Monday, September 24, 2012

One quick photo

I've just spent the first four hours of my official vacation time doing some work.  But, I'm done now.  I'm waiting for a car repair to be completed.  Then, I'm going to the gym and then going fishing with my son.  My son had to work yesterday, but I fished Otter Creek and the New Haven River with a guide yesterday.  The fishing was a bit slow, but I caught a few fish.  The brown below was the highlight of the day.  He (or she) took a bead head Prince Nymph dragged behind a floating grasshopper imitation.

One more on baseball

The 2012 Baltimore Orioles have now won 16 consecutive extra inning games.  I assumed that this had to be the all time longest extra innings streak, but it isn't.  The 1949 Cleveland Indians won 17 straight in extra innings and went 18-1 overall in extra innings.  They had a 71-64 record in games that did not go to extra innings and finished 24 games over .500 at 89-65.  This was good enough for third place in the AL.

This was the first year of the Yankees tremendous 1949-1953 streak of winning five consecutive World Series.  This was a talented team too, with Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Early Wynn at the top of their rotation.  Satchel Paige started 5 games and had a 4-7 record. He turned 43 in July of that season.

Offensively, they were a solid team, with Larry Doby leading a strong hitting OF, Mickey Vernon at first, and manager Lou Boudreau playing 134 solid games at shortstop.

But, if they went 18-1 in extra inning games, something I'd consider very lucky, they managed to offset it the rest of the year.  When I saw that 17 game extra inning winning streak, I was shocked that they weren't in the top 20 all time.  But, when I looked at things in more detail, I saw that they'd only won a single game more than the Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball projected.  Overall, they outscored their opponents by 101 runs over 154 games, indicating that they should have won 88 games, and they won 89.  They outscored their opponents by 26 net runs (86-60) runs in the extra inning games, meaning they outscored their opponents by 75 runs otherwise - 589 to 514.

Because they didn't win all of their extra inning games by a single run, based solely on runs scored, they won an 5.5 more extra inning games than projected.  In other words, their extra inning record projects to 12.5-6.5, and yes I know that half wins (ties) are very rare in baseball, unless you have a stupid commissioner make a stupid decision to mess with the All Star game, but that's another issue.

However, in the other 135 games, the Indians were projected to win almost 76 games, but instead, they won only 71.  So, their extreme luck in extra inning games was offset by poorer than expected winning percentage in their games that went 9 or fewer innings (they had four sub-9 inning games that year).

So in this case, their one aspect of luck and another aspect of unluckiness essentially cancelled each other.

And, if they'd simply played as expected in the games that didn't go to extra innings, they would have still finished a handful of games behind the Red Sox and the Yankees.

However at the top of the division, the Yankees had finished behind the Red Sox both in offense and pitching.  However, the Yankees won 2 more games than might have been projected, Boston won one less, and the Yanks won by a game.  This began the greatest string of World Series wins in history, and an era of horrible frustration for Ted Williams and the Red Sox.

Given the lack of comments recently, it's clear that none of my three or four readers is a big baseball fan.  So, I'll move on from this subject now.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Luckiest and Unluckiest Baseball Teams - All Time

Being the geek that I claim to be, my analysis of the Orioles 2012 season yesterday seemed incomplete.  I said I couldn't find the all time statistics to know if the O's really are one of the 20 luckiest teams in history.

So, I searched the web until I found the statistics I needed to do the calculations myself.  I also calculated the expected number of wins using two different exponents in the formula.  The original formula uses 2 as the exponent, while a revised version uses an exponent of 1.83, which is what I used here.

For more on the formula, go here.

As I expected, this year's Orioles team is one of the 20 luckiest teams of all time.  I was surprised to see them 5th overall though.  The first place entry is kind of amazing - a team outscored by almost 100 runs in a season, and they still finished above .500.  When I looked at that season in a bit more detail, I saw a team that lost by a lot quite often, but managed to win the closer games.  Sort of like this year's Orioles.

It is interesting to note that 6 of the top 20 lucky seasons have occurred in the 21st century.

