But Mourinho insisted that there is still plenty for his team to play for in the league this season, with second place and qualification for the Champions League his primary focus.“It makes me feel that they are doing so, so well that they are not letting the others come close to that, as simple as that,” said Mourinho when asked how City’s dominance made him feel.“With the number of points and improvement we have in relation to last season, in normal conditions the distance would be a distance that leaves the fight open.“And, at the moment, the fight is open for second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth but it is practically closed for the first.”However, the Portuguese insisted that falling short to Pep Guardiola’s rampant City, who have dropped just seven points all season, shouldn’t be classified as a failure.“If you tell me all six want to be champion and only one will be champion and the other five fail, I think is too pragmatic a way to look at it because you can do positive work and not win the title,” added Mourinho.“I cannot say that we are doing bad or Tottenham is doing bad or Chelsea is doing bad because the number of points we have are a very reasonable number of points.”Mourinho was talking ahead of the home Premier League meeting with Huddersfield, where United will mark the 60th anniversary of the Munich air disaster that falls on Tuesday.The United manager paid his respects to the tragedy that shaped his club’s history but insisted that it is also vital that they return to winning ways.“It’s not because of this Munich disaster that the game becomes important for us,” he said. “The game is important because we need points to be the first of the last, we have to try to finish second.”– Better than last season –And Mourinho challenged his players to shrug off the after effects of defeat at Spurs to continue their upward curve in the league this season compared his debut campaign at United last year.“We were first for a few weeks and then we were always second, I don’t remember us being fourth, fifth or sixth, we have been there since the beginning of the season, better than last season in every aspect – points, position, number of goals scored, conceded, better in everything.“So we have to try to stay there and is not easy because there are very good teams. Chelsea is champions again, (had a) fantastic (transfer) market, Liverpool is a great team, Arsenal improved a lot in the market, Tottenham is a fantastic team and they are five points behind us.“So we are doing quite well, with some negative moments, Wednesday was one. It is very important to do better than last season and try to win something, and, if not, do better.”United look set to be without midfielder Marouane Fellaini for several weeks due to a knee injury, but Mourinho had more positive news on Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic who he hopes can both return before the end of the month.0Shares0000(Visited 2 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Jose Mourinho says that, after the loss to Tottenham, United are fighting to be the “first of the last” © IKIMAGES/AFP/File / Ian KINGTONMANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Feb 2 – Jose Mourinho effectively conceded the Premier League title to Manchester City on Friday, admitting that his Manchester United side are competing to be “first of the last” in the table.United lost in midweek at Tottenham, allowing their local rivals to open up a commanding 15-point lead, with just 13 games remaining.
Nothing says we mean business more than an orange sweatband.Some will call us crazy. Others will say we’ve lost our minds. Our grandmothers may even go so far to say we’re off our rockers. But we, the Geocaching HQ staff, consider ourselves audacious…with a sprinkle of scrappy thrown in the mix. Why? Because when asked about 31 days of (consecutive!) geocaching, we said “challenge accepted.”Partner Programs Manager Annie Love (Username: Love) says, “My longest streak before this was 10 days so this is a good challenge to top that. If I can succeed that will definitely be a thumbs up moment! I will be setting myself calendar reminders everyday to be sure I don’t forget.”For now, we’re busy plotting our strategy and mentally and physically preparing for the month of August (see video below). We can guarantee you that come Wednesday, when we are not in the office, we will be out frantically trying to log one…more…find. And we know that many of you will be doing the same!Over the next four weeks, we will be sharing our stories – our triumphs and failures, bumps and bruises, and (of course) all the muggles and nanos – as we log our way one day at a time to success. We are proud to be a part of the global geocaching community and we are honored to be able to share in this crazy month of geocaching with you …we just hope that we can keep up! Most of all, we are excited to hear your stories because we know they will help to inspire us when the going gets tough. Best of luck to you and yours.Let the games begin.– Geocaching HQ StaffShare with your Friends:More SharePrint RelatedDear Geocaching Diary: Orange Headbands for the WinSeptember 1, 2013In “Community”2020 Geocaching HQ souvenir momentsDecember 10, 2019In “Learn”Inside Geocaching HQ Podcast Transcript (Episode 3): Geocaching® app & retirement of Classic appMay 10, 2018In “Community”
LOOK: Loisa Andalio, Ronnie Alonte unwind in Amanpulo for 3rd anniversary View comments Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Pole dancing eyes Olympics after recognition by sports body Kammuri turning to super typhoon less likely but possible — Pagasa BSP sees higher prices in November, but expects stronger peso, low rice costs to put up fight LATEST STORIES “But my team stayed within the course, and we just had to slow [Alvin] Pasaol down a bit.”Pasaol was averaging 30.67 points the past three games but the Soaring Falcons managed to slow him down to 22 points and 12 boards.Papi Sarr powered Adamson with 12 points and 15 boards while Jerrick Ahanmisi led the team in scoring with 14 points.Mark Olayon added 16 points for the Red Warriors who lost Nick Abanto and JC Cullar to injuries in the fourth quarter.Abanto hurt his knee late in the final quarter a few minutes after Cullar fell awkwardly on his left ankle with 6:35 left in the game.ADVERTISEMENT MOST READ For the complete collegiate sports coverage including scores, schedules and stories, visit Inquirer Varsity. The Soaring Falcons held fort at the third place with a 6-3 record while the Red Warriors saw their two-game win streak snapped and slipped to 2-7.Jerrick Ahanmisi capped off Adamson’s 19-7 run that spanned the last two quarters with a fade-away bank shot with 2:22 left in the game that gave the Soaring Falcons a 64-55 lead.