Fun to Watch, Bad for Your Streak

Check out the box score for the top of the order of the road team from the 13-inning game between the Nationals and the Cubs yesterday. The Nats were the road team:

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Bryce Harper is fun to watch and he is obviously getting the respect that he deserves from the other teams; i.e. – they’re not pitching to him. He was pitched around and/or intentionally walked six times yesterday.

If you are choosing him for your streak, something I did back in April, he is effectively getting perhaps 1, maybe 2 at-bats per game. Yesterday’s box score shows that he had no at-bats because of the walks, which does not hurt a streak if someone chooses him. The potential bad news in choosing a hitter who is this feared is that instead of only needing to bat 0.250 in a game (1 for 4) or even as lows as 0.200 (1 for 5), Harper may need to be a perfect 1 for 1 or perhaps 1 for 2 during those few times he will get a good look at a ball to hit in games this year.

I do not mind looking for a 0.300 hitter to go 0.250 during a game, but asking a 0.300 hitter to bat 1.000 or 0.500 is asking a lot just for keeping your streak alive.

Choose singles hitters, not King Kong Bryce Harper.

You Can Lead a Player to Water

…but you cannot make him drink the koolaid. They have to learn for themselves. There are currently three players in my little group over at mlb.com. Have a look at last night’s choices for the three of us, but before you study this photo let me share a statistic. Last night my preferred choice of hitters had a 71.1% success rate; that is to say that 32 out of 45 of them got at least one hit. The season-to-date average still stands at 71.5% (723/1011).

Now the picture:

whytwowhyhome

Francisco Lindor was the only player on a road team and at the top of the order. He was one of the 32 who got a hit. This was my pick.

Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia (both top of the order) were on a home team, and as you can clearly see this player chose two batters. As it happens, neither of them got a hit last night.

Ryan Braun (also top of the order) was on a home team that almost got no-hit last night by the Miami Marlins. Braun went oh-for even though his team eventually wore down the starting pitcher for the Marlins in a failed attempt at a comeback. This player at least narrowed his choice down to one batter.

I will not run the stats on the rest of the line-ups nor will I run the stats on home teams. I already made my argument for why the road team is the better choice. It is up to someone else to either refute that idea or show me how my idea could be improved upon.

I would like someone I know to win this thing. Please contact me if you would like to be added to my little group.

Cheers.

Going For Two

The audience for this post is the few people who care about playing along with me in Beat the Streak.

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Gentlemen, we have to stop going for 2. It is the mathematically incorrect play, and I know this, and yet I still make the same mistake right along with you. We must stop this right now and I vow to stop with today’s scheduled games. I will only be picking 1 player today.

I took a look back to the beginning of the season and here are the stats on my preferred choice, top of the order with a team on the road:

bts so far

The date in red is when I started choosing only players from my preferred criteria. The average of all chances is 71.3% season-to-date. I am doing better than that with a record of 11-2 for my choices (85%), but of course the two incorrect picks cost me a streak.

Choosing 2 each day, the mistake we continue to make, reduces your odds of continuing the streak to something less than 50%. So stop going for 2.

Beat the Streak, an update

Here is what I have learned after applying a little math to the free game that I referenced the other day; that and some knowledge of the game.

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I decided to narrow my choices down to a select group of players each day and my selection has nothing to do with batting averages, at least initially. All you need is for your player to get a hit on the day you choose him, or them if you are choosing two. Multiple hits in a game, the longest homerun, or a dramatic hit to win the game have no bearing whatsoever. You need at-bats, chances, and the more the better. One of the reasons Pete Rose is the all-time hits leader, in addition to being a good hitter over his entire career, is that the Reds cemented him in the lead-off batting position forever because of two things, his ability to get a hit and the fact that he was a switch-hitter. He is also the all-time leader for at-bats because of that lead-off position. The man who currently resides in a tie for 2nd place behind Joe DiMaggio’s 56 consecutive games with a hit is none other than Pete Rose at 44 games in 1978. The other guy did it in 1897.

