Archive for category Sports

Monty Back, Rommel Still Dead

Bob Montgomery is doing the color for today's Red Sox game and I can't figure out how to feel about it. Monty and the late Ned Martin were the voice of the Red Sox (on WSBK TV38) when I was growing up and it's strangely transporting to hear him again. He's done some Pawsox games, but it's hearing him back, like Jake Taylor (a fellow catcher) getting one last chance with the parent club. And it's like he's never left: same dulcet tones, knows the team, not a sign of age (unless you get a look at the tombstone of a gut he's developed in retirement).

It wasn't until about year 3 of the Don Orsillo Experience that I realized I'd seriously undervalued Sean McDonough. Orsillo is fine, but he's a generic Connecticut School of Broadcasting voice. Close your eyes and he could be talking about the Kansas City Royals. Sean McDonough's only sin for me (beyond the too-goofy adulation of Remy) was not being Ned Martin. Hearing Monty makes me feel like I'm ten, I've got a whole summer in front of me and there's nothing to worry about for the foreseeable future*. And that shit will get you killed.

* Of course, there were no World Series wins back then either

Welcome, Virtual Overlords

Two interesting debuts on ESPN's pre-game show, both about blurring the line between the virtual and the real. The first, projected fantasy stats for players across the league, feels stupid. If experts can't even predict the outcome of games, if injury reports are suspect, how the hell are they going to get individual player stats correct? It's something that feels dumb now and there's no reason it would get better. Sports are a random information generator; they play the games because the outcomes (in general) are impossible to predict.

The second was immediately arresting. Madden has long been part of the media's coverage of the NFL. Until now, it's been used to predict games which, like the fantasy stats idea, doesn't work. In the last few seasons, they've used it to demonstrate in-game scenarios. But now ESPN (with EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook) has pulled individual player models out of the game and put them on the studio's demonstration field, interacting with the hosts.  It's clunky right now. Blowing the players up to life size shows just how little detail is in the hundreds of thousands of polygons game companies brag about. The hosts don't have an equivalent to a teleprompter yet: at times, Tom Jackson was further from the models than he meant to be. He walked around gingerly like he was going to knock something over. Of course, it's impressive how well it went. It must take a lot of preparation to choreograph. Its easy enough for a weatherman to interact with a blank, non-moving surface behind him: just watch the rendered version on the monitor in front. I can't see how to help a host mix with virtual beings seamlessly in three dimensions, but someone will figure it out. When they do, ESPN's got a great advantage over other shows: the ability to bring viewers directly into the eyes of players. Virtual worlds like Second Life always get a ton of attention as they fit nicely with how science fiction films saw people moving into virtual worlds, but it's more interesting to see virtual worlds come into our space.

Yankee Fans: Bad at Math

Maybe not all of them, but what's the point of a blog if not to write incendiary things? I thought A-Rod bashing would be limited to Mike Lupica's awful article yesterday, but last night's meltdown left the Apple so confused  the New York Times is pushing Youkilis for MVP. Fan agita has led to the one thing worse than the sort of blindly anti-statistical baseball commentary that shows up at FireJoeMorgan, bad statistical analysis.

I will grant the author that A-Rod's batting average with runners on base is . . . not fantastic. But the rest of the observations:

  • "In Yankee wins, he hits .358. In losses, many of which he could have impacted, just .251 . . . here is a really telling one. With the margin of a game at 4 runs or greater, A-Fraud’s batting average is a staggering .411. There is your ‘piling on meaningless numbers’ evidence right there." Without context, numbers are meaningless. The splits for everyone ("everyone" defined here as >95%) in the MLB will be higher for wins and lower for losses. When a team wins, it scores runs, when it loses, it doesn't. Teams score runs by getting hits. I think you can put the rest together: in games where the Yankees score at least 4 runs (and possibly 20), players are going to hit well. The Yankees as a team hit .307 in wins and .233 in losses.
  • "Late & Close . . . An OK .288, but with only 7 RBI in 59 at-bats" At the risk of sounding more snobbish than normal, statistical analysis tends to ignore RBIs (and batting average, but that's a different discussion) because RBIs aren't discrete events. With the exception of a solo home run, players need teammates to do something to be able to accumulate RBIs. It would be nice to know how many opportunities Slappy Bluelips has gotten this year in Late & Close situations. It'd also be nice to see the team's Late & Close numbers. Since you asked, the team hits a sub-A-Fraudian .269 in Late & Close situations.

