Friday, January 20, 2017

How Mathematical Are These MLB Names?

Baseball has been commandeered by numbers geeks over the past couple decades, with every front office boasting brainpower from MIT and the Ivy Leagues.

Let's examine, then, the intersection of math and baseball through the lens of some of the sport's most distinct names. (And yes, if you plotted this article as a point, it might fall on the plane labeled Whocares.)

Player: Arquimedes Caminero
Mathematical Counterpart: Archimedes

Tenuous Connection: The original Archimedes proved a theorem for the surface area and volume of a sphere, while his namesake can throw a sphere harder than almost anyone else alive. Caminero sported one of the highest percentages of pitches over 100 miles per hour last season, in a category with Aroldis Chapman and Noah Syndergaard.*

*Incidentally, Thor's surname sounds like a mathematician's, doesn't it?

Now, Caminero is on his way to play in Japan to play for the Yomiuri Giants. Maybe he'll take a stab at wasan mathematics in homage to his namesake of yore.

A bonus connection: Caminero's middle name is Euclides. Apparently, his parents loved their great mathematicians.

Player: Don Mattingly
Mathematical Counterpart: Jonathan Christopher Mattingly
Tenuous Connection: Jonathan Christopher teaches math at Duke, and Donald Arthur now manages the Marlins so ... both work down South? That's all I got. Either way, his students should call the professor "Johnny Statistics."

Player: LaTroy Hawkins
Mathematical Counterpart: Stephen Hawking
Tenuous Connection: Hawkins pitched for 21 ageless years before finally getting bored and hanging up his spikes at the end of 2015. Hawking likewise seems like he'll be around forever, existing as long as the universe does.

Player: Arthur Germaine
Mathematical Counterpart: Sophie Germain
Tenuous Connection: Germaine was a minor league outfielder during the World War II years. According to his Baseball-Reference page, he bats and throws "unknown." Sophie could commiserate, as she published many of her works under a male pseudonym in the early 19th century, leaving her gender and identity unknown to many in the mathematical community.

Player: Randy Wiles
Mathematical Counterpart: Andrew Wiles
Tenuous Connection: The pitcher appeared in just five career games whereas the mathematician proved Fermat's Last Theorem in the 1990s. Not much of a connection, except "Randy" and "Andy" rhyme.

Player: Jim Nash
Mathematical Counterpart: John Nash
Tenuous Connection: John Nash, the mathematician of A Beautiful Mind fame, produced many of his most influential works on game theory during his mid-20s before suffering from mental illness a little later in life. "Jumbo" Jim Nash, meanwhile, was a 6-foot-5 hurler who peaked in his age-23 season with the A's (2.28 ERA in 228 innings) before flaming out of the league a few years later.

Player: Eustace Newton
Mathematical Counterpart: Isaac Newton
Tenuous Connection: Isaac was rightfully knighted and given the title "sir" while the early 20th-century pitcher with the same surname was merely nicknamed "Doc."

Player: John Tate
Mathematical Counterpart: John Tate
Tenuous Connection: Just like you've never heard of any of the three John Tates who played in the minor leagues in the first half of the twentieth century, you've never heard of the mathematician John Tate.

That's all I've got for now, but here's to hoping that a slugger named Ptolemy or a reliever called Pythagoras rises to prominence in the next few years.

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