When Bobby Bonilla gets name-checked these days, it’s probably in reference to one thing (and one thing only): His deferred contract. Bonilla hasn’t played for the New York Mets since 1999,1Or any MLB club since 2001. but the team has paid him $7.16 million since 2011 and still owes him $22.67 million, to be paid in yearly increments of $1.19 million until 2035. The deal has come to define Bonilla’s career, which isn’t surprising considering that it represents an extreme intersection of our collective disdain for overpaid athletes and our fascination with contractual absurdities.But before he and his contract became the living embodiment of #LOLMets, Bonilla was a very good ballplayer, overcoming long odds to earn that status. Even more surprisingly, he was worth just about every dollar he was paid until the Mets decided to defer his final payday with them.Bonilla was undrafted after finishing high school in the Bronx, normally an inauspicious way to begin one’s pro baseball career. Still available after 853 players heard their names called for the 1981 MLB draft, Bonilla spent a semester at the New York Institute of Technology pursuing his interest in computers before Pirates scout Syd Thrift took a chance on signing him after seeing him play at a baseball camp in Europe. Bonilla would become one of the very few players to have any kind of a notable major league career from an undrafted start.There were more hardships to come. Bonilla broke one of his legs during spring training in 1985, costing him most of that season and leading to his acquisition by the White Sox in the Rule 5 draft, an annual chance for teams to pick over prospects who haven’t been promoted to a team’s 40-man roster. Like undrafted free agents, Rule-Fivers don’t typically go on to have successful MLB careers, since a player who doesn’t sniff big-league action within four years of entering pro ball is usually a marginal talent at best.But Bonilla was, once again, an exception to the cruel realities of baseball’s talent pyramid. After a decent start to his rookie year with the White Sox in 1986, he was traded at midseason back to the Pirates organization, which slotted Bonilla into its big-league starting lineup. After that, his MLB career was off and running.From 1988 to 1991, Bonilla was the 17th-most-valuable position player in baseball according to FanGraphs’ wins above replacement metric, posting MLB’s 11th-best slugging percentage, 13th-best weighted runs created plus and its eighth-most batting runs above average during that time. With his combination of power, patience and batting average, Bonilla evoked memories of the game’s great line-drive hitters of old: players like Orlando Cepeda, Tony Perez, Willie McCovey and Willie Stargell.So it came as no surprise that Bonilla had many free-agent suitors during the winter of 1991-92. Bonilla picked New York when the Mets offered to make him the highest-paid player in baseball with a five-year, $29 million deal. “I’m sure I’m going to get flak for the deal,” Mets general manager Al Harazin said after Bonilla applied pen to paper. Boy, was he ever right. Bonilla’s deferred contract isn’t the only deal that’s regarded as one of the worst in Mets history — his first one is, too.But should it be?Bonilla certainly had his share of run-ins with the fans and media during his first tour of duty in New York City. He infamously wore earplugs at the plate to drown out the boos that rained down on the 72-90 edition of the Mets that took the field in 1992 and then challenged sportswriter Bob Klapisch to a fight in the Bronx during an epic 1993 locker-room meltdown. (Klapisch had written a book about Bonilla’s first season with the Mets that was appropriately titled “The Worst Team Money Could Buy.”) His RBI totals were also down from his Pittsburgh days, when he posted the fourth-most RBIs in baseball from 1988 to 1991.By now, though, educated fans know that RBIs are a hopelessly archaic way to measure a player’s production, influenced as they are by countless factors beyond a player’s control. Bonilla, for instance, went from a Pirates lineup in which he saw the NL’s second-most runners on base in front of him in 1991 (trailing only teammate Barry Bonds) to a Mets lineup that gave him 31 percent fewer base runners in 1992. In retrospect, it was no coincidence that Bonilla’s RBIs dropped by exactly 30 percent in the move from Pittsburgh to New York: He drove runners in at essentially the same rate — there were just fewer of them to drive in because the Mets had a significantly weaker batting order.Bonilla’s on-base plus slugging (OPS) did slip a bit in his first season with the Mets (from 49 percent above league average to 21 percent above). But by the end of the four seasons that Bonilla spent with the Mets (he spent half of that fourth season in Baltimore after being traded), it was only slightly lower than it had been over his final four seasons in Pittsburgh. And although it might come as a shock to Mets fans of that era, Bonilla even earned his money — and then some — during his first stint in New York. According to Matt Swartz’s estimates of how much WAR was worth in past seasons, Bonilla was worth $30.2 million from 1992 to 1995, a full $6.3 million more than his tops-in-baseball salary paid him. The Mets may have had the worst team money could buy, but it wasn’t Bonilla’s fault.After leaving New York, Bonilla continued to be a productive player, including during a stint in Florida where he produced 2.6 WAR for the Marlins as they won the 1997 World Series.The following season was when Bonilla’s negatives started to outweigh his positives. He started 1998 reasonably strong, with a 117 OPS+ for the fire-sale Marlins, but tanked (81 OPS+) after a midseason trade to the Dodgers. Then came his second stint with the Mets — and this time, it couldn’t have been more of a disaster.For the $5.9 million New York paid Bonilla in 1999, he produced 1.3 fewer wins than a replacement-level player would have. The numbers are horrific: a .160 batting average, an OPS 51 percent worse than league average and nearly as many strikeouts (16) as hits (19). Making matters worse, Bonilla was also a malcontent: He feuded with manager Bobby Valentine over a midseason benching and played cards in