Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dr. McCain

I've made it clear that I have many issues with John McCain. But it is also clear that he is, in many ways, an admirable human being. I hadn't heard this story before (H/T Jim Geraghty, from the WSJ) but it does not surprise me.
[Ret. Col. Bud] Day relayed to me one of the stories Americans should hear. It involves what happened to him after escaping from a North Vietnamese prison during the war. When he was recaptured, a Vietnamese captor broke his arm and said, "I told you I would make you a cripple."

The break was designed to shatter Mr. Day's will. He had survived in prison on the hope that one day he would return to the United States and be able to fly again. To kill that hope, the Vietnamese left part of a bone sticking out of his arm, and put him in a misshapen cast. This was done so that the arm would heal at "a goofy angle," as Mr. Day explained. Had it done so, he never would have flown again.

But it didn't heal that way because of John McCain. Risking severe punishment, Messrs. McCain and Day collected pieces of bamboo in the prison courtyard to use as a splint. Mr. McCain put Mr. Day on the floor of their cell and, using his foot, jerked the broken bone into place. Then, using strips from the bandage on his own wounded leg and the bamboo, he put Mr. Day's splint in place.

Years later, Air Force surgeons examined Mr. Day and complemented the treatment he'd gotten from his captors. Mr. Day corrected them. It was Dr. McCain who deserved the credit. Mr. Day went on to fly again.


In any event, whatever disagreements I have with Senator McCain pale in comparison with the disagreements I have with whoever the Democrats end up choosing...

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"The only limits we have are those we place on ourselves."

In 1969, Alan Bean, Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 12, became the fourth human being to step onto the surface of the moon. He stayed with NASA, and spent a significant amount of time on Skylab in the 1970s, while painting as a hobby. In 1981, he decided that he had an opportunity to do something (else) special - he had the ability to paint, and was one of only twelve men ever to have walked on the moon. He was in a position to do things that no one else has ever been able to do. Many of his paintings can be found here, and it is well worth the perusal.

I was in the audience last night as he spoke at the Museum of Science in Boston It was an excellent talk. He talked about his time at NASA, about his trip to the moon, and about his painting. He showed some pictures from training, some pictures from his trip, and several of his paintings, which are excellent. It was entertaining, educational and inspirational, and I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to shake his hand.

A couple of the simple interesting or amusing points (most of the good stuff was longer):

  • He wanted to get some moon dust and actually incorporate it in the media that he uses, but NASA doesn't have any to spare. But he did have the patches from his suit, and they were dirty with...moon dust. So he's been cutting his patches into tiny pieces and putting them in the paintings.

  • He said that when he and his family saw Buzz Aldrin on the moon, it was more unbelievable for them than for most of the people watching, because Buzz Aldrin was his neighbor.

  • He looks at the moon and feels like it is further away now than it was in the late 1960s and early 1970s. We don't have a rocket that could get there, and it would take quite a while to design and build one.

  • His silver NASA flight pin is lying on the surface of the moon, just as shiny as the day he tossed it there.

  • He and Pete Conrad considered taking along an old arrow head, dropping it, and panning past it with their camera, but decided that some of the scientists didn't have enough of a sense of humor...

  • For those who have seen From The Earth To The Moon, he did, in fact, try to fix his camera by hitting it with a hammer. I know, because my 12 year-old asked him, and he confirmed it.



It was a fascinating and special evening...

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Monday, April 28, 2008

More than a little bit disturbing...

Still looking for reasons not to vote for Obama? This one's plenty good enough...
People have always regarded comets as "messengers of the gods". The meaning ascribed to a comet's appearance is comprised of many factors, including the mythological story of the constellation that the comet's path highlights. This past autumn (2007), a remarkable comet, Holmes, appeared in the nightime sky, as a huge blue sphere (larger than the diameter of our sun). It's path of maximal brightness carried it through the constellation of Perseus, crossing in front of two of that constellation's stars in particular- Mirfak, and Algol...

The constellation Perseus pictures the story of the Hero Perseus, holding the head of Medussa, which he had just severed with his sword. Perseus was greatly aided by the gods in his quest to destroy the Medussa, whose very glance could turn a person into stone. He was given a magic sword, Athena's shield, winged sandals with which he could fly, a magic cap which rendered him invisible, and the guidance for him to not directly look into Medussas face as he battled her, but to look at her in the reflection of his shield...

Obama was born with his sun in Leo, and his story exemplifies the quest of the Solar Hero. His father, who joins with his mother on an island, conceives a child, and soon thereafter leaves the child and mother to continue his own journeying. Obama, a 'special 'child, left to create his own internal image of 'father', and related meanings of strength, protection, leadership, etc.

The Holmes comet appears just as the presidential race is kicking into high gear, illuminating the concept of the hero vanquishing the monster, a monster that turns people into stone if they gaze upon her. Does it not seem as if our country today is all locked up, constricted, restricted, with ever shrinking mobility and freedom of movement?
...
So let us have hope, the gods are on our side, and the Hero will prevail.



