He just made an amazing catch in today's game, diving into about the 3rd row of the crowd to catch a pop foul. Check out these images from this site:
He just made an amazing catch in today's game, diving into about the 3rd row of the crowd to catch a pop foul. Check out these images from this site:
Two weeks ago, the baseball world was outraged that so many players from the Kansas City Royals were millions of votes ahead in the voting for the All-Star game.
Well, I just voted 105 times (35 times from each of my 3 email addresses). And there wasn't a single player from Kansas City on my ballots.
And it turns out that Trono 3B Josh Donaldson is now within only 33K votes of being the #1 3B player on the ballot. He has a good chance of being voted in. The other BJ who should be voted onto the team is Russell Martin at Catcher.
"Behavior in many complex and seemingly intractable strategic settings can be understood more clearly by working out what each party in the game will choose to do if they realize that the other parties will be solving the same problem. This insight has helped us understand behavior as diverse as military conflicts, price setting by competing firms and penalty kicking in soccer."
It isn't new. This approach underlay the Cournot equilibrium nearly two centuries ago and the Edgeworth disequilibria long before the extensions that developed with John Nash et al.
The important thing in applying the technique to penalty kicks in soccer is the collection of lots of data and analyzing the snot out of it. A refined analysis generally leads to the use of optimally proportioned mixed strategies. Some of the research in these areas is intriguing, even fun.
I find it amusing and amazing that I, a non-mathematical, intuitive game-theorist economist, strongly and confidently agree with this quotation but there are some in this survey who don't.
I think there's a good chance someone or several someones from the Patriots, possibly including Tom Brady, knew and/or had something to do with the low pressure in some of the footballs used by the Patriots during the 2014-15 NFL season and playoffs.
But a good chance is not a very high standard.
Further, I'm not sure that the standard of proof for civil litigation (preponderance of the evidence? balancing of the probabilities? it depends on who you talk to) would find against the Patriots. It might, though.
That doesn't mean that by some standard, such as "more likely than not" the NFL erred in their finding. It's just a question of what standard should be used.
As I wrote over a decade ago, the appropriate standard of proof for different institutions and different legal environments requires an understanding of confidence intervals, Type I errors, and Type II errors.
With the weakest standard of proof, call it the "more likely than not" standard, we are willing to tolerate a higher probability of "convictions" (that's not really what they always are) of innocent people in order to make sure that there is a higher probability of punishing those who actually do commit an offense. We don't tolerate such a low standard of proof in criminal cases, not wanting to punish someone who is probably innocent. (see my piece on cruel and unusual punishment)
But in internal disputes (like the NFL and the Patriots) presumably the standard of proof for offenses and punishments is set out in franchise agreements and player contracts. Given the Patriots' response, and given the analysis by Russ Roberts, I really doubt if anyone involved with the Patriots is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. At the same time, I think there's a chance someone involved with the Patriots did something.
And if all it takes for the NFL to levy fines and punishments is a low standard of proof to the tune of "Palmer thinks there's a good chance someone did something wrong," then while the fines and punishments may be reduced, they will not necessarily be rescinded completely.
Note: I have only a two-week law degree and so I'm quite open to refinements to the above from my lawyer friends.
Before you comment, please read the entire article. It's long, it's detailed, and it raises some serious doubts about the NFL's position. From the conclusion,
Because the NFL had little or no experience with measuring psi in the heat (or cold) of a championship game, it is not surprising that the initial readings, from either gauge brought by Walt Anderson, suggested that the Patriots had been cheating. But a careful review of the measurements should have led them to conclude that the entire process of measuring and complying with the psi regulation was much more complicated than had been previously understood. ...
Instead, the NFL decided to tarnish the reputation of a future Hall-of-Famer who some would argue is the greatest player in the history of the NFL. That player is known to even the casual fan as a very intense competitor. I would not be surprised if under the pressure of an impending championship game, he encouraged or allowed staffers to break a rule. It’s a shame that the hard evidence that would make that conclusion definitive is not provided by the Wells Report.
Eric mentioned in the comments to this post that the Yankees have had a female radio announcer for over a decade. We get many of the Yankee telecasts here in London, Ontario, but not their radiocasts.
Eric then sent me this link, providing the biographies of the Yankee broadcasters.
