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October Surprise

2008 October 17
by ifedeli

I know I said I’d be following up on my “If I was Omar” post with some additional posts. And they are coming. This weekend. I promise!

But first, some musing.

When did JD Drew get clutch? Maybe I just bought the rep on him.

I would give several toes, maybe even an earlobe, to have 5 starting pitchers under contract with an average age of 25 and an average ERA+ of 113 like those Tampa Bay Rays. Of course, one of those pitchers ought to be ours

How was I so wrong about Phillies pitching? Jamie Moyer? Seriously? His ERA last year was OVER FIVE. I guess Brett Myers quit punching his wife long enough to remember how to pitch. Omar can learn a thing or two from Gillick about building a bullpen from the scrap heap.

Who else is disappointed by Britney’s new hit single? I was really expecting a lot, but the music just doesn’t back up the gyrating naked rolling around. Even a little touch of crazy to spice it up doesn’t do the job.

Try again, Brit. Try again, Rays. Boy, I need more Saturdays.

If I was Omar (Part 1)

2008 October 5
by ifedeli
Omar, or the one who is actually in charge (Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Omar, or the one who is actually in charge (Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Yes, the season has only been over for like a week. Yes, the playoffs are still going on*. Yes, I have a long time before anything can even start to happen. But no, I don’t care.

* All of the LDS games I have watched have been a complete snore, BTW.

With the Mets season over, Omar and Manuel inked, and free agent lists more or less determined, it is time to start dreaming about next season. But with horific errors like the Luis Castillo signing, the Owens and Lindstrom giveaway, and his overreliance on Marlon Anderson/Damion Easley second-base/utility types at the exspense of better options, I’m going to be as helpful as I can and lay out what Omar’s strategy needs to be for him.

First, let my lay out my one wild assumption: I don’t care at all about the Wilpons’ money. They make absurd amounts of money off of  > 4 million ticket sales plus revenue from the television network they also own. So I don’t care if the payroll is higher. To their credit, the Wilpons have not shied away from spending large sums of money.

As I see it, the Mets had three major problems in 2008:

  1. Starting pitchers not going deep enough into games
  2. A weak bullpen that got weaker due to problem (1)
  3. A dearth of timely hitting, resulting in too few comeback wins

I’ll address problem (1) in this post, and problems (2) and (3) in subsequent posts.

First of all, let me make it clear that Johan Santana is completely exempt from problem (1), pitching 243.3 innings. That is the most of his career, including his 2 other Cy Young seasons. I say other because it would be a travesty if he didn’t win the Cy Young award this year. He ended up essentially tied with Lincecum in ERA+ (164 to 163), had a lower ERA, pitched more innings, had more shutouts and more complete games, and played for a team that was expected to win more than, you know, 70 games or so. Brandon Webb does not deserve consideration; he isn’t even in the top 5 in ERA+.

No, the problem was everybody else. Santana average 6.89 innings per start. The other four starters averaged 5.79 innings per start. Mike Pelfrey actually led team ‘everybody else’ with an average of 6.27 innings per start. This average was buoyed by his excellent performances against everybody but the Marlins in the second half of the year. It is reasonable to believe that next year that average will improve further as he matures and develops. John Maine averaged 5.6 innings per start, and this has been a problem for him, even when he is pitching well. However, looking at his gamelogs over the course of the season there is a clear downward trend, perhaps attributable to his injury. Since he is under contract and going to be back next season no matter what I say (barring an unlikely trade), he gets a free pass. The worst offenders were Oliver Perez and Pedro, who averaged 5.70 and 5.45 innings per start, respectively. Luckily for the Mets, both are free agents. Omar, let them go. OP was a great find, and we would have been worse off without him. Pedro changed the culture and perception of the franchise, and all Mets fans should be grateful to him. But it is time to move on. We need to trim the pitchers that aren’t consistently putting us in a position to win and taxing our bullpen to the breaking point.

CC, Savior in waiting (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

CC, Savior in waiting (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

This is New York City, not Kansas City. Let’s act like it. Let’s sign the one pitcher who can fix the problem by himself. Let’s sign CC. He pitched 253 innings this year between the two leagues. He absolutely obliterated the NL. He’s a power pitcher, which coincidentally is the kind that wins in the postseason, his recent results notwithstanding. As I said before, I don’t care about Fred & Jeff’s money, but I’d tell them that he is only going to cost about 6 millions dollars a year more than Pedro cost. I’d tell them they would have a dynamic duo unrivaled in this city, or anywhere baseball. I’d tell them they would have two pillars of pitch to hold up CitiField for years to come. He averaged 7.22 innings per start in 2008, and with anything close to that in 2009, he would be as much of a lift to the Mets bullpen as any reliever you could acquire.

