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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Former Employer



Friday, April 24, 2009

Hal Daub on The Weekly Grind...

Here's a heads up: Omaha mayoral candidate Hal Daub will be on The Weekly Grind tomorrow morning from 10-11am on KOIL AM 1180.

Tune in, and call in and ask the man some questions. (402) 342-1180.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nerdy Baseball Posts, cont'd

This was taken from my main man Joe Posnanski's blog, which is not read at least weekly by most baseball fans I know and that is a goddamned travesty, especially among my Royals friends. Essentially he looked at every "action play" in baseball this decade (there have been almost 1.7 million), which would be any pitch that results in something happening, whether it be a strikeout, hit, foulout, hit by pitch, etc.

Then he analyzed the results based on pitch count to get an avg/obp/slugging comparision based on individual results. I will just cut and paste them, but it's very intersting stuff...

Here we go:

First pitch.
Action pitch: 12.5% of the time — one out of every eight at-bats.
Batters hit: .338/.344/.547.

There is probably more grumbling at the park about batters swinging at the first pitch of an at-bat than any other time. The Kansas City Royals once had a prospective owner meet with manager Tony Muser and suggest to him that his batters needed to stop swinging at the first pitch. This, of course, is ludicrous. About one of out every five home runs hit in the game are hit on the first pitch of an at-bat.

Then again, about one out of every five double play grounders you will see are also hit on the first pitch. And that’s why there are so many complaints.

To get this out of the way: The offensive numbers listed above — all the numbers here — can be misleading because they only count balls that were HIT IN PLAY. Foul balls do not count. Swings and misses do not count (except when there are two strikes). Pitches that are called balls do not count (except when there are three balls). And so on. So the batting averages are naturally going to be much less with two strikes. And on-base percentages are going to be much higher with three balls.

Still, there are some cool things to see. There are real advantages, for instance, for batters who put the ball in play early in the count. Once they get two strikes on them, the averages go way down.

Here’s a statistic you can ponder if you like:

OPS for batters putting the first pitch in play: .891
OPS for batters who do not put first pitch in play: .739

So, for someone to decide to never swing at the first pitch … no, that’s probably not the best strategy.

0-1 Count.
Action pitch: 9% of the time — one out of every 11 at-bats.
Batters hit: .317/.326/.485

Well, this was a bit of a surprise to be: Batters would hit quite well when behind one strike. And this gets into what I was saying about hitting early in the count: As you can see, there is not a drastic difference if the batter is hitting behind 0-1 or ahead 1-0.

1-0 Count
Action pitch: 7.6% of the time — one out of every 13 at-bats.
Batters hit .339/.340/.563.

See? Batters do hit with a bit more power when ahead 1-0 — they are also a little bit less aggressive — but the point here is that the game does not shift dramatically to the pitcher until he gets two strikes on a batter. You always hear people say how important it is to get that first pitch strike … and it is hugely important. But getting that second strike is what turns an at-bat around.

0-2 Count
Action pitch: 7.7% of the time — one out of every 13 at-bats.
Batters hit: .162/.173/.236

Now, you can see the pitcher taking control. There are different philosophies about what to do with an 0-2 pitch. There are some pitching coaches and pitchers who think that this is absolutely the time to go for the strikeout pitch … the nasty slider tailing away, the split-fingered fastball in the dirt, the fastball up around the eyes. But there are others — and I tend to agree with this — who think that batters are so defensive at 0-2, that this is perfect time to go get them with a pitch over the plate (especially with pitch counts being SO important in today’s game).

This might be the most amazing statistic in this whole bit: Batters on an 0-2 count hit home runs once every 79 at-bats.*

* My favorite pitcher, Greg Maddux, gave up 11 home runs in his entire career 0-2 — that’s in more than 1,600 at-bats. No, he did not like wasting pitches. Here’s another good Maddux statistic: He only walked 45 batters in his entire career after getting ahead 0-2. Maddux had a 32-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio after he got ahead 0-2.

2-0 Count
Action pitch: 2.7% of the time — one out of every 37 at-bats.
Batters hit: 351/.351/.625

Well, this is a interesting situation … batters very, very rarely put the ball in play on a 2-0 count. In fact, batters don’t put the ball in play much more on a 2-0 count than they do on a 3-0 count. When they connect, though, they do connect hard … batters bang home runs once out of every 16 at-bats.

