Author Archives: Hank

Comparing Offenses: Chip’s 2013 v. Reid’s 2012 through 7 Games

After 7 games, Chip Kelly’s Eagles are 3-4. Incidentally, through 7 last season, Reid had also earned a 3-4 record. This parallel shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise: Despite a massive overhaul of the defense, the Eagles still can’t stop anybody. We expected this. DC Billy Davis has a long history of putting together middling to bad defenses, and he has very little talent to work with. On the other hand, there are few new faces on offense. Jason Peters returned from injury, Lane Johnson was drafted, and Jeremy Maclin tore up his knee (and nobody sane can call Riley Cooper an upgrade at that spot). All told, 8 of this year’s starters on offense also started last year, and 9 were active on last year’s squad.

So the defense still stinks, the offense is comprised of the same stiffs, and their W-L records are identical. Sounds like a perfect time to compare the two groups! And since we know both defenses were/are crap this deep into the season, I’d rather just focus on the offense. The raw numbers are after the jump, but this graph really says it all.

Behold:

Offensive Efficiency Chart

Click Image to Enlarge

(A quick explanation of what you’re looking at: For every stat above, 0 represents the NFL average after 7 games. If you’re not familiar with standard deviations and z-scores, just know that in general a score greater than 0 is above average, greater than 1 is good, and greater than 1.5 is close to the top of the league. The reverse is true for negative numbers.*)

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Cutting Cooper would be good move for Eagles, bad move for society

Riley Cooper and his slur are in their fourth straight day of dominating the Philadelphia sports-news cycle, and the most common reaction by fans (and media personalities) seems to be “Cut him, he’s not good enough to be worth the distraction.”

If you’re concerned about football first and foremost, yeah, that view makes sense. Cooper is a white kid in a league (and team) that primarily employs black players, and he dropped the slur to end all slurs. There could be no greater locker-room distraction than this in the 21st century. It’s the kind of thing that really could destroy team unity if allowed to fester. So the wisdom goes: he’s not a good enough football player to justify the disturbance (and possible division) that his presence will cause from here on out. Kicking him to the curb frees up the rest of the team from having to think about it or deal with it, which in theory could make the team perform better as a whole.

Let’s get real: That’s convenient. It would be an expedient move that still leaves football first. And this is way more important than football.

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Can the Phillies really turn it around? A statistical defense of the run differential argument

If you’ve been following our podcasts for the last few months, you’ve heard our spring optimism fade into depressed summer resignation: The Phillies aren’t good, won’t get better, and should start to sacrifice their immediate assets in hopes of building a brighter (long-term) future.

I routinely cited their dismal run differential as evidence that their true talent level was far below their middling record, and suggested that it was nearly inconceivable that they could continue to hold on to their mediocrity, much less make a legitimate run at winning the division.

But last week I read an article by Joecatz of The Good Phight that piqued my interest and had me challenging my assumptions. If you didn’t click over there, here are some of the money quotes:

  • At the 90 game mark, the 2012 Phillies had a run differential of -23. Over the remainder of the season, without Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, and later Joe Blanton, They went 42-30 with a run differential of +29. Must be an anomaly, right? 
  • Well, of the remaining 8 teams that at the 90 game point had – run differentials, 4 of those teams (5 total) went on to have positive run differentials the rest of the way. The Phillies +29 was the lowest total of any of those teams. 
  • There were 7 teams with positive run differentials in the first 90 games of 2012. 3 of those teams showed a negative run differential the rest of the way

The reason run differential swings so dramatically at the mid point of the season, league wide, is because of the trade deadline. Teams change. Rosters change, people change. 

