30 March 2008

More Opening Day Baseball...

A few thoughts after watching Atlanta-Washington on Opening Day #2:

- Why are they playing "Sweet Caroline" in the 8th at Nationals Park? Are the Nats trying to grab some of that Red Sox mojo?
- And you wonder why it is referred to as the "Red Sox Nation".

Remember folks, the "Red Sox Nation" doesn't refer to fans not from New England who have jumped on the bandwagon. It does not refer to the Red Sox being "America's Team". It refers to all the expatriate New Englanders all over the U.S. who support the team. So there.
- Jon Rauch came into the game in the 9th to get the save for the Nationals ... even with Chad Cordero warming. What's the deal? Is Cordero hurt? Uh oh.
- It's fun to watch players figure out how the ball plays in a new park. Kearns played one poorly in the 9th and McCann got tagged out at 2nd earlier in the game thinking a single was a double.

ESPN "Experts" Picks: An Analysis

So, the team over at ESPN has made their picks for the 2008 MLB Season. Nothing too shocking in the results, but I thought I'd compile their picks and look at the results. Here it is for your amusement.

Playoff Probably/Division Win/Wild Card (in %; out of 19 analysts)
Chicago Cubs - 100/89/11
Boston Red Sox - 95/73/22
Detroit Tigers - 79/53/28
Cleveland Indians - 79/47/33
New York Mets - 68/47/21
Los Angeles Angels - 58/53/5
Atlanta Braves - 53/37/16
Arizona Diamondbacks - 53/42/11
Seattle Mariners - 47/47/0
Los Angeles Dodgers - 42/37/5
New York Yankees - 37/27/11
Philadelphia Phillies - 32/11/21
Milwaukee Brewers - 26/11/16
Colorado Rockies - 11/11/0
San Diego Padres - 11/11/0

*Note: There is 1 less AL Wild Card pick because Pedro Gomez picked the AL Wild Card to be the Cubs and the NL Wild Card to be the Mets. He also picked the Brewers to win the AL Centrals and the Tigers to win the NL Central. He's on the ball.

World Series Winners (%, out of 19)

Detroit Tigers - 32
Cleveland Indians - 16
Atlanta Braves - 11
Boston Red Sox - 11
Chicago Cubs - 11
New York Mets - 11
Los Angeles Dodgers - 5
Los Angeles Angels - 5

So it seems that ESPN likes the Detroit Tigers to win it all this year, and they are a worthy pick. Their bullpen is a little iffy, but bullpens are bullpens - they are hard to predict. The Cubs might be a mortal lock on the NL Central. The AL West looks like a battle between the Angels and the Mariners (and the Angels starters look shaky right now). The Red Sox look in good shape in the AL East while the NL East could be up for grabs between the Braves (who did better on this than I expected) and the Mets. Disappointments? Nary a mention of Cincinnati or Toronto and only 2 appearances by last year's postseason darlings, the Rockies. Sorry folks!

28 March 2008

New Reviews and Top 10

A couple of new TIG reviews and a top 10 for the weekend.

Remember, baseball starts (again) Sunday with Atlanta vs. Washington (in DC's shiny new ballpark!)

Kate Nash - Made of Bricks
Jack Penate - Matinee

Current iPod Top 10
1. Under Pressure - Xiu Xiu
2. Rubicon - the Blistering Suns
3. Avantcore - Busdriver
4. Shake a Fist - Hot Chip
5. Allure - Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G.
6. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa - Vampire Weekend
7. Aspidistra - Scotland Yard Gospel Choir
8. Snake Mistakes - Dan Deacon
9. Gardenia - Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
10. Down Boy - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

23 March 2008

Predictions, Part IV: The Playoffs and Awards

Here's what I've talked about so far:

- Total wins
- American League summary
- National League summary

Now, let's wrap things up...

The Playoffs
Based on finish and total wins, the matchups looks like ...

