Tuesday, June 30, 2009

MGM: On a Tuesday

machinegun1-300x1991As I continue to catch-up from my mysterious absence (or vacation), I thought the best way to touch on a number of issues at one time is to roll out a Machine Gun Monday on a Tuesday.

On one hand, you would think this is a nice slow time of year where we could merely lock in on the Rangers attempt to battle those Angels on the sports stage all by themselves. But, look around. NBA Free Agency is tonight; NHL Free Agency is tomorrow; Wimbledon is in its Championship week; Longhorns are running into apartment buildings; and much more.

As a wise man once said, "there are no slow sports days, just slow sports people". So let's touch on many items in a short amount of time:

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rambling about Soccer

us_soccer_ball2-736935Me: My Name is Bob, and I love soccer.

All of You together: Hi, Bob.

No, not the soccer that you think you know. Not the soccer that your 6 year old plays because you don't want them to get hurt in "real sports". Not the soccer you roll your eyes at when someone tells you for the millionth time it "is the next big thing".

I am talking about the soccer that every freaking country in the entire world lives for. The sport that is so consuming that most other countries do not require other sports to fill the off-season.

Soccer, when done properly - which our country has never really done with one of its domestic leagues - is as intoxicating an athletic endevour as you will find. And don't tell me its boring. "It's boring" is what your wife told you about baseball, and you knew that she might never know what she was missing.

And yesterday, was one of those moments when I thought that just for a brief moment, soccer might become mainstream.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Stars Pick at #8 needs to Count

nhl-draft1With today being the last day before vacation, I wanted to cover something that might go uncovered in these parts if I don't do it....the NHL Draft from a Stars perspective.

I know that this post may not be for everyone, but if you follow the Stars at all, you know a few things about the local hockey team.

1) - The Stars have not had a draft pick in the Top 10 of the draft since 1996 (Richard Jackman, 5th, major bust).

2) - Well over half of the NHL's Superstars are taken in the Top 10 of the draft; many in the Top 3 of the draft.

3) - The Stars have rebuilt a very strong, young group of talent that is emerging. A solid pick here could only aid in that building of the future.

With those three truths in front of us, we may surmise that this is a big night for the Stars next Friday. I am about to share with you some names, and while most of them might be the first time you have ever heard those names, know that this could be that special player that the Stars need to carry them for the next decade. Special players don't generally fall to #24 where the Stars often pick. If you are going to have a bad year, at least take advantage of the bad year by making the most of the nice pick you get as a reward for your bad year.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tiger's Quest Continues

tiger-woodsIf you are like me, you are quite interested in the US Open this weekend. And if you are like me, you are particularly intrigued by the 7:06 am Thursday tee time and the 12:36 pm Friday tee time of the one and only Tiger Woods.

Odds are, he will not win this weekend. After all, he has played in 14 of these US Opens, and only won 3 of them (and 2 2nd places). Heck, the one time in his 47 major tournaments where he actually missed the cut was the 2006 US Open.

But with all of these realities, we know that Tiger delivers. He has delivered 14 majors overall (30% win rate in majors), and is now within striking distance of a guy who most thought would be safe forever: Jack.

Jack Nicklaus, of course, has 18 majors. Comparing the two is really an amazing trip to greatness. I think it is too easy to suggest that either is a clear cut winner of the "Greatest of All-Time" title at this point. But, I also admit that Tiger has a chance to claim that title in the years to come.

Tiger's Quest Continues

Story this morning ...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Mavericks Drafting Slump

250px-donnie_nelsonOn Friday, I leave for a week, so before I go on vacation, I think I better touch on a few draft-related topics regarding the Stars and the Mavericks. Today, a look at the recent work of Donnie Nelson and the Mavericks in the last 5 years of the NBA Draft.

I picked 5 years for a few reasons. I wanted the sample size to be large enough to get a good idea of how Donnie has done, while at the same time getting past the year the Mavericks found Josh Howard and Marquis Daniels in 2003. We get it. That was a great accomplishment to find those two gems, but Howard will be 30 this season, so it is time we ask whether or not this team is replenishing the youth supplies often enough in the draft.

Donnie Nelson has done a fine job overall in my estimation, and will forever be lauded as a guy who found 2 MVP's when nobody else could (a 3rd-string PG in Phoenix, and another that was selected behind Raef Lafrentz and Robert Traylor). Name any GM that has found 2 MVPs - and "finding" does not mean winning the lottery and taking the guy everyone would have taken (Duncan, O'Neal, James) - and you will find a GM that will never need a job. Nobody questions Donnie's overall performance, but I believe below you will see why I question the quality of the last 5 drafts.

