MLB 2016 Predictions

I haven’t really written a prediction post in a few years, but being on sabbatical and all, I decided to take a whack. This is odd considering that I don’t have nearly as much time as before to pour over statistics and injury reports and all to make meaningful, baseball-rific predictions. This is not to say that I don’t have a pretty good grasp of teams that are good and bad for 2016, but the stuff in the middle is a little muddy. Anyway, enjoy! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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American League

East: I admit to being a Red Sox fan, but I think all this wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Boston media is overblown. This is a team that has won 3 World Series this century. They also rallied at the end of last season to not be 100% terrible. I have a good feeling. Additionally: the Yankees are due to collapse from old age. I also enjoy that the Orioles are using the ol’ “hit lots of homers” strategy to win. Before I read this, I thought it might be a good plan as I though home runs were down, but hey, I guess I’m wrong.

  1. Boston 90-72 (tiebreaker to Sox)
  2. Toronto 90-72
  3. Tampa Bay 84-78
  4. New York 80-82
  5. Baltimore 75-87

Central: The Indians pitching staff is too good for them not to make a big run and I think this year will be it. Or maybe I just like Mike Napoli. Much like the Yankees, the Tigers are due for an implosion as well.

  1. Cleveland 95-67
  2. Kansas City 87-75
  3. Chicago 81-81
  4. Detroit 79-83
  5. Minnesota 70-92

West: This division is a mess. Well, no. Houston knows where their towels are. The Rangers were surprising last season. That’s why I’m picking Seattle to win the division by a nose because “reasons”.

  1. Seattle 91-71
  2. Houston 90-72
  3. Texas 84-78
  4. Los Angeles 75-87
  5. Oakland 70-92

National League

East: I’m not sure why the Nationals never seem to work, but yeah, the Mets pitching is silly, so unless elbows explode, they will win the division. Also: the Braves and the Phillies are cannon fodder for the league.

  1. New York 94-78
  2. Washington 92-70
  3. Miami 79-83
  4. Atlanta 67-95
  5. Philadelphia 65-97

Central: With this division, you could conceivably have 2 100 game winners and 2 100 game losers. Which would be awesome.

  1. Chicago 100-62
  2. Pittsburgh 95-67
  3. St. Louis 90-72
  4. Milwaukee 61-101
  5. Cincinnati 60-102

West: When I think about it, I honestly don’t want any team to win this division. I do like Dave Roberts, so the Dodgers have it.

  1. Los Angeles 91-71
  2. San Francisco 88-74
  3. Arizona 82-80
  4. San Diego 72-90
  5. Colorado 69-93

Playoffs!

American League

  • Wild Card: HOU over TOR
  • ALDS1: CLE over HOU
  • ALDS2: SEA over BOS
  • ALCS: CLE over SEA

National League

  • Wild Card: PIT over WAS
  • NLDS1: CHC over PIT
  • NLDS2: NYM over LAD
  • NLCS: CHC over NYM

And in the saddest World Series ever:

Cleveland over Chicago

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers

Jun 14, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Francisco Lindor (12) reacts to tripping over first base after he hits a single in the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

 

Favorite Albums of 2015

A funny thing happened in 2015. Looking at the Pitchfork year-end Top 150 albums, I’ve come to realize I have fully diverged from mainstream (well, music-nerd) tastes. Many of the albums on the list below not only missed the Pitchfork top 10, but don’t even get mentioned in the whole top 100. I went through and listened to some of the “best” albums and songs on their lists and yes, I’ve become old. I don’t like them, not one bit. I tried to be open-minded, but Drake is actually terrible. Kendrick Lamar just don’t click with me. I’ve liked plenty of hip-hop/rap albums in the past, but the current sound isn’t working. Maybe I’ve missed the boat and that boat is out to sea and isn’t coming back. I can live with that.

Anyway, with that uplifting introduction, here’s my favorite albums from the year that was.

Honorable Mention

Belle & Sebastian: Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
FFS: FFS
Telepathe: Destroyer
Björk: Vulnicura
Hot Chip: Why Make Sense?

