Saturday, May 08, 2010

Game Picks - Saturday: May 8, 2010

The picking season here in the FanDome has sprung a few leaks and it's time to start bailing water as fast as possible before this great season's ship sinks completely. Even with Minnesota's first rain out in 30 years, yesterday's picks went south in hurried fashion. Silva won again. Whuh? Greinke lost again through no fault of his own...again. King Felix looked more like the court jester. The Braves lost big to the Phillies. It just wasn't a fun night for the picks.

Okay, with pail in hand and sleeves rolled up, let's tackle Saturday's picks:

  • The Marlins over the Nationals: Chico will not be the man for the Nationals and Josh Johnson will be for the Marlins.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: Verlander got April out of the way. Now he can have fun the rest of the season.
  • The Giants over the Mets: Don't know what to make of Mr. Santana for the Mets. Will pick the Giants and Wellemeyer until it can be figured out.
  • The Twins over the Orioles: Same pick as yesterday. Liriano over Millwood.
  • The Phillies over the Braves: Medlan? Nope. Going with Blanton and the Phillies.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Sabathia should get the job done providing the Yankees can score four runs against Buchholz. No easy task.
  • The Bay Rays over the Athletics: Sheets just doesn't look good. Wade Davis looked great last time out.
  • The Padres over the Astros: Garland continues his improbable strikeout run.
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: Garcia over Karstens? Well, heck yeah. These picks seem too easy so far. Yikes!
  • The Blue Jays over the White Sox: Made the mistake of picking against the Blue Jays yesterday. Won't make the same mistake today. Cecil wins.
  • The Rangers over the Royals: Harden versus Meche. It's scary today with all these obvious picks.
  • The Brewers over the Diamondbacks: Wolf. Got to go with Wolf.
  • The Twins over the Orioles: Baker makes it a very long day for the Orioles. Poor guys.
  • The Mariners over the Angels: Fister has been really good. Saunders, not so much.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: Especially if Chacin pitches like last time.


  • The Cubs over the Reds: Mr. Castro had quite a debut yesterday, eh?

Yesterday: 6-8
Week: 46-34
Month: 50-44
Season: 250-171
Games of the Day: 12-10

Tripping Through the Transactions

It is once again time to trip through a passel of transactions FanDome style. These are some of the moves made in the last week or so...

  • There is a revolution in Chicago as Castro is taking over...shortstop.
  • But Starlin won't be taking over Chad because Tracy is the poor guy who got designated for assignment.
  • It's a Kerry Lewis telethon! Well, not exactly. Kerry Wood is off the DL and Jensen Lewis lost his roster spot.
  • The Marlins needed Mike to hit like a lion, but he hit like a Lamb, so he was designated.
  • So the Angels' pitcher, Rodriguez got called into the manager's office. The manager said, "Can you hear the drums, Fernando?" The pitcher said, "Que?" So his manager said, "The stars were bright, Fernando. They were shining there for you and me." The confused pitcher said, "I don't understand, skeeper." And then the manager gently told him he was being designated for assignment. Fernando asked in broken English if there was any way the manager would change his mind. His manager concluded by saying, "Though I never thought we could lose, there's no regret. If I had to do it all the same again, I would my friend, Fernando."
  • Oh yeah, the Angels also put Michael on the Ryan Express to Salt Lake of the PCL.
  • The Mariners put all the game pieces in place to help their outfielder and put Milton Bradley on the restricted list.
  • As if the Mariners weren't already Lowe enough in morale, pitcher, Mark, went on the disabled list.
  • For the A's, poor Mazzaro can't Vin. He got one shot in the rotation and was sent back to the minors.
  • Yunel's season scraped on the sand Escobar as the shortstop went on the DL.
  • Outfielder, John, thought that when Pittsburgh selected him in the Rule V draft and that he made it this far into the season, he was going to stay with the Pirates come Raynor shine. But he got sent back to the Marlins and is headed to the minors.
  • Couldn't decide on which pun to use for this next one, so you get two (stop rolling your eyes): The Rangers needed Cash to pay for Towles as they swapped catchers from the majors to the minors and vice versa. Or: In a strictly Cash deal, the Rangers purchased the contract of catcher, Kevin.
  • The disabled list is Rick's Achillies Ankiel as the outfielder went on another injury holiday.
  • The Royals also performed a Colonospopy as Roman was released. And you thought just the Greeks were in trouble? Alternate: Colon went on a Roman holiday as he was released.
  • The Twins Manshipped pitcher Jeff back to the minors after just one start.
  • When outfielder, Greg, first got called up to the Yankees, Girardi put his arm around him and said in his best Foghorn Leghorn voice: "You gotta keep your eye on the Golson."
  • The fact that the Yankees needed an outfielder instead of a relief pitcher made Mark Melenconally since he was the guy who got shipped out.
  • Valdez thought it was slick when he was called up by the Angels.
  • The White Sox told Donny that he was going to be Lucy in the minors with baseball diamonds.
  • The Astros perched Byrdak on the disabled list.
  • After pitcher, Ricky, was so ineffective, his manager thought there was something wrong with his A-Orta, so to protect his heart, they released him.
  • Perhaps the Giants won't be Rowand so much up stream since Aaron's back from the DL.
  • The Mariners thought infielder, Matt, was only Tuiosososo and he got sent to the minors.