Also, to position this correctly, we need to remember that the Mavericks during this 5-year stretch have not been trying to rebuild, but rather they have been trying to win a title. Sometimes, that has resulted in some "win now" decisions that have given up many draft picks. Dampier cost 2 #1's, Kidd cost 2 #1's. Trading 4 1st rounders is obviously going to cost you lots of young talent - but you do what you have to do to try to win a ring. I accept much of that logic. But, are they doing enough with the later picks they still had? I recall in at least 2 of these drafts that the Mavs front office told us that they had no room on their roster for their picks due to cap situations. Regardless, with a real shortage of young talent, most of us would conclude that the Mavericks are in the situation they are in right now (with their top 5 players all over 29 years old) partly because they have not done a great job in decision making in the last 5 years. Anyone can point at the Devin Harris trade, but let's try to dig a bit deeper.

Monday, June 15, 2009

MGM: Billy G, Black Mamba are Champs

machinegun1"Sports Summer" is upon us. "Sports Spring" ended last night, as both of our sports that occupy our time during that season ended in the span of 48 hours.

First, on Friday, the brilliant Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals was played, and the Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a most unlikely upset of those hated Red Wings in Detroit. As I said Friday, I sure pulled hard for Pittsburgh, but I wasn't really counting on a happy ending.

Win a Game 7?

Win a Game 7 on the road?

Win a Game 7 on the road in Detroit?

The odds seemed pretty stacked against the Penguins and our old buddy, Billy Guerin.

But, a gritty effort in Game 7 that included a wonderful save with 1 second left on the clock secured a very exciting Game 7 victory in Detroit, just the 3rd time in the history of the sport (Det 1945, Mon 1971) that a road team has won a Game 7 on the road. Truly historic stuff.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ask Sports Sturm: Bethpage, August, and Cleveland

guerin1 Before we get into some of the other items we have for today, I do want to offer you a picture and a thought about the rare Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 tonight in Detroit.

First, I am a big fan of the man with the beard on the left. Bill Guerin is one of the classiest humans I have ever met in pro sports. I want success to find him, and to get his name on the holy grail (again) would make me very happy.

Also, I am not a big fan of the Detroit Red Wings. They are my life-long hockey nemesis. I wish failure upon them and even more failure on their fans. It is very similar to my feeling about the Spurs, so before you email me and tell me how jealous I am - let me cut you off at the pass and admit it. I am. It doesn't mean you have to be smug about it, and it sure doesn't mean you have to win all of the time.

Anyway, now that I have declared my love for Guerin and my hate for the Wings, let's figure out what the Penguins are up against tonight as they try to win a Game 7 on the road in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Previewing UFC 99


The next PPV in the UFC Machine is Saturday Night in Germany which represents the first ever UFC show in mainland Europe. Be still my beating heart.

These European shows honestly annoy me a bit, because they start at 2pm (but you can watch the replay at the normal 9pm slot) in the USA, and the cards are never as stacked as the Las Vegas shows. This would be a perfect opportunity for Dana White to offer up a nice free Spike show for the US fan base, but Noooooooooo.

Also, a mainstay of the Europe show appears to be Rich Franklin - who has not had a fight in Vegas since 2006, and has now been on 3 of the Europe cards. He is the main event against Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva, who clearly has the coolest nickname in MMA.

Silva has fought 5 times since the fall of 2006, and has lost 4 of them. Sure, Cro-Cop, Dan Henderson, Chuck Liddell, and Rampage Jackson are quality opponents, but it is tough to get worked up for a fight where "The Axe Murderer" has 1 win in nearly 33 months.

Why Would The Stars Fire Dave Tippett?

tippettSometimes you are left to make grand assumptions about a given story. For instance, we are still operating under the assumption that there really was major division and tension in the Cowboys locker-room in December - because if there was not (as certain guys who wear #81 tell us) then why would the Dallas Cowboys have sent their most explosive offensive player to Buffalo for nothing?

So, It seems that we are left to make our assumptions and draw our conclusions right now in the wake of the 2009 Dallas Stars mystery. Because otherwise, did the Stars need to do this?

Yesterday, word broke that they fired their long-time head coach Dave Tippett. Tippett had served the team since 2002, and in 6 seasons and 7 years with the team, he made the playoffs and finished with more than 97 points every year except this year.

This year, Tippett and the Stars missed the playoffs, but many of us who watched every second of every game certainly felt the season could be explained away rather simply - injuries and bad fortune.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Greatest of All-time? Yes.

roger_federer1I am certainly a man with a wandering sports mind, and during the sports year that sends me in all sorts of directions. One effect is that I end up watching certain events in sports that I don't know much about, but I have built it into my annual calendar. Such is the case in tennis, with the French Open Men's Final, the Wimbledon Final, and generally a few nights of US Open tennis the week before Labor Day.

