Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Tuesday: August 26, 2014

Here in the late stages of August, things are falling apart for my game picking like a Nicki Minaj outfit and I have had three malfunctions in the last four days. The Game of the Day feature is on a losing streak of three days and the schedule only gets tougher from here.
I need to get this ship turned around. Tuesday's picks:
  • The Cardinals over the PiratesLance Lynn has been a big-time pitcher for the Cardinals this year. Whenever they needed a win, he has come through. His performance tonight will go a long way on deciding which team wins this game. Gerrit Cole is no slouch either.
  • The Orioles over the RaysAlex Cobb has been A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Wei Yin Chen just keeps winning. Buck Showalter is one of the few managers not intimidated by Joe Maddon and often out-schools him. I have the Orioles here.
  • The Nationals over the PhilliesGio Gonzalez is hard to figure out this season. But if he is on, he will shut down the Phillies. Cole Hamels has been outstanding. But still never gets the support he needs.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red SoxRubby De La Rosa has not been reliable and I just get the feeling that the Jays will clean his clock tonight. That said, R.A. Dickey never gives me confidence from start to start.
  • The Tigers over the YankeesRick Porcello is a good match-up against the Yankees because they are easily induced into pounding the ball into the ground with their pull-hitting. Brandon McCarthy still makes me pinch myself because of the great run he is on. This should be another close game.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Two guys named Alex pitch tonight and two guys named Wood pitch too. So it is the Alex Alex Wood Wood Night. Dillon Gee has been a disappointment since coming off the DL.
  • The Reds over the CubsJohnny Cueto versus Travis Wood really sounds like a mismatch. That really bothers me.
  • The White Sox over the IndiansJose Quintana deserves a win. He really does. And with T.J. House as his opponent, he has a chance. If that bullpen can only hold on for once...
  • The Athletics over the Astros: There are still deep concerns about the A's without their closer and with a banged up offense. But if Jason Hammel has a reasonably good night, they should beat the Astros and Dallas Keuchel.
  • The Dodgers over the DiamondbacksTrevor Cahill has been significantly better in his last four starts. He's been a totally different guy. That said, the Dodgers should muster up enough offense and win behind Ramon Hernandez and the bullpen.
  • The Angels over the MarlinsNathan Eovaldi totally messes me up. He and Stults of the Padres are my least favorite picks because they always do the opposite of what I expect. The Angels should win this game and Matt Shoemaker has been their stud all season. With Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton on the same field, you have the best in baseball in one ballpark.
  • The Brewers over the Padres: The Brewers are not folding. That is the first thought. The second is that Jimmy Nelson should enjoy Petco and do much better than his last start in Toronto. Tyson Ross is a good pitcher though.
  • The Mariners over the Rangers: For years, the Rangers got fat on the Mariners in the division. The tide has turned and the Rangers are the team looking way up from the bottom of the standings. James Paxton should be dominant and Nick Martinez should yield at least a three-spot.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: The Giants are about as unpredictable as a team gets these days. Their offense is so hit or miss that you never know what to expect. The same goes for Madison Bumgarner who never seems to string his dominance over successive games. Jorge De La Rosa is the best of the Rockies' pitchers.
And the Game of the Day
  • The Royals over the Twins: The loss to the Yankees last night should just be a momentary blip for the Royals and they get back to their winning ways tonight against the Twins. They should enjoy batting against Ricky Nolasco and Danny Duffy has gotten better and better.
Yesterday: 4-6, August: 189-148, Games of the Day: 78-58 (-3), Season: 1083-897

