Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Five Players to Avoid

Every year I build a list of list of players I expect to disappoint. Some of these I avoid completely, while others I would only take at a deep discount. They are players that I’m actively not looking to draft. If there’s another player with similar numbers available, I’m more likely to take the other player than one of these guys. About 70% of the reason I’m avoiding these guys is strictly gut, which means there’s a 30% chance I’ll be wrong about them. I’d rather be wrong and miss out on them, then right and be stuck with underperforming or injured players. The price on these guys would have to drop dramatically before I drafted or purchased one of them.

  1. Dan Uggla, 2B, Florida Marlins – This rule 5 draft pick is stirring up a lot of talk this spring. Some people expect more of the same, while others think last year was a fluke. There are cases that can be made for both sides, but I think one thing is clear. No one expects him to improve on last year. Which means, best case scenario, it’s more of the same. There are a couple of warning signs that point to a “sophomore slump” for Uggla. He had a horrific September hitting .221 with 15 runs and 10 RBI in 122 At Bats. He also had a career high 611 at bats. While this could simply be that he wore down as the season went on, I think it was more of a case of his returning to the mean. I don’t think he’ll be horrible, but I do think he’ll be closer to average.

  1. Jermaine Dye, OF Chicago White Sox – Dye had a career year last year. While Dye has been relatively healthy for the past three years (averaging 143 games/year), and he’ll still be in a potent White Sox lineup, everything about last years line screams career year. Often there’s no where to go but down. He jumped dramatically in every category. One of the reasons he was so good for many teams last year was that he came cheap. He’s not going cheap this year, and, in fact, many people are paying for last years stats. For me, I think 2006 was an aberration, though an argument can be made that he’s been trending up for the past few seasons. The leap in 2006 was far too much though, and likelihood of him maintaining that is slim.

  1. Vernon Wells, OF Toronto Blue Jays – After two disappointing seasons in 2004 and 2005, Vernon Wells broke out in a big way last year. So big, it netted him a 7 year $126 million deal. Overall, his line for the season looks very good, but there are a couple things that have me worried (other than the huge deal). His home/road splits were ridiculous last year (28 HR at home, 8 on the road). That alone doesn’t necessarily scare me, but add in the fact that Wells fell off considerable in August and September (6 Homeruns in 2 months, .268 BA with a .357 Slugging) and I start seeing visions of the prior two years. As a late second round pick, there’s about half a dozen other OF without the warning signs that I’d rather have.

  1. David Bush, SP Milwaukee Brewers – Several things worry me about David Bush, and it’s hard for me to admit, since I rode him to a couple championships last year. The first thing that worries me is all the hype he’s getting as a “sleeper” candidate. That likely pushed him out of my price range anyways. He’s a control pitcher, not a power pitcher. That doesn’t mean he can’t strike guys out, he struck out plenty last year, it just means is margin of error is smaller. If his control isn’t on, it’s going to be harder for him to get through innings without any damage. Combine that with the fact that he’s not an extreme groundball pitcher (think Brandon Webb), and that he gave up 26 homeruns last year, and it leads me to believe last year was a “perfect storm” of a year. David Bush is still a very good pitcher, I just don’t think he’s as good as he was last year.

  1. Julio Lugo, SS Boston Red Sox – Another guy getting lots of “Sleeper” votes, simply by moving to Boston and becoming their starting shortstop. People are still projecting tons of SB for this guy, but frankly, I just don’t get it. He’s a career .277 hitter with an On Base Percentage of .340. The Red Sox don’t run. They run less than any team in the majors. Just ask Johnny Damon. Take away the stolen bases and you’re left with a mediocre shortstop that’ll likely score more runs than he has, and since he’ll be batting leadoff, even less RBI’s. On the field, he’ll probably help the BoSox. In fantasy, there are a lot of other options out there who will do just as well if not better and still provide you the 15 or so bags Lugo will end up with.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Photographer Arrested by Miami PD

Thomas Hawk has been following this story for the past couple days. You can a read a more detailed account of it here. Basically, a photographer on assignment, Carlos Miller, was harassed and arrested after taking some shots of some police action on Biscayne Blvd in Miami. While one should consider both sides of the story, as well as the location of the event, there seem to be some serious inconsistencies on the police side of the story. (See photo courtesy of Rebecca Wakefield). I understand the need for cops to be more aggressive in higher crime areas, but I also believe that there are certain lines that shouldn't be crossed, even if the guy is a criminal.

