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: 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.
Former Auburn and Arkansas State running back Michael Dyer has landed at a junior college near his home in Little Rock, Arkansas, but football won’t be in his immediate future.The former offensive MVP of the 2011 BCS National Championship Game has enrolled at Arkansas Baptist College, but will be working towards an associate’s degree rather than playing football for the Buffaloes.The move is the latest for Dyer, who wore out his welcome at Auburn last fall before transferring to Arkansas State this past January and quickly running amiss with authorities there as well.Arkansas Baptist College president Dr. Fitzgerald Hill, a former San Jose State head football coach, confirmed the news during an interview with a local radio station.“There have been growing pains and bad decisions,” said Dyer’s uncle, Andre Dyer. “So much attention and so many influences from so many decisions. I just want him to be the young man he was when he left Little Rock.”Dyer was an immediate sensation at Auburn during the 2010 season, rushing for 1,093 yards and five touchdowns to help the Tigers claim the national championship. That total easily eclipsed Bo Jackson’s single-season freshman record of 892 yards set in 1982.Dyer followed up that initial success up by chewing up 1,242 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall, only to be suspended indefinitely by Auburn coach Gene Chizik for violating unspecified team rules prior to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.The first-team All-SEC pick soon followed former Tigers offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to Arkansas State, but the NCAA denied his request to be eligible right away to play for the Red Wolves.Malzahn, who had helped recruit Dyer to Auburn, later dismissed the running back from the team in late July following a traffic stop in March in which a gun and marijuana were found in his car.Dyer will be eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft, meaning it’s unlikely he’ll play collegiately for anybody else.
Serena Williams is back on the court at Wimbledon, but there’s a big milestone her daughter just had that caused the first-time mom to sob.“She took her first steps… I was training and missed it. I cried,” Williams tweeted Saturday, July 7 of Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.The post was a simple one but it drew lots of responses from fans, including other moms who were in the same boat at the 23-time Grand Slam winner.“It doesn’t count until mommy sees it. Nothing counts until mommy sees it.”“She is practicing so you can see the real ones. ❤,” fellow celebrity mom Chrissy Teigen tweeted.“You didn’t miss it, mommy. You facilitated it. Your child still lives right there. Make those happy tears & I mean it.”“Ah, Serena. I’m with you there. I’m in Russia at a World Cup. I watched mine take her first steps on a video 😓. She’ll be proud of you when she grows up (I have to keep telling myself).”“I missed a bunch of firsts while I was at work. I hear ya, mama. It’s not easy. But our girls see us out there grinding + living our dreams and that’s got to mean something. Good luck in London — my daughter and I are both rooting for you! ❤”“I took my 1st child all the way to Israel on a trade mission. During a meeting, I heard cheering out in the waiting area … Yup, staff and husband and assorted strangers saw her 1st steps. It all turns out okay. #workingmomsrock.”This isn’t the first time Williams has been candid about tearful mommy moments. When it came time to start shedding the baby weight, Williams realized she was having a difficult time despite working out and following a vegan-only diet.“I feel like everyone says, ‘You’re so thin when you breastfeed,’” she told reporters at a Sunday press conference. “What I’ve learned through the experience — everybody is different, every person is different, every physical body is different. For my body, it didn’t work, no matter how much I worked out, no matter how much I did, it didn’t work for me.”So, Williams sat down, spoke to Olympia and got emotional.“I literally sat Olympia in my arms, I talked to her, we prayed about it,” she said. “I told her, ‘Look, I’m going to stop. Mommy has to do this.’ I cried a little bit, not as much as I thought I was. She was fine.”
