Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tim Collins update

Tim Collins made his major league debut today for the Kansas City Royals, pitching the ninth inning in a 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Angels of Anaheim.

Collins gave up a leadoff single to Macier Izturis. Howie Kendrick sacrificed him over (because anytime you have a guy who has a career batting average of .295 in the majors and .360 (.360!!!) in the minors, you want to have him deliberately make an out). Bobby Abreu walked then Collins struck out Torii Hunter and got Vernon Wells to fly out.

That puts Collins 1,251 games behind Jesse Orosco and 5,713 strikeouts behind Nolan Ryan. Not that I'm counting or anything.

Collins is younger than anyone who pitched in the American League last season.

From fat old man to endurance athlete in six weeks

OK, the title of this post might be a little disingenuous. I'm not all that old. I turn 40 at the end of April, an event that has me feeling old, not because of the round number milestone, but because of something else I'll share in a future post.

I am overweight. You know that if you read this. But fat? I don't know. Probably. Regardless of how I label my weight, it's too much.

And it's not like I'm a couch potato. It wasn't that long ago (3.5 years) that I earned my black belt in karate. It wasn't that long ago (2.5 years) that I was probably in the peak physical condition of my life. It wasn't that long ago (four weeks) that I rowed a quarter marathon. I hiked across Delaware in the fall. I've biked more centuries (100 mile rides) in my lifetime than I can recall. I've got some athleticism. I've just let myself go.

So I'm going to see what I can do with six weeks of intense dedication to training. Early May is Concept2's Global Marathon Challenge. My goal is to finally row a marathon. Either May 13th or 14th, depending on my schedule. I know I can do it physically, right this minute. The mental aspect of three hours on an indoor rower, playing headgames with myself, telling myself I feel tired or slow or heavy, that's the challenge for me.

That's where I stand. I'm going to use this space to record my efforts. Putting myself out there in public hopefully will help. Maybe I can be inspiring to others. Feel free to encourage me. Ask questions, what have you. We'll see what an "average Joe" with a plan can do in a month and a half.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Something that was never a favorite thing - Charlie Sheen edition

I'm not exactly sure how this happened but I got to thinking about a purchase I made way back in the day, before I had kids, before I had really gotten into baseball memorabilia. Wait, I know how this happened. It was Mark again. He had a post the other day about an auction and that made me think of it.

It was my first auction, long before the internet. I had received a catalog from some place, probably someone who had bought SABR's mailing list. For whatever reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to be the owner of a movie-worn Charlie Sheen undershirt. It was white with blue sleeves. Like he wore in this scene:

Sheen had signed it with the inscription "Go Irish!". Like I said, I don't know why I decided I wanted it. But like a moron, I called the place and was talked into putting in a ceiling bid, pretty much guaranteeing I would get it. Well, I did. And I paid so much for it, I thought I would be sick. That feeling lasted for years. When I got it, I couldn't bear looking at it and kept it in a box. Finally, I had had enough and donated it to SABR with instructions to do with it as they pleased and to not ever tell me about it. I didn't even want the tax deduction.

I almost wish I did have it now. I can't imagine that the value of Sheen memorabilia isn't at its peak. But then again, I doubt the amount I could sell it for would have eradicated the fifteen plus years of buyer's remorse I would have suffered.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Love and a tsunami

Full of language you would expect on Spike TV but this is an amazing story of a fellow in Japan and the lengths he went to rescue his family. Badass of the week, indeed.

via @dunstan

Monday, March 14, 2011

The generosity of others

Speaking of Mark, he sent me a package the other day. Opened it up and found:

Have to love a couple Stack-o-Expos. Mark sent me a lot of cards I needed.

I'm not the only one to be on the receiving end of Mark's kindness. He gave a lot of cards to his local childrens hospital.

I also received a package today from my roommate in Cooperstown, Marty. He's been collecting Coke Rewards points for me and sent me five weeks worth of points (Coke limits how many points you can enter each week).

Thanks a lot, Mark and Marty! You guys rock!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Best racing call ever

Mark shared this with me a week or so ago and I didn't get around to watching it until today. Absolutely hysterical.

Not one to just scratch the surface. Here's the owner's blog. No entries in months.

