Saturday, May 16, 2009

Game Picks - Saturday: May 16, 2009

It could have been a spectacular day. But Pittsburgh blew the save, Washington's bullpen imploded and the Giants pulled Lincecum one inning too soon and blew the game against the Mets. All in all, at least it was a positive day for a change. But this game picker should be thankful at least that Nathan blew a rare save opportunity for the Twins.

Here are today's picks:

  • Phillies over the Nationals: Want to pick against Myers. But don't believe Washington will win the game.
  • Cubs over the Astros: Picking a rookie pitcher (Wells) over Oswalt doesn't seem smart. But Oswalt isn't what he used to be.
  • Yankees over the Twins: Like Chamberlain over Blackburn (who can be good at times or Heartburn).
  • Blue Jays over the White Sox: Hard to think that Colon can beat Pena, Longoria and company.
  • Cardinals over the Brewers: Wainwright has been Wainwrong for most of the year, but have no faith in Suppon.
  • Mets over the Giants: Rule #3. This is Randy Johnson's Mr. Hyde start, plus he's facing Johan Santana.
  • Rangers over Angels: Rule #4. Never pick a starter just back from injury (Lackey).
  • Bay Rays over the Indians: Have to take Garza over Pavano (though Pavano has somehow won two in a row).
  • Marlins over the Dodgers: The Dodgers are pitching Milton. Say what!? He's still pitching!?
  • Rockies over the Pirates: Ian Snell hasn't been good. Cook is one of the few Rockies bright spots.
  • Phillies over the Nationals: It doesn't matter what the starters do. The Nationals' bullpen is gruesome.
  • Tigers over the A's: Battle of the rookies: Porcello against Braden. Going with Porcello.
  • Braves over the Diamondbacks: Just because the Diamondbacks are terrible.
  • Royals over the Orioles: Davies over Ray. This one is iffy.
  • Reds over the Padres: Volquez over Geer.
  • Red Sox over the Mariners: Beckett has to get right eventually.

Yesterday: 8-5
Week: 34-40
Month: 86-87

Melky Wins It Again

Perhaps all a guy needs is a little competition. Melky Cabrera fell apart last year. He wasn't spectacular in 2006 and 2007, but he was at least useful. His OPS+ of 95 and 89 were less than league average but his defense was a little better than league average and he played with enthusiasm which was something the Yankees needed. Last year, there were times when he couldn't hit a ball safely if he there were ten strikes instead of three. His OPS+ fell to 68 and he even found himself back at AAA for a while.

He came back to Spring Training and got off to a slow start. He had been told that he was in a competition for the starting centerfield position with Brett Gardner and it was all but assumed that it was Gardner's position to lose. Gardner did really well in the competition and after a slow start, Melky finished the preseason strong but not strong enough to catch Gardner.

Then Gardner started slowly in the regular season and Melky produced when called upon. Slowly, he started more than Gardner. Then exclusively. His OPS+ thus far is a hefty 137. Tonight, he had his second walk off base hit of the season. Things are going really well.

Gardner got a chance Friday night because a red hot Johnny Damon was kicked out of the game after his second straight strikeout. Apparently, Damon and the umpire didn't see eye to eye. So Gardner was put into center and Melky moved over the left. Gardner went three for three with an inside-the-park homer (his second homer in as many games) and two runs scored.

Gardner is by far the better centerfielder. His RTZ and Zone Ratings are off the charts. It still feels like the Yankees are a better team when he is in there. But you don't want to lose Melky the way he is going either. So here's what the Fan thinks the Yankees should do:

Lefty pitching: Swisher in Right, Melky in Center
Righty pitching: Melkey in Right, Gardner in Center.

Swisher does have 8 homers. But he has three hits in the entire month of May (you called it, Josh!) He's coming off a year where he batted .219. Yes, both of those numbers are incredible: three hits in May, .219 in 2008. You don't lose anything in right field when Melky plays in place of Swisher. The only position you can't play Melky is in left (according to the fielding stats).

Now that A-Rod is back and Teixeira seems to be coming around, Swisher seems less and less necessary and the Yankees might be better off with Melky and Gardner running down balls in the outfield and running around the bases. Oh, and by the way, Gardner has more homers in May than Swisher does.

That should be qualified a bit. One of the two homers Gardner has hit this year (and this month) was the inside the park homer mentioned earlier. It was one of the strangest ever. He hit a little cue shot to left and when it landed, it took a weird hop and skipped by the left fielder. By the time the fielder picked up the ball by the wall, Gardner was already at third and heading home.

That's the kind of excitement that speed brings. That speed also brings fantastic defense and the defense is much better if Gardner is in center and Melky in right.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Game Picks - Friday: May 15, 2009

Crap! What an ugly day. It's unbelievable. It would be easier to have an "Opposite Day" where all the games were picked the opposite of what the gut said was going to happen. Perhaps then there would be better success. Unbelievable.

