Monday, September 22, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Monday: September 22, 2014

The streak ends at eight. The Game of the Day feature had been correct for eight straight days but fell yesterday by picking the Cardinals to win. The Reds finally broke through on the team from St. Louis and so it goes. Overall, it wasn't a bad day with the final tally coming in at 9-6.
The Royals kept their hopes alive by at least taking the last game of the Tigers series. The Dodgers inched closer to a division win and two of the three teams that have already clinched lost. The Mets destroyed the Braves to finish that team off. Gosh, the Braves are a mess. Is their manager going to survive this?
Let's finish off this season with one last good week:
  • The Royals over the Indians: This is a really tough one to call. Danny Duffy and Carlos Carrasco have both had really good seasons. Both teams are fighting for a wild card spot and the Royals aren't dead in the division race either. I'm going with the home town Royals.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: This is the Jeter homestretch too. And he has been swinging much more aggressively with good results. That makes a big difference in the Yankees' lineup. Wei-Yin Chen will just be pitching a tuneup. Michael Pineda is pitching for the Yankees to hold on for another day.
  • The Mariners over the Blue Jays: The M's are going in the wrong direction and are now a game and a half out of the wild card race. They are running out of time. Fortunately, they have good starters coming up to try to accomplish the task. James Paxton is great and should be better than J.A. Happ.
  • The Pirates over the BravesFrancisco Liriano has come on strong just at the right time for the Pirates. The Braves have collapsed almost totally. Aaron Harang will man the ghost ship.
  • The Rangers over the AstrosDerek Holland has been outstanding since returning to the Rangers. I don't believe he has given up more than one run in any of his starts. Nick Tropeano has had one good start and one bad one.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: The Cardinals never seem to play well in Chicago. But they need to this time. Adam Wainwright can win his 20th tonight if he can be his ace-like self. Travis Wood had a good outing last time.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Twins: To me, this game boils down to Josh Collmenter versus Ricky Nolasco. The former has had a good season. The latter's season has been a disaster. The D-backs get an extra bat in the lineup.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: The A's are fighting for their lives while the Angels are living the high life. The A's aren't hitting, but did hit better yesterday. C.J. Wilson is just in tune-up mode while Jeff Samardzija is in survival mode.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: I have no idea. Eric Stults is trying to avoid his 18th loss of the season. Tyler Matzek might have a nice day in a big ballpark for a change. I don't know.
  • The Giants over the Dodgers: This is the Giants' last chance to make or break it. One loss in this series will pretty much finish them. Dan Haren has been far too leaky for me to trust in this one and Jake Peavy has been outstanding for the Giants.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: A couple of youngsters start this game which makes it hard to call. Kyle Lobstein is a lefty, so I like that. Chris Bassitt got knocked around his last time out.
Yesterday: 9-6, Sept.: 172-119, Games of the Day: 100-64 (-1), Season: 1302-1053

Sunday, September 21, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Sunday: September 21, 2014

