18.8.15

Sox, Angels and Cubs thoughts

Note: I've gotten bad at this... sorry, life is busy.

Sox
--I continue to somewhat enjoy this team. I have no clue why since they’re fairly frustrating, they play sloppy far too often, and are inconsistent. But I’m enjoying it for the most part.


I know it’s said in passing, but it’s pretty hard to take any talk of the Sox being in the Wild Card race seriously. They’re six games under .500 and have most of the league to pass. I, for one, don’t believe they are. And, even as they’ve “faded” in August, I still have no problem with the team not doing anything at the trade deadline, at the end of July, the Sox needed more time to fully evaluate if moving prospects for another bat was worth it this year. Standing pat was (probably) the right move, as I assume a good deal for Samardzija wasn’t there.


--I really like what I’ve seen from Trayce Thompson so far. I'm not sure if he's an above average outfielder, his glove will play a big role in that, but he's hitting lefties. Can't ask more from him than that.


Thoughts on Other Teams...
--I went to the Sox/Angels game on August 12th, and between that, the Sox playing them a bunch the last week and the Angels/Royals game being the Sunday Night game—I got a good look at the Halos and… they’re not that good. Yes any team with BASEBALLGODMIKETROUT is going to be good, but after Trout it’s Pujols and yikes. Kole Calhoun has put together a nice year for them and C.J. Cron can hit. But that’s it. It’s a pretty bad line up outside of Trout, Pujols, and Calhoun. The bottom of the line up sound (and hit) like a bunch of guys that were in “A Bronx Tail” (mainly because Johnny Giavotella is involved).


Their starters haven’t been good but they haven’t killed them either. I did like Andrew Heaney, but looking at his numbers, he doesn’t seem to have a knock out pitch. But all their starters have had luck on their side: all are running low BABIPs.


All in all, this is a poorly constructed team. Their bad farm system is rearing its head right now, as there just isn’t any young guys here after Trout. I’m not saying anything all that new here, but they’ve got a ton of money tied up in a lot of straight up bad vets right now, even the Pujols contract is bad despite Albert hitting well this year. They should probably tear everything down this winter, be bad in 2016, then reload for 2017 as a few contracts come off the books. Problem is I don't see any teams wanting anyone on the Angels after Trout.


The fact that they’re in the race for the Wild Card/AL West is a testament to how freaking good Mike Trout is.


--I watched more Cubs this year than I have in the last five years combined. This isn’t really because they’re fun to watch, it’s more that they’re not absolutely horrible to watch like they have been since 2010.


They remind me of the 2000 White Sox. A team that treads water for 140 games, but goes on a 20 game run where they get hotter than shit, nothing goes wrong, and use that to coast into the playoffs. Like the 2000 Sox, they’re young and a year ahead of schedule.


Like the 2000 Sox, they’re getting some great performances from guys you’d never think they would. Hammel and Hendricks are having Parque/Eldred like seasons. It’s unlikely they’ll ever do this again. There is more talent on the pitching side of things than the '00 Sox: Arrieta* is great and Lester has been fine despite what some idiot Cub fans say. And they’re getting a Herbert Perry type year out of Chris Coghlan right now. Teams need this stuff to happen in order to make the playoffs.


*Arrieta HR rate has increased from last year but still is below league average, and his BABIP has fallen slightly this year. He’s a good pitcher don’t get me wrong, but it’s unclear if he’s a great pitcher or just someone riding a nice 300 inning streak with some luck. But I’m nit-picking here…


The key for the Cubs has been Schwarber, who put the lineup over the top. Rizzo is great, Bryant has been fine, but that’s pretty much it. Schwarber added that third big bat in the middle of the line up, sending some of the brutal guys they’ve been trotting out there to the bench.


That said, this team isn’t nearly as good as their record indicates. It’s as much stars and scrubs as the Sox roster is when you get down to it. There are two key differences: (i) the Cubs are getting career years out of a few arms and Coghlan, and (ii) the bums the Cubs trot out every day can field, unlike most on the Sox.


And the Cubs do field well. Bryant will stick for a while at third which is huge for them. He’s not going to win a gold glove there, but he’s not going to kill them either. The moment his bat ends up in left/right, is the moment he becomes a lot less valuable (unless he fixes his contact issues). Addison Russell, who also has contact issues*, is a goddamn wizard with the glove out their. Montero, Denorfia, Ross, Fowler... all good gloves.


