Interesting article by Rob Neyer on Mark Prior sent to me by Ron. It is interesting to note how poorly the great college pitchers have performed. I would have guessed their success would have been better than around .500 but I suppose this also validates The Baseball Prospectus mantra TINSTAAPP ("there is no such thing as a pitching prospect"). I do agree that Prior looks better than anyone on the list of 18 both because of his results and because of his mechanics and maturity. All of us Cubs fans are just hoping that his archilles problem can be cured by rest although I'm not holding my breath.
Monday, March 29, 2004
At long last I was able to see The Passion of the Christ last night while in Orlando. Prior to seeing the film I had discussed the movie with family, friends, and my wife (who saw it last week while I stayed home with the kids) as well as read and seen some of the commentary in the press and so was not surprised in the general way the story unfolded. If you haven't seen the movie you may want to stop reading as this post will certainly give some of it away. A few points:
To add a note about the viewing experience itself, I was shocked when I attended the movie in Orlando because of the rudeness of many in the theatre. The theatre was small, about Â¾ full with several groups of teenagers. Throughout the movie cell phones would ring, people would talk in normal voice to friends, and get up and move about the theatre to various seats. Not having been to this part of Orlando to see a movie before I was waiting for a local (an older couple sitting near me for example) to act annoyed and perhaps get the manager. No one appeared disturbed by the behavior so I assume it is a normal occurrence. The contrast between the irreverent behavior of the teenagers and subject matter of the film could not have been greater. I hate to sound like one of those people who think everything is going to the dogs but I'll have to admit I was a bit discouraged by what I saw.
In the final analysis if you are a Christian I can't imagine that you won't find the movie both enlightening and an impetus for taking stock of what your Christianity means. It is easy for a Christian to give intellectual assent to the idea that Christ had to die for my sins, it's something else to be given a glimpse (however flawed) of how that translated into a real event in space and time. After all, Christianity is not a religion based merely on moral platitudes and high minded ideals. As C. S. Lewis said, its' central fact is that God became man so that men could become sons of God. This process was carried out not only or even merely in a spiritual sense but through the sacrifice of a flesh and blood man.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 1:04 PM
Sunday, March 28, 2004
After finishing up teaching in Orlando today I drove down to Winter Haven and caught most of the Indians - Pirates game at the home of the Indians, Chain of Lakes Park. I along with about 4,300 others, sat down the left field line and watched the Pirates win 6-1 with the newly acquired Rick Reed getting the start and saw homeruns by new Pirate Raul Mondesi and former Cub Bobby Hill.
Chain of Lakes Park was very comfortable and although it had the feel of an older minor league park, it was well maintained with nice landscaping and didn't have the crowded feeling of Scottsdale stadium I visited a couple weeks back. Sitting down the line I was right next to the Pirates bullpen. The fans were quite pleasant and teased each other throughout the game. All in all a very nice afternoon well spent.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 3:29 PM
Saturday, March 27, 2004
Some bad news for the Cubs today. Mark Prior will be out for at least the first road trip and the first homestand. Originally his achilles problem was thought to be minor but now it looks like perhaps he'll need another 6 weeks to heal would put his return sometime in May. This is a big setback for the Cubs who need a healthy Prior to compete with the Astros and Cardinals. As I mentioned before this is troubling since it started last September and shows no signs of improvement. I wouldn't be suprised if there weren't something more serious wrong.
Meanwhile I'm in Orlando teaching a Microsoft CRM class after the Microsoft Convergence conference this weekend. As fellow Quilogy employee Jason Ketteman blogged, the facility we're teaching at is first rate. Hoping to catch a spring training game in Winter Haven tomorrow after class.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 8:45 PM
In the last section of the book Miracles by C.S. Lewis (chapters 14-17) Lewis begins with a discussion of the "Grand Miracle", the Incarnation. Lewis views it is as the grand miracle since "if the thing happened, it was the central event in the history of the Earth - the very thing that the whole story has been about." He then goes on to argue for the truth of the Incarnation not on the basis of historical evidence for it or on its probability following Hume's arguments, but rather on its "fitness" with the "whole mass of our knowledge. The credibility will depend on the extent to which the doctrine, if accepted, can illuminate that whole mass."
Lewis then goes on to argue that the Incarnation fits with our knowledge of natures patterns, which include the composite nature of man (man is both rational and physical), the patterns of descent and reascent (in nature as with seeds and in death), selectiveness (in nature from the single planet we know of with life to the single rational species on that planet), and vicariousness (from the dependence living creatures have on one another to both the kindness and gratitude that self sacrifice brings and the exploitation and oppression).
Lewis' discussion of the composite nature of man in this section is one of my favorite passages in the Lewis cannon. In it he reduces the argument for the composite nature of man into two easily observable facts: "(a) That men make coarse jokes, and (b) That they feel the dead to be uncanny." To the first Lewis remarks how strange it is that an animal would find its own "animality" either objectionable or humorous. Unless there were not a dichotomous principal at work it is hard to see how it could have developed in a purely naturalistic world. Lewis sees it as a "mark of the two not being 'at home' together." To the second Lewis replies that only a being that sees an unnatural division between the spiritual (ghosts) and the physical (the corpse) would detest the division. Naturalism has no explanation for these facts, offering only primitive superstitions and taboos, "as if these themselves were not obviously results of the thing to be explained."
