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Archives for: September 30, 2019

How Your Favorite Baseball Team Blows Its Money

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For an article on FiveThirtyEight today, Mike Lopez and Noah Davis charted the relationship between spending and win percentage for every baseball season since 1985. They found that the relationship between money and winning in baseball is as strong now as it’s been any time in the free-agency era. Below you’ll see that relationship for each team in the majors. Each season is one dot in the figure, and the colored line is a smoothed curve fit through the points. Essentially, the higher the curve, the more the team’s money was well-spent. The gray line is an aggregation of all the data points across the entire league, and that line shows a pattern: More money generally means more wins.Read more: Don’t Be Fooled By Baseball’s Small-Budget Success Stories »

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The Reds Pitching Might Be The Worst Of All Time

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GAMES 2013Houston Astros16251111+2.0 “This ball is killed into left center field,” Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman intoned glumly on Monday as Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward blasted a ball deep into the Chicago night. “And that’s a home run” — the Cubs’ third of the night.Brennaman could be forgiven for his lack of enthusiasm. The Reds are 63-87, 32 games out of first place in the NL Central, and he’s had to make the same call 242 times so far this season. With two weeks left to play, the Reds’ pitchers have allowed the most home runs of any team in major league history. It’s a staggering total: Cincy hurlers allow an average of 1.6 homers every 9 innings, or one every 21.2 at-bats (meaning they effectively turned average NL hitters into Larry Doby or Joe Carter).But it’s also symptomatic of a pitching staff that is, by another measure, the worst ever — and the only one in history that would have been better off being stocked with replacement-level players instead.The Reds have struggled to build an effective staff for a looooong time, having broken league-average in fielding independent pitching only twice in the past 21 seasons. (And this is even after accounting for Cincinnati’s home parks, which have tended to inflate scoring.) But this season’s version has taken bad pitching and elevated it into some kind of twisted art form.Last year’s Reds staff also struggled. It posted MLB’s sixth-worst strikeout-to-walk ratio and allowed its ninth-most homers per 9 innings despite having access to a few pretty good pitchers — most notably, Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman — for most of the season. But Cueto and Chapman were both gone by the start of the 2016 season, and that’s when Cincinnati’s real problems began. In April, the Reds posted the league’s worst FIP, and they haven’t looked back: They were also the worst in May, in June and in September. (They were “only” 10th-worst in July and eighth-worst in August.)The cumulative effect of all that badness has been, in FanGraphs’ estimation, the least-valuable staff by wins above replacement in modern MLB history1Going back to 1901, when the American League started. That is widely considered the beginning of modern MLB history.: 1955Kansas City Athletics1556391+1.8 2006Kansas City Royals16262100+0.5 1915Philadelphia Athletics15443109+0.3 1982Minnesota Twins16260102+0.9 1964Kansas City Athletics16357105+1.4 1998Florida Marlins16254108+1.5 1977San Diego Padres1626993+1.7 1966New York Mets1616695+1.7 YEARTEAMTOTALWINSLOSSESPITCHER WAR 2016Cincinnati Reds1506387-1.0 Source: FanGraphs MLB’s worst pitching staffs since 1901, by WAR Indeed, that’s an understatement. Somehow the Reds have been the only staff in MLB history to post a cumulative WAR below the replacement level. Not every Cincinnati hurler has been historically bad — Anthony DeSclafani has done admirable work, leading the team with 1.9 WAR, and Raisel Iglesias has 1.3 WAR with a superb 3.30 FIP. But by the logic of the theory that underpins WAR, the Reds’ sub-replacement tally means they could have stocked their entire pitching staff with nothing but freely available fringe players and AAA callups, and they’d have won an additional game. To find another team that could say that, you’d need to hark back 127 years (!!) to the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, whose 23-113 record still stands as second-worst in the long annals of major-league failure.But that’s just according to FanGraphs’ model of WAR, which parcels out pitching credit (or, in this case, blame) based on FIP. Baseball-Reference.com’s competing WAR model2Which, in the interest of full disclosure, I helped design. uses runs allowed — a fielding dependent statistic — as its starting point, before accounting for a pitcher’s defensive support using fielding metrics. Oftentimes, the two varieties of WAR will be in agreement, but they do not see eye to eye on Cincinnati’s place in baseball history: According to the B–R version, not only are the Reds not the worst staff ever, but their 4.3 pitching WAR is only the fourth-worst tally of 2016.The reason is simple. As gawdawful as the Reds’ fielding-independent numbers have been, Cincinnati pitchers have also overseen a .289 batting average on balls in play, seventh-lowest in baseball. FanGraphs’ WAR doesn’t care about this, seeing it as an artifact of luck and good fielding behind the Reds’ dreadful pitchers — but B–R’s version gives the pitchers some measure of credit for suppressing opposing BABIP, particularly because Cincinnati’s defenders score poorly in advanced fielding metrics such as defensive runs saved above average.Which approach is correct? That’s been a matter of no small debate among baseball wonks, but uber-wonk Tom Tango (MLB’s newly minted Statcast Czar) probably has the right idea when he advocates for averaging the two methods. Luckily, Dan Hirsch’s excellent site, The Baseball Gauge, allows users to create their own custom WAR metric,3And to download the raw data from their custom metric here, which is a great service to the research community. with an option to average B–R’s WAR with a FIP-based method à la FanGraphs. By that combined method, the 2016 Reds are bad — 29th-worst since 1901 — but not the worst. (That mantle belongs to the 1995 San Francisco Giants, whose combination of a horrible FIP and a mediocre BABIP — despite league-leading fielding metrics — was enough to dissatisfy all versions of WAR.)But even though this year’s Reds (probably) aren’t the worst staff ever assembled, it’s been a painful season for Brennaman and anyone else forced to watch them give up one gopher ball after another. Fans in Cincinnati can only hope that an offseason spent scouring the free-agency market for pitching will help close the book on one of the ugliest performances since people first started hurling a mass of hide-covered yarn and cork into a catcher’s mitt. read more

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Steve Nash Looks to Keep Family Away in Custody

