OSU players attempt to take down Illinois then-junior running back Josh Ferguson (6) during a game on Nov. 1, 2015 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Lantern File PhotoFor the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes, the important part of the season sits on the horizon.Looming are matchups with No. 13 Michigan State, No. 12 Michigan and, if things go right for the Buckeyes, a meeting with No. 5 Iowa is likely in the Big Ten Championship Game.Before any of those games come, however, OSU (9-0, 5-0) has a meeting with a team that has played spoiler in the past.A trip to Champaign, Illinois, to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini (5-4, 2-3) is on the docket for the Buckeyes on Saturday at noon.While the team understands the season-defining importance of the games following Saturday’s, sophomore linebacker Raekwon McMillan said the team’s coaches have made sure the team is only thinking about the task immediately ahead.“With (coach Urban) Meyer’s mentality, and our whole coaching staff’s mentality, it’s one game at a time,” McMillan said. “We really don’t worry about what’s down the road or what’s two weeks from now, we have to worry what’s right now and what’s coming at this time.”The Illini have given the Buckeyes trouble in the past in “trap games.”In 2007, Illinois came into Ohio Stadium and stunned the No. 1 Buckeyes. In three of the next four years following that game, the Illini put up a fight against OSU, losing by 10 points in 2008 and 2011 and 11 points in 2010, though the 2011 meeting saw OSU as the underdog pulling off an upset victory.However, Meyer’s arrival in 2012 has been accompanied with a turnaround in that trend.In Meyer’s three games against Illinois, the Buckeyes have won by a total of 96 points, scoring 167 points.Previously for IllinoisIt has been a season of change for the Fighting Illini, as the team fired its coach Tim Beckman just one week before the season, replacing him with interim coach Bill Cubit.Then, on Monday, the school’s athletic director Mike Thomas followed Beckham out the door following a report detailing mistreatment of football and women’s basketball players.Amid the high rate of turnover off the field has come an equal rate of inconsistent play on it.After a strong start to the season that saw the Illini start 4-1 — with its only loss coming against now-No. 23 North Carolina — the wheels came off the bus. In its last five games, Illinois has gone 1-3.That stretch featured a three-game losing streak, with competitive losses to No. 5 Iowa and No. 25 Wisconsin by nine and 11 points, respectively. However, the third game was a 39-0 thumping at Penn State.The Illini bounced back last Saturday, traveling to West Lafayette, Indiana, to blow away Purdue 48-14.Other than the rushing attack, one of Illinois’ strengths this season has been forcing turnovers, as it has come away with 11 interceptions, second most in the Big Ten. Redshirt junior safety Taylor Barton has led the way with four picks.Illinois is led by a strong run game anchored by the tandem of redshirt senior Josh Ferguson and true freshman Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who combined for 313 yards rushing against Purdue.“This team is going to try to establish the run, but it’s up to us to stop it,” McMillan said.Ferguson missed two games before the Purdue game but came back with 133 yards against the Boilermakers.“He’s a spark for that team,” McMillan said. “He wants to be that playmaker, so they’re going to put the ball in his hands a lot.”Back to full strengthAfter OSU lost a starter on the defense to the injury for the first time this season in the last two games, it appears the top 11 will be getting back to full strength on Saturday.Senior defensive tackle Tommy Schutt made his return to the depth chart for the Week 11 matchup after missing two games with a wrist injury.Though he will still have to wear a cast on the field, Schutt’s return comes welcome for a defensive line that rotated redshirt senior Joel Hale and redshirt sophomore Michael Hill in Schutt’s absence.For the season, Schutt has 20 tackles, including four for a loss.While not missing more than part of the fourth quarter, redshirt senior Braxton Miller is also expected to be able to play.Meyer said the H-back suffered a neck injury when his head was thrown to the turf on a tackle, but he should be fine for Saturday’s contest.OSU will also be getting redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett back following a one-game suspension for a citation for operating a vehicle impaired.“I think it’s going to be a good thing,” redshirt sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall said about Barrett. “He’s proven himself as a great player, so we’re looking forward to having him back with the offense and the team.”Up nextThe Buckeyes are set to finish up their home schedule in a key Big Ten East division game against No. 13 Michigan State on Nov. 21. Kickoff is scheduled for either noon or 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.
OSU Coach Urban Meyer sounds his whistle before the first game of the 2016 season against Bowling Green on Sept. 3 at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 77-10. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo EditorIn 2013, the Big Ten Conference released the 2016-17 schedules for football, along with plans for a nine-game conference schedule for each of its 14 teams. The adoption of the schedule brought the Big Ten in line with the Pacific-12 Conference and the Big 12 Conference, and brought about discussion of the rest of the Power 5 conferences adopting a similar conference.Nebraska coach Mike Riley praised the approaching nine-game conference schedule at Nebraska’s Monday press conference according to Brian Rosenthal of Huskers.com. Riley is familiar with the format, after spending time with the Pac-12 as the head coach of Oregon State.“I like it this way,” Riley said. “I know you have to play everybody in your division, and since our conference is so big, I think having those other league games that aren’t in your division are good games for everybody to play in and to watch.”With the addition of an extra in-conference matchup, the resume for a team vying for a spot in the College Football Playoff can be bolstered by a win against a team within its league. The spot taken by the extra Big Ten game will replace one out-of-conference opponent.The three previous opponents of the fourth nonconference game for OSU have been Florida A&M, Cincinnati and Western Michigan. All games resulted in wins for the Buckeyes.When asked about his viewpoints on the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coastal Conference adding an extra intraleague game, OSU coach Urban Meyer felt Riley had a point. However, he also said he doesn’t worry much about anyone other than the Buckeyes.“I’ve given it zero thought. I think coach (Mike) Riley’s got a good point there,” Meyer said. “But I couldn’t tell you what conferences do and what conferences do not.”Unlike recent years, including this season, the change in the number of conference games has also changed the format of the schedule. Most Buckeye fans are used to having all out-of-conference games to start the season before opening Big Ten play, but this isn’t the case anymore.For instance, OSU will open against Indiana in Bloomington before returning to Ohio Stadium for a matchup against Oklahoma. In 2018, OSU begins the year against Oregon State before facing Rutgers in the second game of the year.With the new format and longer Big Ten schedule looming, Meyer knows how important the next nine games will be. With five teams currently ranked within the top 20, the difficulty level is high for the Buckeyes.“I think our conference is very strong right now,” Meyer said. “Our division is, has to be one of the strongest if not the strongest in college football.”OSU opens Big Ten play after a bye week. The first in-conference foe for the Buckeyes is Rutgers at home next Saturday at noon.
