"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
February 27, 2006
BASEBALL: Changing Pitcher Workloads 1920-2004
It's time to unveil one of my longer-running research projects. Offense has exploded over the past decade and a half in Major League Baseball, while at the same time the top pitchers of the age - Clemens, Maddux, Pedro, Randy Johnson - have stood further and further above the league. I've long suspected that these two phenomena were connected by a common fact: the percentage of each team's innings thrown by its top pitchers has been in steep decline for years, and as a result each team - even if it has just as many or more quality arms as in years past - is delegating an ever-growing percentage of its innings to be thrown by second-line pitchers. I should note that this phenomenon is mostly independent of the dilution of pitching inherent in expansion.* In other words, the problem isn't just that each team has fewer top pitchers because they are distributed more widely about the league - it's that each team makes less use of the best pitchers it does have, and reaches deeper into its own staff, than in years past. Three trends have driven this revolution: the five-man rotation, which takes innings from the top four starters and gives it to #5; the decline in complete games and related decline in innings per start, which shifts innings from the rotation to the bullpen; and the increasing specialization of relievers, which takes innings away from the bullpen aces (now, just "closers") and gives them to middle relievers.
We know all this, of course. But I wanted to quantify it, and if someone else has, I missed it.** So here's what I did. I took one season every five years from 1920 - the dawn of the modern, lively-ball era - through 2004 (I would have used 2005 but I started the study last July). I went through each team in each league and identified their top six pitchers. For most of the study, that meant top 4 starters and top 2 relievers. For some of the 1920-35 period, I used the fifth starter in the bullpen column because teams generally had a swing man with irregular starting duties do most of the relief work.
Picking a top 6 is more art than science, though I mostly followed the listings in baseball-reference.com's team pages. Wherever possible, I erred on the side of listing the better pitcher if there were two otherwise comparable workloads and usage patterns. I'll discuss a few other specific methodological issues below the fold.*** In general, I sought to look at a team's roster and figure out, from how it used its pitchers, who the team thought were its top 6. For example, I made sure to include Norm Charlton on the 1990 Reds even if it meant classifying him as the team's fourth starter. While I used an every-five year interval, I was off a year in 1996 to avoid using a strike-shortened season, and in 1946 to avoid a year of war depletion. Without further ado, here are the results, with more notes to follow the charts.
By Rotation/Bullpen Slot
First, a breakdown of the average workload and ERA for each slot:
Innings are rounded to the nearest tenth. The every-five-years pattern does miss a few things; since 1970 was a hitters' year we basically skip the whole 1966-74 period. And you can see that workloads were mostly off in 1946, as managers spread their work around with pitchers returning from the war; those numbers would be more dramatic except for Lou Boudreau's decision to throw Bob Feller and his 2.18 ERA for 371.1 innings in pursuit of a sixth place finish. Also, bear in mind the switch to the 162-game schedule in 1961, which added 72 innings a year to each staff's workload, as well as the (not counted here) dramatic expansions in the size of the postseason from 4-7 games through 1968, to 7-12 games in 1969, to 8-14 games in 1985, to 11-19 games in 1995. A World Championship team in 1955 could expect to throw 1449 innings if it extended the postseason to its logical limit; by 1996, that number was 1629.
For recent history, you can see vividly that front-line pitcher workloads have fallen off sharply in the past 20 years, much more sharply than in any prior period, and that it's affected both starters and relievers. Without compelling evidence that this has reduced pitcher injuries, I can't see how you justify this, although you could argue that the modern postseason makes it a necessity. Until about 1930, a team's #1 starter would pitch more innings than the whole second-line staff; now, the second-line pitchers throw nearly three times as many innings as the ace.
One of the more dramatic changes comes when you trace the use of the bullpen before and after 1950. From 1955 on, you can see clearly defined #1 and 2 relievers on most teams; from 1940 to 1950, there are guys who have those jobs on most teams, but their ERAs are usually around the league ERA rather than far superior; prior to 1940, I was largely counting in those slots guys who were doing most of their work as spot starters.
Rotation/Bullpen Shares of the Workload
Next, the breakdown by starters, relievers, their performance and share of the workload. "Adv" is the ERA of the rest divided by the ERA of the top 6 (i.e., the percentage advantage of the top 6 in quality vs. the rest).
There's a lot of different competitive factors at work here over time - expansion, war, integration. But if diminishing the workloads of frontline pitchers was really worth it, you would expect the "Adv" column to flatten out sharply as the work gets spread around more. It has flattened, buit only slightly - there's still no difference between 1925 and 2000.
The League Level
The third table looks at the league totals, and also at how the league ERA would change if you adjusted the best/rest mix to a steady 70% over time. Innings totals are rounded off to the nearest whole:
There is probably no more dramatic set of numbers on this chart than the column here showing the explosive growth in the raw number of innings thrown eah year by pitchers who do not qualify as one of their team's top six pitchers. The total is up 50% just since 1985 (while the total thrown by front-line pitchers hasn't changed much, give or take a year-to-year variation, since 1970). It's up 80% since 1975, and has tripled since 1960, and the 1960 figure doubled the 1920 total. Yes, a lot of that is a function of the growth in the number of teams, and so spread out over more games. But there's just no way around the fact that an awful lot of the time of paying customers is spent watching lesser pitchers ply their craft.
