How I Learned To Stop Crunching Numbers and Love the Game

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[Ed. note: RMNB alum Neil Greenberg now writes for The Washington Post and ESPN Insider. He offers this special contribution.]

Baseball was my first love. I grew up as a Mets fan. I could hop on the subway and be at Shea Stadium in minutes. I’d watch every game in my bedroom on a small color TV with tinfoil on the antennae for better reception. At the stadium I would chant, “Give it a ride, Darryl! Give it a ride!” while the organ played, and I consumed my weight in pretzels before the fifth inning. I still can’t watch replays of Game 6 without tearing up when the ball gets by Buckner.

I joined a few fantasy baseball leagues. One of them had 16 teams and a $2,500 entry fee. Big money and lots of fun.

Then I found the 1987 Bill James Baseball Abstract at the bookstore and my life changed.

I learned that numbers could see the future. I learned about “new” statistics like baserunner errors, quality starts, total average, on base + slugging, and runs created. Then, in the 1988 version, James cited workload-related burnout as the reason the Abstract would stop. Yes, stop. No mas. So I went on a quest, searching on my bike every used bookstore I could find to buy the Abstracts from 1977-1986. Eventually, I had them all. Every Bill James Baseball Abstract was mine. And I truly knew baseball.

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2012 2013 Division Standings Standings   NHL.com   Standings

Here we stand. The Washington Capitals have 29 points in the standings, good for 10th place in the East. They are three points out of 8th place, although the teams tied at 32 have played one less game. Winnipeg still leads the Southeast Division, although they’ve played two more games than Carolina, who are just two points behind.

The Caps have 17 games left this season — just 5 games until the April 3rd trade deadline. Before then, they’ve got to figure out if they are a playoff team or not. The stakes are high.

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Neil Greenberg on the Tony Kornheiser Show

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Washington Post and ESPN writer Neil Greenberg talked Caps hockey on the Tony Kornheiser Show on ESPN 980 this morning. The RMNB alum killed it. I considered putting a bombastic quote in the subject of this post like “Greenberg: This is not a good team” or “Neil Says [Ovechkin]‘s No Crosby”, but I really think you will be better served by reading or hearing the whole segment, which I freaking transcribed below instead of actually enjoying my lunch.

Tony and Neil cover a lot of topics in the 15-minute segment: Neil’s brush with the Cup in ’94, what has caused Alex Ovechkin’s decline and what we can expect from his future, Mike Milbury’s assessment of Ovi vs. reality, Adam Oates’ talent as a coach, and what the future holds for the Washington Capitals. I think this is essential reading/listening for Caps fans, so get to it.

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Might as well just give it to ‘em now, right?

The good people on the Hockey sub-reddit did the legwork on this one. They tracked down all the articles from the last few days predicting which teams will win each season. The results are… unkind to our Capitals.

58 hockey journalists hazarded a guess about the Boston Bruins-Washington Capitals match-up. You can view the original data here, but check out our visualizations (cheesy pie charts) behind the jump.

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Capitals During Wartime: Road-Weary

[Ed. note: this is the second article in our series about the Capitals' struggles leading up to the trade deadline. The first Capitals During Wartime post addressed the team's problems with the center position.]

At the end of All-Star Break, the Washington Capitals sit in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference and 1st in the Southeast Division, but their prospects for the postseason are not secure. The Southeast has two challengers– the Florida Panthers (with whom the Caps are virtually tied) and the Winnipeg Jets. Plus, the Capitals have a tough schedule down the stretch– including some tough games on the road. When Neil Greenberg at the Washington Post looked at the Caps’ remaining schedule, he was not encouraged.

That’s because the road is where the Capitals have had most of their troubles this season. The team’s home record of 18-6-1 is fourth best in the league, but away they are just 8-13-2, a dismal 25th. One spectacularly bad road game in Buffalo on November 26th probably cost Coach Boudreau his job. The power play and penalty kill perform vastly better in Verizon Center than they do when away. With 18 away games remaining, the Capitals will have to do better on the road if they want to make the playoffs.

The article looks at the Caps’ troubles away from D.C. from several angles: possession, shooting, special teams, and Alex Ovechkin. And because it’s interesting, I’m comparing Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter too. Uh oh.

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Peter and Neil on Up the Pucks, a Punk Rock / Hockey Podcast

Peter teamed up with RMNB graduate (and current ESPN.com/WaPo writer) Neil Greenberg on the Up the Pucks podcast this week. [NSFW: Naughty language]

Up the Pucks is a podcast equally enraptured with hockey and punk rock. Each week, Peter (not me) and Brandon call up a co-host from another NHL city. This time it was us.

Humangous big link to Peter and Neil on UTP

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Mister 499, Jarome Iginla

Doug Johnson writes for RMNB. He is a Puck Buddy, one of the dudes behind what Puck Daddy calls Blog of the Year 2011Follow @PuckBuddys on Twitter.

[ring ring]

“Hello, Calgary Epicure Cigar and Pipe, may I help you?”

“Yeah, do you have Prince Alberta in a can? Bwahahahaha!!!

[click.]

The Puck Drop: So OK, we’re not proud of how we began our New Year. I mean, sure,  it coulda been worse. We could’ve been busted by Johnny Law for something terrible and unimaginable like lighting off illegal fireworks. But, lol, who would do a dumb thing like that? Not us, that’s for sure!

Even though we did have cause to celebrate. Saturday night, when most sensible people were guzzling cheap booze and taking birth control, we were warming ourselves in the comforting glow of the Sony widescreen, watching as Ovi and Nicky and Wides and the rest shook off their end-of-year slumbers and handily downed the Blue Jackets in their own barn; ensuring that for at least the 18,000 gathered at Nationwide Arena it would be a crummy NYE. (Never, by the way, was there a more aptly named stadium for Columbus than Nation Wide.)

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Read Neil Greenberg’s Debut with WaPo

Neil Greenberg's debut with WaPo

A year ago, you might have known Neil Greenberg only for his razor-sharp analysis on 5ive Hole, but the most controversial acquisition during the season last year might have been Neil’s signing with RMNB.  Since then, he’s become the Examiner’s hockey photographer of record, the Washington Post’s hockey statistics nerd, and Samantha Casey’s new BFF.

Capitals Insider posted Neil’s first file today, an incisive piece comparing Karl Alzner and John Carlson to their predecessors.  With the exception of the Carlzner portmanteau, it’s a huge success.  Please, go read the piece and leave him some love in the comments.

No excuse not to read the article when there’s a link this big.

Congratulations, Neil.  Please don’t forget the little people.

Neil Greenberg’s Photos From Caps Development Camp

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On Wednesday, RMNB statistician and all-around good guy Neil Greenberg was granted a credential to take photos for the Washington Examiner (See the story here). Check out his entire gallery of photos, including some that didn’t make the cut for the Examiner below. And make sure to let Neil know your favorite in the comments.

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