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Frisco Del Rosario writes about chess960, women's basketball, minor league baseball, unsupported collectible card games, lettering in comic books, and Golden Age movies

Expert opinions 07/25/2018

Three cases of expert opinion, of unequal value:

The most common piece of very bad chess advice given from good players to bad players is “you have to have an openings repertoire with which you feel comfortable”.

Three things — what the strong player said, what the strong player actually meant, and what the weak player thought it meant.

When a strong player talks about openings leading to a comfortable feeling, he means “playable”. What the weak player thinks is a comfortable opening is “whew, didn’t hang my queen that time”.

Good players feel comfortable in any playable middlegame, otherwise they’re not good players; they can play anything. When a good player says: “have a  comfortable openings repertoire”, it’s another way of saying “the real goal of the opening is to reach a playable middlegame”, though it *sounds like* actual advice.

The weak player thinks “I need a comfortable openings repertoire; I’d better study openings”. Like I’ve said many times before, bad players don’t lose games in the opening because they’re bad at openings, they lose them because they’re bad at tactics. The poor “comfortable repertoire” advice survives because it’s less painful to suggest than “do the endgame and tactics homework”. It’s the grandmaster equivalent of walking away from a dumb joke while laughing, because laughing makes it OK to walk away.

Sports station KNBR talked to an ESPN baseball expert Tuesday, who likes the Astros and Indians for the ALCS because “some teams are built for 162 games, some are built for seven-game series”. The implication is that the Red Sox might win 110 regular season games but not survive a short playoff.

At first glance, this looks ridiculous. The Red Sox win 70 percent of their games, which makes them a pretty good bet to win any one game, or any four games.

I thought I might simulate 1,000,000,000 World Series between teams modeled after: E) The 1971 Orioles, who won 100 games with four 20-win starters, but lost the World Series, and W) The 1995 Braves, with two stud starters in Smoltz and Glavine, and a superstud in Maddux, but besides their stud closer Wohlers, every other Braves pitcher was, relatively speaking, a loser. The Braves won just 90 games, but won the World Series.

These teams fit the ESPN expert’s model. The Orioles were built to win every regular season game behind their deep and excellent starters , while the Braves were designed to win a seven-game set by, say, letting the awesome #1 pitch games 4 and 7 on short rest.

The ’71 Orioles and ’95 Braves also fit that model based on their late-inning guys. The ’71 Orioles had Eddie Watt finish 35 games, of which they lost 18. The ’95 Braves had the modern definition of closer in Mark Wohlers, who appeared in 65 games, of which the Braves won 50.

Let’s say the imaginary Braves ace wins games 1 and 4. Let’s also say the the imaginary Braves and imaginary Orioles split games 2 and 5 (maybe because the Braves #2 guy was bad on short rest). And let’s suppose the imaginary Orioles won games 3 and 6, thanks to their depth.

So it comes down to Game 7, with the Maddux-like guy on very short rest, against their Orioles #4-like guy.  Well, the Orioles’ #4 guy in 1971 was Jim Palmer, who won three Cy Youngs.

The only thing we know about baseball and baseball simulations is that you never know.

However, let’s consider that the imaginary Wohlers-like reliever appears in all seven games sometimes (because we’re running the simulation a zillion times) and the imaginary Watt-like guy also appears more often than the Orioles would’ve preferred.

In the long run, over the course of a zillion Series, having the stronger late-inning guy will turn it in the Braves’ favor. And that’s a precept of modern baseball: If you have studs for innings 7, 8, and 9, you practically shorten a game to six innings. And shorter games in short playoff series means  greater variance, which means the ESPN guy has a point: The 2018 Astros with their super Verlander-Cole-Morton threesome could well be favored over the Red Sox 13 pitchers that won more games in a long season.

Expert opinion #3 was a doctor on KCBS this morning, whom KCBS asked about an increased incidence of salmonella among homes with chicken coops in their backyards.

The doctor said, reasonably, that the higher number of reported cases could be due to improved reporting technology and methods, and it could also be related to the overall decline in common sense. A larger number of people are keeping chickens for eggs and companionship, and a greater number of dumb people fail to wash their hands after playing with the chickens.

The KCBS hosts strained to push this guy toward “AUGH EVERYONE HEAD FOR THE HILLS!”, but he wouldn’t bite, which made the whole segment dull and boring, when dull and boring was really funny.

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Richmond 5, Trenton 2 04/06/2018


Richmond beat host Trenton 5-2 Friday to tie the series.

The Flying Squirrels scored four runs in the 5th, including an RBI triple by top prospect C Aramis Garcia (when Posey retires, will Garcia still be in the system, or will they trade him for a suspect veteran?) and a bases-loaded walk (“Sacks are full of squirrels” was my favorite call by original Squirrels broadcaster Jon Laaser).

