American Pharoah continues quest for the Triple Crown at the Preakness

Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore is the site of the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Preakness, run two after the Kentucky Derby. Derby winner American Pharoah is set to compete in the eight-horse field — including Firing Line and Dortmund, who finished second and third at the Derby, respectively — as the Bob Baffert-trained horse continues the quest to become the first Triple Crown winner in more than a quarter-century.

American Pharoah is the morning-line favorite and seems to have a good chance at winning with a small field in the race. But American Pharoah drew the inside post, which presents a challenge — only one horse has won the Preakness from the No. 1 post since 1987. With a small field, though, I think he can overcome the starting position to win the race and head to the Belmont in three weeks with a shot at the Crown. American Pharoah, Firing Line and Drotmund were the three best horses in the Derby and I don’t see why they won’t be the same today, so I’ll pick them to finish in the same order that they did two weeks ago.

My shot-in-the-dark picks
Win: American Pharoah
Exacta: American Pharoah, Firing Line
Trifecta: American Pharoah, Firing Line, Dortmund
Superfecta: American Pharoah, Firing Line, Dortmund, Danzig Moon

The big sports Saturday, part 2: Fight of the Century — Mayweather-Pacquiao quick preview

After the Kentucky Derby and Saturday’s NBA and NHL playoff games, settle in, pay $100 and watch what is being billed as the Fight of the Century, five years (at least) in the making: Floyd “Money” Mayweather vs. Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao, in a fight for which each fighter is reportedly making more than $100 million. It’s a fight people have been wanting to see for years. And although it likely would have been a fighter fight if it happened several years ago, it’s now happening and it’s going to make a lot of money for the fighters and promoters. Here are my not-so-expert thoughts on Mayweather-Pacquiao.

Pacquiao is who most people, myself included, want to win because Mayweather isn’t exactly very likable, but unfortunately I just don’t see Manny getting the victory over undefeated (47-0) Floyd. Pac-Man is a couple years younger than Money, but he has been in 17 more fights (57-5-2), many of which have been tougher than Mayweather’s. At this point in their careers, I just think Mayweather is the better fighter and I don’t think Pacquiao can beat Floyd. I’m not convinced the fight will go the distance. Bet Mayweather.

If it was a singing contest, though, Pacquiao would have the edge:

The big sports Saturday, part 1: Kentucky Derby quick preview

It’s the first weekend in May, which can only mean one thing: it’s time for the Kentucky Derby. But, in addition to the ongoing NBA and NHL playoffs, tonight also features another big sporting event — what’s being billed as the Fight of the Century, Mayweather-Pacquiao. We’ll preview that in another post. Now, the Derby.

It’s horse racing’s biggest event annually and the highlight of Churchill Downs’ racing schedule. A big payday comes for the horse that wins the race, the first leg of the sport’s Triple Crown. The morning-line favorite is Bob Baffert-trained American Pharoah, winner of four of the five races in which the horse has run. Dortmund — also trained by Baffert — is the horse that seems to have the best chance of defeating American Pharoah to win the 1.25-mile race.

If I’m picking a winner straight-up and not worrying about wagers, odds or a payout, I see no reason not to go with American Pharoah. He’s the favorite for a reason. Looking for a bigger payout on a wager, though, I think Todd Pletcher’s Carpe Diem is going to finish in the top 3 and is a dark horse to potentially win. But I’ll go with American Pharoah. The question is does any of this year’s horses have what it takes to become horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978? We’ll find out within the next five weeks.

My shot-in-the-dark picks
Win: American Pharoah
Exacta: American Pharoah, Dortmund
Trifecta: American Pharoah, Dortmund, Carpe Diem
Superfecta: American Pharoah, Dortmund, Carpe Diem, Firing Line

LG introduces the G4, looking to compete with the Galaxy S6

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LG has become one of the top manufacturer of Android devices over the last several years, and the South Korean company looks to continue its momentum with today’s announcement of its latest flagship phone, the G4. Coming several weeks after the release of Samsung‘s latest flagships, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge, and the One M9 from HTC, the G4 brings some of the latest mobile technology to LG’s G series of devices.

