Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

Copyright Notice

Everything that appears on this blog is the copyrighted property of somebody. Often, but not always, that somebody is me. For things that are not mine, I either have obtained permission, or claim fair use. Feel free to quote me, but attribute, please. My photos and poetry are dear to my heart, and may not be used without permission. Ditto, my other intellectual property, such as charts and graphs. I'm probably willing to share. Let's talk. Violators will be damned for all eternity to the circle of hell populated by Rosanne Barr, Lady Gaga, and trombonists who are unable play in tune. You cannot possibly imagine the agony. If you have a question, email me: jazzbumpa@gmail.com. I'll answer when I feel like it. Cheers!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

That's Why They Get the Big Bucks

I’m quite sure that if I suddenly obtained one million dollars, I’d find some constructive use for it.  Ditto the 2nd million, 3rd, 4th, and maybe even the fifth.  But each successive million provides less marginal utility.  Eventually, unless your goal is to own a small 3rd world country, the largest ranch in Texas, or a stable of Republican politicians, the meaning of that next million is close to zero.

Where is that point?  It will vary from person to person, but, realistically, could it be more than a dozen or two?  Can having $50 million really make one happier, more secure, or able to eat in better restaurants than having $30 million?

Which brings me to Mike Babcock, and belatedly to Max Scherzer.  Each of them went out in search of greener [a word I use advisedly] pastures.  Selling one’s services to the highest bidder is free enterprise in action, I guess.  Clearly, for each of them it was about the money.

Which takes me back to my primary question - how much is enough?  is any amount satisfactory? Can these gentlemen provide sufficient value for the money they are receiving?

In Max’s case, one can construe a non-monetary rationale.  The Nats  have a lot of potential to get him a world series ring.  But, at 24-17, they currently have the same record as the Tigers. Well, you takes yer money and you takes yer chances.

For Babcock, though, it’s nothing but the money.  He’s leaving a highly successful, possibly even over-achieving, organization to join the Maple Leafs - what local Detroit sports writer Pat Caputo calls “a dysfunctional organization with a psychotic fan base.”

I don’t harbor a great deal of animosity toward either of them.  Some, though - just not a lot.  I wish for Max a level of modest success that makes the high premium paid for him look like a massively foolish misallocation of resources.  For Babcock - I wish him several years of frustration and disappointment, and ultimately a great deal of longing and regret.

Because, isn’t that the end game when money is the only thing you care about? 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Roger Ingram and High Notes

I had the distinct pleasure of spending parts of the last two days with Roger Ingram, who was the guest artist at the Schoolcraft Jazz Studies Program’s Up Jumped Spring concert yesterday.  Roger is a high register trumpeter who played on the road for 35 years with Tom Jones, Connie Stevens, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Maynard Ferguson, and was the lead trumpeter for the Woody Herman and Harry Connick big bands.

Roger is a great player, and a really nice, very encouraging person.

Here's one of the songs Roger played with us, as recorded with a different band.

Roger Ingram Live at the College Hideaway with the Jim Stewart Orchestra

At his clinic yesterday, he discussed playing in the high register, and quite a few times mentioned counter-intuitive thinking.  The first requirement for having a high register is having a strong, secure low register.  As Bud Brisbois, Stan Kenton’s lead trumpet player in the late 50’s, told him, you can’t build a skyscraper on a weak foundation.  

So what I take from this is that unless you really own the bottom of your horn - from low concert E to high C, you need to devote your efforts there before embarking on the high road.

Once you have that foundation, you can, as Roger’s friend and past guest artist Wayne Bergeron put it, “discover,” not “develop” the high register.  Wayne’s idea is that when you have this firm foundation, you then have the playing strength to be able to explore and map the new region above.  Counter-intuitive thinking.

Something that was a real eye-opener for me is that playing high requires less air, not more.  Bud Brisbois told Roger that if you use a tablespoon full of air to play high C, use a half tablespoon to play the F above, and a teaspoon full for double high C.  If you fill your lungs to capacity and shove a lot of air through the horn attempting to play high, you’re dooming yourself to failure.  Counter-intuitive thinking.

