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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

On April 22, 2013, I was invited to speak at Amity Regional HS in CT. Unlike some other trips this was a short excursion of 30 minutes from my house. I was told that I would be talking to an AP Statistics Class, other math students and teachers. I wanted to choose a statistics topic in baseball that was both interesting and understandable. The topic I chose was from Chapter 16 of my book Sandlot Stats. Chapter 16 (entitled Streaking) depends only on the basic probability theory covered in Chapter 7 of my book. Using these probability concepts, I derive a formula for predicting the odds of any player duplicating any streak. Some of the famous batting streaks in baseball include: Ted Williams’ 84-game on-base streak, Joe Sewell’s streak of appearing in 115 consecutive games without striking-out, hitting at least one home run in eight consecutive games (shared by Dale Long, Don Mattingly, and Ken Griffey Jr), Ted Williams getting on-base in 16 consecutive plate appearances, and the most famous of all streaks Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. What elements are needed to talk about a streak? Let’s look at Joe’s 56-game hitting streak. The event is a game, success is getting at least one hit in a game, and the length of the steak is 56 games. For Ted Williams’ streak of getting on-base in 16 consecutive plate appearances, the event is a plate appearance, success is getting on–base, and the streak length is 16. Streaks are discussed in all sports. Some examples are Drew Brees’ streak of throwing a touchdown pass in 48 straight games. In basketball, playing for Minnesota in 1993, Michael Williams connected on 97 straight from the foul line. Just this year the Miami Heat came close to tying the consecutive winning streak of 33 games.  Streaks also appear outside of sports. On a business channel, a reporter may report that for 15 consecutive days the Dow 500 was positive.

The numbers 714, 755, and 762 are instantly recognizable to many Americans as the lifetime home run totals hit by Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds. Point 406 or just 406 evokes the name Ted Williams, the last player to average more than four hits in every 10 at-bats over a full season. Even a rather ordinary number like 56 has baseball significance to it—for Joe DiMaggio’s 1941 hitting streak, a 71-year record that no one in the major leagues has ever come close to breaking. The best-selling book, 56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports by Kostya Kennedy, provides a day by day account of Joe’s streak with the buildup to WW II in the background. In the history of baseball (from 1876 to today) only six men: three college players, 2 minor league players, and one ML player have hit safely in at least 56 consecutive games. Of course, Joe was the only ML player but he also had a 61-game hitting streak in the minors. The two closest ML players to Joe’s streak were Pete Rose (1978) and Willie Keeler (1897). Both had 44-game hitting streaks.

Using my probability formula , the odds of any player duplicating DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak can be calculated. In 1941, the odds of Joe achieving his streak were 1 in 9545. In spite of batting .406 in 1941, Williams’ odds of duplicating Joe’s streak was 1 in 50,000. The main reason why Joe was 5 times more likely is their difference in walks. In 1941, Joe had 76 walks and Ted had 147 walks. Unfortunately, every walk hurts your chances for a getting a hit. Pete Rose’s odds in 1978 were 1 in 100,000 and Willie Keeler’s odds in 1897 were 1 in 40. Keeler had an AVG of .424 in 1897; whereas Rose’s AVG in 1978 was .302. The modern day player with the best odds was Ichiro Suzuki who in 2004 had a 1 in 274 chance of duplicating the streak. After the success of the movie 42 the time has come for a new movie called 56.     

 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man
This posting was written this year by a student in my Baseball and Statistics class at Quinnipiac University. If you have a story about a special baseball relationship with someone in your family please email the story to me at stan@sandlotstats.com.
 
