The National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) is assisting 10 households in the mining community of Baramita, Region One (Barima-Waini) to manage and establish kitchen gardens.According to NAREI, between August 9 and 12, 2018, its Hinterland Coordinator Participants engaging in practical training in Baramita, Region 1Aaron Ramroop assisted participants with practical training in cash crop seedling production and orchard management. The training was conducted at small holdings owned by some participants and also at the Baramita Training Centre.The commencement of this training is part of the Ministerial Task Force approach to improve the standard of living within this community. NAREI’s involvement mainly focuses on promoting food security and nutrition through diversifying and increasing crop production.Each participant was given three seed trays and seeds for various cash crops including hot and sweet peppers, cabbage and Boulanger. They also received small packs of ochro seeds and 20 seedling bags to plant soursop and pawpaw.NAREI through its extension services will be monitoring the progress of the 10 households. The institute is confident that the project will benefit the participants, especially those who are single parent mothers and members of the Hinterland Employment Youth Service (HEYS).
The victorious Springboks in France in2007. The two-time champions are hopingfor a successful defence of their worldtitle – with the nation’s support.(Image: D Noizet / Élysée) Then-president Nelson Mandela, stillan avid rugby fan, and 1995 Springbok captain Francois Pienaar celebrate the historic victory. (Image: Rugby World Cup 2011) Siphiwe Tshabalala, coach Pitso Mosimana and captain Steven Pienaar of Bafana Bafana show their support for the Boks’ 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign.(Image: Barry Aldworth / Backpagepix)MEDIA CONTACTS • Yusuf JacksonSARU media manager+27 82 739 7733 RELATED ARTICLES • New drive to spark local sports frenzy • The other rugby world cup • SAB wins big, greens Boks • Bright future for FNB stadium • Football stars: Brothers for LifeSource: SouthAfrica.infoAs the countdown begins to the Springboks’ first match in the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in September, South Africans have been called on to rally behind their team’s defence of the title – and there are plenty of ways in which to do so.The Springboks are the current rugby world champions, having lifted the William Webb Ellis cup for the second time in 2007.Their first triumph came in 1995 during the now-historic tournament held in the newly democratic South Africa. The saga has since been captured on screen in the film Invictus.Magnificent Fridays, BokdaysThe government’s Magnificent Fridays campaign, which aims to unite South Africans behind all of the country’s national sporting teams, calls on citizens to wear their green and gold colours and keep the South African flag flying high every Friday leading up to and during the World Cup.Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula has also urged South Africans to rally behind the national netball team, which will be participating in the World Netball Championships in Singapore from 3 – 10 July.“Let us do it for the netball team (amaNtombazana) and the Springboks (amaBhokoBhoko) as they go out to conquer the world,” Mbalula said on Tuesday.Falling in with Magnificent Fridays is the South African Rugby Union’s (Saru) Bokday campaign, which calls on supporters to wear the Springbok colours every Friday through to the end of the tournament in October, as well as on Springboks’ playing days during the group stages of the tournament. These are:Sunday 11 September, against Wales;Saturday 17 September, against Fiji;Thursday 22 September, against Namibia;Friday 30 September, against Samoa.The final takes place on Sunday 23 October.Anthem to help foster national unityAs part of its Unite 2011 campaign, Saru has also launched a specially commissioned anthem, “Let’s Do It Again”, to rally support behind the Springboks.The song, which will be released to the public in July, is a collaboration between award-winning South African superstars Freshlyground and Goldfish. The ever-popular Freshlyground collaborated with Shakira on “Waka Waka”, the official anthem of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.“We hope the song becomes the soundtrack to a national mobilisation in the support of the Springboks,” Saru CEO Jurie Roux said in a statement on Wednesday 1 June.“There are now just 100 days to go until the tournament kicks off, and we believe we can recapture the spirit of national unity that marked the Springboks’ previous Rugby World Cup victories in 1995 and 2007 and also last year’s soccer World Cup.”Aiming for one-million Facebook fansThe campaign has also set as a target the accumulation of one-million supporters for the Springboks on their Facebook page, as well as providing other digital platforms through which supporters can register their support, while putting themselves in line to win igned playing jerseys or a trip to New Zealand.Supporters can:Visit m.unite2011.co.za on their mobile phones or www.unite2011.co.za on the web and sign up as a supporter and enter a draw to be Saru’s guests at the Rugby World Cup;Subscribe to the Bokzine, Saru’s official e-zine;SMS their name and surname to 33512 to show their support and enter the draw;Sign a digital jersey at www.unite2011.co.za which will then be manufactured and delivered to the team in New Zealand – one participant will win a Springbok jersey signed by the team;Attend a live match screening of a Springbok game at Township TV viewing sites – big screens erected in selected townships – and take part in a rugby coaching clinic;Watch the match at BoKTowns across South Africa during the tournament;Attend a public appearance by the Springboks with open training sessions throughout the home international season and a farewell on the eve of departure.
Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Every year agronomists and corn experts discuss the advantages of planting corn early. All corn producers are aware that if corn is not planted by early to mid-May, yield potential declines for each additional day planting is delayed. For the Central Corn Belt, the declines in yield potential due to planting delays vary from about 0.3% per day early in May to about 1% per day by the end of May (Nielsen, 2013). However, it is important to keep in mind, that early planting is just one of many factors that contribute to high yield potential. Planting early favors high yields, but it does not guarantee them.Growers don’t have to look very far into the past for confirmation of this fact. According to data collected by the National Agricultural Statistics Service USDA/NASS, only 62% of the 2009 corn crop was planted by the week ending May 17th. Despite later planting dates, the national average yield for the 2009 crop was 164.4 bushels per acre. In 2012, 96% of the corn crop was in the ground as of the week ending May 20th. The crop was off to a great start, but thanks to the drought, the national average yield was only 123.1 bushels per acre in 2012. Although it is widely understood that planting date is an important management practice influencing corn yields, 2012 proved other factors can diminish the yield potential of an early planted crop.Once the planters start rolling in 2015, it will be important to focus on all factors related to getting the crop off to the best possible start, no matter what the calendar says. The temptation will be to get everything done as quickly as possible. Making sure that soil conditions allow for field work, weather forecasts are favorable, and equipment is working properly will benefit the crop all season long. Taking all the necessary steps to get things right the first time will set the stage for a successful year.
Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced that representatives from the North Pole were among the visitors checking out the Agency’s new traveler information web page. The site, launched in September 2018, provides everyone with important information about which agricultural items are safe to enter the United States — and which ones are best left behind. This helps protect the health of our country’s plants, animals and natural resources, ensuring many happy holidays to come.“As we are in the overall season of family, feasting and gift-giving, we are thrilled to hear directly from Santa’s elves that the big man himself was comparing his gift list to our requirements,” said Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. “We thank Santa for setting a great example of thoughtful and responsible gift giving. We know he always does his part by getting a movement permit for his reindeer to enter the U.S., but this year he’s going above and beyond to help protect our farmers, ranchers and citizens.”Both food items and other agricultural-based items (things like plants, seeds, and gifts made from wood or plants) from other countries can carry pests and diseases not found here in the United States. For these reasons, certain items are not allowed to be carried in by travelers. Other items may be allowed with specific documentation. USDA’s new site helps everyone looking to bring an agricultural gift from overseas know what is okay to bring back. After all, no one wants to spend time or effort picking the perfect gift if you can’t bring it to the person you are buying it for.So whether you are selecting a holiday gift for this season — or just planning ahead for next summer’s vacation souvenirs — be sure to be like Santa and check out the site before purchasing gifts.Visit the site here: www.aphis.usda.gov/travel.
Tags:#Microsoft Office#Office 365 Massive Non-Desk Workforce is an Opportunity fo… 3 Areas of Your Business that Need Tech Now For those still wondering whether to choose Microsoft’s traditional Office productivity software suite or the new, subscription-based Office 365, consider this: traditional Office users will have to wait for “updates,” and they won’t receive any new “upgrades” to the service at all.And there’s another consideration, too: Office 2013 is apparently locked to a single machine, perpetually, while Office 365 licenses are sold to a group of users, who can license and de-license PCs at will.Choosing Which Office Is A Big DecisionThese are important considerations for Microsoft Office users. Microsoft is in the middle of its Office 365 launch; Microsoft made the consumer version available on Jan. 29, and the version for small businesses and enterprises will be made available on Feb. 27. Although some consumers may have already made up their mind and opened their wallets, small businesses trying to decide between a traditional Office license and the new Office 365 suite may want to put on the brakes and reconsider their options.So far, Microsoft has tried a number of strategies to encourage users to sign up for an Office 365 subscription, not the least of which has been pricing. Single consumers will probably gravitate toward the traditional Office 2013 suite, where users can buy a single license of Office 2013 Home & Student for $139.99. In two years, that option will have paid for itself, as Microsoft’s Office 365 subscription runs $99.99 per household per year. But for larger households, Office 365 makes more financial sense.Different Versions Get Treated DiffferentlyThe problem is that’s not the entire equation. Microsoft representatives said this week that updates and upgrades will be treated differently for both products.