Beat on the brat with a maple bat

30 06 2008

While I certainly am glad Brian O’Nora is alright after making a baseball game looking like a scene from Macbeth, I’m going to have to call bullshit on the anti-maple bat parade. It may not seem like it at first, but this is a disguised attack from the same baseball purists who don’t want instant replay and somehow believe the D.H. is the bubonic plague.

While maple bats had been around since the 90s, when Joe Carter was the first to use one, the traditional ash bats were by far the most dominant at the major league level. The trend towards maple bats started to begin in 2001, which may or may not have had to do with Barry Bonds hitting 73 home runs using maple bats that year. This combines two of sports columnists’ biggest punching bags: Barry Bonds, and developments in Major League Baseball since Mickey Mantle retired.

Maple bats had traditionally been deemed too heavy to make a bat, until new technologies allowed enough moisture for a bat to be made. While there are no recorded numbers to back up the rise in broken bats (more on that later), it’s obvious to anyone who watches the game that the number of broken bats have increased in recent years.

For many baseball purists, broken bats, and particularly shattered bats, are a new virus in baseball, risking tragedies that everyone knows could occur but have so far yet to happen. There’s certainly a correlation between the rise of maple bats and the rise of broken bats. But most purists have been confusing correlation with causality, when in fact most physicists will attribute the problem to another cause.

Once upon a time, the baseball bat’s diameter would decrease proportionally until you got to the handle. Now, you’re seeing bat handles that are extremely thin and completely out of whack with the thickness of the bat. A baseball bat is more likely to break the further away you go from the sweet spot. In The Physics of Baseball, Yale physics professor Robert Adair noted that bats with thicker handles have larger sweet spots and tend to break less. The thinner handles, increasingly preferred by Major Leaguers who want higher bat speed, results in bats breaking more. Combine the lighter bat craze with batters who have much stronger hands and put more tension in their grips, and you’re going to see more broken bats (and more shattered bats too). The material used to make the bat has little to do with it, and the difference between two types of wooden bats are even less.

So once again, baseball columnists’ purist bias combines with circumstantial evidence to make a case to eliminate a new trend in baseball, a case that has the luxury of a conveniently timed bloody umpire. But if safety was the main concern, why did some columnists slam the MLB for overreacting with the base coach helmet mandate? Someone did actually die from that, after all. If it’s a matter of ecological friendliness, how do you justify the very notion of a baseball game, which is inherently wasteful in ways much worse than what a few bats will change? It’s the hitters, not their tools, that are causing bats to break, and the chances from someone dying or becoming seriously injured from a shattered bat are already a statistical anomaly. The odds become essential zero when you account for the difference in that chance between maple and ash bats.

More players breaking their tools [USA Today]





The Duck retires…

30 06 2008

This is the media release for what’s some pretty big news for those involved in Australian Volleyball (which I once was)…

One of Australia’s most celebrated men’s volleyballers, Dan Howard, has announced his retirement from the National team after Australia’s elimination from the Olympic Volleyball Qualification Tournament in Tokyo.

Howard, 31, regarded as one of the finest middle blockers in the game, represented Australia in both the Sydney and Athens Olympics and his imposing 208cm will be missed, as coach Russ Borgeaud begins his re-building campaign for London 2012.

The Italian-based Western Australian, who has battled both back and knee injuries in this campaign, made the announcement at the team’s final meeting following their 3-0 loss to Iran at Tokyo’s Metropolitan Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon.

Affectionately known as “Duck”, Howard waited until coach Borgeaud and captain Ben Hardy addressed the team, before dropping the bombshell that he had worn the green and gold for the final time.
“You know when it’s time and my body is telling me that another four years would be very tough indeed,” said Howard, who was named as the game’s best attacker after Australia’s eighth place at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
“But in saying that, making a decision to hang up the green and gold shirt after 14 years on the National team was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.
“It has been an amazing journey and I’m going to miss the camaraderie and playing for your country – it’s always very special.
“I am recently married and a man’s priorities change in life and while I will continue to play professionally with my club team in Italy, to devote the time to the National team would be a major strain.
“The travel is hard on the body and you just don’t recover like you used to when you were younger. My back gave me problems earlier in the campaign and I had to have an injection in my knee just to get through the tournament.
“In the professional league you only have to play once a week and there is time to recover and for rehab as well.”

