Friday, December 26, 2008

Notre Dame Baseball Alumni Mini-Update

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Notre Dame Football 2008
Issue 13: Hawaii

As an experiment, I crowdsourced my bowl preview, and two brave souls responsed. My own thoughts are at the end.

In the interest of time, and because they just flow better that way, I'm leaving everyone's previews intact.


Now, I don't study depth charts or stats to the degree that Kanka does, so don't expect in-depth position-by-position reviews out of me. I'm just a fired-up guy who enjoys a good game of football. And if I hadn't just read the most recent crowdsourced article on this site, I'd be tempted to accuse Kanka of being lazy, but I like being involved, I have some free time this weekend, and look: names in bold, integrated links -- I'm turning into a regular blogger!

I don't know anything about Hawaii's team, and I'm too lazy to look it up (see what happens when you crowdsource your articles to a group of equally lazy people?). I also don't have much to say about ND's team at this point that hasn't already been said. I just hope that Charlie isn't so focused on recruiting that he doesn't take the game seriously. Sure, the long-term health of the program is more important than a single bowl game, but I'm sick of hearing about how ND hasn't won a bowl game in 15 years, so it would be nice to get a postseason win.

Since I don't have anything intelligent to say, I'm going to do what all good football commentators do and start rambling on about intangibles and personal experience anecdotes.

This is going to be a tough environment for ND to play in. I stop short of calling it a "hostile" environment, because I'm not sure how hostile any place that has pretty girls handing out floral leis to everyone coming off an airplane can be. But seriously, this is far from a neutral location. It's essentially a home game for Hawaii, so expect to see a lot of whatever their colors are in the stands (again, too lazy to even look it up). It reminds me of the 2003 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. ND played NC State, and the stadium was full of Wolfpack fans not only because of the location, but also because NC State secured their spot in the game far earlier than ND did, giving their fans a jump on buying tickets. I expect to see more of the same here.

They're also not bringing the band. From a dollars-and-cents point of view, I can see why, but if I were still in the band, I'd be pretty upset. The bowl trip is just as much a reward for the band as it is for the team. And as an ND fan, it's great to hear "the greatest of all university fight songs" at ND football games (even though we don't call it that outside of ND Stadium). The band provides (to quote someone from some movie) what the French call a certain... I don't know what.

If any of you are lucky enough to get to attend the game, here are some useful Hawaiian phrases:
Mele Kalikimaka: "Merry Christmas"
Mahalo: I thought this meant "Trash" because that's what's printed on the trash cans at this little Hawaiian place we go to lunch sometimes, but it actually means "Thanks"
Ho'opa i lalo: "Touchdown". Actually, I don't know if that's really true. I just looked up the words "touch" and "down" and stuck the resulting translations together. Use at your own risk.
Joi'aga: That doesn't really mean anything. I just accidentally set my coffee cup down on my keyboard. By the way, they supposedly have good coffee in Hawaii.
Aloha: Both "Hello" and "Goodbye". Who invented this silly language?

Kanka: if you can turn any bit of this into a semi-coherent article, I'll be downright amazed.

Go Irish, and Merry Christmas!


ND can absolutely win this game, but since it's a bowl game, who the hell knows if we'll show up. Hawaii definitely will, but they're not that good this year. Can we control the clock and avoid stupid turnovers? That will decide the game.

With nothing left to say, I'll just include the rant I emailed Kanka a short time ago:

"I hate the game on Christmas Eve. Absolutely hate it. I can't believe the university put its alumni and fans in such a weird spot. "Go to church, spend time with family, or watch the bowl game" is pretty much the message. So odd. I'm going to Michigan with Colleen and her family tomorrow morning, and her dad's big family get-together is tomorrow night. Clearly I must watch the game, but I'd rather not come off like a totally anti-social d-bag in front of many people I've not met and who will be traveling a far distance for our wedding. Absolutely horrendous decision."