Apparently, Arrrrr, pictured below (photo by Pedigree Online) is now a show horse. The race in the video was from 2008.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The bizarre double shutout of August 11, 1942

I can't help it. I like the game score as a stat. After my two previous posts involving game scores, I played around some more.

I got to wondering, has anyone ever broken a 90 game score while not striking out anyone? If you remember, a complete perfect game with no strikeouts has a game score value of 87. So to get a 90 with no strikeouts, you have to go past nine innings, more for every baserunner you allow.

Turns out two pitchers have done it since 1920. Jack Scott of the New York Giants was the first, defeating Wilbur Cooper of the Pirates in a 12 inning game on August 19, 1923. Scott allowed three hits, a walk and a run, just making the cut with a 91 game score.

The other instance is far more fascinating. On August 11, 1942, Al Milnar of the Cleveland Indians and Tommy Bridges of the Detroit Tigers locked up in a pitchers duel. Milnar was, by far, the superior pitcher on the day. He entered the bottom of the ninth with a no-hitter going. Bridges, however, had also kept the Indians at bay, allowing a number of baserunners but not permitting any of them to score.

Milnar got the first two batters in the ninth but Doc Cramer singled to break up Milnar's no-hitter. The Indians were not able to table any runs in their half of the frame so the game went into extra innings.

Ten innings, eleven innings, twelve innings, thirteen innings. Neither team could score any runs. The game moved into the fourteenth inning with both Bridges and Milnar still on the mound. Once again, neither team scored. At this point, Milnar had allowed only one other hit. Even more impressive, he had more total bases than the Tigers, having hit a single and double himself.

At the end of the fourteenth inning, the game was called. I could understand that. That's a long game. It might have become dark, it might have begun raining, Bud Selig might have been in the stands and thought it was an All-Star game. Games get called. No problem.

So I'm looking at the Baseball-reference box score and I see at the top "First game of doubleheader". WAIT, WHAT?!?!?! You have two pitchers engaged in a matchup for the ages, a total of 28 innings of shutout baseball pitched by these two guys and you're going to stop the game because you have another game to play? What gives?

Turns out the game was called on account of darkness. There was an American League rule at the time that stated that a game started when the lights were off could not continue with the lights on. Night games were still rather new and three American League teams - the Yankees, the Red Sox and the Tigers - had not yet installed lights in their stadiums. The Milnar-Bridges duel was called, the lights were turned on, and the second game of the doubleheader began.

Throwing fourteen innings of shutout ball while allowing just two hits and four walks gives Milnar a game score of 104.

Somehow, through it all, Milnar never got any Tiger out on strikes. 42 outs, all made by guys in the field. The poor catcher, Gene Desautels, spent fourteen innings in a crouch and got credit for zero fielding chances. If, as Crash Davis said in the movie Bull Durham, strikeouts are fascist, Al Milnar is a bastion of democracy.

Friday, March 11, 2011

That Old Cape Magic

After reading Straight Man, I was looking forward to reading more of Richard Russo. I had heard good things about That Old Cape Magic and decided to read it. The two books share some similarities. The main character is a middle-aged male professor sort of going through a mid-life crisis. Whereas in Straight Man, the book is witty and entertaining, I thought TOCM was sort of sad and desperate. The writing was still terrific and I kept wanting to read it for that reason, but for that reason alone. I just don't know that a novel about someone else's personal problems is all that enticing.

Unfortunately, I don't there is much of a plot outside of the crisis. It felt like more of a character sketch. The thing is, and perhaps this is some of the appeal of the book, Russo's characters are very normal and mundane. Boring, even. The lack of anything special about them made me not care about how the book ended or what happened to any of them.

I'm also not sure if I care whether or not I read more Russo. This wasn't quite terrible but it certainly wasn't Straight Man.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


This was a weird, crazy, depressing book. I'm going to steal a review from the Donald Ray Pollock's, the author's, website:

"Spanning a period from the midsixties to the late nineties, the stories in Knockemstiff feature a cast of recurring characters who are woebegone, baffled, and depraved—but irresistibly, undeniably real. Rendered in the American vernacular with vivid imagery and a wry, dark sense of humor, these thwarted and sometimes violent lives jump off the page at the reader with inexorable force. . . . Donald Ray Pollock presents his characters and the sordid goings-on with a stern intelligence and a bracing absence of value judgments. . . . Knockemstiff is a genuine entry into the literature of place."

