New Ways to Measure Offensive Efficiency

Aaron Judge won the Home Run Derby last night and, in the process, established himself as the new face of baseball. At a lot of people locally compared Judge’s performance to that of Josh Hamilton in the 2008 Home Run Derby. It seems that everybody digs the long ball, except maybe me.

As a kid, the Home Run Derby was my favorite part of the All Star festivities (I probably still have a few VHS copies somewhere). I also enjoyed watching the reruns of the 1960’s television series on ESPN. My friends and I would often play our own improvised version of Home Run Derby in backyards across our neighborhood (often with tennis balls to pad our stats).

In short, I was obsessed with the long ball as a kid.

Indeed, 755 was probably the most meaningful number to 9-year old Josh and I dreamed of the day a player would again break the 50 home run barrier. My favorite player, Andre Dawson, hit 49 in 1987, along with a red-headed rooking in the Bay Area.  When Albert Belle hit 51 home runs for Cleveland in 1991, it was the first time the 50 home run plateau had been broken in my lifetime (George Foster hit 52 for the Reds in 1977, the summer before my birth) and it was one of the most magical moments of my sports lifetime. In 1998, I watched every night to see if Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa would end up with the record for most home runs in a single season, but after that, I lost interest in the long ball and, temporarily, in baseball.

Somewhere in my baseball dark period, I started watching old VHS tapes of games from my childhood, watching the players I grew up idolizing–Dawson, Pete Rose, Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Ozzie Smith, Robin Yount, Rickey Henderson. Of the bunch, Dawson was the only one really regarded as a power hitter and he’s not even a member of the 500 home run club. Each of them had a unique plate approach and were efficient offensively in their own unique way.

After watching these old tapes, I decided to give baseball another chance. The steroid era had ended and baseball had entered the “dead ball” era, so the timing was a bit fortuitous, but overt the past few seasons, baseball has reverted back to the home run and today, at least some nights, the great game has been reduced to home runs and strikeouts.

Personally, I blame the advanced stats crowd who revile batting average and, instead, champion numbers such as OPS (on base + slugging %), launch angle, and exit velocity. I don’t care how hard or how high you hit it; I just want you to hit it “where they ain’t.”

The Rangers this season feature several batters hitting below .250, but who boast high OPS and can hit the ball a mile, so the advance stats wing of Rangers fandom, like some evil genius, tries to convince us these players add value to the roster.

I decided to develop my own system of measuring offensive efficiency to combat this baseball nonsense.

I began by breaking down the potential results of an at-bat and assigning them points. I admit, the home run is the best possible outcome of an at bat, so it should be graded as a premium.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are three really bad things that can happen during an at-bat: a double-play that fails to advance a runner, a foul out (worse than a fly out because it is not in play and presents only a very slim chance of advancing a runner), and strikeout. To me, the strikeout is the absolute worst result of an at-bat. This is where I really veer from the advance stats crow, who will try to sell you on the idea that strikeouts really aren’t that bad.

Ground outs and fly outs are bad, but they still present an opportunity to advance the runner or drive in runs. Reaching base, no matter how it’s done, is a positive.

If you drive in runs, that’s really good also.

So I developed a way to score each plate appearance.

I recognized there had to be some way to account for what happens if and when the ball is put in play and what happens once a player reaches base, so came up with the following:

At the end of the game, you add up the points to get a players score for the game. For example, on Friday night, against the Angels, Adrian Beltre had 4 plate appearances. In his first plate appearance, Beltre singled, which advanced Nomar Mazara to second. He would later score on a Rougie Odor single. Beltre would get three points for this plate appearance.

Beltre’s second plate appearance resulted in a 3-run home run. Beltre gets 9 points for the the 3 runs he drives in, plus 4 points for the home run, totaling 13 points for his second plate appearance.

Beltre then flies out in his next two at-bats, resulting in zero points, so Beltre finishes the game with 16 points. Nomar Mazara was the game’s high scorer with 18 points.

I’ve tracked the last month’s worth of Rangers game and established that 2.5 average per game or .5 per plate appearance is the Mendoza Line, so to speak:

Worst Week

Historically, this coming week is the worst calendar week of the year. 