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Lakers point guard Steve Nash is involved in a custody battle of an odd variety, as he fights to keep his ex-wife and three children from following him to Los Angeles. Nash separated from Alejandra Amarilla last year shortly after the birth of his son Matteo in 2010. Amarilla lived in Phoenix during the majority of Nash’s stint with the Suns following their 2005 marriage, but now she wants to bring Matteo and the twin daughters Nash fathered closer to their father’s new home.Despite Nash’s alleged legal action against the move, TMZ reports that Amarilla has retained divorce lawyer Lance Spiegel to combat the case in both Arizona and California. Nash has not given any public reason as to why he want to prevent his children from being nearby, but TMZ speculates that the two-time MVP could be required to pay more child support should the family move to Los Angeles.Nash, 38, has missed 15 of the Lakers’ 17 games this season after fracturing his left fibula early on in the team’s second game. The absence of the normally healthy veteran is a factor in the teams underwhelming 8-9 start. When he joined the team as a part of a sign and trade deal over the summer, Nash stated that he stayed on the west coast in order to be closer to his children. read more

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Did The Packers Squander Aaron Rodgers

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1990 was the first season of the NFL’s current playoff format. Expected Super Bowls are based on a season-by-season logit regression between a QB’s Yards Above Backup and whether his team made the Super Bowl.Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com QuarterbackYears StartingYARDS Above BackupActualExpectedDiff. Rodgers hasn’t won as much as he should haveTop 10 NFL starting quarterbacks by Yards Above Backup QB, 1990-2017, with their actual and expected Super Bowl appearances TEN18.910.6JAX0.10.121.91478 PHI69PHI66PHI 28, WSH 13-4.1– The dismissal of Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy — who was let go after the Packers’ stunning home loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday — wasn’t exactly a shock. Perennially tabbed as a Super Bowl contender out of the NFC, McCarthy’s team had gone just 11-16-1 over the past two seasons, including a disappointing 8-9-1 in games that featured future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers as Green Bay’s primary passer.1Meaning he led the team in attempts for the game. It was time for a change along the sidelines that Vince Lombardi once roamed.Things weren’t always so bleak on the frozen tundra. The McCarthy era had its high points, particularly early on — when he and Rodgers appeared to have Green Bay positioned on the cusp of a potential dynasty. But between postseason near-misses, roster changes, injuries and coaching miscues, McCarthy’s Packers never fulfilled that promise. Instead, it’s fair to wonder whether Green Bay squandered the prime of one of the most talented QBs in NFL history.The Packers team that McCarthy inherited in 2006 from Mike Sherman2Because every Packer coach must be named “Mike”. was one in transition — and that meant navigating some heavy-duty Brett Favre melodrama in his first two seasons at Green Bay’s helm. However, McCarthy quickly found that he had an all-time great on his hands in Rodgers, who, when he took over the starting job at age 25, was just entering his best years as a passer. The McCarthy-Rodgers marriage sputtered to a 6-10 finish in its first season but yielded great results shortly thereafter: an 11-5 playoff campaign in Year 2, then a Super Bowl crown in Year 3 and a 15-1 regular season (with Rodgers winning MVP) in Year 4. The sky seemed to be the limit for McCarthy and his star QB.Since the end of the 2011 regular season, however, the Packers have gone just 5-6 in the playoffs; by comparison, Tom Brady and the postseason Patriots are 13-5 over the same span. Green Bay’s record includes a crushing home defeat against the New York Giants two weeks after that 15-1 season ended and another loss in which they watched helplessly as ex-49er Colin Kaepernick destroyed their defense in 2012 — still one of the greatest individual QB games in playoff history. The Packers’ postseason circumstances have not always been ideal: For instance, that Giants game was actually the only time since 2011 that Green Bay lost in the playoffs while favored — meaning the rest of the losses were as underdogs. But at the same time, the Pack have also had clear chances to return to the Super Bowl, and they came up short in each of them.All told, it remains mystifying that a quarterback of Rodgers’s stature hasn’t won more frequently. If we run a simple logit regression between a QB’s Yards Above Backup in a season and whether his team made the Super Bowl,3Minimum six starts during the season, using data since 1990 (the era of the current playoff setup). we’d expect Rodgers to have made 1.86 Super Bowls in his career through 2017 — roughly twice as many as he’s actually been to. (Meanwhile, other contemporary QBs — such as Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and even Brady — have gone to more than twice as many Super Bowls as we’d expect from their individual stats.) 10Tony Romo98,19201.11-1.11 CAR59CAR64TB 24, CAR 17-7.8– GB1.41.3ATL1.11.25.51469 TEN78TEN72TEN 26, NYJ 22-4.4– 7Philip Rivers1210,72101.54-1.54 WSH26.411.7NYG0.10.124.91435 8Steve Young810,02211.65-0.65 PHI28.324.2DAL81.119.451.01578 TB1.72.0NO100.00.06.91570 Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 13Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 13 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game PIT62PIT54LAC 33, PIT 30+6.7– IND51IND62JAX 6, IND 0-14.0– 2Tom Brady1619,73583.63+4.37 3Drew Brees1617,25012.89-1.89 OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION NE67NE65NE 24, MIN 10-3.8– CIN52%DEN59%DEN 24, CIN 10+8.5– MIN59.719.9SEA87.711.841.41572 IND9.810.1HOU98.22.423.61515 LAR68LAR79LAR 30, DET 16+4.1– CHI69CHI72NYG 30, CHI 27-6.1– 1Peyton Manning1721,58544.15-0.15 BAL65.0%+/-15.1KC100.0%+/-0.031.81628 6Ben Roethlisberger1410,94531.35+1.65 Playoff %Playoff % SEA83SEA83SEA 43, SF 16-1.5– CAR17.89.9CLE0.30.422.01454 5Aaron Rodgers1010,98811.86-0.86 DET0.30.3ARI0.00.04.21412 Super Bowls Made Game quality is the harmonic mean of the Elo ratings for the two teams in a given matchup. Total Change adds up the potential swing in playoff odds for every team in the league (not just the two teams listed).*Average change is weighted by the likelihood of a win or loss. (Ties are excluded.)Source: ESPN.com ATL53ATL50BAL 26, ATL 16+1.5– Although the Packers hadn’t replaced a coach at midseason since 1953, Sunday’s loss forced their hand. Now they’ll need to figure out who’s next, from a candidate list that includes big names among both pro coordinators (Josh McDaniels) and up-and-coming college coaches (Lincoln Riley). They’ll also need to hope Rodgers’s issues were more related to McCarthy’s offense and less to his getting older and less productive — basically, that the next Packer coach will be more Mike Shanahan to Rodgers’s John Elway than Jimmy Johnson to his Dan Marino. So while the Packers may not have much on the line over the rest of their games, this promises to be the most interesting offseason Green Bay has had since Favre was retiring and unretiring more than a decade ago.FiveThirtyEight vs. the readersMake sure to check out FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings using our NFL prediction interactive, which simulates the rest of the season 100,000 times and tracks how often each team should make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. And did you know you can also pick against the Elo algorithm in our prediction game? Maybe you can also climb up our giant leaderboard (or, if you’re like me, fall down it with each passing week).Here are the games in which Elo made its best — and worst — predictions against the reader picks last week: Over time, it became more and more difficult for the Packers to come within striking distance of the Super Bowl. In 2015, Rodgers slumped to career-worst numbers without top wideout Jordy Nelson, though the team as a whole