Wednesday, November 18, 2015
IT is one thing to oppose war. Okay, there are many on that side of the fence. But everyone (particularly the President) must adapt. Christians all over the middle east are getting slaughtered, and nobody is safe from terrorists. In the wake of the Paris bombings, he should have abruptly did a turnaround on his stance. Yet, he had the audacity to call this a 'setback'. Tell that to the families of the those who died. Slowly but surely, he is getting called out even by people of his own party. What happened to Rome in its last days could very well happen to us. Wake up folks. America twice elected the man who will go down as the worst President in American history.
Posted by The Wizard at 5:54 PM
Monday, February 2, 2015
it is time to pause and reflect. That was said by none other than Mark Twain. This, of course, does not mean the majority will always be wrong. However, I believe the (great) majority of people are wrong about Pete Carroll's decision to pass. I will try not to bore you too much with numbers, but the fact is that Pete Carroll made a very good decision that simply did not work out. The big key to passing on second down is that it gave him the option to run the clock down to 20 seconds or so before snapping the play. This is very important. He figured that either it would be a touchdown or incomplete. If it is incomplete, the Seahawks still can run two plays, if they fail on third down, they can call a timeout with a few seconds left, and run one more play. This is not to say they do not want to score too quickly, but if they score (hoping to on second down), there is only 20 seconds left for the Patriots to come down at tie (or win) the game. Conversely, if they run a play with 35 seconds left (which they could have), and score, the Patriots now have 30 plus seconds to tie or win the game, and that is a huge difference. There are computers that are equipped to handle these probabilities with certain general assumptions. I will try to tweak them in an unbiased manner. Assume the Seahawks have a 65% chance to score by running, and assume also they have a 55% chance of scoring if they pass. (History suggests it is closer than that, but I will give Lynch about 5 extra percentage points). What is the probability of an interception (or fumble) by Wilson if you pass? Mike Sando from ESPN, tweeted that before that pass, there were 65 passes from the 1 yard line this year, and none of them were intercepted. Still, of course, there is some chance of an interception. What is it? He did throw into traffic. However, the quicker the throw (from the time it is snapped), typically the less chance of an interception. It seems that interceptions thrown into traffic in the end zone are more likely to be a play that has had a few seconds to develop and are in the middle or back of the end zone. Usually on the type of play called yesterday, it is either a touchdown or when it is not, the defenders do not have the time to react quickly to get an interception. Wilson was only 6 yards away from receiver, and that close errant passes normally get some part of the receiver, whether it hits another part of his body, or goes off of his arms, and goes into the air, which are somewhat prone to an interception but still rarer than most think. Let’s factor in that Wilson is under 6 feet tall, so he will some passes tipped, which are of course vulnerable to pick. But it is still a rare occurrence. Let’s put it at 4%, which if anything, I believe is high. Finally, we need assumptions for the Patriots coming back to win the game with the amount of time left on the clock. Assume they get the ball on their 25 yard line with 20 seconds left and down by 3. According to advancednflstats.com, the average team will win 5% of the time. But the Patriots are not average, and despite Seattle’s defense, the probability is likely closer to 10%. Let’s call it 8%. If the Seahawks score with 35 seconds left, that probability goes up to about 18%. We can then use probability concepts for each scenario. Seattle scores on second down by playing Carroll’s way, they don’t score on second down playing Carroll’s way, they score on second down by running Lynch, etc. etc. A comparison of the two ways (I will spare you the math, though you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to see it) yields that it is better to pass than run and the primary reason is that you can start the second down play with a little more than 20 seconds. Again, you could not do that by running Lynch and still be sure to run 3 total plays if need be. Then, the other question becomes HOWS they should have passed. Perhaps a fade pattern was safer. Perhaps have Wilson roll out. I do agree that this decreases the chance of an interception. And let’s assume that the chance of a TD is the same no matter how they choose to pass. The downside to another type of pass (I think) is that there is a better chance of a holding penalty due to the play taking longer to develop. I don’t know what is better. There was nothing wrong with the call. If Carroll erred, it was not by much. And I think he made the right call (and running the clock down to 20 seconds). It just didn’t work.
