Thursday, February 22, 2007

Protection Myth

From WSJ: A New Study Shows How Baseball Myths Can Hurt the Game

JC Bradbury claims that having good batters following strong hitters decreases the walk rate as the consequences of having a man on base with a good batter hitting are higher than consequences of having a weak hitter up. This seems to make sense but might not be true for outliers - extremely good hitters (e.g. Bonds in 2001) - as the risk of the batter hitting a home run far outweigh the risk of pitching to a good hitter with a man on first. I wonder if the study was controlled for this factor.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Three Predictions for Upcoming Cubs' Season

1. Key Players Suffer Serious Injuries
Alfonso Soriano suffers a season-ending injury following the fifth preseason game as he is signing autographs for a group of rabid fans convinced that 2007 is the year Cubs will finally win the World Series. The media leads with the story for the next 11 days with such headlines as: "Why Was Soriano Asked to Play in a Preseason Game?", "Cubs Endangering Their Players," and "Soriano Seventh Player To Land On the DL." Unable to stay in shape while injured, Soriano gains 60 pounds causing him to become one of the slowest players in the league while losing significant bat speed. No one question why a player can't exercise while rehabilitating a shoulder injury. During this period, it is also discovered that another four years were subtracted from his age and that he just turned 35.
Four weeks later, Aramis Ramirez accidentally impales himself on a leftover Dusty Baker toothpick while warming up in the on deck circle.

2. Bill Simmons Becomes a Cubs Fan
The city of Chicago offers Bill Simmons $20 million per season to become a Cubs fan and start writing about the team. Simmons hesitates explaining that it took him 35 years of cheering for the Red Sox for them to win the World Series and that he can't guarantee a shortened waiting period for the Cubs' World Series title. The Cubs' fans jump at the deal and immediately start printing "Chicago Cubs: World Series Champions 2042" t-shirts. Simmons starts writing weekly columns about the Cubs using mostly the Search and Replace function on his previous articles: Red Sox --> Cubs, Fenway --> Wrigley, Pedro --> Zambrano.

3. Lou Pinella Suffers a Nervous Breakdown
Lou Pinella has a nervous breakdown during the twelfth game of the season as Cubs flub another routine 6-4-3 double play. The 21 minute tirade includes a quarter of a gallon of spit and numerous clubhouse items being thrown on the field. The fans let out a collective groan as one of the items accidentally hits the goat the team brought to the game in order to end the curse of the Billy Goat. The meltdown ends as Pinella passes out from exhaustion. The game has to be postponed as all three bases are thrown in the stands.

Bonus: Hendry Saves Steve Bartman's Life
Jim Hendry performs a Heimlich maneuver on a fan choking on a hot dog only to realize afterwards the the guy was Steve Bartman. Paralyzed by his 2003 catch, Bartman goes on to allow a catchable fly ball to be caught by the Cardinals' third baseman during the last game of the season. Cubs just miss out on making the playoffs... by 11 1/2 games.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

One of my favorite columns

From The Stanford Daily:

My Casually Indifferent Lover

By Darren Franich
Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I'm in love with my sprachpartner (speechpartner). It's the purest kind of love, because nobody knows, except everybody but her. It was love at first sight. It was the language partner get-together in January, where Stanford-in-Berliners meet with an array of local students. I could tell she was interested by her profound disinterest. She arrived late and made a point of not noticing me notice her. I played hard-to-get by talking to the girl I'd just fallen in love with five minutes earlier. That one was a high schooler who liked Jennifer Love Hewitt and had a boyfriend who didn't understand her the way I did. Stan and I both fell for her, but since he sat closer, he got to be her partner.

Fortunately She was there. Beautiful, beautifully bored — like a Marlene Dietrich Barbie. She was so intrigued by my awkward manner and awful German that she didn't say a word to me and partnered up with one of my buddies for the quarter.

I was soon in a relationship, so I offered to help the said buddy hook up. I was like Cyrano de Bergerac, except instead of writing love poetry I was just offering helpful advice like: "Dude! Hit that!"

There aren't many options for young men looking for young women here in the Fatherland. When Freud died asking what women want, he was asking specifically what German women want. God answered with an apologetic shake of his head, as if to say, "What have I wrought?" There's abroadcest, but that's a double-edged sword with a nuclear megabomb attached. Hook-ups will happen, what with the all-night-clubs, trains that don't start running until 5:30 a.m. and my place is just down the way, you can crash on my couch! It's bad enough when they're in your I-Hum section and their most awkward move is a Facebook Poke. In a small group of 25, the risk of a whole awkward quarter — the girls whispering in the bathroom while the guys shake their heads and offer a pity beer — can be tough.

