Once we allocate a team’s minutes, we can estimate its projected scoring margin by summing each player’s SPM projection. The Lakers, for instance — even with James — would be projected to outscore their opponents by only 0.5 points per game. That translates to a 42-40 record, using a Pythagorean projection.Once we project a team’s win total, we can allocate its wins back to individual players: For instance, James is worth about 21 wins to the Lakers. There are a couple of highly technical points about this process, which I’ve reserved for the footnotes,10The allocation works by calculating a player’s wins above average based on his SPM projection and the Pythagorean formula, assuming that he was added to a league-average team. Since an average team would win 41 games, I also add 8.2 wins (41 wins divided by five positions) per 48 minutes played to each player so that the sum of player win totals roughly matches the team’s win projection.This produces a number that can be compared to win shares or other NBA metrics that denominate a player’s value in wins. However, the statistic should not be thought of as “wins above replacement.” Instead, it represents wins as compared to a really, really bad player who is even worse than replacement level — you might call it WAABAAB, Wins Above Anthony Bennett And Andrea Bargnani.Another complication is that the wins estimates for individual players will not exactly match the team total. This is principally because of diminishing returns for very good or very bad teams (a team can’t win more than 82 games or fewer than zero). In my system, the team win total has priority: Player win totals are adjusted to match the team figure rather than the other way around. This only has a material impact for extraordinarily strong or poor teams, however. but note that a player’s win allocation can vary slightly from team to team. (The issue is diminishing returns — a team’s win total eventually maxes out at 82 wins in the regular season. Otherwise, you’d run into problems like the 2012 U.S. Olympic roster projecting to 110 wins and negative 28 losses.)Here are some benchmarks to keep in mind: A team that played James 35 minutes a game and filled out the rest of the roster with replacement-level players would have a projected record of 33-49. And a team that had James plus 11 league-average players would have a record of 56-26.That’s why James wouldn’t give up much if he left Miami, which won 54 games last season. The rest of the Heat’s players have regressed to the point where they’re league-average without James, or perhaps slightly below average — and they probably aren’t going to get any better.Instead, the Heat project to a record of 52-30 if they re-sign James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The projection ought to be intuitive. Miami’s record last season wasn’t all that good, and that probably wasn’t an accident: The Heat’s players were aging, and the team was a man or two short of a full rotation. Adding Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger might help a little, but will probably only offset further age-related reversion from the rest of the roster. (PSPS has a rather nice-looking projection for McRoberts, which makes up for its very pessimistic one for Bosh.)The other challenge is that the Heat have so many free agents that it’s hard to know who will remain with the club. I’m assuming that Allen, Chris Andersen, Greg Oden, Udonis Haslem and Michael Beasley will return if the Big Three do, while the other players will not. (Shane Battier is retiring, for instance.)The controversial case is point guard Mario Chalmers, whom I’ve left off the roster. Chalmers played poorly in the playoffs and the Heat would have very limited money to offer him after stretching as much as it can to re-sign the Big Three. But SPM hates the alternative point guard, Norris Cole, and it’s inherently pessimistic about what any rookie (Shabazz Napier included) will do in his first season. If you replaced Cole’s minutes with Chalmers’s, the Heat’s projection would improve to 56 wins. Still, Miami would be somewhere in the vicinity of where it was last season.What the Heat really needed was to add another star talent, especially to address its deficiency at the point. For instance, if Miami had snagged Kyle Lowry — and somehow also re-signed the Big Three — it would project to 60-plus wins.The wild-card scenario would involve the Heat retaining James but parting ways with Bosh or Wade. There are some theoretically intriguing possibilities that build a team around James, Carmelo Anthony, a league-average point guard and some complementary role players.But ultimately James would maximize his championship potential by surrounding himself with players who are underpaid relative to the basketball value they produce. Might he find them in Cleveland?Perhaps, but the Cavs’ projection is the same as the Heat’s: 52-30. The Cavaliers won only 33 games last season, so a 19-win improvement is sizable. A little bit of that comes from projected improvement from young players like Kyrie Irving — although the Cavs also have a few subtractions, like Jarrett Jack and Luol Deng.At least in Cleveland it’s possible to conjure any number of upside scenarios. Reports have linked Minnesota’s Kevin Love to the Cavs, for instance. With a number of caveats,11Metrics derived from “box score” stats may be too much in love with Love; it’s not clear whether the salaries would work out; the Cavaliers would lack a true center if they tried this. trading Andrew Wiggins and Anderson Varejao (and some draft picks) for Love would make the Cavs a 60-plus-win team with James on the roster. Or the Cavs could wait for Wiggins, Irving and Tristan Thompson to develop further.But James has a number of alternatives that could get him on a championship-caliber roster right away — and with fewer contingencies. One possibility is Dallas:The Mavs have probably gotten over James, having made an offer to Chandler Parsons instead (Parsons is a restricted free agent, so the Rockets will have the right to match). And our projections aren’t all that optimistic about them. Dirk Nowitzki is finally due for some age-reversion. Monta Ellis has never been an advanced-stats poster boy. The Mavericks might get poor point-guard play from Ray Felton, and I’m assuming the team would have to salary-dump Brendan Wright, and give up on re-signing Vince Carter and Shawn Marion, in order to clear room for James. With all those issues, they’d still project to a 55-27 record next season with James.The Knicks rate similarly:This is almost certainly not going to happen. The Knicks would have to find takers for Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani. Even under this miracle scenario, I’m assuming that they’d lose Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway, Jr., in order to facilitate salary-dump deals. I have them relying on a lot of playing time from second-round draft picks and other dubious alternatives like Lamar Odom.Even so, the Knicks project to a 56-26 record with an Anthony/James pairing and an otherwise spartan roster. Don’t take this as an indication of how awesome the Knicks are, but instead as a benchmark for how little of a draw Miami’s incumbent status really is for James. As I mentioned earlier, a team of league-average players plus James would project to a 56-26 record; Miami is about a league-average team without James, but so are the Knicks. It’s not a high bar to clear.For some further indication of this, we can look at the next three teams in lightning-round fashion; all project to a 59-23 record with James on the roster. First up, one of Grantland basketball writer Zach Lowe’s dark-horse candidates, the Phoenix Suns:Jeff Hornacek somehow got 48 wins out of a roster that was expected to lose enough to be granted a lottery pick. There’s