was still good enough to get to the divisional playoffs before losing. In 2016, it was more of the same when Rodgers mused that Green Bay could still “run the table” — sparking an eight-game winning streak that saw the QB return to vintage form and left the Packers a win away from the Super Bowl.4Though their defense was shredded by Matt Ryan and the Falcons for 493 yards, ending the streak. By then Rodgers was 34 years old, so a sense of urgency was setting in when 2017 came and went without a playoff berth — even though that could be written off as the byproduct of Rodgers missing nine starts.The 2018 season was always going to be the real crossroads for McCarthy. With a healthy Rodgers leading the way, the Pack could always count on contending in the past, so this year’s expectations were no different. But Rodgers’s numbers have been merely good, not great. Brett Hundley isn’t around anymore to take any blame. And unlike in 2015, when Green Bay was talented enough to survive despite a downturn in its QB’s individual stats, there has been no answer from the team’s supporting cast this time around. It all came crashing down around McCarthy in the loss to Arizona as 13½-point favorites, Green Bay’s single most disappointing defeat since the merger according to Pro-Football-Reference’s point-spread data.We can visualize the Packers’ decline over McCarthy’s final few years at the helm using FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings. Specifically, I’ve been tinkering with an experimental version of Elo that keeps a separate adjustment for the primary QB in each game, similar to how we treat starting pitchers in our MLB ratings.5For those curious, it uses what I’m calling a QB’s Performance Value Added (PVA). That metric starts with an estimate of a primary QB’s value over replacement (according to ESPN’s expected-points data) in a game:PVA = -2.2*Attempts + 3.7*Completions + (Pass Yds / 5) + 11.3*Pass TDs – 14.1*Interceptions – 8*Sacks – 1.1*Rushes + 0.6*Rush Yds + 15.9*Rush TDsIt then compares that number to the per-game average allowed by the opposing defense in all other games that season (excluding the game in question). By definition, an average PVA is 0.0. Then a running mean of PVA is kept for both teams and individual QBs, which is used to modify the team’s base rating depending on which QB is used. (Interestingly, the predictions work best when the individual ratings update slightly faster than the team ones, which suggest QB “hot streaks” do contain extra information.) Debut QBs are assigned an expected PVA of -47, and they reduce a team’s effective Elo rating by 108 points relative to an average QB. Using this, we can trace how a team’s performance rises and falls independent of its QB — which is useful in cases like 2017, when Rodgers was hurt and Hundley started nine games. (For instance, by season’s end, the Packers would have projected to be a 1529 Elo team with Rodgers starting — compared to a 1427 team with Hundley. And remember, 1500 is average.) HOU77HOU69HOU 29, CLE 13-6.6– 9Matt Ryan108,25111.14-0.14 DEN20.911.1SF0.00.024.71427 PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.ResultREADERS’ NET PTS MIA6.67.4NE99.70.516.21537 KC83KC89KC 40, OAK 33+0.4– LAC96.03.6CIN0.91.39.11504 The best matchups of Week 14Week 14 games by the highest average Elo rating (using the harmonic mean) plus the total potential swing for all NFL teams’ playoff chances based on the result, according to FiveThirtyEight’s NFL predictions GB73GB79ARI 20, GB 17-10.5– BUF0.00.0NYJ0.00.02.41377 Team ACurrentAvg. Chg*Team BCurrentAvg. Chg*Total ChangeGame Quality MIA58MIA57MIA 21, BUF 17-2.3– Home teams are in bold.The scoring system is nonlinear, so readers’ average points don’t necessarily match the number of points that would be given to the average reader prediction. At the beginning of 2015, the Packers had an effective Elo of 1622, which included a 73-point boost from having Rodgers at QB and a 49-point boost from his teammates. By the end of the year, Green Bay’s effective Elo was still in the same neighborhood (1597), despite Rodgers’s adjustment actually dropping to negative 11, because the rest of the team carried a larger share of the weight (+108). Meanwhile, at the peak of the Packers’ run-the-table surge in 2016, the team’s 1657 effective Elo arose out of a 61-point boost from Rodgers and 97 additional points (relative to league average) from the rest of the team.But fast-forward to now, and it’s clear how much the Packers have crumbled around Rodgers. His own adjustment is 16 points of Elo above an average QB, the lowest it’s been since Week 10 of the 2016 season. But he’s still expected to be above average; his supporting cast, by contrast, has fallen to a negative-67 score relative to the average team. That’s the worst they have been in Rodgers’s entire NFL career, and it isn’t especially close. Keeping QB play constant, the Packers’ Elo has dropped by a total of 139 points since the end of the 2016 season, which is essentially the difference in current Elo ratings of the 11-1 Los Angeles Rams and the 6-6 Carolina Panthers.The reasons for the slide are varied, but many can be traced back to a series of poor drafts under former general manager Ted Thompson, who was replaced by current front-office chief Brian Gutekunst in January. As Sports Illustrated’s Kalyn Kahler pointed out last week, only three of Green Bay’s 17 draftees from 2014 and 2015 remain on the current roster. While no team can avoid dry spells in the NFL draft if given enough time, the Packers also — largely by design — did little in the way of enlisting outside help as a backup plan.6In addition to the lack of starters from recent drafts, only two of the team’s current starters were drafted by a team other than Green Bay. Again, this was the byproduct of the Packers’ religious devotion to drafting and developing their own prospects, but that plan only really works when you draft well. Combine those infrastructural problems with criticisms of McCarthy’s offensive scheme (criticisms of a perceived lack of innovation that Rodgers apparently shared), plus legitimate complaints about Rodgers’s own decline in performance, and a season like this was bound to happen to Green Bay sooner or later.Even so, it came contrary to preseason predictions. Going into the schedule, you might have penciled in this week’s matchup against the Atlanta Falcons as a marquee game with playoff implications. Instead, it will be the third-worst game of the week, according to our combination of matchup quality (i.e., the harmonic mean of the teams’ Elo ratings in each game) and game importance (how likely it is to swing every team’s odds of making the playoffs):7A little note is in order here, to explain how these game importance ratings are now calculated. All season long, I have been crunching the numbers on how a given game affects the two teams involved. But this week, with the playoffs on the horizon and certain matchups taking on more importance because of their outside implications, I changed the formula to add up a game’s potential swing in playoff odds for every team in the league — including those not participating in the game itself. PIT83.811.0OAK0.00.023.71453 4Brett Favre1913,04721.86+0.14 NO64NO74DAL 13, NO 10-15.3– CHI94.44.3LAR100.00.010.81615 After a series of narrow wins at midseason, the algorithm handed the readers their worst loss (-55.2 points on average) since Week 3. Some of the blame can go to the subject of this column — the Green Bay Packers, whose loss not only cost Mike McCarthy his job but also cost users 10.5 points on average. But readers were also burned by the Jaguars’ win over the Colts and the Cowboys’ upset victory over the Saints. Add it up, and Elo has beaten the average reader 12 times in 13 weeks this season.But congrats to Mike Edelstein, who led all users in Week 13 with 137.0 points, and to one of my favorite leaderboard names, Greg Chili Van Hollebeke, who maintained his No. 1 ranking on the season with 1,002.1 points. Thanks to everyone who has been playing — and if you haven’t, be sure to get in on the action! You can make picks now and still try your luck against Elo, even if you haven’t played yet.Check out our latest NFL predictions. read more

