SkeptiSys

June 17, 2008

Mets fire Willie Randolph in the middle of the night

Filed under: News, Sports — Tags: , , — skeptisys @ 8:34 am

Joe Torre Willie Randolph Mets Yankees managers

I fell asleep during the 8th inning of last night’s Mets/Angels game, with the Mets leading 8-6.  When I awoke at about 4:30 AM EST, the TV was reporting Willie Randolph and 2 coaches were fired.  “Wow”, I thought, “I must have missed a heckeva 9th inning”

Did Willie deserve to get fired?  The best argument for keeping him is that he was a very successful manager.  But the Mets routinely fire their best managers:

Yogi Berra, 3 winning years in 4 and a World Series appearance – fired.

Davey Johnson, most successful manager in Mets history, winning 59% of his games and a championship – chewed-up, spit-out, then canned.

Bobby Valentine, a World Series and then the door.

The Mets seem to be happier as losers, with Casey Stengal or Joe Torre, than they are as winners.  Look at Randolph vs. Torre as Mets managers.  Torre managed 151 more games than Randolph (even though 1 season was a strike shortened 1981), but still won fewer games.

Record as Mets manager: Torre 286-420 .405.

Randolph: 302-253 .544

Expectations?  Year before Randolph took over Mets were 71-91.  Year before Torre, 86-76.

So yes, Randolph deserved to get fired – he was successful.

Another question.  Last year the Mets collapsed at the end of the season, and lost the title.  Did this cost the Mets their Willie?  Bill James, in his latest book Bill James Gold Mine 2008 lists the 5 biggest collapses by James’ reasonable method.  Let’s take a look at how the managers fared after the collapse:

1951 Brooklyn, Chuck Dressen managed 2 more seasons and won NL title each year, before quitting over contract duration.

1964 Phillies, Gene Mauch managed Phils for 4 more years, wining records each season.

1978 Red Sox, Don Zimmer managed 2 more good seasons in Boston.

1914 Giants, John McGraw continued to manage the Giants for 18 more years.

And the 2007 Mets, the only team of the 5 to dump their manager.  That’s fine, I am sure the Mets would have fired John McGraw too, if he won for them.

Willie Randolph 1977 Yankees baseball card

Photos: top Torre/Randolph- from the Gothamist.

bottom: Sporting News

May 24, 2008

Baseball sign for ‘pull the ball to the right side to move over the runner’

Filed under: humor, Sports — Tags: , , — skeptisys @ 9:32 am

What is the baseball sign for “pull the ball to the right side to move over the runner”?

Baseball sign for pulling ball to right side to move runner over

Photos from Sports Dignity

April 24, 2008

Idiocracy, fact or fiction: baseball bans water

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — skeptisys @ 8:49 am

Idiocracy Brawndo drink food pyramid consumer corporate

In Idiocracy, a film parody of today’s American consumer corporate culture, future civilization cannot sustain vegetation due to the replacement of all water with a Gatorade like substance.  Apparently Bud Selig, MLB, and Gatorade are taking a major step in that direction, according to a news report. The New Jersey Star Ledger is reporting that Major League Baseball has banned all bottled water from the dugout, and threatened to extend the ban to the clubhouse if there is any violation.  Gatorade has neither sugar-free nor any ‘natural’ product.

When asked for a comment, baseball’s commissioner Bud Selig said, ‘uh it’s got like electrolytes or something.  Hey!  Whycome you no got tattoo?’

Gatorade or penis

Gatorade or penis looks like penis

Bud Selig moron baseball gatorade

April 12, 2008

MLB and MLBPA revise performance enhancing drug testing policy agreement

Filed under: law, News, Sports — Tags: , , , , , — skeptisys @ 9:00 am

Barry Bonds before and after

Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Player’s Association (MLBPA) announced an agreement on an update to their drug policy.  The agreements include some provacative aspects:

a) The increase of the number of drug tests in the agreement includes people represented by neither the monopoly, MLB nor the Player’s Assn.  Specifically, 200 players each year eligible for the amateur baseball draft will be asked to take a drug test.  If they refuse, they will be barred from MLB.

b) MLB is assuring that all drug test results, inlcuding positive ones, will be kept confidential until punishment is announced.  Since MLB has broken similar confidentiality promises in the past, leading to public knowledge of test results, such as Barry Bonds’ – the presumption is that the new independent program administrator will have this reposnibility.

c) No player from the Mitchell Report will be disciplined.  The suspensions handed out to a couple players have been removed.  Additionally, all players who are to be punished will have an opportunity to have their case heard by an independent arbitrator.  How this will affect Barry Bonds, who it is widely speculated to have been blackballed from MLB for past association with steroid allegations, is unknown.

