Saturday, May 23, 2009

Do the Mets Choke When Santana Pitches?

The Mets can't seem to get a break when it comes to public opinion. Yes, they have lost the division title two years in a row in the last couple of weeks of the season. But that has to do more with specific circumstances than with the whole idea of "choking" which is how they have been described. Certainly, the Steve Phillips debacle last Sunday night when he took it upon himself to trash the Mets' best players didn't help. But aside from all of that, one trend has been noticed and that is that the Mets seem to play tighter when Johan Santana pitches and the numbers seem to back it up, at least from the fielding aspect of things.

When Santana pitches for the Mets, he yields more unearned runs than any other Mets pitcher. And the numbers aren't even close. Here is the breakdown of the Mets' starters with their Runs/Earned Runs/Earned Runs as a percentage of Runs:

  • Santana: 14/8/57%
  • Livan: 25/25/100%
  • Maine: 25/23/92%
  • Pelfrey: 21/21/100%
  • Perez: 24/24/100%
  • Niese: 7/7/100%
  • Figueroa: 3/3/100%
  • Redding: 1/1/100%

The team as a whole has an earned run percentage as a percentage of runs at 88%. If you take away home runs, because a fielder can't do anything about them, then only five of Santana's 11 (non-homer) runs have been earned. That's astounding. And it was the same last year:


  • Santana: 74/66/89% without homers: 51/43/84%
  • Pelfrey: 86/83/97% without homers: 74/71/96%
  • Perez: 100/91/91% without homers: 76/67/88%
  • Maine: 70/65/92% without homers: 54/49/90%
  • Martinez: 70/68/97% without homers: 51/49/96%
  • Entire Team: 92% without homers: 90%

Those numbers seem to indicate that the Mets' fielders seem to play tighter and botch up more plays when Santana is pitching than any other Mets' pitcher.

Game Picks - Saturday: May 23, 2009

Interleague play sure screws up with game picks. It's hard enough when the same league has teams playing each other, but at least the person picking the games has some idea of the pecking order of how teams rank within a league. Now, with interleague play, the games have to be picked with teams that haven't played each other all year and whose play can't be ranked. Perhaps the key is to assume that the American League is better and go by that. The AL teams won eight of the fourteen contests (The Cubs and Padres played each other as the odd teams out). Okay. That assumption will have to be in the back of the mind while picking today's games.

Let's hope today is a better day:

  • The Royals over the Cardinals: Lohse has been struggling and hasn't seemed right. But Hochever is pitching for the Royals and he hasn't done anything. Sheesh. Okay, will go with the assumption and pick the American League team.
  • The Yankees over the Phillies: Will go with Pettitte versus Happ and hope this pick isn't happless.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: Feldman has been good lately (though he still isn't striking out many) and Moehler goes for the Astros. Plus, Hamilton is back for the Rangers.
  • The Pirates over the White Sox: Got to go with Ohlendorf over Richard and hope this pick doesn't make the Fan look like an Ohlendork.
  • The Rockies over the Tigers: Marquis was Rule #1 (never pick against Marquis) but he struggled and the rule was canceled, after which Marquis again dominated. grrrr. Okay, Rule #1 back in place.
  • The Orioles over the Nationals: Because the Nationals are probably the worst of two bad teams.
  • The Red Sox over the Mets: Beckett is starting to roll again and the Mets are starting Pelfrey. If the Mets win this game, will the Fan have bats in the Pelfrey?
  • The Indians over the Reds: Homer Bailey is making his first start of the year for the Reds. And that, my friends, is Rule #4 (never pick a guy making his first start of the year or first start back from rehab).
  • The Braves over the Blue Jays: Lowe is pitching for the Braves and the Blue Jays can't use their DH.
  • The Brewers over the Twins: Yeah, Looper is pitching for the Brewers. But some dude named Swarzak is pitching for the Twins, making his first start. Rule #4.
  • The Bay Rays over the Marlins: Because they are simply the better team right now.
  • The Diamondbacks over the A's: Haran for the Diamondbacks should win this one.
  • The Cubs over the Padres: The Fan likes this kid, Geer. But Harden is pitching for the Cubs.
  • The Giants over the Mariners: Cain versus Washburn. Cain has been good of late and the Giants are a slightly better hitting club versus left-handers.
  • The Dodgers over the Angels: Wolf versus Lackey. Going with Wolf.

Okay, so there are the picks. Let's hope things go more successfully than yesterday.

Yesterday: 6-9
Week: 44-38
Month: 141-130

Friday, May 22, 2009

Game Picks - Friday: May 22, 2009

Well, Thursday was a wash. And it was a wash mostly because MLB was awash with blown saves. As seen on a previous post in the FanDome, there were blown saves in six of the fifteen games played last night. Since the record here yesterday was 7-7, those blown saves cost the picks the games in San Diego and Kansas City. The rest were just bonehead picks like picking Millwood to beat Santana and poor Micah Owings to beat the Phillies.

Oh well, today's another day. And it is an interleague day at that, making the picks all that more interesting. Here goes nothing!

