New Events Coming Up

This has been an exciting year so far.  In May, I spoke at two SQL Saturdays, and in June, I will speak at another two.

First, on June 13th, I will be in Halifax, Nova Scotia for SQL Saturday #404:  Event Not Found.  This is the first time I’ll give my Working Effectively with Legacy SQL talk at a SQL Saturday.

Then, on June 27th, I will be in Chattanooga, Tennessee for SQL Saturday #410.  At that talk, I will get to talk about Hadoop.

Final thoughts on Dragon Age: Inquisition (so far)

As I write this post, I finished my first playthrough of Dragon Age: Inquisition. I’m actually kind of pleased that there’s plenty of content I missed (because the game tricked me, but whatever). I’ve uninstalled it for now, but this is less a function of the game being bad (which it wasn’t) but my SSD being somewhat small. There are choices to be made, alas. I can definitely anticipate a second playthrough; I might even go back and play DA 2 again.

Overall, the game wasn’t overly challenging. That’s not a bad thing; every game doesn’t need to be impossibly hard. Some fights were extremely tough, but most of them were, if not “easy”, then at least very manageable. Of course, I played on the default settings, so your mileage may vary. It did have plenty of meat to it, of course — I ended up with 70 hours or so for my first playthrough, and I can easily see where people could rack up hundreds.

As far as a pure open world, there is something lacking, as the game is a series of set pieces, like Dragon Age 2, but far larger and far more varied. Some of the individual areas are somewhat small, but others offer quite a bit to do. There are plenty of fun call backs to DA: Origins and DA 2; some characters will reappear, one of them playable (Varric, from DA 2). The Dragon Age Keep has you keep track of everything you did in DA Origins and DA 2, and even if you haven’t played them, that’s okay, because you’ll set up things your own way or use a default state.

I can’t reveal too much without spoiling the game, of course. A lot of the characters are terrific and very well done; only one actively irritates me (Vivienne). The banter is very good, but could be more frequent. Plenty of romance options, if that’s your thing. People have written on the ending (well, the post-credits ending), which makes it clear that there is either a) a major story DLC coming (and Jaws of Haakon isn’t it) or b) another Dragon Age game in the future. I liked it, didn’t see it coming at all.

Overall, I enjoyed the game; it’s maybe 90% as good as Origins and 110% as good as DA 2. I recommend it, highly; it’s more fun if you’ve played the first two, but it’s also a pretty fair entry point even if you haven’t.

Buffalo’s Draft

Stunk.  Nobody liked it.

Getting a little deeper, Ronald Darby has the skills to be a quality cornerback.  He has elite top-end speed and vertical reach, meaning he can stack up against tall and fast wide receivers.  He has good potential, and if he lives up to expectations, Darby and Stephon Gilmore are a lockdown pair.

Buffalo then selected a left guard, mauler John Miller.  The Bills can use a good guard, having a weak interior offensive line.  I’m not sure Miller will be a big improvement, though.

Karlos Williams fell to the 5th round, but he could be intriguing.  Of course, Buffalo currently has 4 running backs, including having traded for McCoy and Bryce Brown from the Eagles over the past year.  My expectation is that Brown is gone.

Tony Steward is a special teams linebacker, nothing more.  Nick O’Leary might become a backup tight end or fullback.  This fits Greg Roman’s “H-Backs Everywhere!” scheme.  Finally, Dezmin Lewis was a 4th-5th round projection who fell to the 7th.  He’s tall, so that’s good.

Overall, Buffalo had few draft picks and it’s not obvious that they greatly improved anywhere.  I don’t think that they did horribly, necessarily, but this is not the type of draft the Bills need to get them over the hump.

A-Rod vs. Willie

Fivethirtyeight had an interesting article about A-Rod and Willie Mays. As you may have heard, A-Rod hit #660 and #661 quite recently, and there’s a bunch of shit about him not getting paid a bonus for various reasons. What I want to take a moment to talk about is Fivethirtyeight’s central assertion: Willie Mays was much better than Alex Rodriguez. Fivethirtyeight used rWAR (Baseball Reference’s WAR) as a baseline comparison, but you can do the same with fWAR (Fangraphs’ WAR). fWAR actually hurts A-Rod slightly and gives Willie Mays a boost, but the gap between them is largely the same.

