This is the most brilliant idea ever proposed on 18to88. I promise.
Last night the Pacers won their 5th game in a row. Obviously that's terrible news because the more the Pacers win, the more likely they are to miss out on a top pick in the NBA lottery. In the NBA, the only way to save a franchise is to hit on a top pick in the draft. Otherwise, you are relegated to the lower middle class ghetto of 30-40 wins forever.
Unfortunately, that means that teams have to tank games down the stretch and that fans have to ROOT for the team to fail. It creates a bad, toxic environment and leads to players forming bad habits and bad cultures in locker rooms.
Now, we can't just give out top picks to teams that are already good either, because that also keeps the bottom of the league down. But, there is a solution that I've never heard before.
Give out either ping pong balls or just simply allocate the picks based on how many games a team wins AFTER it is eliminated from playoff contention.
It's simple and elegant. Once you aren't playing for the playoffs, you have to keep playing hard, trying to improve in order to HELP your draft status. Awful teams that are eliminated early on have an incentive to play hard and create excitement for their fans. Goodish teams that barely miss the playoffs won't get enough opportunities to win after they are eliminated to seriously help their draft status, so you don't have to worry about 40 win teams getting the top pick every year, but if they are booted from the playoffs a week or two before the season ends, they still might pick up a handfull of wins that could vault them over some other team that packed it in.
It creates a 'losers bracket' of sorts, a separate set of standings that show which teams are out of contention for a championship, but IN contention to have the "Best Eliminated Record". Those teams are rewarded with the best picks in the draft. The worse the team, the more opportunity for advancement simply because they have more games they can try to win.
Why wouldn't this work? It would radically transform the last two months of the NBA season and save both ratings and attendance for crappy teams. Make winning matter again, David Stern.
I don't want to be depressed about a five game win streak any more.
Here's a chart of all the eliminated teams, how many games they would get to play after elimination, and how many wins they have after being eliminated. Remember that under the current system, teams are trying to lose. If they were trying to win, the situation would be different.
|Total Games after Elimination||WAE|
I have not had time to fully watch and digest this 90 minute video yet, but I want to get the discussion started.
The Sloan Conference is the preeminent gathering of sports nerds, executives, and math geeks. This particular panel discussion was called:
"What Geeks Don't Get: Limits of Moneyball"
I'll try to absorb this in the next day or so. When I do, I'll post my reaction here. For now, this will serve as the home base for this particular discussion. I can't wait.
UPDATE: I've watched the clip, and I have to say, it was well worth the time. Polian commented on a wide variety of topics. Here are some of the highlights.
On use of advance statsitics in the draft: Polian said that the Colts use a variety of advanced stats in talent evaluation. Their entire model is built around finding players that are undervalued by other teams. Shockingly, he said the Colts have metric they use and plug all potential draftees into it. If a scout says one thing and the metric says another, the Colts go with the metric. I found that shocking, but insanely cool. Later Johnathan Kraft of the Patriots talked about how New England and Indianapolis are two of just four teams that use a high priced psychological consulting service to evaluate potential draftees. The reason why the Colts are so 'odd ball' when it comes to the draft is that they are absolutely not paying attention to the same things that everyone else is. Keep that in mind this April and as you are reading mock drafts.
On use of advanced statistics in games: Polian emphatically said they are all crap and useless. He had especially harsh things to say about any stat that models how teams should behave on downs and distances. This was the comment that caused no end of consternation at FO. Polian's point is that football is too complex with too many variables to rely on averages across the league and across seasons to make decisions based on statistics. What's interesting is that he then used some statistics to show why the Pats were right to go for it on 4th and 2. It was a little inconsistent.
While that is obviously true to an extent, I think the stats can help you change your default starting place for making tough calls. For example, if your default is "Going for it on 4th down is a risky play", then your end decision will be colored in that direction, even after taking into account game scenarios. If, however, you realize that going for it on 4th down pays out over the long haul, you can still take game situations into account, but you are starting from a better default position. For instance, in Cleveland in 2008, the Colts went for it on the goal line on fourth down. At the time, I was actually against the call because of the game scenario (points at a premium, inside of 2 minutes to play in the half). However, as everyone knows, under almost every other scenario I'm in favor of going for it.
As for other kinds of measurement of players, the big problem is that without access to coaches tapes, outsiders will never be able to analyize play as well as coaching staffs.
On the next frontier of analysis: He wants better ways of measuring the effect of different officiating crews on games. He clearly doesn't like the randomness. He also wants to see a way to compare players across scheme. How much would Vince Wilfork be worth to the Colts who run a totally different scheme, for instance.
