Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Baseball, race, and steroids

December 17, 2007

Part 1

Part 2

Give Hit Batsmen Second Base

September 12, 2007

A recent trend not normally mentioned in Major League Baseball is the increase in the number of hit batsmen. Being hit by a pitch is a common way for a batter to be injured, and is by far the most common way for fights to break out, leading to occasional injuries as well as fines and suspensions.

Rather than fights and pitchers being thrown out of the game by umpires, another solution can be implemented: give hit batsmen second base instead of first. This increased penalty for hitting a batter should reduce the number hit sufficiently to return the number of players hit to traditional levels as well as substantially reduce of number of batters intentionally hit by pitchers.

Openings in OOTP Baseball 2007 On-line league

May 12, 2007

OOTP Baseball 2007 is the best baseball simulation to ever be created. I am in a on-line league and we have three openings right now. Each of the three teams is in decent or better shape as an organization, smart management should put you in playoff contention maybe this year, certainly next. We are in the midst of Free Agency signings at the moment.

As long as you have experience with the OOTP series and are willing to upgrade to future versions of the game the Commish will likely let you in. If you merely have experience with other baseball sims you may still be ok. is the main site for the league. gives instructions for how to sign up.

Tip: Of the three current available teams, Twin Falls is in the best shape. They are an immediate playoff contender.

This is a 24-team league (6 divisions) set in a Fictional Country. Each organization has their own focus (like clutch players, or developing shortstops) which acts as a bonus to that category. It uses 3 minor league teams (AAA,AA,A). Each season lasts around 3 months. The league is well organized with a very active commish.

Every pitcher should be a reliever

April 10, 2007

This argument focuses on the National League for reasons I’ll state, but it applies to a weaker extent to the American League as well.

Right now the starting pitcher throws on average six innings a game. The most common reason for him to be pulled prior to that is poor performance, the second most common reason is high pitch count (often related to poor performance). He throws as much as he healthily and effectively can unless the game runs into a special situation (like the conditions for a closer), and then he might be pulled even while being continually effective.

Because a starting pitcher throws so many pitches in a game, he needs several days of rest before he can be healthy and effective in his next start. Four days of rest is normal, three occurs in special situations or where his pitch count was exceptionally low in his previous start.

The normal rest period creates the necessity for a rotation of five starting pitchers during the regular season, moving to four or sometimes three during the playoffs (enabled by more off days). A typical team has five starting pitchers and seven relief pitchers, usually one of whom can occasionally start (such as for doubleheaders or injuries) as needed.

This system has certain strengths and certain weaknesses. One strength is that the starting pitchers pitch many more innings a year (around three times as many) as the relievers, thus allowing better pitchers to be starters and having more effect on the team’s success. Another strength is that the statistical convention of giving a pitcher a Win for completing the fifth inning with his team in the lead if that team holds the lead and wins the game favors being the pitcher during that pivotal fifth inning.

One weakness is that hitters improve over the course of the game against the same pitcher. Another weakness is that if your starting pitchers are good most of the seven relievers on your staff get to spend a lot of time staring at daisies in the bullpen instead of pitching. Furthermore, since it’s not known beforehand whether the starter is going to pitch three innings or eight innings you need the many relievers to cover the three inning possibility (as well as others).

Despite starting pitchers being the cream of the crop of pitchers (only comparable to closers in quality), they have a worse earned run average than do relievers. Partly this is due to the way ERA is calculated which favors pitchers coming in during an inning instead of beginning one, partly it’s due to starting pitchers having to face the dreaded first inning when the best possible lineup is selected to produce effective offense, partly it’s due to relievers sometimes getting to face favorable hitters (such as the righty/righty or lefty/lefty matchups), but the factor of not having to face a hitter multiple times is also key.

For the National League, do this instead of the present system: never let your pitcher bat, unless the game is so out of hand it won’t matter. Pinch hit in the 1st inning if you have to. Also: never let a pitcher face more than nine hitters, unless he is exceptional (I mean having an exceptional day, not just being a great pitcher). The common result of this policy means you’ll have five pitchers a game, each pitching no more than two innings. You’ll have the pleasure of watching your hitting stats approach the level of the American League with it’s designated hitter.

Because of the consistency, your pitchers will be throwing a fairly predictable number of pitches and their arm health can be easily maintained… also since they’ll only need a day of rest between stints (not even that as long as they pitch only two consecutive days) they will nearly always be available if needed (such as in a very close game where you need your ace to throw an inning).

While your best pitchers will still throw more innings, you won’t see the 3:1 ratio anymore. It will be more like 1.5:1 or at most 2:1. Pitchers with higher endurance, more quality, and who recover faster will get more innings. The downside of this is offset by these factors:

Since five pitchers (or more) are used each game, a manager can be very selective in determining who pitches. Instead of a manager not being able to use four pitchers at all during a game (due to them resting and waiting for their next start) all of his pitchers can pitch in the game if needed. This allows for more situational creativity: in a blow out game you can put in your worst pitchers and in a close game you can use your best pitchers instead of having them resting and waiting to start in what might be a blow out.

