To say the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors have taken different paths to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals would be quite the understatement. The Cavs easily swept their first two series, against the Pistons and Hawks; the Raptors were pushed to seven games in each of theirs, with the Pacers and Heat. Toronto played its last game this past Sunday; Cleveland last played the Sunday before that. As a result, LeBron & Co. have an enormous advantage in the rest department heading into Game 1 at home Tuesday night. But will it help the Cavs much? Don’t bank on it.The Cavs already enter the series as heavy favorites: Our Elo-based forecast gives them a 74 percent chance of prevailing. And the seven-day rest differential over the Raptors is tied for second among the 230 playoff series occurring in the second round or later since 1984, when the league launched the 16-team playoff format. (The largest difference in time off was nine days, in the 2004 Pacers-Heat series.)Such a long layoff for one team and a tight turnaround for the other can spin either way — rest or rust — but there isn’t any statistical evidence that inequalities in rest between series help or harm teams in the playoffs.We looked at this a couple of ways. First, if either rust or exhaustion is going to have an effect, it’s most likely to come in Game 1 of a new series. Using both teams’ pre-series Elo ratings (FiveThirtyEight’s pet method of estimating a team’s strength at a given moment), we can calculate expected point differentials for those opening games and then compare them to the games’ actual scoring margins. Teams that got more days off than their opponent did not do better than expected in these Game 1s, in terms of their expected point margins; any benefit of extra rest wasn’t statistically significant. But that’s just looking at Game 1s. What about the whole series? As a second pass at the question, we used a logistic regression — a nifty statistical tool for examining outcomes such as wins and losses — to test whether the difference in rest days between the two teams had any impact on the series outcome, after accounting for the series’ Elo-based forecast. The series projection had major significance in predicting who went on to win — no surprise there. But the differential between teams in rest days was not a statistically significant factor, just as in our analysis of Game 1s.But smoking out relationships between rest and rust and the outcome of a series overlooks the most important factor: the quality of the teams. A breakdown of the average differential in Elo between the two teams, sorted by difference in the number of days off between series, shows that better teams are more likely to close out their series quickly, and worse teams that do win are more likely to do so in a longer series.For the Cavs-Raptors series, what really matters is not Cleveland’s long vacation nor Toronto’s heavy workload, but the simple fact that the Cavs are the better team. Rest was never going to change that.Check out our NBA playoff predictions.
Former Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas has a great deal of respect for Michael Jordan and carefully considered his answer before proclaiming his current basketball superiority in a video by TMZ.Chris Yuscavage of Complex Sports points out that this video made him realize two things:1. Gilbert Arenas does, in fact, use his pickup truck for transporting more than just fireworks.2. We miss Gilbert Arenas! Seriously, this guy was so much fun to watch when he was in the NBA, and it sucks that injuries killed his career.Watch him talk about what he thinks would happen during a game of 1-on-1 between himself and Michael Jordan in the clip above. Entertaining stuff.
When they said the Floyd Mayweather long-awaited bout against Manny Pacquaio would be the richest in boxing history, not everyone knew you’d practically have to be rich to afford to order it on pay-per-view.Having to be rich to have the fight beamed into your home may be an overstatement, but not by much.HBO and Showtime confirmed to ESPN.com that the suggested retail price for the May 2 fight is $89.95—the most expensive in history.On top of that, if you really want clarity there could be another $10 added to it to see it in high definition. That would make it $100 to watch a fight that could be an all-time great. . . but also could be a dance contest.Neither fighter is at his peak as they were five years ago when this fight was first discussed as a super fight. Now, it’s super legacies, with flashes of the greatness they embodied.The suggested retail price is not only a new record for a boxing pay-per-view event, it is nearly 40 percent above the previous high. The previous high of $64.95 (some providers have charged an extra $10 for HD) was established by Mayweather in his fight against Canelo Alvarez in Sept. 2013. Mayweather’s subsequent fights against Marcos Maidana also hit that number.The fight is expected to break the record for pay-per-view revenue of $152 million, which was for Mayweather’s fight against Alvarez, and most buys (2.5 million), which was for Mayweather’s fight against Oscar De La Hoya in 2007.Those who can’t afford to buy the fight in the comfort of their own home might plan to go to a bar, but there’s a question as to whether some bars will want to make the investment to bring the fight in. Why? Because bars are charged based on their legal occupancy.The owner of a high-end New York City sports bar said that the fight will cost him $21 a person that night, which he’ll happily absorb, but he can see how other establishments that generate less revenue might take a pass. For that rate, so will many people at home.
