Baseball is Back

March 6, 2013

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There may be snow on the ground in your neck of the woods, but it’s time for baseball to begin!  Baseball is already alive and well.

Spring Training

Spring training began in mid-February, and games have been underway for a while now.  If you subscribe to MLB.TV, you can watch these games on various types of smart devices (not all games are available).  I’ve tried to connect from an iPhone (worked great), Roku (slightly awkward, but worked), Kindle Fire (didn’t work on the first day, but games are now available), and my Panasonic Blu-Ray player (still doesn’t have the Spring Training games).

I’m switching from MLB Extra innings to MLB.TV this year.  Overall, I think it’s a good switch.  MLB Extra Innings is $200.  The base MLB.TV package is $109.99 (for computers only).  It costs $20 more for connected devices (which includes the iPhone, Roku, and Blu-Ray player).  I opted to buy the minor league package for $20, which will allow me to watch some minor league games (only on a computer sadly).  That’s more value than MLB Extra Innings, for $50 less.

I won’t pretend that MLB.TV is perfect, though.  Each device I’ve used has a different interface, and the differences generally aren’t related to the technical constraints of the device.  In a perfect world, the experience should be nearly identical on every device.  Even worse, the fact that the spring training games are available on some devices and not others is unforgivable.  The availability of minor league games only on computers is also very perplexing – why not make these games more readily available instead of forcing people to their computers?

Fantasy Baseball

My fantasy baseball league draft is under way.  We have a very unconventional setup.  We can only start one player for each letter of the alphabet (last name).  The changes player valuation considerably.  For the draft, owners are randomly assigned 2 letters for each of the 10 rounds, and can pick any player from those letters.

I’m through the first twenty picks of the draft and at this point no major holes are evident.  I got my infield in order first, and then filled out the rest of the team.  I’ve tried to get a bit too cute in recent year – notably, last year trying to corner the market on good catchers to create demand – and it had generally bitten me in the rear.  This year I played it pretty much straight up.

World Baseball Classic

World Baseball Classic

World Baseball Classic

The World Baseball Classic is well under way.  Cuba and Japan have advanced from pool A and Chinese Taipei and The Netherlands from pool B.  Pool C and D (in Puerto Rico and the U.S.) begin play this week.  By the time you read this, Japan and Cuba will be near the end of their much anticipate game.  Both have already clinched spots in round 2, but the winner gets a better seed in the second round.

I’ve had the good fortune to watch bits and pieces of a few different games so far, and it’s definitely enjoyable baseball.  It’s nice to see fresh faces as a reminder that baseball in not just a sport in the Americas.

The WBC staggers the games, with two players from each pool playing the first day, before all the teams are in the fray on day two.  It might be good from a PR perspective, but it’s horrible from the standpoint of fair play.  For example, let’s look at pool A.  Japan and Brazil played on the first day, matching their aces.  On day two, they each played teams who hadn’t played yet – meaning that they also had to face that team’s ace – and obviously couldn’t match with their ace, who had started the previous game.  In the case of Brazil, they faced Cuba’s ace in the second game.  This setup creates an unfair advantage for the team that are idle on the first day.

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Should Mike Trout Win the MVP?

September 26, 2012

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 Angels rookie sensation Mike Trout has been a trendy pick for the American League MVP for a few months now.  Recently, however, Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers has picked up steam as he has a shot at winning the triple crown (batting average, home runs, RBI).  Here are how the players stack up in those categories (note: Cabrera has 66 more at bats).

  Trout Cabrera
Average .324 .329
Homers 28 42
RBI 78 133

 

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 21:  Mike Trout #27 of th...

Mike Trout

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 21:   Miguel Cabre...

Miguel Cabrera

Supporters of Cabrera point out the fact that Cabrera is leading Trout in all three categories, while Trout “just” leads in WAR (wins above replacement) – which he leads by a dominating margin.  While certainly WAR is not the perfect statistic, it’s a far better indicator of a player’s value than the triple crown stats are.  Cabrera has 50 more RBI than Trout.  Well, yeah.  He’s batting #3 in the lineup and Trout is batting leadoff.  There will be more players on base for Cabrera to drive in.  There have been 427 runners on base for Cabrera and 284 on base for Trout.  Trout has driven in 50/284 (17.6%) and Cabrera has driven in 91/427 (21.3%).  Still an edge to Cabrera, but much smaller.  RBI is as much a factor of the other players on your team as your own ability.  Throw me into the middle of the Rangers lineup and I could probably drive in 75 runs.

