“Because of the Thoroughness With Which the Accuser Was Discredited”

Paul Takakjian, a criminal defense lawyer who is not involved in Bauer’s case but previously served as a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, said he saw Thursday’s ruling as “a harbinger of maybe good news” for Bauer in his criminal investigation “because of the thoroughness with which the accuser was discredited in the judge’s eyes.”  NY Times [2022-04-30]

I post this link with no pleasure, but because we are all continually confronted with advocates for women insisting that women never lie about sexual assault.

It appears that the woman let slip that she hoped to extract a large sum of money from Hoffman as a result of her allegations, and in spite of lavish evidence that she consented to his actions in the bedroom.  In fact, the woman initiated contact with Hoffman and requested “rough sex” and, apparently, even specifically asked for actions by Hoffman that she later alleged were abusive.

I am disappointed– but not surprised– that Major League Baseball suspended Hoffman for 2 years regardless of the facts.  It is not logical.  Either the woman has been discredited or she has not.  If she was discredited– and she certainly was after a “thorough” investigation– then Hoffman’s behavior may have been distasteful and offensive to the more mainstream (public) preferences of Commissioner Rob Manfred and his colleagues but it should not be grounds for a suspension, and I would not be surprised if Hoffman wins his appeal.

I repeat that– it was a thorough investigation.  No judge would be eager to dismiss charges in an explosive case like this but the judge,  Dianna Gould-Saltman — yes, a woman– had no choice.  The evidence was clear and convincing.

This reminds me of the Jian Ghomeshi case in which several women also lied about the incident– to the police and in court– and then coordinated their stories.  Ghomeshi’s lawyer provided the court with convincing proof that the women had lied and the case was dismissed.  Yet the feminist establishment continued to behave as if he had been found guilty.

They will behave the same way in the case of Trevor Hoffman and that is why MLB suspended him in spite of the court case collapse.  If they had let him resume his career, they would have been relentlessly savaged in the media and nobody wants to have defend someone whose taste runs to rough sex, and nobody wants to even mention the fact that the woman requested it because feminist orthodoxy is that the woman never asks for it.

 

 

The 2021-2022 Maple Leafs

It seems incredible that a Canadian NHL team has not won the Stanley Cup since Montreal did it in 1993.

Yes, 1993.  29 years ago.

I said last year that the 2020-21 Montreal Canadiens were probably the least talented team to ever make the Stanley Cup Finals.  I seem to have been vindicated in my opinion by their performance this year: they are nowhere near the level they seemed to reach in the 2021 playoffs.   Really good teams rarely fail to perform well in the years just before and after a championship appearance.   Even after the loss of a star player, most great teams will have a core of solid talents that carry them through the early rounds.  My theory was that their progress then was largely due to Carey Price and sheer determination and hustle and a bit of luck (the Leafs were very close to eliminating them in the first round).  This year, the Canadiens lost Price to personal issues and collapsed as a team.  It will be a while before they return to a competitive level, though perhaps not as long as we used to think.  NHL teams lately have shown a remarkable ability to rebuild quickly.

The Leafs have what is probably the best team they have ever put on the ice, with the exception of goal-tending.  Austin Matthews may well be the best over-all player in the NHL this year; Mitch Marner is not far behind– if he is behind.  Marner’s incredible vision on the ice is remarkable.  In a game tonight against the Islanders, he made a back-handed pass right onto the tape of Nylander’s stick that seemed jarringly unlikely given his position, headed into the corner.  He has an uncanny awareness of where the spaces are, where his team-mates are, and who is a position to shoot.  He does this a lot.  How many goals would Matthews have if he were playing with someone else?  But then, how many assists would Marner have?  Last night, in the absence of Matthews,  Marner set up Nylander several other times but Nylander missed all except one, and that one squiggled through the goalie.

One commentator tonight (April 23) mentioned, in an off-hand manner, that Marner might be “underrated”.  I think he’s right.  They showed a list of the top five candidates for the Hart trophy:  the leading scorer of the past 3 months was not on the list.  Yes, that’s Mitch Marner.