10. Built to Spill: Untethered Moon

9. Matt & Kim: New Glow

8. Dan Deacon: Gliss Riffer

7. Chvrches: Every Open Eye

6. Faith No More: Sol Invictus

5. Father John Misty: I Love You Honeybear

4. Sleater-Kinney: No Cities to Love

3. Desaparecidos: Payola

2. Metric: Pagans in Vegas

1. Grimes: Art Angels

Top Albums of 2014

Yes, it’s the time of the year where I actually post something in this space. So, without further ado, here’s my top 20 albums of 2014. Enjoy.

Honorable Mention. “Weird Al” Yankovic: Mandatory Fun
No explanation required, right?

#20 Timber Timbre: Hot Dreams
Probably helped along a lot by a single really great title song, but worthy of #20.

#19. Vulcano: Live Wild Die Free
The video for “Choir of Wolves” is pretty messed up, but if you can’t have the Knife, this is pretty close.

#18. TV on the Radio: Seeds
Clearly not their best album, but hard to go wrong with TV of the Radio.

#17. Girl Talk/Freeway: Broken Ankles
Girl Talk’s first non-mix album probably didn’t make the impact that he had hoped, but still a fun listen.

#16. Liars: Mess
Sometimes it takes many, many albums to finally get into a band. This was the album that finally did it for me with the Liars. Not sure why.

#15. Iceage: Plowing Into the Field of Love
Speaking of which, sometimes all a band has to do is almost completely change its sound for me to decide I like them. Iceage suddenly decided they were some sort of hybrid between Nick Cave and the Clash rather than a noise rock band and now we’re all good.

#14. Beck: Morning Phase
I’m a Beck-as-balladeer sort of fellow.

#13. Wolfmother: New Crown
I like guitars.

#12. St. Vincent: St. Vincent
See also: Liars.

#11. Rentals: Lost in Alphaville
The dozen of us who have missed the Rentals really had a banner year.

#10. Damon Albarn: Everyday Robots
I liked Damon’s first solo outing. I mean, I liked it, but didn’t love it. Sometimes I wondered if he was dozing off in the recording studio.

#9. Broods: Evergreen
Yes, we’re heard a lot of bands like this over the past few years. Too bad for you.

#8. New Pornographers: Brill Bruisers
It has been a bit since I really enjoyed a NP album, but this one was on the money (at least for a Pornographers’ record made in the last decade).

#7. Spoon: They Want My Soul
Britt Daniel and I are converging, musically. One day soon he’ll make an album that will top my annual list.

#6. Royskopp & Robyn: Do It Again
Synthpop. Glorious, glorious synthpop.

#5. Run the Jewels: 2
Here’s the thing that separates RTJ from other hip-hop albums these days. Listen to (the decidedly NSFW) “Blockbuster Night Part 1”. It starts off as a thunderous, dark and ominous track that then, without even a hint of warning, breaks out a flamenco beat, meshes the moods perfectly, then marches onward.

#4. Hamilton Leithauser: Black Hours
People who know me and my lists of favorite albums for the past decade could assume that if Hamilton recorded an album of spoken word diatribes on international tariffs, it would likely land in my top 5. You’re probably be right.

#3. Afghan Whigs: Do to the Beast
If you had to pick my 1990s-00s version of Hamilton Leithauser, it would be Greg Dulli.

#2. Allo Darlin: We Come From the Same Place
So quietly did you sneak up on me that it took a glance at my most-played songs on iTunes to notice how much I listened to your album.

#1. Aphex Twin: Syro
OK, this list does feel like its populated by a lot of bands of yore that happened to release new material this year. Does this mean that I am no longer in touch with the pulse of new music or that back in the day, things were much better. I dunno, maybe both?

With apologizes, as always, to all the bands you like that I didn’t mention.

Here’s to 2015!

