--Can someone explain to me why Olympic Hoops uses the ball from the velcro paddle game George Costanza bought for the Father-Son Picnic? I find it very disconcerting not to mention making me wonder what Jerry Stiller did with all that potato salad...

 

 

--Professional baseball throughout it's history has been known for it's obsession with keeping records. In the pre-Internet era the hardbound edition of The Baseball Encyclopedia was a Michener-esque tome that Consumer Reports once ranked second behind Terminix Glue Traps among rodent eradicating products and used so much paper that just fanning it's pages was enough to cause Joyce Kilmer to weep instantly. So it's a testament to just how bad the Houston Astros are that the Yahoo pitching box score for their July 27th game looked like this:

HOUSTON

J.Lyles            6.0    7    4    0    8

F. Rodriguez    1.0    0    0    0    1

W. Lopez        0.0     1    0    0    0

UNKNOWN     0.0     0    0     0    0

W. Wright      1.1    0     0     0    0

See it here http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/boxscore;_ylt=AnD9ZMpNli9U_VPri2Ci70f2Qe1_;_ylu=X3oDMTFobHF0ZjJoBG1pdANNYXRjaCBIZWFkZXIEcG9zAzUEc2VjA01lZGlhTW9kdWxlTWF0Y2hIZWFkZXI-;_ylg=X3oDMTMyaXBjZjEyBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDNzI0YjRjNzAtZGUxNy0zMWM3LTk2MmUtZjU3NmUyNDAzNmRmBHBzdGNhdANtbGJ8bmV3c3xyZWNhcHMEcHQDc3RvcnlwYWdl;_ylv=3?gid=320727118

 

Nice relief work by Wesley Wright in bailing out The Unknown Pitcher who may or not have pitched with a paper bag over his head (there were so many dressed like this in the stands it was hard to tell). Or perhaps it was the ghost of Robin's brother Larry Yount, the only pitcher to make the Baseball Encyclopedia despite never facing a batter. Having been called in from the Astros pen in 1971 then injured while warming up and taken out in his only MLB appearance. Guess this is why the 'Stros went 3-24 in the month of July...but, hey, they move to the American League next year so that should make everything better...no?

 

--RIP to Norman Sas inventor of Electric Football. I've broken out my old set and have a Defensive Tackle continously running in circles in his honor.

 

Many a precocious youth's first introduction to disappointment...

 

--And in answer to reader wwritt13: I get it Larry Hagman of the new Dallas TV show, you're old, apathetic and have out-lived your dick as Willie Nelson so eloquently put it on his 75th Birthday (see http://www.datehookup.com/Blog-596094.htm), but when you begin to look like Ox Baker on the ESPN Classics Presents AWA Wrestling reruns it may be time for a little "man-scaping"...

 

This girl, on the other hand, never disappoints...wonder what that feels like?

 

--And in one last MLB note...Sometimes attacking things simply and straight-forward is the way to go. For example when my Grandmother used to say, "you're in you're 30s when are you going to get married?" I would shoot back, "you're in your 80s when're you gonna break a hip?" End of conversation...end of inheritance too, but there was bound to be collateral damage.

 

    The rise of Sabermetrics in baseball has given us an incalculable amount of inscrutable numbers from WARP to FIP to BABIP, but perhaps the best judge of team success is among the simplest, the Pythagorean Theorem of W/L from the earliest days of the seminal Bill James Abstracts.

 

    Without getting into particulars PYTHAG W/L boils down to the idea that the best run differential belongs to the best teams. In football this can be skewed over a short schedule by blowouts, but in the 162 game seasons of the MLB it is remarkably accurate. Since 2009 of the 18 Division winners only one did not have the best run differential and that was Tampa Bay in 2010 which finished one game ahead of the Yankees who had the best figure in the AL East.

 

    So now that we're about 75% through the season are there any teams that should be rising or falling based on PYTHAG? Yes, the St. Louis Cardinals have the best run differential in all of baseball at +101, but are currently not even in the Double WC mix let alone leading their division (PYTHAG leaders are in first in 4 of 6 divisions; Arizona is the other non-1st place leader). The interesting thing about the Cards is not just that they lead the NL Central in run difference, but that they do so by a wide margin- 30 runs better than Cincinnati and a whopping 69 runs better than Pittsburgh who is holding down the #5 WC. The Red Birds play the Reds 3 times and the Buccos 6 in the next two and a half weeks so if your an investing type you may wanna buy a few shares in St. Louie especially if Adam Wainwright, who is rounding into form with 3 wins and 5 Quality Starts in his last 5 outings after a season lost to Tommy John surgery, takes the hill.

