Saturday, April 30, 2016

Game of the Day (4/30/91)

Angels 6, Indians 5 (11). Cleveland started Greg Swindell against California's Scott Lewis. The two starters were born in the same year (albeit 11 months apart), but Swindell was in the middle of a six-season streak in which he threw more innings each year than Lewis would work in his entire MLB career.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Game of the Day (4/29/91)

Cardinals 4, Braves 3 (11). The starting pitchers were rather different in age - one was 23, the other 30. Despite that disparity, Atlanta's John Smoltz and St. Louis's Bob Tewksbury were both approaching the best seasons of their wildly different but very worthwhile careers.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Game of the Day (4/28/91)

Expos 9, Cardinals 6. The starting pitchers were both 28, born two months apart, and both had started their careers in less-than-promising fashion. Montreal's Bill Sampen had posted a solid rookie season, mostly in relief, but that had come at the delayed age of 27. The Cardinal starter had debuted four years earlier, but his results had been inconsistent at best, and he would be sent to the minors in May, never a good sign for a player who should be in his prime.

Of course, after spending all of 1992 in AAA, Jamie Moyer would return to the majors at age 30 and spend nearly two more decades as a rotation stalwart for teams throughout the league.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Game of the Day (4/27/91)

Braves 2, Astros 1 (13). Atlanta's Steve Avery took on Houston's Pete Harnisch in a matchup of young pitchers on their way to up-and-down-but-ultimately-pretty-good careers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Game of the Day (4/26/91)

Yankees 3, White Sox 2 (11). Chicago's Greg Hibbard was making his second consecutive Game of the Day start; New York's Tim Leary was already making his third of the season.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Game of the Day (4/25/91)

Twins 4, Mariners 3 (10). Seattle's Erik Hanson was making his fourth start of the season - and his second that would turn into a Game of the Day. His opponent was Minnesota's Allan Anderson, who had won the AL ERA title in 1988, and three years later (at age 27) was well on his way out of the league.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Game of the Day (4/24/91)

Astros 1, Reds 0 (13). Cincinnati started Jack Armstrong, who in 1990 became probably the worst pitcher ever to start the All-Star game, and who spent 1991 earning the negative half of that title. He was opposed by a 22-year-old right-hander making his first major league start after a few relief appearances - one Darryl Kile, who would go on to a fine career lasting over a decade until his shocking death in 2002.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Game of the Day (4/23/91)

Rangers 6, Brewers 5 (11). Texas started Bobby Witt, a veteran who was starting a shortened and ineffective season in the middle of a long and mildly distinguished career. Milwaukee countered with Jaime Navarro, a younger pitcher who was having a better season and was on the way to a very similar (and slightly worse) career.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Game of the Day (4/22/91)

White Sox 8, Orioles 7. Baltimore's Ben McDonald and Chicago's Alex Fernandez were both promising young pitchers (McDonald was 23, Fernandez 21) on the way to pretty solid careers that would last most of the rest of the decade, but not into the next one.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Melog Rankings: Post-Monte Carlo 2016

For a couple of weeks in which there wasn't an overabundance of high-level tennis played, quite a bit has actually happened since the last Melog update. Former top-10 player Juan Monaco kicked his injury comeback into high gear by winning the title in Houston. Youngsters Jack Sock and Borna Coric both reached finals, something neither player has done very often in their careers to date. American teenager Stefan Kozlov reached his second career Challenger final in Le Gosier, solidifying his place in the top 300 in the ATP ratings.

And that was just the first week. Week 2 brought us Monte Carlo, which featured the return of Roger Federer, the non-return of David Ferrer (whose withdrawal led to a quarterfinal appearance from lucky loser Marcel Granollers), a first-match upset for defending finalist Tomas Berdych, a run to the final for Gael Monfils (whose loss in the last match dropped his record in tour-level finals to 5-19) and a return to the winner's circle for Rafael Nadal (whose won his ninth career Monte Carlo title, tying his own record for titles at one event).

Have I stalled enough yet? Because the biggest story of the last two weeks wasn't any of those things - it was that Novak Djokovic lost.

Sure, Novak loses sometimes; he now has six defeats in the last year. But one of those losses was due to health (an eye infection in Dubai this year), and another was in the round robin of the Tour Finals last year - an event that he would go on to win despite the defeat. This was the first completed match to eliminate Djokovic from title contention since August of last year.

It's more than that, however. Djokovic lost to Jiri Vesely in the round of 32. Vesely entered the match ranked #55 in the world by the ATP. Djokovic hadn't lost a match to a player ranked outside of Grand Slam seeding territory (the top 32) since 2010, which is before he first reached the #1 ranking. That is a VERY long time.

Let's see what this rather startling defeat does to the rating for the #1 player in the world.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Past Melog rankings: 2011

Men's tennis in the early 2000's was very different than it is today. From 2000 to 2003, the top spot in the rankings changed hands 13 times, and was held by 7 different players.

In 2004, that changed very abruptly, as Roger Federer embarked on an extraordinarily long stretch of unprecedented dominance. Federer would hold the #1 ranking for over four and a half years in a row. Moreover, a year later, the #2 position was anchored down just as firmly by Rafael Nadal, who held it for three years before finally passing Federer in summer 2008. The two men would exchange #1 again in 2009, and once more in 2010. At the end of the 2010 season, they had held the highest ranking between them for almost seven years in a row, and had combined to win 21 of the last 23 Grand Slam titles.

That level of dominance continued in 2011 - it just wasn't continued by Federer or Nadal. Instead, Novak Djokovic stormed through the calendar, winning 7 titles and amassing 13 wins over top-10 opponents (including multiple victories against Federer, Nadal, and Andy Murray) before absorbing his first loss of the year in the French Open semifinals. He recovered nicely from that setback, going on to win both Wimbledon and the US Open and ending the year with a stunning record of 70-6, including a 12-2 combined mark against Nadal, Federer, and Murray.

The season didn't exactly come out of nowhere; Djokovic had been a top-5 mainstay since 2007. But by the standards of the preceding several years, it was a colossal shakeup in the status quo.

Let's see how the Melog ratings feel about it.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Melog Rankings: Post-Miami 2016

On the surface, it seems like nothing changed at the Miami Masters event this year. Novak Djokovic won the title again; it is his 28th Masters title, his sixth Miami title, the third consecutive year that he's won both Indian Wells and Miami, and the seventh tournament at which he's won at least three consecutive titles. (Yes, all of those are ATP records. Djokovic is starting to compile a compelling case as the greatest player ever. But that's a topic that should be explored in a full-length post, and one that comes after I've released numbers for more than four past years of the ATP.)

But underneath the Novak Wins Everything Always status quo, there was actually a pretty healthy shakeup, more of one than the ATP is accustomed to in recent years. Last year in Miami, Djokovic beat Andy Murray in the final; the other two semifinalists were John Isner and Tomas Berdych. This year, Novak's final conquest was Kei Nishikori (in the second Masters final of his career), and the other two semifinalists were David Goffin (second Masters semi, with the first having come two weeks earlier in Indian Wells) and Nick Kyrgios (first Masters semi, which pushes him into the top 20 of the ATP rankings for the first time). In 2015, Djokovic was the youngest semifinalist in Miami; this year, he was the oldest.

So let's see what kind of progress the youngsters are making in the Melog ratings.