Month: September 2019

Why Is Bryce Harpers Old Team Ahead Of Bryce Harpers New Team

For seven years, Bryce Harper was an integral part of the Washington Nationals both on and off the field. Harper remains the team’s fourth-best player by wins above replacement1Averaging together the versions of WAR found at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs. since the franchise moved from Montreal to Washington in 2005, trailing only Ryan Zimmerman, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. In 2015, he had one of the all-time great individual seasons by a batter, notching 9.7 WAR. At the same time, Harper was the face of the franchise in the press and probably the most famous player in baseball. When it became clear that Harper was leaving D.C. last winter, it looked like Washington had a huge void to fill — a concern only exacerbated when Harper went to the division-rival Philadelphia Phillies in a record-setting deal.And yet, more than halfway into the Nationals’ first post-Bryce season, they appear to be just fine. While the Atlanta Braves are very likely to win the National League East, Washington is on track to snag the NL’s top wild card slot with 87 projected wins (according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast) and a 66 percent playoff probability. The Phillies, meanwhile, are only tracking for 83 wins and have just a 31 percent chance at the postseason. How is it possible that Harper’s old team has not only survived without him, but outperformed his new team up the Northeast Corridor?For one thing, Washington always had a very underrated core outside of Harper — starting with future Hall of Fame pitcher Max Scherzer, who currently leads the major leagues in pitching WAR2All stats through games of July 17. after finishing second in each of the previous two seasons. Scherzer began 2019 somewhat slow, but he’s been building a truly dominant campaign ever since; his fielding-independent pitching of 2.02 is 54 percent better than the MLB average and his strikeout rate of 12.6 per nine innings is one of the best in baseball history. If Scherzer maintains his current pace for a 9.6-WAR season — once he returns from injury — he would have the majors’ best pitching season since Randy Johnson in 2001 (and one of the 40 best of all-time).Scherzer isn’t Washington’s only stellar starter, either. Strasburg and Patrick Corbin are on pace for 5.8 and 5.3 WAR, respectively, helping make the Nationals’ rotation the most valuable collection of starting pitchers in baseball this season. Add in a strong group of position players — including veterans such as Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick, plus up-and-comers like 20-year-old phenom Juan Soto (whose late home run stunned the Phillies in a Nationals win last week) and rookie Victor Robles — and the talent cupboard was far from bare in D.C. despite Harper’s exit.Not everything is going perfectly right for the Harper-less Nats, of course: 26-year-old shortstop Trea Turner, who played like an All-Star (4.4 WAR) last season, is having a down year due to an early season injury and poor performance on defense. (Blending together the defensive metrics from Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs, Turner grades out as -9.2 runs worse than an average shortstop this season, after being basically average over the previous two years.)3This might also indicate a hiccup in the defensive metrics, which has been known to happen sometimes. Outfielder Adam Eaton has been mediocre at the plate (.752 on-base plus slugging), and veteran second baseman Brian Dozier, who signed with Washington in the offseason, is hitting .231 and appears to be well past his prime. The team’s defense remains a weakness, and its bullpen has been very shaky (24th in relief WAR) beyond closer Sean Doolittle.But all told, the Nationals have only suffered slightly on offense — their hitting WAR has gone from ninth last year to 13th this year — without Harper’s presence at the plate, and they’ve actually improved their leaguewide ranking in overall WAR from 11th with him in 2018 to 10th without him in 2019: If the talent surrounding Harper in Washington was always underrated because of the gravitational pull of his star power, Harper’s own impact was probably always a bit overstated. That isn’t to say Harper is not a very good player; at age 26, he has already been roughly as good in his career as, say, Harold Baines (who at least some people thought should be in the Hall of Fame). But as my colleague Travis Sawchik and I wrote in March, Harper is also a flawed superstar — and he has played almost precisely to that form this season.Looking at his previous three seasons, a reasonable expected baseline for Harper’s 2019 value for Philadelphia could have been set at about 3.1 WAR — three times his WAR from 2018 (2.4), plus two times his WAR from 2017 (4.7), plus his WAR from 2016 (2.2), divided by six. And lo and behold, if you prorate Harper’s current output (1.9 WAR in 95 games) to a full season, it comes out to … 3.2 WAR. Although there is a growing feeling among some Phillies observers that Harper’s Delaware Valley debut has been a disappointment, he has performed almost exactly how you might have predicted.The only letdown might be this: Harper’s monster 2015 season did still imply some probability of an MVP-caliber performance — moreso than from the typical 26-year-old who’d had 9.3 WAR over his previous three seasons. So 2019 appears to be another season of Harper not converting what small chance there was of him ever reaching that hyper-productive ceiling again.Harper’s path to that 3.2-WAR pace has been slightly different than usual. His strikeout rate continues to climb (somehow much faster than the MLB-wide rate), from 18.7 percent of plate appearances in 2016 to 26.2 percent so far in 2019, and his isolated power (.220) is the lowest it’s been in three seasons. Harper’s walk rate, which ballooned to 18.7 percent last season, is back down to 15 percent — more in line with his career rate of 14.8 percent. But his StatCast batting metrics have stayed relatively steady; his average exit velocity is actually up from MLB’s 82nd percentile to its 90th. Harper’s OPS has dropped from .889 to .845 on the season, thanks in large part to the decline in plate discipline, but he’s also hitting the ball just about as hard as ever. (He’s also heating up in July, with a .885 OPS this month, so we’ll have to keep an eye on Harper for a potential second-half surge.)The best sign for Harper might be that his defense — which was conspicuously bad last season according to the advanced metrics — is back to being solid. Again averaging together the fielding values at FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference, Harper was 20.2 runs worse than average while playing mostly right field last season. That number was way out of step with his previous track record (4.3 runs above average over the previous two seasons) and easy to identify as a place for positive reversion to the mean in 2019. So sure enough, Harper has been 4.7 runs better than the average right fielder this season, which is enough to offset his OPS drop and leave him on pace for slightly more WAR in 2019 than in 2018.Despite playing almost precisely to expectations, Harper is still just the fourth-best player on the Phillies, however, behind catcher J.T. Realmuto, first baseman Rhys Hoskins and pitcher Aaron Nola. (Shortstop Jean Segura and surging jack-of-all-trades Scott Kingery aren’t too far behind, either.) Philadelphia also has had its share of legitimately disappointing players, from starters Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez to outfielder Odubel Herrera (who was suspended for the season for domestic assault earlier this month), while injuries have largely robbed Philly of expected contributions from relievers David Robertson, Pat Neshek and Seranthony Dominguez.The Phillies started the season with more (healthy) talent on paper than its current 83-win trajectory would suggest. But not by much. Harper’s fame always made his departure from Washington — and arrival in Philadelphia — feel more consequential than it actually was. The Nationals have survived without their erstwhile star because they made years of shrewd decisions filling out the roster around him. The Phillies have held steady this season4They ranked 19th in total WAR in 2018 … and rank 19th again this year. in part because of bad injury luck and other underwhelming performances — but Harper can’t be included in that group, even if he isn’t playing to his ceiling. He’s been about as good as usual, and that was neither enough to tank Washington’s season in absentia or save Philadelphia’s by addition.Check out our latest MLB predictions. read more

