Month: September 2019
Mike Trout is once again on pace to be the greatest player ever for his age. He currently leads the American League in wins above replacement, ranks second in on-base percentage, fifth in slugging percentage, second in OPS+ and he’s even stealing bases at an elite rate. It’s a season so good, on a team so bad, that there are rumors Trout may not last the season in L.A. If the Angels trade him, they’d be getting rid of a young player unlike anyone we’ve ever seen.To pull ahead of Ty Cobb as the career leader in WAR (among position players) through age 24, Trout needs about 3 more WAR this year. (No matter which version of WAR you use.) And sure enough, FanGraphs’ projection thinks he’ll bag about 3.7 WAR before season’s end. As fluky a game as baseball can be, the one constant seems to be that Trout is the best young player we’ve ever seen.But even with a potential G.O.A.T. in their lineup, the Los Angeles Angels still haven’t been able to win many ballgames. Despite Trout’s efforts, they’re 40-52 this season — tied for last place in the American League West — and they’ve won only 53 percent of their games since Trout made his debut midway through the 2011 campaign. That’s an 86-win pace per season, which sounds OK until you consider exactly how great Trout is: an otherwise-average team who added Trout (and Trout alone) would have won roughly 88 games a year. Trout is such a gift from the baseball gods that averaging 86 wins with him is disappointing.So it’s fair to say Trout’s Angel teammates have not pulled their weight for much of his career, particularly when you consider that L.A. had baseball’s eighth-biggest payroll since 2011 — a number that Trout barely contributed to because of the way MLB underpays its young talent.We can use advanced stats to estimate the degree to which Trout has outplayed his teammates. Trout has generated 43.6 WAR since 2011; his average teammate would have generated only 9.3 WAR in the same number of opportunities. (That’s according to Baseball-Reference’s WAR, which lets us find an individualized record for any player or group of players because it also comes with a “wins above average” component, in addition to wins above replacement.) Add up those records for L.A.’s non-Trout division and calculate a winning percentage, and it comes to .468 — the equivalent of 76 wins in a full season. Scale it to Trout’s playing time, and he’s beaten his teammates by 34.3 wins in an apples-to-apples comparison.That difference between Trout and teammates is the second-biggest disparity for a player age 24 or younger since 1901: Ty CobbDET1905-1146.7.49814.132.6 Christy MathewsonNYG1901-0539.6.51716.323.3 Players must have been age 24 or younger on June 30 of the season in question. Teammate average WAR is calculated as though teammates played as much as the player they’re being compared with.Source: Baseball-Reference.com Mel OttNYG1926-3336.8.52814.322.6 Ken Griffey Jr.SEA1989-9436.9.46010.026.9 Albert PujolsSTL2001-0429.1.5419.919.3 Bob FellerCLE1936-4137.4.50214.023.4 Alex RodriguezSEA1994-0038.0.49811.626.4 Mike TroutLAA2011-1643.6.4689.334.3 Wes FerrellCLE1927-3231.3.49211.020.3 TEAMMATE AVERAGE Walter JohnsonWSH1907-1246.6.42811.235.5 Rogers HornsbySTL1915-2036.1.4004.831.3 Babe RuthBOS1914-1941.0.51016.324.7 Al KalineDET1953-5933.5.49511.222.3 Arky VaughanPIT1932-3634.3.50110.324.0 Rickey HendersonOAK1979-8328.0.4245.622.4 Mickey MantleNYY1951-5640.9.58615.125.8 Frank TananaCAL1973-7831.5.4469.621.9 PLAYERTEAMYEARSWARWIN %WARWINS ABOVE TEAMMATES Bert BlylevenMIN1970-7537.3.48314.323.0 Cesar CedenoHOU1970-7529.2.4729.619.6 Young players who outplayed their teammates the most, 1901-2016 Ted WilliamsBOS1939-4234.3.5048.226.0 Not since the days of Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators has a young star been saddled with teammates as inferior as Trout’s. And while Johnson’s Senators turned things around during his age-24 season, winning 91 games in 1912, Trout’s Angels are on pace for 73 wins, the worst record they’ve had with Trout.Under ordinary circumstances it would be unthinkable to trade a player who is tracking to be the G.O.A.T. And it probably won’t happen — trade talk is fun but often meaningless. But if Trout did move, the return would have to be immense.Let’s say, hypothetically, that