Saturday, September 05, 2009

Adam Lind - Obscure Baseball Player

This week in the FanDome, we have been featuring players that seem to get lost in the shuffle. Earlier in the week, this space featured Will Venable. Now we bring to your attention another great young player that seems to be lost in the shuffle. His name is Adam Lind, a 26 year old outfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays who just happens to be in the top five in American League OPS+.

A lot has gone wrong this season for the Blue Jays. They lost a major portion of their starting rotation due to injury in the spring yet started really well. They have Roy Halladay, who is the best starting pitcher in the American League not named Greinke. But their young pitchers, who did very well in the beginning, could not hold up and the team lost 24 games in the standings in 45 days. The team has a lot of great bloggers up there in Toronto, one of which has been featured here a couple of times. But Adam Lind seems to get lost in the shuffle, even among those great bloggers. And he is having a heck of a season.

Lind is from Muncie, Indiana, and was drafted out of high school in the eighth round by the Twins. But he decided to play college ball instead and played two years for the University of Southern Alabama. He was drafted after his sophomore year by the Blue Jays in the third round in 2004. If you want to read more, see his Wiki page.

In two short years, he made his major league debut in 2006 as he got the old cup of coffee and played in 18 games. The next two years, he played about half of the Blue Jays games and after a tough 2007, showed some signs of what he could do playing part time in 2008. This year, he has blossomed into one of the best sluggers in the league.

Cito Gaston has penciled Lind into the lineup consistently and Lind has been fantastic. His current line is: .302/.366/.556. He has 44 doubles and 28 homers. His RBI total of 91 is impressive considering that he didn't have a chance to bat in the middle of the order until late in the year. Those places were inexplicably filled by the likes of Vernon Wells and Kevin Millar. This Fan has a feeling that Lind will be spending a lot of time there now for a very long time.

If you asked a hundred people who led the American League in extra base hits, it's a good bet that none would answer Adam Lind. But that's the guy. He's also in the top ten in eleven other offensive categories.

Adam Lind isn't that great an outfielder. He has slightly better than league average range, but his RTOT and other stats aren't great. But hopefully he'll improve there and not get relegated to the DH spot where he has batted in 75 games this year.

Adam Lind has arrived and sooner or later, someone will notice.

Game Picks - Saturday: September 5, 2009

Okay, now that's MUCH better. The world is a rosier place this morning after a really good night of game picks. And it could have been better! The Diamondbacks blew a save for Haren and old friend, Jason Giambi got the clutch hit. Who saw that coming? The Padres, LeBlanc, lived up to his name and despite his 6.06 ERA, totally shut down the Dodgers. The doggedly determined Twins lost another game to a bad team. And the Mets beat the Cubs as the normally reliable Grabow imploded. But despite those blemishes, everything went just right!

Saturday's picks:

  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Okay, the Yankees went on their one day Halladay. Now it's back to the gravy train.
  • The Cubs over the Mets: Figueroa has been good of late for the Mets, but Harden should win.
  • The Brewers over the Giants: When two pitchers (Cain and Gallardo) seem equal, go with the better hitting team.
  • The Rangers over the Orioles: The Rangers have to keep winning. They are not out of it. But they have to win.
  • The White Sox over the Red Sox: Wakefield versus Floyd. It never is a good idea to pick the guy coming off the disabled list.
  • The Twins over the Indians: Home Run Baker versus Masterson. A game fraught with danger.
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: Hate to pick against Ohlendorf, but geez, the Cardinals are good.
  • The Marlins over the Nationals: Hate picking against Livan. Heh.
  • The Astros over the Phillies: Oswalt lives for games like this.
  • The Bay Rays over the Tigers: Can pick a win for Galarraga.
  • The Braves over the Reds: The Reds have been hot and Kip Wells has been...well...surprising. But things get back to normal here.
  • The Royals over the Angels: Have to root for Greinke, but the Royals will need to score two runs. Can they do it?
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Just can't pick Contreras to win for his new team. Just can't do it.
  • The Mariners over the Athletics: French over Anderson. Two good young pitchers.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: Latos has been good, but the Dodgers have to break out some time.

Yesterday: 11-4
Week: 43-40
Month: 32-24

Friday, September 04, 2009

Pedro Out Duels Lincecum

Just a quick note here. Wasn't it cool to see Pedro Martinez throw such a good game? Granted, the Giants can't hit worth a lick, but still, even bad hitting teams will hit against a weak pitcher. Pedro worked seven innings. Seven! And struck out nine. What a cool story!

An Uggla Incident in Florida

Perhaps you've heard about the ugly little incident in south Florida between Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla? If not, you can catch up here. The linked article is typical of the media reaction to the incident. The typical take is that Ramirez is blindly talented, but doesn't always focus and work hard. The typical take is that this was another example of his teammates goading him on the greatness. That's a bunch of malarkey, frankly. This is a case of petty jealousy and nothing more.