Baseballs Hot Stove Has Gone From Cold To Basically Turned Off

“We’ll closely monitor developments,” an MLB Players Association spokesperson said to FiveThirtyEight last month. “If 30 clubs are competing for a pennant, the free-agent market for players will be robust.”But fewer teams seem interested in competing.The Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks, 2018 contenders, are retooling. The American League Central champion Cleveland Indians have shed payroll in a weak division they can likely win without spending on free agents.And teams seem to have learned, collectively, to wait out free agents. Thirty-five free agents signed guaranteed major league deals last year between Feb. 1 and opening day,2Excluding players who signed with one team earlier in the offseason, were released and signed with another team within the February-to-April period. compared with 18 in 2017, 13 in 2016, 10 in 2015 and 13 in 2014. The longer free agents wait, the fewer dollars they’re typically awarded.Even the star free agents are having to wait.Consider that in the not-so-distant past, top players had usually signed by now. Just look at the contracts inked before Christmases past: On Dec. 1, 2015, David Price signed the richest deal ever for a starting pitcher (seven years and $217 million) with the Boston Red Sox, and he was followed three days later by Zack Greinke, who signed a six-year, $206.5 million deal with Arizona. On Dec. 10 of the previous year, Jon Lester signed a $155 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. And in 2013, Robinson Cano signed a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Seattle Mariners on Dec. 6, just three days after Jacoby Ellsbury signed a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees.But the five richest contracts of last offseason were awarded after Jan. 24. And only one contract so far this offseason has topped $100 millionThere are other factors behind the slow down, said Chaim Bloom, vice president of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays. His club reportedly signed pitcher Charlie Morton on Dec.12.“I’m hesitant to call something a trend before having [enough] information to really say this is a new normal — it might just be a slight shift in the timetable,” Bloom said to FiveThirtyEight last week. “There is a lot more information available. Teams increasingly like to have more and more information before making decisions. That may push some things later in the calendar. I also think — and this offseason is a good example of it — staff movement and staff [hirings] are taking up a larger chunk of offseason. … The more coaching staffs and front offices grow, the more time that is going to take [in early offseason].”Have teams learned to wait out the market?“I don’t know if it’s ideal for clubs, necessarily,” Bloom said of the slower markes. “You want to go into spring training knowing who you have.”Free agency has become more and more a battleground between teams and players. Clubs are accused of suppressing the service time of potential stars so as to control their prime years at cheaper salaries. Teams also seem to be wary of allocating a large share of their payroll to one player. Alex Rodriguez’s $275 million deal with the Yankees — signed Dec. 13, 2007 — remains the record for a free-agent contract even as MLB revenues have increased from $6 billion in 2007 to exceeding $10 billion in 2017.Regardless of whether free-agent superstars Harper and Manny Machado set contract records, they are expected to receive guaranteed dollars well into nine figures. The greater concern for the union is what another slow-to-develop market means for the middle class of free agents — which represents the vast majority of players.A slow-to-develop market forced unsigned players to create their own spring training camp last year in Bradenton, Florida. David Freese knows this trend well. After the former World Series MVP finished the 2015 season with 2.2 wins above replacement, he sought a lucrative, multiple-year contract. But he had to settle in March for a one-year, $3 million deal with the Pirates.“It was a tough situation to handle,” Freese said in 2016. “The waiting, it challenges your heart. Sitting around while guys are out playing [in spring training] … seeing games, seeing guys in the field.”Rather than test free agency this winter after the Dodgers were likely to turn down his $6 million club option, he re-signed with the club on a one-year, $4.5 million deal.Freese isn’t the only player to take that approach. Josh Donaldson — the 2015 A.L. MVP — agreed to a one-year, $23 million deal with Atlanta on Nov. 26. He was joined by 18 other free agents signing contracts for just one year, making up 67.9 percent of the 28 signings so far through Monday. That’s the greatest share of one-year contracts signed through the first 50 days of the offseason over the past six winters. (The next closest was 52 percent in 2016-17.)Some of these players may have decided to bet on themselves on shorter-term deals in the hopes of maximizing their future earning potential. Or perhaps they are responding to seeing players with hopes of signing lucrative multi-year deals last offseason, like Mike Moustakas and Neil Walker, languish on the market until spring training had started.Free agents across the game appear to be in store for another longer wait. Perhaps this is the new normal.Sara Ziegler contributed research. LAS VEGAS — The Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino was, in some ways, the most appropriate host for baseball’s winter meetings: After all, this offseason was once expected to be punctuated by announcements of record-setting, high-dollar free-agency deals. Bryce Harper, a premier free agent, is a Las Vegas native. But away from the din of the casino floor, a podium set up for press conferences in a vast ballroom was largely quiet last week. After last winter marked the slowest signing period in at least the previous 18 years, this offseason is starting even more slowly, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis of free-agent data.Teams already seemed less interested in giving time on the field to players over the age of 30 — the time frame in which many players first become eligible for free agency. But now, early in the offseason, teams also seem increasingly less willing to spend on any free agent.Consider that through Monday, 50 days after the World Series concluded, only 5.2 percent of available free-agent players1Our pool of available free agents includes any player with major league experience who was granted free agency or released in October and November of each season. That excludes players signed internationally or those waived by a club before the season ended or later in the offseason. had signed major league deals for guaranteed money, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis of data from The Baseball Cube. Fifty days after the end of the 2017 World Series, 5.5 percent of available free agents had signed. Two years ago that number was 9.2 percent. In the three offseasons prior to that winter — 2015-16, 2014-15 and 2013-14 — it was 9.2, 7.8 and 10.9 percent respectively.Through Monday, $442.5 million had been spent on free agents. That’s down from $469.8 million at the same point last year, which was down from $976.5 million in the winter of 2016-17, $1.401 billion in 2015-16, $1.173 billion in 2014-15 and $1.229 billion through the middle of December 2013. read more