Year Team Games Wins Losses Scored Allowed ExpPct ExpWins Diff
1905 Detroit Tigers 154 79 74 512 604 0.425 65.4 13.6
2004 New York Yankees 162 101 61 897 808 0.548 88.7 12.3
2008 Los Angeles Angels 162 100 62 765 697 0.542 87.9 12.1
1984 New York Mets 162 90 72 652 676 0.483 78.3 11.7
2012 Baltimore Orioles 149 85 64 653 663 0.493 73.5 11.5
1954 Brooklyn Dodgers 154 92 62 778 740 0.523 80.5 11.5
1970 Cincinnati Reds 162 102 60 775 681 0.559 90.5 11.5
1972 New York Mets 156 83 73 528 578 0.459 71.6 11.4
1924 Brooklyn Robins 154 92 62 717 679 0.525 80.8 11.2
2005 Arizona Diamondbacks 162 77 85 696 856 0.406 65.8 11.2
2007 Arizona Diamondbacks 162 90 72 712 732 0.487 78.9 11.1
1943 Boston Braves 153 68 85 465 612 0.377 57.7 10.3
1961 Cincinnati Reds 154 93 61 710 653 0.538 82.9 10.1
1932 Pittsburgh Pirates 154 86 68 701 711 0.494 76.0 10.0
1955 Kansas City Athletics 155 63 91 638 911 0.343 53.1 9.9
1997 San Francisco Giants 162 90 72 784 793 0.495 80.2 9.8
2009 Seattle Mariners 162 85 77 640 692 0.464 75.2 9.8
1917 St. Louis Cardinals 154 82 70 531 567 0.470 72.4 9.6
1977 Baltimore Orioles 161 97 64 719 653 0.544 87.6 9.4
1936 St. Louis Cardinals 155 87 67 795 794 0.501 77.6 9.4

A few things stand out in this list.  The 2004 Yankees are the only team in baseball history to lose a playoff series after leading 3 games to none.  But, if they had won the 89 games they were expected to win, the Red Sox would have won the division, and perhaps the Red Sox would not have won their first title since 1918.

The 1970 Reds team went to the World Series, where they lost 4-1 to a 108 win Orioles team.  The 1972 Mets didn't go to the World Series, which saw the A's beat the Reds, but in 1973, the Mets did go to the series, where they also lost to the A's.

It's amazing to think how bad the 1943 Braves should have been.  And the 1955 Athletics should have lost 100 games.

The 1961 Reds did go to the World Series, but they were beaten easily by the Yankees, who were led by Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, who combined for 115 home runs that season.

The 1936 Cardinals were two years removed from their 1934 Gashouse Gang championship, but in 1936, they finished 5 games behind the Giants.

Not one team in this list won a World Series.  The Reds, twice, are the only team in this list to have even gone to the world series.

And, given their overall statistics, I do not expect this year's Orioles to make it to the world series.  But, in short series, anything can happen.  The 1988 Dodgers were clearly the worst team in the playoffs, yet they beat a much better Mets team in the NLCS and came within a Mark McGwire home run of sweeping the A's in the series.  The great thing about baseball is that anything can happen.

For the sake of completeness, here are the unluckiest teams of all time according to the same formula:

Year Team Games Wins Losses Scored Allowed ExpPct ExpWins Diff
1993 New York Mets 162 59 103 672 744 0.454 73.5 -14.5
1905 Chicago Cubs 155 92 61 667 442 0.680 105.4 -13.4
1986 Pittsburgh Pirates 162 64 98 663 700 0.475 77.0 -13.0
1907 Cincinnati Reds 156 66 87 526 519 0.506 79.0 -13.0
1911 Pittsburgh Pirates 155 85 69 744 557 0.629 97.6 -12.6
1935 Boston Braves 153 38 115 575 852 0.327 50.1 -12.1
1984 Pittsburgh Pirates 162 75 87 615 567 0.537 87.0 -12.0
1975 Houston Astros 162 64 97 664 711 0.469 75.9 -11.9
1906 Cleveland Naps 157 89 64 663 481 0.643 100.9 -11.9
1905 St. Louis Browns 156 54 99 512 608 0.422 65.8 -11.8
1967 Baltimore Orioles 161 76 85 654 592 0.545 87.8 -11.8
1937 Cincinnati Reds 155 56 98 612 706 0.435 67.4 -11.4
1904 Cleveland Naps 154 86 65 647 482 0.632 97.3 -11.3
1939 St. Louis Browns 156 43 111 733 1035 0.347 54.2 -11.2
1999 Kansas City Royals 161 64 97 856 921 0.467 75.1 -11.1
1924 St. Louis Cardinals 154 65 89 740 750 0.494 76.1 -11.1
1946 Philadelphia Athletics 155 49 105 529 680 0.387 60.0 -11.0
2006 Cleveland Indians 162 78 84 870 782 0.549 88.9 -10.9
1919 Washington Senators 142 56 84 533 570 0.469 66.6 -10.6
1993 San Diego Padres 162 61 101 679 772 0.442 71.5 -10.5

