Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

Copyright Notice

Everything that appears on this blog is the copyrighted property of somebody. Often, but not always, that somebody is me. For things that are not mine, I either have obtained permission, or claim fair use. Feel free to quote me, but attribute, please. My photos and poetry are dear to my heart, and may not be used without permission. Ditto, my other intellectual property, such as charts and graphs. I'm probably willing to share. Let's talk. Violators will be damned for all eternity to the circle of hell populated by Rosanne Barr, Lady Gaga, and trombonists who are unable play in tune. You cannot possibly imagine the agony. If you have a question, email me: jazzbumpa@gmail.com. I'll answer when I feel like it. Cheers!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Tigers Mid-Season Wrap Up

June for the Tigers was a mirror image of May.  In May, they started the month going 13-3, then went 4-9 to finish at 17-12, or .586, which is still quite good and would project to 95 wins over a season.  But the doldrums continued well into June, which started off at 5-11.  But things suddenly turned around and they went 9-2 for the rest of the month, finishing at 14-13.  This is a barely respectable .519, and would project to only  84 wins over a season.  That might not even be good enough for a wild card.

This put the Tigers at 45-34 at the end of June, or .570, projecting to 92 wins.  This might be enough to win the division, or a least a wild card spot.  They went on to win the next two, completing a sweep of the A's, and landing at 47-34, or .580, at the midpoint of the season, projecting to 94 wins.  Two games later they now stand at 48-35, with 94 wins still a reasonable projection.

The graph shows win percentage and projection after each game of the season.

 Here are batting averages after the July 4th loss to Tampa Bay.

Cabrera, at .313, doesn't look bad, but a closer look is troubling.  After game 52 his B.A. was .332.  For the 31 games since, it's .282.  For the last 21 games, it's .278, and for the last 13, it's .288.  He seems to be settling in at a pretty ordinary pace - certainly far from MVP performance.  This is dragged down quite a bit by what happens late in games.  In the first 6 innings he's hitting .330 for the season, but later in games only .267.

Here it all is in one busy picture.

Run production is way off as well.  Cabrera had 41 hits with 34 RBI's  in May, but only 29 hits with 16 RBI's in June.

After game 83, the Tigers still sit atop the A.L. Central, 4 games up on the Royals and 8 ahead of Cleveland, with 2 games in hand relative to each of them.  This season can end well, but lots of things will have to go right, and hitting with run production from Cabrera will have to be a big part of it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tigers Update

On the 9th of June the Tigers began a series of 14 straight games against Central Division opponents.  I said then that going 7-7 would not be good enough.   Ten games into it [with one rain-out against the White Sox] they are 4-6.  The best that can do now is 7-6, and that will take a sweep in Cleveland, where their demise began, just over a month ago.

Most recently, the Tigers eked out a win against the first place Royals [How weird does that look?] thereby avoiding getting swept in a 4 game series AT HOME.  And it has been every bit as bad as that makes it sound.

After completing a sweep of the Red Sox in Boston on May 18th, the Tigers' run differential stood at 55 for the 39 games played up to that point.  After game 67, on June 17th, a devastating 11-4 loss to the Royals, the run differential reached -2.  In 28 games the Tigers had been outscored by 57 horrific runs.  After splitting the next two games by identical 2-1 scores, they're again at -2.

There is no single cause.  Starting pitching for anyone not named Anibal went from outstanding into a range between ordinary and dismal.  Relief pitching gave no relief.  Scoring evaporated to the extent that they were shut out 3 times in those 28 games, and averaged a mere 3.933 runs per game.  This is scoring at the Seattle - Houston level, equivalent to 21st out of 30 MLB teams.  This stretch also includes a 12-9 win over the Twins, and a game in Cleveland where they scored 10 runs and lost by 1.

As this suggests, pitching has been awful.  The table shows the ERA's of the Tigers' rotation on the last start before arriving in Cleveland on May 19th, compared to now.  Sanchez has been outstanding, Smyly ordinary, and the rest at times embarrassingly bad.  We won't even look at the relief staff.

Now consider hitting.  For simplicity, we'll just look at batting averages.  Martinez, Marinez, and Cabrera have continued to produce, though Miggy is only hitting .259 for the latest 8 games.  Castellanos has brought his average up.  But Jackson, Hunter, and Kinsler have dropped off quite a bit.

