Land Ho! Movie Review

I love Aaron Katz’s movies. The simplest descriptor of the types of movies he makes is on the surface, they’re not about anything, focusing on the idiosyncrasies of day-to-day life. However, I always come away with a small profound emotion about what I just saw (not in pretentious way like the last two Terrence Malick movies). Katz’s latest film Land Ho!, who he co-wrote and co-directed the film with Martha Stephens, is an absolute joy. A quick aside: I haven’t seen any of Stephens’ films, but I want to.

This is the first time Katz has written/directed a comedic film. Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhoorn are the two leads and they are both hilarious. They’re an odd couple. Mitch (Nelson’s character) is a boisterous, foul mouthed ,charismatic recently retired surgeon. He takes his brother in-law Colin (Eenhoorn’s character) on a trip to Iceland. Colin, an ex French Horn player and retired banker, is very measured when meeting new people, but once gets to know you will let down his guard and will be very playful.

When they get to Iceland they stay in the city and travel more and more to remote areas of the country. I challenge anyone to see this film and not want to go Iceland afterward. The hikes they go on are breathtaking. As I watched the movie I constantly looked at my dog and thought how awesome it would be if we were there tomorrow.

This is a road trip movie, but it’s not formulaic. I loved the counter play between Colin and Mitch as well as the irony of using foul mouthed jokes behind the beautiful Icelantic landscape. There are no major long lasting revelations by any of the characters, which is true with any trip. However, each character learns something from the trip, but the most important thing is they will have a better and stronger friendship after the trip, which I believe is the best part of any road trip. This movie is a must watch; I give it my highest rating.

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Robert Stephenson’s Second Major League Start

Yesterday Robert Stephenson, the Reds number one prospect, very quietly had a very good box score against the Rockies at home: 7 IP, 1 ER, 3 K, 2 BB and 3 H. The question how did he earn those numbers? Was he dominant? How did he look overall? Should he be stashed in leagues with a deep bench?

After last nights start Stephenson was sent back to Triple-A so he will not have an immediate impact for fantasy, but with the likes of Jon Moscot and Alfredo Simon in the Reds rotation it’s only a matter of time before Stephenson receives a long look in the majors.

Throughout his professional career Stephenson’s biggest roadblock to success has been command. Since joining Double-A he’s had walk rates no lower than 11.2 percent (which was last year in Triple-A). After watching his start against the Rockies I’m not surprised his walk rates have been that high. Of the 24 batters he faced, eight of them had hitters counts.

The biggest reason why he had so many hitters counts was fastball command. His fastball can top out 97 mph, but when he was throwing the fastball faster than 94 they were mostly for balls. He was able to throw more strikes with a lower fastball velocity.

When he was able to get ahead in the count that’s when he could throw that really good curveball for swings and misses and to generate weak contact. From my noticed there were five swings and misses out of 14-15 swings on the curveball. What was most impressive was the curveball was effective against both righties and lefties. He also featured a split-changeup that showed promise, but he wasn’t able to throw it for strikes so I didn’t a good gauge of how good it could really be.

Bottom Line: Stephenson is going to be in the majors this year. When he arrives is entirely on him. Last year the Reds used nine rookie pitchers (Stephenson was not one of them) so the Reds are not hesitant to use young arms. If he starts to throw strikes consistently he could be up as early as May. If he continues to not throw strikes it could be a late second half call-up.

If he can have a walk rate in the 7-8 percent range he should be an every week starter in 12-team mixed leagues (in most weeks) because he should have plenty of strikeouts and since he pitches in the NL he’s going to face a lot of bad offenses. He hasn’t shown a lot of strikeouts in the majors, but his minor league number suggests there’s a lot of room for improvement. He’s going to be a WHIP and Wins liability, but the strikeout potential is too good to pass up. If he was able to throw 200 innings I think 175 strikeouts is his floor. That may not sound like a lot, but only 26 pitchers had that many strikeouts last year.

If I was in a NFBC league and I had a roster spot to spare I would pick up Stephenson and stash him.

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Why I’m Bullish on Carlos Carrasco & Noah Syndergaard

Since the calendar has turned to March now is the time to compare personal rankings/projections with other sources. Two of the starting pitchers I’m more bullish on than everyone is Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard.

When I evaluate pitchers the three biggest data points I review are: strikeout rate, walk rate and ground ball rate. Based on Carrasco’s numbers he’s one of the best pitchers in the majors. However, there are more reasons why he’s my ninth ranked starting pitcher.

The biggest reason why I love Carrasco is the defensive upgrades on the infield. Since he strikes out so many batters he doesn’t allow many balls in-play, but when he does its usually soft contact on the ground. He had the 18th highest ground ball rate among qualified starting pitchers last year. The Indians defense improved dramatically after shortstop Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela were called up; it also does not hurt Carlos Santana will not be at first base too. After Lindor was called up Carrasco, in 17 starts, had a 3.12 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and a 31.2 percent strikeout rate. Both players will be back (Juan Uribe, another good defender at third base, could also be the starter) and he’s my dark horse for the Cy Young (if he gets lucky with wins).

If Syndergaard played a full season his 27.5 percent strikeout rate would have been the seventh best strikeout rate among qualified pitchers. Also, his 5.1 percent walk rate would tie him for the 12th lowest. Most importantly, his 14.5 percent hard hit rate would have tied him for the fifth lowest (with his teammate Matt Harvey). To recap, he’s striking out a lot of batters, he doesn’t walk batters and when hitters make contact its extremely weak. On top of that he pitches in one of the best pitcher parks in the majors.

The biggest hesitation is the Mets defense; it could be one of the worst defenses in the majors (assuming Yoenis Cespedes plays the majority of innings in center field). How many games will David Wright play? Asdrubal Cabrera is barely serviceable at shortstop. Even if Juan Lagares were the starting center fielder the outfield defense would be average. *Complete aside, but if Michael Conforto gets off to a slow start I bet the Mets send him to the minors to improve the outfield defense. I wouldn’t be surprised if Syndergaard and the other Mets starters all have ERAs much higher than their FIPs like the Indians last year.

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