Strike Or Not I Will Continue To Mail In Posts

Today, a professional baseball game was played between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Kansas City Royals. The Jays bashed four bangers out towards an 8-3 win at home. In a game that featured the grizzled veteran Dickey outperforming the trio of Young, Wang, Pounders.

How can you not be romantic about baseball?

Finn Becomes Latest BBC To Receive Rim Job

Yesterday, I didn’t even realize they had actually green-lit a Pacific Rim sequel. So today I not only realized we would be in for more giant-robot/monster-violence-orgies, but that John Boyega will star as the son of Stringer Bell’s Stacker Pentecost to presumably cancel another apocalypse. The strengths of the franchise are fairly straight forward – excessive IMAX robot on monster action and black British characters. As the actual (non-Stacker) human beings involved were the clear weaknesses, this certainly seems like a massive Jaeger-sized step in the right direction.

And considering the Chinese acquisition of the franchise’s production company and distributor in a $3.5 billion deal I feel like you can trust they’re going make note that this was a Hollywood movie that made $111 million in China versus just $101 million domestically. So…I guess just like a lot of Crimson Typhoons, all over the place.

Man, Pacific Rim was goddamn fantastic and I’m so excited to see more. If nothing else it was a fascinating study as to where the line blurs between being a great bad movie or a terrible good movie. I still don’t know!

You like the name? I took it from, uh, my favorite historical character and my second-favorite Szechuan restaurant in Brooklyn.

Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

In an era that entertainment properties are struggling to come up with truly original content over repackaging some existing poop for you as second harvest, a third option has emerged that’s almost like a hybrid of both – just cramming a ton of stuff together without any thought to coherence. And if you can pack it tightly together enough to the point where you can’t tell where one piece ends and the other begins, then you might have done it! Just like creating new colours of Play-Doh! And sometimes it just might work…

– Paul Rudd, Stephen Hawking, narrated by Ted of Bill & Ted, directed by (and cameo from) Bill of Bill & Ted, funded and produced by California Institute of Technology’s Institute for Quantum Information and Matter…Quantum Chess? What an odd tasting but surprisingly healthy smoothie mix.

21 Jump Street started as second harvest, but turned out to actually be quite delicious and nutritious ($201 million and $331 million box office grosses which is bonkers for a comedy). For a self-aware series that has already constantly acknowledged how ridiculous its own existence is, and has already called out the next dozen sequels or so, really the only possible next step will have to be pretty out there. And mashing it together with Men in Black seems like it’d do the trick. Just jam it together, mush it all together real tight!

Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s own clever delivery system of their greatest hits, based on a game that someone else made based on a map made by a random guy within a Blizzard game…is releasing a rather fantastic skin for Diablo 3‘s Azmodan called Azmodunk, the beast of the Burning Court. And apparently it’s all based on this random fan video. I mean you don’t think it goes together until suddenly someone actually does it and you can’t even imagine a world without it. There’s a lot of great stuff in here, truly.

– Spike Jonze! Stephen Colbert! Grover! Mash it up!

“Do not put peanut butter on that! A Grilled Charlie has peanut butter last.”
“Okay inside or outside – ”
“Peanut butter outside, chocolate inside, butter inside, cheese outside.”

Too Many Words About An Unremarkable Show

There’s enough going on in the television show landscape lately that I don’t think anyone should exactly be begging for more shows. I mean shouldn’t you go back and watch The Sopranos or Band of Brothers for the first time before opening that new Fox sitcom about how a small town lawyer can’t get along with his big town actor brother that is actually surprisingly good? Wouldn’t that be a the right thing to do!?! And yet, if you told me Danny Pudi and Alan Tudyk were joining a new show, that would be a solid single eyebrow raise. And the fact that it’s presumably a The Office type comedy set “in the universe of DC Comics” – yep, that’s the other eyebrow also rising, can’t help it.

The showrunner is Ben Queen, who is really only known for creating another NBC sitcom (along with executive producer Rashida Jones?) called A to Z featuring Michael Ginsberg and Leo’s first wife from The Wolf of Wall Street as the two romantic leads, Andrew and Zelda (DO YOU GET IT). Also it was cancelled after one season. So…eyebrows up, but I’m squinting now.

It’s an NBC comedy called “Powerless” that will star Vanessa Hudgens (why not?) as an insurance claims adjuster in a world of superheroes…I mean sure, that’s probably got some legs. You’d certainly understand if there were a lot of insurance claims in the DC universe.

