APTN National NewsIdle No More demonstrations kept busy in Edmonton over the weekend.They filled the streets on Friday and then took their voices to West Edmonton Mall two days later.In a movement that seems to be getting larger by the day APTN National News reporter Keith Laboucan finds out if there are any signs of it slowing down.
201589.612.9 Source: Statcast SEASONEXIT VELOCITYLAUNCH ANGLE 201684.118.3 201790.013.9 The early-season noise around such unexpectedly great hitters as Brewers stud Eric Thames has pulled attention away from the return of another prodigious slugger: Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper. Harper is making his triumphant comeback from the injuries that plagued him in 2016, and the advanced metrics show he’s ready to deliver another MVP-level year this season.In his six-year MLB career, Harper has been equal parts incredible and disappointing. He appeared to reach his full potential in 2015, when he produced a .330/.460/.649 slash line en route to a season worth 9.5 wins above replacement. But last year Harper backslid dramatically, struggling with injuries and hitting a pedestrian (by his standards) .243/.373/.441. His drop-off between 2015 and 2016 was one of the largest declines in production ever.But now Harper’s back — and maybe better than ever. It’s early in the season, but we can already see his recovery using MLB’s Statcast system, which tracks the launch angle and direction of every batted ball.Last season, I wrote about how Harper’s batted-ball stats weren’t matching those of his MVP year, which suggested he might be injured.1Harper has hinted that this was the case, although the Nationals denied that he played through an injury in 2016. This season, though, Harper is well on his way to replicating his 2015 performance. For instance, after a down year in exit velocity, Harper’s average batted ball is once again leaving the bat at close to 90 miles an hour. (For comparison’s sake, he averaged 89.6 mph in 2015.)His launch angle has also significantly improved. For most of 2016, Harper was elevating his swing, which resulted in the highest fly-ball rate of his career but also in more weak pop-ups. But this April, he’s back to the flat, line-drive cut that worked so well before. Hard, low-angle batted balls are a good recipe for success, so it’s no surprise that Harper is productive again. Harper hits hard again AVERAGE And Harper’s not just hitting the ball better. Even his plate discipline has improved: He’s currently posting a career-best walk rate and showing better strike-zone judgment than ever. So far this year, Harper is back to combining the willingness to wait for a hittable pitch with the strength to knock that pitch out of the park.With all those improvements working together, Harper is a more dangerous hitter than ever. So far, he’s belted nine home runs in only 114 plate appearances, with an outrageous, Bonds-ian slugging percentage (.772) driving an overall offensive performance that’s 123 percentage points better than the league average. That exceeds even the lofty heights he achieved in 2015, when he “only” hit 97 percentage points better than league average. And in just 25 games — about a seventh of the season — he’s already racked up 2.1 WAR. If you project that out over a full season, he’d be on pace for another of the best years in the history of baseball.Even setting aside Harper’s history of yo-yoing between greatness and mediocrity, it’s clear that he can’t stay this hot forever. Eventually, bad luck or injuries will drag Harper, Thames and all the other early-season leaders back to more mortal levels of production. (Indeed, Harper’s exit velocity might already be dropping slightly: Over his last 10 games, he’s averaged a more pedestrian 84.5 mph exit velocity.) But for now, baseball is better off with a superstar like Harper excelling again.
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Opinions on Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal’s Railway Budget 2013 may differ from person to person, but on a closer look, he has presented a good budget considering the current financial situation of the Indian Railways and the forthcoming elections next year.In fact, Bansal has taken a few praiseworthy steps towards narrowing down the deficit gap in the struggling Indian Railways without disappointing the common man and at the same time appeasing the industrial sector.Many may questioned if Bansal’s Railway Budget 2013 was too financial discipline and avoided taking bold steps, including hiking passenger fare, keeping in mind next year’s elections and not to disappoint the public who were irked by rail fare hike last month. He is also been criticized for introducing lesser new rail lines compared to previous years.But on a closer look, Bansal has cleverly hiked the passenger fares, though indirectly, and would do so in the future though he abstained from increasing the figure in his budget. The public will indirectly pay more through ticket cancellation, clerkage and tatkal charges. Supplementary charges for super fast trains have also been marginally raised. The cost of travelling on train too may go up as the railway minister hinted a possible annual hike of 5 percent for various kinds of services.The public may also have to pay more in the future depending on the flatuating fuel price as the government is implementing Fuel Adjustment Component (FAC) linked revision for freight tariff from 1st April 2013. The railway minister said that the move could increase the cost of commodities by 4-8 paise per kg but additional revenue to the Railways will be around ₹4,200 crore.Bansal’s Railway Budget has many positive things that his predecesors didn’t think of. The announcement that a loan of ₹3,000 cr taken in 2011-12 has been fully repaid along with interest should come as a welcomed move. He also promised that the Railways will make profit by the end of the financial year.He announced the Indian Railways will set up an exclusive Centralized Training Institute at Secunderabad – Indian Railways Institute of Financial Management (IRIFM), indicating his long-term plan for the Railways.Bansal’s Railway Budget will also please investors, as much modernization projects of the railways will be done through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) route. Target of ₹1000 crore each fixed for Rail Land Development Authority and IR Station Development Corporation to be raised through PPP in 2013-14. Of the planned investment of Rs 63,363 crore for the financial year, ₹6000 crore will be under PPP mode.Many may not be happy for not introducing many new rail lines as expected but several measures announced in the budget like – safety, cleanliness and hygiene, special provision for women passengers and differently abled persons, introduction of Train Protection Warning System on Automatic Signalling Systems, elimination of 10797 level crossings to curb accidents, introduction of Self Propelled Accident Relief Trains, introduction of next-gen e-ticketing system that can handle 7200 tickets per minute as against the present 2000, and several others are necessary and will help the Railways in the long run.Bansal’s Railway Budget 2013 should be considered as a clever one.