Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Randomness vs out of control

In ultimate, you occasionally see great upsets, games with few turnovers, and runs of 3 or 4 breaks in a row against a good offense. Now imagine a Strat-o-Matic Ultimate game. You would still see great upsets, games with few turnovers, and runs of 3 or 4 breaks in a row against a good offense. This article either does or does not say (I can’t figure it out) that the frequency of these things in Strat-o-Matic Ultimate is no different from the frequency in real ultimate.

This says to me (if it does say anything) that it’s probably folly to use a goal/no goal system to determine if you’re playing unnaturally well or badly. The human mind is terrific at finding patterns, but sometimes it finds patterns that aren’t really there. “Uhoh, tails came up twice in a row, better change the coin.” If you perceive a pattern that isn’t there, you may end up switching to a suboptimal strategy or set of personnel.

This is where your “scouts” are useful. Sometimes experienced eyes can tell whether a run is due to bad play or bad luck. It’s harder still to know whether a good run is due to play or luck, since a bad run forces you to consider making a change, while a good run is just business as usual, or so you think. Experienced eyes will go beyond just whether you scored or not and will look at the constituents of the point. Did we force any high stall counts? Were there any near-blocks? How many first options did we shut down? For the offense, did we make any bad throw choices that came out well? Were we clogging? Are we moving the disc? Did we just take good shots that didn't work out?

But these are hard to tell. If you were to ask me how our offense is doing, I would probably take how I felt out there and project it to the squad, with perhaps an observation or two about some non-turnover-causing mistake I witnessed (e.g., so-and-so cut me off so we’re not creating space well). It’s not that I’m being petty about it, but that’s the world I’m seeing for those 12 seconds of offense.

Who has better ideas of what to focus on? Anyone have any cues to focus on?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Training, ECC preview

The four stages of training in a stud's career:
  1. Training? I don't need to train.
  2. Bring it on, beeyotch.
  3. Whenever I try, I win the race.
  4. I have to train for the training.

Bonus training tips:
  • Plan the work, work the plan. Don't cut corners.
  • If you do decide to stop in the middle of a workout, stop at the beginning of a rep, not at the end. That little extra rest between reps can change your mind.

ECC Preview:
DoG has won all of its tournaments so far this year, the first time we have gone this far since 2001, which was also the year of our only previous ECC. We started with 14 on the only hot weekend of the year there, three of whom were on their way back from a grueling week in Japan at the World Games. We lost a couple one-pointers off the bat, played some more, and survived our way to a 2-5 record. Now let us never speak of this again.

Game 1: DoG v Rhino. I don't know these guys, but I presume they're a Huck n Hope offense. DoG's patience should prevail in this one. 13-1.
Game 2: DoG v San Francisco. Huck n Hope merged with Hope n Huck. They got Safdie but have lost all their other Boston imports, but the Boston influence should make this a close game. DoG 13-6.
Game 3: DoG v Condors. They beat us handily last time at this tournament, so that ought to be worth a couple points. I don't know anyone on their team anymore except for Hollywood. He's a top-notch Boggler in his own right, although I'm still the best, so let's say DoG 13-9.
Game 4: DoG v Furious. This is the only team that has a bunch of guys I remember playing against, and we'll be tired and a little overconfident, so it'll come down to the wire. DoG 13-10.
Party: Jim and Al again dominate, although it would be a miracle if Al loses the ro-cham-dirty-dance-with-Mr.-Sensitive-Ponytail-Guy again. However, the absence of our teammates gives the party victory to some chick team, unless the Sockeye guys get really obnoxious and start heckling them for no good reason.
Game 5: DoG v Sockeye. DoG brilliantly picks up Lou Burruss, Luke Smith, and Chris van Holmes for this game and know all the Sockeye calls as well as pointers for telling apart the really big kids. However, we also pick up Brian Cameros, and his infectious attitude keeps it close. DoG 13-11, guaranteeing a finals appearance.
Game 6: DoG v Bravo. A lot of hucking, no hoping. Will Deaver threatens DoG with sanctions for years of roster abuse and Sectional tournament shenanigans. A Little League coach is seen huddling with the DoG team, and suddenly every huck from Bravo is complete. Bravo 13-2.
Round 7: DoG v bye. Grab a beer and a burrito and start diagramming all the hucks to figure out whether it's the 2nd or the 3rd pass.

Seriously, I'm looking forward to the tournament. We don't get to see the West Coast teams except at Nationals. We expect to be behind them right now, but maybe seeing them complete 85% of their 50% hucks against us will clue us in on what we need to do to stop them. Obviously, the answer is to play me on D, but I'm not a machine anymore.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

softball season, with stats

The Cougars finished up our softball season on Monday this week, getting knocked out in the first round of the B Division playoffs in the Sudbury Men’s Softball modified fast-pitch league. We gave up five runs in the last of the seventh to lose 21-20 after getting crushed 27-11 in Game 1 of the best of three.

