Archive for August, 2009

Are throws to first to hold the runner a waste of time?

Monday, August 31st, 2009

A fast runner is at first and the pitcher keeps throwing over to hold the runner. Sometimes this can get pretty monotonous for us fans, especially after the first couple of throws. Is the pitcher getting anything out of this?

About a decade ago, we examined the issue based on data in the 1990s and found that pickoff throws did make a difference in stolen base success rates. As teams have become more efficient with stolen bases over the past few years, it’s possible that the results have changed.

As it turns out, it still does make a difference. Based on actual data from 2002-09 the stolen base percentage of a runner decreases if at least one throw is made over to first by the pitcher:

Stolen Base
No Throw Made 75%
At Least One Throw Made 64%

In fact, it even makes a difference if he makes more than one throw:

Stolen Base
One Throw Made 66%
Two Throws Made 65%
Three or More 64%

Both of these conclusions match what we found last time. If it’s your pitcher making the throws, cheer him on. But if it’s the opposing pitcher, it’s your job as a fan to let him know that you don’t appreciate all those throws!

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week™,”

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Something to think about

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

During this week’s news coverage of one of the significant news events mention was made of one family’s mantra. It went as follows: “To whom much is given much is expected.”

I thought about how this might apply to a person that made ten million dollars a year and that naturally led me to think about a certain Cubs right fielder. One who got cheered resoundingly a couple of times today when he performed well, it made me wonder whether or not there was some kind of disconnect between what this man perceives and what really goes on. If some nutjob in the right field bleachers yells the N word does that really mean that Wrigley is a racist environment? If some goofball shows up at an Obama speech wearing a sidearm and a sign that promotes violent overthrow does that mean that New Hampshire is a hearth of rebellion?

I compare and contrast Bradley’s antics with the actions of a young footballer for my alma mater Vanderbilt. Kadri made a brash decision that he later regretted; he asked permission to re-join the team and was later quoted in the Nashville paper as saying: “It feels good to know that I can make a mistake, be going through some things and they’re still willing to welcome me back.”

This is a young man who has learned the value of humility, he has learned that he is an imperfect human being that makes mistakes. I’m really rooting for him and hopefully he will one day wear Titan or Bears blue. Will Milton Bradley learn this? I think not – he’s been through seven teams in almost as many years, his history shows that he gets passed around more than a party girl at a fraternity PGA sorority swap. I’m talking about character here, a trait that Mr. Bradley must learn if he’s to salvage what appears to be a disastrous season and a career that is now in a dubious state.

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A Chicago Tavern

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

When traveling, I generally try to avoid obvious tourist spots.

A few years ago, my wife and I were in New York City, staying in a Manhattan Hotel. I observed (just by watching) a steady stream of hotel guests exiting the elevators, making a beeline for the front desk, pleading for directions to “The Soup Nazi Place”. I’m not that big a fan of Seinfeld, but I knew what they were referring to. I just didn’t want to spend time going there.

I did spend a lot of quality time running through Central Park. We saw a Broadway show. We wined, dined, sipped and supped (thank you, Tom Waits) in great restaurants and delis. The high point of the trip might have been catching two Monday night sets at The Iridium with Les Paul. Now that was special.

We were in NYC for a week and I can tell you we didn’t make it to The Soup Nazi Place.

A few years later a similar meeting occurred in my home town of Chicago. We decided to do the “Tourist Thing” and stay at a hotel for the week, although we could have easily commuted. Since I was the local boy, all week long I was asked for directions and recommendations, which I was only too happy to provide.

I mention this because one pleasant evening, as we returned to the hotel on foot, a group of friends made a beeline for me on the sidewalk, and just bubbling with enthusiasm, pleaded for directions to “Billy Goat’s”.

Now I’ve got nothing against “The Billy Goat Tavern” (established 1934). I’ve been in a lot of taverns. Hell, I grew up in a tavern. So I tried to explain to our friends that between where we were standing (on South Michigan Avenue), and where The Billy Goat is located (under North Michigan Avenue), there are plenty of places to get a burger and fries (“No fries, Cheeps”) and a Coke (“No Pepsi, Coke”) or anything else you might want. But they would not be deterred.

