Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye, Andy Reid

As a freshman in college, I started what only now can be considered a Crossing Broad-esque blog entitled Fire Andy Reid Now!  I was dumb, 19-years old, dumb, and was not a fan of seeing the Philadelphia Eagles tie the Cincinnati Bengals.*  The remnants, that I prefer you not read, can be found in the archives of whatever you want to call this sham-mockery that I mainly use just to host chats with friends.  Since then, I have wisened considerably and learned to look at meaningful advanced metrics and logic to judge teams as opposed to trusting my eyes, media narratives, and gut feelings.**

*My 23-year old more intelligent self recognizes the fact that the 2008 Eagles were actually one of the NFL's top teams that season and were more deserving of their NFC Championship Game appearance than they were 9-6-1 record.  They only lost one game by more than 7 points and that was the game against Baltimore where Reid benched McNabb.

**Big thanks to my friends Mookie (@SSReporters) and Keith (@KSJ49) who convinced me to join SB Nation, which forever changed the way I look at and think about sports.

Earlier today, the Philadelphia Eagles officially announced the firing of Andy Reid.  And with that, Jeffrey Lurie ended an era of unprecedented success in Eagles history.  From 1999-2011, the Philadelphia Eagles went seemingly overnight from a team with a young QB and a bunch of random filler parts to a force to be reckoned with and one of the most consistently dominant teams in the league.  Things went downhill in 2012, but one season should not define the tenure of a coach who lasted 14-years with one team.  The first year the Eagles made the playoffs was 2000.  Look at the other teams who made the playoffs in 2000.

Denver Broncos:  Inconsistent from one year to the next, endured an extended period of time with Josh McDaniels as their head coach.

Baltimore Ravens:  Perhaps one of the closest to matching the consistency of the Reid era Eagles, the Ravens still went through a down period, a coaching period, and a time when Kyle Boller was a starting QB.

Indianapolis Colts:  The Peyton Manning led Colts were one of the AFC's dominant teams of the 2000s, but last season Peyton Manning got injured, ending an era, getting the #1 draft pick and a new franchise QB in Andrew Luck who started his career with the worst 11-5 team in NFL history.

Miami Dolphins:  Scarce playoff appearances, once traded a 2nd half draft pick for A.J. Feeley. This ended as poorly as you'd think.

St. Louis Rams:  The Greatest Show On Turf spent most of the decade in the NFC West cellar, perhaps only now starting to get out of it thanks to a rebuilding project and cashing in big time on the number two pick of the 2012 Draft.

New Orleans Saints:  Bounty scandal aside, the Drew Brees and Sean Payton led Saints have been so successful in the latter part of the decade that it is easy to forget how poor the early-mid decade Saints were under Aaron Brooks and Jim Haslett.  Remember this game?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  Went from contender to Super Bowl winner to painful decline to re-build to stagnation to re-building again all in this time period.

Tennessee Titans:  Enjoyed a nice run in the early-mid part of the decade, but have been struggling for a few years now.

Oakland Raiders:  Lol?  Lol.

Minnesota Vikings:  The Culpepper-Moss Vikings were tremendous to watch, but Moss is a shell of his former self, Culpepper is out of the league, and the Vikings managed to play Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson at QB during Reid's tenure.  They got one good year out of Brett Favre, too bad they had him for two.

New York Giants:  Saw some stagnation toward the middle of the 2000s before drafting Eli Manning and being on a roller coaster of Super Bowls and epic late-season collapses.

It is easy to think of the Steelers as consistent contenders in this decade, but that is because people conveniently forget the Tommy Maddox era*.  The obvious winner of the past 12 years, the New England Patriots, would not emerge until 2001.

*Not a hard era to forget.

That leaves us with the Eagles as the only team between 2000-2011 to be consistently competitive.  The hiccups few and far between, the long-term success unrivaled.  But all good things must end at some point, and just because a mutual parting of ways may be beneficial for everyone involved now, it does not mean the past was filled with failure or that Reid was not successful or that his time as head coach was unsatisfying.  A team consistently in the mix for a Super Bowl is the only thing sports fans could ever ask for, and indeed, it was exactly what Andy Reid for Eagles fans.  The goal of sports should be to win a championship.  But with a possible exception of the NBA, playoffs are largely determined by small sample sizes and chance.  Therefore, the best way to achieve that goal of winning a championship is to build a team that can contend for the long-term and hope that one of the lottery tickets pays off in the playoffs.  That is precisely what Andy Reid did.  That is success, and that success should be satisfying, for success is satisfying by nature. Unfortunately for Andy, he never hit the jackpot.  But if as a fan your sole basis of satisfaction  is the happy ending that stems from hitting the jackpot in the playoffs, then you are never going to get it right.

Andy Reid provided consistent stability while most everyone else endured periods of instability.  Andy Reid provided an offensive innovation felt more and more every day as the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league.  Andy Reid led the Eagles to four NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl, a Super Bowl where the point differential was three.  From 2000-2011*, with very few hiccups, the Eagles were a dominant force in the NFL that was at the top of the league for an astounding length of time. As teams around the Eagles came and went, the Eagles under Reid were still there almost without fail.  In the playoffs. With a chance for a Super Bowl.

*I standby every word I have ever written about the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles.

Who knows how long it will be until fans realize what they had in Reid, but that time won't be soon enough.  I am normally against hiring retreads, but when Andy Reid decides to coach again, whether that be in 2013 or later, someone will be hiring one awesome head coach.

Goodbye, Andy Reid.  And thank you.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Why The 2012 Philadelphia Eagles Suck

Some say it's play-calling.  Some say it's lack of coaching.  Some say it's the offensive line.  Some say it's a lack of heart (although I believe after the Eagles were eeking out all those close games at the beginning of the year people were praising their heart but it's all irrelevant here so whatever).  Some say it's because Andy Reid sucks now and is accepting his future dismissal at the end of the year.  Some say the Eagles quit.

And while perhaps it might be a tad silly to dismiss these notions entirely as we do not know what is really going on behind the locker room, it is worth pointing out a few numbers than when you break it all down, is the core reason why the Eagles are struggling.

Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR) tells the story all too clearly.  And painfully.  Listed below are DYARs of select Eagles from 2010-2012.  Listed next to the player's name is total DYAR, in parentheses next to that number is DYAR/game, because not all players played sixteen games each season and DYAR is in essence a counting statistic of how many yards above replacement level a certain player is.

Michael Vick
2010:  663 (55.25)
2011:  652 (50.15)
2012:  -189 (-23.63)

LeSean McCoy
2010:  227 (15.13)
2011:  304 (20.27)
2012:  -25 (-3.13)

DeSean Jackson
2010:  107 (7.64)
2011:  129 (8.6)
2012:  38 (4.75)

Jeremy Maclin
2010:  249 (15.56)
2011:  186 (14.31)
2012:  60 (7.5)

Jason Avant
2010:  114 (7.13)
2011:  92 (5.75)
2012:  52 (6.5)

In addition to DYAR for QBs, RBs, and WRs, Football Outsiders has a system for rating offensive lines and defensive lines against the rush, known as Adjusted Line Yards (ALY).  FO also assigns metrics for pass protection, known as Adjusted Sack Rate (ASR).

