3Minnesota Twins7874777676.1 EXPECTED NUMBER OF WINS RANKTEAMPECOTAFANGRAPHSDAVENPORTWESTGATEAVERAGE 1Cleveland Indians9291939492.5 How forecasters view the AL Central 4Kansas City Royals7175717572.9 In honor of the 2017 Major League Baseball season, which starts April 2, FiveThirtyEight is assembling some of our favorite baseball writers to chat about what’s ahead. Today, we focus on the American League West with Deadspin editor-in-chief Tim Marchman and FiveThirtyEight baseball columnist Rob Arthur. The transcript below has been edited. Based on projected wins or over/under win totals. Data gathered on March 23, 2017.Sources: Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Clay Davenport, Las Vegas Review-Journal 5Chicago White Sox7669716971.1 2Detroit Tigers7981838481.6 neil (Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight senior sportswriter): Welcome! Let’s start with the Indians. They finally won this division after a failed bid as the favorite in 2015 and used that as a springboard to come about as close to a world championship as a team can get without winning it.Now the projections are really high on them again. According to FanGraphs, they’re as big a division favorite (88 percent) as the Cubs! Is that too much? Or are they that far ahead?rob: The Indians are impressive, but that playoff prediction is as much about the mediocrity of the rest of the AL Central as it is the Indians’ own talent level. Their closest divisional competitor, the Tigers, grade out as barely above average, so by comparison Cleveland is a heavy favorite.tmarchman: Yeah, I think this has as much to do with the state of the Central as anything else. There are realistic scenarios where the Indians don’t win the division, but they probably involve multiple injuries to key players and another team playing over their head — and even there, Cleveland versus whatever team that is would probably be a push.rob: The Indians had some injury troubles last year — their starting rotation was depleted by October. With Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar back in the picture for a few more starts each, they should have one of the best overall staffs in all of baseball (again). And while there may be some regression to the mean for a couple of their position players (Tyler Naquin comes to mind), they added Edwin Encarnacion over the offseason, and they could also get some production out of Michael Brantley.neil: Yeah, despite all those injuries, they were super good at preventing runs last year. And a lot of that was a sick bullpen — but is there a worry that their ’pen might not repeat such a great season? They were second in WPA through a mix of great peripherals and clutch pitching, but bullpens are also notoriously volatile. (Of course, they also get a full season of Andrew Miller.)rob: Bullpens are absurdly difficult to predict. (OK, all of baseball is difficult to predict, but bullpens are a special challenge.) Nevertheless, I feel comfortable saying that their bullpen will be at least decent. They have the fantastic 1-2 combo of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, both about as consistently excellent as relievers tend to be. And I think Terry Francona showed that he can use his relief staff in a novel, smart way last season.tmarchman: The Indians also haven’t worked their relievers all that hard over the last couple of years. They were 11th in the AL in IP last year and 14th the year before that. Day to day, this isn’t really the team you might remember from last October, trying to nurse a lead along into the fifth. This is where starting out so far ahead of the division really helps: If you’re opening the season thinking more about getting Miller and Allen enough work than about maximizing their use over six months, that’s pretty nice.neil: That’s a good luxury to have, and it suggests there’s a good chance Cleveland’s run prevention is still on lock. The lineup, on the other hand, wasn’t a strength last year — it ranked 12th in the AL in OPS+. Is adding Encarnacion and getting Brantley back enough to improve that offense? Or does it matter?rob: If you go by raw runs scored, they were quite a bit better than that (fifth best in baseball). Some of that difference comes from excellent baserunning, and some is probably sequencing. But that’s all a long-winded preamble to saying it doesn’t much matter. As long as their pitching staff is as good as it projects to be, their offense doesn’t need to be amazing for them to win ballgames. It will likely improve this season, but is doesn’t really need to.tmarchman: The offense almost has to improve, right? Cleveland catchers hit .185/.244/.320 last year. Their primary left fielder had a 78 OPS+. Juan Uribe got 259 plate appearances and hit like one of the catchers.rob: Yikes, that catcher line.tmarchman: I don’t know that I’d mess with the catching situation, given how well the pitchers did, but good God.rob: I mean, their catchers’ BABIP was .221. The next-lowest group of catchers by BABIP was at .247.neil: All right, let’s move on to the rest of this division, starting with Detroit. They were the fourth-oldest team in MLB, had only 83 Pythagorean wins last year, yet they didn’t really make any huge changes from last year, aside from dealing away Cameron Maybin. Seems like a lot of indicators are pointing down for the Tigers.tmarchman: It certainly feels like the kind of team that could just implode.rob: Yeah, if I had to bet on one team to be significantly worse than its projection, it might be the Tigers. They are old, they are mediocre and if they are going to be competitive in the long term, they need to reorganize their talent somehow. I’m not saying they need to go for a full, three-plus-season rebuild — that would be heartbreaking, with Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander still productive. But they might need to give up on competing for a year or two in order to be serious contenders again before their current core falls apart.tmarchman: I don’t think there’s really any sophisticated analysis that needs to be brought to bear here. Verlander and Cabrera were 33 last year and Ian Kinsler was 34, all of them played about as well as you could reasonably expect, if not better, and the team was … just OK.Kinsler might actually be the most interesting player on the team, in some ways. He’s been better than Cabrera over the last three years by WAR (though that’s buoyed by some really favorable defensive ratings), at an age when you really wouldn’t have expected a ton — considering Kinsler in his prime was a decent-hitting but not overwhelming second baseman. He’s starting to creep up on Hall of Fame-type numbers.neil: Dare I say it, Kinsler has been one of the most underrated players of his generation.rob: Detroit could have three past-their-prime Hall of Famers in Kinsler, Cabrera and Verlander. Watching that triumvirate navigate their twilight years might be the most compelling thing about the Tigers right now.But their bullpen is, as ever, a question mark (if not an outright weakness). In the unlikely event they make the playoffs, the relief corps will haunt them (as it has, over and over and over). And