as one of their 50 greatest players. This seemed about right in my mind. I mean I remember him as someone on both championship teams and the image of him running in for the winning run in the 1991 World Series is a classic baseball image. However, I checked his stats and they were absolutely dreadful. From 1987 to 1991 he played for the Twins his OPS+ (a great stat partly because 100 = the average baseball player) in his 5 years in Minneapolis was 90 making him a below average player. On the 1991 World Series winning team he was ranked the following out of the 9 starters; 9th in OBP%, 8th in Slg%, 9th in OPS+ and 7th in hits.

Statistics are funny like that sometimes. Sometimes like in the above example they completely contradict what you had always thought. Dan Gladden had always been in my mind one of the Twins best players. He was a gritty, gutsy player who helped will the Twins to two World Series titles. In reality the Twins won those titles not because of Dan Gladden, but in spite of Dan Gladden.

Other times though statistics back up your gut feelings about a player. The case below is a perfect example.

Karl Malone is going to be elected to the Hall of Fame this weekend. That is no surprise considering his incredible accomplishments over a long NBA career almost exclusively with the Utah Jazz. He is one of the NBA’s best players of all time and when he retired it was common wisdom to tout him as the “best power forward of all time.” This title has since has been unofficially passed along to Tim Duncan. The collective wisdom is that Malone was one of those great regular season players, but Duncan was better in the playoffs and had the 4 championship rings as the ultimate trump card. Everyone seems to remember Malone as someone who would carry a team to the playoffs, but once there he was often disappointing. What Jazz fan can forget the two missed free throws in Game 1 of the 1997 Finals? Or of course the infamous turnover right before Jordan ’s game winning (offensive foul) shot in the 1998 Finals. This epitaph of playoff failure was assigned to his NBA career.

Now do the stats back it up?

We have had plenty of time since Malone retired to forget a lot of games and maybe our memory has failed in us in remembering Malone as someone who didn’t produce in the playoffs. Maybe we remember the bad (the end of Game 6 of the 1998 Finals) and forget the good (Game 5 of the 1998 Nba Finals)? Have we been unfair to Malone? Is he the best power forward of all time? Below is the case for and against:

Karl Malone is the best power forward of all time
When you at Karl Malone’s stats compared to Tim Duncan it is hard to make the case that Duncan is a better player that Malone. Why? Because it is hard to make the case that many players are better than Karl Malone by looking at the stats. He is 2nd all time in career points and 3rd all time in win shares (an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player) with more win shares than everyone but Kareem and Wilt. Tim Duncan would need 6 more years of his average production to equal Malone. As it currently stands he is still isn’t within shouting distance of the Mailman. However, any Duncan supporter might bring up the fact that of course Malone’s career numbers would be better because he played 19 seasons. If we take that away and just compare averages here are some points in favor of Malone:
  • Scoring: Malone averaged 25 points per game. Duncan 21.
  • Efficiency: Malone shot 51.6% from the floor and 74.2% from the line. Duncan’s respective numbers; 50.8% and 68.7%
  • Reliability: Malone’s work ethic and incredible conditioning was legendary and that shows in the numbers. He played in 99.3% of the Jazz possible games during his 18 year career in Utah . Duncan so far with San Antonio has only played in 94.5% of the possible games. Over an 82 game NBA season that means that Malone would play in about 4 more games than Duncan.
  • Longevity: The same conditioning led him to be able to play for so long at such a high level. Not to say that Duncan can’t do that, but let’s see if he is still playing as effectively as Malone was when he was 39 and still contributed 11.1 wins (10th in the league) to the 2002-2003 Jazz team.
  • Front line help: Sure this is a little subjective, but I think that playing with the Greg Ostertags and Felton Spencers of the world didn’t help Malone quite as much as playing along side David Robinson helped Duncan.
Tim Duncan is the best power forward of all time
Even the most pro-Duncan fan has to respect and take note of points made above in terms of strong regular season production over a long period of time. However, those battles aren’t something that even really interest Duncan fans since they have the following points in their favor:
  • NBA Titles: 4 > 0. While basketball is a team game it is common practice to assign more credit to individual players who help the team win. Duncan ’s teams have won in the playoffs and he has received his share of praise for those accomplishments.
  • Playoff Stats: This is where Malone fans might wish the stats contradicted common viewpoints, but unfortunately they don’t. This is where the questions above about how maybe our memory has failed in us in remembering Malone’s playoff performance get answered. Unfortunately for Jazz fans the answers aren’t good and they are the main reason why I think someone can make the case for Tim Duncan being the best power forward of all time. Malone’s numbers dropped across the board from the regular season to the playoffs. He shot considerably worse (from 51% to 46%) in the playoffs and his WS/48 minutes dropped from 0.205 to 0.14. Compare this with Duncan who had almost identical shooting percentages and WS/48 numbers. One thing to consider is that Duncan has more Win Shares (28.6 compared to 23) in the playoffs despite playing in 23 fewer games. Those are just a few stats that I researched, but they all paint a very similar picture. Just like it is hard to make the case that Duncan was better than Malone in the regular season, it is also look like it is hard to make the case that Malone was better than Duncan in the playoffs.
Those are the arguments for both sides. As a Jazz fan I tend to side with the points in Malone’s favor. While the playoff stats was something that was tough to digest (again since I had to live though it the first time) it still doesn’t completely overshadow Malone’s incredible career.

Regardless I would like to congratulate Karl Malone for his induction into the Hall of Fame. You are the greatest power forward in this biased Jazz fan's mind.