The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Gordon Edes is writing about baseball

Do I pick on this guy too much? I can’t help it; he keeps turning out badly-researched, badly-written stuff like this. This time around it’s a list of underachievers and overachievers for 2009, and it’s not completely egregious, but there are a fair few weird choices. Let’s roll:

"There are no Yankees listed – they’re too well-heeled to be recognized as overachievers, and so far their big-ticket players lived up to the hype, though CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez are on notice for October."

Is the size of their payroll really relevant? I mean, if Melky Cabrera is putting up the best numbers of his career — which he is — doesn’t that still count as overachieving, no matter how much Derek Jeter gets paid? And as for their big ticket players living up to the hype, well, let’s take a gander at that pitching staff real quick:

C.C. Sabathia: 16-7, 206.1 IP, 3.40 ERA, 1.129 WHIP, 3.28 K/BB, 131 ERA+
A.J. Burnett: 11-9, 183 IP, 4.33 ERA, 1.399 WHIP, 1.92 K/BB, 103 ERA+
Andy Pettitte: 13-6, 178.1 IP, 4.14 ERA, 1.357 WHIP, 2.09 K/BB, 108 ERA+
Joba Chamberlain: 8-5, 139.2 IP, 4.45 ERA, 1.525 WHIP (!), 1.76 K/BB, 101 ERA+
Chien-Ming Wang: 1-6, 42 IP, 9.64 ERA, 2.024 WHIP (!!), 1.53 K/BB, 46 ERA+

Yep, looks like Gordon’s right. No underachieving going on there at all. Wang’s out for the season with a shoulder injury, but holy dick was he terrible before he went down. Burnett, Pettitte, and Chamberlain have been entirely mediocre this season, and two of them make an awful lot of money to post those numbers. Sabathia’s been okay, but not exactly great.

In case you’re wondering: the bullpen’s been pretty good, and Mariano Rivera has, as usual, been ridiculous.


Underachiever: Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs

2008 Rookie of the Year single-handedly revived myth of sophomore slump. Got to the point where manager Lou Piniella preferred playing Koyie Hill over Soto, who has more strikeouts (63) than hits (60) and over 50 fewer RBIs than last season."

Nice sentence structure, Tarzan. Gordie’s definition of "over 50" apparently differs from mine, since I checked a knowledge engine and it pointed out that 86 – 40 is not, in fact, "over 50." Also, hey, he’s had 46 fewer RBIs, but it looks like he’s also had 231 fewer plate appearances. You think they could be connected in some fashion? And, hey, look: the team OBP this season is .330, compared to last year’s .354. Fewer men on base to drive in? Could this also be a factor in Soto’s RBI decline?

All of which is not to say Soto hasn’t been terrible this year, because he has. But Gordie sure picks a weird way to demonstrate that. I mean, more strikeouts than hits? That’s the stat you want to hang your hat on? Then you must also think this guy and this guy are pretty awful baseball players, even though their grown-up stats look pretty damn good. No. The real answer is: Geo is .225 / .331 / .404 / .735 this season, compared to last season’s .285 / .364 / .504 / .868. 33 points of OBP and a hundred points of SLG is a fairly meaningful drop. His OPS+ has gone from 120 down to 88. He is underperforming this year.

"Overachiever: Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks

Venezuelan-born catcher was hitting .219 on June 16, and .340 in 68 games since, with a chance to finish the season with over .300. His 14 home runs, after just five last season, suggest he could develop 20-homer power."

I would like to remind everybody that not picking Joe Mauer for this is completely insane. Mauer is leading the AL in everything, and would be leading all of MLB if not for that pesky Pujols. He is putting up Pujols-worthy numbers at catcher. That is overachieving. Montero, on the other hand… well, he’s having a nice little season, I guess. The increase in HR is largely illusory, though; hey Gordon, you should probably remember when you’re gushing about an increase in a counting stat to check for a corresponding increase in PA. Montero has almost twice as many PA for this season as he had for last season, which is a lot of the reason why his HR are up. Note that two years ago he hit 10 HR in only 244 PA, which is a much bigger increase in HR% (he’s been 4.1%, 2.4%, 3.5% for the last three seasons). That doesn’t really suggest he’s "developing power." And batting average is dumb. The end.

"First base

Underachiever: Jason Giambi, Colorado Rockies

Giambi is enjoying a late-summer renaissance as a pinch-hitter for the Rockies, but his return to where it all began, Oakland, was a bust. Eleven home runs and a .199 average for $4 million made for a sour homecoming."

