Thursday, May 25, 2017

How Magnificent Is My Odometer?

In the middle of a shitty Monday, which is to say a Monday, something amazing happened:

See it? All ones! It's like my dashboard temporarily turned into a terrible horror movie.

On a related note, my Check Engine light is on. It doesn't look like we'll be getting to 222222. At least we'll always have this past Monday.

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Follow Francis Tolan on Twitter @frantweet12

Thursday, April 27, 2017

How Does 2017 Eric Thames Remind Us of Peak Josh Hamilton?

While watching Eric Thames commit arson in Colorado, Cincinnati, Toronto, and Chicago in the first few weeks of the season, I felt like I had seen something like this before. Thames's re-emergence after spending a few years out of the league calls to mind baseball's most amazing comeback story from last decade -- that of Josh Hamilton.

The Rangers released Hamilton a few days ago, which probably represents the end of the line for the aging slugger after it was discovered that he'll need another knee surgery. It's definitely jumping the gun, but I've found myself comparing him to Thames, who's quickly becoming as feared as Hamilton once was.

Before I explain the similarities, be warned that this is just for fun. Small sample size alert and all that. Thames might have holes in his game that opponents will soon begin to exploit, whereas Hamilton won an MVP award and made five straight All-Star teams. Still, it's fun to compare their stories, and it feels appropriate to appreciate both guys right now.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

How Can You Tell if Someone's Really "Green"?

This is a simple test to figure out if a person is actually environmentally conscious. Everyone with a young child can relate to it.

Here's the hypothetical: You're changing your kid's soiled diaper in a parking lot. You manage to finish without getting poop on your hand or the carseat. (Or, you've gotten it on your hand, but you've sorta cleaned it off with a baby wipe.) Now, you encounter a problem: there are no garbage cans or dumpsters in the lot.

The moment of truth: Do you ditch the diaper on the ground? Or do you bring it home with you and suffer through the stench for the rest of your ride?

(For me, the answer is probably to keep the diaper in the car if it came from the three-month-old but to ditch it in the lot if it was produced by the two-year-old.)

Way more than who you voted for, this test displays where you stand on environmental issues. If you're really green, you'll keep the brown in your hybrid car.

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Follow Francis Tolan on Twitter @frantweet12

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How Will John Sterling Call Matt Holliday's Home Runs?

There are a lot of possibilities here, but this is my favorite:

(To the tune of "Jolly Holiday" from Mary Poppins)
"It's a jolly Holliday with Matty. It's a jolly holiday with Matt."

I hope Papa Pinstripe cooks up something as good or better when Holliday goes deep in the next week or so. I'll try to post as I think of good possible calls for the other new Yankees.

If you want to subscribe to How Blank, just type in your email address on the right side of the page. You'll get a notification every time we post new content.

Follow Francis Tolan on Twitter @frantweet12

Friday, March 31, 2017

How Will These Yankees Overperform and Underperform Their Projections?

In this transition year from the Elderly Empire to the Baby Bombers, most of us are just hoping the Yankees are still playing meaningful games in the last week of the regular season. They're part of a group of about 18 teams with a shot at a wild-card slot if more things break right than wrong. That adds a little more meaning to this annual tradition of picking which players will overperform and underperform. Below are my predictions of the Yankees that will defy their Steamer projections, for better and worse.

Last April, I successfully forecasted that Didi Gregorius (2.3 Projected WAR, 2.7 Actual WAR) and Dellin Betances (1.4 Projected, 2.9 Actual) would overperform, and that Brian McCann (2.9 Projected, 1.3 Actual) would underperform. My only miss was picking CC Sabathia (1.6 Projected, 2.6 Actual) to underperform in a season in which he actually enjoyed a decent bounce-back. As fans, let's hope I'm right about the overperformers and wrong about the underperformers in 2017.

