Twins 11, Cubs 3

Not sure if the 100 lipograms thing will actually happen after all, but I do have another (very cosmopolitan) post on the way for #200. Get excited!

It’s not that unusual for video screens to list the names of businesses or church groups, whenever there’s a large group and everyone comes.
What is unusual is, in between the names of all of those high-level companies, early in the alphabet, happening to spot the “Bleacher Bums.”
Between half-innings, the video screen shows us all another proposal. Those big-screen ones have been growing a little more common, it seems.
But again there’s a difference at today’s game, because usually the couples on display aren’t wearing the merchandise of the opposing teams.
And the sidebar column displays the Twins’ first names, rather than last names. Minnesota nice? Lots of these names happen to start with Js.
The good news is at least there aren’t any Jasons on the Twins’ roster right now. None at all! Because that was a really unmanageable phase.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Twins bat around. The Junior PA announcer, getting his money’s worth, gets to read a relief pitcher’s name.
Later, the Twins’ lead grows out of control, and I log on to the free wi-fi and twitter to sarcastically nominate him as player of the game.

Kansas City 3, Boston 1, and so on

Now and again you’ll run across analysis of a squad or an individual that is “good, but not too good,” strong but not outstanding, of high quality but not about to blow you away. Last night (and this morning), two squads got wins, both unusual, though not so unusual that it would blow old marks away.

Kansas City against Boston, to start (or finish, as it was). On account of rain, that matchup would not start for almost two and a half hours past normal. Almost four and a half hours would go by without a finish. (Although, this is Boston of which I talk. Four and a half hours is not so bad for a loss in its fifth bonus inning, if you think of how long Boston-NY marathons can go.)

Plus,  Arlington’s local squad won against Twins, and how. Put it this way–Twins got six runs, but lost by two touchdowns (including points following, but no two-point plays). A high mark for that day’s champions? No. In fact, it’s just two-thirds of its historic scoring mark! Nor is its hit total a squad high, as said run mark had not as many hits.

So, what did MLB.com talk about today? Fascinating facts from Monday, obviously, but random writing too. It’s surprising how many kids of guys playing today must work through a disability. I don’t want to mock any such family, but if I put my mind to it, it’s almost too simplistic or common in “family spotlight” olds. Not non-olds. Olds. That’s what it is now.

Sorry for sporadic blogging. Hard to know what to post about. Possibly this URL will put prompts up again?

Liriano’s No-No

Oh what a game
Francisco Liriano
Whose no-no had no-nos
Walks are rarely good ideas
And yet he
And the Twins defended
For a sweet win that would please
(Even without total ease.)

The fates have smiled
On lucky Liriano–
A no-no! There were no
Such great moments on the mound
This season
Left the White Sox wasted
The Twins were unwelcome, both teams had been struggling
But then on Chicago’s home ground
He got them to fly out, he got them to ground out
There wasn’t a hit to be found.
Speaking as a Chicagoan, I’m
Still very thrilled this was Francisco’s time!

He stopped the Sox from producing knocks, Francisco Liriano
Threw the year’s first no-no
Though you could find a fault
With some pitches, Sox cleaved the air
They were not worth their salt
Gardenhire didn’t pull him or call a halt.
Twins fans felt great in their frigid state, all hail to Liriano
Who has thrown a no-no.
How many innings? Nine.
He mowed them down, he shut them off
His pitching’s mighty fine.
All of the Sox had to go
Back down the line
He put on a marvelous show
Tonight was his night to shine.

Oh sad the bat
That faces Liriano
Whose no-no will, though no
One would say that it counts for more
In standings
Still stand out forever
With the many games before.
(Even beyond the box score.)

Let’s hear it for
Francisco Liriano
Whose no-no (I know no
One’s going to disagree)
Was awesome.
What a happy moment
Down at the Cell all their hitting skill weakened
The White Sox did not stand a chance.
From infield to outfield, Minnesotan goodness
Was fighting the home team’s advance.
He pitched with speed, he pitched with force
Setting them down, a matter of course.

