Joel Embiid’s Conditioning

Yesterday the Sixers lost to the Warriors, despite being up 22 at the half.

Superficially, Joel Embiid had a solid game, with 21 points and 8 rebounds. As the Sixers crushed the Warriors in the 1st half, Embiid looked great in all aspects of the game: scoring (15 pts, 5-10 FG), rebounding (5), and ball movement. Early in the 3rd quarter, he dove for a ball and spent a quick minute on the floor looking exhausted. Maybe that’s why he was largely absent in the 2nd half despite playing 17 minutes-he only took 6 shots, and scored 6 points with 3 rebounds. This coincided with the Warriors going off in the 3rd and 4th quarter, pulling out the win.

So the big question is, would the outcome of this game been different had Embiid’s conditioning been better?

MLB.com’s article, “Orioles seeking pitching for 2018”

I have several thoughts about mlb.com’s Orioles article: (http://m.mlb.com/news/article/262168388/orioles-seeking-starting-pitching-for-2018/)

Yes, Schoop was an All-Star in 2017, and he deserved it. But note that he was a career .268 hitter in the minors, and even with his outstanding year in 2017, his MLB BA is .264. Based on his own data, Schoop had an above-average year. Note that in the minors, he followed a solid year in 2011 (.290 BA) with a .245 BA. I’m not saying that he’ll hit .245 next year, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see something closer to the .260-.270 range, as he’s averaged that throughout his minors+majors career.

Now onto the pitching. Yes, Cobb and Lynn are upgrades over Miley, Jimenez, Tillman, and potentially Hellickson, who didn’t have a good 2017. However, Gausman and Bundy have outstanding issues that should be discussed. Yes, Gausman throws hard, but is he good at getting outs? Between 2016-2017, he was average (WHIP = 1.26 in 2016), and below average (1.49 in 2017) at allowing hitters to reach base. However, the bright light for Gausman is that he was above-average (1.20 WHIP) after the All-Star break last year, but can he continue that in 2018? In terms of Bundy, last year he threw a career high for innings, 169.2. His biggest question for 2018 is whether he can remain injury-free and be stretched to 200 IP, as he’s averaged only 75 IP over 5 seasons.

 

Lonzo Ball walked away from a fight?

On Friday, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started a skirmish between the Suns and Lakers. Lonzo Ball, instead of getting involved, walked towards the bench and away from the pushing. He claimed that he didn’t want to get a technical foul, but isn’t it also possible that he didn’t want to get involved because of some issue with Pope? I’ve noticed a general disinterest towards Pope when both Ball and Pope are on the floor. Considering that Pope is a free agent at the end of the year, isn’t it possible that Ball is looking forward to Pope’s exit, for whatever reason?

Watch the video, see for yourself:

http://www.nba.com/article/2017/11/18/los-angeles-lakers-lonzo-ball-makes-news-walking-away-skirmish#/

 

MLB’s Top 10 Prospects for 2018

Yesterday, mlb.com released its “Who will be the top 10 prospects a year from now” list. First, it’s important to define some criteria. To be considered as a “prospect”, the player must not have played in MLB. With that in mind, at best, I agree with only 2 of the 10 players on Callis’ list (Guerrero and Bichette), which is shown below, and with the highest level reached for each player in 2017 in parenthesis:

  1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (A+): Guerrero had a great year in combined low A and A+: 0.323 BA, 13 HRs, 76 RBIs in 119 games, with more walks than strikeouts. Defensively, he was solid, with only 15 errors. Many players his age commit double the amount of errors from the left side of the infield (see Bichette, Rodgers, below).
  2. Gleyber Torres (AAA): Gleyber missed most of 2017 with Tommy John surgery, and there’s no way I’d pick a player coming off a major injury as a top-10 prospect for the following year.
  3. Luis Robert (Rookie level): It’s difficult to make accurate predictions on players like Robert, who have a small sample size: 28 career games at the rookie-ball level.
  4. Bo Bichette Jr. (A+): Like his teammate with the Blue Jays, Vlad Jr., Bichette had a monster year between combined low A and A+: 0.362 BA, 13 HRs, 74 RBIs in 110 games. In low A, Bichette flirted with hitting 0.400 for much of his 70 games prior to his call-up to A+. In contrast, he struggled at bit towards the end of the season, batting only 0.250 over the last 21 games. In terms of defense, Bichette made 21 errors in 86 games at SS, which projects to 40 errors over a full 162 game season, and is way too much. While Bichette’s offensive capability may be hard to match, I’d like to see how he handles AA-level pitching, and improve his defensive skills.
  5. Fernando Tatis Jr. (AA): Superficially, Tatis had a strong year: 0.275 BA, 22 HRs, 75 RBIs, 32 steals between low A and AA (14 games). But of concern is Tatis’ ability to make contact: he’s K’d 198 times in 186 games throughout his minor league career. Considering the struggle of players like Yoan Moncada with similarly high minor league strikeout rates in adjusting to MLB pitching, Tatis may have a tougher time handling higher-level pitching. Also, his defense has much room for improvement, with 45 errors at SS in 154 games.
  6. Brendan Rodgers (AA): Brendan Rodgers began the year at high-A on fire, batting 0.387 with 12 HRs and 47 RBIs in 51 games. He cooled a bit after being promoted to AA, and missed some time to injury. Similar to Bichette and Tatis, Rodgers has been error prone at SS, with 45 errors in 165 career games. Also, assuming a great year at AA/AAA for Rodgers in 2018, where will be play? The Rockies have Arenado at 3B, Story at SS, and LeMahieu at 2B, effectively blocking Rodgers’ promotion.
  7. MacKenzie Gore (Rookie level): Gore’s performance in the Rookie league was dominant, with a 1.27 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 34 K’s with only 7 BBs in 21 IP. However, many prospects have dominated Rookie ball only to fizzle in the upper levels. Again, this is too small of a sample size for me to make a prediction.
  8. Hunter Greene (Rookie level): #2 overall 2017 pick Hunter Greene did not fare well in his 7 games as a hitter (0.233 BA) or in his 3 games as a pitcher (12.46 ERA). While Greene will probably develop into a top-notch player, predictions about his 2018 production are difficult based on his small 2017 sample size. Also, when considering many MLB teams limit their pitcher’s IP (especially for newly drafted high school players) in the first 2 years post-draft, I don’t expect Greene to pitch more than 100 IP in 2018.
  9. Forrest Whitley (AA): Whitley was the 17th overall pick in the 2016 draft. As I mentioned earlier, many MLB teams start their newly-drafted high school pitchers out slow, with IP limits in their first couple of years. This is true for Whitley, who is being used as a starter, but threw 19 IP post-draft in 2016, and 92 IP in 2017. Whether Whitley can be stretched to 140+ in 2018 is unknown. Moreover, his relatively high BB rate in 2016 (more than 3 per 9 IP) makes me wonder how dominant he’ll be against upper level hitting. For ex., pitchers like Tyler Glasnow can dominate the minor leagues with high BB-rates, but struggle against more selective MLB hitters.
  10. Juan Soto (A-): Soto’s career stats are outstanding, with a 0.362 BA, 8 HRs, 50 RBIs, and great plate discipline (29 BBs, 38Ks) over 83 games. However, whether he can replicate his performance for a full 135 game minor league season and at higher minor league levels is unknown.

In contrast to the many lower-level players on mlb.com’s list, I prefer to identify prospects who have demonstrated above-average success at levels higher than Rookie-level ball. So which players are on my top 10 prospect list for 2018? Interestingly, I expect that 7 or 8 (or more) will make their MLB debut in 2018!

