Author Archives: sephlietz

Evening Out The Playing Field


by Seph Lietz

The Problem

If looking at the 2010 SLW championship team triggered a strong sense of déjà vu, there’s a good reason. None of the 3 wifflers were being crowned for the first time. In fact, just 9 of the 27 wifflers in the statistical era have combined to take the 15 championship slots in that time.

9 out of 27 have won a championship from 2006-2010

Let me repeat that. Over the last five years, only 9 people have been on a championship team; 18 have not. There are some notable names on that list of 18, including Hall of Famers Jaime Hixson, Geoff Hixson, Dave Cain, and Matt Warnes.

The Cause

It turns out that there have been two reliable indicators when it comes to the success of SLW teams: team size and handedness.

4-man teams underperform; 2-lefty and 1-lefty teams dominate

4-man teams perform significantly worse than 3-man teams. Teams with 1 or 2 left-handed hitters perform significantly better than all-righty teams.

Dave Cain, Greg Presson, and Jason Morgan have all been unfortunate enough to each have been on two four-wiffler teams in the last five years. None of them have won a championship in that time. Only five regulars have escaped the four-wiffler curse recently: Shane Gentry, Spence Hasler, Jed Pope, Kevin Walsh, and Jeff Cain. They have nine titles between them.

A Solution

I’d like to introduce a new method for determining teams which uses the useful data we’ve gathered over the last 5 years. Statistically Guided Team Selection would automatically place people on teams based on their past performance. The goal is to make all the teams as even as possible. As an example, take last year’s field + Kevin Walsh and feed it into SGTS and you get the following 6 teams, in no particular order.

  • Gentry, Mayfield, Walsh
  • Hasler, Sip, J Cain
  • Lietz, Presson, C Shoemaker
  • Pope, Warnes, Morgan
  • Endsley, J Hixson, Kirby
  • Morton, D Cain, G Hixson

What do you think? Is there one team that jumps out as the favorite/worst? Should we try this out this year? Do I need to get a life?

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2010 Tournament Recap


by Seph Lietz

Hello wifflenerds! I am fully refreshed and ready to fulfill all of your wettest analytical dreams after emerging from my annual medically-induced winter hibernation in my hermetically-sealed osmosis-cocoon.

First things first. You might recall that, as part of the run-up to the 2010 festivities, last year’s championship odds were calculated using my patented Wiffleball Champion Prediction Model. Let’s see how those numbers held up.

Chance of winning in blue; actual winning percentage in orange

You don’t exactly have to be a Chief Scientist to see that the predictions ended up being, in technical terms, pretty damn close. I’m told that SLW Alumni Association President Geoff Hixson has submitted a proposal to the Commissioner’s office that, if approved, would end the need to play future games, as the winner would simply be calculated and announced, simultaneously increasing both the time allotted for beer drinking and the chances that he might someday actually win a tournament. Please direct any questions or concerns to the Commissioner’s office.

Call it strong pitching or weak hitting; the result is the same. 2010 was the lowest scoring in at least the last five tournaments. Just under 10 runs per game were scored on average, down from just under 14 runs per game in 2008 and 2009.

The “bottom 3” (Yellow Bat Fury, Tollbooth Willies, and Crystal Seph Heads) teams proved to be particularly futile. They combined to average just barely more runs per game than Vagazzle did alone, and they each rank in the bottom five in runs scored over the last five years. Yellow Bat Fury wins the award for most anemic team ever by averaging 2 runs scored per game in their 4 games, including the “Greatest Pitcher’s Duel Ever” opposite the Crystal Seph Heads, an extra-inning affair (was it 8 or 9 innings?) in which Yellow Bat Fury only managed a single run in a heartbreaking 3-1 loss.

On the other side of the coin, Vagazzle and Crystal Seph Heads proved to be particularly stingy in allowing 3 (best in statistical era) and 3.833 (4th best) runs per game, respectively.