A few more notes on Bonds: It is a reasonable assumption that Barry Bonds has been blackballed this season.  Actually, I know of no more reasonable explanation for why Barry Bonds is not playing baseball now.  Consider:

1) Barry Bonds is still one of the best offensive players in baseball.  Last season, he created over 10 runs per 27 outs last season, leading the major leagues.

2) Barry Bonds has shown a desire to play, has said he is in shape, and he and his agent implied that salary is not an issue.

3) His age is not an issue for a single year contract.  The top 10 players at the same age as Bonds was last year all played the next season, except for Bonds and Stan Musial – who retired.  The Toronto Blue Jays currently have 2 40 year old hitters on their roster.

4) Other arguments just do not seem reasonable.  Let’s go through some, and see how they fit with Seattle Mariners as an example, because they have a weaker hitting DH, Jose Vidro (currently hitting .128).  Personality: they signed Carl Everett to be their DH in 2006.  Defense is irrelevant at DH. The unfounded perjury charges have been dropped against Bonds, so no concerns there for this season.

Additionally, it was the CEO of the Mariners (Howard Lincoln) who emphatically stated he would not sign Barry Bonds in any scenario he could imagine, “No, no, no!”  In prior baseball decisions, he deflected to his GM Bill Bavasi.  Example: when asked about heated internal discussions about Freddie Garcia between the manager and GM, Lincoln stated, “I’m not really the baseball guy on that. My cloudy recollection was that there was a debate on the baseball side about Garcia. A healthy debate. In the end, Bill made the right decision, by involving a number of people, including Melvin.”   This states very clearly that Lincoln does not make the baseball decisions, the baseball people do that.  So when he makes a strong decision on Barry Bonds, I guess it isn’t a baseball decision to Lincoln.

Let’s hope MLB lives up to the agreement they just signed and allows Barry Bonds a fair chance to play baseball in this country.

major league baseball monopoly game

April 7, 2008

Can the Detroit Tigers turn around their slow start?

Filed under: News, Sports — Tags: , , , , — skeptisys @ 11:47 am

Ee-Yah!  Hughie Jennings Detroit Tigers.

The Detroit Tigers have been one of baseball’s most successful teams over the past 2 seasons, winning 183 games and one league championship.  This past offseason, they got stronger, adding peak performing Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to their already very strong lineup and pitching staff.  Many experts predicted the playoffs for the 2008 Tigers. Instead, the Tigers have started the season 0-6, the Tigers first 6 game losing streak since 2005.  Can they turn it around, or are they really this bad a team?

After looking at the evidence, I believe that luck is the major contributor to the Tigers’ poor start, and they can turn it around.  Here is the evidence pointing to a possible turnaround:

1) Tigers have slightly outperformed their record.  Their expected won/loss based on their run differential is 1-5, rather than 0-6 – and that is skewed by one blowout loss.

2) A team can lost 6 in a row and make the playoffs.  Just last season, the Yankees lost 7 in a row at one point – but ended up winning 94 games and making the playoffs.

3) Their runs allowed (39) are due, to a large part, by luck.  Only 62% of base runners have been left on base, by far the worst in the league.  An average performance could result in 10 fewer runs.

4) Their batting .149 with runners in scoring position (RISP). This also will improve due to regression to the mean.

5) Their underperforming players can reasonably be expected to perform much better over the course of the season.  Cabrera and Ordonez have been horrible this season, but were expected to be MVP candidates and have been in th past.  Six poor games does not change that.  The pitcher’s have been walking too many, also reasonably expected to improve based on anticipated performance.

I fully expect the 2008 Tigers to get back into the pennant race, if they keep their confidence.  Six games is too small a number to make a significant conclusion.  Don’t write them out just yet.

Ee-Yah!

March 31, 2008

Opening Day, Yank it!

Filed under: News, Sports — Tags: , , , — skeptisys @ 4:34 pm

shades of Yankee stadium

Today is the official Major League Baseball opening day for the 2008 season, one of the biggest American holidays.

Right now I am looking across the foggy Hudson River at the rain drenched Yankee Stadium, where the opening day baseball game between the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays has just been canceled.   Many years ago I sat in that Yankee Stadium with my Dad, in the middle of a near race riot between loud Dominican Toronto Blue Jays fans and angry loud New York Yankee fans.

Back then, over a dozen years ago, the Blue Jays had become successful by pioneering the scouting and signing of world class Dominican baseball talent, like Tony Fernandez, Jorge Bell, and Juan Guzman.  New York has a large Dominican population, who all seemed to be at the ballpark that day… in one section… with many small, and one very large, Dominican flag, which they waived mightily in appreciation of anything a Dominican born Blue Jay did.   This actually made the game more enjoyable and was not bothering anybody, at least until the Blue Jays took the lead and the Yankee fans got drunker.  Pretty soon, my Dad and I found ourselves surrounded by drunk Yankee fans screaming, ‘Burn that flag! Burn that flag!”  Never a dull moment at Yankee stadium.

datsun72.jpg

I recall sitting in  the left field stands long ago, also with my Dad in Yankee Stadium, while Sweet Lou Piniella used his glove, and part of his stocky body, to turn a routine single into a double.  An angry Yankee fan ran to the edge of the stands and yelled surely over 100 decibels, “Lou!  Loooo Piniella!  Looo F’n Piniella!  How dare you play for the greatest city in the world!!!”  I am certain Lou heard, but just turned his back.

sweet lou piniella yankee

My father recently passed away, and soon too will the old Yankee Stadium.   Major league baseball games are being broadcast today in high definition and baseball is beautiful in high definition. I recommend that everybody fill their pockets full of snacks and food, cracker jacks, peeps, and candy.  Fill your jacket with hogies, heros, hotdogs, and grinders.  Then go to your local mall or tv outlet and watch opening day games on their gigantic high definition sets.  Share your food with the salesmen and the other ‘customers’.  Security guards and Policemen also love to eat and watch opening day, so share with them.  Have a great time!  It’s F’n opening day!

yankee-stadium-opening-day-1923-the-first-game-at-the-house-that-ruth-built-in-the-bronx-photographic-print-c10114714.jpeg

Mrs. Lou Gerhig and Mrs. Babe Ruth

March 7, 2008

Bill James starts online pay site

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , , , — skeptisys @ 9:16 am

abstracts-covers-2.jpg

The first time I read a book by Bill James, I jumped out of my bathtub, and ran down the street naked and wet. After that moment, I obsessively read every word that Bill James wrote. I have read all his published books multiple times, including the Abstracts back to 1977 and “This time let’s not eat the bones”. The only publications I have not read are: the latest Gold Mine and various articles he had written for magazines and compilations (Baseball Analysts and the like). If anyone has copies of those articles, please let me know.

As soon as I heard Bill James had an online website, I reached for my wife’s credit card. Well, I say ‘wife’, but really it’s an 80 year old neighbor who always forgets to double lock her door. Anyway, the intention here is to provide some information to anyone considering paying $9 per 3 month subscription to join the Bill James online site.

As soon as I provided credit card information, an onerous disclaimer agreement came up, asking for my acceptance. These legal documents always pop up when you are anxious to use software or a website, and you were sure the transaction was already complete. I read every word written in these documents, on very rare occasions. This was one of those rare occasions.

One part of the document stated that no ‘offensive’ material can be posted on this website. Eh? This is a Bill James website. The same Bill James that wrote, “Rick Cerone is more or less to catching as Thurman Munson is to aviation”. Not offensive? Hey buddy, part of the reason I read Bill James is that he doesn’t hold back. Also in this document was strong language regarding not sharing information and limiting written posts. This ‘agreement’ was completely unacceptable to me. So, I clicked ‘accept’ and continued on to the site.

On the site there are 49 Bill James written articles and columns. These are the main reason I joined, and I poured through them with great enjoyment. Let me explain my expectations for the website:

Level 1: his most dedicated work, for the Red Sox is confidential. This includes any work that analyzes how a team wins and builds a winner in MLB. How does a team evaluate trades and drafts, current players and teams in a way that gives a team an edge over another. All of this work would presumably fall under confidentiality and is owned by the Red Sox. It is also the most interesting subject for fans. Level 1 work most likely will never be seen by the public, which is just sad.

Level 2: His meta work on baseball history and baseball analysis other than Red Sox work. This includes Win Shares and Gold Mine type work, and is meant for publication. You pay for this separately, it doesn’t come with the subscription price of the website.

Level 3: The dregs of his articles. This is what I expected from the online work (I do not pretend to know his work schedule at all, I’m just guessing). The stuff he does after he plays with his kids and family events, after he sends out emails, paints the dog – or whatever. The online work even has basketball and other non-baseball work.

The articles are very entertaining and well written, absolutely. I would read a grocery list that Bill James jot on a napkin. To me, the online articles are Level 3. The topics are about past players like Blyleven, and potential rating systems in their early stages. If you are a big Bill James fan, the 49 articles and columns will be worth the $9. Keep in mind that only one article has been added in the past 4 weeks (sine Feb 11), so it might not be updated frequently enough to be worth the subscription.  If you read Bill James books and want more of his writing, these articles are for you. They are like DVD extras for the books – bloopers and cut out scenes.