On 'the cutting edge': He claims that NFL coaches already push the envelope to the limit when it comes to data collection and analysis. The games are so tight and complex that most coaches want as much data as they can gather. He says any new metrics would be immediately accepted if they proved valuable, because coaches just want to win. I found this surprising. He clearly has a higher opinion of NFL coaches than I do. As with any disagree I have with Polian, I can only say, "He must be right. I must be wrong...but it sure doesn't feel like it".
Other highlights included Mark Cuban's game of "Protect the Moron", Bill Simmons providing comic relief, and the auro of "we're just better than you" given off by Kraft and Polian toward the rest of the NFL. There's little wonder those teams dominated the decade.
Butler's win tonight might just be the tonic that cures what ails the state of Indiana when it comes to basketball. I couldn't be more excited or stunned to live to see the Butler freaking Bulldogs just one game from playing in the Final Four in INDY A FREAKING NAPOLIS.
Woof, as they say, woof.
Here's a random tidbit that I couldn't find a place for in my upcoming book on Colts history.
Not only did Peyton Manning surpass Jim "Captain Comeback" Harbaugh for most comebacks as a Colts quarterback, he did it by the end of his second season in the league. That's impressive, but what's really amazing is that Manning, author of 35 fourth quarter comebacks (2nd most all time behind Dan Marino at 36), has more 4th quarter comebacks than all the Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks combined.
Since the team moved to Indianapolis, the Colts have had innumerable QBs, and together they combined for 30 fourth quarter come from behind wins over 14 seasons. Ten different quarterbacks contributed to the total (and there were a lot more that didn't contribute anything).
From the 18to88 inbox today:
I don't know if you guys have addressed Fili Moala's "absence" from the field last year, but what is the deal with this guy? Conventional wisdom has the Colts drafting another DT but I thought Fili was the athletic DT that we were looking for so why draft another? I would like to send Mr. Moala back to USC and get our money for this bum. Your thoughts, if any, would be appreciated. Thanks.
Thanks for the email, Bill. This is a great topic both in specific (Moala) and in general (draft expectations). There are several issues at work here that need to be discussed.
1. Ignore "conventional wisdom" when it comes to who the Colts will draft. Indy will take the best available player. In this case, the conventional wisdom is based on outsiders opinions of the Colts DTs, not based on anything the team has indicated. The Colts still don't have a 'Warren Sapp' who can pressure the pocket from the middle of the field, so draftniks (desperate for something to write about) will keep guessing the Colts are looking for a DT. You can't take that seriously. Most of it has to do with the Colts cutting Raheem Brock. Draft guys just look at who left and assume the team needs to replace them.
2. Even if the Colts are looking for a DT, it doesn't mean that Moala is a bust. You need at least four DTs to play in rotation, so it's always a position teams are trying to stock with quality players. Even if Moala had been a Pro Bowl player last year, the Colts could STILL be looking for a DT.
Now, let's address the second part of the equation. Is Moala a bust?
- First, you brought up the issue of money. Moala had a signing bonus of $1.14 million ($285K a year if he lasts 4 years), and makes a base number of $310 K. His yearly cap number comes to $595 K last year and $680K this year. That's hardly a large investment. Money is not an issue here.
- Second, there is the investment of a second round pick. Let's look at the Colts 2nd round picks this decade to see how much they played in their rookie years:
2000 Marcus Washington LB-His rookie year he started 0 games, posting 7 tackles, 2 sacks and a pick. He did play in all 16 games. He went on to become a Pro Bowler later in his career with the Redskins.
2001 Idrees Bashir S-Played 15 games as a rookie, starting all of them. He picked off one pass and had 53 tackles. He lasted four years with the Colts.
2002 Larry Tripplett DT-He played in 13 games as a rookie starting 10. He had 18 tackles. He played four seasons for the Colts, never registering more than four sacks.
2003 Mike Doss S-Started 15 games as a rookie. 1 pick and 75 tackles. He played four seasons with the Colts, posting 7 ints for his career.
2004 Bob Sanders S-Started 4 games as a rookie. He posted 29 tackles.
2005 Kelvin Hayden-Had no starts and just 18 tackles as a rookie.
2006 Tim Jennings-No starts, 7 tackles, and just 11 games as a rookie.
2007 Tony Ugoh-Started 11 games, generally playing well (until the playoffs). Ironically, he had maybe the best rookie season of anyone on this list, and is now viewed as the biggest bust.
