For most of the first period at Madison Square Garden on Monday night, the newly renovated scoreboard above center ice displayed only the time remaining and a 0-0 score — not shots on goal, face-off percentage or the other data that it normally tracks.I thought this might be a ploy by New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. In Games 1 and 2 of the series — both comeback wins by the Los Angeles Kings — the Kings’ peripheral stats were more impressive than the Rangers’ (the Kings led the Rangers 87-65 in shots on goal, for example). Indeed, Los Angeles has a well-deserved reputation as a stat-savvy team that focuses on metrics related to puck possession and scoring opportunities, which can better predict game results than goals scored and allowed.No #fancystats for you, LA Kings! No moral victory on the strength of Zone Start Adjusted Corsi! You’ll have to win this hockey game the old-fashioned way: by scoring more goals than the other team!The stats clicked back on to the MSG scoreboard late in the first period. Soon after, the Kings scored, and they went on to beat the Rangers 3-0.But it was the Rangers who had more scoring opportunities. They had 32 shots on goal, compared with 15 for LA. Counting missed shots and blocked shots, their edge was 59-33.It can be tempting, if you have a passing familiarity with advanced hockey metrics, to take solace when outcomes like these occur or to curse your favorite team’s bad luck. How often does a team lose despite outshooting its opponent by a 2-1 margin, for instance?Actually, teams lose often. In playoff games since 1988, teams that took about two-thirds of the shots in a game (somewhere between 65 and 70 percent) won only 62 percent of the time. The chart below generalizes this data based on logistic regression and estimates how often teams win a game based on the number of shots they take.Much of this is simply a reflection of the fact that goals scored and allowed are a noisy statistic. A lucky deflection or two for the Kings, a great save or two by Jonathan Quick, and all those extra shots often go for naught.But another reason is that play changes once a team finds itself trailing. The shot count was even at 4-4 when the Kings scored with one second left in the first period. The Rangers piled on shots only once they trailed.The chart below shows how often a team shoots based on the game score. The data is based on playoff games since 2012. It includes blocked shots and missed shots, as well as shots on goal (these are called Corsi events in #fancystats terms) in 5-on-5 play.Teams down by one goal are shooting about 25 percent more often than their opponents at even strength. Teams down by two or more goals are shooting about 40 percent more often.Are those extra shots translating into goals? Actually, yes. In cases when it trails by two goals or more, a team scores about 2.4 goals per 60 minutes of ice time at even strength, compared with 1.8 goals for the leading team.So, at least in the playoffs, there’s been some tendency for the trailing team to recover (despite that it should be the slightly weaker team on average for having fallen behind). It’s like a mild version of the CPU Assistance that allowed the computer to make spectacular comebacks in games such as NBA Jam just when you thought you had everything wrapped up.It isn’t clear whether this represents rational behavior on the part of the leading team. It would be one thing if it were stalling just to get the game over with, reducing shots and scoring for both teams. But it’s actually allowing its opponents more shots and more goals — at the same time it’s taking fewer of its own.One possible explanation is the avoidance of penalties (to the extent they can be averted through more passive play). In playoff games since 2012, teams are scoring 6.3 goals per 60 minutes on the power play — nearly three times their rate at even strength. Shorthanded teams score 0.8 shorthanded goals per 60 minutes. Those long-term averages didn’t help the Rangers on Monday night, who went scoreless in six power play opportunities.
