Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Force-fed Feedback Loop

As is almost always the case, the powers that be in the league offices of sport will dilute and adulterate so as to bring in the marginal fan, while banking that the existing fans will stay because, face it, they have nowhere else to go.

We've seen it in many sports, under the logic of changing with the times.  While we would all like it to imply improvement, changing with the times (effectively) means catering to the increasingly ADD-led populace that can't focus, and certainly can't appreciate.  It means more highlight plays, less inside sport.  The NBA and NFL are almost unrecognizable as compared to 20 years ago, let alone 50.  NASCAR makes it so everybody is piled up on top of each other, then concocted a playoff system, as if NASCAR needs playoffs, so that it can hit the reset button on a one-horse race and get fans to hang in until the conclusion of the soap opera.  Golf does this as well.

Hell, the NCAA has conference tournaments, where, the 18 (or so) games played in regular season be damned, some slacker can go on a four-game run and make the tournament, or some slacker can go on a four-game run and play itself into a high seed.

Football has largely steered clear of playoffs.  Sure, it has promotion playoffs, relegation playoffs in a few leagues, playoffs for a country's other Champions League spot.  But it doesn't have playoffs to determine a domestic league champion.  It has the respective national cups, which, in theory, anyone can enter and win.

Because Bokolis has seen this coming down the pike for a while, I've been withdrawing from the soap opera aspect of football.  I still watch matches, but not in the context of the broader implications.  In the big picture, it's a rigged game.

Accordingly, Bokolis didn't come around during the world cup to offer knockout round predictions.  For the record, I might have lost an extra game in the second round, but I perceived Croatia to be finalists from its second match (against Argentina?) and I perceived neuf trois to be the winners after its second round match (against Argentina!).  From watching u-18, u-19, u-20 tournaments over the past few years, I knew, sooner or later, one was coming their way.

Aside - Neuf trois is the new moniker Bokolis as applied to France.  I've long-referred to them as North Africa, but that gag has run its course.  For those who skipped the first week of elementary French, that means nine three.  It is the colloquial name for the suburb of Paris where much of the footballing talent grows up.

Bokolis supposes that the Champions League is a playoff of sorts.  Once upon a time, UEFA had this competition where the champions of each national league met in midweek clashes to determine the champion of Europe, winner of the European Cup, as it was and sometimes still is called.  As it became more practical to travel and television (and the money it brings along) became increasingly involved, the lords at the bigger clubs started to envision a European super league.  To stave off a possible mutiny, UEFA has tried its damnedest ever since to create such a league for them.

As Bokolis remembers it, the idea was first shot down way back then by the courts.  Instead, UEFA revamped and rebranded the European Cup into the Champions League.  Ever since, UEFA been slowly changing the format so that it increasingly resembles a conceived super league, moving away from a club being owned- officially or effectively- by its supporters and getting ever closer to the American franchise model of a sports team.

It started when they started letting in clubs who didn't win their leagues.  Once upon a time, if you didn't win your league, you were consigned to the UEFA Cup.  In those days, this was a much stronger competition than its Europa League successor.  Bokolis wants to say that there were two years in the 1990s when Serie A sides met in the final, that's how strong the league was.  Even though today's Europa League is a competition of 5th-7th placed teams from the big leagues, winning this earns a Champions League group stage spot- that is, if it hasn't already qualified via the relaxed standards to be described below.

A lot of (the less than) casual supporters think the Champions League starts with the group stages.  Hardly, as they were playing early-stage qualifying matches while the World Cup was still ongoing.  Upwards of 75 clubs participate, while 32 teams make it to the group stage.

Every few years, UEFA revisits the format and formulas.  Invariably, it has increased the access for non-winners from the largest leagues.  It used to be that teams that didn't win their domestic leagues had to at least go through some part of the qualifying stage.  Soon, they started giving second-placed clubs from the highest ranked leagues direct access to the group stage.  Then it was the third placed clubs sliding through.

Finally, the revisions made to this year also allow the fourth-placed club from the top four rated leagues (Spain, England, Italy, Germany) direct access to the group stage.  With the other automatic group stage slots given out, 24 to 26 clubs will get automatic spots, including at least 15 clubs in the group stage that have not won their domestic leagues- some champions league, eh.   The remaining 50-odd clubs, including dozens of domestic league champions, are now left to dogfight for 6 to 8 spots via multiple qualifying rounds.

