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Toronto beats Baltimore’s worst pitcher in an elimination baseball game because the save is an awful, awful stat that should perish in a radioactive fire

I mean, I could just make several rude jokes based on Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s name, but let’s cut to the chase. The save is atrocious. Bullpen usage is usually awful because of it. It may not be the worst stat in sports, but it’s on the short list. Even hockey’s +/- (drink!) hasn’t caused such misery as using the closer only in “save situations.”

Edwin Encarnacion may have still bombed one off of Zach Britton, of course. Ed is a great hitter, and Britton did give up that other homer… that one single solitary home run, against Boston, all the way back on April 11th. Strange things can happen. For that matter, Encarnacion may have just blooped in the winning run from third. In that situation, the home team only needs to be better or luckier on one pitch.

So, if that happens to your best pitcher, you say that they beat your best and they deserve it. Instead, Encarnacion got to face Ubaldo Jimenez, who was an all-star in 2010 and a bottom-rotation guy ever since. This is somebody whom Buck Showalter would not trust in the playoff rotation, so why would he trust him in a tie game, during extra innings, with runners on base, when a loss ends the season?

All because of the save. Instead of using your best pitchers in high-leverage situations – say, with the season-ending run standing on third base against the heart of the opponent batting order – it’s become necessary to only use them in a spot where a lesser pitcher could serve just as well.

How incomprehensible was this? Let me put it this way: my teammates and I were watching on TV before our own hockey game started. We went down to play just after the Toronto fan lobbed a beer can at a Baltimore fielder; we came back just in time for the TV announcers to show Encarnacion’s June 10th walkoff against the Orioles before watching him hit the next baseball halfway to Mars. (That’s every broadcaster’s dream – to show footage like that and then have it repeat itself live so they can look all smart and prophetic.)

I showered, went home, walked the dog, hit the hay… and only when I woke up this morning did I find that Baltimore kept its best reliever in the clubhouse the whole time. I assumed Jimenez was in because Britton had pitched already. Why wouldn’t he? If Baltimore wins, they have today off, so Britton would presumably be available to get three outs on Thursday.

Nope. Gotta save him for that SAVE SITUATION! Only now it will be in April. Hope he’s fresh.

Back at the Hive 1.0 I talked about reforming the save. (Item three here.) Do it, Mr. Manfred. It’s time to end our long national pastime nightmare.

PS – Maybe Wade Miley is worse after all. Maybe Buck was saving him for the twelfth inning. 

Fourscore and Seven Laws Ago

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Amendment Four – The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause; supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

OK, so far so good. You can say what you like, protect yourself, and the army’s at a proper length instead of drinking your milk from the carton and putting their boots up on the coffee table. But of course, you still need an army, and a local police force, and they have to be able to investigate crimes and punish the guilty.

So now, in the guise of such investigations, they come barging in every few days, early or late, or else wait until you’ve gone and then waylay you. “Just checking,” they say. “If you’re not guilty you have to reason to worry!” No reason, of course, except that even though they don’t actually live with you, they’re such frequent guests that you can’t live your life, and you can’t make any protest without them showing up to “investigate” you a bunch more. Nor will anyone else back you up, since they don’t want to have regular visits of their own.

Enter the Fourth Amendment. You have the right to be free from being harassed, harried, hounded, and otherwise hassled by the powers that be. Their authority to do their job in protecting the law is itself bound to be lawful, requiring such things as probable cause and specific details. The protections of our rights build one upon the other in this manner.

Faces come out of the rain

You can’t base anything on trailers and publicity photos, really, but at the very least, they seem to be getting the look of it right. It has people looking forward to the movie.

I sure hope the final product is as good-looking as the appearance of it. After all, Peter Jackson set the Hobbit movies in the same lush world he helped to craft for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and that worked about as well as a concrete parachute.

Meanwhile, what a ride for Benedict Cumberbatch. Right now he is as sure a guarantee of customer anticipation as anything else in the entertainment business – hearing him attached to a project is a surefire way to get fandom squealing and casual moviegoers to say, “Hm, that sounds interesting, I may give it a chance.”

(On a tangential note – I would love for the Dr. Strange movie to have a scene with Fin Fang Foom, just so a movie dragon could have a conversation with a man who provided the voice for a movie dragon.)

His Sherlock is generally terrific, and the shooting schedule allows him to take on all sorts of other projects. Such is the quality of his work that his star remains undimmed despite Into Darkness’ many flaws and the Hobbit films’ gluttonous rot and bloat. In fact, the latest is that Marvel and Disney wanted him to lead this film badly enough to fit their intricate timetables around his availability.

Fingers crossed that it pays off, especially that scene where streets are all he has, because he’s down.

On the Move

And all the monkeys aren’t in the zoo
Every day you meet quite a few
So you see, it’s all up to you…
You could be better than you are
You could be swingin’ on a star

Via our blogfriend Morgan, musing on the Year of Review:

This paradigm shift of figuring out you need to re-evaluate the solution, that you’ve been chasing after the wrong one, is never a comfortable one. It is the scraping of the blade of theory getting shaped and sharpened against the stone of practice. And 2015 seems to have taken form as the year of the Great Sharpening.