Last month, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced that nobody was elected in this round of Pre-Integration Era Committee balloting — the second straight year that one of the Hall’s era-based Veterans Committees failed to induct a player from before 1973. 1920s2811.0+17.011.3+16.7 1870s01.0-1.01.0-1.0 1970s1727.3-10.328.3-11.3 DECADEACTUALEXPECTEDDIFFEXPECTED W/ PEDSDIFF 1930s2818.1+9.918.8+9.2 Although players who produced the bulk of their WAR before the 1970s make up only 62 percent of the all-time MLB population, they represent 79 percent of all player inductees. Conversely, the 38 percent of players who made their mark since have yielded only 21 percent of Hall members. If we expect legendary talent to crop up in proportion with the playing population of an era, the Hall of Fame hasn’t been paying attention for a half-century.Then again, maybe it isn’t valid to assume Hall of Fame-caliber careers occur in lockstep with the number of players hitting the absolute minimum for consideration. To check whether there was simply a disproportionate number of great players in action before the ’70s, I ran a logistic regression on all Hall-eligible players, predicting whether they would be inducted based on their career WAR relative to the average for Hall of Famers at their position (a la Jay Jaffe’s JAWS).Based on the production of each era’s players, my regression predicts 124 Hall of Famers to emerge before the 1970s; in actuality, 169 players have been elected from that time frame. We would also expect 91 players from the ’70s or later to be inducted; thus far, only 46 have gotten the nod. This implies that recent decades of baseball history, what the Hall refers to as the “expansion era,” have been shortchanged by about 45 Hall of Famers relative to earlier epochs of the game. That conclusion isn’t based on an arbitrary cutoff — these are the standards set by the Hall’s own past selections.Of course, the matter of steroids can’t be ignored. So could the expansion era’s shortfall simply be attributed to voters’ unwillingness to enshrine players (such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens) whose performances would otherwise warrant a Hall of Fame nod? To account for this wrinkle, I added a variable in the regression for whether the player had ever been implicated in the use of performance-enhancing drugs.1Using the same criteria my colleague Walt Hickey and I employed here: Was the player ever suspended for PED offenses, linked to the Biogenesis scandal or named in the Mitchell Report, or did he have a failed drug test leaked to the media? The resulting formula drops Bonds and Clemens down to matching zero percent Hall likelihoods, but it still says the expansion era is about 42 Hall of Famers short of what we’d expect. 1890s1510.2+4.810.5+4.5 For players from the late 1990s and the 2000s, the gap occurs partly because recently eligible players have spent less time on the ballot (and therefore have had fewer chances to be inducted) than their predecessors. But under the Hall’s new rules reducing the years of ballot eligibility, they’ll never get as many cracks at the ballot as players did in the past. And besides, even if we throw out the 1990s and 2000s completely, it doesn’t explain why the ’70s and ’80s are also a collective 23 Hall of Famers shy of what we’d expect.Instead, the biggest explanation boils down to what Bill James called the “expansion time bomb.” Expansion began as early as 1961, with the additions of the Los Angeles Angels and Washington Senators,2Now the Texas Rangers. and six more teams were added by 1969. By 1998, MLB had roughly twice as many teams as it did in 1960.James argued that the Hall of Fame wouldn’t have been affected by expansion at all for about 25 years — and even then the consequences were small, for the time being — but that the effects compounded over time as the ratio of highly accomplished players (according to both traditional and advanced gauges) to inductees grew. Expansion gives more players the opportunity to build Hall of Fame-caliber careers, but it creates a backlog if the voters are slow to account for this by inducting a commensurate number of players. And from the numbers above, it’s clear that the Hall has never quite figured out the expansion time bomb, a problem that continues to grow each year.The good news is that everybody’s ’90s darling, Ken Griffey Jr., will be a lock to represent the decade in this year’s voting, and he’ll probably be joined by Mike Piazza (who was ever so close to induction last year) and other contemporaries. Further, a big change to the makeup of voters — writers who haven’t covered the game in 10 years are no longer eligible for Hall voting — could open the floodgates to more recent players.But for now, the last half-century of baseball has been neglected by the Hall of Fame, and voters have a lot of inducting to do before it’s fairly represented relative to other eras.Read More:Griffey In His Prime Was The Second Coming Of Willie MaysMike Piazza Was More Than A Big Bat 1980s2030.6-10.631.4-11.4 1950s1814.4+3.614.7+3.3 HALL OF FAMERS 1910s1210.8+1.210.8+1.2 1990s930.5-21.525.7-16.7 1960s2123.0-2.023.7-2.7 2000s02.9-2.92.6-2.6 Szymborski is right. Relative to their share of the overall population of Hall-eligible MLB players, those who produced the majority of their wins above replacement before the 1970s — particularly those from the pre-integration era — don’t need their own committee because they’re already wildly overrepresented in the Hall of Fame. In the chart below, we looked at all players retiring in 2009 or earlier with a minimum of 10 career WAR and tracked how many among that group were elected to the Hall. We ballparked 10 WAR as a lower limit because the lowest WAR total for any Hall member whose career wasn’t severely truncated by segregation was Tommy McCarthy’s 14.6. 1940s1310.6+2.410.8+2.2 1880s1312.5+0.513.0-0.0 1900s2112.1+8.912.4+8.6
