The English Premier League doesn’t have a playoff system to determine its champion. The team that accrues the most points during the regular season wins that crown. Having said that, Saturday’s visit to Anfield by Manchester City to take on current league leader Liverpool could be the next best thing to a playoff.
This year’s EPL campaign is headed for one of the most spectacular finishes in its 22-year history. Four points separate Liverpool, Chelsea, and Man City for the top three spots respectively, the race for the fourth Champions League spot sees Arsenal and Everton with a single point between them, and the race for the spots being contested by the pair of points separating Tottenham Hotspur and the post-Sir Alex Ferguson Manchester United.
Man City and their gargantuan payroll seems to be the favorites of the British football punditry; the perception being that expenditure has given them the strongest squad on paper, and that Liverpool and Chelsea will take each other out when they meet in two weeks at Anfield.
That view ignores some key points which will prove to be the difference in these last few weeks of the EPL season. Sit back and pour yourself a martini (shaken, not stirred, of course…) and consider the following points.
In honor of the first leg of the Champions League group stage, why not take a guy who left a team that didn’t qualify (Liverpool) for a team that was banned for match fixing (Fenerbahçe). Since Liverpool is now at the top of the English Premier League table, and Fenerbahçe won’t see the light of day for two years in European soccer, Dirk Kuyt may as well live in that same underground world as Sloth from The Goonies.
To check out the full series of Sports Doppelgangers on SBM, click here…
Now that we have an opening draw, there are now 96 matches scheduled between 32 of the best clubs Europe has to offer. Several great rivalries will be renewed over the next few months, and a handful of Europe’s up-and-coming sides will also be tested by the continent’s perennial powers. As usual, most Americans couldn’t give a shit less.
That’s really a shame, because the Champions League has really become the world’s biggest sporting event. It’s part NCAA Basketball Tournament, part NFL Playoffs, and all about some rivalries that are older than America itself.
But I’m not here to win converts; I’m here to look at the eight groups of four teams each, and to take a look at who has the best shot to get out of the group stage.
Group A: Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Sociedad
This group features one three-time winner, two domestic champions from the previous season and four teams that have all made it to the knockout round of the competition in the new millennium.
1) Manchester United
- How they qualified: English Premier League champion, advanced directly into group stage
- Best finish: Winner (1968, 1999, 2008)
- Home stadium: Old Trafford / Manchester, England
- Manager David Moyes
- Preview: United has a new look this year, as David Moyes replaced the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson as manager. Man U remains as one of the royalty of European soccer; they still have a crushing level of talent even with the uncertain status of striker Wayne Rooney as far as his tenure with the Red Devils is concerned. This club has to be considered a favorite to advance deep into this tournament.
2) Shakhtar Donetsk
- How they qualified: Ukrainian Premier League champion,advanced directly into group stage
- Best finish: Quarterfinals (2011)
- Home stadium: Donbass Arena / Donetsk, Ukraine
- Manager: Mircea Lucescu
- Preview: Ever since legendary Romanian manager Mircea Lucescu took over at Donetsk in 2004, they have been consistently one of the best coached teams in any competition, European sides have found Donetsk to be a worthy adversary in many competitions, especially in their UEFA Cup win in 2009. Having said that, this is a tough draw for the Ukrainians, and they will have to play their best football to advance.
3) Bayer Leverkusen
- How they qualified: German Bundesliga third place, advanced directly into group stage
- Best finish: Finalist (2002)
- Home stadium: BayArena / Leverkusen, Germany
- Manager: Sami Hyypiä
- Preview: In its first three three Bundesliga matches, Leverkusen jumped out to an impressive 3-0 record with a goal differential of +5. In other words, they look interesting, but they have a history of being better suited as a bridesmaid in top level European competitions. They didn’t get out out of the Round of 32 of the Europa League last year, and this year finds them back in Europe’s premier club competition. Glory has always seemed to elude them, as they have been runner-up in the Bundesliga five times and in the Champions League once. Granted, the German League has really ascended in recent years to the top of the European food chain, but Leverkusen remains on my “believe when I see it” ilst.