With a stomach full of bile and anger behind the eyes, here are today's picks:

  • Cubs over the Astros: Sure. Why not take Randy Wells? Especially against Moehler. Oh whatever!
  • Pirates over the Rockies: Maholm had a rough outing last time. Bounce back time.
  • Nationals over the Phillies: Like Lannon. Apparently, the Fan can't help himself.
  • Detroit over Oakland: Erwin Jackson was fantastic last time. Please let him be fantastic again. Please.
  • Yankees over the Twins: Stupid sentiment this pick is. Really want Hughes to do well.
  • Blue Jays over the White Sox: Cecil has been stupid good for the Blue Jays. Danks has been good for the White Sox. Since the Fan has been so stupid, might as well go for stupid good.
  • Dodgers over the Marlins: Stults for the Dodgers versus Volstad for the Marlins. Keep picking Volstad. Keep getting burned. Fingers hurt.
  • Braves over the Diamondbacks: Vasquez versus Davis. Good matchup. But the Diamondbacks are really struggling.
  • Bay Rays over the Indians: With any luck, this will be Reyes' last start for the Indians.
  • Rangers over the Angels: Saunders just isn't as good as his numbers appear. Millwood wins the game.
  • Royals over the Orioles: Rule #1. Never pick against Greinke. Especially against Adam Eaton.
  • Brewers over the Cards: Gallardo over Lohse. There is something wrong with Lohse. He doesn't look the same.
  • Reds over the Padres: Don't look now, but the Reds are having a great season. Who saw that coming?
  • Red Sox over the Mariners: Lester hasn't been good. But Jakubauskas has been worse. The Fan should get extra points for being able to spell his name correctly without looking.
  • Giants over the Mets: Lincecum versus Livan? Come on. If this one goes wrong, the Fan is going to flog himself.

Yesterday: 4-8
Week: 26-35 Ugh!
Month: 78-82 Sheesh!

Fun With Pictures

Instead of watching games all the time, sometimes life is busy, so having to follow along on Yahoo box scores has to do. The thing is, while waiting for something to happen, these pictures of the players just sit there and stare. Some are quite comical and remind the viewer of other types of people you meet in life. Here are a few.



video

Mariners' Bullpen is Killing Them

Felix Hernandez pitched a great game Thursday night. He pitched seven innings of shut out ball, giving up only six hits while walking two and striking out six. Aardsma came in and pitched a strong inning. One inning, one strikeout and that was it. Then the Mariners brought in Brandon (There's always to) Morrow. Goodbye 2-0 lead. Goodbye ball game.

Morrow only got one out in the bottom of the ninth. The rest were three hits, two of them homers. It's the team's seventh blown save in sixteen tries. It's not like the starters have been terrific either. Bedard has been good. Vargas had one good start. Hernandez has his ERA under 4.00 and Jarrod Washburn has been decent. Silva and Jakubauskas (in the running for the most difficult name in the sport) have been awful.

But the relievers have really done poorly. Here's a run down:

- Shawn Kelley: Has been very good. Has good numbers but his two runs given up caused a blown save.

- David Aardsma: Batters have only hit .148 against him and his ERA is excellent. But he's given up 11 walks in 16.2 innings. That will bite you in the end.

- Sean White: Better than league-average ERA, but again, 10 walks in 15+ innings. Has blown a save.

- Miguel Batista: Has a better than league-average ERA, but has given up 30 base runners in 17.2 innings including 10 walks.

- Mark Lowe: Blown save, 27 base runners in 15.1 innings.

- Brandon Morrow: 19 base runners in 8.1 innings. 10 walks, 9 hits. Two blown saves.

- Roy Corcoran: 22 base runners in 8.2 innings including 9 walks. One blown save.

- Denny Stark: 10 base runners in only 3.2 innings including 4 walks.

The consistent thing you see up and down the relief corp is walks. As a team, the relievers have surrendered 64 walks in 102 innings of work.

The Fan suggests at this point that Shawn Kelley be given a shot at closer for a while. He's the only one of the group that throws strikes consistently and has only walked one in 11.2 innings of work. He couldn't be any worse than Morrow. Power arms are nice for the closer position, but if they can't find the plate or have no command of what they are throwing, then all the manager is doing is demoralizing his starters and his players.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Game Picks - Thursday: May 14, 2009

Nine correct out of fifteen is a lot better, but not good enough. Still need to have that breakthrough couple of days to feel better about things. The Zito pick was misguided. Apparently, so is the notion that Nolasco is going to return to last year's form. To be fair, it would have been impossible to predict that the Angels would get to Wakefield in such a consistent fashion. And really, who would have thought a Hampton/Haran matchup would produce 26 runs?

But like the Energizer Bunny, the Fan will plug on and on and on. Here are today's picks:

  • Marlins over the Brewers: Can't pick against Josh Johnson. Especially against Bush.
  • Dodgers over the Phillies: Great matchup here with Billingsley versus Hamels. Two studs. Here's hoping that Billingsley comes out on top.
  • Tigers over the Twins: Another great matchup of Verlander versus Baker. Baker finally pitched a great game last time, but Verlander has been nearly unhittable of late. So let's go with Verlander.
  • Mariners over the Rangers: The brain is overruling the heart in that King Felix will be better than the Rangers' Harrison.
  • Padres over the Cubs: This is the upset pick of the day. Have no faith in Dempster.
  • Houston over Colorado: Wandy Rodriguez is pitching. Here's hoping his big yakker isn't impeded by the thin Colorado air.
  • Red Sox over the Angels: When the Fan saw that Penny was pitching, he wanted to pick the Angels. But Ervin Santana is pitching his first game of 2009 so that goes against Rule #4.
  • Pirates over the Cardinals: The Cards are scuffling a bit and have lost in Pittsburgh something like eight times in a row. Pujols has to be salivating over facing Karstens, but still...
  • Yankees over Blue Jays: Sabathia seems to have turned a corner. He was awesome last time out. The Blue Jays have a tough schedule coming up and it will be interesting to see if they are for real or not.
  • Bay Rays over the Indians: Like Shields over Carmona. Like the Bay Rays over the Indians under any matchup.
  • Royals over the Orioles: Gil (ga) Meche has had a couple of rough outings. Betting here that he breaks out of it against the Orioles. Though that's a tough call because the Orioles are smoking at the plate.
  • Mets over the Giants: Maine hasn't been himself, but the Mets are a better team overall than the Giants.

