Friday, December 13, 2013

Why bother to have specifications ...

Ugh ... a very annoying e-mail thread from earlier this week.  For the record, I'm not attacking the other fellow on the other end of this thread.  They're just doing their job too.

Company: We noticed in your open-source software that you output X incorrectly.  Please look at this other open-source software Y to see how it should be output.

Me: Please look at standard Z.  According to standard Z, I'm doing things correctly.  Here's the code snippets to show it.

Company: Hmm, you're right.  I guess a number of vendors are not properly sending the data in the right format.  Unfortunately, we can't get all those vendors to change the format.

Me: Well, how about I add a workaround option on the command line.  Those who are knowledgeable of this subject matter can specify it if they want to.

Company: We tried out your workaround option and it's almost correct.  A few bytes were flipped in the output.

Me: Huh, that's strange.  The first few fields are sent little-endian, but the latter few fields are sent big-endian.  This is really weird.

Company: For legacy reasons, it appears large company A has been doing this, so I guess vendors have followed suit.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cardinals 2014 Off Season Moves Analysis

This is a follow up to my prior blog post  "Cardinals Questions for 2014".

The Cardinals made two big moves that pretty much answer all of their off-season questions.

1) Who plays right field next year?
2) How do you handle David Freese, Matt Carpenter, and prospect Kolten Wong?

The Cardinals solved these two problems with one trade.  They traded David Freese & Fernando Salas for Peter Bourjos, Randal Grichuk.

I love this trade.  It gives the Cardinals so many options.

First, it allows the Cardinals to move Allen Craig to right field and put Matt Adams at first base.

Second, it moves Matt Carpenter to third and gives Kolten Wong the starting job at second base.

With Allen Craig in right field, the Cardinals were concerned with their outfield defense.  They improved it greatly by getting Peter Bourjos.  When healthy, he is a gold glove calibre centerfielder. 

Bourjos' offense is questionable, however, he's a right handed hitter.  In certain games the Cardinals can platoon Bourjos with Jon Jay, who is left handed.

In addition, Jon Jay can play right field on certain days.  Jon Jay would be a huge upgrade in defense in right field over Allen Craig.

So the Cardinals improve the defense of centerfield, third base, and second base with this move.  The defense in right field presumably goes down (Allen Craig < Carlos Beltran), but it's an overall big win.

In addition, it was an incredibly smart trade.  The Cardinals traded a 30 year old third baseman who appeared to be in the decline on offense and defense, and only had two years of control left.  They also gave up a relief pitcher who had already been demoted back to AAA.

In return they got a 26 year old centerfielder with three years of control left and potential to grow.  They also got a nice mid-tier prospect to refill their minor league system with.

The only risk the Cardinals take is that Bourjos does have injury history.  That is the risk they take, however the overall risk/reward appears to be favorable to the Cardinals.

3) Can the Cardinals upgrade shortstop?

The Cardinals solved this by signing Jhonny Peralta to a four year $52M contract.

While I personally preferred the signing of Stephen Drew, the signing is a decent one.  It's a bit of an overpay, but not by a ridiculous amount. The Cardinals had Carlos Beltran, Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, and Jake Westbrook's contracts coming off the books.  So they had more than enough money to make a push for Peralta.  They had enough money to even stretch the contract a little bigger than they'd be comfortable with.  A 3 year contract would would have been better, but it's not a crazy stretch.

There are natural concerns over how Peralta will fair after his PED suspension last year.  Regardless, his offense will be a huge upgrade over Pete Kozma in 2013.  Even if Peralta regresses to his 2012 form (.239/.305/.384) it's still a good upgrade over Kozma in 2013 (.217/.275/.273).


A great thing about these offseason moves (so far) is that the Cardinals didn't give up a single high value prospect.  They kept Taveras, Wong, Wacha, Miller, Rosenthal, Kelly, Lynn, Siegrist, Martinez, Piscotty, etc

In addition, by not signing Stephen Drew (who had received a qualifying offer from Boston) the Cardinals retain their first round draft pick in 2014.  With the Carlos Beltran signing, they'll get another first round draft pick in 2014 too.

