A Post in Five Parts

Carson Cistulli · June 23, 2010 at 11:34 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

You know what’s better than having just one or two or four of something? Having five of that something. That’s the incredibly tenuous premise on which this post is built.

If it helps, consider this a “notebook” piece — except instead of “reporting facts,” I’m “making wild speculations.”

I. INTRO
When speaking to a large audience, it’s best to do one or both of two things: both/either (a) tell a joke and/or (b) imagine everyone naked. I have no interest in doing the latter, so I’ll do the former thing twice.

Here are two Mariner-related light bulb jokes, from my brain to your eyes.

Q. How many Mariner fans does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None. They just sit back and watch in horror as Don Wakamatsu removes the broken light bulb and then pencils it into the lineup as a DH.

Q. How many sabermetrically oriented Mariner fans does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Three. One to analyze whether the light bulb is actually burnt out, or if it’s just due for regression up to the mean; one to speculate upon the trade value of the light bulb; and one to name the light bulb the sixth-best light bulb in the pack of 30 light bulbs.

_ _ _

II. SOME RESPONSES TO YOUR COMMENTS
First, I’d like to thank you for your warm reception last week*. Second, I’d like to address a couple-few of the comments you guys made in response to post numero uno.

*Including to the guy who suggested that my post was indicative of USSM having jumped the shark. I don’t know if you know this, but it was FRIGGING AWESOME when Fonzie did that.

From flashbeak: [J]ust out of curiosity… what is your favorite team?
A. I addressed this briefly in the comments section, but allow me to repeat myself: I actually don’t really have a favorite team. On account of I was born in New Hampshire and grew up there (and attended high school at a fabulously prestigious boarding school in the Boston area), I certainly have been a giganto Red Sox fan. The weird thing is, after 2004, everything just felt different. I mean, that run against the Yankees was amazing — maybe one of the best weeks or whatever of my life — but afterwards, things were different. I don’t exactly know why.

From BennyG (in re NERD): What about negative numbers?
A. Before rounding (to fit the 0-10 scale), there actually are nine pitchers currently sporting NERD scores below zero. They are, in order of “best” to worst:

David Hernandez
Joe Saunders
Dana Eveland
Todd Wellemeyer
Brian Burres
Oliver Perez
Carlos Monasterios
Ryan Rowland-Smith
Ian Snell

Yes, that’s right: Rowland-Smith and Snell have been worst by NERD standards.

From MKT: The NERD scale seems to consist solely of integers from 0 to 10… Worse, there’s a hint that the variables which go into the scale are being added as integers (Felix getting a 1 point bonus).
A. Actually, NERD is calculated primarily using weighted z-scores (i.e. standard deviations from the mean) for its components. So, like, let’s look at Felix. Felix has an xFIP that is 1.18 standard deviations better than the mean. Because overall quality of pitcher is important, we double that score. Felix has a swinging-strike rate that’s about one standard deviation above the mean and strike rate (as percentage of all pitches) about a half of a standard deviation above the mean. Because those things are relatively less important than xFIP, we halve each of those. His velocity is about 1.3 standard deviations above the mean, so we add that to the mix. And then, finally, there’s his age. The average age of the pitchers who qualify is 28 and the standard deviation is about 4 years — which, that’s why Felix gets the one-point bonus for age, because he’s 24 years old. After that, you just add a constant (about four), and you got your NERD!

_ _ _

III. A BRIEF CORRESPONDENCE
Last week your fearless captain, Dave Cameron, prefaced my inaugural post here at USSM with some kind words. I was compelled to recognize his gesture. Below is the correspondence that ensued.

From: Carson Cistulli
Sent: Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 11:06 PM
To: David Cameron
Subject: USSM Post

Thanks for the kinds words. It means alot.

From: David Cameron
Sent: Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 11:07 PM
To: Carson Cistulli
Subject: USSM Post

The words weren’t that kind. I said you had a unique voice. So does Fran Drescher.

Note: Dave Cameron is a huge jerkface.

_ _ _

IV. SOME SUPER-DEEP PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTIONINGS
If you’re familiar with my work over at FanGraphs, you’re aware that Carson Cistulli is the sort of guy who asks the big questions. Questions like: What are we doing here? What does it all mean? Where’d that strange rash come from?