But the DC cinematic universe hasn’t exactly had a comedic leaning, historically. In recent years, they’ve been more about Batman brooding in the dark and Superman being a deadbeat sociopath dad…compared to the other side of the fence that now has two wisecracking, $100+ million opening weekend, full body spandex clad dudes in their roster, alongside Paul Rudd/Michael Pena and talking tree/raccoon pairings.

Though it’s like the other way around in the domain of television.

It’s also very different logistically on the Marvel side, which inexplicably has every single superhero crammed into New York City. Batman’s in Gotham, Superman’s Metropolis, Flash is in Central/Keystone City, Green Lantern has Coast City, Green Arrow is in Star City (and I think Martian Manhunter was in Denver?)…so chances are you’re not going to see a lot of big name cameos. I think we’re talking like Booster Gold level stuff here.

…Ambush Bug?

But yeah, Danny Pudi typecast again as a weird, ethnic, sexually unthreatening best friend and Alan Tudyk playing Michael Scott…that buys you a pilot viewing at the minimum, regardless of the comic stuff…which at this point I don’t even know if it’s good or bad. Why do you need to set it in the DC universe, why not just any generic superhero universe? Is adding licensed superhero characters really going to add a lot more value than no name brand alternatives?

I wonder if naming a show Powerless is going to cause any confusion with “Powers” which is about homicide detectives set in a superhero universe, that apparently came out last year already…on the PlayStation Network? Okay, maybe not.

I’m living in that 21st century, doing something mean to it
Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it
Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it
I guess every superhero need his theme music

Mos Def Retires, Is Probably Insane

This morning I saw a headline noting Mos Def’s retirement from music and acting, and my first reaction was very much like when Francisco Cordero retired last year…dude hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 (he was bad) and it was more like a formality in order to collect his pension and stuff. Except…actors and rappers don’t really need to submit paperwork to their union for retirement. Most guys just…you know, stop doing stuff, and that’s that.

So this, from Mos Def, seems like just a cry for attention.

But then I read the article and oh man…it’s so much more.

I mean…there’s a lot to process. Can I kick it grade school style and break it down in point form notes?

  • Mos Def and his family have apparently been living in Cape Town, South Africa since 2013
  • Though this article says 2009, after a court ordered him to pay $10,000 for child support
  • He originally entered the country with a visitor’s permit he obtained with his US Passport
  • Last week he attempted to leave the country with something called a “world passport
  • It was unsuccessful and he was arrested
  • While he was in prison, he called Kanye West
  • During the phone call he dropped a five minute long freestyle announcing that he was retiring

It’s still on KanyeWest.com if you want to hear it…but you probably don’t.

I will say this – in terms of announcing your retirement, there are certainly less interesting ways to do that than within a freestyle rap during a phone call to Kanye West while you’re stuck in a South African prison.

I mean…is this just a really outside the box marketing strategy for an upcoming album?

Is he even still doing stuff? I mean…Mos Def, you were great in Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy and I liked you in that wacky heist movie with the Mini Coopers. And you had some top notch bits on Chappelle’s Show. But what the heck is this, dude? First impression is that he has gone a bit wacky in the head…but I think it’s just because he just doesn’t want to pay any tax. I can’t imagine it would be very difficult for a famous American millionaire to easily obtain the legal right to reside in Africa.

Most interestingly to me is that a world passport, to my absolute surprise, is not total bullshit as apparently three countries (though the issuing office of the World Service Authority claims there are six) do actually accept them as travel documents. Although these seem like countries with immigration officers that would also readily accept an American twenty dollar bill tucked in folded paper towel as a valid passport as well. I mean if you’re claiming legitimacy by citing Mauritania, Tanzania, and Togo as countries that accept what you’re doing…there’s definitely worst first steps, but you’re definitely not quite where you want to be yet.

“Didn’t you think it was strange I was trying to shake hands with a car?”
“I assumed you were drunk.”
“I thought cars were the dominant life form. I was trying to introduce myself.”

2016 Looks Horrifying So Remember 2015 Forever

What a wonderful and wacky 2015 it was.

The Toronto Blue Jays are finally a playoff team and the defending AL East champions. There is a new Star Wars movie that is actually about stuff that happened like after the first movies. I mean, certainly it can still all go wrong and head straight downhill from here. Even though the Jays didn’t blow $30 million a year on David Price, it would still be tough to resign both or even one of Bautista or Encarnacion. And more Star Wars movies don’t necessarily mean more good Star Wars movies, the capacity of man to fuck this franchise up have already been well demonstrated.

