Category Archives: geekerie

Not exactly Nostradamus-level difficulty

The Boston Red Sox have had the Devil Rays’ own time trying to hit the ball lately.

They have gotten exactly three base hits in three consecutive games, all against the rival Tampa Bay Rays, though they managed to win the first of them since one of the hits was a three-run home-run courtesy of Jacoby Ellsbury.  (He also homered in the second game of the series, and is having a helluva year overall.)

You’ll notice my ugly mug all over the comments there – not much else to do when you’re home sick – and one thing I mentioned was that the Sox were playing in Kansas City tonight, getting to face Luke Hochevar, who is not exactly the immovable object.  This led me to suggest that Boston would probably surpass three hits on their first trip through the batting order.  (Hochevar’s career: 9.7 hits per 9 IP, .274 average against. He also allows steals at an 83.1% rate for his career, so the Sox will be active on the basepaths.)

This was not really a stretch to predict, but lo, it hath come to pass.  The eighth and ninth hitters,  Jason Varitek and Mike Aviles, hit singles to give Boston four base hits on their first trip through the order.  Through five innings, they have four runs on eight hits (20 AB) and two walks.  They should have even more, but the Royals have shown better arms than their pitcher tonight – KC has ended three of the five innings by throwing out Red Sox runners.

When you’re a Mets fan, this is about all you have to think about is cool stuff like this.

For example, another thing I noticed from the Jacoby Ellsbury thread above: Bobby Bonds appears three times on the list at that post, the only man on the list more than once.  (It’s leadoff hitters who’ve met certain HR/run/RBI levels with an OPS 30% above league average.)  Bobby did it twice with the Giants, and the only year he was a Yankee.  The Yanks (most likely at Billy Martin’s insistence) traded Bonds to the Angels, and got back Mickey Rivers and Ed Figeroa.  Rivers actually finished third in the MVP vote his first year there, and Figeroa fourth in the Cy Young vote.  And they played effectively for the Yanks for a few years after, meaning that they actually came out ahead on the deal. The Angels, however, didn’t do badly for themselves, trading Bonds for Brian Downing, an underrated player in his own right – and one who would wind up making the very list Bonds is on.

I love little patterns and coincidences like that.  It’s also interesting to see how Billy Martin’s dissatisfaction led to the Yankees improving their team, almost by accident.  For one thing, there was no real indication that Rivers or Figeroa were capable of what they did their first year in New York.  For another, part of the Yankees problem in 1975 was an injury to CF Elliott Maddox, who was playing very well before wrecking his knee.  (He was arguably never the same player afterward.)

Rivers replaced Maddox in centerfield, but there was another difficutly: the Yankees had nobody to bat second behind him.  It had been Sandy Alomar, who was, to be honest, brutal.  The Yankees solved that problem by moving Roy White to that spot.  But who was going to replace Alomar in the field?  Well, the Yankees were already trading for extra pitching besides Figeroa.  Pittsburgh was giving up Ken Brett (and giving up on Dock Ellis).  They had young John Candelaria, and Jerry Reuss and Bruce Kison… they could afford to part with some pitching.  They could also afford to part with one of their two second basemen.

They kept the established Rennie Stennett, and threw in the young, unproven Willie Randolph.


Because I am a giver

This is a little something-something for Laura, the propriotress of Fetch My Flying Monkeys.*

* I originally typed that as “Monkees,” and am now alternately amused and terrorized by the vision of Mickey Dolenz and Davey Jones gliding about the rooftops like Mary Poppins.  They get the strangest looks, indeed.

No, it’s not George.  I haven’t got that kind of pull in the world.  But I can link a website, and this is that website: Dinosaur Comics.  It’s a proven scientific fact that a comic must be awesome if it features a Tyrannosaur calculating how fast he’d need to spin the Earth to levitate a person via magnetism – just to get that person off his couch.  Exhibit A: the Tyrannosaur explains this by yelling, “That’s right, tiny woman, I noticed you hanging out on my couch; it weirded me out and I started doing Math!”

So – you’re welcome.

(Via Zoopraxiscope, who clued me wise with this Dino strip about the odds of the occurance of Batman.  I am truly in his debt.)

Around and about the Internets

Sir Robbo has chosen to shut it down over at Llama Butchers, and I hear him on this.