2008 Mike Pollak-Started 13 games his rookie year, but lost his job in the second year.
2009 Fili Moala-Appeared in five games with four tackles.
I would say that by looking at this list, it's hard to draw accurate conclusions (good or bad) about a second round pick after his rookie year. Bob Sanders and Kelvin Hayden would have looked like serious busts after year one. Tony Ugoh looked like a potential fixture at left tackle. The point is that it is foolish to apply a tag like "bust" on a player after just one season. Moreover, we should all be realistic about what kind of player is available in the second round. Most of these guys could be best described as 'solid starters for a few years' with the notable exception of Bob Sanders who only dropped to round two due to injury concerns. The ceiling for Moala is probably reliable starter. Franchise DTs just don't fall to the second round very often. Remember that people once considered Reggie Wayne and Dwight Freeney to be busts. The biggest mistake a fan can make is to assume a guy is no good just because of a difficult rookie year.
- Now, let's look at the specific issue of Moala and why he didn't play more in 2009. First of all, everyone's expectation that he would become an instant starter simply never jived with what was known of him before hand. He was always likely to be a project for at least a year. He has a prototypical DT body, but the Colts system was wholly different than what he was used to at USC. Coming out of the draft he was considered 'unpolished'. That's a code word meaning, "will require a lot of coaching".
In other words, it was never realistic to expect this guy to be a major force in 2009. This was a case of fans getting over excited about a guy and then getting disappointed when he failed to meet their completely unrealistic expectations.
Now, might he be a bust? Sure. If he doesn't make the team this year or fails to see significant playing time in 2010, then it's fair to start asking the question. The truth is that the Colts' DTs played fairly well in 2009 and are no longer the trouble spot they were two seasons ago. I'd say the fact that he couldn't find a spot in the rotation is a testament to the Johnson boys and Foster. The Colts have parted ways with Raheem Brock, so there is an open spot in the rotation. Moala needs to step up and claim it.
In summary, Moala is a cautionary tale for every fan who hyperventilates during draft season. Most guys are projects. Outside of the first round, you are lucky if you draft a rookie starter, especially if you have a good team to begin with. Let's wait at least two years before we throw around words like 'bust' or 'bum' with a player. I hope the Colts upgrade a position or two in draft next month, but for most guys it will take a couple of years before we know what we have. Moala could be the next 'Garcon' for all we know.
If we have unfair expectations, we'll draw inaccurate conclusions.
I just wanted to get a little front page love for Bloguin's site dedicated to the NFL draft. As you know, I'm no draft freak, but for those that are, this is a great page to check out. You might want to use their breakdown of the Colts as a starting point:
We've all been wondering how the Colts were planning on sorting out the bevy of wide receivers on the roster. With the news that Caldwell is contemplating four wide sets, Kuharsky wonders how the division will cope. This may well be the 'tweak' that was referenced when discussing how Christensen will affect the new offense. BBS wondered if that didn't mean more running plays, but what if it means fewer?
The Colts percentage of run plays has been steadily declining for some time. Granted, the run offense has been getting worse, so it has made sense to run less. However, with the way the game in the NFL is in constant flux, and with teams challenging the Colts to score with fewer possessions than ever through chicanery, maybe Caldwell is signalling a dawn of a truly dynamic wide open attack in Indy. I'm not saying we are going to go run and shoot or anything, but it could well be the run/pass percentage could keep dropping.
|Runs||Total Plays||Run %|
It's not hard to see why such a strategy would be appealing. Why run the ball for only 3.8 yards a pop when the passing game regularly averages twice that much? The problem with spreading out to four wides is that either Clark or Addai has to come off the field. I can certainly envision instances where such a move could pay dividends, but over the long haul you want both of those guys on the field as much as possible.
There are two offenses in the NFL. One is the offense you wish you could run, and the other is the offense that fits your personell. The Colts may or may not dream of being a power run team that picks up third and ones with ease. However, to build that kind of offensive line will take time. In the mean time, the offensive brain trust would be wise to continue to find ways to utilize the skills the team does have.
If you can't do what you want, get the most out of what you've got.
Four wides sounds like a good start.
Last Friday night, I participated in my fantasy league's annual draft. We've been playing together as a league for a decade now, starting with the 2000 season. I think I had a good draft, that is to say I followed my rules.
You see, I'm a great fantasy baseball player, but a terrible drafter. I make tons of mistakes every year, but I try to make the kinds of mistakes that you can recover from, more on that in a moment. I manage to finish in the top three of a competitive league every year because I don't wind up with a sunk team from the start.
For the record we play a 5X5 Roto league with keepers. We have 10 teams and 25 man rosters with one bench and DL slot. Each team gets five keepers based on the previous year's draft position. You can keep any player without penalty for two years, and then he advances 10 slots every year until it costs you a first round pick to keep the player. This year, my keepers were Tulowiski (8th round), Youklis (18th), Pedroia (20th), Pablo Sandoval (24th), Ian Kinsler (25). The last to players were waiver wire pickups from previous years.