After their win last night - a razor-thin 2-1 victory behind another brilliant start by Sanchez, an assist by Jaba, and Nathan finally having a strong 1-2-3 9th - I'd like to be optomistic.  But Verlander is burned out, Scherzer's last start was ghastly, and Smyly can be erratic.  Even worse, in the last 2 games, they've scored a total of three runs on 9 hits.

At their apex, the Tigers were on a pace to win 112 games.  Now the projection is 87.  There's a lot of season left, and plenty of time to turn this ship around.

But everything from pitching to hitting to fielding to base running will have to get a lot better.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Quote of the Day

Conservatism involves a lot of “shut up, you whiners!” followed by whining.

                            ----  Rob in CT, commenting at LGM.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Night Music

I'm chagrined to admit that I never heard of this song, and - even worse - knew nothing of the iconic Leonard Cohen, until our oldest granddaughter did an ensemble dance to it in competition a couple of years ago.  It was somebody else's smooth-voiced cover - there are many and I never did find out whose - not Cohen's gravelly bass.

Knowing her dance studio as I do, I'm sure the more obviously suggestive verses weren't included - as indeed, they weren't included in Cohen's original studio recording.  The strange thing about this song is the coupling of two concepts - religious ecstasy and sexual gratification - that seem totally disconnected in modern culture.

It wasn't always so.  If I have the history right, back before the Old Testament Jews abandoned human sacrifice and tried their experiment with monotheism, they were not much different ethnically or culturally from the rest of their Canaanite neighbors.  At least in some parts of the Mediterranean basin - and I think this includes Canaan - sex, fertility and procreation were integral with nature and the earth, even if not specifically coupled with goddess based religion

Somehow, when the sky daemon replaced earth daemons, sex became dirty and sinful, goddesses became whores, and, thanks in no small part to the rabid misogynist Saul of Tarsus, whole civilizations became puritanical.  Or at least such was their claim.

That legacy haunts us today.  You see it in the insane objections to insurance coverage of birth control [which was never a problem until it became part of Obamacare], gender-dependent double standards of morality, and the Republican war on women.

Still, whatever our views on religion or lust, in the privacy of our own homes, we can experience a  hallelujah moment - and, for now at least - no matter how cold and broken, make our own decisions as to what that means.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Tigers May Wrap Up

Around mid-month I posted updates Part 1 and Part 2.

Back in those days, things were going well: starting pitching was dominating, relief pitching was doing the job, hitters were getting on base and scoring. It all seems so long ago, now.  Suddenly, on the 17th game of the month, everything came apart: starting pitching, with certain notable exceptions, has been horrible, relief pitching no better, and scoring has dried up.

For the scoring charts, I've divided the month after game 16.  The blue bar represents the first 16 games, and the red bar represents the last 13 games.  Graph 1 shows Tigers scoring by inning.

 Graph 1 - Tigers Scoring

 Innings 1, 5 and 7 have been OK lately, but for the rest of the game, production has fallen off badly.  But that's not the worst of it.  Graph 2 shows opponents scoring by inning, same color code.

Graph 2 - Opponents Scoring
 This is every bit as bad as it looks.  Note that both graphs are on the same scale. Through two + cycles of the rotation, starters put up four good games, 2 by Sanchez, and one each by Verlander [after three dismal starts] and Smyly - the latter sadly, a 3-2 loss.  Except for the 5th inning, which is a wash, all the others were worse after game 16.  Innings 2 and 4, when the meat of the opposing line ups came through, were terrifying.

This is what happened

Here is the scoring summary.

Scoring declined by 1.4 runs per game.  Late scoring only looks good because it is in the context of overall bad scoring.

All I can say about this is read it and weep.

Graph 3 shows the winning percentage after each game, and the number of wins that would project to at season's end.

Graph 3 - Win Percentage and Projection  

For a while, 100 wins looked attainable.  It might still be, but things would have to get much better quickly.

The last graph [4] looks at Cabrera's batting average, one of the few bright spots. Since a rocky start, he's done extremely well.