they can’t do much to fix it, without a strong farm system or many tradeable assets.neil: Right, that was something I wanted to ask about — doesn’t it seem like they’re in a precarious place on the success cycle? They have the stars, but the rest of the roster isn’t very good. They have the third-highest projected payroll in MLB this year, and the sixth-worst farm system, according to Baseball America. They’re kind of a team caught in between contending and rebuilding.tmarchman: I think that’s understating it, they seem like a nuclear wasteland waiting to happen.neil: OK, so from a franchise trending downward to one I think is headed up, let’s shift to the Minnesota Twins. They have a new, SABR-savvy management with GM Thad Levine. Is this the start of a new era for a franchise that had resisted outwardly embracing analytics under former GM Terry Ryan?tmarchman: I guess I’m waiting to see with the Twins. Not only did the Twins resist analytics for a long time, they famously resisted the idea of trying to hit for power for a long time, which you may or may not think has long-lasting residual effects.Without going back and checking what I said last year, I’m pretty sure it was some version of what I’ll say here: Their direction seems pretty contingent on whether center fielder Byron Buxton and third baseman Miguel Sano break out. It’s hardly like they’re running out of time, but it’s a little hard to peg what the team is without knowing what they have in those two. Buxton — for anyone who wants to read anything into it — did hit nine home runs in September and now says a light went on. Certainly possible, though I suppose we’ll see.rob: I agree with Tim, but I will also say that getting rid of Ryan was a huge step for the Twins’ long-term contention. I don’t know that they will be competitive any time soon, but they will no longer have to contend with an organizational philosophy that effectively hamstrings them. They are finally free to pursue pitchers who strike people out, and to better integrate sabermetrics into their decision making process.tmarchman: There’s something incredibly impressive about the nice run they had. When you’re not only resistant to analytics but actively don’t want hitters hitting the ball too hard or pitchers striking people out — and still do well — well, it’s an achievement!But that they were still dining out on it all this time later means it was probably time for a change.rob: Agreed. As we enter a new era where every team seems to have or at least be building a functional analytics department, I’m kind of sad to see the last few front offices who resisted leave. It was nice to have a whole different way to build a team that could coexist and compete with what we think of as the state of the art.neil: Either way, the prognostications above call for about a 15- to 20-win improvement on last year’s terrible 59-103 record. Granted, they won 83 games in 2015 and also undershot Pythagoras by seven wins last year, so they were probably a true 66-win team that got unlucky.But do we think third place is a realistic mark of progress in 2017? (Also note that Minny has the No. 1 pick in June’s draft, which is another source of long-term optimism no matter what happens this season.)tmarchman: I could see them finishing anywhere from second to last place, but whatever it is, I don’t think the finish itself tells much as a measure of progress. If I told you right now that they’ll finish .500 on the back of pretty strong seasons from pitchers Ervin Santana and Phil Hughes, I doubt you’d say that necessarily means much long term. You’d want to know how the prospects did — and, for that matter, you might want to know why those two were still on the team after the trade deadline.neil: OK, now let’s talk about the 2015 World Champion Kansas City Royals. After an 81-81 season in 2016, is the party over for K.C.? Last year, they looked at times like they’d contend for another World Series, flame out completely and everything in between.rob: The Royals are so frustrating. I was all ready last season to buy into the idea that they had discovered some secret advantage (in regards to defense, or injuries, or chemistry or something), and then they landed somewhere between mediocre (by W-L) and bad (by Pythagorean record).There are two problems for Kansas City, in my opinion: One is that, even with a secret advantage that adds 5-10 wins to their final performance, the Royals aren’t likely to be anything better than average. And the second is that sabermetric advantages tend to be ephemeral, as other teams rapidly catch up to whatever magic they developed. Because K.C. is a small-market team, it will have to keep coming up with new and fresh edges in order to keep its head above .500.tmarchman: I’m with Rob here. If you were being optimistic you could just set last year’s record as their baseline, and say, “Hey, fewer injuries, Alex Gordon plays like Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer has a nice contract year … that all adds up, they should be in it.” But I just don’t see where they have all that many good players.neil: It also seems like all the things that made up “Royals Devil Magic” were still good — but a little bit less great than before, and there wasn’t much else to make up for it. They were still one of the best fielding teams, but not as dominant as in 2015. Ditto the bullpen, their contact rate and even their speed score and weighted runs from steals.tmarchman: To take FanGraphs’ projections, they have four players projected to be above average, and none projected to be worth more than 2.9 WAR. There are certainly things those projections don’t capture, but that’s an awful lot to make up for.rob: Their best player last season was Jarrod Dyson at 3.1 WAR, most of it defensive. And he’s gone now. In 2015, when everything was clicking and going well, a lot of their players drastically outperformed their projections. And maybe that can happen again, but it’s hard to pin your hopes every year on the projections simultaneously getting five players wrong.I am intrigued by the addition of Jorge Soler, though. I always thought he was a couple of tweaks away from being a great player with the Cubs, and if I had to pick one person on the team to blow past their projection (only 0.6 WAR), it would be him.neil: Finally, we have Tim’s favorite team — the Chicago White Sox. And at last, they appear to be rebuilding in earnest, after hovering in that mid-70s no man’s land for wins over the past few seasons.The Sox made some big trades for prospects this offseason: They swapped ace Chris Sale for infielder Yoan Moncada (Baseball America’s No. 2-ranked prospect) and starter Michael Kopech. They also dealt outfielder Adam Eaton — seems like they sold high there — for two more pitching prospects. This appears to be a good rebuild, no?tmarchman: I’m cranky about it. I don’t think much of the prospects they got, and I think that a Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher on a reasonable contract (Sale) and an All-Star outfielder on a ridiculous one (Eaton) are players you want to keep around, if they’re young.On the other hand … after talking about all these