“Will Office 2013 customers with traditional licenses get updates with the same frequency as Office 365 Home Premium customers?” I asked in an email.“No,” a Microsoft representative replied. “Office 365 customers will get most updates first, and they will get upgrades and/or new capabilities. Office 2013 customers will get the same updates as Office 365 customers, usually in the form of a service pack, later than Office 365 customers, and they do not get upgrades and/or new capabilities.”The service packs will be rolled out “when needed,” the Microsoft representative added. Microsoft will also continue to support Office 2013, as it does all of its products, for ten years.What’s An Update? What’s An Upgrade?Under the Office definitions, new content will be made available to users in the form of updates, minor improvements and patches; and more significant, major upgrades. Fortunately, at least for business users, Microsoft publishes its list of updates and upgrades here. Updates happen on a monthly basis; in October, for example, the Office 365 updates consisted of new Office Web Apps, PDF viewing inside the browser, and a new administrator ability to set password expiration dates. In December, the updates were less significant: a rate-limit increase for both Outlook and Exchange.The 2013 upgrade, however, is more significant. Microsoft explains that it will be rolling out to customers throughout 2013. As you’d expect from a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform, the improvements will go on behind the scenes.The new 2013 upgrade features include, according to Microsoft:Wider support for mobile devices, so you and your staff can be more productive in more places. Smarter email, calendar and contacts with broader mobile support.Improved management capabilities in the redesigned Office 365 admin portal.SkyDrive Pro will offer businesses roughly the same capabilities as Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud storage, where users can upload documents, photos and other files. SkyDrive Pro will let users share the documents with others in the organization, and help IT admins manage the account. (The sharing features are actually restricted more than the basic SkyDrive content, because of corporate security concerns.)Microsoft didn’t say what it would do regarding security patches; Critical updates will presumably be pushed out on a roughly equal timeframe to both Office 365 as well as Office 2013.Your Office Is LockedBut there’s another consideration, too: With Office 2013, Office copies are apparently locked to one machine, forever. Adam Turner at Australia’s The Age read through the Office 2013 licensing agreement and discovered that the terms of service for both the version that comes with new computers and retail copies are now the same: Only one computer can contain Office. Unlike with Office 2010, users can’t “de-license” the PC and shift the copy to a new machine. Microsoft public-relations officials confirmed the story’s accuracy to ReadWrite.Unfortunately, Turner discovered this only through days of communications with Microsoft’s public-relations team, and only after Microsoft’s tech-support personnel gave him mixed messages. And Turner wasn’t able to discover if the one-copy, one-license provision will be stringently enforced, or if it will end up as another loophole in the Office 365 licensing language. So far, Microsoft has used price as the prime lever to push consumers to Office 365. But for customers set on Office who still haven’t made up their minds, the lack of timely updates and upgrades should be a major concern for those eyeing Office 2013. The fear of being locked to a single PC could also be an issue for some people. If you’re the type of user who demands flexibility, including the latest features, Microsoft keeps coming up with more ways to encourage you to choose Office 365. Integration between online conferencing, social networks, and email for improved collaboration. markhachman File sharing and storage in the cloud with SkyDrive Pro. Related Posts IT + Project Management: A Love Affair Cognitive Automation is the Immediate Future of…
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says that residents in Mount Salem, St. James and Denham Town in Kingston, where the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) are in progress, are benefitting from a wide rangeof interventions.These, he said, include infrastructure development projects, skills training and initiatives aimed at improving access to critical services.In Mount Salem, the National Works Agency (NWA) is spearheading a project to improve the condition of roads and drains in the community.The works commenced in January and is scheduled to continue until March.“I am particularly heartened about the work that the NWA will do in terms of putting in drains and repairing roads and gullies and where possible, we have already started to replace the zinc fences with proper fencing,” Prime Minister Holness said in the House of Representatives on February 13.The zinc fence removal project is scheduled to conclude in April 2018.Already, residents have benefitted from community service fairs, utility regularisation, recruitment for skills training and apprenticeship, civil registration and identification and training of community animators.