Can Anyone In The NL Central Stop The Cubs

Based on projected wins or over/under win totals. Data gathered on March 16, 2017.Sources: Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Clay Davenport, Las Vegas Review-Journal 5Cincinnati Reds7470747172.1 neil (Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight senior sportswriter): So let’s get started with the elephant in the room of this division: The Cubs are once again huge favorites — 88 percent to win the division, according to FanGraphs. What can we say about them that hasn’t already been said ad nauseam during their World Series run last year?craigjedwards: Just replace “Will they end the drought?” with “Will they repeat?”neil: Or maybe “Will they form a dynasty?”natesilver: I would say that 88 percent to win the division intuitively sounds very high. We had them at 56 percent last year in a similar-ish situation.craigjedwards: 88 percent is high. Although last season both the Cardinals and Pirates appeared to have better teams than they do this season.natesilver: But bigger picture … What is there to say except that it’s been a while since we had a baseball team that was set up for this sort of long-term success?craigjedwards: They basically have the same team back, with few guys to worry about suffering precipitous aging declines, plus Jason Heyward possibly not being as bad as he was last season.natesilver: Let’s not forget that they’re also up one Kyle Schwarber this year (although he won’t help on defense).craigjedwards: The only question is the pitching rotation. In 2015 and 2016, they had all their top guys healthy and pitching well. It would take a major disaster in the rotation, but if they don’t meet expectations, that is where it is likely to come from.neil: Right — did that pitching performance last year contain a lot of luck in addition to skill? They allowed an MLB-low .255 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), 27 points lower than any other team.craigjedwards: Luck on the pitcher’s part? Yes, but that luck comes in the form of a fantastic defense. That is luck for the pitchers, not luck for the Cubs. That said, their BABIP is going to go up, since even guys who showed no prior ability to suppress contact did so last season. But even if they aren’t quite as good, it is reasonable to expect a low BABIP again because of that defense.neil: Another note on that pitching staff is that they were the oldest in the majors last year. And yet, only two other teams have relied on their starting rotation for more innings over the past two seasons than Chicago has. Is that a red flag? Or does it even matter?natesilver: Pitcher aging is weird. It’s kind of like: you’re good, until you’re suddenly not.craigjedwards: John Lackey is probably the most worrisome, because he is getting to an age where he could all of a sudden be finished.natesilver: I think the question is what sort of reinforcements they could bring in if Lackey turned into a pumpkin, for instance.craigjedwards: Jon Lester has also defied the aging curve over the past two seasons, and his velocity is down this spring, so that is a concern as well. Plus, it will be interesting to see how Willson Contreras plays out defensively at catcher, as he’ll be replacing David Ross as Lester’s personal catcher.natesilver: But let’s keep in mind that the Cubs are not only smart, but rich — so they’re a good candidate to bring a pitcher in at the trade deadline if they need one.craigjedwards: Chicago’s minor league system isn’t as deep as it was, since its young stars are already in the majors (or were traded last year), but there are a few high-end prospects they could move if they needed to.neil: I might also be grasping to find holes in the Cubs just to have something to debate. This staff could probably lose half its value from last year and they’d still win 90+ games.Chicago also seemed to effectively plug the roster holes that opened over the offseason: Lose Dexter Fowler? Here’s Jon Jay. Lose Aroldis Chapman? Here’s Wade Davis. Cut Jason Hammel loose? Here’s Brett Anderson. Like Nate said, they’re getting Schwarber back, too. And I guess it would be hard for Heyward to be worse.craigjedwards: Heyward has to be better than he was last season. Even if he never hits like he did before he got to the Cubs, an average-hitting Heyward with his defense and baserunning is a four-win player.natesilver: But we’re talking about a very high bar that the Cubs will have to clear to keep pace with their performance from last year. It’s incredibly hard to win 100+ games two years in a row these days. The last team to do it was St. Louis in 2004 and 2005.neil: Although maybe the craziest thing there is that, by Pythagoras, the Cubs “should” have won 107 games last year. They underachieved to 103 wins!Even 95 wins this year will probably be enough to take the division, though. Especially if the projections (see above) are to be believed.But I also think those projections are pretty shocking. They have Pittsburgh second?!? I was tempted to think that the Pirates’ 2013-15 mini-run basically ended with the 