2015Michigan State2.70 1986LSU1804Louisville, Duke, Kansas2049-244 2006George Mason1.52 2010Michigan State3.60 2012Louisville4.70 1999Ohio St.1893UConn, Duke, Michigan State2182-289 2016Syracuse1.50 YEARTEAMELOOTHER FINAL FOUR TEAMSAVG. ELODIFF. One of these teams is not like the others 2016Syracuse17721942+170 YEARTEAMPRE-TOURNAMENTPRE-FINAL FOURIMPROVEMENT 2010Butler2.80 Because Syracuse had stretches of staggeringly bad regular-season play for a Final Four team, our NCAA Elo ratings — which estimate a team’s strength at a given moment — rated the Orange as the 41st-best team in the 68-team field going into the tournament. (Among Final Four teams since the tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985, only No. 52 VCU in 2011 and No. 44 George Mason in 2006 ranked lower.) By contrast, UNC was the third-best team in the field by pre-tournament Elo, Villanova was fifth, and Oklahoma was ninth. So in terms of the disparity between Syracuse’s pre-tournament Elo and the average of the other Final Four teams, the team is the sixth-most-out-of-place Final Four entrant since 1950.2This is as far back as our table of Elo ratings goes for NCAA Tournament games; that year, the tourney was limited to an eight-team field. 2013Wichita State1.00 1965Princeton1687UCLA, Michigan, Wichita St.1923-236 Most improved Final Four teams 2016Syracuse1772Villanova, Oklahoma, UNC2031-259 1963Oregon St.1704Loyola-IL, Cincinnati, Duke1966-262 1971Villanova18141996+182 2011VCU17251985+260 1972Florida St.1751UCLA, UNC, Louisville1997-247 1960NYU1766Ohio St., California, Cincinnati2008-241 2014Kentucky4.40 1965Princeton16871876+189 ELO RATING 2011Butler0.99 Ratings aside, the team earned its way with a strong performance in the tourney, particularly when it outlasted Gonzaga and Virginia this past weekend. A lot has changed over the past two weeks; now Syracuse has nearly caught up to its Final Four peers, making it the sixth-most-improved Final Four team by Elo since 1950. 1952Santa Clara1416Kansas, St. John’s, Illinois1834-418 If I’d told you a couple of weeks ago that North Carolina, Oklahoma and Villanova would be packing their bags for a Final Four date in Houston, you probably wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. (Assuming you weren’t a Kansas or Oregon fan.) According to FiveThirtyEight’s NCAA Tournament prediction model, the Sooners and Tar Heels were the most likely men’s teams to emerge from their regions, and the Wildcats were a strong second choice in theirs. That trio is as chalky as a group featuring a couple of No. 2 seeds can get.Syracuse, however, would have stopped some traffic. The Midwest’s Final Four entrant is a major stunner — its region of the bracket featured a No. 1 seed (Virginia) that ranked as the third-best team in the country in our pre-tournament team ratings and a No. 2 seed (Michigan State) that many analysts believed deserved a No. 1, plus a strong second tier of teams including Purdue, Utah, Iowa State and even better-than-its-11-seed Gonzaga. Meanwhile, the 10th-seeded Orange were uncertain bets to merely make it past Dayton in the round of 64, much less forge a path all the way to Houston.Before the tourney began, both our model and Ken Pomeroy’s odds assigned Syracuse somewhere between a 1 percent and 2 percent chance of making the Final Four. Comparing Pomeroy’s log5-based probabilities this year to archives from every year going back to 2006,1The 2006 tournament is the earliest for which I could find odds derived from Pomeroy’s ratings. I also used Sean Forman’s similar simulations in the absence of Pomeroy’s data for the 2009 and 2010 tournaments. that makes this year’s Orange the fourth-most-unlikely Final Four participant of the past 11 NCAA tournaments. 2013Wichita St.17911960+169 Elo ratings are pre-tournament 1950Baylor1459CCNY, Bradley, NC State1782-322 Teams like these don’t have a terrific track record once they get to the Final Four: Of the nine teams alongside Syracuse above, only three — Bradley in 1954, Villanova in 1971 and Kansas in 1991 — advanced to the championship game, and none won the title. The most improved Final Four team to win a title was Villanova in 1985. (For what it’s worth, Butler — which was the 61st-most-improved team and an even less likely Final Four entrant than Syracuse — came within a few inches of bank from snatching the title from Duke in 2010.) Syracuse will get a chance to improve that success rate against North Carolina on Saturday, and based on its performance these past few weeks, it would be foolish to count the team out again. YEARTEAMFINAL 4 PROB. 1968Ohio St.1730UCLA, UNC, Houston1991-261 1959Louisville16741839+165 1954Penn St.15771729+153 1987Providence18852076+191 1991Kansas19462095+149 1954Bradley15431720+177 Source: Sports-Reference.com 2011VCU0.02%
The 2016 Major League Baseball season opened on Sunday, and FiveThirtyEight is assembling some of our favorite baseball writers to chat about the year to come. In today’s edition, we focus on the National League Central with Craig Edwards, managing editor of the Cardinals blog Viva El Birdos, and FiveThirtyEight’s own baseball columnist, Rob Arthur. The transcript below has been edited.Chicago CubsSt. Louis CardinalsPittsburgh PiratesMilwaukee BrewersCincinnati Reds St. Louis Cardinals neil: If the Cubs do falter from their lofty projections, there are plenty of teams in this division waiting to pounce. Let’s start with the Cardinals, who won 100 games last year and looked unstoppable at times. Yet, they also suffered some offseason losses and outplayed their BaseRuns by more than any other team. Are the Cardinals still on the same level, or might they be due for a decline?rob: I think they are due for some decline. Even if they returned the exact same team as last year, the odds were against them outperforming their underlying stats to such an extraordinary degree again. So they probably won’t be quite as good, though they’d be falling from such lofty heights that it would still make for a decent team. FanGraphs has them at 85 wins, with PECOTA projecting 82.craigjedwards: Although a repeat of last season’s win total is unrealistic, the Cardinals also have a pretty high floor. They cannot repeat their success with runners on base this season, but the rotation is arguably more talented than it was a year ago. Nobody on the team is projected to have a great season, but that also means nobody is irreplaceable, and they have quite a few players with ceilings well above their projections.neil: That rotation could be impressive, with five starters carrying a FanGraphs projection of at least 2 WAR.craigjedwards: The rotation has its questions, though, most being injury-related. With health, they might approach their run prevention from last season, but no pitching staff stays healthy all year. For instance, I wonder about Michael Wacha as we head into the season — he tired at the end of last year, after being shut down in 2014 with a shoulder issue. Wacha has pitched at an ace-level for stretches, but if he can’t command his fastball he’s closer to an average pitcher.rob: I think a huge unknown on the team, and a big determinant of its fate, is Yadier Molina. He was injured last year and turned in an uncharacteristically mediocre pitch-framing performance behind the plate. Framing makes such a big difference because its effect, while small for any given pitch, are spread out across every pitch a staff throws. If Yadi returns to his normal level — which seems possible if his decline came from injury, and not aging — the staff will get a big boost. If not, those 2-WAR projections may be overly optimistic.craigjedwards: Right. Molina’s bat has also gotten significantly weaker over the past two seasons, and two offseason thumb surgeries make you wonder about his hitting ability. The projections might be