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Welcome to Hey Bill, where Bill answers questions from his subscribers almost every day. Visitors can read the most recent Hey Bill's on this page.  Subscribers can ask Bill a question directly and also view our archive of questions and answers.

 

The fifteen most recent questions are listed here and will change almost every day.

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15 Most Recent Questions

Hillary Clinton didn't commit "espionage", is not a "psychopath" and was not a "disaster" as Secretary of State.
Asked by: Steve

Answered: 7/28/2016
 No, of course not. . .well, two out of three.   She didn't commit espionage; she was merely careless with national secrets, and she is not a psychopath.   That's the problem with discussing politics, that as soon as you start to talk about politics, people start to say ridiculous stuff that is obviously not true.   

 

On the "imagining he was feeling the effects", this probably has to do with the nature of diabetes in the normal scenario where it's not a professional sports league.  Diabetes typically sets in without the person being aware of it, because there aren't major symptoms in the case of Type 2 for quite some time.  
 
In MLB one would guess that they catch it fairly early on in the process, but... this was 1978.  So it's entirely possible he had diabetes without knowing it, in that era.  Untreated diabetes in this case must be type 2, which leads to high blood sugar, but not usually monstrously high at the onset of the disease.    
 
It would not be at all surprising to find that Catfish had the disease for 2, 3 or even 5 years before diagnosis, and that it went untreated during that time.  It would be impossible, without knowing blood sugars to say how much that might have affected him.  
 
Abnormally high blood sugar does interfere with healing dramatically, so it's an interesting theory.
Asked by: Christopher

Answered: 7/28/2016
Thanks.   My point was that his career progression was relatively normal, similar to that of many other pitchers who did not have diabetes.   When you throw blood sugar into the mix people focus on that and start talking about it, but there is no REAL reason to do so, since there is nothing abnormal about his career path.   Or Santo's.   

 

HeyBill, they said tonight, in amazement, that tonight Neil Walker had the first hit of his career off a 3-0 count. When I looked it up, he has had 3784 plate appearances, with 77 3-0 counts, and 77 walks. Are those numbers remarkable?
Asked by: OldBackstop

Answered: 7/28/2016
 No idea.   Don't SOUND remarkable, really.  

 

Hey, Bill regarding your comment that "…the Democratic convention is sure trying like hell to MAKE me vote for him."  
 
This is the great problem with saying that your opponent is an idiot or a racist or divisive or a fear monger, or a simpleton, rather than simply promoting your own ideas and rationally critiquing the opponents ideas: by doing it the first way you are pointing at everyone who ever thought Trump had a good point…and telling them that they are idiots or racists or simpletons or whatever.  
 
It's never a good idea to insult the intelligence of people you wish to persuade to your point of view.
Asked by: Gfletch

Answered: 7/27/2016
 Right. 

 

The NFL announcer Michaelskarpelos referred to might be Ray Scott. He was a play-by-play guy who would just state  the absolute minimum: "Hornung up the middle for a gain of three. Tackle by Butkus. Second and seven for the Packers."  
As I recall it was very effective.
Asked by: manhattanhi

Answered: 7/27/2016
 Two votes.   Ray Scott. 

 

I'm sure that many readers have already identified the minimalist NFL announcer as Ray Scott.  "Starr ... Dowler ... touchdown."  He was great but not everyone would be with that style.  
 
I've read Harry Caray did Mizzou football and some St. Louis Hawks basketball back in the day.  Would love to have heard that.  
Asked by: wilbur

Answered: 7/27/2016
 Only if Missouri lost. . . 

 

Bill, I understand that you don't like self-promoters. But in deciding whether or not to vote for Trump, why is that decisive? Why don't you weigh that against the fact that Hillary Clinton committed espionage two thousand times, that she is a psychopathic liar, that she was a disaster as secretary of state, etc?
Asked by: manhattanhi

Answered: 7/27/2016
 My problem with Trump is not MERELY that he is a self-promoter.   It is that he is unworthy to hold the office.   

 

Re minimalist broadcasts. Do you remember the CBS announcer from the 1960s who would do football game introductions by simply saying in a resonant baritone something like "The Vikings. The Packers. Glad you could be with us."? His intros were completely devoid of hype, yet far more compelling in their simplicity than anything I've heard in decades. I wish could remember the announcer's name, but it was so long ago.
Asked by: Michael Skarpelos

Answered: 7/27/2016
 Here again, we don't fully understand the problem because we can't model all of the inputs.   I think generally that hype is less effective than those who urge its use believe it to be, for essentially the same reasons that lineup selection is less important than people assume it to be.   
 