Squirrels 1B Jerry Sands made two nice 3-1 assists to different pitchers. That is my favorite “routine putout” because I don’t think it’s routine — the pitcher sometimes has to make the putout while racing the runner to the bag, and the 1B often has to turn back toward the bag before judging his short throw (which is perilous like a short putt).

It was Brandon Belt’s work on 3-1 fielding plays that helped cement my opinion that he would be a good major leaguer, besides hitting California League pitching for .450 at the time.

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Trenton 5, Richmond 2 04/05/2018

The hosting Trenton Thunder beat the Richmond Flying Squirrels 5-2 on Opening Night.

screenshot-from-2018-04-05-07-09-46Trenton scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch to move the runner to third, then a weak throw to the plate by Richmond 3B Jonah Arenado.

Arenado’s first at-bats in Class AA were miserable: three strikeouts, and one GIDP at bat. In the field, his highlight was a 5-3-5 double play.

Trenton reliever Eric Swanson got the win, striking out 6 in 3 2/3.

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San Francisco Giants catchers memberberries 07/03/2017

screen-shot-2017-07-03-at-3-07-03-amSometimes when Buster Posey does something outstanding, I think it sucks that an old Giants fan can’t sit in a bar, and jaw with a young Giants fan like: “Junior, Buster Posey is good, but lemme tell ya about Marc Hill, the Giants’ opening day catcher in 1975”.

Giants catchers could maybe hit a little — Milt May hit .310 in 1981, and Dick Dietz had 100 RBI in 1970, one-third of his career total (thanks for bunching them up, Dietzy!) — or field a little (Gold Glove Kirt Manwaring was in the catcher platoon that went to the ’89 World Series), but Buster Posey is the only San Francisco catcher who could do both (Hall of Famer Buck Ewing probably did more than one thing, too).

There was fan favorite Bob Brenly, an All-Star in 1984. Brenly was one of the really likable Giants during the dark Disaster LeMaster seasons. When they put him at third base — where he committed three errors in one inning — Giants fans loved him for that, even.

I saw a painting of Bob Brenly at the county fair 10 or 15 years ago. This local artist said: “I want to paint a picture of my favorite Giant, and that’s Bob Brenly!”.

What has stayed with me all these years about that painting was that it captured a moment, the kind of moment that baseball fans have to explain to not-baseball-fans. Baseball fans say that the long periods of nothingness are punctuated by moments when *something is about to happen!*, and we say that like it’s a good thing.

The painting represented Bob Brenly about to catch the pitch while he’s coming up from his crouch. The artist seemed to want to convey that anticipation of the moment (yay, finally, some action!) plus the unique back-and-forth force of a 90 fastball caught, and then rocketing back to second base.

At least in my eyes, that painter captured the kind of moment that baseball fans find special. I’ve been looking for a picture of Buster Posey at that same instant, but I can’t find one — either Posey is set to receive without a steal attempt, or Posey is cocking his throwing arm.

Baseball metrics can’t account for two things Buster Posey does better than any other catcher: making up for time lost through Giant pitchers’ slow deliveries (they say baserunners don’t steal against the catcher they steal against the pitcher; Buster Posey regains the time that Cody Gearrin wastes), and putting the throw on the bag (no time lost making the tag). Posey catches, gets out of the crouch, and throws in one motion. Basketball fans are wowed by the shooters who catchandshoot. It’s all one word: catchandshoot. Posey’s the only catcher I’ve ever seen who nails basestealers with the same seamless athleticism.

If there’s not a painting of Buster Posey at a county fair some day, we’ll settle for a plaque at Cooperstown.

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Games no. 82 for the 1985 and 2017 San Francisco Giants 06/30/2017

2296San Francisco Giants game no. 82 in 2017: The 2017 Giants (31-51) caught the 1985 Giants by beating Pittsburgh 13-5. SF had 18 hits; Span-Panik-Pence were on base 14 times in the 1-2-3 spots. Rookie Ryder Jones got his first hit to make it 1-for-18 in his career; rookie P Dan Slania pitched a perfect 9th in his MLB debut. Winning pitcher Johnny Cueto was in trouble all night, but wriggled out of jams in four of five innings, and that’s what makes him a $20 million guy.

The Giants have won four straight, and some nitwits are talking about getting back into the race. The Giants could go 40-10, and that would leave them five or so games behind the Rockies for wild card #2.

Games behind the ’85 team that lost 100 games: 0 Hooray!

July 8, 1985: St. Louis beat San Francisco (31-51) 6-1. All-star Joaquin Andujar improved to 15-3 for giving up 12 hits but just one run. The Cardinals smacked loser Dave LaPoint for 11 hits in 5-plus; the only Card not to get a hit was Jack Clark, for whom LaPoint was traded.

