Friday, June 30, 2006

Tour de France, 2006

We've known for a year that Lance Armstrong would not win the 2006 Tour de France. What we discovered this evening is that neither will Jan Ullrich. Or Ivan Basso. Or Francesco Mancebo. Or six other riders who were dismissed from the race by their team racing directors because their names are listed on a document associated with a blood-doping scandal in Spain. It's a fairly shocking piece of news. Not that there are allegations of doping or performance-enhancing drugs - that's daily, trite, commonplace and boring. But the fact that the team directors all got together and agreed to dismiss the riders whose names appeared without any further evidence of guilt - that's shocking. And it completely changes the landscape of the race...

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Scamming the scammers...

It's amusing that there are people out in the world with the energy and creativity to do something like this...

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I did not want this...

When Alex Gonzalez 3rd inning HR off of Pedro Martinez settled into the Monster seats, Don Orsillo announced that "if you're a Red Sox fan, this is just what you wanted."

Nope. Not at all. Not even a little bit.

I remain a huge Pedro fan. I was telling my kids as we were riding home from Karate how lucky I've been as a baseball fan. I got to watch 11 years of Roger Clemens pitching for my team, and, unbelievable as it is, they upgraded. Pedro Martinez has given me as much pleasure as anyone in a baseball uniform ever has, and I did not want to see him embarassed like this.

I certainly didn't want him to throw a no-hitter or a shut-out. I certainly wanted the Red Sox to win. I didn't want Pedro to leave with a win tonight.

But neither did I want to watch him walk off the mound in the 3rd with an embarassing 8-0 deficit. I'm not enjoying this. (I'd enjoy it slightly less if the score were reversed, but still...)

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Monday, June 26, 2006

This is ... unfortunate...

Several years ago, Baseball Reference went on line with the greatest reference source that any baseball fan could want. Every player, every team, every season, all there to look up. What happened? What did he do? Who led the league? All there at the click of a mouse.

Well, the database has a unique player identifier for every player in the history of the game. It consists of the first 5 letters of the last name, followed by the first 2 letters of the first name, and then an index. Most players are 01, but if the name segments aren't unique, you get 02, 03, etc. This is a fine system, it works well.

But it's resulted in an index name that is ... unfortunate. The Red Sox Kevin Youkilis was referred to in _Moneyball_ as "the Greek God of walks." But Kevin's not Greek. What he happens to be is Jewish. And that's where it gets unfortuate, because if you combine the first five letters of his last name ("youki") with the first two letters of his first name ("ke"), you wind up with an index that you probably don't want for a Jewish player…

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The New York Treasonous Times

Former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy has a piece at NRO on the NY Times this morning (They’re Just More Important Than You Are) that is a must-read.
The only way to prevent terrorist attacks is to gather intelligence. It is to collect the information that reveals who the jihadists are, who is backing them with money and resources, and where they are likely to strike. There is nothing else.

How do you get such intelligence? Your options are few. The terrorists you capture, you squeeze until they break. Since your laws and protocols forbid physical coercion, you must employ psychological pressure — relentless detachment and loneliness that may render a battle-hard, hate-obsessed detainee hopeless enough and dependent enough on his interrogators to tell you the deepest, deadliest secrets. So you move your captives to places where they will be isolated, and forlorn, and … eventually — maybe after a very long time — moved to tell you what they know about their fellow savages.

Otherwise, you use your technological wizardry to penetrate their communications. You use your mastery of the global web that is modern finance to find the money and follow it — until you can pierce the veiled charities and masked philanthropists behind the terror dollars. Until you strangle the supply lines that convert hatred into action.

...

Life or death. Which one it will be turns solely on intelligence and secrecy. Can you find out how they next intend to kill you, can you stop them, and can you prevent them from knowing how you know … so you can stop them again?


It perfectly sums up the actions of the Times in the struggle against terrorism, the way that they continually give aid and comfort to the enemy in the guise of the "public's right to know." The public's right to know what? The specific details of non-illegal intelligence gathering operations? But what they somehow don't think the public has the right to know is the names of the quislings in the government who are, for their own purposes, whatever those might be, leaking that information to the leftists at the NY Times.

The media aspire to be the public’s watchdog? Ever on the prowl to promote good government? Okay, here we have public officials endangering American lives. Public officials whose violation of a solemn oath to protect national defense information is both a profound offense against honor and a serious crime.

What about the public interest in that? What about the public interest in rooting out those who betray their country in wartime?

Not on your life.

National-security secrets? All fair game. If it’s about how we detain, or infiltrate, or defang the monsters pledged to kill us, the New York Times reserves the right to derail us any time it finds such matters … interesting.

But the media’s own sources? That, and that alone, is sacrosanct. Worth protecting above all else.

National-security secrets, after all, are merely the public treasure that keeps us alive. Press informants are the private preserve of the media.

And they’re just more important than you are.

Follow the link. Read the piece. Cancel your subscriptions to the NY Times. Call your congress person and demand an investigation into the leaks.

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Monday Pythagorean 6/26/06

Well, that's a nice week. Short, with 6 games scheduled and one of those rained out, but nice. The 5-0 week runs the winning streak to 8 games, and the lead in the East to 2 1/2 over the Yankees (and 4 1/2 over Toronto.)