the clubhouse with Rickey Henderson as the Mets were being eliminated in Game 6 of the NLCS. Rather than keep Bonilla around for the final year of his contract, the Mets released him on Jan. 3, 2000.And with that, the most infamous deferred contract in sports was born.Over the last four years of Bonilla’s career — including two seasons with the Braves and Cardinals after he left New York — he produced -3.5 WAR and was paid nearly $13 million. (Not including the deferred payments the Mets have made since then.) He retired in 2001 at age 38 after not having been a productive player for four years.And yet, over the course of his career, Bonilla’s WAR was worth a grand total of $51.5 million2Again using Swartz’s historical dollars-per-WAR calculations. — an amount almost exactly equal to the $52.4 million he was paid. Bonilla, widely known as one of the most overpaid athletes in history, mostly earned his big-league paychecks. There’s even a case to be made that the Mets’ deferral plan wasn’t a dumb strategy from the team’s perspective. For one thing, they used their Bonilla savings in 2000 to sign Mike Hampton, who had 4.6 WAR for the eventual National League champions. And when Hampton signed with the Colorado Rockies during the following offseason, the Mets used the resulting compensatory pick on David Wright in the 2001 draft, yielding the best position player in franchise history by far (according to WAR). Viewed this way, Bonilla has hardly pulled off the heist of the millennium.All of this is not to say that Bonilla was a Hall of Fame-caliber player, or anything close. (He ranks 64th among all-time third basemen in the Jaffe WAR Score system, or JAWS, Baseball-Reference.com’s Hall of Fame metric of choice.) But he’s gotten a bad rap over the years for his falling-out with the Mets and the deferred contract. From humble beginnings in the game, Bonilla beat the odds to become one of its best players during his prime, even playing well after the Mets made him baseball’s highest-paid star. It’s amusing and absurd to think of Bonilla being paid $1.19 million every year by the Mets until he’s 72 years old, but that fact shouldn’t overshadow the rest of his career.
There was a time when it appeared Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Raven linebacker who could be the best to ever man the position, might not retire at all, that someone would have to hide his shoulder pads to keep him off the field. But time away from his family after 17 years in the NFL has worn on him he said Wednesday in announcing that he was playing his final games in the NFL.“God is calling,” Lewis said to the media Wednesday after practice. “My children have made the ultimate sacrifice for their father for 17 years. I don’t want to see them do that no more. I’ve done what I wanted to do in this business, and now it’s my turn to give them something back.”The 37-year-old Lewis said he spoke to his team about “life in general. And everything that starts has an end. For me, today, I told my team that this will be my last ride.”The Ravens face the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs. When they lose in the post-season or win the Super Bowl, Lewis said that would be it for him. A bicep injury sideline him much of the second half of the season, but he said there is “no reason” for him to not play this weekend.In his career, Lewis recorded 41.5 sacks and 31 interceptions. More importantly, he perhaps the most consistent and fierce defender of his era. He led the Ravens to the 2000 Super Bowl title, a year after he was embroiled in a double-murder case in Atlanta during Super Bowl week. Lewis was absolved from any wrongdoing in exchange for his testimony against two friends who were indicted in the case.Since then, Lewis has been a model citizen, teammate, player and leader. He has played in 12 Pro Bowls and was for years regarded as the most dominant defensive player in the NFL.“It was sad,” Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said of Lewis’ address to the team about retiring. “It affected me, because for the past 10 years of my career I’ve been sitting right next to the man and going to war on Sundays. It’s going to one hard last ride, and we need to make it one to remember.”Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who served as Lewis’ defensive coordinator last year, told ESPN: “I thought, shoot, the guy could play forever and would play forever. Great person, great man, great player, just an unbelievable human being — what he’s done for that organization, that city and for that matter, so many people. He’s obviously a first-ballot Hall of Famer and will be sorely missed.”Lewis said the decision was relatively easy.“It’s either hold on to the game and keep playing and let my kids miss out on times we can be spending together,” he said. “Because I always promised my son if he got a full ride on scholarship, Daddy is going to be there. I can’t miss that.”
Tiger Woods has been suffering from a stiff back since The Barclays began, but that hasn’t stopped him from positioning himself comfortably to win the championship in Jersey City.On Saturday, Woods managed to finish up with three birdies in his last six holes to get 8-under after three rounds, leaving him in fourth place. That’s only four shots from game leaders Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland, who are ahead with 12-under.Woods begins his days relatively pain free, but by the end of the day, treatment is the only postgame activity for the world’s No1 player.“It starts off great every day, and then it progressively deteriorates as the day goes on,” he said. “Hopefully tomorrow it will be one of those days again and fight through it and see if I can win a tournament.”“I think it’s isolated,” he said when asked if it might be a disc problem. “I mean, once you start off with it and then you keep playing on it, practicing, warming up . . . I’m loading it pretty good. It’s not like I go out there and puff it around. I kind of go at it a little bit.”If Woods is to take his 80th career win on tour, he will need to play through his pain and have a game like he did on Saturday.“Hopefully, tomorrow, it will be one of those days again and fight through it and see if I can win the tournament,” Woods said.
