Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bad Stats in football

Here is a really good article on some bad stats that are used in football and why people, specifically the media, like to use them.

A few that get on my nerves:

Official NFL passer rating

It so overvalues completion percentage that a completion that loses yards in any amount is rated at 79.2. Hitting 10 of 10 and losing 67 yards (or for that matter of 999 yards) is rated the same as hitting 5 of 10 for a gain of 67 yards: 79.2. If the 5-of-10 QB gains only 66 yards he has the lower of the two ratings in spite of doing 13.3 yards per attempt better. A quarter of the league's starting QBs had ratings below 79 this year -- they could have improved their ratings by throwing more passes that lost yards.

This should be an easy fix. People just want the one number as a proxy for performance, which I think why this stat is so popular. It shouldn't be a big deal to change it and give people a better measure.

QB win-loss record. I just saw a major sports web site going on in big headlines about "Tom Brady is 14-4 in the playoffs, a staggering .778..." Of course he's not, the Patriots with him at QB are 14-5 now. Football is a team game, not a "punt, pass and kick" competition minus punting and kicking.

Here's a ballpark estimate of the QB's contribution to team strength: Of the 53 players on a roster say 36 significantly contribute in a game. Credit each of the 22 starters with contributing a "share" of the team's strength, and each of the other 14 a half-share, 29 shares total. Now say the QB is worth four other starters (a lot) so he gets three extra shares. The QB's four shares of 32 is 12.5%. (In contrast, sabermetricians say the pitcher is 37% of baseball.)

Or to be empirically objective, did a study on what a starting QB is worth and found the answer to be on average 2.3 points more than a backup QB. With about 22 points scored per game on average, that's about 10.5% of team strength. Football really is a team game.

This one is the worst. Yes QB is the most important position on the field. But you can't even attribute the entire output of the offense to the position. So why also attribute the output of the defense to him as well considering he isn't even on the field with the defense?

This stat is more about the media and people being lazy than wanting a simple number they can use.

Clutch performance history. During the Jets-Colts playoff game, how many times did Chris Collingsworth proclaim, "The Colts have the greatest clutch kicker of all, Adam Vinatieri, who's made more big playoff kicks than anyone and never misses when it counts"?

In the 2004 Super Bowl Vinatieri missed from 31 and 36 before "winning" the game with a clutch last-moment 41-yarder. Sure, he's hit more big playoff field goals than anyone else -- because he's played for the Patriots and Colts for 15 years and been in far more playoff games than any other kicker.

I might add that Adam's famous partner in super-clutchness, Tom Brady, who led the last-minute drive to set up Adam for that Super Bowl-winning field goal, did so a few minutes after throwing a 4th-quarter interception on the Carolina 9-yard line that the Panthers took back for a TD -- a 10-to-14 point swing. And for that matter, Joe Montana, before he led the great last-minute drive that finished in "The Catch" and cemented his reputation as maybe the greatest clucth QB ever, had thrown three interceptions. People only remember the last play.

Those are a few of the stats he tackles in the article. I think he is correct about why the media push the stats and why fans like them. Thankfully there are sites like Advanced NFL Stats and Pro-football-reference that put the effort in trying to better measure what happens on the football field.

State of the Union

I watched but I didn't pay close attention. The only president it gave a significant bump in approval rating to is Clinton, and that can be linked to the Monika Lewinsky story beginning. So it doesn't matter on that front.

I highly doubt that just mentioning a policy proposal in the SOTU makes it much more likely to pass. Its not like he mentioned anything new. Everyone pretty much knows what policies he wants to pass.

It also sends the press into a frenzy trying to cover and analyze every detail of a relatively meaningless speech. Thankfully I've weened myself off of watching any coverage of the speech. Since there is no way to delve sufficiently deeply into any policies he proposed on tv I'm going to assume the coverage sucked and was a waste of time.

The only way in which I think the speech was important was that it could be a signaling tool used by the president. He probably wasn't going to spend much time on something he really didn't care about. Or he didn't mention something like global warming because its politically contentious and the likelihood of any policy getting passed by a Rep House is slim to none.

But again, I think fairly attentive politicians and citizens know what Obama is likely to want to try and get done legislatively this year. And I doubt his speech provided any surprises.

The best thing to come out of the speech was the ability of political scientists to use it as a proxy for Obama's policy preferences. So maybe it wasn't all that wasteful.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The latest TDKR news

It has been confirmed that Tom Hardy has been cast as Bane and Anne Hathaway has been cast as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises.

I only know Tom Hardy from Inception. So I'll take people's word that he is a good actor. Plus I almost completely trust Christopher Nolan. But while I'm sure Hardy will be fine, its more difficult to envision what Bane will be like.