The Grand List of Pseudoscience

This semester I’m teaching introductory geosciences for the first time in almost two-and-a-half years. The central theme that I will be using this time is “science”. OK, that might sound strange, but what I’m hoping is to help student learn how science is done, how to differentiate good science from, ahem, less good science, and how to read science in the media. It is a bit of a philosophical pursuit, where I already have readings planned (amongst the more typical geoscience fare) about cognitive dissonance, statistical analysis and understanding error.

The core of this part of the class will be a paper on pseudoscience — what it is and how to recognize it in popular culture. The goal will be for students to see how “science” is used to try to legitimize pseudoscience but how, ultimately, these fraudulent claims can be disputed. My hope is that this will allow students who never take another science class to at the very least be armed with skills to help them not fall for these charlatans.

So, I asked my wife, friends, wife, colleagues and the Twitterverse what are pseudoscientific topics that could be subjects for these papers. Here is the raw, unfiltered list — the final list will be more refined, where I might combine/split topics and eliminate some — but for now, you can enjoy the full grandeur of today’s “pseudoscience”.

(in no particular order)

  • alchemy
  • intelligent design
  • homeopathy
  • crystal healing/power
  • astrology
  • planetary alignments driving tectonic events
  • creationism
  • expanding Earth
  • hollow Earth
  • dowsing/water witches
  • cryptozoology
  • personality testing
  • phrenology
  • ancient aliens
  • earthquake prediction
  • aliens/abductions/UFOs
  • anti-anthropogenic climate change
  • anti-vaccine
  • yeti/bigfoot
  • chupacabra
  • morphic resonance
  • anti/pro GMO
  • ESP/telepathy
  • vitamins
  • mass human cloning
  • magnetic field reversal disasters
  • Bermuda Triangle
  • Reiki
  • Atlantis
  • Diet fads
  • scientology
  • ghost hunters
  • angels
  • carbon-based oxygen
  • weather control/HAARP
  • acupuncture/chiropractic
  • young Earth
  • Great Flood
  • magnetic/metal/Phiten bands for health
  • cleansing
  • Aura/chakra
  • chemtrails
  • prophecy/Bible codes
  • past lives
  • aromatherapy
  • eugenics
  • paleo/Atkins diets
  • highly advanced ancient civilizations
  • Jersey Devil
  • Deep (non-organic) oil
  • extant dinosaurs
  • Martian civilizations

New additions:

  • Biorhythms
  • Nibiru (or other solar companions/rogue planets)
  • Area 51
  • Global consciousness/Gaia hypothesis
  • cider vinegar diet
  • raelism
  • flat Earth
  • anti-fluorination
  • Apollo landing hoax
  • Earthquake weather

Got more? Feel like something shouldn’t be on the list? Leave me a comment as I work on the final list.

My Favorite Albums of 2013

Yes, once again, my attempt to claim to still have relevance in the world of musical critique. Enjoy!

Honorable Mentions: Waxahatchee: Cerulean Salt; Trophy Wife: Trophy Wife; Pixies: EP1 +  Bagboy

15. The Knife: Shaking the Habitual I had a few albums this year where I really (I mean really) listened the hell out of it for a week or two and then haven’t found the mood to return. Shaking the Habitual is the first of those and also the only one to feature a song about fracking.

14. Sigur Ros: Kveikur I was honestly surprised how much I liked this album, but then I realized that they actually added some pop structure to their sound and, yup, that was it.

13. Franz Ferdinand: Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions A band who is consistently consistent. Can’t tell if that is a good or bad thing. Fun listen, but man, how do you ever live up to a debut like theirs?

12. Charli XCX: True Romance A few songs on this (“Stay Away”, “How Can I”, “You’re the One”) are off the wall. Some of the songs are filler. However, those good songs are great (especially this live version of “Stay Away”).

11. Kanye West: Yeezus Every freaking time with Kanye, I think the album is monumental when I listen to it pretty much nonstop for a few weeks. Then I don’t touch. Then I return and wonder what I heard the first 100 times. Not to say it isn’t a good (and jarring) album, but didn’t even age well over 6 months.

