Month: September 2019

  • March Madness Crib Notes For Sundays Games

    West RegionalIN BRIEFGame to watch: No. 1 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Oregon (87.3) at 7:45 p.m. EDT on TruTVIN DEPTHWisconsin (87 percent) vs. OregonPlayer to watch: Frank Kaminsky, WisconsinOregon’s offense — far and away the strength of the team — came to the rescue against Oklahoma State in the round of 64 as the Ducks shot 55 percent from the floor to outgun the Cowboys in a 79-73 win. But securing enough stops to beat Wisconsin might be a struggle for the defensively challenged Ducks. According to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, Wisconsin easily owns the best offense in the country, a unit primed to take advantage of Oregon’s weak shot defense and inability to force turnovers. The Ducks also lack the risky traits that sometimes help heavy underdogs chance their way into upsets. But one path the Ducks might navigate to victory is to force the tempo and make the Badgers play at their pace. Oregon had the 33rd-fastest offense in the country this season (as measured by seconds per possession), while Wisconsin had the third-slowest. While Saturday’s top-billed matchups (specifically, Arizona-Ohio State and Kentucky-Cincinnati) looked sexier on paper than any in store on Sunday, day No. 2 of the round of 32 offers some solid games of its own — as well as fewer sleepers. Keep a particular eye on the trio of 2-versus-7 matchups, each of which should be reasonably competitive by the standards of this round.Here’s what else to look for:South RegionalGame to watch: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 8 San Diego State (a harmonic mean of 88.0) at 2:40 p.m. EDT on CBSUpset alert! No. 7 Iowa (27 percent win probability) vs. No. 2 Gonzaga at 7:10 p.m. EDT on TBSIN DEPTHDuke (85 percent win probability) vs. San Diego StatePlayer to watch: Jahlil Okafor, DukeAfter taking care of Robert Morris with ease in its opener, Duke moves on to face the slow-paced, defensively focused Aztecs. San Diego State has a tall team that ranks among the nation’s best at limiting opponents’ shooting efficiency and keeping them from getting to the line. But watch for Duke’s offensive rebounding (spearheaded by All-Everything center Jahlil Okafor) to offset some of SDSU’s defensive advantage. And when the Aztecs have the ball, scoring might be an ordeal. Neither of San Diego State’s two go-to guys on offense — Winston Shepard and Dwayne Polee — could even match the Division I average for efficiency when they ended an Aztec possession, a trend that figures to continue against a solid Blue Devils defense. East RegionalIN BRIEFGame to watch: No. 2 Virginia vs. No. 7 Michigan State (89.5) at 12:10 p.m. EDT on CBSUpset alert! No. 5 Northern Iowa (55 percent) vs. No. 4 Louisville at 9:40 p.m. EDT on TBSIN DEPTHVirginia (72 percent) vs. Michigan StatePlayer to watch: Anthony Gill, VirginiaVirginia didn’t exactly look dominant against a stubborn Belmont team Friday, and now the Cavaliers must face an even tougher opponent in Michigan State. The Spartans have the talent to stick with Virginia — they’d have a 37 percent chance of the upset here if we based our prediction on preseason ratings alone — and their coach is familiar with deep tournament runs. Plus, Virginia operates its offense at a veritable crawl, slowing down the game and inviting the kind of variance that can prove deadly for a favorite. But other than their snail-like pace, the Cavaliers play a sturdy style as upset-proof as any, relying primarily on two-point shooting, ball security, rebounding, and an old-fashioned big, tough interior defense. It all makes for a team with few clear weaknesses, something Michigan State will likely learn the hard way.Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions. Midwest RegionalIN BRIEFGame to watch: No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 7 Wichita State (87.6) at 5:15 p.m. EDT on CBSUpset alert! No. 5 West Virginia (55 percent) vs. No. 4 Maryland at 8:40 p.m. EDT on TNTIN DEPTHKansas (57 percent) vs. Wichita StatePlayer to watch: Fred VanVleet, Wichita StateWichita State’s offense clicked in the second half of its victory over Indiana on Friday, but the points may not come as easily against a strong Kansas defense that ranks ninth nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s schedule-adjusted ratings. The game may come down to whether Wichita State can execute its pick-and-roll — according to Synergy Sports, the Shockers’ pick-and-roll ball-handling efficiency ranked in the 93rd percentile of Division I schools; the Jayhawks’ defense was in the 85th percentile at stopping the play. At the other end, it’s worth watching whether the more interior-focused Kansas offense can adapt to take advantage of a Wichita State defense that dares opponents to move the ball around and shoot from the outside. read more

