And a Merry Post-Christmas To You All

December 28, 2012

I.  DNA

                Here’s a baseball-statistics problem that I have thought about for 30 years and have no solution to.

                How do you estimate the probability that two seasons represent seasons by the same player?     Let us take these two seasons:

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

CS

Avg

OBA

SPct

OPS

157

612

128

207

41

13

36

123

107

38

3

0

.338

.438

.624

1.062

157

593

127

200

53

9

30

113

105

32

3

4

.337

.437

.609

1.046

 

                Those are the 1949 and 1953 seasons of Stan Musial.   One can easily recognize that those are two seasons by the same player, because they are so much alike; they are within the same parameters in every category, thus easily recognizable as products of the same baseball DNA.

                Or take these two seasons:

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

CS

Avg

OBA

SPct

OPS

152

578

124

205

30

12

32

108

98

40

4

5

.355

.449

.614

1.063

128

454

68

124

24

7

5

51

61

45

7

0

.273

.364

.390

.754

 

                That’s one season by Stan Musial and one season by Johnny Wyrostek, and one can easily recognize those two seasons as being the products of two very different players.   But take these two seasons:

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

CS

Avg

OBA

SPct

OPS

155

603

115

197

39

10

34

120

56

64

21

9

.327

.381

.594

.974

153

545

117

176

32

7

37

124

71

64

22

3

.323

.404

.611

1.015

 

                Those two obviously could be two seasons of the same player, but as it happens, they’re not; that’s the 1961 season of Henry Aaron and the 1961 season of Frank Robinson.    Or take these two seasons:

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

CS

Avg

OBA

SPct

OPS

154

649

113

208

48

13

25

86

54

38

9

7

.320

.374

.550

.925

150

599

82

147

22

12

3

48

55

47

56

14

.245

.310

.337

.647

 

                You probably wouldn’t suppose that those are two seasons by the same player, but as it happens, they are; those are the 1937 and 1943 seasons of Wally Moses.   Or take these two seasons:

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

CS

Avg

OBA

SPct

OPS

130

235

26

51

15

2

6

26

26

56

11

7

.217

.295

.374

.670

154

604

104

179

35

4

31

82

77

107

38

16

.296

.377

.522

.899

 

                Those are the 1968 and 1970 seasons of Tommy Harper. 

                There are two elements to this problem, which are similarity and uniqueness.   Any season by Ted Williams is pretty easy to identify as a Ted Williams season because there really isn’t anybody else who hits .350, .360 in a typical season with 35 homers, 140 walks and 32 strikeouts.  Stan Musial’s two seasons (above) are identifiable because they are very similar, but also because Musial is fairly unique; not as unique as Williams, but still fairly unique.

                Rickey Henderson is notable in this respect.   Think about it this way:  Can you take seasons from other players, and make a Rickey Henderson career out of them?   You can’t.   There aren’t any other players who are enough like Rickey Henderson that you can make somebody look like Rickey Henderson.    Take Willie Mays, for example; you can make a "Willie Mays" career out of seasons by other players.   Mays’ 1965 season is very similar to Frank Robinson’s 1966 season.    You can take a season of Frank Robinson, a season of Duke Snider, a season out of Mantle, a couple of seasons from Henry Aaron, a season from Dick Allen, a season from Barry Bonds, a season from Vlad Guerrero, and you can make out of them what looks for all the world like a Willie Mays career.    You can do that with Jimmie Foxx; take a season of Hack Wilson, a season of Greenberg, a season of Gehrig, etc.

                Mays was a greater player than Henderson, but you can’t do that with Rickey Henderson; you can’t do it with Henderson or Ted Williams, probably not Joe Morgan, maybe not Mantle, maybe not Adam Dunn.    There are only maybe a dozen players in baseball history that you can’t "match" with seasons by other players.

                Similarity and uniqueness are related concepts but distinguishable concepts.   All of these seasons are fairly similar, but they’re all by different players:

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

CS

Avg

OBA

SPct

OPS

105

399

81

110

15

9

8

70

31

35

19

0

.276

.351

.419

.769

144

505

59

137

25

2

10

67

46

58

3

5

.271

.335

.388

.723

114

420

53

117

19

3

10

65

24

37

2

0

.279

.322

.410

.732

151

591

59

160

25

9

9

56

27

42

2

0

.271

.310

.389

.700

121

424

49

117

23

5

9

57

37

40

5

5

.276

.334

.417

.752

137

485

50

135

17

4

7

56

28

47

4

5

.278

.317

.373

.691

153

553

66

150

20

4

10

59

51

72

6

5

.271

.332

.376

.708

134

489

66

133

29

2

9

66

39

57

3

2

.272

.326

.395

.721

146

514

58

142

26

2

8

69

52

69

14

11

.276

.340

.381

.721

151

505

59

138

24

1

10

63

64

67

2

2

.273

.353

.384

.737

130

444

52

123

25

2

8

61

37

57

6

7

.277

.329

.396

.725

127

438

68

120

28

4

10

69

41

51

7

7

.274

.331

.425

.755

128

503

66

139

30

4

10

61

41

76

15

5

.276

.335

.412

.746

156

526

67

147

29

3

9

63

58

81

5

2

.279

.355

.397

.752

112

392

57

107

29

4

8

67

49

57

15

13

.273

.353

.429

.782

138

433

49

118

33

3

7

55

30

40

11

6

.273

.319

.411

.730

162

647

80

177

25

9

9

59

38

70

5

6

.274

.313

.382

.695

141

484

68

131

33

1

10

58

38

48

9

3

.271

.321

.405

.726

131

411

51

113

20

3

10

66

36

46

6

4

.275

.330

.411

.742

129

456

68

125

33

3

7

59

45

68

5

4

.274

.345

.406

.751

145

504

60

136

27

4

10

63

50

68

3

1

.270

.337

.399

.736

129

502

57

138

29

3

7

59

44

55

6

3

.275

.332

.386

.719

138

503

69

136

22

2

10

55

37

64

6

3

.270

.317

.382

.699

 

Chronologically, those are seasons by Jake Beckley (1896), Blimp Hayes (1936), Johnny McCarthy, Danny Litwhiler, Bob Kennedy, Danny Cater, Buddy Bell, Mike Ivie, Joel Youngblood, Jim Sundberg, Ken Griffey Sr., Shane Mack, Scott Cooper, Luis Gonzalez, Keith Lockhart, Neifi Perez, B. J. Surhoff, Morgan Ensberg, Tony Graffanino, David Bell, Mark Kotsay and Edgar Renteria (2008).  

                We can do that because those seasons are historically common, whereas the Rickey Henderson, Ted Williams-type seasons are historically scarce.  You can measure similarity; you can measure uniqueness.    By measuring both similarity and uniqueness and relating them in the right format, it would have to be possible to estimate the likelihood that any two seasons were the products of the same player.   But I don’t know how to do that.

 

 

2.  Witless

                In the article "Wit" which I wrote a few weeks ago I was trying to talk about the exaggerated claims of degeneration by the Republican party, and this finally reminded me of somebody else.

                I went to the SABR convention in 1977, I think it was in Chicago.   SABR at that time was an organization of maybe 300 people, and there were about 75 people at the convention, almost all of whom were hobbyists, rather than the professionals and quasi-professionals who dominate the organization now.   I went to lunch with this guy, long since dead, who was telling me about his "projections" for players for the next season.    "The thing about my system," he said, "is that in my system, sometimes a player will project to hit negative home runs next season."    John Mayberry, for example, had hit 34 homers in 1975 but only 13 homers in 1976.   He thus projected that Mayberry would hit negative 8 home runs in 1977.

