Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Modern political discourse

It is easy to dismiss people who disagree with you as unreasonable, hateful bigots. All you have to do is ignore the rational arguments that they use to support their positions. Once having dismissed them as unreasonable, hateful bigots, one is obviously under no obligation to actually address their arguments...

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Pythagorean, 6/24/2013

Another 3-4 week, but the Orioles get swept by the Jays, the Yankees split with the Rays, and the lead stays at two.
  • With the Sox going 6-8 over the past couple of weeks, and Toronto winning 11 straight, the five AL East teams are now separated by five games. And it's not because everyone is clustered in the middle. The Red Sox are still tied for the best record in the league, and there are three teams in the Central and three in the West with records worse than any of the teams in the East.
  • While the last couple of weeks haven't been great, they've been a) predominantly road games b) against good teams. 6-8 over that stretch isn't a problem. It only becomes a problem if they continue to play sub-.500 ball for a couple more weeks.
  • The last three innings of Sunday's loss in Detroit were about as ugly as they get. Mental mistakes, physical mistakes, runs, outs and baserunners all gifted to a Tiger team that doesn't need the gifts. All made more frustrating by the fact that Doubront outpitched Verlander and they took a lead into the bottom of the 7th.
  • The dumbest play in Sunday's late-inning meltdown was not Nava's drop on the transfer from glove to hand, or even the umpire's call on that play. That honor goes to Mike Napoli, who apparently doesn't understand the rules of the game. When Pedroia dropped Torii Hunter's line driver and threw to first, they had an easy double play. Except Napoli touched the bag, removing the force on Jackson before tagging Jackson. So instead of two out and none on, they had one out and one on. Jackson, of course, went on to score the tying run. On a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch.
  • Crew chief Ted Barrett, quoted in the Boston Globe: "To have a catch, you have to have complete control and voluntary release. [DiMuro] had him with control, but did not have the voluntary release. When he flipped the ball out of his glove, he never got it into his hand. That's not voluntary release." So, if he had caught the ball (control) and run it back to the infield before flipping it from the glove and missed it, would it still not be an out? How long, exactly, does he need to maintain that control? And, the big question, if he intentionally flips the ball out of his glove, isn't that a "voluntary release"? It's nice to have the umpires answering question, I suppose, which they never used to do, but this strikes me as a weak response. Either he never had control, in which case the release wasn't voluntary, or he did, in which case it was - he voluntarily released it from his control (in his glove hand) and then didn't regain control with his bare hand. It sure looked like a catch to me.
  • Q: Who knows what Ken Coleman told Joe Castiglione about double-headers?
    A: Anyone who has listened to a Red Sox radio broadcast within four days of a Red Sox double-header over the past 20 years.
  • When he hurt his wrist five years ago, did anyone expect David "Ponce de Leon" Ortiz' age-37 season to look like this? I did not...
  • Goat of the Week - A key factor in two of the three losses in Detroit were the four base-runners and three runs allowed by Andrew Bailey, who managed that feat while facing only five hitters. He took two batters on Thursday night to turn a 1-run lead into a 1-run walk-off loss, and then, pitching in the 7th on Sunday, allowed two of three hitters to reach, including the tying run.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - David Ortiz (.429/.467/.714/1.181) continues to rake.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - A decent performance on Sunday against Detroit (2 ER in 5 innings) followed perhaps his best game in the Majors (8 scoreless vs. Tampa) as Felix Doubront threw 13 innings with a 1.38 ERA on the week, winning one and picking up a no-decision despite outpitching Justin Verlander in the second.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 6/24/2013
Tampa Bay4.72(4)4.54(10)0.518(6)393739370
Kansas City3.96(11)3.85(1)0.513(8)37363538-2
NY Yankees3.91(12)3.92(2)0.498(10)373841344
LA Angels4.65(7)4.84(14)0.482(11)37393343-4
Chicago Sox3.73(14)4.21(6)0.445(13)32413142-1

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)

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

Standings for the week
Chicago Sox5(8)4.86(9)0.513(5)4334-1
LA Angels6(3)6(13)0.5(6)33340
Tampa Bay3.71(14)3.86(3)0.483(8)34340
NY Yankees3.83(13)4.67(6)0.411(13)24331
Kansas City3(15)4.83(7)0.295(15)24240