10. The National: Trouble Will Find Me I think in Pitchfork’s year end list, they mention the idea that some folks really want the National to be boring. Maybe I’m one of them because I know I’ve liked almost every National album, but I never feel like I really like that band. I’ve now come to terms with the idea that the National are really good … maybe I just didn’t want to admit they have out Eitzeled Mark Eitzel.

9. The Blow: The Blow No Paper Television, but still an indie pop gem.

8. Chvrches: The Bones of What You Believe I think a theme for me in 2013 (musically) was female-fronted synth pop. Chvrches are really just this year’s version of the Purity Ring, but that didn’t stop me from liking the album.

7. Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels Killer Mike and EL-P. They even released the album for free. What more could you ask?

6. Queens of the Stone Age: … Like Clockwork Maybe two years ago, I wouldn’t have given a new Queens of the Stone Age album a moment’s attention. Yet somehow, I let myself into their back catalog for reasons I can’t fully remember and I found myself enthralled. So, here I am, really digging on the new album, even if at times, it just sounds like late 90’s Urge Overkill.

5. Deltron 3030: Event II Again, another album that must exist in the shadow of its predecessor (and over a decade of hype about a sequel). Not as cohesion and captivating as the original Deltron album, but a very worthy piece in the saga.

4. Tullycraft: Lost in Light Rotation I love them dearly. What else can I say?

3. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City Kind of like the National, Vampire Weekend somehow become a really great band. I mean, you listen to their debut and think “huh, fun … but talk about influences on their sleeves”. Listen to Modern Vampires of the City and you think “huh, this is fabulous.” If I had to pick my favorite single song from 2013, it was probably “Step”.

2. Mikal Cronin: MC II Pure, wonderful, glorious power pop (in the classical Elvis Costello/Matthew Sweet sense). Rivers Cuomo is eating his heart out, likely with a spoon.

1. Arcade Fire: Reflektor The third band on this list that I’ve liked but never like liked. Of course, put them in a room recording with James Murphy and suddenly you take that band I like and turn them into some sort of post-wings Tran Zor Z. Murphy just reinvents the band in front of your ears (?) and you wonder where they’ve been hiding all these years.

There we have it! Here’s to 2014.

Bold Predictions for the 2013 Baseball Season

Sometimes merely picks the teams to win the division and wild card is too random — I mean, I am usually entirely wrong and as predictions go, they’re pretty boring. So, I thought I’d whip up 10 bold predictions for the 2013 season that if they do come true, well, I might need to change careers. Here goes.

  1. Yoenis Cespedes will hit at least 40 HR. It seems like it has been awhile since any Oakland Athletic hit 40 HR. 13 seasons to be exact, when Jason Giambi (still kicking around with the Indians after almost getting named manager of the Rockies) hit 43. Cespedes is in his prime and looked very comfortable in the majors during the second half of 2012.
  2. Houston won’t be the worst team in baseball. The newly-American Leagued Astros have been getting a lot of grief over their AAA roster in the majors right now. However, I think that two teams actually might be worse: the Marlins and the Rockies. Sure, Miami has Giancarlo and Colorado has Troy, but the absolute lack of hitting for the Marlins and utter lack of pitching for the Rockies might put them into the 105+ loss realm.
  3. Joe Girardi will be fired by the end of the season. Here’s a fun one! Sadly, Joe will be the fall guy after Jeter, CC and Teixiera combine for over 162 games on the DL. I find it hard to imagine the 2013 Yankees being much different than the 2013 Red Sox … except there isn’t anyone to take on the Yankees bad contracts.
  4. Seattle makes a run at the playoffs. The Mariners have a few things going for them right now: good pitching, better hitting and closer fences. Of course, they are in a killer division, with the A’s, Rangers and Angels. However, they  will make a run at the end of the summer, but ultimately miss that second wild card by a game or two.
  5. Jacoby Ellsbury is traded by the deadline. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jacoby. He’s a Beaver like me and been a blast to watch when he’s not hurt. Unfortunately for him, his contract (or lack there of) for 2014 and the presence of Jackie Bradley Jr. means that Sox can try to get some value for Jacoby. My hunch might be a 1B prospect.
  6. The Tigers win the AL Central by 10 games or more. The Indians, Royals and White Sox might not like it, but the Tigers might lap the field in the Central. Sure, Cleveland and Kansas City are better than 2012, but too many problems remain. However, one of those teams might make a run at that second Wild Card.
  7. Tim Lincecum has Tommy John surgery. OK, not much of a bold prediction, but something must be wrong with Timmy after dropping off the face of good pitching over the last year.
  8. Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper combine for 75 HR. Distribute the homers as you seen fit, but the Nationals will be a great team in 2013. The Braves will also be a good team, possibly the second best in the NL, but they’ll have to settle for the Wild Card again.
  9. Josh Beckett is traded again at the deadline. Josh wears out his welcome in Los Angeles as the Dodgers underperform yet again. Likely destination: the Royals as they try to make that playoff run (that fails).
  10. Cincinnati bests Toronto in the World Series. It will be a close Series, but in the end, Chapman is able to close the door on the Jays.