                I remember hearing that and thinking,  as you would, "Jesus Christ; I’ve gone to lunch with a complete idiot."   He was an idiot, but he was ahead of his time in a certain way, which was that he realized that it would be interesting if you could project what players would do next season.   He didn’t have any idea how to do it, but he had figured out that it would be interesting.    That was something.

                The moment was important to me, because it pushed to the forefront of my mind the need to understand where he had gone wrong; in other words, by the sheer crushing weight of his naked stupidity, he had pointed out a problem that needed attention.    I remember thinking, within moments of his making that statement, that "I’ll bet the opposite is true.  I’ll bet that, when a player’s home run total goes down sharply in one season, it usually goes back UP the next season."

                Whether it "probably" goes up or down the next season depends on whether the player remains a regular.   If you look at players who remain regulars, then yes, a large decline is normally followed by a recovery, not by another large decline.   On the other hand, many players who have large declines in home runs never play regularly again, thus never recover (although very few of them actually succeed in hitting negative home runs.)

                In general, though, as long as you are operating within parameters, resistance is more powerful than momentum.    If two teams are in a fairly even contest but one of them has momentum, always bet on the team that DOESN’T have the momentum.   If a team declines in one season from 90 wins to 80, their wins in the next season will tend to be 85, not 70.    If a player hits .300 one season and .250 the next, he will tend to hit .275 in the third season, not .200.    Resistance is much more powerful than momentum.  

                The same with the alleged degeneration of the Republican Party.   Yes, it is possible that the Republican Party will implode, and their place in the political forum will be taken by the Libertarians; it is possible.    This would be parallel to the player who drops from 34 homers to 13 homers then losing his status as a regular, thus hitting 5 home runs in the third season (or negative 8.)

                But it is much, much more likely that the Republican Party will recover and win the off-year elections in 2014.   The Yammering Heads on TV who talked endlessly after the election about the dreadful problems of the Republican Party are, in my view, on the same level as that nitwit who talked about John Mayberry hitting negative eight home runs in 1977.  They have blinded themselves to the obvious parameters of the problem.

 

 

3.  Opinions and Ideas

                What is the difference between an opinion and an idea?

                I generally despise opinions—yours, mine, and especially somebody else’s.   I do not listen to talk shows, sports or otherwise, and I don’t like to allow myself to give my opinions in print, although I do of course.  When people ask for my opinion about something, I will try to invent a way to approach the question quantitatively and objectively, rather than simply giving my opinion.

                I am, on the other hand, entirely driven by ideas.    It occurred to me then to ask:  what exactly is the difference between an idea and an opinion?

                Back up one. . .what is the difference between "philosophy" and "a philosophy".   I don’t know anything about philosophy, but I am consumed with the effort to find better ways to think about problems.    I recognize the contradiction.   No doubt I should have educated myself about philosophy.   I didn’t.   I’m an ignoramus; just ignore me.

                "Philosophy" is the search for truth, the effort to understand the true nature of the problem.    Philosophers often reach for the true nature of the universe, which may be why we ignore them; we all know, intuitively, that no one can figure out the true nature of the universe.   Let us say that philosophy is the effort to understand the nature of a problem.

                "A philosophy", on the other hand, is an organized way of thinking about a problem.  We all develop A political philosophy, A philosophy about raising children, A philosophy about education, A philosophy about sports.   A philosophy is the back-end result of philosophy; A philosophy is the excrement of philosophy.    When there is no food value left in food, your body gets rid of it.  When you stop trying to figure out the true nature of the problem, then you have A philosophy about the problem.   A philosophy is what you have when you’re done thinking.

                I despise opinions because opinions are barriers to thought.    An "opinion" is formed by the intersection of a live topic (Roger Clemens’ acquittal, the shooting in Connecticut, Hillary Clinton’s health problems) with A general philosophy.    I don’t believe in Any general philosophy, as a rule, because I don’t think that anyone understands the world or that anyone’s way of thinking systematically about the world holds up to scrutiny.    Any moron can see what is wrong with either liberalism or conservatism, if he merely has the intellectual integrity to admit it, just as any moron can easily see the flaws in Christianity, Judaism, or atheism.   We can’t move on from there to A philosophy that does work, however, because we’re simply not smart enough to construct one.   The world is billions of times more complicated than the human mind; therefore, none of us can develop A philosophy that consistently explains new and diverse phenomenon.    There is no doubt a name for this philosophy.

An idea, on the other hand, has no first object (such as Clemens, Connecticut, guns or Hillary), and it has no philosophy.   An idea is formed not from A philosophy and an issue, but from a question and some avenue of thought running into that question.   How do I measure this?    What is the value in this?   What is the potential in this?

People sign on to liberalism and conservatism not because they are too stupid to see their flaws; no one is that stupid.    People sign on to them because they cannot stand to live with unanswered questions.    The source of all anxiety is unanswered questions.   We need answers.   We prefer bad answers to the lack of an answer.   The court system will sometimes convict innocent people of terrible crimes, simply because they cannot stand for the crime to go unpunished, for the riddle to go unanswered.  The answers offered by liberalism and conservatism, by stoicism and cynicism, are childish and uniformly ugly—but they are answers.   They provide us with a way to walk up to a problem, pick an avenue and walk away from the problem; thus, they carry us away from the horrible problem of not knowing what to think.

That’s my philosophy.   You’re welcome.

 

 

4.  FLOPPING

                Phil Taylor’s back-page column in Sports Illustrated, May 21, 2012 complains about basketball players "flopping" to draw charging calls.  One of those insights that I absolutely can’t believe I never had before.. . ..other than when he is foul trouble, the rules of basketball create a powerful incentive for a player to do this.   Think about it.    If there is no foul on a possession, how many points per possession does a basketball team get?   I really don’t know. . .I’m guessing 1.1 or something like that.   (When there is an offensive rebound, I always count that as a continuation of the possession, rather than as a new possession; I am certain that from an analytical standpoint that is the right way to count them.  You get a much lower figure if you figure it the other way.)

                If the defender stands in front of a player and forces the referee to make a call, the call can go either way.   If it is called against the defender, the points expected on the possession go up to something like 1.4, right?    Probably a little less than 1.4, I don’t know; let’s say 1.40. 

                But if the foul is called against the man with the ball, the points expected go to zero.   The potential GAIN on the play (from the standpoint of the defender) is 1.1 points.   The potential loss is 0.3 points.   So if the defender creates a 50/50 call, it’s a huge net plus for the defensive team.

                I can’t believe that, having watched basketball all my life, I never realized that before.   I realized that it was a net plus for the defender when the call went his way, of course, but what I never realized is that it is a net percentage plus for the defender when he creates the situation in which a foul must be called one way or the other.    Even if the call goes against him 60% of the time, 70% of the time, it is still a net gain for his team. 

 

 In other words, I saw THIS relationship:

Flop_1

 

But I failed (until now) to see this one:

Flop_2

 

                It is the SECOND relationship that drives coaches to teach flopping, not the first one.   I’ve always despised Mike Krzyzewski, as any decent human being does, for many reasons, one of which that he teaches his team to create those situations for officials, and I dislike the flop.   I dislike the flop—as Phil Taylor does—because it seems unmanly, sneaky, and unsportsmanlike.

