Friday, August 30, 2013

Liveblogging: Minnesota Twins @ Texas Rangers, 08/30/13

Five minutes before first pitch: MIN - 0, TEX - 0

It's been a while since I've followed a game closely, and since the outcome of this game affects my beloved A's in the standings, this seems as good as any. Tonight's first infographic, courtesy of's gameday, shows the starting pitchers in tonight's ballgame: about as one-sided a matchup as you can get. Yu Darvish is easily the Rangers' staff ace and a top 5 fantasy option (one of only five SPs, in fact, to break the 2,000 point threshold so far with 2,110), while Liam Hendricks (just 14 points all season in 4 starts) sits at about 10 on the Twins' depth chart. Furthermore, Hendricks hails from Perth, Australia, and the A's have had some bad luck recently as far as Australians are concerned. But here's a chance to reverse that karma! And I heard something once about how people love an underdog story, so how fitting for one to take place in the Dog Days of August!

End 3rd Inning: MIN - 0, TEX - 1

First, some big picture info about each of these ballclubs: As we saw before the game, Darvish has the 5th most fantasy points of any starting pitcher in the game right now (6th overall; Craig Kimbrel is the reliever who's eclipsed him). The Twins' highest-ranking pitcher: closer Glen Perkins, who clocks in at #36. Among batters, Adrian Beltre leads the Rangers at #8 - Alex Rios also clocks in the top 50. You have to go all the way to #63 before you find a Twin: Joe Mauer, who's on the 7-day concussion DL. So you really have to go down about another 20 spots before you get your first active Twin in Justin Morneau, who I'm hoping selfishly gets traded to the A's, even if it means the Rangers picking up Daric Barton on waivers when he goes down to make room.

But it's neither team's top-ranked fantasy player, but rather MLB's top-ranked prospect Jurickson Profar who strikes first with a solo home run in the 3rd. As Liam Hendriks has worked himself out of a jam that was worthy of a mound visit by the pitching coach, let's honor the team who scored first with an infographic of their lineup. Stats (i.e. fantasy points) are from the All-Star break. Some analysis to follow in the coming innings:

End of the 4th: MIN - 0, TEX - 2

I maintain that the Alex Rios trade was the one event that was most devastating for the A's, as it both gave their only divisional competitors a solid hitter to replace the suspended Nelson Cruz, but it also allowed the Rangers to make enough space on their roster to claim Adam Rosales for the SECOND TIME in 10 days - one of the most entertaining Oakland players to watch. Those two represent the only two offensive midseason trade acquisitions for the Rangers. On the pitching side, two contributors to the starting rotation made their way to Texas from other teams this year: the traded pitcher with the highest Points Per Game average at the time of his trade Matt Garza, and a former Oakland swingman who was acquired from the Astros as a reliever, Travis Blackley.

Texas has something going in the bottom of the 4th with a hard single from the Rangers' third-best fantasy hitter Ian Kinsler, who was just recently moved to the three spot in the batting order. Kinsler now comes in to score on a groundout by bitterly-hated ex-Twin A.J. Pierzynski, after he moved up to 3rd base on a SB/throwing error by the catcher Chris Herrmann. This was in turn after he should have been doubled off first after a great catch by Twins RF Darin Mastroianni (who, no matter what he does on the baseball field, will never eclipse his namesake 1960s Italian heartthrob Marcello Mastroianni in terms of coolness).

Geez, and Alex Rios has 32 SB's this season? That ties his 2008 total and is 2 shy of his career-high 2010 total. I think he should have gone to the Pirates. As great as Marlon Byrd has been for the Mets, his acquisition might be too little too late with how both St. Louis and Cincinnati are playing. Meanwhile, Jurickson Profar can't repeat the performance from his first AB, but the damage has been done and Texas now takes a 2-0 lead into the 5th inning.

30 Minutes after End of Game: MIN - 3, TEX - 2

If I had been able to stay awake for another couple of innings, I would have seen not only the Twins' first hit of the ballgame, but also their impressive come-from-behind win on back to back home runs, first from third string backup catcher Chris Herrmann (making up for his bad throw on Kinsler's stolen base attempt earlier in the game) then Justin Morneau (in what is hopefully an audition for Billy Beane). Due to their performance, I guess the Twins deserve to have their current active fantasy style roster published for all to see:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

LEGO Arkham Asylum, Part 2

Click here for Previously on LEGO Arkham Asylum!

NOTE: The videos are embedded for soundtrack purposes only. The idea is for you, dear reader, to hit play before you start reading, and the music should last until the next segment (i.e. the next embedded video). The pictures are just included so the videos can stand alone on YouTube.

