April 24, 2014

April attendance, Akron arena and antagonizing alliterations… While We’re Waiting

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QUICK NOTE ON ATTENDANCE: Last night, the Indians announced an attendance of 9,311 at Progressive Field. That was seen as a good thing. That’s because Tuesday’s crowd of 8,848 was the second-lowest in stadium history. Many were outraged. But really, it’s all all right and we will all be OK.

Welcome to 2014, where the Indians are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the opening of Progressive Field as well as their 12th straight season of sub-30,000 attendance. The “honeymoon effect” of the shiny new downtown ballpark is all over. The stadium is now regarded as slightly below average in terms of age and overall look-and-feel. [Read more...]

Statistical observations following another non-playoffs Cavs season

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Cleveland Cavaliers

Remember how much fun the playoffs were? From 2005-2010, spring time basketball in Cleveland was fun and exciting. If you recall, there were chants of “Eric Snow for MVP” one year – perhaps my favorite sports memory ever – and that’s how in love we once were with playoff basketball.

If the past few days of amazing back-and-forth games showed me anything, it’s that as a fan, I yearn to be back in that position again soon. Very soon.

As a stats-minded individual, I also know that the Cavaliers haven’t had it that bad … yet. Missing the playoffs four straight seasons isn’t that rare in the NBA. Several teams are on longer droughts currently. Heck, imagine how difficult life would be out in the Western Conference.

Continuing with that stats-centric hat, here are six observations I’ve been mulling over from the conclusion of this funky #seasonofhuh. Before we get started, go check out the pieces from my WFNY colleagues Ben Cox and Andrew Schnitkey so far. Both were outstanding.

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Bourn Identity: What’s going on with the Indians center fielder?

michael bournA massive debate broke out on Twitter at the end of Friday’s disheartening 3-2 Indians defeat. This time around, it wasn’t actually about attendance.

No, it was about Michael Bourn and his eventually failed bunt attempt. After red-hot Lonnie Chisenhall started the bottom of the ninth against the Blue Jays with a double, Bourn attempted to bunt twice and failed each time. On the 0-2 pitch, he struck out with a weak swing.

Was it the right decision to bunt when the Tribe needed just one run to bring the game into extra innings? Should Bourn be bunting at all? And what does this all have to do with WAR and the changing evaluations of baseball?

It’s all wrapped together in the way we think, talk and write about Michael Bourn, a 31-year-old center fielder being paid $13.5 million this season and a guaranteed $27.5 million more through 2016. He’s back in the lineup after starting the year on the DL. What should we expect? What’s next? [Read more...]

Indians expectations, end of the Cavs season and Alex Mack … While We’re Waiting

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Indians and expectations: This post is from earlier in the week, but it’s still relevant for most Tribe fans. The Tribe Daily’s Nino Colla wrote about his blog and the team, sharing this great tidbit:

Irregularity my friends. This is baseball. The team is 6-6, this is the first actual post since the season started. Time to forget expectations and embrace the reality. No team is built to go 162-0. No team is even built to go 120-42. If they are, forget HGH testing, investigate them for fraud or insider trading.

Baseball is a tough sport. My article the other day about Asdrubal Cabrera had the line “On average, he’s average.” An 81-81 baseball team can be really tough to watch; they’d be frighteningly inconsistent. They might go on a six-game winning streak, then look really bad for two weeks. One never knows. [Read more...]

On Asdrubal Cabrera, Francisco Lindor and wanting good things too soon

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In life, we often yearn for what we don’t have. “The grass is always greener on the other side” mentality. It happens. We take for granted what is right in front of us. In sports, the same thing often plays out. Fans fall out of favor with certain players, wish for a former star to return, desire another team’s starter or hope for the highly touted prospect to finally arrive.

This is happening right now for the Cleveland Indians, and I just couldn’t take it any longer. It’s not really fair; fans are underrating the player that exists right now. And they’re forgetting just how young a certain prospect happens to be.

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NFL Draft, RubberDucks opener and Blue Jackets playoffs … While We’re Waiting

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DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT: Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer writes a defense of Teddy Bridgewater, everyone’s new favorite punching bag. I’ve stated before how much I badly want a young QB. It has to be a no-brainer if he’s miraculously there at No. 4 for the Browns.

Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples also has a detailed look at Carlos Hyde’s training regimen as he works to improve his 40-yard dash time. It’s amazing how much effort and energy goes into these silly combine workouts. But Hyde was a monster at Ohio State; I’d expect him to be the first back taken, although that won’t be until the second round. [Read more...]

Cavs playoff tiebreakers, Danny Salazar’s recovery and Larry Nance Jr. … While We’re Waiting

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Tiebreakers: PLAYOFFS!? Well, the Knicks and Hawks are suddenly tied now for the No. 8 seed in the East with the Cavs lurking two games behind. New York and Cleveland each have six left. Atlanta has eight left. [Read more...]

