Friday, May 30, 2008

The Dentist

In memory of Harvey Korman, and because it's Friday, here's a clip from the "they don't make 'em like that anymore" files...

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why we homeschool, part 689,774

Another lovely public school story from Florida: St. Lucie teacher has students vote on whether 5-year-old can stay in class
Melissa Barton said she is considering legal action after her son's kindergarten teacher led his classmates to vote him out of class. After each classmate was allowed to say what they didn't like about Barton's 5-year-old son, Alex, his Morningside Elementary teacher said they were going to take a vote, Barton said. By a 14 to 2 margin, the class voted him out of the class...Barton said after the vote, Alex's teacher asked him how he felt.

"He said, 'I feel sad,'" she said.

In modern American schools, frequently kids cannot play games in which score is kept. They can't play tag at recess, there are no such things as "winners" and "losers." Which is wrong - children need to learn how do deal with disappointment and failure and keep going. It is an essential part of life, and the successful people, in the end, aren't the ones who don't fail [there aren't any] - they're the ones who fail and keep going.

But this is just obscene. I doubt whether the teacher can even be fired, but (always assuming that the story is correct) jailed would be more appropriate. There is no excuse, there is no way to justify this. There's a certain amount of abuse that some children will take from other children, and it's never pleasant, but it's something people need to learn to live with. To support this abuse, to ratify it and give it the stamp of institutional authority is to inflict unspeakable damage on a five-year old. It is not just thoughtless, it is cruel.


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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Baseball trivia


The Baseball Crank, playing with Baseball-Reference's Play Index, came up with a trivia question this morning: "11 Hall of Fame pitchers have had a season with an ERA of 5.00 or higher in enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. One of those did it twice in his career. Name him."
(The whole list is here.)

I didn't get it (nor did I really expect to). But it, and the comments, started me thinking about a couple of things.

League Context

One commenter noted that, "I was amazed at how many times Eckersley showed up in the 4.00 - 5.00 range"

That, it seems to me, is largely a function of league context. Eckersley pitched in the 1980s and 1990s, and it was a lot easier to put up a 5.00 ERA in the AL in the 1980s than it was to put up a 5.00 in the NL in the 1960s. (There were 7 pitchers who qualified for ERA titles with an ERA of 5+ in the NL from 1960-1969 - there were 23 pitchers who qualified for ERA titles with an ERA of 5+ in the AL from 1980-1989. From 1990-1999, when Eckersley was still pitching, there were 68 AL pitchers qualifying for ERA titles with ERAs of 5.00 or more, including 8 pitchers over 6.00.) If you account for context by sorting on ERA+ rather than ERA, you see that Eckersley's 1983 season, the 3rd worst by ERA for a Hall of Fame pitcher, drops down to 8th. And Eckersley is currently the only Hall of Fame pitcher who spent any significant amount of time as a starter (thus qualifying for the ERA title) whose career started after 1966. Eckersley made his debut in 1975, nine years after Don Sutton and Nolan Ryan. Eckersley is the only current Hall of Famer whose career spans the 1980s and 1990s. (Obviously, Clemens, Maddux and Glavine will join him, eventually.)

Below average pitching seasons from HoF pitchers

So, just out of curiousity, I decided to see how many below average pitching seasons were compiled by Hall of Fame pitchers.

There have been 136 seasons with an ERA+ of 99 or less, and enough innings pitched to qualify for the ERA title, compiled by pitchers who are currently in the Hall of Fame. Four of them are Dennis Eckersley's, which is tied with 7 others - Catfish Hunter, Chief Bender, Gaylord Perry, Herb Pennock, Robin Roberts, Rube Marquard and Vic Willis. Nolan Ryan and Burleigh Grimes each had five below-average seasons. Red Ruffing and Pud Galvin had six each. Don Sutton had seven. And Early Wynn did it eight times in 23 seasons.