That's all for now. Tune in next time. Oh, stop! Of course there's going to be a next time.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Lance Berkman Should Be Quiet

Lance Berkman isn't helping the Houston Astros. First, his absence (again) at the beginning of the season for the Astros didn't help them get off on the right foot. Without him being there, the team had no offense and lost their first nine games of the season. Then he finally gets back, but is hitting all of .219 and then comes out (not once, but twice) and says he'd be willing to waive his no trade clause to play for a contender. Nice.

First of all, Berkman has been a part of several Houston teams that looked moribund early in the year only to put a charge in the second half that in some cases put the Astros in the playoffs. It doesn't appear on paper that the Astros have that kind of team to do that this year. But still. Isn't he effectively telling his team that he has given up on them? Sure, he says as a postscript that he would prefer to stay with the team and that they could turn it around, but isn't that just covering his bases? If this Fan was a teammate of Berkman's, he would be called out just for what the comments are doing for his team.

But let's look at it another way? Who would want him? He makes $15 million and his health (especially his knees) is questionable. He only has one position (and DH if he goes to the AL) and he is 34 years old. Plus he has a $15 million option for next year. If the Mariners can stay close in the AL West, they could probably use him. If the Red Sox tire of David Ortiz, they could use him and afford him. If the Twins tire of Kubel/Thome, they could use him. But who else? The Dodgers? They might be so out of the race that they wouldn't bother.

Berkman has had a great career and all of his stats are fantastic for his body of work. But he's on the downside now and he's on a team that isn't going anywhere. The Fan gets that. But shouldn't those conversations be made privately with his general manager (who, by the way, seemed less than pleased with Berkman's statement)? Shouldn't that be the way Berkman handles this instead of throwing his teammates under the bus? The Fan gets a bit fed up with a big time player who gets what he wants in a long term deal with the added bonus of a no-trade clause and then when his team's fortunes go south wants to unmake the bed he put the sheets on himself.

The Fan could understand if Berkman was slugging his usual 140+ OPS+ and killing the ball. But he isn't and his early disabled list stint makes him part of the problem. When you are part of the problem and not the only shining bauble in a team full of misfits, you shouldn't be acting like you are the latter. Berkman should stay quiet in public and if he wants to get out, then work behind the scenes with his team to get out of there. He isn't doing anyone a good hill of beans by making these statements under his and his team's current situation.

Game Picks - Friday: May 7, 2010

Although yesterday's picks were somewhat successful, there is a bit of an empty feeling after seeing the results. The Game of the Day was successful again. And the call on the Red Sox' game was dead on as was Halladay's handling of the Cardinals. The Fan couldn't have been more right about the Rangers - Royals game if he had written the script himself. But gosh, who would have thought Pittsburgh would jump all over the Cubs and that the Cubs would go back to being futile at the plate? Why are the Nationals so dang hard to predict? And the Brewers and the Dodgers are complete mysteries thus far. And never in a million years would this picker have seen an Orioles' shut out coming when Bergesen was starting! But, that's the life of a prognosticator who chooses baseball as his venue.

Let's see if Friday can bring more of the thrill of victory:

  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: Zach Duke is probably the Pirates best pitcher. But he won't get enough run support with Carpenter pitching.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: Lowe needs to keep the ball in the ball park and if he does, he should win. This might be Moyer's last start with the Phillies.
  • The Marlins over the Nationals: The Fins have lost three straight and have their weakest starter (Volstad) starting tonight. So that means they will win. Why? Because they are the Marlins.
  • The Indians over the Tigers: The Indians haven't won a game in a while and are due. Huff hasn't pitched well so far this year after a very good 2009 and he is due. These planets align for a reason. Throw in Bonderman for the Tigers to help the pick along.
  • The Giants over the Mets: Pelfrey is listed for the Mets. He's been REALLY good. But he has been hurting. Sanchez has been great for the Giants, especially if he can keep his walks down.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Still can't buy Carlos Silva. Just can't. Homer Bailey needs to get it going and tonight would be a good place to start.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: It's Hughes against Beckett. Lots of questions abound in this game. Is Hughes this good? Is Beckett this bad? We'll find out together.
  • The Padres over the Astros: The latest story down in Houston is that Berkman wants to play for a winner. Well, that's just great for the good old team morale. Latos wins this one.
  • The Royals over the Rangers: Oy. Can Greinke ever get enough run support to win a game? It's got to be sad to be 0 for the season when you have a 2.45 ERA.
  • The Twins over the Orioles: Still laughing that some wanted Liriano to be a closer for this team. Ha!
  • The White Sox over the Blue Jays: Buehrle has to have a good game some time.
  • The Brewers over the Diamondbacks: Jackson has been horrific for the D-backs. Gallardo has been the Brewers best pitcher and their best hitter.
  • The Bay Rays over the Athletics: Price versus Gonzalez. The Bay Rays have been unstoppable.
  • The Mariners over the Angels: Weaver will have to be near perfect to beat King Felix.


