Called On The Carpet

Called On The Carpet (@ Scrawlers)

The door was nearly ripped from its hinges. Rushing down the steps, I take the last five in a single leap and hit the ground running. Behind me I can hear my pursuers slowly gaining.

Caught, I find myself counting my steps as I climb the stairs. Normally, I would take them two at a time but my feet are insistent on providing me more time to imagine the upcoming humiliation. If I had taken that approach when I started on this mission of mayhem I probably wouldn’t be five steps away from that foreboding door.

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Some Strings

New Music

Wendy Sutter – Songs and Poems for Solo Cello (Philip Glass) – I’m a fan of cello music (as a cello player myself) so this was on my wish list for a bit.  In the spirit of this acquisition, I present you with a non-random list of cello/small ensemble music I enjoy.  I’m sure there is some great cello music out there that I’m missing, so if you’re so inclined, leave any recommendations in the comments.

1. Yo-Yo Ma – Suite #2 in D minor, Prelude (J. S. Bach)

2. Kronos Quartet – Tenebrae (Osvaldo Golijov)

3. Wendy Sutter – Song V (Philip Glass)

4. Zoe Keating – We Insist

5. Apocolyptica – Farewell

Random Ten Songs

Nirvana – Curmudgeon
Nine Inch Nails – Something I Can Never Have
Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze
White Stripes – Fell In Love With a Girl
Led Zeppelin – Celebration Day
Counting Crows – Up All Night
Wendy Sutter – Song VI (Philip Glass) – I swear this happened randomly
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead – Witches Web
Foo Fighters – Time, Love, and Tenderness
(hed) P. E. – Swan Dive

Two Videos

Yo-Yo Ma – Suite #2 in D minor, Prelude (J. S. Bach)

Zoe Keating – Tetrishead

A Win, A Loss, and A Draw

Last Saturday – Aston Villa 2, Sunderland 1

Would have been fantastic to earn a point here, and from what I read it sounded like they played well enough. Of course points are tough to come by against Aston Villa and the rest of the EPL’s top five teams. In the last two years, those 5 teams have taken points in each of the 16 matches against the Black Cats, with only 2 draws (Arsenal this season, Aston Villa last year).

Record against top-5 Goals For Goals Against
Arsenal 0-2-1 3 5
A. Villa 0-3-1 3 6
Liverpool 0-3 0 6
Man U 0-3 0 6
Chelsea 0-3 0 8

This Saturday – Blackburn 0, Sunderland 0 (FA Cup)

Ugh, we get another match against Blackburn (5th of the year, so far both sides 1-1-2) next week (Wednesday). This scoreless draw wasn’t really what we were looking for, but considering neither Kenwyne Jones nor Djibril Cisse started, it’s not terribly surprising. With the rematch being the 4th of 5 games in two weeks, it’s possible they will rest again. Blackburn is in the same boat, schedule-wise, so it will be interesting to see who plays and who sits.

Winner of the rematch gets Coventry City in the next round. Coventry is currently in the middle of the pack in the Champions League, and are one of nine non-EPL teams remaining in the FA Cup.

Tuesday – Fulham 0, Sunderland 1

Kenwyne Jones was the story of the day. First off he signed a 4+ year deal to stay with Sunderland, quelling rumors of interest from other clubs. Then he knocked in a rebound to give Sunderland a big win. With that they are 5 points clear of relegation, with 8 clubs below them in the standings. That win makes this a positive week and a half, but there are still plenty of goals left to be accomplished.

With 15 matches to go, the Black Cats have 9 of the current top 10 clubs remaining on the schedule, if they want to get to 42 points (the relegation cutoff hasn’t been higher than 42 in the last seven years) they still need another 16 points. Other than the teams currently ahead of them in the league standings, they have 6 matches (i.e. – 18 possible points) against West Brom., Stoke, Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle, Portsmouth, and Bolton, all in the bottom half of the EPL standings. 16 of 18 points in those games is a tough task, so either points need to be stolen against the top teams, or they need wins in winnable matches, starting with the Wear-Tyne derby this weekend against Newcastle.

With two wins this week, the Cats will be on to the round of 16 in the FA Cup, will have swept rival Newcastle in derbies this season, and will be well clear of relegation. Not to get too far ahead of myself, but that would be pretty sweet.