So that's the rub. Now we'll see what happens.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 22-27
Month: 74-74

Two Homers Lost to Replay in the Same Night!

Well, it finally happened. Since the replay rule was put into place on August 10 of last year, ten home run calls have been reviewed. Twice those reviews overturned the original calls. But those calls overturned both changed the call to a homer. No one had lost a homer to this point and then it happened twice within hours. The victims? Andy LaRoche and Ross Gload.

LaRoche, who is quoted in this linked article as saying he predicted he would be the first to lose a homer to the new rule and so he was. But at least he still got a double and at least his team still won the game.

Gload came in for Florida to pinch hit for Hayden Penn. After his homer was overturned to a long foul ball, he struck out. Now, wouldn't that be a bummer! That would be like one of those fake lottery ticket practical jokes.

Ten replays in four months of action since the replay rule was adopted doesn't seem like very many. There were two questionable homers early in the season. One that comes to mind was the Yankees very first game. A post recap of opening day here in the FanDome did question at the time why the homer wasn't reviewed. Maybe the rule isn't being utilized correctly. Any rule that seems sort of random really isn't much of a rule.

Time for a Yard Sale

In what seems to be a unique phenomenon, every May our town in northern Maine has a city-wide yard sale. The "city" is a euphemism as there might be 8,000 people in the entire town. There used to be more before the air force base was closed fifteen years ago. So, anyway, this one weekend a year, the "city" gets jammed with cars as about 25% of the homes in town participate in the sale and people look forward to it all year.

There is no sense attempting to get anywhere in a hurry on yard sale weekend. Cars must maneuver in single lane traffic through congested streets with cars parked all willy-nilly on the sides of the road. It's much worse than the Halloween traffic. About ten years ago, the Fan was carefully attempting to leave the house to go to the golf course. After driving in a zigzag pattern down the block, the brake pad was pushed for a stop sign. Apparently, the person in the car that was following was rubbernecking at the items in people's driveways and didn't see this driver stop. Bang! After thinking briefly about claiming whiplash, the Fan got out of the car only to discover that the person that caused the accident was the Fan's former grandmother-in-law. What are the odds of that?

This year, the Fan is participating for the first time. Got the little sign to tack on the mailbox and everything. The times dictate that some capital is needed to restock the depleted coffers. Wow, is this a lot of work! Everything in the basement, in all the closets, in all the cabinets and under the beds have been sifted through looking for lost treasures, or at least what we hope will be treasures to somebody.

We are selling one of those big TVs that have the DVD and VCR built right in. Man was that heavy to carry down the stairs! We have a bread maker that was a wedding present and has sat in a box unopened for nine years. We have two computers for sale. Don't ask how, but this house has accumulated nine computers over the years. Two at least have to go. Everything that someone might buy is being considered. Dollar signs fill the air. We have steins, we have vases, we have beanie babies, we have three sizes of clothes that no longer fit. We have shoes. It's incredible the stuff we accumulate in a lifetime.

There was a point to this post. Darned if the Fan can remember what it was...Oh yeah! This thought is tied up to the recent speculation about the Red Sox since they have fifteen different starting pitchers. Well, that might be an exaggeration. But they have a lot. This house is stacked with computers. The Red Sox are stacked with starting pitching. Sooner or later, it would seem that the team has to do something about the overload.

Let's count them up: Beckett, Penny, Masterson, Wakefield, Dice-K, Lester, Smoltz, Buchholz, Delcarmen. Well, we are up to nine. Who would go in the yard sale? Penny? It would seem that a couple of those guys can be hidden in the minors or in the bullpen. But you don't sign a Smoltz and then not give him the ball, right? Beckett, Dice-K, Wakefield and Lester aren't going anywhere for a long time and that's four already. That still leaves a couple of guys too many. It would seem a pretty nice problem to have except for one thing, the Red Sox are currently near the bottom in the majors in starter ERA. How did that happen?

Wouldn't it be cool if the major leagues had a yard sale? Instead of having a trade deadline, you could only have a weekend to trade players. Maybe it could be the All Star break since everyone is off anyway. The teams could take all their spare parts to the All Star venue, line them up in designated areas and put signs on them. Instead of dollar signs, the teams could put what they need in return.

Another term for yard sales are, "trash and treasure" sales. In other words, what some people consider extra junk, just as many other people think they are treasures. The same would hold true at the major league yard sale. There would be a Peavy or there could be a Jerry Hairston, Jr. Trash or treasure? Your call.