Based on projected wins or over/under win totals. Data gathered on March 16, 2017.Sources: Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Clay Davenport, Las Vegas Review-Journal 5Cincinnati Reds7470747172.1 neil (Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight senior sportswriter): So let’s get started with the elephant in the room of this division: The Cubs are once again huge favorites — 88 percent to win the division, according to FanGraphs. What can we say about them that hasn’t already been said ad nauseam during their World Series run last year?craigjedwards: Just replace “Will they end the drought?” with “Will they repeat?”neil: Or maybe “Will they form a dynasty?”natesilver: I would say that 88 percent to win the division intuitively sounds very high. We had them at 56 percent last year in a similar-ish situation.craigjedwards: 88 percent is high. Although last season both the Cardinals and Pirates appeared to have better teams than they do this season.natesilver: But bigger picture … What is there to say except that it’s been a while since we had a baseball team that was set up for this sort of long-term success?craigjedwards: They basically have the same team back, with few guys to worry about suffering precipitous aging declines, plus Jason Heyward possibly not being as bad as he was last season.natesilver: Let’s not forget that they’re also up one Kyle Schwarber this year (although he won’t help on defense).craigjedwards: The only question is the pitching rotation. In 2015 and 2016, they had all their top guys healthy and pitching well. It would take a major disaster in the rotation, but if they don’t meet expectations, that is where it is likely to come from.neil: Right — did that pitching performance last year contain a lot of luck in addition to skill? They allowed an MLB-low .255 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), 27 points lower than any other team.craigjedwards: Luck on the pitcher’s part? Yes, but that luck comes in the form of a fantastic defense. That is luck for the pitchers, not luck for the Cubs. That said, their BABIP is going to go up, since even guys who showed no prior ability to suppress contact did so last season. But even if they aren’t quite as good, it is reasonable to expect a low BABIP again because of that defense.neil: Another note on that pitching staff is that they were the oldest in the majors last year. And yet, only two other teams have relied on their starting rotation for more innings over the past two seasons than Chicago has. Is that a red flag? Or does it even matter?natesilver: Pitcher aging is weird. It’s kind of like: you’re good, until you’re suddenly not.craigjedwards: John Lackey is probably the most worrisome, because he is getting to an age where he could all of a sudden be finished.natesilver: I think the question is what sort of reinforcements they could bring in if Lackey turned into a pumpkin, for instance.craigjedwards: Jon Lester has also defied the aging curve over the past two seasons, and his velocity is down this spring, so that is a concern as well. Plus, it will be interesting to see how Willson Contreras plays out defensively at catcher, as he’ll be replacing David Ross as Lester’s personal catcher.natesilver: But let’s keep in mind that the Cubs are not only smart, but rich — so they’re a good candidate to bring a pitcher in at the trade deadline if they need one.craigjedwards: Chicago’s minor league system isn’t as deep as it was, since its young stars are already in the majors (or were traded last year), but there are a few high-end prospects they could move if they needed to.neil: I might also be grasping to find holes in the Cubs just to have something to debate. This staff could probably lose half its value from last year and they’d still win 90+ games.Chicago also seemed to effectively plug the roster holes that opened over the offseason: Lose Dexter Fowler? Here’s Jon Jay. Lose Aroldis Chapman? Here’s Wade Davis. Cut Jason Hammel loose? Here’s Brett Anderson. Like Nate said, they’re getting Schwarber back, too. And I guess it would be hard for Heyward to be worse.craigjedwards: Heyward has to be better than he was last season. Even if he never hits like he did before he got to the Cubs, an average-hitting Heyward with his defense and baserunning is a four-win player.natesilver: But we’re talking about a very high bar that the Cubs will have to clear to keep pace with their performance from last year. It’s incredibly hard to win 100+ games two years in a row these days. The last team to do it was St. Louis in 2004 and 2005.neil: Although maybe the craziest thing there is that, by Pythagoras, the Cubs “should” have won 107 games last year. They underachieved to 103 wins!Even 95 wins this year will probably be enough to take the division, though. Especially if the projections (see above) are to be believed.But I also think those projections are pretty shocking. They have Pittsburgh second?!? I was tempted to think that the Pirates’ 2013-15 mini-run basically ended with the 78 wins they posted in 2016.craigjedwards: Pittsburgh has put itself in a difficult position, trying to contend with a low payroll. Most teams at that end of the financial spectrum — like Milwaukee and Cincinnati, to keep it in the NL Central — can get a few good years in before having to do at least a minor rebuild, but the Pirates are still really close to contending for the next few seasons.neil: What went wrong last season?craigjedwards: Gerrit Cole wasn’t himself, Juan Nicasio didn’t work out as the Pirates’ annual reclamation project and Ivan Nova didn’t arrive until too late in the season. Yet they still weren’t that far off from contending last year, despite a really mediocre season from their best player, Andrew McCutchen.natesilver: The projection systems are all frustratingly non-committal on McCutchen, projecting him to bounce about halfway back instead of either the full recovery or the full collapse. Which undoubtedly makes sense if you average him over a whole range of scenarios. But it seems like there has to be a wide distribution of possibilities there, and that’s very much going to affect the Pirates’ fortunes.neil: Yeah, maybe no team’s season is hinging more on one player’s projection being in the high range rather than the low.craigjedwards: He’s also making the transition to an outfield corner, which is generally not good for a player’s value. But if you are just looking at last year’s defensive numbers (which generally isn’t big enough an indicator of a player’s ability), he’s going to get