  1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (A+): Vlad Jr.s inclusion on my list is a no-brainer. Power, RBIs, high batting average and OBA, plate discipline (high BBs, low Ks), and solid defense collectively put him #1.
  2. Triston McKenzie (A+): The Indians have 3 players on my list (McKenzie, Bieber, Civale), and could’ve had 4, as Francisco Mejia was called up from AA-a scary thought considering they’re already playoff bound. McKenzie may be the most dominant pitcher in all of minor league baseball. He went 12-6 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 186 Ks (45 BBs) in 143 IP. The question is, however, can he throw 150 IP+ again, as he broke 100 IP for the first time since being drafted in 2015, and keep the BB-rate low as he ascends to AA and beyond?
  3. Mike Soroka (AA): Forget about Newcomb and Sims, Braves fans, Mike Soroka will probably be your #1 pitcher very soon! Soroka was also drafted in 2015, and in 2017 went 11-8 with a 2.75 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, and 125 K’s (34 BBs), in 153 IP. The ability of a young pitcher to consistently throw more than 140 IP in the minors should allow them to reach 200 IP relatively quickly in the majors, and he’s already thrown more than 140 IP twice. I expect Soroka to be in Atlanta’s rotation sometime in 2018. Interestingly, Soroka’s team was not very good, as it only won 58 games (80 losses), but yet Soroka still had a winning record.
  4. Shane Bieber (AA): Speaking about innings eaters, Shane Bieber, drafted in 2016 by the Indians threw 173 IP in 2017, and 159 IP in 2016, when combining his college and minors stats. In 2017, Bieber was 11-5 with a 2.86 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, 162 K’s and only walked 10 hitters all year! Assuming he pitches well at AAA, Bieber can easily make the jump to 200 IP as a MLB starter.
  5. Aaron Civale (A+): The 3rd Indians starter on my prospect list is Aaron Civale. Drafted in 2016, Civale is also an innings eater with great control, throwing 164 IP and walking only 14, and was 13-6 with a 3.28 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, and 142 K’s in 2017. This was the 2nd time Civale has thrown more than 150 IP, as he threw 152 IP in 2016, when combining his college and minors stats.
  6. Alex Wells (A-): My prospect theme of throwing a low of innings with great control continues with Alex Wells, who signed in 2016 after going undrafted. In his first full year in the minors, he threw 140 IP, going 11-5 with a 2.38 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP, 122 K’s and only 10 BBs. Whether Wells can break 140 IP again going forward is unknown, so let’s see how he does in 2018.
  7. Yohnny Chirinos (AAA): Perhaps the closest of the prospects on my list to reaching MLB is Chirinos, who has dominated throughout his minors career: 36-17, 2.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 363 K’s and only 74 BBs in 474 career minors innings. In 2016, he threw 128 IP, and 168 IP in 2017, making a jump to 200+ likely next year with the Rays. In fact, I’m surprised they haven’t called him up already!
  8. Tom Eschelman (AAA): Probably the 2nd closest to reaching the majors is Eschelman, but it may be a while, considering how long it took the Phillies to call up Hoskins. Including his college stats, Eshelman has averaged 132 IP per year for the past 5 years, making it likely for him to be easily stretched out to reach high IP in the majors. In terms of production, in 2017, in 121 IP Eshelman was 10-3 with a 2.23 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 80 K’s and only 13 BBs. I’d be shocked if Eshelman doesn’t make the Phillies starting rotation out of spring training in 2018.
  9. Eloy Jiminez (AA): Eloy Jiminez was traded by the Cubs to the White Sox for Jose Quintana and is a player who potentially has the best power/RBI potential in the minors. Based on data for 300 minor league games, Jiminez has averaged 23 HRs and 111 RBIs, when projected over a full 162 game season. And don’t worry, he won’t strike out like Gallo or Judge-his 0.302 career BA and 4.75 Abs per K suggest otherwise. The issue with Jiminez is his health, missing 20 and ~40 games in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
  10. Jon Duplantier (A+): Last, but not least, is Jon Duplantier, the Diamondbacks 3rd round pick in 2016. In 2017, Duplantier’s 1st full minor league season, he went 12-3 with a 1.39 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP, and 165 K’s (42 BBs) in 136 IP. In Duplantier’s last college season, he threw 111 IP and had a relatively high walk rate, 3.81. So the issues for him going forward are, can he break 150 IP, and, keep the BB-rate low as he ascends?

Platelets and All-Cause Mortality Risk

Have you had a blood test and aren’t sure what values for platelets may be optimal for health? The reference range is 150-400 platelets per nanoliter (*10^9/L). Within that range, what’s optimal?

In a study of 21,635 adults older than 35y (average age wasn’t reported) with a 7.6-year follow-up, platelets between 230-270 was associated with maximally reduced risk of death from all causes (Bonaccio et al. 2016):

platets acm

In a study of 21, 252 adults (average age 53y) with an average follow-up of 3.5y, values ~250 were associated with maximally reduced risk of death from all causes Vinholt et al. (2017) :

plat2 acm

What about in older adults? In a study of 159, 746 postmenopausal women (average age, 63y) with a 16-year follow up, maximally reduced risk of death from all causes was associated with platelet values between 200-256 (Kabat et al. 2017).

