Author Archive: Jerry Tapp

Today’s Sportstat: June 13, 2019

The first to four wins gets the crown

Let’s start with a quick quiz…

How many teams in NBA history have won the first game in an NBA Finals series, was the first team to win two games in that series, was the first team to win three games in that series, but failed to win the fourth game and thus lost in that NBA Finals? One, two, four or six? (Answer towards the end of this article.)

After the Golden State Warriors lost Game One to the Toronto Raptors in this year’s NBA Finals, Warriors guard Klay Thompson made the following statement answering those critics who thought the team was already in trouble after that first loss:

“It’s first team to four (wins), not the first to one (win).”

He’s absolutely right, but does being the team to win Game One in an NBA Finals series matter? Does being the first team to get that second win in an NBA Finals a good thing? Does being the first team to three victories in an NBA Finals the “golden ticket” to a championship?

Let’s try to answer these questions based on the 72-year history of the NBA Finals…

  • Teams that won Game One in an NBA Finals series went on to win that series 51 of 72 times (70.8%).
  • Teams that were the first to win two games in an NBA Finals series went on to win that series 61 of 72 times (84.7%). For the record, in four of the last eight NBA Finals, the team that was the first to win two games in an NBA Finals did not win the title (Miami in 2011, San Antonio in 2013, Cleveland in 2015 and Golden State in 2016).
  • Teams that were the first to win three games in an NBA Finals series went on to win that series 63 of the 72 times (87.5%). Here are the nine times in the NBA Finals when a team was the first to win three games in that series but could not win that fourth game and the championship:

1955: Fort Wayne (first to win three games), Syracuse won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

1962: L.A. Lakers (first to win three games), Boston won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

1969: L.A. Lakers (first to win three games), Boston won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

1978: Seattle (first team to win three games), Washington won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

1988: Detroit (first team to win three games), L.A. Lakers won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

1994: New York Knicks (first team to win three games), Houston won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

2010: Boston (first team to win three games), L.A. Lakers won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

2013: San Antonio (first team to win three games), Miami won Games 6 and 7 and the title.

2016: Golden State (first team to win three games), Cleveland won Games 5, 6 and 7 and the title.

All of the above stats are good news for the Toronto Raptors; they won Game One of this series, they were the first team to win two games and the first team to win three games in their NBA Finals series against Golden State.

There is, however, a precedence that bodes well for the Warriors if they win Game 6. There have been four times in NBA Finals history where a team lost Game One of the NBA Finals series, and their opponent in that series was the first to get two wins and the first to get three wins in the series, but those four teams won the title. The four times this has happened: L.A. Lakers in 1969, Washington in 1978, Miami in 2013 and Cleveland in 2016.

So, the answer to the above trivia question is four teams… the 1969 Lakers, 1978 Sonics, 2013 Spurs and 2016 Warriors each lost the NBA Finals that year after winning Game One, and being the first team in the series to win two games and three games; they, however, could not get that fourth win in that NBA Finals series to capture the championship.

 

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

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Today’s Sportstat: June 10, 2019

Yelich, Moustakas challenging Brewers record for most HRs before the All-Star break

Through games of June 9, the Brewers have a pair of players near the top of the list for most home runs this season: Christian Yelich leads the majors with 24 long balls while Mike Moustakas is tied for third with 20.

Yelich and Moustakas became the 15th and 16th players in Brewers history to have 20 or more home runs before the All-Star break. When you consider there are 25 more games remaining on the schedule (as of June 10) for the Brew Crew before this year’s All-Star Game on July 9, Yelich and “Moose” could put up some pretty impressive home run numbers before the All-Star break.

Yelich has 24 HR’s in 59 games and is on a pace to have 34 homers at the All-Star break; Moustakas has 20 HRs in 59 games and is on a pace for 28 home runs before the All-Star Game. Prince Fielder holds the Brewers record for most home runs prior to the All-Star Game with 29… he did it in 2007. That means that Yelich has a very real chance of surpassing Fielder’s record of 29 and Moustakas could certainly make a run at that number as well.

Fielder is currently one of four Brewers players to have 25 or more HRs before the All-Star Game. The others: Jeromy Burnitz (26 in 1999), Carlos Lee (26 in 2006) and Richie Sexson (25 in 2003). There are three players who are tied with Yelich with 24 home runs before the All-Star break… Jesus Aguilar (he had 24 last season), Greg Vaughn (24 in 1996) and Ryan Braun (he had 24 in 2012).

