Why the Democrats are wrong and other meanderings

Location: Metro Phoenix, Arizona, United States

I'm too lazy to type anything about me. Read my blog and I'm sure you'll eventually learn a few things.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Resuming the Blog for an Exercise in Futility

I figured I should publish my playoff predictions once again, just to show how bad they are.

For the play-in today, I have Twins over Tigers.

For the division series:
Yankees over Twins
Angels over Red Sox
Cardinals over Dodgers
Phillies over Rockies

For the World Series:
Yankees over Cardinals

UPDATE: At least three of four is better than I've done the last few years. Dodgers over Phillies for the oppurtunity to lose to the Yankees.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

2009 Baseball Season Predictions

Once again, I'm late getting to my predictions, and the season is already underway.

My predicted standings for the year:

NL East

NL Central

NL West

AL East
Red Sox
Blue Jays

AL Central
White Sox

AL West

Out of all those teams, the Athletics strike me as the team with the greatest variance in probable outcome; I could easily see them finishing first or last or anywhere in between. They might have at least a 20% shot at each position.

My annual prediction of how many players will pass Babe Ruth on the all-time strikeout list is six: Jason Giambi, Ivan Rodriguez, Pat Burrell, Derrek Lee, Troy Glaus, and Adam Dunn. Troy Glaus is the only one of those I have much hesitation about, due to his frequent health issues, but he's only 61 short of Ruth at the moment. The Babe enters the season as number 88 on the alltime striekout list. Falling out of the top 100 is starting to come into view.

Also on the strikeout front, I see Ryan Howard, Mark Reynolds, and Jack Cust all making a run at 200 again. I think Adam Dunn might be done with his days of doing so, but he should have over 160. If he can stay healthy and avoid a big downturn in production, he should be reaching the 2000 mark for his career in 2013. Jim Thome should be passing Sammy Sosa for the second spot alltime, and Carlos Delgado should enter the top ten. Manny Ramirez and Mike Cameron will enter the top 15, barring injury, with Alex Rodriguez to enter if one of them comes up short.

As for overrated players enterring the year, Alex Rodriguez was around the top of my list until his hip injury hit. Some people talk about him being the best player in baseball, but he's not even the best third baseman in his city. I was thinking David Wright was probably even a better fantasy option than Rodriguez. Other overrated players include Ryan Howard (declined each of the last two seasons; people remember his 2006 MVP campaign, though he's not going to be replicating that, ever), Manny Ramirez (remember he only hit 20 homers in 133 games in 2007, and he's not getting any younger), and David Ortiz (many are expecting a full bounce-back, but he's 33 and not the kind of player who ages well).


Saturday, February 07, 2009


Many people, especially media types, have been saying that "nobody" suspects Alex Rodriguez of steroid use. I've disagreed, and even referred to him as "Steroids, Jr." on this blog. Well, whaddya know, it turns out that he's previously tested positive for steroids.

The media previously threw Raphael Palmeiro under the bus when, after his positive test, he said something about the "B-12" shots he got from Miguel Tejada. "Tejada is a clean player," the media declared. "How dare Palmeiro try to tarnish the image of this great athlete." Well, the Mitchell Report came out, and it turned out that Miguel Tejada had been using steroids under the guise of B-12 shots. The media was shocked. Shocked! How could a clean player like Miguel Tejada be caught up in this mess?

The media has once again demonstrated its biases and, well, general incompetence.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Why Rice Does Not Belong in the Hall and Other Hall of Fame Thoughts

Unfortunately, it looks like Jim Rice will be voted into the Hall of Fame this year. On the plus side, whether or not he makes it, this is his last year on the ballot, so we should receive a reprieve from all of this "most feared" nonsense.

When considering Rice, there are a couple of strikes against him that all but his most hardcore and irrational supporters would concede. First, he was a subpar defender at a position that isn't known for requiring great fielding skills to begin with. So, he needs to be a better hitter than an above-average fielder at the same position to be an equally valuable player. Second, the Hall of Fame requires a combination of high peak performance and longevity -- a player with a shorter career needs a better peak for enshrinement (to throw out semi-random numbers, an OPS+ of 120 over 15 seasons may not be as valuable as an OPS+ of 115 over 20 seasons).

Was Rice the "most feared" hitter in baseball? I doubt it, and he certainly wasn't the best. In the twelve year stretch that all his supporters cite, he led his team in OPS+ only twice (something I brought up in the Jerry Crasnick chat on Rice at espn.com today). Here are the Red Sox leaders from 1975-1986, courtesy of baseball-reference.com (which I think includes only qualifiers for the batting title):

1975: Fred Lynn 161, Rice 127

1976: Lynn 132, (tie) Carl Yastrzemski and Rice 120

1977: Rice 147, Fisk 138

1978: Rice 157, Lynn 133

1979: Lynn 176, Rice 154

1980: Lynn 130, Dwight Evans 124, Rice 122

1981: Evans 162, Carney Lansford 132, Rice 116

1982: Evans 148, Rice 130

1983: Wade Boggs 150, Rice 141

1984: Evans 147, Mike Easler 140, Boggs 125, Tony Armas 121, Rich Gedman 118, Rice 112

1985: Boggs 151, Gedman 126, Evans 124, Rice 123

1986: Boggs 156, Rice 136

Now, there's no shame in being beaten by Wade Boggs, but Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans both routinely beat Rice, and neither has sniffed much Hall support, despite being better players. When I brought this up in the chat, Crasnick first granted that the "most feared" thing was pretty meaningless, and then when called out on my OPS+ point by another chatter, he tried to combat it by saying that Rice had a career OPS+ of 128, while Rickey Henderson's was 127, and Rickey is considered a sure thing. This despite the fact that Rickey played in 3081 games over 25 seasons, while Rice played in 2089 games over 16 seasons. One of those is a better hitter, and it ain't Jim Rice. Plus, Rickey could play defense, and there was a slight difference in their baserunning ability ....

Another chatter said that pointing out that Rice only led his team twice in OPS+ is "ludicris" since he played with two guys who were elected to the Hall their first time on the ballot (Boggs and Yaz) and compared it to saying that Lou Gehrig only led the Yankees in homers twice. Crasnick said, "I'm sure that Lynn, Yaz and Evans had something to do with the stat." I'm sure Boggs was an oversite, but Boggs didn't play a full season until 1983, and Yaz was in decline by the time Rice started playing, with his last great season in 1974 and only reaching 120 OPS+ twice afterwards, so there were eight years of Yaz not leading the team in OPS+ before Boggs came along which should have been open season for Rice. However, he was bested by Lynn and Evans, two players who received very little Hall support (Lynn was named on 5.5% of the ballots his first year before falling off after getting 4.7% his second year, while Evans received 5.9%, 10.4%, and 3.6% in his three years on the ballot). As for the Gehrig comparison, neither Boggs nor Yaz were Babe Ruth, nor were they even Lou Gehrig. Plus, Gehrig led the Yankees in homers four times and OPS+ five times, but now I'm just being a stickler.