                It is all that, but it is unmanly, sneaky, unsportsmanlike and smart.    Flopping isn’t a gamble; it’s an investment.  If you create a 50/50 call for the official, you have gained something like 4/10ths of a point for your team (as long as you don’t put yourself in danger of fouling out.)   That’s why they can’t get rid of that play; the rules create an incentive to do it.

If you really want to get rid of that play, you have to change the rules to re-balance the incentives against creating the situation in which a foul must be called.     There are various ways you could do that.   You could, for example, making "flopping" its own foul call, rather than a subset of  "blocking"; blocking is one foul call, flopping is a different foul call.    If the referee calls a flop, then the offensive team gets two free throws and gets the ball back, rather than just getting the free throws.   Then the expected points per possession if you flop and the call goes against you go to 2.50, rather than 1.40; thus, the expected points per possession at the moment of contact (but before the foul is called) go to something like 1.25.   That removes the incentive to flop and try to draw a foul call, and that solves the problem.

 
 

COMMENTS (64 Comments, most recent shown first)

RoughCarrigan
Bill, flopping *can* be a gamble in certain circumstances. Back in the 1970's, Dave Cowens was the center for the Boston Celtics. He was well known for being a maximum effort guy. And he despised guys flopping to get charging calls against him. In one game some guy did it not once but, if I remember the story right, twice. Cowens was so incensed that the next time down the court, he got the ball and simply ran the guy over like Earl Campbell might have steamrolled a defensive back. And while the opposing player lay there trying to remember his name and why he was lying on such a nice hardwood floor, Cowens shouted "That's charging!"
12:06 PM Feb 4th
 
Steven Goldleaf
'By "respectable" sources, you of course mean people that agree with you... '

This is another conservative meme, that liberals only validate those sources already agreeing with them and refuse to consider the wisdom that conservatives have to offer.

I'd think it was obvious I was being sarcastic, since no "respectable" source on the right or left would ever begin a serious biographical article on anyone (well, maybe Hitler or Stalin...) with "Crazy or mean or both," and I obviously made up the "respectable" source. As I said, she's playing the part of someone getting the conservative base riled up, and it's kind of sad to watch but it's also futile trying to persuade conservatives that they're being played by Fox and Friends. Fortunately the left doesn't have to do much persuasion, as demographics seem to be doing the persuading for us, and all we need is patience and a long lifespan.


11:00 AM Jan 8th
 
Brian
OK, I will agree to this--it is our job for the next 3 1/2 years. And then during the campaign it is our job to advocate and persuade as an assist to our presidential candidate. And on the larger issue, I understand that whining about the media's and/or our candidate's performance gets exponentially less productive each day we move away from the election.

But you really think that it was not Romney's job to persuade? Isn't that what speeches and debates are for? Isn't he asking the country for the power of the bully pulpit?

By the way, I note the response was about an hour ago. Did you give up on Alabama-Notre Dame the same time I did?


9:18 PM Jan 7th
 
bjames
Nor is it Romney's job to persuade the nation. It is Romney's job to represent a certain point of view. It is extraordinarily lazy to argue that this lets the rest of us off the hook.
7:06 PM Jan 7th
 
Brian
But whose job in a campaign is it to convince the public of that? In a campaign, it is the candidate's job. In your example, Tim Raines is the candidate, but it is not his job to convince people he belongs in the Hall.

Plus, at least by historical standards, beating Obama should not have required winning that argument. It would have been enough to say that he had failed. Clinton didn't win any big arguments against Bush in 1992. He just said he would fix the economy.

So a better candidate would have kept the focus on Obama's failures, and eked out a win with no real mandate. A Reaganesque candidate would have convinced the public that those failures were precisely because of Obama's expansion of government, and won with a mandate. Romney didn't have either conversation. Instead, he essentially allowed Obama to say that the economy was still the fault of Bush and rich people, and Romney is a rich person, so it is his more his fault than Obama's.

And Romney was not the guy you want to run to emphasize small government. The single largest expansion of government in the last 4 years was Obamacare. By running Romney, who had instituted a program with many similarities, the Republicans couldn't really have that conversation. Romney supported the Bush Wall Street bailouts of 2008, but not the automobile bailouts. That leaves the impression, whether or not it it is a fair one, that his issue was not so much the size of government as it was what could the government do for rich people...

Again, though, in my opinion he was still the best out of all the others - most of whom weren't going to be able to convince anybody of anything.

Long-term, the Republicans will have to be the party of smaller government before they can even engage in the argument. The government expanded under both Bushes and Reagan. Republicans have paid lip service to smaller government but have chosen other priorities when they have been in a position of power.


12:15 AM Jan 7th
 
bjames
Regarding the defeat of Mitt Romney, let us use the example of Tim Raines. If Tim Raines fails to win election to the Hall of Fame, is it better for us to react angrily, as in "Those G** D******* traditionalist sportswriters; they still don't get it. We've done our job, but they're just so stupid that there's nothing you can do," or is it better for us to accept responsibility for advocating effectively our our position? As in, "We have failed, so far, to make cogent and persuasive arguments as to why Raines should be elected; maybe we should try harder or try some new approaches next year."

Calling Romney a bad candidate, to me, is like blaming the traditional sportswriters. To be honest, I agree with the Republicans and agree with Fox News on at least one key issue, which is the appropriate size and role of the Federal government (agree, except that I am more radical on that issue than they are.) The Republicans lost not because Romney is a bad candidate, but because the public simply does not agree with (us) on this critical issue. We have to take responsibility for doing a better job of making our case.


9:43 PM Jan 6th
 
Brian
By "respectable" sources, you of course mean people that agree with you...

Coulter's TV personna aside, if you read her books you will find arguments that are intelligent, well supported and footnoted. Even some of her opponents will acknowledge that.

Haven't listened to Limbaugh for years, but he freely admits that he is an entertainer first and commentator second. He believes what he says, but part of his thing is to make fun of people.

You didn't mention him, but the one I can't watch is Hannity. I hadn't watched him for at least a couple of years, put him on for a couple of minutes and he was so rude to Lanny Davis that I turned it off withina couple of minutes.

But of course only conservatives are mean...
11:53 AM Jan 6th
 
jemanji
Which, of course, redirects from the issue to the personality.
11:52 AM Jan 6th
 
Steven Goldleaf
If you look up Ann Coulter in a respectable biographical source, it begins with "crazy or mean or both." Personally, I lean towards "trying to be mean, but you can't take her seriously." She's an actress brilliantly playing someone half-crazy and half-mean. She and Limbaugh deserve Academy Awards for best lifetime impression of a nutty rabblerouser.
7:42 AM Jan 6th
 
jemanji
Whether the Fox polls are 'scientific' is a quibble, in my view. Fox polls are consistently wayyyyy right. There isn't much doubt in my mind that liberals, as a group, avoid the channel.

..............

The problem comes when liberals assume that (1) if a pundit votes Bush/Romney, then (2) everything that pundit says can be dismissed before the fact. I think this is part of what Mr James is referring to.

Greta van Susteren is at least as capable of an intelligent interview as is Keith Olbermann. :- ) It's not fair to say, hey, Olbermann has substantial intellectual content, but Greta is so crazy that there isn't going to be anything interesting on her show.

...............

Once Katie Couric (IIRC) challenged Ann Coulter, "So what lie has ever been told about you?"

Coulter: "It's all one BIG lie. The lie says that people on the right are crazy or mean or both. Stop here. Read no further. You don't have to deal with their questions because they don't really have any."

