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Friday, December 2, 2016

2016-2017 Brewers System Rankings

Over the last year and a half during my work with Disciples of Uecker and BaseballProspectus, I have worked on an extensive record of the Brewers farm system. This includes collecting information from BaseballProspectus, BaseballAmerica, and other sources where available, and also reading between the lines of scouting reports to guess at grades where they are not readily published. I have tried to keep a conservative standpoint in terms of prospect hype, and I generally attempt to favor overall future potential over floor. But it's obviously an imperfect science to balance these tasks with risk, assessing a player's breakout potential with their tools, or assessing their likelihood of depreciating from a top prospect to a bench player, a starting pitcher to a reliever, etc.

The Brewers have acquired boatloads of talent via 2015 rebuilding trades under Doug Melvin (see Marcos Diplan, Zach Davies [graduated], Brett Phillips, Domingo Santana [graduated], Yhonathan Barrios, Adrian Houser, Josh Hader, etc.); 2015-2016 rebuilding trades under David Stearns (see most notably Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz, who immediately became the top prospects in the system following the Jonathan Lucroy-Jeremy Jeffress trade); 2015-2016 counterbuilding trades by Stearns (see most notably Isan Diaz, as a part of the Chase Anderson/Aaron Hill return for Jean Segura and Tyler Wagner); and the first two drafts under Ray Montgomery's direction (see most  notably Trent Clark, Corey Ray, and Cody Ponce, among others obviously). This even fails to consider breakouts from the late Bruce Seid's scouting tenure, including most recently Brandon Woodruff.

As a result of this obscene influx of talent, I have found numerical rankings to be pointless. The Brewers system is at a point where there is really not that much of a difference in saying "Trent Clark is #4, and Devin Williams is #11," or "Jorge Lopez is #14 and Jon Perrin is #26." Rather, I find it more useful to split the farm system into segments based on approximations of the total number of players under reserve by the Brewers. Thus, I have found it more useful to judge players by their standing within the Top 25 percent (or so) of the system, which I have estimated around 60-to-65 players or so (counting the 40-man roster down to the Dominican Summer League). Within this framework, I have found it useful to assess players within certain ranks -- to my eyes, Brinson, Ortiz, and Diaz are the very best prospects in the system in terms of overall future potential and floor, and easily rank among the Top One percent of the system. Then, we can make somewhat meaningful distinctions between someone like Diaz and Clark (who has a fine OFP but struggled with injuries in 2016) or Miguel Diaz (who has an excellent OFP but more risk than Ortiz, Brinson, and Diaz thus far). Again, this is not an exact science, and getting hung up on the numbers risks missing more qualitative views of players' roles.


One of my favorite aspects of the expanding quality within the Brewers system is the quality of depth. First and foremost, there are prospects such as Phil Bickford, Demi Orimoloye, and others, who have potentially strong tools (a great fastball, or three potential 60 tools in Orimoloye's case), but tons of risk (in Bickford's case, his stuff is backing up; in Orimoloye's case, his distance from the MLB and overall polishing work). It would not surprise me if Bickford or Orimoloye take charge in 2017 and lead the system in next year's rankings. Similarly, I feel like most of my 2016 draft rankings are tenative, awaiting more information and another look. I'm not sure I would be surprised if someone like Corbin Burnes ends up ranking ahead of Corey Ray, or if Chad McClanahan becomes the third baseman of the future; then, there are total sleepers like Zachary Clark, who could have the best total tools package of the entire draft class. This is what makes ranking prospects both frustrating and fun -- there are cases where highly ranked guys will not ever reach those heights, and conservatism ends up making us look foolish on guys like McClanahan or Burnes. Outside of the 2016 draft, there are other total sleepers in Carlos Herrera and Trey Supak, Wendell Rijo and Franly Mallen (comparing scouting and stats, Rijo simply has never flashed his tools, but way too many reports grade him highly to surrender hope), and there are still a number of potentially talented profiles that are just too young and inexperienced to accurately rank yet (I'm looking at Jose Sibrian and Yohel Atencio here, who could help make the Brewers an amazing catching system behind Andrew Susac, Martin Maldonado, and Jacob Nottingham, among others [for example, I know some are high on Dustin Houle]).


(Photo Updated at 10:04 AM with corrected 2017 age)


A word on Luke Barker, who was recently signed out of the Frontier League and has received some attention from my esteemed colleague Kyle Lesniewski. Barker is a just plain fun addition to the system -- the eye test says he looks like Jake Arrieta, and his 6'4", 215-225 pound profile perfectly mimics Arrieta's listing. Translation: Barker looks like a physicality righty, and it's intriguing that he's a biomechanics scholar (which leads me to think of Mike Marshall, among others, as following a profile of baseball mechanics junkies).

According to a self-uploaded scouting video (h/t BCB), Barker throws five pitches, and the video shows some sharp stuff and a wrinkly little fastball. Given the Brewers' vast history as a biomechanics system, and Vice President and Assistant General Manager Matt Arnold's noted expertise in that area, it should be exciting to see what a signing like Barker produces. I ranked Barker just outside the Top 30 for fun, because I think it's hard to sleep on the frame and stuff profile. Basically, it's a hedge that the righty could serve as one of the system's big jumps in 2016 (but this analysis could very well be translated to Paolo Espino, as well, as Espino is much closer to the MLB and calls to mind the Junior Guerra pick up prior to 2016 for Milwaukee). It is my mistake not to include Espino here, but he could easily slot into the Top 20 or 24 percent of the system. Hell, by #60 in the Brewers system, there are probably (at least) a dozen guys that could be ranked any which way.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Most Exciting 7-Game World Series