It is sad but, hang on- we haven't yet gotten to the truly scandalous part.

Again, with the expansion of television (and internet) coverage to all nooks of the globe, principal support for clubs no longer comes from their respective home bases.  The English top-flight has harnessed the (white) American market, as well as the Asian/Australian markets, where there is even more money available than they can milk out of the home nations.  This phenomenon has created an economy of scale for the biggest clubs, the ones that fit into a super league, as a disproportionate share of the incremental support has gone to them.

If the above concept doesn't register, or you don't agree that it has gone down this way, might Bokolis suggest WSHH videos- you've read too much already.  There are close to 3,000 words to follow.  Don't do it to yourself.

With the guaranteed and implied revenue that comes with getting to the Champions League group stage, it provides the participants with a significant budgetary advantage over clubs in the same league who didn't make the group stage.  It amounts to a club buying another top-line, borderline-superstar player, and/or keeping the ones it already has, which the 16 clubs not in the Champions League cannot match.  Such an advantage will ensure that it is the same rotation of clubs making the Champions League.

It is already understood that the 'big five' leagues are, perennially, virtually already decided.  The Bundesliga has been Bayern Munich's to lose for this entire century.  Ligue 1 is PSG's to lose.  Now that the Milan sides have fallen on lean times, Serie A is Juventus' to lose.  La Liga is, with rare exception, won by Real Madrid or Barcelona.

From its inception/rebranding, the Premier League, the most 'competitive' league of the lot, has been a steady rotation of manchester united, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal.  The top 4 places in the table almost always fall to a group of six teams, with Liverpool and Tottenham, neither of which has won the rebranded league, added to the above.

Aside- Blackburn won it in 1994-95, after finishing second the prior season, because they had Alan Shearer and, because the league hadn't fully assimilated foreign (or Black) talent after the enablement of freer movement of players, everybody else didn't.  In fact, that season was the second of four consecutive seasons where Shearer's teams finished in the top two.

The miracle of Leicester City winning was because, while some teams had a Jamie Vardy and some teams had a Riyad Mahrez, NO ONE had a N'golo KantĂ©.  In fact, missing such a player is essentially why Arsenal have not won the league since they let Patrick Vieira go, and why manchester united have not won the league since Rednose retired to the luxury seats.  Mourinho has realized this and is desperately trying to get Paul Pogba to play that role.  Pogba did it for North Af...errr...neuf trois in the World Cup, but has not yet shown an inclination to consistently do it during league play.

Liverpool (and England) had such potential in Ox (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain), but England lost out on him for the World Cup, as will Liverpool for this coming season.

While the above is certainly a tangent, it means to offer that, despite its importance, money is not the be-all and end-all- odd place for it, I know- that, despite all the money and data being thrown around, until they start allowing time-out during play, the game will hinge on humans' ability to control territory through reaction, recognition, insight and effort without (much) outside input.

By giving teams direct access, it frees up their summers to run around the globe playing glorified friendlies.  Another tangent...

Let's go in the Waybach machine to 2002, when, on a random weeknight with almost no leading buzz/heat/hype, Real Madrid and Roma played a(n inconsequential) match in the original Giants Stadium in front of 70,000 fans, Bokolis among them.  Because there was no buzz until the day of the game, I thought it would be lower bowl only.  The advance sales were in the low 20k range, and Bokolis only paid $25 for his upper-decker.  I think parking was more.

The game itself was effectively a scrimmage- guys were going 75% (max)- and nobody in the crowd much minded, as this was a rare treat.  It was likely on this night when European clubs fully realized the enormity of the American market.  The next year, Juventus and AC Milan showed up to play the Supercoppa Italiana.  Only about 55,000 showed up that day, but we paid NFL prices.  Bokolis still can't believe how fast Maldini was at age 35.

Fast forward a few years- the American football scene has become more saturated, as more clubs are doing full on tours into areas of the US where there aren't so many first-generation Europeans or South Americans.  They were having trouble giving tickets away- they played one of these games at the current Yankee Stadium and, having only sold about 11k tickets, were trying to give them away to sports industry personnel to fill up the stadium- as the ridiculous face value...they were charging significantly more than Premier League matches, which themselves are priced significantly higher than other leagues, to watch guys play at 75% (max) effort and not give a shit about the result.

