Category: Baseball

Sports News: Is Bracket-busting Technology The Key to Victory?

(BPT) – Each year technology has a greater impact on our lives and that may be most visible in the world of sports. Long-time sports fans have witnessed the advent of new protective equipment, slow motion playbacks and officials using instant replay to determine the correct call in major sporting events all across the country.


On the basketball court, new technology is being used to collect data from each game that helps improve both player performance and the fan experience. For example, the SportVU tracking systemfrom STATS records every movement and action of a player during games, which can result in more than 600,000 data points per 40 minute game. Those records are streamed and stored using SAP HANA, a platform for data analytics, and the analysis is used to evaluate athletes based on their shooting, spacing on the court, speed, dribbling and more.

 Throughout each game, data is collected by intelligent cameras, wearable sensors and microphones providing an enriched in-game experience for basketball fans across the country and allowing them to experience the sport as they never have before.

Data is also a major player in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Tournament games are popular with 7.7 million comments being made about each game across social media. A recent infographic from Intel shows an estimated 3 million employees will spend one to three hours watching games and checking scores instead of working, while sixty-one percent of those fans will catch the action with a laptop or desktop, and 39 percent will use a mobile device.

As fans log in to watch the tournament, one of the most entertaining parts of the event is filling out the 63-game bracket. Millions of fans across the country compete in office pools and against their friends to see who can predict the most games correctly. Bragging rights are always at stake but the real goal is always to complete a perfect bracket and be your office’s Cinderella story.

This is easier said than done. The odds of a complete perfect bracket are one in 18 quintillion, and statistics show that a person is 50 million times more likely to win the Mega Millions jackpot than they are to correctly pick the winner in each of the 63 games.

So how can data improve the probability of picking a perfect bracket?

To explore the idea and showcase the power of analytics, Intel is making its data technologies more affordable and accessible to businesses and fans alike and is working to develop new technology to improve predictions based on data. For the tournament, Intel is partnering with Kaggle – a platform for data science competitions – to host the March Machine Learning Mania competition. The competition is designed to use data and predictive analytics to more accurately predict the outcome of the tournament.

Contestants used predictive models – data collected from nearly two decades of previous tournament games – to predict the outcome of each of the games as well as the overall results. The team that finishes with the best result will earn a $15,000 cash prize, furnished by Intel. Bracket entrees closed March 19 but you can still follow the action by visiting the March Machine Learning Mania competition site.

Can state-of-the-art data and analytics lead to a perfect bracket? Is there another Cinderella story in the works? Follow the March Machine Learning Mania competition to find out.

Steroids, Spitballs, and Greenies: a Baseball Hypocrisy

Most baseball experts and historians are drawing a hard line on players who have admitted to or have been accused of using steroids. They are calling these players cheaters and demand that they be banished from the Baseball Hall of Fame and have asterisks put next to their records. However, they choose to ignore other baseball greats who have admitted to cheating in other ways.


Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and now Alex Rodriquez, head the list of prominent, professional baseball players who either confessed to or are accused of using steroids. It is safe to say, for every superstar that is discovered, there are hundreds of others, who used performance enhancing drugs, but just fell under the radar. It is also safe to say that more names will probably surface before it’s all said and done.

Bonds, MLB’s career and single season Homerun King, admitted to taking substances called The Clear and The Cream, even though he claimed he did not know they were steroids.

Jason Giambi, a perennial all-star power hitter, openly admitted to using steroids, claiming it was poor judgment. Andy Pettitte, one of the top left handed pitchers of the past ten years, took the same route, claiming it was a mistake.

Mark McGwire, the first to break Roger Maris’s single season record during the historical 1998 homerun chase, with Sammy Sosa, never openly admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. During a congressional hearing, he stuck by his statement of, “I do not want to talk about the past’, which for all intents and purposes could be taken as a silent confession.

Sammy Sosa denied it. Raphael Palmeiro did too, and then wound up testing positive a few months later.

Roger Clemens, perhaps the greatest pitcher in the history of the game is still denying it, even though there is a pile of evidence indicating otherwise.

Now we have Alex Rodriguez, one of the best players in the game today, who many have labeled as the next homerun king, has also admitted to using steroids during the 2001 through 2003 seasons. This came after someone leaked out the results of a supposedly confidential drug test that was conducted by Major League Baseball back in 2003.

Whether they admitted it or not, all of these players have now been branded as cheaters because they took performance-enhancing supplements. The consensus opinion among baseball experts, historians, and fans is that all of these players should be banned from the hall of fame and asterisks should be put next to all of their statistics in the record books. The bottom line to this thinking is they cheated. And there is no room for cheaters in baseball, especially in the Hall of Fame or the record books.

