Category Archives: Sports


For Me March Madness Is Really About Fantasy Baseball


Over these last few years I have been less and less interested/wrapped up in the excitment of the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament. I still filled out two brackets this year and yet have that connection to the tournament, but I did think about not even doing those briefly.

To me I am much more excited about March because that means I start thinking more about baseball and that I start having fantasy baseball drafts. For me among other things fantasy baseball drafts are a fun way to hang out with friends and meet new people as well.  I have long been a baseball fan, and fantasy baseball helps combine two things I like: baseball and numbers/statistics. It is interesting to try to piece together a team in a auction draft, where you have a budget typically of $260 to use imaginary money to buy players. Having the challenge of getting a team that has a good chance at winning the league within that budget.  The fun of budgeting your money and figuring out where to spend it, what positions to spend it on and how to balance it on batters and pitchers so that you have enough good players in both of those areas.

There are a few things I think have helped my rise in interest in fantasy baseball over the last three to four years. One is I joined a league with people I have known from my previous jobs and we have an in-person auction draft and that brings the fun aspect of it with hanging out with friends for an evening, with a few of them I only end up seeing once a year at the draft and then interact the rest of the year online. The second part is that there is a cash entry fee that makes the league more competitive and to a certain degree helps keep peoples interest in the league to make that extra push and try to win the league.

Also, the fact that the league is a keeper league, which means we can keep up to nine players from year to year if we want and the strategy that goes into that. Strategy such as do you want to pay the cost it will take to keep the star player you have like maybe say Andrew McCutchen or Miguel Cabrera or go the route of keeping younger players so that you have more flexibility in the auction at the start of the season. The other part to keeper league that makes it fun is that it allows for you to make trades that will hopefully pay dividends the next season in getting a good young player for the star player that you no longer need in the current season since you are no longer in contention.  In that way your fantasy team mirrors what happens to MLB teams in real life in building for the future with trades you often see go down at the trading deadline.

All of this fun is kicked off each year in March with the annual fantasy baseball auction or draft and why March Madness has now become more about fantasy baseball to me instead of college basketball.

Data Dive: The Lost Art of the Baseball Complete Game

Cy Young, Career Complete Game Leader.

First off a little definition. The complete game is where the starting pitcher pitches the entire game and faces every batter without help from a relief pitcher. A pitcher can pitch the whole game and still lose.

I have started to research some parts of baseball history and found a few interesting things concerning complete games in baseball and how they have steadily decreased over the years. What got me interested initially to think about this subject is all the great pitching performances we have had in the playoffs leading up to this year’s world series.

This post is more about looking at the numbers and how they have changed over time. Likely in a future post, I will delve into why there has been a decline in complete games.

As I started to look for the historical data on complete games for each season I noticed that for the most part, complete games were going down over time. In general, it was a fairly gradual decline to the number of complete games in a season with a few areas that are a more dramatic decline, and some areas where they briefly spiked back up. To dig into this more, first here are two charts to help show what I am talking about.

The charts are interactive if you click on them and they will open up in a new window.

MLB Complete Games Yearly 1876-2013
% of games that have a CG

What you can see from both graphs but more easily from Graph two is the steady decline in the number of complete games. From 1904 to 1913 there is a decline of 33%, the most dramatic period of decline in the entire graph.  After that dramatic drop from those nine years, things start to level off and even come back a little bit for a few years. Starting in 1921 we reach a period where for the next 25 years to 1946 where things move at a much more gradual downward slope losing 10%, going from 52% in 1921 to 42% in 1946.

Another chart behind the link.

Continue reading Data Dive: The Lost Art of the Baseball Complete Game

Sport team owners & how it is not always a business.

This piece over at Grantland is an interesting look at sports ownership in general and how it relates to the current NBA lockout that is going on.  How you have two kinds of owners, one who look at sports teams as a business and the second, owners who look at their teams as getting enjoyment from simply owning a sports team.

[Tom] Yawkey [Red Sox’s Owner 1930’s-70’s] was not just a racist, in other words. He was a racist who put his hatred of black people ahead of his desire to make money. Economists have a special term they use to describe this kind of attitude. They would say that Yawkey owned the Red Sox not to maximize his financial benefits, but, rather, his psychic benefits. Psychic benefits describe the pleasure that someone gets from owning something — over and above economic returns — and clearly some part of the pleasure Yawkey got from the Red Sox came from not having to look at black people when he walked through the Fenway Park dugout. In discussions of pro sports, the role of psychic benefits doesn’t get a lot of attention. But it should, because it is the key to understanding all kinds of behavior by sports owners — most recently the peculiar position taken by management in the NBA labor dispute.

In discussions of pro sports, the role of psychic benefits doesn’t get a lot of attention. But it should, because it is the key to understanding all kinds of behavior by sports owners — most recently the peculiar position taken by management in the NBA labor dispute.

via Malcolm Gladwell on the NBA lockout – Grantland.

The start of baseball season & baseball books

It is officially baseball season now with the regular season starting this last weekend.  While my Minnesota Twins, did not have a great first series to start out with, hopefully they will have a good season.