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Pythagorean, 6/17/2013

Ok, so they're not going to win 'em all, and if you can limit your down weeks, and keep them to 3-4, you'll still be OK in the long run...
  • And unlike last week, they did get some help on the Yankee front, as New York went 1-5, dropping to 3 game behind the Sox. of course, their overall lead didn't grow, since losing 3-4 to the Orioles moved Baltimore into second place, only 1 1/2 games back.
  • Scanning through the radio channels late last week, I caught this gem from Tony Massarotti: "We all know that they're where they are because of the pitching." That is, they've got the best record in the AL because they're 6th in runs allowed per game, and not because they're 2nd in runs scored.
  • It was not a great week for the offense. They scored 6 runs before making an out on Monday night, and then scored 21 runs over the next 63 innings.
  • It looks like a worse week for the pitching staff. But. We need to consider that they played 8 games worth of innings in 7 games. So, while they allowed 4.85 runs/game, they allowed 4.25 runs/9 innings. While they scored 3.85 runs/game, they only scored 3.375 runs/9 innings. So it superficially appears that they were mediocre offensively and really bad with the pitching staff. In reality, they were below average on both fronts.
  • They certainly didn't play well enough to be any better than 3-4.
  • Goat of the Week - Jon Lester. Following a 14-inning win in Tampa on Monday night, with the bullpen stretched thin, they needed a good performance, and, more importantly, innings from their starter. He gave up seven runs before getting pulled without making it through the fifth. They needed a win on Sunday to break even in the series in Baltimore, and he gave up five runs in five innings. And it's not just this week - in his last six starts, he's allowed 47 hits and 29 runs in only 35 innings of work, with a 7.2 ERA.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - The continued excellence of Mike Carp (.350/.435/.700/1.135) has made the absences of Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino easy for the Sox to deal with. It's worth noting that he's now hitting .324/.379/.686/1.065 on the season, with 8 HR in just 105 at-bats. His 1 HR per every 13.125 at-bats leads the team.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - On a night when they really needed him to step up, with a decimated bullpen and an absent Clay Buchholz, Alfredo Aceves gave them six strong (1-run) innings in the rubber game of the Tampa series.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 6/17/2013
Kansas City4.05(11)3.76(1)0.534(4)36313334-3
Tampa Bay4.83(4)4.61(10)0.521(7)363336330
NY Yankees3.91(12)3.86(2)0.507(9)353438313
LA Angels4.53(8)4.74(13)0.48(10)33363039-3
Chicago Sox3.59(14)4.14(7)0.436(13)29372838-1

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)

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

Standings for the week
Kansas City4.71(3)2.57(1)0.752(2)52520
LA Angels5(2)3.67(8)0.638(4)4233-1
Chicago Sox4.6(4)4.8(11)0.481(9)2314-1
Tampa Bay4(7)5.71(15)0.342(13)25250
NY Yankees3(13)5(13)0.282(14)2415-1

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

A great picture, the setting of which some people will recognize...

This is a fantastic picture, by Jason Mann.


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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Watching this, my primary thought was, "what would Tolkien have thought of this?" I don't have any way of knowing, but somehow, I doubt that his reaction would have been unalloyed joy and approval.

Just because a thing can be done, doesn't mean that it should be done...

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Monday, June 10, 2013

"Faith" or "Science" based education?

What kind of education is this, "faith-based" or "science-based"?
An elementary school will hold a toy gun exchange Saturday, offering students a book and a chance to win a bicycle if they turn in their play weapons.

Strobridge Elementary Principal Charles Hill maintains that children who play with toy guns may not take real guns seriously.

"Playing with toys guns, saying 'I'm going to shoot you,' desensitizes them, so as they get older, it's easier for them to use a real gun," Hill said.
I'm sure that Principal Hill has good scientific evidence for this claim.


