Scientists have known about spider “ballooning” for a long time, but only recently have they determined that spiders use electricity to fly.When we think of flying creatures, we probably don’t think of spiders. But it’s true: some species of spider can fly long distances on air currents, using strands of silk as parachutes. This has been observed for a long time. A press release from the University of Bristol points out that Charles Darwin puzzled over this, wondering how hundreds of spiders showed up on ships at sea and took off again even on windless days.A recent paper in Current Biology reports that ballooning spiders use electricity to get aloft. Somehow, they are able to sense the level of static electricity in the air. They respond by standing on tip-toe and releasing silk strands out their abdomens, catching even slight air currents to rise up into the air. With electrical forces, they can fly miles high into the air! A video in the press release says, “Of all the great flyers the world has ever known, it may come as a surprise that one of the best aviators in the animal kingdom doesn’t even possess wings.” Maybe a new verse should be added to “The Spider and the Fly.” The researchers begin their paper,When one thinks of airborne organisms, spiders do not usually come to mind. However, these wingless arthropods have been found 4 km up in the sky, dispersing hundreds of kilometers. To disperse, spiders “balloon,” whereby they climb to the top of a prominence, let out silk, and float away. The prevailing view is that drag forces from light wind allow spiders to become airborne, yet ballooning mechanisms are not fully explained by current aerodynamic models. The global atmospheric electric circuit and the resulting atmospheric potential gradient (APG) provide an additional force that has been proposed to explain ballooning. Here, we test the hypothesis…. We find that the presence of a vertical e-field elicits ballooning behavior and takeoff in spiders. We also investigate the mechanical response of putative sensory receivers in response to both e-field and air-flow stimuli, showing that spider mechanosensory hairs are mechanically activated by weak e-fields. Altogether, the evidence gathered reveals an electric driving force that is sufficient for ballooning.Despite knowing about spider ballooning for many years, nobody ever tested the electrostatic force on the behavior till now. By putting spiders in a Faraday Cage, the researchers were able to control the amount of static, writes Alison George at New Scientist. The Bristol research team led by Erica Morley watched the spiders take up their ballooning posture when the static rose, tiptoeing for take-off. The press release includes a video showing how they ran their experiments. They also measured the effect on altitude:The second part of the experiment examined the effect of the electric field on airborne spiders, and found that the height of the spiders could be controlled by raising or lowering the electrical field. “If you switch the voltage off, you see the spiders slowly start to drop. You can play with their altitude,” says Morley.Lightning storms from Earth orbit (NASA)Spider silk, being a good insulator, collects a net negative charge on its outer surface that interacts with the atmosphere, where a potential gradient can provide lift. In addition, the spider’s mechanosensors can respond to the twitching of silk strands when atmospheric static changes, so that they know the best time to assume flight posture and let out the silk.Now that this physical effect has been demonstrated in spiders, a theoretical physicist envisions engineers using it for technology. No batteries would be required:Other researchers are impressed that this long-standing conundrum has been solved. “It is very satisfying to see this proved in such a convincing way,” says physicist Peter Gorham of the University of Hawaii, whose theoretical calculations of the plausibility of electrostatic spider flight inspired Morley’s study.It is theoretically possible that tiny, light-weight drones could one day take to the air in the same way as ballooning spiders, he speculates. “Spiders weighing 100mg can balloon. That’s more than enough to fly a tiny microprocessor and camera.”Morley’s team wants to continue researching to see if other small animals make use of atmospheric electrostatic forces. Bumblebees, for instance, can detect electrostatic fields around flowers to guide them to food sources. “We also hope to carry out further investigations into the physical properties of ballooning silk and carry out ballooning studies in the field,” Morley says.Of all the great flyers the world has ever known, it may come as a surprise that one of the best aviators in the animal kingdom doesn’t even possess wings.The subject of electrostatic ecology seems wide open for ecological study and even weather forecasting. The researchers note that “Quite surprisingly, APG is rarely invoked, let alone quantified, in conventional weather descriptors and parameters collected by weather stations.” And yet electric fields around vegetation provide opportunities to study the interaction of small creatures with their environment.Credit: Corel Pro PhotosYou can make your hair stand on end by touching a Van de Graaf generator. Don’t expect to float off into the air, though; you have too much mass. You do, however, have sensors in your hair follicles that can detect the movement. Maybe you could do experiments on how static electricity provides you with useful information about your surroundings. What can your hair tell you in pitch darkness? Test your hypothesis on body hair and whiskers, too. For both sexes, most parts of the skin (the largest organ of the human body) contain hairs, even tiny transparent ones that are invisible without a microscope. We are covered with sensors!Spider ballooning is but another remarkable example of how living creatures can use information from the environment to navigate and migrate. Fish and birds follow fluid currents. Spiders and bees take advantage of electricity; electric fish even produce it. Perhaps the most astonishing example is using the earth’s magnetic field to navigate, as shown in Illustra Media’s films Living Waters and Metamorphosis. This spatial information, too weak for humans to sense, provides a global map that sea turtles can utilize to swim thousands of miles. Thirty years later, that stored information can help them return to the exact same beach they hatched from. Salmon use this sense, too, in the open sea. Perhaps magnetic field information is a component of navigation in butterflies as well. Static electricity can lift spiders miles into the sky, but doesn’t help them get back. They don’t need to; they can set up shop wherever they land. It’s a remarkable method of long-distance travel that spiders employ to colonize the planet. Don’t freak out over this; they eat flies, after all. (Visited 502 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0