Monday, August 25, 2014

Five tool players

I admit it. I brought you here under false pretenses. Here you thought you were going to read about players or prospects that had the proverbial five tools like running, throwing, power, high batting average and character. But that is not what this post is about. I'll leave such tool worship to the scouts and prospect writers who are good at what they do. Instead this post is about players whose names come from tools. There are five of them.
The first is named after a garden instrument. You have all heard of the common garden hoe. They are great for taking care of weeds that always seem to grow better than your hoesvegetables or flowers do. If you have more than one hoe, you have hoes. That's where L.J. Hoes comes in. He was drafted by the Orioles in the third round of the 2008 draft and was part of the deal that sent Bud Norris to the Orioles from Houston in 2013. Hoes has seen limited duty in parts of three seasons and is currently in the minors. His real first name is Jerome.
With the terrible fashion statement today of men having scruffy faces and beards, it's doubtful that many are going to barbers these days to get a shave. But if they did, they would see the barber with a piece of leather hanging near his equipment. That leather thing is called a strop and helps him/her keep the blade sharp.
Pedro Strop currently pitches for the Chicago Cubs. Strop also has ties to the Baltimore Orioles as he pitched there for a few seasons. He was originally signed by the Colorado Rockies in 2002 out of the Dominican Republic and has also pitched for the Rangers. He has had two very fine seasons for the Cubs in 2013 and 2014.
A thatcher is also called a de-thatcher, which makes little sense. Both are correct, but that's kind of like flammable and inflammable. Why do we need two words that mean the same thatcherthing? Anyway, the tool is designed to thin out your lawn so that the plants that make up your lawn have more room to breathe and grow freely. I want to buy one for my lawnmower, but you have to get cinder blocks to put on top of it to keep it thatching. Why wouldn't they design a product that could stay down in the first place?
Joe Thatcher is a relief pitcher that you cannot keep down either. He has pitched parts of eight seasons with significant relief appearances since 2010. He was recently acquired by the Angels from the Diamondbacks so Joe must not be one of those rah-rah types. He hasn't pitched well for the Angels so far, but he is a good relief pitcher with a proven track record. He currently makes $3.75 million which means that he could afford a lot of cinder blocks.
The fourth one is my least favorite examples because it is kind of a blah tool. But we all need them to run our cars, lawnmowers and engines of all sorts. They also keep our pants up. I am talking of the belt.
Brandon Belt was drafted by the Giants so he is a home grown guy. He had sort of a break out season a year ago as he took over first base. But things haven't worked out this year and it's been pretty much a lost year for him. He still seems to have a bright future and can keep the Giants' offensive motor running for years to come.
The fifth is my favorite. It is the peavy. A peavy is a logging tool and has a broom like peavyhandle with a metal spike on the end and a metal hook. It was invented to help move logs that were stuck in log drives that jammed up in rivers. They are simply useful in maneuvering logs. The reason I like it so much is that it was invented right here in Maine by Joseph Peavy of Upper Stillwater, Maine and the Peavy Manufacturing Company is still making variations today.
Jake Peavy is in the business of trying to separate wood from batters. As a pitcher, he tries to out-maneuver them so they either strikeout or hit the ball weakly for an out. Peavy is a former star who lost favor in Boston and was traded to the Giants. He is doing better for that team and seems to have a big of his swagger back.
I apologize that you did not find any information about five-tool players. But I hope you enjoyed this little bit of nonsense in the midst of a overly-serious baseball world.

MLB Game Picks - Monday: August 25, 2014

Sunday ended up a game below .500 with the game picks. Some picks were really good like the Cubs finishing off the Orioles to sweep the series and the Mets beating the Dodgers. But others such as the Angels pouncing on Scott Kazmir and the Rays squeezing out a game against the Blue Jays threw me. I never expected the White Sox to lose with Chris Sale on the mound. And I was wrong about the Reds as they beat Aaron Harang behind the not-so-dead Alfredo Simon.
And it is official. The Cardinals trading for Justin Masterson was the worst deadline deal in recent memory.
The Game of the Day pick was wrong for the second day in a row. That trend has to stop. And it will be harder today because there are only ten games on the schedule.
Oh, and fantasy baseball is frustrating. This is my first year playing and my team put up unbelievable numbers yesterday both pitching and batting and the result was a zero point day. What!?
Monday's picks:
  • The Pirates over the Cardinals: The Cardinals traditionally have trouble with lefties and Francisco Liriano pitches for the Pirates. IF he is on, he can beat anyone. John Lackey against Andrew McCutchen will be interesting to watch.
  • The Orioles over the Rays: Baseball is a funny game. The Orioles just got shut down over the weekend by the Cubs, of all teams. But that is all meaningless on a Monday after it's over. Chris Tillman over Jake Odorizzi.
  • The Nationals over the Phillies: The Phillies are a proud bunch and can still play spoilers. Look at what they did to the Cardinals yesterday. Tanner Roark is pretty special though and I don't think A.J. Burnett has much left in the tank.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Which streak will end tonight, the Red Sox' eight-game losing streak or J.A. Happ's three-game losing streak. I'm feeling Boston even if David Ortiz cannot play. Clay Buchholz is a mess right now though.
  • The Yankees over the Royals: This is a make-up game from earlier in the season. I like Michael Pineda in this one over James Shields. The weekend for the Yankees with two walk-offs might be a jump starter.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: The Astros swing and miss a lot and Jeff Samardzija should benefit from that. Scott Feldman has been decent for the Astros, but only the Lord knows how. I can't figure it out.
  • The Angels over the Marlins: I am pretty darned skeptical about the Angels starting Wade LeBlanc. The Angels, however, can mash and Pujols, Trout and Hamilton are firing well right now. Jarred Cosart should not survive the onslaught.
  • The Padres over the BrewersEric Stults has won his last three decisions and has pitched well in his last four outings. Kyle Lohse has lost his last three decisions and got pummeled in two of those. Of course, baseball being baseball, since I picked it this way, both of those streaks will reverse.
  • The Mariners over the Rangers: Hopefully, Robinson Cano is okay and just needed fluids or something. Roenis Elias is the biggest Mariner wild card. But I do believe the Mariners were beat Miles Mikolas and the Rangers handily.
And the Game of the Day
  • The Giants over the Rockies: The starting pitchers in this game are a combined 5-21. The difference is that one of them is Jake Peavy and he has won his last two. Tyler Matzek is not Jake Peavy and the Rockies are on the road.
Yesterday: 7-8, August: 185-142, Games of the Day: 79-57 (-2), Season: 1079-891