I allegedly hockey-blog at Lighthouse Hockey.  My main contributions have been in commenting and moderating; I do little actual posting of content.  Sometimes, this makes me feel bad, but my cohorts there assure me that it’s not a problem.

So what am I to do when I no longer post at my own blog, as happens from time to time?  I’ve shut one down already, before opening the new digs – back then, my co-blogger wound up doing most of the heavy lifting and I couldn’t countenance doing less than a third of the work at my own place.

Finally I realized the answer was all the way back in my Mark Twain, in Tom Sawyer, and Tom’s great realization through selling the whitewashing privileges to his friends: the moment it becomes work, you have to pay people to do what they would gladly do otherwise for free.  I came back to blogging once it became relaxing again, instead of a chore.  Still, I’m more of a reaction fellow… I can do color commentary, but am not the best play-by-play man, so to speak.  So there will be times I have no content, and other times when I have content sitting in the draft queue for months on end, unfinished.  I’ve come to a certain peace about it.

This read-and-react habit of mine has won me a promotion of sorts from the Czar of Muscovy.  After writing in to the Gormogons about this recent post, they were kind enough to run said letter; now I’m the new head of space flight practical jokes.  Folks on the Supersonic Rocket Ship need not concern themselves closely with this.  The fresh flowers in the arboretum are not about to start squirting water at you, except the Water-Squirting Orchids – but those were already clearly marked.  In fact, my first act under my new title was merely administrative: to wit, neither Sir Robbo nor the Gormogons were showing up in the sidebar, because I had set a link limit of 20, and they were numbers 21 and 22.  This was the sort of foolish oversight that prompted me to write in to HQ in the first place – it’s fixed now, and an old link has been dropped, bringing us to a proper blackjack’s worth of folks to visit.

Now we’re really stretching time and space – the Fake GM chronicles

I blew through the overseas exhibitions.  Here’s the first, brief accounts of the Fake Future Panthers in game action.  And you know, I may have a keeper in that kid Sanipass.  It’s early… it’s early.  I’m gonna post this and then work on some of the non-game stuff while I run the in-league exhibition schedule: six games.

PS – I know I’m supposed to be less hockey over here, and more over at Lighthouse Hockey.  To me, though, this isn’t really about hockey.  It’s a work of fiction, with hockey as a medium; but it’s the people who count.  The game’s the thing wherein we catch the conscience of the king.

SEPTEMBER 1-14, 2021

When the games begin in earnest, McGill leans heavily on the youngsters.  The overseas fans naturally want to see the NHL stars, but neither do they want to see their own clubs crushed.  McGill’s compromise is to play primarily those of his players who come from those countries.  Ondra Cerny, for example, starts in net against Praha, and Patrick Sjölund and Nestor Söderqvist get huge cheers in Farjestads.  Otherwise, it’s almost a Rochester Americans barnstorming tour, with Pavel Kiselev facing Mettalurg, and Gary Flynn, Oskar Åberg and Kaj Bergkvist seeing major time against the Elitserien teams.

It’s also a chance for lesser-used Panthers to step into the limelight.  Petteri Wirtanen, the veteran center, starts and takes the first shift of each period again Turku in Finland; and Mike Burk centers the first line at times.  Nathan Horton and Jay Bouwmeester only appear in four games total, three for Bouwmeester (McGill wants his many young defenders to pay strict attention to the Hall of Famer).  Kenndal McArdle is a mere spectator.  Cody Kozack, when he does play, spends much of his time alongside Robson and Zaczyk for example and support, while Anders Henriksson centers Artyem Filatov and Luch Sanipass.

Praha Sp, the Czech league champions, fights the Panthers to a draw; after that Florida begins to demolish the various foreign sides, with Filatov-Henriksson-Sanipass quickly emerging as a dangerous line during the tour.  They aren’t playing pushovers, either.  Every opponent is either the playoff or regular-season champion of their leagues, and several former NHLers are in their ranks.  It is immaterial.  Samuli Laine and John Cyr earn four assists each in a 12-2 laugher over Frölunda.  Coles, Kiselev, and even Don Madden post shutouts.  Henriksson finishes the tour with 4 goals and 8 assists.  But Sanipass, time and again, is the story – the speed of the game hasn’t bothered him at all, and playing against much older men for the first time, he looks as dominant as he did playing against teenagers in juniors.  He finishes the six-game tour with a pair of hat tricks among his ten goals.