An exercise he recommended for discovering the upper region is to gliss from C to high C and back [Bb on trombone].  In demonstrating, he took a moderate tempo - about 1 second for each leg of the excursion.  Repeat the glissing exercise each half step higher, as far as you can go.  Recognize and accept that this will sound terrible.  Allow that to happen.  You aren’t going for sound, you’re going for a result.  Tone will come later.  If you have a good foundation, and do this for 15 minutes every day for one month, you should be able to play up to double high C at the end of that time.  This approach builds in muscle memory for the location of the partials, and helps to internalize the control needed to play reliably in the high region.   In his demonstration, he did not work hard, and it actually looked pretty effortless.

I’ve had some success building my upper register over the last year, but still would like to expand the next half octave to double high C [concert Bb,] and certainly need to discover control in my existing high range.  I’m excited to embark on this new adventure.

One last parting counter-intuitive thought.  Roger said he really enjoys playing in the middle register!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tigers Early Season Update

After 9 games the Tigers are 8-1.  The Royals 8-5 loss in Minnesota today puts them at 7-2, giving the Tigers sole possession of first place for the nonce.

In 9 games the Tigers have pitched 4 shutouts.  To date the opponents have totaled 55 hits and 21 runs, or 2.61 hits per run.

David Price and Shane Greene are two of the 3 AL starters with 0.00 ERA's after 2 starts.

Even with the bats cooling off considerably in Pittsburgh, the Tigers offense has amassed 54 runs on 99 hits for a 6.0 run/game average, and only 1.83 hits/run.

Tigers scoring has been remarkably even across the innings with 18 runs coming in the first 3 innings, 17 in the middle 3, and 19 in the last 3.  Last year, the Tigers were very poor at scoring late in tight games.  So far this year, this has not been the case.

Opponent scoring has come relatively late, with 5 runs in the first 3 innings, 6 in the middle three, and 10 in the final three.  Only 1 of those runs has happened in the 9th inning, though, so the closers have been closing.  And, as lopsided as this distribution looks, it's mainly due to excellent starts rather than poor relief.

It's a bit too early in the season to put much stock in batting averages, but Kinsler, Cabrera, Cespedes, and Iglesias are all over .300, some by huge margins.

And most of the the big guns are producing. Iglesias and Cabrera are nos. 1 and 3 in batting average, J.D. Martinez has 4 HR's, and Miggy has 9 RBI's.

If V-Mart and Castellanos can pick it up, the Tigers batting order will be terrifying.

Tigers take on the White Sox at Comerica tomorrow, 1:08 start.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tigers at Pirates, April 14, 2015

Yesterday I sort of live blogged the Tigers game at Pittsburgh on Face Book - Shane Green vs A.J. Burnett.  OK - more along the line of a few random comments.  But it was fun.

It was a great pitching duel, and the Tigers showed how much better they are defensively than - well maybe ever, certainly in a long stretch of recent years.

My musings:

Burnett gets away with a balk picking off Rajai.
More and different umpiring ineptitude.

Plate ump misses a called third on Cespedes, and throws out the Pirate's Mgr.  More umpiring incompetence.

Tigers pitcher Shane Greene has an astounding 81 pitches through 8 innings. He's had 6, 7, and 9 pitch innings. Only three K's along the way.  [Note, the average number of pitches per half inning in MLB is 16.]  Strike out pitchers have to throw a lot more pitches. Tigers are also playing extraordinary defense.  Tigers up 1-0, heading into the 9th.

Iglesias breaks his bat, gets a single to center, and takes second when the Pirates center fielder McCutcheon lolligags. Greene lifted for pinch hitter V-Mart.

V-Mart gets another PH K, Rajai walks.  Kinsler squeaks a single past the SS, Iglesias scores.  Miggy up. Two on, two out.  Ack - called 3rd. Scahill handcuffed him.

Bottom of the ninth, Tigers up 2-0. Soria coming in to finish it off.  Greene's scheduled at-bat in the 9th keeps him from pitching a complete game.

Tigers win 2-0.  Pirates get only 3 hits, and nobody reaches 2nd.  Great outing by Green and Soria.

Tigers can run on the Pirates outfielders.  Watch for that in game 3.

Like yesterday, Tigers scored in the 7th and 9th innings.  I think that is a great sign.  Last year they were awful in the late innings of close games.

Shane Greene has gone 8 innings each in both starts, and given up only 7 hits, 1 walk and no runs in. At this point his WHIP is 0.5, less than half of Scherzer's 1.024.

If Castellanos starts hitting, the Tigers will roll over everybody.  [He’s killed 3 potential rallies in two games.]

Just saw the post game interview with Iglesias. He is either very modest, or very coy.

