Self-promotion, tasteless jokes, baseball stats fun and UFC picks!
"Hey Mark, are you going to watch this Test The Nation show Sunday night at 8 PM on CBC?"
"You bet. In fact, I'm on that very show."
"No kidding! Wow, you're a regular TV star now! Heh heh, can I have your autograph?"
"...oh. Uh...I was just kidding..."
"I charge $20 per autograph. Talk to my agent."
"You have an agent?"
SCENE: The California governor's mansion
AIDE: Excuse me, Mrs. First Lady, I have terrible news. It appears your uncle Ted has a brain tumor.
MARIA SHRIVER: Oh no! That's terrible!
ARNOLD: It's naht a toom-ah!
ARNOLD: Too soon? NO! It's nevah too soon for a Kindahgahden Cahp reference! Buy dah DVDs too-day! Dahhhhh!
There are many reasons why Baseball-Reference.com is one of the best sites on the internet, but one of my favourite reasons is the 'neutralize stats' option located on every player's page. Baseball fans and statisticians are always looking for ways to figure out metrics for evaluating players from different eras, and Baseball Reference has come up with a way of projecting how a player would've performed in a 'neutral' ballpark and era on a normal-hitting lineup. For example, a left-handed hitter in Yankee Stadium in the homer-crazy early 1930's would've had much bigger numbers than, say, a player in the deadball era, but does that necessarily mean he had a better season given the context of the era?
Take, for example, Vinny Castilla. His best season was probably 1998, when he hit .319/.362/.589 with 46 homers, 144 RBIs and a fantastic .951 OPS. Castilla's home park was Coors Field, which obviously greatly affected his numbers. So, transmogrified to a 'neutral' park, Castilla suddenly hits .278/.317/.513 with 38 homers, 114 RBIs, and a far more pedestrian .830 OPS. It's a cool way to see how good a season actually was if all things were equal.
The best part of this feature, however, is not only can the stats be normalized, but they can also be skewed in two different ways. You can see how a hitter or pitcher's stats would've translated as a member of the 1968 Dodgers (in a legendary pitcher's park during the best pitching season in baseball history) or as a member of the 2000 Rockies (in homer-happy Coors Field during the steroid-powered age).
Some of these metrics get pretty fun. Barry Bonds' record-breaking 2001 season, transported to 2000 Coors, becomes (get ready) .400/.592/1.056 for an overall OPS of 1.648, with 100 home runs (!) and 196 RBIs. Transported to 1968 Dodger Stadium, however, Barry hits 'only' 63 dingers and 99 RBI, with a line of .295/.477/.780 for a 1.257.
Conversely, Bob Gibson's legendary 1968 season is neutralized to a still-awesome 28-4 with a 1.54 ERA and 1.022 WHIP. In Coors Field, Gibson falls all the way to...uh, 26-4 with a 2.35 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. Can you imagine if someone actually put up those kind of numbers for the Colorado staff in 2000? They would've renamed the Cy Young Award after him, and then dug up Cy Young and pissed into his open grave just for kicks.
But get a load of this....you can neutralize Cy Young, too. This feature becomes especially fun when you use it on those old-time turn-of-the-century pitchers in the days before relief pitching when you could see a guy make 50 starts a year. Old Cy's career high in starts was 49, back in 1892, when he went 36-12 with a 1.93 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. Apparently the 1892 Cleveland Spiders, in spite of winning 93 games, didn't give Cy much run support, since neutralized, Young's numbers are lowered to a 1.56 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, but his record is suddenly 47-7. As a 1968 Dodger, Young would've been even better, with a 50-7 record, 1.06 ERA and 0.76 WHIP. Take THAT, Bob Gibson! Hell, even with the 2000 Rockies, Young would've won 44 games, though his personal numbers rocket up to 2.36 and 1.19. Couldn't even keep that ERA under 2.00? Cy Young clearly sucks.
I have spent way, way, too much time on this feature over the last month. And yet no matter how many times I analyze the numbers, the Blue Jays hitters still suck crap.