Beginner has left McDonough behind in Florida to handle whatever may happen in his absence, choosing to travel with the team and watch all the games himself. He only misses one evening: his birthday.  His wife flies out to meet the team and the two spend a day taking in the Czech countryside.

the Fake GM encounters a small problem in time and space

At the outset, I had written that September 9th, 2021 was the start of Fake Panthers training camp.  This is, after all, the date the game gave me.  But I have had a bit of an issue with that… a problem in the program.  The game gladly lets you schedule exhibition matches during your training camps.  In fact, the game will sometimes tell you that other people have challenged you to exhibitions during your camp.

Normally, eh, who cares… but this year I’ve got this overseas tour going on, and as it turns out, it’s really unrealistic to hold training camp while simultaneously playing exhibitions across Europe and Scandinavia.  So I’ve had to break out a figurative TARDIS for my figurative hockey club, and shift the camp stuff forward.  I did this by simming the foreign exhibition tour while doing the camp, and then rearranging the order of events judiciously.

This stretches my second rule of the exercise – writing as I go, without knowing any more than the reader does at any point in the story.  It’s unavoidable here, but I stuck closely to the first rule, which is that if you see it in the story, it’s what happened in the simulation, in the order it happened.  I didn’t use what was going on in the exhibitions to color my account of what happened in the training camp, even though it was all happening “at the same time” in simulation terms.  So, for example, when I report that certain players are doing well or poorly at the beginning or end of camp, that’s what the coaches in-game are telling the Fake GM; it’s not based on their game performances.

AUGUST 23, 2021

The Panthers will open training camp earlier than normal this year, because of a special agreement that Mike Beginner has worked on for months, and for which he is particularly proud.  For the first time in six years, the Panthers are going on an overseas tour for part of their preseason exhibition schedule.

Florida has done this four other times, owing largely to their heavily-international roster.  In times past the Panthers have had as many as ten different countries represented among their players.  This year’s model is not quite that globe-spanning, but besides the Canadian and American contingents, the camp has 3 Russians, 4 Czechs, 3 Finns, a Slovak, a Pole, and 6 Swedes.  (And Matt Brewer, a Canadian national, was actually born in Ardrossan, Scotland.)  Naturally, not all of them will be sticking with the big club in the end, but as many as a dozen could remain, depending on the competition among the lower reaches of the roster.  Already, the team is beginning to debate some of those hard decisions: Axel Mattsson vs. Wren Nadeau, Filip Ruutu vs. Marco Robson, and whether there’s room for Ivan Pohanka or Stanislaw Zaczyk.

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Believing in hockey

This next entry was originally the first thing I wrote for the Fake GM files.  I made a decision to hold off on it, however.  Dramatically, I wanted to introduce characters instead of waxing philosophical.  And I also wanted an entry to tide me over while I simmed through the dog days.  I had a general idea that my team wouldn’t be very active between the draft and training camp.  (It’s good to be the guy in charge of the decisions, and not just the author.)

Well, it’s time.  I gratefully credit “SnarkSD,” whose article at Behind the Net, “The Sample Size War: How Long is a Typical NHL Career?” was the source of the 117 and 410 game statistic quoted below.  For other information on how many draftees make the league and how many players appear in X number of games each season, I went to and counted my way through the various draft records, going back to 1987, and did some math.  Therefore, any errors in the percentages there are exclusively mine.

AUGUST 2, 2021

“Quite honestly?” Beginner says.  “I hate nostalgia.”

There’s laughter around the room.  Beginner himself is wearing the lopsided half-grin he favors when he knows he sounds ridiculous but thinks he has a point.

“I will admit,” he continues, “I AM nostalgic.  But there’s a difference.  Nostalgia makes it harder to do my job.”

He looks ready to continue but Joe McDonough jumps in: “Mike, you’re not nostalgic.  You’re sentimental.  You talk about these draftees like rescue puppies.”

There’s more and louder laughter, Beginner included.

“It’s like you’re pre-nostalgic or something,” Ryan McGill agrees.  “You want these kids to make it so badly you think forward fondly on the careers they ought to have.”

“And they can’t all have those kinds of careers,” Beginner says.  “I know.”

