September 2019

The Return of MLBs Youth

In 2013, about 28 percent of all Wins Above Replacement were created by the under-25 set. That was the ninth-largest share for any season since 1976. Output from youngsters has been on the upswing since the mid-to-late 1990s, when the percentage of WAR from young players hit its nadir. That nadir happened to occur at the height of baseball’s so-called steroid era.Further research is needed on the subject, but recent work on aging curves in the post-PED (performance enhancing drug) period suggests that today’s players are better earlier in their careers, and then decline much sooner and more sharply.Given that, it’s no surprise to see the game’s fresh faces producing a larger share of wins. A few years ago, Bill James — baseball writer and pagan god of sabermetrics — was asked whether baseball was in the midst of a golden age of great young stars. James created a “young talent inventory” (pay-walled), a somewhat elaborate methodology to measure whether runs were being created or saved by players aged 25 or younger.I’m not going to delve into so intricate a technique. But I like the 25-or-under cut-off (as do other prospect-watchers), so I decided to add up the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) produced by players in that age range for every season going back to 1976, the dawn of the free-agency/arbitration era. (Before then, player movement was far more restricted than it is now.)What proportion of total WAR in all of Major League Baseball has been generated by young players? read more

FiveThirtyEights 201516 NBA Forecast

The East is still the inferior conference — the average NBA team would stand to gain about two extra wins by moving from West to East. How much is two wins worth? It’s nothing to sneeze at, but it also isn’t going to make or break a team’s fortunes. The top-ranked Cleveland Cavaliers, for instance, would still be projected to win more than 60 games if they were given the schedule of a typical Western Conference team.Then again, the Cavs have a rare stockpile of talent by the standards of the East — we think they’re far and away the best team in the conference. That’s not exactly a bold prediction; perhaps more interesting is the No. 2 ranking CARMELO bestows on the Boston Celtics, who finished last season with the eighth seed in the East. Boston’s scoring attack wasn’t very good last year, but CARMELO thinks the team’s turnaround will be fueled by major improvements on the offensive end.As for the rest of the conference, the Atlanta Hawks’ projected decline — from 60 to 46 wins — might surprise their fans, but because many of last season’s stars are expected to regress to the mean, CARMELO thinks they’ll take equal steps backward on offense and defense. Along the same lines, the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets are projected to fall out of the playoffs (particularly Brooklyn, who we project to be in the East’s cellar), while CARMELO calls for the Charlotte Hornets to ascend to the postseason after sitting it out last year.WESTERN CONFERENCE 3BullsCentral+0.115+2.04+2.147.8 7HornetsSoutheast-1.0170.017-1.039.4 10PistonsCentral+1.210-3.127-1.936.6 Here at FiveThirtyEight HQ, we’ve been pretty excited about the upcoming 2015-16 NBA season.OK, that’s a bit of an understatement.For starters, we rolled out CARMELO,1Short for, ahem, Career-Arc Regression Model Estimator with Local Optimization. our system for predicting the career of every NBA player, and we’ve been encouraging all who will listen to check out their favorite player’s projection. (Yes, our friends and families have asked us to stop.) We also used CARMELO to preview all 30 NBA teams.In each of those previews, we listed a “projected record” for the team in question to get a sense of what their fans should expect this year. But the trouble with writing these previews over such an extended amount of time is that we didn’t really get a chance to run the numbers for every team all at once. And if we had, injuries and transactions would have rendered those projections out of date by now.So to our eagle-eyed readers: Yes, we know, the projected wins for each team did not perfectly average 41-41 across the entire NBA.2They came close; on average, we were about 0.9 wins too high per team. We also didn’t adjust the numbers for strength of schedule. But we have now. Here’s an overview of each conference’s projected standings, which takes into account CARMELO’s ratings and each team’s schedule.3Our original predictions have a .996 correlation with these updated ones, so very little changed when we plugged our talent ratings into the 2015-16 NBA schedule. Unsurprisingly, the main difference came between conferences, where the same amount of generic talent in the CARMELO model will buy you more wins in the East than the West.EASTERN CONFERENCE 15NetsAtlantic-3.828-3.929-7.721.7 8JazzNorthwest+0.514+0.88+1.343.8 15LakersPacific-1.923-4.830-6.722.1 8PacersCentral-1.219-0.219-1.437.7 1CavaliersCentral+8.210.018+8.163.2 5RocketsSouthwest+4.03+0.610+4.752.6 SEEDTEAMDIVOFFNBA RKDEFNBA RKTOTWINS 13NuggetsNorthwest-4.329-0.923-5.226.3 11MagicSoutheast-1.420-0.721-2.136.1 10SunsPacific-2.624+1.96-0.738.2 In the West, the Golden State Warriors are once again our pick for No. 1 in the conference. But beneath them, there are some shake-ups: The Oklahoma City Thunder, who finished out of the playoffs last season after an incredible spate of injuries, are right back near the top of the standings, as are the new-look San Antonio Spurs. Those teams push the Los Angeles Clippers down to No. 4, highlighting just how stacked the West continues to be.CARMELO also thinks the Houston Rockets will fall from second to fifth in the conference, thanks to a declining defense. And it forecasts an extreme decline for the Portland Trail Blazers — without LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland is projected to drop from fourth in the West to 12th. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the playoff picture, our numbers call for the Dallas Mavericks to cede their No. 7 slot from a year ago to the Pelicans, while the Utah Jazz and (shockingly) the Kings battle over the conference’s eighth and final postseason berth.As mentioned above, the West figures to once again dominate the East. While the Cavaliers project as the NBA’s most talented team (by fractions of a ratings point over the Warriors), each of the next six best teams are in the West, as are six of the seven teams we project to win 50+ games. But there might be slight hope for improvement in East-West relations: CARMELO thinks the East will gain five total wins on the West, compared to last year’s split between the conferences.No matter what happens between the conferences, though, we think they’ll be represented again in the Finals by the Cavaliers and Warriors come next June.4Cleveland has a much higher probability of getting there. And we’re really looking forward to seeing how their paths potentially take them there. 12BucksCentral-3.326+0.79-2.634.4 2ThunderNorthwest+6.12+0.513+6.658.0 SEEDTEAMDIVOFFNBA RKDEFNBA RKTOTWINS 1476ersAtlantic-6.730-0.822-7.522.0 9HeatSoutheast-0.316-1.324-1.637.7 9KingsPacific-1.018+0.414-0.638.3 3SpursSouthwest+2.37+4.22+6.457.1 5RaptorsAtlantic+0.712+0.116+0.844.5 6WizardsSoutheast-1.721+1.57-0.341.0 2CelticsAtlantic+2.08+0.415+2.449.2 4HawksSoutheast+0.711+0.611+1.345.7 13KnicksAtlantic-3.527-2.926-6.424.8 1WarriorsPacific+3.05+5.01+8.161.3 4ClippersPacific+4.04+1.95+5.956.1 12Trail BlazersNorthwest-1.822+0.612-1.336.2 11MavericksSouthwest+1.49-1.925-0.638.0 7PelicansSouthwest+2.36-0.620+1.844.9 6GrizzliesSouthwest+0.613+3.13+3.750.5 14TimberwolvesNorthwest-2.625-3.128-5.724.9 read more