As for the other three patterns, contrary to other religions the doctrine of the Incarnation neither treats natures patterns as absolutely good (nature religions and life-force worship) nor as purely an evil (Buddhism and higher forms of Hinduism) to be escaped. Rather, the Incarnation takes a more neutral stance and affirms that even those patterns "which are evil in the world of selfishness and necessity are good in the world of love and understanding." Here again, you can see Lewis' Platonic conceptions at work where the patterns of nature are the patterns of heaven "played in a very minor key". Although Christianity is neutral regarding nature's patterns as is appropriate when treating nature as a created thing (a brother to mankind, not its mother), Christianity therefore provides an explanation for its depravity in mankind's sin through free will. Finally, in discussing the incarnation Lewis reflects on the dual nature of death, both as Satan's weapon and God's medicine for man in the God-man's descent and reascent and his vicarious sacrifice.
In the end Lewis views the incarnation as a doctrine that "digs beneath the surface, works through the rest of our knowledge by unexpected channels, harmonises best with our deepest apprehensions and our 'second thoughts'".
Here are the first few installments of this very long review.
C.S. Lewis on Miracles
Miracles Part II
Miracles Part IIIa
Miracles Part IIIb
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 8:20 PM
Jon Box and I worked on several whitepapers detailing P/Invoke in the Compact Framework as well as performance. The performance paper (written entirely by Jon) has now been published on MSDN. The other two papers you find below.
Advanced P/Invoke in the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework
An Introduction to P/Invoke and Marshalling in the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 10:43 AM
Friday, March 26, 2004
Christian Nagel hits the nail on the head with his satire of the European Union's ruling against Microsoft.
Fundamentally, it makes no sense for governments to be in the software design business. As long as competitors can produce software (which they can) and sell it to consumers and computer manufacturers to be distributed on PCs (which they can) I don't see how it is unfair for Microsoft to make similar software and bundle it with the OS. If you accept the right of the EU to do this where do you stop? The only logical point is to have a government document that outlines in (very technical terms) what is and is not an operating system. Of course, it would have to be revised every month as new technologies are created. Ridiculous to the extreme.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 3:24 PM
Thursday, March 25, 2004
Well, Cubs fans can stop wondering whether Juan Cruz will turn his potential into results. The Cubs traded him to the Braves along with Steve Smyth (who is soon to be 26 and has topped out it looks like) for left handed pitcher Andy Pratt and second baseman Richard Lewis.
Looking at the stats I'm not sure what Pratt and Lewis bring to the table although Pratt seems to be improving and could make an impact in Chicago if needed. Lewis has also improved in his second professional season and showed some plate discipline in A ball last year. Pratt will likely start the season in Iowa however since this move can only mean that Sergio Mitre has won the 5th starter job until Prior gets healthy. When we were in Mesa a couple weeks ago Mitre did throw well against the Royals, certainly better than Cruz has shown. Cruz threw last Saturday and while he gave up a few runs he looked better than I'd seen so far this spring. You hate to lose someone with the talent of Cruz. It's too bad the Cubs couldn't find a way to help him use that talent.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 8:46 PM
For those not so sabermetrically oriented here is a nice piece on adjusting statistics that lays out the rational for creating park, fielding, and ERA adjustments to baseball statistics to normalize them. This is the basis trying to compare players not only across teams but leagues and eras as well.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 7:54 AM
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
On Wednesday Microsoft announced that it released Windows XP Service Pack (SP) 2 Release Candidate (RC) 1 to testers. For full details, please see the SP2 RC1 Fact Sheet. Jon Box and I had the opportunity to work on the training course for developers that you'll want to take a look at as well.
Microsoft also kicked off a technical preview program that will provide many developers with the first opportunity to download SP2 for evaluation. Previously, developers had access to online training and other background information about the potential impact of SP2, but many did not have the actual SP2 bits.
Information about the Technical Preview Program:
Additionally, in an effort to encourage even broader IT customer testing of Windows XP Service Pack 2, Microsoft is launching the Windows XP Service Pack 2 Technical Preview Program. As part of the program, Windows XP SP2 RC1 is scheduled be available for download through a new TechNet portal at http://www.microsoft.com/sp2preview as of Friday, March 19. The portal will also provide access to a variety of SP2 supporting materials, as well as to newsgroups devoted to the sharing of information regarding the testing of Windows XP SP2. The objective of the program is to encourage broader testing among Microsoft’s corporate IT Windows XP customers and to allow those customers to prepare for deployment. While Microsoft encourages IT testing of Windows XP SP2 RC1, the company does not recommend using the Windows XP Technical Preview code in a production environment, nor does it recommend use of this code by consumers.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 9:24 PM
Since blogspot doesn't have categorization I thought I'd post an index of the sabermetrically related baseball posts for those that follow such things (and for myself since I sometimes want to go back and find these):
Baird and Sabermetrics
Clogging the Bases
Replacement Level Players
QuesTec and Umpires
Dodgers and DePodesta
The Hardest Thing to do in Sports
Be the House
Patterson and Batting Order
Case Study: Darrell May
What can a pitcher control?
Kauffman Park Effects
With fellow SABRites
The Cubs and Moneyball
Contextual versus Counting Statistics
Walks and Early Sabermetrics
Not a SABR Member
Patience and Its Effects
What's a player worth?
Curve Ball: Baseball, Statistics, and the Role of Chance in the Game
Is next year finally here?
