Here are a few of the titles I've read in the past few weeks.
Here's a list of books I've got in the queue.
Here are a few of the titles I've read in the past few weeks.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 12:52 PM
I recently mentioned a quote attributed to Cubs GM Jim Hendry where he said Mike Piazza was both a great offensive and defensive catcher. While I have no argument with saying that Piazza is the best offensive catcher of all time (he's just about to eclipse Carlton Fisk as the all-time homerun hitter at the position), I can't imagine what aspect of defense that Hendry thinks Piazza is or was "great" at. In the 2004 Baseball Prospectus Keith Woolner had an article titled "Thou Shalt Not Steal: Catchers and the Running Game" in which he developed a metric to measure the effectiveness of catchers in preventing stolen bases. Although this is only one aspect of catching defense, the others being:
That means that in those years Piazza gave up on average over 50 more bases than an average catcher would have given the same opportunities. Conversely the best catchers in the period saved around 25 bases per year with Benito Santiago in 1989 garnering the top spot. So the spread here is around 75 bases and of course the difference between the best and worst catchers in terms of passed balls and errors is nowhere near 75. Couple that with the fact that the bases gained or saved in these scenarios are second and third and often taken in stategic situations, their importance only increases. Piazza is simply not a good defensive catcher and has never been one. He certainly should have been moved to first base a long time before now.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 12:39 PM
Well, on my fourth try as a stringer the Royals finally won tonight 5-3 against the Rangers. It occurred to me when Ken Harvey hit a three-run homerun to make it 4-1 that it was the first time I'd seen the Royals take a lead this season. The controversy of the night was the pitch before Harvey homered that also went over the left field wall, originally signalled as fair by the third base umpire and then subsequently overruled when the umpires discussed it. The scoring went well with only a couple minor changes that needed to be made during the game. I won't score again until mid May since I'm off to England in a few days for a week and a half with my wife and daughter. Hopefully now the Royals can build on this one and sweep the struggling Yankees.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 9:51 PM
Interesting quote from Cubs GM Jim Hendry as reported on The Cub Reporter.
"Some guys are great defensive catchers, some are great offensively and some, like [Mike] Piazza are a combination of both." - Cubs GM Jim Hendry, on Michael Barrett (Chicago Tribune - 4/23/04)
I wonder who Jim thinks is a bad defensive catcher?
In other notes Prior appears ready to throw a simulated game having thrown 55 pitches off the mound in Arizona and so is one step closer to coming back. Good news. Wood was suspended for 5 games today for his antics in last week's loss to the Reds and so will miss a start when he loses the inevitable appeal. The Cubs have been pounded to the tune of 19-1 the last two days in Arizona. Hoping for better results tonight as Greg Maddux takes the mound.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 6:24 PM
There is an interesting comparison to be tracked this year between Derreck Lee and Hee Sop Choi. Here's where they are thus far:
Player POS G AB R H 2B3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG AVG
H Choi FLA 1B 18 51 9 15 0 0 6 10 33 9 13 1 0 .410 .647 .294
D Lee CHC 1B 19 66 11 16 7 0 2 11 29 9 18 2 1 .342 .439 .242
Lee is making $4.5M this season while Choi makes around $300K. Of course, one could argue that Choi needed a change of scenery and would not have performed like this in a Cubs uniform but I think it's clear that Dusty Baker and the Cubs did not handle him properly last year. It would be nice to have another left-handed bat in the lineup as well. Lee has been a positive contributor for the Cubs this year, especially with his defense and I think he'll pick it up with the bat. However, Dusty is batting him in the 6th hole when he should be hitting 2nd with Patterson 6th. While we're at it Barrett should hit 7th and Gonzales 8th.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 2:15 PM
I'm sometimes asked why a developer might want to implement custom attributes in .NET. Here is a great example by Jerry Dixon. Another example is to provide custom evidence the Code Access Security system.
For those not familiar with attributes here's a little primer from my book Building Distributed Applications with Visual Basic .NET...
In addition to simply using attributes exposed by the framework, you can create your own attributes to specify custom metadata. For example, if you were designing a set of framework classes to be widely distributed, you could create a custom attribute to encapsulate information about reference documentation.
