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Judgmental Stats: ERA

A few years ago — well, yikes, it’s actually more than 15 years now — a guy named Voros McCracken developed a fascinating and counterintuitive theory. He couldn’t help but think that while pitchers have firm control on some parts of pitching (walks, strikeouts and home runs) they have much less control, if any, on balls actually hit into play.

As he worked on it, he found that the numbers backing his theory were even starker than he expected.  Understand that at that point, everyone believed — as many still believe — that great pitchers must give up fewer hits on balls in play than merely good or average or below average pitchers. It was more than belief, it was obvious fact. It went without saying that Greg Maddux or Randy Johnson were much less likely to give up hits on balls in play than, say, Marco Estrada or Jeremy Hellickson.

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A Baseball Challenge!

Two, actually. This is really fun. Let’s see if you can beat me.

Small challenge: Try to beat my lineup and starting pitcher — with this caveat. Every player in the lineup and the pitcher must be active and born in a different country. So you have 10 players — 9 in the lineup (including DH) and starting pitcher.

Bonus point: Add a closer from a different country.

BIG Challenge: This one’s really a blast. Come up with a 25-man roster that beats mine where all 25 players are born in different countries. This one you don’t have to just use active players, you can go back as far back in history as you like.

Bonus point: Get a manager who is from a different country.

Hint: All territories count as separate countries … Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, etc.

You can send your teams to me here.

Winner probably won’t get a prize, but you will get prime mention here which is better than a prize, right? I’ll be posting my teams next week in advance of the World Baseball Classic.

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Baseball Oscars

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Vote for the Baseball Oscars — the Oscar Azocars!

Here is a little inside baseball on how a goofy idea comes into the world.

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Point To First

MLB.com: Anticipated rule could continue decline of IBB

Not sure the headline got exactly what I was trying to say … point is I have no idea what the new intentional walk rule will do. I don’t think anyone does. It might not do anything.

 

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300 Wins

MLB.com: Is 300-wins club done adding members?

We — most of us, anyway — spend much of our lives chasing round numbers. We look forward to them: 20th wedding anniversary;  40th high school reunion, age 50. We look back at them: Look at what happened 10 years ago, 40 years ago, 100 years ago.

Athletes chase round numbers most of all — .300 average, 30 points in a game, 100 rushing yards, 40 home runs, 5,000 passing yards in a season.

And so, even though I do not particularly care about pitcher wins, I’m fascinated by the idea of 300-game winners. There are only 13 of them since Deadball. Some are all-time great pitchers like Mad Dog, Spahn, Unit and Lefty Grove. Some are fine pitchers who are most famous BECAUSE they won 300 games — Early Wynn and Don Sutton are good examples.

And every few years, people will predict: There will never be another 300-game winner.

We are in another one of those times where many predict that the 300-game winner is extinct. It is true that no one is even close to 300-wins now. The closest, technically, is Bartolo Colon with 233 victories, but he’s not really close. I would say the closest is probably Justin Verlander, but he’s still 127 victories away, which is exactly how many games he has won over the last eight seasons.

If he could repeat those eight seasons, he would win 300 at age 41. But, of course, he can’t repeat those eight seasons — they include his Cy Young/MVP year, and the three or four dominant seasons surrounding it. He would almost certainly have to pitch until age 43 or 44 to get to 300, if he even could do that.

And this leads to my thought on 300-game winners: Will anyone want it badly enough to actually do it?

I write a lot more about it over at MLB.com

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No Left Turn

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Well, it was sad to see that the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame did not name Lefty Driesell as a finalist this year. It was a little bit more than sad, actually. It baffles the mind.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a bit Lefty’s extraordinary basketball life.

The most common response I got was simply: “I had no idea that Lefty was NOT in the Hall of Fame.”

You would think he would be, yes. You would think that a man who won 786 games — still Top 10 all time even though teams played many fewer games then — who won everywhere he went, who invented March Madness, who almost singlehandedly made Washington a college basketball town and so on would be in the Basketball Hall of Fame. You would think honoring coaches like Lefty Driesell is the very reason you have a Basketball Hall of Fame.

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The Goose is Loose

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By now, we all know pretty much where Goose Gossage stands on just about everything.

— He believes baseball used to be better.

— Like … way better.

— Steroids and steroids and steroids and harumph and harumph.

— He believes the kids today don’t respect the game like they should.

— He believes players in his day — present company included — were way tougher than players now … and probably loved the game more too.

— Check that: The old guys definitely loved the game more.

— Money. Money. Money. I made $12,500 in my first … money!

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Consider the thimble

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Nostalgia is an odd emotion. It’s odd because nostalgia doesn’t stay in its lane. It makes perfect sense to feel nostalgia for happy things in your life, happy things that will never come around again. It makes sense to feel wistful and sentimental when, say, you go back to your old college or high school and see all the young people there just starting out, and you begin thinking about the good times you had.

But nostalgia is a vine; it does not grow in a line. It does not stay where it should stay. It starts in place, under control, and then it creeps into other things, crawls over other plants, spreads in all directions until it’s everywhere.

Consider the thimble.

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PosCast Draft: Utensils

In an effort to squeeze in as much nonsense as possible into one episode, Michael and I break down Field of Dreams, discuss the proper way to cut a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, argue if it is morally OK to cut fruit before eating it, draft utensils, invent a new name for the most miraculous of kitchen utensils and discuss whether or not trucks are weird.

As always, listen at your own risk.

iTunes

Stitcher

PodBay

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Winning and Losing

The other day, I saw a coach in a sixth-grade girls interfaith basketball league pull his point guard out to halfcourt and have her stand there dribbling the ball for four minutes. His team had the lead. His team was also better. His opponent (the team my daughter Katie was on) was beat up and in foul trouble and in no position to go chasing. Katie’s team had needed something of a miracle performance to even get to the championship game. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Anyway, this coach had his guard dribble out the last four minutes of the third quarter. It was uncomfortable to watch; four minutes is a LONG TIME to watch someone just dribble a basketball. The parents on the other team were not sure exactly how to react. The parents on my daughter’s team were screaming “Come on, this is ridiculous, play basketball!” The clock just ticked down and ticked down and ticked down.

I must admit that I watched this with a certain amount of awe.

And I thought to myself: What must it be like to be an adult and want to win a basketball game with 11 and 12-year-olds that badly?

And then I thought: Wait a minute. I KNOW what it is like. Every sports fan does.

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