AL Division Series(with winner in bold and % wins in the first round in parentheses).
Detroit (21.1%) vs. Los Angeles (13.6%)
Boston (17.2%) vs. Cleveland (18.0%)
The surprise here is Cleveland, the wild card team, taking out Boston. It is real close (<1% difference), but hey, that is how it goes.
NL Division Series
New York (17.0%) vs. Chicago (13.8%)
Colorado (12.4%) vs. Atlanta (11.4%)
Colorado takes out Atlanta by a nose.

AL Championship Series(winners in bold, championship win % in parentheses.)
Detroit (13.0%) vs. Cleveland (7.0%)
New York (10.6%) vs. Colorado (6.0%)
The odd thing here is that Detroit might win more ALCS, but Cleveland actually wins more World Series (12.6 to 9.4%), so go figure, stats like this can be odd sometimes.

World Series (winner in bold, World Series win % in parentheses.)
Detroit (9.4%) vs. New York (15.6%)

Yes, meet your 2008 World Champion New York Mets. Even if Cleveland did make the World Series, New York would have a 3% advantage on them anyway.

Player Awards
My picks, based somewhat on the simulation results...

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera (3B - Detroit)
NL MVP: David Wright (3B - New York)
AL Cy Young: Josh Beckett (Boston)
NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy (San Diego)
AL Rookie of the Year: Daric Barton (1B - Oakland)
NL Rookie of the Year: Kyosuke Fukudome (OF - Chicago)

And that's that. If you have any picks for winners/losers/awards, feel free to post them here!

Predictions, Part III: National League

Continuing on to the NL...

NL East
New York 91-71
Atlanta 88-74
Philadelphia 87-75
Washington 77-85
Florida 67-95

The top of the NL East is going to be a busy place. New York, Atlanta and Philly are separated by a mere 4 games. However, looks can be deceiving as New York won fully 47% of the division titles, with Atlanta and Philly sharing the rest (save for Washington's 1.6%) However, once New York gets to the playoffs, it becomes the favorite to win it all, with >15% of the World Series won (more on that later). Philadelphia wins more wild cards than Atlanta (17.4% to 16.8%) but Atlanta actually ends up on top for playoff appearances (44.6% to 40.6%). Atlanta's good showing surprised me, and I wonder if either BB Mogul favors Atlanta's veteran pitching staff or Philadelphia's park effect wreaks havoc on the Philly staff. Florida, however, is the only NL team to never win a division or wild card.

NL Central
Chicago 87-75
Houston 82-80
Milwaukee 80-82
Cincinnati 77-85
Pittsburgh 75-87
St. Louis 75-87

(* = BB Mogul does not divide the results of the NL Central to 5th and 6th place. Instead, they're just listed as "5th+")
Chicago looks to be the heavy favorite in the NL Central. They win 54.2% of the titles, followed by Houston's 20.4%. I'm a little baffled by Houston's showing, I pegged the 'Stros to be pretty terrible in 2008, but BB Mogul must like something, my guess it is the offense. Milwaukee does walk away with 14.6% of the titles as well. The NL Central does look like the weakest division in the NL again, with the division only accounting for 8% of all the wild cards. Note how quickly St. Louis has fallen to the cellar. Heck, even Pittsburgh (?!) won a World Series ... they get my "NL Surprise Team" label for 2008. I guess St. Louis' fall can be rationalized by any team hoping the likes of Braden Looper and Todd Wellemeyer belong in an MLB rotation. (Oh yeah, and Dusty Baker sucks.)

NL West
Colorado 87-75
San Diego 85-77
Los Angeles 85-77
Arizona 81-81
San Francisco 71-91

Colorado looks like 2007 was no fluke, coming out on top of the NL West for 2008. They grab the division in 41.4% of the simulations, while San Diego and LA duke it out for next best at 27.6% and 20.0% respectively. Of course, Arizona won the division in 2007, but the simulations predict a step backwards for the Diamondbacks, coming in at playoffs appearances 14% of the time. And for you Bay Area types wallowing in pity about your Giants and A's, yes, even the Giants win the NL West ... 0.4% of the time.