Dayton Flyers, Cleveland’s third baseman and the Cats … While We’re Waiting

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More Flyers madness: Tonight has been 30 years in the making for University of Dayton fans. I know I’m pumped. Per FiveThirtyEight’s odds, Dayton has 50.076% odds against No. 10 seed Stanford. It’s a toss-up. It’s only the second-ever 10 v. 11 game in NCAA tournament history. I’ve been loving all of the recent UD articles trending on social media: like this, this and this.

I’m also especially excited by this project from some of my classmates: Stand4, a new non-profit, is donating meals to Dayton homeless people for everyone that declares as a Flyers fan on their website. It’s just that easy. Click here and sign up. Even if you haven’t been a UD fan forever but just want to cheer on America’s new Cinderella, you should go do this.

I’ll be over at Mullarkey’s in Willoughby tonight if you’d like to join me at one of Northeast Ohio’s many official watch parties. I actually wrote about Mullarkey’s a few years back — it was that Irish pub that petitioned for Mike Mularkey to be the Browns coach back in 2011. The place is owned by John Bowers, father of Brendan Bowers, Stepien Rules overlord and former WFNY contributor.

So giddy for tonight. Go Flyers. [Read more...]

No more-deserving Cinderella than the lovable Dayton Flyers

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Why not Dayton? This was the question asked for decades by the renowned Flyer Faithful. While the once-storied program consistently disappointed, mid-major after mid-major blasted through the gates of the NCAA tournament’s first weekend into the hearts of the nation.

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Justin Masterson’s offer might be fair, but that doesn’t make it good: The Diff

Angels Indians BaseballIt’s a popular opinion to dislike the Dolan family for their ownership of the Cleveland Indians. Ever since purchasing the team in 2000, they’ve been characterized as cheapskates unable to consistently afford to compete in the non-salary cap landscape of Major League Baseball.

Last night’s news that Justin Masterson negotiations have ended for the spring certainly didn’t help that narrative. Per the reports, the team’s ace had been eager to sign a short-term deal to stay in Cleveland after narrowly avoiding arbitration for a final time. Now, it appears he’ll at least test the open markets this winter.

Despite the popular opinions, there actually might be some logic to what the Indians might (or might not) be doing with this maneuver. There might be sound reason for hesitation with Masterson’s reported three-year $52 million offer. Let’s explore some reasons why.

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Justin Masterson negotiations with Indians reportedly end for spring

mastersonredsThe Indians and Justin Masterson have stopped conversations about a long-term deal until after the season, per multiple reports on Thursday night.

The two sides narrowly avoided arbitration last month. That one-year deal worth $9.7625 million will take the soon-to-be 29-year-old into free agency this winter.

For weeks, we have seen rumors of Masterson’s eager willingness to sign a purported short-term, team-friendly deal to stay in Cleveland. Terms were reportedly in three-year $52 million range, as Rosenthal reported.

Masterson was 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA in 32 games (29 starts) last season for the 92-win Indians. We’ll certainly have more on this story on Friday. Stay tuned for our thoughts.

Indians have 2nd-best catchers, FiveThirtyEight and Blake Bortles… While We’re Waiting

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FanGraphs: Indians have 2nd-best catchers, 17th-best first baseman. If you are into baseball stats, you should not only be perusing all of the tools on FanGraphs, but you also should keep an eye on their content. During the 2013 season, their writers had major crushes on both Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar. Now? It appears they’re pretty high on Yan Gomes. [Read more...]

Playing the Odds: Everything we know about the Cavaliers and analytics

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Where numbers and charts collide with the “eyes and ears” of NBA decision making

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Ohio State’s likely NCAA foe and Browns free agency contracts: While We’re Waiting

WFNYBanner wwwAlmost Madness Time: Sunday is Selection Sunday. The Ohio State Buckeyes are currently slotted to be a No. 5 or 6 seed. Who will they likely play? Land-Grant Holy Land’s Matt Brown looks at a number of the possibilities, including potentially Xavier and Dayton. Obviously, regardless of who OSU plays in the second (née first) round of the tournament, it will certainly be nerve-wracking. But an All-Ohio game would be even more chaotic.

Speaking of the Buckeyes, there was a lengthy article by Grantland’s Matt Borcas about appreciating Aaron Craft. This line in particular puts Craft’s game into familiar context for fans: “You probably don’t know Aaron Craft personally, but you definitely know his type. At least, you did in sixth grade. If you doubt this, try to remember your youth basketball coach’s absolute favorite player.”