  • The Beckett trade paid off in a different way for the Red Sox last night. Anibal Sanchez, who shut out the Yankees for 5 2/3 while making his Major League debut, was part of that deal. There will come a time when the Red Sox wish they had him back, because he's a real high-ceiling prospect, and he looked great last night. But you still make that deal every time, if you're in Boston's position.


  • I remain a skeptic that "clutch hitters" actually exist (obviously "clutch hitting" does, but whether it exists as a talent that some players possess - I'm skeptical), but David Ortiz makes it very hard not to believe. Like everyone else, he's had many failures in those situations, but it's hard to imagine anyone having hit more dramatic late-inning home runs than Ortiz has.


  • An interesting week ahead. 1 with the Phillies, 3 with the Mets who have the best record in the NL, and 3 with the red-hot young and streaking Marlins. Over the next 4 days, while Boston's playing 4 against Philadelphia and the Mets, the Yankees are hosting the currently woeful Braves for 3.







AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 6/26/2006
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Detroit5.18(7)3.75(1)0.644(1)492751252

Chicago5.84(1)4.55(3)0.613(2)462949263

New York5.64(2)4.7(5)0.583(3)43304231-1

Boston5.51(3)4.85(7)0.559(4)403244284

Toronto5.37(4)4.92(9)0.54(5)413441340

Texas5.32(6)5.01(10)0.527(6)403640360

Seattle4.92(8)4.69(4)0.522(7)40373839-2

Cleveland5.36(5)5.12(11)0.521(8)39353341-6

Oakland4.56(11)4.4(2)0.516(9)393641342

Minnesota4.76(10)4.7(6)0.505(10)373739352

Los Angeles4.52(12)4.88(8)0.465(11)35403441-1

Baltimore4.86(9)5.49(13)0.444(12)344335421

Tampa Bay4.29(13)5.24(12)0.41(13)314533432

Kansas City4.23(14)6.11(14)0.338(14)25492450-1




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Detroit10953

Chicago10656

Boston9963

New York9369

Toronto8973




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Detroit10656

Chicago10260

New York9468

Boston9468

Toronto8874




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

6/26/2006 8:11:07 AM

Minnesota5.17(6)2.5(1)0.791(2)51510

Detroit6.17(5)3.17(4)0.772(3)51510

Chicago9.33(1)5(11)0.758(4)51510

Seattle6.33(4)4(7)0.699(5)42420

Kansas City7.5(3)4.83(10)0.691(6)42511

Los Angeles5(7)3.83(6)0.619(7)4233-1

Tampa Bay3.67(12)3(3)0.591(8)42420

New York4(10)3.67(5)0.54(9)33421

Toronto4.5(8)4.5(9)0.5(10)33421

Texas4.33(9)5.33(14)0.406(11)24240

Baltimore3.5(13)4.33(8)0.404(12)24331

Oakland4(10)5(11)0.399(13)24331

Cleveland3.33(14)5(11)0.323(14)24240


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Thursday, June 22, 2006

The World Cup

My one and only comment on the subject:

Now that the US is done, hopefully I won't have to hear another word about this most tedious and boring of all conceivable "sporting events" for four more years...

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Monday Pythagorean 6/19/06

Three weeks ago, on May 29, the standings in the AL East looked like this:

W L GB
Boston 30 19 ---
New York 29 20 1
Toronto 28 22 2.5

This morning, we see the following:

Boston 39 28 ---
New York 38 29 1
Toronto 37 32 3

Over the last 3 weeks, Boston's 9-9, New York's 9-9, and the Blue Jays are 9-10. So the theme song for this morning's commentary comes from U2's _The Joshua Tree_ album, "Running To Stand Still."



  • Not a great week for the Sox. 3-3, after a frustrating visit to Minnesota, and a signficantly less frustrating visit to the reeling Braves in Atlanta. Curt Schilling started two games, and gave up a total of 3 runs in 14 innings. And came away with 2 no-decisions, as he was matched up against 2 aces. The Red Sox won one and lost one, but Schilling won none and lost none.


  • The Alex Gonzalez supporters are all beating their chests this morning, following an admittedly spectacular looking play when he reversed direction, stopped a ball and threw a runner out at first from his knees. It is not debatable that he looks great in the field. It's not debatable that he's been really amazingly consistent and sure handed defensively.

    What is debatable is whether he's actually played a great SS. He's made 3-4 spectacular plays in 67 games. He's been extremely consistent, handling everything hit his way. He's absolutely looked like a defensive asset.

    Whether he's actually been one is far less clear.

    There are 14 AL shortstops who've played at least 200 innings so far this year. If you look at total chances/inning for those SS, Derek Jeter is 14th and last. Immediately in front of him in 13th?

    Alex Gonzalez.

    Gonzalez has fewer chances per inning at SS than Alex Cora. Significantly fewer. In 455 innings, Gonzalez has had 209 total chances. In 134 innings, Cora's had 71. Cora's gotten to a ball once per every 1.89 innings that he's played SS this year. Gonzalez, behind the same pitching staff, has gotten to a ball once for every 2.18 innings.

    According to BaseballProspectus fielding runs, Alex Gonzalez has been 10 runs better than a replacement level SS this year, and 1 run WORSE than an average ML SS. I just can't find ANY evidence that suggests that he's a great defensive player. Does he look smooth? Absolutely. Has he been steady as a rock? No question. Has he made the occasional spectacular effort? He sure has.

    Has he been a tremendously valuable defensive player, irreplaceable? I can't find any evidence of that.


