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Projecting who will win the 2018 Home Run Derby


Continuing my pattern of enjoying the festivities around the All-Star Game the most, I’ve always loved the Home Run Derby. As a kid, when I’d come home from school, the old reruns of Home Run Derby from the 1960s were on. Because I was born in 1978, I got to see a lot of players whose careers I had missed out on, like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. This was before ESPN Classic was launched and the internet was really a thing.nfl cheap nike jerseys

Recently, in a discussion, I was asked “Dan, can you predict a Home Run Derby?” My first answer was an extremely helpful “Dunno,” but it got me thinking if we could predict a Home Run Derby, using both the matchups and results. We don’t have a lot of data, but modeling these things always gives an interesting glimpse into the inner workings of things.
So, I found variables for the three most recent Home Run Derbys — I’d love more years, but the formats shift a lot and I wanted to see first if Statcast data would be helpful — and started from there. A few variables, some surprising, some not, came up as useful predictors of Derby performance. Sixteen of the 21 matchups from 2015-2017 were won by the player with the higher average exit velocity and the margin tended to be correlated with their difference in the rankings. Also helpful were things like home runs-per-ball hit, and even recent performance seemed to have more predictive value in a Derby than in real life.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

I’ll spare the nitty-gritty ins-and-outs of dimensionality reduction and go right to the results, plugged in for this year’s Home Run Derby, matchup by matchup.

In Oakland, veteran Bruce Irvin finds smack-talking, kindred spirit in Jon Gruden


You could say these are bright times for Bruce Irvin, who has had his share of dark days in his life.

Since the end of last season, he has earned a degree, becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college, made a much-desired position switch from outside linebacker to defensive end and maybe, just maybe, found a kindred spirit in returning Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden.

“He talks s— like I talk s—, so we get along,” Irvin said.

Irvin came to Oakland as a free agent in 2016 after four star-crossed seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, which included an eight-sack rookie season, a Super Bowl championship and another trip to the Super Bowl.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

Initially an edge-rusher, Irvin made the switch to outside linebacker despite his concerns that he was not “smart enough” to play in coverages. Ken Norton Jr., then his position coach in Seattle and later his defensive coordinator in Oakland, admonished his pupil, telling him to never admit such a thing.

Besides, Norton told Irvin, he was capable of playing linebacker.10

The Raiders were obviously impressed enough to sign Irvin to a four-year deal worth a max of $37 million and $12.5 million fully guaranteed to make him a bookend pass-rusher with All-Pro Khalil Mack.

Irvin’s presence helped Mack become the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 as Oakland went 12-4 and appeared in the postseason for the first time since the 2002 season.

The team regressed badly under Jack Del Rio in 2017, going 6-10 before Del Rio was shown the door. Gruden agreed to return to Oakland with an eye on Irvin and his skill set.

Enter new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who worked Irvin out at West Virginia and wanted the Cincinnati Bengals to draft him before the Seahawks struck at No. 15 overall in 2012.

“I knew he was a really gifted rusher,” Guenther said. “… Just coming here, I thought his best assets for us was to go forward rather than go backwards. He’s done a good job with what we’re asking him to do in the base fronts.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“Obviously, we know what he can do as a pass-rusher. Hopefully, we can get him over a double-digit [sack] mark this year. That’s the goal for him.”

Philippe Senderos, Houston Dynamo salvages late draw with LAFC


Philippe Senderos scored the tying goal almost six minutes into second-half injury time to lift the Houston Dynamo to a 2-2 draw with the LAFC on Tuesday at BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown Houston in the first-ever MLS meeting between the two sides.

Senderos, who had been beaten 12 minutes earlier for LAFC’s second goal, waited at the back post for a cross off a corner kick in the match’s closing seconds, blasting a shot off Los Angeles’ Mark-Anthony Kaye and past goalkeeper Tyler Miller into the net.nfl jerseys for cheap authentic

Houston saved its best work for the final three minutes, scoring twice in stoppage time after looking dead in the water for more than 90 minutes.

Mauro Manotas scored four minutes into stoppage time to give the Dynamo life and set the table for Senderos.8

The match was delayed 98 minutes because of rain and lightning in the area. When the game began it was the LAFC, and Latif Blessing, that struck like a bolt in the fifth minute.