Offensive line ALY (the higher the better)
2010:  4.17
2011:  3.89
2012:  3.75

Offensive line ASR (the lower the better)
2010:  5.6%
2011:  5.9%
2012:  8.2%

Defensive line ALY (the lower the better)
2010:  3.71
2011:  4.03
2012:  3.57

Defensive line ASR (the higher the better)
2010:  7.7%
2011:  8.2%
2012:  4.6%

If you want perspective to how this fits in with the rest of the league, simply look at the charts on Football Outsiders.  I only thought about this after I finished the rankings and I have to go to bed early.  I might update this tomorrow afternoon, but for now, navigate your way through FO to see the rankings..  I guarantee you won't be surprised by where they rank among other teams.*

*Except for maybe the 2011 stats and the 2011 Eagles, whom I will continue to defend in spite of the embarrassing suckitude of the 2012 squad, especially as the narrative will be to blend the 2011 Eagles and 2012 Eagles together like frick and frack when really they could not be any more different.  People's false perceptions of 2011 have become the reality in 2012.

Looking at overall defense, the Eagles defense as a unit was among the top 10 in DVOA at the time Juan Castillo was fired and were just outside the top 5 before the Detroit Lions went HAM on them.  Under Todd Bowles, they have fallen to right around league average, and that is an aggregate statistic that includes the solid performance in the first few games under Castillo.  Perhaps getting adjusted to a new defensive coordinator takes time and we should not be so quick to rush to judgment on Todd Bowles.  It's only been two games under him and for all we know, he may share none of the responsibility.  Perhaps the change of coaching and decline of defense is simple coincidental correlation that is not exactly causation.

Only one thing is for sure.  Run defense aside, the collective suckitude has infected everyone on the 2012 Eagles and there is not one single person to blame and no one is blameless.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

ALCS Game 1 Live Blog

A Rooting Guide For The Remainder Of The Playoffs

As much fun as it was to see the Nats cough up a 6-0 lead to the Cardinals for the largest comeback in a winner-take-all post-season game in MLB history (previous record was 4 run comeback), it does leave us with a rather contemptible final four.  Between the Giants, the Cardinals, the Yankees, and the Tigers, it is difficult to single out any team to root for because I hate them all.

But because it is the playoffs and picking one team is probably funner than not picking any, I am creating this rooting guide in hopes of finding a team myself and helping you find a team as well if you are struggling.  Let's start with the NL.

St. Louis Cardinals

Why you should root for them:  After beating unquestionably the NL's most despicable team and quite frankly one of the most despicable franchise in all of sports, the Atlanta Braves*, the Cardinals knocked off the Nationals in hilarious fashion.  Some things in sports will never not be funny.  What happened last night to the Nationals is one of them.  In the words of Davey Johnson, it was "fun for me to watch."

*At least the Cleveland Indians have the good sense not to incorporate the tomahawk chop every time a person gets on base, although I guess one could argue that Chief Wahoo is worse.

Why you should root against them:  Quick.  What team has won the second most World Series rings in MLB history?  If you answered the St. Louis Cardinals, you are correct.  If it took you more than two seconds to come up with this answer, you have never met a Cardinal fan in your life.  As a collective, it is hard to top the arrogance of the New York Yankees fanbase, and yet, the Cardinals somehow find a way to give them a run for their money in that department.  Do we really want to see this fanbase win two in a row?

San Francisco Giants

Why you should root for them:  The insane BABIP luck the Giants received in the 2010 NLCS will forever haunt me, but I must extol the virtues of the Giants.  They have a phenomenal pitching staff, including someone who is now the best middle reliever in baseball*.  Matt Cain is a walking, talking statistical anomaly, although his 8.4% HR/FB rate, while still below average for baseball, is an increase from his insane 6.8% HR/FB career average.  Also, the two worst offenders from the 2010 Giants team are not either a part of the trainwreck in Boston (Cody Effing Ross) or recovering from Tommy John surgery (Brian Wilson).  But at the end of the day, the Giants can be a likable group of underdogs.

*Seriously.  What did happen to Tim Lincecum?

Why you should root against them:  The insane BABIP luck the Giants received in the 2010 NLCS will forever haunt me.  Also, the Giants acquired Hunter Pence.  And while the Phillies made out well in trading him to San Francisco, his acquisition from the Astros is one of the worst moves as a general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. ever made and would arguably be the worst if not for signing Ryan Howard, a player who managed -1.0 wins above replacement in 71 games in 2012, to a 5-year, $125M extension when all signs were pointing to an inevitable decline like this one.  But yeah.  Hunter Pence.  Boo.

New York Yankees

Why you should root for them:  Believe it or not, the answer to this is not none.  While I was never a fan of Amaro paying Raul Ibanez as much as he did for as long as he did, Ibanez is a genuinely awesome guy who has never won a World Series ring. I could easily find myself rooting for the Yankees just so Ibanez gets a ring.  The Yankees have won 27 World Series rings in their history.  What is a 28th going to change?

Why you should root against them:  2009 taught me one thing, and that is that the New York Mets are the good guys in New York.  The obnoxious and arrogance is almost unparalleled (ohai, St. Louis!) and seeing the Yankees fall just short would be pretty funny with the ensuing A-Rod shitstorm that would follow.

Detroit Tigers

Why you should root for them:  The New York Yankees won the World Series in 2009.  The San Francisco Giants won a World Series in 2010.  The St. Louis Cardinals won a World Series in 2011.  The Detroit Tigers last won a World Series in 1984.  They have a bunch of extremely likable players (excluding Delmon Young and Miguel Cabrera for off the field issues), including a pitcher in Justin Verlander who is makes me grow a few inches whenever I watch him.

Why you should root  against them:  The ensuing ignorant sports media circle jerk that would ensue if Miguel Cabrera won a World Series on top of his triple crown.  Let's get one thing perfectly clear.  Miguel Cabrera had a great 2012 season and it is nice to see him get recognition after a 2011 season that was even better than his 2012.  Let's get another thing perfectly clear:  As good as Miguel Cabrera was this year, Mike Trout was better in every facet of the game.  Let's run through them.

Who makes the least amount of outs?  Cabrera got on base at a rate of .393, Trout got on base at a rate of .399.

Who has a better OPS?  Cabrera's OPS is .999, Trout's OPS is .564.

Who has a better weighted on base average?  Cabrera's wOBA is .417.  Trout's wOBA is .409.

Who creates more runs?  Cabrera's weighted runs created plus (wRC+) is 166.  Trout's wRC+ is .166.

Who is better on the base paths?  Fangraphs scores Cabrera as a -2.8.  Fangraphs scores Trout as a 12.0.

Who is better at defense?  UZR/150 scores Cabrera as a -11.2.  UZR/150 scores Trout as an 11.0.

Who is more valuable to their team?  Cabrera's wins above replacement (WAR), per FanGraphs, is 7.1.  Trout's WAR, per FanGraphs, is 10.0.  Using baseball-reference only increases the disparity between the two.  Cabrera's rWAR is 6.9.  Trout's rWAR is 10.7.

The Triple Crown is neat, but seeing as batting average and RBIs are meaningless stats that tell you next to nothing about a player, they are ultimately meaningless.  Batting average is dependent on BABIP luck, whereas RBIs are nothing more than a product of the number of people who got on base in front of you.  A 450 foot home run with the bases empty is worth one RBI, whereas if three people completely independent of each other got on base before the very same 450 home run, that home run is suddenly worth four RBIs for a player whose contributions to three of those people getting on base were diddly squat.

