The View From Wisconsin

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

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Running Away

I'll throw my $0.02 worth in on the saga of Ms. Jennifer Willbanks:

Boy, what was she thinking?

"Oh, honey, I'm going out for a jog, I'll be back." And she doesn't take her wallet, keys or credit cards with her?

Granted, if she didn't know where she was going, that's understandable. And, if she didn't want to be found, that's understandable, too. But did it ever occur to her that she might not have enough cash to get home once she was done having her pre-wedding fling?

Right now, if I were the fiancee, I'd be sitting down and having a long talk with my betrothed about this little incident:
Let's hope that, wherever they fly on their honeymoon, the movie they show in-flight will be (pause) The Runaway Bride...

Friday, April 29, 2005

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Another thing for those who don't know me by now: I am what you would call a stat-head.

I am vaunted for my numerous spreadsheets, especially when it comes to my beloved Nashville Predators. I have a record of every single game they played, from October 1998 to April 2004. I even have a record of every single goal scored by the team during that time - who scored it, who assisted, what was the time of the goal, who the opposing goalie was, what the score was, whether it was even strength, on the power play or short handed, and even if it was an empty-net goal.

My hard drive is full of copies of Sean Lahman's Baseball Database; I've personalized his database to fit the Milwaukee Brewers and (grudgingly) the Chicago Cubs. The latter was for my father's benefit. In addition, I have NASCAR spreadsheets, NBA spreadsheets, even a few football spreadsheets (though that's more due to my obsession with Fantasy Football than anything else).

It shouldn't surprise you, therefore, that I have one or two ideas about how to measure success in each of the major pro sports in the USA.

In baseball, regardless of how much people try to convince me that Linear Weights is the way to go, I still belive that Runs Created - in its earlier, 1990's configuration - is one of the best ways to gauge a player's ability at the bat. For pitchers, I've actually developed a formula that gives a relatively accurate view of performance and ability, something I call Cy Young Points. It's a bit complicated to describe in one post - watch for a complete description later - but suffice to say that it expresses pitching ability in a format that can be understood by the typical baseball fan.

In hockey, I consider myself a pioneer of sorts whence it comes to statistical analysis. I developed a formula, called Goals Created, which accounts for a player's complete goal production/contribution by addint points, plus/minus and a factor of goals scored against his team while he's in the penalty box. I actually added to this to create a formula that determines Hart Trophy-worthiness as well. I came up with a group of similar formulae for goalies: Goaltender Efficiency Ratio/Rating, and Vezina Points.

NASCAR has been an on-and-off thing for me, but I've always relied on my Extended Win Points formula to determine which driver really had the best year. Win Points, for those of you unfamiliar with Formula One racing, awards points only to the top 6 drivers in a given race (which is the reason why fields for a typical Formula One Grand Prix is so small). I've played around with that basic idea to come up with a points total that would actually work well in NASCAR (or any touring series, for that matter). I haven't done the totals for 2005 yet, but when I do, I'll slap them together here as well.

Something I've revisited as of late was my NBA stats. I'm not original when it comes to NBA stats, though I do have to credit this old, old Macintosh basketball simulation, called Slam Dunk! basketball for my one hoops stat: Most Effective Player. It's actually a very simple concept: add up all the "positives" a player does on the floor (points, rebounds, blocks, assists, steals), subtract the "negatives" (turnovers, fouls, missed field goals, missed free throws), multiply by 100 and divide by minutes played to get an "efficiency rating". I've further coaxed an MVP rating out of this by taking MEP, multiplying it by games played, and dividing by 82. Kevin Garnett has been a "slam dunk" in this rating since 2000 - no surprise there.

Finally, there's football. American football, not the sport they play elsewhere with the round ball and goals once every three hours (or so it seems). I'm a big fan of the Yahoo Fantasy Sports method of determining per-game point scoring (one point per 50 yards passing, 20 yards rushing/receiving, etc.), and play their Fantasy Footbal games regularly.

So there you have it - a stathead comes clean. I've got my spreadsheets, and I know how to use them. Thank God for Microsoft Excel.

Of course, all the spreadsheets in the world won't get the NHL back on the ice anytime soon...

A Long Time

For those of you who might not know or care, I've been doing this online web thing for over a decade now.

In fact, I was reminded tonight in a small way of just how long it's been: I did an ego-Google on my name, and found about three or four "broken links" to my old Exec-PC website. Off-hand, I can't remember exactly when I took down my old Exec-PC website (they're now owned by some other company, CoreComm), but it's been more than five years.