The Public Protector was set up in terms of South Africa’s Constitution to investigate complaints against government agencies or officials.The office of the The Public Protector is one of six Chapter 9 institutions, identified in the Constitution as “state institutions supporting constitutional democracy”. (Image: Corruption Watch)Brand South Africa reporterFind out all about South Africa’s Public Protector.What is the Public Protector?Public Protector was set up in terms of Chapter 9 of South Africa’s Constitution to investigate complaints against state agencies or officials. It is one of six Chapter 9 institutions, identified in the Constitution as “state institutions supporting constitutional democracy”.What are the functions of the Public Protector?According to Chapter 9 of the Constitution, the Public Protector has the power, as regulated by national legislation:to investigate any conduct in state affairs, or in the public administration in any sphere of government, that is alleged or suspected to be improper or to result in any impropriety or prejudiceto report on that conductto take appropriate remedial actionWhat are the other Chapter 9 institutions?The five other state institutions supporting constitutional democracy are:The Human Rights CommissionThe Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic CommunitiesThe Commission for Gender EqualityThe Auditor-GeneralThe Independent Electoral CommissionWhat does the Public Protector investigate?The Public Protector investigates alleged misconduct involving the state. This includes public officials at all levels, from central and provincial government to state departments, local authorities and state-owned enterprises.Do other countries have a Public Protector?Countries across the world have offices similar to the Public Protector, institutions that investigate and provide a check on improper government activity, in the interest of the citizenry. These are variously called the “ombudsman” or “people’s defender”.Is the Public Protector independent?Yes. According to the Constitution, the Public Protector and all other Chapter 9 institutions “are independent, and subject only to the Constitution and the law, and they must be impartial and must exercise their powers and perform their functions without fear, favour or prejudice”.The Constitution goes on to say: “Other organs of state, through legislative and other measures, must assist and protect these institutions to ensure the independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness of these institutions. No person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of these institutions.”Who can complain to the Public Protector?Anyone can complain to the Public Protector. The Constitution says: “The Public Protector must be accessible to all persons and communities.”How many complaints does the Public Protector receive?According to a parliamentary report released on 5 November 2013, the Public Protector received 37 770 complaints in the previous year — up more than 10 000 on the number of complaints registered in 2011-12. It takes from a couple hours to three months to resolve a single case, depending on its nature; the parliamentary report stated that 37% of cases were resolved in three months.What happens after the Public Protector has investigated a complaint?The Public Protector has been described as a referee, tasked with looking at all sides of a problem. If the complaint is justified, a solution is put forward, which may include recommending changes to the system.The Public Protector can also report a matter to Parliament, which will then debate the matter and see to it that the recommendations are followed.Are the Public Protector’s reports always released to the public?According to the Constitution, “Any report issued by the Public Protector must be open to the public unless exceptional circumstances, to be determined in terms of national legislation, require that a report be kept confidential.”Who appoints the Public Protector?The Public Protector is appointed by the president on the recommendation of the National Assembly in terms of the Constitution for a non-renewable period of seven years.Who is South Africa’s Public Protector?Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane became South Africa’s fourth Public Protector in October 2016. She was appointed by President Jacob Zuma, after being recommended by a special parliamentary committee.Mkhwebane is an advocate of the high court and a specialist in refugee and immigration law. She has held positions in the Department of Home Affairs and the South African embassy in the Republic of China. She previously also worked in the Office of the Public Protector as a senior investigator and an acting provincial director for Gauteng. Mkhwebane was also a senior researcher at the South African Human Rights Commission.Mkhwebane replaced Advocate Thulisile Madonsela, who completed her term in October 2016. Madonsela replaced Advocate Lawrence Mushwana, who completed his seven-year term as Public Protector on 16 October 2009. South Africa’s first Public Protector, Advocate Selby Baqwa, served from 1995 to 2002.What investigations and recommendations has the Public Protector made in the past?Some notable decisions by South