That's precisely the issue. And here it comes again with respect to the Fox channel. Presuming that they WERE on the right, would that mean the intelligent response is to dismiss them?

.
5:56 PM Jan 4th
 
tangotiger
Who in the world is going to commission a survey of only Fox viewers of who won a Palin/Biden debate? Just because there's potential bias doesn't make the results meaningless. 88% of viewers who saw the Fox poll, and decided to vote, voted for Palin. You can make of it what you will, and I'll do the same.
12:19 PM Jan 4th
 
Brian
Of course, if its "not scientific", as you admitted, then it probably shouldn't have been used in the first place to attack all Fox Viewers...
11:25 AM Jan 4th
 
tangotiger
Just to be clear: in the movie, they showed portions of the ORIGINAL TELECAST. I'm not talking about the rest of the movie. I'm talking about the rebroadcast of the actual Fox broadcast.
10:43 AM Jan 4th
 
jemanji
Ah. You mean that particular factoid was 'being fair' with respect to that single factoid?

I don't usually praise a movie for 'being fair' if it deigns to get a single factoid right. The term 'Fair' implies 'reasonable, open-minded and impartial' -- getting a particular factoid right is merely the responsibility of any pundit, whether impartial or not.

But if that's all you meant to say, that the movie was being fair with respect to that tidbit, then sure. It sounds like it was.
.
10:25 AM Jan 4th
 
Steven Goldleaf
jemanji--my argument is that if someone claims that a particular movie is unreliable because it invented data, and I can show that that particular datapoint is historically accurate, it's probably not so smart to cite that as evidence proof of unreliability.
5:14 AM Jan 4th
 
Brian
Here's a question that incorporates a few discussions: suppose that Donald Trump commissions a movie ("based on a true story") about Obama that starts off with him being born in, is it Kenya? Can he be prosecuted under the Jamesian criminal fraud statute?

Disclaimer: I swear that the above is just a joke and not designed to take a position on the statute, Obama's birthplace, Donald Trump or movies based on true stories.
10:31 PM Jan 3rd
 
jemanji
Brian - as I recall, a 'Who won the debate' poll on the Fox WEBSITE was running something like 88-12; undoubtedly most visitors hadn't seen the debate. My recall might be wrong.

In any case, my original question hasn't been answered. If very few liberals are willing to watch Fox News, what does that prove, other than that perhaps liberals don't want to hear divergent opinion?
.​
10:00 PM Jan 3rd
 
jemanji
Goldleaf -- your argument is that if any single factoid was accurate to Side B, that the movie as a whole was fair to side B?
9:39 PM Jan 3rd
 
Steven Goldleaf
I think Tango specified that they embedded the actual Fox poll into the partly-fictional movie, so in this case I think even a Fox-friend might concede that the movie was being fair to conservatives, agonizing as that might be to admit in public.
6:57 PM Jan 3rd
 
dark_nation
Well, there you go, a movie. Movies are always fair and accurate towards conservatives.
5:36 PM Jan 3rd
 
tangotiger
I remember watching the debate on Fox, and that's what they were showing. This is further confirmed if you watch HBO's "Game Change" (Julianne Moore, Ed Harris) where they show portions of the original Fox telecast, and there in all its glory is a number around 88%. And I had remembered that from 4 years ago precisely for its ludicrousness. It's just viewers voting at their website I suppose, and not scientific. If Fox News is reporting something else, then obviously they commissioned an official survey and they did NOT target ONLY Fox viewers.
11:51 AM Jan 3rd
 
Brian
Tangotiger -Where did you get that 88 percent number from? I just checked Wikipedia and they said Fox viewers had BIDEN winning the debate 51 to 39. But if you follow their footnote to the source ("The Telegraph") they actually had it at 61 to 39 for Biden.
12:56 AM Jan 3rd
 
jemanji
Tom, supposing in a 'reductio ad absurdum' version of Bill's theory, that were the case... let's take two separate observations.

1. Every news outlet (except one) was farrrr left. One news outlet, Box News, was moderately right of center.

2. 80%, 90% of Box' viewers were on the right politically. 60% of the viewers of all the other channels were left, and 40% were right.

What is incompatible about those two theories? :- ) And wouldn't it imply that the people on the RIGHT are less closed to alternative points of view? After all, they're the ones willing to listen to divergent opinion.

Or not,
Jeff
.
2:54 PM Jan 2nd
 
tangotiger
Brian: fine, if everyone is going to vote "party line", then it's obvious that if Palin polls at 88-12 at Fox and Biden polls at 60-40 at CNN, then Fox is attracting a hugely disproportionate share of conservatives, while CNN is attracting about even.
12:56 PM Jan 2nd
 
Brian
Tangotiger-Actually no, they don't have to admit anything. Those polls become the story and move the national polls, although that's usually temporary. With an election going on, everyone who is motivated to call in to one of those polls is going to say their candidate won regardless.
8:13 AM Jan 2nd
 
tangotiger
Brian: even if you are a conservative and your only choice is Fox, that still doesn't excuse polling at 88% for Palin over Biden in that "debate". You have to be honest enough to say when you lose a debate.​
9:14 PM Jan 1st
 
Steven Goldleaf
It isn't about Obama skating so much as it's about a rough equivalance that lets us discuss issues regardless of ideological bias. If Benghazi is an act of criminal negligence on Obama's part, and Lebanon an unfortunate tragedy that happened to Reagan, then the conversation is skewed before it starts. And, I'm afraid, it is.
7:13 AM Jan 1st
 
dark_nation
The Benghazi situation is significantly different from Lebanon 1983. But even if they were identical in their details, was Obama supposed to skate because something similar happened to a Republican president 30 years ago?

And "shit happens"? At what point do incidents like these become significant? Oh, the general public wasn't exorcised about the issue, I see. Funny how the general public is never exorcised about things like this when Democrats are in the White House. Attack on an embassy, diplomats dead? Meh. I'm sure people wouldn't have batted an eyelash had this happened under President Bush.

And I don't give a flip about Bush, Romney, or any Republican. But the double standard drives me insane.
4:03 PM Dec 31st
 
ssimkus22
Maybe seven or eight years ago, I was in a limousine with a high profile person from Fox News. Nice guy. Most celebrities are charming when trapped one-on-one. Apropos of nothing, he said a number of Fox folks on camera sided with conservative political views mainly because "it was their job to do so." They were paid to take that position. In reality, he confessed, some of their political views were the exact opposite of what they supported on camera. Sure the same is true at the so-called "liberal" networks. But that was seven or eight years ago and many of the names have changed. Perhaps television is no longer populated with actors.
3:14 PM Dec 31st
 
Brian
Just watch the people delivering or reporting on the news, and tell me honestly after watching awhile who they voted for. Going back a little bit, on a regular basis, who did Dan Rather vote for? Who did Matt Lauer vote for? Who did Katie Couric vote for? Tom Brokaw? Brian Williams? Peter Jennings? Charles Gibson? Bernard Shaw? Walter Cronkite? The sixty minutes team, now or then?On and on. Now, who votes or voted Republican -almost all of Fox News. David Brinkley. George Will. Frank Reynolds. Brit Hume. Probably Andy Rooney.Not many more ..

Newspaper endorsements - my theory is that total newspapers distorts the issue, counting the New York Times and Washington Post the same as any small town newspaper, but I would have to do the research to back that up...

But I know you will never agree on this point,, especially when you can't even agree that Crowley was out of line.

