Thursday, August 30, 2007

Next year's restroom arrest

From the "gosh, I wish I'd written that" files - the Smoking Gun of the future.
While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my right was still present. This did not seem to deter the suspect. He began to whistle. Means-testing! I knew I had to take action. I slid my party credential under the divider and pointed to the exit. When suspect tried to leave I handcuffed him and placed him against the wall.

Suspect denied all charges and claimed he was really soliciting homosexual sex. He was immediately released.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

John Edwards - the empiest of empty suits

John Edwards, demonstrating, once again, that his is the emptiest of empty suits.
Edwards criticized the federal government for under-funding special education. He also criticized the 5-year-old law, calling it a bad measure of how much children are learning. Children don't learn anything from taking tests, like those mandated by the law, he said.

That is, of course, poppycock. Children learn from taking tests. They learn how to perform in various situations, they learn the material better in preparing for assessment, they are exposed to it again in taking the assessment.

But even if they weren't learning from taking the tests, how else are you going to assess what, or whether, they are learning? And if we aren't assessing student learning, how do we know whether the schools are working or not? Lord Kelvin's dictum is relevant here.
I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of Science, whatever the matter may be
- Sir William Thomson, Lord Kelvin

Or the shorter, pithier version - "If you can not measure it, you can not improve it." How can we know how to, or even if we need to, improve our educational system if we don't know how it's performing? And how do we measure its performance if not by finding out what the children in it have learned?

Contrast the wisdom of that with more from Edwards:
"I borrowed this line from a friend of mine who's from the South, but the way he says it is, 'a hog doesn't get fatter by weighing it,'" Edwards said.

But when you weigh it, you find out whether it's getting fatter or not, and can adjust your hog-fattening techniques accordingly. If you don't weigh it, you're just guessing. (Of course Edwards got rich by encouraging juries to just guess on whether or not doctors had caused birth defects, so one can understand his enthusiasm for the technique. That doesn't mean that the rest of us should be buying it...)

(H/T - The Baseball Crank)

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday Pythagorean - 8/27

"They need to have another 5+ win week. They haven't done it in a while, and this is the week to do it."
- Me, last week.

Do it they did. In stunning fashion, assisted tremendously by the Chicago White Sox, who appear to be waiting for their tee times. The one loss of the week was by one run - the wins were, on the whole, by much bigger margins.

  • It's very rare, over the course of seven games, to see the Pythagorean say that a team should be undefeated. I don't remember ever actually seeing it before. That's how dominant the weekend in Chicago was - the Red Sox went 6-1 on the week and underperformed their Pythagorean winning percentage.

  • Apparently, the Red Sox streak of four straight games scoring in double-digits is the first such streak for the team since 1950. I suspect that this team won't follow up the way that one did, however. From June 2-June 5, 1950, the Red Sox scored 11, 11, 17 and 12. They lost their next game, scoring only four, and then did something almost unimaginable. They beat the St. Louis Browns 20-4 on the 7th and then beat them 29-4 on the 8th, setting the single game record that Texas broke this week. So over the course of 7 games, they scored 104 runs, almost 15 runs per game - for a week!

  • How bad was Chicago's pitching? Texas not only scored 30 runs in a game, setting a new AL record, they scored 9 in the second game of that double-header. And the Red Sox still outscored the Rangers on the week.

  • When I did this report 5 weeks ago, on July 23, the lead was 7 1/2 games over the Yankees. And I pointed out that "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." It did get closer, and the Yankee trolls went into a frenzy about the Red Sox "collapse," and how the Yankees were going to go sailing past them on their way to the division crown. But funny what's happened now that New York has started playing real competition again - their numbers aren't quite as prolific, the pitching that they're getting is not quite as good, and now they're 5-5 in their last 10, and the lead is ... 7 1/2. That's right - the Yankees have made up 0 games in the last 5 weeks. And that's with Eric Gagne turning 3 Red Sox wins into Red Sox losses.

