Ranking the NASCAR cup series’s active drivers based on merit

The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series has lost multiple superstars and consistent contributors over the last two seasons to retirement (Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, soon to be Dale Earnhardt Jr.). This has led to a necessity for fans to re-evaluate the sport’s top talent.

Cup racing is a revolving door. Drivers are constantly switching teams, taking breaks from the sport or retiring, while new talent waves enter in every year.

I created a system to evaluate and rank the 2017 full-time cup series drivers based on overall career merit through a points system. Points were award as follows:

Each driver received 10 points for each Championship won.

5 points for each race won.

3 points for each top-ten finish.

1 point for every Pole award won.

Points were tallied and then ranked, as the following list details.

 

Notable Exclusions: Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson.

10. Joey Logano- 546 pts. 
No. 22 Team Penske Ford | 0 Championships, 18 wins, 146 top ten’s, 18 poles.

Logano has impressed since his inaugural run in the cup series as a mere 20 year-old. He’s established himself as a consistent threat to win, and at just 27 years old, is an integral piece of NASCAR’s cup racing future.

9. Brad Keslowski- 565 pts.
No. 2 Team Penske Ford| 1 championship, 138 top ten’s, 13 poles

Aside Logano, Keselowski has turned Team Penske into one of NASCAR’s most consistent teams. Keselowski started his career off with a bang, winning his first race at Talladega in memorable fashion in 2009, and winning a championship three seasons later. He consitently runs at the front of the pack and figures to win even more down the stretch.

8. Denny Hamlin- 789 pts.
No. 11 Joe Gibbs Toyota|0 championships, 30 wins, 205 top ten’s, 24 poles

Hamlin has been a revolution in NASCAR for the past decade, starting with his Rookie of the Year award in 2006. He has been a consistent force for Joe Gibbs Racing, and I wouldn’t bet against him winning a championship in the near future.

7. Ryan Newman- 831 pts.
No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet | 0 championships, 18 wins, 230 top ten’s, 51 poles

Today, Newman is often the subject of criticism because of ‘average performance,’ but after evaluating his stats, personally I believe he’s pretty underrated. ‘Rocket man’ is the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series active leaders in pole awards with 51, which is fourteen more than any other competitor. At age 39, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever win a championship, but he does have a win this season to add on to an impressive career resumé.

6. Kyle Busch- 909 pts.
No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota| 1 championship, 38 wins, 229 top ten’s, 21 poles

Given his dominance from 2013-16, I found it hard to believe that Kyle Busch was even this low on the list. They 32-year-old Busch has already racked up an impressive 38 wins, tied for second-most among active drivers, and has been the most dominant driver on the track at times. Despite zero race wins in 2017, Busch’s career culminated with his 2015 title, and by the looks of it, that might not be the last one.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.- 912 pts.
No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet| 0 championships, 26 wins, 256 top ten’s, 14 poles

NASCAR’s most popular driver gets a bad rap for what some state as ‘undeserved fame,’ but his career resumé refutes that claim. Despite never winning a championship, Junior has been a successful driver overall and a great ambassador for the sport. In March, Earnhardt Jr. announced the 2017 season would be his last. It would be poetic to see him go out with a championship, but if that doesn’t happen, Junior can undoubtedly be content with his cup career.

4. Kurt Busch- 922 pts.
No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet| 1 championship, 29 wins, 252 top ten’s, 21 poles

Kurt’s career has been a series of extremes, marked by a championship early in his career with Roush Racing, a pitfall of mediocrity and a personal battle with anger that led to unemployment in the middle of his career, and flourishing while driving for Tony Stewart in the later stages of his career. A Daytona 500 victory this season showed that he’s still got what it takes to contribute, and is certainly in contention for a championship this season.

3. Kevin Harvick- 1095 pts.
No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet| 1 championship, 36 wins, 295 top ten’s, 20 poles

‘The Closer’ has been one of NASCAR’s premier winners since joining the series full time in 2001. Harvick is known for his consistency, and after several successful years at Richard Chldress Racing, won a championship in his first season driving for Tony Stewart in 2014. He’s a guy who always figures into the championship picture one way or another, and this year is no different.

2. Matt Kenseth- 1167 pts.
No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota| 1 championship, 38 wins, 316 top ten’s, 19 poles

Despite a weak 2017 season, Kenseth has had one of the most impressive overall careers in NASCAR cup series racing ever. He has consistently found himself contending, no matter who he’s driving for. With the announcement that prodigy Erik Jones will be behind the wheel of the 20 car next season, Kenseth’s future is uncertain, but he can without a doubt hang his hat on an elite racing career.

1. Jimmie Johnson- 1531 pts.
No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet| 7 championships, 83 wins, 337 top ten’s, 35 poles

Was there even a doubt? Jimmie Johnson has been the picture of dominance since entering the cup series full-time in 2003. He leads all active drivers in championships with seven (tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most all time), wins with 83 (sixth all-time), and top ten’s with 337. Johnson’s performance hasn’t just been transcendent for NASCAR, but for sports in general. His dominance has been opposed by some, but true NASCAR fans can appreciate how special what we’re seeing is.