Make no mistake: The Cubs have good hitters overall. They produced baseball’s seventh-best Weighted Runs Created Plus this past season,3Among non-pitchers. and its 16th-most runs scored per game. And against all pitches (fastball or no), the Cubs tended to whiff less than average — 22.8 percent, against an MLB average of 23.3 percent.But velocity is the Cubs’ kryptonite. On top of their tendency to whiff against the hardest fastballs, Chicago also made a lot of weak contact, reflected by pop-ups and a low batting average. Even when the Cubs could bring the bat to the ball, they failed to do much with it.Maybe, too, the Cubs’ tendency toward whiffs was exacerbated by the low temperatures in New York. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick showed that high velocity is especially effective in the postseason, due in part to the effect of October’s low temperatures. When you combine the Mets’ powerful arms with the pressure of the playoffs and 40-degree fall temperatures, perhaps we should have expected the Cubs to struggle with contact.(As for the Cubs’ pitching woes: Those have been much more unexpected, and much harder to explain.)The outlook for the Cubs is now grim, as only one team in MLB history has come back from a 3-0 deficit. Then again, that one team (the 2004 Boston Red Sox) was also battling a curse with the help of a front office run by Theo Epstein. We’ll have to see if Epstein’s team can pull off the same trick twice, but it’s safe to say that the overwhelming velocity of New York’s pitchers has put the odds firmly against it. Chicago’s worst fear has come to pass: The New York Mets lead the Cubs three games to none in the National League Championship Series. Scoring only five runs in three games, Chicago’s usually powerful bats have been held in check, and a series sweep may be imminent. What happened to a Cubs team that looked like the pennant favorite after winning the National League wild-card game?One oft–repeated explanation of New York’s dominance is that Chicago’s hitters struggle against quality fastballs. According to this theory, that weakness is magnified against a Mets rotation headlined by three of the hardest-throwing pitchers in baseball: Noah Syndergaard (average fastball velocity: 97.7 mph), Matt Harvey (96.5) and Jacob deGrom (95.8). When New York dials up the heat, Cub bats wilt.Here at FiveThirtyEight, there’s nothing we love more than taking down faulty narratives. But this theory does seem to be borne out by the data. While the average MLB hitter whiffs at 96 mph fastballs 22.8 percent of the time,1Using data from PitchInfo from the 2015 regular season. the average Cubs hitter swings and misses 25.7 percent of the time against the same pitch type and velocity.2To get these numbers and generate the following chart, I modeled whiffs with a binomial logistic regression that incorporated count and fastball velocity.
There’s a good argument to be made that MLB launched the new sports–data revolution in 2006, when it introduced PITCHf/x. The technology used cameras to measure the velocity, position, and break of every pitch in real time, transforming how sabermetricians analyzed the sport. But this season, PITCHf/x was phased out in favor of Statcast, a newer and more advanced system that tracks the ball (and players) using a combination of radar and cameras.On paper, Statcast is an incredible leap forward — and when it works, it’s amazing. But so far, it has struggled to measure the basic elements of pitching that PITCHf/x had down cold, causing confusion among sabermetricians and fans alike.It all started the first weekend of the season, when observers noted some unusual pitch velocity readings from San Francisco Giants hurler Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner’s fastball was up almost two full miles per hour compared with last year; in a league where every tick matters, that reading could have meant a much better season for the Giants’ ace than expected. It wasn’t just Bumgarner: FanGraphs writer Dave Cameron quickly noticed that velocity numbers had jumped across the league. Days after the changes were noted, MLB data guru Tom Tango clarified in a blog post that the changeover from PITCHf/x to Statcast had altered the way pitch speed was recorded, making it appear that velocity had increased. An MLB Advanced Media spokesperson who requested not to be identified said “the transition saw unexpected issues that have been resolved,” but declined to comment further.And tracking velocity was only the beginning of Statcast’s troubles. Real-time data from MLB’s Gameday app has been inconsistent or obviously erroneous in the season’s first month. Some days, it has gone missing altogether, only to reappear later without explanation. Statcast has always had gaps in its data, but in previous years, that missing information was limited to batted-ball velocity and launch angle. The pitch-tracking issues that cropped up this year are in dramatic contrast with those we saw from PITCHf/x, which tended to miss only a handful of throws a season.Even if you focus solely on the pitches that Statcast successfully