Really?

In 1991 Gaylord Perry accepted his induction into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. From 1962 through 1983, Gaylord piled up some of the most impressive pitching numbers in major league history including 314 wins and 3,534 strikeouts. He won the prestigious Cy Young Award for the league’s best pitcher twice, once each in the National and American Leagues, making him the first pitcher in history to accomplish this feat.

These impressive statistics put Gaylord among the all-time great pitchers, and without a doubt earned him a place amongst baseball’s immortals. However, if you ask any baseball historian or fan what Gaylord Perry was best known for most of them would undoubtedly refer to him being one of the greatest spitballers of all time. As a matter of fact, his incredible accomplishments on the mound are to this day an afterthought. His legend and legacy are that he was a cheater.

Famous baseball manager, Gene Mauch was quoted as saying, “He should be in the Hall of Fame with a tube of KY jelly attached to his plaque”.

An anonymous ex-teammate said upon Gaylord’s retirement, “The league will be a little drier (his retirement as it relates to his grease ball) now folks.”

The most compelling and damning evidence comes from Perry himself. After his retirement Gaylord openly admitted that he used substances such as grease to doctor the baseball throughout his entire career.

The baseball almanac references several quotes by Gaylord. “I’d always have it (grease) in at least two places, in case the umpires would ask me to wipe one off. I never wanted to be caught out there with anything though, it wouldn’t be professional.”

“Grease ball, grease ball, grease ball, that’s all I throw him”, admitted Perry when asked how he got batters out in tough spots. He even described faking the spitter for psychological advantage.

For almost one hundred years, the baseball rulebook has clearly stated that intentionally doctoring a baseball to alter its natural movement is illegal. This means that during his entire career Gaylord Perry purposely broke the rules by throwing a spitter. In short he is an admitted cheater. Yet, his bronze bust sits in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and there are no asterisks next to his statistics. His cheating antics, to a point, have even been glorified.

Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, arguably the greatest third basemen in the history of baseball, dropped a bombshell a few years back, by coming clean on the use of amphetamines, during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Amphetamines, also known as Greenies, are another famous and widely used performance enhancing drug. They give athletes a jolt of energy, boosting their performance. In 2006, amphetamines were also banned from baseball specifically because they were included as a performance-enhancing drug.

During his career, Schmidt smacked 548 homeruns, drove in 1,595 runs, had a .527 Slugging Percentage and won several gold-glove awards. These accomplishments bought him a first class ticket to the Baseball Hall of Fame and deservedly so. Yet, in his book, Clearing the Bases, he claims amphetamines, “Have been around the game forever”. He further adds, “In my day, they were readily available in major league clubhouses.” He even states that some players got them legally via prescription then shared them with teammates. According to Schmidt, “Amphetamine use in baseball is both far more common and has been going on a lot longer than steroid abuse.”

Schmidt does not outright admit in his book that he used them, but during a telephone interview by the New York Times in 2006 he was quoted as saying, “A couple of times in my career, I bit on it.” He also admitted, “There were a few times in my career when I felt I needed help to get in there.”

During a drug trafficking trial back in 1985, names like Willie Stargell, Willie Mays, Dave Parker, Bill Madlock and Dale Berra were all mentioned as players who used greenies. If you took the approach that is currently being taken regarding the use of steroids, these players were all cheaters as well. The point here is that Amphetamines (Greenies) are performance-enhancing drugs, just like steroids. So, if taking steroids is cheating then so is taking amphetamines.

What we are dealing with is a complete hypocrisy. If we are going to punish players for cheating, even though they did not break an actual baseball rule, by banishing them from the Hall of Fame or putting asterisks next to their accomplishments, then we have to go back and kick Gaylord Perry and Mike Schmidt out of the Hall of Fame, along with countless others.

Most experts and historians admit that before steroids were banned from baseball, players who took them did not actually break a baseball rule. However, they are still crying foul labeling steroid users unethical because it degrades the integrity of baseball. This is blatantly a hypocritical stance, because these same experts voted Gaylord Perry, who cheated, and Mike Schmidt, who took amphetamines, into the Hall of Fame.

Gaylord Perry did not have proper ethics or the integrity of the game on his mind every time he went out and threw a spitball. His cheating can be categorized as more reprehensible because he broke an actual baseball rule. Anyone who takes amphetamines, just like steroids, is obviously looking to gain some kind of performance advantage. Yet, no one is calling for an investigation on the use of this drug and no one is calling Mike Schmidt, or the hundreds of others who took them, cheaters.

Throwing a doctored baseball is cheating. Taking amphetamines is cheating. Taking steroids is cheating. So what gives? Why are only steroid users vilified and admonished as cheaters?

