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From the Notebook

-Read Catcher in the Rye by Salinger. I liked it, a little dull at times and at times annoying. It’s overhyped but few novels really capture adolescent maleness so well. As for the language and adult substance, well…After “Southpark: The Movie” I doubt I’ll ever get offended by anything ever again.

-I thought the series finale of Battlestar Galactica was enjoyable, watchable, worthy but imperfect. I’d like to hear what any friends think. The series itself left us wanting more, which is the point. Star Trek, the Sci-Fi juggernaut, left us wanting less. Much, much less. After Battlestar Galactica, I can’t even watch Star Trek anymore. Battlestar Galactica has changed the Sci-Fi TV world. My beef with the finale: Galen a cold blooded killer? Takes away from his fuzzy lovableness.

-Got an “A” in the IT management course. Up next: Business Law.

-Another member of “Da Roll” is ending his blog; Ben Wetmore, the kind of man we needed more of in the blogesphere, has decided blogging is a waste of precious God-given time and I can’t disagree with him. He hated blogging, bloggers, blogs, which I think made his blog so very wonderful.

-Read through the Illustrated Tao Te Ching It’s one of the three or so translations I’ve consumed, and this one is the best. The translators, there are three of them, include an expert on Eastern religions, an expert and practitioner of Taoism, and a poet. It balances the literary and literal aspects of the text well.

-Unsponsored product review: Jumpsnaps are awesome. For people who skip rope regularly but are holed up in small quarters all winter, the Jumpsnap is a great workout supplement.


Women in baseball

I’ve been saying this for years, if you learn to throw the knuckleball early in life, you can be a professional baseball player no matter who you are:

OSAKA, Japan (AP)—Japan’s first female professional baseball player made her debut Friday, striking out one batter in the ninth inning.

Eri Yoshida, a 17-year-old who throws a sidearm knuckleball, took the mound during Kobe 9 Cruise’s 5-0 season-opening win over the Osaka Gold Villicanes in the newly formed Kansai Independent League.

The 5-foot, 114-pounder walked the first batter leading off the inning on four pitches and allowed a stolen base before striking out the next batter swinging at Osaka Dome. She was then replaced after facing two batters.

The catch of course is Yoshida plays indy ball in Japan.

But a pro’s a pro.

The theory behind the knuckleball is easy: throw a ball with no spin (+or- a half rotation) at about 60 MPH sixty feet.

It’s just really hard to do.

Which is why it should be learned at a young age. Will it be effective in little league? No, it won’t be fast enough. But it can act like a change up in games, or you can just keep it for practice sessions. Whatever.

Anyone can throw a baseball 60 MPH with practice and training. If you spend 10 years (age 12 to age 22) throwing the pitch regularly, you should be able to master it (assuming you don’t suddenly realize your real calling is as an engineer).

Does this mean there will be scores of women playing in the Majors? No. But it does give hope to thousands of people looking to play baseball at the indy/college/minors/international levels.

Something else I wonder, could someone use Dr. Mike Marshall’s pitching motion to throw a knuckleball (he doesn’t teach it because he thinks the odds of success are too low, but not necessarily because it can’t be done with his motion). Such a pitcher could conceivably throw almost unlimited innings.


Rob Neyer says:

Hmmm, let’s see … five feet and 114 pounds … what happens when the enemy hitters start dropping bunts into that tricky area between the pitcher’s mound and the third-base line? Will Yoshida have the quickness and the arm strength to throw anyone out at first base?

Yeah Rob, that’s why she throws a knuckleball. It’s really hard to accurately place a bunt with a pitch that flutters. Besides, a well placed bunt is a threat for any pitcher.

He goes on:

And speaking of arm strength, what happens when the count is three balls and no strikes? Or what happens when there’s a grounder to the first baseman and she has to cover first base and gets run over by some burly first baseman?

Well, according to the Bushido Baseball Warrior Code, when a big player from the other team picks on one of your players you either let your big burly first baseman play a game of knuckles or you throw at the guy the next time around.

you can’t play if you don’t have the requisite physical tools

Fair enough, but Neyer comes to his conclusions based only on the woman’s weight and gender, not on any actual viewing of her abilities.