teams that are just kind of stuck in the mud, yes, it’s a relief to get to one that has a clear, obvious direction.rob: I, too, am a little skeptical of the rebuild, not just as an evaluator but as a Chicago-based fan (nothing beat going to see a Chris Sale start for cheap). Like Tim, I’m a little lower on the prospects they got back than the consensus seems to be. I’ve seen Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski fleece many a team in similar trades, and if I were the White Sox, I’d be wary. But as far as the general direction of the team, it had to happen, there was no other way, and now there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon that they could one day be great.neil: At the very least, they’re fifth in Baseball America’s farm-system rankings now, which is the highest they’ve been in a long time.rob: And this coming year of horrible baseball will likely improve that system’s position as they start to get high draft picks coming in.tmarchman: I think one big problem here goes to something that analytically inclined types can’t always predict well, which is player development. The White Sox can definitely develop pitchers, but they just aren’t good at doing anything with hitters like Moncada. Are you really better off going for talent over polish if you have no real record of turning that talent into production?rob: Right, they have a terrible record for developing position players. So it’s fair to wonder if they’ll be able to turn these guys into viable major leaguers.neil: Given the rebuild, is there anything to really watch out for on the field this year? Do those 71 wins by the projectors seem about right? Or is it yet another AL Central case where the record is kinda irrelevant?tmarchman: The record’s not relevant, but I think performance is. The question isn’t just, say, whether 2013 first-rounder Tim Anderson will develop a better grasp of the strike zone and lock down shortstop long term, but whether new manager Rick Renteria is the right guy to bring the kids along.rob: I think one player to watch closely will be starter Jose Quintana. In addition to the fact that he is woefully underappreciated and fun, he might get traded midseason so that the Sox can add a few more good players to the farm. Watch the contenders to see if any of them have major rotation holes and good prospects to give up.tmarchman: Overall, this really, really feels like a return to the good ol’ days in the Central — a bunch of teams that are horror shows in various ways, and the Indians taking the summer to figure out if they’ll need to trade for, say, a left-handed pinch-hitter who’s good against screwballs to get a tactical advantage in the playoffs.Now that I said that, the Royals are going to scamper to the division, of course.
FiveThirtyEight More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Embed Code Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s episode (Aug. 1, 2017), we celebrate the publication of Kate Fagan’s latest book, “What Made Maddy Run.” FiveThirtyEight senior editor Chadwick Matlin and Kate discuss the story of Madison Holleran, a University of Pennsylvania track star whose death by suicide sparked a conversation about the difficulties of transitioning to college life, mental illness and the impact of social media. Next, we’re joined by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur, who helps us make sense of the MLB trade deadline by breaking down how the deals made by this year’s top teams might affect the playoffs. Plus, a significant digit on the Chicago Cubs.Here are links to what we discussed on this week’s show:An excerpt from “What Made Maddy Run” can be found here.ESPN looked at the trade deadline’s biggest winners and losers, declaring that the Dodgers and Yankees stocked up while the Orioles missed out.Ahead of Monday’s MLB trade deadline, Rob wrote that trades aren’t just for the deadline anymore.Rob also notes that as a result of this year’s trades, baseball’s richest just got much richer.Significant Digit: 14, the number of years between the infamous Steve Bartman incident during the 2003 National League Championship Series and the Cubs’ decision to present a 2016 World Series ring to Bartman. The Cubs said that “while no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization.”
2016Round 194.99 Since 1996, the regular season has indeed been played at a faster pace than the postseason in all but one year. But based on how the playoffs are thought of as a slog, you would expect the rate of slowdown to be massive. That has not actually been the case. On average, playoff games over the past 22 years have been played 2.42 possessions per game slower than regular-season games — roughly 2.6 percent slower than regular-season games in that span. But even the rate of the postseason slowdown has been dropping off of late.In 1997, the playoffs were 3.4 percent slower than the 1996-97 regular season. By 2000, the drop in pace reached 5.7 percent. In other words, the truism, back then, actually was true. Since the turn of the century, however, it has become increasingly less true. And in 2015, the playoffs were faster than the regular season for the first time in at least 20 years.This year’s conference finals figure to see an even smaller drop-off in pace. The Celtics ranked 23rd in pace during the regular season at 98.24 possessions per game, the slowest among the four remaining teams. The three regular-season matchups between the Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers were played at an average of 101.71 possessions, while the three Golden State Warriors-Houston Rockets games averaged 103.57 possessions. Even if the Cavs-Celtics series is slower, the rate at which the Warriors and Rockets rack up possessions should make these conference finals one of the fastest playoff rounds in recent memory — especially if that Western Conference series is as close as many think it will be and lasts six or seven games. (The first two games of the Eastern Conference finals averaged 95.20 possessions, per NBA.com’s calculations; while the West’s opening game was played at a 100.12-possession pace, confirming the expectation that it will be the faster series.)But the expected difference in pace between the conference finals highlights one other NBA perception that has largely held true over the years: Western Conference games are a bit faster than those in the Eastern Conference, and Eastern Conference basketball slows down in the playoffs more than Western Conference basketball does.Thanks to the NBA Advanced Stats database, we are able to isolate games played between Eastern Conference teams and those played between Western Conference teams for every regular season since 1996-97. The West has been the faster conference in 18 of the 22 seasons. The gap between the conferences has at times been portrayed as wide, and for a good while (from 2006-07 to 2014-15), this was true. But the East has rapidly caught up over the past few years, and it has actually been the faster conference each of the past two regular seasons.The playoffs are another story. While regular-season games played between West teams since 1997 have been 1.36 possessions faster than those contested between teams from the East, the average West playoff game since 1997 has been 2.88 possessions faster than the average East playoff contest. 