There are a couple of big factors that WAR accounts for and the triple crown numbers don’t:

  • Trout has 47 steals (caught 4 times) compared to 4 for Cabrera (1 caught).
  • Trout plays a premium defensive position (center field) and plays it well.  Cabrera players a corner infield position (less defensive value) and plays it poorly – so poorly that is defense costs his team wins.  There’s a huge difference between Trout’s defensive value and Cabrera’s.

The triple crown is indeed rare, but so is a 10+ WAR season.  Only two players since 1960 have posted a 10+ WAR season and failed to win the MVP that year.  Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Just give the award to Trout.

National League Update:

The Nationals, Braves, Reds, and Giants have all clinched playoff berths.  The Reds and Giants have clinched the division, while the Nationals have a four game lead on the Braves.  The Cardinals have a 4.5 game lead on the Brewers and Dodgers in the wild card – probably a safe lead at this point in the season.

American League Update 

In the American league, zero teams have clinched a playoff spot.  In the Central, the White Sox and Tigers and tied, with the loser almost certainly left out of the playoffs.  The Yankees are 1.5 games up on Baltimore in the East.  In the West, all 8 remaining games for the Rangers are against the A’s (5 games) and Angels (3 games).  The lead the A’s by 4 games and the Angels by six games.  Any of those three teams could end up as the division champion, wild card team, or left completely out of the playoffs.  The Devil Rays are just 3 games back of the final playoff spot.  In total, eight American League teams remain in serious playoff contention in the final week of the season.

New playoff format

The playoffs are very different this year.  There is a second wild card team, and those two teams face off in a one game playoff to advance to the next round. This is commonly being referred to as the “coin flip round”.  The next round will be a five game series.  Instead of a typical 2-2-1 format (with the first two games and final game hosted by the better team) this is a 2-3 format, with the first two games hosted by the worse team.  The #1 seed in each league will actually have to wait until the end of the wild card game to know their first round opponent – and then need to jump on a plane and start the playoffs on the road, against a team that had some time off after winning the coin flip game.  The 2-3 format will only be used this year (because it’s a horrible idea) due to scheduling constraints.  MLB added the coin flip game after the regular season schedule had already been set.

World Baseball Classic

Canada and Spain won their qualifiers and advanced to the main tournament.  Canada romped through their games 11-1, 16-7, and 11-1.  Spain actually lose their second round game against Israel, but then advanced out of the loser’s bracket to face Israel in the finals.  They won that game and advanced.  The qualifiers are not true double elimination tournaments, so Israel was bounced despite only having one loss.  The other two qualifying tournaments are in November.

 

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Murder, incest, money, sports

March 20, 2009

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Josef Fritzl

Josef Fritzl of Austria was sentenced to life in a psychiatric prison. Fritzl is the man who kept his daughter imprisoned in a secret basement in his house for 24 years. He repeatedly raped her and fathered seven of her children. One child died after Fritzl refused to allow medical attention. He later threw the baby’s body into a furnace. Fritzl faced charges that included murder (murder by neglect for refusing to allow medical care for the infant), incest, rape, and enslavement.

Fritzl would be eligible for parole in 15 years. However, he is 73 years old, making it quite likely that he will die in prison.

I hope Fritzl’s daughter can see this is as final chapter of this story and somehow put the past behind her and have a happy and productive life. Of course, this is easier said than done.

Weird tangent: I saw the story of Fritzl pleading guilty to the murder charge when I was at a restaurant. I could see the TV screen and read the closed captioning, but couldn’t hear anything. The closed captioning and video were a bit out of sync. I saw an image of Don Imus getting out of a car, and saw closed captioning talking about incest and murder. Say what you will about Don Imus, but he has never (to my knowledge) been accused of incest or murder, so I wasn’t sure what the actual story was. Eventually, the closed captioning got to the Imus story – he has prostate cancer. Why, exactly, can’t the news shows just dump the teleprompter feed into the closed captioning system? You have a script for the show – use it!

AIG Bonuses

On Thursday, the US House of Representative passed a bill that would tax recipients of the AIG bonuses at a rate of 90% The method of using language that was clearly intended to isolate one specific group of individuals, combined with the angry statements from some legislators, makes this bill walk the fine line between proper legislative activity and a bill of attainder (in essence, convicting someone of a crime and penalizing them without benefit of a trial.

Personally, I would like to see these bonuses looked at on a case-by-case basis. I’m really not sure why congress is in such a rush. They could spend a bit more time taking a deeper look at the issue, and if they still felt that this was an appropriate course of action, they could pass this legislation.

World Baseball Classic

Game 5 of pool 2
Japan’s Hisashi Iwakuma and Toshiya Sugiuchi combined on a five hit shutout of Cuba. This knocks Cuba out of the WBC. The semifinalists are now set – US, Venezuela, Korea, and Japan. Evan Longoria will replace Kevin Youkilis on the US team because of an injury.

