Archive for August, 2007


Raise the Jolly Roger x 2

Today the Pirates began a series of 4 games against the Cincinnati Reds.  The series was kicked off with a “twi-night” doubleheader, the first game of which was a make-up for the August 5th game, which was postponed due to rain.  Both the Pirates and the Reds had been doing well coming into today’s games.  The Pirates had won their last three series and 7 out of their last 10 games.  However, the Reds were riding a 6-game winning streak coming into today’s games.  I knew that one team would have to falter and I was nervous that it was going to be the Pirates.  Fortunately, the Pirates put my fears to rest by winning the first game 6-4, due, in no small part, to Freddy Sanchez’ first career grand slam.  They followed up their victory with another victory, beating the Reds 3-2 in the second game.

With their two victories tonight, the Pirates advance to 59-72 (.450).  This lifts them out of last place in the NL Central, putting them a game and a half ahead of Houston.  In addition, it puts them only half a game behind Cincinnati.  A win in tomorrow’s game would move them to fourth place in the NL Central.  For those of you paying attention, if the Pirates are to post a winning season, they must win 23 of their remaining 31 games – which allows them only 8 losses for the rest of the season.  This is unlikely, but not impossible.  Afterall, they are 8-2 in their last 10 games…

Finally, those of you who might be frustrated by what looks like another disappointing season should consider the following: last year on this date, the Pirates had a record of 51-81 (.386), which meant that a winning season was already impossible.  In addition, they were a whopping 19.5 games behind first place.  This year, they’re at 59-72 (.450) and they’re only 8.5 games behind first place.  I’m not saying that they’re going to win the division, but they could.  Don’t forget that the Padres won the NL West in 2005 with a record of 82-80, the worst possible winning record and the worst record ever by a team that made it into the postseason.  So, while the Pirates aren’t doing quite as well as we might like, they’re definitely moving in the right direction.

PS: Interestingly, tonight the Pirates tied the franchise record for most home runs hit by the team in any calendar month.  The record has stood at 43 since August of 1947 and, since there are still 3 more games left in August, it stands a good chance of being broken by the 2007 squad.


Allow me to recommend…


This is a picture I took of the Cambridge street from which the band Bishop Allen took its name.  Apparently, the two main guys lived on this street before they moved to New York.  Anyway, before our trip to Pittsburgh I downloaded their album, The Broken String, which I have listened to a lot recently.  Adrian recommended it and I agree with his recommendation.


SLR photography: a retrospective and a new chapter

Almost a year ago, I wrote a blog post asking my readers about digital SLR cameras. I was theoretically considering getting a digital SLR because I wanted to learn to take beautiful pictures. A former member of my research group had recommended learning SLR photography using digital SLRs because you get instant feedback. However, in the comments responding to my post, a couple of people suggested getting a fully manual film SLR instead – at least initially – so I would be forced to learn how to use an SLR properly. Then, once I had mastered taking pictures manually, I could move on to a digital SLR and actually take advantage of its features, rather than treating it as an expensive point-and-shoot. I took their advice and got a Pentax K1000 from eBay. I took lots of pictures with it and even entered my first photo competition with a picture from the Omaha Zoo, taken with my K1000.

Since last August, I have aquired 2 other film SLRs, both as gifts, in addition to my K1000. The first – a Konica Autoreflex T – was given to me by my wife’s uncle during our trip to Omaha this spring. I’ve probably taken 3 or 4 rolls of film with that camera. I like it, but I don’t know how to use it as well as my K1000. This mostly hinges on the metering system, which recommends the correct aperture to use rather than telling you whether your currently selected settings would produce a properly exposed picture.

