Intentionally Fouling DeAndre Jordan Is Futile

In the 17 years since Don Nelson first urged the intentional fouling of Dennis Rodman in an attempt to stop the Chicago Bulls from scoring so many points, fans of NBA teams with big men who struggle at the free-throw line have come to rue the “Hack-A-Shaq” strategy. Proponents of uninterrupted basketball have decried it for ruining the flow of games, yet for teams facing Shaquile O’Neal (52.7 percent career FT shooter), Dwight Howard (57.4 percent), Andre Drummond (40.2 percent) and DeAndre Jordan (42.5 percent), it has remained an oft-used, and seemingly viable, strategy.Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson is one of its most ardent disciples. In 2012, Jackson famously helped Howard set the NBA record for free throw attempts in a game by telling his players to foul Howard repeatedly. Throughout his three years as a head coach, Jackson has done the same against Jordan and Drummond, and he’s carried the hacking strategy into this year’s playoffs. With three minutes left in Game 1 against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Warriors were up 100-97 and hacked Jordan, a 43 percent free-throw shooter this year. Even though Jordan made both free throws, the strategy earned the praise of preeminent basketball minds like Haralabos Voulgaris, a stats-driven basketball forecaster.The basic math of the “Hack-A-DJ” strategy goes like this: If DeAndre Jordan shoots 43 percent from the free-throw line, fouling him yields two shots and 0.86 expected points. Compare that to the Clippers’ average points per possession this season — 1.12 — and it becomes clear that an intentional foul strategy is, on its face, a savvy one.Except it’s not, once you factor in all the things that happen before and after a free throw.1The basketball blog A Screaming Comes Across the Court did a great job of quantifying the offensive rebound value in a post in February. With a big data assist from ESPN’s Stats & Info group on the Clippers’ and Jordan’s performance over the past two seasons, my calculations make clear that Hack-A-DJ is not a clear-cut winning strategy.To stress-test the intentional foul conventional wisdom, I first broke down how many points the Clippers were expected to score on each possession. That number is 1.12 overall, but intentional fouls are usually given on half-court possessions. If a team fouls a player like Jordan who doesn’t have the ball while another player is on a fast break, it’s possible that the second player will still make a layup that counts for two points, and the free throws will then follow. This exact situation played out in a Kings-Clippers game last season, when Chris Paul made a layup as the Kings intentionally fouled Jordan. Once I limited the expected points per possession to half-court possessions only, the number dropped to 1.04.2Of course, every team is less efficient when you strip out fast breaks, the easiest points in basketball. What was a 0.26 point spread between an intentional foul on Jordan and a regular possession is now 0.18. The advantage is still there, but it’s narrower.Intentionally fouling Jordan also helps the Clippers set their defense on the ensuing possession, which lowers the chances their opponent will score. To figure out how much that’s worth to the Clippers, I measured the difference between the points they allow on possessions after they shoot free throws versus the points they allow after non-free-throw offensive possessions. That difference was 0.04 points, in part because an intentional foul against Jordan ensures the Clippers won’t turn the ball over or allow an opponent to make a fast break after a missed field goal attempt. What was a 0.18 spread between intentionally fouling Jordan and letting the Clippers play on is now 0.14.Finally, and most important, Hack-A-DJ is rendered inefficient because the Clippers are so good at rebounding Jordan’s missed free throws. Over the last two seasons, Jordan has missed 165 free throws with possible rebounds, and the Clippers have grabbed 34 of those rebounds, or 21 percent. That is nearly double the NBA rate of roughly 12 percent and four times the Clippers’ 4.8 percent offensive rebound rate on misses by players other than Jordan. While it’s impossible to know why LA shows such a remarkable ability to grab Jordan’s free-throw misses, it may have something to do with the team expecting a miss, and that the way Jordan misses somehow helping the offensive rebounders. Having Blake Griffin on the blocks can’t hurt, either.These rebounds are important because the Clippers are brutally efficient after corralling missed free throws. In 70 such attempts over the past two seasons, LA has scored 1.36 points per possession. It makes sense that teams would be efficient after missed free throws: The ball is already close to the rim, and the defense is likely in scramble mode, leaving perimeter shooters open.When we include the value of the Clippers’ offensive rebounding, the expected value of a Jordan missed free throw is 0.16 points. With his expected 0.86 points per two free throws, sending Jordan to the line actually yields 1.02 expected points for the Clippers. The gap still exists, but it’s inverted: It’s 0.03 more points more effective to let the Clippers play on than to foul Jordan.You can see how we got here in the chart below.While the Clippers’ free-throw rebounding prowess may decline in the postseason, and their incredible post-free-throw rebound efficiency may be a product of a relatively small sample size of possessions, it’s clear that the intentional-foul strategy is not a sure thing.Of course, every team and every poor foul-shooter is going to have their own break-even points. Dwight Howard, for instance, is a 54.7 percent free-throw shooter this year, so the Rockets expect 1.09 points every time he gets two free throw attempts. But that’s without accounting for the other factors in play — and we do know that those factors matter for all teams. The Rockets might rebound Howard’s misses at a different rate from the Clippers, or play worse defense after missed free throws. It’s just a matter of calculating them.For opponents of Jordan and the Clippers, though, the lesson seems clear: Neither strategy is superior to the other. Over the small sample size of two, four, or six free throws shot by Jordan in a given playoff game, the Hack-A-DJ strategy could look brilliant or foolish. But if the intentional-foul strategy isn’t working against the second-worst free throw shooter in the league, then it may not work against anyone. For fans of an uninterrupted game, that would be a welcome shift. read more

Read More →

Hockey Refs Are Out To Get You If They Already Got The

Kerry Fraser, a former NHL official who worked more than 1,900 regular-season games and 13 Stanley Cup Finals from 1980 through 2010, remembers calling penalty after penalty on the Philadelphia Flyers early in his career. “They were a very aggressive team,” he said during a phone interview. “Especially in Philly, they played really tough,” with players like Paul Holmgren and Craig Berube intimidating the opposition with their physicality. They would take penalties because they could kill penalties, knowing they had a stout goalie in Ron Hextall minding the net.When Fraser reffed Flyers games at the Spectrum, he was on the lookout for penalties committed by the home team. But he was also hyper-aware of what the other team was doing because he didn’t want to miss an infraction.“That’s bad game management,” Fraser said. “My mindset was, ‘OK, I’m not going to look for one on the other team just because one team has taken four or five in a row, but I sure as heck can’t afford to miss one.’ Your radar goes up, especially when the other team is in a checking position, and as soon as one is there, you make sure you get it.”Fraser was conscious of any widening gap between the number of penalties called on each team, even if the calls infractions were warranted. The stats suggest that other referees are as well.This is pretty compelling evidence that referees’ past calls influence their next calls. The chart includes every NHL penalty call between the start of the 2005-06 season and the end of the 2014-15 regular season,1We used play-by-play data from the nhlscrapr package in R. To eliminate the possibility that our findings would be driven by coincidental penalties, which often don’t give either team a power play, we dropped all infractions that occurred simultaneously. The margin of error for each probability was less than 1 percent. and it looks at all infractions in a game and how the difference in penalties called on each team affects the next call.2University of Texas at Austin professor Jason Abrevaya gives the penalties for exact sequences of violations in a paper in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports. As an example, if the home team has been called for three penalties and the away team five, the away team would be “owed” two calls. The tendency for prior violations to affect NHL penalties is enormous; when home teams are owed penalties, they are called for penalties at much lower rates, and the inverse holds for away teams.The effect is even more pronounced when a string of penalties against the same team starts a game. If a game starts with four straight penalties against the away team, for example, the home team is about three times as likely to be called for the next one.To Fraser, this isn’t about makeup calls. It’s a sign of good game management. “In the overall complexion of the game, it gives the team that has committed multiple infractions recognition that if they commit the crime, they’ll do the time,” he says. “On the other hand, they know the ref is fair because he called a penalty against the other team when he saw it. It doesn’t cause further frustration for the team that is taking more of the penalties.”When we called the NHL for comment, it declined to participate in this story. The league prohibits officials from talking to the media during the playoffs. Stephen Walkom, vice president and director of officiating, declined to speak through a PR rep, who wrote that Walkom “really doesn’t want to do anything to make the officiating the center of attention during the playoffs.”In playoff games, the referees’ balancing effect grows even stronger. Our hypothesis: referees are trying to even out playoff games, where the pressure is on for the officials to avoid becoming a storyline. When the home team is owed a penalty in the playoffs, the frequency of calls on the visiting team is significantly higher than it is during the regular season. (If the away team is owed a penalty or penalties, the effect is about the same as it is during the regular season.)Overtime produces the most dramatic results, with the second penalty call of the extra period about three times as likely to be whistled on the team that received the first power play.Take Game 1 of the first-round match between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators in Nashville, Tennessee, as an example. At the 12:42 mark of the first overtime period, Chicago’s Brad Richards earned a two-minute penalty for a high stick on the Predators’ Ryan Ellis. Minutes later, Chicago’s Duncan Keith hauled down Nashville’s Taylor Beck just as Beck skated past the blue line alone. It appeared to be a textbook holding call, if not a penalty shot.Your browser does not support iframes.However, neither referee Dan O’Halloran nor his partner, Brad Meier, sent Keith to the box. The Blackhawks avoided a second 5-on-4 situation and extended the game.It wasn’t hard to predict what was coming next: Less than three minutes after the teams returned to even strength, the Predators’ Seth Jones was sent to the box for tripping Bryan Bickell. It was a soft call, but it was one that went against the home team, evening up the number of penalties on each team in the overtime period.Your browser does not support iframes.Keith was again the focal point of the game in the second OT, when he scored the game-winner.Of course, there are other factors, such as style of play after spending time on special teams, or perhaps even a revenge factor, that could drive these results. But there’s more evening up of calls in the playoffs, where we’d expect players to have less incentive to retaliate given the higher stakes and closer games. Further, one factor that does not seem to account for the tendency of past calls to affect future ones is the game’s score: The shape of home-team penalty frequencies is the same as on the chart above, no matter the score.While referees attempt to even out penalty or foul calls in other sports like basketball,3See this research from Paul Gift, or this study from Cecilia Noecker. baseball4Check out Etan Green’s work. and soccer,5Find Babatunde Buraimo’s study here. the balancing effect may matter most in hockey, possibly affecting the outcome. Southern New Hampshire University’s Kevin Snyder and Mike Lopez (one of the authors you’re reading right now) found that for postseason games tied through the first period, the team that was owed a penalty was 20 percent more likely to come out on top. And, unlike in basketball, which penalizes players and teams for having too many fouls (through the free-throw bonus and the player cap at six fouls), hockey players and teams are free to rack up penalty after penalty, if they so choose.Call it a biased impartiality. Referees want to appear impartial, which drives them to make partial decisions. The result: New York Post headlines like “In Rangers-Penguins, blind-eye refs are ruining NHL playoffs.” Referees can’t win. But they can be disliked equally. “Fans from all 30 cities say, ‘Kerry, you were hardest on our team,’” Fraser says. “That’s how I know I did a good job.” read more