NCAA Basketball

The biggest story of the day was almost an upset of #2 seed Memphis. Memphis was down to Cal State Northridge late in the second half, but Memphis was able to rally and win. A Memphis loss would have been tragic to my bracket, since I have them as my champion.

In the end, the lowest seed to win in day one of the tournament was #12 seed Western Kentucky, which knocked off #5 seed Illinois. The Hilltoppers led by 10+ points for much of the game, before allowing a rally that let the Illini pull to within two points. Western Kentucky was able to seal the deal, though, and will advance to a second round game against Gonzaga.

An interesting image of the day is Oklahoma star Blake Griffin getting flipped by Morgan State’s Ameer Ali. Ali was immediately ejected from the game. Griffin missed time earlier this year because of a concussion. Griffin scored 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the game.

NCAA Wrestling

My alma mater, Iowa State, is tied for the lead with archrival Iowa after day one of the NCAA wresting tournament. Unfortunately, Iowa has more wrestlers still alive in the winner’s bracket (6 for Iowa, 5 for ISU) and they are generally higher seeded. Still, we do have some opportunities. David Zabriskie is the top seeded heavyweight, and Jake Varner is seeded #2 at 197. Nick Gallick, #6 seeded at 141, is the second highest seed still remaining at that weight, as four of the top five have lost.

Hopefully Iowa will suffer some losses, the Cyclones will nab some wins, and the ISU guys who lose are able to claw their way back in the consolation bracket. Let’s get a title for coach Cael Sanderson!

World Baseball Classic Update

March 18, 2009

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Pool 1

Game 1: (Sunday) Japan vs. Cuba
Japan beat Cuba 6-0 behind the arm of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka threw 61 of his 86 pitches for strikes, allowing five hits and no walks over six innings of work. Although Matsuzaka had a great year for Boston last year, there had been some concerns that he had been lucky, and that his high walk totals would cost him in future years. Matsuzaka has displayed good control in the WBC, though. 3 relievers each allowed a hit, but none of them walked a batter, either.

On the offensive side, Japan played small ball, with only one of their 12 hits going for extra bases (a double by Kenji Jojihma). Shuichi Murata had two RBI, with four other players chipping in one RBI each.

Game 2: (Sunday) Mexico vs. Korea
Korea’s Tae Kyung Kim drove in three runs (including a solo homer) and Bum Ho Lee and Young Min Ko also homered for Korea as Korea wins 8-2. Mexico faces Cuba in game 3, with the loser eliminated and the winner remaining alive to face the loser of Korea/Japan.

Game 3: (Monday) Mexico vs. Cuba (loser eliminated)
Cuba stayed alive in the tournament with a 7-4 win. Frederich Cepeda continued his outstanding WBC with a three run double. Cepeda finished with four RBI in the game. Cepeda is 12 for 20 with 3 homers and 10 RBI in 20 at bats (5 games) in the WBC. That’s a 1.786 OPS.

Game 4: (Tuesday) Japan vs. Korea (winner qualifies for semifinals)

Korea jumped on Japan starting pitcher Yu Darvish early, manufacturing three runs in the first inning. Those three runs held up as Korea won 4-1 behind a masterful pitching performance by Korea’s Jung Keun Bong, who allowed one run on three hits in 5 1/3 innings. Darvish settled down after the first inning, allowing three runs on four hits in five innings. Korea clinches a spot in the semifinals. Japan will face Cuba in game 5. The loser of that game will be eliminated, and the winner will face Korea in game 6 to determine semifinal seeding.

Pool 2

Game1: (Saturday) Netherlands vs. Venezeula
The Netherlands played another close game. In the opening round, they won games by scores of 2-1 and 3-2 while losing games by scores of 3-1 and 5-0 (both losses against Puerto Rico). In this game, they lost 3-1 to Venezuela.

Venezuela starter Carlos Silva went seven strong innings, allowing just one run on four hits. After two other relievers each recorded an out, Venezuela turned the game over the K-Rod, and he delivered a four-out save, including two strikeouts.

The pitching for the Netherlands was pretty effective, with the exception of a couple of mistakes. They allowed just three hits (and three walks) all day. Unfortunately those three hits were homers by Miguel Cabrera and Jose Lopez and a triple by Endy Chavez (Chavez scored on a groundout).

Even with the loss, the Netherlands continues to rise their profile during this World Baseball Classic.