So what does this have to do with the Tigers in the playoffs?  Because if the Tigers win the World Series and Trout wins the AL MVP (and I think he will), the phony media outrage will be unbearable.  I re-iterate, Miguel Cabrera is a fantastic baseball player, however, he still does not hold a candle to Mike Trout when it comes to overall value in 2012.  When we did the wild card day live blog, I said I thought Miguel Cabrera had a case.  Afterwards, I tried to build that case for him, thinking I could, and as it turned out, I could not.  There is no rational argument for Miguel Cabrera to be MVP over Mike Trout.  Worse yet, those in the baseball media who are staunchly against the analysis done above care not to at least learn the statistics behind the Trout argument.  The inability to even challenge their beliefs about what stats are useful in baseball and which aren't and the arrogance these sports writers have to dismiss them without even giving them at least a half-hearted thought is what is most bothersome here.  If Cabrera wins, it would not be the worst travesty ever in MVP voting*, but it certainly would be a minor travesty.

*Any MVP vote ever cast for Michael Young takes the prize there.

I came into this thinking I was going to conclude that I was rooting for the Detroit Tigers, but writing this post only dissuaded me from the Tigers.  I still don't know who I am rooting for, but three out of these four teams whose misfortunes would be hilarious are going to come upon misfortune.  For me, that might just be reason enough to watch.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Blogging Announcement

As long-time readers know, I used to post everyday.  Then as I joined Twitter I tweeted about the menial things I used to be writing blog posts about.  Then my Twitter followers eclipsed my page views, so I tweeted more and blogged here less.  Then I became an editor at The Brotherly Game.  And now, I have reached what will probably be the pinnacle of my blogging career.  I have become a contributor at Liberty Ballers, SB Nation's Philadelphia 76ers blog.

When Michael Levin graciously extended an invitation to me to join, my first thought was to say no.  But then I thought about it, thinking I could serve in a similar capacity that I currently do at The Brotherly Game, posting game threads and writing recaps.  MLS and NBA seasons do not really overlap, so it is little worry for me there.  I pitched that idea to Mike, and once I began talking to him, I was sold.  The personality and style of the blog fits me perfectly, and the people there are all fantastic.

As an added benefit, Liberty Ballers is a credentialed site.  I can easily call up Mike, and he can put me in contact with Sixers PR director Michael Preston who would hook me up with a press pass.  Awesome.  Due to my personal life, this probably won't be able to happen too often, but I go in the locker rooms and interview Andrew Bynum.  My nipples are hard.

What does this mean for here?  Well, I am not really sure.  I mean I could not be posting here less any more as it is, but my lack of posting here has led to a decline in readership, and the incentive to take time to write long-winded pieces here just is not there for me anymore.  I'll still try to host and be a part of the live blogs with all of you because I know this is the only thing Chris ever cares about and would bludgeon me with an ax if I ever ceased them, but Liberty Ballers is now my first priority.

My years of blogging and tweeting about sports have led up to the most awesome writing opportunity I have ever been given at a time that has never been better.  I will see you around.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Passes And Rushes Are Not Equal, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Accept Andy Reid's Play-Calling

Let's get this out of the way first.  Football is a very complicated game, probably the most complicated and hardest to understand of the four major American professional sports.  There are so many positions and so many moving parts that it is difficult to breakdown at an advanced level.  I don't claim to know everything.  I am certainly not as smart as analysts such as Aaron Schatz (Football Outsiders), Bill Barnwell (Grantland), Brian Burke (Advanced NFL Stats), among many others.

But there is something that puzzles me.  People seem to be making a big deal about Andy Reid's play-calling. and I can't figure out why.  Well, actually that's a lie.  I can figure out why.  The reason being is the old-school belief* that it is necessary keep a run-pass balance to keep a defense off-guard.  It stands to reason that if you overload pass or run too many times, you become predictable.  And once you become predictable, defenses stop you.  After the game, many people lamented Andy Reid's lack of a pass-rush balance.  But the argument for pass-rush balance is predicated on the fact that passes and rushes in today's NFL are created equal.  Unfortunately for the old school, this is not true.

*This is not meant to single any person or group out.  From fans to coaches to front office personnel, this way of thinking is seen all throughout football.  There are even some very intelligent people who happen to follow football and believe in this way of thinking.  Even I distinctly remember writing two years ago that the key to beating Green Bay in the playoffs was to run the ball more.  On the other side of the coin, I do suspect that the Eagles organization is a bit more new school in their way of thinking, but I have no direct proof, and the Eagles Front Office is notorious for their lack of transparency. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On Jimmy Rollins And Hustle

Jimmy Rollins did not run full speed on an infield fly that did not even reach the pitcher's mound.  Niese dropped it.  Because Jimmy did not run full speed on what is normally a routine out, he could not make it to second base after the drop.  That Jimmy later stole second is irrelevant.  That that's the farthest Jimmy could go because Kyle Kendrick was on 3rd is also irrelevant.

Jimmy did not hustle out of the batter's box.  Charlie Manuel benched him.  Jimmy Rollins did not hustle.  Again.  It is written.

Only that above paragraph about hustling is complete bullshit.

Trivia question.  Who does not run full speed on routine outs?
Answer:  Everyone!

Why?

Because if it is a routine play, there is no need to exert yourself or risk injury on a play where there is a 98% you are out.  And if the runner drops it, the cost of an out (or in this case just one stupid fucking base that would later be repaid) is so minute that risking pulling a hamstring on a play where you are out 98% of the time really is not worth it.  It's common sense.  Jimmy Rollins is right.  Charlie Manuel, and you who criticize him for it are wrong.  There is no middle ground here.  This is explored farther here in this TGP post based on a similar incident a couple weeks ago in Miami.

But wait.  I'll go farther.

Why is Jimmy Rollins get criticized for hustle but Chase Utley is praised for it?  Watch Chase Utley the next time he hits an infield fly.  He absolutely does not run full speed on routine infield fly balls and groundball outs, yet, Utley will get praised for hustle.  So why the discrepancy?

The answer is hidden in plain view.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Am Not Telling You There Is A Chance

A prevailing thought after the Phillies sweep of the Nationals this weekend* seems to be there is a chance after all of the Phillies making the playoffs.  After all they are on a winning streak, they swept the best team in the NL East with authority, and they got rid of soon to be noted clubhouse cancer Shane Victorino.**  So as it stands, the Phillies are 9.5 games out of the wild card with over 30 games left.  This can be done, right?  This is possible.  After all, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Rays did it, right?

*LOLNats
**The media would never make Hunter Pence a clubhouse cancer because he is white and he hustles.  Poor Shane.  He does not deserve this. :(

Unfortunately, that is not the way that it works.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Let's Talk About Kyle Scott Of CrossingBroad.com's Half-Assed Blogging

I probably should not be writing this.  Kyle Scott is an attention whore who thrives on pageviews, and this is giving him attention and a pageview as I need to reference the post in order to write this piece.  But no matter, thousands of people flock to his site everyday.  My one pageview that I use to eviscerate him here won't be the difference in his life.   But I do hope some perspective readers stumble upon this before stumbling upon him, and avoid him all together.  That's probably a bit of an idealistic approach to things, but if the ideal becomes reality, it will be worth it.

So with that being said, here is an FJM-style takedown of one of the worst independent bloggers in Philadelphia with a large following that I can't even begin to explain.

The focus of Kyle Scott's piece is Jimmy Rollins.  You can read it at this link, although I'll be blockquoting everything here.  I won't embed the video, but what happened on the play was Rollins hit a routine groundball, Jose Reyes struggled to field it, Rollins slowly jogged to first, and Reyes threw Rollins out.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The 76ers Have Become Relevant Again

Now that it is officially official, here are all the parts that moved in the Dwight Howard trade.

