Tag Archives: Tony

Billy Hamilton: faster than the optimal path

Cincinnati Reds minor leaguer Billy Hamilton is making noise with his speed – he set the minor league steals record on Tuesday, surpassing Vince Coleman’s 145 (though Coleman did it in fewer games). Hamilton was on my radar for the Portland Peskies awhile ago, after he clocked a 13.8 second in the park home run. In case you’ve forgotten, the Peskies are a hypothetical team built on undervalued baseball skills: speed, bunting, defense, and even knuckleball pitching. I’m convinced that you could build a decent baseball team for very little money by focusing on these skills.

Upon seeing Hamilton’s in the park home run time, I immediately started the mental math: 360 feet is about 110 meters, but you need to bow out to turn the corners, so maybe 120-130 meters is a good guess. The world record for the 100 meter dash is about 9.6 seconds, so a world class sprinter could do that distance in about 11.5 to 12.5 seconds — in a straight line.

But those corners complicate things. They slow you down, which makes it difficult to determine the optimal path. At one extreme, you could minimize the distance by running directly to each base and cutting hard. This is surely not the fastest way. At the other extreme, you can draw out the circle that touches each base. Again, surely not the fastest, since you don’t have to make a turn at home plate.

So, what’s the optimal path? A couple of math professors worked with a student at Williams College* to try to figure it out. The path they end up with has the batter bow out at a 25 degree angle, swing even wider than the circle from first to third, and aim for home on a relatively straight line. This path is far wider than most batters run.

Not a bad effort, but I’m not buying it. In order to prove Continue reading

Scrabble riddle responses

Last week, I posted a Scrabble riddle posed by my buddy Tony. Here’s the riddle again:

Specify a word that cannot be played under any circumstances in a Scrabble game.

If you still want to take a stab at the riddle, follow the link above to see the complete rules. Now, SPOILER ALERT – answers are below!

Continue reading

The Tank Watch (4/23/2012)

Last week, the tanking was going strong. Only the Hornets had played well among playoff eliminated teams. My guess is that league ownership made them bring back Eric Gordon, and it’s about to cost them a lottery position after they won again in the last few days. They helped boot the Rockets out of the playoffs and Gordon had another superb game.

A couple other teams played well since the last Tank Watch. The Wiz have now beaten the Bulls, Bucks, and Heat in succession, but their spot is basically clinched, so their incentive to tank is diminished. One more loss in their last three games or a win for the Hornets will lock them in. The Pistons also posted a couple of wins, though over Cleveland and Toronto. Here are the updated numbers:

The Tank Watch

Tonight, we get a treat! The Bobcats travel to play Washington. Below is an incredible craigslist post that my buddy Tony sent me about this game (click to enlarge). Apparently there were zero tickets listed on Stubhub around 4pm.

The Tank Watch (4/17/2012)

‘Tis the season for tanking! Last week, there were six teams eliminated from the playoffs. The Bobcats and Wizards had lost quite a lot already since then, though the Hornets looked surprisingly good. The Hornets continue to look good, but everyone else is bad bad bad, and the ranks of the eliminated have grown. The Bobcats locked in the worst record last night, but it’s hard to imagine them winning any games the rest of the way, so I’m not sure they can be accused of tanking. They are just a terrible team.

The Tank Watch

The Hornets 6-3 record since playoff elimination is largely due to the return of Eric Gordon (they are 4-1 in recent games when he has played). However, would any team other than the LEAGUE OWNED Hornets bring back Eric Gordon Continue reading

LOS LIIIIIINNNNNNKKKKSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This week’s LOS LIIIINNNKKKKSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!:

As always, send me los links if you have something funny, sports-related, intelligent, and/or intriguing.

A proposal for NFL overtime

Earlier this week, I linked to an interesting auction-based proposal to help improve fairness in NFL overtime games. Right now, the coin flip gives the winning team a boost more often than not (the only exception is if the winning team mistakenly takes the ball but has a VERY weak offense relative to its defense, or, likewise, if the losing team has a VERY strong defense, relative to its offense).

The idea of the auction is to give each team “accurate” odds of winning by having them bid for the ball, using starting field position as currency. As you bid to start deeper and deeper in your own end, the odds of you scoring before your opponent drop. At some starting field position for each team (maybe around the 17 yard line), the odds should be close to fair Continue reading

LOS LIIIIIINNNNNNKKKKSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This week’s LOS LIIIINNNKKKKSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!:

As always, send me los links if you have something funny, sports-related, intelligent, and/or intriguing.

Super Bowl gambling!

Yes, it’s the one time of year when gambling is tacitly accepted in the United States. By comparison, my buddy Tony reminded me today that Europeans can openly bet on everything from Charlie Sheen’s next girlfriend to the Facebook IPO. I’m not going to go through all the Super Bowl prop bets — that’s been done to death. Instead, I want to look at the line movements for the Super Bowl, which shed some light on how line setting works (hint: it’s not always about getting half the betting on each side of the line).

The Patriots opened as 3.5 point favorites in many books, but it quickly became clear that the Giants would get many more bets at that number. The standard argument is that Vegas doesn’t care if their line is “accurate” (in terms of the actual game outcome); they just want Continue reading

The Celtics take on Howard and win

It was a renaissance in Boston last night. Garnett was draining 20 footers, Paul Pierce was driving and kicking and hitting shots, and Jermaine O’Neal was putting the clamps on Dwight Howard. Everybody hustled. The defensive intensity never lapsed all game. To steal a line from NBA TV studio man Brent Barry, the Celtics’ “Jurassic Five” went prehistoric on the Magic and held them to a franchise-low 56 points. It was their first win over a team with a winning record, by 31 points no less.

Recently, I’ve discussed the efficacy of the hack-a-Howard strategy (or as Celtics TV mainstay Tommy Heinsohn puts it, the old “hack the Shaq”). The short answer is that Howard shoots too well from the line (59% almost every year, though lower so far this year) for a pure hack-a-Howard to be effective for most teams. However, hacking Howard only when he has the ball in good position Continue reading

Football riddle response to tide you over until 1pm

On Monday, I posted the following riddle:

Suppose you are Tim Tebow, up 2 points with 25 seconds remaining in the game. You have the ball on your 5 yard line, 1st and 10, and the Raiders are in town (meaning that Sebastian Janikowski can hit a field goal from Mars). The Raiders have all three timeouts. You may assume that any punt will not be blocked. Without gaining a first down, how do you assure victory?

Turns out that Tebow had some more important riddles against the Patriots, like how to run against a disciplined defense that has seen your option before, or how to throw the ball in the cold (he was 9-26!), but let’s go through the best answers I got for the situation above. Continue reading