The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Cubs barely hanging on to 4th

After dropping 12 of their last 15 games, the Cubs are now tied with the Brewers for 4th (last) place. There are 42 games left in the season; the Cubs have to win 10 of them to avoid a 100-loss season. It's not going well.

At least they can't lose today—but they can drop into 5th place if Milwaukee beats the Reds tonight. This, by the way, is unlikely, since the Reds are doing just fine, and are tied for the National League Wild Card with St. Louis.

I'm going to the Cubs-Cards game Sunday to watch the Cubs lose again.

Two sports videos

Via Microsoft's Raymond Chen, a real-life example of how a batter can get three strikes on one pitch:

Chen explains:

During his plate appearance, Vinnie Catricala was not pleased with the strike call on the first pitch he received. He exchanged words with the umpire, then stepped out of the batter's box to adjust his equipment. He did this without requesting or receiving a time-out. The umpire repeatedly instructed Catricala to take his position in the batter's box, which he refused to do. The umpire then called a strike on Catricala, pursuant to rule 6.02(c). Catricala, failing to comprehend the seriousness of the situation, still did not take his position in the batter's box, upon which the umpire called a third strike, thereby rendering him out.

But before I could watch that video, YouTube served up this one, which made me laugh out loud:

I'll poll some of my friends to find out if it's as funny to people in the UK as it is to us Americans.

Devastating day for pitchers

The Chicago White Sox gave up 28 runs yesterday, losing both games of a double-header with the Indians, 19-10 and 9-8. While that went on, Philadelphia beat the Dodgers 16-1, and Milwaukee got spanked 10-3 by the Pirates.

In total, there were 171 runs in Major League Baseball yesterday. I don't know if that's a record, but an average of 11.4 runs per game seems a little high, doesn't it?

But, wow. Twenty-eight runs in one day against one team. That's the super-special kind of baseball they play on the South Side.

In transit to Park #25

It turns out, all of O'Hare has free WiFi these days, so I can do work right at the gate when my plane's delayed by several short intervals. (A long delay would have seen me in the club, what what!)

Tonight I'll be at Safeco Field watching the Cubs probably lose to the Mariners and taking in my 25th park. Right now, I'm at H11A waiting for them to clean the plane.

Pretty normal travel day, except for getting out of the Loop.

Battle of the Titans of Little League

Going into yesterday's game against the Astros, the Cubs and Brewers were tied for 4th place in the National League Central division, and the Astros were the second-worst team in all of baseball. (Miami, with a 24-49 record, is firmly in last place overall.)

So no one expected anything exciting in the game, and we got what we expected. Both teams played at a level familiar to parents with children in Little League. Baserunning mistakes cost the Cubs three outs in two innings; simple relays between fielders went all over the field like electrons in a cloud.

We did get to see a rare play when Houston executed a perfect suicide squeeze in the top of the 9th to score the winning run. With a runner on 3rd, shortstop Ronny Cedeno bunted the ball just to the left of pitcher Kevin Gregg, who got the ball in time—but with catcher Wellington Castillo infield of the plate, neither he nor Gregg saw Justin Maxwell barreling down the line from 3rd until his foot crossed the plate.

The park erupted with ennui. Not a peep. About half the fans had already left. When the Cubs went one-two-three in the 9th, we shrugged and went home.

With Milwaukee's win yesterday, the Cubs are back in 5th place, at 30-43. Houston rose to 29-47 with the win, and Miami rounds out the benighted trio of losers at 24-50. Yay, us.

What are the odds for a losing streak?

A couple of days ago at work, we were talking about stupid things sports commentators say. In any sport, but much more so in baseball and U.S. football than others, you hear some commentator say "Well, Bob, with runners on first and third on a night with a 10-knot breeze out of the northeast, when the pitcher's name starts with 'M', there's only a 1-in-65 chance a left-handed batter with six toes on his right foot will fly out to center." Who cares, right?

But being in Chicago, there is a huge question in that category that we should answer: What are the odds that a baseball team can fail to win the World Series for 104 years?

Of course, given the Chicago Cubs' history, the odds are observably certain that one baseball team can do it. But, all things equal, what is the probability this can happen?

