Friday, December 09, 2005

A Loser Picking Winners, Week 14

Well, the Tar Heels -- the 24th ranked Tar Heels -- won again last night. Yeah, yeah, I know. It was against St. Louis University ... in Chapel Hill, but this is still a team that starts three freshmen along with Reyshawn Terry and David Noel.

SLU spent most of the first half draining three's from all points on the court, but apparently they weren't informed that the Tyler Hansbrough Show started promptly at the start of the second half. Hansbrough scored 17 of his 21 points in said half -- all in the paint or at the line -- and usually after either (a) wrestling for an offensive rebound, or (b) using one of his nifty interior moves to create a shot. And while that his performance was pretty impressive, maybe the player of the game should've been PG Bobby Frasor. Watching Quentin Thomas as a freshman a year ago in his limited playing time, and Frasor this season, is like watching Jared before and after he found Subway. (OK, not really, but it is a funny visual). Frasor had 12 assists and one turnover. And he's a freshman. Playing in his sixth college basketball game.

Or maybe even Wes Miller. Any guy that's under 5'0" and not named "Spud" or "Muggsy", and can hoist threes all night long might deserve to be player of the game too.

As Carolina struggled during the 10 minutes on each side of the half, I got to thinking about crazy things like, "what if none of the players left before their senior year (or turned pro out of high school) -- how good would that team be?" Well, let's see what that lineup would look like:
PG - Raymond Felton
SG - Rashad McCants
F - J.R. Smith
F - Marvin Williams
C - Sean May

PG - Bobby Frasor
SG - Marcus Ginyard
F - Reyshawn Terry
F - David Noel
C - Tyler Hansbrough

Blue Team:
Quentin Thomas
Wes Miller
Danny Green
Byron Sanders
Yeah, that team might surprise a few people. Of course, it would violate the first rule of "enjoying UNC basketball because this team has no expectations," but that might be a trade-off worth making. Or, I could just wait a year and the lineup would include six guys that could make the Heels a lot better than the 2004-05 version:
PG - Tywon Lawson: the best PG in the country
SG - William Graves
SG - Wayne Ellington: the best SG in the country
F - Brandan Wright: might be the best player in the country
F - Alex Stepheson
C - Deon Thompson
But all that can wait. For now, even if I have to force myself, I'm GOING to enjoy this stress-free season. Yeah, right.

Cowboy Out
Well, it's official. The Kevin Millar era came to an abrupt end this week when the Red Sox decided not to offer him salary arbitration. I've spent a lot of time "cowboying down" Millar here, but in a weird way, it'll be strange not to see him, in all his goofy glory -- blond highlights -- hugging Manny, striking out and kicking balls in the general vicinity of first base. Maybe the Sox should think about hiring him as a bench coach/mascot. That way, he can still provide comedy relief, but without any of those pesky obligations that go along with being a semi-competent baseball player. And he could also serve as bullpen catcher in a pinch.

In more serious news, the Red Sox also sent Edgar Renteria to Atlanta for 3B prospect Andy Marte. Honestly, I have no idea who's a good prospect and who ain't, but I do know this: I liked Renteria (although JC and most Braves fans seem pretty bummed about losing Marte -- espeically for Eddy, so that's probably worth considering). Yeah, yeah, he made 30 errors last year, but he wasn't the reason they got swept in the playoffs. Not unless he was wearing a Matt Clement get up. And what's really going to send me over the edge is if the Red Sox use Marte to finagle a deal that lands them Orlando Cabrera. The same Orlando Cabrera they let leave Boston about 12 months ago. Alternatively, there have been rumors that they'll use Marte to swing a deal for Aubrey Huff and Julio Lugo. All you need to know about these two is that they currently play for the Devil Rays. Suffice it to say that this offseason, thus far, has been a train wreck, starting with Theo leaving in a gorilla costume. And in the past six weeks, things haven't gotten any better. Thanks Larry Luchinno.

After actually reading Gordon Edes' story, it's worse than I thought.
"The Red Sox are now expected to sign a free-agent shortstop to replace Renteria rather than pursue a trade with the Devil Rays for Julio Lugo, as had been rumored the last couple of days here at the winter meetings."
That sounds about right. Nothing like adding Royce Clayton to the starting lineup to demoralize an entire fan base. Sweet.