Another point in my chat post that went unanswered: If Rice really had those extra-statistical intangibles that made him so "feared" wouldn't the voters in 1995 have had a better read on that than the voters in 2009? In 1995, his first year on the ballot, he received less than 30% of the vote.

Back to Evans and Lynn. Both were better fielders, and both received very little Hall support. How were they as hitters compared to Rice?

Rice 2089 games 128 OPS+

Lynn 1969 games 129 OPS+

Evans 2606 games 127 OPS+

Lynn and Evans were, at worst, roughly equal to Rice in the batter's box. So, if they were equal at the plate, and better in the field, that would seem to make them better players. If they receive so little Hall support, why should Rice receive so much?

I went to the library in the middle of typing this blog post to obtain The New Bill James Historical Abstract to further make my case. For Rice, Lynn, and Evans, I'll give their career win share totals, their top three season totals, the combined total of their top five consecutive seasons, and their 162 game average (because that's what Bill James is giving me):

Rice 282 36,28,28 127 21.86

Lynn 280 34,33,27 131 23.03

Evans 347 31,29,26 122 21.57

Rice did have a higher peak than Evans, and a better average per 162 games, but, as I mentioned earlier, longevity has meaning, and Evans had a career that was about 25% longer, which effectively erases Rice's advantage. Rice's career was longer than Lynn's, but not by nearly as much, and not by enough to erase Lynn's advantage.

Rice supporters also say that his detractors are penalizing him for playing his home games at Fenway. Uh, no. His detractors are pointing out that Fenway is a great hitter's ballpark and it inflates offensive statistics. It was easily the most favorable ballpark for hitters from Rice's day until the Rockies came into existence. What his detractors are doing is adjusting his stats to a ballpark-neutral mark. Are these people going to take numbers from Coors Field at face value? Now that they have the humidifier, Coors Field inflates offense to roughly the same degree that Fenway did in Rice's day.

Hopefully, I'm done with Rice now.

In other Hall news, Repoz is tallying published ballots over at Baseball Think Factory. Keith Law elected not to do the similar tally he's done in the past, which included some unpublished ballots as well. Chris Jaffe has a method for forecasting votes which he published at The Hardball Times. Blyleven just fell below the 75% in Repoz's tracking, which is doubly unfortunate as it seems that Blyleven supporters are more likely to publish their votes (same with Raines and Trammell, two others who receive support from the stat guys). Both methods show Rickey and Rice going in this year.

Corky Simpson left Rickey off his ballot for some reason. He does vote for Raines, which I like, but while Raines might be the seocnd best leadoff hitter of all time, Rickey was the best, so it makes no sense. He also doesn't vote for Mark McGwire because of the steroids issue, but he does vote for Matt Williams, a lesser player also implicated in the steroids mess. Keith Law has exchanged e-mails with him and passes along that Simpson is not opposed to having Henderson in the Hall, and simly thought that Rickey didn't need his vote. However, according to his article, he only voted for eight players, and voters can vote for up to ten, so I see no reason for leaving Rickey off. UPDATE: Turns out he didn't vote for Rickey because he's old and confused. Nine caps!

ESPN has up the ballot results from its writers. Probably the oddest thing in there is Pedro Gomez, formerly an Arizona Republic reporter who followed the Diamondbacks, voting for Jay Bell. So between Gomez and Simpson, we have one vote each for Matt Williams and Jay Bell (neither of whom I think will reach even 1% of the total vote), but no votes for the best former Diamondback on the ballot, Mark Grace.

My hypothetical ballot would include Rickey Henderson, Bert Blyleven, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, and Tommy John. Beyond Henderson, this year's rookie class is weak enough that I'm not sure any of them will be back on the ballot next year. That's disappointing in the case of David Cone and Mark Grace; I don't think either is worthy of the Hall, but it would be nice to see them hang around for a bit. Harold Baines might also drop off the ballot. If he does, and no new player besides Rickey gets 5%, only ten players would return on next year's ballot.

For Blyleven and John, many people bring up that if they just had 13 and 12 more wins, respectively, they'd have 300 and be automatic Hall votes. However, and I'm digressing here substantially from supporting these guys, 300 has not been wholly "automatic". It took Don Sutton and Phil Niekro five years on the ballot each before they were elected. Early Wynn was on it for four years (though he was a guy who hung around to get 300 wins (exactly), not quite the same level as some of the other 300-game winners). Now, 300 wins would certainly help a candidate (I'd say Blyleven would definitely be in if he had 300 wins, and there's a good chance John would be in), but it's not quite as automatic as it's made out to be.

As always, I found it interesting to read which players were newly eligible but were not included on the ballot (available at the wikipedia article). The most recognizable name this year is Joe Girardi, with the best players probably being Mike Bordick (1500 hits) and John Burkett (166 wins). I was a bit surprised to see Dan Plesac on the ballot but no John Burkett.


Thursday, November 20, 2008


More shenanigans are being undertaken by global warming alarmists. Are we really sure that science is on the side of those who fake data to make it match their preconceptions?

Karl Rove has some thoughts on what the Republicans should do to start working their way back to power.

The People's Temple mass suicide was 30 years ago. Dan Flynn tries to correct the historical revisionism that paints it as a religious movement (which implicitly would make it a movement of the right to many).

More problems in Russia.

This seems like an apt view of the new Star Trek movie: Star Trek 90210.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Michael Crichton, RIP

Michael Crichton has "died unexpectedly" (sorry for the ET link, but it's the one I was given). I've been enjoying his work since junior high, and I've read all of his novels (but none of his non-fiction, which I've heard isn't exactly thrilling). Also, I've never watched an episode of ER, strangely enough. He's the only author whose novels I really looked forward to. I even ended up with three copies of one of them (bought my own copy, my dad got me one for Christmas, and there was a book club selection I had neglected to say no to).

The Morning After

Wow, the night ended much sooner than I was expecting. I am a bit curious as to why the networks were so quick to call Ohio for Obama but slow to call Georgia, South Carolina, and Arizona for McCain ...