Early Wynn (and Bert Blyleven)

Which raises another question - how did Early Wynn get into the Hall of Fame? Well, the answer to that, I think, is pretty straightforward. He won exactly 300 games, one of the magic numbers that gets players inducted. And certainly, there's tremendous value to being able to pitch for 23 seasons, even if over 1/3 of them were below average. Just looking at the numbers (and that's pretty much all I can do, since his last season was the year I was born), he doesn't look like a great pitcher. He looks like a good pitcher for a long time. But consider these lines:

Pitcher Comparison

Pitcher A3002446916124564429120371796338177523341.313.543.771071.329

Pitcher B2872506926854970463220291830430132237012.803.313.91181.198

These were both long, productive careers. But pitcher B allowed fewer runs in more innings, had more strikeouts and fewer walks, and compiled a better raw ERA in tougher run prevention environments, for a significantly better ERA+. Pitcher A is Hall of Famer Early Wynn. Pitcher B is the guy that the BBWAA has not yet inducted, Bert Blyleven. The only real advantage that Wynn has is in wins and losses, and that is far more likely to be a result of team performance rather than pitching performance. Wynn pitched for teams that finished with an average record of 82-73, a .530 winning percentage. Blyleven pitched for teams that averaged 80-78, a .507 winning percentage. Wynn's .551 winning percentage exceeds his team's winning percentage by 4.2%, while Blyleven's .534 exceeds his team's winning percentage by 5.4%.

This did not, by the way, start out as another "Bert Blyleven should be in the Hall of Fame" argument. It just ended up there... ;-)

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Bozell on Caspian and Lewis

Brent Bozell has piece on Prince Caspian in which he makes some comparisons and points that I've made before, particularly on the relative success of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and The Golden Compass.
Before any of the “Caspian” box office figures came in, [Richard] Corliss asked in Time magazine: “Can God make one movie franchise a hit and another a flop?” It’s quite clear that “The Golden Compass” flopped badly. It debuted last December to a seriously disappointing first-weekend gross of $25 million, and finished its sorry American run with only $70 million. No sequel is expected for that God-killing trilogy. Meanwhile, “The Lion, the Witch, the Wardrobe” grossed $291 million in the U.S., and “Prince Caspian” is off to a soaring launch, and the third Narnia installment, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” is already slated for release in May 2010.

As I said at the time, "it should not surprise anyone that a work whose fundamental premise demonstrates contempt for the deeply held beliefs of a large portion of its target audience fails to achieve financial success."

I agree with Bozell on this, obviously. But then he goes into the content of the Narnia books, and Lewis' intentions, and I think makes some serious mistakes.

Was “Caspian” toned down from the book? Yes, perhaps because there are bureaucrats in Hollywood who still presume that explicit faith is a commercial problem. When the first Narnia film came out late in 2005, Disney publicity executive Dennis Rice rushed to distance the film from Christianity. “We believe we have not made a religious movie,” he told the Washington Times. “It's just a great piece of cinema that is true to a great piece of literature.”

That statement surely would have horrified the author.

First, if Prince Caspian was toned down, I confess that I missed it. There is no explicit theology in the book, only the presence of Aslan. Once one associates Aslan with Christ, one sees some theology in the book, but it's all there in the movie as well. The explicit Christian doctrine from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, is, of course, the sacrifice and resurrection of Aslan. Does someone want to argue that that was toned down? I don't think so.

As to the quote from the executive, far from horrifying Lewis, I think he would have agreed with it happily. Lewis did not think of the Narnia books as being, as they are frequently called, "Christian allegory." They were children's stories, written to entertain. He wasn't writing explicit Christian stories, he was preparing a "mission field" as it were, so that children might be more receptive to the Christian message when they were later exposed to it. In 1938, he noted that the response of the critics to Out of the Silent Planet demonstrated ignorance of its Christian themes and subtexts. He later wrote to a friend that "I think that this great ignorance might be a help to the evangelisation of England; any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people's minds under cover of romance without their knowing it1."