Once in a while the fates will smile
On guys like Liriano.
Guys like Liriano
Suddenly hit the press
And fans cheer out with all the pride and joy that they possess.
None of the White Sox could hit–they were a mess.
When Liriano had it–he’d just impress.

What a scene, what a joy
What a lovely sight
When the Twins are the big sensation.
Even if it’s nothing much
Only this one night
It’s still a cause for celebration.
For now I just wanna see
A tremendous game, don’t you?
It’s a Central clash; neither great but both
In full view.

There’s no roof, they just played under open air.
Twenty thousand? It could be better.
But it must have ruled for those who made it there.
As days go, this one was red-letter.
It’s not just the best there is
Who put on this kind of show
Lightning can strike for the best and the worst
And now Liriano…

…Now at the Cell,
They put the “miss” into “Comiskey,” didn’t really prove their worth
Though you can’t tell
From just one game, tonight at least they stood back and let him excel
Clear as a bell, they fell
Francisco pitched so well!

ZACK Non-Attack

Unless the opposing pitcher is on your fantasy team, there’s really almost never a bad time for your team to get hits. There are times when it would be really, really nice for them to get hits, and then times when it’s not so important, but hey, the more the merrier. Fantasy aside, can we therefore conclude that it is always good for your team to get hits, and always the best course of action to root for them to do so?

No, we cannot. For we also appreciate the home fans we see in broadcasts of no-hitters we switch to, who start cheering for the visiting pitcher at the end of the game–tacitly rooting against their own batters. But when does the “end of the game” begin? When is it acceptable to switch your allegiance?

Enter the ZACK, a new statistic that hopes to measure the acceptability of rooting for a no-hitter against your own team. This is the first version of the formula, so the scale of some of the numbers involved might be off. Feel free to give feedback.

ZACK is derived from four variables: ZACK=Z*(A+C+K). Each of these letters stands for a different question that a fan might implicitly consider on these occasions:

Z is for Zone? (Where am I?)
A is for Accomplishment? (How far along is this game?)
C is for Crucial? (Is this an important game to win?)
K is for Killed? (Are we getting killed out there?)

Here’s how you compute these…

Zone. We take as our baseline being actually present at the game; if you’re at the game, Z=1 so it won’t make a difference when you multiply it by the sum and you can move on to A. If you’re not at the game…
…but you’ve been paying attention (through any chosen medium) from the start, Z=3/4
…but you’re been paying attention for a while, Z =2/3
…but you just started paying attention because someone has alluded to what’s going on, Z=1/2 (You may think that this should be strange for a game involving “your team”, but perhaps they’re only “your team” in the league you don’t care about quite as much and you’re busy watching a different game.)
…but you just started paying attention because someone has explicitly told you what’s going on, step away from the computer (or open a new tab), and give that person a stern talking-to from me.

Accomplishment. The editors of MLB.com apparently believe in a “bright line test” after the fifth inning or so, allowing live look-ins after a specific point in the game. I do not; no inning should be disproportionately important. (If the correct answer to the question posed at the end of the second paragraph is “the seventh inning, period”, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.)

So, my first principle in ZACK is that each inning is equally important. Therefore, A=8 at the beginning of the game, and increases by 1 for every out recorded by the opposing pitcher, whether that out comes in the first inning or the ninth. (Well, actually, I didn’t consider extra innings. Maybe A should go up by 2 for every out beyond the twenty-seventh!)

However, I can appreciate that completing a half-inning may have more subjective value than just three outs. So, A increases by an extra 1 for every half-inning completed. (The A value for a game could go 8-9-10-12-13-14-16 through the first two innings if all the batters go down in order.)

Subtract that original 8 from your A value if your team has gotten on base through other means.

Crucial. This is the hardest to calculate, and the one that might need the most fine-tuning. I apologize in advance.