There are still several races not called, but let's go with what we have. It looks like my predictions at the presidential level were off in Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Indiana. The first four of those were easily the four I was least certain of giving to McCain, so I wasn't too terribly shocked, but with Indiana I had never really believed all the talk about it going Obama, it was too Republican, it just didn't make any sense. And it still doesn't. I'm thinking the Chicago political machine snuck across the border.

The Senate race still has three races not called. Well, CNN still hasn't called Georgia, either (what's up with that?). Going on what the CNN website has, Coleman (R) has a 762 vote lead in Minnesota with 99% reporting, Smith (R) has a 48-46 lead in Oregon with 75% reporting, and Stevens (R) has a 48-47 lead in Alaska with 99% reporting. If the Republicans hold on to all of these, they'll do two seats better than my projection, which would make me extremely happy. The Stevens part really surprises me, as he was recently convicted, but if I was an Alaskan, that might make me more likely to vote for him -- he'll get tossed in the clink, and Palin can appoint a replacement. The Oregon one is a bit maddening because, once again, Oregon is taking its sweet time counting its ballots. It really shouldn't take this long, as they mail out ballots to all voters before the election, and should be able to get the vast majority counted and the results ready for release at poll closing time.

Also on the bright side, the Republicans were able to take a few seats away from the Dems in the House after not being able to take a single one from them in 2006. Unfortunately, it was still a net loss of seats (exact total still to be determined).


Monday, November 03, 2008

Final (Pre-Election) McCain vs. Obama Thoughts

I think this race will be considerably closer than most people seem to think.

Before RCP switched Ohio and Virginia from "lean Obama" to toss-up, I was saying that I liked McCain's chances to win all the states that they had as toss-ups. To clarify, I wasn't saying I liked his chances to win in each state; I was saying that I liked his chances to sweep the table and win all the toss-ups.

The problem McCain runs into is that even winning all of them (this time including Ohio and Virginia, but not any that might be added Monday night or Tuesday morning), he's still short of the 270 Electoral Votes necessary to win the election.

Working off of RCP's map linked above, I'm giving all the "solid Obama" to Obama and all the "solid McCain" and "leaning McCain" to McCain. I'll predict the others individually (I might not catch any that switch from one of those categories Monday night or Tuesday morning).

Before we get to those predictions, there are a few considerations. First, many polls are predicting a huge advantage for the Democrats in party ID, which I don't think will hold. I think they'll have the advantage, but not the 10-point one we're seeing in some of these polls (that's nationally, state results may differ). Second, it's interesting to compare early voting turnout this year to 2004. Obama seems to have little advantage over Kerry. Third, while it's just one state, Steve Nathan surveyed a massive number of Nevadan early voters (16,749), and while the 6.12% lead for Obama looks good for him at first glance, the early voting turnout is disproportionately Democrat. Unfortunately, Steve did not ask responders for their party ID, so it's not clear how representative the poll is. Assuming it is representative, this does not look like good news for Obama, as his lead is less than half that of Democrats who have voted. While I'm not sure offhand what the turnout numbers in the state were in previous elections, I know Bush won in 2000 and 2004, and there don't seem to be an inordinant number of Bush-supporting Democrats like you'd find in southern states, so I'd expect turnout much closer to even, probably a few points to the Dems advantage. But if Obama's running 7 points behind the dem advantage ...

Another couple of things to keep in mind, but more in watching election returns than in predicting the outcomes: many states tabulate the early/absentee voting and release those results soon after the polls close as part of their tally; with the Democrats having the advantage there, those early returns will skew in Obama's favor (also the favor of their candidates for Senate, House, and whatever else). Secondly, Obama supporters appear to be much more willing to participate in exit polling, so the exit polls will be skewed in Obama's direction (also useful info to know should those numbers leak early, as they have a habit of doing); part of a survey commission by Fox News showed Obama supporters with about a 12- or 13-point edge (something like 77-64 likely to participate and 34-22 not likely to participate, with Obama supporters leading the former and McCain supporters the latter).

One odd note: If McCain sweeps his solids, leaners, and the toss-ups, plus wins Colorado, we will have a 269-269 tie.

And now, on to the states:

Allocating them as I already did yields a 228-132 Obama electoral edge.

McCain will win his home state (228-142). I don't think this is necessarily the one state not previously covered that he's most likely to win, but if he loses here, I can almost guarantee a blowout.

North Dakota will go to: McCain (228-145)

Montana will go to: McCain (228-148)

Indiana will go to: McCain (228-159)

Georgia will go to: McCain (228-174)

Missouri will go to: McCain (228-185)

Minnesota will go to: Obama (238-185)

North Carolina will go to: McCain (238-200)

Florida will go to: McCain (238-227)

New Mexico will go to: Obama (243-227)

Pennsylvania will go to: Obama (264-227)

Ohio will go to: McCain (264-247)

Virginia will go to:
McCain (264-260)

Colorado will go to: Obama (273-260)

Nevada will go to: Obama (278-260)

So, to sum it up, I think Obama will win, but it will be close, and there's a greater chance of a McCain victory than many seem to think.


The Coming Bloodbath

No, not the presidential race -- I'm talking about the Senate.

The Democrats are trying for a filibuster-proof 60 seats. If you had told me this at the beginning of the year, I would have laughed at you. In fact, I did laugh at such claims early this year. Unfortunately, it has become less funny.

Currently, the Dems have 51 seats (counting Lieberman and Sanders). A pickup of nine seats is ... highly unusual. The field is shaping up that way, however.

Republican open seats in Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico can be kissed goodbye. The corrupt Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska has been found guilty, and now trails badly in the polls. I will be glad to be rid of him, but I will not be glad to have his seat in Democrats' hands for six years. John Sunnunu in New Hampshire seems nearly a lock to be defeated as well. Gordon Smith (Oregon) and Elizabeth Dole (North Carolina) both trail in the polls. Saxby Chambliss (Georgia) and Norm Coleman (Minnesota) both have leads that are a little too close for comfort. Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), the top Republican in the Senate, hasn't put away his opponent. There's also talk of the election in Mississippi, where appointee Wicker is trying to win election in his own right to finish the rest of Trent Lott's term, but Dem hopes there seem misplaced. Coming into this election cycle, Republicans only really had hopes of taking one seat from the Dems (mary Landrieu's seat in Louisiana, which she won by narrow margins in 1996 and 2002), but those hopes have been dashed.

Basically, the toss-ups of the race come down to Oregon, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Georgia. A sweep of these will give the Democrats 60 seats. I'm currently predicting a split, with the former two being lost. It does worry me that toss-ups tend to break one way or the other across the nation, though (not always unanimously, but it does tend to be lop-sided).