  • The Nationals over the Orioles: It's hard to pick the Orioles when Hill is starting. Zimmerman is inexperienced for the Nationals, but if he is on, he is quite a talent.
  • The Tigers over the Rockies: The Tigers continue to roll as Porcello will be an unknown to the Rockies.
  • The Yankees over the Phillies: The only Yankee pitcher who hasn't been part of the recent Yankee party is A. J. Burnett. He fixes that tonight.
  • The Mets over the Red Sox: Can't pick against Johan Santana and Dice-K makes his first start back from rehab, and that's Rule #2.
  • The Indians over the Reds: The Fan knows that Reyes is starting for the Indians and he has been terrible. But Arroyo is starting for the Reds and he hasn't been effective.
  • Bay Rays over the Marlins: Sonnanstine versus Nolasco. The two pitchers are a wash, so go with the better team.
  • The Blue Jays over the Braves: New rule: Rule #5 - Don't pick against Halladay.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: Ineffective starting pitchers matchup here so go with the better hitting team.
  • The Brewers over the Twins: Like Parra over Slowey in a good matchup. Have to go with the hot team. Plus, the Twins have to be tired after scoring 20 runs yesterday.
  • The Pirates over the White Sox: Zack Duke has been very good. Gavin Floyd, the opposite.
  • The Cardinals over the Royals: Wellemeyer has been good of late. The Royals seem to be sliding.
  • The Padres over the Cubs: Peavy versus Zambrano, who just returned from rehab - Rule #2
  • The A's over the Diamondbacks: Cahill versus Buckner, just called up from the minors - Rule #2 again.
  • The Giants over the Mariners: Randy Johnson goes home to Seattle where he won so many games. Plus, this is his Dr. Jeckyll start in his continued hot/cold season.
  • The Dodgers over the Angels: The Dodgers are at home, thus no DH for the Angels and Kershaw is pitching for the Dodgers.

Well, there you have it. Enjoy the games and interleague play.

Yesterday: 7-7
Week: 38-29
Month: 135-121

More Blown Saves

The season-long trend of blown saves continued Thursday night as there were five in twelve games finished as of this writing (The Angels/Mariners and Giants/Padres games are still going as these words are typed). That means saves were blown in 42% of the games in the books for the night. Four of those teams lost games they were winning, meaning that 33% of the games featured a team that was winning and lost the game.

For the record, the blown saves occurred for:

  • Kansas City - They lost because of the bullpen in a Greinke start and that lucky son-of-a-gun, Pavano, won again.
  • Tampa Bay - But they still won because Oakland's bullpen was bad too.
  • Pittsburgh - A blown save cost them the game.
  • Florida - Another loss that should have been a win.
  • Houston - Oswalt was a wizard stranding runners all night. His manager fixed that by bringing in a reliever to make sure those runs scored late in the game. Remember that Houston is faring less than 50% in save opportunities.

Some notes about the above:

In Tampa Bay, this is going to be a problem unless they can find an answer. The Fan has watched Wheeler pitch on several occasions and the guy has nothing. His fastball is straight as an arrow (just like Farnsworth's) and any success he's had has been a fluke. Meanwhile, the Percival experience has to end. The guy has the heart of a lion, but the arm of T-Rex. He gave up three more runs tonight.

Trey Hillman either has the worst luck in picking his relievers or he is just really bad at it. Greinke was sailing along and the Royals were winning, 3-2. Greinke had give up eight hits in his six innings, but he still struck out eight. Hillman brings in Horatio Ramirez, who entered the game with his ERA already sitting at 5.74. He had, to the point of this appearance, already given up 26 base runners in 15+ innings. Oh! But he's a lefty and it was a matchup thing. Well, it didn't work out. Two runs scored and the game ended up an 8-3 rout.

In the Pittsburgh game, Snell had given the Pirates a decent game and left after six innings with the score in the Pirates' favor, 4-3. The Pirates bring in Tom (ScoresAMany) Gorzalanny, who promptly gave the game away. The pitcher, who had a decent 2007, was bloody awful in 2008 and had only pitched 1.2 innings since he was called up from the minors. You're going to give a guy like that the ball in a big situation? Man.

The bullpen situation this year has been amazing. There are going to be a lot of starting pitchers who start 33 games only to have 20 decisions or less. It's been a bloodbath all over the league. One of the reasons that the Yankees and the Brewers have been on a roll is that their bullpens settled down. The entire league has to figure out how to do that same thing.

P. S. The Giants closed out the night with another blown save.

Are the Blue Jays Moulting?

The Blue Jays have had a very good start to the season. This site has sung the praises of Cito Gaston (and rightly so) for the success they have had so far. But the feathers are starting to fly off the birds as they face a stretch against tough rivals. They lost two of three to the Yankees and were swept by the Red Sox.

Looking at the Blue Jays schedule so far, their impressive run differential might be explained by all the games they have played against the White Sox and Oakland and Baltimore and the Angels. It probably has worked both ways. Their patchwork rotation has seemingly held together but faced weak hitting teams in Chicago, Oakland and California. They also faced the Twins before-Mauer and Detroit before that team got rolling.

Along the way, their batters have faced really weak staffs in Oakland, Chicago, Cleveland, Minnesota and Baltimore. But they only scored three runs a game against the Yankees and four runs in three games against the Red Sox. Meanwhile, the Tallets, Cecils and Rays that have had success against those weak hitting teams are not winning against the tough Red Sox and Yankees.

The season is still unfolding, but the Blue Jays are moulting against tough competition, and that won't win them a division.