About a month ago, I wrote that
Democrats apparently believe that government can, and support programs intended to, create a utopia on earth. They envision a government that ensures that everyone is cared for, fed, clothed, housed and entertained, that problems of any kind resulting from human frailty are ameliorated or eliminated. If that is the goal, the leader has to be someone above mere human characteristics, and should be a beloved and honored figure.

Yet one more example...

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Monday Pythagorean 4/28/2008

So, I put together one little post, extolling the virtues of the team, praising them for winning in adverse circumstances, and they let it all go to their heads, losing the next five.

  • I suggested, Wednesday morning, that Jacoby Ellsbury probably was not as good as he'd played so far in the majors, not as an insult, just as a recognition of the incredible rate at which he'd started. Since then, he's 5/23 with no extra base hits and no walks, for a .217/.217/.217 line. Of course, that's not his real performance level, either, but small sample size effects take a long time to overcome.


  • After scoring five or more in 10 straight games, the Sox have scored fewer than five runs in four of the last five games (and only five in the fifth). As a team, they've hit 0.222/.290/.299/.590 over the past five games, averaging fewer than 3 runs per game.



  • For a 2-5 week, there actually was a lot of good news. Justin Masterson made his Major League debut and showed why the team is so high on him, with six outstanding innings. Craig Hansen came back, and despite the HR he allowed, looked like a Major Leaugue pitcher. He was so hyped, and got here so fast, that people already think of him as a bust, despite being only 24 years old, but given his off-season surgery to correct sleep apnea, and his early season performance, there are real reasons for optimism. Josh Beckett's dominance in Tampa showed that he's back, and Clay Buchholz pitched two outstanding games, allowing only two runs in 14 innings of work.



  • The bats, on the other hand, took the week off.



  • The bullpen cost them a win in Masterson's game. There are already rumblings and squawkings in various places about the pen being a hole. I'm not concerned. It may take a little while to get the middle section ironed out, but with Okajima and Papelbon, the pen won't ever be a serious hole on the team. And I'm willing to give everyone a bit of a pass this week, with the end of a three-week stretch without an off-day, and the flu ravaging the team. They will be fine.






AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/28/2008
ProjectedActual

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

Oakland4.62(6)3.54(1)0.619(1)161016100

Chicago5.29(1)4.08(3)0.616(2)1591410-1

Tampa Bay4.72(5)4.04(2)0.571(3)141114110

Los Angeles5(2)4.38(7)0.56(4)151116101

Cleveland4.6(7)4.2(6)0.542(5)14111213-2

Seattle4.5(8)4.19(4)0.532(6)14121214-2

Toronto4.42(9)4.19(4)0.524(7)14121115-3

Boston4.93(4)4.78(12)0.514(8)141315121

Baltimore4.32(12)4.4(8)0.492(9)121314112

New York4.38(10)4.58(10)0.48(10)121413131

Detroit5(2)5.46(13)0.46(11)12141115-1

Minnesota3.8(13)4.72(11)0.402(12)101511141

Kansas City3.28(14)4.52(9)0.357(13)91611142

Texas4.38(10)6.12(14)0.352(14)9179170




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Oakland10062

Los Angeles10062

Chicago9567

Tampa Bay9171

Baltimore9171




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Oakland10062

Chicago9963

Tampa Bay9270

Los Angeles9270

Cleveland8676




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Cleveland6(2)2.5(1)0.832(1)51510

Detroit7.57(1)3.57(4)0.798(2)6152-1

Tampa Bay4.33(8)2.5(1)0.732(3)42602

Oakland4.83(5)2.83(3)0.727(4)42420

Los Angeles5.5(3)4.5(8)0.591(5)42420

New York4.83(5)4.33(6)0.55(6)33330

Seattle3.83(12)4(5)0.481(7)3324-1

Baltimore4(10)4.33(6)0.463(8)33330

Boston4.14(9)4.57(9)0.455(9)3425-1

Chicago4.83(5)5.33(11)0.455(9)33330

Toronto3(14)4.71(10)0.304(11)2516-1

Minnesota4(10)6.67(13)0.282(12)24240

Texas5(4)8.86(14)0.26(13)25250

Kansas City3.17(13)6(12)0.237(14)15241

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Boston 7, Los Angeles of Anaheim 6

Some days you're the windshield, some days you're the bug. Last night, the Red Sox took the field having won five straight, but playing on the 15th consecutive day, with a clubhouse that's been fighting the flu, without their starting third baseman (on the DL), starting catcher (fighting the flu) and, just before game time, scratching their ace with a stiff neck. And when the Angels took a 5-1 lead in the fourth, it really seemed like it was not going to be Boston's night.

Final score: 7-6, Red Sox. This team has had a great stretch. And that game had several interesting storylines.

Jacoby Ellsbury:

Ellsbury led off the game with a HR. In the sixth inning, he hit another, to give the Red Sox a 6-5 lead. In the eighth, with the game tied, he led off with a beautiful drag bunt past the pitcher's mound toward the second baseman, and then scored from first on Dustin Pedroia's double. (Some players don't score from first on that ball, as the corner is short and the ball took a good hop back to Anderson. Some players score on a close play. Ellsbury scored without a throw.)

