Saturday, August 22, 2009

Game Picks - Saturday: August 22, 2009

It's hard to tell which looked worse, this pickers results sheet or Brad Penny's pitching line. The Mets won. The Padres beat the Cardinals (told you that Richard was good). The Orioles beat the White Sox. The Dodgers beat the Cubs (again). The Twins confounded (again). It was just a humbling night. But like the Red Sox, you can get drubbed the first night and still today is a new day.

So on with today's picks because the Fan has a show today in Houlton and has to get moving:

  • The Blue Jays over the Angels: This Richmond kid looks good. And hey, the Blue Jays can actually win two games in a row.
  • The Cubs over the Dodgers: Ted Lilly versus some kid named Haeger.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Burnett over Tanzawa.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Lehr versus Zack Duke. The Pirates never score for Duke.
  • The Nationals over the Brewers: Lannon is superior to Burns. Both teams hit equally well.
  • The Astros over the Diamondbacks: Heck, Moehler has to throw a good game once in a while.
  • The Mariners over the Indians: This Fister kid (with the unfortunate name) has been really good.
  • The White Sox over the Orioles: Danks should win this game against Hernandez.
  • The Rangers over the Bay Rays: Good match up of Hunter versus Garza.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Like Hanson over Volstad.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Happ versus Tim Redding. Yeesh.
  • The Twins over the Royals: The Twins are doing it to the Fan again. They just are.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: De La Rosa versus some kid named Martinez.
  • The Tigers over the A's: Galarraga versus Cahill. Going with the better team.
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Chris Carpenter puts the universe back in order.

Enjoy your weekend!

Yesterday: 5-10 Doh!
Week: 46-35
Month: 144-129

Ryan Howard Versus Prince Fielder Revisited

Heading into Friday night's games, Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder have posted the following statistics:

Player A: 32 homers, .599 Slugging Percentage, 1.019 OPS. .995 Fielding Percentage, 9.37 RF/9.
Player B: 32 homers, .553 Slugging Percentage, .903 OPS, .991 Fielding Percentage, 8.98 RF/9.

Which player is Howard and which one is Fielder? You may be surprised that Player A is Prince Fielder. The Fan wrote about these two way back in February and it was fun comparing the two. The comparison covered the previous three years and Howard beat Fielder in almost every category over those three years.

But the Fan also pointed out that Howard was 29 and Fielder 24 and showed that PECOTA predicted that Howard would have Fielder beat for one more year then Fielder would eclipse the Phillies' slugger. It appears that the prediction was off by a year.

Don't get the Fan wrong. Ryan Howard is a force and a tremendous slugger in the middle of the Phillies' line up. His batting average is up from a year ago (.268 from .251) as is his On Base Percentage. But his walk ratio is down from 11.5% of his Plate Appearances to 10% this year. On the positive side, his strikeout to At Bat ratio is down from almost 33% to 28%.

But Fielder is having the far better year. His average is up 31 points (.307). His On Base Percentage is way up (.416) and his Slugging Percentage you already know. His walk to Plate Appearance average is 14.7% which is up from 12.1% from last year. And at the moment, he's much cheaper than Howard.

It looks like the lumbering first base award goes to Fielder who has eclipsed the big man in Philadelphia.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Game Picks - Friday: August 21, 2009

Another so-so evening as most of the games this picker worried about proved problematic. The Cubs just aren't very good. The Bay Rays' bullpen blew another game. The Giants and Reds couldn't hit their way out of a paper bag and one of them had to win a close, low-scoring game and the wrong team did. Johan Santana lost. Add all those things up and you have a .500 day picking games. Hope you did better if you are following along.