GoT Season Premier

Yesterday afternoon I watched the Season 5 Premier of Game of Thrones.

Season 1, as I recall it, was remarkably true to the book.

Since then, changes have crept in - some necessary, some that baffled me, but without doing any serious damage.

Now, they've taken turns that are not just different from the books, but totally unreconcilable with major story lines and plot points.

The idea is that B & B are taking a different route to the same destination as Martin.

But the journey's the thing, isn't it?

It's good, I'll give it that.

But from here on out, it's no longer the same story.

And I don't know how I feel about that.

Max Scherzer

Among AL starters in 2014 with more than 59 innings pitched, Max Scherzer had the 21st best ERA at 3.16, way below the average in that group of 3.94 [St Dev = 0.9].

His WHIP was 1.18, also well below the group average of 1.29 [St Dev = 0.2].

By that reckoning, Max was better than average by more than half a standard deviation in each metric.

So far this year, in two starts for the Nationals, he's 0-1, with 13 2/3 innings pitched, an ERA of 0.66 and WHIP at 1.02.  So - despite the W-L total, he's doing very well.

I don't bear him a lot of animosity, but I wish he would have been up front enough to say he left the D for the money, instead of hedging.  Therefore, i don't want his contract with the Nats to be a total bust.  But I would like it to be a historically bad deal.

What I wish for Max is to be a slightly above average pitcher, so that the Nats will have paid a super-premium price for only slightly above average performance.   My track record with this kind of wishful thinking is pretty poor, and this is a long shot, because I think the AL in general has better hitting, so he should mow down the opposition.

But, here's what I'm hoping for:  W-L = 14-12; ERA = 3.87; WHIP = 1.42.

Really though - what are the chances?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Industrial Production Index

Mark has a pessimistic look at the Log of the Industrial Production index and sees a curved, and flattening, trend channel.  It's a good fit, but I see it a bit differently.  The Data set goes back to 1946, and the measurements follow a perfect linear trend channel through late 1981. 

You can always divide a curve into a series of straight line segments.  But when the first segment is half the data set, you have to give it some credence as the trend candidate.

Note also that when the trend fails, it fails at the mid line of the channel.  This happens commonly in all sorts of data sets.  

After a decline into early '83 pierces the former lower boundary, a new upward trend with significantly lower slope developed.   This channel was also much narrower than the previous one.  The inability to sustain vigorous growth is yet another anemic manifestation of the Great Stagnation.   This trend failed by starting a decline from the top channel boundary in late 2000, then dribbling along the bottom boundary for about 3 years.  No surprise, since the first decade of the century was marked by the closing of 10's of thousands of factories.

The top in 2000 might have been the start of a new trend, and I've indicated it as such.  It's still slanting up, though at a very weak slope.  Since the bottom in 2009, production has made a comeback, rising with a slope slightly greater than that of the '83 to early naughts trend.  It's approaching the upper bound of the presumed current trend channel on both my graph and on Mark's.

Whether you prefer Mark's vision or mine, a test of the upper limit is coming soon.  But with the economy at the effective demand limit, I see very little chance that the upper channel boundary will be breached.

Thoughts on the Royals

I did a little Google questing this afternoon. 

MLB started the wild card in 1994.

Three years later, a wild card team won the World Series.

Here is the complete list of wild card world series winners.

Florida Marlins (1997)
Anaheim Angels (2002)
Florida Marlins (2003)
Boston Red Sox (2004)
St. Louis Cardinals (2011)

Five incidents in 20 years, so not at all rare.

This year the list will grow, since the Royals and the Giants were both wild card teams.

This has only happened one other time, in 2002, when the Giants and Angels met.  They were 95 and 99 game winners, respectively.  This year's contenders were both sub-90 game winners, so this outcome has to be considered a bit of a fluke.

I doubt that any team in any sport has ever fluked its way into a championship series like the Royals did this year.  They were down 7-3 to the A's in the 8th inning of the single wild card playoff game, scored three, tied it in the 9th, gave up a run in the top if the 12th, and scored 2 to win in the bottom, 9-8. Exciting - sure, but a bit too story-book for the real world, I'd say.

Then they swept (!) out the Angels - 98 game winners - with two extra inning wins and a 3rd game 8-3 blow out. 

Three extra-inning wins in a row says something about your bull pen, but even more about luck.  In the regular season the Royals scored 4.04 runs per game, 14th of 30 MLB teams.  In the post season, they've outscored everybody with 42 runs in 8 games, for a 5.25 average.

