Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday Pythagorean - 4/30/2007

So the Boston Red Sox will finish April with the biggest lead of any division leader (well, unless Toronto and Milwaukee both win tonight.) They'll be at least tied for the best record in baseball. They're 6 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees, who are probably, results to date notwithstanding, one of the best two-four teams in the AL.

  • Two weeks ago, pointing out the schedule and the NY/TOR injury issues, I said, "Is some team poised to open up a lead in the AL East? If one is, it should be the Boston Red Sox...7-6 would be a wasted opportunity. 8-5 is the minimum acceptable record over this stretch. If they really want to take advantage of it, they need to go 9-4 or better..." Well, they went 9-4 (3 losses to Toronto, 1 to NY.) In addition, the Yankees lost to Tampa and Toronto, helping out. They took advantage of it...

  • It still feels like they haven't hit yet. Yet they're third in the AL in runs/game, on a pace to score 844. I think that they'll score more than that. They've gotten great production from Alex Cora, Eric Hinske and Mike Lowell, offsetting, somewhat, Manny's invisibility and the very poor starts of Pedroia and Crisp.

  • I think that a sweep in NY would be the only way the weekend could have been better. If they were going to lose one, I think it worked out perfectly. The panic escalated when Boston won on Friday against New York's best pitcher, another game in which the Yankees had the lead. Saturday was the best pitching matchup of the weekend for Boston, and that was the game that New York won, when a freak injury brought in a pitcher who Boston wasn't expecting to face, and the Red Sox bats did nothing (and hit into some bad luck as well.) That set up Sunday as a series-winner, with New York's best starter facing Boston's worst. And the Red Sox won again. They didn't leave NY with the Yankees on an up note - their brief feelings of maybe coming out of it were immediately smacked down. Perfect.

  • The Sox and Yankees have played 6 times in the last 10 days. New York led in all 6 of the games. Boston won 5 of them. That's just brutal, if you're a Yankee fan (or a Yankee)...

  • Now to tone down the elation, a bit. On May 6, 2005, the Yankees lost to Oakland, dropping their record to 11-19, leaving them 9 games behind the Baltimore Orioles and (does this sound familiar?) 6 1/2 games behind Boston. New York promptly won 10 straight and 19 of 21, leaving them, just three weeks later, on May 27, 1 1/2 in front of Boston. Do I expect this Yankee team to win 10 straight or 19 of 21? Nope. Not with that pitching. Do I expect them to play significantly better than they've played so far, and be competitive for a play-off spot to the end? Absolutely...

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/30/2007






Los Angeles4.4(10)4.04(3)0.539(5)131214111


New York5.7(1)5.43(12)0.521(7)1211914-3






Tampa Bay5.04(5)6.48(14)0.387(13)101511141

Kansas City3.92(13)5.16(11)0.377(14)916817-1

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)



Los Angeles9171


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




Los Angeles8874

Standings for the week




Los Angeles6.43(2)4.29(6)0.677(3)52520







Kansas City4(11)5(9)0.399(10)3425-1


Tampa Bay4.86(7)6.86(14)0.347(12)25432


New York3.83(13)6.83(13)0.258(14)2415-1

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Friday, April 27, 2007

The Favorite Music of the Deaf!

John Derbyshire wrote an appreciation of Saturday Night Fever (which I've never seen, though I did have the soundtrack back when it was on the charts). The piece is interesting, and has sparked some comment. My favorite of which is this: - "Disco: The Favorite Music of the Deaf!"

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday Pythagorean - 4/23/2007

So they swept the Yankees after taking 2-3 from Toronto. That makes for a good week.

  • The Red Sox played 4 games at Fenway this week. They scored 7 runs in each of those 4 games. Anyone want to do the math on the average runs scored at home by Boston this week?

  • The conventional wisdom suggested, entering the weekend, that the Red Sox had a big advantage in the starting pitching comparisons. They may have, and they showed some advantage, but not as much as was expected. The Yankees' starter's ERA was an abysmal 8.56 for the weekend. The Sox' starter's ERA was a not-really-all-that-much-better 6.53. There was, however, a big difference between the team's bullpens. Boston's relievers put up a 1.42, New York's allowed a 6.98. That made the difference, as the Yankees took leads into the 7th in two of the three games.

  • In other regards, the Boston starters were much better. The shortest Boston start (6 2/3 from Beckett) was longer than the longest New York start (6 1/3 from Pettitte.) The Sox K/BB ratio was 4.75 - the Yankee starters walked as many as they struck out. Red Sox starters allowed 1.4 baserunners per inning, Yankee starters allowed 2.12. The ERA differences don't fully reflect the difference in performance.