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* - I do, however, think that expansion favors offenses for two reasons. First, guys who just miss being major league pitchers tend to be noticeably worse, relative to the average pitcher, than guys who just miss being major league hitters; the dropoff is more serious. Second, many guys who rush in to soak up the extra position-player jobs in the majors have been trapped in the minors not because they can't hit but because they can't field, so their arrival helps scoring in both halves of the inning. Whereas a guy who can't make the majors as a pitcher can't make it because he can't pitch.
** - Baseball Prospectus has almost certainly done some research in this area for BP's pitcher translations (more on my own methods in that regard here), but if they published the backup, I missed it.
*** - When necessary, I looked at Games Finished and number of decisions, as well as number of saves, as a measure of which relievers were the main guys. One thing that slightly depresses innings is that, if a pitcher was traded in mid-season, I counted only his innings with that team. (In one case, Bert Blyleven in 1985, a pitcher threw enough innings to qualify with two different teams). Among other things, not only would the alternative approach have required me to do a lot of extra digging to check for trades, but it would have diluted the examination of how a team's innings were divided.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:31 AM | Baseball 2006 | Baseball Studies | Comments (19) | TrackBack (1)
February 23, 2006
POLITICS: Nominating Veterans
BASEBALL: National Issues
BLOG: On One Wheel
This morning in Midtown Manhattan I saw a guy apparently commuting to work on a unicycle. I guess now I've officially seen it all. This was the best one since I was in Cambridge, Mass. and saw a bearded academic-looking type (complete with corduroy jacket with patched elbows) riding a bicycle while smoking a pipe.
BASKETBALL: The Square Peg Collection
The Knicks' acquisition of Steve Francis in exchange for senior citizen Penny Hardaway and Trevor Ariza is obviously a steal on a pure talent basis, which only makes it more likely that Isiah Thomas is doing this to set up Larry Brown as the fall guy, by giving him talented players who can't possibly fit together. Isiah is probably thinking that Marbury and Francis could whup Isiah and Dumars in their primes in 2-on-2, which they probably could; unfortunately, the NBA is not a 2-on-2 game.
UPDATE: Bill Simmons nails this in a satirical column that's just comedy gold, especially the McHale-Isiah exchanges. An excerpt:
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For example, let's say you spent $3,000 on a living room sofa two years ago that you didn't really like. To make the sofa stand out a little less, you bought a leather chair for $2,200 that doesn't match --.
Simmons: Marbury is the sofa and Jamal Crawford is the chair in this case?
Layden: Precisely. And the room still looks bad. So now, you're on Craigslist and you see that someone is selling another $3,000 sofa for $900 that's almost exactly like the sofa you have. And there's no way you would ever want two big, ugly sofas in the same room. It would just look ridiculous. But your mind-set is, "Hey, how can I turn down a $3,000 sofa for $900?" So you buy the sofa and stick it in the room, which is now cluttered with stuff since you also spent another $10,000 on some crummy art, a coffee table with support problems, two giant bookcases that have to be turned sideways, some wobbly end tables and a smashed sculpture that was patched back together with duct tape. But since it's too late to go back, you spend another $5,000 on an interior decorator to make the room work. Well, you know what would happen? He wouldn't be able to make it work. You bought too much crap.
See, this is why Isiah is a genius: He's assembling the basketball version of that nightmare living room, and he has the fans convinced that either the expensive interior decorator -- in this case, Larry Brown -- will be able to make everything work, or he can somehow swap some of that furniture to one of his neighbors for a first-class piece of art. And he's spending an ungodly amount of money! And you never hear rumors that he might get fired! I think it's a tribute to him and his staff. He's the best-ever at being an atrocious GM. He really is.
Thomas: Thank you, Scott, that means a lot.
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POLITICS: Shoot to Die
This is one of the worst ideas I've ever heard, and makes you wonder how tough Eliot Spitzer's administration would be on criminals with weapons rather than Blackberries:
[State] Sen. David Paterson is pushing a bill that would require cops to shoot to wound, rather than using deadly force - drawing outrage from officers.
First of all, this man has obviously never fired a gun - not that I have either, but I at least respect the fact that it's extremely difficult to hit a moving target in the arm or leg. My dad was NYPD and always told us the cops were told to shoot for the middle, that way you have a chance of hitting something and stopping the guy. As any soldier or cop knows, you don't shoot with intent to kill or intent to wound; you shoot with intent to stop someone coming at you (or at someone else) - you shoot to immobilize, to incapacitate.
And second, cops are also (wisely) instructed that firing a gun is deadly force, which it is. You start shooting, somebody could die. That's a lesson that shouldn't be diluted with fantasies of sci-fi style stun-setting shootings and Hollywood marksmanship. Shoot to kill or don't shoot at all is the only sensible rule.
UPDATE: I forgot until after I'd posted this that Paterson has been blind since infancy. Maybe that makes him less of a fool for having no clue how hard it is to shoot to wound, but it doesn't make this any more practical as public policy.
OTHER SPORTS: The Hughes Machine
I have to feel sorry for the other US women's figure skaters, trying to compete for press first with Michelle Kwan and now with Emily Hughes. Maybe it's a New York thing, since Hughes is a local girl, but with her sister having won the last gold medal, she's definitely the media darling. And it's not just that: like her sister, Hughes is approachable, infectiously enthusiastic, and seems normal - she's even built like a normal teenager. Sasha Cohen, by contrast, is frighteningly thin and wound up tight as a drum, and her freakish flexibility (her signature move is standing on one leg with the other one pointing directly skyward, a standing split that few gynmasts could manage, let alone while spinning on ice) only makes her seem more inhuman. And pity the poor third girl on the team, who apparently is quite good but gets completely overlooked.