In addition to the Konica, when my friend Scott moved out of Cambridge, he gave me a Canon EOS IX Lite, which uses APS film. This is a much more full-featured SLR than my other two, including auto-exposure, auto-focus, aperture- and shutter-priority modes, fully automatic shooting, and other goodies. He also threw in a Canon 22-55mm f/4-5.6 wide-angle zoom lens and a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 telephoto zoom lens. These are both auto-focus lenses with built-in motors, so it’s a very nice package. I used this camera primarily when my brother-in-law and I took our Photowalk in the Back Bay. I like it a lot, but the APS format is dying and both the film itself and the developing is getting expensive and hard to locate.

By the time I develop all the film I have, I’ll have taken 25 rolls of film with my various film SLR cameras. I feel like I’ve gotten much more proficient at taking pictures. I’ve developed an eye for what constitutes a good photo and I have a sense for how to compose pictures. I’ve learned about the effects of shutter speed and aperture. I’ve experimented with different film speeds and types, including black and white print, color print, and color slide. In short, I think I’ve accomplished what I had hoped to accomplish with my foray into film: I’ve learned how to use a manual SLR. Sure, there’s room for improvement, as there will always be, but I’ve definitely got the basics figured out.

In addition to having accomplished much of what I hoped to accomplish through the use of a film SLR, lately I have become more keenly aware of how expensive using film is. The cost of film plus the cost of developing has been preventing me from experimenting and I felt like my photography was beginning to stagnate. So, I began to think about a digital SLR again. Unlike many of my friends who, by virtue of the many lenses they already owned, were locked into buying a digital SLR of a particular brand, I haven’t invested much money in lenses, so I was free to consider cameras from many different manufacturers. After spending lots of time on and reading many reviews written by camera owners, I came to the conclusion that the Pentax K10D is a great value, providing many advanced features that are only available on significantly more expensive cameras from Canon and Nikon.

This summer, Pentax instituted a rebate program, which could give buyers a rebate of up to $150 if they bought the camera along with one of couple of possible accessories. The last day of the rebate was July 31st and, in the days leading up to it, I agonized over whether I should take the plunge. I like to keep my options open, so I find decisions like this stressful. Anyway, in the end, I bought a K10D with the kit lens and a telephoto zoom lens from Willoughby’s in New York. I’m suspicious of many of these New York-based camera stores because they have a reputation for ripping people off, however, so far, I’ve been happy with Willoughby’s. I had to have one of the lenses replaced because, at some point during shipping the lens cap had become loose and had been rubbing on the front glass of the lens, producing small scratches and scuff marks. They were helpful on the phone, paid for the shipping to return the lens to them, and got me a replacement very quickly. So, all in all, it’s been a positive experience.

So, long story short, I now have a digital SLR and I’m learning how to use it. There are a lot of things to master, even if you’re not shooting manually and I’ve gotten pretty good at using the delete button. However, I’ve also taken some pictures that I’m really happy with. Unfortunately, while we were in Pittsburgh, it was overcast much of the time and I have lots of pictures in which the sky is overexposed. If people have any recommendations on how to minimize this problem, I’d be interested in hearing them. Also, I may try to set up some kind of photo blog on my server, so if people want to give me recommendations on what software I should use, I’d be interested in that as well.


Usually not a good decision

Unlike things related to Samuel Adams beer, which, if you believe their advertising, are always a good decision, last night I stayed up to “watch” the Pirates game against the Houston Astros after it went into extra innings, which was probably not a good decision. By “watching”, I mean following the game using’s Gameday feature, not actually watching the TV broadcast or even listening on the radio.

Anyway, the game started at 8:05 and went 15 innings, finally ending after 1am. Going into the top of the 9th, the Pirates were losing 3-2 until Xavier Nady ripped a pinch-hit solo home run to tie the game. For the next 5 innings neither team scored, although the Astros loaded the bases in the 10th and 13th with 1 and 2 outs, respectively. In each case, the Pirates’ pitchers were able to get out of the jam, giving the offense a couple of chances to do some damage. In the top of the 15th, they did their damage, starting with a 3-run homer by Adam LaRoche and followed up by a Carlos Maldonado sacrifice fly and an RBI-single by Jose Castillo. With a 5-run cushion, it seemed like the game was in the bag until Shane Youman loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half of the inning. However, he was able to secure the win by striking out 3 consecutive batters, the first two of which he struck out on full counts.

