erik lundegaard

Friday July 03, 2015

Is 3.5 Years of Mike Trout > 12 Years of Yadier Molina?

It began as a cheeky stats hunt. 

I noticed that Mike Trout's WAR (Wins Above Replacement) during his first three full seasons, plus half of this one, was astronomical: 33.3. Knowing WAR numbers were cumulative, and that they go can backwards (you can get negative WAR numbers), I wondered which veteran players Trout has already passed on the WAR charts. That was the cheeky question.  

Here's the cheeky answer. Currently, Trout, all of 23 and 11/12, is tied for 32nd among active players. In other words, his 3.5 years in Major League baseball are, by this measure, already worth more than Adam Jones' 10 years (26.6 WAR), J.J. Hardy's 11 (27.3) and Jayson Werth's 13 (30.0).

It began to annoy me a bit when I noticed that Yadier Molina, one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, and a man who turned himself into a fine hitter as well—with a .305 batting average and a .803 OPS since the start of the 2011 season—is also on this lesser Trout list. His WAR is 30.3, 40th among active players, and that seems wrong. And I wondered: Does WAR undervalue Yadi or all catchers, whose careers, after all, tend to be shorter, and thus less cumulative, than the careers of other positions? 

I think it's the latter. The highest-ranked catcher on the career WAR chart is Johnny Bench at No. 48 with a 75.0 WAR. He's one-tenth of a percentage point better than Lou Whitaker at No. 49.

Here are the top 8 catchers ranked by WAR. Yogi Berra fans, get ready to be angry:

Rank Player WAR Years
48 Johnny Bench 75.0 17
68 Gary Carter 69.9 19
74 Ivan Rodriguez 68.4 21
77 Carlton Fisk 68.3 24
121 Yogi Berra 59.5 19
122 Mike Piazza 59.4 16
139 Bill Dickey 55.8 17
169 Mickey Cochrane 52.1 13

I checked to see if WAR's catcher rating was already a controversy. It was. As far back as 2010

I will say this: Given the choice between 3.5 years of Mike Trout and 12 of Yadier, I think I'd take Yadi for 12, Alex. 

Mike Trout Yadier Molina

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Posted at 06:57 AM on Jul 03, 2015 in category Baseball
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The U.S. County that Sentences the Most People to Death is a Parish

Recommended reading: Rachel Aviv's latest New Yorker piece, “Revenge Killing,” about Rodricus Crawford, a young black man in Shreveport, Louisiana, which is part of Caddo Parish, who was charged, convicted and sentenced to death for the death of his own 1-year old son. It includes this paragraph:

Juries in Caddo Parish, which has a population of two hundred and fifty thousand, now sentence more people to death per capita than juries in any other county in America. Seventy-seven per cent of those sentenced to death in the past forty years have been black, and nearly half were convicted of killing white victims. A white person has never been sentenced to death for killing a black person.

The assistant D.A. (and now D.A.) who prosecuted the case, Dale Cox, “has been responsible for more than a third of the death penalties in Louisiana,” Aviv writes. She interviews him. He seems straightforward. He is a very effective lawyer who used to be against the death penalty and is now, in his 60s, in favor of it in Biblical proportions.

Reading, I wondered if the last sentence in the above quote meant that no white person had been executed for killing a black person in Shreveport or in the whole of the United States, but it must be the former because I've found evidence of the latter —although it's exceedingly rare. Some numbers from the Death Penalty Information Center:

Persons Executed for Interracial Murders in the U.S. Since 1976

  • White Defendant / Black Victim (31)
  • Black Defendant / White Victim (294)

As for Crawford? Much of the evidence that convicted him was determined by the Parish's forensic pathologist, but that evidence has been refuted by others around the country. One coroner says he finds the autopsy results so wrong he's “horrified”; another pathologist thinks Shreveport's pathologist "did not seem willing to consider the facts of the case. From the article, it seems a monumental injustice is taking place. 

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Posted at 05:39 AM on Jul 03, 2015 in category Law
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Thursday July 02, 2015

Welcome to Obsolescence, Everyone

Amen, Joe Posnanski. From his piece, “The Asheville Pinball Museum Turns Everyone into an Arcade Wizard,” in Our State magazine:

One of the daunting things about getting old is how quietly stuff — your stuff — becomes outdated and obsolete and, most of all, forgotten.

Take phone booths. They don't really exist anymore except as photo props in London. This hit me hard recently when, as a family, we watched the old Christopher Reeve Superman movie. There's a little joke in the movie — a killer joke when I was young — where Clark Kent is looking for a phone booth to change in, and he comes upon one of those newfangled 1970s half phone booths without a door. He grimaces and searches for another place to become Superman. I remember the theater when I first saw it: screams of laughter.

To my daughters, 10 and 13, this joke might as well have been a Sanskrit retelling of the fable “Of Crows and Owls.” They got absolutely none of it. They didn't get that Superman used to change in phone booths. They didn't get why there were new phone booths. They didn't even get the basic concept of phone booths. To them, the time before cell phones is a time before understanding.