Already recording three wins in 2017, he continues to establish himself as a championship force, and will more than likely win another championship. I wouldn’t bet against him passing Richard Petty’s 100 win mark, either.

junior and jimmie

(Detailed Table with Driver stats

Driver              Championships x10       Wins x5           Top 10’s x3      Poles x1           TOTAL

48 Johnson      7 (70)                                      83 (415)          337 (1,011)     35                    1531

20 Kenseth      1 (10)                                      38 (190)          316 (948)        19                    1167

4 Harvick         1 (10)                                     36 (180)          295 (885)        20                    1095

41 Ku. Busch   1 (10)                                     29 (145)          252 (756)        21                    922

88 Dale Jr.       0                                              26 (130)          256 (768)        14                    912

18Ky. Busch     1 (10)                                     38 (190)          229 (687)        22                    909

31 Newman    0                                              18 (90)            230 (690)        51                    831

11 Hamlin       0                                              30 (150)          205 (615)        24                    789

2 Keselowski   1 (10)                                     23 (115)          138 (414)        13                    565

22 Logano       0                                              18 (90)            146 (438)        18                    546

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Rangers Rundown: It might be time to sell.

Date: July 20, 2017
Next Game: 94/162, at Baltimore Orioles

Team Record: 45-49, 4th AL West
Personal Power Ranking: 20th

Since my last publication three weeks ago, the Rangers have played at a 6-10 pace. They’d been playing even ball until their four-game losing streak. In their current series against the Baltimore Orioles, they have been outscored 25-4.

It might just be a rough series, but with the trade deadline eleven days away, it’s looking less likely that the Rangers will be in a position to buy at the deadline. So, if things are as they stand now, GM Jon Daniels and the Rangers staff will more than likely more inclined to offer their assets to contenders.

It’s tough as a fanbase to see your team raise the white flag, especially a team that just a year ago won a Division pennant in a 95-win campaign. But for the Rangers, selling might not be the worst thing.

Last year’s ‘all-in’ acquisitions Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy have left what was once considered a strong Texas farm system rather barren. It remains to be seen how New York’s Dillon Tate and Milwaukee’s Lewis Brinson turn out, but nonetheless, those trades have put the Rangers in a worse position for the future than they would be without the trade.

Beltran has moved on to the American League favorite Houston Astros, while Lucroy seems like he might be on his was out the door. A free agent at the end of the season, the Rangers could possibly receive calls on Lucroy from contenders in need of catching. The return might not be spectacular, with Lucroy’s value very low given his .254/.298/.658 slash line, low total of 4 home runs, and 0.2 batter WAR.

The two definitive assets for the Rangers are starting pitchers Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. Darvish, a free agent at the end of the season, was selected to the American League All-Star team, and despite recent struggles, boasts a 3.45 ERA that ranks 9th in the American League. A trade for him would yield a very impressive prospect package.

As for Hamels, his trade value has never been higher. Despite missing time due to injury this season, he currently holds a 20 1/3 scoreless inning streak and looks like he could certainly contribute to an American League contender. Under team control in 2018 with a $23.5 million salary, a contender with cap space might be willing to take on his contract for a run at a championship.

It’s hard to say whether the Rangers will even sell; the 2015 AL West Champion Rangers sat at 43-49 on July 20 and went on a 44-26 run to close the season and contend in the playoffs. A turnaround is not impossible, but Tampa Bay has picked up its play, taking a tighter grip on the second Wild Card spot.

It would certainly be tough to see these two fan-favorites go, but it might be necessary. Reloading the farm system could leave the Rangers in a prime position to contend, maybe even sooner than later. Jon Daniels will certainly have a tough decision to make July 31.

 

 

Predictions for the second half of the MLB season

Aaron Judge levels out

This is not a knock on Aaron Judge. It’s simply an acknowledgement of the effect that a 162 game season has on a young player. MLB.com Fantasy Projections foresee Judge hitting .259 with 14 home runs and 40 RBI down the stretch. I think that’s fairly accurate. If it were to come true, Judge would end up batting .299 with 44 homers and 106 RBIs, which is definitely an AL Rookie of the Year campaign, and leave him in serious contention for AL MVP.

The Red Sox pull away

The Sox entered the All-Star break having won 10 of 15 games. Aside from multiple matchups against New York and Cleveland, Boston has a fairly favorable schedule, and almost surely will add pitching depth at the trade deadline to secure their spot atop the AL East.

The Cubs come around

The defending champions currently trail Milwaukee by 4.5 games in the National League Central. Given their experience, leadership, return to health, and a very favorable schedule Chicago will more than likely bridge the gap. There are only two matchups between now and the end of the regular season that pit Chicago against playoff teams (August home and road series against Arizona, home series against Washington).

The Brewers snag an NL Wild Card spot

Though the Cubs will likely take the NL central, a nice consolation for the Brewers would be an previously unexpected berth in the NL Wild Card Game, where they’d more than likely face whoever emerges from the Rockies-Diamondbacks dogfight for second in the NL West. It’d be huge for player development in Milwaukee, and is a testament to true parity in the MLB.