There was a sense throughout the recent Cleveland and Cubs World Series that it was one of the most competitive and exciting World Series I'd seen in some time. The teams played three one-run games, including the absurd extra-inning thriller that closed the series, and those one-run games were piled onto the fact that Cleveland had a chance to clinch with a 3-1 lead (like the 1985 Cardinals, 1979 Orioles, 1973 Mets, and 1972 Athletics. So, pretty good company even if you're included to think that's a choke for Cleveland). Moreover, the series featured two clubs with rather large discrepancies between their regular season win totals, meaning that there was a real chance for an underdog to knock out a big shot club (although these are relative terms, because Cleveland still won 94 games). Furthermore, both teams played so evenly that their final runs scored and runs allowed were tied, at 27 (making the Cubs the lowest scoring seven game champ since the 1991 Twin, and this series the first seven game tie since 1971). So, how does this series compare with other seven game World Series?
World Series (Team Wins) Final Score (RS / RA) One-Run Games Extra Inning Games Series Narrative Arc
2016 Cubs (103) d. Cleveland (94) 27-27 Three One 3-1 Cleveland lead / both teams lost home field / Extra Innings Game 7 (Cleveland had chance to clinch at home)
2014 Giants (88) d. Royals (89) 30-27 One Zero Giants 2 consecutive W to 3-2 lead / 1-1:2-2:3-3 Progression Progression / both teams lost home field (Royals had chance to clinch at home)
2011 Cardinals (90) d. Rangers (96) 38-30 Three One Rangers 2 consecutive W to 3-2 lead / 1-1:2-2:3-3 Progression / both teams lost home field
2002 Angels (99) d. Giants (95) 41-44 Four Zero Giants 2 consecutive W to 3-2 lead / 1-1:2-2:3-3 Progression / both teams lost home field
2001 Diamondbacks (92) d. Yankees (95) 37-14 Four Two Perfect Home Field Advantage (2:3:2) / Game 7 Walk-Off Win
1997 Marlins (92) d. Cleveland (86) 37-44 Two One 1-1:2-2:3-3 Progression / both teams lost home field / Extra Innings Game 7 (Walk off Win)
1991 Twins (95) d. Atlanta (94) 24-35 Five Three Perfect Home Field Advantage (2:3:2) / Consecutive Extra-Innings Walk-Offs (Game 6 & 7)
1987 Twins (85) d. Cardinals (95) 37-26 Zero Zero Perfect Home Field Advantage (2:3:2)
1986 Mets (108) d. Red Sox (95) 32-27 Two One Both teams lost home field / Road team won first four games / Infamous Game Six Mets walk-off
1985 Royals (91) d. Cardinals (101) 28-13 One Zero 3-1 Cardinals lead / both teams lost home field (Cardinals with chance to clinch at home) / Infamous Game Six Royals walk-off
1982 Cardinals (92) d. Brewers (95) 36-33 One Zero 1-1:2-2:3-3 Progression / both teams lost home field
1979 Pirates (98) d. Orioles (102) 32-26 Two Zero 3-1 Orioles lead / both teams lost home field / Orioles had a chance to clinch at home
1975 Reds (108) d. Red Sox (95) 29-30 Four Two 1-1:2-2:3-3 Progression / both teams lost home field / Consecutive one-run games 6 & 7 with winning runs scored in extras & 9th (Red Sox had a chance to clinch at home)
1973 Athletics (94) d. Mets (82) 21-24 Two Two 3-1 Mets lead / both teams lost home field
1972 Athletics (93) d. Reds (95) 16-21 Six Zero 3-1 Athletics lead (chance to clinch at home) / both teams lost home field / Reds had a chance to clinch at home
1971 Pirates (97) d. Orioles (101) 24-24 Three One Perfect Home Field first six games / Game 7 was first road win in series (Orioles had chance to clinch at home)
I judged these categories for a few reasons: First, I wanted to use regular season W-L as a basic measure of team strength. I know there are better run-based measurements of team strength, but the fact is that playoff baseball is situational, and if a team wins or loses more games than their run differential or underlying stats suggest, that reflects on their situational play. I also counted final RS / RA (it's interesting that six of 16 winners were outscored by the loser over seven games) one-run games, which I believe is an obvious metric of a closely played contest, extra innings affairs (which are exciting for many reasons, and demonstrate an evenly-played contest), and other specific notes (such as whether teams kept or lost home field advantage, whether a team had a 3-1 lead, whether the series progressed in a 1-game-to-1-game fashion, if a team had a chance to clinch at home, and if there was an iconic game that I know of in Game 6 or 7, and anything else interesting I noted.
These series can arguably divided into a couple of different groups. First, there are three series that are a cut above the rest, for one-run games, game 6 or 7 walk-offs, extra innings contests, teams losing home field advantage, teams losing 3-1 leads, or some combination of those factors. I believe that the perfect home field advantage in 1991 is very boring, but two consecutive extra innings walk-offs to close the series conquers all else. The 2016 series is oddly similar to the 1975 series, both in terms of the difference between team wins, the failed chance to clinch at home, and an iconic extra innings game:
Best Series Final Score (RS / RA) One-Run Games Extra Inning Games Series Narrative Arc
1991 Twins (95) d. Atlanta (94) 24-35 Five Three Perfect Home Field Advantage (2:3:2) / Consecutive Extra-Innings Walk-Offs (Game 6 & 7)
2016 Cubs (103) d. Cleveland (94) 27-27 Three One 3-1 Cleveland lead / both teams lost home field / Extra Innings Game 7 (Cleveland had chance to clinch at home)
1975 Reds (108) d. Red Sox (95) 29-30 Four Two 1-1:2-2:3-3 Progression / both teams lost home field / Consecutive one-run games 6 & 7 with winning runs scored in extras & 9th (Red Sox had a chance to clinch at home)
Next follow a group of series that certainly have their iconic moments, but maybe were not as evenly played, had a lot of one-run games but not much else, or had some combination of events that simply was not as exciting or as iconic as the above series (this is rather subjective, of course). For example, although the 2001 series had a lot of historical drama and a great final set of games, both teams followed home field advantage, and the final score of the series indicates that it really was not much of a contest whatsoever, overall; it's quite an odd mix of close games, home field determinism, and blowouts. That's just one example:
Interesting Series (Team Wins) Final Score (RS / RA) One-Run Games Extra Inning Games Series Narrative Arc
1972 Athletics (93) d. Reds (95) 16-21 Six Zero 3-1 Athletics lead (chance to clinch at home) / both teams lost home field / Reds had a chance to clinch at home
2002 Angels (99) d. Giants (95) 41-44 Four Zero Giants 2 consecutive W to 3-2 lead / 1-1:2-2:3-3 Progression / both teams lost home field
1997 Marlins (92) d. Cleveland (86) 37-44 Two One 1-1:2-2:3-3 Progression / both teams lost home field / Extra Innings Game 7 (Walk off Win)
1986 Mets (108) d. Red Sox (95) 32-27 Two One Both teams lost home field / Road team won first four games / Infamous Game Six Mets walk-off
1973 Athletics (94) d. Mets (82) 21-24 Two Two 3-1 Mets lead / both teams lost home field
1979 Pirates (98) d. Orioles (102) 32-26 Two Zero 3-1 Orioles lead / both teams lost home field / Orioles had a chance to clinch at home
1971 Pirates (97) d. Orioles (101) 24-24 Three One Perfect Home Field first six games / Game 7 was first road win in series (Orioles had chance to clinch at home)
2001 Diamondbacks (92) d. Yankees (95) 37-14 Four Two Perfect Home Field Advantage (2:3:2) / Game 7 Walk-Off Win
2011 Cardinals (90) d. Rangers (96) 38-30 Three One Rangers 2 consecutive W to 3-2 lead / 1-1:2-2:3-3 Progression / both teams lost home field
Finally, a group of series that have much less drama. For a seven game series, 1987 almost objectively has as little drama as possible for a seven game set: no extra innings, no one run games, the home team won every time, and the final score was lopsided, too. It is really interesting to me that each Champion in this category has fewer wins than the team they defeated. Perhaps that places these teams in a singular category, as they certainly deserve credit for that (well, maybe except for the Royals and Giants, who both had almost exactly the same record):
World Series (Team Wins) Final Score (RS / RA) One-Run Games Extra Inning Games Series Narrative Arc
2014 Giants (88) d. Royals (89) 30-27 One Zero Giants 2 consecutive W to 3-2 lead / 1-1:2-2:3-3 Progression / both teams lost home field (Royals had chance to clinch at home)
1985 Royals (91) d. Cardinals (101) 28-13 One Zero 3-1 Cardinals lead / both teams lost home field (Cardinals with chance to clinch at home) / Infamous Game Six Royals walk-off
1982 Cardinals (92) d. Brewers (95) 36-33 One Zero 1-1:2-2:3-3 Progression / both teams lost home field
1987 Twins (85) d. Cardinals (95) 37-26 Zero Zero Perfect Home Field Advantage (2:3:2)
So, in conclusion, the 2016 series truly will stand the test of time as a competitive and entertaining series. Its great features include a bonkers seesaw final game, a tie score for the series, three one-run games and one extra innings contest, a blown 3-1 advantage for one team, and a blown chance to clinch the series at home. Pretty thrilling!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Ranking Brewers Prospects