I think, and hope, we can assume it won't be the Bane of Batman and Robin. That character was as bland as that movie was ridiculous. Based on what I've read about Bane I think Nolan will use the fact that Bane is a smart, strong, and determined person and pretty much ignore the other aspects of the character.

Anne Hathaway should also be good as Selina Kyle, and presumably Catwoman. I think Anne is a very sexy woman, but not just because of physical attributes (not that she isn't pretty). She carries herself in a confident manner. She has a very pretty smile that doesn't seem forced. She just has a quality about her that makes her appealing beyond her physicality.

And I think that will be a good thing for the character. I'm not familiar with the Catwoman of the comics. The only book I've read with her as a character is Hush, in which she is Batman's love interest. But I think Anne's quality that I have attempted to define is something that is important if she is to be Bruce/Batman's love interest in TDKR. Bruce is a good looking billionaire who can probably have any woman he wants. He's also a smart, noble, somewhat disturbed man who would probably have a hard time having a relationship with a "normal" woman.

In short, Batman is unique, thus he will be attracted to someone who is unique. And I think Anne as Selina will fit that billing nicely.

I'll keep this post about the casting news since I'm really excited about this movie and want to discuss it in the future. TDK was on TNT this weekend and it got me thinking about how they will carry over what happened in that movie to the new one. Perhaps I'll delve into that in a later post.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Why I should replace Keith Olbermann

MSNBC has fired Keith Olbermann, their highest rated pundit. Olby was their liberal version of Bill O'Reilly on FoxNews. They both have that domineering personality that served to deliver their ideology in bold, straight forward manners and to piss off people of the opposing ideology. They really didn't do much except to make people feel better about their own views.

That's fine to a certain extent. And it certainly works for the companies they work for since they are the most popular for their respective networks. But even though I can use some confirmation bias every once in a while I grew tired of Olby. And knowing how uniformed a lot of the country is about even basic things I think its more important to inform people than to simply shout in order to make people feel better.

So I'm offering to do Keith's job for half the price, even less. I actually have the credentials to talk about politics since I got my masters degree in political science. I'm a liberal who can vouch for liberal causes all the while informing and trying to convince people, and I can do so without being an asshole about it. And I'm a good looking 26 year old guy who can bring in a female audience. And since most women are liberals that will be a natural relationship.

The ball is in your court MSNBC. Not only can I bring youthful, credible expertise to your network. I can do it for less the cost. And hopefully I could also provide people with a good source of information that will lead them to being better informed about politics and thus become better democratic citizens.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The effect of being uniformed on policy

Matt Yglesias linked to this article in which a Republican argues for repealing the ACA:

"The American people don't want it. It's personal.

"Here's my story, two days ago, I was in San Antonio, Texas, and my mother had a large tumor removed from her head. They wheeled her away at 7:20 in the morning, and by noon, I was talking to her along with the rest of our family. It proved benign, thanks to a lot of prayers and good doctors at the Methodist hospital in San Antonio. My mother's fine. I'm not sure that would be the outcome in Canada, the U.K., or anywhere in Europe.

"No disrespect to our President, but when it comes to the health of my mother, I don't want this President or any President or his bureaucrat or commissions making decisions for my loved ones. Let's repeal it today, replace it tomorrow."

As Yglesias points out, the representative is 53 years old, which means that his mother is on Medicare. Since Medicare is gov't provided health care Rep. Hensarling is unknowingly praising the performance of the gov't in providing health care to his mother while at the same time exaggerating what the ACA does and then criticizing that exaggeration by saying that the gov't shouldn't provide health care to people.

And apparently no other country in the world treats cancer. If this was a fact you would think we would have a bigger immigration "problem" than we already have.

This fundamental misunderstanding or intentional lying about what current policy is and what policy proposals are being discussed and advocated makes it difficult to solve problems. Ronald Reagan and conservatives hated Medicare when it was first enacted. Now they are criticizing Democrats for cutting spending for Medicare and praising how well it works without acknowledging that the gov't runs it.

So if Democrats say, hey, everyone seems to really like Medicare, even Republicans. Maybe we should extend Medicare to more people, or even everyone. Once they make that argument Republicans say that's socialism and we can't have gov't bureaucrats making decisions on whether grandma and your children can live or not.

Another example is the individual mandate. Democrats thought the individual mandate that Republicans were proposing in the 90s and that Mitt Romney helped implement in Massachusetts would be a good thing to do. The second Democrats put it in the ACA Republicans argue that its unconstitutional.

If Democrats do propose something that isn't unconstitutional or socialist the argument then turns to its cost. If it increases the deficit by a penny its too expensive and it will bankrupt the country. But the newly minted fiscal hawk of the GOP, Paul Ryan, proposes massive cuts to Medicare as a way to balance the budget and he is the new hero.

