Archive for April, 2008


The Designated Hitter Rule turns 35, still sucks has an article today about the designated hitter rule and the fact that it was adopted 35 years ago by the American League. In case it wasn’t clear from the title of this post, let me express my opinion: I do not like the designated hitter rule. Let me explain why. First of all, I think it breaks the symmetry of the game. Before the designated hitter rule, every player on a team had both an offensive and a defensive role. The designated hitter rule created a new position that plays only offense and it reduced the role of pitcher to solely defense. Reasons such as this are often cited by baseball purists who oppose the rule. However, I object to it on practical levels, as well.

By creating another starting position, the designated hitter rule necessitates larger club payrolls, which reduces the ability of small market teams to compete. Major League clubs pay large salaries for their starting infield, outfield, and (generally) 5 starting pitchers. However, AL teams also have to pay for a DH. While both NL and AL teams have only 25 players on their roster for most of the season, the non-starting players generally cost substantially less than the starting players. In addition, because the DH is a specialist position often filled by players who are at the peak of their earning potential, some clubs pay huge amounts of money to acquire elite DHs, while teams who can’t afford such players find themselves at a distinct disadvantage. For example, Jim Thome, the DH for the Chicago White Sox, will earn $15.67M this year, making him the highest paid player on his team. In fact, if we take an average over all the teams that have a full-time DH (that is, they do not use a platoon at the position), which is half of the AL, the DH is the 3rd highest paid player on the average team (including starting pitchers) and is paid over $10M per year. For small market teams whose entire payroll may be in the realm of $50M, paying $10M for a single player who plays no defense is just not feasible. However, not having that $10M hitting specialist (among other deficiencies) often leaves them in an uncompetitive position.

Does the presence of the DH position really make payrolls higher? To answer this question we observe that the average payroll for an AL team for 2008 is $97.49M while the average NL payroll is $83.28M – a difference of about $14M. This averages across all teams – both large and small markets – in each league. If you object that the AL average is skewed by the Yankees, let’s look at the median. For the AL, the median payroll is $88.81M and in the NL, it is $78.95M – a difference of about $10M. While I won’t claim that the DH position is solely responsible for that $10M difference, it is certainly a large factor in the disparity. In general, it is good for the league if every team can be competitive. However, the lack of a serious salary cap or revenue sharing plan in baseball means that small market teams generally can’t compete with teams from larger markets. The DH rule exacerbates the problem by requiring each team to have 9 starting-caliber offensive players rather than 8 in order to be competitive – something the small market teams can ill afford.

My second and final practical objection to the designated hitter rule comes back to symmetry. The designated hitter rule destroyed the symmetry of the two leagues. With the designated hitter rule in place, the NL is perpetually bested by the AL in Interleague play. Not only that, in the last 20 seasons (1987-2007) the NL has won the World Series only 7 times. Furthermore, in World Series games since 1987 the NL has won 44 games while the AL has won 64. Some may claim that the designated hitter rule can’t explain this difference because the AL team can’t use the DH in NL parks. That is true. However, in AL parks, the NL team just uses some guy off their bench as the DH, while the AL team has a $10M+ elite slugger filling the DH role. While NL teams have only 8 starting-caliber offensive players, the DH rule requires that AL teams have 9 in order to be competitive. Thus, in AL parks, NL teams are overmatched. The only advantage that NL teams might have in NL parks is that they are more used to playing without a DH but this seems like a meager advantage. Furthermore, when AL teams play in NL parks, they often bench one of their normal position players in order to keep their DH in the lineup. While the DH often represents a liability on defense, many managers feel that their DH’s superiority on offense more than makes up for his weakness on defense. Thus, the AL team may still have some advantage in NL parks.

So, to sum up, I object to the DH rule because it disrupts the symmetry of baseball and gives a competitive advantage to the AL in general and to large market AL teams in particular.