An award winning journalist, Suzyn Waldman joins John Sterling in the radio booth as the Yankees' color commentator on WCBS-AM radio in 2005, becoming the first woman to hold a full-time position as a Major League broadcaster. Waldman has spent the greater part of two decades overcoming all the obstacles that go along with being a female sports broadcaster, and has risen to the top of her profession. ...
Waldman's life and struggles have been the subject of hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, and chapters in books, including the "MacMillan Book of Baseball Stories," "You Go Girl" and "That's Outside My Boat" both by Charlie Jones and Kim Doran. She has been profiled on the Today Show, CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, ABC's 20/20 and NBC's Dateline.
But check out her other interests: economics and theatre! Sportscasting, baseball, economics, and theatre: a perfect combination! But I haven't been able to ascertain her views on sabremetrics yet.
A native Bostonian, with a degree in Economics from Boston's prestigious Simmons College, Suzyn spent 15 years on the Broadway Musical Stage, and is proudest of her two years starring opposite Richard Kiley in "Man of La Mancha."
Why are there no women in the broadcast booths for Major League Baseball? There are many who could do the job, and do it better than some of the talking heads that are there now. [See this].
Back when I did radio play-by-play for the AA London Tigers, I worked with many different people as co-announcers. Despite my strongly worded suggestions to the station manager that we find women to co-broadcast in the booth, it never happened.
Women doing play-by-play; women doing commentary and analysis. I see no reason why it shouldn't and won't, eventually, happen.
There are two women whose names come to mind immediately for me.
Christina Kahrl. Christina was also a regular on rec.sport.baseball. She and I corresponded a couple of times back then, and we are Facebook friends. I have no doubt she could do the job well. From the website cited above, "Her credentials: Want someone who can tell a good anecdote but also understands sabermetrics? Karhl, a co-founder of the analytical website Baseball Prospectus and an ESPN writer/editor, would be a good catch. She’s also a vocal transgender activist and has spoken about how baseball eased her transition."
Sadly, I'm not sure it will happen anytime soon. For one reason, most viewers/listeners seem disinclined to pay attention to solid numerical analysis. And for another reason, I cannot see most viewers/listeners overcoming the unfortunately deeply ingrained sex biases in sports and sportscasting.
In a recent posting, I argued that OPS [On-base-percentage Plus Slugging-average] is an excellent comparatively easy and comparatively good statistic to use for assessing the performance of batters in baseball.
For the same reasons, I think OOPS [Opponents' OPS] is a comparatively easy and comparatively good statistic for assessing baseball pitchers. The statistic is readily available via the MLB website, and it measures how well a pitcher avoids letting batters reach base and how well the pitcher avoids letting opposing batters hit for power.
I have noticed that baseball sportscasters are moving toward telling us about opponents' batting average [which tell us nothing about walks given up nor about extra-base hits] or about WHIP, which is Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched [which is a bizarre measure telling us nothing more than (and really not as much as ) "Opponents' On-Base-Percentage].
Maybe in another ten years' time they will start using OOPS as well as OPS.
May I live to see the day.
Last night we watched the opening Major League Baseball game of the 2015 season. Right away I noticed that ESPN showed OPS for all the batters.
OPS is "On base percentage" Plus "Slugging Average". It is a pretty decent measure of how well a batter avoids making outs and how well the batter hits for power (i.e. extra bases). Like all index numbers, it isn't perfect. But it is probably the best comparatively simple measure of a batter's performance, and likely the best comparatively simple measure of a batter's ability.
OPS emerged (as I recall) during the many discussions and debates on the old internet newsgroup: rec.sport.baseball. The discussions there were heated and illuminating and likely formed a basis for much of what came to be known as "Moneyball". It was a thrill to be a part of them.
I tried to use the measure, OPS, back in the 1990s when I was doing some baseball sportscasting, but had to fight nearly everyone along the way. It is refreshing and pleasing to see this simple concept finally being so well-accepted within the mainstream sports media.
Thank you, ESPN.
I know I have a very good life, so take this for the small grain of whatever that it's worth.
We sign my gubmnt pension cheque over to the cable company every month ... or so it seems .... to subscribe to every possible sports channel available.
So what do we get?
Four different channels showing the Yankeres baseball game and only one showing the Tigers-Rays game; but at least we have the option because we paid for the extra channels.
Worse though is that TSN has four different channels showing curling from the Men's World Championship. All four of them are showing a replay of yesterday's game between Canada and Italy. Not one -- not one frickn TSN channel -- is showing the current tie-breaker being played between the US and Finland.
