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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Grading The Proposed Matt Kemp Trade

The Los Angeles Dodgers front office wasted little time in shaking up the team this offseason. Newly apppointed President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and General Manager Farhan Zaidi promised changes and they certainly delivered in the past 24 hours. The burning question, which only time will answer, is whether or not the Dodgers have made good decisions in their recent transactions. It's time to go into teacher mode and grade their latest move.

Dodgers trade Matt Kemp, Tim Federowicz, and cash to the San Diego Padres for three players.

Of all the recent moves the Dodgers have made, this is the toughest trade for me to understand. I have always been an advocate for Matt Kemp. After a couple years of struggling to return from injuries, the outfielder finally started to get his groove back. In 2014, Kemp hit .287 while blasting 25 home runs and driving in 89 RBI. The Oklahoma native was rerouting his career with a massive upswing and seemed to be regaining the form he had in his 2011 NL MVP season (Ry** Br*** is dead to me, so don’t even go there!). Once and for all, let the record show, letting Kemp go is not a move I support.

Losing Tim Federowicz isn’t that big of a deal; he was a run-of-the-mill catcher with decent defense but a poor bat. Dropping Kemp’s contract is nice -- the Dodgers still owe him over $100 million -- but the team reportedly had to give the Padres $30 million to help offset the hefty sum.

In return, the Dodgers are reportedly receiving catcher Yasmani Grandal, RHP Joe Wieland, and possibly pitching prospect Zach Eflin.

Grandal will be a pretty neutral replacement in the backup catcher role. Comparing his stats to Fed Ex’s, you don’t see much of a difference. Fed Ex is a career .194 batter who hasn’t seen enough regular action to register significant stats. Grandal played in 128 games for the Pads last year, batting .225, but showing a little bit of pop with 15 home runs. Some will argue that 15 home runs is impressive, especially in such a big home park like Petco, but don’t forget that Grandal only hit seven of his 15 at home. Grandal has had little success with throwing base stealers out (19% CS last season), but is rumored to have good instincts for framing pitches, which will please the Dodger rotation. Another upside is the fact that Grandal is still young. While Fed Ex isn’t ready to be put out to pasture, Grandal’s mid 20’s legs probably have a few more years left in the tank than Tim’s legs.

Wieland is an interesting prospect, literally, as he is not yet a major-league pitcher. The right-handed pitcher has yet to prove himself at the major-league level. At only 24 years of age, Wieland has only seven career starts in the bigs with only two starts since 2012. Wieland has cruised around the minor league system for the past six years, even making a stop for 11 starts in my hometown with the Bakersfield Blaze. He put up great numbers in 2011 at the high-A and AA levels: 1.97 ERA, 150 K, 21 BB, and a 13-4 record. Time will tell if Wieland will be an asset to the Dodgers, but, for now, he is likely not ready to be the Dodgers’ fifth man in the rotation. More likely than not, that role will go to recently acquired Brandon McCarthy.

Eflin is a young pitching prospect with plenty of upside potential. Just over 20 years old, the righty has been in the minors for three seasons. He put up strong numbers in A ball (2.73, 86 K, 31 BB) but struggled to limit runs in his first year in high-A (3.80, 93 K, 31 BB). Eflin could be good in the future, but remains a mere pawn in the overall big picture.

We had to pay the Padres to take Kemp and we didn’t really improve on Fed Ex, but we got a couple of decent pitching prospects out of the deal.

Overall Grade: C+

Monday, June 10, 2013

Experts' Predictions As Good As Random Chance

Nate Silver is an acclaimed and respected author, statistician, political blogger who wrote a book titled "The Signal and The Noise; Why So Many Predictions Fail - But Some Don't." I'm currently still working my way through it and have thus far rather enjoyed Silver's insights on the financial crisis and why it was missed by even the wisest economic advisers.

While discussing the fall of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, Silver cites professor Philip Tetlock's statistical findings on experts' predictions of political and economic issues. Silver says that Tetlock found out "The experts in his survey - regardless of their occupation, experience, or subfield - had done barely any better than random chance..." and "They were grossly overconfident and terrible at calculating probabilities: about 15 percent of events that they claimed had no chance of occurring in fact happened, while about 25 percent of those that they said were absolutely sure things in fact failed to occur."