the potential for some mean-reversion in Phoenix, but that’s much less of a concern for a young club. The Suns have a lot of underpaid players and could potentially add another piece next year in addition to James. As Lowe wrote, if James were making a decision strictly on the basis of getting the max salary on a title contender, the Suns would be an excellent option.So might another Z-Lowe favorite, the Atlanta Hawks:The starting five would be very good, depending on Al Horford’s health. There isn’t a lot of depth in Atlanta, but Miami and Cleveland don’t have much depth either.A sexier alternative would be the Chicago Bulls:It might seem surprising that the Bulls project no better than the Suns or the Hawks — not that 59 wins is anything to sneeze at. But I’m assuming that to sign James, the Bulls would have to amnesty Carlos Boozer and find a taker for Mike Dunleavy.Granted, Boozer and Dunleavy are not better than league-average players at this point in their careers. But they also aren’t total zeroes; they combined for 10 win shares last season. The win-shares baseline is too generous; but when James gets added to an already talented roster, he’s taking playing time from some semi-respectable alternatives instead of some Bargnanis.The other issue is Derrick Rose, who projects as only a league-average player. The problem is not just that Rose has played only 10 games in the past two seasons — he stunk when he did play last year. Still (since we’re indulging in so many hypotheticals) the Bulls would project to a 65-17 record if they both signed James and Rose performed at his 2011-12 level.James’s final alternative would be to create a sequel to the Big Three with either the Clippers or the Rockets. They’re terrific options if the cap mechanics work. A LeBronful Clips team projects at 66-16 — and the Rockets are even better, at 69-13. The Clippers’ Big Three might be slightly better than the Rockets’, but the Clips would have to gut their roster to keep all three players on board — dumping DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford, and perhaps others. Still, the top-level talent might overwhelm everything else, in the fashion of the 2007-08 Celtics.The talent in Houston would run six players deep, with Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley and Terrence Jones aiding and abetting James, James Harden and Dwight Howard. After that, there would be almost no one on the roster — the Rockets would have to dump Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin to make room for James.There’s room for concern about how well James, Harden and Howard would mesh together — something that statistics like SPM may not capture well. But this would be a really, really good problem for Houston General Manager Daryl Morey to have. Even if the Rockets lost Parsons to Dallas as collateral damage and gave his minutes to veteran-minimum players instead, they’d project to 65 wins. Even if you subtracted five more wins for lack of team cohesion, they’d still be better positioned to win a championship than the Heat.But incumbency is a powerful advantage. James may stay in Miami or go back to Cleveland — even if some alternatives might give him a better chance of keeping up with Michael Jordan. The conventional wisdom is that LeBron James will remain in Miami or return home to Cleveland. Neither would maximize his chances of winning a championship — but Cleveland, at least, is on an upward trajectory.In Miami, James runs the risk of staying too long with a team in decline. The Heat won 54 games last year in a historically soft Eastern Conference and were dismantled by San Antonio in the NBA Finals. As if the Spurs left any doubt, a team with 54-win talent is rarely good enough to win a championship. Since the introduction of the three-point shot in 1979-80,1I exclude lockout-shortened seasons from these tallies. just one of 22 teams to finish with 54 regular-season wins has won the championship that season.I’m not cherry-picking data to make the Heat’s case look bad. We can expand the sample to include all teams that won between 52 and 56 regular-season games. There have been 102 such teams — and only three of them won the NBA title.Instead, a team’s title chances increase rapidly once it gets its win total into the high 50s — or better yet, somewhere in the 60s. A team with 55 regular-season wins will win the title about 5 percent of the time; with 60 wins, it will about 20 percent of the time, and with 65 wins, about 60 percent of the time.2These estimates are based on a logistic regression analysis.If James really wants to get to that 60-win threshold, he’d be better off exploring teams aside from his reported favorites, such as the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. When I placed James on the roster and ran projections for those teams, all but one finished ahead of both Miami and Cleveland.To make the projections, I used a metric called Statistical Plus/Minus (SPM), which was originally developed by my colleague Neil Paine. (SPM is not quite the same thing as NBA Real Plus Minus, though the systems are related.) SPM measures a player’s value in points per game (more precisely, points per 100 possessions3There are about 100 possessions per team in a typical NBA game, so points per 100 possessions is roughly equivalent to points per game.) relative to the league average. For instance, a player with an SPM of +4 (like the Bulls’ Joakim Noah) produces a net of four extra points for his team per 100 possessions. James is in the range of +8. Negative SPMs indicate below-average players.SPM has a good track record when it comes to predicting how teams will be affected by roster changes. But I’m hoping not to get sidetracked into a debate about which is the best “all-in-one” NBA metric.4A couple of us at FiveThirtyEight are agnostic enough about the alternatives that we’re thinking about publishing a consensus metric that averages the different rating systems. In this case my choice is pragmatic: Whereas some metrics like win shares value the very best NBA players as worth 15 to 20 wins per season, others like PER estimate that they’re worth 25 to 30 wins per season. SPM, which can also be translated into win totals, comes down somewhere in the middle, and puts James in the low 20s.We also need some way to project a player’s SPM for next season, so I’m using a variant on another Neil Paine invention, the Simple Projection System. Like Neil’s system, my version uses data from the past three NBA seasons. The only variables it looks at are SPM and minutes played. But it includes a slightly more sophisticated handling of mean-reversion5Simple Projection System reverts players to the league average, whereas my variant reverts players to below the league average and is more suspicious of players who post strong SPMs in limited minutes. and player aging.6Simple Projection System is probably too conservative about adjusting for a player’s age. There’s also a separate routine to handle rookies, whom I’ve projected on the basis of their draft position and age.7Holding draft position constant, older players are more “NBA-ready” (better) in their rookie seasons, though the trend reverses itself after a few seasons. You might call my variant the Pretty Simple Projection System (PSPS).Let’s put some of that methodology to use. I’ve projected seasons for the 10 teams that, at one point or another, were rumored to have a chance at landing James. We’ll start with the worst and move toward the best. Ranking at the bottom are the Los Angeles Lakers.The system projects that the Lakers would win only 42 games even with James on the roster. The problem is that between age and injuries, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol may be no better than average NBA players — and any scenario that would allow the Lakers to