While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Jay reminisced about his introduction to Jackie Robinson in the piece reprinted below, which was originally published as a "One-Hoppers" post on April 15, 2011.
Some expanded historical background on the events of the new movie about baseball's integration.
Chadwick Boseman’s Jackie Robinson hit right-handed, and for preserving historical accuracy in translation to money-making film, that’s an awfully good place to start.
Where 42, the Jackie Robinson story, meanders from there in its devotion to the actual baseball events of 1945-47 is fairly close to the truth line. There are of course the controversies over some of the perhaps apocryphal tales, like whether Pee Wee Reese ever put his arm around Jackie Robinson on the field in Cincinnati.
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How one man came to support a borderline statistical candidate for the Hall of Fame whose other contributions strengthen his case.
My first memory about Minnie Minoso stems from 1977, on one of those bright afternoons when I had talked my grandfather into stopping at the dime store on the town square in Red Oak, Iowa. It's just as Sinclair Lewis as it sounds. The store sold baseball cards, and I was working on my Topps collection that summer by picking up four or five 10-cent packs at a time. Not everything at the dime store actually cost a dime, but fifteen baseball cards and one rock-hard piece of bubble gum did, and they came bundled in colorful wax wrappers that I liked so much that I refused to throw them away. My parents didn't give a rip about sports, but my grandfather had played second base in Class-B ball in southwest Iowa in the 1920s and understood what baseball could mean to a young boy. He was glad to fork over change for the cards.
Red Oak had, and still has, the type of rustic town square that was once the primary business district of small midwestern towns. Some communities have courthouses stuck in the middle of their square, but Red Oak has trees, a fountain, and a park. That day, I sat in the grass opening my cards, stuffing the gum in my mouth one piece at a time, while my grandfather lounged on a bench under a tree talking to a fellow retired farmer, who wore a green John Deere hat. The names on the cards didn't mean much to me at the time—it hadn't been that long since I had learned to read—but I loved the team names, the pictures, and of course, the numbers on the back. Suddenly I came across card No. 232 from the 1977 Topps set:
Why does everyone dislike the new #42 tradition for Jackie Robinson Day?
On Friday, Major League Baseball celebrated the eighth annual Jackie Robinson Day, honoring the sixty-fourth anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut in the major leagues. As has been the custom since 2009, every uniformed player, coach, and manager involved in games Friday wore Jackie's #42 as their jersey number for the day. With all 30 teams active on Friday, this means 750 players and roughly 100 more coaches all took the field with "42" on their backs.
It's a gesture that seems to have missed its mark with some fans. Reading opinions from any number of outlets on Friday - whether they be newspaper columnists, sports websites, Twitter, respected blogs, bulletin boards & forums, and more - the sentiment is strong, if not overwhelming: seeing entire teams wearing number 42 is overkill and it dilutes the honor. After all, if someone is forced to do something, the "honor" in it is diminished.
An important day in baseball history resonates on a personal level as well.
April 15 is Jackie Robinson Day, the 64th anniversary of the day when Robinson broke baseball's color barrier by taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. It's a day to pause for a moment to reflect upon Robinson's immeasurable courage in battling racism, and the impact his bold success had on this country, from the integration of the military to the Civil Rights movement to the election of Barack Obama to the United States presidency. Robinson's arrival in the major leagues forced America to live up to its ideals of equality, and his actions changed the course of this country's history in ways that continue to be felt, ways that eclipse even his on-field greatness.
How baseball could make an even bigger deal about recognizing a very important day.
Today marks the 63rd anniversary of one of the great days in American history, the day that Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier by taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. It's a day to pause a moment and reflect upon Robinson's immeasurable courage in battling racism, and the impact his bold success had on this country. From the integration of the military to the Civil Rights movement to the election of Barack Obama to the United States presidency, Robinson's arrival in the major leagues forced America to live up to its ideals of equality, and his actions changed the course of this country's history in ways that continue to be felt.
Has the game been the forcing ground for a nation's promise?
I hope you enjoyed Opening Day, or as I like to think of it, the 61st anniversary of America. Yes, there was 1776, when the 13 colonies declared independence, or 1787, when the current Constitution kicked off, or even 1865, when Abraham Lincoln both ended slavery and established the supremacy of the federal government over the states by force of arms. Yet, in all that time, the country never began to close the gap between its rhetoric and its realities. That had to wait for 1947 and Jackie Robinson.
Sitting down to talk to one of the original 'Black Aces' about race and history in the game.