The 5.5″ quantum IPS LCD screen has Quad HD resolution (538 ppi). The rear camera is 16 MP with laser autofocus and image stabilization with an 8 MP front-facing camera. Internally, the phone is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 808 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage, with a microSD slot that supports up to 2TB cards. The removable battery weighs in at 3,000 mAh. It ships with Android 5.1 Lollipop and has the latest in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology.

As has become the norm with LG’s phones, it is slightly curved — an ergonomically-shaped body, according to LG’s press materials — and has the power and volume buttons on the back of the device, underneath the camera. The phone comes with an optional leather back cover in brown or black. If you prefer a plastic back cover, you have the choice of metallic gray or ceramic white.

Here’s a look at the specs:

Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 with X10 LTE
Operating system Android 5.1 Lollipop
Display 5.5-inch Quad HD IPS Quantum Display (2560 x 1440, 538ppi)
Storage 32 GB eMMC ROM, microSD card up to 2 TB
RAM 3 GB LPDDR3 RAM
Rear camera 16 megapixels with f/1.8 aperture / OIS 2.0
Front camera 8 megapixels with f/2.0 aperture
Battery 3,000 mAh removable
Size 148.9 x 76.1 x 6.3-9.8 mm
Weight 155 grams
Network 4G / LTE / HSPA+ 21 Mbps (3G)
Connectivity Wifi 802.11ac / Bluetooth 4.1LE / NFC / USB 2.0

No date or pricing information was revealed, but it will be available at all major U.S. carriers — AT&TVerizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and US Cellular. Full details about the phone can be found at LG’s official site here.

So how does it stack up against the latest competition from Samsung and HTC? I’d place it in between those companies’ flagships. I’d say it’s better than the M9 but falls short of the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge.

Google launches wireless service: Project Fi

Google has finally confirmed the rumors that have been circulating for months; it is starting a wireless service, called Project Fi. The service, which is invite-only to start, uses a combination of Wi-Fi and cellular networks for calls, texts and data. The service uses Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks, offering unlimited talk and text with customizable data buckets.

For now, the only phone compatible with Project Fi is the Nexus 6, which needs a special Project Fi SIM card to operate with Fi, which utilizes the best connection of Wi-Fi, Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks at any one time to provide the best service possible. It is able to handoff calls between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, and vice versa. The service works on the mobile carriers’ LTE networks, where available.

So the big question is: how much does it cost? The base plan, which includes the unlimited talk and text, costs $20. You then add as much data as you need at $10 per GB. For example, a 5 GB plan would cost $70/month. One thing that makes Fi unique, compared to other national carriers, is if you don’t use all of your data in a particular month, you get a prorated credit on your next bill for whatever data you didn’t use. The credit works out to $1 per 100MB so on the aforementioned 5GB plan, if you only use 4.2 GB in the month, you would get an $8 credit on your next bill. Conversely, if you go over your data allotment, Google adds a prorated amount for the extra data on your next bill. Thus, if you use 5.6 GB on a 5 GB plan, you would have an additional $6 charge on your next bill. Project Fi isn’t the first wireless carrier to announce such a “pay only for the data you use” plan, Republic Wireless announced a similar plan just days ago. Project Fi’s data plans include coverage in more than 120 countries at the same rates as in the U.S., though data speeds are limited to 3G outside of the States.