The sharpening is not over. The blade is still dull. This year, after all, saw a man win the title of “Woman of the Year”. You can’t get much less-real than that, since men are not women. But on this I refer to a particularly inspiring sentence we heard from the audio book version of Glenn Beck’s The Christmas Sweater. Paraphrasing from my increasingly fallible memory, now loaded up beyond capacity with useless holiday details. The passage pointed out that the most challenging part of a journey is before the first step, wherein the traveler makes the decision that he is worthy of the journey.

I know nothing of Beck’s story, but for me, the important question isn’t whether we’re worthy of the journey. The simple answer is that we are not, and will never be – unless we take the journey. Therefore the question becomes, “Is the journey worth taking? Are we content to be always unworthy, or do we risk what little we have, do we invest the time and effort to be more?”

A lot of people don’t dare. They’re content to rub along. As long as enough other people are clearly on the move, these folks can sort of be carried by their surroundings, making small improvements here and there, and be quite decent folks. They take on the general tone of a society around them, in much the manner that tofu takes on the flavor of the surrounding spices and sauces and becomes sour or spice, sweet or savory. That’s not particularly awful, but you need a good dish to begin with, good flavors assembled by a skilled chef.

In a society such as our current one, however, there is an active, hostile cohort of people who resent the idea of betterment and, by extension, anything that reminds them that they’re fully-invested in going nowhere and doing nothing with themselves. Nearly every current strain of -ism and their strident acolytes is arrayed in open warfare against people wanting to be better selves.

I used to be quite confused about the methods often employed: the whole spectrum of nastiness, pettiness, and constant umbrage-taking; the grim thin pleasure of getting one’s own at all times, savoring every flinch and whimper of the victims. How could it possibly appeal to the average person? Here, be miserable like us! On top of that, they’re the ones accusing other people that their normalcy is really just hatred, their joys stultifying, and their happiness repression.

It’s impossible to miss that this is the direct opposite of reality. In society’s kitchen these would be people spiking the soup with paint thinner and using floor polish in the saute pan. Even if by some chance one could get unpoisoned food, one still couldn’t enjoy it because it would be intentionally left to wilt and spoil under the heat lamps, or else served raw. No kitchen would do this; why do they?

The sad truth is, they aren’t interested in making converts, really. One really doesn’t need too many people in such a movement. The true believers will self-select from the herd to carry on the work. The work itself is purely destructive – they just want to burn it down. After a certain point they don’t need that exhausting mask of pretense, the cover of “avante garde cookerie” or what-have-you. They want to put you off the idea of food entirely, and whether you starve yourself or let them poison you, you’re just as dead and they’re just as satisfied.

And if one should learn how to find and prepare actual meals, good ones, nourishing and refreshing? You’re the enemy, and be prepared to have them descend en masse, shrieking about imaginary health-code violations. That their own food is deadly makes no odds; did you know that guy didn’t wear gloves when he handed you the check?!?

The distinction between poison and nutrition, or the distinction between health and illness, have obvious and immediate differences. Moral differences take longer to tell, but as The Great Sharpening shows us, that time is reaching its fullness. Completely unremarkable statements have turned into cause for blackballing and social uproar. Real death and destruction are visited upon the innocent without a peep from the same fragile narcissists who will let slip the yappy dogs of flame war if their ego is crossed even mildly in a college course or on social media.

Even in the face of all this evidence I was stumped. “If that’s what you want, fine,” I used to think. “Leave me out of it. You do you and let other people live their way. You shout that in my face often enough, so follow your own advice.” Because it seemed to me – and still does – that unless the larger society is healthy, it can’t long endure such openly antisocial behavior from any subset. If it all went pear-shaped tomorrow, with no power grid, no supermarkets, no first responders, and no mass communications, then nobody would have leisure to obsess over the problematic othering of trans voices in the fishing industry.

A society that behaves this way can’t survive. What I had missed before, but now realize, is that it isn’t meant to. These poor deluded young’uns are cannon fodder in this conflict – their masters don’t mean for them to be the keystone to a new, better world, but as the kindling for the old. And when the pyre is built and ready to light, they intend to lay upon it themselves. For their rage against anyone trying to flee the torch is nothing next to their rage at themselves. Those who want to set out on this journey only reinforce that there is an escape available to them that they reject. They hate the reminder because it means that they need not perish so shabbily. They know, perhaps earlier than anyone else, that they are not fit to travel, but they despair and give up, and mock the very notion – but anyone who sets out robs them of the illusion that there is any place else worth going to. They dress up in high-sounding language and convoluted sophistry, but the plain truth is that they choose their fate; their desire for lots of fellow victims is no different than any other cult leader mixing up the fruit punch, to try to make grand and tragic what is nothing more than a garden-variety suicide.

Bing was right way back in 1944 when he sang the words I quoted at the outset. He sang to a generation sharpened by economic devastation sandwiched by two world wars, and yet the song is chipper, optimistic, and encouraging. We, who barely suffered any privation in our generation even while fighting two wars in the Gulf, can’t bear such advice and deride it as simple and foolish – yet we need it more than ever.