Interleague Play

It's that time of year again when the baseball equivalent of the volleyball switch takes place and everyone goes over to the other side. The fans seem to like interleague play if attendance is any indicator, but as Buster Olney wrote today in his blog, the players don't like it very much. As for the opinion here in the FanDome, interleague play is interesting but could be made much better by installing the DH in every game.

The Fan has come to terms with the DH thing where one league has it and one doesn't. It doesn't seem to make much sense to have two leagues with two separate sets of rules. But, peace had to be made with the thing because it isn't changing any time soon. But the question seems to beg that as much as the fans seem to dig interleague play, wouldn't National League fans rather see the best of the American League, which includes the DH?

Okay, say that the Red Sox play the Marlins. The Fan doesn't know if they do or they don't because the Fan doesn't do normal things like look at schedules. But say they do for argument sake. If David Ortiz was still David Ortiz, wouldn't it be nice for fans in Florida to see him play? And if the Red Sox do want him in the lineup (kind of hard at the moment to think they will) and stick him at first base, doesn't that move Youkilis to third and thus deprive the Marlins fans of seeing old favorite, Mike Lowell? Or wouldn't a Japanese-American in Atlanta rather see Matsui hit for the Yankees instead of Andy Pettitte?

The DH thing in interleague games that take place in National League parks puts the American League teams in jeopardy because they have to play a player out of position (if they want the normal DH in the lineup) and puts American League pitchers in a position to hurt either their egos or their ankles (like Wang last year). Ortiz hasn't played first all year, but if he was still David Ortiz, the Sox would put him on first to have him in the lineup. But that means really crappy defense at first and the danger that Ortiz, who is not in fielding shape, could hurt himself.

It just doesn't make sense. If you want to keep it for the World Series, okay. It's still stupid, but okay. But for interleague play, put the best players on the field and keep the DH geezers and wheezers where they belong and keep the pitchers safe.

American League pitchers never take batting practice during the year. They never take bunting practice. Yet for two periods of the season, they are forced to go up to the plate and look rather ludicrous. Is that a good thing for the fans? Well, perhaps if they are sadomasochistic.

It also gives the National League a chance to add a bat to the lineup. If one isn't available on the normal roster, bring up your team's best bopper in the minors and let him hit for two weeks. That's always exciting for the fans to see new talent.

Either way, if MLB wants to keep its silly duality of rules for the leagues, fine. But suspend them during the interleague play and let's make this even more fun than it already is.

P. S. Can someone clue the Fan on whether "interleague" is all one word, or two words, or a hyphenated word?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Son

The Fan's namesake turns 30 today. How did that happen? It's a milestone for sure and the Fan wishes him a very happy birthday.

The Fan Redux is a good kid. He's a big Yankee fan. Wonder where he got that from? He loves baseball and was better at it than his old man. The old man had the same great wheels and played centerfield just as good and stole bases just as good. But the Fan couldn't hit a curve ball. Every time a pitcher threw one, the third base coach would be yelling down, "What are you looking at me for?" The Fan Redux could hit. Oh, and he had a much better arm. He did some pitching. The Fan never pitched.

It wasn't always easy for the Fan Redux, nor for his father. The son often was the center of attention for all the wrong reasons. One little league game comes to mind. The kids were all carrying on in the dugout and the manager was coaching first base. He yelled over to the dugout and told his charges to settle down and the Fan Redux responded by saying, "I'm not doing anything!" Yup, that's the way he was. Instead of the manager being frustrated with all the kids, now he was focused on one kid. And that was how it went most of the time.

The seventh grade was the worst year. That year, the Fan knew the Principal's wardrobe better than the Principal's wife did. It was never awful stuff. It was a million little throwing gum incidents that just killed the innards of a dad. But we all got through it somehow.

But for every Tums induced moment, there was a good one. There were walks to the store and playing catch in the yard or going to Disney together. He turned out to be a good kid. He's got a good heart and is inclined to respect his father for some reason. Kind of hard to beat that.

He's a bit of a slow starter because he doesn't believe he is as smart and as talented as he is. The Fan doesn't believe that because of rose-colored glasses. The talent and the smarts are real. Just the belief in them is not. If he ever takes a hold of that truth, then he will find himself.

We all have a purpose in this life and some times it is difficult for the young to understand. The calling is to excel and to grow and to have an influence that positively impacts those around you. Like many of his generation, he has not seen the purpose of faith and the belief that there is a maker of this universe that has a plan for him. It is hoped that he will, because that will be a great benefit to his growth and success in life.

It's time to put the past behind and the hindrances of our own foibles. It's time to become the person he was intended to be. The Fan still believes. He always has. He always will.

Happy birthday, Son.

Game Picks - Thursday: May 21, 2009

Not a bad day, but it could have been better. Who would have known that the Royals bullpen would implode and not the Indians'? Or that the only Mariner that would get any hits would be Junior Griffey? The Giants/Padres game was a crap shoot as was the Marlins/Diamondbacks, so no hurt feelings there.