sign James would require them to absolutely gut their depth.Importantly, I’m making a few assumptions in constructing the Lakers’ hypothetical roster — and in constructing the rosters for all the teams James may join:James is the only top-tier free agent the team signs this summer, other than its own free agents. So the Lakers can re-sign Pau Gasol, for instance, if the salary numbers are at all realistic. But they can’t also sign Carmelo Anthony or someone to pair with James.Rosters must be at least vaguely plausible under the salary cap and other contractual rules. Some cases will be bigger stretches than others. (For the Lakers, both James and Gasol would probably have to accept less than they might make elsewhere.) But they’re reasonable best-case scenarios or slightly better than that. In some cases, I’ll specify players who I assume will have to be traded to clear cap room for James.James and his teammates stay in reasonably good health, but there are no medical miracles. For instance: Kobe Bryant may be relatively healthy, but he doesn’t go back to playing 40 minutes a game, 82 times a year.8The minutes-per-game figures in this article represent the total number of minutes on a player’s season divided by 82 games — as opposed to the average number of minutes in games that a player participates in. For instance, if Samuel Dalembert averages 30 minutes per game in his first 41 games with the Knicks, then sits out the remaining 41 games due to injury, his minutes would be listed at 15 per game, not 30. This is why the minutes-played figures may look conservative — I’m building in some buffer for injury. (He played in just six games last season.)Every team that gets James also gets Ray Allen for “free.” That is to say, it signs Allen for the minimum salary or in some other way that doesn’t require it to sacrifice its options. There are reports that Allen will follow James wherever he goes. Like a lot of reports in the NBA’s silly season, they may turn out to be false. But even if Allen doesn’t follow James, another veteran like Mike Miller might. Allen represents a team’s “LeBron Dividend” — the one or two championship-seeking veterans who might join James for slightly below their market rate in order to have a shot at a ring.After Allen, I assume that a team signs generic replacement-level players if it doesn’t have enough minutes to fill out its roster. This is pertinent in the case of the Lakers. Even after some heroic assumptions — Steve Nash stays healthy enough to play half the Lakers’ minutes at point guard, they give playing time to second-round pick Jordan Clarkson — the Lakers will almost certainly need to sign a number of scrappy veterans at the minimum salary. Players signed to league-minimum contracts in 2013-14 averaged about -2 points per 100 possessions. Opponents of a roster full of such players would outscore it by 10 points per game, leaving the league-minimum team with a record of 16-66.9That uses a Pythagorean projection; I use 14 as the pythagorean exponent, as Basketball-Reference.com does. This implies, incidentally, that replacement level in the NBA is not zero wins, as some other systems have it, but somewhere in the range of last year’s Philadelphia 76ers instead.
Somewhere along the way, boxing fell down and has been unable to get back up—just like the old lady in the commercial. But when she called out for help, there was someone listening. Boxing’s call has gone unanswered for years now. And so, a sport that once was must-see action just lies there, unresponsive, virtually comatose.Every now and again, Floyd Mayweather will fight or Manny Pacquiao will knock out someone, and the sport feels resuscitated – for about an hour. Then it curls back into the fetal position.Where have all the champions gone? Surely someone could go down the prolonged list of acronym belt-holders and say, “There. There are the champions.” And you would not recognize most of them. There is no one to compare to Sugar Ray Leonard or Roberto Duran or Tommy Hearns or Marvin Hagler or Wilfredo Benitez or Aaron Pryor or Alexis Arguello or Julio Ceasar Chavez or Roy Jones Jr. or Pernell Whitaker or Oscar De La Hoya or Felix Trinidad or Hector Camacho.That’s a baker’s dozen worth of champions from the 1980s and 1990s who were of style and substance. They were reasons to watch the so-called “sweet science.” And that list did not even include heavyweights. It would not have been fair to go back to the golden ages of boxing, where legends Sugar Ray Robinson, Floyd Patterson, Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, etc., were the kings of the ring.There was a time when the heavyweight champion of the world was an iconic figure, the symbolic “baddest man on the planet.” As off-center as he was, Mike Tyson was a boxing meter-mover, perhaps the biggest of all time when he was at his best. He did his work in the late 1980s and 1990s, when there was Evander Holyfield, ageless George Foreman, Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis, Michael Moorer all sharing the heavyweight crown (with a few flukes) over a decade.The point is, there was genuine interest and excitement in boxing. In most every weight class, there were fighters that were skilled and interesting, if not complex.Now the Klitschoko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, reign over the largest classification, with no challengers of merit. They are from the Ukraine and have the personalities of, well, Ukrainians.Worse for boxing, even if Mayweather and Pacquiao do come together and deliver an epic, where does that leave the sport? What would be the next highly anticipated fight? A rematch?The word is that promoter Bob Arum is holding up an agreement to put those two together. How silly is that? Why is a promoter needed in a fight that all boxing fans (and even the curious) are clamoring to see? But then, it’s boxing, meaning no need to be surprised at the ridiculous.Take a glance at the list of “champions” of the WBC, WBA, WBO, IBF and it reads like an international roll call. Beyond that, none of them generate so much as an inkling of interest.Perhaps there is one Great African-American Hope to pull us from these boxing doldrums. Middleweight champion Andre Ward, an Olympic gold medalist, has the goods. He’s skilled, humble, tough, smart and charismatic. And he gets it, more so than most.In an interview, he said, “You’ve got to use your brain. When you’re a thinking man’s fighter, sometimes people take that as if you’re a reluctant warrior. But my ultimate goal is to become a master of my sport, where I can control the other man effortlessly.”How can you not feel good about someone who thinks like that? But the problem persists: Who would be his opponent that would energize the masses? Can’t think of one – unless Leonard wants to come out of retirement at age 56.There was time when fathers and sons watched boxing together. It was sort of a rite of passage. Many fights came on free TV on Saturdays, on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. You could actually sit home with your family and see wonderful championship fights.Hardly is there a match worth watching now, much less worth the $59.95 pay-per-view price tag ($69.95 in HD). Many have turned to MMA (mixed martial arts), which is even more barbaric and Stone Age than boxing. That the brutal “sport” could even approach boxing speaks to how hard it has fallen.The top young athletes are eschewing the boxing gym for basketball or football. The fan base that fiends for a revival is discouraged. And the best fight out there cannot get made.Not sure how boxing can get off the mat. The referee is counting.Curtis Bunn is a best-selling novelist and national award-winning sports journalist who has worked at The Washington Times, NY Newsday, The New York Daily News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Source: TMZ Kingston, Jamaica – Champion sprinter Usain Bolt — who has three Olympic gold medals to his name — was in a car crash early Sunday morning in Jamaica, but escaped uninjured.A rep for Bolt says the crash took place in Kingston, Jamaica at 5:15 AM. Bolt was returning home from a Saturday night shin-dig with friends when the “fender bender” occurred.The rep said there were no injuries and Bolt is “fine and resting at home.” His teammate, Asafa Powell, was also on scene at the time of the crash, but was traveling in a different car. Usain Bolt also crashed in 2009, driving barefoot, and lost a month of training after needing minor surgery to remove thorns embedded in his left foot.Bolt won three gold medals for Jamaica at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. He will go for gold again in London this summer.