*This is a theme for the Cubs. Nearly every prospect/young player on the team has major contact issues. We’ve already seen Baez all but wash out. Bryant’s BABIP is the only reason he isn’t hitting .220 or something, same is also true of Soler, and even Schwarber has struck out a lot more in the majors than I thought he would. These guys are all young, some will figure it out a bit and cut down on the Ks. But some won’t… KKKKris Bryant is a nickname waiting to happen, if it hasn’t already.


All said, I’m bearish on the Cubs. I think they’ll make the playoffs because a four game lead this late in the season is a nice cushion. But longer term? Where is the pitching? Arrieta's never pitched this many innings, is he a 200 inning a year guy? (I’m guessing yes, but still has to be raised). What happens if Bryant strikes out 30% of the time with a .290 BABIP? After nearly 500 plate appearances, is this who Soler is (yikes if so)? Should we worry about Schwarber’s body as it ages (yes, this is more of a question for 2021)? Who is playing second base next year? Castro is owed $38m over the next 4 year years, who in their right mind is going to take that on?

There are some nice things going on over up on the north side of Chicago, but I remain skeptical. They don’t have as much payroll flexibility as I think most people assume, and nest year they'll need two more starters, an everyday outfielder, and arms for the bullpen. The Cubs are in a good position, but they’re not in a great position. I don’t think we’re looking at a late 00s/early 10s Phillies run or something here, but rather something more like what we've seen from the Nats.

29.7.15

7/29/2015: Buy, Sell, or CarGo?

Sox:

I’ve lost track of weeks due to the All-Star break and a busier than usual schedule. But I have Sox thoughts!

-- This is easy to say when they’re on a five six game winning streak, but I’m kind of enjoying this Sox team. The season, as a whole, has been disappointing and not a ton of fun. But the team itself, day-in and day-out, is kind of enjoyable.

Yes, the offense is bad. Abreu at-bats being really the only reason to tune in much of the year. Though Eaton and Melky finally turning it around, has helped make the last month or so much more ‘watchable’. Yet still, there are too many half innings where I turn my head to do something for a few, what feels like seconds, and when I look back, we're’ coming out of commercial break and the Sox are back playing defense. That’s bad. But I guess it makes the game go quick.

But the Sox pitching has been fantastic. And it’s been a joy to watch most every day, especially since Rodon has joined the rotation.

Sale has been amazing, and is on track to have the best season by a Sox starter in decades. Samardzija has come on strong after a so-so start, thanks in part (I think) to better defensive play. Quintana continues his unflashy excellence. Rodon, walk issues aside, has the stuff of a #1 guy in the majors; his slider is beautiful when it catches the plate. And Danks… well he’s given a few nice starts. And the bullpen has been so much better than last year.

-- Another enjoyable thing about the Sox this year? Geovany Soto. Every game he plays is a much watch because of his (probable) yips. I’m mesmerized by this.

-- So are the Sox buyers or sellers?

Even with this recent hot streak, the Sox need to go 38-26 to reach 86 wins (entering the game Wed. July 29th), which is probably the bare minimum it will take to get the second wild card. It’s feasible that they play .594 baseball from here on out, but it’s not exactly likely considering how bad the bottom of the order is.

The Sox, if they hold on to Samardzija, have the pitching to be in games. It’s been the offense that’s been the problem, #shocking!. What’s different about the current winning streak than the one before the All-Star break is that the offense has been really good the last week or so. These are positives.

But even after passing the Tigers last night in the standings, four teams stand in between the Sox and the second wild card slot: the Twins, Orioles, Rays, and Jays. While passing the Twins and Rays do not appear to be heavy lifts; catching, passing, and holding off the Jays and, to a certain extent, the O’s is a much tougher task.

The Jays have more talent that the Sox. The Tulo trade only made them better. They’re going to find a starter by Friday (maybe even Samardzija). They’ll be tough to pass and hold off. And the Sox are a bad weekend away from slipping behind the Tigers and Rangers again.

