2018 MLB Pre-season Predictions

This analysis only covers the regular season. The MLB post-season can’t be predicted until the season (and trade deadlines) play out, as injuries and other factors are impossible to know. My methodology incorporates these factors: 1) last season’s W-L record, 2) off-season moves, 3) team payroll & flexibility, 4) farm system, and 5) front office & ownership brains.

As of this publication, the only significant remaining free agent is RHP Alex Cobb (above). I anticipate him signing for 1/$12M (or 2/$20M) as a mid-rotation starter for a small or mid-market team. He’s an injury risk, with his TJ history. He also comes with draft pick compensation, which diminishes his market value. Nothing else remains in free agency but scrap heap players, therefore we can now handicap each division and expect to be in the ballpark.

AL East
Contenders: Yankees, Red Sox (WC)
Pretenders: Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles

The Yankees are everyone’s favorite after acquiring DH Giancarlo Stanton this past winter. Have no illusions, this helps the Yankees win now, but it will be an albatross contract after a few seasons, and it runs through 2027. They have plenty of starting & relief pitching, with a balanced line-up that is young with upside, as well as experienced. Their farm system is still strong (top 5-ish), and they’ve cleared payroll room for additions in July.

The Red Sox will be right there too, but I see them as slipping. They now have (by far) the highest payroll in MLB. Trades have eroded their farm system, and there are already more than a few regrets, with more to come. Red Sox fans would surely prefer CF Manny Margot (Padres) to Jackie Bradley Jr. for instance. JD Martinez (age 31) seems like a redundancy at DH, as 1B Eric Hosmer (age 27) made more sense for the Red Sox this past winter. Instead they’re going with Mitch Moreland/Hanley Ramirez at 1B, which hurts.

The Blue Jays could possible make some noise if their top prospects (3B Vlad Guerrero Jr & SS Bo Bichette) make an impact. They are already having injury issues with their rotation (RHP Marcus Stroman), and this has been a problem for them in the past. More than any other AL team, the Blue Jays could go either way.

The Rays are experimenting with a 4-man rotation, with the 5th day being a “bullpen start.” This is completely insane, and promises to fail miserably. The Rays have already lost two young arms to TJ surgery this spring: RHP’s Brent Honeywell & Jose de Leon. Expect RHP Chris Archer to be traded by the deadline.

The Orioles are a complete joke. No international drafting presence and poor scouting has doomed this franchise to the basement for any foreseeable future. Their starting rotation for 2018 is awful, as their pitching staff will be the worst in MLB by a wide margin. This franchise desperately needs a new owner.

Late entry 3-21-18: Just announced, the Orioles & RHP Alex Cobb have reached an agreement on a 4/$60M deal. Because the Orioles receive revenue sharing, they will lose their third-highest pick in the Amateur Draft as a result of this deal — the No. 51 pick overall. No team need starting pitching more than the O’s, so this is a good deal for them. Unfortunately it’s way too little, too late to be much help.

AL Central
Contenders: Indians, Twins (WC)
Pretenders: Royals, White Sox, Tigers

The Indians are still a heavyweight WS contender, with enough system depth to aid in another championship run. Their pitching is elite. Losing Carlos Santana could hurt some.

The Twins made some of the best off-season improvements this winter. They added two helpful starters in Jake Odorizzi & Lance Lynn who can provide 300+ above-average innings to their rotation, which is huge. Throw in bargain-signing Logan Morrison at DH, and the Twins have a mashing heart-of-the-order. They’re still a notch (or two) below the AL heavyweights, but dangerous nonetheless.

The Royals have gone into rebuild mode after losing ace RHP Yordano Ventura to tragedy, and 1B Eric Hosmer & CF Lorenzo Cain to free agency. They re-signed 3B Mike Moustakas because no one else wanted him. Moustakas is an example of how much of a disaster this new CBA is for the players, as a Scott Boras client who initially refused the Royals qualifying offer of $17.4M, then eventually inked for $6.5M plus incentives. This organization is now in no-man’s-land after winning it all in 2015.

The White Sox committed to their rebuild by trading their best players last year and reaping a bevy of top prospects. This is now one of the best farm systems in baseball (with the Braves & Padres), but a mess at the MLB level. RHP James Shields personifies this 25-man roster disaster better than any other White Sox player.

