The 2014 World Series begins Tuesday night, featuring a pair of unlikely combatants in the 89-win Kansas City Royals and the 88-win San Francisco Giants.How unlikely? The Royals rank as the third-most unexpected pennant winner since 1969 — trailing only the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays and 2006 Detroit Tigers — according to our Weighted Average Loss Total metric. And while the Giants have won a pair of championships in the last five seasons, their cumulative record over the past two seasons has barely cracked .500.The fact that San Francisco and Kansas City combined for just 177 regular-season wins this year, the fourth-fewest by any pair of World Series opponents ever, has not been lost on the blogosphere. Amid the usual TV-ratings-fueled hand-wringing over whether baseball is or is not dying (it’s not), the Internet also spent the past several days worrying about whether this is the worst World Series ever (or, alternatively, angrily defending the matchup, or just wondering why we care about the teams’ regular-season records in the first place).For the statistically inclined, it’s an interesting series, if not simply from a philosophical point of view. It’s true that these teams probably aren’t the best two in baseball, and that has led to what Daniel Meyer of Beyond the Box Score called an “existential crisis” for some fans:“What is the point of it all?” and “Why even play 162 games?” are questions being thrown around as we all lament the reality of a World Series without Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw.But in the same article, Meyer notes that Major League Baseball’s regular season (not even the playoffs, which are almost universally regarded as a crapshoot, but the 162-game regular season) is too short to definitively allow the best team to stand out from the pack. Even if MLB expanded to a schedule of 1,000 games per team (!!), the true best team in baseball would have less than a 54 percent chance of producing the regular season’s best record.Along the same lines, there’s the classic Bill James simulation from the 1980s estimating that the best team in baseball only wins the World Series a little more than 29 percent of the time. And more recent research by Dr. Jesse Frey of Villanova University found that in a typical MLB season we can’t be more than about 40 percent confident in the identity of baseball’s best team anyway.In other words, there’s a lot of ambiguity, from start to finish. While it seems unlikely that a team like the Royals or the Giants could secretly be baseball’s best despite unimpressive regular-season records, we don’t really know for sure — and besides, the playoffs aren’t a scientific experiment designed to conclusively identify baseball’s best team (otherwise, they’d look like this).Embrace the uncertainty, and just enjoy this World Series as a showdown of two good, evenly matched teams. After all, there’s a 100 percent chance this matchup will contain the 2014 MLB champion.
Move over John Wooden, you’re no longer the only college basketball coach with 10 national championships. Connecticut just won its tenth national title, completing a perfect record of 10 NCAA championship appearances and 10 wins.When the tournament started, our March Madness predictions model gave UConn a 74 percent chance of winning the title. That figure went as high as 86 percent before the national championship game against Notre Dame Tuesday night, which the Huskies won 63 to 53.We were initially shocked by UConn’s projected success, enough to make us go back and adjust our model, which gave St. Francis College a mere 1 in 2.5 million chance of beating the Huskies in the first round. But as the tournament progressed, we continued to watch closely and research UConn’s stats, and came to understand just how dominant this team really was.Emergency Hot Takedown Podcast: UConn’s Dominance and Auriemma vs. Wooden More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed In the average regular-season UConn game, the Huskies were winning by 25 points at halftime, and they were ahead at the half by an average of 18 points in the tournament. Tuesday’s championship game was a little different: UConn was held to an 8-point lead at the half, thanks to Notre Dame’s strong offensive and defensive rebounding, 10 and 14, compared to UConn’s 8 and 11.But even Notre Dame’s strongest showing was no match for the best offense in the country — Moriah Jefferson and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 15 apiece Tuesday. Nor could the Irish get through the best defense in the country, led by forward and now three-time Most Outstanding Player award-winner Breanna Stewart, who had 15 rebounds in the game.Perhaps more importantly, we knew going into Tuesday’s game that UConn was twice as good as Notre Dame. Their matchup was still the best rivalry in women’s college basketball — but it’s hard to call it much of a rivalry when the Irish’s chances of upsetting UConn were 14 percent.Here’s a look back at our model’s predictions for the Huskies, which never fell below 74 percent at any point in the tournament:Round of 64: 74 percent chance to win the championship.Round of 32: 76 percent.Sweet 16: 77 percent.Elite Eight: 82 percent.Final Four: 79 percent.Finals: 86 percent.Tuesday night, 10:30 p.m.: 100 percent. By Allison McCann Embed Code
