Friday, October 14, 2016

Heroic Postseason Relief Appearances By Starting Pitchers

In the wake of Clayton Kershaw's save last night, and to cleanse my mind, let's review the most memorable relief appearances by starting pitchers in the postseason.

In baseball, postseaon games bear less resemblance to regular season games than in any other sport. One way is that the off days and "no tomorrow" mean that starting pitchers are available for relief duty.

Madison Bumgarner Game 7, 2014 World Series

Bumgarner completed his task of almost single-handedly lifting the Giants to victory with five shutout innings in Game 7 on the road, two days after throwing a complete game shutout.  This probably takes the lead for me, considering both the stakes and the body of Bumgarner's work during that postseason.

Pedro Martinez Game 5, 1999 ALDS

Coming at the end of what may be the most dominant pitching season in memory, Pedro came out of Game 1 of the ALDS against the Indians with a back injury

He returned with 6 innings of no-hit relief to push the Red Sox to a 12-8 victory over the Tribe. The score indicates how desperate the Sox were for some innings.

Randy Johnson Game 7, 2001 World Series

The 2001 Diamondbacks had come down to be almost a 2 man team, with their two aces of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Their closer Byung-Hyun Kim, had blown two saves in spectacular fashion.  

Johnson had pitched 7 innings in a 15-2 Snakes blowout, as analysts were screaming at Bob Brenly to take Johonson out of the game and save him for a possible relief appearance in Game 7.

The next night, Johnson came in to put out an eigth inning Yankee rally and pitched a perfect ninth before the Diamondbacks rallied in the ninth, giving Johnson his third win of the series.

Clayton Kershaw Game 5, 2016 NLDS

Unlike the other pitchers on the list, Kershaw came into this game with something to prove, fairly or unfairly. He had been unlucky in his postseason starts, and the heorics of the other California lefthanded ace had set the bar high.  And he passed the test with flying colors. 

Kershaw may have been overshadowed by the performance of closer Kenley Jansen, who came into the game with two runners on and no outs in the 7th, and pitched 2 1/3 innings on a career high 51 pitches. And unlike the other pitchers here, this did not come at the end of a great season (for him).

Orel Hershiser 1988 Game 4 NLCS

It's funny. I remember from that year:
  • Hershiser's record-setting scoreless streak to end the season.
  • Dodgers closer Jay Howell getting suspended for pine tar on his glove.
  • Hershiser dominating the A's in the World Series.
  • My dad was a Mets fan
But I didn't remember Hershiser's relief appearance in Game 4. Likely because it was in the 12th inning of a night game and I was 13 at the time. But one day after pitching 7 innings on two days' rest, Orel Hershiser got the final out of Game 4.

There's been other outings, typically back-end starters who were only going to get one start in a series making appearances, but these are the ones that stick out.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Replay

A palate cleanser from my discussions of two candidates I can't stand.

To me, the main purpose of replay is to prevent gross injustices in officiating decisions. Things like the Don Denkinger decision in the 1985 World Series.

In particular, we want to prevent a player making a great effort, and getting screwed over by a bad call.

In football, the plays reviewed are generally plays of skill. Did the receiver keep both feet in bounds? Did the runner fumble the ball before the going down? Did the ball carrier get the ball over the goal line? There's some luck involved, but these are plays of skill.

In basketball.... not so much. Sometimes reviews are used for things like buzzer beaters. But more often, it's for determining who the ball deflected off before going out of bounds. This is almost always a matter of luck, not skill. Getting these calls wrong can be chalked up to a "bad break" rather than an injustice crying out for redress.

Now, in baseball, a common application is to ensure that baserunners who slid into 2nd or 3rd base maintain contact with the base throughout their slide while getting tagged. As Dave Cameron notes, if this is measuring a skill, it's one that has never been crucial in the history of baseball, and is only measured thanks to the new technology.

Is this a positive innovation? Well, assuming that sliding such that one never comes off the bag isn't something that can be easily picked up, the effect of this will be to drive down stolen bases and runners going for extra bases. Which are the more exciting plays in baseball, attempted by exciting players. Baseball needs more of these plays, not fewer. And these are not inaccuracies that are noted in real time.