The incident apparently started when Ramirez pulled himself from a game because his hamstring hurt. Apparently, he told his manager he could play and when a member of the press asked him about it, Ramirez told the scribe that his teammates expected him to play. Uggla overhearing the exchange said he was one of them. Ramirez immediately pointed that out as showing him up in public. Which was the correct reaction. Uggla, who later claimed that he loved Ramirez and was just trying to help him, then made an ugly comment about the money that Ramirez makes. Read the linked article. It's all there.

First of all, if Uggla was trying to help his wayward teammate, he should have done it in private. Secondly, if he was so intent on helping, would he have used such a petty thing about Ramirez already having his money? It doesn't add up.

And why does the press buy into this stuff? Is it because Uggla and Wes Helms (we'll get to him in a minute) are white and Ramirez is a dark Hispanic? That must mean that Ramirez is on the lazy side, right? That must mean that he's immature, right? Oh please.

All the Fan knows is that Ramirez has been on base 224 times and Uggla 196. Ramirez has 267 total bases and Uggla has 210. Ramirez has eight errors and Uggla eleven. The only categories that Uggla has over Ramirez is games played (by five), homers and walks. Everything else is all Ramirez. Let's put it another way. Say they both worked for an ice cream stand. Ramirez is supposedly lazy and not as committed as Uggla. Even so, Ramirez makes 267 ice cream cones to Uggla's 210 even though Uggla TRIES so much harder. This Fan still thinks he'd give Ramirez the raise and not Uggla.

And what of Wes Helms? The article states that he got on Hanley's case a while back and that he works with Ramirez on his focus and such. Excuse the Fan for wondering, but Helms has a 90 OPS+ and a 93+ OPS for his career. Why, exactly is he the de facto leader and expert on stellar play and focus?

Call this for what it was. It was a moment of petty disgruntlement by Dan Uggla over Ramirez's talent and the money he is making. That's all this was. And please understand the back sweep of the press here. Helms and Uggla are white. There is a press bias that white players try harder and are more professional. That's bull. There are hard working white guys and lazy white guys just like there are hard working Hispanics and lazy Hispanics.

Ramirez has improved his defense tremendously. He's already the second best hitter in the National League. He'll be around long after Uggla and Helms are retired and coaching or managing in the minors somewhere. If Ramirez was a punk and a slacker, he wouldn't be better in the field than he was and consistently improving as a hitter. The guy's hammy hurt, what do his teammates want him to do, tear it completely? It's all bull and the press should know better.

Game Picks - Friday: September 4, 2009

While finishing up (finally!) this huge book job that has taken up four months of time, the scores were checked on occasion and before you could say, "Schilling for Senate," the afternoon games provided a record of 0-5. Yikes! Fortunately, the evening rallied some and this picker ended up only 4-6. But it sure looked grim from the outset.

Hopefully, Friday will be a better day:

  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: Wainwright should have an easy time of it here.
  • The Marlins over the Nationals: Wanted to go with Mock and the Nats, but logic intervened.
  • The Rangers over the Orioles: Main Man, Feldman! Go Feldman!
  • The Twins over the Indians: These are the games the Fan hates to pick. Pavano versus Sowers. ANYTHING can happen here.
  • The Blue Jays over the Yankees: Halladay quiets the whispers and slows the Yankees down just a little bit.
  • The Cubs over the Mets: Zambrano? Hey, he might look like his old self one of these days.
  • The Reds over the Braves: The Reds are on a roll of sorts.
  • The Tigers over the Bay Rays: Verlander strikes out 12.
  • The Astros over the Phillies: Wandy versus Lee in a great match up.
  • The Giants over the Brewers: Barry Zito has made it hard to automatically pick against him.
  • The Angels over the Royals: This one should be a lock.
  • The White Sox over the Red Sox: Another hard one to pick. Freddie Garcia versus Paul Byrd? Geez.
  • The Mariners over the Athletics: And another. Mortensen versus Rowland-Smith? Who the heck knows.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: Kershaw should pitch five good innings against the Pads. Then the bullpen takes over.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Not a pick against the Rockies, but a pick for Haran.

Yesterday: 4-6
Week: 22-26
Month: 21-20

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Is Miguel Cabrera Overlooked?

The Detroit Tigers are trying their best to stay on top of what is one of baseball's weakest divisions. Despite their struggles, they have managed to hold off the White Sox, before that team took a nose dive, and now the Twins. The Tigers aren't perfect. They have their share of pitching woes behind Jackson and Verlander. Their offense is sporadic at times. But one constant has been Miguel Cabrera, who has been everything the team hoped for when they got him from the Marlins. But how many times have you read about Cabrera this season in the big media outlets?