The numbers are certainly against the nostalgic, or the sentimental.  Every member club of the National Hockey League has 21 skaters and 2 goalies on their active roster – 690 jobs – and every June, 210 hopeful 18-to-21-year olds are drafted in the hopes of filling some of them.  In practice, of course, thanks to injuries and slumps and other vagaries of performance in top-flight hockey, there are more openings: over 900 different people appear in an NHL game at some time in the course of the average regular season.  But nobody is born dreaming of a long hockey career with occasional stayovers in the NHL.  They all want to be stars, or at least regulars… it’s usually the realization of how hard it is to hold a regular NHL job that makes a player grateful for even the smallest glimpse of it.  And make no mistake – it’s hard.

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Changes for the fake Panthers

I promised some screen shots of the various players I’m talking about, however, I’m suffering through some computer issues… I can post thanks to the laptop but can’t get the war horse to operate properly.  The game runs.  The screen shots save.  Getting them to load to the internet, however… heheheh.  Well, I’ll keep working on it.  In the meantime… the fake Panthers have been entirely quiet in free agency.  Only one thing breaks the monotony of the summer…

JULY 21, 2021

Denis Kulyash retired today.

The media corps is dutifully compiling the various statistics and career highlights to use in their press release.  AGM Joe McDonough has told Ryan McGill, who is in turn going to notify the coaching staff.  Then the team will hold a press conference at 4:00 to announce the news, and Beginner and Kulyash will dutifully stand in front of the microphones and issue the usual statements about the event, about the player always being a part of the team “family,” the gratitude of franchise and player, and possibly some suppressed emotion.

One suspects this will not be a routine formality like for many other players.  For the one thing, Kulyash has had a fine and rewarding career: fourteen NHL seasons, seven Stanley Cups, runner-up for the Calder Trophy as the 2008 Rookie-of-the-Year, and all for the Panthers.  The affable Russian has also long been a fan favorite.  In his rookie year, the home fans would serenade his booming slapshots and hard checks with cries of “Den-NEEEEEE,” as if he were a French-Canadian, and it stuck as a nickname even though Kulyash pronounces his name “DEH-niss.”

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A bit of a trade in future F.L.A.

So, I’m zipping along.  However, I’ve noticed something that I never paid attention to while I was just playing the sim, instead of creating a story around it.  The thing is, the game often schedules exhibition games while teams are supposed to be in the middle of training camp.  I didn’t really think about it; I knew roughly when camp was going to start and I put in a request for a few overseas games: my guys vs. the champs of the Elitserien in Sweden, for example, or the KHL (which is called the Russian Elite League in the game).  But I’ve realized that when it gets on to the end of August and through September, none of the dates are going to make a lick of sense.  This is going to be a challenge.

In the meantime, I still have to work on getting some screen shots of the various key players, or maybe upload some google docs summarizing the roster.  Might as well act like the documentarist I’m pretending to be!

JULY 3, 2021

The eventual result of Mike Beginner’s draft-day discussions with Buffalo is revealed by a simple press release:

The Buffalo Sabres announce that they have acquired C Ryan Getzlaf from the Florida Panthers in exchange for D Axel Mattsson and two prospects.

 The release goes into some details on Getzlaf’s career and ability, and a statement that he is looking forward to the challenge of returning Buffalo to the playoffs and working with their talented young players.  In Mario Brendl, the 35th choice of the 2018 draft, the Sabres have a fine one indeed to skate with Getzlaf; the emergence of Markus Voigt on the other wing can only help.  It slides Patrice Cormier down to form the pivot of a substantial second line.  And from Florida’s point of view, it means that for good or ill, their own top line is in the hands of whomever of the homegrown prospects performs best.

Or… whomever comes back in exchange for some defensive prospects.  The Panthers now have about two teams’ worth of blueliners.  Bouwmeester, Laine, and Ludvík are your clear top three; Svoboda and Mattsson are your probable 4th and 5th men, and the veteran Denis Kulyash holds the sixth spot.  Youngsters Nosov, Anderle, and Nadeau will compete for the seventh, and the two runners-up will be the primary call-ups.

Or maybe Gary Flynn.  Or Kaj Bergkvist.  Or even Ari Gasparini, if he really impresses in his first camp.  So that’s twelve.  And on the horizon are Little, Bengtsson, Åberg, McConnell, and newcomer Art Hunter.  (One can only imagine what McConnell’s mother is thinking.)