Lee Nguyen dribbled through the Houston defense just outside the box before turning to his right and finding Adama Diomande, who wheeled and threaded a pass just out of the reach of Dynamo center-back Adam Lundkvist to Blessing.

Blessing, the Ghana national, had just to corral the pass and flip it over Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis and into the net to give Los Angeles the lead.

Manotas had a great chance to tie the match in the 49th minute when he passed the ball to himself through the legs of LAFC defender Laurent Ciman before unleashing a point-blank shot that Miller knocked aside.wholesale authentic nfl jerseys

Los Angeles added to its lead in the 72nd minute as Kaye worked a give-and-go with Diomande in the midfield and outraced Senderos into the box before pushing a shot to Willis’ right and into the net.

Los Angeles returns home to host Orlando City on Saturday while Houston remains at home to square off against Minnesota United.

Brighton give Sundowns Percy Tau ultimatum


Mamelodi Sundowns have been handed a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ final offer for playmaker Percy Tau from English Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion, KweséESPN has learnt.

The South Coast side have been in hot pursuit of the South African international for months, but have been frustrated in their efforts to land the 24-year-old as Sundowns hold out for their best price.authentic nfl jerseys for cheap

Brighton have been steadily raising their offers, of which there have now been four on the table, but say they will move on to other targets if Sundowns don’t accept the latest one presented over the weekend.7

Sources tell KweséESPN that the latest offer is worth in the region of R50-million, short of the R70-million that Sundowns had been initially asking for.

It would still make Tau comfortably the most expensive export from South Africa’s Premier Soccer League, trumping Thulani Serero’s move to Ajax Amsterdam in 2011 that at the time was worth €2.5-million, at the exchange rate of the day equating to R24.5-million.

It would also go some way to reimbursing club owner Patrice Motsepe, who has spent an estimated R200-million on building the team over the last decade. Sundowns have been saying for months that they are resigned to losing their star man and that they would not stand in the players’ way, but need to properly compensated for the forward.

They have in effect already signed his replacement in Venezuelan forward Jose Ali Meza, who cost them a reported R13-million from Bolivian club Oriente Petrolero, which if confirmed would be the most a South African club has ever paid for a player.

Coach Pitso Mosimane said that negotiations with Brighton are on-going, but that he fully expects Tau to depart and that the club are very willing sellers.

“Sundowns wants Percy to leave, I think you know everything. Negotiations are ongoing – even today, and myself and management have all agreed that Percy must go,” Mosimane is quoted by Kick Off.nfl jerseys for cheap authentic

“Percy knows that we have agreed that he should go, because we’d love to see our player in the Premier League. I don’t think anyone who is sober in their mind would think Sundowns doesn’t want Percy to go.

Hot-hitting Tim Tebow named an Eastern League All-Star


Former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow was named to the Eastern League All-Star roster Friday.

Tebow is an outfielder for the New York Mets’ Double-A affiliate Binghamton Rumble Ponies.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“He’s made some big strides, and once again, you have to heap praise on his work ethic,” Binghamton manager Luis Rojas told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. “He’s put some work in to get [to] the point where he is.”

In 67 games, the 30-year-old former Florida and NFL quarterback is batting .261 with 12 doubles, 5 home runs and 30 RBIs. His .733 OPS is 35th-best in the Eastern League, and he is hitting .318 in June.21

So how do his marks stack up against the rest of the Eastern League All-Stars? On average, they’re hitting .288 with nine home runs, according to ESPN Stats & Information.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Tebow, who works for ESPN’s SEC Network, was an all-state baseball player at Nease High School in Florida.

In 2016, he decided he would pursue a career in professional baseball four years after he last played in the NFL.

The Eastern League All-Star game is July 11 in Trenton, New Jersey.

Tragedies loom large at 2018 NHL Awards show


Roberto Luongo walked around the table, shaking hands with each player wearing a vibrant yellow hockey sweater. Their honor in meeting an NHL star was reciprocated by the Florida Panthers goalie in meeting nine of the 13 surviving members of the Humboldt Broncos, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team whose bus was hit by a semitruck on April 6, killing 16 people.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

These players were young, and they were survivors. Luongo couldn’t help but think about others who fit the description.