– Joecatz, TheGoodPhight.com

Joe makes some valid points here. But while Joe was mostly arguing thats using run differential to predict 2nd half results with certainty was ill-advised — and I’m never, ever a proponent of certainty — I didn’t really believe that you could just write off run differential as a midseason predictor of 2nd-half results either. And so, the following…

Click to enlargeData drawn from baseball-reference.com

Figure 1
Click to enlarge
Data drawn from baseball-reference.com

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With Gustafsson deal done, who are you picking for the Flyers’ starting lineup? [Poll]

Erik Gustafsson
Image via Wikimedia Commons

24-year old Erik Gustafsson signed a 1-year, $1M offer to remain with the Flyers through this season. His new contract is a 1-way deal. Barring injury, Gus is almost certain to start the season in the NHL, and it seems likely he’ll slot in on the third pairing and 2nd-line power play.

But with 10 defenders now under contract for 2013-14, at a total of $34.2 million against the cap, Paul Holmgren and Peter Laviolette are now facing some very interesting decisions when it comes time for camp. Who’s gonna make it?

There are a couple things we can get out of the way. First, barring a miraculous resurrection, Chris Pronger’s contract is going to come off the books as soon as possible. The Flyers are currently $2.05 million over the cap, but Pronger’s contract still counts for $4.94M (CapGeek). Moving Prongs to Long Term Injured Reserve will free up that space and make the Flyers cap compliant in one fell swoop. This takes some pressure off of the front office to pursue trades, because a salary dump – at least for the upcoming season – is not really necessary.

Beyond that, the Flyers have some roster locks:

  • Kimmo Timonen
  • Mark Streit
  • Luke Schenn

Lock, lock, lock. Not even worth discussing whether they’ll start the year as three of the top four. How they’re paired, however, is a bit more iffy. Schenn is a big thumping defender who tends to hang near the crease and relishes contact, while Timonen and Streit both work better by taking away space and cutting off passing lanes.

Kimmo is a superior all-around player, while Streit at times plays like a 4th forward, but both have offensive skills that pair up pretty well with Schenn’s bruising character. Lavy may opt to continue to take advantage of what seemed like some good chemistry between the Timonen and Schenn last season, when they generated a 53.1% 5v5 Corsi For* while on ice together, but 49.7% and 46.6% respectively while apart.

*For the uninitiated, quick definitions of Corsi found here

This still leaves us with five defenders vying for the final two active roster spots, one of whom will see big minutes on the second line — unless a non-roster player impresses in camp and leapfrogs the group, which is possible, but let’s stick with what we’ve got for now.

Braydon Coburn — 6’5″ 225 lb – age 28 – $4.5M cap hit through 2016

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Did McNabb puke? Guess what, it can happen to anybody.

Pictured: Not the Super Bowl
Image via The Kick Is Good

The sniveling clowns on WIP’s Morning Show got former Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard for an interview this morning, and Lito testified that he saw McNabb puke in the Super Bowl.

This article by Philly.com writer Peter Mucha does a good job breaking down the facts of what Lito said v. what he didn’t say. I’m not going to go into that.

One of the major assumptions made by the hosts of this show (who somehow perpetuate their continual dumping on McNabb even though this month will mark the fourth training camp since McNabb was traded to the Redskins) is that McNabb puking means he must have been out of shape and physically unprepared for the 2004 Super Bowl.

I say that’s horseshit. And so does medical science.

Yes, exercise-induced nausea can be brought on by overexertion – that is, physically working your body harder than it is capable of working. But this narrative entirely ignores the possibility that McNabb was perfectly fit for the task at hand, but he was overhydrated.

When an athlete drinks too much water during a high-intensity exercise, he can suffer a condition known as hyponatremia. This means that the sodium levels in the athlete’s blood have dropped below acceptable levels. It is a fairly common condition among endurance athletes, as this study notes that 13% of a sample of 488 runners who finished the 2002 Boston Marathon were in a classified as being in a hyponatremic condition.

Want to take a guess what one of the primary symptoms of hyponatremia is? Yep, it’s puking.

So if that were the case (it’s obviously far too late to test that now) I guess you could blame McNabb for drinking too much water. But that’s hardly the worst crime in the world. Hell, Chip Kelly will attest that sports nutrition has advanced by miles since that year. This innocuous cause is entirely possible.