Normally, I take these accounts with a grain of salt, as even the most well intentioned person tends to exaggerate some aspects. However, in this case, its clear the cops took this one a little over the top. Even if Miller was mouthing off to the cops, it certainly doesn't justify the treatment he received. I would like to see more of the photos from that evening. Maybe they were shaking down a pimp for a payoff or something, I don't know, but clearly this story bears watching some more.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fields of Gold

Fields of Gold, originally uploaded by Maltphoto.

While driving over to Taylor's Refresher for lunch on Monday, we passed this particular location. I saw the barn out of the corner of my eye and slammed on the brakes. (luckily, no one was behind us.) I'm thinking of entering a similar version of this, but horizontal and at a different f stop, into the Napa Valley Mustard Festival photo contest. I'll be getting the prints shortly, and if they look good enough, I figure it be fun to see my photo up on a wall.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

5 to Watch (and a few more)

Every season, there's a consensus list of "sleeper" players that end up on every website, magazine, and fantasy player's draft list. These are players that people expect to have great seasons, but haven't yet done it. Rather than tell you the same things you'll read everywhere else, I'd rather point out players that I wouldn't consider sleepers because, likely, they’ve failed to take advantage of the opportunities when they’ve had them. They are, however, in a position to make that next step, or at least return to where they were, this year.

  • Dan Johnson, 1B (Oak) - Last year was a disaster for Johnson, no doubt. His .234 batting average, 9 HRs and 37 RBI's certainly aren't exactly a selling point, but he had a very solid rookie season, and absolutely killed AAA pitching last year after his demotion (.314 BA, 7 HR, 44 RBIs in 100 less at bats). But here's where it gets interesting. According to a recent San Francisco Chronicle report, Johnson battled blurred vision last season as a result of some prescription medication he was taking. With that issue resolved, Johnson should be able to bounce back to his rookie year indicators and provide a nice cheap, hidden power source for some fantasy teams this year.

  • Chad Billingsley, SP (LAD) - This kid was supposed to be as good as Cole Hamels last year, if not better. Instead, he stumbled out of the gates in June, and in the fickle world of fantasy baseball, was quickly discarded by many as a bust. He had a good second half (7-2, 3.16 ERA), but still struggled with his control, walking too many and not striking out enough. He's in line for the back end of the Dodger rotation, but should he harness his command, he could quickly become a force in the pitcher-friendly fields of the NL West. Add in some tutelage from newly acquired Jason Schmidt, and this is one end-gamer I'll be adding to every team I can get him.

  • Jason Kubel, OF/DH (Min) - Jason Kubel was going to be a stud outfielder. He had great ability to get on base and his power was growing with experience. Then he blew his knee out in the Arizona Fall League, missed all of 2005, and spent 2006 on and off the DL with various knee problems. Like Dan Johnson, specialists were able to identify a torn meniscus in the off-season, and repaired it. That, coupled with his weight loss of 10 pounds, puts Kubel in better playing shape and ready to contend for the starting DH/OF spot for the Twins. Should he do so and stay healthy, Kubel might be able to get back on the path to superstardom.