Still…what a world we live in. It’ll be an interesting 2016 if nothing else. I mean look around.

Movies inspired by comic book properties are going out of control, to the point where there’s actually going to be a goddamn Dr. Strange movie made that will star human beings with actual names like Benedict Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejofor, and Tilda Swinton. This magical gathering will not only feature the weirdest looking Europeans in the world, but also the weirdest named ones. I would almost be disappointed if they don’t give the agents of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau or Saoirse Ronan a call throughout this franchise. Get it done Marvel, Zach Galifianakis as the voice of Shuma-Gorath in Dr. Strange 2: Hangover in the Chaos Dimension.

Which will be the bigger Civil War? Captain America versus Iron Man? Or whatever’s going on in Syria right now? The uh…Syrian Arab Republic? And ISIL…? ISIS? See, I can’t follow, I need the entire storyline to be summarized and crucial plot points to be spoiled for me in a two minute feature trailer. Each faction needs to have like their own lead-in movie franchise before throwing them all together. There hasn’t been any time for the audience to associate or empathize with any of the parties individually before you forced them all to share screen time with each other, it’s just not going to capture interest and it’s going to be an unmitigated human disaster. I mean I don’t think the Syria Civil War will be as bad as Dawn of Justice, but it’s too early to say really.

Continued tensions in the Middle East could cause continued complications with oil production – falling oil price headlines dominated 2015, with crude oil hitting it’s lowest mark in over a decade and will remain an important topic in 2016. But even though the severing of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran may cause complications with production between the two largest suppliers of crude oil to the US, now that the trade sanctions against Iran have been lifted there will still likely be millions more barrels to add to the US’ 80-year high inventory. Which will continue to cause Canada’s own oil-linked loonie to struggle. That’s why you need to diversify…and uh, invest into Bitcoins…?

Already suffering the second worst fall on record last year, the continued weakness of the Canadian dollar will affect Canadian consumer purchasing power – especially if they’re looking at this sweetass Combiner Wars lineup for 2016. How can I afford these awesome Bruticus and Shockwave toys if US shale production doesn’t pump its fucking brakes? Goddamn, guys, Shockwave transforms into a gun for Bruticus!

Oh yeah and Bran Stark is coming back…? Sure.

I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass

For The Love Of The Game

Here’s a bunch of links about a bunch of random things!

Someone is offering 90.5 BitCoins (worth approximately $50,000) for a qualified Magic Pro Tour player to build a deck based around Seance. It’s a weird request. Bystanders familiar with “mtgfinance circles” think that it’s in an effort to inflate the worth of the card, likely from an individual who owns thousands of copies of it, who years ago speculated on its future appreciation. It could be the same person that, eight months ago, spent $1,200 on hiring random internet strangers to burn the same card, reducing its supply. But I just can’t imagine meaningful changes to happen on the scale necessary for real money to be made. I mean even if you have like…5,000 cards, you’d have to wager that a successful and popular Seance deck makes the card jump over $10 in value before you can even break even. Which seems…difficult? But I don’t have a handle on the numbers at work here at all so who knows. What a hilarious and bizarre subculture. Though as someone that once sold a Diablo 3 set legendary for $250 and spent more time speculating in the auction house than in the game itself, I feel like I should have a better handle on that.

– Some bad news for a Oscar-hyped upcoming film in The Revenant with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy that I know you all wanted to see. Apparently, contrary to some early internet reports, there is actually no actual bear rape in the movie. Only possibly implied bear rape, depending on your perspective, presumably. If I, as part of the consuming public choosing to make bear rape a central component of my interpretation of this film, who are you to stand in the way of how art is subjectively viewed? But still, what’s the point now, really.

– I stumbled onto this recently…a playlist of videos where someone plays Dark Souls with voice recognition input instead of a normal controller. It’s already one of the more difficult series of games I’ve ever had the masochistic pleasure of playing – doing something like that just seems excessive, really no reason for that at all. Like it wasn’t hard enough to backflip on a unicycle – I’m also going to do it while balanced on a high-wire across the Grand Canyon, blindfolded, while archers shoot flaming arrows at me, singing that opera song from The Fifth Element. All while trying to keep a relationship with a member of the opposite sex completely platonic even though both of you are single. I mean…come on.

