Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

And there's more Harry Potter news today, as we've got a publication date for the (as we knew, inevitable) publication of The Tales of Beadle the Bard. Amazon.com has it going on sale in December, in both a collector's edition for $100, and a standard edition for significantly less.

No word yet on whether there will be midnight lines in bookstores, but it's certainly something to look forward to...

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Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

The first trailer that I've seen...

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Panic! Panic! Panic! (or not...)

So, the Red Sox are now in an extended stretch of .500 ball, playing mediocre, uninspired baseball. I think that it's pretty clear to everyone that team playing this way end up going nowhere. It's time to write off the 2008 season. Time to start looking ahead to 2009, identifying scapegoats, running Manny out of town, etc. In other words, the normal business of a team that, while it hasn't yet officially played itself out of the race, is clearly on that track.

To change the subject from the disappointing 2008 season, it's time to start playing baseball stat quizzes. I've chosen five teams, not-quite-at-random, and chosen to look at stretches of their seasons.

(Hint: One of these things is not like the others...)

1) Identify the team and season.
2) Identify what four of them have in common, and why the fifth is different.

OK, you have ... five minutes ... starting ... now.



A selection of not-quite-random teams
TeamGamesWLRRAPythagorean

A422121202168.584

B542727245242.506

C1145262537539.498

D693435297309.482

E663333388354.542


(Cue the Jeopardy waiting music...)



OK, everyone got it?


Here are the answers, with a little more detail:



A selection of not-quite-random teams
TeamStart DateEnd DateGamesWLRRAPythagoreanSeason result

2008 Red Sox8-Jun29-Jul422121202168.584???????

2007 Red Sox19-May19-Jul542727245242.506Won World Series

2006 Cardinals26-May1-Oct1145262537539.498Won World Series

2005 White Sox8-Jul22-Sep693435297309.482Won World Series

2004 Red Sox27-May11-Aug663333388354.542Won World Series



Hmmm...

It looks as though each of the last four World Series Champions had an extended stretch that was both a) longer and b) worse than what the Red Sox have gone through over the past month and a half.

None of this means that it isn't frustrating right now. The seven straight losses to the Angels is concerning, and the Texeira trade makes them a better team than they were, albeit probably not a better team than their record suggests. But experience, and 30 seconds of WEEI this morning, makes me think that there are a lot people who are going to go into hyperbolic overdrive for the next 48 hours. I'm not comfortable with the way the bullpen has pitched, but otherwise, I don't have any great concerns going forward.

They won't trade Manny, the trade deadline will pass and the Manny talk will subside, they'll put together a better stretch, they'll pass Tampa and stay ahead of the Yankees and win the AL East. And the playoffs will be, as they always are, a crapshoot. They'll win, or they'll lose, and it's impossible to say right now which it will be.

There. You heard it here first.

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Journalism quiz

Over in the Corner, Peter Kirsanow has a quiz for the media...
Which of the following phrases is not attributable to Sen. Obama?:
  • "People of the world — this is our moment."

  • "We are the change we've been waiting for."

  • "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."

  • "I am the way and the truth and the life."

  • "I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment... when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."

  • "I am a ..Citizen of the World."

  • "Vero Possemus."

I'm betting that over 50% of the mainstream press could pass. (And 90% would find all of the comments appropriate for the Anointed one to make...)

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 7/28/2008

A nice quiet week, with a good 4-2 record. Nothing to talk about...

Yeah, right.

  • The sweep in Seattle was noteworthy for two reasons, that it allowed them to come home with a .500 record on their post-All Star Game road trip, and that it has faded utterly from memory less than a week later.


  • Oh, and Manny took one of his "mental health days" in the last game of the trip.


  • So. We have to talk about Manny. Again. Let me just say this: He has been one of the best and most valuable players in baseball over the length of his contract. The Red Sox have one of the best records in baseball over the length of his contract. They've won two World Series, and are a top contender to win a third while Manny's been here. Manny's hit .321/.422/.558/.980 in 43 post-season games. By all accounts, he's a hard worker. He's a mediocre (or worse) outfielder, but one of the best hitters in the game. Since Manny put on a Red Sox uniform, he's one of four Major League players with 1000 hits, 500 BB, 250 HR, 800 RBI and 700 runs scored. He's hit .312/.411/.588/.999. He's 8th in OBP, 5th in SLG, 4th in HR and 3rd in RBI. He's not a perfect player or a perfect teammate, and the two-three "mental health days" that he takes must be irritating for the rest of the team. That said, the positive vastly exceeds the negative, and any legitimate criticism of him in the Boston press is quickly drowned out by the over-the-top and incredibly tiresome Manny-bashing. WEEI ends up spending a week every season, devoting 24 hours a day to all of the reasons that Manny should be run out of town. It tired, irritating, and, even worse, boring. It's been done, guys - give it a rest...


  • Obviously disappointing to lose two of three to the Yankees, but those things happen. I hate whining about the umpiring, but Marty Foster did not have a good night on Friday. There were at least four Red Sox batters called out, including two of the last six, on pitches that were clearly well out of the strike zone. Saturday was just a "Wakefield doesn't have it" game, and that's what those look like. Sunday was the reverse. Overall, the Yankees picked up one game over the three-game series. Not a big deal.


  • Since April 24, Jon Lester has started 16 games. He's 8-1 with a 2.51 ERA. He's pitched 107 2/3 innings, striking out 80 and only walking 26. Among pitchers with 10+ starts over that span, he's 7th in ERA. Johann Santana, for whom Lester was not traded in the off-season, is 12th with a 2.87 ERA.


  • I mentioned the Yankees grueling travel schedule last week. Well, after having finally left home (for three games only, visiting a city which is a 45 minute flight away) they're right back in the Stadium. A week from today, they'll have 19 left at home and 32 on the road.




AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/28/2008
ProjectedActual

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

Boston4.99(4)4.09(3)0.59(1)62446145-1

Chicago5(3)4.2(7)0.579(2)60435944-1

Oakland4.25(12)3.8(1)0.551(3)57475351-4

New York4.68(7)4.19(6)0.55(4)574758461

Tampa Bay4.49(9)4.12(4)0.54(5)564861435

Los Angeles4.49(9)4.13(5)0.538(6)564864408

Toronto4.3(11)3.98(2)0.536(7)56495352-3

Detroit5.04(2)4.72(11)0.53(8)55495351-2

Minnesota4.9(5)4.68(10)0.521(9)545057473

Cleveland4.58(8)4.58(8)0.5(10)52514558-7

Baltimore4.73(6)4.93(13)0.481(11)50544955-1

Texas5.57(1)5.87(14)0.476(12)505554514

Kansas City4.16(13)4.92(12)0.424(13)456147592

Seattle3.91(14)4.63(9)0.423(14)44603965-5




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Los Angeles10062

Tampa Bay9567

Boston9369

Chicago9369

New York9072




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Los Angeles9567

Boston9468

Chicago9369

Tampa Bay9270

New York9072




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Detroit8.33(1)3.83(3)0.806(1)5142-1

New York6.33(3)3.17(2)0.78(2)51510

Boston4.33(10)3(1)0.662(3)42420

Toronto5.57(6)4.29(5)0.618(4)43521

Texas7.33(2)6.17(10)0.579(5)33330

Chicago6.33(3)5.5(7)0.564(6)33421

Los Angeles6.33(3)5.67(8)0.551(7)33421

Tampa Bay3.14(12)3.86(4)0.407(8)34431

Baltimore4.86(7)6.29(12)0.384(9)3425-1

Cleveland4.83(8)6.33(13)0.379(10)24240

Oakland4.5(9)6.17(10)0.36(11)24240

Minnesota4.33(10)6(9)0.355(12)24240

Seattle2.83(14)4.67(6)0.286(13)2415-1

Kansas City3.14(12)6.57(14)0.206(14)16251

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sometimes, you get one right.

I am going to brag on this prediction for quite a while.
It was one year and nine days ago that I wrote an e-mail that included the following:
things are going to change tremendously over the next 12 months. How they’ll change is anyone’s guess, but my expectation is that a year from now, the media will no longer be able to hide the fact that things are going well in Iraq, and that the world is better off because we went in.
Me, 7/18/2007


Where do we stand now? The AP, of all people, is acknowledging that maybe we're winning in Iraq.
The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost.

Limited, sometimes sharp fighting and periodic terrorist bombings in Iraq are likely to continue, possibly for years. But the Iraqi government and the U.S. now are able to shift focus from mainly combat to mainly building the fragile beginnings of peace — a transition that many found almost unthinkable as recently as one year ago.

Despite the occasional bursts of violence, Iraq has reached the point where the insurgents, who once controlled whole cities, no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of the central government.

There is much that they still don't understand, or get wrong, but it's good to see that the truth is finally starting to leech through.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Spotted on the web

Great bumper sticker from the Tennessee Republican Party:

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Today's entry in the "I wish I'd thought of that" files

The Gospel of Obama

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

...

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet...

A work of brilliance from Gerard Baker. There's a lot more, and it is all good...


UPDATE: This seems an appropriate place to re-post the SNL skit...

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Red Sox - Yankees

In preparation for the Red Sox-Yankee series starting in Boston tonight, we get a note from the Boston Herald this morning:
After a 6-4 loss to the Red Sox on July 4, the Yankees stood at 45-42, tied for third place with the lowly Baltimore Orioles. The Tampa Bay Rays were in first place and, with the Sox close behind, there was some thought that the Yankees may not be able to recover.

Forget that thought. Since that loss, the Yanks have gone 11-3, including 10-0 at Yankee Stadium. They’ve moved to within 3 of the Rays and two in the loss column of the Sox.

Ignoring the question of who actually thought that thought, what's actually happened in that three week span?
  • The Yankees have gained three games on the Red Sox, moving from 6 behind Boston to 3 behind Boston.

  • They've played 10 games at home, going 10-0, and only four on the road, going 1-3.

  • They've played two games against Boston, and 12 games against Minnesota, Oakland, Toronto and Pittsburgh.

  • In that same stretch, Boston has played at New York and Los Angeles of Anaheim.

  • The Yankees swept a three-game series at home from the Twins. So did the Red Sox.

  • The Red Sox have played six at home, going 5-1, and eight on the road, going 3-5.


I'm sure that there are people who think I'm over-emphasizing the home/road splits. I don't think so. For whatever reason, home teams have been dominant this year. There are only three teams (Angels, Cardinals and Giants) who have played better on the road than at home. Major League teams, as a group, are playing on a pace to go 92-70 at home and (obviously) 70-92 on the road. The Yankees, who have a relatively minor home/road performance difference, have played 20% better at Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox have played 78% better at Fenway. (Have I mentioned that the Red Sox have played a lot more road games and a lot fewer home games than the Yankees? If you missed it yesterday, here are the details.)

Yes, the Yankees have had a nice stretch. They've played some mediocre teams without having to travel. They finished the first half in Toronto, a short flight from New York, had the All Star game at home, and haven't been on a plane yet. But to expect that trend to continue, I think, requires a leap I'm certainly not prepared to make...

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Home Road schedules

I've noted, a couple of times before, that Tampa's had a pretty big schedule advantage home/road-wise versus the Red Sox so far. That hasn't changed yet, but it's going to.



Home/Road schedule splits - 7/24/2008
HOMEROAD

Rank (MLB)EASTWLPCTWLTotalWLTotalGames PlayedRemaining Home%Remaining Road%

1Tampa Bay59410.594016561925441002540.32%3759.68%

2NY Yankees56450.5543322552323461012642.62%3557.38%

3Oakland52490.5153124552125461012642.62%3557.38%

29Boston60430.5833611472432561033457.63%2542.37%

30Texas52500.512521462729561023558.33%2541.67%


No team in baseball has a higher percentage of its games left to be played on the road than the Rays. The Yankees and A's are tied for second. Boston's 29th - only Texas gets a higher percentage of its remaining games at home than the Red Sox.

Another way to look at it is this. Boston and Tampa each have a 50 game set which is split 50/50 home and away - 25 remaining at home and 25 on the road. Beyond that set, Boston has 9 more games, all home games. Tampa has 12 more all on the road.

Based on home and road records, Boston has played better than Tampa, despite Tampa's nominal 1/2 game lead. Boston's on a pace to win 97 games, the Rays to win 93. (Yankee fans are excited about their team again, but they've had the same kind of schedule advantage as the Rays, plus a much softer interleague schedule - New York's on a pace to win 89.)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is 46 the new 34?

Hey, if we're going to "interpret" the Constitution as a living document, if the "emanations and penumbras" are more important than the actual words, then I think that this is a great argument to make...
Barack Obama is too young to be president. Yes I know he is 46 and the Constitution sets the presidential age qualification at 35 or higher, but Obama has said that we ought not to interpret the Constitution woodenly and formalistically. Perhaps we should look deeper at the presidential age limit. If we do, we will find that Obama really is too young to be president.

Many on the legal left these days advocate purposive, pragmatic interpretation of the Constitution. The idea is you look behind the text to see what function it played for the framers and you then translate the text so it will play that same function for us today. What does this mean for the presidential age qualification?

In 1789, the average life expectancy of a newborn was about 40 years, compared with about 78 today. A lot of this was because of infant mortality, but in 1789, even the average life expectancy of every man who reached age 18 was only about 47. This suggests that at best a 35-year-old age limit in 1789 might have functioned then about the way a 55- or 60-year-old age qualification would function today. On this account Obama may be old enough to drive and buy a glass of white wine, but he has a way to go before he can run for president.