When Walter Cronkite was broadcasting, the first words out of his mouth would be the essential facts of the day's top news story.   When a modern local announcer is broadcasting, he or she will "tease" the audience repeatedly.   He'll come on 10 minutes before the newscast with a ten-word bulletin, "THREE DEAD IN A HOUSE FIRE IN OLATHE!; DETAILS AT FIVE".   Then, at 5:00, he'll come on and say, "A house fire in Olathe kills three and sends another to the hospital in critical condition; we'll have all the news following this commercial."   "This commercial" turns out to be a 3-minute sequence of 10 to 15 twenty-second commercials, then the newsman returns and says, "Electrical wiring is suspected as the cause of a house fire in Olathe which has killed three people and sent a 70-year-old relative to a critical care unit.    Randy Reporter is standing by, and he'll have all of the details on that story in just a moment, but first. . ."  and then he goes to a different story, and a different story, and a different story, each one of them a mix of a few facts and some hype for another story to be told later in the broadcast.   After four minutes of this, they'll do a round-the-table; the weather guy will say 20 words, the sports anchor will say 20 words, and co-host will make a joke, and then they'll do another 3 minutes of commercials. 
 
They THINK that they are "building the audience"; they are building up the audience by telling everybody just a little bit and a little bit and a little bit about what is GOING to happen later in the broadcast.   But by delaying, and delaying, and delaying, they are also sending a sub-concious message to the audience:   None of this is really important, and we don't actually care anything about it.   If it WAS important, we would tell you about it NOW.   But it isn't really that important, so we'll tell you about it later.   
 
So we don't watch the news anymore; we just steal headlines from the television and go check the facts on the internet if the story seems relevant to us.   Would the old Walter Cronkite approach still work, in the modern world?   Who knows?   It would work for me, but then, I'm 66 years old; I'm not the target audience.   
 
 
I am trying to get to a point, which is something like this:   that playing the percentages doesn't actually work.   The percentage advantage that you can SEE is usually undermined by some unseen disadvantage.   This is why lineup selection has little impact on actual runs scored; it is why Hype doesn't actually build audience share.    It is why negative advertising doesn't actually work; I am never going to vote for Donald Trump, but the Democratic convention is sure trying like hell to MAKE me vote for him.    Every time they accuse Trump of being a bully, I feel a little twinge like I ought to vote for him, just to reject their stupid name-calling campaign.   Somewhere in a backroom is a guy with a study who has found that people are 17% less likely to vote for Donald Trump if we call him a bully 22,000 times.   It doesn't actually work.  

 

Future consideration aside - Is it possible that the Yankees will be better off this season having traded Chapman because they now abandon the 7-8-9 tactic?  I found that the 7-8-9 thing was a poor use of resources (at least most of the time); they never brought one of those guys in when down a run late, always only in ties or save situations.  I know they have a weak offense, but surely there would be times when Betances and Miller could keep them in a close one and let them come back.  Adam Warren is of course not Chapman, but now they will be more versatile and actually let a starter who is having a decent game go 7.  I remember (back in the Abstract days?) you calling for relievers to be used more often like Radatz was (well, maybe not so many innings); it struck me that the 7-8-9 thing was not a maximization of resources.  What do you think Bill?
Asked by: joeashp

Answered: 7/27/2016
 It seems very, very unlikely to me that the 3 relievers were being used in such as a way as to maximize their impact.   But we can't actually resolve that issue unless we can model the problem in all of its dimensions, which we cannot do at this time because we don't know some of the inputs.   It is possible or likely that relievers lose some effectivenss if they pitch 2 innings once every four days as opposed to one inning twice every four days; we don't know, but it is possible.  Unless we know what that input is we can't actually create a model of the problem, so we don't actually know.   

 

To MichaelP: Here's another reader who saw and who remembers that decade-by-decade-style broadcast, and who probably has it somewhere on a VHS cassette. Now all I need is someone to tell me where I can find a VHS player anymore.....
Asked by: MarisFan61

Answered: 7/27/2016
 I've got several of them.   Oh, you mean one that WORKS. . ..