This has the potential to be a sloppy game, as both teams have struggled with turnovers. Hawaii has thrown over 16 interceptions, but most of those have come from Inoke Funaki (INDEED). Funaki was replaced by Greg Alexander, who has a stellar 12 to 4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Hawaii uses a four receiver look almost exclusively, and Notre Dame has said will counter with the nickel for most of the game. While Sergio Brown and Harrison Smith have improved their pass coverage over the course of the year, I'd like to see Robert Blanton and/or Gary Gray play nickel/dime back, so all of Notre Dame's most talented corners can be on the field at the same time. Terrail Lambert is back for this one, so that will be a big help. (Lost in the shuffle of the 38-3 loss to USC was the fact that ND was playing without its two "starting" corners, Lambert and Darrin Walls.)

Hawaii distributes the ball pretty evenly, so everyone in the Irish pass defense will have to be on their toes at all times. But they have the talent to do it, and they also have the talent to blitz early and often against a team that is worst in the nation at allowing sacks. But ND also has to be alert for the occasional draw, something they struggled with against San Diego State in the opener.

The Warriors defense gets in the backfield a lot, led by end David Veikune. Hopefully, the Irish will keep extra blockers back to protect Jimmy Clausen. This essentially means taking the tight end and/or running back out of the passing game. But fortunately Michael Floyd will be back, so Hawaii's secondary won't be able to concentrate all their efforts on Golden Tate. Hopefully that extra protection and the dual threat of Floyd and Tate will help Clausen keep the ball away from Hawaii's ball-hawking safeties.

Look for a big game from everyone. Go Irish, beat Warriors.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Notre Dame-Hawaii By The Numbers

Vegas Odds

The line is starting to move on this one. Originally Hawaii was a 1.5 point favorite, but now they're anywhere between there and a 1.5 point underdog to the Irish. They're a saying that you automatically give the home team 3 points. Well, despite the fact that Notre Dame will be wearing the dark jerseys, the Warriors have the home field advantage in this one. Of course, I've also heard that Notre Dame automatically gets 3 points in their favor on the line due to their following. Those 3 points of course cancel out the three given to Hawaii for home field advantage.

Computer Rankings

Below are the six computer rankings used by the BCS, and Notre Dame and Hawaii's position in each. As you can see, it's very tight.
Notre DameHawaii
Anderson & Hester5763

But those aren't the only computer rankings out there. Jeff Sagarin also includes on his website (rather bitterly) another ranking, called his PREDICTOR, that relies heavily on margin of victory. In that, Notre Dame is 62nd and Hawaii 95th.

The Fremeau Efficiency Index, used by Football Outsiders and housed at BCS Toys, has Notre Dame at 47 and Hawaii at 101. In addition, BCF Toys is calling the game a lock, with an 88% degree of confidence that Notre Dame will win 30-10.

Stastical Trends

Finally, here's a quick-and-dirty regression analysis. For each game this season, I took Notre Dame's points for and against, and rushing, passing, and total yards for and against. Excel gave me the following coefficients:
Points For0.01
Points Against-0.03
Rushing For0.06
Rushing Against-0.07
Passing For0.06
Passing Against-0.07
Total For-0.06
Total Against0.07

Like I said, it's a very quick-and-dirty model. I'm not even sure if the variables I used are reliable predictors of wins and losses. Of course, the small sample size of 12 games is also an issue. But this is all something I can work on next year.

Anyways, plugging Hawaii's season averages into this model gives Notre Dame a 57% chance of winning.


If you're a fan of what the stat nerds have to say, this will be a close one, with a slight edge to Notre Dame. Still, there are many more factors to consider, and time permitting I'll cover those in my next preview. Go Irish!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)
By Steve Hofstetter, Keith Alberstadt, Ryan Murphy, and Chris Strait

The New York Mets signed Angels reliever Francisco Rodriguez. Rodriguez said that while he had many offers on the table, this was the one that allowed him to be the only relief pitcher on the team.