Read More →

Buffalo Bills QB Competition EJ Manuel to Start Week

The Buffalo Bills named rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel the starter in the team opener against the New England Patriots on Sunday.Manuel only played in two preseason games after undergoing a minor procedure on his left knee on Aug. 18.The rookie, who was the first quarterback drafted back in April, had a pretty solid preseason in the games he did play. He went 26-of-33 in passing for 199 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions in his two preseason appearances.Coach Doug Marrone had planned to start undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel if Manuel was unable to suit up. However, the 16th overall draft pick returned to practice wearing a knee brace Sunday.Marrone said Manuel will start for the Bills in the opener because his recovery from the procedure was progressing ahead of schedule. Manuel participated fully in practice on Monday. read more

Read More →

Southwest Agent Asks College Basketball Coach to Provide Proof

In an Aug. 30, 2017, photo, California women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb holds her then-6-month-old son, Jordan, during NCAA college basketball practice on the campus.  (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southwest Airlines apologized Tuesday to the Cal women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb after she claimed an airline employee stopped her from boarding because the worker didn’t believe her 1-year-old biracial son was hers.A desk agent questioned Gottlieb ahead of a flight from Denver to Oakland Sunday, saying she “had to ‘prove’ that he was my son, despite having his passport,” Gottlieb said in a series of tweets.“She said because we have different last name. My guess is because he has a different skin color,” Gottlieb tweeted Monday. The head coach from the University of California, Berkeley was traveling with her fiance, Patrick Martin, the boy’s father, who is black.Airlines aren’t required to match the last name of a child and guardian for domestic flights.“We have reached out to Ms. Gottlieb directly to address her concerns and will utilize the situation as a coaching opportunity for our Employee,” Southwest said in a statement. “We apologize if our interaction made this family uncomfortable — that is never our intention.”Gottlieb said Tuesday that the encounter was hurtful, but she appreciates Southwest’s apology.“I felt that in this situation it was my responsibility to say ‘Hey, this isn’t ok,’” Gottlieb said in a statement to The Associated Press. “I hope the coverage this has received can serve as a learning opportunity and that all families — regardless of how ‘traditional’ they may or may not look — are treated with dignity and respect.”Gottlieb, Martin and their child were eventually allowed to board. read more

Read More →

Which NBA Team Is Wronged By The Refs The Most

The relationship between NBA players and referees has arguably never been more strained than it is right now.In January, Golden State forward Draymond Green — who is never shy about complaining and already has a league-high 14 technical fouls — said that too many refs carry personal vendettas against players and that the NBA should consider replacing its entire crop of referees. Kevin Durant, who is Green’s teammate and started the season with one ejection in his entire 10-year career, leads the NBA this year, with four early exits. And this week, Paul George and LeBron James have both outlined what they perceive to be biases in how games are officiated.1The players and officials met during the All-Star break to talk about their differences, but it’s unclear how much that has helped, if at all. One report suggested that some officials were disappointed by the lack of star-player turnout at the meeting.When the NBA’s biggest names are complaining about something, it’s obviously going to get a lot of attention. But that doesn’t necessarily mean those voices have the biggest reason to complain. That honor belongs to the Brooklyn Nets. Through Wednesday, Brooklyn had seen more blown foul calls than any other club this season, according to our analysis of The Pudding’s compilation of the NBA’s “Last Two Minute” reports. In those, the league evaluates the accuracy of calls and non-calls made by officials at the end of close games.2Specifically, in the NBA’s words: “officiated events that occurred in the last two minutes of games that were within 3 points at any time in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter or the last two minutes of any overtime period.” 1Spencer DinwiddieNets11011– Sources: NBA ‘Last Two Minute’ Reports, The Pudding 5DeMar DeRozanRaptors066– 7Dennis SchroderHawks145– 5Kristaps PorzingisKnicks066– 7J.J. BareaMavericks145– Through Wednesday, the Nets had been disadvantaged by an official’s incorrect call or incorrect non-call 28 times this season. In second place is Dallas, with 26.To get a sense of the sorts of plays that have hurt the Nets, watch the clips below, which highlight several sequences that the league later determined should have drawn whistles in Brooklyn’s favor. One involves Nets swingman Allen Crabbe, who managed to score a tough bucket despite being bumped by one defender and being fallen upon by another at the conclusion of the play. Two other examples show forward DeMarre Carroll being bumped or swiped across the arm while trying to get a shot off during the last 20 seconds of play. After many of the plays, you can see Brooklyn players turn to officials in disbelief over the fact that no foul was called.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/netsfouls.mp400:0000:0000:36Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.There are a handful of interesting takeaways from this data. For starters, it seems to provide evidence to support comments made by Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie in January suggesting that this young Nets team gets less respect from officials than other clubs.“To see the same type of respect not reciprocated is very frustrating for us,” Dinwiddie said after the Nets fell 87-85 to the Boston Celtics. “The other thing that’s very frustrating as well: We have these meetings as teams, or with [the players’ association], about respect, so we want to treat everybody with respect, right? Because everybody’s doing their job, and they’re trying their best, including us, [even if] we turn the ball over or calls are missed or whatever it is. But when you approach somebody, and they shush you or they wave you off like you’re not a man, or something of that nature, that’s also very frustrating.”On an individual level, Dinwiddie’s frustration may be justified. The 11 blown calls that left him disadvantaged led the league as of Wednesday and is a very high number considering there’s still more than a month left in the campaign. In fact, that figure is already tied for the highest number of calls that left a player disadvantaged in a single year since the NBA first began publishing these reports during the 2014-15 season. (The National Basketball Referees Association, which has long pushed for an end to the public reports, recently called them “pointless.” The union argues that publishing the corrections, which ultimately have no impact on the standings, only creates more division, despite the transparency that the NBA is aiming for.) 7Nikola JokicNuggets325– 2Will BartonNuggets178– 7Kemba WalkerHornets055– 7Marcus SmartCeltics055– These players have the most legitimate complaintsThe NBA players who had the most blown calls against them (incorrect calls and incorrect non-calls) in the last two minutes of 2017-18 games when the score was within 3 points, through Feb. 28 PlayerTeamBad CallsBad Non-CallsTotal 3Dennis Smith Jr.Mavericks077– 3LeBron JamesCavaliers077– 7Josh RichardsonHeat055– In the Jan. 23 Nets-Thunder game, according to the report, Dinwiddie was disadvantaged twice — smacked on offense (with no call) and then bulldozed on defense (also with no call) — within a two-second span during the final 10 seconds. By swallowing the whistle both times, the officials likely sealed a loss for the Nets — in particular, the second non-call would have triggered an offensive foul on George, which would have kept Russell Westbrook from making a game-winning basket seconds later. (Worth noting: Going back to the 2014-15 season, we found that incorrect non-calls occur about 8.4 times more frequently than incorrect calls, suggesting that referees would rather risk missing a call than calling a phantom foul that ends up deciding a game.)Said Dinwiddie of the play: “It’s like, that’s Russell Westbrook and Paul George … and I’m Spencer Dinwiddie.”Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/pgdinwiddie.mp400:0000:0000:11Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Whether it’s a respect issue or just a mere coincidence, five of the six NBA teams that have seen the most blown calls this season — Brooklyn, Dallas, Denver, Atlanta and Chicago — each lack a bona-fide, go-to star in the most traditional sense. None possesses a 20-point-per-game scorer, perhaps making it tougher for officials to anticipate who’d be most likely to draw a foul in a given situation.While Brooklyn has almost certainly dropped at least a game or two as a result of these missed calls — this ultimately benefits the Cavs, since the Nets don’t own their first-round pick anyway — some additional details around this subject are helpful in understanding the full picture here.First off: The Nets have played a relatively large number of games that went down to the wire, meaning that officials may have been forced to make more decisions — both correct and incorrect ones — in situations involving Brooklyn than with most other teams. The Nets have the fourth-highest of rate of incorrect calls against them this season, at 9.8 percent — meaning that nearly 10 percent of all possible calls in the Last Two Minute reports that could have gone against them did. That’s a high number, but not astronomically so compared with the leaguewide average of 6.8 percent this season.Another detail that suggests officiating equity: That a team as awful as Orlando — in contention for the top overall draft pick — has the second-lowest blown-call rate in the league (4.1 percent, ahead of only Detroit) is a relatively strong counterexample to the notion that a team needs a star to get late-game calls to go its way.Taking the opposite approach from Dinwiddie, Carroll said he wanted his teammates to stop focusing so much on how the games were being officiated.“Hollering at the refs, screaming at them — that isn’t going to do us justice,” said Carroll, who was grabbed on the wrist while going up for a shot in the closing seconds of an overtime loss to New Orleans but got no call. “They’re human just like we are, so at the end of the day, we’ve got to try something different, maybe. Hopefully it works.”CORRECTION (March 2, 7:05 p.m.): The analysis in this article originally miscounted “bad calls”/incorrect calls — in which refs made a call that shouldn’t have been made. Those calls were counted as disadvantaging the opponent of the team they were made against but should have been counted as hurting the team whistled for an infraction. The text and charts have been updated throughout. In correcting the analysis, the number of 2017-18 games that were included in the analysis was extended, from Feb. 15 to Feb. 28.Check out our latest NBA predictions. read more