2017Finals103.14 2015Finals94.78 2016Finals95.38 2018Round 299.94 2018Round 197.52 Source: NBA Advanced Stats The fastest playoff rounds have been in recent yearsNBA playoff rounds with the most possessions per 48 minutes, 1997-2018 Based on possessions per 48 minutes, the recently completed second round of the 2018 playoffs was the third-fastest playoff round since 1997, which is as far back as the NBA Advanced Stats database reaches. Not only that, but this year’s first round was the sixth-fastest. And of the 15 fastest rounds in the past 22 years, 14 of them have come in the past four years.Of course, it makes a good deal of sense that playoff basketball is getting faster, because regular-season basketball is getting faster as well. The league average pace during the 2017-18 regular season was 99.57 possessions per 48 minutes. That’s nearly 10 full possessions faster than the 1996-97 campaign, which was played at an 89.78-possession pace. The rate of change is also quickly rising: This year’s regular season was more than five possessions per game faster than the league was even five years ago.1The 2012-13 season was played at a 94.44-possession pace. With the game getting faster each season, it’s worth examining just how big the drop-off between regular-season and postseason basketball really is — if it exists at all. 2016Round 295.89 When the NBA regular season winds down, fans most likely hear some variation of this old adage on one studio show after another: “In the playoffs, when the games slow down, they’re going to have some problems.”The idea is that run-and-gun teams will see their pace come to a grinding halt once the postseason starts; teams will focus on getting back on defense and will give away less in transition. How much this hurts up-tempo teams in the playoffs is hotly debated. The idea that the game slows down, though, is not. It’s just a truism. But is it even true? 2002Conf. finals97.14 2016Conf. finals97.28 YearRoundPace 2015Conf. finals97.71 2017Conf. finals100.24 2015Round 196.85 2017Round 195.85 2015Round 297.21 2017Round 298.08 Even the conferences’ drop-offs from their regular-season pace has been starker in the East than in the West. On average, Eastern Conference playoff games have been 3.06 possessions slower than those played during the regular season. In the West, the differential has been just 1.54 possessions.Much of this can be pinned on one man: LeBron James. James’s teams — a constant presence in the East playoffs for more than a decade — not only play slower than most believe, they also like to slow the pace even more during the playoffs, in an effort to allow James to control every inch of the floor. His teams, either the Cavaliers or the Miami Heat, have played slower in the Eastern Conference portion of the playoffs than in the regular season in 12 of the 13 years he has made the playoffs, including this year. On average, they’ve played 3.40 possessions slower, and this year they’re 6.70 possessions slower.Interestingly, James’s opponents have been able to speed his team up in all but one of his NBA Finals appearances.2The exception was 2007, James’s first trip to the championship round, when his Cavaliers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. If the Cavaliers beat the Celtics and get to the finals again, the smart bet would be on the Warriors or Rockets being able to speed up the Cavaliers this year as well. If that happens, and if the conference finals are played at as fast of a pace as I think they’ll be, it’s possible that this year’s playoff pace will surpass that of the regular season. And if that happens for the second time in four years, we have to start rethinking the idea that getting to the playoffs slows down the game at all.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
Junior H-back Dontre Wilson (2) carries the ball during a game against Indiana on Oct. 3 in Bloomington, Indiana. OSU won 34-27. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Photo EditorOhio State looks to remain unbeaten on Saturday, as the Buckeyes are set to square off against Maryland (2-3, 0-1) at noon. Here are five things The Lantern’s sports editors Ryan Cooper and Kevin Stankiewicz will be watching for at Ohio Stadium.Can OSU convert on third down?Despite having one of college football’s premier punters in junior Cameron Johnston, OSU needs to try and save the Geelong, Australia, native’s leg by converting on third down at a higher clip.Through five games, OSU ranks 103rd in the country — and third-to-last in the Big Ten — in third-down efficiency. The Buckeye offense has only picked up the first down on 23 out of its 66 attempts so far this year. OSU’s ho-hum .348 conversation rate is in stark contrast to 2014, when the Scarlet and Gray was one of the nation’s top teams in third-down conversion percentage, ranking third overall with a mark of .520. OSU coach Urban Meyer said third-down conversation “hasn’t been our strength” this season, while adding that the issue stems from timing and execution issues from the quarterbacks and receivers.Redshirt junior quarterback Cardale Jones and his receivers will need to find the timing on third down soon if the team hopes to maintain a grasp on the No. 1 ranking. Fortunately, Saturday may be a good opportunity to do so because Maryland’s defense sits in the middle of the pack nationally, ranking 75th in third-down conversion percentage.OSU will need to show improvements on third down against the Terrapins and in weeks beyond, as the struggles are holding back the offense and consequently, the entire team.Penalties Third-down efficiency isn’t the only thing holding back OSU. Penalties, on both offense and defense, are limiting the Buckeyes growth.The Buckeyes committed eight penalties — which brought their season total to 40, 111th in the nation — resulting in 109 yards against Indiana. On the potential game-tying drive for the Hoosiers, OSU committed two critical defensive penalties — a facemask and pass interference — that gave Indiana automatic first downs. However, the most costly penalty came in the first half when redshirt senior H-back Braxton Miller committed an illegal block on a play that junior running back Ezekiel Elliott scored a touchdown on. The infraction by Miller nullified the score, and OSU was unable to put points on the board on the remainder of the drive. The surfeit of penalties is on the forefront of the coaches’ minds. On Monday during his press conference, Meyer said the word “penalties” five times. “When you have the penalties and turnovers, that does — that stops efficiency,” he said. Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell conceded that some flags will be thrown due to the aggressive press-man defense the team plays, but he has no tolerance for the “foolish ones, the facemasks, the things where you take a bad angle.” “We can handle the aggressive ones, but the foolish ones are what we gotta make sure we do a better job. We can’t put ourselves in those situations,” he said. OSU will need to avoid self-inflicted wounds against Maryland, as the Buckeyes clearly have more talent, but unnecessary penalties could prove to be an equalizer versus the Terrapins.Will Curtis Samuel factor in more?In the days leading up to OSU’s game at Indiana, Meyer made a point to say that he wants sophomore H-back Curtis Samuel to play a bigger role in the offense.Samuel came into the game with seven carries for 94 yards and a score to go with 13 catches for 158 yards and another touchdown.The Brooklyn, New York, native hardly factored into the game against the Hoosiers, however, only getting a single touch: a four-yard carry in the second half.This caused many to wonder what had happened to the emphasis that was supposed to be placed on Samuel getting the ball. Meyer answered those questions on Monday when he said Samuel had been dealing with back spasms and was limited in practice the week before the game.Meyer further added that Samuel was feeling better after the game, and should be 100 percent against Maryland.One would expect Meyer’s declaration of Samuel’s touches should carry over, and the H-back will play heavily into OSU’s offense against the Terrapins.Red zoneThe Buckeyes made three trips to the red zone against Indiana, coming away with just two field goals.The team made much of its living in the red zone last season, scoring on 63 of its 74 trips (85.1 percent), including 53 touchdowns. That has not carried over to 2015, as only 12 of its 16 trips have resulted in points (75 percent). Of those 12 trips, only half have resulted in touchdowns.The 75 percent mark ranks 108th in the nation and the worst among undefeated teams. Only Illinois and Minnesota have a worse red zone success rate in the Big Ten.Meyer said penalties and turnovers have been responsible for the Buckeyes’ red-zone issues.“It’s not just one problem, it’s a variety of problems,” Meyer said.One solution proposed on Monday was to substitute redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett as a red-zone quarterback, where he had more success in 2014 than Jones has had this season.Meyer said that idea has been tossed around among the coaches but is not planned at the moment.“We’ve thought about it. We’ve had that conversation,” Meyer said. “At this time we haven’t made any decisions on that right now.”Total turnoversSaturday’s game could feature a large number of possession changes, and not just because of kicks or punts.Maryland is worst in the country with 17 turnovers in five games this season. OSU comes in just a few spots below, tied for ninth worst with 13 cough-ups.The Terrapins have thrown a remarkable 15 interceptions, which alone would tie them for the most total turnovers in the country. They have also added two lost fumbles.The Buckeyes, on the other hand, have been more evenly split, throwing seven interceptions and losing six fumbles.As far as taking the ball away, OSU is tied for 42nd in the country with nine forced turnovers, while Maryland is tied for 50th with eight.The game will likely be a high-scoring affair — at least in OSU’s favor, as Maryland ranks 114th in total defense — but if the Buckeyes continue to cough up the football at such a high rate, they could have trouble maintaining momentum.That is, until whichever Maryland quarterback gets the start tosses it right back.
In the second game of the Ohio State baseball team’s season, coach Bob Todd decided to start Brett McKinney on the mound.The right-hander instantly impressed spectators by striking out the first three batters he faced. McKinney earned the win, going five innings without allowing a run and striking out eight in the process. That start would be impressive for any pitcher, much less a freshman making his first collegiate appearance. For the 19-year-old McKinney, it was a long-awaited, glorious moment.“It was so surreal. [It was] everything I worked for and everything I worked at,” McKinney said of the win. “My dad and my brother were able to come down and see the game, so that was really cool.”For McKinney, having his father, Chuck, and older brother, Chad, in attendance was even more special because they are the two most influential people in his baseball career. At the age of two McKinney began playing tee ball with his brother as they both looked up to their father, who played for the Cincinnati Reds.“Baseball has been in my family forever,” McKinney said. “My dad was a big influence. He’s always been coaching me so it’s nice.”It’s now Brett’s turn to continue the family tradition of playing baseball. But that wasn’t necessarily always his plan.At Badin High School, McKinney was a two-sport star, playing baseball in the spring and football in the fall. “I always had the dream I could be good enough in both [baseball and football] that I could choose one or the other,” McKinney said. “As I got older, I realized I wasn’t going to be big enough to play football, so I started to concentrate more on baseball.”While he might not have the size for football, McKinney is larger than life on the mound. At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, McKinney is an intimidator when he toes the rubber for the Buckeyes. And the coaching staff couldn’t be happier that he turned his attention to baseball and OSU.Both Todd and coach Eric Parker, who works with the pitchers, have been impressed with the freshman so far.“He’s doing a great job. It’s always an adjustment that first year coming in from high school,” Parker said of McKinney. “He’s working hard, making adjustments and getting better each week.”McKinney is adjusting quickly to his new surroundings and has already gelled with the veteran pitchers on the team.“All the upperclassmen have been great helping me out with different things. Everybody has done a great job taking me under their wing and teaching me the tricks,” McKinney said.Todd will look for McKinney to learn a new trick: moving from the rotation to the bullpen, as the Buckeyes enter Big Ten play this week. McKinney has started in all six of his appearances this season but will now transition to the bullpen as Alex Wimmers, Dean Wolosiansky and Drew Rucinski fill out the rotation.“He’s come in and given us some quality innings, and he’s trying to be one of the guys that is going to help us either as a set-up guy or a closer. As a freshman that’s awful tough to do, when you make the adjustment from high school to a Division 1 program,” Todd said.While it may be a tough move, Parker is confident his freshman hurler can do it.“One thing I really liked about him through the recruiting process is that he has always wanted the ball. He’s ready to take on whatever role,” Parker said. “It looks like we’re going to need him in the bullpen here early. And we feel confident he’s going to be able to handle whatever role we give him.”Whether starting or relieving, the one thing McKinney can certainly do is strike batters out. In his six appearances, McKinney has piled up 30 punch-outs, which ranks him second on the team and first among Big Ten freshmen.McKinney and the rest of the staff will look to continue to strike out opponents when OSU hosts Toledo today at 2:05 p.m. at Bill Davis Stadium.
