February 18, 2012

Chance is a Cause of Order

Posted by Henry on February 18, 2012 at 11:30 pm 

From The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America by Louis Menand, p. 126:

[The botanist Asa] Gray, of course, had not actually seen species migrate, any more than [Louis] Agassiz had seen God create them. he only had his data. But by subjecting them to statistical analysis he was able to show that the geographical distribution of plant species followed patterns consistent with evidence of glacial activity and movements of the earth’s crust. Gray was thinking in terms of relations and probabilities. Agassiz, though, was still thinking in terms of types and ideas. He was unable to see how chance could be a cause of order, and he was unable to imagine order that was not the product of a mind.

Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species — Gray was one of Darwin’s American connections — helped define modern scientific thinking; it is this mode of thinking — the terms of relations and probabilities — that defines contemporary uses of big data. Consider: He was unable to see how chance could be a cause of order. The positive restatement of that phrase is succinct and powerful: Chance is a cause of order. Bill James figured this out on his own.

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February 5, 2012


Posted by Henry on February 5, 2012 at 10:13 pm 

Okay, that’s over. I’m off to read the Iliad.

First, I’m reminded of this:

"Why  couldn't McCovey have hit the ball just three feet higher?"

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January 14, 2011

The Final Form of Saves

Posted by Henry on January 14, 2011 at 11:23 am 

Reggie Jackson on the Jets and Tom Brady:

This guy is an automatic Hall of Famer, making fun of him is like making fun of Mariano Rivera.What are you doing? What are you doing?

I love the idea of Mariano Rivera as a yardstick. He really is that good.

Meanwhile, in The New York Times, David Brooks quotes Reinhold Niebuhr:

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. … Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

This is a beautiful sentiment in a superb column, worth reading in parallel with columnist Conor Williams’ similar essay.

Yet having read all these articles in succession, I cannot help noting that for the Yankees, games must be saved by the final form of saves, which is Mariano Rivera.

Comments (0)  |  Filed under: Baseball, New York Yankees, News

October 17, 2010

The NFL Extends the Happiness

Posted by Henry on October 17, 2010 at 4:44 pm 

Three hours of football delivers 11 minutes of on-the-field action. This fact comes from the Wall Street Journal whose small study aligns with those of other researchers. The Journal points out that football “is the rare sport where it’s common for the clock to run for long periods of time while nothing is happening.”

Oddly, three hours of baseball delivers about the same amount of action. Baseball doesn’t have a clock.

And according to happiness researchers that is well and good:

Anticipation of the event can produce as much happiness as the event itself; in fact, the waiting can sometimes be the happiest part. People also appreciate the ability to extend their happy experiences, before and after the moment.

Comments (0)  |  Filed under: Baseball, Football, Science

August 21, 2010

Saves + Holds

Posted by Henry on August 21, 2010 at 9:56 pm 

In a recent Mynci comments thread we discussed the save. It’s an unfortunate stat. First, it derives from managerial decisions as much as performance. Second, in fantasy terms, there are an extremely limited number of players that create saves. Some of them get injured; others become ineffective. That makes cornering the stat as much a lottery as a strategy.

As of this date and time in major league baseball there are only 24 players with 20 or more saves. In contrast, there are 39 with 20 or more saves+holds. There are 31 players with 10 or more saves. There are 74 with 10 or more saves+holds.

The top 10 in saves+holds is reassuringly competent:

37 Heath Bell (37 saves)
35 Rafael Soriano (35 saves)
35 Joakim Soria (35 saves)
35 Brian Wilson (35 saves)
34 Francisco Cordero (33 saves, 1 hold)
33 Neftali Feliz (30 saves, 3 holds)
32 Luke Gregerson (1 save, 31 holds)
31 Matt Capps (32 saves)
30 Jonathan Papelbon (30 saves)
30 Billy Wagner (30 saves)

Time to consider a change.

Comments (0)  |  Filed under: Fantasy Baseball, Strategy

August 6, 2010

38 Wins, 71 Heartbreakers

Posted by Henry on August 6, 2010 at 9:27 pm 

Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan are supposed to be the Pittsburgh Pirate’s closers-by-committee. Both were used tonight in the final innings with Pittsburgh down a run. When a team wins as seldom as the Pirates, I guess that’s what a manager has to do.

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July 13, 2010

Maybe this is why we’re mortal

Posted by Henry on July 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm 

Yogi Berra on the passing of George Steinbrenner:

George was The Boss, make no mistake. He built the Yankees into champions and that’s something nobody can ever deny. He was a very generous, caring, passionate man. George and I had our differences, but who didn’t? We became great friends over the last decade and I will miss him very much.

Comments (0)  |  Filed under: Baseball, New York Yankees

June 30, 2010

Fishing report: Mono to braid

Posted by Henry on June 30, 2010 at 11:40 am 

Father’s Day Gift: A Daiwa® Black Gold rod and reel combo. I thought it was time to try braid (or “super line”) instead of mono, which triggered much investigation into line, spooling, and knots.


Comparisons of braid versus nylon mono summarize to three main points:

  • Braid’s minimal stretch means greater sensitivity, but with an increased risk of line break.
  • Braid’s greater strength at smaller diameters means you can cast farther and have more line on a reel.
  • Braid can cut up your fingers if you’re not careful.

I also ran across suggestions that braid may not work well with some reels. One commenter in a Hull Truth Boating forum specifically mentions the Daiwa Black Gold as unsuitable for braid, but a Google search on the topic turned up plenty of fishers who use the two together.

