The View From Wisconsin

Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Final Thoughts

A note to Michael Schiavo:

I hope you live a long and healthy life.

Because when you finally shuffle off this mortal coil, your wife is going to be there to give you over to hell.

I hope that it comes out in the near future that you essentially had her killed - that right after you sent your "ex-" brother-in-law out, you turned up the morphine drip so she'd drop like a rock.

You're lower than low, and I'd expect you to drop to the ninth level of Dante's Inferno.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Thoughts on the Final Four

Everyone out there whose brackets were shot this weekend, raise your hands. I thought so...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ex Post Facto

There is a legal term for trying to make something that happened in the past illegal. It's called ex post facto, or (literally) "from after the deed."

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy defines an "ex post facto law" as "A law that makes illegal an act that was legal when committed, increases the penalties for an infraction after it has been committed, or changes the rules of evidence to make conviction easier. The Constitution prohibits the making of ex post facto law."

Article I, Section 9, clause 2 of the Constitution is the prohibition noted above.

Why would I mention this? Well, it is something to consider in the whole issue currently facing MLB and steroids.

Even if Barry, Gary, Jason, Mark, Raffi and Sammy all took steroids, it wasn't against the rules of Major League Baseball.

Depending on the steroids they took, or the precursors or whatever, yes, the drugs they took could have been illegal. Then again, cocaine, amphetamines, and marijuana (which, by the way, killed Darryl Kile) are also all illegal - and there are documented cases where players used those in the past. And, of course, let's not forget that during the 1920's, alcohol consumption was illegal under the terms of prohibition. That didn't stop Babe Ruth from consuming, though.

The idea that any player who used steroids in the past should be banned or otherwise have their records taken away because of their use is an example of ex post facto legislation.

Should Barry Bonds manage to come back from his knee surgery to play again, and should he manage to break Hank Aaron's home run record, the concept that it should be "taken away" from him is ridiculous.

Now, don't get me wrong; if Sammy or any of the active players get caught testing positive for steroids, they should be suspended and shamed big-time.

But, once a player holds a record, it's theirs forever - regardless of the stream of "experts" who say that steroid use helps batters drive the ball an additional 10-20 feet.

I still believe Mark McGwire is a Hall-of-Famer, and that Barry Bonds should just walk right into the HOF as soon as he's done with his career - whenever that may be.

Do not, however, tell me to throw out the record books because of steroids. Because I'll be demanding you knock the Babe from his pedestal - along with every other player who ever did anything illegal during his career.

That would leave two people in the Hall of Fame: Alexander Cartwright and Branch Rickey.

And it'd be iffy on Cartwright.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Frank vs. Barry

Frank Thomas - disgruntled 1B with Chicago.
Barry Bonds - superstar LF with Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

Frank Thomas - 4,987 plate appearances in 1136 games since 1996, an average of 554 PA and 126 GP. (All stats thanks to
Barry Bonds - 5,546 plate appearances in 1291 games since 1996, an average of 616 PA and 143 GP.

Frank Thomas - 2,113 Hits, 436 HR, 1439 RBI; 21 on Black Ink, 189 on Gray, 56.5 HOFS, 179.0 HOFM.
Barry Bonds - 2,730 Hits, 703 HR, 1843 RBI; 65 Black Ink, 285 Gray, 77.5 HOFS, 353.0 HOFM.

Frank Thomas - 9 post-season games, no LCS games, no World Series games; .231, 1 HR, 3 RBI.
Barry Bonds - 48 post-season games, 25 LCS games, 7 World Series games; .245, 9 HR, 24 RBI.

Frank Thomas - 2 AL MVP awards, 8 times in top 10; 5 All-Star Games (1993-97).
Barry Bonds - 7 NL MVP awards, 13 times in top 10; 13 All-Star Games (1990, 1992-98, 2000-04).

Frank Thomas - average salary, 1991-2004: $5.572 million.
Barry Bonds - average salary, 1986-2004: $6.915 million.

Frank Thomas - no steroids.
Barry Bonds - "I didn't know they were steroids."

Friday, March 11, 2005

A Hall-of-Fame Trend

In playing around with the vote totals from last year's BBWAA selections for Cooperstown, I noticed something of great interest.

Bruce Sutter, the first of the real "closer" relief pitchers (one or two innings and done), received 344 votes in the 2005 election. That is the highest vote total of any player who was not actually elected to the HOF by the writers since Don Sutton in 1997. Sutton got 346 of a needed 355 votes (Sutter needed 387 for election this year). Sutton was selected to the Hall the following year, his fourth of eligibility.