4) Real Sociedad
- How they qualified: Spanish La Liga fourth place, defeated Olympique Lyonnais in playoff round
- Best finish: Round of 16 (2004)
- Home stadium: Anoeta / San Sebastián, Spain
- Mananger: Jagoba Arrasate
- Preview: As a member of the best league in Europe, Real Sociedad easily dispatched with solid French side Lyon 4-0 on aggregate in the playoff round. While that performance has some viewing Sociedad as having arrived on the major European stage, but there are still too many questions about the depth of a club that has only been in the top flight of Spanish soccer for the past three years.
SBM Exclusive Feature: What We Know Now – Ten Things Soccer Needs To Do To Gain Popularity in America
Now that we are into the off-season for the “real” soccer leagues, it is time to give the American Major League Soccer some tips so it can actually become a “major” league. One of my favorite sports blogs recently did a piece on why soccer sucks and will never catch on in America. It its current configuration, Aidan from Worcester is absolutely right. The trouble is that his piece is very American-centric, and therefore misses some important points. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; the last time I checked Massachusetts was still in America.
The more I hear the assorted rants of the “soccer will never be popular in America,” I can’t help but notice they sound just like the guys 40 years ago who kept saying nothing would ever surpass baseball as the de facto national sport. Well, baseball got passed in the 1980′s, and whether you want to admit it or not, soccer is gaining in popularity ever day in this country. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying soccer would ever become the national sport of this country; that’s just never going to happen. But it easily has all the opportunity to become a very major sport, but it also isn’t doing anything to help itself achieve that status.
So, here’s where I’m going to ask you to make a decision. If you are a fan of soccer and think it can grow in popularity in America, go read Aidan’s piecefirst, then come back to this one. Conversely, if you think soccer sucks, then read this piece first , then go over to his article. Either way, read the one you agree with last so that nobody tries to find either of our houses with an enraged mob.
Now, let’s get to the ten things American soccer must do in order to not repeat the mistakes the North American Soccer League (NASL) made 30 years ago.
Every January since this blog was created, we here at Dubsism have given an award for achievements during the previous year in some under-recognized categories in the world of sports. In prior years, the nominations for the awards were done exclusively by an internal committee. This was the first year we allowed nominations from the general public.
Between our committee and our valued readers, we had more quality nominations than we could ever possibly use. Thank you so much for that. When we received an outstanding nomination that proved to be a winner, we made sure to recognize those who submitted it. However, we did also receive nominations on multiple ballots that proved to be winners. If you see a winner that you nominated, and you weren’t credited, just know that you weren’t the only one who had the same idea.
With that, and after careful consideration, here are the winners of the 2012 Dubsy awards.
The Ever-Changing Looks of Alexi Lalas Are More Proof Soccer Is Gaining In Popularity In The United States…
ESPN soccer commentator Alexi Lalas at auction purchased Geraldo Rivera’s mustache and had it dyed ginger.
This is important to note because only a guy working in a growing sport could pay those kind of prices. If you doubt that, take a look at some of Lalas’ looks from when soccer was the red-headed step-child in America.
Remember the earlier days of Major League Soccer when Lalas was running around looking like a bicycle-kicking ginger Jesus. Of course you don’t; nobody watched the MLS until Drew Carey bought a team.
That led to PlayStation Lalas. Who even has a PlayStation anymore? Aren’t we up to like PS9 by now?
After that, we get Serie A Lalas, the first American in the modern era to play in the top Italian league. The difference is all in hair and beard length.
One thing you have to be careful of is the ease of which any variant of the long-haired bearded Lalas can easily be confused with Metallica’s James Hetfield (again, depending the length of hair or in this case, the presence of Lars Ulrich).
When you are being compared to one of the unquestioned gods of rock, your level of popularity is only going up. And when you get your own bobblehead, you are certainly going places.
With an increase in popularity comes the beginning of the end for the look you’ve become known for as there is a mainstreaming effect. This is why Lalas showed up one day looking like Chuck Norris.
But at some point, the beard has to come off, and there is no better proof of your arrival than parody.
The upside to losing the hair disguise is you can end up in a major motion picture, which is the height of popularity. The downside is if you are a ginger with big face bones…well, the picture says it all.