How could you argue with that?

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Today's (OK, it was last Friday's but I missed it then) global warming news

Read this. Read all of it. The scientist (David Evans) who has been responsible for measuring Australia's compliance with the Kyoto protocols says that there is "no evidence to support the idea that carbon emissions cause significant global warming. None."
I DEVOTED six years to carbon accounting, building models for the Australian Greenhouse Office. I am the rocket scientist who wrote the carbon accounting model (FullCAM) that measures Australia's compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, in the land use change and forestry sector.

FullCAM models carbon flows in plants, mulch, debris, soils and agricultural products, using inputs such as climate data, plant physiology and satellite data. I've been following the global warming debate closely for years.

When I started that job in 1999 the evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming seemed pretty good: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, the old ice core data, no other suspects.

...

There has not been a public debate about the causes of global warming and most of the public and our decision makers are not aware of the most basic salient facts:

1. The greenhouse signature is missing. We have been looking and measuring for years, and cannot find it.

Each possible cause of global warming has a different pattern of where in the planet the warming occurs first and the most. The signature of an increased greenhouse effect is a hot spot about 10km up in the atmosphere over the tropics. We have been measuring the atmosphere for decades using radiosondes: weather balloons with thermometers that radio back the temperature as the balloon ascends through the atmosphere. They show no hot spot. Whatsoever.

...

2. There is no evidence to support the idea that carbon emissions cause significant global warming. None. There is plenty of evidence that global warming has occurred, and theory suggests that carbon emissions should raise temperatures (though by how much is hotly disputed) but there are no observations by anyone that implicate carbon emissions as a significant cause of the recent global warming.

3. The satellites that measure the world's temperature all say that the warming trend ended in 2001, and that the temperature has dropped about 0.6C in the past year (to the temperature of 1980).

...

4. The new ice cores show that in the past six global warmings over the past half a million years, the temperature rises occurred on average 800 years before the accompanying rise in atmospheric carbon. Which says something important about which was cause and which was effect.

Read it all. The "consensus" is a lie. The evidence supporting anthropogenic climate change is scant, at best.

And Al Gore's a lying demagogue. I have not been able to sit through his entire movie, but I've seen a few minutes of it. The very first thing that jumps out when he puts up the atmospheric carbon vs. temperature chart is that the temperature changes first. And everything I've read suggests that that makes sense - the oceans are carbon "sinks" - when they cool, they capture it, when they warm, they release it. Which means, of course, that the carbon in the atmosphere is not what is causing the oceans to warm or cool. And he stands up there and says it is and people applaud and no one calls him on it.

Anyway, this is a great piece, and I encourage everyone to read it...

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Perspective

Because of the blatant and persistent bias in the American press, being a liberal means never having to say that you're sorry. No matter how often you are wrong:
Just keep in mind that if we had followed the starter Senator's judgment at any point during his political career, Iraq could have been too dangerous a place for his flight to even consider touching down.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 7/21/2008

It feels like there hasn't been any baseball in a couple of weeks. Four days off for the All Star break followed by late night and weirdly timed afternoon games.

  • Obviously an unpleasant weekend. It still amazes me how many people are willing to look at a lost weekend and project it out as a long-term trend. Yes, it was frustrating. Yes, they're behind Tampa again. Yes, the Yankees played well against Oakland and picked up three games. A little bit of historical perspective suggests that these things happen, but they don't happen indefinitely.


  • In their last 12 road games, the Red Sox are 2-10. They've been outscored 56 to 36 in the 10 losses. They lost once by eight runs, three times by two runs and six times by one run. In four of those 10 losses, they led in the 7th inning or later. Their pythagorean for those 12 road games suggests that they should have been 5-7. Some of this is the bullpen struggling, some of it is the offense struggling, and some of it is just plain dumb bad luck, rockets hit directly at infielders with two outs and the bases loaded, double play balls that hit pitchers feet and don't end up as double plays.


  • I've mentioned this before, but the Red Sox have a remaining schedule advantage (which continues to grow this week as Tampa and New York are home while Boston finishes on the west coast.
    AL East:
    Road games remaining - Tampa - 37, New York - 35, Boston - 28
    Home games remaining - Boston - 34, New York - 29, Tampa - 28


  • Part of the problems on the road is this: .214/.288/.324/.611. Those are the combined road stats for the catchers and center fielders. Messrs. Ellsbury, Crisp, Varitek and Cash have combined for a .214 batting average and .288 OBP in 491 road at-bats this year. It's a good thing that they're running out of road games. When they take the field on Friday night, they'll only have 25 remaining on their schedule.


  • I understand why it happens. Honestly, I do. The writers need a narrative, a storyline, because otherwise, you spend the entire baseball season writing "it's only three games and that doesn't mean anything." But still, this bit from Gordon Edes irritates me greatly - "[the] three-game sweep of the Sox this weekend [sent] a strong message that the Angels have made great inroads in eradicating a Sox problem that tends to surface in October." No, it didn't. It sent a strong message that the Angels had a better weekend than the Red Sox. Period. The Angels took 2-3 from the Red Sox in Anaheim in August of last season, and followed it with a four-game split in Fenway a week and a half later. Boston swept them in the playoffs. Anaheim was 4-2 in Anaheim against the Red Sox in 2004. Boston swept them in the playoffs. What we saw this weekend was the continuation of a road slump by the bats, a bunch of balls hit hard right at fielders with runners on, and a couple of bad innings at bad times from Boston starters. And that's it. If these two teams meet again in October, the results from this weekend will have NO impact. The Red Sox might sweep again, the Angels might sweep, there's no way of knowing. But this past series will not be relevant.





AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/21/2008
ProjectedActual

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

Boston5.03(2)4.16(6)0.586(1)59415743-2

Chicago4.92(4)4.12(4)0.58(2)56415542-1

Oakland4.23(11)3.65(1)0.567(3)56425147-5

Tampa Bay4.59(7)4.13(5)0.547(4)534457404

Los Angeles4.38(10)4.04(3)0.537(5)534560387

New York4.58(8)4.26(7)0.534(6)524653451

Minnesota4.94(3)4.6(9)0.532(7)524655433

Toronto4.21(13)3.96(2)0.529(8)52464850-4

Cleveland4.57(9)4.47(8)0.509(9)49484354-6

Detroit4.84(5)4.78(11)0.506(10)50484949-1

Baltimore4.72(6)4.84(13)0.489(11)475047500

Texas5.46(1)5.85(14)0.469(12)465351485

Kansas City4.23(12)4.8(12)0.443(13)445545541

Seattle3.98(14)4.63(10)0.431(14)42563860-4




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Los Angeles9963

Tampa Bay9567

Boston9270

Chicago9270

Minnesota9171




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Los Angeles9468

Boston9369

Chicago9369

Tampa Bay9369

Minnesota8973




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Minnesota6.67(2)1(1)0.97(1)3021-1