  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: Going with an upset victory of Rogers over Kuroda. Don't you always sing: du du du du My Kuroda, whenever you hear that name? Maybe the Fan is just a freak.

Yesterday: 7-4
Week: 40-26
Month: 44-36
Season: 244-163
Games of the Day: 12-9

Gary Carter Interviewed by the Hall of the Very Good

Gary Carter wasn't a player you had few emotions about. He was either hated or he was loved. He had one of those images that made you want to muss him up a bit even if you shared his belief system. For this Fan, Gary Carter was in the same category as Steve Garvey of the Dodgers. Both seemed too good to be true and thus were the objects of some deep dislike.

But they were very different in other ways. Steve Garvey was always trying to be dignified, like he was a Clark Kent on the baseball field. It's hard for any catcher to be dignified as that position is as close to constantly playing in the dirt as possible. He was more flamboyant than Garvey and much more animated. That combined with what seemed to be a yearning for attention from the media and that ridiculously permed hair made him somewhat cartoonish for this Fan during his playing days.

But Carter is in the Hall of Fame, so that is the ultimate comeback answer to all those guys like this writer who didn't like him. And he deserved his election. He hit over three hundred homers and drove in over 1200 runs. He played well in the post season, especially in 1981 for the Expos when we first found out who he was. In the end, it didn't matter who we thought Gary Carter was, because his body of work told us what kind of player he was. He won. And rightly so.

There is a terrific site on the Web called the Hall of the Very Good. The Fan has recently discovered it and the author of the site always keeps it interesting with on-point interviews and other posts of interest. The Fan has really come to enjoy it. The Fan encourages you to see the latest post as the site interviews Gary Carter, the Hall of Fame Catcher. Check it out.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Albert Pujols

On Tuesday night, this writer was thinking about Albert Pujols while pouring over the box scores. According to the one box score that caught the eye, Pujols had struck out twice in Tuesday night's game. "Wow!" thought the Fan. That seemed unusual. But it clicked in the consciousness because a number in Pujols' strikeout column seemed to be happening regularly. We are talking about a guy who has more career walks than strikeouts. His hitting has been legendary but more so because he is a high-average slugger with the rarity that he never strikes out.

And so the Fan did some checking and sure enough, Albert Pujols is striking out and record rates for him. For his entire career, Pujols has strike out per plate appearance ratio of .094. That's an incredible number. But this year, his rate is .146. That's quite a jump. He is on pace to strikeout 95 times this season, something he hasn't done since his rookie season. The highest total since his rookie season has been 69. So this is indeed something strange.

The Fan isn't smart enough to know why Pujols is striking out more. So the Fan turns to someone who does that kind of analysis for a living. For a great in depth look at the numbers, click here. The one number that jumped out was his swing and miss percentage which has jumped from 14% to 19%. That's a big jump.

What does all this mean? Probably nothing. It has seemed that Pujols has been quiet so far this year. But geez, he still has an OPS of 1.022. The strikeout thing is probably a blip in what will probably be just another blistering year for the best hitter in baseball.

Milton Bradley To Get Help?

What do we make over the latest stories about Milton Bradley? His manager pulled him after two strikeouts on Tuesday, the last one with the bases loaded and indications were that Bradley did not take the benching very well. His manager stated that Bradley looked like he wasn't handling the strikeouts well and felt it was in Bradley's best interest to get out of there. The next day (Wednesday), Bradley spoke with his manager and general manager and told them he needed help with personal problems that were hindering his on-field activities. Of course, the Mariners said they would try to help him.

The cynic inside the Fan wants to think that Bradley probably knew he was out of "get of jail free" cards in his Monopoly baseball career and asked for help to try to keep his baseball job. But on the surface of things, Bradley has never been that astute to come up with such a gimmick. This is a guy who will drive off a bridge despite the sign pointing to danger ahead.

Perhaps this is the most positive story about Bradley in an awful long time. It takes a lot of guts to ask for help. And perhaps it is a real positive that Bradley has finally admitted he needs it. Of course, with privacy issues in play, the help needed wasn't provided in the news stories and it shouldn't be. But whether the problem is chemical (which would make sense due to Bradley's erratic behavior), or emotional, this is a guy whose baseball career shouts out to a falling sky of breakdown.

And so, this Fan is going to push away the cynical and hope for the best for Bradley, if not for his baseball career--which seems toast these days--but for his life. The man is one of those me-against-the-world types and man, that takes a lot of energy to maintain. It's time for Milton Bradley to get on a more even keel in life and find some peace. Let's hope it's still a possibility for him.

Game Picks - Thursday: May 6, 2010

April flowers have brought May showers here in the FanDome. With a sub par picking day yesterday, this picker is barely over .500 for the month of May. A lot went wrong yesterday. The Padres had the lead but young Richard had to leave after five innings because of too many walks and the Padres' relievers were terrible. Kyle Kendrick, who had been so bad so far, pitched a gem against the suddenly flat looking Cardinals. Picking against Zito was simply a bad idea. Picking the Nationals was almost a good idea, but they couldn't hold down a bad hitting team. The Royals were a bad pick. The Rangers had a golden opportunity to zoom up in the standings in the AL West but let the injury-riddled Athletics walk all over them for the second straight night. The Brewers are on a hitting binge after weeks of slumber and the Fan didn't seem to get that. So, the Fan deserves the lumps he took.

