While watching Tuesday’s spring training game between the Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves, some of us in the FiveThirtyEight office were surprised to see Tigers shortstop Alex Gonzalez. Didn’t Gonzalez retire years ago?He was Atlanta’s everyday shortstop in 2011, but over the past two seasons, Gonzalez was thoroughly forgettable, playing just 65 games for the Milwaukee Brewers (hitting .211 and producing -0.8 wins above replacement). If you go back to 2009, when Gonzalez was 32, he seemed particularly unlikely to be in the majors five years later.This got us thinking: Could we quantify the “Wait … he’s still playing?” question. Our idea was to use a player’s age and WAR to predict whether he would be an active major leaguer a half-decade later. To that end, we plugged every player from the designated hitter era (1973-present) into a logistic regression model. The result will tell us the likelihood of a given player being in the league five seasons later. For example, here’s the arc of a generic Major League Baseball player who peaks as an All-Star (5 WAR) at age 27:So for players in MLB this season (a list taken from Fangraphs’ depth charts), we looked at the odds at the end of the 2009 season that they’d still be playing today. Here are the most unlikely major leaguers:Gonzalez is not the most improbable player in the game. That honor belongs to catcher Henry Blanco, who was 37 in 2009 and had been hovering around replacement level for the previous three seasons. All else being equal, a player of that profile would have just a 3 percent chance of still being in the majors five years later, and yet Blanco is slated to be in the mix for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ backup catching role this season.Blanco underscores one of the themes of the list. The probabilities listed above don’t take into account the player’s position (beyond the positional adjustments in WAR) — just his age and performance. For most players, that’s enough, but backup catchers are a different breed. No other position is so well-represented among the “I can’t believe he’s still playing” set.One reason for this is that WAR, for all of its strengths, doesn’t incorporate a catcher’s receiving skills. Recent research suggests that elite pitch-framers such as the Tampa Bay Rays’ Jose Molina have a startlingly large impact on the game, far beyond what was originally believed in the sabermetric community.Another explanation, though, is that on-field performance isn’t necessarily the first thing managers look for in their reserve backstops. Instead, managers may place more value on intangibles such as clubhouse presence and leadership. How else to explain how backup catching became what Sports Illustrated once called “the cushiest job in baseball”?
Health officials confirm first flu death of this year’s flu season August 21, 2019 Categories: Local San Diego News FacebookTwitter KUSI Newsroom, Posted: August 21, 2019 SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Health officials today confirmed the first influenza- related death of the 2019/2020 flu season in San Diego County.The county’s Health and Human Services Agency reported that a 74-year-old Chula Vista man died Aug. 15 due to complications from Influenza B. The man, whose name was withheld, also had additional medical issues, according to county health officials.The county tracks flu activity year-round during each flu season, which corresponds with the county’s fiscal year from July 1 to June 30. Health officials didn’t confirm the first flu death in each of the last two flu seasons until October.“Influenza deaths can occur at any time since influenza circulates throughout the year,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the county’s interim deputy public health officer. “The elderly, pregnant women and those with underlyingmedical conditions are at higher risk of developing complications from influenza.”Since July 1, health officials have confirmed 106 flu cases throughout the county. At this time in the last two flu seasons, officials had confirmed just 26 cases in 2018 and 114 in 2017. The 2017/2018 flu season resulted in 342 flu-related deaths, the most since the county began tracking flu data nearly 20 years ago.The season’s flu vaccine will not be widely available around the county until September, according to local officials. Certain local pharmacies and health clinics may have the vaccine before then, however. Residents can check if the vaccine is available near them by searching their ZIP code at cdc.gov/flu/freeresources/flu-finder-widget.html.County health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advise the annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, especially in demographics with a heightened risk of serious complications.Residents can take precaution against contracting the virus by frequently washing their hands, cleaning commonly touched surfaces and avoiding contact with sick people.“It’s important to practice good hand hygiene and stay home if you are sick to avoid infecting others,” Sidelinger said. “People should cover their mouth when causing and sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.” KUSI Newsroom