Monday, July 30, 2007

Monday Pythagorean - 7/30

As frustrating as yesterday was, 5-2 on the road is a good week. A very good week. And they picked up a game on the Yankees, despite NY having an easier schedule. That's a good thing.

  • It looks like only a half game, but one of the Yankee wins was a 2-inning conclusion to a game that they essentially won a month ago against the Orioles. The Red Sox went 5-2 on the week, the Yankees went 4-3. During the games played during the week.

  • Josh Beckett, in his last 3 starts, has gone 8 innings and allowed 2 runs, gone 8 innings and allowed 1 run, and gone 6 innings and allowed 3 runs. The worst of those three starts resulted in a "win" for Beckett, the other two resulted in "losses." I've said it before, I'll say it again - the idea of judging starting pitchers on won/loss record is just silly, and no one would ever propose it today if people hadn't been doing it for a hundred years.

  • This is another week with a big schedule advantage for the Yankees. Boston has three at home against Baltimore and three at Seattle. New York has six at home, against the White Sox and Royals. Frankly, the Red Sox shouldn't expect the Yankees to lose this week, so they really need to go 4-2, at least. But if they can get through the next nine with the lead at 6 or 7, they'll be in good shape, because this may be the worst 9-day stretch of the season from a comparative schedule point of view.


    BAL - 3CHW - 3

    @SEA - 3KC - 3

    @LAA - 3@TOR - 3

  • Pitching's been very good. Offense is starting to wake up. Still the best team in baseball. This is all good...

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/30/2007



New York5.68(2)4.56(7)0.599(2)63425649-7


Los Angeles5.09(5)4.5(5)0.555(4)574661424







Kansas City4.7(9)4.89(10)0.482(11)50544757-3



Tampa Bay4.69(10)6.33(14)0.367(14)386639651

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)

Los Angeles9666




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

Los Angeles9468



New York9072

Standings for the week





Los Angeles8.33(1)5.83(10)0.658(4)42420

New York6(3)4.57(5)0.622(5)43531

Kansas City5.14(9)4.43(4)0.568(6)43430







Tampa Bay3.33(13)6.67(13)0.22(13)15150


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Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday Pythagorean - 7/23

I said last week that 4-3 wouldn't be good enough. But that's what they did, and it wasn't. Losing three straight to the Royals and White Sox - at home - is a tremendous wasted opportunity. The Yankees gained 1 1/2 games. That can happen once in a while - if it happens consistently, the Red Sox will be looking up at them at the end of the year, and we'll have another epic blown season to talk about.

The lead is 7 1/2 this morning, and there is reason to think that it might get closer over the next few weeks. The Red Sox are on the road for 16 of the next 19, with 10 of those at the Indians, Angels and Mariners, the teams with the 3rd, 4th and 5th best records in baseball. Over that same stretch, the Yankees have got 7 with the Royals, 3 with the White Sox, 3 with the Orioles, 3 with the Blue Jays.

The Red Sox have got to find a way to keep the lead at 5 or more by the end of August 12...

  • Early in the year, they won all of the close games. Those things even out, as they've now demonstrated. On June 22, when they beat San Diego 2-1, that ran their record to 47-25, 22 games over .500. It also ran their record in one-run games to 13-6. Since then, they've played 10 one-run games, and lost 9 of them. Over the last four weeks, they're 5-10 in games decided by fewer than four runs, 2-10 in games decided by 1 or 2 runs. Over that same stretch, they're 6-2 in games decided by more than 3 runs. And that's how they've managed to go 11-13 while outscoring the opposition by 23 runs. Their Pythagorean says that they should have been 14-10 instead.

  • The good news is, of course, that things are extraordinarily unlikely to continue in that regard. They're still outscoring teams handily - if they continue to do that, they'll almost certainly have another stretch where they win the close games, and the record will improve again.

  • One of the things that continues to be a truism is that there's an exceptional amount of luck involved in the outcome of any single baseball game. Ugly swings fighting off good pitches can result in bloop doubles that just happen to fall in the right place. And a pitcher can make a bad pitch, and have it hammered, and caught. With the Red Sox down 3-2 in the 7th on Thursday night, Manny Ramirez crushed a ball to center field. 50 feet to the left, it's a double, and the game's at least tied. Two feet to the right, and it's into the bullpen for a 3-run homer. Manny starts that swing a couple of milliseconds later, the Red Sox have a 5-3 lead. But he didn't, and they end up losing.

