Brandon MossOAK.374.571.380+.006 PlayerTeamProj.wOBASpringwOBARevisedwOBADiff. Andrew McCutchenPIT.402.666.407+.005 Abraham AlmonteSEA.335.267.330-.005 Jose TabataPIT.340.105.334-.006 Mike MoustakasKC.321.615.331+.010 A.J. PollockARI.337.503.344+.007 Corey HartSEA.367.209.358-.009 Kolten WongSTL.313.514.326+.013 Ryan SweeneyCHC.325.098.317-.008 Ruben TejadaNYM.315.142.309-.005 Austin JacksonDET.354.544.360+.006 (Revised wOBA is what we would expect for the players’ 2014 wOBA after we factor in their spring performances.)At the other end of the spectrum, the projected everyday players whose poor showings in spring training are most likely to cost them during the regular season are 2013 rookie sensation Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers, the Mariners’ Corey Hart, and the Cubs’ Ryan Sweeney and Junior Lake. Travis d’ArnaudNYM.318.206.312-.006 Going into the 2013 baseball season, you would have been forgiven for thinking Marlon Byrd’s days as a relevant player were behind him. He was 35 years old, an age at which most players’ skills have deteriorated significantly. He was coming off a miserable year, one in which he hit .210/.243/.245, was discarded by two teams (the Cubs and the Red Sox, who combined to go 130-194 on the season) and received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for the banned substance tamoxifen.1It remains unclear when exactly Byrd was using performance enhancing drugs, and how much of a residual effect they had on his horrendous 2012 season. Although he signed a minor-league deal with the Mets in February, few thought Byrd would even be serviceable in the upcoming season.Then Byrd went on a tear in spring training. He hit .357/.393/.571 in exhibition games, was subsequently named the New York Mets’ opening-day right fielder and went on to put up the best year of his career — in New York for five months of the season and later, after a trade, as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first playoff team since 1992.With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to connect the dots and declare that Byrd’s hot spring set the tone for his renaissance season. But is that what happened? Does an unusually strong March have any predictive power over a player’s performance once the games count?The answer is … well, sort of. To find out what that means for this year’s crop of spring standouts, I looked into all the data since 2006, the earliest season for which MLB.com lists spring-training statistics. Using wOBA, an advanced metric to measure a batter’s offensive performance,2I used the harmonic mean of plate appearances in each sample as the weights. I ran a weighted correlation3A quick primer on correlations: They measure the linear relationship between two variables, on a scale that runs from -1 (strong negative relationship) to 1 (strong positive relationship). The closer to 0, the less of a relationship there is. between performance in the spring and during the regular season. It revealed a weak relationship between the two variables, at best.4The correlation coefficient was 0.189, which is relatively feeble.You can see that weak relationship below. Each dot on the graph represents a player’s season plotted according to his spring training wOBA and his corresponding regular season wOBA.We also have access to information beyond a player’s spring-training statistics. In the case of a veteran player like Byrd, we know his track record from recent seasons and can use that data to inform expectations for the forthcoming season.But there’s a more sophisticated way to see if spring training matters come the regular season: Use a linear regression5Even quicker regression primer: this method seeks to model a linear relationship between two or more variables. The advantage of regression here is that it can estimate the impact of an increase in one variable (spring training wOBA) while holding the other (preseason projected wOBA) constant. to determine the predictive significance of spring training after controlling for expected performance. And as luck would have it, establishing a baseline of expected performance is where statistical forecasting systems6Such systems seek to set an expected level of performance for each player based on his age, previous statistics and sometimes even comparisons to similar players. can come in very handy.One of those systems was developed by sabermetrician Tom Tango, who releases a set of projections known as the Marcels (so named for the pet monkey from the show “Friends”) before each season. These projections are “so basic that a monkey could compute them,” but they perform no worse than far more sophisticated projection systems — a testament to the fundamental power of a weighted average of recent seasons and a simple aging adjustment. The sabermetricians (and brothers) Jeff and Darrell Zimmerman took the time to calculate historical Marcel projections for players going back to 1901, which we can use to build our regression.We then find that spring productivity is statistically significant when predicting actual performance in the upcoming season, even after controlling for a player’s Marcel projection. However, while significant, the effect is extremely small: To raise his expected regular-season wOBA by just a single point, a typical player would need to hit for a wOBA roughly 17 points higher than expected during the spring.In other words, spring numbers can and should affect our predictions for a player’s regular-season production, but only slightly, and only after a particularly strong or weak performance.Among players likely to get playing time (a minimum of 400 plate appearances, according to Fangraphs’ depth charts), we should keep an eye on the likes of the Tigers’ prospect Nick Castellanos, the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong, the Royals’ Mike Moustakas and the Mariners’ Brad Miller, all of whom are tearing up opposing pitching during the spring thus far. And the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen, last year’s National League MVP, could be even better than expected this year given his spring. Skip SchumakerCIN.313.471.319+.006 Junior LakeCHC.351.166.344-.007 Brad MillerSEA.342.566.352+.010 Nick CastellanosDET.337.484.350+.013 PlayerTeamProj.wOBASpringwOBARevisedwOBADiff. Jose ReyesTOR.364.228.359-.005 Yasiel PuigLAD.397.147.387-.011 Yoenis CespedesOAK.352.145.345-.007 Dustin AckleySEA.316.496.323+.007 There’s no guarantee any single one of these guys will use the spring to propel himself to a great regular season — or, conversely, that a rough spring portends certain doom — but the data says these players are more likely to diverge from their projections now than they were just a month ago.