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Zack Greinke Is One Of A Kind

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Here, we point out that the goal of a changeup is usually to fool the batter by presenting a speed different from that of the fastball. Greinke does not do that. Just over a month ago, the Houston Astros pulled off the biggest move of the season: In a deal reported minutes after the trade deadline had passed, the Astros acquired Cy Young winner Zack Greinke from the Diamondbacks to form baseball’s best rotation alongside Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, the two likeliest Cy Young candidates.Greinke, a future Hall of Famer, has been stellar this season — a 2.99 ERA and a sub-1 WHIP. According to FiveThirtyEight’s pitcher ratings, he would be the top pitcher on two-thirds of teams and the No. 3 on just three — and that’s the one he’s on. The move already has paid dividends for the ‘Stros, who are 5-2 in Greinke’s starts and have baseball’s best run differential since the trade — by nearly 50 runs.Now six weeks into team No. 6 (remember when he was traded to the Angels for the 2012 stretch run?), Greinke continues to adapt. At 35 years old, it’s anyone’s guess how long he can keep up this performance, but he’s signed through 2021 and should contribute through then. And because of the way he’s dealt with his decreasing velocity by relying on command and movement, he should be set up well for continued long-term success.According to Statcast, Greinke throws eight pitches: four-seam fastball, changeup, slider, curve, sinker (or two-seam fastball), split finger, cutter and eephus. (We’ll get back to that last one.) Only Yu Darvish has as many listed on his Statcast page, with the same eight (though the classifications may hide some of Darvish’s arsenal). Anibal Sanchez, Rich Hill and Odrisamer Despaigne are the only pitchers with seven.But it’s not just the variety of pitches that makes Greinke special. It’s how he throws them.Consider his changeup. Greinke throws his offspeed on 21.9 percent of pitches — a fairly steady increase from 7.9 percent back in 2008. Yet as his fastball has lost velocity, from once hitting more than 100 miles per hour in 2010 to averaging below 90 in 2019, his changeup has gotten faster. Instead, Greinke uses a power changeup with devastating late movement. Only Edubray Ramos has a smaller average speed difference. Greinke’s pitch has surpassed his slider, which used to be considered his best pitch, as the second option. Along with this, Greinke’s cutter, a staple of his arsenal in 2012 and 2013, has all but disappeared.Then there’s the curveball, a slow sweeping pitch. Greinke’s curveball is the second-slowest among qualified starters, behind the Nationals’ Patrick Corbin, at just over 70 miles per hour.This is where the eephus comes in. Greinke’s curve can be thrown so slow that Statcast registers it as the arcing pitch. But it’s not clear whether it’s a different pitch or just a curveball thrown slower. Nobody is throwing a true eephus, though six pitchers are credited with the pitch this year; only Greinke has one under 60 miles per hour. But even if you consider his eephus and his curveball as the same pitch, Greinke would still be tied with Sanchez and Darvish for the lead with seven different pitches.MLB pitchers have struck out 16 hitters on sub-67 mph pitches this year. Greinke owns eight of those (and four of the rest are from position players) with his slow curve that can make batters look silly.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/d20e23b5-749c-4869-9845-d5b61e1ee064.mp400:0000:0000:14Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.The newest one is the split-finger, which he threw in April for the first time since pitch tracking began in 2008. He’s thrown five so far in 2019, including three to Jacob DeGrom in the same at bat. If he’s experimenting with it now, there’s a chance it becomes a regular part of his arsenal in the future, especially with the Astros’ penchant for getting the most out of pitch selection.But beyond his wide repertoire of pitches, Greinke’s pitching style is one of a kind. He throws most pitches low but gets strikes. Even though he throws fewer pitches in the strike zone than average, he almost never falls behind. And his .198 wOBA allowed on pitches out of the zone is second in MLB, also behind Corbin.Greinke has faced just 11 3-0 counts this year and had thrown a fastball every time, almost always on the edge, until he gave Christian Yelich a perfect changeup last week. None of the 20 other pitchers with as many pitches this year has seen fewer than 15 such counts. In the month of July, Greinke threw 479 pitches and none was in a 3-0 count. He threw eight pitches with a 2-0 count — seven were in the strike zone and the other was fouled off. He’ll throw in the strike zone when he falls behind; that just doesn’t happen very often. And even when he does, batters can’t take advantage — they’re just 2-16 on 2-0 counts this year despite seeing 65 percent of pitches in the strike zone.When he’s ahead, it’s a different story. That’s when the sub-70 curveball becomes devastating. Ahead in the count, Greinke throws just 27 percent of pitches in the strike zone; the league average is 38 percent. And 76 percent of his strikeouts have been on pitches out of the zone, well higher than the league average of 56 percent. And his plan of attack is to go low. On 1-2 counts, specifically, Greinke throws in either the lower third or below the strike zone more often than any other pitcher.Greinke is truly a unique pitcher. His fastball and offspeed have nearly the same velocity, but his curveball is one of the slowest. He throws outside of the strike zone but never falls behind, and batters can’t seem to figure out any of his pitches.Through his impressive career, the one thing Greinke lacks is a ring. He has 11 postseason appearances, but his biggest impact was probably his lone start in the 2014 NLDS (in which he scored more runs than he allowed in seven innings). He makes the top 10 list of career games started without a World Series appearance. But if he earns a huge postseason moment, he could move from likely Hall of Famer to potentially first ballot. Perhaps he’ll have that chance in Houston this October.Check out our latest MLB predictions. read more