Doesn’t 11 HR in 328 PA qualify him to be an overachiever who might be developing 20-homer power, though? I thought it would. That notwithstanding, Gordon’s basically right, though, as usual, he citing dumb numbers as evidence. Giambi did stink up the joint in Oakland, where he OBP’d just .332, and slugged a miserable .364. He’s been excellent in Colorado, though, which is largely due to his insane BB/PA: in fifteen PA Giambi has walked six times. That’s enough to qualify him for the awesomeness title even if he had zero hits. Which he doesn’t.

"Overachiever: Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals

Two things worth counting in Kansas City: Zack Greinke’s strikeouts and Billy Butler’s doubles. Butler, 23, came into the weekend with 45 doubles. The last players his age (or younger) to hit that many: Hanley Ramirez (twice), Grady Sizemore, Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Zimmerman, Albert Pujols (twice), Scott Rolen, Alex Rodriguez, and Cal Ripken Jr. Looks like long-suffering Royals rooters have a keeper."

I… what? Doubles? Gordon, you’re going to mention exactly one stat here, and it’s doubles? You are a very odd man. Billy Butler has indeed hit a lot of doubles this season, but that’s… about all he’s done. His other stats are almost completely irrelevant. As a better choice, I might suggest Boston’s own Kevin Youkilis, who not long ago was predicted to be a nice utility player who would get on base a lot, and has since steadily developed into an absolute monster. But, in all seriousness, how did you not pick Kendry Morales? If anybody in baseball is massively overachieving right now, it’s him. And weren’t you nominating him for some crazy second-half MVP just the other day? I seem to remember that.

"Second base

Underachiever: Kaz Matsui, Houston Astros

The Astros still have a year left on the three-year, $16.5 million contract they gave Matsui, who has been on the DL four times in two years, doesn’t steal bases anymore, and has a .640 OPS, the lowest of anyone at his position with at least 400 plate appearances. Texans think his name means “dead wood” in Japanese."

Kaz Matsui is terrible. The contract the Astros gave him was terrible. Your joke about his name was also terrible. And… did you just cite OPS, Gordon? WTF? If you know about stats like OPS, why are all your previous entries filled up with RBIs and counting stats not compared to PA? And goddamn doubles? You are a very odd man.

Oh, incidentally: Matsui has stolen 18 bases so far this season. That puts him on-track to tie his second-highest number of stolen bases ever, which he set last season. You’re just making this shit up, aren’t you, Gordon. You didn’t even try to look that one up.

"Overachiever: Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays

No one doubted that Hill was a terrific player, but there were a lot of questions about how he would come back after missing most of last season with a concussion from colliding with teammate David Eckstein while chasing a pop-up. Hill has responded with 30-plus home runs, a near-.300 batting average, and has played every day. Now, if he could only learn to take a walk …"

Do I count as "someone?" Because I damn well did doubt that Aaron Hill was anything like terrific. And I still do. Gordon is right that his home runs are way the fuck up this season, but check out the increase in HR/FB: over the last five seasons, Hill has gone 1.7%, 2.5%, 6.3%, 2.2%, 12%. That suggests to me that somebody’s getting just a bit lucky this year. His XBH aren’t up across the board, and his line drive rate is pretty much spot-on his career average, so he’s had some lucky fly balls. So that’s all well and good. Gordon’s even leveling a decent criticism, which is to say that Hill’s walk rate is very, very low, and is hurting him rather badly.

That said, Milwaukee’s Rickie Weeks is a much better choice, since he’s actually been good at baseball this year, and doesn’t just have one weird freakish spike in one stat.

"Third base

Underachiever: Adrian Beltre, Seattle Mariners

They won’t miss Beltre in the Pacific Northwest, not when he forgot how to hit home runs after signing a five-year, $64 million deal with Seattle the winter after hitting 48 homers for the Dodgers. But the soon-to-be free agent left Mariners fans with an unforgettable lesson, one he failed to learn until he was sidelined with a bleeding testicle: Don’t play the hot corner without wearing a protective cup."

I don’t think Beltre "forgot" a damn thing; there’s no evidence that he ever knew in the first place. He had one freak season where he hit a ton of home runs, during which his HR/FB rate exhibited a huge spike, while his line drive rate and overall XBH% stayed pretty level. Wait, does that sound familiar? Like a player you might have heard about just recently? Hmm.

That notwithstanding, Beltre sucks. I don’t really have any complaints with his inclusion here.

"Overachiever: Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants

Kung Fu Panda gave us baseball’s best new nickname and most improbable cult hero, but don’t be fooled by the roly-poly: He came into the weekend with the highest batting average of all third basemen in the majors."

I agree that Sandoval is adorable. I also agree that he’s good. What I don’t agree with is that "highest batting average of all third basemen" is a non-stupid stat. If you’re going to hump his batting average anyhow, why didn’t you point out that Sandoval leads the NL in doubles, a stat you’re completely queer for? It’s like I don’t even know you anymore, Gordon.