The Tigers finally threw in the towel last July, and it will be a long time before they are relevant again, as their farm system still stinks. Their 25-man roster has a two albatrosses in 1B Miguel Cabrera & RHP Jordan Zimmerman.

AL West
Contender: Astros
Pretenders: Angels, Mariners, A’s, Rangers

This division is really bad outside of the defending World Series champion Astros. For the Astros, it’s all about being able to win in October. This is a smart organization, that is set up for a nice run.

The Angels made some nice additions this off-season, but are still a long way from having a competitive 25-man roster. They’ve got a smart young GM in Billy Eppler, who makes things happen. He needs to find some more pitching for the Angels to take the next step.

The Mariners aren’t going anywhere, despite the flurry of deals GM Jerry Dipoto has made in the last two years. There’s no financial flexibility due to payroll obligations. Spring training has been a rash of leg injuries, including: DH Nelson Cruz, SS Jean Segura & OF Ichiro. This roster is thin on depth to start, and can’t afford significant injuries to any key players.

The Rangers are also spinning their wheels, and will probably be trading ace LHP Cole Hamels at the 7/31 deadline. A point that needs to be made concerning the Rangers’ front office, is that the juggernaut of homegrown talent they had ~ 10 years ago was the work not of GM Jon Daniels, but of then-scouting director A.J. Preller. When Preller left to become GM of the Padres, the young talent stopped coming to Arlington.

The A’s are once again the young Moneyball up-&-comers (as they should be), but it will take another year or two for their system to bear fruit. They could surprise sooner if their prospects hit. If they ever committed to a respectable payroll, they could actually do something.

NL East
Contender: Nationals
Pretenders: Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins

Not much of a race here, as the Nationals are a NL heavyweight. Expect them to win this division by double digit games again in 2018. It’s all about their performance in October anymore, and winning a division series for a change. This is their last run with RF Bryce Harper, and they are doing it with a rookie manager. Believe it or not, that’s a dugout upgrade in Washington.

As for the rest, the Braves have the best farm system, followed by the Phillies. Both of these franchises mark 2018 as critical development years. The Phillies have gambled by signing 1B Carlos Santana (3/$60M) & RHP Jake Arrieta (3/$75M*) in a push to accelerate their window of contention. I see it as too much, too soon, and don’t see this turning out well. The Phillies needed to be patient for at least one more year before making such splashes. If this backfires, they’ve screwed themselves; and they did it for a long-shot.

The Braves have had a top-rated farm system for ~3 years now, with meager results at the MLB level. They need young outfielder Ronald Acuna, SS Dansby Swanson, and their pitching prospects to deliver soon, otherwise it was too much hype. I’m talking mostly to Keith Law and the rest at Fangraphs.

The Mets are already having injury issues (again), with RHP Jacob deGrom the latest pitching casualty. 3B David Wright will probably be permanently inactivated sometime this season, due to his ailing back. RF Yoenis Cespedes and LF Michael Comforto are also having early tweaks, and at some point someone in the Mets organization needs to be held accountable for all this, otherwise they’ve wasted their chances in this window and learned nothing from it.

The Marlins put Derek Jeter’s “Project Wolverine” into action this winter, and dumped four (4) All-Stars– for not-nearly-enough in return. They are going to stink for a LONG time, and no one will care.

NL Central
Contender: Cubs, Cardinals (WC)
Pretenders: Brewers, Reds, Pirates

The Cubs still have plenty enough to cruise to another division title. The issue comes in October, in how they will match-up against the Dodgers & Nationals. RHP Hu Darvish feels like a last plunge in this window. RF Jason Heyward’s contract is an albatross that limits their flexibility.

The Cardinals are my iffiest NL post-season prediction, as they may be too old. I never count this organization out, as they always have depth and a plan. If they crash, look for the Brewers, Braves, or Padres to sneak into the 2nd Wild Card. CF Marcell Ozuna was an off-season steal.