Well, one of the questions I’ve been asking myself recently is, What can a neutral supporter like myself — a man who feels no allegiance to any one team — what can I offer to a community that cares deeply about a single baseballing club?

It’s caused me a little grief, this — for a couple reasons. For one, I respect Dave a lot (and DMZ and the other guys who currently man the site), and I’d prefer not to disappoint him/them. For two — and as I mentioned in last week’s post — I respect the community you, the readers, have helped foster here, and I’d prefer not just to barge in and tear up the place. And for three, I’m getting paid a lot, a lot of money to write these weekly posts, and I don’t want to screw it up.

As an answer, let me say: I don’t know what the exact answer is to this question, but I have one idea.

My day job for the past six or so years has been as a writing instructor (teaching college writing, composition, or whatever else you wanna call it). Just as in sabermetrics, one of the things we writing instructors emphasize is the value of process over product, and part of the writing process is peer editing. Here’s how I explain it to my students: “When you write a text, you get very close to it — so close that it’s hard to really see the text anymore. The value of peer review, beyond copyediting or whatever, is to get a second pair of eyes on the text in question. The second party, coming to the text anew, might be able to see a glaring issue that just invisible to the author. That’s an important thing to have.”

It’s possible that reading the occasional dispatch from a disinterested (not uninterested, which’d be different) party might be a little like receiving peer review. I’ll presume that most readers of USSM are “close” to the Mariners — meaning, they (you) are exceedingly familiar with the various narratives, anxieties, etc. surrounding the club. Of course, I’m not immune to these narrative threads — like, I know that everyone is kinda sick of Mike Sweeney and know Brandon League should throw way more splitters — but there’s a good chance I don’t feel these issues as immediately.

So, uh, that might be a good reason for me to be here. That and all the white-hot prose.

_ _ _

V. TOTALLY SUPERFLUOUS FIFTH PART
Having five parts is a lot more pleasant, aesthetically speaking, than having just four, even if the fifth part is almost entirely meaningless. This may not have anything to do with baseball, per se, but it’s definitely something to remember.

Comments

41 Responses to “A Post in Five Parts”

  1. beastwarking on June 24th, 2010 12:06 am

    Its weird how 5 parts is more pleasing then 4 parts. Like, why isn’t 6 more pleasing or even 4? Just kind of strange how that all works out.

    Also, our NERD scores simultaneously suck and rock at the same time.

  2. SonOfZavaras on June 24th, 2010 12:07 am

    I admit to not being the most familiar with your body of work, Carson.

    But I intend to rectify that. Heck, fifteen months ago, I’d never heard of Jonah Keri.

    Thanks for the post.

  3. Snake Hippo on June 24th, 2010 12:09 am

    Those are perhaps two of the greatest jokes ever.

    Its weird how 5 parts is more pleasing then 4 parts. Like, why isn’t 6 more pleasing or even 4? Just kind of strange how that all works out.

    Humans like the number five. Probably because we have five fingers on each hand and we got used to counting like that.

  4. Liam on June 24th, 2010 12:28 am

    What can a neutral supporter like myself — a man who feels no allegiance to any one team — what can I offer to a community that cares deeply about a single baseballing club?

    Give me a break.

  5. LongDistance on June 24th, 2010 3:55 am

    1. Appreciate the humor.
    2. Nerd numbers interesting.
    3. “Neutral supporter” sounds like a hedge.
    4. “Neutral observer” is acceptable.
    5. Just because.

  6. ivan on June 24th, 2010 4:23 am

    Dave:

    Please kiss this guy goodbye. Thank you.

  7. _David_ on June 24th, 2010 4:27 am

    Awesome post. Please keep them coming.

  8. Paul B on June 24th, 2010 6:45 am

    Dave:

    Please kiss this guy goodbye. Thank you.

    Demand your money back.

  9. BillH on June 24th, 2010 7:41 am

    The weird thing is, after 2004, everything just felt different. I mean, that run against the Yankees was amazing — maybe one of the best weeks or whatever of my life — but afterwards, things were different. I don’t exactly know why.