Africa’s Public Protector include:Bheki Cele was fired as South Africa’s police chief in 2011 after an inquiry into allegations of misconduct in relation to the procurement of office headquarters for the South African Police Service. The Public Protector’s report found that the lease agreements were unlawful, invalid and “fatally flawed”.In 2006, the Public Protector cleared then Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka after she used an air force plane to fly with her family and friends to the United Arab Emirates for a holiday. “It cannot be found that the deputy president acted improperly or that she failed to act in good faith,” the Public Protector said in a report at the time. “She was entitled, as anyone else in her similar position and status, to take her family, a friend and the children of her private secretary with her to the UAE and no one therefore benefited improperly from the trip.”Following an investigation in 2004, 40 Members of Parliament from a number of different political parties were found to have illegally used parliamentary travel vouchers worth R18-million for their personal use.Also in 2004, an investigation into claims that Ekurhuleni metro police chief Robert McBride was unsuitable for his post found that the appointment was proper, given that then national police commissioner Jackie Selebi had “waived the requirements that McBride had to be a member of the Metro police, and in respect of training”.Reviewed 17 May 2016Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? 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UPLB exempted from SEA Games class suspension San Sebastian similarly downed Jose Rizal University in straight sets, 25-23, 25-22, 25-21, in the second game to barge into the win column.Prado fired 16 points, while Arocha added 15 for Arellano, bringing to fore the skills and smarts they have learned from playing in the previous PVL Open Conference.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSSEA Games: Philippines picks up 1st win in men’s water poloSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutout“In the Open Conference we faced better players which allowed us to level up our game,” said Prado in Filipino.That level was in full display as Arellano ran plays like a sure-footed veteran squad against the Lady Red Spikers, whose bevy of power hitters just could not get their game going. Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles01:37Protesters burn down Iran consulate in Najaf01:47Panelo casts doubts on Robredo’s drug war ‘discoveries’01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games E.T. returns to earth, reunites with grown-up Elliott in new ad MOST READ WATCH: Streetboys show off slick dance moves in Vhong Navarro’s wedding LATEST STORIES Issa Viray and Chesca Racraquin tried to hammer their way against the formidable defense of Arellano, scoring 12 and 9 points, respectively.The Lady Chiefs, who downed the St. Benilde Lady Blazers in the opener (25-20, 25-22, 25-17), were never in trouble in the match as coach Obet Javier’s squad was on-point throughout.San Beda took a 16-13 lead in the second set but Mary Anne Esguerra and Necole Ebuen triggered a 5-1 binge to put things in order.“They tried to load up on their serves, that’s why they managed to take the lead,” said Prado, the team captain. “But that’s where we held on to our receives even better.”San Beda, which bested Technological Institute of the Philippines (25-13, 25-18, 25-27, 25-13) in its opener, fell to 1-1.ADVERTISEMENT Catriona Gray spends Thanksgiving by preparing meals for people with illnesses Azkals draw with Yemenis, stay on top Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC Read Next Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.netArellano University imposed its edge in experience to crush San Beda, 25-22, 25-21, 25-18, Wednesday and remain unbeaten in the Premier Volleyball League Collegiate Conference at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.Jovelyn Prado and Regine Arocha led the Lady Chiefs in scoring their second straight victory and at the same time providing a glimpse of what to expect from the reigning NCAA women’s champions.ADVERTISEMENT LOOK: Loisa Andalio, Ronnie Alonte unwind in Amanpulo for 3rd anniversary View comments Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. LOOK: Venues for 2019 SEA Games SEA Games in Calabarzon safe, secure – Solcom chief
A few surprises today at the X-Blades National Youth Championships in Coffs Harbour.Early on day two of the X-Blades National Youth Championships, the seeds performed as planned, most of them winning their pool matches. In the Boys 18’s, QSST, Brisbane, NSWCHS and NSWCIS were all victorious. The upsets were 16th ranked North Queensland beating 15th-ranked Northern Territory 18-0, with the major upset being first seeds Sydney Mets going down to 6th ranked NSWCCC 6-3.In other divisions, SQBD played a tight match, tying 8 all with North Queensland in the Boy’s 20’s. Also in the Boys 20’s, 2nd ranked Southern Suns beat Hornets 14-7, and first seeds Sydney Mets beat fourth seed Cobras 10-6.In the Girls 18’s, SQBD were too good for the Southern Suns and Northern Territory beat South Australia 9-2. Top seeds QSST were too good for Tasmania, winning 15-1, while the other winners were NSWCHS, Sydney Rebels. Northern Eagles and South Queensland fought out a 3 all draw, while the X-Blades match of the round lived up to expectations, with 6th ranked NSWCCC defeating third seeds Brisbane 8-1.In the Girls 20’s, it was all the favourites taking victory, with Brisbane, Sharks, Sunshine Coast, Southern Suns and Sydney Rebels all winning. Later in the afternoon, the Boys 18’s NSWCHS, ranked 4th came back from a heavy defeat to beat the 3rd ranked Cobras 10-3. In other Boys 18’s results, NSWCIS, Southern Suns and the Mets were the winners.In the final games of the day, it was the usual suspects, with NSWCHS, Sharks and NSWCCC winning in the Boys 18’s, although 3rd ranked Brisbane did it tough, being held to 3-all against 11th ranked Hornets. The Hornets were winners in the Girls 20’s, beating Victoria 10-4.