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Monday Pythagorean - 6/10/2013

Meat Loaf famously sang that "two out of three ain't bad." For a Major League baseball team, it not only "ain't bad," it's very good...
  • Obviously, the offense was outstanding this week. "Sure," you might say, "because they had a 17-run game." Which they did. And that definitely raises the average. But if you take that one out of the mix, they still led the AL in runs scored, averaging 6 runs/game in the other five.
  • As good as it was, it could certainly have been better. They outscored their opponents by 20 runs, which is plenty to win six games, not just four. But one weak offensive performance (3-2) and one bullpen meltdown (9-5) cost them two games.
  • And it didn't help that they ... didn't get any help. The Yankees went 6-1, gaining a game and a half on the Sox.
  • They did increase their lead over Baltimore by one game, as the Orioles went 3-3. The Rays remain four back, matching Boston's 4-2 record.
  • Speaking of the Yankees, well, we've seen this before. The Red Sox have played much better than New York, with a +80 run differential (2nd best in the AL behind Detroit, with only St. Louis better in the NL) vs. New York's +16. Boston should have a 6 game lead over New York. But the Yankees have outperformed their pythagorean projection by four games, while the Red Sox have underperformed theirs by one.
  • According to Baseball Prospectus' third-order winning percentage (based on records projected by component run-scoring and opposition), the Red Sox have the second-best record in Major League baseball, behind the Tigers.
  • Stat of the week, part 1: Jose Iglesias walked five (5) times. He walked five times in his first 52 Major League games, and then five times in his next three.
  • I've been as negative as anyone about Jose Iglesias' ability and potential. And I want to emphasize that we're still talking about a miniscule sample size - anyone can hit anything for fifty at-bats. And I am still skeptical. All that said, if I'm in charge, Will Middlebrooks spends the next month in Pawtucket trying to swing at hittable pitches and let unhittable pitches go by. Because Iglesias has been extremely productive thus far, and I need to understand whether that's real (obviously, the extent of the production is not sustainable, but he could drop a lot from what he's done and still be a viable Major Leaguer) or just a small-sample fluke.
  • Stat of the week, part 2: Dustin Pedroia, who had an excellent week (.333/.429/.625/1.054), put up a .429 OBP, which is outstanding. Seven of his teammates put up better ones.
  • Three home runs is a good week. The Red Sox had three players (Ortiz, Carp and Saltalamacchia) hit three this week.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Is Mike Carp the 4th outfielder or the 5th? The 2nd 1st baseman or the 3rd? I've lost track. In any event, he was outstanding this week, hitting (.500/.526/1.125/1.651) and leading the team in both Runs Created and Runs Created per out.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - Ryan Dempster started twice and won twice, but on the strength of run support rather than his own unspectacular efforts. No one else threw more than 6 2/3 innings. There were no spectacular relief performances. So I'm awarding John Lackey this week, who gave up only five hits and one run, while striking out five and walking none in his start against Texas.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 6/10/2013
Tampa Bay4.92(4)4.48(9)0.542(5)342834280
NY Yankees4(11)3.75(1)0.53(6)333037264
Kansas City3.97(12)3.9(3)0.508(8)30302832-2
LA Angels4.48(8)4.84(13)0.465(10)29342736-2
Chicago Sox3.51(15)4.08(7)0.431(13)263527341

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
NY Yankees9567

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
NY Yankees8973

Standings for the week
Kansas City4(7)1.83(1)0.807(1)51510
NY Yankees4.14(6)2.57(3)0.705(4)52611
Chicago Sox4(7)4(7)0.5(7)4334-1
Tampa Bay3.83(9)4.33(9)0.444(9)33330
LA Angels4.5(3)5.83(14)0.383(11)24240

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Thursday, June 06, 2013

Birthday bagpipes

The birthday boy...

