Saturday, May 22, 2010

David Ortiz is Not a Happy Man

David Ortiz has had a really good May and for the time being has tamed his critics (this one included) who thought he may be done. But he doesn't appear to be enjoying himself and his comeback. In a recent Boston Globe article, he blasts writers (including Buster Olney) for "changing" him from a fun guy into a jerk. The whole article reminded this observer of Sammy Sosa who was fine and "fun" until he started facing criticism in the latter third of his career. Perhaps it is a trait of people from their area of the world to not take criticism very well. But seriously, should the press change who a person is?

Frankly, from the perspective of a struggling working stiff, what does David Ortiz have to be upset about? If you are not performing, you're not supposed to be questioned? If your manager loses faith in you when you are batting .178, he's to be faulted? To be unhappy and feel persecuted when you are making $13 million a years is just preposterous. Give the Fan thirteen million a year and the Fan will take all the criticism you can dish out and would keep smiling. The man is living a charmed existence. He's at the pinnacle of the employment food chart. He works about five hours a day and doesn't even have to play in the field. Unlike a lot of players, the press has basically given him a pass for the steroid allegation he faced (and admitted to). He should thank the press for that.

Last year, Ortiz finished at league average in OPS+ despite a fairly torrid second half. This year his OPS+ is a healthy 116. But we still don't know if the April Ortiz is the real one or the May one is the real deal. We'll see how it all plays out. From what the Fan has seen, pitchers are making a ton of mistakes against him. The Fan reserves the right to reconsider whether he is done or not when the time comes. For now, he seems to have some life left. But not fun.

The Fan's message to Ortiz is pretty straightforward though it is highly improbable he'll ever read this. The message is: Oh boo hoo and poor you. Get over yourself. You've made $39 million over the last three years while the country has been in the throes of a major economic disaster. Cheer up and stop sulking. You have no right to feel the way you do and it's highly unseemly.

Tripping Through the Transactions

If you want real transaction analysis, please see Kristina Kahl over at Baseball Prospectus. These transaction recaps are a bit different. So read at your own risk.

  • Hendry, the general manager for the Cubs called Bob and asked the free agent pitcher Howry was feeling. Bob said just fine and Hendry signed him on the spot and put him on the roster.
  • Because of Howry, Justin hit an ice Berg and was sent to the minors.
  • Will there be a ghost in the Tiger's clubhouse after Casper Wells was sent to the minors?
  • Ron Gardenshire went to his GM and said he needed an infielder. The GM asked Ron who he wanted and Gardenshire answered with a question in his voice, "Plouffe?" The GM replied offended, "I didn't fart!" Ron looked puzzled and then said, "No, no, I want Trevor Plouffe, the infielder." Oh.
  • Despite what John says, his shoulder turned out to be the sinking of the Maine as he was put on the DL.
  • To take Maine's place on the roster, Elmer Dessens from on high...or in this case, from the minors.
  • Sans uniform, infielder Matsui will be in Kazuo attire since Houston released him.
  • Human ping-pong, Jeff, was again Manshipped to Rochester by the Twins.
  • The Yankees put hip hip Jorge on the DL and called up Chad Moeller to add teeth to Yankees bench. Don't make the Fan explain that one.
  • The Padres put Kyle on the DL which is okay since his offense was shooting Blanks anyway.
  • The Angels optioned an outfielder to the minors and Cole Gillespie wasn't jazzed about it.
  • The Yankees filed a protest because of the way that Beckett was pulled from the game and the incoming reliever was allowed unlimited warm up tosses. They lost the protest and to prove the point that the Red Sox weren't Joshing, they put the pitcher on the DL.
  • When Shelley was recalled by the Indians, he celebrated by going to Duncan Donuts.
  • Cubs' fans were so displeased with pitcher, Esmailin, that they started singing Christmas carols: "Release Caridad...release Caridad..." But it turns out that the pitcher was hurt and was put on the DL.
  • Conspiracy theorists again came out of the woodwork when Oswaldo was recalled from Round Rock by the Astros. But Navarro won't have to act alone as the 25th man on the roster.
  • Ivan Nova's brief major league look flamed out as he was sent back to the minors by the Yankees.
  • Snider's injury was a Travisty for the Blue Jays as he had just started to pound the ball. He went on the DL.

That's it for today. The weather here in northern Maine is delightful lately. Hope yours is as well as you enjoy the weekend.

Game Picks - Saturday: May 22, 2010

Thank goodness! Finally! A good night for the picker and boy was that ever needed. The only blemishes on the record were the Boston, Bay Rays, Angels and Marlins picks. Never expected both the Red Sox and the Bay Rays to lose, especially since those Rays played the Astros. The other two the Fan can understand as it could have gone either way with the match ups. The Game of the Day feature was a close call. The Yankees barely held on against the Mets. Rivera was again shaky and gave up a run, but he did get the save.