This weekend, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks will be in Sydney to play Major League Baseball’s Opening Series. MLB’s effort to sell the sport in a new market is seemingly asking a lot of the two teams involved. If either squad gets off to a rough start after returning stateside, you can bet there will be plenty of talking heads ready to blame the jet lag from a 15,000-mile round trip to Australia.We can quickly look at whether past teams put in similar situations suffered. From 2000 to 2012, MLB sent eight teams to Tokyo, which is about 2,000 miles closer to the continental United States than Australia. But Tokyo should still be a decent proxy for the trip the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are making (both flights exceed 10 hours).If you’re not interested the nitty-gritty statistics, skip the next paragraph, but suffice it to say we’re comparing how we would expect these teams to perform to how they actually performed.The nitty-gritty statistics: Using a weighted average of Pythagenpat records from the previous two seasons, I established projected “true talent” winning percentages for the globetrotting teams and their opponents in all April games after they came back to the U.S. I plugged those numbers into Bill James’ Log5 formula (factoring in MLB’s traditional 54 percent home-field advantage) to estimate the number of post-travel games each team should have won. If there was a big difference between the expected win totals and the number of games won, then perhaps there is something to the jet-lag theory.Here are the results: 2008Boston Red Sox0.5430.593 2012Seattle Mariners0.4310.455 2012Oakland Athletics0.5170.455 Total0.4950.497 2000New York Mets0.5630.625 YearTeamExp. Win %Actual Win % 2008Oakland Athletics0.4870.593 2004Tampa Bay Devil Rays0.4260.316 As it turns out, the teams involved in Tokyo games went on to finish April winning at almost exactly the same clip that was expected from their preseason projection (on average, these teams played about 23 games in April). This is far from a definitive study, but the early returns say it’s unlikely that any residual travel effects will contribute to a monthlong malaise for Los Angeles or Arizona. If either club struggles next month, they probably won’t have the Land Down Under to blame. 2004New York Yankees0.5390.524 2000Chicago Cubs0.4370.360
In tennis, the better player doesn’t always win. Sometimes, she loses in straight sets.Imagine if basketball, football or hockey games were decided by which team outscored the other in the most periods. Get outscored by 20 points in the first quarter, and it’s no problem, you just have to eke out the last three by a point each to take the game.That’s sort of how tennis works. Win more sets than your opponent, and you win the match — even if your opponent played better throughout. These anomalous results happen rarely, but more often on grass, the surface of play at Wimbledon, which started this week.This can be extremely frustrating for recreational players, and, in the heat of the moment, for pros. But given time to cool down, players whose paychecks depend on the tennis’s quirky scoring structure are at peace with its occasional oddities. Some even prefer things this way.“I think that’s what’s great about our sport,” American pro Rajeev Ram said in an interview last week after losing in the last round of Wimbledon qualifying; he’ll play in the tournament’s doubles draw. “You have to finish the job. You can’t run out the clock.”Ram was speaking from recent experience. Just the week before, he’d lived and died by this scoring quirk. Playing a grass-court event in Nottingham, England, Ram faced Tatsuma Ito in the quarterfinals. Ito dominated the match statistically. Ram won just 23 percent of points when Ito served. Ito won 30 percent of Ram’s service points. The ratio of return points won, or the dominance ratio (DR), was 1.33 for Ito. Typically a player with a DR greater than 1 wins, because of the symmetrical nature of the sport.1To win a match, you have to win more sets than your opponent. To win a set, you either have to break your opponent’s serve more times than your serve is broken, or break serve the same number of times and win more return points in the tiebreaker. To break serve more often, it helps, naturally, to win more return points. Yet Ram managed to edge the second-set tiebreaker, 10-8, and win the match. He played what we might call a lottery match, and hit the jackpot. Samuel Groth of Australia in action during his first round match Monday against Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine at Wimbledon. Al Bello / Getty Images The next day, Ram was a lot less lucky. He faced Samuel Groth, the Australian man who hit the fastest serve ever recorded — 163.4 mph. Ram outplayed Groth, winning 32 percent of return points to Groth’s 21 percent. Ram’s dominance ratio was 1.53, but he didn’t dominate. He earned seven break points, but couldn’t convert any. Groth didn’t get any chances to break. Both sets went to tiebreakers, and Groth won each one. Afterward, Ram tweeted, “Won 6 fewer points yesterday and won..won 5 more points today and lost. This is definitely not basketball.”Groth, who won his Wimbledon qualifying match last week just as Ram was losing his, said afterward he’d make no apologies for his Nottingham win. “That’s just tennis,” Groth said. “It’s a bit of a cliché, but whoever is better on big points wins.” Groth added, “Grass can be a bit of a lottery.”The data bears this out. Wacky outcomes like Ram’s pair of lottery matches happen more often at Wimbledon than at the other Grand Slams. Since 1991,2The first year for which match-level data is available. 