Going into this season, one of the biggest question marks for any NBA team was what the Chicago Bulls would get out of Derrick Rose. When Rose was healthy three seasons ago, he was one of the best players in basketball — and Chicago had the league’s best record. But in 10 games last season — his first action back after a torn ACL cost him all of the 2012-13 season — Rose was abysmal before tearing the meniscus in his other knee and missing the remainder of the season. He also struggled at the FIBA World Cup this past summer, giving rise to very real worries that Rose would never be able to reclaim his pre-injury MVP form.Fast-forward to Monday night, when Rose scored 24 points with seven assists in Chicago’s 102-91 win over the Detroit Pistons. It’s early in the season — Chicago is eight games into its schedule, of which Rose has only played half because of sprained ankles — but Rose’s numbers thus far suggest he’s getting close to his old level of effectiveness. And at the very least, he’s playing much better than he did a season ago.Rose’s performance was a mess last season. He had no trouble getting his own shot (his usage rate was 31.5 percent), but he was horribly inefficient when he did, posting a .446 true shooting percentage (the NBA average was .541). He struggled to get to the line, didn’t finish well within 10 feet of the basket and missed more than his fair share of long mid-range jump shots. He also turned the ball over on 16 percent of his plays (up from 13 percent during his great 2011 and 2012 seasons), assisted teammates at a career-low rate and was notably inactive on defense, where real plus/minus rated him worse than an average NBA player by almost a full point per 100 possessions.How bad was Rose in those 10 games a year ago? Statistical plus/minus estimates that a player posting the aforementioned numbers would cost his team about 3.8 points per 100 possessions relative to the NBA average. Research shows that the replacement level for NBA players is about two points per 100 possessions below average, so — albeit in a small sample — Rose played worse than the level at which a player should be jettisoned from an NBA roster.This season, he’s still consuming about 31 percent of Chicago’s plays when on the floor, but he’s put those opportunities to much better use, with a true shooting percentage of .566 (a rate even better than his .545 mark in 2011 and 2012). Rose’s free throw rate is surpassing its pre-injury levels, he’s finishing much better around the basket, and his assist rate (38 percent) is back where it was before his long hiatus. He’s even picking up steals at a career-high rate, and his pick-and-roll defense has been better, per Synergy Sports data.The only areas where Rose’s game has resembled its poor 2013-14 form have been turnovers — he’s still giving the ball away on 16 percent of plays — and mid-range shooting. But after the injury-riddled, awful pair of seasons preceding 2014-15, it’s highly encouraging to see Rose perform at a level comparable to his terrific 2010-11 and 2011-12 campaigns.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham knew its football team was going to have to battle for survival from the start. In 1996, its first year of Division I-A ball, the team’s slogan was unusually defensive: “We’re here to stay,” the omnipresent banners and billboards around Birmingham read. Less than 20 years later, the team is gone.On Tuesday UAB President Ray Watts announced he was shuttering the football team, citing a study from an outside consulting group that determined the program would need to dramatically increase its operating budget in order to remain competitive. “We have considered many options to fill this financial gap, including through philanthropic support; but our informed analysis of current and past support and interest concluded that the gap is simply too wide,” Watts wrote.UAB faced two major problems, one of which was specific to its circumstances, and one of which is staring down all universities that have recently tried their hand at big-time football.The University of Alabama never wanted UAB to be a competitor, making life difficult for UAB even before a team arrived. Even though the two institutions share a board of trustees and a medical school, Alabama has been leery of UAB’s foray into major sports since Gene Bartow left his job as UCLA’s head coach to found UAB’s basketball team in 1978. Citing a range of grievances over recruiting and fan support, Alabama has refused to engage UAB on the court or on the gridiron. The Tide have faced the Blazers only once, in basketball, when they were pitted against each other in the National Invitation Tournament. UAB didn’t help matters by winning 58-56.In 1989, Bartow, UAB’s athletic director, started to put together a football team. Alabama’s athletic department was not happy. Its head coach, Bill Curry, was particularly adamant: “Not only would we not play them, we don’t understand why they are talking about bringing another football team into the University of Alabama system,” he said at the time. “I’m the only [football] coach in the University of Alabama system. We don’t need another football team at one of our other campuses.” In 1991, Bartow sent a letter to the NCAA accusing former and current Alabama coaches — including Bear Bryant — of recruiting violations.The system’s board of trustees has tended to represent Alabama’s interests over UAB’s, perhaps because the large majority of them are alumni of the Capstone. (Trustee Paul Bryant, Jr., for example, is the son of the legendary coach.) They’ve blocked UAB’s attempts to move out of the cavernous and decaying Legion Field and into a new stadium, and they nixed a deal for UAB to hire Jimbo Fisher, who would go on to win a national championship with Florida State.But even if the Blazers hadn’t been undercut by their own trustees, they still would have had a tremendous hill to climb, one that’s getting steeper every year as the gap between the haves and the have-nots of football continues to grow. UAB was in the vanguard of a recent trend of universities starting football programs from scratch with the plan to get to Division I as soon as possible, and reap the PR and financial