There are more dimensions to justice than just accuracy. When Dustin Johnson played the final round of the US Open unsure if he had a penalty, that was an injustice, regardless of whether they got the call right.

Getting things right is an admirable motive, but in some cases, it's probably best to trade some accuracy for speed.

Monday, October 10, 2016

How could this happen?

Please see my election disclaimer post.

A popular line of commentary these days is to list the many sins of Donald Trump, and question why it took these videotapes to turn people away from Trump. This Dan Rather Facebook post seems to be a representative example.

The implied answer is that these people are moral cretins who don't care about anyone by their own, and need to take a hard look in the mirror.

That's definitely true. But at the same time, I think the people driving our culture need to consider how they might have helped create an environment where Trump could thrive.

A few examples:


  • I am pro-life, which means I consider abortion to be the killing of innocent human life. Yet, every four years, I am instructed, often my those who also claim to be pro-life and/or who share my Catholic faith, that I should "look past" candidates's support for abortion, and consider proportional reasons why supporting a pro-abortion candidate might be the right thing to do.
  • By the same token, Planned Parenthood actually commits hundreds of thousands of these abortions a year. Yet, I am lectured that I should #standWith them, again even by some pro-lifers or fellow Catholics, because abortion is only 3% of their business, they do great things like cancer screenings, and their body of work may on net reduce abortions. So I should look past that.
  • For years after that recording was made, and several other incidents were common knowledge, the network that produced that video helped make Trump a TV star, promoting him as a kind of omniscient master of business whose opinion on others' work wasn't just meaningful, but the only opinion that mattered.
  • The host for many of Trump's lewdest comments was Howard Stern. Those who challenged whether someone as crass as he is should have such prominence were dismissed as prudes. Like Trump, NBC gave him a prominent spot in a prime time family variety show, while he continued to spend his mornings interviewing porn stars on the radio.
Again, those who have supported Trump are responsible to the choice. But the culture has been sending out a pretty strong message that those who stand for any values are simpleton fools worthy of mockery.

That may be worth changing.

Please see my election disclaimer post.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Trump and the Supremes

Please see my election disclaimer post.


One justification for voting for Trump despite his obvious deficiencies is the judiciary.  E.g.
And on the surface, this is understandable. Roe v. Wade and other cases overturned laws that were passed by state legislatures and signed by the governors. But were undone by judicial decisions.  So, the key to enacting meaningful protections for the unborn is to fill the judiciary with judges willing to overturn these decisions.

But if you dig a little deeper into the reality, this starts to fall apart.

In order for the "elect Trump for pro-life judges" strategy to work, the following things would need to happen:


  1. Trump wins the election.
  2. Trump keeps his promise to nominate judges who would make pro-life decisions, despite this not being any kind of personal priority of his.
  3. These judges, who are apparently visibly pro-life, and were nominated by a President Trump with all his misogynist history, in the media environment that gave us the War on Women, are confirmed by the Senate.
  4. Once on the Court, these justices are not influenced by the cultural elite, and continue to make pro-life decisions, enduring harsh criticism that comes with it. (Recall that many of the decisions establishing Same Sex Marriage were made by judges appointed by Republicans)
  5. These decisions, again made by judges appointed by President Trump that restrict women, are accepted by the public, and do not launch a series of counter-measures including efforts to impeach Trump or these justices, constitutional amendments, and a laser-like focus on the Courts from the abortion lobby.
I would place the probability of each of these as less than 50%.

Making the probability of success for this strategy (0.5 ^ 5), or 1/32 at best.

Now, all things are possible with God. Though I don't think "with God" and "President Trump" belong in the same sentence.

I'm afraid there aren't any shortcuts. We need to move elite opinion such that pro-life candidates and judges are acceptable. Maybe, and otherwise popular president could get away with nominating a judge with a pro-life record, as President Bush did with Roberts and Alito when he was still popular. A President Trump, if elected, will never be popular enough to do that.

It also paints a dim view of our judiciary, which may be supported by reality, but I don't think is healthy. That judges don't make decisions based on the evidence before them or arguments presented or the text itself, but on their pre-existing ideological commitments. Again, maybe this is how things have worked out, but it's not for the best.

