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The Bleacher Bums: June 24, 2005 Archive

Unconvential baseball, part I

Posted at 9:24 AM on June 24, 2005 by Ben Tesch (2 Comments)

Old ballgame has newfangled twist
The first two innings of the July 16th game between the Kansas City T-Bones and the Schaumburg Flyers will be played virtually.

Equipped with Microsoft Xbox game controllers instead of baseball gloves and bats, two video gamers will climb into recliner chairs around home plate at CommunityAmerica Ballpark and slug it out on the park’s 16- by 24-foot video screen.

Their scores from playing two innings of MVP Baseball 2005 on an Xbox will stand when the T-Bones and Flyers take the field to finish the last seven innings of the game.

Mike Stone, commissioner of the minor-league baseball Northern League, said the idea "brings new meaning to the term 'fan involvement.'"

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Unconvential baseball, part II

Posted at 9:30 AM on June 24, 2005 by Ben Tesch (1 Comments)

How to throw a no-hitter on acid, and other lessons from the career of baseball legend Dock Ellis
Thirty-five years ago, on June 12, 1970, Pittsburgh Pirate and future Texas Rangers pitcher Dock Ellis found himself in the Los Angeles home of a childhood friend named Al Rambo. Two days earlier, he'd flown with the Pirates to San Diego for a four-game series with the Padres. He immediately rented a car and drove to L.A. to see Rambo and his girlfriend Mitzi. The next 12 hours were a fog of conversation, screwdrivers, marijuana, and, for Ellis, amphetamines. He went to sleep in the early morning, woke up sometime after noon and immediately took a dose of Purple Haze acid. Ellis would frequently drop acid on off days and weekends; he had a room in his basement christened "The Dungeon," in which he'd lock himself and listen to Jimi Hendrix or Iron Butterfly "for days."

A bit later, how long exactly he can't recall, he came across Mitzi flipping through a newspaper. She scanned for a moment, then noticed something.

"Dock," she said. "You're supposed to pitch today."

Ellis focused his mind. No. Friday. He wasn't pitching until Friday. He was sure.

"Baby," she replied. "It is Friday. You slept through Thursday."

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You can't believe everything you hear

Posted at 11:08 AM on June 24, 2005 by Bob Collins (7 Comments)

My boss, who insists I write this thing on my own time (and I do), won't like this a bit but since I referred to the mainstream media that covers the Twins as "poodles" yesterday (they are), I have to be fair and criticize us too.

I think it all started yesterday morning when the electronic media's primary news source -- the local newspaper -- carried a predictably trite column by Patrick Reusse called "Twins are latest Twin Cities team to be a four-star flop." I don't know if Reusse is at the head of this parade or is just sweeping the elephant doo at the end of it.

In his column, Reusse compared the Twins to the Timberwolves and Vikings, as underachievers who played far below expectations and experienced a drop off in production and talent at a time when they were expected to contend for an AL Central Division title. "They had to go out and get everyone hyped up," he said.

With the Twins 10 games back in the Central Division, it was a nice little angle. And it's one this very radio network picked up on when it assigned a reporter to do a story this morning that we slugged internally as Twins suck, a characterization that sort of fits the way they've been playing for the last 10 days. We then aired a story on Morning Edition that documented the disappointing season and the failed expectations.

There's only one problem: there isn't a shred of truth to it.

Want to take a guess how many games worse the Twins are this year than last year? I'll give you a hint. It's less than 1.

That's right. The Twins record through 70 games last year? 39-31. The Twins record this morning? 39-31. Does that sound like underachieving and a drop in performance? Want to go back further? OK, compared to 2003, the team is playing one game better this year. It is just one game worse than 2002.

In other words, this is pretty much the same level of performance that delivered three straight Central Division titles. And, as I recall, Patrick Reusse didn't write any articles in 2002, 2003, or 2004 about the team being overhyped. And none of our pieces questioned the legitimacy of the Twins performance on those occasions when we dropped in to assess it.

Now, perhaps there's good reason to wring our hands over the fact the Twins are 10 (actually 9.5 now) games behind in the division. But being overhyped isn't even close to one of them.

Patrick Reusse didn't anticipate that the Chicago White Sox, currently in first place, would have a season of historic proportions, and neither did anyone else. So what's with the blame game?

What could we and Patrick Reusse have done in the interest of a more informed public that expects such things from the media? We could have challenged the assumptions and told you all of that.

The Chicago White Sox this morning stand at 49-22 on the season, that's 12 games -- 12 games!!! -- better than they were last season. And that's reason 1, 2 and 3 of why the Twins aren't likely to win a Central Division title this year.

We could've stopped there and satisifed our journalistic obligation. Or we could've waded into this deeper yet. We could've told you that the ChiSox are beating the bejeebers out of the Local 9 for a couple of reasons (a) great pitching and, more likley, (b) an incredible streak of good luck.

An online friend of mine on the Cleveland Sports Mailing List, Todd Sawicki, notes the following:

For the record the ChiSox are the luckiest team in all of baseball by having the largest positive win differential (only 2 other teams have positve differentials above 2 - Nationals and Padres). The Royals, Indians and Tigers are actually some of the unluckier...

Team        W    L    D1   D2     D3
Chi_Sox     49   22   6    9.2    9.2
Tigers      35   33   -0.9 -1.5  -2.9
Twins       38   31   0.8  0.5   -0.3
Indians     37   33   -0.4 -1.3  -1.6
Royals      25   46   -2.3 -3.6  -5.6

The point is that when you break down the secondary stats - the ChiSox shouldn't have 4 starters with ERA's below 4.0 and given their secondary stats shouldn't be scoring the amount of runs they are scoring - hence lucky.

Based on the secondary stats the amazing thing is that based on stats the Indians, Twins, ChiSox and yes even the TIGERS should all be about 38-31. Based on what you would expect - the teams are fairly equal.
Teams can be slightly lucky like -- +1 or 2 games -- but not +9 - that's super flukey.

Here's the glossary from BP that Todd supplied:

W, L : Actual team wins and losses.

RS, RA: Actual team runs scored and runs allowed.

W1, L1 ("First-order wins"): Pythagenport expected wins and losses, based on RS and RA.

EQR, EQRA: Equivalent runs scored and equivalent runs allowed (equivalent runs, generated from the opponent's batting line)

W2, L2 ("Second-order wins"): Pythagenport wins and losses, based on EQR and EQRA.

AEQR, AEQRA: EQR and EQRA, adjusted for strength of schedule: the quality of their opponent's pitching and hitting. If AEQR is higher than EQR, the team has faced better than average pitching; if AEQRA is higher than EQRA, the team has faced worse than average hitting.

Now, I guess I don't expect Patrick Reusse, or any Public Radio newsroom that doesn't regularly cover sports, to have known any of this. But I do expect editors and columnists to at least ask the question "is what everyone is saying really true?" Because if it's not, that's a hell of a better story.

That's the business we're in.

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