overrating that, expecting a bounce-back that might not be possible. His leadership and game preparation are unquestioned, but Molina’s body is compromised at this stage of his career.neil: For all of those concerns, though, these are still the Cardinals. Have they earned the benefit of the doubt given the way the franchise has re-tooled on the fly in the past? Or is that more of a narrative that gets applied to them post-hoc because they’ve been so successful?rob: I don’t like to give any team the benefit of the doubt. Some teams do figure out major advantages before others, but we can usually follow along and figure out what those advantages are (or were). The Cardinals might have some kind of player-development talent that other teams are lacking, or they might just be exceptionally well-run and good at acquiring skilled players. But I’m not inclined to give them a “Magic Beans” bonus.On the other hand: They have produced historic RISP performances — both in terms of pitching and hitting — over the last five years. I don’t know what to make of that. Maybe they do have a secret we don’t know about.craigjedwards: I think the benefit of the doubt is almost a required narrative that has turned into a joke. The David Freese–Allen Craig–Matt Carpenter–Matt Adams pipeline of “unknown players rising to prominence” seems like it has run dry. But what the Cardinals have been good at over the past few years — in contrast with the Cubs, who have developed position players — is developing pitching. They’ve targeted athletes and guys who can throw the change-up, and those pitchers seem to have worked out. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Pittsburgh Pirates Ben Lindbergh joins the Hot Takedown podcast to preview the 2016 MLB season. Milwaukee Brewers Embed Code Cincinnati Reds rob: In any event, I suspect that, like last year, this division will be one of the most exciting in baseball. Even if the Cubs wrap it up early (and they probably won’t), the Cards and Pirates will go down to the wire competing for WC spots. It should be fun to watch.craigjedwards: The division is Chicago’s to lose, but both the Pirates and the Cardinals are contenders who could win under the right circumstances.neil: And at least we won’t have to hear those incessant “Back To The Future” references around the Cubs this season.craigjedwards: Don’t worry, the Cubs will come up with something at least as annoying this season. Between them and the Cardinals, the NL Central has morphed into the new AL East in terms of insufferableness. A FiveThirtyEight Chat neil: And now comes the time when we have to talk about the dregs of this division. Who should we discuss first, Brewers or Reds? Both were awful last season, though PECOTA actually sees Milwaukee vaguely edging in the direction of .500 this year.rob: The Brewers are kind of fun because they are obviously experimenting, and they’ve made some great moves this offseason in that direction.craigjedwards: They also aren’t tied down with as many long-term contracts as Cincinnati. It’s part of why Milwaukee seems to have the slightly brighter long-term future, if that counts for anything.neil: The Brewers even have the ninth-best farm system in MLB, per Baseball America.craigjedwards: The big question for them will be, “When will they trade Jonathan Lucroy, and how much will they get for him?”neil: And, “how much has Lucroy’s framing value gone down these past few years?”rob: A huge question with Lucroy is whether his framing went down or if everyone else’s went up. (This applies to Molina as well.) If the league as a whole improved at pitch framing, then guys like those two — who used to be leaps and bounds better than everyone else — will look like they’re declining. It even matters for Lucroy’s trade prospects, because if it’s a matter of him declining, then he could go back up. But if the league’s catchers all rose to his level, there’s not much prospect for improvement.craigjedwards: How much of an effect injuries might have had is another question that I don’t believe we can answer at this point. But even without the framing, he hits well for a catcher and is in a team-friendly contract over the next two seasons, so he should still be a good asset for the Brewers to flip and improve their farm system even more.rob: However, outside of Lucroy (and maybe Ryan Braun), the Brewers have a ho-hum, strikeout-prone lineup and an unimpressive rotation. They aren’t going to be very good this year.craigjedwards: Milwaukee looked like it was on the Oakland A’s track of trying to never rebuild, but after the team squandered a division lead in 2014, the bottom fell out last season and it was time for a major rebuild.neil: Rebuilding usually means promising youngsters. Anybody to keep an eye on this year?craigjedwards: Orlando Arcia. He’s their shortstop of the future with Segura gone.And to Rob’s earlier point about experimenting with players, Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana are the type of guys you try out when you know you have no hope of contending. They could easily disappoint, but there are no bad long-term ramifications if they can’t hack it in the majors.rob: “Hack” being the operative word; Santana had a contact rate of 67 percent last year. But yeah, there’s nothing to lose on high-variability players — Rymer Liriano also comes to mind — and a lot to gain, so they’re correct to invest in them.craigjedwards: If they hit on a couple of these guys, it could really help the team’s long-term outlook.rob: Right, this is a year where they feel out some of those young guys and see who can contribute to the next competitive Brewers team. neil: The Pirates round out what was this division’s Big Three last year. But the statistical projections seem a little down on them — 83 wins at FanGraphs, 82 at Baseball Prospectus. Are you guys sensing a drop-off in Pittsburgh? Or do they extend a run that’s seen them average 93 wins the past three seasons?rob: I believe either the Pirates or Cardinals will get to 90 wins and probably snag a Wild Card spot. The Pirates are about as likely as the Cards, with a similar “benefit of the doubt” narrative surrounding them. As one of the most visibly sabermetric teams in the game (between ground balls, shifting, their health monitoring, etc.) it’s plausible to me that they’ll defy the projections slightly. If they do have a secret, I think it relates to their health, which has been notably better than other teams the last few years.craigjedwards: On the position-player side, they have a lot of talent, particularly in the outfield. Pitching-wise, Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano make for a very good one-two punch, though the rest of the rotation is not great. But if there’s a new magic-beans narrative going around, it’s in Pittsburgh, with Ray Searage getting unforeseen performances out of his pitchers. Juan Nicasio might be the beneficiary of that this season.rob: And they may not even need those kinds of secret advantages. This is a solid roster featuring one of the best players in the game — Andrew McCutchen — and a true ace in Cole. It’s also remarkably even across the board: Not a single lineup spot is projected to be below replacement-level, according to Baseball Prospectus.craigjedwards: But like you said, Rob, health is the key. The Pirates face the same problem as many teams in a similar financial situation: a lack of depth. If injuries force them to rely on reinforcements, it’s difficult to see them repeating the success of the past few seasons.rob: I agree, they are hurting for depth. You could easily see this team collapsing with only a few DL trips.neil: And even if they turn out OK in that department and make the playoffs, I’m not sure that fanbase can take another defeat in the Wild Card game.rob: Unfortunately, there’s a decent