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Just The Sports: 2006-10-08

Just The Sports

Friday, October 13, 2006

More Satire For Your Enjoyment

Once again, I have felt the tingling to pen a satirical article, inspired by Cory Lidle's death in general and the death of people in general and how people are treated in death.

In Death, Serial Rapist Remembered Fondly

Known throughout his life as a scourge upon the earth, pure scum, and #8 on the FBI's Most Wanted List, Ben Bishop was remembered fondly by the residents of Fayetteville, Arkansas as the news of his untimely demise spread quickly throughout the community. His death was the result of a shootout after federal agents busted into his house and found him eating his latest victim. After fifteen shots struck Bishop, he was pronounced dead in Washington Regional Medical Center at 7:42 P.M to the shock of all who had ever heard of him and had assumed he would go on raping and killing for many years to come.

Bishop began his career as a serial rapist at the age of 17 and when mere rape was no longer enough to satiate his primal urges, he transitioned to murdering and then feasting upon his victims' bodies. He was perhaps best known for the rape and murder of four cheerleaders who were visiting from Little Rock, a crime that made people afraid to go outdoors for several weeks afterwards.

However, even with his laundry list of crimes, there was no one who really wanted to focus on the bad things Bishop did during his 26 years of living. One of those people was his neighbor, Joseph Palmer, whose own daughter Julie was a victim of Bishop's, but chose to remember only the good about Bishop.

"He was the best neighbor you could ever want," Palmer reminisced. "He never came over to borrow anything, he never played his music too loudly, and he never let his victims scream so loudly as to interrupt your sleep. Ben was even nice enough to warn me not to let my daughter out alone or he would have to rape and kill her. I didn't listen to him and he ended up doing just that, but that just shows you how honest and trustworthy of a person Ben was. If he said he was going to rape and kill someone, then by God, he was going to do it.

"Actually," Palmer continued, "he probably did me a favor by killing Julie. College tuition was going to be a bitch to pay and she had even started talk of becoming a sorostitute. Thank goodness I don't have to witness that now and can remember her as the sweet little girl I always wished she would stay."

Paul Thompson, Ben's butcher, also had only good things to say about Bishop after he heard that Ben was dead. "Most of my customers just come in my shop, ask for their meat, and then leave, but not Ben," Thompson said. "He took a real interest in what I do for a living and really took the time to both ask me questions, like how to best chop up a human body and keep the meat from spoiling, and listen to my answers. It's because of those like Ben, who really appreciate the art of butchery, that make it all worthwhile. I'll miss him dearly."

Even FBI agent Kevin Atkinson, lead agent on the Ben Bishop case, knows it will be a long time before he meets someone who has such a profound impact on his life the way that Bishop did. During Bishop's funeral, Atkinson eulogized, "I have known many serial killers in my day, but I have respected known the way I did Ben Bishop. He raped and murdered every day like it was his last and we can all learn something from that about how to live our own lives. We should all of us try to be a little more like Ben Bishop."

Fayetteville, Arkansas residents have even started to obtain signatures to present a petition to Governor Mike Huckabee asking for a full pardon for Bishop, whom they don't want to remembered negatively while dead.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Where Pitches per Plate Appearance Matters Most

To finally alleviate my doubts about how important seeing many pitches per plate appearance is to a player's success, I decided to run some correlations between pitches per plate appearance and seven hitting statistics to see how closely linked everything is. The data I looked at is only for the 2006 season so should not be looked at as being indicative of every single baseball season, although I'm pretty sure the correlation coefficients follow the same pattern year in and year out.

For the three most accepted hitting statistics these days, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, the lowest correlation to pitches per plate appearance belonged to batting average with a correlation coefficient of -0.109. This low number is in no way surprising because just as many hits come early in the count as later in the count so there is no disadvantage to free swingers there. Slugging percentage carried a correlation coefficient to pitches per plate apperance of .281, not particularly high showing the two variables are not that highly linked. As many might expect, of these three statistics, on-base percentage has the highest correlation coefficient, which is .525, showing those who see many pitches know not to swing at pitches out of the strike zone.

Even though the on-base percentage correlation coefficient established that pitches per plate appearance correlates well to it, I was still not satisfied so on a whim, I decided to subtract a player's batting average from his on-base percentage and see how well the difference was linked to pitches per plate appearance. The whim rewarded me with a correlation coefficient of .774, a pretty high number. So pitches per plate appearance may not provide a clue as to how high a player's batting average will be or even how high a player's on-base percentage will be, but you will be able to predict with some degree of confidence how high the difference between those two statistics will be compared to someone who doesn't see as many pitches per plate appearance. That knowledge will help teams obsessed with on-base percentage the most.

Correlation coefficients for the other hitting statistics I looked at are as follows: .434 (Gross Product Average), .441 (Weighted On-Base Average), and .347 (Isolated Power). Gross product average and weighted on-base average are both variations of OPS that attribute more weight to on-base percentage than slugging percentage, which explains why the correlation coefficients are lower than on-base percentage's but higher than slugging percentage's.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Jeff Francoeur Update

In the excitement of certain life events, I woke up today and realized that I had done the unthinkable. I had forgotten to write up the final Jeff Francoeur update, which has become a monthly item on this blog. For those expecting something exciting and thought-provoking, turn away now because Francoeur did what he has done for the whole season and for most of his career. Basically, he sucked as for the umpteenth month he hit worse than he had the previous month. During the month of September and one game in October, Francoeur batted .245 BA/.297 OBP/.427 SLG after hitting .266 BA/.322 OBP/.459 SLG in August. Francoeur finished the season with a line of .260 BA/.293 OBP/.449 SLG, embarrassingly low batting totals for a corner outfielder.

To further drive home the final nail into the coffin that is Francoeur's mediocrity, Francoeur was last among qualifying right fielders in batting average, last in on-base percentage, and to his credit he was 11th out of 19 right fielders in slugging percentage. With his hits and walks coming so few and far between, his slugging percentage really was not as valuable to the Braves as it could have been, but that is the price a team pays for having Francoeur on the team. Every now and then, he will come up with a big hit, but at the end of the season, his highest value will have been as an out-maker.

Unfortunately for the Braves and shame on Bobby Cox for letting this happen, but Francoeur has the second-highest number of at-bats for right fielders and the eighth-highest number overall so not only was his mind-numbingly bad during the season, but he was still allowed to use up too many of the Braves' plate appearances. It is one thing to have a below-average player; there are plenty of those in the major leagues. However, to allow this player to play, one who contributed -14.1 runs below an average right fielder, is both unforgivable and a case of piss-poor management. There does not seem to be any reason why the Braves would continue to stick Francoeur out in right field so there may not be many Francoeur updates next season unless the Braves have stopped caring about fielding good regular-season teams.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Patience At The Plate

After the unexpected playoffs series loss by the New York Yankees to the Detroit Tigers, there are many theories floating around as to the cause of the Yankees' downfall. Rightfully so, there is a laundry list of complaints levied at Torre for some of the questionable managerial decisions he made: replacing Melky Cabrera with the statue that is Hideki Matsui, allowing Gary Sheffield to practice playing first base during the playoffs, yo-yoing an insecure Alex Rodriguez up and down the lineup, and thinking Bernie William's past success against Kenny Rogers was an indicator for future success when it is anything but. However, there is another theory that the Yankees' lack of patience at the plate resulted in the end of their season.

Before I discuss that, though, I would be remiss if I did not say that while I do think seeing numerous pitches per plate appearance is a good thing, I do not think it is really a certain indicator that a player will hit well. Taking pitches simply to take pitches is no better than Jeff Francoeur's method of swinging at pitches for the sake of swinging. Instead, a hitter should swing only at the pitches he knows he can drive and leave the rest alone, no matter where that pitch may come in the at-bat.

That being said, the Yankees were slightly less patient at the plate during their four-game playoff season (3.61 P/PA) than they were during their 162-game regular season (3.81 P/PA) so it was not as if they were swinging at everything that came their way.

To further show why pitches per plate appearance seen does not always tell the complete story, in Game 1 where the Yankees scored 8 runs, they only saw 3.43 pitches per plate appearance, the third-lowest total of the four games. Game 2 saw them see 4.16 P/PA and score 3 runs, Game 3 they saw 3.70 P/PA and scored 0 runs, and in Game 4 they saw 3.20 P/PA and scored 3 runs, not exactly a linear relationship.

Still, I want to focus on Game 4 because they were so impatient and seemingly so ready to have the game over. Since Jeremy Bonderman actually pitched the entire game, we can compare his season average (3.64 P/PA) to what he had to throw during Game 4 (3.20 P/PA) and see that he was saving .44 P/PA per batter so he had to expend a lot less energy.

Breaking down pitches per plate appearance per player, Hideki Matsui had the highest difference between his season average and playoff average, but he only played in 55 games so it is not clear where his true average should be. The same goes for Gary Sheffield, who had the third-highest difference between his season average and playoff-average. Bobby Abreu has the second-highest difference, but he hit .333 BA/.412 OBP/.400 SLG so make what you will of that.

The only Yankee who saw more pitches per plate appearance in the playoffs than the regular season while playing in more than one game was Jorge Posada who saw .17 more pitches per plate appearance.

All told, a lack of patience was probably the culprit for some of the Yankees problems, but it was not the only reason why they lost. One must remember that for the majority of the season, the Tigers led the major leagues in converting balls put into play into outs and they returned to form in the playoffs.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Properly Placing Blame

How to properly place fault for an interception is something I have been contemplating for awhile. The fact that in 2006 we still place all responsibility for a thrown interception squarely on the throwing arm of a quarterback is both asinine and backwards-thinking. Ours is a society heavily reliant upon statistics to tell sports stories and we can do better than that. Think about future sports enthusiasts who will have nothing by our statistics to go by to gauge how good our present-day athletes are. What will they see when they look back at quarterbacks' interception totals? The answer is they will see some truths, some half-truths, and some complete lies.

For right now, since this is only a trial theory and I have not really worked it out completely, I propose doling out interception blame in a combination of full and half credits. An example of an interception that would be fully credited to the quarterback is when he throws a pass completely out of the reach of a wide receiver that ends up being picked off. Also, if the defender reads the pass and ends up jumping the route, this interception, too, should be considered the sole fault of the quarterback.

As for giving interceptions completely to wide receivers, there are two criteria I have come up with so far. The first is when a wide receiver has the ball ripped out of his hands by the defender who then gains possession of the pass for an interception. In that instance, the wide receiver should have caught the ball, but failed to do so, which is no fault of the quarterback who threw the ball where it needed to go. The second criterion is when a receiver either bobbles a catchable ball into an interception or tips a catchable pass into an interception. Blaming the quarterback for that sort of turnover is also foolish.

In terms of handing out half credits, my only idea is to give that out when a quarterback throws a pass just out of the reach of a wide receiver who then tips it into a defender's waiting hands. Perhaps also when it is clear by the post-play body language of the quarterback and the wide receiver that they had their routes mixed up and that is why the interception was thrown. However, occurrences like that are not always well-defined so I hesitate to make that a concrete criterion.

If done correctly, assigning proper blame for interceptions will not be nearly as subjective as the embarrassment that is giving out errors in baseball, and this is just a foundation that is ripe for improvement.

For any readers who want to suggest other scenarios for assigning interception blame, feel free to do so in the comments section.