Raise the Jolly Roger and let me sleep in!


Pirates games

During our trip to Pittsburgh we went to two Pirates games and saw the Pirates put together two come-from-behind victories.

On Thursday against the Mets, the Pirates found themselves in a 5-0 hole after 3 innings but scored 3, 1, 1, 2, and 3 runs in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th innings, respectively, to win the the game 10-7.

Yesterday, the Pirates were losing 4-0 up until the 7th inning, when they scored 7 runs, all with 2 outs. That was a crazy inning. This is how the inning unfolded:

  1. Adam LaRoche flied out to right. (Nobody on, 1 out)
  2. Xavier Nady singled to left. (Runner on 1st, 1 out)
  3. Jason Bay struck out. (Runner on 1st, 2 outs)
  4. Jose Bautista singled to center. (Runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs)
  5. Pinch-hitter Josh Phelps drew a full-count walk. (Bases loaded, 2 outs)
  6. Pinch-hitter Matt Kata hit a 3-run double to center (Runner on 2nd, 2 outs, 3 runs in)
  7. Nate McLouth doubled to right. (Runner on 2nd, 2 outs, 4 runs in)
  8. Jack Wilson drew a full-count walk. (Runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs, 4 runs in)
  9. Freddy Sanchez doubled to left. (Runners on 2nd and 3rd, 2 outs, 5 runs in)
  10. Adam LaRoche was intentionally walked. (Bases loaded, 2 outs, 5 runs in)
  11. Xavier Nady singled to left. (Runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs, 7 runs in)
  12. Jason Bay grounded into a fielder’s choice. (2 runners left on base, 3 outs, 7 runs in)

So, in just one half-inning, the Pirates went from losing by 4 runs to winning by 3 runs. In the bottom of the 8th, they tacked on another run and eventually won the game 8-4. This marks the 5th consecutive game in which they have scored 8 or more runs. Interestingly, the Pirates lead the majors in runs scored so far in August. Who are these guys?

Anyway, though I had prepared myself for disappointment, these games proved to be exhilarating and very satisfying. I couldn’t be more pleased. Maybe a walk-off home run would have been more exciting but a 7-run, 2-out rally is pretty good, too.

Amazingly, Sunday’s game was the 2nd game I’ve attended this year in which the home team scored 7 runs in the 7th inning, all with 2 outs.


It’s raining…

I’m supposed to go to the Pirates’ final game against the Phillies this afternoon, but it’s raining here right now and there’s an 80% chance of rain at game time.  So, we’ll just have to see what happens.  Elizabeth is excited because today is kids’ backpack day at PNC Park, so she’ll be getting a kid-sized Pirates backpack.

On Thursday we went to see the Pirates take on the Mets.  The Pirates were in a 5-0 hole by the end of the 3rd inning, which didn’t bode well.  However, they rallied big time and ended up winning 10-7.  It was a great game.

If they win today, I’ll be very satisfied with the outcome of the two games we attended.  Even if they lose today, I’ll still be happy overall, since Thursday’s game was so good.


The fate of the Pirates’ season

The Pirates have 46 games left in the season and their record is currently 49-67. The inquisitive reader may be wondering, “What has to happen for the Pirates to break their streak of consecutive losing seasons?” Well, since the season consists of 162 games, in order for the Pirates to have a winning season, they need to win 82 games. They currently have 49 wins and they need 82. Thus, they need to win 33 games out of their remaining 46. This means that their record during the remaining 46 games must be 33-13, for a win percentage of 0.717.

Given the Pirates’ performance during the 2nd half of the season, this seems pretty unlikely.  However, they have won 4 out of their last 5, so they’ve obviously turned things around a bit in comparison to a few weeks ago.