Game 2: (Saturday) USA vs. Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico beat the USA 11-1. Javier Vasquez went five innings for Puerto Rico, allowing one run on four hits, while not walking anyone. USA starting pitcher Jake Peavy gave up six runs on six hits and two walks in just two innings. Hopefully my Colorado Rockies will watch tape of Peavy’s outing so that we can hit him this well in the regular season. Felipe Lopez and Carlos Beltran hit homers for Puerto Rico, but this was a team victory, with Puerto Rico piling up 13 hits and four walks. The USA managed just six hits, including two apiece by Adam Dunn and Brian McCann.

I’m not suggesting that we make Puerto Rico the 51st state for the sole purpose of adding their players to the USA’s WBC team, but it would be a nice benefit of statehood for Puerto Rico.

Game 3: (Sunday) Netherlands vs. USA, loser eliminated
A little tidbit surfaced during the game. The highest paid Netherlands player made $40,000 last year (their 42 game season is ¼ the length of MLB). The players received $20,000 for advancing to round two of the WBC.

The Cinderella story ends in round two, however. The US won this game 9-3. Jimmy Rollins drove in four runs and had a homer and a triple. Brian Roberts, filling in for the injured Dustin Pedroia, had a great game, falling just short of a cycle with a single, double, triple, and two walks.

On the pitching side, Roy Oswalt gave up no runs on five hits and no walks over four innings. The Netherlands did managed seven hits in a span of 2 2/3 innings off Shields, Ziegler, and Lindstrom, pushing three runs across the plate.

Game 4: (Monday) Venezuela vs. Puerto Rico, winner clinches semifinal berth
Venezuela’s Felix Hernandez struck out seven batters in 4 2/3 innings and K-Rod closed the door with 1 1/3 perfect innings. Ramon Hernandez drilled a homer as Venezuela wins the game 2-0. Ian Snell is the hard luck loser for Puerto Rico, allowing a run on five hits in four innings of work.

Game 5: (Tuesday) USA vs. Puerto Rico, winner clinches semifinals, loser eliminated
There was no joy in Mudville entering the bottom of the ninth with the US trailing 5-3. Two singles and a sacrifice fly cut the score to 5-4. Two more walks loaded the bases for David Wright, who delivered the decisive blow, a two run single that ended the game. Kevin Youkilis homered earlier in the game for the US, and Alex Rios and Carlos Delgado homered for Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is eliminated from the tournament. The US will have a rematch against Venezuela to determine seeding for the semifinals.

World Baseball Classic Update

March 14, 2009

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Pool B

Game 4: (Tuesday) Cuba / Australia (winner clinches a spot in next round)
Cuban pinch hitter pinch-hitter Yosbany Peraza hit a 2 run home run in the 8th inning that ended up being the difference-maker, 5-4. Cuba joins Japan and Korea as teams that have qualified for second round action in pool 2.

Game 5: (Wednesday) Australia vs. Mexico (winner clinches spot in next rounder, loser is eliminated)
After an embarrassing 17-7 loss to Australia in front of their home crowd earlier in the tournament, Mexico eliminates Australia from the tournament with a 16-1 win in 6 innings (mercy rule). Jerry Hairston Jr. was the only Mexico player not to get a hit or score a run, but even he contributed with an RBI. Eight different players drove in a run. Karim Garcia had 2 home runs and was 4-4 with 4 runs and 4 RBI.

Game 6: (Thursday) Mexico vs. Cuba (determines the pool winner)
Once again, Mexico was involved in a game in which the mercy rule was enforced. Cuba scored seven times in the seventh inning the break the game open, 16-4. Ariel Pestano and Frederich Cepeda hit 3 run homers in the inning.

Pool C

Game 5: (Tuesday) Venezuela vs. Italy (winner clinches spot in next round, loser eliminated)
Venezuela hit four homers in the fifth inning and pounded out 14 hits en route a 10-1 win over Italy. Venezuela starting pitcher Enrique Gonzalez went 4 innings and allowed 2 hits (he also hit a man).

Game 6: (Wednesday) USA vs. Venezuela (determines pool winner)
Venezuela catcher Henry Blanco led off the scoring with a homer in the third inning. Venezuela really got things going against reliever Jeremy Guthrie, touching him up for 4 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in 2 innings of work. Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta did homer in the losing cause. Venezuela wins the game 5-3 and advances as the winner of pool C. The USA advances as the runner-up.

Pool D

Game 5: (Tuesday) Dominican Republic vs. Netherlands (winner clinches spot in next round, lost eliminated)
After edging the Dominican Republic in a big upset earlier in the tournament, the underdogs pull off the trick a second time, squeezing past the DR 2-1 in 11 innings. The winning run scored on an error by Willy Aybar. You have to give the Netherlands some respect – they did not have an easy path, but they advance to round two.

