Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
December 30, 2008
POLITICS: Detroit Is Still Burning

The marvelous Matt Labash has a lengthy profile of Detroit that's both hilarious and heartbreaking. (H/T) On a macro level, conservatives tend to laugh at Detroit as being the Zimbabwe of American cities, a place where all of the worst pathologies of political, economic and cultural liberalism have been allowed to run wild for decades with predictably ghastly results, yet the city's incompetent and kleptocratic political class is perpetually insulated from accountability by an impenetrable wall of race-mongering. The Reagan Revolution, the reformist governorship of John Engler, the Gingrich/Clinton welfare reforms, the economic booms of 1983-89, 1995-99, and 2003-06...all of these helped put temporary brakes on the downward spiral at times but none did anything to alter the fundamental dynamics that have kept the city stuck in a permanent reverse gear. Detroit's residents, like Chicago's, truly have the government they want and deserve.

And yet, as is often true of the truly wrecked places of the world, on an individual level the human tragedies of the place are still worthy of our pity even as they overwhelm even the most optimistic among us (Detroit is almost certainly too far gone to be revived by a Rudy Giuliani or Bobby Jindal type, not that any is on the horizon). Labash combines horrifying statistics with heart-rending anecdotes to bring home precisely how bad things have gotten, and to pay tribute to the Detroiters who still battle the blaze. It's a must-read.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:12 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: "But The Internet Said She Was 18!"

It's the old story:
Boy searches for girl on
Boy meets girl
Boy has sex with girl
Girl turns out to be 14
Boy gets arrested for sex with a minor
Boy sues for allowing her to represent on her profile that she was 18.

The Sixth Circuit dismisses the case:

A risk is considered open and obvious when its "dangers are within the body of knowledge common to the community" and "generally known and recognized by the ordinary consumer." Gawloski v. Miller Brewing Co., 644 N.E.2d 731, 733 (Ohio Ct. App. 1994). In this case, the danger that a member of SexSearch could be a minor is open and obvious. Internet users' anonymity and potential for false personal representations are well known. Doe was familiar with the registration process and knew that SexSearch did nothing more than asking members to check a box indicating that they are at least eighteen. Furthermore, even if there was a duty to warn, the statement in the Terms and Conditions that SexSearch could not verify members' information could be seen as a satisfaction of that duty. Therefore, Doe has failed to state a claim for failure to warn.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:13 AM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
December 29, 2008
BASEBALL: Like A Brad Penny

Joy of Sox looks at the flier the Red Sox are taking on Brad Penny, who will presumably take over Bartolo Colon's role on the Sox. I guess given Boston's experience with Josh Beckett they are currently more enthusiastic about fragile ex-Marlins than Yankees fans are to see AJ Burnett walk in the footsteps of Carl Pavano.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:30 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Dave Barry Does 2008

The annual year in review column, always a must-read. January alone contains the most concise summary ever of the Obama campaign, while May contains a concise summary of how John McCain spent the months between wrapping up the nomination and the end of the Democratic race.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:06 PM | Blog 2006-14 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
December 27, 2008
BASEBALL: Yankee Dollar


The Yankees are like Mr. Potter from It's a Wonderful Life. He was buying up bank shares cheap during the depression, but he was also supplying liquidity. The Yankees are doing the same, as their luxury tax and revenue sharing bills help keep other teams competitive.

I hate the Hated Yankees as much or more than the next guy, I still think it's bad for baseball that one team should have such vastly larger financial resources than even the other rich teams, and I still support my matching fund idea as a more elegant solution to economic disparities ruining the fun of the game. Pinto's and Drezner's analogies notwithstanding, baseball is a sport before it is a business (as Bill James once noted, the game would survive if the business model collapsed, but the business would never survive if interest in the sport collapsed); we may want Coke and Pepsi to drive lesser soda companies out of business, but the Yankees would not benefit if the Royals ended up folding halfway through a season as was known to happen in 19th century baseball.

All that being said, some of the reaction to the latest Yankee spending spree has been overblown, not least given the huge salaries that are coming off the Yankee payroll this offseason - Giambi, Mussina, Abreu, possibly Pettitte. And of course, the 21st Century may yet see a New York baseball team win a championship, but it hasn't thus far. Teixeira, Sabathia and Burnett are just the Yankees being the Yankees.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:33 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
December 26, 2008

For your viewing enjoyment, as you (hopefully) have a day off to lay about the house and enjoy the fruits of Christmas: Tony Oliva playing Wii baseball:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:10 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 22, 2008
BASEBALL: The Middle Infielders Revisited

After I did my Hardball Times column on the post-1920 middle infielders in the Hall of Fame conversation, including the recently elected Joe Gordon - and you should go back and read the column if you expect to make sense of this post - I figured I'd like to check how the rough offensive "Rate" metric I was using stacks up to more sophisticated measurements that incorporate defense. With that in mind, I've pulled together in chart form for the long- and short-prime middle infielders a ranking by Win Shares per 162 team games for their prime years. To add to the picture I list their WS/162 for the non-prime seasons of their careers, which of course are highly variable (some guys get charged with "seasons" for a brief cup of coffee, like Alex Rodriguez in 1994 and 1995 or Rogers Hornsby spending the last 6 years of his career as a manager and part-time pinch hitter). Anyway, as you will see, the WS rankings match up fairly well with mine but naturally diverge in some cases, most obviously guys like Ozzie Smith who had a lot of defensive value.

