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Thursday, June 29, 2006

SABR36 Day 2: Continued

To round out the morning I sat in the Bio Project committee meeting before heading up to view the poster presentations (and meeting Alan Reifman who has a nice poster on improbable events of the past few years) and browse the vendor room loaded with baseball books and memorabilia. A few interesting facts from the bio committee included the fact that there are 365 completed bios, 743 assigned, and 345 members on the committee. Considering that there are over 16,000 players for which biographies are needed and that the number of players entering the league exceeds the completion rate for these biographies, you'll see that the task ahead is a daunting one.

To begin the afternoon I attended a talk by physics professor Alan M. Nathan titled "Baseball Aerodynamics: What do we know and how do we know it?" Nathan reviewed the effects of so-called magnus force (lift and drag) on a batted ball which should be familiar to those who've read The Physics of Baseball and reiterated that the optimally hit homerun will be hit with an angle of around 35 degrees and not the theoretical optimum of 45 degrees because of the backspin placed on the ball through the effect of undercutting the ball with the swing.

He then discussed how the measurements are made including wind tunnel and video tracking of trajectory – experiments which Nathan detailed. It turns out that there is disagreement in the academic community regarding the "drag crisis" which has an effect on the predictions one would make in terms of batted ball distance. However, he was optimistic that with new technology like he's been using that and other questions will be able to be resolved.

After Nathan's talk I headed in to listen to The Hardball Times Steve Treder talk about the interesting and lengthy career of Paul Richards. Treder was very entertaining and the talk was well received.

Chris Jaffe was up next discussing his two part study on managers, about which I'll write more in the future and then listened to an interesting talk on baseball's leaders by Don Frank in which he gave a nice overview of each of baseball's commissioners and assessed their strengths and weaknesses. I found interesting the discussion of William Eckert who was commissioner from 1965 to 1968 but was forced to resign when the owners thought the players were going to strike. Frank's conclusion was that Judge Landis and Peter Uberroth exhibited the best leadership skills (which include long range thinking, influence, vision, political skills, big picture view etc.), although of course both have major strikes against them with Landis and his non-handling of racial integration and Uberroth and collusion, which by the way, was written about very nicely by Maury Brown in Rob Neyer's book on baseball blunders. Frank rated Eckert the worst.

Now it's time to go up to and peruse the books and posters a little more…

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