Whatever happened with the footballs in the Colts-Economists* game, the explanation is far from clear. From the NYTimes:
...[S]ome academic and research physicists now concede that they made a crucial error in their initial calculations, using an equation called the ideal gas law.When that error is corrected, the amount of deflation predicted in moving from room temperature to a 50-degree field is roughly doubled.
When the football controversy arose, a number of physicists cited the ideal gas law, which many of them taught in introductory courses. But applying the equation to real situations can be surprisingly deceptive. When a gauge indicates that the ball contains 12.5 p.s.i. — the minimum allowed by the N.F.L. — the actual pressure is more than twice that amount because the surrounding pressure of the atmosphere must be considered. [EE Digression: so much for the complaint about economists' misusing models with unrealistic assumptions; it happens everywhere and this example cries out for more caution in all fields.]
This roughly doubles how much a dip in temperature can lower the pressure. During a phone conversation, even Tegmark, the M.I.T. professor, initially used the lower value until recognizing the mistake. “I stand corrected,” he said...
There are still questions about why the Colts balls were NOT deflated. But the explanations offered in this article at least raise some important questions about whether the Economists cheated.
Let me re-emphasize the methodological point made in my above digression: We all use unrealistic assumptions to simplify analysis, no matter what field we are in. Understanding when which assumptions matter is part of the sophistication required for using the models.
*Note: I refer to the New England football team as "The Economists" because at one time a number of years ago, their coach, Bill Belichick, said that having been an economics major had helped him understand resource allocation and constrained choice better as coach.
No, I'm not going to write about sports bras, thongs, long shorts, tight shorts, or whatever. This piece is a comment on the increasing use of neon yellow by top players.
Have you noticed how many top tennis players these days are wearing neon yellow as part of their outfits? Some players still do some original designs, though, and many players have not made the switch.
Ms Eclectic disagrees with my own perception that more players are wearing some neon yellow during their matches. She pointed out that not one of the six players we were watching at the time I made the observation was wearing neon yellow; nevertheless both Federer and Raonic had been wearing neon yellow in their matches; and so had Serena Williams and Azarenka (time for a foundation grant to study this!).
The reason they wear neon yellow (I surmise) has nothing to do with fashion trends. Rather it is for the same reason that some baseball pitchers try to keep some white undershirt sleeves showing.
Having some clothing the colour of the ball might make it a mite more difficult for one's opponent to pick up the ball when it is coming at them. I expect the neon yellow wristbands do an especially effective job with this.
Having outfits the same colour as the tennis ball surely affects how one's opponent(s) sees the ball coming at him/her/them.
What surprises me is that more of the players are not wearing neon yellow outfits. The fact that they do not suggests that this ploy yields marginal benefits at best. But with so many of the top players moving to neon yellow distractive clothing, I expect more will follow.
The extreme: tennis apparel with blue backgrounds and neon yellow circles roughly the size of tennis balls. I haven't seen this yet, though.
When I lived in Regina, Saskatchewan, one of the things that struck me was how much it was like Lincoln, Nebraska, in one important aspect: fan and city-wide enthusiam for the local football team. Both cities are quite far from any other city that offers one of the four major-league professional sports (MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL) and football in both cities attracts fans from the entire state/province.
My first few game days in Regina, over four years ago, reminded me very much of what it was like driving through Lincoln, NB, on game day: People were dressed in team colours, and it wasn't just some of the fans going to the game. It was ALL of the fans going to the game and many who weren't. In Lincoln, there is a sea of red and white on game day; in Regina, it is a sea a green.
And this map from the NYTimes confirms my impression about Lincoln. The people in Nebraska (and Alabama as well, it turns out) reallylike NCAA football [the map is fascinating. It's worth a look]. That same devotion/fanaticism/support is what I see on game days in Regina, too.
Ok, I'm not hearing the beeps during the NLCS, so why was it there during the ALCS?
And another question: why are we not seeing the pitch-tracker (computerized graphic showing where pitches were relative to the strike zones) during the league championship series?
I'm watching baseball's ALCS on the international telecast via Sportsnet in Canada. Near the top of each half inning, there's a beep, rapidly repeated four or five times. It's not always before the first pitch; sometimes it is after one or two pitches have been thrown. Does anyone have any idea what that is about?
This story brought tears to my eyes [ht JAB]:
Way to go Bengals!