PlayerAgeYearsSeasonsWSWS/162Career WSRestRest YrsAvg WSRate
Rogers Hornsby24-331920-299.5136238.0750214012.1211.55186.7
Joe Morgan25-331969-778.9530433.9751220811.6917.79131.4
Arky Vaughan21-291933-418.5627832.48356784.7516.42132.1
Craig Biggio25-331991-998.5726931.3942815911.0014.45127.3
Alex Rodriguez20-271996-038.0025031.253991496.5922.61140.7
Ryne Sandberg24-321984-929.0026028.89346866.3613.52116.3
Charlie Gehringer25-351928-3810.4630228.87383817.6010.66128.4
Lou Boudreau22-301940-488.5623827.80277395.706.84114.8
Cal Ripken21-301982-9110.0027327.3042715410.2315.05121.9
Roberto Alomar23-331991-0110.5728126.58375946.0015.67113.4
Derek Jeter24-331998-0710.0026326.30320573.9014.62121.2
Vern Stephens21-291942-508.5622526.29265405.707.02111.3
Frankie Frisch22-321921-3110.4627426.20366927.5212.23106.3
Joe Cronin23-341930-4111.4129625.94333377.604.87108.6
Jim Fregosi21-281963-708.0020725.88261549.965.42106.9
Jeff Kent29-371997-059.0023225.783391077.5914.10116.6
Joe Sewell22-291921-287.6019525.66277825.7014.39110.4
Billy Herman25-331935-438.5621725.35298815.7014.21110.9
Barry Larkin27-351991-998.5721725.3234713010.0013.00101.3
Nellie Fox23-321951-609.5124025.24304648.807.27103.2
Pee Wee Reese27-361946-559.5123724.92314775.7013.51100.8
Chuck Knoblauch23-301992-997.5718824.83231434.0010.75110.9
Luke Appling26/421933/4914.2635424.82378244.755.05100.3
Bobby Doerr22/321940/509.5123224.40281493.8012.89107.7
Joe Gordon23/341938/499.5123024.19242120.9512.63106.1
Bobby Grich23-351972-8412.6729623.36329334.008.2599.5
Alan Trammell22-321980-9010.6724823.24318708.608.1499.1
Lou Whitaker26-351983-9210.0022822.803511238.2714.87102.6
Ozzie Smith30-371985-928.0017922.3832514610.2714.2284.4
Tony Fernandez23-311985-939.0019822.00280827.6010.7990.0
Tony Lazzeri22-321926-3610.4623021.99252222.857.72105.6
Davey Concepcion26-341974-828.6718921.80269809.958.0485.9
Jay Bell25-331991-998.5718321.35245629.006.8999.5
Jim Gilliam24-341953-6310.6021920.66247283.009.3384.3
Willie Randolph21-321976-8711.6723820.39312746.0012.3385.6
Bert Campaneris23-341965-7611.9524120.17280396.685.8480.5
Ray Durham26-341998-069.0017419.33231573.9014.6293.8
Davey Johnson24-311967-748.0014718.38171245.004.8086.7
Luis Aparicio25-361959-7011.8521217.89293815.8013.9776.2
Marty Marion23-311941-498.5615317.87177243.806.3266.8
Bill Mazeroski20-311957-6811.7519516.60219244.914.8971.9
Frank White27-361978-879.6714815.31211638.007.8872.3

As you can see, Frisch, Cronin, Smith and Larkin - as befits their reputations - all go up the list by this measure, while Lazzeri, Whitaker, Bell and Durham go down (you will note, amusingly, that this puts Whitaker and Trammell together).

Two small data inconsistencies with the article, which was written after the 2006 season. One, I added Derek Jeter's 2007 (but not 2008) to complete his prime years; two, I adjusted Miguel Tejada's age.

PlayerAgeYearsSeasonsWSWS/162Career WSRestRest YrsAvg WSRate
Jackie Robinson29-331948-524.7516234.11257954.7520.00135.6
Robin Yount24-281980-844.6714430.8442327915.0018.60129.2
Ernie Banks24-301955-616.6519429.1733213811.9011.60135.3
Rod Carew25-291971-754.9512926.0638425513.6818.64120.7
Miguel Tejada26-322000-067.0018226.00239575.0011.40115.9
Eddie Stanky28-341945-516.6516424.66191273.807.1198.2
Nomar Garciaparra23-291997-037.0016924.14218496.008.17109.4
Gil McDougald23-291951-576.6515723.61194372.8512.9894.8
Dave Bancroft29-351920-266.6515623.462691138.2813.6593.2
Maury Wills27-331960-666.9016023.19253936.9113.4680.4
Phil Rizzuto29-351946-526.6515423.16231775.7013.5187.0
Davey Lopes28-341973-797.0015822.57240828.649.4993.0
Alvin Dark26-321948-546.6515022.56226766.6511.4396.8
Julio Franco26-321985-917.0015522.1428012515.707.96105.3
Red Schoendienst28-341951-576.6514722.1126211511.519.9997.3
Travis Jackson22-271926-315.7012622.11211858.569.9389.0
Cecil Travis21-271935-416.6514621.95169234.754.8496.8
Omar Vizquel29-351996-027.0011917.0026714812.5911.7682.4