In fact, a person who's actually been on the net as long as I have, Bonni Hall, has not only moved servers in her long time on the 'net - she's moved halfway around the world. She met a fellow Monty Python fan online, and moved out from Peoria, Illinois to Melbourne.

That she and I still have a net.presence is somewhat remarkable; there aren't too many of us who built websites from the ground up.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Orr Speaks - Will the NHL listen?

I read Bobby Orr's scathing commentary from Sunday's Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, thanks to Orr's column was very well thought out, very accurate, and exactly how I feel about the whole situation.

Enough is enough, just like Bobby said.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Closer to Something

I have, over the last several months, attempted to ignore the negotiations (or lack thereof) between the NHL and the NHLPA. The move was an attempt on my part to regain my sanity, as the weekend after the cancellation of the season nearly brought me to the brink.

This past week, however, I was intrigued by reports surfacing in the press and among the hockey community in general that the NHL had decided not to pursue the use of replacement (or, as Gary Bettman recently described them, "different") players. The gist of the reason for the change appeared to be simple: a majority of owners refused to play with anyone other than the "real" NHL players.

Imagine my surprise when I start reading the smattering of articles coming from the Great White North about this change in the league's strategy. To a man, the writers in the Canadian press seemed to believe that this was a brilliant move by the league, because it stripped the PA of its only means of "keeping its members in line" – the threat of replacements. Added to this was a liberal amount of references to the PA's "Kool-Aid" – a somewhat backhanded reference to the Jonestown cultists in the late 1970's.

The irresponsibility of writers likening union membership to being in a cult aside, it's nothing short of idiocy to believe that the league's decision not to pursue replacements somehow works against the players. The only advantage it gives to the league is that a majority of its owners are intelligent enough to realize they'd lose even more money by icing scab players from beer leagues than they would by staying shuttered. Not choosing the legal slippery slope that replacements would bring is just smart from both a business and legal point of view.

It does, however, lead to an interesting position the league has put itself in. They have essentially said with this decision that they will either play with the "real" players come fall, or not at all. Given that Bettman has essentially guaranteed that there will be hockey this fall, it would be a huge public relations blunder if they chose to extend the lockout come October.

The dynamics of the Board of Governors seem to suggest that the so-called "big spending" clubs – Toronto, Detroit, Philadelphia, et al. – all came down decidedly on the side of not icing replacements. This is in contrast to the "small market" teams (Florida, Anaheim, Nashville, etc.) who have been adamant about having "cost certainty" (read: $36 million salary cap, sal-a-ry-cap, sal-a-ry-cap). It appears that the Big Spenders have had enough of this talk, and want to get something done before they really start to lose money.

It used to be bad enough that the NHL season was held hostage by nine owners who wanted "cost certainty"; now, there's another faction that is holding the league hostage by saying, "we're not going to agree to putting replacements on the ice." If it means anything, this new faction is larger, consisting of 10 to a dozen owners. Does that mean the NHL wouldn't pursue using replacements? No, but the vote wouldn't be more than a bare majority – and it's even questionable if it would be a majority. It wouldn't take much to convince four more owners to vote against using replacements.

What's even more maddening is that, if the reports are even close to being accurate, the financial proposals that are being considered currently are astounding. If what's reported to be on the table right now – some form of linkage between payroll and revenues, minimum floors for payroll, drastic changes to the entry-level system – were on the table back in September, we'd be talking about the Stanley Cup playoffs instead of Kool-Aid.

The owners cannot realistically afford to not play a full slate of hockey for 2005-06. The players already realize that there has to be some sort of cap on salaries, preferably one that is related to revenues. Those are two definite motivating factors that lead you to believe that the two sides are getting closer – even if it is by default.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Back To The Grind

Tomorrow evening, my vacation officially ends. So, to get me back into a complaining mode, here's a few rants for a late night:

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

What To Do

Here are a handful of ideas for Mr. Turer to consider after the sale of the Admirals has been completed:
  1. Work out a better deal with the Bradley Center. Right now, the Milwaukee Admirals have a very one-sided lease agreement with the Bradley Center and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Ads get nothing from concessions or souvenir stand revenues. If the team is going to remain viable, they need to change this. Under the old regime, this was time saving, because the Ads didn't have to hire (and pay) the extra warm bodies to staff the stands. Now, there's no excuse. And, if the Bucks or the BC do not want to change the terms – start talking to the people over at the Wisconsin Center about moving back across State Street to the Cell. Or, start looking at other venues, like the Kern Center.
  2. Get the team on TV. It doesn't have to be WTMJ or WISN, but get them back on TV somewhere on the dial. With the plethora of cable channels out there (WMLW and Fox Sports North, for example), there's got to be someone who'd be willing to put down money to put together a production crew for games. Make sure it's more than just a 10-game shot, too; you need to have a good chunk of games on the tube for people to notice that you're playing hockey in this town.
  3. Get the team on a better radio station. WJYI-AM Joy 1340 is a wonderful station, and they have some great people and great programs. However, they are not geared towards hockey. And, their signal is forced to power down to next-to-nothing at night, which is when the Ads play 90% of their games. There's a logical alternative to this, and it's such a slam-dunk, obvious move that I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't happen within a year: move the games to WSSP-AM 1250 (the former WEMP). Having Chuck Garabidian and the crew from Fox Sports Radio on hand to accentuate Admirals games can only improve the team's presence in the community. Of course, if WISN wants us back, that wouldn't be a bad thing, either. Just don't go to 1510/1290 AM; their signal (and the split-station format) is the worst in Milwaukee.
  4. Expand the front office. First order of business: call Fran Eddy and beg and plead with her to get back to her old job as the team ticket manager. Second: tell Phil that it's been nice, but the front office needs people who actually live in the 21st Century. Third: dump Wojo for someone who actually knows how to market hockey – heck, someone who knows how to market sports. Get some people in the front office who love the sport and are knowledgeable about the team.
  5. Design and unveil a new third jersey. There's no need to redesign the main jerseys – or the Admiral Head logo – but adding a third jersey would add to the marketability of the team. Maybe have the Admiral Head on a solid-color jersey (or maybe a throwback-style, with the anchors and shoulder color of the old jersey), and go with it. Fans will eat it up.

This and That and Another Thing

A few thoughts on an idle Tuesday:

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Vegas Baby

My little jaunt to Las Vegas was a non-plussed time. Here's a sample

Now comes the fun part -driving home to Wisconsin...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Adjusting Hall Of Fame Standards

One of my favorite books happens to be written by Bill James - and it's not his Historical Baseball Abstract (though I have both editions of that tome). It would be his work regarding the Hall of Fame, titled Whatever Happened To The Hall of Fame? (or The Politics of Glory).

Anyone who knows James also knows that he has a history of using a shorthand "point" system for approximating the value of a player. In fact, during his Abstracts of the 1980's, he used the Approximate Value method to rate players and teams. He came up with his "ultimate" version of AV in the aforementioned book, the Hall of Fame Standards method.

Basically, players are awarded points for reaching career milestones - 1 point if you're a career .300 hitter, etc. The total number of points would be expressed as the "percentage" of Hall of Fame Standards that a player or pitcher meets. James' intent was that the "average" Hall of Famer would score 50 points on the list.

The list isn't perfect, though. There are three major shortcomings that James probably didn't think through completely when he first drew up the list - which was actually back in 1983, when he first posited about what it would take for players to make the Hall of Fame. The shortcomings are:
The only way you could really adjust for the first problem (other than a complete overhaul of every single step of the formula) is to award 0.6 points for players who are actually in the Hall of Fame. The other two issues can be tackled in a straightforward manner by just tweaking a few parts of the two lists.

For fielders, instead of awarding points for just the player's primary fielding position, you count the number of games played at each position by the player during his career. Divide that number by the total number of games played, and then multiply the result by the "award factor" for that position.

For example, Carlton Fisk played in 2,499 career games. 2,226 of those were at catcher, 27 were at first base, 4 were at third base, and 41 were in left field. James awarded 20 points for games played as a catcher, 1 point for first basemen, 14 for second basemen, 13 for third basemen, 16 for shortstops, 3 for left fielders, 12 for center fielders, 6 for right fielders - and zero for everything else. Thus, Fisk's points for his positions are [20 x (2226/2499)] + (27/2499) + [13 x (4/2499)] + [3 x (41/2499)] = 17.9 points. That gives Fisk a HOFS score of 52.3; Baseball Reference lists him with a HOFS of 49.1, so he actually does a little better with the credit for his games played while not behind the plate.

What about the player who really gets hosed by HOFS - Ernie Banks? BR has him listed at 46.1; using this method, he earns a solid 8.0 points: (1259/2528) + [13 x (69/2528)] + [12 x (1125/2258)] + [3 x (23/2528)]. His new HOFS score is 49.8.