Alcides Escobar has hit 16 regular season home runs in 4 full years with the Royals.  He knocked one out for the first run scored in the Orioles series.  Mike Moustakas, whose offensive stats have declined in each of his 4 years with the Royals, has hit 4 HRs in the playoffs, in 32 plate appearances, 1 in every 8.  In the regular season he had 15 in 500 PAs, 1 in every 33+. 

As a team, the Royals have 8 HRs in 8 games, second only to the Cardinals, 15 in 9 games. But with only 95 HR's this season, the Royals were dead last in the majors.  The Cardinals, BTW, were next to last, with 105 in the regular season.  During the regular season, the Orioles hit 11 more than the entire state of Missouri, but only 6 in 7 post season games.

The Royals have a decent rotation, above average defense, and perhaps the best bull pen in MLB.  What they do not have is offense.  Up until these playoff games. 

There is no rational explanation for the Royals post season success.

One might suspect divine intervention.  But this is baseball, and I consider it far more likely that someone has made a pact with the devil.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Thoughts on Ferguson

I've been reluctant to comment on the shooting of Michael Brown because so much is not known, and so much of what has been thought to be known is either speculative or irrelevant. 

But I am now prepared to say a few things.

Whenever an atrocity is committed, two things always happen -
--  Real information is suppressed
--  The victim is demonized

We don't know - and may NEVER know - if the killing of Michael Brown was an actual atrocity.  But we see the atrocity cover-up-and-deflect scenario played out here, exactly according to script.

There's a third thing that happens, which is an amalgam of the first two - the spreading of misinformation that is either intended to be exculpatory of the person(s) committing the atrocity, or damning of the victim.

So it is with the fractured orbital bone fiction perpetrated by the right wing media and spread so far and wide in recent days.

Evidently this story originated with Gateway Pundit, probably the least reliable of all the rabid right wing propagandists on the web.  In this instance the level of deceit is astounding.  It is actual fraud.  

It was then spread by first, the Murdoch owned New York Post, followed quickly by Murdoch's Fox News, and thence like wild-fire to a wider population hungry to have their facile and too often racist biases confirmed.

This story smelled very odd to me the first time I saw it.  If the officer had a serious injury, that would have been known immediately, since he got X-rays shortly after the event.   And since the cops were eager to smear Michael Brown by releasing the completely irrelevant security video from inside the store, it's hard to believe they would have held back something that at least marginally tends to make the shooting seem more justifiable.

Then the whole thing got a whole lot stinkier when I checked out the sources.  As always, critical thinking and a slow walk to judgment are advised.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Tigers Mid-Season Wrap Up

June for the Tigers was a mirror image of May.  In May, they started the month going 13-3, then went 4-9 to finish at 17-12, or .586, which is still quite good and would project to 95 wins over a season.  But the doldrums continued well into June, which started off at 5-11.  But things suddenly turned around and they went 9-2 for the rest of the month, finishing at 14-13.  This is a barely respectable .519, and would project to only  84 wins over a season.  That might not even be good enough for a wild card.

This put the Tigers at 45-34 at the end of June, or .570, projecting to 92 wins.  This might be enough to win the division, or a least a wild card spot.  They went on to win the next two, completing a sweep of the A's, and landing at 47-34, or .580, at the midpoint of the season, projecting to 94 wins.  Two games later they now stand at 48-35, with 94 wins still a reasonable projection.

The graph shows win percentage and projection after each game of the season.

 Here are batting averages after the July 4th loss to Tampa Bay.

Cabrera, at .313, doesn't look bad, but a closer look is troubling.  After game 52 his B.A. was .332.  For the 31 games since, it's .282.  For the last 21 games, it's .278, and for the last 13, it's .288.  He seems to be settling in at a pretty ordinary pace - certainly far from MVP performance.  This is dragged down quite a bit by what happens late in games.  In the first 6 innings he's hitting .330 for the season, but later in games only .267.

Here it all is in one busy picture.

Run production is way off as well.  Cabrera had 41 hits with 34 RBI's  in May, but only 29 hits with 16 RBI's in June.

After game 83, the Tigers still sit atop the A.L. Central, 4 games up on the Royals and 8 ahead of Cleveland, with 2 games in hand relative to each of them.  This season can end well, but lots of things will have to go right, and hitting with run production from Cabrera will have to be a big part of it.