As discussed in the article, Carew and Yount - like A-Rod - have other seasons that are "prime" but not as middle infielders (I looked at Carew's broader prime in the article on the tablesetters).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:29 AM | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
December 21, 2008
POLITICS: King Arthur's Daughter

I am torn on the issue of Caroline Kennedy being appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill out Hillary Clinton's term. On the one hand, as a New Yorker, I'm appalled. On the other hand, as a Republican, this is the best thing that could possibly happen short of Gov. Paterson deciding he likes the ring of "Senator Spitzer."

Kennedy is one of scores of wealthy Democrats in this state who have never held public office or accomplished really all that much in the public or private sector; all she has is her family name. That the Democrats are even considering her tells me that they've basically fallen into one of two dangerous delusions:

(1) That it's the 1930s again and all you need is a D next to your name to win;
(2) That Obama's victory proves that glamor and celebrity are more important than experience, accomplishments or a substantive platform.

I don't think much of David Paterson, but I'd have thought he has more backbone and independence than to let Kennedy's base (the media and the Obama camp) bully him into choosing such a poor candidate rather than the other available options, all of whom have more political experience and, frankly, all of whom would pay more (public) political dividends to Paterson, himself an accidental Governor who has yet to receive a mandate from the public.

Now, it is far too late in the game for either party to object on principle to political dynasties, given the scores of political families in this country (few states are without at least one major one). Nor is it wholly a bad thing - we accept politics as a family business for the same reason why we accept Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey jr., Jakob Dylan, Ben Stiller, Kate Hudson...every business is a family business, and the children of the pros do often learn things early. But of course, legacy politics has also given us more than its share of brain-dead empty suits like Bob Casey and Linc Chaffee who could never, ever have gotten elected to public office on their own. And this is still a democracy; even if we're willing to vote for second or third generation politicos, they still need to prove that they can run the gauntlet of seeking public approval first (George W. Bush, for example, cut his teeth working for his dad's campaigns but had no public office until he was elected to one by the people of Texas). The idea of just handing office to a 51-year-old who has never, so far as I can tell, accomplished anything in the practice of law or in politics simply because of her famous name is repugnant.

On the other hand, the GOP actually has a pretty strong candidate in Pete King, and Kennedy is about the worst possible matchup to a pugnacious Long Island Irishman with a blue-collar edge. She has no separate and distinct geographic or ethnic base, other than perhaps her gender, and it's sad that modern feminism's political icons seem to be women who only got jobs because of who their husbands or fathers are. She can't match King's long record in office and his many years sparring on the political talkers, nor his common touch. Kennedy would start out with pole position against King purely on party identification, but from there that's all she has - her nomination would be the ultimate example of what we have seen a lot of the last month, the hubris of Democrats who think they can never lose what they only just won.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:04 AM | Politics 2008 • | Politics 2010 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
December 17, 2008
LAW: Lawyers Behaving Badly

From this to this to this, I'm starting to take an even dimmer view of my own profession than I already did. The first guy I actually dealt with on a case about ten years ago, and he did in fact seem like a perfectly reasonable guy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:48 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: I Have Given A Name To My Pain

Now if this kid's first and middle names were given to one of this man's children...well, you couldn't get worse than that, could you?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:46 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Rafael Furcal maybe hasn't signed with the Braves; at least, the Dodgers think he's still talking to them.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:53 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 16, 2008
WAR: Cheney Holds His Ground

After September 11, the United States awoke to a series of unpleasant realities: an enemy was at war with us, and had been for some years; that enemy was not a traditional nation-state, but a loose confederation of non-state-actors - with safe havens and support provided by foreign states, to be sure, but united by a common political/religious ideology rather than by a geographic base; the enemy worked both within and without our borders, and depended on stealth; and our government was institutionally unprepared to deal with an enemy of that nature and methods. The Bush Administration, from that day to this, has faced a long series of hard choices in prosecuting a war unlike the major wars of the past: how to conduct surveillance on the enemy, how to detain and interrogate captured enemies, how to get boots on the ground overseas, and how to remake our intelligence and law enforcement systems to handle the information gained by doing all these things.