The guy is a monster with the bat. He is tied for second in the American League in OPS+ (with Kevin Youkilis). He is fifth in the league in total bases. He sports a .336 batting average and .399 On Base Percentage. What more can the guy do? Perhaps if he didn't play in the cavernous confines of the Tigers' home stadium, he'd have more than 27 homers and his name would be on more people's tongues. But the guy has been fantastic and you hear so little about it.

Just like you don't hear much about what Cabrera has already accomplished in his young career. You have to remember that the guy is only 26 years old. He's already played seven seasons. He already has over 1100 hits (almost 1200). He already has over 200 homers. He's already driven in over 700 runs. He already has almost 250 career doubles. Say he plays to the age of 40, which is 14 more years. Triple those numbers and see what you come up with. The guy could be an all-timer and yet there isn't much fanfare over the guy. Even Justin Morneau gets more ink than this guy.

What Cabrera has accomplished in his 26 years is breathtaking. Perhaps a big run in the playoffs or something like that will get him where he belongs: In the nation's attention.

Game Picks - Thursday: September 3, 2009

We are back to the doldrums again. Thought things had turned around but a few blown saves here and a couple of clunker picks there and mediocrity happens in a hurry. The Twins lost a heart breaker in the ninth. The Royals and the Nationals were stupid picks, though they had good logic and our new friend, Will Venable, had two hits. In hindsight, King Felix would have been the pick over Kazmir, who pitched okay but the King was unhittable. Did not see the Red Sox losing with Beckett on the mound. He's given up a rash of homers lately. And finally, the Fan did not have the last laugh as Brad Penny threw a shutout for the Giants against the Phillies. Heh.

Only ten games on the schedule tonight as we have our usual Thursday break for some teams. Four of the games are day games which is always fun.

  • The Indians over the Tigers: This isn't a pick so much for Carmona as it is against Nate Robertson.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: The Cards continue to pad their NL Central lead.
  • The Cubs over the White Sox: This must be a make up game?
  • The Rockies over the Mets: Main Man, Marquis is pitching.
  • The Giants over the Phillies: Lincecum over Pedro, though if the Phillies do the rain delay thing again, that seems to work really well.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The Fan knows that Gaudin is starting for the Yankees, but the team can't seem to lose right now.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: The battle of the prospects: Price versus Buckholz. Going with Price.
  • The Marlins over the Braves: Should be a good pick IF Nolasco is the good one instead of the bad one.
  • The Mariners over the Athletics: Somehow Ian Snell is 3-1. Maybe he'll make it 4-1.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Would rather have Garland pitching his first game for his new team over Buckner, who is pitching his first game back from the minors.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 28-30
Month: 17-14

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Will Venable - Obscure Baseball Player

Even when you follow baseball every day with a boundless passion, there are players that remain black holes in the consciousness. If you are an east coast kind of guy, this could happen even more for teams that play on the opposite coast where all the games start at what is 10:00 our time. But even so, most of us know the Dodgers' players and the Giants. They have been on television occasionally. But the Padres? Quick! Name a player on the Padres lineup not named Gonzalez. Yeah. That's right. One of those guys is Will Venable. Whenever this writer hears that name on Baseball Tonight or something, the quick thought is always, "Who?" Oh, and just a random thought: Since the Padres are already sort of invisible, doesn't it hurt the cause for the team to wear camouflage so that you can't even see them?

It doesn't help that the Fan always calls him Max Venable. That's because Max Venable played from 1979 to 1991 for various teams. He was a utility outfielder of unspectacular variety who had a decently long career despite batting .241 for his career. He was like your garden variety Hairston. But thinking Max Venable isn't that far off because Max is Will Venable's dad.

Another problem is that Venable reminds this writer of the word, "Venerable," which evokes an old guy. But Will Venable isn't an old guy, he just evokes one. Well, the Fan has had this dark spot for too long so it is time to figure out who this Venable guy is. The Fan figured he would take you along for the ride.

William D. Venable was born (according to his Wiki page) in 1982. The Fan already mentioned that he is the son of William McKinley Venable. Yeah, that's Max's real name. He went to Princeton, so he must be a smart guy. He is the 25th guy from Princeton to play in the major leagues. Didn't know that. He was just as good a basketball player as he was a baseball player at Princeton and he made the All-Ivy League team in both sports twice. Didn't know that. He graduated with a degree in anthropology, so at least Venable can understand how baseball players are influenced by their social organization and culture.

According to his Wiki page, he preferred basketball to his father's sport and that's why he chose Princeton. That's the sad thing to the Fan. When the Fan was a kid, every kid dreamed of being a baseball player. Now no kid dreams that way and instead would rather be a basketball or football player. The Fan's theory for that seems to be that the NBA seems more urban and hip and guys like Shaq having rap songs helped build that mystique. The NFL also seems more hip with the longer hair and tattoos long before Manny and others brought it to the MLB. But to get back to our topic, Venable wanted to be a basketball player.