Michael Bunting is supposed to be the gritty line-mate to compliment Marner and Matthew’s finesse but it would be useful if he receive passes with a bit more dexterity and cash in on some of the golden opportunities his line-mates give him.   Why do other teams hate him?  Sure, he draws a lot of penalties, but he’s not really a “dirty” player.   But other teams tend to go after him for some unknown reason.

In addition to Marner and Matthews, the Leafs have several pretty good secondary offensive threats, particularly in Nylander, a mysterious player who often seems to be punching the clock, until you notice that he has 6 goals in the last 8 games.  Where did they come from?  He often misses the net, because he always tries for the corners, usually the upper corners, but his shots are crisp and quick, he’s a great puck handler, and he is very fast.  He may score 50 some day.  John Tavares should be providing more of a threat from the 2nd line than he currently does.  He’s just not as sharp as Marner or Matthews but I give him credit for grit and determination for a good player past his prime.

Ilya Mikheyev is also impressive.  The Leafs have had speedy forwards before but often without a deft touch at the net (Russ Courtnall, Kasperi Kapanen): Mikheyev shows signs of figuring out how to actually get it past the goaltender once he has broken free of the defense, which he does a lot.  Alex Kerfoot is a threat– like Tavares, gritty and persistent, and he’s also pretty fast.  Pierre Engvall has good nights and may end up being a key part of the team if it advances.  He is big but also quick and a threat on the penalty kill.

Jason Spezza should really sit down.  He’s just not that quick anymore.  When is the last time he got a goal?  Filler.  He seems like a likeable guy but, sheesh, the Leafs are gunning for playoff success here and I really believe a younger talented player like Blackwell would be more helpful than Spezza at this point.

On defense, I believe Reilly may be over-rated.  Yes, he’s a good skater and gets a lot of assists, but he also occasionally rushes to the net and shoots right at the goalie’s midsection, or he rushes down the ice, blowing past players to the left and the right, then he dumps the puck in.  Tonight, he broke in alone on goal and couldn’t manage to do anything except fall down in front of the goalie as the puck slid away.  Still, it’s very hard to measure the defensive impact of a player who, through good skating and puck handling, minimizes the time the other team spends in possession of the puck.   It’s one thing for a defenseman to block a shot; it’s even better if the other team never got the shot in the first place.

Mark Giordano is not bad.  He seems reliable.  Ilya Lyubushkin is a question mark: he often just fumbles around with the puck, unsure of where to go or what to do.  Jake Muzzin is okay and a balance to the more offensive-minded partners on defense.   Brodie makes a lot of mistakes lately.  Justin Holl made a lot of mistakes earlier in the season but has improved though he still makes bad decisions in his own zone– turning around and going back and getting trapped in the corner, or passing to someone who is about to be checked.   Actually, he does that a lot.  Timothy Liljegren has been playing well lately, going to the net when the opportunity presents itself.  Rasmus Sandin makes mistakes but also looks promising.

The Leaf’s biggest 5 on 5 weakness is their inability to break up the play when trapped in their own zone: the puck seems to ricochet around the boards from one attacking defenseman to another until they can force a scramble in front of the net or a one-timer from the side.  Buffalo, for some reason, seemed adept at breaking up that kind of zone trap against the Leafs,  but the Leafs seem flummoxed by that kind of action in their own end.  They chase and  scramble along the boards and then give up the puck.

The real problem– and Leafs’ management knows it — is that, aside from a spell earlier in the season, Jack Campbell has not been reliable in goal, and Petr Mrazek has been awful.  Erik Kallgren showed some promise but has also had disastrous nights.  At one point, it appears that Kyle Dubas was involved in secret negotiations for Fleury from Chicago but they fell through, and it’s Campbell, probably, for the playoffs, and I shudder to think the Leafs might be involved in some close games.

In the last few years, Frederick Anderson fooled fans by making a brilliant save or two and then losing sight of a shot from the point, or losing track of the puck in a scramble in front of the net and giving up a cheap goal.  Fans tend to judge goalies generously if they make a spectacular save or two, but the really great playoff goalies are consistent.  Nothing is more depressing than to see a team make a gritty, determined effort to tie the game only to see a fluke shot go in at the other end, something that happened regularly with Frederick Anderson, memorably against Boston two years ago.   And nothing gives a team more confidence to make daring attacks than a spectacular save by their goalie after one of those daring attacks goes wrong, as Price did last year for Montreal.