Playoff Picture
Here's the playoff percentages for the NL:
New York - 70.2%
Chicago - 57.0%
Colorado - 48.4%
Atlanta - 44.6%
Philadelphia - 40.6%
San Diego - 35.6%
Los Angeles - 30.4%
Houston - 24.4%
Milwaukee - 18.6%
Arizona - 14.0%
The Rest - <10%
Florida - 0%

My NL playoff teams: New York, Chicago, Colorado and Atlanta (wild card).
Up next, the playoffs and awards.

Predictions, Part II: The American League

So, let's get into the nitty-gritty of my simulations, first with the AL East

AL East
Predicted Finish
Boston 91-71
New York 87-75
Toronto 82-80
Baltimore 76-86
Tampa Bay 75-87

This is a bar graph showing each team's share of finishing 1st through 5th in the division. Note that the Red Sox have the lion's share of division wins (61%), but each team had at least one 1st place finish and one 5th place finish. I was most surprised by Tampa's poor showing, but I think the pitching for the Rays is still a year away from being truly competitive (and BB Mogul doesn't tend to shine upon young pitching). Toronto ended up winning 6 World Series, so I'm tempted to label them my surprise team of 2008.

AL Central
Detroit 92-70
Cleveland 89-73
Minnesota 80-82
Chicago 69-93
Kansas City 67-95

The AL Central is a little different. Only Detroit, Cleveland and Minnesota win the division, with the first two teams winning most of the time. Detroit ends up on top 17% more than Cleveland, but both teams make the playoffs in over 63% of the simulations. Heck, Cleveland actually wins more World Series than Detroit (12.6% to 9.4%), so go figure. And don't let Ozzie tell you differently: the White Sox are going to be baaad.

AL West
Los Angeles 88-74
Seattle 83-79
Texas 80-82
Oakland 78-84

Not surprisingly, Los Angeles dominates the division ... but not by as much as you might imagine. Sure, they win 56% of the time, but that means almost half of the simulations ended with someone other than LA on top. Seattle grabbed 25% of the division titles, but I'm most surprised by Oakland, that 8.4%. There was even a simulation I noticed that Oakland won 107 games?!. The other oddity might be that Texas wins more World Series (4) than Seattle (3), although with almost 15% fewer playoff appearances. More or less, the AL West looks like the most wide-open in the league.

Playoff Picture
Here's the playoff percentages for the AL:
Detroit - 76.0%
Boston - 69.6%
Cleveland - 63.8%
Los Angeles - 62.4%
New York - 41.0%
Seattle - 30.2%
Toronto - 16.0%
Texas - 14.8%
Minnesota - 10.8%
Oakland - 10%
The Rest - <10%
Chicago, Kansas City - 0%

Based on this, my picks for the playoffs are: Detroit, Boston, Los Angeles and Cleveland (wild card). I'll have my playoff/World Series odds in a later post. I'll have my NL predictions up next ...

21 March 2008

MLB 2008 Predictions, Part 1

With Opening Day around the corner, it is time to break out my official 2008 predictions for the MLB Season.

Methods: I used Baseball Mogul 2008 with a roster file I modified myself to account for all roster moves up to 3/20/2008. I then used the Baseball Prospectus Depth Charts to assign a batting order, rotation and bench for each time. With this roster file set, I simulated the 2008 season 500 times. The results were output to a text file.

I'll have a more indepth analysis of the results, but for your initial entertainment, here are the predicted wins for all teams based on these simulations. I added the PECOTA predictions from Baseball Prospectus as comparison.

More to come this weekend!

19 March 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, redux.

Sorry about the borderline unintelligible obit for Arthur C. Clarke yesterday.