Hoping that the Angels or Astros crash is probably wishful thinking. Either team would have to play below .500 ball the rest of the way to fall out of the wild card race. I could see it happening with Houston, but they’re probably a safe bet to win 88 games and make the wild card, even if they play so-so from here on out.

Back to the Sox… I see them as sellers since they still need to play really well to be a serious wild card contender. BUT I wouldn’t mind seeing the Sox make a move that could help this year and beyond.

The Sox have glaring holes at second, short, and rightfield. We should probably add DH and third, but Saladino, in a small sample size, has done enough for them to look to those other positions first. They’re not going to find a shortstop at this juncture. I’m not sure who’s out there to help at second. So that leaves right field.

If the Rockies are going to unload CarGo, the Sox should kick the tires. He’s owed $43.5 million (roughly) over the the rest of this season and the next two. He’s an injury risk. And he was really bad this year until about a month ago (though Melky can relate). But he’s been on fire recently and has a darn good track record prior to his heavily injury filled 2014.

That said, I don’t think the price for GarGo will be all that high considering the money he’s owed, his poor 2014 and start to 2015, and his injury issues (he was great in 2013, but only played 110 games and missed most of last season). If the Sox take on most of his salary, they can probably get him for a lot less than people assume. I’m talking maybe Avi Garcia, Trayce Thompson, and a mid-level pitching prospect. And even that might be an overpay considering the money owed.
The Sox already have $89 million committed to payroll in 2016, and they’ll need at least one starting pitcher, a catcher, and a shortstop (though they may try to fill this internally). CarGo at $17 million would push the Sox committed salary to $106 million, which then means Danks is (most likely) still in the rotation and Erik Johnson (or someone else in the minors) rounds out the starting staff (unless ownership okays them spending $120 million plus next year). They can make CarGo work, but it limits the off season at the same time.

It’s possible the Sox send someone (Danks? LaRoche?) to Denver to offset some of CarGo’s cost; Rockies still save about $20-25 million and the Sox are only on the hook for $20 million more in guaranteed money. However, any cost savings to the Sox means they’re giving up better prospects; the deal quickly becomes Spencer Adams, Garcia* and Thompson/Hawkins for CarGo.

*If the Sox trade for an outfielder, I feel that Avi Garcia pretty much has to going the other way. Avi’s only 24 but he's a minus defender, and he probably needs a new start with another organization at this point (as pointed out by Jim Margalus I think). He’s probably not an everyday major leaguer, but maybe someone else can talk themselves into fixing him.
CarGo is probably worth two wins over Garcia, maybe three if he keeps up this tear he’s on. His bat slides in perfectly at the cleanup spot (I’m assuming Abreu’s hitting third, if he’s hitting second, CarGo bats third). And while the Sox would still have a problem at the bottom of the order, CarGo’s bat and glove would be a major improvement for the Sox.

With the current roster, I see the Sox winning anywhere form 77 to 87 games right now (yes, that big of a spread). CarGo won't make a difference if the Sox are around .500; but if they push the 85 win needle, he could be the difference in the wild card race.

Another option is Carlos Gomez, but he’s going to cost more since his contract is much more reasonable and he’s been an elite player in 2013 and 2014. He’s been fine this year and would be an upgrade for the Sox, though I’m not sure who plays right if they trade for Gomez. Eaton’s arm would be an issue there. So pass on Gomez as far as an in-season trade.

-- But again, I more see the Sox as sellers than buyers. However, moving Samardzija may be difficult with Dave Price now on the market and Cole Hamels still floating around.

The Sox are in a nice position with Samardzija. Since they'll get draft compensation for him, any team that wants him needs to 'beat' the value of the pick. If no one can, the Sox can play the last two months of the year with the best starting rotation in the majors and who knows, maybe the offense keeps this up.

But if another GM wants to move a top, say, 75 prospect for Samardzija, the Sox should probably jump on that. The odds are against them making the playoffs after all. And with the core the Sox have, a good winter could put them in a great position for 2016. Adding another prospect will only help in that process.

29.6.15

Sox Week 12: Trade Sale and Abreu? Plus Posner on the Supreme Court and Greece!

Sox
The Sox aren’t the most interesting team in the league—let alone Chicago—right now. They are, just kind of… well… there. They aren’t good. But thanks to their starting pitching, most games are at least interesting.

