at least it's not just us?
Ben Mathis-Lilley on Harwell in New York magazine
I don't regret either.
Where the great plains begin. It will not be news to anyone that Ernie Harwell died yesterday. I'm sure most have youtubed a tribute or three in the aftermath; there are plenty. A year-long bout with cancer gives people time to prepare. I think the best, tribute, though, was an improptu one: Dan Dickerson relaying the news on the radio. Clearly heartbroken, Dickerson provides a few seconds of dead air, then gets out a few tear-stained words before managing to interject "Hudson takes a pitch high." Jim Price hops in at this point and the two talk about Harwell as Hudson takes a five-pitch walk. That's baseball.
Here's some of Harwell in his own words:
Chicago, my nemesis, we meet again. After standing outside Hugging Harold Reynold's room with a boombox for months they've finally relented and allowed me to be on one of the panels at Blogs With Balls 3.0. The title of our panel is "Democratizing Sports Media: How Blogging Players, Fans & Leagues Are Changing the Game," and like a good engineer I'll be frantically attempting to make that less vague over email in the next month. Joining me will be Henry Abbott of True Hoop fame, Kevin Kaduk of Yahoo's Big League Stew, Valli Hilaire of The Fast and The Fabulous, which is not New York's gay and lesbian bike club even if Google thinks it is but rather a NASCAR blog, and Robert Littal of Black Sports Online.
Some cursory googling reveals that Littal is an Ohio State grad and Kaduk went to Wisconsin and roots for Notre Dame, so if things get boring I we'll just have a triple threat match for bragging rights. If you want to witness rough country justice firsthand, you can get tickets. They're 50 bucks off until May 15th.
Zoltan, one last time. I read a lot of other college football blogs, so I state this with authority: we are living through a golden age in Michigan-football-related bizarre Youtube projects. There is not a school on the planet that can compete with Mike Cox getting it YGM style, Coner 2000 dropping mad rhymes (THAT'S FEBREZE PEOPLE) or killing some rich guy, Jack Kennedy auditioning for American Idol, O'Neill Depriest Swanson III pumping Vitamin Water, and Zoltan Mesko burning Meijer so hard:
Yea, truly we are the leaders and best.
JT Floyd would like to make cliches. Sometimes I feel deeply for beatwriters. This is one of those times:
J.T. Floyd’s motto as cornerback is simple.
“Make plays,” Floyd said last month after the Michigan football team's spring game. “That’s all you got to do to be successful out here.”
It's May. Football isn't until August. And you've got to publish something, so you grab an old quote in which a football player says "making plays" is the key to success. That article does have a couple encouraging quotes from teammates and coaches on Floyd, but… man. It's rough out there in May.
“It wasn’t my best year, obviously,” Ezeh said after the Wolverines’ April 17 spring game. “That’s in the past and try to move on and build a better future. I got to prove to people that last year was kind of a fluke and this is the (real) Obi.”
So there's that. Good luck in June, everyone.
Fightin' with facts. I don't believe I've mentioned the strange entity that is College Hockey, Inc. in this space, so here goes: USA Hockey finally got the same sort of giant developmental payment that the NHL has been forking over to the CHL for years. They spend some on the NTDP, some on the USHL, and some forming what can only be described as a propaganda organization called College Hockey, Inc. Its head is Paul Kelly and he's spent the year wandering around the country, advocating college hockey and pointing out that unless you're Patrick Kane the CHL is a rube's game. Kelly:
Our most important mission is to be an education and information resource to elite young players and their families on the many benefits of playing college hockey and why, if they're good enough and faced with the option to play for one of the junior teams in Canada or an NCAA Division I program, the option to play NCAA hockey is in most instances, the smarter and better course of action.
I love that there is an organization that causes CHL teams to complain about being "unfairly targeted" for pointing out relative graduation rates. Targeted, yes. Unfair… not so much.
Kelly also talks about future expansion of the USHL to a whopping 24 teams—Muskegon's picking one up this fall—and possible new markets for the college game. The great white sasquatch of the Big Ten is broached:
FTR: Penn State has been kicking that arena idea around for awhile now, and they also have a very good club program. Could they be next?
Kelly: They have been talking about the arena project and if you could ever get one other school from the Big Ten, you could create a Big Ten Hockey Conference. We'd have to shuffle the deck a bit, and reconfigure the WCHA and CCHA a bit.
I don't know how realistic any of these candidates are but if Penn State adds hockey I can't imagine it won't be at least revenue-neutral, especially if the Big Ten Network gets involved. Unfortunately, Title IX means a revenue-neutral men's sport can't be added without a women's sport that will be a money pit, and the economy and etc.
Kelly also suggests an Alaska-like exemption to keep Huntsville viable, something that I support.
Politics exception. There is one exception I will make to the otherwise iron-clad no politics law: copyright law is broken and stupid. Latest example is Google allowing the Downfall parodies to get yanked off Youtube when they could not be clearer instances of fair use. The precedent is worrying to me since I regularly post small snippets of a larger product I do not own for transformative purposes—ie, I employ fair use extensively. Here Google has failed to not be evil.
Etc.: I showed up on a podcast at Bucknuts. Warning: it looks like you have to register (but not subscribe) to get access to it. Also they make me state my opinion of Tressel, which I regret to inform you is respectful. Thus you are warned doubly. The hockey media's treatment of Alexander Ovechkin in the aftermath of the Caps' unceremonious first-round ouster is laughably inaccurate and totally predictable.
It's home-opener week, which seems like a great time to start looking at cumulative stats. This will be one of a few of these I do over the rest of the season.