* B.J. Penn over Sean Sherk, R2 submission. I don't want to see Sherk continue his dull reign in the lightweight division, and I think pretty much everyone agrees. This is the fight that Penn has been looking for since he returned to LW, so he's training like mad to get his first major win in years. Penn, motivated, is one of the five best fighters in the world. He will beat the HGH out of Sherk's carcass.
* Lyoto Machida over Tito Ortiz, decision. This actually might be the most important fight on the card in terms of the overall MMA world. This is Ortiz's last fight in the UFC, and he's already said he isn't resigning due to his feud/dick-swinging contest with Dana White. A loss here wouldn't really hurt Tito's drawing power, but a win over a top contender like Machida would make Tito an even hotter free agent. Say what you will about Ortiz, but he is one of the few names in MMA that would really bring some pay-per-view attention to an upstart organization like EliteXC or Affliction. Dana White would literally give his right arm to see Ortiz lose this fight in humiliating fashion. It's a huge fight, obviously, for Machida as well since a win here would be his highest-profile victory by far, and Dana White would be so happy to see Ortiz lose that it might put Machida in line for the next light heavyweight title shot against the winner of July's Rampage/Forrest fight. I think Machida will win in his usual dull style, so he'll win but still not quite elevate himself in the eyes of the casual fan.
* Wanderlei Silva over Keith Jardine, R2 knockout. This is something of a heart-over-a-head pick. Wanderlei really, really needs this win to snap his three-fight losing streak. On paper, there's no reason why Jardine couldn't use the same stick-move-and-kick strategy he used against Liddell, but I think that Chuck was too worried about the knockout in that fight coming on the heels of his knockout loss to Rampage. Wanderlei, however, doesn't give a shit. He'll wade right in there and engage Jardine since Silva is a tough bastard who (perhaps rightly) believes that it takes more than Jardine can throw to knock him out. Silva wins and gets back on track.
* Wilson Gouveia over Goran Reljic, R2 submission. I have no idea who Reljic is, but it's his first UFC fight, so I'll say he falls victims to jitters and the fact that Gouveia is way better than he is.
* Thiago Silva over Antonio Mendes, R1 knockout. Ditto.
* Rousimar Palhares over Ivan Salaverry, decision. Palhares is another newbie, but Salaverry has looked like crap in every fight I've ever seen him in. So, Palhares takes it.
* Shane Carwin over Christian Wellisch, R2 TKO. Carwin is a heavily-touted heavyweight prospect, part of the UFC's next generation of HW fighters like Cain Velaquez and Brock Lesnar. Wellisch has no real ground defense, so presuming wrestling champ Carwin can take him down, it'll be an easy win. I say it takes Carwin a round to work out the jitters and then wins the fight.
* Jason Tan over Dong-Hyun Kim, decision. Ha ha, his name is Dong! I can't pick him in good faith.
* Rich Clementi over Terry Etim, R3 submission. Clementi is on a real roll tearing through the lower tier of the LW division and I think it'll continue here. Etim has a good chance, though, given that Clementi is somewhat crazily fighting in his second straight UFC event. He fought last month in Montreal and beat Sam Stout, and stepped up quickly again to take this fight after Rob Emerson pulled out with an injury. Now, most MMA fighters are used to fighting more than once every five months like the UFC guys, so this shouldn't be a huge problem for Clementi, but still --- a one-month turn-around time doesn't seem like much.
* Yoshiyuki Yoshida over John Koppenhaver, R2 TKO. Koppenhaver, a.k.a. the War Machine, won a lot of fans after his great showing in the last Ultimate Fighter series. He's one of those guys who isn't much of a fighter, but never gives up and just goes in there throwing. Unfortunately, I think Yoshida will take advantage of his wildness and get the win. Yoshida wouldn't get the win over James 'War Machine' Rhodes, however. Rhodey would win that fight in the first round via firing a goddamn rocket.
* Rameau Thierry Sokoudkou over Kazuhiro Nakamura, R1 knockout. Soko gets back on track after a craptastic UFC debut against Machida. Nakamura is one of those guys who should drop down a weight level since he is a tiny, tiny, LHW.
I picked seven of 11 fights correctly the last time I did UFC predictions, so I think I win a Big Gulp.