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.

30 in 30ish: MLB Preview — San Diego Padres

Over the course of 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2015 season. This post is previewing the San Diego Padres.

The Padres haven’t made the playoffs since 2006 so, trying to end that streak, they made a number of moves this offseason to add some big-name players to their roster. The entire starting outfield — Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp — is new, along with 3B Will Middlebrooks and SP James Shields. Making such a drastic change to the team, it looks like the team wants to put itself in a position to win now, not necessarily a given with the Dodgers and Giants in the division.

When you look at last season’s stats, you can understand why the Padres gave themselves such a big makeover. The team was at or near the bottom of the National League in most of the major offensive categories. The offense ranked last in batting average (.226), OPS (.634) and runs per game (3.30) and next to last in home runs, with 109. Part of that could be attributed to playing half their games at pitcher-friendly Petco Park, but playing guys like Chase Headley and Will Venable, who is now a backup in the outfield, also may have played a factor. Not surprisingly, given the aforementioned pitcher-friendly ballpark, the Padres’ pitching staff performed better than the offense in 2014. At 3.27, the staff’s ERA and 3.56 runs allowed per game both ranked as second-best in the NL.

So how much can you expect the new offensive additions to perform in 2015? Upton has hit at least 27 home runs in three of the last four seasons and Kemp is a .292 hitter who has hit double-digit home runs every season in which he has played at least 100 games. Myers and Middlebrooks, who are entering their third and fourth seasons, respectively, are question marks as far as their production goes. Myers hit .293 in 2013 but just .222 last year, with his home run total cut in half last season. Middlebrooks has also seen his average drop in each season of his major league career, from .288 in 2012 to just .191 in 2014. If those trends continue, they won’t add much to the offense. On the mound, Shields is durable, having thrown at least 200 innings every year since 2007 with a career ERA of 3.72. That was all in the American League, now coming to the league without a DH and in a spacious stadium, you would expect Shields to do better than a 3.72 ERA in his first season with San Diego. Add him to a rotation that already includes SP Andrew Cashner, who had a 2.55 ERA in 19 starts last season, and you have a good 1-2 punch at the top of the staff.

The Padres are definitely improved over last season so you would expect them to do better than the 77-85 record they had last year, but how much better? They’re almost certainly a .500 team, I think, will finish a couple games better than that mark. But it won’t be enough in the NL West with the Dodgers and Giants. The Padres are the third-best team in the division and will likely win 84 or 85 games, but I think they’ll be on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. I think they’re still a year or two away from the postseason.

Source: http://www.padres.com

30 in 30ish: MLB Preview — Los Angeles Dodgers (Updated)

Over the course of 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2015 season. This post is previewing the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Not only have the Dodgers won the National League West each of the last two years, but SP Clayton Kershaw has won the NL Cy Young Award two years in a row as well. He’ll lead a new-look Dodgers team into a divisional race against the defending World Series champion Giants. Among the new faces on the team are SS Jimmy Rollins, 2B Howie Kendrick and SP Brandon McCarthy.

Last season saw the Dodgers offense ranked second in the NL with a .265 batting average, .738 OPS and 4.43 runs per game; their 134 home runs were one below the league average. As you’d expect for a team with Clayton Kershaw, the pitching staff’s ERA was among the best in the NL, ranking fourth at 3.40. The team wasn’t as good, however, in terms of runs allowed per game; at 3.81, it was just the eighth best in the league.

While the Dodgers added some veteran hitters in the offseason, they also lost SS Hanley Ramirez — and his career .300 batting average — in free agency and traded OF Matt Kemp, who hit 25 home runs last season, as part of a deal in which they acquired young C Yasmani Grandal, who hit just .225 in 128 games in 2014. Rollins is getting up there in years and tied his career-low .243 batting average last year. OF Joc Pederson is playing his first full season in 2015 and he’ll have to have to put up good numbers in order to make up for some of the lost production of Ramirez and Kemp. He has a .302 average in his minor-league career so he can hit. With SP Hyun-Jin Ryu on the DL indefinitely with a shoulder injury, the newcomers to the Dodgers rotation, McCarthy and Brett Anderson, will be relied upon more than they would be a healthy Ryu. Both have put up good numbers in previous seasons, though both also have a history of injuries.