Denver Nuggets trade
Arron Afflalo
Al Harrington
2014 first-round pick
2013 second-round pick

Denver Nuggets receive
Andre Iguodala

Los Angeles Lakers trade
Andrew Bynum
Josh McRoberts
Christian Eyenga
2017 conditional first-round draft pick
2015 conditional second-round draft pick

Los Angeles Lakers receive
Dwight Howard
Chris Duhon
Earl Clark

Orlando Magic trade
Dwight Howard
Chris Duhon
Earl Clark
Jason Richardson

Orlando Magic receive
Arron Afflalo
Al Harrington
Nikola Vucevic
Moe Harkless
Josh McRoberts
Christian Eyenga
2014 first-round pick from Denver
2017 Conditional first-round pick from Los Angeles Lakers
Conditional first-round pick from Philadelphia
2013 second-round pick from Denver
2015 conditional second-round pick from Los Angeles Lakers

Philadelphia 76ers trade
Andre Iguodala
Nikola Vucevic
Moe Harkless
Conditional first-round pick

Philadelphia 76ers receive
Andrew Bynum
Jason Richardson

Phew.  Got all that?  All in all, 12 players and five draft picks changed hands in the Dwight Howard blockbuster that will change the landscape of the NBA for years to come.

There are so many angles to cover with this trade.  For starters, every team did well in this trade except the team who traded Dwight Howard.  The Magic wanted draft picks, and they got them, but none of them are lottery picks.  The Magic wanted cap flexibility, but retained Hedo Turkoglu while taking on the contracts of Harrington and Afflalo leaving them not much flexibility for next summer. The Magic did get young players, though, although there are certainly questions as to their quality. Of the players the Magic got, the most interesting is Moe Harkless.  I'm not sure if his season is that high, but he is a project, and he does have upside, although I think the Magic were probably better off dealing with Houston if they wanted the best young players they could get for Howard.

As for the Sixers, I mentioned Moe Harkless earlier as an interesting prospect that I would have liked to have seen develop, but acquiring Bynum is so worth it that I don't care.

Nik Vucevic is a back-up center on a good team with a low ceiling.  In other words, he's a slightly better version of Spencer Hawes.

Andre Iguodala is an elite perimeter defender and a fantastic transition player, but the Sixers absolutely needed to trade him to get his salary off the books in order to institute a re-build.  During his eight years in Philadelphia, he managed to join the Bobby Abreu Club of Criminally Under-appreciated Philadelphia Sports Athletes, an honor that is not as rare as you would think.  Over the past year, it seems that the tide had finally begun to turn in favor of Iguodala in terms of the "Iggy sux he thinks he's Kobe!" narrative.  He finally made the All-Star game, he hit "clutch" free throws to eliminate Chicago, and he will walk away from London as proud owner of an Olympic medal.  The color of said medal is to be determined.  Iggy's first game as a Nugget will be in the Wells Fargo Center against the 76ers.  If he does not receive a standing ovation, a murdery feeling may come over me.

With Andrew Bynum, the Sixers now have easily the best center in the Eastern Conference and arguably the second best center in the NBA, behind only Dwight Howard.  Elite NBA centers are rare.  Elite NBA centers playing in Philadelphia are even rarer.  With Andrew Bynum, the Sixers have an elite NBA center.

For the past decade, the 76ers have treaded water at a mediocre level, being nowhere near an NBA Championship and nowhere near bad enough to find a franchise altering player in the draft.  With this one trade, though, that has changed.   They won't contend for a championship, but the foundation is there.  They may not be contenders now, but they are contenders to be contenders in the future, and that is a whole hell of a lot more than anyone could say for the Sixers since the peak of the Iverson era.  The Sixers have the flexibility to offer Bynum a max contract, will finally be giving Jrue Holiday an athletic big to work with, and are perhaps a 2013 Paul Millsap signing away from being a legitimate championship contender in the Eastern Conference.

This is such a weird and unusual feeling.  After years and years of pessimism and mediocrity, the Philadelphia 76ers have finally given me a reason to be optimistic.

Welcome to Philadelphia, Andrew Bynum.  Here's to a return to relevancy for Sixers basketball.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

2012 MLB All-Star Game Live Blog

CiL gives you 25 free clicks per month. Seeing as I am not live blogging anything else this month, might as well use some tonight.

Are The Playoffs Possible For The Philadelphia Union?

I wrote something at The Brotherly Game about the Union's playoff chances following their resurgence interim head coach John Hackworth.  Please check it out when you get a chance.

Friday, June 22, 2012

2012 NHL Draft Live Blog

Talk about baseball or whatever fancies your pleasure as well.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

NBA Finals Game 5 Live Blog

Game 5: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat 9:00 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

NBA Finals Game 4 Live Blog

Game 4: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat 9:00 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

NBA Finals Game 3 Live Blog

Game 3: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat 8:00 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

NBA Finals Game 2 Live Blog

Game 2: Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder 9:00 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NBA Finals Game 1 Live Blog

Game 1: Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder 9:00 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

NBA Finals Schedule

After a mediocre and lockout-shortened NBA season, we can at least say that we have an NBA Finals we deserve.  Two of the NBA's best teams will compete for the NBA Championship in a Finals that should be nothing if not entertaining.  LeBron vs. KD will be a compelling match-up, and no matter who wins, I can feel good about the champions.  If only this happened all the time.

NBA Finals

Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Game 1:  June 12:  Heat vs. Thunder  9:00 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)
Game 2:  June 14:  Heat vs. Thunder  9:00 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)
Game 3:  June 17:  Thunder vs. Heat  9:00 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)
Game 4:  June 19:  Thunder vs. Heat  9:00 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)
Game 5:  June 21:  Thunder vs. Heat  9:00 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)
Game 6:  June 24:  Heat vs. Thunder  9:00 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)
Game 7:  June 26:  Heat vs. Thunder  9:00 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals Game 6 Live Blog

Game 6: New Jersey Devils vs. Los Angeles Kings 8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals Game 5/Celtics vs. Heat Game 7 Live Blog

Game 5: New Jersey Devils vs. Los Angeles Kings 8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)

Game 7: Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat 8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Heat vs. Celtics Game 6 Live Blog

Game 6: Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics 8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

The 2012 Phillies Are Not That Bad At Baseball

(You may have noticed this post appeared, disappeared, and now re-appeared this afternoon.  It was up, it then got inexplicably deleted, and @PhillyFollower, who knows more about accessing cache than I, tweeted at me a link to a cached copy.  Some formatting adjustments later, and voila, it is back up.  So big thanks to @PhillyFollower for saving my four hours worth of time and research this morning.) 

Watching the Phillies in the past few days has not been the most pleasant of experiences. No, that's an understatement. Seeing Cliff Lee hang a breaking ball in the top of the 8th inning to Elian Herrera with Juan Pierre just missing the catch in left was fucking heartbreaking. But one losing streak in a season filled with similar disappointing results and less-talked about winning streaks should not cloud judgment on a baseball team that, perhaps surprisingly, is not as bad as you think it is.

Pitching

I'll start with pitching because the pitching because, in short, the Phillies pitching has been fantastic (again) this year. The Phillies are tops in baseball (not just the NL; baseball) with a 3.42 xFIP. Their xFIP- of 91, however, is not the best in baseball, but it is still the best in the NL. That 91 xFIP- falls just one point short of the first place Yankees and Rays, both of whom have an xFIP- of 90. It goes without say this is no shortcoming.