Underachiever: J.J. Hardy, Milwaukee Brewers

An All-Star in 2007, Hardy was sent to the minors in August to make way for prospect Alcides Escobar. Back now that rosters have expanded, Hardy has hit just 11 home runs after a combined 50 in the last two seasons, and his .226 batting average on a $4.65 million salary virtually guarantees a change of address next season."

J.J. Hardy is not underachieving. He has always been shit. Yes, he went to the All-Star game in 2007, a year in which he had a staggering OPS+ of exactly 100. League average. This was six points better than his career average of 94. He’s not really underachieving, he’s just bad. Edgar Renteria, now; there’s an underachieving shortstop. .252 / .309 / .331 / .641? Yikes. 68 OPS+? Yikes.

"Overachiever: Jason Bartlett, Tampa Bay Rays

Rays manager Joe Maddon told people Bartlett was his MVP last year, but Bartlett took his game to a rarefied level this season. Only two shortstops boast an OPS over .900 &ndash Hanley Ramirez and Bartlett, whose .913 OPS is roughly 170 points higher than his career number."

Maddon was almost definitely just trying to keep his dudes motivated when he said that. The only other possible explanation is that he is an insane crazy man, because Bartlett was fucking terrible last year. He is the absolute best possible choice for overachiever in this category this year, however, since he’s been a beast. Gordon even gives a good explanation of why he’s overachieving, and doesn’t feel the need to mention that his RBIs have gone up or that he’s struck out more times than he’s scored runs or any other completely true but utterly meaningless facts. Good job, Gordie! We’ll make a capable baseball writer of you yet!

As long as you learn that you need a semicolon on the end of that &ndash, anyhow. I like the en dash as much as the next guy, but, really, you need to do it right.

"Left field

Underachiever: Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs

Sori was sorry for the Cubs. Maybe it was the knee, which Soriano says will require surgery that he’d prefer to have now rather than in the offseason, but by every measure this was his worst season in the big leagues, as he was forced out of his leadoff spot and dropped to sixth in the order. It gets worse: The Cubs still owe the 33-year-old Soriano $90 million over the next five seasons."

Yeah, Soriano’s been rotten this year. That’s completely true. I disagree that it’s been his worst season by any measure, though; his walks are slowly coming up, which gives me hope that he might be learning some patience. But other than that, yeah, he’s been lousy.

"Overachiever: Chris Coghlan, Marlins

Here’s the deal, kid. We’re going to play you in the outfield, and you’re going to bat leadoff. You haven’t played outfield since you were 12, and have never led off in pro ball? Good luck. So what does Coghlan do? Hits .385 in August, and set a team record for hits in a month with 47. In a pitcher-heavy field, he could win Rookie of the Year."

Coghlan’s been okay, but come on. August batting average? You really, really want to base your case on August batting average? And hits in a month? That’s just weird. I’m sorry, Gordon, but Seth Smith is the choice here. And I don’t really care about how long it’s been since he’s played the outfield or whether or not he’s ever led off before.

"Center field

Underachievers: Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox; Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays

When the season began, these guys played side by side. J.P. Ricciardi gave away Rios to the White Sox just to get out from under his $66 million contract; Rios has hit .157 in 23 games for Chicago, which fell out of the race. Wells, meanwhile, is openly scorned in Toronto, but for the nearly $100 million left on his contract, which jumps to over $20 million per annum in 2011, Wells can afford a thick skin."

Vernon Wells has one of the worst contracts in baseball. He’s never really been any good, and they’re paying him like A-Rod. It makes no sense at all, really. But I don’t know if he really counts as "underachieving," since he’s kind of always been lousy.

Alex Rios, on the other hand, also has one of the worst contracts in baseball. And now the White Sox have to put up with him and his -5 OPS+ (!). I won’t lie; I love that that happened. But who really cares about batting average? I mean, really, Gordon. You’ve heard about OPS, by your own admission. Why lean on the creaky old crutch of BA when you could point out the hilarious fact that Rios’ OPS — OPS, not OBP — with the White Sox is .374?

Oh, incidentally, the biggest underachiever in CF this year is Tampa’s B.J. Upton.

"Overachiever: Nyjer Morgan, Washington Nationals

Freed from the purgatory that is Pittsburgh, Morgan hit .351 in 49 games with the Nats until breaking his hand at the end of August, which will sideline him the rest of the season. The 29-year-old center-fielder, a spare part his first two seasons in Pittsburgh, is second in the league with 42 stolen bases."