For me I personally kicked off the baseball season when last Tuesday, March 29th, I went to hear author/baseball historian John Thorn talk about his new book ‘Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game’.   While I already had some background knowledge on the early history of baseball, it was great to hear Thorn speak and learn details about the early history that I did not know much about.  Garrison Keillor was the person who was interviewing Thorn, before they opened it up to audience questions.  What Thorn talked about it is how the myth of Abner Doubleday creating baseball is just that a myth, and went on to talk about the real influences on the early history of baseball and how it changed early on became something that was able to grow and become popular.  Overall it was a great event and a nice way to kick off the baseball season for me.  I did end up buying the book on amazon the day after and look forward to reading the book at some point this summer.

I also ordered another baseball book at the same time from amazon, called ’56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports’ by Kostya Kennedy. The takes a look at the 1941 baseball season and Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak and the impact that it had on different parts of the country.  Short blurb from the book description:

In 56, Kostya Kennedy tells the remarkable story of how the streak found its way into countless lives, from the Italian kitchens of Newark to the playgrounds of Queens to the San Francisco streets of North Beach; from the Oval Office of FDR to the Upper West Side apartment where Joe’s first wife, Dorothy, the movie starlet, was expecting a child. In this crisp, evocative narrative Joe DiMaggio emerges in a previously unseen light, a 26-year-old on the cusp of becoming an icon. He comes alive-a driven ballplayer, a mercurial star and a conflicted husband-as the tension and the scrutiny upon him build with each passing day.

From the little I have skimmed over since I have gotten it, it seems like a nice mix of looking at the story line of DiMaggio and his actual hitting streak along with as describe above the impact it had.

Halladay is Historic

Simply Amazing.  Even though I was not able to see the game live, it is simply historic to think about what Halladay did on several levels. These stats show how historic Halladay was:

  • Including the Rays/Rangers game that was early game and the Philly/Reds game there had only been two post season no hitters in 2525 games.
  • Put another way only .0007% of post season games ever have been no hitters.
  • Only 5 pitchers have ever thrown two no hitters in same calendar year.
  • Nolan Ryan was the last pitcher to throw two in a season in 1973, 37 years ago.
  • It has Been 54 years since there has been a no hitter in the post season.
  • Last one being Don Larsen’s 1956 World Series perfect game.

As a final though from me it is nice when my love of history and baseball can come together.

A little more info from ESPN:

Only two other times in the history of the postseason had any pitcher even taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning — Jim Lonborg 7 2/3 hitless in the 1967 World Series, and Bill Bevens 8 2/3 hitless in the 1947 World Series. So even to see a man get so close that it came time to start counting down the outs was a heart-thumping experience.

And, of course, Halladay had already thrown one no-hitter himself this season — a May 29 perfect game in Florida. No pitcher who ever lived, obviously, had ever thrown a regular-season no-hitter and a postseason no-hitter in the same season before. So you can add that stunning wrinkle to this improbable script.

via Roy Halladay tosses no-hitter in postseason debut – ESPN.

Why baseball’s Hank Aaron still matters.

If you follow baseball at all, you understand the importance and significance that stats and records hold in baseball and how we measure players in history in this sport. At the end of a career if they are a pitcher we ask how many wins, strike-outs, complete games etc. For batters, we ask how many home runs, runs batted in, how many chucktoddhits, lifetime batting average. We measure players on how well they do on those areas. We also try to use those numbers to match up players from different eras to the age old question who is the best player ever? But all of that has come into some question with the problems that steroids have caused in baseball in the last 10 or 15 years or so. Which brings us to this quote from the article Rodriguez’s Chase Offers Chance to Re-examine Aaron –

Re-examined in the light of subsequent steroid revelations and admissions, Aaron’s assault on Ruth becomes more impressive than anything ever seen during the recent era of lying eyes.

Very true, now that we are exiting the high point of the steroid era in baseball, we can start to reflect a little and remember what an achievement Hank Aaron accomplished when he passed Babe Ruth for the all time home run record. How Aaron sustained his home run hitting well into the latter half of his career as the numbers and quote shows below.

Actually, Aaron broke the mold, hitting 203 home runs in the five seasons after his 35th birthday and 245 over all, second in that category behind the presumed-to-be-chemically-enhanced Bonds. By comparison, Willie Mays hit 37 at age 35 and never again topped 28. Ken Griffey Jr. hit 35 at 35 and went steadily downhill. Reggie Jackson hit 39 at 36 and faded like a California sunset.

Even as his slugging indicators have dipped, Rodriguez is still among the leaders this season in runs batted in. But if the coming act, post-35, looks more like the aging Mays than the amazing Aaron, the lingering question will be this: just how much of his prime-career performance was improperly enhanced?