So I directed their attention about 2 miles north along the west sidewalk of Michigan Avenue to the beautifully illuminated white terra-cotta facade of the Wrigley Building and said: “Walk up to that building, then wrap tightly around it (indicating a counterclockwise direction with my hand). Go down the stairs in the sidewalk, turn right, cross the street, turn right again, walk about 100 feet, and you will find yourselves standing in front of Billy Goat Tavern. Go in and have a great time.

Which, I can only assume, they did.

I was reminded of that occasion as I paged through “A Chicago Tavern – A Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream – First Edition” by Rick Kogan. (Author Rick Kogan is a Chicago newspaperman.) This book was published in 2006 and contains some definitely Chicago, definitely historic photographs.

William Sianis (the original “Billy Goat”) was a hustling 16 year old Greek immigrant who became a self-promoting entrepreneur. I have to admire the stories told herein. This is definitely Chicago barroom inside skinny.

A paragraph captures this hustling spirit:
– On the first day of the 1944 Republican National Convention (taking place right across the street from his saloon), Billy is disappointed to have done only $20 in business. That night he puts a hand-made sign in the window: “No Republicans Served Here.” Word spreads quickly across the convention floor and soon dozens of angry delegates, most of them wearing buttons touting the eventual nominee, Thomas Dewey, pack the tavern and demand to be served. When they stumble from the bar and back to the arena, they proudly announce, “I guess we showed that Democratic son of a bitch! Go over there and make him serve you a drink.” Meanwhile, Billy is on the phone: “Send over five more barrels of beer. Business has never been better.” That day he takes in $2,600.

My grandfather would have appreciated that one.

Another paragraph describes Billy’s “three favorite types of customers – politicians, policemen, and newspaper reporters – in addition to members of whatever shows are at the Stadium: circus clowns, ice skaters, cowboys, bearded ladies, tattooed men, hockey players, midgets…and their fans.”

Billy’s nephew Sam was also born in Greece. “On July 4, 1960 he arrives in Chicago to work at the Billy Goat Inn.” Sam currently owns and operates the franchise brand.

The infamous “Billy Goat Curse” is exposed in great detail, including numerous retractions and semi-retractions.

There are numerous Mike Royko stories and column excerpts included here.

Another paragraph tells a story, beginning: “Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio, and Leo Durocher walk into a bar…”

The Wendella Sightseeing Boat cruises are mentioned. I remember taking one Chicago River and Lake Michigan boat ride during our previously mentioned “Chicago Tourist Week”. I especially enjoyed the narration, which was presented in an unmistakable heavy Chicago accent. Truly music to my ears.

A man who has been tending bar at Billy Goat’s since 1981 is introduced. Since he’s been there a long time, he is quoted extensively. His name is the same as a guy who was a high school classmate of mine (and of my wife’s). I guess I’ll have to stop in and see if they are one and the same person.

Sam Sianis tells the story of enlisting the aid of Cub pitcher Ferguson Jenkins in a 1973 attempt to once again get his goat into Wrigley Field. “He was the only one to understand” Sam says. “So, whenever he pitches, the curse will not be in effect.” Although Fergie’s Hall of Fame numbers would seem to indicate that no curse affected his pitching career, I do not recall him mentioning the goat incident in his most recent autobiography.

When the bachelor Sam Sianis inherited his Uncle Billy’s bar, customer Mike Royko “urged him to go back to his native Greece and find a nice girl who knows nothing of checking accounts, charge accounts, Bonwit Teller, Gloria Steinem, tennis clubs, and property laws. My motives were partly selfish. Billy Goat is my favorite tavern, and a tavern is only as happy as its owner, and a tavern owner cannot be happy with a wife who expects him home before 3 am.”

I do not, routinely, divulge the endings of books I review, but I am going to make an exception in this case. The book ends with three pages of acknowledgments, the last one thanking “the Cubs for being the Cubs.”

Reading “A Chicago Tavern” was a wonderful, nostalgic, emotional roller coaster for me. I recommend it very highly, especially to Cubs fans and to Native Chicagoans.

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GirlieView (08/28/2009)

Friday, August 28th, 2009

I’m late!

Quick Weekly Wrapup

Friday, 08/21: @ Los Angeles Dodgers, L (2-1)
Saturday 08/22: @ Los Angeles Dodgers, L (2-0)
Sunday 08/23: @ Los Angeles Dodgers, W (3-1)
Monday 08/24: off
Tuesday 08/25: vs. Washington, L (15-6)
Wednesday 08/26: vs. Washington, W (9-4)
Thursday 08/27: vs. Washington, L (5-4)

Question of the Week

Let’s play a game. (We’ve got nothing else to do for the rest of the season!) I’m going to list off a random collection of Cubs (this week, pitchers), you tell me whether you would like to see them on the team next year. You can justify your choices if you want, or you can just give a simple yes/no. (For the cynics among us, I know that we won’t be able to wave a magic wand and get rid of these folks … contracts and no-trade stuff and maybe even the fact that no one else will want them will certainly play a role. But not here. Here, you are the almighty, and you can vote however you want regardless of whether it can actually happen or not.) Results in next week’s GirlieView. Please don’t spend time telling others why their choices are wrong. We already know we won’t all agree. Just play along and give your own choices. Here you go!

Which of these Cubs do you want to see on the team next year? (Pitchers Edition)

  • Ryan Dempster
  • Tom Gorzelanny
  • John Grabow
  • Kevin Gregg
  • Angel Guzman
  • Rich Harden
  • Aaron Heilman
  • Ted Lilly
  • Carlos Marmol
  • Sean Marshall
  • David Patton
  • Jeff Samardzija
  • Jeff Stevens
  • Randy Wells
  • Carlos Zambrano

Lotsa Lizzies

(too much to choose from this week, so I picked lots!)

  • remember who your worst enemy is Milton – you see him every morning when you shave
  • It won’t be the same when the 69 guys go to the Wrigley Field in the sky.
  • This ugly August has shredded any reason for confidence.
  • The Cubs are buried in the grave that they have dug for themselves.
  • If they roll over, so be it, but here’s hoping they go down like they’re defending the Alamo.
  • Triples. That is all.
  • Stand up triples? Or all triples?
  • Only those in which the runner must slide feet first and to the home plate side of the bag.
  • Well, that’s fair. For a moment, I thought you were being ridiculous.
  • I’m never ridiculous.
  • I thought the Cubs made a clear statement in LA. It just wasn’t one any of us wants to hear.
  • I bet he wears sunglasses at night though.
  • The prize should be an AAron Miles baseball card.
  • Loser gets one, too, but it’s signed.
  • The photo of Aron Miles on his baseball card is life sized.
  • We won’t even get started on how he offered to show a female reporter his shirtless physique to prove he isn’t lazy. (Note from Liz: ewww)
  • Every real cub fan must admit, That this year’s team has played like shit
  • Plus he’s got a cool name. [Rebel Ridling]
  • nice job representing, Joe. Also, nice job of staying off the topics of Milt and health care. and BABIP.
  • I guess I can unblock the month of October on my social calendar now.
  • I’m glad [Zambrano] “felt good” out there, because I was feeling rather nauseous at home watching him.
  • We’d be lucky to get a purple goat with the number 4 shaved on his side out of some lady’s trunk.
  • DeRosa has sucked balls this year.
  • One has the stuff and no brains, one has the brain and no stuff.
  • Bradley’s yap needs a filter.
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Let the selloff begin

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Today’s Chicago Tribune reports that Cubs pitchers Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman have been claimed off the wavier wire. This means that the teams who have submitted the claims have until Monday to work out a deal or the Cubs can pull them back. This is not an uncommon thing this time of year as many teams will offer players just to see what they could get in a trade; they also do it to gauge other teams’ interest in their prospective free agents. However in this instance I think that Hendry’s putting these guys on the market because he thinks it’s doubtful that he will be offering the kind of money that Harden will be wanting; in Heilman’s case it is likely that he’s trying to get something/anything for a guy that he has no intention of bringing back next year.

It’s likely that other players have been waived as well, perhaps even untouchables such as Ramirez, Zambrano and Lee. And you can bet the farm that Milton Bradley is on the wire too, it’s just doubtful that anyone will be wanting to damage their mojo in the midst of a pennant run. The Cubs are going to have to pull off a Todd Hundley-type trade to get rid of Bradley, besides what city is less “racist” than Chicago, a city that loves previous sports icons such as Michael Jordan, Walter Payton and Mr. Cub himself? This guy’s act is getting beyond old and it’s time for Milton to get dressed down in public. It’s a shame because he’s finally starting to hit.

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