I don't think he can sustain it at this level, but as a Major Leaguer (64 games, 53 regular season, 11 post-season) Jacoby Ellsbury is now hitting .342/.417/.518/.935 with 19 steals in 19 tries and 6 HR in 193 at-bats (approximately 223 plate appearances). If he sustained that for a 700 plate appearance season, he'd finish with 207 hits, 38 2B and 19 HR. He'd score 148 runs and steal 60 bases.

As I said, I don't think that he's as good as he's played so far (that's not an insult - there are fewer than 30 players in Major League history who were as good as he's been so far), but he's been more than very good in his Major League career. If he were actually to sustain that for the entire season, he's a runaway winner of the Rookie of the Year award, and a real legitimate MVP contender.

Julian Tavarez:

Tavarez was the goat in the last loss, as he couldn't stem the tide after the Red Sox came back from a big deficit in New York against the Yankees. Last night, he entered the game with 1 out and 1 on in the 5th, with the team already facing a 5-2 deficit, and held the line through the sixth. He was bailed out on the other end by Okajima, but he prevented the Angels from scoring and finished the "starter innings" without things getting worse.

Hidecki Okajima:

Came in with two on and no one out in the 7th, facing the heart of the Angels lineup, and retired Guerrero, Anderson and Hunter without allowing a run. He did allow a pop-fly HR to tie the game in the 8th, but his performance in the 7th was critical, and he did a better job on the night than his ERA for the game (5.4) would indicate.

Kevin Youkilis:

With the team looking to scratch out runs against Weaver, David Ortiz singled in Dustin Pedroia, who had doubled, in the fifth, making the score 5-3. Manny Ramirez hit a high fly ball past the Pesky pole that sliced towards the stands, but didn't slice quite far enough, and Guerrero caught it at the wall. Five pitches later, Youkilis drove the ball into the monster seats to tie the game.

Dustin Pedroia:

His double in the fifth set up the rally which overcame the big early deficit. His double in the eighth drove in the winning run. He's now hitting .364/.418/.523/.941 for the season.

Jonathan Papelbon:

Three up, three down, two strikeouts in the ninth, as he continues to dominate.




There are a lot of nights during the baseball season where the story crystallizes early, and the game is, or feels, essentially over after the third inning. And most of the time, if it feels over early, it ends up over early. Last night was one of the times when what feels over early isn't actually over yet...

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 4/21/2008

It should go without saying (but you'll notice that I'm saying it anyway) that 6-1 is a darned good week.

  • The offense has been good. Very good. They averaged 7 runs/game for the week, and are now up to 5.2 runs/game for the season, 2nd in the AL, despite the weak start. And they've been better late than early. Hitting 0.339/.413/.518 as a team will help you score a lot of runs.


  • The pitching continues to underperform both my desires and my expectations, as the 5.4 runs/game allowed on the week was tenth in the AL. But this is an excellent time to note, again, one of the flaws in both runs/game and pythagorean computations. One game can seriously skew the numbers. In this case, the Red Sox played seven games and allowed 37 runs. But they allowed 22 runs in six of those games, and 15 in the other one. Their average for the week ends up looking bad, but in six of the seven games played, they pitched pretty well. For the week, they allowed 4, 3, 15, 5, 3, 3 and 5. Everyone sing along, now - "One of these things is not like the others..." A team with Boston's offense should win a significant majority of its games when allowing only 3 runs, and they did that three times. Even at five runs allowed, they should win at least half of their games. What they've done so far is get pretty well pitched games most of the times, with a couple of disaster starts. And, in the disaster starts, they've used the weak part of the bullpen and the games have gotten out of hand. But every time that happens, it's just one loss, despite the impact on the runs allowed average.


  • The Red Sox trailed after six innings five times this week, and won four of them.
    On Monday, they trailed 4-1 going to the seventh, 4-3 going to the ninth, and won.
    On Tuesday, they trailed 2-1 going to the seventh and won.
    On Saturday, they trailed 3-2 going to the eighth and won.
    On Sunday, they trailed 5-0 going to the seventh, 5-2 going to the eighth, and won.


  • A very nice debut for Jed Lowrie. Three starts, three different positions, and he hit .417/.385/.667 for the week. The batting average and SLG won't stay there, but there's reason to think that the team would be better off giving him the SS job and trying get nickels on the dollar from someone for Lugo.


  • Pro forma is Latin for "as a matter of form." It has various uses in different context, but I think it's fair to say that Kyle Farnsworth's explanation for the ball behind Manny Ramirez' head on Thursday night ("it just slipped") could fall into the pro forma category. Farnsworth's lying. He knows that he's lying, everyone else knows that he's lying and he knows that everyone knows that he's lying and everyone knows that he knows that everyone knows that he's lying. But he has to say it anyway. That's the "matter of form" that the situation demands.

    The AL isn't buying it, of course, and he got a three-game suspension anyway...


  • AL Offensive Player of the Week: Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox. 10-24 with four walks, a double and four HR, Manny hit .417/.517/.958 for the week.


  • AL Pitcher of the Week: John Danks, Chicago White Sox. Two starts, eight hits and no runs allowed in 14 2/3 innings pitched, he walked only two while striking out 12.




AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/21/2008
ProjectedActual

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

Chicago5.44(1)3.67(1)0.673(1)126117-1

Toronto4.95(3)4(3)0.596(2)118109-1

Oakland4.55(7)3.75(2)0.588(3)1281280

Los Angeles4.85(4)4.35(7)0.55(4)1191281

Seattle4.7(6)4.25(6)0.546(5)1191010-1

Boston5.2(2)4.85(12)0.532(6)1191372

Tampa Bay4.84(5)4.53(9)0.531(7)109811-2

Baltimore4.42(8)4.42(8)0.5(8)1091181

New York4.25(9)4.65(10)0.459(9)91110101

Minnesota3.74(13)4.11(5)0.457(10)9109100

Cleveland4.16(10)4.74(11)0.441(11)811712-1

Kansas City3.32(14)4.05(4)0.409(12)8119101

Texas4.16(10)5.11(13)0.407(13)811712-1

Detroit4.05(12)6.16(14)0.317(14)6136130




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Boston10557

Chicago9963

Oakland9765

Los Angeles9765

Baltimore9468




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Chicago10854

Toronto9567

Oakland9567

Los Angeles9072

Boston8973




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Chicago4(12)2.43(1)0.714(1)5243-1

Los Angeles4.57(5)3.29(2)0.647(2)52520

Seattle4.71(4)3.57(3)0.624(3)43430

Boston7(1)5.43(10)0.614(4)43612

Oakland4.57(5)3.57(3)0.611(5)43430

Detroit6.29(2)5.57(11)0.555(6)43430

Toronto4.57(5)4.43(6)0.515(7)4334-1

New York6(3)5.86(12)0.511(8)43430

Baltimore4.14(10)4.43(6)0.47(9)34431

Minnesota4.29(8)4.86(8)0.443(10)34340

Cleveland3.57(13)4.29(5)0.417(11)3425-1

Tampa Bay4.14(10)5.29(9)0.39(12)3425-1

Texas4.29(8)6(13)0.351(13)25250

Kansas City3.57(13)6.43(14)0.254(14)25250

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Early season oddity

The first, second and third place teams in the AL East are all over .500, but has each been outscored. The fourth and fifth place teams are at or below .500, while having outscored their opponents.


That won't be true when the season ends, but it's peculiar to see it even over two weeks...

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

66-16

The New Orleans Hornets almost set an NBA record this season. The 1998 San Antonio Spurs won 36 more games than the 1997 version. It was an exceptional circumstance, as the 1997 Spurs were a good team playing without their best player, and then ending up with the best player in the draft, a college senior who was ready to play in the NBA. Well, the Hornets won 38 more games this year than last, beating the Spurs NBA record for biggest one year turnaround. So why do I say that they "almost set" an NBA record?

Because the 2008 Celtics won 42 more than the 2007 Celtics. And that's going to be a very hard record to break. The 2007 Celtics won 24 games. Since the NBA went to an 82 game schedule in 1968, there have been 984 team-seasons. 109 have resulted in teams winning fewer than 25 games (and 11 of those came during the strike-truncated 50 game 1999 season.) The following season, those teams averaged 29 wins. It's hard to go from bad to good quickly in the NBA, because teams are so dependent on impact players, and impact players are hard to come by. And only about 10% of teams win fewer than 25 games. On the top end, the 2008 Celtics are only the 10th team in that period to win more than 65 games in a season, which is very hard to do. To break that record, a team that wins 24 games or fewer one year will have to win 67 or more the next year. That's unlikely to happen again any time soon...


UPDATE: OK, the New Orleans stuff is wrong. They weren't listed as New Orleans in 2007, and I missed it, so the spreadsheet was wrong. They didn't improve by 38 games this year...

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Can they really make a full-length movie of this?

From the Onion News Network, a report that Paramount is planning to adapt the Ironman trailer into a full-length film!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

There's a right way to do things...

There's nothing like a good pedantic grumble...

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Quote of the day

An early nominee for quote of the year, from commenter Dave S. at Tim Blair's...
Well, I do go a-churchin’ every Sunday with a bunch of bitter folks who complain about how the government is evil and screws them over, and we yell an’ whoop it up when the preacher rails against them Italians and Jews, an’ then we…

Oops, wait a minute, that’s not me, that’s Barack Obama.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

The nicest thing I can say about John Kerry...



(Of course, the sad thing is, I'm much happier with him than I would be if he were actually accomplishing anything...)

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New PA poll

The American Research Group has a new poll this morning, showing Hillary 20 points up on Obama in Pennsylvania. Glenn Reynolds doesn't see "how it could possibly be good news for Obama."

But I do.

OK, the poll itself isn't great news. But lets face it - she's going to win Pennsylvania. And it has never really been in doubt. The relevant question right now isn't "who wins Pennsylvania," it's "what's the margin?" And, even more importantly, "what's the perception of the margin afterwards?" If everyone knows that you're going to lose, you can win even by losing, if you "cover the spread." What Obama needs is for one of two things to happen in Pennsylvania. The first would be an outright win. That would effectively end the race. But it's not going to happen. The other thing that would work for him is to lose close, or at least closer than people predict. To that end, the worse the polls look for the next week, the more opportunity there is for him to beat expectations, to argue that his "bitter" comments and Reverend Wright haven't hurt him ("after all, she was always going to win") and head into North Carolina denying that she's taking any momentum out of a state where she won by less than everyone expected.