The scheduling has been different this year. Mondays and Thursdays have had a fairly full slate of games so far. Today is no different. Here's what they look like:

  • The Phillies over the Cardinals: How can anyone pick against Halladay? Of course, that obvious pick is scary as heck.
  • The Cubs over the Pirates: This picker never picks against the Cubs when Randy Wells is pitching. Burres for the Pirates makes this even easier to do that.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: Scott Olsen is a tall lefty with a lot of talent. But his concentration skills have never been good. Don't see two good performances in a row for him. But Heyward will be out for the Braves after injuring his groin.
  • The Giants over the Marlins: The Marlins continue to be a mystery to this picker. Will probably get this one wrong again too. Nolasco goes against Cain in a good match up. Who knows...
  • The Red Sox over the Angels: Kazmir versus Matsuzaka seems like an Angel win, but the Red Sox are heating up and will out slug the Angels in a high scoring contest.
  • The Rangers over the Royals: Davies was pretty good last night and Harrison has never really been good for the Rangers. But we are talking the Royals here.
  • The Twins over the Orioles: Pavano over Bergesen easily. Have the Orioles has the toughest schedule in baseball? The poor schmucks are always playing the top teams.
  • The Blue Jays over the White Sox: Danks hasn't been very good. Eveland needs to go deeper into games, but the Blue Jays should win.
  • The Brewers over the Dodgers. Bush goes for the Brewers. Normally that would be a bad thing. But the Dodgers counter with Ely. Who?
  • The Bay Rays over the Mariners: The Bay Rays have had a pretty cushy schedule so far. The Mariners are as cushy as they get.


  • The Diamondbacks over the Astros: Hate to think of Wandy losing again, but he hasn't been nearly as sharp as last year. Plus, he's matched up against Haren.

Yesterday: 6-9
Week: 33-22
Month: 37-33
Season: 237-159
Games of the Day: 11-9

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Dustin Pedroia Is REALLY Good

The time has come to fully admit the obvious. Of course everyone knows that Dustin Pedroia is really good. It's just that this Fan has taken a long time to come around. Let's be honest here. The Fan just doesn't like the guy. Take, for example, how he pumped his fist in glee when he hit a homer against the Yankees in the first dang series of the year. It wasn't the World Series, you piker. So that's just an example. But the Fan's problem with the guy doesn't mask the obvious. The guy is one of the best in the business and credit is due here in this space.

Chase Utley is definitely number one. He is on top of all second basemen in UZR and he's one of the best hitters in baseball. The real debate comes to number two. And there really are only three choices: Pedroia, Cano and Brandon Phillips. Orlando Hudson would be in the equation because he is a great fielder. But his bat is no where near the others. Brandon Phillips had a good year at the plate last year, but not in the class of Pedroia and Cano. So you have to drop him out.

The really weird thing is that Pedroia and Cano are not faring well in the UZR ratings so far this year. Pedroia is 14th and Cano is 16th. But Cano has the second best range at his position in baseball and Pedroia hardly ever makes an error. Go figure. Really smart people tally these statistics so there must be something to them. But gosh, both seem a lot better fielding their position than indicated by UZR.

Robinson Cano has a real chance at a batting title this year. His wOBA leads all second basemen, even Utley. So offensively, the Fan thinks that Cano has overtaken Pedroia. That would seem to give Cano the definitive number two spot.

But Pedroia just has something. Uh oh. It's that intangible word again. Egads! The Fan will probably take a beating for this, but there is just something about Pedroia that puts him in the right place at the right time (check out that double play last night) and up at the plate in a big moment. He's like an ultimately more annoying Jeter. He's like Jeter without that same kind of class that Jeter always exhibits.

His grit and his determination have made him, like his teammate, Youkilis, a much better player than his physical skills seem to dictate he should be. There is something to be said for that. Okay, here is the ultimate analogy. Are you ready? He's like a more annoying Jeter and like a David Epstein who can actually hit. Yup, that's perfect.

And while the Red Sox have their share of problems (will Ortiz get released?) Pedroia is not one of them. He's a star at his position and probably the third best overall second baseman in baseball. Not too shabby for a guy this Fan so totally dislikes.

Man, that was painful.

Where Have All the Iconic Announcers Gone?

It appears that Vin Scully is the last of his breed. With the passing of the lovely Ernie Harwell, the man with the velvet voice and the huge heart, one more of the iconic baseball announcers is gone. We've lost Rizzuto, Buck (the elder), Harry Carey and others and there doesn't appear to be many others to take their place.

When play by play men spend decades with a team, an unbelievable bond develops between them and their team. Curt Gowdy was the voice of the Red Sox. Rizzuto for the Yankees. Buck was the guy in St. Louis. And Harwell had become that kind of institution. He broadcast games until he was nearly 90 for gosh sakes. It doesn't get any better than that.