Howard, who has played over 300 games for Australia, since making his debut in 1994, leaves a legacy that will hold Australia in good stead for the next four years.
He has no doubt that the sport is in very exciting hands, with a host of youngsters, who can carry the men’s volleyball flag towards London.

“I have no doubt Australian Volleyball will continue to rise, despite the results here, and the amount of talent in the senior group is very exciting indeed,” said Howard.
“They will all learn from this experience and will be much better players for it – I wish them all the best for what I’m sure will be great future for the men’s team.”
One of those players, South Australia’s big hitter, Nathan Roberts, was named as the Tournament’s second best attacker and he is just one of a host of young players who will take over the reigns left vacant by Howard.

Borgeaud payed tribute to Howard saying that taking the 208cm middle blocker out of the Australian line up will certainly leave a huge gap – in more ways than one.
“Dan has been an absolute ornament to the game and he has been at the forefront of our sport through two Olympic campaigns – a third would have been nice – but it wasn’t to be,” said Borgeaud.
“He will be missed as we start our campaign for London but as he said our team has an exciting future. On behalf of the team and Volleyball Australia I would like to congratulate him on an extraordinary career – he has done himself and Australia proud for over 14 years.”

Howard, who commands attention from the media and fans where ever he goes, will head back to his home in Western Australia this week, before joining his wife in Italy where he will again line up with the famed Acqua Paradiso Gabeca club in Montichiari (Brescia).

In the lead up to the Sydney Olympics, the ABC reported that Howard was recruited to Italian second division team Gioia de Colle in 1998-99, having played the previous season in Germany.
After two seasons with Gioia, he signed with Italian first division club Ferrara for the 2000-01 season. He was the number one blocker after the preliminary rounds of the World League in 1999 and the year before had been recognised as the best blocker at the Canada Cup.

He was regarded as one of the most exciting prospects in the international game and the Sydney Olympics loomed as a chance for Howard to establish himself among volleyball’s elite and he certainly did that with his best attacker award.

Howard first emerged as a 16-year-old playing for Esperance High School in Western Australia in 1993.
He was a part of the junior national team in 1994 and 1995 and joined the Volleyball Team Australia program at the Australian Institute of Sport the following year.

Such was his impact that he immediately became a member of the starting team.
Howard won the Ted Kalkhoven Award as the Australian male volleyball player of the year in 1997 and 1998.
He considers the gold medal as part of the Australian team at last year’s Asian Senior Volleyball Championships and his Sydney and Athens Olympic representation as his greatest achievements in the sport.





Seeking vindication?

29 06 2008

The US Olympic basketball team is seeking to put itself at the top of the heap again after years of looking up at someone else reaping the gold.

With the Olympics less than 2 months away, here’s some of the work done to this point…





Putting more ‘sting’ in New Orleans

28 06 2008

This was another piece written by a guest blogger, someone who knows his team much better than I do – Ryan Schwan of Hornets 247. I asked Ryan to just answer the following question…

What do the Hornets need to do to improve on last season?

The first thing the Hornets need to do is not be satisfied.
The Hornets can’t be the newest version of the Phoenix Suns, who even when they reached the Conference Finals were a clearly flawed team with no bench to speak of. The Hornets didn’t exactly get their off-season going with a bang, either, selling their draft pick to the Portland Trailblazers for cash – and raising another unfortunate comparison to the Phoenix Suns.

The good news is the Hornets don’t need to do much to improve from a very good team to a legitimate contender.
Their starting five is one of the best in the league, and assuming Chris Paul accepts the max extension he’ll be offered, is under contract for the next three years at fairly reasonable prices.
All that’s required is to fill in around that starting five with a trio of capable players: One ball-handler combo guard, one wing, and one big man. The Hornets organization has been willing to spend up to the Luxury Tax line, which means they will have about $9 million to spend this off-season on their own players and through the Mid-Level Exception.