It's dark here this morning. It's almost nine o'clock and it feels like eight in the evening. To use that as a metaphor, the Fan will now glance through the dark and try to find some illumination for these next fifteen picks:

  • The Reds over the Pirates: Micah Owings is back. So is this Fan's interest in him.
  • The Brewers over the Nationals: The Brewers have looked like the Nationals lately and vice versa.
  • The Mariners over the Indians: Too bad the Indians waited this long to play this well. But the Fan likes French in this game.
  • The Angels over the Blue Jays: Two rookie pitchers. When that happens, go with the better team.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Cole Hamels should beat Bats in his Pelfrey.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Pettitte versus Brad Penny. Tough pick to call.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Got to go with Vazquez over Sanchez, who is once again coming off the disabled list.
  • The Rangers over the Bay Rays: The Rangers just seem to want it more than these current Bay Rays.
  • The Astros over the Diamondbacks: Like Oswalt over Petit.
  • The Royals over the Twins: Hochever has been better than Blackburn. The Twins are missing Morneau.
  • The White Sox over the Orioles: Told you that the Fan was never picking Guthrie again.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: Cook should shut down that anemic line up
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Like this kid, Richard, but the Cardinals are so much better as a team.
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: Jackson should win this one.
  • The Cubs over the Dodgers: There the Fan goes again, picking the Cubs. But they never lose when Wells is pitching.

Yesterday: 6-6
Week: 41-25
Month: 139-119

So Long, Livan

Livan Hernandez lost his job with the Mets on Thursday as the team activated former ace closer, Billy Wagner. And the weird thing about the news is that this writer is sad. Livan had become an event, a fine point of interest. No longer can we ponder if the pitcher will confound us with an unexpected gem of an outing or if he will be Livan, the batting practice pitcher. It was entertaining. But the truth of it is, the Mets probably got rid of the wrong pitcher.

The Mets dumped Livan after three bad starts in a row, but they kept Tim Redding, who will make a spot start to take Livan's place. Don't know about you, but that doesn't seem like a fair trade, even if you are going to see Livan take his lumps now and then. Let's compare the two pitchers:

  • Livan Hernandez: 7-8. 5.47 ERA in 23 starts. His 135 innings gave him an average of 5.87 innings per start. He had a WHIP of 1.593 and gave up 1.1 homers per nine innings. His strikeout to walk ratio was 1.47 and he had an ERA+ of 78.
  • Tim Redding: 1-4. 6.53 ERA in 9 starts and 13 relief appearances. His 9 starts averaged 5.24 innings per start. He has a WHIP of 1.647 and has given up 1.4 homers per nine innings. His strikeout to walk ration is 1.45 and has an ERA+ of 65.

Granted, neither one of them is fun for a manager, but it seems clear to this observer that if you have to get rid of somebody, that somebody would be the least effective guy. Redding has been considerably worse that Eisler Livan Carrera Hernandez.

The thing about Livan--and this is what made him so entertaining--is that he could be pretty amazing or he could be amazingly awful. In his seven wins, he had an ERA of 2.02 and a WHIP of 1.286. In his eight losses, his ERA was 10.21 with a WHIP of 2.319. Whoa! That's a lot of base runners. The point is that occasionally, he could be pretty good and was so seven times. Tim Redding can't give you that. He's never going to give you a good outing. Never. Ever.

But just you watch. Livan won't be dead yet. He will resurface somewhere. Some contender that is thin in starting pitching might pick him up and hope that he can throw a couple of good games in there. The Fan can see him in Los Angeles where he would be better than Jeff Weaver. The Fan can see him in Minnesota where he would be at least as good as Carl Pavano. No. Livan is not dead yet and thank goodness, we haven't seen the last of him.

The other side of this story is Billy Wagner. Wagner was supposed to miss the entire season with his surgery last August. But apparently he heals quickly and here he is. Yeah, he's 38 years old, but at 37 last year and with a dead arm, he still struck out 10 batters for every 9 innings. He pitched Thursday night. One inning, no hits, two strikeouts. But the Mets can't get rid of him fast enough. Jerry Manuel even said that he was going to "showcase" him for an inning and he did. Those were pretty good results. Hey, the Cubbies could use a closer. So could the Marlins. The Mets would have to eat the money, but hey, the guy looks like he can still pitch. 385 career saves anyone?

So, yeah, it was mixed emotions. It was good to see Billy Wagner. But the Fan is going to miss Livan. Long Live Livan! Hope somebody else picks him up so the entertainment can continue.

