Wednesday, August 31, 2011
What I'm looking for here -- and yes, I'm asking you to do write my column for me this week -- are words that, on their own, are NOT specifically sports words. That is to say, I'm not interested in "bunt" or "interception" or even "shank." I'm more interested in words like Brilliant Reader Shabs suggestion of "stave," as in "stave off elimination."
I've actually got a lot of them, but I don't want to curb your creativity.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
The Poscast is going on hiatus because, as mentioned here before, I am about to go into deep research mode for my upcoming book on Joe Paterno. I should say that I have started a Facebook Fan Page for the book, and I have a special email for the book as well. I would certainly love for you to join or to email me if you have any stories, opinions, thoughts on JoePa. I'm trying to cast a wide net here.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Most of all: Do statistics ruin good stories?
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Then in 1967*, for the first time, the writers handed out a Cy Young Award in each the AL and NL. That year, Mike McCormick and Jim Lonborg both won 22 games and won the awards. Jim Bunning probably should have won it in the National League, and maybe Dean Chance or Joe Horlen in the American League, but you know how much people love those wins.
Friday, August 26, 2011
The way I'm looking at it this year: The most valuable player is the best player. Determining the best individual player -- with an infinite number of variables affecting game -- is hard enough without trying to feel the intangibles.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Well, over the next few weeks things are going to change a bit. We are redesigning joeposnanski.com. I have quite a few ideas for what we're going to do. And, at the same time, I have no idea what we're going to do … or what technically we even CAN do. By "we," I should say that I'm including my technical team, which at the moment includes family members, though the 6-year-old at last check was holding out for more money.
Among the general plans:
1. Make the overall site a bit more interactive.
2. Have two separate blogs -- a sports blog and a personal blog.
3. Do a better job of connecting everything I do -- from books to magazines to web to Poscasts to Tweets.
4. Possibly connect with a statistical site … not entirely sure how that would work yet.
5. Write that iPad review.
in any case, you have been the driving force behind this blog for a few years now. So I would ask you for your suggestions, your ideas, your crazy notions -- what would you like this Web site and blog to be in 2012?
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I have been coming around to a new way of thinking about the MVP for a few years now. I would say that 15 years ago, I was as traditional about the award as anyone. I bought entirely into the idea that the word "valuable" meant something different from the word "productive." Those words are synonyms, but I believed in the lofty notion that a player -- through his leadership, through his clutch performances, through his RBI totals, through his team's won-loss record (or his own), through his big plays in the most timely moments -- could be significantly more "valuable" than "productive."
Friday, August 19, 2011
I think many people like the concept of adding a playoff. I can see why: I think many of us have been waiting for something meaningful that separates division champions from wildcards. Giving the division champs homefield advantage (which is the only real advantage now) is clearly NOT meaningful enough and the governors of baseball understand that -- heck, they give homefield advantage in the World Series to the team that wins a pointless exhibition game.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Ever since 2007 or so, even if you were only half paying attention, you could have predicted Jeff Francoeur's future like so:
1. He would eventually be signed by the Dayton Moore's Kansas City Royals.
2. He would probably have a decent year in his new surroundings … or at least a decent start.
3. The Royals, buoyed by that decent year/start, would then offer Francoeur too much money to stay.
All these have come to pass, though everyone involved has insisted that this was not a fait accompli. It has just worked out this way. The Royals just happened to have an outfield spot. He just happened to have a pretty good season. The Royals just happened to decide he was worth signing to a fairly sizable contract.
Still: He's been wonderful to watch. He has been Kansas City's miniature replica of Mo Rivera -- not unlike the Las Vegas version of the Eiffel Tower, which I love too. Over four years, batters hit .197 against him. He struck out four times as many as he walked. He sliced corners with his fastball and fooled batters with his big, loopy curveball. More than anything, he exuded calm, something the Royals have not really featured in many, many years. It was like after all the madness, all the blunders, all the losing streaks, all the comical and not-so-comical disasters, the Royals could finally go to the bullpen, call Soria, and he would take the mound and every movement he made suggested in powerful ways: "OK, this game's over now. I got it from here."