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At the halfway point for the 50-game-losers 1985 and 2017 San Francisco Giants 06/29/2017

2296San Francisco Giants game no. 80 in 2017: The Giants (30-51) completed a series sweep of the slumping Rockies 5-3, gaining a game on the 1985 Giants. Rookie 3B Jae-Gyun Hwang, an import from the Korean league, homered in his first MLB game. Hunter Strickland got his first save, because emergency reclamation project closer Sam Dyson pitched more than an inning the night before, and $14 million closer Mark Melancon went on the DL.

Games behind the ’85 team that lost 100 games: 1

July 7, 1985: The Cubs came from behind to win 6-5 with three runs in the bottom of the 6th. Mark Davis, who won the 1989 Cy Young as a Padres reliever , blew the save and took the loss for the Giants (31-50). Leon Durham homered twice for Chicago.

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Games no. 80 for the 1985 and 2017 San Francisco Giants 06/28/2017

2296San Francisco Giants game no. 80 in 2017: The Giants (29-51) beat the Rockies 4-3 in 14 innings. Matt Cain provided a “quality start” — why three ER in six innings is the baseline for that metric will always puzzle me — and the shitty SF bullpen threw eight shutout innings.

Still two games behind the ’85 team that lost 100 games.

July 6, 1985: The Giants (31-49) won their fourth straight, beating the Cubs 6-4 in Chicago. Rookie 3B Chris Brown homered twice behind Scott Garrelts in relief. Starter Mike Krukow blew his 3-2 lead in the 6th, but 2B Manny Trillo homered in the 8th and Brown in the 9th to save Krukow’s butt.

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Games no. 79 for the 1985 and 2017 San Francisco Giants 06/26/2017

2296San Francisco Giants game no. 79 in 2017: The Giants (28-51) beat the Rockies 9-2 to open a three-game series at home. Colorado lost their sixth straight (after sweeping the Giants in Denver the week before), and have dropped from 1st to 3rd in the NL West.

San Francisco’s 1-2-3-4 hitters were 10-for-17 with six runs scored and 10 RBI. (It was odd to think the Rockies were thinking “oh boy, now we can catch a break in a pitchers’ park like AT&T”.)

Games behind the 62-100 1985 Giants: 2

July 5, 1985: July was the Giants’ best month in 1985, in which they were 13-14, while the Cubs were one of three teams against whom the Giants played .500 ball, so that Independence Weekend series leaned toward the visitors from San Francisco.

On July 5, the Giants (30-49) beat the Cubs 12-6. 2B Manny Trillo was 3-for-5, including two hits in the Giants’ seven-run 7th inning. 3B Chris Brown was 4-for-5, on his way to Rookie of the Year consideration as one of the things worth watching that season. Chris Brown was the 1985 version of Austin Slater.

Cubs RP Dick Ruthven gave up three hits and two runs in the 8th. Remember Dick Ruthven? He was from Fremont, attended Irvington HS, then Fresno State.

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As the baseball world turns 04/25/2017

2296I heard twice during the Giants radio broadcast Monday that on a normal news day, Sergio Romo’s return to AT&T Park would’ve been the top story.

Romo was a right-handed stalwart in San Francisco’s three-times-champion bullpen, but when that relief staff melted down in 2016, Romo left, and landed in… Los Angeles. That resulted in Monday’s video tribute and a long ovation of gratitude for a Dodger. (Romo’s biggest fans are in the weird position of rooting him for pitch well in Dodger losses — which is pretty much what happened in San Francisco’s 2-1 win.)

The bigger stories in San Francisco baseball were the promotion of 3B Christian Arroyo from AAA to the big league — Giants brass wanted to prevent the 21-year-old from feeling the pressure of having to rescue the team from its wretched 6-13 start, but here he is. The rookie was 0-for-4 in his debut after hitting .440 in Sacramento, but his first at-bat was a groundout that moved a runner from second to third (and then scored), and the Giants weren’t even making productive outs.

Also, ace pitcher Madison Bumgarner held a press conference to explain the dirt biking mishap that injured his shoulder, disabling Bumgarner for an estimated 6-to-8 weeks. The hardest part of this for the organization and the fans is that the possibility that his shoulder will never be the same, and his career ends. That’s on everyone’s mind, but it’s too early to say anything until the rehabilitation shows results. Then the radio talk show chatter will be non-stop — it’s the natural progression of the news cycle. (Imagine Matt Cain — Monday’s winning pitcher has had three good starts in a row, which he hasn’t had in five years — pitching well around that time. The speculation will mount about the team incredibly taking the option to give him one more season at $21 million.)

Speaking of the natural progression of the baseball news cycle, in order to make room on the roster for Arroyo, the Giants cut outfielder Chris Marrero because he was hitting 4-for-38. The shocking thing for me was how briskly he was swept out the back door. Manager Bruce Bochy reported the roster move during his pregame interview, and when radio man Jon Miller paused for a moment to enable Bochy to speak a cliché like “we’re giving him a chance to find a home with another team, Bochy didn’t budge. That split-second of dead air said much about baseball as a brutal business.

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