Fortunately, in order for the Pirates to have another 100-loss season, they would need to lose 33 or more games out of their remaining 46, which also seems pretty improbable.  Heather and I will be at their games on Thursday against the Mets and Sunday against the Phillies, so hopefully, these two games will net the Pirates another two wins.  It’ll be pretty depressing, though, if they lose both games.  In any case, these games will give me an opportunity to wear my Pirates jersey, which I don’t normally get much opportunity to wear since we live in Boston.


Happy Anniversary, Heather!

Today is our 5th anniversary. In some ways, it’s hard to believe it’s been 5 years already.  On the other hand, to an extent, it feels like we’ve been married forever.  Anyway, I’m very grateful for our time together and how Heather has enriched my life through her companionship and support.


It’s August 3rd

— time for another blog post from Pat.


A pitcher’s record is not meaningful

Adrian sent me a link today to a list of pitchers who had recorded a win without facing a single batter. Seeing this list reminded me of my total disdain for the practice of assigning wins and losses to pitchers in baseball. A pitcher’s record is not a meaningful measure of a his skill and, as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t really have any meaning at all.

First off, it just doesn’t make any sense to credit a pitcher with a win. A pitcher, through his efforts on the mound, cannot win a game. He can prevent runs from being scored, thus preventing a loss, but there is nothing he can do to actually win a game (excluding potential offensive contributions, which are not explicity counted in his win-loss record). He could throw a perfect game for 15 innings, but if the offensive side of his team does nothing, he’s not winning the game.

Second, a pitcher can pitch a great game and not get a win through no fault of his own. This happens all the time. Imagine two different starters on different teams, not playing each other. They both pitch 7 innings, allowing 3 hits each but no runs. Before they leave the game, their teams score at least one run to take the lead. Starter A then leaves the game and his bullpen blows the game for him. Starter B leaves the game and his bullpen holds on for the win. Starter A gets a no-decision and starter B gets the win even though they had identical performances. That doesn’t make sense.

Third, a pitcher can turn in a terrible performance and still get a win. This happens less frequently, but is by no means uncommon. This time, let’s say that starter C plays for a team that generally scores lots of runs and starter D plays for a team that hardly scores any runs. Starter C goes 5 innings and gives up 8 runs but his offense scores 10 runs before he leaves the game. His bullpen maintains the lead through the end of the game and he gets the win. On the other hand, starter D goes 8 innings, giving up only 1 run on 4 hits, but his offense doesn’t manage to score any runs during the entire game and he is tagged with the loss. In this case, it’s obvious that starter D turned in the better performance, yet he got the loss and starter C got the win.

Fourth, which pitcher gets the win depends on when the offense scores runs. This means that if starter B from above had pitched 7 scoreless innings but his offense didn’t score any runs until, say, the 9th, then he wouldn’t get the win; rather the guy who had pitched in the half-inning prior to the runs being scored would get the win. This also doesn’t make any sense.

Of course, my favorite illustration of the silliness of the way wins are assigned is the case where a team’s closer comes in and blows the save in the top of the 9th only to have his offense score more runs in the bottom of the 9th, netting him the win. That’s rich.

In baseball, stats are constantly used to compare players and evaluate their skill relative to one another. Thus, it is important that those stats are accurate measures of their skill. Using wins in this capacity is not meaningful because, as we have just seen, there are innumerable ways that a good performance could not result in a pitcher getting a win or that a bad performance could still get a pitcher a win. Thus, I think it should be clear that wins are not a good indicator of skill and therefore not a good basis for comparing one player to another. In addition, because wins are so tied to the performance of a team as a whole, wins are a poor indicator of how well a pitcher might perform if he were traded to a different team.

In the end, the main problem here is that baseball is a team game. If a pitcher can strike out every batter he sees, then you can commend him for an outstanding individual performance. However, once a ball collides with a bat, the rest of the team is responsible for what happens. So, in my mind, it doesn’t make sense to pin a win or loss on a pitcher. What we need to do is assign a win or loss to the whole team. Oh wait, we already do that.


August 2007

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