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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why the Huskies Will Not Play Gonzaga

A couple of nights ago, I was watching my Gonzaga Bulldogs put a finish to the Washington State University Cougars at the Kennel in Spokane, WA. While its always enjoyable to watch my Zags prove that they are the best team on the east side of Washington State, I can't help but share my frustration with the University of Washington basketball team. The reason being that I believe they are afraid to play the Zags in a fair manner.

2006 was the last year that the two teams played one another, with Gonzaga beating Washington in convincing fashion with a score 97-77. The Huskies though defeated, probably were not surprised to lose that game, it was pretty much the norm for the team when competing against Gonzaga. From 1996 to 2006, the Huskies and the Zags played each other ten times, with Gonzaga wining eight of those contests. This probably was not well received by the Huskies, who were vying to become one of the better programs in the Pac10 and yet, they couldn't manage to prove that they were even the best basketball team in the state.

At some point near 2006,University of Washington decided to not continue their yearly contest with Gonzaga.  There are rumors that the reason UW walked away because Gonzaga reported that the UW violated some recruiting requirements, while trying to sign Josh Heytfelt to a letter of intent. That is hardly surprising, considering Barbara Hedges was the athletic director and lets just say that she was willing to overlook certain violations (Rick Neuheisal). Another rumored reason for UW backing out of the annual game is because Gonzaga played too well against Husky coach Lorenzo Romar. After the 2004-2005 annual game between the two schools, Romar intimated that he felt the Zags had done something unethical by discussing how they had been a little too well prepared. He then quit allowing open practices after that loss.

When you combine the fact that Gonzaga routinely beat the Huskies during their annual contest, and that the Bulldogs were able to out recruit the UW for local talent (Josh Heytfelt and Robert Sacre), its no wonder that the Huskies decided to pull out. If you are the lesser of two teams, demonstrating that annually, why would you play a better team every year? All it does is undermine your ability to recruit in the area as a result. 

So what is Washington's plan as of now? Well, they have offered to play Gonzaga yearly at Key Arena or a two games at the UW for one game at Gonzaga. Either of these proposals are laughable as Gonzaga has been the better basketball school that last several years and why would they forfeit home court advantage just to play the Huskies? So instead, the Huskies have taken the easier road as proven by their pre-season schedule: in 2008 Portland, Florida International, Lehigh, Morgan State, Pacific, Cleveland State, etc. In 2009 Wright State, Cal State Northridge, San Jose State, San Francisco, etc. In 2010 McNeese State, Virginia, Long Beach State, Portland, ect. In 2011 Georgia State, Florida Atlantic, Houston Baptist, South Dakota State, etc. Each year they do actually play approximately two national programs in pre-season, but the rest of the games sound like the Sisters of the Poor and the School for the Deaf. 

Meanwhile, Gonzaga is famous for playing the hardest or second hardest pre-season schedule every year. Too bad they cannot add Washington to that schedule. Mark Few has adopted an any time any place attitude for Gonzaga, while Lorenzo Romar would rather play inferior teams. The two programs couldn't be any more dissimilar. For my money, I will take Gonzaga any time; they aren't afraid of a fight.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Mariners Should Avoid Prince Fielder

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion that the Mariners have interest or should have interest in signing Prince Fielder. The rumors seem a little more believable when you take in account that Seattle General Manager Jack Zduriencik was responsible bringing Prince Fielder to Milwaukee in the first place. I have just one piece of commentary in response to the rumors and musings: Don't do it Jack.

Yes, Prince has been a great player the last few years amassing a fairly good amount of WAR; 23.5 WAR over the last seven years to be exact. That averages out to about 3.35 WAR per year. If you throw out his first year where he only played 39 games, the average WAR jumps to 3.9 per year, which is pretty good but not superstar level.  

A further examination of Prince's numbers presents a giant red flag from a risk perspective. In 2006, he only amassed 1.3 WAR followed by 5.1 WAR. In 2008, he only accumulated 1.7 WAR and followed that by a 6.4 WAR breakout season which he then followed up by dropping back down to a human 3.4 WAR year. In 2011 his contract year, Prince put up great numbers on his way to a 5.5 WAR season. So what can we infer from Prince's numbers as they are segmented? It appears that as player, he is a volatile asset. 33.3% of seasons he has played, Prince has put up a WAR that is less than 2. Additionally, after each season he eclipsed 5 WAR, Prince has produced a WAR under 4. Given the pattern demonstrated so far, it seems very likely that Prince will produce a WAR over 4 next season, especially if he changes leagues doubly so if he plays as a DH instead of a 1st baseman, as the position adjustment will adversely affect the WAR total.

