brewers baseball and things


the brewers are 15-27

I feel like an obese person conveniently preaching that beauty is only skin deep. The Brewers lost last night, to the Braves, 10-1, but it’s gonna be ok. It always was ok.

The Middle East and Southeast Asia were carved up by drunk colonizers in the aftermath of World War II or maybe it happened decades earlier? Wasn’t the world once Austria Hungarian Ottoman Persian Assyrian Babylonian Etruscan Hebrew? I should keep my day job, but over there, in some anonymous Idaho stream maybe  there is extra terrestrial dust from long long even longer ago?

Makes me wonder why the Houston Colt .45s included a decimal point before their name and why there was no apostrophe between 45 and s. Was there some drunk grammar colonizing crew that decided exception to the rule or maybe it’s  me who doesn’t know the rules?  Should there be a decimal point before 45?

Apparently there is supposed to be one before .45 but why no apostrophe between 5 and s as in Colt .45s? I guess for the same reason there is no apostrophe between the r and s of Brewers as in Milwaukee Brewers. English is complicated.

The Colt 45s, excuse me the Colt .45s  played in Colt Stadium from 1962-64 before moving into the 8th wonder of the world Astrodome. Colt Stadium apparently featured rattle snakes on the field, horrific heat and humidity and  nasty swarms of mosquitos. Some called it a barn which was maybe generous because barns have hay for rolling around in and smooching and I suspect there was a baby or two conceived at Colt Stadium.

These mosquitos remind me of the black flies of quebec north which apparently drove the native americans on summer vacation to the Atlantic coast. Smart people. They fished for lobster and returned home after the flies were done doing there thing.

Some people think because the Brewers are playing so bad this year, they too should go on vacation, especially since summer hasn’t even started, plenty of time to make a casual escape as opposed to a secret Baltimore Colts sneak out of dodge situation. All the proper disguises could be put in place with minor league brewers replacing major league ones, but the uniform name backs would remain the same name. A little face make up her and there and no one would know the difference. And who would fill minor league rosters? Anyone. Local kids with nothing else to do for the summer. What a thrill for everyone involved. And current Brewer players would be happy as well, catching those lobsters along the eastern seaboard in anonymity.

Early on in the 2014 season way back when there was concern over Carlos Gomez’s swing so hard his helmet fell off or even worse-he dropped down on one knee, but not to pray. It was to keep from falling or maybe both serve the same purpose? But the concern went deeper than Gomez. It stretched up and down the roster. This was a team that didn’t take too many pitches and hardly ever walked.

I was late to OB%, but ode to my strat-o-matic baseball guru. Thank you.  He was the one who ordered Bill James pamphlets from the backs of baseball digests. It took me a long while, but I caught on.  OB% matters.

So April-May-June of last year was an enjoyable drinking binge with all that getting on base and timely hitting. We spiked our next morning coffees with whisky to prolong the feeling,  but we knew it wouldn’t last or the good pitching did, but there were no more ducks on the pond and as a result-no more runs in July-August-September and even fewer this year.

And so home runs are my best friends and that’s OK.  I love the Brewers. Win or lose is beside the point and excuse me while I sound like a fortune cookie cliche, but the journey is what matters and there’s a game almost every damn day and I can watch it if I feel like it and if I had a porch, I’d paint it and listen to a game on the radio and pop a top on a pabst.


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waking up from a dream and seeing a pile of dirty clothes on the floor become monstrous shapes

Sitting in the sun to get tan never made any sense to me; maybe the most boring thing known to humankind. But I once fell asleep in the sun. I got burned real bad.

Mom put aloe gels all over my shoulder and back and promised the skin would soon peel and everything would feel better. That only made it worse. I refused to take a bath for an entire week because I knew my skin would slip off my bones and race down the bathtub drain. I knew without a doubt that I would disappear.

I had faith; a messed up faith, a faith guided by fear, but it was a faith. I was also afraid of sea weed or algae or whatever lurks under the surface of lake water and suddenly comes in contact with our legs after we brave the cold water and dive in. They forced me at summer camp to get in the water, but if they wouldn’t have, I would have never gone in.

The fear was real and legends about lake monsters were way more than legends. They were real possibilities. I was also afraid of the Russian Olive Tree outside my bedroom window. During mild wind spikes, its branches whipped against the window and I swear that tree stump moaned, groaned, and whistled. I had nightmares and woke up in the middle of the night screaming,

I had my reasons for all my fears and there was nothing anyone could say or do to convince me otherwise; not even my mom and her unforgettable devotion to make pain disappear. And yet somehow, those fears mellowed out a bit or disappeared completely, but it only seems that way thanks or no thanks to logic hijacking the front of my mind.