The trend here is striking. As pitchers started throwing outside the zone more and more — again, the really big decline in strike-throwing started around 2009 — hitters not only started swinging at more pitches outside the zone, they also started getting much better at making contact on those wayward pitches. Add it all up, and you see that instead of making contact on just 10 percent of all balls thrown outside the strike zone, as they did back in 2002, hitters made contact on nearly 20 percent of such pitches in 2016.3Note that this isn’t the same as the “contact rate” listed at FanGraphs, which only looks at balls that the batter took a swing at. This figure looks at all pitches outside the zone, which will include, for example, some pitches that were essentially unhittable or thrown as part of an intentional walk. That’s double the rate! That’s unbelievable!Let’s step back for a second, because this is a pretty counterintuitive finding. Batters are striking out more often, but they haven’t gotten any worse at their core task: hitting the ball. They’re also not getting as many good pitches to hit as they used to, but they’re about as good as they ever were at making contact on balls inside the strike zone, and far better than they used to be at making contact on balls outside the zone. Normally that should add up to swinging and missing less often, not more often. But because more of the balls they’re swinging at are outside the zone, and those balls are fundamentally harder to hit, the effect on overall contact is just about level. It’s a classic Simpson’s Paradox.So if MLB hitters suddenly started channeling their inner Vladimir Guerrero, making better contact on bad pitches, why are they still suffering so many strikeouts? We don’t really know for sure, and there’s a lot more digging to be done before anything can be said conclusively. For one thing, it’s not entirely clear which came first: pitchers throwing more outside the zone or hitters swinging at those pitches. I tested whether one month’s zone rate predicted the next month’s swing rate and vice versa, but I found almost no case for either.4The r-squared was less than 0.03 in both directions. This suggests that the complex interactions between batters and pitchers are happening on a much smaller scale than a month, and that they deserve more granular research.But here’s one possible (as-yet-untested) hypothesis for the big-picture story: Sometime in the late 2000s, pitchers began throwing more breaking pitches outside of the zone — hence the decline in zone percentage.5We know that fastball usage has dropped over the period in consideration, and given the trend in zone rate noted above, it’s not ridiculous to guess that some portion of that drop came from pitches outside the zone. At the same time — possibly out of necessity — hitters became increasingly willing to swing at pitches outside the zone, even finding some reasonable success doing it. But pitchers had another weapon: The fastball on the corner of the strike zone. Perhaps the adjustment that hitters made in order to hit breaking stuff outside the zone also made them vulnerable to hard stuff inside it — for which they were not mechanically prepared — and they started getting called out on strikes by the boatload.Again, that’s only a theory. But the fact is that batters are striking out more on called strikes in the zone even as they’re getting better at hitting pitches outside of it. So the next time you see a hitter preparing for a breaking ball out of the zone, remember: It’s not the pitches you swing at that get you. It’s the ones you don’t. You see the stories everywhere. “Baseball teams are striking out more than ever,” blared an NBC Sports headline back in April. In 2015, The Hardball Times wrote a story entitled “The Strikeout Ascendant.” And the year before that, friend of the program Ben Lindbergh hosted a “rising strikeout rate symposium” on his popular podcast, Effectively Wild. Clearly, the baseball world is well aware that strikeout rates are up — way up.What’s less well-known, but equally true, is this: Baseball’s recent rise in strikeout rates has little to do with how good batters are at making contact. That’s a bit counterintuitive, I know, because strikeout rates have increased (up nearly 26 percent since 20021That’s the first year for which we have plate-discipline statistics, so that’s as far back as we can look using the data mentioned throughout this article.), and when you think of a strikeout, you usually imagine a batter taking a mighty hack and missing. And indeed, swinging strikes are up as a percentage of all pitches.But keep in mind that this isn’t only about the batters — pitchers also have a big say in the matter.And in 2009, pretty much all of a sudden, they started throwing way fewer pitches in the strike zone, as measured by Fangraphs’ zone percentage statistic.2It’s worth noting that Pitchf/x’s version of the same statistic, which uses a slightly different methodology, shows roughly the same trend, but with a different start date and a shallower slope. From 2002 (the earliest year for which we have data) through 2008, pitchers put the ball through the zone about 52 percent of the time, year in and year out. In fact, over the seven seasons from 2002 to 2008, the league-wide rate of pitches in the zone never dropped below 50.5 percent or rose above 54.2 percent. When it came to tossing strikes, MLB hurlers were a model of consistency.But during the 2009 season, pitchers threw balls in the zone just 48.3 percent of the time. In 2010, that number kept falling — to 45.4 percent! — and by 2011, the league-wide rate of pitches in the zone was just 44.6 percent. In just three years, about one out of every nine pitches that had previously been thrown in the zone started missing its mark. (Since then, MLB’s zone rate has basically leveled off: Last year, it was exactly the same — 44.6 percent — as it was in 2011.)But despite that drastic change, batters haven’t really changed how they react to pitches inside the zone. Batters still swing at basically the same proportion of pitches in the zone as they did in 2002, and they still make contact with those pitches at essentially the same rate.Instead, the big changes have come outside the zone.