That's the way it works. Sometimes, winning the numbers is less important than winning the perception, and if they go into next Tuesday with people expecting her to win by 20% and she wins by 12%, then he wins and she doesn't. And the Democratic race is entirely about perception now, as neither candidate is going to finish with a majority of the delegates. The entire race, at this point, is about building a persuasive argument for the super-delegates and party "wise men," because that's who will end up making the decision. When the rank-and-file Democrats have had their say, they won't have chosen a nominee yet. To use a sports analogy, the Republican primary campaign was a "stop-watch" campaign, decided by objective reality - McCain won the delegate count. The Democratic primary campaign is going to be a "judging" campaign, where the party elders end up choosing from two candidates who failed to reach the finish line on their own.

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Monday Pythagorean 4/14/2008

2 of 3 from the Tigers. 2 of 3 from the Yankees. 2 of 3 consistently makes for a very successful baseball season, and this was a successful week.

  • The Red Sox and Yankees seem to always play long games. Fox had a stat last September which, if I remember correctly, indicated that Red Sox-Yankees games were, on average, 20 minutes longer than other ML games. Which wouldn't surprise me at all. They have two disciplined teams that take a lot of pitches, and there always seems to be situational magnification which causes extra consideration before every move and every pitch. Last night's game went 3:55, and, frankly, felt typical. Even Friday's game, a 4-1 Yankee win in which the Red Sox only had two hits and no walks, went 2:59. So it was kind of darkly ironic that one of the faster games that they've played in recent memory, Saturday's 4-3 Boston win (game time: 2:49) took over five hours from start to finish, as the rains came in from the bullpen with Papelbon in the bottom of the 8th, and it was over two hours before he actually threw a pitch.


  • David Ortiz is in (and hopefully nearing the end of) the worst slump of his career. But he's really hurt the Sox offense. For the week, he was 0-17 with as many GIDP (four) as walks. When you get that from your number three hitter, it's tough to put together a big offensive game. To their credit, they managed once, and pitched well enough to win twice more with him playing. It won't last, but it's certainly a hindrance while it does.


  • Mike Timlin came off the DL to allow five hits, two of which left the park, while retiring only one batter. It's early, it's a small sample size, he's been effective in the past - all true. So is this - he's 42 and he won't be effective forever. This is a situation that they need to monitor carefully.


  • Drew continues to hit the ball hard, as well as drawing five walks on the week.


  • Ellsbury also, in what I consider to be a great sign, drew five walks on the week. I think that it's clear that he's going to be a decent hitter, and he can fly. If he can demonstrate the plate discipline to walk 60+ times a year, he'll be a great player.


  • Good starting pitching for most of the week. Lester wasn't great on Wednesday, and Matsuzaka was very shaky last night (fortunately, Hughes was much worse.) Beckett looked strong, Buchholz pitched well on Friday, Wakefield had a good game. All in all, a good week for the starters.


  • The bullpen was less impressive. They held on for wins on Saturday and Sunday, but lost the game on Friday, and, while the offense didn't do anything on Wednesday, the three runs the 'pen allowed late prevented the team from having a decent shot in the bottom of the 9th. A two-run deficit is very different than a five-run deficit.





AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/14/2008
ProjectedActual

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

Chicago6.36(1)4.45(8)0.658(1)74740

Toronto5.17(3)3.75(3)0.643(2)8475-1

Tampa Bay5.25(2)4.08(6)0.613(3)7566-1

Kansas City3.17(13)2.67(1)0.578(4)75750

Oakland4.54(7)3.85(4)0.575(5)76851

Baltimore4.58(6)4.42(7)0.517(6)66751

Seattle4.69(5)4.62(11)0.508(7)7667-1

Los Angeles5(4)4.92(12)0.507(8)76760

Boston4.23(9)4.54(9)0.468(9)67761

Minnesota3.42(11)3.67(2)0.468(10)66660

Cleveland4.5(8)5(13)0.452(11)57570

Texas4.08(10)4.58(10)0.447(12)57570

New York3.31(12)4(5)0.414(13)58671

Detroit2.75(14)6.5(14)0.172(14)2102100




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Chicago10359

Oakland10062

Toronto9567

Kansas City9567

Baltimore9567




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Chicago10656

Toronto10359

Tampa Bay9864

Kansas City9468

Oakland9468




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Chicago6.4(1)4.2(6)0.684(1)32320

Minnesota4.4(9)3.4(2)0.616(2)32320

Boston5.33(5)4.17(5)0.611(3)42420

Oakland5.83(3)5(9)0.57(4)33512

Tampa Bay4.57(8)4.14(4)0.545(5)4334-1

New York3.71(11)3.43(3)0.537(6)4334-1

Toronto5(6)4.67(8)0.532(7)33330

Los Angeles6(2)5.67(12)0.526(8)33330

Seattle5.43(4)5.14(11)0.525(9)43430

Kansas City2.5(14)2.67(1)0.471(10)33330

Baltimore4(10)4.43(7)0.454(11)34340

Cleveland5(6)5.83(13)0.43(12)3324-1

Texas3.17(12)5(9)0.302(13)24240

Detroit3(13)6.5(14)0.195(14)15241

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Can we put the Buckner story to bed now?

