On This Date: Photo taken 3/23/2016.

Zach McKinstry of the Central Michigan University Chippewas puts the ball in play at Michigan State’s McLane Baseball Stadium.

The Spartans start their baseball season with a southern trip, returning to East Lansing about now every spring. State plays Big 10 teams on the weekends and mostly Mid-America Conference squads in mid-week. Lately they’ve been opening their home season against the Chips.

MSU baseball’s become one of my post-retirement pleasures. I watch ’em in East Lansing, and I’ve followed the team to Kalamazoo and Mount Pleasant most recent years. Maybe this year I’ll add Ann Arbor, or Ypsi. We’ll see.

Number of pix taken on various March 23rds: 123
Year of oldest photo: 2012

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 10
  • 2 Stars: 12
  • 3 Stars: 84
  • 4 Stars: 17
  • 5 Stars: 0

Revision History:

Hometown Hero

Hometown Hero

On This Date: Photo taken 2/14/2012.

The Midwest League Traveler (Craig Wieczorkiewicz) often posts photographs of snow-covered MWL stadiums about this time of year. While these generally come from folks associated with the team, his call for photos in 2012 prompted me to wander into Lansing.

Here’s Craig’s blog post entry featuring my pix.

And a bit about the sculpture.


Evidently I’ve never photographed Joan on St. Valentine’s Day. We’ll have to do something about that.

Number of pix taken on various February 14ths: 79
Year of oldest photo: 2010

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 0
  • 2 Stars: 2
  • 3 Stars: 49
  • 4 Stars: 26
  • 5 Stars: 2

Revision History:

Simmons Field

Simmons Field

On This Date: Photo taken 1/28/2012.

Most local chapters of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) meet on the last Saturday in January in an event the Society calls SABR Day. Five years ago today David Malamut put together a program for the Milwaukee and Chicago chapters centered on Midwest League (MWL) baseball–so I had to go.

‘Twas in Kenosha, a town about half-way between the two big towns and an MWL city itself. Since I was already in town, I sought out the old ballyard, and took photographs.

Then I went to the meeting. Heard (and talked with) former Kenosha owner Bob Lee, someone I’d long admired. Had a good time, and met several people I’d previously only known via e-mail.

They’re meeting again today, by the way, at the same place–Kenosha’s Brat Stop. Can’t be there, but my heart’s with ’em. If you can make it, I recommend it.

ALSO: SABR Detroit’s meet is next Saturday, at the Detroit Public Library. This event will center on the Negro League Detroit Stars. I’ve a conflict, or I’d be there.

Number of pix taken on various January 28ths: 151
Year of oldest photo: 2012

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 17
  • 2 Stars: 25 [mostly because I was a lousy photographer at the SABR meeting]
  • 3 Stars: 90
  • 4 Stars: 19
  • 5 Stars: 0 [see: lousy]

Revision History:

This is Bomberville

This is Bomberville

On This Date: Photo taken 1/25/2012.

I’ve watched maybe five hundred baseball games at Battle Creek’s CO Brown Stadium. Five years back I stopped by the ballyard for no particular reason on my way home from visiting my brother and sister in Kalamazoo. The Battle Creek Bombers, who play in the summer collegiate Northwoods League, are the park’s current inhabitants.

The sign, by the way, was made by sticking paper cups in the protective screen.

There’ll be more ballpark and baseball pix in this project. Of the 200,000 or so pix in my collection, about 60,000 were taken at ballgames.

Number of pix taken on various January 25ths: 122
Year of oldest photo: 2008

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 1
  • 2 Stars: 7
  • 3 Stars: 98
  • 4 Stars: 16
  • 5 Stars: 0

Revision History:

The Ins and Outs of Inside Baseball by Warren Wilbur Mooch: a review

Not sure who the intended audience was for this book. It would seem to be for an advanced (young) ballplayer or a high school coach, but I have some difficulty thinking either group would find much of it new, though virtually anyone would likely find something they didn’t already know.