– And now there’s even a Dark Souls III so I am posting stuff about a game that is one entire Dark Souls behind.

– Some unfortunate news from a Spanish news channel discussing the recent (man I wrote this a long time ago) terror attacks in Paris, as the logo of the Rebel Alliance was mistaken for the logo for Al Qaida. Presumably the intern that was responsible for the graphics of this segment was misled by an errant Google image search result. Who came up with that? Was it Randy? Did Randy come up with that? Or perhaps it was a subtle commentary on who the good guys or bad guys really are in Star Wars. Terrorist attacks against the global authority perpetrated by believers in a faith system that more easily lends itself to radical violent behaviour than other established religions…that sounds a lot like Force believers. Never heard about any light side/dark side turf wars from any nature loving Ithorians or Sacred Way practitioners, am I right?

– Speaking of Star Wars…the trailer that will play before one of the most anticipated and in most likelihood most watched movies of all time? Star Trek Beyond. Yes, the trailer for the new Star Trek movie will play before the new Star Wars movie. Which is a sentence that if I had spoken out loud two years ago, would have made everyone think I was having a stroke. What a weird age we live in.

– And speaking of trailers…no one does it better than It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. They are up to Season 11! I don’t know how it gets more perfect than this.

You can fly if you try leaving the past behind
Heaven only knows what you might find

A Random December Post

Oh shit it’s December already! What happened!?!

– Slim Jim is throwing out a ton of commercial campaigns, in what I imagine to be like a marketing shotgun approach. One particular line includes TJ Miller in blue-face as a Slim Jim genie that grants wishes…? I don’t know, I think you should watch them. But watch them while keeping in mind that commercial perfection has already been reached by the Macho Man Randy Savage.

– Apparently they are looking to replace Brendan Fraser in The Mummy reboots. Except instead of going younger and sexier with recasts, they’re going older…and sexier, with Tom Cruise. It’s a very ambitious project as well…

Characters from the monster universe films are expected to crop up in each other’s installments before culminating in an “Avengers”-style tie-in film.

Because now everyone wants that sweet, sweet Marvel money. It’s what they tried to do with Van Helsing, but it was before the world was ready for it. But now…t’s time for Tom Cruise to be the new Van Helsing.

– With Kobe’s recent announcement of his retirement at the end of this season, as a small tribute I will post a 15-minute video containing all the game winning shots he’s hit in his career up to this point. Surprisingly there’s only three Raptors games in there. Goodnight, sweet prince.

Look at my life, Jack. My father was a congressman, I was valedictorian at St Andrews, an Olympic archer, fourth guitarist in Loverboy…as a teenager! Its almost unbelievable! If it weren’t all true, I’d say it doesn’t even make sense.

Game Of Inches, Or Less

This is not a Blue Jays blog, this is all just a coincidence. But man it’s fun to cram all these wacky graphics into a post, so on it goes!

Playoff baseball is really just normal baseball concentrated. Baseball concentrate. You add some cold weather, filter out the crappier teams, distill a 162 game season into 20-something odd games, and it’s just pure unadulterated baseball. Everything is amplified in stark contrast to the meaningless grind of the regular season. Because in the regular season there’s always time to make a run still, and baseball is all about staying steady in the ups and downs – the best baseball teams still lose as many games as the best basketball teams win in a season. So you’re used to that mentality of “well, we’ll get ’em tomorrow.”

But there aren’t too many tomorrows left when you hit October. I wasn’t prepared for how different playoff baseball was. Or…specifically playoff baseball that I care about. You start getting really invested into the minutiae of all the bullshit within a single game that you normally don’t give a shit about. Silly things. Whether a cleat was less than an inch off a plate, a single funny throw, a bobbled ball or three, potential eternally celebrated home runs that turn into forgotten warning track outs because a round bat hit a round ball travelling at 98 miles per hour just a fraction of a second too late and a fraction of an inch too low. And all the round balls going 98 miles per hour that were indeed hit squarely with round bats. Often it seems like entire games, and maybe entire series, hinge upon a single play or a single at-bat.

Maybe Game 5 was one of those games, maybe it wasn’t, I don’t know. But here’s the game chart from Fangraphs, showing Win Probability on top and the Leverage Index below.

Source: FanGraphs

The highest leverage play of the game was Estrada getting Zobrist to hit into a double play in the 4th. Considering Estrada is an extreme fly ball pitcher with third lowest GB% of qualified starters in the league (32.2%), that becomes even more impressive.