Three straight great picking days crashed down in a pile of goo yesterday. That's the way it goes sometimes. I was too silly to think the Royals would beat the Tigers with their best pitcher on the mound. The Giants lost again. The Mariners got crushed by the Astros and I should have listened to myself about Dallas Keuchel. The Yankees lost. The Pirates lost while their best player acted as a bulls-eye all game. I picked the wrong young pitcher as T.J. House beat Trevor May (easily). It just wasn't a good day.
A week left to go in the regular season! Sunday's picks:
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: How can you call this one? Masahiro Tanaka hasn't pitched in forever, so how can he be picked. At the same time...what if he is his brilliant old self? Hmm...  Drew Hutchison gets the start for the Blue Jays.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: How long will Stephen Strasburg pitch? What will happen after. Can the frustrating Nathan Eovaldi put together a great game? Will he? I have nothing but questions this morning.
  • The Red Sox over the OriolesJoe Kelly might be the best Red Sox' starter left. Heaven knows their other starters aren't doing anything. Miguel Gonzalez goes for the Orioles. Does he fit into their post season plans? If not, will he go longer than the other starters?
  • The Brewers over the PiratesWily Peralta has had a very good season and his last two starts have been quality. The Pirates have to be concerned about how many times Andrew McCutchen is getting hit. Vance Worley starts for the Bucs.
  • The Mets over the BravesJacob deGrom cements his ROY credentials while the Braves still can't hit a lick right now. Ervin Santana has had a nice season, but he needs support. He won't get it.
  • The Indians over the Twins: The match-up of Corey Kluber and Anthony Swarzak should end all questions here. But baseball is played on the field and not in the mind or on paper.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: I'm sorry to say this, Royals' fans, but goodnight. Rick Porcello will take advantage of aggressive-swinging Royals and Jeremy Guthrie is a offensive charge waiting to happen.
  • The Astros over the Mariners: The Astros were a bad team for the Mariners to run into right now and Collin McHugh is the wrong pitcher for their offensively-challened team. If Hisashi Iwakuma can hang with McHugh for six innings, the M's have a chance.
  • The Cubs over the DodgersJamey Wright is starting for the Dodgers!? Did I read that right? Uh. Okay. He is a good relief pitcher, I'll say that. Jacob Turner continues to try and make progress with his new home.
  • The Angels over the RangersCory Rasmus gets stretched out a little bit more with each start and is doing quite well. Nick Tepesch has been the better of a really weak Rangers' rotation (until Derek Holland came back).
  • The Athletics over the Phillies: I have no confidence in this pick. If A.J. Burnett is sharp, then the A's offense will be the same old crap one it has been for weeks now. And Scott Kazmir has begun to walk people again, which is frightening. But I can't give up on the A's as they have been too resilient over the years.
  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: I'll be glad when this series is over. I haven't picked one game right yet. Christian Bergman goes for the Rockies and Wade Miley goes for the D-backs. Your guess is as good as mine.
  • The Padres over the Giants: It seems like no contenders want to actually win these days and the Giants are no different. Ryan Vogelsong has been awful lately and that isn't promising. Ian Kennedy is my pick today.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Remember when Alfredo Simon was an All Star pitcher? Yeah, me too. What happened with that? He is 2-7 with a 4.46 ERA since. Lance Lynn, meanwhile, is becoming an ace for the Cardinals.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Rays over the White Sox: Nate Karns was great in his first start, but I still can't believe it. Except the Rays are brilliant with turning around pitchers. Either way, John Danks can't be counted on for anything.
Yesterday: 6-9, Sept.: 163-113, Games of the Day: 100-63 (+8), Season: 1293-1047

Saturday, September 20, 2014

VMart and Donnie Baseball

Victor Martinez is having a remarkable offensive season. And it isn’t just the 31 homers and 31 doubles and the .333 batting average. What is remarkable is that in the inglorious age of the strikeout, Martinez has only struck out 40 times all season. He is on pace to finish with 43 strikeouts. When considering that remarkable number, it made me curious as to how many times since 1961 someone has hit over 30 homers with less than 45 strikeouts.  So I went to my trusty baseball-reference.com and checked it out.
First of all, why did I only go back to 1961? Good question. The answer is that 1961 was right around the first time when the strikeout rate averaged five strikeouts per team per game (1959 to be exact). And even going that far back is problematic. The average strikeout rate in 1961 was 13.2% compared to it being 20.3% this season.  If you go back further than 1961, then a low strikeout rate with a lot of homers just wasn’t that remarkable.
For example, Lou Gehrig had a remarkably low strikeout rate in 1934 (by today’s standards). But the strikeout rate for the league in 1934 was just 9.8%. It just isn’t the same kind of apple to an apple. The bottom line is that I chose to only go back some 53 years to 1961. That’s still a lot of baseball years.
Unless Victor Martinez goes on a strikeout binge in the last week of the season, he will be the eighth player since 1961 to put together that combination of 30 or more homers with 45 or less strikeouts. Moises Alou had 45 strikeouts with 30 homers in 2000. Gary Sheffield had 40 strikeouts with 33 homers in 1992. Barry Bonds did it twice, once in 1994 which most would say was legit and again in 2004 when most would say it wasn't.
I’ve left three other occasions out, haven’t I? Oh yes, all three belong to Don Mattingly. And Mattingly did it in three consecutive seasons from 1985 to 1987. The only players that put that combination together as many times or more times than Don Mattingly compiled their last one at least 30 years before Mattingly. And like I said, that apple wasn't an apple back then.
Those three years just go to show you how easily Don Mattingly would have made the Hall of Fame if his back didn't ruin his career. In those three years, he hit 96 homers and struck out only 114 times in 2099 plate appearances. That works out to a 5.4% strikeout rate for those three seasons. Martinez’s strikeout rate this season is 6.6%.
In Don Mattingly’s best season, 1986, he came to the plate 742 times and struck out only 35 times. Since 1961, only 26 players have compiled over 700 plate appearances with 35 or less walks. Mattingly is the only one with more than 30 homers that season. Rusty Staub had 24 in 1978 and no one else is over fifteen.
But it’s only fair to compare Victor Martinez’s season to Don Mattingly’s three seasons as evenly as possible. The first way is to compare the strikeout rate to the league average. If you take Martinez’s 6.6% strikeout rate and compare it to the 20.3% league average, then you have a 1/3.08 ratio for Martinez to the rest of the league.
Doing the same calculation for Mattingly’s three seasons from 1985 to 1987 respectively are: 1/2.5, 1/3.27 and 1/2.58. Only Mattingly’s 1986 is more impressive than this season’s personal strikeout rate to league rate for Victor Martinez.
If we go by wRC+, then Martinez has an edge over all three of Mattingly’s seasons. Martinez’s wRC+ of 164 compares with the respective 151, 160 and 142. But then again, this is Martinez’s only season thus far with a wRC+ higher than 130.
If you go by offensive runs, Martinez has compiled 42.8 offensive runs this season. Mattingly’s respective numbers were: 44.5, 54.2 and 33.4. So Mattingly has the edge there except for 1987. The biggest difference in the wRC+ number is Martinez’s walk rate of 10.4%. Mattingly was at 7.7%, 7.1% and 8.1% for those three seasons.
Intentional walks may account for that difference. Victor Martinez has been given a free pass 26 times! Mattingly’s totals for intentional walks for those three years were: 13, 11, 13. If you go by just non-intentional walks, the numbers become remarkably similar.
In short, Victor Martinez is having a season that a peak Don Mattingly would be very proud of. But Mattingly did it three times and had a 5.7% strikeout rate for his entire career!  Martinez’s is over 9%. In fact, since 1961, only twenty players had a lower career strikeout percentage. And none of those twenty had an career ISO within 25 points of Mattingly’s.
Take nothing away from Victor Martinez on the offensive season he is having. He has been remarkable. And his 40 strikeouts are certainly something to gawk at and marvel over. But take this season for Martinez, easily the best of his career, and just try to wrap your mind around the fact that Don Mattingly did it three straight seasons.

