The Final Countdown

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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.

chart

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:

Continue reading

Window Shopping: What’s a Shane Greene?

Ain’t no change in the weather,
ain
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.

Continue reading

Window Shopping: Tigers Roaring Out of the Gate

At one month old, the MLB season now has accrued a sufficient sample size of free time to permit me to compile the opening post of this site’s regular Detroit Tigers series for 2015, Window Shopping. Last year, I came out of the gate a bit too hot, burned out, and had to take the month of June off. This year finds your resident Tiger tracker more balanced and measured in his approach. This year’s Detroit Baseball Tigers have a more balanced look too.   Continue reading

Can Golf Save Congress? (via Hot Dogs and Golf)

An article on NPR posited the idea that if members of Congress played more golf together, like in the olden days, they would get more work done.

It’s an interesting idea — one that has been proposed many times over in different forms. If members of Congress drank together, ate dinner together, took trips and retreats together. If their spouses did volunteer work in DC together, if they moved their family to DC so their kids could go to school together, we could break through the incivility and gridlock.

In the late 1990’s, the Aspen Institute hosted 3-day retreats hoping to bring members of Congress from both sides of the aisle together to get to know one another — and face the issue of incivility in Congress head on. Around 200 Members, their spouse, and children attended. Did it work? Sort of.

But, what of this idea of bi-partisan golf? … Read More

(via Hot Dogs and Golf)

Snapshot: How good has the Detroit Tigers starting rotation been to date?

No, Justin Verlander hasn’t appeared in a single game this season. Yes, it’s still early in the year to be issuing deeply meaningful assessments of baseball team performances. No, I still have not pulled together a proper introductory post for this season’s Tigers series. Instead, you’ll have to get by with this extensive team season preview, which remains not wholly inaccurate, a writeup on Detroit’s bounceback from its first loss in Pittsburgh, a quick peek at changes in team base-stealing profiles, a podcast from earlier this week, and the following snapshot of the Tigers’ rotation through twenty-one games.

This morning, Baseball Prospectus released a new pitching metric, Deserved Run Average (“DRA”), which is designed as a replacement for ERA. You can read more about DRA here (and a nauseatingly detailed exposition of it here), but the one-line summary is simple: “By accounting for the context in which the pitcher is throwing, DRA allows us to determine which runs are most fairly blamed on the pitcher.” After all, that’s what we want to know when we look at a pitcher’s ERA. DRA, it would appear, allows us to know that with greater accuracy.

With that new tool in hand, here are 2015’s most valuable pitchers so far, factoring in their newly calculated DRA:

dra-pwarp-4-29-15Plenty of familiar names on that list, especially for Tigers fans, who will find all five of this season’s starters– David Price (#2), Alfredo Simon (#7), Shane Greene (#9), Anibal Sanchez (#15), and even Kyle Lobstein (#22)– among the thirty most valuable pitchers of this young season.

Through thick and thin offensive production thus far, plenty of credit for the team’s 14-7 record is due to the starting rotation, which, you need not be reminded, unloaded Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello in the past two offseasons. Surprisingly, so far, so good.

An audible discussion of current baseball stories

While the ALDLAND Podcast continues to take a technical hiatus, I was a guest on this week’s episode of the Banished to the Pen podcast, where we discussed current baseball stories ranging from StatCast to Chicago Cubs prospects to the Detroit Tigers and the rest of the fightin’ AL Central.

You can download or stream the entire podcast here.

If We Win Again, We’ll Be One Again (via The Bitter Southerner)

The moment has been lauded for over 40 years. It trumped, for a short time, the more ominous brand of “white flight,” that of white folks selling their houses and fleeing to the suburbs. Hank was the right hero at the right time. He had no bluster about him. He had poise and was stoic, Russell said. Some white folks of the day said they liked that Hank wasn’t “uppity” — as if his grace was just an act to please them.

Aaron suddenly has some diplomatic descendants in the meshing of two sides of town. Just as baseball has ripped us apart as a sporting city with the Braves and their business flight to Cobb County and the taking of public money to build their new stadium, there are some new heroes in our midst at the right time. They created a oneness with a round ball — this one weighing about 22 ounces. They play with poise and heart, like Hank played.

I’m talking about the Hawks, of course.

Preposterous, you say?

Go buy a playoff ticket and see for yourself. They are the People’s Team. … Read More

(via The Bitter Southerner)