It was a winter of change for the Dodgers — some of it good, some bad. It’ll likely be tough to win their third-straight NL West title with the Giants and newly revamped Padres challenging the Dodgers for the top spot in the division. It’s hard to bet against a team with Kershaw, and I think they do have enough to stay ahead of the Giants to win the West once again. If not, they have a shot at getting a wild card, but I’m not sure they would with many improved teams in the NL in 2015.

Source: http://www.dodgers.com

30 in 30ish: MLB Preview — Colorado Rockies

Over the course of 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2015 season. This post is previewing the Colorado Rockies.

The Rockies finished in fourth place in the National League West last season, thanks in part to injuries that limited SS Troy Tulowitzki to 91 games and OF Carlos Gonzalez to just 70 games. They’re back this year, with some help around them. Veteran 1B Justin Morneau can hit for a decent average with some pop, and the rest of the offense is mostly made up of young hitters, a couple of whom — OF Charlie Blackmon.and 3B Nolan Arenado — have already proven they can hit in the majors.

Even with Tulowitzki and Gonzalez’s lengthy absences, the offense was among the best in the National League last season, ranking first in the league in batting average (.276), OPS (.772), home runs (186) and runs per game (4.66), While the Rockies’ offense was at the top of the NL in important categories, the pitching was at the bottom of the league in key categories, namely ERA (4.84) and runs allowed per game (5.05).

The offense was good last year, but if Tulo and CarGo can play full seasons, or close to it, it should help the offense be even better. But obviously the bigger concern should be and is the pitching. The biggest addition the team made to the rotation this winter was signing SP Kyle Kendrick, who has a 4.42 ERA in 185 career starts entering this season. Even the guy at the top of the rotation, SP Jorge De La Rosa, has a 4.60 ERA in his career, though it was 3.49 and 4.10 in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

You can’t succeed in the majors without good pitching and that is again going to be the Rockies’ Achilles heel this season. Especially in a division where you’re facing pitchers like three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, guys like Jorge De La Rosa won’t cut it. The Rockies finished in fourth place last year and that’s likely where they’re going to finish again this year. They’re better than the Diamondbacks but not the other teams in the division. They’re still at least a couple years away from competing for the division title.

Source: http://www.rockies.com

30 in 30ish: MLB Preview — Arizona Diamondbacks

Over the course of 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2015 season. This post is previewing the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Following a last place finish in the National League West, the Diamondbacks set out to make some changes to their roster in the offseason. Those changes include trading away C Miguel Montero, SS Didi Gregorius and SP Wade Miley. Among the players acquired by the Diamondbacks are SPs Jeremy Hellickson and Rubby De La Rosa.

The Diamondbacks’ .248 batting average last season was right around the NL average, but they were below average in OPS (.678), home runs (118) and runs per game (3.80). No one on the team hit more than 19 home runs last season, and Montero had the team’s third-highest home run total with 13. As far as pitching goes, the D’backs 4.26 ERA ranked second-worst in the NL, as did the 4.58 runs per game allowed by the pitching staff. That may be why the team decided to change 40% of its starting rotation.

Without adding any significant players to the offense, you likely won’t see much of an improvement in the team’s numbers there. With Hellickson and De La Rosa joining the team, you could see better pitching numbers if they pitch well. Hellickson has a career 3.78 ERA, but it has been higher than 4.50 each of the last two seasons, while De La Rosa’s ERA in just 28 major-league starts is 4.34.

I don’t see the Diamondbacks having much of an improvement this season. They’re in one of the toughest divisions in the baseball with the Dodgers and the defending World Series champion Giants at the top and the Padres, who made some significant moves this offseason to improve their team. Those teams are clearly ahead of the Diamondbacks and Rockies. No matter what happens with the Diamondbacks this season, I can’t see them finishing any higher than fourth place in the NL West this season.