better just because he isn’t really one of the worst outfielders in baseball.natesilver: I get worried when the indicators for a guy’s athleticism are down. McCutchen doesn’t steal many bags any more. He grounded into a lot of double plays. He’s overmatched in center field, according to the advanced metrics.neil: And the list of McCutchen-like players from history is no help. Some were good after age 30 (Reggie Smith, Andre Dawson); others were already in decline (Vernon Wells, Matt Kemp).The other half of that tandem fighting for second place is the St. Louis Cardinals, who are slated for only 81 or 82 wins if you believe the projections above. Do we buy these third-place projections for St. Louis? Or are they discounting the Cards? (Who still won 86 games last year, with 88 Pythagorean wins.)craigjedwards: The projections for Pittsburgh are all bunched together around 82 wins, while the Cardinals have a couple 84s and a 78 from PECOTA (which keeps their average down). Most of the projections that have the Cardinals higher believe in their pitching and maybe a slight uptick on defense, while PECOTA doesn’t believe in either of those things.natesilver: It’s been a while since I tracked the performance of the different projection systems religiously, but the Cardinals were a team that had a long track record of beating their projections. Maybe it’s because they always tend to be good at player development and have guys play up to their 60th- or 70th-percentile numbers.neil: One area where it seems like there might be a lot of uncertainty is in the pitching, like you mentioned Craig, since their rotation was down from 2015’s fantastic performance. What was different last year, and will they be able to recapture that 2015 form this season?craigjedwards: The blame has mostly gone to the defense, and the Cardinals were pretty bad last year. But they also lost Lance Lynn and John Lackey from the rotation, and Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright weren’t their usual pitching selves.neil: They’ve also done a lot of roster reshuffling and added Dexter Fowler (granting that his fielding metrics are sometimes mixed). Will all that help fix the defense? Or is that just wishful thinking?craigjedwards: I think Fowler will make the defense better. Randal Grichuk moves from center to left, where, defensively, he’s a big upgrade on Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss. So even if Fowler is a bit below-average for a center fielder on defense, it will still make the outfield defense on the whole better than it was last season.They aren’t going to be great on defense, they just need to not be really bad.neil: Final Q on the Cards: Craig wrote last season that Mike Matheny should be fired. Is he keeping this team from reaching its full potential? Or isn’t there research showing that managers don’t really matter very much?craigjedwards: I think tactically, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between good and bad managers, though I’m not sure too many people really defend Matheny’s bullpen management or in-game decisions.natesilver: And isn’t it plausible that managers matter more than they used to, given how bullpens are used these days? That’s an area where you might expect to see quite a bit of difference, especially in the NL, where you also have to account for pitchers hitting for themselves, etc.craigjedwards: Another problem with Matheny is what appears to be a disconnect with the front office. He’s had big problems playing younger players when they are given to him, to the point that trades had to be made. It would be one thing if he just made poor strategic decisions and relied on small samples to determine whether a player was hot or cold, but it is getting to the point where he also has trouble following through with the front office’s plans.This is going to be a big year for Matheny. He got a lot of credit for managing the Cardinals to the postseason, and he will get blame if they don’t make it. That’s not fair, but it doesn’t mean Matheny deserves to keep a job that was a complete gift to him in the first place.neil: Whichever team prevails between Pittsburgh and St. Louis, they and the Cubs are still far, far above the teams at the bottom of this division: the Brewers and Reds.Let’s start with Milwaukee. Over the past few years, the Brewers seem to be emulating the successful teardown/rebuild models seen recently in Chicago and Houston (and maybe Atlanta next). How’s that going for them?craigjedwards: Milwaukee is doing all the right things. They aren’t going to be able to completely mimic the Cubs — they can’t go out and sign big-name veterans like Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist, John Lackey and Jason Heyward — but they are on the right track. They got one of the top prospects in baseball (Lewis Brinson) from the Rangers in the Jonathan Lucroy trade, picked up another one (Corey Ray) from the draft, and they have a handful of pitchers with potential.neil: So what’s the next step if you’re trying that type of rebuilding effort, but without the Cubs’ resources?craigjedwards: Well, the Brewers are carrying half the payroll they had when they were contending, so they have to play younger guys with potential or trade value (Jonathan Villar, Orlando Arcia, Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton) and deal away relievers whenever they seem to have value. The fans in Milwaukee still support the team, and they will do very well if they can get a winner there. The Ryan Braun question looms, and it’s going to be hard to contend with the Cubs, Pirates and Cardinals in the same division. But they’re making progress.neil: Meanwhile, the Reds are kind of a mess. They had one of the worst pitching staffs ever last year — particularly in the bullpen.natesilver: I’ve become slightly obsessed with modern bullpens, and it’s actually sort of hard/amazing to have a bullpen as bad as Cincy’s in an era where you can take a failed No. 4 starter and turn him into a 2.50 ERA / 10.0 K/9 guy.neil: The Reds have also traded away a lot of veterans in recent years — Todd Frazier, Aroldis Chapman, Jay Bruce, etc. — yet still only have the 13th-best farm system in MLB. Should they have gotten more in return prospect-wise? Also, when