While I respect and appreciate Silver's thoughts, I worry these sentiments are slightly misconstrued. I understand that "had barely done better than random chance" means the experts correctly predicted events just over 50% of the time. Alas, the second quote is what bothers me. Naturally, coming from an "expert," it is disappointing to find that their "no chance" and "absolutely sure things" were incorrectly guessed even some of the time; however, I would not feel comfortable trusting a coin flip as much as a learned professional on generally straightforward choices. If the statistics showed that half of the time, the experts failed to predict the events they were sure would or would not happen, then I would be ok with Silver's thoughts. But, I feel that an educated guess is much more reliable than a coin flip over a large sample size.

Even though the experts picks on "sure things" were wrong up to 1/4 of the time, that still means their predictions were 75-25. Is that not a better chance than a coin flip? I do not like the idea of trusting random chance over an expert especially when an educated opinion on a "seemingly" obvious topic can provide a better than random chance prediction.

- Isaac M. Comelli (6/10/13)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Watching Sports Makes Us Fatter

For those of us who never played in college and didn't have what it takes to make it to the pros, playing pickup games at the park and watching the real deal on televison is as close as we will ever get to being an elite athlete. It is no question that American culture over-watches television in general. In 2010, a man named Jeff Miller was lauded for setting the world record for consecutive hours spent watching sports on TV, 72 hours.

Professional sports leagues will never tell you to get off the couch and stop watching their broadcasts, but they do have programs that push for healthier children, like NFL Play 60. Despite mixed messages of health and team loyalty, people watch hours of sports every week. Are we as a society hurting ourselves by watching the sports we love instead of playing them?

There is ample research that shows less television watching is healthier for your mind and body. This article from The Telegraph suggests "every hour of TV watching shortens life by 22 minutes." Mathematically, if a person watches 3 hours of sports a week for 50 years, she'll have shortened her life by approximately 119 days, almost 1/3 of a year. Plus, she will have spent 7800 hours watching sports in those 50 years.

This graphic from shows, during football season, 31% of adult males in the U.S. watched 6-10 hours of just football each week. If you throw in women as well, that number only drops to 27%! Our society loves watching sports but it's clearly better to play sports than to sit on the couch and watch them.

As sports fans who want to watch our favorite teams, how do we drop the remote, get off the couch, and get to work on getting ourselves in shape?

My answer is, maybe we don't have to miss the big games in order to better use our time for exercising. I believe it is possible to both support your favorite team on game day by watching the game and get a good workout. Below is an image I created featuring a baseball-themed workout.

This is just one baseball-related example, but you could search for or create your own workout to help you better utilize your television watching time regardless of the sport. So go to your living room, turn on the game, get off the couch, and get your sweat on while cheering for your favorite team.

- Isaac M. Comelli (6/6/13)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ryu Throws Complete Game 2-Hit Shutout

Ryu Throws Complete Game 2-Hit Shutout
May 29, 2013

Hyun-Jin Ryu closed out the Dodgers’ end of the Freeway Series with a complete game, 2-hit shutout as the Dodgers defeated the 3-0 Los Angeles Angels Tuesday night.

Ryu’s first ever game against the local rival Angels was a dominant performance, allowing just two hits in nine innings and no walks while striking out seven batters. Ryu earned his sixth win of the season and dropped his ERA to 2.89. With a 6-2 record through eleven starts, the Korean-born pitcher appears to be worth the $62 million investment for the Dodgers.

Ryu also got the offense started for the Dodgers with a line drive double to the right center gap in the bottom of the 3rd, but was stranded there.

Luis Cruz provided a boost for the Dodgers with a 2-run shot to left field in the bottom of the 5th. Despite struggling this year, the Dodgers designated teammate Dee Gordon to their Triple-A affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes instead of Cruz. The home run was Cruz’s first of the year as his lone hit on the night kept his batting average from dropping below .100 again.

Matt Kemp doubled in the 6th inning and scored on an A.J. Ellis single to finish off the scoring for the night. Former Dodgers pitcher Joe Blanton tossed a respectable seven innings, allowing three earned off of seven hits. Blanton’s first return to Chavez Ravine since his offseason departure would be his eighth loss of the season.

Howie Kendrick singled off Ryu in the top of the 2nd, but the Angels would not see another base runner until catcher Chris Iannetta doubled in the top of the 8th.  A ground out would end that offensive threat as Ryu closed out his 2-hitter.