Computing Offensive Value
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 2:09 PM
Interesting article on Royals GM Allan Baird on mlb.com. We saw him working the phones during the game when we were in Surprise last week. In the article the author attributes Baird's success to two main factors; "scouting and player development" and hiring Tony Pena as manager. The former factor, the author notes, encompasses the "traditional baseball virtues". However, I would argue that Baird has succeeded by diverging from traditional baseball thinking and leaning toward sabermetric thinking in several areas. These areas were part of the analysis done by Baseball Prospectus as well.
With all of that the Royals are still most helped by being in a weak division that has not improved since last year. Yes, the Royals played over their heads last year (their pythagorean winning percentage calculated to 78 wins instead of 83 given the numbers of runs they scored and the number given up) largely because of the fast start and hitting well with runners in scoring position, but this year's team is improved and should again be in the hunt for 80 to 90 wins, likely enough to win their division.
I mentioned in a previous post that I had gotten a job as a scorer ("stringer") for MLB.com and would be scoring 25 to 30 Royals games this season. Well, I’ve read over the handbook for scorers and scored a handful of practice games in text files by coming up with a code for each of the events in a game as well as scoring a game using the client software. Although the number of code combinations is likely in excess of 5,600 as I mentioned, the core codes include a set of 40 or so used in different combinations and separated with punctuation into pre and post base running events as well as the primary event.
While I was at first daunted by the handbook, the codes are, for the most part, well organized, intuitive, and consistent, which should make it doable when the time comes (even for me). I’m looking forward to it and my first two games are April 7 and 8. If you "watch" the game on Gamecast on mlb.com let me know what you think. Play Ball!
Monday, March 22, 2004
This book by Paul Vick, a lead architect on VB .NET and author of the language specification, crossed my desk recently and so I thought I'd write a short review for those who haven't seen it.
I'm often asked to give recommendations on .NET books (other than my own) and this one will certainly now join the list. If you're a VB 6 developer making the transition to .NET this is a reference book you'll consult often as you delve into VB .NET. This book is definitely a reference book and so you'll thumb through it when looking for specifics such as array handling, operators, attributes. However, appendix B on transitioning from COM to the CLR is one you'll want to read in one sitting as it covers all the bases very well.
Generally the code snippets are all self-contained (which I like in a reference book) and are the simplest snippet you can think of for the situation which lets you get to the core of the concept without having to unpack any other baggage. Diagrams are used sparingly although when used are very effective. For example, the one used to explain boxing and unboxing and how the managed heap looks in chapter 13 works very well. The other aspect of the book I really liked is the use of sidebars and notes in the text. Vick uses an Advanced heading on the sidebar to go a little deeper in explaining the whys behind one of his code snippets or how the CLR handles the language constructs behind the scenes. Although marked as Advanced, beginning readers will find these invaluable as they learn how the CLR implements their VB .NET instructions. Vick also includes a Compatbility heading on sidebars that explain how newer syntax or behavior relates to syntax or behavior that VB 6 developers would be familiar with. This also helps to bridge the gap.
All in all, this is a book I'd recommend to any devleoper moving to VB .NET from the VB 6 world and a good reference to have on your shelf.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 1:10 PM
Jon Box and I did an interview with Carl and Rory on .NET Rocks on Friday afternoon. After some technical difficulty with my phone I did call in and had a nice conversation about the .NET Compact Framework and our book. Hopefully for those interested in building smart device applications the program will be of use. Carl and Rory were very professional and made it easy on us. Thanks guys.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 12:48 PM
Saturday, March 20, 2004
Well, I'm back from three beautiful days in the Valley of the Sun with my father-in-law Ed, co-worker Ron, his son Joe, and his brother Harry, only to find snow in Omaha as I teach a three day patterns and architecture course. Spring training trip notes follow:
Sunday, March 13
Boarded "cattle car airlines" at 8:30AM with my father-in-law Ed headed for Phoenix on a direct flight. Crowded flight but spent the time reading an article published in Science in 1995 on how outfielders track flyballs. The authors of the article propose a new model for how outfielders track flyballs, one in which the outfielder "selects a running path that maintains a linear optical trajectory (LOT) for the ball relative to home plate and the background scenery." Although the math is beyond me it seems like their model explains why outfielders run into walls (their selected running path assures them they will catch the ball but they don't know when) and why they choose to catch the ball on the run rather than accelerating to the point where the ball would hit the ground and wait.
Upon arriving at Sky Harbor we proceeded to the Dollar counter and then to the shuttle to pick up the car. After leaving the directions to Scottsdale Stadium in the trunk (a recurrent theme on this trip) we finally found the stadium. 90 degrees and sunny (really sunny, the earth is much closer to the sun down there apparently) - no sun screen (left it in the trunk). The Cubs started well and jumped on top in the first inning off of Jason Schmidt. Matt Clement started for the Cubs and looked pretty good at first. He was getting his slider over and recorded several swining strikeouts in the first two innings. He gave up a couple of runs however and was relieved in the third by Reyel Pinto who spent last season in A ball. Pinto proceeded to give up a grand slam to Schmidt along with a bevy of other runs to make the route complete as the Cubs lost 11-3. Pinto was sent back to the minor league camp the next day. The only other encouraging aspects of the game were the 3 or 4 good innings pitched by Todd Wellmeyer in relief of Pinto and a couple hard hit balls by Moises Alou. Sammy Sosa did not play. I didn't get any photos of the game (left the camera in the trunk) but was generally unimpressed by Scottsdale stadium, which was older, confining with poor sight lines, and literally crawling with vendors barking every two seconds. As is traditional the starters were taken out around the fourth inning and proceeded to sign autographs and "get their work in" in the outfield. I'm not sure how much work is involved or how much use a player gets out of running at half speed for 50 yards, stopping, walking back, and then doing it over again... but then again I'm not a major leaguer. Around 10,000 were in attendance.