Some pundits have noted that 60-40 isn't everything, that some senators will break with their party. This is true, but I don't for a minute believe that it will be remotely equal. Republicans have several senators that might break with their party against a filibuster. The Democrats, however, are lacking in candidates who will break with their party to support a filibuster, with the possible exception of Lieberman for War on Terror issues. There's an expanded field of Democrats who might not support their party on this issue or that, but I doubt that they'll support a filibuster against it.

One side note: whoever wins the White House, we're going to have at least one vacant Senate seat. McCain's seat will be vacated if he wins, and Obama's and Biden's if they win. While I haven't verified the laws, the former two states have Democrats as governors, so it seems likely that they will appoint like to the Senate. Delaware currently has a Dem governor, but the seat is up for election, with another Dem the prohibitive favorite, which is all a roundabout way of saying that the appointment here would also be a Dem.

Looking ahead to the 2010 elections, the Republicans have little hope to take back the chamber. Possible targets for pickup include Colorado, Nevada, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Indiana, but as you move across the list, a retirement becomes more necessary to Republican chances. Unless 2010 is a horrible year for Democrats, Republicans don't hold a glimmer of hope until 2012, and, right now, I don't think the Republicans will take back the chamber until the 2014 elections at the earliest.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

World Series

How's this for an off-the-wall series prediction: Brad Lidge has gone all season and the first two rounds of the playoffs without a blown save; he keeps that intact until game 7, when he blows a lead and the series in the bottom of the ninth.

As far as more straightforward predictions go, Rays in 6 or 7.

Update: I checked out the write-up of the Diamond Mind simulation on ESPN, and noticed something odd. While the Rays had a fairly predictable distribution of results (a six-game win most likely, followed by seven and five, with four bringing up the rear), the Phillies' was ... odd. It had a sweep as their most likely method of series victory, followed by five games, then six, and then a big dropoff to seven. Rounding to the nearest whole percent, those odds were 11, 9, 7, and 2 percent, respectively. If you reverse that, it would make sense, with a seven-game victry being the most probable, and a sweep being quite unlikely. It makes me wonder if they messed up the graphic.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Only a Partial Re-Pick This Year

Since I know you're all waiting for my pick before placing your bet (the other way), I'm going with Phillies over Dodgers in the NLCS. As the Rays were my pick to represent the AL in the World Series, I'm sticking with them.

Yeah, the Dodgers are the trendy pick, but I think the Phillies are the better one.

I may only have picked one division series correctly, but that's one more than I picked correctly the previous two postseasons combined. I did get three right in 2005, so I have that going for me.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Playoff Predictions

Guaranteed to be no worse than last year's ...

Division Series winners: Cubs, Brewers, Angels, Rays

World Series: Cubs over Rays

Bonus prediction: if Beckett makes more than one start, expect at least one poor outing (yeah, I'm hedging my prediction a little in case the small sample size of one start allows him to pitch well)

Prediction made so that I can say that one of my predictions was right: Ozzie Guillen will say something stupid.


On a somewhat related note, I tuned into KTAR 620 AM, as they're the local ESPN Radio affiliate, to hear the broadcast of game 163, and what do I hear? Inane football chatter. Bah. If you're going to be the ESPN affiliate, carry the freakin' games! It did switch over to the game later, as I was able to listen to it at work, but, really, what football chat was there to be had that couldn't be done the day before or the day after -- or that wasn't done the day before or day after. We all know that football players are giant pansies who can only be troubled to play once a week, so let's make room to actually listen to the games of those man enough to play on a more regular basis.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Strikeout Record

For the second consecutive year, and third time in the last five years, we have a new single-season strikeout record. Mark Reynolds struck out for the 200th time this season earlier today, and is up to 201 with the game still in progress. Ryan Howard has slowed down his pace considerably and, with 196, there's still a chance he'll miss the 200 mark, just as I predicted he'd miss it before the season started. Who would have thought that he'd miss it when he was on pace for 230ish in mid-summer? Jack Cust still has an outside shot to reach the mark, as he's at 192. If he fails to reach it, lack of playing time will play a major role, as he's sat out 13 games, and only had one plate appearance in 6 more, based on a quick look over his game log. He managed to go half a month without a multi-strikeout game, which also hurt his chances a bit. After standing as the record for 34 years, Bobby Bonds's 189 strikeouts have been surpassed six times in five years.

Kudos to Bob Melvin for not benching Reynolds out of fears that breaking the record would hurt his feelings, as was done with Jose Hernandez before Adam Dunn broke the record. Of course, that would have meant benching him for the last five games of the season, unlike the one (or maybe two) that Hernandez sat out.

In other Diamondbacks strikeout news, Dunn struck out for the 160th time on Wednesday, making it the fifth straight year he's reached that total. No other player has done it more than four times in their career.


Friday, August 29, 2008


As the McCain campaign has apparently confirmed his VP selection with the major media outlets, it seems safe to run with this now.

I don't recall what I've posted about Sarah Palin before, but I like her. She's a strong conservative, pro-life, pro-gun, pro-all the good things in life. I've seen a few complaints about her signing tax increases as governor, but they were modest and were aimed at fiscal responsibility for the state, not as sock-it to the rich or expand the welfare state moves.

I didn't think it was likely to be her, as she was only elected governor in 2006, and she also just recently gave birth to a son with Down's Syndrome. Neither are disqualifying by any means, but I thought (and, I admit, kinda hoped) for someone with more experience (though she's definitely a better choice than several of the more experienced names I'd heard tossed about), and it seemed like she might want to stay closer to home with the baby (yeah, she'll bring him to Washington, but VP involves a lot of travel, etc., etc.).

Her eldest son is scheduled for deployment to Iraq, but that might be postponed or something. I used to believe it would be great for more sons of politicians to serve combat duty (when there's an active combat to serve in), but I've come to realize that they can do a lot more harm than good. If he was the son of a relative-nobody congressman, then big deal. However, as the son of a major party vice presidential nominee, that puts a big target on his back. If terrorist factions discover where he's at, it makes him a major target, and, as such, exponentially increases the danger to those around him. Of course, if his deployment is deferred (cancelled, whatever), you'll have groups from the left who don't understand this (or do, but like cheap political points) whining about privilege and the like.

I've heard of reports that someone on CNN has been talking about her "inexperience" -- are they doing the same for Obama?

There's talk of a recent "scandal" for Palin back in Alaska; the allegation is that she fired the public safety commissioner because of his refusal to fire a state trooper. The trooper in question is her former brother-in-law, was apparently abusive towards her sister, drank beer in his patrol car, and is alleged to have fired a taser at his stepson and threatened to kill Palin's father. At any rate, she never asked him to do so, but several family members and close friends had talked to him about the trooper (it's unclear if even they made explicit calls for his firing), and there was talk about the possible security risk he posed to the governor. Mostly, however, this seems like the kind of legislative investigation launched when a majority of the legislature doesn't like the executive rather than something with substance.