Bullpen Usage

At the WGOM, ubelmann posited:

It would be interesting to chart something like winning percentage for home teams with an R run lead going into the 9th inning vs. season. I feel like I haven’t seen that anywhere? That would seem to be a strong indicator of whether or not modern bullpen usage is better than old-school bullpen usage.

That seemed like something I could jump on.

From 1977 to 2006, WE for th home team with a 1-run lead entering the 8th or 9th inning.

we-relieversNumbers from here.  Compare these numbers to this graph of bullpen usage to get an idea of when the philosophy changed concerning closers, and you get some surprising results.

1977 – 1989 (over 40% SV = 1+ IP)  –  9 of 14 seasons above average at preserving 1-run leads in the ninth. (2561 out of 2925 – 87.56% of leads preserved)

1990-2006 (over 40% SV = 1 IP)  –  4 of 16 seasons above average at preserving 1-run leads in the ninth. (3133 out of 3651 – 85.81% of leads preserved)

An artifact of a more offensive era, or a refutation of the current bullpen template of the closer as a “9th inning only” guy?

I lean toward the former, but it is pretty interesting that there’s a lack of a convincing argument for the modern bullpen.

Wild at the All-Star Break

Add one more thing to the list of things that mildly irritate me. Namely, when people compare the records of two teams that have played a different number of games. For most of the year the Wild have played about 2 or 3 games less than the Canucks, but everyone consistently places the Wild on the brink of the all important eighth position in the conference, well behind Vancouver, regardless of the fact that Minnesota has lost less games. So I generally keep track of losses (i.e. – missed points). That way if a team that is ahead in this regard wins the rest of their games, they finish ahead.

Right now the Northwest Division looks like this:

Calgary   = -32 pts (14 losses, 4 OT/SO losses)
Edmonton  = -41 pts (19 losses, 3 OT/SO losses)
Minnesota = -43 pts (20 losses, 3 OT/SO losses)
Vancouver = -45 pts (19 losses, 7 OT/SO losses)
Colorado  = -47 pts (23 losses, 1 OT/SO loss)

And the Western Conference like this:

San Jose    = -17 pts
Detroit     = -24 pts
Calgary     = -32 pts
Chicago     = -32 pts
Edmonton    = -41 pts
Minnesota   = -43 pts
Phoenix     = -43 pts
Dallas      = -43 pts
---------------------
Vancouver   = -45 pts
Columbus    = -45 pts
Anaheim     = -47 pts
Colorado    = -47 pts
Los Angeles = -47 pts
Nashville   = -49 pts
St. Louis   = -50 pts

That’s not a lot of space between 5th and last in the conference.

Looking back at the post-lockout standings at the midseason break, we get the following data.

2007-2008

(playoff teams in bold)


Detroit     = -24
San Jose    = -37
Minnesota   = -41
Calgary     = -42
Vancouver   = -43
Phoenix     = -44
Colorado    = -44
Dallas      = -45
-----------------
Nashville   = -45
St. Louis   = -45
Anaheim     = -46
Columbus    = -46
Chicago     = -50
Edmonton    = -53
Los Angeles = -60

2006-2007

(playoff teams in bold)

Nashville   = -27
San Jose    = -32
Anaheim     = -32
Detroit     = -33
Dallas      = -37
Calgary     = -38
Vancouver   = -40
Colorado    = -43
-----------------
Minnesota   = -44
Edmonton    = -46
Phoenix     = -50
St. Louis   = -50
Columbus    = -55
Chicago     = -55
Los Angeles = -62

2005-2006

(playoff teams in bold) – an Olympic year, so the break was later allowing for less shifting in the standings.

Detroit     = -31
Dallas      = -37
Calgary     = -41
Nashville   = -42
Vancouver   = -47
Colorado    = -48
Edmonton    = -48
Anaheim     = -49
-----------------
San Jose    = -50
Los Angeles = -51
Minnesota   = -55
Phoenix     = -60
Columbus    = -68
Chicago     = -70
St. Louis   = -71

Wow, 21 of 24 playoff teams in the last three years were at least tied for the eigth spot in the conference at the break.  The other 3 teams were a combined 3 points out of that 8 spot.  So it would seem to indicate that you had better have it figured out by the break, because we haven’t seen any team pour it on after to get in to the playoffs.