Here are today's picks:

  • The Reds over the Phillies: Don't read anything into this pick other than that Micah Owings is pitching and this is an emotional pick.
  • The Rangers over the Tigers: Jackson should be better than Millwood, but the Fan is feeling Millwood.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: Going to pick the Twins until they finally win a game. Has to happen some time.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Greinke against Pavano? Sounds like the mismatch of the year. At least lets hope so.
  • The Bay Rays over the A's: Garza and Braden. Could be a low scoring game. But have to go with Garza.
  • The Nationals over the Pirates: The Nationals beat Ian Snell. This is the upset pick of the day.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Chamberlain versus Eaton. Let's all hope that Chamberlain doesn't go after Aubrey Huff. That wouldn't be good.
  • The Braves over the Rockies: The Braves are starting Medlin against Cook. They brought Medlin up instead of Hansen, so Medlin has to be pretty good, right?
  • The Diamondbacks over the Marlins: It appears that the Marlins aren't as good as they appeared to be at the start of the season.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: If Boston wins, it may signal the fall of the Blue Jays as their inexperienced pitching begins to melt back into the division.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: Picking Suppon over Oswalt? The Fan must be crazy. But this isn't the Oswalt he has been. He's running out of steam.
  • The Cubs over the Cardinals: Sean Marshall has been the losing streak ender for the Cubs. He'll have to do it again.
  • The Giants over the Padres: The Padres are on a bit of a roll, but Lincecum is pitching for the Giants.
  • The Mariners over the Angels: Bedard over Saunders, whose pitches will seem like beach balls after facing the peas of Santana.

Yesterday: 10-6
Week: 31-22
Month: 128-114

Realignment Proposal

It's been a while since the major leagues realigned the divisions. How many of you remember the Milwaukee Brewers as an American League team? The problem with many realignment proposals are that usually, too many teams have to jump leagues. This linked blog post from a very good blog suggests something really radical. So radical that the heart stops just thinking about it. All those teams jumping leagues is just too stomach churning to consider. After all, the Yankees playing in the National League. Say what!? But there are options and obviously, when the Toronto Blue Jays are in an eastern division, something is goofy. Here's a plan:

Here are the current configurations:

American League


Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, Bay Rays, Orioles


White Sox, Tigers, Royals, Indians, Twins


Angels, Rangers, A's, Mariners

National League


Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Braves, Nationals


Reds, Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs, Astros, Brewers


Dodgers, Giants, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Padres

When looking at it as a whole, it's really not that bad. But there are a couple of teams that don't fit. The already mentioned Blue Jays are not close to the rest of the east teams. The Indians are more east than central and the Rangers aren't far enough West.

There are problems. First, there aren't enough AL West teams. With only four, there aren't enough teams left if you take the Rangers out of there. Somebody is going to have to jump leagues because no other American League team is located close to the west coast.

When asking a team to jump leagues, the first thing to consider is tradition. You can't move a team like the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs and other iconic teams to a new league. The better route is to take a team that is fairly new and doesn't have the weight of history against it. The Brewers were such a team during the last realignment.

Weighing all the factors and the geography, here is a new proposal for the divisions. The green teams are teams that change divisions. The red teams change leagues.

New American League


Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles, Bay Rays, Indians


Rangers, Blue Jays, White Sox, Twins, Tigers, Royals


A's, Angels, Mariners, Diamondbacks

New National League


Mets, Braves, Nationals, Marlins, Phillies, Pirates


Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Astros, Brewers


Dodgers, Padres, Rockies, Giants

Under this plan, only five teams jump divisions and only one team jumps leagues. The Pirates would have a great rivalry with the Phillies. The west divisions each have four teams and Toronto and the Rangers are more in line with where they are geographically. The Diamondbacks are fairly new, have had some success in the past and could adapt easily.

Makes sense to this Fan.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Game Picks - Wednesday: May 20, 2009

::THUD:: That was the sound of running full speed and hitting a wall. In the immortal words of Marlin the Fish in Finding Nemo: "Good feeling gone." First, Dontrelle Willis threw goose eggs. That's terrific, but who saw that coming? Why wasn't the news about Mike Hampton cutting his pitching finger available BEFORE the game? Why do the Twins keep losing? Why can't the Indians' pitching hold ANY lead? How does Wakefield do it? Those questions and more led to a really bad picking day in the FanDome.

Let's consider last night a speed bump on the road to success. With that in the Fan's hopeful mind, here are today's picks:

  • The Marlins over the Diamondbacks: Like Volstad over Davis. Let's see if Davis gets mad again when his new manager takes him out of the game.
  • The Pirates over the Nationals: Two good young pitchers in the matchup of Lannon versus Maholm. But the Nationals bullpen is like swiss cheese.
  • The Tigers over the Rangers: Another good matchup of Harrison versus Verlander. Experience will win out with a Verlander win.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: The Yankees are on a major roll. Hughes will have a good game.
  • Oakland over the Bay Rays: Kazmir himself has mentioned that he is lost at the moment. Hate to hope that he stays lost but...
  • The Reds over the Phillies: Harang on the hill for the Reds, Moyer for the Phillies. Has Moyer finally hit the end of the line? The Reds better hope Votto isn't gone long.
  • Braves over the Rockies: De La Rosa has had flashes of brilliance for the Rockies, but Vasquez has found a home in Atlanta.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: Penny has been Boston's weak spot. Cecil hasn't lost a game for the Blue Jays. Ortiz went 0-3 last night with two more strikeouts. It's getting really sad.
  • Astros over the Brewers: It's been really hard to pick against the Brewers lately as they are on a major roll, but so has Wandy Rodriguez. Sticking with Wandy.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Gil (ga) Meche over Carmona. They should remain about even in the game until the Indians' bullpen blows it.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: Come on! The Twins can't keep losing like this, can they? Plus, Danks struggled last time out for the White Sox.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Carpenter is back and the Cardinals do seem to get inspired when he is pitching.
  • The Marlins over the Diamondbacks: Two very inexperienced pitchers in this matchup, so when that happens, you go with the better team.
  • The Giants over the Padres: Just because.
  • The Dodgers over the Mets: This one could get ugly with Weaver versus Livan. Yikes!
  • The Angels over the Mariners: Erwin Santana has to be Jakubauskas, right?