Aaron, meanwhile, will remain baseball’s prime example of how to age with a pure and potent grace.

via News Analysis – Rodriguez’s Chase Offers Chance to Re-examine Aaron –

The ultimate points for me that I take away from this article are several. One, given the damage steroids have done to the history of the game and the importance of stats in baseball, we can see how truly great Hank Aaron was and he still deserves a lot of respect and wonder for what he did. The second thing is that no matter what happens with any player who has a taint of steroids or surrounded in scandal from it, like Bonds, McGwire, or Rodriguez, there will always be some question as to the credibility of their numbers or if they truly deserve the rankings in all time numbers that they end up with. With all of that in consideration I certainly think there will be people who still consider Roger Maris for single season and Hank Aaron for career home runs, as the true record holders until some one with a truly clean record breaks either or both of those records. Whether that may be Albert Pujols or maybe it will be some player who currently is only 10 years old and yet to come on the radar, it is hard to say.

Flugtag world record in St.Paul, MN

I went to the Red Bull Flugtag this Saturday, which was being held on the Mississippi River at Harriet Island in downtown St. Paul.  If you are unfamilar about the event here is the brief explanation.

Red Bull Flugtag, which means “flying day” in German, is a competition that dares both the brave and the brainy to design, build and pilot homemade flying machines off a 30-foot high ramp in hopes of achieving human-powered flight. But don’t be fooled – this is no ordinary flying competition! Distance is important, of course, but teams need both creativity and showmanship to impress the judges.

via Twin Cities | Red Bull Flugtag USA.

The video at the top of the post is of the world record settling team, going 207 feet with the previous world record being 195 feet.  The design they have seems like the kind you would want if going for distance, a lower part that is used to give to height to take off and then a plane part to take flight once launched.

Once I was finally at the event it was enjoyable to watch these machines fly off or in some cases just fall for the most part.  Given that the estimated crowd was 90,000 it was quite the hassle to get to downtown St.Paul for it.  It took me a bit over an hour to get there, for a drive that normally would take me 15 minutes, the crowd was quite crazy to say the least.  But overall it was interesting to see this event in person after only seeing pictures and videos from previous locations of this event.

To read more about the event and the winning team check out this article Flugtag: Flights of fancy |

Now we know who to blame for the vuvuzela

I admit that I am not a real big soccer fan, but when I did watch the World Cup this year, the one thing you notice is the incessant buzzing.  Which if you watched any of the games knew that it came from a noise maker called the vuvuzela.  For those who are lucky enough to not have heard it, on the TV broadcasts a large amount of them basically sound like a large group of bees or like I said before an incessant buzzing.  Like it is mentioned in the article it is a part of South African culture, I can except that and came to at least tolerate it during later games.  I just hope they don’t make the jump across the ocean to the United States. Here is a quote below from the inventor of the vuvuzela’s and click the link if you want to read more from the creator.

I invented the vuvuzela 35 years ago but, of course, it’s only since the start of the World Cup that it has become quite so well known globally. Whatever people may say about the sound it makes, it has never been so popular. That makes me proud; I see so many visitors taking vuvuzelas home with them, to Europe, South America and beyond.

via Experience: I invented the vuvuzela | Life and style | The Guardian.

Going crazy about LeBron James

If you have not heard LeBron James is going to announce which team he will sign with live on ESPN on Thursday July. 8th at 9pm eastern in a one hour special.  The ESPN article linked below says that LeBron will make the announcement within the first 10 minutes of the special.  I am not quite sure what to make of this special that LeBron is having on ESPN.  Certainly a first of its kind in terms of announcing where a high priced free agent will sign.  To me it seems like a a press conference would have done just fine, but the this type of special just shows again to me how society, in this case sports, has become even more media obsessed.

Granted LeBron has worked out a deal to have the revenue from the special go to the Boys and Girls Club.  But the special itself to me seems that it kind of comes of as just an hour long infomercial for LeBron.  As the quote below shows, people in the NBA are also skeptical about the one hour special.

Not everyone plans to watch the big announcement. The story has dragged on and dominated the headlines for months. It’s no wonder some have been turned off by his need for the spotlight and consider him a bit of a drama King.

“It’s gotten ridiculous,” Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It’s almost like a parody of itself, this whole situation now. Come on, an hour long? It takes 15 seconds to say I’ve decided to stay in Cleveland but we’ve got another 59 minutes and 45 seconds to, what? Promote LeBron James?

via 2010 NBA free agents: LeBron James announcement on tap Thursday – ESPN.

This quote from a piece from USA Today also highlights a bit of the problem I have with all the attention paid to where LeBron will go. How it is not being treated as news, but as endless coverage of this “saga”.

Long ago, this got out of control, a circus fanned by a communication age that can’t pause long enough to tell the difference between perspective and endless prattle. Or understand that some people — a lot of people — don’t live and die with where a basketball player’s next $100 million will come from. Not live and die 24/7, anyway.

This is not to suggest the future of James’ future isn’t fascinating news. Or that of Dwyane Wade. Or that of Chris Bosh. But it has not been treated as news. This has been presented and packaged as a national obsession, where a handful of free agents — and their camps — supposedly hold the fate of the NBA in their hands.

via ESPN’s full-court press on LeBron James is truly stifling –

To really evaluate this special, guess will have to wait and see how it how it all comes across.  For what it is worth I am not sure if I will watch it or not yet.