However, as tempting as it is to read too much into that and declare this year’s playoff teams set (after all, nobody is within one point of the eight seed, making those insurmountable leads, right?), I’m going to hold off on that for now.

Friday Music Post

My trip back to Minnesota was a fruitful one musically. These albums took me away from my ’80s kick for a little bit, but variety is the spice of life they tell me.

Black Keys – Thickfreakness – You know what you’re getting with a Black Keys album.  More not-quite-clean blues rock from these two as I get closer to completing the collection.
Foo Fighters – Skin and Bones – Apparently this came out is 2006, but I wasn’t aware of it.  There are a lot of the Foo Fighter favorites on this one, and the “unplugged” arrangements are interesting in general.
Radiohead – The Best Of – Not an enormous Radiohead fan, but my brother just got this for Christmas, so since it was laying around, I made a copy for myself.  Time will tell whether I ever listen to it.
R.E.M. – Out Of Time – Long ago I had this album, along with a bunch of other R.E.M. albums, so I’m glad I’m getting a chance to once again add this back into my collection.
R.E.M. – Accelerate – I was in an R.E.M. kind of mood.  Haven’t listened to this one yet.

Random Ten Songs

Radiohead – The Bends
Counting Crows – Recovering the Satellites
Queens of the Stone Age – 3’s and 7’s
Soul Asylum – Promises Broken
Tool – Undertow
Minus the Bear – I Lost All My Money at the Cock Fights
A.F.I. – The Last Kiss
The Clash – London Calling
Propellerheads – Cominagetcha
Foo Fighters – Home

Couple of Videos

Foo Fighters – Everlong

R.E.M. – Low

Sign Backstrom Now: Hockey Day ’09

Over the weekend, my wife and I drove back to Minnesota for some time with my family.  As we got there on Saturday, we took in my brother’s hockey game against Dodge County (he plays predominantly JV as a freshman, but he scored a hat trick in the JV game, and got to dress and play in the varsity game as well).  After those two games, we hadn’t come anywhere close to sating our desire for hockey.  Fortunately, my parents bought us tickets to the Wild v. Ducks.  The seats were in the upper deck, and our view was fantastic.  We could see the whole ice and watch plays develop and everything.

img_00121

Plus I got to test out the zoom on our camera.

img_0010That right there is Nicklas Backstrom, who was the only reason that the Wild were still in this game after two periods.  I know a lot of debate has been heard recently about the advisability of signing him when he becomes a free agent this summer.  And I also know the argument that the Wild system benefits goalies’ stats by limiting opportunities.  After that game (and the one that followed against Chicago on Monday night), it seems obvious to me that Backstrom is an elite goaltender, and it’s not going to work for the Wild to just plug in the next prospect (in this case Josh Harding).  It sounds like I’m basing this on only a couple of games, and while it is true that I haven’t seen the Wild play as much as some people, the last couple of days only confirmed what I already believed concerning Backstrom.  I think that Harding would be a reasonably good goaltender if given the majority of the minutes, but he wouldn’t provide the same level of play Wild fans have grown accustomed to from Backstrom.

img_0014

Unfortunately, Backstrom would not be able to win this one singlehandedly.  While Derek Boogaard got seemingly every other shift in the second and third period (seriously? you’re down by a goal or two and you think Boogaard will make a difference?), the Wild failed to mount many scoring opportunities.

img_0013After a while the Ducks wore down the Wild in their defensive zone and banged home a couple of goals to make the final 3-0.  Hockey day was great because I got to take at least one game of my brother’s first high school season, but on the professional side of things there was altogether too much of this.

img_0016

Lena’s Last Request Was To Be Buried At Sea

This one was difficult, mostly because Bradbury’s story (on the surface) is about an old guy’s erection.  Sorry, that just didn’t really inspire me.  I eventually landed on laughter as the theme for the story.

Lena’s Last Request Was To Be Buried At Sea (@ Scrawlers)

Living with someone for an extended period of time, one starts to develop an awareness of an internal scale of transgressions.  I know, depending on the stoniness of the silence, how long it will take you to let me off the hook.  Although at times it can be a bit of a risk, if I can make you laugh, I know there’s a chance that it will all be forgotten by bedtime.

With that in mind, I have prepared for you an interpretive dance entitled, “I Didn’t Know Your Mother Found Ole and Lena Jokes Offensive”.  Please enjoy.

