Phillies hire analytics guru, Amaro unsure it changes anything

Phillies hire analytics guru, Amaro unsure it changes anything

Upon finishing out 2013 with a 73-89 record, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. finally conceded the front office needed to begin incorporating analytics into personnel evaluations. Ladies and gentlemen, the future has arrived—better late than never.

MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki revealed the organization has tabbed Scott Freedman from Major League Baseball’s Labor Relations Department for a new yet-to-named position in the front office. Thanks to Zo, we do know one of Freedman’s specialties is advanced stats, and his job is to apply that knowledge in Philadelphia. That’s a step in the right direction at least.

How valuable Freedman’s contributions will prove to the organization remains to be seen. It’s easy to be skeptical of a franchise that’s been ignoring this data at its peril for years already, while Amaro downplayed how this newfound wealth of information will impact the club’s decisions.

"I don't know if it's going to change the way we do business, necessarily," Amaro said recently. "We still plan to be a scouting and player development organization, but I think it's important to get all the information and analyze not just what we're doing, but how other clubs are evaluating players."

It almost sounds as if the Phillies are more interested in learning how other teams evaluate players than improving upon their own methods. In which case, Freedman was a good hire because as Zolecki explains, few people in baseball would have a better understanding of what those teams value.

The Phillies were particularly interested in Freedman's ability to expand their data analysis capabilities. His experience in preparation for salary arbitration cases got him involved with advanced metrics. And Freedman's work with MLB gives him an idea of how other teams use analytics.

Whatever his intentions exactly, you can’t knock Amaro for making analytics part of the process—although it’s certainly fair to ask what took so long. Apparently, the league has been placing Scott Freedmans in front office positions for awhile now.

Freedman first appeared on Philadelphia's radar this summer. MLB regularly trains people like Freedman, then helps place them in front offices across baseball.

Do I understand this correctly? You mean to tell me the league has been actively training people who are well-versed in advanced stats for jobs in baseball? And this entire time the Phillies were like, “No, thanks?”

/smacks forehead

>> New hire to help Phils better utilize advanced stats [MLB]

Video of Joel Embiid arm wrestling Justin Bieber exists

usat-embiid-bieber.jpg

Video of Joel Embiid arm wrestling Justin Bieber exists

He may or may not have crossed paths with Rihanna or Kim K. just yet but Philadelphia 76ers social media sensation Joel Embiid locked arms with pop star Justin Bieber over the weekend in a Los Angeles night club.

According to social media reports, Embiid and the Biebs actually competed in an arm wrestling battle at Hyde night club in L.A. It's unclear if Embiid allowed Bieber to win or not.

If you missed Embiid ripping his shirt off and dunking on fools or praising Sam Hinkie as a GOAT over the weekend as well, surely you'll want to check those out as well.

Flyers, Brayden Schenn agree to 4-year contract

usa-brayden-schenn-flyers-contract.jpg

Flyers, Brayden Schenn agree to 4-year contract

The Flyers and restricted free agent Brayden Schenn agreed to a four-year contract Monday morning to avoid arbitration.

According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, the contract carries a $5.125 million annual average value, which is closer to the $5.5 million Schenn asked for in arbitration than the Flyers offered. Schenn recently turned down a two-year deal with an AAV of $4.30 million, according to CSNPhilly.com Flyers Insider Tim Panaccio.

Schenn, 24, is coming off a career season in which he scored 26 goals, 33 assists and 59 points, all career-highs.

(More coming …)

Are the Eagles the most boring team in the NFC East?

Are the Eagles the most boring team in the NFC East?

If the Hinkie Era in Philadelphia has been good for one thing (it’s been good for more than one thing), it’s showing us that being the worst or least talented team is completely different than being the most boring team. Being the most boring team is far worse than being the worst team. 

What sports really boils down to is the entertainment factor. That’s it. If there’s a compelling storyline and something happening worth watching, it’s doesn’t really matter who’s winning or losing.

When it comes to the NFC East, differentiating “boring” and “worst” matters. It matters because the entire division is complete garbage. It’s unlikely that any of these four teams is going to win a single playoff game this year, let alone the Super Bowl. In fact, the NFC East hasn’t even had a repeat division champ in over a decade. It’s just a bunch of average teams fighting for a wild card spot, with an occasional anomaly like a 12-4 Cowboys season or a Giants Super Bowl victory after going 9-7.

What matters most in the NFC East, as of late, has been the stories. It’s a bit of a bummer to think about this now because, just one year ago, the Eagles weren’t just the most exciting team in the division--they were probably the most exciting team in the entire NFL. There were so many storylines: the power struggle between Chip and Howie, the explosion of the roster, the unknown surrounding Sam Bradford, the excitement of the rushing champion switching allegiances from the Cowboys, the supposed genius of the coach who we hadn’t realized the league had caught up to yet, the national pundits picking the Birds to win the Super Bowl. There were different and exciting things happening and it was just an exciting time to be a fan.

It’s crazy how quickly things change. One exhausting year later, almost no one (besides us) is talking about the Eagles. No one cares about Doug Pederson, Sam Bradford, and what’s going on at the NovaCare Complex anymore.

Which begs me to ask the question: Have the Eagles really become the most boring team in the NFC East? I really hope not, but folks, it’s not looking good.

Let’s just a quick look at some of the storylines floating around the division at the moment:

The Redskins

It might be because they’re fresh off of a division-winning season (albeit a 9-7 division-winning season), but the Redskins probably have the East’s most exciting team heading into camp.