In a study of 36, 262 older adults (average age, 71y) with an 11-year follow-up, platelet values ~250 were associated with maximally reduced risk for all-cause mortality. Interestingly, even at platelet values ~250, mortality risk was highest for non-Hispanic whites, when compared with non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics (Msaouel et al. 2014):

plat ethnicity

In 5,766 older adults (average age, 73y) that were followed for 12-15 years, values higher than 200-300 had an increased risk of death from all causes (van der Bom et al 2009). Risk for values between 100-199 was not different when compared against 200-299, but there was a non-significant trend towards increased risk (1.05, 95% CI: 0.97, 1.14).

In 131,308 older adults (~73y) with a 6-yr follow-up, maximally reduced risk of death from all causes was associated with values between 200-300, whereas risk significantly increased below and above that range, respectively Tsai et al. (2015):

plat eld

In sum, the data suggests that platelet values ~250 may be optimal for heath, with 200-300 as the “optimal range” within the 150-400 reference range. What are your values?

 

If you’re interested, please have a look at my book!

 

References

Bonaccio M, Di Castelnuovo A, Costanzo S, De Curtis A, Donati MB, Cerletti C, de Gaetano G, Iacoviello L; MOLI-SANI Investigators. Age-sex-specific ranges of platelet count and all-cause mortality: prospective findings from the MOLI-SANI study. Blood. 2016 Mar 24;127(12):1614-6.

Kabat GC, Kim MY, Verma AK, Manson JE, Lin J, Lessin L, Wassertheil-Smoller S, Rohan TE. Platelet count and total and cause-specific mortality in the Women’sHealth InitiativeAnn Epidemiol. 2017 Apr;27(4):274-280.

Msaouel P, Lam AP, Gundabolu K, Chrysofakis G, Yu Y, Mantzaris I, Friedman E, Verma A. Abnormal platelet count is an independent predictor of mortality in the elderly and is influenced by ethnicityHaematologica. 2014 May;99(5):930-6.

Tsai MT, Chen YT, Lin CH, Huang TP, Tarng DC; Taiwan Geriatric Kidney Disease Research Group. U-shaped mortality curve associated with platelet count among older people: a community-based cohort study. Blood. 2015 Sep 24;126(13):1633-5.

van der Bom JG, Heckbert SR, Lumley T, Holmes CE, Cushman M, Folsom AR, Rosendaal FR, Psaty BM. Platelet count and the risk for thrombosis and death in the elderlyJ Thromb Haemost. 2009 Mar;7(3):399-405.

Vinholt PJ, Hvas AM, Frederiksen H, Bathum L, Jørgensen MK, Nybo M. Thromb Res.Platelet count is associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality: A population-based cohort study. 2016 Dec;148:136-142.

Spinach-banana smoothie

Lately I’ve been drinking lots of spinach-banana smoothies, here’s the recipe!

Baby spinach, 5 oz

A small piece (~20g) of jerusalem artichokes, for its prebiotic potential

Frozen bananas, 5-7 oz

Water, 4-6 oz

Put all that into the blender, then drink it…It’s delicious and nutrient packed!

spin-bana

If you’re interested, please have a look at my book!

4-ingredient brownies

In an earlier post, I wrote about how easy it is to make 2-ingredient, nutrient-rich chocolate (https://michaellustgarten.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/homemade-chocolate-in-2-minutes/).

Occasionally (~1x/week), I modify that recipe to make 4-ingredient brownies! The recipe includes 40g of raw, organic cacao beans, 20g oats, 70g Medjool dates, and 1 large egg.

First, I grind/blend the cacao beans and oats into a pine powder. Then, I add the dates and powder into the food processor to mix them. I put this mixture into a small bowl, where I add the egg and thoroughly mix it all together. Last, I put this into the oven at 325F for 35 minutes. After it’s cooked, I wait 15 minutes for it to cool down, then I eat it. It’s soft, and delicious!

brownie