To create a custom attribute, you simply need to create a new class that derives from System.Attribute. Listing 2.3 illustrates creating a custom attribute called DocumentationAttribute to include documentation information.
Note: It is customary to add the suffix "Attribute" to the name of the attribute; however, clients that use the attribute needn't include this part of the name.
Listing 2.3 Creating a Custom Attribute. This class implements a custom attribute for documentation purposes.
<AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Class Or _
AttributeTargets.Interface Or AttributeTargets.Enum Or _
Public Class DocumentationAttribute : Inherits Attribute
Private strUrl As String
Private strAuthor As String
Public Sub New(ByVal url As String)
Me.strUrl = url
Public Property Author() As String
Set(ByVal Value As String)
strAuthor = Value
Public ReadOnly Property Url() As String
In Listing 2.3, even before the class is declared, it too uses an attribute called AttributeUsage to control on which types of entities the attribute can be placed. In this case, the Or operator is used with constants from the AttributeTargets enumeration to indicate that the DocumentationAttribute can be placed on a class, interface, enumerated type, or structure only.
Tip: To allow an attribute to be placed anywhere, you can use AttributeTargets.All. The AttributeUsageAttribute also exposes an AllowMultiple Boolean property that indicates whether multiple instances of the attribute can be placed on the same entity.
Also notice that this attribute contains two properties, Author and Url, and that Url is passed to the constructor and is required.
Users of the attribute then can decorate their classes with the DocumentationAttribute as follows:
Author:="Dan Fox")> _
Public Class QuilogyDataAccess
As noted previously, "Attribute" can be omitted from the declaration, and because the Author property is not found in the constructor, it can be added to the declaration using the := assignment operator.
At runtime, a client of the class that declared the attribute can read the attribute information using the GetCustomAttributes method of the Type object. For example, the following code uses the GetType function to return the Type object for QuilogyDataAccess from the previous code example:
Dim type As Type = GetType(QuilogyDataAccess)
Dim arr() As Object
Dim att As Attribute
arr = type.GetCustomAttributes(False)
For Each att In arr
If TypeOf att Is DocumentationAttribute Then
Dim da As DocumentationAttribute = _
Console.WriteLine("Url = " & da.Url & "Author = " & da.Author)
It then retrieves an array of custom attributes using the GetCustomAttributes methods and walks through the array looking for the DocumentationAttribute using the TypeOf statement. When found, it converts the Object to the DocumentationAttribute type so that its properties, Url and Author, can be queried.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 11:05 AM
Ran into an interesting problem this morning while at a client site. The client has a stored procedure in SQL Server that uses cursors to load data from one table into another. When the procedure executes sucessfully it processes over 1,000,000 rows in around 60 hours. However, when the stored procedure is kicked off in a .NET executable using the SqlClient .NET Data Provider a command timeout exception is fired after 18 hours, 12 minutes or thereabouts (even when the CommandTimeout property is set to 0 which should wait indefinitely). Tests were also run setting the CommandTimeout value to a large number (say 216,000) to force the command to wait 60 hours to no avail. When using the OleDb provider the timeout is not enountered.
Well, when we calculated the number of seconds in 18 hours and 12 minutes it comes to roughly 65,520 which immediately raised eyebrows. Although the data type of the CommandTimeout property of the SqlCommand object is System.Int32 which has an upper limit of 2,147,483,648, limit of System.UInt16 is 65,535. Apparently, internally the SqlClient provider is using an unsigned integer in its calculations for the command timeout. Has anyone else run into this problem?
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 8:56 AM
This is the admittedly provocative title of an article by John W. Robbins, which you can find here. In the article Robbins makes the argument that Lewis "cannot accurately be called an Evangelical and may be called a Christian only in an historical or nominal sense."
Robbins is a conservative evangelical and the publisher of The Trinity Review posted on the The Trinity Foundation website, which appears to be a collection of primarily his views.
Readers of this blog know my admiration for Lewis and so you can imagine that I was quite interested to read the article and take a look at the arguments Robbins presents. Before I begin, however, I should note that I don't think it's proper to make judgments on "who's in and who's out". Only God sees the heart as they say.