Read More →

Pitchers Are Slowly Adapting To The Home Run Spike

For the past two years, baseball’s power surge has turned anonymous middle infielders into 30-home-run hitters and made power-happy rookies look like the second coming of Babe Ruth. The long ball has become so ubiquitous that it’s hard to recall that just three seasons ago, pitchers ruled the earth. In 2014, MLB was mired in a dead-ball era similar to the one it faced in the 1960s through early 1970s, when the league was forced to lower the height of the mound in pursuit of some offense.Today, regardless of where you place the blame (my money is on a juiced ball), baseball is on track to shatter nearly every dinger-related record. So in our third consecutive year of increasing offense, our attention now turns to the players serving up those homers: When and how will pitchers adjust to the fact that so many batters are launching shots over the fences?For a long time, the strategy for facing a slugger was clear. “The best way to limit slugging percentage was to throw down and away and off the plate,” said former MLB catcher and current Chicago Cubs coach John Baker. Baker played from 2008 to 2014, at a time when the bottom was falling out of the strike zone and offense was dropping with it. In 2013, 36.5 percent of throws crossed the plate less than two feet off the ground, and hitters racked up a slash line of just .210/.295/.298 against those pitches. Meanwhile, hitters did considerably better against pitches more than three feet above the plate: .210/.351/.348.Then the league adjusted. More recently, “the guys that are the best guys in the world right now all seem to have this [Mike] Trout-type low-ball swing,” Baker said. Nowadays, the same low pitches that once got hitters out are getting slugged at a rate 20 points higher than in 2013 (.212/.301/.321). While production high in the zone is still decent (.203/.351/.362), the gap between the two types of pitches has closed significantly.1Data is up to date through July 17, 2017. It seems as though a wave of young players entered the league with their swings geared to combat the knee-high strike, and that trend reduced the pitch’s effectiveness.But for every hole in the zone that the league’s batters close, another one opens. “It goes in waves, the pitching changes its philosophy, and the hitting changes up, and the pitching adjusts, and on and on,” Baker said. With batters adopting uppercut swings to generate loft even on low pitches, it stands to reason that pitchers could go even higher in response. Previous research has shown that when a fly-ball hitter meets a high strike, the result is often a popup or weak contact. I looked at the median height of all four-seam fastballs month by month to see whether pitchers are giving that strategy a try. By and large, hurlers have adopted the elevated approach. But the home run surge began in 2015, and fastball height only started increasing noticeably this July. Even as recently as 2016, when home runs were up about 15 percent compared to 2015, it appeared that pitchers were still aiming low in the zone. Complicating matters, the strike zone has been shrinking at the bottom. In the last few months, umpires have been more reluctant to call strikes down at the knees, bringing the strike zone closer to its 2013 height. It might be that pitchers are adjusting upwards in reaction to fewer low strike calls, rather than anything hitters are doing.There’s no question that the low-strike strategy is entrenched. “They’ve taught the same thing in pitching for a hundred years: Be down, and they hit the ball on the ground,” said Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester. Lester has had an above-average ground ball rate over his career, but his ERA has spiked this season to 4.03. But pitchers across the league are giving up more runs this year, and as a result, Lester is on pace for similar levels of overall production (as measured by wins above replacement) as he generated last year. Because the dinger revolution seems to be affecting everyone equally, pitchers including Lester and Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw are seeing career highs in long balls allowed even though they’re matching their career norms in value. Cubs swingman Mike Montgomery pinned some of the reluctance to adjust on the evenness of the change across the league: “The thing is, it’s a fair playing field.”Lester said that he sometimes makes height adjustments for specific hitters, but only one or two guys per lineup. He declined to name an opposing batter who he would target this way, but said that his teammate Ian Happ might be a candidate if Lester ever faced his fellow Cub. Armed with better scouting reports than the public has available, pitchers might be revising their approach to deal with the home run surge on a player-by-player basis, in ways that wouldn’t move the overall median pitch height very much.While pitchers have been slow to expand the zone upwards, they have adjusted in other ways. Four-seam fastballs are usually the pitch of choice to generate pop-ups, since they naturally rise (relative to other pitches). Baker characterized MLB as moving from a “sinker/slider” league to “reverting back to the fastball/curveball game it was before.” The use of four-seam fastballs was declining for years until the home run surge began. Since September 2014 (the lowest point in the usage of four-seam fastballs), pitchers are throwing about 10 percent more four-seamers. In addition to leading to fly balls, heater usage is also associated with additional swinging strikes compared to sinkers. As allowing contact becomes increasingly dangerous for pitchers, it make sense that they’d aim to keep the batter from touching a pitch, which might be the surest way to limit the damage.There is no one-size-fits-all strategy to avoiding home runs. “Everything is specific to individual situations,” Baker said. A high fastball might work well against some batters, but it might also be the wrong move in some contexts. With the breeze blowing out at Wrigley, even a weak fly ball has a chance at making it over the fence, so the optimal pitching strategy varies from day to day.Still, the increase in home runs demands new tactics, even on windy days. Between the shifting strike zone, evolving hitting philosophies and changes to the ball, the league is challenging pitchers to adjust to several new factors at once. “That’s the fun part,” Montgomery said. “How are you going to be the one to adapt and survive?”If all else fails, they could just raise the mounds again. read more