Safety Vonn Bell anchoring the Ohio State defensive backfield

OSU junior safety Vonn Bell (11) dives toward the end zone after interception in a game against Minnesota on Nov. 7. OSU won, 28-14. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorOn the wall of the team meeting room in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center sits a chart outlining the number of “Buckeye leaves” each Ohio State player has received during the season for various positive contributions.On the top of the list, with 59 leaves on his helmet, is junior safety Vonn Bell.In addition to topping the internal rankings — which were not yet updated for Saturday’s 28-14 win against Minnesota — Bell was recognized on Monday morning as the top defensive player in the Big Ten for Week 10.The Rossville, Georgia, native made arguably the biggest play in the Buckeyes’ win, rescuing the team from a punchless first half when he intercepted a pass and returned it for a 15-yard touchdown to open up the scoring midway through the second quarter.Bell said he and safeties coach Chris Ash had discussed throughout the week leading up to the game how important his contributions could be in what was primed to be — and ended up being — a defensive battle.“Coach Ash told me at the beginning of the week that my performance could make or break the team,” Bell said. “I had to be able to play the deep balls and tackle very well because I’m the one high safety … just me and him having that conversation, I told him I could chow down for him.”Bell came to OSU in 2013 and played in each of the first 13 games as a backup at the nickel cornerback position.However, in the Orange Bowl against Clemson, an injury of Bradley Roby moved starting safety Corey Brown to cornerback and opened up a spot for Bell at starting safety.Bell was burnt for a touchdown by Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins but he also made highlight reels with a one-handed interception at the 2-yard line early in the second quarter.Bell said that first start was instrumental in shaping his confidence into his sophomore year.“It was a very big step for my career,” Bell said. “That’s where it took off. I got in a groove, got my feet wet.”Still, Bell did not start the opener at Navy the following year, coming off the bench at the free safety position behind Cam Burrows.The next game, however, coach Urban Meyer inserted Bell at the position, and he hasn’t relinquished it since.Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said it is what Bell does between games that sets him apart.“The greatest thing I can tell you is he’s a pro,” Fickell said. “He studies the game, he works the game, he practices the game, and it shows on Saturdays.”The safety said he is able to put in so much effort because he genuinely loves what he is doing.“I think it’s more fun than work,” Bell said. “We’re enjoying that time out there together.”In his 14 starts in 2014, Bell had six interceptions, including three in OSU’s last four games.He has followed that up with two picks through nine games in 2015, including the pick-six on Saturday. He also found the end zone in OSU’s second game against Hawaii on a 14-yard fumble return touchdown.Bell, who also played wide receiver in high school — scoring 21 touchdowns in his senior year — said finding the end zone is one his favorite things to do on the gridiron.So are snaps on offense in the cards for the junior? They are, if he was making the calls.“I tell (wide receivers coach Zach) Smith all the time, ‘put me in there, I’ll run a route for you,’” Bell said.Smith, in return, joked that the outspoken Bell should remain the defensive coaches’ responsibility to deal with.“I’m volunteering my position as receivers coach if Vonn Bell comes and sits in my room,” Smith said. “Just dealing with him for 20 minutes a day when we go against the defense is plenty, I’m not dealing with him for a whole day. No chance.”Even if his opportunities are forced to only come on defense, Bell — who predicted he would score two more touchdowns this season — said he is hopeful for what the rest of his season and time at OSU holds.“I think there’s still more (in store),” he said. “I’m on the right path, I think. Just have to keep on going, take the next step.”Bell and the Buckeyes are set to return to the field in Champaign, Illinois, to match up with the Fighting Illini on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for noon at Memorial Stadium.Editor’s note: The caption of the photo that accompanies this story has been changed to reflect the game’s final score. Correction 9/10: An earlier version of the story said Bradley Roby was suspended for the Orange Bowl, when in fact he was injured. read more