PBS - TV, I actually thought was generally more fair than the mainstream networks. Public radio, on the other hand...

By the way, I thought the media was more fair to Bush thatn any other Republican president or candidate. Especially his first term. They were tough on him his second term, but that was hardly unfair due to the fact he was a horrific president for that 4 years.
2:28 PM Dec 31st
 
CharlesSaeger
I might note that Brian is right about a change in 2008, but it isn't the change he thinks it is. What happened, for the first time in eons, the Democrats ran a candidate the media liked, and he even beat a candidate whom the media also liked. It was not secret that the media simply didn't like Kerry, Gore or Clinton, though the newer generation of Beltway reporters now like Slick Willie. (Think of how Rolling Stone magazine, through the aging and departure of its staff in the Seventies and Eighties, wound up changing its tune on Led Zeppelin.) Gore is a great case in point: not only did the MSM gleefully cheer for Bush on Gore's right, it also cheered on Bill Bradley in the primaries from Gore's left, with the reporters going so far as to boo Gore during a primary debate against Bradley. (Yes, Bradley was the better candidate, but that wasn't their thinking.)
1:12 PM Dec 31st
 
CharlesSaeger
Brian: Liberals don't regard the mainstream networks, other than PBS, as liberal. That conservatives perceive them as being liberal does not make them so, nor the other way around. For all the shouting, there really hasn't been much evidence that the MSM is all that liberal politically (most are culturally). Haley Barbour said it best: working the ref. The MSM is centrist, clearly for the system more-or-less as-is.

And as for newspaper endorsements, until 2004, the Republicans got more newspaper endorsements than the Democrats in every election other than 1992. Were the newspaper reporters a bunch of right-wingers back in the 1980s? (A hint: they weren't.)
1:04 PM Dec 31st
 
Brian
By the way, does any one else notice a change in our advanced senior population - the ones who watch the news programming of their choice all day long? You sit down to Christmas Dinner with them and they shout all the stuff they have to say at you as quickly as possible, even sometimes wagging a finger. Not just about politics, but about anything. I told my wife that I think they are afraid they are going to be interrupted by the other side or that we might be going to commercial before they can make their point..
12:50 PM Dec 31st
 
Brian
Tangotiger-The reason that so many conservatives gravitate toward Fox News is that it is the only outlet they have. If you are liberal, you are free to choose among ABC,CBS,NBC,CNN, PBS and the self avowed counterpart to Fox, MSNBC. Or you can read any one of the overwhelming majority of newspapers that endorsed Obama. Or you can read wire service "news analysis", or the latest - "fact checkers".
If you need things a little lighter, you can watch any of the late night shows, who run about 4 Republican jokes per Democrat joke. Or SNL, or anything out of Hollywood.

So harping about Fox News gets a little tired. Notice that debate moderators are never chosen from Fox. And what did we get the last go-around? 4 debates, where I believe - correct me if I am wrong- the Democratic candidate was given more time to speak in each one. Yet in each debate the Republican candidate was interrupted more frequently by the moderator. And, of course, the Crowley episode. How can that not be interpreted as bias? That is not simply a referee's mistake. It is more like the clock operator deciding that they had referee's powers, and would call penalties against only one team. I can't believe the liberals on ths site who don't see a thing wrong with it.

But Republicans can't worry about how it affected this election. Beacause it is always there. It affects policy discussions, the public's perception of the role of the Supreme Court, the role of government in general, and yes, elections. And the media doesn't care if you call them biased. They dropped that charade around 2008. It is, after all a free country. There is no law against openly rooting for Obama. There is no law against being a liberal first and a journalist second. And anyone who is called out on it will say, "oh yeah?Well what about Fox News?"

But the Republicans lost not just because of the media. They did run a lousy candidate. The amazing thing was that he was the best choice among a group of clowns. That will probably change in time - remember Mondale, Dukakis, Hart and Jackson? And they also have the hurdle of the Electoral College. It seems pretty clear that Romney would have lost even if he had won the popular vote.

I do agree with Bill's assessment of Fox News. They haven't just moved to the right, they have become unwatchable. The morning people are not informative, entertaining or funny. They have got to fire Gretchen Carlson. The newseople are ok, but the talk shows are all a bunch of conservatives shouting down the token liberal or skipping the liberal and just loudly agreeing with each other. Those brought in to assess the horse race injected their own politics into the analysis and made fools of themselves.

There are how many channels on cable? Can't we get another conservative channel?
12:44 PM Dec 31st
 
jemanji
Thanks for the intriguing analysis Mr James ... in the political realm, it is harder and harder to find anybody willing to analyze. Almost everybody seems to be a dedicated advocate any more, and the vast majority of advocates will concede *no* point or sub-point, however minor, that doesn't forward their position.

So it's just an opinion on your part, noted, but an opinion that is at all detached is much more interesting than what you usually find out there.

1. Benghazi - I don't doubt that the mixup was fairly routine by these standards, which is your basic response to the issue. What I am trying to imagine, is the aggressiveness with which the media would have played "gotcha" had the administration been Republican.

2. Yes, Romney's strategy was to play a guy nice enough to be President. It's been a GOP first principle, for a long time, that a successful presidential candidate has to be Roy Rogers as opposed to Clint Eastwood ... here again, a lot of that effort is in response to the systematic media casting of GOP candidates as mean, or stupid, or both.

3. 'When one side collapses the other lurches suddenly' -- without a doubt. A debate prof once taught us that the way to force an opponent into an extreme position is to take an extreme position yourself. This sets up a sudden reversal (say, the next night) to moderation that leaves the other side looking radical. Not saying it's ethical. Just opining that it's a corollary to the truism you note.

4. The plastic women - without a doubt, Republicans have a somewhat cynical idea to oppose sour feminists with happy young blondes :- )

5. Romney's authenticity - you're probably aware that Rasmussen Reports (Scott, anyway) thinks that the Republican party IS making one huge strategic mistake -- fronting candidates who are networked, beholden to the establishment, and without core beliefs. Rasmussen seems to be hoping that this election will cause the GOP to turn away from establishment candidates and more toward 'authentic' conservatives -- albeit ones who are OBVIOUSLY nice people, due to (2) above.

6. Couldn't agree more about businessmen. IMHO America wasn't founded with respect to money ideas -- as Alan Keyes says, our problems aren't money problems.

That civil war isn't looming over money. It's looming over a culture war. In my view, anyway. And a Republican candidate who is a money whiz? That's like Earl Weaver's Orioles trying to play on Kansas City turf in the 1980's...

7. Crowley behaved with a lot more restraint than I thought she would.

8. The way you pull off a baseball site that freely exchanges social ideas ... that's one more paradigm shift that goes into the legacy, if you ask me. :- )

Thanks,
Jeff
.
12:05 AM Dec 31st
 
CharlesSaeger
I'm pretty hard left, so much so that I usually vote third party for the big offices when I can (as I did this time), and I think that the stuff about Benghazi is nothing and touting it is just going to lose most folks even if it were, but I'm going to disagree with Bill that Romney was right to not bring up Benghazi much. While the limited bringing up Benghazi that Romney did do got some animosity from the State Department (which might have been intentional; I figure Romney is clearly on the Defense side in the State/Defense eternal spat), at the time he did this, he had to do so, and do so more, as he was clearly losing. A new variable like that is going to help the losing party more than the one ahead since if nothing changes, the party ahead is going to win. This was a potential change.

