You are currently viewing archive for December 2012
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Let me begin by thanking all of you who took the time and effort of reading and commenting on my postings for 2012. For those of you who purchased my book “Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball”, I hope the book both educated you on the world of probability and statistics as well as provided you with an entertaining read on baseball.

The voting for the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced on January 9, 2013. The voting is done by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). Each writer has a ballot and can list from zero to a maximum of ten names. To gain entrance into the hallowed Hall a player has to appear on at least 75% of the ballots. For a player not elected this year to appear on next year’s ballot they must appear on a minimum of 5% of this year’s ballots. A player can be considered for a maximum of 15 years. Each baseball writer is free to use their own criteria for selecting players. There are many quantitative tests that have been suggested for measuring whether a player deserves admittance into the Hall. The test I favor for a positional player is a test contributed by Bill James called the HOF Career Standards Test. This test is based on 18 criteria applied to a positional player’s career statistics. A few of these criteria are assigning – one point for each 150 hits over 1500, one point for batting over .300, one point for each 200 home runs. A complete list of these criteria can be found on pages 261-262 in my book or on many websites. For comparison purposes the average score for a Hall of Famer is 50. As expected Babe Ruth has the highest score of any player.

Some of the most famous players eligible for the first time this year are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Craig Biggio. In my opinion Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mike Piazza based solely on their baseball statistics are sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famers.  Unfortunately, each of these players has either admitted to or is suspected of being a user of performance-enhancement drugs (PEDS). Sammy Sosa, a borderline first ballot Hall of Famer, is also a suspected PED user. It will be interesting to see what percent of votes each of these players receive. According to the HOF Career Standards Test, the scores for these players are Bonds (76), Clemens (73), Piazza (62), Biggio (57), Sosa (52), and Schilling (46). Those players returning to the ballot from last year’s voting having at least 50 points include Jeff Bagwell (3rd year, 59), Lee Smith (11th year, 51), Rafael Palmeiro (3rd year, 57), Larry Walker (3rd year, 58), and Edgar Martinez (4th year 50).

Please make a New Year’s resolution to keep reading and commenting.

Happy Holidays from Stan The Stats Man!
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a joyous holiday season and lots of baseball in your future!

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

What is wrong with the sanctions imposed on universities found guilty of recruitment and other violations? Any sanction which directly punishes innocent past and present student athletes should be changed. For example, in the Sandusky case involving Penn State University why should all the victories of Penn State from 1998 to 2011 be removed? Why should the current Penn State football players be denied the right to play in a post-season bowl game? Of course, what Sandusky was convicted of was awful and he was punished.  The perpetrators of the cover up, including Joe Paterno, were also punished. Finally, the University received a heavy fine. However, the current and past Penn State football players had nothing to do with these crimes. In the case of USC football, the only players involved were O.J. Mayo and Reggie Bush who are now very rich pro players. Why should the current USC football players be punished? As mentioned in the previous posting, a child should not be punished for the crimes committed by their parents.

So how do we punish the university without punishing the innocent student athletes? My answer is that we should examine each sanction against the university and make sure it does not negatively affect the current and past innocent student athletes. For example, allow the punished university to take part in the post-season for at least 2 years so the current juniors and seniors who paid their dues are allowed to finish their college athletic careers and take part in post-season play. After the two years the ban can then be implemented. Of course, do not allow the punished university to receive any money from the post season. Also, if the conference splits up the post season money do not allow the punished university to receive any of that money. I have no problem with the reduction in scholarships or reducing the recruiting time or imposing heavy fines. But can someone tell me the reasoning behind removing all of Penn State’s wins from 1998 to 2011? The past Penn State football players earned these victories and some were injured during their football years. The bowl games they played in were earned through hard work. Yes, reading between the lines, the reason was to deny Joe Paterno the distinction of being the football coach with the most wins. If that was the reason why not just disqualify him from consideration for that honor. In baseball, Pete Rose and Joe Jackson were disqualified from the being considered for the Hall of Fame.  Baseball did not take away Rose’s career hit mark of 4256.

The NCAA will counter with the argument that recruiting violations is cheating and may give a team an unfair advantage in a game. Let’s look at some of these violations. These include making phone calls to a recruit too early or visiting a recruit before the recruiting period. Many of these players actually chose another school and never attended the punished school. A very few of the athletes were given gifts or off season jobs by alumni. If the job was a real job I see nothing wrong with this anyway. Remember, many of these athletes come from very low income households. In fact, it has been suggested that since these athletes make so much money for their universities that a small amount of money be set aside for them and awarded to them upon leaving the university.

Finally, please read the following paragraph taken from a petition for the undefeated Ohio State’s 2012 football team: “While a punishment for past indiscretions is to be expected, a season ban is too harsh for a few young men trading memorabilia for tattoos and some change. The offending players and coach who covered it up are no longer part of the program.”

Do you think the 2012 National Championship Game should be between Notre Dame and Ohio State?