Yelich could make a run at becoming one of only a handful of MLB players to have 35 or more home runs before the All-Star Game. As noted above, he is on a pace to have 34 before the All-Star Game. The MLB record is 39 held by Barry Bonds; he did that in 2001. Here are the six players who had 35 or more home runs before the All-Star Game in baseball history.

Barry Bonds, 39, 2001

Mark McGwire, 37, 1998

Reggie Jackson, 37, 1969

Chris Davis, 37, 2013

Luis Gonzalez, 35, 2001

Ken Griffey, Jr., 35 in 1998

 

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

Today’s Sportstat: June 6, 2019

Seven years without hitting the baseball

I came across this quote a couple of weeks ago. It is attributed to Yankees great Mickey Mantle. According to the “Mick”:

“During my 18 years (in the majors) I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and I walked maybe 1,800 times. You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at-bats a season. That means I played seven seasons without hitting the ball.”

Think about that for a second…. seven years without hitting the ball.

It got me thinking about whether or not Mantle was the only player who might fall into this category. To establish the standard, I looked to see how many players, like Mantle, had more than 1,500 strikeouts and 1,500 walks in their careers. There are six players on this list:

Barry Bonds (1,539 strikeouts, 2,558 walks)

Jim Thome (2,548 strikeouts, 1,747 walks)

Harmon Killebrew (1,699 strikeouts, 1,559 walks)

Mike Schmidt (1,883 strikeouts, 1,507 walks)

Mickey Mantle (1,719 strikeouts, 1,733 walks)

Rickey Henderson (1,694 strikeouts, 2,190 walks)

(Note: Tally up Thome’s strikeout and walk numbers and it adds up to 4,295. Using Mantle’s example, that’s eight and a half seasons without hitting the ball!)

I also wondered how many players had seasons “without hitting the ball,” specifically, how many players had a season where they had more than 150 strikeouts and 150 walks. There is only one player that fits into this category: In 1998, Mark McGwire ended that season with 155 strikeouts and 162 walks, just about a strikeout and a walk each game that season.

If we drop the numbers down to 125 strikeouts and 125 walks in a season, there have been a dozen players who have reached the 125-125 milestone in a season. Three did it in two seasons… Jack Clark, Joey Votto, and McGwire. The other nine players who have done it once: Aaron Judge, Adam Dunn, Bryce Harper, Frank Howard, Jeff Bagwell, Jim Thome, Jim Wynn, Mike Schmidt, and Tony Phillips.

For the record, only one Brewers player ever had a season with 100 or more strikeouts and 100 or more walks in the same campaign, and he did it in three consecutive seasons; Prince Fielder in 2009 had 138 strikeouts and 110 walks, in 2010 he had 138 strikeouts and 114 walks, and in 2011 he had 106 strikeouts and 107 walks.

 

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

Today’s Sportstat: June 3, 2019

Can Toronto become first NBA team to win their NBA Finals debut since 2006?

The Toronto Raptors are the fifth NBA team since 2000 to make their NBA Finals debut; the Indiana Pacers played in the NBA Finals for the first time in 2000, the New Jersey Nets were a first-time NBA Finals team in 2002, the Miami Heat made their NBA Finals debut in 2006 and the Cleveland Cavs made their first appearance in the NBA Finals in 2007.

Of the four teams that made their debuts in the NBA Finals since 2000, only the Miami Heat in 2006 won the title that year.

Going back to the NBA first championship in 1947, there have been 26 teams that have played in the NBA Finals. Of those 26, only 10 won the title in their debut in the Finals. Of those 26, three of those franchises eventually folded: the Chicago Stags, Baltimore Bullets and Washington Capitals. Of the 30 current NBA franchises, 24 franchises (including this year’s first-timer Toronto) have played in the NBA Finals. The six franchises that have not played in the NBA Finals are: the L.A. Clippers, Charlotte, Denver, Minnesota, New Orleans and Memphis.

Following are the 10 NBA franchises that won the championship in their NBA Finals debut… will Toronto become the 11th to do so?

Philadelphia Warriors-1947 (Currently the Golden State Warriors)
Baltimore Bullets-1948 (franchise no longer in existence)
Minneapolis Lakers-1949 (currently the L.A. Lakers)
Rochester Royals-1951 (currently the Sacramento Kings)
Boston-1957
Milwaukee-1971
Portland-1977
Chicago-1991
San Antonio-1999
Miami-2006

 

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

 

Today’s Sportstat: May 30, 2019

Bill Buckner: Underrated, Underappreciated!