I don't know tennis. I enjoy it, but I cannot name 5 men's players, I bet. It is enjoyable, but because of sports clutter, there just isn't a time where I can dedicate 2 weeks to a major, and therefore I swoop in for a few championship finals.

Which brings us to what happened this weekend. Roger Federer won his 14th major, and his first ever French Open. This completed his career grand slam, an accomplishment that only Andre Agassi had since the 1960's. Consider all of the amazing players of the last 40 years to not close that deal.

Monday, June 08, 2009

My Field Trip to Fenway

Writing a review of my first trip to Fenway this weekend would be like asking young Bob Sturm to write a review of The Empire Strike Back, or college-age Bob Sturm writing a review of Achtung, Baby.

What, did you think I was going to rip it?

The fact is, this sports weekend, which required no missed days of work, was a perfect 10 of 10. When you are a husband/father you don't have an open calendar to come and go as you please, so therefore you must make these very rare "guy-trip" weekends count. And, to see two games at Fenway Park inside one of the most beautiful weather weekends in a city that I absolutely loved was setting the bar very high for future trips of the type.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Ask Sports Sturm - Baseball Items

fenway20park20tapestryToday's feature is all baseball related, and I believe the final item in particular will be very useful for most fans to clip and save if you believe in doing that sort of thing...

Item #1: Hey Bob, you mentioned your trip to Fenway, and I was curious which parks you have been to and what was your favorite? - Tommy

Tommy, I am just the kind of guy to remember every park I have ever been to, I believe, so let me list them in the order I attended them - as memory serves: 1) Country Stadium, Milwaukee, 2) Metrodome - Minneapolis 3) Busch Stadium - St Louis, 4) Royals Stadium - Kansas City, 5) New Comiskey, Chicago, 6) Camden Yards, Baltimore, 7) Fulton-County Stadium, Atlanta, 8 ) Yankees Stadium, New York, 9) Ballpark in Arlington - Texas, 10) Wrigley Field, Chicago, 11) Coors Field, Denver, 12) Pac-Bell Park, San Francisco, 13) Miller Park, Milwaukee 14) Minute Maid Park, Houston, 15) Dodgers Stadium, Los Angeles, 16) Angels Stadium, Anaheim, 17) Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami, 18) Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego.

So 19 is tomorrow. And more importantly, with Dan McDowell stuck at 17, I open up a big 2-stadium lead.

My Favorite? How about top 5 in no particular order: Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium, Dodgers Stadium, Pac-Bell Park, and Wrigley Field. But the Padres and Rockies experiences were awesome, too.

The true test for favorite stadium experience will be this weekend, when I finally get to Fenway, and can cross that off my sports-dork bucket list.

Item #2: This one is from me as I was watching the Elvis Andrus show on Wednesday night - Hey Bob (and sports intern TC) has a rookie Shortstop every won a gold glove? What about rookies in general and the gold glove? - Love, Bob

From TC:
No rookie shortstop has ever won a Gold Glove.

Nine rookies, however, have won a Gold Glove at another position. Ichiro did it in his rookie season, and every year after. Despite being what looks like a September call-up every year from 1962 to 1965, Tommie Agee's rookie season technically was 1966, and he won both Rookie of the Year and the Gold Glove for the White Sox. Outfielder Fred Lynn was Ichiro of 1974 for the Red Sox, winning the Rookie of the Year, AL MVP, and Gold Glove in his first full year. Third baseman Frank Malzone, also for the Red Sox, had his rookie year at age 27 and won the Gold Glove that year (1957). Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk,and Sandy Alomar each won the Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove as a catcher in 1968, 1972, and 1990, respectively. Charlie Johnson won the Gold Glove as a catcher in 1995 for the upstart Marlins. Ken Hubbs only played two full years for the Cubs before dying in a plane crash, but in one of those years, 1962, he won Rookie of the Year and the Gold Glove at second base.

Genius! I am not sure he can win it, but he seems to be showing everyone how good he is, and now you know he could be the first Shortstop to ever do it.

Item #3: When crunching numbers, you need to know the average. If you just landed on earth from a galaxy far, far away, and the first human you saw was Yao Ming, you may not have a good reference for the average height of a human.

If the first house you see is owned by Tom Hicks, that may confuse your idea of what a house looks like.

And the same is true when looking at baseball statistics. Most people know that hitting .300 is great, hitting .200 is awful, and hitting .400 is the eternal dream. But, what means better-than-average?

So, when reviewing My most recent stat breakdown of Rangers pitching, it did occur to me that it might be helpful for most to understand what the average is across baseball when it comes to certain stats.