Next time, I’ll uncover some frightening trends and provide a solution for evening out the SLW playing field. Stay tuned.

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Groundbreaking Research Yields 2010 Odds


by Seph Lietz

As part of the ongoing effort to utilize the official Shangri La’ Wiffleball records, the SLW Front Office is excited to announce a brand new statistic for everyone to argue about — Tournament Odds. More specifically, the odds that a team will win the SLW Classic.

Your Chief Scientist has painstakingly developed a statistically sound Wiffleball Champion Prediction Model (patent pending) which automatically calculates a team’s odds given the past success (or failure) of its wifflers as well as the predicted strength of their opponents. “I know a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into creating this outstanding new feature, and we should all be thankful for the Chief Scientist’s contributions,” said Commissioner Hixson. “We should probably waive his entry fee from now on.”

This year’s odds can be found below and also at the SLW 2010 stats page. Odds have been retroactively applied to 2006-2009 tournaments as well.

Vagazzle (Spence Hasler, Matt Endsley, Shane Gentry) - 27% The Drunk Tank 3 (Jeff Cain, Jed Pope, Geoff Hixson) - 22% Crystal Seph Heads (Seph Lietz, James Morton, Jason Morgan, Luke Kirby) - 21% Tollbooth Willies (Derek Mayfield, Dave Cain, Greg Presson, Chris Shoemaker) - 17% Yellow Bat Fury (Jaime Hixson, Sip, Matt Warnes) - 12%

Will Vagazzle come out on top in 2010?

It looks to be a very close year, with Vagazzle being the favorites, although just by a hair, with a 27% chance to win it all. Vagazzle captain and Hall of Fame member, Spence Hasler, when notified by myself that his team has been officially tabbed as this year’s favorite, was both unsurprised about his team’s chances and confused about my identity. “Tell me something I don’t know, Patrick,” stated Hasler.

Obviously, the actual outcomes could be greatly affected due to things like lingering injuries (see Hasler/Endsley), rookies/unknowns Luke Kirby and Derek Mayfield, as well as the always controversial 4-man teams.

It should be noted that the SLW Front Office does not condone gambling — by active wifflers, or othwerwise.

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South Loop Wiffleball League Spring Training Begins


by Seph Lietz

Seph Lietz pitching a wiffleball in Grant Park

Spring training for the South Loop Wiffleball League officially got underway today in Chicago. I was joined by Volcano Vanquisher Sip for about an hour of batting practice in beautiful Grant Park.

Sip batting in Grant Park

Two icons of Chicago, Sears Tower (left) and Sip (right).

Most of the time was spent shagging the 10 wiffleballs currently in the league’s stockpile. “We were out there for over an hour, and I think I got 15 cuts in,” said a visibly winded Sip, “but at least we didn’t get picked on by the kids at the skate park this year.”

Any other Chicago area wifflers are encouraged to contact me or Sip to register for future events.

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In Our Defense


by Seph Lietz

In my previous column, I was pretty tough on my Bement brethren for their lack of commitment when it comes to SLW activities. Also, for one of them being a cheap bastard who, a full week later, unbelievably still owes me $1200. So, I think it’s only fair that I spend some time this week defending my compadres.

The truth is, we’ve had a good number of slanderous comments thrown our way over the years. For example, everyone has heard the claim by some that we drink 1 beer and are in bed by 9:30 the night before the tourney. I think it’s been brought up in every podcast. But I’m not going to waste my time today on hearsay.

One of my many, important responsibilities as SLW Chief Scientist is to rigorously research the vast repository of SLW data and use that information to discover innovative approaches that might possibly be employed in order to better our beloved tournament. To that end, I have compiled some telling statistics, encompassing the last 4 years (2006-2009), the only time such detailed information is available. And as it turns out, the Bement contingent dominates the wiffle diamond.