    Because every New Englander, who had probably never been to Fenway in their life, came out of the woodwork to proclaim themselves lifelong Red Sox fans? Just a guess.

    /hates annoying, bandwagoner Red Sox fans

  10. LongDistance on June 24th, 2010 7:50 am

    6. Much as I find the numbers interesting, I hate the acronym NERDS.

    I can’t find myself getting enthused to discussing this guy’s NERDS vs. that guy’s. (And with a Boston accent it must be worse… sounding like something bordering on NADS).

    For me, frankly, NERDS has a negative connotation. So, for example, when you talk about negative NERDS, that sounds to me nearly like a positive.

    And I can’t help wondering what other acronyms might be in the pipeline. GEEK? DORK? DUFUS?

    Too smirky.

  11. msb on June 24th, 2010 8:01 am

    Probably because we have five fingers on each hand and we got used to counting like that.

    Five fingers? What kind of mutant freak are you?!

  12. LongDistance on June 24th, 2010 8:11 am

    msb:

    One thumbs-up.

  13. robbbbbb on June 24th, 2010 8:16 am

    My day job for the past six or so years has been as a writing instructor (teaching college writing, composition, or whatever else you wanna call it).

    Oh, heck. It’s Annie Savoy in drag.

  14. optigan on June 24th, 2010 9:33 am

    I actually don’t know who you are, Mr. Cistulli, or what you’re referring to when you write about a post you made last week. This makes me look lazy and ill-informed, but you could help by including, say, a link to the mentioned post–wonderful what technology can do for you these days.

  15. Axtell on June 24th, 2010 9:41 am

    Wow I don’t understand all the negative posts…the NERDs stat is quite informative and the ‘NERD’ connotation is a good ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ thing as well, making fun of those who deem sabremetrics too ‘nerdy’.

    The guy is well written, and obviously cares about what he puts into print. If more mainsteam media and bloggers put this effort into what they write, we’d have a much more educated fanbase.

    Thanks for the posts! I hope to see more of them here at USSMariner.

  16. scottg02 on June 24th, 2010 10:23 am

    optigan on June 24th, 2010 9:33 am

    I actually don’t know who you are, Mr. Cistulli, or what you’re referring to when you write about a post you made last week. This makes me look lazy and ill-informed, but you could help by including, say, a link to the mentioned post–wonderful what technology can do for you these days.

    Your right, it does make you look lazy… you know what, I was going to post the link, but I changed my mind. Find it! Really isn’t that hard!

  17. Carson on June 24th, 2010 10:25 am

    This makes me look lazy and ill-informed, but you could help by including, say, a link to the mentioned post

    It does more than make you look the part I bolded since he, you know, indeed included a link in the post. Try reading before bringing the snark, please.

  18. msfanmike on June 24th, 2010 10:27 am

    Well, one of the questions I’ve been asking myself recently is, What can a neutral supporter like myself — a man who feels no allegiance to any one team — what can I offer to a community that cares deeply about a single baseballing club?

    Carson, I am wondering the same myself.

    Dave:

    Please kiss this guy goodbye. Thank you.

    Perhaps a bit harsh, but it does resonate with a very specific and short-winded point.

    It’s a Site of, by and for Mariner fans – and we like it that way. The Site is easily one of the best (if not the best) ever created for the type of dialogue and insight it provides.

    Come down off the fence Carson … or don’t.

  19. Carson Cistulli on June 24th, 2010 10:43 am

    To Carson (Original Blend): To be fair, I actually posted the link after optigan noted that I hadn’t. I sometimes forget that people do other things besides read every single post about baseball on the internet. That’s my B.

    To msfanmike, etc: I really have no good defense for that sort of criticism. What I hope always to do — what MY favorite writers do, regardless of the field — is ask simple questions and then attempt to answer them.

    What I ALSO hope to do is make poop jokes and allusions to 18th century literature IN THE SAME SENTENCE.

  20. Graham on June 24th, 2010 10:58 am

    Oh good, more posts by a man who thinks he’s so much cleverer than he actually is.