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NFL week 11 guide to fantasy football

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Play ‘em Shaun Hill (Detroit): Quarterback Matthew Stafford is hurt once again, which opens up the window of opportunity for Hill. Last week, Hill threw for 323 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Hill has now thrown for 300 yards or more yards in three games this season. Throw in the fact that Hill plays the Cowboys (21st-ranked pass defense), and Hill should be considered a starter, especially for teams fighting for a playoff spot or in need quarterback help. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh): Roethlisberger is coming off his best game statistically, last week against New England, when he had 387 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Granted, the Steelers had to play catch up, but it was still impressive. Potentially losing Hines Ward to a head injury could decrease Big Ben’s value, but Mike Wallace is emerging as a solid wide receiver. Although Roethlisberger faces the second-best pass defense of Oakland, he had relative success against the Black Hole last year, throwing for 278 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Peyton Hillis (Cleveland): Hillis had a slight setback in Week 10 against the Jets, with 82 rushing yards, one touchdown and a lost fumble. With that touchdown, Hillis has now found the end zone in all but one of the Browns’ nine games. Expect Hillis to get back on track against a Jacksonville defense that surrenders 115 rushing yards per game. Jamaal Charles (Kansas City): The Broncos did a nice job bottling up Charles last week, holding him to 14 carries for 41 yards. However, Charles managed 80 yards receiving with a touchdown. Going forward, Charles will continue to split carries with Thomas Jones but will be the focal point in the Chiefs’ offense. Consider Charles a No. 1 fantasy running back this week against Arizona, which allows the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs and is coming off a 91-yard, touchdown performance by the Bucs’ LaGarrette Blount. Dez Bryant (Dallas): One player benefiting from Tony Romo’s injury has been Bryant. Last week, Bryant had 104 yards and a touchdown. As long as Jon Kitna is the starting quarterback, Bryant will remain a better option than Miles Austin. This week, Bryant faces a Lions defense that allows 233 passing yards per game. Bryant makes a solid No. 2 fantasy wide receiver option this week. Marques Colston (New Orleans): After a slow start to the 2010 season, Colston is starting to produce. In Week 9 against Carolina, Colston caught eight passes for 65 yards. Expect Colston to find the end zone against Seattle, which allows the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Bench ‘em Matt Schaub (Houston): Schaub received treatment on his knee that forced a trip to the hospital this week. Last week, Schaub threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns against Jacksonville. Don’t expect a repeat performance against the Jets. Jay Cutler (Chicago): Cutler has potential to be a quality fantasy quarterback because of the Bears’ offense, but has not shown it yet. Last week against Minnesota, Cutler threw for 237 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Interceptions continue to be Cutler’s problem; he’s thrown nine. Until the Bears get a go-to receiver, Cutler will struggle. Matt Forte (Chicago): Forte continues to get a lot of touches but is unable to pile up the yardage. Last week, Forte had 21 carries for 69 yards. Forte is losing goal-line carries to Chester Taylor and has yet to score a touchdown since Week 6 against Seattle. Forte is too inconsistent to start each week. Brandon Jackson (Green Bay): Jackson showed some versatility in Week 9 against Dallas, with 42 rushing yards, 26 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Jackson won’t put up big numbers against a Vikings defense that allows 100 rushing yards per game and hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown in two straight games. Mike Williams (Seattle): Williams had a broken pinkie but still had 145 receiving yards last week. Like Forte, Williams’ problem is inconsistency, with three double-digit receiving games versus four games with fewer than two catches. Williams’ production will dip if Matt Hasselbeck is not starting. This week, Williams faces a Saints defense that allows the fewest amount of fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers (9). Chad Ochocinco (Cincinnati): Ocho is battling a shoulder injury but regardless of health, Ocho is a bench player. In his last game against Buffalo, he had three receptions for 48 yards. Also, the Bills have a surprisingly stout pass defense, allowing just 207 yards per game. Expect Terrell Owens to get the majority of the looks against his former team. read more

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Buckeyes finish nonconference season undefeated with 10040 win over UTMartin

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The No. 2-ranked Ohio State men’s basketball team completed a perfect non-conference season and improved to 13-0 with a 100-40 victory over the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks on Monday. William Buford led the way for the Buckeyes with a season-high 23 points. The junior guard got off to a fast start, connecting on his first four shots and scoring the team’s first seven points. “I had my legs under me today and was just focused in on if I had good looks, just take them and knock them down,” Buford said. Coach Thad Matta said he was content to ride the hot hand, as Buford matched his previous season high of 16 points in the first 20 minutes of action. He was also the last starter to get a rest, first leaving the court with 10:59 remaining in the first half. “Will is one of those guys who gets stronger as the season goes on,” Matta said. “That was good to see him play well and go 9-for-11.” Behind 12-, 13- and 10-point scoring runs and solid team defense, the Buckeyes built a 49-17 halftime lead. Those trends continued as OSU opened the second half with an 18-0 run to extend the lead to 67-17. Buford accounted for seven points, two steals and an assist over that five-minute, 37-second stretch. Freshman Deshaun Thomas added 20 points and nine rebounds, and classmate Jared Sullinger recorded his sixth double-double of the year with 18 points and 11 boards. The Buckeyes shot 59 percent from the field en route to their second 100-point performance this season. OSU held the Skyhawks to a mere 27 percent shooting, the best they’ve done against any opponent this season. “I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was,” said Skyhawks coach Jason James. With OSU starting the game with a 27-5 run, Matta was able to go to the bench early and often. Nine Buckeyes saw playing time in the first half, and 10 saw at least six minutes of action. “We’ve been able to get guys a lot of minutes,” Matta said. “I just hope they keep the same mind set and work to get better.” With an 89-32 lead, Matta went with a lineup of five freshmen for the final 5:54 of the game. The lopsided score prompted many in attendance to make an early exit. Those who stayed stood in applause as Thomas approached the free-throw line with a chance to push the Buckeyes’ point total to the century mark. “We were just ready to come in and blow this team out, you know, get 100,” Thomas said. “How we play and (with) how many teammates we have that can score the ball, we can put up 100 every game.” The last time OSU was undefeated entering conference play was during the 2005-06 season, which saw the Buckeyes earn an outright Big Ten title. This year’s team will start its quest to equal that accomplishment when it travels to Indiana on Friday. “That’s a whole new season,” Buford said. “That is nothing like the non-conference.” read more