If you’re going to start by bashing Pittsburgh for being "purgatory," you might want to avoid mentioning that the dude went to Washington. Just an idea I had. Also, wait, are you serious? You’re picking Morgan as overachiever because of his batting average in 49 games? What the dick kind of crazy moon nonsense is this? As much as it pains me to say so, the answer to this question is Juan Pierre, who, while still not exactly good, is undeniably overachieving.

"Right field

Underachiever: Brian Giles, San Diego Padres

Lots of competition here – Milton Bradley’s nightmarish season with the Cubs, Magglio Ordonez’s loss of power with the Tigers – but Giles clinches the spot with his .191 batting average, which ranks last among the 296 big leaguers with at least 250 plate appearances. For this, the Padres exercised his $9 million option last November? That’s not all: The two-time All-Star also was sued for millions this spring by a former girlfriend who alleged physical abuse."

I’m not going to lie: being sued by an ex-girlfriend is not a very good reason to be on a list of baseball players who have underachieved. It’s almost as bad as citing batting average. Yes, Giles has been complete shit this year, posting a line of .191 / .277 / .271 / .548. His OPS+ has come down from last season’s 136 all the way to 53. Nice cherry-pick there, by the way, Gordon, with that "at least 250 plate appearances" thing. Giles’ 2009 PA? 253.

Oh, and, incidentally? Milton Bradley’s season has not been "nightmarish," unless your definition of a "nightmare" involves a team-leading .384 OBP. He hasn’t been anything like as good as he normally is, and I could completely understand calling him an underachiever, but "nightmarish?" Relax, Gordie.

"Overachiever: Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates

A career minor leaguer who made a brief cameo with the Twins two years ago, Jones hit seven home runs in his first 12 games with the Pirates, and the first baseman hasn’t stopped bashing, his 19 home runs leading all rookies. His career arc suggests this can’t last, but to paraphrase Bogie, he’ll always have Pittsburgh."

Man, imagine how awesome this guy would be if he were in Washington instead. Oh, quick note: when you’re writing about an overachieving right fielder, it’s not the bestest idea to refer to him as "the first baseman."

"Designated hitter

Underachiever: Pat Burrell, Tampa Bay Rays

Burrell won a World Series ring with the Phillies and was thought to be the power bat that would send the Rays back to the Series this year, this time to win. Hasn’t worked out that way. Burrell hit three home runs in the first three months, and had just two singles during the eight-game losing streak that knocked the Rays out of the race in September. His .388 slugging percentage is tied with Ken Griffey Jr. for lowest among all DHs."

It’s true: Burrell’s power has been MIA this season. But you know what’s not a good piece of evidence that he’s underachieving? How many hits he had in an eight-game span. Watch your sample size there, Gordon.

Also, maybe I’m just a dick, but I’d call David Ortiz a bigger underachiever than Pat the Bat. They’ve been about equally awful this season, and Mr. Papi is usually a lot better than Mr. The Bat.

"Overachiever: Jason Kubel, Minnesota Twins

Kubel has posted career-best numbers across the board (.305 BA, 22 HRs, 81 RBIs). For that, he’ll be rewarded with the chance to hit outdoors in Minnesota for the first time next spring, as the Twins move into their new open-air ballpark. Let’s see how he hits with frost on his bat."

Don’t worry about Kubel’s hitting with frost on his bat — the opposing pitchers will be at a bigger disadvantage, since they’ll have frost on their balls </rimshot>. Jay Leno-quality jokes aside, knock off with the BA and the RBIs. Especially when they’re not very exciting. Kubel’s OBP has been a rather excellent .374 this year, which combines with his acceptable-but-not-great .529 SLG for a completely humdrum .904 OPS. From a DH, you’re probably after a little bit more than that, yeah? Well, you’re probably fucked; there’s been a massive power outage at DH this season. Kubel’s probably the best choice.

"Starting pitcher

Underachiever: Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs

Do you detect a pattern here? The Cubs are well represented on this squad, and Z ranks as the biggest cash-for-a-clunker on the club. In the second year of his five-year, $91.5 million extension, Zambrano so far has produced just eight wins while enhancing his reputation as emotionally unstable and professionally unreliable. The Cubs can’t afford to wait for him to grow up, but they’re stuck with him."

Whoa, one-upping me on the Leno jokes, are we Gordie? Cash for clunkers! That’s awesome. Topical. I mean, trade that rust bucket in, amirite? AMIRITE??

Oh, incidentally? Shut the fuck up about wins. Wins is the worst, dumbest, most worthless stat in all of baseball, except maybe saves. Z has been a little bit down this year, but, really, it’s only a little bit. He’s not even the biggest underachiever in his own rotation: that would be James Richard Harden. But, of course, Harden has one more win.

