NASCAR is in Atlanta this weekend, and things are off to a bad start

USA Today reports:

Travis Kvapil’s car for this weekend’s Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was stolen from outside Team Xtreme’s hotel early Friday morning, police said.

The rest of the story, including some truly enlightening comments from the Morrow Police Department, is available here.

Staff at ALDLAND’s Atlanta office are circulating the below picture of Kvapil’s vehicle, last seen at Daytona International Speedway last week, where Reed Sorenson drove it to a thirty-second-place finish at the Daytona 500.

Welcome to Atlanta, Travis. Next time maybe use the hotel valet service, and whatever you do, don’t blame Winter Storm Tupac.

UPDATE: Kvapil and Team Xtreme have withdrawn from this weekend’s race, promising to return for next week’s race at Las Vegas.

Better Defense: An NFL Proposal

Over the last 10 years or so total offense in the NFL has been on the rise. Most of this increase has come from passing attacks. With this stat firmly in hand, people have pointed to a number of causes. A common example is the NFL’s attempt to increase player safety by penalizing dangerous hits. As a backlash to this, people argue (complain?) that rules like these make it harder and harder to play defense and that the NFL is increasingly becoming a passing league with the offense and, in particular, the quarterback, becoming of increasing importance to a team’s success at the expense of the other half of the game – the defense.

I hereby propose a rule change to give the defense a slight edge in their eternal battle to shut down the likes of Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Manning, and Stafford. Make the end zones farther away. Stretch out those chains a bit. Considering the increases in yardage, and the likelihood of future rule changes limiting the actions of defense, I suggest a 10% increase in field length (total offense has increased by about 10% in yards/game in the last ten years). Let’s change 100 yards for a TD -> 110 yards and 10 yards for a first down -> 11 yards.

Or how about 100 yards -> 109.4 yards and 10 yards -> 10.94 yards?

That’s what would happen if we began to correct a mistake this country has been squatting on since Europeans landed here. Let’s make football fields 100 meters between the endzones and make it 10 meters for a first down.

Kyle Korver Is On Pace For The Best NBA Shooting Season Of All Time (via FiveThirtyEight)

In the NBA, the apex of individual shooting is a 50-40-90 season — shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent on 3-pointers and 90 percent on free throws. Not many people can sustain that kind of accuracy from inside and out. Since the three-point line was adopted for the 1979-80 campaign, just six players (in 10 seasons overall) have hit 50-40-90 on their percentages.

Kyle Korver is doing his best to become the 11th. There are a handful of players within striking distance of 50-40-90, but only Korver, the Atlanta Hawks’ All-Star shooting guard, is on pace to achieve it. Korver is operating on a different plane of existence right now — shooting 51.2 percent from the field, 52.3 percent on 3-pointers and 91.1 percent from the free-throw line. He could have the first-ever 50-50-90 season. … Read More

(via FiveThirtyEight)

Baseball blogger proposes extremely traditional training tactics

cistuwarmyThe rapid seep of the internet across the biophysical landscape has allowed, in pooling pools of athletico-scriptology, the fomenting and indeed rise of a baseball-centric analytical community that fashions itself both advanced and numerological in both its substantive and aesthetic drapings, trappings, and driftings. The aforementioned pooling-facilitated rise occurred not within a vacuum chamber or bag or filter or hose but in the context and– the soon-to-be-mentioned contextualizers would announce– against the preexisting backdrop of an often-organized and, in the metaphorical and sometimes literal literal sense, gated or bound collection of Baseball Writers who, it must be noted, likely never anticipated being intransitively thrust in any respect, and much less being so thrust into a, and really, the, (readily accepted, it also must be noted) position of defending, together with the practically necessarily wholly inclusive and thus merged task of defining, both Traditional Baseball and the traditional mode of observing, considering, and understanding baseball. They awoke to find themselves Anti-Federalists, to put a probably only partially enjoyed-by-them historical frame around it. One cohort generally granted minimal time and nominal credit to the other, and vice versa, is the point.

