Africa’s last two hopes take the field Monday, but neither of them have much of a shot. Can one (or both) of them shock a European power?France vs. Nigeria: 12 p.m. EDTGermany vs. Algeria: 4 p.m. EDTIN BRIEFSee our World Cup predictions for the latest probabilities.IN DEPTHDespite losing its final match of the group phase to Argentina (yielding a pair of goals to the incomparable Lionel Messi), Nigeria was still able to qualify for the World Cup’s knockout round by way of an Iranian defeat against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now it has to face France, which ranks as the world’s fifth-best national team in ESPN’s Soccer Power Index (SPI). Do the Super Eagles have a chance?Our current projections give Nigeria only a 24 percent probability of toppling a tough French side that’s as balanced as it is talented (France ranks sixth in SPI offense and fifth in defense). Nigeria will need to keep particular tabs on Karim Benzema, France’s all-universe forward. In the tournament’s round-robin phase, he terrorized Group E with three goals and two assists, and has been one of the best players of the World Cup thus far. He was a big reason why France scored eight total goals in its first two group-stage matches (before being held scoreless by Ecuador in a match France didn’t really need in order to win the group).Nigeria’s best hope to shut down France lies in its defense. Before Messi menaced the Super Eagles in the group-stage finale, they had kept clean sheets in each of their first two matches. According to the metric of individual contribution I computed here, five of Nigeria’s six most instrumental performers during the group stage were defensive-minded players — goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, defenders Kenneth Omeruo and Efe Ambrose, and holding midfielders John Obi Mikel and Ogenyi Onazi. Life won’t be easy for them Monday (our model says there’s a 56 percent chance France scores at least two goals during regulation time), but it will be tough for Nigeria to prevail unless they keep France’s offense in check.In the other matchup of the day, Germany faces Algeria in what looks to be one of the Round of 16’s most lopsided affairs. I wrote about the Germans at length when they faced the United States last Thursday, so I won’t belabor the point. They’re one of the best sides in the world, incredibly dangerous offensively and composed almost entirely of players in their soccer primes. It’s going to be a tall order for the Algerians to stop them, especially since Algeria has (by far) the worst defense of any team to advance to the knockout round, according to ESPN’s Soccer Power Index (SPI) numbers.Algerian attacking midfielder Sofiane Feghouli enjoyed a good start to the tournament, racking up a goal and an assist in his first two group-stage appearances, but the pressure will be on him to perform against Germany as one of the few Algerian players of world-class quality. Then again, Algeria’s defense is so porous (and Germany’s offense so potent), that it may not matter. With just an 17 percent probability of victory according to the FiveThirtyEight model, it would be the upset of the tournament thus far if Algeria somehow manages to topple the German juggernaut.YESTERDAYFor 87 minutes, Mexico looked ready for el quinto partido. It took just seven minutes for crushing defeat to set in.Wesley Sneijder’s goal in the 88th minute and a penalty kick by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in the fourth minute of added time brought Mexico’s tournament to an abrupt end.In the first half, El Tri matched the Netherlands touch-for-touch in possessions in the attacking third (50-46 in favor of the Dutch). The Mexicans held the Dutch to one chance created and one shot on goal, both tournament lows for the Oranje.But the Netherlands exploited a Mexican weakness to score the latest equalizer in Dutch World Cup history. Mexico leaves the tournament having allowed opponents eight chances created off set pieces, tied with South Korea and Uruguay for most of any country. Holland’s first goal came off a corner kick, as Huntelaar’s back-post run left him open to head the cross back to the center of the box. As Sneijder struck the ball just inside the penalty area, the closest Mexican defender in front of him was just outside the 6-yard box. That was more than enough room for Sneijder.Miguel Herrera, whose team had been in almost constant attack throughout the tournament, became conservative over the last 90 minutes. Before the 61st minute (when Dos Santos subbed off), the Dutch had a 75-62 lead in attacking-third touches, a respectable margin for Mexico against the Oranje. But after Dos Santos left for midfielder Javier Aquino, the Dutch had a 63-30 advantage in attacking-third touches.More important, they translated that advantage to two goals and extended the drought for that elusive quinto partido. — John Parolin, senior stats analyst, ESPNOFF THE PITCHTrying and failing to colonize Nigeria in the early 18th century hasn’t stopped France from holding influence in the country. According to AidData, France provided Nigeria with $4.5 billion in aid between 1973 and 2011. The bulk of the aid ($4.2 billion) was distributed for debt alleviation in 2005 and 2006, after Nigeria was overlooked for debt relief in 2004 due to its oil revenues. More recently, France hasn’t provided as much aid, but it’s been allocated more broadly. Six of the 18 projects to which France contributed in 2011 were for building education infrastructure, three were for building technical expertise in education, health and government, and one was for developing agriculture. — Hayley MunguiaFURTHER READINGWorld Cup Players to Know: Costa Rica’s Keylor NavasWere the Billions Brazil Spent on World Cup Stadiums Worth It?