After heading to the hotel to check in, rest for an hour or so, sooth our sunburned necks, and review the NCAA brackets we drove down to the Arizona State University Campus for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. We reminisced about ballparks we had visited and I recounted my tale of visiting Tiger Stadium in 1983 amidst a riot in centerfield that precipitated White Sox centerfielder Rudy Law going back to the dugout to get a helmet for protection from the bottles and food raining from the stands. Finally, back to the room and a good night's sleep despite Ed's intermittant snoring and the thunderously loud air conditioner that came to life every couple of hours.
Monday, March 14
Woke up bright and early and after a nice run through the technology park where we were staying in Tempe and the continental breakfast, we headed for Fitch Park, the practice fields of the Cubs. We arrived around 10:15AM, practices having started at 9:30 or so. We parked at the public park east of Fitch Park and watched the minor league pitchers going through their drills covering first base and fielding one hoppers back to the mound. Several of the rubber balls used to hit the one hoppers hopped over the fence and Ron's son Joe received a couple of baseballs for his efforts at running them down. I was somewhat surprised by the amount of standing around the young pitchers did waiting for their turn in the drills. - 10 to 12 pitchers in a line with one coach hitting fungos. None of coaches noticed that I was ready and able to take the youngsters through their drills.
We then proceeded to walk around the outside of the practice fields and enter the complex from the south side (which we should have done at the start). From inside the complex we wandered between the various fields watching the pitching drills and both infield and outfield practice. I noticed Scott Servais working with the young catchers on one of the fields and 2003 1st round draft pick Ryan Harvey getting ready for batting practice. Just as they were getting ready to hit we decided to make our way to HoHoKam park where the game between the Cubs and Royals would be played at 1:05PM. We decided to walk and discovered that although the light standards were in view the park was still a good 15 minute walk to the north.
Finally, we arrived at the park just in time to catch the end of batting practice. HoHoKam is a bigger park than Scottsdale stadium and was quite comfortable with plenty of walking room as I had remembered from a visit in 1998 during Spring Training. Before the game we saw Negro League legend Buck O'Niel making his way up from the field. Joe got his autograph while Buck asked him about his school and "pitched" the ball to him before signing.
Our seats were shaded luckily and we settled down to watch Kerry Wood and Jeremy Affeldt work. Wood pitched 4 nice innings and appeared to be working on his cuveball, using it to strike out several hitters. He didn't walk anyone, gave up two hits and struck out four as the Cubs led 1-0 through 4. Affeldt too looked pretty good in his 5 innings although I didn't notice him throwing as many of his devastating curveballs as is usual. He gave up a double to Corey Patterson in the 4th who later scored on a sacrifice fly. I noticed that Rudy Seanez pitched the 8th for the Royals so it'll be interesting to see if he has anything left.
The game was decided in the 7th on a Nic Jackson solo homerun off Greg Swindell that made the score 3-2 just as I was reading the Baseball Prospectus analysis that he wouldn't see any major league time this year. Of course, his homerun immediately raised the hopes of the Cubs faithful around us who now saw him as a legitimate outfielder no doubt based soley on the strength of that homerun. Mitre, Farnsworth, Hawkins, and Borowski finished up. It was the largest crowd of the spring at over 12,700.
After the game we drove outside Mesa to the northeast to a public park and took a walk on "Wind Cave Trail". It was a nice walk through the desert and although the snakes were awake (as the guide at the entrance told us) we didn't encounter any. After walking almost half way up the trail we decided to head back as it was getting late (at least that was our excuse although several walkers easily passed us and made it all the way to the alcove at the base of the cliff wall).
That evening we had a nice meal at a restaurant in south Mesa before heading back to the hotel.
Tuesday, March 15
We were up early and after another short run we were on our way to the Royals and Rangers shared facility in Surprise, some 40 miles northwest of Mesa. The gates to the practice fields were opened at 10AM and we made our way in. Although the major leaguers were not yet out practicing the minor leaguers were hard at work. I watched with interest as the infielders were put through a series of drills turning various double plays with two coaches hitting fungos and the pitchers worked on pick off moves and bunting. I was impressed with the amount of work the infielders got in a short period of time but once again noticed all the standing around the pitchers do.
We then headed over to the major league practice fields where the players were getting limbered up. Garth Brooks, who was in camp raising money for his foundation, was playing catch with Matt Stairs.
Around 11AM they started batting practice and we watched as Juan Gonzales hit several homeruns, the farthest of which cleared the 375ft sign in left center as well as the outfield wall of the field behind the practice field. Ron and his son Joe stood behind the fence waiting for a ball to no avail. Around 12:30 I headed over to the main field for the game against the Rangers. The facility in Surprise is first class all the way. The practice fields are accessible, the staff is very friendly, the concourses are wide with batting cages adjacent (I noticed Mike Sweeney signing autographs in one of the cages), the food great (Oktoberfest Sausage), and the seating very comfortable.