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSSEA Games: Philippines picks up 1st win in men’s water poloSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutAdamson head coach Franz Pumaren knew facing a UE team that had won two straight games would be a different task compared to their meeting in the first round which ended in a blowout, 79-60 .“It was not an easy game for us, we struggled because UE is on a streak and they really played well,” said Pumaren. “They’re not the UE team that we played during the first round.” Adamson U won its fifth game in six outings in the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tournament after swopping down on University of the East, 66-57, Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.ADVERTISEMENT Fire hits houses in Mandaluyong City Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC Read Next Nonong Araneta re-elected as PFF president Frontrow holds fun run to raise funds for young cancer patients Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles00:59Sports venues to be ready in time for SEA Games01:27Filipino athletes get grand send-off ahead of SEA Games01:37Protesters burn down Iran consulate in Najaf01:47Panelo casts doubts on Robredo’s drug war ‘discoveries’01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games
With Alvarez, Versoza leading the charge, JRU coach confident of Final 4 chances LATEST STORIES Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC Kia’s Russel Escoto. PBA IMAGESIt took more than a year but Russel Escoto is back and running for Kia.It wasn’t, however, the best of comebacks.ADVERTISEMENT Kammuri turning to super typhoon less likely but possible — Pagasa 2 ‘newbie’ drug pushers fall in Lucena sting Slow and steady hope for near-extinct Bangladesh tortoises Escoto played just 24 minutes in the Picanto’s 90-85 loss to TNT Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena, and the loss wasn’t the only thing that bothered him.“I’m happy that I’m back and playing again, but of course I’m yet to get into tiptop shape,” said Escoto, who tore his ACL in January 27, 2017, in Filipino.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSLillard, Anthony lead Blazers over ThunderSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutout“I tire easily, I think my conditioning is still lacking but I’m working on it day by day.”Escoto scored five points and grabbed five rebounds on his return, and in his first game back he already saw both the positives and negatives in the way the Picanto plays. Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH NEXT BLOCK ASIA 2.0 introduces GURUS AWARDS to recognize and reward industry influencers MOST READ “We play as a team now, there aren’t that much isolation sets,” said Escoto of his team which had 19 assists, four more than what TNT did. “But in the end some players still played individualistic. I hope we can continue playing as a team.” Read Next Globe Business launches leading cloud-enabled and hardware-agnostic conferencing platform in PH John Lloyd Cruz a dashing guest at Vhong Navarro’s wedding Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Sports venues to be ready in time for SEA Games PLAY LIST 00:59Sports venues to be ready in time for SEA Games01:33Leo Austria, SMB wary of ‘more experienced’ Hotshots ahead of PBA Finals rematch01:27Filipino athletes get grand send-off ahead of SEA Games01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City View comments
About the authorCarlos VolcanoShare the loveHave your say Real Madrid keeper Courtois on 5-star performance: I never doubt myselfby Carlos Volcano2 days agoSend to a friendShare the loveReal Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was delighted with his performance for their Champions League defeat of Galatasaray.Real won 1-0 thanks to Toni Kroos’ goal, with Courtois making three exceptional saves.Courtois said, “Tonight’s was an important match, we had to win to get some breathing space in order to stay alive in the Champions League. It’s a stadium with a big atmosphere and they really get behind their team. We were in the match from the start, although they had two big chances at the beginning that I saved well. In the second half we controlled the match more, but we failed to kill the game off.”Everyone was really up for it and that’s the sort of intensity we have to produce in every game to win. We had chances that could have ended up in goals, we didn’t manage to score a second, but are happy to have got the win, although we need to improve on that. We’re going to keep on working and let’s hope we win more games.”He added: “I never doubt myself, but we know just what a club we’re at and I’m only interested in constructive criticism from my teammates and the coach. I’ll keep on training hard to keep performing to this standard.”
new usc trojan logoFriday, USC unveiled a new set of logos, calling the updates part of a “design evolution” for the program. But don’t worry, Trojans fans – the football team won’t be moving to the new Trojan logo on its helmets just yet.USC says that it’s been working with Nike for the last 18 months on the brand evolution.#USC has unveiled a new Trojan logo but it will not be used for football helmet pic.twitter.com/KO0MpW8csV— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) April 15, 2016From USC: –A new Trojan Head logo has been designed. However, the current Trojan Head on the football helmet will continue on the helmet.— Lisa Horne (@LisaHorne) April 15, 2016Here’s what the school is calling the highlights of the unveiling:–The SC interlock remains the primary logo and mark for USC Athletics, but the current script-face TROJANS above the SC interlock has been eliminated. However, the specific logos currently used by USC baseball (SC monogram) and track (SC shield) will continue to be used by those programs.–A new Trojan Head logo has been designed. However, the current Trojan Head used on the football helmet will continue in use on the helmet.–A new custom alphabet and numeral type font–based on Greek Doric architecture–is used for USC’s word marks (“USC,” “Trojans,” “Fight On”), its sport-specific logo lock-ups and other typography.–A new ornamental Greek key pattern is available for use as trim on uniforms, gear and promotional material.–USC’s primary colors remain Cardinal and Gold. But secondary colors of Black and White and a tertiary color of Metallic Gold have been added for occasional use.The refreshed look will be used on the uniforms, gear, stationery and promotional material for all 21 Trojan sports.You can see all of the new designs over at usctrojans.com. There is apparently already new USC merchandise with the changes in the bookstore.
