Friday, December 2, 2011

Sports Talking Points That Need to be Rewritten

"The NFL is a quarterback league."

Except when Tim Tebow can win a game with only two completions and the 49ers can win nine of their first 10 games with Alex Smith under center.  Right now there are, perhaps, 9-12 teams with a competent quarterback -- the Cowboys, Giants, Packers, Lions, Saints, Falcons, Patriots, Ravens, Steelers... and maybe the Bengals, Chargers or Raiders.  There are 20+ teams with stiffs at QB.

(Speaking as a Redskins fan, my team has had the choice between Rex Grossman and John Beck this year.  They both stink, one worse than the other... and the Skins have the same record as Phil Rivers' San Diego Chargers.  It's a bad year for the NFL.)


"Defense wins championships" (in the NFL).

Except the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl two years ago thanks to a brilliant offense -- and the 20th best defense in the league.  Two years before that, the champion Giants were #17 (and topped the 4th-ranked Patriots).  The champion Indianapolis Colts were #23 in the NFL in 2006.

Does it help to have a great defense?  Hey, it can't hurt.  Still, the top team in the NFL right now is the undefeated Green Bay Packers, who have the 30th-ranked defense in the league.  Meanwhile, the AFC-favorite New England Patriots have the worst defense in the league.  (ESPN's team defense chart)


"Great pitching beats great hitting."

Except that the Texas Rangers had a blast disposing of this one in the 2011 postseason.

Texas was shut down by Rays rookie Matt Moore in the first game of the ALDS before beating Jamie Shields, David Price and Jeremy Hellickson in succession despite - statistically - having the better offense but the worse opposing starter.  Team ERA:  4.25.  They won.

In the ALCS, the Rangers' offense again carried the load and the relievers provided all four victories against the Detroit Tigers.  The starting pitching was negligible.  A Texas starting pitcher made it through six innings exactly once in the six games.  Team ERA:  4.02.  They won.

In the World Series, the Rangers pitched to a 4.65 ERA... but they held the Cardinals to a .243 batting average and .396 slugging percentage while hitting .254 and slugging .419.  Naturally, they lost.  The Cardinals' Series-winning ERA was a mediocre 3.86.  On the bright side, it was a classic series.

The easiest way to crush this talking point, though, is just to note that arguably the greatest pitching staff in baseball history -- the 1990s Atlanta Braves -- won only one World Series amid their 14 consecutive division titles.  Except for one season, 1995, the Braves' great pitching was annually outdone.

1 comment:

Bryan said...

"Moneyball" as a descriptive term for baseball teams with good on-base percentage hitters when it's actually just the name of a book about taking advantage of market inefficiencies.