The first thing to do is see if your team has either clinched a playoff spot, or been eliminated from playoff contention. If so, C=9. Go directly to K. If it hasn’t, continue below. However, if the value that you get from continuing below is greater than 8.5, use C=8.5 instead.

Okay, so your team is still in some sort of race; it’s either leading the division or the wild card by x games, or it’s x games out of the division or wild card (consider whichever case makes x smaller–usually you’re closer to the wild card than the division title). If you are playing the team chasing you by x games/in first by x games, go to the next paragraph. Otherwise, take x/2 and go to the next paragraph.

Okay, so the number you got from the paragraph above, which is either x or x/2? To this, add the number of months remaining in the regular season; +5 in April, +4 in May, +3 in June, +2 in July, +1 in August, 0 in September. (If this is October and your team has not clinched or been eliminated, you have other things to worry about than ZACK.)

Okay, now you have C. Unless this value is greater than 8.5, remember, in which case C=8.5.

Killed. K increases by 1 for each run, beyond the second, your opponents have scored.

I originally considered tweaking this, as your team is not necessarily getting killed out there even if your opponents have scored more than two runs. However, I think the novelty factor of watching your team score without getting hits offsets this.

All right, we’re done! Multiply Z*(A+C+K) to get your ZACK score, and then root away.

What’s that? You’d maybe like an example or two to help with the numbers and stuff? That’s fine.

For a couple of examples, we will take two games last night; the Twins game against the Royals I attended (you will never guess who was pitching for the Royals. Never. At all), and the simultaneous Cubs game against the Astros. Both the Twins and Cubs qualify as “my team”.

First, let’s get Z and C out of the way, as we can do that early for both teams. (I suppose in late September C could change while the game is going on, if another team loses/wins at the same time; again, if this will dramatically alter your result, you have other things than ZACK to worry about at this point.) I was at the Twins game, so Z=1 there, but the Cubs were already losing by the time I started glancing at the scoreboard, so Z=2/3 there.

C for the Twins? They entered the game with a 5.5 game lead over the White Sox, so x=5.5. They weren’t playing the White Sox, so 5.5/2= 2.25. It’s September, so that’s all there is to do to find C.

The Cubs are actually farther out of the wild card race than they are the division race. Taking the “mere” 19.5 games by which they trail the Reds, we have 19.5/2=9.75. This is greater than 9.5, so C=9.5 for the Cubs. (That is to say, we’re not worrying too much, playoff wise, about the outcome of this game. Might as well root for a no-hitter.)

So, at the beginning of the game, the Twins’ ZACK was 2.25+8=10.25, and the Cubs’ was (2/3)*(9.5+8)=(2/3)*17.5=11.67. Here’s what happened through the first few innings…

Graph of Cubs and Twins' ZACK scores

Am I on the right track? There’s a lot of room for improvement, but I feel like this is a good start.

By the way, I’m not going to give you a cutoff value for acceptability, except that I’m pretty sure it’s greater than 14. Beyond that, it’s an issue that each fan must struggle with alone.

Also, although it should be obvious, don’t bother with ZACK once your team has already gotten a hit! Then, just sit back, enjoy, and hope the barrage continues for enough runs that Matt Capps can’t blow it.

And you thought the Twins were only collecting closers…

How is a Twins fan to tell
They did not give the AL
The attention it deserved
This year? When justice is served.

When they go to Target Field
And see the lineups revealed.
Then they meet their sorry fate;
They can’t keep their Jasons straight!

That said, it’s not fair to blame
The fans. It’s a common name.
In Target Field, like the Dome,
Jasons really feel at home.

Before we knew there’d be more,
Way back in 2004,
Kubel and Bartlett came up,
Though for just a coffee cup.

After Kubel hurt his knee,
Resting from an injury,
The Twins went down to the Minor
Leagues to call up Jason Tyner.

Let’s not forget Jason Miller.
He was not a giant-killer
With an 18 ERA
In the four games he would play.

Jason Bartlett went away
In that trade with Tampa Bay.
Did this make the roster tidy?
Not trading for Jason Pridie.

Was there any fan petition
To stop all this repetition?
Could anyone stop the rep? No.
Now we’ve got this Jason Repko!

It might not count for a lot,
But Hardy is a bright spot.
The alternative’s too scary;
“J.J.” just stands for “James Jerry.”

Jays 2, Twins 1, Indians 1, Rays 0

Nobody owns 2010 and nobody will, but young bats also stand with arms as standouts so far. It’s an individual activity, hitting. Or pitching, actually, though an ally must catch. Throwing without pitching also can’t occur without an ally, or can’t occur in a good way. If you blow it, if you plural blow it, it’s still going down as a flaw with a particular individual, though choosing is now and again arbitrary.

That choosing is a hard task; it can’t occur in a vacuum. Not that far into finding out about a sport, you find out about its most dazzling days, find out what has a quick shorthand to pin down how good it was. And it’s a long, long way from that day until you could obtain a job and say what was, or was not, a hit.

If anything is a hit, without doubt, it’s a hit that soars far. Fair and out of play, into distant stands, for a hit and a run to boot. Such was on display from Toronto, slug and slug again, and in particular from a youth. That said, Tampa Bay too hit and got runs; 11 runs, to just 9 hits. Hitting, obviously, is not your only way to build a scoring opportunity. But Toronto was too strong, smacking 20 hits, 8 going far out. If anything’s obviously a hit, it’s that sort of blast.

Right?

Actually, no. You can fight, saying a ball did go out, against a ruling that it didn’t. And what’s lost in that  fight, you don’t gain in confusion following that loss–it’s not hard to claim that it wasn’t fair, in a splashy first-paragraph blurb, but it is hard to say that what you’d want still wouldn’t stop you from losing.

But if any squad shouldn’t complain about quirky ballparks, it’s our Twins that can’t. Not following a hit off a catwalk, prompting complaints from Maddon. Who’s crowing about moving outdoors now?

…Probably our Twins, still. That’s a pity.

So it’s Tampa Bay, again, that was flirting with historic futility. From what I saw (look-ins on MLB.com, I’ll admit, not all that much), this was similar to Jackson’s win–not as wild, but with many throws, and also finishing 1-0. Just having a run to work with can focus brilliant jobs, but if that won’t occur, with first and third full, why stay with Morrow?

But it paid off.

And so fans look towards morrows, trying to find out what this wacky August 2010 will throw us.

162 down; how will it go? Who knows?

For all I know–all I can totally know, that is, without just trusting assumptions, a group of facts that is not big–“living” is just falling. Coins thrown into a grid of dots, bouncing this way or that, landing at last in a roughly normal distribution. A coin or two will land on that distributions’ rim, but mostly it’s a big clump. In a suitably long run, laws of probability will drown out mild variation.

If you didn’t want to trust your cash to that, you could just flip it. It’s a similar story, just in microcosm. Half up, half down. That was how a playoff location was found not too long ago. With many trials, a statistician knows, you’ll play half away and half in your own stadium. Just as in a normal campaign.

I’d watch that. Four and a half innings in Michigan? Okay, stop for now and show up tomorrow for a following four-and-a-half. But what if a Twins rally cuts things short, cutting out bottom-ninth action? It wouldn’t truly go “half away, half not”. So that won’t work.

No, knowing you’d win half of all coin flips isn’t any consolation if you don’t win that which counts. And moping about cosmic futility isn’t any fun–joy is found through taking any sort of action. Not just physical action–arguing philosophy in your own mind wins against thinking that you lack any opportunity at all.

No coin will fly to pick a playoff location this fall. Matchup 163 got its spot thanks to win-loss totals, which in turn hail from action within stadia. And Bronx triumph allows it a bonus honor. Following 163–but not so far away as actual playoffs–that Junior Circuit champion squad, choosing its upcoming days to play, will try to show us again why taking action can pay off. And our TBD champions will try to thwart that. And nobody knows who will win.