Wonder What Halladay Is Thinking

Do you think Roy Halladay is a "what if" kind of guy? Do you think he ponders what it would be like if he was pitching for the Phillies right now instead of Cliff Lee? Lee is doing his Sabathia impression as he is now 4-0 with his new team with an ERA lower than one. That could have been Halladay.

And the thing is, the Phillies will have an exciting October. Lee will be having the time of his life as he rides the roller coaster of fan hysteria and overall excitement. Halladay, meanwhile, will be toiling in vain to a half-empty Skydome. Halladay has a real shot at a Cy Young, but that is small consolation for a pitcher who could be ruling the universe like Lee is now.

Halladay is a much better pitcher than Lee. And it seems apparent that it is easier to pitch in the National League than in the American League, especially since half of Halladay's games come against the AL East--the cell phone equivalent of a dead zone for pitchers. That could be Halladay with the Phillies getting high fives from Howard and the gang. It could have been Halladay's shot at the sun and the acclaim he so richly deserves.

Do you think Halladay is thinking that could have been him? Is he that kind of guy? The Fan was rooting for Halladay to stay with the Blue Jays for their fans' sake. But now the Fan is just feeling bad for the guy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Closer Should Never Win a Cy Young Award

There has again been the usual rumblings around the blogsphere about Mariano Rivera as a Cy Young candidate. Posts such as this one tout his ERA and his K/BB ratios, etc. Anyone who knows the Fan knows that Mo is one of his favorite players. The class of the guy and his unusual success over the years with one pitch has earned the respect and a place some day at Cooperstown. But he should never win the Cy Young award, no matter how good he does.

Many experts out there denigrate the value of a closer. Many say that any good starter could be a good closer. Many also say that the Save is a bogus statistic and that guys like Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are artificial heroes because of the bogus stat. The Fan doesn't buy it and those that propose that sort of thinking don't understand that the nature of the game has changed. Pitchers no longer finish 25 to 35 games a season like they did in the past. Starters are expected to pitch to the sixth or seventh and the bullpen takes over. That is today's game. And not accepting that fact takes away from what the closer does. Just ask the Indians how important a closer is. But a closer should not win a Cy Young award.

The Yankees have a .606 OPS against them in save situations. The Blue Jays sit at .806. You don't think that has a big factor in their respective places in the standings? The expectation of guys like Rivera and Eckersley and Gossage at his peak is that the game becomes a seven inning game. You had better be winning or at least tied by then because if you were behind, it was over. There is no overstating the fact that a closer like Rivera is a devastating weapon for the Yankees just like Eckersley was at his closing peak. But they still should win Cy Young awards.

The simple fact of the matter is that they usually pitch an inning. Again, the Fan fully believes in the importance of a good closer and that the Save is a valid statistic. But it's still only one inning out of nine. The starter has to go seven of the nine. There is no comparison of the value there. Either it's a seven of nine effect on a game or a one of nine. The math doesn't ever make sense for a closer and Cy Young. A closer will pitch 70 innings a year. A starter will pitch over 200. A closer will throw 1400 pitches a season. A starter will throw over 4000. No matter how you look at the math, the closer never comes close in value.

The AL Cy Young contenders are Halladay (the leader right now), Greinke and probably Jackson. But don't put Rivera in there. He's great, perhaps the greatest closer ever. But he shouldn't ever be in the thinking process for Cy Young.

Game Picks - Thursday: August 20, 2009

Last night was a little bit of a grounding for the game picker. After a really hot stretch of picks, a fall to earth was expected. Not wanted, mind you. But expected. This picker certainly didn't expect the Yankees to win on a night that Gaudin starts, but the guy hung in there and kept his team in the game. The Royals were a stupid and giddy pick. A great game from Maholm is an acceptable reason to be wrong since it was a good pitchers match up. But man, Halladay never loses for this picker. What happened?

But again, life is about perspective. As the Fan types this, there is a hummingbird at the feeder, the sun is shining and tonight is golf league night. Can't get a better day than that.