Is it despicable? It may well be, but none of these guys, be they Obama, Romney, the Clintons, the Bushes, Gore, Kerry, have real principles. They want to win power. Since they've all sold their souls anyways, why shouldn't they do what they need to do to win the election, barring cheating? It puts the onus on Barack Obama, and forces him to defend himself, a little like the old saw about Lyndon Johnson claiming his foe was a little too friendly with the pigs on his farm. Getting your foe to have to get on television and deny something doesn't help him, even if it's true.

On the death of the Republican Party: Poli Sci 101 teaches that the party not in the White House in off-year elections will pick up seats, and since 1952, this has been true in every such off-year election other than 1998, a referendum about impeachment which was unpopular, and 2002, a referendum about attacking Iraq which was popular. Journalists take Poli Sci 101 so they've heard this; I know they have since I have a degree in journalism. That doesn't prevent them from spouting this crap, as they did in 2008, 2004, 1996, 1992, and so on. They're always gonna do it.
8:38 PM Dec 30th
 
mvandermast
More on the issue of how likely it is that Season A and Season B were produced by the same player. It strikes me that slightly different probabilities might be just as interesting, and would be easier to estimate with any luck. For example:

1. Given a certain season, what is the chance that it was produced by a given specific player? (Then again, maybe this isn't an easier thing to estimate, since the task might involve calculating the typical season of every player in baseball history, then comparing each of those to the season in question - or another process just as complicated.)

2. Given that a certain season was produced by a player within a given set of players (let's say Stan Musial, Ted Williams, and Carl Yastrzemski), what are the chances that that season belongs to Musial, Williams and Yaz respectively? Obviously, it's no fair peeking at the actual seasons in each player's career.
6:20 PM Dec 30th
 
mvandermast
About estimating the chance that Season A and Season B belong to the same player's career: One step might be to calculate the similarity of each season to the season of an average player. ("Average player" could mean "average for major league history," or for a certain era, or for whatever other set of given conditions you wanted.) You could define each season's Typicality Score as its Similarity Score when compared to an average season. (The Typicality Score seems like it could be a fun idea in itself. I'm getting the feeling you might have done that already...)

Defining a few variables:

X = Similarity Score of Seasons A and B
A = Season A's Typicality Score
B = Season B's Typicality Score

It'd be nice if adding enough constants, exponents, and other tweaks to the fraction

X /(A * B)

would produce estimates that weren't terrible, at least. I know things are more complicated than this.

6:18 PM Dec 30th
 
Cooper
Dark Nation: the defense is reacting - thus i feel they rarely get to the spot. The Charge is the most over called play in the game of college basketball. Call the block more often and the flop stops being a net positive play. One more thing, i think todays players jump higher than they did in the past -often they already take off in the air and come down on a guy that moved underneath him when the offensive player is in the air. I feel like it's the NBA refs and game that gets it right - and it's probably the reason they invented the circle underneath the rim - too many refs could not take into account a players ability to jump that far and that far away from the rim - so they assumed it was a charge. If the charge is a reaction play - how does a defensive player get there 50 % of the time. It's akin to a goalkeeper in soccer guessing right on a penalty kick - it's a guess with some reaction time built in (me or you couldn't do it), but they don't guess right 50% of the time...I'm guessing it's more like 80/20 ( i haven't looked at penalty kick success rates...i wouldn't know where to start)....point being if it's a reaction play -getting to the spot first before the offensive player jumps or makes a move would lead to an 80/20 ratio of block/charge. Sorry so long.
2:42 PM Dec 30th
 
tangotiger
Setting aside which network is the most biased, I know which network attracts the most biased viewers. Following the Palin/Biden "debate" in 2008, each network had an instant poll asking who won, and while the others had 60-70% of viewers suggesting Biden won, Fox News' viewers had Palin winning at something like 88%.
10:10 AM Dec 30th
 
Trailbzr
Here's an article written at Hardball Times in 2008 that uses a new way to calculate single-season similarity scores, and then produces the 10 most similar seasons to a collection of famous ones. Germain to current discussion is "of the 10 most-similar seasons ever, how many were by the same player. A few examples: Ted Williams 1941/4; Babe Ruth 1927/3; Barry Bonds 2001/0; Rickey Henderson 1982/4. Five of Henderson's other comps occurred from 1887-91, so we might want to create some kind of period-limitation adjustment. However, I believe the scoring system they invented over-rates stolen bases; so simply being comparable to the highest SB seasons ever, shouldn't score as high as it does. www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/season-similarity-scores/
8:25 AM Dec 30th
 
bjames
Responding to jemanji, about a hundred posts back. . .I’ll give you my answers to those questions if you won’t take them for more than opinions. . .just opinions, not pretending to be worth very much.

To me, Benghazi was in the category of “Shit Happens”. It was unfortunate, but if this was a serious black mark against the administration, then surely the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon (1983) must have been an impeachable offense.

It was Romney who chose not to make an issue of Benghazi, more than the press, and—just my opinion—this was one of the few really good decisions that his campaign made. It was not a legitimate campaign issue, in two ways. First, the public was not genuinely exorcised about the subject, and there was no opportunity to get the public worked up about the subject in the roughly eight weeks between the event and the election. Second, it does not REALLY reflect a serious failing on the part of the Obama administration. It was, rather, the sort of thing that happens in every administration, regardless of who is running the show. People screw up. We don’t see risks in time. It isn’t the President’s fault that this happens.

And—again, just my opinion—Fox News’s efforts to push this into a scandal were hysterical and unseemly, and worked much more against Romney than in his favor.

Again—for the third time—this is just my perception of the issue; don’t take it for more than it is. But for almost ten years, I watched a lot of Fox news, and for most of that time it was and still is my opinion that Fox News was much closer to the center of the country, politically, than were the other networks, and also that they were much LESS biased than, for example, CBS or CNN. The other major networks had agreed upon a type and form of bias, and, since they all agreed upon this, they ridiculed Fox News for dissenting from their bias. But, while Fox News was always biased, they were for many years the LEAST biased of the major news sources, even though they were generally portrayed as the most biased.

But they won that argument; against the odds and against superior forces, they won the battle. Fox News’ market share grew and grew, while CBS and CNN (and others) declined constantly, pushing CNN to the brink of oblivion. About eighteen months ago, CBS and CNN realized that they could continue to “win” the battle of insider opinion, but that they would continue to lose the audience. About that time Katie Couric, Larry King and some of the other worst offenders were pushed off the air or put in less visible spots, and those organizations began to recover—although, not to over-simplify, there are still internal battles at those networks, and, if they can, they will still stabilize on a point of bias, and resume their march toward oblivion.

In a tug of war, when one side collapses the other lurches suddenly and uncontrollably in the direction in which they are pulling. When CNN and CBS capitulated, Fox News lurched uncontrollably to the right. It is a bad combination of metaphors, tug of war and jumping the shark, but. ..just my opinion. ..about July or August of 2012, Fox News jumped the shark. Without the “anchor” of strong opposition from conventional media, they just started saying stupid shit, trying to push irrelevant nonsense as major political issues.