Read More →

The Eagles Offense Needed To Be Virtually Flawless And It Was

In Super Bowl LII on Sunday night, the New England Patriots racked up 613 yards, the most ever for a team in the Super Bowl. Tom Brady threw for 505 yards, which was the most by a quarterback in playoff history. The Patriots didn’t punt once in the entire game. It was a masterclass in offensive execution, and it was all for naught.The Philadelphia Eagles’ 41-33 win over New England will be rightly remembered for the triumph of backup quarterback Nick Foles over a Super Bowl legend. But perhaps more remarkable was that the Eagles needed to be virtually flawless on offense to keep pace with New England, and they succeeded.Defensive coordinators Matt Patricia and Jim Schwartz, who both received heavy head-coaching buzz this hiring cycle, watched helplessly on the sidelines as the offenses combined for 1,151 yards. Forget Super Bowl records or even playoff records, that’s most total yards in any game in NFL history.Between Foles’ downfield passing and the inside/outside power-running combo of LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi, the Eagles piled up 538 (hey, FiveThirtyEight!) total yards themselves and were able to counter the league’s most prolific offense each time it landed a punch. After averaging just 5.3 yards per pass attempt across six regular-season appearances1Not counting an appearance in Week 8, when he entered the game with a minute left so that he could kneel twice and run out the clock. and three starts in relief of starter Carson Wentz, Foles burned the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship for 352 yards at a 10.7 yards-per-attempt clip. Whatever changed in Foles — or whatever magic spell head coach Doug Pederson cast — was still in force Sunday when Foles threw for 373 yards against the Patriots defense, averaging 8.7 yards per attempt. He also showed a willingness to test the Patriots defense downfield, connecting on 11 of 19 throws of 10 air yards or more.After the teams traded red-zone stops on the first two drives, Blount set the tone with a bruising 36-yard run. On the very next play, Foles went for the jugular with a 34-yard touchdown strike to receiver Alshon Jeffery. It was one of five passes — and two scores — where Foles connected for 20 more yards. To put his development this past month in perspective, he only had three such passes in the regular season. The effectiveness of the Eagles’ run game set the table for Foles’s downfield feast. Repeated zone runs and outside stretches kept the Pats defense honest — and running horizontally — while Foles attacked vertically. Four Eagles combined to gain 164 yards on 27 carries, averaging 6.1 yards per attempt, while Foles completed 28 of 43 passes for 373 yards and a 88.6 Raw QBR. Pederson’s creativity shows up in the box score; five Eagles had at least seven touches — and two others had at least 70 yards, a receiving touchdown or both. Yes, that includes Foles: Pederson’s balance and aggression broke the Patriots’ bend-but-don’t-break defense. As expected, the Patriots still made halftime adjustments; the Eagles averaged over 2 yards more per play in the first half than in the second half. But they were still devastating on third and fourth down, keeping drives alive by converting 12 of 18 tries. Per ESPN Stats & Information Group, Foles was practically perfect in conversion situations, posting an 11.4 yards-per-attempt average, two touchdowns and 99.9 Raw QBR on 15 attempts.Yet it was a sloppily played game. Mistakes — including three missed first-half kicks, two failed two-point conversions, Brady’s dropped QB throwback and a host of blown coverages — took some of the shine off what was otherwise a sterling offensive performance by both teams.Besides his dropped pass on the option — which, to be fair, was not a good throw from Danny Amendola — it’s hard to put any blame on Brady, who put up his best statistical effort in eight Super Bowls. In fact, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to lose any game while posting 500+ passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. No Super Bowl-losing quarterback has played better.Yet Brady raised the ire of the entire footballing internet after the game, when he was quoted as saying the Eagles made “one good play”: As the full context of the quote reveals, though, Brady was spot-on: Brandon Graham’s fourth-quarter strip sack of Brady was the only consequential defensive play of the game, and it came at the perfect time to short-circuit Brady’s now-routine postseason heroics. Fittingly, it was also the only sack by either team in the game, which tied a Super Bowl low mark.Pederson has to be credited for his amazing coaching performance, winning it all after completely remaking his offense to suit his backup quarterback. The same is true of general manager Howie Roseman, who not only survived his power struggle with deposed head coach Chip Kelly but also won the Super Bowl two years later.But most of the credit should go to Foles, who deservedly won the Super Bowl MVP award after getting jerked around by Kelly, the Eagles and the rest of the NFL. Despite contemplating retirement after being cut by the Rams in 2016, Foles stayed humble and hungry and returned the team that drafted him in 2012.His patience, and theirs, resulted in a Super Bowl payoff for a fan base that desperately needed a championship.CORRECTION (Feb. 5, 2017, 2:25 p.m.): A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of Eagles who had fewer than seven touches but who had at least 70 yards or a receiving touchdown — it was two, not three. read more

Read More →

The Raptors Tip The Finals With Their Own Strength In Numbers

With Kevin Durant still sidelined by the calf he injured nearly a month ago, Kevon Looney out indefinitely with a fractured collarbone suffered in Game 2 and Klay Thompson sitting out a playoff game for the first time in his career,1Thompson was the only Warrior to play all 101 previous playoff games during the Steve Kerr era. it was clear before the game started that the Golden State Warriors would need a Herculean effort from Stephen Curry in order to win Game 3 and take a 2-1 lead over the Raptors in the NBA Finals.Golden State got that Herculean effort. And it wasn’t enough.In fact, it’s difficult to imagine Curry playing a better game: Steph scored 47 points, snared eight rebounds and dished out seven assists. He became the first player in finals history to score 45 or more while also recording five or more rebounds, assists and made 3-pointers. And yet the Warriors trailed for almost the entire game and lost by 14 points at home. Curry’s 47 points are now the second-most ever for a player in a losing NBA Finals effort, behind only the 51 scored by LeBron James in Game 1 of last year’s finals.Combined with his 16 assisted points, Curry created 63 of the Warriors’ 98 points while he was on the floor, a truly incredible feat. Those 63 points tied for the second-most points he’s created in any playoff game during the Warriors’ five-year run of excellence. They also marked the sixth time that Curry has created at least 60 points via his shots and assists — though this is the first time he has done so in a loss.The Warriors fell largely because Toronto got whatever it wanted on offense for the entire game. Golden State yielded 123 points to the Raptors — the most it has allowed in any NBA Finals game at Oracle Arena under Steve Kerr. All five of Toronto’s starters scored at least 17 points, and they combined for an incredible 106 points on just 70 shot attempts. The Raptors all together connected on 43 of 82 shots from the field, 17 of 38 from beyond the arc and 20 of 21 from the free-throw line, recording just the 42nd 50-40-90 game2That’s shorthand for shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent on threes and 90 percent from the line. in NBA playoff history and only the third in the history of the finals.Their offense was in blitzkrieg mode right from the jump. Toronto scored 15 points in the first four and a half minutes of the game and eventually totaled 36 in the first quarter. They ended up scoring 1.44 points per possession in the opening period — the most efficient quarter either team has had during the series. The Raptors’ only blemish was a five-minute stretch in the second quarter where they turned the ball over three times and shot 0 of 6 from the field. Otherwise, they were practically unstoppable. Toronto even scored a completely absurd 1.59 points per possession on tries that began after a made Warriors basket.It was a total group effort — the kind of “Strength in Numbers” victory the Warriors themselves love to claim. Kawhi Leonard, while clearly still playing at least somewhat hobbled, nevertheless continued his metronomic consistency. Leonard finished with 30 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks, and he paraded to the free-throw line nearly at will.Danny Green — who is now officially out of the shooting slump that plagued him throughout the Eastern Conference finals after apparently getting some shooting advice from Shaquille O’Neal, of all people — nailed three 3-pointers during the aforementioned first quarter, giving him multiple triples in all three games of the series. Though Raptors coach Nick Nurse chose to start Fred VanVleet over Green after halftime to keep his best Steph stopper on the floor, Green ended up nailing another three treys after the break.After a Game 2 in which he largely struggled near the rim, Pascal Siakam connected on 7 of 12 shots from inside the paint. Siakam tallied six assists as well and was a game-high plus-22, marking the third time during Toronto’s 21-game playoff run where the Raptors have outscored their opponent by at least 20 points with Siakam on the floor. Kyle Lowry played perhaps his most complete game of the playoffs, pouring in 23 points while dishing out nine assists.The starters were not the only Raptors in double figures. VanVleet, still piping-hot since the birth of his son, scored 11 points and made three 3-pointers — including an utterly ridiculous shot-clock-buzzer-beating circus shot while falling down that pushed the Raptors’ lead to 13 points with less than two minutes remaining and sparked the beginning of garbage time. From ABC News: The lone Raptor to record a basket but not reach double figures was Serge Ibaka, who nonetheless had quite an interesting game. Though two of them likely should have been disallowed and called goaltending, Ibaka officially ended the game with six blocks, marking just the 17th time in NBA Finals history that anyone has thwarted that many attempts. The clean swats were all of different varieties: a chasedown in transition, two different help-side blocks on the drive and one where he planted himself in the paint and dared Curry to challenge him, then stepped up to block a floater when Curry took up the dare.The varied contributions put the Raptors two wins away from claiming their first NBA title in franchise history. Teams in their position — coming off a victory in Game 3 of a finals series that was previously tied at one game apiece — have gone on to win the series 82 percent of the time. The Raptors, though, have two different players — Marc Gasol with the 2015 Grizzlies and Ibaka with the 2016 Thunder — who have found themselves up 2-1 in a playoff series and have still gone on to lose the series to the Kerr-era Warriors. They should know better than anyone else that against an opponent this good, nothing is guaranteed.Especially when the Warriors may soon be getting some rather important pieces back. Kerr said after the game that he expects Thompson to return for Game 4, while Durant played coy about his potential readiness, suggesting the possibility that he could return from his monthlong absence as well. While the return of one or both stars would certainly increase the chances that the Warriors come back and win the series, such a comeback is unlikely to come easily — no matter what Draymond Green might say. Check out our latest NBA predictions. read more