The tree was eventually cut down, but not completely amputated; not in my mind anyway. I still don’t sit in the sun and I always cake my flesh with sun screen. I still think about lake monsters before diving in, but all the fears seem quieter and the imagination a little duller. And we call that maturity and growing up; age of enlightenment, science, reason, progress……?   Hogwash!

I love it when a pitcher has no right to dominate a league, a team, or a batter; no scientific right at all. All the stat sheets and sabermetric wisdom and even the instincts of baseball;s greatest minds say “highly improbable” and then Tyson Ross has more  quality starts-21 than Clayton Kershaw-19.

But no one cares. No one is afraid of the Padres; not on the Brewers and not anyone anywhere in baseball; but Tyson Ross is 6’5″ and 225 pounds, attended Berkeley in California, drafted by Oakland, traded by Oakland.

He’s only allowed 147 hits in 181 innings this year. struck out 176, opponents batting average is .224 a 1.17 WHIP and so on and so forth; 12 wins and 12 losses. That’s the gold right there…24 decisions. I toss the other numbers out the window and roll around with 12 and 12 and dream of what he’s maybe done.

Or maybe it’s a 7 and 7 I’m longing for, maybe, but the 12 and 12 does the trick. Ross has probably made every one of his starts. One thing’s for sure. He’s tied for the league lead with 28 games started; third most wins, second most losses and most decisions with 24.

He won’t catch the all time record of 34 decisions set by Lamar Hoyt in 1982 as a White Sox, but the the list is impressive. The 33 club includes Tom Seaver, Luis Tiant, Bob Welch and 32 club has Fernando on it.

San Diego is hitting .226 as a team this year; by far the worst in all of baseball; also the lowest on base percentage and fewest runs scored. And the Padres were 7 for 32 last night; good for a .218 average or bad but they still scored 4 runs Tuesday night-Wednesday morning; San Diego, east coast. I was asleep.

I woke up at 2:30 AM  for no known reason; turned on the TV and read the baseball scores stock market scroll at the bottom of the page; Padres up 4 dow jones; brewers crashing at 1. That was followed by the pitching line; Ross pitched 6.1 innings; his record of 12-12 in parentheses, someone named Almonte hit a home run and then the game all rolled away replaced by NBA trades. I went back to bed.

The Brewers are 73-59.



einstein performing the wave

On April 6, 1973, Ron Blomberg stepped to the plate at Fenway Park; just another opening day between Blomberg’s New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. But it was more. Blomberg became the first ever Designated Hitter and baseball’s soft core civil war grew a new branch.

On one side were the National League purists who argued that pitchers must bat. The American League only DH was a gross corruption of the game and some even questioned if the American League was a major league at all. The DH diminished strategical maneuvers; just kick back and wait for the three run homer.

Two distinct identities emerged. The clash came to a climax every October in the World Series. The debate raged on until the mid 1990’s when lion maybe didn’t lay down with lamb, but they shared a cup of coffee. Inter-league regular season play was launched and the tension dispersed.

But there is no baseball without controversy and debate. The us versus them hooray for our side changed venues. Number crunchers versus those who trust their own instincts and eyes surfaced again. The debate is as old as baseball itself.

Sabermetrics is often referred to as a revolution and that makes sense to me as I google the Latin origin of the word; revolvere “turn, roll back” as in nothing new, as in returning to the way baseball was once perceived by a controversial minority way back when Henry Chadwick walked the baseball earth, way back when baseball was in its formative days.

Chadwick championed the base on balls. He questioned why errors were considered negative. You reach more balls on defense, you logically make more errors. Chadwick was blown off and for what? To keep baseball simple? To not alienate the masses, To sell tickets? To make money?

It wouldn’t be the first time power trippers reduced complicated realities into simple black and white explanations, appealing to emotions through colorful imagery. Demagoguery.  

The number crunchers didn’t disappear. They continued to toil away in makeshift labs; sharing information through snail mail and the backs of baseball digest. Data collected and analyzed. Formulas, calculations, player evaluations integrating dozens and dozens of variables so we could better understand what just happened and forecast what might happen, separate the “signal from the noise.”

Allan Roth;

Allan Roth;

Allan Roth attended Montreal Royals baseball games in the 1940’s. The Royals were the AAA affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Roth approached Dodgers GM Branch Rickey and offered him his statistical services. He was hired and OB% was soon integrated into the Dodger evaluation of players. Roth became baseball’s first full time statistician.

Bill James worked as a third shift janitor in Kansas during the 1970’s; a perfect job to crunch numbers and carry the torch onward. There were many others.