“It brought me back to what happened back home,” Luongo said Tuesday in Las Vegas, site of Wednesday’s NHL Awards, where the Broncos players have reunited for the first time since the crash. “It’s obviously not the same kind of tragedy. But you see it in their faces. They’ve been through a lot. They’ve seen a lot. You just try to make them at ease as much as you can. It’s not easy to do. But if even for a few moments you can, then you try. It’s the least you can do. You try to put yourselves in their shoes. But it’s impossible to do that.”101

Luongo has tried. On Feb. 22, eight days after 17 people were killed in a shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Luongo took the ice before the Panthers’ game against the Washington Capitals to talk about a tragedy that literally hit home for the Parkland resident.

“To the families of the victims, our hearts are broken for you guys. There’s not much to say. It’s heartbreaking,” he said mournfully. “You guys are in our thoughts. We’ve been thinking about you every day constantly for the last week. Just know that we’re there for you if you guys need anything. You’ll be in our prayers.”nike nfl jerseys cheap china

It was the second time in the NHL regular season that an active player grabbed a microphone and offered solemn words in support of a devastated community. Before the Golden Knights’ first regular-season home game in franchise history, longtime Las Vegas resident Deryk Engelland reassured the fans that they were “Vegas Strong” days after a gunman left 58 people dead and 851 injured.

Olney: The Nationals are built to last beyond 2018


Juan Soto finished a round of batting practice here Saturday and when he stepped out of the cage, he deliberately pantomimed the finish to his swing, the sort of thing you see from veterans but rarely from teenagers. Soto is a 19-year-old with unusual maturity, someone who already has an understanding of the strike zone and how his own mind works best — that for him, obsessive video study can clutter the brain.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

Soto looks like he’s going to be around a long time with the Nationals. Max Scherzer is right in the middle of what might turn out to be the best long-term contract for a pitcher, because he appears to be the reigning Best Pitcher On The Planet with no end to his reign in sight; he threw his bullpen session Saturday in full game uniform, in keeping with Scherzer’s belief that you should practice the way you play.77

Shortstop Trea Turner is 24, talented starting pitcher Erick Fedde is 25, third baseman Anthony Rendon is 28, outfielder Michael Taylor 27. Washington holds club options on 31-year-old closer Sean Doolittle for 2019 and 2020.

The national narrative on the Nationals has been that 2018 is the last year of their window of championship opportunity, particularly with Bryce Harper headed into free agency in the fall and the Braves and the Phillies on the ascent in the NL East. But with Soto, Scherzer and the others tied to Washington beyond this season, it seems inevitable that the Nationals will continue to contend regardless of whether Harper stays.

Harper’s tortured performance seems to have eased just a bit in recent days, with the quality of his plate appearances improving and the promise of a second-half surge hovering. It’s unclear whether he’ll bounce back, and how his first-half slump will impact his free agency and the chances of his return to the Nationals.

Harper is hitting .212 with 19 homers and a .353 on-base percentage, and executives with other teams offered some early speculation this week that a down year for Harper could increase the chances he returns to the Nationals — because they understand Harper more than other teams, and understand that in those periods when he eases the paralytic pressure he places on himself, he is a dynamic force. Since Harper began his career, there has been an expectation that he would approach a record-setting contract in free agency.cheap wholesale nike nfl jerseys

But some executives wonder if Harper’s 2018 struggles continue, a better option could be to take a shorter-team deal with an opt-out, to give Harper a mulligan and another launch year; after all, Harper is only 25 years old. “That could work for him, and for the Nationals,” one evaluator said.

Blue Jays’ Troy Tulowitzki says he likes his chances to return


It’s likely to be more than a year between Troy Tulowitzki’s appearances in a major league game, but the injured shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays says he’s getting there.