  • I still hate inter-league play.






AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 6/19/2006
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Detroit5.1(7)3.8(1)0.631(1)442646242

Chicago5.54(3)4.51(3)0.593(2)412844253

New York5.79(1)4.79(5)0.586(3)39283829-1

Toronto5.45(4)4.96(7)0.543(4)373237320

Texas5.4(5)4.99(9)0.536(5)383238320

Cleveland5.54(2)5.13(11)0.535(6)36323137-5

Boston5.31(6)5(10)0.528(7)353239284

Oakland4.61(11)4.35(2)0.527(8)363338312

Seattle4.8(9)4.75(4)0.505(9)36353437-2

Minnesota4.72(10)4.9(6)0.483(10)333534341

Los Angeles4.48(12)4.97(8)0.452(11)313831380

Baltimore4.97(8)5.59(13)0.446(12)323932390

Tampa Bay4.34(13)5.43(12)0.399(13)284229411

Kansas City3.94(14)6.22(14)0.303(14)21471949-2




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Detroit10656

Chicago10359

Boston9468

New York9270

Oakland8973




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Detroit10458

Chicago9963

New York9468

Boston8973

Toronto8874




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Detroit6.29(2)2.86(3)0.809(2)61610

Oakland5.83(3)2.83(2)0.789(3)51601

Chicago7(1)3.71(5)0.761(4)52611

Texas5.43(5)5(13)0.538(5)43430

Seattle4.33(8)4(8)0.537(6)33330

New York4.83(6)4.67(11)0.516(7)33330

Tampa Bay4.71(7)4.57(10)0.514(8)4334-1

Los Angeles3.43(13)3.43(4)0.5(9)43430

Kansas City3.71(10)3.86(6)0.483(10)34340

Toronto3.57(12)3.86(6)0.465(11)34340

Boston4.17(9)4.83(12)0.433(12)33330

Baltimore3.71(10)5(13)0.367(13)34340

Cleveland3(14)4.33(9)0.338(14)2415-1


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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Bruce Lee should still be alive, so he could kick Derb again

I'm a big fan of John Derbyshire, who I think is an excellent writer, and with whom I agree on many things. But he's got a comparison of Iraq to Vietnam right now, parts of which I think are utter nonsense.
Mission creep: No American thought, in 2003, that 3+ years of major campaigning in Iraq, with 130,000+ troops continutously engaged, and a running total of 2,500 deaths after that 3+ years, was in our future. No American thought that.

Poppycock.

Did anyone not think that there would still be a significant American troop presence in Iraq three years out? How many US troops are still in Korea? Germany? Japan?

Did anyone not think that casualties might approach the death toll from 9/11?

The fact is that the "major campaigning" in Iraq lasted about 8 weeks. At which point in time, the country needed to be rebuilt. That's the exercise we've been involved in for the last 3 years. Has it been different than what I, or anyone else expected?

Welcome to reality.

I am not speaking of the War on Terror — Rick Brookhiser was already telling me at about that time that he expected the WoT to go on for the rest of his lifetime. I'm talking about engagement in Iraq.

Iraq. Is. The. War. On. Terror. That's it. That's the major battlefield on which that war is taking place.

Americans can therefore rightly feel, in 2003, that our leaders have got us into a situation we never wished to be in, were never asked whether we would wish to be in, and therefore are under no moral obligation, as citizens of a democratic polity, to go on supporting the continuation of.

If you'd told me 3 1/2 years ago that in the spring of 2006, Iraq would have held democratic elections, Afghanistan would have held democratic elections, there would not have been another attack on American soil because we're killing the terrorists over there instead of dealing with them over here, and that the American military death toll in Aghanistan and Iraq combined would not yet have reached the official New York death toll for 9/11, would I have supported that? The answer to that is not only "yeah," it's "hell, yeah!"

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Monday, June 12, 2006

The New York Times redefines "peacetime"

The writers of The New York Times apparently think that every day's a good day to bash the Bush administration. And any hook will work, whether it's factually correct or not. Today's example comes from yesterday's Times, and Niall Ferguson.

He's got a long piece about the burgeoning Federal debt. Well, I'm all in favor of concern about the debt, because I'd rather have a lower debt than a larger. (I rather suspect that, as a matter of policy, the New York Times would not agree with me on the proper means for lowering the debt, but we'll leave that aside for the moment.)

So, what exactly is Ferguson's take?

Since becoming president, George Bush has presided over one of the steepest peacetime rises ever in the federal debt. The gross federal debt now exceeds $8.3 trillion. There are three reasons for the post-2000 increase: reduced revenue during the 2001 recession, generous tax cuts for higher income groups and increased expenditures not only on warfare abroad but also on welfare at home. And if projections from the Congressional Budget Office turn out to be correct, we are just a decade away from a $12.8 trillion debt — more than double what it was when Bush took office. [emphasis mine]


To paraphrase Douglas Adams, "this is obviously some strange usage of the word peacetime that I wasn't previously aware of." Even if you want to describe the 1990s as "peacetime" despite the fact that we had troops active in Iraq (and Somalia and Bosnia), it is difficult to comprehend how someone could describe the period since 9/11 as "peacetime." After the United States was clearly attacked, we have responded militarily, removing the governments of two different nations in the past 5 years, with all of the military costs that those operations have required. There's no legitimate usage of the word "peacetime" in that context. The only reason that you would use that word is to make a false comparison that makes the Bush administration's performance look worse than it has been.