To overcome such apathy, they make the games 'matter' by tagging them as 'International Champions Cup' matches.  They are still playing at 75%- sometimes 80%.  But, since there is allegedly something on the line, (white) Americans slowly bought in.  Once they had that buy-in, they expanded the 'tournament's' reach so that any team on a tour is somehow involved.  It has bloated to 18 teams.

Without looking it up, Bokolis is guessing that 16 of the 18 clubs have direct qualification- quelle surprise- to the group stage of the Champions League- Milan is not in it and Benfica still has to qualify.

This is important because, on top of being guaranteed the group stage money, teams like Liverpool and Tottenham don't have to prepare for a tricky qualification fixture on some eastern European (or central Asian) rockpile of a pitch.  It's true that the qualifying round(s) usually turned out to be more of an inconvenience than a hazard, and that it wasn't exactly turning a big club's world upside down.  But, the elimination of inconvenience is secondary to the benefit.  This means they can stay on tour longer, make even more revenue and don't have to sort out transfers before they might otherwise want to.

Again, this isn't about the hardship placed on domestic champions of the smaller countries; it is about the enablement of the teams from the 'top' leagues.

One might ask, why is profit important?  A few years back, UEFA also implemented 'financial fair play' standards.  Essentially, the clubs' operating results have to be within a certain threshold; losses cannot exceed some arbitrary number.  On the surface, this is done to protect all the clubs, as many, in their quest for glory, would spend outside their means, racking up debt that they cannot get out from under, even to the point of financial ruin.  This was also done to prevent clubs whose owners had bottomless pockets from spending like mad and creating an 'arms race.'

It seems noble enough.  In practice, however, it favors the biggest clubs, as UEFA pays them but tells everyone to operate within the same Euro threshold.  Further, upon cursory review from Bokolis, each year, most of the largest clubs 'magically' come in as losing just less than threshold amount.  This may be coincidence, the product of 'prudent' budget management, or some book-cooking.  Bokolis can't say for sure, but my pet cynic, mocking the lack of diligence the whole while, indicates that the process by which they get just under the threshold is where the real scandal lies, and simply reinforces that entities of such size as these can get away with virtually whatever finagling they want because NOBODY wants to derail a money train.  You see how pissy poor people are because they have no money- counterintuitive as it may seem, it's nothing compared to the rage that the wealthy have when they find out they aren't going to be making as much.

Here is the feedback loop:  Television draws the marginal fans from outside the home town/country, who are increasingly likely to attach themselves to one of the largest clubs (some might call them glory hunters).  These fans bring in revenue for the club, be it from merchandise or viewership.  The club can then invest in improvements to its product.  It gains more fans, eventually enough to go on tour so it can gain direct access to these fans.  The incremental revenue allows for still more investment in its product.  UEFA comes in and builds a backflow valve in the form of Champions League television revenue and FFP regulations.  Armed with that revenue, those clubs can now buy more players and construct teams that can more easily overcome middling and lower sides, who now have to rely on effort, tactics and luck to compete.  More likely, the already created class system is cemented.

Aside- If there are doubts about whether this scheme has worked, consider the last 13 years of the European (Champion Clubs') Cup format, where 8 of the clubs to win were not 'monster' clubs.  As there were never more than six or seven monsters in the competition in any given year, this would seem a plausible trend.

Then, consider that, with the round robin format and as the ratio of monster clubs has greatly increased, of the last 21 years of the Champions League, 20 of the winners are 'monster' clubs.  The one time that an 'outsider' has won it, it was considered so Special that we still haven't heard the end of it.  Not coincidentally, the losing finalists since Porto won in 2004 have also all been 'monster' clubs.

And, Bokolis didn't use the old G-14 to define 'monster.'  Considering that Porto was part of the G-14, EVERY club to win the European cup since Red Star Belgrade in 1991 has been G-14, except for, ironically, Chelsea, the epitome of the modern deep-pocketed club.

Again, this doesn't just extend to the other clubs in the same league.  It extends to teams that have won their domestic league, but have to further qualify for something called the Champions League because 15- potentially 17- group stage spots have been given to non-winners.  Further, because no clubs from the same country are placed in the same group, each of those top four leagues has the opportunity to have all its clubs qualify for the next round.  In fact, last season, England, with manchester united gaining access from winning the Europa League despite finishing outside the top four in the league, had five clubs qualify for the knockout stages.