Any of about a half-dozen teams or more could win the Stanley Cup this year:

  • Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Colorado Avalanche
  • Florida Panthers
  • Tampa Bay Lightening
  • St. Louis Blues
  • New York Rangers
  • Minnesota Wild
  • Carolina Hurricanes

Another half-dozen, including Boston and Pittsburgh, have an outside chance of pulling a few upsets in the  first or second rounds of the playoffs.

There is no magic formula to determining who is most likely to win.  There are always surprises and disappointments.  On paper, the Panthers and Avalanche would be favorites, but both are beatable– any team is– on a good night for the other team  (the Panthers, at home tonight, just barely escaped with an overtime victory against the Leafs who had the better chances in the 3rd period).  Over a best of seven series, good luck, great goal-tending, and that intangible, random, thing we sometimes call “focus” or “inspiration” or “grit” can play a huge role in determining the outcome.  We’ve all seen teams with amazing scoring prowess suddenly totally smothered by disciplined defensive team with great goal-tending.   It happened to Toronto, Vegas,  Pittsburgh, and Colorado in 2021.   It could happen to any of the great offensive teams this year, Florida, Toronto, and Colorado.

The Leafs have gone 17 seasons without winning a single playoff series, and are 0-8 in potential series winning games over that stretch.  That may sound really, really awful, but keep in mind that it’s a big league and those numbers are not all that unusual.  There are teams that have done even worse.

What the Leafs have going for them is, firstly, that they have the best winning percentage in the NHL against playoff opponents (and the worst against teams that are not going to make the playoffs), and, secondly, Matthews and Marner both have a year of additional experience and a painful awareness of how awful they were last year in seven games against Montreal (Matthews: 1 goal, 4 assists; Marner:  0 goals, 4 assists).   Matthews in particular seems determined to add more grit and aggression to his performance and seems, at times, more capable of willing himself into a more dominant role against even formidable opposition.

We’ll see.


Tonight (April 24, 2022) the Leafs beat Washington in a shoot-out despite being badly outplayed through most of the game.  The Leafs’ performance was not reassuring in reference to their playoff prospects.  My impression is that teams that are capable of tight defense tend to prevail over teams that emphasize offense.  The Leaf defense tonight was often terrible, leaving players uncovered, allowing breakaways, giving the puck away, and endless chasing in their own zone.  Quite often, Washington simply pushed Leaf players aside and took the puck.

And yet, the Leafs scored two goals in the later stages of the 3rd period, by Mikeyev and Spezza(!), including one with the net empty, to overcome a 3-1 Washington lead and take it to overtime– where they took a penalty.  In the shootout, almost everybody missed until Kerfoot managed to tuck one in to win the game.

Erik Kallgren, it must be said, did marvelously well in the shoot-out, stopping every attempt except the very first one.

I don’t get why it isn’t obvious to the Leafs that they need a different strategy for breaking up plays along the boards in their own zone.

I also can’t comprehend why anyone in the Leafs’ brain trust actually believes the back-pass on the powerplay is even remotely useful.  I’ve been watching them do this forever and it mostly fails.  Why does anyone think it is working?

 

 

 

 

Just so You Know

While the American National women’s soccer team is suing for equal pay and bragging about their victories over other women and just how smackingly clever and talented they are, let’s just keep one minor corrective in mind:  the Australian National Women’s Team once challenged a team of 15-year-old boys.

They were easily, effortlessly, crushed 7-0.

The Americans are probably a bit better than the Australians but not by much.

So yes, you American women often beat other national women’s teams, but not nearly as many people care about your performance as much as you do, and you don’t play on the same grand scale as the men do, and no, you don’t deserve the same pay, not remotely, not by any standard that usually applies in the world of professional sports.  You can’t go into Italy or Brazil or even Iceland and play their national women’s team in front of 60,000 fans.

Anyone who watched your game right after, say, a men’s game of France vs. Spain, would know the truth.  In terms of skill and speed and power, you aren’t even close.  Not even close.