Posted by The Wizard at 5:41 PM
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
I just can’t help myself when it comes to the mystique of Johnny Manziel. Maybe it is the nickname. Johnny Football. Few athletes get a nickname that involves the name of the sport (or very closely associated with it). The only two that come to mind are ‘Teddy Ballgame’, and ‘Donnie Baseball’. He is already in elite company. He has a charisma that seems matched by only the likes of James Dean. The girls love him. The guys (at least the ones that don’t hate him) love him. It seems that most of the experts in football think he will basically be a bust. Merrill Hoge called him a sixth round talent. Of course, he was not taken until the 22nd pick in the first round. Let’s compare (and contrast) him with some previous players. Two that come to mind are Ryan Leaf and Tim Tebow. Tebow was another Heisman Trophy winner who experts predicted would not become a good NFL quarterback. Well, barring a stunning comeback, it looks like they have been correct. Ryan Leaf ended up being a dud also. The comparison to Manziel is because of attitude. People did not believe that Leaf had the necessary work ethic to become a top notch (or even average) quarterback. But there are some differences. Whereas Tebow did not really play in a vertical passing offense at Florida, Manziel played in a spread offense. Whereas Tebow’s accuracy has always been a question mark, Manziel’s wasn’t. And although Manziel’s work ethic has been questioned, he seems liked by his players, whereas Leaf was not. Likeability will only get you so far, but I think Manziel has the intangibles to be a leader. I believe you need three main things to be a good (or great) quarterback in the NFL. You need to be a leader. You need to have an arm (Joe Montana is an exception), and you need a work ethic. Yes, Manziel is only 6 feet tall, but so is Drew Brees. I think Manziel is a leader. I think he does have an arm. I am not sure about the work ethic, but I believe that his teammates at A & M claim he did work hard. The work ethic is up to him. If he dedicates himself to be a top notch quarterback in the NFL, he can still be one.
Posted by The Wizard at 4:32 PM
Thursday, March 13, 2014
What’s wrong with American Idol? Many people have an opinion on this. Most reasons overlap somewhat, but I will give you my top 7 in order from 7 to 1. Before I get to that, I will say some good things about it. I still enjoy it for the most part. They do a great job with some of the storylines, and the overall presentation. They are very picturesque, from the background behind the judges during auditions to the venue for the final twelve. They are playful, and show some nice moments of the rapport the contestants have with each other. I still think it is much better than the Voice. It is simply more romantic. However, the top seven problems it faces. 7. Harry Connick Jr’s ego – You can see how he tries to show how smart he is. This was obvious last night, when he brought up the word malisma indicating a run. J Lo took him to task for that. He said he used the word for the benefit of the audience. Uh, Harry, I think the word ‘run’ did the trick. 6. Focus a little bit too much on singing, and not quite enough on personality. Hey, I am not saying to find Bruce Springstein’s or Bob Dylan’s of the world, but they need to incorporate personality a little more than they do. 5. Lack of stability in judges- this is not completely their fault, but somewhat. Stephen Perry was pretty much useless as a judge, as was Nicki Manaj and Maria Carey, all for slightly different reasons. 4. Voting- there are 50 ways to leave your lover, and at least that many ways to vote, and you get at least that many votes. It potentially distorts the true reflection of the voters. I presume AI is doing this because it generates money, but they would be more credible if everyone were allowed one vote. 3. The Save- actually, it goes beyond the save, and I will more generally call it a lack of integrity. They are all about ratings, even at the expense of hurting feelings. I know it is a tough business, and yes people will have their dreams crushed in real life. However, it seems pretty callous to me to bring along 30 contestants (the final 30) and not let all of them sing. they may claim that they did not have the time to show all 30 (which is BS). The real reason is that they were trying to add drama. And the save? What bothers me about the save is the way it is dramatized. When Ryan Seacrest says that they are going to sing for their life. Really? Come on! You think we are that stupid? I would have laid 1000 to 1 that neither the last two singers would get saved. The judges know damn well before hand whether somebody has a change at being saved, and number 13 and 12 are not going to be saved. don’t take us for fools Ryan. I guess I should not blame him. That is part of the script. And part of the public is very gullible. 2. – Songs - We are 3 weeks into the season from the final 13, and I am not sure that I have heard a song that was from the 80’s or before. Most people agree that songs are just not as good as they used to be. I think if I had to list my top 500 songs, about 490 of them would come from 1989 and before. 1. Ravages of time - Okay, ravage is a strong word, but you get the idea. Almost all shows eventually fall off. The only exception might be the Super Bowl.