will Joey Votto join that group? Can they realistically get fair value for him?natesilver: Votto is sort of the Carmelo Anthony of MLB.neil: Although I will say, the Reds have won a championship in my lifetime, unlike the Knicks.natesilver: The Reds ranked 22nd in WAR last year among players acquired through the draft, which isn’t going to cut it in a small market. So I wonder if there isn’t some longer-term work to do on scouting and development.craigjedwards: I think for a small-market team to succeed, one of the biggest factors is starting pitching because it is so hard to acquire, either in terms of cost in free agency or in trades. Having a cost-effective rotation — like we saw with Cleveland last year and the Mets the year before, or even going all the way back to Oakland’s Moneyball days — can make a big difference for a team trying to push itself into contention.natesilver: Just to bring it back to the Cubs, the thing to remember is that even if you had a team with 103-win talent — and the Cubs probably aren’t *quite* there — they’d still only have something like a 15 percent to 20 percent chance to win the World Series, given how random the playoffs can be. So if we’re thinking in terms of dynasties, there’s a question of how we’d measure one. It’s likely to be a *long* time before we see another team run off three World Series in a row, or four in five years, even if they’re the best team in baseball the whole time.neil: That’s a great point. As terrific as the Cubs are, baseball is a lot more chaotic than, say, basketball. So compared with, say, NBA teams against the Warriors, other MLB teams have a much better chance as they target the Cubs. And that also means the Pirates and Cardinals — if not the Brewers and Reds — have plenty of reasons for hope this season. RANKTEAMPECOTAFANGRAPHSDAVENPORTWESTGATEAVERAGE 3St. Louis Cardinals7884808481.4 EXPECTED NUMBER OF WINS 4Milwaukee Brewers7770737072.4 1Chicago Cubs9395959794.9 In honor of the 2017 Major League Baseball season, which starts April 2, FiveThirtyEight is assembling some of our favorite baseball writers to chat about what’s ahead. Today, we focus on the National League Central with FanGraphs writer Craig Edwards and FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver. The transcript below has been edited. 2Pittsburgh Pirates8182838382.1 How forecasters view the NL Central
Curry’s impact on the DubsEffective field goal percentage of Warriors with at least 30 shots taken in each scenario below, 2017-18 The Warriors are hurting. The latest bad news came over the weekend, when the team learned that superstar Stephen Curry, who was just returning from a six-game absence because of a tweaked right ankle, sustained a Grade 2 MCL sprain to his left knee. He joins three other hurt Golden State stars who are currently riding the bench: Kevin Durant has a rib fracture, Klay Thompson has a fractured right thumb and Draymond Green has a pelvic contusion.Coach Steve Kerr has already ruled out the idea of Curry returning for the first round of the postseason. But these other guys will be back. So, how will the Warriors’ offense function without Curry when the postseason starts up? And how should it?To some, these questions might seem pointless, considering that Durant, a fellow superstar, is also on the roster. After all, the possibility of a Curry injury was among the best arguments for signing Durant: Even if Curry goes down, there’d be two other stars (Durant and four-time All-Star Thompson) to count on.1This doesn’t even include Green, the reigning defensive player of the year, who logged a dominant 32-point, 15-rebound, 9-assist outing during Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. But any changes to a powerhouse lineup like the Warriors’ has some impact: Defenses now will have more resources to clamp down on Durant. The challenge then for Golden State is to navigate the increased attention on Durant while not making any wholesale changes to the offensive plan with only nine games left in the regular season. After all, the Warriors want Curry to hit the ground running when he returns, using the same pass-happy system that was in place when he left.There are a handful of things we can likely expect once the other banged-up Warriors rejoin the lineup as expected. The most important: It’s a safe bet that most of the key role players will shoot at least slightly worse without Curry in the picture — a majority of them have performed worse on offense in times when Curry’s been out and Durant’s been playing (compared with their performance when sharing the court with both Curry and Durant). PlayerWith Curry, w/o DurantWith Curry and DurantWith Durant, w/o Curry Effective field goal percentage is a measure of shooting efficiency that accounts for 3-pointers being worth 50 percent more than 2-pointers.Sources: Second Spectrum, NBA Advanced Stats Effective FG% JaVale McGee64.570.472.7 Draymond Green48.755.550.5 Zaza Pachulia44.763.358.3 Klay Thompson63.067.549.0 Stephen Curry62.261.7— Kevin Durant—63.055.5 Andre Iguodala61.344.539.2 Nick Young51.674.048.6 Durant’s offensive performance has also suffered when Curry isn’t playing. Despite being a top-three player in the world, Durant occasionally finds easy looks as a result of the fear that defenses have of Curry getting open along the arc. One indication of the boost Durant gets: Green has completed 16 alley-oops to him over the past two seasons — many of which were sprung while Curry was distracting defenses with fake backscreens. But those were all with Curry on the floor. Without Curry, Green hasn’t found Durant for a single lob during that time period, according to data from Second Spectrum and NBA Advanced Stats.