Venable didn't even play baseball his freshman season at Princeton, so that shows you that baseball was a distant second in his priorities. But if you add up that he was great his junior and senior years in baseball combined with the fact that he was only six foot, two inches tall, and the writing was on the wall that baseball was where his future was.

After his junior year at Princeton, he was drafted by the Orioles in the 15th round. But he went back for his senior year and another good Princeton season moved him up to the 7th round of the 2005 draft with the Padres. After signing with that team, he hit the fast track to the majors. He was the Padres minor league player of the year in 2006.

Venable fared a little worse in tougher competition in 2007 and seemed to regress a bit through some injuries. But in the fickle finger of fate intervened in 2008 as a guy named Hairston (hehehe) got hurt and had to go on the disabled list. The Padres turned to Venable. He ended up in 28 games for the Padres and managed to hit league average (no small feat on that team) and played the outfield with good range (though RTOT indicates with some lack of success). Now he is a fixture in the Padres lineup.

He has only played in about half of the Padres games this year and has played all three outfield positions, but after a retched start by Brian Giles, he has become pretty much the every day right fielder. He has nine homers and has posted a line of .271/.339/.468, good for a 121 OPS+ which is very respectable indeed. Despite a small sample size, right field seems to be his best position and his range factor is well above league average there as well.

So who is Will Venable? Well, he seems to be a pretty good player, who at 26 should be coming into his peak years. Heck, he has to be better than Giles. The Fan had a blind spot for the guy and maybe you did too. But now we both know a little more about him than we started with.

Game Picks - Wednesday: September 2, 2009

Well, alright! That's better. At least the final tally yesterday was respectable. The week is almost back to .500. Never thought that Kansas City would win yesterday or that the Blue Jays wouldn't take at least one game of the double header. Can't believe yesterday's pick included a pick for the White Sox. They are moribund.

One more week of this major book project and this picker can finally start living life again. 80 hours a week for three months gets to a guy after a while, even if it was a nice little contract. Man, was that a lot of work. Maybe now the Fan can get a few of his own books out before Christmas. Egads! More 80 hour weeks are on the way for that.

Let's get to today's picks before the Fan falls back asleep:

  • The Reds over the Pirates: Might as well go for the sweep.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: Wonder if Buehrle wishes he were traded too.
  • The Cubs over the Astros: Yeah, NOW Bradley starts to hit. Lilly should get the win over Paulino.
  • The Nationals over the Padres: Stuck with Lannon all year. Come on, big guy, give the Fan a win.
  • The Royals over the Athletics: Probably a day too late with this pick, but maybe Bannister can, you know, like win a game?
  • The Angels over the Mariners: Kazmir wins his Angels' debut against King Felix and the Mariners.
  • The Phillies over the Giants: Happ versus (hehehehe) Brad Penny.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Sabathia should win this one easy.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: Porcello versus Laffey. Got to go with Porcello.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: Beckett gets back on track as the Bay Rays are toast for 2009.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Got to go with Vazquez over Vande (the Incredible) Hurk.
  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: Hunter shoots down the Blue Jays.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Carpenter should beat Bush, no?
  • The Rockies over the Mets: Okay, Redding was decent last time out, but this time?
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Billingsley versus Scherzer. Thome gets a pinch hit and very expensive single in his debut.

Yesterday: 10-6
Week: 21-22
Month: 10-6

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Dodgers and Rockies Try to Gear Up - White Sox Give Up

Three big deals occurred last night that beat the deadline for post season rosters. The Dodgers got Jim Thome from the White Sox for cash and a minor league player to essentially pinch hit since he can't play first base. The Dodgers also acquired Jon Garland from the Diamondbacks to bolster their rotation (too bad for knuckleballer, Haeger) for a player to be named later. And the White Sox also sent Contreras to the Rockies.

American League pitchers have a history of doing well after being traded to the National League. So perhaps Contreras can contribute for the Rockies after an abysmal season for the White Sox. Perhaps just getting away from his manager will take some of the pressure off of him.

Thome can't play in the field, so he becomes a pretty expensive pinch hitter for the rest of the season and post season. He may hit a homer or three to win a game or two for his new team. The biggest benefit he'll provide is a boost to Manny Ramirez and his morale. The two played together in Cleveland and really like each other.

Garland should help the Dodgers a lot. He is coming off a great start from this past week and appears to be peaking as the season goes along. He should be worth a win or two. Plus, he is familiar to pitching in the American League and that should help the Dodgers in the post season if they get to the World Series.

The moves prove the Rockies and the Dodgers are serious and ready to spend a little to get the job done. The moves also indicate that the White Sox have thrown in the towel and figure they have no hope to compete the rest of the way out.

