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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Indiana set to hire Crean as hoops coach

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana University will hire Marquette's Tom Crean as its basketball coach and is expected to introduce him at a news conference Wednesday. University trustee Philip Eskew confirmed the hiring.

Eskew said Crean had signed a letter-of-intent with the university and was meeting with his team Tuesday night.

The hiring comes near the end of a tumultuous six-week period in which former Hooisers coach Kelvin Sampson resigned amid an NCAA scandal, interim coach Dan Dakich replaced him and then lost four of seven games.

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Place Your Bets! '08 Baseball Season Mathematically Predicted

Mario_baseball_2_2It’s the beginning of the baseball season, and no matter who you’re supporting (Go Blue Jays!) it’s time to make your yearly predictions. And though each of us have a different method to work out who is going to win what and who’ll take bottom place, I doubt yours will be as involved as Bruce Bukiet’s.

Of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Bruce Bukiet has for the past seven seasons used a mathematical model to calculate who will win, who will do well, and who will fail miserably.

The computer model predicts the probability of how a team will do against any given team, based on who is hitting, who has the home field advantage, who’s on the bench, and who is the starting pitcher and relievers.

Created by an avid New York Mets fan, the model has a pretty decent accuracy rate. According to its creator the model has more often than not picked correctly rather than incorrectly. Last year’s predictions saw him pick the Yankees, Indians, Angels, Mets and Padres as clear Division winners; he was right about the Indians and Angels.

"These results give a guide of how teams ought to perform during the season," he said. "But there are so many unknowns, especially concerning trades, injuries and how rookies will perform that cannot be taken into account."

Nevertheless, the predictions for this season see the American League pretty much down to a contest between the Yankees, Sox, Tigers and Angels (what about my Blue Jays???). However the National League is not so clear cut.

"The National League should see much tighter races, with the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves winning the East and the wild card respectively, while in the Central and West Divisions, only the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Francisco Giants have no real shot of making it to the postseason," Bukiet said.

The complete list of predictions is below, but no matter what the predictions say, the game isn’t over until the fat lady has sung!

* AL East: Yankees – 98; Red Sox – 98; Blue Jays – 86; Rays – 75; Orioles – 63

* AL Central: Tigers – 96; Indians – 87; White Sox – 79; Twins – 74; Royals – 63

* AL West: Angels – 92; Mariners – 78; A's – 75; Rangers – 70

* NL East: Mets – 92; Braves – 89; Phillies – 84; Nationals – 73; Marlins – 70

* NL Central: Brewers – 84; Cubs – 83; Reds – 81; Cardinals – 80; Astros – 79; Pirates – 71

* NL West: Rockies – 85; Padres – 85; Diamondbacks – 83; Dodgers – 82; Giants – 75

Posted by Josh Hill.

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Opening Day results can offer insight and confusion

Too much emphasis is placed on Opening Day ... usually.
In 1988, after the Orioles lost their opener to the Brewers, 12-0, I remember the Orioles' players uttering the usual cliches: "It's a long season ... keep this in perspective ... it's only one game."

Well, 0-1 turned into 0-21, and I covered nearly every loss for the Baltimore (Evening) Sun. Needless to say, the experience left me scarred and forever distrustful of players' Opening Day platitudes.

I'm not going to get carried away with anything I saw in Monday's openers, Sunday's opener, the Japanese openers or any other openers. But here are some initial observations:

  • The Cubs' 4-3 loss to the Brewers in 10 innings provided early fodder for a closer controversy, but fans need to relax and let Kerry Wood breathe. The Brewers face a far greater problem with Eric Gagne.

    Wood looked great in the spring and probably was overexcited Monday; he triggered the Brewers' three-run ninth by hitting his first batter, Rickie Weeks.

    Gagne, on the other hand, stunk at the end of last season, stunk in spring training and stunk in his Brewers debut, blowing a three-run lead in a save situation for the first time in his career.

    His ninth-inning collapse — Derrek Lee single, Aramis Ramirez walk, Kosuke Fukudome homer on a 3-1 count, all with none out — evoked memories of his miseries with the Red Sox last season.

    The Brewers, like the Cubs, have multiple ninth-inning options — David Riske earned the save for Milwaukee by working a 1-2-3 10th. The difference is, the Brewers are paying Gagne $10 million while Wood, the highest-paid Cubs reliever, is earning $4.2 million.

  • Speaking of the Cubs, manager Lou Piniella can stop agonizing over his lineup. He had the right idea batting Fukudome fifth, after all.

    Fukudome, making his major-league debut, went 3-for-3 with a double, walk and game-tying, three-run homer off Gagne. His performance elicited a curtain call, chants of "Fu-ku-dome!" and exaggerated bows from fans in the bleachers upon his return to right field in the 10th.