chance that’s exactly what will happen.neil: Again?rob: The wild card is a cruel mistress.craigjedwards: Pittsburgh got a bit unlucky being forced to go against Jake Arrieta last season, but Cole is also a good guy to have for a one-game playoff. The NL Wild Card could see another great pitching duel when you look at the aces who could be featured: Cole, Arrieta, Matt Harvey, Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright.rob: With the Cubs and Cardinals as competition, it’s hard to see the Pirates capturing the division (although it’s possible). It’s easier to see them putting up another solid 92-win season, landing the Wild Card, and facing one of those pitchers in a do-or-die game. At that point, it’s basically a coin flip, one the Pirates have lost a couple of times running now.craigjedwards: So they are probably due? That’s how coin flips work, right?rob: For the collective sanity of Pittsburgh’s residents, I hope so. neil: So Milwaukee sounds like they’re in a better place than Cincinnati.craigjedwards: The Brewers saw the opportunity to start rebuilding, and they took it. The Reds, on the other hand, had the opportunity to start a major rebuild, but their heart wasn’t really in it.rob: Yes, they haven’t gone as far or received as much of a return. They’re holding onto Joey Votto now (which is understandable), but they also kept Aroldis Chapman too long. And they haven’t been as experimental as the Brewers, taking fliers on high-variance players. That will hurt them down the road when some of the Brewers’ risks pan out.craigjedwards: If they’d dealt Chapman and Jay Bruce for a few extra prospects at last year’s trade deadline, we might look at the Reds differently. Instead they hung onto Bruce, who collapsed at the end of the season; then Chapman’s offseason domestic violence investigation hurt his trade value. And now it’s difficult to see Votto drawing a package good enough to justify trading a franchise player.(They also still owe Homer Bailey more than $80 million through 2019, and couldn’t figure out a way around Brandon Phillips‘ no-trade clause, so he’s owed another $27 million over the next two years.)rob: Having said all that, the nice thing about this iteration of the Reds is that, even though they won’t be too competitive in the Central, they have some fun players to watch. Votto is always great, and Billy Hamilton remains entertaining (even if he’s not living up to his promise).craigjedwards: They also have a number of interesting young pitchers, such as Raisel Iglesias (a big signing out of Cuba) and Robert Stephenson. If a few of those guys pan out, Cincinnati could rebuild quickly. But unfortunately for the Reds, the probability of success for that strategy is not incredibly high.The bottom line: Neither the Reds nor Brewers is likely to do well in the next two, maybe three seasons. And it doesn’t look like the Cubs, Pirates or Cardinals are going to go anywhere, either.rob: So, in a way, it makes sense to go for a longer-term rebuild. When the top of the division is strong and will be for a while, maybe it’s reasonable to wait until you can field a genuinely good team.craigjedwards: But then what do you with Votto? It seems like such a waste to have him on terrible teams.rob: I agree. (#freejoeyvotto!) Then again, he gives Reds fans a reason to watch, when they’re not complaining about his otherworldly OBP.craigjedwards: That’s what makes him hard to trade. He’s a truly great player, but his enormous contract depresses his long-term value and limits Cincinnati’s trading partners. We just saw the Rockies go through this with Troy Tulowitzki. They waited too long to trade their franchise player, and ended up with a return that wasn’t as good as it would have been a year earlier.It almost seems as though having a player like Joey Votto provided the illusion of a bright long-term future. The same thing might be happening with the Angels and Mike Trout, but in Los Angeles they have more opportunities to spend their way out of it than in a market like Cincinnati.rob: The margin for a mid-market or small-market team is so thin. The couple of months’ difference between trading a player at the peak of his value and just off of it can multiply into a year’s difference in the competitive window. Chicago Cubsneil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): Last year’s NL Central was one of the strongest divisions in memory, particularly between the Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates at the top. But Chicago had an unbelievable offseason, and most sources consider them the best team in baseball going into 2016. So, to get us started, what do we think about this stacked roster the Cubs have assembled? Do we buy the hype about this team’s potential to end the franchise’s 108-year championship drought?craigjedwards: I absolutely buy the hype. A lot of things had to go right last season for the Cubs to make their big leap earlier than expected: Kris Bryant instantly playing to his talent level, most of the team staying healthy (particularly in the rotation), Jake Arrieta’s incredible breakout year, etc. This season, the Cubs don’t need as much good fortune. By signing John Lackey, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward, and bringing back Dexter Fowler, they’ve built a bit of a buffer in case of bad luck.rob: I agree — the Cubs start the year with an excellent roster, loaded with depth. There’s a reason they’re favored so highly by PECOTA, Steamer and just about every other projection system. On top of its excellent starters, Chicago has prospects and the budget to add contracts mid-year, so if a major player suffers an injury or performance decline, they should be able to handle it.craigjedwards: But whether they can end the drought is a difficult question to answer. For most teams, just getting to the playoffs means the season was successful. But if the drought means a World Series title or bust, the team is setting itself up for disappointment. It’s really difficult to win three straight postseason series against other good teams.rob: Right. As much as I buy that this is a stacked roster, I have some bad news for Cubs fans: A good roster at the beginning of the year guarantees nothing. Between injuries, cluster luck and various other kinds of bad breaks, many a preseason powerhouse has exited the playoffs early — or worse yet, failed to reach the postseason at all. (As a Cubs fan, I have been trained to expect the worst.)neil: Baseball is quite different from, say, the NBA, where the Golden State Warriors’ stacked roster means they’re a coin-flip to win the NBA title. Being the best MLB team means you have, what, a 15 to 20 percent chance (at best) of winning?rob: Yes, the difference between MLB teams is much smaller. We’ve never seen (and will never see) a baseball team like the 2016 Warriors or 1996 Bulls. Win projections in the high 90s are about as good as it gets, and that’s where the Cubs are right now.craigjedwards: The best players in the NBA handle the ball constantly, whereas a hitter comes to the plate four or five times per game, and an ace might only pitch twice in a playoff series. Plus, only eight teams make the divisional series, so even the worst playoff team is not going to be far from the best in terms of talent. The Cubs went 3-5 in the playoffs last year, and they were a success story.rob: If only Arrieta could pitch every game.neil: Another (possibly underrated) thing working against the Cubs’ chances is how top-heavy the NL is. According to FanGraphs, Chicago ranks first in projected team wins above replacement, but Nos. 2 through 5 — and seven of the top 10 teams — are in the NL.rob: That’s true — this year’s decrease in parity has been driven mostly by NL teams, particularly the Dodgers, Cubs and Mets. That will make the NL playoffs more of a