Being mildly inconsistent is not the only concern that one may have. There is a premise that big bodied sluggers such as Prince tend to have their WAR decline fairly fast after their prime. To substantiate this, I offer the following examples. The first and often most cited example is that of Mo Vaughn, who went from 6.6 War in his age 30 season to just 1.9 WAR the next. Another example is probably the most accurate representation for Prince. I'm talking about one of his least favorite people, his father Cecil Fielder. Cecil was know for his mammoth power but his decline started fairly early on. In his age 27 season, Cecil put up a stellar 6.8 WAR season and then the decline started, dropping to an above average 4.3 WAR the following year. That was followed by a 3.1 WAR in his age 29 season and then Cecil fell all the way to 1.6 WAR in his age 30 season.  

When one examines the data pertaining to Prince and add in the decline of large bodied sluggers to include his own father, it makes it hard to warrant a the eight year $180 Million deal he is rumored to ask. Even when you factor in the estimates that he will probably get a 6 year $120 Million deal instead, it still is enough to make a GM to reconsider. As stated before, just stay away Jack.

Edit: Per some of the comments I decided to show a chart of what would have happened if Prince would have played at Safeco Field.

Second Edit: Some people have commented about what caused the fluctuations in WAR. My research shows that it was mainly due to variations in his ISO (Isolated Power). Someone threw out some of their perceived complementary players: Ryan Braun, Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Upton, and Josh Hamilton. So I graphed their ISO values on a yearly basis which is found below. Additionally, I calculated the Standard Deviation of the ISO values and will include them in a table below.

Tulowitzki Standard Deviation 0.007371
Upton Standard Deviation 0.031288
Pujols Standard Deviation 0.035509
Bautista Standard Deviation 0.036062
Braun Standard Deviation 0.042517
Hamilton Standard Deviation 0.048497
Fielder Standard Deviation 0.049882

From the table, you can see that Fielder has the greatest standard deviation of the group, which shows the great variability in ISO and subsequently, WAR.
Note: This article utilizes the stat Wins Above Replacement player (WAR). This value attempts to assign a relative value to each player in the league with a replacement player being someone who is a good minor league player who really is not good enough for the majors. To put WAR into perspective, the WAR leader of hitters this year was Jacoby Ellsbury with 9.4 WAR. Notable really great players with high WAR are: Jose Bautista with a 2011 WAR of 8.3, Miguel Cabrera with 7.3 WAR, Roy Halladay with 8.2 WAR, and Justin Verlander with 7.0 WAR. Notable 0 WAR players: P Kevin Correia of the Pirates who pitched 154 innings with an ERA of 4.79, P Joe Nathan of the Twins with 44.2 innings pitched with a 4.84 ERA, Corey Patterson, and Miguel Tejada. For a better understanding of WAR, check out Fangraphs.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NBA Players Should Sign the Deal

                Currently, the NBA is in an elongated labor dispute with the owners and players engaged in a quarrel centered around division of revenues. Now, the owners are seeking a 50/50 split with the players, while the labor force is pushing a larger share in their favor. I have just one statement to that: keep pushing players, let your refusal to accept the deal demonstrate your ignorance.

                The players for the NBA are forgetting a salient fact; they are getting paid exorbitant salaries to play basketball and there is a very limited window them to capitalize on an extremely fortuitous life.  Yes, gentlemen, you are getting paid significantly more than the majority of the people in the world to go and play a sport that you play for the fun of it. How lucky are you, and yet you are whining over getting paid slightly less money than you previously received.

                Just to demonstrate the ridiculous of the players’ desires, let us compare them to the rest of the people in the U.S. The median household income in the U.S. was $50,221 in 2009 (according to the U.S. Census), while the average NBA salary last year was $4,790,000 (per That salary equates to $92,199 per week or 184% more than the average household in the U.S. makes in an entire year. So while many Americans worry about paying the bills to heat their homes, paying for groceries, and saving money for their retirement, NBA players are complaining about whether they will earn $4 million or $5 million per year.

                According to the latest reports, the owners offered the players a 50/50 split for the new labor agreement, which was of course rejected by the players. Now, I understand that most of the players either did not complete college or did not major in business administration but that is a very generous offer. The player’s expenses related to work are pretty much covered.  Their travel is paid for, as well as their lodging and I imagine that they receive some sort of stipend for food or have their meals provided for when on travel. So basically, their pay is all take home. The owners are not so fortunate.

                In order to run an NBA franchise, there must be a significant amount of cost incurred by the franchise. The entire staff of the team has to be compensated for their efforts, to include those who run the front office, the media department, the sales office, concession operators, and even those who clean the locker room and wash the player’s uniforms. In addition to compensating the support staff, there are costs to either rent the arena or operate it (depending on whether it is owned by the team or rented from a municipality). Also, there are the expenses related to travel to include chartering/operating team air planes, lodging the players, providing transportation to and from the plane and lodging, as well as other incidentals such as providing sustenance. Lastly, owners must pay for insurance related to everything from injuries of players to insurance for operations related to operating the venue for the games.