Overall, a great set of moves that improves the offense and defense of the team, keeps the depth of the minor league system strong, doesn't overburden the team with a huge contract, and keeps draft picks for the future.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Baseball Scheduling Problem

Came upon this ESPN video at random the other day.

For years I had assumed that baseball (and all professional sports) had used computers to determine their season schedules, but apparently the scheduling problem was so difficult and so complex, human beings did Major League Baseball's schedule by hand until 2004.  The couple highlighted in the video did it for about 20 years.  Apparently multiple companies and research universities (MIT, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, IBM are mentioned) failed to come up w/ schedules in the 80s and 90s.  In some cases, it was not failed to come up with "good schedules", but apparently failed to come up with a schedule at all.

The scheduling problem seems mighty complex.  The scheduling conditions below are from the video and my own knowledge of baseball.

  • 30 baseball teams, each plays 162 games (2430 games total)
  • The schedule is unbalanced, teams in the NL or AL play within their league more often than the other (15 teams per league).
  • Teams within divisions play each other more often than other divisions in the league (5 teams per division).
  • Teams cannot play any other team in the other leagues (interleague play) but only specific ones in certain divisions.
  • Cities w/ two teams (Chicago, NY, etc.) must not be in the city at the same time on specific days (especially weekends and such)
  • Special games are scheduled in for specific rivalries.  e.g. New York Yankees and New York Mets will play each other each year no matter what.
  • For ratings/ticket sales, specific rivalries (intra division or otherwise) must be scheduled at specific times. e.g. intra-division battles almost always must be scheduled at the end of the year in September.  e.g. Boston vs NY or St. Louis vs Chicago games should almost always be on weekends.
  • A specific number of rest days are mandated for each team.  They must be distributed evenly throughout the year (i.e. not back to back).
  • Rest days must be scheduled in when long travel occurs (e.g. west coast teams going to east coast).
  • Traveling must not be unbearable (e.g. you can't schedule team to play in NY, then LA, then Miami back to back to back).
  • Each team has special requests to be home/away on certain dates b/c of special occasions or city specific events.  For example the SF Giants may not want to be in town during Fleet Week.
  • Scheduling must be fair and equitable for holidays.  For example, it would be unfair to never allow a team to have a home game during the July 4th weekend.  In addition, you must handle Canadian holidays.
  • Some teams may share their stadium with other professional sports teams, so that must be handled.  Although this constraint certainly existed in the past, it may not exist anymore (off the top of my head, St. Louis, San Diego, San Francisco, and Houston used to share their stadiums but no longer do).  Although I'm sure special case handling probably still exists (e.g. state championships, conventions, etc.).
I'm sure there are even more constraints that they don't mention and I can't think of.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cardinals Questions for 2014

It was a good run for the Cardinals in 2013.  No one likes to get to the World Series and lose, but there's no shame in just making it to the World Series.  Overall it was still a great year for the Cardinals.  They lead the National League in wins and had a team filled with rookies or second year players.  They should be competitive for years to come.

Needless to say, a team that can boast a World Series victory two years ago, a NLCS appearance a year ago, and a National League pennant this year, is in pretty good shape.  There's no need to make any rash decisions for re-shaping the team.  In fact, they could do absolutely nothing in the off-season and still field a pretty darn competitive team for next year.

However, here are the three roster questions I believe the Cardinals will be thinking a lot about this off-season.

1) Who plays right field next year?

Carlos Beltran was an incredible pickup in 2012.  In two seasons he produced a 6.2 WAR and two All-Star appearances.  I'm sure that higher ups in the Cardinals organization were hoping top prospect Oscar Taveras would be ready to join the Cardinals in 2014, but it appears he'll need some more time in AAA.

So what are the Cardinals options.

Option A) Re-sign Carlos Beltran

After two All-Star seasons, Beltran will probably get a lot of offers.  If the Cardinals could finagle a one year deal for Beltran for a good price, they should do it.  However, it appears he's performed well enough to deserve (and get) a two or three year deal from another team.

Option B) Sign a stop-gap right fielder for one year

There's plenty of outfielders that could be signed for one year at a cheap price until Oscar Taveras is ready.  Chris Young is an outfielder that comes to mind.  After a pretty awful 2013, he could have a rebound year.