  • Naturally, Gagne wasn't the only closer to struggle Monday. Wood gave up three runs and the Phillies' Tom Gordon five, both after entering tie games. The Indians' Joe Borowski allowed a solo homer to Jermaine Dye with a three-run lead, and the Pirates' Matt Capps issued two walks and gave up a two-run single before a defensive misplay capped the Braves' five-run comeback.

    The closer who performed best, the Diamondbacks' Brandon Lyon, is under perhaps the heaviest scrutiny as he replaces Jose Valverde, who led the NL with 47 saves last season.

    Lyon struck out Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion and retired the side on 11 pitches, preserving the D-Backs' 4-2 victory over the Reds.

  • The warm reception that Torii Hunter received at the Metrodome was the type of classy tribute that many players who change teams warrant, but do not always receive upon returning to cities where they performed with distinction.

    Hunter, one of the game's most engaging performers, is obviously a special case. Still, no one booed, no one threw dollar bills, no one acted as if Hunter had somehow betrayed the Twins. Best of all, the fans' good manners were rewarded.

    For one night at least, the Twins' new center fielder, Carlos Gomez, was a one-man thrill show, hitting a double down the left-field line, beating out a bunt single, stealing two bases and scoring two runs.

  • The Tigers' potent offense and questionable bullpen were both on display in the team's 5-4 loss to the Royals in 11 innings, a game that vividly demonstrated the difficulties that Detroit will face without Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya.

    A Tigers' blowout seemed inevitable early; right-hander Justin Velander allowed only one hit through five innings, while the Tigers' lineup forced right-hander Gil Meche to throw 84 pitches in the first four.

    But the game turned after Verlander allowed a two-run homer by Alex Gordon in the sixth and failed to get an out in the seventh, bringing relievers Jason Grilli, Aquilino Lopez and Co. into play.

    Meche rallied gamely to complete six innings, and the Royals' bullpen outpitched the Tigers', allowing one run in five (Detroit's 'pen had the same line, but also allowed two inherited runners to score). Offensively, the Tigers managed 16 base-runners but only four runs. They will need to score more — maybe a lot more — in games Verlander doesn't start.

  • The Nationals are 2-0 after their second straight ninth-inning eruption, but Lastings Milledge's play in center field could become a concern. As a scout said in spring training, "Have you ever seen him get a good jump on a ball? It seems like he's always making spectacular catches even when the ball is 10 feet away from him."

    The scout is right: Milledge broke the wrong way on a flyball that turned into a routine out Sunday night, then did the same thing Monday on a ball that fell for a leadoff single by Chase Utley in the Phillies' two-run fourth inning.

    Of course, Milledge also went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and scored three runs.

    Franklin Gutierrez made quite an impact on Opening Day. (Ron Schwane / Associated Press)
  • The Indians' corner-outfield production remains a question; their right fielders ranked 13th in the AL in OPS last season, their left fielders 10th. However, the team had to be encouraged by Franklin Gutierrez's three-run homer off White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle — plus his two singles off righty Nick Masset (one an infield hit) and walk off righty Octavio Dotel.

    Gutierrez mashes lefties but struggles with righties, and Jason Michaels' splits are similar. David Dellucci, the sole left-handed hitter among the Indians' corner outfielders, assumes a pivotal role coming off a hamstring injury. Shin-Soo Choo, another lefty, also could prove valuable once he recovers from elbow-ligament transplant surgery.

    A trade for a slugging outfielder remains possible.

  • Jeff Conine isn't exactly retired. No, he's training for the 140.6 miles of the Ford Ironman World Championship — 112 biking, 2.4 swimming and 26.2 running. The event will take place Oct. 11 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

    According to a press release announcing Conine's plans, his 3,081 career total bases amounted to 277,290 feet worth of running. The Ironman journey consists of 742,368 feet — more than three times his major-league output.

    Conine, who turns 42 on June 27, fell 18 hits short of 2,000 in his 17-year career.

  • Angel Pagan batting sixth hardly gives the Mets an AL-style look, but Pagan had a big spring and drove in the first run against the Marlins with a double to deep left.

    The emergence of Pagan, whom the Mets acquired from the Cubs for two minor leaguers, would make the team less reliant on the oft-injured Moises Alou.

    Then again, the Mets' starting pitching might be so good, the identity of the left fielder ultimately might prove a minor concern.

  • Somehow, I'm thinking that the Orioles and Giants won't outperform their run differentials this season. Barry Zito threw 87 pitches against the Dodgers and had only four swings-and-misses. His strikeout rate has declined in three consecutive seasons, and he struck out only one in five innings Monday.
  • Finally, say what you want about opening the season in Japan, but rain wasn't an issue in the Tokyo Dome, was it?

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