Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
November 25, 1998
BASEBALL: A statistical fallacy in the Continuing NL MVP Debate and elsewhere

From an email I wrote to Rob Neyer in 1998:

Rob --
I should preface this letter by stating that I am (1) a regular and often favorable reader of your column (2) a general subscriber to the Bill James world view and (3) not a Cubs fan. This issue has arisen both in the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa comparison and also in the local controversy over whether the Yankees should replace the oft-injured Bernie Williams with the nearly indestructible (except by himself) Albert Belle.

In your columns lauding McGwire over Sosa, you rely heavily on productivity-related statistics: Slg and OBP. You thus give a team of McGwires an edge over a team of Sosas, per plate appearance.

The problem is this: Sammy Sosa had about 45 more plate appearances than Mark McGwire because he was younger and healthier. A lineup of nine Sammy Sosas would require over 400 fewer at bats by its bench than a lineup of nine Big Macs -- almost a full-time players' worth. And those bench players will naturally not be comparable players to Sosa and McGwire. In real life, this means the Cards were giving extra at bats to John Mabry that the Cubs were giving to Sosa instead of, say, Lance Johnson or Brant Brown (OK, the Cubbies had better alternatives). How can this be irrelevant to Sosa's value? Granted, in this case the formula credits McGwire with more total RCs anyway, but considering this factor does narrow the productivity difference.

For more sophisticated analysis, perhaps an adjusted RC/27 measure could be devised (adding accuracy at the expense of simplicity) by averaging in a replacement-level player's productivity at the same position up to the maximum available at bats (though I recognize this would be complex -- McGwire already had over 670 plate appearances, so what's the limit?).

Anyway, thought I'd pass the idea along because the tendency to equate percentage productivity with overall production is all too easy to slip into and should be avoided.

PS -- Why does the Runs Created formula discount intentional walks? They may not be "earned" by the hitter but they still put runs on the board. Barry Bonds' intentional passes are just as much a part of his offense as bases he steals uncontested, double plays he doesn't hit into because the infield is in, walks because he was pitched around, hits resulting from a shift, etc.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:19 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 23, 1998

From an email I wrote in November 1998, prior to Bill Clinton being impeached by the House of Representatives.

While I continue to be appalled -- as a matter of principle -- by the prospect of settling for a 'censure' of the President (because it is clearly (1) an insufficient remedy (2) an overstepping of Congress' constitutional authority and (3) an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder), politics is nothing if not the art of the possible, so it is worth thinking about the many things that the House, the Senate (to have any effect, such a bill must be passed by both houses and signed by The Big Jerk), and possibly the Independent Counsel (if such a resolution is to be truly global) could demand:

1. The first nonnegotiable demand in any negotiated resolution of the impeachment proceedings must be a complete acceptance of responsibility and vindication of the rule of law by the Prez. He must not only admit to lying under oath and to -- at minimum -- failing to dissuade others from lying under oath in ways that were forseeable to him and worked to his benefit, but he must also concede that it was entirely legal and proper for the independent counsel to investigate him and entirely unjustified for the executive branch to carry on a concerted campaign to delay and frustrate the investigation and to smear duly authorized prosecutors who were exercising the executive power of the United States. He doesn't have to publicly absolve the GOP -- this ain't beanbag, after all -- but if he keeps blaming Starr there can be no peace and no true remorse.

2. He could be required to repay the costs of the 7-month investigation.

3. He could be barred from holding office.

4. He could agree to turn in his license to practice law.

5. It had been suggested that he could agree to remove the worst of his cronies from office, but many such as Morris and Carville are no longer formally employed anyway. But it would have to be people related to the Lewinsky thing -- asking for Janet Reno's head (or Bill Lann Lee's, for example) would likely be seen as overreaching.

6. He could plead guilty in federal court (say, a friendly forum such as Arkansas so the judge would buy the deal) with a recommendation of no jail time and fines & conditions in the amounts specified in the resolution.

7. OR, he could be left open to future prosecution.

8. He could be forced to testify before the Grand Jury, waive all privilieges, & produce documents (without immunity) as to all other subjects under investigation, including campaign finance.

9. He could be forced to agree explicitly not to pardon Susan McDougal or Webb Hubbell (though this too is probably unconstitutional).

10. Or, of course, in fine Washington tradition a backroom deal could be worked out relating to some issue -- Social Security reform, Supreme Court nominations, etc. -- but he would likely fail to abide by it.

Just some thoughts, to suggest that the Congressional Republicans may have more options than they let on.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:11 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)