Welcome to the 2017-18 edition of CARMELO,1CARMELO stands for “Career-Arc Regression Model Estimator with Local Optimization,” but really it’s a shout-out to the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony. FiveThirtyEight’s NBA projection system.Or to be more precise, welcome to the initial 2017-18 edition of CARMELO. We have a lot of basketball-related projects on tap for the summer, which vary from exploring what makes teams succeed in the playoffs when they struggle in the regular season to trying to develop our own defensive metrics based on player-tracking data. So there’s a chance that we’ll give CARMELO and our other NBA products a more serious overhaul before the NBA regular season starts in October. Be prepared for these numbers to change, in other words.In the meantime, the initial adjustments from last year’s edition of CARMELO are relatively minor. For a basic outline of the system, which projects player performance by identifying similar players since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976, please see our explanation from two years ago. Here’s what’s different this year:BPM vs. RPM, revisited, againWe were fairly pleased with how our CARMELO player projections performed last year, with the system identifying breakout stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and Rudy Gobert. But we also use CARMELO to make team projections, and we weren’t all that happy with those. In fact, according to the APBRmetrics message board, which tracks various projection systems, CARMELO went from having some of the most accurate team forecasts in its debut season in 2015-16 to some of the least accurate last year. What happened?In 2015-16, our projections were based on a combination of Real Plus-Minus (RPM), a system that rates each player primarily based on how his team performs when that player is on or off the court, and Box Plus/Minus (BPM), a system that rates players using traditional box-score statistics such as assists and steals. Last year, we switched to using BPM only. Why? There are a lot of things to like about BPM, including that it’s considerably more transparent than RPM, and it can be calculated going back several decades, making for easier historical comparisons.But as a predictive tool, BPM does not appear to be as accurate as RPM. Instead, BPM has trouble picking up on factors such as defense and team cohesion. That led CARMELO to overrate teams such as the Minnesota Timberwolves and underrate more defensive teams such as the San Antonio Spurs last year. If we’d run the numbers using RPM instead of BPM in 2016-17, our projections would have been above-average again as compared with the projection systems that APBRmetrics tracks, we discovered.All of this stuff gets complicated, and discussions can quickly devolve into alphabet soup. But for better or worse, the choice of metric matters quite a lot. According to BPM, Russell Westbrook’s 2016-17 season was easily the greatest in NBA history. According to RPM, he was only the ninth-best player in the league last season.The upshot is that in the short run, we’re using a blend of two-thirds RPM and one-third BPM for this edition of the CARMELO projections. In the long run, we’re interested in developing our own plus-minus stat (but no promises about that quite yet).Projections for international playersIn past years, we’d published CARMELOs for NBA veterans such as Paul George based on their NBA statistics and for rookies such as Lonzo Ball based on their NCAA statistics.2NCAA statistics are adjusted for pace and opponent quality by ESPN Stats & Information Group. But we didn’t have projections for rookies such as the Knicks’ Frank Ntilikina, who played in international leagues rather than the NCAA. (The Belgian-born Ntilikina grew up in France and played for the French professional team SIG Strasbourg this year.)So this year, we’ve introduced simple projections for European draftees based on biographical data: specifically, their age, draft position, height, weight, position and home country.3The projections do not use statistics from European leagues; they’re solely based on these biographical categories. Home country is determined based on where the players were born, rather than on where they played professionally. Thus, Ntilikina is classified as Belgian rather than French, for example. Players born in the same country or from nearby countries get a higher similarity score, although this is a fairly minor factor compared to other variables such as draft position. CARMELO identifies players such as Ricky Rubio, Evan Fournier, Dennis Schroeder and Tony Parker as being similar to Ntilikina, for instance.‘Gap year’ and ‘draft-and-stash’ playersAnother tricky case involves rookies who missed the entire NBA season, or almost the entire season, on account of injury or other factors in their first year. The Sixers’ Ben Simmons, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2016, didn’t play at all last season because of a foot injury, for example.We’ve improved how the system handles these “gap year” players.4Specifically, players who played less than 200 minutes in their first NBA season. They are now compared only to other players who also sat out what would have been their first season, such as Blake Griffin (who missed the entire 2009-10 season) or Julius Randle (who played just one game in 2014-15 before getting hurt). This is a small sample of cases, so the projections for these players can be somewhat noisy. Still, we think this is better than essentially just ignoring the injuries, as we’d been doing before.European and other international players, meanwhile, often play an additional season or two abroad even after they’re drafted by an NBA team. (The NBA team who drafts these “draft-and-stash” prospects can retain their rights for a couple of seasons under most circumstances.) Draft-and-stash players such as the Celtics’ Guerschon Yabusele are projected based on comparisons to other draft-and-stash players.Better biographical dataFinally, we’ve switched to using NBA.com, instead of Basketball-Reference.com, as our primary source for player heights and weights. Players’ listed weights — and sometimes even their official heights — can change from season to season. Basketball-Reference.com generally lists players by the heights and weights they were listed under as rookies, whereas NBA.com keeps more up-to-date with the changes.We’re also using more detailed data on players’ positions than in the past. While a player’s primary position is determined by Basketball-Reference.com, we’re now also accounting for players’ secondary positions based on additional positions listed at ESPN Fantasy Basketball. Thus, a power forward who also plays center will be treated slightly differently than a power forward who also plays small forward.We hope you’ll enjoy this year’s edition of CARMELO, and we’ll notify you of further changes as we make them throughout the offseason.