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/draykd.mp400:0000:0002:02Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Durant is still a dynamite scorer without Curry, though — as evidenced by his 45 points per 100 possessions (on 48 percent shooting and 42 percent from 3-point range) in the four games he played mostly without Curry recently. But the downside without Curry is that the free-flowing offense grows more stagnant as Durant isolates more to find his shots. The Warriors go from having 106.0 possessions per 48 minutes when Curry orchestrates the offense to 100.6 possessions per 48 minutes when Durant is on the floor without Curry. And the total number of isolations per 100 plays increases 43 percent, from 10.1 to 14.4, when Durant spearheads the attack without Curry, according to Second Spectrum. The high-octane club goes from scoring almost 122 points per 100 possessions with Curry and Durant to 108 when Durant plays without Curry.A few caveats: Those pace and offensive efficiency numbers, while down considerably, would still rank among the highest in the league. If anything, this merely speaks to how otherworldly the Warriors are at full strength, or at least when Curry is running their offense. Without Curry playing, they would still be favored against just about any team out West, perhaps except for Houston.The Warriors know that, too, and based on their recent history with knee sprains, it seems a foregone conclusion that they’ll take things slowly with Curry’s rehabilitation. Curry of course missed two weeks of the postseason in 2016 after suffering a less severe Grade 1 MCL sprain. He had a 40-point game in his return against Portland but then struggled in the finals (he later suggested that he wasn’t anywhere near 100 percent that postseason after the injury). The team took a different approach with Durant last season — and saw different results. He returned from a nearly six-week absence and Grade 2 MCL sprain to outplay LeBron James and earn the finals MVP.While Durant and the rest of the Warriors await Curry’s return, there are several tactics they could take to both take advantage of the line-ups they will have on the floor and to make sure that Curry can re-enter the offense seamlessly. For one, Golden State would be smart to push the tempo and to screen more on the ball using either Green or Andre Iguodala to set picks for Durant. (The Warriors set about 10 fewer on-ball screens per 100 possessions when Durant is running the offense without Curry.) Both Green and Iguodala are playmakers and are more likely to keep the ball moving than Durant. He’s a good passer but calls his own number for 1-on-1 scenarios far more often than most players do.This is why running more simple screen-and-roll sets could help Durant: Such plays give him a clearer opening for an occasional jumper when he wants one. But they also allow him to share the ball with confidence that he can get it back in perhaps his most lethal position: off the catch, where he shoots a far-higher percentage than when he dribbles several times before launching an attempt.It’s worth noting that the Warriors have generated more points per play out of Durant pick-and-rolls with Green setting the screen this season (1.18) than they have with Curry pick-and-rolls in which Green is the screen-setter (1.08), according to Second Spectrum.2Among NBA pairs who’ve run at least 100 direct pick-and-rolls — meaning that the player associated with the play either shot the ball, was fouled, turned it over or passed to a shooter within one dribble of receiving the ball.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/p.mp400:0000:0001:48Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.For context, the Durant and Green combo ranks second in efficiency among NBA pairs who’ve run at least 100 direct pick-and-rolls, trailing only the unstoppable duo of Curry and Durant.So, no — there’s obviously no true way to replace everything Curry brings on offense. But playing a style that isn’t far removed from what he’s used to could help keep the team in rhythm for when he returns.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
Perhaps better than anything else, player statues exemplify what NBA greats were known for during their careers. A bronzed Michael Jordan is soaring over defenders for a dunk in Chicago; John Stockton and Karl Malone look as if they’re completing another successful pick and roll in Utah; and Magic Johnson, who led the Showtime-era Lakers, is leading a fast break.If Jusuf Nurkic ever reaches this level of immortality — which, OK, is probably a long shot — his statue would display him getting elbowed in the mouth. The 23-year-old Trail Blazers center is good at many things, but he stands alone in the NBA when it comes to getting whacked in the face.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/nurkicreel.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Nurkic was dealt last February to a Portland team that wears black and red, but his 2017 calendar year could best be described as black and blue. He lost two teeth after getting nailed in the mouth while going for a rebound (yet was still hit with a loose-ball foul). Then, while wearing a protective mask to safeguard the replacement dental implants he’d received after that gory episode, Nurkic got elbowed in the forehead — a play that left him with a concussion. So it was only fitting that he’d require stitches during the final week of the year after a bloody collision with the Sixers’ J.J. Redick.These instances were merely the most painful knocks for Nurkic, who’s absorbed at least a dozen considerable dings over the past year or so. One indication of how often he takes one for the team: The Bosnian product has induced a league-high four opponent flagrants this season, twice as many1Quick caveat: It’s not possible to perfectly track who was flagrantly fouled on a given sequence using play-by-play data. The best way to estimate who drew the flagrant is to look at which player shoots the free throws immediately after. But a severe injury that forces someone to leave the game would allow that player’s team to send a different free-throw shooter to the line in his place. as any other NBA player. Setting him apart even more: Midway through the 2017-18 campaign, the flagrant foul calls for roughing up Nurkic have accounted for more than 9 percent of all the flagrants recorded this season — the highest rate induced by a single player in the 21 years that ESPN’s Stats & Information Group has tracked the metric. Aside from the flagrant fouls he’s induced, Nurkic also managed to trigger at least five opponent technical fouls in 2017. Manu GinobiliSpurs2004-058744.6 *Through Jan 10, 2018.