We will never be worthy of the journey, but we’d better set out anyway.

Small joys

Last season, in our rec hockey league, we had something of a controversy.

Because there are many games per night to get through, each has to be strictly scheduled. Win, lose, or tie, the next game has to go off on time; run too far behind and the last game won’t finish until well after midnight and nobody will be fit to get up in the morning to go to their jobs.

This leads to our league doing things in reverse from the pros in one important fashion. NHL regular-season games that are tied after overtime go to a shootout. Playoff games just have overtime after overtime until someone finally scores. (Why the important games have real hockey endings while the regular season settles for gimmickry is beyond me.) In our league, however, we have no time to run a shootout that might take an extra ten minutes, so the regular-season games can end tied. BUT ties aren’t an option in the playoffs, so those do go to shootouts, and in the most recent one, there was a key goal scored that probably shouldn’t have counted.

The goalie poke-checked the shooter on this attempt, and got a piece of it, but the ball* kept on towards the goal line. The shooter, seeing that it was going to roll wide, shot it in himself after the poke. The ref let the goal stand despite everyone saying “Wait, what??”

* Ball because this is dek hockey (the official spelling has no C) and we’re all on foot and this is very ghetto but bear with me.

Being that sort of guy, I carry a pdf of the NHL rulebook* around on a thumb drive, and though I wasn’t reffing this one, it came in handy to look up the rule governing valid penalty shots/shootout attempts. (You can read along here.) The two keys: first, the puck (or ball) must stay in motion towards the goal line unless it’s a spin-o-rama move, in which case the move must be made in a continuous motion. Second, no goal can be scored on a rebound – if it hits the goalie, it has to carry in under it’s own momentum or else the attempt is over.

* Except for specific exceptions, we try to follow the NHL rules. I mean, a crosscheck is a crosscheck – why reinvent the wheel?

Our commish decided that “rebound” presupposes “shot” and that a poke-check is not considered a shot, therefore the goal should count because the ball didn’t deflect back the way it came, only changing direction from side-to-side. My thought was that the shooter can’t touch it again after it hits the goalie, because this isn’t continuous motion. I suspect he did so in order to have a reason not to overturn the call; but he’s stuck to it ever since.  So I wrote Kerry Fraser’s “C’mon Ref!” column at TSN to get a ruling.

Now, indirectly, I have my answer, thanks to Alex Burrows’ bizarre non-o-rama move against Jon Quick and the LA Kings. Fraser never replied to me (his column is specifically about rulings involving things seen in NHL games), but this section of a recent column of his holds the solution:

… Contact by the goalie with the puck would be deemed a save.

Remember, a legal goal cannot be scored on a rebound so unless the puck slid past the goalkeeper and into the net without further contact by the shooter this attempt would be ruled complete by the referee.

So that goal from our house league should have been waived off, and if it happens on my watch, it will be, and I will have backup. Thanks ref!

We have top men working on it right now

Who?

Top. Men.

Seriously, I will never ever believe ever again that Amazon has run out of anything.  They must have their own zip code for that warehouse.

(tip of the wings to Laura at FMFM.)

Any time is a good time for π

But especially March 14th, National Pi Day.*

*In Europe, the convention is day-month-year, so this would be 14/03/12, and there would be no pi, since they have the same twelve months we do and thus no 3/14 anywhere in sight.  They would have to settle for the highly-inaccurate July 22nd, aka “22/7”, which was sometimes used as a quick-and-dirty estimate in the dark days with no calculators permitted on math tests.  And in England, that would be called “maths” because “mathematics,” being a plural, ought to have a plural abbreviation.  But in any country, this is all a pointless digression.

It was a thing over at High Heat Stats to find all the pitchers with π as an earned-run average, a task taken to heart by the redoubtable Joe Posnanski.  He found out some great stuff, too.

Those of us on the hockey side of things have an equivalent in GAA, goals-against average for goalies.  There is, however, one problem – for much of the league’s history, a 3.14 GAA is just not so hot.  As a result, there aren’t that many examples to choose from.*  Nobody gets to be that mediocre for that long to keep a 3.14 GAA. In baseball, 3.14 has ranged from respectable to quite good, and only very rarely has been considered openly bad; there are plenty of guys to chose from.

*Out of the 160 goalies to play 250 or more games in their career, fully 105 have a GAA lower than 3.14.  And one man, Richard Brodeur, met the 250 game standard in both the WHA and NHL.  As you can guess, his career ran exactly in the absolute roughest historical time for goalies, 1972-1988.  His combined GAA for both leagues, 3.76, is 153rd of the 160 – and he finished his career over .500 (296-289-74).

 

On top of that, baseball has an offensive equivalent to π – batting .314 – that does not exist for hockey.  (Though I suppose a team scoring 314 goals in a season would count.)  It’s just much easier to find pi-friendly baseballers than pi-friendly hockey players.  But that also means that it’s easier to give you the few examples after the jump.

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