The Royals hit well off Rangers starter Kenny Rogers in route to a 12-7 victory. Chris George came on in relief and although he gave up a towering homerun to Hank Blalock and hung a couple curveballs he pitched respectably in 2 innings of work. There were only around 4,500 fans in attendance in a stadium that holds around 10,000 so it seems Surprise may be a bit of a well kept secret in the Phoenix area.
After the game we headed right for the aiport and had several hours to kill before boarding our plane for the flight back to KC where it was 36 degrees when we landed after midnight.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 2:12 PM
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Jon Box has a post on the Data Protection API (DPAPI). A version of the DataProtector class that I implemented in VB .NET that includes string manipulation functions can be found on our web site. Also, for an explanation of DPAPI see my article on builder.com.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 12:37 PM
Thursday, March 11, 2004
Nice post by Ron Hostetter on the popularity of baseball versus football. I echo his sentiments. The appeal of baseball lies in its rhythm and its historical continuity. Anything MLB would do to disrupt either takes away from the game. However, I'm so old school I don't even like the pop music played between innings.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 9:26 PM
Just in case anyone needed confirmation that Dusty Baker is not a very good tactical manager, there was the following gem from the Cubs website today. In response to a question about why the Cubs took so long to reach double-digit walks this spring Dusty replied...
"No. 1, I've let most guys hit 3-0 (in the count). That's one reason," Baker said. "I think walks are overrated unless you can run. If you get a walk and put the pitcher in a stretch, that helps, but the guy who walks and can't run, most of the time he's clogging up the bases for somebody who can run."
I certainly agree with his first point and taking 3-0 walks in spring training is not real productive. But, drawing walks simply "clogs" up the bases unless you can run? Implied in his comment is the belief that runners score more often as the result of their speed through the stolen base or taking the extra base than they do otherwise, and that getting more runners on is somehow detrimental to team success. While I haven't done a study on it there is no doubt in my mind that the sabermetric wisdom devaluing the stolen base is correct. The stolen base is a tactical weapon to be used in specific circumstances, not a general tool that can be used to generate a large number of runs.
Further, it's hard to fathom how someone who watched Barry Bonds day in and day out and Sammy Sosa last year could fail to perceive the value of a walk, especially in front of power hitters like these. While I think Dusty is a great manager in his primary role as team cheerleader and politician, he continually shows a lack of understanding regarding some fairly elementary aspects of the game. His approach to bunting being another example.
I guess I'm of the belief that since the base on balls is not exciting (like the stolen base, hit and run, and sacrifice) it gets lost in the noise of the game. Human beings probably have difficulty perceiving the cumulative value of such non-events over such a long stretch as 162 games while exciting events that do make the difference, albeit more rarely, stick out and are zeroed in on as a favored strategy. Of course that explains why the real value of plate discipline was "discovered" only after data could be analyzed separately from the pure experience of watching the games themselves. See my comments on Be The House.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 9:16 PM
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Great piece on Shawon Dunston on the Cubs website this morning. It's good to see Shawon back in a Cubs uniform. Although sabermetrically Dunston is the antithesis of what you look for in an offsensive player (a career .296 OBP with just 203 walks in over 6,000 plate appearances) I always rooted hard for Shawon and fondly remember the daily Shawon-O-Meter (a cardboard sign that tracked Dunston's batting average) held by a fan down the first base line as Dunston made his quest for .300 in 1995, although falling a bit short at .296.
Dunston had his best year in 1997 when he split time between the Cubs and Pirates, hitting .300 with 14 homeruns.
I think I rooted for Shawon for two reasons. First, he was the Cubs shortstop and I'd always loved to watch the shortstop turn the DP and make backhanded stops in the hole. Of course watching Dunston fire one across the infield to Mark Grace, who saved Shawon double digit errors every year, was also entertaining. Ivan DeJesus was also a favorite during his time with the Cubs. But more importantly, and as brought out in the article, Dunston hustled on every play both at bat and in the field. I can truly say that Dunston and Pete Rose are the two players I never saw loaf on the field. I think some of Dunston's honorable attitude comes out in the article as well. I hope he does come back as a coach, just not a hitting coach. :)
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
132 490 71 147 22 5 14 57 32 8 8 75 .300 .312 .451
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 11:35 AM
At a recent consulting engagement I had to write some code in VB .NET for changing a password in Active Directory in response to a user request. After looking at a few resources I decided on using the DirectorySearcher class from the System.DirectoryServices namespace to perform an LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) search on the entire directory based on the samaccount (the account name in AD), and bring back the single DirectoryEntry that it found. I then used the Invoke method of the DirectoryEntry to call the SetPassword method, passing in the new password and committing the changes.
The end result looked like this....
Private Sub ChangePassword(ByVal account As String, ByVal newPass As String)
Dim ad As DirectoryServices.DirectoryEntry
Dim ads As Object
Dim adr As SearchResult
' Find the directory entry
ad = New DirectoryServices.DirectoryEntry( _
ads = New DirectoryServices.DirectorySearcher(ad)
ads.Filter = ("(samaccountname=" & account & ")")
adr = ads.FindOne()
Dim de As DirectoryEntry = adr.GetDirectoryEntry
' Change the password
Catch ex As Exception
' Report Errors
Of course, the credentials being stored unencrypted in web.config which should be addressed using the DPAPI and a custom configuration section handler using the IConfigurationSectionHandler interface.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 11:13 AM
Monday, March 08, 2004
As Bart Giammati said "The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again..." and some warmer weather in the KC area the last couple of days has turned my mood even more towards baseball. Just a few more days and we'll be winging our way south to Arizona for 72 hours of the Cactus League. A few injuries to Cubs and Royals pitchers this week have also caught my eye.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 10:16 PM
Sunday, March 07, 2004
One of the core concepts of sabermetric research is that of the "replacement level player". Simply put, the idea is to quantify the level of performance at which a player is expendable. In other words, the level at which a player is easy and cheap to find at that position in the minor leagues. By quantifying replacement level in books such as The Baseball Prospectus it is much easier to see when teams overpay for performance they could get almost for free. For example, in the BP each player listing includes a column for VORP (Value Over Replacement-level Player).