You’re typical non-John-Danks-start Sox game goes something like this: Sox get good starting pitching, no run support, though maybe a 2-1 or 3-1 lead, only for that lead to be blown by the bullpen or poor management from Robin Ventura. Odds are the Sox will have a chance to add to the lead, but a combo of poor hitting and running themselves out of innings happens and the Sox lose 5-4 or 4-2.

Like I said, not that interesting. More frustrating, pathetic, and sad.

However, last week Fangraph's asked a question which actually makes the Sox interesting: should they trade Sale and Abreu?

Dave Cameron’s thought process is this: the Sox aren’t very good, their moves to be competitive in 2015 haven’t and don’t look like they will work, Sale (and Abreu) are great baseball players, the Sox aren’t going anywhere this year or probably next, so trade Sale (and Abreu) attach a bad contract, and get some great prospects back.

What could the team ask for Sale, a +5 to +6 WAR player who is only owed about $50 million over the next four seasons? Realistically, those four years are worth something closer to $125 to $150 million — and that’s not including the in-season trade markup that applies to every July trade — so if you’re Rick Hahn, you can tell Andrew Friedman that it’s going to cost them Corey Seager and Julio Urias, plus they have to take John Danks as well. If the Cubs want to move Sale across town, great, all it will cost them is Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, and Arismendy Alcantara, plus they have to absorb Melky Cabrera in the deal as well.

The Dodger deal is at least interesting, something to think about. The Cubs deal? Yuck. Sale for Schwarber is a steal for the Cubs; see how the Sox develop hitters, Baez and Alcantara would probably strike out 50% of the time.

But back to the proposal, it’s interesting and somewhat fun to think about (if depressing at the same time because it means trading Chris Sale), but the Sox, as disappointing as they’ve been this year, are better off keeping Sale. While the return for Sale could be franchise changing, the likelihood of all the prospects dealt becoming annual 3 or 4 fWAR players through 2022 is unlikely. Moving Sale, who is signed to probably the best pitcher contract in baseball, creates as many issues as it solves.

While the Sox have holes up and down the lineup and 2015 is effectively over, things might not be as bad as it seems. Eaton has been much better in May and June. As pointed out in this South Side Sox piece, Melky is showing life after a disastrous first third of the season. Moving him (as suggested in the Fangraphs proposal as a salary) seems foolish because you're selling low.

Is it disappointing that third, second, and catcher never came together for the 2015 White Sox? Sure. Is it a bummer that short has become a problem and after a nice start, there are still major questions about Garcia and right field? Of course. But the Sox might have an answer to the various outfield issues with Trayce Thompson. As bad as he was defensively in the majors, Micah Johnson’s bat looks promising enough and hopefully his glove will improve in AAA this year. And while Carlos Sanchez has been horrible at the plate, it's still a little too soon to say he can't hit; he doesn’t have a ton of at bats under his belt and deserves another two months in the lineup to make adjustments and we can see what he's got.

It will be an interesting offseason for the Sox. They’re looking at another top ten, maybe even top five pick, next year. But the minor league system, which has ever so slowly been rebuilt, will also start yielding returns (in fact, it’s already begun). They’ll add a young player or two when Samardzija is dealt. Competing in 2016 seems like a stretch still, but 2017? Who knows? And if you may in fact be competing for the AL Central in 2017, why trade Sale in 2015?

Baseball is a weird game, filled with a ton of randomness. Things went really horribly for the Sox in 2015, doesn’t mean they’ll get some luck in 2017 or 2018.

Most Interesting Things I’ve Read this Week:
An Incredibly Detailed Map of Europe's Population Shifts (City Lab): A very cool map and interesting overview of population changes in Europe over the last decade.


John Stuart Mill in On Liberty drew an important distinction between what he called “self-regarding acts” and “other-regarding acts.” The former involves doing things to yourself that don’t harm other people, though they may be self-destructive. The latter involves doing things that do harm other people. He thought that government had no business with the former (and hence—his example—the English had no business concerning themselves with polygamy in Utah, though they hated it). Unless it can be shown that same-sex marriage harms people who are not gay (or who are gay but don’t want to marry), there is no compelling reason for state intervention, and specifically for banning same-sex marriage. The dissenters in Obergefell missed this rather obvious point.