Womens volleyball OSU hosting two pivotal Big Ten home matches

Ohio State’s libero Valeria Leon passes a ball in the regional quarterfinal versus Washington on December 11, 2015. Credit: Ohio State AthleticsOn Oct. 1, the No. 19 Ohio State women’s volleyball team stunned the fans in Lincoln, Nebraska, as they conquered the defending national champions and No. 1 team in the country, the Nebraska Huskers, in four sets. On Friday, the Huskers will travel to Columbus for another matchup – and it’s safe to say the Huskers will be out for revenge. In what will be OSU’s only second home match this season, they will be playing Nebraska for the final go-around of the season. Since the Buckeyes last saw the Huskers on Oct. 1, Nebraska has dropped down to the No. 2 spot in the nation with OSU once again holding the No. 19 position. The Buckeyes won’t have much time before they take on the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday, also at St. John Arena. OSU head coach Geoff Carlston said his team will have to prepare for each of the teams mentally, physically, and tactically because each of the opponents are different from the other. Since the Huskers’ last meeting with the Buckeyes, the team has added two more tallies to their win column with sweeps against Indiana and Purdue. They now hold 14-1 record overall. The Huskers also hold a perfect record on the road (4-0). Carlston said if his team wants to have the same success they did during their last meeting with Nebraska, they’ll need to maintain their composure. “For us, it’s replicating, if anything, the poise that we showed,” he said. “The ‘next point, this point’ mentality that we showed – I thought that was something we really did well.” The Buckeyes are the only school in the conference to record a non-losing record (4-4) vs. Nebraska since the Huskers joined the conference in 2011.Following their battle with Nebraska, the Buckeyes will host the Hawkeyes. Iowa is currently ranked above OSU in the Big Ten standings at 4-2. They boast a 14-4 record with wins over Purdue and Indiana. Carlston said he and Iowa head coach Bond Shymansky are good friends, and Carlston knows how well Shymansky can guide his team. “They’re very different than Nebraska. Our challenge will be trying to figure out how we want to break up the next couple days in terms of preparation,” he said. Now 50 days into the 2016 season, OSU has only played on St. John’s court once (Northwestern, Sept. 28). Carlston said exactly how taxing the opening part of his season has been. “This is the longest road trip, most difficult beginning of any season I’ve had as a coach,” he said. With the opportunity to host a weekend of home play, some Buckeye team members expressed their happiness about playing in a familiar place. “We’ve only had one home game so far, so being back home will be comforting and just really awesome to be back in our own locker room and our own beds,” said freshman outside hitter Brooke Bailey. Bailey’s teammate, senior libero Valeria León, echoed her thoughts. “It feels like the Northwestern match was forever ago. We love playing here,” León said. “We love playing in front of our Buckeye fans, so that’s definitely something we’re looking forward to.” León is just 35 digs away from breaking the OSU career dig record. She has already scraped up 271 balls this season and is averaging 4.71/digs per set. It’s possible that she could secure her place in Buckeye history as soon as this weekend. She said to even be within reach of this accomplishment is a huge honor. “When you first come here, you never think you’ll even be talking about this, so it’s really cool, and I feel really blessed,” she said. León also had some veteran advice about what her team needs to do to anchor down two more wins at home this weekend. “We need to just go out there and play volleyball (and) have fun,” León said. “The Big Ten is a battle — we knew it was going to be a battle. The Buckeye battle with their Big Ten opponents will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday against the Huskers, followed by the Hawkeyes at 6 p.m. on Saturday. read more