Here are my infallible rules for drafting. You may not have a great draft if you follow these rules, but you will have a well constructed team that will let you erase mistakes later on:
1. Don't take a pitcher in the first round
Listen, most of the time the elite Cy Young type pitchers have fluctuation in their seasons. It's good to draft pitchers early, just not right away. In a conventional draft (without keepers), focus on a big power bat that will cover RBIs, HRs, and average. There aren't a lot of those guys, so take one early.
2. Do take pitchers in the early rounds
Don't be afraid to load up on starting pitchers in rounds 2-5. This year my staff consists of Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Peavy, and Vasquez. Personally, I focus on guys with a good WHIP. Wins are too unpredictable, and ERA can be fluky. WHIP and Ks are stats you can count on. Get several really good top shelf pitchers in the beginning rounds and then stay away from most of the mid level guys. They are too variable. Sometimes they pay off, but generally they blow up and kill your numbers. The only mid level guy I took this year was Scott Baker.
3. Don't take a closer before the 9th or 10th round.
Don't do it. Let some other schumck take Rivera. You don't need him. Saves are the easiest stat to vulture. Once the 9th round rolls by, make a run on closers. Take at least five, generally in a row. Often the 20th ranked closer provides about as many saves as the 8th. Scoop them all up. Here's why: Saves are easy to trade. Someone always needs them. If you have five to seven closers on your roster, you have the capital you need to avoid mistakes. The best part is that you will have a feel for how they are doing. If a guy looks shaky, you should be first in line to scoop his replacement off the wire. Fill all bench slots with closers or potential closers. By the end of the draft you should have seven or eight possible closers on your roster. Closers don't have the same kinds of innings
4. Punt batting average
It's too hard to trade for. That means you can't get it if you need it, and if you have it, no one wants it. It doesn't always lead to runs or steals the way home runs tend to yield RBIs. I don't even consider average. My teams always finish at or near the top of the league, but I'm perennially 9th or 10th in batting average.
5. Don't take a catcher until the last 5 rounds.
After Joe Mauer, catchers are all basically the same. Don't waste a high pick on a guy unless he's super elite. Even if he is, he probably won't play much more than 130 games a year. Stay away from the Brian McCann's of the world. They cost too much and don't typically pay off much better than some guy you can have in the 20th round.
6. Fill your bench slots with pitchers.
Early in the season, fill your bench with potential closers and starters who might pan out. A few bad starts can ruin your WHIP and ERA for months, so don't necessarily start dicey pitchers, but have them around just in case. To win the league, you'll need a guy or two to come out of nowhere.
Everyone misses on some players. Some guy you pick will bust. What this system does is create a roster that has players with value that can be moved in trades. Closers, steals, and home runs tend to bring back more value in deals than what they are really worth. This way if you get crushed with injuries or just make some bad picks, you'll have the ammunition necessary to restock.
Everyone loves to whine about the East Coast Bias, but after watching the NCAA tournament this weekend, the whiners certainly had a complaint. All season, I heard the talking heads yammer endlessly about how great the Big East was. The conference put 8 teams in the tournament, almost all of which had superior seeds. Louisville was the lowest seeded Big East team with a 9. The Big East had two 2s, two 3s, and a one seed. They should have dominated the Sweet 16.
Instead, they advanced just Syracuse (their one) and West Virginia (a two). Meanwhile, the lowly Big 10 slapped three teams into the Sweet 16. What's really impressive is that two of those teams advanced despite losing arguably their best player (Lucas for MSU, Hummel for Purdue). If the Big East was located 1000 miles from Bristol, CN, I wonder if they would have gotten the same attention.
It's also fascinating to note all the coaches with Indiana ties that are advancing. This is not a criticism of IU hiring Tom Crean. He was the right hire, and needs at least 5 years before we can judge his work. He took over what was essentially a death penalty program. This is more a commentary on how bad the Kelvin Sampson hire was. Still when you see Matta, Painter, Drew, and Stevens all in the Sweet 16 it makes you wonder why someone like Sampson was ever brought in. Shoot, New Mexico had a rough second round, but Alford is proving he can coach too. It hurts having a Hoosier-free March. Well, not really Hoosier-free as much as "full of ex-IU players and ex-potetial IU coaches all having success at other schools" March.
I'll just have to keep pulling for the Bulldogs to uphold Hoosier pride and also to keep making the Big East look fraudulent.