Michael Vick signed a one-year, $5-million deal with the New York Jets Friday, putting him in a position to compete with second-year quarterback Geno Smith for the team’s starting job.Last year’s starter at the open of the season, Mark Sanchez, was released.Vick had published in the Philadelphia newspapers a letter expressing his appreciation for his time there after his stint in prison for heading a dog-fighting ring.Here’s the letter: “I would like to thank the Eagles and the entire city of Philadelphia. I was honored to be their quarterback and took the privilege to heart every day. I especially want to thank Jeffrey Lurie and Andy Reid, who gave me the opportunity. I want to thank my teammates, who were not just coworkers, but friends. I also want to thank the millions of fans who cheered and supported our team.“People say Philadelphia fans are tough. I say they are fair. A player is not judged solely by his past or promises of the future, but by his actions today, and the next day, and the next.“In my time volunteering, I have met Philadelphia’s heroes. I’ve met at-risk children with few resources, but with teachers tirelessly helping them make the most of a second chance. I’ve seen the work of volunteers at school fund-raisers, food drives, after-school programs, hurricane shelters, Toys for Tots campaigns, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the meaningful work of the Humane Society of the United States. I’ve seen children choosing the mentorship of a football coach over peer pressure on a street corner. One of the best examples of a community deserving a second chance is the North Philadelphia Aztecs youth football team. As the players step onto Team Vick Field, they can hold their heads high and be proud that they are making Philly stronger.“The Eagles are an outstanding organization with a bright future, and I’m thankful for all the friendship, love, and support they gave me and my family. I look forward to seeing great things from them both on the field and in the community.”
“I can’t help but ask, one day many years later, when you find your previous awareness, cognition and choices are all wrong, will you keep going along the wrong path or reject yourself?” — Gu Li, a 9-dan Go champion, after losing to AlphaGo, Google’s nigh-unbeatable deep learning AI.With 5:16 left in the third quarter of their wild-card playoff game in January, the New York Giants scored a touchdown to pull within 2 points of the Green Bay Packers. Despite having the opportunity to tie the game with a 2-point conversion, the Giants proceeded to kick an extra point. Yet, rather than criticize the decision for materially damaging the Giants’ chances of advancing in the playoffs, commentator Troy Aikman praised the move, explaining that “the chart would say go for 2 and try to tie it up,” but “there’s a lot of time left in this game.”1Here’s the full quote: “We didn’t get a chance to talk about it, but Ben McAdoo, he kicks the extra point. You know, the chart would say go for 2 and try to tie it up. But I agree with the decision not to and kick the extra point. There’s a lot of time left in this game. It seems if you don’t make that, then you’re constantly chasing that 1 point. I think it was a good decision by him, just taking the extra point, and keeping it a 1-point game.”Despite the revolution taking place in basketball, despite Theo Epstein ending the two greatest curses in sports, despite AlphaGo going 60-0 against top human players, despite all evidence to the contrary, football stubbornly clings to the notion that experience always trumps analysis. Although NFL coaches have a level of expertise about the game of football that most of us will never approach, it’s hard to give them the benefit of the doubt when they’ve collectively demonstrated an inability to master basic tactical decisions — like when you should go for 2 points when your team is down 2 points (spoiler: pretty much always).Which is not to say their resistance to change is entirely unfounded. I see the value in being cautious about adopting new strategies and generally think the burden should be on the purveyors of new techniques and tactics not only to find rigorous, workable proposals, but also to explain them compellingly — for coaches, players, decision-makers and the sports-viewing public.In that spirit, let’s try to figure out when you should go for 2. For real.Finding the right questionLet’s say you’re skeptical about WPA and EPA and OSHA and RADAR and WAROZ and other collections of capital letters that tell you what to do. I get that — I can be skeptical myself.2For example, I’ve argued that fourth-down models should give kickers more credit for being awesome (at least one popular model made some tweaks after that). So before we stick a model on it, let’s try to reason our way through the question.The math would be more complicated if the NFL hadn’t moved the extra point back to the 15-yard line. But now going for 1 and going for 2 yield more or less the same number of points, on average, once you factor in how likely each is to succeed. If you go for 1 point, you’ll likely succeed around 95 percent of the time3Kickers have hit 94 percent under the new rule so far but appear to be running slightly below expectation for kicks from that location, even before factoring in the likelihood that they’ll get better.; if you go for 2 points, you’ll cash in roughly half as often,4Pinning down an exact number on this is surprisingly tricky. Teams have converted 48 percent over the past two years, consistent with their longer-run averages. But a “true” league average may be slightly higher because teams that attempt 2-point conversions tend to be slightly worse teams on average than the league as a whole (because teams tend to go for 2 more when they’re behind). In other words, the assumptions for this analysis are mildly friendly to the status quo. with twice the prize. But the fact that these have equal expected values (~0.95 points) doesn’t mean a coach should be indifferent between the two — and it certainly doesn’t mean he should take the “low risk” option by default (as coaches still seem wont to do). It means the decision ultimately turns on one simple question:Which would improve our chances of winning