Monday, May 08, 2006

It's a Very Simple Game?

The late Baltimore sports commentator Charley Eckman used to say "It's a very simple game." Apparently, that's not necessarily the case.

A recent study, "Scattering of a Baseball by a Bat," concludes:
A ball can be hit faster if it is projected without spin but it can be hit farther if it is projected with backspin. Measurements are presented in this paper of the tradeoff between speed and spin for a baseball impacting a baseball bat. The results are inconsistent with a collision model in which the ball rolls off the bat and instead imply tangential compliance in the ball, the bat, or both. If the results are extrapolated to the higher speeds that are typical of the game of baseball, they suggest that a curveball can be hit with greater backspin than a fastball, but by an amount that is less than would be the case in the absence of tangential compliance.
Theoretically, then, if you can hit a curve ball, it will travel further than a similarly hit fastball. This presumably increases the likelihood of the batter hitting a home run. However, a hit fastball will move with greater speed. One would think that this would thus increase the number of hits "through the hole" in the infield. However, the authors warn:
These results will have implications for the issue of whether an optimally hit curveball will travel farther than an optimally hit fastball. To investigate this in detail requires a calculation of the trajectory of a hit baseball . . . . Such a calculation requires knowledge of the lift and drag forces on a spinning baseball. However, given the current controversy about these forces, further speculation on this issue is beyond the scope of the present work.
Hat Tip: ResourceShelf's DocuTicker.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tradesport and Taxes

This evening, I noticed that shares of "Republican Party Candidate to Win the 2006 Maryland Governor [sic] Race" are now trading at 39 on Tradesport. I immediately began thinking.
I know a few Republicans whom I can goad into putting down bets on Gov. Ehrlich to win at even money.

If, for every $100 I bet with Republicans on Gov. Ehrlich to lose, I buy $80 in Tradesport contracts for "Republican Party Candidate to Win," I am guaranteed in all events to win $20. That's because if Ehrlich loses, I win $100 from a Republican, but lose my $80 in Tradesport contracts. Conversely, if Ehrlich wins, I lose $100 to a Republican, but I get back roughly $200, or a net of $120, from my Tradesport contracts.
So why haven't I quit my day job?

Well, first there's the obvious difficulty of locating, then investing in, and then enforcing a lot of barroom bets. As a practical matter, this is fairly hard work.

But there's a tax problem.

If Ehrlich loses, I'm ok. While I've lost $80 in Tradesport contracts, I will get back $100 of cash which I will likely not report as income. After all, friendly bettors don't generally turn out 1099's or W-2G's and I'm not that honest.

However, if Ehrlich wins, I get a net of $120 which is going to be reported to the IRS by Tradesport. Assuming that my marginal tax rate, both federal and state, is about 40%, I only net out $52 on the Tradesport side of the transaction. Since I've lost $100 in the barroom, I'm down a net $48. Theoretically, of course, I could attempt to deduct the $100 I lost in the barroom against my Tradesport "winnings," claiming that both were a form of wagering. There are obvious record keeping and proof problems involved in this, however, which are likely to be insurmountable.

Moreover, it's not clear that "investing" in a Tradesport contract is technically gambling. In that case, my $120 in Tradesport "winnings" is simply a short term capital gain that cannot be offset by my $100 gambling loss.

I think that I'll keep my day job.

DeLay Legal Fee Update

Raw Story is reporting that Tom DeLay's legal bills in 2006 now top $400,000.

Not to worry.

According to, as of March 31, 2006, DeLay's campaign committee had cash on hand of $1,450,959. As previously reported here, he can spend all of that on his legal defense. Of course, according to reports filed on February 15, upon which I based my last report, DeLay only had $1.3 million cash on hand. And, according to the Raw Story report, the $400,000 in legal fees paid by DeLay this year also include $110,000 from his campaign fund.

In essence, DeLay's campaign fund has become a $1.56 million legal defense fund.