One of the signal failures of the Bush second term, in particular, has been an undue timidity in defending the hard and difficult choices made - choices, in many cases, that Barack Obama will have little realistic option but to ratify if he's going to be serious about defending the country. Attorney General Muskasey has been one rare exception to this trend, but the Administration's last and strongest voice on national security remains Vice President Cheney. Kudos to the VP for standing up for the Administration's security policies in a recent interview with ABC News:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:23 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Brave Once Again

The Braves re-signing Rafael Furcal would seem, at first glance, an admission that the younger DP combination of Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson has failed, and needs to be replaced. But at least offensively, both Escobar and Johnson have held up their end, and I don't really see the basis for dumping either of them on defensive grounds (just on a quick check, both had good range factors this season, and the Braves had a fairly good team Defensive Efficiency Rating and turned an above-average number of double plays). So I have to assume that the deal is setting up Escobar and/or Johnson to be traded (ESPN suggests possibly as a package for Jake Peavy).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:56 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
December 15, 2008
POLITICS: Planned Unparenthood

Ross Douthat looks at myth and reality regarding Planned Parenthood's abortion business.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:17 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: Classic Simmons

BTW, you missed a great column if you didn't read Bill Simmons' amazingly comprehensive NFL anti-gift list.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:31 PM | Football | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Sometimes You Feel Like A Putz

Omar Minaya's work on the bullpen this offseason has been less a restructuring than an exorcism, with the signing of Francisco Rodriguez, the trade of Scott Schoeneweis to Arizona, and the deal sending Aaron Heilman and Joe Smith to, respectively, the Mariners and Indians and bringing home JJ Putz, the Mets have now dumped most of the culprits in the last two seasons' bullpen collapses (Guillermo Mota and Jorge Sosa already being gone and Luis Ayala not offered arbitration and possibly headed to Colorado, although Duaner Sanchez remains) and have two closers (Putz being the setup man as long as K-Rod is healthy) and pretty good odds that at least one of them will be really good. As of now, assuming Wagner's not available to pitch next season, the pen looks like Rodriguez, Putz, Feliciano, Sanchez, the newly-acquired Sean Green, and youngsters (Feliciano being the only lefty in the group).

Keith Law has an overview here of the Putz deal. Putz has great stuff and still had an excellent K rate last season, but really - as we've said so often with the Mets the past few years - it's all about his health. In pure baseball terms, the Mets did give up a lot to get Putz, but a good deal of that was guys like Heilman and Smith who probably needed to be evacuated from Queens. Endy Chavez will be missed for sentimental reasons but is the most replaceable type of outfielder and was barely playing by season's end. The Mets need better bats in the corners, anyway. Mike Carp is the guy I hated to see go - he'll just be 23 this year and batted .299/.403/.471 in AA in 2008, suggesting a guy who could be a legit 1B or LF in the bigs.

As for the other new arrivals, Jeremy Reed was a highly-touted prospect back when he batted .409/.472/.591 in half a season at AA as a 22-year-old, and his career minor league line is .321/.386/.476, but Reed's never recovered his swing after some hand injuries and has at most been a singles hitter in the majors - last year from June 1 to August 16 he hit .297 but still managed just a .337 OBP and .394 slugging. He even hit better at home than on the road in 2008, for a change, so his struggles at the big league level can't be blamed on Safeco.

Then there's Green, who has been very frustrating for Mariners fans in his two full years in Seattle, in which he's posted a 4.29 ERA in 136 appearances (146 if you count AAA). Green keeps the ball down (only 0.31 HR/9 over those two years) but is terribly wild (4.29 BB/9 compared to 7.04 K). He has about the same home and road numbers. But what jumps out, given the fairly large number of games he's appeared in, is a very pronounced tendency to hit the wall in August: in 2007-08 he had a 2.76 ERA through July 31, averaging 7.99 Hits, 0.37 HR, 3.77 BB and 7.71 K per 9; from August 1 through the end of the year, that goes to a 7.35 ERA, 12.86 H, 0.18 HR, 5.33 BB and 5.69 K. Green threw, counting AAA, 45 games through the end of July 2007 and 53 through the end of July 2008 (on the whole, his 82 appearances from 8/1/07 through 7/31/08 ranked him sixth in the majors, albeit ranked behind Heilman and Feliciano and tied with Ayala). I don't know if the late-season fades are preventable, but I'd sure like to see Green kept on a tighter leash in 2009.

On the Schoeneweis deal - as an exercise in comparative agony, consider this Chicago item begging the Cubs to trade Jason Marquis to get Schoeneweis. You can see the minor league numbers here for Connor Robertson, the righthanded reliever the Mets got for Schoenweis; he'll be 27 next year and had a 5.02 ERA in the (admittedly hitter-happy) PCL last season, averaging 3.77 BB/9 and 1.26 wild pitches per 9. On the upside, he's struck out 11.32 batters per 9 innings in his minor league career, and he doesn't have Schoeneweis' contract.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:45 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: So Much For New York's Famously Low Taxes

Via Shannon Bell: David Paterson is planning to join the roll of tax hiking Democratic governors with $4 billion in new tax hikes, including consumption taxes and, less objectionably, raising fees for government services, but, to Paterson's credit, not hiking income tax rates. On the spending side, Paterson is proposing some tough cuts - to Medicaid and education - but also expanding other areas of state spending like welfare and health insurance:

The most significant move was a proposed increase to welfare grants for the first time in 18 years, though more money would not be made available until the beginning of 2010. The administration plans to seek a 30 percent increase over three years, with the eventual cost of the increase exceeding $100 million a year.

