THE DUKE IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE DUKE

    A fact that doesn't seem to get much traction: the great Duke Snider, who passed away last week, hit more home runs than any other ballplayer during the 1950s, with 326. This despite being uprooted from a cozy home park in Brooklyn and plopped down in a ballpark with a 420-foot power alley in right field (the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum).

    Snider is clearly a poster boy for the concept of "peak" performance as a ticket into the Hall of Fame. There is probably no player whose mid-career home park shift was so severe, but the BBWAA voters (at least implicitly) recognized this when they inducted him in 1980. (They also waited until the enshrinement of both Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, those "other New York center fielders" from "The Era" when the Big Apple owned baseball--a team from New York appeared in ten of eleven post-seasons from 1947-57 and represented both leagues in seven World Series during that time frame.)

    So what happened to Snider? A look at the daily data points to two things: the Coliseum, of course, which forced Duke to change his approach at the plate; and a set of nagging injuries that caused him to age prematurely.

    In 1958, the Dodgers sure weren't ready to make the move to Los Angeles. The team lost 21 of its first 31 games, and manager Walt Alston was juggling players and lineups at an accelerated rate (the '56 Dodgers had used only 46 different lineups; the '58 team would use 96.)

    Snider didn't even start out the year playing center field. He and Gino Cimoli (who, coincidentally, also passed away this month) were flip-flopped by Alston. Snider hit a home run at Seals Stadium in the second game of the 1958 season--and didn't hit another one until May 31st. He found his stroke in June, but regressed in July, still tinkering with his swing at the Coliseum. He seemed to put it all together in August, but suffered through nagging injuries until he twisted his knee while running the bases in mid-September.

    What might be shocking to us now is to see how swiftly the Dodgers began to platoon the Duke. The injury-plagued '58 campaign, in which he's missing about forty percent of his usual plate appearances, masks the fact that the switch in ballparks resulted in a reversal of strategy for the Dodgers' opponents. In 1957, left-handed pitchers had made only 6 starts against the Dodgers. In 1958, that total was 25. By 1961, it was 35. While this was still at the bottom of the NL, the 1960 Dodgers had five times as many plate appearances against left-handed starters than the 1957 team.

    Snider had hit lefties pretty well up through 1955 (.274/.334/.456), but he backslid in '56 and the Dodgers just didn't see any lefties in '57. It seems as though Alston was really quick to pull the plug: today, a guy with Snider's 1958 profile (age 31, coming off five consecutive 40+ HR seasons) would be pulling down an eight-figure salary, and the chances of such a player being sat down against lefties would be zero.

    In 1960, between the platooning and a new rash of injuries, Snider missed half a season. In the seventh game of the 1961 season, Snider was hit by a pitch and suffered a hand injury. He missed a month, and hit just .200 over the next two months, with people speculating that he was through. From late July to the end of the year, Duke hit .369 and slugged .738, trying to lift the Dodgers back into the pennant race.

    When you add Duke's '60 and '61 numbers together, you get a full season. It looks like a lesser year from a superstar (136 OPS+, .541 SLG, 30 HR), but the problem is that it's actually two years.

    Maybe it was the grey hair that started to appear even before Duke turned 30. Who knows? Snider simply couldn't sustain a full season of baseball once the Dodgers moved west. In the picture above (snapped in September 1961), Snider, 34 at the time, looks older than that.

    In 1962, a most curious thing happened. Despite getting off to a hot start, Snider found himself riding the bench in favor of a hot young outfield (Tommy Davis, Willie Davis, Frank Howard). For more than two months, he did nothing but pinch-hit. From June 24th to August 15th, Duke had just 18 plate appearances, going 1-for-14 in that stretch. Of course, the Dodgers were winning, so how could anyone complain? But a 35-year-old player just a tad under his "superstar" level was just wasting away.

    In mid-August, Leo Durocher sounded off to a local pundit about the Dodgers. He thought that several veteran players weren't being used properly. This didn't endear Leo to Walt Alston, but it's not coincidental that Snider returned to the lineup shortly thereafter: the Dodgers also tried to fill their offensive sinkhole at third base by moving Tommy Davis to the hot corner, where he'd been error-prone previously. (Tommy was nothing if not consistent--his fielding average at third base in 1962: .889.)