So who did you ask for more money?  From the fans, who would pay to see you?  From the owners of the club teams that run the league that you play in?  From the sponsors who pay for advertising during the games?  From the makers of sporting apparel and bling who dress you and market you?  But then you would have to prove that you actually generate the same income-driving passion as the men.  You don’t.  You too would lose to a bunch of 15-year-old boys if you played them.

So you went to the government.  That’s right.  Give us more money or we’ll cancel you.

 

The 2021 Montreal Canadiens

I don’t think a less-skilled hockey team has ever made the Stanley Cup Finals than the 2021 Montreal Canadiens.    The fact that they even reached the semi-finals is remarkable.

They do have a remarkable goaltender in Carey Price and he has kept them alive through most of the games until now.   Without a doubt, he saved them in the first series against a superior Leafs team.   As I watched that series unfold, I kept wondering what it was that Montreal actually had that gave them the victories in the last three games.  Determination.  Aggressive, smart, forward-looking offensive zone attitude, even when killing penalties.  And Carey Price.  And it was enough because Matthews and Marner didn’t perform, John Tavares was absent, and the Leafs still don’t have a playoff-caliber goaltender.  Jake Campbell might have been adequate, had all other things been equal, but they were not.

The 2021 Canadiens are a team of nobodies.  Whoever heard of Caufield?  Petry?  Kotkaniemi?  Suzuki?  Danault?  Kehkonen?  Well, guess what?  The 1993 Canadiens, the last Canadian or Canadien team to win the Stanley Cup, were also a team of nobodies:  Brisebois.  Daigneault.  Desjardins.   Brashear.  Brunet.  Di Pietro.

Until the Tampa Bay Lightening came along, Montreal was able to disguise it’s lack of raw talent through utter diligence,  frantic commitment, and Carey Price.  But by Game 3 of the finals, the naked truth emerged: the Canadiens blundered around making bad passes, missing their checks, passing to players about to be checked, getting shouldered aside in the corners, and Tampa Bay simply out-skilled, out-muscled, and even out-hustled them.  The turnovers finally killed Montreal, and Price had an uncharacteristically bad night.  Montreal just doesn’t score more than 3 goals in any game– at least, almost never– so when Tampa Bay racked up 3, then 4, then 5, then 6, there was no chance.

Can Montreal come back from a 3-0 deficit?

No.

 

 

The Photographer Was Ready

This horrific ski accident.

There is something about the dynamic between the media and sports and young athletes that has always worried me. You must eternally go faster, harder, bigger, to set records, to win medals, to give speeches for big money, to become a scandal, to run a school, and so on. All of this push to increase the risk of injuries like this, for our entertainment. I note the photographer on the left focusing on the skier in agony before help has even arrived.

And is her performance really more interesting to watch because it’s faster than was possible years ago, before the optimized equipment and slopes? Do the young competitors really understand the risks they are pushed to accept, for the thrill of the tv audience?

I say slow the whole thing down, on purpose.  Why should I care if the hill can be descended 10 seconds faster than it was five years ago?  If they are all skiing on the same hill and same general equipment, we have a competition.

The only thing missing would be the braying headline: record shattered.

And bones.

You won’t pay $100 to have dinner while listening to a former athlete describe how her life was ruined by an accident on the slopes, or the chute, or cliff, or the race track.

Janet Jackson Gets Her “Due”

According to the New York Times, Janet Jackson has been unjustly deprived of accolades and esteem because of the scandalous event known as “nipplegate” in which a piece of her wardrobe fell away from her breast while Justin Timberlake was trying to put it back during a performance at the Superbowl in 2004.

No– the act was Justin Timberlake pulling the wardrobe away from her breast.  But what was supposed to happen– after the audience got their titillation out of the way– was that the pulled away fabric would just reveal more fabric.

The Superbowl is already a triviality, a monument to nothingness, a mammoth orgy of absurdly boring sport and vulgarity.   The half-time performances are already obscene: most artists lip-sync and gyrate to inane pop inanities while tanned boobie commentators ravish them with praise.