Oh, and the punchline is that Ole drowned trying to dig her grave.

Weekly Music Post

Continuing my recent fascination with music from the 80’s, I bought two new albums this week:

Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking

Pixies – Doolittle

So far I like them both, although neither is entirely what I expected.  I guess I always thought of Jane’s Addiction as much more punk than they actually are on this record, so I liked the hard rock of Nothing’s ShockingDoolittle is full of quirky songs, but there are some good ones on there.  I haven’t listened to either album enough to form anything more than a first impression, so other thoughts will have to wait.

Random 10 Songs

Led Zeppelin – Bring It On Home
Korn – Faget
The Offspring – Not the One
Nirvana – Milk It
The Mars Volta – Cassandra Geminni
Dredg – Hungover on a Tuesday
Rage Against the Machine – No Shelter
Audioslave – Out of Exile
Led Zeppelin – Hot Dog
Foo Fighters – Enough Space

A Couple Videos
Buraka Som Sistema – Sound of Kuduro

Embedding disabled, so here’s the link.

Jane’s Addiction – Mountain Song

Bullpen WPA

In the offseason, I think most Twins fans would agree that the bullpen is an area that the front office should be looking to improve. After Pat Neshek’s injury last season, the bullpen became a bit shorthanded, and everyone had to step up and pitch in situations that were a step up from what we had expected at the beginning of the year.

In an effort to grade how our relievers compared to others in the league, I looked at about 40 relievers, chosen by leverage index (i.e., how high-pressure were the situations they pitched in) and number of appearances. Thus I got a few comparison points for the six relievers used most often out of the Twins bullpen, these are all pitchers used in similar situations a similar amount of time.

To examine their effectiveness, I also tallied the number of appearances that resulted in a negative WPA. If they made it any more difficult for their team to win, I counted it as a negative outing. I also looked at “real bad” performances, which I defined as -0.80 WPA or lower. The -0.8 number is somewhat arbitrary, but 0.8 WPA is credited for closing a game pitching an entire inning with a 2-run lead. So I went with the negative of that value for symmetry’s sake.

Here’s the raw data, color coded to keep those used similarly together.

lev-index

To represent this graphically, everything was converted to percentage of negative WPA appearances.

negative

Also, a plot of the “real bad” performances as percentage of appearances with WPA < -0.8.

real-bad

Joe Nathan is awesome, Mariano Rivera is the only pitcher close to him in these representations.  Dennys Reyes had a lot of negative WPA appearances, although he was good at avoiding the blow-up outings (probably at least partly due to Gardenhire’s propensity to remove Reyes after a batter or two).  Guerrier and Crain both look pretty bad, while Bass is the middle of the road for relievers with his usage pattern (That usage pattern is pretty easy to replace, so not really the area we need outside help).  Breslow also had a pretty good year as far as preventing big, bad outings.

It is obvious that the loss of Neshek created some strain on the remaining members of the bullpen.  Coming into this year, however, Breslow had perhaps the best year last year of those analyzed here, and with Reyes gone, the Twins will need Breslow or Mijares or Crain/Guerrier to step up and improve the somewhat disappointing performance of last season.

Beloit Photos Rescued

snappy After a few months of the family desktop doing its best paperweight impression, I decided it was about time that I try to rescue some of the files off of it. Due to our digital camera going missing about the same time, the last couple of installments of our trips to Beloit never made it onto the internet. So here’s photos from one of two August games up in Wisconsin. It was too long ago for me to provide any meaningful commentary on the game, but I hope you enjoy them regardless. I’ve got another set coming up tomorrow.

August 10: Beloit v. Peoria Chiefs

Ben Revere
Paul Kelly
Rene Leveret
Andrew Schmiesing
Allan de San Miguel
Yangervis Solarte
Ramon Santana
Jeanfred Brito
Henry Reyes
Mark Dolenc
Other Pics

The Weekend That Was

Wild Blue Jackets Hockey

Wild: This is completely anecdotal, and has no basis in fact, it is only my own observation, but whenever a team plays well over a stretch and then loses a game to a good team, people rationalize it with, “oh well, they were playing well, this is surely just a bump in the road, surely they will be right back next game.”  Except then they go out and give up a hat trick to a rookie for the Columbus Blue Jackets and lose 4-1. This always happens.  The Twins win the first two of a series and drop the third and everyone’s thinking 2 of 3 ain’t bad, and then they go out and lose the next series.  Each loss counts the same, you don’t play a different game against the Flyers just because you took 7 of 8 points against some good competition in the last four.