Yesterday: 4-11 (sigh)
Week: 21-16
Month: 118-108

Nick Johnson: Back From the Dead

Nick Johnson was an after thought. When the Nationals signed Adam Dunn, the assumption was that Dunn would play first and that the Nationals would do all they could to trade Johnson. After all, Johnson has been plagued by injuries of every sort in his career and except for a few successful seasons, never became the player everyone thought he would be. Even this space featured a piece stating as such. But Nick Johnson wasn't listening.

Johnson came to camp in shape and without a job. Although he starred for the Nationals just two years ago with a sterling line of .290/.428/.520 in 500 At Bats, that season ended with a horrific injury. Not able to play last year more than 38 games, his line fell to .220/.415/.460. But he came to camp with little fan fare and played his Spring Training games and hit and hit and got on base and he forced his way into the every day lineup

And he's done very well. His current line before Tuesday night's game: .336/.433/.460. His slugging is light as he hasn't shown much power to date, but he is tenth in the league in hits, fourteenth in runs scored, and ninth in the league in On Base Percentage. His OBP seems to be slump proof and there is no doubt he will end up over .400. He sits at .398 for his career so it's a good bet.

Johnson has always been known as a good fielder with a zone value above league average and above league average range. He is a wizard at scooping balls in the dirt and his only flaw is an increase in errors two of the last three years.

Obviously, the Nationals are going nowhere this year. Their pitching is simply atrocious. But you can't blame the first four guys in their lineup. Cristian Guzman has been terrific with a .385/.390/.500 split. Imagine if he took a walk once in a while. Johnson has been very good. Zimmerman has had a breakout season and is sitting at a 1.041 OPS. And then Dunn has been everything they hoped for with a 1.004 OPS.

It's hard not to root for a guy like Nick Johnson. He was written off and left for dead. But he is very much alive and playing very well on a very bad team.

Pineiro Puts a Stop to LaRussa's Madness

Joel Pineiro pitched a complete game shutout against the Cubs Tuesday night and it was a refreshing change for those who watch the Cardinals on a regular basis. Just the night before, LaRussa trotted eight pitchers to the mound in a nine inning game. Tonight's game took two hours and five minutes. Monday night's fox trot took three hours and twenty-one minutes. The latter has been the norm for the Cardinals.

Previous to Tuesday night's game, the Cardinals had played 38 games and LaRussa has used 167 different pitcher appearances for an average of 4.39 pitchers per game. And it's not like the Cardinals can't pitch. Their team ERA is a respectable 4.23. The only team with more appearances in the National League has been Washington (for obvious reasons) who have used 4.50 pitchers per game. But that's understandable since the Nationals have a team ERA of 5.90 [wince].

LaRussa loves his matchups. But they sure are tedious.

Hurray for Dontrelle Willis!

There is no player in the major leagues that more people have been rooting for him than Dontrelle Willis. One of the most likable players in the league that past several seasons, Willis had fallen on hard times the past two years, last year in particular. He lost the ability to consistently find the strike zone and it was almost like he forgot how to pitch. After a long road and much futility, Willis one-hit the mighty hitting Rangers for six and a third innings.

Willis walked two and threw 61 strikes and 40 balls during the game. While that is not spectacular command, he did strike out five. The only hit the Rangers delivered in the entire game was a Michael Young double to deep right in the first inning.

Time will tell if Willis can consistently do the job. But tonight was fun and though the Fan didn't watch the game, he could picture the big smile on Dontrelle's face: that same smile that made him such a fan favorite.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Game Picks - Tuesday: May 19, 2009

An abbreviated schedule last night, made even more so by the rain out in Florida, not only limited the potential damage, but limited the potential success. Still, it was a successful evening, the third such day in a row. This picker is getting his mojo back it seems. Uh oh. Hope that statement didn't hex today's picks.

  • The Nationals over the Pirates: Martis has been good for the Nationals. Karstens has been okay for the Pirates. The Nationals need a win and are due. They can't lose every game for the rest of the year can they?
  • The Rangers over the Tigers: McCarthy has been good for the Rangers and Willis is pitching for the Tigers. As much as the Fan would love to see Willis do well, it would be foolish to pick as such.
  • Yankees over the Orioles: The Orioles have smacked the Yankees around this year and pay back is due. Sabathia is going for the Yankees.
  • Oakland over the Bay Rays: Outman has been pretty good for the A's. Shields is a bit of a mystery. Oakland is due for a win.
  • Marlins over the Diamondbacks: Weather permitting. The Marlins sure need that new stadium. Johnson is coming off a bad outing and is too good a pitcher to have another one.
  • Reds over the Phillies: Great matchup of Hamels versus Cueto. Have to go with the Reds at home.
  • Braves over the Rockies: This game could start Rule #5: Don't pick against Jurrjens. If he does well again, the rule goes into effect. The Rockies are starting an inexperienced pitcher to boot.
  • Blue Jays over the Red Sox: Picking against Wakefield!? What? Oh well, going to stick with Tallet, the English Hotel Steward.
  • The Astros over the Brewers: Like Hampton over Bush. The Brewers are on a major roll, but are due for a loss.
  • The Indians over the Royals: Bannister hasn't lost yet. The law of averages say he will. Lee is pitching for the Indians and he's been really good of late. He better pitch a complete game though.
  • Twins over the White Sox: The Twins will be angry over the Yankees series. The White Sox will face the wrath. Baker will have a good game.
  • Cubs over the Cardinals: The Cards are really struggling and Pineiro has been too. Going with the Cubs and Ted Lilly.
  • Giants over the Padres: Picking Barry Zito to beat Young. Hey, it could happen.
  • Dodgers over the Mets: Billingsley is on the mound for the Dodgers. Maine for the Mets. Can't see the Mets winning this one.
  • Mariners over the Angels: King Felix needs to have a good game. Here's betting he will.