the Washington Nationals wanted to add Trout at the trade deadline in two weeks. (It doesn’t have to be the Nationals, but they are a typical contender with a large incentive to load up on World Series-winning talent in the short term.) Our Doyle model of deadline-dealing is designed to tell trade partners what to do in such a circumstance. Doyle analyzes a team’s situation on July 31 — including its existing talent and playoff odds — and calculates the amount of future WAR a team should be willing to part with for one win at the trade deadline.If the Angels were smart, they wouldn’t let Trout go for anything less than two kings’ ransoms. Doyle says Trout’s talent boost1About 8.5 WAR per 162 games, according to FanGraphs. for the end of 2016 alone would be worth 22.5 WAR of future value to the Nationals. (Roughly the value of Kyle Seager’s career thus far.) Multiply that over the remaining five years of Trout’s current deal,2Including 2016. and a Trout trade might need to haul in more than double the value of an entire top-ranked farm system to be equitable. (Let’s hope the two teams who empty their farm systems avoid the Solomon method for splitting one Mike Trout.)That’s why Trout almost certainly won’t be going anywhere this season or anytime soon. And unless the Angels can somehow upgrade the rest of their roster, that means more seasons spent lamenting Trout’s fate as a future inner-circle Hall of Famer stuck with a weak supporting cast.
Buried underneath the blaring headlines concerning Penn State, another tale of impropriety involving a prestigious collegiate institution—this time the University of North Carolina at Chapell Hill—has come forth, raising questions about the integrity of its student-athletes.In August 2011, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill launched an internal investigation of its African and Afro-American Studies department after apparent inaccuracies involving its courses were discovered. The results showed that dozens of the department’s classes were taught “irregularly,” meaning that the listed instructor had little to no interaction with students and/or did not grade written assignments.Approximately 600 students were registered in these classes between 2007 and 2009, a number of whom were student-athletes. The investigation also found that students were afforded temporary grades and grade changes at a startling rate, including one professor who had given 26 percent of his students temporary grades. Though the investigation determined that student-athletes had been given preferential treatment, it seems that athletic counselors assigned to help student-athletes guided them towards the questionable courses. One of the “no-show” classes, which included 18 football players and one former football player, was created just days before the summer semester began.“It seems likely that someone in the African and Afro-American Studies Department called athletics counselors (who are professionally trained and hired by the College of Arts and Sciences) to tell them that certain courses would be available,” the report read. “While we do not know exactly what transpired, clearly there is considerable uncertainty in the relationship between academic departments and athletic counselors. …”The University probe was sparked after an NCAA investigation, during which a student-athlete had submitted a paper from one of the courses in question to the NCAA as part of a complaint. The paper was fraught with plagiarism, and was widely reported and made available to the public. , Professor Julius Nyang’oro, who served as the department chair during the time in question, was also the instructor for the student’s course. The report has since identified him, as well as retired administrator Deborah Crowder, as likely sources of academic impropriety. Nyang’oro resigned from his position, and officially retired from the University at the start of the month.While the athletic program does not currently face sanctions, the internal report mentions that student-athletes should be advised by standard academic counselors rather than those working for the athletic program. In addition, it calls for an independent investigation by higher education officials to look into the relationship between the athletic program and the academic fraud case.