I’m not ruling out that McNabb might have been physically unprepared for the Super Bowl, but that explanation has never really passed the sniff test. McNabb was coming off what was easily the best season of his entire career, and if he were physically unfit it seems almost impossible that this wouldn’t have manifested itself earlier in the season. He wasn’t coming off any injuries, and he absolutely plowed through the Vikings and the Falcons en route to the Birds’ fateful matchup with the Pats.

But at the end of the day, if McNabb did puke as Lito says, all that really tells us for certain is that the man tried his damnedest for us, and he just happened to come up short. Continuing to pour shit on his head more than 8 years later is an absolute joke.

The opinions expressed in the above belong to this writer alone, and are not necessarily endorsed by any other writer on this website.

Ray Returns: Emery signs 1-year deal with Flyers

Multiple sources have confirmed that Ray Emery has signed a 1-year deal, $1.65M contract with the Flyers for the 2013-14 season. For his career, Emery has posted a .908 SV% and a 126-63-16 record.

Emery last played for the Flyers in ’09-’10, posting a .905 SV% and 2.64 Goals Against average in 29 games.

During that season, Emery suffered a hip injury that degenerated into avascular necrosis, the same type of condition that effectively ruined the career of Bo Jackson. Despite the dire prognosis, Emery returned in 2011 to play 10 games for the Ducks, and the following season joined the Chicago Blackhawks as a backup goalie.

Emery played in 21 games for the Hawks this season (.922 SV%, 1.92 GAA) before being sidelined in favor of Corey Crawford. He started the season 12-0-0.

The move gives the Flyers a significant amount of flexibility going into next season. With Steve Mason being anything but a sure thing, Emery is a veteran presence who is more than capable of stepping in if the former Blue Jacket is unable to secure the starting spot. The contracts for both goalies only run through the end of next season, so the Flyers will essentially get to pick who stays or who goes after this year, with no cap ramifications from whichever one loses out.

In all it’s a good deal and a level-headed move for a team coming off one of the worst contracts for a goalie (or any player) in the history of professional sports.

Are you a Tebowmaniac?

Does Tim Tebow’s fame confuse you as much as it confused me?

I took a long, long time to study the phenomenon, and this essay is the result. Touching on historical, statistical, sociocultural, and media-related causes, this essay is a truly comprehensive study of Tebow’s baffling fame. Some of this stuff just might surprise you.

Read it now!

It’s Worse Than It Looks: Defending the Phillies Doomsayers

AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton
via pennlive.com

As it stands on this humid, overcast June 3rd, the Phillies are in 3rd place in the NL East with a 27-30 record. With the team just 7.5 games back from the division-leading Braves and 8.5 games back from the wildcard slot, many fans are still be clinging to the hope that this team can turn its fortunes around and make a playoff run. Cliff Lee is pitching out of his mind again and Domonic Brown has finally blossomed at the plate, so it makes sense that some would be optimistic about the team’s immediate future.

But like the murky skies and sticky air outside, all the signs for this Phillies team portend rain.

Beware, Phillies fans. Don’t let that record fool you. Even though a playoff berth is seemingly within reach, the fact is that the Phillies have been extraordinarily lucky just to have as many wins as they have right now.

The untold story of the Phillies’ record – the one not mentioned by radio personalities, and often ignored by the newspapers as well – is that the their 27 wins-to-date is a house of cards. They may have the 3rd best record in the east, but they’ve scored a whopping 49 fewer runs than they’ve given up in just 57 games. That’s an average of -.86 runs per game, 3rd worst in the National League and ahead of just the Mets and Marlins.

Total run differential is an excellent predictor of a team’s record (like, d’uh) and the Pythagorean Wins calculation, originally invented by Bill James, is an accurate formula for determining how many wins a team ought to have. Having scored 202 runs and allowed 251, the Phillies’ Pythagorean Win-Loss record is 23-34. This means that, over the course of the season so far, their 27-30 record is actually 4 wins better than it should be.