tracks, its measurement error is much higher than PITCHf/x’s was. We can tell whether a park is systematically measuring pitches incorrectly by looking at the average vertical and horizontal coordinates of pitches there. If the data from a particular park tends to always be a bit high or a bit outside compared to when the same pitchers throw at other parks, it’s likely that the measurements are off. And according to models I built to measure the systematic error in each ballpark,1I used generalized linear models, with a random effect for the park. the new system is struggling to determine where the ball crosses the plate. Here’s what those errors look like when averaged across the league. Errors in both horizontal and vertical movement have never been higher in the four years that Statcast has made some of its data publicly available.2This year’s horizontal errors are tied with last year’s as the highest ever; this year’s vertical errors are the highest ever. So it’s not just your imagination as you watch the game on TV: In-broadcast representations of the strike zone (like FoxTrax) take their data from Statcast, and Statcast’s errors, in turn, have bred anger with umpires and confusion over how pitches are being called.Statcast runs into the most trouble when it’s quantifying pitch break, or the degree to which pitches move up and down or side to side as they travel between the mound and the plate. Third-party observers have catalogued numerous inaccuracies with Statcast’s break numbers. “It appears that the current Statcast/TrackMan h[orizontal]/v[ertical] break can be up to 3 inches divergent from the truth, simply comparing it to 2016 PITCHf/x data,” said Kyle Boddy, a data-driven trainer with multiple MLB clients. Even the average Statcast-reported break number is about an inch off. Some readings are especially egregious: One pitch was originally reported to have arced upward more than 20 inches on its trip from the mound to the plate. The combination of errors in velocity and break have rendered some pitches impossible to classify, further confusing sabermetricians.Making matters worse, some ballparks show much larger errors than others. So far this season, Atlanta’s brand-new SunTrust Park appears to have the most accurate vertical break numbers, only off by two-tenths of an inch on average. Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park shows the worst errors, missing by an average of 2.4 inches per pitch. So not only are the errors bigger than in the days of PITCHf/x, they’re also more inconsistent: Last year, every park’s errors ranged from 0.04 to 1.4 inches.Park-specific calibration errors such as these may explain other aberrant MLB trends. Despite the aforementioned league-wide hike in measured velocity, Chicago Cubs starters have registered lower fastball velocities than last year, sparking concern among Cubs fans. Writers have pointed to poor starts by Chicago pitchers as evidence that the velocity drop-offs are real, and even suggested that it could be part of a conscious effort by Cubs pitchers to decrease fatigue. But the far simpler explanation is bad data: If the club’s pitch tracker is poorly calibrated, it could make it look like pitchers are losing velocity when in fact the readings are just wrong. Supporting this idea is the fact that opposing teams’ pitchers in Wrigley have also registered a lower raw velocity than average. Unless the Cubs’ velocity woes are contagious, it seems likely that Statcast errors are driving some of their low numbers.The root cause of Statcast’s troubles is unknown. The problems could originate in the hardware, the computer code processing the resulting data, or any other part of a complex system. The hardware part of Statcast — the part that actually tracks pitches — is a radar system sold by a company called TrackMan. Boddy’s company, Driveline Baseball, maintains their own TrackMan machine and has previously characterized its performance. “It is well-known in the industry that TrackMan has a lot of calibration issues, especially in nonstandard deployments.” Boddy said. For a radar system that works best in empty environments, it hardly gets less standard than trying to take measurements in a crowded MLB stadium on game day.The good news is that MLB could learn from the last major technological innovation it deployed. When PITCHf/x first came out in the postseason of 2006, there were major issues with its initial calibration. “The data was open sourced and required tons of work from the public sphere to massage and get right,” Boddy said. “It was years before the data stabilized, and MLBAM has public analysts to thank for doing tons of free work.” But in contrast to a decade ago, MLB is now providing very little detail about Statcast’s internal workings. Without greater disclosure from MLB, it’s impossible to know what issues Statcast is having, or when they may be resolved. (At times, their own analysts appear to find out about changes to the public data after the fact.) Until Statcast improves, television viewers and sabermetricians alike will have to take pitch-tracking measurements with a grain of salt.
