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jhamill
10 days ago
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He looks like a Crossroads Demon waiting for you to sell your soul for fame & fortune. Or a Blues musician waiting for a gig.
California
HarlandCorbin
10 days ago
Or a Crossroads Demon waiting for a blues gig?
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Luminescent fruit

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Wojtkiewicz Fruit

Wojtkiewicz Fruit

At first, I thought these images by Dennis Wojtkiewicz were photographs of backlit fruit slices, but they’re actually super-realistic paintings four or five feet across. Ok, “super-realistic” is probably not the right description. Under scrutiny, the images are too perfect. Wojtkiewicz refers to his technique as a “heightened approach to realism”, a conscious journey into the uncanny valley.

Tags: art   Dennis Wojtkiewicz   food
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jhamill
10 days ago
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Uncanny valley indeed. These are great.
California
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The Royals Should Trade Whit Merrifield

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What does Whit Merrifield see in the gauzy mists of his future?
(Photo: Minda Haas Kuhlmann)

Whit Merrifield is a pretty good baseball player. Despite not debuting in the majors until his age-27 campaign and recording 1,700 roughly average plate appearances in Double-A and Triple-A before that, Merrifield has now produced two seasons’ worth of above-average offense at the major-league level. His 5.3 WAR ranks seventh among all second baseman since the start of last season. The 120 wRC+ he’s recorded this year is surpassed only by the marks produced by Jose Altuve and Jed Lowrie among AL second baseman. And while that’s his primary position, he has also played first base, center field, and right field this year and does have some experience at third base and left field, as well.

That combination of offensive skill and defensive flexibility makes Merrifield the sort of player who can fit on a number of clubs. It’s also what makes him appealing as a possible trade-deadline target for contenders. The Royals have a piece from which other clubs should benefit. They should make every effort to find a deal that makes sense.

Merrifield’s appeal isn’t limited to his performance. Because of his late start as a major leaguer, he won’t even be eligible for arbitration until 2020 and won’t be a free agent until after the 2022 season. Those extra years typically add considerable weight to trade value, allowing clubs to avoid wading out into the expensive free-agent waters.

Also due to Merrifield’s late start, however, the prospect of his cost-controlled years is a bit different than for other, similarly experienced (or inexperienced) players. While his league-minimum salaries for this year and next are appealing, Merrifield is likely to have entered his decline phase for the last three of his cost-controlled seasons. Cost-controlled seasons can be a great benefit to a team, but most of that theoretical benefit is based on a player still in his prime and potentially even improving. Players can get better in their early 30s — Jeff Kent and Daniel Murphy come to mind as prominent examples of second basemen alone — but age-related decline is the rule not the exception.

To get a sense of how Merrifield might age, I looked for second baseman since 1995 at 28 and 29 years old with a WAR between 5.0 and 8.0 and age-29 WAR between 2.5 and 5.0. Note that this analysis doesn’t account for the fact that Merrifield was a mostly mediocre minor leaguer, but instead focuses on his good run over the last two years.

At age 30, the 12 players who fit the above criteria averaged a solid 107 wRC+ and 2.8 WAR. At age 31, they experienced a typical move downward, to a 103 wRC+ and 2.2 WAR. By age 32, only half the players recorded more than 2.0 WAR and, at age 33, the only players to surpassed the 1.5 WAR threshold were Kent, Ray Durham, and Eric Young.

Here’s how the players performed from 30 years old through their respective age-33 seasons.