Politically speaking, I'd say picking a woman was a great move. This should win over at least a few disaffected Hillary supporters, though I would not expect any sort of massive movement. I had briefly worried yesterday after someone had mentioned Kay Bailey Hutchinson, a "moderate" senator from Texas (among other things, she supports Roe v. Wade), and had even mentioned to a friend who asked for my thoughts on McCain's possible VP choice that if he was to go for a woman, I'd prefer Sarah Palin, but was worried that Hutchinson would suit his style. Pawlenty also had a bunch of buzz last night; I'd been touting him as a possible McCain VP choice from the time he endorsed last year (though I didn't think McCain would win the nomination at that time). Mostly, I'm just glad it wasn't Ridge (who has been mentioned a lot recently for some reason; he would have made some sense when he was touted in 2000, but not really any now after his forgettable stint as Secretary of Homeland Security), Hutchinson, Crist, or a few others. I never bought the Lieberman hype -- yeah, McCain personally likes Lieberman, and is grateful for his endorsment, but, even if Lieberman was willing to accept, McCain isn't crazy enough to pick him.

I was starting to think that McCain had slightly-better than even shot at winning in November earlier this month, and, now that the VP choices have been made, I'd give him an even better shot.

Also, Sarah Barracuda is an awesome nickname.


Friday, August 08, 2008

Bill James and Steve Phillips

I recently picked up a copy of The New Bill James Historical Abstract from the library, and read through most of it. I enjoyed the decade-by-decade tidbits. James was entirely too much in love with the win shares stat he created, but, hey, it's his book. The player rankings were interesting. My biggest quibble, or, at least, the only one I'm going to take a major issue with here, is one sentence in his summary of ranking Bonds third all time among left fielders, where he writes "Biggio passed Bonds as the best player in baseball in 1997." I'm not taking issue with the Bonds part; he was the best player of the 1990's, which many people were blinded to, at least partially due to their adoration for overrated media-darling Ken Griffey, Jr. The Biggio part, however, is, er, questionable. Let's start by comparing him with Bonds for 1997-1999 using James's own win shares. Biggio comes out ahead each year, but only by small amounts in 1997 (38-36) and 1998 (35-34), and while 1999 had a larger margin (31-20), Bonds missed significant playing time due to injury (off the top of my head, he played in 102 games, and this was back when he rarely took a day off), so the difference in their win shares per game is negligible. Yes, I'm aware that playing every game at that level is more valuable than playing only 2/3 of the season, but one such season like that is hardly big enough for any pronouncements about who is the better player. Moreover, as James points out in his small update section, Biggio had his own injury problems in 2000 (the book was written in 2000 and James only used stats through 1999 in writing it). Now many people are familiar with the man-crush that Bill James has for Craig Biggio, and could forgive him for declaring Biggio better than Bonds based on three seasons of negligible difference, but Biggio was not leading the majors in win shares during that period. Frank Thomas edged him out in 1997 (39-38), McGwire beat by a solid margin in 1998 (41-35), and he was solidly bested by his own teammate, Jeff Bagwell in 1999 (37-31, plus it looks like Bagwell was bested by Jeter, though I can't find Jeter's total). He wasn't second all of those years, either (I don't have a complete listing, otherwise I'd give his rank each year). While he may have the best combined total for 1997-1999, if you add 1996, he doesn't have the best total on his own team (Bagwell bests him by 1). Bonds, meanwhile, had the best total in the majors in 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1995, plus the second-best total in 1990 and 1996 (losing out to Rickey Henderson and Bagwell, respectively), for a much better established period of domination. The period of 1997-1999 (you could throw in 2000 as well, I guess) is more of a period where no one player dominated before Bonds returned to domination in 2001-2004. Bonds played well enough in those intervening years that you could say he dominated the majors for 15 years (1990-2004), though, of course, James had no way to know about his second run of dominance when writing the book.

One other tidbit from the book; for each decade it mentions someone as "a better man than a ballplayer" and lists Doug Drabek for the 1990's. I find this quite pleasing, as Drabek was my favorite pitcher, while my favorite player when I started following baseball was Darrell Strawberry (okay, I admit, it had something to do with his last name), who I dropped when I discovered his drug problems, in favor of Barry Bonds (who, while his nastiness is overrated, is certainly not in line for such a distinction). Drabek is somewhat forgotten now (I did see him in an interview or two with his son, who I believe was drafted last year), but he won the Cy Young in 1990 (before I started paying attention), and pitched well for the Pirates in the postseason in 1990 and 1991 (taking a tough-luck complete-game loss in each series, for a combined 2-2 record despite an ERA of 1.15 those years), pitching less well in the 1992 NLCS, but not as poorly as his 0-3 record might indicate (overall, he was 2-5 in the postseason, with a 2.05 ERA). He had only one good year after leaving the Pirates (the strike year, though despite his 9-18 record in 1993, his ERA was above league average, adjusted for ballpark), and his post-strike years are best left unmentioned.

Steve Phillips has a poor write-up of the Rangers' playoff chances. He says that if you consider the Yankees to have a chance at the postseason, you have to say the Rangers do as well. Well, yeah, they do have a non-zero chance, but what's this business of comparing them to the Yankees? The Yankees are three games back of the wild card, and 5.5 back in the division, while the Rangers are 6.5 back in the wild card and 12 back in the division. Moreover, we're far enough into the season that run differential matters, and the Rangers are -30 while the Yankees are +54. The Rangers do have a more favorable home-road split remaining, but he doesn't use this to make his point. It seems that we're supposed to believe him primarily on the evidence that he said so, with secondary evidence that they have a high waiver priority than the Yankees. A higher waiver priority is not nothing, but it's unlikely to be enough for the Rangers to make up the 3.5 games they're behind the Yankees, let alone the 6.5 for the wild card.

One other thing I think I neglected to mention: Barry Zito nearly made it through July without a loss. After losing 12 games in the first three months, his only July loss came in his last start of the month, and he's 3-1 since June, with a not terribly impressive 3.77 ERA (coming in three games in San Francisco, one at Shea, and one at San Diego -- pitchers' parks, all, with only one opponent with a good offense (Mets)).


Friday, August 01, 2008

Trade Deadline Thoughts

I seem to recall a Jayson Stark column from about a month ago stating that the trade deadline is overrated, that big deals rarely get done. I agree -- those big names rarely move, at least in any sort of quantity. This year was one of those rare years.