February 22, 2006
BASEBALL: Never Been Second
The Andruw Jones quote here has me wondering about something I'd look up if I had time: he and Chipper have to be at or nearing the top of the list of longest Major League careers without ever finishing lower than first place. In fact, they have to be climbing the list even if you look at professional sports generally. Even the Celtics didn't finish first more than 9 years running.
February 21, 2006
LAW: One for a few of my lawyer-commenters
Bill Simmons uses the word "aforementioned" in a column about NBA All-Star Weekend. It's not just for lawyers!
Um, the column's good too. Read all the way to the end.
POLITICS: Enforcing Campaign Finance Laws
Apropos of this story:
Most campaign finance laws are toothless, which only adds to their hypocrisy. But a good test of whether a law regarding campaign finance - or elections generally - is worth enacting is whether a violation should be sufficient to result in (a) imprisoning a public official, (b) overturning an election result or (c) calling a new election. And you should consider that possibility in the worst case scenario, where it means convicting a politician you strongly support and/or handing over an election to an adversary you loathe.
Some laws are clearly worth that: laws against voter fraud, laws against outright bribery, even laws against taking money from foreign governments. I would argue that if you replaced the current scheme with clear, bright-line full-disclosure rules, non-trivial violations of those rules could be sufficient to result in one of those three severe outcomes.
If the purpose of the law in question isn't worth overturning an election or throwing an elected official in the slammer, then it shouldn't be on the books in the first place. Free speech, even about politics, has its outer limits, but within those limits the government shouldn't be handing out speeding tickets.
OTHER SPORTS: Not Bode Well
In sports, when you talk the talk, you gotta back it up. When Joe Namath guaranteed victory for the Jets in Super Bowl III, or when Davey Johnson in 1986 said that the Mets should "dominate" the NL East, they had to win.
Bode Miller has been running Nike ads during the Olympics preaching against the importance of winning in sports. And so far, Miller has backed up his talk, failing to win any medals in four events (with one to go).
In competitive sports at the highest level, the guy who says it doesn't matter if you win or lose, usually loses.
February 19, 2006
I haven't weighed in here on the whole Mohammed-cartoon business and don't have time right now to pass on my thoughts, but check out Captain Ed elaborating on a column by the invaluable Jeff Jacoby on why the same media that has been afraid to show the cartoons has slavered attention on Dick Cheney's hunting accident.
BASEBALL: Shallowness Charts
Chris Lynch compares the Hated Yankees and Red Sox pitching staffs. My immediate impression was to be reminded how little these two teams have done to redress the pitching problems that plagued them last season; the Sox added Josh Beckett, a potentially huge but inherently uncertain acquisition (depending on his health), David Riske and Julian Tavarez, and the Yankees have added Kyle Farnsworth and Ron Villone (I don't expect Octavio Dotel to contribute this season), while Kevin Brown has retired. Other than that, mostly a bunch of very old guys getting older, and the Yankees banking on Pavano and Jaret Wright returning to health. I would quibble, though, with listing Pavano as a fifth starter; if healthy, he'll be #3.
The two teams have opposite problems: the Yankees still have front-line studs with Mariano and the Big Unit, but lack quality depth, leaving them dependent on another good year from Wang and a bounce-back from Pavano. The bullpen doesn't look great behind Rivera and the mercurial Farnsworth. The Sox, by comparison, do run deeper than "David Wells, third starter" would suggest - Papelbon has a fine arm, regardless of where he ultimately gets used, and I still like Bronson Arroyo. But they are still screwed if Schilling and Foulke don't bounce back, unless they get The Leap from Beckett and Papelbon in a big way.
BASEBALL: Bill James Bobbles
David Pinto has a picture of the single coolest thing I have ever owned; I got mine in the mail the same day, and I've been working my way through The Mind of Bill James, due in stores March 14. More on the book when I've read the whole thing.
February 17, 2006
BASEBALL: Baseball Card Blog
HISTORY: Hating All The Troops
The issue before the [student] Senate this month was a proposed memorial to World War II combat pilot Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, a 1933 engineering graduate of the university, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service commanding the famed "Black Sheep" squadron in the Pacific. The student senate rejected the memorial because "a Marine" is not "an example of the sort of person UW wants to produce."
What fools. What ingrates.
BASEBALL: You Were A Good One, Mr. Grich
February 16, 2006
BLOG: Fellowship for Israel
If you are or know a pro-Israel college student interested in a fairly good-paying summer internship, you may want to check this out.
OTHER SPORTS: Department of Lame-O Excuses
Note: Olympic spoiler ahead (if tape-delayed men's figure skating is your thing, that is).
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US figure skater Johnny Weir has a bad day on the ice, so what's his excuse?
"I missed the bus. They changed the schedule," Weir said. "It was every 10 minutes. Today it was every half-hour. I was late getting here and never caught up. I never felt comfortable in this building. I didn’t feel my inner peace, I didn't feel my aura. Inside I was black."
That's about the lamest thing I've ever heard. And I'm not even gonna touch the picture with the article . . .
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BASEBALL: We Aren't The World
Now, I haven't been following the buildup to the World Baseball Classic that carefully, but on Tuesday they announced Team USA's 30-man roster, which seemed to have a few oddities:
[Starters: Roger Clemens,] Jake Peavy, Dontrelle Willis and C.C. Sabathia. . . .