Don't like xFIP? Think Matt Swartz's SIERA is like, a million times better, man? All right-y then. The Phillies lead all of the NL and the AL with a 3.24 SIERA.

Don't like ERA predictors at all? Okay, let's look at strikeouts and walks. The Phillies, with a strikeout percentage of 22% are 2nd in the NL (and MLB that matter) behind only the Nationals, in addition to being 3rd in the NL with a 8.17 K/9. The Phillies are also the best in baseball at limiting walks (6.2% BB% and 2.30 BB/9). In fact, next best in all of baseball are the Twins with a 7.0 BB%. To look for the next best BB% in the NL, you have to go all the way to the Diamondbacks who are a full percentage point behind the Phillies in BB%. Worst in all baseball is the Blue Jays with a 10.2% walk-rate. So, you know, the Phillies have really distanced themselves from the pack in this one. In fact, so much so, that in combined with their 3.56 K/BB is by far the best in baseball even with their almost there but not quite best in baseball strikeout numbers.

Lastly, all of this is being done with a .300 BABIP, which perhaps contrary to what one might initially think upon seeing the number, is actually the 9th worst in baseball and the 5th worst in the NL. For the morbidly curious, the Nationals' .269 BABIP makes them the luckiest pitching staff in the NL.
The Phillies' pitching is quite great. Is this not abundantly clear yet?

Defense

Due to the volatility of defensive metrics and the necessity of significantly large sample sizes to make conclusive judgments that comes along with defensive metrics, this is the section the part that comes with the most uncertainty. However, by bringing these up, I hope to bring to light at least what has happened over the first two months of the season, even if these numbers might not be the best predictors for the future.

The Phillies are 4th in the NL in UZR with a 5.3. The teams ahead of them are Dodgers (15.2), Diamondbacks (14.5), and the Braves (13.6). The Mets are dead last in baseball with a -24.3 UZR. That last sentence served no real purpose to further my argument, I just wanted to give everyone a chance to point and laugh at the Mets general direction. If you normalize UZR with UZR/150, the Phillies once again find themselves fourth in the NL with a 4.8 UZR/150 behind the same four teams. The Mets are once again dead last in baseball. Finger, point, LOL, Mets, etc.

While UZR and UZR/150 are the defensive metrics that I trust the most, I will throw a few more out there for comparison's sake. The Phillies are tops in the NL and baseball in DPR with a 3.9*. The Phillies are 12th in the NL, according to their -8.3 RngR**. The Phillies' ErrR is the best in the NL with 4.6**.

*Guess who's dead last?
**The Mets are in the bottom 10! That's not dead last! Yay guys!


Like I said above, defense can be difficult to analyze, especially with only a two month sample size. However, the overall picture tells a generally positive story for the Phillies' defense.

Offense

Okay, so we established the pitching has been great, and the defense has been more than adequate. The answer to everything this year must be somewhere in the Phillies offense, right? That no good, bloody, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard-less offense, isn't it?

Back in April I wrote, that in spite of the injuries to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, everything was going to be all right with the Phillies. And offensively speaking, that has held true. The Phillies are 9th in the NL with a .715 OPS. But if you compare that to last year when the Phillies won 101 games, their offense was 7th in the NL with a .717 OPS. Comparatively speaking, the Phillies stacked up better with the rest of the NL last year, although the underlying OPS has been virtually identical thus far.

I like OPS, OPS is good, but it leaves out things such as park factors and league adjustment as needed thanks to the wonderful DH rule*. For OPS is just a measure of on-base percentage plus slugging percentage. Arguably the strongest measure of an offense is wRC+, which is weighted runs created, based off of weighted on-base average, and scaled where 100 is league average. The Phillies' wRC+ for 2012 is 95, good for 7th in the NL. If you compare that to last year (and this is where it gets real interesting), the Phillies' wRC+ was 96.

*To be read as "horrible, no good, embarrassing, annoying, worthless, smellier than human feces, complete and utter disgrace to baseball DH rule."

So the pitching is great, the defense is good, and the offense, even without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, has been producing at rates comparable to last year. So why were the 2011 Phillies NL East juggernauts and why are the 2012 Phillies in last place and 6 games out of first in the NL East?

Why the Phillies are in last place in the NL East, and why everything might still turn out all right

Well if underlying stats say the Phillies are great, and their record is 10th best in the NL, then what gives? While some may look at this and (wrongfully) conclude it has something to do with the Phillies' "intangibles," "heart," "grit," "will to win," among other various inanities*, that is not the problem with the Phillies. The first thing I will look out is the Phillies record in close games.

*These are just words people use when people want to make sports commentary while being too lazy to do any research. If someone is telling you the Phillies or any sports team is not doing well because of one of the above things, then you are probably best off ignoring them.

The 2012 Phillies are 4-10 in games decided by one run. While the uninformed will look at this and conclude "the Phillies are not clutch," the informed person knows that the results of one run games are flukey and there is no known team or individual skill at doing well or poorly in them. In fact, I wrote at length about the same concept in football when it came to the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles. The conclusion is the same now as it was then. A record that poor in close games is unsustainable and will over a large sample size regress to .500.

But, that is not the only Phillies statistics due for a regression to more positive results.

Originally, I had planned on writing my own thesis on this, however, as I was in the middle of writing this post, The Good Phight's taco pal published a post entitled "The Phillies Really Shouldn't Be Losing, And Yet They Are." While there is some overlap in our work, there are differences, namely he takes a much longer look at why the Phillies are playing so well but getting such poor results (answer: runs allowed). Even though I am blockquoting his money paragraphs below, I highly encourage you to read the whole post as there is a lot more to it than what I am linking to below, and other factors contributing to the increased runs allowed in spite of the league best pitching.

Somebody else will have to crunch the numbers to see which statistic is most responsible for the huge dropoff in run prevention. But the one that really catches my eye is the HR/FB. 13.1% might not sound that bad (especially considering that HR/FB has been up across the league this year), but just as a temperature change of 1 or 2 degrees could have a massive ecological impact if spread out across the entire earth, a shift of a few percentage points in HR/FB is a huge difference when you're talking about the combined HR/FB of an entire pitching staff. The last time an NL team saw its pitching staff suffer from a rate over 13.0% over a full season was 2005, when it happened to both the Cubs (13.5%) and the Phillies (13.3%). In other words, it's a rate we haven't seen since the end of the steroid era. (And in case you were wondering, ESPN.com's park factors page says that Citizens Bank Park is once again not playing like a bandbox this year.)

So what does this all mean? That's sort of a difficult question. For one thing, HR/FB is sabermetrically a bit of an odd duck. They don't include it in FIP or WAR for a reason. It can be hard to wrap your head around the concept that a high or low HR/FB is purely the product of luck plus ballpark factors, and in fact, maybe it isn't. It sure seems like a high HR/FB is the result of mistakes or bad pitching generally. And yet, it is an observed reality that all pitchers tend to regress toward the league mean over the long term, and that even the few individual pitchers who appear to display a consistent ability to "beat" (or get beaten by) the mean only do so by a couple of percentage points at most. Whether the explanation for the Phillies' high HR/FB is that it's purely bad luck, or that it demonstrates that the pitchers have been making lots of mistakes, the fact remains that it probably won't continue. So we've got that going for us, which is nice.
Again, if you have not done so, please read taco pal's full post. It is quite insightful and explores other ideas not touched on here, such as the rest of the NL East and whether or not the Phillies should be sellers at the deadline*.