For The LanternThen-junior Christian Bryant celebrates during a game against California on Sept. 15 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 35-28.The Ohio State football team announced Tuesday that they will have eight game captains for the 2013 season.The players voted redshirt-senior safety C.J. Barnett, senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown, senior safety Christian Bryant, redshirt-senior quarterback Kenny Guiton, redshirt-senior offensive lineman Corey Linsley, redshirt-senior offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, junior quarterback Braxton Miller and junior linebacker Ryan Shazier as the leaders for this year’s team, which hopes to repeat its undefeated 2012 season.According to a press release, the team will decide at the end of the year which of the eight players should be recognized as the season’s official team captains. Meyer said in the press release that the eight players each received “a lot of votes” and were all within 12 votes of one another.“It’s the first time I’ve done something like this,” Meyer told the team before announcing the eight game captains, according to the press release.Mewhort, one of the Buckeyes who attended Big Ten Media Days in Chicago over the summer, has been a part of 35 games for the Buckeyes, including starting for 25 consecutive games heading into this season. He helps to anchor an offensive line that returns four starters from 2012.In his first three seasons, Mewhort was asked to play multiple positions on the offensive line, starting at left and right guard during his sophomore season before spending all of last year at left tackle.After a long offseason, Mewhort said Monday he is ready for the season to get underway.“I think it’s nice just knowing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and this Saturday we get to go out and play against somebody other than ourselves,” Mewhort said.Miller was the 2012 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year after breaking a school record with 3,310 yards of total offense last season. He completed 58.3 percent of his passes during the Buckeyes’ undefeated season for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns, while he also ran for 1,271 yards, 13 touchdowns and 227 rushing attempts.Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said last week that Miller is “head and shoulders better” than he was last year and the Buckeyes expect him to be a leader this season.“The trust level that he has in the guys around him has certainly grown and allowed him to take a little bit off his shoulders,” Herman said of Miller. “The trust level he has in himself allows him to be a little bit more relaxed and calm back there and understand when everything looks chaotic.”Guiton will be Miller’s primary backup at the quarterback position for the second consecutive year this season. He appeared in nine games last season, with his most significant action coming in the Buckeyes’ eighth game of the season versus Purdue. After Miller was knocked out of the game with a third-quarter head injury, Guiton came into the game and led the Buckeyes to game-tying and game-winning drives for a 29-22 overtime win that preserved the Buckeyes’ undefeated season.Although he does not start, Guiton said last week he tries to take on a leadership role with the offense. He also said he expects to see the field again this season and is prepared to play a crucial role again if needed.“My mentality is just whenever I get a shot, I want to come out on top,” Guiton said. “I want to be able to go out there and keep the offense’s tempo up and do the things that can keep this offense going.”Shazier is the Buckeyes’ only returning starter in the defense’s front seven, and one of the team’s top defensiveplaymakers. Last year, Shazier led the Big Ten with 17 tackles for loss, the 10th best for a Buckeye in a single season all-time and totaled 115 tackles, good for second in the conference.He was named the Big Ten defensive player of the week twice in 2012 and finished fourth in the conference with three forced fumbles. He was also named first-team all-Big Ten last year.Shazier said he’s continually looking to improve.“I’ve just been trying to focus on some of the things I did last year to continue to keep pushing me this year and even on the things I messed up on last year so I can fix those mistakes and be better,” Shazier said.Bryant returns to help a defense that has undergone a plethora of changes in the offseason. He started all 12 games last season, and has started a total of 22 games during his time at OSU.The Cleveland-native tallied 70 total tackles in 2012, good for second on the team. He also recorded his only career interception during a game against California last season. His performance as a junior was enough to earn him second-team all-Big Ten honors.Bryant has 149 total tackles over his career at OSU and has forced three fumbles, both of which are second-best among current players.Barnett is another returner at the safety position, and comes into the year as the defensive player with the most starts in his career with 24. Although he missed three games in 2012 due to an ankle injury, he still managed to total 56 tackles on the year.In each of the last two seasons, Barnett has recorded two interceptions, including one against Michigan last season on the Wolverines’ final drive, which clinched the undefeated season for OSU.With seven new starters on defense this season, Barnett says the pressure on him will be higher.“A little bit, just to lead. I think they’re a little inexperienced but they’re great players. With Noah (Spence), Mike (Bennett) leading andAdolphus (Washington) I have a lot of confidence in them that they’ll get the job done,” Barnett said.Brown was OSU’s top receiver in 2012, leading the team with 669 yards and 60 catches and finishing third with three touchdowns. He was awarded the Paul Warfield Award, given to the team’s best receiver, in each of the last two years. Coming into the year, Brown is22nd on OSU’s all-time receptions list, and was named second-team all-Big Ten last season.Quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Tom Herman said Brown is a versatile receiver who can help the offense this year.“Philly (Brown) is kind of a swing guy, if you will. He can play outside receiver and he can play some inside receiver,” Herman said.Linsley is a second-year starter at center for the Buckeyes. He started all 12 games for OSU last season and was an honorable mention all-Big Ten selection.Linsley has been battling back from a foot injury this offseason, but Meyer said Tuesday his center is “90 to 95” percent healthy, and will be ready to play and start for the Buckeyes when they open their season Saturday against Buffalo.Kickoff for Saturday’s game at Ohio Stadium is scheduled for noon.