Gary Matthews1974-78.287.280.279.283.285.014 Braggo Roth1916-20.286.285.283.287.291.011 Roy Campanella1951-55.325.269.312.207.318.315 According to Fangraphs, none of the 21,214 other qualifying five-year periods1Using a minimum of 350 plate appearances in each season and including overlapping periods for the same hitters. is even close. Journeyman outfielder Nori Aoki had a total movement of 9 points between 2012 and 2016, which comes in second but is still more than double Davis’s. And only one other hitter in history finished with the same average in three straight years — Mookie Wilson for the Mets, hitting exactly .276 from 1983 to 1985.2With an average of .279 in 1982 and .271 in 1981, Wilson’s total movement in the period was 11 points. Just 178 hitters have had the same rounded average in two consecutive seasons.To get a better sense of how bizarre Davis’s consistency is, consider FanGraphs’s finding that batting average does not even stabilize until 910 at-bats. (By “stabilize,” we mean getting to the point at which a player’s batting average is roughly halfway explained by his own skill, with the other half still owed to random variance.) Of course, batters never get 910 at-bats in a 162-game season, which is why batting average has typically been the bane of projection systems. Incredibly, a player’s current batting average is actually a poor predictor of his future batting average even in the same season, never mind from season to season.So wild swings are perfectly normal. The average movement for the entire sample is about 100 points in every five-year period. A perfect example of average variance in the category is Babe Ruth from 1930 to 1934, when he hit, consecutively, .359, .373, .341, .301 and .288.But in 2018, we are witnessing history in batting average on both sides of the spectrum. The exact opposite of Davis is Bryce Harper of the Nationals. He’s tied as the third most volatile hitter ever over a five-year period. Harper’s roller coaster ride in the statistic has taken him from .273 in 2014 to .330 in 2015, back to .243 in 2016 then up to .319 last season. This year, Harper is down to .214. That represents a total movement of 325 points. Harper was bested in extreme variance only by Brooklyn Dodger Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella, who had a 358-point swing from 1952 to 1956 and a 338-point swing from 1953 to 1957, and King Kelly of the Chicago White Stockings and Boston Beaneaters, who had a total movement of 331 points from 1883 to 1887. Kelly is also in the Hall of Fame, and Campanella was a three-time National League MVP, an award Harper won unanimously in 2015. Khris Davis2014-126.96.36.199.247.248.004 For players with a minimum 350 plate appearances each seasonSource: FanGraphs Fred Dunlap1881-85.325.280.326.412.270.319 Bryce Harper’s batting average is on a roller coasterMost total absolute movement from season to season in batting average over a five-year span in MLB history Khris Davis’s batting average is so consistent, it’s scaryLeast total absolute movement from season to season in batting average over a five-year span in MLB history Bryce Harper2014-18.273.330.243.319.214.325 For players with a minimum 350 plate appearances each seasonSource: FanGraphs Ben Zobrist2011-15.269.270.275.272.276.013 King Kelly1882-86.305.255.354.288.388.315 Sam Mertes1901-05.277.282.280.276.279.014 Mookie Wilson1981-85.271.279.276.276.276.011 spanYear 12345total Movement Bing Miller1925-29.319.322.325.329.331.012 Tony Fernandez1990-94.276.272.275.279.279.011 Pete Browning1887-91.402.313.256.373.317.319 Yearly Batting Average Roy Campanella1953-57.312.207.3188.8.131.528 George Scott1966-70.245.303.171.253.296.315 YEARLY Batting Average Pete Browning1886-90.340.402.313.256.373.325 Roy Campanella1952-56.269.312.207.318.219.358 King Kelly1883-87.255.354.288.388.322.331 Nori Aoki2012-16.288.286.285.287.283.009 The skeptics have been proven right so far this season in refusing to believe that Khris Davis’s batting average was permanently fixed at .247 by some supernatural force. After hitting exactly that in each of the past three seasons, Davis appears to have broken free of the .247 spell: He’s hitting .248.Baseball’s measure of hitting success has always been rounded to the third decimal. Technically, the Oakland Athletics outfielder has hit .2474489796, .2468468468 and .2473498233 respectively from 2015 to 2017, and this year his average is all the way up to .2484848485. In his only other year of at least 350 plate appearances (2014), he hit .2435129741, or .244. Regardless of how you round these numbers, they make Davis the most consistent hitter in baseball history over any five-year stretch. The total movement of his three-digit average — calculated by simply adding the absolute differences from season to season across five years — is just 4 points (that’s .004 in nonbaseball speak). And the average movement of his average is an absurdly low four-fifths of a point per season. SpanYear 12345TOTal Movement Nori Aoki2013-17.286.285.287.283.277.013 So a lack of consistency doesn’t imply that a hitter is bad — though you may not want to invest in him in your fantasy baseball leagues just on the basis of last season’s numbers. The people who “owned” Kelly when he hit .288 in 1885 between two years leading the National League in hitting with an average north of .350 doubtlessly took a bath in their hypothetical, old-timey roto leagues. Harper’s owners this year are echoing their pain, 133 years later.But Davis is Mr. Reliable. You expect .247 and he gives you .247 — or maybe .248. At worst, .244. Davis is a beacon of consistency in what’s otherwise a wilderness of batting average randomness.Check out our latest MLB predictions.