As for the 5th starter’s spot, I would hope that Jon Niese wins the spot in spring training. However, relying on a young unproven pitcher completely is not always a good tactic (see 2008 New York Yankees). Alternatively, they could give a short term deal to Freddy Garcia and hope that he regains his pre-surgery form. Brad Penny is intriguing put injury prone, as is Ben Sheets. Both are only getting older. Ryan Dempster would be a nice pickup, but after a career year, he isn’t going to be cheap. I however would not be in favor of giving a long term deal to any of the large number of mediocre over-30 pitchers that the old Mets used to love to sign.

I personally believe that the 5th starter spot is more important than the conventional wisdom would suggest. The bottom line is that your 5th starter will pitch almost as many games as your first starter. If you have a hodgepodge set of 5 inning soft tossers penciled in as your 5th starter, you can bet your bullpen is going to be hurting come September. Also, people inevitably get injured. If the depth of the starting rotation is already lacking, then it will more difficult to absorb the loss. I don’t feel I need statistics to prove this point. Just look at the teams that made the playoffs this year. I would argue that the one thing they all* have in common is not a powerful or consistent offense, or a high-range or consistent defense, but pitching depth. Even the Diamondbacks with their stacked front of the rotation ultimately missed they playoffs because they were not able to get quality innings out of the back of their rotation. Omar needs to restock the Mets, a team historically successful because of dominant pitching, by retooling the starting five.

* Except the Brewers. They are terrible.

That’s it for this installment. Stay tuned for Part 2: The Bullpen.

The Raconteurs

2008 September 21
tags: ,
by ifedeli
The Raconteurs in action (Photo by Chris Kornelis)

The Raconteurs in action (Photo by Chris Kornelis)

On Friday I went with Sarah (much to her chagrin) to see the Raconteurs at the WaMu Theater. The WaMu Theater, for those who haven’t been, is attatched to Qwest Field, where the Seahawks* play. It is essentially a large concrete box with a stage set up at one end and chairs set up on risers on the other end. It is very similar to Reliant Arena in Houston, except it is actually attached to the football stadium. We had general admission tickets, which I beleive is the only sensible way to see a rock concert. We were close enough to see the performers facial expressions and the spit fly from their mouthes when they were singing. The sound quality was quite good, and certainly much better than seeing a show in a large arena or stadium.

* Best quote ever from Pat Green: “What the hell is a Seahawk anyway? I can tell you what a cowboy is.”

The opening band was a duo named the Kills. I know I had heard their name before the concert, but I couldn’t tell you anything about their music. I still can’t, really. I really liked their style. They rocked really hard, and Sarah loved the lead singer “VV” who was totally wild on stage. She was thrusting and moaning and smoking through their whole set in her bright pink pants. Sometimes her long hair would completely cover her face from all the thrashing and she would sing for a while looking like a grown up version of the girl from the Ring.

Their music was based off the guitarist (who claimed to be on heroin), the lead singer, and a variety of thumping, driving baselines from a drum machine. Their sound was very base and almost pornographic, but I think that’s what they were going for. I really wanted to like their music, but I just couldn’t. I think their music is probably like a jackhammer. It looks like fun, and it is fun for the operator, but when you’re just standing there taking in the noise and breathing in the smoke it’s rather unpleasant.

The Kills played for about 45 minutes, and then there was about a half an hour until the Raconteurs came out. There wasn’t much of a set change, as all the Raconteurs equipment was already on the stage, covered by tarps. Naturally, when they came out the place errupted. Most people were yelling directly at Jack White. We were very close to the stage, though outside of the mash zone.

They were simply awesome. The whole band is amazing. I didn’t realize exactly who was singing what and who was playing what until I saw them live. Their other guitarist besides Jack White, Brendan Benson, was spectacular. Some of the solos on the album which I assumed were Jack White (because they were so awesome) were actually Brendan Benson. Brendan Benson looked like he had been pulled directly from Almost Famous in order to be in this band. At least for this show, whenever there was an accoustic guitar in the song it was played by Jack White, which surprised me. The keyboardist was pretty good, and could sing really, really high, to the point that it sounded eery. The drummer was good, as was the bass player, who looked like a gnarly lovechild of Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World.