Think about it. If anything, over the past few years, the Redskins have been fun to watch only for the fact that they’ve been the joke of the league. A totally incompetent owner wrapped up in defending his team’s racist name, a general manager being publicly accused of his affair with a reporter, and a prima donna quarterback hated by his teammates have been the sparks leading the dumpster fire.

Today, they’re compelling to watch for different reasons. They were able to pick up Josh Norman in the offseason, 2015’s best cornerback. This not only means the team’s secondary will improve in a division with some of the league’s best wide receivers, it means fans will get to watch the Norman vs. Odell Beckham Jr. rivalry unfold twice a year--a rivalry so intense it led to suspensions last season.

The team was also able to finally convince it’s delusional owner that the aforementioned prima donna quarterback was no longer worth a spot on the roster and they cut him in hopes to rebuild a healthy locker room.

His replacement, Kirk Cousins, had a pretty good final stretch of the 2015 season, putting up some pretty good numbers against a slew of teams with losing records. Because he beat a bunch of terrible teams and led his team to 9-7, Redskins management decided to hit him with the franchise tag, an action that will cost them about $20 million dollars. It makes sense. If he fails, they get to let him walk without spending anymore. If he succeeds, then it’ll be worth it and the team can work to extend him long term.

Redskins fans will be watching in hopes that all of these pieces will fall into place accordingly and carry them through an exciting season to another division title. The rest of us will be watching for the reason that it’s all likely to crash and burn. We’ll be watching nonetheless.

The Giants

As much as I hate to say it, the Giants will never be boring to watch so long as they have one player on their team: Odell Beckham Jr. I can’t stand the guy personally. Can’t. Stand. Him. I can’t stand the corny dances he does on the field before games, I can’t stand his severe lack of sportsmanship and respect for other other players on the field, I can’t stand the stupid flashy one-handed catches where it’s just as reasonable to use two, and I can’t stand his stupid face.

All of that being said, the dude is arguably the most exciting player to watch in all of football and rarely plays a game that lacks one electrifying play or another. He single-handedly saved Tom Coughlin an extra year after emerging mid season as a rookie and hasn’t really let up since. Seeing his rival Josh Norman twice a year now only increases that.

Let’s also not forget that the Giants probably made the biggest splash in this year’s free agency. The team managed to spend nearly $230 million in contracts over seven total players headlined by Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon, and Damon Harrison. This is all in addition to the signing of their new head coach Ben McAdoo, who Eagles fans shouldn’t forget was one of our top choices for Pederson’s job.

Eagles fans can appreciate the sentiment behind all of these big moves, having been wooed by the romance of a couple of supposed “dream teams” in recent years. Those who watch the Giants are excited to take a big step forward. Others are excited to see them learn the lesson that great NFL teams are rarely built through free agency.

The Cowboys

Here’s the hard part. Showing some appreciation for the Dallas Cowboys. I’ll try and keep this brief.

No matter which way you spin it, the Cowboys team has some personality that people enjoy. They have Tony Romo, the quarterback that people love to hate, Jerry Jones trying to coach the team from the owner’s box, and Dez Bryant either making ridiculous plays or throwing a tantrum on the sideline. It was a spectacle when they went 12-4 and it was a spectacle when they went 4-12.

Tony Romo is projected to be the fourth oldest starting quarterback in the league this year. He broke his clavicle twice last year and has had more back surgeries that I can count on both hands. Even so, the year before last he proved that when playing healthy and to his potential, the Cowboys can be a playoff caliber team. Everyone will be watching closely to see if that happens because, obviously, America loves when America’s team does well as much as America loves when America’s team fails.

I’ve also got to admit that I’m intrigued by the potential of Ezekiel Elliott. In the long run, he was realistically awful value at the number four pick overall given the career length of the average running back, the position’s expendability in today’s league, and the plethora of good running backs in next year’s draft, but running behind their line he’ll probably be a stud fantasy player and likely Rookie of the Year candidate.

If anything else, the Cowboys are exciting to watch for the regular suspensions being dished out to their defensive line that apparently can’t stop smoking weed.

The Eagles

This brings us to the Eagles. The most exciting things happening are Fletcher Cox’s mega-contract and the fact that Howie Roseman was able to finagle his way up the draft board to get a top quarterback coming out in Carson Wentz.

I’ll admit I’m ecstatic about the Cox extension and the bold move to get a potential franchise quarterback, but with watching Cox play being nothing new and reports surfacing that Wentz will spend his rookie season redshirted, what are Eagles fans really getting excited about right now?

Is it Doug Pederson, potentially the most boring head coach hire in the history of the NFL? Is it Sam Bradford, the quarterback who has never had a winning season yet essentially said he doesn’t want to be here if he’s not going to be “the guy?” Are fans excited about the fact the team had to fire Chip Kelly, a compelling character who once took the league by storm, and basically start from scratch?

Name one guy on the Eagles roster besides their long-snapper that doesn’t have the personality of a bathtub.

I get that it’s essentially looking like a transition year to the future and in the long run, the Eagles will probably be better off, but are they the only team that doesn’t have a clear cut guy to take in the first like five rounds of a fantasy football draft?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles don’t get a single look on SportsCenter before the preseason. I think Jim Schwartz’s defense will turn some heads once real gameplay begins, but as of now, there’s really just not much to get excited about in the Eagles’ immediate future.

The Birds are certainly not the worst team in the division by any means. Hell, I wouldn’t even be completely surprised if they won it. But, right now, in this moment, they might be the NFC East’s most boring team heading into training camp.

Feel free to yell at me in the comments.