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Monday, June 03, 2013

Monday Pythagorean, 6/3/2013

Any week where you win more than you lose is not a bad week. So they follow last week's 4-3 with another 4-3, and increase their lead in the East...
  • Yes, since you can't go 3 1/2-3 1/2 in a seven game week, 4-3 is the best you can do without losing more than you win, and it doesn't look like much. That's all true. This is also true - the baseball season is about 26 weeks long, and winning one more than you lose in each of those 26 weeks would result in a 94-win season. Winning 4-of-7 all season long is about a 93-win pace. In other words, you don't need to play any better than that, consistently, to be a good team. Obviously, you can't make up for long bad stretches that way, but if you've got consistent 4-3, 3-3, 4-2 weeks punctuated with extended streaks of good play, you're going to end up with a good record. For the most part, that's what the Red Sox have done so far, and they're on a 98 win pace with a 2 1/2 game lead in the east, and the 2nd best record in the AL.
  • Uncle Pythagoras liked this week a lot better than their actual record indicated, though. That's what happens when you win by 3 and 6 and 7 and 10 while losing by 1 and 2 and 3.
  • Three weeks ago this morning, the Red Sox were struggling, having lost 8-of-10 and fallen two games back in the AL East. They had an off day, followed by their longest unbroken stretch of games of the season, 20 straight days from 5/14-6/2, with 14 on the road and only six at home. If they win the division, we may look back on that 20-game stretch as a turning point. They went 13-7 (.650) during that stretch, 4-2 at home and 9-5 on the road. They outscored the opposition by 40 runs, scoring 108 (best in baseball) and allowing only 68. They increased their lead over TB, who also played very well, by 1/2 game, over Baltimore by 3 1/2, and made up 5 games against the Yankees, going from 2 behind New York to three ahead of them.
  • You can count me among those who were utterly disinterested in the presence of Jonathan Papelbon in Boston this week. He was a good pitcher for the Red Sox for several years. Now he's not. I find that I've no residual affection or interest beyond that. And, being extremely skeptical that he will provide $13million worth of performance this year, regardless the team for which he's pitching, I haven't any use for discussions of the "should the Red Sox have paid and kept Papelbon" variety. The answer is, to my mind, self-evident, with no significant countervailing case to be made.
  • It was exciting to see Jacoby Ellsbury set a Red Sox record with five steals in one game. It would have been even more exciting to see him take the field again afterwards, but alas, you can't have everything.
  • If Jose Iglesias can hit .400, he can be a productive Major League player.
  • If Jose Iglesias can hit .300, he might be better than Will Middlebrooks.
  • The worst pitching performance of the week was Jon Lester's Friday night start, in which he allowed 4 runs over 6 1/3 innings. When you can say that, chances are that your pitching staff had a heck of a week. Which it did, allowing only 17 runs in 57 innings on the week.
  • It looks as if Buchholz survived the shoulder soreness that pushed him back twice, with a strong five-inning performance against the Yankees to finish the week. And the rain gave the bullpen an extra day off.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Ellsbury was outstanding, albeit in only four games. In fact, he was so good during the four games that he played that he finished the week with more runs created than anyone else on the team despite the relatively few at-bats. Which makes this difficult for me. I think that, despite his performance, I can't award him, because he completely missed nearly half of the games. Which sends me looking again, and seeing Jose Iglesias (.400/.400/.600/1.000) and David Ortiz (.286/.423/.619/1.042), who both had very productive weeks. But both fall just short of Mike Napoli (.417/.462/.750/1.212), whose Grand Slam on Saturday night set the Red Sox up to take the middle game of the Yankee series, and is this week's Player of the Week.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - Another tough call. There are not two-win starters - in fact, there weren't even any two-start starters this week. There are no stellar relief lines. No one pitched fewer than 1 inning or more than 7; no one gave up more than 4 runs. Buchholz allowed no runs but only pitched five innings; Dempster had the longest start (7 innings) but gave up two runs; Aceves and Doubront each gave up 1 run in six innings of work. In short, while the staff was excellent, there really wasn't a "pitcher of the week"-worthy performance, and while, in other weeks, I might give it to Buchholz or Aceves or Doubront or Dempster, there's nothing that makes one of them more worthy than the others. So I'm not giving one out this week.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 6/3/2013
Tampa Bay5.04(2)4.5(9)0.551(5)312531250
NY Yankees3.98(12)3.89(2)0.51(8)292731252
Kansas City3.96(13)4.13(7)0.481(9)26282331-3
LA Angels4.48(8)4.73(12)0.475(10)27302532-2
Chicago Sox3.44(15)4.09(5)0.422(13)233124301

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Tampa Bay9072

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Tampa Bay8973

Standings for the week
Tampa Bay6.43(1)3.57(5)0.746(2)52611
LA Angels3(12)4.14(9)0.356(12)25250
Kansas City3(12)4.67(11)0.308(13)24250
NY Yankees1.71(14)4.43(10)0.15(14)16160
Chicago Sox1.5(15)5.5(15)0.085(15)1506-1

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