One of the first things my dad and I bonded over was our love for baseball. As far as I can remember I was having a catch with my dad. Every day he would throw me pop flies until it was dark out, and then I still wanted to play some more.  Even after a long day of baseball my dad would roll me ground balls in our basement.  My dad's glove got so worn out; he laced it together with zip ties.  For some strange reason he refused to buy a new one.  He would truly do whatever it took to make me happy.  My room was a Yankees blue with Yankees memorabilia all over it.  One of my first articles of clothing was a Yankees shirt.  When I was younger, and when tickets were more accessible, my dad and I would make at least 10 trips to the old Yankee stadium per year.  One of my most memorable trips with my dad was when we met David Cone and Joe Torre.  I was star-struck, but my dad talked to these guys like they were old pals.  My dad and I talked about the Yankees every day.  We stayed up for extra-inning games (he wouldn't let me stay up when the Yankees played in a different time zone).  I remember waking my dad up in the middle of the night to watch Roger Clemens get his 300th career win. I believe if my dad was the Yankees manager, they would have won even more World Series titles.  In 2009 when the Yankees won the World Series (this was the first World Series where I was truly old enough to realize the magnitude of them winning); we didn't jump around and scream.  We just hugged each other.  It was just us watching together. We were just happy we got to see it by each other’s side.
 
My dad passed away a few weeks ago, and it has been an empty part of my life not being able to talk about the Yankees with him.  My dad took a few things to the grave with him.  One being a Yankees’ jersey that my family and I signed along with touching letters we wrote to him, and another a throwback 1961 World Series hat (the year my dad was born) that I bought him for his 50th birthday.  Watching the Yankees won't be the same without enjoying them with my dad, but I know he is yelling and screaming at a TV in heaven watching the games.

 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

By this time it would have been impossible for anyone not to have seen the video showing the head basketball coach Mike Rice grabbing, verbally abusing, and throwing basketballs at his players. Was I shocked at the video? The answer is no. First, let me say that even though most of my postings involve baseball there are times when I will discuss events that transcend all sports. This is one of those events. Having played basketball at Hackensack High School (from ninth grade to graduation) for several coaches, I witnessed verbal abuse by my coaches. The verbal abuse I witnessed in high school included screaming at our mistakes and comments about our lack of manhood (I don’t want to use those awful words). Having seen on television similar physical abuse of their players by such famous coaches as Woody Hayes, Bobby Knight, and Bear Bryant, this type of behavior by coaches is not new. In particular the Boot Camp run by Bear Bryant at Texas A&M is chronicled in the book “The Junction Boys”. What I am saying is that if videos were cobbled together from practices at many colleges; we would see college athletes being abused in some form. I am sure many college coaches are asking themselves these questions: Do videos exist showing how I exhibit anger toward my players at practices? If these videos exist, will they show that I have I crossed the line in my behavior? The only good thing to come out of this scandal is that coaches will think twice about controlling their anger.

Tim Pernetti, the Rutgers’ athletic director, was given this explosive video in late November by a former employee. Pernetti hired an independent investigation firm to look at the video and came to the original conclusion that a termination wasn't necessary. After discussing the video with Rutgers’ President Robert Barchi and receiving his approval, Pernetti suspended Rice for three games, fined him $50,000 and ordered him to attend anger management classes. The release of this video five months later led to four people losing their jobs. Mike Rice the head coach was fired. An assistant coach and the in-house counsel resigned. Rutgers’ AD Pernetti came to a “mutual agreement” with Rutgers’ President Barchi to leave the university.

President Barchi then held a news conference.  He opened his news conference by saying, “Let me begin by saying that this was a failure of process. I regret that I did not ask to see the video when Tim first told me of its existence, because I am certain this situation would have had a different outcome had I done so.” Then he said, “Tim gave me a summary description of the situation regarding Coach Mike Rice last fall. Relying on that summary, I agreed with and supported his recommendation to suspend rather than fire Coach Rice.” There has been some discrepancy this week in when Barchi actually saw the video. Pernetti said in a radio interview that Barchi saw the video in November, yet Barchi said in a statement that he didn't see it until this week.