crapshoot than usual. Even within the Central, the Cubs will have to contend with two difficult challengers in the Pirates and Cardinals.neil: They’d have an easier path to the World Series in the AL, I’d think.rob: Also, they’d get to play Kyle Schwarber at DH, where he probably belongs.craigjedwards: If the Pirates or Cardinals win 93 games, and the Cubs win 92 — which, again, would be a very successful season — all of a sudden Chicago is in the Wild Card game, hoping for a coin flip just to get to the Division Series. And some very good NL teams, at least on paper right now, will not even get to the playoffs.The difference might not be how a team does against other contenders, but rather how badly they can beat up the NL’s worst teams, some of which are very poor.rob: We saw that in the NL East preview, with two teams racing to the bottom and two strong outfits up top; there’s a similar pattern going on in the Central. Across the league, teams seem to be committing more to a particular trajectory in the competitive cycle, either rebuilding or making a championship run.neil: If the Cubs do have 95- to 100-win talent, the upper bound on that is one of the best teams ever. (Which could very well happen.) But I have a feeling the bottom bound is also lower than we think. What could send this seemingly stacked Cubs team there? Just the obvious scenario, a rash of key injuries?rob: A good, approximate rule of thumb is that team-level projections are 90 percent certain to be within +/-10 wins. So the bottom bound is something like 80 to 85 wins, which is probably not making the playoffs in this division. That’s the reason I’m cautious about the Cubs.craigjedwards: I think the bottom likely comes if the pitching falls apart. The projections aren’t exactly conservative on Arrieta and Jon Lester. Losing one of them would be a major blow, and there are some concerns about Arrieta’s crazy workload last season. Plus, Lester is one year older and has apparently been pitching at the risk of injury for some time now.rob: I think there’s still some reason to suspect Arrieta could turn back into a pumpkin. Lester’s inability to throw to first has been well-documented, yet strangely not taken advantage of as much as it could be. He’s also a pitcher older than 30, and those can fall apart at any time (remember Cliff Lee?). If you combine the risk of a rotation and bullpen collapse, that’s the most likely way I see the Cubs’ season falling apart.craigjedwards: But as far as their lineup goes, they are pretty well-insulated.rob: Yep, they have too many good, young position players to have a bad offense.
New addition left fielder Justin Upton proved to Atlanta Braves fans why the team traded for him during the offseason. Upton homered in his debut to lift the Braves past the Philadelphia Phillies 7-5.“Everything kind of fell into place tonight,” said Upton, whose solo home run came in the fifth inning after the Phillies cut the lead to 4-3. “It was great that the guys came out swinging the bats well. I was able to contribute and we got a W at the same time. You can’t beat that night.”The sellout crowd of 51,456 at Turner Field saw the high-powered offense of the Braves cripple Phillies ace Cole Hamels for five innings. Before Monday’s game, the Braves had only been able to hit three home runs off of Hamels in 43 innings pitched against them in seven starts, but managed to tie that mark over five innings.“They’re going to hit a lot of home runs,” Hamels said. “Obviously, to keep them from hitting home runs you have to keep the ball down. I wasn’t able to do that.”Freddie Freeman drove in three runs with three hits, including the first of the three Braves home runs. New addition Dan Uggla homered as well.For Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, it was nice to see that his team was able to hit the ball out of the park, but it did not come as a surprise. The Braves led the National League with 49 homers during Grapefruit League play.Braves pitcher Tim Hudson, whose record was 153-6 before Monday’s game when his team scored four our more runs while he was in the game, started off solid, but gradually declined. He was charged with three runs, six hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings. Hudson gave up a home run in the fourth to Chase Utley in the fourth inning.However, he got a lift from left-handed pitcher Luis Avilan, who pitched 1-2/3 scoreless innings with one hit and one walk. Avilan’s performance earned him the win and Hudson the no-decision.With the amount of batting power in the Braves lineup, they draw very few walks, but have a high strikeout count. During spring training they had the fewest walks, with 73, but had the seventh highest number of strikeouts with 252. They struck out eight times Monday night.“We’ve got a lot of power, and we’re not trying to hold back,” Uggla said. “If it cost us some strikeouts in situations, then that’s what it’s going to have to take.”B.J. Upton had a quiet night at the plate, going 0-for-4 with one strikeout. Jason Heyward accounted for one run and had one walk and strikeout a piece.The Braves will face the Phillies again on Wednesday with hopes they can keep the momentum going into this fresh season.“Hopefully this is just the beginning,” Freeman said. “We’ve got a very balanced lineup one through eight, so it’s going to be tough for pitchers to get through us.”
Heading into Wednesday night’s NBA playoff game against the Washington Wizards, the Indiana Pacers’ Roy Hibbert had scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds in his past four games combined. For the better part of three weeks, his struggles had transformed him from a basketball player into a talking point. But Wednesday, Hibbert shredded the narrative, netting 28 points and nine rebounds to help even the series to 1-1.It helped that the Pacers got him the ball. According to NBA.com’s SportVU Player Tracking Box Scores, Hibbert touched the ball 47 times on offense (including rebounds) in just over 33 minutes of game time, an average of 1.4 touches per minute. The Pacers averaged 1.8 possessions per minute, meaning Hibbert touched the ball on nearly every offensive possession when he was on the floor. That’s a huge difference from the level of offensive involvement he’s had over the rest of the regular season and playoffs.What we can’t know is whether the Pacers fed him the ball because Hibbert was playing well or whether that was the plan all along. It’s a chicken-or-the-egg question: Was Hibbert getting the ball because he was scoring, or was he scoring because the Pacers were getting him the ball?It seems unlikely that Hibbert’s scoring barrage in Game 2 will become a trend; he’s scored more than 25 points just twice in his playoff career and just 16 times in 457 career games. But keeping him involved can pay dividends in other ways. Going back to the SportVU Player Tracking Box Scores, we see that Hibbert contested nine of the Wizards’ shot attempts at the rim, the most he’s contested in any game in these playoffs. In addition, 57 percent of the Pacers’ shot attempts in this game were uncontested by the Wizards, suggesting Hibbert’s success in the post was forcing the Wizards to leave shooters open elsewhere. That 57 percent figure is by far the highest percentage of open shots Indiana has seen during the playoffs. If we narrow the focus to the four Pacers starters besides Hibbert, the percentage of uncontested shots rises to 69 percent.The Pacers don’t need Hibbert to score 28 points in every game to extend their playoff run. But they do need him to be engaged and active at both ends of the floor. Even when he’s not scoring, getting him touches helps bend the defense to open shots for others and gives him the confidence to do the dirty defensive work that is crucial to their success. Get that man the ball.
The New York Yankees faced a tight spot on July 9 at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Their newly acquired starting pitcher, Brandon McCarthy, had gutted his way through 6.2 innings, lacking his best stuff but still holding the Indians to four runs, just one of those earned. Locked in a 4-4 tie, manager Joe Girardi turned to his bullpen, knowing it had no margin for error.The first pitcher out of the pen was Matt Thornton. Instead of battling Indians hitters with an assortment of southpaw soft stuff, Thornton fired two straight fastballs to All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley, the second one resulting in a harmless, inning-ending groundout. The radar gun flashed a reading on Thornton’s heater: 97 mph.The next Yankees pitcher to toe the rubber was Dellin Betances. A 26-year-old rookie, Betances had taken the long route to establish himself in the big leagues. At 6’8” and 260 pounds, he was once a promising starter prospect, but struggled mightily to make use of his huge frame. Converted to relief last season, Betances simplified his repertoire, leaning on his blazing fastball and nasty slurve. The result was a breakout season in a repeat stint at Triple-A, followed by a job in this year’s Yankees bullpen. On this night against the Indians, Betances needed only 10 pitches to retire the side in the eighth inning. The four fastballs he threw in that frame averaged a tick below 99 mph.As the night wore on, a battalion of flamethrowers kept emerging out of the Yankees bullpen. Adam Warren tossed 1.1 scoreless innings, firing 12 fastballs that averaged 95 mph. After David Huff (94 mph) struggled with three batters, Shawn Kelley (94 mph) bailed him out with 1.2 scoreless. The Yankees finally scored a run in the top of the 14th, prompting David Robertson to take the mound. New York’s closer needed 14 pitches to set down the Indians in the bottom of the inning, clinching a 5-4 win for the Yanks. Unlike many of his relief-mates, Robertson almost never throws a four-seam fastball, the kind of straight heat that tends to register the highest radar gun readings. Instead, he throws the cutter, a pitch that bores in on left-handed batters, inducing countless weak groundouts and often chopping their bats into tiny splinters. That night against the Indians, Robertson’s cutter velocity peaked at 95 mph, averaging “only” 93 — a necessary trade-off to get the kind of movement that can cause sleepless nights for its helpless victims.The Yankees are hardly alone in their employment of multiple cheese-huckers. Teams are trotting out pitchers who routinely throw mid-90s fastballs, with gusts up to the high 90s, and occasionally 100 mph or better. Most of those fireballers work out of the bullpen, and they’re needed more now than ever before. In a chicken-and-egg scenario, starters’ inability to go deep into games has created heightened demand for fresh and electric arms out of the bullpen.Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com, we can track the upward trend in reliever use over the past 50 years:The broader trend that goes back half a century is clear. In 1964 (four years after the save rule first came to baseball), teams used an average of 2.58 pitchers per game, including the starter; today, they’re using 3.92 pitchers per game. In ’64, relievers tossed an average of 2.64 innings per game; today, they’re throwing an eyelash more than three innings per game. Starters are getting yanked much earlier now than they did during Willie Mays’s heyday, and relievers are shouldering a greater percentage of the pitching load. But what’s most striking is how much bigger the jump is in the number of pitchers used per game as compared to number of relief innings thrown per game.Bullpens weren’t always like this. In 1960, sportswriter Jerome Holtzman introduced the save statistic to baseball. Holtzman wanted a way to better recognize the impressive contributions of pitchers like Joe Page and Hoyt Wilhelm, relief aces who came out of the bullpen to replace tiring starters, often throwing multiple innings at a time. Over the ensuing 25 to 30 years, bullpens slowly evolved, to the point where managers started to ease back on the role of multi-inning stoppers.The person often credited with the next wave of changes is Tony La Russa. The former White Sox, A’s and Cardinals manager figured he could squeeze more value out of his bullpen by placing a greater emphasis on putting specific relievers in a spot where they’d have the best chance to succeed. If you want to know why a contemporary manager may use three different relievers in a single inning in the name of getting the lefty-on-lefty and righty-on-righty matchups he wants, you can give a lot of the credit (or blame, if you’re not a huge fan of three and a half-hour games) to La Russa.Still, today’s managers might not be so willing to change pitchers so frequently1La Russa gained the greatest notoriety for his pitching changes while in Oakland, when he helped turn situational lefties like Rick Honeycutt into valuable late-inning weapons. But we can’t put all of this on La Russa: Managers use slightly more than one extra pitcher per game, on average, since 1989, La Russa’s one World Series-winning season with the A’s. if they didn’t have all those guys waiting in the bullpen who can throw 95-100 mph at will. So, using FanGraphs fastball velocity data, we set out to answer the question: What percentage of relief pitchers throw 95 mph or better today, as compared to past seasons?Though reliable velocity data only goes back to 2002, that’s still a big spike in a relatively short amount of time: We’re only two-thirds of the way through this season, and already we’ve seen nearly twice as many innings thrown by relievers who average 95 mph or higher on their fastballs than we did just 12 years ago.OK, so we know that managers are using more relievers, and that more of them throw hard. But what matters is whether bullpens are performing better.To measure this phenomenon, we ran another Baseball-Reference query and found that the average bullpen’s OPS+ allowed2That is, on-base plus slugging percentage allowed, re-scaled so that the MLB average is always 100. has dropped dramatically over the past 45 years, from 103 (3 percent worse than the overall league average, a number that includes starters and relievers) in 1969 to 94 (6 percent better than average) this season. The performance disparity between relief pitchers and starters really began to accelerate in the mid- to late 1990s, as the post-La Russa bullpen era fully took hold.Note how the shaded area of the chart is wider than it used to be. As recently as 1988, the OPS+ allowed by starters and relievers was almost equal; now, relief pitchers are consistently hurling much sharper innings than starters. It’s a change that also goes hand in hand with the aforementioned increase in relievers deployed per game. Managers have gotten wise to the fact that more innings should go to the more effective subgroup of pitchers, and that they’re even more effective when called upon in waves to throw aspirin pills past helpless batters.This data gives us a good idea of the “what.” Figuring out why relievers are getting so much faster and so much better is trickier, because it’s more subjective. It’s possible that teams are doing a better job of recognizing which pitchers should be converted into relievers and which ones should remain starters. In the same way the Yankees figured out that Betances was much better suited to relief work, the Cincinnati Reds resisted the temptation to make Aroldis Chapman a starter and let him unleash his electrifying fastball in the closer role instead. Chapman alone might be skewing our data set somewhat, given the frequency with which he launches blinding fastballs, and the incredible results he produces. According to the excellent site Baseball Savant, Chapman has thrown a staggering 257 fastballs that have topped 100 mph this year; every other pitcher in the majors has combined to throw 103 of them.Earlier this year, in an an article about the recent increase in Tommy John surgeries, I discussed why we might be seeing more pitchers assaulting radar guns than ever before. One frequently cited theory holds that kids are specializing in one sport at an earlier age, so once they lock in on baseball they’re building arm strength and pitch velocity more quickly, but also making themselves more susceptible to future injury. That so many can throw so fast, and so many hit the disabled list, makes relievers fungible (with a few exceptions like Betances and Chapman). As a result, managers choose a few relievers from a phalanx of fireballers, then go get a few more if some of them break down.In other words, the pitchers might be on the mound for fewer and fewer pitches, but the trend of harder throwers looks like it’s here to stay.