Modern analysis has rendered some, but hardly all, of the study obsolete, but the tactical discussions hold up. All-in-all, Mouch gets most things right, and offers generally good advice. But his analysis underestimates the cost of unsuccessful bunts, and overestimates the risks of the hit-and-run. But give the guy a break; the book dates from 80 years back.

But the book(let)’s just deadly dull. Difficult to recommend.

Revision History:

Alexander Cartwright by Monica Nucciarone: a short review

A pretty much straightforward biography, very well done, with the bulk of the baseball content in what amounts to an appendix. The overall general conclusion is that Cartwright was an important early American settler in Hawaii; the baseball conclusion is that he was indeed a pioneer, though not exactly the pioneer we’ve been led to believe.

Revision History:

Base Ball Pioneers and Base Ball Founders by Peter Morris et al, editors: a short review

Here are two impressive, and rather bulky, companion books, written by a couple dozen authors who’ve been researching the origins of the sport. Both concentrate on the years when base ball was developing from its New York roots into the National Pastime. Both books are excellent, and the overall project is a delight. These books begin around 1850 and end around 1870, though those dates were clearly treated as guidelines rather than boundaries. Base Ball Founders considers the development of the game in the northeast, while Base Ball Pioneers covers clubs in the rest of the country.

Generally speaking, both books are organized geographically. For each city or region considered, there’s an overview essay about development of the sport in the area, followed by notes about clubs that played in that vicinity. While there’s some slight variation in format, the typical club essay begins with an overview describing the club’s beginning, its ending, the social origins of its membership, the most important members, a number of specific games and/or seasons, and an assessment of the club’s importance in the sport’s development (or, in some cases, in local society). Most club essays are followed by biographical sketches of the club’s members. All have short bibliographical notes, and sometimes-interesting footnotes.

Each club essay is designed to be self-contained, which generates a certain amount of redundancy, but that turns out to be relatively painless. Although the books have a large number of authors, there are no jarring stylistic or organizational changes from essay to essay, which speaks well of the editors. The important differences between the club sections result from varying documentation–while some clubs are extensively documented, others left only light paper trails. (There are similar differences in the biographical essays, which is aggravated by the difficulty of researching the lives of folks with common names.) For those interested in such things, watching these researchers cope with varying resources is part of the enjoyment; these folks are quite aware of their sources, and discuss some of them at great length. And a surprise: The authors’ extensive use of quotation shows that “national pastime” became part of the sport’s lexicon much earlier than I’d expected.

These books are primarily about clubs who played early baseball–that is, the New York game. The Massachusetts game gets some coverage as many New England clubs began playing that version before accepting the national consensus, and other varieties of the sport get occasional mentions, but except in a couple club essays there’s little discussion of the reasons the New York game prevailed. This is a book about clubs and regions, and only incidentally about the sport’s roots and rivals.

All in all, two excellent books. Both should be in the library of anyone with a serious interest in the early history of the game baseball.

This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

Revision History:

The Baseball Analyst Issue 8, edited by Jim Baker: a review

Bill James published 40 issues of The Baseball Analyst in the 1980s. All are available on SABR’s website.

The eighth Baseball Analyst, dated October 1983, is quite strong. It featured six analytical pieces and a delightful “letter to the editor” by Dallas Adams commenting on Issue 7 (more favorably than I did, by the way). And this is the issue that Bill James used to launch Project Scoresheet, which eventually wrought a revolution in baseball analysis. All in all, it’s a difficult issue to fault.

The first “real” article in the issue was by Barry Mednick, who did some scoring sequence analysis of play-by-play data he’d collected during the season. The study of course suffers from sample issues–all the data was from A’s or Giants games–but it’s an interesting early pbp study, with a bit of analysis and a couple pages of numbers. Mednick finds some interesting differences reflecting the characters of the two ballclubs in the study. A good start.