Bullpenning might be an even more powerful force in the National League playoffs. Wild-card rosters can be manipulated to carry more position players. By pinch-hitting for the pitcher spot regularly in a game, an NL-bullpenning team can add a de facto designated hitter to its lineup.The Brewers’ bullpen enters the postseason on a tear. After winning a tiebreaker game Monday against the Cubs to avoid the NL wild-card game, Milwaukee will likely rely heavily on its bullpen in the NL Division Series round. The Brewers employed a “bullpen day” recently and have the NL’s most valuable reliever per WAR in Josh Hader (2.9), who entered Monday second to the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman in the majors in strikeouts per nine innings with 15.9.Nearly every team in the postseason has placed a premium on bullpen help with an eye on regular and postseason play. Never have teams more valued relief pitchers — the position group was one of the few player demographics unaffected by last offseason’s ice cold free agent market. The Rockies committed $106 million to free agent relievers last winter — and that was before Adam Ottavino became one of the best relievers in baseball this season, remaking himself in a vacant Manhattan storefront. The Indians gave up their best prospect, Francisco Mejia, in a deadline deal with San Diego to acquire relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. The defending champion Astros trail only the Yankees and San Diego Padres in relief WAR (8.2) and posted the lowest bullpen ERA (3.03) in baseball this season. Yankees GM Brian Cashman built a super bullpen before the 2017 trade deadline and added Baltimore relief ace Zach Britton prior to this deadline.Relievers could throw as many or more innings as starters in the postseason this fall. While there are still 27 outs necessary to record a win, the way to optimize run prevention has been turned upside down.Check out our latest MLB predictions. With the game turning more to bullpens, no situation calls for consideration of a bullpen-style approach more than the urgency-filled wild-card games this week. The New York Yankees and Oakland A’s are built to pitch largely from their bullpens when they begin the American League playoffs Wednesday, as the teams respectively rank first and fifth in the majors in relief wins above replacement. The Yankees set an MLB record for strikeout rate by a bullpen last season and shattered their own mark this season, becoming the first relief corps to strike out more than 11 batters per nine innings for a season. Their 9.7 WAR total is also an MLB record. The Yankees and A’s are each considering “bullpenning” the game, a strategy in which a traditional starting pitcher does not go deep into a game, or even start the game, and the majority of innings are absorbed by relievers or starters in brief appearances.While the Yankees have an ace in Luis Severino, another penalty for not winning a division is that teams are often faced with expending their best starting pitcher in the wild-card game. But allowing a No. 1 starter to work the majority of a wild-card game limits his total impact in the following series, should the team advance. Bullpenning the wild-card game allows for a team to rest its best starting pitcher or use him in limited fashion.Nearly a year to the day after former Yankee manager Joe Girardi said he was uncomfortable with bullpenning a playoff game (Severino’s struggles prompted an early call to the bullpen anyway), first-year Yankee manager Aaron Boone said last week that he will “absolutely” consider a bullpen-heavy approach.“We’ll be rested and lined up,” Boone said on 98.7 ESPN NY, “so I can see getting two, three, four or five innings from (the starter) and then roll it out.”The A’s almost have to get the majority of their innings from their bullpen Wednesday. Oakland has the thinnest starting staff of any team in the postseason, a group decimated by injuries. Ace Sean Manaea is on the disabled list, as are starting pitchers Jharel Cotton, Daniel Gossett and Kendall Graveman. Oakland’s best remaining starters are Trevor Cahill, Mike Fiers and Edwin Jackson. But the A’s do have one of the most dominant relievers in the game in Blake Treinen, who has a 0.78 ERA, and they strengthened their bullpen at the trade deadline with the acquisitions of Jeurys Familia and Fernando Rodney. Only the Tampa Bay Rays, who routinely started games with relievers — or “openers” — saw their starters average fewer pitches per start (63) than Oakland (81) this season.“We’ve basically built the whole season back to front, so I don’t know why we would change now,” A’s general manager David Forst said of the team’s wild card pitching plans. “The year that Blake has had makes him probably the most important guy on that pitching staff. … We will start our planning with him and then similarly Familia, Rodney and [Lou] Trivino have been so good. We’ll probably figure it out that way.”Teams are less and less likely to allow their starting pitchers to make a third trip through an opponent’s batting order. MLB starting pitchers faced 26,022 opponents for a third time or more through a batting this season compared with 35,545 such plate appearances in 2008 and 41,211 in 1998. Data shows that pitchers generally lose effectiveness each time they work through a batting order. While an elite ace might be a club’s best option for a third or fourth time through, more often a bullpen arm is the better way to go. The Dodgers demonstrated that last season, during their run to the World Series, when they at times limited their starters’ exposure to opposing lineups — though pitchers like Rich Hill were not always pleased with the quick hookOf the AL playoff teams, the relievers of the Astros, Yankees, Red Sox and A’s — all but the Indians — limited opponents to a lower on-base percentage plus slugging in their first plate appearance in a game than starters did to opponents in their second plate appearance. In the NL, the Brewers and Cubs also might want to think about going to their bullpen before some of their starting pitchers face an opposing lineup a second time. This Major League Baseball postseason, and in particular this wild-card round, might represent a tipping point in pitching strategy.Relievers accounted for a record 17,415⅓ innings this season, topping the record set last year of 16,469⅔ innings. Major league relievers accounted for 40.1 percent of total innings thrown this season, a record share of workload. And bullpens have taken on an even greater share of work in recent postseasons. Relievers threw a then-record 38.1 percent of regular-season innings last season, but in the postseason, that share of work jumped to 46.5 percent of innings. For comparison, bullpens in 2010 accounted for 32.9 of regular-season innings and 32.3 percent of postseason innings. The end game — the bullpen, the relief corps — is increasingly front-and-center in baseball, particularly in the postseason.