In the ninth inning of the New York Yankees’ 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on July 1, Brian McCann1In this case, pinch-hitting for right fielder Alfonso Soriano. watched Grant Balfour’s fastball sail over the outside corner of the plate for a called third strike. As he walked dejectedly back to the dugout, McCann’s 2014 batting average sank to .220, the lowest seasonal average he’d carried in July at any point during his 10-year major league career.A few days later, Terry Pendleton, McCann’s old hitting coach with the Atlanta Braves, delivered a theory as to why the catcher, who signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the Yankees last November, was struggling at the plate this season: He can’t handle the burden of expectations that come with playing in New York City.This is a refrain we hear often whenever a player struggles in a huge (usually northeastern U.S.) market. The theory is that a rabid fan base and an overzealous sports media corps can cripple a player’s confidence and change his play. Based on a LexisNexis search of news reports, this happens almost exclusively in New York (and for the Yankees more than the Mets) and in Boston, with the occasional reference to Chicago and Philadelphia.2When I did a historical LexisNexis search of U.S. news sources for phrases such as a player having “what it takes to play in [city],” knowing “how to pitch in [city],” “handling the [city] media,” etc., those major league cities were the only ones repeatedly mentioned. The pressure to win in those cities can be staggering, but the “can’t handle the pressure” argument is laced with self-flattery: By linking a player’s production to the weight of external expectations, fans and the media presume they have significant power over how well he performs.It’s easy to write this off as little more than a delusion. McCann certainly seems determined to prove that he can handle New York, that the narrative is nothing but manufactured nonsense. He’s produced a .352/.379/.463 triple-slash line since his batting average reached its nadir against the Rays earlier this month.And yet, when I ran the stats on players like McCann, I was surprised to see that there may be something to the whole idea of big-market pressure affecting play, at least for batters. (Pitchers, not so much.)To start my data work, I compared performance relative to expectation. Statistically speaking, expectation is best measured by one of the various and sundry projection systems sabermetricians have developed.3Such as PECOTA, originally the brainchild of FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver. The projection method most adaptable to the task at hand also happens to be the simplest one: Tom Tango’s Marcel system, because it’s open-source and can be customized endlessly. While Marcel is named for a monkey because it barely requires a primate’s intelligence to operate, it performs roughly as well as far more sophisticated setups.A Marcel-like approach4I tweaked Tango’s weights slightly to maximize predictive accuracy, and split out offense and defense into separate projections for position players (because of limitations in fielding statistics, defense is regressed to the mean more strongly than offense). can generate predicted runs above average numbers for every player’s seasons going back to 1985; each is a credible estimate of what the player could have been expected to do before the season started. Adjust those numbers for playing time (so as not to punish players for injuries), compare them to the player’s actual runs above average marks, and we have a way to assess whether a player lived up to statistical expectations.5It’s important to note that these expectations account for past performance, regression to the mean, and the aging pattern of a typical major leaguer. In particular, the regression-to-the-mean component of the Marcel process should capture any effect of an abnormally good performance in a contract year.These differences between actual and expected performance are the kinds of statistical disparities that theories like “he just can’t cut it in New York” are attempting to explain. If we believed that it was truly more difficult to perform to expectation in a city like New York, then we’d expect a very specific subset of player — a new acquisition with a high salary, like McCann — to perform worse in the aforementioned pressure-packed cities than in comparable destinations with more relaxed reputations. I used Los Angeles, Dallas (the Texas Rangers’ media market), San Francisco/Oakland and Atlanta as the control group,6New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston represent four of the eight biggest media markets in the United States. Los Angeles, Dallas, San Francisco/Oakland and Atlanta are the other four. and then compared how batters and pitchers did in each set of cities.When I weighted the results toward more highly paid stars,7Adjusting for salary “inflation” using baseball’s version of the Consumer Price Index — the relative cost of a win in free agency. the average batter in our subset of newcomers saw his actual performance undershoot his projected performance by 1.9 runs when playing for teams in New York, Chicago, Boston or Philadelphia. Some notable deficits included Albert Belle underperforming by 47.5 runs after joining the Chicago White Sox in 1997, Chuck Knoblauch falling short by 39.3 runs as a new member of the New York Yankees in 1998,8He was just about the only Yankee who fell short of expectations that year; his teammates on the batting side combined to exceed their projections by 175.2 runs in 1998. and J.D. Drew missing by 24.1 runs for the Boston Red Sox in 2007.For comparison, here are the batters who did best in these high-pressure markets:Meanwhile, the cohort playing for teams in Atlanta, Dallas, LA or the Bay Area averaged a -0.4 run difference between expectation and reality, or 1.5 runs better than those in the “high-pressure” cities.9A weighted t-test between the two means yielded a p-value of essentially zero, so this difference probably didn’t happen due to chance, either. Score one for the idea that fan and media scrutiny play a role in player performance.Then again, don’t tell that to the highly paid hurlers who joined teams in cities that are supposedly tougher to play in. Over the same period, that subset of pitchers prevented 4.5 more runs than would have been expected from their projections, while their counterparts in the more “easygoing” environs saved 3.2 more runs on average.10Again, weighting the average toward the more highly paid of the pitchers. And again, a weighted t-test produced a p-value of zero. Here are the top five overachieving pitchers in our four high-pressure cities:For every John Lackey who struggled upon joining a team like the Red Sox, there was a Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling or Roy Halladay who thrived in a tough market. And LA-area fans will remember the likes of Aaron Sele, Jason Schmidt, Jon Garland and Bartolo Colon, all of whom struggled upon landing with LA-area teams.It’s hard to know what to make of all this. The conventional wisdom holds that pitchers would be more affected by added pressure in a new, rabid city, since they’re the players who have to stand alone on the mound and think about the enormity of throwing before, say, a packed Fenway Park. But, statistically, hitters had the more difficult adjustment to life under the microscope. This may be due to factors beyond fan devotion and an intense media climate; for instance, there may be something about the types of players teams like the Red Sox and the Yankees tend to acquire in free agency that is more correlated with those players underperforming projections. So while there’s correlation here, we don’t necessarily know which way the arrow of causation points.McCann’s roller-coaster month of July might be the clearest argument against the armchair psychology of declaring players unfit for big markets. Baseball remains largely a game of luck and randomness, with sample sizes never quite as big as we’d like. As clear as the “he can’t handle New York” explanation might have seemed when McCann was in his early-season slump, the real culprit was probably just bad luck. In baseball, the influence of chance trumps anything the fans or the media can throw at a player.