Fans of the DH rule would probably suggest that there is a way for the NL to compete with the AL again – that the NL introduce the DH rule themselves. They may say that we can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can either hang onto our beloved “pure” baseball or we can be competitive, but not both. That may be true, but I find it unfortunate. The DH rule was introduced at a time when offense in the AL was a joke. Offensive numbers were way down and the owners wanted a way to attract fans through increased offensive production. The DH rule, which had been discussed since the early 1900s, was adopted as a quick fix. Now, it is unlikely to ever be revoked. It would put a number of players out of jobs and owners wouldn’t like it because fans would miss big offensive numbers. So, it’s not clear what the resolution will be. Will the NL and its fans just grow accustomed to being the weaker league or will league officials eventually relent and adopt the DH rule themselves? I hope that it is neither but I’m afraid that there might be no third option.


Microsoft Ultimate Steal

A few days ago I ordered Microsoft Office 2007 Ultimate edition online for $59.95.  I know what you’re thinking: “I can’t believe he ordered something from one of those sketchy ‘legal softw@re sales’ spam emails that I always get.”  Don’t worry – I didn’t.

I ordered it from this site, which is a promotion run by Microsoft to put Office in the hands of students at a bargain price.  In order to qualify, you need to have an email address ending in “.edu”.  Additionally, you’re supposed to be registered for at least a 50% class load, however they don’t ask for proof of this upfront.  Rather, they say that someone may contact you later and ask for that proof.  If you can’t supply it, you’ll have to pay the full price for the software, which is $679.  Ouch.  I legitimately meet both criteria, so it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up.

Getting Office is a huge expense, even if you get it pre-installed on a new computer, so this kind of offer is really helpful and will obviate the need for me to get a copy when we hopefully upgrade our desktop computer sometime in the next year.  Plus, it will be useful right now since we’ve been using a combination of Microsoft Works (which is terrible) and my old copy of Office 97, which is missing a bunch of useful features.

If any of you, my readers, qualify for the offer or if you know people who do, I should tell you that the offer ends on April 30th at 11:59pm.  The base price of $59.95 gets you the software as a download, which is accessible online for 30 days.  For $5.95 extra, you can get online access to the installation file(s) for 2 years.  Or, for $12.95 extra, they will send you the installation DVD (there’s no additional charge for shipping).  I choose the latter option because I just like having physical media.

So, if you’re still using Microsoft Works or Office 97 (like I was) or if you use OpenOffice and hate it (like I do) then get moving and take advantage of this offer before it ends.


An interesting baseball subtlety

Today I looked at the box score for this afternoon’s Red Sox/Angels game and I was confused by what I saw. Hideki Okajima was charged with a blown save despite not allowing a single run, earned or otherwise. I puzzled over how this was possible. It turns out that a pitcher is charged with a blown save if he allows a runner to score the tying run (thus eliminating the chance of earning a save) regardless of whether he was responsible for allowing that runner to reach base. In today’s game, Okajima entered the game with the bases loaded. The runs that were scored while he was on the mound were charged to the pitchers who preceded him but he was charged with the blown save.

This seems a little unfair to me. He came into the game with a 1-run lead and the bases loaded. Any mistake, including a walk or even a passed ball, would earn him a blown save. By the time the inning was over, he had allowed 3 runs to score, so he probably earned the blown save. However, in general, I think assigning credit or blame to pitchers is a fool’s errand. I have commented on this at length in the past so I won’t go into it again. However, this situation highlighted to me that wins and losses aren’t the only types of credit/blame quantities assigned to pitchers that are problematic in their execution.



Ok, so this post isn’t actually about potpourri. Rather, it’s just a mix of a bunch of stuff that I’ve collected over the last two weeks.