A Canadian man has been sentenced to 20 years in a U.S. federal prison for his role in a smuggling operation that sent more than $130 million worth of drugs between the United States and Canada.Prosecutors had argued that Harinder Dhaliwal of Brampton, Ont., should spend 30 years behind bars for his role in the drug trafficking ring, while defence lawyers had argued for a lighter sentence.Judge William Skretny of Buffalo, N.Y., handed the decision down on Wednesday, but did not elaborate on his reasoning.Dhaliwal, who was arrested in Canada in 2014, was among a group of at least six other people indicted on charges related to distribution and exportation of large amounts of cocaine and marijuana between 2006 and 2011.He was held in Canadian custody for nearly two years before being extradited to the U.S. to face charges in April 2016.Weeks later, court documents show that Dhaliwal pleaded guilty to one of the eight charges against him, namely conspiracy to export at least five kilograms of cocaine from the U.S.“As part of his plea agreement, the defendant admitted that during the course of the charged conspiracy, he was responsible for the transportation, exportation and distribution of more than 3,000 kilograms of cocaine … and the importation of tens of thousands of ecstasy pills and hundreds of pounds of marijuana,” prosecutors said in their pre-sentencing report.Court documents said Dhaliwal owned trucking companies that he used to ferry drugs over the border concealed in hidden compartments that he built along with another co-conspirator.A pre-sentencing report prepared by his defence team said he was lured into the easy money of drug trafficking because of financial hardships associated with failed business ventures.The defence team, in arguing for a sentence that was “sufficient but not greater than necessary,” said he had been living in Canada for many years with his wife and two children at the time of his arrest.Defence lawyers argued that Dhaliwal’s co-operation with authorities, poor health and remorse for his actions would justify a lighter sentence.“Mr. Dhaliwal is extremely remorseful that he placed his needs for ‘quick money’ over the needs of society,” reads a pre-sentencing report from the defence team. “Mr. Dhaliwal accepts responsibility for his choices and his conduct. Mr. Dhaliwal acknowledges and appreciates the wrongfulness of his actions and offers no excuses or rational (sic) for his conduct.”Defence lawyers asked the court to consider allowing Dhaliwal to serve his sentence in Canada, a request Skretny denied.Dhaliwal was sentenced to 20 years in U.S. custody and five years of supervised release, though Skretny’s decision did say he is to be recommended for the Canadian Transfer Treaty Program.
In football, there are constant power struggles, both on and off the field: players battling players, offenses battling defenses, the passing game battling the running game, coaches battling coaches, and new ways of thinking battling old ways of thinking. And then there are kickers. Battling no one but themselves and the goalposts, they come on the field in moments most mundane and most decisive. They take all the blame when they fail, and little of the credit when they succeed. Year in and year out, just a little bit at a time, they get better. And better. And better. Until the game is completely different, and no one even noticed that kickers were one of the main reasons why.If you’ve been reading my NFL column Skeptical Football this season, you may have noticed that I write a lot about kickers. This interest has been building for a few years as I’ve watched field goals drained from long range at an ever-increasing rate, culminating in 2013, when NFL kickers made more than 67 percent of the kicks they took from 50-plus yards, giving them a record 96 such makes. There has been a lot of speculation about how kickers suddenly became so good at the long kick, ranging from performance-enhancing drugs (there have been a few possible cases) to the kickers’ special “k-balls” to more kick-friendly stadiums.So prior to the 2014 season, I set out to try to see how recently this improvement had taken place, whether it had been gradual or sudden, and whether it was specific to very long kicks or reflected improvement in kicking accuracy as a whole.What I found fundamentally changed my understanding of the game of football.1And possibly offered insight into how competitive sports can conceal remarkable changes in human capability.The complete(ish) history of NFL kickingPro Football Reference has kicking data broken down by categories (0-19 yards, 20-29, 30-39, 40-59 and 50+ yards) back to 1961. With this we can see how field goal percentage has changed through the years for each range of distances:It doesn’t matter the distance; kicking has been on a steady upward climb. If we look back even further, we can see indicators that kicking has been on a similar trajectory for the entire history of the league.The oldest data that Pro Football Reference has available is from 1932, when the eight teams in the NFL made just six field goals (it’s unknown how many they attempted). That year, kickers missed 37 of 113 extra-point attempts, for a conversion rate of 67.3 percent. The following year, the league moved the goal posts up to the front of the end zone — which led to a whopping 36 made field goals, and a skyrocketing extra-point conversion rate of 79.3 percent. With the uprights at the front of the end zone, kickers missed only 30 of 145 extra points.For comparison, those 30 missed extra-point attempts (all with the goalposts at the front of the end zone) are more than the league’s 28 missed extra-point attempts (all coming from 10 yards further out) from 2011 to 2014 — on 4,939 attempts.In 1938-39, the first year we know the number of regular field goals attempted, NFL kickers made 93 of 235 field-goal tries (39.6 