New York4.33(10)1.67(2)0.852(2)30300

Los Angeles6.67(2)2.67(3)0.842(3)30300

Kansas City7.33(1)5.67(8)0.616(4)21210

Toronto4.67(9)4(4)0.57(5)2112-1

Cleveland5.67(6)5.33(7)0.528(6)21210

Detroit6.25(4)6(10)0.519(7)22220

Baltimore6(5)6.25(11)0.481(8)22220

Seattle5.33(8)5.67(8)0.472(9)12120

Tampa Bay4(11)4.67(6)0.43(10)12211

Chicago5.67(6)7.33(14)0.384(11)12120

Boston2.67(12)6.67(12)0.158(12)03030

Oakland1.67(13)4.33(5)0.148(13)03030

Texas1(14)6.67(12)0.03(14)03121

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Well said...

I was doing some work on a Masters project, and stumbled across a quote that I loved. It is related to business, to IT projects, and comes from the director of IT Service Management at Liberty Mutual, Steve Wrenn. But I find it absolutely true when referring to the Government.
Nothing is less productive, and more demotivating, than to make more efficient something that should not be done at all.

That sums up perfectly how I feel about the vast majority of "re-inventing Government" initiatives. Any time someone wants to make HUD or the Department of Education more efficient, for just two examples out of many thousands...

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Democrats - "drilling wouldn't help now, anyway..."

Sometimes comedians get a laugh by exaggerating reality. And sometimes, it's just reality itself...

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Synchronicity

One of the ideas on the list of books that I want to write (but probably never will) deals with the intersection of ideas between Christianity and Eastern philosophy, as I have noted significant similarities as I’ve studied the martial arts. I mention this today because of the interesting juxtaposition of two brief readings this morning. I have various books on my shelf that I pull down, on occasion, or read through in pieces. I read a section from Grandmaster Dominick Giacobbe’s Secrets for a Powerful Life, and a page from A Year with C.S. Lewis. (Not the page for July 18 – I just opened the book at random and read the page for March 16.)

There was an old master and his young pupil walking on a path in the woods. When they came upon a fork in the road they had two choices. They could take a road to the left or the one to the right. The young boy said to the old master, “Let’s take the trail on the left…there is a quail on this path and he is walking in that direction…” As they walked the trail was becoming smaller and smaller. When they came to a curve the trail ended at a cliff. As they approached the cliff the quail flew away. The boy was so upset with himself he apologized to the old master for his foolish decision to follow the quail. The master told the boy to sit down and relax. He told the boy to accept his decision and told the boy, “We must return to the fork in the road and take the road to the right.” The boy then jumped up and said to the master, “Master, Master, if we go this way off the trail we can catch the other trail.” The master told the boy, “There is no easy way. We must return to the fork in the road and take the other trail. If we go off the trail we will have more problems and we will not accomplish anything.” The boy was very upset. The Master told the boy not to be upset and told the boy, “Just change your direction and continue on your journey.”
- Grandmaster Dominick Giacobbe, Secrets for a Powerful Life


After reading a chapter from Grandmaster Giacobbe, I pulled the Lewis book off the shelf. I opened it, as I said, at random, and this was on the page that I read.
We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road…
- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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The arrogance of the (self-)Anointed One

I wrote about Obama's arrogance a month ago1. Jonah Goldberg addressed it last week. There have been others in between and since. And today, Charles Krauthammer joins in. The whole column is great, and he sums up the issue brilliantly:
There's nothing new about narcissism in politics. Every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president. Nonetheless, has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?

Obama is a three-year senator without a single important legislative achievement to his name, a former Illinois state senator who voted “present” nearly 130 times. As president of the Harvard Law Review, as law professor and as legislator, has he ever produced a single notable piece of scholarship? Written a single memorable article? His most memorable work is a biography of his favorite subject: himself.
.

Read the whole thing...



1 - Yes, I'm quoting myself here, but I liked it, and I want to run it again...
The natural humility which should be felt by one in his situation he attributes to himself as a virtue, and emphasizes the virtue by noting its profundity. The pro forma “knowledge of my own limitations” is, again, self-praise, calling attention to his self-awareness. There are no ego-less Presidential Candidates – one has to have an enormous opinion of one’s abilities and opinions to think that he should be the most powerful man in the world – but Obama is so convinced of his superiority that he cannot even do the obligatory self-effacement appropriately.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Live-blogging the Home Run Derby

Not.

I don't know, maybe this reveals me to be something less than a true baseball fan, but just the idea of sitting through 3 hours of ESPN puffery and hyperbole while eight players take batting practice makes me ill. I was not at home while it was taking place, but I will freely admit that there's no way I'd have watched it even if I'd been at home.

The entire All Star game concept is, I think, a thing of the past. Once upon a time, you brought the best players in the game together, praised them, and they played a real game that allowed people to see players they weren't otherwise seeing, players from the other league. But now, almost every game is available almost everywhere, the highlights are played incessantly on three or four different networks, and the level of praise is constant and ridiculous. So what we'll see tonight (and when I say "we," I don't necessarily mean myself) is a game that does not mean anything1, played by players that we can watch any night of the week, with a busy, dumbed-down, hyped-up, overblown and hyperbolic commentary track.

No, thanks. I suspect I can find something else to do while that's taking place...



1 - Yes, I know, it determines home field advantage for game seven of the World Series. "This time it counts!" Yawn...

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 7/14/2008

What was it that I, the voice of reason, said last week, as the Rays had built a 5-game lead over the Red Sox?

"...everyone who's ready to concede the division is over-reacting. Significantly...the Rays have built this lead on the strength of the kind of stretch (16-4 since the start of inter-league play) that is unlikely to continue, and they've done that while the Sox have struggled. That five game lead may be smaller, or even much smaller, when the All Star Break gets here next week."


So, a week later, Boston's gone 5-1, Tampa Bay's gone 0-7, and the lead is not only smaller, it's gone entirely. We reach the All Star break with Boston in first place.

  • If the previous week was a disaster for the Red Sox, what describes the week just past for the Rays? If you can put up a pythagorean winning percentage of .093 AND fail to reach it, well, that's pretty unpleasant. And scoring under 2 runs/game is just plain ugly.


  • The Red Sox offensive stats were obviously boosted by that 18 run outburst on Wednesday. In the other five games, they averaged under five runs/game.


  • The pitching was good, though, because you can't allow 3.17 runs/game over six games without it being consistently good. They gave up seven once and five twice, but they also allowed 0 in one game and 1 in two more.