First of all, and I understand that a lot of this may have been disctated by who was available and healthy (Mauer, for example, was nursing his injuries), but CC Sabathia over Roy Oswalt and Tim Hudson? Brian Fuentes over BJ Ryan? Todd Jones over Trevor Hoffman?
And the outfield seems particularly unimpressive - not only no Berkman or Bonds or Adam Dunn or Jim Edmonds, all of whom presumably had injuries to recover from, but no Brian Giles either. Are we really desperate enough to need Matt Holliday, Jeff Francouer and Randy Winn? They're not bad players, but Holliday's never hit that great even in Coors, and Francouer is still a green rookie with horrible strike zone judgment. When you've gone down from All-Stars to these guys, you might as well take someone like Aaron Rowand or Scott Podsednik or Crawford who brings a specific useful skill to the table (you're telling me we might never need to pinch run a base thief in a key situation?). You'd have a better squad using Chipper in the outfield (as David Pinto suggested) and carrying David Wright.
On the other hand, while he'd be an improvement over those guys, I'm glad at least that Cliff Floyd's sitting this one out. The Mets have four major players who have such significant durability/health issues that they should in no circumstance be playing in this tournament, and the other three - Wagner, Pedro and Reyes - are playing anyway. I'll be rooting very vigorously against the Dominican team, no because I don't like them (truth be told, I probably like the guys on their roster better than the US team) but because every pitch Pedro throws in this tournament comes off pitches he can throw in September and October.
LAW: The Fourth Estate's Property Line
We depend, in this country, on freedom of speech and a free press, and the courts have been properly protective of the media, maybe at times too protective. Since New York Times v. Sullivan, the media in particular has been shielded from liability for merely negligent publication of falsehoods. Since the Pentagon Papers, it has been clear that the government can not prevent the publication of even the most sensitive information in wartime, however unlawfully obtained, though in appropriate cases there can still be legal consequences after the fact. And by law, under McCain-Feingold, the press has been granted special rights to speak about political candidates at election time that are denied to ordinary citizens. Only the development of the internet and the blogosphere and the demise of the "Fairness Doctrine" have chipped away at the monopoly power these freedoms have granted to the mainstream media, or "MSM".
While the freedom to speak may be - and should be - nearly absolute, however, developments in recent years have dealt one legal blow after another to the MSM's claim to special, privileged right to gathering news that the rest of us don't employ. To put it bluntly, the media thinks it is like the legal profession, which can use subpoenas to drag information out of the unwilling and use legal privileges to shield the contents of its communications. The recent White House press corps snit over Dick Cheney notifying the local authorities and the Corpus Christi press about his hunting accident, without giving a full and immediate confession to the White House press corps, is a sample of this attitude. When reporters go to court, however, they often discover that judges know the difference between the law and the media. Thus, Judith Miller jailed for not disclosing information about sources to a criminal investigation, among other setbacks in the courts regarding protection of sources.
Now, the lastest setback, which came yesterday in the Fourth Circuit's ruling in The Baltimore Sun Co. v. Ehrlich, No. 05-1297 (4th Cir. Feb. 15, 2006). (Via Bashman). At issue in the Sun's lawsuit against Maryland's (Republican, naturally) Governor Robert Ehrlich was whether Ehrlich was permitted to refuse to talk, and order his staff to refuse to talk, to two specific Sun reporters (one of them an opinion columnist) in response to what the Governor felt was biased and unfair coverage. Specifically, Ehrlich's press office issued the following order:
Effective immediately, no one in the Executive Department or Agencies is to speak with [Baltimore Sun reporter] David Nitkin or [Baltimore Sun columnist] Michael Olesker until further notice. Do not return calls or comply with any requests. The Governor's Press Office feels that currently both are failing to objectively report on any issue dealing with the Ehrlich-Steele Administration. Please relay this information to your respective department heads.
Slip op. at 3 (emphasis in original). The ban included barring the two from select press briefings, but they continued to have access to open press conferences, press releases and state FOIA requests, and other Sun reporters did not suffer the same fate. Id. at 4-5. The Sun sued, claiming unconstitutional retaliation under the First Amendment and 42 U.S.C. 1983 - a claim that, at bottom, rests on the theory that the Sun has a constitutional right to have the Governor and his staff compelled to talk to them. After all, if a public official can't choose when and whether not to speak to particular reporters, he can't really choose at all.
The Fourth Circuit recognized that executive officials not only have freedom not to speak, but have the authority to control their own staff, and its decision reflected the fact that media competition for access is a routine feature of reporting on the government:
It is common knowledge - and the parties so concede - that reporting is highly competitive, and reporters cultivate access - sometimes exclusive access - to sources, including government officials.
[T]he challenged government response is a pervasive feature of journalism and of journalists' interaction with government. Having access to relatively less information than other reporters on account of one's reporting is so commonplace that to allow The Sun to proceed on its retaliation claim addressing that condition would "plant the seed of a constitutional case" in "virtually every" interchange between public official and press. See Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138, 149 (1983). Accordingly, we conclude that, in the circumstances of this case, no actionable retaliation claim arises when a government official denies a reporter access to discretionarily afforded information or refuses to answer questions.
Id. at 10-12. Instead, the scope of a reporter's claims are limited to more direct forms of coercion implicating the unique powers and public megaphone of government:
When the challenged government action is government speech, there is no retaliation liability - even if the plaintiff can demonstrate a substantial adverse impact - unless the government speech concerns "private information about an individual" or unless it was "threatening, coercive, or intimidating so as to intimate that punishment, sanction, or adverse regulatory action will imminently follow."