  • Matt Garza, SP (Min) - By now it should be obvious the Minnesota Twins have an eye for pitching. Garza is the next top pitching prospect to try and step out of the shadow of Julio Santana. Unfortunately for Garza, he was thrust into the big leagues at a rather quick pace, mostly due to the injuries of Francisco Liriano. The result was a mess: a 3-6 record, 5.76 ERA, 38/23 K/BB Ratio and 1.7 WHIP all in 50 major league innings. Fortunately for fantasy owners, those stats will drive most people away from him. Those who look beyond those stats will find a minor league record of 14-4, a 1.99 ERA, 154/32 K/BB with a stellar .88 WHIP in a little over 135 innings in 2006. The issue may be lack of experience, and for that reason, I wouldn't be surprised to see Garza struggle in the first half, before finally figuring it out after the All-Star break. The talent is definitely there, it's just a matter of time and experience.

  • Kahlil Greene, SS (SD) - Greene might be a fashionable sleeper this preseason, but he'll likely only show up on those lists because of his age. He turns 27 this year, which puts him in the "sweet spot" for a career year, not to mention he signed a one year deal, which will make him a free agent next year, giving him more motivation. However, Greene's problems are many: he bats in the bottom of the order; he lacks the SBs for a middle infielder; his power has been mediocre; he hasn't been patient at the plate; and he's been nicked up many times. Last year, he seemed to be putting it all together until a torn ligament in his finger prevented him from playing the last two months of the season. Greene isn't even listed on ESPN's top 250 players, which means he'll likely go undrafted in regular mixed leagues. With more motivation to finally reach his potential, and a little luck on the health side, Greene could make an impact in 2007.

  • Willy Taveras, OF (Col) – He needs to get his on-base percentage up to remain in the leadoff spot, but should still be able to manage 35 stolen bases, with upside for more.

  • Chris Burke, OF (Hou) – Burke will be the full-time center fielder this year. I think part of his problem the last few years was playing too many positions. With only one to focus on this year, he could finally start living up to expectations. He’ll also qualify at 2B this year, always a plus in my book.

  • Mark Teahen, 3B (KC) – Alex Gordon is getting all the attention this year, with some pundits already predicting he’ll win the 3B battle. Teahen figured it out last year, and regardless of where he plays, he’ll still qualify at 3B, and likely put up 20-25 homers.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Layers, originally uploaded by Maltphoto.

Another from the West Oakland BART Platform. Stopped on my way home from work on February 15th. The nice part is that West Oakland itselt is relatively flat and the BART platform rises above pretty much anything else in the area.

Friday, February 16, 2007

World on Fire

World on Fire, originally uploaded by Maltphoto.

This was taken from the West Oakland BART platform. I had been trying to get there at sunset for a few weeks now, but it seemed it just wasn't going to happen. I'd either get there too late, or it would be raining, or it the sunset just wasn't that good. I finally lucked out last night with both my timing and getting a decent quality sunset. I took over 50 shots, whittled it down to about 25, and have maybe half a dozen standouts. This, in my opinion, was the best of the night.

I never realized how much the Image Stabilization in my Canon 28-135mm really helped. The 75-300mmm I used to take this really showed that I could never ever be a surgeon. I used the wall to brace myself, even rested the camera on it a couple times. Eventually, I ended up switching to Shutter Priority mode, and took shot shots at 1/200 sec. It seems to have worked out for this one, though the others weren't nearly as good.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Highway 29

Highway 29, originally uploaded by Maltphoto.

This is my favorite stetch of Highway 29 in St. Helena (Napa Valley). I don't think this photo does it justice at all, so I'll be trying again in the spring. It's a little busy to be in the middle of the road, so suggestions on how to improve this shot from the side and capture the filtered sunlight would be great!

Monday, February 12, 2007


cookbooks, originally uploaded by Maltphoto.

