March 2, 2007
- When I think back to the pre-internet days, I'm often sad that our ancestors were robbed of pure brilliance like Jack Bauer from 24 interrogating one of my all-time favorite movie characters, Lawrence "Chunk" Cohen from The Goonies. Even Bauer, who has pretty much seen it all at this point, was a little shaken up by Chunk's revelations once he cracked under the pressure. It's pretend, spliced-together drama at its finest.
- In an odd coincidence, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran two very different articles this week about pouring cold water on people. First, there's the funny version:
Gilbert Arenas, naked, pulled a bottle of water out of the beverage cooler in the visitors' locker room afterward and rinsed soap suds off him. He said it was warmer than the water flowing in the showers.
"If we would have got a rebound at the end, it might be a different outcome," Arenas said. "Maybe they wouldn't have cut our hot water off."
Then, there's the sad version:
A Cloquet, Minn., teenager told police that he found it so funny when he dumped a pitcher of ice water on a 90-year-old nursing home resident in June that he returned and did it twice more, in December and again last month.
"Me and [another teenager] were like, this is gonna be hilarious, 'cause this lady was talking to herself and she was yelling and stuff so we threw it on her," the 16-year-old boy told police, describing the first incident.
"She started screaming and freaking out so we thought this was hilariously funny, and we were all talking about it in school and everyone was laughing about it," he said, according to the criminal complaint.
- Speaking of Arenas, Chuck Klosterman recently penned a lengthy feature about him for the New York Times' sports magazine, PLAY. The combination of the best player-turned-blogger in the world and one of my absolute favorite writers makes the piece is a must-read.
- As plans for an NCAA tournament-style showdown to determine the next Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com start to heat up behind the scenes, Keeley Hazell makes a last-minute claim to the throne (there's also a not-safe-for-work version, for those of you without computer-monitoring bosses to worry about). Needless to say that if/when a tournament does take place, she's looking like a very strong No. 1 seed.
- On a related note, Jennifer Love Hewitt is making an unexpected push for an at-large bid.
- Thanks to his weird anti-blogger column in Sunday's Star Tribune, Patrick Reusse has finally made the big time by being ripped apart by the boys over at Fire Joe Morgan.
- Having old-school print guys like Reusse comparing us to homeless people is only part of what makes life as a blogger tough. For instance, Howard Sinker just completed his second week as a blogger and there are already people arriving here by way of "Howard Sinker sucks" Google searches. Back in the good old days of blogging--when we weren't even important enough for guys like Reusse to mock us--it took at least a month before people started searching for documentation of your suckage.
- I'll say this about Tommy Lasorda: He's very specific with what he (allegedly) likes in his call-girls. Actually, while Lasorda's name and supposed sexual preferences showing up in public are wildly entertaining, my favorite part of the whole story is what former lieutenant governor of Texas Ben Barnes reportedly said when questioned about his presence on the same client list as Lasorda: "I have never met or talked to this broad in my entire life." You stay classy, Ben!
- Way back in November of 2003, after reading a series of articles by Tom Tango about the problems with using OPS as an all-encompassing stat over at the old Baseball Primer, I decided to use some of his calculations to create a sort of modified OPS that weighted on-base percentage and slugging percentage more accurately. At the time I called it "Gleeman Production Average," because GPA seemed like a good acronym and Tango himself suggested that I do so.
However, that name was met with an awful lot of backlash, so the stat was eventually renamed "Gross Production Average," which has the benefit of removing my name from the equation. The stat became a staple over at The Hardball Times and continues to be used there today, even after I stepped down as the site's co-creator. I bring all of this up because, much to my amazement, GPA was featured relatively prominently in a recent New York Times article by Alan Schwarz:
The Hardball Times, a statistics-oriented think tank out of the Baseball Prospectus mold, recently identified the same factor of 1.8 and started weighting O.P.S. accordingly. Better yet, one last simple step--dividing by four--put this new measure (called Gross Production Average) on the comfortably familiar scale of batting average, with figures generally ranging from .200 (horrible) to .265 (roughly average) to around .360 (superior). It's a language that most fans speak.
Applied to individual players, Travis Hafner of the Indians led the major leagues last year with a .362 G.P.A., a sliver ahead of Albert Pujols of the Cardinals. Just like batting average, 10 hitters wound up .325 or higher. But they truly represented the sport’s most well-rounded batters, having weeded out walk-averse nonsluggers like the Pirates’ Freddy Sanchez, who had a .288 G.P.A. despite winning the National League batting title at .344.
The salvation for Gross Production Average could be how it translates a better O.P.S. into the customary .200-to-.360 scale. G.P.A.’s .300 hitters are just about as elite as traditional ones: Last year, 38 batters hit .300 in batting average, while 32 hit .300 in G.P.A. They are just not the same hitters, which is the entire point.
Removing my name from GPA was one of the better decisions I've ever made, because it stopped people from automatically criticizing the stat before even giving it a chance to be of use. At the time I did it mostly because I was sick of all the negative feedback centered solely around what the "G" stood for, but looking back it's an important Tipping Point-type lesson on how seemingly minor changes can have a big effect on the widespread acceptance of something. The less Gleeman, the better.
- Interestingly, just a few days after running that Schwarz piece involving GPA, the New York Times also ran a column from Murray Chass, who laid out several baseball topics that he doesn't "want to read or hear about anymore." Among them is "statistics mongers promoting VORP and other new-age baseball statistics." I'll let Chass explain in more detail:
I receive a daily e-mail message from Baseball Prospectus, an electronic publication filled with articles and information about statistics, mostly statistics that only stats mongers can love.
To me, VORP epitomized the new-age nonsense. For the longest time, I had no idea what VORP meant and didn’t care enough to go to any great lengths to find out. I asked some colleagues whose work I respect, and they didn’t know what it meant either.
Finally, not long ago, I came across VORP spelled out. It stands for value over replacement player. How thrilling. How absurd. Value over replacement player. Don’t ask what it means. I don’t know.
I suppose that if stats mongers want to sit at their computers and play with these things all day long, that’s their prerogative. But their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fans’ enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein.
People play baseball. Numbers don’t.
Upon reading that rant my initial reaction was to respond to it with the kind of line-by-line criticism that sites like this one are somewhat famous for, but I decided against it. Chass has covered baseball for 45 years, including nearly two decades as the Times' Yankees beat reporter, and was the J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner in 2003. I don't know much of his writing, but he's beyond well-respected in the baseball community and probably deserves a mulligan because of that. With that said ... yeesh.
- If you like those "I'm with stupid" t-shirts, you'll love these.
- What does it say about the NBA's slam dunk contest that the two best dunks in the participants' arsenals weren't allowed to take place? I think it says that watching clips of the competitors practicing their dunks for the contest has become more interesting than the actual contest itself, which is sad.
- When I started this site back in 2002, I admittedly had visions of occasionally getting a baseball scoop thanks to inside information sent in by in-the-know readers. That's rarely panned out, which is perhaps for the best, but somewhere along the way I started to get sources sending me gossip and inside information about, of all things, the local media scene. I'd much rather hear about who the Twins are trying to trade than who WCCO is trying to hire, but I suppose beggars can't be choosers.
Apparently the Twins run a tight ship when it comes to blabbing to a lowly bloggers, but the same can't be said for the surprising number of newspaper, radio, and television employees who read AG.com. I bring this up because after relaying an anonymous tip I received about Jason Williams leaving the St. Paul Pioneer Press, I got confirmation of that story and a slew of (mostly unrelated) gossip. Sadly, most of it probably qualifies as only marginally interesting. Of course, I'm easily amused, so keep it coming.
As a journalism-school teacher once told me, "Being a reporter is tough, but getting people to tell you stuff isn't. People love to talk."
- Click here to watch my latest call-in segment on NBCSports.com's "Fantasy Fix" show. The topics for discussion this week were Mike Piazza and the man he's replacing as Oakland's designated hitter, Frank Thomas. If that doesn't pique your interest, the show's also worth watching just to see how odd my self-produced headshot looks on a huge flat-screen television in the middle of a professionally-produced show.
- Big ego and all, I actually don't think I should be on this list, although the old cliche about it being an honor just to be nominated is definitely true.
- As anyone who was brave enough to enter the unwieldy comments section back then would probably attest to--assuming they made it out alive--this site's traffic got pretty heavy during the Twins' playoff run last season. Because of that relatively dramatic increase in readership, I was curious to see how the traffic would settle in over the long offseason, when I'm considerably less likely to write about the Twins and considerably more likely to write about something no one could possibly care about.
Not surprisingly the raw numbers went down a bit after October--although not nearly as much as I expected--but more importantly the traffic remained significantly higher than it was during the same point last winter. For instance, AG.com's traffic this January was up 22 percent from January of 2006. February was up 27 percent. During the span from the Twins' elimination from the playoffs to their first spring-training game, the site amazingly racked up nearly 400,000 visitors.
To put that number in some context, consider that it took nearly 20 months for this site to reach 400,000 totals visitors after it launched it 2002. As spring training ramps up and Opening Day approaches, I just wanted to once again take an opportunity thank everyone who stops by here regularly, whether the Twins are playing or not. The amount of snow in Minnesota is pretty ridiculous right now and down in Florida Carlos Silva's sinker is still not sinking, but I'm looking forward to another season of blogging.
- Last and least, there are no new links involved in this note, but judging from the number of e-mails and comments rolling in regarding two topics I wrote about recently I should probably wrap up some loose ends. First, my ear surgery is scheduled for next week. Second, my home-shopping tour officially kicks off tomorrow, when I'm scheduled to look at 10 places with a realtor. My hope is that both things run smoothly and don't drag out, but I'm also prepared to be deaf and homeless.