The end of Zombiecam?

Jim, with whom I failed to see a baseball game last week while I was staying with him in Los Angeles, alerted me to a USA Today story about those hip graphics Fox uses for their football coverage.

Fox, known as the NFL’s most flamboyant carrier, is even cutting back on its glitz.

The network surveyed viewers, Fox senior vice president Gary Hartley says, and found that Fox’s many sound effects, blinking lights and animated graphics were seen as “pointless and annoying.”

So they’ll be reduced. However, he says, Fox is bringing back the
on-screen robots that pop up on its coverage: “We found we’ve lost some
of the attitude we’ve projected in the past. Robots are sacred ground
for that.”

Did they really need to survey more than one person to come up with “pointless and annoying?” Could baseball be next? I can think of a certain talking baseball that I would describe with just those words–if I you limited me to family-friendly language.

And what the hell do they mean by “robots are sacred ground for [attitude]?” These people are very, very strange.

"He’s sittin’ on 714"

I’m not sure if “honor” is the right word, but in honor of Barry Bonds’ current home run total, here’s Milo Hamilton’s call of Hank Aaron’s 715th home run on April 8, 1974, while both members of were ensconced in wombs.

Meanwhile, Albert Pujols is on the cover of Sports Illustrated again, for the second time in less than two months, and why not? Also in the issue is Baseball Prospectus’s projected home run leader board from the year 2020, which I want to reproduce here for posterity:

1. Barry Bonds (765)
2. Hank Aaron (755)
3. Babe Ruth (714)
4. Alex Rodriguez (678)
5. Willie Mays (660)
6. Adam Dunn (638)
7. Ken Griffey Jr. (637)
8. Albert Pujols (620)
9. Manny Ramirez (589)
10. Sammy Sosa (588)
11. Robotic Hitting Unit HR-1 (587)
12. Frank Robinson (586)

One of the above was actually my own addition to the Baseball Prospectus list, solely to make Levi chuckle.

The baseball singularity is here

Ray Kurzweil, in his recent book The Singularity is Near writes about the moment, which he sees just over the horizon, when machines will surpass human abilities and be actual thinking machines (Bob, please help me out with the explanation in comments if I’ve gotten this wrong.).

Well, in baseball terms, the moment of machine superiority may already be here. At a Marlins exhibition game yesterday, the star wasn’t any of the Marlins’ suspect prospects.

It was a pitching machine. That recorded five strikeouts.

Which lead me to think about how a pitching machine should be programmed to pitch to Old Sammy Sosa, pre-batting eye (or New New Sammy, post-batting eye): “Pitch 1: low and away slider. Pitch two:

low and away slider. Pitch 3: low and away slider. Strikeout!”

Corey Patterson, on the other hand: “Pitch one: throw ball into stands. Pitch two: throw ball into dugout. Pitch threee: roll ball to plate. Strikeout!”
And I think even a robot would take Lefty Gomez’s advice about pitching to Stan Musial: “Make your best pitch and back up third base. That relay might get away and you’ve got another shot at him.”

Opening Day can’t come too soon, if I’m talking about baseball robots.

Play ball, robots!

The magic robots over at Diamond Mind have released their annual player projections disc, in advance of their 2006 version of their game. Over at the Baseball Primer, a guy named SG ran 100 seasons with their projections, which Diamond Mind tends to do itself at some preseason point. The average number of wins they come up with over 100 seasons tends to be a reasonably good predictor of the actual season.

SG’s top teams?
AL East: Toronto, with 86 wins, tops the Yanks by 1
AL Central: Cleveland takes it with 92
AL West: Oakland with 96, the best total in baseball
NL East: Mets. Really. The Mets, with 93
NL Central: The Cardinals, falling a bit to only 94 wins.
NL West: Padres, climbing to 85 wins

The Cardinals make the playoffs 80 out of 100 seasons, either via a title or the Wild Card. Cubs win 85 and make the playoffs 38 times. Dodgers come in at 83 wins and 30 playoff appearances. Special to Toby: Pittsburgh averages 82 wins and makes 20 playoff appearances!!!

Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Florida

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are the only three teams never to make the playoffs. But I suppose their fans didn’t need magic robots to tell them that, did they?

You can see SG’s table here, scrolling down to comment #76.
Oh, this means the season’s getting close. Time to hie myself to my local bookstore and order Baseball Prospectus 2006.