Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Gratuitous Scarborough-bashing

The view on my walk to work from the bus stop, in the Vic Park/Steeles area. No wonder they call it Scarberia. My business card says "Toronto" but who are we kidding? Markham is just across the road and that's like, the countryside, right? Well, about 10 years ago it was. Now it's a "technopark",which is like an industrial park for geeks.

Still, it's kinda purty, ain't it?

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Home again, home again jiggety jig

So I'm on my way home. I'm sitting outside Paddington Station typing this, killing time before my flight. Time is a terrible thing to kill, especially in London, but there's not much I can do with three pieces of luggage tied to me.

I've had a great time. I love it here - even though the water pressure and hot water was almost non-existent at my hotel. And even though the friendliest people I met here were Canadian, Polish, Russian, Swiss and Australian. It's just such a fascinating city. And the weather was fantastic. Bright and sunny every day except one, and so mild. It was so nice outside that I spent most of my time walking around the city. The museums and art galleries will have to wait for my next visit.

Toronto is going to be hard to come back to, after being surrounded by charming and quirky architecture and little twisty narrow streets and mews and squares and gorgeous Georgian townhouses and pubs - real pubs. Oh how I love pubs! I went to the Coach & Horses in Soho - it was fabulous. Standing room only and disgusting-looking sandwiches and delicious English ales, and thick with cigarette smoke, but it was fascinating. Why don't we have that in Canada?

It will be nice to get back to real central heating and hot showers and Harry and Marmalade and my fella. But I will really, really miss London, and I'll be planning another trip to England before the year is over, for sure.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

All Cheesy Poofs, All the Time

Women's locker room at the gym:

Grandma1:...So I lost five pounds. Then I gained 7. But I just weighed myself and I've lost 2. So I'm back on track.

Grandma2: Good for you, Bernice! Are you dieting?

Grandma1: No, I don't believe in all those diets, all those fads, you know. I don't think they're healthy.

Grandma3: They're not, and they don't work either. I was on that South Park diet, and it didn't do a thing for me!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

I've been away from here a few days.

I'm not going to be able to go down to Kansas City for the Mariner games this week, as I'm going back to school on Sunday anyway. Which means this series came a week too early for me. Regardless, it will be good to finally watch a whole Mariners series on live television, rather than an internet video broadcast.

Ichiro, currently in the midst of a season which will likely be his best yet, has taken the criticisms that he was slowing down with age, and shoved them write back in everyone's face. And, like any person who is forced to eat their words, but doesn't have the guts to say "I was wrong," many critics are firing up the Ichiro backlash once again. Faced with undeniable evidence that Ichiro is a valuable offensive player, many people are coming up with biased statistical formulas and other inane tactics to discredit Ichiro's value.

Great. Can't you guys just let us have one good thing this season? We get shot down by everyone who says Edgar shouldn't be a Hall of Famer... Including idiots like Phil Rogers who claim Edgar doesn't have much offensive value, and puzzling statements from Jayson Stark, saying that before Edgar gets in, some more relief pitchers should get in first... Now you're going to begrudge us this one chance at history in an otherwise dismal season? What are you going to give us, Justin Upton? Or are you going to complain that we're drafting a high schooler?

Now we've got Ichiro, with some pretty good offensive numbers, including an OBP of over .400 (14th in the majors), getting stuck in a list with some pretty god-awful hitters. I don't like to diss other bloggers, but in this case I can't help it. There's a "study" on a couple of blogs, Mike's Baseball Rants is one of them, that sets the paramaters to include Ichiro's least desirable characteristics, notably his low walk-rate and high singles-rate, and ignore his valuable characteristics, notably his high contact rate, low strikeout rate, high batting average, and high on-base percentage.

In other words, the study is pure, 100%, grade A bullcrap.

They could have said that Ichiro's value was mostly his ability to hit singles, his speed, and his defense. But instead, they made a study that set the paramaters to include the worst of the worst. Players like Ozzie Guillen, whose career OPS+ was 69. Ichiro's, by the way, is 121. Players like Juan Pierre (81), who couldn't even hit for power in Colorado. They set the paramaters to include a list of players so bad, that any reasonable person could look at the list and say, "wow, those guys really suck." Fortunately, a reasonable person also would conclude that Ichiro is far more valuable than any of those players.