The basic welfare grant would eventually rise to $387 a month from $291 for a family of three, or $3,492 per year, where it has remained since 1990.

That the administration was pushing the measure foretold how little money was available this year; the increased welfare grants will have little impact on the budget for the coming fiscal year, which ends in March 2010.

The administration also said it would expand a state-financed health insurance program, Family Health Plus, to cover 19- and 20-year-olds who no longer live with their parents. Enrolling in such programs would also be made easier by, among other things, ending requirements for face-to-face interviews.

As the NY Times notes, Paterson will likely come under pressure from Democrats, especially in the Assembly, to add income tax hikes on the same New York taxpayers also being targeted by Democrats at the national and city levels, and to drop the spending cuts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:30 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Stealing Time

For one of the longer-term projects I've been working on, I've been going over the league-wide stolen base and caught stealing data at; I've been going back to the beginning of the Retrosheet era in 1956, since that's when the site has defensive stolen base data for individual catchers, although for the NL the site has league-wide figures back to 1951, and the AL to 1920.

Anyway, I thought I'd share the chart I put together for the 1956-2008 period, showing the number of games played, steals and caught stealings for each league, followed by the league-wide average of stolen base attempts per 162 team games and league-wide stolen base percentages.


A couple of conclusions:

1. You can see the rapid upward movements in steal attempts in the NL around 1962 (Maury Wills' big year) and 1974 (Lou Brock's), the AL much later in 1965-66 and then around 1974, and the big falloff around 2000 capping a longer-term decline (the NL's one-year spike in 1999 looks like just a fluke).

2. We're at something like a historic happy medium for stolen base attempts. Very low numbers of steal attempts generally mean that a lot of steal attempts are busted hit-and-runs, with a low success rate (the stolen base percentages of the 1950s bear this out), whereas very high numbers indicate a lot of high-risk running.

3. I think a good deal of the shift from the AL to the NL in big base stealing in the late 1970s was driven not just by the DH rule but by managers: Chuck Tanner moved to the NL in 1977, Whitey Herzog in 1980. Tanner in particular left his stamp on the AL in 1976, when he forgot his mother's admonition that if you make that steal sign on Opening Day it might freeze that way. The 1976 A's, on their way to their first failure to win the division in six years (helped along by the exodus of the Mustache Gang's stars) attempted an obscene 464 steals (the only other team in the league over 230 was Herzog's Royals at 322), albeit at an admirable 73.5% success rate. Don Baylor attempted 64 steals, Bill North 104, Sal Bando (!) 26, Phil Garner 48, Claudell Washington 57, Bert Campaneris 66, and the team's two full-time pinch runners, Matt Alexander and Larry Lintz, combined to attempt 69 steals while having only 33 plate appearances.

4. Stolen base percentages were growing steadily for much of the period, but have really entered a golden age only in the last 2-4 years - before 2004-05, it was rare for the AL to reach a 70% success rate, and the NL wasn't able to stay consistently above 70%; since then, we've seen the NL average spiral as high as 75.6%, with both leagues above 73% the past two seasons for the first time ever. The Mets and Phillies, led by Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, have been the leaders: in 2007-08, the Mets attempted an average of 210 steals per year with an 80.5% success rate, the Phillies an average of 159 steals with an 86.2% success rate.

It's an interesting question what the cause of this is. Probably the influence of sabermetrics is a part, especially since the growing popularity of Baseball Prospectus, the 2003 publication of Moneyball, the passing of generational torches and other events have helped focus managers' attention on not running themselves out of innings (a process accelerated by the post-1994 scoring/home run explosion that peaked in 1999-2000). I suspect that baserunners have gotten faster at a greater rate than catchers have been throwing harder. I don't think it's the pitchers; if anything, you hardly see the big leg kicks of the 1970s anymore. Looking around the league, it's hard to say that teams are really diminishing the priority they place on catchers who can throw, either (Piazza's not in the league anymore). I don't think equipment is a big factor, especially with artificial turf in declining usage, but better shoes may be incrementally aiding the baserunners.

Anyway, it's yet another reminder of how many different aspects of the game evolve over time, both in terms of strategy and in terms of outcomes.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:46 PM | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Fortune takes what is intended to be a sympathetic look at Charles Ponzi, but doesn't really succeed in suggesting that he was any different from the many imitators who have followed, a good number of whom also seem to have started off as legitimate, well-intentioned businessmen.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:36 PM | Business • | History | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 11, 2008
BLOG: Wrong Week To Quit Sniffing Glue Open Thread

This is an exceptionally crummy week to not have time to blog, but work pays the bills (and, as it happens, I'm working on some very interesting stuff - just quite a lot of it at the same time), plus my home PC is still out of service. For those of you who come here regularly, here's your open thread for now on

CC Sabathia
JJ Putz
Rod Blagojevich
Senate Candidate #5
Auto company bailouts

Or, you know, whatever else.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:53 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (29) | TrackBack (0)
December 10, 2008
BASEBALL: It's Not The Years, It's The Miles