Finding the biggest underachiever at SP is pretty hard this year, though, so I can understand why you’d take a cheap shot at Z instead of actually thinking, or maybe doing any research. I mean, it’s not like there’s a five-time Cy Young winner with an identical record to Zambrano’s, but with an ERA that’s more than a run worse, an ERA+ almost thirty points lower, and a well-documented pattern of emotional and behavioral issues. Because that would be too easy.

"Overachiever: Randy Wolf, Los Angeles Dodgers

The two leading contenders for the National League Cy Young Award, Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals and Tim Lincecum, have made 17 and 18 starts, respectively, in which they have given up two or fewer earned runs. Wolf, a journeyman left-hander, has made 19 such starts, and the Dodgers are 19-11 when Joe Torre has given him the ball. At $5 million, he was a steal for GM Ned Colletti."

You like how Gordon uses the Dodgers’ record in games that Wolf starts here instead of using Wolf’s W-L? How much you want to bet that’s so he could avoid having to deal with the fact that his "overachiever" pick is 10-6, which doesn’t look much different from the 8-6 that makes Zambrano such a huge failure? Idiot.

Wolf is a decent choice, what with his 1.095 WHIP and his 130 ERA+. But there’s yet another Randy elsewhere in the league who’s probably a better choice. Though, I’m sorry, we’re all beating around the bush and we fucking know it, because there’s one clear, obvious, definite, undeniable winner in this category, and it is this gentleman here, who probably fell off Gordon’s radar on account of he plays for the worst team in the American League. But you see how he leads the AL in ERA, WHIP, HR/9, and shutouts? And you see how he leads all of MLB in ERA+? God damn, dude. This was the easiest choice on this whole list, and you whiffed.

"Relief pitcher

Underachiever: Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies

Perfect last season, perdition this year. Lidge’s 10 blown saves and a 7-plus ERA finally cost him his job as Phillies’ closer, at least temporarily, this month. An incomprehensible fall from Eden."

"Purgatory," "perdition," "Eden…" you go to Catholic school, did you, Gordon? It’s showing just a hair. Lidge is a great choice, but only dumb people care about saves, and everybody knows that ERA is a horribly unreliable stat for people who only pitch 50 innings. That said, Lidge is looking at a 1.800 WHIP, a K/BB that’s down from last season by almost 1, a K/9 that’s fallen by 2.5, a H/9 that’s gone up by 4, a HR/9 more than twice as high as his career average (and more than six times as high as his incredible 2008), and an ERA+ that’s fallen from last season’s 225 all the way to a miserable 62. He is the easy, obvious choice here.

"Overachiever: David Aardsma, Seattle Mariners

First-year GM Jack Zrudiencik made some savvy moves for the Mariners this season. One was having faith in bopper Russell Branyan; another was to give Aardsma a shot to close, which he parlayed into 34 saves, a 2.15 ERA, and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Should make for a nice payday ahead for a guy who’d been stuck in middle relief since starring at Rice."

Gordon. Seriously. Fuck off with your 34 saves. David Aardsma is the right choice — he’s having an incredible, Lidge-in-2008-like year, following his awful, Lidge-in-2009-like last year — but number of saves is a useless, arbitrary metric for showing that. K-Rod had 62 saves last year. Was he twice as good as Aardsma is this year? No, actually, he was worse. For fuck’s sake, man, Brad Lidge — your choice for underachiever, remember? — has 28 saves. Exactly six fewer. Those six saves are the difference? No. No they are not. Fuck off.

Incidentally, another good choice here is Angel Guzman, but Gordon ignored him because he’s not a closer.

September 13th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Nice box

I’ve played Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, and, lo, it was good.

If you played Curious Village, it’s fundamentally the same game; solve a whole bunch of brain teasers, and then unravel the mystery! Though, honestly, the mystery mainly unravels itself. The player’s role in the game is mainly to figure out how much money the shoe salesman lost and what the measurement of the internal angle inscribed inside this cube is. The atmosphere is pretty much the same as before (a bit darker, but not really by much; St. Mystere wasn’t the cheeriest of places), and follows the same weird Laytonisation of Victorian England and modern technology.

In re: Nyperold’s comments here, I’d like to address a few of those concerns. First off, yeah, the point where the entire plot of the game could have been havoided if one character had said one thing there was no real reason not to say was pretty annoying. But as for the Improbable Disguise, that didn’t bother me at all. I just chalked that up to another example of how the Layton games don’t quite take themselves seriously; both games have a bit of wry self-satire peeking in around the edges, kind of like a James Bond picture, and the Disguise just struck me as a part of that. The games are sort of one part Hercule Poirot, one part Indiana Jones, and one part Scooby-Doo any way you look at it.