 

Hey, Bill, two things about Catfish Hunter.  First, you cited him in answer to a question about whether diabetes played a role in Ron Santo's sudden declline.  Hunter was diagnosed with diabetes in spring training of 1978, and I'd imagine he was feeling its effects in the previous season or two.
Asked by: flyingfish

Answered: 7/27/2016
 So you think we should treat speculation the same as knowledge, then?    You "imagine" he was feeling its effects. . .what the hell does that mean?

 

What I meant to say was: how do YOU explain that a random batting order is as good as a conventional batting order?
Asked by: manhattanhi

Answered: 7/27/2016
 The differences that people like to talk about are simply too small to make any real difference in practice.    
 
On the level of simple two-player combinations, suppose that you have a player with a .380 on base percentage, a 30-homer man, a player with a .300 on base percentage, and a 15-homer man.   Obviously you put the .380 on base guy in front of the 30-homer man and the .300 on base percentage guy in front of the 15-homer man, not the other way around.
 
But how much difference does it really make?   Two percent.   The .380 on base guy will be on base in front of the 30-homer guy 11.4 times, and the .300 on base guy will be on base in front of the 15-homer guy 4.5 times, so that's a total of 15.9 runners on base when a home run is hit.   Do it the other way, and you've got 14.7 runners on base when a home run is hit.   Add in the 45 homers, and you've got 60.9 runs if you do it "right", and 59.7 if you do it wrong.   It's a 2% advantage, or 14, 15 runs a year for an average team.  
 
But in practice, it is much less than that.   First, it is less than that because, while you may be able to get a 2% edge in THIS particular combination, you can't get a 2% edge in EVERY offensive combination up and down the lineup.   And second, it is less than that because the interactions are not simple two-player interactions.   Each hitter interacts in offensive sequences with at least 3 players who bat in front of him, and at least 3 players who bat after him, so each hitter interacts in offensive sequences with at least 6 of the other 8 hitters in the lineup. 
 
Let's say there is a "TYPE A" hitter, whose responsibility is to score runs, and a "TYPE B" hitter, whose responsibility is to drive in runs.   Our illustration assumes that each player has ONLY a Type A or a Type B function--but in reality, each hitter has both a Type A and a Type B responsibility in an offense, and the "neglected function" is in reality 95% as important to the team as the "focus ability".   The hitter with the .380 on base percentage is going to come up with runners in scoring position 200 times a year; he's got to drive them in.    The player who hits 30 homers a year is going to come up leading off an inning 150 times a year; he's got to get on base.   
 
When you draw up a lineup, you are intending to form COMBINATIONS of events--a walk followed by a double--but in the real world, there are many more unintended situations than those you were thinking about when you set it up.   The guy with the .380 on base percentage because he hits singles and draws walks..  ..he's going to come to the bat with two out and nobody on, which is not where you want him to begin with, and then he's going to make an out 62% of the time, so then the power hitter batting behind him is going to lead off.    That's the way the game works in practice; each player has to perform his unintended role just as often as he has to perform his intended role.  

 

Just came across somebody who has to have a spot on the team for best baseball names: A catcher of the 1920s and '30s, mostly in the minor leagues, named ... Jack Crouch.  
 
Asked by: BobGill

Answered: 7/27/2016
 We'll make a spot for him on the Johnny Bench. . .

 

Interesting you mention the televised track meet. My daughter and I were watching one last weekend. It's still mostly the same. If they cut away from the actual events, its to go to commentary about it. The broadcasters were standing at the end of the long jump pit while Jessica Ennis was warming, and actually moved away from it so they wouldn't disturb her. Hardly any mention of Usain Bolt's hamstring, and even after Kendra Harrison broke the world record in the 100m hurdles, they only made one mention of her not qualifying for the Olympics and didn't make any kind of issue out of it. It's almost like watching it without the sound on. The Royals could take a lesson from this and get rid of Rex Hudler, and improve their broadcast by 1000%
Asked by: 77royals

Answered: 7/26/2016
 You're in London, right?   

 

Hey Bill, getting back to batting orders: the logic behind the conventional batting order seems unassailable: putting your high on-base guys in front of your power hitters, so if they hit a home run you'll maximize the number of runs you'll score. I'm not sure why a random batting order would be as good.
Asked by: manhattanhi

Answered: 7/26/2016
 I'm guessing that you probably don't understand molecular biology, either.   So what?   

 

 
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