Also included on the website:

1) articles by others. Not many here, and I wasn’t interested in this anyway. You can find others’ work elsewhere for ‘free’.

2) Stats and data displays for each current player. Some of these are interesting, but the players have to be chosen one at a time – which is cumbersome. These are baseball lists, like in a book appendix, put on a website one player a page. He could have used a computer programmer to display this data in a manner more consistent with the internet. Some stats are meaningless Elias or Baseball Digest type stuff.

3) “Ask Bill James”. Bill (Mr. James?) answers questions from the public. This is currently the most frequently updated section, and is quite entertaining – even when Bill refuses to answer the question.

4) polls and arguments. Frankly, lame. This has potential, but so far a miss.

Conclusion: if you are not a big Bill James fan, there is no good reason to pay for this site. If you are a big fan, you should consider joining, after you finish reading all his books. In the meantime, I will keep looking for his RedSox work to show up on Wikileaks.

redsox.jpg

I think this kid owns the Red Sox or is Theo Epstein, I don’t know. 

The Baseball Abstracts pic at the top of the article is from the excellent baseball website Baseball Analysts.

February 9, 2008

You Don’t Know Michael Jack Schmidt

Filed under: humor, Sports — Tags: , , , , — skeptisys @ 3:23 pm

72959.jpg

When I was a kid, Mike Schmidt was one of the greatest baseball players, leading his league in home runs 8 times and winning 10 Gold Gloves. Only recently did I learn that Schmidt had a Spiderman moment that turned him into a superplayer. (thanks to the Baseball Page)

On The Baseball Page, we read:

“When Mike Schmidt was seven years old he climbed a tree and found himself 30 feet in the air. He stumbled and fell toward the ground. On his way to the earth he reached out and grabbed a wire which carried 4,000 volts. He was thrown to the ground and landed on his back.”

Now please don’t drop any kids from 30 feet, when it was clearly the electricity that caused superpower. And do not submit children to electricity, without first signing them to an agent’s contract – no matter what Bush and Cheney tell us is appropriate.  (I am just kidding, it is never appropriate to hurt anyone.  If you need self-defense, learn Aikido)

One more item about The Baseball Page, where we find this comment:

“Don Money was traded to the Brewers during the 1972 off-season, to make room for Schmidt at third base. It was a bad trade for the Phillies, as Money went on to a solid career for Milwaukee, while none of the players Philadelphia received really panned out.”

This comment is inaccurate.  The Money trade worked out very well for the Phillies.  One pitcher they received, Jim Lonborg, won 75 games for the Phillies after this trade.  Another, Ken Brett, was traded straight up for Dave Cash.  Both Cash and Lonborg were big contributors to the great Phillie teams of the late 1970’s.   If you have to give up Money, it is nice to get Cash back.

January 3, 2008

Steroid Era in Baseball and Rice

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , , , , , — skeptisys @ 1:48 pm

hs_mai.jpg

The voting for the 2008 baseball Hall of Fame will soon be here, heating up the intense debates on baseball websites. Since Bill James popularized scientific method in baseball, discussions have been intense between those who want to enhance understanding of the sport and those that are insulted to have their beliefs challenged. Like Intelligent Design fanatics, they get upset if study results reveal a different outcome than their prior beliefs, and lashing out is not uncommon. Also like ID folks, they will attempt to sound scientific, while not actually following scientific method. This results in some absurd arguments. This Hall season has one particular candidate supported by the ID folk, Jim Rice.

Rice was a very strong hitter who played for the Boston Red Sox from 1974-1989. If we assume the criteria for the Hall of Fame is based on:

a) objective analysis

b) the Hall remaining approximately the same % of total MLB total players

c) induction is based on quality of play, or contribution to team pursuit of wins

Then Rice is not qualified for the Hall of Fame.

Jim Rice’s only real qualification is that he had a high slugging percentage relative to his competition(86th all time). Some other potential qualifications:

1) fielding. Rice was a poor fielding LF/DH, so it is difficult to give him anything but the lowest score.

2) Avoiding outs. This is more valuable to scoring runs than slugging percentage. However, Rice rarely walked and he hit into a tremendous number of double plays, so despite his high batting average, he was average in this category. At least until…

3) Context. Rice hit in one of the best batting parks in the country, Fenway Park. On the road his slugging was 87 points lower (.459 – .546). The era was a relatively strong offensive era, inflating data compared to the 1960’s, but deflating them compared to the 1990’s.  Rice’s career adjusted OPS is barely within the top 200 all time.  OPS+ underestimates OBP. so Rice’s offensive winning % is barely within the top 300 all time.