And it's where we reach the fundamental misconception in sabermetrics today.

The offensive value of a player is not measured in his ability to draw a walk. It is measured in his ability to get on base, and, in doing so, help his team score runs.

Tony Gwynn's 162 game avg: 617 AB, .338/.388/.459, 209 H, 36 2B, 6 3B, 9 HR, 21 SB, 52 BB, 29 SO, 283 TB, .306 EQA
Ichiro's 162 game avg: 696 AB, .334/.379/.439, 233 H, 30 2B, 8 3B, 9 HR, 41 SB, 46 BB, 64 SO, 306 TB, .299 EQA

There's an inherent problem in comparing these two stat lines, obviously, as Gwynn has a long, Hall of Fame career, and began his career earlier than Ichiro. Ichiro is just finishing his fourth season.

This contention, however, that Ichiro will somehow be relegated to the Japanese leagues by the time he is 35, is absolutely baffling, and it's difficult for me to find much of an explanation for it, other than a bunch of stat geeks thinking that their way is the only right way. This attitude of contempt the sabermetric community has to tools scouting and "tools" players is absolutely ridiculous.

Speed stays with a player a long time. The idea that, in 5, or even 10 years, Ichiro's going to be reduced to Edgar Martinez on the basepaths is pretty laughable. Tony Gwynn, Barry Bonds, and others got larger as their careers progressed. Ichiro's 30 years old, and 160 pounds.

Ichiro's predecessor in the leadoff spot, Rickey Henderson, stole 31 bases for the M's in 2000, at a near 75% success rate. He was 41 that year.

Ichiro will never display the kind of power statistics we're used to seeing from a corner outfielder. That's fine. If the Mariners were smart, they'd put him in centerfield, instantly giving them one of the best centerfielders in all of baseball. Anyone who wants to dispute that fact is free to look it up.

He's probably the most unique player in baseball. He's on a Hall of Fame career path. He's overrated by the media, underrated by the statheads, adored by the fans, and has become an icon. The phenomenon is not without merit.

And, despite all of the criticism, the facts remain very clear: Ichiro's one of the top 15 offensive performers in baseball this season. No one's talking about him for MVP. The ship sailed on that one some time around April, when the M's were off to their worst start ever. He is the best leadoff hitter in baseball. To claim that Ichiro is a "lousy hitter," as one of these studies did, or that he is like Alfonso Soriano (thus ignoring the whole strikeout issue), is missing the point by a mile and a half. He's one of the most exciting players in baseball, he clearly can hit the ball, run, field, throw... Hell, if he were a centerfielder, I doubt any one of you would have a problem with it.

Ichiro won the 2001 MVP award because he was viewed as the leader of a team that won 116 games. You want to blame the writers for that? Fine. Go right ahead. But the bitterness that comes across, to this day, about that 2001 award, is not extended to players like Miguel Tejada or Juan Gonzalez, who robbed Alex Rodriguez of MVP awards in 2002 and 1996, respectively.

Ichiro's going to be making a run at 257 this year. If you can't acknowledge that as an accomplishment, then perhaps you need to find a new line of work.

It's only four days until opening day.

Eleven days for the Mariners. I'm going to put in a little more time here in the upcoming days, but I do have schoolwork to worry about, also. Eventually, my sleep habits will be on-target.

Chris Snelling profile in the Post-Intelligencer.

On the fantasy baseball front, I think I'm the first team in the blogosphere to lose a player for a significant amount of time to injury. Trot Nixon is out until May, so Matt Stairs, who will apparently be a mainstay on my fantasy teams this seasson, is his replacement.

The left-handers are creating a bit of a problem for the Mariners. A good problem, compared to the Carrara vs. Cloude situation last year, but a problem nonetheless. Though I just had to laugh at this line.

"The lefties might force right-hander Kevin Jarvis and his $4.5 million salary right out of the bullpen, which would make room to keep two left-handers. Jarvis, of course, has muddled things by pitching better lately, a scoreless inning yesterday dropping his ERA to 11.82."

