Saturday, May 09, 2009

Game Picks - Saturday: May 9, 2009

Now that was fun. Nearly everything predicted in this space yesterday came to pass. Baker was showing signs of getting it together--he pitches a shutout. A-Rod will give a boost to the Yankees--He hits a three run homer. Cueto pitched well his last time out--seven innings of one-run ball. Verlander would be just a bit tougher than Lee--he was, with a lot of help from Granderson's amazing catch. "Wandy is the man"--he pitched a shutout. "Contreras is pitching for the White Sox, enough said"--he stunk again. "Nolasco is due for a good game"--he was and had one. "Washington has been raking and the Diamondbacks are the anti-rakers"--the Nationals won. Awesome!

Let's see if we can keep this ball rolling with Saturday's picks:

  • Pirates over the Mets: One of the few picks from yesterday that was wrong. But Maholm is pitching for the Pirates. Like him over Maine.
  • Braves over the Phillies: Vasquez has really responded to his situation in Atlanta. Like him here against Blanton.
  • Dodgers over the Giants: Stults was terrible his last time out. He should rebound against the Giants.
  • Bay Rays over the Red Sox: This one feels stupid on the up and up, but Kazmir should tie up Ortiz and Drew.
  • Oakland over Toronto: In a battle of young pitchers, like Gallagher over Tallet.
  • Padres over Houston: Never pick Moehler at this point.
  • Brewers over the Cubs: Gallardo has been great. Dempster has not been great.
  • Yankees over the Orioles: Will take Hughes over Eaton on any given day.
  • Indians over the Tigers: Carmona showed some good signs last time out. Like him over Jackson.
  • Rangers over the White Sox: Is the Fan really picking Millwood to win. Crazy! And against John Danks? Nuts?
  • Reds over the Cardinals: Harang is due for a good start. Lohse was beat up last time out and doesn't look healthy to this viewer.
  • Mariners over the Twins: King Felix over Liriano. Two years ago, this would have been really exciting. Now, Liriano looks ordinary.
  • Marlins over the Rockies: Josh Johnson has become one of the best pitchers in the league.
  • Nationals over the Diamondbacks: Again!? Like this Lannon kid.
  • Royals over the Angels: Will not pick against Greinke until he falters. He is the feel good story of the year.

Yesterday: 12-3
Week: 49-39

The White Sox Look Creaky

It could be just a rough patch in a long season, or it could just well be the end of a pretty decent run for the Chicago White Sox. They simply look old and creaky at this point. They were completely dominated by a young Matt Harrison and lamely went down to the Rangers, 6-0. The team has now lost six of its last ten.

Looking quickly at the roster, seven of their twelve pitchers were born in the 70s:

  • Mark Buehrle - 30
  • D. J. Carrasco - 32
  • Bartolo Colon - 36
  • Jose Contreras - 38 (supposedly)
  • Octavio Dotel - 36
  • Scott Linebrink - 32
  • Matt Thornton - 32

Both of their catchers are older:

  • Corky Miller - 33
  • A. J. Pierzynski - 32

Konerko is thirty-two. Two thirds of their outfield is older. Dye is 35 and Podsednik is 33. And then there is Jim Thome, who is now 39. The Fan should have included him on the "should retire" list as he is currently batting .205 with an OPS of .729. Last year, Thome struck out 29% of his official At Bats. His number this year is 38%. That's not a good trend.

It seems this team is going to need an infusion of some sort as they just seem out of gas as currently constructed.

Alex Rodriguez Makes an Immediate Impact

Literally. On his first pitch of the 2009 season, Alex Rodriguez hit a three run blast which was the difference on a night that C. C. Sabathia pitched like a $100+ million dollar pitcher. True, it was only the Orioles, and true, it's only one game. But Joe Girardi had to be breathing a little easier than in recent times.

Love him or hate him, Alex Rodriguez makes a difference for the Yankees. He has been sorely missed while he was away. The Yankees used three players at third while A-Rod was out: Cody Ransom, Angel Berroa and Ramiro Pena. Between the three, they are a combined 23 for 105 with 12 runs scored and 10 RBI. They hit eight doubles and no other extra base hits. They walked only 7 times. Between the three, they had an OPS around .550. So, yeah, there was a big hole in the lineup.

And with Posada's hot bat sitting on the disabled list, Teixeira mired in a season long slump and Swisher falling back to his true self (and Nady out for who knows how long), there just wasn't enough lumber to compensate for a struggling pitching staff. A-Rod will give Teixeira some protection now and give them the boost needed and take some of the pressure off of rest of the lineup.

As for Sabathia, he was brilliant. His fastball and change up were consistently in the strike zone and it looked like he was really comfortable with Cervelli behind the plate. He pitched with better rhythm than of late and was dominant. Even the four hits he gave up in his complete game shutout were doinkers.

The rotation is showing a little sign of life for the Yankees. If Sabathia becomes the anchor as expected, Pettitte continues to keep the team in the game (if not spectacularly), Chamberlain continues to grow and Hughes pitches well most of the time, this rotation will be okay. Burnett has had a few rough outings lately though.