In less than a week, you may have heard, there’s a midterm election in the United States of America. This is sort of a big deal for us at FiveThirtyEight. Such a big deal that our estimable tech team of Jeremy Weinrib and Paul Schreiber arranged a fancy live-blogging platform so you can snuggle up next to us for hours on election night. It’ll be cozy.We’ve known for weeks that we’d need to give the platform a test drive, and we decided that we’d do that Wednesday, on the second night of the NBA season. We’d get together our crew of basketball writers (the ones who wrote our NBA team previews), buy some pizzas and use an algorithm to project whether Giannis Antetokounmpo has finally stopped growing.But as the San Francisco Giants discovered last night, Jake Peavy has a habit of ruining the best-laid plans.About the time Game 6 of the World Series passed a 95 percent win probability, we made the call to scuttle the NBA live blog. Instead, you’ll get to hang with us as we watch Game 7. We’ll argue that Jeremy Guthrie shouldn’t pitch more than three innings, locate where the Giants dynasty of the past five seasons would rank compared to others and, Yost-willing, debate the merits of the sacrifice bunt.It’s going to be great. Or a total disaster. Come and find out which. 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday. Here on FiveThirtyEight.
See more MLB predictions Things That Caught My EyeVegas gets another teamThe San Antonio Stars will move to Las Vegas under its new management of MGM Resorts International. This makes them the second professional team to open up in the gambling town with the Oakland Raiders soon to follow. With the No. 1 pick in the draft next year, this is an exciting time for the WNBA team. [ESPN]Browns allegedly superior to other teamsThe Browns’ crew of quarterbacks — a squad of personnel I am unfortunately well-acquainted with — is not the worst in history. We’ve had the statistic Total QBR since 2006, and in the period of time since them there have been three teams — the 2010 Panthers, 2008 Raiders and 2007 49ers — who have a total QBR less than the 21.9 Cleveland currently sports. [ESPN]Clemson and Washington are not totally screwedLast week the Clemson Tigers and Washington Huskies suffered upset losses that made them fall out of the AP Top 5. Clemson is down from a 55 percent chance of making the playoff to a 29 percent chance, and Washington fell from a 43 percent chance to a 24 percent chance. Realistically, the best way to make the playoff is to win out: doing so would give them a 97 percent and 87 percent chance, respectively, of making the playoff. Clemson’s Week 10 game against N.C. State will be the decisive game, while Washington’s test will be in Week 11 at Stanford. [FiveThirtyEight]Happy Sports Equinox!Thursday, Oct. 19 is the Sports Equinox, the day when all four major U.S. sports leagues play at least one game. There have only been 17 in history. Should the Cubs force a game 7 in the NCLS, Sunday will be a second one of 2017. Fair warning, with 14 different games, it’s going to get weird tonight in even the most amply-screened sports bars. [FiveThirtyEight]Yes, let’s keep saying nice things about the EaglesOh wow the Eagles are real good this year! No reason at all to mitigate expectations, Eagles fans: You guys are going to win the Super Bowl for sure this time. Believe it! I’m in no way attempting to pump up expectation thus making the eventual and inevitable playoff catastrophe all the more panful for you to bear, not at all, we here in New York love you, Philly. Realistically though, the Eagles are solid, and have a somewhat easy route to the playoffs from here on out: Their next 10 adversaries have an average Elo rating of 1484, which is below the league average 1500. [FiveThirtyEight]Balto got highFor the first time ever, several Iditarod sled dogs from one team tested positive for a prohibited substance. The race began testing for doped-up doggies back in 1994. It’s been described by a race board member as an isolated incident. [ESPN]Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions? game!Big Number-10 winsGordon Hayward dislocated his ankle and fractured his tibia five minutes into the first game of the NBA season. For Hayward, this means a difficult recovery over the course of the season. For the Celtics, it means their anticipated 47-win season drops to 37 wins, all of which is way below Vegas’ expected 53.5 wins. [FiveThirtyEight]Leaks from Slack: gfoster:@heynawl-enten FYI, Yankees are likeable now. So keep that in mind.https://sports.yahoo.com/alcs-game-5-new-york-yankees-actually-likable-042520640.htmlheynawl-enten:Just tweeted itWTF is this?colleen:this is provably falsethe yankees are the yankeesthe yankees are not likableQEDlarue:Curious what it would take for a hated team to become a likable team. A goliath to an underdog if you will. Possible?Predictions MLB All newsletters See more NFL predictions NFL We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe Oh, and don’t forgetThe robots fought and it really really sucked.
