ERA doesn’t equal good/bad pitching

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Living a few hours from Safeco field, I hear about Felix Hernandez a lot.  For many years he was the only bright-spot for Mariners fans – until the past few seasons.  Felix is a great pitcher, no doubt, but how great?

If we answer with ERA, we have to consider that there are at least 5 things that affect a pitcher’s ERA (earned run average):

  • the pitch that leaves his hand
  • luck
  • the defense behind the pitcher
  • the ball-park &
  • sequencing.

The pitch that leaves his hand is the ONLY thing the pitcher controls.

Felix has no control:

  • of whether the batter reaches on a bad pitch and sprays it to the opposite field – luck.
  • on whether his left-fielder made a good jump on contact (or whether he has the actual speed to get there before the ball lands) – defense.
  • of which ball-parks he pitches in.  Contractually, Felix can choose to play half his games at Safeco, but the other 50%?  That’s determined by the M’s schedule, not Felix.
  • on the sequencing.  Imagine the following two sequences
    1. Two outs, Felix gives up a single, a single, a home-run and then records the final out.
    2. Two outs, Felix gives up a home-run, a single, a single and then records the final out.

In scenario # 1, Felix’s ERA took a “you gave up 3 earned runs this inning” hit.  In scenario # 2, his ERA was only 1 run for that inning.  Same number & kinds of hits, different sequence.

Despite the opinion that statistics ruin baseball, stats are crucial to understanding it.  As the Nate Silver at 538 says,

the better advanced statistics are all about deepening our understanding of how the game is played.

What makes baseball fun to me – is the statistics.  The games are – by and large – boring.  But the numbers they produce?  Those are fun to play with and analyze.  I realize that’s geekdom-central talking but sorry.

For example, let’s go back to Felix Hernandez.  What if we stopped looking at his ERA and started looking at his FIP (Fielding Independent of Pitching). What this stat looks at is a pitcher’s strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches and home-runs.  It compares those four stats with the league-average of defense behind the pitcher.  So that strips out luck and sequencing.

To see Hernandez’s dominance consider the following from Fan Graphs:

Year       ERA       FIB

2009   2.49      3.09

2010   2.27      3.04

2011   3.47       3.13

2012   3.06       2.84

2013   3.04       2.61

Despite an ERA that fluctuates from 2.5 to 3.5 – depending on the year, Hernandez has gotten better every year as a pitcher.   How do we know?  His FIB. This is a very valuable stat – to him and to Mariners.

A stat like FIB is why I pay attention to baseball.  Whether I watch the games or not.

Geno v. Cal? Geno’s offensive philosophy wins

There’s a critical difference between the two dominant NCAA basketball teams:

  • Kentucky ( in the men’s tournament) and
  • Connecticut (in the women’s).

UConn doesn’t slow down offensively.  As evidenced by last night’s unrelenting pressure against Maryland, the Huskies play great defense (like UK) but they never ‘hold the ball’ on the offensive end.  As Nate Silver shows at 538, Kentucky did slow things down and it killed them (literally). Here’s a picture of it:  Continue reading

“Our church won’t collapse” – until it does

3461384691_b66ec3d0b0_oBeing 45 is interesting.  I’m old enough to appreciate order (‘this is the way we do it around here’) and yet I still sympathize with the younger crowd (demanding an answer to the question ‘Why do we do that, that way?”)

The problem is both groups are right in what they assert.  The Boomers have spent 30 – 40 years learning the ropes of church. Moving to top of the food chain, they’ve waited their turn and now they control the budget or the music or the __________.

The youngers – those revolutionaries – want (even need) things to change.  When they don’t, they vote with their feet.  They’ve decided to play somewhere else with their time and with their attention.

So, it’s really about the status-quo.  Who wants to keep the future looking just like the present?  Turns out, the Boomers do.  In my church they have exactly the kind of church they want.

Every nation gets the government it deserves.     Joseph de Maistre

So does every church.  What my church Boomers want is

  1. to keep the church exactly as it is
  2. have younger people (especially families) show up and
  3. play along with them.