To rectify that, I will try again.

Arthur C. Clarke was one of the greatest authors I've read. His short stories are wonderful, optimistic and clever endeavors that just left me captivated. I think of any author, I have read more Arthur C. Clarke books/stories than anyone. He is one of those 20th/21st century people who still have that enthusiasm towards humans, learning and science that died out at the end of the Victorian era. Humanity had limitless potential and the universe was there to discover. I still (sometimes) believe that, even though the current state of the world makes it hard to believe sometimes, both politically and economically. However, the visions of Sir Clarke can still bring hope to my heart and mind that we are only at the tip of the iceberg - culturally, scientifically - and that human will one day figure out that there are many more important things in the universe beyond our petty squabbling.

Oh yeah, and Sir Clarke also introduced me to my favorite idea for political leadership (and it is downright communist), where he envisioned a world where the global leader was picked at random from the entire population. The rationale? "People who want to be a leader aren't qualified to be one". Beautiful.

18 March 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008

Sir Arthur C. Clarke died today, which is quite sad news to me. He was one of the great minds of our time ... his legacy will live on as far into the future as his stories were set ... (sorry, that was convoluted, but I just got off a plane,

15 March 2008

New TIG Review

I'm off to the great wet north for a few days. Woo.

Here is a new TIG review ... a real gem.
Scotland Yard Gospel Choir - Scotland Yard Gospel Choir

12 March 2008

10,000 BC

So if you're the sort of person who lies awake at night wonder "Boy, wouldn't it be great if someone made a movie about a fictional history where the human timeline and the Stargate universe intersect!" I'd say to you, "Well, someone already did and its called Stargate" and you'd reply "No! I mean other than that!"

Well, your dream has come true in Roland Emmerich's latest "film" 10,000 BC.

I won't really get into any spoiler details, but considering my girlfriend is an anthropologist, it was a field day of wrongitude in cinema, including (but very much not limited to:)

- Horses. Domesticated about 5000 years after the movie is set.
- Iron cuffs. Again, not a lot of iron-working 12,000 years ago.
- Predatory birds. Huh? Are we in New Zealand? No, we're not (see below).
- Mammoths. I won't even go there, just needless to say they get hunted in all the wrong ways.
- Sabretooth cats. Apparently, in the long run, they're about as mean as my cat.
- Agriculture. Let's grow corn in the mountains. Wait, no, let's have agriculture way too early. Wait, no! Let's have new world plants in the old world!

Speaking of the world.

Can someone name me a continent where you can, in succession, travel southerly and go from high mountains, to tundra, to tropical, bamboo-filled jungle (with giant birds), to semi-arid deserts (with sabretooth cats!), to a vast desert, to a fertile crescent? Travelled all on foot. In probably less than a month or two. Yeah, me neither.

Needless to say, beyond the science, the storyline is pretty much "boy meets girl, boy hunts mammoth, girl is kidnapped by extras from Stargate Atlantis, boy goes to rescue her, boy fights feathered raptors, boy meets up with every stereotypical African tribe ever, boy throws a spear." You know, the typical love story of the ages.

If I were you, I'd flip back and forth between Sci-Fi channel reruns of Stargate SG-1 and Animal Planet and you should get the same effect.

10 March 2008

A few updates ...

I've been kind of slogged down with an illness for the past week, but it looks like it finally letting up. Just in time, too, as my two big fantasy baseball drafts are this week. More on those later, along with my 2008 MLB Predictions.

I do have a new TIG review up, specifically for Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks' Real Emotional Trash.

And to finish, here's an iPod top 10:
1 "Rubicon" by the Blistering Suns
2 "Under Pressure" by Xiu Xiu
3 "Avantcore" by Busdriver
4 "Shake a Fist" by Hot Chip
5 "Allure" by Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G.
6 "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" by Vampire Weekend
7 "In Der Nacht" by K.I.Z.
8 "Throw It On Me" by Timbaland & the Hives
9 "A-Punk" by Vampire Weekend"
10 "Aspidistra" by Scotland Yard Gospel Choir

03 March 2008

Fantasy ... Congress?!