One nice thing this time around is that there really aren’t any clunkers, puzzle-wise; there are a few that aren’t really up my alley, but they’re fine puzzles. Nothing as bizarre and lame as the cell phone candy bar puzzle from the first game. Though, hey, does anybody out there actually enjoy peg solitaire? Because I sure don’t. The difficulty level on the puzzles does seem to be a bit lower overall than it was in Curious Village, though; maybe I’m just more awesome now than I was then. Worthy of note is that Level 5 added to the puzzles the single feature I wanted more than anything in Curious Village: the ability to make notes and figures and tracings right there on the puzzle screen. Praise be.

Plotwise, the game is fairly standard. There’s a spooooooky mystery, and you have to unravel it, and Professor Layton is annoyingly noncommital on the subject of whether or not there’s any such a fucking thing as ghosts. Along the way, you’ll encounter plenty of twists and secondary mysteries that you’ll solve much much muchmuchmuch faster than Layton does, so you’ll get the opportunity to heckle the game for being dense, which is always fun; though, this time around, there’s at least one twist that I genuinely did not see coming. And then you’ll get your odd, Scooby-Doo resolution where you’ll be all "things do not work that way" but everybody in the game world is weirdly accepting of it. You know, just like in Curious Village.

Oh, one final note for those World of Warcraft fans out there: Yogg-Saron does not appear in this game, though you’d be forgiven for thinking he might. You’ll know what I mean.

September 13th, 2009 Posted by | Games | no comments

Dol Wot Jon?

You heard about the Dol Rune Conspiracy? It’s one of the lamest trolling attempts I’ve ever seen in my life. It was a long dippy ghost story of a forum post aiming to convince people that Diablo 3 would be coming out this past Wednesday. Well, it’s Friday, and there’s no Diablo 3, so bang goes that idea.

I mean, it was obviously a really dumb conspiracy troll in the first place. Apparently a bunch of people took that shit seriously, though, which got me thinking about all the other supposed super-secrets buried in video games that you can only find through similarly ridiculous methods. The first thing that came to mind, of course, was the secret cow level from the original Diablo. You see the same combination of bizarre and senseless rituals that reveal the "secret?"

The best example, for my money, was the conspiracy to suppress the fact that Luigi is in Super Mario 64. People were positively convinced that there was some way, some combination of crazy things that you could do, that would unlock Luigi as a playable character. The key to almost all of them was this statue. According to the conspiracy fans, that plaque says “L is real 2401.” The L is taken to mean "Luigi" (probably the sanest part of the entire theory, since any time you see an L all by itself in a Mario game it honestly does probably mean Luigi), and the "is real" is a Paul-is-dead-style hint to set the real fans on the right track (but, seriously, Paul, would you fucking die already?). As for the 2401, well, nobody has the faintest idea what that means. Some people allege it’s the release date of Paper Mario in the US, which, while almost true, is entirely meaningless and not something Nintendo would have known when Mario 64 was in production anyhow. I mean, befitting the Paul-is-dead-ery of the whole thing, you can’t really tell that statue says "L is real 2401" unless somebody tells you it does anyhow, hey?

Every once in a while game developers throw us for a loop and put in one of these things that turns out to be true, though. The Hylian Loach is real. The Insomniac Museum is real (twice!). But most of the time, if you hear a complex explanation of how to access a secret, it’s bullshit. That’s especially true if it involves multiplying together the numerical values of all the bonuses on an item, comparing it to the HP of a boss from an entirely different game, and then converting a hex value into ASCII.

September 11th, 2009 Posted by | Games | 2 comments

Hey hey hey

Dave asked me the rhetorical question earlier today "why would anybody ever pitch to Albert Pujols?" I’m sure he didn’t really expect an answer, but I’m bored, so I’m going to answer it anyhow. You’re welcome.

In 2004, the San Fransisco Giants won 91 games, scoring a mildly outrageous 850 runs (second in the NL to the Fatinals, who scored 855). The Fatinals that year had Pujols, but they also had Jim Edmonds’ best year (in which he was honest-to-god almost as good as Pujols), Scott Rolen’s best year (which wasn’t behind by a lot), and everybody else on the team (except the catcher) very near league average offensively. They hit 168 HR that were not by Albert Pujols.

The 2004 San Fransisco Giants had Barry Bonds. They had J.T. Snow’s best year, which was good, but didn’t compare to what Edmonds and Rolen did in Fat Louis. Everybody else on the team was near league average. The Giants hit 141 HR that were not by Barry Bonds. A few things to note about Barry Bonds that year. He walked 232 times. He scored 129 runs — precisely six runs fewer than he had hits. A quick survey of his teammates indicates that the average rate that the other players came home per time they got a hit was almost exactly 1/2 (51%), which was just about spot-on the league average. Barry Bonds’ was 96%. He walked 232 times.