  • Women Get Equal Pay But Not Equal Billing At Wimbledon

    WOMEN’S SHARE OF MATCHESTIME Wimbledon’s scheduling isn’t just a matter of gender equality. It’s also about logistics. The scheduling can backfire on men. They don’t want to have to change courts mid-match or, worse, finish a match on what should be their day off. That’s more likely when they’re playing the second men’s match in a day on a court without lights, since as we’ve seen, men’s matches, on average, are longer than women’s. On three successive days of play this year, the second men’s match on No. 1 Court went five sets and had to be suspended or moved because of darkness.No. 1 Serena Williams and former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki criticized the scheduling in media conferences here. “The women really haven’t gotten the opportunity here to play on the big courts,” Wozniacki said. She pointed out that on most days this year when men and women were both playing, No. 1 Court and Centre Court each had only one women’s match. (Men were less critical: Roger Federer said of the schedulers, “of course, they would try to be fair,” and Gilles Simon said, “I don’t see any big problems about the scheduling.”)Williams and Wozniacki have less to complain about than some of their peers, though: On days when she was competing with men for court time, Williams was on Centre for three of her four matches and on No. 1 for the other one. Wozniacki got one match on each of the two big courts.Yet former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who has two major titles to Wozniacki’s none, didn’t get on the two biggest courts in any of her first four matches. Neither did Lucie Safarova, the sixth-ranked woman and French Open finalist, in her four singles matches. Serena Williams’s sister Venus Williams, a five-time champ here, played three matches off the big two courts before finally getting to Centre — against Serena.A spokesman for the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which hosts and runs Wimbledon, declined to comment beyond providing the club’s general position on order of play. “The major marquee players will normally be scheduled on the stadium courts with Centre Court and then No.1 Court seeing the leading names,” the club said in the statement. “This is expected by both the paying public and TV audiences alike.”Without further comment, it’s hard to know how the club determines who the major marquee players are.One factor I thought might have driven the unbalanced scheduling is the high-profile upsets in the women’s tournament, which might have left fewer marquee women available to feature.I checked, and that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least using several possible definitions of “marquee players.” Nine women who’d won Grand Slam titles (with a combined 41 major titles, 13 of them at Wimbledon) competed in singles at Wimbledon, compared with seven men with Grand Slam victories (46 majors, 13 of them at Wimbledon). The women major winners had 27 matches through this Monday. Their male counterparts had just 23 matches. Just 44 percent of these marquee women’s matches made it onto Centre or No. 1 — barely half the proportion of the men’s matches, with 87 percent. Add in former No. 1s and top 10 seeds, and the picture is even worse: The top women made it onto the top two courts 35 percent of the time, while the top men did 74 percent of the time.Simon and other male players have argued that women should get less prize money than men because, according to them, the men’s game is more popular than the women’s. With Wimbledon’s scheduling this year, the women have had half the opportunity to gain an audience and a fan base. Australian Open54%42% French Open4939 Wimbledon3828 U.S. Open5242 LONDON — It wasn’t until 2007 that Wimbledon became the last of the four tennis Grand Slams to award equal prize money to women and men. Women are still waiting on equal playing time in the tournament’s biggest stadiums.At Wimbledon this year, women got just 38 percent of the assignments to Centre Court and No. 1 Court (which is, confusingly, the second-biggest court) through Monday, including just 39 percent on Centre Court. That rate is different from the other Grand Slams. At the most recent editions of the Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open, schedulers maintained balance between men’s and women’s singles on prime courts, at least by number of matches. At each event, when they were competing with men for prime court assignments, the women got between 49 percent and 54 percent of matches on the top two courts — including at least half the matches on the biggest court.1The gory details for this analysis: Along with Centre Court and No. 1 Court at Wimbledon, I used Rod Laver Arena and Hisense Arena for the Australian Open, Court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne-Lenglen at the French Open, and Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium at the U.S. Open. I only included days in the tournament when both men’s and women’s singles matches were scheduled on more than one court — generally through the fourth round or quarterfinals, until the early or middle part of the second week of the tournament. I didn’t count walkovers. And I counted matches based on which court and day they started on. The websites of the Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open don’t list total minutes of the match, so I added the minutes for each set. Any slight differences with official stats shouldn’t affect comparisons between men and women. For one French Open match that had no times listed, I estimated time based on the average time each point took in the other women’s singles matches that day.Who gets on which court is up to tournament schedulers. The top players want to play on a Grand Slam’s two main courts, which each have more than 10,000 seats. That’s where the most fans get to watch them and where journalists and broadcasters focus their attention. For the first week and a half or so of each two-week event, organizers must decide how to allocate that valuable real estate to matches from the men’s and women’s singles competitions.Counting matches understates the extent to which men’s tennis has hogged the spotlight at Wimbledon this year. Men’s matches, on average, take longer because men play best-of-five-sets while women play best-of-three at Slams. As a result, women got just 28 percent of match time on the top two courts at Wimbledon, compared with 39 percent to 42 percent at the other three majors. read more