One of the first items they need to get done is to re-sign Jannero Pargo, their serviceable, if streaky, combo-guard sixth man. Because he’s just as capable of having horrible games as excellent ones, his contract will probably be kept to a reasonable amount. Both sides have expressed that they want to get it done and Pargo seems to just want a longer-term contract. That should feed into what the Hornets are trying to build.

Once Pargo is re-signed, the Hornets really need to focus on getting a big man.
Hilton Armstrong was simply terrible last season, and Melvin Ely can’t claim any better. Relying on Hilton to suddenly figure it out in his third year seems to be a fool’s proposition.
The Hornets need an energy player who can come in and cover for Tyson Chandler and West for twenty minutes a game.
Personally, I’d love to see a trade for someone like Nick Collison, Drew Gooden or Udonis Haslem occur, but the Hornets just don’t have the trade chips to make something like that happen without giving away part of their starting five.
That probably limits the Hornets to someone like Ronny Turiaf of the Lakers.

The wing position for the Hornets may already be solidified. Last year’s rookie Julian Wright showed all the tools last year of a good wingman combination of Gerald Wallace and Tayshaun Prince. He’s probably the most exciting Hornets rookie I’ve watched outside of Chris Paul, and I’m looking forward to see what he can do in his second year.
All that said, he is still a very young player.
If the Hornets can provide him some support/competition at the wing by signing Bonzi Wells or someone similar to a two year deal, it would provide the Hornets with good insurance.

Outside of that, I’d like the Hornets to come back almost intact.
Sure, the contracts of Mike James and Rasual Butler are essentially dead weight, but next year they become expiring contracts, and will probably bring more value in a trade then.
Could the Hornets find a better starting shooting guard?
Probably, but Morris Peterson does fill a lot of needs for the starting five. Unless it was a clear upgrade that doesn’t involve trading Julian Wright, I would prefer we stand pat and see how this team performs next year with an upgraded bench.





QUEENSLAND PASSION

27 06 2008

First of all, I DID NOT write the following. It was written by a Rugby League fan and one can only assume he had been drinking at the time. It was written by someone on one of the forums I sometimes frequent. I know them only as Ser. Here, unedited except for some nice photos, is his spin on Queensland’s much vaunted state passion:

Queenslanders have long regarded state pride and passion their domain, something that no other state can match, and it is apparently exemplified during the yearly SoO campaign. Time and again we hear that it was passion that got them over the line, that Queenslanders somehow acquire more skills, stamina and doggedness when wearing maroon, that NSW cannot match Queensland for passion either within the team or even within the stadium. We’ve seen numerous NSW identities also buy this bunkum and trot it out as an excuse for a NSW game or series loss – “I wish NSW would show the same passion….”, “Qeenslanders believe in each other….” etc.

You want the truth? If you are a Queensland supporter chances are you cannot handle the truth, but here it is nonetheless. It ain’t passion, it’s fear. Fear of failure. Fear of NSW dominance. Fear of a loss of identity.

Queensland RL rightly fears failure. At a state level, through no fault of their own, NSW HAS dominated Qld over the last century. This is due to rules made by NSWelshmen that ensured Queensland had to compete without those players who were talented enough to make it in THE BIG LEAGUE. This uneven playing field lasted for a third of the century of League in Australia. There was also failure at club level. Queensland provided Australia with the first Rugby League club – is this recognised? Nope. Why not? Because the QRL did not become the DOMINANT competition in Australia, that honour goes to…… yep, NSW under the NSWRL banner. The victors in any form of competition get to write the history, whether it is correct or not. Who wouldn’t be afraid of failing in those circumstances….again.
Read the rest of this entry »





NRL 2008 ~ Round 16 Preview

27 06 2008

This is the last week this year where teams will be affected by State of Origin duties and for a team such as the Broncos, suffering injuries on top of heavy State of Origin representation, it can’t pass soon enough. Last week’s football was an amazing round with 6 of the 8 games being decided by one or two points. the other two games unfortunately were absolute blow outs.