But the star of the show was Jack White. His stage presence was tremendous. His voice is truly unbelievable. His guitar solos rock. I expected the show to be short, as they only have two albums, and it was pretty short as concerts go. Still, I have no idea how he lasted the whole show. His voice is screeching yet powerful and not at all irritating. I couldn’t do it for a minute. He sounded that way even when he was just speaking to the crowd. He didn’t try and follow the cadence of his singing from the album at all, although the rest of the band tended to. He played keyboard in some of the songs, and seemed to be experimenting with different sounds to the keyboard than were used on the album. He used a regular microphone most of the time, switching sometimes to a screamer-muffle type microphone, like the one Issac Brock from Modest Mouse uses often. His guitar solos were awesome and metal, better even than my favorite solos from the album.

The ending was really well scripted. They played three songs for their encore, the last of which was Carolina Drama.

Well now you heard another side to the story
But you wanna know how it ends?
If you must know, the truth about the tale
Go and ask the milkman

iPhone 3G and Me

2008 September 18
by ifedeli

Hooray for you! Hooray for me! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray it’s iPhone day!iPhone 3G

Well, it was actually 13 days ago. I decided to wait a bit before writing about my iPhone experiences, since I knew I would be completely overcome with glee and entirely unable to be critical when it first arrived. To some extent that is probably still true, but I think we’ve reached the point of diminishing marginal critical distance.

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I’m just going to come out and say it. It has changed my life. More so than any other device or technology I have ever been lucky enough to have, I have found myself able to optimize and streamline, improve and expand, add value and reclaim lost time with my iPhone 3G. Instead of sitting at my desk and reading my feeds in the morning (my custom version of a morning paper), I read them on the bus. Instead of taking out my work laptop, setting up my KVM, and firing up the VPN to check work email, I pull my phone out of my pocket and skim through the relevant mail. Last week, when I needed to find my new dentist’s office, I looked it up on my iPhone, located myself using the GPS, and quickly found the office. I no longer need to carry a separate phone and music player – it’s all rolled into one compact and highly usable device. I have my work and personal calendars with me at all times, as well as my personal To Do list. I have a serviceable camera with me at all times, allowing me to snap a photo when I don’t have my camera with me, and email pictures of a cool location while I’m still there. All of this functionality is built in out of the box.

But ohhhh the applications. For the first time on a mobile device, I can experience the joy of downloading a new app and adding functionality that we’ve all come to take for granted with our home PCs. Yes, I have to live with the tyrany of Apple and their blacklisting, but it’s the most open we’ve had so far. I’ll try to focus here on applications that don’t duplicate existing web functionality ( Facebook, NYTimes, I’m looking at you kids). There’s the streaming radio applications, most notably Stitcher, which stiches together audio on a given subject and streams it over the 3G connection. There are applications that take advantage of the iPhone’s location awareness, like Yelp which provides reviews of nearby restaurants, GasBag which finds the closest/cheapest gas, and Trulia which finds nearby properties for sale. Then there is Evernote, which lets you easily and seamlessly upload notes and pictures to remember for later. I use this to take a picture of the blood pressure machine at the pharmacy, so I have an easy way to record my blood pressure over time.

And there are games. Lots and lots of games. Obviously the iPhone does not have the input devices that a dedicated mobile gaming system has. However, more and more games are coming out for the iPhone every day, and more than a few are pretty serious. These games are on the level one could expect from a circa 1996 console game. Obviously this is not ground breaking, but as EA and others gain experience with the platform and better understand it’s input characteristics, I think we’ll see the power of the system come through in the form of engaging mobile games. And hopefully less of these tilt-to-turn cookie cutter racers.

Is anything bad? Not really. Battery life is not great, but my requirements for a phone is that it make it through a day, and it does that just fine. It isn’t a tiny phone, but it really isn’t much wider than my old cell phone, and it is significantly thinner. I have had some dropped calls, which may be attributable to either Apple or AT&T, and that is annoying. However, considering how much my life has been improved by this new piece of technology, I’m willing to deal with a few dropped calls.

The iPhone is an amazing device, but I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. If you don’t want to be more connected, don’t get the iPhone. If you don’t want the Internet to be a bigger part of your life. There are better devices for making calls, better GPS devices, and arguably better music players.

But if you are like me, you need an iPhone.


2008 September 1
by ifedeli

I have two important location changes to report: 1. My blog is now located here at 2. I am now located in Seattle, WA.