  • Significant Digits For Friday March 25 2016

    0.015 rating pointsThere are close matchups, and then there are close matchups. Tonight’s Notre Dame-Wisconsin tilt belongs in that second category, with the teams separated by just 0.015 points in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. It’s basically as close to a coin flip as you can get — our prediction model lists the game as exactly 50-50 for both teams. [Kenpom.com]19 percentage pointsIn a Sweet 16 field largely devoid of Cinderella candidates, 10th-seeded Syracuse will have to do. According to the FiveThirtyEight model, they started the tourney with a 1 percent chance of making the Final Four; now that probability is 19 percentage points higher, the biggest gain of any team left standing. [FiveThirtyEight]1995 seasonThe University of Virginia will be looking to make its first Elite 8 appearance since the 1995 tournament when it takes on Iowa State Friday evening. By most measures — including winning percentage, the AP poll and the Simple Rating System — this year’s Cavaliers are better than the 1995 version, but they’ll have to win to prove it — the bracket doesn’t lie. [Sports-Reference.com]3,950 winsNorth Carolina and Indiana are two of the most storied programs in the history of college basketball, having combined for 3,950 victories in 5,728 games since 1901, and they’ll face each other in Friday’s late game. With a 73 percent chance of winning, UNC has the edge to take win No. 3,951, according to our model. [Sports-Reference.com]118 winsThe University of Connecticut women’s basketball team has been completely unstoppable with Breanna Stewart leading the way these past few seasons. They’ve won 118 of their last 119 games — all by double-digits, and all but 18 by 20 or more points. UConn looks to extend their run against Mississippi State Saturday morning. [FiveThirtyEight]If you haven’t already, you really need to sign up for the Significant Digits newsletter — be the first to learn about the numbers behind the news.And if you see a significant digit in the wild, send it to @WaltHickey — or to @Neil_Paine, I guess, if you feel like it. Welcome to Significant Digits, a daily digest of the telling numbers tucked inside the news. Regular host Walt Hickey is still on vacation, and NCAA basketball is still happening. As a result, I’m still here with another all-March Madness SigDig. Enjoy! read more

  • The Thunders Big Men Could Stop The Warriors Lineups Of Death

    As you may have heard, the NBA’s most unstoppable units reside in the Bay Area, in the form of Golden State’s small-ball “Lineups of Death.” Assuming those lineups are intact for the Western Conference finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder will have an interesting matchup on their hands in a series being billed as a battle of big versus small. In contrast to the Warriors’ small-ball lineups, OKC’s two most common postseason units have contained the hulking frontcourt pairing of 6-foot-10 Serge Ibaka and 7-foot Steven Adams.When on the court together for the Warriors this season, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green scored the most points per offensive chance (1.26) of any five-man unit in the NBA,1Minimum 200 chances, averaged between offense and defense. allowed the 13th-fewest points (0.83), and had the best per-chance scoring margin (+0.43).And that’s only the deadliest variation of the Death Lineup. Golden State also owned five of the next 10 best lineups by per-chance point differential, all of which contained a variation of Curry, Green and either Thompson or Iguodala or both. Four of those additional lineups featured one of Golden State’s traditional centers, Andrew Bogut or Festus Ezeli, as the lone conventional big; the other was a small lineup that swaps out Iguodala for guard Shaun Livingston. 3Curry | Thompson | Green | Iguodala | BogutGSW+0.34 10Lin | Lamb | Kaminsky | Williams | HawesCHA+0.21 11Curry | Thompson | Green | Rush | BogutGSW+0.21 Minimum 200 average chances between offense and defense.Source: NBA Player-Tracking Data 8Curry | Livingston | Barnes | Thompson | GreenGSW+0.22 With Curry injured for most of the first two rounds, those Lineups of Death haven’t spent much time fully assembled in the postseason. The Warriors’ most crucial three-man combos — Curry, Green and Thompson, and Curry, Green and Iguodala — have logged only 94 total minutes together in 10 playoff games thus far. (They still outscored opponents by 61 points in that limited playing time!) But after Curry returned for the closing two games of Golden State’s series against Portland, at least one of those trios was on the floor for 62 minutes — a total in line with the 27.7 minutes per game they spent on-court together during the regular season.All this is bad news for the Thunder because the Warriors have a history of going small to combat good teams with lumbering big men: According to the Lineup of Death’s origin story, the tactic was only fully realized last year when head coach Steve Kerr had an epiphany during the NBA Finals and moved Iguodala into the starting lineup. That’s when the record-setting Warriors really took off, first against Cleveland and then against the rest of the league. An inability to match up with the same strategy could end up being Oklahoma City’s undoing as well.But we shouldn’t assume the Thunder’s big lineup won’t be able to hold its own. During the regular season, only 19 five-man units2With a minimum of 20 chances, averaged between offense and defense. broke even against Warrior lineups containing both Curry and Green. OKC had two of them — No. 7 and No. 13 — and both were of the big variety that the team has been using extensively during the playoffs: Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Ibaka and Adams, with either Andre Roberson or Dion Waiters on the wing. So in the matchup of preferred lineups, the Thunder might not be quite as outgunned as it seems at first glance.Of course, there are a bunch of caveats to tack on here. We’re talking about only 60 to 70 chances of track record from the regular season, and lineup data is notoriously noisy anyway. Plus, even though the Thunder’s big lineup did stick with the Warriors, the Dubs swept the regular-season series anyway.But as an exercise in figuring out how a 31 percent underdog could fight those odds, things might begin with Oklahoma City’s ability to slow down Golden State’s Lineups of Death. And what extremely limited data we have right now suggests that they could fare better than most.Check out our latest NBA predictions. 6Curry | Green | Livingston | Iguodala | EzeliGSW+0.27 The NBA’s best regular-season lineups in 2015-16 2Lowry | Ross | Patterson | DeRozan | ValanciunasTOR+0.37 1Curry | Thompson | Barnes | Iguodala | GreenGSW+0.43 5Curry | Thompson | Green | Iguodala | EzeliGSW+0.30 4Lin | Walker | Williams | Batum | JeffersonCHA+0.31 LINEUPTEAMPTS/CHANCE DIFF 7Paul | Redick | Griffin | Stephenson | JordanLAC+0.22 9Paul | Redick | Crawford | Griffin | JordanLAC+0.21 read more