Hockey ActionThe reality, however, is that # 1 dictates that #2 and #3 aren’t going to happen.  This is always the case with the status quo.  It’s why NHL hockey teams play different in a tie-game than trying to win it in regulation.  It’s why there is no longer any cod fishery in Eastern Canada.  The reason we like the status quo is two-fold:

  • it’s comfortable, knowable, familiar &
  • we probably had something to do with making it (we’re invested in it, even loyal to it.)

As Isabel Wilkerson shows in The Warmth of Other Suns, people only do radical things (like The Great Migration) when they’re desperate.  Why did several million blacks move from the Old Country of the South from 1915 – 1975?  Because they had lived under the very real possibility of lynching long enough.  So when northern companies sent undercover hiring agents (officially they were insurance salesmen), that whisper of a better future (economically and culturally) was enough.  What started as a trickle before WWI turned into a torrent for the next 60 years.

Like the South, Boomers are trapped by their own established customs and culture.  What works for them creates momentum – for them and their status quo.  It works against the very people that they want to come however.

Seth Godin puts it this way:

It’s easy to defend the status quo, except when the very foundation you’ve built everything on disappears. Incrementalism ceases to be a good strategy when there’s a cliff on the route.

Here’s the cliff – at least for my church.dfchcfad

We have lots of olderlies (as my youngest used to call them).  Older than 50, we have’em stacked like cordwood.  Under 50, we’re hurting and in the 20’s & 30’s we’re downright scary.

That’s a picture of collapse – but it’s 10 or 15 years away.

 

So here’s the question (and the Boomers have to answer it because they have the power to change things):

Are you willing to give up # 1 (how you do things) to get # 2 (younger generations)?

My guess is no.  Like those NHL teams playing “not to lose” and the Eastern Canadian fishery before 1992, the status quo is just too comfortable and collapse seems a long way off.

Rebounding isn’t what we think it is

Having just read this from Marginal Revolution15899410007_68d3927ba1_z, here are a couple of thoughts about rebounding (we are in the middle of March Madness).
The article makes an interesting claim – that the this year’s two best NBA rebounders don’t “block out”. ** Blocking out means making (usually violent) contact with the nearest opponent as soon as you realize a shot has been taken. Coaches from elementary school to the NBA teach blocking out and it’s pretty much accepted as gospel that “great rebounders block out.” Except they don’t – at least this year in the NBA.

In fact, it turns out that the two best rebounders (statistically) in the NBA this year only “block out” 5 and 10 times per hundred shots (respectively). Take DeAndre Jordan (rebounding maestro of the LA Clippers) – his team rebounds better when he’s not in the game. That is,

the Clippers get to more missed shots when the NBA’s leading rebounder is NOT on the floor.

How can that be?

Simple, Jordan doesn’t box out. Around 95% of the time, he goes straight to the glass and grabs the rebound. But here’s the interesting part – he’s taking rebounds from his teammates.

To understand this, consider the ‘ideal rebounding team’. What coaches envision in the ideal rebounding team is one where all five defenders make perfect block out contact with each of the offensive players. 263317276_bfed2f0f74_zThe benefit of this (for the defensive team) is maximum real estate – where the rebound will land. If I or my 4 other teammates control that landing spot on the court, we get the rebound. But that doesn’t happen very often (even though coaches dream about it and even talk as though their team does it every possession. Just go to the Nike coaches clinic in Vegas and listen then watch that coaches’ team on video. There’s a huge gap between reality and desire.)

In fact, it doesn’t happen on the Clippers – when DeAndre Jordan is on the floor. He doesn’t box out, he goes to the glass. And at least some of the time he’s taking rebounds from teammates. This is good for Jordan’s stats, but bad for the Clippers. Why? Because they’re not maximizing their rebounding every possession. It’s great for Jordan, because his agent can say to the Clippers (and other NBA suitors)

“He’s the best rebounder in the game. Pay accordingly.”

But his individual maximization isn’t the Clippers’s team maximization. They would actually be better off if Jordan ‘boxed out’ more than 5 times per 100.

Which brings us to Doc Rivers, the Clippers (future hall of fame) coach.

  • What should he do?
  • What can he do?