Warren Johnson’s “On Handedness and Pitchers’ Fielding” was a followup on Mark Lazarus’ study reported in Issue 4 of the Analyst–specifically, Johnson was reacting to a question Lazarus raised about “junk-balling lefties” and team defense. Johnson concludes that some relationship exists–a result he’d not expected–but that the effect is both weak and different from Lazarus’ hypothesis. He also finds that there’s a league effect involved. This is an excellent study, far more than just an extension of the Lazarus paper, and worth seeking out.

Clem Comly–credited here as C. Comly–offers a single-page exploration of pitchers’ range factors which fits quite nicely as an addendum to the Johnson piece. Comly’s main intention is to show the shape of the data, so he (and we) would have a better grasp of the capabilities of individual pitchers.

Dick O’Brien’s contribution to this issue is a study of K/HR ratios for power hitters. This is similar to his work in earlier issues of the Analyst, but by now he’s discovered that adding more explanation to what he’s exploring is worthwhile, so the article’s easier to follow. One of his conclusions is that truly high strikeout rates cannot be balanced by production.

David Aceto’s short essay explores the mathematics of a single ballpark effect–the impact of an enlarged foul territory on batting average. The math looks OK, but the conclusion that it takes about 8 foul outs per game for a team to lose 20 points on BA seems, well, wrong–at best it’s the correct answer to the wrong question. The author notes the study is flawed because he has no data to test his hypothesis (which he apparently borrowed from Bill James). I’m guessing that the reality is more complicated than the author’s model. Perhaps someone followed up with real data.

The final sabermetric essay is John Schwartz’ very short exploration of the advantage a left-handed batter has on the basepaths. He’s mostly raising questions with this one, but the small table he provides is worth a look.

Jim Baker’s second issue’s far more interesting than was his first. Besides the notes from Bill James and Dallas Adams, mentioned at the top of this review, he’s sandwiched the issue with requests for material from the readers. The first reimagines the periodical as a supermarket tabloid paper; the other as a Max Patkin movie. They’re not really worth the price of admission, but they probably tell us something about Baker.

Revision History:

The Baseball Analyst Issue 7: a review

Bill James published 40 issues of The Baseball Analyst in the 1980s. All are available on SABR’s website.

The seventh Baseball Analyst, dated August, 1983, has to be called a disappointment. Not only was there no outstanding piece of research in this edition, what did appear can mostly be characterized as uninteresting. Most of the contributions rehash issues already discussed in earlier editions. It happens that the seventh issue was the first edited by Jim Baker, but it’s certainly not his fault that the submissions were weak. This issue, as do many, begins with a plea for more material. Young Jim was perhaps too polite to ask for better material.

Dick O’Brien repeated the study on Batting Order Position production he’d reported in Issue 2. Adding more data turned out to pretty much reproduce the original result. This is worth reporting, but it’s hardly exciting.

Dallas Adams’ contribution, “On the Probability of Hitting .400,” we’ve seen before–I briefly mentioned it in my review of the 1981 Baseball Research Journal (which I posted a few days ago). The two essays are substantially the same, but this version appears to date from 1977–it had presumably been hiding somewhere in Bill James’ office for six years. Despite the redundancy, this article’s quite good.

Gary Brown’s “A Trend Analysis of Batting Averages” is simply weak. It’s mostly a commentary, with a few graphs, about changing tendencies in BA over time. His main point is that professional ball makes occasional adjustments to keep offense and defense in balance. The essay would have had some value at two pages; at ten pages it’s got to be considered filler. The Adams piece made similar points, in far fewer pages, with far better analysis.

John Schwartz offered a one-page note on the relative values of relief wins, losses, and saves, framed as a way to improve the TSN and Rolaids “Firemen” awards. The math here looks good, but it’s not clear that the exercise was worthwhile.