4New York Yankees8281788481.3 2Toronto Blue Jays8186838583.8 Based on projected wins or over/under win totals. Data gathered on March 27, 2017.Sources: Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Clay Davenport, Las Vegas Review-Journal In honor of the 2017 Major League Baseball season, which starts April 2, FiveThirtyEight is assembling some of our favorite baseball writers to chat about what’s ahead. Today, we focus on the American League East with Sports Illustrated senior baseball editor Emma Span and ESPN.com baseball writer Dan Szymborski. The transcript below has been edited. RANKTEAMPECOTAFANGRAPHSDAVENPORTWESTGATEAVERAGE How forecasters view the AL East 3Tampa Bay Rays8583807981.8 neil: Hey folks! Welcome to the chat.emmaspan: Who’s ready to be wrong about some baseball? I know I am!neil: Let’s be wrong in order of the table above, starting with the Red Sox …dszymborski: TABLES DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DOemmaspan: Well, I’m guessing this is one we all agree on. The Red Sox have to be everyone’s clear favorite, right?dszymborski: I’d like to be contrary, but I don’t see the “in” here. The Red Sox have the best roster in the division.neil: Yep, they were a team that finally unleashed their potential with 93 wins in 2016. And they might be even better in 2017, considering:They undershot their Pythagorean expectation by 5 wins.They also had bad cluster luck.They went out and added Chris Sale.dszymborski: It’s hard to quibble. Sale’s terrific, even though I’m constantly annoyed by his ability to eat 6,000 calories a day and retain his Gumby physique.emmaspan: David Price’s elbow is maybe the only obvious concern, because when you hear about a pitcher and elbow pain, it’s almost never better than you think it will be. But I think that even if he did get injured, they’d still be the best team in the East.neil: Yeah, what do we make of Price’s 2016 anyway? He had his worst ERA since 2009, but his peripherals were mostly OK. If he stays healthy, does that HR rate regress?emmaspan: Yeah, I’m a David Price fan, and I think he wasn’t as bad last year as people thought. Not as good as anyone was hoping for, obviously, but it’s not like he collapsed completely. But again, any time the words “elbow” and “Dr. James Andrews” come up about any pitcher …neil: Not good.dszymborski: Typhoid Jimmy.emmaspan: The Angel of UCL Death.neil: If there’s one area where Boston might regress, do you think it’s that starters Rick Porcello and Steven Wright might be due for a correction? (Both had career years in 2016.) Or am I looking for weaknesses where there are none?dszymborski: Porcello is funny. My projection system, ZiPS, thought his contract extension was bang-on and I doubted it, so my PC locked me out of all my programs.neil: And then taunted you like Newman in Jurassic Park.dszymborski: The thing about Porcello is, even though he’s obviously not a baseline Cy Young winner, his peripherals in Detroit were excellent through most of his time there. 2016 was closer to his real level of ability when he doesn’t have the Tigers infield behind him.emmaspan: I don’t think Porcello will be a Cy Young contender again, but they don’t need him to be the ace now that Sale is there. They just need him to be solid.neil: OK, so then we have to talk about that world-beating offense from last year, which scored 12 percent more runs per game than any other AL team. They’re losing Big Papi, but is that enough reason to think they won’t go crazy again?dszymborski: Losing Ortiz’s 2016 production is a pretty big deal. Now, they’d likely have lost a lot of that even if he returned, but you can’t lose 600 PAs of an OPS over 1.000, bring in Mitch Moreland and expect there to be no consequences.Top prospect Andrew Benintendi helps, but there aren’t a lot of players on the offense you expect to do better than they did in 2016. They’ll still be an excellent offense, of course — I just don’t see them with a 100-run lead on the rest of the league.emmaspan: Agree that they’ll feel the loss — Ortiz had the best final season of all time. But they should still be good. That outfield is so talented and so young, it’s nuts.dszymborski: I hope their choreographed dances become more and more complex.neil: It seems likely that Boston will become the East’s first repeat winner since 2012. But how do they stop what happened against Cleveland in the playoffs from thwarting them again? (For what it’s worth, they’re still behind the Indians in terms of AL pennant odds, according to both Vegas and FanGraphs.)dszymborski: Boring answer: Just win the games.emmaspan: They’re set up as well as anyone to beat the Indians, but I don’t know that there’s anything you can do to have better luck in a seven-game series. Just make sure you get there and hope for the best.neil: OK. Now let’s shift focus to the Blue Jays, who seem like a team in a weird place. They had the oldest team in MLB in 2016, and they lost the ALCS in back-to-back seasons — do they have a chance to finally get over the hump this year, or is this window closing fast?dszymborski: Window’s closing, but I don’t think this is the year it shuts. Departed DH Edwin Encarnacion was good, but just how good he was can be overstated a bit.neil: But he was better than, say, Kendrys Morales, right?dszymborski: Sure. But it’s not like they’re losing Josh Donaldson. It’s maybe two wins.emmaspan: It’s taking me a while to adjust to this new reality where 40 HRs aren’t as valuable as I’m used to thinking they are.dszymborski: Watch the ball suddenly be dead this year.emmaspan: I still think the Jays have an edge on the non-Boston AL East teams, but last year I thought they were World Series contenders and I’m not sure I see it this year. That said, their pitching was even better than I expected it to be.dszymborski: They got nothing from the bench last year, and Troy Tulowitzki has some upside left. And there are reasons for optimism in their pitching. Not that they’re likely to win the AL East, but 85 to 88 wins or so is a real contender for a playoff spot.neil: Let’s talk about that rotation … It still looks deep on paper, though they’ve also relied on the second-most innings pitched from starters of any team over the past 2 seasons.emmaspan: I worry a little bit about Marcus Stroman’s jump to 200 innings last year.dszymborski: I think expecting fewer innings from Stroman can be balanced somewhat by him pitching a bit better. And I’m cautiously optimistic about Francisco Liriano. He really dropped that walk rate going back to the AL last year, and that kind of thing tends to stabilize very quickly.emmaspan: And Aaron Sanchez was legit in his first season as a full-time starter. Killer sinker, still just 24 years old.neil: Toronto might need all of your collective optimism on the pitching front, because the offense doesn’t seem as high-octane as we might expect from the names on the lineup card. They finished 8th in the AL in OPS+ last year, and that was with Donaldson continuing to play at near-MVP levels.emmaspan: I think Jose Bautista will be better this year, assuming he stays healthy. His injury last year cost him a TON of money.neil: Bautista seems kind of emblematic of