Closer by Committee

31 03 2011

Closer by committee, a highly used term, is a terrible misnomer.  I get that people people like alliteration, but an actual closer by committee would have to involve 3-15 pitchers standing on the mound at the same time, using Robert’s Rules of Order to determine which pitch to throw.  The ninth inning would take hours to play, as committee members jostle for positioning, form coalitions, file motions, second motions, debate, vote on cloture, file amendments, debate amendments, file motions to limit debate on amendments, etc.

I think every team should go closer by committee.

Derek Jeter’s New Contract

18 11 2010

Derek Jeter just signed a five 5-year, 450 million dollar contract extension with the Yankees, plus performance bonuses.  For each season Jeter fields at least fifteen ground balls, he earns an addition $20M.  If he reaches 50 hits in a season, he earns $1M, then an additional $1M for each hit beyond the 50th.  If selected by fans to appear in an all-star game, he earns $5B, plus another $5B if he plays in the all-star game.  If the Yankees make the playoffs, Jeter becomes owner of the Yankees, and also becomes owner of any team the Yankees defeat in the playoffs.  And if the Yankees win the World Series, Jeter becomes President of Earth.

When reached for comment, Yankees fans said, in unison, “It’s Derek Jeter.  Pay him whatever he wants.”

Football Endgames

12 11 2010

Football coaches don’t think nearly enough about the amount of time they’re leaving on the clock when they score near the end of halves.  Time left on the clock is something they have a lot of control over.  And it has a considerable effect on the result of the game.  And yet, it seems like coaches bungle these decisions even more often than when deciding whether to go for it on 4th down.

For example, suppose a team trails by 5 with first and goal at their opponents’ 1-yard line and 0:50 left on the clock, their opponent having three timeouts.  Consider the result of three outcomes:

  1. The team scores a touchdown on first down, leaving their opponent 0:47 and three timeouts.
  2. The team scores a touchdown on second down, leaving their opponent 0:42 and two timeouts.
  3. The team scores a touchdown on third down, leaving their opponent 0:35 and one timeout.
  4. The team scores a touchdown on fourth down, leaving their opponent 0:30 and zero timeouts.
  5. The team turns the ball over.

For each of these scenarios, you can estimate the team’s expectation of winning, based on the skill of their defense and the opponent’s offense.  For scenario 5, their expectation is zero, or very close to zero.  For scenario 1, their expectation may be as low as 0.3.  For scenarios 3 and 4, their expectation will be much higher, even assuming their opponent’s ability to move the ball.

Any yet, you never see a team in this situation call a running play that’s designed not to score.  They always try to score immediately, then seem overjoyed when they hand the ball–and the game–back to their opponent.  While the specific example above may not happen often, the thinking applies any time a game is close at the end of a half.  Teams should be thinking both about how many points they’re trying to score, and how much time they’re leaving on the clock, as both are significant determinants of the final score of the game

I can think of explanation why coaches do this.  There’s the classic risk aversion argument used to explain coaches’ timidity on fourth down.  Furthermore, there’s a certain gamesmanship going on; it looks bad when a coach is looking the game and appears to be not trying hard to score.  Players themselves may resist the idea of running plays designed not to score points but rather to run off the clock.  But there are a lot of game swung by teams leaving their opponents too much time on the clock.

Identity of Hurricane Kawasaki Revealed

27 04 2010

I’ve written a fair bit about my mysterious fantasy teammate / co-manager Hurricane Kawasaki.  While I was careful to hide Hurricane’s true identity, it should now be obvious, based on statements made on this blog and off it, that Hurricane Kawasaki is indeed: Mr. Curt Schilling.

Drafts versus Auctions

27 04 2010

I haven’t played a ton of auction fantasy leagues, but my feeling is they’re a considerable improvement over the standard snake draft.  However, I suspect auctions would make for an even greater improvement to actual drafts.  (Hat tip: football outsiders)

New York Times, Meet Economics 101

6 04 2010

This is a nitpick, but this NYT op-ed by Jay Soled and Richard Schmalbeck, on tax deductions granted business for attending sports and other entertainment, has a minor economics error in it, and I feel great need to point it out.  While I generally agree with the analysis and policy recommendation, the following section does not scan:

These deductions have led to higher ticket prices in two ways. On the demand side, they have fueled competition for scarce seats, with business taxpayers bidding in part with dollars they save through the deductions.

On the supply side, the large number of businesses bidding for expensive seats has driven the expansion of luxury skyboxes and a reduction in overall seats in new ballparks.

The authors argue that there are two effects–one each on the supply and demand sides–but there’s actually just one effect, on the demand side. In response to the policy-induced demand increase, quantity supplied has increased, but quantity supplied is not the same things as supply, and supply is not affected by the policy.

If government were to subsidize construction of stadiums with luxury skyboxes (which, of course, they do, but this is not the point the authors are making), then indeed there would be a supply side effect.  Instead the authors are trying to present a demand side effect as both a supply effect and a demand effect, a most nefarious* attempt to strengthen their case.

*: Not actually that nefarious

Anyway, this whole post is a roundabout way of saying this:  It’s time to start blogging again.

Jose Canseco Fails to Steal Gold Coins

28 05 2009

Jose Canseco’s Mixed Martial Arts fight, which I broke down earlier, is now complete.  Video here–skip ahead to the 5:20 mark for the start of the fight.  See below for commentary, but watch the video first. Read the rest of this entry »