Rivaldo raps Barcelona for ignoring kidsby Carlos Volcano10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveFormer Barcelona star Rivaldo says management should focus more on their La Masia academy.Rivaldo believes the club’s young players deserve a better chance at making it.Asked about Jeison Murillo’s signing and the possible arrivals of Adrien Rabiot (PSG) and Frenkie De Jong (Ajax), Rivaldo said Barca “should look more at La Masia and less outside the club. Murillo arrived, they’re talking about Rabiot and De Jong… in my opinion the club doesn’t need to reinforce from outside. “They have an excellent structure and should focus on moving through new young talents.” TagsTransfersAbout the authorCarlos VolcanoShare the loveHave your say
Barcelona announce latest injury suffered by Messiby Carlos Volcanoa month agoSend to a friendShare the loveBarcelona have announced the injury suffered by Lionel Messi in victory over Villarreal.In a heavy blow, the Argentine has been diagnosed with an elongation in the adductor of his left leg.It remains to be seen whether or not the La Masia graduate will be ready to play against Getafe, although it is assumed at this moment that he will miss that match.What will follow is a race against time in order for him to be fully fit to face Inter in the Champions League on Wednesday.”The first team player, Lionel Messi, has an elongation in the adductor of his left thigh,” a club statement read.One positive is that an elongation is not a break and any absence for Messi will likely be shorter than it could have been. About the authorCarlos VolcanoShare the loveHave your say
Batting average.424.282 Average SLG.553.361 That stubbornness proved to be Howard’s downfall. Against the shift, Howard posted a batting average of .282 and slugged .361, good for a weighted runs created plus that was 29 percent worse than average. When he wasn’t staring down the shift, Howard was a fearsome hitter with a .424 batting average, a .553 slugging percentage and a wRC+ 62 percent better than average (that wRC+ is identical to the one he posted in 2006, his MVP year).The trouble for Howard was that the no-shift version of him seldom got a chance to shine, because teams almost always shifted against him. From 2010 (the first year for which we have shift data) to 2016, Howard had only 224 plate appearances where he did not face the shift, compared to 1699 with it on. Every team that adopted the shift started off by employing it against big, slow, pull-happy hitters like Howard. As a result, Howard saw more shifts than anyone except David Ortiz, another hitter with the same weaknesses.Ortiz made an effort to adapt; Howard kept plugging away the way he always had. In the first eight years of his MLB career, Howard produced 21.6 wins above replacement.2Using the FanGraphs version of that stat. Over his final five seasons — a period during which use of the defensive shift increased exponentially — Howard was worth an astonishing 2.2 wins below replacement. Injuries also limited his productivity, but even when he was healthy, he was ineffective. As a slow, defensively-challenged first baseman, he relied on his bat to be useful. When the shift neutralized Howard’s hitting, he lost his value to a major league roster.We can never know the true toll the shift exacted on Howard’s production, but we can estimate it: I asked the makers of a simulation game called Out Of The Park Baseball to create a version of MLB without the shift. (Just imagine a universe in which baseball commissioner Rob Manfred managed to outlaw the tactic.) Then I had them replay Howard’s career three times, starting from 2009,3Howard’s last great real-life season. to get a range of outcomes for his final résumé.In a league without shifts, Howard is a completely different player. In the three simulations, Howard finished with an average career batting line of .272/.355/.527, far better than his actual career numbers of .258/.343/.515. Of course, league-wide run-scoring is generally a bit higher4About 3-7 percent. in the shift-free game, but even after adjusting for a higher offensive baseline, Howard racked up an on-base plus slugging percentage that was 40 percent better than league average. In the simulations, that offensive production won him between one and five more All-Star selections.In this world, Howard’s gaudy offensive stats and numerous league-leading totals make him a bona fide Hall of Fame candidate. In order to estimate his chances, I used the same logistic regression model I employed to look at David Ortiz’s case last year, using a player’s Jaffe WAR Score system (JAWS) rating5A method, developed by sabermetrician Jay Jaffe, that tries to balance a player’s career and peak wins above replacement when assessing his career. to predict his odds of Hall of Fame induction. Each of the three hypothetical Howards had between a 10 and 55 percent chance of achieving baseball’s highest honor: Ryan Howard with and without the shift, 2010-16 Average wRC+16271 NO SHIFTSHIFT Runs above average+17.1-52.4 Runs above average totals all the runs a player’s hitting generated relative to an average player who had the same number of plate appearances. Shift data is tracked only on balls in play.Source: Fangraphs It wasn’t too long ago that former Phillies great Ryan Howard was a fixture in MVP discussions, atop league leaderboards and on lists of the game’s most marketable stars. But the slugger’s once-promising career is all but over now, after the Atlanta Braves released him in early May.1Howard’s slash line with the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate was tragic: .184/.238/.263.On the surface, Howard’s fall doesn’t seem completely atypical of a plodding slugger. But his abrupt decline had less to do with aging or ineffectiveness than it did a specific tactic sweeping through baseball during the back half of his career. The defensive shift ended Howard’s career, and it might have cost him a shot at the Hall of Fame as well.When the shift is on, defenders move from one side of the infield to the other to give themselves a better chance at cutting off batted balls from hitters who consistently drive the ball in one direction. Howard was a great candidate for the maneuver because he pulled groundballs 66.5 percent of the time, compared to this year’s league average of 53.8. While some hitters try to overcome the shift with well-timed bunts or tactical changes, Howard always stubbornly refused. “All you can do is continue to swing,” Howard said in a 2015 interview with MLB.com. So even in a world without the shift, Howard was hardly a lock for Cooperstown. But like Ortiz, he could have benefited from some hallmark achievements and postseason success. For example, in one of the simulations, Howard hit 547 homers — only 10 first basemen have ever passed the 500 home run mark, and seven of them are either already in the Hall or likely to make it there. In that same universe, Howard’s Phillies won two more championships as he racked up multiple playoff series MVPs, no doubt earning a reputation as a postseason hero. In that world, it’s hard to imagine how Howard doesn’t make the Hall of Fame.Nothing is certain in baseball, not even in simulations of it. Without the shift, maybe Howard’s knees would still have given out, or maybe pitchers would have found another way to frustrate him. (Then again, maybe not having to worry about the shift would free Howard up to improve his offense even more, allowing him to finish his career more like Jim Thome or David Ortiz.) Either way, a world without the newest defensive tactics would have at least given the big slugger a chance at Cooperstown, which is more than most players can boast.But although Howard succumbed to the shift, his demise also tells us about the future of the tactic — and why its effectiveness might eventually tail off. When modern teams first started realigning the infield, there were plenty of obvious candidates who would be vulnerable to its effects. But as players like Howard get pushed out of the league by the shift, there will be fewer and fewer hitters on whom it can be used so effectively. Eventually, the rewards of slick defensive positioning will shrink; like most tactics in baseball, the shift will have diminishing returns.Had Howard’s career started a decade later, he might have had to cope with the shift in the minors and found a way to adapt. As it was, he came up as the shift was rising, and it probably cost him a long career and a chance at the Hall of Fame.CLARIFICATION (June 6, 6:20 p.m.): Shift data is tracked only on balls in play. The table has been updated to include this information, which was previously omitted.