percent) to go with 347 of 422 extra points (82.2 percent). In the ’40s, teams made 40.0 percent of their field goal tries (we don’t know what distances they attempted) and 91.3 percent of their XPs. In the ’50s, those numbers rose to 48.2 percent of all field goals and 94.8 percent of XPs. The ’60s must have seemed like a golden era: Kickers made 56 percent of all field goals (breaking the 50 percent barrier for the first time) and 96.8 percent of their extra points.For comparison, since 2010, NFL kickers have made 61.9 percent of their field goal attempts — from more than 50 yards.In the 1960s, we start to get data on field goal attempts broken down by distance, allowing for the more complete picture above. In 1972, the NFL narrowed the hash marks from 18.5 yards from 40, which improved field goal percentages overall by reducing the number of attempts taken from awkward angles. And then in 1974, the league moved the goal posts to the back of the end zone — but as kick distances are recorded relative to the posts, the main effect of this move was a small (and temporary) decline in the extra-point conversion rate (which you can see in the top line of the chart above). Then we have data on the kicks’ exact distance, plus field and stadium type, after 1993.2This info is likely out there for older kicks as well, but it wasn’t in my data.So let’s combine everything we know: Extra-point attempts and distances prior to 1961, kicks by category from 1961 to 1993, the kicks’ exact distance after 1993, and the changing placement of goal posts and hash marks. Using this data, we can model the likely success of any kick.With those factors held constant, here’s a look at how good NFL kickers have been relative to their set of kicks in any given year3This is done using a binomial probit regression with all the variables, using “year taken” as a categorical variable (meaning it’s not treated like a number, so 1961, 1962 and 1963 may as well be “Joe,” “Bob” and “Nancy”). This is similar to how SRS determines how strong each team is relative to its competition.:When I showed this chart to a friend of mine who’s a philosophy Ph.D.,4Hi, Nate! he said: “It’s like the Hacker Gods got lazy and just set a constant Kicker Improvement parameter throughout the universe.” The great thing about this is that since the improvement in kicking has been almost perfectly linear, we can treat “year” as just another continuous variable, allowing us to generalize the model to any kick in any situation at any point in NFL history.Applying this year-based model to our kicking distance data, we can see just how predictable the improvement in kicking has actually been:The model may give teams too much credit in the early ’60s — an era for which we have a lot less data — but over the course of NFL history it does extremely well (it also predicts back to 1932, not shown). What’s amazing is that, while the model incorporates things like hashmark location and (more recently) field type, virtually all the work is handled by distance and year alone. Ultimately, it’s an extremely (virtually impossibly) accurate model considering how few variables it relies on.5So how accurate is this thing? To be honest, in all my years of building models, I’ve never seen anything like it. The model misses a typical year/distance group prediction by an average of just 2.5 percent. Note that a majority of those predictions involve only a couple hundred observations — at most. For comparison, the standard deviation for 250 observations of a 75 percent event is 2.7 percent. In other words, the model pretty much couldn’t have done any better even if it knew the exact probability of each kick!While there is possibly a smidge of overfitting (there usually is), the risk here is lower than usual, since the vast majority of each prediction is driven solely by year and distance. Here’s the regression output:I wish I could take credit for this, but it really just fell into place. Nerds, perk up: The z-value on “season” is 46.2! If every predictive relationship I looked for were that easy to find, life would be sweet.This isn’t just trivia, it has real-world implications, from tactical (how should you manage the clock knowing your opponent needs only moderate yardage to get into field goal range?) to organizational (maybe a good kicker is worth more than league minimum). And then there’s the big one.Fourth downIf you’re reading this site, there’s a good chance you scream at your television a lot when coaches sheepishly kick or punt instead of going for it on fourth down. This is particularly true in the “dead zone” between roughly the 25- and 40-yard lines, where punts accomplish little and field goals are supposedly too long to be good gambles.I’ve been a card-carrying member of Team Go-For-It since the ’90s. And we were right, back then. With ’90s-quality kickers, settling for field goals in the dead zone was practically criminal. As of 10 years ago — around when these should-we-go-for-it models rose to prominence — we were still right. But a lot has changed in 10 years. Field-goal kicking is now good enough that many previous calculations are outdated. Here’s a comparison between a field-goal kicking curve from 2004 vs. 2014:There’s no one universally agreed-upon system for when you should go for it on fourth down. But a very popular one is The New York Times’ 4th Down Bot, which is powered by models built by Brian Burke — founder of Advanced Football Analytics and a pioneer in the quantitative analysis of football. It calculates the expected value (either in points or win percentages) for every fourth-down play in the NFL, and tweets live results during games. Its 19,000-plus followers are treated to the bot’s particular emphasis on the many, many times coaches fail to go for it on fourth down when they should.A very helpful feature of the 4th Down Bot is that its game logs break down