The logic was sound for Scott: Kessler/McCown as the most obvious case, the Browns starter last year up against the least bad Jets passer; Kessler/Hackenberg if the Jets were aggressively tanking; Kizer/McCown if the Jets had back-tracked on tanking and the Browns were attempting to invest in their future; and Kizer/Hackenberg if both teams were racing to the bottom for Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold, the presumed No. 1 pick at the time.To the untrained eye, Brock Osweiler going into the season could be the guy: He started the first two preseason games, had been a starting quarterback in two cities and even signed a baffling $72 million contract. To the trained — by which I mean open — eye, Osweiler is an awful quarterback, now riding the bench behind Trevor Siemian in Denver after failing to make the 53-man roster in Cleveland. Hogan, meanwhile, emerged as the sleeper candidate by earning the backup role ahead of incumbent Kessler, giving me some brief hope. But the Browns have fully committed to their rookie Kizer in the past four weeks — undeterred by the lowest QBR in the NFL.For the Jets, it’s been a far weirder ride. They are a team that cannot choose between tanking for Darnold (or Josh Rosen … or Mason Rudolph) and winning enough games to ensure that they do not obtain him. Bryce Petty remains inexplicably in the mix. Hackenberg obtained the No. 2 spot and then promptly lost it. For those questioning the logic of the “other” column, the Jets kicked Jay Cutler’s tires when he was a free agent. And yet, the mediocrity of McCown has helped the Jets win two whole games, all but ensuring that the Jets will not be able to draft a reliable replacement for him next year.All good teams are good for the same reasons, but all bad teams fail for different ones. It’s looking increasingly likely that I’ll owe Red [checks book] several beers. But good God, was the roller coaster worth it: Nothing quite like skin in the game to make the Jet’s inability to tank correctly entertaining. On July 31, I made what will surely be the single most entertaining bet of my NFL season, a down-to-the-wire nail-biter that this Sunday is manifested in either total glory or unspeakable defeat:Who on Earth would be the starting quarterbacks for Jets at Browns in Week 5?The teams, which have been the poster children for “problems behind center” in recent seasons (OK, recent decades), will each presumably field a passer during the Sunday game. The identity of those individuals was a mystery in late July. For the Browns — historically, the kind of quarterback trash fire that other trash fires look at and say, “Oh, God, the smell” — there were five possibilities in July: Brock Osweiler, Kevin Hogan, Cody Kessler, rookie DeShone Kizer and “other.” For the Jets, who had parted ways with Ryan Fitzpatrick earlier that year, the options were considerably slimmer: Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, second-year clipboard holder Christian Hackenberg and, of course, “other.”So here was the bet between me and internet friend Red Scott of Bunker Politics.1Full disclosure, this is our second bet. The first was which number would be higher, the combined wins of the Jets and Browns or the White House tenure of Anthony Scaramucci in months. I won that one. He gave himself even-money odds that he could guess the starting quarterback combo for New York at Cleveland in four tries. I would take the rest of the field. Here’s what he ended up picking:
Green BayRashan GaryDE1211.2+0.8 PittsburghDevin BushLB1015.5-5.5 WashingtonDwayne HaskinsQB158.8+6.2 TennesseeJeffery SimmonsDT1929.5-10.5 With the first round of the NFL draft complete, it appears that the wisdom of the crowds wasn’t particularly wise. The first three picks went relatively as expected, but the draft went off script with the Oakland Raiders’ pick at No. 4 overall: defensive end Clelin Ferrell of Clemson — a player who mock drafters believed would go somewhere in the middle of the first round. The Raiders’ pick was the first of many that defied expectations and left amateur GMs scratching their heads.In the case of the New York