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

This posting deals with all student athletes. I want to open a discussion on the treatment of student athletes by the NCAA. The NCAA has imposed sanctions on such famous college football programs as USC, Penn State, and Ohio State. In basketball, the fabled University of Connecticut basketball program is under sanctions. Ohio State will be out of the running for any bowl, or a Big Ten or national championship for 2012 because of improper player sales of memorabilia and players being paid by a booster for attending a charity event and for hours not worked at part-time jobs. USC’s violations involved Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo. Among the findings concerning Bush, the NCAA detailed 18 specific instances of violations by the running back and his family. Based largely on his relationship with several marketing agents, some of the violations include multiple cash payments, a house for Bush’s parents, an automobile, airfare, and hotel stays. The NCAA detailed at least 12 instances of violations by Mayo, based on his relationship with a sports agency. Those violations included the receipt of cash, airfare, meals, training sessions, and merchandise. Penn State due, to the Sandusky scandal, was stripped of all wins from 1998 to 2011 as well as a post-season ban for 2012. The Connecticut men’s basketball program was accused of repeated recruiting violations and will lose scholarships and is banned from the 2013 post-season.

I am not arguing that these violations did not occur or that the universities should not be punished. My argument is that some of the sanctions imposed on the universities punish many innocent student athletes. Some of the typical sanctions involve loss of scholarships, reduced recruiting time, fining the university, taking away from the university past wins and championships, and banning the university from post season play and a possible national championship. Most of the time these universities are punished for recruiting violations committed in past years by alumni and assistant coaches. The number of players guilty of accepting these gifts is very small. Many times these players are the ones that wind up in pro ball. Look at Bush and Mayo. In the Sandusky case no player was involved.

Over 95% of the student athletes never play pro ball. Their senior year marks the end of their playing careers. When they leave college they will enter the workplace not the athletic stadium. The NCAA allows without penalty any student who is a member of one of these teams being punished to transfer to another school. Does this solve the problem? The answer is no. Yes, three or four of the best athletes who are in demand and eventually will probably turn pro do transfer. But what about the 95% that will not turn pro and can’t transfer? Let’s look at what this will mean to a student in his senior year that will not have the opportunity to take part in a bowl game or be able to compete for a national championship. For three years this student athlete has worked hard sacrificing his body for his university. Now, in his senior year, his goal of competing in the post-season is taken away from him. The borderline pro player loses his opportunity to impress professional scouts with his play in the post-season. Is this fair to the student athlete? Yes, the school should be punished but why is an innocent student being punished? Would you punish a child for a parent’s crime? In the next posting, I will examine some ways to punish the school without punishing the student athlete.

Please send me any suggestions you have for solving the problem of punishing the university without punishing the innocent student athlete. To be continued.

Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

In the fall of 2012, I was scheduled to teach three courses which included 2 sections of biostatistics and 1 of Sandlot Stats: Learning Statistics with Baseball. You probably think the idea for my next baseball posting came from my baseball and statistics course. If you guessed that you would be wrong. The idea actually originated in my biostatistics course. Here is what happened. I am reading the list of students and a name on that list rang a bell. The name was Dale Long. I remember watching Dale Long play back in the late 50s and early 60s. Of course this Dale Long could not be the Dale Long I watched.  So I asked the student if he related to the Dale Long I remembered? He responded that Dale Long was his grandfather.  Dale Long’s name appears in my book, Sandlot Stats. His connection to my book will be discussed later. Yesterday, Dale Long presented me with two huge scrapbooks describing his grandfather’s achievements in baseball. The information that follows comes from my discussions with Dale Long’s grandson and the information in these scrapbooks.

Dale long was born in 1926 and died in 1991. He played major league baseball for 10 years. He was 6’4” tall and weighed just over 200 lb. He batted left handed and threw left handed. He played a couple of games in the outfield but was predominately a first baseman. However, he played two games as a left handed catcher, one of a handful of major league players to do so. He played for the Pittsburg Pirates, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, and others. His grandson told me an interesting story which occurred before he signed his contract with the Yankees in 1960. At that time Casey Stengel was the manager of the Yankees. Long was told by Casey he had three jobs with the Yankees. He would substitute at first base, be used as a pinch-hitter, and finally he would accompany Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford whenever they went out at night to keep them out of trouble. From 1944 to 1954, besides a brief stint with the Pirates in 1951, Long bounced around the minor leagues. He played 131 games with Pittsburg in 1955 and his .291 batting average was the team’s second best. He tied Willie Mays with a league leading 13 triples.

Why is Dale Long mentioned in my book? Chapter 16 in my book details my research on batting streaks. In that chapter, I present a probability formula I developed which uses a player’s batting statistics to estimate his probability of duplicating any batting streak. Of course, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is the most notable. However, many other special batting streaks are also mentioned. One of those batting streaks deals with hitting a home run in each of eight consecutive games. Dale Long enters the discussion because he was the first player to accomplish this streak. On May 26, 1956, Dale Long tied the existing record of a home run in six consecutive games. This record was held by five other major leaguers including Willie Mays and Lou Gehrig. On May 27th, Dale Long established a new major league record by hitting a home run in his seventh consecutive game. This home run was hit in his last at-bat after swinging and missing on two pitches. The home run ball was sent to Cooperstown. On May 28, Dale hit number eight off of Carl Erskine of the Dodgers. The fans did not stop cheering until Dale came out for a curtain call. This record was later tied by Don Mattingly (1987) and Ken Griffey Jr. (1993). For 1956, Dale Long played in 148 games hitting a total of 27 home runs. Using my probability formula, the probability of Dale accomplishing his streak was 0.00008. By comparison, the probability of Joe DiMaggio accomplishing his 56-game hitting streak was 0.00010. Observe that Dale’s streak was less likely to occur than Joe’s streak .Finally, I wish to thank the Long Family for providing me with their memories of their father and grandfather.   





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