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What to Watch for This NFL Season

August 21, 2013 Leave a comment

Mike Ridley’s thoughts on what to look out for this NFL season.

The Sports Accountant

With the NFL season being a mere 15 days away, I thought this was the appropriate time to give a short list of things I think are worth watching in the NFL this year. Some things may be solely based on my rooting interest as a Cowboys fans, while others may have a historical or league-wide ripple effect.

Can Calvin Johnson score this year?

I’m sure many NFL fans are wondering whether or not Megatron can repeat his performance from last year (short answer: Yes, have you seen Detroit’s receiving corps?), I’m more interested in seeing if he’ll actually find his way into the end zone this year. Johnson’s touchdown rate of one for every 24.4 receptions is the sixth-lowest rate in league-history for a receiver with 100 receptions.

According to Football Outsiders Game Charting, Johnson was tackled an uncanny seven times on the 1-yard line last season. SEVEN times…

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MLB Power Rankings August 19-25th

August 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Mike Ridley’s First Power Rankings

The Sports Accountant

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta BravesIn an effort to keep more regular posts on the site without scouring my brain for creative topics to write about, I’ve decided to take on Major League Baseball Power Rankings, since almost all respectable (and non-respectable) sites have them. It’s something where I get to express my opinion and you get to argue with me about it. These will continue on until I release my first college football rankings, which should happen right around the time the regular season wraps up, with maybe a week of overlap.

*Important note: Unlike my college rankings, which are purely statistically based, my MLB rankings will feature no special formulas and will be completely subjective.

Due to the fact that I don’t have the time to do a deep dive into every team, but also want to provide info on more than a few teams (ala Jonah Keri), I’ll be…

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The Dodgers Scare Me to Death

August 16, 2013 Leave a comment

From Mike Ridley’s new Sports Accountant blog.

The Sports Accountant

la_g_yasiel-puig_mb_600Thanks to the Dodgers being based out of Los Angeles, arguably the second-most covered sports market behind New York (Boston is neck-and-neck), the entire world has been aware of L.A.’s recent tear through the National League. As ESPN Stats & Info noted, the Dodgers are the first team since the 1944 Cardinals to go 40-8 or better during a 48 game stretch. That’s a mind-boggling .833 win percentage. To put that in perspective, the Major League record for highest win percentage belongs to the 1906 Cubs, with a mark of .763, thanks to a 116-36 record (no, they didn’t win the World Series then, either).

The Dodgers, courtesy of the emergence of Yasiel Puig, have been media darlings. They have gone from an overpaid group of underachievers to the hottest, most feared team in baseball. As an avid Braves fan, I’m scared to death at the thought of facing the…

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Cell Phone Contracts and Critical Thinking

August 7, 2013 Leave a comment

Admittedly, this post is out of our typical genre, but it’s something that bugs me and is way too long for a Facebook rant, so I decided this was the best medium to voice my opinion. 

While browsing the Internet today, I came across a T-Mobile ad, promoting zero money down on a new iPhone 5. What a great deal right? Well then the small print shows up. Customer will pay $27 a month for 24 months, which continue even if the customer cancels service with T-Mobile. So how much does $27 a month for 24 months become?

$648! (Although, this is $1 cheaper than buying it off Apple’s website.)

This comes in comparison to the $200 price you’d pay if you locked yourself into a two-year contract with your preferred cell phone provider, which comes with the obvious early-termination clause. These clauses seem to be the root of these no-contract phone plans. People don’t like being locked in. But looking at it from a financial perspective, the answer is obvious, which we can show through two situations.

Situation A:

You buy the new phone from T-Mobile and pay the $27 a month for two years. Even with the argument of the time impact on the value of money, you’re still looking at spending $620 present-day dollars. However, you’ve got a new iPhone that you use for any provider that supports the same structure as T-Mobile.

Situation B: 

You buy a new phone from any of the other Big Four (AT&T, Sprint & Verizon) for $200. Even if each of them requires a $35 activation fee, you’re looking at $235 before you start service. The very next day, you cancel your service, and receive a bill for your $4 in fee from one day of use, plus the early termination fee that ranges from $325 (AT&T) to $350 (Verizon& Sprint) (Interestingly enough, T-Mobile has the lowest cancellation fee at just $200, regardless of device). So to get to the same outcome as Situation A, you’ve reached a grand total of either $565 or $589, still saving up to $55 present-day dollars.

*If you want to make the argument that you would have to pay for one month worth of service in Situation B, that’s fine, but we’d also add that into value received. To compare that to Situation A plus one month of service, you still come out ahead.

Moral of the story: Don’t let these no-contract plans fool you. Wireless companies wouldn’t be offering them if they didn’t have something to gain. Each situation is different, but make sure and do the math before you decide one way or another. If you can’t do the math, make sure you get a phone with a damn good calculator and preferably a common sense app.

 

The Braves: Where Do They Go From Here?