                So what happens when players are not able to perform to the expectations of their contracts, or if a star player of a franchise gets a season or career ending injury? The player is perfectly fine. Yes, their contracts are guaranteed, so they get every dollar that their contract stipulates whether they play five minutes of one game in their contract or every minute of every game. Yet, the owners are not so fortunate; they bear all of the risk associated with running an operation. So if they sign one of the best players in the league to a max contract and the player decides that they would rather not manage their diet, gain 50 lbs and not play very hard during games, they are still stuck paying every cent mandated in their contract.

                While the team is failing to play up to expectations, the franchise starts faltering. Fans quit coming to the games and revenues start to fall. As a chain reaction starts, the TV and radio revenues start falling, and when the media contracts come up for renewal, the new offer is significantly less than the previous (if you don’t believe me, check out the Seattle Mariners’ new radio contract and compare it to the previous one). Ultimately, the franchise starts losing money and the owner is writing the checks.

                When enough franchises start losing money, they cannot afford to continue to field the best talent the league offers, unless they draft better than other teams. In fact, you would find that in order to get the better players, the team must over pay on better than average talent and probably cannot attract the premium talent because there is no incentive for the best players to join the team. If you don’t believe me, let me ask you this: Would you join a crummy or marginally decent team, when you could join a team that could win a NBA championship? I wouldn’t, and I don’t you would either.

                The owners are stating that many of the franchises are losing money, and though the players dispute it, there are audited financial statements to back their assertion. These statements have been criticized by the players union as accounting loses that do not represent actual revenue loses (per ESPN The basic premise of the players’ assertion is that the losses shown on the accounting statements are amortized loses that are derived from the premium paid for teams in excess of the tangible assets of the team at the time of the sale. Should those fictitious loses count against the losses?

                The owners paid a premium for an asset and need to recoup that premium in some sort of fashion. If they didn’t then why would they buy the team in the first place? Listen, most of these people own the team because they are good businessmen and made a fortune or maintained a family fortune very well. They wouldn’t purchase a team if there wasn’t a possibility of recovering their expenses. That premium would more than likely have been utilized to invest in some sort of profitable venture that would return a decent profit. The owners instead forgo the opportunity to invest that money in something probably more profitable and instead buy a team so they rightfully should amortize those loses but should also include the opportunity cost of the loss of potential profits from that money (I am not actually advocating they do so because that would be unethical and despicable but am just trying to make a point).

                So, let the players complain about the amortization of the revenues, they are trying to take a strong position in order to secure the best deal possible for themselves. However, if they don’t know that they already have a great deal, the people advising them should explain it to them. If there are no NBA games going on, there are no NBA paychecks to collect. Yes, there are international paychecks, but those come at a reduced rate in foreign venues far away from home. The owners will always make money, maybe not with their NBA franchises in the near future but they have other businesses and the acumen that helped them attain their holdings and will continue to be successful.  The players however, their clock is ticking because each day that passes without a paycheck is another one that cannot be recouped because their careers are over when their body cannot perform at the level required and that time is much shorter than the average career of a businessman. If they had the owners’ acumen, they would have already signed the deal, realizing just how lucky they are.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Why You Should Try Steel Challenge

Ever since I was a little boy I have thoroughly enjoy shooting. I can still remember taking my pellet guy out and practicing shooing targets that I set up. I would shoot and shoot and see what I could hit. As I grew up, my father bought me my first shotgun, which I used to go trap shooting. I was by no means a great shot but still, it was a great experience going to the range and watching the clay pigeon explode after the report of my Remington 20 gauge shotgun. 

As I grew up, my proficiency with firearms increased as well. The primary reason for my increase in skill was due to Uncle Sam. After September 11th, I chose to join the Marine Corps to do my part and as you may know, the Marines teach marksmanship to every recruit. Soon I knew how to engage targets with an M-16 at ranges from 200-500 yards. My MOS (job in the Marine Corps) was as a combat photographer, which dictated that I also qualify with a pistol. 

Even though the marksmanship instructors in the Corps take every action to ensure you can competently shoot the pistol, I was a complete mess. Having never shot a pistol before, I tried my best to follow the instructions but trying to start with the weaver stance and then switch to the isosceles, really threw me off. I qualified, but just barely. 

Despite that I could barely shoot the pistol effectively, I purchased a Springfield Armory XDM .40 a while ago. I really enjoyed shooting and spent a fair amount of time in the woods and wanted something that I could shoot for fun and use for defense if I encountered a cougar who had bad intentions for me. As I shot more and more, I improved my accuracy a fair amount but am still not the best shot.

Lately, as I have found the need to pursue a hobby, I decided that I would like to participate in some shooting matches. This last Saturday, I drove up to Moxee, Washington to shoot in the local club's Steel Challenge. I can only tell you one thing: If you like to shoot, you must go try this. I guarantee you will not regret it. 