And yet. If there is a commonality in individual operational course of dealing it is entrepreneurially this: the need to distinguish oneself. The terminology in the following sentence is positive rather than normative. From the linguistic vantage of the traditional-minded, those of the upstart class distinguished their output, and themselves thereby, progressively; inversely, retrograde. At the extremes, both vectors have their mortal/temporal/terrestrial limits, however: points at which, for example, the only way to be more progressive is to turn, perhaps suddenly, perhaps violently, retrograde– to adopt the most traditional of traditions as the vessel in which to carry forth your message still. And vice versa. (Perhaps.)

And so. We have arrived at the above-depicted depiction of the broadcasted baseball blogger. While this is not about him but about what he has done, it is maybe worth noting, or commenting or remarking upon, that he exists, or existed, among those on the unbound progressive fringe. The worth of such notation would ripen, if at all, in the lack of surprise that should accompany one who, having understood the foregoing, observes the indicia of another who has reached the terminus of his respective– if not universally respected, see supra– vector and made the only available subsequent move, here to an admittedly extreme degree.

There exist those individuals who postulate that, as the virtual world waxes, the corporeal world necessarily must wane and further wonder whether, as a consequence, the ostensibly beneficial activity features of the virtual world become diluted so as to require a severe return to the very most traditional (meaning “old”) corporeal traditions in order to affect anything meaningful, in actual terms. Here, the rarely depicted baseball blogger, in a joint venture with the United States Army,[1] brings forth a proposed plan of training and development in which those professional, as in full-time, baseball players not yet in the Major Leagues subject themselves to the complete, as in unbridled, brutality of military engagement in order to be evaluated and thereby prove their worth as those now capable of conducting Our Nation’s Pastime at its highest (unembargoed) level. War is good for this, he is saying.

 

[1] Sporting mascot: Black Knights.

There’s no such thing as advanced sports statistics

While “advanced statistics” are well-ensconced in the baseball world, they are still in fairly nascent stages in the faster-paced worlds of hockey and basketball. For two reasons, baseball is particularly well-suited for this so-called “advanced” analysis: 1) play essentially consists of discrete, one-on-one interactions and 2) a season is long enough to permit the accumulation of a statistically significant number of these interactions, from which meaningful trends can be derived. Hockey lacks both of these characteristics. It’s a fluid sport that rarely features isolated, one-on-one interactions, and numbers people say that the amount of compilable events during an NHL season, which is half as long as a MLB season, are too few to allow for statistical normalization. In other words, the sample size is too small.

Lee Panas’ book on advanced baseball statistics, Beyond Batting Average, which I began reading earlier this year, begins with the deceptively helpful reminder that “[w]ins and losses are indeed what matter.” Statistical data helps to understand why teams won or lost and whether and how they might win or lose in the future.

In the hockey world, advanced statistics, in general, aren’t too advanced just yet, at least when compared with the baseball sabermetric world. At present, the central concept is that, because goals– an obvious leading indicator of success (i.e., wins)– are too rare to be statistically useful, advanced hockey statistics orient themselves around possession. Because it is somewhat difficult, from a practical standpoint, to measure time of possession with useful precision, however, the leading metrics, known as Corsi and Fenwick, simply track those things a player and his team can do only when they possess the puck, which essentially amounts to shooting it.

If you prefer an expert with a more conversational style, here’s Grantland’s Sean McIndoeContinue reading

The Best Baseball Research of the Past Year

With the Super Bowl in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to get ready for baseball season, and what better way to do that than to peruse some of the best baseball articles from the past year, as identified by the Society for American Baseball Research, which has chosen fifteen (non-ALDLAND) finalists for awards in the areas of contemporary and historical baseball analysis and commentary?

My latest post at Banished to the Pen highlights each finalist and includes a link to cast your vote to help determine the winners.