The internet brought their underground “subversive” findings to light and over the last 15 years or so, sabermetrics went mainstream with kids no longer just collecting baseball cards. They preached about WAR and BABIP and ISO. The best of both worlds, no? Numbers, formulas, and percentages sharing a place with our own eyes and instincts and yet, some continue to be angry and hate one side or the other.

In one corner is the revolution deepening every day with new formulas and evaluations. And in the other corner are those who question if these math whizzes even watch the game. It smells like a dissing. If something is too complicated, then call it stupid; dehumanize it and champion your own cause, desperation.

My math IQ is sub high school level and so I listen to these math whizzes. I’m in awe of them.The proliferation of sabermetric research feels like an apocalypse in the old Greek sense of the word, as in Apokalyptein, as in “uncover, disclose, reveal” bring us closer to the reality of a baseball game.

A revolution as we return to an ancient time when our ancestors could maybe see and perceive more than we can today; revealing what was always there. We just couldn’t see it. I find the attempt remarkable. Nowadays, all major league teams use some form of sabermetric research when drafting players, filling out a batting order, aligning a defense, and so on.

The number 105 flashes across the TV screen. It’s not a radar clocking  the pitch of Aroldis Champam. It’s the speed of a ball hit by Carlos Gomez. I don’t know how long the data has been available  but it must have added a new wrinkle to an already difficult value to determine; a player’s defensive range.

Seattle's BigDoor Media

Seattle’s BigDoor Media

I want the Brewer’s manager to rely in part on his own instincts, but I also want him to rely on NASA engineers, chemistry professors, and anonymous math whizzes who happen to also be baseball fans. 

The Brewers are west, in Arizona; first pitch was 9:40 EST. I fell asleep in the 1st inning, but according to’s digital morning box score, the final score was Brewers 9, Arizona 3. There’s sabermetric inspired information listed. It raises more questions than answers.

The Brewers are 42-29.

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There was no revolution

Davey Johnson walks into manager Earl Weaver’s office and hands him a document; “How to Optimize the Orioles lineup.” Johnson is the author. The bizarre numbers explain why Johnson should be batting fourth in a line up including Frank Robinson and Boog Powell. He batted clean up only five times in his eight seasons as an Oriole.

Davey JohnsonJohnson studied math at Trinity College in the 1960’s and dabbled with statistics and probability long before crunching numbers came into vogue. He brought computers to the minor leagues as a manager of the Tidewater Tides in 1983.

Johnson currently manages the Washington Nationals and over 17 years has compiled a winning percentage of .562 (1372-1071) including a World Series triumph with the New York Mets in 1986.

Statistics are no longer the sole domain of math wizards. The pastime has slipped into the mainstream, but it is nothing new. As a matter of fact, it’s been a part of baseball since way back in the 19th century. It simply suffered a slap in the face and like any innovation was forced under ground to toil away in obscurity until the climate was ripe for a revival. There is no revolution, just a return.

Bill James was once a third shift security guard at the Stokely-Van Camps pork and been cannery in his home state of Kansas. The job was a perfect place to crank out his baseball writings that avoided the trappings of baseball as some sacred, primal, mythological pastime. James asked questions and then answered them with numbers. How would Fred Lynn fare outside Fenway Park?

His findings were offered to Baseball Digest subscribers in the 1970’s and a few dozens fans bought the Bill James Baseball abstracts, but he was barely a blip on baseball’s radar. Nowadays, he works for the Boston Red Sox and since he joined in 2003, they’ve won three World Series.

The Bill James bandwagon has no vacancy these days. It’s filled with followers and clones and loud mouth detractors who still insist baseball is more about green grass, blue skies, and the excitement of seeing a triple, but Bill James loves baseball, watches baseball and so do most stat geeks.The calculations, algorithms and comparisons simply add a new perspective or rather revive an old one.

Before Bill James, there was earnest Earnshaw Cook’s “Percentages Baseball” and before Cook there was the founder of baseball’s box score; Henry Chadwick and in between there were dozens of engineers, chemists and the fan next door who moonlighted as number crunchers.

Chadwick championed the walk as a vital measure to a player’s performance. He also questioned errors since a defender reaching hard to reach batted balls makes more of them. The debate of range versus fielding percentage is over 100 years old.



It seems fitting that Dodgers President Branch Rickey would be the first to actually apply statistics to on field decisions. Rickey had already invented the baseball farm system and paved the way for African-Americans. It was on the same field where Jackie Robinson launched his pro career that number crunching gained legitimacy.

Pierre Dupuy high school in Montreal has a soccer field covered in fluorescent green turf. It’s annoying when you consider what was once there.