As to what to do about relievers: this isn't as difficult as it may seem. First of all, with now a handful of relievers in the HOF, it's actually easier to determine what the standards are. Relief Pitchers are defined here as a pitcher who had fewer starts than relief appearances (or, more than half of his appearances were in relief). An additional requirement is that a pitcher must average less than 4.5 innings per appearance. If a pitcher meets these requirements, instead of awarding points for wins over 100 (as in rule 1 of the HOF Standards method), you do the following:
For all pitchers, you also have a rule to award points for saves. Award 1 point for 100 saves, 2 for 150, 3 for 200, 4 for 250 and 5 for 300 or more saves.

These new standards help Bruce Sutter immensely: he's listed with a 17.0 HOFS score on BR, but his adjusted score is now 48.4 with the new rules. Some other players under the new rules:

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Wrong Battle

The National Hockey League Players Association has been through some very rocky weather as of late. Of course, that's like saying the Grand Canyon was suffering from "a bit of erosion," but that's another story.

At this point, I really and honestly believe that Bob Goodenow and company are fighting the wrong battle. It's not a question anymore of "if" there will be a salary cap when the NHL resumes play; it's a matter of "how much."

So, instead of foregoing the inevitable and praying the courts find in their favor, now is the time to fight the battle they should have fought back in 1994: unrestricted free agency.

Instead of demanding a proposal without a salary cap, put forth one that puts free agency at five seasons of service. 10 games on the roster per season, 50 games over 5 seasons (or 5 games/25 over 5 for goalies), and any player can become an unrestricted free agent.

Believe it or not, it wouldn't be that difficult of a sell to the players as a whole. The concept is this: if the league is going to force restrictions on the upper end of salaries, players should then have the choice to play where they want. The younger guys will be able to get away from the (horrendous) team that drafted them, and the older guys will still be able to go play where they want - and get the money they want.

A cap or no cap, as long as there are team owners out there who don't mind throwing money at players, there'll be millionaire hockey players in the NHL. When that's the case, it all basically comes down to where you want to play.

Do you want to stay in Florida, or do you yearn for the bright lights of Broadway? Do you love the golf on the courses in Phoenix, or would you rather play to a full house in Philly? Do you want the intensity for the game you'll find in T.O., or would you rather ply your wares for fans in the O.C.?

The press will more than likely consider a proposal like this to be "cutting their losses." And the NHL - well, who knows if the NHL will even consider it? But it'll be a heck of a lot more tempting to them if you agree to a revenue-based cap.

Even if it means that they (the owners) might end up the losers in the long run.


Michael Bauman, the esteemed former writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, posited a very interesting comment about asterisks around statistical milestones.

He didn't take the point ad extremis, which you honestly can do (let's not forget about the expansion era from 1961 onward, or the pre-1920 "clean ball" era, or the pre-1893 variable-pitching-distance era), but he did bear the most important point of the call for "asterisking" people like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds: Ruth didn't hit his 714 home runs against all of the possible best pitchers in the United States from 1917-1936. Williams didn't hit .406 against some of the best pitchers in the land. DiMaggio didn't complete his incredible streak against some of the best fielders and fastest outfielders in the land. And Ty Cobb didn't set his steal mark playing against some of the fastest men who ever played the game.

If there was ever one thing we did learn from the Great Home Run Chase, it was that asterisks, on the whole, are not good for the game. A record is a record, even if it's held by a complete jerk who bet on baseball.

Test Post

This is a test post. I have been having ******* issues with Blogger all night.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

First Impressions on the Season

Just a few observations about MLB after four days of baseball:

Ah, baseball. Gotta love it.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Opening Day

Today is the day.

Today is the day that Thomas Boswell has postulated when time begins.

Today is opening day. No, scratch that: today is Opening Day.

Other "opening days" are nothing compared to this one. Every year since that fateful day in May of 1871, there has been one sport and one game that has been the definition of "Opening Day."

The National Pastime. Baseball.

And today is when time begins anew. Every team is undefeated; every team has a theoretical shot at winning the pennant - or, at least, a playoff spot.

The realities of the game of baseball begin tonight with Randy Johnson's first pitch at Yankee Stadium - the first time that the Yankees will be hosting the Red Sox where the latter was the defending World Champions since 1919.

Whatever may come of it, the promise of the new season brings hope forth in all of us.

It is Opening Day.

Let time begin.