The Rays Tank: Superbowl Edition

Maybe it's a bad call, maybe it's Maybeline. - Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe it's not a national holiday, but I think it's a baseball holiday, at least.

There was a football game yesterday, and as a result, I'm pretty sure nothing of interest happened in the baseball world. I also hear that, to get more traffic, I should make articles (and URLs) that capitalize on the current search traffic. Let no one say that I'm not a team player

The much talked about zone read was pretty unsuccessful last night. By my count, though, the optioned man only made a play once all game. Generally, he kept his lane toward the quarterback and Kaepernick correctly gave the ball to his running back. Despite the numbers advantage gained by optioning the end, though, San Francisco was rarely able to find room to run inside. In baseball terms, this was the equivalent of setting someone up with a few good fastballs, throwing an outside changeup, and watching the batter have his hips leak but manage to keep the bat head back just enough to pull the ball up the third base line for a double.


Part of this has to do with the stoutness of Baltimore's interior defense. But there is a seldom discussed downside to the zone read (and don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan) that came into play yesterday. There's no such thing as a free lunch. While the 49ers were gaining a blocker, they were also losing some of their agency in choosing where the run was going. In a more traditional running play, Gore could have seen that the middle was clogged and bounced the play wide. He'd have to deal with an unblocked linebacker once he turned the corner, but that's what you pay NFL running backs for. With the zone read, if the optioned end takes the quarterback, he's forced the run inside. Everyone (on the defense) knows where it's going, and if Gore were to stop and try to bounce it out, he'd run right into the unblocked end.

There isn't a ton out yet by the the football stathead community (at least as I know them -- links to sites I don't know are appreciated).

  • Brian Burke does a really nice job over at Advanced NFL Stats with win probability. I'm sure he'll have analysis of many game situations out during the day, but right now, check out his WPA graft of the Superbowl. One interesting tidbit -- Baltimore's fake field goal (that was stopped), had a leverage index of only 0.4. Yes it was a ballsy move, but it was a pretty low stakes ballsy move.
  • If you want to read a transcript of reasonable people discussing the game live, that will say something other than "the lights going out changed momentum," go to the Football Outsiders Audibles at the Line.
  • I lied. There is some baseball worth talking about.This isn't brand new, but it's pretty new, and I just found it. Shane England did a study on make up calls, with the conclusion that they exist, and generally outweigh the original bad call. While I'm not sure he's using the best definition of the strike zone, in the aggregate I think it evens out (although I wouldn't trust any conclusions about handedness). This is really fascinating work.
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