Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Rise of the Samurai Pitcher

Masahiro Tanaka stands on the mound, rubbing the ball vigorously between his hands. It's a crisp, cool night in the Bronx. Stepping back, he digs his right foot into the rubber, winds up and, with a seven-foot stretch, steps towards the catcher, unleashing a blistering four-seam, 95 mph fastball. Less than half a second later, it explodes into the catcher's mitt with a loudpop. The batter can only stand and watch as it flies by. Strike one!

It's a common scene when Tanaka takes the mound for the New York Yankees. With the focus and discipline of a Samurai warrior, their star rookie pitcher has taken Major League Baseball (MLB) by storm in 2014. His stats[1] (as of August 15, 2014) are gaudy: 2.51 ERA(Earned Run Average), 12-4 record and a 1.01 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched). Further, the guy's a strikeout machine, fanning 135 hitters vs only 19 walks. Tanaka is the latest Japanese ace to infiltrate MLB. Twenty years ago, you'd have to look long and hard to find a Japanese pitcher in this league (in fact, you'd find only one: Hideo Nomo, aka the "Tornado"), but today, it is an increasingly common site. What's going on?

This article was written by Patrick Rhodes - the the author of "Graph of the Week" - for Statistics Views and published on January 30, 2014. Read the rest of this article there.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Swallowing the Bitter Pill: England, the Premier League and the World Cup

Discussions abound about England’s chances at the 2014 edition of the World Cup. For a country which has produced elite football players such as Gary Neville, John Terry and Paul Scholes (and yes, David Beckham), there isn’t a lot of optimism about their chances this summer. The sports collective favors Brazil followed by Argentina, Germany or perhaps Spain (defending champs) to win it all. In other words, nobody is predicting an English title for this edition yet everybody is looking for something to blame. It’s become somewhat trendy to blame the Premier League (England’s top professional Association Football league) for England’s national team downfall. Why? Because fewer than 1/3 of its players are actually English. Rampant speculation about this phenomenon has led to intense discussion at all levels of the sport in England - the same country in which the sport was invented. Let's try to settle this debate.

Best League in the World?
If we “follow the money” (for 2013) and judge a league not only by its top teams, but also the bottom-feeders and every team in between (in terms of money), then the Premier League is indeed the best (meaning: although Manchester City is an outlier, most of the league isn't as far behind, salary-wise as in other leagues[1]).
This article was written by the the author of "Graph of the Week" for Statistics Views and published on January 30, 2014. Read the rest of this article there.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust: The Evolution of Passing in the NFL

"Three yards and a cloud of dust" (1) - that's how Woody Hayes described his "crunching, frontal assault of muscle against muscle", the offense that defined the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 50s and 60s. He went on say that, in regards to the passing game, "only three things can happen when you pass and two of them are bad". Hayes' colourful description of his offense springs directly from the original vision of American Football: run, run, run. Were he alive today, he would be shocked to see that the game has evolved into a philosophy of pass, pass, pass. This phenomenon has elevated one player position above all others: the quarterback. He has become king; all other players are subject to the whims of the crown. How did this happen? Let's review the game, its history and follow it through.
thumbnail image: Three Yards and A Cloud of Dust: The Evolution of Passing in the NFL
The Most Popular Sport in the World
American Football - simply known as “football” in the United States - generates the most revenue of any sporting franchise in the United States and indeed the world (2). In 2012, the NFL (National Football League) took in nearly $10 billion dollars (U.S.) compared to the Premier League at $3.3 billion. Still not impressed? Attendance numbers tell the same story: the NFL attracts nearly 4 million spectators more than the nearest competitor which, interestingly, is not what you might guess (hint: it’s not the Premier League and it’s not some other American sports league). If you guessed the Bundesliga association football (i.e. “soccer”) league in Germany, congratulations! That league holds the number two designation (3), which drew 13.8 million visitors during the 2011-12 season compared to 17.2 million for the NFL.
This article was written by the the author of "Graph of the Week" for Statistics Views and published on January 30, 2014. Read the rest of this article there.
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