Giants, some fans were banging their heads against the wall and collapsing in tears. New York, which passed on many quarterbacks a year ago to take running back Saquon Barkley, took Duke QB Daniel Jones at No. 6. Jones averaged a 20.4 pick in mock drafts taken in the last 30 days before the draft but came off the board an eyebrow-raising 14.4 picks earlier. The Giants seemed to be trying to get ahead of a quarterback run that didn’t exist: Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins lasted until Washington took him at No. 15 (6.2 picks later than expected), and no subsequent QBs were taken on Thursday night.But the New York football Giants, armed with three picks in the first round alone, weren’t finished reaching. Using the 17th overall pick they acquired when they dealt Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns, the Giants selected DT Dexter Lawrence of Clemson, 10.5 picks earlier than expected. The Giants were able to capture some surplus value with their third and final pick of the first round, however: Georgia CB Deandre Baker lasted 3.2 picks longer than expected and should help fill the void in the Giants secondary that was left when Eli Apple was traded to New Orleans last October for picks in the fourth and seventh rounds. Tampa BayDevin WhiteLB57.0-2.0 The NFL draft has been full of surprisesThe first round of the 2019 NFL draft by each player’s pick and his average draft position (ADP) in mock drafts since March 26, 2019 New EnglandN’Keal HarryWR3229.3+2.7 WashingtonMontez SweatDE2610.6+15.4 MiamiChristian WilkinsDT1319.0-6.0 BaltimoreMarquise BrownWR2525.4-0.4 Green BayDarnell SavageS2154.7-33.7 N.Y. GiantsDexter LawrenceDT1727.5-10.5 CincinnatiJonah WilliamsOT1113.3-2.3 The selections of Lawrence and Ferrell were part of a larger trend: NFL GMs appear to have been particularly enamored with Clemson players. Three Tiger defensive standouts from the national championship team were selected in the first round, and they went 10.5 slots earlier on average than mock drafts predicted.A dominant theme of the night, as expected, was NFL teams trying to find the next star pass rusher. But it was a pass rusher who had the biggest slide down the board among the first-round selections. Washington appears to have gotten a substantial value when it selected Mississippi State DE Montez Sweat 26th overall. In a draft class stacked with edge rushing talent, Sweat came off the board 15.4 picks later than expected.1Sweat was diagnosed with a heart condition earlier this year, which may have caused his stock to drop, but it was reported Thursday that the diagnosis could have been wrong.When we look at all 32 first-round picks, the correlation between what mock drafters expected and what actually occurred was about the same in 2019 as it was in 2018. In 2019, the average draft position in mock drafts explained 48 percent of variance, down slightly from 49 percent of variance explained in 2018. This year’s first round skewed toward reaches, with six teams trading up on draft day to get their guys. Overall, players came off the board six picks earlier than expected; last year, that difference was five spots.As a result, Day 2 of the draft should be one in which savvy teams can find more value than they may have initially anticipated. That could even drive more pick swapping, as teams look to swoop in and grab coveted players like mock draft darling D.K. Metcalf on the cheap. PhiladelphiaAndre DillardOT2217.6+4.4 CarolinaBrian BurnsLB1616.0+0.0 Sources: NFL, Ben Robinson HoustonTytus HowardOT2360.7-37.7 San FranciscoNick BosaDE22.1-0.1 OaklandJosh JacobsRB2427.2-3.2 N.Y. JetsQuinnen WilliamsDT33.7-0.7 DenverNoah FantTE2022.9-2.9 DetroitTJ HockensonTE813.0-5.0 AtlantaKaleb McGaryOT3143.3-12.3 teamplayerPositionpickADPdiff JacksonvilleJosh AllenLB73.7+3.3 BuffaloEd OliverDT99.3-0.3 L.A. ChargersJerry TilleryDT2831.6-3.6 MinnesotaGarrett BradburyC1825.7-7.7 N.Y. GiantsDaniel JonesQB620.4-14.4 SeattleL.J. CollierDE2962.9-33.9 OaklandJohnathan AbramS2733.6-6.6 OaklandClelin FerrellDE419.0-15.0 N.Y. GiantsDeandre BakerCB3026.8+3.2 AtlantaChris LindstromG1429.3-15.3 ArizonaKyler MurrayQB11.8-0.8 From ABC News:
On Wednesday evening, around 30 members of the Ohio State football team traveled to the Alta E. Butler Elementary School to assist with Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona. The nonprofit organization uses artistic methods to ease the tensions and hardships of abused children from around the nation.In Arizona, the branch of Free Arts teamed up with Buckeyes players to paint the school building, as well as paint new four square courts and build benches. Of those attending were senior kicker Tyler Durbin, redshirt junior linebacker Chris Worley, junior linebacker Raekwon McMillan and junior defensive end Jalyn Holmes.“It just gives you perspective, that’s what I take from community service every time,” Holmes said. “Just being able to show people we’re regular humans. It’s more than just football. It’s about giving back.”The Buckeyes take on Clemson in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. OSU junior defensive end Jalyn Holmes paints a new four square court during the team’s community event with Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona. Credit: Nick McWilliams | Sports Editor
Matt Storey is many things. He is a 22-year-old sports fanatic who can talk for hours about his favorite teams, players and even mascots. He is a ball boy at Huntington Park for the Columbus Clippers. He works at Riverside Methodist Hospital in patient transportation and environmental services. He is also developmentally disabled, which normally would keep someone from doing half the activities he does. Matt, who has trouble speaking, communicated through his parents. “He started in sixth grade being the manager for the eighth-grade basketball team,” said Ken Storey, his father. Matt participated in the Special Olympics growing up, but decided he enjoyed managing more. While at Dublin Coffman High School, he managed the football, wrestling and baseball teams. He loved going to the games and feeling like he was part of each team, even though he didn’t get to be on the field. Matt’s parents even bought him a Dublin Coffman helmet, which he wore on the sidelines with his No. 99 jersey. His hard work and personality did not go unnoticed, and his classmates voted him homecoming king in 2008. “Matt has the ability to adapt to those around him,” said Kim Storey, his mother. Matt was also able to hold jobs off the field in the school store and at Longhorn Steakhouse. “The amazing thing was that, at Longhorn, he learned the table numbers by associating them with professional athletes,” Kim said. It was during a trip to Huntington Park in 2009 that Kim felt she had found the perfect fit for Matt. “It is very hard to find employment for special needs. Everywhere I go, I wonder if it is a good place for Matt to work,” she said. “But when I was down at Huntington, I just got this feeling.” Matt’s parents put together a portfolio and sent it to George Robinson, the clubhouse manager. After looking at it and making a few phone calls, Robinson decided to give Matt a job. “He has a passion and a love for the game like I do,” Robinson said. “After we talked, we had a little special bond.” Robinson always keeps an eye on Matt by staying on the steps of the dugout or notifying the umpires about him. Matt learned quickly and did his job well. The players immediately took notice, and developed a fondness for his hard work. “All the players joke around with him,” Robinson said. “Matt is part of our family here.” When the Clippers were en route to their Governors Cup victory last year, they asked Matt to come to the ballpark and work during the playoffs. When the 2011 season was about to begin, Robinson sent the Storeys an email talking about how much the team wanted Matt back. The Storeys could not wait for Matt to don his uniform again this year. “We sit in the stands and just enjoy it,” Ken said. The journey from sixth-grade manager to working at Huntington Park has been as exciting for Matt as it has been for his parents. “The Clippers have been wonderful through all this,” Ken said. “To take a chance on a boy like Matt just speaks volumes about them.”