benefits that come with a major football program. Nine other universities that are in or are about to join the Football Bowl Subdivision have started football programs since UAB did, and they share several commonalities.All of them are based in the South, and all of them felt they had a chance to succeed because of the prestige of the game and the fertile recruiting grounds in the region. But they’ve found it incredibly expensive to field a competitive FBS program. They all have losing records against fellow FBS schools, and they all receive substantial subsidies in order to keep their athletic departments afloat. They’ve had trouble attracting supporters, perhaps because most football fans in the region are already loyal to other teams. And as the Big 5 power conferences start to crank up the financial pressure — both with lavish spending on facilities and upcoming allowances for players — it’s possible that some of these programs could join UAB on the sidelines.Only one of the new teams looks like it’s making the leap to sustainability. South Florida not only has the highest attendance and lowest subsidy percentage of the bunch, it’s also the only school that’s made it out of the C-USA and Sun Belt Conference dregs and into the relative comfort of the American Athletic Conference. (That said, the team has regressed recently, winning only six games in the last two years.)The rest of the teams look a lot like UAB with slightly better attendance. They bring in far less than the average FBS athletic department, and all their athletic departments receive at least 60 percent of their revenues in subsidies — meaning that a combination of student fees, institutional support and state funding are used to cover the majority of their expenses.In his letter to UAB faculty about the shutdown, Watts specifically cited the huge subsidy as a reason the football team had to go, along with an unwillingness to shell out even more cash for upgraded facilities. If that’s actually the case, and cold numbers rather than system-wide infighting cost UAB its team, then there are plenty of other programs facing similar deficits.Watts claims the UAB athletic budget will stay the same even after the football program folds, meaning that more resources can be put toward other sports, including the basketball team, which has recently fallen on hard times after years of winning seasons. Perhaps UAB can look to the success of Virginia Commonwealth University, its former Sun Belt Conference foe, which eschewed the lure of football to focus on basketball. The Rams now play in the hoops-centered Atlantic-10 and regularly make deep runs in the NCAA tournament.Making the Blazers’ basketball team into a powerhouse won’t be a simple task. But it will certainly be easier than the existential struggle its football team just lost.CORRECTION (9:30 a.m., Dec. 8): An earlier version of this article misstated the year that Gene Barlow started UAB’s football program; it was 1989, not 1991.
A contrite Chad Ochocinco apologized for showing disrespect when he slapped his attorney on the backside in court last week, and the judge released him from jail after only a week instead of 30 days.Broward County Circuit Judge Kathleen McHugh accepted the former NFL star’s apology and cut his 30-day jail term for a probation violation to the seven days he has already served since the rear-swatting incident.Johnson, a flamboyant wide receiver formerly known as Chad Ochocinco, said in court that he’d had time to think about why his flippant attitude was wrong — especially in a domestic violence case.“I just wanted to apologize for disrespecting the court last time,” said Johnson, wearing a tan jail jumpsuit with his hands shackled at the waist. “I apologize. I did have time to reflect on the mistakes I made in this courtroom.”Johnson walked out of jail shortly after 4 p.m. and was met by his attorney, Adam Swickle, and sports agent Drew Rosenhaus. Johnson told reporters he was thankful to McHugh because she was the first person to get him to slow down and think about the path his life was taking.“No one has been able to do it, not even my parents,” he said. “I thank her. Everything she did was justified.”Asked if he hoped to latch on with an NFL team, Johnson said, “I just have to say my next move, my best move.”McHugh noted that in a previous hearing, Johnson had put his arm around a female prosecutor’s shoulders, prompting the prosecutor to tell him twice not to touch her. The judge also pointed out that when Johnson head-butted his then-wife, Evelyn Lozada of the reality TV show “Basketball Wives,” she suffered a 3-inch gash on her head that required eight stitches. The judge called those injuries horrific.McHugh also said Johnson failed to appreciate “the gift of probation” after pleading no contest to battery in the altercation last August with Lozada, which prompted her to quickly file for divorce. Johnson, 35, was in court because he had failed to meet with his probation officer for three consecutive months.“I find that’s an arrogant disregard for a court order,” the judge said.McHugh ordered Johnson to perform 25 hours of community service and attend domestic violence counseling sessions twice a week during probation, and she extended his probation an extra three months through mid-October.Swickle, the attorney who had his backside slapped, said Johnson will fully comply with all probation conditions and hopes to resurrect his NFL career. The six-time Pro Bowler was cut by the Miami Dolphins after his arrest for battery; he played most of his 11 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals followed by one year with the New England Patriots.“He understands that this is the kind of situation that can derail a person’s career,” Swickle said. “We’re very confident he will do what he should do.”Terrell Owens visited Johnson in jail on Saturday and tweeted that his former teammate was in “good spirits.”“I really didn’t know what to expect but to see the homie locked up is a very humbling experience, to talk to him via vid conference let me know that’s not where anyone wants to be,” Owens wrote. “I know he’s only in the county jail but to someone that has never been locked up…Jail is jail!”