I began covering Brewers prospects during Milwaukee's exceptionally disappointing 2015 season, since the big club was doing nothing and it was clear that looking to the future would be more entertaining. The season was particularly interesting because several key prospects took huge steps forward (Orlando Arcia, Jorge Lopez, and Michael Reed most notably), which was a huge boost for the system prior to the influx of talent through an excellent draft (Cody Ponce, Trent Clark, Nathan Kirby, Demi Orimoloye, etc.) and slicing rebuilding trades (Brett Phillips, Josh Hader, Domingo Santana, Adrian Houser, Zach Davies, Malik Collymore, Yhonathan Barrios). Milwaukee even made some quiet International signings that could be praiseworthy as well (Jose Sibrian, for example). From four fronts, the Brewers system immeasurably improved.

The same development has occurred under David Stearns's watch. In his first season as GM, Stearns has made remarkable low-cost/no-risk moves (Junior Guerra, Jonathan Villar, Garin Cecchini, Rymer Liriano, Keon Broxton, Trey Supak, etc.), which are especially astute for their counterbuilding nature (i.e., Stearns unloaded prospect depth to acquire Villar, Broxton, Supak, and Liriano, for example). A couple of true rebuilding moves netted Freddy Peralta, Carlos Herrera, Daniel Missaki, Jacob Nottingham, and Bubba Derby.

Stearns adroitly acquired a "bad" contract (Aaron Hill) while moving Jean Segura and Tyler Wagner to the Diamondbacks, which added potential impact talent to the Brewers not once (Isan Diaz) but twice (Wendell Rijo), thanks to the recent pre-deadline deal to Boston. Once again, the Brewers executed a perfectly orchestrated draft in terms of leveraging risk and potential assets, which is beginning to create a signature for scouting director Ray Montgomery (Corey Ray, Chad McClanahan, Lucas Erceg, Zachary Clark,  Zach Brown, Braden Webb, Francisco Thomas, and Thomas Jankins, among others).

All told, Milwaukee has added or developed at least 30 intriguing-to-impact prospects over the last calendar year. This is a bewildering task for judging talent within the system, for even this number hardly accounts for the fact that previous impact-potential prospects are continuing on their course to success, too (Devin Williams, Marcos Diplan, and Franly Mallen, for example). Milwaukee's system is not simply stacked, it is stacked with depth pipelines emerging for Catcher, Second Base, and Shortstop, not to mention the club's glut of outfielders. The low minors may currently feature more true impact potential than the advanced minors at the moment, but several of the advanced prospects are tuning up their games in preparation for legitimate shots at MLB roles. Arcia's glove alone could carry him at shortstop; Brett Phillips is flashing five tools in centerfield; and even through some setbacks, Jorge Lopez adds rotational depth.

So, how to rank these players? Admittedly, some of these pitchers may still have question marks about whether they will start or relieve, and some of the centerfield prospects are more likely to work at other outfield positions, which digs into their potential impact. Still, there is an impressive array of tools available, and even if some players move off of elite middle diamond positions, they may have the bats to carry an offensive juggernaut. More raw power is appearing throughout the system, and there are several power/speed potential profiles. For this reason, I am inclined to believe that the bats are ahead of the arms at this point, although this could arguably be a reflection of the fact that the system's best potential arms have not yet hit AA.

I am writing this ranking here because it is too unwieldy, and also has too many question marks, to publish elsewhere. There is simply to way to say, right now, the system's #35 prospect is better than their #25 prospect; after five or six true impact top prospects, there are at least 20 intriguing prospects with tools that could grade into some MLB role.

I ranked prospects first and foremost on their highest potential tools and roles, giving preference to high probability middle diamond players and starting pitchers. But I do have a liking of big tools on their own, so it's tough for me to pass on Josh Hader's 97 MPH lefty fastball whether or not he starts or relieves. I am also trying to round out the general Top 30 range with high-floor players that could provide MLB impact in starting or bench roles. This is a necessity because prospects like Michael Reed, Jon Perrin, Damien Magnifico, and Garin Cecchini still have immense value, even if they do not have the high ceilings of other prospects.

For the purposes of this exercise, I mean the following:

  • An elite role is a starting contribution that could provide at least 10 runs above average (all around, bat and field) or 10 runs prevented. 
  • An impact role is a contributor that could be average or better (0-10 runs). 
  • A "bench" role is someone that has a tool to make the MLB, but a role that is somewhat uncertain. 
  • Power/speed players are ranked separately because I like them too much to grade fairly against others. I would invariably rank many of these players higher than I "should."
  • There are other players that I think are interesting, but there is some injury issue or they are simply too far from the advanced minors to grade.
Here's the table:
Elite Roles (6) Impact Starters (6) Impact Depth (Uncertain Role) (10) Power or Speed Loves (10) Depth (18) Don't Know / Extreme Risks (14)
Orlando Arcia Jorge Lopez Marcos Diplan Demi Orimoloye Trey Supak Nathan Kirby
Cody Ponce Isan Diaz Freddy Peralta Lucas Erceg Bubba Derby Taylor Williams
Bertt Phillips Trent Clark Kodi Medeiros Jake Gatewood Garin Cecchini Daniel Missaki
Jacob Nottingham Devin Williams Michael Reed Gilbert Lara Tyrone Taylor Aaron Familia
Miguel Diaz Corey Ray Adrian Houser Chad McClanahan Damien Magnifico Jean-Carlos Carmona
Josh Hader Franly Mallen Jon Perrin Victor Roache Francisco Thomas Karsen Lindell
Carlos Herrera Zachary Clark Zach Brown Nash Walters
Javier Betancourt Malik Collymore Braden Webb Jordan Yamamoto
Monte Harrison Tyrone Perry Jose Sibrian Nelson Hernandez
Aaron Wilkerson David Denson Troy Stokes Carlos Luna
David Burkhalter Johel Atencio
Thomas Jankins Max McDowell
Drake Owenby Yhonathan Barrios
Jake Drossner Rymer Liriano
Dustin Houle
George Iskenderian
Jose Cuas
Gentry Fortuno

Even with this table of 64 players, I am certain I forgot several interesting prospects. Like Wendell Rijo, for instance (whoops!).

