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The Underappreciated Zach Greinke

This afternoon, with their entire season hanging in the balance, the Milwaukee Brewers will send Zach Greinke to the mound on their home filed, Miller Park, where they won more home games than any other team in baseball in 2011. While I feel they may have overpaid in terms of weakening themselves in previous games to set-up Greinke starting a do-or-die game at home, Milwaukee and their fans will hear none of it – this is exactly what they wanted and to them, the end result justified the cost of getting there. For the first time in three starts, Zach Greinke will be taking the mound on a full four days rest. This is absolutely crucial and one of the reasons I was so critical of the Brewers’ frantic maneuvers to effect this very set up. I didn’t feel they should have done anything that would possibly reduce the effectiveness of Zach Greinke – and he wasn’t particularly effective in either start on short rest. The reason for my concern will almost certainly surprise anyone who follows the game, but it’s an opinion I’ve held since mid-June. Zach Greinke is the best pitcher in baseball.

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Game Theory

I have a friend who has worked at a small hedge fund for the better part of a decade. To his persistent frustration, the fund has remained small. It’s remained small because, despite what appear on the surface to be good returns, the fund has been unable to attract virtually any outside money. It’s a quandary for my friend. The fund’s portfolio manager, (the sole owner of the fund’s management company) has just enough wealthy family and friends who have invested in the fund to sustain the operation. Plus, the fund is located, to quote Bruce Springsteen, “down San Diego way” so my friend has a pretty enviable life style. Nonetheless, he’s ambitious and therefore frustrated because the problem with attracting assets is attributable to one thing: His boss doesn’t understand game theory.

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Skewed Perceptions: Texas @ Tampa Bay

At 2:00 EST this afternoon, the last possible quadruple header of baseball games this season kicks off. (Sadly for me, I will be on a cross-country flight and unable to see all but the very beginning of the first game and the very end of the last game. I'm begging Delta to make sure the in-flight wifi works.) Further there are three potential elimination games, so let’s take a look at the one where I think the largest gap exists between perception and expected results. The Texas Rangers have only scored in four of the 26 innings they’ve batted in this series and been outscored by Tampa 17 to 12, but lead the series 2 games to 1. Matt Harrison goes for Texas while Jeremy Hellickson takes the mound for Tampa Bay. On the surface, this looks like a huge advantage for Tampa...

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Let’s play a game in which you are the manager of a Major League team faced with an in-game decision. It’s the baseball version of the old “IBM Presents You Make the Call” commercials that used to run during NFL games.* * For those of you under 30, IBM was a company that made typewriters when I was a kid. Here’s the set-up: Your team is winning 3-1, on the road, in the bottom of the 6th inning. There are runners on first and second base with one out. Pretty simple set-up, right? Ok, here’s your chance to be a manager. Given the scenario above would you rather pitch to 2011’s Dan Uggla or Jose Bautista? (When I say “2011’s” I mean the 2011 version of these two hitters.)

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St. Louis vs. Philadelphia

For a 15-year period, from 1991-2005, Bill Miller, portfolio manager of the Legg Mason Value Trust mutual fund, beat the S&P 500 every single year. For the last few years of his streak, Miller was the toast of the investment world as he was the only portfolio manager, whose record was publicly available, to beat the S&P every year for anywhere close to that length of time. He appeared on the cover of countless business magazines, his fund took in billions of dollars from new investors and all the while outsider obsession with his streak grew.

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