The Fan will let you know how the sale goes this weekend. It's time to go as there are a few more nooks and crannies to search before giving up for the night.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Game Picks - Wednesday: May 13, 2009

In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, "Oh Agony...AAAAGOONY." It was a bloodletting. It was a massacre. Never has a day of picks gone so ingloriously. Jurrjens pitches great but the Braves bullpen gave the game away. Purposefully picked Hochever, breaking Rule #4 and paid the price. Foolishly expected Paulino to pitch well. He didn't. Foolishly thought Galarraga was a stud. He couldn't get Mauer out (he hasn't been alone there). The Indians can't be this terrible, can they? Oh man! It was awful. The only bright spots were Micah Owings pitching brilliantly, Hamilton hitting a two-run homer, Parra being better than the Marlins and Zack Duke continuing his fine season.

Okay, the Fan has to turn this around. This is unsettling. Embarrassing. It's time to put on the eye black and pick with determination and fierceness. Here goes:

  • Indians over the White Sox: Buehrle has been great lately. Lee has been great lately. When a pitching matchup come up even, go with the team that hits better.
  • Mets over the Braves: Reyes versus Niese. When both pitchers are questionable, go with the team that hits better and relieves better.
  • Giants over the Nationals: Give Zito credit for turning his career back around. He's been great so far. Nationals are too left-handed and should suffer against the lefty.
  • Pirates over the Cardinals: Pineiro has been great, but as Mr. Neyer pointed out, his strikeout rate is too low and sooner or later, luck is going to catch up with him.
  • Phillies over the Dodgers: Without Manny, this is a whole different team. Moyer is due for his once a month good start.
  • Bay Rays over the Orioles: Niemann was supposed to be the next great arm for the Bay Rays, but he hasn't shown it so far. It's now or never against the Orioles.
  • Yankees over the Blue Jays: Richmond has been good for the Blue Jays. How is beyond the Fan to contemplate. Pettitte should win this game.
  • Cubs over the Padres: Ted Lilly should have an easy win.
  • Marlins over the Brewers: Looper versus Nolasco. A battle of pitchers having difficult seasons. Nolasco is the better talent.
  • Texas over the Mariners: Washburn versus McCarthy. McCarthy has been one of the Rangers' better starters. Hamilton is back.
  • Twins over the Tigers: Rule #4. Dontrelle Willis has his first start of the year. Want him to do great. Doubt he will.
  • Rockies over the Astros: Hampton versus Marquis. Rule #2: Never bet against Marquis.
  • Reds over the Diamondbacks: Cueto versus Augenstein. Who the heck is Augenstein??
  • Oakland over Kansas City: Bannister has been on a roll, but could the A's be on a hitting roll finally?
  • Red Sox over the Angels: If the Angels couldn't win with their best pitcher, how are they going to win with their worst?

Yesterday: 5-10
Week: 13-21
Month: 65-68

Josh Hamilton is Back

Well, yeah, he only went 1-5 and he struck out twice. But he did help wreck what was a great pitching duel between Feldman and Vargas with a two-run homer off of Mark Lowe that helped break the game open.

Texas has a shot at the American League West. Feldman has given them two quality starts in a row, Millwood has been much better than last year and they can still rake with the bats. Having Hamilton back in the middle of the lineup can only help and they probably can't win the division without him.

Impressive Talent Sometimes Demoralizing

Was watching American Idol tonight (oh stop! It's fun and campy and it's the American Dream), and while watching, it's hard not to sympathize for Danny Gokey and Kris Whateverhisnameis. Adam Lambert is one of those once-in-a-lifetime talents who is so far above the others talent-wise, it's not even close. Can't you imagine anyone following Lambert saying, "Oh crap. There's no way I can beat that," before they have to go out and sing? The Fan can relate.

Day after day, the Fan toils away behind the keyboard to write about baseball. Writing is one of the greatest passions in this writer's life. Baseball is too and so the two go together. Before writing each post, a stroll is taken around the Web to look at what is going on. After all, it's not a good idea to write 80 posts a month and not know what is happening out there. The waltz around the Internet always includes a stop at Joe Posnanski's blog. Tonight was no different. After reading two more fabulous posts from the Great Pos, the Fan echoed Gokey and Whateverhisnameis in saying, "Oh crap, there's no way to beat that."

It's not like the Fan was born without a bit of talent. A decade ago, after going back to college in a mid-thirties understanding that slinging wet leather in a tannery sixty hours a week wasn't exactly a life calling, the Fan majored in English and History with an emphasis on Creative Writing. Maine is a big state and a small population (kind of the opposite of a genie's situation). As such, the state, in its wisdom, spread out the university system over several campuses around the state. There are campuses in Portland, Orono, Presque Isle and Fort Kent as well as smaller satellites here and there. Every year, the English professors (not sure if they still do this) send in their students' writing and a panel chooses the best writing in the state. Yup. The Fan was chosen as the University of Maine Writer of the Year.

While that is all well and good and while the Fan has published nine books (it helps to own your own publishing company), when sized up against Joe Posnanski and some other really good writers out there, it's very hard not to feel the "Oh crap" moment. To be sure, it must be the same feeling as when Boise State has to play Michigan in college football. Or any college pitcher who has to pitch against Stephan Strasburg, or any golfer that has to go against Tiger Woods (when he is on) or any forward that has to post up against Lebron James, etc. You get the point.