How unusual to see something like that in the New York Times...

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Monday pythagorean - 6/12/2006

Not a great week for the Red Sox, as the pitching, in particular, has varied between inconsistent and bad. Thanks to Oakland, however, they actually increased their lead over the Yankees by 1/2 a game. But there were two bad blowout losses, one each started by David Pauley (which isn't too concerning) and Josh Beckett (which is).

I may have more later, as there were a couple of managerial discussions that warrant summarizing, but it'll have to wait...










AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 6/12/2006
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Detroit4.97(8)3.9(1)0.608(1)382540232

New York5.89(1)4.8(4)0.592(2)36253526-1

Chicago5.37(6)4.6(3)0.571(3)352738243

Toronto5.66(3)5.08(8)0.549(4)342834280

Cleveland5.79(2)5.21(11)0.548(5)34283032-4

Texas5.4(5)4.98(6)0.536(6)342934290

Boston5.43(4)5.02(7)0.536(7)332836253

Seattle4.85(9)4.82(5)0.503(8)33323134-2

Oakland4.49(12)4.49(2)0.5(9)323132310

Baltimore5.11(7)5.66(13)0.454(10)293529350

Minnesota4.61(10)5.16(10)0.449(11)283428340

Los Angeles4.6(11)5.15(9)0.449(12)28342735-1

Tampa Bay4.3(13)5.52(12)0.388(13)243926372

Kansas City3.97(14)6.49(14)0.289(14)18431645-2




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Detroit10359

Chicago9963

Boston9666

New York9369

Toronto8973




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Detroit10062

New York9567

Chicago9567

Boston9072

Toronto8973




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Seattle6.14(2)4(1)0.687(1)52611

Texas7(1)5.57(12)0.603(2)43430

Cleveland5.83(4)5(6)0.57(3)3324-1

Minnesota6(3)5.17(9)0.568(4)33330

Detroit5.33(5)4.67(2)0.561(5)33330

Oakland5(6)5(6)0.5(6)33512

Baltimore4.57(10)4.86(5)0.472(7)34340

New York5(6)5.33(10)0.471(8)3324-1

Tampa Bay4.5(12)4.83(3)0.467(9)33330

Chicago4.5(12)4.83(3)0.467(9)33421

Los Angeles4.5(12)5(6)0.452(11)3324-1

Toronto4.86(8)5.43(11)0.449(12)34340

Boston4.86(8)6.43(13)0.375(13)34340

Kansas City4.57(10)6.43(13)0.349(14)25250

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Idle thought...

Was someone in the MLB scheduling office thinking about, or does the competition between Angels and Devil (Rays) happen on 6/6/6 by coincidence?

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"The Wrong Target"

Wonderful editorial from the Times Of London today,The Wrong Target. Wonderful and important, in that at least someone over there "gets it."
Yet had there, inconceivably, been no wrong steps, had America been positively obsequious in courting international support (and it has done more on that score than its critics admit), anti-Americanism would still be on the rise. The US is never less popular than when it is aroused and determined in defence of democratic freedoms, never less trusted than when the world is most reliant on its unmatched ability to project power.

Democracies are psychologically ill-adapted to open-ended confrontations where there can be no decisive victory, the essence of the effort to subdue global terrorism. Eternal vigilance is a wearisome business. The more vulnerable that Europeans feel, the more liable they are to shift blame across the Atlantic.

...
Muslims understand why Islamist terrorism is war at its unholiest, an existential threat to societies. Iraqis may resent occupation, but they fear a weakening of US resolve. Their fears should be ours. Were it to become politically impossible for a president to keep America’s forces engaged from its shores, then the backbone of international security would be broken. America-bashing may be a popular sport, but its adherents prefer not to contemplate its consequences.

Read it all...

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Denseness cubed

Sometimes, you read the press, and you wonder whether someone's really trying to play a prank. This can't be real, can it? Well, the latest, and one of the most blatantly ridiculous examples from recent times, is in today's Toronto Star. The article is about the recent arrest of 17 men in connection with a terrorism investigation.

Here's the comment that is just mind-boggling in its politally-correct, non-judmental denseness:
In investigators' offices, an intricate graph plotting the links between the 17 men and teens charged with being members of a homegrown terrorist cell covers at least one wall. And still, says a source, it is difficult to find a common denominator.


Here's the list of names of the suspects:

  • Fahim Ahmad, 21, Toronto

  • Zakaria Amara, 20, Mississauga

  • Asad Ansari, 21, Mississauga

  • Shareef Abdelhaleen, 30, Mississauga

  • Qayyum Abdul Jamal, 43, Mississauga

  • Mohammed Dirie, 22, Kingston

  • Yasim Abdi Mohamed, 24, Kingston

  • Amin Mohamed Durrani, 19, Toronto

  • Steven Vikash Chand alias Abdul Shakur, 25, Toronto

  • Ahmad Mustafa Ghany, 21, Mississauga

  • Saad Khalid, 19, of Eclipse Avenue, Mississauga


Anyone spot a potential "common denominator"? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?

THEY'RE ALL YOUNG MUSLIM MEN!

I'm not quite sure which is worse - that someone would think that it's "difficult to find a common denominator," or that someone would know that it's not true but feel the need to say it anyway. In any event, I read a lot of stupid comments during the course of an average day - I don't expect to see a stupider one today...