I’m going to focus on a bright spot for the Dominican Republic. Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies (my team) pitched 4 innings and allowed 0 runs on two hits and no walks, while striking out a WBC-record 10 batters. The strikeouts are great, but I’m even happier to see the zero walks.

Game 6: (Wednesday) Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico (to determine pool winner)
Puerto Rico was able to score 5 runs in spite of the fact that they had only one extra base hit in the game. It was death by small cuts for Netherlands, as they allowed 10 hits and 9 walks. Conversely, the Puerto Rico pitchers allow just 6 hits and 1 walk in shutting out the Netherlands. Puerto Rico advances as the winner of pool D; Netherlands advances as the runner-up.

The next WBC update will be on Wednesday, with recaps on the first 6 games of round 2.

World Baseball Classic Update

March 10, 2009

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For those of you who are not sports fans, hang with me through the next couple of weeks. I’ll be hitting you with a heavy dose of WBC, but will return to a more regular mix of posts once the WBC is complete. I promise a non-sports post either Wednesday or Thursday (possibly both days, if I get more time to write).

This update covers the games from March 8 and March 9

Pool A

Game 5 (loser eliminated): Korea vs. Cuba (Sunday)
Korea ends China’s WBC with a 14-0 win. Korea starter Suk Min Yoon went 6 innings, allowing two hits and no runs. Korea was already up 4-0 in the 5th inning when they busted the game open by scoring five runs on three hits, two walks, one hit batter, and two errors. That’s not a pretty way to score runs, but it is effective. The mercy rule (one team ahead by 10 or more runs after 7 innings) was invoked after the top of the 7th.

Game 6 (determines the pool winner): Japan vs. Korea (Monday)
Korea avenged a game 3 loss to Japan with a 1-0 nail biter. Korea got their run on a walk and two singles against Japan starter Hisashi Iwakuma. Korea had just four hits in the game, but Korea’s pitches did no allow a run on six hits and no walks.

I find it a bit odd that Korea is the pool winner. My opinion is that the game 3 winner should be declared the pool winner, and the team that has a loss after the first 5 games is the pool runner-up. Japan shouldn’t feel too bad, as they lost a 1-0 squeaker and won a 14-0 rout – so they should be confident in their chances if they run into Korea again.

Pool A is complete.

Pool B

Game 1: Cuba vs. South Africa (Sunday)
This was a horrible mismatch on paper, and turned out to be a mismatch on the field as well. Cuba starting pitcher Norge Luis Vera allowed 2 hits in 6 innings, including no his through the first four innings. South Africa managed 4 hits in the game and finally dented the scoreboard in the 9th inning. Cuba hit 6 homers (5 solo shots) in the game, including 2 by Frederich Cepeda. Neither team committed an error.

Game 2: Mexico vs. Australia (Sunday)
In a stunner, Australia knocked off the home team Mexico 17-7. Australia hit four homers and set a WBC record for hits in a game with 22. Australia is kind of a low second tier club. They weren’t really expected to contend, but on the other hand, they are definitely a big jump up in talent from the likes of South Africa and Taipei. They’ll have their hands full with Cuba, and if they lose to Cuba, they would need to beat Mexico again in game 5 – something that the Mexico City crowd might not allow.

Game 3: (loser eliminated) Mexico vs. South Africa (Monday)
After being upset by Australia in their first game, Mexico bounced back with a 14-3 win over the toothless South Africa team. Adrian Gonzalez hit two homers and drove in six runs and Oscar Robles and Jorge Cantu also hit homers. This games was actually 3-2 after six innings, and the bats awoke for team Mexico. Elmer Dessens allowed two runs on three hits and no walks through six innings. Mexico will face the loser of Australia/Cuba in game 5. The winner of that game will advance to the next round.

Pool C

Game 3 (winner advances): USA vs. Venezuela (Sunday)
Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta saved a run by preventing a wild pitch, and then broke open the game with a three run double (advancing to third on the throw home) to make the game 6-3. The game also included homers by Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Braun, and Adam Dunn. Oddly, one of the guys on TV (a guest, I believe) initially credited the Dunn homer to Derek Jeter, in spite of the fact that the 6’6”, 275 pound Dunn looks absolutely nothing like Jeter. Well, I guess they are both human beings.

Game 4 (loser eliminated): Italy vs. Canada (Monday)
Wow. Italy beats Canada 6-2. I had Canada advancing as the #2 team in pool C, but that was not to be. Chris Denorfia was 4-4 with three doubles and two RBI. Dan Serafini (1st round MLB draft pick in 1992) didn’t allow any runs until the 4th inning, when he allowed the only two runs of the game. Interestingly, neither Denorfia nor Serafini were actually born in Italy. There is not birth or residency requirement in the WBC, so you see a lot of people (Americans, especially) playing for the country of their ancestors. This is true of many teams, not just Italy – I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong with this, just that it’s an interesting aspect to the WBC.