Junior forward Lindsay Agnew (20) maintains possession during a match against Illinois State on Aug. 21. Credit: Courtesy of OSUAfter Thursday evening’s game was postponed because of torrential rain and threats of lightning, the No. 17 Ohio State women’s soccer team returned to Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Friday morning for an 11 a.m. meeting with Florida International.The Buckeyes took control of the makeup game, defeating the Panthers 3-1 to improve to 4-0-1.Coach Lori Walker was pleased with the players’ improvement in their decision-making skills in the second half of the game.“We were slow to make decisions in the first half, but we addressed that again at halftime because I think it’s an evolving process for us,” Walker said. “I thought we did a much better job in the second half of having our head on a swivel and finding multiple options, instead of just narrowing down on one.”The Buckeyes had several chances to score in the first half, eventually finding the back of the net in the 31st minute when junior forward Nichelle Prince scored off of an assist from sophomore midfielder Nikki Walts and junior defender Morgan Wolcott. Walts sent a feed from the corner and Wolcott knocked it from inside six yards to assist Prince’s score.The score was already Prince’s third goal this season, equaling her total from an injury-shortened 2014 season.“I think we need to keep getting better every game,” Prince said. “We can’t get complacent. We can’t just think we’ve made it just because we’ve had a few wins.”Prince said she knows the season has truly just begun.“We have to keep trying to improve and keep trying to get better, because once we get into Big Ten there are going to be tougher teams that we’re going to play and we have to be ready for that,” Prince said. Following halftime, FIU senior midfielder Madlen Weinhardt scored just 15 seconds into the opening of the second half.The Scarlet and Gray then took the lead in the 57th minute on an own goal off a Walts corner kick, making the sophomore responsible for a goal and an assist in the match.Walts said the team’s undefeated start through five games after a disappointing 6-10-3 season last year is largely due to a change in team culture.“Training has been amazing. It’s my second year here, and I’ve loved it,” Walts said. “Our coaches have definitely gotten practices together to lead us to where we are now, and it’s awesome.”Walts was named player of the game by her teammates.Walker said she was pleased with Walts’ performance this afternoon and thinks more production like that could be in store for the midfielder. “I think there are so many little things that Nikki does,” she said. “She has a huge engine, she can run all day. But the beauty of what she really brings to our team is just a soccer savvy.” The Buckeyes continued their hot streak, scoring again in the 66th minute when sophomore forward Sammy Edwards scored from inside the box, with an assist from freshman midfielder Sarah Roberts.“We have to keep coming out hard in practice, and preparing ourselves, no easy days. We want that championship, so we have to prepare ourselves every day. Nothing is easy for us,” Walts said.The Buckeyes now stand at 4-0-1 and are 3-0 at home. They are set to host West Virginia on Sept. 11 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Ohio State forward Mason Jobst holds off a Wisconsin forward as he crashes into senior goaltender Matt Tomkins during a Big Ten tournament semifinal game at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. OSU lost 2-1. Credit: Ohio State AthleticsAfter an emotional season sweep against rival Michigan and with a trip to No. 2 Notre Dame on the horizon, Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik knows not to look past a team that is currently sitting at the bottom of the Big Ten standings.No. 5 Ohio State (17-5-4, 10-5-1-0 Big Ten) has the chance to extend its home winning streak to seven games when it hosts Michigan State (9-16-1, 3-12-1-1 Big Ten) for a weekend series on Friday and Saturday. “They can beat anybody. To me, that puts you exactly where you need to be and that means focus, be ready to go and put the time in during practice. That’s what we’re doing,” Rohlik said. “Notre Dame, that doesn’t even cross my mind. Michigan State, Friday night, here at home, crosses my mind because we got to be at our best.”Ohio State finished a season sweep of No. 20 Michigan for the first time since the 1985-86 season and have lost one game in its past 10 matchups. Michigan State limps into Columbus with seven losses in its last eight games, two of those defeats coming at the hands of the Buckeyes in East Lansing, Michigan in early January. “Obviously, they are at the bottom of the standings, but as you’ve seen in this league over and over, everyone can beat everyone on any given night,” junior forward Mason Jobst said. “They played us really tough the last couple of games when we were up there. They’ve got some great young players and I expect them to come at us really hard.”Michigan State has some offensive weapons. Sophomore forward Taro Hirose leads the team with 21 assists and 30 points. The Spartans also have freshman forward Mitchell Lewandowski, who leads them with 15 goals. The problem with the Spartans is they can’t seem to keep the puck out of their own net. Sophomore goaltender John Lethemon has struggled this year, posting a .905 save percentage and a 2.75 goals against average. Since missing the Penn State game on Jan. 13 with a lower-body injury, Jobst has elevated his play to a new level, with three goals and assists apiece in three games since returning from injury.“I just think the bigger the game, the bigger the player,” Rohlik said.“When it comes down to games like this every weekend, your best players have to be your best players, and he’s certainly one of those guys. “He plays like that because he practices as well as he does. He brings it every day; he never cheats the company. Those are the guys that are going to have success.”Ohio State has leaned on its nation-leading penalty kill, which sits at 90.8 percent on the season. Redshirt junior goalie Sean Romeo, who earned Big Ten First Star of the Week last week, made 60 saves on 63 shots, good for a .952 save percentage and a 1.50 goals against average.“Calm, cool, collective. Just kind of gives us that confidence. He’s done the job like that all year,” Rohlik said. “When you have a little bit of that swagger, it certainly helps your penalty kill. He is your best penalty killer.” Another core aspect to a nation-leading penalty kill is the willingness to block shots, which Jobst exemplified when he blocked blocking multiple shots on a 5-on-3 penalty kill in the final moments last weekend to seal the season sweep against Michigan. “It hurts, but I think once you see other guys doing it, you’re willing to buy in,” Jobst said. “Our defense has done a great job all year. Once you see those guys do it, you want to go out there and do it for them as well.”Puck drop for the weekend series against the Spartans will be at 7 p.m. both Friday and Saturday at the Schottenstein Center.
