Stephen Strasburg: All-Star?

Three starts into his major league career phenom Stephen Strasburg is already in the All-Star discussion. With a 2-0 record and a 1.86 ERA and a 32:5 K:BB ratio Strasburg has been very good. However he has only 19.1 major league innings under his belt and just another 55.1 innings in the minor leagues. Because Strasburg did not sign in time to participate in any of the 2009 minor league season all of his professional innings have come this year.

While Strasburg is just 21 years old, he turns 22 in July. This puts him just a few months older than the youngest pitcher to start an All-Star Game, Dwight Gooden. Good company. Unlike Strasburg however, when Gooden was selected in 1986 that was his third year full season in the majors. Ok. No one is thinking Strasburg would be the starter for the National League, that honor is likely going to Ubaldo Jimenez. But Gooden was also an All-Star in his rookie year. However, Gooden made his first start on April 7th, 1984 and pitched 218 innings over 31 starts on his way to becoming Rookie of the Year. Overall Gooden collected 276 strikeouts with a WHIP of 1.073 and a 2.60 ERA. It would be tough for Strasburg to put up that kind of dominant run in just over half a season. Even more so in a handful of starts before the All-Star Game selections.

Through his first three starts Strasburg’s BABIP has been a sparkly .262, in line for some regression. ZiPS is projecting this to rise over the remainder of the season to .328. With a projected ERA of 4.09 and a projected FIP of 3.56, along with a K/9 of 9.65 and a K:BB of 3.47, the rookie would be doing quite well for himself even with a regression and a drop in luck.

The other big variable in analyzing Strasburg’s performance thus far is the quality of competition. His first three starts were against the Pirates, Indians and White Sox and his next start will be against the Royals. The Pirates are hitting just .237/.305/.361 – all of which are the second lowest marks in the National League above only the Houston Astros. The Indians at least have a team OPS just over .700 hitting .249/.325/.376 as a team, but find themselves above only Baltimore and Seattle by this measure. Chicago, the first team to win against Strasburg, though it was in extra innings so they are not the first team to give him a loss, is hitting .247/.321/.399. In a strange turn of events, the Royals actually find themselves as the toughest competition for the rookie as the team is right in the middle for OPS at .279/.335/.410 and actually leads the league in batting average.

Are three starts enough to merit All-Star talk? Probably not. Are these three starts in particular a good measure of his skills? Again, not ideal. Would it be a fantastic media event to have the young, hyped, Strasburg at the All-Star Game? Of course. The National League can’t seem to buy an All-Star win since “this time it counts” was instituted. And in the All-Star Game we’d at least get to see Strasburg matched up against some quality competition, if only for an inning.

Home Sweet Starbucks == Free WiFi

As a well-conceived change, Starbucks will make WiFi freely available at its stores in the U.S. beginning July 1, 2010. This is a good move, even as someone who doesn’t usually spend too long leeching of the free Internet while I drink some coffee or tea. The biggest headache when using WiFi at a hotspot is the login process. Passwords, clickthroughs, etc. make it such a hassle to get connected that once you do you’ve probably finished your drink and are ready to leave anyway. 

Starbucks isn’t about to be outdone though. Coming in the fall they are partnering with Yahoo! to provide free access to newspapers online, some free songs from iTunes and more! 

Starbucks has taken a lot of hits over the years from Dunkin Donuts to McDonald’s about “snobby coffee” and being “pretentious.” Heck, I own a t-shirt that mocks the Starbucks logo with the words FiveBucks Coffee. Adding truly free WiFi is easier for the stores to manage, easier for the customers to use and helps to make Starbucks the friendly, neighborhood handout. Even if you are just running through to pick up a drink this new WiFi access will let you hop on, look up what you need and walk out in record time. A lot of places could learn from this policy.

 

Twitter Announces Very Large Values of 140

The old joke goes that 2+2=5 for very large values of 2. This week, when Twitter announced their t.co link shorterner they also announced a move to allow “very large values” of 140.

In addition to weeding out malware in links shared on Twitter (which I have to admit leads to some scary places…will they also censor links to bittorrent or The Pirate Bay someday?)  t.co will give bit.ly, is.gd and the other link shorteners a run for their money by providing something those other services don’t: clarity.

What Twitter aims to do is shorten a link shared on twitter to something similar to what we are accustomed to seeing from bit.ly. In their example they shorten a full link to Amazon, in this case http://www.amazon.com/Delivering-Happiness-Profits-Passion-Purpose/dp/0446563048 to http://t.co/DRo0trj – pretty similar to a bit.ly creation. The magic comes in the translation back into the Twitter stream where the shortened link is view as, per their example, amazon.com/Delivering-. Now anyone seeing this link in their Twitter stream would know that it’s a link to Amazon, a trustworthy site and not a phishing scheme.

Unless another top level domain opens up that is only one letter long Twitter should have the edge among link shortening services with a 3 character domain for t.co. Translating the link into something understandable by a human is a good move as well. Unless I see a shortened link from someone I really trust I look for the long version first before I click the link. A little piece of mind would be nice.

Describing the link as originating, like in the example, from Amazon also frees up room for the sender to add their own message. No need to say “check out this book from Amazon” when you can say “Best business read in a while” with Amazon mentioned directly in the link.

Just for fun, I checked out bit.ly/amazon. Thankfully it goes directly to Amazon, but there was a risk I could end up in the land of popups.

Book Review – Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose

http://www.sportsofboston.com/2010/06/07/book-review-delivering-happiness-a-p…

Over at Sports of Boston I took a look at the philosophy of Tony Hseih, CEO of Zappos and how similar it is to the ideas that fuel Red Sox Nation. Can company culture and customer service sell shoes and win World Series trophies? Surprisingly, yes!