Whit Merrifield Comps Age 30 Through Age 33
Name PA HR OBP SLG wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
Jeff Kent 2570 109 .381 .543 137 -2.9 124.5 2.6 20.1
Brandon Phillips 2463 62 .324 .416 101 -1.8 1.9 43.5 12.9
Ray Durham 2230 52 .365 .451 116 13.5 57.8 -5.9 12.5
Daniel Murphy 1787 63 .361 .519 130 0.4 66.9 -8.0 11.8
Dan Uggla 2513 110 .335 .432 111 4.1 38.1 -12.3 10.8
Eric Young 2455 24 .363 .388 97 13.7 4.8 21.6 10.2
Brian Roberts 1860 32 .356 .430 107 10.7 28.3 3.0 9.5
Luis Castillo 2206 8 .366 .351 96 13.0 1.9 -5.8 6.8
Freddy Sanchez 1837 26 .322 .393 92 -0.7 -20.0 17.1 5.7
Jose Offerman 2140 31 .357 .384 94 -4.8 -19.6 -9.2 4.4
Mike Lansing 1723 35 .309 .394 64 1.1 -80.5 2.6 -1.9
Akinori Iwamura 489 3 .322 .326 80 0.7 -11.1 -14.2 -1.0
AVERAGE 2023 46 .347 .419 102 3.9 16.1 2.9 8.5
AVG/YR 506 12 .347 .419 102 1.0 4.0 0.7 2.1

Jeff Kent is obviously doing a lot of the heavy lifting for this group. Daniel Murphy, meanwhile, has half a season to improve his numbers a bit (although it’s been a discouraging year so far). One could make an argument it is unfair to include Iwamura in this group, as he went back to Japan after his age-31 season. One could also make an argument that Merrifield more resembles Iwamura than he does other players on this list when it comes to MLB experience, and it isn’t like Iwamura played well in his return to Japan. Overall, the group is fine, and that should be the expectation for Merrifield as well.

Service time and potentially overrating cost-controlled seasons is merely one complication for the Royals in dealing Merrifield. The other is the market. In most situations where a player is years away from free agency, a team could wait for the winter and get a better deal. That might not be the case with Merrifield, however. Murphy, Brian Dozier, DJ Lemahieu, and probably Josh Harrison are all hitting the market this offseason. Even after those names, Logan Forsythe and Neil Walker will be free agents and Starlin Castro will likely be available in a trade. Merrifield is probably more appealing than many of those names, but how much more? Will teams be willing to give up legitimate prospects with decent options available for just cash?

The Royals could opt to hold on to Merrifield as they rebuild, but they currently have little in the way of legitimate pieces for their next competitive team. Just one player, Seuly Matias, appears in the most recent prospect rankings, and while they added to their system in the draft, those players are still several years away from being significant contributors. Players like Merrifield are important for competitive clubs, but given how far away the team is from contending, Merrifield might have more use for what he can fetch in a trade.

This isn’t to suggest that Merrifield is a bad player, at all. He’s been a remarkable success for the Royals and would make a good addition to many contending teams. There might be some concerns about Merrifield, as he hit 19 homers last season and has just five this year. Add that to his line being propped up by a .353 BABIP, and it might appear his production is a bit too good to be true. The 50-point drop in his ISO is alarming, but shouldn’t be too much cause for concern. Based on exit velocity and launch angle, his expected ISO last year was .181 and this year it is a very similar .186 figure. He’s already hit 27 doubles on the season, and if a few more of those doubles went over the fence, his power numbers would resemble last year’s, providing some insulation to a potential BABIP regression.

Merrifield’s projections, which give him a 95 wRC+ and roughly average WAR, still account for his less-than-great minor-league track record. Even if he isn’t the player currently hitting 20% above league average, he’s a valuable contributor, and he will be more valuable to a team that isn’t the Royals. His overall track record, age, and the market for second basemen might prevent the type of haul for which Royals fans might be hoping, but he should be able to net a couple more prospects, maybe one who will be as good as Merrifield is right now. That might not seem like a fair deal, but a future-Merrifield might make an actual difference in the standings and the present-Merrifield likely won’t ever be in a position to do so.

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jhamill
11 days ago
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The Royals should trade everyone! Get rid of all the known players and just start prospects at this point. You're not winning anything this year. Call up the kids and let them play the second half of the season.
California
angelchrys
11 days ago
Sad but true. The Royals are amazingly atrocious this year.
jhamill
10 days ago
Reminds me of the late 90's/early 00's when they were always vying for the last place in the league.
angelchrys
9 days ago
Yeah, this is not the kind of retro flashback I enjoy, especially since parking and concessions at the K are still at "we recently won the World Series!" pricing.
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Chris Archer Is Probably Right About All-Star Snubs

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For as long as there are ballots and voters, there will be controversy about the contents of those ballots cast by those voters. Baseball, in this sense, is no exception. The Hall of Fame, end-of-season awards, and — of greatest relevance at the moment — the All-Star Game: each provides ample room for discontent.