Read More →

Ohio State mens soccer team sets program record with 7th straight victory

OSU junior forward Yaw Amankwa (23) kicks the ball during a game against Louisville on Sept. 29 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU won 1-0. Credit: Breanna Williams / Lantern PhotographerThe Ohio State men’s soccer team made school history by extending its winning streak to seven with a 2-0 shutout victory over Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon.The Buckeyes improved to 8-4-2 overall and 3-1-1 in Big Ten play while moving up to first place in the conference, while the Badgers fell to 3-9-2 on the season and 1-2-2 in Big Ten play.“I’m really happy for the guys, and so now to go into the record book as the team that has the longest win streak in program history is good,” OSU coach John Bluem said. “It’s a really good accomplishment for the players and I know it meant something to them today.”After losing two key players — sophomore forward Marcus McCrary and redshirt senior forward Kenny Cunningham — because of injuries, other members of the team stepped up to the plate to triumph over Wisconsin.OSU senior midfielder Kyle Culbertson and junior forward Christian Soldat were both instrumental to the win with a goal apiece.“We really do come together as a team and always fight for it,” Soldat said. “If one guy is not having a great day passing or a great day attacking, everybody else pumps him up and picks up the slack until he gets in his groove. It feels great having a team that’s always behind you.”After a rough couple of weeks, Culbertson was able to get it going for the Buckeyes when he scored the first goal of the game off an assist from junior forward Danny Jensen. Culbertson launched the ball into the back of the net in the 13th minute for his third goal of the season.Culbertson said although it was tough in the past couple of weeks for him, it was nice to see some of his other teammates step up and form a chemistry to keep the team rolling without his contributions.Soldat’s goal came in the second half when he knocked in a shot off the near post in the 65th minute, marking his third goal of the season. Jensen and junior forward Yaw Amankwa were credited for the assists.“Jensen gets the ball and I’m coming through and the ball slides to Yaw. I see him staring at the goal and I know he’s hungry for a goal too,” Soldat said describing the play. “I’m just screaming in my head asking for it. Luckily, it was on his left foot so he kicks it off to me and I just have an easy placement of the ball.”The Scarlet and Gray defense was another factor in the history-making win on Sunday. The Buckeyes’ defense was able to keep the Badgers away from the net to prevent Wisconsin from threatening for much of the afternoon. However, when Wisconsin did come close to scoring, OSU redshirt senior goalkeeper Chris Froschauer came out with the saves to keep the clean sheet.Froschauer had a total of three key saves on the afternoon, contributing to his fifth shutout of the season and third consecutive.Overall, shots were 13-8 in favor of the Buckeyes, who also held a 6-3 advantage in corner kicks.The Buckeyes, who have not lost since Sept. 11, will next look to extend the school-record winning streak to eight when they are set to host Cleveland State on Wednesday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. read more

Read More →

Ohio State womens basketball notches first win against Cincinnati

After a tough loss against then-No. 7 Notre Dame in the Carrier Classic, the No. 20 Ohio State women’s basketball team came out firing and blazed past Cincinnati in their home opener at the Schottenstein Center. Wednesday night’s 87-49 victory gave the Buckeyes their first win of the year and Cincinnati’s coach Jamelle Elliott said OSU’s loss to Notre Dame might have served as some extra motivation. “They had a chip on their shoulder,” Elliot said, “and you could tell tonight.” The Buckeyes shot 77.3 percent from the floor in the first half and had a 42-21 lead going into halftime. Senior guard Tayler Hill led the charge with 21 points, while redshirt senior guard Amber Stokes and sophomore guard Raven Ferguson each scored 16 apiece. The Buckeyes defense stymied the Bearcats all game long and held them to 29.7 percent shooting from the field overall. “Our defense against Notre Dame was good and tonight’s defense was very good,” said OSU coach Jim Foster. “I think we’re solid defensively at the guard position.” Stokes said not only was their defense efficient tonight, but they had a strong overall game right from the tip off. “It felt better than the Notre Dame game from the beginning,” Stokes said. “The defense was good and everyone was getting their shots, so that makes for a fun game.” This year, the Buckeyes seem to be quick and precise, as they exploited the Bearcats’ defense with hard, dribble penetrations that set up wide open three-point shots, or with pick-and-rolls where players seemed to snipe in accurate passes. “We are such a faster team this year,” Ferguson said. “With Amber and Tayler on the court, you need to be moving and keep the ball moving at all times.” Hill was happy the way her team was able to score Wednesday, but said they still have a lot of work to do in order to perfect their offensive scheme. “According to the score, I think tonight went really well,” Hill said. “We rushed on the ball a little too much in the beginning, but that is something we can fix at practice.” Coming into this year, many people wondered who would step up to take some of the scoring burden off of Hill, especially after losing their dynamic point guard in Samantha Prahalis, who was drafted No. 6 overall to the Phoenix Mercury in the 2012 WNBA Draft. Stokes and Ferguson might be the front-runners to fill the void. Stokes, however, said the strength of their team is unity. “I thought my game was good, but it could have been better,” Stokes said. “We held Cincinnati back and our defense was solid. Everyone was helping each other out and we had one another’s back, and we kept a good rotation. I am proud of the way we played.” Hill also noted how unique the team’s chemistry is, echoing Stokes comments about everyone having each other’s backs. “The team chemistry has been the best since I have been here,” Hill said. “We all want to see one another play well and are very supportive of one another. We are very close and I think that shows on the court because we trust each other very much.” Foster said he is excited about the group of players he has this season, not just because of their versatility and athleticism on the court. “From day one I’ve liked this group,” Foster said. “They’re unselfish and can be a lot of things this season.” The Buckeyes will return home to face Winthrop at St. John Arena on Saturday at 2 p.m. read more

Read More →

Ohio State mens basketball looks to build on 2game winning streak with

Junior guard Sam Thompson takes a shot during a game against Penn State Jan. 29 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 71-70.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorBig Ten basketball — especially this season — can mess with any team’s confidence because of the conference’s competitiveness.The Ohio State Buckeyes are no exception to difficulties and frustrations the conference can provide, having won their first two Big Ten contests before dropping five out of six.Now, OSU (18-5, 5-5) has won back-to-back road games against top 20 opponents — a 59-58 win against then-No. 14 Wisconsin Feb. 1 followed by a 76-69 victory against No. 17 Iowa Tuesday — and the feelings around the team have been a bit on the lighter side.“The mood is way better. I mean in the gym, we go to the weight room … the mood is better,” junior forward LaQuinton Ross said Friday. “In the locker room, everybody’s laughing, where like a week ago, you come in there and it’s sad in there. You can almost put on some gloomy music in there, it’s been real bad in there for us.”The two wins against ranked opponents on the road, though, has gotten things back to where they should be, Ross said.“I think winning — winning cures all,” Ross said. “We was down, we was at our lowest point this season when we lost those couple games, but I think right now, it’s looking good for us.”While the team’s confidence might be on the upswing, its coach doesn’t want the team to head into a Saturday matchup with Purdue (14-9, 4-6) with the attitude that just because the Buckeyes are returning home, a win is guaranteed.“The fact that you’ve won two games on the road and you’re coming home, I know in this league means absolutely nothing if you’re not ready to play at the level you need to play at,” coach Thad Matta said Friday. “There’s no rhyme or reason with why teams are winning right now. It’s just, ‘Hey, whoever plays best for that 40 minutes.’”OSU was able to hold off the Boilermakers, 78-69, in West Lafayette, Ind., Dec. 31, but had its hands full with sophomore center A.J. Hammons, who scored 18 points and snatched 16 rebounds. Hammons also blocked five shots, doing his best to clog up the lane.OSU junior center Amir Williams will likely shoulder the bulk of the responsibility of containing the 7-footer, but taking him out of the game is a team effort, Ross said.“He clogs up the lane. So we’re going to have to find ways to spread him out, get him out of there,” Ross, who scored a game-high 25 points in the win against Purdue on New Year’s Eve, said. “He’s a real big dude. So we gotta work on getting him off the block, and we also gotta give Amir help down there.”A big reason for the Buckeyes’ recent success could be the change in their starting lineup, as junior guard Shannon Scott has been replaced with junior forward Sam Thompson. Scott has come off the bench to average 10 points in the Buckeyes last two games, seeming to be more aggressive than before and give OSU another option offensively.“I think I got my edge back a little bit. I know coming off the bench gotta bring a spark to the team, so I feel like now that’s my role,” Scott said Friday. “And if I’m able to do that by being aggressive, I gotta keep doing that every game.”The Buckeyes have been able to finish off the two close victories on the road by making big plays down the stretch as well as hitting their free throws. That late game confidence for the Buckeyes was missing during their tough run of losses, Matta said.“We’ve been right there in every game that we haven’t won and shots haven’t fell for us in the timely fashion that we needed them to,” Matta said. “I’ve always told our guys and I’m telling them now in late game situations: Be as confident as you possibly can. Take and make a great shot. We’re perfectly fine with it.”Tipoff between the Boilermakers and Buckeyes is set for 6 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center. read more