Robbins begins by noting how venerated Lewis has been in Evangelical circles posthumously when in life he had little connection or dialogue with Evangelicalism in America. While I don't think that's particularly relevant to the question of whether C.S. Lewis went to heaven I also see little mystery as to why Lewis has garnered such a following. Simply put, his logical argumentation, deep understanding of the human psyche, and clear presentation make both his apologetically and prose books a joy to read. They are modern classics.
In analyzing the article Robbins makes three arguments against Lewis taken from quotations of his writings. These are:
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 8:09 AM
Here's a good article titled Closing the Racial Learning Gap on the La Griffe du Lion web site. While I'm not statistically sophisticated enough, having forgotten nearly all my college statistics, to follow all of the math involved in the appendices the articles on this site are always entertaining and lead to non-intuitive conclusions.
In this article the author shows that decreasing gaps in black-white scores on standardized tests do not necessarily show that the gap is actually decreasing but may instead mean only that the threshold for passing has changed. Given a couple assumptions the author's model then points to the likelihood that claimed gap reductions in North Carolina and Texas over the past few years are only artifacts of the testing procedures themselves.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 9:48 AM
In a recent post I mentioned that Bill James advocates allowing hitters to refuse a walk (any walk, not just intentional ones). He reasons that walks were initially instituted not as a defensive weapon to avoid good hitters but rather as an incentive for pitchers to throw strikes. In his words "The reason that should be the rule is because the walk was created to force the pitcher to throw hittable pitches to the batter. That is the walk's natural function. To allow the walk to become something the defense can use to its advantage with no response from the offense is illogical and counterproductive". He then advocates that on the 2nd walk of the at bat the batter advances to second base and all runners advance two bases. As you might imagine this topic has drawn some discussion on the SABR list server as well.
Although I agree with the history tied to his argument, current utility differing from original intent is not a strong enough argument in and of itself to make such a radical change. The fact is that teams and players attempt to use the rules in the most strategically advantageous way given the current context. This is why the value of the stolen base fluctuates with the run environment of the league or era in which it is used. And of course an argument from original intent doesn't hold water when you consider that originally a pitcher was not to use deception at all but instead to serve pitches as requested by the hitters.
So the argument for allowing the refusal of walks has to have a basis elsewhere. Some of these might be:
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 12:56 PM
Just finished this book by Frank Welsh on the political history of what became Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England over the past 2,000 years. He begins with a quick synopsis of the paleolithic period and moves right into the Roman period with Julius Caesar's first expedition to the British Isles in 53 B.C. He adds increasing detail as the book moves along and spends a considerable part of it on the period from around 1800 to 2001. The emphasis on the monarchies also decreases in accordance with their decrease of political power.
Overall the book is the story of how the four independant regions (Ireland being more independant than the rest) conflicted, coalesced in the British Empire, and have are now continuing to diverge once again. Not suprisingly the role of religon takes center stage with the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants throughout the islands. Even though I am a firm supporter of the Reformation, the needless persecution and loss of life over subtle (in the big picture anyway) differences in theology, makes me feel ill at ease to say the least and perhaps explains why much of the UK seemed happy to move into a post-Christian period. It also gives me more appreciation for the intellectual climate in which G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis were struggling.