The second highest leverage at-bat was Jose Bautista coming up against Edinson Volquez in the bottom of the 6th. Up 1-0 with two men on, trying to crack open the game (it would eventually happen with the three run double from Tulowitzki three batters later). And although Tulowitzki’s hit actually added more towards the Win Probability (7.7%) than Bautista’s walk (5.8%), the game was more “on the line” when Bautista came up – it would have represented a much different WPA with based loaded, none out versus men on first and second with one out. And although the Blue Jays were still up 1-0, the game becomes a lot different going into the 7th up 1-0 versus 5-0, especially with the possibility of burning Game 6 starter Price out of the bullpen instead.

So while this ALCS may not have hinged on Game 5, and while Game 5 would not have solely hinged on a single at-bat in the 6th that didn’t even score a run directly, it still represents maybe the most critical at-bat of the game in terms of the huge difference between the possible “good” outcomes versus the possible “bad” outcomes – high leverage versus win probability added.

But we can say for sure that within that crucial at-bat, it all hinged on the last borderline pitch, called a ball just off the outside corner that made it bases loaded with none out versus men on first and second with one out. And it’s a close pitch. Both Fangraphs and BlueJays.com already have great articles about just that at-bat. The Fangraphs article in particular is must-read with nice pictures and everything, and it notes that similar pitches in similar situations are called strikes almost half the time.

PITCHf/x, the system that captures all this pitch information used to come up with those numbers, is basically three 60 Hz cameras that have been installed in each stadium. The data is owned by Major League Baseball Advanced Media which makes it available in XML format, and sites like Fangraphs and Brooks Baseball then take that data and overlay it over a strike zone graphic.

This is from Fangraphs – showing that the pitch catches the bottom of the zone, which is by definition, a strike. (All of these are from the catcher’s perspective.)

This is from Brooks Baseball – note pitch #10 below the zone, a ball.

At this point you can’t even really say definitively if it’s objectively a strike or a ball – even the computer systems aren’t precise enough to capture it. There might be a question of accuracy as well – check out the Brooks Baseball chart for Dioneer Navarro’s at-bat in the 6th, right after the double.

Pitch #1, a called strike where the head of a right handed batter would normally be? And then pitch #2, a ball in the middle of the strike zone? Was this umpire smoking the drugs?

Here’s the actual first pitch – located nicely at the bottom outside corner.
navarro1

MLB Gameday called it a 44 mph “unknown” pitch…but I think Pitchf/x just fucked up because it looked like a fastball to me. You can see this in the Fangraphs chart above too, that lonely red called strike at the absolute top left. And then here’s the second pitch, that was apparently a ball right down the middle.
navarro2

Nope. Actually turns out none of the other six pitches were even close to where Pitchf/x said they were. So yeah, okay that’s pretty weird. Maybe we’re not quite ready for robot umpires just yet.

Which is all just to say in the end…it’s a pretty close call. Something the computers couldn’t even determine conclusively. That is as close as you can get to the textbook definition of a borderline pitch. And if that ends up the pitch that swung the at-bat that swung the game that swung the series…then man, how crazy would that be? Between stuff like this and The Elvis Andrus Show in the 7th inning of Game 5 in the ALDS, it’s hard to push that cursed Toronto sports narrative any further than this. And just being able to put that silly idea down is quite a reward on its own. Because to get this far in the baseball postseason which is ultimately just a crapshoot, you need at a lot of luck. A ton of talent as well, but unlucky teams don’t get this far.

So regardless of what happens tonight in Game 6 and all the possible games that come, it’s been a wondrously fun ride we’ve all been lucky to witness.

“You can argue that I got the benefit of a borderline call,” Bautista said. “The bottom line is I ended up on first and Tulo came through.”

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

It is upon us!

Technically yesterday, but I kind of forgot. Didn’t even make it into November, which seems to buck almost a decade long trend, if my history can be trusted. Which probably cannot, to be honest.

Man it got cold quick this year!

Snow dad’s better than no dad!

About

Destined to fight the world's evil, The WAMBAG endures massive battles involving impossible stunts, races on horse-pulled carriages, and the desecration of enchanting medieval castles (all done with dizzying computer graphics). Not only does the eye candy keep on coming, the tongue-in-cheek writing and deep Transylvanian accents perfect the film with a dose of dark humor.

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