My Playoff Experience

Wow, what a ride.  It has taken me some time to digest it all, reset my sleep clock and move through the stages of grief, but I am ready to share my Orioles Postseason journey.  I’ll go in reverse chronological order:

Orioles lose game 5 of the ALDS:  As the game ended and the Yankees held an admittedly subdued celebration on the field, TBS cameras showed Manny Machado (and others) watching the celebration.  I texted Mr. Peacher, ‘Manny’s ticted, bring on 2013!’  I mean it.  The future is bright and a good number are coming back (and I hope Mark Reynolds is one of those).

The gorilla in the room, of course, is Nate McClouth’s home run.  I invited the other giant O’s fan on the hall way, Mr. Brenneman, and his family for pizza and playoffs Friday night.  So there we were, a calculus teacher and a physics teacher, watching the replays, gradually drifting closer to the TV, and then we saw it.  ‘The ball changed direction!  It hit the pole!  It’s a home run!  Game’s tied!  Throw that in Graphical Analysis, I’ll prove it!’  History will show that MLB’s umpires disagree.  Physics will show I’m right.

Here’s the replay (pardon the advertising):

Here’s my mini-lab report detailing why it is a home run:

Using Vernier Software’s Logger Pro and Graphical Analysis software applications, I tracked the flight of the ball.  Then, I plotted the curve of the ball before and after it hit the pole.  The end result, the path of the ball experienced a change of nearly 10%.

A word about the software:  it is remarkably cheap and simple to use.  A video gets loaded in to the software, and then the end user clicks on an object.  The video advances a frame and the user clicks on the object again.  Over time, the path of the object is traced out step by step.  A time and coordinate position for each step is recorded in a spreadsheet and can then be analyzed.

Some notes about my method:  TBS’s slow motion is really just extending the hold time on each frame.  Once this translates to broadcast, each original frame is 6 or 7 frames.  To fix this, I only included the first broadcast frame for each position as I gathered my data.

I did not set a scale, so the position data is arbitrary, but it is arbitrary in the same way if that makes any sense.  Time is not an issue as only position data was used.

The camera perspective and the zoom in section both moved.  Without a fixed frame of reference, the position data for the ball is useless.  So, I selected a fan in the background (an O’s fan I’m guessing based on the orange shirt) and used him as the fixed point (my first choice was a point on the fair pole, but a reliable point does not stay in frame long enough).  The resulting image looks like this:

The yellow cross hairs are the origin, I used the fan’s head as the frame of reference.  The blue points are the path of the ball before the pole, the red points after the pole (remember, the fixed reference point is the fan, that’s why the blue dots appear to go beyond the pole)

With the position data secured, I transferred the data to Graphical Analysis.  I did a straight Cartesian plot of the position and analyzed the path of the ball.  What follows are those graphs, the circles are the before hitting the pole positions, the triangles the after hitting the pole positions.

Before the ball hit the pole

After hitting the pole.

I started by plotting a polynomial order 2 fit for each plot, since the ball is obviously a projectile and the motion will be parabolic.  What is shown here are linear fits.  I decided on linear fits for my argument because a) the time frame is very short (approximately 1 second real world time) so the motion can be reasonably approximated as a line and b) the coefficient on the x-squared term in both graphs was very small, small enough to treat it as zero, reverting to a linear fit.

The end result:  a significant (9.9%) change in the slope of the graphs, which means a change in the direction of the ball.  Home run, game tied, result of the series different (?).

The shame of it is that my process went remarkably quickly.  It took me about twice the amount of time to definitively show it was a home run as the umpires spent deliberating and screwing it up. This process, or something similar shouldn’t be hard to institute, but I’m realistic enough to know this won’t happen.  But I’m not bitter.

Continuing to work backwards:
Orioles win Game 4 of the ALDS:  I had a bit of a conflict for this game as I worked the Boys Soccer game against Conestoga Valley, which started at 7.  So I set the DVR and went to ‘radio silence’ to avoid all knowledge of the game.  Soccer went to double OT (Captain Overtime, checking in), so I got home a little later than I had planned, but I was blissfully ignorant of the game.  I didn’t cheat, I watched every pitch.  But as the game progressed, I realized soccer wouldn’t be the only thing going to OT, so I had to scramble and set the DVR to record several hours of Conan and the Office after the scheduled end of the game.  I got one minor spoiler just after Hardy’s double in the 13th as one of the episodes of Conan came to an end and the TV reverted to live TV, which wasn’t the game anymore.  So I knew the end was coming soon.  But would it be Johnson as hero or goat?  This game it was hero again.  Bed time:  after midnight.