  • There's still a perception that the Red Sox were great early and have been a .500 team since. Actually, they're nine games over .500 since the All Star break, the second best record in the AL. And they've got the best Pythagorean winning percentage in the league over that span. The Red Sox have underperformed by 3 and the Yankees have overperformed by 2, so New York's got a better actual record. If Gagne hadn't blown those three games, the Red Sox record would match their Pythagorean, and they'd have the best AL record since the All Star Break. This team isn't an illusion - it is legitimately the best team in baseball, and has been all year. The Detroit Tigers, who swept Boston just before the break, who many people were talking about being the best team in baseball, and evidence that Boston "can't beat the good teams," is 18-26 over that period, and should be 17-27 - the Red Sox are 27-17, and should be 30-14.

  • There's been a lot of (justified) concern about the offense. The last few days have skewed that a little bit, but they've outscored everyone in baseball other than the Yankees since the break. For the season, the Yankees, Tigers and Phillies are the only teams that have scored more runs than the Red Sox.

  • If the Yankees win their next 4, they'll go into the weekend exactly where they were a week ago, four games back. The Red Sox will be in first place next Monday no matter what happens this week.

  • The Red Sox magic number is 25. Any combination of Red Sox wins and Yankee losses totalling 25 results in the Red Sox clinching the AL East. (Or at least clinching a better record than the Yankees.)

  • The Red Sox have reached the point were they don't need to play .500 to win 95 games - 15-16 the rest of the way does it.

  • The Baseball Prospectus play-off odds report has the Red Sox at 97.5% winning the east and 99.8% making the play-offs.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/27/2007



New York5.96(1)4.75(7)0.602(2)78527258-6

Los Angeles5.06(4)4.48(5)0.555(3)725876544









Kansas City4.53(11)4.84(9)0.47(12)61685772-4


Tampa Bay4.62(8)5.95(14)0.386(14)508051791

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)

Los Angeles9567


New York9072


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

Los Angeles9468

New York9171



Standings for the week







Tampa Bay6.14(5)5.14(8)0.581(6)43430

Los Angeles5.57(6)5.43(10)0.512(7)43430

New York6.67(3)7.17(12)0.467(8)3324-1




Kansas City3.5(12)5(6)0.342(12)24240



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Monday, August 20, 2007

Monday Pythagorean - 8/20

Red Sox 4-3. Yankees 4-3. Similar schedules. Advantage goes to the team ahead, which is Boston.

  • They need to have another 5+ win week. They haven't done it in a while, and this is the week to do it.

  • There was a long debate in the Red Sox usenet group just over a year ago about the Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena trade. There were some people who looked at two months of stats from each of the two players and were willing to declare the traded a disaster. Others of us thought that the trade was risky but made sense. But the key point that I kept trying to make was that I evaluated the trade at the time it was made, based on the information available at the time, and wouldn't change my opinion of whether the trade made sense or not based on how it turned out.

    The Eric Gagne trade made sense. It has also, almost certainly, cost them three games directly in the standings. They need to have him pitch well in the post-season on the way to a World Series win for that trade not to turn out disastrously. The trade made sense, it was a good trade, but wow, has it turned out badly so far.

  • Some people are more concerned about the offense than they were before. I'm feeling better about it. Yesterday was frustrating, but they've started to put some pressure on teams late in games, which they really haven't done much this season. This wasn't a great week for the offense, but they were facing some good pitching, too. Somehow, they always end up with Kazmir when they play Tampa, as they will again tonight. But they kept grinding, and took leads late, which they weren't doing earlier.

  • There's a perception that the Red Sox got out to a hot start and have been treading water since then. That's not really true. Over the last 13 weeks, they've had the second-best pythagorean in the AL (behind NY). They've had the 5th best offense and 2nd best pitching/defense. They have underperformed by 3 games so they've played 44-37 (an 88-win pace) instead of 47-34 (a 94-win pace.)

  • But it really is time to start playing better, again.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/20/2007


New York5.93(1)4.64(8)0.61(1)76487054-6


Los Angeles5.03(4)4.43(5)0.558(3)695472513








Kansas City4.58(9)4.83(9)0.475(11)58655568-3



Tampa Bay4.54(11)6(14)0.375(14)467747761

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)

Los Angeles9567


New York9171


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

Los Angeles9468

New York9369



Standings for the week




Kansas City5(3)3.43(5)0.666(3)5243-1






New York5(3)5.43(11)0.462(9)34431


Los Angeles3.57(10)4.71(10)0.376(11)34340



Tampa Bay2.17(14)3.83(8)0.26(14)24240

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Monday Pythagorean - 8/13


Some weeks, these little reports are a lot more fun than others. This week falls into that category of "others."

