Tag Archives: baseball prospectus

They Fought the Math, and the Math Won

I wrote this about Nate Silver four years ago, shortly after Barack Obama was elected president for the first time. Four years have dimmed a lot of the optimism and starry-eyed hope on display within it, as I think it has for many people. Still, I stand by every word of that post, especially where it pertains to Silver.

Looking back on it, what I find most amazing is how you could apply nearly everything I said about him in 2008 to this year’s election. Four years ago, Silver made electoral predictions that were mocked and downplayed by professional pundits who didn’t like the outcome they pointed to. This year, with Silver’s profile much higher, the attacks were more pronounced, but the results were the same: When you fight math, you lose.

I supported Obama with reservations. I wish he’d close Gitmo, like he promised. I wish he’d stop sending drones out to kill people–both for basic human reasons and because it creates more terrorists than it eliminates. I wish he’d do more to end our reliance on fossil fuels, and to stop a pointless and destructive “war against drugs.”

However, none of these issues would have been improved by Obama’s only viable alternative. If anything, they would have worsened, and nearly all of the tangible good Obama has done (marriage rights, affordable health care) would have been reversed. For me, it came down to this: The party that opposed Obama spent much of the campaign season trying to rationalize rape, and their presidential candidate did absolutely nothing to distance himself from fellow Republicans who did so. As the father of a daughter, as a husband, and as a human being, I do not want that party making laws, let alone appointing Supreme Court justices.

Another reason why I couldn’t bear the thought of Mitt Romney becoming president was Nate Silver, the man who spelled out Mitt Romney’s demise months in advance. Or rather, how Silver was treated by people who perceived him as The Enemy.

Continue reading

Internet Trainspotting at its Finest

ferris.jpgBy this point, nearly every artifact from the 1980s has had its bones picked completely clean by ironic vultures. Bill Simmons single-handedly ruined The Karate Kid for everyone by referencing it constantly. All conceivable angles of Back to the Future have been examined under a cultural electron microscope. The rehashings of G.I. Joe and Transformers speak for themselves, loudly and poorly. (Not that the originals were high art.)

Maybe I’m nuts (a distinct possibility), but I feel like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has largely escaped this treatment. Of course, it remains a beloved film (and righfully so), often quoted and referenced. But comparatively speaking, it did not reach nauseating levels of ubiquity and reference-itude. It even survived a weird televisual adaptation produced four years too late.

That is why I was delighted to see someone tackle a Ferris angle I had never seen addressed before: Exactly what game did Mr. Bueller and his buddies attend at Wrigley Field? Larry Granillo of Wezen-Ball (previously best known for his sabermetric study of Charlie Brown’s baseball career) did some serious detective work over the weekend at Baseball Prospectus to answer this very question.

Granillo carefully studied the video evidence–both the live footage seen in the film and the game as broadcast on TV as Mr. Rooney is in the pizza joint. Considering this, he surmised that it occurred on June 5, 1985 as the Cubs played the Braves.

As the post caught proverbial wildfire across the interwebs, there was some speculation that the date Granillo couldn’t have happened, since principal shooting for Ferris didn’t begin until September 1985. Granillo disagreed, saying that the footage shown on TV in the film was clearly from a midsummer game against the Braves. He further determined that the scenes actually featuring Ferris in the stands could have taken place late in the season when the Cubs played either the Braves or another team with similar powder blue away uniforms.

It turns out he was right, as confirmed by an assistant director who worked on the film, who said he was “pretty sure” the game in question happened on September 24, against the Expos (who had powder blue unis at the time). Mystery solved!

Perhaps it’s because I have my own dumb obsessions, or because something resembling baseball is a mere eight days away, but I found this Ferris endeavor completely charming. Of course it represents the dedication of considerable brainpower and deductive powers toward something that means absolutely nothing. But then again, once you invest that much perspiration in the effort, it means everything.

Such an effort speaks to my soul. I can not tell you how many times I’ve poured hours upon hours of mental gymnastics into completely futile gestures, just to prove I could solve them. Running this site alone, I’ve thrown away weeks trying to solve the most trivial technical minutiae, just so I could say “Yeah, I did it!” to nobody but myself.

In conclusion, I’m saluting Mr. Granillo’s effort because of my own deep personal failings.

The Talented Mr. Silver, You’ve Done it Again

Nate Silver’s predictions for the 2009 baseball season are here, and they predict the Mets will win 93 games and the NL East crown.

Now, I am way too superstitious and emotionally traumatized by the last three seasons to make anything remotely close to a prediction about the upcoming season. But I would like to point out that when we last heard from Mr. Silver, he predicted the outcome of the Presidential and Congressional elections spot-on.

Actually, calling it spot-on would be understating the case. More like, he came as close to calling the exact results as you can without a crystal ball.

So I’ll just say the man’s math needs to be respected, and we’ll leave it at that.

The Election Gods Bow to Math

obamaigotthis.jpg

Election Day was great for baseball. And baseball was great for Election Day.

After the Mets collapsed yet again, I took all the emotional/spiritual/perspirational energy I poured into their hopeless cause and channeled it into following the presidential election. I also focused some of that chi into rooting against the Phillies, which didn’t work out nearly as well.

Like any other good lefty, I read Daily Kos, watched Keith Olbermann, and tsked at Fox News ass-hattery. But it’s easy to overdose on Smug when you live in a liberal bastion like New York and only consume media with which you agree. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you know what your fellow Americans feel and want.

I fooled myself in 2004. I never deluded myself into thinking that John Kerry was a magnificent charismatic agent of change because, duh. But considering the state of the country at the time, and the obvious (to me) evil represented by Bush, I concluded that Kerry would prevail. I told myself there was no way Kerry could lose because…well, he couldn’t, could he?

And then I found myself up at 2 in the morning, watching Ohio go to Bush, sucking down beer and wishing I was drunk enough to pass out and forget any of it had ever happened.

Continue reading