“There have also been community safety and environmental projects, which focus on physical improvements as well as social engagements such as the unity concert and church community retreat, which have aimed to buildinternal relationships,” Prime Minister Holness noted.Focus has also been placed on enterprise development, with the joint security force, Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), and HEART Trust/NTA collaborating to promote an environment for the development of smallbusinesses.Activities have included the regularisation of bars and food services, through the provision of spirit licences and food handlers’ permits.There has been a call for proposals in furtherance of enterprise grant funding. This programme commenced in January and is expected to continue until December.Another project being implemented is a community sports programme involving partnership among JSIF, Social Development Commission (SDC),Sports Development Foundation (SDF), Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Jamaica Cycling Federation, Jamaica Table Tennis Association, and Jamaica Boxing Federation.The initiative, which is scheduled for 12 months, will provide training and equipment, the Prime Minister informed. It will set the foundation for a permanent sports programme in the area.In addition, through collaboration between the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and JSIF, the capacity of the community development committee is being developed and a neighbourhood watch is being re-introduced.The Prime Minister noted that the importance of family is also being emphasized. He said it is anticipated that as the operations continue, a number of other projects will be brought into focus.With regards to Denham Town, Mr. Holness said there continues to be significant gains in the zone and the efforts are welcomed and supported by the members of the community.“Undoubtedly, this is supported by the commendable efforts of the joint force in maintaining law and order so that safety and security becomes a critical pillar in community development,” Prime Minister Holness said.During the month of January, the social intervention committee consolidated planning activities for a number of initiatives, and commenced the implementation of specific programmes.In terms of improvements to the physical environment, there has been continued focus on zinc fence substitution and infrastructure development.Just over 400 metres of fence have been completed in Denham Town, with approximately 75 metres being erected in Reggae Villa.The JSIF-funded Integrated Infrastructure Project (IIP), which will encompass major infrastructure works, including road and sewage upgrading, is currently in the bidding stage of procurement and is expected to commenceimplementation in the first quarter of the financial year 2018/2019.The Zones of Special Operations in Mount Salem and Denham Town have been extended for a further 60 days.The Lower House approved two Resolutions requesting the extensions, which were moved by Prime Minister Holness.This would be the third extension for the Mount Salem Zone, the first to become operational on September 1, 2017, while it will be the second extension for Denham Town.
Sunday’s matches weren’t supposed to happen. None of the four teams playing was given even a 50 percent chance of reaching the knockout stage by ESPN’s Soccer Power Index-backed model at the start of the tournament. Now two will reach the quarterfinal and one will play a semifinal.Netherlands vs. Mexico: 12 p.m. EDTCosta Rica vs. Greece: 4 p.m. EDTIN BRIEFSee our World Cup predictions for the latest probabilities.IN DEPTHThe big favorite of the four is the Netherlands, which has a 56 percent chance of reaching the semis by beating Mexico and then the winner of Costa Rica-Greece. (This is the probability of the Netherlands beating both Mexico and the winner of the second match, weighted by the probability of either Costa Rica or Greece teams coming through.) The Dutch looked like just the third-best team in their group at the start of the tournament. Then they shocked defending champion Spain, 5-1, in their opener, and beat another top team, Chile, 2-0. That’s seven goals against two of the best defenses in the tournament. The Netherlands also beat Australia, 3-2, for a clean sweep of Group B.The Dutch have improved from a long shot to one of the favorites. Before the tournament, our model gave them a less than 1 percent chance of winning their country’s first World Cup. Now they have a 10 percent chance. That’s by far the biggest bump any country got from the knockout stage — it’s nearly twice as large as Argentina’s increase. And none of the other three teams playing Sunday has even a 1 percent chance of winning the Cup.The Netherlands has seen its chances rise partly because SPI has been updated to take into account its dominance in the group stage. Before it looked like the 10th-best team in the world; now it looks like the sixth-best. It also benefits from the weakness of the rest of its draw in the knockout stage; the Netherlands has the third-best chance of reaching the semifinals, ahead of three teams that are better. Notably, Colombia ranks third in SPI but before its game Saturday it had less than half the chance of the Dutch to reach the semis.Mexico is no gimme for the Netherlands, though. El Tri showed its mettle in drawing