  • Lakers Lock Up Andrew Bynum For Another Year

    It was a year of significant improvement for the Los Angeles Lakers’ Andrew Bynum. The 7-foot center stayed healthy, for one, and he used his court time to blossom into arguably the best center in the NBA. At the very least, he has challenged Orlando’s Dwight Howard for that title.Such improvement has its rewards. For Bynum, it was a $16.1 million option the Lakers picked up for next season, according to the Los Angeles Times.Bynum, 24, was at times mentioned in trade discussions, but stuck around to play 60 games this season of the lockout-shortened season for the Lakers, averaging 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds with 1.9 blocks. His scoring and rebounding totals were the highs of his career.His play was at times offset by unorthodox comments and moments where he did not appear to extend maximum effort. But his youth and talent trump his youth indiscretions — for now, anyway. read more

  • Tiger Woods to Open PGA Season at Torrey Pines

    Tiger Woods has not been seen on a golf course in more than a month, a period during which he said he was more daddy than golfer. And the change suits him well, he insists.At 37 with two children, Woods has mellowed some from his days of nonstop golf. He took a break from the game he used to dominate and hopes to regain. And limited off-season golf just might be the key to achieving his ambitions.“I didn’t play much golf after the World Challenge,” Woods told ESPN.com via email Friday. “I putted and hit some balls with [son] Charlie, but that was about it. Since it was Christmas break, I spent a lot of time with the kids, which was great. That was exactly what I wanted to do. Because I was healthy most of the year, I played a lot of golf and was ready for a break.”He said he focused on shots from 120 yards and in, as it was a part of his game that let him down at key points last year.“I did mostly fine-tuning after the break and continued working on my short game. I’m really happy where it is right now. I didn’t start practicing hard until the first week of January. I feel good about my game and I’m ready to get back to Abu Dhabi.”Woods will play there next week and open the PGA Tour the last weekend of the month at Torrey Pines, where he has won six times in his amazing career.“Obviously, I’ve had good success at Torrey Pines,” said Woods, who won the PGA Tour event there in 1999, 2003, ’05, ’06, ’07 and ’08. Further, Woods has been in the top 10 all but one time.Woods tied for third at the Abu Dhabi event last year, finishing two strokes behind a shot behind Rory McElrory, who also will make his season debut next week. He and McEloy will be grouped together for the first two rounds.Although he was coming off a victory at the World Challenge a year ago, Woods feels much better about his progress than he did then. He won three times on the PGA Tour in 2012, had nine top-10 finishes and was second on the money list.It is encouraging to Woods that he only had one injury all last season.“I was able to play and practice,”  Woods said “I was able to implement what Sean and I had been working on. It was the most I was able to play and practice in a long time, and it paid off.”He is the No. 3 player in the world behind McIlroy and Luke Donald, which matters to him, but not as much as winning major championships. The first opportunity is at the Masters in April. Last season he was in the mix of three titles, but did not hold his game together to win one.“I do focus on the majors because it’s the four most important weeks, but there’s also plenty to be excited about this year,” Woods said. “It’s the start of a new season, there’s a lot I want to accomplish and build on and I’m opening 2013 at a tournament I like. It’s pretty easy to balance everything out.” read more

  • Gabby Douglas is Moving Beyond Criticism to New Projects

    Gabby Douglas wins her third gold medal at the Olympic Games (Twitter)Fresh off her turn at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, Gabby Douglas is putting the criticism behind her. Critics targetted the gymnast for her hair and lack of enthusiasm. But now, she’s looking ahead to a judging position in the 2017 Miss America pageant in September.“Miss America has been such an amazing event for so many years and I am excited to have the opportunity to judge the competition this year,” Douglas told USA Today in a statement Monday. “The contestants are a great example of strong women across America and I especially look forward to hearing the platforms that each of them will represent!”Douglas will critique 52 contestants in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The show will air live Sept. 11 at 9 p.m. EST on ABC.On top of judging Miss America, Douglas is also the new spokesperson for Venus razors.The athlete’s new roles follow her third Olympic gold medal win with the U.S. women’s gymnastics team dubbed the “Final Five.” Though she increased her Olympic wins, Douglas was the center of critique during the event.Complaints about her hair resurfaced from 2012. She stood at attention during the national anthem instead of putting her hand over her heart. That caused some backlash as well. Then, viewers pounced on her for not cheering for Simone Biles during the competition.“It was hurtful. It was hurtful. It was. It’s been kind of a lot to deal with,” she said at a press conference during the Olympics.Despite the negativity, today the 20-year-old is in good spirits.She told People magazine she had a “fantastic” time in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.“I had fun,” she said. “Maybe people weren’t being fair on social media, but that’s social media for you.”To mitigate the poor attitudes online, she stayed off social media for much of the games.“I just found things to be positive about,” she explained. “And there’s a lot to be happy about. We won the gold medal as a team, and it was just such an amazing experience. I came to the Olympics and won a gold medal! That’s still really awesome. I can only do what I can do and if people want to say their stuff on social media, I can’t stop them.” read more