 

    On the other hand you may want to short sell the Baltimore Orioles who have managed to hang in the AL East and WC race despite a negative run differential over most of the year. They currently stand at -49 and with matchups against the Tigers, Rangers, White Sox and Yankees to close out August they could be ready collapse like the plot of 70s porn film. Other risers include the aforementioned D-Backs and Boston who is +41 yet 2 games under .500 while the Dodgers (+17, 9 games over .500) could be taking the plunge. Happy wagering!

 

FANTASY 4-PACK

Here's some quick-hitters to illuminate the Fantasy Football landscape and possibly direct your Draft Day designs...

 

1. According to a recent perusal of Yahoo Fantasy Sports cheatsheets both Julio Jones and Roddy White rank among the Top 10 Fantasy receivers, but teammate Matt Ryan checks in at #12 among QBs, a fact harder to reconcile than Jim Belushi/Kevin James married to Courtney Thorne-Smith/Leah Remini on According To Jim and King of Queens respectively. Toss in Tony Gonzalez as a Top 10 TE and it's even more confusing.

 

   So, we mused (cause that's what we do), have teammates ever both finished Top 10 in WR fantasy points recently? And if so how did their QB fare? Research shows this happening only twice since 2007. In 2008 when Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin came in at #s 1/9 and their QB Kurt Warner finished #4 despite Ben Patrick finishing TE64 on only 10 receptions...and 2007 when Chad Johnson/T.J. Houshmanzadeh came in at WR6/7 (TE49) and Carson Palmer was QB9. Here's other near misses along these lines:

 

2007 New England    WR1/11 (TE13)    Tom Brady QB1

2008 Houston             WR2/19 (TE6)      Schaub/Rosenfels QB8 (combined)

2009 New England     WR2/12 (TE19)    Tom Brady QB8

2011 Green Bay          WR2/18 (TE5)      Aaron Rodgers QB2

2011 NYGiants           WR4/12 (TE17)    Eli Manning QB6

 

    Every QB comes up Top 10 and all met or exceeded their ADP with the possible exception of Brady, coming off his injury, in 2009 who was still only 16 points from ending up in the Top 3. Additionally, with the exception of Rodgers, these QBs would have trouble jumping on top of the Saturday paper so their numbers are not skewed by an ability to run for big points.

 

    Looking at 2012 we don't see Ryan competing with the Big 3 of Rodgers/Brees/Brady, but there's no reason he can't hang with Detroit's fragile feline Matthew Stafford or Cam Newton (more later) who are coming off the board 3-5 rounds earlier. With White, Jones, Gonzalez and an expanded role for scatback Jacquizz Rodgers Ryan has a deep and dangerous receiving crew all directed by new OC Dirk Koetter. Though Koetter's pass happy tendencies were muted in Jacksonville by a conservative HC (Jack Del Rio) and an attack built around RB Maurice Jones-Drew he was previously famous for turning Boise, Idaho from a testicle-shrinking tundra in the middle of nowhere to a testicle-shrinking tundra with a big-time football program by introducing the spread offense to Boise State. Matt Ryan has ranked QB8 in fantasy points in both '10 and '11 and now with a new commitment to the pass game and four potential Divisional shootouts with New Orleans and Carolina on the slate there's no reason he can't slip into the Top 5 this year...and at a very reasonable cost.

 

It's just so nice to have Football back...

 

2. Though we still give kids round-end scissors in class these days the ubiquity of the electronic pencil sharpener in classrooms has allowed them to grind their writing utensils to a razor's point that could be used to dress a deer. Of course doing so is completely unnecessary and represents the kind of overkill that is usually reserved for machine-gun shooting movie mobsters and the Carolina Panthers backfield...but, hey, it's a lotta fun and better than listening to me so why not?

 

    But in drunkenly staggering back to our football theme we should point out that Carolina began their ball-carrying backlog in 2008 when despite having a mediocre defense and a 33 year old QB they decided to double their pig-toting pleasure by drafting Jonathan Stewart with the 13th pick even though they already sported 25 YO stud and former 1st rounder DeAngelo Williams to carry the ground game. Now four years later after the neglected D and QB position got John Fox fired the Cats seem to be up to their old tricks by adding a 3rd wheel to the Williams/Stewart coupling with the signing of Mike Tolbert.

 

    But the signing of Tolbert might suggest something bigger than just more frustration for De and Johnny owners and a potential reality gig on "Halfback Hoarders". The Williams/Stewart "Any Roster You Can Screw Up I Can Screw Up Better" act has already caused them to slide precipitiously down draftboards. Instead as a fullback and well-established battering ram the biggest fantasy trouble Tolbert may present is for Cam Newton.

 

    You see running for 14 TDs is nice, but it's also dangerous and with inveterate interception machine Derek Anderson as backup it's in HC Ron Rivera's best interest to keep the Camster in one piece. Newton will still get his scrambling yards and occasional TD, but with Tolbert leading the way or handling the ball himself there'll be less need for Cameron to risk limb and ligament on sneaks, bootlegs and options around the goal line. So if we conservatively turn 4 rush TDs and 200 rush yards from Newton into pass TDs and pass yards he goes from the bottom end of Tier 1 QBs for 2011(Rodgers/Brady/Brees/Stafford) to the top end of Tier 2 QBs(E.Manning/Ryan/Romo/Rivers).