8.8 percent of completed Wimbledon men’s matches have been lottery matches, won by the player who was less successful at protecting his serve than his opponent. At the other three Grand Slam tournaments, that proportion ranged between 6.4 percent and 6.6 percent, according to data provided by Jeff Sackmann of Tennis Abstract. Over all men’s matches for which data is available,3More than 95,000 provided by Sackmann, covering all tour-level matches since match stats have been archived plus some challengers and qualifying tournaments. 7.5 percent end in this odd way.Grass is more of a lottery because the ball’s low, skidding bounces reward big servers. They can stay competitive even while being outplayed simply by holding on to their service games and entering the sport’s version of soccer’s penalty kicks to decide draws in knockout matches: tiebreakers. And that’s especially true in the men’s game, which is more serve-dominated than women’s tennis.4Men hold serve more often than women, as women’s returns are stronger relative to their serves than is the case for men.Perhaps the most memorable run of lottery-match luck was Goran Ivanisevic’s at Wimbledon in 2001. The Croatian wild card won both his semifinal and final despite winning a lower percentage of return points than his opponent did in each of the five-set matches.Already at this year’s Wimbledon tournament, men and women have won lottery sets and matches. Groth was better than Alexandr Dolgopolov in the second set of their match Monday, but lost that one and the other two to exit the singles tournament. Kimiko Date-Krumm, the oldest player in the draw at 43, won a higher percentage of return points than Ekaterina Makarova but lost in three sets. Leonardo Mayer and Dusan Lajovic won five-setters despite winning a lower percentage of return points than their opponents did.In the fourth set of his match against Andrey Kuznetsov, Dan Evans won a greater percentage of return points. If Evans had won the set, he’d have extended the match to a fifth and deciding set. But instead Kuznetsov won it in a tiebreaker, 7-5. In Evans’s post-match press conference, a reporter asked, “There was nothing to choose between you really, was there?” The Briton responded, “No, just the scoreline and the sets.”Even among all the grass-court lottery matches, Groth-Ram stands out. Among the more than 61,000 other straight-set wins for which data is available, just two times did the winner have a lower DR than Groth did.The sport’s time-tested scoring system has many virtues, even if total fairness isn’t one of them. Its symmetry makes players alternate the deuce and advantage sides, switch sides of the net, rotate serving and returning. It guarantees that a player trailing by a big margin gets all the time it takes to stage a comeback, provided she performs well enough to earn that time. It keeps matches that are lopsided short, and lets close matches take all the time they need.“It’s the beauty of the sport,” Denis Kudla said last week on the lawns of the Bank of England Sports Centre, just after clinching a spot in Wimbeldon’s main draw. “At the end of the day, whoever wins was the better player.” That maxim applied, in his mind, to a match he still remembered from three years earlier, when he beat Ivo Karlovic — on grass, of course — in a lottery match. “Sometimes these stats are funny,” Kudla, a 21-year-old American, said. “It’s cool when you do win less points, and do win.”Being on the other end of one of these matches is less cool. Ante Pavic, at that same Nottingham tournament earlier this month, was in control of his second-round match against Miloslav Mecir, leading 6-3, 5-3. Mecir turned around the match, if not his level of play, beating Pavic despite winning just 29 percent of return points to Pavic’s 36 percent. “I wanted to break all the rackets,” Pavic recalled. “That’s how angry I felt.” Luckily he spared three of his sticks, which he used to qualify for Wimbledon, where he won his first-round match Tuesday.Benjamin Becker has lost a dozen lottery matches in his pro career. Yet the 33-year-old German doesn’t mind the possibility of such bad luck. “You have just to deal with it,” Becker said in an interview Monday after winning his first-round match at Wimbledon. “It doesn’t bother me. It makes tennis interesting.”