At least baseball has a 162 game schedule. That means that on any given night, a really bad team can beat a really good team. There really aren't "Oh crap" moments in Major League Baseball because even a guy like Joe Saunders can, for one night, be as good as Greinke. That has to be a lot more comforting than being a writer. There can only be one Shakespeare, or one Joe Posnanski. And while genius is thrilling and amazing. It sure provokes a lot of "Oh crap" moments. Even if this writer wrote 10,000 posts, there would never really be a Joe Saunders moment.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Game Picks - Tuesday: May 12, 2009

Being half right is like kissing your sister. It's very unsatisfying. On the one hand, yesterday's picks included a prediction that Pavano would win. He did. Yesterday's picks also included faith that this was Randy Johnson's "on" start in his season long pattern of being off one start and on the next. Johnson won his 298th victory. Two to go. Just don't pick him to win his next start!

On the other hand, picking Johan Santana should be a lock, but it's not. The Mets seem to choke when he starts and he never gets any run support and the defense behind him seems to play in quicksand. For more details on how that turned out, see the previous post here in the FanDome. Also, the Fan picked up a new rule: Never pick a returning "name" pitcher to win his first time out. Jon Garland made his first start of the year for Arizona. It was a disaster. So that means the next time Dice-K pitches for the Red Sox, or Wang pitches for the Yankees or any returning Angel or Blue Jay starter returns, pick against them.

So let's recap the picking rules we've learned so far: 1. Never pick against Greinke. 2. Never pick against Jason Marquis. 3. Never pick against the Dodgers at home (only applies when Manny is playing) and now we have our fourth rule.

Keeping those in mind, here are today's picks:

  • Pirates over the Cardinals: Zack Duke is having a good year and the Pirates are at home. Tony LaRussa will use at least five pitchers. It's a lock.
  • Dodgers over the Phillies: Kershaw over Chan Ho Park. Park was brilliant last time, but Kershaw is a stud. Of course, this is post-Manny and the Dodgers could still be in a funk. So this pick is iffy.
  • Bay Rays over the Orioles: Sonnanstine has to be better than Hendrickson, right? We'll see.
  • Indians over the White Sox: Want to pick the White Sox because the Indians are starting Sowers. But have no faith in the White Sox at this point and only a little more about the Indians.
  • Yankees over the Blue Jays: This sounds dumb, picking against Halladay. But A. J. Burnett is going home for his first start back in Toronto. He's got to be a little jacked up about that and is due for a great start.
  • Braves over the Mets: Can't pick against Jurrjens at this point. This one is getting close to being a rule.
  • Brewers over the Marlins: Several things working against the Marlins in this game. Sanchez is hurt so journeyman, Koronka, was brought up from the minors to pitch. The Brewers are home. Sounds like a losing combination.
  • Cubs over the Padres: Sterling matchup of Peavy versus Harden. Harden has been amazing thus far. Got to go with him over Peavy.
  • Rangers over the Mariners: For a couple of different reasons. First, Feldman is pitching for the Rangers and he is one of Josh's guys who the Fan now roots for. Secondly, Silva has been given a mercy killing and put on the DL and Jason Vargas is starting in his place for the Mariners. See rule 4 above.
  • Tigers over the Twins: Galarraga was pretty bad last time out, but is still having a good year. Like him over Slowey. But this one feels iffy.
  • Astros over the Rockies: Everyone is picking the Rockies for this game because Paulino is starting for Houston. But this is the upset pick of the day.
  • Reds over the Diamondbacks: Haran is pitching for Colorado, so this seems dumb on the surface. But the Fan's man, Micah Owings is pitching for the Reds and he's a better hitter than anyone on the Rockies.
  • Angels over the Red Sox: Have little faith in the Red Sox on the left coast. Weaver is pitching for the Angels and have no confidence in Masterson for the Red Sox. When is the Red Sox superior starting pitching going to start being...you know...superior?
  • Royals over the A's: Cahill has been good for the A's, but it's Hochover's first start for the Royals. Wait. Rule #4!? Oh well, have to break the rules once in a while. The Fan wants Hochover to win.
  • Nationals over the Giants: Cain is pitching for the Giants, so this looks like another stupid pick. But like the Zimmerman matchup against a weak hitting Giants.

Yesterday: 2-2
Week: 8-11
Month: 60-58

Pavano and Santana - A Conflict of Luck

In the old days--at least before statistics got a little more sophisticated--some old time manager would expectorate into a spittoon and say, "Yep, that Pavano just knows how to win." That same old geezer of a manager would spit again and say, "Now that Santana, he's throws the ball pretty well. But dang it, he just finds a way to lose." Take that same conversation to the golf course after an errant iron shot bounces off a hill and somehow scampers onto the green, and the golfer will throw up his hands and sheepishly say, "Rather be lucky than good."

Carl Pavano is that golfer. He somehow gets the wins no matter how terrible he pitches. Take tonight for example. Pavano pitched six and a third innings. He "scattered" ten hits, giving up "only" four runs to improve his ERA to 6.45. Gavin Floyd pitched for the White Sox and did his best Livan imitation and was worse, giving up eight runs to bring his current ERA to 7.32. So, while Pavano wasn't exactly lights out, at least he didn't give up 14 base runners in five innings like Floyd did.