 Graph 4 - Miggy

Early on, his batting after the 6th inning lagged, but now has caught up with the first 6 innings.  The black line indicates his average over the most recent 21 games.  It's been at or above .370 since game 39.  His overall average has been in the mid to high .320's since game 40.

He currently has 49 RBI's, 3rd in the AL, and is on a pace to bring in close to 150.

May didn't end well for the Tigers, and June started with a shut out.  Baseball is a streaky game.  A bad streak is steeped in misery.  Here's hoping they can get things turned around soon.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tigers Mid-month Update, Part 2 - Pitching

Here are some Tigers pitching stats, after last night's game.

When Verlander has the highest ERA on the starting staff, and is 4th in K/9, I'd say things are going rather well.

Coke pitched a 1-hit scoreless 9th in Boston last night.  If he can keep turning things around, the future will look very bright, indeed.

For part 1, see here.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tigers Mid-month Update

Tigers have the day off, and I have a jam packed weekend, so now, with a few spare moment I'll make a brief update.

At the end of April, the Tigers were averaging 4.52 runs per game and giving up 4.13 - a scant 0.39 average differential.

Now, for the season to date, these numbers stand at 4.89 and 3.64, respectively, a much healthier differential of 1.25.

Looking at May only, for these 13 games the Tigers are averaging 5.54 runs per game, while giving up only 2.77 - an astounding 2.77 run differential.  Coincidentally, the Tigers have exactly doubled up on their opponents' scoring during the month. 

Graph 1 shows Tigers scoring by inning, for May (blue) and for season to date (red.)

Graph 1

The strong 4th inning has gotten stronger, at the expense of the 3rd.  The good news is how late scoring has picked up.  Other innings haven't changed much.  There have been no extra inning games so far this month.

Graph 2 shows runs allowed per inning, for May and for season to date.

Graph 2

Innings 1, 2, 4, and 6 are down, 3 and 7 close to unchanged, 5 and 9 are up a bit.  The 5th inning jump is largely due to Verlander's 5-run inning on Tuesday, when the Tigers were up by 6.

Note these two graphs are on the same scale.  That in itself shows how dominating the Tigers have been.

Their 24-12 record (.667 win percentage) is the best in the majors, and projects to 108 wins for the season. They've played the fewest games of any team in the majors, with 3 to 6 games in hand relative to their division mates.  Interestingly, the allegedly weak A L Central as of Monday was 24-14 against the allegedly strong A L East.

Tigers are in Boston for 3 this weekend, then move on to play 3 against division rival Cleveland. After that, the Rangers are in town for 4.

For pitching stats, see part 2.

I'll have more detail at the end of the month.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cabrera Update After Game 28

In the 3rd game of the season, Miguel Cabrera went 4 for 5 with a home run and 3 RBIs.  But by game 16, all his stats were at all time lows.  Since then, he's recovered dramatically.  Here it is in a couple of graphs.

Graph 1 shows batting stats - batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage.

Graph 1

This vertical scale is compressed to accommodate the high slugging average after game 3, so the impressive batting average increase from .206 after game 16 to .293 after game 28 doesn't look as dramatic as it should.  But note how slugging stepped up after game 16, and actually kept slowly rising from that point.  In game 28 last night, he had a double and a home run, so slugging moved up another notch to .466.  It will be interesting to see if he can maintain this apparent higher level.  This should happen, since he finished last year with a slugging percentage of .636.  This included a dramatic decline at the end of the season when he was injured.  Slugging for September was a sluggish .313, dragging the season number down from .688 on August 26. This year, his 4 home runs to date equal last years total after 28 games, but then he hit 2 in game 29 on May 3rd at Houston.  There is still a lot of room on the upside.

Graph 2 shows batting average, overall, with a split after inning 6, and for the last 8 games.

Graph 2

Never mind the early games, here I've expanded the scale a bit to put more emphasis on the improvement since game 16.  The big jump is most noticeable in the black line, showing average over the last 8 games. 