  • Boston's starters pitched 7 more innings than New York's and its bullpen threw 4 fewer innings. (Boston didn't hit in the bottom of the 9th in any of the games.) That certainly helps, and on the whole, the series was a lot more stressful for the Yankee relievers than the Boston relievers.

  • Only five times in baseball history has a team hit four consecutive home runs. In two of those five, JD Drew hit the second. That figures to give Drew a unique place in baseball history for a long time - the only man to homer in two different streaks of four straight.

  • Interestingly, when the Indians became the second team ever to do it, back in 1963, the third HR in that string was hit by Tito Francona, Boston manager Terry Francona's father.

  • That Indians team was the first to hit four straight against the same pitcher. The Red Sox last night became the second.

  • Not to forget what preceded the weekend, the win in Toronto on Thursday was a big win. They split the first two games of the series, and had Tavarez facing Halladay, which is a bad match-up for Boston. The big comeback, helped by Halladay's removal, featured Manny's first HR of the year, and brought the team home on a high note.

  • Jon Papelbon had 2 saves in the first two weeks of the season. He had four this week. He's also thrown in 2 straight games and 4 of 5. It would behoove them to score runs tonight, because he won't be available.

  • They're also looking at Halladay vs. Tavarez again tomorrow, so it would be a lot more comfortable to win tonight, and not be forced to try to stave off a sweep tomorrow.

One more good week would get them into May with a little bit of a cushion in the East...

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/23/2007



New York6.35(1)4.94(9)0.613(2)10789-2








Los Angeles3.61(14)3.94(3)0.46(10)810991


Tampa Bay5.11(3)6.33(14)0.403(12)7117110


Kansas City3.89(12)5.22(11)0.368(14)711612-1

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)





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

New York9765




Standings for the week





New York7.33(1)5.33(8)0.642(4)4233-1




Los Angeles4(12)4.17(3)0.481(8)33330

Kansas City5.67(5)6.17(12)0.461(9)33330

Tampa Bay5(8)5.67(11)0.443(10)3324-1





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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sometimes, it gets late early...

Is some team poised to open up a lead in the AL East? If one is, it should be the Boston Red Sox...

Red Sox Schedule for the next 13 days
Tue. 17 at Toronto

Wed. 18 at Toronto

Thu. 19 at Toronto

Fri. 20 NY Yankees

Sat. 21 NY Yankees

Sun. 22 NY Yankees

Mon. 23 Toronto

Tue. 24 Toronto

Wed. 25 at Baltimore

Thu. 26 at Baltimore

Fri. 27 at NY Yankees

Sat. 28 at NY Yankees

Sun. 29 at NY Yankees

Transactions (NYY):
April 15, 2007 Placed pitchers Carl Pavano and Mike Mussina on the 15-day disabled list; recalled pitcher Chris Britton from Scranton/Wilkes Barre of the International League (AAA).
April 8, 2007 Placed outfielder Hideki Matsui on the 15-day disabled list; recalled outfielder Kevin Thompson from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre of the International League (AAA).

Transactions (NYY):
April 15, 2007 Placed pitcher B.J. Ryan on the 15-day disabled list; recalled pitcher Jamie Vermilyea from Syracuse of the International League (AAA).
April 13, 2007 Placed pitcher Brandon League and outfielder Reed Johnson on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 31 and April 12, respectively; recalled outfielder Adam Lind from Syracuse of the International League (AAA).

It would behoove the Red Sox to play well for the next two weeks. They figure to have an edge on the mound in at least 9 of those games. 7-6 would be a wasted opportunity. 8-5 is the minimum acceptable record over this stretch. If they really want to take advantage of it, they need to go 9-4 or better...

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Test scores and drinking age - a legitimate link?

Radley Balko thinks, and Glenn Reynolds agrees, that the US national drinking age should be lowered. One of the points raised was this:
If the research on brain development is true, the U.S. seems to be the only country to have caught on to it.

Oddly enough, high school students in much of the rest of the developed world — where lower drinking ages and laxer enforcement reign — do considerably better than U.S. students on standardized tests.

I'm not going to debate the drinking age right now, but I do think that there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about the test score comparisons, skeptical enough that it smacks of dishonesty to include that in the debate.

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Monday Pythagorean - 4/16

Well, that's a week. 4 games, 2 rain-outs. A shutout loss in a pitchers' duel, and 3 blow-out wins, 2 of the blow-outs coming from late inning explosions that opened up close games.