There is too much stuff like that, stuff that was such a big part of my life, stuff that I expected would last forever — Saturday morning cartoons, taping songs off the radio, video stores, electric football, actual paper letters that came in mailboxes. That stuff, to my daughters, isn't just gone, but ancient and silly and lost in the dumpster of pointless history.“

Here are some thoughts I had about those actual paper letters that came in actual mailboxes, after I saw the 2009 film ”Bright Star," a biopic of John Keats:

Keats travels to the Isle of Wight to write, to try to make a living, and Fanny is left behind. Ah, but the letters. He writes, says he wishes they could be butterflies, living three perfect summer days and expiring, and she and her siblings collect butterflies and fill her room. “When I don’t hear from him,” she confesses to her mother, “it’s as if I’d die.” I remember those feelings. I remember those letters. My own doomed first love took place in the late 1980s, and though 170 years had passed between me and Keats the means of communication, give or take a telephone, were more or less the same. Twenty years later it’s not. Do today’s young lovers still send letters? How does one clutch an e-mail to one’s chest? There is no more daily waiting for the postman. Now the wait is 24/7. Has she written? Has she written? I think I’d go mad.

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Posted at 03:18 PM on Jul 02, 2015 in category Quote of the Day
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Excerpt from 'Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty'

One of about three books I'm reading at the moment is Charles Leerhsen's “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty,” about the man who, for most of his career, was considered the greatest baseball player of all time. Now? He's a bit down on the list: still first in batting average but twenty-fifth in OPS, behind, among others, Johnny Mize and Joey Votto. On the other hand, Cobb is fourth all-time in position-player WAR. Of course, for the man who once said that baseball was “something like a war,” he probably wouldn't take kindly to being behind Babe Ruth in this category, since, for Ruth, baseball was something like a helluva lotta fun, kid. 

Ty Cobb: A Terrible BeautyAnyway, Leerhsen is involved in what seems like a monumental task: rehabilitating Cobb's rep. Over the years, Tyrus Raymond went from “greatest player of all time” to “one of the best” to “kind of a racist bastard” to “the worst man ever to put on a baseball uniform,” and Leerhsen, and he's probably right, thinks Cobb doesn't deserve this last honorific. Leerhsen will in fact be arguing that Cobb, for his time, wasn't particularly racist. We'll see.

In the meantime, I loved this bit. And not just because it was against the Yankees:

The Yankees were in town on that unseasonably warm Friday. In the seventh inning, with his team down 5–3, Cobb came to bat with runners on first and second—and hit a line drive off “Slim” Caldwell that smacked against the wall of the left field bleachers for an opposite field double. (Cobb, though naturally right-handed, always batted left.) The man on second, Tex Covington, scored easily, but Donie Bush, the trailing runner, barely slid in safely under catcher Ed Sweeney's tag. Not surprisingly, given the closeness of the play, Sweeney turned to the umpire and, said the New York Times, “began a protest” while “all the members of the infield flocked to the plate to help.” In other words, in the heat of the moment the Yankees forgot that Cobb was standing on second. Under such circumstances it is the custom of the base runner to sit down on the sack and wait for something to turn up [the Times continued]. But Cobb, observing that third base was unguarded, trotted amiably up there. No one saw him. So he tiptoed gingerly along toward the group at the plate. He did not come under the observation of the public until he was about ten feet from the goal all base runners seek, where for a few seconds he stood practically still, peering into the cluster of disputants before him, looking for an opening to slide through. He found one and skated across the plate with the winning run under the noses of almost the entire New York team, Sweeney touching him with the ball when it was too late.

Opportunities everywhere, kids. For the taking. 

Here's my take on the awful 1994 movie “Cobb,” of which I wrote “A hagiography would've felt less like a lie.”

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Posted at 07:11 AM on Jul 02, 2015 in category Books
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Wednesday July 01, 2015

Lancelot Links

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Posted at 03:23 PM on Jul 01, 2015 in category Lancelot Links
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Movie Review: Inside Out (2015)


In the end, it’s about the dangers of micromanagement.

Eleven-year-old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) moves with her family from Minnesota to San Francisco, where the house is a fixer-upper, the furniture hasn’t arrived yet, and the pizza has broccoli on it. Where are her friends? How does she fit in? She feels sad. She needs to feel sad. But Joy (voice: Amy Poehler) is her controlling emotion, and doesn’t let Sadness (Phyllis Smith of “The Office”) do her job, which, in this instance, is turning certain core memories—represented by transluscent balls—blue with the blues. In the ensuing tussle over the balls, Joy and Sadness disappear up a pneumatic tube and wind up in long-term memory, from which they begin the epic journey back, through the subconscious, the imagination, and abstract thought—even attempting, like Depression-era hobos, to hop onto the train of thought—while the remaining emoticons, Anger, Disgust and Fear (Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling and Bill Hader), take turns gumming up the works and the pillars of Riley’s existence (friends, hockey, honesty) crumble and fall away. Without Joy and Sadness, Riley’s blocked, and retreats into sarcasm and temper tantrums. Eventually she decides to run away. It’s only when Joy and Sadness return to the control room, and Joy lets Sadness do her job, that Riley breaks down into tears, the family reconciles, and life, in all of its complexity, can move forward again.