All projections based on the Steamer system, which is neatly displayed on Fangraphs. Yankees Steamer projections are found here. (Some proof that Steamer is fallible: The system projects the retired Mark Teixeira to log one at-bat this season.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How Imaginative Are Vonnegut's Similes?

My high school English teacher once saw Kurt Vonnegut on the street near the author's home on the Upper East Side.

"Hey!" my teacher exclaimed. "You're Kurt Vonnegut!"

"Yes, yes I am," Vonnegut replied, before calmly continuing on his way.

That interaction endeared Vonnegut to me forever. I don't know if he was being rude or funny, but I always assumed the latter. Either way, I still find it hysterical, just like many of Vonnegut's turns of phrase.

One of my favorite aspects about Vonnegut's writing is his delightful use of similes. He rarely bothers with one you've seen before. I recently read the short story collection Look at the Birdie, and here are my favorite Vonnegut similes in that book:

Saturday, February 18, 2017

How Do You Hide Your Boogers?

I wrote the stupid list you're about to read right after the holidays as a result of a conversation with one of my sisters about proper booger disposal. I forgot about the article until earlier this week, when my two-year-old jammed two peas so far up his left nostril that my wife had to use a really uncomfortable YouTube remedy to dislodge them. Anyways, once again, I've got boogers on the brain.

Friday, January 20, 2017

How Do Bagwell's All-Star Appearances Stack Up?

Jeff Bagwell was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, and it's a well-deserved honor. 
Reading about Bagwell's election reminded me of his remarkable consistency and his delightful bent-legged batting stance. Bagwell was a bit underappreciated in his time, and that continued into his seven years on the Hall ballot. Here's what The Ringer's Michael Baumann wrote in his excellent piece on Bagwell and fellow inductees Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez:
[T]he electorate has long skewed toward a set of writers who are pro-tradition, puritanically anti-PED, and limited in their willingness and/or ability to grapple with sabermetrics. 
That made Bagwell’s case hard from the start, because even as a power-hitting first baseman, he doesn’t have a traditional Hall of Fame profile. Bagwell’s 15-year career isn’t that long by Hall of Fame standards, so he wound up short of the traditional milestones with only 2,314 hits and 449 home runs, and his .297 career batting average is just below that nice round number. Bagwell never led the league in home runs and only led the league in RBIs once — in the strike-shortened 1994 season. Bagwell also never played in New York, Boston, or Los Angeles, never won a World Series, and only won a pennant in his last season, when an arthritic shoulder limited him to 39 games. Chris Burke had more memorable playoff moments as an Astro than Bagwell did.
One thing I didn't see mentioned in the slew of articles about Bagwell is the fact that he only appeared in four All-Star Games. If you count up all the seasons in which he played in at least 60 games, Bagwell was an All-Star about 28 percent of the time. That seems low, right?  

I figure a quick historical comparison is in order. How do Bagwell's All-Star appearances compare to his Hall of Fame peers?

How Mathematical Are These MLB Names?

Baseball has been commandeered by numbers geeks over the past couple decades, with every front office boasting brainpower from MIT and the Ivy Leagues.

Let's examine, then, the intersection of math and baseball through the lens of some of the sport's most distinct names. (And yes, if you plotted this article as a point, it might fall on the plane labeled Whocares.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

How Awesome Is a Child's Perspective?

My wife and I welcomed our second boy into the world last week. It was, and is, a truly awesome experience. Since Peter's birth, I've been thinking a little about an essay I submitted for publication about our first son during the fall. The piece was rejected Mutombo-style, but I'd still like to share it here. Anyways, the message still holds true: a little bit of wonder and awe goes a long way in this world. I hope you like it.

"Oh, Wow!": An Ode to the Truly Awesome

My grandfather hated the word “awesome.” I could never definitively figure out why, but I suspect it had something to do with a get-off-my-lawn attitude sometimes adopted by old guys. He'd often playfully mock us when we imitated the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and called something “awesome.”