The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Weekend Reading

So far so good here this week at the Book. Fortunes seem to have turned for the Marlins, with Beckett getting hurt and being swept at home by the red-hot Reds (despite twenty consecutive outs recorded by Dontrelle Willis to start the game). But A.J. Burnett is back and Matt Treanor has reached the majors for the first time after eleven years in the minors.

Not many of you have found your way to the guest map, but feel free to leave a little image and a few words about yourself there (it's on the right side, down towards the bottom some ways). For those of you who have already put yourself on the map, there are some new questions that you may or may not want to answer, so feel free to update yourself.

As promised earlier in the week, today I am providing some links to some of the more esoteric baseball writing I’ve come across lately. I know that this will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re looking for a way to pass the time between games at a regional this weekend (like me), this stuff could provide for some good reading material.

Follow this link for an introduction and three articles written by Theordore Turocy, a professor of Economics at Texas A&M. All of them are interesting, if a little bit academic. One of my favorites was this article on the supposed value of the home field advantage. I don’t know if any of you are aware of it, or if you even care, but up until the mid-1900s, the home team had the choice of whether they wanted to hit first or last. Originally, the idea was to hit first – but this was back when one ball was used per game and the material used to make the ball wasn’t quite as sturdy as it is today. Most of the time the home team would elect to hit first, when the ball was actually something more closely resembling a baseball than the Nerf-like, and dirty, ball you were likely to get later in the game. The article though goes into some detailed analysis of why it really isn’t much, if any, of a strategic advantage to have “last bats.” Once you think about it a little bit, this makes sense – particularly when the teams are relatively evenly matched – but it’s not exactly something that’s widely accepted in the game today.

I also enjoyed this series of articles put together by actuaries about baseball statistics. To make this series even more compelling, acclaimed author Bill James provides feedback to each of the authors.

One of my favorite baseball players of all time is Shoeless Joe Jackson. In this article, the author tries to assess what Jackson might have done for the remainder of his career had he not been banned from the game following the investigation into the 1919 Black Sox scandal. This may not be the most accurate or provable article you’ll ever read, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Although this isn’t necessarily an “article,” I found David Pinto’s recent blog post about winning percentages to be very interesting. There are a number of variables to play with here, but you can use this model to gain a better understanding of the role that chance plays in the outcome of a 162 game baseball season, a 7 game post-season series, or pretty much anything else you want (flipping a coin, pulling an ace from a deck of cards, etc).

That’s all for now. Have a great weekend! GO CANES!


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