Sunday diversion / a baseball cornucopia for geeks & sentimentalists

you have to start with Pythagorus and the Orioles
When last seen on Manhattan Loft Guy, Pythagorus was waving his finger at the Baltimore Orioles, predicting doom, sooner or later (July 8, Sunday diversion: of Pythagorus and baseball odds). Since then, of course, The Old Greek Geek has been watching in horror as the O’s continue to defy the odds. The Odds say, among other things, that a team’s record in games decided by one run should be similar to the record in all games, and that a team’s record in extra innings games should follow the same pattern (probably with a home team bias for last licks). The Facts say, however, that the 2012 Orioles are 27-8 in games decided by one run and 16-2 in extra innings games.

If you are a baseball fan, you have to love the 2012 Orioles, even if (perhaps especially if) you are a Yankees fan. They won 3 games this week in extra innings, one in 18, one in 11 and one in 12 innings. All on the road. If you are an Orioles fan, you have to jump up and down; if you are not, you have to laugh. Fans love David more than Goliath, always will. Even Goliath fans have to appreciate when David does well, rock to the forehead or not. (At this date, the Yankees are still leading the AL East, so we have not had a full rock-to-the-forehead moment. Yet.)

Rationalizers would ‘explain’ by saying things like “they have a great bullpen”. Rationalists would say that other teams with great bullpens do not have these records (Yanks: 21-22, 5-3; Rays: 20-26, 5-7; or Oakland, better at 22-17 and 9-5 but no where near Orioles numbers); they would add that we are dealing with small samples. I flagged this Jeff Sullivan piece from SB Nation back in July, and it is even more apt now, with more calendar pages burned:

Here’s the good news for the Orioles and their fans: this is no longer a 162-game season. This is, for the Orioles, a 67-game season, and all kinds of crazy things can happen over small samples. Players and teams can over-perform. The key when you’re an underdog team like the Orioles is to hang around and effectively shrink the season, and that’s what they’ve done. They don’t have to be better than a bunch of other teams over a full year; they have to be as good or better over several weeks. The probability is more favorable.

Long-term efficient market fans would observe that the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent, which is kinda sorta what is going on with the Orioles. If they field the same team next year, they are extremely likely to regress to the mean performance in 1-run and extra inning games, and be 10+ games off the pace in 2013. But next year is not this year, as Yogi probably said.

For now: enjoy, knowing you are seeing something unlikely to be repeated. Even if they are throwing rocks at your club’s giant forehead.

(some) balm for Yankee fans
Watching and measuring baseball are two different things, as the baseball geeks might put it. Case in point: I fell into the “what’s wrong with David Roberston?” trap this week while saying bad words to a television screen. Grant Brisbee of that same SB Nation set me straight. (Another guy who writes [and computes] well about baseball.) If you are a Yankee fan, you will remember the sequence at the heart of Brisbees’s piece (with pictures!).

I watched that sequence of ball not being anywhere near glove, including saying a really bad word when Omar Vizquel (57 year old Omar Vizquel!)  hit that double on an inside fastball….

But Roberston is just being Roberston. And human. A little better performance some days, a little worse on others, but net-net the same very effective guy. So Yankee fans should not worry about #30, especially not as the Orioles are defying the odds.

kids + baseball, what’s not to like?
Let’s do an AL East trifecta, with a sweet story coming out of (of all places) Fenway Park. This is from ESPN a few weeks ago.

Money Quote:

Whether it’s a boo, a cheer, or something inappropriate my mom wishes I didn’t hear

Enjoy the pennant races, fans of all ages and persuasions!

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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