The next question might be, how are the top four leagues determined?  Does UEFA wave a magic wand?  Effectively, but not quite.  UEFA uses a formula based on club's results in European competition to determine a country coefficient.  It is explained on UEFA website and on Wikipedia and, whereas UEFA updates when it wakes up in the morning, it is tracked and updated almost immediately here.

To figure this coefficient, a team earns points based on results in European matches- two points for a win, one for a draw.  It also gains bonus points, one at a time, for qualifying for certain rounds.  The biggest bonus points come from qualifying for the group stage (4) and knockout stage (5) of the Champions League.  All the points from all the clubs are added up, then divided by the number of clubs from that country playing in European competition, yielding a coefficient.  UEFA uses the scores from the last five complete seasons to rank the countries.

For example, let's take an English side.  It gets four points for being in the Champions League group stage, even though it was given a direct pass to the group stage.  Assume a pedestrian three wins and a draw- seven more points- and qualification for the next round- five further points.  We are up to 16 points.  If you divide that by the seven teams England has in Europe, the coefficient points comes out to a little over two and a quarter.  Multiply that by the four sides in the competition, and you get to a little over 9 coefficient points that are essentially gifted to the top four leagues.  A view of the rankings shows that, in any given year, there will be four or five other countries, in addition to our top four countries, that earn as many as 9 coefficient points in total.

Sure, the four points for being directly placed in the group stage are a gift, but how are the rest gifted?  The Champions League is set up so that the countries from the top four groups will stay away from each other.  Clubs from the same country cannot be drawn in the same group.  While UEFA can't fix it so, this will play out that the 16 clubs from the top four leagues will be spread out among the eight groups so that no group of death, with three or four clubs from the top leagues drawn into one group (i.e., Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Napoli).  If such a group happens, it is because PSG is also in the group with two clubs from the top four leagues, and because an interloper manages to snag the fourth-place spot in one of the top four leagues.

Do you think UEFA would have the guts to stick all four clubs from the same country into one group?   If you ask someone at UEFA, make sure they don't have anything in their mouth at the time.

Now, let's say you are Red Star Belgrade, currently of Serbia and having once won this competition while still part of Yugoslavia.  Because of your country's ranking, UEFA has set it up so you will have to go through four qualifying rounds to get to the group stage.  Leaving aside that any club that runs that gauntlet to qualify deserves a lot more than 4 bonus points, it does mean that there is potential for eight victories.  This would be a pretty good haul if our English club managed it during the main competition.  However, cynical as ever, UEFA decided that victories in qualifying rounds only carry half-value.  The four points handed to the English side for automatic qualification now seems akin to a government subsidy for Apple, Verizon, General Ele- wait, we already do that...

While the English side is off touring in first-world footballing markets and charging first world prices for glorified scrimmages, Red Star is off in Latvia and Lithuania playing in front of crowds of less than 5,000 and 3,000 (its home matches for these ties both drew 23k and change, but Bokolis suspects that its ultras were comped).  As tickets to matches in these countries don't fetch what our English side was getting in the American/Australian/Singapore/Chinese markets, Red Star's away fixtures were likely money-losing trips- all for half value, if they get a result.

As it will turn out, entrenched sides from the top four leagues will be playing winners and second-placed clubs from second-tier leagues and winners from yet smaller leagues- all of it designed so that the largest clubs stay in the competition for as long as possible, as they bring the largest television revenues.

To further indicate that it is all by design, the bonus points for progressing to the deeper rounds of the Champions League are much fewer.  Clubs get no bonus for progressing to the round of 16 and one bonus point each round for progressing to the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.  Since UEFA expects that representation in those rounds will be entirely from its biggest clubs, there is no reason to award more bonus points, and run the risk that a club from a lower-ranked country could upset the apple cart.

There's your feedback loop.

UEFA's intention is for the clubs from smaller leagues to play in the Europa League.  Bokolis says play, not compete.  Clubs from the largest leagues will still have clubs in the competition.  As the deepest league, this season, England will send Chelsea and Arsenal, neither of which will need any incremental spending (on players) for this competition.  In fact, it is certain that they will rest several first-team players for almost every group stage matchday.