At StripersOnline, Tim Surgent writes that braid must be retrieved under some tension to wrap back on the spool properly. Use it for fast retrieve situations. Even so, slack braid at the end of a cast can “come across the spool instead of going around the spool.” The solution:

When you cast and close the spool, make sure the braid is not crossing the top of the spool. You can do this by looking, or by running your finger around the edge of the spool before you reel any line up…or, as I just learned to do with my new Mitchell Neptune, which is bigger than all my other spinning reels, I close the bail, then I pull the line hard enough to make the drag slips just an inch or two…that way, if the line was crossing the spool, it’s not anymore but is now right on the spool.

One factoid related to braid comes from “The Ultimate Line Experiment,” a great article in the May 2010 issue of Field and Stream (not online at this point, as far as I can tell). According to author John Merwin, if you wish to use lines of similar diameters for spooling or leaders, 30-pound Berkley FireLine Braid is roughly the same diameter as 10-pound Big Game mono.

“The Ultimate Line Experiment” also provides laboratory test results (diameter and strength) of 10-pound-test mono, which is worth checking out. Personally I would appreciate tests of 20- and 30-pound-test mono for surf-fishing, but in the absence of that, the article at least highlights some brands that did well, including P-Line Xtra Strong, Gamma Ultra Clear, Maxima, Sufix Elite, and Silver Line. Sufix Elite and Silver Line stand out as the strongest 10-pound-test lines not over 0.012″ in diameter.

As far as braid goes, PowerPro, FireLine, and SpiderWire all have their advocates in the forums. Fishingmag.co.nz offers a strong endorsement for Sufix Performance Braid in surfcasting conditions, especially in contrast to FireLine.


Because braid will slip if attached directly to a spool you need to spool with a run of mono before splicing it in. The most concise advice I found on this topic is on a Stripers247 forum:

JakeF writes:

It is very important to use a mono backing under the braid, simply because without it the braid will slip on the spool rendering your reel useless when you have a fish on. I put just enough mono on the reel so that you can still fit at least 200-300 yards or so of braid on top of it, filling the spool to within an 1/8” or so from the lip. The amount of mono will vary depending on the size of your reel, but you don’t need much to provide the spool grip it’s intended for, anything more than that is just to save you money by partially filling the spool with a cheaper line than braid.

I use an Albright knot to join the mono backing and the braided line. The Albright knot is pretty easy to tie once you learn it and is great for joining two lines of different diameter.

Above that, Roccus recommends wet-packing the braid:

I put about 10 yds of mono on my spool (via an allbright knot 21 turns) then I wet pack the braid, to do this, I half fill a 5 gallon bucket with water, I then put my spool of braid into it, I have a steel dowel that is the width of the bucket that I put through the spool, and drop the spool into the bucket, now I can pinch the braid between my fingers and fill my spool, the line packs tightly and is less likely to dig into itself.

Good enough. This leaves open the general question on spooling techniques. Spooling is covered ably in the “How to Spool New Fishing Line Onto a Reel” article on wikihow. One additional technique, mentioned in a Bass Fishing forum, is to walk out the line. Tpayneful writes:

But you are going to have some line twist based on the fact that you are taking a big curl from one spool and turning it into a small curl on the reel.  After I spool up the reel, I connect a snap swivel to the line, connect the snap to something outside and walk until all the line has come off the reel.  Then I reel all the line in under pressure as I walk back.  The swivel allows the twist to twist out of the line.


The connection to the spool, the mono to braid splice, and the braid to terminal tackle define three targets for specific types of knots.

Since the spooling is done with mono, a standard Centauri or Arbor knot applies. The Centauri knot diagram below is from Fintalk (I’ve edited it a bit for appearance):

Centauri Knot

The mono to braid splice can use the Albright knot or the J-Knot developed by Dave Justice.

Netknots.com offers this diagram of the Albright (click through for an animated version):

Albright Knot

Here is J Knot:

J Knot

At the terminal end, the strongest knot for braid is the Palomar, as verified by “The Ultimate Line Experiment.” The easiest approach is to tie a Palomar knot to a swivel — a barrel swivel for an opposite leader or a snap swivel to connect to a lure. For a direct connection to a lure, a Berkley Braid knot offers an alternative that doesn’t require looping around a rig.

Here is the Netknots.com diagram of the Palomar knot:

Palomar Knot

Finally, the Berkley Braid knot:

Berkley Braid Knot

Someday, when I have time, I’ll draw my own diagrams.

Comments (0)  |  Filed under: Fishing

June 15, 2010

Goodbye closer

Posted by Henry on June 15, 2010 at 9:12 am 

David Gassko at Book of Odds has a great analysis on the continuity of closers from season to season. Essentially, for most teams, there isn’t any.

I found this link in a post at Another Cubs Blog. Author mb21 cuts to the chase:

There’s no such thing as a closer of the future.

In Moneyball Michael Lewis noted Billy Beane’s success in keeping closers on a budget. He avoided paying for the successful and generally (barring injuries and Octavio Dotel) had few problems bringing up new ones.

A corollary, I suspect, is that there’s no special value in college closers.

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June 9, 2010

Wake moves on

Posted by Henry on June 9, 2010 at 9:45 am 

Red Sox' Tim Wakefield pitches to the Cleveland Indians in the  first inning. AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Last night Tim Wakefield passed Roger Clemens to become the all-time innings pitched leader for the Boston Red Sox. He tops an impressive list:

1. Tim Wakefield

2. Roger Clemens

3. Cy Young

4. Luis Tiant

Next up, the all-time Red Sox wins record. Clemens and Young both have 192. Wake has 177. 15 plus 1 to go.

Comments (0)  |  Filed under: Baseball, Boston Red Sox