    The Dodgers won seven of the first nine games that Duke started, but Snider was too rusty to get into a serious groove. Alston continued with a complex platoon in September, with Duke playing left field against righties (he had all of seven plate appearances against lefties in '62). The Dodgers lost seven of their last nine to wind up in a tie with the Giants. Snider did his part in the playoffs, doubling in the sixth inning of the second game to ignite the Dodgers' seven-run rally (though the big double in that frame was Lee Walls' bases-clearing shot to the left center field wall).

    Snider's last at-bat for the Dodgers came in the bottom of the sixth inning in Game Three. He singled and scored the run that moved L.A. ahead 3-2. That was his last hit as a Dodger: he was removed for a defensive replacement in the top of the seventh (one of Alston's over-maneuvers). When the bottom of the ninth came around with the Dodgers trailing 6-4, Snider wasn't available: .205-hitting Larry Burright made the last out of the Dodgers' '62 season.

    Duke was sold to the Mets just as the 1963 season started. The Dodgers won the pennant without him--their first since 1941. Snider pushed his career HR total over 400--which, at the time, placed him tenth on the all-time list. Today, he's tied for 46th place with Andruw Jones.

    From 1953-57, Snider (161 OPS+) was about as good as anyone not named Williams or Mantle or Mays. It's that peak for which he's remembered, and it's why he's in the Hall of Fame.

LIGHT BEAUTY








    Amanda Seyfried for Interview March 2011 by Mikael Jansson



    There is something very light and effortless in these photos...I'm loving this quiet and relaxed beauty

    Há algo de muito leve e relaxante nestas fotos...adoro esta beleza calma e relaxada

IN BLOOM








    The sun is shining, use your best smile and enjoy the day!

    O sol está a brilhar, usem o vosso melhor sorriso e aproveitem o dia!

COLOR CONSTRUCTION



     
     
     
     

     
    Olga Serova by Nikolay Biryukov for Elle Ukraine March 2011


    I always loved to mix different colors in the same outfit, I'm not a "matchy-matchy" girl...  so this season clothing stores for me are like candy stores, are filled with coloured and vibrant pieces...extremely tempting!!

    Eu sempre adorei conbinar diferentes cores na mesma roupa, nunca fui muito de combinar tudo com tudo...por isso esta estação as lojas transformaram-se em autênticas lojas de doces, repletas de peças coloridas e vibrantes...extremamente tentadoras!!

WHAT THE LAST FIFTEEN YEARS HAVE DONE TO THE RECORD BOOK

    Some years back, for a series in BBBA 1996, I pulled together some data on the "frequency of statistical achievements" for hitters--something that was supposed to run, I think, as part of our "offensive explosion" discussions. It didn't make the cut, but I found it the other day, and realized that if we updated it to 2010 and compared the distributions, we just might find out what the impact of the now-waning "explosion" period had on the record book.

    And we might just find a way to adjust some of our perceptions about that period accordingly.

    The following counting stats were compiled for 1876-1995 and for 1876-2010: runs scored, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, total bases, runs batted in, bases on balls, extra base hits.

    The following derived stats were compiled: batting average, on-base percentage, slugging average, on-base plus slugging, runs creates, isolated power.

    These are frequency distributions; that is, the number of times someone has reached a particular number in the statistical categories. Lets use home runs as the example, since it's the "big ticket" item in more senses than one. Looking at the chart, we see that the number of 40+ homer seasons has nearly doubled since 1995 (the ∆ column measures the change as a value comparing the 2010 frequency to 1995's, which was set at 100).

    Of course, this chart tells you what you already know: that the home run dominated the past fifteen years and hitters completely rewrote the record book at all thresholds. But you may not have seen the data presented in exactly this way before.

    What we'll do now is look at four groupings of these stats based on the amount of change to the frequency distributions that occurred. We are mixing together the counting and the derived stats here, and that mixture will make for an interesting depiction of the shape of the changes that occurred as a result of how the game was played over the past fifteen years.

    The low change group, in keeping with what we know as the distinguishing feature of the 1995-2010 time frame--the rise of isolated power as a result of the home run explosion, is not all that surprising: batting average, triples, hits, and runs scored (the distribution of runs scored throughout the batting order has shifted subtly, and has served to dampen the level of change for individual players).