The All-Star selection process has changed recently, with managers losing their power to select reserves last season. Fans still vote on the starting position players for each league, but players have now taken on much a larger role: overall, they’re responsible for choosing 33 of the 64 All-Star roster spots (17 reserves in the AL and 16 in the NL). The commissioner’s office then cleans up by selecting a handful of final AL and NL reserves to round out the rosters. There is then a final fan vote ballot (#SaveMuncy) that includes one more player from each league as chosen by the fans.

Anthony Castrovince wrote an excellent primer on the selection process.

Fans have long been criticized, and many times deservedly so, for their poor voting track record. But many have noted this is a game for the fans, they are the customers, so they ought to see whom they want. But interestingly, the players’ ability to assess All-Star talent is also coming into question, including by some within their own ranks. And with the wealth of information available in today’s game, perhaps the public can make as good, or better, All-Star decisions.

The day following All-Star selections, a day following any sort of selection process, is a day to evaluate who was snubbed.

And Chris Archer probably has a good point about Blake Snell: the latter ranked second in ERA- (52), first in ERA (2.09), and 10th in the AL in pitching WAR. Pitchers like Jose Berrios and J.A. Happ were selected above him. And while every team must have a representative, it’s up to the commissioner’s office, in the final stage of the selection process, to ensure that rule is satisfied. Eddie Rosario was the more deserving Twin. He is snubbed at the moment, though he is also a candidate for the final fan vote.

Players like Snell, Rosario, Brandon Belt, Andrew Benintendi, Charlie Morton, Max Muncy, Ross Stripling, and Trea Turner are among those who were passed over, who have outperformed some of those players already selected for the game.

While, on one hand, the All-Star Game is just an exhibition event, no longer even attached to World Series home-field advantage, the status that comes with it can have actual practical consequences, can be used for or against a player in arbitration, can aid a player’s public appeal and financial bottom line.

Beyond that, there’s some appeal to the idea of the All-Star Game functioning as a meritocracy. Again, that’s complicated by the mandate to select a player from every team, but there’s even room for improvement within that constraint. The Royals, for example, had a much more deserving player than Salvador Perez (69 wRC+, .213 average, 0.2 WAR, and selected by the players) in Whit Merrifield.

While the public has been criticized for allowing reputation and brand appeal to creep too much into voting, trumping actual first-half performance, that was also an issue for players, as is obvious in the construction of the All-Star rosters.

Stripling was a far better first-half performer than Jon Lester. Belt had a better first half than Joey Votto. Charlie Blackmon ranks 28th amongst NL outfielders in WAR.

In the American League, Michael Brantley ranks 19th in outfield WAR. Trevor Bauer leads American League pitchers in WAR but he needed a Verlander scratch and a save from the commissioner’s office to be added to the roster.

I’ve broken down the voting by groups and highlighted some of the weaker selections by WAR. (Reliever WAR is problematic, so I’m staying away from any evaluation of that group.)