  • And Now The Roy Awards For The Best NHL Playoff Goaltending Performances

    UPDATE (May 14, 7:28 a.m.): Game 7 between the Rangers and Capitals on Wednesday night featured more top-notch goaltending from Lundqvist (35 saves) and Holtby (37 saves). The Rangers won 2-1 — every game in the series was decided by one goal — and both goalies beat their combined save percentage for the series. Mike Richter1997NYRNJD5.236.7+1.9 Marc-Andre Fleury98.8-3.7-3.7 Most of the Roy winners in this category comport well with the conventional wisdom. Four of the top six goaltenders — Roy in 1993 and 2001, Thomas in 2011 and Jean-Sebastien Giguere in 2003 — also won the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the MVP of the NHL playoffs.Finally, the Roy for the best lifetime playoff performance goes to … Patrick Roy.Best Performances Marc-Andre Fleury2010PIT13.3-12.3-1.6 Patrick Lalime2002OTTPHI5.337.6+2.0 Chris Osgood127.53.3+4.2 Jaroslav Halak2010MTLWSH5.727.6+1.6 Henrik Lundqvist105.84.4+4.6 Martin Brodeur2003NJD24.810.7+2.6 102004Maple Leafs (Belfour)Senators (Lalime)7.9361.70+2.3 Curtis Joseph2001TOROTT4.238.5+1.6 Patrick Roy1996COLFLA4.735.4+1.7 71994Rangers (Richter)Devils (Brodeur)7.9291.96+2.6 Greg Millen1988STL10.0-15.8-1.6 Jean-Sebastien Giguere52.86.2+3.3 In the chart, MP/60 stands for minutes played divided by 60. Since a regulation NHL game is 60 minutes long, it essentially just means games played, although goalies will get extra credit for games that go to overtime.5Dominik Hasek, for instance, is credited with playing the equivalent of 8.1 games in the 1994 Sabres-Devils first-round series because one of the games went to four overtimes. The next column shows the goalie’s net change in win probability per 60 minutes played. Multiplying this number by MP/60 produces net wins — how many wins a goalie added or subtracted from his team relative to an average playoff goalie. That’s what we use to hand out Roys.So the Roy for best goaltending in a single playoff series goes to… Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, for his performance in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final against the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks had been the NHL’s highest-scoring team in the regular season and launched more than 35 shots per game at Thomas. And yet he allowed only eight goals in the seven-game series, including a shutout in the final.Thomas is followed by his fellow Bruin, Tuukka Rask, who allowed just two goals against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in the 2013 Eastern Conference finals. He was even more effective than Thomas on a per-shot basis, with a .985 save percentage. Perhaps he was too good for his own good, in fact — the Bruins swept the series, so he played substantially fewer minutes than Thomas. In third place is Ottawa’s Patrick Lalime, who allowed two goals in five games against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2002.The performance by Buffalo’s Dominik Hasek in the Sabres’ 1994 opening-round series against the New Jersey Devils ranks fourth, and Hasek also holds a couple of other distinctions. First, he wins the Roy for the best performance in an individual game, stopping all 70 New Jersey shots in a legendary four-overtime shutout in Game 6 of the series. And he and the Devils’ Martin Brodeur share the Roy for the best combined goaltending performance in a single series: Patrick Roy2001COL24.213.0+3.2 Jean-Sebastien Giguere2003MDAMIN4.537.2+1.7 From 1988 onward, Roy was 15 wins better than an average playoff goaltender, easily outdistancing second-place Ed Belfour. And that under-rates Roy, since it doesn’t give him credit for 1986, when Roy, then 20 years old, had a 1.92 postseason GAA in leading the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup. Roy also does really well by conventional playoff statistics — he had 151 career playoff wins, easily the best all-time — but he earned them.In other cases, however, the advanced stats provide some insight that isn’t as clear from traditional stats. While Brodeur had a considerably better career playoff GAA than Roy, for instance, he’s relatively far behind him in net wins, since the Devils’ neutral-zone trap prevented him from facing all that many shots and since he played in a low-scoring era.Meanwhile, the Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury ranks as the third-worst playoff goaltender since 1988 despite a winning (53-44) career playoff record. That’s because it’s easy to win games when you have Crosby scoring goals for you. Our support-neutral stat detects that Fleury really hasn’t been much good in the playoffs.Lundqvist, meanwhile, ranks as the sixth-best playoff goaltender since 1988, while Holtby ranks ninth — despite being in just his fifth NHL season. After Wednesday night, one of them will have the chance to add to his legend, while the other will have plenty of time to watch Patrick Roy clips on YouTube. Patrick Roy1993MTLQUE6.325.3+1.6 Ron Hextall1988PHI6.3-25.6-1.6 Tim Thomas2011BOSVAN7.0+34.2%+2.4 Braden Holtby34.810.5+3.7 41997Rangers (Richter)Devils (Brodeur)5.9611.15+2.6 11994Devils (Brodeur)Sabres (Hasek)7.9431.61+3.3 32011Bruins (Thomas)Canucks (Luongo)7.9362.16+2.6 62002Senators (Lalime)Flyers (Cechmanek)5.9611.05+2.6 Ed Belfour2004TOROTT7.425.3+1.9 Tuukka Rask2013BOS24.414.8+3.6 Jean-Sebastien Giguere2003MDA23.515.8+3.7 John Vanbiesbrouck1996FLA22.218.3+4.1 51993Maple Leafs (Potvin)Blues (Joseph)7.9382.06+2.6 Jonathan Quick78.14.3+3.3 Who says low-scoring hockey games are boring?The New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist and the Washington Capitals’ Braden Holtby have put on a heart-stopping and spectacular goaltending duel in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which will conclude with Game 7 in New York on Wednesday night. So far, every game in the series has been decided by one goal, with Lundqvist and Holtby combining for a 1.80 goals against average (GAA) and a .943 save percentage.Lundqvist and Holtby have been among the better playoff goalies in recent NHL history, and