more, the first point or the second point?The beauty is that you don’t even need to figure out an exact value for each option — you only need to know which is more valuable. If the second point would improve your chances of winning more than the first one, then “risking” the first point to go for 2 improves your chances of winning overall.Since scoring in the NFL comes mostly in chunks of 3 and 7, different point margins have different, non-uniform implications for winning chances. For example, the other team is generally far more likely to score 3 more points (from a field goal) than it is 2 more points (from a safety), so being up 3 points is significantly better than being up 2. Being up 2 points, though, is only slightly better than being up 1 (since you’d lose the lead on a field goal either way). The good news is that the relative importance of each point is fairly intuitive.Each potential lead has different implications and benefits, like putting the leading team up a field goal or a touchdown. The marginal value of a point is just the difference between neighboring scenarios (like the value of being up 3 points instead of 2). Let’s imagine that there are 10 minutes left in a game. Think about each scenario and what it gives you, and you can probably estimate the marginal value of points pretty well. I tried this myself: First, I came up with a basic list of benefits that each additional point of a lead gets you. Then I guessed the relative importance of each (for a game with 10 minutes left). Then I checked my guesses against the marginal value for each point, as suggested by ESPN’s expected win percentage model: -63.12.9Same92.21.3One -113rd✓06-0.51 1to2A generic point+1.8 -102.22.9Two53.15.2Two 10to11Puts you up by a TD with a 2-point conversion and a FG+1.3 -141.00.4One11.86.5Two -36.51.8One120.41.0Two For any particular point margin, if the two options have a similar shade, that means there’s not much difference between them.5Note that the value estimates reverse-mirror each other on either side of -1: Being up by 4 with a chance to go up by 5 or 6, for example, covers basically the same turf as being down by 6 with a chance to go down by 5 or 4 (so -6 and +4 are the same comparison), intuitively. The model is capable of picking up the very, very slight differences that result from the opposing team getting the next possession, but none of those affect any of the “calls” here. When we start applying the model to more scenarios, however, we’ll calculate exact values for each margin on its own. But if one is shaded significantly darker, it means that that point has significantly more value, and you should probably pick the corresponding strategy.We’re going to go a lot further with this, but even this first cut of analysis reveals a couple of important cases where the conventional wisdom is wrong. In particular:If you’re down 8 points after scoring a touchdown (with 10 minutes left), you should go for 2, because the difference between being down 7 points (if you make the extra point) and being down 6 points (if you convert the 2) is greater than the difference between being down 7 points and being down 8 points (if you miss the 2-point conversion). Note that this is backed up by the numbers but should also be apparent intuitively.6This is a more generalized version of the well-known case of being down 8 with only time for one more score.If you’re down 4 points after scoring a touchdown (with 10 minutes left), you should go for 2, because being down 2 points instead of 3 helps you more than being down 4 points instead of 3 hurts you. This one is a bit more counterintuitive, but if you think ahead, the second point means a future field goal could win the game (and if you don’t convert, you just have to adjust to go for winning touchdowns instead of tying field goals).Failing to go for 2 in these situations turns out to be two of the most common, costly and clear-cut mistakes that even the best coaches make virtually every time.Finding all the answersNow, that’s just a snapshot of what coaches should do with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The particular values of different point spreads shift quite a bit depending on how much time remains. When there isn’t much time remaining, being up 1 point instead of 0 is way, way more valuable than being up 2 points instead of 17As you get even closer to the end of the game, very specific tactical considerations — like whether you’re likely to have zero or one or two more possessions — start to dominate as well.; but very early in the game, when there are likely many scores to come, even that difference is fairly small. Which is to say, earlier in the game, points are significantly more fungible.So coming up with a complete guide to 2-point conversions merely involves repeating the process above, but for every possible combination of point spread and time remaining. For this, we’re going to let ESPN/Brian Burke’s expected wins model do the heavy lifting.8Note: You don’t have to be in love with this model for it to suffice for these purposes. Predicting how often teams with a certain-sized lead will win from various points of the game is what it’s best at. Moreover, since all of this is based on league averages and no coach likes to think of his team as average, we need to compute all the scenarios for different types of teams, based on how good (or bad) they are at 2-point conversions. (Scenarios within scenarios!)Bleep-bloop-bleep — that was easy. Now let’s combine all of that into one chart: -130.41.1Two26.55.0One 12to13Puts you up a touchdown and two field goals+0.4 9to10Puts you up by a touchdown and a field goal+2.2 -23rd✓45-1.02 In the chart above, orange means go for 2, purple means kick the extra point.9A couple of notes: Quarters are shaded using both their average result and their standard deviation, although there are some cases (like the fourth-quarter section of the +8 box) in which there can be significant changes within a quarter, so make sure to check the lines and ranges and not just the rectangles! The small gap in each mini-chart just before the end of the first half exists for technical reasons having to do with how the model handles the discontinuity at halftime. Each vertical line within each