Justin Blackmon Finally Signs With Jaguars

Justin Blackmon is in the record books and he has not even played a game yet for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He certainly did not plan for the dubious distinction he acquired, but then who would?Blackmon became this year’s final first-round draft pick to sign a contract. The No. 5 overall will show up for his first NFL practice Tuesday after he signs a four-year deal worth $19.5 million, according to the Florida Times-Union.As it is in today’s technologically advanced times, the Jaguars announced the contract agreement with Blackmon via the team’s Twitter account.In any case, the club is ready to have the receiver with so much potential begin working on his craft with his teammates. Blackmon isn’t likely to play in the Jaguars’ first preseason game Friday against the New York Giants. New rules call for a player to have three days of non-contact work before he’s allowed to put on full pads. Starting practice Tuesday only allows for two days of non-contact work before the preseason game.Whatever the case, Blackmon will arrive with a cloud of drama hanging over him and suspect eyes because of his troubled past.The former Oklahoma State star pleaded guilty last month to drunken driving in Oklahoma. He negotiated a deal that did not included jail time.Still, it was s disturbing scenario. Blackmon was arrested in Stillwater, Okla., on June 3 and charged with aggravated DUI when he registered a .24 alcohol level, three times the legal limit. He later apologized and indicated that he would stop drinking.This arrest followed an arrest for an alcohol-related offense while at Oklahoma State, leading to speculation that the Jaguars wanted some sort of contractual protection should he run afoul of the law again.It is not clear at this time if that kind of stipulation was a sticking point in the contract negotiations. read more

