Blog Archives

The stat geeks are taking over Philadelphia. Isn’t it great?

76ers GM Sam Hinkie, Ballin’ with Maths
Image via BlackSportsOnline

It’s said that football is a game of inches. And basketball is a game of inches. Hockey? Why not. Game of inches. Screw it, let’s make it a party, baseball is a game of friggin’ inches, too.


It’s time to upgrade our thinking – and our platitudes – for the 21st century. Screw inches. Our beloved pastimes are really all games of probability.

And Philadelphia’s teams are finally catching up. It’s about damned time.

The two most recent hires in the big four of Philly sports, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and now 76ers GM Sam Hinkie, are not traditionalists. The foundations for their respective philosophies, Chip’s playcalling and Hinkie’s talent acquisition, are built on foreign, impenetrable, numerical concepts such as “expected values.”

Many people have a problem with probabilities – and by extension the study thereof, that mathematical voodoo known as analytics. The term ‘analytics’ often conjures a couple of images, and neither are particularly flattering. One is that of the pasty, bespectacled weakling with a pocket protector and a TI-89, jealously crunching numbers as he fantasizes about athletic prowess he’ll never have, cheerleaders he’ll never date, and popularity he’ll never achieve. The other, more sinister depiction is the business executive in a 15th floor office furnished with exotic hardwoods and floor-to-ceiling windows, dispassionately assigning numbers to real people from high on his throne and then buying, selling, or trading them as he might deal in rice futures or credit default swaps. But stereotyping aside, I suspect most fans simply misunderstand the concept.

Read the rest of this entry

Around the Cooler 04/11/13 – Philly goes four-for-four… at missing the playoffs

Here’s what we’re talking about:

Hey! It’s baseball season! (02:00)
Doug Collins is getting a not-so-subtle push out the door (23:30)


Play on your Mobile Device or Right Click to Download: Around the Cooler 04-11-13

What are you talking about around the water cooler this week? Leave us a comment!

Follow us on Twitter @TheWooderCooler

Around the Cooler 04/04/13 – Should the 7-6 sign Bynum and ruin the team on purpose?

Here’s what we’re talking about:

Ransom has a novel idea: 76ers should sign Bynum because it’ll help them get better draft picks (02:30)
A rough start for the Phillies (18:30)
Is Geno Smith really worth the #4 pick? We’re talking draft and player value (27:00)

Play on your Mobile Device or Right Click to Download: Around the Cooler 04-04-13

What are you talking about around the water cooler this week? Leave us a comment!

Follow us on Twitter @TheWooderCooler

Thoughts on Kevin Ware, and Why Sports Matter to Us

Teammate Russ Smith reacts to Kevin Ware’s injury
Image via

“Just win the game.”

Considering how much of American life revolves around playing, watching, contemplating, studying, and discussing sports, it sometimes seems that it would require a remarkable feat of self-delusion to believe that it’s really worth so much time and effort. After all, don’t sports at the highest levels ultimately amount to little more than spectacle? Athletic exhibitions that distract our energies from those things that really count in life? Such skepticism is justified.

“I’m ok. Just win the game”

Yet, there are those ephemeral moments in sporting life that enlighten us about our nature. Sometimes there are instants that transcend the contest on the court, the bounce of the ball, the tick of the clock. Sometimes sports reveal our humanity.

“Just go win the game”

Kevin Ware’s body failed him spectacularly. Imagine jumping 18 inches and falling 30 feet. Doctors later said that Ware’s injury, a compound fracture in his lower leg, typically occurs only in high-speed collisions, like a car crash. He was bloody, mangled. Just skin held him together. In another place, another time, the 20-year-old would have lost his foot.

But in the midst of terror and trauma, something truly beautiful happened. Kevin Ware, who in seconds had lost so much, somehow managed to give a little more.  Read the rest of this entry

Around the Cooler 03/22/13 – Weekly Recap

Here’s what we’re talking about:

Phillies: Roy-pocalypse and Total Dom-ination (2:00)
Flyers: Is making a trade at the deadline a smart move? (17:30)
Eagles: We talk more Eagles offseason, Vince has a crush on Chip Kelly (30:00)


Right Click for Download: Around the Cooler 03-22-13

What are you talking about around the water cooler this week? Leave us a comment!

The “crown of the helmet” rule doesn’t make it flag football

Crown of the HelmetJust shut up, Emmitt Smith. You’re standing in the way of safety and progress. You’re being an ass.

Despite my begrudging respect for the Hall-of-Fame worthy career of the man who holds the record for most rushing yards in league history, Emmitt Smith’s tirade following the announcement of the new “crown of the helmet” rule is playing havoc with the insecurities of fans and players. It’s also ignorant and shortsighted.

For those who missed it, the NFL Competition Committee passed a rule change prohibiting players from executing a “forcible blow with the crown of the helmet” while outside of the tackle box. (Video explanation of the rule here.)