The song Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake was performing was about getting somebody naked.  Why was that acceptable but the real thing was not?  Because there is nothing in the world more appealing to hypocrites than titillation– literally!  The enjoyment of things they believe to be taboo without the actual thing.  Janet Jackson’s sin was that for a brief moment she dispelled the illusion that millions of viewers thinking deeply about tits would be exposed as actually thinking deeply about tits.  The secret about “nipplegate” is that the real offense was exposing just how dirty America’s minds really are.  Someone will have to be crucified in order to expunge this dirty secret and restore middle-America’s sense of respect and decency!  I will not tolerate a naked breast on tv!  I am a moral person!  But, go ahead and dance and wiggle your clothed hips and sing about getting naked– I love it– but I am a decent, moral person who will only vote for non-outed political candidates.

Was there “blame”?  What are you talking about?  They were doing exactly what the audience wanted.  The costumes, the lyrics, the gyrations, the rhythm– all were aimed at creating the largest sense of arousal possible while pretending to be enjoying the music and the artistry– and the sport– instead.

Shunned because of “nipplegate”?  I am astonished that anyone really cares about the wardrobe malfunction, for many reasons:

  • it was trivial– there is nothing horrifying about the human body, to children or adults;
  • Janet Jackson is trivial: there is not, among her products, not a single performance of anything, that matters in any sense: she is merely a pop artist of no particular originality or insight;
  • attributing indifference to an artist who is a woman and black can’t always be blamed on the fact that she is a woman and black: for heaven’s sake, she never was or is anything other than a pop artist of mediocre achievements;
  • how did she get to be an artist in the first place?  Did someone in the music industry notice this very talented singer somewhere and decide she should be a star?  Or, could she have had some privileged connections?  Do you need to ask?
  • Even Janet Jackson, or mediocre artistic achievement, deserves better than to be treated like that for a trivial indiscretion, even if it was intentional or her fault.

The Bush Administration tried to punish CBS for not preventing the mishap.  Last I heard, the courts had thrown out the case.

Pull Both Goalies

Here are the problems with this research.

  1. There is no baseline.  There won’t be until one or more teams decides to challenge orthodoxy and try not pulling their goalie when trailing by one or two goals near the end of the game.
  2. The study assumes that opposing teams will not change their behavior if teams start pulling their goalie early.  The most obvious anomaly will be teams that smartly decide to start taking potshots at the empty net rather than just clearing the puck out of their zone.
  3. The study assumes that the chances of scoring a tying goal in the last few minutes of a game are the same as they are for the rest of the game (see 1).  It is more likely that teams trying to tie a close game will intensify effort as the game draws to a close and generate more scoring chances regardless of whether they have pulled the goalie or not.  Teams defending a lead tend to give up opportunities to score (pinching at the blue line, for example) in favor of a tighter defense.  Perversely, this allows the trailing team to play more aggressively (eg. pinching at the blue line).  (My impression this year is that more and more teams are actually continuing to attack during these periods– which, I think, is smart.)
  4. The study almost idiotically asserts that you should pull your goalie by the middle of the 2nd period if you are trailing by 4 goals or more.  I would love to see a team try this so we can settle this absurdity for once and for all.  Please.
  5. In reference to point 4, the flaw here should have been obvious to all concerned.  Defending teams score into an empty net 3 times as often as the trailing team scores the tying goal.  That is in a period of 90 seconds or less.  If you extend that period to 30 minutes, as this study suggests, the defending team is not thereby still 3 times as likely to score one goal as the other team is to score one goal: it is as likely to score about 20-30 goals.  So this idea only works if the trailing team not only scores first, but continues to score, several times, before the other team can score.  And most of those goals will be scored before the trailing team, of course, can tie it.

Okay, it’s not all that complicated.  If pulling the goalie gives you an advantage, why wouldn’t both teams do it?  Yes, I mean at the same time.

And to the rabble who go, “of course the team with the lead wouldn’t pull the goalie– why would they?  They have the lead, you moron.”

There– feel better?  Got that off your chest?  Now let’s proceed.

In every sport, in every aspect, something that is a real advantage for one team is a real advantage for the other: a heavier bat, a bigger goalie pad, height, size.  (In football, for comparison’s sake, we’re talking about the defensive or offensive alignments being comparable: not one team’s offense vs. another team’s defense.)