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Looking into the future of Ohio State mens basketball

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The Ohio State men’s basketball team’s season came to a disappointing end Friday with a 62-60 loss to No. 4-seeded Kentucky. With no more Buckeye basketball to be played this season, looking to the future is the only option. Though the season just concluded, much can already be determined about next year’s squad. The team will return two starters, freshman forward Jared Sullinger and junior guard William Buford, assuming they hold true to their stated intentions not to enter the NBA Draft. The Buckeyes also will welcome back freshman point guard Aaron Craft, who was fifth on the team in minutes played, and freshman forward Deshaun Thomas. Beyond those four seemingly known commodities, the future of OSU basketball becomes less clear. The star Recently named first-team All-American, Sullinger is arguably the most talented player the Buckeyes will have next season. The 6-foot-9 post player led the team in points and rebounds last season with 17.2 and 10.1 per game, respectively. “He’s extremely productive. … He commands a lot of respect,” coach Thad Matta said. “He’s a great player.” The forward also took home Freshman of the Year honors and remains a finalist for the Naismith Award, given to the nation’s best player. With a year of experience under his belt, Sullinger is expected to excel futher during his sophomore campaign. The OSU youngster is likely to be the nation’s front-runner for the Naismith Award next season, regardless of whether he brings home the hardware this year. Sullinger is making sure to put in the work during the offseason. Following his team’s final loss of the season, Sullinger said, “I know I am going to be back in the gym as soon as we get back.” The veteran Although Sullinger likely will be the Buckeye who receives the most attention, Buford will be the one with the most experience. As a senior, Buford will be the only player on the OSU roster who will start the season with more than one year of program experience. He has three full years in the system. Besides leadership, Buford brings a shooter’s touch to the 2011–12 squad. “Will’s an awesome guy,” Craft said. “He’s definitely willing to take his shots, and he (has) knocked them down.” Buford shot 44.2 percent from 3-point range this past season, good for the third-best 3-point shooting season in school history. The guard was also second in scoring on the team, with 14.4 points per game. Buford sits at 22nd in school history in points scored, with 1,424. If he maintains this past season’s scoring pace next season, he will finish fourth. The engine With Sullinger expected to score in the post and Buford expected to score from the outside, Craft will be expected to push the defense and facilitate the offense. Throughout the season, the freshman point guard was praised for his on-ball defensive abilities. Craft, who averaged a team-high two steals a game, embraces the role of lockdown defender. “I’ve always just enjoyed doing it, even in AAU. I always had to guard … the team’s best player,” he said. “It’s something I’ve grown into.” With fifth-year senior forward David Lighty, whom Matta often has called the best defender in college basketball, departing from the program, Craft will be able to take over the role of the team’s best defender. Besides his defense, Craft will be required to set up the offense from his position. The freshman was fourth in the Big Ten in assists last season, with 4.8 per game. “I think as you really get to know Aaron, you get to spend time with him, you watch him develop. It’s amazing,” Matta said. “He’s been so steady throughout the course of the year.” Craft played his best basketball late in the season, logging an OSU-record 15 assists against George Mason in the NCAA Tournament. The tank Thomas came off the bench last season to average 7.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in just 14 minutes per game for the Buckeyes. With the departure of wing players Lighty and Jon Diebler, Thomas likely will be a starter next season. Despite his single-digit scoring average, Thomas scored double figures 10 times during the season and notched 20 or more points on three occasions. “I think we’ve seen, throughout the course, that Deshaun can score in bunches,” Matta said. “He’s a very talented player, and he really has a knack … for finding open areas, finding the seams.” Besides providing instant offense, Thomas’ 62 offensive rebounds were good for second on the team. With added minutes next season, expect those numbers to rise. The unknown Craft and Thomas will likely join Sullinger and Buford in the starting lineup next year. But determining who will fill that fifth spot, and how Matta will use his bench, will be more difficult to determine. The remaining player with any significant playing time from this past season is freshman guard Jordan Sibert, who appeared in 25 games and averaged 8.3 minutes a game. Starting Sibert would create a relatively small starting five. Matta has shown a tendency to start multiple post players in the past. This past season, the coach started the 6-foot-9 Sullinger and 6-foot-8 senior center Dallas Lauderdale. If he wants to go big again, he seems to have two options: Boston College transfer forward Evan Ravenel and incoming freshman center Amir Williams. Ravenel averaged just 3.3 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.5 minutes off the bench when he played for Boston College. Despite the underwhelming numbers, the forward does have a year in the program on his side. Williams, on the other hand, could become the newest freshman post player to start at OSU. The 6-foot-9 center is the nation’s No. 7 center and No. 73 overall recruit, according to Rivals.com. Matta, who has often used a short bench, will need to decide how he wants to use the remaining talented players. Freshman guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. received playing time in blowout victories, and freshman forward J.D. Weatherspoon did the same before being ruled academically ineligible for winter quarter. Four recruits, including No. 17-ranked point guard and No. 62 overall recruit Shannon Scott, will join Williams in vying for playing time as freshmen. Regardless of how Matta pieces together the puzzle that is next year’s season, the established pieces and young talent are there. Whichever grouping of players the coach relies on will strive to accomplish the goal that the 2010–11 team could not: a national championship. read more

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Mens basketball 2018 fourstar recruit Luther Muhammad commits to Ohio State