Here's how we figured it out. First, in any given year, all but one team does not win the World Series. For example, there are 30 teams right now, but only the San Francisco Giants will win the World Series. (Tonight, in fact, unless Detroit suddenly turns into a different baseball team.) So the basic formula for the probability of losing the world series is:

...where t is the number of teams and y is the number of years with that number of teams.

Since the Cubs last won in 1908, Major League Baseball has expanded six times, from 16 teams (in 1908) to 30 teams today. With 30 teams, the probability of losing the World Series is 0.9667, that is, 29 in 30. In 1908, the probability of losing was much smaller, 0.9375, or 15 in 16.

But here's the problem. The probabilities are multiplied together, like this:

Since 1908, there have been 103 World Series (there wasn't on in 1994, remember), so the data going into the formula are: from 1908 to 1960, 16 teams and 53 Series; in 1961, 18 teams, 1 Series; 1962 to 1968, 20 and 7; 1969 to 1976, 24 and 8; 1977 to 1992, 26 and 16; 1993 to 1997, 28 and 4; since 1998, 30 and 14. Doing the math, we come up with...wow.

The probability that the Cubs would lose all 103 World Series contests since last winning in 1908 is 0.00441, or 1 in 227.

I will now go cry.

And just for giggles, the probability that they would fail to play in the Series (i.e., win the pennant) since their last appearance in 1945 is 0.04798, or 1 in 21. So there's hope.

Swansong of the Astros

I made a mistake Monday: the Astos and Cubs will probably end the season with a combined 208 losses, not 207. It's a bit damp at Wrigley today, so they may not play; but if they do, either the Cubs will wind up 60-102 or 61-101 (to the Astros' 56-106 or 55-107, respectively). That's impressive.

Meanwhile, the new wild-card arrangement has gelled for the National League (Washington, Cincinnati, San Francisco clinch their divisions; Atlanta and St. Louis are wild cards), but the American League might not get everything sorted until tomorrow. The A's and Rangers are tied in the AL West, but since they play each other this afternoon, that will get settled. Detroit eliminated the White Sox already this week. That leaves Baltimore one game behind the Yankees in the AL East, so if Boston beats the Yankees and Baltimore beats Tampa tonight, they'll be tied, forcing a one-game playoff at Camden Yards on Thursday. And the loser will still be in the post-season as a wildcard.

What a weird end to the baseball season. Except for us in Chicago, it's pretty exciting.

More: MLB has an exhaustive guide to the wild card rules for anyone who has trouble sleeping tonight.

News alerts to make the baby cheeses cry

The Tribune just foisted two news alerts on me that I already knew. First, the Cubs lost their 100th game, which, it turns out, has only happened three times in the last 140 freaking years. The Trib's lede is beautiful:

Fifty years ago this week, only 595 fans showed up at Wrigley Field for the opener of the Cubs-Mets series, the last time two teams with 100-plus losses faced each other.

The '62 Cubs — with future Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Lou Brock, Billy Williams and Ron Santo on the roster — wound up taking two of three from the expansion team, finishing with a franchise-worst 103 losses, to the Mets' major league record 120.

Wow. I mean, wow. It takes a special kind of baseball team to lose 103 games in a season, so the talent and vision that went into the Mets' 120 losses in 1962 defies rational belief. I am cowed. And I am also thankful no team has gotten to that record in my lifetime, if only because the Mets occupy the rung on my baseball ladder just above the American League and just below the one I try to scrape off before walking in the house. (The Astros occupy that rung, it turns out, only because they were the first team I ever saw play the Cubs).

All righty then. One must look forward, to the horizon of a National League win. And again, I say: Go Giants.

Almost forgot: The other news alert, announcing that the Tigers have eliminated the White Sox, did not distress me much, as it only concerns the minor leagues.

Truly impressive series to end the season

It is a mathematical certainty that the combined losses of the Astros and Cubs will get to 207 when the season ends Wendesday. They're playing each other right now, with the Cubs heading for their 100th loss of the year. One cannot but marvel at the prowess of both teams, both fighting quixotically for their respective honors. The Cubs can't possibly be the worst team in baseball this year, because the Astros have so totally dominated them in that respect. And yet, the Astros will move to the American League next year, meaning that both they and the Cubs will begin 2013 being the worst teams in their respective leagues as the new season begins.

New rule: Once your home team loses 100 games in a season, you get to pick another team to root for. And so I say, from now until the next opening day: Go Giants!