The bullpen still looks to be a problem. Girardi keeps running Veras out there and he keeps getting knocked around. Rivera has not been dominant thus far and only Phil Coke seems to be doing his job on a regular basis. It's no wonder that Sabathia stayed out there all nine innings.

It won't be lost on major league fans that Manny Ramirez checks out for fifty days at the same time that Alex Rodriguez checks in. But if you ask Yankee fans and Joe Girardi, it's sure to be a welcome relief to have him back.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bob Melvin Fired as Diamondbacks' Manager

It's amazing how a manager goes from a hero to a goat in just two years. In 2007, Melvin was a hero as the Diamondbacks made a surprising run to glory. This year, after a poor start, the same manager could no longer get the job done. Okay, if you say so.

The Team's owner started the proceedings by speaking on local radio and stating that the team had made some mistakes in personnel and in how they pick the bullpen and the players. Then why weren't the people in the front office fired instead of the manager?

While the Diamondbacks have been mired in a team slump for most of the year, Melvin can hardly be blamed for that. He just didn't have the horses he needed to win the race. Not having Webb all season didn't help either. Not signing Randy Johnson didn't help either.

Speaking of not signing Randy Johnson, do you know what this whole deal smells like? It smells like a cost cutting measure. Melvin was expensive. The Fan thinks the bottom line is the bottom line here. And Bob Melvin was the sacrificial lamb...errr...goat.

Game Picks - Friday: May 8, 2009

It's not fair! It's not fair! Somebody should let people picking games know that a major player is going to be suspended and a manager is going to be fired before picks are made! Waaah! Oh well, it wasn't a total loss as Micah Owings picked up a win and hit a triple. Life could be worse. Let's see what screwy happenings go on today.

Friday's Picks:

  • Phillies over the Braves: Cole Hamels over Reyes for the Braves. It seems that the NL East will feature a bunch of leap-frogging with different teams beating up on different teams.
  • Yankees over the Orioles: Because, spammit! The stupid team has to win some time! Plus A-Rod is back. No matter what he does, he'll provide more protection for Teixeira. Watch for Tex to get hot.
  • Tigers over the Indians: This is a tough matchup with Verlander against Lee. Advantage with Verlander and power versus Lee with guile.
  • Reds over the Cardinals: Cueto versus Pineiro. Depends on which Cueto shows up. But he was dominant last time. Can he do it twice in a row?
  • Pirates over the Mets: Yeah, yeah. This one looks stupid. But the Mets are coming off an emotional series with the Phillies and they have Niese pitching for them. Feel a loss in the bones.
  • Bay Rays over the Red Sox: Like Shields over Penny in this one.
  • Astros over the Padres: Wandy is the man.
  • Brewers over the Cubs: This one looks stupid as well, but the Cubs are starting an unknown Randy Wells, just called up from AAA.
  • Twins over the Mariners: Baker has been showing signs of recapturing his mojo from last year. It's time for him to win.
  • Rangers over the White Sox: Contreras is pitching for the White Sox. Enough said. When is Josh Hamilton coming back?
  • Marlins over the Rockies: Nolasco has to come out of his funk some time. He's too good a pitcher.
  • Nationals over the Diamondbacks: The Nationals have been raking of late and put a comeback hurt on the Dodgers last night. Down six, they won by scoring nine runs. Diamondbacks have been the anti-rakers.
  • Royals over the Angels: Gil (ga) Meche is due for a win and the Angels are starting Martin. This one looks good.
  • Oakland over Toronto: Have to root for a pitcher named Outman (who pitched well last time out).
  • Giants over the Dodgers: The Dodgers' fifty game funk begins. Zito has been pitching well for the Giants.

Yesterday: 7-8
This week: 37-36

Has Anyone Noticed...

Has anyone noticed that:

- Gregg Zaun went three for three tonight and still isn't batting over .200?

- Arthur Rhodes hasn't given up a run yet this season? Yup, that same Arthur Rhodes.

- Jason Bay hit a double and a homer in the same inning and drove in four runs in the 12 run Red Sox inning?

- Emilio Bonifacio of the Marlins is batting a buck, eighty-five in May and is down to .250 for the season and is still leading off every game for Florida?

- Ryan Franklin has nine saves already? Oh yeah, he hasn't given up a run yet this season either.

- Brian Bannister is 3-0 with a 1.48 ERA after being recalled from the minors?

- Ken Griffey, Jr. has more walks this season than hits?

- The Mariners have lost seven of their last ten games?

- Ichiro Suzuki has as many strikeouts as runs scored this season?

- Benji Molina of the Giants has already driven in 27 runs?

- Jason Marquis went 0-2 Thursday night and is still batting over .300?

- Brian Giles has been leading off for the Padres and is batting .164?

- Robinson Cano of the Yankees has only one hit in his last 25 At Bats?

- Nick Punto of the Twins is batting .190 but still gets on ESPN's Web Gems every night?

- Jason Bay has as many RBI as David Ortiz and J. D. Drew combined?

- Carlos Beltran is batting .382?

- Miguel Tejada finally hit his first homer of the season Thursday? Wonder where all that power went.

- Mark Buehrle is 5-0?