In fact, most theories fell into one of two categories: fashion or fear.But what’s the evidence for each?For her master’s thesis in urban planning at the University of Washington, Anne Broache examined which influenced women’s decisions about cycling. In 2012, she surveyed 365 women in Seattle — where 28 percent of bike commuters are female, according to the city’s Department of Transportation — about fashion and road safety. One-third of the nondaily riders and one-fifth of daily riders reported general concerns about “grooming issues, bringing spare clothes, helmet hair, and arriving at destinations red-faced and sweaty.” But safety was “by far the leading concern for all riders” — 79 percent of the women cited “distracted driving” as the biggest barrier to them cycling.Although it didn’t ask about fashion, the 2010 Women’s Cycling Survey asked a lot more women about their cycling choices; it, too, found the No. 1 concern was “distracted driving,” which was cited by 73 percent of the 11,453 women questioned.But there’s more to personal safety than the risk of traffic accidents. As @anildash suggests (and Helen Pidd’s personal account on The Guardian’s Bike Blog illustrates), female cyclists might fear sexual assault and harassment. The Women’s Cycling Survey found that 13 percent of women said “stranger attacks” were a concern.And just as fear is a complex issue, so, too, is fashion. Lifestyle barriers affect women’s decision-making around cycling in ways more challenging than footwear or hem length. When the Bikes Belong Coalition surveyed almost 2,000 U.S. adults, they found that women were twice as likely as men to report an “inability to carry children or other passengers” as a factor that discouraged them from cycling. Convenient transport is important for moms, because they spend 3.7 minutes more per day than dads ferrying kids around.Finally, one more reason women aren’t getting on bikes can’t be captured by the fear or fashion explanations; like most lifestyle choices, cycling decisions are affected by wealth. And women earn less than men. As Clarissa Ersoz at the Bicycle Paper explains, “Even a reasonably priced bike is a significant up-front expense for disadvantaged households.” A 2001 report, “The Socioeconomics of Urban Travel,” found that households earning less than $20,000 were no more likely to use bicycles as a mode of transport than those earning $75,000 – $99,999.When it comes to the why of America’s cycling gender gap, the data suggests that fashion really isn’t front of mind for most women. Instead, road safety and practical lifestyle issues are the biggest obstacles to female riders. That makes it all the more disappointing that the recent bike-share data shows that rental systems have been unable to address those concerns.CORRECTION (June 18, 3:59 p.m.): An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that, according to “The Socioeconomics of Urban Travel,” 13.5 percent of households earning less than $20,000 used a bicycle as a mode of transport. The table in the report actually shows that 13.5 percent of all people who use a bicycle as a mode of transport live in households earning less than $20,000. For every three men hopping on a bike, just one woman does the same, according to an analysis by BuzzFeed’s Jeremy Singer-Vine, who collected data from the three largest bike-share programs in the United States — New York, Chicago and Boston — and mapped the gender balance in each. Although slightly more women check out a bike on weekends, overall, they still make up only 24.7 percent of riders.This gender gap isn’t unique to bike-share programs or these three cities. The most recent National Household Travel Survey shows that 24 percent of bike trips in 2009 were made by women. The national data also shows that women are slightly less likely to cycle now than they were in 2001; researchers found “the prevalence of any cycling declined signiﬁcantly for children (by 1.5 percent) and women (by 0.3 percent).” That needn’t be the case: In Germany, 49 percent of cyclists are women. In the Netherlands, that number is 55 percent.Readers were quick to offer explanations for the lack of female cyclers:
Broomstick190110– Nashua19527– Blue Larkspur19267– Instilled Regard✓ 3A. P. Indy19892910– 2Sir Gallahad III192013– Magnum Moon✓✓ Mr. Prospector was the horse’s … Ballot190410– Bull Dog19277– Hofburg✓✓ Wrack19095– North Star III191410– Nasrullah19408– Man o’ War19177– Pompey19235– Horsegreat-grandfathergreat-great-grandfathergreat-great-great-grandfather Tiznow1997217– Distorted Humor1993257– Mr. Prospector got luckyRelationship of Mr. Prospector to every horse in the 2018 Kentucky Derby Dixieland Band19805– Vino Rosso✓✓ Seattle Slew19745– Combatant✓✓✓ RKsirebornAge (if alive)Offspring in the derby Hail to Reason19587– Curlin could break into the ranks of top Derby siresSires with at least five offspring who raced or are set to race in the Kentucky Derby, 1875* through 2018 Royal Minstrel19255– Bold Bidder19625– Mendelssohn✓✓ Good Magic✓✓ Promises Fulfilled✓✓ Unbridled19876– Wild Again19806– Danzig19776– Bull Lea19355– Mr. Prospector19707– Khaled19436– Dynaformer19855– Enticed✓✓ Maria’s Mon19935– Pharamond II19256– 26Mineshaft1999196– 37Into Mischief2005135– Gone West19845– “He’s a dominant force. He was a sprinter, and he set a track record,” said Hill, adding that the horse’s widespread influence is even more impressive for the fact that Mr. Prospector was breeding in the era where studs covered 40 to 60 mares a year.Another major stallion, Northern Dancer, is widely represented. Scat Daddy, for example, had both Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector in his pedigree. And when Scat Daddy was paired with the mare Stage Magic, whose bloodline also traces back to Mr. Prospector, they produced the 2018 Derby