So why wouldn’t both teams pull their goalie for the last 3 minutes of a close game?  The naive answer is, because only the team that is trailing would benefit.  That is sheer absurdity: an advantage is an advantage no matter what the score is.   The naive fan, however, decides that the trailing team will never score in the last minutes of a game if they don’t pull their goalie.  Meantime, the defending team would obviously benefit by putting the game out of reach, even though, I will concede, that doesn’t increase the value of the win.  But increasing your chance of winning does have a real value.  Obviously.

That is not a dispensable piece of information: it is indisputably true– there is no factor that makes it more advantageous for one team to pull their goalie than the other.  Either you increase your chances of winning or you don’t.  Unless– and here’s the fly in the ointment of those who argue for pulling your goalie early– unless you assert that no team can score in the last few minutes of a game if they have not pulled their goalie.  That is plainly nonsense, but it hasn’t been proven because not a single coach in the NHL will not pull their goalie in the last minute of a game in which they have a one-goal deficit.   Not one.  If a coach, using his head, decided to not do it, he would face hysteria on the level of the Salem witch trials.

And the same with a coach with a one-goal lead who pulled his goalie with  a face-off in his opponents end with three minutes left.  If this is such a freakin’ advantage, why wouldn’t he?  Because, you admit, it would be stupid.

And if it is an advantage because teams only do it if they have a face-off, or possession, in the other team’s end, then obviously the team with the lead will occasionally also have a faceoff or possession in the other team’s end.

Yes, it would be stupid.  Because he will have increased the chances of his opponent tying the game with an easy shot into the empty net.

So why is this not stupid for the team that is trailing by one goal?

So team “A” has a one goal lead and a faceoff in their defensive zone.  Team “B” pulls their goalie.  Suppose Team “A” gets the puck– a not unlikely development — and gets it out to centre ice.  (I leave aside the point to be made that a team may begin to adopt the strategy of actively shooting for the empty net; in fact, many teams have clearly already begun to adopt this strategy, which I believe, will kill this entire movement relatively quickly.)

Back to my hypothetical: Team “A” shoots it deep into Team “B”‘s zone and pulls their goalie.  So now we have both teams with six skaters and empty nets.

What do you think would happen?  Do you begin to understand why this is an absurd strategy?  Or, if Team “B” scores to tie the game, do you really think they will leave their goalie out so they can try to win it in regulation time?

Here’s a scenario that, I will concede, makes some sense.  A little.  A preposterous amount, but some:  pull your goalie whenever you have a face-off in your opponents end of the rink.

Well, nobody does that either.  For reasons I would think were obvious.

The fundamental problem with this entire discussion is that nobody– not a single coach– will test the theory that not pulling your goalie works better.  Not one.  Not a single fricken coach.  Because the team’s fans would raise hell and every commentator and sports-writer would call him an idiot.

I have noticed that many baseball commentators continue to act baffled when teams don’t automatically sacrifice bunt when trailing late in the game with a runner on first and nobody out, 20 years after this strategy was clearly proven to be worthless.

Note on another factor not measured: it is obvious that a team that is trailing plays differently in the last few minutes of a game– they see time running out.  They expend more energy and effort because they know there is an approaching deadline after which they can rest.  The know that if they expended that much effort and energy earlier in the game, they would not have much of it left for the finish.  This is a bit ritual, and a bit practical.  And this is why I would argue that pulling your goalie may actually be counter productive, but here’s the bottom line:  we can never know what the chances of scoring without pulling your goalie are, because nobody does it.

(Actually, somebody does: apparently, pulling the goalie is rarely done in the Russian professional leagues.  They don’t believe in it.  It would be really interesting to get their data.)

To “prove” that pulling your goalie is a smart strategy you must have a baseline to compare it to, just as Bill James had a baseline of teams not sacrificing to compare the strategy to.  (It’s easy in baseball: most teams don’t normally sacrifice early in the game, and it’s easy to measure if there is a improvement in the success of the strategy later in the game.)  That’s why his conclusions are reliable, and yours, empty-net enthusiasts, are not.

But even without this kind of baseline, listen to yourselves:

Since the best teams in hockey win about twice as often at the worst teams, they are likely behind near the end of the game roughly half as often, and therefore would get only about half the benefit from optimal pulling. If the average benefit is 0.02, we might guess that the benefit is 0.0133 for the best teams….

