Tag Archives: tom scocca

Brewers report

CJ and I took in a couple of Brewers games last weekend, both victories over the Pirates.  Perhaps the greatest pleasure was seeing Carlos Gomez do something that’s only been done a few dozen times in baseball history; after walking to lead off the bottom of the third, he stole second, then, with the pitcher up, stole third.  And then he broke for home.  A.J. Burnett uncorked a panic pitch that got away from Pittsburgh’s catcher and Gomez scored without a play.  He had stolen his way around the entire basepath!

Except he hadn’t.  Ordinarily, you’re credited with a steal of home if you’re off before the pitch; but official scorer Tim O’Driscoll ruled that the Brewers had been attempting a suicide squeeze, which means the play is scored as a wild pitch, not a stolen base.

Still, I know what I saw; an exhibition of brazenly aggressive baserunning, the likes of which I have not seen since college, when Tom Scocca used to run on me that way in Atari baseball, because it was really hard to make accurate throws in that game, and because all mercy and human feeling drained out of Scocca when he played Atari baseball.

More Brewers impressions:

  • About 60% of jerseys at a Brewers game are Ryan Braun jerseys.  Judging from the cheers he got, I’m pretty sure nobody in Milwaukee cares whether Braun used or is using PEDs.
  • The scoreboard at Miller Park displays OPS!  Very forward-looking.  On the other hand, there’s no out-of-town scoreboard on the outfield wall, which to me seems an unforgivable omission.
  • Once a year or so I think “hey, burger and brat on the same bun, that sounds like a pretty great sandwich,” and I order one.  Burger and brat on the same bun is not actually a great sandwich, but merely a meaty confusion.
  • American Science and Surplus is only about 10 minutes from Miller Park and is one of the most amazing stores I’ve ever seen.  You can buy typewriters there, or teflon hexagons in bulk, or sunglasses with hidden mirrors in the lenses so you can see behind you, or full-color posters depicting all the kinds of ulcers.  You can buy a 5-foot-long whisk for only 18 bucks.  Why didn’t I?
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Thank God for Pittsburgh

Tom is right about Terry Crowley but wrong that the Orioles are “the worst team of 2010 and potentially the worst team of modern times.”  The Pirates are 4.5 games ahead of us, sure.  But they’ve scored the same putrid number of runs we have and allowed 20 more.  They’re a titanically crappy team that’s lucky enough to be playing .350 ball.  What’s more, they’re doing it in the NL Central, not the AL East; the Orioles have played 68% of their games against winning teams, as against 56% for the Bucs.  And the winning teams in our division include the three best in baseball.

None of this will be much comfort if we actually lose 120 games.  But I don’t think we will!

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Back to school linkdump

  • Fellow O’s fan Tom Scocca explains why the Red Sox are the new Grateful Dead in the Boston Globe. (Previously on Quomodocumque:  why the Red Sox are John McCain.)
  • David Carlton is moving to Playdom to work for Steve Meretsky.  Steve Meretsky!  The guy who wrote Planetfall!
  • From Baseball Reference:  on August 18. 1998, the Braves got nine hits against the Giants, all doubles.  Will this feat ever be repeated?  About 20% of hits are doubles.  let’s say that for some ballparks, or some batting lineups, the chance a hit will be a double goes up to 1/4.  Then you might figure the chance of nine hits all being doubles would be (1/4)^9, about one in a quarter-million.  (If the chance of a double is 1 in 5, this goes down to one in two million.)  From that point of view, it’s not so shocking; there have been about three hundred thousand MLB games played this century, so why not?  Two problems.  1.  Doubles used to be a lot less common then they are now.  2.  If you hit nine doubles off a team’s pitching staff, it probably means they’re having a terrible day, and it probably means at some point you’re going to hit a home run.  I think a much better way to assess whether another team’s likely to match the Braves is to check how many times a team has managed eight doubles without a hit.  And nobody has.  Not seven, either, or six. And just five teams have had 5 doubles in a game with no other hits.  I think the Braves are safe here.   And I think this is a good example of a question where just looking at the data gives you a much more robust answer than a half-assed probability calculation.
  • Not a link:  based on the response to my question, tons of people follow the new postings on the arXiv. But hardly anyone follows it, as I do, in Google Reader — according to their stats, the RSS feed for math.AG has only 98 subscribers and math.NT just 83.
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Turn ahead the clock

Despite the dispiriting sweep we just endured at the hands of the Red Sox, the Orioles are for the first time in recent memory a team whose future seems kind of interesting — so it’s an opportune time for Tom’s reminiscence, via Joe Posnanski, of the Orioles’ last Turn Ahead The Clock Day.  At the time, the future of the franchise was supposed to include a lot of Albert Belle:

I saw Albert Belle try to turn down a HBP once. It was Turn Ahead the Clock day, and the Orioles were wearing billowing trash-bag “futuristic” uniforms. Belle was 4-for-4 with a walk and 3 home runs already, including a two-out game-tying shot in the bottom of the ninth. And he had driven in 6 of the O’s 7 runs. So when the ball ran in on his floppy outfit in the bottom of the 11th, with a man aboard, he waved off the ump and tried to stay in the box.

My friend and I at the game had absolutely no doubt that had he gotten away with it, he would have hit his fourth homer. Belle felt the same, evidently. But eventually they ordered him along to first base, and Cal Ripken singled in the winning run three batters later.

I, the “friend” above, recounted the same game in my list of Underappreciated Orioles, on which Belle appears at #5.  Only I forgot the two most interesting details, the future jerseys and Belle’s attemped snub of the free base!  Which is why Tom is a professional sportswriter and I’m just a guy who complains about the Orioles on the Internet.

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In which my friends write things

  • We’re already on to the next Jewish holiday, but Jay Michaelson’s piece on the financial crisis as Purimspiel is still well worth reading.
  • Opening Day has come at last, and the Orioles rang it in by drubbing the Yankees 10-5, in a weird-all-over kind of game.  I can’t describe it better than Tom does.
  • Alison Buckholtz, a year ahead of me in high school, has a book out. Alison’s husband is a Navy pilot, and Standing By is about the world of military spouses, who occupy a funny boundary space:  of the military but not officially in it.  Alison’s little brother Charlie was a year below me — his essay about surving a car accident, “Catheterized!” has stayed with me for twenty years. He has a book too, about the mysterious death of the guy who wrote the “Lady in the Radiator” song.  I think he should write a novelization of “Catheterized!”
  • And yet another book, from Cary Chugh, a.k.a. What Went Wrong‘s husband:  Don’t Swear With Your Mouth Full!, which offers an approach to parental discipline based on behavioral science.  Endorsed by Dr. Mrs. Q!   CJ, of course, is always instantly and cheerfully compliant, and would never, for example, insist to the point of hysteria that “getting dressed for school” requires putting his underwear on his head, his sweatshirt over his legs, and one sock on his genitals; so I have no need for this book, but maybe it will be useful for some of you.
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First day of a long season

The always great Tom Scocca on the mental state of Oriole Nation as the 2008 campaign gets underway:

Beyond plain categories of optimism and pessimism live those of us who see a sparkling half-glass of water and know for sure that the Orioles are eventually going to take a crap in it.

More Orioles dyspepsia at Tom’s season preview at Deadspin.

My WNYC piece about sabermetrics and Alex Rodriguez (plus a little Orioles dyspepsia for my fellow orange-and-blackers) can now be heard online.

In today’s New York Times, Samuel Arbesman and Steven Strogatz argue that Joe DiMaggio’s streak wasn’t as miraculous as you think. They ran 10,000 Monte Carlo simultations of the history of major league baseball and found that, 42% of the time, someone had a hitting streak 56 games or longer. In every case, there was some player in some season who put together a hitting streak of at least 39 games.

That’s a nice experiment, but I don’t think it quite justifies the headline. The figure below shows that, in the simulation, long hitting streaks were strongly concentrated in the pre-1905 era, when higher batting averages were more common. In 1894 (the big spike in the chart below) the batting average for the entire National League was well over .300. The relevant question is not so much “is it surprising that someone had a 56-game hitting streak?” but “is it surprising that someone playing baseball under modern conditions had a 56-game hitting streak? And how likely is it ever to happen again?” The number I’d like to see is: of the 10,000 simulated seasons, in how many did a player have a 56-game hitting streak after 1941?

Despite my criticism, I’m delighted the NYTimes published this. The main point — that unlikely-seeming events are actually quite likely, as long as you give them enough chances to happen — is a crucial and subtle one, which should be repeated in a loud voice at every possible opportunity.

Arbeson has a blog which is mostly about computational biology and urban planning, not baseball. Strogatz has no blog, but his book Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order is surely very good, based on the lectures I’ve seen him deliver.

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