Womens gymnastics No 19 Ohio State snags win in final rotation against

Ohio State junior Taylor Harrison preforms on balance beam in St. John Arena on Feb. 18 with her teammates watching from the side. Credit: Megan Russell | Lantern reporterAfter closely trailing the Mountaineers before entering the final rotation, the Ohio State women’s gymnastics team sealed a victory with strong performances on floor against West Virginia on Saturday.The Buckeyes posted a 49.200 on floor to tally a final score of 196.075-195.800 over West Virginia. “Our last three kids on floor are dynamite, and so I knew they were going to have to go a 9.800 or better to win the meet,” OSU coach Carey Fagan said. “You could tell — once that momentum started building deeper in our lineup — it was going to be really hard for West Virginia to stay with us.”In the first rotation on vault, junior Alexis Mattern scored a team-high 9.900 to take first overall in the event. Mattern also posted her second 9.900 of the night on floor.“This is actually the first time I’ve ever done that in my career,” Mattern said. “I may not have had the highest overall scores I’ve ever had, but consistency wise, it was one of my more consistent nights, so I’m happy with it.” In the second rotation on the uneven bars, Mattern also scored a career-high of 9.875 to take first in the event while sophomore Kaitlyn Hofland posted a 9.850 to finish in second. Senior Tenille Funches also earned a season-high of 9.825 on uneven bars.Olivia Aepli had two false starts before completing her routine on bars for the team-low of 8.750.“Olivia normally goes 9.900 on bars, and that’s the type of performance we need,” Fagan said. “Not everybody on the team has 9.900 potential, but the ones that do have that 9.900 potential, they have to come through. So little things like that can be frustrating.” At the midpoint of the meet, OSU led the Mountaineers by a meager .025.On balance beam, junior Stefanie Merkle started the lineup for OSU, posting a 9.775 to tie for third in the event with freshman Amanda Huang. Junior Taylor Harrison took first in the event with a strong score for the team of 9.875 and to tie her season-high.“Normally, going in, being last on beam — even when somebody falls or the scores are low — I try not to let that mess with my head,” Harrison said. “I just know that when I get up there, I do what I do every single day in the gym. So today, going into that routine, I felt very confident.”Heading into the final rotation, the Buckeyes trailed West Virginia 146.875-146.775.The final three performers for the floor event propelled the OSU team to set them up for the win. Those included Harrison who posted a career-high of 9.875 to take third in the event behind Mattern’s 9.900, while Merkle scored a close 9.850 behind Harrison. “I think the highlight for me was probably the last three floor routines because they knew and they could feel that the meet was on the line,” Fagan said. “And so, for them to come out and really hit really solid routines, I think it will build their confidence, and it builds the team’s confidence too.”Mattern placed first in the all-around with a 39.375. read more

Heralded recruiting class could help talented Buckeyes get even better

Little has been said about the 2010 Ohio State women’s basketball class, but OSU made quite a catch.Coach Jim Foster has made a habit of recruiting players that complement the team perfectly while recruiting both highly touted and predominantly unknown players.His recruiting success and judgment of players is hard to refute since he came to OSU eight years ago. His OSU resume already includes six Big Ten regular season titles, two trips to the Sweet Sixteen and seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances.Four seniors leave the team after this season, but every starter will return. Amy Scullion: Salem, Ohio (Salem H.S.)Scullion is ranked as the No. 43 recruit in the nation by ESPN with a grade of 95 out of 99.She is ranked No. 2 at her position by the Collegiate Girl’s Basketball Report, a highly regarded National Scouting Service for women’s basketball. The Report also called Scullion a player who possesses athleticism that OSU has yet to see.Standing 6 feet tall and being very athletic made Scallion a multi-sport player. She plays volleyball as well as basketball and most say that volleyball is actually her best sport.She said she would have played volleyball for Team USA over the summer if she had not chosen to play basketball at OSU.Scullion told multiple sources that she chose OSU because of the program’s success and how they are seemingly “stockpiling” talent.Martina Ellerbe: Teaneck, N.J. (St. Mary’s H.S.)Ellerbe is ranked as the No. 108 recruit in the nation by ESPN with a grade of 93 out of 99. ESPN classifies her as a player who could contribute as a freshman and eventually start for a top national program.She is 6 feet 2 inches tall and classified as a forward. She has the ability to beat women as tall as her off the dribble, much like center Jantel Lavender.Ellerbe is also a great rebounder with strong hands. In a game against the No. 13 team in New Jersey earlier this season, Ellerbe scored 26 points, grabbed 23 rebounds and blocked six shots.Her defense is also a great attribute. She has great timing for blocking shots and has quick feet for being as tall as she is, which lets her guard players smaller than her.Ellerbe is not just a basketball player — she is an excellent student. She is carrying a 3.9 GPA in St. Mary’s advanced studies program and has received various academic athlete honors.Ashley Adams: Siloam Springs, Ariz. (Siloam Springs H.S.)Adams is ranked the No. 116 recruit in the nation by ESPN with a grade of 92. She will be able to make immediate contributions as a freshman if needed and has the potential to start for a top tier program, according to ESPN. Standing 6 feet 5 inches tall makes her the tallest player in this class and the tallest on OSU’s roster next year. She is expected to be a center or a forward at OSU.Adams is also said to have great vision and an ability to pass the ball very well from the post.Adams led Siloam Springs to the championship game her junior year while averaging 16 points, eight rebounds and four blocks per game.Darryce Moore: Youngstown, Ohio (Boardman H.S.)Moore was given a grade of 89 by ESPN. She is ranked the No. 14 center in the nation by the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report. The report also called Moore a player who has the capability to burst onto the national scene unexpectedly.She is 6 feet 2 inches tall and very strong in the post, which allows her to get position to get rebounds. Moore’s brother, J.T. Moore, is in the OSU football recruiting class of 2010 and was the first commitment for the class. read more