We almost duplicated the Miracle of Castel di Sangro of getting promoted two years in a row. As longtime readers will remember, we won the C division last year to earn promotion to B. We started this year 1-3 amid a bunch of rainouts and began to fear that we would be relegated again, but won a couple close ones, then ran off our last six games to finish 10-6. Unfortunately for us, our rivals for first place won their last game to finish in a tie and took the tiebreaker.

We averaged almost exactly two runs per inning this year with remarkably little power. We probably got outhomered by a ratio of 2 or 3 to 1 this year (gave up 5 or 6 in our last playoff game versus none for us) but got on base well. We had a line (avg/OBP/slg) of .419/.475/.569 (my line was .535/.549/1.070; a late surge in walks prevented me from the dubious distinction of having an OBP less than my average (sac flies count for OBP but not avg)), our opponents were probably .350/.400/.600 or so. It’s Ichiro (but even moreso) vs Manny Ramirez.

One of the quests of baseball statistics (and all sports statistics) is to take the individual actions and figure out how they contribute to the greater good. There are many, many, many stats that do this for major league baseball, but they generally have problems dealing with extreme cases. Do you consider what a team of that player would score, or do you insert a player into a team of league average players, or do you replace the player on his actual team with an average player? For most players, there is not much difference between these methods, but if you have a Barry Bonds, it matters a lot.

Such is the problem with evaluating the Cougars. I tried using a couple run estimators (Bill James’ Runs Created, linear weights) and they dramatically underestimated how many runs we should have scored, and I’m not sure how to go about reconciling the difference. It’s probably due to a combination of the high OBP/low power offense and to having the power concentrated in the bats of a few. About ¾ of the at-bats were taken up by guys who had 140 singles, 4 doubles, and 3 singles (.378/.440/.424). I don’t think the problem is due to plays scored as errors, since our total of at-bats minus hits is pretty close to the number of outs we have made (using innings played). Adding wild pitches would get us back about a run per game, but that’s still not nearly enough to bridge the gap.

It’s not really going to help pick an MVP or anything like that, since small sample size and luck overwhelm many differences (a homer in a 40 at-bat season adds 100 points to slugging, for instance). But it probably could reveal something about the optimal strategies at this level. How often does a bunter need to get on base in order for it to make sense (note: I have never seen a sacrifice bunt attempt in this league, only bunts for hits)? Should I start uppercutting in order to hit more home runs (at the expense of other hits)? Should I start swinging down in order to get more singles and reached on errors (at the expense of power)? How good does a hitter have to be in order for it to make sense to walk him every time (although of course I would call that a pussy move)?

Anyway, Jim through the years:
2006: .535/.549/1.070
2005: .439/.465/.756
2004: played 2 games
2003: .536/.567/1.000
All: .508/.554/.958

I do not remember grounding out this year, and can only remember a few ground balls at all. Most of my outs came on poorly-hit fly balls or popups. About ¾ of my well-struck balls were line drives, with the others about split between ground balls and fly balls, and it seems that 80-90% of those fell in for hits. I did hit a few balls to the right side this year, including a fielder-aided home run, but those were all mistakes. Real men, if indeed they play softball, pull the ball.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Happy Birthday to my boy

Happy Birthday to my boy, who turns 3 today. Hard to believe how fast he’s growing. Just in the last month or two, he:

  • Learned to peddle his tricycle
  • Began riding a bicycle (with training wheels) just a week after he starting pedaling the trike.
  • Began swinging a bat. For a few weeks, every swing would be in the same plane, so a pitch had to hit a 3 inch area at his eye level in order for him to hit it, but he’s since leveled out his swing and can now move the bat to hit the ball. He still misses it a bunch, and doesn’t have any plate discipline, but there is at least a 50/50 chance that he’ll hit the pitch if it’s a strike.
  • Began hitting a golf club. He had some plastic clubs, but was using them more like an ax than like a club, chopping into the ground. But then he started taking more of an arc, and on Sunday some friends gave him a metal club and he’s been hitting balls with that now. Unfortunately, it’s a righty club and he decided to hit the ball lefty, so he’s hitting it with the back of the club. I need to go to the golf store to look for a lefty club before he develops bad habits.
  • Got potty-trained. He still sleeps at night in a diaper, but manages without one all day with only an occasional accident.
  • Began sleeping in a toddler bed. He now can climb in and out of the bed on his own. We were worried because we traveled a bit in July and thought about bringing a portable crib with us, but he did just fine sleeping on a mattress on the floor (although we had to put pillows next to the mattress for when he rolls off). At home, he has a low rail in his bed for this purpose.

And a bit of advice for new fathers: you will get hit in the crotch and face, many times. Posted by Picasa