There are twelve games today, which is pretty good for a Thursday. So let's see what kind of trouble we can get into:

  • The Giants over the Reds: Matt Cain is pitching against Harang, who seems to be starting to figure it out again. Tough call.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: Washburn goes against his former team, who are lefty heavy which should help him.
  • The Phillies over the Diamondbacks: Blanton over Davis. Blanton is much more talented as are the Phillies.
  • The Nationals over the Rockies: Really like this Mock kid. Probably too much so, but what the heck.
  • The Angels over the Indians: This pick is fraught with dangers. The Indians usually love guys like Lackey but Masterson has not been very good either.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Guess it was a fantasy that the Red Sox might not make the wild card.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Simply because the Bay Rays still think they have a shot. They probably don't.
  • The Mets over the Braves: Johan Santana should beat Kawakami. But that word, "should," has bit deeply so often, the Fan has scars.
  • The Astros over the Marlins: Ack! Two of the Fan's favorite pitchers, Wandy versus Josh Johnson. What to do??
  • The Rangers over the Twins: The Twins were just playing with the Fan to let him get two right. We are back now on our regular habit of getting the Twins pick wrong.
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: One of the few picks that should be a lock.
  • The Cubs over the Dodgers: Oh yeah, this is a fun pick. NOT. Gorzelanny versus Jeff Weaver? Ugh.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 35-19
Month: 133-113

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

So Stephen Strasburg Signed

The story has to be good when it has a perfectly alliterative headline, right? After days of speculation and negative reports to the contrary, the Nationals and Scott Boras got a deal done right before the deadline and the Nationals landed their prized pitcher. The signing prevents Strasburg from joining the likes of J. D. Drew, who sat out a while after his selection and it prevents the Nationals' fans from losing hope.

Of course, any prospect is a crap shoot. No matter how highly touted they come, they can fall just as easily as they can succeed. Just ask the Royals who demoted Alex Gordan to the minors this week. As such, it is impossible to understand why any top round draft pick wouldn't sign. Three first rounders didn't before the deadline. Aaron Crowe didn't get a deal done with the Royals, but he is no longer college eligible, so he has until next year's draft to get a deal. But still, he is losing time that he can never get back, which makes no sense at all.

Matt Purke, a high school senior, turned down the Rangers' final offer and will go off to college to while away two years until he can enter the draft again. Reportedly, he turned down a four million dollar signing bonus. What!? Is he nuts? There is no guarantee that he will do well in college and get close to this highly drafted again. There is no guarantee that he will be an effective major leaguer. And so he turns down a guaranteed $4 million that he doesn't even have to earn? Crazy.

The same can be said for LeVon Washington who must now toil away in junior college for two years until he can enter the draft again. The Bay Rays cut off negotiations with Boras concerning Washington earlier in the day of the deadline. Washington should have shot Boras after a deal didn't get done. But what's a couple of million dollars among friends?

If Strasburg had gone the same route, it would have been a colossal blunder and the pitcher had nothing to gain by not signing on the dotted line. As it is, the pitcher has lost two months as negotiations meandered around and if he had signed early, he might have even been seen in the majors this year. There is no way he will now.

But at least the deal is done and the Nationals and its fans have something to dream about. Strasburg is no guaranteed success, but if he turns out half as good as projected, the Nationals will have a good horse to build a team around.

Game Picks - Wednesday: August 19, 2009

Another good night for this picker as the correct picks doubled the incorrect ones. Really thought Feldman was going to win, especially early on in that contest, but he hung too many breaking balls. The rain kept Pedro from pitching much in his game, which might have turned out differently if he had stayed in there. But let's here it for Moyer who pitched great in relief and got the win. Plus, it continues to be difficult to believe the Cubs are this bad or that the Angels are this good.

But overall, any night you predict Kansas City and the Pirates to win and they do, it's a good night. Speaking of Pittsburgh, how about that Ohlendorf? Wow, huh?

