Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sidney Crosby is a Choke Picasso

So let's get this straight.

Ovechkin scored 5 goals, 5 assists and was a +5 against the Canadiens in 7 games, before bowing out in Game 7 at home in a tight one-goal game. The Caps blew a 3-1 series lead. As a result, notable national media members called Ovechkin a choke artist (Wilbon, on PTI).

Crosby scored 1 goal, 4 assists and was a -1 against the Canadiens in 7 games, before bowing out in Game 7 at home while being dominated 5-2, in which he took an awful penalty early allowing Montreal to open the scoring with a PP goal. The Pens blew a 3-2 series lead. Notable national media members have yet to weigh in. So allow me to fill in the gap.

If Ovechkin's performance makes him a choke artist, and Crosby's performance was marginal - nay, fractional - by comparison, and against the same Canadiens team playing WITHOUT THEIR 4 BEST DEFENSEMEN, doesn't that make Crosby a CHOKE PICASSO!?!? You know my answer.

Sidney Crosby: Choke Picasso. Seen with two of his lesser-known works: Malkin and Fleury.

UPDATE: Since the point of this post is being horribly misconstrued, I'll state it explicitly: it's absurd to pin team successes and failures on one player, isn't it? You can't give Crosby the credit for winning a Cup and a Gold in order to deride Ovechkin for choking, unless you're also willing to blame Crosby entirely for the Pens losing. There is a logical fluidity here that the anonymous fly-by Pens fans are having trouble with in the comments. Consider yourself learned.

Habs @ Pens: OMG, Who Do I Root For?!

The Penguins of course, because as a Caps fan, if you root for a team in an important Game 7, all your hopes and dreams will inevitably fall from their comfortable perch on Cloud 9 and shatter into a million tiny little pieces on the asphalt.

But if I root for the Penguins half-heartedly, the Hockey Gods will surely pick up on my agenda and the Penguins will win!

Then root for the Canadiens, so you can trick the Hockey Gods into believing you're a Penguins fan only rooting for the Canadiens because of the Game 7 dream-crushing-asphalt-cloud-9 theory mentioned above. The Canadiens will surely win!

But if I root for the Canadiens to trick the Hockey Gods into believing I'm a Penguins fan masquerading as a Canadiens fan so the Game 7 dream-crushing theory will apply and the Penguins will lose, won't I just piss said Hockey Gods off? The Penguins will surely win then!

Good point; root for the Penguins so as not to offend the Hockey Gods, but at the same time tricking them that you are a Penguins fan masquerading as a Canadiens pretending to root for the Penguins who really wants the Canadiens to win, only because of the aforementioned Game 7 dream-crushing-asphalt-cloud-9 theory.

And if the Hockey Gods figure that out, I'll be shocked. Because not only did I confuse myself and all of you, but surely them too.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Nats and O's, By the Numbers

Raise your hand if you predicted that the Nats would be three games above .500 and two games out of first place in the NL East by May 10, with their best player missing 8 games, their second best player working his way through the minors, and an imposing opening schedule to boot.

Put your hand down - you're lying and nobody can see you anyway.

What makes the Nationals' early season success so interesting is that they've seemingly switched places with the Orioles, known for their early season hot starts and infamous for their late season collapses. The Orioles sit 30th among 30 MLB teams at the moment and the season's only relative bright spot, Brian Matusz, got lit up yesterday.

How do the Nats keep winning ball games? I'm gonna unscientifically say timely hitting interspersed with the occasional quality start and an absolutely LETHAL late inning pitching combination, courtesy of Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps.

For fun, I decided to compare the Nationals and Orioles in terms of their places in the standings and their offensive and pitching statistics. MLB rankings are applied in parentheses where appropriate (click tables to enlarge).

The Nats are 2 games behind the Phillies in the NL East and 1.5 games behind the Giants for the NL Wild Card; the Orioles are 13.5 games behind the Rays in the AL East and 13 games behind the Yankees for the AL Wild Card.

**BONUS Fun Fact: The Orioles have the 2nd worst home record and the worst road record in the MLB!

Now a look at the teams' offensive outputs (ed. note: the O's actually have 107 runs but I'm too lazy to go back and fix the tables):

Both teams are far from elite offensively, but the Nats are getting on base at a much higher rate and manufacturing a lot of runs because of that. Ten of the Orioles' 30 HR have come off the bat of journeyman Ty Wigginton. Expect a regression to the mean from that guy fairly soon.

**BONUS Fun Fact: The Orioles are hitting .220 with runners in scoring position (29th in MLB) and the Nats are hitting .264 (12th in MLB)!

Finally, some pitching statistics:

Only one thing stands out here, and you can't underestimate its importance: the Nats are 13/17 in save opportunities compared to the Orioles' 6/12 mark. How many consecutive years have the bullpens of these clubs been their Achilles heels? Too many for me to even try to count. Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps have solidified the back end for the Nationals. Mike Gonzalez has solidified his position as Dany Baez 2.0 for the Orioles, a solid relief pitcher who cashed in on a good contract year and couldn't handle 9th inning pressure.

**BONUS Fun Fact: Mike Gonzalez is worthless!


Can the Nats keep this up? Let's hope so. Can the O's turn things around? Probably not.

But we have all summer to do nothing but find out. Thanks, Caps.