Next: Italy and Venezuela face off in game 5, with the winner getting a trip to the next round.

Pool D

Game 3 (loser eliminated): Dominican Republic vs. Panama (Sunday)
The Dominican Republic bounced back from their upset loss to the Netherlands by shutting down Panama 9-0. Miguel Olivio hit two homers. Dominican starting pitcher Johnny Cueto went 4 2/3 innings. He allowed just two hits and a walk, but he did plunk two batters.

Game 4 (winner advances) Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico (Monday)
This game was closer than Puerto Rico would have liked, but they managed to punch their ticket to the next round with a 3-1 win over the Netherlands. The Netherlands scored in the top of the first and held a 1-0 lead until the 8th inning, when catcher Yadier Molina (of the famous catching Molinas) drove home two runs with a double.

Next: Game 5 will be a rematch of the Domincan Republic and Netherlands. The Netherlands has now strung together two good games – can they beat the Dominican Republic again and clinch a spot in the next round? I like the Dominican Republic to win the WBC, so I can’t turn against them now – I think the DR does bounce back and beat the Netherlands.

World Baseball Classic Update

March 7, 2009

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I was going to wait until midweek to do this update, but I’m too excited about the WBC to wait.

Pool A

Game 2:
Korea clobbered Taipei 9-0. The starting pitcher for Taipei was knocked out after 1/3 of an inning. He allowed two hits (including a grand slam by Jin Young Lee), walked three batters, and hit a man. The bullpen actually did a decent job, but the horse was already out of the barn at that point.

Game 3 (loser eliminated)
The losers of games 1 and 2, China and Taipei, met in this game. China starting pitcher Lu Jiangang pitched into the sixth inning and allowed just one run. Ray Chang was 3-4 with a homer, a double, two RBI, and a run scored. China won the game 4-1. Taipei is eliminated from the tournament. China will face the winner of game 4 to determine who survives.

Game 4 (winner automatically advances)
In the winner’s bracket, Japan trounced Korea 14-2, as the mercy rule (ahead 10+ runs after 7 innings or 15+ runs after 5 innings) comes into play. Korea’s starting pitcher Kwang Hynug Kim was touched up for eight runs in 1 1/3 innings of work. Jpana starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka was pretty good through four innings, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks. The two runs came in the first inning. Daisuke settled down after that point. The Japanese bullpen was dominant, allowing no hits and one walk over the final three innings. The margin of victory over a quality opponent is definitely a feather in the hat of Team Japan.

Korea will face China in game 5. The loser will be eliminated. The winner will face Japan in game 6 to determine who is the pool winner for pool A. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Clearly, the winner of the winner’s bracket would be the pool winner.

Pool B

No games have been played.

Game 1 will feature a monstrous mismatch, with Cuba facing South Africa. I’m predicting a mercy rule outcome – perhaps even the 5th inning mercy rule (one team ahead by 15 runs)

Game 2 will be Mexico against Australia. This game is in Mexico City. The house should be rockin’, and Mexico should win.

Pool C

Game 1:
This was a border war between the US and Canada. The game lived up to its billing, with the US winning 6-5. There were five homeruns in the game – two by Canada and three by the US. Adam Dunn had the homer that put the US ahead 6-3. Kevin Youkilis and Brian McCann also homered for the US, while Joey Votto and Russell Martin hit dingers for Team Canada.

Game 2:
Italy starting pitcher Mark DiFelice did not allow any runs for the first four innings against favored Venezuela. In the fifth inning, the wheels came off, with relievers Jason Grilli and Lenny DiNardo allowing four runs. Venezuela went on to win 7-0. Venezuela starter Carlos Silva scattered six hits in four innings, allowing no runs. Felix Hernandex went four innings and allow just one hit and no runs.

Next:
The US will face Venezuela in the winner’s bracket (game 4), with the winner clinching a spot in the next round. This should be a good game.

Canada be favored against Italy in the loser’s bracket (game 3), with the loser being eliminated.

Pool D:

Game 1:
The shock of the tournament so far was Netherland’s 3-2 defeat of the Dominican Republic. The Dutch were not considered to be serious contenders, whereas the Dominicans were one of the popular picks to win the WBC. The Netherlands loaded the bases in the first with a single, a bunt single, and a walk. A run sored on a wild pitch by Edinson Volquez, and two more scored on a Hanley Ramirez error. Sidney Ponson and the bullpen held on for a 3-2 win. Dominican Willy Taveras was gunned down trying to steal third base to end the game. The talent differential between these two teams is rather large; this definitely qualifies as a major upset. Note: the Netherlands includes players from the islands of the Netherlands Antilles, such as Curacao.

