Monday, January 26, 2015

Stop Changing the Rules, Guys

Rob Manfred, baseball's new commissioner, is ready to get going, and he's looking to fix some problems. In fact, there is one issue that he is already discussing, saying he's going to try to make a change. Is it the awkward Pete Rose situation? No. Is it the unfortunate occurrence of steroid era that is now keeping some of the game's greatest stars out of the Hall of Fame and alienating them from their former teams, even without proof of guilt? Nope.

Manfred is determined to eliminate defensive shifts.

Now, I don't really like defensive shifts, and I would never use them if I were a coach. I'll also say, though, that I'm obviously not a coach, nor have I carefully studied numbers and statistics based on shifts against certain players. So if/when my team happens to shift, I trust that there is statistical evidence supporting it. But ultimately, I'd rather not see it.

Still, just because I do not like it, that doesn't mean I want it banned. This is one of those very slippery slopes. Could you ban a 4-3 defense in football? Nickel or dime packages? What about a wildcat or option offense? When did the leagues start telling teams what kind of defensive alignment they were allowed to use?

Let's try some baseball comparisons. Can the third baseman or first baseman still play in closer during a bunt situation? Can a center fielder or middle infielder shade to one side or the other? These are technically "shifts" of some kind.

I don't like the shift, but it is within a coach's rights, just like batting the pitcher 8th or using the DH position to replace a fielder's bat instead of a pitcher's. (I actually argued for this during interleague play last year, when the Cubs would DH for Travis Wood while allowing Darwin Barney to waste another four at-bats. Wood finished 2014 with a .700 OPS, compared to Barney's .594 during his final Cubs season.)

Sometimes the manager needs to be able to do something quirky in order to give his team a better chance to win.

But the main argument I offer to the people who want to actually ban the act of shifting is to have players learn to hit against it! And maybe they never will, like a basketball player who just can't shoot free throws well. But we don't find ways to help them avoid shooting free throws, do we? Maybe Ryan Howard just needs to practice hitting the other way more.

It's never good when these commissioners start making drastic changes. Another example of this occurred in the NFL Pro Bowl last night, when the kickers faced longer extra points (35 yards) into goalposts that were only 14 feet wide instead of 18. Of course, Adam Vinatieri missed two extra points, something that should never happen to a Pro Bowl kicker. The extra point is fine how it is. Just leave it alone.

With all this talk about pitch clocks and now banning defensive shifts, I'm kind of starting to worry. I believe the big issues need to be addressed, while the game of baseball itself is fine as it is.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

2015 Daytona 24 Hours - Quick Wrap Up

So, the 2015 Daytona 24 Hours is in the books, and we had a pretty solid event, from start to finish. While there were quite a few full course yellows, it sure seemed like there were less than last year, and there was even an organic reason for throwing one inside of 20 minutes to go (that'd be a car attempting to burn itself to the ground, versus last year's "car goes off track for 10 seconds, nicks a tire barrier, never comes to a stop and immediately drives away"). There was action throughout, whenever I was watching, anyway, and we had two leaders battling right down to the last lap in two of the four classes.

The #02 Ganassi "Star Car" Riley-Ford of Scott Dixon (who drove a fantastic stint to close out the race), Tony Kanaan, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson was able to close out the win just 1.333 seconds over the defending champion #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais. The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP was in the conversation until a pit stop with 10 minutes to go, when they had to take Jordan Taylor out of the car or risk losing his championship points for the event for going over the "no more than four hours of driving in a six hour stretch" limit. Oops. The #10 still finished 3rd, fully six laps ahead of the #90 Corvette DP.

This class was looking like it'd go to the #54 CORE Autosport car, well, more or less from the green flag, but certainly from half distance. With less than 20 minutes to go, though, and while over a lap in the lead, an incident with another car broke the suspension, which then pitched the car into the wall coming out of the "Bus Stop" chicane, whereupon the car decided to find out what "en fuego" might mean in a racing setting. The #54 was done for (though it still finished 3rd in class on laps completed), and the win wound up going to #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports car of Mike Guasch, Andrew Novich, Andrew Palmer and Tom Kimber-Smith. I gave this car 40 to 1 odds and put it in my "Long(er) Shots" category in my pre-race preview, so thankfully, nobody actually took me up on any bets.

Another class that came right down to the wire. The Corvettes looked to be in control for a good chunk of the race, yet some savvy strategy allowed the mostly slower #25 RLL BMW Z4 to finish a scant half second behind the winning #3 of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Ryan Briscoe. Third place was the #4 Corvette, seven laps behind.

The late restart bunched the pack up, but that wasn't enough to allow the #22 Alex Job Racing Porsche to get close enough to take a shot at the #93 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper of Dominik Farnbacher, Ben Keating, Kuno Wittmer, Cameron Lawrence and Al Carter. The Vipers were fast all day (and all night, and in qualifying, and in practice), so this wasn't a complete surprise, but the #93 did also wind up in 13th overall, due to huge attrition in the top-3 classes.

That'll just about do it for the racing part of Blogathon. Thanks to Mike and Allen for everything they've done here (I'm basically just tagging along with my nerdy self) and thanks to everybody for coming by and checking us out. Blogathon 2016 can't come soon enough.

I'm Not a Race Car Team Owner...

So I can't really say I understand the financials between a season championship and a Daytons 24 Hour victory, but I have to imagine the perks of winning the season are so much greater that switching drivers to make sure they get championship points makes sense. Although it sounds like it may also have had something to do with Jordan creeping over his maximum allowed time, that makes much more sense, but you hope they were right on it.

The reality is Scott Dixon is awesome and he would have been hard for Jordan Taylor to pass but I think we all agree we would have liked to see an attempt. The race was still great with plenty action and many teams coming back from behind. Heck the Prototype Challenge lead changed hands with 10 minutes to go.

Tony Kanaan gets to join the club of guys who have won the Indy 500 and Daytons 24Hrs; but Jaime McMurray joins a more exclusive club of guys who have won both the Daytona 500 and Daytona 24Hrs. The only other two to have done it: A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. That's some company to be in.

Congrats to all the drivers and congrats to all fans because its racing season again.

I'm gonna win! Go 02!

I'll go ahead and post and then step aside for the real racing talk. But this was a lot more fun having a car in contention throughout the 24 hours!

Look for lots of football talk this week. Happy Blogathon!


So, step away to pour a tasty Zombie Monkey porter, and everything goes crazy. The leading #54 CORE Autosport catches on fire, and the resulting yellow sees the #10 Wayne Taylor Corvette pit to switch drivers with 10 minutes to go. I don't think I have any words... At least the top-3 are still covered by less than 10 seconds, so this isn't over yet, even with just three or so laps to go...

Either way

I believe I will be going 1, 2, 3 and last for my ARFL season opener. Thanks a lot DeltaWing...

Zombie Monkey!

Well, Crud

Mike beat me. :(((((

24 Minutes to Go - Speedgeek Style

Basically, I'm just racing to post before Mike does, as we're both sitting in the same room trying to knock out a post at the 24-minute to go mark. We've got three cars on the lead lap still. This might get crazy!

24 Minutes of Daytona!

Now the real race begins! Go 02!

Chicago Cubs