Pretty good take down of Roberts and Alito’s logic failures by Posner.


What's certain, though, is that it is yet another moment during this crisis when decision-makers (both Greek and European) have shifted the burden caused by their own failings to the Greek people, who have put up with the economic collapse and tough fiscal measures over the last few years but deserved much better – from all sides.

The entire Greece situation has been a cluster youknowwhat for years. They spend years trying to figure out who was going to take the hit, finally coming to a deal in 2012 that got the banks out of the discussions. But that only bought everyone time, and boy oh boy did things change in January when Syriza came to power. And now we’re here, possibly looking at the end of the EU. There’s lots of blame to go around. But if the EU isn’t willing to save a member country… well it never had a chance. Lots can change, but boy oh boy (twice in a graph!) there seems to be far too much short term thinking going on here.

22.6.15

Week 11: Time to Think about the Future

Sox
While some might argue that the Sox are drifting ever so slowly out of contention, let me be the bearer of bad news: the 2015 season is over. To get to 90 wins, the Sox need to play .638 baseball from here on out. That’s not happening. And even if you to argue, “the AL stinks! 86 wins could easily get you into the playoffs” well that means the Sox would have to play .596 baseball from here on out… that’s 96 win pace over 162 games.


It ain’t happening.


So it’s time to focus on 2016. I’m not in the trade/fire everyone mindset. Robin’s gotta go, but what’s the point of firing him right now? And selling low on guys like Melky makes no sense.


But the Sox can start taking a look at guys that may, or may not, be part of the future plans. While we know Tim Anderson is the shortstop of the future, he’s still in AA and developing. There’s little reason to give him burn in the majors (where he’d probably fail). The same is true of anyone who is around 22 or younger… let them to continue to develop in the minors. No need to rush them right now, even if they have a shot of cracking the 2016 lineup. That’s what September is for after all.


I’m talking about guys who have been in the system for a little while, they’re probably 24 or 25, maybe had a cup of coffee even. Either way, I’d rather take a look at these guys sooner rather than later (for the most part).


Trayce Thompson: A favorite of mine for years, things have come along nicely this year in Charlotte. The walks aren’t there this year and there are some legit OBP concerns because of it, but he’s cut down on his strikeouts at AAA. The power has remained and while his batting average may be slightly BABIP inflated, Thompson has some speed. For years people have said his glove is very good. All in all, this is all good, he’s done want he needed to do, for the most part, at AAA. And maybe the walks level back to his A and AA average in the majors.


At 24, another few months in the minors isn’t going to make or break Thompson; he probably is who he is and isn’t going to develop a ton more. In my estimation, he’s proven himself enough at AA and now AAA—specifically cutting the K rate a little—to deserve a call up.


Sure, you’d like to get him in the lineup everyday which won’t be the case with all three outfielders healthy. And while there is nothing wrong with J.B. Shuck, fourth outfielder, he’s also not in the long term plans for the Sox since he has neither power or a good glove; something which Thompson gives you.


Plus getting Thompson three starts a week shouldn’t be too tough. Sitting a bad Melky or an inconsistent Eaton doesn’t change much of anything for the Sox. Plus his brother just won the NBA Title, let’s make this a great week for the Thompson family.


Matt Davidson: A horrible year in AAA in 2014 has yielded an… underwhelming start to 2015 again in AAA. There isn’t a ton to love about Davidson’s 2015, he’s striking out too much, the walk rate is okay, and he’s still struggling to get on base because of all that. But the power is still there, even if it isn’t fantastic.


But here’s the thing… Gillaspie is bad and Beckham is (once again) worse. I fail to see the point of rolling those two out there every day. It’s doubtful that Davidson is the answer at third in 2016, but we might as well find out in the last three months of 2015.


The only issue with calling Davidson up is that there isn’t an obvious move to make on the roster. Releasing Bonifacio makes little financial sense. And in theory you could release Gordon Beckham, but in theory the Laffer Curve works too. Beckham, like Kirk Hinrich, is in the JR Circle of Trust and they will forever haunt my sports life because of it. It’s going to be 2038 and Kirk will be in year 17 as coach of the Bulls while Beckham enters his 11th season as the Sox hitting instructor. Sigh.


