Thursday, July 25, 2019

Slant Pattern Odds and Ends

By Kevin Beane

* At the WTA tour's Baltic Open stop this week, a statistically remarkable thing happened in the qualifying rounds.

Twenty-four women vied to qualify for six spots in the main tournament. They were broken down into six groups of four women apiece, with the winner of each group advancing to the main tournament. Each group contained two seeded players and two unseeded players. This is all bog-standard for tournaments of this size.

The seeded players went 12-0 against unseeded players in each group semifinal. In each group final, the higher seed went 6-0 against the lower seed.

In other words, the player ranked better, for the purposes of seeding, went 18-0 in qualifying.

Do you have any idea how unlikely that is?

Tennis is a sport of upsets, anyway. On the men's side, once you get past the Big Three, anyone might win.

Women's tennis is even more unpredictable and upset-prone.

But this was qualifying. The top seed in qualifying, Barbara Haas of Austria, is ranked No. 164 in the world. At that level and below (to a point), talent differences are practically non-existent. I really can't stress enough how bizarre and unlikely it is that everything went chalk.

* It's time once again for my periodic reminder that the CFL is great, a fantastic way to get your football fix in the summer, and better than Arena Football. All games are part of the ESPN family of networks, either on TV or online.

There's plenty of resources out there for reading about the differences between the two games that I won't rehash, accept to say Canadian football has far more in common with football-as-we-yanks-know-it than Arena ball.

So instead, why don't I get you up to speed on how the 2019 season is shaking out in the CFL?

Almost a third of the way through the season, two teams seem to be comfortably at the top of the heap and two teams seem more hopelessly adrift than the others.

Those two best teams are the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Between them, they are 9-1, and are headed for a showdown Friday night at 7 PM Eastern.

The two worst teams, by far, are the Toronto Argonauts and the British Columbia Lions. They aren't just a combined 1-10, but that win was British Columbia over Toronto, by a point. In games against other teams, the Argos and Lions have kept their losses within single digits just once.

The Lions problem seems to be that they went all in on a great quarterback (2017 CFL Most Outstanding Player Mike Reilly) and surrounded him with nothing. The o-line has been particularly awful.

Toronto has made strides recently, comfortably out-gaining Calgary on the road in their last game, but have been hampered by turnovers and some real head-scratching coaching decisions.

As of this season, teams will have a harder time getting rid of bad coaches, as a coaching salary cap is in place (more specifically, a "football operations" cap) that basically says that once you fire a coach, his salary still counts against the cap for the length of his contract.

Between those four teams are a middle ground of Montreal (ascending), Ottawa (descending), Edmonton, Calgary, and Saskatchewan (holding steady).

* Your days of kicking around Mark Sanchez are over. Or at least, they're over in terms of his on-field play. You'll now get to kick him over his commentary. You see, Sanchez has retired and taken a position as an ESPN college football studio analyst.

I hope he's good in that role. He might be good in that role. I haven't seen any evidence that there's a big correlation between winning and insightful commentary over the airwaves.

This, I think, was a brave move by Sanchez; he's one of the most mocked and beleaguered quarterbacks in history, and he's not taking himself out of the spotlight. A lot of viewers will not give him a chance or an even break. I will, though. Best of luck, Mark.

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