tournament favorite Brazil and has the world’s fourth-best defense — stronger than any the Netherlands has faced. The matchup of Mexico’s defense, led by goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, against the formidable Dutch offense of Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben et al. should be Sunday’s most exciting.The late match won’t be the best played in the Round of 16 — featuring two of the four worst teams to make it out of their groups — but it might be the most competitive. Costa Rica has just a 57 percent chance of winning, the lowest for a favorite in the round, and has a statistical edge of just two-tenths of a goal. Because soccer stubbornly refuses to introduce fractional goals, this could be the second match of the tournament to go to added extra time.YESTERDAYBrazil advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals behind two penalty kick saves from goalkeeper Júlio César. Although Brazil continued its competitive home unbeaten streak to 61 games (including 20-0-7 against Chile), the hosts were forced to play on their heels for long stretches Saturday.Chile finished the match with more touches than Brazil (716-703), the first time Brazil has failed to lead in touches at the end of a World Cup game since the 2010 Round of 16. The opponent? Chile. In 2010, though, Brazil cruised to a 3-0 victory. Chile’s advantage in possession was built away from goal, with nearly 100 more touches in its defending half than Brazil (444-358). When Chile threatened to get forward, Brazil was quick to commit a foul. The Brazilians committed 28 fouls, the most in this World Cup and the most by Brazil at a World Cup since 1978 against Argentina.Chile, which has been eliminated by Brazil in all four of its World Cup knockout-round appearances, could not convert when it put the ball in the box. The Chileans failed to complete a cross Saturday (0-for-18). Chile’s 18 cross attempts are the most by a team without a completion at this World Cup.Brazil sat back and turned forward quickly when gaining possession. It had more than twice as many touches in the attacking penalty area (31-14), led by Neymar’s eight. Brazil, which has eliminated its opponent in five of its last six competitive matches that have gone to penalty kicks, completed 71 percent of its passes against Chile, its third-lowest mark in at least the last 50 years at the World Cup.Fortunately for Brazil, its defense performed. Brazil held Chile to one completed pass in the attacking penalty area after halftime (none in extra time), compared with three for Brazil.— Zach Rodgers, Statistics Analyst for ESPNOFF THE PITCHWhen you think of Greece, you probably think of beaches, the Parthenon, feta cheese and Kalamata olives. But what office products and circuit breakers? According to 2012 data from the BACI International Trade Database, 41 percent of Greek exports to Costa Rica were “paper office containers,” followed by circuit breakers and panels at 22 percent. Other big exports included cutlery, candles and matches, and of course, vegetables, olive oil and wine. But trade flowing in the opposite direction probably adheres more to expectations. More than 84 percent of Costa Rican exports to Greece were bananas. The next-largest exports were miscellaneous fruit at 9 percent and coffee at 4 percent. — Hayley MunguiaFURTHER READINGWere the Billions Brazil Spent on World Cup Stadiums Worth It?Extra Time Isn’t a Crapshoot in the Knockout Round, But Penalties AreCORRECTION (9:56 a.m., June 29): This post originally stated that if the Costa Rica match went to extra time it would be the World Cup’s first match to do so. After Brazil’s match yesterday, that is incorrect. It would be the second.
Welcome to Full Count, our new(!) weekly baseball column. Have anything you want me to write about? Email or tweet me at [email protected] or @Neil_Paine.Of all the elements that allowed the Chicago Cubs to erase 108 years of suffering and finally win the World Series last fall, one of the most important was the team’s stellar defense. Just how efficient were Chicago’s fielders a year ago? Relative to league average, the 2016 Cubs allowed the lowest batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of any team ever.1Over a full season; sorry, 1884 Milwaukee Brewers. As in, since the dawn of big-league ball in 1871, ever. The only team that was even comparable to these Cubs was the 1890 Columbus Solons (a franchise that appears to have folded the next year without explaining its defensive wizardry — or what a “Solon” was).2From what I can tell — which isn’t much — it was either a reference to an Athenian legislator or another town in Ohio (one that, oddly, is not near Columbus). Have the Cubs forgotten how to field? 8Carlos Beltran4241054312460.7 2016Cubs.255.298-.043 +9.7+3.8-5.9 1999Reds.262.298-.036 6Anthony RendonNationals727975.3 1906Cubs.238.272-.034 Willson ContrerasC588.4212.0+9.2+22.6+13.5 RKNAMETEAMPITCH IN ZONE, SWUNGPITCH OUTSIDE ZONE, TOOKGOOD DECISION 5Mike TroutAngels727875.3 3Freddie FreemanBraves827276.0 The all-time kings of power, speed and patience, 1871-2017 INNINGSDEF PER 1200 INNINGS* The Cubs still aren’t shifting much, but they’re good when they do 179Chris DavisOrioles546962.5 Javier Baez2B970.3215.1+15.7+5.0-10.7 PLAYERPOS2016201720162017CHANGE Kris Bryant3B1366.2288.0+9.7+2.5-7.2 1899Beaneaters.265.298-.033 7Bobby Bonds332914460477.7 10Bobby Abreu2881476400451.1 Data through May 8. Returning Cubs players only.