Delorimier Downs

Delorimier Stadium was home to the Montreal Royals; the AAA affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1928-1960. The 20,000 seat stadium experienced a lot of firsts over 32 years; from Gene Mauch to Jackie Robinson, Tommy Lasorda, Roberto Clemente, Duke Snider as well as one who never stepped on the field, but his contributions were just as significant.

Montreal native Allan Roth kept statistics for the Montreal Canadians hockey team. In 1947, he contacted Rickey’s open mind, one that earned him the nickname Mahatma-great soul in Sanskrit. I love imagining the look on Branch Rickey’s face when Roth suggested a manager might benefit from knowing right-handed batters tend to bat better against southpaws.

Rickey hired Roth as baseball’s first full-time statistician. Roth kept pitch counts, a batter’s various splits and he fed reams of numbers to a guy sitting next to him in the press box-Mr. Vin Scully.

Roth moved west with the Dodgers in 1958. He died in 1992. The Los Angeles SABR Chapter is named in his honor.


SABR toothed tiger

There’s been all kinds of promotional give aways at baseball games; from seat cushions to bobble heads, replica jerseys, bats, uniforms, baseball cards, barbecue smocks, and whatever marketeers can come up with.

But never 3-d glasses, not yet anyway. Or maybe the attitude adjustment potion was mixed into secret stadium sauce and spread across hot dogs; sort of a slow generational creep to reach its full potential. It’s almost there.

Holding the back side of a baseball card beside the light of today’s statistical glossary makes my mouth drop at all the innovation. The math we’ve come to know as  Sabermetrics-SABR for Society of American Baseball Research defines itself as “the search for objective knowledge about baseball.”

SABR is the history of uniforms, big league chew, world series trivia, and defunct minor league teams. It’s also reams of data on every game ever played in baseball. The simple statistics of at bats, home runs, stadium dimension, etc. are stuffed into formulas producing numbers to better evaluate player performance. The variables included are maybe where the genius resides or maybe it’s in the algorithms or maybe I have no idea, but I bow anyway because my math IQ is painfully low.

The great baseball minds stretch all the way back to father baseball himself- Mr. Henry Chadwick. He considered errors to be a weak measure of defensive ability. What about the defenders, he asked, who have greater range and as a result, make more plays in addition to more errors? That was Chadwick in the 1860’s.

Branch Rickey hired Allan Roth to sit in a Montreal press box and record statistics for the AAA International League Royals. On base percentage, pitch counts, and batter splits against right or left handed pitchers were all made available to Rickey. That was in the 1940’s.


Bill James toiled away as a graveyard shift janitor in Lawrence, Kansas. The hours allowed him to crunch numbers into formulas most kids weren’t reading on the backs of baseball cards. James offered his finding to a cult following via snail mail. That was the 1970’s.

The rebellion is no longer a rebellion. It was probably never a rebellion. It was simply seeing. Nowadays there’s a Bill James around every blog thread because kids are smarter. I bow to them. If you want to work in the front office of a baseball team., you better know some probability theory.

I take the change as real good because I’d rather have Einstein running my favorite team than me and my superstitions.

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my grandma could be in the baseball hall of fame

So could Ben Oglivie. He hit long home runs and didn’t wear batting gloves or a long sleeved shirt under his uniform and he played outdoors in Detroit and Milwaukee during April and September and a few times in October when it’s cold. Don’t forget he was born in Panama.

Oglivie could also do the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle in record time and oh yeh, he invented his own school of sliding that no kid should ever follow. He hit 235 career home runs for his career and that’s not a lot, but he could still be voted into the baseball hall of fame (hof) if the Baseball Writers of America decided so.  There’s no all powerful, know it all Oz machine that decides on these things, not yet anyway.

Sometime in winter, baseball announces the players on the HOF ballot and sometime a little later, the writers vote and sometime later on during the summer, there is an enshrining ceremony in Cooperstown New York.  And as a result, the debate between fans rages all year long with small breaks when the season launches in April and ends in October.

But all the other months are filled with arguments because Ben Oglivie could never be in the Hall of Fame.

But then again, Bill Mazeroski is and that pisses off a lot of fans. And that pissed off is a good thing, especially in today’s debate. You can’t just say because or play devil’s advocate troll to call attention to yourself. Baseball fans will mount you on the bar rail and stone your ego to death.

Nowadays, you gotta have WAR (wins over replacement player) and BABIP (batting average in balls in play) and that makes for more criteria to consider. The debate is even better. The machine has no chance.

Can you imagine how dull the ceremony would be in late July. There’d be a guy in a white suit  sticking note cards of stats into a punch clock machine and a few seconds later 23 results would spit out. There’d be no pilgrimage and picnic and of course, no more different opinions.

I hope my favorite factor stays in the equation. That would be the SMOBIML stat-So Much Of Baseball Is Maybe Luck stat.