Category Archives: Hank Mushinski

NCAA Tourney Challenge!

FinalFourHey everyone!

You know that thing that you degenerately gamble on every year? Do it with us! For free!

We’re running a bracket challenge on ESPN and would like to compete against anyone interested (maybe for a prize? I’m working on it). If you’re interested in joining us, write a message on our facebook page or tweet at us and we’ll get you the info! Also, trash talk is strongly encouraged!

Thanks and good luck screw your crappy bracket.

 

-The Wooder Cooler

 

Playoff Talk with 3D Philly Sports!

The year has turned, snow is in the air and the music of the playoffs is in our hearts. Our Birds will be making the push to a Superbowl and we decided to chat with our pals over at 3DPhillySports about what could be a cinderella story. Joining us to break down Saturday’s game as well as the league-wide goodness are Derrick AlvarezDave BennettRandy Jobst. Hank and I give our take as well.

First, the Birds!

The Eagles are in the playoffs! Does this make Chip Kelly Coach of the Year?

Derrick: If I had the option, I’d probably split the vote up. One half for Bruce Arians, the other half for Chip Kelly. If I had to pick one though, I’ll go with the team that made the playoffs and beat Bruce Arians on their way there. Great season for the Birds.
 
Randy: It makes him a great candidate to win the award, but you can make a serious argument for several other coaches too. Andy Reid took a 2-14 team and turned them into an 11 win team in just one season. Ron Rivera went into the season as the coach we were all waiting to get fired. Fast forward a few months and he is watching the opening round of the playoffs from his couch, but only because his team earned a first round bye. You also have to consider how dominate Seattle was at times this season. Chip is very deserving, but so are those other three mentions as well. This award is a toss-up this year. I hope Chip gets it, but I wouldn’t be offended if he didn’t.
Hank: He has to be. He’s brought in a system that is, if not wholly unprecedented at the NFL level, at least a truly genuine attempt to rethink the formula that leads to success in the NFL. It’s a passing league, and the Eagles’ offense is putting up ridiculous numbers while leaning on the run.
Vince: I think there’s some good candidates but Chip has to be the guy. He’s doing some pretty wild and innovative stuff in what has been a league based on parity while shattering records along the way. If I had any money, I’d bet it on him.

Which player on the team (outside of Foles and McCoy) is most pivotal to the team’s success?

Derrick: Desean Jackson. If a team is able to even hold him under 50-60 yards then they have an excellent chance at defeating the Eagles. He’s a home run hitter that has had one helluva season in 2013. 
Randy: Trent Cole. This defense depends on a good pass-rush and Cole is the most capable of wreaking havoc on an opposing backfield each week. When he gets shut down with just one blocker, this defense struggles to get much penetration. When he gets after the quarterback early, the defense appears to be a top-10 group, just ask the Bears.
Hank: I think it’s either Jason Peters or Evan Mathis. For all the success that Fletcher Cox or Brandon Boykin had on defense this year, none of this would be possible without stellar performances on the offensive side of the ball. That starts with the offensive line, specifically the left side. Mathis is a rock, and Peters is a monster. If you’re a DC trying to scheme against this team, good luck picking a player that matches up well against them. 
Vince: Fletcher Cox. I’ve been saying for weeks now that the defensive line is the true heart of our defense and when they’re not beating opposing lines, we’re sunk. That was the case in Dallas where I think we slipped away with an undeserved win. This week the Saints have two Pro Bowl guards protecting a Pro Bowl quarterback. It’s prime time, Fletcher. Get it done.

Are you happy the Eagles drew the Saints over the 49ers?

Derrick: Yes. I’ll take a team that is 3-5 on the road, who also struggled to beat the Bucs and Falcons mind you (this would have made them 1-7) over a team that has marched to two consecutive NFC Championships. Drews Brees always scares me, but force 2 turnovers from him and I think the Eagles have a first-round W.
Randy: This is the playoffs. I don’t care who you play, everybody is good at this point. The 49ers are a mediocre passing offense at best, but the Saints are a mediocre running offense at best. Both teams have their strengths and their weaknesses and either way you are going to face an elite receiving tight end. I’m happy with the Saints here because it means the 49ers and Seahawks could face-off next weekend. That’s a good thing for everyone in the playoffs who don’t reside in San Fran or Seatle.
Hank: No. Chip beat Harbaugh a couple of times in the college ranks, and frankly Kaepernick is two tiers below Brees right now. I think the Eagles’ passing D, which remains the team’s biggest weakness, would have a much easier time handling the 49ers. Look for a shootout next Sunday, and don’t get caught up in that in the dome / out of the dome crap. This Saints group is gonna show up in full force, weather be damned. Look for Jimmy Graham to go 18 catches for 200+ and at least one TD.
Vince: I think that this was the best possible thing that could happen. The Saints on the road makes the entire NFC picture a little weaker so at this point you hope a blind cinderella gets a nut. That’s the expression right?

