Friday, January 6, 2017

Greg Jelks


There are certain pieces of news that affect you more than you think they would or should.

Learning that Greg Jelks passed away today was one of those instances.


When the Defensive Specialist received notification that Jelks had passed this morning, the day took on a strange opaqueness, full of feelings of mortality, confusion and sadness. Sure, as one ages, the loss of those in your sphere takes on added weight because you begin to realise that you are not immortal. But why did the Defensive Specialist feel so dented?

Upon reflection it was because the man was part of the fabric of Western Australian and Australian baseball. It would be so simple to regurgitate the numbers to highlight how good he was. But it was his PRESENCE that made him stand out from the crowd. Unlike many other imports that graced our shores, Greg Jelks stuck around. Year after year, he was the guy you showed up to see. It was this aura that outshone just the numbers.

The man was beast mode before any of us knew what beast mode was. He was swag before swag was a thing.

As a youngster, he was the dude that only buttoned two buttons on his jersey, wore high tops (when wearing high tops with pants that were too short was kind of cool), splashed the gold chains and hit the angriest fucking line drives you’ve ever seen! His home run trots seemed like they took 35 minutes and the way he fielded ground balls was smoother than soft served ice cream.

As the Defensive Specialist got a little older, Greg Jelks became a team mate. He still hit the angriest fucking line drives you’ve ever seen but it also became apparent that he was a pretty good team mate too. He was still as cool as they come, but also a great teacher who wanted to help you get better. As strange as this may be for some of you to believe, there was a time when the Defensive Specialist was struggling at the plate, only to have Jelks say “move your hands back a little” after one particularly tough at bat. The next time up the Defensive Specialist went big fly. Maybe the advice worked, maybe it was luck – more likely it was the confidence that came with having a dude with that much gravitas pay attention to your swing and take the time to share his thoughts.

Today was spent reflecting on the impact Greg had on the baseball community. So many people shared their memories of nights spent watching him dominate the ABL. So many more told stories of him showing up at teeball clinics, training sessions and coaching clinics.


Rest in Peace Greg Jelks, you impacted the game in this country both on and off the field.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Against All Odds


By Tom Fee

Defensive Specialist's note: Due to technical issues with the Deep in the Hole super computer, this article comes a day late - apologies


Not sure about you, but I’m always glued to coolstandings.com pretty much from day one of any MLB season.

It might be because I’m a probability nerd, but it’s always amazing to see how teams consistently defy the odds and reach the playoffs out of no-where.

Who can forget Boston’s 2011 epic collapse? On the 3rd of September 2011 Cool Standings gave the Red Sox a 99.6% chance of making the playoffs thanks to their nine game lead over Tampa Bay with only a month to play. Even after an unlikely comeback to tie with the Sox, the Rays looked done in a must win game 162, facing a 7-0 deficit in the 7th inning to the Yankees while the Red Sox held a late 3-2 over the Orioles.

Against all odds, the Rays pulled back the most unlikely comeback, within the most unlikely comeback.

  • The Red Sox had just a 0.3 percent chance of failing to make the playoffs on Sept. 3
  • The Rays had just a 0.3 percent chance of coming back after trailing 7-0 with two innings to play.
  • The Red Sox had only about a 2 percent chance of losing their game against Baltimore, when the Orioles were down to their last strike.
  • The Rays had about a 2 percent chance of winning in the bottom of the 9th, with Johnson also down to his last strike.

Multiply those four probabilities together, and you get a combined probability of about one chance in 278 million of all these events coming together in quite this way.

With that, the ABL’s number-crunchers face a tough task of putting five teams into three places for the coming weekend. No percentage odds exist on the ABL website, and the reason behind this is that it’s actually quite time consuming to calculate, especially when considering tiebreaker scenarios! But with little much of a life (ie. A boring job) I’ve managed to perform a feat almost as impressive as the Ray’s 2011 comeback and present two scenarios for you to consider.

Not being an employee of Fan Graphs or Cool Standings, I am not actually aware of how these odds are calculated. A decent approximation would be to assume each game is equivalent to a coin flip, or a 50% chance to go either way. Since the league’s best sides sit on a 57% winning percentage, I thought this wouldn’t be too bad.