Game Picks - Tuesday: September 1, 2009

Man oh man did the month ever close out on a clunker. Those picks could have been traded in at a car dealer. Who would have thought that the Reds could sweep a double header. Who would know the Blue Jays would score more runs in one night than they had in their last five games combined. Some games were shocking and others were just stupid picks in retrospect.

And so we turn the page into September. Baseball's final month should provide little in the way of race excitement. Most of the division leaders are a lock. The AL wild card seems more and more locked up. Only the NL wild card seems to be up for grabs. But the games will go on. September call ups will feature kids getting a chance to showcase themselves. And this Fan will keep on picking games.

Let's see what the new month brings us:

  • The Blue Jays over the Rangers: Tallet seems like a better pick than Nippert. The Fan hates picking games when two young pitchers pitch.
  • The Phillies over the Giants: The Giants' wild card party gets busted in Philly.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: It's time for Mr. Burnett to get going. Yo! It's September!
  • The Tigers over the Indians: Jackson is so much a better pick than his opponent, Carrasco.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: Sonnanstine gets to do his Nolasco impression on why he shouldn't have gone to the minors.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Might as well sweep them patch wearers.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Hanson should beat Sanchez.
  • The Astros over the Cubs: Should go with Moehler. After all, Saunders with his ERA over 5, threw a three hitter last night.
  • The White Sox over the Twins: Danks versus Manship. Manship?
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Pineiro versus Looper. This one seems too easy.
  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: Second game of a day/night thingamabob.
  • The Rockies over the Mets: The poor Mets...
  • The Padres over the Nationals: Richard proves once again that the White Sox were stupid to trade him for Peavy who may never pitch again.
  • The Athletics over the Royals: Because one of these bad teams has to win.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Padilla hasn't lost interest yet.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: Because picking the Mariners last night was stupid.

Yesterday: 4-8 Yuck!
Week: 11-16 Amateur!
Month: 201-196 (final) Just made it!

Facebook, Pictures and Vanity

The Fan tweets. Now there is something the Fan never would have predicted five years ago. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, the Fan tweeted (stupid, isn't it?) that Facebook has become a new part of his life. But what on earth is the proper use of Facebook? The Fan just doesn't get it.

The Fan was an early pioneer of AOL and also IRC (a chatting system). In fact, the Fan was on AOL so early that the screen name didn't need any numbers on it and chatting meant 24 baud and dial up connections. At the time, those places made sense. You met people, you bonded with some, had "bashes" where you met some of them face to face. It was an interaction of sorts with people that ordinarily you would never meet. That made sense (at least in that point in the Fan's life). The Fan hasn't "chatted" in ages.

The Fan was also a bulletin board kind of guy. Remember those? Those made sense in a pioneering sort of way. Facebook seems to be an amalgam of all those things except the chatting isn't in real time nor as personal and there are lots of confusing things like surveys up the yin yang and a bunch of requests from old acquaintances for friendship. Well, okay, that's nice and all. But a lot of times, the Fan ends up approving friend requests with people he would just as soon forget, but has to approve them anyway to prevent being rude. A lot of people use it for business and contacts. Well, the Fan is in business, but doesn't see the point. Perhaps the Fan is just being obtuse.

The Fan's wife loves Facebook. Then again, she loved AOL and still goes there when she wants to browse the web. The Fan thinks that's silly but keeps his mouth shut. Perhaps she has a fondness for AOL because that's where she met and fell in love with her Fan. Anyway, she is on Facebook and she was disparaging the Fan's picture there. "It's a stupid picture," she says, "and it doesn't do you justice."

So, since the Fan loves his wife, he patiently sat for her as she took a new picture. The Fan dutifully posted the new picture and the wife smiled a lot at that. A few minutes after the picture was posted, the Fan got a "message on his wall." Whatever that wall is. It was from a girl the Fan went to high school with way too many years ago (the power of Facebook). Her words were something to the effect that she wondered how the Fan hadn't changed much and looked much the same as high school. Mind you, the Fan thinks she's nuts because that was 35 years ago. But the Fan has to admit he has aged fairly well. Must be the Sicilian heritage that makes up half of who the Fan is.

Now, the lady who posted the nice comment looks pretty darned good herself after all those years. The Fan was surprised she even remembered this old guy because the Fan was pretty much a recluse in high school and was seemingly invisible. The Fan moved away from there right after high school and has only been back twice since.

The Fan has a confession to make. The lady's comments flushed this old geezer like a peeper frog. The blood quickened and the heart fluttered and for a brief second, the Fan felt like a little bit of a stud. It passed quickly when the Fan went to the bathroom and remembered what he looked like. But aren't we funny? Isn't it silly how easily we are inflamed with such vane thoughts? Like Rudolph, we fly through the air shouting, "She said I'm cute. I'm cuuuute!" Silly people. It doesn't take much to get us going.