- Mariano Rivera has already given up as many homers (4) this year as he did in all of 2007 and 2008?

- Bobby Abreu is batting .340 and is 11 for 11 in stolen base attempts?

Oh, and if anyone wondered whether the Dodgers would feel sorry for themselves losing Manny Ramirez for 50 games, they scored six runs in the first inning Thursday night.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Banny of Manny - The Fans Stuck in the Fanny

Of course everyone now has heard the news about Manny Ramirez. In case you have been in a cave or something, Manny Ramirez has been banned for fifty games for failing a drug test. He claims that his doctor prescribed something that contained a banned substance. Whether you want to believe that or not, it's up to you. Here in the FanDome, a person's word is believed until proof is offered otherwise.

One emotion that overrides all others is disappointment. There is not disappointment that another great player has been busted for a banned substance. The Fan has said it before and will say it again: Who the heck cares what players are ingesting into their systems. The Fan doesn't give a flying crap. What is disappointing is that we the fans will be deprived of watching Manny Ramirez for the next two months. That's what is so hard to take.

Of course the bulk of the big time writers are stepping all over themselves to get on their sanctimonious soapbox. Check out this Jeff Passan piece of crap. Yeah, Jeff, that's what we want, to never see the best players in baseball again for what most fans consider a gray area. Well, at least in Manny's case, most people already disrespect him already, so this will just add to the ammunition.

One of the things that has made Manny so different from all other players is that there is no BS about him. He doesn't go by any other drummer but the one he hears in his own head. So there is no reason really to disbelieve him. That's also why J. C. Romero is believable. And the question to be asked is if any rules that are so set in stone infallible? It is the same kind of thinking that forces judges to throw away a good professor for ten years for a certain number of pot plants in his basement while a rapist gets five years.

What if Romero and Ramirez are telling the truth? What if GNC sold Romero something that caused him to fail the test? What if Manny's doctor blew it by not being thorough enough to investigate the list of banned substances? Do they deserve the full fifty days? Do they deserve the time when A-Rod admits to using but gets nothing because it was before 2004...supposedly?

The whole thing smells. The Fan doesn't want Manny to be any more branded than he already is. The guy has been a blast to watch and to follow. The Fan has rooted against him for most of his career, but has smiled all along the way. Now, either because of a doctor error, or because of rigid and unworkable rules, it won't be until July that we can again find out what Manny will do next.

The Fan hopes Congress, all the sanctimonious writers and the commissioner are happy.

Game Picks - Thursday: May 7, 2009

After a week of feeling dumb, last night's success did a lot to bring back the good feelings. Imagine picking Pavano to beat the Red Sox and getting it right! Imagine picking Sidney Ponson to win and him winning! How lucky can a picker get? The only blemishes on the scorecard are the amazingly bad Yankees, Albert Pujols and Duncan doing in Maholm and not going with the gut on Randy Johnson sticking with his every other start Jekyll and Hyde routine.

Tonight's picks:

  • Atlanta over Florida: Like Jurrjens over Sanchez. Garrett Anderson had three RBI last night, his first three of the season. The Fan is like the anti-jinx. Whenever a player is bad-mouthed in the FanDome, they have a great game.
  • Cardinals over the Pirates: Wellemeyer should get back on track here. Hope Rick Ankiel is going to be okay.
  • Mariners over the Royals: As much as the Fan is rooting for Bannister, Washburn is the smarter pick.
  • Rockies over the Giants: Not picking against Marquis until further notice. He has a tough matchup against Cain though. Hmm...
  • Diamondbacks over the Padres: Dan Haran has been hot of late. Got to go with the hot hand.
  • Texas over Oakland: McCarthy over Cahill. Cahill is young and inexperienced but growing. McCarthy is one of the Rangers' better pitchers. Texas out hits the A's.
  • Twins over the Orioles: This one is iffy. Bergesen has been very good for the Orioles and Perkins has been erratic for the Twins. Oh well, sticking with the gut on this one.
  • Yankees over the Bay Rays: Well, they still have to win some time! Pettitte is due for a win.
  • Mets over the Phillies: The Mets got an emotional lift by Santana last night. Pelfrey will build on it and the Mets will jump all over Moyer.
  • Reds over the Brewers: Favorite player Micah Owings against Looper who hasn't been good this year.
  • Red Sox over Indians: Wakefield is pitching. Enough said.
  • Cubs over the Astros: Will take Lilly over Ortiz any day of the week.
  • Tigers over the White Sox: Galaragga has been great so far for the Tigers and Buehrle has been up and down. The White Sox don't seem that good overall.
  • Angels over the Blue Jays: Weaver is the only healthy Angels' starter so you have to think their one regular pitcher would win over Blue Jay and Ray. Though Blue Jay Ray is kind of catchy.
  • Dodgers over the Nationals: Zimmerman has been great for the Nationals, but the Fan can't pick against the Dodgers until they finally lose at home.

Yesterday: 10-4 Week: 30-28

Santana Won't Be Denied

If there is a tougher cookie in all of baseball than Johan Santana, it's hard to imagine. From the set in his eyes to his demeanor and to his results, his body language and his work suggest that the pitcher refuses to be beaten. The Mets may be a mess, but Santana is a rock.

The Fan apologizes for all this hyperbole, but in Santana's case, it really isn't. He has now made six starts for the Mets (including Wednesday night) and has given up four earned runs. Amazingly, he's only won four of those starts. In his second start of the year, he was nearly unhittable giving up only two hits in seven innings against the Marlins and he struck out 13. But errors by Murphy and Castillo cost him two unearned runs and he lost to Josh Johnson, the Marlins' ace.

In his fifth start of the season, he again faced Josh Johnson and gave up a season high two earned runs. But he left the game with a one run lead after seven strong innings. Putz blew the game in the eighth, costing Santana the victory. But Wednesday night against the Phillies, he was amazing.

He was matched up with Chan Ho Park in a matchup that seemed to all be in Santana's favor. But Park pitched like a man fighting for his rotation spot and one hit the Mets through six innings, matching Santana, who had only given up two hits. But the Phillies lifted Park after the sixth and things got ugly in the field for the Phillies. The only run of the game scored on an air mail throw by Felix Pie. Scott Ayre was the hard luck loser.

So now, after six starts, Santana has pitched 39.2 innings. He's only given up 24 hits and twelve walks. His WHIP is well under 1, which is not unusual for Santana as he has done that three times already in his career. He's already struck out 54 batters. Heck, that's only a 12.5 strike out per nine innings and a 4.5 to 1 strike out to walk ratio. Pretty good huh?

The Fan is willing to admit that he was wrong about Santana going to the Yankees last year. The Fan felt at the time that the price was too high, giving up top talent AND having to sign a long term deal with the pitcher. Maybe the price was too high and Sabathia was the better way to go since they still spent the money and kept the prospects. But even so, looking at the current Yankee situation, Santana would be that nice horse you need every fifth day. Sabathia was a warrior for the Brewers down the stretch last year, but he's had a rough start. Santana has never had a rough start. He's just simply one of the best in the game and has been for years.

Santana is now an amazing 113-52 in his career, a .684 winning percentage. He hasn't missed a start in six years. He's won the ERA title three times. He's led the league in strike outs three times. He's got a lifetime WHIP of 1.099. He's struck out 9.3 batters per nine innings for his career.

He has just been amazing and he's not a big guy. He's only six foot and 189 pounds. Yet, he has the will of a ten footer and he is ferocious. For those of us able to watch his starts via the magic of today's media, enjoy. They don't come any better than Johan Santana.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Game Picks - Wednesday: May 6, 2009

Another crappy day of picking games! Ugh! Livan pitched a great game. What!? The Rockies couldn't figure out Josh Geer. Who!? The A's couldn't figure out Shane Loux. Who!? The guy with the lifetime 5.72 ERA? Wainwright sucked even more than Brett Myers? Porcello pitched like a pro and Blackburn pitched like a rookie. Come on! The Red Sox beat the Yankees....AGAIN! And the Fan's favorite, Washington and Houston played ten innings, tied 10-10 and had the game suspended by rain. So that pick won't even be known until July. Amazing.

All you can do is keep on trying. So full of pluck against bad luck, here are today's picks:

  • Twins over the Orioles: Hendrickson has been terrible for the Orioles. The way things are going, he'll throw a no-hitter tonight.
  • Yankees over the Bay Rays: Burnett will right the ship. Right? Right? Oh man...
  • Mets over the Phillies: Santana has to be better than Chan Ho Park, right?
  • Brewers over the Reds: Milwaukee is on a roll. Arroyo has numb fingers. This sounds right.
  • Braves over the Marlins: Derek Lowe should beat Graham Taylor. But if the Braves keep batting Garrett Anderson cleanup... [sigh]
  • Indians over the Red Sox: This is the upset pick of the day. Not only are the Indians going to beat the Red Sox, but Pavano is going to get the win. The Fan must be off his John Rocker.
  • Cubs over the Astros: The heart wants to go with Mike Hampton for the Astros, but the head says Harden will out pitch him.
  • Royals over the Mariners: It's becoming sad how the success of the Mariners is becoming tied to whether Griffey DHes or Sweeney. Wait, did the Fan just pick Sidney Ponson to win? Sheesh.
  • Pirates over the Cardinals: Have immense confidence in Zack Duke this year. Boggs has been great, but the Fan isn't feeling it.
  • Giants over the Rockies: Randy Johnson hasn't thrown back-to-back strong games yet this year. He's great, he stinks, he's great, he stinks. Uh oh, he was great last time. But the Rockies can't hit. We'll see.
  • Diamondbacks over the Padres: Great pitching matchup of Garland against Peavy. Garland should win.
  • Blue Jays over the Angels: Never bet against Halladay.
  • Rangers over the A's: Feldman should be better than Giese. If both stink, Rangers hit more than the A's.
  • Dodgers over the Nationals: The Dodgers are 12-0 at home this year. Make that 13-0. Please.

Yesterday: 5-9. Week: 20-24

A Post on Coaches

Was reading the latest post from the great Joe Posnanski about cycles and the Great Pos mentioned Rich Gedman, the former Boston Red Sox catcher. The great thing about reading great writers is that they promote thought and the first thought concerning Gedman was that he was once a great catcher who seemed to go down the tubes due to bad coaching. Coaching in the major leagues is hardly ever mentioned. We all hear about the manager but seldom about coaches. Some seem to be brilliant and other just seem to cause more harm than good. Let's see where this post goes from here.

Let's go back to Rich Gedman. Gedman was a Worcester, Massachusetts native that became a free agent amateur, something you don't see very often. He made his debut with the Red Sox at the age of 21 in 1980. He came in second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1981 as he batted .288. He regressed a bit in 1982 but came back strong in 1983, batting .294. He was a platoon catcher those first three years but in 1984, he became the full time catcher and though his average went down a bit, he hit 24 homers and posted a respectable .818 OPS. He was even better the following year (1985) when he made the All Star team and posted his career best .846 OPS to go along with a .295 Batting average. Then the Red Sox hired Walter Hriniak as its batting coach.

Hriniak was a disciple of the great Charlie Lau, who is often credited with making George Brett the kind of hitter he became with the Kansas City Royals. Lau's theories had to do with staying back in the stance with all the weight on the back foot and exploding into the pitch. It is certainly hard to know if Lau made Brett or if Brett made Brett, but Lau was the hitting guru of the period and as baseball is trendy by rule (look how many pitchers now throw the splitter), teams were scouring the land for Lau disciples. Walter Hriniak was one of those and the Red Sox turned to him.

Ted Williams hated what Hriniak taught. Williams felt that Hriniak's teaching robbed players of their power especially by taking the upper hand off the bat at the end of the swing and trying to hit everything up the middle. In fairness, Wade Boggs and Dwight Evans, two pretty darned good hitters gave Hriniak credit for their success and participated in Hriniak's book on the the subject. Gedman did too, which is amazing as Hriniak probably ruined his career.

The Fan watched all the Red Sox games back then. It was the early days of cable and we in New Hampshire got to see all of the Red Sox games on Channel 38 (pre-NESN days). Gedman always seemed to be an aggressive hitter with a fluid and easy swing. But in 1986, things changed. And the Fan noticed. Gedman's swings began to look like practice swings where he was thinking more about the mechanics of the thing instead of letting it happen. His average fell to .258 and his OPS dropped .107 points.

It got worse from there as Gedman never hit again above .212! And he was done as an effective major league player. The Fan has always thought to this day that Hriniak ruined Rich Gedman.

Jeff Pearlman wrote a book about the 1986 Mets called, "The Bad Guys Won." The book also has a ridiculously long subtitle that won't be repeated here. The book was hugely entertaining. For us to stay on point for this post, one of the assertions Pearlman made in the book was that Mel Stottlemyer, one of the most revered men in baseball, tinkered with Doc Gooden and lessened his effectiveness. According to Pearlman, despite the amazing season Gooden had in 1985, Stottlemyer, his pitching coach didn't like his release point and his arm angle and worked on them.

Pearlman's report is backed up by circumstantial evidence. Gooden gained more than a run a game on his ERA and was not as dominant a strikeout pitcher and never was again. But can Gooden's loss of "stuff" be blamed on Stottlemyer or on drugs or simply on the fact that Gooden was required to throw so many pitches so early in his career? Who knows.

A recent blog post (might have been Buster Olney) was discussing the problems Oliver Perez was having with the Mets. One of the suggestions the post mentioned as a possibility was the Mets bringing back deposed pitching coach, Rick Peterson, because he was regarded as the reason why Perez had so much success in 2007. The suggestion was that Perez flourished under Peterson and maybe Peterson could get Perez back to that place.

Many of the Dodgers young hitters credit Don Mattingly for their development. Most point to the development of Kemp and Ethier and point to Donny Baseball.

The Fan thinks that coaches are a lot like managers. They get more credit than they probably deserve and more blame than they deserve. There are good ones and there are bad ones. Most are probably paid pretty well and have a pretty good life. But they are one of the overlooked aspects of the game. They work with infielders, outfielders, hitters, pitchers. They throw batting practice or spend countless hours hitting fungos to guys on the field. But they are hardly talked about.

Here are a couple of suggestions to fix that. How about a player-based vote on the game's best coaches? The players (and managers) could vote and select the Coach of the Year. How about if those same players and managers voted for coaches for the All Star game instead of having a bunch of managers filling out the All Star coaching staff?

It just seems right that more "ink" be given this bunch of the major leagues' silent staff. Some of us Fans would like to know more about who is good and who is not.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

An Apology to Jon Gibbons

In a recent post extolling the virtues of Cito Gaston, the Fan busted on Jon Gibbons as "the fake war hero." The memory was faulty and that designation belonged to Tim Johnson, who was caught lying about his Vietnam experience and was fired as the Blue Jays' manager. The Fan humbly and sincerely apologizes to Jon Gibbons.

Game Picks - Tuesday: May 5, 2009

Several lessens were learned from yesterday's games. First, Greinke is an animal and until further notice, never pick against him. Duh! Secondly, don't pick against the Dodgers at home. Duh. And last but not least, closers are hell on prognosticators. Grrrrrr...