78 wins they posted in 2016.craigjedwards: Pittsburgh has put itself in a difficult position, trying to contend with a low payroll. Most teams at that end of the financial spectrum — like Milwaukee and Cincinnati, to keep it in the NL Central — can get a few good years in before having to do at least a minor rebuild, but the Pirates are still really close to contending for the next few seasons.neil: What went wrong last season?craigjedwards: Gerrit Cole wasn’t himself, Juan Nicasio didn’t work out as the Pirates’ annual reclamation project and Ivan Nova didn’t arrive until too late in the season. Yet they still weren’t that far off from contending last year, despite a really mediocre season from their best player, Andrew McCutchen.natesilver: The projection systems are all frustratingly non-committal on McCutchen, projecting him to bounce about halfway back instead of either the full recovery or the full collapse. Which undoubtedly makes sense if you average him over a whole range of scenarios. But it seems like there has to be a wide distribution of possibilities there, and that’s very much going to affect the Pirates’ fortunes.neil: Yeah, maybe no team’s season is hinging more on one player’s projection being in the high range rather than the low.craigjedwards: He’s also making the transition to an outfield corner, which is generally not good for a player’s value. But if you are just looking at last year’s defensive numbers (which generally isn’t big enough an indicator of a player’s ability), he’s going to get better just because he isn’t really one of the worst outfielders in baseball.natesilver: I get worried when the indicators for a guy’s athleticism are down. McCutchen doesn’t steal many bags any more. He grounded into a lot of double plays. He’s overmatched in center field, according to the advanced metrics.neil: And the list of McCutchen-like players from history is no help. Some were good after age 30 (Reggie Smith, Andre Dawson); others were already in decline (Vernon Wells, Matt Kemp).The other half of that tandem fighting for second place is the St. Louis Cardinals, who are slated for only 81 or 82 wins if you believe the projections above. Do we buy these third-place projections for St. Louis? Or are they discounting the Cards? (Who still won 86 games last year, with 88 Pythagorean wins.)craigjedwards: The projections for Pittsburgh are all bunched together around 82 wins, while the Cardinals have a couple 84s and a 78 from PECOTA (which keeps their average down). Most of the projections that have the Cardinals higher believe in their pitching and maybe a slight uptick on defense, while PECOTA doesn’t believe in either of those things.natesilver: It’s been a while since I tracked the performance of the different projection systems religiously, but the Cardinals were a team that had a long track record of beating their projections. Maybe it’s because they always tend to be good at player development and have guys play up to their 60th- or 70th-percentile numbers.neil: One area where it seems like there might be a lot of uncertainty is in the pitching, like you mentioned Craig, since their rotation was down from 2015’s fantastic performance. What was different last year, and will they be able to recapture that 2015 form this season?craigjedwards: The blame has mostly gone to the defense, and the Cardinals were pretty bad last year. But they also lost Lance Lynn and John Lackey from the rotation, and Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright weren’t their usual pitching selves.neil: They’ve also done a lot of roster reshuffling and added Dexter Fowler (granting that his fielding metrics are sometimes mixed). Will all that help fix the defense? Or is that just wishful thinking?craigjedwards: I think Fowler will make the defense better. Randal Grichuk moves from center to left, where, defensively, he’s a big upgrade on Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss. So even if Fowler is a bit below-average for a center fielder on defense, it will still make the outfield defense on the whole better than it was last season.They aren’t going to be great on defense, they just need to not be really bad.neil: Final Q on the Cards: Craig wrote last season that Mike Matheny should be fired. Is he keeping this team from reaching its full potential? Or isn’t there research showing that managers don’t really matter very much?craigjedwards: I think tactically, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between good and bad managers, though I’m not sure too many people really defend Matheny’s bullpen management or in-game decisions.natesilver: And isn’t it plausible that managers matter more than they used to, given how bullpens are used these days? That’s an area where you might expect to see quite a bit of difference, especially in the NL, where you also have to account for pitchers hitting for themselves, etc.craigjedwards: Another problem with Matheny is what appears to be a disconnect with the front office. He’s had big problems playing younger players when they are given to him, to the point