Once the Fan came back down to earth, he realized that his cherishes his wife and as long as she thinks this old guy is the be all and end all, then that's more than enough for life to be really, really good.

Andy Pettitte - What a Difference a Defense Makes

The Yankees showed little love to Andy Pettitte this off-season. He was given a "take-it-or-leave-it" offer and the notion was that the Yankees had plenty of options and if you still want to pitch in New York, here is what we'll pay you. Many wrote (including this writer) that the Yankees were correct in this stance as Pettitte had become a league average pitcher and wasn't worth big money any more. Well, now here he is, after a brilliant performance against the Orioles, at 12-8 and is (behind Sabathia) the second best starter in the Yankees rotation. So what is different this year than last, when he finished at 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA? The answer is: Not much of anything really.

Pettitte has always been a pitcher who surrendered a fair amount of base runners. He has had only two years in his career where he gave up less hits than innings pitched. One of those years was with Houston in the National League. The Fan will leave that statement just where it is and not swirl up a bunch of dust. Suffice it to say that Pettitte has had a WHIP of under 1.3 three times in his long career, two of those were with Houston. He has finished above 1.4 eight times and his career WHIP is 1.32. So Pettitte has always had a lot of people on base.

But the guy has a .630 lifetime winning percentage! He just knows how to win. He's savvy and a big-game pitcher and all those other cliches you want to throw around. But the best thing about Pettitte has always been that he played for winning teams that scored a ton of runs.

So again, why did he end up with a 4.54 ERA last year with a 14-14 record and why is he so much better this year at 12-8 with a 4.04 ERA? The answer is partly luck and partly better defense around him. Let's compare some stats last year and this.

Last year, Pettitte had a WHIP of 1.412. This year is 1.400 (before Monday's one-hitter). Last year, Pettitte gave up 10.3 hits per nine innings. This year it's 9.3. Aha! There's the one difference. Let's keep going. His walks per nine innings are up this year from last year and his career average. His strikeouts per nine are exactly the same as last year and slightly higher than his career average. His homers per nine innings is up from last year (let's call that the Yankee Stadium Effect).

So Pettitte is pretty much the same pitcher he was a year ago except for the hits per nine innings. That's where BABIP comes into play. BABIP measures the batting average of balls hit in play. Last year, Pettitte's BABIP was around .340. This year, it's just over the league average and a little over .300. That's a huge difference. So part of that means that Pettitte has been luckier this year than last and that last year, he was unlucky. The other part of the equation is that the Yankees are significantly better in the field this year than they were last year when they were horrid.

Pettitte's BABIP chart on FanGraphs is hugely illuminating. His first five years coincided with the Yankee glory years and his BABIP is remarkably consistent at just over the league average. Then in 2001, 2002 and 2003, his BABIP jumps, which seems to reflect the Yankees lack of defense after 2000 when they started signing aging sluggers who could still bop, but were anchors in the field. Then Pettitte goes to Houston for a couple of years and those years, his BABIP went way below league average. His third year in Houston, his BABIP again skyrockets above league average and his record and ERA reflect the damage in that 2007 season. The Fan has already told you about last year and so far this year.

So basically, after you break it all down, Pettitte is the same steady pitcher he's always been. He's not spectacular. But he is predictable and reliable and he keeps his team in the game. Last year was a year with bad fielding and bad luck and both contributed to making him just an average pitcher. This year, his luck is better and so are his fielders and his record and ERA reflect that too.

This year, Pettitte is throwing less cutters, curves and change ups. He is throwing more sliders and two-seam fastballs but all in all, he is the same pitcher he's always been. And what he's always been seems to be a slightly above league average pitcher that has been remarkably consistent through the years and it's a darn good thing the Yankees got him back. The telling thing about Pettitte is that Baseball Prospectus charts that Pettitte should have 46 more losses in his career based on the kind of pitcher he is. But the chart also shows the same amount of wins. And 227 wins is a lot of wins.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Joba Rules Redux - Why Bother?

Look, we can all understand the Yankees trying to protect a talent like Joba Chamberlain, but what in the world can we make of the new Joba Rules where he starts a game, goes three innings and pitches just 35 pitches? Besides taxing the bullpen, what in the world is the worth of that?

In a game where Chamberlain finally managed not to walk half of the batters he faced, Chamberlain was efficient for a change and averaged only 12 pitches an inning. He had one inning where the White Sox bunched a few hits and scored a run, but other than that, his pitches were not stressful. Why wouldn't you at least let him go five innings?

The thing about this is that they are trying to save his arm and limp him along to the playoffs. But will he be able to stretch out those playoff starts for very long if you are regressing him to three innings per start?