  • If there was one starter on this team that I wanted to take a long trip to the DL, it was Julio Lugo. Yes, Varitek's been worse, but there isn't a good option if Varitek goes down. I want to see Lowrie playing everyday at shortstop. I wanted to see it before the season started, and I still want to see it.


  • Daisuke Matsuzaka is currently having a season which is essentially unprecedented in my experience. He made two more starts this week, threw 233 pitches while walking 10 in 13 1/3 innings, and allowed 0 runs. The games he pitches are excruciating to watch, as he throws a lot of pitches, a lot of balls and walks a lot of batters. But he's been almost unbelievably effective. If a pitcher can't control the strike zone, you'd expect that some of the balls that he misses with will be in the strike zone, and in good hitting spots, but that just doesn't seem to happen. He's now made 16 starts, he's 10-1, and his ERA is 2.65. And remarkably, he's pitched better than that. Following three weeks on the DL, his first start back was shaky, and he gave up 7 runs in 1 inning, taking his only loss of the year. In his other 15 starts, his ERA is 1.96, and he's only given up more than three runs once, and that was only four. His WHIP in those 15 games is 1.33, though. That's way too many base runners to actually support that ERA.


  • The "first half" finishes with the Red Sox having played nearly 60% of their schedule. They have played 50 on the road and 47 at home, so they have 34 home games and 30 road games remaining. Tampa has 31 home and 37 on the road. The Yankees have 32 home and 35 on the road.


  • I do not know if the Red Sox have now moved into first place to stay. Given that they start the post-All Star game schedule on the west coast at Anaheim while Tampa hosts Toronto, it's probably not a great bet. But I am very confident that they will, at some point, move into first place to stay. They started the season on one of the epic road trips in baseball history, playing in three separate countries and flying over 6000 miles before playing the home opener. Their ace missed two weeks, their number two starter missed three, another of their starters went on the DL, their starting third baseman missed two weeks and their DH, a perennial MVP candidate, has been out for over a month. Despite all of that, they've got the best run differential in the AL, and would have the best record were it not for LAnaheim's stunning overperformance of their pythagorean. Before the season started, many people, myself included, thought Boston was the best team in the AL. I've seen nothing that changes my opinion; indeed, it has been reinforced.




AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/14/2008
ProjectedActual

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

Boston5.1(2)4.08(4)0.601(1)58395740-1

Chicago4.89(3)4.02(3)0.589(2)55395440-1

Oakland4.32(10)3.63(1)0.578(3)55405144-4

Tampa Bay4.61(7)4.12(6)0.551(4)524255393

Toronto4.2(12)3.96(2)0.527(5)50454748-3

New York4.59(8)4.34(7)0.526(6)504550450

Los Angeles4.31(11)4.08(5)0.524(7)504557387

Minnesota4.88(4)4.72(10)0.516(8)494653424

Cleveland4.53(9)4.45(8)0.509(9)48464153-7

Detroit4.78(5)4.72(11)0.505(10)474747470

Baltimore4.67(6)4.78(13)0.49(11)46474548-1

Texas5.6(1)5.82(14)0.482(12)465050464

Kansas City4.14(13)4.77(12)0.435(13)425443531

Seattle3.94(14)4.6(9)0.429(14)41543758-4




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Los Angeles9765

Boston9567

Tampa Bay9567

Chicago9369

Minnesota9072




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Boston9666

Chicago9468

Tampa Bay9270

Los Angeles9270

Oakland9072




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Boston7(2)3.17(3)0.81(1)51510

Cleveland6.5(3)4.17(6)0.693(2)42420

Detroit5.67(6)4.33(7)0.62(3)4233-1

Oakland3.71(11)3(1)0.596(4)43430

Toronto5.83(5)4.83(8)0.585(5)42511

Kansas City5(8)4.14(5)0.585(5)43430

New York3.17(12)3(1)0.525(7)33330

Texas7.14(1)6.86(13)0.519(8)43430

Los Angeles5.14(7)5.29(9)0.487(9)34431

Chicago6.33(4)7.17(14)0.444(10)33330

Seattle2.86(13)3.43(4)0.417(11)3425-1

Baltimore4.67(9)6.5(12)0.353(12)2415-1

Minnesota4(10)6(10)0.323(13)25341

Tampa Bay1.86(14)6.43(11)0.093(14)1607-1

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Picnic pix

Slideshow of pictures taken by Lyfie and Lori at the Friday Night Saturday Night Picnic, 7/4/2008...




Music by Schooner Fare
- Summer Roads
- But Were I Born a Sailor
- All Coming Together

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

In how many languages can Senator Obama insult America?

More words of wisdom from Anointed one, this time on the topic of languages:
You know, I don't understand when people are going around worrying about, "We need to have English- only." They want to pass a law, "We want English-only."

Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English -- they'll learn English -- you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language.

You know, it's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say [is], "Merci beaucoup." Right?

You know, no, I'm serious about this. We should understand that our young people, if you have a foreign language, that is a powerful tool to get ajob. You are so much more employable. You can be part of international business. So we should be emphasizing foreign languages in our schools from an early age, because children will actually learn a foreign language easier when they're 5, or 6, or 7 than when they're 46, like me.

There's any amount of mockery that could be heaped on that statement - Americans aren't as mono-lingual as his stereotype implies, international business is done in English, the focus of the "English-only" movement is to emphasize the importance of integration, etc. - but that just seems like a waste of time. I'm still on the whole "questioning their patriotism" thing.

So, before he won the nomination, America never provided care for the sick. It never provided good jobs for the jobless. His wife has never been proud of her country in her adult lifetime, until he started winning primaries. He decided not to wear a flag pin, choosing instead to define patriotism as "tell[ing] ... people what ... will make this country great." He wants to remake the country. And it's "embarassing" that Europeans speak English while Americans don't speak French, German, Dutch, Italian, Polish, Czech, Russian, Spanish and Greek, etc. He spent 20 years as a member, and brought his children to be taught, in a church defined by a senior pastor who thinks that saying "God damn America" is more appropriate than "God bless America." He wants to force high school and college students to "voluntarily" perform community service.

But we can't question his patriotism.

A commenter at Tom Maguire's has the best reaction:
"Somebody ought to ask BHO if there's anything about the U.S. that he likes."

If someone can legitimately ask that question (and frankly, how can you legitimately ask anything else?), then putting aside all questions of competence and experience, is this really a legitimate candidate for the Presidency of the United States?

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Wall-E

When Luxo Jr. first made his appearance pushing balls around on Sesame Street, we knew that the animation was something special. What we did not know was that the makers of those short segments would go on to become the 500 pound gorilla in the family entertainment industry. But that is just what they've become, with an unbroken string of successes from the first Toy Story movie in 1995 through 2007's Ratatouille.

And Wall-E is the latest entry in that list. It's obviously far too early to know how it will eventually succeed at the box office, but it had a bigger opening weekend than either of the last two Pixar films, both of which ended up doing over $200 million in the US.