We’ve seen all this before. And it was not so long ago.On Tuesday night, with his Houston Rockets up 2 against the streaking Portland Trail Blazers, a little more than three minutes on the clock, James Harden made a three. A few possessions later, he made another. The Rockets won 115-111 to go to 57-14 on the season, best in the NBA and four games up on the reigning champion Golden State Warriors. On both shots, Harden took what would have been called hero ball shots in another context. No other Rocket touched the ball; everyone in the arena knew what Harden would do, and how. Harden has made these shots his signature and his team’s by finding success where others have found only stacks of Rudy Gay box scores. And while the league has come to view the shot as not just unguardable but reliable, it has at times waffled on whether Harden’s team can be trusted. Funny, given the recent history of ascendant teams led by star guards with an unguardable shot.Just a few seasons ago, a team was led by two star guards who hadn’t found much success in the postseason thanks to a history of injuries and bad fortune. It featured a young big man who anchored the defense and epitomized a key facet of modern offenses. It boasted a sixth man who would have been a featured starter on practically any other team, a roster loaded down with dead-eye marksmen and a fleet of versatile wings who could switch assignments and not fall down. This team won the NBA title.(Key: Steph, Klay, Draymond, Andre, just about everyone else, and the top-ranked 2014-15 defense.)The 2014-15 Golden State Warriors were an unexpected development. The team had won 51 games the previous season under then-coach Mark Jackson, and the roster was largely unchanged coming into that season. Once the season began, however, it was clear that something was very different. Golden State won 21 of its first 23 games and finished the season with 67 wins, ranked first in defensive rating and, importantly, second in offensive rating, up from 12th the season before. Yet a broad set of NBA observers doubted that a team playing the way the Warriors did could win a title, even after they’d already won it.This season, the Rockets ran out to a 25-4 record before losing seven of nine games. In each of the losses, they were missing Harden, Chris Paul or Clint Capela. Since then, Houston has lost just three times in 33 games. FiveThirtyEight’s projections expect the Rockets to win 67 games total, up from their tally of 55 last season. They have the top-rated offense not just this season, but for as long as Basketball-Reference.com has been keeping track. They sneak into the top 10 on defense this season as well, an improvement on 18th the previous season. They’re flat good. But you know that by now. What’s important here is that when a team is this good, regardless of what its doubters say, the question isn’t whether it has arrived but whether it will win the title or merely its conference.There are a few ways to slice this. Since 1983-84, this year’s Houston team ties for 20th among all teams in net rating (the difference between points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions) through 71 games. That’s a bigger deal than it may seem, for a few reasons. First, the teams ahead of this season’s Rockets are immensely accomplished. They include four Michael Jordan teams, three Tim Duncan teams, two Laker teams — one Shaq and Kobe, another Magic and Kareem — one Kevin Garnett Celtics team and, of course, the past three versions of the Golden State Warriors. In general, teams at Houston’s level at least win the conference. The teams that didn’t make the finals tended to have extenuating circumstances. The 2012-13 Thunder, for instance, were the top seed in the West but lost Russell Westbrook in the first round and fell to Memphis in the second. The 2011-12 Chicago Bulls lost reigning MVP Derrick Rose in the first game of the first round. And the 2015-16 Spurs faced an exceptionally high level of competition, losing in the second round to a Thunder team that went up 3-1 on the Warriors.1These rankings tend to be sticky. Meaning that the list after 25 games looks a lot like the list after 45 games, which looks a lot like the list after 65 games. Teams shift around a few places, but they do not tend to bomb in or out of the rarified neighborhood. We know that the early season is predictive in sports because players tend to be healthy and rested, but it’s also good to remember that teams playing at an all-time level are seldom flukes.Net rating isn’t the only factor in which Houston is dominating, and as Benjamin Morris wrote for FiveThirtyEight a few seasons back, margin of victory is actually far less predictive in the playoffs than it is in the regular season. In fact, it’s Houston’s wins that make it a playoff force. In the postseason, the difference between two teams’ win totals is much more predictive than margin of victory. If the Rockets finish with 67 wins and the Warriors finish with their projected 61, Morris’s data from his 2016 article suggests that given home court advantage, Houston would win a series 70 percent of the time — even if the two teams were dead-even on margin of victory.The Rockets may not be quite as good as the Warriors were in that first season or as Golden State was in the 73-win 2015-16 campaign. But, then, neither are this year’s Warriors. The team’s injury troubles and continuing sloppiness have turned it into a merely dominant team, not an all-time one. Even if we grant the Warriors a few extra victories because their injury problems have been worse than Houston’s, it would make a prospective series between the two a coin flip, not heavily slanted toward Golden State.And like the Warriors, the Rockets aren’t simply unguardable as a team: They have a player who has mastered an unguardable manner of playing. Harden doesn’t have the same switchblade release as Curry — he can’t dart around a ball screen and have a shot in the air before his man can turn his head. What Harden can do is get just about any switch he wants, thanks to the level at which he and Paul are running the pick and roll, and then, in isolation, he can walk into his now-trademark step-back threes.The pull-up three is increasingly a staple of modern offenses, as defenses have adjusted to the off-ball maneuvering that good offenses use to free up shooters. Harden leads the league in pull-up threes per game, taking 8.0 and making 39.0 percent of them. Paul is third on the list, taking 5.2 per game and making 38.5 percent of them.2The Blazers’ Damian Lillard sits between the two at 5.4 pull-up threes per game. As a team, the Rockets are taking 16.5 pull-up threes per game and making 35.9 percent. The next-closest team, the Los Angeles Clippers, takes 10.0 per game. Even if its primary pick-and-roll engine sputters, Houston has an entire extra, independent dimension to carry its offense through dry spells, like Curry’s pull-ups or like Kevin Durant’s mastery of contested shots in last summer’s finals.Nothing the Rockets could do this season would make them meaningful favorites to most NBA fans against a healthy Warriors team in the playoffs. Nothing the Warriors could do would do that, either. That’s probably correct: There are many things most projection systems, like FiveThirtyEight’s CARM-Elo, can’t spot, such as player injury, which undermine the edge Houston holds by the numbers. Golden State is a dominant champion with what is now a considerable track record of excellence. It’s tough to be favored heavily against that. But there is also now sufficient evidence to declare that Houston is squarely in Golden State’s weight class, just as there was for Golden State when it arrived on the scene.Check out our latest NBA predictions.CORRECTION (March 22, 2018, 5:15 p.m.): A previous version of this article mistakenly said that James Harden played in Houston’s Jan. 4 loss to Golden State. He was out with a strained hamstring.