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The Ohio State men’s basketball team continues to pile up commitments in the 2018 recruiting class, receiving the commitment of four-star guard Luther Muhammad Friday. The Jersey City, New Jersey, native is the third recruit in the class to announce his intentions to join the Buckeyes in 2018, joining four-star forward Jaedon LeDee and three-star guard Duane Washington Jr.The Wait Is Over. @The_Unguarded pic.twitter.com/4w9SEJIc0x— GoBuckLu (@LutherMuhammad) September 23, 2017Listed at 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds, Muhammad is regarded as the 71st-best prospect in the nation, 14th-best point guard and fifth-best in the state of New Jersey, according to 247Sports Composite rankings.The product of Hudson Catholic High School had also reportedly received offers from Virginia, West Virginia, Notre Dame and others. Ohio State would have had a class of seven prospects, but guards Dane Goodwin and Torrence Watson and small forwards Darius Bazely and Justin Ahrens all decommited from the Buckeyes, earlier this year. read more

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Analysis Which Ohio State offensive players will declare early for the NFL

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Ohio State redshirt junior reciever Johnnie Dixon (1) catches a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter in the game against Penn State on Oct. 28. Ohio State won 39-38. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorQuarterback J.T. Barrett, left tackle Jamarco Jones and 17 other Ohio State seniors will play their final collegiate game on Friday when the Buckeyes take on USC in the Cotton Bowl. They will be joined by a select group of redshirt sophomores, junior and redshirt juniors who will decide to forgo their remaining years of eligibility to test their mettle in the NFL draft. None of them have declared their intention of entering the NFL draft yet, though more than a couple will suit up for the final time in Scarlet and Gray on Friday.Here is a look at the situation of each offensive underclassman who might declare early for the 2018 NFL Draft and play their final game for Ohio State on Friday. Also, read about which of Ohio State’s defensive players might declare early for the draft.Redshirt junior wide receiver Johnnie DixonWhy he would leave early: After battling injuries for the majority of his collegiate career, Dixon is finally healthy and, early in the season, was a primary playmaker for Ohio State. He has pulled in 18 catches for 422 yards, an average of 23.4 yards per reception. Dixon could capitalize on his health and declare early for the NFL. Though the health issues and lack of long-term production would hurt him in the eyes of NFL evaluators, he would have a shot at hanging on an NFL roster. If Dixon returns, he could have another injury issue that would limit him his final year and potentially end his profession football career before it begins. Also, he would once again have to fight for touches at a crowded receiver position.Why he wouldn’t leave early: Though Dixon has been an integral part of Ohio State’s offense, he ranks just eighth on the team in catches. With another season in college, Dixon could expand his role and work for more touches. He could also improve how NFL teams view his future role. Given his high yard per reception average, Dixon is seen as a deep threat by many, but believes he can be much more. Another season would allow him to prove that to the NFL. Also, with Dwayne Haskins likely stepping in as starter, Dixon could get more opportunities catching passes from a more prototypical pocket-passing quarterback.Prediction: Finally healthy, Dixon leaves early for the NFL. If he sees an opportunity to get paid, especially after dealing with devastating injury issues, it would be hard to imagine him turning it down. Even though he might go undrafted, Dixon would have a shot at latching onto an NFL roster, something he would have no shot to do if he, once again, gets injured.Ohio State redshirt junior H-back Parris Campbell runs after a catch in the first half of the Buckeyes’ victory against Illinois on Nov. 18. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorRedshirt junior H-back Parris CampbellWhy he would leave early: One of the fastest players on Ohio State, Campbell would offer NFL teams a versatile weapon capable of gashing teams on the ground, in the air or on kick returns. In his second year as a starter, he ranks second on the team with 39 catches for 587 yards and the former high school running back has added 90 yards on seven carries. He has three 57-plus yard catches. Campbell’s return ability — he averages 36.6 yards on nine kick returns — might be most appealing to NFL teams, though. He has already started two seasons and, if he returns for his redshirt senior year, would still be fighting for touches since most receivers will return.Why he wouldn’t leave early: Though Campbell has showed his game-breaking speed and the ability to stretch short catches into long gains, he has not been the prototypical NFL receiver. Specifically, he has struggled to catch the ball, an ability usually in demand for wide receivers. If he returns to Ohio State, Campbell could show an improved catching ability which could make teams view him as more of a receiver rather than an athlete who returns kicks and can catch short passes.Prediction: Campbell declares early for the NFL draft and forgoes his final collegiate season. With two years of starting — one at receiver (2016) and one at H-back (2017) — he has proven his strengths and weaknesses. If here were to return to college, Campbell would be unlikely to make drastic enough strides to dramatically improve his draft stock. NFL teams have seen his speed and ability to break plays. Another year in college would not do much to the draft stock of Campbell, a known commodity.Ohio State junior wide receiver Terry McLaurin (83) celebrates after running the ball in for a touchdown in the first quarter of the B1G Championship game against Wisconsin on Dec. 2 in Lucas Oil Stadium. Ohio State won 27-21. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorRedshirt junior wide receiver Terry McLaurinWhy he would leave early: One of head coach Urban Meyer’s favorite players, McLaurin has reeled in 28 passes for 434 yards and six touchdowns, including an 84-yard score in the Big Ten championship win against Wisconsin. But Meyer does not like him for his receiving ability. Instead, he appreciates the wideout’s blocking and unselfishness. In the NFL, McLaurin could offer teams a versatile option who could go out for routes, but also block and make plays on special teams.Why he wouldn’t leave early: McLaurin’s style of play is not a natural fit for the NFL. Teams pay players to make catches, not to block. Though he has 28 receptions, neither his catching ability nor his athleticism stand out in comparison to other NFL prospects. If McLaurin returns for his final year of eligibility at Ohio State, he could show marked improvement in skills most valued by NFL teams. Prediction: McLaurin will be back for his redshirt senior season. Despite ranking third on the team in catches and receiving touchdowns, McLaurin is viewed less as a receiving option and more as a blocker. In order to show NFL teams he can be more than a blocking receiver, he needs to make improvements in his receiving skills.Ohio State redshirt junior offensive lineman Demetrius Knox walks into the Hyatt Place to check in for fall camp on Aug. 6. Credit: Colin Hass-Hill | Sports Editor.Redshirt junior right guard Demetrius KnoxWhy he would leave early: Though he has just seven collegiate starts, Knox played well in his limited snaps. The redshirt junior took over for Branden Bowen after the opening-game starting