My first criteria is to look for lead-off hitters, but I prefer almost anyone in the top of that day’s line-up, meaning the top three of the batting order. My second criteria is to have a player(s) on a road team. My reasoning behind that choice is that if you choose someone from the home team, and the home team is winning after the top of the 9th inning, uh, game over. All things being equal over time, meaning road teams and home teams win about the same number of games in baseball (researched a long time ago; trust me on that one), the road team hitters at the top of the line-up will see more at-bats than the home teams. This problem has already affected me. I had a player on a home team who was set to lead off the bottom of the 9th but his team was leading the game going into the 9th. I needed the away team to score three runs just to give my guy that extra at-bat as he was 0-4 on the night. Didn’t happen. My streak ended.

Here is what I learned after checking on how those batters do over time. Granted, my sample size is very small and I am still watching this on a daily basis, but the amount of time spent checking these numbers every day going forward is a lot less of a hassle than going backward. After the first two weeks I notice that on average approximately 70% of the three guys who are on the road and at the top of the batting order get a hit on any given day. Last night it was 84%. There were 15 games, which means there were 45 players to choose from and 38 of them got a hit. I have seen the percentage as low as 63% during my first two weeks watching, so there is a big variance. But for now I will use the 70% number to make my point.

In order to tie DiMaggio’s streak you need 56, which means choosing 56 single players in a row, 28 nights of choosing 2 players, or some combination of the two. In the long run, meaning 56 winners, the odds are the same at the starting point regardless of your combination and here is the math:

[1 รท (0.7 ^ 56)] – 1 = 472,617,456:1 odds against winning this game. No wonder MLB.com has not been able to find a winner after 15 years. The odds are worse than the PowerBall Lottery. The big difference of course is that this game is free to play. The only cost to you is a sign-up (free), register into the game (free), and spend a little time each day (they advertise that you could spend 15 seconds per day so call that a freebie also), and if you are lucky enough to win then $5.6 million could be yours.

Now recall that I am only using players in the top three positions in the road-team line-up. I am certain that the odds would be a lot worse if you take the total population of all hitters, especially when considering the power hitters who strike out more than the lead-off guys. Getting back to the math, the odds in the long-run are the same regardless of your choices, 1 or 2 players on any given night. But in the short-run you have a problem if you consistently go for 2. This is where conditional probabilities come into play.

If I choose 1 player on any given night then he has ~70% chance of getting a hit based on the numbers that I have observed in which he resides in my chosen population: road team, top of the batting order. I have so far ignored his personal batting average, whether or not he is on a streak of his own, pitching matchup, weather conditions, did he get enough sleep, did I get enough sleep, you name it. Top of the order. Road team.

I choose my first guy who has a 70% chance of getting a hit, 1 of the 31 players who most likely will get a hit on a night when Major League Baseball has a full slate of 15 games, or 45 players in my chosen sweet spot. Now I decide to choose another player. In order for both of them to have a hit, they have to both reside in the population of 31 players to get a hit that night. I have to discount my first guy, which means the 2nd guy has to be 1 of 30 players in the remaining population of 44 players, or 68%.

In order for my streak to stay alive, they both have to get a hit. That drops the probability down as follows:

1 player = 0.7 times number of total players = 70% chance the streak stays alive.
2 players = 0.7 * 0.68 = 0.476 or 48% chance the streak stays alive.

Bottom line:

In the long run we’re all dead. No matter how you slice it the odds are worse than PowerBall but it’s free to play.

In the short run you make it that much more difficult by choosing 2 players instead of 1. Sometimes though, like an actual manager who gets to choose players based on situations, you just have to go with your gut and common sense.

Last night the Dodgers were visiting Colorado, a park in which all batters look a lot healthier and pitchers’ ERAs go way up; that and the Dodgers were playing well recently. I had to pick 2.

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I was listening to the game on the radio and my players had continued my streak within the first five pitches of the game. It rarely gets better than that.