But the Question of Kobe has undeniably helped the analytics movement grow. Rather than pretending that basketball was baseball and settling on those initial narratives about supposedly inefficient star players, the second wave of basketball metrics tended to illuminate the first generation’s blind spots — namely, the dynamic aspects of the game, such as a player’s tangible on-court impact, how different skill sets complement one another and what value should be assigned to every bit of real estate on the floor. As a byproduct, the metrics came around again to the old-school realization that scoring workload matters — and few players in NBA history carried a bigger scoring burden than Bryant, particularly in his prime.Of course, some of the new stats co-signed longstanding doubts about Bryant’s game. Despite receiving 11 all-defensive team nods from 2000-01 to 2013-14, for instance, he was only in the 41st percentile of defenders by Real Plus-Minus over that timeframe. But others — such as his No. 4 overall ranking by offensive RPM in the same data set — confirmed that the true benefits of Kobe’s game were being masked by box score metrics wearing true-shooting blinders. Had today’s most cutting-edge metrics — like SportVU’s ability to track a shot’s difficulty (not just its efficiency) — existed during Bryant’s prime, we’d be able to interrogate questions like whether Kobe is the “best difficult-shot-maker” ever.In a lot of ways, we have Bryant to thank for the tools we have available to appreciate the full contribution of stars — like Russell Westbrook — who would have slipped through the cracks during that first wave of basketball analytics, because those tools were at least in part developed to make sense of Kobe.As the ink dries on this final, morbid chapter of Kobe’s career, even the most stats-savvy of analysts have to acknowledge Bryant’s all-time greatness. According to Value Over Replacement Player, a measure of total contribution that tries to emulate RPM for historical seasons,1For technical sticklers: VORP uses as its input Box Plus/Minus, which is premised on estimating a player’s RPM-style on-court effects in seasons before play-by-play data. Bryant ranks as the NBA’s 15th-best regular-season player since 1973-74 and its eighth-best in the playoffs, both of which track with the No. 12 all-time ranking he received in a recent ESPN poll of NBA experts.Those rankings are still probably not as high as many observers would place the Black Mamba. But they do represent a kind of compromise between the traditionalist viewpoint and the first wave of sabermetric assessments that harshly criticized Bryant for his relative lack of efficiency. Bryant’s game had its flaws, and he was certainly no Jordan, but he was a player of undeniable historical importance. His résumé speaks enough to the on-court portion of his legacy, but for statheads, Kobe’s career helps us track the evolution of basketball analytics over time, both in its reaction to his performance and its ability to capture the meaningfulness of that performance in the first place.Check out our latest NBA predictions. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed For a stathead such as myself, tracking Kobe’s career arc has been fascinating because it’s existed in near-perfect overlap with the lifespan of basketball analytics. When Bryant made his NBA debut, on Nov. 3, 1996, the field (if you could even call it that) was in an embryonic state. Dean Oliver and John Hollinger were proto-blogging in relative anonymity; the APBRmetrics forum — an early petri dish of smart basketball folks — wouldn’t even become a discussion group board for four-plus years; there was no Basketball-Reference.com, no Player Efficiency Rating, no Sloan Conference, no Nylon Calculus. Over the past 20 seasons, as Kobe’s career unfolded through its successes and growing pains, analytics did too, with the former serving as a touchstone — and lightning rod — for the latter.The stats were not always kind to Kobe, least of all in his perpetual, mythic struggle against Michael Jordan. Perhaps that comparison would have been less harsh in an earlier era, thanks to a similar ring count and a passing statistical resemblance, but the advanced metrics have consistently debunked the parallel. (They’ve essentially taken on the role of the old noodge at the bar or barbershop, reminding “kids these days” of their historical betters.) Kobe wasn’t nearly as efficient as Jordan, they’d remind; he’d likely never be as valuable no matter what the rings said. Likewise, the numbers always seemed