Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'd Like To Thank Truth, Beauty, Jack Bauer

The second annual

Primarily Baseball

award for

Excellence in Sportswriting Excellence

for the pursuit and achievement of excellence in sportswriting excellence

in the year of our Fucking God Damn Lord 2008

goes to Primarily Baseball.

This site, in its first full year of existence, brought trenchant analysis and unparalleled wit to baseball fans the world over. It gave no quarter to irrationality, intellectual dishonesty, and poor taste, and has them on the run, everywhere. It made the surge work and Sarah Palin lose. It kept the gravitational constants constant, so that mankind could live. Thank you, Primarily Baseball. Because if he can claim to have liberated 50 million people, you can claim them all.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Coincidence

From Roch Kubatko:

"If anyone has taken the tour of Camden Yards, you've heard the story from the press box about Rosenthal's laptop being destroyed by a Cal Ripken foul ball. Rosenthal had written a column the night before suggesting that Ripken end The Streak. The screaming line drive that sent his laptop crashing to the floor was a delicious irony . . . . Ripken had no idea what happened until after the game, when former PR director John Maroon rushed to his locker with the news. Ripken's response went something like this: 'Cool.'"

Friday, December 5, 2008

A little math goes a long way

Over here, Colin Wyers, who is generally a smart guy, studies whether a run saved is just as valuable as a run scored.  He takes it to be an implication of the Pythagorean winning percentage formula (Win% = (RS^2/(RS^2+RA^2)) that this is indeed the case.  However, looking at teams with matched run differentials but widely differing total runs (so, for instance, a team with RS/RA allowed of 900/800 gets matched with a 750/650) he finds that the lower scoring teams do slightly, but statistically significantly better.  He takes this to imply some slight deficiency in the Pythagorean formula.

The problem is that he is completely wrong in his interpretation of the Pythagorean formula.  In fact, as I showed in one of my first posts here, according to the Pythagorean formula a run saved is more valuable when the team is an above average team, and a run scored more valuable when it is below average.  Thus, if there are more teams above .500 in his sample than below--which, if you look at the article, is indeed the case--the Pythagorean formula would predict that that the run saved is better than the run scored.  In other words, completely contrary to the article's claim, the Pythagorean formula correctly predicts the data!

To be fair, Colin does later present some additional evidence that Pythagorean estimators are less accurate for the low scoring teams.  That, however, does not make up for the earlier error.