Texas A&M’s comeback against Northern Iowa was pretty epic — like, 3,000-to-1 odds against epic. In this video, Neil Paine and Reuben Fischer-Baum talk about how FiveThirtyEight’s in-game win probability model saw the game unfolding and where it ranked according to our excitement index. They then settle last week’s wager about who could predict the most exciting games of the tournament’s first two rounds.Check out FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 March Madness Predictions.
Ben Lindbergh joins the Hot Takedown podcast to preview the 2016 MLB season. neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): All right — the AL East is perennially one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, but the balance of power has shifted a bit away from the classic Yankees-Red Sox rivalry in recent years. Do we think that will persist this year with Toronto winning again, or do we have reason to think New York and especially Boston will return to their former glories?dszymborski: Well, both teams have a plausible case to contention, though either could come off the rails very quickly. I think it’s truer than ever that there are no great AL East teams or even any great AL teams, period.emmaspan: I’d agree with Dan that the AL East is pretty wide open. It wouldn’t shock me to see any of these teams squeak into a wild-card spot. And I believe SI’s preseason predictions for the AL East last year ended up being an exact inversion of the final standings. So everyone should definitely listen to me.dszymborski: The nice thing about the “all teams are plausible!” prediction is that people end up having to be less specific in their anger at me by the time the season ends.emmaspan: I think Boston will be pretty good this year, although to be fair, I also thought that last year, and, well. But I think the race is likelier to be between the Red Sox and the Blue Jays than the Yankees. All three of those teams have a lot of question marks in their rotations, but I think the Sox and Jays have lineups that can cover for a lot of that, and I’m not sure I’d say the same for New York. A FiveThirtyEight Chat emmaspan: Oh my gosh. I changed my mind: Orioles are going all the way this year. neil: So, to recap: slight edge to the Jays, but maybe the Red Sox, Yankees or even the Rays … And the Orioles will either finish last or recapture the spirit of ’89 in song and performance.emmaspan: That about sums it up on my end.dszymborski: Seems like a reasonable wrapup. And hi, Nate. I see you typing.natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): Thanks, Dan and Emma!emmaspan: Hi Nate! [waves]natesilver: Was gonna say that we really need to work on an oral history of the 1991 Detroit Tigers: Tettleton + Fielder + Deer + Incaviglia = AWESOME.neil: Save it for the AL Central chat, Nate. :)emmaspan: And don’t give me any ideas you don’t want me to steal. dszymborski: I know the whole “Why Not?” song. I had the 1989 team video on VHS. It also included a Mickey Tettleton version of “I Love Mickey.” Boston Red Soxneil: You guys sound high on the Red Sox, despite the last-place finish a year ago. How much of that is the offseason additions (David Price, Craig Kimbrel, etc.) and how much is simply the guys who had down seasons a year ago bouncing back in some way, shape or form?dszymborski: I’m slightly higher on them than the Yankees. I actually picked them as very slight division favorites, but a lot can still go wrong.emmaspan: The latter, for me — the Red Sox played much better the second half of last year than the first. It looked like things were starting to come together. And any time you can add a durable (so far) ace like Price, it’s a big boost.dszymborski: Hard to go wrong signing David Price!emmaspan: I don’t think Hanley Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval will necessarily return to form, but if they can just be decent, there’s still a lot to like in that lineup.dszymborski: Ramirez at least seems to have more buy-in about playing first base. I urged people not to overrate how good he’d be in left field, but I didn’t see that disaster coming. I’m less optimistic on Sandoval. It was such a strange pair of signings. Third base was the logical reason to sign either Hanley or Sandoval going into last winter, but then they signed both.emmaspan: I wouldn’t say I’m optimistic about Sandoval, either, but last year was his worst ever and he’s still only 29, so I don’t think a return to (at least) mediocrity is out of the question. But yeah, those were strange moves even at the time. Personally, I will miss the sheer adventure of Hanley in left. A real adrenaline rush.dszymborski: I think the GM change is good for the Red Sox not just because of any managerial issue, just because it’s easier to walk away from various Sandoval/Ramirez experiments if they go poorly. Dave Dombrowski has nothing personally invested in Sandoval’s contract working out.emmaspan: That “if” is very generous of you.dszymborski: I’m a sunny optimist.neil: Yeah, I wanted to ask about the regime change there — Dombrowski is demonstrably one of the best GMs in baseball, but what is he going to do to succeed where Ben Cherington failed? And what do we make of that story where John Henry backed away from sabermetrics a bit as a guiding strategy?emmaspan: We’ll obviously have to see how it plays out, but I think the John Henry quotes got a little overblown — I think what he was saying is that they want to use a good mixture of analytics and scouting, which at this point is hardly controversial. Or shouldn’t be.dszymborski: Yeah. His comments also came at a slow time in the news cycle, so they got blown up a bit. Though Ruben Amaro and their “secret analytics” was highly entertaining for a few days.emmaspan: One of the most fun aspects of SI’s baseball season preview every year is we talk to a bunch of scouts, anonymously, about every team. They have some really fascinating (and funny) insights that you don’t get from even the best statistical analysis — but, of course, they also are spectacularly wrong sometimes. The Red Sox obviously did very well by sabermetrics and I don’t see