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: September 20, 2014

The Game Picks are on a nice little roll. After last night's 13-2 tally, the picks aer 30-10 for the last three days. The only two incorrect picks from yesterday were the Orioles, who obviously do not have any urgency right now, losing to the Red Sox in extras and the Rangers pouncing on the equally devoid of urgency Angels. In the former game, David Ortiz did his thing with a homer in the tenth with a man on, his second homer of the day.
Clayton Kershaw won his 20th game, which is cool. The Royals continue to fall flat against the Tigers when it counts. The Cardinals rode a good performance by John Lackey while his former partner, Jon Lester was doing his thing to keep the A's in the hunt. And Derek Jeter had two more hits in his final homestand.
Saturday's picks:
  • The Royals over the Tigers: I am really questioning myself here. James Shields is pitching for the fourth time against the Tigers this year. His peripherals are excellent in those four games but nearly every base runner he's put on has scored somehow. That's unlucky and it reverses today against Max Scherzer. This is the Royals' best chance to win a game this series.
  • The Cubs over the DodgersRoberto Hernandez better not be on the Dodgers' post season roster. I don't see him winning today as Felix Doubront has gotten his mojo back with the Cubs.
  • The Athletics over the PhilliesDrew Pomeranz has come a long way and should be fine against the Phillies. The A's are very familiar with Jerome Williams and that will help their offense.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: As always, it all depends on how well the pitchers do. Marcus Stroman has been great at times, but he is young and a guy the Yankees can push into pitch count trouble. Chris Capuano has to be so fine to be good that it's stupid. I think the Yankees are going to roll in Jeter's last homestand.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Ugh. These two teams again. And the pitching match-up. Blech. Trevor Cahill has been awful. And in Eddie Butler's first start, he wasn't treated very kindly. This could go either eay.
  • The Orioles over the Red SoxChris Tillman is a quality pitcher and I have a feeling that the Orioles' offense will have a fun day off of Rubby De La Rosa and that's what he gets for having four names.
  • The Pirates over the BrewersMatt Garza has been very good in three of his last four starts. But even if he is good today, tha bullpen will need to get nine outs and I don't see it. Edinson Volquez has had a very solid season.
  • The Rays over the White Sox: The Rays' offense hasn't been doing much, but they at least get their best bats in the lineup against Hector Noesi and thus have a chance. Whether they win the game or not depends a lot on Chris Archer, who has not been sharp in the second half.
  • The Twins over the Indians: I have picked consistently against Trevor May since he had such an odious start to his big league career. But he has been coming on strong and it is time to switch gears. The problem is that the same can be said for T.J. House.
  • The Mets over the Braves: Gosh, the Braves. Jon Niese should be able to hold down a nonexistent Braves' offense and will scratch enough off of Mike Minor to continue to keep the Braves in free fall.
  • The Mariners over the Astros: While I still don't believe in Chris Young, especially away from his home park, the Astros have been posing little resistance. Dallas Keuchel has had a decent year though.
  • The Marlins over the NationalsJordan Zimmermann will only go five or so innings and then the Marlins can win the game if Jarred Cosart pitches as well as I think he will at home.
  • The Giants over the Padres: It's one thing to beat a beat-up, old Tim Hudson. It is another to do the same thing against a young arm like Yusmeiro Petit. He will shut the Padres down and the Giants will get just enough against Andrew Cashner.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: The Angels have been lollygagging around since they clinched. I think the offense will have a fun day against Colby Lewis and Jered Weaver gets his 18th win.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: The Cardinals are still hoping Michael Wacha can gather it together before the playoffs start. Today will be watched closely. The Cardinals should jump on Mike Leake for four or five runs.
Yesterday: 13-2, Sept.: 157-104, Games of the Day: 99-63 (+7), Season: 1287-1038