Additionally, the Brewers have several rookies currently playing in the MLB:

2016 Rookies (WARP)
Junior Guerra (2.0)
Zach Davies (1.0)
Jhan Marinez (0.3)
Jacob Barnes (0.3)
Andy Wilkins (0.0)
Yadiel Rivera (-0.2)
Colin Walsh (-0.2)
Ramon Flores (-0.3)
Keon Broxton (-0.4)

What is especially interesting for the Brewers is the emerging pipeline at each position on the diamond, which should allow Milwaukee's front office to consider more depth trades (alongside the traditional/expected "rebuilding" trades involving MLB players). This chart is based on games played, as of late June, so I excluded Arizona Rookies, given that their team was under construction with draft signings:

Brewers Pipeline C 1B 2B 3B SS
AAA Pina Cecchini Elmore Middlebrooks Arcia
AA Nottingham Cooper McFarland Shaw Macias
A+ Houle DeMuth Iskenderian Cuas A. Ortega
A McDowell Sharkey Allemand Gatewood I. Diaz
R+ N. Rodriguez J. Ortiz Mallen Erceg Lara
Brewers Pipeline LF CF RF Depth Depth
AAA E. Young Jr. Reed Wilkins Pinto Orf
AA Roache Phillips Taylor Betancourt O. Garcia
A+ B. Diaz J. Davis Coulter Collymore Ray
A Stokes Harrison Belonis T. Clark L. Aviles
R+ Y. Martinez Segovia Orimoloye W. Wilson R. Gideon

With this type of depth, the Brewers front office can begin trading players that might have similar profiles, in order to maximize high prospect value and turn it into MLB wins (by both trading some prospects and developing others). Each of these players will not make the MLB with the Brewers, so as the big club's roster needs unfold throughout 2017 and 2018, the Brewers will have the deep farm system to (a) withstand injuries, (b) make impact trades, and (c) graduate talent to the MLB.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Descent of the 1995-1996 NBA

Lately on my own social media, I've been vehemently defending the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls. Obvious nostalgia aside, the team was a powerhouse that had just returned (arguably) the greatest player of all time to an exceptional supporting cast. I also fondly remember the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, New York Knicks, and Seattle SuperSonics, and used these teams to justify personal arguments about the strength of the 1995-1996 NBA. A close friend pointed out that the league added two expansion teams for that season, raising a question about the competitive nature of the league. I hypothesized that ELO, a measurement designed to account for franchise strength based on performance in individual games, would readily account for the strength of the league. Furthermore, the presence of the "tank" (or, sorry, "The Process") in the 2015-2016 NBA would surely equate this years bottom of the league with that bottom of the league in 1995-1996. Or so I suspected.

Thankfully, ELO provides a clear and intuitive tool for judging the strength of a given league, so I set out to collect the season opening and closing ELO for each 1995-1996 NBA team, and each 2015-2016 NBA team. The 2015-2016 NBA had 30 teams, while 29 played in 1995-1996 (hereafter 1516 and 9596). My hypothesis was simple: the 1995-1996 NBA, despite its expansion era, would prove to have stronger teams than the 2015-2016 NBA. My findings challenge this, but there are a boatload of interesting facts and interpretations in-between.

(1) Elite Teams.
Let's cut straight to the chase: who were the best teams in 1995-1996? Since the "average" ELO is 1500 points, I used a 10% above average threshold (or, 1650 points) to define "elite" teams at season's end. The 1516 Warriors could be poised to overtake the Bulls, who are currently the most elite team of the bunch. However, the 1516 Spurs, Thunder, and Cavs all are currently rated stronger than the 9596 Sonics and Jazz.

Elite Teams ELO Opening Closing
9596 Bulls 1592 1853
1516 Warriors 1746 1790
1516 Spurs 1667 1759
1516 Thunder 1567 1744
1516 Cavs 1645 1725
9596 Sonics 1627 1704
9596 Jazz 1604 1687

This list doesn't tell the whole story, however. Entering the 1516 season, the NBA featured two elite teams (Warriors and Spurs). By contrast, there were no elite ELO teams entering the 9596 NBA. Instead, there were nine "very good" teams, or teams that were 5% to 9% better than average ELO. In the 9596 NBA, those teams were the Spurs, Rockets, Sonics, Jazz Knicks, Pacers, Bulls, Sun, and Magic. Interestingly enough, the 1516 NBA began the season with the two elite teams (Warriors and Spurs) and four very good teams (Clippers, Cavs, Rockets, and Grizzlies).

As an aside, looking at actual opening and closing ELO development, one can make a better argument for the 1516 Thunder as a comp for the 9596 Bulls, rather than the 1516 Warriors. But that's another day.

(2) League Picture
So, take your pick: entering the season, the 9596 NBA featured no elite teams, but a ton of very good teams (31% of the league entered the season as "very good"). In 9596, the league finished with three elite teams (see table above) and three very good teams (Magic, Lakers, Spurs, Pacers). By contrast, the 1516 NBA opened with a solid number of elite and very good teams (20% of the league fell under these classifications), and finished the season with four elite teams (see table above) and five very good teams (Blazers, Clippers, Heat, Hawks, Raptors).

Elite: 1650+ ELO
Very Good: 1575-1649 ELO
Good: 1500-1574 ELO
Mediocre: 1425-1499 ELO
Bad: 1350-1424 ELO
Terrible: -1349 ELO

Category of Team Opening Closing
9596 Elite 3
1516 Elite 2 4
9596 Very Good 9 4
1516 Very Good 4 5
9596 Good 5 8
1516 Good 11 7
9596 Mediocre 6 5
1516 Mediocre 8 6
9596 Bad 7 2
1516 Bad 1 5
9596 Terrible 2 7
1516 Terrible 4 3

In the broadest terms possible, or the "Big Picture," the 1516 NBA is almost the exact inversion of the 9596 NBA. First, the 9596 NBA, where five good teams declined and produced one mediocre and one bad team (the Lakers ascended to very good); six mediocre teams split into two good, two mediocre, two terrible teams; and nearly half the bad teams became terrible teams (the Pistons became good, the Warriors and Bullets mediocre). Perhaps most tellingly, the 14 very good and good teams nearly split equitably, producing 3 elite, 4 very good, 5 good, 1 mediocre (#LOLHornets), and 1 bad (#LOLNuggets) teams.

