Living Legends, Strikeouts Absent

July 31, 2009

Today, I have the honor of listening to Rick Dempsey and Frank “Hondo” Howard.  The two of them were very good players, Dempsey as a catcher and Hondo as a homerun hitter.  The two of them had many great stories to tell, only a few of which are not R-rated.  The rest is all baseball horseshit.  (Horseshit is the baseball word for, well, for everything.)

Dempsey said Weaver made the Orioles winners.  Weaver beat it into them every day, every way you can interpret that.  Weaver managed with his brain, and “he never gave up.  That’s how he played the game.”  He went as far as to say Earl Weaver scared a couple of players out of the big leagues.

Hondo said, “He [Williams] was an amazing man.”  Even though Ted had a big ego, he knew the game.  Hondo believes that Williams was responsible for the Senator’s turnaround.  He once brought in Hondo, asking him about his hitting approach.  “He did tighten it [Howard’s strike zone] up.”  Howard believe that William’s approach allowed him to become a better hitter.  “You’re talking about a true American patriot, and Ted was one.”

When Hondo was traded, he viewed it as a chance to play more.  He did not care about moving from first to last, he just wanted to play.  Both of these men just loved the game.  For them, it is not just about winning.  They were still part-boy; the ball field was just another place to have fun.  I hope they serve as exemplars for today’s players.  If you are lucky enough to play in the major leagues, you had better enjoy it.  Too many players today care too much about the money.  I am not saying any players from this era cared for the money.  Of course they did!  They just loved baseball, and that is why they played baseball.

Frank Howard and Rick Dempsey are very smart and funny men.  They had very nice baseball careers, and should be managers.  Some of the greatest guys in baseball are sitting in front of me, and I hope they continue to stay in the sport.

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BP Still on Batting Practice

July 30, 2009

Baseball Prospectus is one of the pre-eminent sabermetric websites, with a long history stretching back over ten years.  They have revealed some of the most influential statistics known to baseball fans, including Pythagenport, VORP, and WARP.  However, what makes them special is the PECOTA projection system, a unique proprietary design by Nate Silver.  While VORP and WARP have undergone gargantuan criticism, PECOTA is a favored baseball projection system.

PECOTA is empirically derived, and is not merely based upon statistics.  It uses phonotypical characteristics of players, in order to make a system that is able to include a much larger set of data, and able to predict further into the future.  This allows those farther away from the mean to be projected more accurately, which is always a great boon.  Nate Silver has since moved onto political projections, utilizing the same principles that are in PECOTA.

However, Baseball Prospectus spurred much controversy through its headliner statistics, such as WARP and VORP.  The concept of the replacement level is at the crux of the statistical analysis of baseball.  It is the point where the talent distribution meets the number of major league spots.  Essentially, a player that is at replacement level has tens of other comps that could take over for him without any change in talent level.  For many years, Baseball Prospectus set its replacement level at an appallingly low level.  It is generally accepted that replacement level is around 48 wins at a team level, while BP set it at around 35 wins.  This led to comparisons between players being way off, because instead of eight wins to three wins, it is 11 wins to six wins.  1.83 instead of 2.6.  When you are talking in a context where one win means millions of dollars, this is an immense error.

Ultimately, Baseball Prospectus has been at the forefront of sabermetrics, its stats are too wild, and that BP has to focus on joining the rest of the sabermetric front in a unified effort to have the best information.


Women in Baseball

July 30, 2009

First thing today, I went to the Women in Baseball Committee meeting. It forced me to wake up early, but hearing everything people said made it worth skipping my coffee. There were about thirty people in the meeting, many of them women. The greatest thing about our national pastime is how everyone can grab a piece of it; many people had special stories about how they encountered women in baseball.
Many of the women here have written books that have chronicled everything that has happened in baseball. It is surprising how many women here have played baseball, and played it a damn sight better than I ever could. Women have always had a special role in the history in baseball.
As one attendee said, “women in baseball includes women writing about men in baseball.” Many reporters today are women, in fact, and they are as much baseball fans as you or me. The most discouraging fact heard today is that girls are merely shunned by baseball, not by any rule, but by those who believe that women have their own league.
This sort of discrimination is unacceptable in today’s world. It has been over sixty years since the major leagues were integrated with blacks, but women are still shunned. There have only been two female groundskeepers, and only five who have ever umpired in the minor leagues. I know many women who love baseball as much as me, and my little sister plays little league, the only girl on her third grade team.
My older sister is a constant softball player, who could kick my ass on the ball field any day. Yet, I can try out for baseball teams for the rest of my life, and my sisters cannot. Is that right? Women today are equals of all men, and there is no reason for baseball to have such a vendetta against them. Women could be in the front office, in the coaching boxes, in the dugout. Hell, why cant they even be on the base paths some day?
This was a great committee meeting, and I am happy to see the progressive mindset of my SABR brethren. Hopefully, women will continue to have an expanding role in, and involved in, baseball.