In fact, they’re the luckiest team in the whole National League. Only one other team is ahead of their Pythagorean W-L record by 4, and that’s the 35-win Pirates. So even with the benefit of good fortune, the Phillies are still sitting far away from a playoff spot.  Read the rest of this entry

Around the Cooler 05/29/13 – Philthy

Here’s what we’re talking about:

  • Vince and Hank take a decidedly negative view on the 2013 Phillies’ prospects and discuss what the organization should do next


Play on your Mobile Device or Right Click to Download: Around the Cooler 05-29-13

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

Follow us on Twitter @TheWooderCooler

Musical theme written by Matthew Schwalm

Figuring out why Braydon Coburn was so bad in 2013 (with advanced stats!)

Braydon Coburn has long been considered a solid, consistent defender and has been a fixture on the Flyers’ top-two defensive pairings since he was acquired at the 2007 trade deadline. So consistent, in fact, that during the 2011-12 season, the Flyers jumped at the chance to extend his contract for 4 years at a healthy $4.5 million-per-year price tag. Hardly a small commitment for a team that is perennially bumping its head against the salary cap.

But Coburn’s 2013 season was – and I’m being kind here – a break from the mold.

Oh who am I kidding? It was awful. In order to set up the second half of my analysis, I’ll spend the first half explaining just how awful it was.

Here is a quick recap of Coburn’s career in terms of the standard statistics:

WARNING: Minors, the elderly, and those living with a heart condition may wish to avert their eyes from the row marked ’2013′

Scoring Stats Goals Assists Ice Time
Season Age GP G A PTS +/- PIM EV PP SH EV SH PP S S% ATOI
2006-07 21 49 3 8 11 -1 46 2 1 0 5 0 3 54 5.6 15:29
2007-08 22 78 9 27 36 17 74 4 5 0 16 1 10 113 8.0 21:14
2008-09 23 80 7 21 28 7 97 4 3 0 11 2 8 130 5.4 24:37
2009-10 24 81 5 14 19 -6 54 4 1 0 12 0 2 122 4.1 21:08
2010-11 25 82 2 14 16 15 53 2 0 0 13 1 0 114 1.8 21:04
2011-12 26 81 4 20 24 10 56 4 0 0 18 2 0 113 3.5 22:03
2013 27 33 1 4 5 -10 41 1 0 0 4 0 0 38 2.6 22:37
Career 493 31 109 140 30 425 21 10 0 79 6 24 688 4.5 21:09
*2005-06 season excluded. Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/17/2013.

Those numbers look bad. Really bad. But the season was shortened to start and Coburn was on the DL for 1/3 of those games, so it may help to break down his 2013 stats in terms of ice time.

Stats per 60 minutes of ice time (with career rank):
Goals/60: .08 (2nd worst)
Assists/60: .322 (worst)
Points/60: .402 (worst)
Plus-Minus/60: -.804 (worst)
PIM/60: 3.3 (2nd worst)
Shots/60: 3.06 (worst)
Even Strength Points/60: .402 (worst)

Yuck. How about a nail in the coffin? In the 33 games in which Coburn played, the Flyers went 13-17-3, averaged 2.64 goals for and 3.12 goals against. In the 15 games in which Coburn did not appear, the Flyers were 10-5-0, averaging 3.07 goals for and 2.53 goals against.

Now, I already trashed Coburn’s lockout season a month ago, but I swear I’m really not trying to pile it on. I am simply attempting to provide some perspective. I went into this study because I was genuinely baffled that such a dependable player could just roll over and die at the prime age of 28. How was this possible? Outside of my private suspicions that Dan Bylsma spent his off-hours poking needles into a Braydon voodoo doll somewhere in the bowels of the CONSOL Energy Center, there was seemingly no explanation for such a precipitous fall…

Unless, of course, you like advanced stats. I’ve recently shown my ardent support for the proliferation of advanced statistics, and this seemed like a ripe opportunity to break them out. As it turns out, the fancy numbers indicate that it wasn’t simply poor luck or bad mojo that led to Coburn’s bad year.

There was another reason:

Peter Laviolette.

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