Week of April 5, 2019

The face of a guy getting pulled in the 7th inning of a no-no.

Russell Westbrook’s Tribute to Nipsey Hussle And Why I Still Say Westbrook is Cool as Hell

On Sunday, rapper/entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed outside his clothing store in Los Angeles. He was 33. Hussle made his name releasing mix tapes over the course of the last decade, before debuting his first full album in 2018. It was a commercial and critical success, and it was nominated for a the Best Rap Album Grammy.

It is here that I must admit that before news of Nipsey’s Hussle’s murder got out, I had never heard of him. In fact, when I first read the news I thought it was referring to Nipsey Russell, and I wondered, “Isn’t he really old?” (Yes, in fact, Nipsey Russell died in 2005 at the age of 87). But Hussle’s name was suddenly all over the internet and I figured I should figure out who he was. He seems to have been a great guy.

(Also, it turns out I had seen him in an episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend a few years back, where he was very funny – but caution – NSFW language):

Last year, Hussle did a video with Steph Curry where they discussed life, business, basketball, hip hop, and even potty training.

Hussle made enough of an impression on Curry that Curry was quite emotional about Hussle’s death after the Warriors game Sunday night. I also found this cool interview with Hussle from 2006, where he discusses how he was going to save money, invest in land/property, instead of cars and other things that depreciate in value.

What an interesting dude. To his credit, Hussle kept his word. As I mentioned, he had a clothing store in his hometown, in front of which he was shot. But he opened a barber shop and a general goods store in his community, too, and he hired and supported people in his community to get that all done.

So, what’s Nipsey Hussle have to do with Russell Westbrook? I’m getting there.

On Tuesday, Russ went off for 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 21 assists. It was just the second ever 20-20-20 game (unsurprisingly, Wilt Chamberlain had the other). 20-20-20 is incredible, and after the game Russ dedicated it to Hussle.

Russ is also from L.A., so I would not be surprised if they knew each other well. At the end of the video, he says “20+20+20”, an apparent reference to the Rollin’ 60s gang that Hussle had once been involved with.

I am generally an analytics-friendly guy. So I understand that Russell Westbrook compiles counting stats due to extremely high usage, and I understand that he’s not a terribly efficient player. Still. He’s a dynamo and I love him and he does cool stuff like get only the second ever 20-20-20 and then dedicate it to a guy who was doing great things in his community. RIP, Nipsey. -TOB

Source: The Unfinished Marathon of Nipsey Hussle”, Micah Peters, The Ringer (04/02/2019); Russell Westbrook Dedicates Historic 20-20-20 Triple-Double To Slain Rapper Nipsey Hussle”, Chris Thompson, Deadspin (04/02/2019)

PAL: A few weeks ago at work there was talk of interviewing Nipsey Hussle for a playlist covering songs from throughout his career. It was the first I’d heard of him, and I didn’t completely understand the outpouring until I read Peters’ excellent story. TOB nails it on his Westbrook assessment: he can be a frustrating basketball player, but I don’t doubt his earnestness. His post-game dedication might seems like a small story, but it’s also an amplification to a national audience of Hussle impact on his community. Again, I knew nothing of him other than these stories, but it sure sounds like the guy committed to making his neighborhood a better place to live, and that’s worth a dedication.

Hitting Optional: The New Era of Big League Catchers

Dammit, I was born in the wrong time. In recent years, MLB teams are putting a premium on defensive catchers, especially catchers whose impact on the game is most felt in their pitch-framing capabilities. In an era when offense is yielding 300MM contracts, there is also a market for journeymen catchers making millions hitting right around .200.

Catchers like Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, or even Joe Mauer are some of the rarest talents in the game. Excellent defensive catchers that also (for a time) hit in the middle of the lineup.

The Red Sox won a world series with a catching unit hitting .194 and a paltry .533.

And these defensive specialists are not just rentals for contenders:

It is no coincidence that one of Arizona’s catchers last season, Jeff Mathis, attracted the attention of the team that ranked worst at framing, the Texas Rangers. Mathis hit .200 and has a .198 average across 14 seasons, but his exceptional defensive skills earned him a two-year, $6.25 million deal from the Rangers.