Broncos 19 def Tigers 18

Dragons 13 def Panthers 12

Storm 48 def Cowboys 20

Bulldogs 18 lost Raiders 58

Warriors 14 lost to Sea Eagles 20

Sharks 16 def Eels 14

Knights 14 lost to Roosters 16

Rabbitohs 24 def Titans 23 (talk about an upset)

This week should see some of the lower placed sides taking wins against sides they may not have got near at any other time this season and two of those games kick off the weekend’s NRL action on Friday night.

Panthers vs Broncos

An already depleted panthers outfit put up a brave fight last week against the much stronger Dragons, while the Broncos with their uninjured Origin stars in the side snuck home for a lucky win against an undersized Tigers outfit. The Panthers should be able to win this one even without Petro Civoniceva even though the Broncos forward still pack some punch, their backs will be their downfall.

Panthers by 10

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With high hopes and expectations…

27 06 2008

Well… the NBA 2008 Draft’s nearly upon us, and I’ll keep it updated here as info comes in… at least the interesting bits…

The latest ESPN mock draft has the following as the lottery picks:

  1. Derrick Rose
  2. Michael Beasley
  3. OJ Mayo
  4. Eric Gordon
  5. Kevin Love
  6. Danilo Gallinari
  7. Brook Lopez
  8. Russell Westbrook
  9. Anthony Randolph
  10. Joe Alexander
  11. Kosta Koufos
  12. Jerryd Bayless
  13. DJ Augustin
  14. Donte’ Green

And that’s your ‘projected’ lottery… will update this thread as we go.

Actual draft…

  1. Chicago selected Derrick Rose
  2. Miami took Michael Beasley – thus far, no surprises, huh?
  3. Minnesota take OJ Mayo
  4. Seattle take Russell Westbrook
  5. Memphis take Kevin Love
  6. New York select Danilo Gallinari
  7. LA Clippers choose Eric Gordon
  8. Milwaukee select Joe Alexander
  9. Charlotte take DJ Augustin
  10. New Jersey choose Brook Lopez – first o’ the busts? Sorry… not a fan.
  11. Indiana take Jerryd Bayless – surprised to not see him earlier…
  12. Sacramento take Jason Thompson
  13. Portland (traded to Indiana) take Brandon Rush – Rush is a better pick than some that have gone earlier…
  14. Golden State take Anthony Randolph – risky pick
  15. Phoenix (from Atlanta) choose Robin Lopez – hugely amazed that Lopez mk2 went this early… at least he wasn’t a lottery pick…
  16. Philadelphia selects Marreese Speights
  17. Indiana (from Toronto) get Roy Hibbert – should get immediate court time…
  18. Washington selects JaVale McGee
  19. Cleveland take J.J. Hickson
  20. Charlotte (from Denver) choose Alexis Ajinca
  21. New Jersey (from Dallas) selects Ryan Anderson
  22. Courtney Lee to Orlando – wasn’t she married to Kurt Cobain?
  23. With the 23rd pick, Utah select Kosta Kofous
  24. Seattle (from Phoenix) choose Serge Ibaka
  25. Houston select Nicolas Batum
  26. San Antonio takes George Hill
  27. Portland (from New Orleans) choose Darrell Arthur – I don’t think anyone had him going this late…
  28. Memphis (from LA Lakers) select Donte Green
  29. Detroit takes DJ White
  30. Boston select JR Giddens

End of the first round…

Second round… stuff that matters (well… to me)

  • Nathan Jawai picked up at #41 by the Indiana Pacers… given the void left at the ‘big-man’ slots at the Pacers, Jawai’s got a bit of a shot there.
  • The Lakers take guard Joey Crawford with 58th pick.  Like they need another guard… but as if a guy who was taken with the 58th pick is getting court-time outside of D-League.  If he ever does make the floor, I hope that the Lakers manage to give him number 17 (sorry Andrew).
  • And happy birthday to Will Brinson from over at AOL Fanhouse, who hosted the live-blogging of the Draft… on his birthday!