When you're pitching better, and your ERA is still around twelve, I think it's safe to say that you're not going to make the team, even if you make $4.5 million (Towers and the Padres should be ashamed of themselves!!)

In other news, Rafael Soriano could return to action Sunday, and will be ready to go on opening day. This is extremely good news.

Jarvis should be expected to make the team, Finnigan and Kelley tell us, citing Jarvis' large contract as the reason. What they neglect to mention is that the Mariners still save a little bit of money from Jeff Cirillo if they just release Jarvis.

If Jarvis does not make the team, Mulholland's age definitely works against him, and the Mariners really like Villone. I'd say it's Villone and Myers.


At the end of the day, I'm don't see the Yankees moves helping them all that much on the field. The fact that they actually did something might help them mentally though.

The A's improved an offense that was sorely lacking, but they needed more than one player to go deep into the post season. Still the fact that the M's Stood Pat helped them and makes the division race too close to call.

The Red Sox look like the big winner here. Who knows how this will all turn out - and gimme a break with the November I-told-you-sos - but I think the Sox have set themselves up to be the wild card team coming out of the AL.

Where does this leave the M's? Well, they're now in two races that will both go down to the wire with Willie Bloomquist, Rey Sanchez and Dan Wilson in the everyday starting lineup, and Mabry, McLemore, Borders and Ugeto as the first options off the bench. Thank god for Ben Davis.

If/when Carlos "Unbreakable" Guillen comes back from his strained pelvis (how does one strain their pelvis anyway? Is this guy the king of the freak injury or what? I mean - tuberculosis? COME ON) we'll have upgraded the lineup for 7-10 days, until his next injury.

In the bullpen you have a whole lot of overworked guys, plus Sazaki. Or is that Sa-sake?

They need to stay healthy and pray. Even then it will be a stretch to make the playoffs, and if they do they're a first round Sonic-special.

There's no excuse for this. The team makes a ton of money, and management is unwilling to put it to use because they don't understand that spending an extra couple of million now will result in many more millions later. And they have a GM who (over)pays for Solid, Proven, Veteran Leadership over all else.

Bottom line: Ownership has sent a message that they want to be successful, but are unwilling to go the extra mile and take the extra risks to win a title. Moreover, they don't care. They're bringing in money hand over fist (though attendance is down 10% this year, make a mental note for the future), yet they are hoarding it instead of spending it.

That's their prerogative. It's also mine as a fan to not give them my money. And I won't.

The deals

The Red Sox, realizing that they are in two races at once due to being in the same division as the Yankees, took a look at their needs and made some aggressive moves to upgrade their pitching. They likely gave up someone that will bite them in the ass down the road, but no one knows who that will be and more importantly no Red Sox fan cares. They are trying to get to the World Series, and if they are so fortunate as to win, years down the road fans will say "Man, so-and-so is kicking our ass right now, but trading him HELPED US WIN THE WORLD SERIES!!!!!!"

The Yankees are the modern day equivalent of Bear Bryant's Alabama football teams. In the years of unlimited scholarships, Bear would locked up all the talented kids in the country just so that the other teams couldn't get them. Who cares if some high school All-American is riding the pine? ROLL TIDE. Replace scholarships with dollars and you have the Bronx Bombers.

Yes, Aaron Boone's an All-Star. He's also the Reds lone All-Star, and every team is required to have one. Aaron Boone is ok, but he's no great shakes. He's a right-handed hitter who was greatly helped by a hitter's park in Cincinnati, and not much of an upgrade over Robin Ventura. Still, he's a Yankee and not with the Red Sox or Mariners, and Georgie Boy realizes that's half the battle.

Of all the deals we know about, the one that gets me is MoneyBeane getting Jose Guillen. A power-hitting outfielder who is going to be a free agent at the end of the year, playing for a team that just fired their GM and is looking to unload salary. We could have gotten this guy for a bag of shit, and we had the bags of shit to give. Our current bench alone could fertilize half the community gardens in the Pacific Northwest.