I wrote part of this Tuesday afternoon in response to a post on the Red Sox newsgroup. The news reports from yesterday prompted me to revise and extend...



Bill Buckner threw out the first pitch at Fenway on Tuesday, and from the media coverage, you'd believe that Red Sox fans have finally, after two World Series wins, consented to be civil to him, after fiercely holding on to a grudge for a generation.

The Boston Globe's Amelie Benjamin wrote that
This was not the first time Buckner had faced Fenway and the fans since his infamous 1986 moment. Not only did he play for the Red Sox for 75 games in 1987, he returned to the team for 22 games in 1990. But since that time, there has been healing in Red Sox Nation.

And at MLB.com, Mike Bauman said that
...when [Buckner] was introduced on Tuesday he received a long and affectionate ovation. He had not been in Fenway for nearly 11 years, and it was as though people had been waiting for an opportunity to say "let's let that grounder be bygones," or something along those lines suggesting that to err is human and to forgive is divine.

It was a very nice moment, a genuinely touching moment.

It may well have been. But, to the extent that any "reconciliation" was needed between Buckner and the Red Sox fan base, it was needed only on one side. The idea that the typical Red Sox fan has been festering with resentment towards Buckner for the past 22 years is a media myth, and it has been, in my perception, fostered more by the national media than the Boston media.

Here's what Peter Gammons wrote in SI in November of 1986:
"When Buckner got to the Red Sox clubhouse, he found at least 15 teammates and coaches waiting for the parade. It was a crystal-clear autumn morning as the Red Sox climbed aboard the flatbed truck that would take them to the rally. When the truck turned onto Boylston Street, Buckner heard the bells of the Arlington Street Church pealing, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and when the truck neared Copley Square, he saw that the street was lined with faces and banners as far as he could see. Buckner had asked not to speak at the rally at City Hall Plaza, and so he stood at the end of the stage. But when he heard the ringing one-minute ovation that followed his name, Buckner stepped forward and thanked the crowd.

"That was the most incredible experience of my career," he said to Jody as they drove to Worcester, past a THANKS, RED SOX sign on the Mass Pike and a HOMETOWN OF HERO MARTY BARRETT sign at the city limits of Southborough. When the Buckners stopped at traffic lights in Worcester, people in other cars beeped their horns and waved at them."

Does that sound as if people blamed him entirely for what happened? I don't think so. And that was written just after the series.

I can speak first-hand to the reception that he got from the Boston crowd when the team re-signed him in 1990, because I was there (the only time I've ever made it to Fenway for opening day) and his was without a doubt the longest standing ovation of the day. [It one of only two things I really remember about the day, the other being that the National Anthem was sung by the actor, whose name I don't remember, who was in town playing Jean Valjean in Les Miserables] And when Red Sox fans talk about game six, McNamara, Clemens (if one believes McNamara, that he "asked out"), Schiraldi, Gedman and Stanley all take more abuse than Buckner. At least, that is my experience.

And I hear Buckner blamed far, far more often by non-Boston media types and fans than Red Sox media-types and fans.

Was he "driven out" of the Boston area by fan abuse? I've never seen any evidence of it. There are, obviously, morons everywhere, the Boston area being no exception. But I'm extremely skeptical that he somehow took so much abuse that he had no choice but to leave. This is a guy who grew up in California, spent 7 years with the Dodgers, 8 with the Cubs, but somehow, the fact that he didn't spend the rest of his life in Boston or Wakefield or Andover after spending two full seasons and three partial with the Red Sox is evidence of fan derangement. I'm not buying it. Again, were there individual incidents of unpleasantness? Sure - I've had individual incidents of unpleasantness in the Boston area and no one knows who the hell I am. But was the Red Sox fan base, as a group, somehow so unreasonable and disagreeable that he was "driven out" of the area? Do Red Sox fans as a group owe him an apology? I don't think so. I certainly don't, and I'm not going to.

(And he didn't warrant any of those positive reactions for his performance, either. He hit .279/.315/.410/.725 while playing 526 games for the Red Sox, primarily at 1st base and DH, with an OPS+ of 94. He led baseball in outs in 1986, while playing at a primarily offensive position. He was much, much worse as a Red Sox than someone like, for example, J.D. Drew.)

I don't know anything about Bauman, but I'll cut Benjamin a little slack - she was 4 years old when the ball went through Buckner's legs and eight when he returned on opening day 1990. But I, for one, am sick and tired of the story, and the implication that "Red Sox nation" consists entirely of petty, maladjusted, immature spoiled brats who drove one of the great players in a Red Sox nation out of the area because of one simple mistake. It's media storylining, and the storyline is even less accurate than most media storylines. It's nonsense, and I'm sick of it.