Read More →

Ohio State opens spring practice Urban Meyer on health Good to go

Co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash watches over drills at the first day of OSU football spring practice March 4 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorIf there was one thing Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer wanted his players to take away from his team’s first spring practice of the year, it was that he wants them to play angry.The Buckeyes are coming off back-to-back losses to finish their 2013-14 season 12-2, falling to Michigan State and Clemson in the Big Ten Championship Game and Orange Bowl, respectively. Those losses came after the team’s second straight 12-0 regular season, and coming into spring ball, Meyer wants his team to have a different outlook on things.“I felt last year (coming into spring practice), I don’t want to say the word ‘entitled’ … but I want an angry, blue collar team (now),” Meyer said Tuesday after wrapping up the first stint of spring drills. “I’m hoping that’s what we have. Last year it was 12-0, you’re preseason this or this. I haven’t had many people ask about our preseason, not that I know what it is. We’re just trying to find out who’s going to play for us in some spots.”Buckeyes’ healthOSU announced Monday that Meyer had undergone a procedure this past weekend to alleviate pressure from an arachnoid cyst in his head — which occurs in the brain and skull or in pockets around the brain called ventricles — but he said he’s “good to go,” and just has some simple directions from his doctor.“Just watch how loud I scream. I’m not kidding you,” Meyer said. “And how loud I blow the whistle. So I didn’t end up blowing the whistle today – it didn’t sound very good. But I’ll be back after spring break.”Offensively, the Buckeyes are likely to be without starting quarterback Braxton Miller throughout spring ball after he underwent minor surgery on his throwing shoulder Feb. 21. Miller watched the Buckeyes’ first practice with his arm in a sling, studying plays from behind the line with a camera on his hat. Meyer said Miller calls the plays, and then studies the defense in hopes of him not regressing in the spring.“They got a contraption set up where he actually calls the play … and he also tells us what he sees in the secondary,” Meyer said. “Every play we’re having him say what he sees in the secondary. It’ll be a productive spring. He’s into it right now.”Meyer said a big thing Miller will miss this spring is a chance at game reps, but it’s on the senior quarterback to keep improving other facets of his game.“If he doesn’t have a good summer, that’ll cost him a lot. He’ll be a very average player,” Meyer said. “He’s got a lot riding on this now. If he doesn’t fix this and this, that’s a much different spot than he wants to be.”Offensive depthRedshirt-sophomore Cardale Jones took the majority of the reps at quarterback with the first team offensive unit, with redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett throwing with the second team. True freshman and early enrollee Stephen Collier saw time as well.Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott took the most reps with the first team at running back. Redshirt-sophomores Warren Ball and Bri’onte Dunn, as well as redshirt-senior Rod Smith, all split time with the starters. The latter three were all clearly behind Elliott, however.Sophomore wide receiver Dontre Wilson spent time in drills in the slot receiver position, and also returned punts alongside freshman Curtis Samuel and redshirt-junior Corey Smith.At tight end, redshirt-junior Nick Vannett took the majority of the snaps with the starters, as senior Jeff Heuerman rehabs from a broken nose. Redshirt-freshman Marcus Baugh also played considerable time. Baugh was cited for underage drinking in July and January.DefenseOn the other side of the ball, the Buckeye defense was not exactly what fans had been used to, finishing 47th in the country after giving up 377.4 yards per game last year, including 268 yards through the air.Meyer took time to speak with the defense specifically before team drills began Tuesday, and said he wants them to keep more a simple message in mind this year.“To me it’s ‘all go.’ It’s all the 4 to 6 (seconds), A to B … there’s certain things that’s built into your culture and the way you go. It’s not the call, it’s not (that) I want you thinking about plays,” Meyer said. “I think sometimes as coaches because of what’s happened to the game — it’s a fast-paced game get lined up and go — as opposed to it used to be a game based on effort … I want to get back to that. So that’s what I’ll tell them.”New playersWith the loss of first-team All-American and All-Big Ten performer Ryan Shazier — who was in attendance for OSU’s first spring practice along with the since-departed cornerback Bradley Roby — the linebacker position is undoubtedly a position of interest for Meyer, who called it his biggest concern as far as depth at any spot goes, but was pleased with the effort of five-star true freshman and early enrollee Raekwon McMillan.“I was really impressed with Raekwon today, did a really good job. Moved around, very mature,” Meyer said. “For a shorts practice, he did enough where I was … very positive of what I saw.”Returning starters at the position, senior Curtis Grant and junior Joshua Perry, took reps with the first team defense along with sophomore Darron Lee who did not play a snap in 2013.Meyer said Lee “earned” the time with the first unit after the way he finished off last season and improved this summer, saying “he’s got all the skills.”Perhaps the most experienced group on that side of the ball is the defensive line, which returns all four starters in juniors Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, senior Michael Bennett and sophomore Joey Bosa. Washington took reps exclusively as an interior defensive lineman on the group’s first day on the field with recently hired defensive line coach Larry Johnson.The defensive backfield is undergoing a vast array of changes in addition to the linebacking core, because of the departure of Roby to the NFL and graduation of safeties Corey “Pitt” Brown, C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant.Three safeties saw time in OSU’s first practice, those being redshirt-sophomore Tyvis Powell, sophomore Vonn Bell and sophomore Cam Burrows. Redshirt-junior Ron Tanner also saw time, but Meyer said he “lacks some physical skills” to be added into the group.The Buckeyes are set to practice for the second time this spring Thursday. read more

Read More →

Noah Spences Ohio State career ends ruled ineligible for Big Ten play

Then-sophomore defensive lineman Noah Spence (8) tackles Penn State then-freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg during a game at Ohio Stadium on Oct. 26. OSU won, 63-14.Credit: Lantern file photoNoah Spence’s career as an Ohio State Buckeye has officially ended.After multiple failed drug tests stemming from the end of the 2013 season to September, former OSU defensive end Spence has been ruled permanently ineligible for athletic competition by the Big Ten Conference, OSU vice president and athletic director Gene Smith said in a released statement Tuesday night.Smith said that Spence appealed his permanent ineligibility, but was ultimately denied.“The Ohio State University Department of Athletics had assisted Noah and his family leading up to an appeals process that took place today,” Smith said.“While we are disappointed in the outcome, we are pleased that Noah has come a long way and we are very proud of the progress he has made with regard to his health,” Smith said. “The Department of Athletics will continue to assist Noah through his pursuits and provide the academic resources necessary to help him complete his degree program.”Noah Spence walks out of OSU’s fall camp hotel Aug. 7.Credit: Tim Moody / Sports editorIn the minutes following the news, Spence tweeted from his Twitter account, @nspence94:Not what I wanted but now it’s time to get ready for the next level, I’ve learnt so much in the last couple months that it’s all worth it..— Noah Spence (@nspence94) November 26, 2014 Spence, a native of Harrisburg, Pa., was originally suspended following a failed drug test for ecstasy prior to OSU’s matchup with Clemson in the 2013 Orange Bowl. That failed drug test resulted in a three-game suspension for Spence, but prior to his scheduled return to the Buckeyes in September, Spence failed a second drug test, this one resulting in an indefinite suspension.Spence did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment Tuesday evening. Smith declined further comment on the suspension.The Buckeyes are set to close the 2014 regular season against Michigan this Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon. read more

Read More →

Football Joshua Norwood transfers out of Ohio State

OSU Gray redshirt sophomore Joshua Norwood (28) breaks up a pass intended for OSU Scarlet senior wide receiver Austin Mack (11) during the Spring Game at Ohio Stadium on April 15th, 2017. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Social Media EditorOhio State redshirt sophomore cornerback Joshua Norwood is transferring from the football program, a team spokesman confirmed to The Lantern. Norwood’s departure was originally reported by Tim May of the Dispatch.Norwood is the eighth Buckeye to leave the program since the end of the 2016 season, joining transfers offensive linemen Evan Lisle, Tyler Gerald and Kyle Trout, and wide receivers James Clark, Torrance Gibson and Alex Stump. Quarterback Stephen Collier announced his retirement from football in January, as well.A member of the 2015 recruiting class, the Valdosta, Georgia, native redshirted his first season in Columbus, then played limited minutes in 11 games in 2016, accumulating eight tackles, one tackle for loss and one pass breakup.He has three years of eligibility remaining.Norwood’s transfer brings the Buckeyes down to the NCAA’s 85 scholarship limit for the 2017 season. read more

Read More →

Wrestling Ohio State volunteer coach Anthony Ralph finds talent in overlooked recruits