I say again, ugh.

2-4 on the week, as the Yankee rampage continues. The lead, seven when the week started, is down to four.


  • The most frustrating part of the lost weekend in Baltimore is the way that they lost those two games. All season long, the bullpen has been one of the real strengths of the team. They've absolutely shut people down. Now, with the acquisition of Eric Gagne at the trade deadline, they've gone ahead and strengthened it. Theoretically. The fact is, they almost certainly win both of those games if they hadn't made the trade. The big mid-season trade to put them over the top has directly cost them two games in the standings in the last three days.

  • Meanwhile, that team in the Bronx has continued to thrash the lesser teams, and is now moving on to beating up better teams that are struggling. Cleveland scored 6 runs in 3 days against the Yankees. Great New York pitching? Well, they'd only scored 19 in the previous 6 games, one of which went 13 innings, so they were already cold. And pathetic.

  • Once again, we listened to a game where Joe Castiglione and Dave O'Brien talked about how it felt more comfortable than it was, how the Red Sox had lots of base-runners but not much to show for them. They continue to significantly underperform their statistics. Using Bill James' Runs Created formula, they've created 636 runs so far, but only scored 603. The Yankees have created 698 and scored 700. They've definitely done a better job reaching base than scoring.

  • Despite the ugliness of the weekend, and the willingness of some to throw their hands up in despair, the race isn't over, and they haven't lost it. They're coming off their toughest stretch of the season, with 16 of the last 19 on the road, and the schedule is definitely in their favor now. They just have to play better.

  • It doesn't help, of course, that now they finally get a series against the Devil Rays and the Ray's best two pitchers are matched up against the weak spots in the Boston rotation. Would anyone be shocked to see them shut down by Shields tonight or Kazmir tomorrow? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

    I didn't think so...

  • For the first time since May, they need to actually win some games this week to maintain first place.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/13/2007


New York5.98(1)4.59(6)0.619(1)72456651-6


Los Angeles5.12(4)4.41(4)0.568(3)665069473








Kansas City4.55(11)4.91(10)0.465(11)54625165-3



Tampa Bay4.66(8)6.11(14)0.378(14)447345721

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)

Los Angeles9666


New York9171


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

Los Angeles9567

New York9468



Standings for the week


Los Angeles6.67(3)3.5(2)0.765(1)51510


New York6.67(3)4.5(5)0.672(3)42511




Tampa Bay4.71(9)4.71(6)0.5(7)4334-1



Kansas City2.67(13)3.17(1)0.422(10)33330





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Friday, August 10, 2007


Among the things that people tend to enjoy at karate demonstrations are the breaks. But there is frequently a question as to what exactly is the point? In the Bruce Lee classic Enter The Dragon, Lee looks at someone who breaks a board and says, contemptuously, "boards don't hit back." Some look at that and think it makes sense - why would you bother?

We bother because it teaches us to do techniques with power, focus, and correct form. There's only so much that you can learn from throwing a punch at the air, or a bag. You don't know what your technique is worth if you haven't broken something with it.
When you try the speed and strength your daily training has given you in breaking boards, tiles or bricks, you are doing more than just measuring your own ability; you are also giving yourself a chance to reflect on the effects your training has had on both your mind and your body. When you seee for yourself that you can break these objects, you know that your body is possessed of the speed and strength you were striving for. A karate that ignores breaking practice is no more useful than a fruit tree that bears no fruit.

- Masutatsu Oyama, What is Karate?

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The last to win 300?

A couple of pieces of media commentary:

More than likely, [X] will be the last 300-game winner
When [X] wins his next game -- which might be in his next start... -- that's probably going to be it. When [X] wins his next game, whenever that is, in all likelihood you're looking at the last 300-game winner.

[Y] Could Be Last Man To Reach 300-Win Mark
One of the more intriguing questions about [Y]'s 300th victory is whether the milestone ever will be reached again...It never has been tougher to win 300. Pitchers seldom get more than 35 starts because of the five-man rotation (consider that Old Hoss Radbourn was 60-12 in 73 starts for Providence in 1884); 20-game winners are decreasing (15 in 1969, three in 1989); increasingly, rules favor the hitters; and the amount of money commanded these days by a pitcher talented enough to win 300 is a disincentive to stay in the game long enough to accomplish it.