Stretching back to early July, we've seen CC Sabathia, Rich Harden, Mark Teixeira, Ken Griffey, Jr., Manny Ramirez, and Ivan Rodriguez all change teams, along with lesser names like Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte, and Jon Rauch. The first four players of the former group, along with the four players of the latter group, all had a fairly high level of trade buzz, so it's not surprising that any of them got traded, though it's surprising that all of them did. Ramirez wasn't really on anyone's trade radar until this week, and there was a mixed level of trade expectation right through the deadline (and mixed reports coming out right past the deadline, as well, since it wasn't formally announced until an hour later ... I heard someone saying that the Dodgers got Bay, along with the then-rumors of the Dodgers getting Ramirez, which, combined, seemed ... unlikely). Ivan Rodriguez to the Yankees seemed to take everyone by surprise; there were some rumors about the Marlins trying to acquire him, though.

I believe the biggest trade winner has to come down to the Cubs, Brewers, or Yankees. The Cubs and Brewers each added a frontline starter, which can be huge for the playoffs (the Brewers also added Ray Durham, who could be useful, but is unlikely to make a major impact). The Yankees shored up their outfield and catching with Nady and Rodriguez, and subtracted Farnsworth from their bullpen while adding Marte. While Rodriguez's reputation outstrips his ability now, he's still an upgrade over whichever Molina brother the Yankees are trotting out there (Jose, I think), and while Farnsworth isn't the horrible pitcher that fans and the media often portray him as (3.65 ERA in the American League, with a home pallpark that favors hitters, and nary a blown save this season), the Yankees were eager to acquire a quality lefty reliever (Marte had a 3.47 ERA with the Pirates, so I wouldn't say he's better than Farnsworth, just lefty). The Yankees filled every hole they have except starting pitching, and they do have Hughes and Kennedy rehabbing in the minors, who should each pitch better than their early-season-(injured-)selves, plus there's the possibility of an August deal for Washburn (who's certainly not close to the Sabathia/Harden caliber, but I'd trust him more than Sidney Ponson).

The biggest deadline oddity, aside form the Astros' seeming belief that they were a Randy Wolf and a LaTroy Hawkins away from playoff contention, is probably the lack of moves from the Mariners. They moved Rhodes, sure, but big deal (or, perhaps I should say, small deal). Obviously, it's hard to move an injured player (Bedard), but they should have moved Ibanez or someone. Perhaps the lack of action is due to uncertainty in the ownership (they're selling, I believe), and a GM with the word interim hung around his neck.

The Teixeira trade provides much of the offensive upgrade the Angels needed. The Griffey trade ... well, that one was just odd. I'm rather surprised that anyone took Griffey.

In non-trade news, the Cubs had a four-game sweep of the Brewers, in Milwaukee. This was very important for the Cubs, as the Brewers had pulled into a tie for first before the series (though they were one game out when the series started, as the Cubs had won and the Brewers lost on Sunday).

Updating a previous item, I mentioned that three players had previously surpassed the former strikeout record in a single season before; I guessed early 1950's, but should have remembered it was the early 1960's. With the expansion to 162 games a season, the strikeout record fell in 1961, 1962, and 1963, with the last year containing what were the three highest strikeout seasons of all time. The records of 1961 and 1962, plus one of the 1963 marks (off the top of my head, 141, 142, and 144), were below the per-game level of the previous record of 138 which had been held by Vince Dimaggio. In a ten-year stretch, the strikeout mark went from 138 to the 189 of Bobby Bonds in 1970.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Mid-Season Baseball Report

I meant to do a half-season update around the all-star break, but, well, didn't.

Speaking of the all-star break, Uggla's performance was really something. His three errors, three strikeouts, and a GIDP were not only unprecedented in All-Star history, but, according to Elias, has never happened in a regular-season or post-season game, either.

Back on the game, I wasn't able to watch it as I was working that night, but I do have a radio at work and was able to listen to part of it. I listened starting in the bottom of the second, heard several innings, stopping shortly before the American League scored their first run. fter attending to other matters, I turned it back on in the bottom of the eleventh and listened through to the end. It was quite an amazing game; I only wish it had gone on a bit longer, as another inning or two would have brought position players in to pitch. On the radio, the announcers had started to mention the possibility of another tie, which, while very unpleasant, at least would have been more defensible than the 12-inning one from a few years ago. In some post-game write-up, I read that Bud Selig was basically ordering them not to let it end in a tie, but as that was not widely reported, and not sourced in the article, it might have been merely conjecture.

On the ever-exciting strikeout front, Ryan Howard has slowed down his pace, but should still pass 200, with a current projection of 212. However, he might not even lead the majors with that figure, as Jack Cust has picked up his pace, and is currently projected to wiff 206 times. They might not even be the only players joining a newly-minted 200-strikeout club, as Mark Reynolds is on pace for 197. Three players passing the single-season strikeout record would be pretty amazing, but it actually would not be unprecedented. My notes on the matter are currently at work, but there was one season, I think in the early 1950's, which saw three or four players surpass the previous record. The strikeout record also seems to be broken in spurts, with several consecutive or near-consecutive seasons seeing it broken followed by the record laying dormant for a decade or three. Again, my notes on the matter are at work. Perhaps I shall retrieve them and make a post on the history of the strikeout record. The Diamondbacks were on pace to become the first team with three players to each strikeout 160 times or more, but the injury to Justin Upton will hurt their chances, unless he's activated very soon (Chris Young has also fallen a rounding error behind the pace).

My beloved Cubs still have the best record in the National League, though not the majors anymore. However, they're only one game ahead of the Brewers in the division, with the Cardinals not far behind. As they've played better at home than on the road, I'm hoping they can pull it out and win the division, though, failing that, I'm confident they can hold off the Cardinals (and other also-rans) for the wild card.

The Diamondbacks have unsurprisingly fallen back to Earth. That entire division is an unbelievable mess, especially considering that it was considered one of the strongest in baseball entering the year. The Dodgers would have an easier time winning if they dumped Andruw Jones. They need to sign a new center fielder this offseason -- third time's the charm. One of the biggest surprises in the division is that Greg Maddux only has three wins. He's nowhere near his old self, true, but he hasn't pitched that poorly this year, he's just received poor run support.

In the NL East, the race between the Mets and Phillies has been good; I think the Marlins aren't really legitimate contenders, and the Braves have been very unlucky. Johan Santana has not rebounded from what was, for him, a subpar year last year, but he's still been very good; unfortunately, too many people look at won-loss to determine how good he's been, without realizing that he's received atrocious run support.

