Giants

Meet the hottest young couple in sports

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Meet the hottest young couple in sports

From Comcast SportsNet Wednesday, August 31, 2011
CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland (AP) -- U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy said his relationship with top-ranked tennis player Caroline Wozniacki can help him become No. 1 in golf. After spending two "great" weeks together in the United States, McIlroy believes he and the 21-year-old from Denmark can be good for each other's careers. "I think we definitely spur each other on. She's number one in the world and I've got a major, and we sort of both want what each other have," the sixth-ranked McIlroy said Wednesday before the European Masters. "It's a big goal of mine. I want to become the best player in the world." McIlroy is playing his first tournament since injuring his right arm at the PGA Championship three weeks ago. While recuperating, the 22-year Northern Irishman accompanied Wozniacki to tournaments in Cincinnati and New Haven. She is bidding for a first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open, which began this week. McIlroy said he was impressed with Wozniacki's dedication and picked up pointers on improving his game. "She's got a great work ethic and it's something I can probably learn a lot from. It's a lot more physically demanding than golf," said McIlroy, adding he's a longtime tennis fan. "They do put the work in, they really do. It's just amazing how they can get up each morning and keep doing the same thing, putting their bodies through that. It's pretty impressive." McIlroy said the couple is "taking a day at a time," knowing tournament schedules leave few chances to meet this year. He watched on television Tuesday night when his top-seeded girlfriend opened at Flushing Meadows with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Spain's Nuria Llagostera-Vives. Wozniacki is scheduled to play Thursday, after McIlroy completes his first round at the European Masters. It counts as the first points-scoring event toward representing Europe in the 2012 Ryder Cup. McIlroy's goal is chasing No. 1 Luke Donald of England, who plays in the United States this weekend. "I don't think it's achievable in the short term, Luke is quite a long way ahead," McIlroy said. He calculates he can rise to a career-high No. 3 with victory at the Crans-sur-Sierre club, and if other results fall his way. Fifth-ranked Martin Kaymer of Germany is in the European field, while Americans occupying third and fourth spots -- Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson -- play at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston. McIlroy will look for inspiration from "one of the most beautiful places in the world," where he almost got his first professional win as a 19-year-old. He took a four-stroke lead into the final round in the Swiss Alps but lost in extra holes to Frenchman Jean-Francois Lucquin. "I still think about that playoff in 2008," said McIlroy, who has yet to win in Europe as a pro. His sole European Tour victory was at Dubai in February 2009. McIlroy said his injured right arm is less of a factor. He was injured after hitting his club on a tree root just three holes into his PGA challenge. The damage spread from his wrist to shoulder as he compensated for the pain. "Now it's not painful. It's more like a numb sensation, like if someone gives you a dead arm," he said after a morning practice Wednesday. "It's nearly 100 percent and I'm happy with it." Second-ranked Lee Westwood, who won in 1999, is in the strong field that includes British Open winner Darren Clarke and defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez. As the only tournament in Europe sanctioned by both the European and Asian Tours, 30 players will participate from the other circuit, including money leader Noh Seung-yul of South Korea.

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

SAN FRANCISCO — The field at AT&T Park is covered with patches and small piles of dirt right now, showing the signs of a winter hosting holiday parties and concerts, and a week with plenty of rain. 

For Evan Longoria, though, that grass was a beautiful sight.

A month after a trade that had him switching coasts, Longoria was introduced at a press conference at AT&T Park and ran the usual gauntlet with team employees and season-ticket holders. He spent some time this week looking for housing in the Bay Area, but soon he’ll be back in Scottsdale, getting to know new teammates and preparing his body for the 2018 season. 

Longoria said his workouts have been a bit different with a new staff, but the goal remains the same. He is a player who prides himself on taking the field every day, and that’s one of the traits that drew the Giants to Longoria. He has played at least 156 games in five consecutive seasons, and 160 in four of those seasons. 

It’s no accident that Bruce Bochy has mentioned durability during every media session this season. Andrew McCutchen has a similar track record, and the Giants lineup certainly could use some stability, especially at third base, where seven different players made double-digit starts last season. Longoria will change that. 