  • Excepting balls and strikes, MLB umpires generally do a pretty good job. But they directly took two runs away from the Red Sox on Friday night, and one more on Saturday. And who knows how many indirectly, as both of those innings should have continued. I remain stunned that they got together, talked about it, and still missed Drew's HR. The ball bounced up, for crying out loud. It was clearly out, without even seeing the replay.

  • Jon Lester makes his return tonight. It's a great story, but I'd feel better about it if he'd been more dominant at Pawtucket. Tavarez has certainly struggled over his last few outings, though, so it's probably time.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/23/2007



New York5.65(2)4.56(7)0.597(2)58395146-7



Los Angeles4.89(6)4.42(4)0.546(5)534457404






Kansas City4.67(10)4.93(11)0.475(11)46514354-3



Tampa Bay4.78(9)6.31(14)0.375(14)376138601

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)



Los Angeles9567


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



Los Angeles9270

New York9072

Standings for the week


New York8.25(1)4.5(8)0.752(1)62620


Kansas City6.33(2)4.33(5)0.667(3)42420







Los Angeles3.67(9)4.83(10)0.376(10)24240


Tampa Bay5.86(4)8.14(14)0.354(12)25341



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Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday Pythagorean - 7/16

Short week in baseball, due to the All Star break. And I was at Karate camp over the weekend, so I saw very little of the limited action.

  • Boston 2-2 vs. Toronto. New York 3-1 vs. Tampa Bay. The lead is 9.

  • Apparently a frustrating weekend for the Red Sox. They scored a lot of runs, but didn't use them efficiently - they won two games by a total of 8 runs, lost 2 games by a total of 2 runs. They outscored the Blue Jays 22-16, but only split the series.

  • Seven games this week, all at home, hosting two of the four worst teams in the AL. This is the kind of schedule where 4-3 isn't really good enough.

  • Josh Beckett has several wins this year in games in which he did not pitch as well as in yesterday's loss. As if we needed more evidence of the silliness of judging starting pitchers on their win-loss records...

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/16/2007




New York5.42(2)4.57(5)0.578(3)51384544-6


Los Angeles4.97(6)4.4(3)0.556(5)514055364






Kansas City4.56(11)4.97(12)0.461(11)42493952-3



Tampa Bay4.69(10)6.16(14)0.378(14)345735561

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)

Los Angeles9864




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



Los Angeles9468


Standings for the week




Los Angeles5(5)3.67(2)0.638(3)21210

New York6(1)4.75(6)0.605(4)22311




Kansas City4.33(11)5(9)0.435(8)12120



Tampa Bay4.75(7)6(14)0.395(11)2213-1




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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Baseball's "Most Impressive" Records

Fantastic piece today from The Baseball Crank, talking about baseball's "most impressive" records. Obviously, any list of this sort is, by its very nature, subjective, but he clearly wasn't tossing darts. There's a lot of analysis, and justification of everything on the list. (For parochial Boston types, there are three Red Sox pitchers on the list, although you might not realize it on a first reading.) But it's the kind of fun list that works for baseball better than any of life's other diversions - I recommend it...

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Why We Fight

On September 9, 2001, HBO broadcast the first episode of its mini-series Band of Brothers. I know the date, because I was looking forward to the series, but wasn't going to be home on the night of its first airing - I was taking my family to Washington, DC, so I had set my VCR to record it. Based on the book by Stephen Ambrose, Band of Brothers tells the story of the 101st airborne, from training through D-day, Operation Market Garden, Bastogne and to the end of the war in Europe. The mini-series was extremely well done, and once again we were struck with the heroism that average men are capable of.

But the reason I mention it here is the title of the 9th episode. As the German war effort was collapsing, one of the things that the troops of the 101st airborne came across on their march into Germany was a concentration camp. Filled with starving, imprisoned Jews. Some alive. Some not.

The title of the episode is "Why We Fight."

The response of most of the civilized world, on discovering the magnitude of the evil that had taken place in Nazi Germany, was "never again." Never again would the world turns a blind eye to that kind of atrocity.

We have, of course, done it many times since. In the Soviet Union and China, in Cambodia and Vietnam, in Rwanda and Darfur. And, for many years, in Iraq. After 9/11, the President and the Congress made the decision that Iraq posed a threat to the United States that could no longer be ignored. I approved of that decision.

I still do. There is evil in the world, and if we don't fight it, who will? And, more to the point, if we don't stop it now, how many more will die before we realize that evil cannot be ignored or accommodated?

Why do we fight?