them tossing it over the side. Almost all the best teams in baseball right now are teams that have done a good job balancing those perspectives.dszymborski: It used to be you had a serious divide between teams using data well and teams that don’t. That’s so much not the case these days.emmaspan: One thing to watch with Dombrowski is how much freedom he gets from ownership. That was an issue with Cherington, apparently, at several key points in his tenure.dszymborski: Yeah, he never really had the political capital that Theo Epstein did.emmaspan: You can be the best GM in the world, but if the owners insist that you hire Bobby Valentine, well …neil: Fair enough. So if Red Sox fans had any reason to panic, it should be more about maybe, say, the back end of that rotation than any grand shift in organization direction.emmaspan: Yes, although ownership meddling is something to be wary of in that and other areas.dszymborski: As organizations have more complex management structures and ownership groups continue to get more involved, I think chalking moves up to a specific GM isn’t as useful as it once was. New York Yankeesneil: All right, let’s move on to the Yankees. According to the numbers, at least, they might be the most underrated team in baseball — which I never thought I’d actually hear a Yankee team described as.dszymborski: One surprising — and positive — thing about New York is just how young its good pitching is. I do this thing called “contribution age,” in which I weight a team’s age by its projected WAR, and the Yankees actually have the second-youngest pitching staff based on where they’re getting the value from (slightly behind the Mets).emmaspan: Do you think those young guys are ready, Dan? Luis Severino did look really strong last year, but small sample size and all that.dszymborski: Oh, I’m frightened by the downside, but a lot of the contributions that they’re going to get will need to be from those young/youngish guys. I’m bullish on Severino especially, simply because he’s one of the few starters that actually has his arm completely intact.emmaspan: Speaking of which, I worry about Michael Pineda staying healthy. I mean, also every other pitcher in the league, but Pineda has a long list of injury issues.neil: Masahiro Tanaka, too, has his own injury history as well.emmaspan: A good chunk of the Yankees’ season probably hangs on Tanaka’s elbow, which is pretty precarious. And I think at CC Sabathia‘s age, it’s unlikely he’ll get back to his top form, which is too bad, because he was enormously fun to watch.dszymborski: He was one of the great hopes for the next 300-game winner for a while, too. Watching his ZiPS career projection for wins come down year after year is very depressing. It peaked at 274 five years ago. Now it’s down to 231.emmaspan: Aw, CC. At least it sounds like he’s in a good place off the field and that’s great.neil: But is it fair to say the Yankees will probably once again be somewhere between OK and pretty decent on both the runs scored and allowed fronts? That was their formula last season, but it fell short of what are always the ravenous expectations in the Bronx.dszymborski: That seems about right. It’s an old risky team that can still patch together enough of a run to remain solid.emmaspan: That’s what I think. Their lineup is still overly reliant on old (by baseball standards) players but they shored it up a bit this offseason. I think it’ll be serviceable, and like the last few years, probably enough to put them in contention for a wild card. Money can’t buy you a championship, but it can keep you from totally sucking.dszymborski: I find using “old” a more loaded term these days, given how quickly baseball is running out of players that are older than I am.emmaspan: You should love the Yankees, then, Dan. Speaking of old, I thought for sure A-Rod would be cooked last year, but he was one of their best players. Is there any way he manages that again?dszymborski: I think he could. The question before last year was whether, after injuries and missing a year, he’d be able to do it at all. That he did it once should make us slightly more optimistic.neil: A-Rod’s regression potential, though, is another limiting factor for that lineup that probably keeps them more “OK” than “great.”dszymborski: Some of the issues in the offense would look less urgent if not for the Greg Bird injury.emmaspan: Yeah, not a great idea to go in without a good Mark Teixeira backup plan.neil: And what do we make of this bullpen Death Star they’ve built when Aroldis Chapman returns from suspension?emmaspan: It could make up for some of those rotation question marks — you don’t need to rely on length from that group of starters. For me, it would be more fun to watch if their buy-low on Chapman while he was under investigation for domestic violence hadn’t been so discouraging. But yes, from a pure baseball perspective, it’ll still be a spectacle.One of the more impressive aspects of the Yankees’ recent history is that for all their issues, they’ve done a good job replacing Mariano Rivera, which is a tall order. None of these guys are Mo, don’t get me wrong, but the bullpen hasn’t really been one of their problems. Toronto Blue Jaysneil: Well, let’s talk about the team that won the division last year, the Blue Jays. They were arguably the best team in baseball last season (sorry, Royals), but neither FanGraphs nor Baseball Prospectus’s projections think they’re the frontrunners this season. What do we think? Was last year their peak, or can they be as good this time around?emmaspan: The Blue Jays are my pick to win the division this year. Like last year, their lineup should be terrifying, but their rotation is less steady than you’d like. They’ll miss David Price. But when you can outscore everyone on the planet like that, it makes up for a lot.dszymborski: I think they come back to earth a bit. Not a lot went wrong last year. They’ll score a ton of runs, but there’s certainly some downside risk there. Though they’re still competitive, like the rest of the AL East.emmaspan: Even assuming that Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion won’t all have 40-HR seasons like last year, they can still bludgeon a lot of pitchers. They should also have a full year of Marcus Stroman, which could be huge (though I do worry a little about putting so much pressure on a kid who only had five starts last year).I covered the Blue Jays in the playoffs last year, including that crazy ALDS Game 5, and it was something else. I actually might be overestimating them a little because of how insane that moment was.neil: It was an incredible moment. But at that stage of the season, they’d also been buoyed by deadline pickups (in addition to actually playing to their run differential). Do they need to go out and get pieces again?emmaspan: I think they need a pitcher. Though there probably won’t be another David Price lying around.dszymborski: And even if there was, trading for a second David Price is tough.emmaspan: Yes. And their new GM has expressed reluctance to make those huge moves, which I know has some Jays fans worried.dszymborski: Yeah, say that the Nats are terrible and Stephen Strasburg is available. That’s all well and good, but it will be harder for the Jays to come up with another trade package in 2016.emmaspan: But one other thing in their favor — their offense was that good without Troy Tulowitzki hitting very well. He’ll help their defense regardless, but if he can return to even kinda his usual form, that’s huge. Even if you don’t get another ace at the deadline, even just a solid mid-rotation guy can be enough when you score 18 runs per game. (Slight exaggeration.)neil: Only slight.emmaspan: They also could use another reliable bullpen arm or two, I think. That might be easier to come by.dszymborski: But they have the mid-rotation guys. It’s the ace-type that you can confidently start six times in the playoffs they don’t have.emmaspan: I think Stroman can be that guy, though they’ll want to watch his innings this year.dszymborski: It’s a lot to put on a guy who just came back from one injury.emmaspan: Also, I personally am ready for the R.A. Dickey renaissance. Is it likely? OK, no. But it would be wonderful and you never fucking know with knuckleballers. (Please feel free to edit out my profanity — I get very worked up about knuckleballs.)neil: Profanity is fine, but only in the context of knuckleball pitchers.dszymborski: Dickey hasn’t been disappointing even, just not super inspiring: a slightly above-average pitcher that never misses a start. He’s also only 41 — he can be around for another decade or so.emmaspan: Right, but I vividly remember his Cy Young season for the Mets. That was crazy fun.dszymborski: That mid-year stretch when nobody scored on him ever!emmaspan: And he had a few great starts last year, too, if I recall correctly. It’s still in there, somewhere, maybe!dszymborski: 2.80 second-half ERA!emmaspan: There you go. In my mind the AL Cy Young is already sewn up. Everyone else can go home.neil: You said it, Emma — you never (fucking) know with guys like that. But barring some kind of Dickey renaissance, the Jays’ only really question mark is the rotation, it seems. Emma said she’s picking Toronto as favorites; what say ye, Dan?dszymborski: Slightly picking Red Sox. But again, this is a year in which I can just project everybody to have a fun time.emmaspan: Red Sox were a close second for me. We pretty much agree, which means this is probably the Rays’ year. Tampa Bay Raysneil: Maybe the real wild card in this division (not literally the AL Wild Card, just the figure of speech — although maybe the literal Wild Card, too) is the Tampa Bay Rays. PECOTA is picking them to win the division, on the strength of a really outlier-ish fielding performance. What do you think? Are the Rays back?dszymborski: Yeah, ZiPS had the opposite: Rays at 80-82.neil: I think most other sources were more in line with ZiPS. Vegas pegged them with an over/under of 78 wins.emmaspan: I don’t think the Rays are back quite yet, but they’re better, and if a few things went right for them, the Wild Card is pretty realistic. I do think they’ll have good defense (Kevin Kiermaier by himself is basically a good defense), and potentially a strong rotation.dszymborski: Yeah, it could happen for sure. They’re a non-terrible team in a wide-open division.emmaspan: I just don’t see them hitting enough. But a few surprise performances and a couple of trades and who knows?dszymborski: You’re really seeing some of the effects of their recent drafts not bearing fruit yet. Only a single drafted Ray since David Price in 2007 has five WAR in the majors: Kiermaier.emmaspan: I’m pretty fascinated to see if Kiermaier’s insane defensive stats hold up. I mean, he’s obviously an excellent, excellent centerfielder — but worth five wins on defense alone?dszymborski: There’s gotta be some regression on that. Defensive stats are just so volatile. But even at +15, he’s a valuable player.emmaspan: Yeah, generally you take a single season of defensive stats with large grains of salt. That said, you watch him field, and he really is awesome. Obligatory plug — check out last week’s issue of SI for more on Kiermaier and his crazy centerfielding.dszymborski: I prefer “centerfieldery.” Sounds better after “feats of.”emmaspan: You’re right. Let’s go with “crazy feats of centerfieldery.” I won’t tell the SI copy desk if you don’t.neil: But it sounds like you both are somewhat skeptical of that +56 fielding runs above average PECOTA is spitting out for Tampa. Do they have much of a plausible path to the division crown if that doesn’t end up happening? Looking at the rest of their roster, it doesn’t seem like there’s enough else there.dszymborski: To establish +56 as a baseline, you gotta do it longer. (It’s like projecting Bonds in his 73-homer season. Even though he did hit 73, you probably shouldn’t have projected it beforehand.) And without that +56, it’s tougher for the Rays. But remember, I don’t see them being quite that good defensively and still think there’s a path — just not the most likely one.emmaspan: Right. I don’t think it’s likely but, again, it wouldn’t be shocking. Chris Archer is awesome. Matt Moore’s looked great. I think Drew Smyly can