Baseball has a long lived on the forefront of statistics in sports. From the heavy emphasis on batting over .300 or advanced sabermetrics, baseball's history is forever linked with teaching kids that not all math is useless. In honor of that longstanding tradition, today we look at some stats from our baseball team and then wonder what the hell they might mean. College baseball stats are not just loosely kept, but they fluctuate wildly over periods of time.
First, because of the nature of college baseball's shortened season (compared to major leagues), pitching statistics don't really offer enough data until very late in the season, if at all. There's just not enough to say about 17 innings of work for a starter or 8 innings, if that, for a reliever. So we're going to focus on just batting statistics in this and most future posts of this type.
Second, college baseball stats are very basic. There is no way to track pitches accurately without either a dedicated sports information director or someone at games. It's painstakingly, eye-gouging-ly monotonous to calculate batting averages with runners in scoring position. You have to hope your team has play-by-play on the bottom of their box score, and then you have to read through each at-bat, and all surrounding at-bats in order to come up with the raw data. Just to come up with the data that I have, I had to go through each box score and type in each statistic to have a game log for each player.
This is just the way things are.
The first thing I always like to post is a track on how our team batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage have progressed over the season.
This year I've tried to add a fourth line to represent the quality of competition Michigan has faced. The purple line represents RPI, with a team registering a 1.000 as the #1 team in the nation, a team at .500 being the 151th team in the nation, and a team scoring zero as the 302nd team in the nation, with the RPI coming from Boyd's World (in this case, the data was taken on Sunday 3/21). I felt this would help identify certain peaks and valleys as a reference.
Other than the realization that we've played a tough schedule this year, what jumps out to me is the lower slugging percentage. Last year, Michigan regularly slugged around .475. The last graphic I made last year was this one, 37 games through the season:
We're slugging just over .440 this season, where last season was spent hovering around .475. Sure, the competition has gotten a bit tougher, but something else seems spotty here. We'll look at the slugging percentage and other non-Excel visualizations after the jump…
[Editor's note: due to a super screw up on my part, I neglected to post this until after Michigan's first game, a 12-8 win over Ball State.]
I'm trying out a new game set for tournaments. I think I'll try and use something similar for weekend series (previous version). I'm open for suggestions on how to present the information consistently. For now, game set comes before a jump if on the front page, and details come afterward.
|Matt Miller (0-2, 4.80 ERA)||vs||Brothers (0-0, 8.64 ERA)|
|Notes: 16-1 All Time Record, Last win(s) in 2009, both ends of a 7 inning double header. Also beat them at Coastal Carolina in 2008|
|Burgoon or Brosnahan||vs||Ross (0-0, 5.19 ERA)|
|Notes: 0-0, first meeting|
|Oaks, Burgoon, or Brosnahan||vs||Birmingham 2-0, 1.23 ERA)|
|Notes: 2-1, Split a pair in a similar tournament in 2008, W 4-1 and L 11-9. This is Coastal's home field. Audio is Coastal's.|
|Oaks, Burgoon, or Brosnahan||vs||TB|
|Notes: That split from 2008 was on this field both games. Audio is Coastal's.|
Long preview after the jump.
Today, I'm reminded of a story.
It was during that  southern trek that he watched a University of Georgia baserunner try to score from second base on a single to center when a strong throw home seemed to beat the runner. When the umpire yelled “safe,” Michigan catcher Goodloe Rogers spun about and hit the umpire while players swarmed onto the field.
“Rogers was always getting into fights,” said Rickey later, in barely concealed glee. “I never could find out whether or not he started them, but he was always involved. We were down playing Georgia. I was on crutches as a result of a broken leg [a batted ball in practice had fractured a small bone in his foot]. Well, as usual, a fight started around home plate, and I hobbled off the bench and must have prodded several players with my crutches.”
Rogers, the team’s colorful, zany, and angry man - the sort of person Rickey always loved to have on his ball clubs - watched his coach in action.
“When the brawl was over, there lay B.R. flat on his back near home plate, his leg in a cast sticking straight up in the air. On of his crutches was found in the Georgia dugout. The other was in the stands.”
That came from an biography of Branch Rickey. It's been a rough year as a Michigan sports fan. Sure, volleyball was fun, but the last year has been one disappointment after another in the big sports that most of hang on to dearly.
Last year's opening day post at Varsity Blue came in a much different time. It had been a mild winter, and spring had already been starting to crack through to end the dreary season. Michigan was coming off 3 straight BigTen regular season titles. There was a warm feeling all around.
Every Opening Day, I have this tradition. I pray -- hard. One prayer for each loss in the previous season. It usually takes all day. But I think it's working. - Royals fan "Troy" in Liberty, Mo.
This year was something a little bit different. The Michigan athletics curse of 2009-2010 began to creep. After a dominant start in the BigEast/BigTen Challenge, Michigan started to struggle. Pitchers fatigued, players were injured, and ugly losses began to rear their head.
It ended up being a tough year, but as the saying goes, hope springs eternal. This spring is no different. Michigan has reloaded with the #18 overall recruiting class in the country, something nearly unheard of for a Northern program. The Wolverines return all but one major contributor to the 2009's best Big Ten pitching staff. Several key players have an extra year's experience.
This year we're hungry. Last season was a bad call by some crack-pot, home-cooking umpire from Georgia in 1912. This season is a fight for respect. Michigan is back at full health and they've got no other use for these crutches. Michigan is coming out swinging.
Weekend preview after the jump.