Id. at 9 (citation omitted). The rule could not be otherwise. We all have freedom to speak and petition for redress of grievances, but not everyone in a land of 300 million souls has the right to an unlimited claim on the time and attention of high government officials to answer questions. Even leaving aside the fact that - as the Fourth Circuit recognized - it can be difficult if not impossible to draw the line between impermissible retaliation and ordinary discretion and favoritism among working reporters, a rule that allowed the use of litigation to compel government to cooperate with particular reporters would inevitably require some limits on who could invoke that process. And have we any doubt that the entrenched MSM would demand a rule giving it preferential status and access compared to the average citizen or blogger?
The media has a right to speak, in some ways greater than the rest of us. But its right to gather news is no greater than the rights of the average citizen in a democracy. As it should be.
February 15, 2006
WAR: "By what arrogance does this Burger 'King' presume to rule?"
So, why are Islamists attacking Western fast-food chains? Ace has the story in his usual hilarious fashion.
Of course, the Colonel is watching.
BASEBALL: Lima Time in Queens?
Please, stay in Norfolk. Please, stay in Norfolk. Please, stay in Norfolk.
And I'd somehow missed them signing Darren Oliver in December. This chart says it all about Lima and Oliver.
LAW: Unsurprising News For Anyone Familiar With the Legal Profession
John Podhoretz notes reports that Harry Whittington, despite being 78 years old and in intensive care with a gunshot wound, "plans to do some work today."
FOOTBALL/LAW: The 12th Man
This just seemed like a silly thing to need a lawsuit over (and yes, I understand that trademark law sometimes forces you to do this). I wonder what's happened to it since the Super Bowl.
BLOG: The New Constitutionalist
NRO's Bench Memos pointed the other day to The New Constitutionalist, a site run by Holy Cross political science professor David Schaefer and including, as a contributor, Joe Busher, a classmate of mine at HC (we were in constitutional law together - Joe's a sharp guy). Welcome to the web!
This is a bit long, and I'm never sure how fair or accurate Wikipedia's history is, but it's worth a reading at some length for a timely history lesson on a time and place when a zealous Muslim came to power in a largely non-Muslim empire, and inflicted terrible damage that eventually sent his empire into decline (a story with many parallels to Philip II of Spain) and ushered in the centuries of sectarian warfare in the Indian subcontinent that led, eventually, to the partition of India and the creation and later nuclear armament of Pakistan.
I probably knew this guy's story when I was a freshman in high school and studying the history of India among other Asian cultures, but if so I'd long since forgotten him.
POLITICS: The Smoking Gun
I just have to say, to all the media people hyperventilating over a day's delay in reporting the news that Dick Cheney accidentally shot a hunting companion: get a grip! Is the story newsworthy, in the sense of being interesting? Of course. But in the sense of being important? No. And news that's interesting but not particularly important can wait.
And to all those on the left looking to make a 'scandal' of some sort out of this: really, it's time to apply the Clinton-Gore test: what would you say if this was Gore during the Clinton years. Certainly, we conservatives would have mocked Gore mercilessly, which is all in good fun (I'd have run some Cheney jokes here myself the last few days, but the good ones were pretty well-circulated already). But I just can't imagine people on the right getting angry or indignant over such a story, as opposed to rolling on the floor in laughter.
(And it should go without saying that anyone who tried to use this story to draw a lesson that's anti-gun or anti-hunting is not going to find a lot of votes in that position; there's a reason guys like Gore and Kerry have taken such pains to be photographed while hunting).
February 14, 2006
BLOG: Sci-Fi Quiz
Saw this one a few places:
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BASEBALL: Bouton at Harvard Law
Just got this in email, for those of you in the Boston area:
Saving Our National Pastime: Baseball, Labor and the Politics of Stadium Construction
With former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton
Thursday, Feb. 16, 2006, 4-6 PM
Langdell Hall North
BASEBALL: Baseball Blog Quick Links 2/14/06
Well, as long as I'm busy with work and shoveling snow, you should check out what's hot around the rest of the baseball blog world. Here's a sampling:
*Detroit Tigers Weblog looks at Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections for the Tigers pitchers. And Blez at Athletics Nation discusses this Baseball Prospectus story on how the A's have transformed themselves into a defense-first team. And Rob Glowacki at The Cub Reporter does still more data-mining at the Prospectus and comes up with some fun stuff.
*Mac Thomason on the Braves bad-mouthing Leo Mazzone. We may see an example this year of what Bill James called "Burt Shotton syndrome" with the Braves pitchers - i.e., they will respond well to replacing the higher-pressure Mazzone with the low-key Roger McDowell (which Braves pitcher will get the first hotfoot?). But long term, the competitive advantage the Braves got from the Mazzone half of the Cox-Mazzone duo will erode, and that could eventually, in our lifetimes, lead to the Braves finishing somewhere other than first place.
*A commenter at David Pinto's site sums up the meaning of Sammy Sosa's claim to be "humiliated" by the lack of interest in him: "I *am* too proud to beg, but I ain't too proud to claim that I ain't too proud to beg"? Mike Carminati has more detailed thoughts on Sosa's future, and not much sympathy ("Did Sammy watch Sammy play last year?")
*Dan Holmes marks the February 27 date for the next Negro League Hall of Fame election and gives a brief bio of Sol White. This year's Negro League ballot is here. I continue to believe that they should sit down once and for all and elect any remaining Negro League players - and, for that matter, any remaining pre-World War II major leaguers - while there are still a few of them left to appreciate it, and be done with it. Then just lay down a mandate for the future: the Veterans' Committee should only elect players that at least one member of the Committee is old enough to have played against.