Here is my take on the situation. Since Rice reports to Pernetti and Pernetti reports to Barchi, Rutgers is trying to stop the damage at the AD level. This leaves the Rutgers President Barchi as the only survivor involved with the decision whether to fire or just punish the head coach. If, after hearing about the contents of the video, President Barchi chose not to spend a few minutes to look at the video, he made a serious mistake. If he looked at the video and chose not to fire Rice he made a serious mistake. In either case the buck stops with him and he, not Pernetti, should have resigned. By reporting his findings to Barchi, Pernetti did his job. Of course, Rice had to be fired in November not five months later.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

New York witnessed the rare event of the Mets and Yankees opening the baseball season both at home at the same time on the same day. As you know I am a diehard Yankee fan. Being a true Yankee fan I also root against the team that shares New York with them. However, I will try to be objective in my discussion of their simultaneous opening-day games and their futures. The Yankees faced their traditional and hated rival the Boston Red Sox. The Mets opened against the awful San Diego Padres. As it turned out the baseball gods smiled on the Big Apple by providing a mild day with a temperature of 60 degrees.

The Mets starting pitcher was Jon Niese; their new projected number one. Johan Santana is out for the year and will probably never pitch another inning for the Mets. The Mets debut was nearly perfect. Niese pitched like an ace and the Mets scored 11 runs holding the Padres to 2 runs. Even the bullpen shined pitching 2 innings of hitless ball. Very little is expected from this year’s Mets. However, I think the Mets are definitely building for the future by going with young players from within their farm system and trading away veteran players for top prospects from other teams. Besides Niese, the Mets have two top pitching prospects in Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Anchored by All-Star David Wright the rest of the infield consists of Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, and Ruben Tejada. Wright is locked in for the rest of his career and the other three are all young with great upside. The outfield is another matter. Lucas Duda is a powerful young hitter but a defensive liability. Marlin Bird is a retread that will not be in the Mets future. Collin Cowgill started in centerfield and contributed a grand slam home run in the romp. However, he is just the best of a poor crop of centerfielders. The catcher position is currently held by the veteran John Buck. Waiting in the wings is probably the top catching prospect in all of baseball Travis D’Arnaud. The Mets are being built for future success. For 2013, I project them to finish fourth in the NL East. In two to three years the Mets will be contenders.

The Yankees’ story is different. The average age of the 2013 Yankees is 33. As mentioned in an article by Daniel Barbarrisi, if you could turn back the clock to 2006, the current Yankee roster represents a 2006 All-Star team. In 2006, Ichiro Suzuki led the majors in hits while Travis Hafner led the AL in on-base percentage. Chien-Ming Wang was the AL Cy Young runner up. Derek Jeter finished second in the AL MVP voting. In 2006, of the 30 players receiving AL MVP votes, eight of those 30 players are on their 2013 roster. Unfortunately, many of these players are now past their prime. Why not bring back Yogi Berra? The injury bug has sidelined Rodriguez and Teixeira for at least 10 weeks. Jeter, recovering from a broken ankle, is currently on the DL. Granderson is out for at least six weeks. For the last few years the Yankees have been signing older veteran players to short term contracts while trading away some of their best young prospects. The strength of the current Yankee team is their pitching. Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Hughes, Nova, and Phelps potentially form one of the best starting staffs in baseball. With Rivera, Robertson, Logan and Chamberlian to cover the last three innings, the bullpen is solid.  The opening-day lineup included just two positional players, Cano and Gardiner, who started on opening day last year. Last year the Yankees hit 245 homers; the starting lineup in 2013 hit a total of 45 home runs. I project the Yankees to finish third in the strong AL East. By the way the Yankees lost the game 8 to 2. However, unlike the Mets, the Yankee future is bleak.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Please read my prior blog to understand what these photos are about.

 

West Point

 

Cadet's Dining Hall

 

West  Point - the cadet's honor code


Father Costa's Sabremetics Class


Dr. Stan the Stat's Man Talks on Streaking

 

Dr. Stan the Stat's Man Talks on Streaking

 

Stan Rothman, Father Costa

 

Stan Rothman, Babe Ruth, Father Costa

 

 

West Point


 


 
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