Buckeyes mens lacrosse goes down 119 in the showdown against Fairfield

In the fourth annual Showdown in the ‘Shoe, the Ohio State men’s lacrosse seniors walked out of Ohio Stadium for the last time in defeat, falling, 11-9, despite making a late run at the Fairfield Stags. The Buckeyes shot early and often, outshooting the Stags almost 2-1, but the ball simply did not reach the goal in the first half. The Buckeyes went into halftime on a 5-2 deficit, even though they led in almost every other respect. The Buckeyes’ shots reached the cage often, but Fairfield junior goalkeeper Charlie Cipriano came up with 12 saves. “They’ve got a great goalie. I think he’s been a key to their season all year,” OSU coach Nick Myers said after the game. “He made some great saves. We had some quality shots on the cage.” The game began on a hopeful note for the Buckeyes, with senior midfielder Mike Pires scoring the first goal of the game early in the first quarter. The Stags of Fairfield, Conn., then scored three unanswered goals, and then matched the only other goal in the first half, scored by OSU sophomore midfielder Dominique Alexander. Alexander led OSU with two goals, along with freshman attackman Tyler Frederick. The second half proved to be more eventful, with OSU scoring seven goals. The Stags countered with six goals, hanging on for the win. Particularly troublesome for the Buckeyes were Fairfield sophomore attackman Sam Snow and junior midfielder Brent Adams, who logged three goals apiece. Senior captain Bryce Woodson, a midfielder, said it was a tough loss at home. “It definitely hurts,” Woodson said. “It is an honor and privilege to be in here, and you definitely want to come out with a win.” Senior midfielder Scott Lathrop said he had mixed feelings walking off the field at Ohio Stadium for the last time. “It is sad and exciting at the same time with not being able to do it again,” Lathrop said. “But it was a lot of fun and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.” The loss puts OSU at 7-7 overall and 2-3 in Eastern College Athletic Conference play. The Buckeyes travel to Louisville, Ky., to face Bellarmine at 3 p.m. Saturday in the team’s last regular-season game. read more

Braxton Miller sits in OSUs victory against Toledo

It seems Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell has made his decision about who his starting quarterback is. Senior quarterback Joe Bauserman was under center for the entire game against Toledo on Saturday afternoon. True freshman quarterback Braxton Miller did not see a single snap. With OSU’s back up against the wall, trailing to Toledo in the second quarter, Fickell opted to go with the senior instead of the freshman in the game. Fickell said after the game that the game plan was to have Miller play in the second quarter. “We were going to use him, we had a plan maybe to be in that second quarter, very similar to last week,” Fickell said. “It just didn’t work out the way we had probably planned it in our head, and we’ll continue to move forward.” Bauserman did not play to the standards he set for himself last week, passing for 189 yards and a touchdown. He completed just more than 50 percent of his passes, but did not turn the ball over. “I want to get back and look at the film. There were a lot of throwaways down there,” Bauserman said. “Maybe I could have squeezed them in, but most important thing is no turnovers.” Fickell described the decision to not play Miller as a gut decision. “It’s just one of those gut decisions you’ve got to make out there,” Fickell said. “We’ve made some changes defensively that we had planned that maybe we were going to go with, and things just weren’t going the way we had them planned.” While Miller has the play-making ability that comes with a running quarterback, clearly Fickell will look to rely on the experience of the senior. When asked about the added pressure that comes with being the starting quarterback, Bauserman said that he expects to be the guy to go out there and play. “I expect to be in until they tell me not to be,” Bauserman said. “Got to be ready.” Bauserman talked about Miller’s attitude on the sideline during the game. “You’re always going to be frustrated when you’re not playing.” Bauserman said. “He came here to play… He’s learning and he’s got to be ready.” Bauserman said that regardless of who is going to be quarterback, he’s always got to be ready to play. Fickell has decided, without saying it, that Bauserman is his quarterback. “It shows that I have consistency and leadership,” Bauserman said. “If you don’t have the confidence, you can’t do that.” read more