Yesterday: 6-2
Week: 17-5
Month: 114-97

Three Surprising Infielders

One of the joys of life for dozens of years now has been the consistent state of wonder when looking over box scores and statistics. It is just so much fun to see how players are doing, who is struggling, who is surpassing all expectations, who is having a breakout season, who seems over the hill. It's all there every day in free form deconstruction. While reveling in this daily joy, three infielders have been truly amazing this year: Jason Bartlett, Adam Everett and Adam Kennedy.

Jason Bartlett

Bartlett went three for three Monday night against the A's including a triple and five RBI. He is now batting .385 with an OPS+ over 140. Wow. How did that happen? He has always been a decent offensive guy. His career .343 OBP isn't bad. But he has always been light in the slugging part of things and thus his career OPS of .721. So where did this year come from? He is slugging .563, which is .188 points over his career average. He's already matched his career high in homers with five. He is halfway to his best RBI year ever. He'll never be the greatest fielding shortstop in the majors with average range. But he gets the job done. His offense this year is astounding.

Adam Kennedy

Would it surprise you to know that Adam Kennedy has hit over .300 twice in his career and has also posted OPS+ numbers over 100 twice as well? It would after he posted a .219 clunker two years ago that permanently found him in Tony LaRussa's dog house. And one thing history has taught us is that LaRussa's dog house does not have an ejector seat. He's playing sporadically for the A's this year and is batting .346. He's still an above average second baseman.

Adam Everett

Everett has an OPS+ average for his career of 70. That's pretty bad. In fact, his best year with the bat was 2004 when his line looked like: .273/.317/.385. Yes, that was his best year. The years since have not been kind. But this year, he has been right in the middle of the Tiger's resurgence to respectability and his current line is: .306/.333/.424. There has never been a question about his defense. He has always been above average in range and in Total Fielding Runs Above Average. But his bat this year has been a pleasant surprise. If he finishes near his 2004 numbers, the Tigers should be more than happy.

Why Are We So Negative?

Life is difficult. As a journey that begins with a trauma and a slap on the ass, it's one long (hopefully) series of joys and pains, tears and laughter. Nobody has it easy, though wealth does make the misery more tolerable. With all the stress and all the problems, compared to people in other countries, we have it pretty good. But the one message that seems relevant is that we are all human beings and except for the rare anomalies of evil souls, most are at least attempting to be good people. Why is it then that we are so cruel to each other?

We had our yard sale this past weekend. And we did okay. We didn't do as well as we hoped, but we sold enough stuff to make it worth our while. But during the day, as people filed in an out, some of the rudeness of people was just plain hurtful. Look, we have more stuff than we needed and the Fan isn't saying that he has the greatest taste in the world, but at one point in time, the items purchased seemed to make sense. Now that we need some capital, it's time to discard stuff we don't need. Is that a reason to trash our stuff? Is there a need to put people down because nothing was pleasing to your eyes?

Why does this happen? The Fan spends an overt amount of energy trying to be as kind and polite as possible. One of the nicest compliments the Fan ever received was when a teacher told the Fan's mom that she had the most polite children the teacher had ever encountered. That was a badge of honor. Why is it not the norm anymore?

Did you watch the Sunday Night Baseball telecast? Did you hear Steve Phillips go after the Mets like Wright and Beltran and Reyes? What was his need for such cruelty. Are they perfect players? Well, geez, no. How many perfect players are there? How could he question their character and commitment? The Mets have faltered the last two Septembers. Wouldn't the Pirate fans feel lucky if that was their team? At least the Mets were competitive? At least they could be fun to watch. What made Phillips do that?

Joe Posnanski had a technical glitch on his blog today. After he got it back up and stated the obvious, several commenters took it upon themselves to jeer what happened to him. Don't they understand that he probably had a traumatic and stressful day and could have used more kindness? What is wrong with us?

Why do we take such delight in the failures of Michael Jackson, Lindsey Lohan, Michael Vick and others who have struggled with what should have been a positive life. The Fan feels nothing but compassion for the wrong turns they have taken in their lives. Of course, if Jackson did anything to those kids, then all bets are off. Perhaps that wasn't a good example.

Most are saying that Vick should never be allowed to play football again. Is that how we should be? He did something terribly wrong and has paid in spades for his error. Is he never allowed now to have any good in his life? What if that was you? What if you were talking on your cell phone and in a flash of a second, hit a pedestrian. A terrible mistake in judgement. Sure you should take your punishment. But should you never have any smiles or joys the rest of your life? Is that what society thinks? The single biggest tool in this universe is forgiveness. It's amazing how well it works to clean out a soul. Too bad so few people understand this concept.