favorite Justify.While breeders are concerned that too much inbreeding will create freakish horses, the right combination can make for horses that are freakishly brilliant, said Hill, whose family owned the 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.Can Justify get it done? He’s got history working both for and against him. Justify did not run as a 2-year-old, and the last horse to win the Kentucky Derby without running at age 2 was Apollo, more than 130 years ago in 1882. But Justify has been working with Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert, who has won the Derby four times.Scat Daddy also sired another morning-line favorite, Mendelssohn, who won the UAE Derby in Dubai by a huge margin — almost 19 lengths. He’s under the care of star trainer Aidan O’Brien.Among Curlin’s offspring, Vino Rosso won his last race, the Wood Memorial, and is trained by 2017 Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher. There’s also reason to like Good Magic, who won the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and is trained by rising star Chad Brown.They’ve all got about two minutes to make daddy proud. Sovereign Dancer19755– 7Tapit2001179– Damascus19645– Graustark19635– 13Scat Daddy20047– Alibhai19385– Solomini✓ El Prado19895– Firenze Fire✓✓ Noble Indy✓✓ 1Black Toney191116– Audible✓ Herbager19565– Pulpit19946– Count Fleet19405– Bravazo✓ Show more rows*Sire data is incomplete for many of the early Derbies.Sources: Horse Racing Nation, Equineline.com 9Curlin2004148– Bolt d’Oro Cox’s Ridge19747– Ambiorix19465– Heliopolis19369– Sweep19077– The Porter19158– Halo19696– The 2018 Derby is something of a chance to avenge the 2007 Kentucky Derby for both Curlin and Scat Daddy, who had disappointing results in that race. Curlin finished a respectable third, but went on to beat that year’s Derby winner, Street Sense, to win both the Breeders’ Cup and the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown. Scat Daddy had been a favorite at the betting windows before the 2007 Derby, but he finished a dismal 18th after suffering an injury.Why have these two returned so prominently, via their progeny, to the track? The answer lies both in talent and modern breeding practices.When thoroughbred racehorses shift to their second career as studs, it’s never a sure thing that they will produce high-quality foals. But as their progeny start showing promise, the stallions are held in higher regard, so breeders send in better and better mares, combining the most promising bloodlines in hopes of producing more competitive offspring.“Once a horse shows aptitude and ability, his commercial appeal increases,” said John Sikura, president of Hill ’n’ Dale, the Kentucky breeding farm where Curlin lives.Both Curlin and Scat Daddy attracted more interest from breeders as their progeny were increasingly successful. Curlin’s stud fee was set at $150,000 for the 2018 season, and Scat Daddy was also commanding six figures before his untimely death.The fact that Curlin and Scat Daddy have so many horses in the field is also a function of the modern approach to breeding: Keep ’em busy.Stallions today might “cover,” or breed with, more than 200 mares in a season, whereas the great sires of the past were breeding to a list, or book, of about 50 mares.“What you’re seeing is the ‘big book’ phenomenon,” said Jamie Hill, co-owner of McMahon and Hill Bloodstock agency.In 2014, when this year’s crop of Derby contenders was bred, Curlin bred with 152 mares and Scat Daddy covered 202, as reported to the Jockey Club. Of their more than 350 matings, seven progeny have made it to the 2018 Kentucky Derby, which only takes 20 horses every year.Shared parentage, though, is nothing in the big picture of breeding thoroughbred race horses. Look a few generations back, and they’re practically all related.Certain names crop up over and over in the pedigrees of this year’s Derby runners. Mr. Prospector, for example, shows up in every 2018 Derby runner’s lineage. Smart Strike19926– Malibu Moon1997217– Alydar19756– Free Drop Billy✓✓ Lone Sailor✓ Fair Play19055– Giant’s Causeway19978– Unbridled’s Song19936– Flameaway✓✓ Justify✓✓ Sickle19245– In every Kentucky Derby, breeding is the silent, invisible force that can play a huge role in deciding the outcome of the race. What’s unusual about the 2018 Kentucky Derby is the sameness of the breeding.When the race kicks off at about 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, the 20-horse field1We’re considering only the 20 horses that have a guaranteed spot in Saturday’s race. One additional horse was granted alternate status in case another horse scratches, but the alternate was not counted in this analysis. will feature nine runners who were sired by just three stallions, which means 45 percent of the runners will be competing against what humans might consider a half-brother. And that’s the third-highest percentage in the 94 Kentucky Derbys for which horseracingnation.com has sire data on all the competitors.Leading the family business this year is the stallion Scat Daddy, who sired four colts in the race: The morning-line favorite Justify (3-1) and the second-favorite Mendelssohn (5-1), as well as long shots Flameaway (30-1) and Combatant (50-1). To see how unusual it is for four half-siblings2In horse-racing parlance, two horses with the same sire are technically not considered “half-siblings,” a term reserved for two horses with the same mare. to enter the same Kentucky Derby, we looked at the sires of every Derby horse on record. Assuming none of his progeny scratch, this year Scat Daddy will tie Chicle as the most prolific derby sire for any one year.3Data gets spotty in the 19th century, so we may be missing some Victorian-era superstuds. (Chicle sired four racers in the 1923 Derby.)Scat Daddy isn’t the only