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group Blake GriffinClippers2010-11117108.5 Bob SuraCavaliers1996-9713364.5 Blake GriffinClippers2013-149988.1 PlayerTeamSeasonLeague TotalPlayer% of Total Jusuf Nurkic is the most whacked player in over 20 yearsNBA players who’ve induced the highest share of opposing flagrant fouls since the 1996-97 season Blake GriffinClippers2011-129255.4 Blake GriffinClippers2012-1312065.0 Flagrant Fouls Antonio DanielsSuperSonics2003-0410554.8 Kobe BryantLakers2005-0611054.5 Blake GriffinClippers2014-1511965.0 Jusuf NurkicTrail Blazers2017-18*4349.3% The real question in all this, of course, is why Nurkic gets hit as often as he does. When I asked him about this trend, the 7-footer suggested that opponents see it as the only way to hold him in check.“People know what I bring to the table and try to slow me down. I’m not saying they always do it on purpose, but it’s happened like that before,” said Nurkic, who averages nearly 15 points and 8 boards. He was wearing a bandage on his nose at the time when I talked to him, but when I asked if he wears the battle scars with pride, Nurkic seemed confused. “There’s nothing to be proud of when you keep getting hit in the face. It hurts. I’m getting a little tired of it, and I feel the league should protect me a bit more from the hits, but it is what it is. It’s gonna be all right.”It’s unclear what, if anything, the league could realistically do about the blows to the face of Nurkic, who, unlike a high-flying scorer like Blake Griffin, is getting drilled mostly while playing defense.2An NBA spokesman declined to comment, saying the league doesn’t address the way individual players are officiated. In fact, of the eight video clips we just highlighted of Nurkic getting hit, seven involved him standing in the restricted area on defense or trying to grab a board in a loose-ball scenario.In other words: He’s often sitting in the area of the floor where players are most likely to use brute force in order to gain a scoring or rebounding advantage. As a result, he’s caught more than his fair share of stray elbows when standing that close to the basket.Yet there’s some validity to the idea that Nurkic directly or indirectly brings some of these headaches upon himself. While Nurkic denied embellishing contact during our conversation — “Hopefully the referees see it all, because I’m not faking,” he said — instant replay makes it clear that he occasionally baits refs into thinking he’s been hit.“He did a good job of acting it out,” then-Hawks center Dwight Howard said last season after landing a tech for what he deemed to be a Nurkic flop. “He should find a way to make it to Hollywood. Or they are doing films in Atlanta now. He can find a good film right here and do some acting.”And this play, in which Nurkic drew an offensive foul against Denver’s Paul Millsap on a 3-point jumper, is perhaps the best example of him fooling officials without actually putting himself in harm’s way.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/clearflopbruh.mp400:0000:0000:09Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Painless flops like this are a rarity, though. In fact, last week, Nurkic basically flopped his way into a nasty blow to the head. In the midst of trying to draw an offensive foul on LeBron James — one the officials called, despite limited contact between Nurkic and the four-time MVP — Nurkic’s momentum carried him to his right, and he drifted into Jae Crowder’s forearm. All this just to save two points.Retaliation sometimes comes into play, too, particularly with players — even max-contract-level stars — who feel Nurkic has gotten away with a foul or a dirty play. The hard screens he sets, sometimes illegal, may infuriate his opponents and are completely by design — a product of Nurkic’s time in the highly competitive EuroLeague. “(Overseas) we set Zaza screens,” he told Sports Illustrated, referring to Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who had the third-highest offensive foul rate on a per-minute basis last season. “You set a screen, and someone gets injured immediately. You need to earn the points.”Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/crush.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/hardscreen.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.“Guys like that frustrate you a little bit, because I’m trying to get around the screen, but there’s no way to do it when he’s moving,” said Josh Richardson, the Heat guard who gets knocked to the floor at half court in the video above. “If it’s one time, you can just move onto the next play. But if it keeps happening, and there’s no call, some guys might try to send a message.”The son of a 7-foot, 400-pound pound policeman, Nurkic likes to infuse physicality into his play while insisting he’s not a dirty player. On the offensive side, his screens have freed up 194 immediate shot opportunities, the eighth-highest number in the NBA, according an analysis run by STATS SportVu at FiveThirtyEight’s request. On defense, he’s spoken of trying to develop an attitude in Portland similar to that of the rough-and-tumble Pistons from the “Bad Boys” era.Yet ratcheting up the nastiness could result in bringing even more pain Nurkic’s way — an unfortunate reality, given that he’ll want to enter restricted free agency this summer fully healthy.Blazers guard C.J. McCollum, asked why he believes Nurkic takes so many blows, described his teammate like the final boss on a video game. “I think Nurk is so big that you have to hit him harder than anyone else in order for him to actually feel it. He’s just huge,” McCollum said. “People feel like they have to foul him hard to send a message.”Check out our latest NBA predictions.
Sophomore defensive back Najee Murray has been suspended from the team, according to coach Urban Meyer.Meyer said Sunday the reason for Murray’s suspension is “a training camp issue.”Initial reports were that Murray had been dismissed from the team. OSU spokesman Jerry Emig said Wednesday that there have been no updates on his status since Meyer said he was suspended at OSU Media Day.Murray played in six games in 2012, mostly on special teams, before he tore his ACL while in practice. He recorded three solo tackles before the injury.Murray did not respond to The Lantern’s request for comment.