From England to the Bahamas current and former Ohio State athletes had

Former Ohio State tennis player Blaz Rola hits the ball in a match against Spain’s Pablo Andujar June 23 at Wimbledon in Wimbledon, England. Rola won, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsAs the roar of students on campus fell to a whimper with the Columbus spring turning into summer, the decrescendo was certainly not felt by the many Ohio State athletes who continued their endeavors into the summer months.While some Buckeyes graduated and took the next steps in their individual athletic careers, others competed for championships and still more traveled the world, representing OSU.Men’s basketballOne of the teams that had a busy summer, though their season officially ended in the spring, was the OSU men’s basketball team.The summer began for the men’s basketball team with the announcement that the Buckeyes, along with North Carolina, UCLA and Kentucky, would be part of a new round-robin style basketball tournament called the CBS Sports Classic, which will start this year and happen each year through the 2016 season. While OSU will face each of the other three teams in subsequent years, it’s set to face North Carolina in its CBS Sports Classic debut at the United Center in Chicago on Dec. 20.While the Buckeyes will likely look forward to that matchup, they spent part of their summers near the warm, sunny beaches of the Bahamas, where they defeated the Bahamas All Stars and the Providence Storm by a combined score of 203-129 in two games.A couple of graduated Buckeye-ballers also kept busy this summer, as two former OSU players found homes in professional basketball.After receiving much praise from Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, former OSU point guard Aaron Craft signed a partially-guaranteed contract with the Warriors and will join the team when training camp begins later this fall. Former Buckeyes forward LaQuinton Ross played with the Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA Summer League team before signing a contract to play for Victoria Libertas in the Lega Basket Serie A.Women’s rowingThe OSU women’s rowing team took home its second-consecutive NCAA National Championship in Indianapolis this summer.Following the victory, the team became the fourth-winningest program in the country with five NCAA Championships under its belt.Women’s volleyballAs women’s rowing was adding another trophy to its case, the women’s volleyball team was adding an assistant coach.Former California State-San Marcos associate head coach Jay Van Vark was added to the women’s volleyball coaching staff at OSU in early August, bringing with him experience from coaching Team U.S.A. and the U.S.A. Collegiate National team.Men’s, women’s golfThe Buckeye golf squads were a busy bunch, starting with the resignation of assistant men’s golf coach Ryan Potter after four seasons with OSU.Potter was replaced Saturday, as OSU announced the hiring of J.J. Wood to the same position.Wood most recently coached at Rice University, where he helped lead the Owls to their first ever Conference USA Championship in 2014.The women’s golf team was active this summer as well, but there was one Buckeye who stood out from the rest.Then-freshman golfer Jessica Porvasnik watches her shot at the Lady Buckeye Invitational April 19 in Columbus.Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsSophomore Jessica Porvasnik qualified for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open after shooting back-to-back rounds of 73 at a qualification tournament in Butler, Pa. Porvasnik was one of 25 amateurs and one of 156 total golfers to qualify.Upon her arrival at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in Pinehurst, N.C., Porvasnik shot a first-round 79 and a second-round 82, leaving her 12 strokes short of the cut to advance to the third round of the tournament.And Porvasnik wasn’t the only Buckeye representing OSU on an international stage this summer.Men’s tennisOSU’s first-ever men’s tennis singles NCAA champion Blaz Rola, who accomplished the feat for the Buckeyes in 2013 before turning pro, made his way to Wimbledon for the gentlemen’s singles tournament at the Wimbledon Championships.After defeating the No. 80 Pablo Andujar of Spain in the first round, No. 92 Rola, representing Slovenia, was slated to face the defending men’s singles champion and fifth-ranked men’s player in the world, Andy Murray.Murray, who became the first British champion at Wimbledon since 1936 with his victory in 2013, defeated Rola in three sets, 6-1, 6-1, 6-0.As Rola represented the Buckeyes at the All England Club in London, a duo of men’s tennis players — Peter Kobelt and Kevin Metka — were representing OSU at the 2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Doubles Final in Athens, Ga.In what was a back-and-forth affair, Kobelt and Metka fell to Hunter Reese and Mikelis Libietis of the University of Tennessee in three sets, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3), 6-7 (6).Track and fieldFinally, the track and field teams at OSU kept busy, but more with personnel moves than sprints.Ed Beathea, the coach of both the OSU men’s track and field and cross country teams, announced his resignation in June to head back to Indiana University, where he spent 10 seasons as an assistant coach and associate head coach to assume the role of the Hoosier’s associate head coach.Beathea’s resignation left a hole that was filled internally, as OSU changed the title of Karen Dennis from the Buckeyes’ women’s track and field and cross country coach to the overall director of track and field and cross country.Dennis previously spent eight seasons as the women’s coach.With the 2014-15 school year beginning and the aforementioned lull on campus roaring back to life, OSU athletics will not ramp back up, but will continue to move as leaves begin to fall. read more