stallion with multiple offspring in this year’s race. Three competitors were sired by Curlin: Vino Rosso (12-1), Good Magic (12-1) and Solomini (30-1). And just to keep it interesting, Bolt d’Oro (8-1) and Enticed (30-1) are both by the stallion Medaglia d’Oro.Scat Daddy died unexpectedly in 2015 at age 11, so this crop of 3-year-olds will be the second-to-last of his direct offspring to run for the roses. But Curlin, the two-time horse of the year, has a chance to enter the record books as a stallion. Overall, Curlin has already sired eight Derby contenders4Scat Daddy has sired seven. Again, assuming none of their offspring scratch from this year’s race. and he’s only 14, which means he may be able to keep breeding for another decade or so. According to our research, the record for fathering Derby runners is held by Black Toney, who sired 16, including Derby winners Black Gold and Brokers Tip. Chicle19137– My Boy Jack✓ Source: Equineline.com ✓ Gulch19845– McGee19005–
OSU then-freshman Kyle Snyder celebrates a defeat of a top-10 opponent against Minnesota. Credit: Lantern file photoWith only one match remaining between the No. 11 Ohio State wrestling team and Nebraska, the score was knotted at 17. The Buckeyes were trying to avenge their loss to Michigan on Jan. 9, and, by extension, a further drop down the rankings. But then Kyle Snyder took the mat. In his season debut after deciding to forgo his previous plans to take an Olympic redshirt, the sophomore shook off a slow start to his match to eventually pull away from Colin Jensen in the 285-pound class. In the end, the recently crowned World Champion won by a 20-9 major decision to put the Buckeyes over the top, giving OSU a 21-17 victory.“Couldn’t be a better scenario for myself,” Snyder said. “It was exciting, fun, and being able to compete allows me to see what I need to get better at.”Before the match, a banner commemorating Snyder’s recent championship was unveiled in St. John Arena.“Seeing my banner lowered was pretty awesome because I didn’t know that was happening until Wednesday,” Snyder said.For the Scarlet and Gray, the victory is their second in the last four matchups with Nebraska. Snyder’s emergence into the lineup was just one of four changes to the lineup OSU has used in recent weeks. There were three changes, excluding Snyder’s addition, to the projected lineups from earlier this week. “We knew we weren’t going to have (redshirt senior) Hunter (Stieber), we knew we weren’t going to have (redshirt sophomore) Bo (Jordan), we knew we weren’t going to have (senior) Mark (Martin),” OSU coach Tom Ryan said. The 165-pound weight class match was ultimately forfeited in the absence of Jordan.Sophomore Sal Marandino filled in for Stieber in the 149-pound class, while redshirt junior Josh Fox took the mat in Martin’s place at 197 pounds. Both of the matches that featured substitute wrestlers resulted in losses for the Buckeyes, along with the forfeiture due to Jordan not competing. But even so, Ryan spoke volumes about the toughness and grit of his team. “Sal Marandino fought off a tough kid,” Ryan said. “Josh Fox… (Nebraska’s Aaron Studebaker) was in overtime last week against the No.1 ranked kid in the country.” Ryan also noted that the reasons behind the absences are not serious in nature.“(Jordan has) just got a pulled muscle,” Ryan said. “(Stieber) had the flu.”The first three matchups saw OSU commanding the mat early, tallying victories in the 125-, 133- and 141-pound weight classes. The action started off with redshirt sophomore Nathan Tomasello (125). He capitalized early against his opponent, junior Tim Lambert, with seven takedowns, the first of which came within seconds of match’s start.With the win, Tomasello improved to 12-0 on the year. Johnni DiJulius was next up in the 133-pound class, where he squared off against junior Eric Montoya.The redshirt senior earned a 9-4 win, even after Montoya roared back with two takedowns in the last 30 seconds.After a decisive 13-4 victory for redshirt freshman Micah Jordan against senior Anthony Abidin, Nebraska picked up a win at the 149-pound class with Jake Sueflohn.Sueflohn got out to an early lead with a takedown, and never looked back, winning 21-5.After a thrilling overtime period, Jake Ryan earned a 6-4 victory in the 157-pound class over redshirt freshman Tyler Berger.A two-point reversal and two-point near-fall by the OSU redshirt freshman made all the difference in the match.After a Buckeye forfeit at 165, Myles Martin gave the Scarlet and Gray a 17-11 advantage with a 7-4 decision against 14th ranked Micah Barnes. This was the true freshman’s 20th win this season. Next up, OSU’s redshirt senior Kenny Court dropped a decision to TJ Dudley in the 184-pound class, 7-1. Dudley is currently No. 5 in the nation in his respective weight class.Immediately following was the 197-pound matchup, featuring the redshirt junior Fox filling in for Mark Martin.Fox faced the aforementioned Studebaker in a mostly defensive match-up. Despite fighting valiantly, Fox ultimately fell by a 4-0 decision. Entering the final matchup, the teams were deadlocked at 17-17 before Snyder made his return in near-storybook fashion.It wasn’t until earlier in the meet that it was announced that redshirt junior heavyweight Nick Tavanello would not be representing OSU in the match against Jensen. Instead, Snyder returned to the mat, shook off early rust and secured the Buckeyes’ victory. Along with the unveiling of Snyder’s championship banner, there was a moment of silent for the recent passing of longtime OSU coach Chris Ford. Also, the dual meet was Military Appreciation Night, where former OSU wrestler Ray Mendoza was honored at intermission. Following the win, the Buckeyes are set to face Michigan State next Sunday at Walsh Jesuit High School near Cleveland.