As longtime Lewis friend and biographer George Sayer wrote about the Narnia stories (emphasis mine),
the main theme of the stories is the conflict between good and evil; characters such as the white witch represent the forces of evil. The stories are not meant to teach Christian doctrine. They are written first as stories that children could wholeheartedly enjoy, and secondly as stories in which some of the imaginary episodes rather resemble the true events of the Christian faith. He did not want the resemblances to be pointed out by adults, nor even did he expect them to be noticed by more than a few children. His hope was that when, at an older age, the child came into contact with the real truths of Christianity, he or she would find these truths easier to accept because of reading with pleasure and accepting stories with similar themes years before.

Bozell goes on to say that
Religious people will sense a strong religious undercurrent in “Caspian.” Even toned down, the plot echoes the Acts of the Apostles, and how those early believers could have faith in Jesus after His ascension to Heaven. The religious themes are re-organized so that only the little girl Lucy sees Aslan and trusts he will eventually aid the children. That’s unlike the book, where all four of the Pevensie children, those kings and queens of Narnia – Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy – each meet with Aslan in their walk of faith.

That's just wrong. The storyline of the movie did not exactly follow the storyline of the book, but these two things are true of both: Lucy saw Aslan and the others did not believe her, and they all saw, and walked with, Aslan before the story ended. If you begin without the preconceived notion that Aslan represents Christ, you see substantially the same story and themes from the book and the movie. And if you begin with the preconceived notion that Aslan represents Christ, you see substantially the same story and themes from the book and the movie. While the movie-makers padded the story, they were faithful to the themes and "feel" of the book2.

1 - Letter to Sister Penelope, C.S.M.V, July 9, 1939

2 - Faithfulness to the "feel" of the book is, I think, debatable. The books are more "intimate" than the movies so far, but it's difficult to portray the battle in the book, short though it is on the printed page, and maintain that intimacy. Faithfulness to the themes is less debatable.

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Monday Pythagorean, 5/29/2008

4 straight wins, 3 straight losses. It's like the old statistics joke - with your head in the oven and feet in the freezer you are, on average, comfortable. Great followed by horrible makes a mediocre week.

  • Mediocre offense. 6, 7 and 11 are good games. 3, 3, 2 and 0 are not. It was feast or famine all week.

  • Mediocre pitching. The Lester no-hitter was followed by excellent starts from Masterson and Colon, as they allowed a total of four runs in the first three games against KC. But they allowed 8, 8, 3 and 6 over the next four.

  • Has a team ever had a no-hitter and been no-hit during the course of the same week? I don't know the answer to that, but the Red Sox came frighteningly close, when Justin Duchscherer took one into the seventh on Saturday night.

  • I had a bad feeling about the trip west. They left home with a seven-game winning streak, but over the last few games, it felt as if they were not playing well, and were fortunate enough to be playing a team that couldn't take advantage of it. That didn't seem likely to be the case in Oakland.

  • It got worse very quickly. Before I'd had a chance to turn the game on Friday night, the Rays and Yankees had won (or were winning) big, and the Red Sox were down 3-0 to Rich Harden. Obviously, the next two days saw more of the same. There wasn't a point in any of those three games in Oakland where they seemed likely to win. They did have a lead, very briefly, on Sunday when Ortiz homered in the first, but they couldn't even hold it for three outs.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 5/26/2008




Tampa Bay4.6(4)4.02(5)0.561(3)282230202



Los Angeles4.38(9)4.17(6)0.523(6)272530223


New York4.44(7)4.46(8)0.498(8)252525250





Kansas City3.58(14)4.54(10)0.393(13)203021291


Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Tampa Bay9765


Los Angeles9369



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


Tampa Bay9369


Los Angeles8775

Standings for the week





New York7.17(2)4.33(7)0.715(4)42511


Los Angeles2.83(13)2(2)0.654(6)42420

Tampa Bay4.83(6)4.17(6)0.567(7)33512







Kansas City2(14)6(12)0.118(14)1607-1

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Today's global warming story

An interesting picture released by NASA, showing increasing storm activity on Jupiter.