4) Speed. Rice was very slow, so again this is a big negative.

5) Attitude. Fans, writers, and other players considered him a prick, gruff and prone to rage. I personally did not witness any of this behavior and place little credence in reputation and rumor, but certainly there is no reason to give him credit in this department.

6) He won an MVP award. Big whoop, Maris won 2 and isn’t in. No really, this is important if we are trying to predict the likelihood of Rice being elected, because the same group of people (BBWAA) vote on the Hall as the MVP. The BBWAA have not done a good job in electing MVPs, and I see no reason to believe that winning one award makes a better candidate.

As a comparison, let’s take Frank Howard, who was a distinctly better hitter than Rice. In 1968 AL, the worst hitting major league since before the Yankees won anything, Howard hit 44 home runs (8 more than anyone else) and led the league in slugging %. He ended 8th in the MVP voting, right behind Dick McAuliffe. A catcher who hit .263 with 25 HRs was 2nd in the voting (Bill Freehan). So Howard went out the next year and hit 48 HRs, increased his batting average 22 points to .296, and his walks from 54 to 102. He ended 4th in the MVP.

Howard again improved , drawing 132 walks and hitting 44 HRs, but he dropped to 5th in the voting. The MVP voting was and is irrelevant to how many runs he put up on the scoreboard.

7) absurd arguments. Among those I read are for Rice going into the Hall are: he was a feared hitter; and he played up to 23 games in the senior league. I am not kidding, people made these arguments. Also, they won’t vote for any recent player, because he played in the ‘Steroid Era’.

I have heard people talk about the ‘steroid era’ for awhile now, and I am trying to figure out the exact dates of this era. Tom House claimed that he and many other pitchers took steroids in the 1970’s to enhance their baseball careers. Anabolic steroids date back to the 1930’s. So apparently, the start of the baseball ‘steroid era’ is between the 1930’s and 1970’s.
Every recent candidate played during the ‘steroid era’. Candidates from the ‘steroid era’ include(d): big feared muscle guys who hit the ball hard (Jim Rice); people with uncommon durability (Ripken); big strikeout pitchers (Blyleven); and big power middle infielders (Trammell).

Jim Rice, like Mark McGwire, was a big strong power hitter (although not as good) who never tested positive for steroids. Only Rice is know for his rage, however. I don’t know if either took steroids, and I have yet to see any data supporting the theory that steroids cause home runs. It is very selective to apply the steroid stigma to McGwire, while ignoring those with similar opportunity.

I do want to mention that a childhood favorite of mine, and contemporary, had a slightly higher OBP than Rice.  This player played most of his career in pitcher’s ballparks, so the value of his OBP was much higher than Rice’s.  That player was Steve Henderson.

November 12, 2007

The Curse of the Sabremetrician

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , , , — skeptisys @ 12:04 pm

bdd_518_wh_gett.jpg

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox, who won their 2nd MLB Championship in the past 89 years, and 2nd in the 5 years since Bill James became a full-time Red Sock. I do believe that Bill James, more than any one man, is responsible for the Red Sox’ 2 recent championships, even though they compete against teams that had the experience of 30 years of his work, all public and well known to all baseball management.

1) The Red Sox management staff is stuffed with professed Bill Jamesians (not the same as Ellen Jamsians).

2) The best player for the 2 championships was David Ortiz, a player obtained for almost nothing after he was released by the Twins. Every other team had a chance to obtain Ortiz. Prior to joining the Red Sox, Bill James published that he did not understand why teams did not obtain this player, and why the Twins insisted on playing Doug Mientkiewicz instead of Ortiz.

I have been rooting for the Red Sox ever since they hired Bill James, but I hope they fire him in an ugly way – causing Bill to publish all his work he now considers confidential. You see, Bill James used to be a man who studied what he wanted, and said what he wanted. He was never limited by how much money he could make, or how controversial. He only wanted to find out the truth, out of intellectual curiosity. Now he seems, based in recent interviews, as a corporate stooge: refusing to answer confidential information by providing elusive answers; and twisting information to make his company look as good as possible. Maybe I am wrong, and I certainly hope so, but he appears to be turning into that which he mocked in the past. I guess we will find out the truth when the Bill James Gold Mine 2008 is released in Feb 2008, if the quality matches that of his Historical Baseball Abstract or Win Shares books, released in 2001 and 2002.

So I call on John Henry, owner of the Red Sox to please fire Bill James. You don’t deserve him, and you don’t deserve to keep his work from the public.

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