Monday, November 23, 2009

Part of the Alex Anthopoulos/Paul Beeston plan...

(this is still the only photo I've ever seen of the dude)

Six years after the release of "Moneyball," the stats vs. scouts debate is coming almost full circle.
"Moneyball," written by Michael Lewis, detailed the A's use of statistical analysis to exploit inefficiencies in the player market, demeaning the role of scouts in the process.

Alex Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays' new general manager, is increasing the team's number of domestic scouts from 28 to 54 in an attempt to better compete with the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East.

Anthopolous, 32, is no old-school throwback, longing for the days when teams relied solely on scouts' opinions and not computers. Quite the contrary. He grew up reading Bill James, believes in blending subjective and objective analysis, and uses Tom Tango, a leading sabermetrician, as a consultant.

His increased emphasis on scouting, while more retro than radical, is certainly a departure from the current trend. But Anthopoulos sees it like this: So many clubs employ statistical analysis, the numbers no longer offer as significant a competitive advantage.

Scouts — good scouts — might offer more of an edge.


If the Jays reduce an area scout's region from, say, six states to three, the scout can dig deeper into his list of players, see a hitter for perhaps 20 at-bats instead of four, a pitcher for perhaps 15 innings instead of three.


The Jays, seeking more and better information, are increasing their number of pro scouts from 10 to 15. All but one will cover two organizations each, top to bottom, majors to rookie ball (the other will cover one club).

Scotch on the rocks

(Scotch, drilled to the bottom)

Ernst Shackleton's antarctic adventures: In January 1909 he and three companions made a southern march which established a record Farthest South latitude at 88°23'S, 97 geographical miles (114 statute miles, 190 km) from the South Pole, by far the closest convergence in exploration history up to that time. For this achievement, Shackleton was knighted by King Edward VII on his return home.

After the race to the South Pole ended in 1912 with Roald Amundsen's conquest, Shackleton turned his attention to what he said was the one remaining great object of Antarctic journeying—the crossing of the continent from sea to sea, via the pole. To this end he made preparations for what became the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–17. Disaster struck this expedition when its ship, Endurance, was trapped in pack ice and slowly crushed, before the shore parties could be landed. There followed a sequence of exploits, and an ultimate escape with no lives lost, that would eventually assure Shackleton's heroic status (via Wikipedia)

(via Boingboing)

So, in 1909 Shackleton aborted the attempt to reach the South Pole (no, he really just wanted to stop 200 kms outside the south pole). While there he abandoned two cases of scotch at base camp. A century later someone is digging it up.

Whyte & Mackay, the drinks group that now owns McKinlay and Co., has asked for a sample of the 100-year-old scotch for a series of tests that could decide whether to relaunch the now-defunct Scotch. Workers from New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust will use special drills to reach the crates (a straw), frozen in Antarctic ice under the Nimrod Expedition hut near Cape Royds.

If you haven't seen the movie about this antarctic excursion, you really should. The Endurance came as a bit of a surprise, and after seeing it a few times (once just recently) it was really well done.

Here's the NyTimes review and Metacritic, with universal acclaim.