I wouldn't recommend this book for someone who is not already well acquainted with British history. I was only nominally familiar with the outline of the history and so much of the discussion (and I'm sure some of the author's sarcasm) was lost on me. I picked up the book in preparation for our upcoming trip to England in early May where my wife, 8 year-old daughter, and I will be touring London, the Yorkshire Dales, and Oxford before I attend a Microsoft Architect Advisory Board meeting in Surrey.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 12:37 PM
Good article by Microsoft Architect Steve Cook on Model Driven Architecture (MDA) and how it relates or does not relate to Micrososft's Domain Specific Languages (DSLs) used in the upcoming Visual Studio 2005 Enterprise Tools. If you've seen the Whitehorse demos then you've seen the DSLs at work under the covers. You can also find more info on Keith Short's very good, if still not very big, blog. I'm currently reading MDA Distilled to get a better understanding of MDA.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 12:09 PM
The session Jon Box and I will present is set:
DEV370 Developing Applications Under Windows XP Service Pack 2
Friday, May 28 2:45 PM- 4:00 PM, Room 8
Speaker(s): Jon Box, Dan Fox
Track(s): Developer Tools and Technologies, Security
Windows XP Service Pack 2 delivers a number of safety technologies for end-users. The changes in the Internet Connection Firewall, Web Browsing experience, Email/IM and Application Memory Protection affect many different application types. This session covers example applications, how they are affected and how to modify them to work with Windows XP SP2. The changes will also affect various development tools ranging from Visual Studio .NET to SQL Remote Debugging. This session also details how to configure your development environment to work successfully on machines with Windows XP SP2 installed.
Hope to see you there...
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 11:13 AM
Great little article on Calvin Pickering, the 27 year old lefthanded first baseman, on the Royals web site. In 32 at bats Pickering has hit 11 homeruns (17 hits overall) and driven in 25 runs (I know a small sample size but 11 homeruns in 32 at bats?)! We saw him bat once in Suprise and he certainly is a big man. I was suprised he wasn't talked up a little more in spring training since he was a former high draft pick and hit 25 homeruns in half a season in the Mexican league last year. He also hit .284/.422/.469 in 98 plate appearances at Louisville. This is the assessment of Baseball Prospectus:
"Now he goes to camp with the Royals with a real chance to win their first-base job. He's a better hitter than Ken Harvey, and isn't that much worse than Harvey defensively. This could be one of the best stories of 2004."
Who knows? Perhaps we'll both Zack Grienke and Pickering in Kansas City before long. I hope that they give him a chance.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 3:38 PM
Since I've written a variety of posts about sabermetrics (the named derived from the acronym of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) to which I proudly belong) I thought it would be useful for those not already indoctrinated in the concepts to lay out the fundamental principals, axioms, or truths that sabermetrics has come to mean. Bill James broadly defined sabermetrics as "the search for objective knowledge about baseball." If you have others or disagree with these please email me. You might also be interested in the Sabermetric Manifesto which explains some of the axoims listed here in more detail.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 2:48 PM
Here are two interviews of Bill James I've noticed in recent days. Both interesting.
Chat with baseball writer Bill James
"Live" with TAE - Bill James
One of the interesting points James makes is that he would advocate changing the walk rule to allow the offense to refuse a walk and a batter if walked twice advances directly to second forcing any runners two bases as well. Personally, I doubt very much that this would ever happen because baseball, being in part a historical institution, will tend towards conservatism. Of course, the DH was almost as radical a change.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 7:09 AM
Last Thursday after speaking at the Microsoft Security Summit on Wednesday I attended the Cubs/Pirates game at Wrigley Field. Here's a quick synopsis of the day.
I boarded the CTA red line at the Roosevelt station at 9:30AM fully decked out in my Cubs apparel. I took the train to the Addison stop beyond the right field wall and made my way down to the street by around 10:15AM. Since the ballpark doesn't open until 11:30AM I perused some of the shops in Wrigleyville picking up a couple choice items. I then headed over to the McDonalds across from the ballpark (always a tradition) for an early lunch. While eating there I sat next to two elderly ladies who work as ushers at the ballpark. They were commenting on the schedule and noticing how the Pirates don't come back to Wrigley Field for several months. In a display that old habits die hard, one of the ladies commented that the Reds always seem to beat us at home and the other wrly noted "But who doesn't?"
After lunch I took a walk around the ballpark, strolling down Waveland and Sheffield Avenues. I stopped and took a couple pictures noting the wind blowing straight out at 15 to 20 mph. It was Jackie Robinson day throughout MLB commemorating the day Jackie broke into the lineup of the Dodgers in 1947.