Of course, before the full verbiage of the rule even became public (my case for calling him ignorant), Emmitt Smith was already spouting his misguided concerns in a very public way to the Dallas Morning News. He called the rule ‘ridiculous.’ “You’ve been taught since you were a little kid to get behind your shoulder pads to protect yourself and lower your shoulder,” said Smith in a phone interview on Monday. “The first thing you do is lower your shoulder but attached to your shoulder is your head. It’s not like you’re trying to go in there and really trying to deliver a blow but your head is part of protecting yourself.”

Sure, that sounds reasonable enough. Until you consider the specifics of the rule. Which won’t do very much to change the game at all.

Let’s break it all down:

1) What is the crown of the helmet?

The crown of the helmet is the top of the helmet (see graphic above). It’s not the whole helmet, as many fear it to be. Rams coach Jeff Fisher, one of the most outspoken proponents of the rule change, specifically indicated that the runner still has the opportunity to initiate contact with the face mask or forehead. So essentially this rule amounts to not “dipping your head” while you try to run through somebody. Dipping your head is how people get compression fractures in their vertebrae. Dipping your head is how you get bulging discs. Sure, you can break a tackle by doing it, but you run the risk of knocking yourself out (or worse) in the process.  Read the rest of this entry

Around the Cooler 03/15/13 – Weekly Recap

Here’s what we’re talking about:

What’s up with the Eagles’ newest free agent acquisitions? (0:00)
Are the Flyers done? (17:30)
Ransom eulogizes the 2013 76ers (32:30)

UPDATE: We taped this podcast just before news broke that OLB Connor Barwin signed a 6-year deal with the Eagles.


Right Click for Download: Around the Cooler 03-15-13

What are you talking about around the water cooler this week? Leave us a comment!

Eagles add 3 more players, defense taking shape

After a slow second day of free agency, the Eagles picked up where they left off following the flurry of signings on Day 1. Here’s what you need to know about the 3 newest players in midnight green:

Connor Barwin

Pos: Outside Linebacker
Age: 26
Ht: 6’3″
Wt: 268
Last Team: HOU

Barwin reportedly signed a 6 year, $36 million contract earlier today. Primarily used as a pass rusher in Houston, Barwin is coming off of a down year (3 sacks in 2012) but is just two years removed from a 11.5 sack performance that ranked 3rd best among 3-4 OLBs. The numbers from PFF aren’t particularly encouraging. Despite rushing the passer 533 total times last season, Barwin managed just 40 total pressures (sacks, hits, hurries). That ratio is far below average. On the positive side, Barwin is a sure tackler and draws a fair number of holding penalties. He has also been decent when asked to cover on passing downs, but that really didn’t happen very often in his time as a starter under Houston DC Wade Phillips. All that said, Howie Roseman probably paid market value for Barwin’s services. His average salary of $6M per season is far from the top-dollar that’s been shelled out to other 3-4 pass rushing specialists in recent years. (Cameron Wake’s $12M per year average comes to mind.) Unfortunate as it may be, Barwin’s presence probably indicates that Trent Cole’s days are numbered, but given the amount cap space that the Eagles still have, it seems likely that Cole will get to stick around for at least this year. Barwin played with Eagles ILB DeMeco Ryans while in Houston.  Read the rest of this entry

Eagles make all the (boring) right moves on Day 1 of Free Agency

Newly-signed Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher celebrates an interception (September 29, 2012 – Source: David Welker/Getty Images North America)

Though some fans might be angry that the Eagles didn’t use all their cap space to add an “impact player,” the truth is there are very few players who will turn out to be worth the monster contracts they signed yesterday. While other teams were clamoring for “top talent,” the Eagles put together 5 signings that, while unsexy, will serve as a solid foundation for the new look of Chip Kelly’s team. Here’s the skinny on your newest Eagles.

Patrick Chung

Pos: Safety
Age: 25
Ht: 5’11”
Wt: 205
Last Team: NE

Chung reunites with his former college coach after four decent but uninspiring seasons with the Patriots. While the Pats secondary has been one of the worst in the league since Chung was drafted in 2009, ranking 8th worst in touchdowns allowed and dead last in yards allowed, Chung rated pretty well on an individual level. He is a very consistent tackler. According to ProFootballFocus, in 40 game appearances since 2010 (including playoffs), Chung recorded 161 solo tackles and only missed 16Chung can cover a bit too, allowing just a 56.4 passer rating against last season. The big knock on Chung is health. He’s missed 14 regular season games over the last three years due to various ailments, and this undoubtedly reduced his price tag. Chung won’t do much to make the highlight reel, but he’s a good overall player and should immediately supplant Nate Allen or Kurt Coleman in a starting role.  Read the rest of this entry

Around the Cooler 03/12/13 – Bryzaster

Here’s what we’re talking about:

Hank and Nick discuss what went wrong in the 1st half of the season, who is to blame, and who deserves credit in spite of the team’s failure.


Right Click for Download: Around the Cooler 03-12-13

What are you talking about around the water cooler this week? Leave us a comment!


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