In the AL East, we've gone through the annual ritual of all the pundits, and many fans, considering the Yankees out of the race by Memorial Day. Currently, however, they're three games back of the Rays for the division, and two games behind the Red Sox for the wild card. They've had more than their share of injury problems (Matsui, Posada, and Hughes being the most notable long-term injuries, plus a slew of shorter ones), and players giving subpar performances (most notably their double-play combination of Jeter and Cano, and their two rookie starting pitchers in their opening day rotation, Hughes and Kennedy), but they're quite in it, and just picked up Nady and Marte from the Pirates, which should be a boost. The bird teams aren't really worth talking about, except perhaps to note that Halladay has been awesome, with seven first-half complete games, which ties his second-best single-season performance, and gives him a good chance at his first 10 CG season.

The AL Central has been one of the screwiest divisions (along with the NL West; I can't quite decide which is screwier). The White Sox have played well above their level, and the Indians well below theirs (though bad luck has factored in the latter team's performance). The Tigers have fallen short of the expectations of even those who knew their pitching wasn't good enough to match the pre-season hype surrounding the team. The Twins have played better than most people predicted, but they seem to have a habit of doing that.

The AL West is the only division with four teams that are off their run-differential expected won-loss records by at least four games -- a fact made more impressive by it being the only division with only four teams. The Angels exceed theirs by eight games, the Rangers by five, while the Athletics fall short by five games and the Mariners by four. While the Mariners, like the Tigers, were overhyped entering the year, they, like the Tigers, have greatly underperformed even the more level-headed predictions of their performance. It looks like Thigpen's save record is finally falling, as Francisco Rodriguez already has 43 saves and is on pace for 68, which would shatter the current mark of 57. I've always been amazed that the record hasn't fallen sooner. Thigpen was always sort of an odd holder for that record, too, as his career save total (off the top of my head) was only 201. Actually, I decided to go look him up; I was right on his career saves total, but as for single-season totals, he only had three other 25-save seasons, which came in at 34, 34, and 30. The fifty save mrk has been reached nine other times (including twice each of Mariano Rivera and Eric Gagne), and the closest anyone has come is 55 (Gagne in 2003 and Smoltz in 2002). For all practical purposes, save records began in 1990, and that's when Thigpen set the record (shattering the previous record of 46). A quick glance over the leaderboard shows only Jeff Reardon, Dave Righetti, Dennis Eckersley, Dan Quissenberry, Bruce Sutter, Steve Bedrosian, and Mark Davis (who wins the "one of these things doesn't belong" prize, as he had less than 10 career saves) reaching the 40-save mark before 1990, with twice each for Quisenberry and Reardon, for a total of nine. The years 1990-2007 saw 101 40-save seasons, plus nine players are on pace for 40 saves this season alone (including Rodriguez).

In other news, I've heard that a sticking point in trade talks to acquire Brian Roberts is the Cubs don't want to give up Jason Marquis; if true, I only have this to say: "Give him away! Give him away now!" Marquis is ... not good. Roberts, on the other hand, is good. The only problem I really see in acquiring Roberts would be where to put all the players, but I see the most likely solution being keeping Theriot at short, Soriano in left, moving Fukudome to center, and DeRosa to right, with Lee, Roberts, Ramirez, and Soto occupying first, second, third, and catcher, respectively and obviously.

The Diamondbacks seemed to get Rauch pretty cheaply from the Nationals, and the Yankees did likewise with Nady and Marte from the Pirates. While the return was low, at least the teams seemed smart enough to trade them for something. The Nationals have been hanging onto their players at the deadline recently, and signing some to unwise contract extensions (the trend has continued this year with Christian Guzman). The Pirates ... well, they're just a mess in every which way.

The Astros are delusional and decided to add Randy Wolf.

The Phillies got Joe Blanton, who is terribly overrated. An improvement over Adam Eaton, sure, but that's really all the team can say it did: improve their fifth starter.

The Brewers acquired Ray Durham while they were playing the Giants. I'd like to see a repeat of an event that's previously happened -- though I can't recall when, what teams, or what players -- with two teams trading players between games of a doubleheader against each other.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Dress Up As a Cow and Other Links

Dress up as a cow today, and Chik-Fil-A will give you a free meal. I'm sure you've all been looking for an excuse to bring your cow costume out of storage.

A court in the United Kingdom has ruled that Pringles are not potato chips. Potato chips are subject to a steep tax there (17.5%), so Proctor & Gamble is happy with this ruling. In other news across the pond, toddlers who dislike ethnic food are racist. If you know a toddler that complains about such food, turn him over to the thought police immediately. The United Kingdom's top judge says that Sharia law should be used there. Also, the moon was mistaken for a UFO. It was not flying, it was orbiting, so I guess that made it, for a time, a UOO.

The definitive ruling is out: toilet paper should be hung in the overhand fashion.

Some Germans plan to give the vote to babies. Given how seriously they seem to be taking the vote, babies could not take it any less seriously.

We have yet another example of the incompetence of state-run health care, this time from Canada.

The New Yorker has a story on itching. What interested me most was not the story so much as the last paragraph of the first section (right before the second oversized I): a woman scratched through her skull and into her brain.

For those of you tired of nudist squirrels, Archie McPhee sells squirrel underpants. They sell some interesting things there. I must admit, on a past visit to their site, I was very intrigued by the idea of purchasing a set from the Cubes collection and setting it up in my cubicle at work.

A woman was found in her home in Croatia recently -- 42 years after she died.

The Virginian-Pilot will publish a list of "dumb laws" one year from now (check the copyright date at the top). However, some of the laws strike me as reasonable. There's a law against driving your car on sidewalks, for example. There's apparently a law in Tallahassee allowing sex with porcupines (though I wonder if that was a typo); personally, I think anyone who does is likely to get what they deserve.

If any pro-abortion person tries to argue that nobody uses abortion as birth control, show them this table from the Centers for Disease Control showing that 8% of abortions are performed on women who have had at least three previous ones. More surprising are other tables showing that nearly a fifth of abortions are performed on married women (for those whose race was listed as "other", this rises to over one third), over 12% are performed on women who have had at least three kids (from live births), and over 10,000 were performed after some level of viability had been attained.

Chess boxing has become popular. Well, okay, not popular, but some people are doing it.