On Sheffield Ave I stopped and took a picture of one of the buildings that displays the sign reading "Eamus Catuli", the Latin translated "Let's Go Cubs!" along with the sign reading AC005996 which translated means AC = "Year of the Cubs (Catulii)" + 00 = number of years since last division title (2003) + 59 = number of years since last pennant (1945) + 96 = number of years since last World Series win (1908)
I then waited with the rest of the throng to be let in. While waiting one young fan (not too bright obviously) asked if I was one of the ballplayers. I told him they might need me today and that I was ready.
After the ballpark opened at 11:30AM I strolled through concourses and took a shot of the Fergie Jenkins poster hanging up inside. Fergie has been my favorite pitcher since I watched many of his starts when he returned to the Cubs in 1982-83.
After going out to see batting practice I was amazed that the ushers (the little old ladies) do not let fans without tickets walk down to the lower sections. Almost two hours before the game it seems absurd. I've never seen this done at another ballpark.
Carlos Zambrano got the start for the Cubs and my seat was right down by the bullpen in the 10th row - not too far from the infamous Bartman seat which should be painted red and left unsold until the Cubs go to the World Series.
Here's a shot the nice usher took of me next to my seat. By this time the temp was up to around 72 degrees and the wind was howling. I thought it might be a good day for Cubs hitters.
Once the game started I was absolutely amazed or more rightly appalled by the number of vendors making their way through our little 10 row section. I counted six different vendors in the first half inning alone and it rarely abated during the game. You practically had to beat them off like flies. It was truly the worst experience of the sort I've had at a major league game. Here's the view from my seat (the vendor in the foreground was typical). I would estimate I missed 40 or 50 pitches because of vendors.
Well, the wind did its thing and the Cubs were quickly out in front on the strength of a homerun by Ramirez and two by Barrett. Alou added a popup to left that kept blowing until it landed in the basket to make the scoring complete and the Cubs won 10-5.
I really felt for Francis Beltran who got into the game in the 9th only to have his first two pitches hit for long homeruns to left field. On such a day it was a credit to Zambrano that he was able to keep the ball down and give up only one run in 6 innings of work.
After the game I again boarded the train and headed back downtown to grab the shuttle to airport and arrive back in Kansas City by 11pm. All in all, a very enjoyable day at the old ballpark.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 8:14 AM
In this final installment of my extended review of C.S. Lewis Miracles Lewis discusses the miracles of the "old creation" (chapter 15) and the "new creation" (chapter 16) followed by an epilogue.
In categorizing the miracles recorded in the New Testament (Lewis specifically does not discuss the miracles of the Old Testament, instead holding the tentative view that at least some of the miracles of the OT are not historical and instead are derived from the Hebrew mythology which is the mythology chosen by God to reveal certain truths. Certainly this view has few proponents in the modern evangelical world, but more about evangelicalism and C.S. Lewis in a later post.) Lewis contends that those he classifies of the old creation are those where
"God does suddenly and locally something that God has done or will do in general. Each miracle writes for us in small letters something that God has already written, or will write, in letters almost too large to be noticed, across the whole canvass of nature."
These miracles can themselves be classified, the first group of which are those of fertility which include:
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 7:17 AM
Ron alerted me to a game situation that happened with the Royals on Thursday afternoon in Chicago (I was across town watching the Cubs and Pirates hit 7 homeruns in a 10-5 Cubs win). Tie game, top of the 9th and Ken Harvey leads off with a single. Pena pinch runs Rich Thompson with Benito Santiago at the plate. Rather than having Thompson steal Pena elects to sacrifice. Unfortunately, Santiago bunts it right back to the pitcher who turns the double play. The question asked by Ron and by Rob and Rany is whether this was a smart play by Pena?
I think Rany hits the nail on the head when he says that pinch running and sacrificing are both one-run strategies and so doing both is at best inefficient by potentially wasting a player you may need in extra innings. Using the Win Expectancy table I blogged about the other day you can see that the home team (the White Sox is this case) had a WE of .413 with no outs and a runner on first. Had the sacrifice been successful it would have changed the WE to .434. Not a very significant difference (2%) but this does highlight that at the very least the strategy of bunting doesn't really buy you anything in this case. However, this becomes more significant since by all accounts Thompson is a good base stealer and would have had at least a 70% chance of success. However, I think it likely that with the lefty Marte on the mound Pena got a little gun-shy of the stolen base with the rookie Thompson. Pena did employ the same strategy last week at home against Cleveland where Thompson easily stole the base but that was against a righthander. Also in Pena's defense Matt Stairs was still available to come in and play first base.