How far do you expect the Eagles to go?

Derrick: I really have no expectations, just enjoying the ride from a team that I thought would win 8 games max. I’ve got high hopes though.
Randy: It’s ridiculous to expect the Eagles to win this week and be one of the final eight teams left. We all had this team pegged as a 8-win team at best. However, if they do come out of this weekend with a win I really like their chances against Carolina. Regardless of what happens, this has been a great season and everything the Eagles accomplish from here on out is like a bonus round in my mind.
Hank: I would not be surprised if they got bounced by the Saints in the first round. I WOULD be surprised if they got to the NFCCG.
Vince: I was a doubter on this team all season, but screw it. I’m all in. I think this team should be in the NFC Championship game. They’re good at putting up points and generating turnovers. Hell, if Seattle loses this team is a coin flip from the Super Bowl as they play at home for the Conference. Time to call up Tom Coughlin?

Does it bother you seeing Andy Reid in the playoffs?

Derrick: Not at all, but I’m not sure I want to see him make it too far in the playoffs or the phone lines on Philly talk radio will be going nuts, and not in a good way.
Randy: You know it really doesn’t. I have nothing but love for Andy Reid. His work in the red zone is embarrassing at times and we all wished he would run the ball more, but at this point that is a Kansas City problem. Big Red tried to bring home a Lombardi Trophy to Philly, but he just couldn’t get it done. He’s still a class act who loves the people around him. Plus he is still the best interview on draft day. I will continue to root for him when it doesn’t affect the Eagles.
Hank: No. We knew he was still a decent coach, but he was past due for a change of scenery. He walks into a team that’d LOADED with talent, of course he could make it to the dance. Berry, Hali, Alberts, Charles. We’re talking explosive players there. Couple that with a more-or-less ideal quarterback for his system, and suddenly it would have been a surprise if Andy didn’t make it this year.
Vince: Yes. Yes it does. Not because he himself is in, but it’s the manner in which he’s done it. I feel like a crazy person for yelling at him to run the ball for years and now that he does it he’s coaching one of the best teams in the league. I say this in the name of Correll Buckhalter: Fuck you, Andy.

Which playoff team is the biggest surprise this year?

Derrick: Honestly, Riverboat Ron and the Panthers getting the 2 seed and bye week is probably the biggest shocker to me.
Randy: I had the Chiefs projected as the 6th seed in the AFC before the season started so I’d be lying if I said seeing Kansas City in the playoffs is surprising. I was also a huge Mike McCoy fan so I don’t think the Chargers season is a major shocker either. I would say the Panthers are the biggest shock to me. They came into the season with a nice front seven, but a terrible secondary and an average offense with one good target. Give credit to the job the offensive staff has done to turn this team into an efficient unit this season. I had them pegged as a 6-win team.
Hank: Has to be Carolina. Their defense improved dramatically, and it seems to have caught a lot of people off guard. I always thought Cam was gonna be a really, really good player at the NFL level but feared he would suffer from a lack of help. Not so for the Panthers this year. Credit to Rivera and *cough* Sean McDermott for engineering such an impressive turnaround. They’re making the most of their talent (did anybody know who Greg Hardy or Charles Johnson were before last year?) and still have room to grow.
Vince: I honestly have to say the Packers. Green Bay is decimated and they made the playoffs after starting Senece Wallace, Scott Tolzien, and Matt Flynn for seven games. Remember when we made the playoffs on the back of Jeff Garcia? I think this is just as wild.

Which match-up this weekend do you think will be the best game?