These aren’t the same question.
Doc Rivers should try to get Jordan to “box out” more. If he truly wants the Clippers to win more games that will mean getting more Clippers rebounds. ** Rebounds limit your opponent’s extra shots and give you more extra shots.
What he’ll probably do is keep Jordan happy and let him swipe the glass without boxing out more than 5% of the time? Why? Because it looks like Jordan is a great rebounder and it’ll keep him happy.

Customers – for church

helpWho do you want to help?

Who you believe Jesus misses the most?

I know, he loves everyone, but who does he like?

If you want to know, ask yourself an easier question: Who do I like?

Guess what. Jesus likes them too.

How do I know?

Because Jesus likes you and he likes me. So of course he likes our friends.

When you consider your church’s customers you have to focus on two things:

  • Who do I know (and like)?
  • Who’s local?

Liking matters. Don’t discount it. Humans have been doing business with family for thousands of years. Why? Because in low-trust environments, blood is way thicker than water.

If I can see you, or sit at a table with you, there’s a much greater chance I’ll trust you. If we’re Twitter friends, I’ll find you entertaining, but trust is still a long way away.

Facetime is primetime.  facetimeWe trust people we can see. So flip it around. If you want to know who your customers are, think about who you’re seeing – today, or this week.

These are your potential customers. These are the people who can tell you their story – and listen to yours. If you don’t know them, they can’t know you. Facetime is primetime.

This primetime is also local. If you drive the same streets, get coffee at the same haunts, get groceries at the same market, that’s common ground. Common ground is the only currency when it comes to deep, spiritual work.

Why?

Because we have to know each other’s names. The rules change when we learn each others names – and we need the rules to change. We have to trust each other. No trust = no chance.

To see this think about 2 circles: your church and your community.

2 Circles

Notice two things. Every church sits inside a bigger community and the community is always bigger than the church.

Let’s redraw that picture though – it’s not quite right.

gray area

 

 

 

This shaded area is crucial. It’s your space. Sure, you spend time in and with a church, but that’s not the extent of your community. We go to soccer games with community (non-church) people. We watch the Seahawks with all kinds of people. Why?

Because we like them & they like us.

This shaded circle is the like-circle (yours & your church’s) potential customers.

If we really want to understand this shaded circle we have to shift from bounded-set to centered-set. Imagine two churches: A & B.

Church A looks like this:Bounded Set

It has a very distinct boundary between itself and the community. Sure you can come in from the community – if you agree to the rules, the dress-code and the statement of faith. (Lie detector tests may be administered without prior notice. Sort of kidding.)

Church A has a hard boundary. Like a surgeon protecting her sterile field, Church A is vigilant for germs.

Church B looks like this:open boundary

There’s a boundary between Church B and the community but it’s permeable. Church B is also trying to move (individually & corporately) toward the center inside the circle (let’s call that the Jesus dot.)

Church A is a bounded-set church. You’re either in or out. Church A is binary. Church B is a center-set church. There’s no clear in or out. We’re just all trying to get ever closer to the Jesus dot.

Remember that like-circle? That’s where we get to go seriously center-set.

By prayer, solitude and reflection, we’ll find out who Jesus is missing the most – who he really likes.

To understand the like-circle, we have to go ancient – all the way back to the 14th century. A 14th century monk once said, “Pray until you have to do, or do until you have to pray.”

Putting his words into practice we get this:

pray doWe can start at either end. If you know what to do or who to do it with, then start doing. Keep doing until you have to pray.

If we don’t know what to do, that’s fine. Pray. Pray for who in that like-circle Jesus misses the most. The Spirit is quite good at telling us “who”.

If you have a who, great. What about what to do? Pray about that too.

The most powerful thing you can do – at that point – is to pray behind their backs. Go ahead. It’s America. Don’t tell them, that’ll wreck it. Just pray – for them.

Eventually – you’ll get an idea. Something you can do with or for them. It’ll feel like you thought of it yourself. That’s OK. Blame God if you want. Don’t do it yet. Keep praying.

Eventually you have to do it. You just will. Now you’re on the doing side. Keep doing it until you have to pray.