Quick followup to the anecdotal evidence cited in yesterday's post: here's the complete list of pitchers who threw at least 200 games through age 26, with at least half of those appearances in relief. As you can see, K-Rod is second on the list at 408, and the #3 guy, Terry Forster, is 65 games behind him. K-Rod trails Mitch Williams 437-429 if you include the postseason.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
RELIGION/HISTORY: Christmas in June!

crazyeddie.jpgThe tradition of celebrating Christmas in December is, as most people familiar with the history of the early Church know, not based on a December birthday for Jesus - the Bible mentions nothing of the sort - but on accomodation of the Church calendar with the Roman traditional holidays around the winter solstice. The exact date of Christ's birth has generally been lost to history. There are two documentable historical events, however, that the Biblical narrative can be tied to - the Roman census under Caesar Augustus, and the Star of Bethlehem.

Here you can read one of the latest efforts to nail down the latter, an atronomical historian trying to pinpoint the "star" as being a particularly close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in the night sky (such as we've been experiencing in less complete form the past few weeks - I had the kids on the lawn with the telescope a few weekends ago):

The researchers claim the 'Christmas star' was most likely a magnificent conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter, which were so close together they would have shone unusually brightly as a single "beacon of light" which appeared suddenly.


Australian astronomer Dave Reneke used complex computer software to chart the exact positions of all celestial bodies and map the night sky as it would have appeared over the Holy Land more than 2,000 years ago.

It revealed a spectacular astronomical event around the time of Jesus's birth.

Mr Reneke says the wise men probably interpreted it as the sign they had been waiting for, and they followed the 'star' to Christ's birthplace in a stable in Bethlehem, as described in the Bible.

Generally accepted research has placed the nativity to somewhere between 3BC and 1AD.

Using the St Matthew's Gospel as a reference point, Mr Reneke pinpointed the planetary conjunction, which appeared in the constellation of Leo, to the exact date of June 17 in the year 2BC.

It's an interesting theory; such theories tend to be pretty common in Bliblical history, but as Reneke notes, astronomy is a fairly precise science, and identifying a specific astronomical event that fits so neatly with the Gospel account at least adds one small piece to a historical picture that is likely to remain somewhat elusive.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:37 AM | History • | Religion • | Science | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
December 9, 2008

No formal confirmation yet, but the Mets appear to have signed Francisco Rodriguez for 3 years and $37 million. This is good news for the Mets, and of course much worse news for the Angels, who have a fairly big budget of their own to throw around but have a lot of holes to plug.

First, the Angels. They exceeded their Pythagorean record by 12 games in 2008, which means that (1) they're due to fall backwards next year and (2) they relied heavily on a deep bullpen in 2008. Take K-Rod out of the picture, and that will be stretched thinner (Darren Oliver is returning, but he's not cut out to be more than a fifth man in the pen). I assume Jose Arredondo will eventually take over closing duties, though Scot Shields will probably get first crack. And that's before you deal with the challenge of re-signing Mark Teixeira, as well as clearing out Jon Garland and Garret Anderson and Juan Rivera also free agents - all guys (other than Tex) that you can spare, but it's harder to replace them all at once.

From the Mets perspective, I've always liked K-Rod, but I've been suspicious of him as a long-term investment. Some of that may just be a matter of listening to the Baseball Prospectus people fretting about his mechanics for years, of course. But there's also history: as I have noted before, by far the most similar pitcher to K-Rod through age 26 is Gregg Olson, who flamed out at 27, and #3 is Bobby Thigpen, who did the same at 28. Looking at the all-time leaders through age 26, K-Rod is one of 3 relievers in the top 10 in games pitched (the rest are 19th century starting pitchers), and the others are Mitch Williams, finished at 29, and Terry Forster, who threw just 58 innings between age 27 and 29. The top 10 in saves is K-Rod, Olson, Thigpen, Chad Cordero (who was hurt most of this season at age 26), Rod Beck, Williams, Ugueth Urbina, Bruce Sutter (who had his first off year at 30 and broke down starting at 32), Billy Koch, who hit the wall at 28, and Forster. Even bearing in mind that K-Rod has none of Williams' mental problems or Forster's conditioning issues, basically there's two guys on that list who didn't really suffer a sudden loss in effectiveness (Beck and Urbina, although Beck basically never recovered his high strikeout rates) and one (Sutter) who lasted into his 30s before the wheels came off. Turning to the top 10 in games finished, we get most of the same crowd plus Goose Gossage, whose broken hand at 27 was the only bump in the road, Byung-Hyun Kim, who missed most of his age 25 season and hasn't been the same since, and Jorge Julio, who at any rate has come down in the world from when he was 23, was terrible at 26 and 28 and was hurt this season at 29. We may not have a very lengthy track record to evaluate the durability of young relievers who throw a lot of games in their early twenties, but what we do have presents pretty grim odds.

Statistically, there's also K-Rod's declining K rate; although it was still over 10 this year, the trend combined with his high walk rate are worrisome signs.