The floundering Arena Football League delayed the release of their 2009 schedule for the third time. It's understandable, because it'd be embarrassing to release a blank piece of paper.

The NFL Players' Association is somehow challenging the four-game suspension the Giants handed to Plaxico Burress. The Players' Association is expected to win, mainly because they're armed.

The Atlanta Dream got the first pick in the WNBA draft. Unfortunately, they can not use it to draft fans.

And the poor economy is even affecting the NFL, who will be cutting 150 employees. We're hoping most of them will be the Detroit Lions.

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)
By Steve Hofstetter, Keith Alberstadt, Ryan Murphy, and Chris Strait

The Kings defeated the Lakers this week. It was the most surprising beating involving Los Angeles since Rodney King.

Joey Porter said he has a handgun at home in Miami. He said he even takes it with him when he goes to America.

The New York Mets traded Aaron Heilman for JJ Putz, marking the first time in history that a Putz was traded for a putz.

And the New York Yankees signed CC Sabathia to a $161 million, seven-year deal. Sabathia will wear his number 52, but on David Wells' old uniform. The pressure on Sabathia from Yankee fans will be tremendous. Luckily, Sabathia has the girth to withstand it.

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)
By Steve Hofstetter, Keith Alberstadt, Ryan Murphy, and Chris Strait

The Washington Nationals reportedly have made a huge offer for slugger Mark Teixera. But he doesn't know about it because it's hard to hear voices coming from the cellar.

The coaches of all three Heisman finalists said they hope that success doesn't come with negative baggage for the star players. Which is a nice way of saying that they hope the players don't get drafted by Detroit.

Pacman Jones may miss the rest of the year. Unless he finds a blinking power pellet before it's too late.

The New York Giants have refused to pay $1 million of Plaxico Burress's signing bonus. In other words, the bookkeeper put his ballpoint pen on "safety."

And former trainer Brian McNamee said there is no chance that Roger Clemens will get into the Hall of Fame. Unless they move the Hall from Cooperstown to Mindy McCready's pants.

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)
By Steve Hofstetter, Keith Alberstadt, Ryan Murphy, and Chris Strait

Plaxico Burress attended an event for a New York charity. The charity was the Giants new offense.

Oklahoma's Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday. He said he hopes to use that stiff arm technique on the Detroit Lions when they try to draft him.

Newly acquired Francisco Rodriguez told the rest of the NL East that the Mets are the team to beat. That sound you hear is the rest of New York not holding their breath. The Mets are actually the team to beat, as proven by the Phillies the last two years.

And Sean Avery, who was suspended by the Dallas Stars, won't return to the team. Another team may pick him up, but only if they can call him "sloppy seconds."

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)
By Steve Hofstetter, Keith Alberstadt, Ryan Murphy, and Chris Strait

Rutgers athletic director Robert Mulcahy will step down. He wanted to announce it weeks ago, but he's been stuck in traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The Arena Football League will shut down in 2009 to re-structure its business model. Terrell Owens complained that he wasn't included in the decision.

Iowa State coach Gene Chizik is taking the head coaching job at Auburn. His first order of business is to update his resume in case he doesn't beat Bama. Charles Barkley immediately criticized his alma mater for the hiring, saying that Auburn only hired Chizik because he's white. We're shocked, because this was the longest the state of Alabama has ever gone without being racist.

And the 46-year-old Jamie Moyer signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. When asked what he planned on wearing to the press conference, the aging hurler simply said, "depends."

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Buck's Hall

You may have seen the link in the top right of this blog, promoting what Buck O'Neil pictured as his last great legacy: a "Hall of Education" to complement the Negro Leagues Museum he helped build on the famous corner of 18th and Vine in Kansas City.

Now that hall is in trouble, thanks to some questionable politics surrounding the appointment of a new museum director. Joe Posnanski has more.