As teams like the A's, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Dodgers begin to integrate measures like VORP into their personnel decisions you'll soon see the situation described in the introduction to the 2004 BP:
"As a result, teams are slowly coming to realize that they have more options than they think when it comes to putting together their minor league roster. Over the next few years, you can reasonably expect to see greater salary stratification among major leaguers, with fewer stars making more money at the very top, a slow deterioration of the 'middle class' of ballplayers, and more and more players earning salaries not far from the league minimum. It's part of the accelerated evolution of the business of baseball taking place in MLB front offices, as a result of better understanding of what's going on between the lines."
I would add that the increasing availability of players from the entire world and not only the western hemisphere will only quicken the process.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 5:30 PM
Saturday, March 06, 2004
In terms of the debate on "gay marriage" (an oxymoronic term) recently I'll have to admit that I've been somewhat demoralized. I fail to see how a government and society that attempts to derive its authority without reference to a supreme being or historical precedent can logically conclude that two (or more) consenting persons cannot "marry". Like night follows day it is axiomatic that groups of consenting persons shoud be able to "marry" for any reason whatsoever in this brave new world. This includes for the purpose of mutual financial benefit, caring for an elderly parent, and general polygamy among myriads of other arrangements you can dream up. I'm afraid that without respect for the ideals on which the country was founded, anything goes.
I was encouraged, however, by two recent columns by conservatives that note that Congress does have the power to limit the Supreme Court from ruling on certain classes of cases by appealing to Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution which says:
"...the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make."
Given conservative dominance in Washington and the majority who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) it is just possible that legislation forbidding the court to rule on such cases might pass. However, the weakness of Congress has what has led to the current situation where the country is ruled by nine unelected people and so I doubt that this avenue will be tried. However, other solutions such as impeaching judges and passing a constitutional amendment seem to me to be much less likely. One thing is sure, without something being done the road ahead is a foregone conclusion.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 10:51 PM
Lewis next counters the argument regarding the propriety of miracles, i.e. that God wouldn’t intervene in the order he created. However, to address this argument Lewis first backs up to the argument about what kind of God Christians have in view. Interestingly, he notes that "modern" pantheistic notions of God as being in and through all of creation as a more of an amorphous force are really not all that new. In fact contrary to the modern notions of religious development (see Karen Armstrong’s 1993 best selling book The History of God for a quintessential example of the modern analysis that concludes that mysticism is highest form of religion) he views pantheism as the natural state of man’s religion as evidenced by eastern religions as well as Greek thought before Plato. In this view he lumps the mystics, who, however real their experience and true their vision of God is, actually end up leading people toward pantheism by focusing on what God is not (defining God ultimately as "Nothing") and thereby removing any positive attributes. Once again by removing the anthropomorphized terms and the personal God of Christianity we are required by our minds to substitute vague images of gases and diffusion.
Contrary to being a more nuanced and developed view of God, pantheism produces what is most comfortable and natural to man; a God that asks nothing, demands nothing, and to which man is not accountable. Lewis also depicts this view as too simple to reflect reality since in our experience more nuanced views of science (quantum physics and relativity, DNA and inheritance in biology) are inherently more complex, i.e. a triune God who becomes incarnate versus a life-force. To the contrary Lewis argues that if God exists he created the opaque universe of real things and therefore must himself be a real thing. Therefore the supernatural should be viewed as more than physical not less. In other words, and borrowing from the Platonic idea of types (which is integral to Lewis' view of Christianity and espoused in most of his apologetical works – he views Christianity as having subsumed both Judaism and Platonism), not only our reason but our very physicality is a weak reflection or shadow of the ultimate reality. Lewis used this idea vividly in his book The Great Divorce, where heaven and the saints are depicted as substantial and concrete while hell and the lost are ghostly and dispersed.
Lewis then circles back to address the argument on the propriety of miracles by asserting that those who feel uncomfortable in the idea of miracles are assuming that the supernatural is not at the center of man’s experience, in Lewis words "the very thing this universal story is about". He appeals to our necessarily limited knowledge of God’s purposes by drawing analogies from grammar to speech, meter to poems, and individual "pixels" in a mosaic to the full scope of a painting, in order to plant the seed of doubt that nature is indeed the whole show.
In the final chapter of the third section Lewis discusses the issue of probability and its relation to miracles. He begins by analyzing the argument espoused by David Hume in his famous essay On Miracles. In that essay Hume argues that probability rules out the possibility of miracles because the regularity of Nature’s course is supported by "firm and unalterable experience" and that therefore any natural explanation, no matter how improbable, is always to be preferred over a supernatural or miraculous explanation. Lewis counters by noting that Hume’s entire argument rests on the assumption of the "Uniformity of Nature" since seeing an event happen millions of times in succession does not in reality make it any more likely that it will happen again. In fact, a all would concede that miracles are immensely improbable much in the same way that most any event is improbable before its occurrence. As a result of Hume’s assumption of uniformity, he leaves no room for the possibility of miracles by simply defining miracles as impossible.