“I can honestly say for the first time in a while I feel like I’m headed in the right direction,” Tulowitzki said Tuesday before the Blue Jays’ game at Tampa Bay.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

The 33-year-old Tulowitzki, a five-time All-Star, had surgery April 2 to remove bone spurs from both heels. He’s just getting back to the point of taking ground balls, hitting and starting to run in the outfield. He last appeared in a game on July 28, 2017, but did not elect to have the surgery until this year.48

“This spring training, it just got to be a little bit too much,” he said, “and at this point in my career I wanted to give myself a fair chance to come back and be the player I know I can be, and also end my career when I want to end it, not because it’s being forced.”

His recovery process is “all on feel, there’s really no schedule,” Tulowitzki said. But at this point there is no pain, and he said he will fight the temptation to hurry back onto the field.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

“I don’t want to sit here and say for sure I will be back, but I like my chances,” he said. “I’m in a good spot. I feel like this needed to be done. I feel like I’m getting better.”

With LT’s help, Melvin Gordon is working on bigger role as a receiver


One of the evaluations of Melvin Gordon coming out of Wisconsin was that he couldn’t catch the ball out of the backfield. Gordon had just 22 career receptions for the Badgers.

However, over three seasons for the Los Angeles Chargers, Gordon has built a perceived weakness into a strength through hard work, catching extra balls after practice or during his pregame routine on game days.

Gordon finished with 58 receptions for 476 receiving yards and four touchdowns last season. Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said Gordon’s role in the passing offense could expand even more for the upcoming season, particularly with the loss of Hunter Henry for the year because of an ACL injury to his right knee.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

“We can do some different things because Melvin has become such a good receiver out of the backfield,” Whisenhunt said. “And that’s not something that you saw from him in college. Not that he couldn’t do it; they just didn’t throw him the ball. He was too busy running for 8 million yards or whatever it was he was running for.

“So, yes, that’s been a real bonus that we’ve had. Those two guys [Gordon and Austin Ekeler], and their adaptability and flexibility can help some.”42

Gordon is part of leaguewide trend of running backs being used more in the passing game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, running backs totaled 2,757 receptions in 2017, the most in a season since 2002 (2,858).

Le’Veon Bell (85 receptions), Alvin Kamara (81 receptions), Christian McCaffrey (80) and Duke Johnson (74) all finished among the top 20 in the NFL in receptions last year.

Tomlinson said Gordon’s increased production in the passing game is part of his natural evolution, and a similar transition the TCU product went through as a player.

“What you’re seeing is a player become more comfortable in the offense,” Tomlinson said about Gordon. “His role in the offense has evolved, and it’s not just rushing the football and picking up the hard yards. It’s now becoming an asset in the passing game where you have to be an outlet for Philip.nike nfl cheap jerseys

“Most coaches aren’t going to put too much of the passing game on a rookie running back. So I think the first year, that’s what we saw from Melvin. And then in the second year you saw him start to be more of an outlet for Philip Rivers — the swing routes, letting Philip get the ball out quickly into Melvin’s hands, and letting him make plays.”

Donald’s status, Cooks-Goff connection headline Rams’ minicamp


Aaron Donald did not attend any portion of the Rams’ nine-week voluntary offseason program, including organized team activities, because of a contract dispute, and coach Sean McVay said he was uncertain if Donald would report for mandatory minicamp without a contract resolution.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Donald is scheduled to earn $6.9 million in the final season of his five-year rookie deal and is seeking to become the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, if not among the highest-paid players in the league.

Last year, Donald stayed away from the offseason program but reported to minicamp to avoid a fine — though he did not participate in drills. Donald then held out of training camp before arriving at the team facility a day before the regular-season opener, without a new deal.41

After sitting out the first game, he went on to help the Rams to an NFC West Division title and their first playoff appearance since 2004. He had 11 sacks, forced five fumbles and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Jared Goff is working on his connection with receiver Brandin Cooks, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the New England Patriots.

Cooks replaces Sammy Watkins, who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency. Watkins is the only offensive starter who will not return from last season’s top-scoring team.

Cooks is expected to develop into a deep threat for Goff, and the two displayed as much on Day 1 of OTAs, when Cooks caught a deep pass in stride for a touchdown.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

McVay said it was a bonus that Cooks, who caught 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns last season, has been available to participate in the offseason program and develop a rapport with Goff.

Last year, Watkins did not arrive until the second week of training camp and struggled to develop a reliable connection on deep passes.