Through all of that, we as a nation find ourselves at a point where now that Lalas can afford to buy Geraldo’s mustache, destroy it’s Smithsonian value by dyeing it, and play Rocky Dennis while playing in two FIFA World Cups, there’s no denying the popularity of soccer is on the rise in America.
Oh, and Lalas got Hannah Storm pregnant. You aren’t even allowed to talk to her unless you are on the “A” list at ESPN. But don’t tell anybody; let’s the tabloids have their day with it because she’s like 70 years old.
Last week, the NBC Sports Network announced that through an $83 million bid, they have secured the broadcast rights in the United States for the English Premier League (EPL) for three years beginning with the 2013-2014 season.
However, this move means more than soccer fans finding the “beautiful game” on another channel. This move has some long-term implications for not only the EPL but for the popularity of soccer in the United States, and for the futures of ESPN, Fox Sports, and NBC Sports Network?
Before we get into the details, Americans are going to need to understand one crucial fact; while the NFL is currently the world’s most profitable sports league, the EPL is the most popular. While the NFL’s television presence in foreign (excluding Canada) markets is little more than novelties like the occasional regular-season game played in London or the Super Bowl, there’s has been a bare-knuckle brawl for the overseas broadcasting rights to the EPL. This means in very short order, the EPL is going to replace the NFL as the world’s most profitable sports league. That will become important later.
Americans who believe the NFL will always be the most popular sport in this country might consider this a wake-up call. Not only did NBC make the biggest bid anybody has ever made for the U.S. rights to broadcast the EPL, they raised the price of poker by nearly quadrupling the bid that Fox Sports made back in 2009. This took everybody else out of the running, before NBC Sports Network was given the deal, ESPN, Fox Sports, BeIN, and Al Jazeera were all told they would not be getting the contract.
That’s a pretty bold move. All those other networks had at some point broadcast the EPL, and Al Jazeera was actually the best English-language coverage available. But the EPL is building a model based on getting a major piece of its revenue from foreign television broadcasting rights. These rights totaled $1.4 billion dollars of revenue for the EPL over the past three seasons, and that number is only going up. The country in which the EPL is the least popular is the U.S., but the fact that NBC Sports jumped the bid nearly four times over only tells you what the future value of EPL rights will be.
While the NFL and the ESPNs of the world are doing everything they can to kill their own popularity, the EPL is doing exactly the opposite. Here’s why…the EPL realizes you can’t force Americans to buy a cable channel.
That’s really what the NFL is doing with the NFL Network and it’s host of Thursday games which can’t be seen in half the households in America. ESPN is doing the same thing with ESPN Desportes, which is where much of ESPN’s soccer coverage ends up. Fox Soccer Channel is also in the high-number hinterlands of the average cable package. Don’t even ask me where you can find BeIN or Al Jazeera on your cable box.
The fact that NBC Sports Network is on basic cable will lead to an increase of ratings, especially since for the price they paid, NBCSN is not going to relegate prime games like Manchester United vs. Chelsea to the 7:30 a.m. time slot. They know you can put Stoke City vs. Queen’s Park Rangers there. Fox figured out you can run EPL games tape-delay at 4 p.m. ET, not to mention we live in a DVR world. Hell, ESPN figured out tape-delay works thirty years ago when they had the rights to the NCAA Basketball tournament. Soccer fans in America are willing to adapt to the time difference because they enjoy the game; this is one of the fundamental misunderstandings the NFL has about trying to be popular in Europe. This will not work in reverse.
The Fox thing is important, because since soccer is growing in popularity and NBC is largely shut-out in the “big” American sports right now; all they’ve got now is Notre Dame football, horse racing, and the Olympics. Yet, other than the Olympics, all those contracts will come due for bidding in the next few years, and until then, NBC and it’s Sports Network can use the most popular sports league in the world to boost it’s standing, and therefore make more money, and therefore become a player when it comes to bidding for contracts.
Fox did already blaze the trail for the EPL being broadcast on over-the-air network television, but NBC could really make a run with this, since as we’ve already mentioned, the EPL is growing in popularity and NBC is almost certain to recoup the large bid they laid down for the rights. Granted, there’s a chance this could backfire and NBC Sports could take a loss on this venture, but that would require soccer to quit growing in popularity. That’s not going to happen.