Current comments inspired by Tom Glavine's milestone victory the other night? Well, they could be. There has certainly been a lot of commentary to that effect. But no, neither quote is about Glavine.

X is Greg Maddux. John Donovan of SI wrote that just three years ago. No, Greg Maddux wasn't the last to win 300.

Y is Nolan Ryan. That piece ran in the Omaha World-Herald in August of 1990. At the time, Roger Clemens had 109 wins. Maddux had 52. Glavine had 29.

Meanwhile, Randy Johnson is just 16 away, one good season's worth of wins. Does anyone really think he's walking away this winter? No chance. If Barry Zito averages 15 for the next 5 years, he becomes a 35-year old with 200 wins. He won't have a chance?

In my opinion, it's a silly argument to make. There have NEVER been a lot of 300 game winners. And, while it's true that current pitching usage - 5 man rotations, pitch counts and bullpen specialists - make it harder to accumulate large win totals in a single season, those same factors, along with medical advances, also make it more likely that good pitchers will be capable of having longer careers.

And the money argument, in my opinion, is totally backwards. Many of us love the idea of being set for life and retiring from jobs that we don't love. Professional athletes are where they are because they're ultra-competitive. Many, if not most, do not walk away just because they've got enough - they need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, away from the game. With the money as a scorecard metric, that's just more incentive to keep going.

But when Johnson wins his 300th, in August of '08 or June of '09, bet big bucks that we'll see the same stories again. And when it happens again, in 12 years or 30, we'll see them again...

UPDATE: I meant to link to this post from the Baseball Crank the other day. He's looked at the average victory pace for 300-game winners, and identified the current pitchers who are at least close to it. Lots of good information, and emphasizes the silliness of supposing Glavine (and Maddux and Ryan) to be the last...

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Monday Pythagorean - 8/6

Another 4-2 week. This time, the Yankees made up a game by going 5-1. The lead stands at 7 with 51 left to play. The magic number is 45.

  • Two weeks ago, I talked about the schedule, and how they were entering a 3-week span which had the Red Sox on the road for 16 of 19 against the iron of the AL, while the Yankees were playing the Little Sisters of the Poor. 2/3 of the way through that stretch, the lead has dropped by 1/2 game. I said that they needed to "find a way to keep the lead at 5 or more by the end of August 12." If they go 4-2 this week, that guarantees they'll have done it, regardless of what the Yankees do.

  • Schilling's back tonight, and, from all indications, as good as new. That's a boost. They got great work from Kason Gabbard, but they managed to sell high, and they're much better off with a healthy Schilling in that spot.

  • I also pointed out two weeks ago that they were still scoring runs, just not efficiently using them, and that it was unlikely to continue. Since then, they're 9-4, matching their Pythagorean of 9-4. After losing 9-of-10 in one-run games, they've won 3-of-4.

  • When people were writing off the Yankees back in May, I kept saying that it was a mistake.

    It's never over until it's over (ask the 2004 Yankees about that) and this isn't over, and won't be for a while. The Yankees have got too much talent to continue to flounder this way.


    Why am I still focused on the Yankees, when they're behind Baltimore and Toronto? Beyond the fact that they are the Yankees, I still believe them to be the 2nd best team in the division."


    But they're still a very good team, as I pointed out while the yahoos were declaring the race over three weeks ago. It wasn't over then, and it's not over now."


    Right now, New York is tied with Seattle, 1/2 game behind Wild-Card leader Detroit, and has to be considered heavy favorites to make the post-season yet again. I don't think that they'll catch Boston, but I do think that Boston and New York are both playing October baseball again this year.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/6/2007



New York5.95(1)4.59(7)0.616(2)68436150-7


Los Angeles5.04(5)4.46(5)0.555(4)614964463







Kansas City4.65(8)5.01(11)0.466(11)51594862-3



Tampa Bay4.65(8)6.2(14)0.372(14)416942681

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)

Los Angeles9468



New York8973

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

Los Angeles9369

New York9270



Standings for the week


New York10.67(1)5.17(10)0.79(1)51510




Los Angeles4.29(6)3.86(5)0.548(5)4334-1




Tampa Bay4(8)4(6)0.5(9)33330





Kansas City3.83(9)7(13)0.249(14)15150

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