Then Karjakin pounced. He forayed dramatically into enemy territory, capturing the pawn on f7 and sacrificing his bishop at the hands of black’s king in the process. For the first time in the two weeks of the match, what could honestly be described as a cheer erupted from the crowd in the Fulton Market Building in the South Street Seaport. Karjakin was on the attack!The serious threats thereafter posed to black’s king by white’s invasion allowed Karjakin to make up for his lost bishop a few moves later, trading rooks and winning black’s knight. But the offensive wasn’t enough. Despite a one-pawn advantage, the Russian couldn’t ensnare the Norwegian king, settling for a draw. In the position shown above, the computer preferred a less direct — but incredibly complicated — variation: sliding the queen to b3 first to provide some backup before the bishop attack. That approach may have been winning for the Russian. But computers and may-haves aren’t worth a whole lot at the World Chess Championship.The game was clearly drawn for the next hour, but Karjakin kept playing, swinging his queen around the board, bothering but never truly threatening Carlsen and his king. The Russian seemed to be lording his then 1-point advantage over Carlsen. At some point, the game wasn’t really about chess. It was about the players.“I’m just happy to survive,” Carlsen said afterward. His slid his rook, in the upper right corner, south one square, to h7. It didn’t look like much to me at first, but it cost him any chance of a draw. Karjakin, whose impenetrable defenses had helped secure an unlikely lead in the match, had crumbled. The issue with rook-to-h7 is that black can no longer address his many problems at once. His pressure points are the squares b7, the pawn next to his king, and e6, another lonely pawn. Tucking one rook behind the other limits its ability to help defend these. Indeed, the pawn on e6 would fall a few moves later, while b7 became a focal point of white’s attack. (Better, according to the silicon, was leaving the rooks be and taking the knight to h6.)This game was vintage Magnus, though, grinding down an opponent and pursuing a small advantage, undeterred, for hours. Karjakin resigned on the 75th move. This spelled relief for Carlsen fans. For those without a rooting interest, there was another reason to be excited — the match was tied, and faster tiebreaker games could be in store. And perhaps the player everyone had expected when they shelled out $75 for their ticket — the Mozart of chess — had finally started composing.A simple Elo-based simulation of the rest of the match puts Carlsen’s chance of winning in 12 games at 38 percent, and Karjakin’s at 10 percent. The chance of tiebreakers is 52 percent.2This is based on their current Elo ratings and an assumption that 70 percent of games will end in a draw. Dave Rabinowitz, left, and Jay Bonin. Photograph by Misha Friedman Despite notions that Carlsen would venture something exotic the next day, handling the white pieces, to secure a badly needed win, Thursday’s Game 10 saw yet another Ruy to start — the sixth in 10 games. The Spanish priest would be proud.Karjakin had a juicy chance to force a draw early on via perpetual check, which would have put him a huge step closer to the title, but he missed the opportunity. The grandmasters fought on. Unlike in the previous day’s game, however, the heaviest artillery came off the board, when queens were traded on the 24th move. But her loyal subjects survived: Not a single pawn was captured until the 34th move. These smallest of pieces formed an intricate lattice around and through which each of the grandmasters’ knight and two rooks had to navigate. Carlsen held a small edge, according to Stockfish, as the castles and horses were picked up, put down and rearranged in a shuffle worthy of an amateur Shakespeare production. It still looked somewhat draw-ish, as the chess commentariat is quick to say, until Move 56. Karjakin (black) had this to deal with: Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the defending world chess champion and No. 1 player, had a nice Thanksgiving in New York City: He won a game of chess. In the 10th game of the best-of-12 world championship match, on the banks of the East River in lower Manhattan, after eight draws and one loss, he finally triumphed Thursday in 75 moves and six and a half hours of play. The day before, he’d parried sharp threats from his challenger, Sergey Karjakin, the Russian world No. 7, fighting to a 74-move draw. The score is now tied at 5 in this race to 6.5 points and chess immortality.1Wins are worth 1 point, draws are worth half a point for each player, and losses are worth 0 points. If the match is tied after 12 games, speedier tiebreaker games will be played Nov. 30.Wednesday continued the match’s main theme: lengthy, tense draws, with one side scratching for survival. Thursday saw the first breakthrough for the Norwegian and a sigh of relief from his