Wall-E is essentially a trash compactor on wheels. Once upon a time, there were apparently hundreds of Wall-E's, but all indications are that he is the only one left working. And the work he's doing is cleaning up the planet. The human beings left, having rendered the planet incapable of supporting life, and Wall-E remained behind to clean it up. Which he does. He goes about his business of gathering the trash, compressing it into little cubes, and stacking the cubes into skyscraper sized piles. He's curious about many of the things that he sees, and has gathered an impressive collection of artifacts. He works during the day, returns to his collection at night, and watches Hello, Dolly on his video iPod.

And then one day, everything changes. Something large comes out of the sky, and when it departs, there's a new robot left behind. Smooth and sleek (and very deadly), the Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator (Eve) definitely intrigues Wall-E. Boy meets girl, and (not for the first time) boy is more interested in girl than they other way around. And, also not for the first time, various obstacles threaten the relationship. What the obstacles are, how they are overcome, and what results when they are overcome - those are the things that make up the rest of the film.

I have mixed emotions about Wall-E. It was certainly entertaining, and one thing remains true - each time Pixar releases a new film, the state of the art in computer generated animation takes a step forward. It is never boring, and Pixar understands, the way that other animation producers have not, that it is character and story that make movies, not just special effects.

But I had difficulty suspending my disbelief, and, as much as I enjoyed what I was watching (most of the time), it never transported me to another world the way that some of their earlier efforts did. Wall-E is, as all of Pixar's characters have been, fully realized, tremendously expressive, and just plain fun to look at. But the film never completely drew me in the way that Pixar's previous efforts have. There was a barrier, a threshold that I never crossed.

It would be patently ridiculous to attack the movie as implausible. They have made a movie with a certain set of assumptions, and, as quibbling over why the robot garbage disposal has sentience would be both pointless and unfair, I won't do that. Nothing in Wall-E, at least nothing related to the robot characters, is any more implausible than events in Monsters, Inc. or Cars or The Incredibles, all of which I love unreservedly. So I want it clearly understood that I am not challenging any of the robot actions, feelings or relationships on the grounds of implausibility. Within the universe the film inhabits, those things are all fine and essentially consistent.

The problem, I suspect, is that they have made their universe too much like the one which we currently inhabit. That will sound, again, inconsistent on my part - after all, don't the characters in Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story and Cars inhabit our own universe? But the answer to that is actually, "no, they do not." The characters in Monsters, Inc. inhabit a universe like ours, but with a fundamental difference - there really ARE monsters that jump out of closets and scare children. The Toy Story universe is like ours, but with a fundamental difference - toys come to life when we aren't watching.

But in Wall-E, the producers seem to be implying that it is our universe. The planet shots are Earth and they talk about returning to Earth. Wall-E's collection includes a light bulb and a Rubik's cube. And he enjoys watching Hello, Dolly on his video iPod. The first twenty minutes, as entertaining as it is, as visually interesting and spectacular as it is to watch, feels like a twenty minute lecture from the Sierra Club or Al Gore. (OK, it probably feels like 20 second lecture, which would feel like a 20 minute lecture, from Al Gore.) A lecture on conspicuous consumption and consumerism from a group of people who have generated billions of dollars by selling leisure activities and related action figures. I have no objection to a movie having a point of view or trying to make a point, but a little bit of subtlety would be OK, too.

And this, I think, is where I lost the ability to suspend my disbelief. The premise that, sometime in the next century or two, human beings would have "cluttered" their way off the planet was not one that I was able to buy. Talking, sentient trash-compactor? No problem. Skyscraper sized piles of garbage everywhere? Sorry, I'm unable to suspend my disbelief that far. (For what it's worth, I wasn't alone in that - my kids felt the same way.) One of the strongest trends in human development is the trend towards reducing pollution and cleaning up the world as technology increases. Indeed, there is not a thing in the movie more implausible than its premise that the same society produced both the mess that Wall-E is cleaning, and the pristine paradise of a spacecraft on which the humans have taken shelter. Wall-E's evolved sentience is a lot easier to swallow than that.

Societies that aren't merely struggling to feed and house themselves develop arts and leisure activities, and then they start doing things like cleaning up the air and water. Societies, like people, move up Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and more advanced societies (as this one had to have been) reach the need for "self-esteem" and then "self-actualization." And the focus turns to technology, and the technology increases the amount of recycleable and recycled material1. In other words, while there are both legitimate environmentalists and strident "watermelons" (green on the outside, red on the inside) peddling apocalyptic scenarios, none of them feel real or likely. And Wall-E's premise of a world deserted because the discard piles got too high is less likely than most.

All that said, there is no dialogue during that opening section. The movie does not actually lecture on the topic of trash. If you aren't already sensitive about the subject, or if you agree with the environmental extremist point of view, it may well be possible to suspend disbelief and be completely drawn in. It certainly wasn't preachy the way the unwatchable Happy Feet was, and I don't want to suggest that it was.

No, it just shows Wall-E going about his business. And he's certainly amusing to watch. The film never ceases to be entertaining and visually impressive. And the human beings do show some initiative and gumption at the end. Pixar is going to make a lot of money, again, on Wall-E, and they'll deserve to, as they've made another wonderful entertainment, and I'm glad to have seen it. But I didn't walk out of the theater with the same affection that I had for the others. And five years from now, I suspect, there will be millions of Wall-E figures and disks adding ironically to whatever clutter and consumerism problems that the producers of Wall-E are concerned about...




1 - This remains one of the big reasons that incurring massive economic damage now in hopes of mitigating against potential future climate changes which are likely to be, on the whole, far less costly, is a bad idea. IF mankind is actually causing global warming and IF global warming is actually going to be bad for humanity (and those are both big IFs), the best solution is far more likely to come from technology developed in a free market than in draconian restrictions imposed on the world's economic engine.


Update: Baseball Crank agrees that "the trash-will-overwhelm-us doomsday scenario was self-evidently absurd even within the context of the movie (they show the humans' new spaceship home as gleamingly spotless because they have the technology to jettison their garbage into space)..."

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Monday Pythagorean 7/7/2008

From the OED:
disaster, n. - Anything that befalls of ruinous or distressing nature; a sudden or great misfortune, mishap, or misadventure; a calamity.

I think that this week qualified...

  • Sometimes a 2-5 week can be acceptable, not a big deal, but it is never a good thing. And when it comes against division rivals, and causes you to lose five games in the standings over that week, it's a very bad thing.


  • I was hearing the kind of panic on Thursday that is laughable when a good team is 3 1/2 games down at the beginning of July. Really, one bad trip to Tampa and the organization needs to be razed and rebuilt? It sounded like it from some of the reactions I heard. I don't think so. And I'd take strong exception to the analyses which said that Boston was "outclassed" in Tampa. Please. It was a three-game sweep by a total of four runs, and brought the head-to-head series to 6-6 for the season.


