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.  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.
3.   From ESPN's lengthy profile of Michael Jordan:
In the late '80s, Jordan looked in Whitfield's closet and saw that half of it was filled with Nike and the other half filled with Puma. Jordan bundled the Puma gear in his arms, tossing it onto the living room floor. He took a knife from the kitchen and cut it to shreds. Call Howard White, his contact at Nike, he told Fred, and tell him to replace it all. Same thing happened with George. He bought a pair of New Balance shoes he loved, and Jordan saw them one day and insisted he hand them over. Call Howard White at Nike.
And
In case anyone in the inner circle forgets who's in charge, they only have to recall the code names given to them by the private security team assigned to overseas trips. Estee is Venom. George is Butler. Yvette is Harmony. Jordan is called Yahweh -- a Hebrew word for God.