But back to Davidson… I’m not nearly as high on him as I am on Thompson, but third base on the Sox is stupid, so why not? Davidson might even clear the low bar of .235/.283/.373 with poor D that Gillaspie and Beckham are giving the Sox.


Erik Johnson: Look who is back? Well sort of…


Johnson was horrible last year in only five starts and was quickly moved back to AAA where he continued to be bad all year. IIRC, he was finally shut down late in the summer as he sure was pitching like someone who was injured.


Johnson’s bounced back a bit this year. The K rate has spiked back up to over 10 per 9 with a solid ERA after an outstanding week. His FIP is even better as he’s been unlucky on the BABIP side of things. The one concern is walks, where Johnson’s BB/9 is higher than you’d like. But all in all, there a solid signs of Johnson bouncing back this year and hopefully putting things back together.


While John Danks isn’t going to be sent packing any time soon, he’d be the guy to go to make room for Johnson. I am pretty agnostic about getting Johnson 12 starts in the majors this year because while Danks isn’t good, he’s also not killing the Sox since they’re not going anywhere this year. Keeping Johnson down in AAA until September makes more sense since he probably has more to work on, confidence to build, than either Thompson or Davidson at this point. However, a good case can be made to move Danks to the pen and let Johnson have a two month run in the rotation… again, because why not? John Danks is at best a below average starter.


But most likely, the Sox are going to move Samardzija sooner rather than later, and Johnson will probably be the guy that takes his spot in the rotation.


Most Interesting Things I’ve Read this Week:
Who’s afraid of America? (The Economist)
And America has been distracted. During 13 years of counter-insurgency and stabilisation missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon was more focused on churning out mine-resistant armoured cars and surveillance drones than on the kind of game-changing innovation needed to keep well ahead of military competitors. America’s combat aircraft are 28 years old, on average. Only now is the fleet being recapitalised with the expensive and only semi-stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Iraq. Again. Ooops. Interesting article on how the US is losing its military edge, partly due to the rise of China (and Russia) and partly because we took our eye off the ball for a decade. Good job, good effort, W.

15.6.15

Week 10: Old Bulls Thoughts

Life has been busy... sorry. Back now.

A few Bulls thoughts this week, I have lots of Sox thoughts just didn't get them on to paper yet.

Bulls:

Because I can be a dork, I already wrote some of this over at Blog-a-Bull. One thing that bothered me about this Kelly Dwyer piece on the Bulls, their front office, and Thibs, was this idea that GarPax put together this great roster. They put together a very good, even great (if healthy) front court. Everything else leaves a lot to be desired… the Bulls went into the season with only one proven two way wing. In 2014/2015. In the NBA.

Rose and Jimmy, great backcourt. But GarPax lucked into Rose and Butler’s development is Jimmy’s doing first and foremost, anyone taking credit for the player Butler has become is kidding themselves: that’s 90% Jimmy, 10% coaching (or 80/20 whatever point remains). GarPax did bring in Dunleavy for the cheap. But he was starting, and there’s an excellent argument that Dunleavy should have only been coming off the bench because he’s pretty poor on D.

And, well, would you lookie here, the Bulls weren’t actually that deep on the wing or at guard. Brooks, while he had a very nice regular season, is a below average back up. Kirk "Worst player in the League" Hinrich was on this team for one can only figure to be are "cultural" reasons.

Instead of rolling the dice by picking two wings in the draft, GarPax traded up for McDermott for reasons I still don’t get. Even still, Doug, as a rookie, was a wild card; and then he went out there and was bad and got hurt and then got worse. Your final wing was Snell, who while he showed a few flashes, looks like a guy who is more backup wing on an 8 seed, than back up wing on a Championship contender; there’s a huge difference between Snell* and Afflalo, Iman Shumpert, or a rejuvenated JR Smith as we all learned. The Bulls depth was only in the front court, there wasn’t any depth at the wing or guard position.

And this cost the Bulls all season. And it really cost the Bulls in the Cavs series where Cleveland was rolling out JR and Shump while the Bulls had Kirk and Snell. Anyone who thinks the Bulls had an advantage there is kidding themselves—yes GarPax, you’re kidding yourselves if you think the Bulls were good enough to win this season with only one two way wing player.

