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The Rubber Chicken Awards - Read some of the more interesting questions people asked the Guru.  Before submitting your questions, please look around the web site first, particularly the Web Tour section to make sure that he hasn't already answered it in one form or another.  But, if you're really stumped, then PLEASE Ask the Guru.

The Rubber Chicken is awarded to someone who:
asks a question that leads the Guru to find a new site to add to the Web Tour or
makes a comment or shares an idea that is so intuitive and smart that it actually makes you laugh out loud when you think of it.
If you are an award winner, or just want to add the moving "Rubber Chicken" graphic to your website, click here.

Congratulations to Our Winners! (and their questions & ideas!)

Win Rogers on Baseball Simulations

It was nice to discover your Web page. Like you I believe that "simulating baseball using only its statistics is one of the most challenging (and rewarding I think) pursuits in baseball analysis."

You make a good point about wanting to avoid the random fluctuations that come into play when you evaluate pitchers by a relative ERA system (era / league era of that year). But I'm not totally satisfied by your system of dividing BB history into time perionds and using the average league ERA during that time period as the denominator. The dividing lines in such breakdowns always seem a little arbitrary to me.

Here's another suggestion. Pete Palmer uses a three-year moving average to eliminate those fluctuations in his Park Factor calculation. How about a three-year average ERA as well -- average of the league ERA in the year before and after as well as the target year. (I wonder why Pete didn't use that approach in calculating Pitching Runs, Batting Wins, etc. as well as Park Factor.)

There's a problem when there's a REAL big change in a given year -- the most obvious being the introduction of the designated hitter in 1972. It would not make sense to average '71 with '72 and '73 ERA's to get the denominator for 1972 performances. The only other single change that I'd say is of comparable significance is the moving of the distance between the plate and the mound to 60'6" in 1893. In all other cases, I'd suggest that the three-year moving average league ERA as the denominator would give a better result than the "era average ERA."

Jeez -- maybe I should recalculate the Pitching Runs of all the players on my franchise-all-star teams to see what differences would show up.

Of course the weakness of all such evaluation systems is that they assume equal talent in the league in every year. Schell tries to adjust for this by assuming that higher standard deviations indicate lower levels of talent, but in WWII (to take the most extreme situation) the standard deviations were not high but we know that the talent level was far below average. (Schell's book is very interesting, though it's too bad he limited his attention to batting averages.)

A problem of using moving averages: when we use them, we don't know (for example) just how good a season Mark McGwire had in 1998 until after the 1999 season, since the Park Factor correction requires 1999 park data as part of the three-year average calculation.

Another source of random fluctuations: before the 1961 expansion each team met every other team eleven times in each team's park. Nice and symmetrical. Now that no longer happens; even before the advent of interleague play, schedules were unbalanced for years, so there's added randomness inherent in the system. But we love the challenge of cleaning up this dirty data and finding clear patterns in it, don't we?

Guru's Response - I love baseball simulations too.  No solution to random fluctions has been presented to me that I find satisfactory.  I don't use the three year moving average for the same reasons you  mentioned.  So, I prefer to normalize to the year if era's seem to arbitrary.

Mitch Dickson on Umpires - Have you ever consider the jobs that Umpires do? And how hard it is for them to make it to "the Show"? Their place in the history of the game? Their Importance to the Game?  The one thing I never see at a baseball site, are links to MLB Umpires. While I personally think most Umpires are: deaf, dumb, and blind, (and not in that order) the power they weld is tremendous. And, for the most part, they're right! While the NFL, NBA, NHL, etc., have had, or now have, instant replay, Baseball has relied ONLY on the Umpire's Call, for well over one hundred years!  Think about it.....How can you be a real baseball site, without the Umps?  Right or wrong, we need them!!

Guru's Response - How true!  The next feature will be on umpires.

Shannon Molander on Scouts- Our 1st winner, wanted to know about becoming a major league scout.  This lead to the addition of the "Scout" section in the Kids Tour.  Hopefully, this will encourage more high school players to seek evaluation of their skills by pro scouts!

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