9596 Opening Closing
Spurs Very Good Very Good
Rockets Very Good Good
Sonics Very Good Elite
Jazz Very Good Elite
Knicks Very Good Good
Pacers Very Good Very Good
Bulls Very Good Elite
Suns Very Good Good
Magic Very Good Very Good
Hornets Good Mediocre
Nuggets Good Bad
Blazers Good Good
Lakers Good Very Good
Hawks Good Good
Cavs Mediocre Good
Kings Mediocre Mediocre
Celtics Mediocre Mediocre
Mavs Mediocre Terrible
Heat Mediocre Good
Bucks Mediocre Terrible
Nets Bad Terrible
Sixers Bad Terrible
Warriors Bad Mediocre
Pistons Bad Good
Clippers Bad Bad
Bullets Bad Mediocre
Twolves Bad Terrible
Grizzlies Terrible Terrible
Raptors Terrible Terrible

In harsh terms, the 9596 NBA saw its teams' talents redistributed throughout the year, where a bunch of very good and good teams scattered in several different directions, all while the bottom of the league flat-out dropped out. The best thing that can be said about the 9596 NBA is that at least its redistribution was balanced, as nearly a third of the league either improved, remained the same, or declined (see table below).

By contrast, the 1516 NBA was a story of stasis and improvement. While the 1516 NBA opened with more terrible teams than the 9596 league, two of the four terrible teams improved in 1516. Otherwise, teams remained rather steady across categories: the two elite teams entering the season remained elite; the very good teams scattered into elite, very good, good, and mediocre (#LOLGrizzlies) placements; five of eleven good teams remained just that (only the Bulls and Pelicans declined from that category. OUCH!); three of eight mediocre teams remained in place (two teams declined, #LOLBucks & #LOLNets); the Magic, the lone bad team, improved.

1516 Opening Closing
Warriors Elite Elite
Spurs Elite Elite
Clippers Very Good Very Good
Cavs Very Good Elite
Rockets Very Good Good
Grizzlies Very Good Mediocre
Bulls Good Mediocre
Thunder Good Elite
Hawks Good Very Good
Blazers Good Very Good
Mavs Good Good
Jazz Good Good
Wizards Good Good
Pelicans Good Bad
Celtics Good Good
Pacers Good Good
Raptors Good Very Good
Suns Mediocre Bad
Pistons Mediocre Mediocre
Nets Mediocre Terrible
Heat Mediocre Very Good
Bucks Mediocre Bad
Nuggets Mediocre Mediocre
Kings Mediocre Mediocre
Charlotte Mediocre Good
Magic Bad Mediocre
Lakers Terrible Terrible
Sixers Terrible Terrible
Twolves Terrible Bad
Knicks Terrible Bad

Here are how these charts look when they are compared to one another:

Teams Remaining the Same 9596 1516
Elite 0% 100%
Very Good 33% 25%
Good 40% 45%
Mediocre 33% 38%
Bad 14% 0%
Terrible 100% 50%
Overall 10 / 29 (34%) 13 / 30 (43%)
Teams Declining 9596 1516
Elite 0% 0%
Very Good 33% 50%
Good 40% 18%
Mediocre 33% 38%
Bad 43% 0%
Overall 10 / 29 (34%) 7 / 30 (23%)
Teams Improving 9596 1516
Very Good 33% 25%
Good 20% 36%
Mediocre 33% 25%
Bad 43% 100%
Terrible 0% 50%
Overall 9 / 29 (31%) 10 / 30 (33%)

(3) League Strength
It's tempting to argue that the presence of an even distribution of improving, static, and declining teams makes the 9596 NBA the more competitive league. However, the presence of nine bad or terrible teams  (out of 29) simply makes that case more difficult. In terms of basic statistics, the 1516 NBA finished with fewer bad or terrible teams (8 of 30), and had a higher percentage of their preseason bad or terrible teams improve (the Magic, Twolves, and Knicks, here). The 9596 NBA had the Warriors, Pistons, and Bullets improve, but that simply was not enough to tilt the numbers in their favor.

There's also a grand sense of possibility about the 1516 NBA going forward: 22 of 30 teams are mediocre or better, and it's a top-heavy list (16 of those teams are good). Two of those mediocre teams (Bulls, Pistons) are within shouting distance of the league average ELO, and the Magic are trending upward. These numbers are ultimately close to the 9596 NBA, but just a tick better (I feel like that matters, too, as a mediocre team can sell "trying to win" to its fanbase, and the more teams that can do that, better for the league). It is simply better, or more competitive, if 22 teams can fight for playoff spots, instead of 20.

On the other hand, there remain arguments in favor of the 9596 NBA. At the very least, since fewer teams remained the same, the league was at least more interesting, arguably, than the current NBA. Furthermore, nearly as many teams improved in 9596 as in 1516, which means that some of the moves within the league were equally as exciting as the current league.

Isn't it interesting how many franchises have similar arcs within a 20 year span? The poor Rockets: both teams declined from Top 5 openings in 9596 and 1516. That's neither here nor there, really, but still interesting: the 1990s Rockets descending from their Championships, the 2010s Rockets never really succeeding in the playoffs (1st round exits in 3 of their last 4 trips). Teams that were (approximately) within 37 ELO points, or 2.5%, in both their 9596 and 1516 ratings? Rockets (1503 to 1536), Washington (1498 to 1530), Pistons (1528 to 1494), Nets (1327 to 1289),  Kings (1431 to 1425), Hawks (1556 to 1593), and Nuggets (1404 to 1427). That's seven teams that have played nearly a generation of basketball, only to come 'round and land almost in exactly the same spot.

Notably, the Sixers missed the cut, but they were nearly as bad in 9596 (1256 ELO) as their current "Process" (1203 ELO). The current Sixers finished this season with a worse performance than both the expansion Grizzlies and Raptors, which alone should disqualify them form their Draft Lottery. The Sonics / Thunder also missed the cut by a small margin, but they are equally fascinating from the other end of the spectrum: this franchise finished Top Three in both years, elite teams both years, and (arguably) in a transitional season both years. This year's Thunder potentially closed out Kevin Durant's era with the club, closing their attempt at a dynasty; the Sonics weren't quite there in 1996, but they were close to winding down; they wouldn't return to the Western Conference Finals in Seattle.

It remains to be seen if the Warriors can top the Bulls dynasty of the mid-1990s. One might wonder whether that team will become as universally loved or hated as the Bulls (I wonder if video game programmers will tank the Warriors, a la the hideous Bulls in NBA Jam). The one thing that remains extremely interesting about those 1996 Bulls is the return of Michael Jordan, which adds a completely different arc to the story. Moreover, even in the midst of their dynasty run, even including the "break" from the Finals between 1993 and 1996,  the Bulls responded to adversity and rebuilt their club; their ELO climb from 1592 to 1853 (!!!) in 9596 alone proves this. So, one only needs to ask of Golden State, what will their adversity be, and will they beat it?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Political Parties & Academia

Since Nicholas Kristof's "A Confession of Liberal Intolerance" will undoubtedly make the rounds, given its seemingly "countercultural" critique in favor of the GOP in academia, it is worth providing at least two specific responses to Kristof's argument. Kristof is merely sneaking power into the classroom, research, and publication through his argument, which is an unacceptable implication in any academic argument.

