Who am I?

I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

Follow me on Twitter: @lhd_on_sports


LHD_PotW (621) MLB (185) NFL (165) NCAA (129) NFL Playoffs (73) NBA (69) NHL (63)

Monday, February 27, 2023

Sportsman of the Week Ending 2/26/2023

Rounding into full Spring Sports and the National Hockey League playoff chase is in full throttle.  One team has completely lapped the rest of the field and is about to lap them again.  The Boston Bruins have been the class of the league from fall until today.  And you don't get this way without epic goaltending.  Linus Ullmark has emerged as the elite net minder in the NHL and had another epic week.  He's won five straight starts allowing 8 goals total.  This week, 2 games, to wins, 2 goals allowed.  Not only that, he scored a goal netting a late goal in a win against Vancouver.  That's doing it all.  The 29-year-old Swede toiled six years in Buffalo before now emerging as the best in the league in his first year over 40 games.  Will be the talk of the Stanley Cup Finals, and our Sportsman of the Week!

Sunday, February 26, 2023

2023 MLB Rule Changes. Is it the end of the beautiful game?

The only thing that is inevitable in life and sports is change.  While conservative (read old school, traditionalist) fans lament anything not like the last.  There is room for improvement in the game in any sport.  But baseball has traditionally been the slowest to move.  With Commissioner Rob Manfred, that has been accelerated with a hyper focus on reducing game length.  Whether shorter games are a desire for fans is in the eye of the beholder.  While 2023 seems like an anomaly in terms of drastic rule changes we've had a number in recent years and this really is just the latest wave.

The lates includes universal DH starting in 2022, COVID introduced but Commissioner kept extra inning ghost runners to speed up the game (and reduce pitcher wear), three batter minimum for relievers (to reduce game time), and limited mound visits introduced in the last 5 years.  In years past, we've lowered the mound (and standardized), allowed instant replay reviews changes of the play (various states of what's reviewable and how it's initiated to include umpire explanations now), changed interference rules for double players, changed blocking home plate rules, implemented pitcher inspections for grip, changed rules for what players could do for watching in game replays, a lot of things.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has made decisions and many fans aren't happy

But it seems like this year's changes seem to cut at more of the fundamentals of baseball.  Baseball is not supposed to have a clock.  The bases have been the same size for a century.  Defenses being able to position where they want is strategy.  Pitchers throwing to a base when desired is just part of it.  Let's break down the impact of the new rules.  It may not be what you think.   Here is from most impactful to least impactful:

1) Limited throws to first base

  • Pitchers are limited to two disengagements (pickoff attempts or step-offs) per plate appearance. However, this limit is reset if a runner or runners advance during the plate appearance.
  • If a third pickoff attempt is made, the runner automatically advances one base if the pickoff attempt is not successful.
  • The bases, which traditionally have been 15 inches square, will instead be 18 inches square. Home plate is unchanged.

While the throw to first lacked results, it kept runners in check

To me this is the biggest change.  The steal a base you need to take a lead with the peril of a pitcher keeping you close.  After a couple of unsuccessful tries, no longer is that threat in play.  Combined with pitch clock timing and easier bases to get to or from, this fundamentally changes strategy.  Pitchers can also no longer use a "B" move to set up the runner for their "A" move.  The base runner is now apt to take bases at a rate of at least 2 to 1 from prior years (stats will tell).  I grew up in an era in which big time baserunners like Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman were automatic doubles so that part goes back to the past and an era I enjoy.  But to artificially tilt the table seems unnecessary.  The guise seems to be to limit thrown to first and step offs.  This is a minor contributor to game length.  I think this is the biggest fundamental change of all.

Does Longhorndave (LHD) like this: No
Does LHD think this is good for the game: No

2) Larger bases
  • The bases, which traditionally have been 15 inches square, will instead be 18 inches square. Home plate is unchanged.

Much more real estate to be safe

This has some pros and cons.  Start with the pros.  More room at 1B for reduced unnecessary contact between the first baseman receiving a throw and a runner hitting the corner.  Also, more room for a runner to hit the base and stay on, I for one am not a fan of a runner being out for hitting a base before a tag, however being caught with a toe or finger off the bag.  More room for a middle infielder to avoid perilous contact.  Con is six inches closer to a stolen base.  Three inches on getting back on what is now a limited pick off.  Three inches closer on the SB.  Opens the aperture for SB's a lot.  Gas on the fire of more SBs which fundamentally changes everything.

Does LHD like this: No
Does LHD think this is good for the game: Neutral

3) Limited shift
  • The four infielders must be within the outer boundary of the infield when the pitcher is on the rubber.
  • Infielders may not switch sides. In other words, a team cannot reposition its best defender on the side of the infield the batter is more likely to hit the ball

Student Body Right is no longer allowed

This to me is fool's gold.  The perception that hitters are significantly handicapped by the shift is more legend than reality.  If you ask a player how many hits got taken away by the shift a year they'll answer 20+.  I've heard experts say it's 5 or 6.  That's one a month.  You think every time the ball is hit to the shift OF guy it's a hit.  But the defense might have been there.  Also minus hits against the shift.  Also, pitchers would throw inside into the shift.  Now they are freed to work the outside of the plate.  This will do a bit for BABIP but when balls aren't put in play (historic strikeout levels) is going to be in the noise.  

