Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Best of Times

Baseball Prospectus has a Postseason Odds generator that plays out the season one million times and gives you a percentage chance of a team winning their division and winning the wild card. Right now the Sox are a 96.35115% chance of winning the AL East, a 2.21765% chance of winning the wild card. So it looks pretty good for the playoffs. Buster Onley had a bit today in his blog where he writes that only one team has ever come back to win their division after falling over 14 games back. It was the 1914 Boston Braves. Yankee fans can't blame their pathetic-ness solely on injuries. Damon/Abreu/Giambi/Matsui/Cano are monumentally under performing. In fact, if it wasn't for Jeter/Rod/Posada hitting out of their heads, Yankees might be the worst team in American League. Boston lost their #1 starter in Beckett for over 2 weeks and managed to stretch their lead from 8 1/2 to 14 1/2 games. The Yankees can come in to Boston and sweep the series and still be over 10 games back. And how smart does Theo look right now? Passing on Pedro and Damon. Signing Varitek (which I strongly criticized because I'm a moron). This is shaping up to be a very pleasant summer.

In personal sporting news I went to Martha's Vineyard to defend my title in the 30-39 age group at the Oak Bluffs Memorial Day Road Race. Last year I rather flukely won my division which was more evidence of a poor group of competitors than my skill. The good news is I cut 21 seconds of my time from last year running the 5K in 20:37 compared to my 20:58 in 2006. The bad news was that this time put me 21st overall (compared 15th in 2006) and 7th place in my age group. I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping to finish with my average pace under 6:30 minute miles which I consider the "fast line". But this defeat was quickly forgotten when I went back to my Mom's house and watched my Sporting Clube de Portugal win the Taca de Portugal on a fantastic goal by Liedson. Forca Sporting! View the beautifully homemade clip below.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pitching and Defense

Obviously Boston improved their pitching staff with the addition of Matsuzaka but almost a quarter of the way through the season the most noticeable improvement in the team has been their defense. Many argue that Boston was a great defensive team last year and point to their low error total and high fielding percentage. But fielding percentage is a very deceptive stat and can lead someone to think that a poor defense is good and vice versa. The problem with fielding percentage is that it only takes into account errors committed and does nothing to rate the speed of a defense. Putting yourself in a position to make a play is just as important, if not more important than making the play. Take a hypothetical 10 ground balls hit to two different shortstops. Shortstop A (Derek Jeter) is has a great glove and accurate arm but is very slow and has poor reaction time. Shortstop B (Miguel Tejada) is very fast and has great reaction time but occasionally misplays a ball with his glove or makes an errant throw every once in a while. In the 10 balls hit to Shortstop A (Derek Jeter) he fields 6 of them cleanly and throw the runner out at first, pumping his fist after each out. But 4 of the balls hit in his area go for hits. Shortstop B (Miguel Tejada) has 10 balls hit in his area, 8 of which he gets to because of his superior range but one goes for a hit and one he commits an error throwing to first base because he was off balance because he had to run 20 feet to reach a ball that Shortstop A would never have come close to. Now if you only use fielding percentage as a measure of defensive ability you would say that Shortstop A (Derek Jeter) is better than Shortstop B (Miguel Tejada) because his field percentage is 1.000% and Tejada’s is .888%. But you would be ignoring that of the 10 balls hit in his area Tejada turned 8 of them into outs and Jeter only turned 6 into outs. If you only consider the results an error is the equal to a play not made. This can be applied to team defense as well. If you only look at fielding percentage you are missing the more important stat which is the rate in which balls put into play are turned into outs or Defensive Efficiency. This brings me to the Red Sox this season. Last year many said that the Red Sox were a great defensive team due to their fielding percentage being the best in the American League when in fact their defensive efficiency was 12th out of 14 teams. Alex Gonzalez and Mark Loretta had undeserved reputations as great players at their respective positions. To be fair like Jeter both were very sure handed and had accurate arms but were very limited in their range and didn’t get to many balls hit in their area. In effect they were more Jeters than Tejadas. This season we have the much speedier Julio Lugo at short and Dustin Pedroia at second as well as a healthy Coco in center. This has lead to the Sox currently being 2nd in the league in defensive efficiency. At the same time their fielding percentage has dropped to 12th in the American League which makes some say that the loss of Gonzalez and Loretta has hurt their team defense. But the exact opposite is true. So with a great number of balls hit into play being turned into outs the pitching staff’s ERA has been lowered as well. When you look at a pitcher’s stats the ones most often used to judge their abilities are the stats that are the most dependant on the quality of the defense behind them (Wins/Losses/ERA). Taking Josh Beckett as an example I think his 7-0 start can be attributed to 3 things; fewer walks, giving up fewer homeruns, and most importantly a vastly improved defense behind him.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I used to think that there was no good reason whatsoever to go to Dedham. I need to reevaluate that opinion after learning of The Museum of Bad Art. If all art was this entertaining, I'd go to museums much more often. I firmly believe that if you can't do something well the next best thing is to make fun of people who do it poorly.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Roger Clemens: The Great White Barry Bonds

Now the Yankees have two chronic human growth hormone freaks on their team and possibly 3 if you want to add Andy Pettitte. It seems terribly unfair and whiffs of racism that Barry Bonds is solely pointed out as a performance enhancing drug cheat and guys like Clemens and Jason Giambi get away with the same offenses. Red flags fly all over the place with Clemens as they did with Bonds. But the mainstream media is almost completely ignoring his connection to performance enhancing drugs and play up the feel good story. The photo above is a fine example of Roger's frequent steroid rages.