INDIANAPOLIS — Ohio State topped Michigan, 68-61, in a heated battle in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Saturday. The afternoon involved a lot of activity from the referees that lead to foul trouble for OSU early. That trouble forced coach Thad Matta to extend his bench. Regardless of who was on the court, the bad blood was evident between the two rivals and the Wolverines kept the game close throughout. A strong second half from a previously slumping OSU junior guard William Buford was needed to secure the victory. Officials’ involvement Officials Ted Valentine, Ed Hightower and Gene Steratore blew their whistles for a total of 33 fouls on the afternoon. Twenty were on the Wolverines. “It seems like they were calling them a lot like they did (Friday) … they’re not really letting anything go inside and that benefits the big men,” said Dave Novak, father of Michigan guard Zack Novak. Buckeye freshman forward Jared Sullinger shot just 10 free throws Saturday, down from the 18 he attempted in the OSU victory against Northwestern on Friday. Besides the fouls, both teams’ benches were warned in the first half for their reactions to the officials judgment. Valentine once gestured inches from OSU fifth-year senior forward David Lighty and once touched Michigan guard Darius Morris on the chest after calling fouls on the players. Dave attributed the extra activity of the official to the time of year. “I really didn’t notice that,” he said. “As the season gets long, the stakes get higher.” Matta said he was happy with how his players reacted to the whistles and kept their composure and kept their attention on the right things. “(I was) telling our guys, let’s just keep doing what we are doing,” he said. “Our focus was on the right things.” Though some focus might have been redirected to those in striped shirts, Keith Diebler, father of OSU senior guard Jon Diebler, kept his attention on the athletes. “The only thing I’m going to say is officials don’t decide outcomes,” he said. “Other than that I am going to be quiet.” Bench contributions The aggressive officiating led Matta to call on his little-used bench. Freshman forward Deshaun Thomas and freshman guard Jordan Sibert received significant playing time after Lighty and freshman point guard Aaron Craft picked up two early fouls. “When those two were out with foul trouble Jordan and Deshaun came in and played excellent for us,” Jon said. “We’re going to stick to our game plan regardless of who’s on the court.” Thomas scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds while Sibert contributed two points on a transition dunk. The opportunity for the fast break came off the freshman’s own steal. Sibert logged 11 minutes of game action, 10 of which came in the first half. It was an increase in workload for the guard who has appeared in only 23 of the Buckeyes’ 33 games. “As I was walking in to sub-in I really didn’t know what I was going to do when I was out there and I looked at Dave and I looked at Jared and they just told me, be smart and play hard,” he said. “I was like, OK, that’s what I am going to do, and it worked well for me.” Bad blood The rivalry between OSU and Michigan was displayed throughout the afternoon as players from both teams seemed to be talking to one another often. The tension escalated in the second half when Sullinger was fouled by freshman forward Jordan Morgan. While trying to untangle himself from Morgan, who had fallen to the ground, it appeared that he grabbed Sullinger’s leg. “That was kind of dirty. He didn’t need to do that,” Buford said. Buford responded to the action by getting in Morgan’s face, who then shoved Buford while they were walking side by side. “I just wanted to let (Sullinger) know I had his back no matter what,” he said. Diebler and Lighty were also talking to the Michigan huddle at the beginning of the timeout that followed the altercation. “We all got each other’s back out there; we all feel we need to,” Buford said. “That’s like my little big brother.” The team was playing the Wolverines for the third time this season. Lighty is familiar with the intensity in these games. “It’s Ohio State and the ‘team up north.’ Once you say that, it’s automatically heated,” he said. “It’s just that much more added motivation.” Buford’s second half After shooting just 3-for-14 in the Buckeyes’ first game of the tournament against Northwestern, it seemed Buford’s struggles would continue against Michigan. He was 2-of-5 in the first half and neglected to take some open looks. After changing his mentality at halftime, Buford scored eight points on 4-of-9 shooting after intermission. “In the first half I felt I had looks; it just wasn’t falling,” he said. “Second half I was just trying to be more aggressive.” Buford was also key on a 16-0 scoring run that helped the Buckeyes create some separation from the Wolverines. A portion of the run followed the two teams’ scuffle and Buford was partially motivated by his involvement in it, he said. Buford had been playing well before the tournament, averaging nearly 18 points per game over the team’s last four contests of the regular season on 57 percent shooting. He did not bring the same shooting touch to his first postseason game. “Yesterday I was just throwing it up there and not really shooting,” Buford said. “I just felt today I needed to take my time and shoot my shot.” The Buckeyes look to take home the Big Ten Tournament championship title against Penn State at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
The Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame welcomed a new, 11-member class, which included two Super Bowl champions and four total football players, during two separate ceremonies Friday evening at the Ohio Union. Headlining the list of inductees was Bobby Watkins, the first black football recruit in OSU history and a running back from 1952 to 1954. Watkins, who split time during interviews by sharing stories of his time as a Buckeye playing under late, former coach Woody Hayes and reciting Robert Burns poetry, was visibly emotional as he discussed his days at OSU. “I thought I was a very, very fortunate young man to be able to play at Ohio State,” Watkins said. “(Ohio State) said ‘We’d like to have you,’ and of course, I was elated. And the rest was history.” The football contingent of hall of fame inductees was rounded out by offensive lineman Orlando Pace and safety Mike Doss who donned the Scarlet and Gray from 1994 to 1996 and 1999 to 2002, respectively. “I was sitting at home and they called me out of the blue,” said Pace, a member of the 199 Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams. “I was excited. I really enjoyed those three years (at OSU) and being a part of this great university.” Doss, a member of both the 2002 consensus national champion Buckeyes and Super Bowl XLI champion Indianapolis Colts teams, agreed. “It’s truly a blessing,” he said. “I feel humbled. I feel elated. I’m enjoying this and it is something that I will always cherish.” The late Leo Raskowski was also honored on Friday. Raskowski played tackle for the Buckeyes from 1926 to 1928 and passed away in 1952 after losing his battle with a lung illness. Other male inductees included gymnast Raj Bhavsar and wrestler Mitch Clark, who attended OSU from 2000 to 2003 and 1994 to 1998, respectively. The female induction ceremony saw golfer Kristen White, rower Didi Albrecht, softball’s Stacy Roth, track and field hammer-thrower Katy Craig and pistol team member Jessica Marshall honored as well. White led OSU women’s golf from 2002 to 2005 and was a two-time Big Ten player of the year. Albrecht helped the Buckeyes to a fourth-place finish at the 2005 NCAA Championships while rowing for the university from 2002 to 2005. Albrecht is currently an assistant coach for OSU’s rowing team. Roth played softball for the Buckeyes from 1999 to 2002 and was a two-time MVP for OSU. Craig was a three-time All-American and a four-time Big Ten champion during her stay in Columbus from 1999 to 2002. Marshall was a 12-time All-American for OSU’s pistol team and helped the team to the 2004 women’s national championship. The 2011 hall of fame class will be introduced at halftime of OSU football’s game against Toledo on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.
Junior attackman Reegan Comeault (8) looks for an open teammate during a game against Robert Morris Feb. 1 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. OSU won, 11-7.Credit: Ryan Robey / For The LanternLooking to rebound from a triple overtime loss to Johns Hopkins, the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team is set to travel to Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday to take on the Massachusetts Minutemen in the Moe’s Southwest Grill Classic.Playing at Homewood Field for the first time since 2001, OSU was unable to come away with the win against Johns Hopkins after senior attackman Brandon Benn scored 59 seconds into the third overtime to help the Blue Jays escape with the victory.OSU coach Nick Myers said despite the loss, he liked the resiliency his players showed, which is something the team can build upon moving forward.“Our men fought hard,” Myers said Wednesday. “When that enthusiasm, that fight and energy is there, that is something we can look at and say is going to carry us until we get the schemes and the play to where we want it to be.”Coming off a 7-8 record in 2013, UMass got its season underway last weekend when it traveled to Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y., to take on Army.Led by a pair of two-goal performances from junior attackman Grant Whiteway and freshman attackman Nick Mariano, the Minutemen were able to hold off the Black Knights and walk away victorious, 6-5.OSU senior defenseman Joe Meurer, who caused one turnover in the loss to Johns Hopkins, said as far as defensively, OSU is not worried about who is on the other side of the field, but it is more focused on playing its own game and growing together as a unit.“We’re continuing to build chemistry with our defense,” Meurer said. “It all goes back to our approaches on guys, playing loud, and playing with our sticks up to generate a lot of turnovers.”Offensively, the Buckeyes are likely to search for more weapons alongside junior midfielder Jesse King, who led the team in scoring against Johns Hopkins with a career-high five goals and also added an assist.However, OSU will have to do that against a UMass defense that has been ranked in the top 25 for three consecutive years.Myers said one of the things that has to improve for the Buckeyes if they are going to find that production this week is their extra-man opportunities, where OSU went 0-4 last Sunday.“We haven’t proven that we can score on a routine basis without Jesse in that group,” Myers said. “It’s something that we’ve focused on this week in practice and are expecting to see more of this weekend. It’s an area of focus for us.”Senior defenseman Dominic Imbordino said if the Buckeyes stick to their schemes, they can come away this weekend with the win.“It’s more about us right now,” Imbordino said. “If we play the way we know we can … if we keep building the foundation, we are going to be OK.”Game time is set for Sunday at 9 p.m.