And way to go Devon Still! You have a long, tough road ahead of you.
- - - - - - - - -
As many long-time readers of EclectEcon will remember, a little over 3 years ago our granddaughter Lara was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma. Because of the amazing care from her parents and from the Anderson Cancer Clinic, Lara is cancer free now. But the first year of treatments was horrendous, and Lara was only 3 when she was diagnosed. Lara is an amazing little six-year-old who, like her parents, has a strength and determination that have stood her well.
Analogous to what happened with Devon Still, my son [Adam Smith Palmer] went to see his dean to explain that he was dropping out of grad school, despite having recently passed all his exams to pursue a PhD in astrophysics, to look after his daughter.
The Dean said [roughly paraphrased], "Don't drop out now. Wait until September. The university's health plan is much better than the one your wife has, and it will cover your daughter for another year."
Not the same as what the Bengals did, but similar.
The Trono Blue Jays just beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in extra innings. But the game was completed under protest by the Devil Rays.
It looks to me as if the review should not have been allowed, given this understanding of the MLB rules, as provided by the mediots.
If so, the protest will be allowed, and the game will have to be replayed from that point on.
The only reason I can see for not allowing the protest is that perhaps it should have been lodged before the review was carried out and not after the review decision was made. But maybe that depends on what was said between the DRs and the umpires before the review was granted.
Is it just my imagination, or did every team that gave up a starting position player to trade for better pitching go into a slump after the trade? Detroit and Oakland come to mind especially.
If so, it's consistent with my earlier observation here where I noted that in May the Trono Blue Jays had the best hitting and the worst pitching while leading the American League.
While the mathjocks among you might recognize this structure as a (fractal) Sierpinski Tetrahedron, note that it was constructed with baseball bats and softballs [ht JH]:
JH adds, "the photo comes from a book in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Insitute of Mathematics at the Royal Society, copyright Gwen Fisher."[cf this site]
It seems appropriate to post this now, as I prepare to head off to Labatt Memorial Park in London to watch game 7 of the IBL semi-finals, between the London Majors and the Kitchener Panthers.
Update: The London Majors won the game and now move on to the finals for the league championship.
My mother sent me this necktie back in the days when I was doing baseball play-by-play:
One out, nobody on. 5 to 4 and bottom of the 5th.
Yes, I brought the tie with me to Rogers Centre Hotel, from which Ms Eclectic and I will be watching the Trono Blue Jays play the Orioles tonight and tomorrow night.
In the late 1980s, in addition to becoming enamoured of the writings of Bill James and of sabremetrics, I also made a point of reading some of the less stats-oriented books about baseball, including Roger Angell's The Summer Game, George Will's Men at Work, and Philip Roth's The Great American Novel.
I don't often agree with much that Maureen Dowd writes, but I love this piece of hers in the NYTimes about Roger Angell, who wrote the Boys of Summer (and many other lengthy pieces about baseball). Some excerpts:
In person, the writer is less “Angellic” — the adjective coined to describe his beguiling writing — than astringent. He has spent most of a century, from Ruth to Jeter, passionately tracking the sport as a fan, but he also proclaims himself a “foe of goo.” He much prefers the sexy “Bull Durham” to the sentimental “Field of Dreams.” He sniffs at being called “the poet laureate of baseball” and winces at a recent reverential Sports Illustrated profile. “It made me sound like the Dalai Lama,” he says. “My God, I’m just a guy who happened to live on for a long time. I’d rather be younger and writing than all this stuff.”
... “I didn’t write about baseball because I was looking for the heart and soul of America. I don’t care if baseball is the national pastime or not. The thing about baseball is, it’s probably the hardest game to play. The greatest hitters are only succeeding a third of the time. If you take a great athlete who’s never played baseball and put him in the infield, he’s lost.”“Baseball is linear — it’s like writing,” he says. “In other sports, there’s a lot going on at the same time. You can’t quite take it all in.”
Could soccer ever take over as the national pastime? “I don’t know,” he replied. “I felt I was being waterboarded by The New York Times with the World Cup.”
Roger Angell is being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend.
I'm in this trailer for a documentary about Labatt Memorial Park, the oldest continuous use baseball park in existence. [h/t Barry Wells]
For more on my sportscasting experiences, see this.