  • The Red Sox scored 32 runs in four games, even though they were shutout once.

  • As a result of having outscored the opposition 32-7 this week, the Red Sox now have far and away the best run differential in the AL, having outscored their opponents by 23 runs thus far. Only the Mets, at 27, have a better differential.

  • The best 3 AL teams by run differential are in the AL East, as the Yankees and Blue Jays are tied for 2nd, having outscored their opponents by 12.

  • All small sample size caveats apply.

  • They've done this despite the fact that 1/3 of their batting order (Ramirez, Varitek, Crisp) have been very bad so far.

  • Friday night, we saw an example of perfect bullpen usage. Frankly, that's the usage that Bill James and others have talked about, the usage that the Red Sox tried to implement back in 2003, a usage that the media has mocked for four years as "closer by committee." The big outs in that game weren't in the ninth. They were in the eighth. With Vladimir Guerrero, and then Garrett Anderson, representing the tying run. Terry Francona recognized that the game was on the line right there, and went to Papelbon. Who was, once again, dominant. Having saved the game, the Red Sox proceeded to score 6 more in the bottom of the eighth. Papelbon would have gotten a save for pitching the ninth, but he went to the showers instead. No save was recorded and the "closer" didn't finish the game. But the best pitcher in the bullpen got the most important outs.

  • Right now, Boston has won two straight and 4 of 5. It doesn't feel like it, though, because they've only played 4 games in the last 7 days. I'm not optimistic about them getting a game in today, either...

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/16/2007




New York5.82(1)4.73(10)0.594(3)7456-2







Los Angeles3.42(12)3.83(4)0.448(10)57661



Tampa Bay5.17(4)6.67(14)0.385(13)57570

Kansas City3(14)4.75(11)0.301(14)4839-1

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)





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


New York9567



Standings for the week




New York5.17(4)3.5(6)0.671(3)4233-1









Tampa Bay5.14(5)6.57(13)0.39(12)34340

Kansas City2.83(13)5.83(11)0.211(13)15150

Los Angeles2.6(14)6(12)0.178(14)14140

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Friday, April 13, 2007

News priorities

The governor of New Jersey is in critical condition following an automobile accident. I heard that on the radio this morning during a news broadcast. Well, that's not surprising, because the governor is the highest-ranking elected official in a populous eastern state, near the media capital of the world. It should be a big story.

So how was it covered? Lead item? Uh, not quite. No, the lead was Don Imus meeting with the apparently hyper-delicate young ladies of the Rutgers basketball team. Almost as an afterthought, we got the news that Governor Corzine was supposed to mediate the meeting, but missed it because he was in a car crash. And on to other news...

Got to lead with the important stuff, right?

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Monday, April 09, 2007

But how do you REALLY feel?

I said last week that "the sun has officially set on the British Empire.". As this post in the Corner from Derb shows, my reaction was mild...
My one of the last conversations I had with her, said: "I know I'm dying, but I don't mind. At least I knew England when she was England."

I discounted that at the time. Old people always grumble about the state of the world. Now I understand it, though. I even feel a bit the same way myself. I caught the tail-end of that old England—that bumptious, arrogant, self-confident old England, the England of complicated games, snobbery, irony, repression, and stoicism, the England of suet puddings, drafty houses, coal smoke and bad teeth, the England of throat-catching poetry and gardens and tweeds, the England that civilized the whole world and gave an example of adult behavior—the English Gentleman—that was admired from Peking (I can testify) to Peru.

It's all gone now, "dead as mutton," as English people used to say. Now there is nothing there but a flock of whimpering Eloi, giggling over their gadgets, whining for their handouts, crying for their Mummies, playing at soldiering for reasons they can no longer understand, from lingering habit. Lower the corpse down slowly, shovel in the earth. England is dead.

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Monday Pythagorean - 4/9/2007

One of the things that I like to do during the baseball season is compile a weekly report of the AL standings, looking at runs scored and allowed, to see who's better than their records and who's worse.

For those unfamiliar, the Pythagorean report is based on a Bill James discovery regarding the relationship between runs scored, runs allowed and winning percentage. It intuitively makes sense that a teams record will be related to how many runs they score and how many they allow. What James discovered was that, for almost all teams, the winning percentage is very close to a ratio of the square of the runs scored to the sum of the squares of the runs scored and runs allowed. Which was dubbed the "Pythagorean" theorum of baseball.