Jonathan Martin, whose NFL career looked to be in jeopardy as he faced fire for claiming he was bullied by Miami Dolphin teammate Richie Incognito, officially started anew Thursday. With the passing of his physical, he became a member of the San Francisco 49ers.“It’s a blank slate for me,” Martin said in a conference call from 49ers headquarters Thursday night. “I’m looking to revitalize my career, getting back to playing … I couldn’t be happier.”The Dolphins are glad to be rid of Martin, who just could not return to the team after the national controversy that followed his claims. Miami will receive a seventh-round draft pick from the Niners if Martin is on their opening-day roster.Martin left the Dolphins last fall after accusing teammate Incognito of bullying in a scandal that overshadowed the franchise’s 8-8 season. An investigation conducted by Ted Wells for the NFL determined last month that Incognito and two other offensive linemen engaged in persistent harassment of Martin, another offensive lineman, and an assistant trainer.Martin said he has moved beyond the tumult.“I’m not worried about that,” he said. “All that’s in the past at this point.”The trade reunites Martin with Jim Harbaugh and several other members of the 49ers’ staff who coached him at Stanford. Harbaugh was supportive of Martin throughout the scandal and vouched for him in the Wells report.“I think it worked out great to once again be playing for Coach Harbaugh, once again in the Bay Area,” Martin said. “Playing for a winning franchise, a team that’s had a lot of recent success. And to hopefully be able to contribute to further success with this team. … It’s been a warm welcome.”Martin, who is taking classes at Stanford, likely will be the sixth man on the 49ers’ line and will be a swing tackle. He could potentially play guard, although he never has played at the spot.“I have to earn my spot on this team,” Martin said. “I’m open to anything. (Retirement) didn’t even cross my mind. I’m a football player. . . Hopefully, I will retire after a 10-year career.”
There was 1:49 on the clock, and the Washington Capitals and the Anaheim Ducks were tied, with two goals apiece. Both could have used the two points a win would bring: The Capitals were in a tight battle with the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins for control of the Metropolitan division, and the Ducks could further extend their Pacific division lead.But rather than try to score the game-winner, neither team took a shot on goal in the final 1:49, content to let the Feb. 6 game go to overtime, when both teams would be guaranteed at least one point.1The Capitals won the game in Washington in a shootout.Francois Beauchemin, a Ducks defender who was on the ice for much of the final 1:49, admitted that going to OT — where the winner gets two points and the loser one — is the primary goal late in tie games. “We won’t take as many offensive chances as we would if we were down one goal or tied at the end of the second period,” he said. “We talk about it [with the coaches].”Todd Reirden, a retired defender who played for four NHL teams and now oversees the blueliners as a Caps assistant coach, agreed. ” ‘Sit back, play defense, make sure we get a point’ would never be words that I use, but certainly, you get that far into a game and as a coach you want to leave with something,” he said. “With the parity in the league right now, the importance of getting points on a nightly basis has become more of a focus of not just our team, but other teams as well.”Since 2010, the Caps have played 125 games that were tied at the end of regulation, including a remarkable 28 during the 2013-14 season. That number puts them, fittingly, in a tie with the Islanders, atop the league. Those two teams are not alone in their quest for extra hockey, however; 25 percent of games this season (through Tuesday) have reached overtime. If that number stands, it will be the highest yearly percentage of overtime games in the league’s history.At the end of tie games, teams across the league don’t play to win — they play not to lose.It wasn’t always this way. For most of the NHL’s history and through the 1998-99 season, a team earned two points for a win in regulation or overtime, zero points for a loss, and one point for a tie. But in 2005, the NHL mandated shootouts at the end of overtime, which prompted a change in the point structure. Now, the winner would get two points and the overtime loser one. (From 1999 to 2005, the loser of an overtime game also received a point, but matches could also finish tied, with each squad earning a point.) By and large, the new structure encourages teams in tie games to try to play for overtime, where the total number of points awarded to the teams increases by 50 percent (three vs. two).In today’s NHL, overtime frequently benefits both teams, which is why teams that are tied often holster their sticks. Take a look at this chart, which shows the expected goal (EG) rate per minute2Expected goals (EGs) are calculated by