James "Mudcat" Grant made history, and now he is working to preserve it. One of only 13 African American pitchers to win at least 20 games in a season, Grant became the first to do so in the American League when he went 21-7 for the Twins in 1965. A big league pitcher from 1958-1971, Grant currently devotes much of his time to championing the rich heritage of black players in professional baseball. He is the author of The Black Aces: Baseball's Only African American Twenty-Game Winners.
A great ambassador for the game--and for humanity--passed away last week.
\nMathematically, leverage is based on the win expectancy work done by Keith Woolner in BP 2005, and is defined as the change in the probability of winning the game from scoring (or allowing) one additional run in the current game situation divided by the change in probability from scoring\n(or allowing) one run at the start of the game.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_18 = 'Adjusted Pitcher Wins. Thorn and Palmers method for calculating a starters value in wins. Included for comparison with SNVA. APW values here calculated using runs instead of earned runs.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_19 = 'Support Neutral Lineup-adjusted Value Added (SNVA adjusted for the MLVr of batters faced) per game pitched.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_20 = 'The number of double play opportunities (defined as less than two outs with runner(s) on first, first and second, or first second and third).';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_21 = 'The percentage of double play opportunities turned into actual double plays by a pitcher or hitter.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_22 = 'Winning percentage. For teams, Win% is determined by dividing wins by games played. For pitchers, Win% is determined by dividing wins by total decisions. ';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_23 = 'Expected winning percentage for the pitcher, based on how often\na pitcher with the same innings pitched and runs allowed in each individual\ngame earned a win or loss historically in the modern era (1972-present).';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_24 = 'Attrition Rate is the percent chance that a hitters plate appearances or a pitchers opposing batters faced will decrease by at least 50% relative to his Baseline playing time forecast. Although it is generally a good indicator of the risk of injury, Attrition Rate will also capture seasons in which his playing time decreases due to poor performance or managerial decisions. ';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_25 = 'Batting average (hitters) or batting average allowed (pitchers).';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_26 = 'Average number of pitches per start.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_27 = 'Average Pitcher Abuse Points per game started.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_28 = 'Singles or singles allowed.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_29 = 'Batting average; hits divided by at-bats.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_30 = 'Percentage of pitches thrown for balls.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_31 = 'The Baseline forecast, although it does not appear here, is a crucial intermediate step in creating a players forecast. The Baseline developed based on the players previous three seasons of performance. Both major league and (translated) minor league performances are considered.
The Baseline forecast is also significant in that it attempts to remove luck from a forecast line. For example, a player who hit .310, but with a poor batting eye and unimpressive speed indicators, is probably not really a .310 hitter. Its more likely that hes a .290 hitter who had a few balls bounce his way, and the Baseline attempts to correct for this.
\nSimilarly, a pitcher with an unusually low EqHR9 rate, but a high flyball rate, is likely to have achieved the low EqHR9 partly as a result of luck. In addition, the Baseline corrects for large disparities between a pitchers ERA and his PERA, and an unusually high or low hit rate on balls in play, which are highly subject to luck. ';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_32 = 'Approximate number of batting outs made while playing this position.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_33 = 'Batting average; hits divided by at-bats. In PECOTA, Batting Average is one of five primary production metrics used in identifying a hitters comparables. It is defined as H/AB. ';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_34 = 'Bases on Balls, or bases on balls allowed.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_35 = 'Bases on balls allowed per 9 innings pitched.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_36 = 'Batters faced pitching.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_37 = 'Balks. Not recorded 1876-1880.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_38 = 'Batting Runs Above Replacement. The number of runs better than a hitter with a .230 EQA and the same number of outs; EQR - 5 * OUT * .230^2.5.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_39 = 'Batting runs above a replacement at the same position. A replacement position player is one with an EQA equal to (230/260) times the average EqA for that position.';
xxxpxxxxx1160583428_40 = 'Breakout Rate is the percent chance that a hitters EqR/27 or a pitchers EqERA will improve by at least 20% relative to the weighted average of his EqR/27 in his three previous seasons of performance. High breakout rates are indicative of upside risk.
The price of our national pastime, it turns out, is $40-$50 million, which is how much MasterCard is spending on their 'MasterCard Presents Major League Baseball Memorable Moments' campaign. I can't believe it's that low, considering they've shown those commercials so frequently that I get nauseous looking at that shot of Jackie Robinson. Keep in mind, Robinson is one of my favorite baseball players, one whose autobiography I wore down reading repeatedly.