Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Suspected Blogger on Blogger Plagiarism

This a pretty simple and straight-forward post, wherein I would like to get people's thoughts on whether they suspect this is plagiarism or merely coincidence.  I will give my conclusion at the end. (Seems like a good place for a conclusion, right?)

On August 6th, Russell Carleton wrote a piece for Baseball Prospectus detailing how a manager's job is much more than a mere mathematical undertaking.  Rather, managers are required to constantly deal with the ever-beloved human element of baseball.  One point Carleton makes regards how difficult late-inning relief decisions can be, especially when dealing with the psyches of various players  Here is his passage in full:

"It's the ninth inning, and you're up by one. Your top two relievers are Smith and Jones, and both are fresh and available, which is great, because you're in the thick of a tight pennant race and need this game. Smith is generally better than Jones and usually gets the call here. But there's a complication today. Smith has a daughter who has a chronic medical issue. He's a private man and doesn't discuss this with the press, because he wants to keep his family out of the limelight. (Can you blame him?) He got some bad news about his daughter earlier and has been walking around with his head down all day. You've seen him like this before. He'll say he's okay, but he can't concentrate, and his performance suffers to the point where Jones would actually be the better pitcher tonight to nail down that lead."

On August 21st, Josh Worn wrote a piece for the Detroit Free Press (8/22 update: apparently the Free Press has deleted the column) detailing how Jim Leyland's job is much more difficult than the standard fan assumes it to be.  In that piece, Worn gives an example of how difficult a late-inning relief decision (this one between Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde) can be.  Here is his passage in full:

"It's the ninth inning, and you're up by one run. Your top two right-handed relievers are Benoit and Valverde, and both are fresh and available. Benoit is the eighth inning guy, and Valverde is the ninth inning guy. They’ve been in their roles all year. Benoit has been plagued by a case of “homeritis” since the All-Star break. You really don’t want to use him, you really don’t, but Valverde has a brother who has a chronic medical issue. (Please note that I have no idea if Valverde has a brother with a chronic medical condition. So, it wouldn’t be a good idea to spread a rumor like that.) He's very private and doesn't bring this up with the press because he wants to keep his family out of the news. He got some bad news about his brother the night before and has been walking around with his head down all day. You've seen him like this before. He'll say he's OK, but he can't concentrate, and he’ll go out and walk four batters and give up a couple doubles in the gap. Basically Benoit would actually be more likely to nail down that lead."

 Let's look first at the exact word-for-word similarities.  Both articles featuring the following exact phrases:
  • "fresh and available"
  • daughter/brother "who has a chronic medical" issue/condition
  • "He got some bad news about his" daughter/brother
  • "and has been walking around with his head down all day"
  • "You've seen him like this before.  He'll say he's [okay/OK], but he can't concentrate"
  • "to nail down that lead"
Next, let's look at nearly word-for-word similarities.  Both articles featuring the following, similar phrases:
  • a mention of it being the 9th inning with one team down one
  • a reference to the team's two top relievers, and the manager having to choose between them
  • a claim that the pitcher with the sick relative is a private person who would prefer to keep the issue out of the media, specifically for the sake of his family
It also must be noted that these similarities appear in the same order in both articles.  That is, there is no need to jump around to find the similarities.  They track in a corresponding, one-to-one relationship throughout both articles.

I brought this up to Worn, who made assurances that he had not read the article from Carleton.  He acknowledged that the two articles were certainly similar, but claimed that he did not plagiarize it in any way.

In philosophy, we use what is known as Inference to the Best Explanation in order to form beliefs in situations such as this one.  Basically, we look at the evidence in front of us and ask, "What's the best explanation of this evidence?"  In this way, we treat the belief formation process like a detective treats a crime scene investigation.

So, here's the evidence we have in front of us: two extremely similar passages, containing extremely similar words and phrases, used in the exact same order.

Given this evidence, I believe that the reasonable conclusion to draw is that plagiarism has occurred.  The "coincidence explanation," which posits that the similarities between the two posts are merely a series of coincidences, does not appear to be the best explanation.  To determine this, merely ask yourself, "Which is more likely?  (1) That these two pieces were written independently and coincidentally contained nine phrases/sentences, placed in the same order, attempting to make the same point?  Or (2) that plagiarism occurred?"

Now, perhaps some people know Worn personally and have extra evidence to add to their reasoning.  For example, if someone has known Worn for a long-time, has great evidence in support of his integrity, and has a justified belief that he would never plagiarize, then these pieces of evidence would factor into their reasoning process.  Perhaps they would be strong enough to allow the "coincidence explanation" to overtake the "plagiarism explanation" in terms of the likeliness of each being true.

As it stands now, lacking that evidence, I believe that the best explanation is plagiarism.

Though I certainly hope I am wrong.

(8/23 update: Though the Detroit Free Press story has been deleted, a Google search of the URL shows that it certainly once existed: http://tinyurl.com/9cypshd)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Easiest Decision the Tigers have in 2013

This is my first post in a while. I wish my comeback post would be a revolutionary opus that would change the way humanfolk view the world.  Instead, I am arguing for something that should seem self-evident to a reasonable thinker (though hosts and callers on 97.1 The Ticket disagree). Simple language time: Jhonny Peralta's option should be picked up for 2013.

JHondo is owed $6MM with a 500k buyout, so the Tigers should consider the option a $5.5MM option.  Before we even consider what $5.5MM should buy you, let's consider what you can expect out of Peralta. JHondo is currently sitting at a 100 wRC+ (which is perfectly league average). His fWAR is tied for 7th among ALL MLB SS.  JHondo's career stats match what one would hope...100 wRC+ and 101 OPS+.  In an ideal scenario, JHondo is among the top 5-8 SS in the MLB.  At worst, he is an above average SS.

So, worst case scenario, would you pay $5.5MM for an above average SS? Of course you would!

Now, on the open market, what can you expect out of $5.5MM? Well, even if you buy only one win with those millions, you would still be considered a winner.  Peralta meanwhile is averaging almost 3 wins per year since becoming a Tiger.  At that rate, the $5.5MM option is even more of a no-brainer than previously expected.

There is no grand revelation at this end of this post. I wish there were. But, simply put, if you did not think Peralta's 2013 option should be picked up, I hope you do now.  If you still think Peralta SUCKS, you may have contracted stat STD's from an unreasonable person, causing you to think RBI, Runs, Wins, and RISP stats are of the utmost importance. If so, consult a doctor. Preferably a sabre-friendly one.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Why the Rangers Can’t Lowball Yu Darvish

Last night Kevin Goldstein briefly responded to several questions that basically asked, “Why don’t the Rangers just lowball Yu Darvish since they are the only MLB team with which he can negotiate?”  Goldstein’s succinct (and accurate) reply was that doing so would be “dumb.” 

There are many reasons doing so would be dumb.  For example, the Rangers would risk alienating a premier player and hurting their relationship with future Japanese imports (as well as American free agents).

One important reason that is often ignored is that Darvish was making significant money in Japan.  We in America tend to operate on this assumption that Japanese baseball players do not make much money, but this claim is certainly false as it pertains to Darvish.  He has earned the following salaries over the past five years (converted from Yen to USD using today’s exchange rates):

  •                 2011: $6.4MM
  •                 2010: $4.2MM
  •                 2009: $3.5MM
  •                 2008: $2.6MM
  •                 2007: $0.92MM

Now, if Darvish and the Rangers cannot agree to a deal, he will become a free agent after the 2013 season.  Given his historical increases in salary, Darvish is likely to make about $8-9MM in 2012 and $10-12MM in 2013.  Using the low end of the estimates, he can expect to make $18MM over the next two years.  After that, he would become a true free agent.  There would be no posting fee given to the Nippon Ham Fighters, and he could negotiate with all 30 teams.  That’s a quite enviable spot for a 27-year-old to be in.

So, for those who believe that the Rangers should lowball Darvish, how low do you mean?  Darvish is two years away from a $100MM contract anyways.  In the meantime, he will make at least $18MM.  How low could a lowball offer go?  If the Rangers offered Darvish $80MM over five years, he would easily pass.  He would likely prefer a 5/100 deal for 2014 and beyond (a fairly low estimate for Darvish on the open market), combined with his expected salary over the next two years, which would give him $78MM over the next five years, with two guaranteed years for another $40MM.

Simply put, Darvish has much more leverage than most assume, because he makes significant money in Japan.  Plus, he is two years away from true free agency where his agent can play large bids off of each other.  If the Rangers do not offer $100MM (and perhaps significantly more), Darvish has good reason to pass up the offer.

So, yes, Goldstein is right.  Attempting to lowball Darvish is definitely “dumb.”