Derrick: San Fran/Green Bay. -5 degrees up in Lambeau is must-see TV.
Randy: This one is a no-brainer for me, it’s the 49ers-Packers game. They played a thriller in Week One, plus we saw the Colin Kapernick show take flight in last year’s postseason. Aaron Rodgers is back and has officially shaken off all the rust. Both teams are still pretty flawed, but I wouldn’t want any part of them either. I think this game tops even the Bears-Packers game from last week.
Hank: Saying it’s Eagles v. Saints would be a cop out, so I’m going with Green Bay and SF. Last year’s NFCCG was one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever seen, and their regular season matchup this year was an offensive explosion. Look for fireworks at the tundra this Sunday.
Vince: I actually think that San Fran should beat Green Bay by a solid margin so I’m going to go with Kansas City and Indianapolis. Indy’s a team that has had some serious ups and downs, but if they show up this game will be a ton of fun. You’ll have the first Deacon Jones Award winner Robert Mathis and Andrew Luck trying to upset a very sturdy Chiefs team in Indy. I think it’s a down to the wire matchup.   

You’re making the odds in Vegas: Who’s your favorite to win the Super Bowl?

Derrick: Broncos, who is going to stop their offense? Peyton is long overdue for that 2nd ring. I think he evens things up with his brother in Eli’s home stadium.
Randy:  A lot has changed to make this a much more difficult answer. The Patriots lost Rob Gronkowski for the season and the Seahawks can’t seem to get Percy Harvin healthy. Both of those teams looked like obvious Super Bowl picks to me when all was well, but right now they are both very beatable.Really every team has its limitations right now. Can Peyton Manning deliver in the January cold? Can the Patriots score enough points to go on another playoff run? Are the Bengals good enough to win a Super Bowl without their two best defensive players(Atkins and Hall)? Do the Panthers have enough fire power to win in the postseason? Same goes for the Seahawks.This really is a season where you just try to survive each week. Nobody is dominant enough to expect to win any playoff game right now. Each game should be a dog fight and the most clutch offenses and defenses will come out on top.

I’ll stick with my preseason pick, the Seahawks, because of the home-field advantage and their defense, but I’m not very confident in that pick. Hell I’m almost inclined to pick the Eagles here because they protect the football, run the ball well and the

Hank: Broncos

Vince: Seattle. The best complete team in the league with the best home field advantage will likely play in a cold Super Bowl. Not to know Peyton in the cold, but rather I’m knocking the reliance on the passing game in the cold. Seahawks win. The Peyton legacy takes a tough hit. And Marshawn Lynch lives in a house made of skittles.

Around the Cooler 12/28/13: Put Up or Shut Up

Here’s what we’re talking about:

  • Boss Christmas present put to use!

    Boss Christmas present put to use!

    The Eagles shaming the Bears on National television and scheme changes (0:00)

  • DallasDallasDallasDallasDallas (11:40)


Play on your Mobile Device or Right Click to Download: Around the Cooler 12-28-13

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

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Musical theme written by Matthew Schwalm.

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.

The Big Piece (of S$!%)

The second article of a three-part series on the Phillies by Nick, stats by Hank. Check out Part 1 here.

Now seems like a peculiar time to look back on the Ryan Howard contract.

Howard is in the midst of some kind of resurgence. He has hit .313 this month with 12 extra-base hits and has even walked 12 times in 23 games, all adding up to an outstanding .965 OPS.

Everyone seemed ready to declare Howard’s days as a productive player long gone. However, he might actually have something left.

That’s why I think this is the perfect time to reflect on Rubén Amaro’s biggest failure.

With three years and $75 million left on his deal (including a $10 million buyout for a fourth year), we find ourselves pleasantly surprised that Howard is contributing anything even though he will be paid like an elite player for three more seasons.

Howard signed his massive five-year, $125 million extension in April 2010. He still had almost two full seasons before he was due to hit free agency.

A drop of production should have been expected. Howard was already 30, and aside from a strong 2009, his OPS had fallen every season after his monster MVP campaign in 2006.

But following 2009, Howard’s OPS continued to fall. First it dropped from .931 to .859 in 2010, then to .835 in 2011, the last year of his prior contract.

Simply put, Howard was paid for what he did, not what he was going to do, a cardinal sin for a general manager.

Just look at the nifty chart Hank made. (Click image to enlarge)

50-game moving average of HR/100AB over MLB seasonal average (accounts for overall drop in league-wide home run production over this same period). MLB average is 0 at all points along graph. At the time this plot was made, Howard had dropped to just above total league average for all players despite playing a power-hitting position.

Howard may be hitting well now, but make no mistake, he was paid to hit the long ball. Howard’s home run production had been declining for years, well before he signed this contract. Even at the time he signed it, it was easy to see this extension was a major mistake.

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