mini-chart represents a range from a terrible 2-point conversion team (40 percent conversion rate) at the bottom to an amazing one (55 percent) at the top. That range is pretty wide and should cover most knowable matchup advantages, like facing a particularly good defense, having injured players, it being windy, your team being an underdog, etc. (We’ll disregard how these excuses seem to lead every coach to make the same decisions every time.)But enough about how to read the chart — here are some of the main things that popped out at me:When a team is down 2, it should go for 2 — pretty much any time, but especially in the third quarter and beyond.As previously noted, being down 8 and being down 4 in the fourth quarter are clear “go” situations. Yet no coach has gone for 2 in either of these spots in the past two years. The NFL’s extra point rule change practically begged coaches to go for 2 more often, and not one has tried to pluck even a single one of the lowest hanging fruit.Cases like going for 2 when up 5 or 8 early (aiming to go up 7 or 10) show small but fairly clear advantages. They may not be super costly, but mistakes are mistakes.When down 9 points late-ish, there’s a case that you should go for 2, because being down 8, you would have to go for 2 to draw even eventually anyway, and it’s better to know whether you converted your attempt earlier so you can make tactical adjustments. Although this logic seems sound, the data doesn’t suggest the effect is very significant (if it exists at all).One special case: when a team scores a touchdown late to narrow the score to 1 point and then a coach has to decide whether to go for an extra point and the tie or 2 points and the win. Amazingly, this is the one situation in which coaches have broken with orthodoxy and gone for 2 occasionally — even though the chart suggests that it often isn’t justified.Whether to “go for the win” or not in this situation is intrinsically a pretty even decision — the difference between being up 1 and tied is the same as the difference between being down 1 and tied — and depends largely on how good your 2-point conversion unit is (note the tall lines in the -1 box). But toward the end of the game, remaining time becomes an extremely important factor. In particular, when your opponent is likely to get another possession and your team is not, going for 2 becomes something a coach probably shouldn’t do. This is because if the other team goes down 1, it may end up driving for a game-winning field goal with nothing to lose. Because the opponent is likely to take a lot of risks, go for it on fourth down, etc., those drives have a disproportionately high success rate. In this case, playing for the tie to get into overtime becomes the far better strategy.Passing judgmentOut of 1,897 post-touchdown decisions10Excluding cases in which the ball wasn’t spotted on the 15-yard line for an extra point or on the 2-yard line for a conversion attempt. in the last two years (including the playoffs), coaches should have attempted to go for 2 approximately 690 times, of which they only did 107.11Based on league-average 2-point conversion ability. Overall, coaches made 607 “mistakes” (either by kicking when they should have gone for 2 or vice versa), although the vast majority weren’t very costly one way or the other. They made 127 decisions that were “clear-cut” mistakes — meaning that they’d be mistakes for virtually any team, regardless of whether it was terrible (40 percent) or excellent (55 percent) at conversions. And 124 of those were failing to go for 2 when the situation clearly warranted it. Here are the “clear-cut” decisions that coaches got wrong most often, along with the average amount those mistakes cost their team: 6to7Puts you up a touchdown+5.2 GOING FROM A LEAD OF… GIVES YOU THE TACTICAL BENEFIT OF… AND A WIN PROBABILITY CHANGE OF MARGIN AFTER TD+1+2 (VS. +1)BETTER OPTIONMARGIN AFTER TD+1+2 (VS. +1)BETTER OPTION 13to14Puts you up two touchdowns+1.0 -83.35.2Two73.32.9Same Win probability changes apply to the listed situations when there are 10 minutes remaining in the game. 3to4Puts you up more than a field goal+5.0 2to3Puts you up a field goal+6.5 Win probability changes apply to the listed situations when there are 10 minutes remaining in the game. -83rd✓013-0.79 +114th52-0.28 -53rd✓15-0.71 -121.11.3Same35.02.9One -111.32.2Two42.93.1Same The most common and significant mistakes by far are failing to go for 2 when down 4, 8 or 11 late in the game: Of 81 such clear-cut decisions, coaches got it right a combined zero times. They also kicked the extra point down 2 in the third quarter five times, when they clearly shouldn’t have, and once in the fourth(!) for good measure.There is no excuse for professional coaches to make such simple mistakes. If you’re a coach, you should be doing this analysis yourself — or doing it better. If you’re still kicking extra points 14 times more often than going for 2, you’re not doing your job. If you’re in the sports media and you haven’t mastered this material, and won’t hold coaches accountable for not doing their jobs, then you’re not doing your job either.CORRECTION (Feb. 4, 10:11 p.m.): An earlier version of this article contained a table that inaccurately listed “one” as the better option when up 7 points after a touchdown. Since the difference between going for 1 and going for 2 in that scenario was less than 0.5 percent, it should have said “same.”VIDEO: The Patriots better worry about Julio Jones 4to5A generic point+2.9 -150.51.0Two08.41.8One 7to8Puts you up a TD with a 2-point conversion+3.3 5to6Puts you up two field goals+3.1 -52.95.0Two101.31.1Same I won’t subject you to my guesses, but the model matched up fairly well. The most counterintuitive one to me is that the difference between being up 7 and being up 8 (3.3 percentage points) is virtually the same as the difference between being up 8 and being up 9 (2.9 percentage points). Thus the “two score” threshold doesn’t seem to be as important as I would have thought, even that late in the game.Note that as the leading team’s advantage increases, the marginal value of each point tends to get smaller — this illustrates why teams that are ahead by a lot should tend to go for 1 (because extending your lead