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Curveball Named World's Best Illusion

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Sort of. I'll let the article do the talking for me: The three best visual illusions in the world were chosen at a gathering last weekend of neuroscientists and psychologists at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Florida. The winning entry, from a Bucknell University professor, may help explain why curve balls in baseball are so tricky to hit. A properly thrown curve ball spins in a way that makes the air on one side move faster than on the other. This causes the ball to move along a gradual curve. From the point of view of a batter standing on home plate, though, curve balls seem to "break," or move suddenly in a new direction. This year's winning illusion, created by Arthur Shapiro of Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, may explain this phenomena. His animation shows a spinning ball that, when watched directly, moves in a straight line. When seen out of the corner of the eye, however, the spin of the ball fools the brain into thinking that the ball is curving. So as a baseball flies towards home plate, the moment when it passes from central to peripheral vision could exaggerate the movement of the ball, causing its gradual curve to be seen as a sudden jerk. The illusion itself can be seen in the link, and I must say, it's pretty nifty. Tango provides a link to the original article, which also has a couple other cool (but not baseball-related) illusions.

New Run Estimator?

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Tom Tango links to a massive paper detailing a new run estimator designed by a reader of his. I've only skimmed it, and it's probably over my head, but he's looking for peer reviews, so if anyone out there is down to look it over and post comments (here and there), there's your link. Tango says he has one huge reservation he'll talk about tomorrow.

Wall Street Journal: Major League Baseball's Worst Ideas

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Tom Tango, who I got this link from, feels title would be better substituting "dubious" for "worst." In any case, it's an interesting look at a set of established ideas. Tall Catchers Pulling Your Best Hitter for a Pinch Runner Pitcher's Batting Ninth Calling in the Closer with a Three Run Lead Managers in Uniforms The catcher one was the most brow-raising to me, because it concerns internet baseball's current favorite meme: Matt Wieters. It suggests he would be the tallest catcher to have an exceptional career if he doesn't end up busting. I hadn't considered that as an actual concern, and I don't know if there's necessarily enough data to support it as a real correllation, but it might make Wieters being the best catcher ever a little less of a sure thing. As far as pitchers batting 9th, Tango had a pretty good response to that: "For the pitcher-batting-ninth, I’d flip that to "reactions to pitcher batting 8th". The dubious aspect is not that the pitcher bats 9th. It’s justifiable. It’s not that pitcher bats 8th. That’s justifiable too. It’s the reaction of people who think it’s a bad idea for the pitcher to bat 8th. It’s that reaction that is bad." Reliever usage continues to be one of the most baffling aspects of baseball management to me. I just cannot understand the logic. Is it all just about a weird fascination with a meaningless stat? Most bad baseball ideas I can understand the logic even if I disagree with it. I can't say that for bullpen use.

Dear Tango

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Let's say you're a fan of general relatively and Albert Einstein offered to answer any questions you might have, no matter how dumb. You'd take advantage, right? Well, I assume you are all baseball fans and interested in sabermetrics. So go ask Tom Tango some questions, or just read what he's already answered about WAR, positional adjustments, UZR, replacement-level baselines, wOBA, wRAA, and other Fangraphs stats. Now! Go! Ask!

wOBA Position-by-Position Averages 2008

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I did a spreadsheet of this stuff at the request of someone at Royals Review, but I thought people here might be interested. You can get more of my explanation by following the above link to my FanShot there.

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