Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Sun Also Rises

Last October I interviewed the author of the Basketball Forecast series John Hollinger. I only knew John from those books, his website (alleyoop.com), his Sports Illustrated columns, and some interaction on the old APBR_metrics site. Wondering if I could coax some more writing out of my favorite hoops author, I asked him if he would be reporting on a more frequent basis. John’s response:

Well, I write two columns a week for the New York Sun, so since you’re in the Big Apple that’s a big fat yes. Otherwise, I’ll be doing a weekly piece for SI.com.
After overcoming my embarrassment of not knowing that Hollinger writes for my hometown paper, I was thrilled to find out that I could read two more high quality and humorous columns a week on hoops. At first I bought the paper solely to scan for Hollinger’s articles, but it didn’t take long before I noticed that the New York Sun had the best sports section in town.

As far as I’m concerned as a basketball blogger, the crew is led by Hollinger. Now that ESPN’s Insider has John locked up on their pay site, at $.25 an issue the Sun is the only place I can afford to read his writing regularly. Yesterday John wrote an excellent piece on how the Knicks should go about rebuilding. Proving that great minds think alike, Hollinger advocated the Knicks should rebuild around Marbury, Sweetney, Ariza, and Crawford (only if he can learn to attack the hoop) while aiming for free agency in 2007.

The Sun’s other NBA columnist is Martin Johnson. Johnson was the first person to mention my site in print, and his local bar is my old college haunt which proves his impeccible taste. When not at the bar, Johnson’s keeps his finger on the pulse of the NBA like Hawkeye Pierce, and can surgically separate hype from substance. Martin’s levelheaded and analytical style allows him to cut through the trends and get to the core of a team’s ability.

The New York Sun’s excellent sport section doesn’t end with its’ basketball coverage. The rest of the writers are a veritable who’s who in sports statistics analysis. I’ve seen articles written by Aaron Schatz from www.FootballOutsiders.com and the soon to be released 2005 Pro Football Forecast. This week the Jets & Giants draft needs were covered by Sean Lahman, famous for his sports databases, who also writes for the Pro Football Forecast. Now that baseball is in full swing, the Sun is featuring articles from a potpourri of writers courtesy of BaseballProspectus.com. Almost daily year round, you can find a piece by Tim Marchman who all-baseball.com called “one of the brightest young baseball writers in the country.” Finally for those who like more than the top 3 American sports, there are regular columns on the more esoteric boxing, horse racing, soccer, and something our ice age ancestors called hockey.

The best part about the New York Sun, is that the sports coverage reads more like a magazine than a newspaper. With that I mean the articles get to the heart of the matter, and are not just scraping the surface of the day’s events. While I don’t want to mention any other writers or papers by name, this is a far cry for what normally passes as sports reporting. If they aren’t publishing the latest Bull Durham-esque trivial player quotes, they’re passing along every possible rumor that comes across their plate. Occasionally it’s sexy to hear GM hearsay and free agent gossip, but its superficial reporting.

Yesterday for example the Sun contained a column from Baseball Prospectus on constructing a batting order. While sounding simplistic on the surface, it referenced a Bill James study, calculated the additional plate appearances the different spots get over the course of the year, and discussed which teams around the league are taking advantage of the second spot in the order. It’s just so much more refreshing than hearing for the 11th straight year how Chris Webber would love to play for the Knicks, or how a manager thinks his team keeps “playing, and that’s the type of team that I need to have.” (That is a true quote from today’s paper, name withheld to protect the guilty). As far as I’m concerned when it comes to sports coverage by the New York print media, it’s crystal clear that the New York Sun rises to the top.

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