The sad thing is, there isn't much out there that replaces them. The Bay Rays have a really good one. Michael Kay for the Yankees? The Red Sox have a pretty good one. But none yet have the heft of history or the bond with the fans that takes decades to cement.

Of course, their is always the color guys like Hawk Harrelson, but from what I read from Chisox fans, they aren't that thrilled there. How about it, Fan Friends? Who do you listen to and like a lot? Are there any out there besides Scully that you think are icons? The Fan would love to hear from you. There just may be some still out there.

In any case, rest in peace, Mr. Harwell. You will be missed.

Game Picks - Wednesday: May 5, 2010

The trick to picking Major League Baseball games is to be able to figure out when a team, a pitcher, or a group of players is going to stop playing against their norms. For example, the Brewers are a team of sluggers that were not slugging and thus not scoring any runs. Their players (with the exception of Braun) have been struggling below their norms. Sooner or later they had to bust out of it and the trick is to anticipate when that would be. It didn't figure it would be against Clayton Kershaw, but that's exactly what happened as they scored nine runs in the second inning and exploded. The Astros are another example. Certainly they are a bad hitting team. But their norms indicate that they should average three runs a game at least. And so when Oswalt is on the mound, the picker would figure that to be enough. But the Astros didn't score three runs. They didn't score any runs. The Fan fell on the wrong side of both of those situations which is a good reason why it was such a wishy washy picking day.

The Fan has been accused in the past of simply picking games out of the hat. That couldn't be further from the truth. The Fan only picks a third of any day's games out of a hat. Each pick is considered carefully with match ups and histories those match ups have had in the past. But at least a third of the games every day are so unpredictable that luck has to factor in. So far this season, the Fan has been mostly lucky in those wacky 1/3 picks. Not complaining at all about that.

So the bottom line here is that Wednesday's picks are brought to you with 2/3 logic and acumen and 1/3 blindfolded "pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey" type guessing. It is what it is...

Editor's Note: These picks must be fraught with danger as the computer has crashed three times while trying to make them!

- The Blue Jays over the Indians: This is one of those picks that drive you crazy. Morrow has been really good lately, which is against type. Carmona was really bad last time which is against type this year, but not against last year. Doh!
- The Mets over the Reds: Niese has been a nice surprise. Cueto is never one to count on but can be occasionally brilliant. Don't think he will be here.
- The Yankees over the Orioles: Pettitte was more back to his old self his last game out, but with the Yankee bats, that's good enough.
- The Twins over the Tigers: The Twins are putting their stamp on this series without Mauer too.
- The Rangers over the Athletics: Raise your hand if you thought Feldman would be the fouth best starter on the Rangers. Yeah, the Fan couldn't raise his hand either.
- The Cubs over the Pirates: Just can't see the Cubbies losing with Lilly going and Morton on the other side.
- The Cardinals over the Phillies: Sooner or later, the Phillies are going to have to take Kendrick out of the rotation.
- The Nationals over the Braves: Atilano has been good in his two starts, Hanson was pretty shaky his last time out. It's weird. The Fan is acting like the Nationals are a real team and everything.
- The Marlins over the Giants: Zito is due for a clunker and a right-handed team like the Marlins might be the one to give it to him.
- The Red Sox over the Angels: Don't know which team the Fan roots against harder. Bad Fan...very bad. But anyway, Lackey rises up against his old team and shows they should have paid him instead of Pineiro.
- The Astros over the Diamondbacks: Just feel like Lopez is vulnerable as a starter in this one.
- The Royals over the White Sox: With a win, the Royals could hop over the White Sox in the standings. Wouldn't that be a kicker?
- The Padres over the Rockies: Have the Padres been an unbelievable story so far? Richard beats Cook.
- The Dodgers over the Brewers: Hmm..Davis versus Billingsley. Yup, this is one of those 1/3.


- The Bay Rays over the Mariners: So what if Lee is pitching for Seattle. They won't score against Garza.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 27-13
Month: 31-24
Season: 231-150
Games of the Day: 10-9

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Flagrant Fan Joins the Baseball Bloggers Alliance

This site is now a card carrying member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA for short). The BBA is a network of baseball-writing bloggers who share ideas and provide mutual support for those of us that are passionate about this great sport of ours. Blogging success is not much different than any business success. It's all about networking and making good connections to help promote what you do and receive support while doing it.

The Fan couldn't be more proud to be aligned with such a great group of people. Nothing on the site here will change (for better or for worse) but it's still a great day for this lonely writer in northern Maine.

Rangers Grabbing Their Opportunity

The time has never been more ripe for someone other than the California Angels of Los Angeles or Anaheim to win the American League West. You can never count the Angels out, not with their manager and track record, but it really seems as if the Angels can't hit enough and can't pitch enough to get the job done this year. Meanwhile, the Oakland A's, after a good start, have fallen on hard times due to injuries to key players and the Mariners can't seem to hit enough to be a factor. That leaves the Rangers with a golden opportunity to grab the division.