Friday, September 19, 2014

MLB Game Picks - Friday: September 19, 2014

Derek Jeter hit a home run. That being the case, everything else that happened was icing on the cake. And it was good icing as the picks went 7-3. I didn't have to worry about Jered Weaver as the Angels won with most of their stars sitting down. I had to laugh though when I finally broke down and picked Kyle Kendrick and he got his butt kicked. Heh.
I was quite surprised when both extra-inning games went my way. That hardly ever happens. The Cardinals won despite the team's entire fan base getting mad at Mike Matheny. And the Indians gutted it out to win their game after blowing the lead late in the game.
Friday's picks:
  • The Dodgers over the CubsClayton Kershaw is going to win his 20th game. The Dodgers will find a way to score enough runs off of Edwin Jackson and more accolades will follow for the Dodgers' lefty.
  • The Orioles over the Red Sox: The Red Sox get their DH back, which should make things a bit easier. But otherwise, things are really sad for the Red Sox these days. The O's are on the other end of the emotional spectrum and Kevin Gausman has been much better than Allen Webster.
  • The Pirates over the Brewers: The Brewers are officially sunk after last night's loss in extras to the Cards. Well, maybe not officially, but they might as well be. Yovani Gallardo hasn't had a great season and that's part of the problem. I'll go with Jeff Locke instead.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The Yankees have one more chance this season to beat up on Mark Buehrle, a guy who just loves to pitch in Yankee Stadium. Not. Hiroki Kuroda needs to have a good night against the tough Blue Jays' lineup though.
  • The White Sox over the RaysJose Quintana has had a brilliant season and is only 8-10. He did win his last start, however with 14Ks. That was impressive. Jeremy Hellickson goes for the Rays.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: I have to go with Doug Fister even if he only goes five or six innings. Tom Koehler is tough at home though.
  • The Mets over the Braves: The Braves stopped hitting. The Braves stopped winning. The Braves are a sad, sad team this month. Facing Zack Wheeler will not improve things and Julio Teheran won't get any support.
  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: This is a series that is too close to call. I got it wrong yesterday, but that is to be expected when you can't figure out what to do. Picking between Jordan Lyles and Chase Anderson is impossible too.
  • The Twins over the Indians: The Indians are not hitting. Phil Hughes has had a very good season. Trevor Bauer is unpredictable and 1+1+1 equals a Twins win.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: I wish it weren't so, but the Tigers always come through in times like this and the Royals usually do not. Justin Verlander sounds like a better pick than Jason Vargas anyway.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: I heard that John Lackey was upset that he had a turn skipped over. Well, then, pitch better, Big Fella. He is a good guy I am told, but boy, what a hot head. Meanwhile, David Holmberg is a lefty that might give the Cards some trouble.
  • The Athletics over the Phillies: The A's keep losing, but not when Jon Lester pitches. Lester should get some consideration on the CYA ballot. David Buchanan will try to match Lester and might even be capable of doing so.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: Some of the regulars should be back in the lineup. Hector Santiago is better than his record and, despite his win his last time out and the movement of his pitches, Lisalverto Bonilla just doesn't have enough command for my tastes.
  • The Padres over the GiantsTim Hudson looks old and tired and is dealing with minor injuries. He will not have a winning record for the first time in his illustrious career. Odrisamer Despaigne is hard to predict though.
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Mariners over the AstrosTaijuan Walker has been brought back cautiously but he has pitched well when given the opportunity. He should beat the Astros and Brad Peacock. The M's are still in a good spot for the wild card and only one game back.
Yesterday: 7-3, Sept.: 144-102, Games of the Day: 98-63 (+6), Season: 1274-1036