  • The Royals over the White Sox: Can the Royals win two in a row? Can Greinke pitch a good game and get a win?
  • The Brewers over the Pirates: Like Maholm. But like Gallardo and the Brewers' offense better.
  • The Phillies over the Diamondbacks: Lee versus Haran. Normally would pick Haran, but Lee has been lights out so far in the National League.
  • The Rockies over the Nationals: Marquis!
  • The Angels over the Indians: Jared Weaver pitched more like his brother last time out. Looking for him to bounce back in this game.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: The Mariners won't catch up to Verlander's fastball.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: Halladay!
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Niemann over Tillman. Good team over bad team.
  • The Reds over the Giants: The two worst offenses in baseball continue to "slug" it out. Add to that drama, two "crafty" pitchers in Zito and Arroyo.
  • The Braves over the Mets: The Braves should be better than they are playing. But they just can't seem to get over the hump.
  • The Marlins over the Astros: No faith in Sean West, but have no idea who Baczardo is.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: This game is impossible to be sure about. Home Run Baker versus Millwood.
  • The Cubs over the Padres: Because the Fan still can't accept that the Cubs are this bad.
  • The Athletics over the Yankees: The upset pick of the day since Gaudin is starting for the Yanks.
  • The Cardinals over the Dodgers: This NLCS preview features Wainwright versus Kershaw.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 28-11
Month: 126-105

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Game Picks - Tuesday: August 18, 2009

Yikes! Got to working in the basement and totally forgot about the game picks! Oops. Well, it's a good thing the brain kicked in because this picker has been on a hot streak.

So without any further blather, let's get to the picks before it's too late:

  • The Pirates over the Brewers: Crazy man, Ohlendorf is pitching.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Phillies: Just not confident in Pedro...
  • The Rockies over the Nationals: Jiminez and his big fastball should win this one.
  • The Indians over the Angels: Carmona is probably a stupid pick, but this Fan has no idea who this Bell is that the Angels are pitching.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: King Felix versus Porcello. Going with the upset here.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Beckett is Cy Young this year.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Price feels like a better pick than Berken.
  • The Giants over the Reds: The two worst offenses in the league. But the Giants have Lincecum.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Lowe should take care of the Mets while Oliver Perez is still walking a man an inning.
  • The Marlins over the Astros: Can't figure Nolasco out. Terrible, great, terrible. Hoping for great.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: Feldman versus Pavano. Yeah. This one looks good.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: Gil (ga) Meche is much better than Freddie Garcia.
  • The Cubs over the Padres: Dempster over Carrillo. The Cubs are pretty much done though.
  • The Yankees over the A's: Sabathia!
  • The Dodgers over the Cardinals: Billingsley over Boggs.

Yesterday: 6-3
Week: 18-6
Month: 116-100

Who Is the Worst Team in the Majors Right Now?

It's easy to ponder the best teams in baseball. The arguments would center around the Dodgers, the Yankees, the Cardinals and the Phillies (and maybe the Angels). But it's a whole other ball of wax to figure out the worst team in the majors.

First, let's pick our contenders: Washington, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, San Diego, Oakland, Cleveland and Baltimore. Let's look at a few key ratings and see where we end up.


The Indians have the worst staff ERA followed by the Orioles and the Nationals. But if you factor in ball parks, fielding and the like, you have a different statistic called ERA+ which is probably a better indicator of a pitching staff. If you go by ERA+, the Padres are the clear leader...err...loser. Their staff ERA+ of 80 is by far the worst in the majors. The Nationals are second worst at 86, but that six points are a lot higher. The Brewers are at 88 and three teams sit at 89 including the Pirates and Indians.

The Nationals and the Indians have the worst bullpens when it comes to save percentage and inherited runners scoring. The Pirates have the best starting pitching of the bunch and the most "tough losses" or games in which the starting pitcher pitched well but did not get the win or a decision.

ERA+ for our contenders: Pirates (89), Nationals (86), Padres (80), Indians (89), Kansas City (93), Oakland (92), Orioles (90).


The Reds (who maybe should have been in this argument) have the worst OPS+ in the majors with a whopping score of 79. The Giants are second worst at 81. The Royals are at 88 and the Pirates at 90.