* “Def” is FanGraphs’ defensive value over average, which includes Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) grades relative to position, as well as an adjustment for the defensive value of each position.Numbers are listed per 1,200 innings, roughly a season’s worth of playing time.Source: FanGraphs 1Joey VottoReds77%82%80.1% The most efficient defenses in MLB history, 1871-2016 With the exception of new starting catcher Willson Contreras and utilityman extraordinaire Ben Zobrist, every single holdover from the 2016 Cubs has contributed less defensively than he did a season ago. Some have gone from average to bad while others have gone from great to merely good, but there have been big declines across the board.Such an abrupt and widespread deterioration begs for an explanation, and an obvious one might be that manager Joe Maddon made a tactical change. For example, last season, just as the infield shift hit another all-time high in popularity across MLB, Maddon — famous iconoclast that he is — decided to dial back on using baseball’s favorite new-old tactic. So perhaps Maddon has changed how he’s been deploying his defense so far this year? 1890Solons.254.295-.041 201684%16%0.2580.239 Kyle SchwarberLF7.2211.0+0.0-17.1-17.1 The most and least disciplined batters of 2017 PERCENTAGE OF TIME… 6Hank Aaron7551402240483.5 1898Beaneaters.256.290-.034 1941Dodgers.245.275-.030 2001Mariners.260.292-.032 YEARNO SHIFTSHIFTNO SHIFTSHIFT And even within that group, what really set Mays apart was his defense. While Henderson was fairly mediocre with the glove, and Bonds’s once-great fielding skills eroded significantly over time, Mays is the third-best defensive outfielder ever, according to Baseball-Reference.com’s defensive WAR. (He was still a Gold Glove centerfielder in 1968, at age 37!) Because of Mays’s unparalleled skills with his bat, feet and glove, he is the only player in baseball history to record at least 120 offensive WAR and 15 defensive WAR.And he cleared both those benchmarks easily — because of course he did, he’s the greatest all-around player ever. Happy birthday, Willie, and here’s to many more.Who’s showing the most — and least — plate discipline?Three years ago, I cooked up a way to see which players were making the best decisions at the plate using FanGraphs’ wonderful “Plate Discipline” stats. Since the site lists the percentage of pitches each player faced that were and were not in the strike zone,7According to pitch-tracking data collected by Baseball Info Solutions and MLB’s Statcast system. along with the share of pitches that were or were not swung at, we can calculate how often a player is correctly identifying a pitch to swing at (because it was over the plate) or lay off (because it definitely was not).Here are the top and bottom 10 so far this year: Jason HeywardRF1200.2229.3+15.4+7.3-8.1 Data through May 9Source: FanGraphs 201783170.3000.239 5Joe Morgan2681865689524.6 Albert AlmoraCF237.0144.1+29.4-5.8-35.2 10Eric ThamesBrewers687974.8 182J.J. HardyOrioles536961.0 177Jose ReyesMets566962.5 RKPLAYERHRWALKSSTEALSPOWER-SPEED-PATIENCE* 4Alex Rodriguez6961338329574.3 2Rickey Henderson29721901406661.5 Weighted average Nope! The Cubs are still basically shifting as little as they did a year ago. And the irony is that the BABIP they’ve allowed when shifting is exactly the same as it was last season (.239). The only difference has come on plays when Chicago hasn’t shifted, where opposing hitters’ BABIP has risen from a ridiculously low .258 mark last year to essentially league average this season.(The biggest difference in pure positioning for the Cubs is that Kris Bryant now plays the shallowest third base in the game. The rest of Chicago’s infield and outfield positions play at roughly the same average depth as they did a year ago, per Statcast data.)So it’s not the configuration of Chicago’s defense that’s changed. But it wasn’t just Maddon’s contrarian strategy on shifting that was keeping batted-ball averages down last year, it was also his pitchers’ superior ability to mitigate damage on contact. My colleagues Rob Arthur and Ben Lindbergh wrote last season about how the Cubs’ hurlers were inducing particularly easy-to-field balls on contact — which, they postulated, helped Chicago come by that microscopic BABIP honestly (or at least, more honestly than other teams). And certainly the 2016 Cubs allowed some of MLB’s lowest rates of hard contact, according to both exit velocity and other classifications.But Chicago’s pitchers aren’t doing poorly in that department this season, either, even if they are yielding a few more hard-hit balls this time around.4For those curious, opposing hitters’ average launch angle has barely budged. And any changes in where they spray the ball (hitters are pulling slightly more against the Cubs this year) are minor. If the Cubs’ defensive success was all about inducing soft contact, we’d expect them to be seeing similar defensive results this season, too.More likely, the Cubs didn’t find a secret BABIP-suppressing hack last year, nor did they forget it this season. Instead, a good amount of Chicago’s defensive brilliance (and subsequent backslide) can probably be explained with the statistician’s most dreaded word: luck. For all the advances we’ve made in understanding and evaluating defense over the past couple decades, and for all the hope that Voros McCracken’s original, earth-shattering