Saints Coach Sean Payton to Become Free Agent

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, who is currently serving a yearlong suspension, is set to become a free agent at the end of this season after his multi-year contract extension in September 2011 was voided by the NFL within the past year according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.The extension would have kept Payton in New Orleans through the 2015 season, but a clause in the contact is the specific reason why the NFL decided to void it. The clause states that Payton could walk away from the deal if general manager Mickey Loomis was fired, suspended, or left the organization under any circumstances that were deemed to be unsatisfactory by the league.The NFL felt that the clause would have set a horrible pattern for future coaching contracts and denied the deal months before Loomis was set to serve his eight game suspension for his role in the bounty scandal.Ironically, Saints owner Tom Benson announced the extension last year which did not receive approval from the league.“I am very pleased to announce this contract extension today for Sean that will run through the 2015 season,” Benson said. “Our goal is to continue to build a tradition of winning here in New Orleans and Sean represents that tradition.”In March, Payton visited the NFL offices to appeal his suspension in connection with the bounty scandal, he then asked NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about the status of his contract extension and was informed that the contract was unacceptable, according to Schefter.Both sides attempted to resolve the matter, but were unable to in numerous attempts that date back to the beginning of this year.The NFL released a statement Sunday morning, saying it had “made no determination” on the status of Payton’s contract for next year.“All contracts between clubs and their employees must be approved by the commissioner, and we do not comment on specific terms of individual contracts,” the statement said. “Any comment regarding the matter should come from Coach Payton and the Saints.”There are some in the league office that believe Payton’s contract will be put on hold, meaning he would be the head coach in New Orleans for the 2013 season. But others believe that he will become a free agent.The struggling Dallas Cowboys are one of the teams that have risen to surface in being interested in Payton if he is a free agent. Payton served as assistant head coach from 2003 to 2005 for the Cowboys and purchased a house in the city early last year.Current Cowboys coach Jason Garret is in his second year after finishing 8-8 last year. He has been scrutinized the past couple of weeks with bad play-calling and clock management issues, which has them at 3-4 for the season.Earlier in the season Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expressed that the window of opportunity was closing on his team. The Cowboys have not made a playoff appearance since 2009, and if they do not make playoffs this season he may possibly replace Garrett with Payton. read more

Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Charged with Solicitation of Prostitution

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is being charged with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution after he was twice videotaped paying for a sex act at an illicit massage parlor, police in Florida said Friday.Jupiter police told reporters Friday that the 77-year-old Kraft hasn’t been arrested. A warrant will be issued and his attorneys will be notified. Kraft has denied wrongdoing.FILE – In this Jan. 20, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft walks on the field before the AFC Championship NFL football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)Jupiter police said details about the charges against Kraft will not be released until next week.The charge comes amid a widespread crackdown on sex trafficking in the area surrounding Palm Beach County. About 200 arrest warrants have been issued in recent days and more are expected. Police said they secretly planted undercover cameras in targeted massage parlors and videotaped the interactions between men and the female employees.In a statement, a spokesperson for Kraft said they “categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”The Patriots won the Super Bowl earlier this month in Atlanta, their sixth in the last 18 seasons.Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr said he was shocked to learn Kraft, who is worth $6 billion, was paying for sex inside a strip-mall massage parlor, the Orchids of Asia Day Spa.“We are as equally stunned as everyone else,” Kerr said.The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, which would prosecute the case, had no comment.Kraft lives in Massachusetts and has a home in the Palm Beach area. He is a frequent guest of President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club. Though a Democrat, he is friendly with Trump.Kraft’s wife Myra Hiatt died in 2011. He has been dating 39-year-old actress Ricki Noel Lander since 2012.The NFL did not immediately respond to a message Friday seeking comment.Most people charged for the first time for soliciting a prostitute in Florida are allowed to enter a diversion program, said attorney David Weinstein, a former prosecutor. Kraft would have to perform 100 hours of community service and pay to attend an educational program about the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking.Kraft, who made his initial fortune through a packaging company, was a Patriots season ticket owner when he purchased the team’s previous stadium during in 1988, then used his leverage to buy the team in 1994 for $172 million to keep if from moving to St. Louis.He hired Bill Belichick to be his coach in 2000 and the team subsequently drafted quarterback Tom Brady, launching their nearly two decades of success.Under Kraft, the Patriots have been the most successful team in pro sports, having made it to 10 Super Bowls, winning six, including this year against the Los Angeles Rams.But there also have been issues involving team actions under Belichick.In 2007, the Patriots were caught filming signals from New York Jets coaches; New England was suspected of doing so against other teams, as well, and that was confirmed later on. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell fined the Patriots $250,000 and stripped them of their 2008 first-round draft pick. Belichick was fined $500,000, the most an NFL coach ever was fined.In the 2014 AFC championship game, the team — specifically, star quarterback Tom Brady — was accused by the Indianapolis Colts of doctoring footballs.The NFL concluded that Patriots employees were involved in deflating the footballs and Brady was “at least generally aware” it was being done. After lengthy legal battles, Brady served a four-game suspension at the beginning of the 2016 season and the Patriots were fined $1 million — the heftiest for a team in league history. New England was stripped of a first-round and a fourth-round draft choice.Neither Kraft nor Belichick were implicated after the investigation. read more