Inside OutEssentially it’s the Rosey Grier lesson from “Free to Be You and Me”: It’s alright to cry ... It just might make you feel better!

It’s also a movie that could be shown in a Management 101 class: Beware of micromanaging; let everyone do their job.

Or maybe the lesson is the tongue-in-cheek one posited by my friend Jeff afterwards: Never leave Minnesota.

The journey back
I expected great things going in, since the buzz and the reviews were amazing.

But I wasn’t feeling it. Not at first. The various core memories make Riley who she is, affix her unique personality, but what we see on the screen is hardly unique. Instead it feels universal, purposely designed, so we can all see ourselves or our daughters in Riley.

Then Joy and Sadness get lost and begin the epic journey back. How many of our favorite movies, particularly kids movies, are about epic journeys back? Start with the granddaddy, “The Wizard of Oz,” where the tornado acts as pneumatic tube, lifting our main character from home to someplace far away. A lot of the Pixar movies share this motif: “Toy Story 2,” “Finding Nemo,” “Toy Story 3.” We’re spun out, and we want to return whole, and generally we return damaged but better for the damage.

That’s the narrative structure, the anxious thing that drives the movie, but what really matters, kids (and grups), is the journey. It’s not about Dorothy returning to Kansas; it’s about meeting the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion, and the battle with the Wicked Witch. Here, it’s about meeting Bing Bong (the inimitable Richard Kind), Riley’s long-ago imaginary friend, a pink, portly creature with a bowtie, an elephant trunk and the tail of a cat, found milling about the long-term memories and plotting his return into Riley’s life. Of course, the opposite is happening. Riley is now 11, and the rocket-fueled wagon with which Bing Bong wants to propel Riley to the moon, is being unceremoniously discarded into the Memory Dump, the vast expanse of Riley’s mind, where most things just disappear. Bing Bong, most likely, is next. That’s why he sits down and cries. That’s why Sadness consoles him. And that’s when Joy has her epiphany—and we ours. We realize the movie’s resolution.

More or less. But I didn’t anticipate the sacrifice. Through a series of misadventures, both Bing Bong and Joy wind up in the Memory Dump, where he begins to disappear, and where she may be stuck forever—condemning Riley to a joyless life. But then Bing Bong finds his rocket-powered wagon, and the two attempt to ride it out of the Dump: once, twice, and on the third try, realizing he was weighing them down, realizing that Riley needs Joy more than she needs him, he sacrifices himself: He leaps off at the last second. Joy escapes, he begins to disappear, and with his final words, “Take her to the moon for me,” spoken in Richard Kind’s kind voice, I felt something in my chest shift. I literally stifled a sob. I can’t remember the last time I literally stifled a sob.

Damn Pixar. Damn Richard Kind and his kind voice. (Cf. “Obvious Child.”)

Anyway, that’s the moment I knew everyone was right and Pixar had done it again after a five-year drought. Or “drought.”

Feeling Minnesota
So is it odd that all of the emoticons want Riley to feel joy? Shouldn’t Anger want her to feel angry, and Disgust disgust? Don’t they want to imprint themselves on her?

More, isn’t the movie a kids movie for adults rather than for kids? Are kids bored with it? My nephew Jordy wasn’t, but he’s 14 going on 30.

Regardless, it should provoke interesting discussions. Patricia and I saw “Inside Out” with our friends Jeff and Sullivan, and their kids Reilly, 11, and Beckett, 6, and afterwards these are some of the things we talked about:

  • Which of the five is your controlling emotion? (For me, sadly, fear. No offense, Fear.)
  • What are your core memories?
  • What are your childhood earworms? (First thought: “Me and My RC.” Second thought: “I love my Mounds/Lots of juicy coconut ...”)

I like that there was reconciliation, that everyone admitted missing Minnesota even as they stayed in San Francisco. That’s the adult message from the film’s writer-director, Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.” “Up”), who grew up in Minnesota and should know. 

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Posted at 08:41 AM on Jul 01, 2015 in category Movie Reviews - 2015
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Tuesday June 30, 2015

Quote of the Day: Three O'Clock in the Afternoon

Jerry: Don't you find the afternoon depressing?

Bill: Jean-Paul Sartre once said, “Three o'clock in the afternoon is always too early or too late to do anything.”

Jerry [Laughs]: He should've done more stand-up.

-- postprandial conversation between Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, S6 E4

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Posted at 04:40 PM on Jun 30, 2015 in category Quote of the Day
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The Battle for the Biggest Non-James Cameron Movie Ever

Earlier this month, I wondered which of the two spring blockbusters would be the first to surpass the original “Avengers” ($1.518 billion) for third place on the worldwide box office chart.

Would it be “Furious 7” (currently at $1.511 billion) or “Avengers/Ultron” (currently at $1. 371 billion)?

The answer is “Jurassic World,” which, after 10 days, is at $1.245 billion. The others have pretty much stopped making much progress, particularly “F7,” but “Jurassic” is roaring up the charts like a T-Rex coming after us in the rearview mirror. 

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Posted at 06:27 AM on Jun 30, 2015 in category Movies - Box Office
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