Does LHD like this: No
Does LHD think this is good for the game: No

4) Pitch clock
  • The pitcher must begin his motion to deliver the pitch before the expiration of the pitch timer.
  • Pitchers who violate the timer are charged with an automatic ball. Batters who violate the timer are charged with an automatic strike.
  • Batters must be in the box and alert to the pitcher by the 8-second mark or else be charged with an automatic strike.
Large counting down digits are here to stay in baseball

If internet anger is to be believed this is the most egregious of them all.  How dare we have a clock in baseball?  How dare we award balls/strikes for violations?  Let me talk you back from the ledge.  Clocks have quietly introduced into the game the past few years between innings (forcing the pitcher to get his butt out to the mound) and for mound visits (reducing the classic stall to get a reliever warmed up).  This pitch clock has been implemented in the minor leagues for a couple of years with no major impacts.  Now, this is a two "step function" change to the game but the reduction in unnecessary game length may be worth the squeeze.  Most of the current length of game delays were simply head play.  Pitcher waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Step off.  I got you batter now you're not ready.  Batter steps out.  Adjust gloves, mental clear.  Make that pitcher wait.  No value for fans.  I'm not a fan of a clock but given other MLB toothless initiatives (like making the batter have a foot in the box with no recourse) this forces a needed element.  I'm not a fan of a clock.  At all.  But am willing to let this play out.  While I expect to see some key ball/strike calls in Spring Training, rest assured after a six-week training of limits players won't push this in key situations after the All-Star Break.  The stakes are too high.  Related, you probably drive 5 MPH over the speed limit.  Right past a cop.  They don't bat an eyelash.  If there was a system that automatically sent you a ticket if you went 1 MPH over and deducted it from your bank account instantly I'm guessing, you'd quickly adjust to go 5 MPH UNDER the speed limit.  Very quickly.  First week you might get caught once or twice.  Won't happen again.  Pitchers are going to be happy they can dig in and get to work.  Batters are most impacted as many use/need that time to clear their head (seems like early they've been the most violations).  They need to adjust to just take the pitch, pause, get back in.  This is where we're at least seeing big gains unlike the other three and it won't be long until this is normalized.

Does LHD like this: No
Does LHD think this is good for the game: Optimistic

What I think the result will be.  Shorter games.  MUCH shorter games.  Disagreement over whether that's good but I'm okay once normalized.  Lots more stolen bases.  Lots more.  Not much in terms of the shift as outlined above.  More eye candy.

In summary, is this a lot of changes, yes.  Have we also seen a number of changes in years prior, also yes.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Sportsman of the Week Ending 2/19/2023

The Spring Sports season rounds into form now that the Super Bowl is behind us and the first major benchmark is the Daytona 500.  After a winter of quiet, the engines roar on the beach in the Great American Race.  And with the restrictor plate racing, surprise winners are becoming a regular thing.  2023 did not disappoint.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr. survived several crashes and restarts in what became the longest Daytona 500 in history (thanks to new overtime rules).  On the second overtime, as the field wrecked in carnage behind him, he surged ahead of 2022 Cup Champion Joey Logano to secure his first Daytona 500 victory in 12 tries.  The day was categorized by setbacks and Stenhouse Jr. had his share, including a pit violation during the third stage.  But lurking around the front and crafty driving put him in front when it counted.  He's known for his aggressive style of driving and that paid off for JTG Daugherty Racing as he secures the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Monday, February 13, 2023

Sportsman of the Week Ending 2/12/2023

In what is one of the best Super Bowls in recent memory, there were many heroes on the winning team but not often do defensive players get recognized.  But we will do just that.  Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton did everything possible to stop the offensive machine that was the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.  Including score a touchdown.  Almost two TDs (a second score was overturned).  And lead the team in tackles with 8 solo tackles, nine total.  In a game of offenses, Bolton showed why defense mattered.  At risk of the Eagles going up two touchdowns, he pressured Jalen Hurts then scooped a fumble and tied the game at 14.  The halftime score that was 24-14 in reality would have been nearly insurmountable had it been 24-7 or even 31-7.  The Fly Eagles Fly would have happened.  Instead it was just close enough for the Chiefs offense to fire back in the second half and win on the final series for their second Super Bowl in four years.  The Kansas City Chiefs are a dynasty, but it's different players, like Nick Bolton, who make it happen.  A worthy Sportsman of the Week!

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Sportsman of the Week Ending 2/5/2023

The gap week between the NFL Conference Championships, beyond the Australian Open, and before March Madness produces an intriguing and somewhat underdog choice for Sportsman or woman of the week.  This year, we focus on what has probably been the best men's college basketball team over the past two years, the Houston Cougars.  Final Four participants in 2022, they added a talented freshman that may be the person to push them over the top.  Jarace Walker has been a force in the American Athletic Conference and seems to be getting better with experience.  The 6'8" racked up his third and fourth double digit scoring games on a balanced Cougar squad.  He's got inside game and outside game with over 50% shooting from the field, 7-11 from beyond the arc and 11 rebounds in the two wins this week.  Not to mention 5 steals and 38 points overall, all tops on the team.  And the Cougars were the only Top 5 team to win both their contests last week to push their overall record to 22-2.  The Cougars look poised for a March Madness run and Jarace Walker is the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!