finding about pitchers — that they appear to have little control over whether balls in play become hits or outs — was flawed or incomplete, there’s a lot about defense that remains highly unpredictable and beyond the control of fielders, pitchers and managers.No matter whether we judge a team’s fielding according to a simple metric like BABIP allowed or something more advanced such as UZR or Defensive Runs Saved, defensive performance in one season only explains roughly 10 percent of the variation in the same statistic the following season.5Using data from 2003 to 2016. Although some of that year-to-year noise is due to players switching teams between seasons, it also speaks volumes about the inherent randomness of a baseball coming off a bat. That’s why even a defense as dominant as the 2016 Cubs — or perhaps especially a defense that dominant– will see a big chunk of its advantage melt away in later seasons.What does that mean for the Cubs? Even granting that last year’s defensive performance was partially the product of good luck, Chicago’s 17-17 record (which the underlying metrics say is about right for how this team has played) is disappointing relative to the amount of talent on its roster. But 34 games is a small sample in a sport where it takes nearly 70 games to reach the same level of certainty in the standings that we get after, say, 11 games in the NFL or 14 in the NBA. So Cubs fans shouldn’t overreact too much: This is still one of the best teams in the majors, and it should eventually put together a record to match. It would be unfair, however, to expect Chicago’s fielding to be as ludicrously efficient as it was a year ago. That historic defense should add to the lore of the Cubs’ curse-breaking World Series win, but that’s all it is now — history.Happy (belated) birthday, Willie MaysInstead of pointing out how terrible the San Francisco Giants are these days — they’ve lost 16 of their last 23 ballgames — I’d like to take a second to once again appreciate the excellence of their all-time greatest player, Willie Mays, who turned 86 years old on Saturday.I’ve written about this before, but Mays was probably the greatest all-around ballplayer in major league history. (The fact that he only won two career MVP awards is one of the underrated travesties of baseball history.) Mays is one of only eight players ever with more than 300 career home runs and 300 steals, and he ranks third all-time in Bill James’ power-speed number.6Which is just the harmonic mean of a player’s career steals and homers. He also walked more (both in total and on a rate basis) than any member of that 300-300 club except his godson, Barry Bonds. Those two — plus Rickey Henderson, who just missed the 300-homer club by 3 dingers — stand atop the reformulated list if we adjust James’s power-speed stat to also include walks: Addison RussellSS1262.2273.0+20.8+10.1-10.7 9Gary Sheffield5091475253454.9 MLB average72280.2970.294 8Miguel SanoTwins717875.1 Miguel MonteroC558.181.0-2.8-4.4-1.6 2Jed LowrieAthletics757876.5 BALLS IN PLAYBATTING AVERAGE ON BALLS IN PLAY Anthony Rizzo1B1337.1288.3-5.2-14.2-8.9 YEARTEAMTEAMLEAGUEDIFF. 183Javier BaezCubs715460.5 Boosted by that historic out-generating vacuum behind them, Cubs pitchers also led the majors in earned run average by the 10th-widest margin3Tied with the 1991 Dodgers. of any staff since 1901, threatening all sorts of run-prevention records along the way. They allowed 140 fewer runs than the average team, and analytics credit the fielders with something between 50 and 70 percent (depending on the estimate being used) of those saved runs. The Cubs were loaded with stars up and down their lineup, and their pitchers shined brightly when fielders weren’t required, but the importance of Chicago’s glovework was still undeniable.But the Cubs’ defensive numbers were so off-the-charts last year that they almost seemed unsustainable. And as it turns out, they probably were. This year, the Cubs are right at .500, sitting in fourth place in the NL Central — and their once-dominant defense might be to blame. Instead of allowing the lowest BABIP on the planet, they’re in the middle of the pack defensively; not coincidentally, their staff ERA is unremarkable and they’ve allowed two more runs than an average team. Simply put, Chicago’s secret fielding weapon isn’t working anymore.This raises a host of questions about the Cubs and about defensive metrics in general. Have the Cubs suddenly, collectively forgotten how to field? Are offseason defections to blame? Or did Chicago just enjoy a historic amount of luck in the field last year — luck for which their fielders received too much credit? And if so, what does that say about our ability to measure defense?It’s a lot to sort out, so let’s start with the personnel involved. Chicago’s most notable offseason move effectively saw former Padres center fielder Jon Jay slot in for Dexter Fowler, who joined the rival Cardinals. According to Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), one of the most commonly cited advanced defensive metrics, the Cubs haven’t fared well in the exchange. Although Fowler’s defensive track record hasn’t always been great, he was surprisingly solid a year ago; Jay, meanwhile, is tracking for a very poor defensive season in 2017.In combination with the retirement of expert defensive catcher and game-caller David Ross, the Jay-for-Fowler tradeoff has helped erode Chicago’s edge in