each fourth-down decision into its component parts. This means that we can see exactly what assumptions the bot is making about the success rate of each kick. Comparing those to my model, it looks to me like the bot’s kickers are approximately 2004-quality. (I asked Burke about this, and he agrees that the bot is probably at least a few years behind,6I don’t blame Burke or others for not updating their models based on the last few years. It’s good to be prudent and not assume that temporary shifts one way or the other will hold. Normally it is better to go with the weight of history rather than with recent trends. But in this case, the recent trends are backed by the weight of history. and says that its kicking assumptions are based on a fitted model of the most recent eight years of kicking data.7Here’s his full statement: “The bot is about 3-4 years behind the trends in FG accuracy, which have been improving at longer distances. It uses a kicking model fitted to the average of the recent 8-year period of data. AFA’s more advanced model for team clients is on the current ‘frontier’ of kick probabilities, and can be tuned for specific variables like kicker range, conditions, etc. Please keep in mind the bot is intended to be a good first-cut on the analysis and a demonstration of what is possible with real-time analytics. It’s not intended as the final analysis.”)But more importantly, these breakdowns allow us to essentially recalculate the bot’s recommendations given a different set of assumptions. And the improvement in kicking dramatically changes the calculus of whether to go for it on fourth down in the dead zone. The following table compares “Go or No” charts from the 4th Down Bot as it stands right now, versus how it would look with projected 2015 kickers8The exact values in the chart may differ slightly from the reports on the Times’ website because I had to reverse-engineer the bot’s decision-making process. But basically I’m assuming the model gets everything exactly right as far as expected value from various field locations, chances of converting a fourth-down attempt, etc., then recalculating the final expected value comparison using 2015 kickers.:Having better kickers makes a big difference, as you can see from the blue sea on the left versus the red sea on the right. (The 4th Down Bot’s complete “Go or No” table is on the Times’ website.)Getting these fourth-down calls wrong is potentially a big problem for the model. As a test case, I tried applying the 4th Down Bot’s model to a selection of the most relevant kicks from between 25 and 55 yards in 2013, then looked at what coaches actually did in those scenarios. I graded both against my kicking-adjusted results for 2013. While the updated version still concluded that coaches were too conservative (particularly on fourth-and-short), it found that coaches were (very slightly) making more correct decisions than the 4th Down Bot.The differences were small (coaches beat the bot by only a few points over the entire season), but even being just as successful as the bot would be a drastic result considering how absolutely terrible coaches’ go-for-it strategy has been for decades. In other words, maybe it’s not that NFL coaches were wrong, they were just ahead of their time!Time-traveling kickersHaving such an accurate model also allows us to see the overall impact kicking improvement has had on football. For example, we can calculate how kickers from different eras would have performed on a common set of attempts. In the following chart, we can see how many more or fewer points per game the typical team would have scored if kickers from a different era had taken its kicks (the red line is the actual points per game from field goals that year):The last time kickers were as big a part of the game as they are today, the league had to move the posts back! Since the rule change, the amount of scoring from field goals has increased by more than 2 points per game. A small part of the overall increase (the overall movement of the red line) is a result of taking more field goals, but most of it comes from the improvement in accuracy alone (the width of the “ribbon”).How does this compare to broader scoring trends? As a baseline for comparison, I’ve taken the average points scored in every NFL game since 1961, and then seen how much league scoring deviated from that at any given point in time (the “scoring anomaly”). Then I looked at how much of that anomaly was a result of kicking accuracy.9The scoring deviation on this chart is calculated relative to the average game over the period. The kicking accuracy is relative to the median kicker of the period.:Amid wild fluctuations in scoring, kicking has remained a steady, driving force.For all the talk of West Coast offenses, the invention of the pro formation, the wildcat, 5-wide sets, the rise of the pass-catching tight-end, Bill Walsh, the Greatest Show On Turf, and the general recognition that passing, passing and more passing is the best way to score in football, half the improvement in scoring in the past 50-plus years of NFL history has come solely from field-goal kickers kicking more accurately.10Side note, I’ve also looked at whether kicking improvement has been a result of kickers who are new to the league being better than older kickers, or of older kickers getting better themselves. The answer is both.The past half-century has seen an era of defensive innovation — running roughly from the mid-’60s to the mid-’70s — a chaotic scoring epoch with wild swings until the early ’90s, and then an era of offensive improvement. But the era of kickers is forever.Reuben Fischer-Baum contributed graphics.CORRECTION (Jan. 28, 2:22 p.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly gave the distances from which extra-point kicks were taken in 1933 and in recent years. Actual extra-point distances aren’t recorded.
