Tag Archives: baseball

Part 2: The Return of Adrian the Canadian

Yesterday, Adrian reasserted himself on the blog with a clear proposal to reduce diving in soccer.  Today, he shows off his versatility with a response to my recent thoughts on fairness in U.S. and European professional sports leagues (written in relation to my brother Conor’s defense of talent concentration in European soccer). For a taste of the historical, economic, legal, and political, set aside 10 minutes and read on:

How long has it been? Too long, I think.  But Tyler’s recent post has compelled me to withdraw from my self-imposed hibernation and away from the stultifying process of studying for the Ontario bar exam. In short, I disagree with the capitalist/socialist, American Sports/European Sports dichotomy or, rather, I think it abstracts away from the real issue – that cartels make a heck of a lot more money than entities that exist in competition with one another. In short, the NFL and MLB are not staunch defenders of equality values; Dan Snyder and Hank Steinbrenner are not driving the train to the Finland Station.

The standard argument goes something like this: isn’t it ironic that America, land of unbridled capitalism, home of animal spirits on free and open fields, has “socialist” sports leagues that redistribute resources from winners to losers while red, socialist, pinko Europe has a free and open market for sports talent? It’s a cute argument and one that elicits a nice “hmmm…” from readers and there are certainly large elements of truth to it. American sports are, at least nominally, more redistributive, and there is a larger perception that American sports are organized more “fairly” than European sports from a competitive standpoint. Still, it’s far from clear that European sports are more aristocratic than American sports if we look at the highest levels and, more importantly, I think this distracts us from a deeper, more thorough comparison of why European sports and American sports are organized so differently.

Barcelona’s greatness is undeniable, but it’s not a greatness that has translated into a dynasty at the highest levels of competition. While Barca has been the dominant team in La Liga, it’s only won three of the last ten Champions League titles despite making each of the last ten tournaments. This means that the Champions League may not even be as “aristocratic” as the NBA:  eight different teams have won the Champions League while only six have won the NBA championship in the same span. And, unlike La Liga Continue reading

Adrian the Canadian fixes the MLB playoffs

“But he’s Canadian,” you say, “So what does he know about baseball?” Well, he’s from Toronto, the team most screwed by the current system, so let’s give it a shot:

A few days ago, the MLB announced that it was expanding its playoffs to include a second wild-card team. Under the new system, the two wild-cards will play a single game that determines who goes to the divisional series. Response has been, at best, mixed. The strongest criticisms, like this one from ESPN’s Joe Sheenan, have taken a traditionalist perspective. Sheenan worries about what this new system will mean for deep-seated, and still exciting, elements of baseball like the pennant race. He sees the wild-card system as debasing what has historically been one of the most exciting parts of being a baseball fan: following your team through a tense September race to win the division. By Sheenan’s estimation, the old system encouraged top teams to play their best throughout the whole season. If you happen to be one of the two best teams in the league by regular season record but can’t win your own division, tough grapes.

I sympathize with Sheenan and other traditionalists. Baseball’s regular season is long and arduous and does a pretty good job of determining the “best” team (or, at least, a better job than other pro-sports at determining the best team). Meanwhile, baseball playoffs, due to the nature of the game, are pretty close to random. As Billy Beane said, “my shit doesn’t work in the playoffs” – seven and five game series are simply too short to give us a good idea as to which team is best. In the 17 post-seasons since the advent of the wild-card, the wild card team has won five times Continue reading

The Curse of the M’s

Sports (especially baseball) has a number of well known curses. The Red Sox (Curse of the Bambino) and White Sox (Curse of the Black Sox) broke theirs last decade, but the Cubs (Curse of the Billy Goat) struggle on with no championship since 1908. My new favorite is the Curse of the Colonel: apparently Colonel Sanders cursed the Hanshin Tigers of Japan after they threw his KFC statue in a river during a championship celebration.

I don’t believe in curses, of course, but the Curse of Bobby Layne is one that came true. My Lions traded quarterback Bobby Layne to the Steelers in 1958 after he won the NFL championship the previous year because he was getting long in the tooth. Incensed, Layne told anyone who would listen Continue reading

The Prince Heavy Side Function

Here’s one potential career “arc” for Prince Fielder:

I call it “the Prince Heavy Side Function,” after the famous Heaviside step function. The graph above certainly has a “heavy side,” though Oliver Heaviside himself was not heavy at all.

Oliver "Not So Heavy" Heaviside

Thanks Brother Evan for suggesting the graph above!

Analyzing the Fielder signing further

David Schoenfield put up a fairly useless blog post about the Tigers signing Prince Fielder yesterday. It just became even more useless, as ESPN confirmed that Cabrera will shift to third base to accommodate Fielder (Schoenfield said this would never happen). I knew about this way before ESPN, thanks to Brother Evan passing along a local news link.

The real issue with Schoenfield’s post Continue reading

The hack-a-Howard

In my post on Friday about the DiMaggio hit streak, I mentioned the old hack-a-Shaq strategy. With Dwight Howard playing for Shaq’s old team, I’m surprised that teams don’t try the hack-a-Howard (Howard is a 60% career free throw shooter). Friday night’s Bulls-Magic game was a potential opportunity; the Bulls led for the entire fourth quarter. Here are the Bulls possessions inside of 4:30 remaining: Continue reading