And in fact, Lewis argues that Hume also ends up leaving no room for his own belief in the Uniformity of Nature. If one believes that "all that exists is Nature…if our own deepest convictions are merely the by-products of an irrational process, then clearly there is not the slightest ground for supposing that our sense of fitness and our consequent faith in uniformity tell us anything about a reality external to ourselves." In essence, if you throw out God, then you also throw out reason and the basis for modern science and conversely, if you admit God then you must admit the possibility of miracles. "The Being who threatens Nature’s claim to omnipotence confirms her in her lawful occasions."
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 10:31 PM
One of the several benefits of SABR membership is the yearly publication of the The Baseball Research Journal. The journal contains a variety of aritcles on all aspects of baseball history and analysis written by SABR members. In this year's edition there were several interesting articles relating to the scientific aspects of the game and one in particular, "Cameras and Computers, or Umpires?" particularly caught my eye. The article was written by Robert K. Adair, whose The Physics of Baseball I've blogged about previously.
In the article Adair describes the QuesTec system that was installed in a handful of ballparks in 2002 to collect data on ball and strike calls in a system called the Umpire Information System (UIS). It was used in 10 ballparks in 2003 where the umpire is given a CD-ROM with all the pitches after each game. Ever since I heard how NFL officials are given a video tape after each game that scores them on each play I've thought that MLB should do something similar with umpires in order to better control umpires who have tendancies to large strike zones or to consistently give the tie to the fielder. Adair was able to analyze the stats from the system reported as follows:
# of pitches analyzed: 83,891
# of pitches where man and machine agreed: 71,164
# of pitches where they disagreed by < 2 inches: 4,970
# of pitches where they disagreed by > 2 inches: 7,757 (9% or 14 pitches per game)
Adair was then able to create a table that showed where the 9% of pitches disagreed:
Outside Corner High
U-s Q-b 3,336 U-s,Q-b 301
U-b Q-s 122 U-b,Q-s 943
Inside Corner Low
U-s Q-b 622 U-s,Q-b 18
U-b Q-s 208 U-b,Q-s 2,007
In the table U-s,Q-b would mean the umpire called it a strike and QuesTec a ball. Finally, from this data Adair was able to construct a graphic that shows the difference between the QuesTec strike zone and the umpires zone. The QuesTec zone is taller by 3/4 of a baseball at the top and over a full baseball at the bottom and thinner by a little less than that amount while the umpires zone is narrower and flatter and centered more towards the outside corner.
Certainly some of the differences may be attributed to errors in the system (reading this I was reminded of an article the journal of the IEEE Computer Society that described the K-Zone implementation for ESPN and noted how difficult it was to come up with an algorithm to accurately track the path of the pitched ball amidst the differences in lighting, weather, and fan apparel) but the model strike zones that Adair was able to construct seem to me to be exactly what a fan sees everyday. Pitches that are the width of a baseball outside are called strikes while pitches several inches below the letters are still balls. Part of this is certainly because an umpire typically leans over the catcher's left should and therefore does not have a good view of the outside corner and so more often has to guess at the actual location. This also explains why the smallest difference is on pitches on the inside corner where umpires have a great view already.
After seeing this data I'm more convinced than ever that this sort of system can and does work and should serve to help umpires call the stirke zone found in the rule book.
"The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the knee cap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball."
By doing so it will minimize one of the three strike zones described by Ted Williams:
"The batter [and subsequently the pitcher] has three strike zones: his own, the opposing pitcher's, and the umpire's. The umpire's zone is defined by the rule book, but it's also more importantly defined by the way the umpire works. A good umpire is consistent so you can learn his strike zone. The batter has a strike zone in which he considers the pitch the right one to hit. The pitchers have zones where they are most effective. Once you know the pitcher and his zone you can get set for a particular pitch."
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 3:52 PM
Friday, March 05, 2004
Well, the first spring training game is history and although the Cubs lost, Corey Patterson hit a homerun and looks good right now. I'm a little concerned about Mark Prior's achilles problems that seem to be a holdover from last September. Hopefully, this won't turn into something chronic but I'm worried since the rest over the offseason apparently didn't help much.
Also, I just received my 2004 copy of the Baseball Prospectus, which I'm happy to report is even bigger than last year and that I'll be hauling down to Arizona in just 9 days and perusing in the (hopefully) warm sun (46 at game time yesterday in Mesa). I noticed that in talking about Moises Alou BP noted that perhaps Dusty should use him in the leadoff spot since his power is down and his plate discipline might even improve if given the incentive. Not a bad idea at all but there is a 0% chance that Dusty would ever do something like that. He's far too old school.
A couple of other items of note. I'll be speaking at the DevEssentials Essential.NET conference right here in Kansas City June 4-7. I'll be doing a session on ADO.NET and Whidbey. Also speaking from Quilogy are Jon Box and Bob Kimbrough, a great instructor and consultant in KC. John Alexander, the Regional Director in KC is coordinating the event. Should be a great event and I look forward to seeing anyone and everyone there.