The description says that:
For about 300 years Jupiter's banded atmosphere has shown a remarkable feature to telescopic viewers, a large swirling storm system known as The Great Red Spot...For scale, the Great Red Spot has almost twice the diameter of planet Earth, making both new spots less than one Earth-diameter across. The newest red spot is on the far left (west), along the same band of clouds as the Great Red Spot and is drifting toward it. If the motion continues, the new spot will encounter the much larger storm system in August. Jupiter's recent outbreak of red spots is likely related to large scale climate change as the gas giant planet is getting warmer near the equator.

I guess that the Jovian population is still driving SUVs...

I've said this before, and I'll say it again - I would find the arguments in favor of market controls and US energy cutbacks because of global warming a lot more compelling if they were not coming from the same people who were in favor of market controls and US energy cutbacks before anyone had ever posited anthropogenic climate change.


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Friday, May 23, 2008

Million Pieces

Another song I like from the Newsboys...

Why you holdin' grudges in old jars?
Why you wanna show off all your scars?
What's it gonna take to lay a few burdens down?
It's a beautiful sound

When they all fall
Like a million raindrops
Falling from a blue sky
Kissing your cares goodbye
They all fall
Like a million pieces
A ticker tape parade high
And now you're free to fly...

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Today's global warming news

An editorial at suggests that people need to chill out on global warming:
it is becoming clearer by the day that major cracks are appearing in the supposed consensus among scientists that global warming caused by carbon emissions is an urgent problem that government must address with drastic measures...New data produced by more than 3,000 sophisticated ocean buoys scattered across the world’s oceans indicate average water temperatures have been decreasing since 2003...the average land temperature of the globe dropped precipitously last year...the average U.S. temperature in January was lower than the average for the previous century...the Arctic ice pack is 10 to 20 centimeters thicker in many places this year than it was in 2007...Professor Oleg Sorokhtin of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences...expects an extended period of global cooling, an assessment that is echoed by Kenneth Tapping of the U.S. National Academy of Science’s National Research Council. Both scientists contend solar activity explains most of the temperature variation in the Earth’s atmosphere...

Of course, if it were to turn out that there really isn't a global climate crisis, the controllers would have to find some other rationale for exerting control. So it is (unfortunately) going to be a long time before there's sufficient evidence to kill this panic...


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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Death by 1000 pixelcuts

The Baseball Crank noted that "Obama seems to be aiming to wear down conservative bloggers by producing more material to beat him up with than any one person could possibly keep up with. He's beginning to rival Kerry in that regard." Of course, the mainstream media is as protective of the anointed one as they could possibly be, but most of the time that the blogosphere goes off on some act or statement, some hint of it will trickle into the mainstream press, if only to publicize the criticism by responding to it. Eventually, some of the shine will wear off.

In the old days, with the newspapers doing the work, you could talk about death by 1000 papercuts. But the newspapers aren't doing the work, and there's no particular reason to expect them to start any time soon, so it's being done in the blogosphere. Senator Obama may end up being the first politician to suffer death by 1000 pixelcuts.

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I prefer my culture, thank you very much...

So, does a proper respect for other cultures demand that I acknowledge the culture that produced this story to be equal to, or better than, American culture?
Five armed men burst into the small room and courtyard at dawn, just as 21-year-old, 22-week pregnant, Sunita was drying her face on a towel. They punched and kicked her stomach as she called out for her sleeping boyfriend "Jassa", 22-year-old Jasbir Singh, witnesses said. When he woke, both were dragged into waiting cars, driven away and strangled. Their bodies, half-stripped, were laid out on the dirt outside Sunita's father's house for all to see, a sign that the family's "honor" had been restored by her cold-blooded murder.
"From society's point of view, this is a very good thing," said 62-year-old farmer Balwan Arya, sitting smoking a hookah in the shade of a tree in a square with other elders from the village council or panchayat. "We have removed the blot."
At their house, Sunita's mother did not emerge to talk. Instead, a young man on a motorbike tried to intimidate the Reuters team into leaving. It turned out he was another of Sunita's cousins, his father and brother held by police. "We are not ashamed of it, absolutely not, we have the honor of doing the village proud," he said. "We would not have had a face to show if we had not done this. It was the act of 'real men'."