OSU coach Urban Meyer during a game against Rutgers on Oct. 24 at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.Credit: Lantern file photoThis past Monday, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer spoke about getting his team “game ready.” One week before game preparation begins for the team’s Sept. 3 game against Bowling Green, Meyer has made it clear to his guys that this week the Buckeyes are in full “Code Green.”Being Code Green is best explained as the moment when a player is completely game ready. It’s a system that the coaching staff is using to evaluate how equipped a player is with knowledge of the game plan they are implementing and then their ability to execute it when the time comes.Code Green is not a mantra that the Buckeyes are throwing around loosely. It’s a process that the program is buying into from top to bottom. It’s methods like this that have led to national championships in the team’s history, according to sophomore defensive lineman Sam Hubbard, and failing to buy into the process leads to the team not being able to improve.“I’m code green on the punt team, ready to go,” Hubbard said. “Defensive line wise, none of us are Code Green yet. We still have things we have to work on and we have ten days to do that.”Hubbard said that this type of preparation isn’t very different from the preparation he had to do when he was forced to step in for the then-suspended junior defensive lineman Joey Bosa, in the Buckeyes’ season opener last season.Newly named starter and junior offensive lineman Jamarco Jones, said that he also is not “Code Green” and that the team is being graded everyday on their game readiness until the coaching staff decides to give them the green light.Whether it’s about getting past “The Edge,” in “the Year of the Wolves,” or now emerging into “Code Green” week, Meyer and company are looking to get one step closer to being game ready.“We have it on every aspect of our game,” Hubbard said when asked what Code Green meant. “That is what I’m working for, to be game ready.”
Ohio State’s defense bent on Saturday against the Toledo Rockets. It didn’t break, though. The No. 15-ranked Buckeyes (2-0) held on for a 27-22 victory against the Rockets (1-1) at Ohio Stadium Saturday thanks to two late defensive stops. Protecting the 27-22 lead in the fourth quarter, OSU junior defensive tackle John Simon sacked Rockets’ senior quarterback Austin Dantin on third-and-9 to force a punt with just under six minutes remaining. Toledo then recovered a fumble by redshirt freshman Rod Smith with 3:08 remaining in the game, halting any celebrations. The Rockets’ mounted one final comeback attempt from their own 28-yard line after the recovery and came within 16 yards of the end zone. Simon again provided pressure and forced sophomore quarterback Terrance Owens to throw the ball away on fourth down with 48 seconds remaining to clinch the win for OSU. “We knew it was going to be a challenge,” first-year coach Luke Fickell said after the game. “We’re excited about how the guys fought, how they battled and how they kept their chins up.” The win proved to be a back-and-forth affair, though OSU did strike first in the game. Redshirt senior quarterback Joe Bauserman led the Buckeyes to an opening-drive score, and found a familiar target in the process. Bauserman connected with junior tight end Jake Stoneburner on a 26-yard touchdown pass. Stoneburner split the Toledo defense up the middle, ran uncovered and hauled Bauserman’s pass in with one hand as he crossed the goal line to put OSU up, 7-0. The touchdown reception was the fourth in two weeks for Stoneburner and the first since he received the John Mackey Tight End of the Week award midweek. “I guess (Bauserman) just likes finding me out there,” Stoneburner said. “I was supposed to take it up the middle of the field and he made a great pass.” A lapse on special teams caused headaches for most of the 105,016 fans in attendance at the ‘Shoe. OSU junior punter Ben Buchanan had his punt blocked by freshman cornerback Kishon Wilcher. Junior defensive end T.J. Fatinikun then returned the ball 22 yards to the Buckeyes’ 1-yard line. On the next play, junior quarterback Austin Dantin connected with junior receiver Eric Page on a 1-yard touchdown pass. Page then took the extra point snap and completed a pass to junior defensive end Hank Keighley to give the Rockets an 8-7 lead. “Obviously, we cannot have the special teams lapses,” Fickell said. “We just can’t have it.” OSU could only muster a 45-yard drive in response to the Rockets’s score — 30 of the yards it gained came as a result of Toledo penalties. Sophomore kicker Drew Basil then pushed his 47-yard field goal try wide left. Basil is now 0-for-2 on field goals tries through Week 2. Owens came in at quarterback for Toledo on the ensuing possession. The result was the same as its last drive, though. Owens completed a pass to Page, who then high-stepped 66 yards down the sideline and into the end zone to give the Rockets a 15-7 lead. Page finished the game with 12 catches, two touchdowns and 145 yards. Two crucial punt re-kicks after Toledo penalties allowed OSU to begin to climb back into the contest midway through the second quarter. Sophomore punter Vince Penza was forced to re-kick a punt from his own end zone after a Rockets’ false start penalty. The ensuing punt gave OSU the ball inside Toledo territory. Three plays into the Buckeyes’ drive, sophomore running back Carlos Hyde scampered 36 yards into the end zone for the first of his two touchdowns in the game to bring OSU to within a point at 15-14. “I think (Hyde) has done a very good job,” Fickell said. “We’ll continue to feed him and, you know, I believe he’s only going to get stronger.” Penza was forced to re-kick for a second time with 1:00 remaining in the half after an illegal formation penalty. Buckeyes sophomore Chris Fields then collected Penza’s punt and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown. OSU took a 21-15 lead into halftime. “I saw a clear lane,” Fields said of his touchdown return. “All I saw was the punter. And coach says you can’t be tackled by the punter, so it ended up being successful.” Toledo senior running back Adonis Thomas restored the Rockets’ lead soon after the intermission. A 44-yard pass reception by Thomas, coupled with an OSU face mask penalty, put Toledo on OSU’s 13-yard line. Later in the drive, Thomas took a direct snap on fourth-and-1 and ran four yards into the end zone to put Toledo up, 22-21. The Buckeyes kept themselves within a point, denying a 50-yard field goal attempt on Toledo’s next possession. Senior holder Bill Claus bobbled the snap and the OSU defense swarmed him on its own 45-yard line. The Buckeyes used the short field to their advantage and scored to take a 27-22 lead. Hyde capped a 55-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. OSU was then unsuccessful on its two-point conversion attempt. The drive following Simon’s sack of Dantin saw the Buckeyes attempting to run the clock out in the fourth quarter. Then came Smith’s fumble, and OSU’s final late-game stand. “We knew we had to stop them or they were going to win the game,” Simon said. “The secondary did a great job in coverage and getting me some extra time to get back there.” The Buckeyes took over on downs and kneed the ball to finish the Week 2 win. “You never want to be the team that losses to a MAC team in the ‘Shoe,” Stoneburner said. “We were all hoping and praying that the defense would go out there and make a play, and they did.” Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jordan Whiting returned the Buckeyes’ lineup following his one-game suspension for selling OSU football memorabilia and receiving improper benefits in the form of tattoos. Dan Herron, DeVier Posey Mike Adams and Thomas Soloman will remain suspended until the team’s Oct. 8 game at Nebraska. Junior running back Jordan Hall, sophomore defensive back Corey Brown and junior defensive back Travis Howard were banned for a second consecutive game after receiving $200 at a charity event in Cleveland. OSU athletic director Gene Smith told The Lantern he plans to meet with the with the NCAA as early as Sunday to address the suspensions of Hall, Brown and Howard. The Buckeyes will now travel to Miami Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. game against the Hurricanes (0-1) at Sun Life Stadium.