9Y. Moncada869087.6T. Story789886.9 Baseball has always prized players who can hit the ball a country mile or run like the wind. And when the same player can do both of those things, he becomes the stuff of legends — like when Willie Mays hit 36 home runs and swiped 40 bases in 1956, or when Jose Canseco inaugurated the 40-40 club in 1988.So, who is today’s version of Mays or Canseco — the best mix of both power and speed? There is the traditional way of measuring it, but we can do a better job using MLB’s new Statcast metrics, which track the exact velocity of a ball off a player’s bat and the speed of his body around the basepaths.Bill James originally captured a player’s combination of slugging and running by inventing a statistic called the Power/Speed Number, introduced in his 1980 “Baseball Abstract.” The formula is simply the harmonic mean of home runs and stolen bases: two times home runs times stolen bases, divided by the sum of home runs and stolen bases. “It is so crafted that a player who does well in both home runs and stolen bases will rate high,” James wrote, “and his rating is determined by the balance of the two as well as by the total.”According to this basic accounting system, the best combo of power and speed in any single season belonged to Alex Rodriguez in 1998, when he hit 42 home runs and stole 46 bases — just the third of four 40/40 seasons in MLB history.1The most recent was Alfonso Soriano’s in 2006. The best Power/Speed Number last season belonged to Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians, who hit 39 home runs and stole 34 bases; that season is tied for 31st all-time in James’s metric.For this season, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson led baseball on April 18 with a 4.8 Power/Speed Number (four homers and six steals) — though that’s not really comparable to full-season numbers because the metric is a mean of two cumulative stats, meaning that it grows as the season goes on.2The career leader in Power/Speed is Barry Bonds with a mark of 613.9 — gargantuan relative to the single-season record of 43.9. A better way to get numbers that resemble full-season stats is to combine actual results from the first few weeks of the season with rest-of-season projected homers and steals from FanGraphs’ depth charts. After we did that, the top projected Power/Speed player of 2019 was Adalberto Mondesi of the blazing-fast Kansas City Royals — he’s on pace for 48 stolen bases and 22 home runs. Starling Marte24.9Tim Anderson24.0Eric Davis198640.4 1M. Trout919592.9C. Bellinger999596.6 3T. Story889892.5R. Acuña889892.3 * Harmonic mean of the percentile ranks for exit velocity and sprint speed2019 numbers through April 18Source: Baseball Savant Mookie Betts31.0Ronald Acuna27.4Eric Davis198742.5 Javier Baez26.0Jonathan Villar24.0Barry Bonds199040.4 7S. Ohtani978188.1H. Pence918587.8 Mondesi certainly is fast — he ranks second in all of baseball (behind Minnesota’s Byron Buxton) in Statcast’s sprint speed metric, which tracks a player’s velocity on running plays in which he is theoretically hustling. His pop is also impressive for a speedster. If Mondesi were to hit his projections, he would be in great company: The 40/40 club’s lesser cousin, in which a player has 20 homers and 40 steals, has been done only 50 times in history and not at all since 2013. But according to Statcast, the average exit velocity of Mondesi’s batted balls is 88.9 miles per hour, which puts him in the bottom half of all qualified hitters.3Minimum 25 batted-ball events.Homers and steals are proxies for power and speed, but they’re imperfect ones. If we use Statcast’s rankings as the basis for a new conception of James’s old Power/Speed Number — measuring power with exit velocity and speed with sprint velocity — it turns out that there are hitters who do an even better job than Mondesi of combining these two facets of the game.I took every player who had at least one batted-ball event and one running event in every 1.8 games through April 184Which worked out to about 10 so far this season and about 90 over a full season. and calculated his percentile rank in each category. Then, like with James’s original metric, I took the harmonic mean of those two values for a combined score that rewards high rankings in both power and speed.Last season’s top power-speed player was — who else? — Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, who ranked 31st in exit velocity and 17th in sprint speed.Of course, Trout also ranked fifth on our original Power/Speed leaderboard … but where is Ramirez in this updated version? Surprisingly, the Indians’ MVP candidate was only 85th in the new ranking, despite leading MLB in James’s metric. He had a lot more steals and homers than we would have expected from his raw physical tools. As my colleague Travis Sawchik documented last season, Ramirez made up for a lack of pure power with a concerted focus on lifting the ball in the air to his pull side, particularly to right field as a lefty hitter. (Ramirez hits from both sides of the plate.) He was also smart about picking his spots as a base-stealer, ranking seventh in stolen-base percentage with an 85 percent success rate.But this version of the Power/Speed Number is more about measuring the skills that help lead to home runs and steals — rather than the homers and steals themselves — so players like Ramirez are out in favor of those like the Braves’ great young left fielder Ronald Acuña Jr., who consistently hits rockets off the bat and is one of the fastest runners in the sport. Trea