I saw this on ESPN and thought it was really funny. Not the actual article, but the fact that Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker are identical twins. I remember Peppers looking a lot different when he played basketball at UNC.

Randle El, Part Deux
Just following up on Wednesday's post about Antwaan Randle El and his struggles this season as the new, miniaturized, Plaxico Burress. I would've put this up yesterday, but I started futzing with the numbers, one thing led to another, and blah, blah, blah, here we are. Anyway, here's the latest.

In separate comments, Israel mentions that the Titans/Texans games skewed the numbers in favor of Randle El/Wilson while Countertorque made basically the, uh, counter argument when including the Tommy Maddox Bowl games (Jags/Ravens). Well, Here's what the numbers I posted Wednesday would look like when excluding these four games (and their variations; same rules on me being extremely lazy -- and making a graphic out of a table -- apply):

Not surprisingly, the numbers go down when you exclude the Titans/Texans games, and the numbers go up when you don't count the Jags/Ravens games. And when you discount all four games, everything just about equals out. So basically, I wasted a bunch of time with this little exercise.

Either way, I don't think anybody would argue that Randle El has been lighting the world on fire since becoming the #2 guy this season, but there's no real evidence to suggest that the Steelers don't have any downfield threats this season because Plax is now in New York, either. One argument that's nearly impossible to make is that Randle El is, overall, a better #2 WR than Burress. Looking at DPAR since 2002, we see the following:

Basically, Randle El has been slightly below average for his career -- even as a #3 -- with the exception of the 2004 season. Burress had a big 2002 (he was in the top 92% 8% of all WRs for DPAR), and an above average 2004. And despite his "breakout" year in NY, he just slightly better than average. Wilson also had decent numbers in San Fran last season, but basically he's Randle El minus the personality. DPAR is an overall measure of WR performance, so it doesn't specifically speak to players as "deep threats," but it's still interesting nonetheless.

Now, none of this addresses the point that was also made in the comments: a lot of Steelers' fans couldn't wait to see Burress hit the bricks. Personally, I liked Burress and would've been more than happy if Pittsburgh chose to re-sign him, but when they didn't I also felt like Randle El could handle the job. Going strictly by his numbers, it doesn't look like it. But there are a lot of things DPAR doesn't measure, and these too were brought up in Wednesday's discussion. In fact, if SD had sent me this note early in the week, I could've saved myself the headache of defending Randle El. Annan Imus also makes an important point, and one that really hasn't been discussed. There was some speculation that Cowher kept Ben out of the Ravens game to make sure he was ready for Indy and everything that followed. I think (but I can't find it at the moment) that Cowher said Ben could've played in Baltimore, and with hindsight being 20/20 and all, it's looking more and more like maybe he should've. Now, if it's really the case that Ben wasn't ready for the Ravens game, then fine. Of course, if he had ended up playing, he probably would've ended up leaving the stadium on a stretcher, and we could now be having the "boy is Tommy Maddox much worse than I ever expected" conversation.

(By the way, two good articles: one on the decline in Hines Ward's production this season -- and it has nothing to do withPlax [at least to hear Hines tell it], and the other on who exactly should be protecting Ben's blindside.)

And on that pleasant thought, on to the picks: (In all truthfulness, at this point in the proceedings Cedrick Wilson catching two TD passes in Sunday's game would be less surprising than me going 0-16 in my picks. Seriously.)
SF SEA -16.0 SEA
MIA SD -14.0 MIA
DET GB -6.0 GB
NO ATL -10.0 ATL
Season: 84 - 105 - 3
Last week: 6 - 10
Earnings to date: - $3150

Week 1 picks Week 10 picks
Week 2 picks Week 11 picks
Week 3 picks Week 12 picks
Week 4 picks Week 13 picks
Week 5 picks
Week 6 picks
Week 7 picks
Week 8 picks
Week 9 picks

And as always, thanks to Norman Einstein for keeping everything in perspective.