5Oakland Athletics7679797577.1 EXPECTED NUMBER OF WINS RANKTEAMPECOTAFANGRAPHSDAVENPORTWESTGATEAVERAGE How forecasters view the AL West 4Los Angeles Angels7883818180.6 3Texas Rangers8483818583.1 2Seattle Mariners8583888685.4 neil (Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight senior sportswriter): I think the AL West is a really fascinating division because the team that is probably the best in it right now (Houston) finished third last year, the third-best team (Texas) finished first, and those two teams are sandwiched around one (Seattle) that has had the hardest playoff luck possible in recent years. And we haven’t even mentioned a team (the Los Angeles Angels) that contains the potential G.O.A.T.Anyway, the projections say the Astros should be the favorites, so let’s start with them. In a weird way, was 2016 an example of the Plexiglas Principle for them? Their actual record only dropped by 2 wins from 2015, but they were down 10 Pythagorean wins in 2016 after a 22-win Pythagorean improvement the year before. Does that portend an improvement this year?ckahrl: Sadly, you don’t get to carry over any accrued, unmet expectations for wins. Hence the wisdom of shaking up that lineup as much as they did by adding Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and Brian McCann.rob: It was less the Plexiglas Principle — which is really just regression to the mean — and more the case of a legitimately good team snakebit by poor sequencing and Pythagorean luck.That poor luck does not in and of itself guarantee an improvement, but the talent on the team does. Most of the best players from last year are back, and they made a few additions, which together makes them, on paper, the best team in the division.ckahrl: That said, I still have questions about them …I’m reminded of an old saying that I think belongs to Bill James, that a team with five viable first-base options may not have a first baseman. Plus, can George Springer play a whole lot of center field over a full season? And as interesting as pitcher Lance McCullers should be, and as much as I like what they’re doing with pitcher Chris Devenski, is that a staff we should be entirely sold on? I see how the pieces work individually; I wonder about the aggregate.neil: Yeah, the biggest thing for them might be whether a rotation that was way down from its 2015 form — most notably Dallas Keuchel, but also Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers — can reclaim what went right two years ago.ckahrl: A lot of analysts are banking that Keuchel comes back a good ways, but I also accept the suggestion that this team needed to add a better starter than, say, Charlie Morton. But I guess that’s what the trade deadline will be for.neil: In that department, it also helps that they have the third-best farm system in the game. So they have the assets to conceivably go out and make something happen on the trade market if need be.rob: I’m a believer in the Astros’ rotation. I think last year was a bit of an aberration. FIP (fielding independent pitching) has its problems in terms of describing their performance, but it still has validity as a predictive metric. And from that standpoint, we should expect some bounce-backs from Keuchel and McHugh, at least. The 16.4 percent home runs-per-flyball rate that Keuchel managed last year wasn’t entirely his fault, even if he allowed some hard contact.ckahrl: That hard contact seems like a consistent concern, though, no? That isn’t stuff you can fix with defense.rob: That’s true, but contact management is a skill that fluctuates a lot. That goes as much for Good Keuchel — the one who allowed maybe the softest contact in the league in 2015 — as it does for Bad Keuchel. He may end up as a mediocre contact-manager, but that would still be a decided improvement.neil: It also bears mentioning that on the offensive side, Houston had the youngest lineup in baseball in 2016 — though they gave some of that up when they revamped things, like Christina mentioned. But this does seem like a very balanced, complete team now, assuming that the pitchers rebound.Bottom line — is it crazy to think the Astros are on the verge of a great season?rob: No. But I think the more likely outcome is a good season.ckahrl: If Keuchel and McHugh come back as far as they might, if the bullpen gels, if Springer is fully healthy for a season and can handle center, if Yuli Gurriel pans out in the most exciting ways, sure, they could live up to the mid-’90s win total that some of the projectors have them down for.So it isn’t exactly magical thinking. But how many teams get everything they want and hope for?rob: The 2016 Cubs say hi. ;)ckahrl: Hah, yes.neil: OK, so if you’re both a little more bearish on the ’Stros than the projections above, are you bullish on the Mariners or — gasp — the Rangers?ckahrl: Speaking of the Plexiglas Principle, it is certainly fashionable to bash the Rangers.rob: I’m the Designated Rangers Basher around here, so I have to say that they seem like an OK team. But they aren’t as good as their record from last year, and they didn’t make massive improvements. In contrast, the Mariners were good last year and ended up being crushed under the wheels of the Rangers One-Run Magic Machine.Of course, as Christina can tell you, I was wrong about the Rangers last year, while she somehow saw their impressive season coming. So you should probably listen to her.ckahrl: And sure enough, I’m not that down on them. A full year of catcher Jonathan Lucroy and starter Yu Darvish? Those are good things. It’s easy to knock Mike Napoli, but will he be worse than the .699 OPS (on-base plus slugging) the Rangers got from their first basemen last year? (No.) And don’t we expect growth from Nomar Mazara? (We should.)It’s when you get into that rotation’s depth — or the complete lack of any — that things get scary.neil: Yep, when Dillon Gee is the back-of-the-rotation reinforcement …rob: Agreed about the lack of depth, especially in view of the Rangers’ consistent injury problems. Last year, I remember a lot of people saying that they couldn’t repeat their injury woes from the year(s) before. But they ended up with the fourth-most DL days in 2016, according to Jeff Zimmerman’s DL database. The strongest predictor of future injuries is past injuries, and I expect that their depth will be tested once again.neil: And all of this compounds on itself if their true talent was closer to that 82-win Pythagorean team last