Turner26.4C. Yelich24.0Bobby Bonds197340.9 8A. Altherr849287.9J. Báez928487.4 Acuña was second last year and is third so far in 2019, coming up on the heels of Buxton (who might be the anti-Ramirez — he has one of the league’s highest average exit velocities despite zero home runs this season or last). But neither player ranks No. 1. That honor belongs to Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers.The power part isn’t shocking. Bellinger already has 11 home runs this season, second in the majors behind Christian Yelich. He’s leading the majors in an absurd array of stats, including wins above replacement, batting average, slugging percentage, hits, runs, total bases and on-base plus slugging (OPS). Through April 18, Bellinger ranked sixth in average exit velocity at 95.9 miles per hour.But speed? According to FanGraphs, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Bellinger was rated by scouts as a “45” in the category back in 2017, with average at 50. And yet, Bellinger was up to 16th in Statcast sprint speed at 29.0 feet per second, tied with Kansas City speed-merchant Billy Hamilton (!). In just the first three weeks of the season, Bellinger already had 27 of what Statcast classifies as “competitive runs,” which contribute to his average, so it’s unlikely that the radar-trackers merely picked up a few aberrant readings. That’s particularly the case since Bellinger also ranked 35th overall in sprint speed last season, with a 28.8 feet-per-second average over 224 competitive runs.Interestingly, the power component might be the more likely area of regression for Bellinger. Although he exploded for 39 home runs in his first 132 major league games in 2017, his power dipped last season, with an average exit velocity that didn’t rank among the top quarter of MLB hitters. He appears to have made adjustments after a classic sophomore-slump campaign, blistering the ball early this season, but Bellinger has the longer track record of having an elite sprint speed than having elite batted-ball metrics.Bellinger is simply surprisingly fast in terms of in-game speed. And that works in concert with his crazy mashing to make him MLB’s best power-speed player in the early part of this season.Check out our latest MLB predictions. C. Yelich27.3Mookie Betts24.8Jose Canseco198841.0 Mike Trout29.7Jose Ramirez26.9Barry Bonds199641.0 6T. Hernández948588.9N. Goodrum909089.9 Who combines the best Statcast power and speed metrics?2018 and 2019 MLB leaders in percentile ranks for both power (by average exit velocity) and speed (by average sprint speed) 2018 Leaders2019 Leaders 5T. Pham978590.5M. Trout919090.4 10M. Chapman987987.2J. Martin898486.2 2R. Acuna889892.5B. Buxton9110095.5 Tim Anderson22.6Javier Baez23.8A. Soriano200240.0 * Projected full-season Power/Speed Numbers (as of April 18, 2019) according to FanGraphs’ depth chartsSources: Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs Jose Ramirez36.3A. Mondesi30.2Alex Rodriguez199843.9 Trevor Story31.2Mike Trout27.8A. Soriano200643.4 2018 Leaders2019 Leaders*All-Time Leaders F. Lindor30.2Trevor Story27.4R. Henderson198642.4 PlayerpowerspeedMean*PlayerpowerspeedMean* Baseball’s best at combining homers and stealsThe top players in 2018, 2019* and all-time according to Bill James’s Power/Speed Number (PSN) 4C. Yelich958891.4J. Alfaro939091.4 PlayerPSNPlayerPSNPlayerYearPSN
Cleveland IndiansAfter going 4-2 the previous week, the Indians struggled this week, going 1-6.Cleveland lost outfielder Grady Sizemore and infielder Asdrubal Cabrera to the disabled list and was swept at Tampa Bay and at home against Kansas City.The toughest loss of the week came Wednesday night when the Indians had a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning against Kansas City, but lost 8-4 after closer Kerry Wood gave up five runs in the inning.But the Indians were able to defeat the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 Sunday to end their six-game losing streak.Stud: Trevor Crowe. After being called up from minor league affiliate Columbus, Crowe hit safely in six of his seven starts and had five RBIs. In the win over Cincinnati, Crowe went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and stole his third base of the week.Dud: Kerry Wood. In Wednesday’s game against the Royals, Wood gave up five runs in the top of the ninth to give the Royals an 8-4 win. For the season, Wood is 0-2 with one save and one blown save, both coming in the last five games.Up Next: The Indians open with a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field before traveling to Yankee Stadium Friday for a four-game series with the New York Yankees. Cincinnati RedsThe Reds were two walk-offs shy of a perfect week.Cincinnati started off with a two-game series at Milwaukee. In the first game, a Jonny Gomes three-run home run sparked a five-run seventh inning to break open a tie game as the Reds won 6-3.In the second game, the Reds were down 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth when Scott Rolen’s two-run shot and Joey Votto’s walk-off single won the game for the Reds, completing the sweep over the Brewers.The Reds then played a two-game series at Atlanta, with some different results.The Reds tied the first game at 4-4 in the top of the ninth, only to see Jason Heyward hit the game-winning single for the Braves with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, as the Reds lost 5-4.The second game might go down as one of the more embarrassing losses in recent memory, as the Reds couldn’t hold on to a