It’s a Freebie, Beat the Streak

It is free. You have to play.

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Today was dramatic. My players, who I chose from the Boston Red Sox because I was tracking friends who were running the Boston Marathon today and also because I had the game on the radio while I was working, both got at least one hit. It was a close call. Dustin Pedroia did not get his hit until the bottom of the 9th inning, and the only reason the game went to the bottom of the 9th was because the Red Sox found themselves behind in the 8th inning after leading 1-0 for most of the game.

This Beat the Streak contest is very challenging and a lot more difficult than it appears. I get to choose one or two players who have to get at least one hit that day, and I have to complete this task 57 times consecutively to collect $5.6 million. As far as I know, no one has done it yet as long as this contest has been in existence. I have been playing for three years.

The contest is a virtual batting streak in which home gamers try to beat the legendary Joe DiMaggio’s still-standing streak of hitting safely in 56 consecutive games. An added bonus, I can sit out a day or a week or even a month. Joe did not have that luxury. Also, I get to choose any one or two players on any given day.

In prior seasons the best that I could muster was a streak of 22 games. I am applying myself a little more to the task this year, and trying very carefully not to be a “homer” by choosing players from my favorite teams. I am looking for favorable pitching matchups, righty-lefty setups, players with high batting averages, etc. I will keep you posted.

The 7th Inning Eternity

Harry-Caray

This is going to sound or read as unpatriotic, and if you are a flag waving baseball fan then you are going to have to get over yourself and this egregious delay of game that we have been subjected to since September 2001.

Baseball season started this weekend and I am a lifelong fan. I loved the Reds my entire life until this past offseason when they once again traded away good talent for some bullshit potential future that never seems to arrive. I have now moved the Red Sox to the #1 spot in my baseball heart. They resided at #2 since 1975.

Since we were attacked on 9/11, someone got the bright idea to sing “America the Beautiful” during the 7th Inning Stretch in addition to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” or whatever your home team usually sings for that delay. Red Sox fans sing “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the 8th inning in addition to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the 7th inning, but it never seems to delay the game, at least not the few times that I have enjoyed games at Fenway Park.

Singing “America the Beautiful” made sense for the remainder of the 2001 season. We were feeling sorry for ourselves and needed some patriotic comfort. I get it, but enough is enough. We were bloodthirsty for revenge after the attack and that feeling has faded while we have languished yet again in another senseless war for more than a decade. You have heard of no-win situations, right? Vietnam? This? Singing “America the Beautiful” is another senseless act of patriotism that has overstayed its welcome.

It is time to dispense with singing “America the Beautiful” at baseball games. Stop feeling sorry for yourselves, and admit that you would like the game to move a little faster.

Joe Morgan

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I was ten years old when the Cincinnati Reds made a five-player deal with the Houston Astros that brought Joe Morgan to my favorite team. My Dad was getting regular tickets to Reds’ games back then because of his connections through work. The first game I saw the short left-handed batter at the plate we were fortunate to be sitting along the first base line, very close to the field and directly in line with the path from first base to second base. I was enthralled with the habit that Morgan had of flapping his left arm three times while standing in the batter’s box waiting for the pitch. He was a very patient hitter and often drew a walk as a way to reach first base. The bonus? He was quick on the bases and he could help our team by stealing a base when the opportunity presented itself. I was fortunate to watch this master baserunner at work shortly after my team acquired him in 1972.

Morgan drew the base-on-balls walk to first and then the cat-and-mouse dual with the pitcher began. I think this pitcher was caught off guard though, because Morgan took off for second base on the first pitch to the batter. I was sitting with three other people. In attendance with me were my Dad and his friend and his friend’s son. The three of them were talking with each other when Morgan began his move for second base. I saw the play developing and when Morgan turned to go it felt like I was the only one in the stadium who knew what was about to happen. We all stood and cheered. When he slid into second base with the successful steal I declared from that moment on that he was my favorite player.