The win evened Pavano's record to 3-3. He was 4-2 last year with the Yankees despite an ERA of 5.77. So if you combine Pavano's last three years, he is 8-5 despite giving up 57 earned runs in 75 innings. That's a .615 winning percentage if you are keeping score.

Now let's flip over to Johan Santana. In the first inning, Kevin Johnson popped out to center. Then Escobar singled to shortstop. Another old geezer line: "They all count the same in the scorecard." Prado singled to left. At least he got it out of the infield. McCann popped out (it sure is worrisome about his vision!) Two outs. Diaz singles to third (another infield hit!) and Wright throws the ball away allowing a run to score. Kotchman whiffs to end the inning. Santana sure got cuffed around that inning!

The Mets later tie the score and so it's 1-1 going into the seventh. Derek Lowe pops out. Pesky Kevin Johnson singles to center and Santana is pulled for Parnell. Escobar promptly singles. Prado flies out to center. Two outs. McCann comes up and hits a roller to short. Easy out and the third out of the inning, right? Wrong. Reyes messes it up and everybody is safe. Diaz then singles and guess whose run that is? Yup, Santana's. And it's the deciding run. The Braves score more runs on each of the Mets' four relievers to break open the game.

So Santana pitched six and a third (same as Pavano), did not give up an earned run. His ERA actually went down to a surreal 0.78 and he lost. His record is now 4-2. So despite giving up only 6.5 hits per nine innings the last three years, despite a WHIP right around 1 for those three years, his winning percentage over those three years? .614. Pavano's was .615 remember?

Yep. Rather be lucky than good.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Game Picks - Monday: May 11, 2009

Well, a bloodbath was feared and a bloodbath it was. On a Sunday of uncertain matchups, it was possible to be wrong most of the time and that was the case here. It feels really fortunate just to have been correct six times. But the feeling is strong that the picks could have been even more successful simply picking teams out of a hat!

Ah well. Let's get to today's picks. Hopefully, there will be some sanity today. There are only four games being played in the majors today, so the margin for error is teeny teeny.

  • Indians over the White Sox: Ugh. Nope, today isn't any better. Gavin Floyd verses Carl Pavano. Both teams are really struggling. The Fan is getting all jiggy wit it and picking Pavano to win two in a row.
  • Mets over the Braves: Great matchup here with Johan Santana versus Derek Lowe. The Mets are absolutely fanatical about not giving Santana any run support. And Derek Lowe is a worthy pitcher. Let's go with the best pitcher of the decade.
  • Diamondbacks over the Reds: The Reds lost a heartbreaker yesterday and Arroyo has not looked good of late. He goes up against Jon Garland.
  • Giants over the Nationals: Randy Johnson is pitching and as his starts have had a perfect symmetry of Jekyll and Hyde, this should be the good start. The start after this one will be the bad one.

That's it. Four games. Please be good. Please!

Yesterday: 6-9
This Week: 6-9
This Month: 58-56

Why It's So Hard to Like National League Baseball - Part 2

There were eight games played in the National League Sunday. In those eight games, 79 pitchers were used. That's only one pitcher away from ten per game. Over in the American League, there were 55 pitchers used in seven games.

In fairness, there were three extra inning games Sunday in the National League, but the longest was eleven innings. Not exactly extra long contests.

Tony LaRussa was again a big player in all this. The Cardinals won a ten inning game today against the Reds to salvage one game in the series. LaRussa used eight pitchers. Eight! And a ninth pitcher was called on to pinch hit (Wellemeyer and he struck out).

The first position of the Cardinals' batting order started with Schumaker. He was Sunday's designated guy for the old "double-switch." That's where a new pitcher is brought in during an inning and a position player is also replaced to favorably allow more at bats before the pitcher's spot in the order has to come up again. Anyway, Schumaker's spot in the batting order featured ten players by the end of the game. Ten!

Think about that. That's ten players a box score enthusiast has to read through before you even get to the second guy on the batting order. And that's twelve guys to sift through just to figure out what Pujols did for the day. Can you imagine what those fans' scorecards looked like?

Oh, and it's not all bad. Micah Owings pinch hit for the Reds in the bottom of the ninth and hit a homer to tie the game and send it into extra innings. How cool is that?

Final Thoughts From the Manny Bombshell

It was a typical Sunday during the baseball season. It was too rainy and gloomy to play golf (course opened yesterday!) and Blogger has this feature where you can follow other blogs, even if they come from sources other than Blogger. Which is pretty magnanimous of them. One of the blogs followed here is Rob Neyer's Sweet Spot. Mr. Neyer's posts are thought provoking if one can overlook the over-reliance at times to a numbers-only way of looking at things. His response to the PED controversy somewhat mirrors the one here. That's why it was odd when it was discovered that a new post was available at his site and once navigation there was complete, a post was read stating that PED users should never make it into the Hall of Fame because of the integrity clause. That was odd, until it was discovered that this fairly misguided post wasn't from Mr. Neyer at all, but from one Preston Gomez. While PG's analysis is rejected as flawed by this writer, a comment from another reader caught the eye. This reader basically stated (in a nutshell) that this PED problem has occurred because Latin players were allowed into the major leagues.