So in some parts of India, it is the act of "real men" to gang up on and beat to death a pregnant girl. Thank God for India that they were able to throw of the imperialist yoke of the British Raj!

And let us ponder, one more time, Sir Charles Napier's approach to the culture wars...
"[Sir Charles Napier] also," says Sir William Napier, "put down the practice of Suttee, which, however was rare in Scinde, by a process extremely characteristic. For judging the real cause of these immolations to be the profits derived by the priests, and hearing of an intended burning, he made it known that he would stop the sacrifice. The priests said it was a religious rite which must not be meddled with, that all nations had customs which should be respected and this was a very sacred one. The general, affecting to be struck with the argument, replied, 'Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom. Prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs." "No Suttee," adds the historian, "took place then or afterwards."

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 5/19/2008

Three up, three down. But not in that order...

  • The week started with three 3-0 leads that led to losses. The week finished with a sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers.

  • The easy assumption looking at the numbers is that the offense did its work, and the pitching failed. Well, the latter part of that is largely true - the pitching was, on the whole, bad. Beckett gave up 11 runs in 12 2/3 innings. Hansen gave up 5 runs in 2 innings. Buchholz gave up 7 in 4 1/3, then headed to the DL. Okajima allowed only one in 1 1/3, but also gave up a grand slam, allowing all three inherited runners to score, which cost them a game in Baltimore.

  • The offense, on the other, concentrated its work in the weekend series. On Monday, they scored three in the first and never scored again in a 7-3 loss. On Tuesday, they scored three in the first, and only scored once more in a 5-4 loss. And on Wednesday, they scored only three again in a 6-3 loss. Of course, after scoring only 10 runs in the first three games of the week, they scored 23 in the last three to make the runs number look good for the week. (And, frankly, the pitching performances were such that they needed those 23 runs - the sweep of the Brewers featured no blowouts.)

  • If it seems to you that the Red Sox have been streakier this year than last, well, you're correct. They have. In 2007, they followed a win with a win or a loss with a loss about 47% of the time. This year, it has been about 54% of the time. That's not a huge difference, obviously, and it's only been 43 games so far, but there's more to it than that. In 2008, the longest winning streak they had was 5 games and they had three of them. The longest losing streak they had was four games and they had three of them. This season, through just over 1/4 as many games, they've already got a six game winning streak and another five game winning streak. They already have a five game losing streak and another four game losing streak. They have had more frequent, and longer, streaks already in 2008 than they did in 2007, both winning and losing.

  • The losses of Rodriguez and Posada have been crippling to the Yankees. The question is, how good are they when those players get back? I'm starting to wonder whether this is the year that they get old. I'm not writing them off at this point, not at all. But I will say that I'm starting to pay less attention to them in the standings. It is conceivable, though by no means certain, that their playoff string ends this year.

  • I saw some of the improvement in Tampa and projected the Rays to finish over .500 this year, just behind the Blue Jays. I now believe that I overestimated Toronto and underestimated Tampa Bay. The team that I'm reminded of when I look at the Tampa Bay Rays in the 1967 Boston Red Sox. They've got a tremendous amount of young, maturing talent. I did not think much of their pitching staff beyond Kazmir. But if Shields and Jackson are real and Kazmir's healthy, if Percival and Wheeler and Howell continue to shine, this is a good team, and a threat to not only make the playoffs, but win the division. I would not be at all surprised if we saw a division race in the AL East this season with the Red Sox but without the Yankees (or Orioles or Blue Jays.)

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 5/19/2008






Tampa Bay4.57(5)4(5)0.56(5)251925190

Los Angeles4.59(4)4.46(9)0.513(6)242226202





New York4.07(10)4.48(10)0.456(11)202420240

Kansas City3.84(14)4.3(7)0.448(12)192421222



Top 5 projections (using current winning %)

Tampa Bay9270

Los Angeles9270



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



Tampa Bay9171


Standings for the week


Kansas City5.33(3)3.67(5)0.665(1)42511

Tampa Bay4.29(8)3(2)0.658(2)5243-1




Los Angeles4.71(6)3.86(8)0.591(6)43430








New York2(12)5.5(12)0.136(14)15150

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Friday, May 16, 2008

"Rights" and wrongs

"I do believe that healthcare is a right, in the sense that free speech is a right; no one can take that right away from you."
- Michael Novak