Let’s start with defense. Our teams have given up a combined 233 runs over 49 games, for an average of 4.76 runs/game. There is only one wiffler who put up better defensive numbers than that (Hasler: 76 runs, 19 games, 4 runs/game). Nobody else is particularly close.

That stellar defense has helped lead to an equally stellar run differential for our teams of +101, for an average of +2.06/game. Only two wifflers have done better (Gentry: +28, 4.67; Hasler: +56, 2.95). The next closest are James Morton (+1.05) and Chris Shoemaker (+0.86). (Or was it Brian? Even on paper I can’t tell the two apart.) Everybody else has a +0.15 or worse.

[4.66666666666667], [2.94736842105263], [2.5], [2.375], [1.05], [0.857142857142857], [0.15], [0.142857142857143], [0.05], [0.0], [0.0], [0.0], [-0.142857142857143], [-0.25], [-0.272727272727273], [-0.318181818181818], [-0.583333333333333], [-0.91304347826087], [-1.23809523809524], [-1.38888888888889], [-1.66666666666667], [-2.2], [-2.75], [-2.80952380952381], [-4.77777777777778]

Who is the mystery wiffler at the far bottom right with the worst run differential?

Naturally, as should be expected with a run differential like that, we have won a lot, compiling 34 team wins for a .694 win percentage. Again, only Gentry (6-0, 1.000) and Hasler (15-4, .789) have better individual numbers.

But really, does all of this mean anything? No. I think every wiffler comes to win championships. And nobody has done it better than us.

Going back 6 years (perhaps more, but I don’t think so), every single SLW Champion has had at least one of us on their team. And out of the 18 slots (6 years * 3-wiffler teams), 9 have been filled by us.

[2004: 3], [2005: 2], [2006: 1], [2007: 1], [2008: 1], [2009: 1]

Can a Bement-less team win a championship anymore?

Let’s just consider the last 4 championships (again, when the only detailed records are available). What are the odds of those happening randomly? 1.33%, or 75:1 for you gamblers out there. I estimate the odds for us winning 6 in a row to be roughly 300:1.

Imagine if we actually showed up every year?

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Disappearing Act


by Seph Lietz

Have you seen these wifflers?

The Bement Crew

Clockwise from upper-left: John Einhorn; Seph Lietz, the author; Patrick Loftus; Jed Pope

There has been a disturbing trend in recent years. Our members hailing from the Bement school district have been increasingly absent. The “Bement Crew” avoids Shangri La’ like Tiger Woods avoids women who live in stationary houses.

As you can see from the beautiful chart I have crafted, Bementian attendance was at an all-time high in 2006, just a short 4 years ago. Attendance since then has steadily trended downward, dropping to an embarrassing low in 2008, when only a solitary Bulldog was able to compete. How many will care enough to show for the 2010 Classic?

[2006: 4, 2007: 3, 2008: 1, 2009: 2]

Bementian attendance has been sporadic at best.

The only Bement guy that hasn’t missed a tourney is Hall of Fame wiffler, and direct descendent to owner BJ Albinger, Jed Pope. And let’s be honest. The only reason he comes back home is to get money from his Grandma. (True story. Back in high school, I once helped Jed mow his Grandma’s yard. He used the riding mower, while Patrick and I used push mowers. Patrick and I received $1 a piece for our hard labor. Jed got $20 for sitting on his ass and periodically turning a wheel for 20 minutes. Unrelated: this man also owes me somewhere in the neighborhood of $1200 for all the times he “forgot his wallet”. It’s on the internet now so it must be true.)

I speak now for all those wifflers who have ever prayed for their life while riding in the back of a Birch Bus. The truth is, Wiffleball Nation, we have let you down. There have been plenty of excuses. “I’m proposing.” “I live in Orlando.” “I’m going on a float trip.” What’s that saying? Excuses are like buttholes. Everyone has them and they both leave a crappy taste in your mouth if you don’t clean them out properly first.

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