Anthony Ralph joined the Ohio State wrestling program as a volunteer assistant coach in October 2016. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State AthleticsAnthony Ralph started in collegiate wrestling as a competitor at Kent State, but it wasn’t until he took a post-graduation job as an assistant coach at Notre Dame College that he realized the nuances of recruiting.“It was selling a school, getting the people to trust in you, building relationships that start through the recruiting process,” Ralph said. “If the student-athlete trusts you enough to come to a school that you believe in, it kind of builds that bond and friendship.” Now, as a volunteer assistant coach for the Ohio State wrestling team, Ralph has taken his love of recruiting and combined it with an analytical approach to find unheralded recruits who might bring success to the program. He calls his strategy “moneyball,” a reference to the analytics-driven success the Oakland Athletics had in 2002. “At Notre Dame, myself and a couple of the other coaches kind of came up with a system, an algorithm to find value in guys that other schools don’t see,” Ralph said. “It’s recruiting those guys that aren’t getting the everyday call from Penn State or Michigan, Iowa, Oklahoma State.”Ralph came to Notre Dame College in 2006 at the invitation of his former Kent State coach, Frank Ramano, who was creating the Falcons’ wrestling program. By 2012, Ralph had helped bring in No. 1 recruiting classes in the NAIA from 2012-16. During his time as an assistant coach, he helped lead the Falcons to three NAIA national titles as well as an NCAA Division II team championship in 2014, producing 18 national champions and 62 All-Americans. “Before I left, I think we were No. 1 in the country the last five years,” Ralph said. “So, something I kind of took pride on because I couldn’t compete anymore. That was kind of my way of competing, as far as with other programs.” Ohio State associate head wrestling coach J Jaggers noticed Ralph’s success and kept his childhood friend from northeast Ohio on his radar.By December 2016, the old friends were reunited in Columbus, using the same algorithm that brought him success with the Falcons. “What his system is designed to do is provide depth, find value in some kids that the [recruiting] rankings may not indicate at the time,” Jaggers said.Ralph said the secret of the algorithm is to focus on wrestlers who specialize in scoring. It spots kids who are taking the most risks on the mat, showing consistency in shot attempts and points scored. This helps find wrestlers who are assertive rather than passive, head coach Tom Ryan said.“There are a lot of guys that win at the high school level that are not points scorers, lots of state champions, lots of highly ranked guys that are not point scorers,” Ryan said. “When you look at one of the critical ingredients to success at the next level, it’s a desire to put yourself in scoring positions all the time, so a lack of fear.”Ryan said Ralph has already become a key part of the coaching staff, pointing to the amount of work he does to find guys who fit the culture of Ohio State wrestling. “The biggest thing in the biggest way is that he digs so much that he finds people that want to be here,” Ryan said. “We need depth and I would say that he has already, in his short time here, helped a lot with our depth.”Ralph said “moneyball” is more than just finding athletes to round out the wrestling roster. It is to continue to build what Ryan and the rest of the coaching staff has built at Ohio State. “Using that ‘moneyball’ system, we are not just looking for depth,” Ralph said. “We are looking for guys that can wrestle at the Big Ten level and become All-Americans and national champs.”Jaggers said he thinks Ralph could become the nation’s best recruiter. “When he put his mind to, ‘I’m trying to be the best recruiter in college wrestling,’ with his personality and his skill set, yeah it could easily happen,” Jaggers said. read more

Read More →

Football Dwayne Haskins learns how to respond to adversity

Ohio State redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) walks up to the field prior to the the start of the Ohio State-Penn State game on Sept. 29. Ohio State won 27-26. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorDwayne Haskins walked into Beaver Stadium like a heavyweight boxer walking into a ring. With a camera in front of his face, Ohio State’s redshirt sophomore quarterback threw punches, hyping himself up, displaying confidence. Ohio State hadn’t really seen this before from its starter, as Haskins carried himself in the same way Penn State redshirt senior quarterback Trace McSorley has done his entire career, and did against the Buckeyes on Saturday. After lining up for the first time in a shotgun set, Haskins showed that confidence, rolling out to the right and finding junior wide receiver Austin Mack on an outside curl route, giving him a quick first down and, seemingly, momentum. Haskins sped up the pace, getting to the 30-yard line for the second play. The ball was snapped and he quickly fired one towards redshirt senior Parris Campbell on the left side for a screen pass. The ball was dropped. The momentum was gone. Haskins started to slump.For the first time in his Ohio State career, Haskins faced adversity. He had the opportunity to define what his response to that adversity would be, what play-calling he would lean to in those times of high pressure. Against Penn State, the adversity did not begin because of Haskins. Reminiscent of Mack’s performance against TCU, Ohio State receivers dropped three passes in the first quarter, including a ball off the hands of redshirt junior tight end Rashod Berry that ended up being Haskins’ second interception of the season. With the combination of mistakes from Ohio State receivers and a consistent pass rush by the Penn State defensive line, a unit averaging 3.2 sacks per game, the confidence that Haskins came into the stadium with was not there. From there, Ohio State recorded five three-and-outs on its first eight drives. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day said he had to encourage Haskins as he struggled in the first half. “It’s his first time going through it. Just talking to him, ‘Hey, you are playing good.’ I thought the ball to Rashod [Berry] was a good throw,” Day said. “I thought he was managing the game well even though it didn’t feel like it at the time.” Going into his final drive of the first half, Haskins completed 6-of-13 pass attempts for 36 yards and an interception.WIth a deficit to make up, Haskins was not going to go the route of former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett: running the ball for an average of 5.6 yards per carry in last year’s win over the Nittany Lions. Instead, with what Day described as poise and maturity, Haskins threw a screen pass to J.K. Dobbins, watching as the sophomore running back ran 26 yards into the end zone for Ohio State’s first score of the game. This was the major part of the offensive adjustments made in the locker room during halftime. Haskins’ goal, Day said, was to take advantage of the blitzing front and use his accuracy and blockers, either from the offensive line or the wide receivers on the outside, to continue to move the ball downfield. That’s exactly what Haskins did. In the second half, he completed 15-of-23 pass attempts for 208 yards and two touchdowns, both coming off screens. After leading Ohio State to a 27-26 win over then-No. 9 Penn State, Haskins earned his second-straight Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week award and his third of the season. Haskins found his niche for moving the ball downfield when playing from behind: getting the ball into the hands of playmakers as quickly and as often as he could. “I know one thing that seems very comfortable is seeing those screens coming out of his hands so fast and seeing his pinpoint accuracy,” head coach Urban Meyer said. Day said Haskins’ confidence returned as skill players on the outside, like junior receiver Binjimen Victor and redshirt junior receiver K.J. Hill, got the ball, taking advantage of the open space and blockers down field to score. Victor and Hill both scored touchdowns for the Buckeyes in the fourth quarter to give Ohio State the win.Ohio State will not be facing as consistent of a pass rush on Saturday. Haskins will face an Indiana defense that has averaged two sacks per game, ranked No. 9 in the Big Ten. However, when playing from behind and under pressure, Haskins did not rely on himself. He brought in his supporting cast, involving everyone in what Meyer considered “the greatest drive in Ohio State history.” Moving forward, this is the formula that Meyer sees Haskins using when facing adversity. “We are throwing for 340 a game or something like that and we are winning games. That’s our job,” Meyer said. “We are taking care of the football and we are throwing the ball. We are utilizing some very good players and he’s a very good player.” read more

Read More →

Football Urban Meyer satisfied with Ohio State at halfway point of regular

Starting the season with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day as head coach while Urban Meyer served his 3-game suspension, Ohio State did not miss a beat, winning each of the first three games. When Meyer returned to the sidelines, the Buckeyes continued their momentum, winning the next three games, including a road win against then-No. 9 Penn State. As the team heads into its game against Minnesota on Saturday, Ohio State is halfway through its regular season, winning each of the first six games on the schedule. In his Monday press conference, Meyer said the team has not gotten to this point without difficulties. “We’ve overcome significant injuries. Most notable is Nick Bosa. And we’re still finding ways to win games,” Meyer said. “And just really good people on this team. We go out to practice and guys want to get better.”Through the first six games of the season, Ohio State is the No. 2 scoring offense in the Big Ten, averaging 49 points and 565.7 yards per game, which leads the conference. However, without Bosa on the line, the defense has been one of the main storylines in terms of improvement after the first six games of the season. Despite allowing only 20 points per game, which is fourth-fewest in the Big Ten, Ohio State has given up 365.2 yards of offense to opponents per game, allowing 5.4 yards per play. Meyer said despite a first half against Indiana in which the defense allowed 20 points on 317 yards of offense, including 239 yards through the air, he thought the defense improved in the second half, matching the improvement he thinks the Buckeyes have made all season. “We tried to build on positives and the positives are that the second half they played outstanding,” Meyer said. “Against Penn State we gave up some yards but it was 14-13 going into the fourth quarter. So there are some positive things.”Brian Hartline impresses Meyer Throughout the season, Meyer has had to change his view of the offense. With redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins at the helm, the Ohio State offense has become more pass-friendly in the first six games of the regular season. After taking over from former Ohio State assistant coach Zach Smith on July 23, interim wide receivers coach Brian Hartline has helped lead a Buckeyes wide receiver room to the best pass offense in the Big Ten, with quarterbacks completing 73 percent of all passes thrown. Through the first six games of the season, Meyer has been impressed with Hartline’s job as the wide receivers coach. “He’s learning on the run still,” Meyer said. “Doing some great things. And one thing about our job, it’s very valuation-friendly. They’re playing very well.”When asked about whether Hartline’s interim tag could be removed after the job he has done this season, Meyer said “sure he could,” but made no indication that it would happen. read more