OPS+ of our contenders: Pirates (90), Royals (88), Padres (94), Athletics (92), Orioles (93), Indians (99), Nationals (99)


Ranking fielding is almost counting against (or for) a team twice since ERA+ does account some for fielding. But for our purposes, we will count it separately. And since ERA+ and OPS+ are based on 100 (with 100 being average), we'll convert (for easy math) the fielding percentage to a hundred type score to go along with the others.

Pirates (98.8), Royals (98.0), Padres (98.5), Athletics (98.4), Orioles (98.4), Indians (98.6), Nationals (97.7).

Two comments there: First, the Pirates traded away most of the players that were responsible for this fielding percentage. Second, the Nationals are clearly the worst fielding percentage team of the contenders with the Royals second.

A different fielding statistic is Defensive Efficiency which measures balls in play converted to outs. All of our contenders are in the bottom third of teams when it comes to Defensive Efficiency. The Royals are dead last out of all the teams in the majors in this category and the Orioles are third from the bottom. Somewhat surprising, the next to last team in Defensive Efficiency? The Red Sox.

Team Record the Last Three Months

Some teams of our contenders started really poorly and others started really well. What the Fan wants to consider here is how they have played once the season was well under way to even the playing field a bit:

Orioles: 25-41 (.378)
Indians: 29-36 (.446)
Royals: 23-44 (.343)
Athletics: 33-36 (.478)
Pirates: 24-42 (.363)
Padres: 24-45 (.348)
Nationals: 29-39 (.426)

Blow Out Games

Measuring blow out games gives us some indication of how often the team has imploded or exploded.

Orioles: 13-19 (.406)
Indians: 16-15 (.516)
Royals: 14-30 (.318)
Athletics: 17-18 (.476)
Pirates: 14-19 (.424)
Padres: 6-27 (.182)
Nationals: 11-20 (.355)

One Run Games

How do our contenders fare in the tight games?

Orioles: 12-15 (.444)
Indians: 16-14 (.533)
Royals: 11-17 (.393)
Athletics: 12-18 (.400)
Pirates: 8-18 (.308)
Padres: 16-16 (.500)
Nationals: 13-17 (.433)


Okay, what have we come up with? The Indians are the best hitters of the bunch and decent fielders. They are in the middle of this pack in ERA+. They play well in tight games and have more blowouts in their favor than against. We can rule them out. The Nationals are right up there with the Indians on offense but don't field well or pitch well. Their bullpen is the worst in the majors. But they have played reasonably well in close games and over the last three months have the second best record of our contenders. We can rule them out. The Orioles are in the middle of the pack in all of our categories except for fielding where they are terrible. But we can rule them out because of the middle of the pack thing.

The Pirates are hard to consider since they aren't the same team that started the season. More than half of the opening day starting lineup have been traded away. As such, they have the third worst record the last three months and are terrible in close games. But they are not at the bottom of the pack in any other category, so we have to give them a pass. The A's are not bad (for this bunch) at the plate or on the mound. Their fielding isn't great (with the likes of Cust and Giambi lumbering around for most of the year). Their record in the last three months in comparison with the rest and their ability to win almost as many blowouts as they lose gives them an out card.

That leaves us with the Padres and the Royals. The Padres are clearly the worst pitching team in the league. Their OPS+ isn't bad with these contenders and they fare well in close games. But they have been blown out 21 more times than they blew out other teams. And they have fared really poorly the last three months.

The Royals are the worst hitting team of the bunch and the worst fielders. Their starters are mostly better than some of these other teams (thanks to Greinke). But their bullpen has been awful. They have the worst record the last three months. They are terrible in close games and get blown out way more often than they blow out the other teams.

Folks, your winner and the honor of the worst team in the major leagues goes to the Kansas City Royals. You are not really surprised are you?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Game Picks - Monday: August 17, 2009

Well, you can't start a week much better than that. Fifteen games picked (sixteen, but one was rained out) and twelve were correct. The only incorrect picks? The Phillies beating the Braves. The Royals beating the Tigers. Whuh? And the A's beating the White Sox. Cahill threw a good game. It happens.