  1. The Pirates won again tonight (2nd in a row) after losing 6 straight, including being swept again by the Cubs. Matt Morris and Adam LaRoche are officially terrible. Nate McLouth, Xavier Nady, and Ryan Doumit are awesome.
  2. I had thought about starting a new segment on my blog where I post a line from a song to see if people can figure out what song it’s from. Then, I realized that, in the age of the internet, that task is trivially easy. I had planned on using the line “Who put the shield around the ‘k’?”, from “K for Karnival” by Nothing Painted Blue but just typing the line into Google gives you the answer. Curse you, internet.
  3. I also thought about introducing a repeating segment in which I would post a picture as a RAW file and have people submit their take on it. I may still do this if people are interested.
  4. On Patriot’s Day our family had an outing to see the Boston Marathon. On our way home, I saw this:



    That’s right, a “Wii Sports” jacket. Now, I like my Wii as much as the next guy, but I’m not about to wear something like this.  That said, the “Wii Sports” jacket is a step above the bowling pin costume I saw the same day:


    Alright.  I think that’s enough for now.  I’ll post more when the mood strikes.


An Eee in the hand is worth two on the web

When I wrote my post about the various ultraportable laptops like the Asus Eee PC I had never seen or held one in person.  This weekend, I went to Micro Center and saw one in person.  They are really small.  Amazingly small.  Seeing how small they are provoked three reactions in me:

  1. Now I can understand the people who complained about the keyboard – it is very cramped.
  2. The diminutive size and low resolution of the screen is not as much of problem as I thought it would be.
  3. This thing is awesome – I want it.

Pirates win opening series

On Monday, the Pirates beat the braves 12-11 in 12 innings.  Yesterday, the Pirates got manhandled by the Braves, losing 10-2.  Today, the Pirates beat the Braves 4-3 in 10 innings.  Today’s win gives the Pirates the series victory and keeps them tied for the lead in the NL Central, along with the Brewers, the Reds, and the Cardinals.  Keep up the good work!


In search of the perfect ultraportable laptop

This year, the ultraportable market has seen a lot of action. The ultraportable that has been covered the most in the mainstream press is definitely the MacBook Air. However, Lenovo and Toshiba also introduced similar models recently. These machines offer nearly full-size keyboards, relatively large screens (13.3″, 13.3″, 12.1″, respectively), and each weighs 3 pounds or less. These laptops aim to provide a full computing experience in a small package, but that comes at a price: the cheapest is $1800.

I have heard it said that laptops can have only two of the following three attributes: full-featured, light, cheap. The Apple, Lenovo, and Toshiba ultraportables choose full-featured and light at the expense of, well, expense. However, it’s not really clear to me to whom these machines would appeal – they’re a little underpowered to use as a primary machine and they’re too expensive to buy as a secondary machine.

From my perspective, a better combination of attributes would be light and cheap, at the expense of full-featured. This obviously means that such computers would not aspire to be anyone’s primary computer. However, they would be affordable as secondary machines and much of what we do on computers does not require all of a computer’s features anyway. Thus, it seems to me that a sub-$500 laptop that was small and light and provided basic computing functions would find a large potential user base. Evidently, many computer manufacturers agree, as scarcely a week goes by but another computer manufacturer announces another small, cheap laptop.

Continue reading ‘In search of the perfect ultraportable laptop’


A few thoughts on the Pirates

  • Yesterday’s game was crazy.  The Pirates, carried by Nate McLouth (3-5 plus a walk, 1 HR, 4 RBIs) and Xavier Nady(4-7, a double, 2 HRs, 4 RBIs) put on quite an offensive show.  Unfortunately, Damaso Marte and Matt Capps gave new meaning to the word “meltdown”, as they walked 4 out of 5 batters to start the bottom of the 9th, ultimately erasing the Pirates’ 5-run lead.  As they say, all’s well that ends well, and the game ended well for the Pirates, but it should have been a clean victory in 9 innings, rather than a messy one in 12.
  • I’m glad that the Pirates got rid of Byung-Hyun Kim.  I couldn’t believe it when they signed him because he has been bad for a long time.  Fortunately, he was bad enough in Spring Training that they dumped him without giving him the chance to ruin any regular season games.
  • Starting pitching for the Pirates looked pretty good toward the end of Spring Training.  Let’s hope it stays good.
  • Pirates are tied with the Brewers for first place in the NL Central.  Savor it.


April 2008

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