On the outskirts of Gotham City, far from the dark gothic mass of Arkham, stood stately Wayne Manor, home of billionaire playboy/entrepreneur/philanthropist Bruce Wayne. Gotham's most eligible bachelor has just pulled his expensive car into the driveway, the engine still hot from his 14-mile commute from Wayne Tower, where he spent his day at the helm of WayneTech Enterprises. As you can imagine, he's kind of a big deal - just look at his expensive suit, well-defined cheekbones, and perfectly coiffed hairdo.

His faithful butler, Alfred, took the car and drove it around to the expansive garage as our hero rushed to the false bookcase in the study and took the hidden elevator down to his second home: the Batcave! Built in a network of caves underneath the foundation of Wayne Manor, the Batcave is the secret base of operations of Gotham's trademark hero, Batman, housing a garage and hangar big enough for his various Bat-vehicles, an armory stocked with Bat-Gear, and a state-of-the-art $50 million computer. It was at this computer that Bruce Wayne sat down and activated a secret panel underneath the desk, exposing a shiny herbal vaporizing device. Wayne was not a man to indulge in the idle vices - this device was filled with a compound synthesized from a chemical Batman had collected from his last run-in with the Scarecrow's minions at the Health Springs Spa. Better to try to build up an immunity, rather than get caught off guard again, Wayne thought, as he took a long draw from the pipe.

"Computer," coughed Wayne through a wisp of hazy blue smoke. "Activate random case file. Display onscreen." The computer's familiar clicking and whirring echoed through the cave as images started to flash across the screen. Whenever Wayne had any free time, which was rare given the responsibilities inherent in living a double life, he liked to review the extensive case notes he took every time he donned the Batsuit to fight crime. But as the computer settled on a particular file, Wayne gasped sharply. Not this one, he thought. Not today. Batman had Poison Ivy secure in his holding cell, but Bane, under the influence of her mind-altering pheromones, had sought her out, broke into the Batcave, and waged a fierce battle to rescue her. It was one of the rare missions Batman had ever had to work on his home turf. It was also the last mission he ever worked with the second Robin, Jason Todd...

But before the memories had time to fully sink in, Wayne's attention was drawn by the bright flashing and loud blaring of the "ALERT" siren. Thanks to Wayne Enterprises technologies, the Batcomputer had a direct, semi-legal link into all emergency broadcast frequencies in the city, ensuring that Batman would always have a leg up on the criminal population, often hearing of events before even local law enforcement. This transmission was coming from Arkham Asylum, so it took highest priority (i.e. had the brightest flashing and loudest blaring).

"This is Arkham Guard Frank Boles," came the voice over the speaker. "We are experiencing a code red escape attempt! Guard Cash and Dr. Quinzell are trapped upstairs with the Joker and he's locked off all communications. He somehow gained access to the entire mainframe. I don't know what's going on, but we're gonna need backup over here, n..." But Boles's voice was abruptly cut off by the gruesome sound of regulation plastic polymer smashing into human skull, followed by the unmistakable laugh that can only come from one man: the Joker. Then nothing but haunting static.

In a flash, Wayne was out of his chair and running full speed to his quick-change chamber, a gadget he had specially built for a time just like this when time was of the essence. The quickest route to Arkham was by air, and the Batwing's autopilot was competent enough that he would be able to prepare for whatever situation awaited him by reviewing the Arkham security feed on the heads-up display via satellite uplink. Wayne settled himself in the quick-change chamber and drew a deep breath as he pushed the button that would complete his transformation into...


Back at Arkham Asylum, Joker had wasted no time making himself at home. The sedated form of Aaron Cash sat twitching and frothing at the mouth, strapped into the patient observation chair. Frank Boles and what was left of his face sat slumped over the guard desk at the entryway. The sound of alarms echoed through the halls - a haunting accompaniment to the screams of the guards as they were brutally overtaken by swarms of released criminals and henchmen. Joker took it all in, humming to himself as he playfully wandered through the cell block, meticulously destroying each security camera or Arkham guard he came across, with his newly-minted henchwoman at his side.

"Harley, my dear," he chuckled, wiping off his knife. "I do believe this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship."

"Oh, Mister J!" squealed Quinn, deftly leaping up and slicing the power to a camera high on the wall overlooking the computer in the Security Control Room. "Do ya mean it?"

"Er... Yeah, yeah, sure," responded Joker, more interested in the controls than whatever Harley was saying. "But Batman is sure to be on his way as we speak. Which one of our friends should I let out to deal with him, hmm?"