Do I think Yoshida is some sort of All Star? Of course not. I haven’t seen her play either. It might be just a publicity stunt. She might also be just another in a long long of semi-talented indy ball players who never catch on elsewhere. But ease up on the preliminary judgment, eh?


UZR correlated to Runs Allowed

Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is a statistic which purports to accurately measure fielding ability. In fact, there’s little reason to doubt it. But how useful is UZR? While it’s not completely fair, running a correlation between UZR and the number of runs allowed (RA) should give us an idea as to the utility of the stat (indeed, if it does measure fielding ability nearly perfectly, it should give us an idea of what impact fielding actually has on the outcome of a game).

Equation: Runs Allowed=-1.1(UZR)+752

Looks like a pretty good stat. Even with a small sample size (To get any kind of statistical significance I’d need a lot more data) everything comes out nicely. Even a -.48 correlation between UZR and RA is high considering pitching has a lot to do with RA too.

I didn’t want to pull the data on pitching myself (though I’ll doubtless get around to it) but I did find somebody who correlated “pure pitching” (defense independent pitching stats–DIPS) to runs per nine innings (not exactly comparing apples to apples I know) and got a correlation of .81.

Regression Statistics
Multiple R 0.809312344
R Square 0.65498647
Adjusted R Square 0.642951114
Standard Error 0.355148372
Observations 90

Correlation isn’t causation, but if UZR really is the “ultimate” fielding stat which captures every concievable variable which goes into a player’s fielding ability, we then know the real impact fielding has on the outcome of a game.

Unfortunately UZR isn’t too predictive:

A simple little test. I simply looked at matched pairs of a player at a position, year one to year two. I wanted to see how well UZR (in this case, UZR/150) from year one agreed with year two.

I used two simple tests: average absolute error and correlation. No minimum cutoffs; instead I weighted each player by the smaller number of defensive games between the two seasons.

And here’s the results:

AAE Correl.
OF 13.2 0.27
IF 10.1 0.25
Total 11.3 0.26

Curiously, outfield UZR is better correlated with year two performance; and yet infield UZR has a lower average error year-to-year. I’ll be honest – I can’t explain it, although my feeling is that AAE is more useful than correlation in this case.

I shouldn’t have to tell you that a 10-run error band, given that UZR/150 should generally range from about -15/15 for a full-time player at a postion, is pretty big. That said, this includes all players, including a lot of part-timers. (If I cut it down to only players with > 90 DG, the AAE drops to about 8.)

So here’s the biggest caution I can give you with defensive (or ANY sample) data: use more than one season! Regress to the mean! Doing these two things will save you much grief later on.

I left that last paragraph as it pertains to my stuff too.


Spring Training Stats, Useless?

Maybe not:

A few years ago we discovered that there is a way to use spring training stats to predict future performance. We took all spring training hitters and found that, as expected, about half of them do better than their career norms in the upcoming season, and about half of them do worse than their career norms. However, when we chose only those players doing exceptionally well in spring training, we found that about three-fourths of them performed better than their career average during the upcoming season.

Our definition of “exceptionally well” was slugging 100 points higher in spring training than their previous career slugging percentage.

Casilla, Gomez, Young, Cuddyer, Gomez, Buscher and (almost) Kubel are the regulars enjoying a slugging spring.

The season can’t start soon enough.


From the Notebook

-Finished Douglas Adams “Restaurant at the End of the Universe” And “Life, the Universe and Everything.” I’ve got all five of Adams’ Hitchhiker’s trilogy in a single volume and I’ve been reading them while doing the elliptical machine. From what everything I’ve read so far, the series definitely starts to fall apart in LU&E. I see in these books a lot of what turned into “The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul” (by far Adams’ worst book). I now see why I’ve failed to finish the trilogy before. But, I’m not putting anything else into the gym bag until I’m done so I will finish.