*Also on the subject of baseball's racial progress, Bruce Markusen discusses the 1971 Pirates' all-black lineup (does the race of the players matter, he asks? To which the obvious answer is, "it mattered quite a bit in 1971, and that's why it's worth noting." It would probably be a footnote if another team did it today, and properly so). Markusen also discusses a brewing controversy in the Clemente family's effort to get Roberto Clemente's number retired baseball-wide like Jackie Robinson's. Like the people who want to put Ronald Reagan on the $10 bill and Mount Rushmore, the Clemente family seems to have no sense of proportion and no limits to how much honor Roberto Clemente should receive. Clemente was a milestone for Latin players, but there were Latin players before him, and Juan Marichal was as big a star at the same time. There was only one Jackie Robinson, and no other baseball player changed not only the game but the nation the way he did. His honor should remain singular.
*Hey look! Tommy Lasorda and a panda! Tommy also gives a tip of the cap to the U.S. Army Reserve's 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry, which he spoke to upon their return from Iraq.
February 12, 2006
POLITICS: The King Funeral
Peggy Noonan argues that the funeral of Coretta Scott King, despite its political content, should not be compared to the Paul Wellstone funeral (which she savaged at the time). Via Kaus. It's worth a read.
February 11, 2006
BASEBALL: Sheffield's Win Shares
So, I'm sitting at my computer typing Win Shares into a spreadsheet (yes, I'm still working on that), and notice that the Bill James Handbook 2006 lists Gary Sheffield with 398 career Win Shares. As of 2001, at least, there were 89 players with 350 or more Win Shares, and there were only six eligible non-Hall of Famers in that group: Tony Mullane at 399, Bill Dahlen at 394, Darrell Evans at 363, Rusty Staub at 358, Sherry Magee at 354, and Lou Whitaker at 351. One more, and Sheffield passes all of them, leaving the only non-active non-Hall of Famers ahead of him Pete Rose and Cal Ripken, and Ripken will be in soon.
Active players with 350 or more:
Note that Bonds trails only Babe Ruth (756, an amusingly ironic total) and Ty Cobb (722), but it will take two more years at least to catch Cobb. A-Rod is at 315, so he has a chance to end up in the real stratosphere as well (only 19 players have reached 500 Win Shares, only 9 have reached 600).
Bonds, Sheffield, Palmeiro . . . this is gonna be sportswriter heaven the next decade or so, given the club that the steroid scandals have given the writers to abuse people they don't like.
WAR: Buy Palestinian!
Hamas leaders said Wednesday they plan to make the Palestinian economy independent of Israel's . . .
Since the intifada broke out in 2000, Israel limited the number of these laborers greatly for security reasons, causing Palestinian unemployment to skyrocket. Israel said last year it wanted to stop all Palestinian workers from entering Israel by the year 2008.
The conventional point to make here is that the Palestinians have been cutting off their nose to spite their face, attacking Israel when it's essential to their livelihood.
But there's also a broader point, for all those out there - Arab nations, Europeans, American liberals - who feel that the Palestinians are being mistreated or not getting a fair shake. The PA obviously doesn't have a whole lot of exports, but it does export some food and manufactured goods, and might be able to export more if there was a genuine external market for Palestinian-made goods, especially if they could be shipped eastward through Jordan rather than through Israeli ports. So, for everyone out there complaining about the treatment of the Palestinians, here's your chance to really help and put your money where your mourth is, not with more "aid" to corrupt officials, but to Palestine's citizens: a campaign to buy Palestinian goods. Every Arab country, every left-leaning Middle Eastern Studies program, should be trumpeting the call to "Buy Palestinian," helping to create opportunities and incentives for the growth of peaceful industry in the PA.
If they really mean it, that is.
POLITICS: That Crafty Devil Bush At It Again
This time, he's sneaking private account transition costs into the budget. It's hard, I know, for Democrats to keep up with our clever, wily President.
POP CULTURE: Toon Memory Lane
If you ever want a time-wasting walk down memory lane, spend a few minutes with the five-decade-spanning IMDb page of Hanna Barbera voice specialist Don Messick. What a career: Scooby Doo, Bamm Bamm, Boo Boo, Ricochet Rabbit, Muttley, Mumbley, (gag, cough) Papa Smurf . . . the list of cartoons this guy was in is just amazing.
And if you really want to waste some time, try Toonopedia.
HISTORY: The Uniqueness of the Holocaust
The Holocaust needs to be understood in two dimensions.
The other is the vertical dimension: the Holocaust can't be separated from the long, lamentable history of hatred and violence against Jews in Europe. Viewed in this sense, the Holocaust is different from contemporaneous events not directed at Jews but different only in degree from prior pogroms.
Like many historical events, the Holocaust is only properly understood if you combine the two dimensions, and see that it was the interaction between deep-rooted historic anti-Semitism and a time and place when the methods of mass propaganda and mass production were applied to mass murder as never before or since.
Of course, I should note that a favored tactic of Holocaust denial/minimization is to emphasize the horizontal dimension while utterly ignoring the vertical dimension. You need to take both together.
WAR: Can We Rebuild?
USA Today asks a painful question about our national will and its natural enemy, bureaucracy.
Get over it and get building, already.
February 9, 2006
POLITICS: The Trouble With Harry
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid wrote at least four letters helpful to Indian tribes represented by Jack Abramoff, and the senator's staff regularly had contact with the disgraced lobbyist's team about legislation affecting other clients.