I do not disagree that Mays was superior, as an overall baseball player, than A-Rod, based on the statistical record. By rate stats, they’re extremely close: Mays was .302/.384/.557, A-Rod is (as of this post) .299/.384/.558. Mays played a bit less than 500 more games than A-Rod has, which naturally gives him a boost in counting stats. Offensively, A-Rod has a career OPS+ of 143, but Mays trumps him with a 156. Of course, much of this is due to offensive era, but obviously you wouldn’t reject either of them on your team.

The most significant thing I want to address is something that might help close the gap, at least a bit: A-Rod was blocked from being as valuable as he ought to have been because Derek Jeter was, fundamentally, selfish. A-Rod should have been the team’s shortstop, not Jeter. By dWAR, Derek Jeter was a – 9.7; he cost his team almost 10 full wins over the course of his career; of course, his oWAR was nearly 100, but that’s still docking him 10%.

A-Rod added 11 dWAR over the course of his career (and was even better with the bat). This is a no-brainer of a decision — stick Jeter at third, not A-Rod. Maybe when Bernie Williams retires, dump Jeter in CF. Keep him away from shortstop. I think A-Rod’s value might have approached Mays’ if he stayed at SS (the gap is only 7.1 WAR in defense.) It doesn’t help him with Mays’ vastly superior base running, or ability to make contact, or that Mays stood out far more over his peers. But it does give us a fairer appreciation of A-Rod.

Some draft grades

Mel Kiper Jr. gave Cleveland a B (which 8 other teams shared). Kiper dinged the Browns a bit for Erving (why do people insist he’s a center when he doesn’t have much experience there and won’t play center with the Browns in the first season?), but dinged them more for not grabbing a QB. Kiper doesn’t surprise me any more; he’s as mainstream as mainstream gets.

Sports on Earth also gave Cleveland a B. They attack the Erving choice and immediately explain why they are stupid one sentence later!

Cameron Erving was an odd choice, unless the team really thinks Alex Mack is opting out after this year. On the other hand, he can play all five spots on the line.

Why is this so hard for people to understand? Sports on Earth, to be fair, did have a much better reason for dinging Cleveland, the lack of pass catchers. Kiper’s more optimistic than they are.

Football Outsiders didn’t mention Cleveland’s first round directly in their Day One Audibles, although they did have this gem:

Scott Kacsmar: Cleveland’s offensive-line spending is like paying four security guards $100,000 to escort Pauly Shore and Andy Dick around town. What’s the point?

Hey now, we’re going to be a run first offense, Kacsmar. Browns were passed by in Day Two and Three Audibles too.

SI gave Cleveland a B-, insisting that DeVante Parker was more useful to Cleveland than Danny Shelton (which is the height of absurdity); again, the standard “WHERE DO THEY PLAY ERVING HE’S A CENTER” line is paired with rare criticism for taking Duke Johnson — Johnson has a different skill set than Crowell or West, so this isn’t really fair either.

SB Nation says “B”. Nothing new or exciting in terms of commentary.

NFL.com was very kind, with a B+. They didn’t like Cleveland’s Day 2 (but praised Duke Johnson and Nate Orchard; I have to think it’s for what Cleveland didn’t do, that is, take a wide out.) They have nice things to say about Mayle and bad things to say about Cooper, the safety.

CBS Sports didn’t give out grades, but loved Cleveland’s draft.

Fansided had the best grade for Cleveland, an A-. They didn’t like Mayle (called him mostly a possession guy) and really hated Charles Gaines, who they think won’t even crack the final 53.

I, personally, think Cleveland deserves an A. They addressed needs, found quality players, and didn’t make many picks that seem likely to fail. Those that do are sixth and seventh rounders.