The New York Times thinks we shouldn't. They want to surrender Iraq to Al Qaeda, even as they acknowledge that it won't make anything better.
Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

That's what they say now. In 1998, they acknowledged that Iraq was considered an "architect of terrorism (1)." In 1998, they ran a column which said that "eliminating Saddam has always been, and remains the only way to end his threat of war and terrorism with weapons of hell (2)." With Bill Clinton in the White House, they said that "it has been hard enough to combat state-sponsored terrorism by countries like Iraq, Iran and Libya (3)." Different times, different President of a different party in power in the White House.

They want to surrender to the same people who are doing this, even while they're printing these stories on their news pages.
With their teacher absent, 10 students were allowed to leave school early. These were the girls the gunmen saw first, 10 easy targets...A 13-year-old named Shukria was hit in the arm and the back...As Zarmina scurried away, the men took a more studied aim at those they already had shot, killing Shukria with bullets to her stomach and heart. ...Six students were shot here on the afternoon of June 12, two of them fatally. The Qalai Sayedan School — considered among the very best in the central Afghan province of Logar — reopened only last weekend, but even with Kalashnikov-toting guards at the gate, only a quarter of the 1,600 students have dared to return. Shootings, beheadings, burnings and bombings: these are all tools of intimidation used by the Taliban and others to shut down hundreds of Afghanistan’s public schools. To take aim at education is to make war on the government.

They want to pretend that Iraq is a distraction, despite the fact that that's where Al Qaeda is now. Despite the fact that Al Qaeda acknowledges that Iraq is the central battlefield in the global jihad. The New York Times, apparently because it will be damaging to President Bush and the Republicans - there is no hint of a compelling benefit to the American national interest in their piece - wants to declare defeat and go home.

And leave the Iraqis at the mercy of the monsters who are killing people. Killing men. Killing women. Killing children. The American media, so quick to leap at allegations of American misconduct, have displayed significantly less interest in the behavior of those that we're fighting against, other than to ask what we've done to make them mad at us.

But there is reporting coming from Iraq. And it doesn't match what the mainstream press reports. Michael Yon is one of the people on the ground. He has been reporting from Iraq for much of the past three years, working with the US Military to understand the situation in country. He starts with an advantage over the Times - he doesn't assume that the US military is the source of all evil in the world. But he has certainly seen evil.

Is the following story true? I don't know. I know of no reason to doubt it. If you've got a weak stomach, you may want to skip the next passage, which is as revolting as anything I've ever read. It's a dispatch from Michael Yon, on July 5. Here's what he reported:
Speaking through an American interpreter, Lieutenant David Wallach who is a native Arabic speaker, the Iraqi official related how al Qaeda united these gangs who then became absorbed into “al Qaeda.” They recruited boys born during the years 1991, 92 and 93 who were each given weapons, including pistols, a bicycle and a phone (with phone cards paid) and a salary of $100 per month, all courtesy of al Qaeda. These boys were used for kidnapping, torturing and murdering people.

At first, he said, they would only target Shia, but over time the new al Qaeda directed attacks against Sunni, and then anyone who thought differently. The official reported that on a couple of occasions in Baqubah, al Qaeda invited to lunch families they wanted to convert to their way of thinking. In each instance, the family had a boy, he said, who was about 11 years old. As LT David Wallach interpreted the man’s words, I saw Wallach go blank and silent. He stopped interpreting for a moment. I asked Wallach, “What did he say?” Wallach said that at these luncheons, the families were sat down to eat. And then their boy was brought in with his mouth stuffed. The boy had been baked. Al Qaeda served the boy to his family.

I've been stewing on this since I first read it. It made me physically ill. But then, so do many of the stories of the holocaust that I've read. And that's the point I want to make.

This is why we fight.

There is an enemy out there. They want to kill us. They don't want to live in a world with us. And retreating back to our borders won't change that. Is a group that is willing to behave that way in order to gain power going to be satisfied with ruling in Iraq? There is a threat to the United States - there is a threat to civilization. Pulling out of Iraq and leaving it to the likes of Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri solves nothing, accomplishes nothing, promotes the interests of the United States and the civilized world not a whit.

We are in a war against evil. There is a real enemy that we face.

We must win.

This is why we fight.

