Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day 2008: Decision Time ... in Many Ways

Happy Election Day, America!

For those who have already fulfilled their civic duty (either at the polling place earlier today or via absentee ballot prior to Election Day), I commend you for exercising your constitutional right to vote. I, myself, will be voting later this afternoon (waiting to go with my wife to our polling place), so I will get my "I Voted Today" sticker as well.

As my previous post alluded, I felt the concluding sports seasons and the timing of the year (heading into winter) would not compel to write about much of anything. Then, the last few days happened to change my mind just a little bit. Yes, baseball is definitely over ... that one I know for sure. I am curious to have some "hot stove league" talk about my Reds as possible trades / acquisitions might develop, but it's a little premature to talk that now. Also, yes, golf is about to be officially over for 2008 this week, but, realistically, I wasn't going to be watching intently until the Masters in the Spring. The one other season I mentioned - NASCAR - is the one that might actually not be over yet ... much to my surprise.

Heading into Texas last weekend, Jimmie Johnson looked like the odds-on favorite to win his third consecutive title, tying a record held only by Cale Yarborough in NASCAR history. A funny thing happened at Texas, though, as Carl Edwards, now Johnson's closest pursuer, nearly cut the pre-race lead in half by winning the race and leading the most laps (10 bonus points). Johnson, meanwhile, finished a relatively distant (by his standards) 15th place at a track where he had won once previously, finished top-5 five times, and notched eight top-10 finishes in only 10 previous attempts. His average finish was an 8.5, making Texas one of his better tracks. An interesting statistic that I saw the ABC crew flash during the race was that the previous fall Texas race winners had won at Atlanta the week before in each of the last three seasons (Edwards did it previously in 2005, Tony Stewart in 2006 and Johnson in 2007). History was certainly on Edwards' side. While the lead is still comfortably in Jimmie Johnson's hands, Carl Edwards has at least made the series worth watching for another week (and possibly two).

I said I had given up on the NFL ... generally speaking, that hasn't really changed. I do follow the games for fantasy purposes (where I am having pretty good seasons with the pair of teams I have over on Yahoo), but I actually saw my home team win a game for the first time this season. The now 1-8 Bengals unremarkably won a 21-19 game against the Jaguars, fortunately holding off a late rally by the visiting team which could have tied the game and sent it to overtime. Now, the only winless NFL team is the hapless squad in Detroit, where they have looked like potential victors the past couple of weeks only to snatch defeat from the hands of victory. The Bengals still don't have a season worth watching, particularly with Carson Palmer's injury (which I'm still surprised they haven't treated surgically at this stage if it makes him better for next season). I guess I'll check back on the NFL by the Playoffs, anyway.

How about Texas Tech, pulling off the upset on #1 Texas? Of course, having the home-field advantage looked to be a very good thing, but I'm not sure I understand, or believe, that Tech deserved to jump all the way to #2 ... OR that Texas is now ranked below USC in the USA Today / Coaches poll in 7th place? But, the BCS match-up would now feature two undefeated teams (Alabama and Tech) while leaving another (Penn State) out in the cold. Odds are that at least one of those three teams will get a loss by season's end, but what if they don't? Once again, the playoff concept will be discussed (and should be, in my opinion) where fairness goes out the window.

I don't typically write about the NBA, particularly in the early season, because I just don't find the early part of the pro season compelling. However, when news broke yesterday that the team I do follow - the Detroit Pistons - traded for Allen Iverson from the Denver Nuggets in return for Chauncey Billups (former Finals MVP), Antonio McDyess, and Cheikh Samb. Do I believe Iverson, former league MVP, is worth three other players? Yes and no. No, because I believe Billups was a top-notch contributor and McDyess a key bench / rotational cog. Yes, because he is the "marquee" name player, who certainly still has the skills to play the game and will help be a floor leader along with rising star Richard Hamilton and established presence Rasheed Wallace. A bigger YES, if the bigger strategy of GM Joe Dumars (a former star in his own right) is to make the team "in play" for the King himself, LeBron James. Do I think James wants Detroit as his stage? Probably not ... BUT, if the team is a winner, and the New York market area teams (the Knicks and loosely the Nets) are his only other real target, would he pick the known versus the unknown? Only time will tell on this one ...

I'll close like I started ... Go out and VOTE if you haven't already.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

NASCAR Chase Field Set; Who's Going to Win?

After Richmond's race ended Sunday afternoon (instead of late Saturday as originally scheduled), there were no surprises for entrants into the Chase field. Yes, the most-disappointing miss was Kasey Kahne (with 2 wins, the only multiple-race winner not in), but his fate was almost set before he ever got to Richmond with multiple poor showings leading up to and including the Race to the Chase races. David Ragan came up short with a damaged race car, but his effort is commendable regardless of not making the field.