All-Star Voting by Group
Fan Vote AL WAR AL Pos. Rank Fan Vote NL WAR NL Pos. Rank
Jose Abreu (1B) 0.2 7th Freddie Freeman (1B) 3.6 1st
Jose Altuve (2B) 4.2 1st Javier Baez (2B) 3.1 2nd
Jose Ramirez (3B) 5.7 1st Nolan Arenado (3B) 3.5 1st
Manny Machado (SS) 3.2 3rd Brandon Crawford (SS) 2.5 2nd
Mike Trout (OF) 6.5 1st Nick Markakis (OF) 2.5 3rd
Mookie Betts (OF) 5.5 2nd Matt Kemp (OF) 2.0 9th
Aaron Judge (OF) 4.6 3rd Bryce Harper (OF) 1.5 17th
Wilson Ramos (C) 1.4 1st Willson Contreras (C) 2.6 2nd
JD Martinez (DH) 3.5 1st (t)
Player Vote AL WAR AL Pos. Rank Player Vote NL WAR NL Pos. Rank
Aroldis Chapman 1.8 3rd Jacob deGrom 4.1 2nd
Gerrit Cole 3.0 6th Sean Doolittle 1.6 2nd
Edwin Diaz 2.8 1st Mike Foltynewicz 2.2 8th
Corey Kluber 2.8 7th Josh Hader 2.4 1st
Craig Kimbrel 1.0 9th Brad Hand 0.7 19th
Luis Severino 4.3 3rd Aaron Nola 3.6 3rd
Chris Sale 4.4 2nd Max Scherzer 4.3 1st
Mitch Moreland 1.6 2nd Joey Votto 2.6 6th
Gleyber Torres 1.6 5th Ozzie Albies 3.2 1st
Justin Verlander (i) 4.2 4th Trevor Story 2.4 3rd
Francisco Lindor 5.1 1st Eugenio Suarez 3.2 2nd
Alex Bregman 3.8 2nd Charlie Blackmon 0.6 28th
Michael Brantley 1.2 19th Lorenzo Cain 3.4 1st
Mitch Haniger 2.6 9th Christian Yelich 2.2 8th
George Springer 1.8 14th Buster Posey 1.8 4th
Salvador Perez 0.2 17th Jon Lester 1.0 27th
Nelson Cruz 1.8 4th
Commish Pick AL WAR AL Pos. Rank Commish Pick NL WAR NL Pos. Rank
Trevor Bauer 4.5 1st Patrick Corbin 3.1 4th
Jose Berrios 1.9 15th Kenley Jansen 1.0 14th
JA Happ 1.7 18th Miles Mikolas 2.3 7th
Joe Jimenez 1.2 6th Felipe Vazquez 1.3 5th
Blake Trennen 2.0 2nd Paul Goldschmidt 3.3 2nd
Shin-Soo Choo 2.9 7th Scooter Gennett 3.0 3rd
JT Realmuto 3.5 1st

Perhaps another issue is the process: paper and envelopes over technology.

Still, that cannot explain all of the snubs.

According to the New York Post, the players rejected a change to the system that would have made voting look more like a primary system. Perhaps that could have been an improvement. Certainly, allowing players to vote later would help the process and perhaps produce more serious engagement and thoughtfulness.

While the fans made some errors in voting in Jose Abreu and Bryce Harper into the starting lineups, if you’re an All-Star snub this season you really have your peers to blame.

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jhamill
11 days ago
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When will people learn that All Star voting is about popularity and not defining the best players in the first half of the season? If it was about the best players, there wouldn't be any voting needed! Simply pick the metrics to evaluate the "best" by and go.
California
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Public opinion has turned strongly against the Rigged Witch Hunt and the “Special” Counsel because the public understands that there was no Collusion with Russia (so ridiculous), that the two FBI lovers were a fraud against our Nation & that the only Collusion was with the Dems!

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Public opinion has turned strongly against the Rigged Witch Hunt and the “Special” Counsel because the public understands that there was no Collusion with Russia (so ridiculous), that the two FBI lovers were a fraud against our Nation & that the only Collusion was with the Dems!


Posted by realDonaldTrump on Saturday, July 7th, 2018 8:42pm


60797 likes, 15999 retweets
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JimB
13 days ago
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It isn't collusion when you just do what they say...
wreichard
14 days ago
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And unicorns are real and we can all fly if we wish really hard.
Earth
fxer
14 days ago
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"Special"
Bend, Oregon
jhamill
14 days ago
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We live in two different realities. You are delusional and the rest of us not mainlining Conservative talking points are watching you say crazy things thinking, "he can't really believe that, can he?".
California
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This seamless floorboard transition.

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This seamless floorboard transition.

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jhamill
14 days ago
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Uh, that is not seamless. It's a good transition, smooth and very well done.
California
dreadhead
14 days ago
Also those "floor boards" look a lot like tiles.
jhamill
14 days ago
Interesting
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