The faces, and the arms, of the Ohio State men’s basketball program have changed, but the expectations haven’t. OSU players and coaches met with media to discuss the team’s tough schedule, the style of play fans can expect in the season to come and even junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr.’s new left-arm tattoo Thursday at the Schottenstein Center. Strength of schedule The Buckeyes will travel to Charleston, S.C. for the Carrier Classic where they will play Marquette on Nov. 9 on the deck of the U.S.S. Yorktown, which is now a museum ship. From there, OSU will compete in 19 games against postseason teams from last season, including fellow Big Ten Conference teams. Ten of those teams competed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament and an additional four teams played in the 2012 National Invitation Tournament. The Buckeyes will play a challenging non-conference schedule that features the game against the Golden Eagles, a trip to Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium on Nov. 28, and have a chance for revenge at home against the Kansas Jayhawks on Dec. 22. Kansas beat OSU on Dec. 10, 2011, during the regular season, 78-67, and knocked the Buckeyes out of the NCAA Tournament in a national semifinal game March 31, 64-62, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. OSU’s 31-game regular season schedule also includes home and away conference series with Nebraska, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, Wisconsin and defending Big Ten regular season co-champion and Big Ten Tournament champion Michigan State. Senior forward Evan Ravenel said he thinks OSU has one of the better schedules in the country. “The first team, we’ve got a top 25 team in Marquette that we’ve got to end up playing,” Ravenel said. “It shows you what you can do when you get thrown into the fire … It’s a little bit different when you’re playing against a top-tier team in another conference.” OSU sophomore center Trey McDonald agreed with Ravenel. “I think the schedule’s going to be fun. I think the aircraft carrier game is going to be ridiculous,” McDonald said. “It’s just going to be a good time all around.” OSU has won or shared the Big Ten Conference regular season title in each of the last three seasons, but if the team is to turn the same trick in 2012-13, it will be doing so with a new-look roster. Former OSU forward Jared Sullinger, who scored 1,282 career points in Scarlet and Gray, opted to forego his junior season and departed OSU for the NBA. Former Buckeyes guard William Buford, who scored 1,990 career points for OSU, also departed the program. Even with Sullinger’s and Buford’s absence and the tough opposition OSU will face in the coming season, Smith Jr. said he doesn’t expect the Buckeyes to lose out on a fourth consecutive regular-season conference title. “This program is a winning program, so our fans and everyone in Buckeye Nation are used to winning,” Smith Jr. said. “We want guys to feel that pressure … we need to make sure we get it done.” Offensive attack Junior forward Deshaun Thomas, picked by Blue Ribbon and Sporting News as a preseason all-American, called his decision to forego entering the NBA Draft to return for his junior season at OSU “close.” Thomas figured to be a focal point of the Buckeyes’ offense this season, and said he expects to be double teamed by opponents throughout the upcoming campaign. “This team is something special. We’ve got a lot of tools,” Thomas said. “You’re going to see me outside coming off screens more. I’m going to do what I can do to help my team win.” OSU coach Thad Matta agreed, saying there is plenty of athleticism on the team this season. “I want them to play athletic. I want them to use what they’ve got there,” Matta said. Matta on social media When it comes to social media, Matta appears to take an indifferent stance – he said he knows it’s part of the experience for student-athletes but emphasized the importance of taking care of business on the court. Matta said that you can’t stop players from engaging in social media, adding, “You must play the game. You can’t write the game. You can’t tweet the game. You have to play the game.” Columbus Ink Smith Jr. is sporting a new tattoo on his left arm, which was administered Wednesday. A Block-O is featured prominently in the tattoo’s design with a staircase leading up through the “O” to the gates of heaven, which symbolizes the NBA. “In a basketball sense, my dreams would be to play in the (NBA) and I had to come through Ohio State to get there,” Smith Jr. said of the tattoo. “I like it.” Smith Jr. and the Buckeyes are scheduled to tip the first of OSU’s two preseason exhibitions on Oct. 30 against Walsh at Value City Arena. Opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.