While this is a big win for NBC, its a big loss for some others, not the least of which is ESPN. The World Wide Leader was once the bastion for soccer in the United States, but has now lost the Champions League, the World Cup, and now the EPL. This means that after World Cup 2014 and Euro 2016, ESPN will have no current soccer contracts. What’s even worse for ESPN is the option of sub-contracting games (like they did with Fox Sports) will be off the table since it is clear NBC Sports Network intends to compete directly with ESPN. Naturally, this means ESPN will have another temper tantrum and refuse to cover soccer, giving it the same cold shoulder it currently gives to the NHL.
For all intents and purposes, Fox Soccer Channel will be destroyed. Despite the fact it will still have the big European tournaments, such as the Champions League, the FA Cup, and the Europa League, those simply do not have the week-in, week-out attraction during the soccer season the EPL provides. No EPL means filling 38 weekends per year with the Australian A-League and Scottish Premier League (a league which just lost one of its biggest clubs to an insolvency issue). That’s not going to work. Without regular top European league broadcasts, Fox Soccer’s situation will soon become dire, because it is a premium cable channel requiring a sports package. Frankly, to even hard-core soccer fans, it just became not worth the price.
Let’s get to the bottom line. NBC Sports Network is quietly putting together a realistic competitor for ESPN, and I’m all for it. While many American major league sports broadcasting rights are tied up in long-term deals, and with the uncertainty with the NHL, NBC needs some top tier sports coverage to use as a cornerstone while it sits and waits. What better for that than the world’s most popular league? Along with it’s Major League Soccer contract, NBC Sports Network will become the home for soccer in America.
Today, we are going to learn how much pure sadism and hilarity can come from one sixteen-second video.
First of all, where does one find a school that would line up 9 boys heads down and their pre-pubescent taints exposed for prime soccer-ball damage? Not one of them seems to know what is coming; otherwise you might think they might put a hand or two over their little giblets.
Actually, that’s eight head down boys and one whose being a bit of a bitch. There’s always that one kid who just can’t play along, which is why he’s the one to keep your eye on in this clip.
Now comes the part that we can’t decide which is funnier…
- The fact this girl wails a soccer ball full-on at these boys from about six feet away
- The fact that she nails two taints, and still gets a full face shot out of the deal
- The stance on the kid still standing really makes you want him to get nailed
The sad part is some Phys. Ed. teacher somewhere is probably going to lose their job over this, which is too bad, because then we will never know why thses boys got lined up against the wall.
I’ll try to keep this simple. Let’s start with the basic facts.
Tuesday’s Olympic women’s soccer semifinal between the U.S. and Canada was one of the most dramatic games you’ll ever see. It also had some of the shittiest officiating you’ll see this side of Major League Baseball.
Tuesday’s Olympic individual event finals in women’s gymnastics had some of the most dramatic moments you’ll see in the London Games. It also had some of the shittiest officiating you’ll see this side of Major League Baseball.
It’s just easier to spot a bad call in soccer than it is in gymnastics.
In the soccer match, Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod got called for holding the ball too long. For you Americans who don’t know, in soccer there is a rarely enforced six-second violation for goalies holding on to the ball. This is to prevent to soccer equivalent of the basketball “four-corner offense” which is all about running out the clock. The referee awarded the U.S. a free kick, which the same referee deemed to have been been struck with the hand of a Canadian player. That ruling resulted in a penalty kick, which to U.S. converted into a match-tying goal with about ten minute to go in regulation time. 40 minutes later, the U.S. scored the game-winning goal at the end of extra time.
In the gymnastics, American Aly Raisman’s routine on the balance beam was given an initial score of 14.966, which prompted American coach Bela Karolyi to go apeshit from the stands urging Raisman’s personal coach to file an appeal of the scoring. Mihai Brestyan followed the screams of the Hungarian Yosemite Sam of gymnastics, filed the appeal and voilá, Raisman’s score was elevated to a 15.066, which left her tied for third-place with Romanian Catalina Ponor. And in another bit of scoring gymnastics, while Raisman’s and Ponor’s difficulty scores were identical at 6.300, Raisman’s execution score was higher, which gave her the bronze medal.
