Baseball and poker

Posted By on February 15, 2012 6:20 am

As my longtime readers know, I’m quite a poker enthusiast, so when a reader of my blog wanted to write a guest post about poker and baseball, I obviously said yes. Here it is…

*****

It is the finals of the World Series and it is all down to this. The crowd favorite is down to just one out to keep his hopes alive for a World Series title. Fans are all on their feet and are frantic with cheers for their favorite players while fans for the opposite side are just as frantic. Sports writers, journalist, and media from around the world watch and are ready with their camera to see if the player can make a comeback or fall short.

The official signals and the pitch is thrown. It’s is a deuce of spades, a total blank, and the other guy has just won the World Championship of Texas Hold’em! The crowd goes wild and confetti flies as the fans cheer their new World Champion. Press from websites like Pokerlistings.com and other sports writers start to interview the new champion while family and friends console the loser.

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A surprise with first-pitch swinging

Posted By on January 26, 2012 10:50 am

Inspired by a twitter exchange Henry Schulman started (here and here and here) the other day, and because it’s a kinda slow at work, I decided to do a little experiment about first-pitch swinging.

I know the MLB numbers are pretty good for all hitters who put the first pitch in play, but that a) only takes into account when they actually hit the ball and b) could be slanted because hitters are supposed to know to only swing at fat first-pitches, which would mean their results would naturally be good when they hit the ball.

But, I assumed, the vast majority of first pitches are not cookies, so anyone who swings at a lot of them is probably swinging at a lot of them that he shouldn’t.

So, I figured if I took a list of the guys who swung at the highest percentage of first pitches, and a list of the guys who swung at the lowest percentage, the guys in the latter list would be waaaaay better.

These are their overall stats, not the first-pitch stats, because I wanted to judge the overall success of the guys who swung at first pitches, not just their success on those first pitches. This is just 2011, only for players who had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title (502)…

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My final HOF ballot

Posted By on January 9, 2012 12:00 pm

I’ve explained all this before, but now that the results have been revealed, I’m putting everything into one place, for posterity.

I voted for…

Jeff Bagwell (read this)
Barry Larkin
Mark McGwire (read this, this, this and this for a good synopsis of my thoughts on the steroid guys.)
Tim Raines

I gave strong consideration, but did not vote for…

Edgar Martinez (read this)
Alan Trammell (read this)
Fred McGriff (read this)
Larry Walker (read this)
Bernie Williams (read this)

And I long ago discounted Jack Morris.

Cody Ross and the rebuilding A’s

Posted By on January 2, 2012 12:04 pm

After I wrote yesterday that the A’s were looking into signing Cody Ross, it seems that A’s fans from one end to another had a fit about what a disaster that would be.

So I wanted to make a few points that went beyond the 140-character limitation of Twitter…

First, all I know is the A’s have had preliminary talks with Ross’ people. I don’t know how hard (financially) they plan to go after him, and I don’t know how much interest he has in filling the role they want him to fill. Not long ago, he had his sights set on a three-year deal, or at least a shorter deal in a hitter-friendly park, and he’ll get neither in Oakland.

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The A’s are talking to Cody Ross

Posted By on January 1, 2012 10:10 am

The A’s are currently in talks to sign former Giants postseason hero Cody Ross, a source has confirmed to me. It proves that Billy Beane follows me on twitter.

Presumably it would be a one-year deal, as they look for someone to add just a little experience to their outfield.

Right now their starting outfield looks like, uh, Michael Taylor in LF, Collin Cowgill in CF and Josh Reddick in RF.

Ross reportedly was looking for a good hitter’s park to restore his value, so the A’s don’t offer him that. He also wanted a multi-year deal, and the A’s probably don’t offer that either. However, he may not have a lot of extra choices at this point, so we’ll see.

If the A’s don’t get Ross, I expect them to go after someone else for the outfield. They do have money, and they need a little more than Taylor, Cowgill and Reddick, especially since they’d like Taylor to dominate AAA before he comes up.

The definitive treatise on why I didn’t vote for Edgar Martinez for the HOF

Posted By on December 31, 2011 11:22 am

A few days ago I did Edgar Martinez in my series of pieces on my deliberations for my HOF ballot, and it generated some attention from my friends at FanGraphs. I’ve also written this and this, as it relates to Edgar, and I’ve been having the debate on two message boards.

What I’m trying to do with this post is put it all together in one place, so this can serve as my definitive piece on why I did not vote for Edgar Martinez. Hopefully, those of you who just got a sliver of the argument from some other source can see what you’ve missed. Also, this is for me, so I can just look back at this when the ballot comes next year.

Here is the nut graf, as we say in journalism:

I believe that Edgar Martinez fundamentally benefited from being a DH, both in the volume and quality of his offensive production. Therefore, his offensive numbers must put him well above the theoretical dividing line for him to be a Hall of Famer. Considering the era in which he played, his numbers place him only among a handful of borderline candidates.

There, that’s the crux of my argument. Now, let’s separate that into two parts. The first, is that Edgar fundamentally benefited from being a DH. I don’t think it’s possible to debate the volume part. Clearly, the DH extended the careers of people like Edgar. As for the quality, people like to cite studies that show that DHs generally perform worse at DH than they do as everyday players. I believe those studies are faulty because most players become DHs when they are already in decline. If you look at other players who fill-in as DH from time to time, their numbers suffer from small sample size, as well as the fact that they are unfamiliar with how to DH, and view it as a day off.

But don’t take my word for it.

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More Edgar

Posted By on December 29, 2011 12:27 pm

I’m probably going to be sorry I’m doing this, because I really do have other things I could be doing instead of arguing with faceless people on the Internet, but FanGraphs has questioned my assesment, so here I go again…

Before I get into this, I appreciate that Edgar is borderline, and a reasonable case can be made both for him and against him. I would never suggest that anyone who voted for him was “wrong.” One of the things that bugs me the most about debates surrounding HOFers is people who insist there is a “right” or “wrong” when that is very rarely the case.

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