Option C) Move Allen Craig to Right, put Matt Adams at first

Craig can play the outfield and Matt Adams has shown himself a capable starter.  In limited playing time, Adams produced a .839 OPS in 2013.  As a starter in September (after Allen Craig got hurt), he was incredible, posting a .952 OPS with 8 home runs.

What should the Cardinals do?

I think the Cardinals should take option C.  Oscar Taveras seems to need a little more time at AAA.  He very well could be available by mid-season so signing Carlos Beltran to a multi-year deal doesn't seem like the best option.

If Matt Adams is used for trade bait, I think the Cardinals should sign a cheap one-year stop gap solution.

For those wondering what happens when Oscar Taveras is called up, he will likely compete w/ Jon Jay for the centerfield starting position.

2) How do you handle David Freese, Matt Carpenter, and prospect Kolten Wong?

2011 World Series hero David Freese was an All-Star in 2012 posting a respectable 3.8 WAR.  However, he was pretty bad in 2013.  He posted a WAR of -0.3 and is entering his second year of arbitration.  I'm not sure what Freese can command in 2014, but it'll probably be a small bump up to 4M.

Normally, a team wouldn't think twice of trading a player only one year removed from an All-Star season.  However, the Cardinals are in the lucky (or unlucky?) situation that they have multiple infielders available to play third base and second base.  This gives the Cardinals two options.

Option A) Trade David Freese, move Matt Carpenter to third, put Kolten Wong at second base

Option B) Keep David Freese at third, Matt Carpenter at second, and use Kolten Wong as bencher/trade bait

What should the Cardinals do?

It seems almost blasphemous to entertain the thought of trading a local St. Louisian World Series hero, but I think it's the best move long term for the Cardinals.

Freese is already 30 years old and has never been a strong defender at third base.  2012 All-Star Matt Carpenter is a few years younger at 27 and his natural position is third base.  Prospect Kolten Wong appears to be ready to play second base.

While the Cardinals aren't going to get a grade-A prospect for Freese, they should be able to get atleast some low to mid-tier prospects in return.  Freese still has two arbitration years left, and as I said, he's only 1 year removed from an All Star appearance.  In addition, the third base free-agent market is very weak for 2014.

As an aside, according to Baseball America, these were the top ten prospects in the Cardinals organization going into 2013.
  1. Oscar Taveras
  2. Shelby Miller
  3. Carlos Martinez
  4. Trevor Rosenthal
  5. Kolten Wong
  6. Michael Wacha
  7. Matt Adams
  8. Tyrell Jenkins
  9. Carson Kelly
  10. Stephen Piscotty
Players #2 through #7 are now on the big league club.  That's 6 players they brought up, w/ #1 Oscar Taveras not too far behind.  In the previous 5 years the Cardinals brought up no more than 2-3 from each of their top ten.

The Cardinals farm system is far from weak, but it does take away some of the depth in the farm system.  Some trades for prospects might be good to help re-fill the coffers.

3) Can the Cardinals upgrade shortstop?

Pete Kozma's overall WAR in 2013 was -0.2.  While he did a good job defensively (1.3 WAR), his offense was quite bad (-0.9) and amongst the worst in the league.  Casual searching shows he had the worst OPS (.548) amongst shortstops with atleast 400 at bats.

What are the Cardinal's options?

Option A) Play Daniel Descalso at shorstop

Daniel Descalso got some playing time at short towards the end of the year, presumably because Kozma was hitting so poorly.

Descalso is a little bit better as a hitter (.656 OPS) but a bit worse on defense.  It's about a wash.

Option B)  Sign a free agent

Johnny Peralta and Stephen Drew will headline the shortstop free agents out there.  There will be decent demand for them, but either could be had for a non-ridiculous amount of money.  Maybe several years for ~10-12M a year.  Peralta normally would get more per year, but his PED suspension might lower the overall market for his services.

If they are priced out of the market, there are cheaper options, most notably Rafael Furcal.  After being out all of 2013 with an injury, the Cardinals could sign him and give him another chance.  He's another year older, but still performed admirably in 2012 when he was healthy.