Finally, Pete Palmer’s brief examination of “The Distribution of Wins” briefly summarizes the literature on the subject, extends it a bit based on his own research, and throws in a statistics lesson based on a Dallas Adams contribution from Analyst Issue 1. All told, though, this is more interesting as a window into Palmer’s mind than as a contribution to baseball research. Pete was building a system for analysis; this was one of his blocks.

Revision History:

Baseball Research Journal 1981 edited by Bob Davids: a review

This BRJ edition is available online via the SABR website.

The tenth Baseball Research Journal, published late in 1981, is perhaps a step down from the previous edition, largely because it doesn’t contain any classic research essays. What it does contain is mostly solid research, well presented, on a wide variety of topics.

This edition’s first two articles, Emil Rothe’s “Was the Federal League a Major League?” and Raymond Kush’s “The Building of Wrigley Field” are not really related, but their topics overlap a bit and because they led off the issue I rather expected more Federal League material. Rothe, by the way, gives his question a qualified “Yes” answer. The evidence is mixed, as he shows.

The issue contains two biographical essays built around interviews–Allen Quimby on Red Lucas, and Eugene Murdock on Leroy Parmelee. Jim Riley and John Holway profiled black players Dave Barnhill (a Negro Leaguer) and Jose Mendez (an early 1900s Cuban barnstormer). Robert Cole told about radio broadcaster Al Helfer, who did “Game of the Day” broadcasts on the Liberty and Mutual Networks after the Second World War. The edition’s best profile is of Ray Fisher, written by Dave Proctor, who examines Fisher’s playing career, why he got blacklisted by the Commissioner, and his subsequent life, most prominently as coach at the University of Michigan. The Fisher profile may well be the longest piece ever published in BRJ–but it’s quite excellent. Others profiled include Walter Johnson (by Ron Liebman), Hurricane Hazle (Tom Jozwik), and Ted Lyons (Thomas Karnes)

Sabermetric efforts included William Akins’ attempt to identify the best fielders of the late 1800s and Dallas Adams’ nice attempt to draw the parameters necessary to study the probability of hitting .400. Bill Rubenstein’s useful extension of the Dick Cramer study (in the 1980 BRJ)–Cramer demonstrated increasing major league batting skill over time–identifies a few significant issues (and there’s a response from Cramer at the end). Cliff Frolich and Garry Scott contributed an exploration of “Where Fans Sit to Catch Baseballs”–this study’s weaknesses include some sampling issues and a less-than-fully-explained methodology, but their conclusions seem reasonable. James Skipper’s examination of player nicknames has a sabermetric appearance–tables and numbers–but is all in all unsatisfying, as I quibbled with his definitions and learned less than I’d hoped. The same is true of James Maywar’s examination of strikeout pitchers, which just seemed misguided.

A personal favorite article in this issue is John Pardon’s “A Bizarre Game of Baseball.” Not only was the game played in a predecessor of the Midwest League, it was absolutely preposterous. (Read Pardon’s item here; I’ve quoted it elsewhere for other purposes.) The issue’s other minor league piece describes a Minor League All-Star Game played at Cooperstown in 1939, and discusses why the effort didn’t continue.

There were fewer entries in the List with Explanation category in the 1981 edition. Ray Gonzalez’ “Pitchers Giving Up Home Runs” is a pioneering effort in that direction, and as usual with this author is quite well done. William Akins’ fielding study, mentioned above, fits the list pattern but this list is pretty short. Joseph Donner listed all the major league cycle hitters. Bob Davids’ piece on steals fits the pattern, too. Another short list was James Maywar’s examination of strikeout pitchers, which I dismissed a couple paragraphs ago.

For the record, I found this edition of Al Kermisch’s “Researcher’s Notebook” to be weak. It read more like an assigned piece than actual research notes.

The issue ends with a look at the 1892 season, which (like 1981) was a split season, and examines the parallels, differences, and consequences. I’m guessing this unattributed article was composed by Davids.

All in all this is a fairly strong issue, but there’s nothing really special here.

This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

Revision History: