July 28, 2014

While We’re Waiting… Kyrie’s Big Night, The Browns’ Home Finale, a Look at Lineup Construction

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

Kyrie Irving is a beast. “The Knicks are the East’s best team at the moment but were playing without Anthony, who has an ankle injury. This meant Irving was the best man on the floor. Had the game gone to overtime, the Cavs and Irving had the advantage. This is why many believe that within a year or so, Irving will be considered one of the league’s 10 best players. Already, he appears to be the best guard to enter the NBA since Derrick Rose.

The Cavs were down eight points with three minutes remaining, playing their fourth game in five nights. Irving didn’t arrive in New York until late afternoon Saturday because he had to wait to be fitted for a mask after cracking his jaw. He was playing on four hours’ sleep. And in those last three minutes, he had 10 points, two assists and a steal. He did it with the sort of All-Star aplomb that usually is reserved for polished veterans.

“It was incredible,” Knicks guard Jason Kidd said. “He was so under control, he never forces anything. None of his points were in a hurry or from taking bad shots. He’s the future.”

This was no fluke. Last season, Irving was far and away the league’s best performer in so-called “clutch” situations. In the last five minutes with the score within five points, Irving was the NBA’s leading scorer, shot 55 percent from the field, 67 percent from 3, 89 percent at the line. He turned 20 in March.” [Brian Windhorst/ESPN].

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I would very much prefer this to not be Phil Dawson’s last home game at Cleveland Browns Stadium. “Several players could be playing their last home game in a Browns uniform on Sunday, none more noteworthy than kicker Phil Dawson and special teams star Joshua Cribbs.

Other players whose contracts are set to expire include cornerback Sheldon Brown, linebacker Scott Fujita (injured reserve), tight end Benjamin Watson, tight end Alex Smith, wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, linebacker Kaluka Maiava, defensive end Juqua Parker, safety Ray Ventrone, punter Reggie Hodges, running back Brandon Jackson and defensive back Dimitri Patterson.

Dawson wants to return to the Browns for a 15th season, but whether that happens depends on CEO Joe Banner and Dawson’s agent, Neil Cornrich, coming to an agreement. Dawson was the Browns’ franchise player in 2011 and 2012. He will not be their franchise player in 2013. For that to happen, Dawson would have to be paid the average salary of the top five highest-paid players in the league in 2012 regardless of position. That works out to roughly $14 million.” [Jeff Schudel/News Herald].

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 An interesting read about “The Book” on lineup construction. “In “The Book” many time-honored beliefs about the game are rigorously studied from a statistical standpoint. One such study is related to the oft-debated topic of lineup construction. The basic question is simple: given a set of nine players with varying skills, what is the optimal way to order them in order to score the most runs over the course of a season?

The basic premise of the study is to analyze how often a certain position in the batting order gets up to bat and when that position does get up to bat, what is the frequency and type of base-runner/out combination that they inherit? Given those scenarios, certain offensive outcomes (walk, single, double, fly ball, home run, etc) are worth more than they might be in other situations. The final layer is obvious, but needs to be stated: the #1 hitter gets up to bat more than the #2 hitter. The #2 hitter gets to hit more if the #1 hitter makes fewer outs (read: gets on-base more). So on and so on down the lineup….

Intuitively, we know the above is true. Lineups matter because a batter who hits 20 homers over a season in the #9 spot is less likely to have multi-run home runs than someone who hits 20 homers out of the #3 spot. The same way that a guy who hits .300 and gets on base 40% of the time but never hits a home run is really valuable as a leadoff hitter, but will be less effective as a cleanup hitter than someone who hits lots of doubles and home runs.” [Charlie Adams/Indians Prospect Insider].

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The top Indians prospects are….1) Trevor Bauer, RHP, Grade A-: He needs to improve his control, thus the slight ding in his grade from last year, but I still see him as an elite prospect who can be a number one starter. He has little left to prove in the minors, and my thinking is that he’s bright and motivated enough to outgrow any personality conflicts.

2) Francisco Lindor, SS, Grade A-: Outstanding defensive shortstop with solid on-base abilities. If his bat develops further, he’ll end up a straight A.

3) Dorssys Paulino, SS, Grade B: You can make a B+ case and his ceiling is very high. Turned out to have more power than expected, hitting well at age 17 in rookie ball, though long-term position is in question with Lindor around.” [John Sickels/SBNation].

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Hey a list of NBA trade candidates, I wonder if Ander-yup, there he is. “We shared with you in a recent Weekend Dime how one Eastern Conference team official routinely refers to Varejao’s run of double-doubles this season as the Brazilian’s “Get Me Out of Cleveland” tour.

Various teams have chimed in since to say that Varejao is highly available, as he has been for the past few seasons, but likewise expressed a good amount of skepticism about his actually moving before the trade buzzer in February because the Cavs’ perpetually high asking price has only gone up.

The Cavs, sources say, want multiple young assets in return for the 30-year-old, who is averaging 14.3 points and 14.8 rebounds and possesses a very manageable contract that calls for Varejao to receive $9.1 million next season with a $9.8 million team option in 2014-15. The Thunder are the rare title contender also blessed with the sort of youth/stashed draft picks to appeal to Cleveland, but sources say OKC has shown little interest to date.

We repeat: Varejao certainly hasn’t been campaigning for a trade and has established an undeniable on-court connection with Cavs franchise Kyrie Irving. Keeping him wouldn’t be the worst outcome, would it? As with Gasol, though, Varejao trade scenarios will continue to circulate — and not just thanks to media scoundrels like me — until the day he finally leaves Cleveland.” [Marc Stein/ESPN]