I liked Tony Snow and Brit Hume; I like Chris Wallace and Bret Baier. I liked Bill O’Reilly, for many years; for that matter, I liked Larry King for many years, although that was many years ago. I thought (and still think) that O’Reilly was basically a straight shooter who had the courage to say what he thought and take fire from establishment media. But he’s just tired; he’s done. He has revolving guests on a short cycle, and I’m not going to watch any of them, although Dennis Miller still has his moments. He has these “body language” nitwits as guests on his show once a week; that’s just silly pop culture imitation expertise, and I’m not going to watch that. Dick Morris gives me the creeps. (By the way, I couldn’t remember his name, so I googled “creepy guy was consultant to Bill Clinton”, and came up with a long list of names.) Pat Caddell is a walking cadaver with marshmallows for teeth. John Bolton is a war-mongering lunatic. I am not going to watch any of these people. And I am not at all attracted to ANY of these allegedly “attractive” young women that they parade in front of us. I confess that I will watch Erin Burnett for ten minutes because she is cute, and I suppose Megyn Kelly is a little bit cute, but for the most part these plastic women that Fox puts on relentlessly are just annoying. No offense to Harrison Faulkner, who is a professional and is just doing her job.

Anyway, it was very bad timing for the Romney campaign, that Fox News became a lot LESS relevant just as we were heading into the heart of the 2012 campaign. But I don’t personally see that the election turned on that.

Look, Mitt Romney is a good man and could have been a very strong candidate. He has many virtues as a candidate. He has strong core values as a person. But his chief liability, as a candidate, is the lack of core political beliefs. My impression of him, and the impression of him that I believe most people have, is that he will say almost anything if he thinks it will help him win the election, and he doesn’t really believe most of it.

The mistake the Romney campaign made, in my opinion, was this. Their headline economic message should have been “we are spending money we don’t have. We are spending money ruinously, and we will pay a high price for it if we don’t stop. Now.” Instead, their headline economic message was “Mitt Romney has the background and experience to lead our economy.”

This was a mistake for three reasons.

First, Americans generally don’t like and don’t admire businessmen. Don’t you guys go to the movies? Since when do Americans have warm and fuzzy feelings about business leaders? The last American President who was essentially a businessman was Herbert Hoover.

Second, that message made the campaign a referendum on Mitt Romney’s credentials, rather than a referendum on Barack Obama’s performance in leading the economy. The second battle was much more winnable than the first.

Third, the message that they chose directed attention uncomfortably near to Romney’s major liability, which is his lack of core beliefs, rather than toward Barack Obama’s major liability, which was his failure to do anything to reign in irresponsible government spending, after he had promised repeatedly to do so.

So. . .just my opinion. I don’t think media bias played a major role in Romney’s defeat (with the exception of one critical moment), and I don’t think Benghazi should have played any larger role in the campaign than it did.

The one critical moment when the media hurt Romney was in the second debate, when Romney made a valid challenge to Obama and the “impartial” moderator immediately—and falsely—labeled it as a baseless charge. That happened at a moment when Romney had tremendous momentum, and it torpedoed his momentum, which could well have cost him the campaign. That was like. . a basketball game is 70-69 with four minutes to play, a referee calls a blocking foul when it clearly was charging, and the momentum swings for the last time. But I don’t really think that Crowley is biased or that she acted out of bias; I just think she made a mistake. Referees make mistakes. You have to win the game anyway.


12:19 AM Dec 30th
 
dark_nation
Cooper: why should it be 80/20 in the offense's favor? The offense has the ball, the offense is allowed to initiate more contact than the defense is, the defender is reacting the entire time...and the offense needs an additional advantage?

There have been suggestions here that would deny a defender the right to take a stationary position on the court. Huh? Under the rim, sure - that's what the Defensive Three Seconds call is all about - but when a guy comes to a stop, the offensive player should just be allowed to plow over the guy?
7:42 PM Dec 29th
 
Cooper
Maybe this is too simplified, but why not call the flop a block? Many times it is, but the refs in college don't have the guts to call it a block, whereas in the NBA (especially of old) the refs called the block much more often, thus canceling out a reason to do so. Point being -too often it's a 50/50 play when it should be 80/20 in favor of the offense.
6:12 PM Dec 29th
 
wovenstrap
The thing is, some things don't go up and down, they just degrade or move slowly in one direction for a long time. Percentage of Americans who are cable TV subscribers, 2000-2012, I'll bet that one just shows slight degradation over a number of years. The question is, to what category do the GOP problems belong? Is it a "bad year" followed by a "good year" or are there fundamental problems that will eat away at them? The puzzle the GOP presents is that there are several clear-cut reasons why an observer might be able to conclude that they are going to lose significant ground soon, that is to say it APPEARS like they might be heading for significant downgrading. Bill's answer, that it all tips back to 50/50 has a lot going for it, and I think explains why the decline of the GOP may be vastly overstated. But it's only one part of the story. It's common for one party to be the B party for a decade or two at a time, and the Republicans are the B party right now. Ask a Democrat of 1984 if elections always revert back to 50/50 -- they clearly do not.
3:02 PM Dec 29th
 
hotstatrat
I'm haven't thought it out completely, but I'm siding with Raincheck. My biggest beef with basketball is how all those foul calls slow the game down. Anything that reduces foul calls is a good call.
2:50 PM Dec 29th
 
jemanji
Flopping - how many here are old enough to remember Dennis Rodman in the 1980's, flopping six times a game, including when defending the low post? EVERYbody got angry about that.

But, as the article points out, there was a method to the madness. Each flop was a great short-term 'investment' ...

You wonder what the larger, hidden costs were ... such as, the officials then adjusting the %'s against Rodman in 50/50 calls of every type....

.
1:32 PM Dec 29th
 
jemanji
* by the way, the Groseclose study that I was thinking of was done in 2004. It doesn't apply to the 2012 election.

Where the media has gone, in the past eight years, is another discussion. :- )

............

Relative to Bobfiore's point in his first post below, demographics are certainly a pivot point. Coulter points out that had the 2012 population maintained the same demographic as in 1980, Romney would have won in a bigger landslide than Reagan did.

www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/coulter111512.php3#.UN9C4I5dXHg

Her conclusions are subject to debate, but there is no question that entitlements are affecting elections in greater and greater degrees as time passes.

.
1:24 PM Dec 29th
 
jemanji
SGold - sure, here you go.

http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/groseclose/Media.Bias.8.htm​
1:19 PM Dec 29th
 
Steven Goldleaf
jemanji--can we see that UCLA study?
10:32 AM Dec 29th
 
Odieman
Just looked up Rickey Henderson's similarity scores. The closest career equivalents to the Rick were Craig Biggio at 710, and Johnny Damon at 713, which just reinforces his uniqueness (as a player).
5:21 AM Dec 29th
 
chill
I'm with "Dark Nation" mostly - flopping doesn't seem to be a huge problem in NBA basketball, despite the incentives Bill so neatly outlines. Sure, it happens. And offensive players play to the refs, too.

And craigjolley's "solutions" - ugh. That's like saying to Dwyane Wade "sure, just go ahead and crash into defenders even more than you already do - we've got your back."

Frankly, from an aesthetic perspective, I'd rather have them work on eliminating the play where (Wade is maybe the foremost proponent here, too) an offensive player gets the defense off its feet with a head fake, then jumps into them and flings the ball generally in the direction of the basket to get some free throws. Or the one where the player hears the whistle, then flips the ball towards the basket for the same reason.

Free throws are a reward for the player but a punishment for the audience. Any plays where the player is explicitly playing to get free throws is smart basketball but ugly. I'm not smart enough to figure out how to reduce that kind of play, but it would make NBA basketball more fun to watch if they could cut that stuff out.
5:20 AM Dec 29th
 
craigjolley
Determining whether players are flopping is subjective, likely to vary from one referee to another particularly at lower levels of play. There are a lot of near-flop incidents in a game. Referees have enough to do already. They might subconsciously base part of their interpretation on a player's rep as a flopper. My suggestions for rule changes to discourage flopping:

1. An offensive foul is just a turnover, not counted as a personal or team foul.

2. A player has to be actively defending to receive a charge call. A play where a defender beats an offensive player to a spot and just stands there is play on.