On August 4th, 2005 during the Mike & Mike ESPN radio talk-show, Jason Stark, one of baseball’s top journalists became one of the first experts to jump into the fray with this specific point of view. When asked if he would still vote Rafael Palmeiro into the Hall of Fame, he replied, “Yes I would”. He explained his position by emphasizing, “Cheating is Cheating”, and if we condemn these players (Bonds, McGwire and Palmeiro) then we must revisit players like Gaylord Perry, who is one of many baseball heroes who blatantly broke the rules and yet went unpunished eventually gaining entry into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.”

When Stark was asked why he thought steroids seem to be more scrutinized than any other form of cheating in the past, he responded with a very simple explanation. He pointed out that homeruns are the most exciting and glorified accomplishments in baseball. Homerun records are the most recognized records in all of sports, and are held to a different and higher standard than other records. With this kind of notoriety brings microscopic analysis and extremely high expectations.

Quite frankly, this point of view can only be described as bush league. No statistic in baseball can be deemed more important than another. Be it strikeouts, homeruns, pitching victories or runs batted in, holding one to a higher regard is flat out wrong. If you are not willing to go back and punish other cheaters, regardless of what position they played or what statistics made them famous, then you cannot do it today, regardless of what type of cheating they were involved with. Steroids, versus spitters, versus greenies, if one is acceptable then so is the other.

In the end, any player with the proper numbers accumulated before steroids and greenies were banned from Major League Baseball, should take their rightful place among baseball’s immortals in the Hall of Fame, and no asterisk should appear next to their name in the record books. To separate them is hypocritical. So, until you are ready to dish out punishment to the likes of Gaylord Perry, Mike Schmidt and many others, players like Bonds, McGwire, Clemens or Rodriguez should be left alone letting their numbers dictate whether or not they should be in the Hall of Fame.

There are no hypocrisies in baseball.

Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Teams

It isn’t an easy task choosing between them, but statistically these are the four best teams in baseball history. Enjoy this journey through the glorious past of baseball greats.


Ask baseball fans who the greatest team of all time is and the most common answer would probably be the 1927 Murders Row New York Yankees of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. But was that really the greatest baseball team of all time statistically? Were any other teams as good as or better than the 1927 Yankees? In order to try and answer that question I statistically analyzed all Major League baseball teams from 1901 until today.

What constitutes a great team? Obviously winning is a hallmark of a great team and so is dominating the opposition. So how did I quantify that statistically? I used five markers that teams must meet to be considered great.

  1. Winning Percentage – Great teams should win the vast majority of their games. I used .700 as the cutoff.
  2. Run Differential – The difference between how many runs scored minus how many runs given up per game on average. The higher the number the more dominating a team is. I used 1.80 as the cutoff.
  3. Total Number of Great Players – Great players being defined as Hall of Fame players or Hall of Fame caliber players. Hall of Fame caliber players are players who fall short of the Hall of Fame but had Hall of Fame caliber seasons and failed to make it due mainly to longevity issues. I used a combination of at least 6 players who are Hall of Fame players or Hall of Fame caliber players as the cutoff.
  4. Led League in Both Runs Scored and Fewest Runs Allowed – Teams should do both to be considered great and dominating. Some might argue that park effects play a great role in determining which teams lead the league in runs scored and runs allowed. That is true but great teams overcome all obstacles which is what makes them the greatest. (The Brooklyn Dodgers played in a bandbox in Ebbets Field yet led the National League in both categories in the 1955 season, while the Los Angeles Dodgers have played in the greatest pitchers park in baseball since Dodger Stadium was opened and they too led the National League in both categories in 1974 and 1978. None of the Dodger teams qualify on all categories though.)
  5. Winning the World Series (provided there was a World Series) – how can a team be considered great if they did not win the World Series if they played in it? The 1906 Chicago Cubs won 116 games and had a winning percentage of .763, the best ever for regular season since 1901, but lost the World Series to their cross-town rivals the Chicago White Sox.

Only Four Teams Meet All Five Markers (Players Stats For The Year In Parenthesis):

1902 Pittsburgh Pirates – 103-36 (.741), led league in runs scored with 775 while allowing the fewest runs at 440, which works out to 5.58 runs scored per game while allowing 3.17 runs per game for a 2.41 run differential. No World Series played in 1902.

Three Hall of Famers on the team in Honus Wagner (105 runs, 91 RBI’s, 42 SB’s, .330 avg) Fred Clarke (103 runs, 29 SB’s, .401 OBP) and Jack Chesbro (28-6, 2.17 ERA). Three more Hall of Fame caliber players in Jesse Tannehill (20-6, 1.95 ERA), Deacon Phillippe (20-9, 2.05) and Sam Leever (16-7, 2.39).