Predicted Final Standings

AL West                         Central                             East

1 Houston 105-57         1 Cleveland 93-69      1 Boston 92-70
2 Texas 83-79                2 Kansas City 82-80     2 NY Yankees 90-72
3 Seattle 76-86               3 Minnesota 81-81       3 Tampa Bay 82-80
4 LA Angels 74-87         4 Detroit 73-89             4 Baltimore 76-86
5 Oakland 63-99            5 Chicago Sox 72-90    5 Toronto 75-87

NL West                                Central                                     East

1 LA Dodgers 109-53         1 Chicago Cubs 86-76          1 Washington 94-68
2 Colorado 86-76                2. Milwaukee 84-78             2 Miami 77-85
3 Arizona 83-79                   3. St. Louis 81-81                   3 Atlanta 76-86
4 San Diego 70-92               4. Pittsburgh 76-86                4 New York 73-89
5 San Francisco 68-94        5. Cinicinnati 67-95              5 Philadelphia 59-103

 

 

 

 

The MLB All-Star game is a facade; but a fascinating marketing strategy at that

The passion, novelty and history of the MLB All-Star Game has opened up many avenues for MLB to make huge profits from corporate sponsorships, TV deals, and ticket/event revenue.

Garrett Jones

MIAMI, FL– The MLB All-Star Game has long been one of my personal favorite sporting events of the year. Its star power and pomp marks the middle of the summer; and perfect timing at that- school’s out, everyone’s traveling, the weather’s great, and Major League Baseball’s biggest and boldest stars shine brighter than the blazing sun.

The game is chalked full of storylines. Comeback stories, rising stars, reclamation projects, top prospects- you name it. Combine this with a even playing field of high talent, and the games make great entertainment.

Nonetheless, in 2017, the All-Star Game has changed significantly. It fees different for a couple of reasons. First off, the MLB hierarchy ruled that the result of the game would no longer determine the recipient of home-field advantage in the World Series; instead, the team with the best record headed into the Fall Classic will host four games.

Playing for Home-field advantage made the games exciting and competitive. It offered insight into what we could expect of October baseball, and nourished the appeal of the league as whole and out-of-market players to many fans.

Now, the leagues will compete for cash. Not only does each victor on the winning team receive $20,000, but contract incentives could also play a huge part. Often, agents will work to include performance incentives, notably including as All-Star Game selection bonuses, into players deals.

The result is less enthusiasm from the players and fans as well as less diversity in roster selection. 32 players were selected from both leagues, but many teams, including the defending champion Chicago Cubs, received only a single representatives

The first MLB All-Star Game was played at Chicago’s Comiskey Park in 1933, an idea birthed of Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward to boost morale of Chicagoans during the Great Depression. No home field advantage or player incentives were contingent on the event; it was simply born as an act of novelty.

Flash forward 88 years, and the All-Star game has turned into a streamlined, monetized publicity machine that stimulates the MLB’s revenue stream in the middle of its calendar.

Almost every event has a title sponsor. ‘T-Mobile Home Run Derby,’ ‘Chevrolet Red Carpet and All-Star Game MVP,’ ‘Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot.’

The real genius is in that balloting. Fans can vote up to 35 times on one account, through a sponsored website that generates millions of hits for companies interested in advertising. And when that’s over, Esurance also sponsors the Final Vote ballot, which appoints one more All-Star, keeping the fans interested, which garners more hits for sponsorship metrics.

This sends a shockwave reaction throughout the fanbase that leaves many upset when their favorite players aren’t elected. ‘Robbed,’ their guy was. ‘Preposterous,’ they exclaim over Twitter reacting to their favorite players not receiving the distinction.

I was one of these people. One of my favorite players, Elvis Andrus, was denied his third All-Star appearance despite a .302/.350/.825 slash line, career-best 11 HR, 49 RBI (second among MLB shortstops), and 2.6 WAR. The media darling and younger, more popular Francisco Lindor (.248 average, 1.4 WAR) was selected instead.

I had to take a step back and realize that, despite the league not having a direct say (the player vote determines All-Star reserves), Lindor is simply a more marketable star for the All-Star game- one of the MLB’s biggest revenue sources.

I was exactly where the MLB wanted me in their spectrum. Polarization is a good thing for the league; neutrality doesn’t turn the TV on and in turn make the MLB money. My interest and passion played right into the MLB’s hand and fufilled their main goal- making money. I made the league money by logging on and turning my passion into 35 votes for Elvis Andrus.

This sense of passion over a game that’s now largely irrelevant reveals the genius of the MLB All-Star game.

Fans have been lured through this facade and their passion for their favorite players and teams has been tapped into by this clever marketing technique. The passion, novelty and history of the MLB All-Star Game has opened up many avenues for MLB to make huge profits from corporate sponsorships, TV deals, and ticket/event revenue.

Don’t get me wrong, i’m not knocking the MLB at all. It’s a wildly popular league that’s making money and stakes claim to the term ‘America’s national pastime.’ Rather, I admire the MLB for their marketing tactics and am fascinated as to why it took me so long to notice.