In other Royals notes there has been some discussion about Jeremy Affeldt and his pitching approach. A story in the KC Star quotes Affeldt and Pena saying:
Affeldt: "One of the main things they told me in spring, was they didn't want me to go out there and try to strike out guys. If you do that, your pitch count goes up. That's why I throw my changeup a lot more. I'm trying to get early outs."
Pena: "I don't care about strikeouts. I want to get people out. We have a good defense. So, I want to minimize pitches. Forget about the strikeouts. But Jeremy will strike some people out. His stuff is filthy."
Well, at this point Affeldt has pitched 9 innings, striking out 2, and walking 6 while giving up 15 hits while striking out only 7 in 25 innings of spring training work. Not a recipe for success. This discussion relates directly to the idea of Defense Independant Pitching (DIPS) I blogged about awhile back. To summarize, major league pitchers can be very successful pursuing one of a variety of different strategies. However, pursuing the strategy of allowing more batters to put the ball in play only works for pitchers who rely on deception and is not significantly impacted by defense as Pena seems to think. Therefore, if Affeldt's changeup is not really very good, then he's not decreasing the number of hard hit balls put into play which automatically leads to more hits allowed. His velocity is also down which contributes to the problem but that may be because he's trying to finely locate the ball rather than letting it go and using his natural movement. I think Affeldt and the Royals need to find out what his natural strength is as a pitcher and exploit that rather than trying to make him into Brian Anderson.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 10:47 AM
Today I delivered two talks at the Microsoft Security Summit in Chicago held down by the lake at McCormick Place just south of Soldier Field. My two talks in the developer track were on common threats and how to defend against them and securing .NET applications. The keynote this morning was a nice overview of what Microsoft is doing in the security space and among other things included the following items that developers should be aware of. I’ve provided links to get you started.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 8:00 PM
An interesting situation occurred in the Braves/Cubs game the other day that illustrates the use or actually nonuse of sabermetrics in baseball. In the top of the 15th inning with the game tied the Cubs had runners on 1st and 3rd with one out. On a 2-1 count Tom Goodwin hit a lazy fly ball down the right field line. J.D. Drew, the Braves rightfielder seemed to size up the ball, get in position, and then proceed to catch it in foul territory by about 3 feet. The runner on third tagged and scored and Drew nearly caught the runner on first before he got back. In any case, the Cubs went on to win 2-1 on the strength of the sacrifice fly.
The question is, should Drew have caught the flyball or let it drop in foul territory moving the count 2-2 and keeping the game tied? I think the appropriate way to answer this questions is to calculate the odds of the Braves winning given the two possible outcomes and seeing what the difference is. In sabermetrics such "Win expectancy" or WE tables have been calculated like the one you can find here. The authors of Curveball, which I blogged about previously, also include one. Taking a look at the table you can see that in the top of the 9th inning (which would apply to the top of an extra inning as well) with the score tied, runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out the odds of the home team (Braves) winning are .306. However, once Drew takes the sacrifice fly the odds drop to .177. That is, the odds of the Braves winning actually drop by around 13%. That's pretty significant and you would think that at least there would be some question from the announcers and postgame discussion of what would have been the proper play. However, it probably shows a bias towards thinking that your team "only" has to score one run to tie and since that happens everyday, it can't be that hard. Unfortunately for the Braves the numbers simply don't support that intuition. And so this is clearly a case where some sabermetric wisdom could have overridden the conventional wisdom.
As far as I know the announcers on WGN did not comment on the possibility of allowing the ball to drop and I didn't see any comments from the Braves. However, I'll grant that as an outfielder it is difficult to know exactly where the ball would have dropped although in this case it appeared Drew did know. Also, I'll credit Drew with trying to catch the runner going back to first and so he certainly had a plan.
