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Soup of This Day #196: And Long Division Just Doesn’t Matter

June 16, 2012

Monarch Butterflies
Monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus, on migration in Texas. These suckers flap their wings and all sorts of stuff can happen – Photo: Loadmaster (David R. Tribble), 2008. Loadmaster (David R. Tribble) is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

The butterfly effect is the name given to a part of chaos theory whereby it describes how a small change in 1 place can have a significant effect elsewhere. It takes its name from the thinking that a butterfly flapping its wings in say, Perth, Western Australia, can result in the Boston Red Sox failing to score a single run against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, which is exactly 1 gazillion kms away.

This is why I spent some time yesterday trying to shush a butterfly.

Sadly I must have had the wrong butterfly because the Sox failed to score a run against the Cubs this morning. That result is for another post though – All you need to get out of this is that everything is connected – Even stuff that sure doesn’t seem like it should be.

This could be a scary concept but I’m ok with it – I’ll embrace it even. This blog in fact is run along that principle – Often my posts are attempts to find a pattern, a connection between seemingly random events and in doing so maybe find some deeper meaning than say, the Red Sox can’t buy offensive run production right now.

So I like to delve into stuff, to sift through in search of the bastard butterflies that keep screwing things up for my teams. And because this is about sport then this means analysing the numbers, divining for a flow through the maths.

Yep, this blog is like that show – The 1 with the FBI guys that use Numbers to solve crimes. That teaches us that Numbers are behind everything, that we can link who we are and what we do via formulas and equations of Numbers. You know the 1… Californication.

For this episode then I’d like to go back a bit in time, a little under 4 years ago. In those hedonistic days, the Boston Red Sox were a lot less ordinary than they are now. In fact at the time we’re focusing on they were at 55 and 40, 1st in the American League (AL) East, considerably better than the current 31 and 33 which is good for last in the same Division. It’s also worth noting that in the former situation the Sox were the defending World Series champs.

This time around, not so much.

So the .579 Red Sox of 2008 headed into a match-up with the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway in decent shape. It was the 2nd outing of a 3 game series, with the Sox having lost the preceding day, 3-7. That result had sent the O’s to 46 and 46, good for last in the AL East but still worth at least a cheer for being in parity. It’s important to note here that Clay Buchholz had absorbed that loss for Boston, conceding 4 runs across 5 innings and dropping his record to 2 and 4 while his ERA moved to 5.70. Remember those numbers like your FBI career depends upon it – They will be required later.

So the Sox needed to bounce back. Fortunately they had 1 Timothy Stephen Wakefield in line for the start of Game 2 and the knuckleballer did not disappoint – Wake threw 100 pitches across 7 innings for just 2 hits and 1 run. That 1 run was to be the only 1 the O’s registered for the day.

Wake’s opposite number, Radhames Liz, was not so frugal. Nor was he working the mound for as long as his Sox counterpart. Liz chucked out 61 pitches and, just for giggles, compressed them all into 2.1 innings. That kind of equation generally results in runs, 8 of them to be exact, off of 6 hits. Not to be outdone his replacement, Lance Cormier, notched up 37 pitches in 1.2 innings. He did only concede the 2 runs though so got to look Liz in the eye with a slightly smug expression when he too was pulled.

After that kind of opening the Baltimore pen did well to limit the Sox to just 2 more runs and so the Boston team finished with a 12-1 win. Runs were scored on the Red Sox side of the ledger by Dustin Pedroia (2), J.D. Drew (1), Manny Ramirez (1), Mike Lowell (1), Alex Cora (1) and Kevin Youkilis (6). So a decent morning for most Red Sox fans.

Not for me.

For me it was the most fantastically brilliant morning in the history of days. You see, that morning, shortly after the breakfast that neither of us got to eat, my wife and I welcomed The Noah into the world. The Red Sox finished out the year with a 95 and 67 record that led to a tight 3-4 AL Championship Series loss to Florida’s Tampa Bay Rays. My wife and I finished out the year with a wondrous child.

Fast-forward now to Wednesday just past. The Red Sox were not hosting the O’s. They were instead down at the shiny new aquarium that is the home of the Miami Marlins for some interleague action. Back in 2008 the Marlins were the Florida Marlins and they shared Dolphin Stadium with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Which is a fair way from Fenway so on the surface of it you’d find it hard to link the 2 outings.

There were other subtle differences too – Clay Buchholz was the starter for the Sox in 2012, whereas he had started the day before that sensational 2008 game. His ERA in 2008 was 5.70, whereas going in to this 2012 effort it was 5.77.

Ok, so that was actually pretty close. His record though was not – His 2 and 4 in 2008 had become 6 and 2 in 2012. Which is impressive given the almost identical ERAs – More evidence of butterfly wings flapping perhaps.

Whatever the cause Buchholz was seriously on his game for this outing – The rangy righty went 103 pitches through 7 innings, giving up just 5 hits and 1 run. As it had been in 2008 against the O’s, that 1 run was all that got scored off the Red Sox on the day. And as it had been in 2008 against the O’s, that 1 run was less than the Sox bats could manage.

To be fair to the Marlins this was no 12-1 rout – Instead it was a much tighter affair, with the Boston outfit gaining just the 2 runs via Kelly Shoppach and Mike Avilés to notch up a squeaky 1 run victory. Kevin Youkilis, he who had drummed out 6 runs in that 2008 outing, went 0 for 3 at the plate. In spite of that latter effort it was a decent morning for Red Sox fans.

This time it was for me too.

The afternoon though was the most fantastically brilliant afternoon in the history of days. You see, that afternoon, shortly after the lunch that neither of us got to eat, my wife and I welcomed our 2nd child, The Angus, into the world.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while (And who hasn’t) you might remember a post back in February of this year. In it I talked about how we were expecting a child but that things were not good – We’d suffered a miscarriage last year and then at 20 weeks and 2 days in to this pregnancy there arose a real chance that the baby was coming early.

Too early to survive.

It was a nightmare time – We were on tenterhooks in the days that followed and then the weeks thereafter.

We memorized the milestones that we needed – 24 weeks gets you a 50% survivability shot, 28 weeks improves that significantly but with long-term complications. 32 weeks and our obstetrician promised to laugh at us (He later shifted the goalposts out to 34 weeks). And then, with these markers in mind we eked out the days, counting each as a blessing of itself.

And after all of that we got our beautiful healthy son. A fair bit of that (Almost all of it to be honest) is down to the most amazing superstar of a wife anyone could wish for. I can’t deny though that there was an element of chaos theory in it all.

As such I’m off to kiss as many butterflies as I can find. I’ll send Clay Buchholz a thanks too but I might spare him an appreciative smooch.

And Long Division Just Doesn’t Matter

  1. Welcome, Angus!!! (Right on time…)

    • Angus would say thanks except he’s busy sleeping, eating, pooping and then eating, sleeping, eating and finally sleeping, pooping, sleeping.

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