gets less and less valuable the bigger it is) and teams that are behind by a lot should tend to go for 2 (because cutting your deficit gets more and more valuable the smaller it is).Those changes to a team’s win probability are all that’s needed to construct a rudimentary “Go or No” chart (for 10 minutes left). What matters is whether a point is more or less valuable than its neighbors. So for a team up 5 points, the question is whether the next advantage (“5 to 6: Puts you up two field goals” in the table above) is more or less valuable than the one after that, (“6 to 7: Puts you up a touchdown”). Make that comparison for each point margin from -15 to +14, and voila: -173rd✓12-0.22 16to17Puts you up three scores+0.2 -18.48.4Same140.50.7Same SITUATIONWHAT COACHES DID 0to1The lead+8.4 -75.23.1One82.92.2One -92.93.3Same65.23.3One 11to12Puts you up more than a touchdown and a field goal+1.1 EST. CHANGE IN WIN PROB. IF YOU GET …EST. CHANGE IN WIN PROB. IF YOU GET … -84th✓027-0.90 -44th✓019-1.92 -114th✓016-0.38 MARGINQUARTERBETTER TO GO FOR 2?CORRECT DECISIONSCLEARLY INCORRECT DECISIONSAVG. WIN PROB IMPACT OF MISTAKES +124th✓72-0.24 -154th✓09-0.16 8to9Puts you up two scores+2.9 How to decide when to go for 2 -153rd✓04-0.21 14to15Puts you up two TDs with a 2-point conversion+0.5 -133rd✓02-0.31 15to16Puts you up two TDs with two 2-point conversions+0.7 +13rd✓42-0.93 Among scenarios in which the correct decision applies to virtually any team, regardless of conversion ability, and coaches made the wrong decision at least twice (minimum -0.1 impact). -45.06.5Two111.10.4One -64th✓02-0.33 -21.88.4Two131.00.5One The most common 2-point decision mistakes, 2015 and 2016
OSU freshman guard JaQuan Lyle (13) tries to get a shot up over UT Arlington’s Nick Pallas during a game on Nov. 20 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost 73-68.Credit: Hannah Roth / Lantern photographerIn the first 107 games against unranked nonconference teams under coach Thad Matta, the Ohio State men’s basketball team had only lost once.That mark doubled on Friday evening at the Schottenstein Center against University of Texas-Arlington after the Mavericks (2-1) outplayed the Buckeyes (2-1) to a 73-68 score.“This definitely was one of the biggest wins, if not the biggest win, in the history of the program,” UT Arlington coach Scott Cross said. “For sure, the biggest for me, individually. Our guys played their hearts out. We did play as good of a basketball game as we possibly could.”After taking just a two-point lead into the half, Matta’s team was ransacked by the visitors in the second half, as the Buckeyes were outscored by seven over the final 20 minutes.“We just got outcompeted tonight,” OSU junior forward Marc Loving said. “UT Arlington came in with a chip on their shoulder. Hats off to them. They played a very confident and competitive game, and they gave it their all.”A pair of sophomores in center Kevin Hervey and guard Erick Neal led the way for the Mavericks, scoring 18 and 17 points, respectively. All but two of Neal’s points came in the second half, as he led the way from the outside with a pair of 3-pointers.Much of the Buckeyes’ offensive deficiencies Friday night could be chalked up to what they left at the free-throw line, as the Scarlet and Gray missed 14 of their 27 free-throw attempts, while the visitors connected on 19 of 22.The teams grinded through a sloppy first half, combining to shoot 40.6 percent from the field and register 13 turnovers and 18 fouls.Though the Mavericks did minimal damage from the outside, the Buckeyes were unable to find an answer in the paint, as UT Arlington burned OSU for 26 of its 32 first-half points around the basket.“We just didn’t communicate as well as we know that we can,” OSU sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate said about the performance in the interior. “We know we’ve just got to continue to work on that.”That number could have been much more lopsided for the home team had it not been for the defensive efforts of freshman center Daniel Giddens’ five swats in the first half.The start of each half featured far from the best basketball the Buckeyes have offered. In the first three and a half minutes of the contest, OSU shot just 1-of-4 with three turnovers, as the Mavericks jumped out to a 7-2 lead.It was more of the same to begin the second half. OSU found itself down by as much as eight points early in the latter stanza, in large part due to a 7-0 UT Arlington run to begin the half.“It was just lack of communication,” Tate said about the poor start to the half. “We thought we had came out of the locker room and talked about having intensity, but we just got mixed up.”The script was flipped in the second half for the visitors, as just two of the Mavericks’ first 12 points in the second half came in the paint. That included a trio of 3-pointers within the first few minutes after connecting on just one in the first half.There were a myriad of undesirable stats for the Buckeyes on Friday, including free throws (13-of-27), rebounding margin (46-37), second-chance points (15-7) and points in the paint (34-22).Despite the number of flaws in OSU’s performance, Matta said more than anything the loss was a reflection of how well the visitors played.“I give them all the credit,” Matta said. “They outplayed us.”Giddens was a bright spot for the Buckeyes, scoring seven points to go along with nine rebounds and six blocks — five of which came in the first half. Giddens’ six blocks were tied for the fourth-most by a freshman in OSU history.Sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop led all OSU scorers with 16 points, while freshman guard JaQuan Lyle contributed 15.On a team that only features one rotation player in Loving who has been on the team for more than a year, Matta said, while Friday’s loss still comes as a shock, he expected a heavy learning curve early in the season.“I’m still kind of learning this basketball team,” Matta said. “Tonight was a great eye-opener in terms of where our toughness is mentally, physically, and we’ve got a long, long way to go.”The Buckeyes will look to get back on track with another nonconference game at home against Louisiana Tech on Tuesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.