This situation has caused a bit of discussion on the SABR list as well.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 6:12 AM
Another interesting article on Baseball Prospectus on Earned Run Average. Basically, the author argues for getting rid of the difference between earned and unearned runs and simply calling Run Average (RA). I agree that preventing unearned runs is indeed a skill in as much as good pitchers will tend to give up fewer simply because they are good pitchers and giving up unearned runs comes with the territory for some pitchers such as the knuckleballers he mentions. However, I do think that calculating ERA as it's construed is useful since some pitchers can be victimized by horrible defense. A more pressing problem I see lies with the poor scoring of errors that happens so often. I would be for making the official scorer a trained MLB representative to give some impartiality and consistency to the process.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 1:37 PM
Interesting column by George Will on the state of baseball as the season begins. He also interviewed Bud Selig on This Week on Sunday morning which I also caught. In particular both in the column and in the interview Will discusses the following:
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 5:36 PM
Quick report on day 2 in the life of a stringer. Unfortunately the Royals lost 6-1 to the Indians and on my birthday (and the 30th anniversary of Hank Aaron's 715th homerun) to boot. A pretty uneventful game although Jeremy Affeldt committed two balks, both of which led directly to runs. Affeldt also did not strike anyone out in 5 and 2/3 innings which, along with his only 7 strikeouts in some 25 innings in Spring Training, concerns me. Perhaps his velocity is down or his curveball is not as sharp. Could it be the half finger nail?
As far as the scoring went, there were no difficult plays and the software worked well and so I'm confident I batted 1.000 on this one. Fellow stringer Dave sat in with me and helped out. Also a very nice and accommodating guy.
Here's a shot of my seat in the 2nd row and the view of the field with the laptop and printer we use.
And here's another of the press box as a whole about an hour and a half before the game. It does fill up a bit although the crowd was only 14,167 today.
I won't be scoring again until late April.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 7:48 PM
Today I worked my first game as a "stringer" for MLB.com scoring the 4-3 White Sox win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Here's a quick rundown of the day:
11:15AM Arrive at the ballpark. Enter the Royals offices and ask for my press box credential. The credential is not at the desk and so I'm directed upstairs to see Chris.
11:20AM I find Chris on the 4th floor who very nicely makes me out a temporary credential for today and tomorrow. She then leads me to the press box and we try and find the MLB.com laptop. Lora, our normal PR contact is not available.
11:30AM Chris finds the laptop at station 28 in the 2nd row of the press box. I unpack the laptop and printer and find everything as it should be. A new IBM thinkpad with Windows XP and HP deskjet printer. I find that my seat in the 2nd row is somewhat obstructed making it difficult to see centerfield. Nice view of the monitor, however, which helps in entering pitch location.
11:45AM After setting up the laptop I see others in the press box with game notes and other material. After wandering a bit and finally asking I find the notes up at the reception desk on the 4th floor
11:55AM I dial in and contact MLB.com support. Hank is assigned to my game and I load the client application to start checking the rosters. Hank works with me to make sure that the game file has Desi Relaford on the DL and I enter the lineups, weather, umpires, official scorer, and stringers.
12:15PM Everything is good to go and I grab a soda from the fountain and take in the atmosphere, which by the way, is a tad chilly. The windows in the press box are not open and the AC is running. Luckily I brought a pullover being forewarned by my compatriot Scott.
12:30PM Scott arrives and will be looking over my shoulder and helping me out. Great guy who's been doing this job in various forms for 6 years and is the editor of Golf Course Management in Lawrence. He made sure I got things right and was very helpful for this rookie.
12:50PM Pitchers are warming up so its time to get going. Sitting next to me is the beat writer for the Sox for MLB.com. Very nice guy who had to catch a plane to New York at 6:35. During the early parts of the game it seemed he wouldn't make it but I'm sure he got on time as the game picked up speed after the 5th inning or so.