year than the 95 wins they had in the standings. Your margin for error on injuries and offseason pickups goes down to nothing really quickly.ckahrl: Agreed. To give them their due, though, manager Jeff Banister handles his bullpens well, which helps milk the margins. But even so, the Rangers need to throw good money after bad — and maybe a prospect or two — to add a starting pitcher and take themselves seriously this season.neil: Meanwhile — and you touched on this Rob (plus wrote about it last year) — the Mariners can’t catch a break, it seems. Do they break that trend this season?rob: The Mariners are still squarely in that terrible zone of playoff probabilities that has so haunted them for the past 20 years. If the projections hold true, they’ll be right around 50 percent to make the playoffs, with their success contingent on things like how other teams perform and the vagaries of Pythagorean records. I’d like to say, “Yes, this is their year,” but I’ve seen enough Mariners bad luck to hedge a bit.ckahrl: Talk about a fun team taking some fun risks, though. I like the depth in the rotation and in their outfield. I like a team willing to take a chance on first baseman Dan Vogelbach. I like seeing a team valuing strong complementary pieces, like utilityman Danny Valencia.neil: And starting pitcher James Paxton is the real deal. He led all qualified AL pitchers in FIP last year.They were, though, the second-oldest team in MLB last year. Also, I wonder if Felix Hernandez is running out of steam just as the rest of the roster is finally gaining it.ckahrl: Yes, and they didn’t get a lot younger by adding thirtysomethings like Jarrod Dyson, Valencia and Carlos Ruiz. There aren’t a lot of tomorrows in their mix. And the bullpen is … well, it’s going to be interesting if the organization doesn’t have another call-up like Edwin Diaz to help contribute.rob: To make matters worse, Hisashi Iwakuma has looked cooked in spring training this year, not that such performances count for much.ckahrl: What if Yovani Gallardo is also ready to be beaten like a drum and King Felix is done? Things get ugly early. At which point, GM Jerry Dipoto can break the team up for parts with his usual manic energy.neil: I guess Mariners fans have stuck with them through the playoff drought this long — what’s another rebuilding cycle? But that’s probably overly pessimistic. There’s a universe where they win this division, or at least a wild card.rob: The wild card seems like slim consolation, given the length of their playoff drought.ckahrl: As an A’s fan, I can agree that the wild card is not much to get excited about.neil: We’ll get to the A’s really soon! But first we should talk the Angels.ckahrl: Leave the fork, we can stick it in the A’s later.neil: So … the Angels are just going to keep on wasting Mike Trout’s talent forever, aren’t they?rob: Yep. The gap in projected wins above replacement between Trout and the next best player on the team is about 5 wins. And Trout has consistently overperformed all predictions, so it may end up closer to 7. He’s ridiculous, the rest of the team is terrible, and personally I see them as closer to PECOTA’s 78-win projection than a .500 outfit.ckahrl: They’re an interesting team because they did a nice job filling huge holes by getting Danny Espinosa and Cameron Maybin for very little. Even if Garrett Richards is all the way back, I just don’t see how that staff keeps them in enough games to get them much further than .500. But at least there are potential slugfests to enjoy now.rob: I struggle to get excited about Espinosa or Maybin. I know they’ve both had good performances at times, but Steamer puts them down as below-average players this year. Or exactly the type of player who ends up playing alongside Mike Trout in a disappointing campaign.ckahrl: Improvement is relative. The kitchen linoleum might be the ceiling for those two, but it’s better than what the Angels have gotten from those lineup slots.neil: Still, it does seem like shuffling deck chairs around on the Titanic. (Ben Revere? Really?) They also have the second-worst farm system in the majors, so help is not on the way.ckahrl: The thing about Trout is … he’s still only 25 years old and signed through 2020. Is it a wasted year? Probably, even if they eke out a whopping 80 or 82 wins. Is that enough of a moral victory to help them with their payroll hangover from the Pujols/Hamilton/Wilson splurge that worked out less than well? Maybe, because I wonder if the Angels aren’t positioning themselves to be players in the stronger free-agent markets of the next couple winters.neil: Amazingly, Pujols’ contract ends after Trout’s does!rob: I do think there is reason to get excited about the long-term future of the Angels. They’ve developed their analytics department in a smart way and made some good hires. Simply hiring people isn’t enough, of course, but in a few years, I can see that paying dividends. Of course, they’ve got the Mike Scioscia problem — his inability to take direction from a GM ended the tenure of the last smart one they had.ckahrl: Well, I wouldn’t sell Angels GM Billy Eppler short. Help isn’t coming soon, but having Trout helps mask what might effectively be a necessary bottom-up rebuild for the organization in the meantime.neil: In the short term, it’s difficult to envision the Angels escaping that 80-ish win purgatory they’ve been trapped in for most of the Trout Era.ckahrl: Have to agree that’s the Angels’ lot, although I’m intrigued by what will happen when Eppler has a shot at spending some money. But with more than $70 million committed per year to Trout, Pujols and Andrelton Simmons in 2018 and beyond, he won’t have as much to spend as he’d like.neil: Finally, we’ve got Christina’s A’s bringing up the rear of the projections — with an OK win total (by their standards)? They made some additions over the offseason that might bring them toward respectability, but are they moving out of a rebuild? What are they doing exactly?ckahrl: Speaking of shuffling deck chairs …It’s brutal, simply brutal, but it’s also a return to the low-stakes, low-upsides bets like when they were going after David DeJesus.rob: I’m really not clear about Oakland’s long-term plan. I feel like the A’s have gone from Moneyball-era prophets of the analytics era to an erratic front office pursuing a series of disconnected moves without an obvious scheme for the next three to five years.ckahrl: The farm system has a few