OSU redshirt junior Josh Fox wrestles against Nebraska’s Aaron Studebaker during a match at St. John Arena on Jan. 17. OSU won 21-17. Credit: Muyao Shen | Asst. Photo EditorHalfway through the 133-pound match, the wave broke out in St. John Arena. It was that kind of night for the Ohio State wrestling team against Wisconsin, as the Buckeyes dominated the Badgers on their way to their 10th team victory.In its final dual meet of the year, OSU left little doubt as to the team it will be presenting in the Big Ten and NCAA championships. The Buckeyes picked up eight individual victories in a fitting send-off to the graduating seniors.The first half of the dual meet began at 165 pounds with one of the most anticipated matches of the night between redshirt sophomore Bo Jordan and his first cousin, redshirt junior Isaac Jordan.In a rematch of last year’s 165-pound weight class Big Ten championship match, it was the Jordan from Wisconsin who came out on top. Bo Jordan was unable to find any holes in the defense of Isaac Jordan and scored no takedowns. He ended up dropping the bout 6-4.The loss was Bo Jordan’s first of the year.Freshman Myles Martin got OSU back on the right track against redshirt sophomore Ricky Robertson, picking up a 12-1 major decision victory. A four-point near fall was key for the victory for Martin.Robertson only scored once on an escape, and Martin cruised to his 23rd win of the year.The 184-pound weight class was up next, and Kenny Courts kept the momentum going for the Scarlet and Gray with a thrilling sudden-victory win. Courts scored a key escape in the third to force the match into the sudden-victory period.With the score deadlocked at 4-4, Courts shot in and scored a takedown to pick up the 6-4 win over redshirt freshman Ryan Christensen. Courts extended OSU’s lead to 7-3.Senior Mark Martin returned to the mat after missing the last few dual meets to earn a hard fought 6-3 win over redshirt sophomore Eric Peissig. Martin started the action quickly with a takedown in the first 30 seconds, before both wrestlers retracted to a defensive mindset.Martin controlled Peissig and dictated the match, not allowing any takedown attempts to sneak through, while also earning his third Big Ten victory of the year.Heavyweight was next up before the intermission, and sophomore Kyle Snyder rounded out his short season with another major decision. The 25-11 win gave him three major decisions this season.Snyder used speed to break through the defense of redshirt senior Brock Horwath and power to secure a flurry of takedowns. After his overwhelming victory, the world champion spoke volumes about the seniors who were making their last home appearances.“It was good being able to wrestle with the seniors one last time,” Snyder said. “It was exciting being able to compete with them one more time here before we split ways.”After the intermission, redshirt sophomore Nathan Tomasello capped off a stellar regular season at 125 pounds with a technical fall win over sophomore Johnny Jimenez. The bout started slow, but soon both wrestlers attacked. Tomasello picked up multiple takedowns to stretch out a lead.Near the end of the third, after Jimenez was whistled twice for caution, Tomasello picked up a 20-5 win with one last takedown. Jimenez was clearly frustrated with the match, and he threw his headgear as he was running back to the locker room.Johnni DiJulius started off his match at 133 pounds with a thunderous takedown of redshirt freshman Jens Lantz. The expected starter for Wisconsin, redshirt junior Ryan Taylor, did not start in the dual meet.DiJulius rounded out his OSU career with a 10-2 major decision win. The win extends the redshirt senior’s career mark to 111 wins, which is good enough for 17th all-time at OSU. At this stage, the Buckeyes were ahead 24-3.After watching his brother sustain a tough loss, redshirt freshman Micah Jordan commanded his bout against redshirt sophomore Gabe Grahek. Micah Jordan started off quick with a takedown, and he found himself up 5-1 at the end of the first.Micah Jordan prevented any further scoring from Grahek and scored a late reversal to put himself up 10-1, as well as earn a major decision.Even with the Buckeyes riding on high with seven straight individual victories, the crowd fell silent after redshirt senior Hunter Stieber lost 6-4 in sudden victory. The loss didn’t quiet the crowd, but the reaction by Stieber did.Stieber was pushed backwards by redshirt sophomore Tyler Crone, and the referee stopped the bout. Stieber clutched his at his leg after the match, and put no weight on his right knee as he was helped form the mat by OSU trainers. He received a standing ovation from the crowd in St. John Arena.After Stieber left the mat, the night rounded out with one more OSU victory, as redshirt freshman Jake Ryan scored the only fall of the night against redshirt junior T.J. Ruschell. Right before the midway point of the second period, Ryan caught his opponent in a favorable position, and capitalized.“I kind of smelled blood a little bit,” Ryan said with a smile. “I ran as hard as I could and put all my energy into (the takedown).”Overall, the Scarlet and Gray picked up a 34-6 team win. The victory gave OSU its 15th Big Ten win in two seasons, which is the most in a two-year period in the history of the wrestling program.Buckeyes remember one of their ownBefore the match began, there was a moment of silence for former OSU wrestler and two-time NCAA champion Kevin Randleman. Randleman died suddenly Thursday night due to complications from pneumonia.Randleman won the national championship at 177 pounds back-to-back in 1992-1993. OSU coach Tom Ryan spoke on the kind of person Randleman was after Friday’s match.“He was a gentle soul; a tireless competitor,” Tom Ryan said. “He had tremendous respect for what it took to compete at this level.”