And you know, if I was a batting coach, I would want my batters to be a bit more aggressive on 2-0. Because here’s something else … pitchers only very, very rarely hit a batter with the count 2-0 (one out of every 179 or so at-bats). That tells me they are simply looking to get a pitch over the plate to get back into the count. It sure seems to me that 2-0 is an underutilized opportunity for hitters.

1-1 Count
Action pitch: 8.8% of the time — one out of every 11 at-bats.
Batters hit: .325/.330/.512

This is more or less a repeat of the first pitch. I have heard scouts and players say that, generally speaking, the most important pitch of the at-bat is the third pitch. And there does seem some truth to that. Most of the time (roughly 54% of the time), batters face a 1-1 count going into the third pitch. And the next pitch will, pretty often, determine the fate of the pitcher and the batter. Look what happens if a pitcher gets a strike:

1-2 Count
Action pitch: 13.6% of the time — one out of every 7 at-bats.
Batters hit: .177/.185/.263

Yes, pitchers are dominant in the 1-2 count. And this is actually the most common situation in baseball … a 1-2 count action pitch. And the batter is all but helpless. But when the third pitch is a ball …

2-1 Count
Action pitch: 5.6% of the time — one out of every 18 at-bats.
Batters hit:.337/.338/.554

Yeah, that’s a sizable difference. Batters hit 160 points better and slug twice as much when that third pitch is a ball rather than a strike. Batters may not know these numbers, but they instinctively know how much their chances go up when the count goes to 2-1.

Here’s a fun experiment: Next time you’re at a game, watch the batter’s reaction when the count goes from 1-1 to 1-2. They will, often, hit their bats with their hands or kick at the dirt or gripe at the umpire. I’ve never counted but I would bet that batters visibly reaction more than half the time.

3-0 Count
Action pitch 2.4% of the time — one of out every 42 at-bats
Batters hit: .390/.958/.780

A few facts about the 3-0 pitch.

1. Batters put the ball in play on 3-0 only about 7% of the time. In fact, over the course of a season, you will only see batters put the ball in play about 300 times on 3-0 … that’s about 10 times per team, per season. it does seem like in today’s game, lots of batters get the green light on 3-0, but the numbers say that you really don’t see them hit the ball on 3-0 very much.

2. When you DO see them hit it, there’s a good chance you will see them hit it a long way. Batters hit 3-0 homers roughly one out of every 10 at-bats.

3. Jim Thome, in his long career, has only put the ball in play 58 times on 3-0. He has hit SIXTEEN home runs. For the record, that’s one homer per every 3.6 at-bats.

4. Or how about Mike Piazza. In his whole career, he only put the ball in play FOUR TIMES on 3-0. That’s all. Four times. Apparently nobody was throwing Piazza a good pitch 3-0. And that was a good idea: Two of them were home runs.

5. Batters almost never get hit on the 3-0 pitch — one out of every 640 plate appearances.

6. Very, very few base runners try to steal on the 3-0 pitch, for obvious reasons, but those that do are ultra-successful — 89%. What’s interesting is that the 3-1 pitch — which has conventionally been called the perfect pitch to steal on — is anything but: Only 61% of base stealers are successful on 3-1.

2-2 Count
Action pitch: 12.9% of the time — one out of every 8 at-bats.
Batters hit: .194/.199/.299

You will often hear announcer say “He evened the count at 2-2.” But there is nothing really even about a 2-2 count. The pitcher is still firmly in control. If a pitcher consistently can make it so the action pitch is always 0-2, 1-2 or 2-2, he will do very nicely for himself and make quite a lot of money.

3-1 Count
Action pitch: 4.9% of the time — one out of every 20 at-bats
Batters hit: .355/.691/.638

Well, here is the ultimate hitter’s pitch … I’ve called a few home runs over the years, wowing friends and impressing strangers, but it’s really not that hard. When you see a good hitter at the plate (or a lousy pitcher on the mound) and a 3-1 count, go ahead, make the call. If you want to play the 3-1 homer game yourself … here are a few good players to consider:

Josh Hamilton: .611/.833/1.167
Chase Utley: .444/.713/.852
Adam Dunn: .392/.777/.908
Alfonso Soriano: .435/.694/.848
Jermaine Dye: .406/.656/.767

Full Count
Action pitch: 12.3% of the time — one out of every 8 at-bats
Batters hit: .229/.468/.381

A couple things interest me here. One, I find it interesting that one out of every eight or so at-bats goes to a full-count. That seems like a lot to me … that means you should see, seven to 10 full counts every single night. I wonder if that number has gone up through the years. I have no idea how to find out.

Also, it really is telling — again and again — that hitters really do swing defensively with two strikes. In total, with two strikes, batters hit .190/.257/.293.

I think that’s one of the takeaway as a baseball fan. Pitchers do not (and should not) give up many two strike hits. And they certainly should not give up two-strike extra base hits.

Another takeaway is that until the pitcher gets two strikes, the advantage* is with the hitter. Batters hit .334 and slug almost .600 when not facing two strikes.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Yeah, That Could Totally Be It. That, Or He Isn't On Steriods Anymore...

From Jayson Stark's article "Reality or Illusion?":

--Ugly. David Ortiz (.170 AVG., 1 extra-base hit, 14 K, 8 hits) -- REALITY: Every scout we've talked to who has seen Ortiz is downright alarmed by his vanishing bat speed. "He's starting to go quick," one scout said. "His body is breaking down on him. He isn't even catching up to average fastballs, and he's not even driving the ball the other way. If he can't hit the fastball, they're going to eat him alive. I don't think he's going to be a .170 hitter. But he's not a guy who can carry a club -- not anymore."

Boy oh boy Jimmy, this is a gosh-darned muckety muck. I mean, gee willikers, I just don't understand! It's not like he was a 20-HR guy before he went to Boston and then blew u...wait, he was? He did, in fact, go from having a career-high of 20 home runs, then the very next year hit 31? Then 41 after that one? Then 47 after that one? Then 54 after that one? Then all the way down to 35 again*?

*Side note: I was suprised to see his OPS+ actually increased the year he started to come back to earth with his HR totals. Interesting. Whatever. He's clearly a steriod guy.

Some other notes form Stark's column:

The Bad: Roy Oswalt (0-2, 4.26, only 10 K in 19 IP) -- REALITY: After two messy starts, Oswalt threw six shutout innings against the Reds on Friday. But the baseball community no longer talks about him with anywhere near the reverence it used to. "He's definitely now more heart that stuff," one NL executive said. "I love him, but I think the arrow is pointing down. He used to have an overpowering fastball. Now it's not there. His curve is still a good pitch. But it's not a power strikeout pitch. He still has good enough stuff, but he lacks that put-away stuff he used to have."

Huh. Weird. Oh well, at least all those preseason mags were stupid and the Astros are surprising peop....wait, what's that? The Astros are 4-8? Good enough for dead last? Really?!? Because Mayfield was telling me they were going to be awesome. Can't believe he would be wrong when trying to speak about his favorite team's chances this year without an ounce of objectivity.

OK, to be fair....

The Bad: Derrek Lee (.217 AVG., 283 OBP, .348 slugging percentage) -- REALITY: We had a couple of "illusion" votes on Lee, but they didn't carry anywhere near the conviction of the people who think this man is fading. "This is a tough one, but Derrek Lee might really be slowing down," one front-office man said. "He's only 33 years old, but his power completely dropped off in the second half last year, as did his other numbers." Another variation of the same theme: "He really hasn't been the same guy since getting hurt [a broken wrist in 2006]."

It didn't look good the first week or two, but Lee may be coming on here. His last 7 days splits have seen his SLG go from .381 to .556, and subsequently has seen his OPS go from .687 to .871.

I know most people want to write off D-Lee, and I'm pretty close myself. But I'm not ready to yet. He may just be warming up.

Ryan Oswalt, though? Yeah, he's totally through.

Enjoy the rest of your Monday, nerds!

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Robert Smigel humor stands the test

Nobody's posted in a while, so I thought I would put a link to my favorite, Disney-bashing TV Funhouse on here.


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Saturday, April 11, 2009

The United Countries of Baseball


The Royals' territory should have dotted lines for the areas where everyone stops caring in May.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009


EDIT: Tonight's show is SOLD OUT!

God it's going to be fun.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

2 Seconds of Fame

You can see the wife and I at the GLBT rally after the announcement of the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling. We're on for a couple of seconds at the very end, I've got a green polo on and my Twins hat. Just thought I would share.


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Why I don't care about PECOTA

PECOTA is a tool used to predict individual player stats. They then take those stats, put them together to try and predict a teams wins. This is where PECOTA becomes worthless. Last year PECOTA predicted half of the eventual division winners. They got the Angels, Cubs, and Dodgers correctly but the Angels and Cubs were pretty easy picks and the Dodgers only got there because of the mid-season pickup of Manny. Look at PECOTA projections of the AL central last year:

Tigers Projected wins=91 Actual wins=74
White Sox Projected wins=77 Actual wins=89
Twins Projected wins=71 Actual wins=88
Indians Projected wins=93 Actual wins=81

It wasn't even close, except for the Royals, which they did a good job of predicting them to finish last. Again, it nailed the obvious. Did PECOTA predict the Devil Rays to win the East? Nope, they thought the playoffless Yankees would win it along with 97 games.

PECOTA is great at predicting individual stats and is probably the best tool around for fantasy baseball, but it is just as bad as anyone at predicting wins.

Opening Day!

It's like Christmas in April, boys. Major League Baseball's Opening Day! Where hope springs eternal, and the beer flows like wine.

As usual, the Heavy Soul crew will be enjoying the best day of the year at Barrett's. I think people are planning on heading down around 1:30.

See you today, and GO CUBBIES!

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Friday, April 03, 2009

2009 Baseball Preview

As the Knicks' spent all of April channeling their innermost Billy Joel and crashing their season away, my attention turned not to spring football, which I don't really care about, but to the prospects of another summer of baseball. But thanks to the continued intellect of Bud Selig and the gigantic fucking wankfest that was the World Baseball Classic, it seems as though it's harder than ever to get jacked about the season. Well, I'm jacked.

And for those of you scoring at home we will once again be at Barrett's Barleycorn for opening day games, and you all should come out. Support the Royals, Cubs, Astros, Twins, etc.

A few predictions to whet your appetite for 162 games of great times.


NL West-Dodgers over DBacks
NL Central-Cubs over Cardinals
NL East-Mets over Phillies
Wild Card: Phillies

NL Champ: Mets over Phillies
MVP: David Wright
Cy Young: Carlos Zambrano (or Johan Santana)


AL East-DRays over Yankees
AL Central-Twins over Indians (then Royals, Tigers, White Sox)
Al West-Angels over A's
Wild Card-Yankees
NL Champ: Angels over DRays
MVP-Evan Longoria
Cy Young: CC Sabathia

World Series: Mets over DRays

Random Predictions:

1. Mark DeRosa, one of my five favorite players in the league, will really piss me off now that he's with the Indians.

2. Carlos Zambrano will be suspended for an incident this year but win the Cy Young anyway.

3. Mike "Little Babe Ruth" Fontenot will not mash like last year but will still OPS .900.

4. The Cubs fans will not like the Milton Bradley signing in August.

5. A. Peterson will spring for a Farnsworth jersey despite his hatred.

6. The Royals will be within 10 games of first place by August 1.

7. The Twins will win the division despite Joe Mauer never being fully healthy.

8. The Twins will have the best defensive outfield in baseball...despite having Delmon Young there.

9. Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, and Franchise Liriano will combine to win 45 games.

10. The Astros will fucking blow, despite Mayfield telling me in earnest last week they were going to win the division.

11. The Fukudome signing will set Japanese-American relations back farther than Pokemon and Hello Kitty combined.

12. The White Sox will battle it out with the Tigers for last place.

13. The Tigers will literally have less than 5,000 fans at a game this year.

14. Brian Duensing will not stay with the Twins all season.

15. The Nebraska baseball team is and will continue to have its "7 and 7" year followed by Mike Anderson starting next year fighting for his job.

16. I will purchase the baseball package and enjoy the holy hell out of it while saving money from not going to the bar every third day in the process.

Enjoy it, everyone.

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MIB, You May Have To Sue

It's not exactly a Breathalyzer for your phone, but close...

"Bad Decision Blocker Prevents You From Drunk Dialing Your Exes"

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More Video: Norm MacDonald on the ESPY's

In case you didn't see this on Deadspin, it's Norm's uncut opening monologue from the 1998 ESPY's.

It might be the funniest thing ever. I saw this a little while ago on YouTube, but Deadspin posting it inspired me to post it to make sure everyone saw this. It is just shockingly funny, and as the Deadspin posts says, something that will never, ever happen again on the WWL.

To give you an idea of what level of comedy we're dealing with, here's the joke he ends it with: (and I'm paraphrasing, this is not the direct quote)

Norm: And there's Charles Woodson, Heisman trophy winner. First defensive player to win the Heisman. Hey pal, that's something no one can ever take away from you. Unless you kill your wife and a waiter.

They immediately pan to Ken Griffey Jr, who looks like he's watching a horror film. God, it's funny.

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Here is (supposedly) the first trailer for the new movie, Bruno.

Maybe it's just me, but I sat here with my jaw on my desk watching this. It is shocking. And it looks hilarious.

You can see it here.

(By the way, there is nudity in this, so I would wait to watch it at home. Wasn't expecting that. NSFW.)

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