What about the phone cost? If you already have a Nexus 6 that you’ve previously purchased, you can use it on Fi. If you need a Nexus 6, you can buy one through the carrier for $649 for a 32 GB device or $699 for 64 GB. You can also do a 24-month payment plan, costing $27.04 or $29.12 monthly for 32 GB or 64 GB, respectively. There are no annual contracts required and no early termination fees, unless you leave before paying off the phone, in which case the balance of the phone payments becomes due.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the game-changer that many people were hoping for when rumors of a Google wireless service were circulating. If you don’t use much data, you can get 1 GB for $30, which isn’t a bad deal, but $70 for 5 GB of data isn’t a great deal, and Fi doesn’t offer an unlimited data plan. The biggest benefits of the service appear to be the use of two networks instead of one and being credited for the data you pay for and don’t use in the month. Other than that, there’s not much to be excited about with Project Fi.

If you’re interested, you can find out more about the service at the FAQ here and you can request an invite here (you should receive your invite within 30 days).

30in30ish finale: MLB playoff and World Series predictions

After previewing all 30 MLB teams over the last month, it’s time to make some playoff predictions. The following are my picks for who will win the divisions and wild cards, as well as the LCS and World Series matchups and winners. Hopefully I do as well picking the World Series winner as I did with the Super Bowl in September.

American League East: Baltimore Orioles
American League Central: Cleveland Indians
American League West: Seattle Mariners
American League Wild Cards: Toronto Blue JaysKansas City Royals

National League East: Washington Nationals
National League Central: St. Louis Cardinals
National League West: Los Angeles Dodgers
National League Wild Cards: Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins
a world series trophy

American League Championship Series:
Baltimore Orioles beat Seattle Mariners in 6 games
National League Championship Series:
Los Angeles Dodgers beat Washington Nationals in 7 games
World Series:
Los Angeles Dodgers beat Baltimore Orioles in 5 games
World Series Champions

30 in 30ish: MLB Preview — San Francisco Giants

We end our monthlong preview of all 30 MLB teams with the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Tomorrow, leading up to the first game of the regular season, will be a playoff prediction post.

The Giants are the defending World Series champions and have won the Series three times since 2010. The Giants pretty much much kept their team intact over the offseason while their biggest rivals in their division, the Dodgers and Padres, brought in a number of new players to give their teams a new look. The Giants will be starting the season at a disadvantage, with OF Hunter Pence on the DL for the first several weeks with an arm injury suffered in spring training. Their pitching is healthy, though, led by the reigning World Series MVP, SP Madison Bumgarner.

While the Giants won the World Series last year, they weren’t the best team in the NL West, finishing in second place — six games behind the Dodgers. They finished behind the Dodgers in most major offensive categories. Their offensive ranks for 2014 include: fourth in the NL with a .255 batting average, sixth with a .699 OPS, seventh with 132 home runs and fifth in the league with 4.10 runs per game. As far as pitching goes, the staff ranked seventh in the league with a 3.50 ERA — despite Bumgarner’s 2.98 mark — and sixth-best with 3.79 runs allowed per game. Their strikeout total was third-worst in the league, with 1211 Ks.

Looking ahead to 2015, you might expect to see more production out of 1B Brandon Belt, who was limited to just 61 games last season with a thumb injury. He hit .243 in his limited playing time last season, well under his .268 career average. If he can stay healthy for the season and have a bounce-back season, he could help make up for some of the offense that will be lost with Pence missing the first part of the season. In Pence’s absence, it’ll be up to C Buster Posey to carry the team’s offense. On the mound, Bumgarner is, of course, going to lead the charge as he looks to continue his streak of two consecutive seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA. As you could tell from last year’s pitching ranks, he didn’t have much help in the rotation last season. One reason for that is the disappointing, injury-plagued season for SP Matt Cain, who started just 15 games last season. Like If he can have a return to the sub-3.00 ERAs he put up in 2011 and 2012, as opposed to the 4.00+ ERAs he posted the last two seasons, that will be a big help to improving the team’s pitching performance.

It’s going to be a three-team race in the NL West, with the Giants, Dodgers and Padres all competing to end the year on top of the division. I don’t think the Giants have enough to pass the Dodgers and won the division, and even the Wild Card could be out of their reach this year with other teams in the NL having improved over the winter.