  • There are, of course, some ways of losing which are more frustrating than others. When the bullpen keeps melting down, well, that's particularly frustrating. The Wednesday game in Tampa was about as painful as it gets, as Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen combined to retire 0 of the 6 batters they faced in the process of turning a 4-1 lead into a 7-4 deficit. But it wasn't the only example. Javier Lopez, the only relief pitcher who didn't look lost against the Rays gave up the lead to the Yankees last night, and Papelbon lost the game. The bullpen gave up the winning run in three of the five games played on the week, and that's just ugly.


  • For the week, the starting pitchers allowed 15 runs (14 earned) in 45 1/3 innings, an ERA of 2.78. The bullpen allowed 11 runs (all earned) in just 14 1/3 innings, an ERA of 6.91.


  • And Saturday's game was a frustration, too, loading the bases with no outs in the ninth and failing to get the tying run in from third. Strike out, pop up, strike out. Just as ugly as it could be. (Well, after the first strike out, I predicted that Varitek would ground into a double-play. That would have been just as ugly, I suppose. At least this way, they had three chances to fail to score the tying run as opposed to just two.)


  • The week was actually almost the definition of frustration. They went 2-5 while outscoring the opposition. They outscored the Yankees by 9 runs in their two wins, while being outscored by 6 runs total in the five losses. Pythagorus says that they should have been 4-3 on the week. Those things happen, but they are not pleasant.


  • All that said, everyone who's ready to concede the division is over-reacting. Significantly. When the Red Sox take the field tonight, they will have played 50 road games vs. only 41 home games. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, will have played 50 at home vs. only 38 on the road. There's a big home/road schedule advantage the rest of the way for the Red Sox, as there has been thus far for the Rays. Also, it's important to consider that the Rays have built this lead on the strength of the kind of stretch (16-4 since the start of inter-league play) that is unlikely to continue, and they've done that while the Sox have struggled. That five game lead may be smaller, or even much smaller, when the All Star Break gets here next week (though it won't shrink today, as Tampa gets one more against the Royals).


  • And speaking of the All Star game, I'd say that the Red Sox are significantly overrepresented. I've got no problem with Youkilis starting. I think Drew is worthy as a reserve. Pedroia's a mistake, not because of his performance, but because Ian Kinsler's been so much better - I wouldn't object to Dustin as a reserve. Manny gets enough "been a superstar for a long time even if he hasn't been great this year" points so that he's not an awful selection, but Varitek's presence on the roster is an embarassment. And the one pitcher named Jon from the Boston staff who should be there is Lester, not Papelbon.




AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/7/2008
ProjectedActual

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

Chicago4.8(5)3.81(2)0.604(1)53355137-2

Tampa Bay4.83(4)3.93(4)0.593(2)523555323

Boston4.98(2)4.14(6)0.583(3)53385239-1

Oakland4.36(10)3.68(1)0.577(4)51374741-4

Minnesota4.95(3)4.61(9)0.533(5)474150383

Los Angeles4.24(11)3.99(5)0.528(6)464253357

New York4.69(7)4.43(7)0.526(7)474247420

Toronto4.09(12)3.9(3)0.522(8)46434247-4

Baltimore4.67(8)4.66(10)0.501(9)444344430

Detroit4.72(6)4.75(12)0.497(10)444444440

Cleveland4.4(9)4.47(8)0.493(11)43453751-6

Texas5.48(1)5.74(14)0.479(12)434646433

Seattle4.02(14)4.69(11)0.43(13)38503553-3

Kansas City4.07(13)4.82(13)0.423(14)385139501




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Tampa Bay10260

Los Angeles9864

Chicago9468

Boston9369

Minnesota9270




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Tampa Bay9963

Chicago9666

Boston9369

Los Angeles9270

Oakland9072




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Tampa Bay6.33(3)2.5(1)0.846(1)51601

Minnesota7(1)3.5(3)0.78(2)51510

Los Angeles5.5(4)3.83(6)0.659(3)42420

Boston4.14(9)3.71(4)0.55(4)4325-2

Chicago4.43(7)4(7)0.546(5)43521

Baltimore6.71(2)6.14(11)0.541(6)4334-1

New York4.57(6)4.29(9)0.529(7)4334-1

Oakland3.86(10)3.71(4)0.517(8)4334-1

Seattle3.29(13)3.29(2)0.5(9)43430

Detroit3.14(14)4.14(8)0.376(10)34340

Texas5.33(5)7.33(14)0.358(11)24422

Toronto3.33(12)5.17(10)0.31(12)24240

Cleveland4.33(8)7.17(13)0.285(13)2406-2

Kansas City3.86(10)6.71(12)0.266(14)25250

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Boston Red Sox - June audit

So, the month of June ends with the Red Sox 1 1/2 games behind the Rays in the AL East. I thought it would be interesting to see what actually happened in June, as the Red Sox played the entire month without David Ortiz, and with Daisuke Matsuzaka on the DL for most of it. In addition, they're as far behind as they've been all year (or at least close to it) and they're coming off three consecutive 1-run losses, each of which featured the winning run or runs being given up by the bullpen, so it feels like a down time.

And now, on to the numbers (mostly courtesy of the awesome Day by Day database at David Pinto's invaluable Baseball Musings, with some help from the also invaluable Baseball-Reference.com...)

Records:

Surprisingly, the Red Sox actually had a pretty good month of June. They played at a 96 win pace, going 16-11, and slightly underperformed their Pythagorean. And they only lost 1/2 game in the standings. In looking at their overall record and their place in the standings for March-May and June, I've included Tampa for comparison.



Red Sox - Rays record comparison
Through May

RRAR/GRA/GPyth"Luck"

TBR3422-0.6072532254.524.02.5533.01

BOS342410.5862902515.004.33.5661.19

June

RRAR/GRA/GPyth"Luck"

TBR1610-0.6151341065.154.08.606.25

BOS16110.50.5931381055.113.89.622-.81


A couple of noteworthy things pop out:
  • The Red Sox have had a better Pythagorean record than Tampa for the season. They had a better Pythagorean both through the month of May and in the month of June. Tampa has been "luckier" than Boston.

  • Both teams played better in June than they had before then. One possible reason for this is the number of interleague games. The AL dominated the NL once again, indicating that the typical AL team is stronger than the typical NL team.

  • Boston's offense, measured by runs/game, actually went up despite the absence of Ortiz. Tampa's offense also went up. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the NL pitching staff's had something to do with this.

  • Tampa's runs allowed went up. Boston's went down.


