Monday, March 4, 2013

Link roundup

1.  LA Times:

City officials are building a small park in Harbor Gateway with the main purpose of forcing 33 registered sex offenders to move out of a nearby apartment building.

State law prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a park or school. By building the park, officials said, they would effectively force the sex offenders to leave the neighborhood.
2.  And in other LA news, a reminder of Eric Garcetti's championing of the disastrous Cirque du Soleil project in Los Angeles.  $130 million spent on a show that closed two years later:
“If I hadn’t been a part of the mix, I don’t think we could have convinced Cirque to come. Lesson number two is that government works best in tough times. If we take resources that can withstand downturns and that are available when private markets dry up, that’s when we need to step up.” Well, maybe. This might not have been a sweetheart deal (the loan processing was much slower), but it was certainly a relationship deal, and the connections Kuba has cultivated with much of the city council are bound to rub good-government types the wrong way. That’s life in the big city—elected officials always seem a little more willing to help the folks who shell out tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.
3.  Another good article in the latest ESPN magazine, about the baseball player evaluation statistic WAR:
WAR tells a new story about baseball. Better, WAR shows that new story, because it embeds every part of the game within its formula. Consider shortstop David Eckstein. The mainstream story about Eckstein -- he's small and not technically very good, but boy does he have grit -- was told through adjectives, not facts. At the media-criticism site Fire Joe Morgan, there was a David Eckstein category comprising 20 separate posts on Eckstein hagiographies. That's nearly 12,000 (hysterical) words mocking the reporters who celebrated the plucky Eckstein despite his weak arm, punchless bat and general failure to be athletic.

Now, here's the twist: David Eckstein was actually very valuable, and it had nothing to do with the adjectives. In 2002 Eckstein (WAR of 4.4, according to analytics-based website FanGraphs) was almost as good as Miguel Tejada (WAR of 4.7), who won the AL MVP award that year. Tejada hit 34 home runs and drove in 131. But Eckstein was nearly his equal while driving in 63 and taking a running start every time he threw to first. How? WAR, and the components that it comprises, tells us:

1. Eckstein let himself get hit by 27 pitches, giving him a better OBP than Tejada and blunting Tejada's power advantage. 2 . Eckstein hit into a third as many double plays. 3. Eckstein was actually a good defensive shortstop with more range than Tejada and more success turning double plays.

A writer who wanted to praise Eckstein, then, could have made some assumptions about Eckstein based on his height, weight and skin color (white), collected some flattering athlete-cliche quotes from Eckstein's teammates and flipped through his thesaurus looking for new words -- thaumaturgical! leptosome! -- to describe the little guy. Or he could have started with WAR and explained how David Eckstein, ballplayer, was good at playing ball.
4.  Homerun Battle 2 is a lot of fun for iOS, with charming character models.  99 cents at iTunes.