*This does not mean the Phillies should be buyers either. As always, each trade should be judged on its own individual merits, regardless if the team is buying or selling. For instance, WIP's Anthony Gargano has been championing a ludicrous trade of Dom Brown to San Diego for Carlos Quentin. And that's not the saddest part of this. The saddest part is Gargano is worried Dom Brown might not be enough.

Conclusion

The 2012 Philadelphia Phillies, even without Utley and Howard, are not that much worse than the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies, despite what every inkling and hunch in your body telling you otherwise. The Phillies being six games away from first place with four teams in front of them is not something that is guaranteed to be overcome, even with proper regression. But, unless injuries continue to pile up, the Phillies should be expected to at least improve upon their record. The Phillies DIPS' are the best in the league, and their defense and offense have been more than adequate and are in no way, shape, or form representative of a team in 10th place in their league.

The 2012 Phillies are not that bad at baseball. Only time will tell though if six games back and four teams in front of them is too big a deficit to overcome.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals Game 4/Spurs vs. Thunder Game 6 Live Blog

Game 4: New Jersey Devils vs. Los Angeles Kings 8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)

Game 6: San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder 9:00 (TNT - Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Celtics vs. Heat Game 5 Live Blog

Game 5: Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat 8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals Game 3/Thunder vs. Spurs Game 5 Live Blog

Game 3: New Jersey Devils vs. Los Angeles Kings 8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)

Game 5: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs 9:00 (TNT - Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Heat vs. Celtics Game 4 Live Blog

Game 4: Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics 8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 2/Spurs vs. Thunder Game 4 Live Blog

Game 2: Los Angeles Kings vs. New Jersey Devils  8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simspon, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)

Game 4: San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder  8:30 (TNT - Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Heat vs. Celtics Game 3 Live Blog

Game 3: Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics 8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Spurs vs. Thunder Game 3 Live Blog

Game 3: San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder  9:00 (TNT - Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals Game 1/Celtics vs. Heat Game 2 Live Blog

Game 1: Los Angeles Kings vs. New Jersey Devils 8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)

Game 2: Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat 8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 1/NBA Draft Lottery/Celtics vs. Heat Game 2 Open Thread

Bad news, folks.  CoveritLive.com announced today they no longer have free alternatives to their software that are simply missing some rather useless features.  This is what we had been doing in the past.  However, today, they decided to put a charge on their software.  They do have a free trial option, but that trial is only good for 25 clicks, which for us, probably will not even get us to three live blogs before it flat out blocks readers from reading.  Their lowest price option is a healthy $9.99 a month, which totals $119.88 a year, which is absolutely ridiculous for a product that had been free for the past several years.  Oh, and if you go over 250 clicks a month with this plan you get charged 5 cents for every overage click.  I do not like asking for money.  I never got into this wanting to ask people for money.  However, having limited funds after graduating college and still in search of a job, the only way I can proceed with using CiL is if everyone chips in an equal share.  If that is what we agree to do, I will set up a PayPal account and we will go from there.

Scribble Live, CoveritLive's main competitor, has a 30-month free trial period completely free of obligations, however, once the 30 days expires, you will then be forced to subscribe.  I know not of other similar products, however, I do know some video chatting services with chat rooms (namely Vokle and Spreecast) are still free without subscription, although I am not sure if those chat rooms are any better than just going back to the old old days of the Blogger comment section.  If you know others, please name them in the comments section.

Use the Blogger comment thread below as your thread for today's sporting events and discussion of how to proceed from here.


Game 1: Los Angeles Kings vs. New Jersey Devils 8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)

Game 2: Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat 8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thunder vs. Spurs Game 2 Live Blog

Game 2: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs 9:00 (TNT - Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Celtics vs. Heat Game 1 Live Blog

Game 1: Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat 8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Thunder vs. Spurs Game 1 Live Blog

Game 1: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs 8:30 (TNT - Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)

Stanley Cup Finals Schedule

This should be fun.

Stanley Cup Finals

Los Angeles Kings vs. New Jersey Devils
Game 1:  May 30:  Kings vs. Devils  8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)
Game 2:  June 2:  Kings vs. Devils  8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)
Game 3:  June 4:  Devils vs. Kings  8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)
Game 4:  June 6:  Devils vs. Kings  8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)
Game 5:  June 9:  Kings vs. Devils  8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)
Game 6:  June 11:  Devils vs. Kings  8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)
Game 7:  June 13:  Kings vs. Devils  8:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman and Scott Oake)

NBA Playoffs Conference Finals Schedule

While Celtics-Heat will get all the glamour and media attention, it is a series that I would be shocked if it went 6 games. The Celtics are atrocious on offense (their offensive efficiency this season was equivalent to that of the lowly Washington Wizards) and their best defender is out for the rest of the playoffs needing shoulder surgery. If you want good basketball, Thunder-Spurs should be a treat. Celtics-Heat could be painful.  Like Noam Schiller of Hardwood Paroxysm tweeted last night, "The Celtics were absolutely, positively, unequivocally the second worst team in the 2nd round. Just happened to meet the first."

Eastern Conference Finals

#4 Boston Celtics vs. #2 Miami Heat
Game 1:  May 28:  Celtics vs. Heat  8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)
Game 2:  May 30:  Celtics vs. Heat  8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)
Game 3:  June 1:  Heat vs. Celtics  8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)
Game 4:  June 3:  Heat vs. Celtics  8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)
Game 5:  June 5:  Celtics vs. Heat  8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)
Game 6:  June 7:  Heat vs. Celtics  8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)
Game 7:  June 9:  Celtics vs. Heat  8:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Western Conference Finals

#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #1 San Antonio Spurs
Game 1:  May 27:  Thunder vs. Spurs  8:30 (TNT - Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)
Game 2:  May 29:  Thunder vs. Spurs  9:00 (TNT - Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)
Game 3:  May 31:  Spurs vs. Thunder  9:00 (TNT - Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)
Game 4:  June 2:  Spurs vs. Thunder  8:30 (TNT - Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)
Game 5:  June 4:  Thunder vs. Spurs  9:00 (TNT - Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)
Game 6:  June 6:  Spurs vs. Thunder  9:00 (TNT - Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)
Game 7:  June 8:  Thunder vs. Spurs  9:00 (TNT - Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

76ers vs. Celtics Game 7 Live Blog

Game 7: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics 8:00 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Rangers vs. Devils Game 6 Live Blog

Game 6: New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils 8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Heat vs. Pacers Game 6 Live Blog

Game 6: Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers 8:00 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 23 Playoffs Live Blog

Game 5: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers 8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman)

Game 6: Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers 8:00 (ESPN - Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown, SR: Lisa Salters)

CLICK HERE TO GO TO LIVE BLOG!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22 Playoffs Live Blog

Game 5: Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat 8:00 (TNT - Marv Albert and Steve Kerr, SR: Cheryl Miller)

Game 5: Los Angeles Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes 9:00 (NBCSN - Dave Strader and Darren Pang, ItG: Brian Engblom) (CBC - Bob Cole and Garry Galley, SR: Scott Oake)

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21 Playoffs Live Blog

Game 5: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics 7:00 (TNT - Dick Stockton and Chris Webber, SR: David Aldridge)

Game 4: New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils 8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman)

Game 5: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder 9:30 (TNT - Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 20 Playoffs Live Blog