the Rangers-Caps series has been in the upper echelon of goaltending battles. But a few have been even better. In their honor, we’re going to be handing out some Roy Awards for the best postseason goaltending performances since 1988. (Why are they called Roy Awards? That will become clear in a moment.)How to measure goaltending success is a subject of debate among hockey geeks. But here’s one approach, which is inspired by Baseball Prospectus’s Support Neutral Win-Loss (SNWL), a statistic designed to evaluate baseball pitchers. As SNWL seeks to evaluate pitchers while controlling for their run support, our goalie statistic will seek to give goaltenders credit for wins and losses without being biased toward those goalies who have better offenses scoring goals for them. It will also control for the number of shots the goaltenders faced and the quality of their opponents. Allowing three goals — as Lundqvist did Sunday — is not that impressive, but it looks a lot better when you consider he faced 45 shots against the Capitals, who have one of the NHL’s best offenses.Here’s how it works. I downloaded data from Hockey-Reference.com on all NHL playoff games since 1988. (Hockey-Reference, as terrific as it is, doesn’t have detailed game-by-game data before then.) For each game, I compared each goalie’s actual GAA against a benchmark GAA that represents how you’d expect an average playoff goalie to perform under the same circumstances. The benchmark GAA is calculated1Via a linear regression analysis. based on the number of shots the goalie faced, his opponent’s goal-scoring and shooting percentage during the regular season, and whether he was playing at home or on the road. During Friday’s Game 5, for instance — with the Rangers playing at home and the Capitals generating relatively few shots — Lundqvist’s benchmark GAA was 2.17. But on Sunday, on the road and with the Caps taking 45 shots on goal, his benchmark GAA was 3.56.The next step is to translate the benchmark GAA and the goalie’s actual GAA into win probabilities,2Win probabilities are calculated using a Poisson distribution. assuming that the goalie had average offensive support.3Average offensive support is calculated based on leaguewide goal scoring per game during the NHL regular season, adjusted slightly downward because playoff games are lower-scoring on average. For Friday’s Game 5, for instance, Lundqvist’s benchmark 2.17 GAA translates into a 52 percent win probability. But Lundqvist’s actual performance, allowing just one goal, raised the Rangers’ win probability to 80 percent. So Lundqvist gets credit for +0.28 net wins, the difference between the two figures. (Actually, he gets credit for slightly more than that, since the game went to overtime.)4More specifically, Lundqvist is credited with +0.28 wins per 60 minutes of ice time. Since he was actually on the ice for 69 minutes, counting overtime, the number is scaled up proportionately to +0.32 wins.First up, here are the Roys for goaltending in a single playoff series:Best Performances GOALIEMP/60NET CHANGE IN WIN % PER 60 MPNET WINS Patrick Roy227.7+6.6%+15.0 Dan Cloutier22.7-16.9-3.8 Patrick Roy1989MTL20.114.7+3.0 Trevor Kidd1995CGYSJS7.2-24.3-1.8 Ron Hextall1988PHIWSH6.3-25.6-1.6  Worst Performances Patrick Roy1993MTL21.6+19.6%+4.2 Worst Performances John Vanbiesbrouck47.511.3+5.4 Dan Cloutier2003VAN13.9-17.9%-2.5 COMBINED STATS Trevor Kidd1995CGY7.2-24.3-1.8 Kirk McLean1994VAN25.711.8+3.0 Why does that Devils-Sabres series rank so highly? Hasek and Brodeur’s conventional statistics were great, but not obviously better than some other goaltending duels, like that between the Canucks’ Roberto Luongo and the Dallas Stars’ Marty Turco in 2007. One reason is because of that quadruple overtime game, which made the matchup the equivalent of an eight-game series. But another is because the series was played in 1994, when goal-scoring was about 20 percent higher than it is now. So it stands out more by comparison.The current Rangers-Caps series ranks as the 17th-best goalie duel so far: Holtby has contributed 1.0 net wins and Lundqvist 0.8, for a combined 1.8. It could plausibly move into the top 10 if Game 7 is low-scoring.We can also award a Roy for the best goaltending in a single playoff season. It goes to … Patrick Roy, who added 4.2 wins in the 1993 NHL playoffs. Roy’s performance ranks highly in part because it came against some high-flying offenses. His playoff opponents — the Nordiques, Sabres, Islanders and Kings — had each averaged about four goals per game during the regular season.Best Performances Tuukka Rask2013BOSPIT4.647.2+2.2 Felix Potvin1993TORSTL7.721.5+1.7 172015Rangers (Lundqvist)Capitals (Holtby)6+.9431.80+1.8 81999Maple Leafs (Joseph)Flyers (Vanbiesbrouck)6.9461.46+2.3 Jean-Sebastien Giguere2003MDADET4.834.8+1.7 Mike Vernon1997DET20.512.8+2.6 GOALIEYEARTEAMMP/60NET CHANGE IN WIN % PER 60 MPNET WINS Worst Performances GOALIEYEARTEAMOPP.MP/60NET CHANGE IN WIN % PER 60 MPNET WINS GOALIEYEARTEAMOPP.MP/60NET CHANGE IN WIN % PER 60 MPNET WINS Craig Anderson26.812.3+3.3 Dominik Hasek1994BUFNJD8.124.2+2.0 Corey Crawford2014CHILAK7.4-27.8-2.1 GOALIEYEARTEAMMP/60NET CHANGE IN WIN % PER 60 MPNET WINS Tuukka Rask50.85.9+3.0 Tim Thomas2011BOS25.712.5+3.2 92002Hurricanes (Irbe)Maple Leafs (Joseph)6.9501.25+2.3 Ed Belfour165.76.3+10.4 Arturs Irbe2002CARTOR6.427.9+1.8 Kelly Hrudey65.3-6.8%-4.5 Martin Brodeur211.93.6+7.7 Antti Niemi61.0-4.5-2.8 SEASONSERIES WINNER (MAIN GOALIE)SERIES LOSER (MAIN GOALIE)GAMESSAVE%GAANET GT WINS 22007Canucks (Luongo)Stars (Turco)7.9511.36+2.9 SEASONHIGHER SEED (MAIN GOALIE)LOWER SEED (MAIN GOALIE)GAMESSAVE%GAANET GT WINS Curtis Joseph135.12.6+3.5 GOALIEMP/60NET CHANGE IN WIN % PER 60 MPNET WINS Dominik Hasek1999BUF20.312.4+2.5 Dan Cloutier2003VANMIN6.9-31.3%-2.2 Olaf Kolzig46.66.9+3.2 Martin Brodeur1995NJD20.413.3+2.7 Curtis Joseph1999TORBUF4.6-33.2-1.5 John Vanbiesbrouck1996FLAPIT7.026.9+1.9 Sean Burke35.8-9.1-3.2 Tim Thomas51.98.3+4.3 Dominik Hasek121.96.2+7.6 Patrick Roy1996COL24.211.6+2.8 Jonathan Quick2012LAK20.614.1+2.9 Martin Brodeur1994NJD19.513.6+2.6 read more