3. A defender who stands under the basket during a lay-up or undercuts a player who is shooting is two shots and the ball.
11:30 PM Dec 28th
 
raincheck
There is third possibility in the case of a flop. The referee calls nothing. Then the offense gets 5 on 4 possession and presumably a higher expected points per possession. Not calling anything is right call on huge % of flops. But the flop is very visible, the games are all televised and there are three officials. So too often they end up calling something.

Basketball could be vastly improved by increasing the number of non calls. Especially when a player flops. The rule for a flop should be like the rule for the restricted area under the basket - if you are flopping the offensive player has a right to run into you.
10:57 PM Dec 28th
 
bobfiore
Oh, and jemanji? Romney brought up Benghazi in the third debate, and it blew up in his face. And Bill has been blaming that on the officiating, which people tend to do when they lose.
9:44 PM Dec 28th
 
bobfiore
What the sabermetricians of politics were saying, to those who bothered to listen, was that things were improving just enough in 2012 for an incumbent to win a narrow victory. They were also saying that of the nine states whose electoral votes were in play, Obama was consistently leading in at least six of them, from wire to wire. What they have also been saying, for some years now, is that demographic trends are underway that favor Democrats, that they were just beginning to make themselves felt in 2012, and they will only increase in the future. Meanwhile, Republicans have adopted strategies that are useful if you want to promote party discipline but unhelpful when flexibility is called for. The hard liners are fully in control, and that control will only be wrested from their cold, dead fingers. What the sabermetricians of politics say is either true or it isn't. The wit I have for you is, it's a hell of a thing when the Democrats go from nominating Southern candidates to preserve the white vote to a situation where they might want to find black candidates to insure the black vote.​
9:41 PM Dec 28th
 
dark_nation
The problem with flopping is that there isn't one, but people are still talking about it like it's widespread. It was much more prevalent eight or nine seasons ago, and when people called attention to it in the media officials called it less often in favor of the flopper.

Another problem is that lay people (casual fans) often can't tell the difference between a flop and a genuine reaction to taking a shoulder to the chest. When people assume that flopping occurs on every other play, they just assume that non-flops ARE flops. The Crying Wolf effect, I guess.

This is sort of a modern update to the Scourge of Travelling outcry I used to hear twenty years ago. People who had no understanding of the traveling rule swore up and down that it was happening on every play.
9:37 PM Dec 28th
 
jollydodger
So basically flopping is like stolen bases in reverse. (need to steal successfully 75% of the time to start to break even/need to only get the charging call 25% of the time to risk only breaking even)?​
6:36 PM Dec 28th
 
jemanji
Re - Witless...

You've written interesting, and bold, things lately about the 2012, Mr James. Much appreciated. Question for you?

Most neutral observers would probably agree that the NYT and CBS covered the Benghazi situation differently for President Obama than they would have covered it for President Bush. You're one of the few major pundits I'm aware of who will 'call it like he sees it' on either side of the aisle.

I saw a UCLA study that estimated the media's coverage of the 2012 election -- its defense of the administration in Benghazi-like situations, and its constant attention to Gov. Romney's negatives -- to be worth 10-12 points to the Democrats. This doesn't consider the ways in which Gov. Romney had to adjust his debate strategy, and ad strategy, to accommodate the ways in which the media would handle controversial statements by Romney. When one side can swing away with impunity and the other side has to toss marshmallows, that affects things too. For example, in the debates Benghazi hardly came up.

Do you have a guesstimate of how much the press coverage affects the vote in terms of percentage points, if any?
4:57 PM Dec 28th
 
jemanji
Great read, as always.

I *always* liked this question - would Mike Trout's 2012 batting line be out of place on the back of a Mickey Mantle baseball card? Is it fair to say that Trout provided the 2012 Angels with a Mickey Mantle?

.................

As far as the probability issue goes ... a brute-force method would be awfully complicated, I think. Maybe somebody has a more elegant way of nailing the stats theory method, but here's why I wouldn't want to attempt it with probability theory ....

Wouldn't a stats prof start by (1) taking all 10,000 (?) batters in MLB history and gauging each individual's chance to post batting line A?

That in itself would probably require a 'fuzzy logic' formula, because you can't just say that Frank Robinson has a 90% chance to get such and such an OBP and a 96% chance to get such and such a SB total and multiply all the fractions ... some of those variables are codependent. But Bill one time ran an article, "two thousand years of Willie Mays," and the simulation approach set outer boundaries for everything and you could capture whether a season were FEASIBLE for a player...

Assuming you knew a given player's -- Frank Robinson's -- chance to have a certain season, would a stat prof then (2) calculate everybody else's chance to do it, too .... that would give him Robinson's % chance to be the one who had posted line A.

(I think) he'd then (3) do the same for line B, and (4) simply multiplying the fractions, you'd have ROBINSON's chance to be the player who posted both ...

... Once you (5) added each of the 10,000 hitters' chances to be the same player, you'd answer the question of "is it likely that SOME player had both seasons" ...

They used to abandon problems like this, but then computers were invented....

Looking forward to somebody's simpler approach, but will be surprised if a simpler approach is anything other than an ESTIMATION. My stats friends don't hesitate to estimate when that's what's in order.

.
4:49 PM Dec 28th
 
tangotiger
"Baseball Reference uses them to compare players across careers and at different ages"

That statement makes it seem that BR invented it. But they simply implemented Bill's system! I presume most people know this, but just reading that comment on its own made it seem like this is news to Bill.

Anyway, finding "seasonal similarity scores" sounds like a good idea. We can find say sim scores for Rickey's 1989 season against all player seasons, and expect to see a bunch of other Rickey seasons. But maybe Raines 1987 might creep in. So, maybe ask: how many non-Rickey seasons do we see before we see the fifth Rickey season? If let's say Rickey 1989's top 6 sim seasons are 5 other Rickeys and then the sixth is Raines 1987, then we'd say "oh yeah, Rickey 1989 is totally unique to Rickey".

Just a starting point.

12:14 PM Dec 28th
 
exegesis
Bill,

You mighty enjoy reading Pragmatism by your namesake William James, which argues for a philosophical approach similar to what you describe above. As philosophy goes, it's quite lucid and non-technical, rather an enjoyable read.


10:52 AM Dec 28th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Make flopping a species of technical foul. Award a few of those in a game, and you will see, after a few protests, much less flopping. The beauty part is if you assess a technical foul for flopping, and a technical foul for arguing about the flopping call (thus an ejection), you'll see a WHOLE LOT less flopping, and PDQ, I'd say. You don't like it? Stop flopping.
10:45 AM Dec 28th
 
Trailbzr
Season similarity scores are pretty well-developed (Baseball Reference uses them to compare players across careers and at different ages). Uniqueness can be conceptualized as "how many similar seasons have there been by someone else?" If we think of similarity in terms of its difference from 1000; then uniqueness could be the 10th (or 20th or 100th) most similar season ever by a different player. So if Rickey Henderson put up two seasons that were 950 similar, they would be unique if the 20th most similar season by others was 800. But two Hank Aaron seasons might not be, if there were 20 other seasons of 925.
8:37 AM Dec 28th
 
 
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