this whole lineup: “Gosh, I really hope this over-30 hitter can post huge numbers! Otherwise we might be in trouble.”dszymborski: At least the idea isn’t that deluded. Bautista has a reasonable shot to hit better than he did last year. If that doesn’t happen, Toronto’s window could slam shut surprisingly quickly.emmaspan: Thirty-year-old Donaldson was as good as ever last year, too. But I agree they’re not as deep as the Red Sox, plus they’re older, so there’s less room for error. And I don’t know what Tulo has left. But if he were to put up a vintage season, they’re a whole different team.dszymborski: Yeah, if Joey Bats, Morales, Tulo, etc., don’t bounce back, the ceiling on this team comes down hard. Yet that same group is a source of upside that could make them surprise us and be a 94-win team or something.neil: Let’s move on to the Rays, who are a surprising third in the projections. There’s probably reason for more optimism than last year’s 68-win record would suggest: They deserved 77 wins according to Pythagoras, and they had bad cluster luck, too. But they also have a history of underperforming these kinds of projections. Do we trust that last year was a fluky down year, or is Tampa Bay overrated by the numbers?dszymborski: ZiPS is positive. They do have considerable upside on their team and some ready young pitching. PECOTA wasn’t wrong in liking the Rays last year — maybe just a year or two ahead of things.emmaspan: For me, the rest of this division is pretty much a clump of mediocrity. I wouldn’t be surprised at any order of finish between the Rays, Yankees and O’s.dszymborski: There’s no actual bad team in this division.emmaspan: The Rays’ pitching should be good, but it would probably help to have more than two good hitters.neil: Yeah, in that lineup they’ve got Kevin Kiermaier, Evan Longoria and … what else, exactly? Brad Miller? A bounce-back year from Matt Duffy?dszymborski: They have real offensive problems at the traditional offense-heavy spots. That’s going to put a limit on just how many runs they can score. And to really hit their upside as a team, they’re going to have to at least have a good offense, because the pitching is unlikely to be able to carry the team that high singlehandedly.emmaspan: That was a very nice way of saying “Logan Morrison is their first baseman,” Dan.dszymborski: Morrison, Steven Souza, Corey Dickerson and Colby Rasmus are just an uninspiring group to have on the offensive side of the defensive spectrum.neil: Maybe the bigger thing for the Rays is that the hallmarks of the Andrew Friedman/Joe Maddon era are eroding. They used to have MLB’s best defense; now it’s just average. And 2016 saw their fewest homegrown WAR since 2006. That’s tough when you also have the lowest payroll in MLB.emmaspan: The scout Sports Illustrated talked to for its preview issue was extreeeeeemely down on Tampa: “The Rays are like a mini-Baltimore, but without the closer and their bullpen is dreadful.” “They’re going to have to pitch their brains out.” “Let’s put it this way — they’re counting on Colby Rasmus.”I’m not as down on them as he was, but it’s tough for me to see them challenging Boston or Toronto.neil: Is time running out for Chris Archer to deliver on his superstar potential? He was supposed to break out last year, but just ended up being average.dszymborski: I think Archer has delivered in the past, even if he didn’t become a Cy Young candidate. Short of an arm issue or something, I’m optimistic on him.emmaspan: Archer lost 19 games last year, but it’s like the old saying goes: You have to be a pretty good pitcher to lose 20 games.dszymborski: Mike Maroth’s going to love this chat.neil: So let’s talk about the Yankees next. It still feels odd to have them fourth in the pecking order, even though that’s where they finished last year. In fact, their 84 wins last year meant that 2016 was tied for the worst Yankees season since 1992 — and that was with 5 wins of Pythagorean luck tacked on.dszymborski: They have more young players on offense than the Blue Jays, but there’s still that reliance on older players bouncing back from off years.neil: And they’ve lost a number of veteran hitters from a team that already had the second-worst OPS+ in the AL. (On the other hand, hot-hitting young catcher Gary Sanchez will be in the lineup for a full season.)dszymborski: I think the offense will be better than that, but they’re likely getting declines from outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, and anything they get from Matt Holliday should be gravy.emmaspan: I’ll say this: The Yankees were a younger, better, more interesting team by the end of last year than they were at the start of it. I think they’ll have some growing pains with some of these young players (I probably have them in a virtual tie for third with the Orioles), but they should be a lot more fun to watch than they have been in a while.dszymborski: In the end, they’ll score a decent number of runs. The big downside is that rotation, which could come apart very easily.emmaspan: CC Sabathia gave them 180 decent innings last year. Without him, I think it would have fallen apart.neil: Yeah, the rotation held up reasonably well last season, but you can see the danger lurking.Is this a year where the Yankees are close enough to contending that they can’t afford to experiment, or is it a bridge to the future (with that great farm system), where you just say, “Why not try things and see what happens?”emmaspan: A lot has to go wrong in Boston for the Yankees to have a prayer at the division, but that second wild card makes it really hard to punt on even a mediocre season.I think when the Yankees became sellers last year, though, it was an acknowledgment that they need to hit the reset button. (I mean, as much as the Yankees ever can.)neil: It was telling that 2016 was the first time that the average age of the Yankees’ roster was under 30 since 1993 — and they’ll be even younger in 2017.dszymborski:
More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Embed Code FiveThirtyEight Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s episode (Aug. 15, 2017), we discuss how the NFL responds to players’ behavior off the field in light of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Next, FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur joins the gang to discuss his recent article on baseball’s hot hand. Using a new calculation on fastball velocity, Rob worked out a way to determine when a pitcher is really getting hot — and when he’s going cold, too. We discuss the implications that his findings could have on our understanding of momentum in other sports. Plus, a significant digit on baseball’s long (and getting longer) games.Here are links to what we discuss during the show:Rob Arthur’s latest, which found that baseball’s hot hand is real.This 2012 MIT study on big plays and psychological momentum in the NFL.Significant Digit: 5, the average number of minutes that MLB games have increased since last year. The average game this season has been three hours and five minutes long, the longest in the history of baseball. This is happening despite Commissioner Rob Manfred’s efforts to cut game length.