Today I discovered a whole new realm of fantasy "sport", that being Fantasy Congress. You get to draft 10 members of Congress, divided into Upper and Lower Senator (based on seniority), along with Representatives divided into All-Stars (most senior), Supporting Lineup (middle) and Rookies. Then you get scored in categories like Legislation, Cosponsoring, Maverick, News and Attendance.

So, of course, I drafted a team. Here it is!
Upper Senators
Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Lower Senators
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
All Stars
Barney Frank (D-MA)
Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD)
Supporting Lineup
Ron Paul (R-TX)
James McGovern (D-MA)
Patrick Murphy (D-PA)
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)

Awww yeah.

The State of the Nationals

Is this MLB or 40 and over Softball down at the Park?

Taking the Pitching or Hitting First Strategies to the Next Level

So, after posting about what sort of fantasy baseball teams you might construct if you pick all pitching or all hitting first, I along with a fellow baseball fan with too much free time decided to try this out over a full season. To that end, we snuck into an ESPN 5x5 10-team roto league and drafted one of each: Pitching-first (me) and Hitting-first (him). We laid out a few rules for the season: (1) no trades; (2) no adding/dropping active hitters or pitchers once the season starts unless the player is injured (on the DL) or demoted/released. That is about it, so with 8 control groups being the other folks who drafted in the league (unbeknownst of our tests), we shall see who's team ends up better at the end of the year. I'll post regular updates/analysis as the season progresses.

Here are the rosters:

Pitching-First (Me)
C G. Soto (CHC)
1B J. Loney (LAD)
2B A. Hill (TOR)
3B E. Longoria (TAM)
SS J. Peralta (CLE)
2B/SS M. Ellis (OAK)
1B/3B T. Glaus (STL)
OF B. Hawpe (COL)
OF J. Franceour (ATL)
OF J. Hamilton (TEX)
OF J. Hermida (FLA)
OF J. Ellsbury (BOS)
U C. Jackson (ARI)
SP J. Santana (NYM)
SP J. Peavy (SD)
SP B. Webb (ARI)
SP J. Beckett (BOS)
SP J. Smoltz (ATL)
SP F. Hernandez (SEA)
RP J. Putz (SEA)
RP F. Rodruguez (LAA)
RP T. Saito (LAD)
B S. Drew (SS - ARI)
B A. Jones (OF - BAL)
B R. Betancourt (RP - CLE)

Hitters-First (him)
C B. McCann (ATL)
1B Ad. Gonzalez (SD)
2B B. Upton (TAM)
3B A. Rodriguez (NYY)
SS C. Guillen (DET)
2B/SS R. Weeks (MIL)
1B/3B N. Swisher (CHW)
OF G. Sizemore (CLE)
OF C. Hart (MIL)
OF P. Burrell (PHI)
OF D. Young (MIN)
OF C. Young (ARI)
U T. Hafner (CLE)
SP M. Cain (SF)
RP B. Lyon (ARI)
RP C. Cordero (WAS)
RP B. Lidge (PHI)
RP B. Ryan (TOR)
RP E. Gagne (MIL)
RP C. Wilson (TEX)
RP K. Wood (CHC)
RP T. Percival (TAM)
B K. Gregg (FLA)
B. A. Iwamura (TAM)
B. M. Bourn (PHI)

Mega Spring Cleaning Review

TIG just posted my mega-"clean off my desk" blog review that includes Food for Animals, Cryptacize, Fishboy, Skeletons with Flesh on Them, Basia Bulat, Monade, the Fireflies, Ssion, Mohawk Lodge, Maserati and Carol Bui.

Yeah, I had a lot on my desk. And heck, a couple were actually pretty darn good.