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Today's global warming piece

Today's article comes from David Harsanyi in the Denver Post. David thinks, as do I, that hysteria over global warming is vastly overblown. And he's talked to actual scientists (you know, members of that block that leftist seeking central control over the world's economies keep telling us is "monolithic - there is no dissent") who, well, dissent from the conventional wisdom of the left.
The only inconvenient truth about global warming, contends Colorado State University's Bill Gray, is that a genuine debate has never actually taken place. Hundreds of scientists, many of them prominent in the field, agree.

Gray is perhaps the world's foremost hurricane expert...Yet, his criticism of the global warming "hoax" makes him an outcast. "They've been brainwashing us for 20 years," Gray says. "Starting with the nuclear winter and now with the global warming. This scare will also run its course...Gray directs me to a 1975 Newsweek article that whipped up a different fear: a coming ice age.
[I am old enough to clearly remember fear-mongering over the coming ice age - LB]

"Climatologists," reads the piece, "are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change..."

Thank God they did nothing. Imagine how warm we'd be?


It's a good piece...

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13-5

Last night, in Yankee Stadium, was ugly. I can say this without fear of contradiction, regardless of the fact that I didn't see a minute of it. (I see virtually all the games, but I was at black belt class until about 9:30 last night, and it was 13-3 when I turned the radio on - it didn't seem worth the effort to start it up on the DVR when I got home.) Josh Beckett got pummeled, the Red Sox got pummeled, the trolls that infest the Red Sox message boards are in their glory right now.

And it counts for one (1) game in the standings. That's it. It was one game. It happens.

Frankly, had that happened in the David Pauley start, I wouldn't give it a second thought. It's a little bit concerning that it happened to Beckett, who, record aside, has not pitched well. That was his 3rd (and worst) "disaster" start, and even in his good starts, he's benefited from good run support and good defensive support.

The last time that the Yankees hammered the Red Sox like that was on October 16, 2004. They came into Fenway and pounded the Sox 19-8. If I'm not mistaken - and I'm not - that was the last Yankee win and last Red Sox loss of the year. Which just goes to show that these things don't carry over. They last 9 innings, and, "after all," to quote young Mrs. O'Hara Kennedy Butler, "tomorrow is another day..."

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Monday Pythagorean Report - 6/5

Not a great week for the Red Sox, but it was saved from disastrous by their win on Wednesday in Toronto with David Pauley making his Major League debut. That was set up for a Toronto sweep, but the bats came alive, and the bullpen shut down the Blue Jays after Pauley struggled through 4 1/3.

  • Speaking of the Blue Jays, they've won the first 2 games of a 3 games series 6 times this year, including twice this week. They've lost the 3rd game all 6 times. They had an opportunity to make real headway in the division this week - they made some, but lost to Boston on Wednesday against a rookie making his debut, and then lost to Tampa on Sunday.


  • A week ago, I expressed skepticism about the Tigers, speculating that they were not, in fact, the best team in baseball, rather that their record reflected a very easy early season schedule and they were playing slightly over their heads in addition. This week they played 7 games at home, against the Yankees and Red Sox, and lost 5 of them. I said last week that I didn't expect them to finish ahead of Boston or New York - that remains the case.


  • A very impressive 5-2 week on the road for the Yankees. Unlike a couple of weeks ago, when they came to Boston and everyone bemoaned how beat-up they were (Matsui missed 3 games in that series and Sheffield one - that was it), they really did have some personnel issues this week as Sheffield went back on the DL and Jeter, Giambi and Rodriguez all missed time to nicks or illness.


  • Once again, the Yankees moved ahead of the Red Sox, as their win on Saturday, coupled with Boston's loss, moved the Yankees into first place. Once again, it lasted for only one day, as they traded places again on Sunday. Both teams have an opportunity to take the lead this week, as they go head-to-head over the next four nights.







AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 6/5/2006
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Detroit4.93(8)3.82(1)0.614(1)352237202

New York5.98(1)4.75(4)0.604(2)332233220

Chicago5.46(5)4.57(3)0.581(3)332334221

Toronto5.76(3)5.04(8)0.561(4)312431240

Boston5.5(4)4.83(5)0.559(5)302433213

Cleveland5.79(2)5.23(11)0.546(6)31252828-3

Texas5.2(6)4.91(6)0.526(7)292730261

Oakland4.44(12)4.44(2)0.5(8)29282730-2

Seattle4.69(9)4.91(7)0.479(9)28302533-3

Baltimore5.18(7)5.75(13)0.452(10)263126310

Los Angeles4.61(10)5.16(9)0.448(11)253125310

Minnesota4.46(11)5.16(9)0.434(12)243225311

Tampa Bay4.28(13)5.6(12)0.38(13)223523341

Kansas City3.89(14)6.5(14)0.281(14)15391440-1




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Detroit10557

Boston9963

Chicago9864

New York9765

Toronto9171




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Detroit10161

New York9864

Chicago9666

Boston9369

Toronto9171




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Oakland4.29(11)2.57(1)0.718(1)5243-1

Seattle6.33(3)3.83(3)0.715(2)4233-1

Toronto7.5(1)5.83(10)0.613(3)42420

New York6.14(5)5(4)0.593(4)43521

Baltimore6.67(2)5.67(8)0.574(5)33330

Los Angeles6.17(4)5.33(6)0.566(6)33421

Texas5.5(8)5.17(5)0.529(7)33421

Boston5.33(9)5.33(6)0.5(8)33330

Chicago5(10)5.86(11)0.428(9)3425-1

Cleveland5.71(6)6.86(13)0.417(10)34431

Tampa Bay5.67(7)7.17(14)0.394(11)24240

Minnesota2.43(14)3.29(2)0.365(12)3425-1

Kansas City4(12)6.33(12)0.301(13)24331

Detroit3.57(13)5.71(9)0.297(14)25250

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Is Varitek "noticeably smaller"?