interesting position players, and starter Sean Manaea is going to be fun to watch, but it’s rough sledding in the meantime. Rajai Davis as a 36-year-old everyday center fielder will be a catastrophe for these young pitchers.neil: Just the thing for jump-starting that Sonny Gray renaissance! (If he ever can stay healthy enough to pitch.)rob: Or pitch effectively — he struggled last year in part because of some injuries.neil: Crazy how quickly he went from being one of their lone bright spots to being a non-factor.rob: On that point, the Athletics had the second-most DL days last year, behind only the Dodgers (who seemed to have purposefully built their rotation out of glass). They are likely to have problems again this year, so if their projection is off, I expect it to be overly optimistic.neil: Does Billy Beane get any residual benefit of the doubt at this point? Any hope for the next few seasons? Or is it just a matter of ownership and biding time for a new park?ckahrl: At this point, you can’t give them any residual benefit of the doubt. Results do matter, and with the coming sunset of their revenue sharing, they aren’t going to be anyone else’s charity case. I like Marcus Semien and Khris Davis, and I’d like to pretend I have faith Yonder Alonso’s nice spring means something. But I think 100 losses is way more likely than 78 wins.rob: Beane was brilliant for a long time (see Benjamin Morris’s article), but there’s a strong Red Queen dynamic in baseball analytics these days: You have to run as fast as you can just to stay in the same place. Although the A’s had a strong analytics advantage early on, they haven’t kept up with the pace of growth of analytics in the league. I don’t think they are terribly behind the state of the art in baseball now, but they are falling further and further toward the back of the pack.So I’m inclined not to give him any benefit of the doubt. Staffing is an incomplete proxy for analytics expertise, so maybe he has — or will generate — other advantages to make up for the small front office. But as Christina said, at the end of the day, it’s all about results, and they’ve had some pretty poor results recently. 1Houston Astros9391949292.4 Based on projected wins or over/under win totals. Data gathered on March 21, 2017.Sources: Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Clay Davenport, Las Vegas Review-Journal In honor of the 2017 Major League Baseball season, which starts April 2, FiveThirtyEight is assembling some of our favorite baseball writers to chat about what’s ahead. Today, we focus on the American League West with ESPN.com MLB editor Christina Kahrl and FiveThirtyEight baseball columnist Rob Arthur. The transcript below has been edited.
The OSU women’s soccer team participates in ‘Carmen Ohio’ following a 3-2 win over Purdue on Oct. 8 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.Credit: Anbo Yao / Lantern photographerThe Ohio State women’s soccer team (7-3-3, 2-2-2) tallied its first victory since Sept. 25 on Thursday evening after the Buckeyes topped the Purdue Boilermakers 3-2. The Buckeyes were first to score when sophomore forward Sammy Edwards finished from 10 yards in the center of the box off an assist from junior forward Lindsay Agnew in just the third minute of play. OSU came out of the gates with a lot of energy, evident by the quick score. “I think we know we are in a tough spot in the standings right now, so we needed to come out this weekend and get two wins,” junior forward Nichelle Prince said. “So today was the first day of that and we just really bought it and everyone was on their game today.”OSU maintained its lead for the next 10 minutes before the Boilermakers leveled the match on sophomore midfielder/forward Erika Arkans’ shot from 10 yards out. The half continued with back and forth play with multiple opportunities for both teams to score. OSU coach Lori Walker said she was pleased with the improvements her team made to find success in Thursday’s matchup. “I’m really proud of the effort that they put in tonight, and it’s something that we’ve really been asking them to raise every single game, every day,” Walker said. “We’ve tried to make practices as enjoyable as possible the last week and a half, and I really think that it really started to show today.”Senior captain midfielder Michela Paradiso scored the Buckeyes’ next goal in the 34th minute, her second goal of the season.The Scarlet and Gray headed into halftime leading the Boilermakers 2-1, while also holding an 8-5 advantage in shots, including 5-1 on goal. While holding the edge, the Buckeyes knew at halftime that the game was far from over. “It’s a 90-minute game. Forty-five minutes we have given our heart and our soul, but we’ve got to come out and do that again,” Walker said. “We haven’t really done that; this is one of the first games I feel like we’ve put all the pieces together over the 90 minutes.”Prince played an aggressive and dominant game, which earned her effusive praise from Walker. “She has so many just special, God-given talents, and what we really try to do is encourage her to utilize them,” Walker said. “Just seeing her with a smile on her face because she’s back at her full pace, if you will, I was just really pleased with what she has been giving our team.” The Boilermakers tied the game in the 61st minute when junior forward Maddy Williams shot from 20 yards out, deflecting off the hand of OSU freshman goalkeeper Devon Kerr and into the back of the net. Prince said this was the Buckeyes’ time to show what they’re made of. “It’s hard when you’re under pressure. You can either crack or step up to the plate, and I think that’s what we did,” Prince said. “We came to play today and we weren’t afraid. We just played our game and came out really hard.”Despite giving up the tying goal, OSU did not back down. In the 67th minute, sophomore midfielder Nikki Walts netted her fourth goal of the season after she curled a shot from 25 yards inside the right post to give the Buckeyes the lead.With the lead in hand, OSU continued to bring pressure and intensity until the very end. “We challenged them and basically tried to treat this like a championship game,” Walker said. “This game really matters, not that any other game doesn’t matter, but this one was a critical one.”The Buckeyes will look to continue their winning ways on Sunday, as they are set to play host to the Maryland Terrapins at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.