1:09PM First pitch and I'm off and running
1:09-4:14PM I score the game and although entered all the play codes correctly I had three instances where I entered a pitch incorrectly. Two of them were easy to fix simply changing a ball to strike or vice versa but the third affected the pitch count causing the deletion of a pitch. All fixes were handled after the game with the help of Scott and Hank. I also found out this evening that I did not code the trajectories for the three homeruns hit by the White Sox. Hoping for closer to perfection tomorrow. The game certainly flew by and although there weren't any strange plays or too many substitutions I was quite busy. The most interesting at bat of the game was certainly Frank Thomas' 17 pitch at bat in the first inning which contained 13 foul balls, 12 in a row! In all Big Frank fouled off 17 pitches in his various at bats today. Aaron Guiel also threw out two runners at second base, one on a barehanded pickup and the other when Carlos Lee apparently thought he was Carl Lewis.
4:15 - 5:30PM After the game Scott led me through the postgame paperwork which consisted of printing various boxscore and stats reports, copying them and handing them out to the folks in the press box, faxing info to Elias Sports, and calling to follow up. The official scorer Del also checked our boxscore with his and gave the OK.
5:30PM On the way out of the stadium Tony Pena and Rich Thompson shared an elevator with Scott and myself. Thompson had pinch run in the 8th in his major league debut and Tony was giving him some pointers on the situation.
All in all a very nice day that seemed to fly by. Looking forward to doing it again tomorrow.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 9:26 PM
Recently, I received copies of two articles/speeches given by Paul DePodesta the new GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers who formerly worked for Billy Beane in Oakland and Jim Hart in Cleveland. DePodesta was profiled a bit in MoneyBall which raised the level of interest in the sabermetric techniques employed by Beane et. al. In these two articles, the passage I found most interesting was an anecdote about A's manager Ken Macha and second baseman Mark Ellis. In full the passage is:
"Our manager now, Ken Macha, loves our second baseman Mark Ellis. Mark Ellis is a good player, he plays hard, and he plays every day. But he didn't have a very good offensive year this year, yet Ken Macha kept putting him in the lineup every day. It even got to the point late in the year where he started hitting him leadoff. We finally went to Ken and said, 'We like Ellis too, but he probably doesn't need to be hitting leadoff, and getting all these at-bats.' And his comment to us was, 'Ellis is a clutch hitter.'
I thought, 'OK, clutch is one of those subjective terms I'm not wild about,' so I went back and I looked at the numbers, and at that time during the year Ellis was hitting about .163 with runners in scoring position and two outs, which I think is a clutch situation. But I didn't say anything, we kept it under wraps. When we were getting close to the playoffs, though, we began talking about the way the lineup should work against the Red Sox, and at one point Macha was talking about putting Ellis leadoff. Finally Billy Beane, our General Manager, just couldn't take it any more, and he said, 'Ellis is hitting .163 with runners in scoring position and two outs. He's not clutch.' And immediately, Macha said, 'But he hit that game-winning home run off of Jason Johnson.'
'OK, that's right, but if you want to play that game I'm going to come up with a lot more instances where he failed than instances you're going to come up in which he succeeded.'"
I love this story because it shows is two biases (idols of the cave as Bacon called them) in human thinking that cause us to make poor decisions - looking for only those examples that reinforce our preconceived opinion (affirmation bias as DePodesta puts it) and the related inability to deal with large sample sizes only through observation. Macha thought that Ellis was a clutch hitter because he let the one affirming example he could think of color his positive perception of Ellis (which was likely formed based on other traits like his hustle and "grit") and was unable to accurately gauge Ellis' performance over his hundreds of at bats even though he likely observed each one.
It should be noted, however, that sabermetric wisdom dictates that many of the splits commonly tracked including clutch situations like 2 outs and runners in scoring position suffer from small sample sizes and so many question whether there is any clutch hitting ability at all. As I blogged about previously, the authors of Curveball found that there is some evidence that clutch hitting ability exists but it is fairly weak. And so one could argue that Macha may have it correct after all but that the sample size hasn't yet shown it. Hitting Ellis, the former Royal prospect, leadoff is more problematic because of his .313 OBP in 2003. He had a respectable .359 OBP in 2002 but alas we won't see whether he will improve this season since he will be sidelined all year with an injury.
This further highlights the need in baseball as in other disciplines to quantify observations and perform analysis absent subjective perceptions.
Posted by Dan Agonistes at 9:41 AM