I know that Novak doesn't mean that in the way that it comes out, because he goes on to suggest that no one need build you an auditorium in which to exercise your free speech. But I am unwilling to even go as far as he has done and even accept that premise and terminology. Sometimes it is important to be very clear in the way you use the language, and this is an issue on which a lot of people are willing to misuse it. Once framed as a "right," the supporters of socialized medicine have not only moral support, but moral obligation in their quest to impose a government universal "health care" system on the citizens of the US. So let me say this clearly.

No one has the "right" to health care.

And let me say that again - no one has the "right" to health care.

People have the right to pursue health care. Some people may exercise the right to learn how to provide health care, while others exercise the right to pursue some other occupation which will enable them to acquire health care from those who learn how to provide it, but no one has the right to health care. Health care exists only as the result of human labor, energy expended by one man's mind or body, and no one has a moral claim, a "right," to the fruits of those labors. If my neighbor is a landscaper, I have no "right" to have him cut my lawn. If he's a barber, I have no "right" to have him cut my hair. But if he's a doctor, somehow some people think that I have a "right" to his time and expertise. If he's a scientist at a pharmaceutical company, some think that somehow I have the "right" to the products that his labor have created. It does not work that way. His time and expertise are his to sell, and I have no more "right" to them than I have to the food that his neighbor the chef prepares.

In a society of free people, no man has the "right" to another's labor. Conceding the language at the beginning of the debate is just the first step in losing the debate. And losing the freedoms "to which the Laws of Nature, and of Nature's God entitle[s] [us]" is the inevitable result.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lo Hai in Cardiff

Over the weekend, my 15 year old son and I traveled to Cardiff, Wales, to compete in the Traditional Tang Soo Do Federation tournament. This video is him performing Lo Hai in the competition on Saturday morning.


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More Polar Bears than ever...

but they've now been declared an endangered species anyway.
I only hope when global warming ends, and is accepted to be a largely natural phenomenon rather than manmade, that all of the regulatory mistakes we’ve made can somehow be undone.
- Dr. Roy Spencer

History suggests that his hope, which I share, is unfortunately rather a forlorn one...

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Monday Pythagorean on Wednesday

This is how things stood two days ago. The Red Sox are, of course, 0-2 since then, but this report deals with last week only, so it's written as if the last two days had not happened yet.

  • Sometimes, you look at a 4-3 week and think, "not bad." And sometimes you look at it and think, "what a wasted opportunity!" This was the latter, as they were two blown Papelbon saves from a 6-1 week. Not only did he lose back games in back-to-back appearances for the first time in his career, he had never before had two losses in any 10-appearance span, and only once had he had two losses in a 20-appearance span.

  • The offense continued to roll, scoring at least 5 runs in every game, and averaging over six for the week. The pitching was less consistent, as Wakefield followed a stellar performance in Detroit with a bomb in Minnesota. Julian Tavarez finally managed to pitch himself off the team, and, as optimistic as I am about Craig Hansen, he still hasn't done it yet.

  • As I said last week, I was pretty much out of touch for this weeks games. I woke at about 2:30 in the morning, Cardiff Time, on Saturday and listened to the last couple innings of the game that Papelbon lost in Minnesota Friday night, and that was all that I saw or heard live after Tuesday. So I don't have anything else this week.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 5/12/2008






Tampa Bay4.62(4)4.19(5)0.545(5)201721161

New York4.39(9)4.32(6)0.508(6)191919190

Los Angeles4.56(7)4.56(12)0.5(7)201922172







Kansas City3.59(14)4.41(9)0.408(14)152216211

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)


Tampa Bay9270

Los Angeles9171


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



Tampa Bay8973


Standings for the week



Tampa Bay4.5(6)3(2)0.677(2)42511






New York3.8(8)3.8(4)0.5(7)3223-1


Kansas City3.71(9)4.29(8)0.435(10)3425-1

Los Angeles3(12)4(6)0.371(11)24240




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Eleven down...

four to go...