Knockemstiff, Ohio is a real place and the town from where Pollock hails. To me, the key words in the above review are "depraved", "sometimes violent" and "bracing absence of value judgments". Oh, and "sordid goings-on". Humor? Intelligence? If they were there, they were trampled by the depravity. I found this to be a rather disturbing book and although I read something somewhere where Pollock says that the stories are not based on real people, I'm not sure what is more disturbing - that the book might be based on real people or that Pollock thought them up.

And while I did find the book to be weird, crazy and depressing (and sordid and disturbing), I thought the writing was pretty good. I just don't know that I thought it was good enough to say, hey, check it out but be aware of the content. You know what, I don't think the writing was that good. I'm sticking this with Blockade Billy and the don't read category.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A good example of why wins and saves don't matter

After looking at 90+ Game Scores the other day, I thought I'd look at the other end of the spectrum. I began by looking at the anti-Nolan Ryan's, the guys who threw the most games that scored ten or less. Kenny Rogers is the leader with eleven. Jamie Navarro, one of the few players I truly loathed, was second with 10. Navarro is the career leader in games that scored zero or negative. He was somehow allowed to hurl three of those.

As I was looking through these awful, awful games, I saw that every now and then a pitcher would actually win one of these. The one that stood out to me the most was a game in 1928 between the Reds and the Braves.

The Reds Pete Donohue was allowed to throw batting practice to the Braves even after the game started. He faced 33 batters, walking none of them, striking out none of them. He did hit a batter, the only one who didn't get wood on the ball. Fourteen hits - six singles, four doubles, a triple and three home runs. Eleven Braves that faced Donohue crossed home plate. Donohue's Game Score was 1.

Donohue got the win.

Despite Donohue's efforts, his Reds teammates kept putting up runs of their own. The Reds scored in each of the first six innings and when Donohue was finally yanked in the seventh inning, he left with a 15-11 lead. Donohue's 11 runs allowed ties him for the most surrendered in a game by a winning starting pitcher.

But if that wasn't bad enough, Carl Mays was brought in to relieve Donohue. He got out of the inning, finished the game while surrendering another home run (Les Bell's third of the game) and ended up with a save. The Reds kept adding on runs so the final score was 20-12. I'm trying to determine if the eight run margin is the largest for a game in which a save was "earned".

Yes, it's only one game and an unusual one at that, but I think it exemplifies pretty well why the win is not an adequate measure of pitcher performance and why a save isn't an adequate measure of, well, much of anything.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Awesomeness of Nolan Ryan

I've never been a big fan of Nolan Ryan. I've sort of felt that the number of guys he walked over his career countered his strikeouts and ability to get guys out. I'm sure I've also been influenced by my growing up pre-sabremetrics and being duped by Ryan's lackluster win-loss record. I've even told myself that his extraordinary longevity makes him look more impressive than he really is.

As time goes on I appreciate him more, though, and I came across something today that really struck me which I thought I would share. I was reading an old post on that plotted Greg Maddux's Game Scores. For those of you not aware, the Game Score is a statistic created by Bill James which gives a rough indicator of how a starting pitcher pitched. You start with 50 points. Every batter you get out gives you a point. Every inning you complete past the fourth gives you two points. Strikeouts also give you a point each. From there you deduct one point for each walk, two for each hit and unearned run and four for each earned run. The number roughly corresponds to winning percentage. So a Game Score of 60 results in a team winning 60 percent of the time. Not totally accurate but a fun way to gauge performance and very easy to calculate.

So I'm looking at Maddux's graph and see that he only crossed 90 four times in his career. This seemed low to me for a pitcher of Maddux's stature. A complete game gives you 87 points right off the bat. Keep those hits and walks down, throw a shutout with some K's and you've got 90. So I thought I'd see how his four 90's matched up.

Turns out four isn't too bad. For pitchers from 1920 on (since data is incomplete before then), Maddux is tied with 21 other guys for 59th place. Adding pitchers from the Deadball Era would push him down further since low-scoring complete game efforts were more the norm. I mean, consider that Walter Johnson is tied with Maddux including just his starts from 1920 on.