1927 New York Yankees – 110-44 (.714), led league in runs scored with 975 while allowing the fewest runs at 599, which works out to 6.33 runs scored per game while allowing 3.89 runs per game for a 2.44 run differential. Swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series.

Six Hall of Fame players on the team in Babe Ruth (158 runs, 60 HR’s, 164 RBI’s, 1.26 OPS), Lou Gehrig (149 runs, 49 HR’s, 175 RBI’s, 1.24 OPS), Tony Lazzeri (92 runs, 18 HR’s, 102 RBI’s, 22 SB’s, .865 OPS), Earle Combs (137 runs, .356 avg, .925 OPS), Waite Hoyt (22-7, 2.63 ERA) and Herb Pennock (19-8, 3.00 ERA). Another player, Urban Shocker (18-6, 2.84 ERA), was Hall of Fame caliber and would be in the Hall of Fame if not for his untimely illness and death in 1928 from heart disease and pneumonia. Bob Meusel (103 RBI’s, 24 SB’s, .337 avg, .903 OPS) was also a Hall of Fame caliber player.

1939 New York Yankees – 106-45 (.702), led league in runs scored with 967 while allowing the fewest runs at 556, which works out to 6.40 runs scored per game while allowing 3.68 runs per game for a 2.72 run differential. Swept the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.

Five Hall of Fame players on the team but Lou Gehrig does not really count as the Iron Horse’s iron man streak of 2,130 consecutive games played came to an end just 8 games into the season due to Gehrig’s unfortunate illness with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. Which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease today.

The other four Hall of Famer’s on the team were Joe Dimaggio (108 runs, 30 HR’s, 126 RBI’s, .381 avg, 1.12 OPS), Bill Dickey (98 runs, 24 HR’s, 105 RBI’s, .916 OPS), Red Ruffing (21-7, 2.93 ERA) and Lefty Gomez (12-8, 3.41 ERA). Also on the team were Hall of Fame caliber players Joe Gordon (92 runs, 28 HR’s, 111 RBI’s, .876 OPS), Red Rolfe (139 runs, 80 RBI’s, .329 avg, .899 OPS) and Charlie Keller (87 runs, 83 RBI’s, .334 avg, .947 OPS).

1998 New York Yankees – 114-48 (.704), led league in runs scored with 965 while allowing the fewest runs at 656, which works out to 5.96 runs scored per game while allowing 4.05 runs per game for a run differential of 1.91. Swept the San Diego Padres in the World Series.

Two sure Hall of Famers on the team in Derek Jeter (127 runs, 19 HR’s, 84 RBI’s, 30 SB’s, .324 avg, .865 OPS) and Mariano Rivera (36 Saves, 1.91 ERA). The 1998 New York Yankees had a remarkable number of Hall of Fame caliber players in Jorge Posada (.825 OPS), Tino Martinez (92 runs, 28 HR’s, 123 RBI’s, .860 OPS) Chuck Knoblauch (117 runs, 31 SB’s), Bernie Williams (101 runs, 26 HR’s, 97 RBI’s, .339 avg, .997 OPS), Paul O’Neill (95 runs, 24 HR’s, 116 RBI’s, .317 avg, .882 OPS), Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez (12-4, 3.13), Andy Pettitte (16-11, 4.24 ERA), David Wells (18-4, 3.49 ERA) and David Cone (20-7, 3.55 ERA) all playing regularly (with Darryl Strawberry and Tim “Rock” Raines playing part-time).

How Do They Stack Up?

Winning Percentage:

  1. 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates – .741
  2. 1927 New York Yankees – .714
  3. 1998 New York Yankees – .704
  4. 1939 New York Yankees – .702

Run Differential:

  1. 1939 New York Yankees – 2.72
  2. 1927 New York Yankees – 2.44
  3. 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates – 2.41
  4. 1998 New York Yankees – 1.91

Number of Great Players:

  1. 1998 New York Yankees – 11
  2. 1927 New York Yankees – 8
  3. 1939 New York Yankees – 7
  4. 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates – 6

All four teams led their league in both runs scored and fewest runs allowed.

Except for the 1902 Pirates, the other three Yankee teams all won the World Series by sweeping their opponents. No World Series was played in 1902.

What do we end up with? The four greatest teams in Major League baseball history. Trying to separate them is difficult. What’s interesting to note is that 1902 Pirates had the best winning percentage of the four, the 1939 Yankees had the greatest run differential of the four, and the 1998 Yankees had the greatest number of Hall of Fame caliber players.

The 1927 Murders Row New York Yankees of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig did not lead in any of the categories but were second in each one.