Articles by Jason Thornbury

A listing of all the articles written by Jason Thornbury for the RotoWire Blog.

Ichiro Trade is a Triple Win

The only surprising part about Ichiro Suzuki‘s trade is the Mariners actually pulled the trigger. Who knew they had it in them? That’s why I believe the company line that Ichiro requested a trade. If Ichiro didn’t want to be traded, no way the big man in Japan would have signed off. The Mariners had to cut the cord; better this way than letting Ichiro flap in the wind the final two months and become more of a scapegoat than he already is. Now the Mariners can move forward, Ichiro’s legacy in Seattle is protected and he has one last shot at a World Series ring. Win win win.

Three observations about Ichiro:

1. My favorite Ichiro stat: from 2001-10 he led the AL in hitting vs. left-handers with a .340 average (fifth in MLB). Including his last two sub-Ichiro years, he falls to ninth in MLB, but he’s still one of only two lefty batters ranked in the Top 30 (Bonds, .318). That’s pretty amazing.

2. Ichiro is a quote machine. Among my favorites: "To tell the truth, I’m not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Cleveland, I’d punch myself in the face, because I’m lying." His all-time best is this interview with Bob Costas. Definitely worth the click.

3. I can’t find it, but I swear Bill James once said something to the effect of the best players are the most unique players because they change the game. Bonds, for instance, changed pitchers’ gameplans because you couldn’t pitch him inside. In his way, Ichiro changed the opponents’ game. His speed to beat out grounders, his surgical-like ability to seemingly place the ball wherever he wanted on the field and outsmart the defensive positioning, all of that caused much consternation in the opposing dugout. Then there was his arm, which was the best of his era, and his fielding, which despite his receding skills is still strong (Fangraphs has him No. 1 in UZR among OF this year, Baseball Reference has him ninth in its Total Zone rating among OF). Ichiro is the best defensive right fielder since … ?

Ichiro never did well in Baseball Prospectus’ Pecota forecasts because, as I understand it, Pecota draws conclusions by comparing players to past players.

There are no past Ichiros to compare.

Will the NFL’s New Pads Rule Impact Fantasy Football?

The NFL decided to bring back lower-body pads starting next year. In 2013, players will be required to wear hip, thigh and knee pads. This used to be the case, but beginning in 1995, the NFL nixed the rule because many players weren’t wearing them anyway, so I guess they figured why bother.

Roger Goddell’s theory is that wearing lower-body pads will reduce player speed, thereby reducing, at least somewhat, the risk of concussion from players-turned-missiles. Who knows if lower-body pads will substantially slow the speed of the game, but players at least believe the pads make them slower because that’s why they elect not to wear them in the first place.

Kickers are foremost among the anti-pads group, so they must believe that wearing hip, thigh and knee pads impedes their ability to kick field goals. If that’s true, are we going to see a dip in field-goal accuracy beginning next year?

It’s been 17 seasons without lower-body pads, so I compared the previous 17 seasons with lower-body pads for kickers. Maybe that’s not a great way to compare, but I figured going 17 and 17 would give a relatively equal sample. And certainly better playing surfaces, better shoes, improved technique, no more Efren Herrera, those kinds of things that come with the progression of the sport are at play here too. So, this is hardly definitive. But it’s at least interesting to note the percentages before and after pads.

  ’78-94 ’95-11
Overall 70.7 80.2
1-19 95.4 98.2
20-29 90.6 95.2
30-39 75.2 84.7
40-49 56.4 69.2
50+ 38.1 53.7

Not only is the overall percentage up by nearly 10 percent, but long-distance kicking has seen a dramatic improvement. (Also, there were about 3,000 more field goals attempted in the latter range.) Obviously, it’s impossible to know how many kickers wore lower-body pads pre-1995. Perhaps few did. But for a quick and dirty food-for-thought comparison, this will do.

All of which is simply to wonder if in the coming years kickers will become even more irrelevant to fantasy football. Or maybe it has the opposite effect by turning the current mid-tier kickers into lower-tier kickers, making the upper tier that much more valuable and worthy of something higher than simply last-round picks.

Tourney Talk — Day 2

Hey, let’s do it again. What’s a full day of games without some water-cooler banter? Plus, I’ll reveal the answer to yesterday’s trivia question.

Who do you like in today’s games? Any upsets brewing? Will there be more madness than Thursday brought? No Rafferty today, so that’s a bummer.

Tourney Talk

Picking this year’s tournament gave me fits. I found it really difficult to get a good feel. Not sure why, but the pairings definitely didn’t help. An underrated Gonzaga got a terrible draw having to play West Virginia in Pittsburgh. Murray State is a very likeable squad, but got a weak seed (6), so it has Marquette waiting in the second round. San Diego State? Like ’em. North Carolina State? Like ’em. They play each other in the first round? Drat. It went like that a lot.