It’s a test of Beginner’s seeming insistence on going younger and putting developing players into major roles.  The media began immediate speculation that this was the opening salvo in a retooling to get the Panthers’ vets the proverbial “one last shot” while they’re in their primes.  It was hard to fault the thinking – that seems to be the pattern Beginner often follows.  Last year he was not above adding offense on the wing in the form of Patrick Sjölund.  Even this offseason he gave Kulyash, aged 38, a one-year deal.  Still, the signs have been brewing for a long while: people have gotten to the point of taking Cerny, Cyr, and Kozack for granted, but very recently the team has thrust its own kids into key spots.  Laine and Ludvík have been vital players for years now, and Artyem Filatov and Nicolas Filiatrault have each made themselves useful.  In fact, Sjölund only came along because Filiatrault has thus far proved to be a more-reliable on defense and counterattack than on the power play… and this is the last season under contract for both.

In fact, the trade signals very clearly that Beginner thinks of the three years’ contract he gave Getzlaf in 2020 as a blunder.  He’s now freed up four million dollars for whomever earns it.  The candidates are Cyr and Kozack, both unrestricted free agents after the 2021-22 season; newcomer Söderqvist; and RFA wingers Sjölund, Filiatrault, and Kyle Byrne.

The defensive corps will see some of this competition as well.  Bouwmeester’s deal expires in June 2023, and he will turn 40 before play begins in October.  That’s a little more than six million.  Kulyash will almost certainly not return, and that’s nearly two million more.  Ludvík and Laine, paired off so often in the public mind, will by then be paired on the ice as well – and both will be free agents, along with Roman Svoboda.  Nosov and Flynn are almost certain to be extended.  So acquiring Mattsson, soon to be 27, starts a derby between him, Anderle, and the first of the next wave to merit consideration.  And the odd man out can be cut free without regret, because of the depth of the prospect pool behind them.

Picking up the pace in the Fake GM saga

Now that the draft’s over, we can move along more quickly.  Two entries – one above, the other below the fold.

JUNE 25th, 2021

Today the team got a bittersweet reminder of the double-edged nature of young promise.

The AHL’s season-end awards were announced.  Unlike the NHL variety, in which Florida was pretty much shut out (Ondra Cerny made second team All-NHL, and that was it), a bevy of the Panthers’ prospects grace the AHL honor rolls.  Ivan Pohanka, the wing from Slovakia, was taken 90th overall in 2018 and made a rousing success out of his first North American season: 46 goals and 95 points (second overall in both) and the AHL’s Rookie of the Year.  Finishing third in that vote and joining Pohanka on the All-Rookie Team was defenseman Gary Flynn (hence everyone’s interest in obtaining him over the past few weeks), the former USA World Juniors star, taken a year and a round earlier.  Marco Robson and Yevgeni Nosov, taken three years and 143 picks apart, came together on the AHL First-Team: Nosov for his 18 goals and 46 points in 63 games, Robson for his 57 assists (the team-high) and 84 points.

The only problem is that the Amerks, defending Calder Cup Champions, lost in the Conference Finals, making individual honors somewhat sour after that.  One consolation is that Randy Cunneyworth, repeating as the AHL’s Coach of the Year, and his fine staff will continue to prepare and develop these and other Panthers’ hopefuls; but it’s still no guarantee that these players will translate their lower-level success into NHL accomplishments.

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The Fake GM Draft continues… with bonus controversy

JUNE 20th, 2021

The second day begins with a proposition from Philadelphia.  They had spent some time trying to bundle their own second-rounders to move back up, and never managed.  They have also shrewdly guessed that Beginner wanted McConnell.  Putting two and two together, they’re now dangling the Harvard defenseman’s rights in exchange for some help in getting what they want: Mashanov.  However, they’re not willing to make the swap straight-out.  “They say they’re happy with McConnell,” Beginner says.  “He’s a good prospect.”

“Why the hell didn’t they just take the guy and our picks in the first place?” McDonough says, meaning the deal for the tenth pick yesterday.

Beginner shrugs.  “Good question.  It’s not like Edmonton’s offer was bad for them, but if they make one more move, take our 36 and 72 for the 25, they get Mashanov right off.  Eh, drafter’s remorse, I guess.”

“I think we need a defenseman at 72 in case this blows up on us too,” McDonough suggests, and Beginner is more than happy to oblige.  He’s not enamored with a lot of the forwards in this range of picks, and after the third round, the Panthers don’t pick until the seventh.

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