Members of the OSU and Akron men’s soccer teams face the flag during the national anthem before a Nov. 20 NCAA Tournament 1st round match at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU advanced on penalty kicks, 1-1 (13-12). Credit: Emily Yarcusko / For The Lantern Five rounds of penalty kicks weren’t enough to decide a winner. Nor were six, or 10 or 14.It took a 15-round penalty kick shootout for the Ohio State men’s soccer team to advance past Akron, 1-1 (13-12), in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday night.“I think this result is what being a Buckeye is all about,” redshirt-senior goalkeeper Alex Ivanov said. “We battled through the end, we believed we could do it, we persevered and we did it.”The teams went back-and-forth until Ivanov denied Akron redshirt-freshman midfielder/defender Robby Dambrot to open the 15th round. OSU junior midfielder Zach Mason then put it into the net for his second score of the shootout to put an end to the game.“It’s relieving, and it’s just euphoria after that,” Mason said about his game clincher. “I mean, I don’t even know, I couldn’t even think, it’s just so exciting.”OSU coach John Bluem said the team has been working on penalty kicks since the days leading up to the Big Ten Tournament in preparation for a shootout.“We practice on them every day since the week before postseason play started because any of the postseason games can go to penalty kicks,” Bluem said. “But I think the main thing is just to be confident, pick where you’re going to go, don’t watch the goalkeeper’s doing if he’s jumping back and forth, just pick where you’re going to go and put it right in there.”In all, 30 shots were taken in the shootout, with 25 finding the back of the net. Ivanov said, even of the three stops he made, there is no strategy other than simply guessing.Members of the OSU men’s soccer team celebrate a goal from junior defender Kyle Culbertson (3) during a match against Akron on Nov. 20 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU advanced on penalty kicks, 1-1 (13-12).Credit: Emily Yarcusko / For The Lantern“At that point, you’ve just gotta pick a way and just dive, just get your hands there and make the save as best you can,” Ivanov said.Those 30 penalty kicks were not the only ones taken on the night, either.In the 30th minute, a collision off an Akron corner kick awarded the Zips a penalty shot, served by Akron sophomore midfielder Adam Najem. Najem sent it to the right post, where Ivanov dove, but not in time to stop the shot.“We thought in the first half that we played pretty well, and that it was – I haven’t seen video of it yet – but it was a pretty tough penalty kick call early on there,” Bluem said.The goal was Najem’s 14th of the year, moving him into a tie for third in the nation.OSU had trouble generating much offense in the first half, as it had to play against the strong, cold winds after Akron elected to play with the wind first. The Buckeyes only managed one first-half shot, compared to four for Akron, two of which were on target.However, the teams switched sides in the second half, and the Buckeyes were able to play the final 45 minutes with the wind at their backs.Despite five corner kicks and the majority of the possession in the first 20 minutes of the second half, OSU started slow, not registering a shot until 63rd minute.That first shot might have been all the Buckeyes needed to loosen up.About three minutes later, junior defender Kyle Culbertson received a pass in front of the box off a free kick from junior defender Liam Doyle, and put it into the back of the net for his fourth goal of the season to tie the game.“It was just a set piece,” Culbertson said. “Liam Doyle had a great ball in, and it just fell through the back side. I just wanted to make sure I got solid contact and put it on frame.”The Zips had a chance to regain the lead with just over four minutes left in regulation, when a give-and-go freed up freshman forward Adi Dakwar with a shot at the net, but his shot banged high off the goalpost.OSU freshman forward Marcus McCrary then suffered a similar fate about 90 seconds later, when his shot careened off the Akron goalpost, causing the game to head to overtime.In the first overtime, OSU outshot Akron, 3-1, but none represented any real scoring chance, and the game went to double overtime.Despite a trio of good looks for the Buckeyes in the second overtime, no one could find the back of the net there either. OSU outshot Akron, 3-0, in the period, but the game advanced to penalty kicks.Culbertson originally signed with Akron out of high school before transferring to Columbia, and finally transferring a second time to OSU before the 2013 season. He had to sit out that season because of NCAA double-transfer rules. Despite never playing a game for the Zips, he said he had some extra motivation against his former school.“It’s not a team we like to lose to, an instate rival, especially me, I’m not a big fan having been in an Akron shirt before, I definitely don’t like losing to them,” Culbertson said.The overtime session was the third of the season for Akron, and sixth for OSU.OSU, appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010 when it advanced to the regional semifinals, now earns the right to face the No. 1 seed in the tournament and defending champion, Notre Dame.However, Bluem said his team’s difficult regular season schedule has adequately prepared it for a game like that.“I think it’s great that we’re going to go play the number-one seed in the country in the tournament,” Bluem said. “We have played one of the most difficult schedules of any team in the country all year long, and we’ve responded pretty well.”Bluem said that missing out on winning the Big Ten championship has motivated his team further.“We kinda feel like there’s still work left to be done, because we missed out on some things that we almost had,” Bluem said. “So now here’s another opportunity, and it’s a great challenge, but it’s a great opportunity, and our guys have been seizing those moments all year long, hopefully we can rise to the occasion and do it one more time.”OSU’s second-round matchup with Notre Dame is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. Sunday in South Bend, Ind.