Abramoff's records show his lobbying partners billed for nearly two dozen phone contacts or meetings with Reid's office in 2001 alone.
Abramoff's firm also hired one of Reid's top legislative aides as a lobbyist. The aide later helped throw a fundraiser for Reid at Abramoff's firm that raised donations from several of his lobbying partners.
There's more; read the whole thing. Is all of this the end of the world? No. But it certainly shows that Reid was every bit as much in bed with Abramoff, and maybe moreso, than many of the Republicans he is criticizing, and as such his ties to Abramoff will become a major liability to the Democrats' need to make the Abramoff issue a campaign theme this fall (as Reid himself has signalled it will be their main theme, if not their only theme). If there's nothing wrong with what Harry Reid did - a position Democrats will need to take if they don't want to throw their own leader under the bus - then the bar for a Republican scandal over ties to Abramoff will have to be set pretty high.
LAW: Quote of the Day
From TV producer and ex-lawyer David E. Kelley, on the decline in applications to law school:
The more lawyers there are, the more people are out there to encourage others not to go to law school.
February 8, 2006
POLITICS: Haley Barbour - Not Running in 2008
If you're keeping score of potential 2008 candidates at home - you'll need a large wall to mount the tote board on - you can cross off Mississippi Governor and former RNC Chairman Haley Barbour, a favorite of some conservatives who gained new national respect for his handling of Hurricane Katrina:
Barbour, 58, said he intends to seek a second term as governor in 2007.
Personally, while Barbour's done a fine job as governor, I was never convinced that a Mississippi Republican could win a national election, especially a guy like Barbour who worked as a lobbyist, including for tobacco companies, a position that - like it or not - would have opened him to some fairly broad avenues of attack. Good luck to Barbour in what is now his main focus, getting his state back on its feet after Katrina.
February 7, 2006
BASEBALL: PECOTA 2006
1. I notice that, by BP's reckoning, the fourth-most similar player to Coco Crisp at the same age is . . . Johnny Damon.
2. BP's 5-year projections for Ichiro are grim, showing him never again batting as high as .310 and being out of baseball after four more years. I assume his late-starting career makes Ichiro hard to project, career-wise.
3. Maybe it's just inherent conservatism for low-minors rookies (although it's not manifested in the projections for Andy Marte), but PECOTA is just brutal on Lastings Milledge, essentially projecting him as a below-league-average hitter for the next four seasons. Even if you think Milledge isn't ready yet - he presumably isn't - that seems like a long time to wait, at the end of which the projected payoff is a 25-year-old batting .285/.488/.347. Most likely PECOTA just isn't equipped to make long-range projections of prospects; if not, Mets fans are getting all excited about a guy who has years to go to pull even with Mike Cameron, and behind Cliff Floyd, with the bat.
Patterico (here and here) discusses a vexing issue: segregation of inmates by race in prison. Obviously, dividing people up by race has to be the absolute last resort in any situation. As a result, I'd like to believe that this is unnecessary and should be stopped, but as Patterico points out, when you are talking about how to safely house a population of violent convicted criminals, many of them virulently racist (at least, enough of them to cause serious trouble) and belonging to race-specific gangs, you're already running pretty low on palatable options, and at some point the question becomes how many people you're willing to see get stuck with a shiv to preserve your principles.
As a general rule, it's easier for the peace of mind, and the principles, of civilized people not to think too much about what goes on in prison, and like most people I prefer not to think much about it. But as a consequence, I'd have a hard time criticizing this practice without having walked in the shoes of the people who have to keep order.
BASEBALL: Molina For 2006 Only
So, after all the talk of three-year, eight-figure contracts, Ben Molina signs with the Blue Jays for $4.5 million for one year. That's not a great gamble for Molina, who undoubtedly wanted to cash in on a career year with the bat in 2005, but it's a decent bet for the Blue Jays, who don't get committed to a longer deal, and a distinct sign that the Jays have no faith in the recovery of prospect Guillermo Quiroz (in fact, the Toronto Star implies that JP Ricciardi may even have badmouthed Quiroz as part of his sales pitch to convince Molina that he might have a future in Toronto).
WAR: M*A*S*H RIP
The Army is closing its last MASH unit and donating the equipment to Pakistan, in favor of putting doctors closer to the front.
WAR: Not There. Not There, Ever.
BLOG: But Neither of Them Is Enrico Palazzo
Brian Williams is lucky there are only two prominent and relatively light-skinned young African-American Democrats in Congress. Oops. Although I'm not sure how you could mistake anyone for Obama.
WAR: First, Save Lives
What the hell kind of FBI agents would let a librarian get in the way of stopping a possible terrorist attack? (Via NRO). The FBI agents should have known full well they had the authority to do this - take the computer, stop the attack, and worry about the librarian and her inevitable lawsuit later.
February 6, 2006
LAW: Inherent Authority
POLITICS: A Joke, Folks
Yeah, it's a cheap shot, but this one amused me (well, except for the implications about sports fans, that is).
BLOG: Irregular Content Notice
If you're wondering: my wife and I are expecting baby #3 at the end of February, give or take a few weeks (you never know). As a result:
1. I'm working like crazy right now to get everything done that needs to be done work-wise before the baby gets here; and
2. Once the baby arrives, I'll be at home for about two weeks.
The net result of both of these facts is that posting is going to be irregular around here for the next month or so. And doubly so because I've got to prepare some things for baseball season. I don't intend to let the blog go dark for long stretches, but I can't really promise regular every-morning posting for a bit.