Then-sophomore pitcher John Kuchno (45) throws the ball during a game against Northwestern May 6, 2012, at Bill Davis Stadium. OSU won, 4-1.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorEven though Columbus is currently experiencing some of its warmest temperatures this winter, the Ohio State baseball team isn’t quite tepid enough.A week after splitting a four-game tournament slate in Florida, OSU (2-2, 0-0) looks to bounce back as it returns to the Sunshine State this weekend for its second tournament in as many weeks.The Buckeyes are set to be a part of the UCF Tournament in Orlando, playing host Central Florida Friday, The Citadel Saturday and Oklahoma Sunday.Redshirt-junior pitcher and first baseman Josh Dezse said it is important OSU has a productive week of practice and rolls into this weekend with a mindset to win.“They are going to be three great teams. These are teams we can’t take lightly. Any games we can’t take lightly if we want those 40 wins to get into the national tournament at the end of the year,” Dezse said. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to play Buckeye baseball like we know how to play, and hopefully the outcome is in our favor.”Even though Central Florida has a reputation for a being a strong ball club — one that has made it to the NCAA Tournament two of the last three years — junior outfielder Pat Porter said OSU should be in the thick of it Friday.“It should be a good game. I hear they have some pretty good guys and they’re a pretty solid team,” Porter said. “I think we’re a really solid team too though and we can definitely hang with them.”Senior pitcher Greg Greve and junior pitcher Ryan Riga look to set the tone for the Buckeyes in Orlando as the top two starting pitchers in OSU’s rotation.Riga, who led the Buckeyes to a 1-0 win over Auburn Feb. 15 with six shutout innings was named Big Ten co-Pitcher of the Week, the conference announced Tuesday.“Riga was just on point against Auburn. We couldn’t ask him to throw a better game than that. It was very impressive,” Dezse said.Junior pitcher and closer Trace Dempsey said the Buckeyes have to work on slowing down the game and other fundamentals this week in practice.“We got exposed in a couple areas of the game. It showed there is always stuff to improve on,” Dempsey said. “We’re going to work on that this week here at practice, get a good week of practice in and head down to Orlando.”Scoring no runs in the first or second innings of their first four games, the Buckeyes are aiming to get baserunners on early in Orlando, Porter said.“We talked about how important each pitch of the game is and how important getting the first batter on base is,” Porter said.Dempsey added that even if the Buckeyes do get behind early, they have the ability to compete in any situation.“We can play from behind and we can come out hot early — we can play all facets of the game,” Dempsey said.After missing all of last season with a stress reaction in his back, Dezse said he was relieved to get a hit in the Buckeyes’ first game of the season against Connecticut last weekend.“It was really nice because I know I was stressing just a little bit. It’s been a while since I’ve been on the field and getting that (hit) out of the way really loosened me up,” Dezse said.With the first weekend behind them and the season underway, all that matters for OSU moving forward is getting victories, Dezse said.“Obviously, we started out hot with two wins and we played OK, but then OK wasn’t to our expectation,” Dezse said. “We expected to play a little bit better than that. What we take away is we have some things to work on.”First pitch between OSU and Central Florida is set for 7:05 p.m. Friday.
Then-junior defensive lineman Michael Bennett (63) celebrates a tackle during The Game Nov. 30 at Michigan Stadium. OSU won, 42-41.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorSpring practice holds different levels of importance for college football programs across the country.Some look to prepare for that next necessary step toward becoming elite, some look to completely reload after losing key members from a winning team the year before, while others still are dwelling in major transition periods while they welcome new leadership.The Ohio State Buckeyes could be considered to be in the latter as they sit mere hours from their annual Spring Game at Ohio Stadium, after co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash as well as defensive line coach Larry Johnson were brought in to help revamp the OSU defense and get it back to championship level.The two coaches — along with head coach Urban Meyer and the rest of the staff — have preached the “4 to 6 seconds, point A to point B” mantra all spring long, and they’ll finally get to show the fans what they hope is an improved squad Saturday.“We had six units operate at capacity and three units that did not,” Meyer said Thursday on the Big Ten Teleconference regarding the 2013 team. “I’ve had people ask me that question, ‘(Why are you) changing the culture, you just won 24 straight?’ No, we’re enhancing our culture. We’re making it better.”Meyer said as the Buckeyes head into the annual intrasquad scrimmage, the pass defense — particularly on first down — has “drastically improved,” which is likely to be pleasing to OSU supporters. That unit gave up 268 yards per game last season, good for 112th in the country. The defense as a whole gave up 1,014 yards in OSU’s two losses last year — to Clemson in the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl and Michigan State in the 2013 Big Ten Title Game — which put a stop to its 24-game win streak.“You’re only as good as your last game. You’re only as good as your last practice, and our last two games weren’t that great,” senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett said Thursday on the Big Ten Teleconference. “But last year we did some really good stuff in the beginning of the season but kind of trailed off in the end for whatever reason. It’s important to look back and figure out why you trailed off so that it doesn’t happen again. It’s not about blaming people, it’s just about, find the problem and learning how to fix it.”Meyer said Wednesday he looks forward to the Spring Game as not just “another practice” because it allows him and his staff to evaluate players on a bigger stage. He echoed that statement Thursday, saying it’s not really for the guys who have that experience to get snaps.“That’s not really what spring games are for — I know what their reaction is going to be in front of a nice crowd,” Meyer said. “What I want to see are the skilled athletes that need to go learn how to make plays and let the fans watch them and have some fun doing it.”Meyer touched on the fall schedule as well, which sees two new conference opponents in Rutgers and Maryland added to it.“I think it’s great,” Meyer said of their additions to the Big Ten. “Plus, being the main attraction, the main conference on the eastern seaboard … I know that’s a big goal of the Big Ten.”Some new toys Meyer has on offense to combat those new foes are freshman wide receiver Johnnie Dixon and freshman H-Back Curtis Samuel, who he said Wednesday are both in the rotation offensively. Bennett agreed with his coach on the latter, adding that redshirt-sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones is also impressed him in place of the injured senior Braxton Miller. Miller’s been out all spring after having shoulder surgery.“I’d say the freshman Curtis Samuel, and Cardale’s been doing pretty well,” Bennett said. “Other than that, I haven’t paid too close attention.”A total of seven freshmen enrolled early as part of yet another top five recruiting class for Meyer, and they figure to be put to the test plenty Saturday once the Spring Game starts at approximately 1:30 p.m.“If you want to have a practice, have a practice,” Meyer said. “If you want to somehow arrange it so a receiver has to go beat a guy in coverage and catch a pass and hear the crowd roar, I mean that’s real. I think that’s one of the unique things we get at Ohio State.”
The eight names and numbers hanging up at Ohio Stadium honoring five Heisman Trophy winners and two OSU greats. Credit: Hayden GroveWith the names Ohio State’s first five Heisman Trophy winners already on display at Ohio Stadium, the school is set to honor its most recent winner during the Buckeyes’ regular-season finale.Former OSU quarterback and 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and his No. 10 will be honored during halftime of the Nov. 29 contest between OSU and Michigan, OSU announced in a press release Saturday.Smith is set to join former OSU football players Les Horvath, Eddie George, Vic Janowicz, Howard “Hopalong” Cassady, Archie Griffin, Chic Harley and Bill Willis as the only Buckeyes in the history of the program to have their names and numbers displayed at Ohio Stadium.“Being recognized like this from such a prestigious university like The Ohio State University usually doesn’t happen until later years down the line, so this is a special time in my life and an important time,” Smith said in the release.OSU vice president and athletic director Gene Smith said that the accomplishments of No. 10 throughout his career merited this recognition.“It’s time to honor one of our all-time greats. Troy’s playing days are over,” Smith said in a statement. “His accomplishments and achievements are legendary. And we are so proud to be able to recognize this young man by honoring his name and number in Ohio Stadium.”Smith’s nine total touchdowns, 857 total yards and 3-0 record against Michigan are amongst the best numbers for any OSU quarterback against the Wolverines.Smith’s No. 10 is currently worn by freshman defensive lineman Jalyn Holmes. He will continue to wear that number throughout his career, as OSU has made the decision to no longer take jersey numbers out of circulation in any sport when they are honored, according to the release.The release added that the 18 numbers already retired by OSU will remain retired going forward.OSU is scheduled to play Indiana on Saturday at noon at Ohio Stadium before taking on the Wolverines next weekend.
Britain’s biggest jail where prisoners will be called “men” rather than “offenders” and the governor insists that the rooms are not cells has started welcoming inmates. Criminals arriving at HMP Berwyn will find a laptop, TV and phone in their en-suite rooms and be able to make use of the all-weather football pitch and gyms when they are not in classes. Prison officers will have to knock before entering the rooms, which will not be referred to as cells, and the men will not be referred to as offenders or ex-offenders, to try to prevent them living up to the label. Governor Russ Trent has said that he wants it to be “truly rehabilitative” but critics have questioned whether the facility is too soft. He said: “The opportunity we have got at Berwyn is we have got staff that understand the principles of rehabilitation and the desire to give men in custody the hope that they can have a better life in the future. ” The facility also has a full-sized 3G football pitch, gyms, an education block, workshops, sports hall, multi-use games areas, a health and wellbeing centre, and multi-faith centre. Inspirational posters adorn the walls with messages including “Look to the future with ambition and hope” and “Big journeys begin with little steps”. There will even be a scout group at the prison for the children of those behind bars. Mr Trent said that the men are punished when they are taken away from their homes and families, so whilst in prison they should have decent conditions and live a life as normal as possible. It is the first in a series of new “super-prisons” to open its doors and was last month heralded by Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary, as proof that the system is being modernised. HMP Berwyn gymCredit:Daily Post Wales But Philip Davies MP, who sits on the Justice Committee, warned that for their to be trust in the system the public needed to see justice being done. He said that the perks they had sent a “terrible message”, adding: “You can rehabilitate people without giving them the creature comforts that many of my constituents could not afford such as a computer in their room.” The prison is run in a collegiate system, like Oxford and Cambridge universities, and is split into three blocks of 700 so the men have more of a sense of belonging. At the moment, only one block is operational. The blocks are broken up into 24 communities, which can hold up to 88 people. There are even specific communities for armed forces veterans. Staff say the smaller communities make the men easier to manage and will help foster a better atmosphere. The other blocks are scheduled to open in May and late July. HMP Berwyn cell where prisoners have access to a phone, computer and TV in their room Credit:Daily Post Wales/Cascade Any suggestion that it will be “cushy” has been rejected by Nick Dann, the deputy project director. “They are not prisoners, they are men. If you keep calling someone an offender or ex-offender, that’s how they will act,” he said. “If they start off with the mindset that this does not feel like a prison, we are hoping they will act like it is not a prison as well. “When Nelson Mandela was in custody, he wrote about the importance of normality. The more normal you make it on the inside, the easier it is to transition when they get out.” Costing £250m to buid, the Category C prison can hold up to 2,100 inmates, making the biggest in the UK and one of the biggest prisons in Europe. A cell at HMP Berwyn complete with a TV and phone Credit:North Wales Daily Post HMP Berwyn communal areaCredit:Daily Post Wales Mr Trent, a former Royal Marine who was seen as a trouble shooter, has said that the facility will be run on ‘Mandela Rules’, a United Nations standard aimed at making life in prison as similar as possible to life on the outside. Therefore the inmates, who started arriving on Tuesday, will find their rooms kitted out with technology to make their lives as “normal” as possible. Laptops will not have access to the internet but will be used by the men to arrange visits, order meals for the week and do their weekly shopping, as well as complete any work related to their studies.They will have phones in their rooms which can call approved numbers “so they can ring their children at night and say goodnight”. He had previously told staff he didn’t call the men in custody prisoners or offenders and claimed that by describing their living areas as rooms not cells it was “giving them ownership of it and how they live in there and how they keep it clean and tidy”. Michael Gove, then Justice Secretary, said that his approach was “absolutely right” as “the principal purpose of prison is rehabilitation”. 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.
The decline in Anglicanism may have slowed thanks to a resurgence in patriotism and pride in Christianity, a report has found. Academic Stephen Bullivant said that the growth in non-religious people has slowed and Anglicanism has seen a small uptick since 2013. The professor of theology and the sociology of religion at St Mary’s University in Twickenham said that the church was recovering after losing a lot of believers after the publication of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion in 2006. He also said that a rise in patriotism might be linked to greater pride in Christianity among some groups. “People see Christianity as an expression of Englishness. There has been more rhetoric around Britain being a Christian nation.”People are looking for ways to connect with others. I suspect a larger proportion of people who do say they are Anglican tend to be patriotic,” he said. The figures, which are based on an analysis of the British Social Attitudes Survey and the European Social Survey, show the the proportion of people who say they have no religion rose to a high of 50.6 per cent in 2009. It has been static or lower ever since and reached 48.6 per cent in 2015. Meanwhile the proportion who say they are Church of England worshippers has risen from a low of 16.3 per cent in the same year to 17.1 per cent in 2015. The report says: “The proportion of self-describing Anglicans in Britain has more than halved, from 40 per cent in 1983, down to 17 per cent in 2015. “That said, the past three years are worth highlighting. If talk of even a modest Anglican revival would be premature, one certainly can speak of a newfound stability.”Professor Bullivant added that the release of Dawkins’ book had stopped a lot of latent Anglicans from describing themselves as Christian. “That book was really aimed at those people who said they were Anglican but didn’t really believe in God,” he said. “So a lot of them stopped ticking Anglican on the forms and started to tick atheist instead.”He said that numbers could have stopped falling because the church is now left with a groundswell of genuine believers – and efforts to attract new worshippers could be working. “After decades of bad news, this is certainly welcome for the Church of England,” he said. “If I was in the Anglican Church I would be celebrating this.”The Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, said: “The report tells us that the past four years have shown a gentle increase in the number of people who see themselves as Anglicans.“In Liverpool, where I am bishop, we say that want more people to know Jesus and more justice in the world – a message of personal relationship and community action. In my experience that message remains attractive to people in this increasingly self-centred and lonely world.”The report also shows that one in four people who say they are of no religion pray.The Bishop of Manchester David Walker, said: “Part of our calling is to help these many people who pray to deepen their prayer, and to help those who come along to our services, who may not at present call themselves Christians, to find both a warm welcome and the presence of God.”Last month a BBC survey found that one in ten non-religious people believe that Jesus did rise from the dead and one in five believe in live after death. However, Professor Bullivant also found that 61 per cent of those who now say they are of no religion were brought up as Christians, suggesting that many people are still deserting Anglicanism.In the past figures have suggested that a small recovery in Anglicanism may have taken place, but this is the first full analysis to show the trend. 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.