Not surprisingly, none of these teams won a world series, or even went to the series.  And, in 1904, there was no series, but Cleveland in 1904 finished only 1.5 games behind the Boston Americans (later the Red Sox), so they clearly should have been AL champions that year.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Luckiest Team in Baseball

This one will be way out there people who normally look at my blog.  I'm a baseball junkie.  A stat geek.  I've been playing a baseball simulation game called Strat-O-Matic baseball since I was a teenager.  I once replayed an entire MLB season using "Strat" on my own.  It was the 1978 season, and there were 2102 regular season games, if I recall correctly.  I played them all.  Plus the playoffs.  At the end, the Yankees still beat the Dodgers in the series, so my 1000+ hours of effort failed to overturn the results of that series.  I think I only re-played the season because I was so disappointed when the Yankees won.  I wanted to reverse it, if just on a personal level.  No luck.  Or given how the game of Strat is played, maybe I should say "no dice."

Today, 35 years later, I still play in Strat leagues.  I'm currently in the playoffs in one league, one win away from a world series appearance.

I was once a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, a collection of fellow baseball geeks.  In SABR, there seemed, at the time, to be two kinds of members - the stat geeks and the history geeks.  And, we needed each other.

What I want to address today is the 2012 Baltimore Orioles.  They are tied for first place in the AL East with the Yankees.  And, they have absolutely no business being there.  In reality, they should be just ahead of the Red Sox, well out of playoff contention.  Yet, they are winning one run games at a ridiculous rate.  They are 27-8 in one run games.

Over history, most teams win one run games at a rate somewhere between their winning percentage in games not decided by one run and .500.  That is, both good teams and bad teams will somewhat regress toward the mean in one run games.  (I hope I don't get any statistical terms wrong here, because one of my readers is a math professor).  Think about it.  If you are a bad team and you lose a lot of games, when you are lucky enough to be in close game, you will probably win more of those than you would win if the game hadn't been close.  Conversely, good teams will lose more often in tight games, because they've allowed an inferior opponent time to stay close and sometimes get lucky.

The same concepts apply in extra inning games, which are quite often 1 run games.  The Orioles are 14-2 in extra inning games.

Ignoring the one run games, the Orioles are essentially a .500 team.  So, you'd expect them to be close to .500 in one run games.  In that case, their record would be 75-73 or 74-74.  Yet, they are 84-64.

Another formula used to project baseball winning percentages, one that assumes a fairly normal run distribution over time, is called the Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball.  I'm not going to go into details here, but that formula focuses on total runs allowed and total runs scored.  Amazingly, the 84-64 Orioles have been outscored this season by a slight margin of 660-652.  According to those numbers and the PToB, they should have won 49.3% of their games, for a record of 73-75.  In other words, they've won 11 more games than expected based on this theorem.  Looking above, they've won 9 or 10 games more than they should have won.

Three other teams are at +5 this year, and one team is -6, but no one is close to +11.  None of the other lucky teams appears playoff bound.  One thing that's funny is that two of the unluckier teams are the Reds and Giants, who despite being -5 are both in first place by decent margins.  In reality, they should have wrapped up their divisions by now.