One free agent that catches my eye is former Cardinal Brendan Ryan.  He's a similar no-hit shortstop like Kozma, but is a better defender.

Option C) Trade for a shortstop

With so many major league ready players, a trade is certainly an option.  If the Cardinals keep David Freese and sign a stop-gap right fielder, Matt Adams and Kolten Wong could be available for trade.  One of the young pitchers, such as Carlos Martinez, could also be made available.  Not-yet MLB ready prospect Stephen Piscotty's name has also been thrown around as trade bait.  Some have even suggested Shelby Miller is tradeable, although I doubt it.

Troy Tulowitzki's name has been brought up at times and the Cardinals are one of the few organizations with the trade chips the Rockies would want.  However, Tulowitzki is owed 130M over the next 7 years, which is probably outside of the Cardinal's comfort zone given Tulowitzki's injury history.

Jose Reyes' name was also brought up during the season as the Blue Jays began to fade.  He has a more reasonable 80M due to him over the next 4 years.

Asdrubal Cabrera's name was also brought up during the regular season.  He seems like a more likely target as the Indians won't command an arm and leg for him.  However, he only has one year left on his contract, therefore he may not be a long term option at shortstop.

Not so long ago a rumor began that the Cardinals and Rangers were talking about swapping their top prospects, Oscar Taveras and Jurickson Profar, for no reason other than organizational needs at certain positions.  It doesn't appear such a trade will occur.

What should they do?

I'm hoping the Cardinals will sign Stephen Drew or Jhonny Peralta.  With Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, and Rafael Furcal's contracts off the books, there is more than enough money to sign one of them.  Throwing a few million stretch dollars in there won't hurt the Cardinal's budget much.  Even more money will be available assuming Carlos Beltran isn't resigned.  This also allows the Cardinals to keep their prospects w/o trading them away.

I'm not hopeful a trade for Jose Reyes or Troy Tulowitzki will happen.  The asking price from those teams will simply be too high.  I'd rather keep the young top prospects.

A trade for Asdrubal Cabrera is certainly possible and the price may be reasonable given he's likely a 1 year rental.


With so much success in the last three years, the Cardinals don't have to make any rash moves.  I think keeping and playing their young players is a smart move and will still keep the team competitive.  They may even be able to lower their team salary a bit to prepare for free agents in 2015 (Asdrubal Cabrera is on my radar) or sign their younger players to contracts through their arbitration years.

I'd love to see this lineup in 2014:

3B Matt Carpenter
2B Kolten Wong
LF Matt Holliday
RF Allen Craig
1B Matt Adams
C Yadier Molina
CF Jon Jay
SS Stephen Drew (hopefully, but perhaps Furcal, else it's Kozma)

with a rotation with

Adam Wainwright
Shelby Miller
Michael Wacha
Joe Kelly
Jaime Garcia (yes, he's due back)

and a bullpen with

Lance Lynn (back to the pen + sixth starter)
Seth Maness
Kevin Siegrist
Carlos Martinez (setup man + occasional starts)
Trevor Rosenthal (closer)
Randy Choate

John Axford (arbitration eligible)
Jason Motte (back from surgery - due 7.5M)

and a bench with
Shane Robinson
Tony Cruz
Daniel Descalso
One additional bench player

Of course I'm hoping at some point Oscar Taveras is brought up, and he will replace Jon Jay in centerfield.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Crazy Grad. School Stories

Not so long ago, I had a chance to meet and listen to a talk from Jorge Cham, the created of PhdComics.  He gave a hilarious talk about his comic strip, suffering through graduate school, and about how to deal with grad. school.

At the talk, I asked him what the craziest grad. student story of suffering or pain was that he had heard during his touring and talks.  He said that amongst the worst he ever heard were about students that went into their final thesis defense without a presentation or slides.

So I began to think of the best "grad. school" story I've heard.  Here's the one I could think of.  It's not about research or grad. school suffering, but it's still a funny story none the less.

My friend was TAing the CS class for business students.  It's the class where you teach Excel, Powerpoint, and some introductory programming in Visual Basic.  Since the class is all business students, and the majority of them do not intend to ever look at code in their life, the programming assignments are not liked.