Now, historical precedent aside, let’s talk about the smartness of intentionally walking Fat Albert himself. First things first — let’s look at the number of times Pujols does something other than walk. So far this year, he’s had 601 plate appearances, and he’s walked a major-league leading 104 times. That’s 497 plate appearances that have not resulted in a walk. Pujols has 159 hits, which means that if you don’t walk him, he’ll make an out 69% of the time. Pujols has 83 XBH, which is very very good, but means that he has an XBH% when not walking of only 16.7%. If you don’t walk Pujols, he’s 69% likely to make an out, and only 16.7% likely to accomplish anything more dangerous than the one base you’d give him anyway if you walked him. That’s the raw data. Let’s look at situations.

It is insane to walk Pujols with the bases empty and no outs — looking at this same handy chart, we can see the big jump in expected runs with a man on first and nobody out. That’s extreme one. On the other end of the spectrum would be runners on second and third with two outs; walking him there seems a lot more sensible, no? Careful; there’s an elephant in the room we’ve been ignoring, and that elephant’s name is Matthew Thomas Holliday, who, for the half-season he’s spent with Fat Louis, has been even better than Pujols, believe it or not. Holliday is slugging .706 with Fat Louis. There are nineteen non-pitchers in MLB right now who have enough AB to qualify for the batting title who have an OPS lower than that. Matt Holliday’s SLG is higher than the OPS of, among others:

B.J. Upton
Rafael Furcal
Alex Rios
Dummy Rollins
Jeff Francoeur
Aubrey Huff

You sure you want to put an extra man on base to face that?

I might agree that it’s a good idea to IBB Pujols in the specific situation that you have a runner on third, two outs, you’re leading by one, and it’s the ninth inning. Then you also IBB Holliday and pitch to whichever scrub is hitting behind him (Ryan Ludwick? Skip Schumaker? Whoever it is, he sucks, because this is a team that is relying on Pujols and Holliday for almost literally all of its offense). In most situations, though, I have to say you’re better off going for your 69% chance of getting Pujols out.

Unless you’re Kevin Gregg. But, in that case, you’ll probably walk him whether you mean to or not, since you can’t find the fucking plate.

September 9th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | 2 comments

Video game morality

Consider the following scenario. A person — we’ll call him X — rounds up a posse and breaks into the home of another person, whom we will call Y. He believes that Y has committed a crime, and, being a rather lawless and violent sort, intends to take it upon himself to act as judge, jury, and executioner. Upon confronting Y, it becomes clear that the crime in question was in fact committed by a third party, and that Y is innocent. X, however, does not care; he and his posse proceed to murder Y in punishment for a crime he did not commit, even after Y attempted repeatedly to defuse the situation without resorting to violence. In the real world, we would probably consider X to be, at the very least, a complete shitheel, and probably he’s the type of person we’d hope — in vain! — that Wyatt Earp would eventually come along to rid us of. In video games, of course, he’s the good guy, and Y is the bad guy. And this has nothing at all to do with anything they say or do, and everything to do with crystals.

See, we know X is the good guy because he wants to protect some crystals. And we know Y is the bad guy because he wants to exploit the crystals. And we know the crystals are good because, hey, this is a video game. In a video game, it doesn’t matter what you do to other sentient beings or how much you kill them, just so long as you’re doing your part to help crystals. It’s enough to make one wonder if the entire video game industry is secretly bankrolled by Swarovski.

Crystals always have magic powers in video games. Usually they’re the sort of thing where you collect them all and then you get to make a wish. It’s important to note, however, that anybody who ever attempts to collect and use the crystals is automatically a bad guy. Good guys want to keep them separate and guard them, for some reason that very likely involves the laws of succession in weird forms of video game government.

Governments in video games are always either explicitly good and noble or evil and corrupt. Kings are generally good, princes are good, and princesses are very good. On the other hand, emperors are always bad, and dukes are even worse. There is no reason to have a duke in a video game if he isn’t working to undermine the rightful rule of the king. Queens are a toss-up; they might be good or bad, but, either way, they’re being used as pawns by aliens. If a video game society has an elected body of representatives, it will either be all-male, in which case it is presented as bureaucratic and incompetent, or it will be all-female, in which case they are super-enlightened politically-correct sages who could solve all the world’s problems if they felt like it. It will also have indoor waterfalls and gardens.

If the government in a video game is made up of good guys — for example, if they’re one of the governments responsible for protecting crystals — then doing whatever the government tells you is automatically good, no matter what it is. If we need something to keep the crystal safe, but some other dude has it, and he’s off in a cave someplace not bothering anybody, well, go murder him and steal his stuff. It’s a good act, and you’re a good guy!

What I’m getting at is that video games are fucked up. And, yes, the example I opened with is a real situation in a real video game.