fans. And away from the venue, New York chess fans — and the city’s chess elite — kept a watchful eye on the match.The two grandmasters began Wednesday’s Game 9 with another Ruy Lopez — the fifth time this opening sequence of moves had been played in the match and the untold millionth time it has been played since its eponymous Spanish priest undertook the first systematic study of the sequence in 1561. It’s a natural way to start a chess game — two knights leap into action and then a bishop provides some tension.Things proceeded largely without incident until around Move 39. Karjakin, playing white, was clinging to a small positional advantage, per the computer chess engine Stockfish. Carlsen, playing black, opened the door for him even wider. Carlsen retreated his knight, from d5 to e7, on Move 38. Karjakin contemplated the position below for more than 26 minutes, burning his time allotment down to less than a minute. He glanced occasionally at the clock but mostly stared at f7, the square occupied by a lowly black pawn near his opponent’s all-important black king. The only American chess world champion of the modern era is Bobby Fischer, who won in 1972. There were high hopes that the list would double in length this year. Two Americans — Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura — competed in March’s Candidates Tournament for the right to challenge Carlsen. Caruana, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, fell 1 point short; Karjakin beat him in the final round to clinch the spot.Still, this championship is resonating beyond the four walls of its venue with the chesserati in the Big Apple.On a recent match off-day, I visited the Marshall Chess Club in New York’s Greenwich Village. The club, along with the outdoor tables in nearby Washington Square Park that chess hustlers call home, is the beating heart of chess in the city. A 13-year-old Fischer played the “Game of the Century” there in 1956, and a corner of the club is adorned with memorabilia from his 1972 championship match. Stanley Kubrick and Marcel Duchamp have counted themselves as members. Carlsen has played there. The club celebrated its 100th anniversary last year.I was invited to a lecture about the first games of the championship match. I arrived early, and the unmistakable thwack of chess clocks echoed in the hall as I climbed the stairs to the main room. As I turned the corner, there was Caruana, the world No. 2 and top American player, playing speed chess as a crowd of about 15 gathered tightly around his table. He was seated under a sketch of the competitors for the 1935 world championship — Alexander Alekhine and Max Euwe. Alekhine was the defending champ; Euwe was a heavy underdog. Euwe won by a point. Fabiano Caruana. Photograph by Misha Friedman When Caruana finished his session, I asked him about the other, more public chess games taking place two miles south. He had put the disappointment of the Candidates behind him, he told me, and had been following closely, staying up “very late” to analyze a recent game. “It’s a very unusual match,” he said. “I think both players are probably not at their best. There’s a lot of psychology going on. Carlsen is normally not affected psychologically, but he has some sort of barrier in this match. He’s playing moves he wouldn’t normally play.”I asked him what we can expect. “If Magnus takes it to tie-break, he’ll probably win the match,” Caruana said.Alone in a back room of the club, two men sat at a chessboard in front of large picture windows. Jay Bonin, an international master for whom the club is a de facto office, was giving a lesson to Dave Rabinowitz, a lawyer who lives nearby. They’d both been following the Carlsen-Karjakin match faithfully. Rabinowitz was following online (“with some degree of comprehension”), and Bonin had attended a couple of games. But they had their complaints. Rabinowitz seemed to long for an age of chess not too distantly past. “Chess has evolved,” he said. “You can see them being very careful, and they were not going to make any egregious mistakes. It’s different from even the way it was 50 years ago.” Bonin would have preferred a different result at the Candidates. “I would’ve been more interested if there was an American player challenging Carlsen,” he said. “I’d root for an American.” Nevertheless, Bonin, who has played many thousands of tournament games and competed against a young Caruana, craved more coverage of the match. “I look in my daily newspaper, and I hardly see anything,” he said.Here’s some more: Game 11 is Saturday afternoon, and Game 12 is Monday afternoon. I’ll be covering them here and on Twitter.
Some madness finally came to the 2017 men’s NCAA Tournament over the weekend, as overall No. 1 seed Villanova and No. 2 seeds Duke and Louisville fell. In the video above, FiveThirtyEight sports editor Chadwick Matlin looks at how the surprising wins by Wisconsin, South Carolina and Michigan affected the rest of the field.
When Adam Dunn came to the plate, he would pretty much always do one of three things: He would strike out; he would walk; or he would hit a baseball some 400-odd feet. With his propensity to produce these so-called “three true outcomes” — the three types of plays in which fielders play no role — the former Cincinnati Reds outfielder known as “Big Donkey” was the poster boy for a new generation of batters who swung for the fences and didn’t mind a strikeout or two (hundred).But he didn’t aim to be at the forefront of one of baseball’s most pervasive 21st-century trends.“You would think I would have gotten used to striking out and sucking. It devastated me every single time,” Dunn told ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick in July. “At the time, I didn’t really pay attention to [strikeouts, walks and home runs]. I never looked at myself as that low-batting-average guy, but I kind of morphed into it. I always thought one day I would wake up and the old Adam would be back and we would roll.”Whether he meant to be or not, Dunn was always a harbinger of where the modern ballplayer was headed. And for better or worse, today’s game is filled with more Adam Dunns than ever before.In 2002, Dunn’s first full season in the big leagues, only three other players — Derrek Lee, Mike Cameron and Pat Burrell — joined Dunn with at least 25 home runs, 70 walks and 150 strikeouts. (Dunn went on to meet those thresholds nine more times, easily giving him the all-time mark for that kind of season.) But this season, an MLB-record 14 hitters are on track to meet those criteria. The kind of player who was once an oddity now has a place in nearly half of the league’s lineups.Dunn wasn’t the first hitter to specialize in excluding fielders from the action. Washington Senators outfielder Don Lock became the 25/70/150 club’s first member in 1963, and the Giants’ Bobby Bonds hit those marks in back-to-back seasons in 1969 and 1970. From then on, there was typically at least one Dunn-style slugger in the majors, and a variety of guys earned the label, including Greg Luzinski, Dave Kingman and Rob Deer.1All numbers prorated to a 162-game season. But their approach was also seen as a curiosity at best — and a liability at worst. “[Kingman] is regarded by many as one of baseball’s bad jokes, a flashy player but ultimately a loser,” Jonah Keri wrote in “Baseball Between The Numbers.”By the time Dunn hit the scene, however, the sabermetric movement was gaining popularity, and strikeouts were becoming more acceptable, as long as players offset them with power and patience. Likewise, teams were beginning to seek out hard-throwing pitchers with high K rates, creating a perfect storm of aligned incentives that helped lead to today’s three true outcomes-heavy game. So, from Dunn and a handful of others at the dawn of the 2000s, the number of hitters who take his approach — we’ll call guys who hit those 25/70/150 benchmarks members of the Adam Dunn Club — has only grown in recent seasons: Steven Souza Jr.Rays33841844.8 The Adam Dunn Club, class of 2017MLB hitters on pace for at least 25 home runs, 70 walks and 150 strikeouts in 2017, as of Aug. 20 Paul GoldschmidtDiamondbacks381051507.2 Justin UptonTigers34711735.9 Jake LambDiamondbacks35891632.9 Sources: FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference.com Some of these players count among baseball’s very best. Despite his recent slump,2Don’t say we didn’t warn you! New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge — whose 6-foot-7 frame brings to mind a right-handed version of the 6-foot-6 Dunn at the plate — ranks fourth this season in wins above replacement (WAR)3Using an average of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com versions of the metric. and is still in the American League MVP conversation. Likewise, Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt and Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton are probably the front-runners for MVP honors in the National League — each projects to finish with around 150 whiffs, a minor footnote in their otherwise sparkling stat lines.Simply striking out a ton doesn’t automatically disqualify a player from being considered great anymore, as opposed to in the olden days when there was a stigma attached to strikeout kings. But some hitters can still overdo it; in fact, there are some legitimately bad ballplayers in the Adam Dunn Club these days. A year after Milwaukee’s Chris Carter smashed 41 home runs while playing what was generally agreed to be mediocre baseball,4As if to confirm this, Carter promptly got himself designated for assignment by the Yankees twice in two weeks this season. five of the 14 players tracking for membership in the club are also on pace for fewer than 2.0 WAR, which is generally the benchmark for a worthwhile major-league starter. One — Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays — is headed for a 26-homer, 91-walk season that will also likely be below the replacement level, quite possibly earning him the worst Dunn Club season in history. (And this is to say nothing of the further proliferation of Dunn-“lite” players such as Milwaukee’s Keon Broxton, for example, who check off the home run and strikeout boxes but don’t even draw enough walks to join the club.) PRORATED THROUGH 162 GAMES Joey GalloRangers46762003.8 Eric ThamesBrewers35821681.8 Jose BautistaBlue Jays2691166-0.8 Domingo SantanaBrewers26751802.1 Aaron JudgeYankees491192207.3 Khris DavisAthletics43742121.9 PLAYERTEAMHOME RUNSWALKSSTRIKEOUTSWAR Miguel SanoTwins37722263.4 Wil MyersPadres31711891.1 With baseballs flying out of big-league parks at an unprecedented rate — and batters getting rung up at a similarly historic clip — it’s a safe bet that Dunn’s brand of baseball is here to stay, at least for the time being. That means we’ll get to see more of both the highs and lows that come when a player swings as hard as he can and hopes for the best.As for Dunn’s view of the generation of hitters he helped spawn? In his interview with Crasnick, even Dunn himself was skeptical of an entire lineup of batters who hit like he did.“Everything evolves, and this is the era we’re in,” he said. “People see if you hit homers and drive in a lot of runs, you’re going to get where you need to get financially. Does it help a team if you have a couple of those guys? Yeah. But if you have nine of them, it’s going to be tough.” Giancarlo StantonMarlins60841596.8 Mark ReynoldsRockies34761791.3
Few can say that they’ve accomplished their lifelong dream as early as college, but Ohio State cornerback Devon Torrence can. “I pretty much always knew I wanted to be here (at OSU),” Torrence said. “I didn’t take any official visits anywhere else, man. This was the only school I wanted to go to. I waited on a scholarship here. It was just a dream come true.” Torrence and his fellow senior teammates are looking to cap their college football careers by winning the National Championship. Anything less for this talented team filled with experience would be a letdown, for players and OSU fans alike. The Canton, Ohio, native grew up wanting to become a Buckeye and now he’s on the “Silver Bullet” defensive unit, which is largely considered one of the best in the country. As a freshman, Torrence was on the team when the Buckeyes lost to Louisiana State in the 2008 National Title game at the Superdome. Losing the game was tough, Torrence said, but it helped build the bond between him and his fellow seniors. “When you get a team that’s like that, that’s lost some and had some success, it creates that perfect gel of that team that’s hungry and just wants to get out there and win and fight for each other every snap,” he said. Senior linebacker Brian Rolle talked about the importance of having a good relationship with teammates and what Torrence means to the Buckeyes’ defense. “Me and Devon, it’s like big brother, little brother sometimes,” Rolle said. “We’re always picking on each other and talking trash to each other. We talk trash just knowing we want each other to get better. We study each other all the time. Me and him, it’s a great relationship.” Chimdi Chekwa plays cornerback opposite of Torrence and has helped improve his game. Torrence said their relationship also hits on the brotherhood theme. “Chim is just like a big brother,” Torrence said. “He helps me out with little things that can help with my game. He’s really smart and pays attention to a lot of detail. I consider myself a very raw athlete at the position. He’s a lot more seasoned than I am, I would say, with some stuff. A lot of times I rely on my athleticism to get me through. But he’ll break something down and give me a different perspective and put me into position to make a lot more plays.” After losing the National Championship game in New Orleans, OSU suffered a heart-breaking, last-second loss to Texas in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, which marked the program’s third-consecutive postseason defeat. Last season, in the starting lineup for the first time, Torrence and the Buckeyes came back to win the Rose Bowl — a memory forever ingrained in his mind, and his favorite since becoming a Buckeye. “People say that we were young that year. It was my first year out there (starting),” he said. “We had a great time out in California and it’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life — just winning that game out there and having a blast.” Rolle, known for playing with “swagger,” said that Torrence has plenty of his own and he’s always pressing his teammates to improve. “Playing with him is great because Devon, he’s a guy, I would say, probably has more swagger than I do,” Rolle said. “He’s always like ‘let’s go man, we got to get better today.’ We went through walk-throughs today and he came up to me and said, ‘You gonna get better today?’ He’s always pushing himself and always pushing others to get better.” Football wasn’t Torrence’s only passion. He was drafted in the 16th round of Major League Baseball’s amateur entry by the Houston Astros and played two summers of rookie ball for the Greeneville Astros in Tennessee. He didn’t quite have the same success as an outfielder as he did with a helmet and shoulder pads. The athletic speedster hit .149 and .151 in 64 games over two seasons for Greeneville. Baseball and football are vastly different sports, which require different mindsets. Torrence mentioned how difficult it was to bounce back from mistakes or bad games in football because there is a week between games to dwell on them. In baseball, there’s usually a game the next day to help forget about mistakes. “I think that was probably the biggest adjustment for me to realize, was my mind-frame around that. I can’t give up any plays around here and, if I do, I got to forget about them right away,” Torrence said. “In baseball you have the next day to go 3-4, a double and a home run, and make a diving catch in the outfield. You can 0-3 the next day and come back and go 3-3 the next, so I think that was probably the biggest challenge for me.” Torrence said it was difficult to be a two-sport athlete. The situation was trying because he played baseball during the summer, when his teammates on the football team would be preparing for the season. Getting a late start on football was a tough adjustment to make. “I was in a different world, I would say. I wasn’t in the same situation that a lot of people were in here. My situation was very different from all types of angles,” he said. Eventually, he caught up to speed with his teammates. The relationships he’s created with them are important to him. Torrence said he’s made numerous bonds that he plans to maintain. “Those guys will be my best friends for the rest of my life. (Jermale Hines) and (Chekwa), I can rely on those guys for anything I need, or anything they need they can count on me to be there — (It’s) the same with (Cameron Heyward) and those guys. We kid and joke around all the time with each other, but I know that if I was ever in a serious situation and I needed anything really bad, that those guys would have my back,” he said. “I’m just glad that I was fortunate to come here and develop the relationships with those guys for the future.”
Ohio State sophomore guard Jensen Caretti shoots a 3-pointer during the Buckeyes’ 110-80 exhibition win against Ashland on Oct. 29. Credit: Colin Hass-Hill | Sports EditorJensen Caretti never really knew her birth parents. At just 11 weeks old, she was put into the foster system, where she was placed with Sharon and Daniel Caretti. While some kids struggle in the foster system, Caretti used the love of her adopted family to thrive. Growing up in Clarington, Ohio, a town near West Virginia on the Ohio River with a population of 378 people, she became a high-school basketball star, and eventually earned a scholarship to play the sport at Ohio State. “My parents have always pushed me to be successful,” Caretti said. “They’ve always pushed me to go to the gym and to do my best.”Sharon Caretti and Daniel Caretti officially adopted Jensen Caretti, now a sophomore guard, when she was 2 years old.“My husband wanted to take a break from taking in more foster kids, but I said ‘please let’s just take one more,’” Sharon said. “The minute that he held her for the first time, he fell in love.” Jensen Caretti received her first basketball before the age of 1, and soon fell in love with the game. When she was a teenager, she dreamed of playing for a Division I school. That dream did not take long to become reality. Major college programs began to notice the 6-foot-1 guard, who was more athletic than just about every opponent she faced.Caretti was named Ohio’s Ms. Basketball, as well as Gatorade Ohio Player of the Year for her senior year in high school. She became a five-star recruit, was ranked the 31st overall player in her class and was offered full scholarships from a number of programs. But Ohio State was always going to be the place where she ended up.Her mother recalled that when Jensen was 6 years old, she said to her husband, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Jensen went to Ohio State?” And so she did.For now, Jensen Caretti recognizes she has limited playing time on an experienced team that has seniors Stephanie Mavunga, Linnae Harper and Kelsey Mitchell. Jensen’s playing time has been limited to this point in her career given the veteran presence on the team. But she has shown plenty to the coaches in her minutes that she could be ready for the bigger role that awaits her next season when five players leave the team.“Jensen is a big energy person,” associate head coach Patrick Klein said. “Every day you can count on her having a smile on her face and coming to practice ready to compete.”The numbers Jensen has put up this season do not jump out on the page. She averages 2.5 points per game in only 8.5 minutes per game. However, she said she prefers to pass and focus on defense rather than attempt to be the go-to offensive playmaker.Since Sharon is unable to be with her Jensen on a day-to-day basis, she said she is admires the closeness of the team and called it a “family away from home.”Jensen Caretti’s story is inspiring, it is one that also is far from over. “The best part about Jensen is, her story is going to be an amazing one when it’s all said and done at Ohio State,” Klein said.