*Nicknamed "The Polish Prince" according to his Baseball Reference page. I did not know that. I should try to get Mike into the Polish Sports Hall of Fame in Troy, Michigan.
I have to share one story. There were about 40 stories I could share, and probably will. But we'll start with one. It's about a plunking -- I'm not entirely sure why old stories about pitchers hitting batters with baseballs make me laugh. But they do.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Here is Adam Dunn's batting average split up every 10 games:
First 10 games: .162
Games 11 to 20: .147
Games 21 to 30: .250
Games 31 to 40: .205
(This included a four-hit game)
Games 41 to 50: .114
Games 51 to 60: .133
Games 61 to 70: .061
Games 71 to 80: .103
Games 71 to 90: .212
Games 91 to 99: .129
I was thinking about this while watching Dan Uggla go on his odds-busting hitting streak. I was thinking how unlikely it is for an every day big league hitter -- especially a previously good hitter like Uggla or Dunn -- to hit THAT low for a season. It has to take almost inconceivable consistency. You can't ever get hot. Ever. And by "hot" I mean even a 10-game stretch of hitting .290 or something.
Dunn has been known throughout his career for consistency -- after all, he he hit exactly 40 home runs four years in a row and followed that up with back-to-back 38-homer seasons. But this kind of awful consistency … well, hey, it's history folks. And it might never happen again.
Anyway: I was driving by the giant peach water tower on I-85 near Gaffney, S.C.* when I came up with the idea for the Grandex Award.
*That tower has always had special meaning for me -- in 1988, I was driving by it when I heard Jack Buck's "I don't believe what I just saw" call of Kirk Gibson's home run.
Monday, August 15, 2011
The home run lists used to be filled with genial men -- Harmon Killebrew, Ernie Banks, Frank Howard, Dale Murphy, Beltin' Bill Melton, Hank Greenberg, on and on. Johnny Bench sang in night clubs. Jimmie Foxx was so admired and beloved, he wasn't hit by a single pitch the year he hit 58 homers. George Foster didn't smoke or drink and later in life has longed to get on Dancing With The Stars. Big Klu -- Ted Kluszewski -- wore his sleeves rolled up to show off his arms and make a fist, smile, and say: "You know what that is? A Polish joke stopper." They called Willie Stargell "Pops." They called George Scott ""Boomer." They called Jimmy Wynn "The Toy Cannon."
First, take a look at the 13 winners:
2008 PGA: Padraig Harrington
2009 Masters: Angel Cabrera
2009 U.S. Open: Lucas Glover
2009 British Open: Tom Watson*
2009 PGA: Y.E. Yang
2010 Masters: Phil Mickelson
2010 U.S. Open: Graeme McDowell
2010 British Open: Louis Oosthuizen
2010 PGA: Martin Kaymer
2011 Masters: Charl Schwartzel
2011 U.S. Open: Rory McIlroy
2011 British Open: Darren Clarke
2011 PGA: Keegan Bradley
*No, damn, it was Stewart Cink.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
But I can still draw that face of the man and his mustache. And I do. All the time. It looks more like man meets walrus, yes, but it's the only thing I know how to draw and this is my mode: When I learn how to do something, no matter how weak it may be, I tend to stick with it.
So, some years ago, a friend taught me how to figure out the basic odds of a hitting streak. This too is a limited mathematical trick for many reasons, especially how I do it. But it's a fun trick, especially when a guy like Dan Uggla suddenly goes on a 33-game hitting streak.
Friday, August 12, 2011
One thing I've written quite a bit about this year is that we choose what we celebrate in sports. We. All of us. It's like a vote. As I wrote once before: We don't need a good reason to celebrate, we only need a consensus. This isn't just true of sports. My family decided at some point that our true holiday was Oscar Night, and so for a while we would all come back and watch the Oscars together. Did this make sense? No. But it made sense to us.