tallying the goal probabilities of each unblocked shot attempt, where the goal probabilities are estimated by using shot distance and location in logistic regression models of goal outcomes (yes/no). For more information, see this set of slides from Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. student Sam Ventura’s recent presentation at February’s Ottawa hockey analytics conference.The data includes all games from the beginning of the 2007-08 season through Feb. 1 of 2015. EGs per tied-game minute were calculated by dividing the total number of EGs from when the game was tied during each one-minute interval by the total number of tied-game seconds in that interval, with that result multiplied by 60. A corresponding process was used to estimate the EG rate for one-goal games. To prevent our results from being skewed, we dropped any shot in the last three minutes that occurred with a pulled goalie. The lines have been smoothed using a Loess smoother. over the course of an NHL contest. EGs use shot distance and location from the NHL’s play-by-play data to estimate the number of goals that we expect the two teams to combine for during each minute of play. There’s something different about that third period.The expected goal output is nearly identical between tied games and one-goal games from the 15th through 55th minutes of the game. But for the last five minutes, the number of EGs rises for one-goal games and drops for tied games.3You may also notice the higher number of EGs in the second period, relative to the first and third. This can be accounted for by a longer line change in the second period, among other reasons.At the end of a tie game, benches shorten, and coaches change their behavior. Reirden, for example, says he is loath to send out a defenseman who might take an unnecessary risk, preferring a guy he knows will stay home and limit the opposition’s attacking chances, even if that means sacrificing a shot at getting a goal.It’s tempting to say, meh, more overtime equals more fun. Fans love it — it’s free hockey after all. And four-on-four, sudden-death free hockey at that. Perhaps relatedly, league revenue has skyrocketed since the 2004 lockout, reportedly reaching an all-time high of $3.7 billion in 2014.But more overtime leads to a radically different game. For starters, the number of overtime games increases as the season advances; the postseason chase makes teams desperate to take advantage of the extra point available.Take a look at this chart, which shows the overtime rates in the league’s old and new point systems by the day of the season in which the game was played.4Data is from 1990 to 1999 for the old point system and 2005-current for the new. The lines are smoothed using quadratic splines, assuming a binomial distribution for the number of OT games on each date. We dropped the lockout-shortened 1995 and 2013 seasons for this graph and accounted for Olympic years by subtracting off the number of days that teams were given for a break. (The shaded regions represent 95 percent confidence intervals for the smoothed lines.)While overtime rates have been consistently higher in the current point system, the late-season change is dramatic. Roughly two-thirds of the way through the season, OT rates spike; in the old system, without the loser point, rates plummeted late in the season. Spring is now the NHL’s overtime season.The other way the game changes: Nonconference games become a lot more passive for both teams. The flip side of that is that teams try to win more often against in-conference teams.“You have the mindset that you don’t want to have shared points, especially against teams in your own conference and more specifically against teams in your own division,” Reirden said.The data shows that, during tied games, teams’ expected goals are higher during conference games than out-of-conference ones. The largest differences in aggressiveness between in-conference and out-of-conference games occur at the end of tied games, when overtime is imminent. This suggests that teams are satisfied to receive at least one point when playing a nonconference opponent but are more likely to try to win in regulation against a team with whom they are competing for a playoff spot.If you corner people who work in the NHL, they’ll admit that teams cater their behavior and offensive aggressiveness based on a variety of seemingly unintended incentives. “There is a lot more strategy at the end of the games than I remember,” Reirden said.5We would be remiss if we didn’t point out that academics have covered how the rule changes have affected strategy; see published work from, for example, Jason Abrevaya (2004) and, yes, Lopez (2013) in the Journal of Sports Economics. The game is changing — but is it for the better? The NHL considered the merits of alternative point systems as far back as when it instituted the new one. But nothing has come of it. Much like players in a tie game late in the third period, the league seems uninterested in altering the status quo.
