I spent a good part of the weekend curled up with the 2008 Pro Football Prospectus, and it goes without saying that it’s required reading if you’re the type of fan who wants to know why things happen on the field, rather than simply accepting the wisdom of things writers think they think.
Taking their cues from the Bill James school of baseball statheads, local boy Aaron Schatz and his fellow writers offer illuminating preview essays of each team (I particularly liked the comparison of the St. Louis Rams offensive line woes to the bubonic plague). There are also unexpected bonuses like an injury-rate breakdown where they attempt to rank the training staffs of each team, and the introduction of “speed score,” which more effectively translates running back draft prospects’ 40-yard dash times.
Even if you’re not too clear on the nuances of Defensive-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA, of course), the writing is sharp and funny and greatly helps translate the metrics. Whereas so much of football analysis is based on reputation and hype, the PFP writers are refreshingly unsentimental toward veteran stars on the wrong end of their careers and unimpressed by rookie fanfare.
So, what can we take from it?
If you’re scoring at home, PFP likes the Patriots (they also have perpetually injured tight end David Thomas on their prospect list) and is down on the Cowboys. They expect Cleveland to take a step back, and Green Bay to be just fine without Brett Favre. Of course, the annual came out before the whole Favre mess had concluded so it doesn’t take the Jets into account with St. Brett, or the Dolphins with Chad Pennington.
This year’s edition is also bolstered by PFP’s ambitious game-charting project, in which volunteers attempt to sift through the rubble of football broadcasts to track things like formations, blitz tendencies, who was in coverage, and offensive line play. You know, the things that merit zero attention by color commentators.
Also of interest is their look at the Giants improbable run to the Super Bowl—it’s even more unlikely than you think.
In the media move of the week, Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan snatched up longtime Herald scribe Tony Massarotti to become the face of boston.com’s sports coverage, and also help offset the loss of Gordon Edes to Yahoo on the Red Sox beat. Receiving less notice, but just as important was Sullivan’s move to free up Chad Finn to write more for the site. Finn’s Touching All The Bases blog is consistently excellent.
At least that was the media move of the week, until WEEI.com signed up Deadspin founder, and NY Magger, Will Leitch as a regular columnist. WEEI has what it is known as a “soft launch” up on their site now, which means that they have added columnists, but haven’t done the down and dirty redesign yet.
All the doings lead to an inevitable question: Is the Herald in danger of becoming obsolete?
Watched most of the Pats second exhibition game against Tampa and the only thing that I know for sure is that I never want to have Sterling Sharpe anywhere near the television booth of a game I’m trying to enjoy. Did he really say that Wes (112 receptions) Welker is a decent return guy and has a chance to be a pretty good receiver?
Sure, sure, sure, the Pats would be bad without Tom Brady (and half the offensive line). We know that. But while I thoroughly enjoyed Mike Vrabel’s quote (“We’ve got a lot of [expletive] work to do. Put that in the Globe and print it.”) in Chris Gasper’s story, I refuse to read too much into a preseason game.
Paul Byrd gave the Red Sox exactly what a fourth starter should in his first outing Saturday—innings and a chance to win. That he was matched up with peerless Roy Halladay and thus on the wrong end of a 4-1 loss does little to dampen the feeling that Theo Epstein pulled off a coup when he acquired Byrd from the Indians for cash.
But unless pithing guru John Farrell can get Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz straightened out, the Sox may not get into position to make that move on Tampa that everyone seems to think is imminent. The difference between getting the wild card or winning the division, of course, is a first round series starting in the Los Angeles section of Anaheim, or having home field advantage against the White Sox or the Twins.
The playoffs are a crapshoot indeed.