Posted by The Wizard at 3:15 PM
Friday, November 1, 2013
It is always easy to make a decision in hindsight. However, as Michael Wacha was walking David Ortiz, my wife said she thought it was a bad decision. I will disagree with my wife when merited, but I absolutely agreed here. This was before any runs were scored. I mean, why put another base runner on? A few hits, or even one extra base hit, and he scores anyway. Lets compare the alternatives. It’s early in the game, you have one out and a guy at second and it’s scoreless. Pitching to Ortiz Yes, Ortiz had looked like Superman in the World Series, 11 for 15 at that point with 2 home runs, and robbed of another. But the question we have to ask is ‘what is his expected ability at this point in time’. This will always be an educated guess. One way to define ability is by OPS (on base plus slugging). Ortiz has a lifetime OPS of .930, and a post season OPS of .962. His lifetime OPS in the three world series is over 1.300 and his OPS was a mind boggling 2.067 in the first five games. What could we expect in his next at bat? Well, we cannot expect an OPS of 2.067, that is for sure. I don’t think we can even expect an OPS of 1.300. Yes, he already done that in his World Series career in roughly 60 at bats, but one has to believe that is a little inflated. It is much like a baseball team that starts out 20-5. You are pretty sure they are a good team, but you are equally sure they are not going to play at an .800 pace. It has never been proven that players can be clutch, but this is debatable. I tend to think that players can be clutch. I will give credit for Ortiz being a clutch player, and estimate his OPS at 1.2 in the World Series against a typical pitcher. However, I don’t think Wacha is typical, despite his youth. I think he had demonstrated he is above average, even as playoff pitchers go, so lets drop Ortiz expected OPS against Wacha to 1.1. I would add that Ortiz’s home run rate is virtually the same in the post season as it is the regular season, so despite the heroics in the post season, he has not hit home runs at any greater of a pace, and that is a little more than 5%. The big concern with pitching to Oritz is a home run, but we could only expect that for one out of 20 at bats. The next big concern is a hit which scores a run, and, well ok, he had been hitting about .450 in his World Series career, but can we expect in the way of a hit? Probably nothing better than .350, and that is giving him a lot of credit. So, we still expect to get him out 2 out of 3 times. It is real easy to think ‘wow, look what he has done to us lately’ But 15 at bats is hardly a big enough sample size. We could look at run expectancy charts based on runners at first and second and one out or with a runner at second and one out. I am going to skip that for now, for a few reasons, one of which is that I have already thrown out more numbers than I wanted to. Walking Ortiz Yes, the Cardinals might have gotten out of the inning unscathed. But one big problem you have with walking him is that you still have decent hitters behind him. You are trading an OPS of 1.1 for an OPS of .8. Sounds good, right? Not only did you put a runner on, but the complexion of the at bats change. Hitting Jonny Gomes was somewhat of a fluke, but what if Gomes walks or gets an infield hit? The bases are still loaded. When you are pitching with the bases loaded, you have to throw strikes. The batter knows that. I suspect that hitting goes up a little on average with the bases loaded due to the fact that the pitcher has a self imposed smaller strike zone. I know I have thrown all kinds of numbers out. So, lets try to highly simplify this by looking at it this way. You can either a) get out of the inning with no runs b) get out of the inning with one run c) give up two or more runs. The first case is ideal. The second case, you can live with. The third case can be very difficult to come back from (of course, it depends upon the number of runs). I will concede that it might be true that you have a better chance of giving up at least one run by pitching to Ortiz. For that reason, if it is the bottom of the eighth in a tie game, I have no problem at all walking him. But, which way do you suspect, is it easier to give up more than one run? I feel almost certain that it is easier to give up more than one run by walking