right guard after Bowen went down with a broken leg. Though he lost the position battle to Bowen in the offseason, Knox filled in admirably for him. If he were to return for a fifth collegiate season, Knox would have to hold off Bowen, Matt Burrell, Wyatt Davis, Josh Myers and a bevy of other talented linemen to hold onto his starting spot. Why he wouldn’t leave early: Without much film of Knox playing, NFL teams would be wary to select the 6-foot-4, 308-pound interior lineman. Though he would have to battle Bowen and others for a starting spot, the chance to return to school would allow Knox to prove the small sample size of five games is not a mirage. Recent Ohio State offensive linemen who have succeeded in the NFL were multi-year starters in college, something that would benefit Knox. Prediction: Knox will return for his final collegiate season. If he were to declare, Knox likely would not get drafted, despite his large frame and physical style of play. Another year of collegiate play would allow NFL teams to have a better idea of the player they would get.OSU then-sophomore offensive lineman Isaiah Prince (59) waits for the ball to snap during the first half of the Buckeyes game against Nebraska on Nov. 5. The Buckeyes won 62-3. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Former Photo EditorJunior right tackle Isaiah PrinceWhy he would leave early: Prince is just a year removed from a turbulent season during which he faltered at key moments and fans called for him to be replaced as starting right tackle. But now, after his second season as a starter, Prince has positioned himself as an intriguing potential early entrant into the NFL draft. With a massive 6-foot-7, 310-pound frame, Prince has learned to maximize his power and has improved agility in pass block sets. He has the size NFL teams desire and is physically ready for the next step.Why he wouldn’t leave early: Though he has improved in his second season as a starter at Ohio State, Prince has the ability to further improve his draft stock by continuing to make advances in his pass block ability, mobility and footwork. With left tackle Jamarco Jones and center Billy Price graduating, he also would have the opportunity to step into a leadership role with a fellow two-year starter, sophomore left guard Michael Jordan. Prediction: Prince returns for his third year as Ohio State’s starting right tackle. Next year’s spotlight on him and the ability to continue making dramatic improvements in his weak spots could dramatically improve his draft stock. After a horrific first season and good second season as a starter, Prince has the ability to continue the trend line in a positive direction by returning to Ohio State for his senior season.Ohio State redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber (25) runs the ball in for at touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game against Michigan on Nov. 25 in Ann Arbor. Ohio State won 31-20. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorRedshirt sophomore running back Mike WeberWhy he would leave early: Weber entered the year as the presumed starter after rushing for more than 1,000 yards as a redshirt freshman. But after suffering a partially-torn hamstring, Weber lost his starting spot to freshman phenom J.K. Dobbins, who will be back next year and in 2019. Though Weber is a solid back who etched his name in program history with the 1,096-yard season, he would likely not be able to reclaim the starting job. Entering the NFL draft would allow him to move on from what likely would be an unwinnable position battle and maximize his NFL potential while healthy.Why he wouldn’t leave early: Though he would like have to split reps, Weber could return in a successful one-two punch with Dobbins, similar to that of former USC running backs Reggie Bush and Lendale White. Weber showcased improved speed at times, but dealt with injuries and a lack of playing time. Those two factors prevented Weber from demonstrating improvements from the season prior. Another year of college would allow NFL teams the ability to scout the player they would expect to draft.Prediction: After three years at Ohio State, Weber decides to leave college for the NFL. The challenge of competing for carries with Dobbins seems steep. The added mileage on a running back’s body combined with a lack of opportunity make the NFL an appealing option. He expected to be the starter, but was unexpectedly usurped. Though he would also have to fight for carries in the NFL, he would be getting paid and is now healthy enough to maximize the opportunity. Ohio State redshirt sophomore receiver K.J. Hill (14) runs the ball in the third quarter of the game against Michigan on Nov. 25 in Ann Arbor. Ohio State won 31-20. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorRedshirt sophomore H-back K.J. HillWhy he would leave early: Often lost in the shuffle of Ohio State’s unusually large cast of six starting wide receivers, Hill finished with a team-leading 55 receptions for 546 yards and three touchdowns. He was quarterback J.T. Barrett’s safety valve and always seemed to come through at key moments of the game. A possession slot receiver, Hill is an advanced route runner. He also has the versatility to impact the game on special teams, a skill NFL teams value highly.Why he wouldn’t leave early: Hill is far from an explosive wideout. None of his 55 catches went for more than 29 yards and he 9.9 yards per catch, the lowest amount of any Ohio State wide receiver with more than three catches. In order to not just make an NFL roster, but to thrive at the professional level, he will need to maximize his technical receiving skills. Another year or two at Ohio State, would put him in position to showcase his strengths to the NFL and work on converting more explosive plays.Prediction: Hill returns for his fourth collegiate season. The benefits outweigh the costs for Hill, who would likely be a low draft pick or even go undrafted. With his current lack of explosiveness, the pressure would be on to either make a team as a punt returner and special teams ace or somehow convince teams he can translate a seeming lack of speed into production at a higher level, which seems unlikely.Ohio State redshirt sophomore tight end Rashod Berry (13) celebrates after running the ball in for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Ohio State- UNLV game on Sep. 23. Ohio State won 54- 21. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorRedshirt sophomore tight end Rashod BerryWhy he would leave early: On a team stocked with some of the best athletes in college football, Berry stands out. A physical freak who has played on both sides of the ball, he seems to have settled in at tight end. But he retains the ability to play defensive end. NFL teams have shown the willingness to take risks on physical specimens. Mo-Alie Cox, a former VCU basketball player, was signed by the Indianapolis Colts after not playing football since he was 14 years old. Berry, who also has a basketball background, would likely be given a shot by a team.Why he wouldn’t leave early: Berry does not even have a steady position and has never started a game in college. He played behind tight end Marcus Baugh this season and has a chance to step into the starting role next year. Another year or two of development could do him wonders and potentially make him a well-regarded prospect not just for his combination of lifting and jumping abilities, but his football skills, as well.Prediction: Berry returns for his redshirt junior season at Ohio State. Sure, his body is ready for the NFL, but he does not have an obvious position in the NFL. In a year or two, his football skills could match his physicality, which would pique the interest of NFL teams. read more

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