As to the whole "Boston fans drove Buckner out of the region and finally relented and showed that they had reconciled with him," I'm going to do something I'll probably never do again, and give Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy the last word. From the June 6, 1990 edition of the Boston Globe, page 47:
Opening Day 1990 was a cathartic experience for Buckner and the baseball fans of New England. The hobbling warhorse got the loudest and longest ovation when Sherm Feller introduced this year's Red Sox...He said he probably wouldn't stay in the Boston area unless he gets a job he likes.





UPDATE: Welcome to baseball fans coming from David Pinto's invaluable Baseball Musings site. I write fairly often (at least weekly during the season) about the Boston Red Sox...

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Standing headline

Howie Carr likes to talk about "standing heads," a newspaper term (presumably, in this day and age of digital layout, now obsolete) which refers to "a special label for any regularly appearing section, page or story".

Time's got one on their website...

Oops. Another Clinton Story Turns Out To Be Not So True

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 4/7/2008

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, their runs/game, runs allowed/game and Pythagorean project winning percentage, along with their 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. Finally, any difference is expressed as "luck", with negative numbers representing underperforming teams.

Finally, there's a linear projection of final records, based on current winning percentage, and based on Pythagorean winning percentage.



Well, the Red Sox opening week is finally over, 12 days, 7 games and 6500 miles after it started. The first series went pretty well, the second was a disaster.

  • By the numbers, the team hasn't hit well, as they're currently 11th out of 14 AL teams in runs scored.


  • By the numbers, the team hasn't pitched well, as they're 13th out of 14 in runs allowed.


  • The bullpen was the big problem in Toronto. The games were close when the starters left, but none of them finished that way. Wakefield left a tie game on Friday night, they lost by three. Buccholz left down 4-2, they lost 10-2. Beckett left the game down 2-1, they lost 7-4. All told, the starting pitchers allowed 4.6 runs/9IP while they were on the mound in Toronto, the bullpen allowed 14.0 runs/9IP.


  • But it's one week, they finished it at 3-4, and anyone who's fretting really needs to relax. If I were a Tigers fan, I'd be a little concerned, because 0-6 can get you into a bad spot pretty quickly, but the Orioles aren't going to win the East, the Royals aren't going to win over 100 games, and there's no reason to be worried about the Red Sox yet.


  • If you absolutely must fret about something, try this - there was no week in the 2007 season in which the Red Sox had a pythagorean winning percentage as low as the .328 that they had this week. I'm not going to worry about it, but, as I say, if you absolutely have to have something to fret about, well, there it is.


  • They have got a very tough April. When the month ends, they will have played the Angels, Tigers, Indians and Yankees, in addition to the presumably improved Blue Jays, Rangers and Rays. If they get to May 1 at 15-14 or better, they'll be in good shape. Obviously, we'd like to see a better record than that, but, all things considered, if they're over .500 and healthy, they will have had an acceptable month.






AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/7/2008
ProjectedActual

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

Toronto5.33(4)2.83(2)0.761(1)5142-1

Tampa Bay6.2(2)4(5)0.69(2)32320

Kansas City3.83(8)2.67(1)0.66(3)42420

Chicago6.33(1)4.67(11)0.636(4)42420

Baltimore5.4(3)4.4(10)0.593(5)32411

Texas5(5)4.17(7)0.583(6)33330

Oakland3.43(10)2.86(3)0.583(7)4334-1

Los Angeles4.14(6)4.29(9)0.484(8)34431

Cleveland4(7)4.17(7)0.481(9)33330

Seattle3.83(8)4(5)0.481(10)3324-1

Minnesota2.71(13)3.86(4)0.345(11)25341

Boston3.29(11)4.86(13)0.328(12)25341

New York2.83(12)4.67(11)0.286(13)24331

Detroit2.5(14)6.5(14)0.148(14)1506-1




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Baltimore13032

Toronto10854

Kansas City10854

Chicago10854

Tampa Bay9765




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Toronto12339

Tampa Bay11151

Kansas City10755

Chicago10359

Baltimore9765

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Could John Edwards be right about something?

Maybe there are really two Americas, but I don't agree with the way that he defines them. I've located some notes from an America that's very different than mine...

The Democrats in Seattle's 43rd district meet:
There was some time to kill as multiple tallies of the delegates and alternates were done, and when the time-killer of taking audience questions had run its course and the idea of teling jokes had been nixed, someone suggested doing the Pledge of Allegiance to pass the time...At the mere mention of doing the pledge there were groans and boos. Then, when the district chair put the idea of doing the Pledge of Allegiance up to a vote, it was overwhelmingly voted down. One might more accurately say the idea of pledging allegiance to the flag (of which there was only one in the room, by the way, on some delegate’s hat) was shouted down.

But don't even think of questioning their Patriotism!

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Irony

The Boston Celtics are going to finish with the best record in the NBA. And they're going to finish the season with the greatest year-to-year increase in wins in NBA history. They're going to accomplish those things on the the strength of one of the best trios in the league, Garnett, Pierce and Allen.

And the irony is, they clinched those accomplishments last night in a game in which none of the three played...