I have a ton of cookbooks. You could probably say I collect them, since some of them I hardly use. Most of them I regularly use at least 1 or 2 recipes from them. I've run out of room on the "cookbook shelf" in the breakfast nook, and now have a large stack on the countertop in the kitchen.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Decemberists

Periodically, I discover a band that, while may not be new to everyone else, is new to me. While watching How I Met Your Mother, specifically, the "Ted Mosby - Architect" espisode, I hear a clip of a song in the background. What struck me about this clip was not that I liked the little I heard, but that the lyrics were "and I am nothing of a builder, but here I dreamt I was an Architect". Being easily amused as usual, I thought, "wow, the creators really found a song with the word Architect in it."

My next step was to log into iTunes and search for Architect. It has to be that easy, right? Of course it was. The first song to pop up on the list was The Decemberists "Here I Dreamt I was an Architect". While I had heard of The Decemberists before, most notably on The Colbert Report, I hadn't really listened to any of their music. I listened to a few clips on iTunes, was pleasantly suprised, and download the last three albums to listen to in full.

The newest album "The Crane Wife, released in 2006, is inspired by an old Japanese folk tale. Here's the jist courtesy of Wikipedia.

While there are many variations of the tale, a common version is that a poor man finds an injured crane on his doorstep (or outside with an arrow in it), takes it in and nurses it back to health. After he releases the crane, a woman appears at his doorstep with whom he falls in love and marries. Because they need money, his wife offers to weave wondrous clothes out of silk that they can sell at the market, but only if he agrees never to watch her making them. They begin to sell them and live a comfortable life, but he soon makes her weave them more and more. Oblivious to his wife's diminishing health, his greed increases. He eventually peeks in to see what she is doing to make the silk she weaves so desirable. He is shocked to discover that at the loom is a crane plucking feathers from her own body and weaving them into the loom. The crane, seeing him, flies away and never returns.
Needless to say, I've been listening to the Decemberists over and over again over the past week or so. Some of their songs remind me of early REM, some of the Barenaked Ladies, but overall they have a sound all their own. I highly recommend you check them out, and if you don't want to purchase all their albums, I put together a list of my favorite songs along with the album they are on:

1. Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect - Castaways and Cutouts
2. The Crane Wife pt. 3 - The Crane Wife
3. O Valencia! - The Crane Wife
4. On the Bus Mall - Picaresque
5. Grace Cathedral Hill - Castaways and Cutouts
6. We Both Go Down Together - Picaresque
7. Yankee Bayonet - The Crane Wife
8. Clementine - Castaways and Cutouts
9. Summersong - The Crane Wife
10. From My Own True Love - Picaresque
If you're only going to buy one album though, I'd make it The Crane Wife.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Brooklyn Bridge - NYC 2006

brooklyn bridge, originally uploaded by Maltphoto.

On my first visit to Manahattan at Thanksgiving. The wife and I walked three quarters of the way across the bridge and then back. I really like this shot in Black and White, especially since it was such a gray and overcast (not to mention cold) day. I think this is a pretty standard shot of the bridge, but we got lucky since not too many people were walking around on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The architecture seems to fit better in black and white too.

Friday, February 2, 2007

F Train at Night

Palm and F Train, originally uploaded by Maltphoto.

I love black and white photos, but lately it seems I increasing prefer to try night shots. Might be that when I convert my photos to B&W, they don't really seem to turn out that well. I use Photoshop Elements, so maybe the simplified version there isn't what I need to good B&W shots.

This particular shot took a little post processing to get the colors to jump like I wanted them too. I'm happy with this effort, but realize the composition probably leaves a lot to be desired. At least I've figured out how to process some of these photos. I'll have to go back and looks at some of my other photos and see if I can process them better now.

Let me know what you think of this one, or any on my flickr photostream, for that matter.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Moon over Bay Bridge

Moon over Bay Bridge, originally uploaded by Maltphoto.

Probably needs a crop right above the Sinbad's sign, but I liked the way the moonlight was playing off the clouds. Not exactly how I hoped it would turn out, but I'm still pleased nonetheless. This, by the way, was handheld as I didn't have my tripod or a decent place to rest the camera to get the shot.