that trades had to be made. It would be one thing if he just made poor strategic decisions and relied on small samples to determine whether a player was hot or cold, but it is getting to the point where he also has trouble following through with the front office’s plans.This is going to be a big year for Matheny. He got a lot of credit for managing the Cardinals to the postseason, and he will get blame if they don’t make it. That’s not fair, but it doesn’t mean Matheny deserves to keep a job that was a complete gift to him in the first place.neil: Whichever team prevails between Pittsburgh and St. Louis, they and the Cubs are still far, far above the teams at the bottom of this division: the Brewers and Reds.Let’s start with Milwaukee. Over the past few years, the Brewers seem to be emulating the successful teardown/rebuild models seen recently in Chicago and Houston (and maybe Atlanta next). How’s that going for them?craigjedwards: Milwaukee is doing all the right things. They aren’t going to be able to completely mimic the Cubs — they can’t go out and sign big-name veterans like Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist, John Lackey and Jason Heyward — but they are on the right track. They got one of the top prospects in baseball (Lewis Brinson) from the Rangers in the Jonathan Lucroy trade, picked up another one (Corey Ray) from the draft, and they have a handful of pitchers with potential.neil: So what’s the next step if you’re trying that type of rebuilding effort, but without the Cubs’ resources?craigjedwards: Well, the Brewers are carrying half the payroll they had when they were contending, so they have to play younger guys with potential or trade value (Jonathan Villar, Orlando Arcia, Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton) and deal away relievers whenever they seem to have value. The fans in Milwaukee still support the team, and they will do very well if they can get a winner there. The Ryan Braun question looms, and it’s going to be hard to contend with the Cubs, Pirates and Cardinals in the same division. But they’re making progress.neil: Meanwhile, the Reds are kind of a mess. They had one of the worst pitching staffs ever last year — particularly in the bullpen.natesilver: I’ve become slightly obsessed with modern bullpens, and it’s actually sort of hard/amazing to have a bullpen as bad as Cincy’s in an era where you can take a failed No. 4 starter and turn him into a 2.50 ERA / 10.0 K/9 guy.neil: The Reds have also traded away a lot of veterans in recent years — Todd Frazier, Aroldis Chapman, Jay Bruce, etc. — yet still only have the 13th-best farm system in MLB. Should they have gotten more in return prospect-wise? Also, when will Joey Votto join that group? Can they realistically get fair value for him?natesilver: Votto is sort of the Carmelo Anthony of MLB.neil: Although I will say, the Reds have won a championship in my lifetime, unlike the Knicks.natesilver: The Reds ranked 22nd in WAR last year among players acquired through the draft, which isn’t going to cut it in a small market. So I wonder if there isn’t some longer-term work to do on scouting and development.craigjedwards: I think for a small-market team to succeed, one of the biggest factors is starting pitching because it is so hard to acquire, either in terms of cost in free agency or in trades. Having a cost-effective rotation — like we saw with Cleveland last year and the Mets the year before, or even going all the way back to Oakland’s Moneyball days — can make a big difference for a team trying to push itself into contention.natesilver: Just to bring it back to the Cubs, the thing to remember is that even if you had a team with 103-win talent — and the Cubs probably aren’t *quite* there — they’d still only have something like a 15 percent to 20 percent chance to win the World Series, given how random the playoffs can be. So if we’re thinking in terms of dynasties, there’s a question of how we’d measure one. It’s likely to be a *long* time before we see another team run off three World Series in a row, or four in five years, even if they’re the best team in baseball the whole time.neil: That’s a great point. As terrific as the Cubs are, baseball is a lot more chaotic than, say, basketball. So compared with, say, NBA teams against the Warriors, other MLB teams have a much better chance as they target the Cubs. And that also means the Pirates and Cardinals — if not the Brewers and Reds — have plenty of reasons for hope this season. RANKTEAMPECOTAFANGRAPHSDAVENPORTWESTGATEAVERAGE 3St. Louis Cardinals7884808481.4 EXPECTED NUMBER OF WINS 4Milwaukee Brewers7770737072.4 1Chicago Cubs9395959794.9 In honor of the 2017 Major League Baseball season, which starts April 2, FiveThirtyEight is assembling some of our favorite baseball writers to chat about what’s ahead. Today, we focus on the National League Central with FanGraphs writer Craig Edwards and FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver. The transcript below has been edited. 2Pittsburgh Pirates8182838382.1 How forecasters view the NL Central read more