The rest of the top 10 vote-totals without getting into the Hall have all come within the last 17 years, starting with Jim Bunning's 317 (of 321) in 1996. He actually didn't get selected by the BBWAA; eight years later the old Veterans Committee put him in the Hal. Only one other player in the top 10 was selected by the Vets: Orlando Cepeda in 1999. Back in his last appearance onf the BBW ballot, 1994, he got 335 votes out of 342 needed.

Gary Carter is the only player to appear twice in the top 10, with his noted 2001 and 2002 ballot totals (334 of 387 and 343 of 354, respectively). The third time was the charm for Gary, as he got into the Hall on his third try in 2003.

In fact, three of the other four players have the same scenario: the year after they got their "almost" vote total, they ended up getting selected to the Hall the next year. Those four, in chronological order:
This was Sutter's 12th appearance on the Writers' ballot. Considering the field of candidates for the 2006 election (Rick Aguilera, Tim Belcher, Will Clark, Alex Fernandez, Gary Gaetti, Dwight Gooden, Ozzie Guillen, Juan Guzman, Orel Hershiser, Gregg Jefferies, Lance Johnson, Doug Jones, Roberto Kelly, Mickey Morandini, Hal Morris, Jaime Navarro, Luis Polonia, Mike Stanley, Walt Weiss, John Wetteland, Mark Whiten), you'd almost have to think Sutter's a mortal lock for selection in 2006.

Let's hope Bert Blyleven can get a few extra votes to put him in, too.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


An unofficial Sabermetric Analysis of 90-Win and 90-Loss Equivalent Teams And Their Statistical Differences

Back during the off-season of 1982-83, Bill James wrote an article in his Baseball Abstract about how teams with exceptional records tended to get more awards than teams with winning records. As his premise, James pegged teams into three groups: 90 or more wins; teams with a winning record; and all other teams.

When I first read that article, now over two decades ago, I contemplated what else differentiated the "pennant contenders" from all of the "pretenders" in baseball. With the advent of spreadsheets and resources like Sean Lahman's Baseball Database, it was pretty easy to play around with the numbers and see what's there.

The basic method of the study was simple: divide the major leagues into groups of "contenders" and "pretenders." That would seem easy to do – draw the dividing line at .500, and you have practically every team (except one) that's won their division or league in major league history. However, I wanted to take a look at teams that were just under the 90-win mark – teams that had winning records, but weren't likely to win their division or any pennants. Out of balance, I figured to add teams that finished either at .500 or lower – but didn't lose 90 games.

The first group, which we'll call the 90-Win Teams, played in a total of 100,910 games in the 134 years since 1871. They went a combined 60,757-39,373, for a winning percentage of .607. That translates roughly to a total of 98 wins per 162 game season. The second group, the Above-500 Teams, played in 86,974 games, but had a record of 45,834-40,644, a percentage of .530 and approximately 85 wins per 162. The third group, the Sub-500 Teams (which actually include teams that played .500 ball), played in only 73,692 games, with a record of 35,005-38,318, for a .477 percentage and approximately 77 wins per 162. The last group, the 90-Loss Teams, played in more games than any of the other three groups – 106,694. This is somewhat sad when you think about it, but I digress. 90-Loss Teams won only 41,351 games, losing 64,612 for a measly .390 winning percentage. This translates to a mere 63 games per season.

None of the 90-Loss teams won any sort of pennant or playoff berth. Only two of the 171 division winners since 1969 have had .500 or worse records, and none of the 20 Wild Card teams since 1995 have had records at or below 500. Of the 106 World Series champions since 1883, only three have not been 90-Win teams. Seven of the 250 pennant winners since 1871 have been Above 500 teams, as have five of the 20 Wild Cards.

As for the statistical totals, there were a lot of things that you'd expect between the four groups:

· Many of the major statistical formulae – Runs per game, batting average, total bases, slugging and on-base percentage, ERA, Baserunners per 9 innings, and Defensive Efficiency Rating – were pretty much linear in nature, with the 90-Win group having the best totals, the Above-500 group the next best, the Sub-.500 group the third best, and the 90-Loss group with the worst totals.

· Raw totals – runs scored and allowed, hits and hits allowed, doubles, bases on balls and bases on balls allowed, steals, shutouts, saves – were also pretty much linear among the teams on a 162-game basis.