be good. Combine a really good rotation with very good fielding — even if it isn’t +56 fielding runs above average — and stranger things have happened.neil: In fairness, I should also say their catchers — specifically, Hank Conger and René Rivera — are really good framers. So some of that is being factored into PECOTA.emmaspan: Evan Longoria going back to his star levels would go a long way towards helping. I don’t know how likely that is. And even if it did, I still think they need a couple bats. But I don’t think they’re far away from contending.dszymborski: No, just need some things to go right. Like when you don’t want to do your homework and there’s a 40 percent chance of snow in the forecast. In honor of the 2016 Major League Baseball season, which starts Sunday, FiveThirtyEight is assembling some of our favorite baseball writers to chat about the year to come. Today, we focus on the American League East with Sports Illustrated senior editor Emma Span and ESPN analyst Dan Szymborski. The transcript below has been edited.Toronto Blue JaysBoston Red SoxNew York YankeesTampa Bay RaysBaltimore Orioles Baltimore Oriolesneil: You guys have just told me why any of the Jays, Red Sox, Yankees or Rays could win this division without anything too crazy happening. Does it stand to reason that Baltimore, who won this division as recently as two years ago, also fits that description?dszymborski: Pretty much. Although there’s something depressing about the fact that the Os had to increase their payroll to $150 million just to essentially maintain last year’s roster. (Which went 81-81.)emmaspan: They would surprise me the most of any AL East team, but even for them I would say they still have a shot. They’re gonna clobber a ton of home runs. That pitching, though.neil: The rotation looks especially shaky.dszymborski: It’s essentially four soft-tossing righties and Kevin Gausman, who they spent all of last year trying to use in the most awkward way imaginable.emmaspan: We did a big article on Jake Arrieta this week. Between what he said about his time in Baltimore and what the scout we talked to said about Gausman, yikes. Developing pitching prospects is risky for any team, but the Orioles desperately need to break this pattern.dszymborski: I think the Os lead the league in home runs, go 81-81, and the organization can’t quite figure out why.emmaspan: Their path to success is similar to last year’s Jays: out-slug all comers. But, again, for the Jays that involved picking up one of the best pitchers in baseball at the deadline, and that’s a tall order.dszymborski: Baltimore’s closer to a rebuild than any of the other AL East teams, I think. The farm’s dried up, they can’t increase payroll any more, and Manny Machado’s only got three years to free agency now.emmaspan: I feel awful for Orioles fans if the team doesn’t extend Machado and he goes elsewhere. Oof.dszymborski: I’m from Baltimore! I’m slowly coming to terms that he’s signing somewhere else for $300 million.emmaspan: I do think they have kind of a secret weapon in Buck Showalter, who can win you a few extra one-run games. And Yovani Gallardo should be pretty solid. It’s not an inspiring signing, but it’s something.dszymborski: Despite the doom and gloom, they do have a playoff scenario. It’s just that they’re going to have to face some tough questions quicker than the others.emmaspan: Your 2015 Baltimore Orioles: “Well, It’s Something.”neil: Better or worse than “Why Not?” More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Embed Code
The Ohio State softball team was unable to swing its momentum from a Wednesday win against Ball State into Madison, Wis., as Wisconsin swept the Buckeyes in a three-game weekend series. The Badgers used solid pitching and defense to limit the Buckeyes (27-17, 6-9), winning, 7-6, in 10 innings and again, 3-1, on Saturday, before taking Sunday’s capper, 4-2. The teams played a doubleheader on Saturday after Friday’s tilt was postponed due to inclement weather. Despite the sweep, first-year coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly was able to find positives in her team’s performance. “I thought Mel (Nichols, a redshirt junior pitcher) threw well when we called on her. We will need her down the stretch,” Schoenly said. “(Junior catcher Melissa) Rennie is really seeing the ball well. And over the last several weeks, (sophomore) Maddy McIntyre has really grown as a shortstop. She has worked really hard to increase her range and has done so.” Nichols pitched 4 1/3 innings on the weekend in her two relief appearances, yielding two hits and giving up no runs while striking out five Badger batters. Rennie went 1-7 on the weekend, with two starts at catcher, and McIntyre went 3-9 with two walks and a run scored for the series. During practice before heading to Madison, Wis., McIntyre said her goals for the series were to focus on her job and “being there for the team.” Schoenly said she thought McIntyre accomplished her personal goals, both defensively and offensively. Despite OSU’s team struggles offensively against Wisconsin, freshman left fielder Cammi Prantl was able to have a solid individual series at the plate, highlighted by her extension of a 10-game-long hitting streak. Prantl went 4-10 with two RBIs on the weekend and pushed her season average to a team-leading .365. “I couldn’t be happier for Cammi,” Schoenly said. “She is the complete offensive package, with speed and power. She is a confident kid and that helps tremendously in the box.” Wisconsin came into the weekend second in the Big Ten in stolen bases, and during practice, senior third baseman Megan Coletta said stopping Wisconsin’s speed would be a point of contention for winning the series. Schoenly said that OSU handled Wisconsin’s speed well for the most part, even if it didn’t translate to wins. With 10 games remaining in the regular season, OSU sits in eighth place in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes are scheduled to face Michigan State, which sits at fifth in the conference, at Buckeye Field Wednesday at 4 p.m. for a doubleheader. Both games will be televised on Big Ten Network.