LETTER TO THE EDITOR Fasulo Would Fight For The People Is A

first_imgDear Editor,I am here to give my support and vote to Rob Fasulo.Rob and I atteneded the Shawsheen Tech in 1994. He was always a great friend. He showed leadership at a young age.Rob would be a great addition to the Board of Selectmen, bringing a small town feel to an ever changing growing town.Rob was born and rasied in Wilmington and really loves his town and community. He would fight for the people and stand by his word. Rob is a wonderful dad & husband. He is always willing to lend a hand to help.Thank you for your time.Truly yours,Jill T. MedeirosLike Wilmington Apple on Facebook. Follow Wilmington Apple on Twitter. Follow Wilmington Apple on Instagram. Subscribe to Wilmington Apple’s daily email newsletter HERE. Got a comment, question, photo, press release, or news tip? Email wilmingtonapple@gmail.com.Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… RelatedLETTER TO THE EDITOR: Selectman Mike McCoy Endorses Rob Fasulo For SelectmanIn “Letter To The Editor”LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Selectman Mike McCoy Endorses Rob FasuloIn “Letter To The Editor”LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Fasulo Will Give Residents A Voice On The Board Of SelectmenIn “Letter To The Editor”last_img read more

SpaceX Crew Dragon mission to ISS delayed yet again

first_img SpaceX preps Crew Dragon Enlarge ImageFalcon 9 and Crew Dragon get ready for a test flight. SpaceX SpaceX and NASA are no strangers to launch delays, and the latest involves the first major test flight of the SpaceX crew capsule, the Crew Dragon. NASA announced on Thursday it has pushed the schedule for the Demo-1 launch into February at the earliest.  Crew Dragon was previously set to head to orbit on Jan. 7, but that date was reset for Jan. 17. NASA did not specify a new target date, but it says SpaceX and NASA are still completing hardware testing and joint reviews. The uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station is designed to check how the launch, orbital, docking and landing systems function before actual astronauts take a ride to space inside the capsule.  Comment Crew Dragon is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which also involves the Boeing Starliner. The space agency is hoping to bring astronaut launches back to US soil for the first time since 2011. Astronauts visiting the ISS have been hitching rides on Russian spacecraft.  The capsule and the Falcon 9 rocket that will launch it are sitting upright together on the historic Apollo 11 launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted over the weekend that the test flight will be “extremely intense” since there’s a lot of new hardware involved. If the test flight goes well, then astronauts could take the first crewed flight on Dragon later this year. NASA says it will confirm a new target launch date after coordinating with the Eastern Range rocket range and the ISS program. 10 Photos Tags 1 SpaceX Crew Dragon preps for ‘extremely intense’ first test flight NASA astronauts test SpaceX spacesuits in the Crew Dragon Share your voice Space cheese and 9 other weird items we’ve sent into orbit (pictures) NASA turns 60: The space agency has taken humanity farther than anyone else, and it has plans to go further. What NASA’s Kepler telescope sees: It’s helped amateurs spot an unusual new planet in a “Goldilocks zone.” Sci-Tech NASA Space SpaceXlast_img read more

ICICI Kotak Downgrade Nestle India Stock

first_imgWith its key revenue driver Maggi instant noodles in trouble, the Nestle India stock has been downgraded yet again, this time by ICICI and Kotak. The brand holds 72 percent (by volume) of the instant noodle market in India and contributes about 30 percent to its net sales. A nationwide recall of the product is therefore is seen as a major setback to its revenues by analysts.ICICIdirect.com has cut the price target to ₹6,039 from ₹6,901, while Kotak had downgraded it to ₹5,800 from ₹6,012.”We have a cautious view on the stock as we expect volume growth to remain under pressure in CY15E (volume growth at 0.7% CAGR in CY11-14). We cut our target price on the stock to Rs 6039 per share (45x its CY16E earnings) and maintain our HOLD rating on the stock,” according to moneycontrol.com.Kotak has said that the impact on Nestle India is contigent on certain factors. “The impact of the Maggi recall on Nestle India’s current year’s numbers is likely to be moderate-to-substantial, depending on the pace of (1) resolution of issue at hand, and (2) regaining consumer confidence,” analysts at Kotak said in their research note, according to The Economic Times.The Nestle India stock came under heavy selling pressure this week, as the controversy raged on its Maggi instant noodles, after food regulators of several Indian states detected more than permissible limits of lead and MSG in Maggi noodle samples and banned it.Falling by 15 percent in six trading sessions, the stock price saw some stabilization on Friday.The share price of Nestle India closed at ₹ 5,997.10 on the Bombay Stock Exchange on 5 June, down 15 percent from ₹7,064.85 on 27 May. The volume of Nestle’s shares traded on the stock exchanges rose three times than the average volume in the past few months.Foreign brokerage Barclays had earlier downgraded its target price for the Nestle India stock to ₹5,149 from ₹5,593 previously estimated, Business Today reported.last_img read more