-Finished “Introducing Consciousness” by Philosophy professor David Papineau. It’s a quick introduction to the philosophical problems of subjective experience. Reading through the book, I find my initial interpretation of Benjamin Libet’s famous hand movement/stopwatch experiment means I’m an epiphenomenologist. This means I’m a dualist but creates problems as it pits me against the Catholic Church doctrine of moral freedom. So, if I allow myself the same luxury Libet takes (he believes in the power of the brain to veto its own conscious actions) I can say I’m a weak-epiphenomenologist, thus maintaining my place in the Catholic Church. Yea. Seems like a lot of work for a book with so many pictures.

-Jeff Rosenberg moved to MNPublius, and since I don’t read MNPublius regularly it means I won’t be linking to him anymore. Despite Rosenberg’s presence, MNPublius ain’t my thing so I won’t be adding them (and it already looks like Jeff has changed his style as there weren’t any graphs at all in his last several posts). I think over the next year or so there will be an exponential growth of group blogs and a great many good and experienced bloggers will pack up their individual shops and join on with the group blogs. Since I’m not a fan of group blogs (my contributions to True North notwithstanding) I don’t particularly like this trend. 2009 will be a period of great contraction (even while the blogesphere itself continues to grow, weird as that sounds).

-The short story on rats I’ve been publishing has sure been collecting a lot of complaints. Thanks all. The complete story is about 12,000 words (30 pages) and most of the early bits, middle bits and late bits lack any action. Maybe it’s just a bad story. But, I’ll continue to publish the thing since there’s little else I wish to write about.


Most of the time I don’t like Colbert, but I still watch his program regularly as it’s one of the few good programs playing when I’m at the gym. Occasionally I’m rewarded; This interview with Juan Cole was hilarious:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Juan Cole
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Mark Sanford

(Looks like the embed code doesn’t work with wordpress but I’m not going to delete the whatever it is)

You know someone is full of crap when a should-be-friendly-conservative-parody-with-supportive-audience makes them look stupid. In the interview it looked like Colbert was hammering the guy so much that Colbert backed off a bit to try to help him.

Wednesday Hero

This Weeks Post Was Suggested By Kathi

Kevin BakerKevin Baker
U.S. Navy

Kevin George Baker, a disabled Navy veteran, had been riding his hand-propelled bicycle from his hometown through Washington, D.C. and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Marseilles, Illinois to support a new flag designed to honor fallen members of the military. His trip began at his home on Saturday, March 7 and sadly ended on March 13 when he passed away in his sleep. Baker, who is unable to use his legs due to a neurological impairment, was flying the Honor and Remember Flag from his bike and encouraged people along the way to sign a petition urging Congress to adopt the flag as a new national symbol by passing HR Bill 1034.

You can read the rest of Baker’s story here

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your site, you can go here.
Wednesday Hero Logo

The Evil Genius’ 40-Man Roster


Maybe not you exactly, but someone from some recreational wood bat league, or some batting cage slugger, or a random person from the street. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Someone must survive to tell the tale; whether it is the ship captain (Frankenstein), Ishmael clinging to a coffin (Moby Dick) or Gaius Baltar. See, if people closely associated with the Evil Genius are the only people to report the extraordinary circumstances and events of the past, no one will believe them. But every guy? Joe Plumber? Oh yeah, people will believe it. So don’t be surprised, next time you’re plugging away on the “fast pitch” batting cages, if an old man with crazy hair signs you as an undrafted free agent.


Early Identity Politics

From “LINCOLN’S YARNS AND STORIES” by Alexander Kelly (1901, via DailyLit)


There was no member of the Cabinet from the South when Attorney-General Bates handed in his resignation, and President Lincoln had a great deal of trouble in making a selection. Finally Titian F. Coffey consented to fill the vacant place for a time, and did so until the appointment of Mr. Speed.

In conversation with Mr. Coffey the President quaintly remarked:

“My Cabinet has shrunk up North, and I must find a Southern man. I suppose if the twelve Apostles were to be chosen nowadays, the shrieks of locality would have to be heeded.”

Now the Apostles would each need to represent a different race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and nationality.

Joe Crede UZR/150 Graph

Just to show I’m not overly reliant on RF and RZR. While not as smooth as the RZR/RF graphs, I think this chart still shows Crede to be trending down defensively.