What are Democrats supposed to do when confronted with this? When they passed the ACA they had 60 votes in the Senate. So they didn't need to work with Republicans to reform health care. But 60 seats is extremely difficult to obtain and we will probably be forced to have the two parties work together in order to achieve anything for a while.

Until Republicans gain a majority in the Senate or when they stop misunderstanding (or flat out lying about) policy proposals the big problems facing our country won't get solved. I guess they are lucky that the American people are even less informed than they are. Doesn't that make you proud of the state of our democracy?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Eric Cantor is right

The Senate does kind of suck.

Cantor and his fellow Reps have passed their repeal of the ACA in the House. And now it moves on to the Senate where he isn't even sure Harry Reid and the Dems will give it a vote. I'm too tired to look up the link and find his quote. But Cantor says something along the lines of the people deserve to have the vote.

Like all politicians he only says that because its his policy preference in question. But in general I agree that if you can manage to pass something in the House the Senate should take a good look at it and probably give it a vote.

The problem is that both Eric Cantor and myself are pretty loyal partisans. I don't want to see his repeal of the ACA get close to passing the Senate any more than he wanted the original ACA to get a vote. Though, he thinks it kills jobs and imposes tyranny on Americas (as does everything Reps disagree with) while I think repealing it just means that about 30 million less people will get health insurance who would have had it, people with pre existing conditions will go back to being denied insurance, and we will be back to where we started in 2008.

But those clear differences are why there are rules and procedures like the filibuster in the Senate. Both parties know they won't hold a majority forever. Thus they want some sort of safeguard against the other party passing a lot of crazy legislation.

While Dems had 59 votes I really wished there wasn't a filibuster that prevented more liberal policies to be put in the ACA. And I wanted the Senate to take on carbon emissions through cap and trade. But Reid knew he didn't have votes to break a filibuster. But if Reps gain a majority in 2012 I'll be happy that the filibuster will make it difficult to pass legislation on stuff like immigration, abortion, gay rights, religious stuff, more tax cuts for rich people, etc.

So while Eric Cantor and the rest of the Republican party will spend the next two years whining about the Senate don't look for the Reps in the Senate to do much about it. And don't look for quotes from Cantor complaining about the Senate over the past two years when Reps were setting a record for number of filibusters used.

I don't think the founders wanted to require 60 votes to pass things through the Senate. But they did want to guard against too much change too quickly. And while I have my problems with the filibuster it certainly seems to keep the pendulum of American public policy swinging rather shortly and slowly.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Debate on repealing the ACA

From Johnathan Bernstein:

What's in here? $500 billion cut to Medicare for our seniors. What else is in here? $500 billion of tax increases. What else is in here? Six years of benefits for ten years of costs. What else is in here? A new entitlement program. Our nation is broke. It is broke because of our entitlement program, and this law added a new entitlement. (My transcription).

I haven't watched this like Johnathan has. But I assume the GOP is saying these things while keeping a straight face. And for that I applaud them because that's quite the double talk separated by just a few sentences.

Why?, you ask. Well despite GOP logic Medicare didn't all of the sudden cease being an entitlement. Its single payer health care for people over 65. And the GOP has spent the past two years telling us that single payer health care is socialism and it will destroy America.

So they want to repeal the less socialist version of health care that is the ACA (no single payer) because its taking money away from the more socialist version of health care that we give to old people as an entitlement for being old.

Of course the real problem the GOP has with the ACA is the tax increases. Again you might ask, why is that? Well the tax increases are on expensive health insurance plans. Most of the people buying those plans are rich people. And not raising taxes on rich people is the core policy agenda of the GOP.

To recap, the GOP wants to repeal the ACA because it cuts spending on Medicare, which is an entitlement, which is something that is bankrupting America. And because it is increasing taxes on rich people.

Again I want to applaud the GOP for making these arguments with a straight face and for convincing a sizable portion of this country that they should agree with them despite the fact that its in their best economic interests not to. Quite the feat.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Its been slow on the politics front aside from the Arizona shooting. Good to hear that Rep. Giffords has survived. Even though I don't think it caused the event, I hope we can use it to change some of the rhetoric we use.

One thing that hasn't changed is Sarah Palin. As if it weren't crystal clear to most people before her little internet speech, it should be a little more clear to a few more people after that masturbatory exercise that she has no business being elected to any political office whatsoever.

Shifting to things that actually matter, I'm interested in seeing the battle over the debt ceiling that should be coming up soon. Even by conservative economists' accounts not raising it would be ridiculous and its a bad policy to have a debt ceiling at all. Dems and Obama should call their bluff and not give them anything. Do like Clinton did and threaten to defend Social Security.