Read More →

Mens Volleyball Ohio State eliminated in MIVA tournament with defeat to No

Redshirt sophomore Jake Hanes smacks the ground out of frustration after sending the ball out-of-bounds during Ohio State’s loss to George Mason on Jan. 18 at St. John Arena in Columbus. Credit: Ethan Clewell | Senior ReporterIn a fitting end to an odd season, the Ohio State men’s volleyball team could not continue its recent five-set magic, falling in four sets to No. 10 Loyola Chicago in the opening match of the conference tournament, 15-25, 25-20, 14-25 and 22-25. The loss eliminates the Buckeyes (10-19, 5-10 MIVA) from the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association tournament and any chance at a bid for the NCAA tournament. The Ramblers (20-7, 12-2 MIVA) move on to face No. 14 Purdue Fort Wayne in the semifinals Wednesday. Heading into the fourth set, it seemed Ohio State might find its late-set heroics again and come out with a victory. Sophomore opposite hitter Jake Hanes crushed a kill to bring the Buckeyes and the Ramblers’ even at 21 late in the fourth set, but three straight points, including a block and a kill by senior middle blocker Paul Narup and an ace by senior outside hitter Collin Mahan propelled Loyola Chicago to a 25-22 fourth set victory. Mahan led the Ramblers with 14 kills, three aces and 11 digs. Junior middle blocker Kyle Piekarski led the team defensively with six total blocks, adding an ace and nine kills. In familiar fashion, Ohio State struggled out of the gate in the first set. After jumping out to an early 4-3 lead, the Ramblers ran away with the first set, scoring 11 of the next 17 points. Hanes contributed a kill and two aces in hopes of cutting into the lead, but Loyola Chicago responded with five straight points of its own, including kills by Piekarski, Mahan and senior outside hitter Will Tischler, setting the Ramblers up with a 22-13 set lead. The teams traded the final four points, giving Loyola Chicago a 25-15 first-set victory. Three of the Ramblers’ eight aces came in the first set and their stellar efficiency, hitting at a .652 clip, helped stifle any hopes of an Ohio State comeback. But the Buckeyes would not go silently. Right on cue, Ohio State came alive in the second set. A five-point run, including a kill and an ace by Hanes and a kill by freshman outside hitter Sean Ryan turned a 6-4 deficit into an 8-6 Ohio State lead. The Buckeyes continued to add to their lead, courtesy of kills by Hanes and multiple errors by Loyola Chicago, but kills by Piekarski and Narup brought the Buckeyes’ lead to one, 16-15. Ohio State answered with a four-point run featuring back-to-back aces by Hanes, reestablishing a five-point cushion which the Buckeyes would carry to the end of the set, winning 25-20, before falling in the next two sets. Ohio State finished the 2019 campaign with a 10-19 record, finishing 5-10 in the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association. read more

Read More →

Widow to sue ambulance trust after private firm missed heart attack

first_img Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Mrs Page told the BBC: “I’ve lost the love of my life.”He should be here with me now, because this was all unnecessary and now I’ve got to find a way of living without him, and I don’t want to.”An inquest heard the main cause of Gary Page’s death was Lauren de la Haye’s failure to identify an evolving heart attack, and her not contacting the clinical advice line for further support, even when prompted to do so by a more junior colleague.Ms de la Haye told the BBC that ECG’s were difficult to interpret and that Mr Page was advised to seek further help, which he did not do.She is now a student on another medical course.The inquest also heard that the lack of a paramedic was a problem – but was not against the East of England’s Ambulance Service Trust’s rules.The episode has shone a spotlight on the greater use of private ambulances in attending emergency calls.In 2014, an investigation by The Telegraph found that the amount spent by the NHS on private and voluntary services to provide 999 care had risen from £24million to £56 million in three years.Research found there are dozens of private ambulance firms which, until recently, were used by the health service as “patient transport” transferring non-emergency patients to and from hospital.The private sector offers higher pay to their staff leaving it difficult for ambulance trusts to compete.The number of calls for an ambulance has doubled in the last decade to more than nine million a year, leaving ambulance trusts warning of a “national shortage of paramedics”.In response to Mr Page’s death, the rules for private ambulance crew in the East of England Trust area have been clarified.Any medic below the level of paramedic must either take a patient to a hospital, or phone the clinical advice line at East of England Ambulance Service to explain why the patient can be discharged.An East of England Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We offer our condolences to Mr Page’s family on their loss, and offer a formal apology for not providing the patient with the care which was expected.“In our investigation with Private Ambulance Service of the circumstances surrounding his death, it was identified that the seriousness of Mr Page’s condition was not recognised and further advice not sought.“Actions taken away from the investigation have been to ensure all non-EEAST staff know the correct clinical processes such as using an advice line if they make a decision not to convey to hospital, and a period of enhanced inspection of the ambulance service involved as well as well providers.”James Barnes Managing Director of Private Ambulance Service also offered condolences and an apology for not providing the patient with the care that was expected.He added: “All Private Ambulance Service staff now have the ability to utilise the Clinical advice line in situations where the clinician believes that the patient should not attend hospital and this process is being monitored by both The Trust and PAS.” A company director died after the NHS 111 line sent a private ambulance with an undertrained paramedic to treat a heart attack case.Now his wife is suing the East of England Ambulance Service. Kim Page is taking civil action against East of England Ambulance Service and Private Ambulance Service Ltd after a coroner found “serious failings” in her husband Gary’s care.The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust apologised to Kim Page after describing the leader of the ambulance crew as “complacent” for not heeding the concerns of a more junior colleague.Mr and Mrs Page were at home in Laindon, in Essex, in February this year when Gary felt pains in his chest and right arm.After looking up the symptoms online, Mrs Page dialled 111 for advice and the East of England Ambulance trust dispatched a team at the second highest level. Because they were busy, they sent a team from Private Ambulance Service Ltd – who didn’t have a paramedic on board.The most senior member of the crew was emergency technician Lauren de la Haye who, despite having practised as an emergency medic under supervision for several years, had only received her qualification certificate a few days before.Mrs Page said Ms de la Haye told Gary: “It is definitely not your heart, you are definitely not having a heart attack.”The emergency technician continued to deny heart problems even when two heart traces showed Mr Page’s heart beat was abnormal.Instead, she suggested he might have indigestion or a pulled muscle.Mrs Page added: “Then she [Ms de la Haye] said, ‘We can take you to the hospital but you will have a 10-hour wait.’“She said that three times, as if it were unnecessary for him to go.”Although still in pain, Mr Page then signed a document saying he agreed not to go to hospital and the crew departed without advising the couple what to do if the symptoms continued.Later that evening Gary went to bed in a spare room, to be more comfortable, and just before dawn Kim woke to hear unusual noises from the room.She tried to wake her husband and called 999 – at which point an NHS ambulance was dispatched – but Gary died as Kim tried to revive him.He died 10 hours after his symptoms started and was just minutes away from the specialist heart unit at Basildon University Hospital. The private sector offers higher pay to their staff leaving it difficult for ambulance trusts to competecenter_img Gary and Kim on their wedding dayCredit: News Scan The private sector offers higher pay to their staff leaving it difficult for ambulance trusts to competeCredit: SWNS.com Gary and Kim on their wedding daylast_img read more

Read More →

Plymouth University under fire for spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to

first_img“Plymouth University is a trading name adopted in recent years.”These have become somewhat interchangeable and so the university as part of broader discussions is considering whether greater consistency would be helpful.”It is not the first time the institution has faced questions over its spending decisions. In 2014, it emerged that the university planned to buy seven chairs for a £95,000.The chairs, handcrafted by furniture designer John Makepeace, were commissioned for graduation ceremonies.The university said the seats had been commissioned by now suspended vice chancellor Professor Wendy Purcell.The expense was queried by some staff and students and, in a leaked email, the university’s PR department warned the story of the chairs could cause reputational damage.The university insists that a final decision has not been made on the institution’s rebranding project.A spokesman added: “This is part of a wider consultation around the university’s visual identity in support of its refreshed strategy and national and international ambitions.”Staff, students and prospective students have been engaged in these on-going discussions.”No firm decision has yet been reached.”Last November it was reported that vice-chancellor Judith Petts, who took over the role back in February 2016, was looking to update the university’s “visual identity” in order to boost its international reputation. At the time, a source said: “There are more questions than answers but it is quite clear that the vice chancellor and chief marketing officers are determined to push the changes through, regardless of any staff or student protest.”The student union and senior staff members are very upset and concerned that false claims have been made about wide spread stakeholder consultation.”It’s a disgrace the university would embark on such a pointless exercise and spending spree in this current climate.” A university has come under fire for contemplating spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to simply add ‘of’ into its name. The former Polytechnic, which became known as Plymouth University – it’s current trading name – in 2011, said it is looking at whether the name change would provide “greater consistency”.But one insider said the switch was a fait accompli, with the major rebranding project expected to cost the university hundreds of thousands of pounds.The source said: “Despite running a number of meetings with students and staff about re-branding where the feedback was ‘don’t re-brand as it will cost a fortune’, the vice chancellor has decided to re-brand from Plymouth University to University of Plymouth.”Staff were emailed this week to change email signatures.”It is understood the latest prospectus includes “University of Plymouth” branding.Sources revealed the”With Plymouth University” slogan – a campaign launched in 2011 – may be ditched which would mean a complete redesign of campus signage along with stationery, marketing tools and promotional literature.The university refused to discuss the costs involved.A spokesman from the university which has about 27,000 students said the two names had become interchangeable in recent years.The spokesman added: “The university’s official name has always been the University of Plymouth.center_img Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more

Read More →