The other names tied with Maddux aren't real stunning. Jimmy Key, Jose DeLeon, Kevin Appier, Luis Tiant, J.R. Richard are the most notable to me. Some strong pitchers but outside of Johnson, no Hall of Famers.

Going up the list, active pitcher Chris Carpenter has 5, Roy Halladay of the Phils has six. Cow Holy, Frank Tanana has seven!!!

Once you get to the top fifteen, it's pretty much all Hall of Famers.

Warren Spahn is tied with Mike Mussina for 15th with nine. Spahn is HOF, Mussina might be one day.

At #13 with ten are HOF pitchers Bob Feller and Jim Bunning.

The brief career of Sudden Sam McDowell is tied with the longer HOF careers of Steve Carlton and Bert Blyleven at #10. They had eleven each.

Tied at #8 with 12 are Pedro Martinez and Jim Maloney. Jim Maloney?!?! That's a name to explore for another rainy day.

Coming in at #6 are Gaylord Perry and Roger Clemens. They each had 13 games with a Game Score over 90.

The top 5 all hold their spots by themselves:

#5 Bob Gibson with 14.
#4 Tom Seaver with 16.
#3 Sandy Koufax with 18.
#2 Randy Johnson with 20.

So, no, four isn't too bad. Not many guys have ten and only two have 20. You can see that a single game moves you up a spot in the standings until the top 5 when the gap is two games.

By now you can guess who #1 is. Based on the rate of increase, how many games do you think Nolan Ryan had that scored 90 or more? 21? 22? Maybe even 23?


Yes, Ryan had ELEVEN more than Randy Johnson. Almost twice as many as Tom Seaver. As many as Steve Carlton, Jim Bunning and Bob Feller put together. 31 starts is almost a full-season for a guy in a five man rotation. Pretty amazing.

Not surprisingly, all seven of Ryan's no-hitters scored 90 or better. He had four games where he scored 100 or better.

Ryan lost one of the games, a game in which he scored 99. The Tigers beat Ryan's Angels 1-0 in a game where Ryan threw 11 innings, going the distance, striking out 19. He allowed runs in two other games.

All totaled, in those 31 games, Ryan threw 25 complete games, 22 of them shutouts.

He went 26-1 with four no-decisions, had an ERA of 0.06. 285.2 innings, 54 hits, 98 walks and 407 strikeouts.

Oh, what the heck, here's the whole list for you:

As for longevity, when he threw his second game of 90, I was probably drinking baby formula. When he threw his last, I was almost legally able to drink alcohol. A string of eight consecutive seasons with a 90+ game. The more I look, the more I see.

I think I have changed my opinion of Nolan Ryan.

Friday, March 4, 2011

These are a few of my favorite baseball things #2 - Mike Schacht artwork

It occurred to me as I started thinking about my favorite baseball things that you're probably going to be hearing a bit about my ex-wife. This is to be expected in a way. It's pretty difficult to spend over fifteen years with someone and not have them impact your life. Most notably, I probably wouldn't have the baseball library I do without her. That, though, is a story for another day.

Today's story involves art. My ex is an artist. She never produced any baseball art for me. She did, however, acquire some art-related objects for me over the years.

Mike Schacht was an artist and a member of SABR for many years. His artwork was used in a variety of publications, including many SABR publications (this one of Nap Lajoie is the one I always think of when I think of Schacht):

In addition to being a talented artist, he was a really nice guy. He passed away in 2001 at the age of 65 after a battle with cancer.

Over the years, my ex acquired these two prints for me as well as a signed copy of Schacht's book Mudville Diaries. The book is a collection of work from Fan magazine. She engaged with Mike more than I did and always speaks highly of him.

The first print was one of Old Comiskey Park (which I can call Comiskey Park. I just never call New Comiskey U.S. Cellular). Wait a learn something every day....This isn't a Mike Schacht work. It's still a favorite thing. I cannot make out who the signature is. I was checking it to see the print size and was surprised to see it as 950. That's large for a Schacht print. It's not Schacht. It is Comiskey Park:

The other is a Mike Schacht print, limited to 200 copies, of Hall of Famer Ty Cobb.

