Monday, April 12, 2010

Jay Bruce, Mike Leake, Women's Hoops, Etc.

1. Closing thought about the fraud that is women's basketball: In 2010 UConn led the nation in field goal percentage defense as well as allowing the fewest points per game, so...clearly, the Lady Huskies (or whatever they're called) were the best defensive team in the country. That doesn't make women's basketball a fraud; it simply means UConn played better-than-average defense. What makes women's hoops so dang fraudulent is the fact that UConn also committed fewer fouls than any other team in the "sport." Can you think about that for a moment? Can you imagine a team comprised of Bruce Bowens and Dwight Howards and Lindsey Hunters committing fewer fouls than any team in the NBA? You can't, right? That's because it's fifty miles beyond impossible. Being a great defender means you're physical, and often times too physical. You cannot be a great defender without committing a fair share of fouls. Fact.

When West Virginia's men's team came within a hair of a Final Four Spot a few years back (the Pittsnogle/Gansey squad) I seem to recall a statistic about the 'Neers committing the fewest amount of fouls in the nation. But that made sense! They were atrocious defensively, and generally just tried to outscore their opponent in high-scoring affairs.

But UConn is great defensively while avoiding fouls. Which tells me (a.) they're obviously really good (relatively speaking) but also (b.) evolution is crap.

I've been hearing about the improvement of the women's game since I was in kindergarten, but it's just a joke...always has been. There will always be a few players who are much better than everyone else, and those players will play for UConn or Tennessee. And every time I'm subjected to a game I'll be forced to watch flat-footed blocked shots and shooters treating the ball like an 80-lb. boulder as they attempt a shot from the great distance of twenty feet.

2. Ok, let me make fun of women's hoops a little more. As you know I watched every move Brittney Griner made this March, and it was undoubtedly the best decision I've made in years. Highest of high comedy. It also sent me on a YouTube journey where I quickly discovered that Griner pucnhed some chick in a game this year. The following video is great for two reasons: (1.) Griner pucnhes like a girl, and (2.) the coach of the chick who got "punched" feared that her player might be out for the season. Watch the video and you'll understand why that's laughable.

3. Every time I see a graphic about the absurd cost of attending a professional sporting event, it always references a family of four, and that family is always buying bobble heads and caps and pennants and programs and small Mountain Dews and footlong weiners, and I always pull my goddamn hair out. Can't you just go to a game for three hours without purchasing an endless supply of cheaply-made souvenirs? It's three friggin' hours! Anyway, Rob Neyer recently made fun of the exact same thing, and since I agree with every word of it, I'm providing the bloody link.

4. Last year I suggested that Reds fans were overreacting to Jay Bruce's perceived struggles. It caused quite a stir on Cincinnati sports talk radio and in my inbox. Most people scoffed at the statistic of Batting Average on Balls in Play (or BAbip), and I'm pretty sure it was because it's not as simple as batting average. But some stat freaks, and I think some chaps over at Red Reporter, pointed out Bruce's low line drive percentage as a reason for his low BAbip. The argument made a bit of sense, and I conceded, privately, that my Bruce column was somewhat misguided.

But this year, I'm once again hearing that he'll never live up to the hype, and that his confidence is shot, which makes me want to punch babies. When Dusty Baker sat Bruce on the fifth day of the season to "clear his head," I couldn't take it anymore. I knew -- because I'd watched every one of his ABs -- that Bruce was beating the snot out of the ball, and his line drives were finding gloves on seemingly every occasion.

I did some quick digging, and not surprisingly Bruce's line drive percentage is 32%, best on the team. His batting average on balls in play is an unfathomable .182, second worse to only Orlando Cabrera (whose line drive percentage is understandably 21 points lower)

For the record, Bruce's 2010 line drive percentage is higher than either Albert Pujols or Hanley Ramirez, the National League's two best hitters.

Here's a quick breakdown of Bruce's LD% and BAbip compared to the 2-3-4-5 hitters in the Reds' lineup:

Bruce - 32%, .182

Cabrera - 9%, .167

Votto - 26%, .409

Phillips - 14%, .286

Rolen - 17%, .190

It's true that I'm not completely rational when discussing Jay Bruce, and maybe I want him to succeed a little too much, but that doesn't change the fact that -- no matter how you look at the stats -- Bruce has been remarkably unlucky since the start of the 2009 season.

If you're reading this, Dusty Baker, what that means is that you shouldn't sit Jay Bruce just because Tom Gorzelanny is the opposing starter. Jay Bruce won't improve against lefties unless he faces them! Hello?

5. Finally, am I allowed to strangle the next idiot who compares Mike Leake to Greg Maddux? Because I hear it a lot. I understand that both right-handers are built averagely and share similar fastballs, and I know Maddux at times seemed boring or even unimpressive, but the guy won 355 games. Three Hundred and Fifty Five! I'm a fan of Leake's and everything, but the fact remains: The odds are stacked against him ever recording 100 wins at the Major League level. Settle down, everyone.

-Brad Spieser (


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