seven-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, losing the game 10-9.But the Reds didn’t let the big loss bother them, as they finished the week with a series win over the Indians.In the first game, Laynce Nix had three hits, including a go-ahead double in the sixth inning that put the Reds up 5-4. The Reds won the game 7-4.The second game against the Tribe was Nix’s third straight game with a home run. Jay Bruce also went 4-for-4 in the game as the Reds beat the Indians 6-4.In Sunday’s game, Scott Rolen hit two home runs, but it wasn’t enough as the Reds lost to the Indians 4-3.Studs: Jonny Gomes and Laynce Nix. Trying to decide which of the Reds’ hot-hitting left-fielders to start is a good problem to have. This week, the two combined for 13 hits and 13 RBIs.Duds: Cincinnati’s bullpen in the second game against the Braves. They had a 9-3 lead, and all they had to do was get three outs before the Braves scored six runs, which they proved is harder than it looks.Next Week: The Reds will stay at home for another full week of baseball, as they will play four games against the Pirates followed by three games against the Astros.
Matchups that Ohio basketball fans could only dream of became a reality on the Ohio State campus Saturday. It was an all-Buckeye State theme during the Ohio Homecoming Battle for Ohio basketball game at St. John Arena, which saw Team Columbus eek out a 94-91 victory against Team Cleveland. The game saw former OSU teammates David Lighty and Jon Diebler guarding each other on the perimeter as well as university alumnus and Philadelphia 76er Evan Turner run the court with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson. Thompson was dominant in the contest, leading all scorers in the game with a double-double that included 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting and 10 rebounds for Team Cleveland. Team Columbus countered with a team-high 18 points from Ron Lewis and 17 points from Turner. A coaching staff that included former No. 1-overall NBA Draft pick Greg Oden, former OSU player Ron Stokes and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman saw five players hit double digits on the way to the victory for the Columbus squad. Afterward, Turner called the contest a great game and a great opportunity to lock horns with former teammates and current NBA foes. Turner, who had fourth-quarter shots blocked by former OSU teammate Dallas Lauderdale and came up smiling after each rejection, called the game “fun.” “It’s great for the city,” Turner said. “Hopefully we keep doing this game every single year.” The high-paced celebrity All-Star game saw Team Cleveland control the opening eight minutes of play, but only until J.J. Sullinger, older brother of recently-drafted OSU product Jared Sullinger, struck for Team Columbus. J.J. Sullinger, sporting a thicker build than during his playing days at OSU during the 2004-2006 seasons, stuck a 3-pointer home to give Columbus the lead, 22-21, late in the first quarter. Columbus pulled ahead by half behind Turner’s 14 first-half points. Diebler, in a display familiar to OSU fans, connected on 2-of-3 3-pointers while contributing six points to the Team Columbus effort. Diebler’s day from behind the arc was just getting started. During halftime, Diebler dominated the 3-point shooting contest by scoring 5-of-5 shots on his first rack of balls before doing the same on his final rack to win the competition. Diebler defeated Dru Joyce, a high school teammate of the Miami Heat’s Lebron James at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s and player at Akron from 2003-2007. The 3-pointers for Diebler were his first in a competitive game at St. John Arena since a December 2010 win against South Carolina. Of the game and his return to St. John Arena, Diebler, a member of the winning Team Columbus side, said that he too enjoyed himself. “We were talking before the game – it was pretty awesome to get everyone together,” he said. “It was great to be back. I love this gym.” Scoring slowed in the second half – the two squads combined for 32 points in the fourth quarter – but Team Columbus forced a turnover in the closing seconds as it defended a 93-91 lead and held on for the win. Former OSU forward Dallas Lauderdale, a member of the losing Team Cleveland side, agreed with the rest, saying that the game was a memorable one. “I thought it was a great time. Playing against former teammates – it was a lot of fun,” Lauderdale said. Lauderdale, who is returning from playing professionally in Poland and will compete with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors in summer league play, added that Saturday’s game was reminiscent of practice sessions during his time at OSU. “It wasn’t weird going against (former teammates) at all,” he said. “We did it every day at the Schottenstein Center, so to be able to go out there and talk a little trash, it was fun.” There was statewide appeal for the Saturday event with cities and towns from around Ohio represented on the two teams’ respective rosters. In addition to J.J. Sullinger, Turner and Diebler, Team Columbus featured former OSU letter winners Brian Brown (1999-2002), Terence Dials(2002-2006) and George Reese (1999-2000) as well as Scoonie Penn and Columbus natives Antonio Daniels and Samaki Walker. Team Cleveland featured former Buckeyes Lighty (2007-2011), Lauderdale (2008-2011), Tony Stockman (2004-2005) and Damon Stringer (1995-1998; Cleveland State 1998-2000) in addition to Thompson, Keith McLeod (Bowling Green, 1999-2002) and Ryan Patton (Youngstown State 1999-2002).