So he tells me there is a website called, where you can find programming contract work.  While the website is mostly for small contract work (i.e. design this aspect of a website for me) a fair amount of the contract work posted is apparently homework assignments from students.  While most of the people posting contracts are smart enough to anonymize the assignment, one was not and listed the class name and school in the contract (apparently cut & pasting it from the assignment).

A good samaritan found the class online and e-mailed the Professor and TAs about the cheater.  At first, the Professor said she was irate, but eventually got over it, realizing there was nothing she could do to catch the culprit.  After all, how were you going to catch the cheater out of a class for several hundred students.

Weeks later while grading the assignments, one of the TAs found a very special submission where "Written by Joe Smith @ Hire A Coder" was at the top of the comments.  Clearly, the student didn't even bother to look through the code they had bought and blindly turned it in.

When questioning the student, the Professor and TAs asked how much they paid for the assignment to be done.  The student said about $50 (late 1990s money).  Which the Professor replied, "There are senior CS students that would have done that for a slice of pizza.  So not only did you fail my class, you've also failed finance."

    Saturday, June 8, 2013

    "The Internship" - Nerdy Stereotypes and Hollywood Silliness

    I saw "The Internship" last night.  I wasn't too excited to see the movie, but wanted to see it to see how Hollywood might portray Silicon Valley, engineers, and the tech industry as a whole.


    First off, the movie didn't portray software engineers as complete losers, which is pretty good.  Atleast two characters, Neha and Stuart, are portrayed relatively well.  They are smart kids with good social skills.  The only negatives about them are normal "growing up" issues (i.e. communicating better).

    However several characters are portrayed with the normal nerdy stereotypes.  Yo-yo, which they could have given a far more normal name, was home schooled his entire life, is a mama's boy, and punishes himself by pulling an eyebrow hair whenever he performs poorly.  "Headphones" (that's the name given on IMDB) is the stereotyped overweight computer genius that has no social skills.  He in fact states that he is uncomfortable around people.

    Overall, it's pretty balanced.  There are some nerds and some normal kids, far better than the stereotyped portrayal of engineers.

    While the portrayal of the characters was hit and miss, I couldn't help but laugh at the portrayal of many of the aspects of the actual job/work.  Here's the ones I could remember.
    • In the movie groups of five interns are created and the teams are put into a battle royale of sorts against each other.  I don't know of any company in the tech industry that does such a battle.  In reality, interns are put to task on actual work.
    • The team that wins the battle royale is guaranteed full time jobs at Google and everyone else isn't.  I find it humorous that the movie portrays Google as only having 5 full-time job openings.
    • In one scene Yo-yo, Stuart, and Neha are having a heart to heart discussion about how they really need to win this contest because they really need the job at Google.  In reality, if you're smart enough to get an engineering internship at Google, you shouldn't have a problem finding a job in the tech industry.
    • Despite skill levels and backgrounds being so different, apparently all interns are thrown into the same projects.  In reality, interns of different skill levels (or at a minimum, different backgrounds) would have different projects to work on.
    • During one scene the intern team is required to "make a sale", however instead of trying to sell ads, they appear to be trying to sell real estate.

    Thursday, May 16, 2013

    Junior High Career Options

    Not so long ago, I somehow recalled my "What you should do for a career" test I took when I was in junior high.  These were the career options the test gave me.

    Career Option #1: Puppeteer

    Maybe I could have been the next Kevin Clash (puppeteer for Elmo) or Caroll Spinney (puppeteer for Big Bird/Oscar the Grouch), but fate would make me a programmer instead.  I assume my then interest in drawing comic books (i.e. liking art) and my parents forcing me to play piano (i.e. music) lead to the test giving me this result.

    Career Option #2: Ferry Boat Captain

    This isn't a joke, it literally said "Ferry Boat Captain".  I have no idea why this was given to me.  My best guess is b/c I like to fish.

    Career Option #3: Computer Person

    I can't remember if the test gave me Computer Engineer or Software Engineer or Computer Tech or Information Technology or some other random random tech position, but option #3 was at least pretty close.