the field. But a far bigger factor is the team’s returning players: 181Danny ValenciaMariners556761.7 1Barry Bonds7622558514822.2 174Carlos BeltranAstros626563.8 7George SpringerAstros767575.2 Ben ZobristUTIL1263.6214.5-1.4+9.0+10.4 BATTING AVERAGE ON BALLS IN PLAY 176Xander BogaertsRed Sox567063.1 * The harmonic mean of a player’s lifetime home runs, walks and stealsSource: FanGraphs 9Matt JoyceAthletics688174.9 Minimum 140 games played in seasonSource: FanGraphs Matt SzczurOF352.430.0+16.3+4.0-12.3 3Willie Mays6601464338581.8 Plate discipline doesn’t automatically equate to successful hitting. Corey Dickerson is swinging at everything that moves — and knocking the cover off the ball. Matt Joyce refuses to offer at a bad pitch, and he can’t buy a hit. But by and large, the hitters at the top of the discipline rankings do tend to be more productive than the ones at the bottom. And they do it mainly by avoiding swinging at junk outside the strike zone.In terms of predicting hitting effectiveness, a batter’s rate of good decisions on pitches outside the zone is about three times as important as his rate of good decisions on pitches inside the zone. In other words, it’s not the end of the world if you let a strike go by without swinging — who knows, maybe you’re waiting for your pitch. But few batters can get away with flailing at bad pitches for long. For every Dickerson or Vlad Guerrero, there’s an undisciplined hacker who let the pitcher trick him into getting himself out. 180Corey DickersonRays725562.1 Shift data is on balls in play only. MLB average includes both 2016 and 2017 seasons.Source: FanGraphs ⁝Average677169.4 1975Dodgers.245.277-.032 1939Yankees.252.284-.032 175Manuel MargotPadres596863.8 4Brandon BeltGiants727975.6 178Salvador PerezRoyals695862.5
Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose is set to have knee surgery after tearing the meniscus in his right knee for the 2nd time.Credit: Courtesy of TNSBy age 25, Derrick Rose was a three-time NBA All-Star and one-time NBA MVP.He’d averaged at least 20.8 points three times, and was all around considered one of the top point guards and overall players in the league. Sound familiar? For NBA fans paying attention in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it should.Grant Hill was a 25-year-old small forward for the Detroit Pistons during the 1997-98 season. He was already a four-time All-Star and had averaged at least 20.2 points per game three times. Hill wasn’t just looking like a perennial All-Star, but an all-time great player in the NBA.Fast forward a few years and Hill found himself with the Orlando Magic, but played just four games during the 2000-01 season. He then played 14 games the next year and 29 the year after that, but he missed the entirety of the 2003-04 season from injury.After he had averaged 25.8 points per game in his final season in Detroit in 1999-2000, it looked like Hill would never reach his old heights. And those looks weren’t deceiving. Instead, Hill redefined his career and became a 10-15 points per game scorer for the rest of his career, while also dishing out a couple assists and picking up about five rebounds per game, something most players could never do. Hill managed to turn himself from a superstar into a role player, and didn’t quit until he was 40 years old.While the injury bug didn’t clamp down on Hill until the latter half of his 20s, Rose is already on the fast track to a what-if career. Rose missed the majority of the 2011-12 season, the entire 2012-13 season and all but 10 games last year. Now after starting 46 games in his seventh year in the NBA, Rose is set to undergo surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee, the same injury that sidelined him in 2013.There’s no official timetable for his return just yet, but no matter if he comes back before the end of the season, sometime in the summer or any other time down the road, it’s time for Rose to rethink how he plays the game.Sure, he’s not a 6-foot-8 presence like Hill — their skill sets aren’t exactly the same by any means — but Rose can turn into the same sort of ultra-effective role player and have a better career because of it.It’s hard to think he’ll ever rediscover the full explosive ability that helped him average 25 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game during his 2010-11 MVP run, but he doesn’t need to.The first thing Rose can do is improve his jump shot. Hill shot better than 30 percent from 3-point range just twice before he joined the Phoenix Suns in 2007 (if you exclude his four-game run in 2000-01). After that, he shot at least 32 percent for four straight seasons, including a high point of 44 percent during the 2009-10 season when he started 81 games for the Suns.Rose is certainly not a pure shooter now — he was shooting just 29 percent from deep this year — but off-season practice with his jumper can take a lot of stress off his knee and improve his ability to contribute in multiple ways going forward.Hill also became a lock-down defender as his career rolled on, and if Rose can rediscover even part of his old speed, he has all the physical attributes to stick with any point guard in the league.At this point, it might take a miracle for Rose to become a true superstar again, but it’s up to him to either go down as a what-if who’s out of the league before his 30th birthday, or a journeyman star who could be the glue for championship runs down the line.