Umpires Getting Better, Particularly at Calling Strikes

At its heart, baseball is a battle over the strike zone. As we can see from PITCH F/X data, umpires have been getting better at adjudicating this battle. From Noah Davis and Michael Lopez at FiveThirtyEight:

Umps are getting better, and they’re also remarkably consistent. An ump who makes more accurate calls in one year will likely do the same the next; an ump who misses more calls in a given season will likely be as bad the next. Umpire accuracy is more steady than a player’s batting average or a pitcher’s ERA, and as consistent as OPS (on-base plus slugging) and wins above replacement.

I would love to see an update about this and other data-driven topics to As They See ‘Em, which is a great book about umpiring that covers the history of the position, how they’re trained, what their jobs are like, and so on.


What it’s like to get arrested for running on a baseball field 

Interesting story. 

Eventually, you come to the realization that life is short. And if you blink, it might pass you by. I reached this point in my life, and did something quite uncharacteristic and spontaneous. Some may consider it a “quarter-life crisis.” To me, it was a reminder to myself that I cherish the moments in life that make people smile, and that occasionally breaking the rules isn’t the end of the world.

Kevin Gausman’s 2015 Season Isn’t That Bad

Today I have a post at Camden Chat about Kevin Gausman on why his high ERA seems like a cause for concern, but it’s really not.

Because looking beyond the surface shows that Gausman is very close to the same pitcher he was last year, and in some ways he’s even better. How so? His swinging strike rate is up 1.5 percentage points, his strikeout rate is up 1.1 percentage points, and his walk rate is down 1.8 percentage points. When combined, his K-BB% is 2.8 percentage points better than last year’s, going from below league-average to above league-average. These are signs that he’s developing as a pitcher. His groundball rate has also increased a tick.


Tagged ,

Want to Know What’s Going On with the Orioles Recently?

I posted three articles at Camden Chat recently that are worth a look!

Tagged , ,

Windowsill + Cord

Taken at our apartment in Chicago.


L and I made our big trip of 2015 a trip to Chicago. We’d both really wanted to go for a long time. I actually thought about moving to the area after I graduated. I just had some kind of romantic notion about it being a cool place to be. No idea where that came from; who knows how these things happen or where these ideas come from? Turns out that she wanted to go to and that we both had friends in the area, so we spent a week there. We stayed at an AirBNB place in the hip Lakeview area and had a real fun time. We ate a ton of good food, exhausted ourselves being tourists, and got a bit of the local treatment from our friends who live there. It was gorgeous, but then again it was late June. I’m sure I’d have a much different opinion of Chi-town come October!

Being in a city again reminded me a lot of Shanghai. The tall buildings are everywhere, even outside the ‘downtown’ area. They blot out the sky. People are always on the street, walking around and jostling you. Cars are honking, dump trucks are backing up and beeping, people are arguing, a dumpster is clanging. You walk everywhere, and when you’re not on foot you’re on a train or a bus (or in the case of Chicago, a car from Uber). You always have headphones in to blot out the noise and to give you something to pay attention to while your bus or train moves between stops. There’s a reason I was looking forward to moving back to Austin, and I was reminded of it during this trip. I grew up in the ‘burbs and am just used to peace, quiet, seeing the sky, and greenery. But it was fun being in an area so full of life for awhile, where people are out on the street and not inside their homes or cars.

We did a lot more than what’s pictured here but I got photograph’d out towards the end of the trip. Never thought that would happen, but when you spend a solid week somewhere, it’s apparently possible! I had a great time and would go back in a heartbeat.


Hanging out at the apartment upon arrival.


Perusing our host’s book collection (which was organized by color).

Loungin’ II

We both enjoyed this recliner and spent a few of our mornings and evenings just relaxing, enjoying the sunshine, and being extremely comfortable.


One of the three things I wanted to do in Chicago was eat some deep dish pizza. We got a great recommendation for Giordano’s and ate our fill while it rained and threatened to storm around us. The pizza was DELICIOUS. Luckily you can order them online and have them shipped to you!

Our Place

Well, not ours really … this is the living room of where we stayed.

Chicago Riverfront

On the first bright and sunny day, we immediately headed downtown. This is where State Street crosses the Chicago River.

Welcome to Chicago!

Lauren posing for the camera.


The tunnels through which the river flows are lined with mirrors on the ceiling.


Another shot of buildings over the river.

Chicago Riverfront II

We were downtown on this gorgeous day primarily to explore, but also to see Make Music Chicago. This organization had placed bands at certain locations around the city, so you could see a fun performance while enjoying the weather.

Marina City

These towers are Marina City, and we thought they looked so cool I couldn’t help but take a picture. They’re condos. Notice how the lower levels are all parking garages that are completely open except for some chains preventing you from backing your car into the Chicago river.

Trump Tower Chicago

’nuff said.

Chicago Tribune Building

The spire on the right with the American flag on top is the Tribune Tower; you can see the paper’s letterhead on the building in the lower-right. The building with the clock tower is the Wrigley Building.

Haym Solomon & Friends

Where by “friends” I mean George Washington and Robert Morris. Solomon helped finance the Revolutionary War and earned a statue (among other honors) for his trouble.

Street Life

Just trying to do something fun with composition here.

Millenium Park

A momument commemmorating Millenium Park in Chicago.

Cloud Gate I

This is us reflected in the Cloud Gate sculpture (aka “The Bean”).

Cloud Gate II

Cloud Gate III

I give Lauren 100% credit for pointing out this view to me. I’m directly underneath the sculpture looking straight up. If you look carefully, you can see me near the very bottom of the frame, aiming my camera upwards.

Cloud Gate IV

Accidentally capturing other people posing for other pictures, but the site was so crowded it was impossible not to.

Girls’ Day Out

I thought this was a fun picture.

Cloud Gate V

Cloud Gate VI

This shot shows the sculpture with the skyline in the background, directly across Michican Ave.


We happened to be walking behind these folks and I thought this made a nice shot.

1004 Portraits

That’s the title of this sculpture by Jaume Plensa. I thought the head made a fun companion to the skyscrapers in the background.

Crown Fountain

I had no idea this thing existed, but it does and that makes me happy. It’s two giant plinths in the middle of the park with a vast space in between them. Each plinth pours water out of the top and down the sides, forming a shallow pool in the middle, all while displaying faces of Chicagoans that were photographed for the installation. Lauren and I sat here for at least 45 minutes in the sun, just hanging out and enjoying watching everybody having fun.

Public Cow

This is just outside the Chicago Cultural Center. It was made in Chicago and brought to Zurich for a public art display, then brought back home by a donor to display in its “hometown”.

Interior, Chicago Cultural Center

The inside of this building is just beautiful. Lauren and I found a jazz band playing inside, so we stopped to watch them for a bit.

Two Hallways

Trying to get art-y, here. The woman walking towards the camera started running all of a sudden and dashed off into the doorway to her right (the viewer’s left).

Let There Be House

In the Cultural Center we stumbled across a three-room exhibition on house music. I’m an enormous house music fan and was very excited to see the city celebrating its heritage (house music was born in Chicago in the mid-to-late 80’s). I couldn’t believe that some music I listen to almost-daily was worthy of such an exhibit. Downstairs they had a DJ playing some rocking tunes; L and I danced for a bit (of course).

Field Museum

We spent a couple of hours at the Field Museum on a cloudy morning. We saw the Vikings special exhibit (it’s the left-most banner hanging from the entryway) and a bunch of other stuff. The place is enormous, so we didn’t see everything, and I kinda feel like we missed out on a lot. Someone could easily spend a couple of days here.


We ate lunch this day at Lao Szechuan, a restaurant in Chicago’s Chinatown.

A Chicago Dog with Da Works

A must-have in Chicago. We got this at a place hilariously named “Flub a Dub Chub’s”. I wouldn’t go seek out Vienna beef but if you’re in Chicago ya gotta do it.

Wrigley Field

The second thing I wanted to do in Chicago was see a Cubs game. We saw them beat the Dodgers 4-2 on the Monday night we were there. The baseball geek in me would like to note two things: Clayton Kershaw was pitching for the Dodgers, and it was Kris Bryant’s first mult-homer game.

Our Seats

We had a great view of the game and were surrounded by a lively crowd. There were more Dodgers fans than I’d expected until I realized who was pitching …

… And the Pitch!

Since I don’t live in LA or in a city with NL baseball, I was very happy to get a chance to see the best pitcher in the sport.

Hancock Tower, Looking South

What’s the best thing to do in sunny, clear weather? Go up to the top floor of a very tall building. The Hancock Center has an observation deck on its 94th floor; this shot is looking south, with Lake Michigan in the frame to the west.

Hancock Tower, Looking North

Head to the other side of the obsersvation room and you’ll get this view, looking north with the lake to the east. The road running alongside it is Lakeshore Drive. Note the beachgoers in the lower-right of the frame. You can probably see our apartment from here.


This little guy (or gal?) bravely made his/her home on the 94th floor of a skyscraper in downtown Chicago. I had to honor it with a photo.

John Hancock Center

Magnificent. It felt odd to be in downtown Chicago and surrounded by so many enormous buildings.

Navy Pier

After a brief lunch we headed to Navy Pier to take an architecture tour and ride the famous ferris wheel.


Part of the Chi-town skyline as seen from the back of our architecture tour boat as we left the pier.

Navy Pier Selfie

The Architecture Tour

We boarded last so we were in the back of the boat. The guy in front of us video’d pretty much the whole tour.

Clark Street, Dearborn Streets

As you saw before, the Chicago River cuts through downtown. I shot this facing stern of the boat while we were on the tour.

Willis Tower

Formerly known as the Sears Tower, it’s the tallest building in the city. Its top is the highest point in the state of Illinois.


More shots from the boat. The building on the right is the NBC Tower. I can’t remember what the building on the left is.

More Buildings

Just trying to do something art-y here with the skyline.

Skyline II

Another view as we finished the tour.

Skyline III

The skyline as seen from Navy Pier on the steps leading up to the ferris wheel.

The Wheel

It’s pretty big.

Straight Up

The works of the ferris wheel.

Cages ‘n Cages

Shot from our cage on the ferris wheel.

Skyline IV

A view of the skyline looking north up the coast of the lake. The building with the twin spires is the John Hancock Center.


As the ferris wheel lifted up, first I was nervous about being so high in the sky. After I settled in a bit, L got nervous!

Cage + Skyline

A shot looking into the center of the wheel with the skyline positioned on the right side of the frame.

Navy Pier

We walked around for a bit after getting down from the wheel.


Being artsy here again with the shapes I saw overlooking an outdoor cafe.

Sukhadia’s on Devon Avenue

My boss is Indian and lived in Chicago for eight years. He recommended we eat at this place on Devon Avenue, and I’m happy we listened to him. I had a delicious samosa chaat and some nice paneer dhosa. Mmm.

Devon Avenue

Devon Avenue is full of Indian and Pakistani shops and restaurants for 10-15 blocks. It’s enormous and it was a fun find while we were in town.

Statue on Devon Avenue

Kol Tuv

In addition to the numerous Indian/Pakistani places on Devon Avenue, there are a few remaining kosher bakeries.

Tel Aviv Bakery

I had a chocolate pastry here and it was delicious.

Lincoln Park Conservatory

A little while later we ended up at the Lincoln Park Conservatory, a free public space where you can learn about many kinds of plants and hang out in this outdoor garden. It was great weather for doing both of those things … so we did!

Comedy Tonight!

That night we went to see L’s friend Taylor perform improv at The Playground. Her group is named Pistil and Stamen. They headlined the show and were awesome. Right before them was an improv group named The Blue Angels who were hilarious as well.

Hot Air, MoCA

We visited the Musem of Contemporary Art and found ourselves inside a hot air balloon that was inflated by fans so it pressed up against the sides of a large room.

Kingston Mines

The third thing I wanted to do in Chicago was see some blues, and we did so at Kingston Mines. Joanna Connor is the house act and was amazing. She rocked for an hour straight and performed well into the night after we left. Nellie Tiger Travis was the headlining act.

Homeward Bound

We flew home to Austin in this gorgeous weather. I couldn’t help but capture a shot outside my window.

Tagged , ,

HOPE Outdoor Gallery

A friend and I visited HOPE Outdoor Gallery on a beautiful, sunny afternoon and took some awesome pictures! Click to make ’em bigger.


Coming up Small in Big Spots

Over at Camden Chat (where else?) I look at how the Orioles have been failing miserably to hit when the game’s on the line.

Tagged ,

Looking at Steve Pearce and Jimmy Paredes

A two-fer! Well, not really, I just forgot to post my analysis of Steve Pearce’s slow start earlier, focusing on how pitchers are changing their approach to him:

This is Steve Pearce’s brand-new baseball game: one in which he sees more and more breaking and offspeed pitches. This is the adjustment opposing teams are making against him, one they’ve been making since 2012.

There’s no question he’s hitting the ball hard. His hard-hit rate is at 36.8%, the highest of his career by far, and is 26th-best in baseball — ahead of Chris Davis, Buster Posey, andDavid Ortiz (just to cherry pick some names). As a result his ISO is an astounding .329 and his line-drive rate is a superlative 28.8%. The hard-hit rate coupled with his speed has boosted his BABIP to an otherworldly .400.


Tagged , ,

The 2014 Orioles hit poorly in the daytime

Over at Camden Chat, I discussed how poorly the 2014 Orioles hit when the sun was shining vs. when the owls were hooting and whether fans should expect that to continue in 2015:

…The Orioles had a wOBA of .310 in day games last year, 19 points worse than their night-time wOBA of .329. That’s a lot of offense to “lose” over the course of a season. In fact, since the average team had a wOBA of .310 during the day last year, you can say the Orioles were an average offensive team when the sun was shining. At night though, they turned into Mr. Hyde: their .329 wOBA was far and away better than the major-league average of .312.