Someone has made the comment, on the Red Sox newsgroup, that Jason Varitek is "noticeably smaller." I don't notice any difference...



I think that most of the "look at how big/small he is" school of steroid suspicion is utter and total nonsense, but this one strikes me as really silly. Did Varitek use? Who knows? How COULD you know? Is there any obvious reason for suspicion? Not that I'm aware of. Anyway, look for yourself. Is he "noticeably smaller?" I don't see it.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Clemens '86 vs. Martinez 2000

Dipping into my archives today...

There's a thread in the Red Sox newsgroup today about comparing various pitching seasons for dominance. Just over three years ago, I did a fairly extensive piece on two of them, and posted it on the Providence Journal's web board. It eventually ran (in a significantly shortened manner) in the Providence Journal on the following Sunday. Below is the entire piece, in all its unexpurgated glory...




Nothing in this piece should be construed as criticism of Roger Clemens, Art Martone, or Bill James. But Art's Sunday Beyond the Box Score in which he used Win Shares to assert that Clemens has been a better Red Sox pitcher than Martinez, and, in particular, that Clemens' 1986 season was the equal of Martinez' 2000, made me suspicious. Because I don't think that's correct. So I looked at it here in...


Beyond Beyond the Box Score

I think that a strong case can be made that Roger Clemens has contributed more to the Boston Red Sox, in terms of pitching performance, than any other pitcher in franchise history. A case can be made for Cy Young, but, speaking just in career terms, those are the only two that really belong in the discussion.

But I'd like to address the contention that Clemens has been the "best pitcher" team history. In particular, I want to address the 1986 and 2000 seasons, and examine the performances, and determine whether the Win Shares assessment of the two season as being equivalent is really merited.

To start with, it's important to remember what Win Shares is, and what it is not. Win Shares is a method of dividing the contributions to a team's final record among all of the players on the team, so as to apportion credit accurately for the team's record. It is not, directly, an assessment of player performance, merely an attempt to assess player contribution. This sounds like semantics, and to some extent it is, but it's a legitimate point and it needs to be addressed.

I'm not going to go into a full discussion of the Win Share system for a couple of reasons. First, it's long and complicated, and not easily summarized. Second, I'm not certain that I understand all of it. But I do understand that the entire starting point is that there are three Win Shares for every team win, and they're apportioned among the players in such a manner as to measure each players contribution, so there is a certain amount of teammate dependence in the system.

Taken at it's extreme, for example, Barry Bonds could have a season better than his 2001 season, and if the Giants pitching staff were so bad that they lost every game, he'd get no Win Shares, despite having the best offensive season in baseball history. It is in many ways similar to the everlasting argument of whether a player on a last place team can legitimately win an MVP award. "We came in last with you, we could've come in last without you." If, on the other hand, a team was constructed which won 162 games, there are only 486 Win Shares to go around, even if every player has the best season in history. Those are obviously extreme and unrealistic scenarios, but they illustrate some of the limits in the system.

In part, the Win Shares for a starting pitcher depends on teammate performance, as the formula includes Wins and Losses. I believe that, on a per season basis, W/L record is too teammate dependent, and can skew assessments of pitching performance. When offenses don't score, pitchers don't get wins. Period. And while, over the course of a career you'd think that there's some evening out, and that winning percentage has decent correlation with pitching performance, it's not a good first order evaluation of it.

To apply that to a Win Share scenario, consider two pitchers who throw identical lines, 7 innings, 2 ER, same number of hits and walks - identical. Then consider that each pitcher's team score 3 runs in the 8th inning and wins 3-2. In a system of evaluation in which player production is being measured, these two performance would measure identically. But pitcher A is going to get more Win Shares than pitcher B. How is that possible? Because pitcher B was pitching at home, and the reliever who pitched the top of the 8th gets the win, and pitcher A was on the road, and still the pitcher of record when his team scored in the top of the 8th.

Now, before analyzing the seasons, I'd like to emphasize that nothing which follows should be construed as disparaging either of these pitchers in any way, or either of these seasons. There is no question, it's not debatable, that both of these are outstanding seasons from outstanding pitchers. Each won the Cy Young award and each deserved it. Anyway, let's look at the specifics of the two pitcher seasons, Clemens '86 and Martinez '00, and look at strictly pitching performance. Here are their pitching lines:





Clemens 1986 vs. Martinez 2000
YearAgTmLgWLGGSCGSHOSVIPHERHRBBSOERA*lgERA*ERA+

Clemens198623BOSAL244333310102541797021672382.484.19169

Martinez200028BOSAL18629297402171284217322841.744.97285



The first thing that many people would see in these lines is the W/L record. Martinez's 18-6 is obviously a very good record. Clemens' 24-4 is a record for the ages. His .8571 winning percentage is one of the top 30 in ML history. His 24 wins is one of only 94 times in the post-dead ball era that a pitcher's won more than 23.