to find some other contemporary upon whom to bestow the “Next Jordan” mantle, be it LeBron James or Dwyane Wade or even Tracy McGrady. As if chasing Jordan’s shadow wasn’t hard enough, the shadow seemed to be armed with the cold, compassionless weaponry of data.It didn’t help that hoops analytics went through its contrarian phase right around the time Kobe peaked. Every sabermetric movement has a period in which its sport’s sacred cows are officially on notice, and basketball’s came in the mid-2000s — known around these parts as the Hollinger Era — when Bryant embodied many bits of conventional basketball wisdom in need of rigorous auditing. Back then, it was fashionable to unearth the deep cuts, the guys like Carl Landry or Gerald Wallace or, uh, Landry Fields, who didn’t get as much play on SportsCenter but contributed efficiently within their roles. Obsessed with efficiency over context, many in the field downplayed the value of Kobe’s greatest skill — relentless, tireless scoring — and went so far as to suggest that an average player could have notched as many points if given the same number of opportunities. (Note: This is, and always was, insane.) Others raised more valid questions about Kobe’s reputation for clutch shooting and lock-down defense, and these cut more to the core of what fans wanted to know about him and players of his caliber. It was a crucial point for basketball stats; perhaps a fractious relationship between Kobe and stat-geekdom was simply the necessary collateral damage. By Neil Paine Kobe Bryant played his final game Wednesday and sent himself off in spectacular style by scoring 60 points (albeit on 50 shots from the floor). It was quintessential Kobe — grabbing the lead headline even on the night the Golden State Warriors set the all-time NBA record for single-season wins. Kobe could never fade quietly into retirement. Listen to our sports podcast, Hot Takedown, discuss the Warriors’ record-setting season. Embed Code
The strangest final acts of all-time great careers usually involve career-tarnishing performances in bizarre uniforms. You know the type: Johnny Unitas as a Charger, Patrick Ewing with the Magic, Wade Boggs as a Devil Ray, etc.Last year, erstwhile Seattle Mariners legend Ichiro Suzuki was foundering his way into that group. He hit 88 points below his previous career average, flashed even less power than usual and finished the season below the replacement level, with -0.8 WAR. Making matters worse, he did it all while wearing a Miami Marlins uniform, one of MLB’s ugliest get-ups since those Devil Rays unis were shoved into the back of the closet. Ichiro’s fate seemed as Boggsian as any great player in recent memory.But this season, Ichiro has flipped that narrative on its head. Instead of continuing his depressing slide into the abyss, he’s currently hitting .385, rarely striking out, drawing walks at a greater rate than ever and generally spraying line drives all over the field. According to FanGraphs, he already has more WAR this season (0.7) than in his previous two combined (-0.3). In fact, he’s on pace (for whatever that’s worth) to finish with one of the best twilight-of-career-with-a-weird-team seasons in major league history.To judge Ichiro against his counterparts from the past, I filtered every season ever1This goes all the way back to 1871. for players who were 35 or older (Ichiro is 42), had at least 50 career WAR (as of Tuesday, Ichiro had 57.5), and were playing for a team with whom they spent fewer than 10 percent of their career games (about 8 percent of Ichiro’s games have been with Miami). Here are the best of those seasons (with a minimum of 50 plate appearances) according to WAR per 600 plate appearances: 2011M. CameronMarlins381644.450.82.3 1982R. SmithGiants373984.464.75.3 1991W. RandolphBrewers365124.762.05.6 YEARPLAYERTEAMAGEPAWAR/600CAREER WAR% OF CAREER GAMES W/ TEAM 1893J. GlasscockPirates353145.460.18.8 2010J. ThomeTwins393405.368.67.0 1982J. MorganGiants385545.698.88.5 1972W. MaysMets412424.2149.84.5 2005K. LoftonPhillies384065.862.65.2 Ichiro has been so good this year that among the pantheon of old-guy seasons in bizarre uniforms, only Manny Ramirez’s wild post-trade-deadline Dodgers stint in 2008 was better. And hardly any of the other players on this list were remotely as old as Ichiro is now.