    Friday, April 26, 2013

    Duck Tales on the NES

    Recently I learned that the classic NES game Duck Tales was getting an HD remake for modern systems.  Here's the trailer:

    It's considered one of the best games on the NES, placing at #10 on IGN's top 100 NES games of all time.  The game had incredible non-linear level design, secrets to discover all over the place, and (what many consider) some of the best music on the NES.

    I was so fond of this game, I reached the point that I knew all of it's secrets.  I knew the game well enough I even got my high score printed in Nintendo Power!  (This is sometime in 1990, when I was 10-11).

    However, it's funny looking back on the game as an adult.

    (Spoiler Alert - telling game plots if you care)

    The plot of the game is that you control Uncle Scrooge as he wanders the world looking for treasure to help him keep his hold as the world's richest Duck.

    I think in today's post-financial crisis and post-occupy movements, having the protagonist of a children's game look like a greedy CEO is something that most video game/cartoon creators would likely pass over in today's social climate.

    In addition, Uncle Scrooge isn't really going around the world looking for long lost treasure.  He goes around the world STEALING treasure.  There is one level in particular where he steals the great treasure from a ground of underground "mole" people.

    I can't help but laugh thinking of a really modern review of the game, "Help Uncle Scrooge wander the world attacking indigenous people to steal their cultural treasures."

    Sunday, February 24, 2013

    Les Misérables - Too Much Singing!

    So I recently saw Les Misérables.  It was the first time I ever saw it in movie form or otherwise.  My immediate reaction after watching it was, "All they did was sing, there was no talking."  I'm used to musicals where it's half acting and half singing, and things just seemed out of whack in Les Misérables.

    I wasn't sure if I was just imagining this, so I looked up the number of musical numbers in the following musicals. The musicals I selected are pretty much at random, whatever came to mind. I didn't bother to differentiate between orchestra only or singing numbers, b/c I haven't seen all of these.  I just counted the number of different items listed on Wikipedia.

    Musical Number of Musical Numbers
    Les Misérables 50
    Wicked 21
    The Sound of Music 26
    Phantom of the Opera 39
    My Fair Lady 24
    Cats 27
    Chicago 21
    The Book of Mormon 22
    Grease 21
    West Side Story 27
    American Idiot 30

    So I guess I wasn't imagining things, there are just way more musical numbers than the average musical.

    Friday, February 15, 2013

    Apple TV vs Xbox/Playstation

    I saw this article, The Fall TV Lineup May Include Apple Dominating Gaming,  and wanted to comment, because I couldn't help but disagree.

    The author makes the argument that an Apple TV would completely crush Xbox, PS3, Wii, etc.

    Here are some of the arguments in the article:
    Apple is going to dominate where their rivals cannot simply because of the support of small, third-party app developers.
    That the Apple TV is already nearly powerful enough to run [games like Call of Duty]. Perhaps not the highest of the high end, but give it a year or two. That’s the thing: Apple will likely push yearly hardware (and software) updates for anything they do. Microsoft has not updated the Xbox in over 7 years. Huge mistake.

    the audience for non-hardcore games when Apple opens up an Apple TV SDK will be much larger than the audience for the hardcore games.

    Apple will not win this space by playing the game that Microsoft, Sony, and to some extent, Nintendo, are playing. They will win by changing the rules of the game. And that game is all about developers, developers, developers, developers.
    I disagree with these based on one major theory:

    The TV is not a casual entertainment device, it is a serious one.

    People spend a lot of money on better sound, better definition TVs, etc. because they want a much higher quality experience when they sit down.

    They pay a premium on cable, on video streaming, and movie disks (i.e. blue ray vs. DVD) simply for the privilege of experiencing this higher quality content.

    On phones, people can play Angry Birds or Words With Friends in 5 minute increments, but I don't believe people do that on a TV.

    This isn't to say there isn't a casual market for this.  After all, the Wii sold 100 million units.  There is a market for the casual, but is it one that can destroy the Xbox or Playstation?  I'm skeptical.  This is not a world where a Zynga can thrive, it is one where an Activision can thrive, where investing $50 million in the development of a game results in huge sales and profit.