 

    Currently Newton is coming off the board at the beginning or mid-2nd round and any owner that grabbed him off of waivers last year may be inclined to try to snag him even earlier. While conversely most of the Tier 2 QBs from above are going in Rounds 4-6.

 

    Cam Newton is still a Fantasy stud with tons of upside potential, but even moderate regression could see him underperforming his ADP and if Tolbert, as we assume, muddies the goalline picture owners could end up overpaying in a big way.

Now that's a Fantasy Show I can get behind...or on top of...or...

 

3. Sure in 2011 Peyton Hillis burned Fantasy owners like attendees at a Tony Robbins Fire Walk, but does his trade to Kansas City and Romeo Crennel's announcement that he plans to run the ball 500+ times put him back on the Fantasy radar? And what about Jamal Charles for that matter? Is there value in the confusing K.C. backfield?

 

    First let's look at the 500+ carry claim. Crennel is a defensive guy who would probably like to go conservative and with a QB in Matt Cassell who's Sunday afternoons generally feature more incompletes than D-Day's transcripts in Animal House who can blame. The new OC here is run-centric Brian Daboll who presided over Hillis' RB2 effort in 2010 and coaxed an RB13 out of enigmatic Reggie Bush last year in Miami. So the commitment is there, but is that enough?

 

    In the last 3 years 10 teams have produced 500 rush attempts in a season with varying results. Five backs in these offenses have produced Top 10 finishes including Charles himself at #4 in 2010, but in 4 other cases this over-emphasis on the run has led to a committee approach which has hampered otherwise Top 10 backs, most notably in the aforementioned case of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in Carolina.

 

    Ultimately the evidence leans to the expected side of RBs benefitting from the extra emphasis on the rush. Arian Foster turned up #4 last year in only 13 games, Darren McFadden was #6 in 2010 in a similiar number of outings, Thomas Jones at 31 YO was #6 in 2009 and Ricky Williams came up #7 in 2009 despite a timeshare with Ronnie Brown in Miami all on 500+ run teams. Even Williams/Stewart came in #14/11 respectively in 2009 with DeAngelo a certain Top 10er before missing the last 2+ games of the season.

 

    In fact the reason we bring this up at all is because the prescence of Hillis and Charles' 2011 ACL tear may be creating value. Currently Jamaal ranks anywhere from 5 to 27 on the most popular sites. After Week3 of the preseason this will no doubt tighten up and if healthy expect him to come in in the second Tier of backs between RB8-12. With his pass catching ability (40+ receptions in 2010) and breakaway potential he could be a great compliment in the late second, early third round for an owner who goes AaronRodgers/Calvin Johnson in Round 1.

 

4. INJURIES & SUCH: Ryan Matthews backup is Ronnie Brown, so nothing to see here. Jackie Battle who had 600 yds/2 TDs for K.C. last year is a better flyer, but he and 4th stringer Curtis Brinkley are undrafted Free Agents so expect Matthews timetable for return to be accelerated. Yahoo has already dropped him to RB11 so monitor the top Fantasy sites like Rotoworld to perhaps get a workhorse back bargain on Draft Day...WR Greg Jennings is sidelined with a concussion that HC McCarthy is calling "no big deal"-yeah, that's what they said when infomercial-ist Billy Mays got hit in the head with his luggage. With the mysterious death of Junior Seau and commentators as varied as George Will commenting on this problem be wary of players with concussion histories like Austin Collie and Jahvid Best or risk winding up in "Questionable" Hell every week...If Jennings is out for any time keep the forgotten James Jones on waiver speed dial. He's been passed by Randall Cobb in most folks mind, but not on the official Packer Depth Chart. He's erratic and drop prone, but any receiver that sees the field in that offense is woth a claim...QB battle is on in Arizona, but what you really need to know is Larry Fitzgerald had 6 double digit fantasy point games under John Skelton, only 3 with weak-armed Kevin Kolb in 2011. Neither choice is great, but Skelton probably gives Fitz more upside...RB Roy Helu is out with Achilles tendinitis in Washington. Like Cam Newton's debut in Carolina if this offense moves at all it will be through the legs and arm of RG3 so don't overpay no matter who wins the job (Helu, Royster, Hightower) in Hogland.

 

More Fantasy 4 Packs in the coming days...no, seriously we'll be back on Thurdsay/Friday so don't be a stranger. And, hey, if youclick on some the advertisements, I mean, who gets hurt there. Thank you and now to the Liquor Store...

And finally, by request, more Jordan Carver...