The Fan publishes books. We aren't a big company yet and still depend on local events and the Christmas season to pay the bills. We sell our wares at a booth in the mall. The Fan has spent many hours there with pride in our workmanship and our quality. Then a lady will walk up, look at one of our handsome books and state with disgust, "Twenty bucks for THAT?" This same lady was probably nodding her head vigorously when Obama was talking about stopping the flood of our jobs overseas. The Fan wasn't in a good mood that day. His feet and back hurt and sales were slow. His response? "Well, they aren't made in China! They are made with pride right here in Aroostook County." She huffed and walked off.

The point is that we are trying to build something here in a time when the economy is difficult. What was her need to be so negative? What does it say about us as a people that we need to feel better about ourselves by crushing somebody else?

The Fan isn't immune. Livan Hernandez has felt the sting of this keyboard. So have other players. Perhaps that is another point well taken. But read any tabloid, listen to the late night talk show monologues, read the myriad of awful and mean-spirited comments on any website or blog. A lack of kindness is prevalent and it is appalling.

Perhaps the Fan is a pie-in-the-sky sort of guy. But isn't that better than the alternative? The Fan wants to be a light in this world. Don't you want the same thing? If not, why not? Think about it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Game Picks - Monday: May 18, 2009

A most excellent Sunday. Nearly everything went as planned. If the Atlanta/Arizona game hadn't been rained out, it could have been killer. But after a rough start to last week, the week finished strong and this week is starting on a high. Let's see if we can keep it going.

Monday's Picks:

  • Toronto over the White Sox: Another battle of inexperienced pitchers. When two such pitchers square off, go with the better team. In this case: Toronto.
  • Pittsburgh over Washington: The Nationals seemed like they were looking decent in the recent past, but they have gotten sloppy and are hanging their heads lately.
  • Yankees over the Twins: The Yankees have unbelievably snookered the Twins out of three straight games. The Twins have to be shaking their heads and wondering what kind of hex was put on them. Look for them to stumble one more time and run like crazy away from the Stadium.
  • Bay Rays over Oakland: Billy Beane has been pegged as a genius for many years now, but he sure seems to put together a boinker this year.
  • Braves over the Rockies: It's time to retire Rule #1 (never pick against Marquis). Marquis got banged around his last time out and Derek Lowe is a tough cookie.
  • Diamondbacks over the Marlins: The Marlins might be the one team in the NL colder than the Diamondbacks and Nolasco has been vexing. Going with Haran to win this one.
  • Brewers over the Cardinals: The Brewers are on fire and even though Looper is pitching, got to go with the hot team. Lohse is going for the Cards and the Fan is convinced he's not totally healthy.
  • Dodgers over the Mets: Wolf is a safer bet than Tim Redding plus, the Mets are feeling the void left by Reyes and Delgado.
  • Mariners over the Angels: Rule #4. Lackey really didn't make his first start of the year, not if you count two beanballs an outing. Plus, he should lose on principle. It was a crappy enterprise he pulled on Kinsler.

Yesterday: 11-3
Week: 11-3
Month: 108-95

Blown Saves on the Rise

As mentioned on the daily game picks feature, it has become increasingly difficult to pick games based on the starting pitchers who are matching up. A big part of the equation has become which teams can close out a game once they have a lead. If you are feeling that blown saves are more prevalent than in the past, your feelings are dead on.

Let's look at the past five years:

2005 - American League Save Percentage: 68%, National League: 68%. There were only two teams in the entire major leagues that had a save percentage less than 60%

2006 - American League Save Percentage: 68%, National League: 64%. There were five teams that had a save percentage less than 60%.

2007 - American League Save Percentage: 68%, National League: 67%. Again, there were five teams that were successful less than 60% of the time.

2008 - American League Save Percentage: 67%, National League: 62%. The number of teams that were successful less than 60% of the time jumped to eight.

2009 - American League Save Percentage: 63%, National League: 61%. An amazing 14 teams are currently under 60%. And four of those teams have been successful less than 50% of the time: Washington (37%!!), Houston (41%), Cleveland (47%) and Minnesota (46%).

Some things to consider here: First, only one guy can get a save in a game. So only one guy can be successful. The other guys get "Holds." But any pitcher from the seventh inning on can get a blown save if he loses the lead (under certain score and men-on-base situations). So any team's Save Percentage is going to be lower on average than the closer's statistics because more guys can blow a save than can record one.

Secondly, the National League has seen a decline over the last two years while the American League has been steady up until this year when it has dropped by a wide margin.

The Fan is going to propose a couple of hypotheses on why this trend is occurring. While the Fan would love to take the time and compile numbers to support the hypotheses (and thus make it to Wednesay Wangdoodles), the Fan just doesn't have the will to work that hard. Perhaps someone will take these thoughts and either prove them or disprove them. But here we go.

First, increasingly, the "set up" men in the bullpen are becoming a luxury item. Three of the four teams that are performing at less than 50% this year in Save Percentage are in the bottom half of the team salary statistics. Since these teams have less money to either keep successful pitchers or buy them, they rely more on castoffs, long shots and youngsters to round out the bullpen and hope something works. When it is successful, it's an amazing thing. When it's not, the failure can be spectacular.