Yes, there are confounders in this formula.  The first one that occurs to me is an absolutely dominant closer. Great closers are used primarily in close games, and if they dominate, they can push their team's record in close games to higher than otherwise expected levels.

The Oriole's closer leads MLB in saves.  And he's having a very good year.  But, statistically, hes' not as good a pitcher as his set-up man.  (Maybe the set-up man being so good is a boon to the O's in tight games).

Other closers in the league like Fernando Rodney, Craig Kimbrel, Jason Motte, Aroldis Chapman, and Kenley Jansen have clearly been better.  Another half dozen are of similar quality.

So, I don't see a truly dominant closer as the reason for Baltimore winning so many games.  I think it might explain Tampa Bay being 5 games better than projected, but I see no such shift for the Orioles.

I haven't examined historical records for how these O's would rank in the history of good luck, because I can't find them on the web.

I also haven't looked at the results that I would have found using a slightly revised version of the theorem, that uses a different exponent that makes the formula look less "Pythagorean".

However, there is no doubt in my mind that the 2012 Orioles are an absurdly lucky team.  If they take this season and assume that they are actually a good team, and they make few changes in the off-season, fans should expect a significant drop-off next year.  Historically, teams that win lots of one run games tend to get worse the next season, when their luck, essentially, doesn't repeat.  The free agent era has changed this a bit, but holding tight after a lucky season is not the way to repeat.

I would bet that they are one of the 20 luckiest teams in MLB history to this point, but I can't verify that.

But, like most math geeks, I enjoy looking at an interesting statistical anomaly, and the 2012 Orioles are the definition of an anomaly.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Once again, nothing to write about

It's been 8 days since I had any thoughts I thought were worth posting.  I was going to write something yesterday, but realized I had nothing to say.

"When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.
Say something once, why say it again?"

from Psycho Killer by Talking Heads

Last week, I did a lot of CrossFit.  Said that before.

This past weekend, I didn't do much of anything - farmers market, college football, cook, nap, mow the lawn, watch some episodes of Breaking Bad.  Said that before.

Last night at CrossFit - front squat PR of 235#, and I did two reps.  My old PR was 225#, probably from 18 months ago.  If I was more flexible in the correct places, I could probably do 275# or so.  I've read on the interweb, so it must be correct, that a typical front squat max is about 80% of your back squat max.  That would put me at 268#, so maybe 275 is a stretch.

We are now in our 9th week of a 12 week squat cycle.  I'm guessing that I will improve my back squat to about 350# or so by the end of the cycle.  I made that comment to my wife, and she asked me if I thought I would be able to do the same without the testosterone injections.  It would have been nice to say yes, but I doubt that it would have been true.

My wife is still unemployed.  We are still uninsured.  Said that before.

However, my wife has 3 interviews today, and another later this week.  Maybe something will change for the better on that front.

Next week, I'm taking a week of vacation.  I'm going to stay in Vermont, go fly fishing, go to CrossFit, go to the farmers market, do some cooking, hang out with my family, and that's about it.  I think I said that before as well.

Monday, September 10, 2012

More on testosterone supplementation

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was interviewed by an AP writer about my testosterone usage.  In his original request for people to talk to, he wanted to talk to men age 50 or older, and he preferred people using the gels (Axiron, Androgel, etc.) for supplementation.  His article has hit the wires today, and here is one link to what he wrote:

Testosterone Article by Matthew Perrone

I found a couple things interesting about the article.  In some ways, I think my positive comments were merely an afterthought.  There was no comparison of what I said to what any of the "experts" said.  The economic side of the article was based on the gels and patches, which are very expensive because they are under patent. The injected testosterone that I use is not under patent and is much cheaper.

Much of the research quoted is fairly old and newer research seems to have been ignored.  Concerns about prostate issues and heart disease seem to have been alleviated by more recent studies.  I read a lot of studies, older and newer, before I started taking this medicine, and I am not concerned about those two issues.  I did a lot of homework before agreeing to start giving myself shots a couple times of week.  That was not an easy decision for someone so afraid of needles.