Police tasered a blind man at a train station on Thursday evening after mistaking his walking stick for a gun.Officers from Greater Manchester Police were called to a platform at Levenshulme Station after receiving a call that a middle-aged man had been seen holding a firearm.Arriving at the scene, officers tasered the man with a 50,000 volt stun gun, after he failed to respond to police calls to drop what they believed to be a weapon.In fact, the 43-year-old was blind and had been holding his cane, folded up, as he waited on the platform for a train home.The man is believed to have collapsed before then being detained by officers. A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police confirmed that the man had been detained before officers realised that the weapon was in fact a folding cane.He added that the man was later released and the incident has been referred to the Force’s professional standards branch to investigate, addingSuperintendent Steve Howard, of GMP’s City of Manchester Team, said: “Officers responded quickly to the incident to ensure the safety of the community of Levenshulme.”It has been established that there was no threat and inquiries are ongoing to fully understand the circumstances of the incident.”In line with standard procedure on occasions such as this, a referral has been made to GMP’s Professional Standards Branch.”Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International’s head of policy and Government affairs, said: “This is another extremely disturbing incident of a Taser apparently being misused.“The Taser is a potentially lethal weapon which should be used only in a strictly limited set of circumstances, namely a threat to life or the risk of very serious injury. “With growing numbers of police officers armed with Tasers, this incident shows again that they should be getting the same level of training as firearms officers.“We’re calling for police officers to undergo rigorous training which takes into account how to respond to people in vulnerable groups, including the visually impaired.“Amnesty remains concerned that police officers are still likely to cause serious harm using Tasers without appropriate training.” A local convenience store worker, Tasawar Dar, said he saw heavily armed police arrive at the scene at around 7pm on Thursday.He added that another witness had claimed that officers had issued instructions at the man at gunpoint.“I heard the police and they shouted ‘lie down on the ground’ and there was the bark of dog as well,” he told reporters.“I saw a guy sitting on the stairs of the station and a police office came into the shop asking for a can of coke. They went out and gave it to the guy.“A friend of mine said he saw them pointing the gun at the man as well. They left about half an hour later and then an ambulance came.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
While police emphasise there has been no specific threat made against the London Marathon, Scotland Yard pointed out that the threat level in the UK remains at severe, meaning an attack is “highly likely”. London Marathon 2017 live race updates A ring of steel and concrete barriers has been erected along the route of Sunday’s London Marathon to protect it from the threat of a possible terrorist attack.‘Hostile Vehicle Mitigation Barriers’ designed to stop a hijacked car or lorry being driven at the crowds were put in place overnight.At the same time extra armed officers will patrol the area along the 26 mile route, with police spotters sighted on buildings overlooking the event.The increase in security comes in the wake of the Westminster attack, which saw five people killed after Khalid Masood ploughed a hire car into pedestrians before being shot dead outside Parliament.The shooting of a police officer on the Champs Elysees in Paris on Thursday, along with death of four people when a hijacked lorry was ploughed into a Stockholm department store earlier this month have also raised fears about further attacks.It emerged last week that police have been instructed to shoot terrorists at the wheel of a vehicle to stop an attack and have been issued with ammunition to penetrate doors and windows.Officers had previously been told not to shoot drivers because of the additional dangers it posed, but the advice was changed in the wake of recent vehicle attacks in Europe. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Security measures in place ahead of Sunday’s London MarathonCredit:Eddie Mulholland/Telegraph A Scotland Yard source said: “There will be firearms officers deployed as part of the operation to police the marathon. This is over and above the usual firearms response capability that we would normally have available across London on a typical day.”The thousands of people flocking to central London to watch the event have been urged to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour.Commander Jane Connors, who is leading the policing operation, said: “Our priority is to ensure that those taking part and watching have a safe and enjoyable experience and I’d like to reassure people that there is a comprehensive policing plan in place to achieve this.”She added: “There will be a strong, visible presence of officers along the entire route and at transport hubs across London, but if you notice anything suspicious, then please report it to us.“I’d also like to emphasise that given the nature of the event, it is very rare to see crime or disorder, but I’d ask anyone planning to attend to take basic precautions to keep their possessions safe.”Hundreds of officers from the Metropolitan Police, City of London Police and British Transport Police will also be on duty throughout the day.Each of the 50,000 runners taking part have been emailed advising them to meet their families and friends away from finish line at The Mall, where security will be at its tightest.Virgin Money London Marathon, the event’s organisers, said they were working closely with the Met police.