Game 4: Phoenix Coyotes vs. Los Angeles Kings 3:00 (NBC - Dave Strader and Darren Pang, ItG: Brian Engblom) (CBC - Bob Cole and Garry Galley, SR: Scott Oake)

Game 4: Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers 3:30 (ABC - Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown, SR: Heather Cox)

Game 4: San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Clippers 10:30 (TNT - Marv Albert and Steve Kerr, SR: Marty Snider)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

UEFA Champions League Final/May 19 Playoffs Live Blog

Game 3: New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils 1:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman)

UEFA Champions League Final: Bayern Munich vs. Chelsea 2:45 (Fox - Martin Tyler and Gary Neville)

Game 3: San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Clippers 3:30 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Lisa Salters)

Game 4: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers 10:30 (TNT - Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, and Steve Kerr, SR: Craig Sager)

Friday, May 18, 2012

May 18 Playoffs Live Blog

Game 4: Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers 8:00 (ESPN - Dave Pasch and Doris Burke, SR: Holly Rowe)

Game 3: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers 10:30 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Lisa Salters)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17 Playoffs Live Blog

Game 3: Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers 7:00 (ESPN - Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown, SR: Heather Cox)

Game 3: Phoenix Coyotes vs. Los Angeles Kings 9:00 (NBCSN - Dave Strader and Darren Pang, ItG: Brian Engblom) (TSN - Chris Cuthbert, ItG: Ray Ferraro, SR: Ryan Rishaug)

Game 2: Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs 9:30 (ESPN - Dan Shulman and Chris Mullin, SR: Ric Bucher)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 16 Playoffs Live Blog

Game 3: Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers 7:00 (TNT - Dick Stockton and Chris Webber, SR: David Aldridge)

Game 2: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers 8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman)

Game 2: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder 9:30 (TNT - Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 15 Playoffs Live Blog

Game 2: Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat 7:00 (TNT - Marv Albert and Steve Kerr, SR: Cheryl Miller)

Game 2: Los Angeles Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes 9:00 (NBCSN - Dave Strader and Darren Pang, ItG: Brian Engblom) (TSN - Chris Cuthbert, ItG: Ray Ferraro)

Game 1: Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs 9:30 (TNT - Matt Devlin and Mike Fratello, SR: Marty Snider)

Everything Changes While Remaining The Same

June 23, 2011, 3:21 PM:  Jeff Carter is traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

44 minutes later:  Mike Richards is traded to the Los Angeles Kings.

40 minutes later:  The Flyers sign Ilya Bryzgalov to a a 9-year, $51M contract.

In the span of less than two hours on June 23, 2011, the Flyers managed to blow up their core while simultaneously creating a new one.  In the span of two hours on June 23, 2011, the Philadelphia Flyers as we knew them no longer existed and out of the ashes, a team arose with new faces.

Out were Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

In were Jakub Voracek, a 2011 1st round draft pick (Sean Couturier), a 2011 3rd round pick (Nick Cousins), Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, a 2012 2nd round draft pick (flipped to Dallas at the trade deadline for Nick Grossmann), and Ilya Bryzgalov.

Everything about that day is a blur now.  Having not been old enough to remember the Lindros trade, this was by far the most shocking blow-up of a team I had ever seen.  In a nutshell, it lowered the age of the team's forwards while simultaneously doing little to address the problems of an aging defense.  While no one could have foresaw the immense tragedy of Chris Pronger's injury, it absolutely should have been on the Front Office's mind that two 38-year old defensemen might have injury problems, as with age, comes an increased susceptibility to injuries.

The big problem the Flyers have right now* is by the time the Flyers forwards are old and talented enough to make a real run at the Cup, the core of the defense will be too injured (Pronger) or too retired (Timonen) to compete, thus depleting the depth of the defense outside of Ilya Bryzgalov, who can only be asked to do so much.  While Bryzgalov is one of the better goaltenders in the NHL even in spite of his off-year this year as can happen with any goalie, he as a mortal human being can only do so much.  If the defense is entirely dependent on the goalie, than the team is pretty much screwed.  You can get by in the NHL with a solid defense and mediocre goaltending. Just look at Marc-Andre Fleury and the Pittsburgh Penguins.  In 2009-2010, a goalie almost everyone agrees is not that good, won the Stanley Cup with a .912 regular season save percentage and a .910 save percentage.  In 2008-2009, a goalie whom just about everyone overrates, the aforementioned Fleury, won the Stanley Cup with a .912 regular season save percentage and a .908 save percentage.

*Some will point out that the real problem with the Flyers is Peter Laviolette's system.  Broad Street Hockey's Geoff Detweiler takes a wonderfully detailed look at Lavi's system and concludes that in order to criticize the system, it is necessary to pinpoint the problem.  If you want a good Flyers coaching analysis with plenty of supplementary links elsewhere, this is where you want to go.

In other words, these goalies with rings, are not very good.  But the defenses they play behind are.

Re-building the defense for the Flyers will be critical.  The first positive step they can take is signing Ryan Suter, or retaining the same skill level and re-signing Matt Carle for what will probably be cheaper.  It's not like they are all that different from each other.

This season for the Flyers was in every sense of the word a transition year.  Out with the old, in with the new.  Jaromir Jagr's contributions were invaluable both on the ice and off the ice, even if he does not return next season as currently appears to be the case.  The future is bright with the emergence of Claude Giroux as a superstar, and the continually rising talents of the likes of Couturier, JVR, Voracek, Simmonds, and Schenn.  But as mentioned above, the key to the Flyers' future, should they not blow up this set of forwards any time soon, will be the defense.  If the Flyers defense can perform at a high level*, this is a team that will be contending for the Stanley Cup in due time.  Something else Paul Holmgren will need to do: learn how to do math.  In the next few years, Voracek, Giroux, Couturier, Simmonds, and others will all be due new contracts and pay raises.  As a team what is already up against the cap as it is, finding a way to maneuver about re-signing and replacing these players is a prospect that scares the poop out of me.  Every off-season I am too easily reminded why I am not a fan of Paul Holmgren, and I half-expect these upcoming years to be no different.

*As backwards as it may seem, trading Andrej Meszaros would be a great way to start.  His goal total and production is inflated because he is frequently sheltered in the offensive zone.  He is not as good as his contract or goal total makes him out to be.  In fact, saying "he is not good, period" is probably a factually accurate statement.  You can find better 5th defensemen for cheaper.

Last year, the Flyers finished the season with 106 points and lost in the 2nd round in 4 games.  This year, the Flyers finished the season with 103 points and lost in the 2nd round in 5 games.  The more things change.......

The Philadelphia Flyers are the only team in the NHL to advance to the second round of the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.  While some may look at this as somewhat of a disappointment, you have to take these eliminations with the knowledge that every other team in the NHL at one point or another finished worse than the 2nd round in the last three seasons.  With all of the changes that have been had over the past three seasons, to have this same kind of consistency is nothing short of remarkable.

We will have an interesting off-season for sure to see where the Flyers go from here.  Surprises will be had, trades will happen, free agents will sign, free agents will leave, it will all be exciting, but one thing that will be for certain is the 2012-2013 season will arrive* and the Philadelphia Flyers will be back.

*There is no way the NHL will lockout after the growth it has seen since the last lockout, where interest in the sport pretty much hit rock bottom.