In the first place, it's ridiculous that any college professor would be represented by their political affiliation in the two-party system: no one is a good scholar or teacher or representing their scholarly viewpoint because they are GOP or Democrat. Even in "left-leaning" fields this would be absurd: it would matter less if two Sociologists or Anthropologists or Philosophers were Dem & GOP, rather than structuralist, feminist, Marxist, Foucauldian, Weberian, etc. [or not] (ironically, the same even goes for "right"-leaning fields, like Economics, where one can take a striking variety of ideological positions on institutionalism, corporate governance, Monetary policy, etc. It would obviously matter more, anyway, if one followed Keynes in economics, rather than political party). 

Speaking especially as someone educated in fields that are publicly viewed as "left," there was not ever a time that I hoped my political theory prof would out themselves as Dem / GOP; it mattered much more what they had to say on Locke / Rousseau / Rawls / Arendt, etc. Philosophically, it would be absurd to suggest that political party affiliation matters in a debate about 20th century epistemology, or the Theory of Ideas from Plato to Aristotle, etc.; even fields colloquially aligned with what the USA calls "the left" have little-to-no-room for State parties in the classroom. 

Suggesting that academia should correct for "political diversity" as "political party membership" in anyway is a great way to out oneself as an apologist for the State's political order itself, rather than a champion of academic freedom.

In this sense, given the GOP's extreme cultural victories from the ground-up, from roughly the 1970s-to-present, I find Kristof's argument about academic diversity disingenuous. Conservatives threw money at institutions to found right-leaning journals (stacking 2nd Amendment scholarship in their favor), to build law school curriculum and societies (creating The Federalist Society, an actual route to conservative judicial power), all the while even the most "groundbreaking" canonical political theorists of that time were "center" at best (Rawls, even as a welfare state theorist, was quite conservative). If anything, the GOP are a model for how a State-sponsored entity could maximize wings of academia for their agenda, instead of a model for "political academia outsider."

Anyway, the GOP has been an absolute force in local-state-Congressional election cycles, and they have effectively used academic infrastructures to create positions of strength in fields of cultural prestige or political monopoly (i.e., the judiciary). Acting as arms of the State, it's shortsighted (at best) to say that either Democratic or Republican views should be represented in the academy, and this point becomes even more dangerous when one considers the success that the GOP has had in the academy in terms of actually building ideology over the last 45-50 years.

This is simply shrouded power politics, and the implications for the right (that the GOP somehow is underrepresented in the academy) or the left (that representation as a Democrat in academic work) are both equally untenable.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Inevitability, History, and Authority

There is a surprising thread that runs through Karl Popper's assault on G.W.F. Hegel's idealism and Karl Marx's materialist philosophy of history: Popper uses his second volume of The Open Society and its Enemies to reclaim philosophy of history from the state. By using history to predict developments, and subsequently leaning on the tool of history to justify or legitimate political developments, Popper argues that (especially) Hegel and (to a lesser extent) Marx surrender freedom/emancipation to the ruling class. Authoritarianism, in this regard, is problematic precisely because it is a form of governance where the State is the source of moral legitimacy; historical predictions and philosophy of history become an arm of the State, meaning that using history as a judge is simply a manner of stating that the authorities of the future will support a contemporary political aim.

Popper's argument is surprising because I expected to hate his argument about Marx's philosophy of history in particular. Yet, Popper uses a clever tool to argue against Marx's historicism, since Popper himself upholds the normative strength of Marx's actual analysis of history. In this case, class oriented historical analysis, or historical analysis that centers on the "real conditions" of power, renders the need for "historical inevitability" or "historical projections" entirely unnecessary. Here, it's not a stretch to see Popper's argument as a germ for Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, whereby one scans the history and philosophy of science (in this case) to derive structural conclusions about the scientific method (rather than, say, predicting the next revolutions in science). Kuhn serves as a brilliant leftist commentator and methodologist under this lens (as ridiculous as this claim may seem).

From Popper's argument, I continuously return to the recent civil rights gains won in the fight for marriage equality. The troubling aspect of this fight was the consistent phrase, "the right side of history." Even in the force of other entirely legitimate arguments in favor of expanding civil rights to include same-sex marriage, the ideal of a "right" side in history added a troubling appeal to authority to the proceedings. It is as though activists were throwing aside their perpetual right to agitate: for, when authority recognizes civil rights, the fight for civil rights will no longer be necessary. This is a grave error, for the fight for civil rights in this case ignores the powerful claims inherent in those rights themselves, and instead opts for an appeal to future authorities. "Future states will uphold the legitimacy same-sex marriage" is not an argument in favor of same-sex marriage; it is an argument in favor of future authorities and judges as the source of legitimacy, rather than the people (the activists).

Historical inevitability is a yearning aspect of this claim to "the right side of history." There is an entirely understandable reason that some may no longer want to fight for the ability to be recognized and included within categories of basic rights: there is a certain peaceful stasis that consists within the inclusion of civil society.  Once one achieves the full status of rights under the liberal capitalist aim, one is "fully free" in the sense that no aspect of consumption will be denied. In the sense that this includes the basic right to sit at the lunch counter or order a wedding cake, this is no small victory. The point, however, is not to turn that peaceful stasis into a desire for inevitability; if a civil rights victory becomes "inevitable," it immediately loses its force to achieve emancipation from civil society, or to reign as one victory in a series of many agitating victories for the authority of people (rather than the State).

It should come as no surprise that I view the candidacy of Hillary Clinton as problematic in this specific sense: the "inevitability" of Clinton's victory in the Democratic National Convention is precisely and actively the inevitability that future authority, the future State, will view Clinton's presidency as a legitimate source of moral power. Instead of supporting any contender, any ideal that the people may choose a candidate for the Executive Branch, one must implore citizens to stand "on the right side of history" in this fight, and therefore find inclusion in the arms of State legitimation. It should be no surprise, then, that Clinton is campaigning on a vague platform of upholding rights, precisely the rights that have already been legitimized by the State (instead of the rights that are still up for grabs, still in the hands of an activist group).

A predictive philosophy of history that stands for inevitability, "the right side of history." Unsurprisingly, history moves to the right:

There is no emancipation in the presidency of Hillary Clinton, nor should there be: Clinton will complete the battle for those that feel civil rights are indeed on "the right side of history," that future authorities will indeed side with these specific rights (and therefore, that the State will continue to build its own authority through its inclusion of these moral aims). Yet, one can find myriad domestic and international conditions that enliven the legitimacy of an activist's claims to continually fight for an expansion of civil rights, to expand civil rights to the point of emancipation (instead of truncating civil rights within the grasps of moral authority).