Yes, we have the MLB All-Star Game–the only all-star game worth watching–but it’s sandwiched in between a week void of professional sporting events (no, the Home Run Derby doesn’t count).

On top of that, we have reached peak summer. We know that we have at least two more months of hot temperatures, high dew points, and all around miserable weather.

Indeed, we have descended into the depths of calendar hell–a period some refer to as the “dog days of summer.” It’s a time period even the ancient Greeks associated with catastrophe and general malaise

This year, I choose to take a more optimistic approach. Instead of focusing on this rather unpleasant valley in the time of season, I choose to view it as the point we begin the (slow) ascent out of misery.

In fifteen days–yes, 15–the Cowboys report for training camp in Oxnard. In twenty-three days, the Cowboys play their first preseason game. Hell, I’ve already purchased my copy of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football and I’ve mapped out my football viewing for the fall.

It’s not all sports related though.

In forty-three days, school starts.

Then comes Labor Day and the ascent really accelerates. From their the weather changes, holidays become more frequent and meaningful, days become shorter, and life, generally, becomes more enjoyable.

It’s all about perspective, so bring on the dog days of summer. This year, I choose to view it as the start of something wonderful. 

Spoon Theory

I have been on vacation all week.

This summer that means a staycation at home to try and get things tidy and organized before the new school year starts. Things get started a month and a half from today and I can’t wait to start my second year of law school.

As I digitized some of our old files, I came across a pile of rejection letters–some from law schools and some from publishers and agents. I have eight rejection letters alone from SMU Dedman School of Law. I love reading them. Each one  gives me inspiration to keep on doing what I am doing.

One year of law school down and I managed to rank in the top 25% of my class (UNT-Dallas does not rank students, instead they provide a GPA based band), while working full-time and raising a family.

How did I do it?

Well, it wasn’t always easy.

First of all, I could not have done it without a supportive family. My wife is super human and shouldered a lot of the weight of parenting, especially during the week. Mondays through Thursdays she was pretty much a single parent. I read a lot of books and heard a lot of attorneys speak about law school and what to expect the first year. Many of them warned against starting a family while in law school and spoke of the difficulties of balancing family time and school time. That’s true to an extent, but I think if everyone in the family is all in on the law school mission, it doesn’t matter.

Second, and this is almost as important as point one, working in the legal industry helps–TREMENDOUSLY! I cannot emphasize this enough. If I were to give one piece of advice to a high school or college student considering law school (or adult considering law school), it would be to get a job in the legal industry.

A wise faculty member explained spoon theory to us during orientation. While spoon theory is most often used in helping people cope with disabilities, I think it’s a smart way to approach time management in law school. In short, we each have a finite number of spoons (think of it as bars of energy) to use over the course of each day and we must determine the most efficient way to use these spoons.

Students entering law school with limited or no previous experience in the legal field must use more spoons to learn the material presented. The more legal experience you have, the fewer spoons you have to use for law school activities and the more you can use for work, family, and free time.

Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I never spent a minute after class ended in my books or notes. Instead, I came home, ate dinner, and spent time with my wife. We do not have class on Friday nights, so on Fridays, I would not touch a school related book or look at my notes at all. Instead, as soon as I got off work, I would come home and spend time with my family. I would then spend most of Saturday and a couple of hours every Sunday morning to read and work on my notes. I still managed to watch every football game I wanted to watch and we stayed current on every TV show we watch together as a couple.

In all, I spent about 5 to 6 hours each week reading and taking notes. This was less than the amount of time I was actually in class each week and way less than what they advise a 1L student at the beginning of the year, but the main thing is to find what works for you and to stick with it.

Needles to say, my method won’t work for all students, but I think it shows how experience in the legal field can allow you to utilize fewer spoons than your peers and still have a successful law school career.

More than anything, the first  year of law school is learning to “think like a lawyer.” Working as a legal professional, you read case law, learn to spot issues, and how construct arguments on a daily basis, even you don’t recognize the acronyms IRAC or CRAC. Real world experience in the legal industry especially prepares you for Legal Writing and Legal Research.