Short schedule tonight, typical Monday. With only nine games to pick, let's see if the Fan can keep a good thing going:

  • The Braves over the Diamondbacks: Two good young pitchers: Hanson versus Scherzer. Going with Hanson and the Braves.
  • The Pirates over the Brewers: Another Villanueva start for the Brewers.
  • The Angels over the Orioles: The other Santana versus Hernandez. Going with the Angels' offense on this one.
  • The Mets over the Giants: This has every earmark for the Mets to lose. Wright, their only healthy and good player is now out too. Livan is starting. But, somehow, the Mets will win.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: Two straight correct Twins picks! Can we make it three? Liriano has been better. But the Rangers are on a roll.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Buehrle should beat Bannister, who will make a great coach some day.
  • The Cubs over the Padres: Ted Lilly is back. Hope that's a good thing.
  • The Yankees over the Athletics: Burnet versus...Brett Tomko??
  • The Cardinals over the Dodgers: Chris Carpenter versus a rookie. Got to like those odds.

Yesterday: 12-3
Week: 12-3
Month: 116-100

Joe Torre - Bullpen Killer?

As any reader knows, Joe Torre has long been a Fan favorite. The guy just seems to have more class in his little finger than all managers have in their entire bodies. But he certainly has gained a reputation in recent years for being a bullpen killer. Critics point to the Scott Proctors of the world that litter Torre's past. Guys like Tronsoco on the current Torre team seem to bring new fuel to the Torre reputation. But is it accurate?

Joe Torre has cemented a Hall of Fame career by finding a horse he can ride as the set up guy and his closer. The championships in New York were built that way with Rivera, first as the set up guy and then as the closer. The formula worked. But Torre also seems to have a couple of key other guys that he has faith in and runs them out there as often as possible. If he loses faith in a pitcher, that guy hardly pitches. With Tronsoco this year pitching before his closer in Jonathan Broxton, Torre tries to continue the pattern.

Both guys were brilliant early on and Broxton made the All Star team as a first year closer. At the time, he only had one blown save and an ERA under one. Broxton has now blown five saves and has an ERA over three. Tronsoco has also regressed some since that time. But Broxton has 50 appearances so far and that is right in line with the average for closers (Rivera has 51). The key here though is that this is Broxton's first year at doing this. Perhaps Sherrill should give Broxton a week off or something. Tronsoco has 58 appearances, which is in the top 25 in the league, but not near the top. But again, this is his first year in such a high stress environment.

The top 25 list of appearances would seem to indicate that Torre does not earn his reputation. Only two of his pitchers appear on the list. The Cubs have three on that list. But that's only part of the story. The Dodgers are third in the league in games for relievers behind the Nationals and the Marlins. More importantly, they hold a big lead in the league in relief pitchers getting more than three outs in an outing. The Dodgers have 116 of those. The next closest team has 86. Naturally, they also lead the league in relief pitchers pitching multiple innings.

There are two problems for the Dodgers that lead to this situation. First, their starters--two of which are young and throw a lot of pitches--average the second lowest innings per game in the National League. And yet, they are in the middle of the pack of pitches thrown by starters per game. That means that the relievers have more work to do per game. The Dodgers' relievers have had to record 3.4 innings of relief every game. That's a lot of innings. The second problem is that, yes, Joe Torre will go with a hot hand until the guy's arm falls off.

Just ask Scott Proctor.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Game Picks - Sunday: August 16, 2009

Yesterday was weird. First, this picker completely missed the Nationals' game. And that was a shame, because it would have been correct. And that one correct pick would have made a lot of difference. The other part of the equation was a rain out in Florida. That would have been another correct pick and the day would have looked a lot better.

But it's okay. It wasn't a great day, but it wasn't a bad one either. The Fan fell to third for the week at BallHype. Told you. The old nemesis, OrioFan8, is 28-25 for the week and has 23.1 points. The Fan is 41-26 and has 14 points. Something wrong with that picture, no? But the Fan wouldn't be a responsible picker if all he did was pick underdogs to get the points. It's a question of honor and value to the Fan's readers.