Game 2:
Puerto Rico’s Ivan Rodriguez homered twice, and teammate Carlos Delgado hit another as Puerto Rico beat Panama 7-0. Javier Vasquez and the PR bullpen held Panama to five hits.

Next:
Netherlands will face Puerto Rico in the winner’s bracket (game 4) with the winner clinching a spot in the next round. Puerto Rico will be a big favorite in that game.

Domincan Republic will face Panama in the loser’s bracket (game 3) with the loser being eliminated from the tournament. Dominican Republic will be a big favorite in that game.

Note: I am going to continue to provide WBC updates as I have the time. I will also be doing some other posts, so you may see several days that have more than one post.

Sports wrapup

March 6, 2009

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World baseball classic
The WBC got underway on Thursday, as Japan beat China 4-0. Japan starting pitcher Yu Darvish set the pace early, allowing no runs and walking just one batter. The five relievers each allowed exactly one hit and did not walk anyone. Third baseman Shuichi Murata provided offense with a two run homer.

Darvish is a candidate to be the breakout star during this WBC. Many die hard fans already know him, but the WBC will allow him to reach a wider fan base. The 22 year old Darvish is the son of an Iranian father and Japanese mother who met while attending college in Florida. They settled in Japan, were Yu was born.

Yu had a very successful high school career. Several major league teams were interested in him, but he stayed in Japan and was drafted by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (note: Hokkaido is the name of the island, Nippon Ham is the name of the sponsor, Fighters is the team name).

Yu has had great success for the Fighters:
2005 (age 19): 5-5, 3.53 ERA
2006 (age 20): 12-5, 2.89
2007 (age 21): 15-5, 1.82
2008 (age 22): 16-4, 1.88

Yu has also increased his strikeout rate while decreasing his walk rate. The net result is a strikeout : walk ratio of more than 4:1 over the last two seasons.

Of course, it must be noted that many baseball people consider the Japanese leagues to be on par with an AAA league in the US, a step below the major leagues. However, if a 22 year old player was putting up these numbers for an AAA team, the team would be very happy, as these would be great numbers and would suggest that the player would have a successful major league career.

Darvish has stated that he has no intention of signing with a US team any time in the near future and that he would like to win 200 games in Japan. This is a bit disappointing to me, as I would like to chance to see Yu pitch on a regular basis (preferably for my team).

Korea and Taipei face off at 3:30 AM Central time on Friday. This is too late of a start time to meet the TCO’s publishing deadline. The Asian teams are starting a couple days early because of travel considerations (they play the first round in Tokyo; all other pools play in North America)

Baseball injury watch
Alex Rogriguez has a torn labrum in his hip. He may face a surgery that would require four months of rehabilitation. Keep on eye on this story before grabbing A-Rod high in your fantasy draft.

Boating accident
In sad news, two NFL players (Marquis Cooper and Corey Smith) and two other men (Will Bleakley and Nick Schuyler) were on a fishing trip in Florida when the weather turned bad and their boat overturned. Schuyler was rescued. The other three have not been found, and hope is fading.

Matt Cassell trade
Former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassell and linebacker Mike Vrabel were traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for pick #34 in the NFL draft. Even with the high value teams place on draft picks, I think this is a great deal for the Chiefs. It is true that Cassell had a lot of weapons at his disposal in New England, but you still have to make effective use of those weapons.

Manny
Manny Ramirez ended months of posturing by finally signing a contract with the Dodgers. Manny will make $25 million in 2009, with a player option of $20M in 2010. $25M of the money is deferred over the span of five years. I’m not a big fan of the player option. In theory, this would allow Manny to hit .200 with 5 HR, and then exercise his option and make $20M in 2010 – but if he hit .370 with 50 HRs, he could opt out and perhaps sign with the Yankees for $30M. If you wanted Manny for two years, make it a regular two year contract.

Kurt Warner
In negotiations that were considerably better (although Warner did allow the 49ers to woo him) Kurt Warner signed a deal with the Cardinals – two years with a total compensation of $23M. Warner will give back $2M if the Cardinals are able to renegotiate the contract of WF Anquan Boldin. I’m a big fan of Warner (although my wife is even more of a fan) and I’m hoping he lights up the skies again next year. Maybe he can seal the deal and win a Super Bowl for the Cardinals (how strange does that sound) and punch his ticket to Canton.

TCO weekend
The Soap Boxers will bring you some light reading this weekend.