Because of the special nature of the first inning, it will still be beneficial to start the game with one of your best pitchers, and the closer role stays similar to how it is at the moment.

Because you’re using three or so more pinch hitters in a game than you were under the traditional system, your bench is depleted, making extra inning games more difficult (in the sense that eventually your pitchers would have to bat in extra innings). The upside is that your bench players get constant at-bats, engaging them and keeping them focused and practiced.

This system is weaker for the American League since you don’t have the pitcher batting anyway, but otherwise everything applies.

Upon a team implementing this system there will be some effects:

Pitchers who were previously starters will complain about the lack of innings (assuming they aren’t able to throw a couple innings more than every other day which I assume they can’t). They will also complain about the lack of wins, assuming the win rules remain the same.

Because you’ve closed the gap of value between starting pitchers and relievers, it will no longer be possible to pay a pitcher a very high salary, allowing more of those funds to be diverted into hitters.

In order to match the number of innings thrown by a starter in the current system, a pitcher in this system would have to throw two innings two out of every three games.

I consider this system to be clearly superior to the current one in the National League, and debatable for the American League. The biggest issue for implemention is the media storm following such a “corruption of tradition” as the papers would likely write.

This system is designed for the regular season. Because of the days off involved with the playoffs which means less pitchers are necessary, it may be better to use the traditional system there. Certainly in the American League at least.

How Michael Jordan ruined the American mind

March 25, 2007

Granted, it doesn’t take much to ruin the American mind… this is more a tale of the specifics of the ruining.

In America we have a peculiar idea of other people… the idea is that they don’t exist.

We are said to fail if we have to recognize other people… its a failure of our own will, our own power (our own will to power).

Americans looked at Michael Jordan, and marveled. Not at his athletic ability, or skill, but at his ability to render his opponents irrelevant with respect to what he wanted to accomplish. His ability to turn opponents into Unpeople.

Michael Jordan fueled the fantasy of the American soul for themselves to be the only existing thing in the universe.

As Gatorade put it: “Be Like Mike”.

Gotta love humans.

Sports Nonsense

March 23, 2007

“With the clock ticking down, they can’t afford to let down now after their big run.”

I’m not sure there is a more consistently made-up environment than that of a sports commentator. They just make stuff up, usually based on some trite conception that is occasionally actually true but which has no basis for being proven or even expected to be correct on a case-by-case basis.

The actual process is a matter of pure logic: lets say, per the quotation, that a basketball team has a big run. They score 16 straight points, then the other team scores 2 points, then they score 6 of the next 10 points. They are in the logic category called “after big run”, so if the other team scores the majority of the points from here over a fairly short score-span they will be said to have “let down after their big run”. Its all nonsense, however, since there is no certain way to extrapolate the psychology… all that is KNOWN are the pattern of points. But the commentator, preconditioned to use concepts which are usually false, has no overriding judgement otherwise. The example I gave was just one of many.

We hear a lot, especially from our glorious friends the football commentators, about a concept called “momentum”. You’d think when a term like this is used so often the commentators would have done statistical analysis to determine that there actually IS such a thing. I’ve never seen such analysis referred to, but every one of them that uses the word probably has it posted in his office. Just to be sure though, I decided to do a bit of research myself.

The data set is Week 1 of the 2006 regular season in the National Football League. I decided to test for momentum by determining how often a team scored following its own score versus following a score from the other team. Two key things that influence this are the fact that barring an unusual event like a fumble on kickoff, the other team receives the football following a score, also any disparity in quality between the two teams increases the likelihood of the better team following up on its score with another. Unfortunately how important these two factors are is beyond the scope of this work. Also of importance is the number of total scores in the game… the more scores the more likely that scores will be alternating, since it raises the importance of the “other team gets the ball following a score” factor.

The first score of the game is disregarded of course, since it didn’t follow a score. All other scores, including defensive scores like turnover returns and safeties, are counted.

The way it turned out, is that 49 times a score was following the opponent’s score, and 45 times a score was following the same team’s score.

There is one other problem with the use of “momentum” by sports commentators, this one psychological. While I don’t agree with momentum, I do agree that during the course of a game a team plays better or worse at different times during the game, so that its possible for a good commentator to determine when a team is playing well. Unfortunately, however, sports are a very intimate proposition and each team responds to the other very quickly. If one team is playing better than usual the other team can raise their own game, and often does. Depending on the *reason* for the better play though, this isn’t always possible. If the better play is, say, due to calling better plays, the players themselves can’t adjust for that (although coaches of course also adjust to what each other is doing).

The unfortunate thing in all of this is that many sports commentators are very knowledgeable and in some cases intelligent people. Its sad that they have to resort to nonsense to try to appear more capable than they are, or to add color (however inaccurate) to their verbal proceedings.

As a general rule, I recommend less psychological adventurism to the sports commentator.

Isn’t the truth fancy enough?