Porchfest Rocks Hillcrest

first_imgBy George Kevin Jordan, Special to the AFROThe quiet neighborhood got a jolt of funk, hip-hop and rock and roll last Sunday at the 2nd annual Porchfest DC, which brought music, comradery and bar-b-que right to your doorstep. The afternoon started off with music wafting through the air. At times it had a go-go swing, at other times you could hear a tenor cutting through the air with just their notes and a beat. This was Porchfest DC. The sun bore down hard throughout the day. But a slight breeze cut the neighborhood some slack.Porchfest DC allowed for residents to head to houses in the Hillcrest neighborhood to listen live to local musicians. (Photo by George Kevin Jordan)It was easy to report on this event as I am a new-ish Hillcrest resident and didn’t have too far to travel before the sounds of sizzling vegetables outpaced the aroma of grilled meats. According to the newsletter, “The goal of the Southeast, D.C. Porchfest is not just to spotlight emerging talent, but to shine a light on the beautiful communities in Wards 7 and 8.”Hillcrest is a prime example of beauty with idyllic homes and immaculate lawns that stretch up and over hills, and valleys. But the neighborhood touted as “Washington, D.C.’s best kept secret,” may not be a secret much longer after this weekend’s festivities.According the Hillcrest Civic Association, the area is bordered by: “a line beginning at the intersection of 31st Street, SE and Pennsylvania Avenue, extending southeastward along Pennsylvania Avenue SE to the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. and the District of Columbia boundary line (at Southern Avenue, S.E.); extending southwestward along that District Line to the intersection of that line with Naylor Road, S.E.; extending northward along Naylor Road, SE to the intersection of Naylor Road, SE with 27th Street, S.E.; from thence in a straight line running eastward through the park to reach the upper point of 31st Street, S.E. and then following 31st Street, S.E. northward to the original intersection of 31st Street S.E. and Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. said boundary to include both sides of 31st Street, SE including Randle Highlands Elementary School.”The population of the neighborhood is about 4,700, according to Niche.com, and boasts a population that is 89% Black, and a diverse age demographic that is split between millenials, gen-xers and baby boomers  according to data from the site. A good sized group of those people all sat together in their neighbor’s lawns for Porchfest. People brought their lawn chairs, bikes, food and flowing dresses, and listened to jazz as children tried to learn to skateboard down streets. Porchfest DC was what it would look like if Erykah Badu and Lena Horne had a block party. It was both laid back and elegant. Both “woke” and “non-pressed.” Both “sophisticated” and super casual.”Artists from across the District performed intimate sets with nothing but light and mosquitos between them. There was a market with candles that eased tensions and smelled of herbs and were good for the environment, along with fun snarky tee-shirts and lots of lemonade and fruity drinks. The object of Porchfest is to stroll from house to house taking in the performances at each residence. But once you set foot in one backyard it was hard to leave. One wanted to just lean back in the chair and take a nap serenaded by a jazz artist. Slated performers included DJ Goldy Smokes, TY Jones, Deuce Ducartier, Future Band, Cassonovela, Femi, Black Out Band, Original Jesus Gang, Sweet Something and Bliss Ananda to name a few. There was also yoga, a kids party and events for all ages. The event was scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. but music thumped through the air well past dark. The festival originated in Ithaca, NY, by Gretchen Hildreth and Lesley Greene, according to the site. But fever for the fest has spread throughout the country. In DC the Porchfest has landed in District neighborhoods like Adams Morgan and Rhode Island Avenue. Want to know where Porchfest DC will go next? Take the survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DGCMHD2last_img read more

Motorist caught watching YouTube videos while driving on M6

first_imgGet the biggest Daily stories by emailSubscribeSee our privacy noticeThank you for subscribingSee our privacy noticeCould not subscribe, try again laterInvalid EmailPolice caught a driver watching videos on Youtube – while driving on the M6. The motorist was stopped on the M6 in Cheshire at around 11pm last night, police said. A North West Motorway Police spokesman said: “Driver stopped on the M6 by a Cheshire Police unmarked car after being observed watching YouTube videos whilst driving. TOR issued.” For the latest news and breaking news visit www.thesentinel.co.uk . Get all the big headlines, pictures, analysis, opinion and video on the stories that matter to you. Homeless man defecates in police van after smashing up public telephone Follow us on Twitter @ SentinelStaffs – the official Sentinel account – real news in real time. We’re also on www.facebook.com/sentinelstaffs – your must-see news, features, videos and pictures throughout Stoke-on-Trent, North Staffordshire & South Cheshire.last_img read more