The Freeway Series now moves to Anaheim for two games. Wednesday night’s matchup will likely see Jered Weaver’s return from an elbow fracture as he faces off against the Dodgers’ Chris Capuano at 7:05 p.m.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Quickly" Explaining Cricket to Americans

As a sports enthusiast, I appreciate learning new and foreign games from time to time. Cricket has always intrigued me, but its lack of presence on American television makes it difficult to learn and to get excited about. I finally resolved to batten down the hatches and learn the rules. While I'm at it, I might as well write down what I learned so other Americans can have a quick and dirty explanation of the rules.

There is a lot of terminology which may be foreign even to baseball fans. As such, I will try to follow any unclear terms with definitions in parentheses. I will also try to make comparisons to baseball whenever appropriate and helpful for clarity.

Let's first talk about the players. Each team consists of 11 players and 1 substitute. On the offensive side, each player will be a batsman during the match. On the defensive side, the players are separated into three main categories: bowlers (like pitchers), fielders, and a keeper (like a catcher). At any time, there is only one player bowling and one player keeping. The other nine players roam the field, trying to catch any balls hit toward them.

When on offense, a team sends two of its batsman to the area where the bowling (pitching) is done, called the pitch. One batsman stands on the opposite end of the bowler and the other batsman stands on the same end as the bowler. The batsman who is opposite of the bowler (also called the striker) is tasked with "protecting the wickets" which are three wooden stakes that are hammered into the ground behind him. If the bowler is able to break the wickets by hitting a stake with the ball, the striker is dismissed (out) and is then replaced by a new batsman. Note: There is another set of wickets directly behind the bowler.

In order to score runs, the striker and his opposite batsman must successfully cross the pitch (measuring about 60 feet) and cross the crease (essentially a batter's box) with either his body or his bat (they both carry their bats with them while running). Each time they manage to swap sides, they earn their team 2 points. After the ball has been bowled, the batsmen must together decide whether they will risk leaving their creases to attempt to score runs. If the ball looks as if it will not be caught in the air or picked up off the ground and quickly returned, the batsmen will take off running. They will continue to run back and forth, scoring two runs each time, until they feel as if they cannot safely cross again. Should the fielders or keeper return the ball and knock over a wicket while a batsman is not safely in the crease, that batsman is dismissed. Until dismissed, he and his partner continue batting.

As I said before, the batsmen can continue to run as long as they believe they will safely cross the pitch. Scoring one to three runs per batsman is common when crossing the pitch, but more than that is unlikely. Similar to baseball, there is a boundary around the pitch (which is generally shaped like an oval). If the batsman hits the ball and it bounces across the boundary (like a ground rule double), the batsman earns 4 runs and needs not cross the pitch. If the ball manages to clear the boundary while flying through the air (like a home run), the batsman is awarded 6 runs.

The format of a Cricket match can vary greatly, but the match is most commonly divided into innings. An innings (Cricket adds an "s" to inning for both the singular and plural form) continues for the offensive team until 10 out of the 11 batsmen have been dismissed. Not all 11 are required to be dismissed to end an innings because each striker needs a non-striker batsman to run opposite himself. When a team's innings is over, the fielding team and batting team swap sides.

Also important to note is the idea of "overs." Each bowler may only bowl one over, which consists of six consecutive balls thrown. After a bowler finishes his over, another bowler must replace him for no bowler may throw consecutive overs.

Finally, and I'm sure I left out some important details, I will cover the four most prominent ways of being dismissed as a batsman:
  1. "Bowled" - The bowler successfully gets the ball past the striker and "breaks" the wicket, which means it has either literally broken or one of the small pieces of wood sitting on top and essentially connecting the wickets together has been dislodged.
  2. "Caught" - The batsman's batted ball has been caught out of the air by one of the members of the other team.
  3. "Leg Before Wicket" - In the simplest sense, if the ball hits the striker when it would have hit the wickets, the striker is dismissed. Think of this rule as sort of an anti-goaltending rule. It prevents the batsman from purposefully getting hit to avoid being "bowled."
  4. "Run Out" - If a member of the defensive side breaks a wicket with the ball while the batsman nearest that wicket has not crossed the crease to safety, that batsman is dismissed.
A batter that has been "bowled"

The other six ways are less common and include rules about obstructing a fielder or mishitting the ball.
Note: There are also other ways of scoring runs that I have not mentioned for the sake of brevity.

So that's the basic gist of Cricket. If you have any questions or clarifications, feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to provide an answer or look it up!

Sources: Wikipedia,

- Isaac M. Comelli (5/22/13)