While the Lajoie image is the one that comes to mind to me, I love the Cobb one best. The shadows, Cobb's stare, the red background, the edge of the bat in the corner. I don't know that you could capture Cobb's essence any better.

There's my artwork collection. Next time we'll almost finish looking at stuff on the walls by checking out some cool photographs.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Running the Books

Wow, wow, wow! Wow! Wow, wow, wow!

Did I mention wow? I loved this book. And yes, as a librarian, you'd think I'd have a bias because this is about a prison librarian. Doesn't matter. This is just a great book.

The author, Avi Steinberg, is an interesting cross between successful and ne'er-do-well. He grew up in a moderately well-to-do family and graduated from Harvard. He's Jewish and was an absolute zealot in his childhood, studying scripture at all times. He lost his way in college, got involved with drugs a bit, wrote his senior thesis on Bugs Bunny, and found himself writing obituaries in his twenties, just sort of aimlessly going through life.

He attends a Jewish gathering where he is somewhat berated by his former mentor. Steinberg had recently seen an ad for a position as a prison librarian at a Boston prison. Motivated by his encounter with his mentor, he decides to apply and hopefully help those less fortunate than himself.

Steinberg gets the job and spends the next two and a half years in a sort of intriguing limbo. As a prison librarian, he is supposed to help the prisoners and provide them with books and resources to help them better themselves. He is, however, an employee and as such is supposed to keep himself detached from the inmates. The fine line he walks and the times he falls into one side or the other make up the majority of the book.

Steinberg's struggles is part of what makes the book so great. He is honest - with himself and with his readers. You can tell that there were certain inmates for whom he cared and wanted to see do well. But he knows also that these people are in prison for a reason and that most of them, if they get out, will return to a life of crime. Steinberg is even mugged at knifepoint by a former inmate at one point. The mugger recognizes Steinberg and comments that he still has books from the library. Their past together does not stop the mugger from taking what he wants.

This isn't the only encounter Steinberg has with former prisoners on "the outside". He runs into another inmate at a donut shop and sits and chats with him for a little bit. Suddenly, a former female prisoner comes out from the bathroom and the realization sets in that the male ex-con is now the woman's pimp.

It would take me a zillion edits for me to adequately express how I feel about this book. I like that Steinberg is not judgmental. There are some easy opportunities for him to generalize on race, economic and social status, etc. He does a good job at avoiding that and really is able to look at each individual as a unique person. He sees the good and bad and shares both sides with the reader.

Beyond that, the book is informative. You get an understanding of prisons from a very different standpoint. A prison librarian is in a special position. He or she does not have the authority of a guard. The librarian is usually a civilian employee. Because the librarian is often helping the prisoners, the guards aren't always on the side of the librarian. This can make for some awkward situations because, likewise, the librarian is not a prisoner and so the prisoners, too, are not always on the side of the librarian. It seemed like a tough job and ultimately, the stress of the job causes Steinberg to quit.

For me, one of the characteristics of an excellent work of non-fiction is the ability to make me want to learn more about something after I've read the book. Steinberg motivated me to want to learn more about a topic. There is a section where he delves into prisons and their history. That has prompted me to get a couple of books on prison architecture, which Steinberg gets into during the history section. It's not something I ever really though much about but Steinberg made me want to learn more.

The only bad thing I can say about this book is the ending isn't quite satisfying. It's neither good nor bad. I guess it felt a little unfinished to me. Outside of that, this is an absolutely phenomenal book and one I will probably read again down the road. It has passed Unbroken for my top book of 2011.

Oh, I almost forgot. Love the dustjacket on this book, too. A portrait of Steinberg done with library date due stamps. Too cool.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Stop with the names

Head on over to Mark's blog to indicate your respect for others. Eliminate the derogatory use of the r-word (and, really, any derogatory language of any kind. You're better than that).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

So much for that

I'm not as smart as I think I am. My tournament results from Saturday are in the right hand side of the curve, maybe even out in the tail. That is quite disappointing. Thought that maybe, since I did so well out of the gate, that those sort of returns might be a result I could expect frequently. Turns out I was wrong. Alas. Stupid statistics.