    Now, this isn't to say there won't be people that develop the $50 million dollar game for the Apple TV, I'm sure they will.  But will they develop it only for Apple TV or also for Xbox & Playstation?  If you're willing to put $50 million into the development of a game, I can't imagine it being for only one platform.

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    Baseball MVP and CY Young Voting Travesties

    Awhile back in 2012 R.A. Dickey threw two one-hitters in a row.  He was the first player since Dave Stieb of the Toronto Blue Jays to do so.  When I was looking up Dave Stieb's history online, it made me sad.  Stieb should have gone down in history as one of the greatest pitchers of the 1980s, should have gotten his name written into history with some Cy Young awards, but due to lack of sabrmetric knowledge by Cy Young voters in the 1980s, Stieb will be largely forgotten by most baseball fans.

    From 1981 to 1985 here is Dave Stieb's AL WAR, his rank in the AL for WAR, and how he placed in CY Young voting.

    Year WAR AL Rank CY Young Place
    1981 4.3 2 N/A
    1982 7.3 1 4th
    1983 6.7 1 N/A
    1984 7.6 1 7th
    1985 6.5 2 7th

    So from 1981-1985 Stieb was 1st or 2nd in AL WAR for pitchers every year.  He twice lead the league in innings pitched (was top 5 three other times), lead the league in ERA once (was top 5 three other times), was top 3 in strikeouts twice (top 10 three other times).  I could go on more.

    For all that wonderful performance, the Cy Young voters decided to give him nothing better than a 4th place finish in 1982 and two 7th place finishes.  Two times, they didn't even bother to give him a single vote.  Cy Young voters were still too hung up on wins & losses.  That is a travesty.

    Unfortunately for Stieb, if he had played in the 2010s things might be different.  By 2010, Felix Hernandez was able to win the Cy Young award despite having only a 13-12 record.  Voters were able to see his overall performance and look past David Price's 19-6 record and CC Sabathia's 21-7 record.

    My subjective analysis is that with modern voters, Stieb would have easily won the Cy Young award in 1982 (beating out Pete Vuckovich and his 18-6 record), would have been top three in 1983 (close vote w/ Jack Morris and Lamarr Hoyt), been atleast top two in 1984 (would have still battled Willie Hernandez, but was the clear best starting pitcher), and probably would have beaten Bret Saberhagen for the Cy Young in 1985 (with a healthy challenge by Bert Blyleven).

    At the minimum, this would have changed Stieb's legend and history.  A couple of Cy Young awards suddenly turn you from "star of an era" into "Hall of Fame candidate".  Stieb's injuries early in career probably hurt is Hall of Fame candidacy for good, but voters would have looked at him more seriously.

    So that got me thinking, has this happened to anyone else recently?  I suddenly recalled the 1987 MVP vote in both the NL and AL.

    Lets start with the NL in 1987, as it was the more famous controversy.  Despite all of the ballyhooing over how an MVP player needs to play on a playoff team or a winner, Andre Dawson won the MVP playing for the last place Chicago Cubs.  Yup, that's LAST PLACE.  Not 2nd place, or close to making the playoffs, or atleast having a .500 record, LAST PLACE. He won the MVP playing for a team that was 76-85.  My overwhelming assumption why he won is because he hit 49 home runs and had 137 RBIs ... which are big numbers.

    On the other hand, Ozzie Smith, the Hall of Fame defensive wizard of the St. Louis Cardinals had his best offensive season of his career hitting .303 and driving in 75 runs.  He had a WAR of 6.2 to Dawson's 3.7.  Oh, and he also lead the Cardinals to a division title and a playoff appearance.  He was the runner up in the MVP voting in 1987.  Ozzie Smith split the MVP vote with his teammate Jack Clark, which probably cost him the award, but it is a travesty that Andre Dawson secured 11 of the 24 first place votes. (Oh, and Jack Clark had a WAR of 5.2 over Dawson's 3.7.)