The Brewers have gotten a lot of press this winter for the moves they’ve made. They acquired LF Christian Yelich (below) & CF Lorenzo Cain (5/$80M), but the problem is they now have no position for LF Ryan Braun– who is untradeable. He’s not a 1B, and besides they already have Eric Thames there.  There’s not enough pitching in their rotation behind Chase Anderson either. Their payroll is maxed, with their farm system depleted, and they still come up way short.

The Reds have built their farm system back into respectability, or so we are told. I’m not convinced, as this organization never seems to produce enough pitching. Or when it does, it gets hurt.  Projected starters Anthony DeSclafani’s oblique injury, and Brandon Finnegan’s biceps strain in spring training already point towards that same trend again in 2018.

The Pirates went into rebuild mode again this off-season, when they traded CF Andrew McCutchen & RHP Gerrit Cole. Their farm system isn’t much these days, and their 25-man roster is below average. Cheapskate ownership really hurts here.

NL West
Contenders: Dodgers, Diamondbacks (WC)
Pretenders: Padres, Rockies, Giants

This is the best division in the NL, and only the AL East can claim to be tougher. Top-to bottom the NL West is probably better, as the Rays & O’s are basically hopeless in 2018. The Dodgers still have the best roster, with the best pitching, and a top-10 farm system. Money is never an object in LA, so expect them to be there in October again.

The D-backs will probably regress some in 2018 without J.D. Martinez, but they still have a play-off rotation. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt is their franchise player, but 3B Jake Lamb & particularly RF Steven Souza Jr. are the keys to their 2018 line-up.

The Padres have the best farm system in baseball by a wide margin. It’s become clear in spring training to many scouts & prospect experts, that the Padres system is actually underrated. This team is about to be good for a long time. Additions of 1B Eric Hosmer, SS Freddie Galvis, 3B Chase Headley, and RHP’s Bryan Mitchell & Tyson Ross add at least 10 wins to a team that went 71-91 in 2017. The waves of talent to come, make the Padres the organization to watch in 2018. Andy Green may be the best manager in MLB, and Darren Balsley is probably the best pitching coach.

The Rockies graduated most of their top talent in the last few years, and it netted them a WC (and immediate bounce out) in 2017. I see that as the Rockies ceiling with this current group. Their starting pitching is solid (mediocre), with little upside. Their line-up is still potent, but aging, with some bad contracts. Most likely their defense won’t be very good. Expect regression in Colorado.

The Giants have doubled down on their expensive veteran roster by adding RF Andrew McCutchen & 3B Evan Longoria to get some power into their line-up. It’s still not enough, and besides it’s pitching that’s now become suspect in San Francisco. RHP’s Johnny Cueto & Jeff Samardzija, along with closer Mark Melancon, are all albatrosses. Win or lose in 2018, Giants GM Brian Sabean will be blowing this aging team up in the near future.

My final thoughts on this past winter and the upcoming season are that these predictions aren’t hard to make. It’s going to be the same teams competing in October again. That’s why so many organizations declined to participate in free agency this winter. Splashes don’t make sense when you have no shot to start, and that’s about half the teams overall.

The name of the game today is acquiring young talent. Young players throw harder, run faster, cover more ground, and (most importantly) cost less than veteran players. Signing qualifying-offered free-agents costs an organization valuable draft picks & international spending money, which are the two quickest pipelines to a competitive roster.

This is why I’m so down on the Phillies in 2018. Santana & Arrieta probably aren’t enough, and they lose future talent by surrendering compensation picks, when they still should be in young talent acquisition mode.

Analytics and a scouting eye can tell us a lot, and help fans make better projections, but in the end it’s a random game and no one really know what will happen.

Play Ball!!


The Nature of Artificial Intelligence

AlphaGo (2017) is a documentary film concerning artificial intelligence (AI), and an ancient Chinese game known as Go. Go is an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent. This movie was shot in March 2016, when AI innovators at Deep Mind, Inc challenged world-champion professional Go player Lee Sedol to a match against AlphaGo– an AI computer.

Before the 5-game match, Lee Sedol (above) was confident in his impending victory. But as soon as the first game began, Sedol became perplexed and was on the defensive throughout. He loses the first game and doesn’t understand how? This is the Go best player in the world, reduced to self-doubt and hopelessness.