So, now that we’ve outlined the basic scenarios, let’s breakdown some cold hard facts which illustrate a crucial point.
Cold Hard Fact #1: Complaining about the officials usually forgets an important point.
This is where I have to point out that if you execute and don’t make a shitload of mistakes, the referees really are limited in taking victory away from you. This whole “bounty-gate” situation with the New Orleans Saints let Minnesota Vikings’ fans have another crack at their bullshit whining about how the officials screwed them in the 2010 NFC Championship game. Naturally, this argument ignores the five turnovers the Vikes committed.
In the case of the Canadians, they may very have a legitimate argument that the referee gave it to them prison-style, and that had that not happened, they would have won 3-2. The trouble is that that also forces the “what if” game to take a turn in the Canadian favor; it forces them to assume that the Americans would not have scored anyway in the last ten minutes of regulation time. While that might normally be a safe assumption, it isn’t in this case because the Canadians gave up far too many scoring opportunities throughout the second half to say with the same level of certainty they have on the “ref dicked us” angle that they Americans would not have scored. In other words, it is equally as possible that what happened at the end of regulation could have just as easily happened at the end of regulation time.
As far as Raisman is concerned, her bronze medal on the balance beam is a direct result of Brestyan convincing the judges that Raisman’s routine had been scored incorrectly. Scoring in gymnastics is completely subjective, so who the hell knows what is correct and what isn’t?
Having said all that, complaining about officiating when done in the wrong way can have a serious boomerang effect. Somebody on the Canadian women’s team crossed the line; you can criticize, but you can’t make allegations that games a re being fixed. Every sports organization takes an exceptionally dim view of such allegations, and FIFA (despite the fact it is an incredibly corrupt organization) is no exception.
Cold Hard Fact #2: Canada and Catalina Ponor likely were legitimately screwed, but it doesn’t matter.
The six-second rule is a bit hackneyed, it’s soccer’s completely subjective, called-at-will rule like holding in the NFL, traveling in the NBA, or an umpire in baseball deciding the batter hit by the pitch didn’t make a sufficient attempt to get out of the way of the ball. The point is it matters little if the rule is rarely enforced; its still a rule. It would be weak to get a speeding ticket for going two miles an hour over the limit, but you were still speeding.
This get a bit tougher to nail down in gymnastics, where the whole thing comes down to what a bunch of judges think. But you know it is entirely possible that the appeal discussion went something like “Uhhh, the Americans are the star power and they bring the TV money, so maybe we’d better give her the medal.”
Cold Hard Fact #3: If you are going to play the “What If?” game in your favor, you have to play it to your detriment as well.
See the earlier reference to the 2010 Minnesota Vikings. To maintain any semblance of legitimacy, you have to be willing when asking “What if the referees hadn’t screwed us?” you must also be willing to ask “What if we didn’t commit those five turnovers?”
This means if you are the Canadian women’s soccer team, you have to ask “What if we didn’t blow three leads in the second half?” This means if you are Aly Raisman, you have to ask yourself “What if I hadn’t made that one stumble on the balance beam?”
Don’t misunderstand the point here. It is the God-given right of every sports fan to bitch about officiating. All I’m saying is with rights come responsibilities, meaning you have to understand that complaining as a fan never changes the result; complaining as a competitor is almost as equally pointless. But having said that, as a fan you must never let anyone tell you can’t scream over the inherent unfairness of sports until your voice-box sues for divorce.
But as a competitor, you also have to remember that you actually have the power to eliminate the argument in the first place; nobody ever bitches about the referees in a 30-point blowout. That’s exactly why blaming the officials is so easy; it means you don’t have to own your piece of the loss.
The Crucial Point: When it comes to sports, Americans are complete hypocrites…and the Canadians are just like them.
Face it, America, there’s really no denying this. The very same people who attacked a Tweep of mine for saying the Americans played cry-baby in the gymnastics scenario are the same ones high-fiving each other over the result of Tuesday’s soccer game. Americans love the “What if?” game when it works for them. If you doubt that, imagine what the headlines Wednesday morning would have looked like if Catalina Ponor were an American?