Saturday: Some good time wasters on the internet
Sunday: The importance of a good fantasy team name

Sports roundup

February 25, 2009

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Baseball

Rockies
Today is the first game of the season for my Colorado Rockies! We play our hated rivals, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sure, it’s a “meaningless” spring training game, but I am absolutely stoked to finally have games. This also means that I need to resubscribe to MLB audio so that I can catch all the games this season (it’s a bargain at $14.95!).

I definitely will be watching a few battles during spring. Rockies top prospect Dexter Fowler will be in camp, and I’m pulling for him to win the centerfield job. I want Ian Stewart to somehow win a starting job. Preferably, this would be at 3B, although this would probably require a trade of Garrett Atkins, which seems less likely since the Twins have now filled their 3B void by signing Joe Crede. Stewie might end up at 2B or in the outfield. With SP Jeff Francis out for the year, a lot of players will be competing for jobs at the back end of the rotation. I’m hoping that Franklin Morales can harness his talent and make the team. And of course I want to see my favorite player, SS Troy Tulowitzki, get off to a hot start.

World Baseball Classic
The World Baseball Classic begins on March 5. Since baseball has been dropped from the Olympics (at least in 2012) this is going to be the best international tournament we see for a while. Many of the top major league players won’t be playing, but there will be some familiar faces. Six Rockies will be participating. Catcher Chris Iannetta and outfielder Brad Hawpe will play for the USA. Rockies pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez (Dominican Republic), Jason Grilli (Italy), Manny Corpas (Panama), and Adam Bright (Australia) will suit up in the uniforms of our enemies.

The WBC is divided into four pools (A,B,C,D) with four teams in each pool. There is a double elimination tournament in each pool, with the top two teams in each pool advancing to the next round (pools 1 and 2). Once again, there is double elimination. The top two teams from each of those pools advance to the semifinals. The champion of each pool plays the runner-up of the opposite pool to determine the finalists.

The USA is in a pool with Venezuela, Canada, and Italy. Here are my predictions. Japan, Korea, Cuba, Mexico, USA, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico advance to the second round. Japan, Cuba, USA, and Dominican Republic advance to semis. Japan loses to Dominican Republic in the finals.

Taipei and South Africa could be on the wrong side of some really ugly games. Pool D is probably the toughest, top to bottom. It features the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, and The Netherlands (which includes the Netherland Antilles).

Manny watch
Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers continue their negotiations. Manny originally wanted 100M over 4 years. However, with the economy being in the tank, the Dodgers being his only serious suitor, his reputation as a malcontent, and his age (36), there is absolutely no chance of this happening. We’re about five weeks away from the start of the season, so it’s about time to end this game of chicken.

Football

Vikings
My Vikings are apparently on the verge of trading for Houston Texas backup QB Sage Rosenfels. Sage and I share an alma mater (Iowa State) and I am a big fan. He was the QB of a 9 win season in 1999 – the first 9 win season since 1906. It would have been 10 wins if not for a bad call on a field goal at the end of the game. I’m not much of a fan of current Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson, so I would love to see Sage take the starting job away from him.

Bad first impressions
Last week was the NFL’s scouting combine (“the combine”). For those of you who might not be familiar with the combine, it is an event where all of the top college players get together in one location. They are measured, weighed, interviewed, given an IQ test, and put through a variety of physical drills (weight lifting, 40 yard dash, and everything in between). This is the opportunity for players to make a strong impression with the scouts. It is an extremely important day for these players.

Perhaps not so important for Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith. Smith had previously been touted by some experts as a top 5 pick. He showed up at the combine overweight, with the explanation that he got a late start with his training. He didn’t offer an explanation (such as an injury the impaired his ability to train), leaving the scouts to wonder why he got a late start. After all, he had been suspended for Alabama’s bowl game for violating team rules (red flag) so he basically had 3+ months to focus on getting ready for the combine. Smith then abruptly left the combine early.

Smith definitely left an impression on the NFL personnel, albeit not a good one. Some people are suggestion that he will fall to the late first round or early second round. The average first contract (multiple years) for a late first rounder is about $20 million less than the average first contract of the #5 pick.

Now Smith admits that he didn’t handle things very well. Of course, a good media skewering tends to get you to look in the mirror.

Injury
The top wide receiver in the draft, Texas Tech junior Michael Crabtree, was unable to compete in the combine due to a stress fracture. He does not have blazing speed (but does possess awesome talent in every other area) and he could have erased some doubts with a fast 40 yard dash time. The injury may cause him to fall in the draft. I personally think that it would be a serious mistake to pass up Crabtree. While it is true that he benefited from a pass-crazy offense at Texas Tech, Crabtree has crazy skills and could be a special player in the NFL.