This is an example of how intimidating AI can be. Sedol loses three of the four remaining games, and it’s actually considered a victory for human genius that he even wins one game (Game 4) against AlphaGo. The programmers at Deep Mind immediately go to work to correct the flaws that cost AlphaGo its one loss to the greatest human Go player alive.

In 2018, the working masses & youth everywhere are bombarded with attack algorithms from Facebook, Google, YouTube, and any other online social platform– which are updated by the second. They tell you what to like, who to watch & listen to, who to trust, and how to think. What pops up in your Yahoo! newsfeed is targeted, monitored & censored. These algorithms are designed by political opponents to make you doubt yourself, attack you on sensitive issues, and disconnect you from allies & friends. This is how AI is working you over, anytime you go online. AI is quintessential soft power, because it’s virtually undetectable, it never quits, and it only gets stronger.

Kinda scary, huh? Algorithms sound so harmless. No one even knows what they are, really. Algorithms are mathematics, a computer program/application. a set of instructions on how to behave. When these algorithms become layered & sophisticated, and enormous data can be processed quickly, then potential for AI exists in reality.

Here’s how YouTube dirty tricks algorithms affect video distribution on my channelInfinitelink Records.  If YouTube doesn’t like you, then you are dramatically turned-down volume-wise, making the video uncompetitive with corporate bands, who always get a loudness boost. Of course, you are also demonitized, meaning there will be no money coming your way. Your video tags & titles are changed, links scrambled (seemingly at random), etc– so no one can find you. Access to control board buttons to your own channel is taken away, as YouTube controls it secretly. All this, with no alternative platform. It finally gets to the point of, “Why try?”

Artificial intelligence began as an extension of the space and satellite surveillance apparatus connected with the deep state. This includes the Pentagon, NASA, CIA, with partnership in corporate & banking. The best book on the origins of the US space spy apparatus and its integration into the military is Deep Black (1986) by William Burrows.

There’s a brief discussion of artificial intelligence in the chapter titled: Into the Future, Robert Cooper the then director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), shared his vision for peace & security explaining, “We have programs now in artificial intelligence technology that can take expert knowledge and codify it into intelligent machines…” He was speaking specifically of spy satellites that could repair themselves in orbit. [p.318]

Today we may be facing a Terminator (1984) or Robocop 2 (1990) type of scenario, where AI machines take over and turn violently on humans. This is no longer considered science-fiction, as Google and other AI firms connected with US intelligence have begun studies on the ability of humans to control artificial intelligence. [1]

The “Paperclip Maximizer” is a philosophical thought experiment described by Nick Bostrom in 2003, showing how artificial intelligence, even one designed without malice, could ultimately destroy humanity. The goal of maximizing paperclips is chosen for its neutrality & improbability. The premise is that an extremely powerful optimizer (AI) could seek goals that destroy humanity by consuming resources essential to our survival.

The AI would improve its intelligence, not because it values more intelligence, but because more intelligence would help it achieve its goal of accumulating paperclips. It would undergo an intelligence explosion and reach far-above-human levels. It would innovate better and better techniques to maximize the number of paperclips. At some point, it might transform “first all of earth and then increasing portions of space into paperclip manufacturing facilities.”

AI is simply an optimization process—a goal-seeker, a utility-function-maximizer. A paperclipping scenario is also possible without an intelligence explosion. If society keeps getting increasingly automated and AI-dominated, then the first borderline AI might manage to take over the rest using some relatively narrow-domain trick that doesn’t require very high general intelligence. [2]

Basically all of us traditionally come from conservative backgrounds, raised in homes that supported either Democrats or Republicans. Marxists know these are two sides of the same coin, but the rest buy into it. It’s been like this for a long time in America. Breaking out of the two-party straitjacket is an evolutionary & dialectical process. Uncle Sam has so many resources, and makes itself appear so frightful!

The American population has been conditioned through education, religion, television, etc., to accept ruling class ideology as political fact. Since the Internet, many people have awoken to the horrible truths of capitalism, as censorship & blacklisting have come to the forefront. State censorship keeps the truth from the people, for only a little longer.