    We already have our fair share of excellent writers on the Mariners blogs, and unlike Mr. Cistulli, they both have a grasp of baseball and support the home team.

  21. dchappelle on June 24th, 2010 11:01 am

    I hope you enjoy his work, and if you don’t, well, keep it to yourself,

    This, from Dave’s original note.

    Granted, Carson did talk about peer review.

    Self-deprecating humor (re: III) is great. Hope to hear more about how us M’s fans have blinders on.

  22. Leroy Stanton on June 24th, 2010 11:15 am

    Carson,

    Don’t take it personally, they’re just afraid that humor is like “clutchness” and that it doesn’t really exist.

  23. msfanmike on June 24th, 2010 11:22 am

    Carson: I think the “criticism” you are referring to came from a post above – which I referenced in quotations and commented on accordingly … mainly out of my respect for the guy being able to make his point quickly. He has mastered the art of pithiness … whereas I have mastered the art of saying nothing with words (although I am not as good at it as some).

    My main form of “criticism” was, 1) agreeing with what you had written within the confession portion of the “super deep philosophical questionings” epistle; and 2) suggesting that you do come down off that fence … for reasons already expressed.

  24. z24lax on June 24th, 2010 11:38 am

    There seems to be an unreasonable amount of douchebaggery going on in this comment section. It seems Dave is going out of his way to get us as much info about the big club, the minors, and baseball in general on this blog as he can (as evidenced by the now regular contributions of marc w, jay, carson, mike salk, and new carson). I don’t see any reason to go out of your way to criticize the person putting info out there for us. You can take it or leave it, but nobody is forcing you to read every post on the site, in fact you can only read posts by Dave if you want, but there is no need to be a dick to a new contributor. Thanks for pulling out all the stops Dave and welcome Carson C as a new contributor.

  25. joser on June 24th, 2010 11:45 am

    The thing about humor is that it really is subjective. We can absolutely disagree and we can both be entirely right. (Unlike, say, a marriage where two people can absolutely agree and one still be always wrong — usually the one with the Y chromosome.)

    I view Mr Cistulli as kind of the Andy Kaufman of baseball writing: divisive, enigmatic, and, depending on who you ask, either hilarious or annoyingly nonsensical. Or maybe both.

    No idea if he has plans to wrestle or get REM to write a song about him, however.

    Oh good, more posts by a man who thinks he’s so much cleverer than he actually is.

    Wrong website, Graham. We try not to give new folks the Lookout Landing Treatment around here.

  26. The Nickster on June 24th, 2010 11:47 am

    Love the humor. It helps balance the geeky stats stuff :-) I’m a big fan of humor in my own writing. Also agree about peer review. And remember people this guy is a professional writer and editor doing this for free (I assume). If you have complaints and whining about his writing, go do your own stuff and then put it up against his. Or just keep it to yourself.

    That said, I do have one “criticism”: the “five things with one fake thing” is an old bit from an early Monty Python album. It goes:

    “There are four things that are wrong with that theory [ok, I don't remember the actual topic]:

    1) [blah]
    2) [blah]
    3) [blah]
    4) There is no fourth thing”

    :-)
    David

  27. yofarbs on June 24th, 2010 11:47 am

    This appears to be the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Mariners–and that’s a good thing. Does anybody have a NERD of 42?

  28. Chris Hafner on June 24th, 2010 12:22 pm

    I’m not really enjoying Carson’s posts either, but let’s not make this comment section a place to publicly pile on. If you feel really, really strongly about his posts, I’m sure you could figure out how to communicate that feedback privately. But please do it respectfully – remember, this is a guy who is donating his time to contribute content that we get to read for free.

    The easiest solution for the people who don’t like these posts is to skip them and allow everybody else to enjoy them in peace. This is essentially what Dave requested when he introduced Carson.

  29. Leroy Stanton on June 24th, 2010 12:25 pm

    I’m not really enjoying Carson’s posts either, but let’s not make this comment section a place to publicly pile on.

    Good example.

  30. Liam on June 24th, 2010 12:42 pm

    Wrong website, Graham. We try not to give new folks the Lookout Landing Treatment around here.