A few other thoughts:

• CBS should put Charles Barkley on the NFL Sunday morning show. First off, he has personality. And while he doesn’t know jack about most teams in the tourney, he actually has insightful things to say at times about the teams he does follow. The best thing about him, though, is he exposes the know-it-all "experts" who are |STAR|so|STAR| certain about things but really are just seeking evidence to back up their hunches (instead of considering the evidence and then getting a hunch). Barkley picks his friends to win. Is that so different than picking based on a hunch?

• Murray State is pulling away from Colorado state. But as we speak, Isaiah Canaan is 4-for-14 from the field. Really wish Murray State didn’t have to play Marquette in the next round. Should be a great game, though.

• Michigan State has great defense. Will it have enough offense to win it all?

• Missouri’s non-conference slate was pathetic. Couldn’t pick them to go deep.

• Speaking of bad draws, South Dakota State got hosed. I took notice of them when they destroyed Washington in December. They shoot the three as well as anyone; that’s usually a necessary ingredient for a big first-round upset. And Jackrabbits is a pretty good nickname. But I (almost) always play the odds on the 3-14 match. The 3 seed wins 85 percent of the time and has lost only three times this century.

• Here’s how ESPN’s 6.45 million tourney entrants shook out:

The most popular picks to win the championship:

Kentucky — 35.1 percent
North Carolina — 17.9 percent
Michigan State — 7.5 percent
Missouri — 7.2 percent
Kansas — 6.2 percent
Syracuse — 5.1 percent
Ohio State — 4.8 percent
Duke — 3.7 percent
Florida State — 2.8 percent
Baylor — 1.7 percent

• Who you got?  What do you like/hate about this year’s tourney?

March Madness — Upsets I Like, Upsets I Don’t Like

March Madness is finally here. If you need last-minute help with your picks, check out our region previews. Also, if you’re playing in a fantasy league for the tournament, here’s a quick cheatsheet of tourney players.

And here are some upsets I like:

No. 12 Clemson vs. No. 5 West Virgina
This sort of feels like a sucker bet, but I’m going with it. The play-in game could benefit Clemson as the Tigers are tuned up and riding an adrenaline high, whereas West Virginia hasn’t played in more than a week. West Virginia is a streaky shooting team, and Clemson led the ACC in scoring defense (60 ppg). Plus, Clemson can out-physical West Virginia.

No. 12 Richmond vs. No. 5 Vanderbilt
Both teams love to shoot the three, but Richmond plays great perimeter defense (12th in three-point defense), and Vandy’s best shooter, John Jenkins, is still dealing with a turf toe injury. Richmond’s 6-foot-10 power forward, Justin Harper,  is an NBA prospect, so he shouldn’t get pushed around by Vandy’s 6-11 Festus Ezeli (gotta love that name). Richmond is a senior-laden team, led by senior point guard Kevin Anderson, who was the A10 player of the year last season.

No. 10 Florida State vs. No. 7 Texas A&M
Texas A&M is offensively challenged, its shooting is streaky and its guards aren’t great. That plays into the hands of Florida State, which ranks second in defensive efficiency. Even though the Aggies top two scorers are in the frontcourt, the Seminoles should have a big-man advantage. Florida State’s offense can go into hibernation, but NBA prospect Chris Singleton, who’s been out with a foot injury, is expected to play.

No. 12 Utah State vs. No. 5 Kansas State
Utah State has five seniors and two juniors in its rotation, and the Aggies have a chip on their shoulder because they think they were seeded to low. They’re a good shooting team — 47 percent from the field, 36.9 percent from three-point range and 73.6 percent from the line. They’re very good defensively, holding opponents to 38.3 percent field-goal shooting. Kansas State is aggressive defensively, but offensively, after Jacob Pullen, then what?

And a couple upsets I don’t like:

No. 11 Marquette vs. No. 6 Xavier
Marquette has lost a lot of close games to good opponents this year, and I wanted to pick them, but two factors swayed my decision. First, Xavier has a home-court advantage playing in Cleveland. Second, Xavier is at its best when its guards are penetrating. Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, their guards aren’t strong defensively. 

No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 7 Temple
Penn State made a great run just to make the tournament and might already be satisfied. Temple is hungry after losing in the first round the last three years. And Temple’s best three-point shooter, Scootie Randall, is expected to return from injury and play in the tournament. Plus, Penn State struggles to score.

Lynch’s Run Shook the Earth

This is pretty amazing. Marshawn Lynch‘s crazy run Saturday caused an earthquake.

Yes, that’s correct, an earthquake. The roar of the crowd caused a small tremor near Quest Field, according to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. Check out the picture on the above link. And here’s a seismic timeline of Lynch’s run.

"We looked at the stations nearby and one station in particular just clearly showed the crowd roaring," said John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

I don’t know if Lynch’s run is the greatest ever, but I don’t know of any others that caused the earth to move.