  • Enes Kanter May Be One Of The Last Players To Cash In

    At a glance, Kanter is the kind of young post player whose services teams line up around the block to pay for. The list of big men who snagged at least 15 points and 8 rebounds a game as 22-year-olds, as Kanter did last year, is littered with Hall of Famers, to say nothing of players whose numbers Kanter matched (18.7 PPG, 11.0 RPG) after a midseason trade to the Thunder. Decades ago, Kanter would have been seen as one of the league’s rising stars.Today, though, players are judged on their advanced metrics in addition to per-game averages and the eye test. And few players benefit less from this development than Kanter.Granted, it doesn’t take supercharged data to suspect Kanter of playing poor defense. He has a reputation for ineptitude at that end of the floor, and his block totals are routinely anemic. But defense is also a complex area of the game that statistics have traditionally been ill-equipped to measure accurately. And without reliable data, defensive deficiencies were easy to deny or downplay as more opinion than fact.Modern advanced stats, though, help quantify the defensive inadequacies of players such as Kanter with far greater precision than was previously possible. Without Real Plus-Minus (RPM), for instance, you wouldn’t know that Kanter had the worst on-court defensive influence of any center last season. And without SportVU player tracking data, you wouldn’t know Kanter allowed the highest field goal percentage at the rim of any qualified1Minimum 500 minutes played. big man a year ago. The recent advent of deeper NBA data has made it tougher for poor defenders to hide their shortcomings.Surprisingly (at least to me), Kanter’s offense also suffers on the sabermetric front: He doesn’t appear to help his teams score as efficiently as would be expected from his basic statistics. Only a few players have scored as much, and with as much efficiency,2As respectively measured by usage rate and true shooting percentage. as Kanter has over the past three seasons, but it doesn’t seem to matter. During Kanter’s career, his teams have scored 1.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor than without, and — perhaps not coincidentally — he had the second-worst offensive Box Plus/Minus (BPM) of any player in the aforementioned group, and the fifth-worst offensive RPM.The single most important component of a player’s on-court offensive influence3As measured by offensive RPM. is scoring efficiency, and that’s not a trouble spot for Kanter. But even more important (when taken collectively) are a player’s assist rate and his ability to get to the line and to take 3-point shots, and Kanter sets the team back in both areas.That may not seem important because Kanter is still personally scoring points, but basketball is a tricky sport that way. The fascinating thing that happens when you search for links between component categories and overall offensive performance is that unexpected relationships fall out of the data. A player’s passing can amplify (or diminish) the potency of the threat his scoring talent represents; his ability to stretch the floor or collapse defenses into the paint can open up opportunities for teammates. Kanter’s own numbers might not be affected, but his weaknesses show up in his team’s rates of shooting efficiency, turnovers and, ultimately, offensive success.The idea of players being hollow stat-stuffers is hardly new, but the ability to quantify it with enough certainty to resist the lure of the potential “20 and 10” guy4Kanter averaged 19.6 points and 11.3 rebounds per 36 minutes last season. at the negotiating table is a novel development. Too novel, in fact, since OKC did eventually cave and match Portland’s offer to Kanter, putting the Thunder above the luxury-tax line they’d traded James Harden to avoid less than three years earlier. But if the rapid acceptance of advanced metrics is any indication, Kanter might be one of the last of his kind.In other words, don’t be surprised if the days of a player cashing in on hollow numbers are, well, numbered. In the history of NBA free agency, there have been worse moves — particularly when you consider the crazy money that teams have shelled out to big men over the years. And through a certain prism (one that used to be the norm not so long ago), it even seems perfectly reasonable. But the Oklahoma City Thunder’s decision to match Portland’s maximum-level ($70 million) offer sheet to center Enes Kanter received mostly scorn from the Internet after it was announced late Sunday. read more