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Solutions for NBA tanking and Jim Thome wants to play: While We’re Waiting

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By now, you’ve seen the first two renditions of our new version of While We’re Waiting. Andrew got us started on Tuesday. Rick followed up on Wednesday. Now, with my usual bent toward sports analytics and media topics, here’s my first stab at this new format. Hope you enjoy and chime in with your thoughts in the comments.

The 76ers are awful. Like, really, really awful. Is it an “embarrassment”? What needs fixed? Last week, it seemed like the ESPN properties all seemed to gang up on the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving’s free agency status. Yesterday, they all appeared to team up to discuss “tanking” and the currently horrendous Philadelphia 76ers. Last weekend, former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy called the 76ers’ current scheme an “embarrassment” to the league. [Read more...]

Who promotes sports analytics? Musings from Day 2 at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

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“So why are you here?”

“I’m here for the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s this annual sports analytics conference. It’s been happening for eight years. It was at Hynes this year; there were 2,000 attendees. It’s kind of a big deal. It had 2,700 attendees last year.”

“So it dropped?”

“Well, yeah. It was at Seaport last year. They moved it to Hynes this year and knew there would be smaller space.”

“So what sport did it focus on?”

“Well, mostly basketball. Because one of the co-founders is the GM of the Houston Rockets. But it kinda dabbled in other sports. And mostly, teams just supplied talking points and the value was in the hallway conversations. But please, keep asking questions. You’re amazing.”
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What’s up, Sloan? Thoughts from Day 1 of sports nerd heaven

sloan picThis weekend, I’m hanging out at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. It’s an annual nerd heaven. I’m in nirvana. I’ve been dying to go for years. I sincerely wish my colleague Craig Lyndall could be here again this year with me too.

Friday was Day One of the jam-packed two-day conference. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. It’s terrific. SSAC is now in its eighth year of existence. Although its purpose and future is debatable — Paul Flannery had a great look in Boston Magazine — it remains a hell of a lot of fun.

To provide an additional insight into my constant live-tweets from the first day, here are some quick thoughts related to the status of analytics in sports and this sensational conference: [Read more...]

#CavsRank continues with Hall of Fame player Lenny Wilkens at No. 18

Welcome to #CavsRank, the illustrious ranking of the best all-time Cleveland Cavaliers players from some of your favorite Cavs bloggers. Today, Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens checks in at No. 18.

lenny wilkens cavs4Cleveland might not be as synonymous with the legendary Lenny Wilkens as the cities of Seattle, Atlanta and even Brooklyn. But there’s no doubt Wilkens, both as a player and coach, had a profound impact on the Cavaliers franchise.

As a coach, his seven-year run was one of the most successful stretches for any Cleveland sports team. They won 57 games one season and made the Eastern Conference Finals a different year. But always, there were rival squads just a wee bit better and that pesky superstar in Chicago.

That serves fairly well as the epitome of Wilkens’ career. Always second-best, constantly overlooked. Yes, he retired as the all-time winningest coach in NBA history – but he’s since dropped to second place. Of course.

More overlooked than anything, especially in the eyes of today’s NBA fan, is the fact that Lenny Wilkens, 32-year head coach, also was a phenomenal basketball player. He was a Hall of Famer as a player, too. And his playing days included a late-career stint with the fledgling Cleveland Cavaliers. [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Welcome to Cleveland, Spencer Hawes

While We’re Waiting is a space on the WaitingForNextYear website where we share links every day. We’ve been doing it for about four years or so. Denny Mayo used to be much more amusing with his intros, if you recall. You know the drill: Email us with suggestions at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Spencer Hawes certainly fits offensively, but does it really matter? What’s next? “Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller, and Anthony Bennett aren’t gangbusters but hardly lack for talent. Redundancy and inconsistency plague the Cavaliers’s big men, deficiencies owed to youth and health concerns that the presence of Hawes will help mask. His three-point shooting affords Cleveland offensive space the others – despite Varejao’s supreme improvement from mid-range – can’t, and he’s helpful as a passer and rim-protector, too.” [Jack Winter/Hardwood Paroxysm] [Read more...]

A user’s guide to the Luol Deng trade draft picks

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The Luol Deng trade was over six weeks ago. Yet it seems to still be a major point of confusion for many in the national media. With today’s trade deadline fast approaching, I felt it would be prudent to review the assets exchanged in that Jan. 7 deal.

[Update: Cavs have traded two second-rounders to Philadelphia for center Spencer Hawes. They're reportedly also shopping Tyler Zeller. We'll keep you updated.]

Both teams involved in the deal have been playing better over the past six weeks. Chicago is a very surprising 14-7 since dealing their beloved small forward, moving closer and closer to a safe spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Cavs have now win six straight, their longest stretch in four years, and are 10-10 since Deng’s debut.

For help in reviewing the trade, let’s go back to the official Cavs press release that was sent out around 12:50 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 7. Here we go: [Read more...]