The Fan was quite disturbed by the double dose of sanctimonious thinking. First, Gomez presented the case that saints like Koufax, Mays and others shouldn't have their Hall sullied by the likes of A-Rod and Manny Ramirez. That argument cannot hold up as the Hall is full of flawed characters whose "sins" are widely known and too long to list. The integrity clause has been a joke since the Hall's inception.

But then this commenter put an even more disturbing point of view out there. The problem with his comment was that this was obviously a well-educated person who wrote well and presented his statements effectively. But the racism and stereotypes he presented were distasteful and scary, quite frankly. We may have Obama in the White House. We may have Hispanic and African American managers, but we still have a long way to go to get most of America to believe that "All men are created equal." But it goes beyond that. Forgive a little Bible point of view, but the Word says that, "all men are sinners and fall short of the Glory of God." None of us are perfect, we are all flawed and our only course is forgiveness (when possible).

But the disturbing part of the whole thing is that, though this person was intolerant and ignoble, there is a shard of truth in that a large part of those caught up in this PED problem are Hispanic and specifically from the Dominican Republic. The Fan has quipped rather unpoetical at times about this here in the FanDome, but it's a deep well of a problem that has yet to have a full light shone upon it. We have only seen glimpses of the problem with the firing last year of a Cleveland Indian executive and then this spring with the problems exposed in the Nationals front office.

The undercurrent here is that there has been a major pipeline of ball players that have come from the Dominican Republic. That country, though it has made amazing strides in the last two decades towards a more modern economy and political structure, still has an imbalance of wealth. Those on the less fortunate end often dream of baseball as the Holy Grail of opportunity. And a long line of major leaguers have shown the way.

The unseemly end of that is the exploitation of these players by American executives that has not fully come to light. Be sure that an investigation is ongoing and a few bombshells will be exploded along the way eventually. There is a story here that has yet to be told. Part of that exploitation has been the introduction to these players to substances that will make them stronger, train harder and be better prepared or equipped to compete for major league jobs. Without a full understanding of the current culture of testing, these players are being tripped up on a monthly basis.

Make no mistake, PED use has been a problem on all ends of the race and ethnic spectrum. For every Sammy Sosa, there is a Mark McGwire. But too many of these suspensions turn out to be for players from the Dominican Republic and there is a reason that is happening. The financial windfall of escaping poverty to reach the promised land of MLB is too exciting not to use anything anyone gives you to reach that place.

The heading of this post is a bit misleading. Manny and A-Rod are not in this category. They weren't uneducated kids from a poor country trying to find a way out. Manny is only in the heading because the news about him this week started this thought process.

In this writer's opinion, the first positive test should lead to education and strict and weekly testing. The second positive should lead to the 50 game suspension. There has to be a built in safety net to catch those who have been exploited, misled or mishandled by doctors, trainers and even stores like the GNC.

We all want the game to get clean so that we can move on to other topics, like the game itself. Even those of us who are not upset about what players ingest want to get the game clean just so we can stop having to talk about it. And it seems to be the most fair to aid those who have come to their source of chemical help by Svengalis out there exploiting a pipeline that is all too often ripe for the picking.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Aubrey Huff - No Class

Watching the Yankees lose again to the Orioles. In the bottom of the first, Aubrey Huff hit a three run homer and pulled a totally classless act by mimicking Joba Chamberlain with a fist pump around first and then after crossing the plate.

First of all, the game was early and Chamberlain hadn't done a thing to provoke such a classless act. Second of all, the Yankees can't take that sitting down.

The Fan doesn't like to go for blood, but if Huff doesn't get plunked later in the game, then it will be a disappointment.

The Year's Five Biggest Hitting Surprises

Nearly 20% of the season has now been played and while it's still early, there have been a significant amount of games already played. With that sample size, here are the five biggest batting surprises thus far: Aaron Hill, Carl Crawford, Orlando Hudson, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Jones.

Aaron Hill

Aaron Hill was a good second baseman in 2006 and 2007. He batted .291 both seasons and showed decent pop in 2007 with 47 doubles and 17 homers. Then last year, he got into only 55 games and really seemed to struggle when he did play. His average dropped to .263. Watching his career to date, you had to figure (if he was healthy) that he would hit .280 or better and have an OPS in the .790 range. That seemed consistent with his career path to date.

But Hill leads the league in hits with 52. He is slugging at a .554 clip and he already had 8 homers, six doubles and he's driven in 28. That projects to a season with 250 hits, 40 homers, 30 doubles and 140 RBI. While it's hard to imagine Hill reaching those kinds of numbers, he can be only so-so the rest of the year and still finish with really impressive totals.

Carl Crawford

Carl Crawford has been a really good player for most of his career. He has hit over .300 three times in his career and could be counted on for ten to eighteen homers a season and around 50 stolen bases. Those are pretty impressive numbers. His one flaw was a low On Base Percentage in relation to his Batting Average. With a .295 lifetime Batting Average, you would expect his On Base Percentage to be greater than .332. Because of that, he has only barely scraped above an .800 OPS twice in his career.