The simple rundown of who's in (with new point totals):
1. Kyle Busch - 5080
2. Carl Edwards - 5050 (minus 10 points for Las Vegas infraction)
3. Jimmie Johnson - 5040 (10 nice additional points for Richmond win)
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 5010
5. Clint Bowyer - 5010
6. Denny Hamlin - 5010
7. Jeff Burton - 5010
8. Tony Stewart - 5000
9. Greg Biffle - 5000
10. Jeff Gordon - 5000
11. Kevin Harvick - 5000
12. Matt Kenseth - 5000
The sort order for the multiple drivers at 5010 (with 1 win) and at 5000 (with no wins) is by number of runner-up finishes, third-place, etc. until ties are broken.

I was going to break down somewhat "statistically" whose chances are best, but I think, given an emphasis on "momentum" as a factor that the numbers won't necessarily bear out, Jimmie Johnson is poised for a three-peat. That statement comes with some consternation on my part, as Johnson is my wife's favorite but Tony Stewart (still winless on the season) is mine. Johnson is peaking at just the right time with favorable tracks (as evidenced the past few seasons) ahead on the schedule. Historically, Johnson can dominate the 1.5-milers that make up so much of the Chase, specifically Charlotte, Texas, Atlanta, Kansas, and Homestead. With a win at Richmond and previous win at Phoenix, the shorter tracks (including Phoenix again as well as Dover) will probably suit him, too. That's not to say Johnson is going to run away with this championship ... but things are certainly favorable for his cause.

The two most-publicized names, for good reason, have been Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards ... but are both limping into the Chase? OK, limping is a stretch, given that the two combined won over half of the first 26 races (with 8 to Busch and 6 to Edwards) and both won races preceding Johnson's mini-flourish (with Edwards pulling back-to-back wins at Michigan and Bristol immediately before and Busch winning Watkins Glen prior to that). Arguably, all three drivers - Johnson, Edwards, and Busch - have a degree of momentum on their sides.

If the three favorites are clearly known, what about everybody else? Well, using history as somewhat of a guide, let's base some prediction of what's to come on earlier season facts. Every Chase track excluding only Kansas and Homestead-Miami has hosted a race this season. Who were the respective winners in Chase-race order?
New Hampshire - Kurt Busch (although Tony Stewart was most dominant and weather determined the outcome)
Dover - Kyle Busch (Greg Biffle led the most laps, but Busch was nearly as dominant in lapping most of the field)
Talladega - Kyle Busch (Tony Stewart but was caught in a race-ending accident)
Lowe's (Charlotte) - Kasey Kahne (Junior led the most laps but had a blown tire ... Stewart was leading near the end but also blew a tire)
Martinsville - Denny Hamlin (Junior led the most laps ... more weather strategy)
Atlanta - Kyle Busch (dominant car, most laps led)
Texas - Carl Edwards (dominant car, most laps led)
Phoenix - Jimmie Johnson (fuel-strategy win ... but a win nonetheless)

On a "wins-basis" alone, Kyle Busch looks pretty favorable with the repeat-track factor (no suprise with his many wins), but the dark-horse candidates are Stewart (who was strong in most of those races but came up short) and even Dale Jr. The best statistical argument would be made on average finish in those 8 races, but even that could be skewed by accident-caused DNF's or other premature failures that changed the outcome for respective Chase drivers.

When all is said and done, the best driver entering the Chase is not guaranteed to win the Chase. The first year of the Chase, 2004, is the best example of this, as Jeff Gordon was best heading in but surprise driver Kurt Busch stole the crown. Arguably, 2005 and 2006 featured the best drivers winning - Stewart and Johnson, respectively - but Gordon was again probably slightly better than Johnson in 2007. What does ALL of this mean for 2008? Who knows!?!

I am going out on a limb here and saying that while the top three drivers are most deserving, a dark horse is going to win this season. Who is that driver going to be? My gut tells me that Jeff Gordon is going to lose the "four-time" moniker and become "five-time" (or, ala the Steelers, "one for the thumb"). I have no fancy statistics to back this up ... or even momentum on his side. Gordon deserves, in this author's not-so-humble opinion, the fifth championship that he should already have. No, he is not 2008's best driver by any measure, but I see a deja vu potential from 2004 for 2008. He is not "entitled" to a title ... but I think it would sum up his career better than going out with a fizzle.

BTW ... if Gordon doesn't win, I'll stick with my original Johnson "momentum / statistical" pick. If Gordon does win, then I'm a genius. ;-)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday the 13th: A Perfect Day for a Move

Ah, the superstitious day of Friday the 13th conjures up images of bad luck, movie horror, and countless potential for mayhem. As of this date, June 13, 2008, which happens to be a Friday, this blog (as well as its counterpart blogs) have moved from the former home of my website (ClubhouseConnection.net, which is now inactive) to Blogspot, which was where they were generated anyway. Hopefully, no bad luck will follow this move, but I hope any former readers are fortunate enough to find their way here. I figure some new content will at least get Google to redirect the old links to these new locations.

There isn't a whole lot new I want to say immediately, especially since I have written anything in eons. When over a year passes (give or take) between posts, you are doing a poor job as a blogger. Given that some bloggers write many times daily, that fact would make me a big slacker.

Since blogging doesn't pay the bills (yet ... or probably ever), look for something slightly more frequent (hopefully) in the future.

Later all...