Opinion Buckeye defense set for another title run in 2015

OSU sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa (right) sacks Michigan redshirt-senior quarterback Devin Gardner during a Nov. 29 game at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 42-28.Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorIt’s been more than a month since the Ohio State football team won its eighth national championship, but it is never too early to look forward to the start of the 2015 season.The Buckeyes are set to return seven of 11 starters on defense, a crew that held all three Heisman finalists relatively in check over the last three games of the year.With the 2015 spring game just about two months away from kicking off, we look at what the “Silver Bullets” will be bringing to the table as they get set to defend their title.Defensive lineWhile the Buckeyes lose Steve Miller and Michael Bennett, OSU doesn’t seem to be taking too big of a step back in 2015 along the defensive front.Unanimous All-American junior Joey Bosa is set to return for what will likely be his final season in the scarlet and gray, and veteran senior Adolphus Washington will likely anchor the interior of the front four for OSU.The candidate most likely to replace Bennett, who is almost sure to be a first- or second-round NFL Draft selection, is senior Tommy Schutt.Schutt played in 12 games in 2014 and recorded 10 tackles.Redshirt-sophomore Michael Hill will also earn time as the Buckeyes rotate early and often on the defensive line, especially inside.Replacing the production lost by Miller and Rashad Frazier should not be an issue for the Buckeyes as highly touted youngsters step to the forefront.Sophomore Jalyn Holmes, who made an appearance in nine games including the title game against Oregon, is a leading candidate for the end spot while fellow redshirt-sophomore Tyquan Lewis will also see significant playing time.Left out of the mix will be 2015 recruit Jashon Cornell. Despite being a four-star recruit, he is buried behind a stable of talent that will be competing for playing time on a defense looking to repeat for a national title.Returning starters:   Joey Bosa, Adolphus WashingtonKey losses: Michael Bennett, Steve MillerOdd man out: Jashon CornellProjected starters: Bosa, Washington, Tommy Schutt, Jalyn HolmesLinebackersThe linebackers on the 2014 title winning defense more than exceeded expectations after a less-than-stellar 2013 season.Led by senior Joshua Perry, the Buckeyes are set to return two of three starters from the linebacker core and a third with plenty of experience.Redshirt-sophomore Darron Lee and sophomore Raekwon McMillan will likely round out a three-man group that is built to torture opponents’ backfields.McMillan — who will replace Curtis Grant — totaled 54 tackles in his freshman campaign, just 15 less than Grant, who started each game in 2014.Combined, the three returning players accounted for 259 tackles in 2014, and are poised to shatter that number in 2015.Should an unforeseen injury occur, incoming freshman Justin Hilliard, the top outside linebacker recruit in the country according to ESPN, could see some early reps.Hilliard is an Ohio native out of St. Xavier High School and a possible future star for the Buckeyes.Returning starters: Joshua Perry, Darron LeeKey loss: Curtis GrantOdd man out: Chris WorleyProjected starters: Perry, Lee, Raekwon McMillanDefensive backsIf you are looking for a position group to credit for winning the 2014 title (other than the quarterbacks), look no further than the OSU secondary. The Buckeyes improved to the 29th best pass defense in 2014 from the 112th ranked pass defense in 2013, and stifled offenses for the large part of the title run. From the back four, the Buckeyes are set to return three players in 2015, but the one player lost might be the most difficult to replace. Doran Grant played arguably the biggest role on the OSU defense other than Bosa in 2014, as he took on wide receivers like Tony Lippett from Michigan State and Heisman finalist Amari Cooper from Alabama and held each under 100 yards. With Doran Grant lost to graduation, it is likely redshirt-sophomore Eli Apple will slide over to the strongside corner spot while redshirt-junior Tyvis Powell and junior Vonn Bell will return to their respective safety spots. Leading candidates to take over the weakside corner position are likely redshirt-sophomore Gareon Conley and sophomore Damon Webb. Conley, who started in place of Apple during the Michigan State game, showed signs of weakness as he gave up two big plays to quarterback Connor Cook and company, forcing Apple to play injured. Webb, whom some expected to redshirt in 2014, did not do so and appeared in nine games as a freshman, collecting three tackles. Another candidate is sophomore Erick Smith, who appeared in 13 games as a freshman and totaled 13 tackles to go along with an interception against Kent State. Whoever replaces Doran Grant will have big shoes to fill, and will likely be tested early and often. Returning starters: Eli Apple, Vonn Bell, Tyvis PowellKey losses: Doran Grant, Armani Reeves (injury)Odd man out: Gareon ConleyProjected starters: Apple, Damon Webb, Bell, PowellThe Buckeye defense is set to test its changes against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg, Va. read more