There’s obviously an enormous difference between playing as hot as George has for a month and doing so for an entire season. Still, his transformation could end up being noteworthy for one key reason: It’s the closest thing we’ve seen to a changing of the guard on the Thunder since Westbrook took over after Durant’s departure.For years, Westbrook critics have suggested that he’d give his teams a better chance to win by taking a step back. More often than not, he ignored these voices. And once he had the spotlight to himself, he broke an NBA record for the highest single-season usage rate while also averaging a triple-double over a full season — and that 2016-17 OKC team finished sixth in the West and lost in the first round of the playoffs. Westbrook tried playing more unselfishly last season, though that largely seemed to backfire. But it seems to be working now.In the midst of the worst shooting season2From the standpoint of true shooting percentage. Curiously, his free-throw percentage has also tumbled to a career low. of his career, the 30-year-old Westbrook has eased his foot off the pedal during the team’s surge. He has taken 19.4 shots per contest this season, his fewest since the 2015-16 campaign. And during Oklahoma City’s 12-game hot streak, Westbrook attempted just 17 shots per night. (Prior to that, he was taking a little more than 20 shots per game.)Westbrook still has considerable value. He continues to be a force when he bends defenses, and he’s finishing at the rim more efficiently than ever. His triple-double Monday marked his 10th straight, giving him the longest single-season stretch in NBA history. If he keeps up his current pace, this would be Westbrook’s third consecutive season averaging a triple-double.But make no mistake: George is leading this team. And it’s been that way all year.Because Westbrook missed the start of the season, when he was coming off a late-offseason arthroscopic procedure on his knee, George was the club’s lone workhorse at times to begin the year. That was something he rarely enjoyed last season, when the offense generally saw George, Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony take turns shooting.Somewhat stunningly, at this rate, George is already just 10 games or so away from eclipsing his shot attempt total from last season. His shot chart this season looks essentially the same as last year’s, but the clarity about his role seems to have helped his game immensely. George, perhaps more comfortable with Westbrook and the team now, is playing as if he realizes that it’s generally a good thing for him to take the reins on offense.So is George’s unreal stretch enough to propel him to the top of the MVP race? One factor in his favor is that he’s elite on both ends of the floor. The Thunder rank among the top-3 defenses — despite defensive specialist Andre Roberson not having played a minute all season — largely because of George, who is leading the league in steals and loose balls recovered while ranking second in deflections. George has certainly pieced together a solid defensive player of the year candidacy.But he has two big obstacles in his MVP path. Giannis Antetokounmpo — who averages 27 points, nearly 13 boards and 6 assists per game while playing great defense — has powered the Bucks to the NBA’s best record. And while offensive juggernaut James Harden is often seen as a defensive lightweight, his metrics — 2.2 steals per game and a league-leading 209 deflections — compare favorably with George’s.But George may care more about his team’s fortunes than his individual accolades. FiveThirtyEight’s projection model views Oklahoma City as a legitimate challenger to the Warriors in the West. While Golden State is still a massive favorite, the projections show considerable respect to the Thunder, giving them an 11 percent probability to win the NBA championship — a figure that’s not far off the Raptors and Bucks, despite those two playing in the less competitive Eastern Conference.However you slice it, the fact that Oklahoma City has believers — whether they’re rooted in computer algorithms or actual fans — is a credit to George’s unbelievable play as of late.Check out our latest NBA predictions. If there’s a club that wishes it could fast-forward through the All-Star break, it would be the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are the NBA’s hottest team and are winners of 11 of their past 12 contests.Russell Westbrook is in the middle of a historic triple-double run. The team, which couldn’t hit a 3-point shot for the first month of the season, now can’t miss from outside — and has put itself firmly in contention for a top-two seed in the loaded Western Conference.But the biggest development of late has been Paul George playing the best basketball of his life, morphing from a trusty sidekick into the Thunder’s 2013-14 MVP version of Kevin Durant.That isn’t an exaggeration. Durant racked up 40.8 points, 9.4 boards and 7 assists per 100 possessions on a lofty 63.5 true shooting percentage during his dominant campaign. Since Jan. 17, George has logged 41.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists per 100 possessions on 67.9 true shooting, boasting better assist-to-turnover and steals rates than Durant had in 2013-14.1According to Basketball-Reference.com’s Game Score metric, which calculates how well someone played by analyzing his entire stat line each night, George has averaged a 29.1 Game Score during this recent hot streak. By comparison, Durant’s average Game Score during his MVP season was 24.9.