· The differences between the two extremes were rather simple in most cases: almost a single run per game (actually 0.99) was the difference between the the 90-Win group (5.08) and the 90-Loss group (4.09). The difference in earned run average was less than that (0.89 runs per 9 innings), but was still distinctly better for the 90-Win group (3.33) than the 90-Loss group (4.22).

· Park Factors, interestingly, were also linear – 90-Win teams had an average BPF of 100.9; Above-500 teams averaged at 100.6; Below-500 teams were at 100.3; and 90-Loss teams were at 99.2. It was pretty much the reverse for PPF: 99.2, 100.1, 100.5 and 101.1, respectively.

There were a few surprises among the numbers over a 162-game season, though.

· The teams at the two ends of the spectrum – the 90-Win/Loss teams – actually averaged more runs scored per team, per game, than the other two groups. In a typical game for a 90-Win team, you would expect to see 9.16 runs scored by both teams. In a typical 90-Loss team's game, that total would be 9.20. Above-500 teams play in an offensive context of 9.02 per game (4.51 per team), while Sub-500 teams dip below nine runs to 8.92 (4.46 per team). Considering that each team scored an average of at least 662 runs, and allowed an average of that many as well, the difference between the four groups is somewhere between the two totals.

· The Above-500 teams were the best of the four groups over 162 games in two areas: Home Runs and (surprise) Attendance. Above-500 teams average 113 homers over a typical season, seven more than 90-Win teams and eight more than Sub-500 teams. 90-Loss teams average only 86 homers per 162 games – and only a measly 9,962 fans per game. Above-500 teams (teams that aren't quite pennant winners, but are contenders) average 16,528 fans per game – 624 more fans than the 90-Win teams. I consider this to be the Atlanta Braves Effect; teams that have the pennant sewn up don't draw more fans over teams whose post-season future is in doubt. Sub-500 teams, by the way, average 14,502 per game; that may be the "tolerance level" for fans when it comes to watching good/bad baseball.

· The teams that are in "the middle" – the Above and Below 500 teams – actually have a better team fielding percentage (and commit far fewer errors per 162 games) than the 90-Win/Loss teams. Above-500 teams average 190 errors per 162 games, with a .970 fielding percentage; Sub-500 teams commit only two more errors per 162 with the same percentage. 90-Win teams are a bit better (obviously) than 90-Loss teams, with 221 errors to the 90-Loss squads' 247, and fielding percentages of .966 and .962, respectively. Below-500 teams actually turn more Double Plays per 162 than the other three groups (145), though only one more than their middle-of-the-pack mates on the sunny side of .500.

· The 90-Loss teams averaged more fielding chances per 162 games (6417) than the other two middle groups; the 90-Win teams averaged the most (6440). You would suspect that the 90-Loss teams, with the extra errors they surrendered, were giving opponents more chances than the other teams. The 90-Win teams would be making the extra chances because more hits would be turned into outs by their defense and/or pitching.

· Strikeouts have no real relationship to any of the four groups. The Above-500 group has the most K's by pitchers (780), while the Sub-500 teams have the most strikeouts by batters (754). 90-Win teams, on average, have more K's than 90-Loss teams, though (734 vs. 677), and fewer batting strikeouts as well (639 vs. 706).

· Homers allowed is only linear if you consider the 90-Win groups (87 per 162) against everyone else (all three of the rest allowed at least 105 per 162 – 106 for Above-500, 110 for Sub-500, and 105 for 90-Loss teams).

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Oh No, Not Again

The NHL and NHLPA are scheduled to meet Wednesday at "an undisclosed location" (which will be disclosed well before the meeting begins, trust me).

My response to this little piece of news was, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

Here we go again.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Happy Birthday, Hockey

On March 3, 1875, James George Alwyn Creighton, a student at McGill University in Montreal, organized a game on the Jubilee Ice Rink in the city.

The game featured two teams on skates, using curved sticks, a wooden flat disc, and targeting two "goal markers" set at each end of the ice. There were no side boards, and spectators had to dodge out of the way when the disc was hit off the ice.

At the end, Creighton, who was a student of journalism, notified the Montreal Gazette of the spectacle - and how many of those in attendance found this new game, which he called "ice hockey", to be very entertaining.

Though it is commonly believed that Creighton had simply "organized" and "codified" rules to a game that had been played in Canada years earlier, the instance of this game is the first official appearance of hockey as an organized sport in the annals of history.

Thus, today, March 3, 2005, is the 130th "birthday" of the game of hockey.

Please celebrate responsibly.