Nothing about the Joba Rules seems to make sense. John Kruk on Baseball Tonight compared Chamberlain to Felix Hernandez of the Mariners. Both pitchers are the same age and have the same amount of service time, but King Felix has pitched five times the amount of innings than Chamberlain has. Kruk is fed up with the Yankees babying of Joba.

While Kruk is an old-school guy, his frustration is warranted. The Yankees fortunately have the luxury of botching this whole thing as they have a big lead in the AL East. But sooner or later, they have to start making sense of what they are doing with Chamberlain.

Zack Greinke - Cy Young Leader

Rob Neyer wrote a piece last week about the Cy Young award and how most voters for that award will not register a vote for a guy who is not among the league leaders in wins. He is right and many times a vote will be case for all the wrong reasons such as the win/loss record much like the MVP is almost always based on the homer/RBI combination. Some day, maybe, these awards will come to the modern age and stats such as WARP, PitchF/X and other factors will contribute to the awards. Zack Greinke might be having the type of season that will tip the scales. But that's a big, "might."

The way the season is shaping up so far, if the trends continue, C. C. Sabathia would probably win the most votes for Cy Young, especially with the recent struggles of Beckett and Halladay. And Sabathia has been worth every penny the Yankees paid for the guy. He hasn't often been spectacular, but he is a horse that goes out there every fifth day and pitches deep into the game and gives the Yankees a chance to win. There is no overstating his value to the Yankees' pitching staff and what his starts have meant to his team. But he isn't the right choice for Cy Young.

As it stands now, Zack Greinke should win the award. His problem is that he pitches for the Royals, the worst team in baseball. And unlike the year that Steve Carlton had with the Phillies when Carlton had a gaudy record despite his team coming in last place, Greinke figures at best to finish with a record around 15-10. Not especially pretty for a Cy Young winner. But in this Fan's figuring, the best pitcher...check that...the best starting pitcher in baseball should win the award regardless of record (no closer or other reliever with ninety innings or less should ever win the award).

And Greinke has clearly been the league's best pitcher. He leads the league in ERA, ERA+ and WHIP. He has a K/9 of 9.6 and a K/BB ratio of 5.05 to 1. Those are sick numbers by any standard. He also has the best homer per nine innings rate of 0.5. So he keeps the ball in the yard, he strikes out almost 10 per nine innings, while only walking 1.9. He allows less than a hit an inning. And he averages a little over seven innings a start. If the season ended right now, who would be better?

And what a season it could be if Greinke played for a decent team. He has six games started this year when he did not get a decision. The Royals lost every one of them. In those six games where he didn't get a decision, he gave up eleven runs, less than two per game. In his eight losses, he has given up 26 earned runs or a little over three a game. Most of those would have been wins on any other team. In fact, in his 27 starts, he has only given up four or more earned runs four times. So with little stretch of imagination, he easily could be 18-4 instead of 13-8.

The most telling statistic for Greinke is that in his 27 starts, his team has scored three or less runs seventeen times and he is still 13-8. Baseball Prospectus figures that under normal conditions, Greinke would finish with a 22-9 season. That's a Cy Young season, no?

Game Picks - Monday: August 31, 2009

This picker gave himself a Nyquil coma last night and slept in. There were a few sneezes so it seemed justified. But really, a good night sleep was needed badly and as such, this picker went to bed at 9:30. Wow! Haven't been to bed that early since Batman was a television show. As such, with the Nyquil still creating a bit of a mind fog, it doesn't seem that bad that the picks yesterday were again below par. The only thing cutting through the fog is that the Yankees won despite a really bizarre and stupid use of Joba Chamberlain and another masterful performance by Zack Greinke. More on those in a few minutes. But for now, let's just get to the picks for Monday:

  • The Bay Rays over the Tigers: The Young Bay Rays hitters are going to jump all over Washburn.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Is the Fan really going to pick the Reds when Kip Wells is the starter? He has no choice.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Did anyone really think Andy Pettitte was going to be the Yankees second best starter when the season started?
  • The Pirates over the Reds: The second game a day/night double header. Maholm should win this one.
  • The Marlins over the Braves: Josh Johnson should beat Kawakami.
  • The Astros over the Cubs: Oswalt out duels Harden.
  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: Young Holland needs to keep the ball rolling for the Rangers and their fading wild card chances.
  • The White Sox over the Twins: The White Sox got their butts kicked by the Yankees and will take it out on the Twins.
  • The Nationals over the Padres: This picker has to pick Livan to win. It just can't be any other way.
  • The Royals over the Athletics: Hochever pitches a good game.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Wolf over Davis. Is Manny going to get going soon?
  • The Mariners over the Angels: French fries Saunders.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 7-8
Month: 197-188

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Game Picks - Sunday: August 30, 2009

Well, it wasn't pretty, but at least the night ended on the plus side of things. Not enough to save the week, but a plus record for the month has been all but gained. Zito was great and Marquis was not. The Marlins are folding like a lawn chair thanks to their bullpen. They are winning the game and bring in Luis Ayala? That was a good idea? The Braves buried Lee, giving the pitcher his first NL loss. Should have seen that coming. Buckholz and Romero were both great, but the wrong team won. Weaver was great for the Angels but the bullpen blew up the game. And the Royals were a stupid pick.