    That was some English humour if you couldn’t tell.

  31. Chris Hafner on June 24th, 2010 12:48 pm

    Good example.

    Okay, I’ll clarify. I’m sympathetic to the complaints, but it doesn’t seem appropriate to publicly flog a guy who is donating his time to give us free content. Better?

  32. erik.randall on June 24th, 2010 12:52 pm

    You know what? It is really easy to not read something you dont like…. food for thought.

    I enjoy someone coming from a different place – think Mike Salk, who is also not a natural fan of this team – and I am sure there are more like me. Ignore the whiners and I look forward to your next post.

  33. Leroy Stanton on June 24th, 2010 12:54 pm

    Okay, I’ll clarify. I’m sympathetic to the complaints, but it doesn’t seem appropriate to publicly flog a guy who is donating his time to give us free content. Better?

    I got your point and liked what you said in your original post. I was just giving you a hard time because I’m a jerk. :)

  34. Paseman on June 24th, 2010 2:01 pm

    I find it hard, because I enjoy his writing, but I’m not sure if this is the appropriate site to being doing it. The writers before him have set a ridiculously high standard (Dave, DMZ, etc…). I come to this site to increase my knownledge of both the Mariners and baseball in general. This post seems to be nothing more then an attempt to remind us of who he is and how funny he can be. Again, there is nothing wrong with that, but this site asks alot of its commenters so I hope the same standards are used for posters. I just ask that if you are to write for this site that you stay on a topic and try to further our knowledge of the game instead of our knowledge of yourself.

  35. MKT on June 24th, 2010 3:05 pm

    Actually, NERD is calculated primarily using weighted z-scores

    Ah, very good: good explanation, and a good procedure. (We could get into different ways of deriving weights, but that would be way overkill.)

    I LOL’d at the Drescher-jerkface exchange.

    Maybe the rest of the post was a bit self-indulgent, but overall I’d say that CarsonC’s been a positive contributor so far, and the snarky attacks are highly misguided.

    A couple of random guesses about a couple of things that might be going on psychologically: the “five paragraph essay” has become as ingrained in much writing instruction as practicing scales has become to musicians, so that may’ve been what (perhaps subconsciously) inspired the 5 parts.

    And, the opening Mariner jokes may’ve set this audience on edge rather than warmed them up … it’s one thing for a power-that-be to make jokes about the Mariners, and another thing for a newcomer to do so (newcomer author to this site that is, I’m not saying that CarsonC’s a newcomer overall).

    Yeah I admit it’s a stretch, but how else to explain the over-the-top nastiness?

  36. Klatz on June 24th, 2010 4:05 pm

    It’s your blog and you control who writes on it. But I would suggest a “read more” link and condensing the lead-in. That way people (myself included) who want to skip Carston’s stuff can more easily do so?

  37. RRS for Prez on June 24th, 2010 7:02 pm

    Great post CarsonC! I look forward to more. You’re funny, know baseball, and are good at stirring up the audience. I’m excited for future contributions.

  38. NV M's fan on June 24th, 2010 8:01 pm

    AYYY! Sit on it, non-Carson fans. References to the Fonz are definitely appreciated. And the Fonz was travelling up that ramp nearly as slowly as Figgins’ bat today so there IS a correlation…

  39. msb on June 25th, 2010 5:36 am

    What I ALSO hope to do is make poop jokes and allusions to 18th century literature IN THE SAME SENTENCE.

    because 18th century literature doesn’t have enough poop jokes.

  40. ima-zeliever on June 25th, 2010 10:46 am

    Carson, You are smart to find out what kind of audience you are dealing with here…

    Since you are an innocent bystander in that you are not looking through the rosy colored glasses of an M’s fan (like me). I look forward to reading your take on our beloved team. Such questions as:

    Is Wak really having as bad a year managing as I think he is?

    Happy writing!

  41. joser on June 27th, 2010 10:15 am

    That was some English humour if you couldn’t tell.

    Oh, I was pretty sure. My conception of how LookoutLanding gets written consists entirely of Jeff, Matthew, and Graham chasing each other around at high speed while “Yakty Sax” plays in the background, Benny Hill style.

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