Sunday, August 24, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Sunday: August 24, 2014

To quote the Beatles, yesterday was a long and winding road that ended up semi-positive at 9-7. I was 5-2 at one point, so the rest of the day did not go so well. And my six-day correct streak on the Game of the Day feature ended with a Rays loss, disputed though it may have been.
Some trends to note: The Pirates are fighting back with with Andrew McCutchen back in the lineup. He makes everyone around him better. The Oakland A's continue to defeat the Angels in their home ballpark stunting the Angels attempts to take over the division. The Red Sox are mired in their worst slump of the season. The Baltimore Orioles are stumbling a bit with Manny Machado out for the season. And Seattle is going to be tough to beat the rest of the season.
Let's keep these trends in mind as we deal with Sunday's picks:
  • The White Sox over the Yankees: It seems that the Yankees have fared better against aces in the last month than against mediocre pitchers. But if Chris Sale is on, nobody hits him. If you compare him to Chris Capuano, I don't know how you can pick the Yankees.
  • The Indians over the Astros: The Astros have been hanging tough in most of their games. And I worry a bit about Trevor Bauer pitching. Bauer does have a chance at least of pitching better than Brett Oberholtzer.
  • The Blue Jays over the RaysDrew Hutchison is so hard to predict. His one good game in the last four outings was spectacular against the Orioles. But he was hit hard since. He has the stuff to shut down the Rays. Chris Archer ran into a wall his last start. Tired arm, maybe.
  • The Braves over the Reds: I should have gone with Mike Leake yesterday. Oh well. I don't have the same qualms about not picking Alfredo Simon who has not been good at all in the last month. Aaron Harang has to pitch well in that small ballpark though.
  • The Mariners over the Red SoxHisashi Iwakuma has been every bit the ace that Felix Hernandez has been. Allen Webster has been holding his own, but the Red Sox are in a downward spiral these days.
  • The Nationals over the Giants: Has Stephen Strasburg at last found some consistency? Perhaps. He is great at home even when inconsistent. So he is the pick over Ryan Vogelsong.
  • The Cardinals over the Phillies: I'm not thrilled at picking Justin Masterson. I think that trade was questionable for the Cards. If you have looked at Jerome Williams in his three stops this year, his first start was always good and then he pooched to the point of getting released. He's already had his good start for the Phillies.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: The Tigers really need Max Scherzer to be himself today and go deep into the game. The Twins have been beating them up regularly. Kyle Gibson likes to play with my mind.
  • The Brewers over the Pirates: Yes, this pick has not gone well the last two days. But gosh, it is Mike Fiers Day in Milwaukee. That has to be the pick over Vance Worley and the Pirates.
  • The Cubs over the Orioles: Why not go for the sweep here? The Cubs! Tsuyoshi Wada has not given up more than two runs in his last five starts. If he does so today, the Cubs have a chance with Miguel Gonzalez.
  • The Marlins over the Rockies: While I'm not a big proponent of Brad Hand, I cannot trust Christian Bergman either. Coors Field crap shoot once again.
  • The Mets over the Dodgers: Putting aside the differences in the Mets and Dodgers' offenses for a second, compare Bartolo Colon and Kevin Correia. Uh, yeah. I'll go with Colon. Colon versus Puig should be entertaining television.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Yes, Ian Kennedy would like to do well in Arizona, the site of his best year. But I'm going with Chase Anderson instead.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: The A's did weaken their offense in their quest for pitching, but they still hold a bamboozling effect on the Angels at the Coliseum. Scott Kazmir over Jeff Weaver.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Royals over the Rangers: Picking the Rangers yesterday was pretty dumb. I don't want to be dumb today. I'll take Jason Vargas over Scott Baker. Baker has been fine out of the bullpen but hasn't started since mid-July. That means five innings and way too much exposure of the Rangers' bad bullpen.
Yesterday: 9-7, August: 178-134, Games of the Day: 79-56 (-1), Season: 1072-883