All of which is why a 4-year contract would have scared me, a lot, and why I still regard K-Rod as a risky acquisition, much as Billy Wagner and BJ Ryan were big injury risks three years ago, and both of them went down. But the Mets needed a closer; Wagner's out most or probably all of next year, and K-Rod was better than the other options on the market. If he stays healthy for two of the three years of the deal, it won't be a bad investment. The Mets took advantage of the fact that there were more closers on the market than demand for them, and played some hardball. They will need more relievers to overhaul the bullpen after the last two seasons' fiascoes, but this was the logical place to start.

One guy they were rumored to be considering: Trevor Hoffman, who would give them three pitchers under contract with a total of 1147 career saves. Hoffman's close to finished and can't carry a huge workload - he threw 45.1 innings this season - but he may have enough left to contribute as a setup man. He had a 2.88 ERA from April 13 to the end of the year, including a 41-5 K-BB ratio. Over the past two years, righties have batted .167/.188/.292 (Avg/OBP/Slg) against Hoffman compared to .295/.355/.472 for lefties, which suggests that he might be more useful in a situational role (of course, I said that earlier this year about Schoenweis - guys with those splits tend to get exposed sooner or later). I'm not saying Hoffman's a good idea, but if he's not too expensive he may have his uses.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:38 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Sour Grapes

Lots of stuff to blog about today that deserves longer treatment, but I just have to say that while Ron Santo strikes me as a deserving Hall of Famer (not overwhelmingly so, but he clearly meets the standard for third basemen after you finish adjusting his numbers for the huge boost he got from Wrigley Field - career .296/.383/.522 at home, .257/.342/.406 on the road - as offset by the terrible era for hitters he played in), his complaining about the Veterans Committee balloting system can't help but come off as sour grapes. Frankly, the Veterans Commitee exists for one reason: to correct injustices, whether to guys the writers never saw play (i.e., Negro Leaguers, pre-1930s players) or that the writers for whatever reason failed to appreciate or had a grudge against. If the commitee rarely elects anybody, that's fine.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:15 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
December 8, 2008
POLITICS: Obamises Watch - The Economy

Flip - October 7, 2008:

Brokaw: Sen. Obama, time for a discussion. I'm going to begin with you. Are you saying to Mr. Clark (ph) and to the other members of the American television audience that the American economy is going to get much worse before it gets better and they ought to be prepared for that?

Obama: No, I am confident about the American economy.

Score - November 4, 2008:

In Next Year, Economy Will...
TotalObamaMcCainOther/No Answer
Get Better (47%)61%38%1%
Get Worse (23%)43%54%3%

Flop - December 6, 2008:

MR. BROKAW: On this program about a year ago, you said that being a president is 90 percent circumstances and about 10 percent agenda. The circumstances now are, as you say, very unpopular in terms of the decisions that have to be made. Which are the most unpopular ones that the country's going to have to deal with?

PRES.-ELECT OBAMA: Well, fortunately, as tough as times are right now--and things are going to get worse before they get better--there is a convergence between circumstances and agenda.

If you had "32 days" in how long that one would last past Election Day: time to cash in. Funny thing about this "new politics": it seems so...familiar.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:05 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (32) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Hall Calls Joe Gordon

Joe Gordon has been elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee, as other candidates including Ron Santo, Joe Torre, Gil Hodges, Dick Allen, Luis Tiant, and seriously old-time players like Sherry Magee, Bill Dahlen and Deacon White fell short. I'll come back to some of the guys who lost when I have more time to write, but you can go here for my take on Gordon as well as Vern Stephens and Maury Wills, also on this year's ballot. (In fact, I've been meaning to revisit and supplement that essay with an additional point, and will when I get a chance). Basically, Gordon - who died 30 years ago - is OK with me as a Hall of Famer when you give him back the two years he lost to World War II (he probably wouldn't have hit .210 in 1946, either, if he hadn't missed those two years). He was extremely comparable as a hitter to his contemporary Bobby Doerr and to a lesser extent Tony Lazzeri and Frankie Frisch, though less adept at getting on base than Lazzeri and Frisch, and while all four had comparable-length primes, Frisch had a longer career and success as a manager (Gordon didn't, and this excellent Steven Goldman essay I'd been meaning to link to gives Gordon some of the blame, along with Bobby Bragan, for ruining Herb Score's arm).

I also looked here at the 1948 Indians, for whom Gordon played a key role; Gordon is the sixth member of that team inducted to the Hall, as well as the seventh member of the 1938-39 Yankees and the seventh member of the 1941-42 Yankees (incidentally, that 1942 Yankees team, for which Gordon won an MVP award that really should have gone to Ted Williams - Williams won the Triple Crown, led the league in Runs by 18, RBI by 23, Slugging by 135 points and OBP by 82 and times on base by 60 - was a really good team, starring Gordon, the DiMaggio-Keller-Henrich outfield, Rizzuto, Dickey, and a largely forgotten pitching staff, although they were overshadowed by the late-30s editions and the fact that they lost the Series to a Cardinals juggernaut).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:00 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
December 5, 2008
LAW: Trampled Under Foot

Two thoughts on the Valley Stream Wal-Mart trampling story.