This tension should explain the complicated fight for the Democratic nomination: both major candidates stand for civil rights, and both major candidates largely stand for the State as a source of moral authority in crucial ways. Yet, the divisions among people mirror the fight between Popper and Hegel, the fight between (1) the strength of using structural analysis for its own normative strengths and (2) using predictive history and historical inevitability as a moral appeal to future authority. Should authority return to the people, the future source of legitimacy will be entirely inconclusive, for the expansive fights for civil rights will be undetermined; it will be an easier road to side with the historical inevitability of "the right side of history," even if that road promises fewer freedoms. The potential of expected certainty is a powerful political force.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Matthew Desmond, "Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City"

$17 billion: For nearly 18 months, a figure has swirled in my mind: during the height of the Chicago Contract Buying scam that exploited segregated black neighborhoods during mortgage (and mortgage insurance) redlining, one lawyer fighting the scam estimated that $1 million in wealth was extracted daily from black families on the expansive west and south sides. $1 million, daily, for more than a decade, necessitates quite an astonishing sum when one considers how the City of Chicago might enact reparations for these families and their descendants. The trouble with this figure is that it reduces the crippling reality of racism to a figure so astronomical that no one could possibly take it seriously: if the state of Illinois cannot solve its $100 billion pension crisis to ensure that workers can earn their contractually and constitutionally required retirements, black families that had their wealth extracted simply because they wanted a chance at homeownership stand little chance of redeeming their minimum $17 billion claim in reparations.

Even worse: as Beryl Satter perfectly captures in Family Properties: How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America, the profit motives render reparations even less likely. The dirty secret that grinds through our daily economy in plain sight is that there is a certain type of acceptable logic that acquits those white "businessmen" that secured (illegal) mortgages from lenders only to turnover the houses (but not the Titles) to blacks for inflated sums. They were basically speculating, in the 1960s, that black families would desire a chance at homeownership even though market financing tools were systematically, institutionally forbidden to those families. These criminals correctly surmised that black families would live in dreadful conditions in order to take their chance at calling a home their own (or, at the very least, they knew that families need somewhere to live, even if it's a rat infested fire trap).

If this ruse sounds similar it is, as mortgage lenders ran a more sophisticated update to this game during the subprime mortgage crisis in the early 21st century (here the punchline is even less easy to stomach, as more than 50% of minority subprime borrowers had credit scores that entitled them to market mortgage products). Similarly, behind this entirely well-publicized subprime crisis, landlords continued to slum, extracting gigantic sums of money from rental properties that produce pages-long violations reports from the City of Chicago. A mother looking for $600 rent on SSI will settle for an infested place owned by a landlord that can continuously play the banks for millions of dollars of equity, because that's exactly how the profit motive is designed to work. (If you disagree with me, ask yourself how it is that a landlord can continuously secure equity financing from a building that consistently racks up violations reports from the City: this is a scenario that replays itself across neighborhoods).

The contract buying scam worked because it preyed on scarcity (homes in institutionally segregated areas) without presenting risks to the criminals that orchestrated such deals (for, when black families missed mortgage payments, white Title holders could immediately evict them). Similarly, the subprime crisis worked because it preyed on a speculative bubble and that same basic desire for homeownership without presenting risks to the criminals that orchestrated such deals (for, the very institutions that were slicing and dicing mortgage loans into investment instruments were gambling in insurance markets that those instruments would fail).

So goes private property in the USA: scarcity and speculative ideals have blended perfectly with Americans' deeply-held racist beliefs (or, alternately, their inability to protest racist institutions for fear of losing what crumbs they too are grasping). Matthew Desmond picks at a new aspect of this relationship in his highly praised Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, adding brutal class tourism (at worst), passionate ethnography, and impeccable research methods (at best) to outline the complicated evictions market in Milwaukee, WI.

When I grew up in Milwaukee, the segregated inner city was routinely (dismissively) called The Core. The sound of locking car doors as soon as one crossed 60th & Center reverberates in my guilty conscience. Desmond explains the logic of segregation in this city in a manner that deeply resonated with my own experiences as a white west sider, as an elementary student bussed deeper into the city during the celebratory multicultural early-1990s MPS, as a son of a Heating & Air Conditioning salesman afforded weekend visits to offices with Dad on Teutonia & Locust, and later serving as a property manager off Marquette University's campus. Mostly, I lived as one whose brief adult experiences in the city (from ages 18-24) came mostly on foot or via Milwaukee County Transit (complete with Executive Walker's mindless austerity). This is my Milwaukee identity, and it is impossible to read Desmond's book without those vivid memories from school buses to the 31 Medical Center.

I will never forget the feeling of plastic grocery bags slicing into my hands as I attempted to walk from the Pick'N'Save off the 16th Street Viaduct back to The Abode East off 15th and Wells (absent an entirely untrustworthy bus on Walker's once-every-45-minute routes). The length of the 16th Street Viaduct is known mostly for its lore in Milwaukee's past battlegrounds for racial equality, and Desmond deeply describes "The Longest Bridge in the World" to capture the utterly hopeless segregation of my hometown. Given the timeframe of Desmond's survey, unbeknownst to me, I was probably carrying my groceries along that Viaduct while one of his featured renters slept below it.

In this setting, the evicted renters that Desmond captures are tenacious as they struggle with addiction, hustling, raising children, helping sick acquaintances or family members, domestic and external violence, and substandard living conditions. Desmond holds no punches as he emphasizes the almost complete lack of adequate employment and housing opportunities, and then doubles down with the circumstantial blows that knock these people out of any possible comfort when they do find a job or a decent place to live.

This aspect of Desmond's work is consistently what I fight with in my mind, for even his well-written prose and sound ethnographical methods do not hide the clear chance for readers to engage in class tourism throughout the book. While Desmond plainly provides policy arguments and methodological explanations at the end of the book, those sections are largely separated from the ethnography itself, which removes many of the most difficult aspects of each person's individual story from any potential for using it as evidence for the necessity of affordable housing reform. It will be easy for ill-minded pundits or even casual middle-class, working-class racists to use these stories to reenforce stereotypes about the poor -- and, in Milwaukee, especially stereotypes about poor black families.

However, I struggle with this because it may not have been Desmond's intent to present the material in this way; it could have been an editorial demand (outside of an academic press) to separate normative and methodological aspects from the beginning of the book. Instead of a brief prologue that dives right into the stories of these people, Desmond's dynamite methodological explanation (pages 315-336) and good-natured normative analysis (pages 293-313) should have opened the book.

If you're wondering whether this type of arrangement would stack the decks and immediately spoil the story (spoiler alert: poor people lose), you're right. The benefit of this type of alignment would be that Desmond could orchestrate his ethnographical findings with the well-proven fact that poverty is systematic, institutionally determined, and that racism is malicious and entirely intentional. This type of lens would completely predetermine the individual fates of the story, which would indeed take away from some of the bite of their heartbreaking failures and their inspiring fights against all odds.