You can’t lose your perspective after every loss, but at the same time I think sometimes a little too much perspective is a bad thing.  Focus on the game in front of you is my advice.  Having said that I’m going to look ahead to the end of the season and say that I am willing to predict right now that this team will not earn anything higher than a 7 seed in the playoffs.  That means a first round date with Detroit or San Jose.  I don’t think any Wild fan likes the chances of success in those series.

On the plus side I’m going to attend the Wild’s home game against the Ducks this upcoming Saturday, so then I’ll be able to see it all first hand.  Perhaps that will make me more optimistic.

Sunderland Black Cats: A late score earned them a draw with Middlesbrough.  I wish they would just rattle off a couple in a row to get themselves a bit more clear of the relegation zone, but at least we earned a point on the road this weekend.  The three teams currently bringing up the rear of the league (Tottenham, Blackburn, and West Brom) combined for zero points, so Sunderland is three points clear in a four-way tie at 23 points (6 wins 5 draws in 21 games).

The Cats have Aston Villa and Fulham remaining in January in addition to an FA Cup matchup with Blackburn.  Hopefully we can get at least 2 or 3 points in the standings and another Cup victory.

thewrestlerposterWent to see The Wrestler on Friday night.  First off, Mickey Rourke is great, I’m not arguing with anything that’s been said about his performance.  Initially, walking out of the theater I was a bit disappointed in the movie as a whole.  But after giving it a couple of days, I think that I have upgraded it from disappointment, to a pretty good movie.  Rourke (Randy the Ram) and his love interest (Marisa Tomei as stripper Pam, stage name Cassidy), both have two personas, but while Pam keeps tightly defined lines around “the club” and “the real world”, Randy only wants the stage persona (witness his anguish when his nametag at his other job uses his given name Robin in the place of Randy).  As he ages and weakens, it’s killing Randy that he can’t hold on to the only part of his life that seems good to him.  He makes an honest effort to embrace the mundane life, but that leads to the mixing of Pam’s two worlds.  How the two of them deal with their alternate personalities and their real-world burdens make the movie interesting.  Initially however, it was easy to get distracted by the brutality of both their careers, and I think that may be why it took me some time to let this movie grow on me.

**We’ve got some baseball stuff coming up this week, so make sure you check back in for that.**

Weekly Music Post

Stealing this idea from Freealonzo at Lost Forest After Dark, here’s 10 random songs from my iPod.

The Offspring – Change the World
Tool – H
Rage Against the Machine – The Ghost of Tom Joad
Yo Yo Ma – J. S. Bach – Unaccompanied Cello Suite #3, Sarabande
Serj Tankian – Elect the Dead
The Replacements – Favorite Thing
A Perfect Circle – Orestes
AFI – A Story at Three
The Cure – There is No If
Portishead – The Rip

And two videos, the songs that I’ve been listening to the most this week.

The Giraffes – “Having Fun”

Meat Puppets – “Lake of Fire”

NHL All-Stars

Nicklas Backstrom is an All-star, Mikko Koivu is not.

Generally, even those outside of Minnesota seem to be including Koivu in their snubs lists, although he’s certainly not the most egregious snub in the Western Conference. Basically it comes down to this. There are 21 spots on the All-Star roster. With 15 teams in the conference guaranteed one spot each, that leaves only 6 spots for teammates. In the west, fan voting resulted in 3 Ducks and 3 Blackhawks, so that took care of 4 of those 6 spots immediately. Thus, the reserves could only include three sets of teammates and Backstrom/Koivu didn’t make the cut (the 2 pairs – Datsyuk/Lidstrom, Boyle/Thornton).

Fan voting probably isn’t going anywhere, so how about a slight modification. The starters are chosen by the fans, but they must come from 6 different teams. This frees up a few more reserve spots and prevents the farce that was the Eastern Conference voting.

Here’s what the starting lineups would look like if that rule were instituted this year (vote totals from Mirtle)

Western Conference Eastern Conference
Kane
Getzlaf
Thornton
Lidstrom
Phaneuf
Luongo
Crosby
Ovechkin
Vanek
Chara
Timonen
Price