Sarah and I have moved here to Seattle (specifically Lower Queen Anne for those interested) so that I can work for, which is based here. I live and work in the city, and take the bus to work. Our apartment is nice, although still a work in progress. I am still adjusting to work, and we are both still adjusting to this city, but everything is getting better all the time.

One very bright little spot is our new dog, Dugan. We think he has Corgi, Sheltie, Terrier, Dachshund and maybe more in him. He is almost 8 months old and very rambunctious. He is a sweet dog with a good nature, but we’re still working on obedience and avoiding “accidents”.

As far as this blog goes, expect more of the same, but hopefully more often. The domain may branch out into other areas later, but for now it will essentially be the same deal as my old blog. You can expect the visual style of this page to change, just as soon as I figure out what to change it to.

On a side note, I’m using Dreamhost for hosting, and even though it’s only been a day so far, I’m quite pleased and feeling optimistic about it for the future. I got $50 off and 3 free domain registrations, and once click installing WordPress was painless. They also support Google Apps for Domains (so I can use gmail if I make a * address) as well as a Jabber server and one click subversion repositories. Nice!

Shiner Brewery & San Antonio

2008 April 7
by ifedeli

K. Spoetzl BreweryLast Friday, some friends and I made the pilgrimage to Shiner, TX to visit the Kosmo Spoetzl Brewery. As it’s location suggests, this brewery is responsible for the tasty brews that make up the family of Shiner beers. We had been meaning to make the trip, and with the Spring Recess upon us and Graduation closing in fast, we finally did.

It was fun! First of all, unlike the St. Arnold’s brewery tour, there was actually a tour. We were taken through the area where the beer is brewed, with its great big copper vats, and then onto the bottling area, which was really fun to see. I’ve never seen a bottling facility in person, and I was amazed by the speed with which the process occurs. The tour guide gave some incredible figure about the amount that was bottled per minute. I can remember what it was, but it seemed absurd.

Also, there was a beer tasting session in the gift shop area. The beer was as good as it normally is, but not better. This was somewhat surprising, but Shiner in the bottle is pretty damn good to begin with. We got to take lots of pictures, and I bought a sign! My friends and me behind the bar at Shiner Brewery

Then, somewhat spontaneously, we continued on to San Antonio. Many in our party had never been, and those who had were eager to return. San Antonio is a beautiful city with a stellar downtown. It is the face Texas should, and to some extent does, show to the world. It is also everything that Houston is not. We had a great time walking around the Alamo and the Riverwalk. We had dinner at a Tex-Mex place named Casa Rio which was (you guessed it!) right on the Riverwalk. The food was modestly priced but unremarkable. The best part, however, came from the influx of college basketball fans, who were in town for the Final Four, which was to start the next day. It seemed the entire town was clad in Blue, Blue, Blue, and Powder Blue (4 number 1 seeds, all with the color blue as their primary color? All I ask is for some diversity of hue!). Apparently, Bob Knight and the ESPN college basketball crew was broadcasting from the Riverwalk that very day, but it must have been in the morning before we were there. It was fun to see all the different people and where they were from.
The Alamo Dome before the Final Four

We also saw bagpipers!

All in all, it was a great trip. Stay tuned for more pictures.

Play Ball Already!

2008 March 29
by ifedeli

Despite the fact opening day came and went last week, nobody noticed because it was on another continent. For me, as a Mets fan, opening day is Monday, when the Mets take on the ever younger and more anonymous Marlins in Florida. Despite the insult of Kruk not picking the Mets to win the division (he picked them third!), I am getting more and more excited, reading the multitude of previews picking the Mets to do well this year. I just finished reading Rob Neyer’s “The top 50 for five years”, in which he picks his favorites to be the best players in the league over the next five years. Excitingly for me, the Mets have 3 of the top 7 players on this list, checking in with 4 overall. Only the Indians, a very good team, have more with 5. I figured out the frequency for each team to give a sense of the best teams over the next few years:

Indians 5
Mets 4
Tigers 3
Phillies 3
Yankees 3
Brewers 3
Rays 3
Diamondbacks 3
Braves 3
Twins 2
Orioles 2
Padres 2
Red Sox 2
Dodgers 2
Marlins 2
Rockies 2
Astros 1
Royals 1
Nationals 1
Cardinals 1
Rangers 1
White Sox 1
Blue Jays 0
Pirates 0
Giants 0
Cubs 0
Mariners 0
Angels 0
Athletics 0
Reds 0

Surprisingly, Josh Beckett is the only Red Sox pitcher on the list. Joba Chamberlin doesn’t manage to make the list either. None of the Rockies pitching makes the list, nor does Fausto Carmona. I suppose what I’m getting at here is I think the list is position player heavy. Nevertheless, I think it gives a pretty good indication of the relative quality and age of the teams.