Joker found just the one. A stream of eerie green mist seemed to seep out of the cell as the door slid mechanically open. A foot stepped out into the mist, belonging to a man dressed in tattered clothes made out of burlap sacks sewn together with the remains of a torn Arkham inmate uniform, then produced the crown jewel of his costume: a ghastly mask that covered his face and extended above his head in the form of a warped wicked witch's hat.

"Here's Johnny!" shouted the Joker, gleefully embracing his newest cohort. "Johnny Crane, that is, FORMER professor of psychiatry at Gotham University, give it up for him, folks!" But instead, the shouts of violence and revelry seemed to die down in the Scarecrow's presence. All the remaining guards and even some of Joker's braver henchmen skittered away before the master of fear, whose only response was a burst of grim laughter. Lightning strikes here, why not.

"Say, think you could whip up a batch of that fear gas of yours before ol' pointy-ears shows up?" inquired Joker. "I don't care how you do it - maybe it involves eating a big fear burrito, I don't know - but I think it would be hilarious to use the security cameras here to videotape "our hero" going completely out of his mind!"

"Yes!" responded the Scarecrow. "Simply point me towards the laboratory and I shall make the bat cower before me!" Then more laughter, from both of them, then out.

Smash to: Fade in: Main Gates of Arkham Asylum. Pan up to reveal the Arkham building far across a wide expanse of courtyard, which is deserted, save for some flipped over/burning trucks and a few henchman wandering around causing trouble. Suddenly a rogue Arkham guard rushes out from behind cover and breaks for the gate. One henchman spots him, yells, and signals for two others, who soon give chase. They're just about to surround him when...

A familiar silhouette crosses the moon and the henchman freeze. They simultaneously look up to see our hero Batman, who streaks by in his newest, shininest black Batsuit and his finest hang-glider. He detaches himself from his aerial vehicle and extends his cape, easing himself into a glide, but is still traveling fast enough to deliver a flying kick to one of the henchman at a considerable speed. He goes sprawling onto his back, while another immediately charges with a pipe. He gets a batarang between the eyes for his trouble and staggers back. The third one, who was closer to the fray, manages to throw a big haymaker punch, but Batman goes into aikido stance, Shomenuchi Ikkiyo Tenkan (although he doesn't stop when the henchman taps), and the goon ends up with one less usable arm. The stars disappear from the last thug's eyes just in time to see a Sweet Chin Music that puts his lights out (although he doesn't bother to pin). Batman latches his grapple gun to the nearest gargoyle, hoists himself up there, and surveys the scene, heroically.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fantasy Astrology Midseason Additions

I know all of you who read my last post several weeks ago are just DYING to find out what happens next in the exciting adventure at LEGO Arkham Asylum.  I promise there's a very cool second act on the way, but it's taking me a while to get it through post-production.  In the meantime, there has been a lot happening in the baseball world that I have been paying great attention to, including the (utterly boring) Trade Deadline and the announcement of 12 (mostly boring) Biogenesis PED-related suspensions.  But what I've been focusing on is the All-Star Break edition of my 40-Man Roster project, which I've used to compile a midseason statistical database, which in turn has helped me optimize the teams in my Fantasy Astrology project.

I admit that I am not perfect in all of my endeavors.  I think I've made this metaphor before in this space, but the great Persian Rug weavers would intentionally weave mistakes into their greatest works because they believe that nothing should be perfect except Allah.  The blinding hubris of this practice aside, it wasn't for this reason that I left some of the hottest players in 2013 off their respective astrology rosters.  It was simply because I didn't spend the requisite time and energy scouring the waiver wire of the league to keep all the rosters up to date.  But that mistake has been rectified as of this weekend, thanks to my tireless database work.  Here is a roster made up of the best players who haven't yet appeared to represent their astrological teams this season:

Some pretty big names in there, including some who I added to my own fantasy team, but failed to do the same for the astrological universe.  I am referring in this case to Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig, but I'll get to him later, seeing as his new team is stuck in the middle of the standings (although surprisingly still over .500, even without the electrifying youngster).  Instead I'd like to go team-by-team, astrology standings style.  The first place Leo Lions sure do have a knack for developing young breakout stars - Mike Trout and Yu Darvish last year, Jose Fernandez and Evan Gattis this year.  The addition of the Marlins' lone All-Star will do more than shore up the pitching staff behind Max Scherzer, Darvish, and Madison Bumgarner while Clay Buchholz recovers (and I use that term optimistically) from his mysterious neck injury.  Matt Joyce has played an important offensive part in the success of a very good team, but despite his addition he'll be on the bench behind Trout, Adam Jones, Colby Rasmus, and the recently hot Jason Heyward.  Justin Wilson has been one of the best middle relievers in baseball working from the back-end of an overworked Pirates bullpen, but he'll fall to 3rd in the RP depth chart behind two guys who are actually picking up saves (Joaquin Benoit and Huston Street).