Why is this? For one, a Gold Glove catcher that can handle the bat is damn near a Hall of Fame level player. Two, improved analytics allow teams to actually quantify pitch framing, which has a major impact on the game outcome. Three, a catching prospect that can really swing it, e.g., Bryce Harper, is moved to another position to preserve the bat. Catchers’ offensive numbers tend to fall off a cliff in the last third of their careers.

For those who are unaware of what framing is, it’s the art of catchers making pitches that aren’t strikes look like strikes. Here’s one awesome example (look where he catches this ball at the very end of the webbing…incredible):

Excellent article about the forgotten guys on a roster that are enjoying an extended career for their contributions due to defensive expertise. – PAL

Source: How the Slugging Catcher Became an Endangered Species in the Majors”, Tyler Kepner, The New York Times (04/01/19)

Why the Assist Shouldn’t Be So Limited

Thankfully, Trae Young is awesome again, as he’s been lighting it up the second half of his rookie season. Check out this awesome game winner he had last weekend against the Bucks.

The Ringer did a nice profile on him. I enjoyed it a lot, and you should read it. But I wanted to highlight one cool thing revealed in the story: Internally, the Hawks tally player “assists” – and not just the traditional assist you see in the box score:

On their “assist board,” the Hawks keep a running tally of the team’s assists, and not just the traditional ones. The spreadsheet, which they first used at last year’s summer league, also includes hockey (or secondary) assists, space assists, dive (or roll) assists, and screen assists. Young received a traditional assist for his dish to Len, but Collins also earned a space assist for positioning himself behind the 3-point line and opening a lane for the easy bucket. Young is the overall leader this season.

“There’s other ways of assisting,” Lloyd Pierce says. “If John gets a lob, guess what: They’re not gonna let him get a lob the next four positions, so Kevin [Huerter] may get three 3s now. We gotta reward John to make sure he continues to roll.”

That probably takes a long time to tally, but it’s a great way to help quantify the little things in basketball that do so much to help a team win a game but don’t show up in the box score. I approve! I’d also like to hear more things that teams track that we don’t know about.

Back to Trae Young: He’s awesome, and I really love this highlight video where Trae repeatedly jumps along with the ooper to his alley:


Source: Passing With Flying Colors”, Paolo Uggetti, The Ringer (04/01/2019)

Phil Mickelson Continues to Reveal Himself as a Degenerate

When I was a kid, Phil Mickelson was portrayed by the golf media as Golden Boy – rich, handsome-ish, successful, good looking wife.

But in the last few years, he has revealed himself as a degenerate gambler and kind of an a-hole, and that all comes together in this story.

Back in November, Jordan Spieth got married. Phil was there. It was the week after Phil’s PPV match against Tiger, which was reportedly underwhelming. Also in attendance was some Country Music Guy I’ve Never Heard Of, who had paid for that PPV and wasn’t happy about it.

“So I walked over to him,” Owen said on the podcast. “I was like, ‘Hey Phil, you owe me f—ing $29.99!’ I was like, ‘For wasting four hours of my life with the s—tiest golf I’ve ever seen! You guys hype this whole thing up about the big match? You guys couldn’t even make three birdies between the two of you? I want my $29.99 and apologize to me for some s— golf!'”

In a story that he confirmed via Twitter, Mickelson, 48, took out a wad of $100 bills, put one down and said, “I won 90,000 of these things yesterday. Take a 100 and go f— yourself!”

I mean, I called him a degenerate a-hole, but that is really funny. Mickelson reportedly earns over $50M per year, including tour earnings and endorsements. So if you were wondering, $50M is officially “eff you” money. -TOB

Source: Owen, Mickelson Let F-Bombs Fly Over The Match”, Bog Harig, ESPN (04/02/2019)

PAL: My favorite line from the story: “Owen has been a partner of Spieth’s at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and other golf events and said alcohol played a role in approaching Mickelson.”

Video of the Week

Holy heck.

Tweet of the Week

PAL Song of the Week – Willie Nelson – “I’m A Memory”

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“Truth be told, I think I thrive under a lack of accountability.”

-Michael Scott

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