Oh, and don't forget to vote for Buck (and Joe Posnanski, if you wish) in this year's KankaNation hall of fame voting.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Notre Dame Football: Placing the Blame

This began as a lively discussion on the message board. I chopped up the discussion and presented the best quotes here. As you can see, the local readership is generally pro-Weis (if for no other reason than the lack of a suitable successor) and anti-Clausen.

Speaking of the message board, if you haven't been there before, why not stop by and say hi?

The Case For Charlie Weis

"Charlie brings a unique perspective to the position. Have you ever tried explaining to a non-Domer just how special ND is? It's nearly impossible. There's something about actually being there -- experiencing what it means to be part of the university family. As an alumnus, Charlie "gets it".

Suppose we find somebody new... what would they do differently? When Charlie was hired, he'd talk about flashing his 4 Super Bowl rings in front of prospective recruits, showing that he has what it takes to get them to "play on Sundays", and that's still legitimate. The other piece to the recruiting issue is the team's performance, and a coaching change isn't going to do anything (at least immediately) to change that." - Aflac

"I hear a lot of guff about how good or bad Weis is at his job. I hardly hear anything about how tough a job Weis has, either absolutely or relative to other teams with winning seasons.

Obviously, we should expect a great deal from our football coach. However, high expectations aren't the same as unreasonably high expectations. Where's the threshold...?" - Klondike

"The thing that gets me is that the media (and some fans) keep saying that Weis has only one win against ranked teams in the last 3 years. True, but that includes 2007, when they didn't beat anyone.

The important thing is that except in three cases (MSU, BC, USC), Notre Dame played their losses close to the very end. Unfortunately, young teams have a tendency to blow leads - that's nothing exclusive to this year's ND team. Now, next year when they're more experienced, they should be expected to win those games." - Kanka

"He's not Bob Davie complaining that we don't play more directional schools. He's not Ty Willingham, saying that 6-6 is good enough. He's not Urban Meyer, trying to cut deals to admit more academically questionable players. (As an aside, do you think the people who want Meyer now have forgotten about him saying that three years ago?)" - Kanka

"I think the fans are being short-sighted. If the season had gone the other way, beginning with disappointing losses and ending with maulings of Michigan, Purdue, and Washington, or if one or two of the losses had gone the other way, we wouldn't be hearing any of this talk. (Bear in mind, too, that ND's 38-3 loss to USC was only 3 points worse than OSU's.) Yes, we'd all like Notre Dame to compete for the national championship every year. But simply saying that (or yelling it, or typing it) doesn't make it possible." - Kanka

The Case Against Charlie Weis

"But at the same time, Gerry Faust "got it" so much that he went into the school's archives and found out that our true colors are gold and Madonna (light) blue. I'm sure Terry Brennan got it too. Heck, the people on this board get it, but I don't think any of us can lead the team to a National Championship." - Kanka

"I've never really liked Charlie. I think he is 20 times more cocky than Jimmy even though at least initially he backed that up. I think Charlie still sometimes thinks he's coaching a bunch of pros and if guys don't improve or decide to transfer or something, it's fine because he'll just go sign some experienced free agents in the off season to replace them. He basically doesn't care about the backups if they aren't freshmen. Then you have guys like DJ Hord and Richard Jackson transfer, George West, Floyd, and Parris all get hurt and you end up with 3 scholarship WRs for a game. Same thing with our TE situation. I know a ton of people who want him fired. I'm willing to give him another year mainly because there doesn't seem to be anyone better to replace him right now and once upon a time, it wasn't the Notre Dame way to fire a coach so quickly. He definitely needs to get a little humility though because right now he is not backing up his tough talk at all and it's making Notre Dame look stupid. There's a fine line between arrogance and confidence. Charlie is on the wrong side of that line. I'm really not sure how he recruits so well because if he came into my living room, I wouldn't be able to stand him. Maybe it works well because all the 5 star recruits are cocky as heck too and figure they will be the savior of ND football... then they get here and don't develop and end up looking like Jimmy Clausen. Charlie somehow needs to figure out how to develop talent because we do have talent, and I know they are working very hard, yet it is not showing on the field." - T

Firing Weis as a Business Decision

"Can ND afford to fire him? Of course. Even with his supposedly huge buyout, the university has the means to make it happen.