Here are today's picks:

  • Houston over Washington: Oswalt should prevail in this game. The Nationals have a good line up, but Houston is facing the weaker part of the Nationals' rotation.
  • Cleveland over Toronto: The Indians are heating up and Toronto is starting to see that Hill and Scutaro can't keep up this pace forever.
  • Giants over the Cubs: It's hard to pick against Sean Marshall, who has been very good, but Lincecum has been too dominant lately.
  • Bay Rays over Orioles: Betting that Garza will continue his hot pitching.
  • Mariners over the Rangers: Bedard seems a natural over Padilla.
  • Brewers over the Pirates: It's hard to pick Suppon to win a game but the Brewers have been hot and Snell has been the least successful Pirate pitcher.
  • Twins over the Tigers: Porcello will have his good moments, but the Twins should get to him tonight.
  • Yankees over the Red Sox: The Yankees are due to win one of these games. Beckett has been struggling and Chamberlain is coming off a good game.
  • Braves over the Mets: Livan Hernandez is pitching for the Mets. Enough said.
  • Marlins over the Reds: In the best pitching matchup of the day, Volstad goes for the Marlins and Volquez for the Reds. The Fan will be watching this one.
  • Royals over the White Sox: Holy cow, the White Sox are an OLD team. Davies should win.
  • Cardinals over the Phillies: Like Wainwright over Myers.
  • Rockies over the Padres: Only because the Fan knows who Cook is for the Rockies but has no idea who Geer is for the Padres.
  • Oakland over the Angels: The Fan likes this Braden kid. He's become a box score favorite.
  • Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Please refer to the opening paragraph of this post.

Yesterday: 6-9. Week: 15-15

Cito Gaston is the Man

Cito Gaston is once again proving he is one of the game's premier managers no matter what happens the rest of the season. And the question begs to be asked: What the heck were all those teams thinking when they passed him up for eleven years? The Blue Jays are in first place in a division where their names weren't mentioned in any forecasts before the season. We heard it over and over, there are three top teams in the American League East. Well, there are four. And only one of them has Cito Gaston.

There was a time when the Fan did not appreciate Gaston. Living in New Hampshire at the time, the only games we got on television were CBC (Canadian Broadcast Channel) games, mostly Toronto, but sometimes the Expos. There was a gigantic obstacle in ever warming up to that team in the 90s: Tommy Hutton. Hutton, now one of the Marlins' color analysts, was the smarmiest, homiest announcers in the history of the game. He gushed so much about the Blue Jays during telecasts that it was impossible not to root against them.

But you know what? Those teams were fantastic. You can give Gaston credit, but the front office built the team and they had it all--good pitching, great relievers, speed, power, high on-base percentage. It was an awesome team. Henke and then Duane Ward were dominant closers. The starters were warriors (Hentgen, Stottlemyer, Steib, Morris, Key and throw in a little David Cone, Al Leiter, David Wells). Plus they had Joe Carter, Jon Olerud and Robbie Alomar, all in their primes. Dave Winfield was the DH for the first championship and Paul Molitor the second. Two Hall of Famers.

The year after the second championship, the strike shut baseball down and the Blue Jays never recaptured the magic. Three years later, Gaston was fired. What!? The man won two championships! Surely someone else would have hired him after that, right? Please don't call me Shirley. But no one did. Why?

There were dozens of vacancies in the eleven years since Gaston last managed the Blue Jays. What happened to prevent him from getting jobs? Was he a victim of what Joe Torre went through where he was never given credit for winning with great teams? Was it because of his skin color? What was the deal? He wasn't a better manager than Lee Elia, who had two disastrous chances? He wasn't better than Bruce Kimm or Clint Hurdle or any brother named Lachemann?

It was a grave injustice, whatever the reason was. Somebody should have given him the reins and nobody did. Finally, when the fake war hero, Jon Gibbons lost the team, the Blue Jays undid a lot of wrongs and hired Gaston back. And look what he's done. He took over the Blue Jays last year and finished the season, 51-37 and now he has the Blue Jays flying with an 18-9 record. And that record is with three fifths of his starting rotation on the shelf with injuries.

It still seems hard to imagine that the Blue Jays can keep up this pace. Marco Scutaro isn't going to finish with a .400 OBP like he has now. Aaron Hill isn't going to finish with a 150 OPS+ like he has now. Sooner or later, the starting pitching will show cracks of inexperience. But it doesn't matter. Cito Gaston has shown that he can manage with the best of them.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Players Who Should Retire - Special Edition

After today's posts, it was hoped that the whole "Guys who should retire" topic would be over. But one guy who was left off the list on purpose forced one more post on the subject. That guy? Jason Varitek.

The Fan prattled on quite extensively during the off season on how Varitek wasn't wanted nor worth the kind of money he received last year. But then the Red Sox went ahead and signed him at a fairly low-ball price when Varitek really didn't have any other options.

The Fan stayed fairly quiet on the topic because he started off fairly decently and because the Red Sox Nation is a pretty aggressive bunch and the Fan didn't want to be hung in effigy. But after today, the Fan can't keep quiet on the subject any more, and not just because of Carl Crawford.