I am concerned about high red blood cell levels and blood pressure, the latter, in particular, because I weigh more than I should.  And, I'm having those things monitored.

In general, when browsing various forums on the net, it seems that users of gels are not nearly as satisfied as users of injected testosterone.  (Yeah, I know that's a highly unscientific statement prone to all sorts of biases on my part.)  Most of the clinics that are advertising under the guise of "anti-aging" prefer injected T to gels, because they believe it works better.  And, it's cheaper.

I have seen so many positive stories on the internet regarding improvements people have seen in their lives.  This article paints a very different picture, IMO.  There is a lot of information to refute statements in the article, and maybe I'll post links on another day.  Today, I'm kind of disappointed to have been part of this article - something that seems very one sided - armed with quotes rather than links to studies to make its claims.

Yes, I'm sure a number of drug companies out there are trying to make a lot of money.  That's how the world works.  But, that doesn't invalidate the potential benefits adding an exogenous hormone when your body does not make enough internally.  The article made it sound like anyone and everyone can just ask for and receive testosterone, without a clinical need for it.  That might be possible, but it took me a long time to find a doc who was willing to prescribe the med.  There is a big difference between steroid abuse and clinically indicated hormone supplementation.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Penn State "Situation"

Friday night, I was having a conversation with some friends while my wife and I were on a camping trip.  It was a weekend we had feared a little bit because we had never left our children (ages 19 and 14) home alone for more than one night for the first time ever.  As it turned out, everything was fine.  They even got up early on Sunday and drove 25 miles to a place they like to go for breakfast.  They also gave us the bill for the food, but we are the parents, so I guess that's fair.

So, on Friday night, after dinner, the subject of college football and Penn State came up.  There were four people in the conversation - two married couples.  One of the couples (my wife and I) have extensive ties to PA and Penn State.  The other couple has no such ties, and they are not especially interested in college football.

As we discussed the NCAA sanctions against Penn State, I tried to make a couple points.  First, I didn't think the NCAA had the authority to impose the penalties that they chose.  However, the university accepted the penalties, so someone believed that the NCAA had authority or that the penalties were appropriate or both.  So, let's ignore that belief.

I also made the point that I thought the wrong people got punished by the NCAA sanctions.  By the wrong people, I meant the residents of PA whose state university will pay the fines and absorb other lost revenues.  I meant the students.  I meant the football players - past and present.  Other Penn State athletes outside the football program.  And, the fans - all of them.  The death penalty would have even punished athletes at a number of other schools, but this did not happen.

It is easy to make the counterpoint that most, if not all, of those people were part of the "culture" that seemed to value winning above anything else.  Therefore, even by creating expectations for success, everyone "sinned".  But, I have a hard time with that argument, to be honest.

I've seen a lot of people take exception with the Freeh report, stating that the conclusions do not match the information in the main document.  Most, if not all, of them have been PA residents and Penn State fans.  I haven't read the entire document, so I can't really comment there.  I've seen a lot of hatred on the web towards PSU and their "delusional" fans, and I even saw one post calling them "dillusional", whatever that means.  There isn't even an implication of guilt.  Many people seem to be saying that being a fan equals being a child molester - an explicit accusation against all fans.

One of the people in our conversation asked me what I thought the punishment from the NCAA should have been.  To be honest, I had not even considered what it should be, only that I think what was done was wrong.  For days, I've been thinking this question over, and I'm still not sure I have an answer.

Jerry Sandusky is a convicted child molester and what he did cannot be undone.

A number of university employees are apparently guilty of covering up the crimes, and by doing so, perpetuating them.  That is disgusting.  I would say unforgivable, but I hope I haven't gotten to a point in my life where I find anything ultimately unforgivable, no matter how much I hate the crime.

So, for the handful of readers I have out there, I have a question.  What should have been done to PSU in terms of punishment.  By whom?  And, why?