But who would replace him if they did?" - Aflac

"No question... it's Bush's fault.

I recommend a three-billion dollar bailout for ND Football. Of course, because of the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act we'll have to give another three billion dollars to the women's soccer team." - Klondike

"I'm sure the logistics of a coaching change play into a bit. The last few searches were ugly, and this team needs some stability." - Kanka

The Case For Jimmy Clausen

"He is definitely on the cocky side, but recently, I've started to think he's not quite as bad as he appears. I think he tries to be a good teammate and doesn't think he's above any of the other guys on the team. And just a side note, he would not be at a bar in a pink polo with a popped collar because he prefers to dress more hood, think baggy jeans, baseball hat cocked just so, etc... but he would have a blond or two hanging on his arms." - T

The Case Against Jimmy Clausen

"He had a rough year last year. I expected him to use the off-season to focus and improve, and he has to a point, but it's not enough. He still doesn't look like a Notre Dame quarterback, and at times he barely looks like a college-level QB. And when you look at the investment the university is making in him (conservatively, 5 years tuition + books + tutoring + etc = at least a quarter million), not to mention the 4 other QBs sitting on the bench, it adds up.

My problem is that I never liked Jimmy. From the signing ceremony where he rolled up to the College Football Hall of Fame in a stretch Hummer dressed like Joe Namath, I could tell that he just doesn't "get it". I thought that a little time under the dome would teach him what ND is all about, but he still has that cocky demeanor about him. At least he cut his hair. But he still looks like one of those jerks you see at a bar in a pink polo shirt with the collar popped and an aviation blonde hanging on his arm. " - Aflac

"I kind of wish Jimmy was more stereotypically German, but I'm not sure that would solve the problems that you guys are concerned with." - Klondike

"It seems like his ego is getting in his own way. That's not a big surprise there, and talking to a current student and people in adminitration confirms it. I'm not sure what the opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy (if you expect everything to go wrong, it will) is, but that's Clausen's problem. He expects things to turn out OK, no matter what he does. "If I just keep scrambling backwards, eventually I'll find someone." "Rudolph's being triple-covered, but the play says to throw it to him, so I'll do that anyways."

Clausen has talent. The first half of the season showed that he probably has better touch on the deep pass than Quinn. But the playcalling in the last few games - all screens and dumpoffs over the middle - shows Weis's faith in Clausen's decision-making ability right now." - Kanka

"I've never really liked Jimmy either. He set himself up for a horrible situation, although now I'm thinking it's not all his fault. The people advising him are equally responsible for how he came off. I've been in a few classes with him and don't think he's very smart which is necessary for a QB. Maybe Charlie's offense is just too much for him. Between his looks and his social akwardness and lack of smarts, he comes off as a bit of an anti-Brady Quinn to me." - T

Goals and Standards for 2009

"This year has been one of constant "How did we get here?" moments.

My solutions:

1. Establish benchmarks for Charlie. For example
- Min. 7 wins this year.
- Team GPA >3.0
- You get the idea

2. Begin to develop Dane Crist. We have taken too many big losses on plays that require only some savvy form the QB. I would be hesitant to bench Jimmy at the start of the season. He does have quite a bit of experience. I am not opposed to phasing him out though. He doesn't seem to be the permanent solution.

