Musings on the NFL, baseball’s Hall of Fame, and the year in music – Woy’s Words (Vol. 2)

I thought about writing a separate post for each one of these topics, but figured it’d be easier to cover my thoughts on them in this brief rundown.

Tony Romo has unfairly received a lot of criticism during his career. (p/c: ESPN)

Die narratives, die.

While it’s easy to blame my declining interest in the NFL on the Tennessee Titans’ struggles, or the league’s handling of the Ray Rice scandal, another (obvious) reason came to the forefront after some thought today.

Out of the four major American professional leagues, the NFL trails its competitors in analytical evaluation. Baseball has been the leader in this for quite some time now, with even casual fans starting to accept some of the advanced statistics out there. Basketball has been strong analytically, with its fellow “winter” sport, hockey, recently growing in this department as well. The NFL has its set of fancy numbers that better measure player and team performance, but they aren’t as accepted as sabermetrics in other sports.

The norm to evaluate players in the NFL seems like it stems from media narratives, unfortunately. While it’s hard to convince avid First Take fan John Doe that Peyton Manning is the best quarterback of all-time, advanced statistics show that the all-time touchdown king isn’t a postseason choke artist as we are pushed to believe. Because the NFL’s fan base is so large, it’s even more difficult to change the common way of thinking, leading to viewpoints such as Skip Bayless’ to be accepted or at least entertained. And that’s a damn shame.

Peyton Manning won the MVP last season. Is he due for another this year? (p/c: sportsinsights.com)

The NFL MVP race is very intriguing.

So naturally after bashing the NFL and how it’s discussed, I find myself wanting to talk about the league’s MVP race.

There are five quarterbacks that have garnered attention for the award: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, and Tony Romo. Instead of pointing at cases such as team records, playoff positioning, and supporting casts, I’m going to look at their respective cases with some different numbers from Advanced Football Analytics and Football Outsiders.

  • Brady: 0.17 WPA/G1, 0.20 EPA/P2, 50.3 SR%3, 7.5 AY/A4, 5.7 TD%5, 1,173 DYAR6, 18.1% DVOA7
  • Manning: 0.25 WPA/G, 0.20 EPA/P, 51.3 SR%, 8.1 AY/A, 6.5 TD%, 1,433 DYAR, 24.5% DVOA
  • Roethlisberger: 0.25 WPA/G, 0.23 EPA/P, 52.8 SR%, 8.5 AY/A, 5.3 TD%, 1,598 DYAR, 27.5% DVOA
  • Rodgers: 0.32 WPA/G, 0.34 EPA/P, 53.6 SR%, 9.5 AY/A, 3 TD%, 1,563 DYAR, 32.2% DVOA
  • Romo: 0.28 WPA/G, 0.28 EPA/P, 53.7 SR%, 9.1 AY/A, 7.8 TD%, 1,198 DYAR, 27.9% DVOA
1 – WPA/G: Win Probability Added Per Game, from Advanced Football Analytics … a measure of an individual player’s impact on the outcome of his games, on a per play basis.
2 – EPA/G: Expected Points Added Per Play, from Advanced Football Analytics … a measure of an individual player’s impact on the scores of his games, on a per play basis … differs from WPA/P in that it is not as context-sensitive because it does not consider game score and time remaining.
3 – SR%: Success Rate, from Advanced Football Analytics … the proportion of plays in which a player was directly involved that would typically be considered successful … SR is the percentage of plays resulting in positive Expected Points Added (EPA).
4 – AY/A: Adjusted Yards gained per pass attempt … (Passing Yards + 20 * Passing TD – 45 * Interceptions) / (Passes Attempted)
5 – TD%: Percentage of touchdowns thrown while attempting to pass
6 – DYAR: Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, from Football Outsiders … gives the value of the quarterback’s performance compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage
7 – DVOA: Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, from Football Outsiders … number represents value, per play, over an average quarterback in the same game situations

Judging by those statistics, Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo have been the league’s two best quarterbacks this season, with Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger competing for bronze. Rodgers gets the nod over Romo with advantages in all categories but success rate and touchdown percentage.

Rodgers’ biggest challenger for MVP isn’t Romo, however; J.J. Watt has a legitimate case to be the first defensive player to win the award since 1986. It’s hard to compare Watt’s credentials to the Packers signal-caller, but his dominance shouldn’t be undersold in this discussion.

  • 21 sacks, 44 QB hits, 54 QB hurries, 10 batted passes, 50 tackles, 4 FF, 5 FR, 1 INT, 2 defensive TD, 106.0 PFF rating

Watt has been the best player in the NFL this season, and while that should be the reason why he wins the award, I find it hard to not reward Rodgers for his accomplishments. That being said, here would be my ballot:

1A. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
1B. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
3. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
4. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

Shockingly snubbed last season, Craig Biggio should get the call in 2015. (p/c: CBS Sports)

The call to Cooperstown.

Here’s my irrelevant ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2015:

  1. Jeff Bagwell
  2. Craig Biggio
  3. Barry Bonds
  4. Roger Clemens
  5. Randy Johnson
  6. Pedro Martinez
  7. Mark McGwire
  8. Mike Piazza
  9. Tim Raines
  10. Alan Trammell

Some brief thoughts:

  • McGwire gets the nod over some other guys like Curt Schilling mainly because of my team affiliation. Bad reasoning, I admit, but at least I’m not voting in Carlos Delgado.
  • That being said, if the 10-player limit was lifted (which it should be), add these names to my ballot: Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, John Smoltz, Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker.
  • I used my last choice on Trammell because it’s a shame he isn’t in Cooperstown right now. According to JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score System) on Baseball Reference, Trammell is the 11th best shortstop to play the game with a score of 57.5, just ahead of the recently retired Derek Jeter. The accumulation of his top seven seasons according to bWAR comes out to 44.6, which is eighth best.

D’Angelo surprised the world with a new album earlier this month. (p/c: Billboard)

Better late than never – my top 11 albums of 2014.

I stretched my list out to 11, since I liked Pinata too much at its release to not mention it.

(Album Name — Artist — Favorite Song — Metacritic Score)

1. Black Messiah — D’Angelo — “Really Love” — 95/100
2. Clivia Demo — Isaiah Rashad — “Modest” —82/100
3. HEAL — Strand of Oaks — “JM” — 83/100
4. Run The Jewels 2 — Run The Jewels —“Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” — 89/100
5. Seeds — TV On The Radio — “Right Now” — 78/100
6. What Is This Heart? — How To Dress Well — “Repeat Pleasure” — 69/100
7. Half The City — St. Paul & The Broken Bones — “Broken Bones & Pocket Change” — 72/100
8. They Want My Soul — Spoon — “Do You” — 81/100
9. LP1 — FKA Twigs — “Two Words” — 86/100
10. In The Lonely Hour — Sam Smith —“Lay Me Down” — 62/100
11. Pinata — Freddie Gibbs & Madlib — “Thuggin’” — 82/100

Below is a Spotify playlist featuring these albums:

Happy New Year, folks.

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