Feb. 18 or 19Nebraska Jan. 5Purdue Jan. 22Northwestern Jan. 15Michigan State Jan. 31Maryland OSU sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop (33) stares down former Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine during a game on Feb. 23 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Lantern File PhotoIn May, the nonconference schedule for Ohio State was released featuring matchups with UCLA, Providence, Connecticut and Virginia. On Thursday afternoon, the Big Ten Conference announced the 2016-17 conference schedule for all 14 teams.The 18-game Big Ten slate features a home-and-home series with Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin.The Buckeyes will only play on the road against Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Penn State. OSU will play Indiana, Northwestern, Purdue and Rutgers once in 2016-17 at home.Last season the Scarlet and Gray finished seventh in the Big Ten and missed the NCAA tournament for just the first time in coach Thad Matta’s 12 years with the program. The Buckeyes were 4-5 on the road in conference in 2015-16 lacking a signature road win to boost their NCAA tournament resume.Two games against conference favorites Michigan State on Jan. 15 and Feb. 14, and Wisconsin on Jan. 12 and Feb. 23, serve as the greatest opportunity for the Buckeyes to impress the selection committee approaching March.OSU opens the season at Navy at 9 p.m. on Nov. 11. Its Big Ten opener comes on the road at Illinois. Feb. 8Rutgers Jan. 25Minnesota Jan. 8@ Minnesota Feb. 28@ Penn State Jan. 1@ Illinois Jan. 12@ Wisconsin Jan. 18@ Nebraska Feb. 11@ Maryland Feb. 14@ Michigan State Jan. 28@ Iowa Feb. 23Wisconsin Feb. 4@ Michigan March 4Indiana
Following a loss to an average Purdue team, the Buckeyes must gather themselves for when No. 21 Penn State comes to town. PSU can clinch at least a share of the division title with a win against the Buckeyes Saturday. The Nittany Lions have seen better days on and off the field, but are still ahead in the Leaders Division. For a Buckeyes team that is arguably playing the rest of the season for pride, they are faced with the task of adding more insult to an already grievous injury for the PSU faithful. Offense PSU boasts one of the best defenses the Buckeyes have faced up to this point in the season, comparable to Michigan State. The Nittany Lions defense is leading in the conference in passing efficiency defense and scoring defense. For freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, that is not good news. However, Nebraska showed last week that “Linebacker U” can have the ball run on them, to the tune of nearly 120 yards-per-game on average. Senior running back Daniel ‘Boom’ Herron will need to carry the one-dimensional offense once again this week. When Miller is given the opportunity to throw the football, he needs to target senior wide receiver DeVier Posey who will be fresh off two five-game suspensions. The receiver was expected to be back for the Nebraska game — five weeks ago — and should be itching to make an impact. Defense The PSU offense, much like OSU, relies heavily on the run. Sophomore running back Silas Redd has averaged 5.0 yards a carry this season en route to 1,078 total yards rushing. The offense has scored nearly twice as many rushing touchdowns as passing with a 15-8 ratio. The Buckeyes have seven pick-sixes against PSU since 2002 and have won each of the five games in which those interceptions occurred. OSU has had steady turnover support from their defense this season, but none have gone for six. This would be a prime week to take the pressure off of their offense. Sophomore defensive back Christian Bryant has been on the cusp of one of these game-changing plays several times this season. Sophomore defensive lineman Johnathan ‘Big Hank’ Hankins will return this week after missing last week’s game against Purdue, and will need to return to an impact role for the Buckeyes, in which he was sorely missed. With Andrew Sweat out with a concussion, freshman Ryan Shazier will have to grow up in a hurry to help his defense keep PSU off the board. Special Teams Alas, the special teams, a beacon of consistency all season long, faltered last weekend when they were needed most. Sophomore kicker Drew Basil missed his first field goal of the year on a 50-yarder at the end of the first half, and then the field goal unit allowed a potentially game-winning extra point to be blocked with less than a minute left in regulation. With an already suspect offense, the special teams need to get back to being, well, special. And any missed opportunities for points, as shown against Purdue, are critical. Coaching As badly as OSU wants to bounce back from the loss, it may not be possible for a team to want a win more than PSU does right now. Its program is in a horrible situation and football may be the glue to hold the community together. To overcome that type of desire requires the coaches to get the team as fired up and ready to play as ever. With Shazier starting this week, the Buckeyes will have started seven true freshmen this season. The coaches will need to put the raw but talented Shazier in a position to succeed. Fans While the fans create an exciting atmosphere for the home team, this week the fans will need to also create a welcoming and friendly atmosphere for the PSU crowd. The Nittany Lions faithful travel very well and deserve the respect and support of Buckeye fans alike in the midst of this horrible ordeal at State College.