I'm not sure what will come of the vote to repeal the ACA. I guess it will pass the House. If Reid can get vote in the Senate on repealing the entire bill with no amendments he should think about doing it in order to keep it away from Obama and show some Dem backbone. Reps in the House know they won't succeed. So while they are being symbolic Dems should join the symbolism party too.

There has been a little talk on the net about tax reform. I don't think either party has the will to get that done. And I don't think the Reps have the ability to ignore their base in order to do it intelligently.

That's about it for now. Things should pick up on the politics front in the next week or so. Until then the NFL playoffs are on. I can't believe I'm going to be rooting for the Jets. But I'd rather see them win than keep hearing about Tom Brady.

Duke is currently struggling. They are shooting really bad. Florida State is a good defensive team. But aside from Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler Duke just couldn't hit a shot. And unlike last year, our big guys can't get offensive rebounds to make up for a poor shooting night.

They were down at half to Virginia and have just now made a run at the beginning of the second half to get the lead. There is about 11 minutes left. So I'm off to watch the rest.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Maryland vs. Duke

When it comes to this rivalry I'm glad to get out of Cameron with a win even though it wasn't pretty. Duke had trailed all of 20 minutes all season long going into this game. And Maryland took the lead on numerous occasions, keeping it close until about a minute left.

It doesn't seem to matter how bad Maryland is or how good Duke is. This is always a close, hard fought game. And I think that is why its become such a good rivalry.

It also had the added benefit of both fan bases hating each other. Maryland hates Duke because they win all the time. Duke hates Maryland because they play us hard and treat players like J.J. Redick like shit. You don't see that with the Duke/Carolina rivalry. That's a much more friendly rivalry.

So given its recent history I'm not too worried about how poorly the offense played and how inconsistent the defense was. There are going to be games where the main guys, like Nolan Smith tonight, don't play well. Luckily we showed how good our depth is by letting Seth Curry get some shots and carry the offense a bit.

And it was nice to hold serve at home. At least now if they win at home it will be a split. Of course now look for Maryland to lose to a few teams they have no business losing to because for some reason they can't play everyone as tough as they play Duke.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I'm a huge fan of the show and subsequently everything Joss Whedon does. I bring this up because there are a few blogs out there that are watching (or rewatching) the show and commenting on it. Nik at Nite is rewatching it. She has written books about the show. So she can give you in depth analysis and talk about the entire show. Myles McNutt is watching the show for the first time and giving his commentary on it here.

I know what some people think when they hear about the show because I thought the same thing. How can a show named "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" be any good? The connotation of the name and then what the show is about is a just one of many ways in which its brilliant. Whedon constantly plays with your expectations. He is a master at drawing you in, making you expect something, and then doing the opposite.

Honestly though, the initial reason I started watching the show was that I saw Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku running around kicking ass while looking gorgeous. But the more I watched the show the more I loved it. Its not just about good looking people (which there are plenty of) or a monster of the week (which there is a bit of in season 1). In the most concise way of summing it up, the show is about growing up.

Its about Buffy's struggle with being a normal girl/woman and her responsibilities as a slayer. Its about Willow being the nerdy, unattractive girl. Its about Xander being the nerdy outcast. Its about Giles trying to teach and protect Buffy.

There is something for everyone to relate to. There is romance, humor, and horror. If you make it past a sometimes shaky first season and don't love the show then...well, I'm not sure there is any hope for you.

But if you should take any advice from me its that you should give this show a chance. And ask anyone who has seen it. I'm certain they will tell you the same.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

House Reps plan to vote to repeal ACA

This vote is a triple dose of hypocrisy.

Repealing it would mean reversing the cuts to Medicare spending that were in the bill. And Medicare is socialized health care. So in effect Reps would be increasing spending on socialist, big gov't program. The Tea Party would be outraged if they knew their ass from their elbow.

The other thing it would reverse is the individual mandate, which is something Reps proposed in the 90s as an alternative to Clinton's health care proposals. So by calling the individual mandate unconstitutional and repealing it Reps would be acknowledging that their big policy proposal for trying to reform health care over the past 20 years is bullshit. Not to mention that one of their likely presidential candidates, Mitt Romney, singed an individual mandate into law as governor of Massachusetts. Can't wait to hear Palin ask him why he hates freedom in those primary debates.

And the other thing repealing the ACA would do is increase the deficit. Those cuts to Medicare were one of the ways that Dems cut the deficit. So when Reps try to repeal it they will effectively be arguing for a higher deficit, which they claim is a problem and criticize Obama for adding to when they feel its opportunistic.

So there you go. Repealing the ACA means Reps favor socialized medicine, higher deficits, and they hate their own ideas.