(I’d like to point out a few other things from the table: First, Kenny Lofton makes the list twice, for both a stint with the Cubs that I do remember — he made the final out of the Bartman Game — and a Phillies season of which I have little recollection. Also, Ichiro isn’t the only active player on the list; Chase Utley has quietly been adding to his sneaky-great résumé while wearing unfamiliar Dodger duds this year. And, finally, let’s bury the idea that Willie Mays’s Mets tenure was a total blight on his record. Mays’s final season, 1973, wasn’t quite up to his usual Hall of Fame standards, but in 69 games as a Met the year before, he hit extremely well — 44 percent better than league average, according to FanGraphs. That performance checks in at No. 20 on our list above, so, contrary to popular opinion, Willie was no bum for most of his return stint in New York.)Anyway, in all fairness, there are legitimate reasons to doubt that Ichiro can continue playing so well as the season progresses. His batting average on balls in play is a sky-high .403, for instance, and although Ichiro’s no stranger to a strong BABIP (his career mark is .340, well above that of a typical player), he’s also no longer the speed merchant he once was — that BABIP seems due for a correction. But if Ichiro can keep shooting liners around Marlins Park, like he did during his four-hit game Monday, his 2016 season will probably still be good enough to cement a place among the best ever produced by aging superstars in peculiar locales.Andrew Flowers contributed research.Check out our latest MLB predictions. 2000W. ClarkCardinals361976.752.12.6 1896D. BrouthersPhillies382674.379.73.4 2011L. BerkmanCardinals355874.956.19.4 1892R. ConnorPhillies356865.586.07.8 1927T. CobbAthletics405744.4149.47.5 1930H. HeilmannReds355395.268.87.3 2016I. SuzukiMarlins426184.108.40.206 1946B. HermanBraves363014.855.13.9 2010J. EdmondsBrewers402406.064.53.6 2003K. LoftonCubs362365.362.62.7 2008M. RamirezDodgers362297.966.79.7% 2016C. UtleyDodgers371654.762.44.6 For players aged 35 or older with at least 50 career WAR, on teams with fewer than 10 percent of the player’s career games. Minimum 50 plate appearances (PA) with team in season. Stats as of May 24.Source: FanGraphs.com Great seasons in strange, strange uniforms
Struggling 35-year-olds mostly rebounded nicelyQuarterbacks who posted subpar numbers in their first five games during their age-35 season and how they fared in rest of that year, 1978-2017 Brett Favre2004GNB86.97.186.07.195.47.8 Ken Anderson1984CIN82.07.368.07.796.17.6 Matt Hasselbeck2010SEA83.36.974.86.472.37.0 Jim Hart1979STL70.66.949.05.759.06.0 Dan Fouts1986SD81.87.855.46.384.07.7 The Steelers may be 3-2, but the mood in Pittsburgh is dour. Ben Roethlisberger is coming off a five-interception fiasco against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the latest and worst in a run of lukewarm performances this season. Plenty in Steeler nation are beginning to question whether the 35-year-old Roethlisberger has hit the wall. One of those people is the actual Ben Roethlisberger.The numbers are definitely not pretty, especially when compared to his career averages. That interception festival he hosted in Week 5 torched his passer rating, which has sunk to 75.8 and is way below his 94.1 career rating entering the season. More alarming than the spate of picks is that Roethlisberger’s yards per attempt, which for his career prior to this year stood at a near all-time-best 7.9, is a career-low 6.5 so far this season.But a closer look at the numbers shows there’s good reason to believe that this bad stretch is just that: a bad stretch. Here are the key reasons Steelers fans should still have hope — regardless of what Roethlisberger himself is saying or thinking.History is on his sideWe identified several quarterbacks who struggled in the first five games of their age-35 seasons when compared to what they did through age 34.1We looked at quarterbacks going back to 1978 to make sure all of them had played in the merged NFL for a decent amount of time. To qualify for the list, each quarterback needed to have a minimum of 125 pass attempts through five games. In almost every case, these QBs bounced back to something much closer to their established levels. To be sure, there’s some selection bias at play here — most of these quarterbacks are generally excellent, because erratic and unreliable passers do not usually last in the NFL until they are 35. CAREERGAMES 1-5GAMES 6-16 Jim Kelly1995BUF85.87.567.86.387.07.1 Trent Green2005KAN87.97.780.56.994.38.3 Drew Brees2014NOR95.37.591.87.299.67.7 PLAYERYEARTMRATING*YPA*RATINGYPARATINGYPA Ben Roethlisberger2017PIT94.17.975.86.5 *Through age-34 season.Minimum 125 passes in first five games, with a QB rating worse than career numbers prior to that season.Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com Among the passers on this list, the average QB rating improved from 71.2 in the first five games to 86.0 for the remainder of the season. Their yards per attempt also rebounded, from a pedestrian 6.7 to a solid 7.4, on average. If Roethlisberger improves at the same rate, his passer rating for the rest of the year would be 88.4 and his yards per attempt would bounce up to 7.2. But Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and Jim Kelly beat those averages, so it’s certainly possible that Roethlisberger could outperform them as well.Roethlisberger is still doing Roethlisberger thingsWhile the box scores have been ugly, many of Roethlisberger’s underlying numbers have been typical for his career. His accuracy hasn’t declined significantly: Only 17.5 percent of his throws have been off target, which is only a shade worse than the 16.9 percent rate he posted in the regular season from 2014 to 2016. And on deep passes,2More than 10 yards. Roethlisberger has actually been a hair more accurate, 28.2 percent of his throws have been off target this year compared to 28.3 percent in the past three years.You would think that as Roethlisberger ages, he would start to lose his trademark ability to move outside the pocket on broken plays and find something down the field. But in a limited sample so far this year, he has still been effective when chased from the pocket — he has posted a 101.2 passer rating on just nine dropbacks in these situations this year compared with 124.2 on 93 dropbacks in the prior three seasons.One logical explanation for Roethlisberger’s poor start would be that something was amiss with his offensive line. Perhaps he’s under more pressure than usual? But in fact, the Steelers QB is tied with Oakland’s Derek Carr for the least pressured quarterback in the league this year — both have been under threat on just 15.1 percent of dropbacks. And that’s the way it has been for a while in Pittsburgh; Roethlisberger had the second-lowest pressure rate in the league (behind Peyton Manning) from 2014-16.So if Roethlisberger hasn’t suddenly become inaccurate and he’s not suddenly facing more pressure, the Steelers’ offensive problems may extend beyond the QB and O-line.Bell and Brown are not helping mattersThe real explanation for Roethlisberger’s poor start may be the decline in efficiency of his two top targets, wideout Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell.On Roethlisberger’s 62 targets to Brown this year, his passer rating has dropped to just 71, down from 112.2 on 480 targets in the past three years. And while it’s hard to tell from a passer rating whether the quarterback or receiver is more to blame, other stats provide some evidence that the 29-year-old Brown is not quite himself this year. According to the NFL, defenses are playing Brown much more tightly at the snap — his average cushion has declined from 5.2 to 4.5 yards, one of the lowest among all receivers. But he’s not making defensive backs pay by running by them, as his average separation is unchanged (2.9 yards).Bell’s receiving ability, meanwhile, is downright ordinary this year. The prior three years, Roethlisberger had 105 passer rating when throwing to Bell. This year, it’s 85.4. Bell is averaging 3.85 yards before contact and just 1.48 after. The prior three years, those figures were 6.64 and 2.20. It’s hard to blame Roethlisberger for Bell being unable to get open and make defenders miss.Bell’s ineffective performance so far has also meant that Roethlisberger can’t use him as a safety valve, which has crushed the QB’s stats against the blitz. In the past three seasons, Roethlisberger had a 96 rating on 381 dropbacks against blitzing defenses — mostly because the underneath pass to Bell was so effective. This year, his rating on those plays is down to 54.6, the lowest in the league.Sunday, Roethlisberger travels to Kansas City to face the unbeaten Chiefs, who have been winning more with offense than defense, which may mean his receivers will be able to find a little more space. And Roethlisberger’s attitude about his ability to perform has undergone a 180-degree turn. “They can question me. I don’t question myself,” he said, three days after his “Maybe I don’t have it anymore” interview. “I think you guys are much more panicked than we are.”And unless Roethlisberger is a huge outlier and suddenly craters at age 35, or Bell and Brown have completely lost their ability to be dominant receiving threats, it seems there actually is little reason for Steelers fans to panic.