The report consists of, for each team, its runs/game, runs allowed/game and Pythagorean project winning percentage, along with its rank among the teams in the league for each of those categories. The Pythagorean winning percentage is calculated as (r ^ 1.83) / ( (r ^ 1.83) + (ra ^ 1.83) ). (1.83 has been determined to be a slightly more accurate exponent with the current offensive levels than 2.) Using the Pythagorean winning percentage, the expected wins total is calculated and compared to the actual win total. Any difference between actual and projected performance is expressed as "luck", with negative numbers representing underperforming teams. Then I do a linear projection of final records, based on current winning percentage, and based on Pythagorean winning percentage.

Finally, you get my weekly commentary on noteworthy items revealed by the numbers, or general purpose Sox items that I feel like mentioning...

  • Why are the Red Sox 3-3? Because they aren't scoring runs. Take a look at these OBPs:

    Ortiz .333
    Lugo .320
    Lowell .320
    Ramirez .308
    Youkilis .308
    Crisp .227
    Varitek .211

    That's 7/9 of the lineup making outs over 66% of the time. Combine that with 3 HR in the first six games, and you've got a team that's hitting, cumulatively, .237/.315/.338. That's not going to get it done.

  • The pitching, on the other hand, has been great in 4 of 6 games. The two bad starts were bad but not insurmountably bad. The Saturday game in Texas got out of hand due to an incredibly awful performance from J.C. Romero, who faced 5 batters and allowed 5 hits.

  • One week is too soon to make even cursory assessments about anything. The Yankees should have an excellent offense, and thus far they have. Their pitching is suspect, and this week it was. The Red Sox should have an excellent offense, and this week it wasn't. But their pitching should be good, and this week it was.

  • Papelbon was awesome last night. The Rangers' hitters looked overmatched. And that was the right time to bring him in - he didn't pitch Saturday, Monday's an off-day, and that's where the game was on the line.

Given the pitching, they should be better than 3-3. Given the offense, they're lucky not to be 1-5. All things considered, the positive signs (Papelbon, Matsuzaka, Beckett, Schilling's bounce back, Pedroia) outweigh the negatives. I don't believe that Ramirez, Crisp, Ortiz and Youkilis will all continue the way that they've started. It's not a racing-out-of-the-gate start, but 3-3 is just fine for week one.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/9/2007


Los Angeles4(7)2.29(1)0.736(1)52520




New York6.6(2)6.2(13)0.529(5)3223-1





Kansas City3.17(11)3.67(5)0.433(10)3324-1




Tampa Bay5.2(4)6.8(14)0.38(14)23230

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)

Los Angeles11646




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Los Angeles11943




New York8577

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Maundy Thursday

As I've mentioned at this time the past two years, the choir benefits more from the music ministry than anyone else in the congregation. We've reached Holy Week again, and tonight starts the passion play that ends, one respect, on Sunday morning, but never ends at all in reality. The last couple of years, we've sung selections from a couple of different settings of the Seven Last Words. This year, we're doing individual pieces. The Mozart Ave Verum Corpus, a deceptively simple but marvelous work, and a setting of Schutz' Praise to thee Lord Jesus Christ. It's not the best english translation of this piece that we've sung, but it is an excellent work, and I enjoy it. Tomorrow, we'll be doing the wonderful Stainer God So Loved The World from The Crucifixion, and Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs from The Messiah.

So tonight, we participate in the Lord's supper. And then we strip the church, and exit in silence...

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Funniest. Video. Ever.

(It's funnier if you understand that some of the wack-jobs who think that the towers were wired for demolition on 9/11 have proved that they had to have been, with little chicken-wire recreations...)

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The sun has officially set on the British Empire...

If you weren't weeping for the Anglosphere yet, try this...
The only wry smile to be derived from the humiliating circumstances in which our 15 sailors and Royal Marines were captured by just six Iranians came from the comment by Patricia Hewitt. "It was deplorable," pronounced our tight-lipped Health Secretary, "that the woman hostage should be shown smoking. This sends completely the wrong message to our young people."

A people who are governed by such as these are not a free people, and will not retain the illusion of freedom for much longer.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The culture war is over. We lost...

Is there any doubt that Great Britain is a post-Christian nation? I don't think so...

A supermarket chain got itself into a huge muddle over the meaning of Easter yesterday in its attempt to sell more chocolate eggs.

“Brits are set to spend a massive £520 million on Easter eggs this year — but many young people don’t even know what Easter’s all about,” said the press release from Somerfield after a survey.