As the red line indicates, late inning performance lags overall performance.  But here's something amazing.  Overall, He's achieved 23 RBIs on 34 hits, an RBI for every 1.48 hits.  Through inning 6, it's an RBI for every 2.00 hits.  After inning 6, it's an astounding RBI for every .900 hits.  Late in games, when his batting average is lower, he has more RBI's than hits. That is some gonzo clutch hitting.   For perspective last year he had 137 RBIs on 193 hits, or 1.41 hits/RBI - not far off from where he is this year to date.

Based on the last 8 game numbers, it looks like Cabrera is back at, or close to, last year's mid-season form, before the injuries dragged him down.

If he can stay healthy, the future of this season looks pretty bright.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What is a Good Batting Average?

I think we'd all agree that .300 is a good batting average, and that .200 isn't.   Also, that 280 is pretty good and .220 is pretty poor.  But where do you draw the line?  Let's say that a good batting average is anything above the mean for the league in that year, and the degree of goodness is defined by the difference from the mean.  Similarly, poor batting is hitting below the league mean.

Fortunately, mean batting average data is available at Baseball Almanac, going back to 1901, so the comparisons are easy to make.  "These totals include every player, every at-bat and every hit during the season listed."

Graph 1 shows the mean batting average for each league from 1901 through 2013.

Graph 1

There have been some pretty big changes over time as the tide shifts in the battle between hitters and pitchers.  Within the broad sweeps, there are also year to year variances that tend to run more or less parallel in the two leagues.  So, in general, whatever is happening, happens in both leagues.

To get a clearer picture of the broad sweeps, I took 13 year moving averages for both leagues [Yes - averages of averages of averages.]  This can be seen in Graph 2.

Graph 2

This clarifies two things - times when either pitchers or hitters were gaining on the other, and times when one of the leagues had either better hitting or better pitching.   Batters became increasingly more dominant from the mid 19-teens through the early thirties.  Then pitchers took over until the early to mid seventies.  Afterward, batters gained ground until 2007.  That trend may now be reversing. 

Back in the early days, the performances in the two leagues was, in gross terms, nearly identical.  There were big differences between the leagues in individual years, but a lot of year-to-year flipping eliminated dominance by one league over the other.  Since about 1950, there have been some robust separations. Graph 3 shows this in detail.

Graph 3

From 1901 until 1938, a  difference of .013 or more between the leagues was fairly common, occurring 8 times in those 37 years, 4 with the AL on top, and 4 with the NL on top.  Over that span the AL grand average was .002 above the NL average.  Since 1938 there have only been 3 occurnces of a .013+ difference.

From 1943 to 1972 the NL batters did better, by an average of .004 per year.  The greatest difference was .016 in 1966.  Since 1973 the AL has done better, out hitting the NL by an average of .007 per year, with peaks of .014 in 1989 and .015 in 1996.  These average differences in the three eras are indicated with heavy blue horizontal lines. The yellow line is the average difference for the entire data set.  Since 2007, as batting averages in both leagues have dropped by large margins, the gap between the leagues has gotten smaller.

It occurred to me that a good batter should be above the mean by some margin, and standard deviation ought to be a useful number.  I got the data here for the 2013 season, and arbitrarily eliminated players with fewer than 200 at bats.  The mean batting average of the 170 qualifying players was 0.2568, as compared to 0.2558 for the every player, every at bat method cited above.  The standard deviation was .030.

So, if you're lenient, a good batting average in the American League was anything over .257.  If you want to be more strict, use .287.  For 2 Std Devs above the mean, it's .317.

Miguel Cabrera's league leading batting average of .348 for 2013 was a full 3 standard deviations above the mean.  Here is a list of all the qualifying AL players with batting averages over .300 in 2013.

Five full season Tigers were on that list of 15 names.  They picked up Iglesias at the End of June, 2013 then lost Peralta and Infante over the winter.  Iglesias is now out with stress fractures in both legs, and will miss the entire 2014 season.  He is expected to make a full recovery.

Afterthought: 2007 was the year MLB got serious about enforcing bans on PEDs.  Since then mean batting averages have dropped by about 20 points.  Coincidence?  I don't think so.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

This is for Mike Shupp

I'm not any kind of Red Sox fan, but I think Dustin Pedroia is pretty cool.

He hit his 100th HR tonight, a grand slam that bounced off the top of the monster.

The whole event just seems perfect.

Phooey.  The vid won't embed.

Here's the link.