Summer Wedding Jam

Summer wedding season is right around the corner, if it isn’t here already, and to kick it off, our own bdoyk has an article in Elle this week entitled “A Single Girl’s Guide to Surviving Wedding Season in 9 Easy Steps.” Note step five: “Commit to having a great time on the dance floor.” By way of saluting bdoyk on her article and assisting everyone in carrying out step five this summer, wherever and however attached you may be, this week’s Jam is offered, and it’s sure to have you making the right moves:

Introducing a new hockey stat: scaled plus-minus (SPM)

I have been interested in the hockey stat plus-minus (PM) for some time now. It suffers from many well documented problems. A lot of those problems, though, are people upset when a player has a PM stat over a short period of time (one game, one week) that doesn’t reflect what seems appropriate for how good everyone thinks that player is.

In any case, scaled plus-minus (SPM) corrects some problems with PM, and makes no attempts to fix others. It is still based on PM, so the problem of where shifts start, and what lines a player is on are still prevalent. But how it is considered in the broader context of judging the strengths or weaknesses of a player suddenly become useful. For example, SPM approaches a constant value – the player’s true value – over time, instead of steadily increasing or decreasing. Also, if a player has a PM of +3, it is hard to tell if the player is above average or not. It is much more clear with SPM: SPM within the range of -1 to +1 is considered average.

Read more in part 1, a discussion of the changes (and a tiny bit of math – the relevant wikipedia page on random walks is mostly about drunk people and has pretty pictures/gifs), here.

For those looking to jump to how SPM affects the way we look at sports, click here.

Window Shopping: Shut the Door, Tip Your Cap

As I write this, his elbow likely is spontaneously combusting, but it’s beginning to look like the Detroit Tigers finally have a reliable closer. Joakim Soria has been both busy and successful this season, appearing in twenty-two of the Tigers’ forty-eight games so far, allowing just three runs and one blown save in that span. Eight of his twenty-two appearances have been on no rest, and six more were after just one day of rest. Since Joe Nathan went down with a season-ending injury, the ninth inning has belonged to Soria, and, on a couple recent occasions, part of the eighth inning as well. Soria’s success is quite welcome, and this expanded use of his closer also reflects well on manager Brad Ausmus, who was criticized for what appeared to be inartful handling of his relievers last year.

Whatever the cause of Soria’s rediscovered success this year, along with the positive contributions of his fellow relief pitchers, the Tigers suddenly find themselves with one of the best bullpens in baseball, as measured by ERA. (They were fourth-worst in 2014.) This reversal comes not a moment too soon for Detroit, where, with Victor Martinez back on the DL, the offense has evaporated like a mid-May snow melt. Thanks in no small part to Soria, though, the team was able to win two of three in Oakland while scoring just four runs in the entire series. The closer appeared on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, allowing two hits, one walk, and no runs in 2.1 innings pitched to seal both victories. Below is the final pitch of yesterday’s game, which is not unpleasing to watch.

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Veterans Affairs: The Uneasy Marriage of Military Money and the NFL (via Grantland)

patriotsAll of sports is a pageant. All sports are, in their own way, propaganda. They create a self-contained ecosystem within which people are convinced to vest themselves — emotionally in their teams, and economically in the various corporate partners with which the institutions of sports have allied themselves. It is a universe of cognitive manipulation that has grown thicker and more complex as the media has changed and accelerated. This is fine for selling beer and shoes and expensive automobiles. It should not be used to sell the idea of military service, and it should not be used to create a false iconography of vicarious heroism for the folks in Section 444.

Most veterans you will see on the field in an NFL stadium, or standing on top of a dugout between innings, are genuinely worthy of the country’s admiration. They’ve earned every cheer they get. They also have earned decent health care and a chance at an education and whatever counseling they need to get beyond what they’ve experienced. What they don’t deserve to be are front people through whom the rich get richer, to be walking advertisements for the services that they already have paid back in full. This is a transaction grotesquely inappropriate for their sacrifices. … Read More

(via Grantland)

The Final Countdown


The final episode of The Late Show with David Letterman is tonight. We don’t write too much about television here, but I’ve enjoyed Letterman since before I ever saw his show by way of digging through the Web 1.0’s trove of top-ten lists when I was a kid. He hasn’t changed my life or been a special inspiration for me, as it appears he has for many others. The purpose of this post is to share the above photograph, which I did not take.

As a bonus, here’s a link to Norm’s final appearance on the Late Show a few days ago.

Window Shopping: Ian Kinsler’s Walking, Not Running

While the Detroit Tigers’ decision to trade Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler prior to last season initially came as a shock to Tigers fans, the positive early returns on the trade seemed to provide a calming influence. As I wrote in late April 2014,

Kinsler has provided some real spark, though. Looking at the right side of this graph, you can see that, while he and Prince posted similar batting averages last season, Kinsler has kept the pace this year, but Prince has dropped off sharply with the Rangers.


While Fielder has the edge in on-base percentage, probably due to his ability to draw walks (of the intentional and unintentional varieties), Kinsler’s hitting for more power (.133 ISO vs. .121 ISO) and is posting a better wOBA— a catch-all offensive metric– than Fielder (.319 vs. .277). They also have the same number of home runs (two), with Kinsler driving in nearly twice as many runs as Fielder (14 vs. 8), while stealing three bases (to Fielder’s zero, obviously).

Less than a month later, Prince’s season would be over, a completely understandable side effect of probably overdue neck surgery.

Kinsler powered right along, though, making 726 plate appearances in a career-high 161 games. His bat seemed to cool off in the second half of 2014 (.353 wOBA vs. .276), but he still managed to finish the season tied with Miguel Cabrera for the title of most valuable Tiger, as determined by fWAR (5.1 fWAR apiece), although much of that was due to Kinsler’s defense (and Cabrera’s lack thereof).

In reviewing last year’s statistics in anticipation of this season, Kinsler’s numbers jumped off the page for one main reason: his walks had disappeared. Continue reading

Worldwide King of the Blues Jam

Today’s Jam is dedicated to the memory of the Beale Street Blues Boy and recognized King of the Blues, B.B. King, who passed last night at the age of eighty-nine.

I was fortunate enough to hear B.B. in person on three occasions, first at Wolf Trap in Northern Virginia, then at the Stanley Theater in Utica, and finally at DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids. Presenting a rousing, engaging performance through his late seventies and early eighties, King was the consummate showman if anyone ever was.

Here he is with the great Buddy Guy, who remembered B.B. in a post early this morning:

The King is dead they say. Long live the King.

If he could do it again, Chris Webber would have gone to Michigan State?

The strong implication of Chris Webber’s comments on this morning’s Dan Patrick Show is that, if he could begin his basketball career again, he would have accepted Tom Izzo’s offer to become a Michigan State Spartan:

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Window Shopping: What’s a Shane Greene?

Ain’t no change in the weather,
t no changes in me.
And I ain’t hiding from nobody,

nobody’s hiding from me.

Detroit Tigers fans weren’t sure what to expect out of their new starting pitcher when Shane Greene arrived from New York this past offseason. As I noted in this Tigers season preview, the scouting report on Greene was, to be kind to his prospects, guarded: “an average pitcher — in Triple-A” with a major-league “path for . . . success [that is] very rarely traveled.” He had done moderately well in his fourteen-start rookie campaign, which included two wins– the first an eight-inning shutout– over the Tigers, and the primary question for him entering 2015 was whether he could replicate his success in limited outings across a full season’s worth of starts. After one month of baseball, the answer to that question, like most others at this point in the season, remains outstanding.

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