Now, as the season begins, let this song bring you joy.

Spring Break 2008: South Padre Island

2008 March 14
by ifedeli

After a whirlwind week back at school, I finally have a few minutes to describe our Spring Break vacation at South Padre Island, TX.

We had a really great time. For those of you who have been to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, South Padre has a very similar feel. Essentially, it’s one big long island (there are only two roads running up and down). It doesn’t appear to have any business other than tourism, which was just fine for us. There were some good restaurants, though honestly none of them were any place I would be inclined to go if they were in Houston.

No, the reason we went was for the beach. And it was a good reason. The weather while we were there was a tad windy, but it was sunny and warm every day. We played bocce, wiffle ball, and football during the day. We relaxed and drank at night. It was grand.

The condo we got was stellar. Here’s a little walking tour:

It was great, and hopefully I’ll get to go back soon.

Seeing Barack in Houston

2008 February 24
by ifedeli

On Tuesday, I went to see Barack Obama speak at the Toyota Center, along with 18,500 other people. As you can imagine, it was pretty intense.

We arrived at 4:30, discovering that the lines were already HUGE. Lines were snaking around corners. The majority of people there were on standby, meaning they had no tickets and no guarantee of getting in. The mix of people was pretty diverse, from yuppies to thugs, children and college students to old people and everything in between. The crowd was predominantly black, although there were alot of white people too. There were not many Hispanics, which is somewhat discouraging.

They started letting people in at 6. Entrance to the building was orderly and rather swift. Once inside, however, it was a mad house. They had no way of controlling the flows of people, and there was no sense of order whatsoever. We must have walked around for 45 minutes trying to find seats. We eventually got into an area they had just decided to open up. We had to pass through metal detectors (presumably because of our proximity to Barack), and show the security guards that all of our electronics were functioning. Some people, including Sarah, were wanded as well. Once we were inside, we managed to find seats near the back of the section. The seats were very good though. They probably cost hundreds at a Rockets game. They were the first level, behind and to the left of the podium for Barack.

We were there at about 7, fired up and ready to go. First, a band with sequin encrusted shirts played a bunch of soul music, which was quite good. Then, three different speakers, all of whom were women, showed up and spoke about voting and Barack and how the crowd should be excited because the entrance of Barack was imminent. They also led the crowd in some cheers like Yes We Can.

At about 8:30 (as I had predicted), Barack came out to speak. The crowd went absolutely nuts. The only time I have every experienced the intensity I did for Barack’s entrance was at an Astros NLCS game and at an Incubus concert, 30 feet from the stage in the mashpit.

Here’s video:

…and pictures hosted by flickr.

His speech was his standard stump. Apparently it was very long, but it certainly didn’t bother me. He added a few new things, like some stories he had recently been told. Much to my personal joy, Barack proclaimed that he believed in the market, saying:

If you are ready for change, if you’re really ready, then we can start restoring some balance to our economy. I believe in the free market. I know Texans believe in entrepreneurship. We are an independent and a self-reliant people. We don’t believe in government doing what we can do for ourselves.

But when we’ve got CEOs making more in 10 minutes than ordinary workers are making in a year and it’s the CEOs who are getting a tax break and workers are left with nothing, then something is wrong, and something has to change.

I was stunned when nobody clapped for the part about “I believe in the free market.” I clapped and yelled as loud as I could. However, during the “CEOs making more in 10 minutes than ordinary workers are making in a year” part, he got extremely loud cheers. I think it is interesting which bits of his rhetoric really resonated with the crowd. I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed.

Anyway, you can read the speech at the New York Times, as well as some analysis. Also, Obama’s website has a short clip of the actual speech.

Play Ball

2008 February 17
by ifedeli

It’s getting hard to contain my excitement and my expectations for the upcoming baseball season. I was excited before the Mets traded for Santana. Now I’m ridiculously excited.

Pedro and Johan

The media isn’t being much help either.

Baseball Prospectus projects the Mets to win 96 games, adding:

And the Mets really might be the best team in baseball, regardless of what league they happen to play in.

How am I supposed to deal with that?

And then Beltran shows up to camp early:

According to SNY’s Kevin Burkhardt, when asked about the division, Beltran gave a bland response. However, before walking away from reporters, he smiled, laughed and said:

“Tell Jimmy Rollins we are the team to beat.”