First, let the Fan state for the record that a stolen base can be blamed just as much on the pitcher as on the catcher. If the pitcher is too slow to home, then that gives the catcher virtually no chance to catch the runner. Watching the game today, it was obvious that some of Crawford's steals were on the pitcher. But Crawford stole six bases, and on some of those, Varitek had a chance to get him and didn't.

But even that is not the full story. The Bay Rays stole eight bases in the game including Crawford's six. One of the thefts was by the Bay Rays' catcher, his first stolen base of the season. Varitek didn't throw any of them out. That's 0-8. Plus he made a throwing error.

But even that is not the full story. Varitek went 0-3 with two strikeouts. And so in his last two games played, Varitek is 1-7 with four strikeouts. The prediction here is that Varitek, though batting at .239 for the season currently, will end up around the .220 mark or lower.

But even that is not the full story. The Red Sox starting pitching was supposed to be their big strength and so far, the starters are all struggling, except for Tim Wakefield, who, of course, Varitek doesn't catch. He is supposed to be so good with pitchers calling a game. If he gets that kind of credit when they do well, doesn't he deserve the same kind of credit when they don't?

As for Carl Crawford, he tied a modern day record for stolen bases in a game with his six. He joined Otis Nixon (6/16/1991) and Eric Young (6/30/1996) at the top of the modern day list. If you include the dead ball era, Eddie Collins did it twice in 1912 (ten days apart!). But if you go back even farther, George Gore and Billy Hamilton stole seven in a game in the 1800s. Gore's was the earliest, occurring on June 25, 1881. Egads! Now a Gore will claim he invented the stolen base!

Game Picks - Monday: May 4, 2009

Had a decent Sunday picking games. It would have been even better if Oakland hadn't blown two leads and lost in extra innings and if Scott "Home Run" Baker had pitched only six innings instead of pitching part of the seventh (he had a shutout through six and then got bombed in the seventh). Here are Monday's picks:

  • Pittsburgh over Milwaukee: Maholm has been the Pirates best pitcher and the Pirates are playing at home.
  • Nationals over Astros: Moehler is pitching for the Astros and has been dreadful so far. Lannon is probably the Nationals' best arm.
  • Tigers over the Twins: Tigers are at home and like Edwin Jackson better in the matchup with Liriano.
  • Yankees over Red Sox: Probably a wish and a prayer for Phil Hughes to have another great outing for the Yankees. Lester is due for a good game for the Red Sox, so this could be an iffy pick.
  • Cleveland over Toronto: Tallet has been great for the Blue Jays but is due for a clunker. Carmona has to throw strikes some time, right?
  • Bay Rays over Orioles: Will never pick for any team or game that Adam Eaton starts. Plus, the Bay Rays are starting to heat up.
  • Braves over Mets: How much must Javier Vazquez love pitching for Bobby Cox after the years of ego bruising he got in Chicago from Ozzie Guillen? John Maine hasn't been sharp for the Mets.
  • Marlins over the Reds: Harang is a warrior, but Josh Johnson is the better pitcher.
  • Giants over the Cubs: Have picked against Dempster every time and have been right every time. Got to keep that streak going.
  • White Sox over the Royals: Greinke isn't going to go the whole season without a loss. He's got to lose some time. Might as well be against the White Sox.
  • Phillies over the Cardinals: The schedule says Lohse is supposed to pitch for the Cardinals, but the Fan heard he was hurt or something.
  • Padres of the Rockies: The opposite of Dempster. Have picked for the Padres every time Correia has pitched and need to keep that streak going too.
  • Angels over the A's: Oakland will be demoralized by losing a fifteen inning game they should have won plus they will be exhausted. Saunders is the Angels' best pitcher.
  • Diamondbacks over the Dodgers: Like the matchup of Davis over Stultz. Plus, the Dodgers have to lose at home some time, right?
  • Texas over Seattle: This is probably a dumb pick as King Felix Hernandez is a much better matchup over Kevin Millwood. But the Mariners are coming off a fifteen inning game where they used all their relievers.

Yesterday's record: 8-4. Week's Record: 8-4.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Vagaries of Picking Games

Major League Baseball is a sport of a great deal of random happenings. The best teams are going to lose sixty times. The worst teams will win at least fifty-five. The best hitters will make an out sixty percent of their plate appearances and even the best pitchers will lose thirty percent of the time and face an even larger percentage of either getting a loss or a no-decision. With all those odds occurring at random times at any given moment, picking winners and losers on a daily basis is no better than an educated crap shoot.

The Fan has been picking games at since the start of Spring Training. Believe it or not, the success rate was higher during Spring Training than since the season started. Figuring out who is going to win on any given day has been a hysterical case of throwing a dart at a swinging dartboard. Take yesterday for example.