In one particularly embarrassing email Beckham appears to object to singer Katherine Jenkins, who once used her Twitter account to deny having an affair with him, being given an OBE, in the 2014 New Year Honours, for services to music and for charitable services.The email to Mr Oliveira states: “Katherine Jenkins OBE for what? Singing at the rugby and going to see the troops, plus admitting to taking coke … F***ing joke and if you get asked we should think of a cutting remark.”But Beckham, a Unicef goodwill ambassador since 2005, is understood to be particularly angry that the emails appear to show him as cynically using his charity work to curry favour with the honours committee.He is also furious that they depict him as demanding money from the United Nations children’s charity to pay for flights and hotels to visit its projects with children in places such as the Philippines..In one email he apparently complained about being asked to match the highest bidders at a Unicef auction in New York, stating: “Chloe asked me an outright which I was p***** . . . I don’t want to do it and won’t do it with my own money.”And another appears to show his staff haggling with Unicef over its choice of accommodation for Beckham during his 2015 trip to Cambodia.The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star had been booked by the charity into the five-star Sofitel hotel, but Beckham apparently wanted to stay in the luxurious Amansara resort, with his staff wanting Unicef to pay part of the bill.One email states: “Would Unicef contribute the same amount that was being paid for the Sofitel and he’ll make up the difference in price for the place he wants to stay.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. However, Beckham is at pains to point out that through his appearances and the work of his foundation, the 7 Fund, he has raised millions of pounds for the charity.A statement issued by his PR team says: “David Beckham and Unicef have had a powerful partnership in support of children for over 15 years. The David Beckham 7 Fund specifically has raised millions of pounds and helped millions of vulnerable children around the world. “David Beckham has given significant time and energy and has made personal financial donations to the 7 Fund and this commitment will continue long term.”It adds: “Before establishing the 7 Fund, David had supported Unicef and a number of other charities over many years, including donating his entire earnings from PSG during his time playing there. David and Unicef are rightly proud of what they have and will continue to achieve together and are happy to let the facts speak for themselves.”Unicef also came to the star’s defence. Although it would not comment on the veracity of the emails because it had not seen the originals, it described Beckham “as generously giving his time, energy and support to help raise awareness and funds for Unicef’s work for children”.It added: “David has given significant funds personally. The 7 Fund supports programmes for children, tackling issues such as malnutrition, violence, AIDS and emergencies.”Unicef cited Beckham’s visit to Swaziland in June 2016 to raise awareness of the devastating drought affecting eastern and southern Africa, and pointed out that since the launch of the 7 Fund in February 2015 it has raised millions of pounds for Unicef programmes and “reached millions of people around the world with crucial messages about our work for very vulnerable children”.According to Unicef the 7 Fund is helping it to provide improved water and sanitation to children and their families in Burkina Faso and provide vital support and protection to HIV-positive mothers and children in Swaziland.Beckham’s organisation also works with Unicef in Papua New Guinea, helping to provide life-saving food to young children and funding a range of child protection services to help keep children in Cambodia safe. David Beckham visiting a centre for vulnerable children supported by Unicef in Siem Reap, Cambodia, in June 2015Credit:PA/Unicef The PR team of the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder said that he had a ‘powerful partnership’ with Unicef David Beckham has hit out at claims that he used his children’s charity work as part of a cynical campaign to win a knighthood.The former England captain has angrily denied getting involved with Unicef’s campaigns and projects only in order to build a favourable public image and present himself as a fitting candidate for the senior honour.The claims came after a series of emails purporting to be from Beckham were published on Saturday, in which he appeared to rail at not been selected for a knighthood.In one he allegedly states: “They r a bunch of c***s. I expected nothing less. Who decides on the honors [sic]?? It’s a disgrace to be honest and if I was American I would have got something like this 10 years ago.”But in a forthright statement Beckham, who received an OBE from the Queen in 2003, rejected the claims, maintaining that some of the emails had been doctored and others had been taken out of context.His PR team says that the cache of emails from Beckham to his publicist Simon Oliveira and others in his team were obtained after Mr Oliveira’s computer server was illegally hacked.A spokesman for Beckham told The Telegraph: “This story is based on outdated material taken out of context from hacked and doctored private emails from a third party server and gives a deliberately inaccurate picture.”
Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)RelatedUpdate: President Granger meets Queen Elizabeth, pushes ‘green agenda’April 27, 2017In “latest news”‘Guyana becoming the land of opportunities’ -Swiss AmbassadorMay 9, 2018In “latest news”TOTAL executives call on President GrangerFebruary 9, 2018In “latest news” President David Granger said that Guyana, for long term development, has the most exciting investments prospects in the Caribbean and added that the country holds an enviable and strategic position as the link between the South American continent, the Caribbean region and the rest of the world.Investors queued up to speak one on one with President David Granger, following the formal presentations. Here the Head of State is pictured in discussion with Director at ION Geophysical, Mr. Folarin Lajumoke.According to a statement by the Ministry of the Presidency, the President’s remarks, which were made at an investment seminar, organised by the Caribbean Council in London, today, were supported by Mr. Gil Holzman, President and Chief Exective Officer of ECO Atlantic Oil and Gas, which has a stake in oil and gas exploration in Guyana.He said, “With everything combined together under the management of the President and his administration, I think the next two to five to ten years will be very transformational and again, from my personal perspective, this is probably the best investment destination in the world at the moment.”Mr. Andy Thorne, Group Chairman of the Kestrel Group makes a point as British High Commissioner to Guyana, Mr. Greg Quinn and Mr. Gil Holzman, President and Chief Executive Officer of ECO Atlantic Oil and Gas listen attentively.President Granger and Mr. Holzman were part of a panel, which included Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carl Greenidge, British High Commissioner to Guyana, Mr. Greg Quinn and Mr. Andy Thorne, Group Chairman of the Kestrel Group, which is involved in the shipping industry in Guyana.The session was facilitated by British Member of Parliament, Lord Bruce of Bennachie and in the audience were business executives from infrastructure, port development, oil and gas, tourism and hospitality and shipping, who are already operating in the Caribbean and Guyana or are interested in doing so, along with Members of the diplomatic community.The Guyanese Head of State sold Guyana as an exciting investment destination with several advantages and opportunities. “We have the land, we have an intelligent English-speaking population, we have the resources, and I think people who are looking for something different; something unique, will come to Guyana. I am not suggesting that you leave Belize or Antigua or Barbados but I am suggesting for long-term development, Guyana is the best prospect for investment,” he said.According to the Ministry of the Presidency, President Granger painted a picture of Guyana’s potential and the ‘green’ State development policy, which would see it taking advantage of its eco-tourism product, preserving its environment, pursuing ‘green’ energy development while taking advantage of coming oil and gas revenues to accomplish these goals, declaring that even as the country transitions, it has to ‘walk on two legs’.“Oil and gas is a very attractive prospect… We probably wouldn’t start to produce oil and gas till maybe 2020… We will continue to develop our sources of renewable energy and at the same time use the revenues from the petroleum industry to funnel our development of infrastructure and education in particular, and ensure that other industries could be diversified away from what we call our six sisters; sugar, rice, bauxite, timber and gold and diamonds. Oil and gas is not going to distract us. We are going to ensure that the revenues… go into our Sovereign Wealth Fund, but we will also ensure that we continue to become a ‘green’ state by developing our sustainable energy resources,” President Granger said.With the need for cheaper energy to boost the manufacturing sector, the Head of State outlined Guyana’s energy generation potential and called for investments in solar and wind energy, biomass and hydropower. (Photos by MotP)