That's why I'm lucky She was at the meeting this quarter. I got her number under the guise of becoming her new sprachpartner. She's so cute with her way of hiding her burning passion for me behind a platinum blond mask of casual indifference. But I can tell she's not pouting at me. She's pouting to me.

Last week, I was walking out of a midnight show of Mission Impossible III, meditating on the similarity between Ethan Hunt's love for his hottie nurse fiancee and my unbridled unspoken passion for my sprachpartner. "For her," I mused, "I would bungee jump off a building, fly helicopters through a field of windmills or star in the worst three-quel since 'Guns of the Magnificent Seven.'" And then, like out of an episode of "The OC," I saw this girl Sonja, who's friends with my sprachpartner.

"Hey," I said, projecting a noble air of a gentleman knight who's way into your best friend.

"Hey," she said.

This was getting to close to flirting for me. I didn't want my sprachpartner to think I was cheating on her. We made small talk. She had just seen a film, though I can't be sure which because I wasn't listening.

"Say," I said cunningly, "we should all go out sometime. You, Antonia, me, Antonia." We shared a nod.

I've been in love before, of course. In our first grade musical theater production of "The Three Piggy Opera," I was the big Bad Wolf and Alison was the Mama Pig. Though we shared no scenes, you could pierce the emotional tension with a knife. I loved her so completely that the only time we ever spoke was under the veneer of Dodgeball, where I communicated my incommunicably intense feelings for her by throwing her out every time I got the ball.

"You hit me in the head!" she said.

"I was aiming for your heart," I whispered.

But that was just puppy love, like the girl my mom set me up with for junior prom who laughed awkwardly when I said she was really talkative after she hadn't talked in two hours. Or the girl at debate camp who flirtatiously asked me if the elevator was going up (it wasn't.) Or the girl in my freshman seminar who made her designs on me clear by dating a guy who was exactly like me, except muscular and self-confident. That coy minx!

But what my sprachpartner and I have is different. It's real. I'm not worried about the competition. Sure, some of the other guys in the program are handsomer, better dancers, better German speakers, possess actual real-world skills, know how to flirt and generally put me to shame in every department except "Simpsons" trivia and perfect hair. But whenever I worry that my love — like Romeo and Juliet or Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar — will be forever unrequited, I just think about Colin Farrell. Others can act a lot better than Colin Farrell. But no one can Colin Farrell as well as Colin Farrell. And no one can carry on an unspoken sprachpartner love affair with such desperate yearning (and text messages that take half an hour to type) like this humble, little, All-American award-winning, everyman columnist right here.

Ah, sprachpartner. Ah, humanity.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Is Anyone Surprised?

From NY Times: San Franciscans Hurl Their Rage at Parking Patrol

"Professor Shoup said the chronic lack of parking here was a result of a decision to encourage a bustling downtown free of atmosphere-killing parking lots, a phenomenon echoed in other parking-challenged — and popular — cities like Boston, Chicago and New York.

'Whenever someone from San Francisco calls to whine about the fact there’s no parking,' he said, 'I always say, "Well, you have to choose, do you want to be more like San Francisco or more like L.A.?" And that usually ends the conversation.'"

The interesting part of the article is not that the levels of rage and frustration are increasing or even that people take their anger out on meter maids making $40,000/year. What gets me is that folks want cheap parking, plenty of spots, no construction, and no sprawling parking garages. The best solution is probably to charge more for street parking and build garages with the money. The plan wouldn't work because residents would complain. And we are back to square one.

That being said, San Francisco streets are pretty bad. While driving there once, my Kenyan friend said the streets in Nairobi are better paved and have more parking.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Billy Beane Software Expert?

From Napa Valley Register: Beane joins board of Silicon Valley company

I am a Billy Beane fan. As a general manager he has had tremendous success while overcoming major limitations - low budget, bad stadium, small market, etc. He has revolutionized the game by putting Bill James' ideas into use. To put it in perspective, I was re-reading some of Bill Simmons' old articles and in the 2000 column he has to explain what OPS is. Six years ago, only baseball experts who knew what it was and Billy Beane was the only one to use it extensively as a decisionmaking tool. The man is clearly an outside-the-box thinker and probably a very smart person.

That being said, I don't understand why a software company would hire him to sit on its Board. What's he going to do - run a statistical analysis on the employees? Baseball is not software just like software is not plumbing and plumbing is not politics. Most people wouldn't hire David Letterman to advise on the Middle East nor would they hire Bill Gates to advise the As on their player acquisitions. Outside the famous name factor, what value does he bring to the company? As a smart person he can probably make some contribution but so would a smart software expert who would have the added bonus of industry experience.