Ortiz. Heck that second run is already at first. The ironic thing about all of this is that it did not take that much for Boston to score 3 runs. A HBP and double by Victorino who was likely sitting on a fastball in a situation, due in part to walking Ortiz. An easy way to summarize all of this is that the parlay of events seems easier than Ortiz hitting a homerun, something that happens 1 in 20 times as mentioned earlier. In the third inning of a scoreless game with a man on second and one out, unless you are pitching to Babe Ruth or post-steroid Barry Bonds, I think it is a clear decision: you pitch to him. Finally, I am not suggesting that this is why the Cardinals lost the game. But it certainly opened the floodgates.
Posted by The Wizard at 4:17 PM
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
The many things I would like to see change about American Idol. The auditions: I do not like to see people making fools of them. I guess a good portion of America likes to see that (it makes them feel better seeing other people fail). I never really thought it was that funny and kind of felt sorry for them. The main thing is that I wanted to see some decent singers. Part of the enjoyment was to ‘play along with the show’. I want to see singers that are 6’s, 7’s, and 8’s in addition to the 9’s and 10’s. The 6’s thru 8’s are more fun to assess. Do you agree with the judges or not? Where is the anticipation of seeing whether they go to Hollywood or not if the singers are primarily 9’s, 10’s and 0’s? The save: Here is the problem I have with the save. There is no way they are going to use it in the first 3 weeks or so. Just no way. So, why bother? Oh, I know. Much of America is well. not very smart, and probably thinks there is a chance they use it early on, so AI wanting to boost ratings in any way possible, will sell out to do so. The judges: I did not watch it for the first five years, and part of the reason is that I did not like how the judges influenced voting. It just seemed clear to me. In season 6, when LaKisha Jones sang in the round of 24, Simon said something to the effect, “Everybody else might as well pack their jobs; this competition is over”. Well, according to Dialidol (which estimates number of votes), she was head and shoulders ahead of everyone else in the voting that week. She did end up finishing fourth, but the fact is that she lost her luster and in my opinion it was because she fell out of favor with the judges?. Did she lose her singing ability in those few weeks? No. This is not to say that the judges dictate all winners? But their influence is strong. You know what I think would be a neat idea. Let the judges assess the NEXT night. That way the vote is completely clean. Do we really need judges? Nicki Manaj? Steven Tyler, who had used the word ‘beautiful’ 7481 times. Okay, I am exaggerating a little, but not by much. The other problem with the judges is the criticism they have when a singer does not want to be ‘pigeon holed into singing a certain way. For instance, if they expect a singer to sing a soft rock song, and they sing something else, they might say something to the effect “you have not defined yourself”. If that is the case, then I guess the Beatles, Lady Gaga, and others never defined themselves either since they were quite versatile also. I think the judges have to say something, to make it look like they are really mentoring. Spare me. People such as Jimmy Iovine are more needed than the judges. The judges are also too partial to some of the newer music. I guess much of the public likes it (yes, I am as dumbfounded as you), but further, they not only deter singers from singing older music but will then likely say that that ‘song did not fit you, ya da ya da ya da’ , as they did with Charlie Askew when he sung a somewhat obscure song by Genesis, it only reached 73 on the American charts …… I thought he did a nice job, and it was soooooooooo nice to see him pick what I thought was a catchy song from the eighties from a big name group. Keith Urban said he thought he was disconnected; I thought the song perfectly captured him and his admitted struggles in life. So, the judges dissed him, America followed along, and he was out. Another case where I can almost guarantee you that if the judges had praised him, he would have been safe. The last song on the final night of the competition: With