To be honest, this is the true beauty of sport; it reflects life. Life isn’t fair, and neither are sports. They aren’t supposed to be. Fairness is a fantasy dreamed up by those same assholes who believe everybody should get a trophy for competing. Sports is supposed to teach you important lessons about life, and ironically one of the tools for success in life taught by sports is how to lose graciously.
Canada and Catalina Ponor both got screwed. Granted, the Canadians eventually ended up with the bronze, and Ponor won the silver medal on the floor exercise. They didn’t go home empty handed, but they left with less than they should have. I know, by all rights the glory, the medals, and the trappings should have been theirs, but guess what? It’s called “sports,” not “should haves.” It isn’t fair, but that the way it is. No matter how much hand-wringing you want to do over it, you can’t change it. Trying to make everything fair just takes us that much closer to making Harrison Bergeron a reality.
Through bad officiating, they both lost a medal. Not because the games were fixed, but because officials are human, which means they are going to fuck up; sometimes so horribly and so perfectly timed as to offer the definition of soul-crushing defeat. That’s why the true winners learn how to handle such defeat. After all, the world hates an inglorious winner as much as it does a sore loser.
And there lies the heart of American sports hypocrisy. The same American soccer mom who thinks everybody should be a winner is also the one who screams the loudest when the “fairness” doesn’t go her way. The same Americans who are calling the Canadians “crybabies” are the very same who would have wanted to declare war had the tables been turned.
Ponor handled her defeat with just such grace, you didn’t hear her stomping around making allegation of fraud. Too bad I can’t say the same about the Canadians. For all the sniffing, elitist bullshit I get to listen to out of Canadians about how their frozen, socialist utopia is so much better than their bulging, evil neighbor to the south, I was amazed at how American-like they acted when confronted with the soul-crushing defeat. My amazement ended when a Canadian friend (who we will refer to only as “Gordy”) explained it to me.
According to “Gordy,” the best way to describe Canada is that it is essentially what a bastard child between America and Europe would be. To that end, he says there are only two types of European-descended Canadians; those who are pissed because they wish their country was more like Europe, and those who are pissed because they wish they country was more like America. To me, it doesn’t really matter; they are all Canadians and can feel however they want about their heritage. But no matter what, they can’t bitch about Americans then act just like them just because they lost to them.
At the end of the day, the Canadians shouldn’t be worried about how they lost that soccer game. They should be more concerned about how one Romanian female gymnast took an equally-crushing loss more like a man than their entire nation did.
12) Minutes Played
Let’s be honest. In basketball, it isn’t about how often you get on the floor, it’s what you do when you get there. That’s probably why all the leaders all-time in minutes played are (or will be) in the Hall-of Fame. This statistic gets even more worthless when you add the divisor “per 48 minutes.” To quote the great Charles Barkley, the only reason you need to calculate what a player would do in 48 minutes is because he’s not good enough to play all 48 minutes.
11) Penalty Minutes
In general, the more penalty minutes you have in hockey, the more of a goon you were. It would make more sense to me to simply count fights won vs. fights lost like we do with boxers. If you have a lot of penalty minutes and weren’t a goon, you were just a cheater. Either way, a minute count just tells me how often you weren’t available because you broke the rules.
10) Time of Possession
Fans of football have been duped into believing this statistic is an excellent predictor of wins. The logic is that the more you can control the ball, the more you can control the outcome of the game. This thinking ignores some crucial issues, such as quick scores – as in long passes, kick returns, and turnovers in general. Plus, hanging on to the ball for eight minutes then settling for a field goal after stalling inside the 20 doesn’t really help a team.
9) Shots On Goal
This one really perplexes me. If you think about it, this stat really counts the number of time a hockey player fails to score, and uses that as an indicator of success, as if the team who takes the most shots scores the most goals. Actually, the team that makes the most shots scores the most goals, which should seem pretty obvious.
8 ) Wins
This statistic applies to baseball pitchers, hockey goalies, and Tim Tebow. Remember last fall when we were in the throes of Tebow-Mania? Remember how his defenders obfuscated the discussion about his lousy number by claiming “he just wins?” See, the problem is that in team sports, individuals don’t win; teams do. The Tebow-philes never seemed to remember that in almost all of the Broncos wins with Tebow at quarterback, it was the defense who kept the team in position to have a shot at winning the game.