3. Return to fundamentals. Blocking, tackling, discipline (read avoiding simple penalties), and more competition (for every spot on the field)." - Yonto

"I believe Weis is smart enough to surround himself with smart people. A majority of his coaching staff, including himself, is inexperienced. He brought in Tenuta to mentor Corwin Brown, and the defense improved. Now I think he needs to bring in an offensive guy. Yes, technically he already is the experienced offensive guy. But you can't mentor a new offensive coordinator AND mentor a new quarterbacks coach AND be a new head coach all at the same time. " - Kanka

"I'm very happy that Crist is waiting in the wings, and we should see an open competition before too long. I'm also happy that Crist was not inserted into the Syracuse game, as many fans in section 102 wanted. Of course, these were the same fans that didn't understand why Clausen wasn't throwing deep to Floyd on every play and were dreading Walker's every attempt. (If you, like them, weren't aware, Floyd was injured and Walker entered the game in the middle of a 12 for 13 streak.) Of course, I'll chalk some of those comments up to extra alcohol intake on a 19-degree day." - Kanka

"I went into this season without any expectations, because the team was still young. But now that "Weis's guys" will be experienced upperclassmen in 2009, if you want to raise the expectations, so be it." - Kanka

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cleveland Indians Sabermetrics 101: DIPS and RAR

In the last installment, we discovered that all pitchers' BABIP tend to fall in the .290 to .310. It follows then that if we want to gauge a pitcher's talent level, we need to look at everything besides balls hit into play. "Everything else" consists of strikeouts, walks, and homeruns, generally considered the "three true outcomes." There are a number of stats that study the three true outcomes, and together they are referred to as defense-independent pitching statistics - DIPS.

Before I go into examples of DIPS, I need to define a few terms.

replacement level: This is a popular concept among statheads. A replacement level player is one that is easily available as a mid-season free agent signing or a AAA call-up. Indians fans saw many replacement level players make starts for the Indians last year, Matt Ginter for example.

Runs Above Replacement, RAR: If "replacement level" is the amount of production you can get out of a player off the scrap heap, you would expect your regular players to be able to perform above that level. For pitchers, this means comparing the number of runs a pitcher gave up over a certain number of innings and comparing it to the number of runs a replacement player would have given up over the same number of innings. This is a tally of runs "saved" compared to a replacement pitcher, so a high positive number is better.

RAR for pitchers is calculated by taking the replacement level ERA, which is generally taken to be 5.75, subtracting the player's ERA, diving by 9 (since ERA is a measure of runs given up per 9 innings), and multiplied by innings pitched:

(5.75 - ERA) / 9 * IP

Wins Above Replacement, WAR: It's generally accepted in sabermetric circles that 10 runs is equal to 1 win. So, to find out how many Wins Above Replacement a pitcher earned, their RAR is divided by 10.


Beyond the Box Score's article on this topic covers many pitcher stats. I'll let you look through those at your own leisure. The most advanced is a new stat called tERA. It takes the three true outcomes mentioned above, plus HBP and percentage of hits that were ground balls, line drives, infield flies, and outfield flies, plus takes the ballpark into factor. With input that complicated, it has to be accurate, right? Well, you and I can just take their word for it for the time being.

Since the goal for many sabermetricians is to take luck out of the equation, StatCorner - the same people that created tERA - also created xIP, expected Innings Pitched. Put simply, xIP tries to determine what each play "should have been" (ie, a screaming liner that was caught is changed to a hit, and a blooper that dropped is changed to an out) to give a more accurate look at the pitcher's workload.

Indians RAR/WAR in 2008

How did the Indians fare in 2008?
Cliff Lee2222.64778
CC Sabathia122.673.26343
Fausto Carmona1214.64151
Zach Jackson573.81121
Aaron Laffey92.674.77101
Paul Byrd1285.4050
Jake Westbrook334.4050
Matt Ginter21.333.7650
Anthony Reyes324.7440
Scott Lewis234.5230
Jeremy Sowers1185.89-20
Bryan Bullington9.677.49-20
Tom Mastny1.6723.83-30
Total Result98279.13162.4516.24

As you can see, by this methodology Cliff Lee won eight games all by himself. Meanwhile, Matt Ginter, Bryan Bullington, and Tom Mastny were almost the definition of replacement level.

