Yesterdays Perfect Game

As much as a like stats and baseball, I’m bothered by one thing. Everyone is talking about how Matt Cain’s perfect game is one of the top 5 games ever pitched. They’re referring to Bill Jame’s Game Score calculation which goes like this:

• Start with 50 points.
• Add one point for each out recorded, so three points for every complete inning pitched.
• Add two points for each inning completed after the fourth.
• Add one point for each strikeout.
• Subtract two points for each hit allowed.
• Subtract four points for each earned run allowed.
• Subtract two points for each unearned run allowed.
• Subtract one point for each walk.

Not a bad system but it seems a bit arbitrary. A perfect game nets a base 87 points (50+27+2*(innings 5,6,7,8,9))=87. After that, it’s all up to how many strikeouts a pitcher can get. Cain got fourteen so his total score is 101 (the highest on record is 105).

My issue is with the idea that we can take numbers like these and make definitive judgments without context. 101 tells how well the pitcher did.  But it doesn’t tell you anything about the game.  Was it played in a time when pitching was dominant? Was it in the playoffs? Did it feature historically great teams? Stripping numbers of context strips them of meaning. If everyone followed the numbers the baseball would be a pretty sterile game.  When we tell baseball stories, lead with numbers but always finish with expansive tales of homeruns hit, diving catches made, and bases stolen.  It’s as if we respect how ingrained numbers are to baseball but know the history and tradition of the game go beyond averages, counts, and metrics.

For my money, the best pitching performance only gets a game score of 94. According to the numbers, it’s not nearly as good as Matt Cain’s performance. It’s a perfect game so the difference is seven strikeouts. But my choice has two things going for it. First, it was played against a line up with multiple Hall of Famers. There may be future HoF’ers on the Astros but I kinda doubt it.  Better still, it was in the World Series.  It will be tough to top Don Larsen’s perfect game on October 8, 1956. Matt Cain has accomplished something that puts him in the record books.  But I wonder how many people will tell the story of this perfect game fifty years from now.

Racing in the Dark

The C&O canal stretches some 184.5 miles from Cumberland, Maryland to The District.  It drops 605 feet during that time. The tow path along the canal is maintained by the National park service. It’s very pretty in some places, easy to walk on, and easily accessible. Cyclists, joggers, hikers, and anyone else who likes a little bit of sunshine can be found on the trail on any pleasant day.

Last Saturday and Sunday, 15 of my coworkers and I decided to run the whole thing. Yes, we ran a combined 200 miles starting a 2AM Saturday and finishing at noon on Sunday.  We piled into two vans and an RV, drove in shifts, slept when we could, lived off nuts, power bars, and Gatorade and ran through mud, creeks, traffic, and geese to arrive at Ft. Hunt park. Why you might ask? Why would we subject ourselves to such pain and discomfort?  Running is about why! It’s about why not! Why do so many people run crazy distances?! Why don’t you go back to your couch and watch Jersey Shore if you hate beautiful scenery and fresh air so much!

I had an amazing time but the sleep deprivation put my thoughts on the event in a blender and hit frappe.  Going to try and structure this somehow.

We participated in Tom’s Run. It’s a relay in memory of a Coast Guard officer who died of ALS.  One runner and one biker from each team go on set legs.  It’s not a race and it doesn’t raise money for charity. It’s simply to get out and do something interesting.

The Awesome: Running in the dark

The most interesting part of the whole experience was running/biking at night. Since the park is normally closed at dark and there is limited camping, you have the trail almost entirely to yourself. The first thing you notice is how closed in the path is. I suppose it’s easy to notice during the day but at night, the overhanging trees block out the moon and the stars.  A head lamp only illuminates so much and it makes the trees feel very tunnel like. Without a strong frame of reference, it feels like you’re going super fast down the trail.

Someone should make an experimental film about a dude running down the C&O canal at 3 AM.  It’s title would be the German word for night-watchman and it would alternate between a direct on and behind camera shots of a dude in a white shirt running.  The only lighting would be the runner’s headlamp and the bicycle trailing him. It will be shot in black and white. Critics and film geeks everywhere would love this.

Also, when you’re running at night and you cross an aqueduct, you’ve got a 50/50 shot at running into hobos fishing. Seriously. They had a kerosene lantern and everything.  Nearly ran them over on my bike. OK, they may not have been hobos but guys fishing of an old aqueduct with a lantern and big buckets for fish screams hobo to me.