UEFA has another wrinkle to keep the biggest clubs in European competition.  Instead of being sent packing, the eight third-placed sides in the group stage of the Champions League get the consolation of going into the Europa League to create a knockout tournament of 32 clubs.  Of course, motivation would be a significant issue for such sides, but the clubs have two months (and a transfer window) to do something about this.  One always does, as 14 of the 18 finals this century have featured a Champions League refugee, and some have featured two.

So, if PSG or a Russian or Portuguese side (or, heaven forbid, a Dutch, Belgian, Czech or- gasp- Greek side) break through at the expense of a side from the top four leagues, unless they've spit the bit, the latter can pick up the pieces in the Europa League against softer competition.  A club from England or Spain has claimed the last seven, so, again, it's as UEFA wants.

There's some more of your feedback loop.

With so much going into describing the problem, Bokolis will not waste more words detailing the solution.  That would presume that UEFA want to fix it.

Monday, June 11, 2018

It doesn't take a genius to...fix baseball?

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports enlisted some genius to provide ideas on how to solve baseball's perceived 'problems.'

https://sports.yahoo.com/10-degrees-mensa-members-idea-can-solve-almost-baseballs-problems-070035170.html

Passan lists Nick Elam's CV so as to demand that we deem him credible.  He then explains the Elam Ending for basketball, in which the target score of leader plus 7 replaces the clock at the first whistle under 3:30 to decide a winner.

Of course, Bokolis has been saying for years that the NBA is NASCAR; they go back and forth 200 times, yet it all gets sorted out in the last four minutes, during which they play a different game than they played for the first 44.  That's not to make myself out as some genius; I've been hearing similar solutions from everyone with an opinion since I was a kid.

While there are some things that Bokolis has been advocating all along, there is too much legislation for my taste.  Addressing inconveniences with legislation smacks of Soviet Communism, and they will eventually legislate themselves into a corner.

The thing that makes baseball beautiful is that it is essentially the same game it has always been.  That is what allows for comparative analysis of players of different eras through statistics.  You cannot do this in the NBA or NFL because both of those have had multiple rules overhauls and multiple derivations from prior versions of their respective games.

In a 'Dynamic Strike Zone,' Elam advocates something similar to what umpires- with a 'swing the bats, boys!'- were able to do before technology standardized the strike zone.  As shown with the NFL and NBA above, it's better to not legislate these kinds of things and having cameras everywhere gives you more than you've bargained for.

Bokolis has always been keen on stifling the parade of relievers and making two 15-team leagues/divisions.  I've never stated it here, but I've always thought there should be an 'airspace' rule on guys sliding into bases.  Most of the rest of the ideas are ineffectual, however cute, and Elam concedes that he hasn't put full thought into the issue.

Bokolis maintains that you will solve the pace issues by not allowing managers to call the pitches from the dugouts, by not allowing the batter any pause for air when he takes a strike and by requiring any pitcher brought on via mid-inning pitching change to finish the inning, or die trying.

If you speed things up, batters will feel a lot worse about striking out if it happens in 30-40 seconds instead of as long as it takes to read Casey at the Bat.

Bokolis has no problem with shifting.  If the batters refuse to hit the ball the other way, it's on them.  But, if a team over-shifts, they have to stay in that exact positioning for the duration of the AB.  No shuffling around after each pitch.

Ultimately, while a team game, baseball is dominated by a series of one-on-one matchups.  In these cases, psychology often matters more than talent.  At some point, pitchers became less confident in their stuff and so fearful of contact that they resorted to nibbling or, most notably in the case of John Franco, downright refusing to throw strikes.  Granted, today's players are better at punishing 'cock-shots' than those of prior generations.  This, of course, turns the battle into a hunt.

Perhaps if pitchers realized that behemoths like Stanton and Judge strike out over four times as often as they hit home runs, the pitchers could regain the comfort and confidence in the matchup, and throw with more conviction instead of alternately nibbling and trying to make the perfect pitch.

The faster they mow down those batters, the faster the game will go...and we didn't have to reinvent the game.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Chapel belongs in a Shrine?


In the course of shirking stuff that I actually have to do, Bokolis has wandered to the minutiae of all minutiae and put together something quite pointless, but possibly fun for baseball geeks.  You can say it was done For Love of the Game {rimshot}.