It then went on to claim that the tradition of giving Easter eggs was to celebrate the “birth” of Christ.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

It matters who wins elections - part 79,521

Once again, a slim majority of the Supreme Court justices has decided that the Constitution and precedent are not enough to prevent them from enacting their own personal policy preferences. And, once again, we recognize that it matters who wins elections. While Republican Presidents have given us some mediocre (Kennedy) to bad (Souter) justices, the fact is that the originalist justices ONLY come from Republican Presidents. Are Justice Stephens and Justice Ginsburg still going to be on the bench in 2012? I'd wager that one or both will be gone before then. It matters who wins elections...

A couple of relevant quotes from the MASSACHUSETTS ET AL. v. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ET AL. decision...
Petitioners’ difficulty in demonstrating causation and redressability is not surprising given the evident mismatch between the source of their alleged injury — catastrophic global warming — and the narrow subject matter of the Clean Air Act provision at issue in this suit. The mismatch suggests that petitioners’ true goal for this litigation may be more symbolic than anything else. The constitutional role of the courts, however, is to decide concrete cases — not to serve as a convenient forum for policy debates.
- Chief Justice Roberts

The Court’s alarm over global warming may or may not be justified, but it ought not distort the outcome of this litigation. This is a straightforward administrative-law case, in which Congress has passed a malleable statute giving broad discretion, not to us but to an executive agency. No matter how important the underlying policy issues at stake, this Court has no business substituting its own desired outcome for the reasoned judgment of the responsible agency.
- Justice Scalia

Republican Presidents have given us disappointing justices, but Democratic Presidents never give us justices like these. I'll happily take the .600 batting averages of Reagan, Bush and Bush over the .000 batting average of Carter and Clinton. It matters who wins elections...

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Unbelievable. Well, no, sadly predictable...

I said yesterday that "there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth about the SS defense, and Lugo will certainly make more errors than Gonzalez did, but he'll also get to more balls, which no one in the media will notice..."

Got into the car this morning, and the first thing I heard was Gerry Callahan bemoaning the loss of Gonzalez. They lost 7-1, Gerry. Your buddy Schilling got hammered for 5 runs in 4 innings. They didn't get a runner past 2nd base against Gil Meche after the first inning. They had two base-runners thrown out by wide margins at 2nd base. And you want to talk about Alex Gonzalez?

Give. Me. A. Break.

I've said it before. I'll say it again. I don't remember any Red Sox player whose perception is more out-of-line with his performance.

Obligatory opening day remarks: Well, what's the point? It was a disastrous afternoon, as happens to every team 20-60 times a year. It's particularly frustrating on opening day, as you've got no past performance to look on, and two days to stew on it, but in the long run it means exactly this - they lost one game. They'll play 161 more. It changes my opinion and expectations of the season not one iota...

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Opening day

Ok, yes, officially the baseball season opened yesterday with the Mets and Cardinals, but as far as I'm concerned the baseball season opens at about 4:00 this afternoon, when the Red Sox play the Royals.

I haven't had time to write much other than software and academic papers recently, but I'm certainly going to be doing weekly Pythagorean reports starting Monday, and I'm going to try to be posting more than just those. I will, I think, have to start writing shorter here, rather than the long format which I'm more comfortable with. But I'm still here and still functional and still looking forward to the baseball season.

A couple of odds and ends:

- This Red Sox team has the potential to be not just a good team, but a great one. The top five in the batting order will be on base as much as any team's top five. There has been a lot of concern expressed about the bottom of the order - I'm not concerned. I expect good things from both Coco Crisp and Dustin Pedroia, and think that both Varitek and Lowell will be acceptable. All in all, they'll score a lot of runs.

- The pitching rotation will be good. The bullpen will be fine. The defense will be better than last year, with Pedroia an upgrade over Loretta and Lugo not a downgrade over Gonzalez. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth about the SS defense, and Lugo will certainly make more errors than Gonzalez did, but he'll also get to more balls, which no one in the media will notice.

- My prediction: The Red Sox win 97 games and the AL East. The Yankees win 93 and the AL Wild Card. The Blue Jays, Orioles and Devil Rays all will between 75 and 85 games.

- I haven't had a chance to follow things closely this spring, so I've no idea why Carl Pavano will be starting for the Yankees today. I know that Wang is hurt, but where's is Pettitte? Where is Mussina? Who else is in that starting rotation? They will score a ton of runs, but if Carl Pavano is starting on opening day, what does that say about the pitching?

- Early nomination for baseball quote of the year comes from The Baseball Crank last week: "The Hated Yankees have named Carl Pavano their Opening Day starter, I suppose on the theory that if they wait 4 more days he might not be available."

Play Ball!!

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