There were approximately 45 shooters at the shoot, which takes place the first Saturday of each month at Sun Valley Shooting Park. I was probably the worst shooter there and yet it was a blast. 

Steel challenge is pretty simple. At each stage, you have five steel targets that you shoot at and have 30 seconds to do so. It doesn't matter how many shots you take, once you hit all five targets, your time stops (your last target is the stop target, which is designated as such so you have to hit it last). You shoot each stage five times, except a moving one, which you shoot four times instead.

The main reason everyone is there is because they love to shoot and it was why I was there. I got to meet new people and throw lead at steel. I was one of the slowest, if not the slowest competitor there but still it was great. I met some really nice people and had a lot of fun. Some of the shooters were even nice enough to give me some pointers on how to improve my shooting. Upon implementation of their pointers, my times became a lot faster and my accuracy improved dramatically. For the cost of some ammunition, I got lessons from some of the best shooters around while having a hell of a good time. I plan on going again, and maybe, I will even not be the worst shooter there. You really need to go to one of these, you won't regret it.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime- Prime is on its Way

Tablets are quickly gaining traction into people's lives everywhere. From households to offices, tablets are being adopted at such a rapid pace that pretty soon more people will be using tablets for their primary computing than desktops and laptops. What does that mean to you? Well, if you are considering on adopting one of the pieces of technology in the near future, I would encourage you to look at the Asus eee Pad Transformer Prime, when it is released in the near future.

Why the Transformer? Well, I think there needs to be a worthy competitor to the iPad, which is far and away the best selling tablet in the world.

I need to make it clear that I believe economic competition is beneficial for consumers. When multiple companies are attempting to make profits in a certain market, innovation primarily will dictate how successful a company will be. Competitors will push each other and spend large budgets on trying to get ahead of the competition. A free market is essential to allow true competition and it is questionable whether Apple's App store is a true free market. 

Apple has an extensive set of rules that developers must adhere to in order to have their applications sold on the App store. Unfortunately, in order to use applications outside of the Apple App store, one must jailbreak their tablet. Jailbreaking is essentially freeing up your tablet to allow you to customize it and add things the way you want to. Now, can you jailbreak your tablet and not void your warranty? I don't know but I would be afraid to do so because I don't think that it would be encouraged by Apple.

Apple's operating system is iOS. It is designed to run the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The primary alternative to iOS is Android. This operating system is created by Google and there are several versions, with certain ones developed for smart phones, and others developed for tablets. Reviews of the primary tablet OS, Honeycomb are less than flattering. However, Google has announced their new Android OS called Ice Cream Sandwich. This OS is supposed to be a substantial upgrade to their OS which is designed for both tablets and smart phones. 

Android is effectively the exact opposite of iOS. Amazon does have a marketplace that developers can sell their applications for Android devices, but the rules are less restrictive and developers do not have to sell their applications though Android should they chose not to. Yes, that is correct. Android encourages a free market and allows developers and device owners to buy and sell applications outside of a regulated market. 

So why do I encourage the Asus Transformer Prime? As an Android based Tablet, it encourages the free market and will allow for increased market competition. However, it is not the primary reason. The primary reason is because it will be the most powerful tablet on the market. Yes, it will be significantly more powerful than the iPad2 by a large margin. Why? It will have twice as many processors as the iPad2. The Prime will be the first tablet on the market with NVIDIA's Kal-El quad core processor. 

Blazing speed and an open market is not the only reason I encourage this tablet however. The Asus Transformer Prime carries the Transformer moniker for a particular reason; it can double as a laptop. For an extra, currently unspecified price, the consumer can purchase an external keyboard specifically designed for the Prime. Asus ingeniously did this with the first generation version and designed it to contain an extra battery that allowed for a full charge of the tablet and keyboard to last up to 16 hours. That is long enough to handle an entire work day and home entertainment.

During my decision making process on which tablet I should purchase, I carefully contemplated which tablet would serve my work and personal needs most effectively. I wanted something that I could utilize on travel for work using the device for word processing and presentation development and delivery. Typing on an actual tablet is a somewhat arduous task as I am using to a normal keyboard with the bumps on the “J” and “f” keys so that I can position my hands properly. Additionally, I require the actually feeling of the buttons being pressed for proper sensory input to type effectively. Asus solves this problem with their keyboard attachment. When I receive my Transformer Prime, I know that I will have a fully capable machine to work at home and the office during the day, and entertain myself at night. Happy Shopping.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Welcome to the Blog

Welcome to my blog and thanks for checking it out. I'm starting this blog for one particular reason. I enjoy writing and hope that some people will find some semblance of enjoyment of my posts. I have a fairly diverse set of interests and will see if writing about them will be agreeable to some people. Please feel free to make comments and we will see where this goes.
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