the finale, both singers should end with the exact same song. The voting is too song dependant (you remember the last song by each more vividly), and this was never more clear than last year when Phillip Phillips had the catchy song ‘Home’, and I have to believe it heavily swayed the voters. He might have won anyway. Of course, AI likely does this so they can market two new songs. They never miss an opportunity to sell out. The voting: Speaking of selling out, the voting is really laughable. Restrict it to one vote per person, and you have a more legitimate process. The guest singers; the overall production: There is way too much dancing and newer stuff. Can’t we just see people sing great songs? Interview them for a few minutes (I think that would draw viewers also). If you saw somebody like Phil Collins and he talked for a few minutes about what he has been doing recently, I know I would be watching. I know that it is hard to get some of these singers from the 70’s and 80’s, but you have hundreds to choose from. As it is, I surf the net (or go to the kitchen to make a smoothie drink) during much of the AI telecast. My wife and I watched about 10 minutes of AI this year, after being devoted followers for the last 6 years. Sadly, we do not even miss it. Bring back Charlie Askew, and get judges who will say relevant things, not just talk for the sake of talking, and we may rethink our position.
Posted by The Wizard at 5:11 PM
Friday, March 8, 2013
A recent Canadian study has stated some unflattering things (to say the least) about Mother Teresa (to say the least). @Kimberly Schupp-Miller stated this “The researchers mentioned, ‘her dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political affiliations and her overly dogmatic views about contraception, abortion and divorce…… The study even went on to claim that Mother Teresa found it beautiful to see the poor suffer” I am not going to pick each of these things apart, but will make a few comments. I have always believed that anybody can take anybody else, and make them look bad. Even Mother Teresa. Heck, lawyers frame things all the time to influence people. Perception becomes reality. To begin with, we are all human. We all have flaws. Even humanitarians can fall short of society’s expectations of them, and their expectations of themselves. So, let us take a step back here, and look at the objective evidence. Mother Teresa dedicated her life to God. That is a reality. Anybody who does not understand that needs to have their head examined. Now, did she make perfect judgment along the way? Nobody does. One of the chief complaints about her was that she did not use the millions of dollars that her foundation raised to help the dying. The quote above, ‘found it beautiful to see the poor suffer’, makes it sound as if she wanted that to happen. Nobody truly knows what went through her mind, but my guess (which is as good as anybody’s to the extent that nobody can truly get ‘inside her heart’ ) is that she might have had the Beatitudes in mind. Further, this was a response to a question that asked “Do you teach the poor to endure their lot”. She did not say that she taught the poor to endure their lot. She seemed to be saying that many poor are acting as Christ would want them to. There are millions and millions of homeless, dying people. She knew that even with money she raised, there was a limited amount that she could do. Yes, she probably could have saved some people that ultimately died. Did she want them to die? Of course not. But she knew that many would, and her life was dedicated to comforting those who were ‘likely’ dying. Do people think she gave all her money to the Church?She started with 13 members in Calcutta and it eventually grew to more than 4,000 sisters running orphanages, AIDS hospices and charity centers, etc. etc. Did she mismanage her money? Probably But she was not a business woman. If you want to say she could have had better judgment with the money her charity raised, fine. She probably did. But to largely smear her name by distorting what she did and her intentions shows ignorance to what she was all about. She was about as selfless as anybody in the last two thousand years. She was committing to following Christ’s teaching, and was as non-wavering as the North Star when it came to her single minded devotion to God.
Posted by The Wizard at 4:45 PM