  • The ServeAndVolley Works But Womens Tennis Players Arent Using It

    Women at this year’s U.S. Open have displayed incredible athleticism and shrewd strategy. We’ve seen blistering serves and masterful groundstrokes in the nearly two weeks of play. But we’ve been missing a powerful, ancient weapon: the serve-and-volley. The tactic is all but extinct from women’s tennis, despite still being incredibly effective.Through the quarterfinals in Flushing Meadows, on points in which women followed their serve by rushing to the net for a volley, they won a remarkable 76 percent of the time, according to U.S. Open data from IBM. But confoundingly, the strategy was deployed only 84 times — less than 1 percent of all points played.Serena Williams, for her part, flashed the potential of the serve-and-volley in her semifinal win Thursday over Anastasija Sevastova. Williams came to the net five times immediately after serving, taking four of those points.After the match, Williams said she usually approaches the net “only to shake hands,” but she wanted to try something different against Sevastova. It was a reminder of just how potent the tactic can be.The serve-and-volley appears to be used more on the men’s side of late. At this year’s U.S. Open, men served and volleyed 488 times through the quarterfinals, for just less than 3 percent of all points played. Though they couldn’t quite equal the gaudy success rate of the women, they still did very well with the tactic, winning 66 percent of the time. No matter who’s doing it, statistically, the serve-and-volley is an effective way to win points.Why this play is underutilized has long been a topic of discussion in tennis. Some have chalked up the change in tactics to advanced racquets and strings that improve passing shots, while others have blamed slower courts at Wimbledon and this year’s U.S. Open.1Theoretically, slower courts allow players more time to tee off on returns, blowing by net rushers. But there’s no doubt that women have been giving serve-and-volley the cold shoulder.During the late 1970s and ’80s, Martina Navratilova dominated the sport using an attacking serve-and-volley style with monsterous success, propelling her to 18 Grand Slam Championships. Even in the 1990s, serve-and-volley was still in a heyday in the women’s game. To illustrate, look at Wimbledon. It’s a place where serve-and-volley has historically been a favorite tactic because of the ability of the server to dominate on grass, where the ball bounces are low. Returners must put loft on their shots to ensure they clear the net. That’s a feast for a volleyer.Wimbledon first released serve-and-volley data in 1997, and it included tournament totals for the first time in 2002. Jana Novotna served and volleyed her way to the final that year, losing to Martina Hingis. For the tournament, Novotna employed the serve-and-volley 339 times, winning 213 of those points. In the final against Hingis, she used it 76 times — almost as often as the entire women’s field through five rounds at this year’s U.S. Open. It’s an astounding drop of a tactic and a big shift in the way women play tennis.Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam that releases historical data, but we can look at its last 17 tournaments to track the decline of serve-and-volley as a strategy in the women’s game: Assuming the point does not end on an ace or double-fault, serving players essentially have two choices: serve and move forward or serve and stay at the baseline. Since the 2000s, players who prefer to remain mainly at the baseline have taken over tennis, despite the unshakably consistent success rates for serve-and-volley over the years. But the difference between the strategies has been stark at this year’s U.S. Open: Through the quarterfinals, women have won just 48 percent of points at the baseline — 28 percentage points less than the share of points won on serve-and-volley.All sports go through trends. As the games change, different approaches fall in and out of vogue. The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl last year on the strength of the RPO — run/pass option — in which backup quarterback Nick Foles had the option of handing off or passing. But the play wasn’t new. The option has been around in college football since the 1960s. But it’s taken a backseat as more teams have gone to pro-style offenses.This happens all the time in sports: What’s old becomes new again. Tennis is no different. Strategies experience revivals.Women in tennis have been relegating themselves mostly to the baseline. But perhaps Williams’s use of the serve-and-volley Thursday will spark a new trend. read more