Offense:

I was surprised to see that the offense had actually gone up in June - that is not what I had expected to see. I was further surprised to see some of the individual numbers. Everyone knows that Drew had an outstanding month, but Manny must have been much hotter for the first week or so than I remembered, because he seems to have struggled greatly recently. And wow, did Varitek have a bad month!

This chart contains some standard offensive numbers and a couple of more advanced metrics. The last two columns are Bill James' Runs Created, and Runs Created per 25 outs, an estimate of how many runs per game a lineup would score with nine hitters performing the way that hitter performed. (The fact that it can end up negative is, indeed, an indicators that these are estimates.)



Red Sox offense - June, 2008
PlayerABHits Runs 2B3BHRRBIBBSBCSBAOBASPctOPSRCRC/25

J.D. Drew 9231277212272110.337.462.8481.31033.213.2

Mike Lowell 973418706251300.351.425.6081.03323.68.8

Dustin Pedroia 10136217049730.356.407.545.95222.48.1

Kevin Youkilis 83281460415800.337.415.554.96917.87.8

Manny Ramirez 842415306171400.286.394.536.93015.96.1

Coco Crisp 71221141311552.310.359.521.88012.85.8

Julio Lugo 7720760151550.260.372.377.74912.34.9

Jacoby Ellsbury 9824133115382.245.265.327.5929.23.0

Jason Varitek 74931016800.122.205.176.381-.5-.2

Regulars7772281294443812094224.293.373.507.880145.76.2


Sean Casey 321213000110.375.394.469.8635.66.6

Brandon Moss 36823005501.222.310.306.6163.52.9

Kevin Cash 26311014400.115.233.269.5021.51.7

Chris Carter 3220000000.667.667.6671.3341.026.2

Alex Cora 21433003300.190.292.333.6251.01.3

Jeff Bailey 2000000300.000.600.000.600.79.0

Role Players1202991001121611.242.328.350.67813.33.4


David Aardsma 1000000000.000.000.000.000-.1-2.7

Javier Lopez 1000000000.000.000.000.000-.1-2.7

Bartolo Colon 2000000000.000.000.000.000-.2-2.7

Daisuke Matsuzaka 2000000000.000.000.000.000-.2-2.7

Tim Wakefield 3000000000.000.000.000.000-.3-2.7

Jonathan Lester 5000000000.000.000.000.000-.5-2.6

Justin Masterson 5000000000.000.000.000.000-.5-2.7

Josh Beckett 6000000000.000.000.000.000-.6-2.1

Pitchers25000000000.000.000.000.000-2.6-2.5


Total92225713854439132110235.279.358.473.831155.85.5


    Offensive odds and ends:
  • Have I mentioned recently that I hate watching pitchers hit? Red Sox pitchers are 0-25 this year with no positive offensive contributions of any kind.

  • Lugo was OK offensively in June, but I don't know if he was OK enough to offset the defense he's playing. I'd rather see Jed Lowrie there, at least until Lowrie convinces me that he can't handle the position.

  • Ellsbury has been mediocre at best since I suggested, towards the end of April, that he wasn't as good as he'd played thus far. He was bad in June.

  • Nothing like as bad as Varitek, however. An OPS of .381 is horrifyingly bad over 80 plate appearances. He was bad enough to make giving Kevin Cash at-bats over him look like a good idea. And he's caught over 1200 Major League games and he's 36. I don't know what their plan 'A' is for 2009, but I hope it isn't "back the dump truck up to Varitek's door for another two-year deal."

  • On the whole, the starters, as a group, hit well. The role players, as a group, demonstrated that they're role players, but didn't embarrass themselves. And the pitchers, as a group, demonstrated that they're pitchers.


Pitching:

As noted earlier, the Red Sox runs allowed/game actually went down in June, despite the absence of one of their better starters.



Red Sox Pitching - June, 2008
StartersGSCGGFW L SvShoIPHRERHRBBKHBPBKQSQS %ERAWHIP

Bartolo Colon400220021.00261512561810125.0%5.1431.571

Daisuke Matsuzaka20011006.0087716500000.0%10.5002.333

Jonathan Lester500300032.67391111231930480.0%3.0311.378

Josh Beckett500210034.003499162610480.0%2.3821.206

Justin Masterson600320035.672918187192830233.3%4.5421.430

Tim Wakefield500210035.002310941225105100.0%2.3141.029


Starters270013700164.3315970662052121901659.3%3.6151.339


RelieversGamesGSCGGFW L SvShoIPHRERHRBBKHBPBKERAWHIP

Javier Lopez 11004100012.00101114500.7501.167

Jonathan Papelbon 11009108010.003321315001.800.600

Manuel Delcarmen 11002010012.006331316002.250.750

Christopher Smith 300010006.33322144002.8421.105

Craig Hansen 13004001012.3311540711002.9191.459

David Aardsma 11004010010.678540617003.3751.313

Mike Timlin 500200005.00765045009.0002.200

Hideki Okajima 1100202009.331910102512009.6432.571

.00

Relievers0027349077.6767353163685003.5921.326


Total27027161190242.00226105972688206903.6071.335


    Pitching odds and ends:
  • I don't generally look at pitching wins and losses. But it can be instructive. Both Beckett and Wakefield finished the month with only 2 wins and 1 loss, despite making 4 or 5 good to great starts. The bats and bullpen did not come on the days they started.

  • And how good was Jon Lester? That 3.03 ERA for the month is actually inflated by one awful start.

  • Beckett and Wakefield, in 10 games, combined for 9 quality starts and 2 wins. Colon and Masterson, in 10 games, combined on 3 quality starts and 5 wins.

  • That last item is a textbook example of why looking at pitching wins and losses when evaluating starting pitchers is a bad idea.

  • ERA can be deceptive. One dreadful start can result in a decent set of performance looking bad. Matsuzaka's ERA for the month is 10.5, but he had one dreadful start (7 runs in one inning) and one good start (0 runs in five innings.) You'd expect that to result in a .500 record despite the putresence of the ERA.

  • That said, it is possible that Okajima and Timlin were even worse than their ERAs would indicate.

  • The rest of the 'pen, however, had a pretty good month. Delcarmen and Hansen are both looking like good Major League relief pitchers at this point, and, for all that Javier Lopez is abused when not ignored, he had a real good month.

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Blowing my own horn again

The New Yorker, July 2008: "Iraq, despite myriad crises, has begun to stabilize.... The improved conditions can be attributed, in increasing order of importance, to President Bush’s surge, the change in military strategy under General David Petraeus, the turning of Sunni tribes against Al Qaeda, the Sadr militia’s unilateral ceasefire, and the great historical luck that brought them all together at the same moment. With the level of violence down, the Iraqi government and Army have begun to show signs of functioning in less sectarian ways."

Me, July 2007: "My expectation is that a year from now, the media will no longer be able to hide the fact that things are going well in Iraq."

Just sayin'...

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