1. You need one seriously unruly crowd - at 5am! - to trample to death a man who is 6'5" and weighs 270 pounds.

2. Somehow, it seems there's a rush here - obviously by lawyers looking for deep pockets - to blame absolutely everybody except the people who trampled a guy to death to go shopping, and apparently did so only because he was in the way of a pregnant woman they were in the process of trampling. I mean, Wal-Mart is a store, not a zoo. It shouldn't have to anticipate people acting like this.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:07 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Malkin Talks Sense

Quote of the day, from Michelle Malkin:

I believe Trig was born to Sarah Palin. I believe Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. I believe fire can melt steel and that bin Laden's jihadi crew - not Bush and Cheney - perpetrated mass murder on 9/11. What kind of kooky conspiracist does that make me?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:33 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: A Very Mugabe Epidemic

There are still too many odious tyrants in the world, and not all of them started off as dictators - some, like Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez, and Robert Mugabe, started off as elected politicians and gradually strangled democracy and liberty in their countries. Of those, Mugabe is the furthest down the path, and the natural endpoint of his race-baiting and populist left-wing economics is now in view, as a catastrophic cholera epidemic has Mugabe appealing for international assistance even from his nemesis (Great Britain); like so many of Africa's disasters, the epidemic is the work of bad government, the direct result of Mugabe's efforts to stamp out the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party:

The cholera epidemic has been caused by the collapse of the country's water and sewage systems since the ruling Zanu (PF) party removed control of those services from cities with MDC mayors three years ago and set up the inept Zimbabwe National Water Authority.

This atrocity has even left-leaning African leaders calling for Mugabe's ouster:

Yesterday, in unusually robust words for an African leader, Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga called on African governments to work together to topple Mr Mugabe. "Power sharing is dead in Zimbabwe and will not work with a dictator who does not really believe in power sharing," said Mr Odinga, referring to the negotiations on forming a unity government with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that Mr Mugabe has strung out for nearly three months. "It's time for African governments to take decisive action to push him out of power."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa expressed similar sentiments, openly calling for Mr Mugabe's removal. "If they say to him 'step down', and he refuses, they must do so militarily," he said.

That would be Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Tutu calling for military force to remove Mugabe, if you're keeping score at home. Mugabe won't go quickly, and his end has been predicted before as his campaign against white farmers throttled his country's once-successful agricultural yield. But with the likes of Odinga and Archbishop Tutu ready to call for his head, he may finally be approaching the end of the line.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:58 AM | War 2007-14 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
December 4, 2008
POLITICS: Life Matters

Ross Douthat looks at why the pro-life cause is doing well among younger voters, and specifically why it's doing much better than opposition to same-sex marriage, which started in a much stronger position and still commands a majority even in liberal states like California.

Of course, if you ask social conservatives which battle they'd rather win, it's no contest; both issues are important to the future functioning of society, but only one of the two is an issue of life and death. If the same-sex marriage fight has sometimes burned brighter in recent years it's only because the battle lines have been more fluid and the assault from the left more intense.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:41 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: An Offer You Can't Refuse

My RedState colleague Jeff Emanuel looks at the health insurance industry's effort to get Congress to make it mandatory to buy their product. Matthew Continetti notes that the corporatist involvement of the industry is a key difference from the landscape that confronted HillaryCare in 1994 (it's much more like the conditions that gave us Bush's Medicare Part D plan in 2003).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:57 PM | Politics 2008 • | Politics 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Bear Market

Tough times for Knut the polar bear.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:23 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: We Built This Citi

NY Daily News has the latest photo tour of CitiField, plus pictures of Shea's slo-mo demolition and Jeff Wilpon looking silly in a hardhat.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:01 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
December 1, 2008
BLOG: Shock and Awe

"Bailout" is the 'word of the year'.

Yeah, we're gonna here a lot of that. Past winners.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:11 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Triple Crown Trivia

The pitching Triple Crown (leading the league in Wins, ERA and Strikeouts) may not have the glamor of the batting one, but its winners make up a pretty distinguished roster. Try your hand at some Triple Crown trivia, answers below the fold.

1. Since 1997, we've had a bumper crop, with five pitchers winning a total of six Triple Crowns. Name them.

2. Name the threeo pitchers to win it three times.

3. Two of the first three winners (Tommy Bond in 1877 and Guy Hecker in the American Association in 1884) aren't in Cooperstown - but between 1889 and 1996, 18 pitchers combined to do it 27 times - name the three of those 18 who are not in the Hall of Fame.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:43 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Thanks, Given

Between the holidays, work, technical problems (my home PC needs Vista reinstalled), a little post-election burnout, some slow baseball news days and the like, I've gone quiet for a few days here - but I did want to extend a word of thanks to my readers. 2008 has been a good traffic year for the site, culminating in the election, as you can see:


I can't predict the mix of content going forward, but of course I expect to keep up the baseball side of things a little better over the next 12 months, without neglecting the many political battles to come. In the meantime: thanks for stopping by.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:55 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)