For almost two decades, the Rangers have been an all-hit, no-pitch kind of team. They could always slug with the best in baseball with guys like A-Rod, Ivan Rodriguez in his prime, Juan Gonzalez and others. But their pitching was always the lamest in the land. You knew they were going to get feasted upon. Let's face it, if Millwood was your best pitcher, you know you're pitching staff sucks. But the Rangers have re-invented themselves.

The Fan doesn't know if Nolan Ryan is the catalyst for the makeover or if the credit goes to the collective, but the Rangers focus much more now on pitching and defense. And they did so with determination. That process was never more in focus than when Elvis Andrus was handed the shortstop position and Michael Young, a perennial all star was told in no uncertain terms that he was headed to third base.

The Rangers now have four guys in their starting rotation that can keep you in the ball game. Harden and Feldman are the anchors and Wilson and Lewis were brilliant pick ups. Only Harrison remains as a weak link and if the Rangers could find a hot hand in the minors to take Harison's place, their rotation would really be dynamic.

The bullpen has been a work in progress. Frankie Francisco has struggled but had a good outing on Sunday before having another bad one on Monday. But he'll be okay in the long run because he's always been okay before. Neftali Feliz had struggled earlier in the season, but is coming on strong. He bailed out Francisco in last night's game by coming in and blowing away the opposition to save the game. Meanwhile, the aged Darren Oliver has struck out 13 in 12 innings of work while only walking one. He's been great. Also great have been Darren O'Day, who hasn't given up a run yet this season and Chris Ray, who has struggled with his control, but still posts a 1.69 ERA. Nippert and Mathis are useful too. O'Day's work so far seems like a fluke though. He's pitched in eleven games so far and has only struck out one batter. Now that's pitching to contact!

Over all, the Rangers' pitching staff ranks in the top five in most categories. Their only negatives have been walks and homers. They are eighth in the fourteen team league in homers allowed and are twelfth in the league in walks given. That number in particular has to come down. Harden has been uncharacteristically wild to date, but last night he struck out nine and gave up no walks in his seven innings of work. That's a great sign.

This Fan thinks the offense will come around. They currently rank in the bottom five in just about all offensive categories. But remember that Kinsler has been out most of the year and just recently came back. Josh Hamilton was in a funk most of the early part of the season but is starting to come on now. The Chris Davis experiment didn't work out and now Smoak is up to take his place. Smoak has started slowly, but he's been steadily improving and he has more walks currently than strikeouts. That leads this writer to believe that he will be just fine. Vlad is Vlad and will continue to have a very good season. Nelson Cruz needs to hurry up and get back as he was carrying the team earlier.

The most glaring weaknesses so far for the Rangers have been behind the plate and now Treanor has taken over and it looks like he can at least give you professional at bats. So that position has stabled out. The Rangers also have to stop giving at bats to Garko and David Murphy. Garko is that minor league slugger that makes your eyes dance but has never put it together in the majors. He's now batting .074. Ugh. Make it stop! David Murphy is another out machine. He has struck out 17 times with only two walks and is batting .174. Enough already.

Another concern has been Michael Young's defense. He's already made six errors and they have all been on throws. Does he have a bad arm? What's going on there? Young has never been what anyone would call a great fielder. But he was serviceable last year at third if not spectacular. But he is throwing everything away so far this year. For a team based on pitching and defense, that has to be a bit annoying.

But the Rangers are on the right track. You can never count the Angels out. But the Fan thinks you can count out the A's and the Mariners which leaves the Rangers in a great position. This could be their year and recent indications are that they are starting to seize it.

Game Picks - Tuesday: May 4, 2010

Some very good pitchers like Harden, Sabathia, Garcia, Cecil, Jiminez and Leake all pitched great and helped ensure that this picker had another solid day of picks. The only down picks were caused by other good pitchers who had been struggling until yesterday (Baker and Peavy). But this picker will take results like yesterday any day of the week.

Another Tuesday, another full slate of games:

  • The Cubs over the Pirates: The Cubs are red hot and Dempster has been real good. A bad combination for the Pirates.
  • The Cardinals over the Phillies: Great match up of Wainwright versus Hamels. Think Wainwright is the better pitcher.
  • The Nationals over the Braves: The more Livan starts, the more of a quandry this picker gets into. When will he finally get hit like normal? Going to say it won't be this game.
  • The Blue Jays over the Indians: Should have picked the Blue Jays yesterday. Will not make the same mistake today as Romero gets the nod over Westbrook.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Burnett gets to pitch to Cervelli as Posada has a bad calf. That bodes well for the Yankees even though Matusz is pitching for Baltimore.
  • The Mets over the Reds: Ike Davis will hit a homer off of Arroyo and Maine looked much better last time out.
  • The Giants over the Marlins: Sanchez has been pretty good for the Marlins, but Lincecum is pitching for the Giants.
  • The Red Sox over the Angels: Lester has been rounding into form. It was interesting to see that David Ortiz did not make an appearance at all last night. The signs are on the wall, folks.
  • The Astros over the Diamondbacks: The Fan roots of Ian Kennedy, but Oswalt gets the nod and the win.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: This same pick yesterday went real sour, but Willis should baffle the Mauer-less Twins long enough for the Tigers to whack Blackburn around some.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: As much as the Fan likes Hochever, let's face it, if Greinke can't win, then Hochever can't either.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: LeBlanc has an ERA of 0.52. Smith's is over 7. What should that tell you?
  • The Dodgers over the Brewers: Kershaw has been pitching a little deeper into games. Narveson goes for the Brewers.
  • The Bay Rays over the Mariners: Shields versus Vargas. The Bay Rays are just too good a team to lose this one.