August 2, 2013 Leave a comment

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta BravesWell, after a very extended hiatus (one so long, in fact, I needed a short tutorial on how to work WordPress again), I’m finally back. For those who care (all three of you), the absence was brought about by spending an exceedingly high amount of my spare time doing things that brought no immediate benefit, but will hopefully pay dividends in the future. Additionally, I was also able to be published on ESPN.com once or twice, as well as get a few things on Football Outsiders. Between those, my limited well of creativity was tapped. But I’m back and better than ever here at last.

In my absence, one of my two favorite sports teams, the Atlanta Braves have embarked on what can be best described as a child’s roller coaster ride. After a blistering start that saw them sprint out to a 13-2 start, the Braves battled mediocrity for the following three months, going just 44-43 from April 19th to July 25th. Amazingly, the Braves have actually gained ground on their newly anointed foe, the Washington Nationals, who have managed to go 40-46 during the same time span. So even though the Braves had an eight game lead starting July 26th, they had done little to convince their critics that they were nothing more than an average team relying on a hot start to keep them in front.

What has transpired since has seemingly put the nail in the Nationals coffin while waking up a sleeping giant.

On July 26th, the St. Louis Cardinals came into town for a three-game set sporting the majors’ best record, road record, run differential (by a staggering 43 runs) and the NL’s best offense. The Braves proceeded to allow only three runs and 14 hits combined in the three games, sending the Cardinals into what would become a seven-game tailspin while igniting the Braves homer-or-strikeout offense in one of their best homestands in Turner Field’s history.

After using dominating pitching to shutdown the mighty Cards, Atlanta relied on its offense to top the Rockies (no pun intended, I swear!). In the four-game series, Atlanta scored a total of 40 runs and one of only nine times in the team’s history that it scored nine or more runs in four straight games. What’s scary is that the Braves needed only seven homeruns to amass that total. This season, the Braves relied on the homerun more than any other team in the National League, save for the Cubs, with a homerun-to-run ratio (a way to measure a team’s reliance on the long ball) of 1-to-3.71. Only the Chicago’s 1-to-3.6 was worse.

So what does that mean for the rest of the season?

Obviously, the Braves won’t be averaging 10 runs per game the rest of the way. Nor do they need to. Heading into the weekend, the Braves have the NL’s second-best offense, creating 4.53 runs per game. However, they must be more consistent. The Braves are tied for the second-most offensive shutouts in baseball, trailing only the inept Miami Marlins.

Luckily for Atlanta, their pitching staff is equipped to keep them in almost any game. Their starters have combined for an NL-high 67 quality starts (trailing only Detroit’s 70), while earning the league’s sixth-best ERA for starters. What’s troubling for the Braves’ opponents is that that’s actually the worst part of the Braves pitching staff. Their bullpen, despite the myriad injuries it has faced, has been lights out, featuring the league’s best ERA at 2.55 (Kansas City is second at 2.90). In other words, your best bet is to get ahead early and hope for the best, because scoring on their bullpen isn’t a safe bet.

With two months left, the Braves find themselves with their biggest division lead they’ve had in 10 years and easily the biggest in baseball (nobody else is more than 3.5 games up). With only 53 games left, they have a magic number of only 43 and according to ESPN.com have a 99.6 percent chance of making the playoffs. Even an epic collapse similar to 2011 won’t be enough to derail the Braves from finding games to be played in October. But then what?

While the Braves lead the NL in quality starts, they don’t exactly have a rotation that scares teams in the playoffs. Kris Medlen was dominant down the stretch in 2012, but has been hard-pressed to replicate anything close to those results in 2013. Thanks to Eric Young Jr.’s foot, Tim Hudson is lost for the year. Paul Maholm had an ERA over 5.5 in his last 10 starts before landing on the DL himself. Brandon Beachy was lighting the league on fire before succumbing to Tommy John surgery in 2012. Time will tell if his first start of the season against the Rockies (3.2 IP, 8 H, 7 ER) is an aberration or the new norm. That leaves two pitchers who have pitched well of late (Mike Minor and Julio Teheran), but are hardly the definition of consistency. While both can shut down opposing offenses when focused, no team would want to start a playoff series with these two at the top of the rotation.

The key to the Braves fall success will lie on a consistent offense. Jason Heyward seems to have found a new home at leadoff. He’s hitting .286 and slugging .500 in this spot after putting up a slash line of .226/.330/.385 in his customary second slot. Justin Upton’s power stroke is showing signs of life after hitting just one dinger in July and Andrelton Simmons is starting to find his stroke, hitting .393 with four extra-base hits in his last seven games to go along with his All-World defense. Evan Gattis has helped solidify the cleanup role whie replacing B.J. Upton, providing power between the hot bats of Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann. Speaking of Upton, if the Braves can find any production from him or Dan Uggla in the playoffs, the Braves will feature an offense no team will want to face.

As of the All-Star break, the Braves had the third-highest odds of winning the World Series at 8-to-1. They feature a solid, yet not spectacular starting rotation, a stellar bullpen and a boom-or-bust offense. They have stars who’ve under-performed (looking at you, B.J.) and no names who’ve thrived (I still can’t differentiate Chris Johnson from Reed Johnson). They’re a team that no one wants to face but no one really fears. They could be swept in the Divisional Round or win it all. That’s what makes this team so fascinating and has me so excited for October.

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