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What is Jeremy Guthrie?

Most of you know that I pick baseball games every day. It's part of my shtick. And one thing that happens every fifth day is not knowing what to do with Jeremy Guthrie when his turn comes up. You could say that Guthrie has been successful with the Royals. His record in two and a half years there is 29-25. He takes the ball every fifth day and is durable. But, gosh, he just doesn't seem to be very good.
The Royals gave him a nice contract of $25 million for 2013, 2014 and 2015. He has an option for 2016. That is some pretty good coin for a guy I regularly call a "journeyman" pitcher. Obviously, the Royals know what he has, what his stuff is and what it is worth to them to have a guy eat six innings of a game 32 times a year and reasonably succeed half of the time. I do not know how much a role stat-crunchers play in the Royals' decision-making process. But the Royals thought this was a reasonable deal. Can we argue with them?
If you look around the Majors and teams that consistently lose starters to the disabled list, is their "stuff" worth the down time? Here we have a pitcher without much "stuff" but who is dependable and reliable. That has a value and part of his overall value equation is his innings pitched and his steady amount of starts.
And that is a good thing for Guthrie as the rest of his peripherals do not bring him much value. Guthrie currently ranks 88th of 96 qualifying pitchers in FIP at 4.55. His ERA isn't much prettier at 4.48. If you go by ERA+, he sits at 90 when 100 is average. He is 82nd of 96 pitchers in strikeout percentage with a 15.4%. His home run to nine inning rate is 86th of 96 qualifying pitchers. He led the American League in hits allowed last year and is ninth in all of baseball this year. So you get my quandary here.
It really doesn't help that the statistic sites have different ways of valuating players. The disconnect is sharp when it comes to pitchers. For example, baseball-reference.com gives Guthrie 19.5 rWAR for his career, 1.1 rWAR for last year and 0.5 so far this year. Fangraphs.com gives him 13.7 fWAR for his career, 1.0 fWAR for last year and lo and behold, 0.8 this year. Whuh?
In 2013, the first year of Guthrie's contract, the 1.0 fWAR valuation came to $4.8 million, which isn't bad since he was paid only $5 million. Each year, the value of a win increases and so, if you go by Fangraphs, Guthrie has been worth $4.6 million so far this year. He will probably end up worth around $5 million this year. The problem is that he now makes $8 million and will make $9 million next year.
The question for the Royals is: If the Royals make the playoffs and they get to a short series, do you start Jeremy Guthrie?
I have a hard time gaining perspective on the career of a guy like Jeremy Guthrie. I appreciate that he eats innings and gives you 30 starts a year and averages more than six innings a start. I can see the value of that to a pitching staff. But I also see that his closest career comps are Kris Benson and Paul Maholm.
In an era of the strikeout, Guthrie is not that guy. Of all his pitches, only his change-up has a positive value. His OPS against is .753 when the league average among all batters is .710. He has led the league once in hits allowed and once in homers allowed and twice in losses in a season (granted, for some awful Oriole teams).
Jeremy Guthrie is a journeyman pitcher with three of his last four seasons being less than league average. The fourth was exactly league average. But he takes the ball every fifth day and holds a pitching staff together. That doesn't quite seem worth the money he is making, but it does have its value. If you look at him like a fourth or fifth starter who wins half of his decisions, then you cannot make fun of that, can you? Maybe I should stop doing so.