Our customer problem in the church has nothing to do with marketing, digital presence or biblical thinking. The problem is us – and our lack of imagination.

When it comes to imagination, we’re impoverished. We literally can’t think of the people (names and faces) that Jesus misses the most. The good news is we don’t have to think of them ourselves.

It’s only on us to ask. The technical word for this is prayer.

Jesus said the fields were white with harvest. Clearly he was seeing something the disciples weren’t.

Here’s the really good news – Jesus isn’t selfish. He wants us to see with (his and his Dad’s) eyes. He wants us to share his vision – so it’s ours and his.

But – we have to ask. “If anyone will open the door, I will come in and dine with him.” He’ll share. Facetime is primetime.

Post-retirement Boomer Church

Here are Bob Lefsetz’s predictions for 2015.

My favorite is:

14. Baby boomers will continue to run the music business. No significant change will happen until they retire, which is at least a half decade off.

Applied to the church, I’d say it this way:

Baby boomers will continue to run the church. No significant change will happen until they die (or get too old to care), which is at least a half decade off.

In the music business, I get it. Those damned Boomers have spent their whole lives waiting for the payoff in control of the money machine. In church, I don’t.

The founder of our movement, a working stiff (carpenter), told us two things about just this sort of situation:

      Don’t lord it over each other when you do get your hands on the levels of the machine.
      If you want to keep your life, you’ll lose it.

This isn’t complicated. Church Booomers can’t have it both ways. Talking to them, I hear them wanting simultaneous things happening:

      Keep this church exactly like it is. (I like it this way.) &
      I want you (younger generation) to come right now.

The youngers have shown they’re not interested. They’re voting with their feet and those feet aren’t coming into your church. So you’re left with two options:

  1. Stop complaining about their ‘not coming’. If you want to keep it like it is, fine. It’s America. Nobody is forcing your church to change. But you do have to stop complaining. You want it your way. Cool, keep it that way.  But you don’t get to complain about their no-shows.
  2. Try something and see if the no-shows show up. As a mentor used to say to me,

“Jeff you can’t look at that problem and have it stare back at you, or you can try to do something about it.”

Lefsetz is right, nothing’s gonna change for a while. But it should would be nice if it did.

Paramount Records just wanted to sell furniture

My Human Geography class is studying culture right now. Specifically the difference between popular and folk. As I was preparing for that, I remember watching this Charlie Rose interview with Jack Black.

Black makes a couple of important points:

    Paramount was only interested in selling furniture (they didn’t care about the music)
    They would put anyone in front of the microphone if they thought they could sell 10 records
    They exposed the greater United States to a whole bunch of different kinds of music that would have long-lasting cultural impacts.

It reminds me of Gary Vee’s post about depth. As Jack Black says, “Each of these people – women and minorities – are getting to tell their stories in their own voice.”

Here’s the Spotify list that will give you a portion of the Paramount period.
Enjoy.

“God created war so Americans would learn geography”

I heard this quote on the Tim Ferris show with Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding. During the show, Potts mentions this quote (attributed to Mark Twain):

God created war so Americans would learn geography.

Being a human geography teacher, I know this to be true. Many of my students don’t remember 9/11, they were toddlers or smaller. They don’t remember our 2nd go-round in Iraq, much less the first in 1990-91.
So when Obama gives a speech about ISIL, they wonder several things:

  • What is he talking about?
  • Where in the world are the places he’s talking about?

Vox (in their 14 maps that explain ISIS) has done a great job of showing this critical geography to us.  Here’s one of the maps that shows ISIS control.

isis control vox mapIn our Theory of Knowledge class this past week, we assigned groups of students to represent each of the players involved:

  • Turkey
  • ISIS
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Syria
  • Kurds
  • Israel

What’s amazing is how fast my students could get up to speed on the complexity and dynamics of the region.  Secondly, when each group presented what their country wanted, you get a sense of the challenge involved.  Every country wants something different in this part of the world and there’s very little commonality.

Regardless of what you (or I) think should happen in this part of the world, or what American involvement should be, we should take Twain’s advice and learn the geography – if for no other reason than it’s a gift (divine or otherwise).