The last time I did this, a full statistical average study was April, 2008 , so we need to add some information to our findings.

2009 Stats are nice, but we don't have a complete body of work to use, so they can be misleading with 66% of the schedule yet to be played.

But, here are the league averages for 4 very key numbers in baseball, so when you hear that someone has a OBP of .370, or an ERA of 3.94, you know just how good that really is:


Table Tutorial

And then here is the last full season we have, 2008:

Table Tutorial

So, to review, the major league average in 2008 for batting average was .264-
The league average for on base percentage was .333-
And, the league average for slugging percentage was .416-
That would make the league average OPS (OBP + Slugging) .749

2008: .264/.333/.416
2007: .268/.336/.423
2006: .269/.337/.432
2005: .264/.330/.419
2004: .266/.335/.428
2003: .264/.333/.422
2002: .261/.331/.417
2001: .264/.332/.427
2000: .270/.345/.437
1999: .271/.345/.434
1998: .266/.335/.420
1997: .267/.337/.419
1996: .270/.340/.427
1995: .267/.338/.417
1994: .270/.339/.424
1993: .265/.332/.403

So, hopefully, this will help you the next time you examine someone's stats.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


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NBA Finals Preview

obrienAh, yes. The time has come. The wonderful first few weeks of June where every Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday, until we have a team win 4 times, we have NBA Finals basketball.

It certainly wasn't the match-up everyone expected. The Lakers are the people's choice, but the surprise guest is the Orlando Magic. When they lost their point guard (against the Mavericks, you may recall) Jameer Nelson, many thought that they went from a dark-horse to a team with no real chance. But, they scrambled, and have received huge efforts from various points, and between "Skip to my Lou" and the under-valued Hedo Turkoglu they have figured this thing out a bit.

To knock out the Cleveland Cavaliers in 6 games is impressive enough. Now, can they continue this run and grab their first O'Brien trophy with a shocking win over the L.A. Lakers?

I would certainly not pick them, but after that display, they should be treated with a great amount of respect. This is a dangerous team with a very impressive young stud in Dwight Howard, who has gone from a prospect who dominates the dunk competition to a guy who now deserves a spot in the "Top 5 players in the NBA" discussion.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

What is on Nieuwendyk's plate?

nieuwI have been asked quite a bit in the last few days what the new Stars General Manager is going to have to focus on in the days and nights ahead before the 2009-10 season hits.

Well, first, let's establish this one truth: He has taken a good job. There is little doubt in my mind that this team is not far away. Yes, they have issues, but if you offer anyone in the NHL a chance to take over a team with this much under-30 talent, with more on the way, I don't think you would have to twist their arm.

On the other hand, they finished 12th in the West this year, and their owner has decided that this team needed a new look at the top. That seems to speak volumes on some level, and it also makes you wonder about the underlying messages that were sent by Tom Hicks by doing this move. If Hicks thought the only issue last year was a few various injuries then there is no way that he makes this hire. What am I saying? I am not sure, exactly. But, I feel like we are getting about 40% of the story. Nieuwendyk is a talent for sure, but if this thing was headed in the right direction, then I doubt this team is looking for a new leader the second the season ended.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Pitching Profile - May Edition

The following exercise is something I am trying to keep on the side for my own personal use, but then I thought that there might be just enough stat-hungry baseball folks to go ahead and post it up here for you to digest (slowly...there is a lot).

It is basic splits for the 5 starters who have filled out the Rangers rotation for 2009. There have been 50 starts, and to date, Millwood, McCarthy, Harrison, Feldman, and Padilla have made 45 of them. Benson, Holland, and Hunter have made the last 5, but there is not enough data to make it worth running their monthly trends.

But, as we embark upon the month of June, here is a perfect time to show you how the 5 are performing, and perhaps this is something I will update and rerun each and every time we turn the calendar here in the baseball season.

Monday, June 01, 2009

MGM - Nieuwendyk, Lebron Puppet, and Me

machinegunI was just minding my own business on a nice Sunday afternoon, when I get a call from one of my peeps inside the Dallas Stars organization to tell me about the big news of the day; Joey Nieuwendyk is now the Stars General Manager.

Wow. We certainly didn't hear this was about to go down, now did we? It would appear the Stars have made a major move without anyone sniffing it out at all. Impressive.

But, why is this move being made? If I thought they would do anything this summer, it would be to end the very odd Co-GM setup from last season, and choose Les Jackson, most likely, to head the personnel department all by himself. I was getting the idea that the Hull-Jackson arrangement was not going to last much longer, but I guess I just assumed they would pick from the 2 (you know, they might pick the one who didn't recommend the Sean Avery signing).

Silly me.