The Trump shortcut to a pro-life decision is closed, if it was ever open. The only thing is for us to do the hard work of making the case for the unborn. It does seem difficult, but the Truth is on our side. Given that, we shouldn't need to sell ourselves to the likes of Trump to achieve protections for the unborn.


Please see my election disclaimer post.

#NeverTrump, including now

Though I have posted before that I will not be voting for Donald Trump, I have not made the strength of that conviction clear.


  • I think Hillary Clinton would be a better president than Donald Trump
  • I think any of the nominees from either party in my lifetime would be better presidents than Donald Trump.
  • I think any of the candidates who made appearances in televised debates for either party in this year's election would be better presidents than Donald Trump.
  • I think Gary Johnson would be a better president than Donald Trump.
  • I think Jill Stein would be a better president than Donald Trump.
  • I do not know much about the other third party candidates, but I strongly suspect they would be better presidents than Donald Trump.
  • I suspect someone chosen at random from the pool of American citizens who meet the Constitutional eligibility requirements would be a better president than Donald Trump, if only because she would approach the office with some degree of humility.

Trump was a no-go from the beginning for me since I grew up an hour from Atlantic City, and saw what became of it with him exercising great influence over it. 

As I hope is clear to anyone familiar with me, the contents of Trump's campaign had no appeal to me. My one sliver of sympathy was that he would be able to call the Clinton campaign to account for some things, but it quickly became clear that he was the wrong person to do that.

I probably should have written this sooner, but if this helps people realize what a terrible candidate Trump is, it can't hurt.

----

So now, it seems that the Trump campaign is cratering after a tape of him making lewd comments bragging about sexually assaulting a woman came to light.

On the one hand, this is good news. It is good that more people are starting to see the light on Trump and turning away from him. I hope and pray this continues. And his behavior toward women and general lack of shame and decency is as good a reason as any for his campaign to fall.

On the other hand, it might have been good to see the ideas he represents arrive at Election Day intact and be soundly defeated. As it is, his followers can tell themselves they were undone by excess "political correctness" and that if their candidate wasn't quite so overtly crude, it would have been OK, and maybe they can try again in 4 years.

In any instance, I wanted to get myself on the record. I suspect Trump's rise is a result of many sins of omission in not being sufficiently engaged.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

My Case for not voting for either Major Party Candidate


Please see my election disclaimer post.

Prompted by this twitter exchange:

My first response to this line of argument is what I tweeted -- our consciences are a mix of our hearts and minds, and they need to be informed by each other. Many things in our society only continue due to decisions that make no sense on paper.

Secondly, I think there is a more rational case for voting 3rd party or simply refusing to vote for either of the two major party candidates, even if one is clearly preferable:


  • The probability that my vote will impact the election approaches 0.
  • The probability that my vote will impact me approaches 1.
Now, one could argue that the stakes of presidential elections are so high (think nuclear war), that even the small probability of my vote impacting the election makes it a worthwhile investment.

I don't think that's true, in part because I don't think people properly evaluate the effect their votes had on me.

In particular, as a Catholic, these have been my observations:

  • Catholics who voted for Bush because of his position on abortion ended up defending him in all other contexts, including the war in Iraq and the torture regime.
  • Catholics who voted for Barack Obama soften on abortion, defend Planned Parenthood, etc.
It's certainly possible that these voters' commitment to Catholic values, both the ones that informed their choices and the ones that they later opposed, was not genuine and a mere cover for what they wanted to do anyway. (Pro-life groups' support for Trump's candidacy suggests this).

But I think it is an observable phenomenon that voting for a candidate inclines one to reflexively defend all of that candidates actions, both in the present and the future.  And this makes one a less effective advocate for certain positions, and in general, a worse person.

And further, I think the world is only going to be better by us being better citizens, not worse. So, by choosing "the less of two evils" you are moving the world in the wrong direction, even if there is a clear difference between the candidates.

The Parties are the ones who put us into this mess. They are not deserving of our blind allegiance or fealty. 

Rather than make the next four years marginally better, let's try to make the next generation better.

Please see my election disclaimer post.