Three teams are tied with 11 wins each, and one of them might not even make the playoffs (provided the ESPN system takes the winner from each division rather than just selecting the teams with the four best records).  The Aries Rams didn't have too many glaring needs, but what few they had were more than adequately addressed with these additions: newly-crowned Red Sox closer Koji Uehara and top Pirates setup man Mark Melancon slide into the two RP roles recently vacated by a middle reliever (David Robertson) and a former closer (John Axford).  Rockies ace Jorge De La Rosa would be a welcome addition to most any pitching staff... except for the one that already includes Felix Hernandez, Matt Harvey, Chris Sale, Justin Masterson, Hisashi Iwakuma, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Chris Tillman.  I guess it's true when they say, "Them that has, gets."

The Libra Scales also picked up two newly-minted closers: Kenley Jansen (taking over for the ill-advised Brandon League) and Brad Ziegler (the latest to step into an Arizona closer-by-committee that has so far included Heath Bell (another new addition), J.J. Putz, and David Hernandez).  On the offensive side, Libra picked up another first baseman (Chris Johnson's secondary position) to put some pressure on the untraded Michael Young.  While the five SP's listed above are tops in terms of total points, a fair amount of mostly rookie breakout hits have more than competed in terms of PPG, a more valuable measure of competence given a small sample size.  One of these pitchers, Chris Archer, has been hot lately and will fill a rotation spot this week.  Another one of those pitchers, Gerrit Cole, will jump into Virgo's rotation for their all-important matchup against Leo this week.  Virgo's other two additions were surprisingly timely, considering how solid this team has been all year: Matt Dominguez is a welcome addition at 3B given Will Middlebrooks's demotion and Mike Moustakas's chronic failure to make it big, and Marlon Byrd will slide comfortably into an outfield spot with Domonic Brown and Carlos Quentin feeling the hurt recently.

Astrology neighbors (and opponents this week) have something in common other than their shared win total of 10: they both lost more important pieces due to suspensions than they gained through the midseason addition process.  Cancer gained a couple of starting pitchers not on the main list (Reds rookie Tony Cingrani and Twins WBC-inspired callup Samuel Deduno) who are both starting this week, but lost power hitting outfielder and Deduno's WBC teammate Nelson Cruz (who will be replaced by WBC Team Italy's Chris Denorfia, as neither Adam Lind nor Luke Scott have OF eligibility).  Gemini also added two starters that will jump into the rotation (Mets prospect Zack Wheeler and converting reliever Bruce Chen) and a closer (although Kevin Gregg will have to warm the bench behind consistent weekly leader Craig Kimbrel and WBC Team USA's Steve Cishek), but they lost Jhonny Peralta (who thankfully was DH-ing with some guy called Jose Reyes Gemini's main SS).

The Fire division is far and away the most powerful division in the league with all three members, including third place Sagittarius, playing over .500 fantasy ball.  And they just got a lot better, netting the hottest-hitting addition (Yasiel Puig leads runner-up Marlon Byrd by more than 5 points every contest) and the most consistent pitching addition (Eric Stults is toiling away in a forgotten corner of Southern California, but he has more total points than even the All-Star Jose Fernandez).  Water Division rivals Scorpio and Pisces had the fewest new additions, although Michael Saunders will start in CF for the Scorpions, seeing how Desmond Jennings is banged up and Coco Crisp is struggling of late, and Erik Bedard will take the injured Yovani Gallardo's place in the Fish rotation.  The two remaining Earth Division teams picked up some meaningful players, even though neither will likely be playing meaningful fantasy matchups down the stretch.  Capricorn and Taurus both picked up shortstop eligible players: Jose Iglesias goes to the Goats (and he'll play if Hanley Ramirez hits the DL for his shoulder ailment) and Brian Dozier went to the Bulls (but he has played primarily 2B this year).  The Bulls also swapped washed up veteran Justin Morneau for the surprisingly successful James Loney, but he'll play third fiddle at 1B behind Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez.  Aquarius is a total lost cause with only 3 wins on the season, but at least they got a couple of good pitchers (two from the main list and another from the backup list), a third string backup catcher with more upside than Carlos Ruiz, and a new first baseman to sit on the bench (Lyle Overbay, the only one not listed above).

I'll revisit these rosters again in a month when the calendar page changes again (in addition to doing the weekly lineup tinkering, about which I've been very consistent), but my guess is that things won't change too much as we head into the dog days.  Until then, it's root, root, root for your birthsign as the second season of Astrology Baseball rolls on!