Thursday, July 28, 2011
THE CRINGE FACTOR: How the debt crisis 'debate' sounds like Vietnam, how compromise has become a four letter word... again
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Flash: Are Royals brass charging players to launder uniforms? Despite victory, keeping the whites white seemed the base running goal
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Another summer image you might enjoy: Sis's Cafe roof line, a place for sun bathing without bikinis or muscle shirts...but plenty of bird brains
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Take a break and enjoy some of these recent images from Kauffman Gardens on a humid Kansas City day when even the drinking fountain let the lens see its soul...
Saturday, July 9, 2011
"Wearing the Uniform Thing..." Royals revisit a past blunder and Sam Mellinger calls them out for it. Maybe it's the Monarchs who should protest
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Thanks to Tony Botello for noticing, to Anon for arguing, but now's the time to call bullshit bullshit
Last night I snapped. After the second inning I could watch no more. I had had enough. I turned off the television and made more productive use of my life, vowing never to turn the Royals on again, never to read the paper about the Royals, never to listen to the paid talkers squawk about the Royals and never to write about the Royals.
You can see how that went.
Even if I can’t hold to it, I am duty bound to offer it as advice to others.
Actually, watching the game itself isn’t so bad if you appreciate it for what it is… a battle between David and Goliath… a penny pinching minor league team against a major league team. From that perspective, it can be kind of interesting.
What you have to eliminate, for your own sanity, is the commentary. You can only stomach so much bullshit at a time and in a world full of bullshit, every little bit you can avoid helps. As a political scientist of sorts, bullshit is my research interest. As a teacher, I encounter some form of bullshit every day.
One of my favorite little books is “On Bullshit” by Harry G. Frankfurt. Professor Frankfurt begins his treatise with this:
"One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it…. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves." From there he develops a sophisticated definition of bullshit, which, for a philosopher is something akin to establishing your fastball early in the count.
As Professor Frankfurt soon points out, bullshit is everywhere today. We’re awash on an ocean of bullshit and, as the late James David Barber foresaw, the ropes mooring our boats to the shore are coming loose at a frightening pace.
My impatience with bullshit about the home team is not because I'm a New Yorker marooned in Kansas City and spoiled by winning. I’m no newcomer to losing baseball. I was an A’s fan as a kid. I have a friend who says he became an atheist because he always prayed on Sundays for God to help the A’s win at least one game of the doubleheader. Like Nietzsche, his conclusion was that God is either dead, not a baseball fan, or not listening to boys marooned in Kansas City.
At least then we had Star sportswriter Ernie Mehl to call bullshit “bullshit.” The owner once saddled up a donkey and had him led around the warning track at Municipal Stadium wearing a banner that read: “Poison Pen Award to Ernie Mehl.”
A Henry Wiggen Blog reader took me to task yesterday for my “cheap shot” at Star sportswriter Sam Mellinger. I was reacting to the usually reliable Mellinger’s convoluted logic that somehow Zack Greinke’s 5-something earned run average – when compared to the ERAs of the rest of the starting staff – made the trade for Greinke look like a success for the Royal’s Brain Trust. My argument was that Mellinger failed to mention Greinke is 7 and 3 so far this season for the Brewers and only Bruce Chen, who hasn’t pitched much, has a winning record for the home nine.
Now, in the abstract, Anon was right in criticizing my use of the pitchers’ won / lost records to argue with Mellinger. Anon – who is, b y the way, a pretty darn good writer – reminded me most Sabermagicians have abandoned winning and losing as a measure of pitchers, that my old school approach is hopelessly dated. I agree, to a point.
Whatever the math reveals, it seems the point of the game is still to win. The argument reminds me of the current abhorrence for the ancient runs-batted-in statistic. I agree this yardstick is flawed. It depends in great measure on what the three or four hitters in front of the person in question are capable of doing. But, again, the point of playing baseball IS to drive in runs. Flawed as won / lost records and runs-batted-in may be, it is still better to drive in runs than to not, and winning is definitely better than losing.
My fear is that those who should hold the feet of the Royals Brain Trust to the fire will get lost in numbers describing bullshit like "quality starts" and "pitches seen per at bat".
Today, the Star’s Sabermagician blogger Martin Manley seemed to have had enough as well. His column, though not a direct repudiation of Mellinger’s, makes the case using much more sophisticated number. As I barely understand it, GMSC – game score – is meant to measure what a pitcher adds or subtracts to the game by his presence on the mound for however many innings he lasts. The calculus is more complex than that, adding points for completed innings and strikeouts and subtracting for hits, earned runs, unearned runs and walks. It was created by Lawrence, Kansas, wizard Bill James, of course.