  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Feldman was much better his last time out and Mazzaro is making his first start of the year for the Athletics. The Rangers are starting their push to the top.

Yesterday: 7-3
Week: 19-6
Month: 23-17
Season: 223-143
Games of the Day: 10-8

Monday, May 03, 2010

Some Player Thoughts Watching Sunday's Games

Sunday is the best baseball day of the week. Except for the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, all of the teams play during the day. TBS usually shows a game plus your local team is available on television at a decent hour too. After drinking in a full slate of day games, the following players left brain impressions:

Brent Gardner: This Fan really wanted Gardner to get 500 at bats this season to see what he could do. Then the Yankees got Granderson and the Fan figured that was that. But then it was announced that Gardner would play left. But then the Yankees got Randy Winn and the Fan said that was that. But Gardner has played nearly every day and he's delivered. His current line is: .342/.415/.438. He has 25 hits in 22 games played. He's scored 18 runs and he's stolen 11 bases in 12 attempts. He looks more comfortable at the plate with each passing game. So far so good.

Alfonso Soriano: Two weeks ago, his career seemed dead. He was written off in this space as well. His manager was asked several times why he was still penciling Soriano in the line up. But look at Soriano now. He's had four homers in his last three games and has been red hot. His current line is remarkable considering where he was just a little while ago: .325/.382/.624. His OPS is now over 1. Amazing. Guess we'll have to call him Lazurus.

Eric Byrnes: Poor Eric Byrnes. In a career where it seems he hit one too many walls (he wasn't called, "The Crash Dummy" for nothing), he hasn't been able to come close to producing for three straight years now. After producing only three hits in over 30 at bats for the Mariners, that team pulled the plug and released him today. No doubt his botched squeeze attempt on Saturday night didn't help his cause any. You can't cry too much for Byrnes because he made a lot of money based on two slightly above league average seasons. But his skill really deteriorated and it seems his career is pretty much over.

Phil Hughes: Do you think the Joba/Hughes debate looks silly now? Hughes has been tremendous. He's made four starts and is now 3-0 and after his seven shut out innings today, he's pitched 25 innings and has a WHIP of 0.88 while striking out 24. He's only given up one homer and it looks like an easy game for him right now.

Jhoulys Chacin: Can we just call him Jose based on his middle name? Anyway, Chacin has been touted as the Rockies best prospect and he certainly showed why Sunday. He pitched seven innings and gave up only one hit while blanking the Giants. Before you get all thinking that the Giants weren't much of a challenge, they are a much better hitting team this year. Schierholtz is batting .345. Sandoval has been as good as last year. Downs is doing well at second base and in the line up. Uribe is hitting well and Huff has been very solid with a .485 slugging percentage. Chacin is just that good and the Rockies won't miss a beat with De La Rosa out.

Jason Giambi and Nick Johnson: Two erstwhile first basemen with somewhat checkered pasts are both having really strange seasons. Giambi is batting .100 for the season, but has a .387 On Base Percentage. However, his slugging percentage is only .150. Nick Johnson is batting .149 and his OBP is .368.

Paul Konerko: Konerko has had a really good career. But the Fan has to admit that he wrote right here in this space that Konerko's best years were behind him. Well, now he has 12 homers and an OPS of 1.206. Uhh...the Fan can shut his trap any time now.

Jason Heyward: Heyward has been like a binary switch for the Braves so far. When he hits, he hits big and the Braves win. When he doesn't hit, they don't hit and they don't win. He's on a mini-tear lately which is the on side of that switch for the Braves.

Austin Jackson: The young man is now batting .367 and has 40 hits already. And he has a .420 OBP despite striking out 34 times in 25 games. The Fan still thinks he'll end up in the .290 range. His BABIP is pretty darn high right now.

Andre Ethier: You can't blame the Dodgers' struggles on Ethier who after slugging two homers Sunday, now has nine on the season and has a downright gaudy OPS of 1.161. He's already drivin in 26 runs. He has as many walks as strikeouts (10). Looks like a superstar has arrived.

Andruw Jones: Jones has been given up for dead so many times over the last three years, but he has a whopping OPS of 1.084 thus far with 8 homers. Plus he is playing centerfield every day. Did anyone see this happening? But to show how poorly the White Sox are faring, with 8 homers, Jones has only knocked in 11 runs.

Hanley Ramirez: The Marlins' shortstop has been pretty quiet thus far. But he is six for his last nine with three homers. Look out National League, Mr. Ramirez is back on his game.

Jorge Cantu and Ty Wiggington: These two guys might be the most underrated players in their respective leagues. They always seem to come up big in critical situations and just give solid, professional at bats every time they come up to the plate, particularly when men are in scoring position. Wiggington's at bat against Papelbon today was outstanding and a great case in point.