After seeing this movie enough times, Bokolis was moved enough to try and conjure the stats for protagonist Billy Chapel.  Of course, I first checked the Interwebs, as I was sure someone else out there was at least as demented- and far more tormented- so as to have already done this.  Without going too far, I found two of note, here and here.

It was great stuff and, in reading the posts, you see that these guys wasted valuable brain cells, I mean, burned off a good deal nervous energy to chase out the demon.  Bokolis didn't quite agree with the final statistics, or with some of the reasoning, so, instead of criticizing,  I jumped into the rabbit hole to (allegedly) improve upon the existing.  I have to acknowledge that they afforded me the luxury of not starting from scratch, which allowed me to tinker instead of concoct, and greatly reduced the amount of time spent.

More time was spent writing this gibberish.

The macro:  Given the era in which Chapel played and the fact that I'm showing him to have pitched longer into games to justify the high decision rate, I could not make him have the ultra-low WHIPs you see from today's elite pitchers.  Similarly, I wasn't going to give him the ultra-high K/BB ratio common among today's elite pitchers.  I had to make him an innings eater sufficient to pack ~4100 innings into 19 years that included some abbreviated seasons, yet I did not see him as a strikeout king and the era didn't allow for it.  To boot, in the homer heaven that was the Tiger Stadium right field porch, he had to be a ground ball pitcher.

Given his era and ballpark, I simply could not make Chapel Koufax/Pedro dominant.  When it came down to it, I essentially took Luis Tiant and made him better, sufficient to get over 95% on the first HOF ballot.  I am speculating that this is the type of pitcher the author of the underlying book had in mind when he wrote the book.

So, the ratios of 7.3 H9, 2.5 BB9, 6.3 K9 and 2.5 K/BB are comfortably within the range of the best pitchers of the era.  At almost 2900 career strikeouts, I thought I was a bit generous.  Given his story, I didn't see Chapel attaining 300 wins and wanted to keep him far enough below so that it wouldn't be a carrot.  Finally, I wanted to give him a top 50 winning percentage, but stay true to the line in the movie that he lost 134 games in 15 years.

The micro:  Like the others, I granted Chapel the rookie of the year award.  Unlike the others, who gave him a full first season, I thought it more realistic that Chapel would be used as a reliever and spot starter after first being called up.  So, I feathered him in as a post-strike call-up, while preserving his rookie status for the 1982 season.  I was uneasy about having him reach his peak so soon, as it is somewhat more unlikely that someone with 3 big years by his age 25 season would have such longevity.

Taking a cue from the movie, I made Chapel's stats more choppy from the time he claimed his shoulder issues started.  1990, '92 and '94 were comparatively pedestrian seasons, rebounding each time with terrific seasons.  I give that smoking-hot masseuse the credit.

I gave Chapel the three Cy Young awards seen in the film, as well as an MVP award in 1984, when the Tigers won everything.  He probably got hosed on the Cy Young in 1993.  You may presume that someone else won more games, which was the prevailing of the major criteria at the time.

For the comeback from the hand injury, I ramped up the innings from the first year to the second year more dramatically than the others.  It can be presumed that Chapel came back during the 1996 season, was eventually shut down, then increased the workload in 1997.

I wanted to give Chapel one solid season late in his career, but not a big year.   By default, his was going to be 1998.  For his final season, we are essentially fed the stats.  They are incongruous with his ratios, so you have to assume that he either often pitched out of major trouble, or was the beneficiary of an inordinate number of unearned runs.

We should also keep in mind that, while the movie was depicting the prevailing time, the underlying book was written sometime before 1988.  As such, even though I factor in the 1994 strike, we cannot rightfully presume the post-strike shrinking strike zone, shrinking ballparks, juiced ball and juiced players.  In the author's universe, the era never changes, and George W. Bush's 1993 Texas Rangers, in whose locker room the Steroid Era jumped off (after having been hatched in the 1987 Oakland A's locker room), never happened.



I took the familiar Baseball Reference format for this.  For shits and giggles, I even worked in ERA+.

For each individual season, I borrowed from an actual Detroit Tigers player.   Now, I should note that, in general, ERA+ is somewhat flawed in that it does not account for the declining workload for starting pitchers, as starters are no longer typically left in until they fail.  I'm not sure there's a metric that considers and factors the starter finishing the 7th, 8th and/or 9th innings.

In the case of the Tigers, the basis for ERA+ also reflects that their pitching, while never dominant during Chapel's (movie) career, was putrid in the late 90s, which indirectly helps Chapel.  Further, as discussed above, his stats in his final years simply reflect an aging pitcher and not a junk-baller in a hitting haven.  Otherwise, he would've had the same nickel ERA as the actual Tigers of those days.

Therefore, I deemed it necessary to set the basis for ERA+ for the final three seasons as equal to the average of the bases used in 1981-1993.  It might mean that 1994-96 are out of whack, but that is not enough of a concern to me.

For the career number, I weighted the season's number according to its percentage of Chapel's career innings pitched.  The 152 career ERA+ puts him just under Pedro Martinez, currently behind only Kershaw among starting pitchers.  Had I used the actual basis in his last three seasons, ERA+ would increase to 155, (within rounding error, but) above Pedro.

I thought about adding FIP, but I didn't want to fool around with assigning HR to each season, as that would be too random and poorly researched.

Well, have at it.  Hopefully, clicking the picture will expand into something more easily viewable.  If it doesn't, nyeh.









That's all the fuck I got.  If someone can figure out Chapel's WAR, they need serious help are better than I am.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Rugby for fairies...the Minny Bowl

One thing that Bokolis just cannot stomach about the NFL is the way it allows for people other than players to decide the outcome.  Almost on cue, we were thrown today's Liverpool-Tottenham match.  The way that disaster played out, it almost conditions us for some nonsense to happen in tonight's super bowl.

Eagles (+4.5) over Patriots -  The playoff season is sitting at 5-4-1 (6-4 really), meaning Bokolis must hit this game to say I've done something this playoff season.  As such, I cannot cop out by offering what I'd do in real life, which is to buy two points on both sides and play Patriots -2.5 and Eagles +6.5, hoping to hit the middle while laying 3-2 odds on each side.

Even with two weeks to sit on this, Bokolis has a weird feel on this game.  Similarly to how I felt about about the second Giants-Patriots matchup, the sense I have is that the Eagles will play at least as well as the Patriots in this game, but it just won't work out for them.  Of course, the Giants wound up winning/covering that game, but it was as close as Wes Welker getting two hands on a pass he couldn't hold to going the other way.

After the fiasco of last year's super bowl, where the vagaries of the NFL allowed for a team that was mauled for three quarters to win the game, it is quite easy to succumb to the notion that the Patriots will find a way to scam themselves another championship.

It may indeed play out that way, but Bokolis is going to bank on the Eagles staying close regardless.  I'm also asking the Eagles to keep up the effort they've put in during their home playoff games and asking Foles to continue his uptrend.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Underdog Masks dot com

Just like the last Super Bowl, the early game went almost exactly as Bokolis had envisioned it.  The Jaguars roughed up the Patriots.  Nonetheless, some friendly officiating and the Patriots' efficiency delivered the game to the Patriots.  It sort of helped that they knew the way home a little better. When a team loses but covers for you, it's always a fond farewell.

Bokolis believed that people were sleeping on Foles, that they forgot that he once tore up the league for a season.  After I posted the predictions, I surfed around long enough to find the NFL network lineup of talking ex-jocks (mostly) pick the Vikings.  It gave Bokolis more confidence.  When I then heard that dome teams were 0-12 when playing the conference championship outdoors, I had a hearty chuckle to myself and remembered what the Giants did to the Vikings years back...but I still didn't expect a train-run like this.

Bokolis sweeps the conference championship round and brings the playoff performance back into the black at 5-4-1.  More pointedly, the underdogs are 9-1 in the playoffs.

The Eagles performance has brought the early line down to 5.5 after early indications at 7.5 and eventually opening at 6.  Predicting where it will end up (7?) is likely a fruitless endeavor.  It might be a better idea to corner the market for Underdog masks.

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UPDATE: As of 1210 (UTC, that's 0710 on the east coast), the line has dropped to Patriots giving 5.  It's almost obligatory to buy the Patriots down to -3 and wait/hope for the line to move back up during the two weeks.

For the uninitiated, "buying" points involves laying odds to get a more amenable point spread.  On a standard play, the odds are typically such that you have to lay 110 to win 100.  Each 1/2 point you buy will increase those odds by 10, and you'll typically be allowed to buy up to two points.  To use the present example, buying the Patriots down to -3 would mean laying 150 to win 100 (or 3/2).

While this strategy is available for most point spreads, it is most often used when the line is at an awkward number, like anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 and from 4.5 to 5.5.  Some people will also buy a -3 down to -2.5.  As they say, your mileage may vary.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Oh-fer crying out loud

In something that NEVER happens, Bokolis took a bath in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.  Atlanta didn't fire enough to match the Eagles' effort.  The Titans were a (bad performance/bad-calls) throwaway, as I wouldn't go near a game like that.  While I typically avoid the Steelers because they never do as I want, who knew Jacksonville would be Pittsburgh's Trap Game!

Finally, we get to the nonsensical end of the Saints-Vikings.  Too many NFL playoff games are being decided on stupidity for Bokolis' taste.  That's the way it seems, anyway.  Because I had a buddy of mine- a real firestarter- call me (right before the final drive) the to tell me he had found himself partying amongst (strangers) a group of Vikings fans, I had to put on the reverse malocchio -otherwise known as an Act of Bokolis- to make sure he could keep the party going.  Hey, the guy means that much to Bokolis.

Unlike an Act of God- an Act of Bokolis often gets you more than you've bargained for.  An Act of God more likely would've resulted in a fiel...who are we kidding- God doesn't give a shit about football, and he doesn't give a fuck about the NFL.

Now, while Bokolis had listed the line at Vikings -5 at the time of the post, the game went off at -5.5. While the Vikings humanely taking a knee on the eventual point after try made for a cash, for the purposes of this narrative, it was a push.  Therefore, the 0-3-1 week puts the playoff season at 3-4-1.

Chastened, Bokolis moves on.

Jaguars (+8) over PATRIOTS - They have suckered Bokolis in with this Tom Brady hand caper.   I presume they've got eyes on those pigskins and a pressure gauge handy.  Actually, I want to believe the Jaguars defense will hit and harass enough to make this a dogfight, and that the Patriots ruthless all-around efficiency will merely be enough to pull them through, not pull away.

EAGLES (+3) over Vikings - Both teams lucked out last week, the Vikings to an infinitely larger degree.  The Eagles caught a ball off a knee, but played defense like studs and stopped the Falcons when they had to.  That is something the Vikings cannot claim, as their luck simply avoided them pissing away another playoff game.  The line here is based on the subjective view of the QBs.  Bokolis sees this as close to even, so I'll take the home team and the points.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Rugby for fairies- 2017 Divisional Round

3-1 heading into the divisional round and looking for more of the same, Bokolis spent less than the 10 minutes allotted to ruminating on the Titans-Pats number on ANY playoff thought this week.  It took about 20 minutes to write this- double the thought!

Falcons (-3) over EAGLES - 2.5 is certainly available, but 3 is listed for these purposes.  The factors here are, whether a second road game- on a second coast- will be too taxing on the Falcons or, whether the bye week was enough to install a playbook that Foles can execute.  Bokolis figures that the wind's effects will bog down the Falcons, but will put more pressure on Foles, as the Falcons will stack the box and dare the Eagles to pass if Foles doesn't show he can hang.  The experience and the more certain QB should win out here.

Titans (+13.5) over PATRIOTS - Don't the Patriots typically come out and shell an opponent when scandals surface in the media?  With coordinators running around interviewing for other jobs, this feels like a time when enough people will stop giving a fuck for long enough for the Titans to hang in.

STEELERS (-7) over Jaguars - Typically, when the Steelers get smoked by a team, they are usually keen to take them out the next time they play.  Bokolis also surmises that part of that Jaguars victory earlier this season was down to the relative emphasis placed on the game by both sides and that, this time, with the season on the line, the Steelers will be suitably motivated to put it on the Jags.

Saints (+5) over VIKINGS - When this line opened at 3.5, it seemed light, as Bokolis expected 6.  The Saints defense showed enough lapses against Carolina to warrant an increase in the expected production of the Vikings.  The line indeed has moved toward the expected number.  But this is likely a mistake, as the lapses came with a relatively comfortable lead and the Saints held the only time it was absolutely necessary.  With Brees in a dome and expected to hum along, the Vikings will have to prove that they can handle the stage and not choke away another playoff game.