 

(From SSRN_Pulling_the_goalie_hockey_and_investment_implications.pdf)

In other words, even if it did have a demonstrated benefit, it would be tiny.  None of these studies seem to factor in the possibility of increased intensity of effort in the last few minutes resulting in a normalized base scoring potential that would be higher– which seems likely– than the baseline used to calculate the pulling the goalie conveys an advantage.  And, more importantly, none of these studies factor in the possibility that defending teams will behave differently if teams pull their goalie earlier.   

We are, in fact, already seeing teams take pot-shots at the empty net.  They seem to be more than happy to accept a few icing calls as the expense of this strategy.  Think about it: if this happens in the first few seconds after a face-off– precisely when it is most likely that you might have possession of the puck– the risk is substantially minimized.

After suggesting that a team should pull their goalie in the first period if down by 4 or 5 goals or more — seriously?

Though we’d admit the assumptions and simplifications of our model are probably being pushed much harder for this “losing by a ton early” analysis.

Ah– the writer begins to realize just how absurd his premise is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Defensive Replacement

You have seen this many times before:  a baseball team, leading in the late innings of a close game, will take out one of their players who has defensive deficiencies and replace him with a player who is better at defense but not as good of a hitter.  The idea is, now that we have a lead,  we will place a priority on preventing the other team from scoring rather than on scoring more (unnecessary) runs ourselves.

I would put it this way: we have a line-up on the field that has demonstrated it’s superiority to the other team by scoring more runs than they do, so let’s alter that line-up.  Let’s remove a player that helped give us that lead and replace him with a player who is less effective.

We know he is less effective because otherwise he would have started the game.

Does this make sense?  It makes as much sense as the guard against doubles defense late in the game and the sacrifice bunt.  In other words, it doesn’t make sense.

You have an offensive player who, say, bats .280 and walks a little, but costs you some defense.  He’s not going to miss every defensive play.  Nor is the defensive player going to hit .100.  Just how often will the difference in defensive capability matter?    At third base, it will affect a small number of hits that are slightly out of the reach of an average or below average defender.   But then, the third baseman is likely to bat once in the last 3 innings– perhaps twice.  How much difference will an extra .100 make on the offense?

 

 

Pulling the Goalie (2)

I got an answer.  Or did I?   (From this interesting site.)

And here’s the meat: “A team that practices optimal goalie-pulling gains an average of 0.02 more points per game. That is worth 1.76 points in an 82 game season, over a team that never pulls the goalie”. !! And that does not include a factor that Gladwell doesn’t consider (which is typical of Gladwell– missing obvious but important factors) and the paper at SSRN doesn’t appear to consider: what if the opposing team with the lead changes their strategy? Given five full minutes of an empty net, some teams might optimize the idea of getting the puck to a sharpshooter near center, rather than “circling the wagons”. At one point, Gladwell even says that pulling the goalie is better than not pulling the goalie because if you don’t pull the goalie, you have “a zero chance of winning”, which is clearly not true. And his expert admits that he would pull the goalie right at the start of the game, if it were up to him, which is exactly what I wish somebody would do, for at least 25 games, to give us a good sample.

Here’s an actual example of the specious reasoning involved:

A team down a goal with short time remaining gains a lot by scoring, and loses little if the other team scores as losing by two
goals is no worse than losing by one (admittedly our model doesn’t consider pride!).

Look carefully at the logic of this argument.  True, losing by two goals instead of one makes no difference.  But that’s not what happens.  What happens is your chances of tying the game with one goal is lost: you are now two behind.  And here is the point he completely misses:  there is still time left in the game.  

Again, all concerned assume that you cannot score a goal unless you pull your goalie.

Incidentally, that same paper criticizes baseball managers who have been slow to adopt “the infield shift”. But more careful analysis of the infield shift have raised serious questions about whether it’s really effective. It reduces the number of ground ball hits, but not the outcome: runners on base.

The author also said he would not have bailed out any banks during the 2008 financial crisis, which is interesting, but beside the point. The real issue was the government allowing sub-prime mortgages, junk bonds, and derivatives in the first place.