Vitriolic responses, especially without justification, will be deleted.  Sorry.  My blog, my rules.  Call it censorship if you will, but I'd love to see a reasoned conversation here.  Or maybe nothing at all because no one cares other than a few delusional Penn State fans.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Good and Bad Numbers in the Gym Last Night

My wife and I had a nice weekend in the Finger Lakes region of NY, spending time with friends and tasting wines at a number of wineries.  The person who invited us is a fellow ski instructor who has been a mentor of mine for a decade now.  He noticed that my physical shape had changed since the end of ski season.  While I simply feel fat (but I always feel that way), he said that my upper body had clearly grown some and that my body was more proportional that it was before.  He said that at the end of the ski season, I had a large, strong lower body, a beer belly, and my upper body didn't match up.  So now, my upper body has caught up and I'm too big everywhere?

We were discussing this because I told him about the testosterone treatments I've been doing.  He was intrigued because he is really stymied in the gym these days.  A few years ago, he developed a form of auto-immune hepatitis, spent a year on some strong drugs, and he's never really come back 100% from that illness.

We are about the same age, and spent some time lamenting how time is not kind to our skiing abilities unless we work really hard every single off-season.

After our relaxing weekend (I lifted on Thursday, did sprints on Sunday, but took three other days off), I was back in the gym last night.  There were two reasons for being there.  First of all, we started the second half of the 12 week squat cycle we've been doing.  After a lazy weekend, I was curious how this workout would go.  It was our heaviest workout in the cycle to date, and on our fifth set of back squats (rep scheme of 5-5-2-3-1), we were supposed to tie our current best in the back squat.  The coach warned us that a few people had already come in earlier in the day, after a bit too much partying on the holiday weekend, and struggled with the workout.

The second reason for being at the gym was the start of another month-long Paleo challenge.  I have participated in three of these earlier.  All three have started well, but my resolve didn't last in two of them.  So, I've paid $20 each to enter and got $40 in prize money once.  This will be my fourth attempt.  Our scores are based on dietary adherence, body weight change, a subjective review of body composition (shirtless pictures - ugh!), and improvement on a couple benchmark workouts.

But, before we could even get to the benchmark workouts, we had 9 sets of squats to do, including heavy back squats.  Overall, I was pleased with how I felt, and rather than tying my best on the fifth set at 330#, I put on an extra 5#, to shoot for a modest PR.  I also really wanted to feel how my strength was compared to that lift.  Sometimes, if a squat weight is difficult, it's easiest to move pretty quickly, but this can result in questionable depth.  At 335#, I squatted slowly, let myself settle into the bottom and really feel the weight, and then stood back up.  I was shocked by how easy it was.  We then did 4 sets of front squats, before moving to the benchmarks.

Our first benchmark workout was max pull-ups, without releasing from the bar.  Assistance is OK, as long as you use the same assistance at the start and the end of the challenge.  I used a green resistance band and completed 12 dead-hang (non-kipping) pull-ups.

Our next benchmark was as many reps as possible in ten minutes:

10 power cleans
20 wall balls
40 double-unders

I scaled the workout somewhat, but I'll use the same scaling at the end of the challenge.

After the workout came the shirtless pics and the official weigh-in.  My weight was the highest I've ever seen.  In the 4 months since I started testosterone supplementation, my weight has gone up 14 pounds.  At first, I'd gone up 10, then dropped 3 and now I'm up 14 net.  Overall, my clothes don't fit much differently.  I have had a couple shirts where some increased size in my shoulders and arms has made the shirts tight.  But, my pants still fit, my workout clothes still fit, and I was surprised to see an increase that large.  I'm curious how much is muscle and how much is fat.

I do feel like I'm dragging more weight around when I'm running or going uphill on my bike.  But, I still feel fairly strong as well.

So, for the next thirty days, my goal is to work out as many days as make sense.  I'll do some extra reps, on my own, at CrossFit, to help with the skills for the benchmark lifts.  From a food perspective, I really want to focus on what I'm "allowed' to eat, rather than what I'm not supposed to eat.  So, for the next month, I'll be eating meat and seafood, lots of veggies, lots of salads, some nuts, some seeds, coffee, and high quality fats. All I need for dinner most nights is some meat to grill, my salad spinner, and a homemade salad dressing.  Given the time of the year, with a late season bounty of veggies, this isn't a tough way to live.