7.26.2004

ragin asian blog posting: special hall of fame edition!

i know that's it been way too long guys.  all i can say is teaching has kept me insanely busy.  there's much that i've missed blogging on including my recent trip to san diego, but i can only blog when my stupid computer is working, and well it's not working.  luckily for you and me, my laptop is running fine and i finally have some time to write.  and today i have a lot to write about.  i thought about breaking this one up into several entries, but i figured i'd make up for the recent lack of entries with a super extra long posting.

today, dennis eckersley and paul molitor were inducted into the baseball hall of fame.  for those of you who don't know, i'm an extremely big eckersley fan.  those of you who do know me know that when it comes to sports, the thing that juices me the most is when one team or one player completely dominates the competition.  that is everyone knows what this guy has got in his bag, and they know exactly what's coming, but even still no one can do anything about it.  jordan of course is a really good example, the early nineties cowboys of course make the list.  eckersley was certainly of this ilk.

warning, this next section will be extremely stat intensive.  those of you who aren't interested may want to skip down a few paragraphs.  there are a lot of people out there who say that the combination of being a pretty decent starter and a great closer is what earned the eck his ticket to cooperstown.  hell, i think i even saw dennis himself say that a few times this weekend.  i'm here to tell you that that is complete bullshit.  his performance between 1988 and 1992, his prime closer days, are unlikely to ever be duplicated.  i guess mariano rivera has strung together something like this the past several years, but eck has him i think on two key categories.  first era.  during rivera's best five consecutive year stretch (1997 - 2001), his era's were: 2.09, 1.88, 1.91, 1.83, and 2.85.  eck's: 2.35, 1.56, 0.61(!), 2.96, 1.91.  so both of them have two years where they were over 2.00.  although both of rivera's over-2.00 years are better than eckersley's, only the 2.09 is appreciably better than eck's corresponding era of 2.35.  in my eyes, the 2.85 and the 2.96 are basically a wash.  the real difference comes in the three under-2.00 seasons.  both have a 1.91 in there, a wash.  but the other two season, eckersley is waaaaaaaaaaaaay better.  0.61!  come on, those are playstation stats.  how do you only allow a single runs for every 18 innings you pitch.  as automatic as rivera was, eckersley was more so.

but as all of us true stats geeks know, the pitcher actually has very little control over how many runs or hits he gives up from balls put in play by the batter.  a much better indicator of a pitcher skills are his defense independent stats.  that is, what are the things that the pitcher has total control of.  the two main things are strikeouts and walks.  hence, the strikeout to walk ratio, which gives us an idea of how many outs a pitcher gets by himself for every baserunner he allows by himself.  during rivera's stretch 338 Ks to 103 walks, a not so impressive 3.28 to 1 ratio.  eckersley: 378 Ks to 38 walks, an otherworldly 9.95 to 1 ratio.  based on this metric, you could say that eckersley was 3 times as effective as rivera.  of course, that crazy ratio comes from the fact that he basically never walked anyone.  by the way, i can't find intentional walk stats on the web, but i do know that at least 6 of eckersley walks were intentional, so that would be an 11.81 to 1 ratio.  every pitcher walks people, that's just part of the game.  unless of course, you were the eck. 

a lot of people are quick to say that gagne's season last year was the greatest by a closer of all time, but let's not forget 92 when eck won the cy young and the mvp with a line of 7-1, 51 saves and a 1.91 era.  but that's not even my favorite eck season.  that would have to be 1989, when he was 4-0, 33 saves, and a 1.56 era.  that year (here comes quite possibly my favorite sports statistic of all time) he walked 3 batters.  three.  1-2-3 and that's it.  how stupid is that?  the crazy thing is that the next year, he pitched 16 more innings with an era of 0.61 and only walked 4 batters, but i just can't get over the number 3.  also, that was the year where he had more saves (48) than baserunners (42).  anyways, of the current group of relievers, i would say only mariano is the only one that also gets a nod to cooperstown.  wetteland and hoffman come close, but if i were voting, no dice.

stats section over.  the ceremony itself was neat.  i'm not really an emotional guy, but it's weird how sentimental sports moments can turn me into a blubbering idiot.  i was crying during the eck's speech as he detailed his battle with alcoholism.  statistical dominance aside, the great thing about the eck, which i just realized today, is that he really embodies the one thing that in this world that touches me, redemption.  it's like royal tennenbaum says, "can't someone be a shit his whole life and then try to make up for it?  i really think people want to hear that."  perhaps it is my own insecurities, but i for one, do want to hear that.  molitor was definitely more well spoken, but i think it was clear that eckersley's speech was truly from the heart.

other observations...paul molitor, great numbers, but i think that he's definitely in the lower echelon of hall of famers...kirby puckett must weigh 500 pounds...bud selig still looks like he's got aids...paul molitor's trophy wife, definitely hot...gary carter - shouldn't be in the hall of fame...rollie fingers - the handlebar mustache is both cool and lame...really lame god shtick from molitor at the end of his speech.

anyways, i was thinking that it would be cool we all could have these induction ceremonies for our own little halls of fame.  i'm in the process of developing criteria for election into my hall of fame, but i think that i would include people who are no longer in my life, but i constantly think about.  although i suspect that the most of the people who get in will be people i adore, but friendship or respect from me will not be a mandatory, but i would need to remember them in a somewhat fondly, even if it's just because the person was easy to make fun of.  obviously, people that i know now are not eligible, and i think i'll work like the baseball hall of fame and have a five year waiting period after people have left my life before they can be added to the ballot.  anyways, right now, i can think of two surefire first ballot inductees.  first ricardo perez-cantu.  ricardo played trumpet in the high school marching band with me.  i can't even begin to describe how screwed up this guy was.  maybe someday i'll recount some adventures with ricardo, but for now, just know that he was once spotted wearing sunglasses in church.  the other inductee would be derek oishi.  derek was one of my RAs during my time in AZ.  he made goofy films, he loved the pittsburgh steelers, he liked to gamble, and we could pay him 50 cents to do just about anything.  what's not to like about this kid.

anyways, it's really late and i have to gotobednow.  this is the last week of class, and i promise that after this week, i'll get back to blogging on a regular basis.

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