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: August 23, 2014

I knew I was in trouble yesterday after the first couple of games and as the night progressed, it was just one of those horror shows that happen from time to time. I'm sure the Tigers understand what I'm talking about. Ahem.
And the Nationals' winning streak is over. Ten games. I should have learned my lesson from the rest of the season. Ten games is the longest a win streak or losing streak will go. To think the streak would go longer was pushing the envelope (cliche alert!) and I pushed it and got sticky envelop glue all over me.
Oh well, we'll call yesterday a market correction and hope for a better day today. Saturday's picks:
  • The Yankees over the White Sox: Once upon a time, picking Hiroki Kuroda at home during a day game was a lock. But Kuroda is never a lock these days. The question then becomes whether the Yankees can score more than four runs against Scott Carroll. Stranger things have happened.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: Even though the Twins totally blew out the Tigers yesterday, both teams emptied their bullpens, which is not good because they play two games today. And both starting pitchers in this one don't look good to go deep in the game. Yohan Pino has been awful and Buck Farmer at least has a chance to pitch well.
  • The Mariners over the Red Sox: I was stunned that Koji Uehara gave up five runs yesterday. But watching the replays, there was only one hard-hit ball. The rest were lucky bloops. But that is the way the Red Sox season is going. I never picked Chris Young on the road until he started making me look stupid for not doing so. Brandon Workman goes for the Red Sox.
  • The Orioles over the Cubs: The Cubs pulled off a major surprise yesterday by beating the O's. Some of it is not surprising at the O's depend quite a bit on the DH for offense and Machado out is hurting them. Still, Bud Norris has been really good and should counteract the good, young Kyle Hendricks.
  • The Nationals over the Giants: The winning streak is over, so I can relax and pick the team I think will win. Clue: It's not the one starting Tim LincecumJordan Zimmermann is still my guy. Seems like the Nats have been home for a month.
  • The Indians over the Astros: The Astros are playing well and I really like Collin McHugh. He has pitched four games in a row giving up only a run and he has a wonderful strikeout pace going. My sticking point on picking them is that Danny Salazar is a totally different pitcher at home and tough to beat there.
  • The Cardinals over the Phillies: I have given up trying to figure out what the Cardinals will do. What a roller coaster ride they have been this season. I have slightly more confidence in Shelby Miller than in David Buchanan.
  • The Braves over the Reds: Here we go again with win/loss streak implications. The Braves are on a winning one and the Reds on a long losing one. Ervin Santana has been very good but I have a sneaking feeling that Mike Leake will have a good day. Ugh.
  • The Brewers over the Pirates: Does the casual fan know that Wily Peralta has won fifteen games? I know about it and still find it amazing. Why not sixteen today? Heck, he is at home. Edinson Volquez will try to prevent it.
  • The Rangers over the Royals: I find it amazing that Jeremy Guthrie has made $31 million in his career. He is the journey in journeyman. And he hasn't pitched well in Arlington during his career. Nick Tepesch, on the other hand, has strung together four good outings in a row.
  • The Tigers over the TwinsTrevor May has allowed 26 base runners in his nine innings of work covering three games this season. He has a four to thirteen strikeout to walk ratio. Of course, today, he will pitch brilliantly. Justin Verlander is just as much of a concern with his health.
  • The Marlins over the Rockies: Picking a winner at Coors is like buying scratch tickets. Tom Koehler and Jordan Lyles are pitching. I have no idea which one will succeed more.
  • The Diamondbacks over the PadresVidal Nuno hasn't pitched badly for the D-backs. He just hasn't won games. His being a lefty takes guys like Seth Smith out of the lineup. I have no idea how Andrew Cashner will pitch coming back from the DL.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: Until the Angels can beat the A's in Oakland, I will have my doubts about their ability to win the division. Jon Lester seems like a better pick than C.J. Wilson.
  • The Dodgers over the MetsJacob deGrom is off the disabled list and I like him a lot. But I don't know how he will do. Zack Greinke has scuffled and has health concerns himself. But all things being equal, Greinke is more dependable.
And the Game of the Day
Yesterday: 5-10, August: 169-127, Games of the Day: 79-55 (+6), Season: 1063-876