Ohio State freshman midfielder Liza Hernandez looks to pass in the offensive zone against Stanford on Feb. 24 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: James King | Lantern reporterEarly struggles plagued the Ohio State women’s lacrosse team yet again. This time it was costly. The Buckeyes (3-1) dropped their first game of the year, 19-9, to the No. 15 Stanford Cardinal (2-3) by digging themselves into a four-goal deficit in the first 12 minutes of the game. This marks the fifth time the Cardinal have taken down the Buckeyes in the last five seasons, with OSU’s last win coming in 2012.“We knew Stanford was going to give us a complete game,” OSU coach Alexis Venechanos said. “So we knew we were going to need a complete game.”Stanford dominated the ball in the early goings in large part due to OSU’s 12 first-half turnovers. The Cardinal would capitalize off of the Buckeyes’ mistakes with their first goal from junior midfielder Kelly Myers coming at the 25:45 mark. Stanford would then grab three more unassisted goals from sophomore midfielder Genesis Lucero, senior attacker Elizabeth Cusick and senior attacker Anna Salemo.OSU, as they’ve done before, found a way to close the goal gap quickly. Sophomore midfielder Baley Parrott netted the first goal for the Scarlet and Gray with 15:46 remaining in the first half. Within five minutes of Parrott’s seventh goal of the season, the game was tied.“We know the team we are,” junior attacker Molly Wood said. “We’ve been in those positions this season already, where we were down, and we do find that in those situations we stay calm.”Freshman midfielder Liza Hernandez would score her first of two goals on the day, which was followed shortly by Wood’s seventh score of the year. Freshman midfielder Sage Darling, who made her first appearance of the season last game against Cincinnati, would score her first collegiate goal to tie the game at four.Stanford responded, going on a 4-1 scoring run to close out the half, sending them to the locker room with an 8-5 lead. The Buckeyes struggled to gain and keep possession throughout the first half, only winning six of 14 draw controls. And despite having 18 less fouls than the Cardinal’s 31, it only correlated to two free-position goals in the first half.OSU won the opening draw of the second half and struck first off of two goals from Wood in the first 71 seconds, narrowing the Cardinal lead to just one. Wood has scored back-to-back hat tricks, putting her season point total at 12.Stanford stretched its lead back to four with 25:04 remaining in the game. The Cardinal’s senior attacker Kelsey Murray would be responsible for two of the goals in that span, her third and fourth of the game, putting her one shy of her season high for goals in a game.“At halftime it was reachable, ” Venechanos said. “And then, we just didn’t have that opportunity to make our own run. Stanford had the next five or six possessions and we didn’t make any stops.”Parrott would connect on her second goal of the evening before Stanford would go on a three-goal run to extend their lead to six, 14-8, with 19:59 left in the game. At the 16:27 mark, Wood found the net yet again, giving her four on the day, this time off an assist from freshman midfielder Alex Vander Molen. It was her 10th assist of the season, putting her at a Big Ten best 2.5 assist per game.“I thought we had one more run in us to be honest,” Venechanos said. “But maybe (the game) was a little bit physical and emotional so mentality wise, we didn’t have enough gas.”It was a physical game. There were 75 fouls between the two teams, with Stanford being assessed four yellow cards to OSU’s three.Stanford would go on to push their lead out to eight by scoring four consecutive goals for a second time in the contest. The run included a goal from Salemo, giving her her first hat trick of the season.The Buckeyes would allow two more goals before the game was over, giving Stanford the eventual 19-9 victory. OSU allowed a season-high 36 shots against Stanford and when coupling that with 16 turnovers, it does not add up to a stellar outing.“If you give a team almost 40 shots they are going to have an opportunity to execute,” Venechanos said. “And they did.”Now the Buckeyes turn their attention to Sunday’s matchup against the California Golden Bears (1-2) in Ohio Stadium at noon. “The good news is we have another game in 48 hours,” Venechanos said. “Credit to Stanford, they beat us. But we’ve got to get better from this.”