So, if I’m reading this chart right, Royals starters have only added value to 36 of the 83 games they’ve worked. That’s roughly 43 % of their starts, which is reasonably close to what you get if you only look at their won/lost records. And only Bruce Chen has averaged adding anything to a game – and Chen just barely.
Now, as I said before, that is horrendous. As Manley said, it certainly wipes the lipstick off the pig.
Which is what got me going on this subject in the first place. What I’m sick to the point of shouting about is the ridiculous public relations effort (sorry John Landsberg… but you know what I mean) by the team’s talkers and others, to not only put lipstick on this pig but add eye-shadow and blush. I expect better out of the sportswriters and bloggers who cover the Royals. The announcers – well that’s easy to understand. Frank White and Denny Matthews have adopted their mothers’ admonition to not say anything if you can’t say something nice. The others come to the booth well armed with lipstick and eyebrow pencil.
And what’s more troubling is this same ocean of bullshit is everywhere today, from baseball to medicine, to politics, to education. About all you can do now is swim for your life.
--Lofflin… pushing that damned metaphor like an old Volkswagen with a bad starter…
Image courtesy http://hopeexists.wordpress.com/2010/09/
PS: Joe Posnanski used the dreaded "quality start" statistic to absolutely embarrass the Royals' pitching staff in a great post today.I remain unconvinced about quality starts but the numbers they produce do nail Kyle Davies work on the mound rather well.
Friday, July 1, 2011
Base running and pitching from two perspectives: Sam Mellinger misreads the numbers and Sean Forman says small ball makes only a small difference
I'd like to balance a stretched-to-the-point-of-breaking use of statistics from Sam Mellinger in the Kansas City Star today with a bright piece about the REAL value of small ball in the New York Times.
Mellinger wrote an unfortunately homer column today arguing the Zack Greinke trade will look better now because Greinke has an ERA over 5 for the Brewers and most of the Royals' pitchers have lower ERA's today. What he fails to mention is that Greinke's record is 7 wins against 3 loses after being bombed in New York Tuesday. What he also fails to mention is that only Bruce Chen among Royals' starters has a winning record at 4-2. The other four have 11 wins (at nearly the All Star break) against 28 loses.
That comes to a horrendous, unthinkable, .286 winning percentage for the rest of the Royal's starting staff.
Greinke has won 7 out of 10 decisions, a .700 winning percentage. Mellinger does allow that Greinke has 80 strikeouts against 12 walks in 2011. But, somehow, for the usually reliable Star sportswriter, this adds up to a winning trade for the Royals' Brain Trust. Oh, Homer, pay no heed to the siren song!
Enough said on pitching.
Now to the excellent piece in the New York Times by Sean Forman about the actual value of aggressive base running. This, the Sabermagicians conclude, is an overrated bit of baseball mythology. Simplified, their numbers suggest stolen bases, or extra bases taken, add 0.2 runs to the total a team with a more conservative approach to base running would score. So 200 stolen bases could be expected to produce just 40 extra runs a season.
Perhaps more importantly, runners caught stealing or caught taking an extra base, subtract 0.5 runs from a team's total. So the risk of stealing bases -- in the case of most runners -- is a significant gamble. Except for a runner like Mr. Dyson, the numbers suggest it is better to just stay put, let a single be a single and let a double be a double.
The numbers suggest a base runner like Mr. Dyson might add one win per season to a team's total. If you're tied for the league lead or the playoff spot at the end of the year, that's significant. Otherwise...
In other words, those who love to preach small ball to baseball fans in small markets are just shilling for tight-fisted management. Small ball is just... well... small ball. Would you trade a steak for a hamburger? A Danny Edwards Ole Smokie for a double Sonic burger?
However, a list of the players since 1950 by position who added the most to their teams by base running includes two Kansas City players from the same era -- George Brett and Willie Wilson. No other team has two players on the list. Here it is:
Well, I guess you could add Blue Moon Odom to the list of Kansas City players. He was the highest rated pitcher as a base runner.
At any rate, that's pretty good company for Brett and Wilson. Of course, this is no surprise if you ever saw Willie Wilson go from first to third on a single to right, his feet barely touching the ground.
Billy Butler, by the way, contributes minus 9 runs to the Royals' total run production each year through base running, just behind Prince Fielder. You can look at those numbers and say, Ouch!, or you can say nine runs isn't that much across a season for a guy who reaches base once in every three opportunities. Or, you could take a look at Prince Fielder's contract when the free agent sweepstakes for him is over next spring and draw your own conclusion about how important base running really is.
Both Greinke and Fielder, by the way, toil for a team that is tied for first place in their division while the home team is, once again, mired at the bottom of the heap. So much for small ball and the Royal's starting pitchers.