Thursday, March 10, 2011


It's OK to ignore these signs whenever you see them. Really.
Couldn't baseball figure out a way to make spring training count in the final standings? In a culture that seems to thrive on a combination of mind-boggling complexity and knee-jerk oversimplification, there's just no way that some passive-aggressive genius can't figure out an insidious way to polarize the game by integrating two of its previously sacrosanct segments (or is that vice-versa?).

Just a vagrant thought.

"A ball hit off the obelisk is dead, and the runner(s) will
return to whichever of the seven bases they were
occupying at the time"---ah, SEVEN bases? Did the
Italians cross baseball with bocce??
Fortunately, several genius-types have been busy creating diversions for us until the games really count. Let's single out two of them today.

First, our old friend Sean Forman (who rightfully downplays his involvement as a young "knew-not-better" with BBBA--though, hey, it just shows you that people can overcome incredible handicaps to become rich, famous, and lusted after--OK, two outta three ain't bad, eh, Sean?) at (no need to link there, n'est-ce pas? kinda like linking to the Vatican or something...) who has created a terrifically fun new program at his site which permits the community of users to participate in a mass player ranking project.

Actually, we do need to link over there, since you'll want to learn how to participate if you haven't seen this at some of the more common sources of mainstream baseball arcana:

This link will take you to the summary page, where you can check back and watch the players rankings evolve as the bb-ref users implement the  ELO (does Jeff Lynne know about this yet?).

Time and motion meets probability: we await the dawning of
"Fangraphs for Chess"--probably not the best place to pick up "babes."
This link will take you to a page that provides a brief description of the method, originally developed by physics professor Arpad Elo, and discusses how it's been appropriated for use in rating baseball players. (It appears that another old friend of BBBA, Justin Kubatko (don't shoot me, Justin, for still using the term "neo-sabermetrics"!!), may be the true culprit in the Elo-ization effort: an earlier version of this method was implemented at bb-ref's "sister site",

And this link will take you to a page that provides a more detailed historical discussion of how Arpad Elo first devised his method, initially envisioned as a way to create greater precision and predictive accuracy in chess rankings.

Before there was George Selkirk, there
was...Marcel Proust.
Once you go to the bb-ref page and start ranking players, you may never come up for air until the All-Star break.

Alternatively, you could recreate the past and watch a game that was actually played in 1950. (Which, of course, is hard to do if you hadn't been born at that point.) But the folks at Back to Baseball have ingeniously found a way to make even Marcel (Twinkletoes) Proust weep with joy, because it's now possible to watch a computerized version of any game played since 1950 via their "simulacreator" (which hopefully will not spawn a movement known as "simulacreationism" anytime soon).

Full disclosure: this is not an especially "dynamic" interface; those of you who play more state-of-the-art baseball simulation games may not find this to be up to snuff graphically. But for those with an unstoppable urge to recapture the past, the Back to Baseball interface is good enough to provide some enjoyable lo-fi diversion.