First, we talk about Tiger Woods, who was injured in what looked like a horrible car crash last week. We agree that it’s far too early to speculate about whether he’ll ever return to the PGA Tour. There are certainly examples in sports and in golf specifically of athletes who were able to recover from severe injuries and come back to achieve tournament success — Ben Hogan comes to mind — so the possibility is out there. So much of Tiger’s career has been wrapped up in overcoming injuries, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he did it again, but at this point in his career, a return isn’t necessary to secure his legacy as the greatest player in the modern game. Tiger affected the sport so much that he changed the physical layout of golf courses; very few players can say they’ve shifted a sport’s playing surface.
Next, we turn to the NBA, since we’re about halfway through the regular season. We talk about the Utah Jazz, who are enjoying a level of success that no one saw coming, certainly not us, because while they didn’t add much new talent, their roster all decided to get better, all at once. The playoffs are a different proposition, however, and there doesn’t seem to be a high level of confidence that the Jazz will succeed without the star power of a LeBron James or a Giannis Antetokounmpo. So, with a little help from a Nate Silver methodology for grading NBA superstars, we tried to quantify how much star power the Jazz have. They sit just outside the top tier of Finals contenders, but their chances are still very real. We’d be excited to see them go all the way because it could rewrite some assumptions we all have about NBA championship teams. Our excitement is more tempered for the New York Knicks, whose success looks more ephemeral/perhaps a sign of the End Times.
Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Sara talks about the wacky spring training rule that allows innings to just … end. While that has never happened (and hopefully will never happen) in the regular season, there are some intriguing cheats in how spring training games work that would wildly change how we track all our baseball stats. Thankfully for everyone at FiveThirtyEight, there’s no sign that the league would want to allow pulled pitchers to come back into the game, or to institute a mercy rule.
What we’re looking at this week:
- Why Tiger Woods’s accident brings Ben Hogan’s horrific crash to mind.
- The Jazz have built an unstoppable regular-season machine.
- How the NBA’s best team is beating everyone — including Las Vegas.
- Plus: Secret Base’s video about baseball plate appearances gone awry.