Secondly, starting pitchers are on an increasingly shorter leash. To see a pitcher go beyond 100 pitches now is rarer than ever before. With many teams placing more emphasis on OBP than ever before, those starters are getting to their 100 pitch ceiling faster than ever. That places more need on the bullpen meaning that more guys have to work to get the same job done. The Fan would bet that the average pitcher appearances per game is up for many teams. The Fan tried to find this data but was unsuccessful without going to each teams and counting them all up.

Lastly (unless you want to get into the whole PED debate which pitchers no doubt participated in as much as hitters), the current vogue in almost all major league ball parks is the left, right, left parade as managers play the match up game. It seems that every game, a late inning pitching change occurs where a weak throwing lefty (who may or may not be over 40) comes in to face a left handed batter and throws four sweeping breaking balls outside and walks the guy. His day is then done (unless there is another lefty coming up) and he has to hope that the next guy in to pitch doesn't surrender that run.

The Fan would like to back up his theories with cold, hard facts, but will have to settle for someone else doing that legwork. The one fact that is incontrovertible is that Save Percentages are taking a beating and 14 out of 30 teams can't even be successful 60% of the time. It's early yet in the season (a little past the 20% mark), but if the trend holds true, it's going to be a long year for fans hoping that a lead is safe once their team is ahead.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Game Picks - Sunday: May 17

It started out being an amazing day. Walk-offs by Soriano and A-Rod cemented a quick start where the only incorrect pick was the Cardinals. But the day ended in a bit of a whimper as the Reds blew their game after leading most of the way. The season so far has showed one thing and that is a league with a lot of shaky bullpens. Picking games has become not only which starting pitchers have the best matchups but what teams can hold on to the lead once they get one.

With that in the back of the mind, here are today's picks:

  • Tigers over the A's: Cahill has been an amazing story, but he's due for an off game. Galarraga, after a great season last year, has been a disappointment this season. In the reverse of Cahill, he is due for a good start.
  • Yankees over the Twins: The Yankees are on a little bit of a roll and Burnett is on the hill against Slowey. Slowey is a good pitcher though, so this one is a close call.
  • Blue Jays over the White Sox: Halladay is pitching for the Blue Jays. No need to say any more.
  • Dodgers over the Marlins: Kershaw is pitching for the Dodgers and he is starting to put it together. The Marlins are a good fastball hitting team though. Another close call.
  • Pirates over the Rockies: If the Rockies couldn't beat Ian Snell, how are they going to beat Zack Duke?
  • Nationals over the Phillies: Like Zimmerman over Chan Ho Park.
  • Braves over the Diamondbacks: Jon Garland is starting for the Diamondbacks in his second start of the year. He was rocked his first start. Should be no different this time around.
  • Bay Rays over the Indians: Can't believe how badly the Indians' season has gone. They go with another untested pitcher today against the Bay Rays. Sonnanstine has been puzzling though for the Bay Rays.
  • Rangers over the Angels: Got to pick Josh's guy, Feldman, to notch another win.
  • Royals over the Orioles: This feels like a stupid pick. The Orioles are starting Uehara, who has looked really good at times. The Royals go with Hochever who seems like a great AAA pitcher but keeps getting knocked out early in the bigs. But...well, it's Sunday and the Fan just feels like being stupid.
  • Brewers over the Cardinals: Should pick Wellemeyer to win. But going with Parra instead.
  • Cubs over the Astros: Can't pick against Harden, especially when he is facing Moehler.
  • Padres over the Reds: As much as the Fan admires Arroyo and his heart, he is just a train wreck and shouldn't, on any given day, be favored over Peavy.
  • Mariners over the Red Sox: Not confident about Masterson and Vargas was very good last time.
  • Mets over the Giants: Cain is pitching for the Giants, but the Mets have too much horsepower for the Giants.

Yesterday: 11-5
Week: 45-45 back at .500!
Month: 97-92

Was Lackey a...well...umm...Lackey?

It seems obvious that John Lackey was going to sacrifice himself on behalf of his teammates and was going to plunk Ian Kinsler if it took all day (view the replay here). The only question remaining is if he did so on his own volition or did Mike Scioscia order the assassination? Scioscia and Lackey put on a great show in disbelief that Lackey was thrown out of the game. But if you watch the video, there is no evidence that Lackey's shoulder flew open too quickly which would force the pitch wide to the right. The replay shows that Lackey's follow through and delivery were solid and he was aiming for Kinsler. Of course, it is impossible to read Lackey's mind to be sure that it was intentional. It sure looked it though.

To Kinsler's credit, he simply took his base without incident. It was a classy move on his part. He got even by stealing a base and scoring on Josh Hamilton's sac fly. Eight out of ten other players in that situation would have charged the mound. Sometimes, you show more of your manhood by not sinking down to your attacker's level. That was a man's move right there.

As for Lackey, he has the distinction of throwing two pitches and giving up an earned run. To be sure, the league office will be calling to set up an appointment for when Lackey fights the suspension that is sure to come.

Just to be fair, the Fan went back to Friday's game and watched the replay of both of Kinsler's home runs and there was nothing showboating about them. He simply ran around the bases, and he didn't do it slowly either. And he didn't pose at the plate. So it doesn't make any sense to use Kinsler as a target.

Strange. Very strange indeed.