Many baseball purists may revile at this thought, but that a pitcher has the sole determination in whether his team wins or loses completely defies logic, because the is no hard correlation between the pitcher’s performance and that pitcher earning a win. How many times have I watched Tim Lincecum pitch eight scoreless innings, then give up a solo home run and lose because the Giants can’t score? Conversely, how many times have I watched (insert Yankee pitcher here) serve up half a dozen earned runs and still get a win because the Bronx Bombers plated 10 runs?
Don’t even get me started how a “win” recorded by a relief pitcher is usually just a blown save…
The same applies to netminders, with the distinction being goalies are far more dependent on their team’s defense, specifically it’s ability to kill penalties. A goalie who has a bad won-loss record very easily can be a guy who has to play short-handed too often. Imagine what would happen to a pitcher if he had to play an inning without a shortstop?
While holds are not an official major league baseball statistic, they do show up in some box scores, and they are exceptionally worthless. While intended to measure the effectiveness of middle relievers, it lacks a uniform means of calculation. In some means, particularly that used by the now-defunct SportsTicker, it doesn’t even matter if pitchers can get batters out. A pitcher can get shelled, not even record a single out, but still be credited with a hold if the next pitcher out of the bullpen cleans up his mess without giving up the lead.
Saves are really just “wins” for the guy designated to pitch the ninth inning. But, just like wins for a starting pitcher, this is a flawed measure of a reliever’s performance. First of all, the criteria are completely arbitrary; it really can be just a circumstance such as being the last guy to pitch for the winning team. If a pitcher enters the game with a lead and pitches the final three innings and the team wins – even if he comes into a 10-0 game and gives up 9 runs – that pitcher gets a save. Pitchers also can earn a save for pitching with a three-run lead in the 9th inning.
5) Plus/Minus Rating
This may be the ultimate in useless statistics, because a player can rack up numbers here simply by being on the ice. While being specifically defined as a measure of a player’s “goal differential,” it really is just “minutes played” combined with “minutes where good stuff happened.” In other words, anytime a goal is scored (not including penalty shots or power-play goals) the Plus/Minus rating is increased by one (“plus”) for those players on the ice for the scoring team; likewise for those players on the ice for the team giving up the goal, their rating decreased by one. While this is purported to be a measure of defensemen and forwards who largely play a defensive role, two of the top three single-season ratings belongs to two of the great scorers of all-time (Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr).
4) Championships (as an individual statistic)
The two groups of people most responsible for using championships as an individual statistics are basketball fans and people judging the greatness of NFL quarterbacks. You’ve heard the argument; a player can’t be truly great without having won a championship. It’s a complete load of crap because championships are team accomplishment. Charles Barkley never won a ring, yet he is one of only 4 players with 4,000 assists, 10,ooo rebounds, and 20,000 points. Stacy King has three rings and only led the league in weight gained on the bench. Which would you rather have?
3) Batting Average
Baseball fans love this stat; and as much as I love baseball, I find it to be largely irrelevant on its own. To me the prime example is in a comparison between the average season’s of a high-batting average player like Tony Gwynn (.338/9 HR/76 RBI/92 runs scored) and a run producer like Jay Buhner (.254/34 HR/106 RBI/88 runs scored). Gwynn collected more unproductive hits, whereas Buhner produced more scoring. Scoring wins ball games, not singles.
2) Player Efficiency Rating (PER)
Here’s the first example of a statistic that was created by ESPN. PER attempts to account for just about anything a basketball player does by mashing positives like points, rebounds, shooting percentages, blocks, et cetera into a gargatuan complex formula with negatives like turnovers and fouls. The trouble is that it is nearly impossible to understand, and it does almost nothing to quantify defensive contributions other than rebounds.
1) Any System for Rating Quarterbacks
Whether it is the Passer Rating or that goofy Total Quarterback Rating that ESPN dreamed up, they are both so convoluted they manage to do exactly the opposite of what they were intended to do. The entire concept of either of these formulas was to give a clear and quantifiable value accounting for all the things quarterbacks do. Of course, you could just watch the damn game and figure that out. Besides, when’s the last time you heard somebody say “Wow, did you see that game last night? That quarterback must have had a rating of at least 95!”
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