Artificial intelligence is all around us, and it is growing. AI is now being used in military combat. [3] AI is (without question), an existential threat to humanity. This is because sociopaths are controlling its development and use– with no accountability. Too much of AI is kept hidden, behind the cloak of government secrecy– ie. national insecurity. All this is madness & paranoia, and it must be brought under control, otherwise uncontrollable AI cyborgs and killer weaponry will eventually be unleashed on humanity.

Artificial intelligence has enormous potential, as a social tool for legitimate & productive use. The potential power of this immense & awesome technology must be brought under public control. AI was created by intelligent humans, and therefore must serve humanity, not enslave or destroy it.

The truth about AI is that the human world is not black & white, as in the boardgame Go. The human world has an infinite colors, sounds, aromas, sensations & emotions. The computer world is binary– a series of ones & zeros. Humans must harness computer power & AI, to ensure that it is never overwhelmed by it.

The only way this will be possible, is if the broadest number of people have access and input into AI development & use. This ensures that our brightest young minds will have access and be monitoring– which will be vital. If humans remain selfishly divided on this, then AI threatens our destruction. All these ideas go hand-in hand with ending the dominance of capital, and transforming our world into a peaceful, equal & sustainable society– through revolutionary socialism.


Restringing Your Guitar

This is a necessary task for any guitar player, from time-to-time. It’s time-consuming & tedious, but also delicate & important, and one that can’t be rushed– otherwise the instrument becomes less playable. The best person to do the restringing is the owner/musician.

Serious musicians are intimate with their instrument, therefore if they are to master it, they must be able to properly maintain it. Anything more complicated than restringing, including electronics and repair work, can be deferred to a trusted professional. But restringing needs to be done by the musician, because it allows them to own their instrument.

Start by slackening the strings, and then pulling the wire off the headstock for all 6 strings. Once the old strings are detached, use a pliers to remove the pegs/pins past the bridge (above in white). Keep the pegs in order, so they can be placed back into their respective pin holes.

Be professional, by cutting the old strings into small lengths with a wire cutter, so no one gets stabbed later. Any guitar player should always have an extra set of strings & a multi-tool instrument as part of their rig. No excuse for a ruined gig, because you couldn’t change a string.

An acoustic guitar has a fixed bridge, which makes restringing and tuning to pitch a little more arduous. You have to be patient, and commit yourself to several days of guitar downtime, as the strings need to stretch out. Temperature & humidity also matter, the main point is to try to keep things stable.

The strings (and your guitar) will not respond well to cranking everything up to pitch all at once. Most decent acoustics have an adjustable truss rod these days. It’s always better to set the truss rod correctly at the initial stringing (and it’s best to let a professional do that, if you are not experienced), and then maintain it thereafter.

The clip-on tuner is one of the great modern troubleshoots in popular music. Restring right & left, from bottom-to-top on the headstock, meaning outside strings first (low E & high E),  next the middle strings (A & B), then finally the inner strings (D & G). This keeps the tension more even across the neck & bridge, to prevent warping.

Put the wire button and bridge pin in first. Push the pin down as far as you can. Then feed the other end of the wire through the tuning machine, and then use a pliers to grab the string tight against the headstock, as you begin to turn the tuning pegs. Pulling the string tight with a pliers in tis manner, prevents loose windings or kinks in the string.

A loose (or poorly positioned) winding can be corrected– if caught early. Just loosen and then re-tighten. Any kink, even past the nut, kills the string. You should have an extra set of strings on hand, in case this happens.

Be patient. Keep tuning up to pitch, and then let things “breathe” for a few hours. The strings need to be gently stretched, for best playability and longest life. After a day or two, you’ll finally get near the proper pitch for each string. At this point. the strings will tend to detune quickly, or a peg may pop up– slackening the string. Continue to push the pins down, while tuning the string up to pitch.

Practice lightly when pitch is finally held. Barre chords and riffing are the best ways to test out the new strings. Notice that your guitar sounds different!  Each stringing has it’s own unique set of qualities. Once the guitar holds pitch consistently, snip the excess wire as close as possible to their tuning pegs, and you’re good to go.

Maintain better life in the strings by making it a habit to wipe them down with a cotton rag after each playing session. Otherwise, the oils, grease & sweat from your hands will corrode the strings. This is intense, but it makes sense– not dense…