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More statistical misconceptions in the San Francisco Chronicle

Will they ever cease to be? If ever I'm at a loss for topics, all I need to do is open the lovely local newspaper. On Tuesday, A's beat writer Susan Slusser told us: 1) Barry Zito's first half was inconsistent (but not his second half); and 2) Mark Mulder's velocity is off, which has resulted in a 7.58 ERA in a whole three starts in September.

First let's take a look at Zito. There is nothing to distinguish his second half from his first half, except for a slight reduction in home runs allowed. Mostly, he has pitched in slightly better luck in the second half of the season. But a quarter of an earned run per game over 100 innings is not statistically significant.

What about consistency? In the first half, Zito's highest ERA over three starts was 9.68, while his lowest was 1.97. In the second half, it was 7.72 and 0.69. Since we're talking about a sample size of 100-120 pitches, pitchers aren't typically consistent from game-to-game. All you have to remember is that the only man to throw back-to-back no-hitters is Johnny Vander Meer. In 1938.

Mulder's first and second half are a study in contrast.

Yes, his record is the same in both halves, but that's got nothing to do with him. Mulder has lost his control somewhat in the second half of the season -- more walks, more homers, and fewer strikeouts. He leads the majors in double plays, and he's got to keep the ball down with pinpoint control if he wants to keep it up. But he was consistent until September, right? Yeah, except for three starts between April 22 and May 4 when he posted a 6.38 ERA. And July 10-23, when he posted a 6.86 ERA. August 3-13, 5.73? He has bounced around just as much as Zito except he's had a brutal second half. The article in the Chronicle contrasts his first 27 starts with his last 3, which is like flipping a coin three times, having it land heads each time, and declaring that it's a trick coin -- heads every time!

I honestly wonder if they're watching the same game in the Press Box?

Now this is a pennant race!
If three teams ever had their fates in their own hands, this is it. Anaheim is three games back of the A's, while Texas is five back. They each have 13 games to go. Oakland and Texas play three. Oakland and Anaheim play six. And Anaheim and Texas have four. Texas also has two extra games against Seattle.

Let's try some hypotheticals. Oakland's magic number against Texas is eight. Eight Oakland Wins or Texas Losses would eliminate the Rangers. That's tough sledding for the Texans. Say Oakland goes 7-6 to finish the season. Texas would need to go 12-1 just to tie. That means that they could lose no more than one game to Oakland or Anaheim, and they'd need either of the teams ahead of them to lose some games to Seattle, and they'd need them to split their series. They just lost Alfonso Soriano and Frank "what'd you say about my momma?" Francisco for the season and have to find a way for relievers Carlos Almanzar and Doug Brocail to sit five and seven games, respectively. So I doubt it.

Anaheim's a lot tougher to do as a thought experiment, so I just simulated the whole damned thing. Here are the approximate percentages:

Oakland win: 80%
Anaheim win: 14%
Texas win: 1%
Three-way tie: 5%

After calculating these percentages, I realized the same information is available at the Baseball Prospectus website. As on Monday night, we came up with approximately the same results…Obviously, every game changes these percentages, but as it stands right now, Oakland is the odds-on favorite to win the pennant. Anaheim has a chance, but they had a better chance when they were just one game back of the A's.

Does Erubiel Durazo own his own glove?
Durazo has played just 19 innings in the field this year. That's just 19 innings more than you and I. (Perhaps less than you and I if you're a professional baseball player.) Durazo has never played so few games in the field, and he's never hit this well for an entire season. Coincidence? David "Scissorhands" Ortiz has played more than ten times as much first base.