    The assault on the hits record, of course, cuts against the grain but is really due to the presence of Ichiro Suzuki, a clear throwback to a type of player and a style of play that was still flourishing in the early 90s. It's interesting how many people, including numbers types who have their ideological subconscious firmly joined to the more uniform style of play as it relates to theories of offense and the concept of "efficiency" as it is now being applied to the game, are fascinated by Ichiro. Perhaps it's because when they watch him,  they sense that there's something about baseball that is otherwise absent from the game.

    The upper echelons of the other stats seem impervious to any assault at this point, due to the increasing uniformity of hitting styles over the past fifteen years.
    There is a fifth member of the low change group that's a bit surprising, however: on-base percentage. Despite Barry Bonds's rewrite of the OBP record, the overall change profile here is relatively weak. Given that batting average has been deemphasized, it's perhaps not surprising that there are proportionately fewer high-walk, high-batting average types to be found. The shape of the current offensive explosion seems to exclude them.

    The moderate change group reflects this lag in OBP, and shows that the offensive explosion in the last fifteen years stemmed a bit more from hitters figuring out how to hit the ball far and get extra bases on their hits. (It seems to be easier to get everyone to do this, hence the increasing uniformity.) The moderate change stats: base on balls, on-base-plus-slugging, and slugging average.

    If you think about it, it makes sense that SLG by itself hasn't gone through the roof. High SLG requires high batting average or a massive infusion of extra-base hits as a percentage of total hits. The former drove the records set in the 20s and 30s; the latter drove the overall increase in isolated power that occurred over the past fifteen years, but doesn't necessarily translate into high SLG seasons for individuals. Coupled with the lag in BB, that also tends to dampen the effect on OPS.

    The pronounced change group makes for an interesting linkage that could ruffle some feathers in the numbers world. The three stats in this group are runs created, total bases, and runs batted in. Ah, but aren't RBIs supposed to meaningless outside of particular contexts? This is a long-standing ideological canard that's more of an "us vs. them" litmus test for "the cause" than it is a particularly objective look at how RBI have functioned in the game itself. The fact that RBI are linked with two totalizing stats such as total bases and runs created indicate that there are associations between the stats that go deep into the structure of how batting orders work, and why it still makes sense to "concentrate one's fire" in terms of where to bat one's best hitter.

    Looking at the data down each threshold, we see that there's a lot of similarity in the pattern of change between total bases and RBI, which is probably due to the mechanics of the batting order, which locks in a certain circumscribed ratio for these stats which is going to behave in a highly stable manner. (In other words, #3-#4-#5 hitters are likeliest to have the most TB and the most RBI, and the highest ratio between RBI and TB.)

    Runs created, being a stat that models performance, operates differently and has something of a divergent profile across its thresholds. A good bit of that, of course, is Barry Bonds, and it could be that if we simply removed Bonds from the sample, we'd find that the RC numbers are a lot more similar to the RBI and TB distributions. And wouldn't that be disturbing to the folks who still need to bash RBI!

    Finally, the high change group, four stats that should be no particular surprise at this point (no real "mystery guests" here): we are talking about isolated power, extra-base hits, doubles, and home runs.

    One of these stats is a bit unlike the others, however, in that the overall shape of its change diverges from the "destroy the top end" approach of the other three. Which is that? It's doubles, where the assault is clearly concentrated at lower thresholds.

    The consistency of gain in isolated power is more similar to the home run data than it is to the overall extra-base hit data, which again indicates that home run hitting has driven the shape of offensive upswing over the past fifteen years. Most of the work in rewriting the record book, then, can be seen as the doing of just a few players, with Bonds--the great lightning rod for a "tainted" era--stepping up to the play as combination hero/anti-Christ.

    We'll come back and examine this same idea, applied to the fifteen years between 1919 and 1934--a time frame of at least equally significant change to both the game and to its record book--a bit later on.

New Findings_ MONKI



    Really cool campaign from MONKI.
    Monki is a store concept and a fashion brand.
    The most important in these pictures for me are not the clothes, but the way they play with gravity, with tridimensionality... the result is a really interesting mix between fashion, art and photography, almost an alive art installation.

    Adorei esta campanha da MONKI.
    Monki é um conceito de loja e uma marca de moda.
    Para mim o mais importante nestas imagens não é a roupa, mas a forma como  brincaram com a gravidade, a tridimensionalidade...o que resulta numa combinação muito interessante entre moda, arte e fotografia, torna-se quase numa instalação de arte viva.

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