More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed By Neil Paine and Kyle Wagner Embed Code Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On Thursday’s show (May 3, 2018), Neil and Kyle discuss Utah’s impressive win in Houston to even up the series, replay the Raptors’ terrible fourth quarter against the Cavs in Game 1 of their series, and touch on Stephen Curry’s return for the Golden State Warriors.The Lab will be back with another episode next week. In the meantime, keep an eye on FiveThirtyEight’s NBA predictions, which are updated after every game.
Jermil Martin came to Ohio State as a defensive end. Seven carries, 75 yards and one touchdown later, the redshirt freshman has completed his transition from the Glenville High School defensive line to the Buckeye backfield. It took injuries to two OSU backs and a huge fourth quarter lead for Martin to finally get his chance to shine.“I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long,” Martin said. “I finally got it.”With 11-and-a-half minutes remaining in the Buckeyes’ 38-7 victory against Minnesota, Martin took a carry to the left side. After rumbling 39 yards, he had his first collegiate touchdown. Though his score meant virtually nothing for the outcome of the game, it was a moment Martin will never forget.“It felt good to score a touchdown,” Martin said. “It was a dream come true.”While many people were surprised to see Martin in the end zone Saturday, Martin said he knew he was ready for success.“Before I even got a chance to carry the ball, I try to visualize what I’m going to do,” Martin said. “I actually had a visualization that I was going to score, so that’s what I did.”Martin came into the game with only one carry for negative two yards on the season. But it was his hard work, he said, that earned him another opportunity to prove himself. “I’ve gotten a lot better,” Martin said. “I get better every day. I’ve been getting more reps in practice and hopefully it’s paying off.”Coach Jim Tressel has always preached the importance of having a deep stable of running backs on the roster. With Dan “Boom” Herron inactive Saturday because of an ankle injury, and Brandon Saine leaving the game with a head injury, Tressel had the chance to see just how deep his team was.Freshman Jordan Hall received the bulk of the carries following the injury to Saine, before being relieved late in the game by Martin. “You never have enough tailbacks because tailbacks take a pounding unlike any other position,” Tressel said. “We obviously weren’t excited about playing the second half without Brandon. Jordan stepped up and Jermil did a heck of a job.”Martin said when he saw that Saine was hurt, his immediate thoughts were with his injured backfield mate.“As soon as Brandon went down, I was like, ‘Dang, I hope he’s going to be okay so he can get back in the game,’” Martin said. “I feel like if I bump my teammates up, they’re going to do better.”But Martin had little time to worry about the injury, as he was quickly thrown into the fray. Fortunately for Martin, once given a chance, he did not disappoint.“It’s a very special day,” Martin said. “I can’t wait to get home with my family and celebrate.”
Catcher Dan Burkhart was named to the 2010 Johnny Bench Award watch list. The award is given to the nation’s top collegiate catcher. Burkhart was the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year last season. He batted .354 last season and had 62 RBI. Burkhart has started hot this season, batting .435. He has thrown out 36 percent of attempted base stealers in his career.Freshman Amy Meier was named Big Ten Golfer of the Week this week after finishing in a tie for seventh at the Kinderlou Forest Challenge. She shot a 79 in the first round and a 70 in the second round, tying for the lowest score. Meier’s scores led the Buckeyes to finish as runner-ups in the 18-team field, which encompassed 11 top 30 teams. Meier is the first Buckeye to earn any weekly honor this season. Women’s volleyball recruit Kaitlyn Leary was named to the Sports Imports/Volleyball Magazine Girls Fab 50. The two-time state champion comes to Ohio State from Padua Franciscan High School in Parma, Ohio. The 6-foot-1 outside hitter was first-team All-State in 2008 and 2009. She has trained and competed with the U.S. Girls’ Youth National Training Team for two years in preparation for the competition in the Big Ten. Leary joins the Buckeye roster as the sixth player on the Fab 50 list.