September 9th, 2009 Posted by | Games | 3 comments

Seth Smith does his job

The Rockies are down by two, they have men on first and second with nobody out, and they have Seth Smith bunt. Fuck the heck? Seth Smith with his 148 OPS+ is instructed to fucking bunt?

As expected, he made an out, and the idiot announcers declared that the Rockies now have two chances to tie the game. Well thank god for that bunt, or they’d have three chances.

Let’s make this short and sweet. According to the very first run expectancy matrix I found on Google, with runners on first and second with nobody out, you will score an average of 1.573 runs. With runners on second and third with one out, you will score an average of 1.467 runs. Wasting a batter that good on a bunt in that position just so you can give up an extra out and lower your expected number of runs is dumb, dumb, dumb.

And, yes, I realise the Rockies scored those runners. But they very likely would have scored anyhow, and the Rockies would have had an extra out with which they could maybe like score some more runs. Do you see?

Comedy addendum: One inning later, the Reds had men on first and second with no outs, and the announcers — who couldn’t praise the Smith bunt enough — had the lack of insight to talk about how foolish it would be for the inferior Jonny Gomes to bunt in that situation. Idiots.

September 7th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

A quick note

The Rockies announcers just stated that the most important stat for a hitter is runs, because "that’s what wins the game." Not stinky RBIs, but stinkier-still runs. Never mind that the hitter has almost no control over whether or not he scores a run after he gets on base; it’s still all that matters. Also fuck getting on base — your leadoff hitter needs to have the peculiar quality of getting driven in a lot. Because that’s something he does, and has nothing to do with the gentlemen attempting to hit the ball while he’s on the bases.

So when you’re ranking leadoff hitters, the order of precedence is:

1) Runs
2) World Championships won
3) Hustle
4) Lack of clogging up the basepaths
One million) VORP

Addendum: The last several at-bats I’ve been watching via the left-field camera, which seemed a little odd to me. Then the announcers mentioned that the reason for that was that it was the only camera still working for some reason, but they’d get that fixed soon because they have a really great AV crew. About a minute after that, in the middle of Giambi’s third PA, suddenly the “ commerical break” screen pops up. And stays up. Good job fixing those other cameras, you goofs.

September 6th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | 2 comments

Wild adventure builds character

Hey, Majesty 2 is coming out in two weeks? Didn’t that get cancelled like seven years ago?

Well, hey, I was a big fan of the original Majesty, so I can’t complain. Majesty, for those who never played it, was an RTS very much in the old Warcraft vein, but without the picky micromanagement — you can’t control the units directly, so clearly you never have to manage a hundred of them at the same time. Instead, you provide economic incentives for them, and they do their own thing on their own. It was kind of a new idea, and it was refreshing and fun. The art and music were bright and cheery, too; nice to play a fantasy game that wasn’t entirely based on book five of Lord of the Rings. So I liked it; it was easy to play (though not necessarily easy to win), it was cheerful, it was fun, and an acquaintance of mine was in the voice cast, which makes me laugh every time I hear the rangers speak.

September 5th, 2009 Posted by | Games | no comments

Free agent classification

Jeff Passan has a column up about the bizarre and eldritch way free agents are classified in baseball. Normally I like Jeff Passan, and he’s fine here too — he’s pretty much on the money with most of what he says. Really, I just wanted to post this so I could poke fun at his very first sentence, where he complains that the free agent rankings say Josh Willingham is better than Ryan Howard. I get what you’re saying, Jeff, and you’re pretty much right; I just think it’s funny that, going by the numbers, this year’s Josh Willingham model is in fact better than this year’s Ryan Howard. Not by a lot — 146 to 134 OPS+, to use one easy stat — but better is better. And Willingham is a corner outfielder, where his defense is slightly more valuable than Howard’s 1B.

September 5th, 2009 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

We are the champions

Champions Online is out, and I must confess a bit of interest in it. Sooner or later they’ll get around to giving out free trials like civilised games do, and then I’ll give it a whack.

I notice, though, browsing the Steam listing, some amount of shenanigans. Take a look at this:

Over 160 Steam achievements!

From the splash on the Steam front page. Nothing unusual so far. Do people really care how many hachieves there are?

But then we notice this once we click through to the listing:

75 Steam achievements?

So, wait a minute. 75 !> 160. But it says I can view the list, right? So I do. And the list starts with this:

184 achievements?

Now, 184 > 160. I can handle that. Though why the splash didn’t goddamn say 184 instead of "over 160" I cannot say. But where the hell does 75 enter this equation? The internet’s magical answering machine was less helpful here. So it is a mystery.

Oh, one other thing:


While supplies last? Fuck the heck?

September 3rd, 2009 Posted by | Games | no comments