But that 162.45 total RAR means nothing without context. Cleveland finished fifth in the AL in RAR in 2008, just behind Boston and Tampa Bay, and just ahead of Anaheim and Minnesota. Toronto and the White Sox were almost 50 points ahead of their closest competitors, thanks to aces (Roy Halladay and Mark Buehrle) that scored in the 70s with a solid supporting staff. (Halladay and AJ Burnett are worth stars, but the rest of the Toronto rotation is very underrated.

Indians RAR/WAR in 2009

So, how do the Indians look in 2009? Will they need to add another starter?

The calculations for tERA and xIP are beyond my abilities at this point, so I cheated and used the innings pitched and ERA predictions from the 2009 Marcels. Here's what Marcel have to say for the guys currently on the 40 man roster.
Cliff Lee1803.80394
Fausto Carmona1354.13242
Zach Jackson834.7291
Aaron Laffey1124.26192
Jake Westbrook934.16162
Anthony Reyes844.45121
Scott Lewis724.00141
Jeremy Sowers1274.82131
Total Result88634.34147.0314.7

Uh oh. That 147.03 RAR would be, by 2008 standards, ninth best in the AL. But there are a few things to remember. Marcel is admittedly a "dumb" system, and it looks at three years of data. That means it's taking Cliff Lee's disappointing 2007 and Fausto Carmona's nightmare 2006 into account. Also, RAR is dependent on innings pitched. So, once the Indians settle on their five best starters, and give them the innings that went to "experiments" last year, the numbers should improve.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)

By Steve Hofstetter, Keith Alberstadt, Ryan Murphy, and Chris Strait

Florida won the SEC Championship game over Alabama. Bama fans haven't been that upset since they heard that "The Dukes of Hazard" wasn't real.

Elsewhere in college football, Oklahoma dismantled Missouri on Saturday. It was such a ruthless punishment, fans thought the BCS was playing Texas. The BCS refuses to institute a playoff system - because they don't want to force football players to miss the classes they planned on skipping anyway.

The chairman of the Chicago Cubs said he expects the team to be sold by spring training. And that will fix everything.

And of course, O.J. Simpson was sentenced to prison. It took so long for true justice to be served, we thought the courts were being run by the BCS.

The New York Giants won the NFC East division. They celebrated by dumping Gatorade on Plaxico Burress' smoldering leg.

Manny Pacquiao's domination of his former hero Oscar de la Hoya bore a striking resemblance to de la Hoya's domination of his own hero Julio Cesar Chavez. It's so similar, Pacquiao has also put out a lousy CD.

The Arizona Cardinals clinched the NFC West. After the game was in the bag, Kurt Warner asked if his team wanted paper or plastic.

Angels reliever Francisco Rodriguez met with the New York Mets about coming to their bullpen. Or as they call it, where ERAs go to die.

And Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford will have surgery on his hand. The good news is that it's his non-throwing hand. The bad news is that the surgeon is a Texas fan.

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Notre Dame Winter Sports Schedule

Are you like me? Now that you're no longer on campus, you have trouble following Notre Dame basketball and hockey? It's not like football, playing every Saturday. That's why I compiled this combined schedule for Notre Dame hockey, men's basketball, and women's basketball. As you can see, the #1 hockey team won't be on national TV during the regular season (at least according to, but they are often on South Bend's regional Comcast Sports, and those games are often syndicated to Sports Time Ohio in the Cleveland area. So, as they say, check your local listings.

All times are Eastern. Once I figure out how to format the times properly, I'll do so.

Direct Link to Google Spreadsheet

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It's Ballot Time Again!

(I said it with more enthusiasm this year in the hopes of improving voter turnout.)

Once again, it's time to vote for the KankaNation Hall of Fame.

