Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Winter Wonderland

It's been a few days since we last spoke, Shawn Chacon and all that. Saturday's piece was picked up by Repoz over at the Website Formerly Known as Baseball Primer (a/k/a the Baseball Think Factory), which turned up a number of responses you might be interested in taking a peek at. The one most pertinent to Chacon and the Yanks comes from Mitchel Lichtman, Primer callsign MGL:

Chacon, on the other hand, has had some success as a starter. His NERC (normalized ERC) in 2003 was great. 2004 was the year of the closer experiment, which was a disaster for whatever reason (although still part of Chacon's "history"). I have Chacon projected to be a good (better than average) pitcher. I think that Pecota's projection for him is flat out not even close, but I could be wrong. I have a lot of respect for their projections overall. While it is indeed tricky to project players coming from the Rockies, even using proper park adjustments, there is one thing that no forecasters do that I do, which will make a big difference in the projections. That is to adjust for the hangover effect for Rockies players. IOW, their road stats while playing for the Rockies need to be adjusted quite a bit as well as their home stats. When Rockies players switch teams (or go from another team TO the Rockies), their road stats (not including their road stats in Coors Field) go up substantially (or down substantially if they are GOING to the Rox). If you don't adjust for that, you will substantially under-project players like Chacon.

So basically I think that Chacon is a pretty good pitcher (and should post around a 4.50 ERA for the Yankees) and that Small sucks. Wright is not half the pitcher that Chacon is. I think that he (Wright) is terrible as well.

You can check out the whole thread, and the entirety of MGL's comment, here. Lichtman's a terrific baseball mind, the proponent (and if I recall correctly, inventor) of the defensive metric UZR, and one of the co-authors, along with Tom Tango (a/k/a TangoTiger) of The Book (as in "Torre's managing by the Book this inning, bringing in Rivera to protect a three-run lead"), a book on baseball strategies that I very much look forward to reading. Between that, the already-released Winners by Dayn Perry and John Sickels' annual Prospects book, and most importantly, Baseball Prospectus's 1-2 punch at the end of the month--the 2006 Edition of their annual, and Baseball Between the Numbers...well, a baseball fan could be busy reading straight through opening day.


It honestly didn't feel like 26 inches of snow, and certainly didn't feel like the biggest single-day snowfall in New York...ever. Worst thing about the blizzard? When I went out for supplies (this was Sunday evening, after the snow had pretty much stopped) I saw boys running around with what looked like oversized scissors. On the end of each "blade" was what looked like an ice cream scooper.

It took me a few minutes to realize that this was some sort of gadget for making snow balls (no, I did not find out the hard way). We've come to live in a country where the young can no longer be bothered to pack their own snow balls, by hand. I find this very depressing.


I was ignoring the Winter Olympics, for all the usual reasons and then some. I don't think you should call Turin "Torino" unless a) you're in Italy or b) you're willing to call Rome "Roma," Venice "Venezia" and Pizza Hut pizza "disgusting," all the time. I don't care how many drinks Bode Miller has before he goes skiing, or what name Johnny Weir gives his right-hand glove. I don't care much about the X-Games, and therefore snowboarders on a half-pipe aren't high on my list of things to see.

So I skipped the Opening Ceremonies, and ignored the Olympics all weekend long. But on Monday, just when I thought it was safe, the Winter Olympics sucked me in...again!

It started off innocently enough. I was flipping through channels, and saw Tom Cheek, the speedskater. I remembered seeing something about Cheek in a headline somewhere on the Internet, so I was curious. Stuck around to watch him win the gold (ah, tape delay...turns out that was the story that I'd originally seen out of the corner of my eye). By then, inertia had taken over, and the Russian couples were figure skating. Sudden flashback to the Cold War, I'm sticking around for that. Then the Chinese, the Russians' main rivals for the medals, were back up, with a pair named "Pang and Tang."

(SIDE NOTE: This pairing alone, not even getting into the subsequent "Zhang and Zhang" pairing must have incited Bill Singer levels of xenophobic "humor" around the U.S., and perhaps around the globe. Days later, we may all finally be recovered from lousy jokes involving chop sui, doubletalk chinese, and that old tried-but-true, "Me love you long time." It's just the cost of living in an incompletely evolved culture.)

Up came the Russians who ultimately won the gold, Totmiyanina and Marinin, and my first human interest story of the 2006 Olympics, as NBC taught us all about how the male of the couple Max, who looked to be 6'6" or so, dropped the female--Tatyana on her head, in international competition two years ago. True to the story, the Russians created a performance which was completely free of mistakes, but tentative--more about not screwing up while in the lead (and not dropping your partner on her head, again) than about expressing the true beauty of ice skating.

After the Russians took a commanding lead, NBC had to keep our attention by announcing that the last couple of the night, the aforementioned Zhang and Zhang would be attempting a move "that has never been done before in competition" a throw with a quadruple spin. So Z and Z ("they're not related," someone--Mary Carillo, I think--tells us helpfully) start their routine, and right away, they're doing their quadruple lutz throw (or whatever it is) and the whole thing is completely fouled up. Zhang Dan (that's Ms. Zhang) goes down on the ice, hard, and stays down, having fallen awkwardly after only three and a half of her planned four revolutions.

And as she's down, it looks like the night's over--give the gold to the Russians, the silver and bronze to Z'n'Z's teammates, call it a night. After falling, they no longer had any chance at the gold, and since it was the beginning of their set, if they were to continue, Z'n'Z would have to make ALL of their required jumps and whatnot, all on Ms. Z's bad knee.

I bet all of you know by now how this turned out. But the whole thing just reminded me of why anyone cares about the Olympics--young people, who've waited four years to prove themselves on the world stage, and who are willing to put themselves through anything just to finish, even when it looks like there is no hope.


Another reason I'm more pro-Olympics than I was Monday morning: Bryant Gumbel's big, stupid mouth.

Here's Gumbel on the Winter Olympics, "So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention. And try to blot out all logic when announcers and sports writers pretend to care about the luge, the skeleton, the biathlon and all those other events they don't understand and totally ignore for all but three weeks every four years. Face it, these Olympics are nothing more than a marketing plan to fill space and sell time during the dreary days of February."

Since every other word in that diatribe could just as easily be applied to the Summer Games, and Gumbel doesn't seem to mind them, I would guess that Bryant's big issue is the "paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention." Of course, Bryant's fantasy GOP convention is full of Asians and almost totally devoid of Latinos, so I'm not so sure that any of Bryant's whining holds much water.

But just as a side note, the Winter Olympics were not invented to "fill space and sell time" in February. They predate television. And, regardless of what Gumbel may think, the Winter Games weren't created as part of a racist (or even GOP) plot to give Europeans athletic supremacy over Africans. We're not talking about athletic apartheid. It's just sports. If sportswriters don't pay much attention to luge and the skeleton during non-Olympic years, it's only fair to note that those same writers seem to only notice the triple-jump and shotput only on leap years, as well.

But then again, tripe like this is typical of Gumbel's "bravery" now that he's on HBO. Just the fact that Gumbel is against something turns out to be a pretty good reason to support it.


On that same vein, here's hoping that Bryant comes out against Spring Training, which starts tomorrow. Once again, we seem to have survived the long, cold Winter.

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