So what’s the problem with fidget spinners?One headteacher shared a letter from a Year 7 pupil complaining that lessons are being disrupted.“They are the latest craze and roughly seven people bring them into my lessons and share spares with other people,” the unnamed girl wrote to Chris Hildrew, head of Churchill Academy in Somerset. 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. “So for us, this isn’t new at all. It just seems that the rest of the world has caught up. For autistic children in schools who are often segregated, thought of as ‘nerds’, in some ways it’s quite nice that it’s their thing that has become a must-have toy.” They are marketed as a stress-reliever to help children with learning difficulties concentrate in class.But fidget spinners have instead become such a classroom distraction that the handheld toys are being banned across schools in the UK.So what are fidget spinners?If you haven’t yet heard of the new craze sweeping playgrounds, a fidget spinner is a three-pronged, palm-sized piece of plastic or metal which spins around a central weighted disc – a modern version of the old spinning top.They can cost less than £2, but deluxe versions change hands for £40 and YouTube videos demonstrating how to do tricks with them attract millions of views. We have banned fidget spinners from lessons @ChurchillAcad – here’s why. So proud of our students! #pedagoofriday pic.twitter.com/3gIJoH4euv— Chris Hildrew (@chrishildrew) April 28, 2017 However, The National Autistic Society said there was anecdotal evidence from parents that the spinners are beneficial.Carol Povey, director of the society’s Centre for Autism, said: “Autistic children have a different way of experiencing the world around them. Many find it difficult to focus on what the teacher is saying – stuff going on in the background that other children can filter out, such as the noise of a projector or light coming in through the window, can be difficult.“Having something that spins or twists can help to ground and balance them. Many adults will carry something in their pocket that has the same effect. There is very little research about how these things work, but anecdotally we believe they do work. A number of teachers posted on the Mumsnet forum, complaining that the toys were ruining lessons.One said: “I’ve had two children bring them in today ‘because it helps them to concentrate’ – no, it helps them to annoy their peers and stops everybody else from concentrating [sic].“They are now in my desk drawer waiting for their parents to come and collect them.” I guess #fidgetspinners are all the rage. My daughter finally got one. You basically just spin it. I don’t understand. #kids pic.twitter.com/BRK2jdL4By— Amber Myers (@WhisperAmber) April 29, 2017 Do they have a practical use?Fidget spinners are marketed as tools for children with autism and ADHD. One primary school teacher told the BBC that they were included in the school’s budget: “Specialists coming into the school recommend them for children and we’ll buy them in for the children that are identified.”There is no supporting scientific evidence, and at least one expert has debunked the claims. Dr Mark Rapport, director of the Children’s Learning Clinic at the University of Central Florida, said: “Using a spinner-like gadget is more like to serve as a distraction than a benefit for individuals with ADHD.” It’s been 5 days, and the fidget spinner things are already banned in my school.— 🅱avid (@BronzeShow) April 29, 2017 @justintarte Fidget spinners are such a big fad that they have been a big distraction in my classroom.— Rich Siemons (@RichSiemons) April 23, 2017 “When you are trying to focus on your work, all you can hear is it spinning round and round. If someone around you has one you kind of get attracted to it because they are trying to do tricks and everyone else is looking at it. This means that I am not doing my hardest on my work so I get less done.“To sum up, I think they should be banned in lessons.”Mr Hildrew, posted a copy of the letter on Twitter and wrote: What are children doing with them?As the gadget spins it can be balanced on top of fingers, toes, or event the nose or forehead.More than one can be stacked on top of one another, creating a spinning tower that plays with your vision.As the forces come into play, the skill lies in trying to pull off various tricks and stunts. The biggest challenge is throwing a spinner to a friend and trying to catch it, a feat even more impressive to pull off than the successful bottle-flip.