In each series there is a possibility of 5 results ie:
Home Sweep
Away Sweep
Split
3-1 Win to Home Side
3-1 win to the away side

For out three series this weekend we are given five different possibilities, leaving us with 35 = 125 possible different scenarios to consider at the end of the season.

Running these possibilities though my computer program and giving each team a 50% chance of winning spits out the following playoff chances:

Sydney
98%
Canberra
97%
Brisbane
84%
Perth
16%
Adelaide
5%

Being a Heat fan, I wasn’t too pleased with the 16% chance of having the ability to defend the Claxton Shield in the playoffs, so I thought I would use each team’s current win/loss records to skew the results. After all, Brisbane faces a much tougher task in facing Sydney away from home than the Heat have facing the cellar dwellers Melbourne Aces on their home patch.

Canberra
98%
Sydney
98%
Brisbane
77%
Perth
24%
Adelaide
3%

While I find a 24% chance a bit more palatable, it doesn’t tell the full story. Since I can’t tell my computer “by the way, Travis Blackley is pitching this weekend, and the Heat’s win loss record is skewed by the fact they were in form at the start of the season but currently resemble the Red Sox circa September 2011.”

Either way, even if I take a middle ground and give the Heat a 20% chance of winning, it’s still quite a few million times more likely than the Rays 2011 comeback, so I might as well book my flight over east for the Championship Series now!

Other interesting tid-bits:
  • There is a 0.39% chance of a 4 way tie for first, with Perth, Canberra, Brisbane and Sydney on 25 games each. In this scenario the ABL will utilise tiebreakers and declare Brisbane to take first place and Perth to be eliminated.

MEL
0
PER
4
CAN
1
ADE
3
BRI
3
SYD
1

  • Canberra holds the all-important tiebreaker over Sydney thanks to their controversial bang-bang play at the plate in the 12th inning on Sunday. To the eye the play looked out, but slo-mo replays suggest the foot *might* have been off the bag. Sydney certainly didn’t think so, and losing the tiebreaker gives Canberra a much better chance of taking first and hosting the ABLCS.

The moment the ball was caught. With the bases loaded, all Sox catcher Geoffrey Klein needs to do is put his foot on the plate!

Instead Klein mistakenly goes for the tag! Ryan Stovall beats the tag (which is irrelevant), but perhaps was enough to confuse the umpire on his call of whether Klein got his foot on the plate in time.

  • The ABL’s tiebreaker rules favour teams who do well against the top teams and punish teams who fail. Thanks to Canberra being the most likely top-ranked team, the Heat lose almost any tiebreak scenario thanks to their 2-6 record against the Cavalry, while the Bandits win almost every tiebreaker thanks to their 7-4 record against the Cavs.
  • The ABL’s tiebreaker rules are kind of ridiculous but necessary with a tight schedule preventing one-game playoffs. The in some cases the tiebreaker ruling will punish or reward teams based on results of games that had absolutely no bearing on that specific team. There is a 0.39% chance of the below results occurring and will result in a deadlock for the first five places.

MEL
1
PER
3
CAN
0
ADE
4
BRI
3
SYD
1

Brisbane 25 Wins
Sydney 25 Wins
Canberra 24 Wins
Perth 24 Wins
Adelaide 24 Wins

Brisbane and Sydney cannot be separated at the top thanks to a tied season record of four wins each. Instead top place will be determined by who has the best record against the 3rd place team – which cannot be determined due to a 3-way tie for 3rd!

Taking the season records between Canberra, Perth and Adelaide we get

Canberra 9-7
Perth 9-10
Adelaide 9-10

With Canberra taking the tiebreaker for 3rd with their superior record against Perth and Adelaide, Brisbane is deemed to be the host of the ABL Championship Series over Sydney thanks to their superior record against Canberra who had the better records against Perth and Adelaide!

Confused? We are - but we shouldn’t be. We thought the last season’s 4-way tie debacle was bad enough, but this season’s could be just as confusing. Fortunately the punished teams from last year (Brisbane & Canberra) look to gain the most in the tiebreakers this year. With the top three teams going through in a six team division, it seems that the past two years are not an aberration, and calculating hundreds of different scenarios during the final week will become some kind of late-January tradition.

Flawed system or not, expect some agonisingly close baseball over this weekend, and don’t blame the commentators when they get confused!