    On the AL side, George Bell won the MVP.  Why?  My assumption is it's because he hit 47 home runs and had 134 RBIs, which are again big numbers.  He did a little better than Dawson by having a 4.6 WAR.  However, he beat out Tigers great Alan Trammell for the MVP.  Trammell had an 8.0 WAR that year, second to Wade Boggs' 8.2.  He hit 28 home runs and had a .343 batting average.  Oh yeah, remember that thing about MVPs playing for winning teams?  The Tigers made it to the playoffs and the Blue Jays didn't.  Granted, the Blue Jays were just behind the Tigers in the pennant chase (2nd place finish w/ 96-66 record to Detroit's 98-64 record), so it's not as tragic as the NL MVP case.

    One of the other reasons I view the 1987 AL MVP vote a travesty is how it could have changed perceptions for Alan Trammell.  Alan Trammell has regularly failed to secure enough votes to get into the Hall of Fame.  Allan Trammell unfortunately played in a time when Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken Jr. (and for awhile Robin Yount) were setting new standards for shortstops, so he may have never been viewed as an elite shortstop during his era.  Somehow, that didn't affect Barry Larkin's election into the Hall of Fame, as he also had the problem of playing when Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken Jr. were playing.

    What are the differences between Trammell and Larkin?  Lets see

    Allan Trammell career WAR - 67.1
    Barry Larkin career WAR - 67.1

    Allan Trammell Gold Gloves - 4
    Barry Larkin Gold Gloves - 3

    Allan Trammell All Star Teams - 6
    Barry Larkin All Star Teams - 12

    Allan Trammell Silver Slugger - 6
    Barry Larkin Silver Slugger - 8

    Allan Trammell MVPs - 0
    Barry Larkin MVPs - 1

    Now I don't know if Alan Trammell really deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but I can't help but think that one MVP award made a difference for Barry Larkin.  Unfortunately, the lack of voting consistency and illogic in 1987 may have really hurt his chances.

    Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    High End Fashion - I Just Don't Get It

    Not so long ago I went on a date and a conversation about clothes and fashion happened.  My date told me, "You know a lot about fashion and brands."  I responded, "Haha, don't read too much into it, everything I learned I learned in the last two weeks."

    With the opening of the Livermore Outlet Mall, I became personally curious about fashion, brands, and the retail business of it (see previous post).

    One thing I still find personally curious is how some of the high end fashion can simply cost so much.  I simply struggle to understand how it can be so many multiples higher than what I buy. 

    For example, I looked up the following retail prices for standard white crew neck t-shirts.

    Old Navy - $9.94
    Gap - $16.95
    Banana Republic - $24.5

    There are always sales (the Old Navy one is actually $8.00 as of this writing), but we're going to use these retail values for the discussion.

    I specifically picked these three stores b/c they are all within the Gap family.  I find it very interesting from the lowest priced brand (Old Navy) to the highest end brand (Banana Republic) the t-shirt price is only a multiple of 2.5X.

    While I don't fully understand everything about clothes, I can believe better quality cotton and better quality manufacturing can make a plain white t-shirt softer and better, so a 2.5X multiplier on price doesn't seem that unreasonable.

    What spurred this analysis was this white crew neck t-shirt I saw on Armani's website.

    Yup, that's a $125 plain white t-shirt.  At first I thought maybe this t-shirt was made out of something fancy like cashmere.  Nope, it's just plain 100% cotton that you can machine wash.  At first it didn't look like this t-shirt even had a logo or branding on it, but if you look very closely there is a white silhouette of the Armani logo on the front.  It's only barely noticeable (it's not like a different colored Polo or Lacoste logo).

    So that shirt is a 12.5X multiple over Old Navy and a 5X multiple over Banana Republic.  The law of diminishing returns convinces me that this shirt cannot be of such a quality that it is worth 5X over Banana Republic.

    Personally, I just don't understand how the brand of Armani can be worth such a price to someone.  As someone who has lived so practically for most of his life, the concept of a veblen good is just foreign.  It's the same reason I cannot understand why someone will buy Cristal.

    What spurred this blog post was a flip flop I saw on Zappos just by chance.   Yup, Salvatore Ferragamo flip flops for $170.  They have a rubber sole (which might be better than the cheap flip flops I normally buy).  But there is absolutely no quality difference than can make me think they are worth a 34X multiple over what I normally pay for flip flops (i.e. $5).