He went on: “Our local roads network faces an unprecedented funding crisis and the latest spike in lorries could push our local roads network over the edge.”Lorries exert massively more weight on road surfaces than cars, causing them to crumble far quicker.”This year could be a tipping point year regarding potholes.”Councils, who have experienced significant budget reductions, now face the looming prospect of a bill of £14 billion to bring the nation’s roads up to scratch.”RAC roads policy spokesman Nicholas Lyes said: “We need a roads infrastructure that is fit for purpose and capable of sustaining a buoyant economy as well as supporting improved journey times for all motorists.”A DfT spokesman said: “Roads open up opportunities and vehicles have clocked up a record number of miles in the last year, which is good news for British industry and our economy as a whole.”He added: “Longer-term, HS2 will create new capacity for freight and help get lorries off our roads.” It warned that 2017 could be a tipping point for tackling potholes as the bill for repairing roads in England and Wales could reach £14 billion within two years.This is several times more than councils’ entire annual revenue spending on highways and transport, which was £4.4 billion in England during 2016.The DfT has committed £6 billion for English councils to improve local roads over the current Parliament, in addition to a £50 million-a-year fund specifically for tackling potholes.It has also unveiled plans for high-definition cameras to be fitted to council bin lorries to spot road surface problems which can be treated before they become potholes.The LGA is calling on the Government to inject a further £1 billion a year into roads maintenance by investing two pence per litre of existing fuel duty.LGA transport spokesman Martin Tett claimed motorists should “literally be bracing themselves for a surge in potholes”. Pothole levels are likely to surgebecause roads are being worn down by a spike in heavier lorries, councils have warned.The weight of goods carried by British-registered lorries rose by 5% to 1.7 billion tonnes in the year ending June 2016, latest Department for Transport (DfT) figures show.Heavier vehicles exert more pressure onto road surfaces, causing them to crumble more quickly and form potholes, the Local Government Association (LGA) said.The organisation, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, claimed Government underfunding has left local roads facing an unprecedented crisis and warned that the increase in the weight of lorries could push the network “over the edge”. 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.
Mr Wadsworth also pleaded not guilty to ten charges of indecent assault against seven boys aged under 18 between September 1992 and August 1999.It was alleged that he watched as his wife, who denies 12 charges of the same offence, sexually assaulted the youngsters.The court also heard that Mr Wadsworth “kept watch having in possession a camera” and on another occasion he committed a sex act.On Thursday, Mr Wadsworth, dressed in a dark blue suit with a purple tie, and his wife, who wore a black suit and red high-heels, spoke only to deny the charges.A three-week trial has been listed for May 15 at the same court – the date of Mrs Wadsworth’s 60th birthday.Both defendants, who also previously worked for BBC Radio WM in Birmingham, were granted bail on the condition they did not have unsupervised contact with any children under the age of 18, apart from family members, and that they stand down from any charity work which may involve under 18s. Addressing the pair, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC said: “You will face trial before this court on the May 15.”You must serve your defence case statements by April 10.”You must attend the trial. If you do not, then the trial may take place in your absence, which would be most unfortunate.”Previously a BBC spokesman said: “Tony Wadsworth and Julie Mayer remain off air.”We understand the charges do not relate to their conduct or position at the BBC.”This is an ongoing criminal process and we cannot comment any further.” 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. Two BBC presenters known as the “Richard and Judy of radio” had sex against a tree at a park in full view of children, a court heard.Credit:PA/PA Two BBC presenters known as the “Richard and Judy of radio” had sex against a tree at a park in full view of children, a court heard.Veteran broadcaster Tony Wadsworth, 69, and his wife Julie, 59, are accused of having sex in front of a group of teenage boys in public on five different occasions during the 1990s.They denied five counts of outraging public decency between July 1992 and June 1996 at Warwick Crown Court.The couple, who work for BBC Leicester and are known as the “Richard and Judy of local radio”, were initially charged with the offences last May after being off-air for four months.
Hundreds of years of chess knowledge was learned and then surpassed by Google DeepMind’s artificial intelligence algorithm in just four hours, it has emerged.The astonishing programme AlphaZero quickly mastered the ancient game, before coming up with completely new strategies, which are now being analysed by grandmasters.The algorithm is so extraordinary because it learns from scratch. It has only been programmed with the rules of chess and must work out how to win simply from playing multiple games against itself. When IBM’s supercomputer Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov in 1997, it was because it had been programmed with the best moves. But AlphaZero has learned completely on its own. “It will no doubt revolutionise the game, but think about how this could be applied outside chess. This algorithm could run cities, continents, universes.” The English grandmaster Simon Williams, who runs the GingerGM site, said that the achievement was ‘one for the history books.’“On the 6th of December, 2017, AlphaZero took over the chess world,” he said.“AlphaZero and DeepMind then went on to dominate chess, eventually solving the game and finally enslaving the human race as pets.”David Kramaley, who runs chess education site Chessable, added : “We now know who our new overlord is.“The games AlphaZero played show it can calculate some incredibly creative positional bombs, the depth of which are far beyond anything humans or chess computers have come up with. Chinese Go player Ke Jie competes against Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) program, AlphaGoCredit:Rex Features Gary Kasparov playing against Deep BlueCredit: Rex Features Jon Ludvig Hammer, the Norwegian grandmaster, described AlphaZero’s strategy as ‘insane attacking chess’ which was coupled with ‘profound’ positional play.The DeepMind team eventually want to use the algorithm to solve big health problems. They believe that the programme could come up with cures for major illness in a matter of days or weeks, which would have taken humans hundreds of years to find. The company has already begun using AlphaZero to study protein folding and has promised it will soon publish new findings.Misfolded proteins are responsible for many devastating diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cystic fibrosis.The latest achievement was published online on the site arXiv. 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.