For people that look mainly at W/L record, the conclusion from Win Shares that these two seasons are equivalent might come as a surprise. As stated above, I'm not of that number, and I'm shocked that Win Shares show these seasons as equivalent. Frankly, looked at as pitching performances, the Martinez season seems to be so superior as to defy comparison. What would I look at to come to that conclusion?

The first thing is that number on the far right, ERA+. Adjusted ERA+ is a figure which expresses a pitchers ERA in terms of the league and park context in which he compiles it. Basically, you adjust the pitcher's ERA based on how easy it is to score runs in his home park (it is much easier to score in Coors field, for example, than in Yankee stadium.) Then, you divide the League ERA by the pitchers ERA and multiply by 100. A pitcher who is absolutely league average would compile an ERA+ of 100. Clemens' 169 says that he was 69% better than a league average pitcher. That's an outstanding figure, and led the AL in 1986. But Martinez' 285 is ... well, it's difficult to express how good that is. It's the best single-season ERA+ in Major League history since the AL was started in 1901. The only season higher in any Major League was Tim Keefe's 294 in 1880.

So, at the pitcher's primary function, preventing runs from scoring, Martinez's season was clearly better than Clemens'. So what are the mitigating circumstances which could bring Clemens up to match Martinez? Maybe Martinez was helped by his defense a lot more than Clemens was. But if so, it's not obvious from the available data. In fact, as he put fewer baserunners on via walk (32 vs. 67) and struck out more batters (284 vs. 238), it seems as though Clemens' ERA was more defense-dependent than Martinez'.

Another thing, and one which does, in fact, work in Clemens favor, is that he pitched more innings. Better than average innings pitched have value, and, all other things being equal, the pitcher who maintains a better than league average ERA over more innings is more valuable than one who does it over fewer innings. Clemens threw 37 more innings in 1986 than Martinez did in 2000 (254 vs. 217) and made 4 more starts (33 vs. 29) and those factors do, in fact, help make up for the difference in run prevention. But with the difference in run prevention that exists, is it enough? I don't think it's even close.

Let's look at what the Red Sox would have to do in those 37 innings to get Martinez' 2000 performance to match Clemens' 1986 performance. They'd need a pitcher to make 4 starts, pitch 37 innings, and allow 51 hits, 35 BB, 4 HR and 28 ER. That works out to a 6.81 ERA and 2.32 WHIP for those additional innings. And Pedro plus replacement would still have 46 more strikeouts, even if the replacement pitcher struck out 0.

And none of that takes into account the fact that 1986 was a more pitcher-friendly (or, more appropriately, less pitcher-hostile) environment than 2000. Martinez' didn't just have a lower ERA+, he had a lower actual ERA, despite the fact that the league ERA was nearly 20% higher. An ERA that was 30% lower in an environment where run scoring was 20% easier. There's just no comparison on the run prevention.

So, if Martinez was so much better, why was his W/L record so much worse? Did he choke? Was he unable to win the close games? I believe that the answer is clearly no to those last two questions. It's a fairly straightforward issue. Clemens' 24-4 mark represents excellent pitching backed up by excellent run support. Martinez' 18-6 record represents otherworldly pitching and lots of no-support.

In examining the performances of each pitcher, we find the following cumulative stats on the average performances in wins and losses:




Clemens 1986 vs. Martinez 2000
IPHHRRERK

Clemens wins8.135.330.632.212.047.71

Clemens losses6.55.50.753.52.755

Martinez wins7.633.720.280.780.7210.28

Martinez losses8512.172.1710



We can see that, as expected, each pitcher pitched better in his wins than his losses. What might not be expected is that Martinez actually pitched more innings per game in his losses than his wins. But it's actually an amazing line. Pedro Martinez lost six games in 2000. His average line in those games was 2.17 runs allowed in 8 innings.

The following table shows a little more analysis, including a couple of categories that I call "Cheap Wins" and "Bad Losses". "Cheap wins" are games in which a pitcher gets a win despite giving up more than 4 ER, and is bailed out by his teammates. "Bad losses" are games in which a pitcher gets a loss despite allowing fewer than 4 runs.




Clemens 1986 vs. Martinez 2000
ERA WinsERA LossesERA+ WinsERA+ lossesCheap winsBad losses

Clemens2.2623.808184.83109.77832

Martinez0.8522.438576.33201.43606



It's obvious that the Win/Loss record discrepancy is a result of teammate performance, not individual performance. Clemens had 3 cheap wins, Martinez had 0. Clemens only had 2 bad losses while all 6 of Martinez' losses were games in which he allowed fewer than 4 runs.

But the truly staggering number from that table is Martinez' ERA+ in games in which he lost. To try to put this in perspective, there have been only 32 >200 ERA+ seasons in Major League history. Martinez had an ERA+ of 201 in his losses!

How about the Wins? Did Roger have more Wins because he did a better job keeping the opponent off the scoreboard and then "pitched to the score" afterwards? To determine that, I looked again at the individual Wins and determined how many times each pitcher allowed the opponent to take the lead ("Gave Lead"), how many times he had the lead and let the opponent tie it back up ("Lost Lead") and how many times he did each ("Both").