And it isn't just true of celebrations either. Here's a random sports example: I sometimes wonder why we so readily accept the NFL playoff tie-breaking system. We break up NFL ties based on head-to-head match-ups … OK, that makes some sense. But assuming the teams split, we move on to divisional record which is OK, I suppose. Then the record in common games. Then conference record. Strength of schedule. Points differential. Net points in common games. Net points in all games. Net touchdowns. I mean, at some point, this is plainly ludicrous.
And we know the league thinks it's ludicrous because if none of those things break the tie then they go to a coin flip.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
-- The meaning (or lack thereof) of hitting streaks.
-- Stats and stories.
-- Walking in New York
-- The iPad review
-- The worst number in baseball (hint: It's a big number)
-- Watching home improvement shows.
-- More on baseball and stamps
-- The only love song to a stranger I ever wrote
-- Baseball managers and winning
-- Twenty five years ago
-- The 14 best football players in the NFL
-- Big 10 and Big 12 math
-- Good God, man, you're Billy Beane!
-- The car wash near my home
-- The 14 greatest shooters in basketball history
As always, your votes are welcome in the comments. And as always, yeah, I probably will just write the ones I write.
The problem with Twitter, of course, is that it's hard to say what you're trying to say in so few characters. Poorly phrased questions like that are BEGGING to be misunderstood. From the responses, I could tell that people THOUGHT I was asking one of the following questions:
-- Why are people still talking about Tiger?
-- With the way Tiger Woods is playing, why does anyone think he can be good again?
-- Why is Tiger Woods treated differently from everyone else?
-- Why do people still make golf all about Tiger?
-- Aren't you sick of Tiger Woods?
And so on. But I didn't mean any of that. I know exactly why people are still talking about Tiger … heck, he's the player who interests me most too. I know exactly why some people think Tiger can be good again … heck, the guy played golf better than anyone who ever lived. I know why Tiger is treated differently, I know why he's still the biggest star in the game, and I know why people keep talking about him. I know all of that.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
But I got an interesting email the other day from the United States Postal Service. It seems that they are, once again, trying to raise interest in stamp collecting. God bless those guys -- in an era where video games are so realistic that gamers can earn actual purple hearts, in an era when high definition television is so clear that real life is a let down, in an era when you can play God on your phone, watch television on a tablet, print out any photograph ever taken and make perfect pasta every time … they are still clinging to the hope that people will collect tiny pieces of paper with pictures on them. I love stamps. I hope they're right.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
You know how people seem to smash track records and swimming records and touchdown and home run records every other day? Not true when it comes to jumping. The men's high jump record was set by Javier Sotomayer in 1993, the women's by Stefka Kostadinova even further back in 1987. Both the men's and women's triple jump records were set back in 1995. The women's long-jump record was set by Galena Chistyakova in 1988.
And at the end of this month, Mike Powell's remarkable 8.95 meter jump -- that's 29 feet, 4 3/8 inches -- will have been the world record for 20 years. Twenty years! Heck, Bob Beamon's legendary long jump record only lasted 23. And unless something changes, this one will last longer than Beamon's. Much longer.
See: The amazing thing is not that Mike Powell's record hasn't been broken. It's that nobody has come even close. Nobody has jumped 29 feet since that day in Tokyo in 1991. Nobody has come within eight inches of the record since that day. At the 2008 Olympics, 27 feet, 4 inches was good enough for gold -- the worst gold medal performance in more than 35 years. As the greatest long jumper who ever lived likes to say: "These guys come out now, jump 28 feet, take their go medal and go home like they did something."
And the greatest long jumper who ever lived -- and the 30-foot jump that never happened -- is at the heart of our story.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Don't get too comfortable.
The inside of the plate belongs to me.
Don't hit my teammate with a pitch.
Don't show us up.
We're here to take you guys out.
And so on. The pitchers do not actually have to HIT the batter to send these messages, by the way. Quite often, they don't. Bob Gibson did not hit that many batters in his career -- he never even once led the league in hit-by-pitch, and over a career Jamie Moyer and Aaron Sele among dozens hit more batters than Gibby. But Gibson knocked down enough batters to push him to the top of any list of most intimidating pitchers. As Billy Williams once said: "He left you leaning a little bit away.*"