Also, as a preview my brief article on ADO.NET and Whidbey is on the builder.com site. I'll have a longer piece in an upcoming VB .NET Advisor journal.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 10:50 AM
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
Just finished my two talks at DevDays in St. Louis. I spoke on the attributes of Smart Client applications and on deployment. Both sessions went fairly well and almost all the demos worked :) Looking forward to doing the same sessions in Kansas City on March 11. For folks who'll get the CD with the source code for the IssueVision application you should check out the IssueList user control, the serialization helper that uses the DPAPI, and the IssueSubject component. A nice little application that illustrates some fundamental smart client techniques using the .NET Framework.
All the Microsoft folks who setup for the event were very accommodating and the other speakers including Quilogy's Jon Box were fun to talk to as usual. Heading back to KC tonight and will do some consulting tomorrow.
I especially liked that the first sessions discussed design patterns and implemented both the Observer and Command patterns in the UI. The second session used the AppUpdater component that's been out on www.gotdotnet.com and www.windowsforms.net for some time to do application updates. The Updater Application Block is more robust however and so I would recommend it.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 3:28 PM
A History of God by Karen Armstrong
This book was a best seller published in 1993. In it Armstrong attempts to trace the views of God through 4,000 years as they developed (and are presented in the book in order) in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, philosophy (such as Aristotle, Plato), mystics (of all three main monotheistic religons), reformers (again, of all three monotheistic religons i.e. Luther), and the enlightenment (Pascal, Descartes, Spinoza, etc.).
Armstrong herself is a former nun who has since turned to a quasi-mystical belief in something she identifies as God or more correctly as "Nothing" and so it is not suprising that she ends up being very favorable to mysticism and treats it as the highest form of religon (hence her sequence in the book). She also treats Christianity more harshly than the other religons (familiarity breeds contempt I suppose) and seems singularly unable to comprehend that Christians could believe in the incarnation and trinity, time and time again noting how irrational the doctrines are.
In the end her central thesis is that each age remakes God in their own image and she tries to support that view in each chapter (God anthropomorphized by the Israelites, Jesus as the incarnate God by the Christians, Allah as economic and cultural savior by the Muslims, God as the prime mover and Pure Reason by the philosophers, God as the absolute "other" by the mystics, God as the champion of individuals by the reformers, and God as objective reality and finally as unncessary in the enlightenment). She sees God as purely a subjective experience, and doesn't appear to think something can't just be true and exist independently of our need for it. However, she definitely thinks that a personal God is unacceptable as is the notion of a Supreme Being that is other than ourselves. The former because we're putting God into human categories of gender etc. and the latter because the proofs of God's existence she sees as failed.
She ends (not suprisingly) with noting how a mystical view would satisfy our own more secular and atheistic age. She also calls for social justice (her view anyway that includes abortion and is opposed to capital punishment) but its hard to see from where people will gen up these conceptions with only a mystical view of God that is from within.
She makes much of human suffering (Auschwitz, Hiroshima) and uses it as a reason for denying a personal God. Strangely she seems wholly ignorant of the Christian doctrine of the Fall. She also includes some very interesting history and I found the parts on Islam especially instructive since I didn't have much of an idea of the history of Islam, for example, the history of the split between Shiis and Sunnis after the death of Muhammad.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 2:50 PM
Wow, very interesting article from Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT on how Dodger manager Jim Tracy might be toying with the idea of batting Cesar Izturis, the oh so light hitting shortstop, second and moving Paul Lo Duca down to fourth. First, of all, Lo Duca is barely an adequate 2nd hitter (.335 OBP last year) as it is and has steadily performed worse since his breakout season of 2001. Batting him fourth, even on the Dodgers is probably not a good idea. His positive offensive contribution is a decent tendency to get on base and so it should be maximized instead of wasted prior to worse hitters taking their turn. Secondly, Izturis is perhaps the worst offensive player in the game (career .270 OBP) and giving him more at bats in the second hole is therefore startlingly bad idea. Tracy might as well bat his pitchers second.
I would think that on a team with a horrible offense like the Dodgers you would want to bunch your few adequate offensive players and attempt to score runs when they came to bat. It will be interesting to see what De Podesta does or doesn't do if Tracy decides to go this way. The only positive aspect of this scenario is that Izturis should and will certainly be called upon to sacrifice more often which will tend to minimize the negative impact of the massive number of outs he'll record batting high in the order. On the other hand, as mentioned by Management By Baseball, Izturis just might respond to the increased expectations and show something contrary to his previous 1,200 plate appearances. And of course Tracy has less to lose given what he has to work with and desperate times call for desperate measures.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 6:28 AM
One other note of interest. Keith Short, a Microsoft architect has started a blog on Whitehorse and its underlying technology that you may want to check out. In particular he has so far addressed the issue which I'm sure raises more questions for his team than any other, "What about UML?" There is also an article on Whitehorse on CNET that attempts to set the stage.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 6:07 AM
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
A couple of SOA related items of note. First, my article on classifying and representing data in an SOA was published on builder.com. In it I simply provide a high-level overview of the four kinds of data that an architect would need to think about related to securing, transmitting, and handling when building an SOA. I wrote the article in part simply to clarify the notions in my own mind, not having implemented a full SOA before. I broke the data into:
I then go through how each might be handled in an SOA.
Secondly, I was asked to the Whitehorse demo at the DevDays event tomorrow in St. Louis. Very cool technology that keeps the UML like model in sync with code and validates web services when attempting to deploy to a server. It is based on Microsoft's DSI initiative with the mantra "design for operations". Should help bridge the gap between developers and infrastructure.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 7:44 PM