The Fan went 9-7 yesterday, which lately, was a good day. Here were the picks and the rationality:

  • Washington over the Cardinals: The Nationals' best pitcher, Martis, was pitching and though Joel Pineiro has been hot of late, he was due for a bad start. Score! Got this one on the nose.
  • Cubs over Marlins: Simply felt that Lilly was due for a good game and the Cubs were due for a win. This was another good call. Score!
  • Yankees over Angels: Felt that Sabathia was up for a big start as the weather heats up. He was great for five innings. Lost the game in the seventh. Wrong.
  • This one seemed like a toss up. Come on! It was Bergesen against Ray. Which one would be worse? Picked the Blue Jays because the Orioles have been scuffling. Sure enough, Sherrill blew another save and the Fan scored.
  • Phillies over the Mets. Perez was starting for the Mets. Enough said. Turned out it took extra innings, but the Fan scored.
  • Braves over Astros: Gave Jerrjens a slight edge over Oswalt. Then the game was delayed an hour and a half due to rain and both starters were out after just a couple of innings making that logic a moot point. Dang rain. Wrong.
  • Detroit over Cleveland: Liked Minor over Laffey and Detroit was at home. Turned out it was the bullpens that decided the game and a blown save by Betancourt made this pick a winner.
  • Giants over Rockies: Marquis has been great, but figured he was due for an off game. Cain has been great for the Giants who were at home. Wrong! Marquis was brilliant, pitching a complete game. Cain was not.
  • Diamondbacks over Brewers: Picked Haran to stay hot and figured Looper was...well...Looper. Score!
  • Reds over Pirates: This pick was based on Micah Owings pitching for the Reds and the Fan being a big Fan. Owings gave up four runs in the first and never recovered. He didn't get any hits either. Wrong. Oh well.
  • Red Sox over Tampa Bay: Because the Red Sox were due. And they were. Score!
  • Twins over Kansas City: Figured Bannister was due for a let down. Figured Perkins had been pitching well. Wrong on both counts. Both teams blew saves and the Royals won in extra innings. Wrong!
  • Texas over Chicago: Believe Contreras is done as an effective major league pitcher. McCarthy has been one of the Rangers' best pitchers. Was right about Contreras and McCarthy and though the Rangers' bullpen tried its best to lose the game, they held on to win. Score!
  • Mariners over A's: Liked Washburn over Cahill. Both were brilliant, but both left with the game tied 1-1. Oakland's bullpen was better. Wrong!
  • Dodgers over Padres: Liked Wolf over Young. Again, both were brilliant but both got a no decision. The Dodgers won in extra innings when Guillermo Mota won in relief--a day after the Fan stated in this space that he should retire. Poetic? Score!

Today's picks: Detroit, Yankees (rooting for Hughes), Orioles (because the Fan is nuts), Reds (like Cueto over Karstens), Mets (because it's their turn?), Cardinals (because the Fan has sane moments), Astros (like Wandy over Reyes), Bay Rays (don't like Brad Penny), Brewers, Twins (Baker is due for a good game), Cubs (have to take Zambrano over Nolasco), Giants (because Barry Zito is the underdog), Dodgers (Billingsley is the Man), Oakland (because Outman is a great name for a pitcher) and the White Sox (because Danks is better than anyone Texas has).

So we'll see what happens.

Who Should Retire - Finale

Have you ever started something you wish you hadn't? And then once you started, you had to finish it whether you wanted to or not? Well, this series of posts is one of those deals. It's a negative subject: What players who are currently playing shouldn't be and should get out of the game? Nice eh? Well, let's knock this thing off and be done with it then.

- Ron Belliard: This Washington National utility player has been playing forever. Despite some decent numbers last year and the year before (who knew?), he's now 34, is no longer even a decent fielder and is currently batting .167 in 24 At Bats without a single extra base hit.

- Michael Barrett: This catcher currently toiling for the Blue Jays, is, frankly, terrible. Why do catchers get to hang around longer than any other field position other than relief pitching? Barrett is only 32, but he's finished as a good catcher (if he ever was a good one). He has averaged an OPS+ of 58 (remember that 100 is league average) the last three years and currently sits at 39. Plus, he throws out base runners less often than Mike Piazza. do the math.

- Eddie "Every Day" Guardado: Eddie is now 39 years old. Not old by LOOGY standards, but even an old LOOGY has to get a guy out once in a while. Every Day Eddie has pitched 5.1 innings in 10 appearances (typical LOOGY work load) but has given up 15 base runners. His ERA is over 10. Enjoy "Every Day" on the golf course, Eddie.

- Troy Percival: The guy has the heart of a lion, but at 39, how much pain and uncertainty is worth not only him but his team? Great guy, great career. Retire again, please.

- Jamie Burke: Face it, the Mariners have a few old guys. Griffey should be retired, but we all wanted him to play one more year. Understood. But Jamie Burke? He's 37. He's a utility player that cannot hit and he's a liability in the field.

- Rich Aurilia: He had a last gasp last year with a pretty decent season at the age of 36. But now a year older, he looks toasted and his 13 OPS+ looks like he's done.

- Eric Chavez: Only 31, has any player looked more like a poster boy of the "once-was-but-will-no-longer-be" club? The guy is cooked, done, baked, overpaid. It's a waste of a roster spot. Make it easier on everyone, Mr. Chavez. Walk away. And take 38 year-old Jason Giambi with you.

- And last but not least: Any player named Hairston.