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Blogging from the airport

Not because I've really got anything to say right now, but just because I can, and since I can, it seems as if I ought to...

Mytinerary: Manchester, NH, right now. Headed to Newark. From Newark to Bristol, and by car to Cardiff, Wales. I expect to enjoy it.

Wales, that is. Not the flight, particularly...

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 5/5/2008

A much better week than the last one, as the Sox go 5-1, and the bats finally re-awaken.

  • The pitching was good-to-excellent all week. The offense was barely visible for three nights, and then good-to-excellent for the next three.

  • Once again, we look at the lessons that baseball has to teach us. Such as not overreacting to short streaks, which inevitably change. A week ago, the Red Sox were coming off a sweep by the Rays. This morning, they're coming off a sweep of the Rays. Last weekend, they scored 5 runs in a three-game series. This weekend, they scored five runs in the fourth inning on Friday night, and 26 for the three-game series.

  • Despite the disaster week offensively - they had a six game stretch in which they scored 8 runs total - they've still got the second-highest scoring offense in the league so far.

  • The pitching, on the other hand, has allowed many more runs than I expected. But here's something that's worth noting, again, about total runs scored and Pythagorean. Not all runs are the same. Losing a game 15-6 is no worse for your record than losing a game 1-0. And typically, the 15 runs in a bad loss aren't going to be given up by one of your high-leverage relievers. If you look at the 5 starters and the top relievers (Papelbon and Okajima), those seven pitchers have allowed 81 ER in 215 2/3 innings, an ERA of 3.38. The rest of the pitchers have allowed 53 ER in 76 1/3 innings, an ERA of 6.25. Manny Delcarmen's been awful, allowing 10 runs in 12 1/2 innings. Mike Timlin's allowed 9 runs in 6 1/3 innings. Julian Tavarez has allowed 8 runs in 10 1/3 innings. Bryan Corey has allowed 7 runs in 6 innings. I will guarantee that the middle of the bullpen will be fixed, with some of those pitchers and some others, before the season is over. In the meantime, they're getting good-to-great starting pitching nearly every night, and when it's close and late, they've got two trustworthy relievers to finish games. They're outperforming their Pythagorean, and it may well continue.

  • The Red Sox have built a three-game lead in the AL East. Obviously, that's not very big with 130 games to go. Have they taken a lead that they'll hold the rest of the way? Too early to say. But I will say this - I believed when the season started that the Red Sox were the best team in the East, if not the best team in the AL, and it wouldn't surprise me if they didn't spend any more time out of first.

NB: Next week's report will be late and short. I'm leaving for Cardiff on Wednesday and will be offline until the following Tuesday. I will put up the numbers Tuesday night or Wednesday, but I probably won't have much commentary.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 5/5/2008






Tampa Bay4.65(5)4.42(10)0.523(5)161516150

Los Angeles4.85(3)4.67(12)0.517(6)171620133


New York4.48(7)4.39(7)0.509(8)171617160





Kansas City3.57(14)4.43(11)0.402(13)121814162


Top 5 projections (using current winning %)

Los Angeles9864



Tampa Bay8478

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



Los Angeles8775


Standings for the week






New York4.86(4)3.71(5)0.62(5)43430

Kansas City5(3)4(7)0.601(6)32320



Los Angeles4.29(9)5.71(13)0.371(9)34431



Tampa Bay4.33(8)6(14)0.355(12)24240



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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Up, up, ups and down, down, downs

Q: How is .198/.260/.264/.524 related to the number sequence 5, 4, 1, 0, 1, 2?

A: The former is the Red Sox team batting line over the past week, the latter is the sequence of runs scored over that span, an average of just over two runs per game.

It its previous six games, of course, the team had scored 40 runs, over 6.5 per game. These things happen, but it's interesting to see a team go from that hot to that cold so abruptly. Neither is the real performance level. It's (yet another) example of the "anything can happen in a short series" small sample size nature of baseball.

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