My Favorite Music of 2012

Back by popular demand (ok, popular by me), here is my annual post on music I liked in 2012. It isn’t in any particular order, but there are 10-12 songs and/or albums that occupied a large slide of my musical listening for the year.

Some honorable mentions:

Bonnie “Prince” Billy – I See a Darkness

I know a lot of people didn’t like the new “upbeat” version of “I See a Darkness” (here is the original), but I love it.


Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror

I wanted to like this more than I did. However, “Comeback Kid” is a great track.

Jack White – Blunderbuss

Old Mr. Reliable. Nothing shocking, yet nothing bad.

El-P – Cancer 4 Cure

I don’t know why I’m always so wary of El-P albums. I’ve liked them before on the first few listens and then never returned. “The Full Retard” is a great track, albeit very NSFW or NSFKids.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – “Can’t Hold Us”

Nothing against The Heist, but I haven’t had bought the album yet, so it seemed disingenuous to include the whole thing. However, this live version of “Can’t Hold Us” from KEXP is ridiculous. This track is probably one of my top 5 favorite songs on 2012.

The top 10 (not in any order, really)

Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal

Ubertrendy pick. Too bad. Highly listenable. Not sure about its longevity, though.

Aesop Rock – Skelethon

Drop the old producer, and suddenly Aesop Rock is free to be, well, better. Probably one of the bigger surprises of the year for me.

Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

Kind of like my fetish for Xiu Xiu (although I didn’t like this year’s offering nearly as much as their previous work), Dirty Projectors are a love/hate band for most people. Swing Lo Magellan had more “songs”, but still plenty of weirdness.

Japandroids – Celebration Rock

Speaking of “songs”, Celebration Rock turned the Japandroids into arena rockers and it is awesome.

Metric – Synthetica

To be honest, I haven’t particularly liked the last few Metric outings, but for whatever reason, Synthetica stuck with me. Whether that’s a mark for quality music or just catchiness, beats me.

Dum Dum Girls – End of Daze EP

If you’re looking for the highest density of great songs, the End of Daze EP is it. Blows the Dum Dum Girls first two albums out of the water — and that is only with 5 songs to boast.

Hot Chip – In Our Heads

I’ve said this before – Hot Chip are the Pet Shop Boys of the 21st century. Not that the Pet Shop Boys are gone, but, whatever. I’m right. The video for “Night and Day” is trippy as well.

Walkmen – Heaven

I tend to be of the opinion that the Walkmen are the best rock band active today. Just try to prove me wrong.

Ok, so I sort of lied. These next two might have been my two favorite songs of the year.

Alt-J – An Awesome Wave

I probably don’t want to admit how many times I listened to “Breezeblocks” this year. The rest of the album is pretty solid as well, but man, they entered “Take Me Out” territory with this track.

Purity Ring – Shrines

Let me tell you, my new subwoofer loved this song. I can’t really put my finger on it, but if this is the music that people are making in Edmonton, then wow.

I hope everybody has a great 2013!