Police said the two people who stopped were Good Samaritans in the wrong place at the wrong timeCredit:SWNS The car crash took place on the M11Credit:SWNS The two people sprayed received medical treatment but it is not thought they will suffer from any long term effects, and the driver of the lorry was uninjured, police said.Kevin Brown, of East of England Ambulance Service, said: “This unprovoked attack on two Good Samaritans who were trying to help at the scene of a road traffic collision is deplorable.”Sadly they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and we wish them a speedy recovery.” Essex Police said the suspects left the scene in a white Vauxhall Astra which was taken from a member of the public at the scene of the collision.This was later recovered in Dagenham, east London. Officers said one of the suspects involved in the collision is described as Asian and aged between 25 to 30 years old, with a dark beard.He was wearing a baseball cap, a navy blue buttoned top, and dark coloured bottoms, and also had with him a small, black leather bag.Another suspect is described as white, with short dark hair. He was wearing a khaki coloured jumper and jogging bottoms and is thought be aged between 20 and 25 years old.Shortly before the incident on the M11 near Chigwell and Loughton, officers were alerted to the theft of another blue VW Golf from outside a shop on Queens Road, Buckhurst Hill at around 6.50pm.The victim, a man in his 20s, told officers that one of the two men who stole the car had a knife in his hand – prompting him to run from the scene.With no verbal or physical threats issued, Essex Police said the two suspects then drove away in the victim’s car. Two off-duty emergency service workers were sprayed in the face with an unknown substance in what police have called a “shocking incident”.A police officer and paramedic were among Good Samaritans who stopped to help a car that had collided with a lorry on the M11 on Friday at around 7pm and was on fire.Essex Police said as those inside the stolen blue VW Golf got out of the vehicle, they sprayed an unknown substance into the faces of the two off-duty emergency responders.Chief Superintendent Luke Collison said: “This was an shocking incident and we have launched a significant investigation to track down the suspects and bring them to justice.”Good Samaritans who witnessed a serious collision stopped to provide urgent medical care and were met by two dangerous offenders and seriously assaulted.” The force said they believe the suspects involved in the car theft on Queens Road may have been associated with the suspects driving the stolen car that collided with the lorry on the M11.Essex Police said the blue VW Golf which caught fire was not the victim’s car, and another blue VW Golf, containing additional suspects, was present when the other vehicle was stolen on Queens Road.It then followed the other suspects in the victim’s vehicle onto the M11 and that it was this car which caught fire. Police said the victim’s vehichle is yet to be recovered.Detectives at Loughton CID are appealing for information and can be reached via 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. 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.
A spokesman for vice-Chancellor membership body said that a “good natured group” of around 16 people entered the building at around 11.30am, who ate food, drank soft drinks and played music. Lecturers at 57 universities – including Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, Durham and Exeter – took the first of a series of days of industrial action at campuses on Thursday, in a row over changes to staff pensions. More universities will join the walk out as strikes continue over the coming weeks. More than a million students could face disruption if the full 14 days of strike go ahead as planned, as half a million teaching hours will be lost. Members of the University and College Union (UCU), which represents lecturers and campus staff, are striking over proposed changes to pensions covered by the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which they say could make them £10,000 worse off each year in retirement. Three in five students back the striking lecturers, according to a YouGov poll conducted on the eve of the walk out. Sam Gyimah, the universities minister, urged both sides to get back to the negotiating table, saying he was “deeply concerned” about the impact strikes will have on students. Meanwhile, Amber Rudd, the home secretary, urged lecturers to “get back to work”, adding that “people need to get their degrees”. Liz Truss, the chief secretary to the Treasury, tweeted in support of lecturers who decided to break the picket lines and carry out their classes as usual, saying: “I salute you”. The head of Newcastle University’s became the latest vice-Chancellor to break ranks and announce his support for the striking lecturers. Professor Day said he “absolutely supported staff’s decision to strike”, adding that he did not know “what else they could do to express their concerns about the current situation”. University And College Union Protest at Cardiff University Credit: Barcroft Media Some excellent lecturers *are* going in to work today. I salute you. #committed— Elizabeth Truss (@trussliz) 22 February 2018 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. Sally Hunt, the UCU general secretary, said academic staff have been “overwhelmed” by the support they have received from students.A spokesperson for Sussex University said: “There was a brief incident between students earlier today, which was resolved very quickly. University staff were on hand immediately to support our students, as they always would.” “We have been proud to see the collegiate nature of the Sussex community today, where staff and students have been incredibly respectful of the many different points of view that people have. It’s the very spirit that underpins our University.”A spokesperson for UUK said that changes are necessary to put the scheme on a secure footing, but added that they “remain at the negotiating table” and will consider any “credible, affordable solutions” from the union. University strikes turned violent as protesters stormed an academic building to demand that students in the lecture theatre join the walk out.A demonstrator was allegedly attacked by a student during a clash in Sussex Univesity’s Jubilee Building, where a Psychology lecture was taking place. “One of our marchers was assaulted by a student when we disrupted the lecture,” the Sussex Supports the Strike group wrote in a statement on their Facebook page.“The marcher in question was violently tackled into a wooden table by another student,” the group claimed.Joanna Pawlik, an art history lecturer at the university, told The Telegraph: “We’ve had a lot of support from the students. We don’t like the way the pensions situation is being imposed on us which is why we have taken this action.”A group of protesters gained access to the Universities UK (UUK) headquarters in central London, where they staged a sit-in.