As the grandson of former Ohio State football coach Earle Bruce, and attending high school just outside Columbus, Zach Smith grew up surrounded by Buckeye football. Now a football coach himself, Smith was named to OSU football coach Urban Meyer’s staff as wide receivers coach on Dec. 22, returning to his home state and grandfather’s former school. “It’s a dream job, it’s something that you live your whole life hoping that you get and when you do, there’s obviously a lot of pressure in that,” Smith said at an introductory press conference for the assistant coaches Jan. 12. “But what the heck, if you don’t do it to get your dream job, what do you it for, right?” Smith graduated from Florida in 2007, and worked as a graduate assistant and quality control coach for the Gators under Meyer from 2005-2009. He also served as receivers coach and special teams coordinator at Marshall University in 2010 and held the same roles at Temple last season. He helped lead the Owls to a 9-4 record in 2011, as well as a 35-17 win against Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 17. His receivers compiled 1,648 yards throughout the season. “(Smith) has already coached with me for five seasons, and so I know what a quality coach he is,” Meyer said. “He knows my system inside and out, and he teaches the system the way I want it to be taught.” At 27, Smith is the youngest member of the coaching staff, which he referred to as a “dream team” of coaches. Although Smith admitted a sense of awe in being a part of that group, he said he is qualified for the challenge. “The fact that coach Meyer thought that highly of me to bring me to this great university when he really could have hired anybody in the country is really flattering,” Smith said. “But at the same time, I know that I’ve earned it and I know I’ll do a great job for him.” Smith will earn $150,000 for performing his duties as a Buckeye assistant during 2012. After losing 2010 leading receiver Dane Sanzenbacher to graduation, and with senior DeVier Posey missing the first 10 games due to a pair of five-game suspensions, wide receiver was arguably the most inexperienced position on the Buckeyes’ roster throughout this past season. Going into 2012, OSU will return its entire receiving corps apart from Posey. “I think that the best thing that happened for my group is that they got a lot of experience at a young age,” Smith said. “They’ve been in the battle and they know what it’s like to play these other teams, to play in all these great stadiums in the Big Ten and to play in front of 108,000 people at Ohio State. It’s really an asset for them and for me as a position coach because I know that I have guys who have been through it and done it. It’s obviously one of the things that we can build off of this coming year.” Blocking and playmaking ability are the two most important traits he looks for in his receivers, Smith said. “We’ll be the best blocking receivers in the country,” he said. “Then you have to be able to make big plays, got to be able to catch the ball and make something happen. Those are the two things, if you can’t do those things you’re not going to be on the field.”
Then-sophomore shortstop/second baseman Maddy McIntyre throws the ball during a game against Michigan State April 24 at Buckeye Field. OSU won, 6-3.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorDespite dropping four of its five games at the FAU Kickoff Classic, the Ohio State women’s softball team is confident its record is not indicative of its potential.OSU (1-4, 0-0) is set to continue its early season tournament schedule against Cal State Northridge Friday at the Easton Desert Classic in Las Vegas. The team is also scheduled to play Long Beach State later that day. The Buckeyes are then slated to take on No. 1 Florida and No. 10 Oregon Saturday, as well as Utah Valley Sunday.Even though facing two top 10 teams in one day is a tall order, coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said she expects the Buckeyes to rise to the occasion.“Those kids are pretty pumped up,” Schoenly said Tuesday. “I don’t worry one bit that they’ll be up for those games.”Junior shortstop/second baseman Maddy McIntyre said the team is focused on Cal State Northridge and then will take it game by game from there.“We always have the same high level of intensity,” McIntyre said Tuesday. “We take the positives and roll with what we know we’re good at.”However, one of the things it’s working on is keeping its pitchers in longer, Schoenly said.“We are working on their stamina and reducing the amount of pitches they throw earlier in the game,” Schoenly said. “If we go at batters more aggressively earlier so (the pitchers) can last longer, that would be the No. 1 way to help.”Overall, though, McIntyre said she is pleased with where the team stands.“We’re right where we want to be,” McIntyre said. “We had a lot of players stand out (last weekend) and make some big plays for us.”One of those standout players was junior outfielder Caitlin Conrad, who finished the FAU Kickoff Classic batting 7-14, including two home runs, five RBIs, three doubles and a triple.Schoenly said after Conrad spent the majority of last season batting ninth in the lineup, she has worked hard to become one of the Buckeyes’ offensive leaders and now bats third.“She is a junior now and I feel like she has done what she needed to do to be in that situation,” Schoenly said. “We like to put all of our hot hitters together and right now, she’s there.”Defensively, Schoenly said the outfield has great communication skills and aggressiveness. Conrad is joined in the outfield by sophomore Cammi Prantl and junior Taylor Watkins.“They were diving all over the place. We had a couple of assists out there and Cammi Prantl dove head first into the fence. Taylor had four diving catches, they were unreal,” Schoenly said.As the Buckeyes begin to play more games, Schoenly expects the team to improve throughout the season.“For the pitchers to throw back-to-back-to-back days, it’s something they grow into as the season goes on. I think, for our pitchers, the more they do that, the better they get at it,” Schoenly said. “I think playing that many games helps our hitters too because they see so many different pitchers and so many different types of pitches.”OSU’s game against Cal State Northridge Friday is set for 4:30 p.m., followed by a game against Long Beach State at 6:45 p.m.
