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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

As a life-time Yankee fan I was very concerned about the weather for Jeter’s last home game at Yankee Stadium which was scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 25. Wednesday night’s weather forecast for Thursday called for afternoon and evening heavy rain. Would Jeter’s final home-game be cancelled? If cancelled would it be made up? It is well-known that if a game at the end of a season is meaningless (which this one would be) it would not be made up.

As you know Jeter’s retirement tour provided him with special gifts from each team when he made his final appearance at their stadiums. His gifts included  a $10,000 donation to his foundation from the Royals , a bench constructed of bats, balls and bases from the White Sox, customized cowboy boots and hat from the Astros, a 12-foot pinstriped paddleboard from the Angels, second base from the final game at the Metrodome in 2009 from the Twins, a No 2 Mosaic made of tiles from the New York subway from the Mets, a vacation at a Napa Valley vineyard from the Athletics, a custom pinstriped sea kayak from the Rays, a seat from the Kingdome site of his first hit from the Mariners, cowboy boots and an autographed photo from Game 3 of the 2001 World Series from the Rangers, a bucket of steamed clams and a Navy Admiral’s hat from the Orioles, a custom-made pinstriped Les Paul Gibson guitar from the Indians, a vacation in the Canadian Rockies from the Blue Jays, and a clubhouse massage machine from his Yankees. The gift from the Baseball Gods would follow.

Thursday morning came as advertised. It was cloudy with light rain. This Thursday was the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and my wife and I went to our synagogue to attend services. Returning home it still was cloudy with light rain. It remained cloudy through most of the afternoon. Finally by late afternoon the sun popped out and from this point on there was no more rain.

The baseball Gods had spoken. Jeter’s final home-game would be played. At 7 pm the game with the Orioles began. The 39-year old Kuroda gave up two solo home runs in the top of the first. In the bottom of the first, serenaded by a sell-out Yankee Stadium, he took his place in the batter’s box. Sure enough he connected and sent a towering fly ball to left center which looked like a home run but wound up bouncing off the wall for a double. He then scored the first Yankee run. Going into the ninth inning the Yankees were winning 5 to 2. Enter the Yankee closer, Mariano’s successor, David Robertson. Unbelievable, the dependable Robertson blew the save by giving up two home runs. Going into the bottom of the ninth the score was tied at 5 all and Jeter was scheduled to bat second. Accompanied to the plate by the last in-game use of Bob Sheppard's voice, Jeter jumped on the first pitch delivered by Evan Meek, using his Jeterian inside out swing to single through the right-side of the infield, sending pinch-runner Antoan Richardson diving home safely from second base. As Jeter watched the play he celebrated near first base, pumping both fists in the air before being mobbed by his teammates in an ecstatic celebration.

"What can you say? It created another Jeter moment," Robertson said. "As much as I wished I wouldn't have created it, I'm glad it happened." Mariano Rivera added the comment that Robertson was his best setup man and it was only fitting that he would setup Derek’s game-winning hit.

Yes, I believe the Baseball Gods must have intervened. For Robertson to have blown a three-run lead in the ninth inning to having Jeter be put in the position to deliver the walk-off hit in his last at bat at Yankee Stadium, how could you believe otherwise.

Jeter announced that Thursday marked his last game playing shortstop, though he plans to bat this weekend as a designated hitter or pinch-hitter out of respect to the Red Sox and their fans.

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

On Mon. evening Sept. 15, 2014 I gave a talk at Whitney Center, a retirement community, in Hamden, Ct. I was also invited to have dinner with some of the residents where I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Robert Adair.
Dr. Stan with Robert Adair

In 1945 at age 20 during WWII in Germany he was shot in the head and right arm, and spent a year in an army hospital. He was awarded a purple heart and a Bronze Star. Being shot in the head fortunately had no effect on his scholarly ability.He proceeded to obtain his doctorate degree in experimental nuclear physics at the Univ. of Wisc.. Later he worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island. In 1959 he joined the faculty at Yale, serving as chair of the Physics Dept. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997

At this point you probably believe there is some connection between Dr. Adair and baseball. You are correct. While at Yale, Dr. Adair met Dr. Bart Giamatti, Dr. Giamatti was a Renaissance literature professor who later became president of Yale. Subsequently, Dr. Giamatti left Yale to become president of the National League and then took the position of commissioner of Major League Baseball.

At dinner, Dr. Adair told me that when Dr. Giamatti was president of the National League he approached him with three questions.  Does corking a bat increase the distance a ball travels when hit by a bat? What effect does scuffing a ball have on its flight? What effect would the high altitude in Colorado have on hitting home runs? After writing technical reports answering these three questions, Dr Adair told me he earned an unusual title, Physicist to the National League, which he accepted in lieu of a consulting fee. He served in this position for two years. The position ended when his term ended. During his term he wrote a book titled The Physics of Baseball. Dr. Adair told me his book is now in its third edition and had sold over 100,000 copies. Some of the topics covered in his book are: what makes a curveball curve, what makes a knuckleball behave erratically, and what is the perfect swing. When first published in 1990, former Yale first baseman, President George Herbert Bush received a copy of Dr. Adair’s book. “'If only I had read this 44 years ago I might have batted .300,'' the president wrote to Mr. Adair. ''When finished I'll forward it to son George, owner at that time (with others) of the Rangers. They need the help.''