OSU junior left fielder Ronnie Dawson (4) takes a swing during a game against Coastal Carolina on Feb. 27 in Conway, South Carolina. Credit: Courtesy of OSUThe Ohio State baseball team (6-4-1) is heading to Las Vegas to test its odds against the UNLV Rebels (5-6) for a four-game series that will stretch from Friday to Tuesday. Predicting the outcome of the Buckeyes baseball season thus far has been a gamble. The Scarlet and Gray have cooled off since their undefeated 3-0-1 start to the season, going 3-4 over the last two weekends. To get back on a hot streak, OSU coach Greg Beals said the team will be focused on the task at hand, which is taking on UNLV.“We’ve just gotta go take care of business, and our guys need to understand they’re going to Sin City, but it’s a business trip for us,” Beals said. “Las Vegas is going to be there for a long time, (but) their window of opportunity representing Ohio State is here right now, and they need to make sure they take care of that.” Scouting UNLVLady Luck hasn’t been on the Rebels side so far this season, as the team’s batting average has been a lackluster .223. However, the Buckeye pitchers will have to be careful when throwing to sophomore left fielder Payton Squier. The Phoenix native powers the club with his .429 batting average. The UNLV pitching staff is led by junior starting pitcher D.J. Myers. The 6-foot-5 righty from Henderson, Nevada, leads the team with 20 strikeouts in just 16 innings of work. Beals said UNLV has faced some tough competition versus Texas, West Virginia and San Diego State to open the season, justifying UNLV’s record. OSU’s sixth-year coach said he sees UNLV’s talent despite the losses, but he wants his team to focus on what they can control: themselves.“The biggest thing for me is that I’m focused on Ohio State, and we need to take care of ourselves and focus on what we do,” Beals said. “The talent on our baseball team is good enough to play with everybody. We need to play up to that expectation level.”Cleaning up the errorsOSU fell in a close game to Illinois State last weekend 5-4 due to an untimely error by senior infielder Nick Sergakis. Sergakis has been an offensive catalyst for the team, batting a team-high .378 on the year. But OSU’s co-captain has also been the biggest liability on the defensive side, committing a team-leading nine fielding errors in 10 games. In total, OSU has 22 fielding errors, something Beals said needs cleaned up if his team wants to be ready for conference play, which opens two weeks from Friday against Northwestern.“When we play good defense, we’re winning baseball games,” Beals said. “When we play a cleaner game we’re winning those games. We’ve got to shore up the defense. The defense should be there on a daily basis.”Pitching inconsistencies hurting BuckeyesThroughout the course of the season, OSU’s pitching staff has had an up-and-down start. Other than junior starter Tanner Tully (2-0, 2.70 ERA), redshirt sophomore Yianni Pavlopoulos (1-0, two saves) and redshirt sophomore Austin Woodby (2-0), the Buckeye pitching staff as a collective unit hasn’t lived up to its own expectations. Beals said looking at the stats doesn’t show the whole picture, though,and he likes the way his pitchers have played to this point; but the key for improvement is going to have to come from a consistently solid defense behind the pitchers. One pitcher who is looking to step up for the Buckeyes is redshirt senior reliever Michael Horejsei. He said the pitching staff will face a great test from UNLV during the four-game series, and each guy has to be ready when his number is called upon. “We have to come in and do our job and our job is, like we reiterate every day, to attack the bottom of the zone and go after hitters,” he said. “Don’t shy away from them and try to get in on them. Force them to swing and let your defense play behind you if they put a good swing on the ball.” OSU battling the injury bugBeals said the Buckeyes’ power hitter, redshirt junior Jacob Bosiokovic, is dealing with a hamstring injury that has the right fielder listed as doubtful for the series against UNLV. With one of its biggest bats out of the lineup, OSU will look to senior outfielder Daulton Mosbarger to take Bosiokovic’s spot in the lineup. But the senior transfer from Akron said he knows it’s a near-impossible request to come in and match Bosiokovic’s production thus far.“Obviously, Bosi is going to be Bosi, I can’t be Bosi,” Mosbarger said. “I’ve gotta just be me. I can go out there, I’m not going to hit the ball 500 feet like he is, but I can get on base, I can produce for the team, and I can just do anything it takes to win.” The Buckeyes appear to be focused and will be looking to cash in with a good team performance against the Rebels. “It’s a business trip, though, it’s not a vacation,” Horejsei said. “It might be spring break for us with school, but we’re heading there for a four-game series against a very tough opponent. They came here last year and they competed against us and gave us everything they had and took two of three from us. So this year, our goal is now to go in and win the series against them. It’s our turn to go to their home turf and take it to them, as we always try to do.”The first pitch on Friday is scheduled to be thrown at 9:05 p.m.After the four-game series in Las Vegas, the Buckeyes are slated to play their first game at Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus in a three-game weekend against Hofstra from March 18 to 20.
Less than a month after the only coach in the history of Ohio State women’s hockey, Jackie Barto, resigned, the Buckeyes found a new coach. OSU hired Nate Handrahan to replace Barto. Handrahan coached the Colonials at Robert Morris University for the past five seasons. In the 2009–10 season, his Colonials defeated the eventual national champion Minnesota Duluth hockey squad. Later in the season, they defeated Wisconsin, which was the defending national champion at the time. Handrahan, who turns 34 next Wednesday, played collegiate hockey at Niagara University. The Buckeyes finished 14-17-3 overall, 8-17-3-3 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, last year. They finished sixth in the WCHA standings last season before falling to Minnesota in the first round of the WCHA Playoffs
Ohio State senior tennis player Miko Kowase is the all-time winningest singles player in program history. Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsFor the first time in Ohio State women’s tennis history, a pair of Buckeye players will return to Columbus with an NCAA doubles championship.Sophomore Francesca Di Lorenzo and senior Miho Kowase — the all-time winningest player in OSU women’s tennis history — bested Alabama freshman Maddie Pothoff and senior Erin Routliffe on Monday, splitting the first two sets 6-7 and 6-4 before winning the super-tiebreaker, 10-7.Francesca and Miho take the breaker 10-7 and win the NCAA Doubles National Championship!! #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/4GCDaXjgNi— Ohio State Women’s Tennis (@OhioStateWTEN) May 29, 2017The first set came down to the wire, with both pairs tied at six games apiece. Each team traded points in the tiebreaker, until eventually the Crimson Tide pair was able to win two straight, winning the tiebreak 7-5 and sealing the first set with a 7-6 victory.The Buckeyes seemed to set the tone from the start of the second set, shutting out their opponent with four straight points to win the first game on break, and winning their serve in the next game. But the Crimson Tide pair won their second game serving, and added a break back to even the set at 2-2.After Alabama took a 3-2 lead, the Buckeyes went on a three-game win streak, tallying two wins while serving and one on break. The Scarlet and Gray pair lost one more game in the set, but were able to seal a 6-4 victory.Now heading to a super-tiebreaker, Di Lorenzo and Kowase needed at least 10 points and a margin of victory of at least two to win the match. The pair jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, and though the Crimson Tide duo fought back to keep it close, the Buckeyes were able to lock up the 10-7 win over Routliffe and Pothoff.