List up to 10 people you think should be in the KankaNation Hall of Fame, and email to by 5 pm Eastern on December 31.
Those who receive a certain percentage of the vote (depends on how many ballots are received; usually 66-75%) will join the Classes of 2004-2008. Those who received multiple votes last year will receive one carryover vote this year.

To view past inductees and voting results, click one of the links below:
Class of 2004
Class of 2005
Class of 2006
Class of 2007
Class of 2008

Cleveland Indians Sabermetrics 101: BABIP

Inspired by this post at Beyond the Boxscore, here's my first "homework assignment" for Saber-Friendly Blogging 101.

Batting Average on Balls In Play, BABIP, is essentially batting average for everything except strikeouts and walks. I'll let the article above, Wikipedia, and the Sabermetric Wiki give you the details.

BABIP for hitters relies on many factors and will vary from player to player. But for pitchers, BABIP always seems to fall in the .290 to .310 range. What does this mean? If a pitcher is widely outside of that range one year, you can expect them to regress back to those numbers the following year, and their overall performance should follow. (I'm sure there are cases of certain pitchers having consistently high or low BABIP numbers, but I don't know of any offhand.)

So, how did Indians pitchers fare in 2008? To find out, you can check The Hardball Times or Fangraphs. Or, if you'd rather do the work yourself (or, like me, didn't find out about the THT and Fangraphs page until after doing the work), you need to start with their 2008 stats.

If you're not up to the task of setting up a MySQL database of baseball stats, you can simply copy and paste them from Baseball-Reference's 2008 Indians page into Excel. To determine At Bats, I took BFP (Batters Faced by Pitcher) minus Bases on Balls and Hit By Pitch. (I assumed IBB totals were already included in IBB.) I also ignored Sacrifice Flies because that information wasn't readily available. My results were almost identical to those from the Hardball Times. Fangraphs' were a little different, but as the Sabermetric Wiki mentions, there are several variations to the formula.

Rich Rundles19.3851.80
Tom Mastny89.34410.80
Edward Mujica157.3286.75
Rafael Betancourt284.3115.07
Zach Jackson221.3105.60
Masahide Kobayashi229.3064.53
Rafael Perez288.3043.54
Cliff Lee852.3012.54
Jeremy Sowers491.3015.58
Jensen Lewis260.3003.82
Aaron Laffey369.2944.23
Fausto Carmona470.2945.44
Jake Westbrook131.2623.12
Anthony Reyes129.2591.83
Scott Lewis91.2222.63
Jonathan Meloan5.0000.00

I included At Bats in this table to illustrate a point: in general, as at bats increased, the pitcher's numbers moved more to the .290-.310 range. Rich Rundles and Jon Meloan only faced a handful of batters, so their numbers can largely be ignored. But you could almost argue the same for Scott Lewis and Tom Mastny.

Now, this table is good news for Tom Mastny and Ed Mujica, and even Rafael Betancourt and Zach Jackson to some extent. All posted high ERA and high BABIP. But their BABIP should go down in 2009, and their other stats should improve as a result. Conversely, Anthony Reyes and Scott Lewis will probably see their spectacular 2008 numbers fall back to earth. Jake Westbrook will probably see a decline as well, once he's finally healthy.

If BABIP holds true, that middle group should stay about the same. That's great news for Cliff Lee, Rafael Perez, and Jensen Lewis, as well as Aaron Laffey and Masahide Kobayashi to some extent. But it's also bad news for Jeremy Sowers and Fausto Carmona.

But BABIP is by no means a be-all, end-all predictor. For example, while Rafael Betancourt was on the edge of the expected BABIP range, his ERA was abnormally high (for him) due to a lingering injury that kept him from throwing his fastball, which is his best pitch. And while Cliff Lee was right in the middle in terms of BABIP, he'll still be hard-pressed to repeat the phenomenal year he had in 2008. Still, his BABIP numbers do show that 2008 wasn't entirely luck, and that Lee should still do very well in 2009.