Clemens 1986 vs. Martinez 2000
Gave LeadLost LeadBothTotal

Clemens72312

Martinez1113


Again, we see that Clemens Win/Loss superiority over Martinez is almost entirely a result of not his, but his teammate's performances. In 50% of wins, 12 of 24, he let the opposition either score the winning run or score the tying run after his team had the lead. Martinez, on the other hand, only had 17% of his wins (3 of 18) where his offensive teammates "bailed him out." If we're examing pitching performance, there's just no justification for rewarding Clemens relative to Martinez for his W/L record. It's a product of his run support, and Martinez' teammates did not support him the same way. And it makes a difference. Using the Short Form Win Shares (which do NOT use Wins and Losses), Martinez still scores 28. Clemens scores 26.


So, what are the best seasons in Red Sox history? The first thing that I did to examine this was to look at all pitching seasons in which a Red Sox pitcher prevented at least 20 runs, of which there were 85. To generate runs prevented, we look at how many runs a pitcher would have allowed in the innings he pitched if he'd pitched to a league average ERA, and then subtract the actual number of ERs he allowed. This favors pitchers who a) pitch well and b) pitch a lot of innings. And, in fact, if you sort strictly by runs prevented, Cy Young tops the list, though Martinez 2000 is second.

Once I'd identified the 85 20+ runs prevented seasons, I adjusted for league context. With a 200 ERA+, a pitcher will generate 2 runs prevented per 9 innings in a league with an average ERA of 4, and only 1.5 in a league with an average ERA of 3. So we divide the runs prevented by the expected runs allowed to express it as a percentage.

Finally, we want to reward pitchers for throwing lots of innings, but not penalize pitchers who pitch in high-offense eras with different team construction (more starters, more relievers) and lively baseballs. We will assume, for the purposes of this comparison, that it's unreasonable to expect anyone to pitch more innings than the max in the league that year. We'll therefore add to the earned runs allowed by each pitcher the earned runs that would be allowed by the pitcher plus the earned runs that would be allowed by a replacement pitcher making up the rest of the innings to the league max. And then, we'll re-calculate an adjusted ERA+, using each pitcher's ER, plus the replacement ER bring the IP total up to the league max. In the event that the pitcher led the league in IP, obviously, there will be no adjustment ER added.

For the replacement pitcher, we'll set the ERA at 1.5 times the league average. Why? Because we've got to use something, and we assume that some of the innings not pitched trickle down to below average pitchers. 1.5 is an easy number to use (James uses 1.52 in roughly the same role during the Win Shares calculation.)

So, using that method, here's the league-adjusted, IP-adjusted list of the 20 best run prevention seasons in Red Sox history.



Best Run Prevention - Red Sox history
YearLg ERAERAIPERExRRPrExIPRpERAExRnTotRAdjERAAdjERA+

Martinez, Pedro20004.921.742174211977217.4817592.24220

Young, Cy19013.661.62371.336715184115.577741.73211

Martinez, Pedro19994.872.07213.334911566187.415642.49196

Young, Cy19023.572.15384.6792153615.43922.15166

Clemens, Roger19914.12.62271.3379124456.24792.62157

Clemens, Roger19903.921.93228.33499950395.9526752.51156

Clemens, Roger19864.192.482547011848186.3612822.73153

Lowe, Derek20024.472.58219.676310946206.7915782.93153

Clemens, Roger19944.812.85170.67549137137.3110643.16152

Parnell, Mel19494.22.77295.3391138476.38912.77151

Clemens, Roger19923.952.41246.67661084219613792.67148

Martinez, Pedro20024.472.26199.33509949406.7930803.01148

Clemens, Roger19874.472.97281.67931404746.83963.02148

Martinez, Pedro19984.662.89233.677512146187.0814893.18146

Wood, Joe19123.331.913447312754495.07281012.3145

Young, Cy19032.962.08341.6779112334.5792.08142

Grove, Lefty19374.623.022628813547167.03131013.26142

Hughson, Tex19423.662.5928181114335.56812.59141

Grove, Lefty19365.042.81253.337914263487.66411203.57141

Wakefield, Tim19954.722.95195.336410238267.1821853.45137



OK, that's busy, so let's walk through it. Name, Year, League ERA, ERA, IP and ER are fairly self-explanatory. ExR is Expected Runs, the number of runs that an average pitcher would have allowed in that many IP. RPr is Runs Prevented (Expected Runs - Earned Runs). ExIP is the number of IP less than the league leader. RpERA is the Replacement Pitcher's assumed ERA (1.5 * the League ERA). ExRn is Extra Runs, the number of runs allowed in the Extra Innings at the replacement ERA. TotR is the actual Earned Runs allowed plus the Extra Runs. AdjERA is the pitchers ERA recalculated using the ExIP and ExRn. And finally, AdjERA+ is the ERA+ after the same adjustment. (Where there are gaps in the table, the pitcher led the league in IP, so no adjustments were necessary.)

There have been 16 Major League seasons in which a pitcher compiled an ERA+ of 220 or more. Martinez managed a 220 in 2000 even after adding 21 IP at a 7.41 ERA.


Conclusion:

While Roger Clemens can fight it out with Cy Young over who has had the most productive pitching career in a Boston Red Sox uniform, I believe that Pedro Martinez is the "best" pitcher ever to pitch for the Sox. And his 2000 season was significantly better than Clemens' 1986 season, and, indeed, any other season by any pitcher wearing a Red Sox uniform.

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