“I have a desire to play every day, and I think that that is infectious,” he said. “Players that may feel the grind of a long season or might be in a little bit of a funk offensively or defensively or with pitching, something like that can give you a boost when you have guys around that you know come to play and compete on a daily basis, no matter what the circumstance is.”

[RELATED: Just a number? Longoria says slow down with concerns of Giants' aging roster]

For Longoria, who turned 32 early in the offseason, the circumstance has changed for the better. After years on the unforgiving turf at The Trop, he comes to a park and division featuring nothing but natural grass. 

“I hope it helps,” he said. “Going on the road (with the Rays), my body definitely felt better when I played on grass. I’m sure that it will help. It’s definitely not going to be a negative. Not playing on the turf anymore is something that crossed my mind as soon as the trade happened.”

Longoria expects to benefit from another aspect of AT&T Park, too. The Rays finished dead last in the majors last year with an average of 15,670 fans per game. Even though their sellout streak ended, the Giants still had an average of more than 40,000 per night. Asked about playing outdoors, Longoria smiled and added, “in front of fans.”

“The environment here is obviously much different, so it’s going to be nice to step into that on a daily basis and play in front of a fan base that’s obviously very storied,” he said. “It helps with energy. It helps with motivation.”

DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

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USATSI

DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer passionately defended goaltender Martin Jones following San Jose's 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. For the eighth time in his last 14 starts, Jones allowed four goals, but DeBoer tried to take a look at the bigger picture. 

"You guys like to grab little pictures of things that work for the story your writing," DeBoer told reporters in Denver after he was asked about Jones' recent struggles. 

"It's 14 games. You can go back six games and write whatever story you want. He's having a great year for us. Our goaltending has been excellent all year."

If you look at his save percentage, Jones is not having a great season.

His save percentage in all situations (.9097) is the lowest in his three seasons in teal, and ranks 22nd out of the 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations, according to Corsica Hockey. His five-on-five save percentage (.9147) is also the lowest of his teal tenure, and sits 26th out of 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes. 

But save percentage doesn't always tell the whole story, as it doesn't take into account shot quality. As we've written previously, Jones has played behind a loose defense this season.

Among those aforementioned 30 goalies, Jones has faced the highest percentage of high-danger shots, the second-highest percentage of medium-danger shots, and fourth-lowest percentage of low-danger shots. 

Luckily, there's a metric that does take into account shot quality: goals saved above average (GSAA). GSAA works much like Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in baseball, and considers how well a league-average goaltender would do "based on the shot danger faced," according to Corsica's definition.

Jones has been better than his save percentage would indicate. His 0.54 five-on-five GSAA ranks 17th out of the 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes, and his all situations GSAA (8.69) ranks 11th out of 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations. 

GSAA has the same downside as WAR, in that it's an accumulative statistic, and favors players that have played more. In order to equalize for playing time, we can look at GSAA/30 shots faced. 

Jones ranks 17th and 10th in five-on-five (0.03) and all situations (0.31) GSAA/30, respectively, among goaltenders that have played 1000 minutes in such circumstances. In other words, Jones has been about average during five-on-five play, and one of the league's better goalies across all situations, at least based on the kind of shots he's faced.

That's not neccessarily "great," but Jones has been better on the whole than his recent play would indicate. Of course, he's also been outplayed in his own crease.

Backup goaltender Aaron Dell not only boasts a higher save percentage than Jones, but his GSAA/30 in five-on-five situations (0.15) and across all strengths (0.44) are also higher than Jones'. Every 30 shots on the penalty kill, Dell (2.05 GSAA/30) saves nearly a goal more than Jones (1.06). 

DeBoer also acknowledged that Dell will have to play more out of necessity, with the Sharks halfway through a stretch of eight games in 13 days. That includes a difficult back-to-back this weekend, hosting the Penguins Saturday and facing the Ducks in Anaheim on Sunday. 

The coach was on to something on Thursday. Yes, Jones has been better than his recenty play, and his season-long save percentage, would indicate. 

But that doesn't mean he's been "great," nor does it mean he's San Jose's better option in net right now.