An admittedly shy Garrett Goebel blushed when first-year Ohio State coach Urban Meyer announced him as one of five captains to lead the Buckeyes this fall. “I walked out there and my face got red,” the fifth-year senior said bashfully. For Goebel, the attention – the mere notion of interest - is arguably a novelty. So is dealing with reporters, photographers and the hot lights from camera crews trying to get their scoop. And to the casual fan, the veteran 6-foot-4, 290-pound defensive lineman is, in all likelihood, a new face. While Goebel has made 44 tackles in 39 games for the Buckeyes, he’s managed to effectively fly under the radar in Columbus since arriving to campus in 2008. Now, such potential for innocuity seems to have evaporated as his honor as a captain has vaulted the Villa Park, Ill., native into the frenzy surrounding Meyer’s inaugural season at OSU. The lack of stardom isn’t something that often crosses Goebel’s mind, though. “I never really thought about it. I know I was never really too concerned. I just wanted to go out there and play good football,” he said. “I really don’t care too much about myself or being recognized or anything like that.” In fact, the active pursuit of being a captain, he said, wasn’t necessarily his aim. “I mean, I never really thought about it too much. Like, if it happens, it happens – it’s an honor. If it doesn’t, I’m not gonna get my head down or anything, you know, I’m still gonna go out there, work as hard as I can and lead,” Goebel said. “But it was just cool knowing that my teammates, you know, thought that highly of me.” In such a leadership role, Goebel automatically becomes an identifiable name for the Buckeyes – regardless of how much he likes the commotion around it all. And while some might wonder how a player with such a reserved disposition is best fit to lead, Goebel said his leadership is best demonstrated with his play, not his words. “I certainly say that I lead more by example but, you know, I still say stuff to people and, you know, make sure everyone knows what they’re doing and get everyone lined up,” he said. His content with being in the background, though, almost made him invisible to Meyer when he took over the OSU job in November. “I think I made the comment, I didn’t know Garrett. In the first four months I was here, he was just kind of a quiet guy that, you know, doesn’t look real good when we’re running around cones,” Meyer said at a Monday evening press conference. Meyer told reporters that the big man grew on him over time, though. Goebel said giving it his all day-in and day-out, especially during winter strength and conditioning drills, drew the attention of the former Florida coach. “I just worked as hard as I could every day – every day come in no matter what and just give it everything I had and do my best and I think he definitely appreciates guys that go hard all the time,” he said. Interesting enough, it seems that Goebel’s introverted, modest demeanor is nearly a perfect fit for the position he plays for the Buckeyes. Listed as the Buckeyes’ starter at nose tackle – arguably one of the most thankless positions in all of sports – Goebel is, and will be, responsible for doing what junior defensive tackle Johnathan “Big Hank” Hankins calls the “dirty work” for OSU’s “Silver Bullet” defense. “He’s probably one of the biggest pieces on our defense. He does all the dirty work, he takes up all the double teams – even though I take up double teams – but he does more of the dirty work,” Hankins said. “He’s a great leader for us, without him I feel like we would probably be kind of, like, out of shape because he basically knows the defense and he’s smart and he knows the play.” Similarly, redshirt senior linebacker Etienne Sabino said Goebel’s position is often unfairly unappreciated. “He’s our nose guard … He doesn’t get the credit he deserves, but he’s actually a very, very good player; for anybody who really knows football and watches him play, he’s actually a very, very good player,” he said. “Taking on 600 pounds every play is not an easy task, by no means, and he does a great job at that.” Despite Goebel’s low-key nature, Hankins said he knew his teammate would be a captain from the get-go, though. “Oh, I already knew he was going to become a captain. Since this year started, he took a leadership role and he just, you know I’m saying, worked hard, and I always looked up to him, watching film and learning from him,” he said. Sabino, who was also named a captain for 2012, said neither he nor the team was particularly surprised when Goebel’s name was called. “I think it’s probably more of a surprise to the media and everybody outside of the team, but Garrett comes to work everyday,” Sabino said. “He’s one of those players you know he’s going to do his assignment, it doesn’t matter whether it’s period one or period 40, he’s going to give it all he has. And you know, you’re going to get that regardless of the circumstances.” That admiration, however, wasn’t just limited to Goebel’s teammates. Former OSU head coach and current defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said Goebel is “that unsung hero.” “I’m just so happy that Coach (Meyer) really points it out. I think (Goebel’s) really grown on him,” Fickell said. “He sees what we try to do as a defense and what we ask that guy sometimes to do and, you know, it doesn’t come up in the stat sheet and you guys might not interview him a whole lot … but he is definitely one of the center points of the defense.” Fickell, who was a nose tackle for the Buckeyes from 1993-1996, seemed to understand the magnitude of Goebel’s honor. “To be named captain, I think – what an unbelievable feat,” Fickell said. For Goebel, it’s still a feat, though, that he didn’t entirely see coming. “My goal was to do everything I can and really didn’t think about it if everything worked out,” he said. “I mean, yeah, it would definitely be cool, but I really wasn’t thinking about it – I was thinking about just giving everything I had and just trying to lead the best I can.”