Too many members of the baseball media spout silly cliches that have been rejected by systematic empirical studies; that's why people writing in the early 90s in rec.sport.bb dubbed them "mediots". Moneyball had an impact, but the non-thinking, non-analytical folks still have far too much influence.
It would really be something if mediots all took this course [ht JH]:
Sabermetrics 101: Introduction to Baseball Analytics
About this Course
This course will cover the theory and the fundamentals of the emerging science of Sabermetrics. We will discuss the game of baseball, not through consensus or a fan’s conventional wisdom, but by searching for objective knowledge in hitting, pitching, and fielding performance. These and other areas of sabermetrics will be analyzed and better understood with current and historical baseball data.
The course also serves as applied introduction to the basics of data science, a growing field of scholarship, that requires skills in computation, statistics, and communicating results of analyses. Using baseball data, the basics of statistical regression, the R Language, and SQL will be covered.
This course has been successfully taught at the Experimental College at Tufts University since 2004. Many of its former students have gone on to careers writing about baseball and working in various MLB baseball operations and analytics departments.
Geez, I might even take it myself!
Going into today's games, the Trono Blue Jays are essentially tied for first place in the American League East. They have the best hitting in the AL (measured by OPS) and the worst pitching (measured by opponents OPS). See this
That's a nice line from "Field of Dreams", but it's nonsense in the real world. Just ask the people of Pontiac, Michigan.
For more than 20 years, the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit hosted many of the greatest spectacles. The World Cup, The Super Bowl and the NBA Finals took place there. Led Zeppelin and Pope John Paul II both took the stage there, though not together. Wrestlemania III set a record for indoor attendance at a sporting event in America there.
Now? There's nothing there.
Detroiturbex.com, a website devoted to the preservation of fading Detroit-area landmarks, has shined a spotlight on the now-abandoned Silverdome, and what's in view isn't pretty. The stadium's fabric roof has collapsed, exposing the field below to the elements. The seats will be torn out and sold later this year. The suites are being left to rot.
As most people know by now, Donald Sterling [owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association] has been banned for life by the NBA because of some remarkably racist statements he made to an ex-mistress. The other 29 owners of teams are also expecting to find a way to "induce" him to sell the Clippers.
Yesterday a friend wrote to me, wondering how libertarians would react to the NBA's decisions. Much of my reaction is probable and surmise.
In other words, the banning of Donald Sterling by the NBA is fully consistent with the views held by most libertarians. He joined an organization and did something likely contrary to the by-laws of the organization, so they expelled him. So long as their own by-laws are legally acceptable, no problem.
It doesn't take long on Facebook to discover examples of most of these logical fallacies. You'll have to click on the link to see it, but the map and the links are thorough.
[via JR, my favourite drug dealer]
Several days go, while watching some very erratic home-plate umpiring, I posted a short item to Facebook quoting myself, "The strike zone is a probability density function." I had originally made the statement during a play-by-play radio broadcast of a London Tigers baseball game over 20 years ago. The Tigers were a AA minor league team. The radio station manager asked me not to do that again and not to try to explain it on air.
What does it mean to say the strike zone is a probability density function? Basically, the closer a pitch is to the centre of the strike zone, the more likely is the umpire to call it a strike.
It turns out I was even more right than I thought (if that makes sense). Consider this piece [via John Henderson, former student, colleague, and co-author]. Sure as shootin', pitches on or near the edge of the strike zone (but still inside it) are less likely to be called strikes than pitches near the centre. And pitches outside the zone still have a probability of being called strikes [as was often said about pitches from Greg Maddux].
Here is a graph from the article:
Probability a Pitch Is Called a Strike
The strike zone is indicated by the red bars along the axes. The height of the "mesh" indicates the percentage of times that a pitch in that location was called a strike.
The article then continues, presenting evidence that probably shouldn't surprise me, but it does. If a batter has two strikes, there's a lower probability that the umpire will call the next pitch a strike even if it is in the strike zone. And if the batter has three balls [delete old joke here], there is a greater chance the umpire will call a strike.
To the extent this is true, it affects a batter's (and a pitcher's) strategies. As John wrote,
You are on the mound and have me 0-2 on two 109 mph fastballs. I'm worried about my team but also my .300 average and its associated $2m bonus. The data say I should let the next pitch go by if it's close, in clear contradiction to the conventional wisdom that I "protect the plate".
My, oh my: A multivariate endogenous strike zone with serial correlation and simultaneity bias. That should keep the sabremetricians happy for awhile.