1 - Broad, W., Miller, J., (Dec 28, 1998), The Threat of Germ Weapons is Rising. Fear, Too., New York Times, pg. WK1

2 - What We Can't Do, A.M. ROSENTHAL. New York Times. New York, N.Y.: Nov 20, 1998. ; p. A33 (1 page)

3 - Taking On the Terrorists, New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Aug 22, 1998. ; p. A14 (1 page)

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Monday Pythagorean - 7/9

Pretty good beginning to the week seemingly wasted by the lost weekend. 4-3 isn't awful, isn't great.

  • There's a cry starting to build in certain quarters that the Red Sox are frauds. "They started hot," the storyline goes, "against lousy, injured teams, but they can't play with the good teams like the Tigers and Angels." They did lose three in Detroit this weekend with their 5th and 6th starters making two of the starts, and Matsuzaka having his first rough outing in a month, and a journeyman minor leaguer getting his first two Major League appearances starting at first, but that drops them to 3-4 against the Tigers this year. They're 3-0 against the Angels.

  • Here's the bottom line. BaseballProspectus runs "Adjusted Standings" in which they adjust for competition, actual performance in terms of runs scored and allowed and component runs scored and allowed. We hit the All Star break with the Red Sox having a .635 third-order winning percentage, far and away the best in baseball. They're tied with the Angels for most wins, tied with the Tigers for fewest losses, and they have the best winning percentage in the game. They've been struggling with injuried themselves for the past few weeks, and they still hit the All Star break with the best record in the game. And they come out of the break with an 11 game home stand against one sub-.500 division competitor, and two of the worst teams in the league.

  • The Prospectus also runs simulations of the remaining scheduled games, producing play-off odds reports for every team. The Red Sox, at over 97%, are far and away the most likely team to be playing post-season baseball.

  • None of that means, of course, that there aren't concerns. They have not hit well, as a team. Particularly, they haven't hit for power with runners on. Which means that they don't get big innings. They've left a ton of runners on, which doesn't bother me, though there are people ranting about it on WEEI. Runners left on is a good statistic, because it means that you're getting runners on base. But they do need to do a better job scoring. They're 4th in the league in runs scored, and, given that they're 1st in OBP and 3rd in SLG, they ought to be better.

  • Ramirez, Ortiz and Drew have combined to hit 31 HR. I would have bet they'd be at 50 by now. Those three, the "murderer's row" three-four-five that we were salivating about have hit a combined .286/.397/.474/.872 through the All Star break. That's not awful, but it's nowhere near what we expected, and, combined with Crisp's awful start and Lugo's dreadful stretch, they've generally had mediocre production from the great hitters in the middle of the lineup, and a couple of automatic outs at the end. I expected better, and still do.

  • The Red Sox have 75 games remaining. 18 of them are against teams that currently have a winning record. The cumulative winning percentage of their opponents is .476, which translates to a 77-85 record over 162. Something catastrophic in terms of injuries would have to happen for this team to miss the playoffs. If they go 37-38 the rest of the way, they'll finish at 90-72. To tie them, New York would have to got 48-29. Toronto would have to go 47-28. Neither of those is likely. Neither is the Red Sox going 37-38 against the remainder of their schedule...

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/9/2007




New York5.4(2)4.56(5)0.577(3)49364243-7


Los Angeles4.97(7)4.42(3)0.553(5)493953354






Kansas City4.57(11)4.97(12)0.462(11)41473850-3



Tampa Bay4.69(10)6.17(14)0.377(14)335434531

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)


Los Angeles9864



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


Los Angeles9468



Standings for the week


New York7(2)3.43(1)0.787(1)6152-1


Kansas City7.5(1)4.33(5)0.732(3)42420









Los Angeles3.5(12)6.83(12)0.227(12)15241


Tampa Bay4.14(10)8.71(14)0.204(14)16160

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Reuters: Innuendo good. Reporting... not so much

The storyline. That's the thing. Feed the storyline.

The media has been just enthralled with the idea that the removal of political appointees, and their replacement with other political appointees, somehow constitutes a grand scandal, since it's a Republican adminstration that did it. The storyline was promoted again in a Reuters piece on Friday.

An assistant attorney general at the Justice Department announced her resignation on Friday, becoming the seventh official to quit the department since the Democratic-led Congress launched an investigation in March into the firing of nine federal prosecutors. Rachel Brand, assistant attorney general for legal policy, said she would step down on July 9. No reason was given.

Sounds pretty suspicious, doesn't it? Pretty sinister? Just more fuel on the fire that is the scandal of the President exercising his power to appoint and remove federal prosecutors.