As a preview, here’s my summary of my favorite article of the bunch:

Jason Turbow, “The Essence of Velocity: The Pitching Theory That Could Revolutionize Baseball, If Only The Sport Would Embrace It,” SB Nation, June 18, 2014. Turbow profiled Perry Husband, a former player who reinvented himself as a pitching coach. Really, Husband is a pitching theorist, and he labeled his theory “Effective Velocity.” The basic notion is that what matters in terms of pitch speed variation is not the actual difference between the speed of pitches but the difference in speed as perceived by the batter. This is significant, because Husband determined that actual speed and batter-perceived speed diverge for pitches thrown in certain locations. In short, pitches up and in gain effective velocity, while pitches down and away lose effective velocity. For both situations, the difference between actual and effective velocity can be between one and five miles per hour. Husband also had a revelation about the hitting process: luck is a more prevalent factor in a batter making contact than generally assumed, and hitting success depended more on pitcher mistakes. According to Husband, success in hitting, to the extent it is subject to the batter’s control, is dependent upon the batter’s ability to adjust to pitch-speed variances, and most batters cannot handle an effective velocity spread of more than five miles per hour. The very best hitters, Husband said, might be able to handle an eight mile per hour effective velocity spread. Pitchers know they need to mix speeds, but when they throw pitches to the areas where they disadvantageously gain or lose effective velocity, they neutralize the effect of their speed mixing. The one problem for Husband? He couldn’t find any Major League teams to buy into his theory. Turbow’s article tracked Husband’s search for acceptance in engaging fashion.

Read about the other fourteen nominees, see my ballot, and cast your vote here.

The selfishness of Colin Cowherd’s critique of Dan Patrick

dan patrick show

For reasons known, if at all, only to him, ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd wrapped up his Super Bowl coverage by taking a shot across the bow of former ESPN personality Dan Patrick:

Dan Patrick doesn’t work as hard as Jim Rome. Not even close. . . . Patrick needs thirty-five producers to fill a segment. Rome doesn’t. Bayless doesn’t. I don’t.

Cowherd is hardly a moral standard-bearer in this space, and his comments, like most of the things he says that garner attention outside his own sphere, are designed only to bolster himself, typically at the expense of others. Taking Patrick to task apparently for the sin of granting his (four) producers a more audible and visible role on his program is both nonsensical and selfish.

DP Show producers Seton O’Connor and Paul Pabst’s responses to Cowherd show the factual absurdity of Cowherd’s remarks:

The people actually hurt by Cowherd’s statements, however, are Cowherd’s own support staff, who probably are wishing they worked for Patrick, or someone like him, rather than Cowherd.

Radio shows are similar to sports team coaching staffs, with the on-air host as the head coach, and the typically off-air producers as coordinators and assistant coaches. Just as few in the coaching business envision themselves as lifelong defensive line coaches, for example, few in the radio business want to spend the entirety of their professional careers screening listener telephone calls. A sports team’s success provides exposure to the coaching staff, allowing the coordinators and assistants to move into head-coaching positions elsewhere. Further, good head coaches are wise to create an environment in which their assistants receive outside attention and have opportunities to move into more senior positions. It isn’t that head coaches want to lose their talented assistants. Given the inevitability of those departures, though, head coaches know they can recruit better assistants, who are destined for greater things, by offering them the opportunity to gain exposure while working under them. The notion is not unlike the one Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari employs with his player recruits.

By allowing his support staff to be heard and seen on his show, Patrick affords them individual opportunities that would be more difficult for them to come by without that exposure. Patrick’s producers might eventually leave to pursue their own interests or stay longer because they’re happier with the more prominent role Patrick provides them. Regardless, Patrick has styled his show to serve as a platform for more people who work on the show than just the on-air host.

Cowherd has taken the opposite approach, and his attack on Patrick bears out Cowherd’s selfishness. He demands all of the attention and credit for his own successes, and the people most hurt by his critical comments likely are those who work on his show, not Patrick’s.

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Super Bowl XLIX Preview

It’s like Publix, but more restrictive. Unless Bdoyk drops by to rep her Patriots, we’re going to be light on the Super Bowl previewing for this season. Part of the reason I think it’s hard for impartial fans to be excited about this game is that the ancillary trappings finally seem to have swallowed the game itself. Ray Rice. Adrian Peterson. Deflated balls. The media on Marshawn Lynch not wanting to talk to the media. The NFL making like 1Ls on a torts exam trying to concoct some way to fine Lynch for his media day appearance. Head injuries and premature player deaths. Even the abysmal NFC South. To say quite possibly the least, this hasn’t been the most fun or intriguing NFL season.

As a result, ALDLAND’s Super Bowl XLIX preview will consist of the following:

Get excited.

The Super Bowl starts at 6:30 pm on Sunday.