Former Buckeye Terrelle Pryor finally got his first NFL start as a quarterback Sunday for the Oakland Raiders and the results were about what most people expected-unimpressive. While Pryor did lead the Raiders (4-12) to a comeback against the San Diego Chargers with 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, the game was never really in doubt. Pryor and Oakland had already dug itself too deep of a hole. Shortcomings that scouts and experts pointed out while Pryor was at Ohio State were evident against the Chargers as he threw inaccurate pass after inaccurate pass. While some of these misses would normally be attributed to nerves or inexperience, Pryor’s history of missing receivers makes me think this is more than just a case of the jitters. Pryor also threw into traffic consistently, backing up claims that he would be unable to read complex NFL defenses and find open receivers. The former Buckeye signal-caller threw 13-of-28 passes for 150 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Completing less than 50 percent of your passes simply doesn’t get it done in the NFL, and, if he ever hopes to start again, Pryor will have to do much better. There were, however, some positive signs for the young quarterback. His focus seemed to be more on throwing the ball than trying to run it, and when he did scramble, Pryor kept his eyes down field and only ran as a last resort. When he did run, it was usually to good effect. Pryor toted the ball nine times for 49 yards, including several first downs and scored on a play-action bootleg in the fourth quarter to cut the San Diego lead to 10 points. Pryor’s best throw of the day also came late in the game. He completed a beautiful deep pass to rookie wide receiver Rod Streater for 38 yards on 3rd-and-7, which consequently set up his rushing touchdown. Pryor added another touchdown pass after a blocked punt gave the Raiders the ball on the Chargers 11-yard line. That was as close as Pryor and the Raiders would come, though. After a standout career on the field at OSU, Pryor was expected by many to be converted into a wide receiver at the next level after he chose to forego his senior season in Columbus in light of mounting allegations regarding school’s “Tattoo-Gate” scandal in which he and five other former Buckeye players were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 collegiate season. Then, when the Oakland drafted Pryor in the third-round of the 2011 Supplemental Draft, his prospects of playing at the quarterback position went way up. Former Raiders owner Al Davis was infamous for valuing speed and athleticism over everything else, and after Pryor, who ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash time, fit the mold of the players Davis often opted to bring to his franchise. If Oakland had exploited Pryor’s running ability earlier in the game they may have had a chance to compete against the Chargers, and it may have made Pryor look better as well. The Raiders may not have done a very good job of playing to Pryor’s running skills, but that’s not the NFL game. Quarterbacks are expected to have the ability to stand in the pocket, read a defense, and make an accurate throw. Those have never really been Pryor’s strong suits, and it showed in the game against the Chargers. While Pryor managed a solid effort, it was nothing close to a performance that would earn him a starting job in the NFL. Barring any further injuries to regular starting quarterback Carson Palmer, Pryor won’t likely get many more starting opportunities at quarterback for Oakland. If by some miracle he can manage to improve his accuracy, though, there may be hope for him yet. With even incremental progress in that area Pryor would make a solid backup quarterback. With his size, strength and athleticism Pryor can play in the NFL. He just won’t be a regular starting quarterback any time soon.
Standing at 6-foot-7, crushing a 135 mph serve and orchestrating a rise to the No. 1 rank in collegiate men’s tennis all while studying consumer and family financial services, you might say Peter Kobelt is a man of numbers. Kobelt, a redshirt junior, seems to be quickly rising to the occasion when it comes to balancing his roles leading the Ohio State men’s tennis squad, completing his college degree and setting his sights on a professional tennis career. It was not long after moving with his family to the Columbus suburb of New Albany in 1992 that Kobelt began to craft his tennis swing. Growing up, Kobelt said he was encouraged to try a variety of sports, but he ultimately stuck with tennis. “I have to give my dad credit for (my tennis career). He’s been in the tennis business for 25 or 30 years now. He was a state champion in Wisconsin in doubles … he kind of molded me into a tennis player,” Kobelt said. During high school, Kobelt was a two-sport athlete, excelling on the varsity basketball and tennis teams. He said the time split between the two sports caused his junior tennis ranking to suffer. “I was kind of under the radar because I only played six months of tennis a year because of basketball, so a lot of schools didn’t really know about me,” Kobelt said. When OSU coach Ty Tucker began recruiting, Kobelt was an asset that he said he could not ignore. “The first thing you’re going to say is that the guy is 6-foot-7. You know that he’s going to have the ability to hold serve … he was the kind of guy you thought you could bring in for a year, redshirt, develop and he could get to one of the top 15, 20 players in college tennis,” Tucker said. After a freshman season spent developing his skills, Kobelt spent the next two seasons becoming a major Buckeye contributor. By the end of his redshirt sophomore season, Kobelt had captured a pair of regional doubles championships and first team all-Big Ten honors. Such success has landed him a No. 1 national rank in his redshirt junior season. The rank, Kobelt said, is an opportunity to recognize team success. “All my teammates helped me get there, so I view it as a group effort. At the end of the day, it’s really just a number. Tennis is a game of numbers, and I don’t like that number. Every day, we just try to get better,” Kobelt said. That concept is noticed by fellow members of OSU’s squad, said senior teammate Connor Smith. “(Peter and I) have lived together ever since I met him, and he’s a good guy and a good teammate, too … (Peter) is good to rely on sometimes to pump (the energy) up,” Smith said. “Since (Peter and I) are older, we kind of rely on each other more. It’s a good give-and-take.” Tucker said the progress made in Kobelt’s game since coming to OSU is what has garnered the respect of his coaches and teammates. “The guys see a guy that was ranked 65 in the country for 18-year-olds and now as a junior is ranked No. 1 in college … it shows that if you put that type of work in, you can get to some good things,” Tucker said. Now, with only 13 credit hours remaining before being able to graduate with his degree, Kobelt is beginning to map out his plans to play tennis professionally. “I put a lot of time and effort into tennis, and I feel like it would be a mistake to just give it all up right away. I’ve always wanted to see the world,” Kobelt said. “It would be really neat to do something I loved and to see the world.” Professional aspirations aside, Kobelt said he couldn’t be more satisfied with playing high-level tennis for the school he calls his “first love.” “It’s an honor and a privilege to play for the Buckeyes,” he said. “I probably really don’t know how special it is right now, but looking back later in life, I’ll be truly grateful I had this opportunity.”