Slumming is exceptionally profitable to landlords, and my critique about the organization of the ethnography, methodology, and policy suggestions should not be taken as a suggestion that Desmond does not acknowledge the systematic nature of poverty. In fact, by the chapter "The 'Hood is Good," Desmond outlines with actuarial accuracy the cashflow afforded to the main landlord that he features in the book. This particular landlord does not operate properties that cannot clear ~$500 in cash (monthly), ultimately resulting in a $10,000 monthly payday once all expenses are accounted for (and this doesn't even consider any mortgage credits or depreciation calculations that this landlord is almost certainly claiming). Desmond admirably maintains some level of neutrality by noting that he refused to call this landlord a "slumlord" when pressed by one of the renters, but the facts laid bare tell the story so Desmond doesn't need to: it is incredibly profitable for a landlord to ignore repairs (documented throughout the book), ignore plumbing and electrical maintenance (documented throughout the book), ignore maintenance requests, self-manage "pest control," and hire drug addicts for easily exploited labor (and fail to pay laborers after they agree to the work). On top of their own enterprises, this landlord also expands business to manage property for Suburban whites inconvenienced by daily maintenance in Milwaukee's inner city, while also operating transportation services to connect family members with loved ones imprisoned upstate.

This is one central aspect of Desmond's methodology that produces a strength of the book: explaining two common threads related to the study of poverty, Desmond wrote:

The ghetto was treated like "a city within a city." The poor were being left out of the inequality debate, as if we believed the livelihoods of the rich and the middle class were intertwined but those of the poor and everyone else were not. Where were the rich people who wielded enormous influence over the lives of low-income families and their communities--who were rich precisely because they did so? Why, I wondered, have we documented how the poor make ends meet without asking why their bills are so high or where their money is flowing? (317)

Desmond's question is not insignificant: he finds shortcomings with previous studies of poverty that focused on public housing, or urban neighborhoods. By inserting wealthy landlords into his ethnography, Desmond specifically investigates the profit motive instantiated in the people exploiting inner cities through slumming, and how poor renters are affected by this motive.

From this standpoint, Desmond's book is driven by several surveys, which the author completed as a full-time fieldworker while living in Milwaukee (326). By focusing specifically on the relationship between the poor and the wealthy in poor inner city neighborhoods, Desmond found an avenue to complete original research on the impact of evictions on renters and neighborhoods. The Milwaukee Area Renters Study (MARS), the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, and the Milwaukee Eviction Court Study were surveys developed by Desmond to specifically analyze the devastating and complicated impact of the profit motive on poor renters. Through these dynamic surveys, Desmond is able to convey the dangers of evictions to families, noting throughout the book that when families are evicted, they often end up in more dangerous housing moving deeper into more violent neighborhoods. The colloquial term "The Core" becomes a crucial weapon of racism, for it paints over miles upon miles of inner city neighborhoods without drawing distinctions; Desmond surgically slices into the terrain of racism with methods that allow him to show the complicated layers of poverty and poor neighborhoods.

One of the issues with the layout or sequencing of Desmond's book, then, is that the reader may not be inclined to read the methodology first; the reader may not ever know that the author designed groundbreaking surveys in order to complement his ethnography with specific data pertaining to the scope of renters and their neighborhoods in Milwaukee. This is problematic because Desmond presents Milwaukee in two different lights; in the prologue, "there is nothing special about Milwaukee when it comes to eviction" (5). Yet, Desmond argues in his methodology section that Milwaukee is especially well-suited for a survey of the impact of the profit motive in poor neighborhoods within the USA:

Wisconsin's largest city is not every city, but it is considerably less unique than the small clutch of iconic but exceptional places that have come to represent the American urban experience. Every city creates its own ecosystem, but in some cities this is much more pronounced. Milwaukee is a fairly typical midsize metropolitan area with a fairly typical socioeconomic profile and housing market and fairly typical renter protections. It is far better suited to represent the experiences of city dwellers living in Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Baltimore, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Gary, Raleigh, Utica, and other cities left out of the national conversation because they are not America's biggest successes (San Francisco, New York City) or biggest failures (Detroit, Newark). (333).

Like his policy proposals, Desmond follows this methodology with a call to other researchers to continue this project and actually see what these principles of research reveal in other cities. On the one hand, Desmond's work reminds me of the brutal grittiness and bleakness exemplified by other recent urban ethnography, like Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Poor (Sudhir Venkatesh), although Desmond's work arguably offers a stronger and more urgent normative push toward institutional reform. On the other hand, Desmond's template is an unorthodox kin to pioneering economic surveys of the built environment, like Charles Beard's Economic Interpretation of the Constitution, inosfar as Desmond welcomes others to replicate his results while also developing an account of systematic exploitation of the profit motive (or, the impact of the profit motive on actual economic life). It remains to be seen if Desmond's methodological development begins a new genre of study, much like Beard did for the study of situated economics and USA founding policy positions.

From the methodological vantage point, Desmond's contribution is innovative, which is precisely my concern with the production of this work for widespread audiences. In shorter arenas, such as New York Times, Desmond adroitly uses his fieldwork to make succinct and forceful policy points. Throughout Evicted, however,  it takes quite a while to ramp up to the normative and methodological impact of the work. In the meantime, readers will need to persevere through teenage sex, misbehaving children, addiction casualties, domestic violence, homelessness, female-headed households, and generally crisis-filled lives to reach the major contributions. Desmond's neutrality ensures that there is not always a structural explanation for an individual event, which leads me to conclude that in many cases, people will use this book to bolster their preexisting opinions about poverty. I gather that my experience as someone who believes the poor are systematically screwed shaded my view of this book just as much someone who believes that the poor deserve their fate will view ethnography. However, one can hope that the press onslaught accompanying Evicted will change some minds and convert some Americans to consider ways to alleviate the affordable housing crisis.

Here in Chicago, there are at least 50,000 people waiting for Housing Choice Vouchers or other Chicago Housing Authority programs. In terms of privately developed affordability options, there is a waitlist at nearly every building or unit that one can find. And this picture only captures those that are actively looking for those lists and seeking those services. Otherwise, half of Chicago households are rent burdened, meaning that more than one-third of household income is allocated to rent (and rent alone). In the meantime, the CHA and City of Chicago are behind on completing contractually mandated affordable housing units, and as this crisis ensues, the Council and Mayor are taking other subsidized housing units off the market entirely. The City allows developers of new private housing to "buy out" affordable unit requirements, which ensures that new private units can enter the market with rents that obliterate median neighborhood ranges. This may be happening most visibly in Logan Square and Uptown, but one can be certain these developers will not stop until Chicago's median rents look more like those of San Francisco.

Ultimately, Desmond gives readers, scholars, and housing or social service professionals a template to tackle this crisis. The loud press associated with Evicted potentially raises the stakes for the affordable housing fight. And, as Desmond systematically shows, it will be a fight, for there is money to be made in slumming, evictions, and generally forcing poor people to live in crisis. Hopefully readers will follow the ethnography by reading Desmond's methodology, policy proposals, and even the notes. A volume of Desmond's sociological and social sciences articles associated with his surveys would also be extremely welcome. Here one hopes that Evicted continues to soar in the press, for it will be welcome to further apply Desmond's revolutionary approach to provide safe, secure, and affordable housing.