Will next year be the year?  It is impossible to say right now.  But the Flyers ended last year as a contender for the Stanley Cup, got surprising production from rookies and made a legitimate push this year, and will with little doubt once again be in that very same conversation to qualify for the Stanley Cup.  Matt Read will either stay the same or improve.  Jakub Voracek will most likely improve.  Sean Couturier will most likely improve.  Brayden Schenn will most likely improve.  Wayne Simmonds will most likely improve.  Claude Giroux is only 24.  JVR will most likely improve.  Braydon Coburn will continue to be a steady rock on defense.  Max Talbot will not have a 16.5% shooting percentage again, but his defensive ability will still be there.  Everything changed on June 23, 2011, but nearly one year later, everything is still the exact same.

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 14 Playoffs Live Blog

Game 2: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics 7:00 (TNT - Dick Stockton and Chris Webber, SR: David Aldridge)

Game 1: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Rangers 8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, ItG: Glenn Healy, SR: Elliotte Friedman)

Game 1: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder 9:30 (TNT - Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 13 Playoffs Live Blog

Game 7: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies 1:00 (ABC - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

Game 1: Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat 3:30 (ABC - Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown, SR: Lisa Salters)

Game 1: Los Angeles Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes 8:00 (NBCSN - Dave Strader and Darren Pang, ItG: Brian Engblom) (TSN - Chris Cuthbert, ItG: Ray Ferraro, SR: Sara Orlesky)

Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Finals Schedule/Results

Darren Pang has not worked a single playoff game with NBC this year.  Why start now?

Eastern Conference Finals

#6 New Jersey Devils vs. #1 New York Rangers
Game 1: May 14: Devils vs. Rangers 8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC)
Game 2: May 16: Devils vs. Rangers 8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC)
Game 3: May 19: Rangers vs. Devils 1:00 (NBC - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC)
Game 4: May 21: Rangers vs. Devils 8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC)
Game 5: May 23: Devils vs. Rangers 8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC)
Game 6: May 25: Rangers vs. Devils 8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC)
Game 7: May 27: Devils vs. Rangers 8:00 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire) (CBC)

Western Conference Finals

#8 Los Angeles Kings vs. #3 Phoenix Coyotes
Game 1: May 13: Kings vs. Coyotes 8:00 (NBCSN - Dave Strader and Brian Engblom, ItG: Darren Pang) (TSN - Chris Cuthbert, ItG: Ray Ferraro)
Game 2: May 15: Kings vs. Coyotes 9:00 (NBCSN - Dave Strader and Brian Engblom, ItG: Darren Pang) (TSN - Chris Cuthbert, ItG: Ray Ferraro)
Game 3: May 17: Coyotes vs. Kings 9:00 (NBCSN - Dave Strader and Brian Engblom, ItG: Darren Pang) (TSN - Chris Cuthbert, ItG: Ray Ferraro)
Game 4: May 20: Coyotes vs. Kings 3:00 (NBC - Dave Strader and Brian Engblom, ItG: Darren Pang) (CBC)
Game 5: May 22: Kings vs. Coyotes 9:00 (NBCSN - Dave Strader and Brian Engblom, ItG: Darren Pang) (CBC)
Game 6: May 24: Coyotes vs. Kings 9:00 (NBCSN - Dave Strader and Brian Engblom, ItG: Darren Pang) (CBC)
Game 7: May 26: Kings vs. Coyotes 8:00 (TBD) (CBC)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

May 12 Playoffs Live Blog

Game 7: Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers 7:30 (NBCSN - Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, ItG: Pierre McGuire)

Game 1: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics 8:00 (TNT - Dick Stockton, Mike Fratello, and Chris Webber, SR: David Aldridge)

Game 7: Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers 10:30 (TNT - Marv Albert and Steve Kerr, SR: Craig Sager)

Friday, May 11, 2012

May 11 Playoffs Boosie Has Been Freed Live Blog

For years, Memphis center Marreese Speights has campaigned for the freedom of Lil Boosie. Today, Boosie was set free.  Tonight, we celebrate.

Game 6: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers 9:00 (ESPN - Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, SR: Doris Burke)

NBA Playoffs Conference Semifinals Schedule

Hard to believe it, the 2nd round of the playoffs are here and the Philadelphia 76ers are still playing.  They are playing a team they beat twice out of three times this season, but that was before the Celtics really turned it on and improved their play toward the end of the season.  The Sixers would have been much better off playing the Hawks, not to mention that the Hawks simply forcing a Game 7 would have bought the 76ers a few days of needed rest.  As it is, the series starts Saturday night, and the opponent is Boston.  There is a good chance the first team to 75 will win each of these 76ers-Celtics games.


Eastern Conference Semifinals

#8 Philadelphia 76ers vs. #4 Boston Celtics
Game 1:  May 12:  76ers vs. Celtics  7:00 (TNT - Dick Stockton, Chris Webber, and Mike Fratello, SR: David Aldrige)
Game 2:  May 14:  76ers vs. Celtics  7:00 (TNT - Dick Stockton, Chris Webber, and Mike Fratello, SR: David Aldridge)
Game 3:  May 16:  Celtics vs. 76ers  7:00 (TNT)
Game 4:  May 18:  Celtics vs. 76ers  8:00 (ESPN)
Game 5:  May 21:  76ers vs. Celtics  TBD (TNT)
Game 6:  May 23:  Celtics vs. 76ers  TBD (ESPN)
Game 7:  May 26:  76ers vs. Celtics  TBD (TBD)
Boston Celtics lead series 1-0

#3 Indiana Pacers vs. #2 Miami Heat
Game 1:  May 13:  Pacers vs. Heat  3:30 (ABC - Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown, SR: Lisa Salters)
Game 2:  May 15:  Pacers vs. Heat  7:00 (TNT - Marv Albert and Steve Kerr, SR: Cheryl Miller)
Game 3:  May 17:  Heat vs. Pacers  7:00 (ESPN)
Game 4:  May 20:  Heat vs. Pacers  3:30 (ABC)
Game 5:  May 22:  Pacers vs. Heat  TBD (TNT)
Game 6:  May 24:  Heat vs. Pacers  TBD (TBD)
Game 7:  May 26:  Pacers vs. Heat  TBD (TBD)

Western Conference Semifinals

#5 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #1 San Antonio Spurs
Game 1:  May 15:  Clippers vs. Spurs  9:30 (TNT - Matt Devlin and Mike Fratello, SR: Marty Snider)
Game 2:  May 17:  Clippers vs. Spurs  9:30 (ESPN)
Game 3:  May 19:  Spurs vs. Clippers  3:30 (ABC)
Game 4:  May 20:  Spurs vs. Clippers  10:30 (TNT)
Game 5:  May 22:  Clippers vs. Spurs  TBD (TNT)
Game 6:  May 25:  Spurs vs. Clippers  TBD (ESPN)
Game 7:  May 27:  Clippers vs. Spurs  TBD (TNT)

#3 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #2 Oklahoma City Thunder
Game 1:  May 14:  Lakers vs. Thunder  9:30 (TNT - Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller, SR: Craig Sager)
Game 2:  May 16:  Lakers vs. Thunder  9:30 (TNT)
Game 3:  May 18:  Thunder vs. Lakers  10:30 (ESPN)
Game 4:  May 19:  Thunder vs. Lakers  10:30 (TNT)
Game 5:  May 21:  Lakers vs. Thunder  TBD (TNT)
Game 6:  May 23:  Thunder vs. Lakers  TBD (ESPN)
Game 7:  May 27:  Lakers vs. Thunder  TBD (TNT)

76ers Win A Playoff Series For The First Time Since 2003



Click here to hear Ian Eagle's call of the finish.