*I think Tony’s an NBA player, he might even become a pretty good back up. But it sure does seem that GarPax bet the house on Snell taking a Jimmy like jump in his second season, and when it didn’t happen, BLAME THIBS MOAR.


Most Interesting Things I’ve Read this Week:
--The other problem with Chicago's segregation: Concentrated wealth (The Connector: The blog of the Metropolitan Planning Council)
That University of Minnesota study we referenced earlier points in an interesting direction: They found that in the Twin Cities, federal housing dollars are spent equally across areas of wealth and areas of poverty. In low-income areas, federal investment comes in the form of housing vouchers and subsidized units. In wealthy areas, the mortgage-interest deduction provides the lion’s share of housing subsidy. In Chicago, where most affordable subsidized housing is on the South and West sides and rates of homeownership are highest in wealthy areas, it is clear that we are subsidizing our separation.

Back around tax time, I started thinking more in depth about the mortgage-interest deduction (what a hell of a function), then the Economist did their big thing on debt a month ago, and well… it’s all very interesting no? It’s very problematic, and nothing new either. This was a big topic back during the W years, and then of course it all came crashing down. The incentives are and have continued to be to rack up debt. And one of the unintended consequences, I can only hope, is continued segregation. ANYWAY, interesting read on how in some ways, not only to we accept segregation, we pretty much expect it too.


Two things here.
1. The Lead
I'm not sure we're living in an age of disruption, or just an age that badly wants to think itself disruptive, but either way there's been a lot of rethinking going on the past decade or so.
This has little to do with the actual article, but it’s an interesting thought. It’s true, we want to think of RIGHT NOW as disruptive, but maybe it isn’t? Sure everything is disruptive, but is right now “change the way we live” disruptive? For many who don’t live in the ‘first world’ I’m sure that’s true. For us that live in the ‘first world’, I’m not so sure.

2.
Instead, Thaler began to keep a list of things that people did that made a mockery of economic models of rational choice. There was the guy who planned to go to the football game, changed his mind when he saw it was snowing, and then, when he realized he had already bought the ticket, changed his mind again. There was the other guy who refused to pay $10 to have someone mow his lawn but wouldn't accept $20 to mow his neighbor's. There was the woman who drove 10 minutes to a store in order to save $10 on a $45 clock radio but wouldn't drive the same amount of time to save $10 on a $495 television. There were the people Thaler invited over to dinner, to whom he offered, before dinner, a giant bowl of nuts. They ate so many nuts they had no appetite for the far more appealing meal. The next time they came to dinner Thaler didn't offer nuts -- and his guests were happier.

While one of the places I worship at is the alter of the dismal science, one thing that always bothered me about economics (specifically intro), is the thought that people are rational. I’ve never bought this in full. Is it true most of the time? Sure. But my preferences change constantly, and because of that, so will my choices which messes with the entire idea of rationality. Today I wanted Corn Chex for breakfast, but it’s likely I won’t buy Corn Chex the next time I go to the store. That fact can break the model.

But again, that’s intro to micro. Eventually you get to behavior economics and, for me at least, it make sense. “Here we are… this is the world I know and live in.”

We’re only going to see more of the marriage of psychology and economics going forward. And I’m sure as we learn more, we’ll find more market failures. And with each market failure and solution to it, that’s where government can and will step in.

25.5.15

Week 7: Concern for the Sox? Sure, but not time to bail yet. And links

Sox
Fangraphs has a really nice review of Carlos Rodon’s first three starts. Must read for Sox fans. I went to the game on Wednesday, and Rodon loses the plate way too often. He does work quick and there weren’t too many hard hit balls. The talent is there, but until he finds the plate, he’s going to struggle.
===============
It’s Memorial Day, the point of the season that I start to look at the standings… and it’s ugly.


The Sox are not only 8 games behind a fairly fraudulent Royals team, but they also own one of the worst records in the AL. And to make matters even worse, they now own the worst run differential in the AL.