February 5, 2006
WAR/LAW: A Piece of the Rock?
Babbin's unnamed sources may or may not be credible (most likely, they only strongly suspect this and don't have personal knowledge of the facts, although FreeRepublic says Babbin "said flat out that they know that Rockefeller is the source of the leak to the NY Times."), but I'm sure the leak investigation has focused on Rockefeller as a potential suspect anyway; whether that leads anywhere remains to be seen. Ironically, if Rockefeller had disclosed the program on the floor of the Senate he could not be prosecuted under the "Speech and Debate" clause in Art. I, Sec. 6:
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
Note that unlike the privelege from arrest, the Speech and Debate clause is absolute, and contains no exception even for treason. Now, Congressmen and Senators have tried to stretch this to cover prosecutions of all sorts, with decidedly mixed success. Not being an expert on the subject, I'm not sure whether there would be a colorable defense under the Speech and Debate clause for statements made (without the Senator's public identification) to a newspaper, purportedly in the public interest, regarding information obtained in the course of the Senator's duties. You would think not, given the text of the clause, but stranger things have happened in the process of putting a judicial gloss on constitutional provisions.
February 3, 2006
WAR: Staking Out a Position
Mark Steyn nails why Democrats have so often failed to win public trust after September 11:
[W]hen they talk about [Hillary Clinton's] skill in crafting a centrist position on the War On Terror, you think about how absurd that is. You think how ludicrous it would be if people were to talk about people crafting a centrist position on World War II, or World War I, or the Civil War, and it would be absurd. I mean, this is...what it means is that this woman doesn't actually have a position on the war that is not dictated by anything other than focus groups and internal polling. She's a completely empty shell in that respect.
I'm not entirely certain that this is a fair charge against Hillary, who has seemed pretty consistently hawkish, although you can't ever discount pure political calculation when you're talking about the Clintons. But the larger point is crucial: while it's certainly true that around the edges all politicians need to work at staying within the bounds of public approval needed to get anything done, war is something you can't approach without a deeply seated base of the kind of convictions that supersede electoral politics. Any attempt to "craft" a position on the matter is necessarily doomed to failure.
BLOG: Grilled Cheese
I often find I have too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Yet I often see news items suggesting that some people have the opposite problem, causing them to spend the time necessary to learn how to do things like eat 26 grilled cheese sandwiches in 10 minutes. Or, perhaps more astonishingly, attend an event at which you watch someone else eat 26 grilled cheese sandwiches in 10 minutes.
Then there's the guy who invented the "Chuck Norris Facts," some of which are admittedly very funny.
BASEBALL: Piazza and Molina
David Pinto is skeptical that Piazza will turn out to be productive for the Padres, given that his main skill is power and PETCO is the toughest park in baseball for a power hitter. David has a point, although the Padres still play half their games on the road, including a bunch of division games in Pac Bell (a good power park if not a good hitters' park generally) and Coors. I'd suggest the Pads give Piazza more rest at home, but his new backup Doug Mirabelli is also pretty dependent on power; in 610 at bats the past four years with the Red Sox, he's batted .249 but with 28 homers and 39 doubles.
Anyway, Piazza may be slipping, but as David notes, he's a bargain at $2 million a year, and frankly a much better deal than the Mets are getting with Paul LoDuca. The guy whose shoes I would not want to be in is Bengie Molina's agent. Molina was reportedly looking for something like $6 million a year, if I recall correctly, but given that Piazza outhit Molina this season while Molina was having a career year, and that Piazza could probably beat Molina in a footrace and Molina's equal in all aspects of defense other than throwing, it's going to be awful hard to convince anyone to pay Molina two or three times Piazza's salary.
(I had more on Piazza, Molina and other catchers on the market here).
February 2, 2006
POLITICS: Now That's More Like It
Original headline on CNN.com regarding John Boehner's victory in the race for GOP House Majority Leader:
House GOP picks man to replace indicted DeLay
Which, typically, simultaneously downplayed Boehner ("man," as if they just picked some random dude off the street) and trumpeted DeLay's indictment, which isn't exactly news.
The headline now, last I checked:
Reform candidate wins GOP House leadership battle
Actually, that's taking it a little far; John Shadegg was the Mr. Outside, root-and-branch small-government reform candidate; Roy Blunt was the Mr. Inside, big-spending, spread-the-wealth status quo candidate. Boehner, perhaps wisely, positioned himself in the middle, allowing Members to vote for reform without radical change. He actually played this whole thing out pretty shrewdly, which is an encouraging sign for his future stewardship of the House GOP; while Blunt was loudly high-handed and Shadegg's public supporters tore into Blunt, Boehner managed to hang back a bit. He was nobody's favorite candidate, but then that's usually the type of person who becomes the leader of a legislative caucus. And he did - in part thanks to Shadegg - end up campaigning for spending reforms, particularly transparency and reform of the earmark process. Not a great day for Republicans, but a good start.
February 1, 2006
POLITICS: A Taxonomy of Washington Scandals
Continuing this week's theme of writings in other venues, I have a column up at the Weekly Standard this morning on the ten basic types of Washington scandal.
Space and time didn't permit me to do an exhaustive comparative look at the scandals of the Bush and Clinton Administrations, but the bottom line is that the Bush White House simply hasn't been implicated to the same extent in the types of scandals that turn on personal greed, vice and venality. Congressional Republicans, however, have been another story.