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What’s in a Name? MLB All-Star Analysis Part 1

The MLB All-Star game is coming up soon, so I thought I’d toss a few random analyses your way to commemorate the occasion.  Here’s one…


So you want to be an All-Star, do ya?  Then change your name to Rodriguez or Robinson.  Here are the surnames of the top 250 All-Stars, by number of All-Star game selections, going back to the dawn of the All-Star game, in 1933 Chicago.  Unfortunately, notable baseball fan Al Capone was probably not in attendance, since he had other commitments at the time in the Big House.  But I digress.  The bigger and bolder the name, the more someone with that name appeared in an All-Star uniform.   This fine graphic represents the intersection of baseball and big data. For example, Robinson refers to the Orioles’ immortal third baseman, Brooks Robinson (18 career All-Star games), Frank Robinson, player-manager for my beloved Tribe despite those gawd-awful red uniforms (14 career selections), Eddie Robinson, who represented the White Sox and Twins in 4 contests, and of course Jackie Robinson, with 6 games as a Brooklyn Dodger. Frank Robinson was an All-Star selection for 3 of the 4 teams he played for in his career–Cincinnati, Baltimore, and LA. He never made it to the All-Star game as an Indian. Of course. All of the Robinsons on this list are in Cooperstown. Rodriguez is attached to Alex, Ivan, Ellie, Francisco, and Henry.

The word cloud was created using the R wordcloud, tm, and rColorBrewer packages.  The simple R script and data file can be found at

Like all of this and my upcoming All-Star analysis, a huge shout-out goes to the data geniuses at Baseball Reference.  More baseball statistics than are fit for human consumption.   This blog has been cross-posted to the most excellent R-bloggers site as well.


Today’s Class: CP101

I got a Fitbit device a few weeks ago (stop laughing).  If you’re not familiar, these things keep track of your exercise (such that it is), and help you stay motivated to get in shape.  It does so by tracking the number of steps you take each day, among other things.

One thing it does not do is track your heart rate. Which is a good thing, because it would have exploded last night in the 9th inning of the Indians game against Kansas City. Chris Perez, we all have to die of something, and my demise will be because of YOU.

Photo courtesy of Winslow Townsend

A too-familiar CP pose.

Perez has the lofty vocation of “closer,” meaning he has one job–admittedly a difficult one–but it is one job.  Get three outs,  Specifically, the last 3 outs of a ball game, but only those games in which your team is already winning.  He did so successfully 39 times last year, but has only 23 saves thus far in 2013.  Interestingly, he actually has 5 wins this year, and 3 losses (he was 0-4 in 2012).  How does a closer acquire 5 wins, you ask?  By blowing saves, that’s how, at which point the Indians’ offense comes in and bails you out in extra innings.  It’s not something to be proud of, CP.  These are the facts, and they are not in dispute.

Perez blew 4 saves in 2012, and has blown 5 thus far in 2013.  Not a big difference statistically, but boy did they seem to hurt this year.  Most painful was the 6-5 loss to Boston at the end of May, the same game where he added injury to insult.  Perez gave up a three-run 9th-inning lead in that game.  Suspecting an injury, he was asked to throw a warm-up pitch, which he promptly launched into the general area where Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones sat in the Fenway Park scene in Field of Dreams.  I couldn’t help but think it was intentional: “See, look how hurt I am!  It wasn’t my fault!”

And what does Mr. Perez have to say for himself about that Boston game, last night’s Royals game, or any other game, for that matter?  Nothing.  Nada.  Silencio.  You see, CP has declared that he would not be talking to the media whatsoever this year, because “it is too much of a distraction to the team.”  How convenient.  Why did you walk a number 9 hitter batting 0.167 on four straight pitches? Have the consequences of having a bunch of weed shipped to your dog affected your performance? Or is it due to the substance itself? Crickets.

Talking to the media–and vicariously, to the fans that make your mediocrity possible–won’t necessarily make you Mariano Rivera overnight. But hiding behind a “no talk” clause is a poor way to absolve yourself of accountability. In case you haven’t noticed, CP, some people think the Indians actually have a chance at some October baseball this year. Last year, CP castigated fans for not coming out to Progressive Field in larger numbers, This year, you might be well advised to answer that question, at least in part, by looking in a mirror.