The good news? The AL is a tire fire. The Royals are playing so far above their heads and talent level, that their fall from grace will be swift and ugly. But they’re probably going to make the playoffs unless they play .400 baseball or something horrible like that. The AL East is Chernobyl-isque: it’s possible all of those teams are average. And the AL West features disappointing A’s, Angels, and Mariners teams. The young Astros hold the lead, but I have my doubts about their pitching.


The Twins and Tigers sit in the Wild Card positions. The Sox sit five games back of them. But more realistically, it’s going to take 89 or 90 wins to make the Wild Card. You might be able to slip in with even 87 considering that the Twins aren’t very good. The Sox need to play .562 baseball (91 win pace over an entire season) to reach 87 wins. Not impossible.


The Sox biggest issue is that they cannot beat the Twins: 3-7 against a team with much less talent than the Sox is a problem. While losing three of four to the Tribe earlier this week hurt, it doesn’t sting as much as once again playing horribly against the Twins. Blowing these games are going to cost them—it already has.


The Sox biggest problem is they cannot score runs. Dead last in the AL with 147 runs scored in 41 games, which works out to 3.58 a game. That’s not good.


The Sox offensive issues are obvious: they don’t walk, they don’t get on base, and they don’t hit for power. While Abreu has been fine if not quite what he was last year, Garcia has started strong even if it’s a bit BABIP inflated, and LaRoche has been perfectly average; the rest of the roster has been bad to horrible.


You could live with Conor Gillaspie’s bat if he was the 8th or 9th worse hitter. Instead he’s somehow the 4th best bat the Sox send out most days. Alexei, Flowers, whoever is playing second, Eaton, and Melky have been horrible. Eaton and Melky are currently in a race to see who can be the worst every day starter in the major leagues.*


*It’s fitting the Sox once again have a few guys in the race to “win” the Worst Everyday Player Award. Past recent finalists include:
2011 Rios
2011 Dunn
2013 Konerko
2012 Kippinger
2014 Viciedo


Could Melky and Eaton turn it around? SURE! They’re not bad baseball players! Eaton’s BABIP is still far below what it was last year and he needs to walk a little more, but he’s been much better in May.


Meanwhile, Melky is walking at the same rate that he has historically. But he too has been bit by the BABIP bug. Of more concern, is what happened to his power. Melky has one homer and two doubles. That isn’t going to cut it.


Both Eaton and Melky are too talented of players to continue to be this bad. We’re seeing some signs of life out of Eaton. We can only hope, now that the weather has finally turned, we’ll start seeing more out of Melky. If those two get going a bit, that sets the table for Abreu, LaRoche, and Avi which should lead to more runs, and more runs will lead to more wins since while this pitching staff is flawed, there is also a lot to like.


Last week was a bad week, and tough to swallow after the fantastic week prior. And while the Sox aren’t in great shape at the moment, they also haven’t dug themselves a huge hole. The playoffs are unlikely, but their not impossible.


Most Interesting Things I’ve Read this Week:
-- From the Charlotte Observer and echoing many here… we have reached PEAK #THANKSOBAMA. Let me tell you this guy…
Lang, a Republican, says he knew the act required him to get coverage but he chose not to do so. But he thought help would be available in an emergency. He and his wife blame President Obama and Congressional Democrats for passing a complex and flawed bill.


“(My husband) should be at the front of the line because he doesn’t work and because he has medical issues,” Mary Lang said last week. “We call it the Not Fair Health Care Act.”


...a 50 year old smoker with diabetes doesn’t buy health insurance and now wants to jump the line and have someone else pay for his health care but blames Obama. Sadly, like the Superfans, these people apparently exist.



Really excellent work from the always excellent Becky Vevea.




Never change Pete Townshend. Never change.




Most interesting here, imo, is that our growth cities of the late 20th century (i.e. the South and Southwest) aren’t like most growth cities of the 19th and early 20th century (i.e. East Coast, West Coast, and Rust Belt).


Or to put another way, Phoenix, Houston, and San Antonio look a lot different than New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. Phoenix is very suburban, New York is very urban. This causes both cities to face vastly different policy issues and also have solutions to common policy issues which are unalike.

There are a number of reasons why Chicago might not be growing all that much, but to say “Do what they did in Houston!” might not be an actual policy solution for Chicago because Houston isn’t built like Chicago.