One link I've had sitting around for quite awhile: The Omaha Royals are threatening to move if the city builds a new stadium. Yes, that's right -- if they do build a new stadium.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cubs Acquire Harden

I have some mixed feelings about the Harden acquisition. On the one hand, he can be quite dominant. On the other, he's often injured. As a Cubs fan, I've seen this a lot recently with Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. After both being reasonably healthy in 2003 (healthy enough to only narrowly avoid a trip to the World Series), the last four years have seen plenty of injuries to those two, and Prior hasn't thrown a pitch this year, and won't -- but he's not our problem anymore.

I like Matt Murton, and because of that, I was actually glad to see him go. I know that sounds odd, but the Cubs have misused him and he deserves a shot to play regularly, which I think he'll get in Oakland.

Sean Gallagher is the one player I have some regrets about giving up. He's pitched fine in ten starts this year (not great -- don't misunderstand me), and he's only 22. In fact, compare the season he's had so far with Harden's season when he was 22: 58 2/3 innings with 58 hits, 6 homers, 22 walks, and 49 strikeouts to 189 2/3 innings with 171 hits, 16 homers, 81 walks, and 167 strikeouts. Also, Oakland's park is pitcher-friendly, while Wrigley Field is hitter-friendly. Gallagher has a much smaller sample size, of course, but his rates compare pretty well with Harden's from the same age. I'd also like to point out that Harden's age-22 season was his only, as yet, "full" season, when he made 31 starts (he has yet to make 20 in any other season). I've seen the Mulder trade mentioned, in which Oakland traded the big-name pitcher and got Dan Haren back (who has since made his own name big). Gallagher is the one player who could make the Cubs regret this trade. The Cubs should have tried some sleight of hand to get Billy Beane to take Jason Marquis instead.

Eric Patterson had only very limited major league playing time with the Cubs. He didn't hit particularly well (.239 AVG, .348 SLG in 46AB over the last two years) but did draw five walks this year, which makes him better qualified to bat leadoff than Alfonso Soriano.

I don't have much to say about Josh Donaldson, the minor-league catcher the Cubs gave up; I heard that he wasn't performing up to expectations, but he was only drafted last year (I think), so we'll see.

As for Chad Gaudin, the reliever the Cubs also acquired in the deal, he doesn't seem particularly special. He's not a bad reliever, certainly, but not someone who has me particularly excited, either. He was used as a starter earlier in the year, and had four quality starts (three of which were good) and two starts in which he fared ... less well. He wasn't severely pounded in either of those two starts, though.

As a side note, I noticed that ESPN has already changed their picture for Harden to reflect his new team, but has not done so for any of the other players.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Lots of Links

I haven't posted in awhile, so here are some of the various links that I've collected since last time.

Researchers have discovered George Washington's boyhood home. It turns out that it was on the farm he had lived on.

A man saved a bear from drowning. That headline might go beyond "man bites dog" territory.

Fred Thompson has an excellent take on the lousiness of the recent Boumediene v. Bush Supreme Court ruling (the recent Gitmo case). Are we sure that it's too late to make him our presidential nominee?

Will Smith believes that Barack Obama has made it good to be an American again. For those of us that remember some of the inane racial commentary from a few episodes of his tv show, this is hardly surprising.

Peder Zane documents the joys of biking to work, in video form.

It turns out that wind power is unreliable, pricier, and emits more carbon dioxide than promoters would have you believe. It's less surprising to those of us who have been following the matter. Money quote: "Windfarm output is never zero. Sometimes it's less."

A UK muslim man is outraged that his wife's driving instructor was a man undergoing a sex change instead of a woman. In other UK sex change news, the procedure was approved for a 12-year-old girl. I would say that the girl should see a psychiatrist instead, but their profession actually supports such procedures. Honestly, how many more obvious indicators of psychological problems are there than not being able to cope with your own gender?

Leftist wacko -- err, Democrat Congresswoman Maxine Waters threatened to nationalize America's oil industry.

The search for the Titanic was actually a cover-up for the search for sunken nuclear submarines.

Christians are not welcome in certain areas of Britain. Police there would rather roll over and die than do their job.

For those who have a National Journal subscription, or, much more likely, access to computers that do (e.g., ASU's computing commons), you can see that the much-hyped claims that one quarter of teenage girls have an STD are false.

The music video that's taking the world by storm: I Will Derive (to the tune of I Will Survive).

A Frenchman spent fifteen years creating a miniature version of Paris in his backyard.

Cracked takes a look at five strange holidays.

A video showing how to balance seventeen dominos on a single domino, for all those times in your life when you need that skill.

Scientists are hard at work trying to harness the energy of breast motion. At least, that's what they claim they're doing.

A car that runs on water.

Human ovulation caught on film, and tests for new moon rovers, in this video from New Scientist.

Someone built a LEGO Kennedy Space Center with 750,000 bricks. It includes a space shuttle that's over six feet long, and the entire complex is over 1,500 sqare feet. Lower on the page is a 1,300,000-brick soccer stadium, complete with 30,000 mini-figs. A group of British LEGO employees assembled a group of 35,310 Star Wars Clone Troopers that somehow raised money to benefit the National Autistic Society. Also in the UK, a record for tallest LEGO tower was set, at approximately 100ft. Back stateside, a LEGO boulder was produced, a la Indiana Jones, and rolled down a hill in San Francisco ... into a car.

The results of all mythbusters episodes in one handy location. It's not quite as fun as watching the show.

High-tech Japanese toilets consume 4% of household energy there, and other neat facts.

You can use a 9-volt battery to up your brain power. I can't wait for the first person who realizes that it doesn't up their brain power enough, with tragedy ensuing.

A city council has decided to dye dog poo pink in an effort to shame the owners into cleaning up after their dogs. This does not strike me as a successful policy, but it does strike me as an amusing one.

A video knife safety guide. The fourth video really does make me want a knife.

A bar graph of tooth loss by state. Unsurprisingly, southern and border states lead the way. The most tooth loss outside that region is in Kansas. Most-toothed state is Connecticut, followed by Utah.

Italian soldiers are being beaten up by a 77-year-old Japanese woman. I'm not sure if it says more about the soldiers or the woman.

Photographs showing change in New York City skyline c.1883 and 1930.

An overview of New Jersey Governor Corzine's efforts to use fiscal pressure to get small towns in his state to merge, under the rationale that small towns are fiscally inefficient. He wants to see minimum populations of 10,000, but the cost per capita only goes up for much smaller towns (under 2,000 population), and the lowest cost per capita is in towns of 6,000-15,000. Perhaps he should force larger towns to break up as well, while he's at it.

An old story about an attorney who accidentally sued himself.

The out-of-control parent trend has hit Japan, where one school play had 25 Snow Whites because selecting only one girl for the title role would be "unfair".

German nursing homes are using fake bus stops to stop Alzheimer's patients from wondering off.