2019-01-21: I just watched the Leafs lose to the Arizona Coyotes– one of the Leafs’ worst games of the season.  I continue to wonder why Babcock is regarded as a good coach.  I’m not saying he’s not– I’m just saying I don’t know how, given the Leafs’ recent struggles, you could tell that he was good.  Anyway, the Leafs were applying a lot of pressure in the 3rd period, trying to tie the score, and getting some pretty good chances.  I thought they had a real shot at it.  Until they pulled their goalie.  It’s not hard to feel vindicated if you believe it’s a bad idea because even “pull the goalie” enthusiasts have to admit that the opponent is 3 times as likely to score and the team that pulls the goalie.

Pulling the Goalie

As far as I can tell, all the research on pulling the goalie early only compares pulling the goalie with a minute left, or earlier. I haven’t located any research that compares pulling the goalie with not pulling the goalie. Presumably, teams pressing for a tying goal, might actually occasionally score at even strength if they didn’t pull their goalie. But pulling your goalie will result in your opponent scoring about three times as often as it results in your team scoring, and your chances are only about 10% anyway. The trouble is, everybody pulls their goalie, so there’s no benchmark to compare it to. (Except in Russia, apparently, where it’s not done.)  The infamous study that leads to the misconception.

So I am sticking to my theory that it makes just as much sense to pull your goalie right from the start of the game (or any time you have a face off in your opponent’s end) as it does in the last minute.  In other words, it does not make sense.

I wish someone would try it.

And we all know why no one will: because the fundamental equation does not work.

The same logic applies to “no-doubles defense” in baseball.  This idea is simply silly.  There is presumably an optimal location in the outfield for all the fielders during normal play.  This position has been arrived at through years of experience and analysis: where is the ball most likely to be hit.  The goal is to maximize the chance of catching it and making an out.  The essential goal is to stop the other team from advancing a runner to home plate.  If you put the fielders in the wrong place, you might prevent more doubles but you would allow more singles, which will result in more runs being scored.  For eight innings of baseball, everybody agrees with that wisdom.

Suddenly, in the 9th inning (and sometimes sooner), all this analysis and wisdom is out the window and, instead, we move everyone back to make sure that nobody gets a double.  This obviously increases the chances of a hitter getting a single, because you’ve opened up space between the infielders and the outfielders.  And the idea is that decreasing the chances of making an out on a hit that might now be a single is worth the possibility that you will hold the batter to one base, instead of two.   So, you get something like 1.3 singles instead of one double.  So you now have runners on first and third when you might have had two outs instead.

I haven’t seen a good statistical analysis of this idea yet but it really isn’t necessary.  It’s a logical problem.  Is it logical to increase the chances of a hit and reduce the chance of an out in order to reduce the chance that the hit will be a double?  No.  Is it logical to believe that moving the outfielders back from their optimal positions on the field is an advantage in the late innings?  If it is, then why is it not an advantage in the first inning?

Think about it– is there any logical reason why it would not also be an advantage early in the game?  It doesn’t really matter when the other team scores their runs, as long as they score more than you.

What is understandable is this: the manager has to manage.  What else is he going to do in the late innings of a close game?  Get a glove and join the outfielders?

Just listen to the commentators!  I just saw one last night on the issue of pulling the goalie in the last minute.  Mike Babcock, after the Leafs already gave up an empty net goal, making it 4-2 for the Carolina Hurricanes, hesitated to pull the goalie a second time.  One of the “analysts” said, “I wondered, why the hell is he not pulling the goalie!”.

Mike Babcock is certainly smart enough to know that pulling the goalie only marginally increases your chances of tying the game if you are one goal behind.  The chances that you would score 2 goals is ridiculously small.

But it would take a truly remarkable coach to defy commentary like that and do something different.

So for the foreseeable future, we will be stuck with an NHL that refuses to entertain the idea that pulling your goalie is a bad strategy.

Incidentally, last year, Tampa Bay Devil Rays tried the novel approach of having a reliever start the game, pitch an inning or two, and then bring in a “starter”.  I love the fact that somebody has the guts to at least try something different.  How did they do?  Very, very well.