Prince Fielder: Fielder has been really quiet thus far which somewhat accounts for the Brewers really bad run scoring slump. Even Craig Counsell has a higher slugging percentage right now than Fielder and Fielder has only hit two homers to date.

Jason Varitek: Okay, he's having a fine season thus far. The Fan has to admit it. He hit another homer today and even threw a runner out at second on a stolen base attempt. He looks much better than Victor Martinez these days.

Vernon Wells: The man has been awesome so far. Good for him! After years of abuse, he deserves it.

Game Picks - Monday: May 3, 2010

It was nearly a historic day of picking. The tally was 12-2 going into the Mets - Phillies game and the Mets had a 5-2 lead with Santana on the mound. That felt like a pretty good lock for a 13-2 day and a new record for this here picker. Twelve has been the highest total ever seen in this space. But then the Phillies exploded and Santana ended up with one of his ugliest lines of his career. He allowed ten base runners. Every single one of then scored. He gave up four homers, one a grand slam to Victorino. This Fan has never seen anything like it. But still, after a disastrous Saturday, there is no real way one can complain about bouncing back with a 12-3 day.

Monday has a pretty good schedule of games. Let's keep the ball rolling:

  • The Cardinals over the Phillies: Garcia should be better than Hamels and the Cardinals need to dominate this series.
  • The Indians over the Blue Jays: Two good young pitchers in Talbot versus Cecil. Talbot has been lights out so far.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Rematch of Sabathia versus Guthrie. Will turn out the same way as the first one. And Teixeira is starting to hit.
  • The Reds over the Mets: Still riding the Leake bandwagon, especially since Perez is going for the Mets and the bullpen has already had to cover a lot of innings over the weekend.
  • The Red Sox over the Angels: The Red Sox just got swept by the Orioles [snicker]. But Buchholz has been their best pitcher thus far.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Astros: The Astros had a miserable weekend. It won't get any better on Monday.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: In the upset of the day, Gil (ga) Meche pitches his first good game of the year. Peavy does too, but the Royals come out on top.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: No Mauer. Baker hasn't been sharp. The Tigers have been hot. Tigers.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Harden pitches a gem and Braden yells at Vlad Guerrero for trotting too slow on his home run. But Vlad can't run anymore and that's as fast as he can go.


  • The Rockies over the Padres: Ubaldo is the new king. It's King Ubaldo the First.

Yesterday: 12-3
Week: 12-3
Month: 16-14
Season: 216-140
Games of the Day: 9-8 You still out there, Kryss?

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Game Picks - Sunday: May 2, 2010

Oh my. That was really bad. That was as bad a night as this picker has ever had. There were fifteen picks to be had and this picker only managed to gather in four correct picks. Yeah, it was dumb to pick against Halladay and Cain. But other than that, it was just amazing how wrong it all turned out. The Cubs suddenly have an offense. The Twins suddenly do not have a bullpen. The Bay Rays have suddenly lost two in a row to the Royals. The Royals! The Yankees have a pitcher who has been great his entire career...except when he has pitched for them. Put it all together in a blender and the picks were puree and May is already a mess. It was awful.

It's funny how a night like that can whisk away all confidence. But the picks must go on. Hopefully, Sunday will be a bit more successful. It couldn't be much more unsuccessful.

  • The Twins over the Indians: Perhaps it would be nice is Liriano would have another powerful game today.
  • The Tigers over the Angels: Verlander is so overdue for a powerful performance and a win that it's overripe and sitting in a big pear tree.
  • The Yankees over the White Sox: This pick doesn't feel very good with Hughes versus Buehrle. But dang, it's the right pick.
  • The Blue Jays over the Athletics: Hopefully, this pick won't be three Ben Sheets to the wind. Marcum should out pitch him.
  • The Marlins over the Nationals: The darn Marlins are about as predictable as Mrs. Palin. Josh Johnson is a good pick today though.
  • The Braves over the Astros: Derek Lowe is not a solid pick, but the Braves have picked it up of late at the dish.
  • The Orioles over the Red Sox: What a lousy pick this is. Which Beckett will show up tonight? Which Millwood? Which to choose?
  • The Royals over the Bay Rays: If Greinke is Greinke and can get some relief pitching, the Royals could actually sweep this series.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: If I were a Carpenter and you were a lady, would you marry me anyway, would you hit my curveball?
  • The Cubs over the Diamondbacks: How bad can a picker be shaken up when he picks Gorzelanny to win?
  • The Padres over the Brewers: Garland struck out 10 last time out. How did that happen? Can he pitch well two times in a row?
  • The Giants over the Rockies: Why can't the Rockies ever start a season well? They are like the Teixeira of teams.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Great match up of Fister versus Wilson. Both have sub-2 ERAs. But the Mariners have a really bad hitting team.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: Will take Santana over Moyer just about every time.


  • The Dodgers over the Pirates: Karstens? For the Pirates? No way they win.

Yesterday: 4-11 uuuuggggly
Week: 50-45
Month: 4-11
Season: 204-157
Games of the Day: 8-8