Just Checking…

Back at the end of March, in the introduction to an essay on the validity of the “win” as a worthwhile statistic for pitchers, I tossed out my picks for the six division winners this baseball season:

Now I could use this opportunity to discuss my picks for the Divisional Champions (Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, Indians, Astros), but I really haven’t been paying attention to how Spring Training has been going.

https://pureblather.com/2017/03/28/on-pitchers-wins-ii/

Turns out I was right on all six. It’s not really a big deal; it was pretty obvious at the start of the season that they were the strongest teams (at least on paper) in their divisions. But it’s still kind of nice to go 6-0 in my picks.

I’m NOT going to give any predictions for the World Series; I’ll just note that if it’s Cubs and Indians, that will be the first time since 1977-1978 that there’s been a “rematch” in the W.S.; and if it’s Dodgers and Astros, it will be baseball’s best pitching staff (Dodgers) facing baseball’s best offense (Astros).

 

Advertisements

This is Going to be Great!

We’re heading down to the final weekend of the baseball season, and it’s shaping up to be a great batch of playoffs. The division winners are essentially set, and it’s pretty clear who’s going to be facing each other in the wild-card “play-in” game. And they’re all worth rooting for.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have already reached 100 wins. They haven’t done that since 1974. For a while it looked like they were going to set a record for wins, but they stumbled a bit down the stretch. They’ve righted the ship, and it looks like they’ll have home-field advantage all the way through to the World Series. Which, if they make it, will be their first pennant since 1988.

The Cubs want to be the first team to repeat as World Series Champions since the 1999-2000 New York Yankees. The Washington Nationals are (still) going for the first pennant in franchise history (including their tenure in Montreal). I don’t think they’ll settle for just winning more than one playoff game, though. With three of the best pitchers in the NL (Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez), you can’t blame them. And their “window” is closing; Bryce Harper is nearing free agency….

Over in the American League, the Cleveland Indians certainly want another shot at the World Series to end their drought. They’ve been tearing up the joint this month and a half, and should get 100 wins by the time the season ends. The Astros also have a shot at 100, and how can you not root for Houston?

The Boston Red Sox, meanwhile, would like to remind Yankee and Aaron Judge fans that they actually lead the AL East, as well as having Cy Young candidate Chris “300+ strikeouts ought to count for something, right?” Sale.

Speaking of awards, most of these teams have a solid candidate for some serious hardware. Chris Sale and the Indians’ Corey Kluber are the top choices for AL Cy Young, Max Scherzer of the Nationals and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw to worry about. The Astros’ Jose Altuve is the leading AL MVP candidate. The NL MVP Award field is rather crowded; the Cubs’ Kris Bryant has an outside chance at it.

All the division leaders are loaded with talent. Expect a lot of great, exciting games in October! And however it turns out, it’s pretty much guaranteed that a deserving team will win.

Book Review: Infected

Infected: A Novel
Scott Sigler
Crown Publishers
(c) 2008 by the author

There’s this syndrome out there called “Morgellon’s Disease”. Its symptoms, such as they are, are primarily an unexplained rash accompanied by the usual aches, pains, and tiredness. Occasionally, sufferers have found odd fibers coming out of the affected area. Others have reported the sensation of something crawling around under their skin.

No research to date has come up with a cause (aside from “I told you to stop scratching that, you’ve only made it worse”). The mystery fibers turn out to be bits of cotton, most likely from clothing. That hasn’t stopped people from blaming everything from nanotech to aliens to a government conspiracy.

Sigler’s novel, adapted from a popular series of podcasts, asks and answers the question: “What if Morgellon’s Disease was real?”

Continue reading

Farewell to Cassini

In the early hours of September 15 (EDT), the Cassini probe will break apart and burn up in Saturn’s atmosphere.

Launched in October of 1997, it entered orbit around the ringed giant on July 1, 2004. A complex dance amongst the moons and rings revealed many surprises. The moon Enceladus has an ocean of water under its icy shell. Titan has lakes of methane, and an atmosphere of hydrocarbons that contains complex molecules that just might be able to combine into lifelike assemblages. The rings are a far more dynamic and interesting place than we imagined.

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2017/09/cassini-saturn-nasa-3d-grand-tour/#preamble

The probe is deliberately being destroyed so as to avoid possible contamination of Enceladus and Titan.

It’s a bittersweet ending for the scientists on the program, many of whom were there from the planning stages in the 1980s.

“It’s been part of my life for so long, this spacecraft, it’s going to be a shock to have this happen,” said Thomas Burk, a JPL engineer. Linda Spilker, a Cassini project scientist, said, “Our families have gotten to know each other, in some cases our children have grown up together, and now in the final two weeks we’re sharing the end of this incredible mission.”

By the time you read this, Cassini will have passed the “point of no return”, taken its final photographs, and sent its collected store of data back home. About 12 hours after that, the onboard computers will have reconfigured for real-time data transmission. It will attempt to send back information on temperature and the composition of the atmosphere for as long as it can. But eventually, there won’t be any fuel left to stabilize the craft as it shudders and tumbles in the upper atmosphere. Cassini will heat up; parts of it will break off. The main body of the craft will explode. As NASA spokesperson Preston Dyches has said, “We’re going out in a blaze of glory.”

The next big planetary science effort is the Europa Clipper, which will launch in the 2020s. Its goal is to investigate Jupiter’s ice moon. There’s nothing else in the works for the outer solar system. Given that it takes about a decade of planning just to get a mission off the ground (literally), trips to the outer Solar System are for the next generations to enjoy.

Yes, we all know there are more important things to spend our money on here on Earth. And we’re not giving up on Mars at all. But it’s still a sad sign to know that an era of exploration is coming to an end, with no plans at all to return to those farthest shores.

Movie Review: Pulgasari (North Korea, 1985)

If you’ve heard about this movie, it’s almost certain that all you know about it is the background. Great Leader (and reputed movie geek) Kim Il Sung wanted North Korea to have its very own Giant Monster Movie; one that would be the equivalent of anything else from Asia. So he kidnapped South Korean moviemaker Shin San-Ok (and his wife) and ordered him to make movie magic. The movie never did get a wide release outside the “Hermit Kingdom”, vanishing without much of a trace when it was finally released in South Korea in 2000. A video release confused the issue by having the word “BANNED” appear on the cover in letters larger than that used for the title. It wasn’t really ever banned; it’s more like it was ignored.

All that nonsense overshadows the movie itself. While that might draw your attention, the real question is whether or not the movie is worth your time.

Continue reading

When Your Team is Out of the Race

I freely admit to being a Mets fan. This is largely the fault of Howie Rose, their radio play-by-play man. The Mets radio team runs rings around John “Theeeeeeeeeeeee Yankees Win!” Sterling. Anyway, a couple of days ago, with the Mets well out of contention (even getting to .500 is a very long shot), he talked about why you should follow your team anyway. His point was that you’d get to be there when all these new, young players made their debuts (like I was there for Rhys Hoskins’ first game), and you could brag about it later.

This got me to wondering (especially with football stories starting to occupy the sporting press) – what sort of fun and interesting and amazing things happen with teams out of the playoff hunt in late September? Thanks to the “This Day in Baseball History” pages of National Pastime and Baseball Reference, I was able to dig up a lot of interesting things that happened on September 15 or later. The sorts of things that make following baseball worthwhile.

I’ve concentrated on events no more than ten years old, because we all know that if it happened before you were old enough to notice, it didn’t really happen.

Continue reading