Fast forward now to this year. Crawford was coming off his worst year in 2008 where all of his numbers were down. He felt his legs were the problem and worked on grass in the off season instead of on harder surfaces and was determined to keep his legs under him for the full season. And it seems to be paying off as he is having his best season. He is batting .331 with a .397 OBP, by far the best numbers of his career. He has already stolen 21 bases, or four less than all of last year. The only striking number for him has been the lack of power as he only has one homer.

But at his current pace, Crawford projects out to 100 stolen bases, 215 hits, 40 doubles and that would be a really good season!

Orlando Hudson

This season shouldn't really surprise us about Orlando Hudson. He has raised his Batting Average for six straight seasons and hit .302 last season, his first ever over .300. He's always had an above league average On Base Percentage and could be counted on to be around the .350 mark.

This season, Hudson is batting .336 and he is walking more and he already has 11 doubles. But best yet, his OBP is a robust .426 and his OPS is .852. Both numbers are big surprises.

Projecting his season, he would finish (at his current pace) with 55 doubles, 215 hits, 100 walks. That's an awesome season. He could be the free agent signing of the year for the Dodgers. The only surprise so far has been a slow down in his range factor at second. But we'll see where he ends up for season.

Ryan Zimmerman

Ryan Zimmerman came in the major leagues with a lot of hype. He was the next big thing. He was going to be the next superstar. Somewhere along the way in his first full three season, he was only a little above average. Nothing spectacular. Nothing earth shattering. He hit over 20 homers twice. He drove in over 100 once. But a career .OPS of a little over .800 seemed a bit of a let down.

Perhaps 2009 is his coming out party. It could be when he became the superstar predicted four years ago when he first came to the bigs. He's batting .336 and his OPS is currently at .943. If he continues at this pace for the season, he'll end up with 208 hits, 30 homers and 55 doubles. It would be nice to see him develop a little more patience at the plate, but overlooking that one thing, Mr. Zimmerman has possibly arrived.

Adam Jones

Last year was Adam Jones' first full season in the big leagues. The Orioles' outfielder didn't do anything but suggest that he was a marginal talent. He batted .270, had a .311 OBP and a .400 Slugging Percentage. A .711 OPS wasn't all that exciting.

Zoom ahead to 2009. Jones is batting .353 after 20% of the season, has a .415 OBP and an unreal OPS of 1.044! His season projects out to 205 hits, 105 RBI, 50 walks, 30 homers and 62 doubles. He's already scored 32 runs and is on pace to score 160! Obviously, those numbers seem hard for him to reach, but like Aaron Hill above, even if he finishes so so the rest of the season, he will shatter last year's stats without any problem at all.

Game Picks - Sunday: May 10, 2009

It was a joyless day on Saturday and the picks took a semi-beating. Greinke pitched his heart out but lost to Joe Saunders, who pitched his heart out. The Yankees looked abominable. The Pirates' best pitcher got cuffed. King Felix was mashed. Millwood was great, but the Rangers uncharacteristicly didn't score. Oh well. In the words of Clarisse, "There's always tomorrow..."

Today's picks are fraught with tough and touchie match ups. The Fan will tenderly walk through the mine field:

  • Phillies over the Braves: Myers over Kawakami. This pick has danger written all over it.
  • Tigers over the Indians: Are the Indians even more frustrating than the Yankees? All that talent? Porcello goes for the Tigers. Young, inconsistent. He pitches against Reyes, who doesn't look to stay in the rotation much longer for Cleveland.
  • Mets over the Pirates: Livan over Snell. Can it be? Can Livan win two in a row? Hard to pick against the Mets right now as they are really on a roll. Even Sheffield had two hits yesterday.
  • Reds over the Cardinals: Can the Reds really sweep? Can Volquez throw a third great game in a row? So far, all of these picks could go wrong. Ugh!
  • Yankees over the Orioles: Because the Fan is stubborn and a Chamberlain fan. [sigh]
  • Padres over Houston: Oswalt hasn't looked like Oswalt. Geer was great last time out. Berkman won't be in the lineup. Crapshoot city again...
  • Cubs over the Brewers: Counting on Sean Marshall to save the Cubbies from a sweep? Oh boy.
  • Rangers over the White Sox: Padilla verses Colon? Anything can happen. Man, this is hard today.
  • Twins over the Mariners: Yes, Bedard is pitching. But Mauer is batting .500 since his return with three homers and a gazillion runs scored by the Twins. But then again, Bedard has the stuff to shut them down. Egads!
  • Marlins over the Rockies: Cook is one of the better pitchers for Colorado, but Volstad shouldn't have two bad starts in a row, should he? Man oh man!
  • Royals over the Angels: Loux is pitching for the Angels? Thinking that will put the Angels in the toilet. Davies always hangs tough. But the Fan has been burned all year by no-name pitchers. Sheesh.
  • Oakland over the Blue Jays: Braden versus Cecil in another battle of AAA pitchers. Does this ever end?
  • Giants over the Dodgers: Lincecum. An ace at last! And against the suckier Weaver, who happened to pitch lights out last time! Oy! But the Manny funk continues.
  • Nationals over the Diamondbacks: Because the Nationals seem like the better team right now. Is that possible?
  • Bay Rays over the Red Sox: Beckett has been in the bucket and Garza has been awesome. But still. Is the Fan nuts? Apparently. Longoria has been other-worldly.

This could be a disaster.

Yesterday: 7-8
Last Week: 56-47