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

60 wins

Over the last two seasons, the Boston Celtics won 58 games while losing 107. Last night, this year's Celtics team won its 60th game against only 15 defeats. Congratulations are due to Danny Ainge, who took a lot of abuse while he was accumulating the assets which turned into Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. And to Doc Rivers, who took a lot of abuse for not winning more games with the unfortunate roster hand that he was dealt.

One more Celtic win or Piston loss guarantees the Celtics the home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. One more Celtic win or Hornet loss guarantees the home court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs. With seven games remaining, most against poor teams, it's safe to say that the Celtics are going to finish with the best record in the NBA.

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Oh yeah, THAT'LL work...

"Madonna has stunned the movie industry with plans to remake Casablanca – and this time set it in Iraq."

When I was in college, we'd ponder the worst possible plausible remake, and we came up (after seeing High Road to China) with a remake of Casablanca starring Tom Selleck and Bess Armstrong. This sounds much, much worse...

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Chuckle for the day

A wonderful exchange from the 1980s British sitcom "Yes, Prime Minister" (which followed "Yes, Minister." This features, Jim Hacker, current Prime Minister, and Bernard Woolley, his principal private secretary.

JH: Dorothy tells me that technically, Humphrey's supposed to phone you from the cabinet office before he comes through to number 10. Is that true?
BW: Well, perhaps, in theory but it's really just a formality.
JH: Good. Humphrey likes formality.
BW: Yes, Prime Minister. But as they say, it's a custom more honor'd in the breach than in the observance.
JH: Oh, really Bernard. Must you and Humphrey really always express yourself in this roundabout and pompous way? "More honor'd in the breach than the observance." Must always destroy the most beautiful language in the world, the language of Shakespeare.
BW: That is Shakespeare, Prime Minister.


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Red Sox 2, Athletics 1

If Major League Baseball is going to have stadiums in which home runs are determined by balls going over painted lines, hitting walls and bouncing back on to the field, then they need to implement some kind of video review for questionable balls. The Red Sox lost a run when a J.D. Drew home run was called a double last August, and they lost a run when a Varitek home run was called a double last night. Everyone watching around the world knows that it was a home run, but the guys that have to make the call have no access to the technology that tells everyone else that they screwed up. It's just silly.

  • Great game from Matsuzaka. He gave up a lead-off HR in the second and a lead-off single in the third, and nothing else over 6 2/3 innings, while striking out 9 and throwing 96 pitches.

  • I don't remember ever seeing before, and don't expect to ever see again, Manny Ramirez make first-pitch outs in three consecutive plate appearances in the same game.

  • Through three games, the offense has done little, but they're 2-1, as they've gotten two pretty good starts from Matsuzaka and won both.

  • And all reports on Beckett are positive - apparently, he looks very good. He'll either start in Toronto this weekend, or start the home opener on Tuesday.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Do you love your candidate?

Jim Geraghty has an interesting observation this morning, with, I think, some real validity.
I think one of the truly complicating factors for the Democrats is that their party is not just split, but that each half of the base has more or less fallen in love with its ideal candidate. They don't just think of their candidate as a good leader and potential good president, they see their preferred choice as a historical destiny, on course to radically improve America, opposed only by the shortsighted and the sinister....By comparison, on the Republican side... there are a lot of conservatives who are quite reluctantly supporting McCain....A party that nominates Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower does not always look for an inspiring ideal to quicken the pulse and put stars in voters' eyes.

...and the [Democratic] party's voters flirted with Dean, loved Bill Clinton (until recently), put their faith in a peanut farmer who pledged to never lie, contemplated , nominated McGovern. They want to be swept off their feet; they don't want a candidate they can merely respect.

And when one of their candidates falls short, about half the Democratic party will be be heartbroken.

He's exactly right (and I encourage you to read the whole piece).

And I think that you can even go further. This is, in many ways, emblematic of the varying approaches of the two parties to the entire idea of government, and the importance of the federal government in the lives of citizens.

Based on their platform positions, Democrats apparently believe that government can, and support programs intended to, create a utopia on earth. They envision a government that ensures that everyone is cared for, fed, clothed, housed and entertained, that problems of any kind resulting from human frailty are ameliorated or eliminated. If that is the goal, the leader has to be someone above mere human characteristics, and should be a beloved and honored figure.

Republicans, on the other hand, are far more skeptical (read "realistic") about the powers of government and the flaws of mankind, indeed, about the potential for an earthly utopia to be brought into being by any eartly means. They understand that government does some things better than others, that any candidate (other than Reagan ;-)) will only be another man serving in the office, and that they have certain issue positions that they want, or need, to see from that man.

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How could anything be more fun...

... than Steyn quoting Wodehouse. And not just any Wodehouse, the very best Wodehouse - as good as he was, for as long as he was, The Code of the Woosters is probably a perfect book, with not a syllable out of place and not a page without some delightful phrase or image.

And I haven't read it in a year or so - maybe I'll pull it off the shelf tonight...

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Forever and for always

There are many popular entertainers at whom I look and wonder, "how did this person get famous? Why is this person popular?" And sometimes, I'll make that comment about Shania Twain. But at those times, it's a rhetorical and sarcastic question. Because there really isn't any question at all...

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