If you did want to support the thesis A-Rod sucks in the clutch (and who am I to deny that kind of hate?), one might point out A-Rod's performance in high-leverage situations, though that will mean explaining what the hell tOPS+ is (I hadn't heard of it until I went and looked now), so make sure you're not trying to convince Lupica. And make sure you include the team's numbers for context (man, 64 versus 92 is pretty shitty).

Getting Ready for the iPhone 2.0

First Mike Lowell steals a cellphone, now this:

Nick Cafardo

For a senior writer at the Globe, you sure manage to anchor the Bell Curve on the weekly notes columns. Scattered amongst the feel-good crap about players he likes and the baseless trade rumors, he managed to throw in a testable hypothesis: "[Pat] Burrell always has been overpaid - he's making $14 million this season in the final year of his contract - but has hit at least 20 homers in each of the last eight years". Not sure what 20 homers means; it's a pretty context-free observation. Burrell's OPS+ and salary from 2005 to present:

  • 128, $7,250,000
  • 122, $9,750,000
  • 127, $13,250,000
  • 155, $14,250,000

So he's been 20% better than league average (admittedly, that includes hitters at all positions, which is a bit deceptive, especially in the NL) and is now 50% better than average and he's "overpaid". I think there are better ways to spend $14 million in MLB salary money, but it's the last year of a back-loaded contract. Burrell doesn't quite make the top 25 salaries for 2008 and, looking at that list, there are worse ways to be spending that money. I don't remember what Burrell's misdeed was that made him a Bad Guy for out-of-town sportswriters, but I think the Globe could find better uses for their ink budget. Cafardo's always been overpaid.

Terry Francona: Fashion Critic

"I can't believe that ball didn't take one look at [Orsillo's] sport coat and take a right turn."

A Brief History of My Celtics Fandom

Pre-History

I didn't make it for '81. '82. "Beat LA" is where I got my start. In '84 I was still young enough that I wasn't allowed to stay up and watch the pre-Championship playoffs. I think this had more to do with my Dad's MBA study group meeting at our house than my age (8+) or the time, given I was allowed to listen to the radio in my room. And tape the broadcasts, for some reason. Tree Rollins and Sidney Moncrief appear on casette tapes somewhere in this house, along with that George Carlin "Occupation: Foole" tape I made that ends a little early and reveals an old Celtics/ Pistons tilt in which Rick Mahorn dumps Johnny Most's beverage all over the scorer's table.

I made it to '84 and '86. Was there for '85 and '87 too. There for the rise of the Pistons ('88-'90), the faux threat of the Pacers, but all of that was terrific stuff for a sports fan.  Len Bias died, Larry's back turned more trick than back, Kevin's ankle turned into Home Depot, Reggie Lewis' plumbing failed and the next thing you knew, it was just you, Tommy and Rick Fox. When I left for college in 1993, there wasn't anything to leave behind. Gone, there were no reminders the Celtics existed once you left New England.

Restart

By the time I got out of college and got settled into something like adulthood, the Celtics were what the Bruins are now, Lucy with the football, just begging you to kick it this time, for reals. I signed on to the Pitino Era, as much out of loyalty to him (who'd made PC basketball into something to respect again) as them. Wiff #1: no Tim Duncan. Wiff #2: they beat the Jordan Bulls on Opening Night, get you hooked and then turtle. For about 5 years. They get Antoine, they get Paul, Paul gets stabbed, they make a fantastic playoff run, if the Eastern Conference Finals were your end goal in life. Even that gets blown up. Rinse and repeat.

Which makes this year so amazing. It's out of nowhere. It's a full-on Victory Garden blooming in a bombed-out alley. Forget Paul, Ray-Ray and KG's amazing intensity. The people that make this year fun from game 1 to whenever it ends are guys like James Posey, Big Baby, the Hollywood story that is Leon Powe. Character guys who show up and go to work. 'EEI callers are insistent on comparing this team to the Patriots even though the Celtics haven't won a thing yet. It feels premature, it feels unnecessary (and it's a little uncomfotable to have Murf the Surf from Dawchestah calling up to talk about "character" black guys, but that's a different history). This run can probably last another two years, but if they don't win a thing and fall apart next year, it was still a hell of a ride.

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Celtics Coverage: Now with More Scat!

Tommy (re: injury reports): "Now I am told by the truck that good old Greg had the poop!"

Mike: "He did."

Tommy: "He had the poop! But he didn't give it to me!"

Mike: "He's got to share that stuff."

Tommy: "That's it!"

Tommy then sung the words "That is a mis-TAAAAKE" regarding the Sonics' defense of Paul Pierce. I'd like to take editorial license and claim Mike said, "He's gotta spread it around", but alas, it's not true.

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