But maybe, if they'd actual done some investigation and research, they could have reported it differently. At, Ed Whelan has some relevant information:

To anyone who knows Rachel, that news would hardly come as a big surprise. With the exception of a one-year Supreme Court clerkship, she’s toiled tirelessly in the Bush Administration since January 2001, first in the Office of White House Counsel, then in OLP. She became head of OLP in July 2005, just in time for the exhausting work of preparing Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito for their confirmation hearings. I recall hearing from Rachel a year or so ago that she wasn’t planning to stay in the Administration for the remainder of President Bush’s second term. The timing of her decision to step down was plainly dictated by the fact that she’s due to give birth to her first child in August.

Hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good smear, right?

Simul-posted at Newsbusters...

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Monday Pythagorean - 7/2



1-5 on the week, including two 2-1 losses and a 2-1 win. Over the last three days, they've scored 7 runs against one of the two worst pitching staff's in the AL. That follows the disaster series in Seattle, where they got swept, and the only game of the week in which they scored more than 4 runs resulted in an 8-7 loss.

  • On May 26, the Red Sox beat Texas 7-4 to move to 33-15, 18 games over .500. Yesterday's 2-1 loss drops them to 49-31, 18 games over .500. The team that everyone knew wasn't going to have a prolonged bad stretch because the offense and pitching were too good has now play .500 ball for over a month, going 16-16 over their last 32.

  • And they are 13-16 in their last 29.

  • They're struggling because of the offense. Right now, they're on a pace to score 770 runs. In their last 29 games, over which stretch they've played .448 baseball, the Red Sox have had the 3rd best pitching in the AL. They've also had the second-worst offense. So much for "it's all about the pitching."

  • The pitching over that stretch has been mostly very good. Matuzaka has started 6 games with a 2.72 ERA, and he's 2-3. Tavarez has started 6 with a 3.03 ERA, and he's 2-3. Beckett wasn't good Saturday, but his other 5 starts were. Wakefield's been Wakefield, a couple bad, a couple good. More bad than good in this stretch, with his ERA at 6. Schilling had a great start followed by two bad ones and a trip to the DL. Gabbard was bad in Seattle. But, for the most part, the starters were good, averaging over 6 innings per start with a 4.39 ERA. They had an 8 ER start from Wakefield and 4 6ER starts, but the starters allowed 3 ER or fewer in 18 of the 29 games, and they won 13.

  • The bullpen has been excellent. Almost 3 IP/g with an ERA of 2.76. On the whole, the pitching's been very good.

  • The offense, on the other hand...hasn't. They've outscored the White Sox and no one else. The strange thing is, when you look at what everyone's done over that stretch, there isn't an obvious reason why. No one other than Pedroia's been on fire, but they've had large stretches of the lineup hit fairly well. Pedroia, Youkilis, Ortiz, Ramirez, Drew, Varitek and Crisp have combined to hit .305/.396/.462, which is very good. But they haven't hit a lot of HR, and the lineup has been dysfunctional - they aren't putting innings together at all. Part of the reason is that everyone else, Lowell, Lugo, Mirabelli, the extras and the pitchers, are hitting a combined .188/.244/.315, which is abysmal. And that represents about 35% of the team's at-bats. Because they've played so many games in NL parks, and Lugo's been so bad, and Lowell's struggled since he hurt his wrist, they've always had a near-automatic out to stifle potential innings.

  • The other thing is this - they've had bad timing or bad luck. Using Bill James Runs Created stat, they've actually, as a team, created 138 runs over the last 29 games. But they've only scored 117. So they're failing to take advantage of the actual offense that they're creating. That's unlikely to continue.

  • The astounding thing is, as bad as this stretch of baseball has been, they've lost all of 1 game off their lead in the AL East. They were 11 1/2 up on May 29, they're 10 1/2 up this morning. There's no one in the division playing any better than they are.

  • As bad a stretch as this has been, if they win tonight, they finish the first half of their schedule on a pace for exactly 100 wins.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/2/2007




Los Angeles5.07(5)4.24(3)0.581(3)483451313



New York5.25(3)4.66(9)0.555(6)43353741-6






Kansas City4.35(13)5.01(12)0.436(12)36463448-2


Tampa Bay4.74(9)5.95(14)0.397(14)324833471

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Los Angeles10161





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

Los Angeles9765




Standings for the week


Kansas City4.67(6)2.33(1)0.78(1)5142-1










Los Angeles3.83(9)5.67(13)0.328(11)24240


New York2.83(13)5.33(12)0.239(13)15140

Tampa Bay2.57(14)4.86(10)0.238(14)2507-2

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