Orioles take a stomach punch loss (thanks Bill Simmons) in Game 3:  There’s not much to say about this game, other than I was up really late, and Raul Ibanez is killing me.  I stuck with him in fantasy for years as he stunk it up for the Phillies, now he does this to me.  Bed time:  still way too late, compounded by my emotional state.

Tuesday was a merciful day off.

ALDS game 2:  Another game, another rain delay, although this one shorter.  I was terrified of Pettite, but this was a game that was more typical of the Orioles:  it was Chen’s turn to step up and be big.  And big he was.  Bed time:  passable, if I weren’t already exhausted.
I also bought an ALCS ticket today (game 5), winning the pre-sale lottery.  I only bought one ticket though, as there were not 2 tickets near each other at the price I was willing to pay to go to the game.  Good thing it was an in-service day so I had the time to waste half an hour waiting for Ticketmaster’s server to get it’s act together and sell me a ticket.  Tickets on sale at 10 a.m. my foot.

ALDS game 1:  The latest night of them all.  With the game as a 6:00 start, my wife and I decided to take the kids.  We loaded up 3 back packs (the boys taking turns carrying the lightest one) with food, clothes and rain gear.  We had dry clothes in the car for the drive home if needed.  This was like our first family camping trip, we took that much stuff.
We went down early and got a great parking spot (after taking an extra lap around the stadium to avoid the parking annex, meaning the dirt patch under the overpass), then walked to Inner Harbor for a late lunch, early dinner.  As we walked back, the sky was gray, but there was no rain.  I had been watching the weather all weekend, hoping for the best.  Alas, the best would not happen.
We went through security (many thanks to the ushers that realized we’re towing 2 kids here, the over-stuffed bags are just clothing, it doesn’t really have to fit in MLB’s arbitrary box) and spent some time at the bounce house and playground, as is our usual.  On our way to our seats I wanted to see all the new statues, so we made the mistake of walking up Eutaw Street.  It was amazing how at exactly the half way point we switched from going with traffic to going against it.  In the end we made it, saw the statues, and went to our seats.
We wiped our seats (not with the cool BUCKle Up towels, but with towels of our own) and were just getting settled in when the rain came.  For the next 2 hours we camped out under the upper deck bleachers.  The boys were fantastic as we ate our snacks and played Angry Birds and Chess on our phones, in between looking at radar maps and texting others in the stadium.
Once the game did get underway, we still had to endure some distraction as some jerk in our row was getting tossed for yelling f-bombs at A-Rod.  All he had to do was clean up his language when another dad in our section asked him too, but 2 hours of drinking apparently make that impossible.  I’d like to see them stop serving beer during a delay, but considering there are beer advertisements on the plastic coating the lockers for post game celebrations, I’m realistic in thinking that’s not going to happen.

This was my first playoff experience, and I enjoyed it, if not the result.  Initially I thought MLB would take over all of the between inning entertainment as we watched Fan Cave pieces, S↑2C ads (poorly timed to take the wind out of the home fans’ sails following the O’s taking the lead), and anti-PED PSAs (wonderfully timed before the top of the 4th and an A-Roid plate appearance).  Happily the crab shuffle, kiss cam, fan of the game, and hot dog race all made it in to the rotation (props to my youngest on picking relish to win).
The boys stayed through 5 innings.  My youngest would later tell me his favorite part was when the Orioles scored 2 runs on McLouth’s single; I agree (the upper deck was literally shaking as the stadium erupted).  As they left, I moved to an empty seat in front of Mr. Peacher on the lower deck as he became my ride home.  I gnawed on peanuts washed down by birch beer until Johnson gave up the Martin home run.  I thought the 5 run 9th was a stomach punch loss.  If I only knew.  Bedtime, setting up a very tired week:  2:10 a.m.

Wild Card game:  I had tickets to this, had the Orioles made it here.  I was super nervous having Saunders pitching, but he did a great job.  Scoring in the top of the 1st was a huge bonus.  The game was fun to watch with 17 hits total; if the O’s could have had a game or two like that with the Yankees they would’ve won the series.  Let the Yankees give the ball to Jabba Chamberlain a few times and see what happens.  But, they couldn’t chase the starting pitchers soon enough.

Bring on 2013.