Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to John Hurt, 73.

And some good stuff:

1. A few basic facts about the US in Afghanistan, from Paul Waldman.

2. Voteview on the ideological placement of US presidents. Worth looking at, but I'm far from convinced that what it's tapping into really measures something we're very interested in.

3. Arizona, (perhaps) making trouble again with the presidential nomination calendar. Josh Putnam has it, of course.

4. Sarah Binder looks ahead to the 113th.

5. While John Sides says that partisanship is what works.

6. And Joe Sheehan on Lance Armstrong -- and Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey, and the rest of the gang.


  1. Skip Bayless was talking about Derek Jeter a while ago on his show, and in reference to Jeter's career stat line, Bayless noted that Jeter's 2012/age 38 year "looked kind of funny". Without accusing Jeter of PED use himself, Bayless wondered when the rumors would hit.

    Both Stephen A. Smith on the show, and the sports media world in general, were shocked - SHOCKED! I tell you! - that Bayless would broach such a topic. Not because of the data: Jeter's 2012 stats are not as weird as Bonds' 73-home run 2001 or later eye-popping OPS seasons, but they're certainly...unusual.

    No, people were mad that Bayless dared ask such a question about Derek Bloody Jeter! This is a great illustration of the best argument for the PED-irrelevance crowd: especially in the HGH-era, where substances are detectable for a maximum of 24 hours, you have to assume that just about everyone is using exogenous testosterone.

    And if St. Derek Jeter's stats look odd, they probably are.

    1. How is Jeter's 2012 "funny?" I don't mind suspecting Jeter of doing things wrong (just like he was clearly in the wrong position on the 2001 ALDS "flip play"....what was the shortstop doing down the first base line?!?! And why, oh why, Jeremy Giambi, didn't you slide when you were being signalled to slide!??!?!)

      Jeter stole less, and hit for more power and average. Hitting .316 is not unusual for Jeter: he hit .332 in 2009. 15 HRs is less than his 2009 total of 18. He has always had a good BABIP (call it luck or call it his style of hitting tends to hit them where they ain't), but 2010 and 2011 were his lowest and 4th lowest seasons, respectively....that sounds a bit like bad luck (and injury). He slugged .429, which is below his median and average. In fact, the only one of his numbers that was above his career season average was batting average, by .003

      He stole less and hit for more power, as most hitters do when they age. And, to keep going at 38 is kinda impressive. But, compare him to somebody with NO steroids taint who played the same position as long, and did so recently: Cal Ripken. Ripken somehow managed to find a way to hit 18 HRs in his age 38 year, with a 220 point surge in OPS from the previous two years, while only playing half of the games. He had done something similar (though, more lucky with respect to balls making it out of the yard) in his age 35 year.

      I never draft Jeter because I always think the wheels are going to fall off. I also never win my fantasy league. Jeter's 2012 is impressive for age 38, but others have done the same, and without PEDs. I'm not saying Jeter's clean; I'm saying that his stats, at first glance, don't scream "I cheated in 2012 only."

    2. Matt, I probably oversold my case. How many guys follow up their two lowest (non-rookie) OPS+ seasons - age 36 and 37 - with an OPS+ season at age 38 that is not far from their heyday?

      Some do. Sometimes injuries explain that effect, which could very well be the case with Jeter. Most, if memory serves, don't.

      Its not suspicious like Bonds having OPS+ in the 231-268 range for his 36-39 yo seasons, but it's not...normal, no?

    3. BTW - not sure if anyone cares, but for curiosity I looked up the greatest OPS+ seasons ever. Bonds' 37, 39, and 36-yo seasons are 1,2,3 - top of the list. His 38-yo season is 11th.

      Among the other 16 guys on the list, a mere two are over 35. Babe Ruth's 36-yo year is down at 19, and the other is probably the most famous example of "weird old guy production" prior to the PED era: Teddy Ballgame almost hitting .400 at age 38.

      Williams' magical season was the result of something like a performance-enhancing drug, sort of: in his case a bum wrist in spring training compromised his bat speed all year, and for the first time he wasn't hitting into the vaunted Williams Shift, instead hitting the ball the other way into empty pastures.

      (Makes you wonder what Williams might have accomplished if he overcame his pride and started doing that purposely, ten years earlier).

    4. And one more - if you click on the link above, you'll notice that it shows the top 500 OPS+ seasons, together with the player's age. Follows are the OPS+ seasons among the Top 500 ever in which the player was 39 (overall rank in parentheses):

      Bonds (2)
      Williams - probably liking that opposite way thing from the previous year - (191)

      There aren't any others in the Top 500.

    5. CSH --

      On Jeter. Remember, very few players have a bounce-back good year at 38 because (1) very few players are good enough to make it to 38, and (2) even fewer are good enough to make it to 38 after an off years at 36 and 37. Really; the total universe of guys who had the opportunity to do what Jeter did is tiny out of all major leaguers, or ever all major league regulars.

    6. Certainly - if you look at the 38-yos on that list of Top 500 OPS+ seasons, you'll see that Williams' bum wrist 38-yo season is 10th, Bonds' (?) is 11th, and then you have to go to the 200s to find just Ruth, Cobb...and Bob Johnson (in 1944, surely a beneficiary of WWII diluting talent). You're right, 38-yo's like Jeter just don't have great seasons. The question is: is that due to a bias against old players, or is there something that inevitably happens to old guys (that mysteriously didn't to Jeter, Bonds, Williams...)?

      To test this, I quickly looked at the Top 20 career OPS players to see how their age 38 year compared to their career average. Some didn't make it to 38 because of injury/illness (Gehrig, Mantle), some because of the 19th century (Orr, Browning), some had no opportunity (Shoeless Joe Jackson), and some aren't there yet (Pujols). 11 of the top 20 did have a 38-yo season, here are their OPS+ vs. career averages for that season, in descending order (Jeter included - he's not in the Top 20):

      1. Bonds +49
      2. Williams +43
      3. Cobb +3
      Jeter -3
      4. F. Thomas -16
      5. Hornsby -23
      6. Brouthers -29
      7. Ruth -30
      8. Speaker -30
      9. Mays -32
      10. Musial -54
      11. Mize -56

      I think Skip Bayless had every right to raise his eyebrows...Jeter's 38-yo season certainly does look unusual against a pool of the greatest players ever...

  2. I have some serious problems with this voteview tool. Any model that has Carter as being much more liberal than Obama seems deeply flawed to me. After all Obama passed health care reform to cover most people with out access to health care, Carter famously said he didn't think it was the government's job to do any such thing and didn't move on it throughout his presidency even though the Democrats controlled congress. That doesn't strike me as a particularly "liberal" thing to do. And how is W so "conservative"?" Sure he fought wars and appointed pro-lifers to the bench but he also passed the largest expansion of the welfare state since LBJ? Personally I just think this is a tool to meassure how presidents relate to the Congresses during their presidency, which doesn't tell us much as the GOP has been getting more and more extreme since the 70's.

  3. I really don't like the Paul Weldman graphic. While I appreciate that our war in Afghanistan has been long; I have to object to 1) the decision to ignore the Indian Wars, 2) ignore the Philippine-American war and 3) the lengths of occupations following other wars (10 year occupation of Germany, 10 year occupation of the Philippines, 12 year occupation of the American South etc.).

    So while I agree that we have been in Afghanistan for a long time, I disagree that there is anything unusual about it.


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