OSU senior outside hitter Katie Mitchell (17) prepares to hit the ball during a match against Florida State on Sept. 6 at St. John Arena. Credit: Ashley Roudebush / For The LanternWith a demanding Big Ten schedule looming, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team has one more opportunity for a tune-up before it begins conference play.Coming off two straight tournament wins and riding an eight-match winning streak, No. 13 OSU is scheduled to head north this weekend to play in the Golden Grizzlies Invitational in Rochester, Michigan.On Friday, OSU is set to play Eastern Illinois (5-5) at noon and Western Michigan (2-9) at 7 p.m., followed by a match against host Oakland (3-7) on Saturday at 2 p.m.Although his squad is playing three teams with underwhelming records, coach Geoff Carlston said he is prepared to get the best shot of each one.“They’re not going to be as physical as Arizona, but they’re going to pass and play defense probably better than a lot of teams we’ve seen,” Carlston said. “So they’re going to make you earn it. If you’re making tons of mistakes, you’re going to lose.”Carlston said he is pleased with the start that his team has gotten off to this season, but is preaching balance to his players as they head into the weekend and look ahead to their conference schedule.“You can’t get bummed out when you lose because you can play really well and lose,” Carlston said. “And you sometimes you can grind out wins and you can’t feel like you’re the best team in the world, either. You just have to stay steady and confident.”Senior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell said keeping the focus on playing together as a team and controlling the tempo of the game will be important if the Buckeyes want to extend their winning streak.“I know that these teams this weekend aren’t necessarily ranked like we had played the previous weekends, but everyone’s good at what they do,” Campbell said.Carlston has kept practice light during the short week to keep his players fresh as OSU gets into the grind of its schedule.“With our Big Ten schedule and how it shapes up, if we’re going to rest a little bit, this is the time to do it,” he said.Versatility at setterBoth OSU setters have seen plenty of playing time in the early going of the season. Freshman Taylor Hughes leads the Buckeyes with 198 assists, but senior Emily Ruetter is not far behind with 172.Carlston compared the situation to what’s going on at quarterback for the OSU football team with Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett.“We have two very good setters,” he said. “They are very different personalities. You’re going to get a different look. Emily is just steady, steady, steady, and Taylor Hughes is more physical … The two of them together is a really neat combination.”León wins Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the WeekAfter being named the most valuable player of the Blackbird Invitational last weekend, the awards didn’t stop there for Valeria León. The junior libero was also named the Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Week — alongside Michigan State middle blocker Megan Tompkins — for her efforts in Brooklyn, New York.León had a tournament-high 71 digs, including 35 against then-No. 13 Arizona, the second-best single-game total in OSU history. She has been named to the all-tournament team in all three of OSU’s non-conference competitions. León said she feels that she’s playing at the top of her game right now.“I feel like I worked really hard this summer and preseason,” she said. “I feel like my hard work is just finally paying off. We can only get better from here.”What’s next?The conference schedule is scheduled to begin for the Buckeyes on Sept. 23 when they host No. 23 Minnesota at St. John Arena, the first of four straight home matchups to kick off Big Ten play.
Sophomore defensive lineman Nick Bosa (97) lines up prior to a play during the Ohio State- Oklahoma game on Sep. 9. OSU lost 31-16. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorIOWA CITY, IOWA — Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa was ejected for targeting due to a helmet-to-helmet hit on Iowa quarterback Nathan Stanley with 3:12 remaining in the second quarter. Following the ejection, Bosa became ineligible to play the remainder of the game against Iowa, but will be able to return at the beginning of next Saturday’s game against Michigan State. The hit came on an incomplete pass by Stanley that would have resulted in a fourth-and-8 on Ohio State’s 40-yard line, had the hit not taken place. After the penalty, Iowa moved up to Ohio State’s 25-yard line. The next play was a touchdown pass to tight end Noah Fant to give Iowa the 23-17 lead.