The sports world lost another memorable athlete this week when former major leaguer Bill Buckner died on Monday of dementia at age 69. Buckner may not have been the iconic sports personality that was Bart Starr, who preceded him in passing just a few days earlier, but Buckner is certainly attached to one of sports’ most unforgettable moments.

Buckner enjoyed a 22-year career (1969-90) in baseball and had 2,715 hits, a career batting average of .289 with 174 home runs, and he tallied 1,077 runs scored and 1,208 RBI. He was an all-star and a batting champ (in 1980 as a member of the Chicago Cubs). The sad thing is that Buckner is one of those rare athletes who is probably more infamous than famous because of what happened in one game.

As a member of the Boston Red Sox, first baseman Buckner had a Mookie Wilson (New York Mets) groundball go through his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series that led to a Mets walk-off victory in that game. The Mets went on to win Game 7 and the Red Sox (at that time) were still waiting for their first World Series title since 1918. Buckner’s error, at that time, made him somewhat of a scapegoat for the Game 6 loss, the World Series defeat, and the Red Sox Nation continued woes.

Buckner’s career, however, should not be defined by his fielding gaffe in the ’86 World Series. A 22-year MLB career, .289 average and 2,717 career hits are certainly stats that generate discussion about whether or not Buckner deserves to be in the Hall of Fame… for the record, he appeared on the ballot in 1996 and received only 10 votes.

But I contend that Buckner was a much underrated and underappreciated player. I’m not ready to say he should be in the Hall, but in my mind he was a “hitter’s hitter.” He rarely struck out, rarely walked, and was probably the best example of what youth coaches preach to their young players: “Put the ball in play and see what can happen.”

There are a few stats in Buckner’s stat-line that illustrate this point:

    • Buckner had 15 seasons where he had 400 or more plate appearances and less than 40 strikeouts. That ranks tied for sixth most in baseball history. Tris Speaker tops the list with 18 such seasons.
    • Buckner had 14 seasons where he had 400 or more plate appearances and less than 40 walks. That ranks tied for fifth most in baseball history. Ivan Rodriguez and Tommy Corcoran top the list with 16 such seasons each.
    • If we combine the two stats above, Buckner had 14 seasons where he had 400 or more plate appearances and less than 40 strikeouts and less than 40 walks in that season. That ranks tied for second most in MLB history. Lave Cross tops the list with 15 such seasons.
    • Buckner’s 2,715 career hits ranks him 66th on the all-time list. Of those 66 players with 2,715 or more career hits, Buckner’s 453 career strikeouts ranks as the second fewest of the group and his 450 career walks ranks also ranks as the second fewest among the 66 players.
  • How about this stat… of the players who have more than 10,000 career plate appearances, Buckner is one of only 11 players in history to have less than 500 career strikeouts. The others: Charlie Gehringer, Tony Gwynn, Tris Speaker, Paul Waner, Frankie Frisch, Cap Anson, Nap Lajoie, Eddie Collins, Sam Rice and Nellie Fox. Of these 11 players, only three, Gywnn, Fox and Buckner ended their careers after the 1960’s. Here’s the real eye-opening part of this stat… of the 11, all but Buckner are in the Hall of Fame.

 

Buckner was a unique hitter. If a pitch was in the strike zone, chances are he was swinging and there was a good chance he was making contact and putting the ball in play. He seemed like an “old school” player and one that probably was born later than he should have been… his game seemed to fit more appropriately with those players from the first half of the century, especially when you consider that most of his batting stats with low strikeouts and low walk totals are shared with players from that earlier era.

Here are three more stats that I found interesting about Buckner’s career:

  • He hit 174 home runs. His last home was an inside-the-park HR. It was also the only inside-the-park home run of his career.
  • He had seven seasons where he played in 100 or more games and batted over .300. He is one of 151 players in MLB history to do that.
  • Fifty-one of the 65 players ahead of Buckner on the all-time hits list are in the Hall of Fame.

Bill Buckner, Hall of Famer? The voters certainly did not think so as he appeared only once on the HOF ballot in 1996 (because he did not receive at least 5% of the vote that year, he was taken off the ballot for future consideration). But I think Bill Buckner will one day find his way into the Hall as a future selection of the Veteran Committee. He was clearly one of the most unique and successful hitters of all-time.

 

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp