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  • A Cold Wind - I know of others said to be better poets, Who claim to speak clearly and truly of everything; Whose eyes, they say, fall on mountains or rivers And see alw...
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

That Girl Batgirl

Folks, this is some fine baseball writing right here. The whole post is worth reading.
It was a battered and bruised Twins line-up that came into Kauffman Stadium today. After a weekend snowed-in in Dearborn, MI, the players found themselves suffering from all sorts of strange luxury-hotel related injuries. Jason Bartlett tore his fingernail trying to move the hotel TV while Juan Castro awoke with a stiff neck, probably because his pillows were not well-fluffed. Lew Ford got a blister on his thumb from spending two days playing Super Mario Brothers on the room's Nintendo.....



Monday, April 25, 2005

TTO Pitchers Prelude

I've been playing with some stats from David Pinto's Pitcher Comparison Database (that's a link to the raw data).

First thing I did was call up the pitchers with the most strikeouts from 1974 on. I set the minimum innings pitched at 300 because I figured that would capture a lot of relievers, as well as maybe some pitchers who struck out a lot of hitters but didn't stick in the majors because they walked too many guys.

I loaded the data from the above link into a spreadsheet and
  1. removed all pitchers who struck out less than 6 batters per 9 innings pitched (working from the premise that pitchers with a K9 rate under 6 are not strikeout pitchers — and, really, I think a K9 rate of at least 7 is needed before a pitcher is truly a strikeout pitcher)
  2. found each pitcher's ratio of strikeouts per 9 innings to walks per 9 innings [K9/BB9]
  3. found each pitcher's rate of home runs given up per 9 innings [HR9]
  4. looked at the preceding ratios for a while and decided that what I was looking for could probably be best expressed as the following ratio: [(K9/BB9)/HR9]
I'm nowhere near finished with this. As you'll see in the preliminary list below, which is the top 20 pitchers since 1974 by the ratio in #4 above, a lot of relievers rank high in this stat — a result of being able to come in and throw hard, hard, and harder to every batter because they only work an inning or two per appearance. What I want to do next is separate the relief guys from the starters (Eckersly will give me fits) in order to look at each type of pitcher in their own contexts. Anyway, here are the top 20 mixed pitchers:

Rank Player ERA K9 BB9 K9/BB9 HR9 (K9/BB9)/HR9
1 Mariano Rivera 2.44 8.01 2.46 3.26 .50 6.48
2 Pedro Martinez 2.70 10.42 2.40 4.34 .68 6.37
3 Greg Maddux 2.96 6.27 1.87 3.35 .58 5.74
4 Duane Ward 3.28 9.17 3.86 2.38 .43 5.50
5 Doug Jones 3.30 7.25 1.97 3.68 .69 5.36
6 Rob Dibble 2.98 12.17 4.49 2.71 .51 5.32
7 Dave Smith 2.67 6.09 3.15 1.93 .38 5.11
8 Roy Oswalt 3.12 8.05 2.16 3.73 .76 4.89
9 Rollie Fingers 2.84 7.08 2.54 2.79 .58 4.78
10 Bret Saberhagen 3.34 6.02 1.65 3.65 .77 4.77
11 Mark Eichhorn 3.00 6.50 2.74 2.37 .50 4.76
12 Robb Nen 2.98 9.98 3.27 3.05 .64 4.75
13 Curt Schilling 3.35 8.79 2.04 4.31 .92 4.69
14 J.R. Richard 3.06 8.25 4.23 1.95 .42 4.67
15 Larry Andersen 3.15 6.85 2.81 2.44 .52 4.65
16 Mark Prior 3.00 10.63 2.72 3.91 .84 4.64
17 Tom Henke 2.67 9.81 2.91 3.37 .73 4.62
18 Kevin Brown 3.22 6.63 2.49 2.66 .58 4.61
19 Trevor Hoffman 2.77 10.08 2.63 3.83 .84 4.55
20 Billy Wagner 2.49 12.24 3.18 3.85 .85 4.52


Friday, April 22, 2005

TTO Dunn Right

In baseball speak, TTO stands for Three True Outcomes. It refers to the three possible results of a pure batter-pitcher confrontation (pure in this context meaning that the defense of the pitcher's team does not factor into the result of the plate appearance). The Three True Outcomes are the walk, the home run, the strikeout. In any given season there a few hitters who could be described as TTO's.

The best TTO hitter currently in the majors is Cincinnati Reds' outfielder Adam Dunn. As of last night, Dunn had 2167 career plate appearances (which is just a touch more than three full seasons): in those 2167 PA's he has walked 355 times, struck out 580 times, and homered 122 times. Look at what those numbers mean: in 49% (.48777) of his career PA's Dunn has either walked, struck out, or homered.

In this 2005 season, Dunn has 55 PA's in 14 games. He has walked 7 times, struck out 15 times, and homered 4 times. He has hit two homers in a game twice this year. The guy, like all true TTO hitters, is all about power and patience. In his 14 games he has 13 hits: 6 doubles, 4 homers, 1 triple, 1 single.

TTO hitters don't have high batting averages. They don't need them. A guy like Dunn is going to reach base somewhere around 40 percent of the time. He'll drive himself in 40 to 50 times with a home run, and he'll put himself in scoring position another 30 to 50 times by hitting a double. So you're looking at Dunn scoring or being in scoring position a minimum of 70 times via homers and doubles (and how about the runs he'll drive in with those extra base hits?). And that's before you even begin to think about the 100 to 120 times he'll walk to first base. With his own power and patience combined with any two or three league average hitters behind him in the order, it would be virtually impossible for Dunn not to score at least 100 runs in a season; he is an ideal #4 hitter.


Complete TTO pitchers would have lots of strikeouts, and very few walks and homers. Over the weekend, I'll try to come up with list of the the best-ever TTO hitters and pitchers.

Monday, April 18, 2005

On Again. Off again

Posts here will continue, but not regularly.

Here's a video of Seamus Heaney reading at MIT in October, 2002.

update: I should say "not regularly for two weeks to a month." Hopefully my brain will be working again by that time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I'll enjoy it while it lasts

The Jays at the top of the American league standings, I mean. Didn't get to see them whup the A's last night, but I found a deliciously strange little armchair game report by Jobu of the Batter's Box.
10:52 Boo Ya... 5-4-3 to get Chacin out of the inning and keep the shut out. In-field mics pick up the discussion between Koskie and Chacin on the walk back to the dugout.

Chacin: I imagine that right now you're feeling a bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole.
Koskie: Seriously...you’re freaking me out now

11:16 Shea with a screaming double in the 4th to put the Jays up 6-0. And with that Saarloos is pulled. I lean to Rick and drop this puppy "Looks like he’s the Saarlooser." For some reason I don’t get a laugh.
Etc.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Voiceless

I'm suffering through some disappointment this week. I was really coming to enjoy doing audioposts of poems, and was about ready to bump up their presence here. But audioblogger seems to be down. The audioposts I've made previously still work, but it's proven impossible to make any new ones — and today the phone number used to call in the posts doesn't even work. Dialing it results in 30 seconds of dead air, then a busy signal.

If anyone has any information on what's up with audioblogger, please pass it on. I can find nothing about any trouble with web searches.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Throwing The Changeup (Not Baseball)

Because I've written nothing else in the past two days, I'm breaking a little rule of my own and posting this fresh poem.
Waiting for Geese in the Spring


Early April. The bare trees are black with rain.
No tulips yet, but their beds begin to green.
The sou'west wind's been blowing for days (yesterday,
I sat in the sun in my shirt sleeves) —

But I've seen no geese yet this spring.
I've seen no strands of geese pulled into vees
Until tension slackens over the cove and they descend,
Dark skeins ravelling upon the water.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Ass-Bat Factor

In case I hadn't made it clear with this post, Johan Santana is my favourite pitcher. His first start of 2005 came last night against the Mariners in Seattle. Santana gave up four runs in the first, then settled down and gave the Mariners nothing for the next four innings (box score). The Twins came alive in the fifth after being held scoreless by Gil Meche for four innings and won the game for him.

The following link might explain what happened: In which BatGirl thinks deeply and realizes "that the Twins accidentally brought the ass-bats back from Florida."

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Doc Was In

In the zone, that is. And the Doc is Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays, who opened their season late this afternoon in St. Petersburg, Florida against the Devil Rays. Here's Halladay's line for the game:



IP H R ER BB K HR Season ERA
R. Halladay (W, 1-0) 7.0 9 2 2 0 7 0 2.57
The bad thing about that is the 9 hits. But hey, I think hometown scoring had something to do with that, as at least a couple of those ground ball hits could've been called errors. The good thing is the 0 under BB. The no-walk Doc; command is his strength when he's on — command, and that sinking fastball the D-Rays were driving into the ground today. I do think the infield will settle down and be more surehanded then they were today, which will play right to Halladay's strength. Could be a good year for him.

The hitters on the other hand ... well, yes, they hit three home runs (and the one by Vernon Wells was a monstrous shot), but they did not look patient at the plate. A lot of them went up hacking. Not a good sign. Dewon Brazelton, the D-Rays starter, did not look too impressive to me. He did not walk anyone either, but I thought a little patience on the Jays part would've driven him out of the game early. No one walked in this, not even when Jesus Colome came in relief of Brazelton and was a bit wild.

Ah well, not much about 162 game season can be inferred from one game. We'll see what happens.



Sunday, April 03, 2005

O Holy Day

Okay, the 2005 baseball season is officially under way with the first game in Yankee Stadium, Yanks and Red Sox. The incredible Randy Johnson vs. the incorrigible David Wells. I was thinking about liveblogging the game, but Baseball Musings has that covered.

I was looking forward to Jason Giambi's first at-bat. Giambi is going to hold my interest this year; I think he'll be a great test case for how a player can perform post-steroids. He turned on an inside fastball from Wells and ripped it by Kevin Millar at first base into right field for a single. Seemed to me that he got on top of the ball. It was just a little too high and a little too inside for him to be able to extend on with an uppercut swing. Not much can be told from one at-bat, but I'll say this: Giambi does not look much smaller to me, and from the swing he put on that pitch from Wells it didn't look to me like he's lost much bat speed, if any.

Now it's the bottom of the third inning and things are getting interesting. The Yanks have scored two off Wells to raise the score to 2-1. Renteria booted a ball, and now Matsui's on 2nd and Posada's at 1st, with Giambi at the plate and 2 outs. Wells gets ahead 0-2 on him, then throws inside. Giambi doesn't move back, kind of looked like he stuck his right elbow out further. Anyway, it's a hit-by-pitch to load the bases. And now Wells is behind the aging Bernie Williams 2-0. 2-1, now, on a foul ball. Now 2-2 on a curve that Williams swung over, and Wells balks! All runners advance one base, making the score 4-1. The 2-2 pitch is another curveball that Williams took a weak wave at. Strike 3.

Looks like the Sox have a hell of hill to climb in this one now. Johnson with a three-run lead is not something any team wants to face, because this sort of thing is what you get from him: in the top of the fourth, David Ortiz strikes out, Millar flies out weakly to short, Varitek gets fooled by a pitch but gets lucky when it heads down the third base line where a fan touches it. Interference gives Varitek 2nd base, but it doesn't matter because Payton grounds out weakly to short. It's very hard to get an aggressive swing against the Big Unit.

This is baseball.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Sky (Wislawa Szymborska)

An untitled audiopost should be showing up sometime in the next few hours. Once it does I'll consolidate it with this post. The poem is by Wislawa Szymborska, from View With A Grain of Sand (translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Claire Cavanagh). You'll find the text below.

There are poems I define as good because they get inside me in ways I don't understand (perhaps those poems are the good poems, the great poems). Sky is one of those. I know when it gets me. And I know that, paradoxically, it gets inside me in the first stanza when I fall in that hole, that "aperture," and I keep falling "from sky to sky" all the way through. I'm not sure how it gets me. And I'm not sure it matters how.

I don't what the poem's like in Polish. I don't know if the word translated as "aperture" carries the same connotations as in English; the camera's eye, the possibility, almost certainty, of both dilation and abrupt closing. But I fall in there with the feeling that there is no guarantee that I will come out again.

Sky

I should have begun with this: the sky.
A window minus sill, frame, and panes.
An aperture, nothing more,
but wide open.

I don't have to wait for a starry night,
I don't have to crane my neck
to get a look at it.
I've got the sky behind my back, at hand, and on my eyelids.
The sky binds me tight
and sweeps me off my feet.

Even the highest mountains
are no closer to the sky
than the deepest valleys.
There's no more of it in one place
than another.
A mole is no less in seventh heaven
than the owl spreading her wings.
The object that falls in an abyss
falls from sky to sky.

Grainy, gritty, liquid,
inflamed, or volatile
patches of sky, specks of sky,
gusts and heaps of sky.
The sky is everywhere,
even in the dark beneath your skin.
I eat the sky, I excrete the sky.
I'm a trap within a trap,
an inhabited inhabitant,
an embrace embraced,
a question answering a question.

Division into sky and earth —
it's not the proper way
to contemplate this wholeness.
It simply lets me go on living
at a more exact address
where I can be reached promptly
if I'm sought.
My identifying features
are rapture and despair.
update: I tried again with audioblogger. Still no go. Maybe there'll be two versions show up.
update 2: audioblogger is back up, here's my audiopost of Sky.

Friday, April 01, 2005

On Bullshit

The fellow who wrote this essay on bullshit, Harry Frankfurt, Professor of Philosophy at Princeton, was on The Daily Show earlier this week, promoting the essay's publication in book form. The following (along with the idea that a liar acknowledges the truth, at least to himself, while the bullshitter could care less what the truth is) seems to be the essence of what he's saying:
It does seem that bullshitting involves a kind of bluff. It is closer to bluffing, surely than to telling a lie. But what is implied concerning its nature by the fact that it is more like the former than it is like the latter? Just what is the relevant difference here between a bluff and a lie? Lying and bluffing are both modes of misrepresentation or deception. Now the concept most central to the distinctive nature of a lie is that of falsity: the liar is essentially someone who deliberately promulgates a falsehood. Bluffing too is typically devoted to conveying something false. Unlike plain lying, however, it is more especially a matter not of falsity but of fakery. This is what accounts for its nearness to bullshit. For the essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony. In order to appreciate this distinction, one must recognize that a fake or a phony need not be in any respect (apart from authenticity itself) inferior to the real thing. What is not genuine need not also be defective in some other way. It may be, after all, an exact copy. What is wrong with a counterfeit is not what it is like, but how it was made. This points to a similar and fundamental aspect of the essential nature of bullshit: although it is produced without concern with the truth, it need not be false. The bullshitter is faking things. But this does not mean that he necessarily gets them wrong.
Poetry, and poets, probably thrive on bullshit (example: Robert Bly), whether it's of their (our) own making or made by critics and reviewers, or whether it's a inevitable seepage resulting from the strange habit of each type feeding on the other.

For instance, the essay on Emily D. that I linked to in the previous post begins with bullshit:
In contrast to Emerson's image of benevolent spiritual enlightenment, Dickinson's volcano consumes, burns, and destroys. The volcano is an unpredictable, subversive force, more appalling when it erupts because it has been so long silent. Yet the subtlety of the volcano persists even in the eruption, which is only a hiss, and in the destruction, which is an oozing away. Far from being limited by its constraining rock, the volcano's power of expression is so great that it can swallow up the exterior that seems to confine it. As such, it offers an image of Dickinson writing from within the confines of her society, exploding the language by which her culture seeks to limit and define her. The volcano, though phallic in shape, ejaculating lava, has a feminine component, too: its vaginal and oral lips dispense symbols that scorch the phallus from within and devour the surroundings above and amidst which it has erected itself. The volcano thus evokes the terrifying image of the woman writing from within the male organ(ization) itself. Dickinson's disruption of social structures, like her poetic image of the volcano, is primarily a linguistic one. The volcano destroys cities that are, like conventional language and grammar, constructions of civilization. But just as the fiery lava and ash also resculpt the landscape and enrich the soil, Dickinson's disruption of conventional discourse also reshapes and enriches language.
And Emily herself could spout it:
544

The Martyr Poets — did not tell
But wrought their Pang in syllable
That when their mortal name be numb
Their mortal fate encourage Some

The Martyr Painters never spoke
Bequeathing rather to their Work
That when their conscious fingers cease
Some seek in Art the Art of Peace

Oscar Wilde's De Profundis runs, I think, the gamut from truth to lies to bullshit. He was, poor man, by Frankfurt's standards at least, finally, sadly, a bullshitter at heart, if not in essence.

Of course, Frankfurt himself is a philosopher. Given that fact, and my opinion that his essay, though useful to keep in mind while in proximity to "news" media and politicians, could very well be defined as bullshit — and probably should be — by it's own measures, I'll not be giving up my daily grain of salt.

(Oh yeah, there's also a video interview of Frankfurt here.)