Another controversy in baseball needed the help of physicists. The World Umpires Assoc., the bargaining agent for major league umpires, hired Dr. Adair and six other scientists to make sense of a machine, the QuesTec Umpire Information System, designed to judge balls and strikes. The league uses the machine to evaluate umpires. ''It uses two video cameras to nominally track the ball and, in principle, tell whether a ball crosses over the plate or not,'' said Mr. Adair in describing QuesTec. ''In principle, this can be done well, but it's not easy. Judging from the patent, I have questions regarding the accuracy of this machine.''Dr. Adair is the right person to make that judgment, according to Alan M. Nathan, professor of physics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. ''He is a particle physicist,'' Mr. Nathan said. ''Particle physicists are concerned with the collision of elementary particles, which we track through detectors. We look for some signal that the particle leaves at various places, and then track the trajectory. Tracking the trajectory of a baseball is a piece of cake for a particle physicist. Tracking trajectories is our bread and butter.''

Future blogs will have other stories of the wonderful evening I spent at Whitney Center.

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Baseball is truly America’s Pastime and transcends generations. In the past, some of our guest bloggers have talked about their favorite baseball memories with their fathers and how baseball bonded them.  Today’s blog has a different look:  a father expressing his delight in taking his children and grandchildren to the game.  Because of his love of baseball, read what his family then did for him. Roy Tietze is a lively, caring and feisty 90 year old and as much as his memorable experience meant to him, he also enjoyed just sitting down and recanting all of his baseball memories.  Afterall, who today can say that they saw 4 great Yankee icons (the Babe, Joe D., the Mick, and the Jete) play in person. Although he did not provide a lot of details, you can tell from his story how much he loves the game.

I grew up in Rockaway and moved to the South Bronx when I was 7. I naturally became a Yankee fan. My earliest memories of going to the ball game were with my father. We drove to the game by car.  The lot was so full we had to park over on a hill opposite the stadium. I was probably seven or eight years old and I vaguely remember seeing Babe Ruth playing. We were sitting way up in the bleachers and it probably cost half a buck to get in.

Years later I remember seeing Joe DiMaggio hit a home run.  Another baseball highlight for me was taking 2 of my sons, Michael and Tim, to see Mickey Mantle play. We were sitting in left field when Mickey homered into the right field stands. From that point on I was yelling “hit one over here Mick” and sure enough he homered into the left stands.  He also stole second base that game, all this with his bad legs.

Throughout the years, I attended more games with my family.  It was always a special day and one I would look forward to for weeks ahead of time and then of course, talk about for weeks afterwards.

The most recent game I went to was at the new Yankee Stadium for my 90th birthday.  I was with several of my children and grandchildren.  I like the new stadium.  It is senior friendly with escalators and elevators.  I was thrilled and surprised when in the bottom of the 5th inning, I looked at the score board and in big letters it said “Happy 90th Birthday Richard Tietze, Veteran, Father of 8, Carpenter and Pool Shark”.

This was a day I will always remember and as much as I love the game itself, I will continue to share the story of my very special birthday surprise with all of my friends, especially the ones at the adult day care center in the Bronx, where I still travel to daily by bus and volunteer to help others who are wheel-chair bound..

Roy Tietze at Yankee Stadium

Yankee Birthday Greeting Display

Roy Tietze Birthday Group 1

Tietze Family Birthday Group 2

Yankee Stadium - birthday day

“ Way To Go”

By Richard (Roy) Tietze, as told to his son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Avra Tietze, and to his daughter Susan, on 8/10/2014

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Bill James, the Father of Sabermetrics,  introduced his ”Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball”.  His theorem provides a formula to predict a team’s winning percentage (W%)  using the runs scored (RS) and runs allowed (RA) by the team for a season.  Sabermetrics uses mathematics (especially Statistics) to make objective baseball decisions. The Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball states: W% = (RS)2 / [(RS)2 + (RA)2]. Like most baseball statistics the more games a team plays the closer the predicted W% comes to the actual season’s winning percentage. For those of you who have my book “Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball” pages 164-168 discusses this theorem.

My latest research done with a junior math major Alex Everett introduces what I call the “Linear Theorem of Baseball.” The Linear Theorem states W% =.000683*(RS – RA) + .50. In a paper to be published, I show that my Linear Theorem and James’ Pythagorean Theorem are both successful predictors of a team’s season winning percentage for the years 1901 to 2013.

The data in the table below provides the actual standings and standings calculated by my Linear Theorem for all games played on or before August 30th, 2014.

Assuming the season ended on Aug 30, these would be the playoff results. In the AL, Baltimore wins the East by either of the two standings. Detroit and Kansas City would be tied by the actual standings and Detroit would win by the Linear Theorem standings. The LA Angels and Oakland would change places with LA winning by the actual standings. The two wild card teams by the actual standings would be Oakland and either Detroit or Kansas City (which ever lost the tie-breaker). By the Linear Theorem the two wild card teams would be the LA Angels and Seattle.

In the NL, the same three teams would be the divisional winners by both standings. In either case San Francisco would be one of the two wild card teams. St Louis would be the second wild card team by the actual standings and Atlanta would be the second wild card team by the Linear Theorem.

Of the two standings, I would choose the standings given by the Linear Theorem to predict the final playoff teams. Looking at the AL East we see that the Yankees had an actual PCT of 0.522 but dropped to a PCT of 0.482 by the Linear Theorem. What can account for this change? This tells me the Yankees have done very well in close games and part of their success can be attributed to their manager. The same argument can be given for Baltimore.  The other New York team had a different result. For the Mets the actual PCT of 0.463 increased to 0.490 when applying the Linear Theorem. This reflects negatively on the Mets manager.  It turns out in 1-run games the Yankees were 21-18, Baltimore was 27-19, the Mets were 21-26. Miami has the best 1-run record at 32-20 which helps to explain its better PCT by the actual standings. 

Predicting MLB Standings




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