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

  • The Tigers over the Royals: Not a great pitching match up here, but the Tigers need to beat the weak Royals to press their case for the division.
  • The Mets over the Giants: Picking Pelfrey at home over the Giants and Sanchez.
  • The Nationals over the Reds: Two good looking young pitchers in Lannon versus Lehr. If the pitching match up is even, go with the better hitting team.
  • The Marlins over the Rockies: Volstad versus Cook. Again, it was thought that Cook was going to miss this start. So there is skeptics there.
  • The Angels over the Orioles: The Angels should win big despite a rookie pitching. Guthrie is terrible again.
  • The Bay Rays over the Blue Jays: Garza should pick up the win here.
  • The Astros over the Brewers: The Brewers are trying to put a run together, but it's a bit late for that. The Cardinals are not going to be caught.
  • The Rangers over the Red Sox: Not feeling for the Red Sox with Tazawa pitching.
  • The Indians over the Twins: Did you notice the Fan went against his instincts yesterday and finally got a Twins' game right? Can we make it two in a row?
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Richard looks good but Holliday has come to life and is earning a nice fat payday.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs: Ohlendorf reminds the Fan of those days long ago in Strat-O-Matic baseball when the Fan would ride one obscure pitcher all the way to a pennant.
  • The White Sox over the Athletics: Danks has been shaky lately, but Cahill has been shakier.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: The Dodgers had their hearts broken in the ninth yesterday. They bounce back today.
  • The Mariners over the Yankees: Chamberlain is listed as the Yankees' starting pitcher, but he's been given the week off (or so the Fan read). That means a spot start by somebody frightening.
  • The Rockies over the Marlins: The second game of the day/night double header (hate those).
  • The Braves over the Phillies: Great match up of Happ versus Vazquez. Going with Vazquez.

Yesterday: 7-6
Week: 53-39
Month: 104-97

Boston Red Sox Doing a Rope-A-Dope?

With a loss to the Rangers, the Red Sox are now in second place in the American League East AND only a half a game ahead for the wild card. Of course, there are a lot of games left to be played, but did anyone see Boston having any point in this season where they weren't solidly in first for one of those two spots? What is happening here?

The Red Sox were valued so highly because their pitching was considered the best in baseball. But suddenly, the back end of the rotation is in tatters and the bullpen is struggling. The rotation was considered the deepest in baseball. But then Dice-K went down. Wakefield came up with a bad back. Brad Penny has showed that his Dodgers year last year wasn't a fluke. Masterson has come and gone. Smoltz has come and gone. And Jon Lester can't seem to get by the third ups of the line up. Beckett has been the sole standout and nobody saw that coming.

The Red Sox offense came up less than expected last year. And this year seems even worse. They have not gotten any offense at short. Their right-fielder has been a Stange Drew and last checked, was hitting below .250. The Ortiz saga has been well chronicled and though he has looked better in the last month, he's still batting .219. Pedroia isn't hitting with power like last year. Youkilis is having a good year by many standards except by his own. And Varitek?

Argue all you want, but the Red Sox captain has a higher slugging percentage than last year, but he's still hitting only .238. And on Friday night, the Rangers ran all over him and his pitchers to the tune of eight stolen bases. Eight! Without a single caught stealing in the mix. That's the second or third time this season that a team has run wild on old Tek. Either he isn't the defensive catcher (anymore at least) that he is supposed to be, or the pitching coach needs to teach his pitchers how to hold runners on. Oops. Just read a story that said the Bay Rays had eight stolen bases against the Red Sox (and Varitek) on May 3, and these same Rangers had six thefts on July 22.

Friday night, the Red Sox pitchers gave up 17 base runners in eight innings of work. And once they were ahead, the Rangers brought in new whiz kid, Neftali Feliz, and the Red Sox had no defense against him. The Red Sox are suddenly like Superman after exposure to Kryptonite. Lois better get that stuff away from them soon.