The Good:  Wildlife: Geese are mean animals (among other things).  Ask any golfer who’s been chased by a flock of them and he’ll tell you that a 20lb goose is not something to take lightly and a flock of them is no laughing matter.  Guess what likes the to nest near the canal? If you said geese, you’re only half right. I did run by a flock of geese and goslings. That was during mile 11 of 13. At about 5:45AM at that distance, I’m willing to fight a flock of guess if it gets in my way.  Fortunately that didn’t happen. Along the creek I saw herons, foxes, raccoons, and a host of song birds. Plus deer. Lots and lots of deer out at 2AM on the stretches of River road around Whites Ferry. I’m surprised no one doing Tom’s run has hit one yet

The Bad: Sweaty car seats.  Do you have any idea of how gross it is to sit on a car seat that is covered in the sweat of 10 runners covering a couple hundred miles? It’s the anti-hot rack. It’s cold, smelly, and seeps instantly through your running shorts/shirt. Black mesh seats are the best at hiding this. You’ve just finished cheering a team mate on, dash back to the car, only to sink into a cold, clammy seat that begins to dampen your clothes. And you’re stuck there for an hour drive. Fun!

The crazy: Most people get to spread their legs out across the two days. Me, I got to cram it all into 12 hours! First leg wasn’t even on the tow path but a detour down a country road. I got to run in traffic! 6.5 miles from 530-630. From 830-930, I got to bicycle for 8 miles. Odd thing about the cycling at Tom’s run. Since you need to stay with the runner, it’s actually more work to stay upright than it is to keep pace. Anyways. After that, I crashed until 2 AM so that I could run another 6 miles at 5 AM. Let me tell you how much fun that second run was. I did do a second bicycle leg at around 9AM but it was a mere 4 miles.

Overall this is the type of event that makes you realize why people go running. It was fun, hard, and silly.  The organizers don’t wrap the relay in a noble cause.  This is about getting out doors and doing something truly unique, even if the Coast Guard teams take it a bit seriously. I did it to meet some coworkers but also because it fits in with what I want to do this year. I’m looking forward to doing it next year.

June Nationals Prediction

The First Ladies of Baseball and I continued our new tradition of monthly predictions of how the Nats will do. The lovely ladies got their half up while I was buy running the C&O canal (more on that later). Today, I’ll wrap things up.

Yankees (vs June 15-17)

Drew: This year’s Yankees don’t feel as imposing as say the Os or Marlins. But they should scare the pants off of Nationals fans. They’ve got top of the league offensive numbers and the only weakness of their pitching staff has been the long ball. With the Nats mediocre power, I’m not sure this series is going to go the Nat’s way. Those Damn Yankees wil probably take 2 of 3 from us.

Maggie: The Yankees are a team that scares me. It’s partly because they have such a history of winning, and partly because they are “the” New York team and seem to be able to buy players and wins. But this year they aren’t as dominant as they have been in the past, and considering the Nats are taking them on at home (in a region that has historic dislike of the Yankees due to divisional rivalry with O’s fans), I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say the Nats take 2. (2-1)

Rays (vs June 19-21)

Drew: This series excites me. I like all the moves Joe Maddon has made and the team seems to be playing like they love the game. I can’t wait to see them play on the 20th. That being said, they Rays are playing like they belong atop the AL East. They’re pitching is almost as good as the Nats and their offense is performing just a bit better. I’m seeing the same thing as Maggie, with a mid-month slump and going 1-2 against the Rays.

Maggie: This is where I see the Nats slumping a bit. Mid June, about to head out on a long road trip, and playing a strong Tampa Bay team. If the Nats get one here, I’ll be happy, but I have a feeling all three games will be tough. (1-2)

Orioles (@ June 22-24)

Drew: The battle of the beltways didn’t end up the way I wanted it (or predicted it for that matter). Everything I said last time about the Os still holds true. They’re really much close to a .500 than a first place team. The Nat’s seem to have more offense now then they showed in the first series and will be getting some key players back. I’ve got a good feeling about this one I’m going to say 2-1 Nats get revenge.

Maggie: Who would have thought that both the Orioles and Nationals would still be kicking around at the top of their respective leagues two months in? In any case, I don’t think the Nats can count on them to slump after two months of consistent play, and considering that we only took one game at home, I’m guessing that there will be a sweep happening…but it will be the O’s fans breaking out the brooms. (0-3)

Rockies (@ June 25-28)

Drew: I’m going with Maggie on this one. The Rockies are terrible. Grade A bad. I really can’t see them taking a lot from the Nats. Most importantly, they just released Jamie Moyer so they don’t even have a feel good story. I’m going to be bold and predict a sweep here. Take that NL West.

Maggie: As Nats fans, I have a feeling this series will be our only real relief this month. The Rockies are sitting near the bottom of the AL West, and just ripe for the picking, if possible. But since the Nats are a team that hasn’t really been able to close out series this year, I think they win all but one (and likely lose either the first or last game). (3-1)

[For the last series of the month, see the first post where we discuss the Nats taking on the Braves].

Final Predicted Records for June (including July 1 game):
Drew: 17-11
Maggie: 15-13