Two more days of August and then we are on the down hill slide. What will Sunday bring?

  • The Yankees over the White Sox: Don't blame Guillen for being unhappy when he has to pitch Freddie Garcia.
  • The Tigers over the Bay Rays: Good match up of Verlander versus Niemann. Verlander should take the day.
  • The Reds over the Dodgers: The Reds have been pretty hot lately and Arroyo is due for a win.
  • The Padres over the Marlins: Latos and the Padres will make the Marlins look back on this weekend and sulk.
  • The Indians over the Orioles: Let's go with Masterson over Matusz.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: Halladay is pitching against...are you ready? Paul Byrd.
  • The Pirates over the Brewers: Ohlendorf! hahaha! The guy has been amazing.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: Millwood versus Baker. Baker has been pitching well. Millwood so-so. But the Rangers should win.
  • The Cardinals over the Nationals: Not to Mock the Nationals, but Wainwright will have an easy day.
  • The Cubs over the Mets: When was the last time Zambrano pitched a good game? It's been a while.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: Like Anderson and the Athletics, but couldn't pull the trigger on picking an upset here.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: Cain is the third good pitcher in a row the Giants have thrown at the Rockies and it should be enough.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Astros: How come Wandy always gets the tough guys? Today it's Haran.
  • The Royals over the Mariners: Greinke needs wins to get up there for Cy Young.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: Just like Jurrjens over Blanton. That's all.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 39-43
Month: 190-180

The White Sox Finally Hit the Wall

Ozzie Guillen says he's embarrassed. He says his team should be embarrassed after making more errors (3) Saturday against the Yankees than they had hits (1). The White Sox have now lost six of their last seven, most of which against the power of the AL East. It looks like this aging team has hit a wall that they can't climb over.

The White Sox have three fundamental problems. First and foremost, they have committed 36 starts to the likes off Jose Contreras, Bartolo Colon, Freddie Garcia and Carlos Torres. Between the four of them, they sound like the latin version of a fantasy camp. The second problem is fielding where they are next to last in the American League in fielding percentage. Lastly, despite some guys who can go deep, they are tenth in the fourteen team American League in OPS. For most of the year, they haven't had a centerfielder that can hit. And they have a second baseman and shortstop with OPS+ stats of 78 and 86 respectively. Add those three things up and you have a team that can make Guillen pretty feisty.

Let's start with those 36 starts. Contreras, Colon, Garcia and Torres are a combined 8-20 with 285 base runners allowed in 193 and 2/3 innings. That works out to a WHIP of 1.47. Let's say that if those starts had come at an even .500, that would make up six games in the standings and it would be the White Sox on top of the division and not the Tigers.

For a while, Scott Podsednik gave the team a spark but he has tailed off and now his OPS+ is under 100 and a .347 OBP isn't that hot for a lead off guy. Pods is 33 now and that is part of the equation with this team. Pierzynski is 33, Dye is 35, Konerko is 33 and Thome is 38. That's five out of the nine guys in the line up that are past their prime. And those are the only five that can at least hit a little. The problem with older guys is that they will get you if you make a mistake because they have seen a thousand of them in their careers, but they can be over matched too at this stage in their careers. Thome is batting .256, Dye is at .264. In fairness, Podsednik is the only one of the five below league average in OPS+. Pierzynski is having one of his best offensive years. But when faced with tough pitching, they are past the point in their careers when they are going to be able to hang in there.

The White Sox lead the American League in errors with 100. They are tied for seventh in defensive efficiency and they are third from the bottom in throwing base stealers out. When you are that leaky on defense, tenth in the league in OPS and have committed 36 starts to guys who have had no business starting, that spells disappointment and has obviously led to another Guillen press harangue.

To top it all off, the White Sox lead the league in names that are hard to spell. There's Linebrink, Podsednik, Pierzynski, Poreda, Alexei Ramirez, Jayson Nix, Dewayne Wise, Lillibridge, Buehrle and even a short appearance by a Jhonny Nunez. Man, that poor clubhouse guy in charge of uniforms.

What is currently happening to the White Sox has been expected here in the FanDome for quite some time. But there is no joy in being right. There is only a sad knowledge that the window of opportunities for these guys is closing rapidly and it doesn't seem clear where the White Sox will go from here.