What does it mean to have piled up a .338 batting average over a 20-year career, over 9,288 at-bats? It means Tony Gwynn would have had to go 0-for-his-next-1,183 to get his average to fall under .300 (and even then, it would have “plummeted” to a mere .29997). We kid you not.
Tony Gwynn’s incredible numbers
Saying Good-bye As the Braves Leave Atlanta for ‘Atlanta’ – Grantland.
Nothing in this message is a lie, or even exaggerated, once you realize who the audience is. This message isn’t directed toward the Atlanta city-dweller. The “you, our fans” is not targeted at a person who lives in the city of Atlanta. It’s targeted at everyone in that dark-red blot that lives in the city’s northern suburbs. If you’re a fan who lives in these suburban areas, today is a great day. It has long been a hassle to get to Turner Field — because it involves going all the way to Atlanta to see the Atlanta Braves.
Corresponding to the umpire-as-instrument idea is External Realism. According to External Realism, there are umpiring-independent facts of the game — balls are really fair or foul, runners are either safe or out — and the questions we face are merely epistemological, how best to determine the facts, how to find out.
Corresponding to the umpire-as-player idea is Internal Anti-Realism. According to Internal Anti-Realism, umpires don’t call them as they see them; umpires, through their calls, make it the case that a pitch is a strike or a ball, a runner safe or out. There are no umpire-independent facts in baseball.
Baseball Umpires Aren’t Perfect, OK? – NPR
1992 NLCS: Sid Bream’s Mad Dash. Just remembered the greatest sports highlight of my first 9 years of life: Sid Bream chugs around third, scores the winning run, and the Braves head to the 1992 World Series.
The winner by a country mile is Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. More than 80 percent of reviewers gave it the top, 5-star rating, and its average score was 4.77 points. It is followed by Boston’s Fenway Park (4.59 stars), San Francisco’s AT&T Park (4.57), Minneapolis’ Target Field (4.53), and Baltimore’s Camden Yards (4.47).
I have a suspicion based on zero personal experience that Pittsburgh is one of America’s secretly great cities.
Ranking Baseball’s Best Ballparks – NYTimes.com
Popularity and growth are frequently corollaries of corruption rather than proof of its absence or irrelevance—which only raises anew the question of how the most committed fans might register their sense of that corruption.
Steroids, Baseball, America: Did Drugs Kill Sports? – The Point Magazine
Winning in sport matters because it doesn’t matter in any grander scheme. Because nothing beyond a game rests on which team scores the most runs, we can give it our all without having to consider anything else. Our team is righteous, our opponent is craven precisely because nothing outside the field of play is at stake.
Company Man: Why Bud Selig Is Wrong For Baseball & Why It Doesn’t Matter by Ben Birdsall
“Baseball is poetic. It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.” [via fjm]
I enjoyed reading Moneyball last month, so I got the notion to explore some other baseball books. The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed is pretty good, and a surprisingly quick read. The author/ economist JC Bradbury runs Sabernomics, a baseball nerd blog that’s well worth your time.
As you might expect, Bradbury applies some statistical tools and good old-fashioned open-minded economic reasoning to various aspects of baseball. Topics for discussion range from why batters get hit by pitches in the AL more than the NL, the best ways to measure hitting and pitching, manager ejection theory, salary negotiations, whether MLB is a monopoly, etc. I have to say Bradbury does a pretty darn good job of breaking down the statistics and economics jargon he introduces. Marginal revenue product and regression analysis exist happily along with LOOGYs and the cup of coffee. The thought process behind the studies he’s developed is fascinating in its own right—sometimes it’s just cool to read how someone thought through an intricate project, accounting for variables and dealing with potential bias. I also give Bradbury bonus points for quoting from one of my favorite thinkers, Frederic Bastiat.
One last thing that amuses and delights me to no end: almost a full third of the book is dedicated to the most extensive back matter I’ve ever seen outside of purely academic texts. There’s an epilogue, acknowledgements,
one two three four appendices, an endnotes section, a bibliography, and an index.
I’m prone to reading phases, veering off on thematic streaks. Do other people do this? For example, in the past year I read through the Edward Tufte corpus pretty much back-to-back (reviewed Beautiful Evidence and Envisioning Information), all but one of Steven Johnson’s (reviewed The Ghost Map, Everything Bad Is Good for You), the Scott McCloud comics trilogy (Understanding Comics, Making Comics, Reinventing Comics), etc. I’ve also had a religion/science kick and a language/grammar phase within the past year.
So after wrapping up Michael Lewis‘ The Blind Side, this weekend I finished his earlier book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The question at hand: “What is the most efficient way to spend money on baseball players?”
The central character is the hands-on Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane. His story—that of the gifted athlete adored by scouts who crumbles in the majors—sours him on old-school baseball scouting and management. Beane discards baseball’s long heritage of subjectivity and gut instinct (e.g. “the good face“), and tries the objective, stat-crunching approach.
Winding in and out of this story, Lewis explores the work of baseball writer Bill James, the roots of the Society for American Baseball Research, and touches on sabermetrics. If anything, I wish there were more numbers in this book. I would have loved to dig in to some tables and really follow the statistical arguments. But at its heart, Lewis’ book is not a peer-reviewed research article, but a story. A pretty good one.
And as a tangential bonus, Lewis gives an little off-hand bit of writing wisdom:
“If you write well enough about a single subject, even a subject seemingly as trivial as baseball statistics, you needn’t write about anything else.”