Perhaps we can keep this ball rolling on Saturday? Let's see:

  • The Marlins over the White Sox: An iffy pick to start off the day. The Marlins are so unpredictable. There is no other team like them where they look terrific and then terrible on succeeding days.
  • The Cardinals over the Angels: The battle of the two managerial geniuses continues. But LaRussa simply has the better team.
  • The Orioles over the Nationals: The Nationals have hit their bump in the road. How long this losing streak lasts will be an important test for them.
  • The Giants over the Athletics: This should be a well-pitched game with Cain and Gonzalez. That said, the Giants have a slight edge.
  • The Rockies over the Royals: Francis certainly didn't look rusty last time out.
  • The Twins over the Brewers: The Fan's got to believe that Mr. Macha is in some serious trouble. Though he just doesn't have a very good team there besides a few good core players.
  • The Braves over the Pirates: Mr. Heyward is on a tear again. He is an amazing talent and is the difference in a match up of Lowe versus Morton.
  • The Bay Rays over the Astros: They can't lose two in a row to Houston, can they? Poor Wandy isn't as good as in the two prior years.
  • The Cubs over the Rangers: Randy Wells versus Holland in a real good match up.
  • The Dodgers over the Tigers: The Dodgers are on a serious roll. Ely has been good his two times out.
  • The Yankees over the Mets: Great match up of Hughes versus Pelfrey. Think that Hughes will blow up the Mets.
  • The Phillies over the Red Sox: Kendrick versus Dice-K. Ortiz will get a start and Youkilis will sit. Which isn't a smart move as Youkilis is the driver in that offense.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Blue Jays: Eveland can't stay in the game long enough due to pitch counts. Jackson has been overpowering of late.
  • The Padres over the Mariners: Ian Snell is starting for the Mariners. Ugh.


  • The Reds over the Indians: Cueto put two good starts together. Can he make it three? The Fan thinks he jinxed Austin Kearns. He hasn't had a hit since he was featured in a post here recently.

Yesterday: 11-4 Yay!
Week: 43-48 still bad
Month: 147-143
Season: 347-268

Friday, May 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Son

The Fan's number one child turns 31 today. Where did all those years go? Hope you have a great day, Son. The Fan loves you.

Maine Pulled After One Batter

In a strange story for the Mets, John Maine was pulled after one batter in the Mets's game against the Nationals. Maine was clearly not pleased at being pulled after coach, Warthen, didn't like what he saw from Maine in warm ups. Maine then aired out his displeasure in a post game interview (you can see that all here). The Fan isn't sure how to feel about all of this.

First, there is consideration for Maine's health. Obviously, the Mets' dugout leadership felt that he was hurting and was not going to be able to deliver for the game. But if that's so, why let him start the game? If he looked that terrible in warm ups, why not pull him before the start? Instead, they let him go to the mound and walk one guy (the ball four pitch was a strike by the way) and then face the indignity of being pulled from the game.

The second thing the Fan felt by watching the video was the body language of manager, Jerry Manuel. Watch the video for yourself. His body language practically screamed that he has no respect for John Maine. He didn't go to the pitcher and pat him on the back and tell him he was pulling him for his own protection. Instead, he waved his arm to the bullpen and then turned his back on Maine and walked back to the dugout, first making some kind of arm motion like, "get him out of there."

Warthen is then quoted as saying that Maine is, "a habitual liar in a lot of ways as far as his own health." A habitual liar? Whoa. Those are strong words. Maybe Maine is not forthcoming about his health. Most ball players are not, especially pitchers. Earlier in the year, Nick Johnson of the Yankees withheld from the team that he was hurting because he knew his reputation. The Fan gets all that. But this particular event seemed poorly handled. To let Maine start the game when there was already concern and then pull him after one batter was disrespectful. Manuel's body language was even more disrespectful.

The Mets are correct to protect one of their assets and making sure a player does not harm himself is a refreshing change from the past when no such care was ever evident. But, golly, you've got to handle it better than this was handled.

Game Picks - Friday: May 21, 2010

Stupefied. Mortified. Horrified. May has officially become an abomination. This picker doesn't know what to say at this point. At the bottom of this post you'll see that after yesterday's results, the only positive number in this picker's tally is the season's results. At this point, the Fan doesn't think he could successfully pick a ripe orange if it was the only non-green one on the tree. It's been unbelievable. One game featured a team scoring seven runs in its last inning to ruin that pick. Another pick was ruined on a wild pitch, another on a pinch hit single by Junior Griffey. The Yankees suddenly cannot win a game. It might be possible that throwing all the teams in the air and picking them at random might be more successful. Throwing darts at the schedule might be more effective.

And if things haven't been tough enough already, now we have to figure out interleague play. Great!

  • The Braves over the Pirates: The two National League extra teams who won't be switching leagues this weekend.
  • The Reds over the Indians: Arroyo has been great lately and will beat Westbrook.
  • The Red Sox over the Phillies: Lackey over Hamels. The Red Sox are hot all of the sudden.
  • The Orioles over the Nationals: The Orioles are just glad to be playing somebody different.
  • The Bay Rays over the Astros: The Bay Rays who have already won a gazillion games get Houston in the first round of interleague? Who made this schedule?
  • The Rangers over the Cubs: The sad thing is that the Cubs can use the DH and have nobody good enough to hit there.
  • The Marlins over the White Sox: Nolasco will be too tough for the White Sox. Poor Buehrle can't buy a win.
  • The Twins over the Brewers: Blackburn may mean heartburn, but goes against Bush as in league.
  • The Royals over the Rockies: The Royals keep enjoying their Ned Yost honeymoon.
  • The Angels over the Cardinals: Pineiro versus Penny. Can you say, motivation?
  • The Diamondbacks over the Blue Jays: Just can't trust Morrow to throw enough strikes.
  • The Athletics over the Giants: Betting that the A's with an extra hitter in the line up will get to Zito.
  • The Dodgers over the Tigers: The Dodgers are hot. The Dodgers get Dontrelle Willis. Look out.
  • The Mariners over the Padres: Lee outduels LeBlanc.

And the GAME of the DAY

  • The Yankees over the Mets: Vazquez pitches against the National League where he seems better suited. The Mets counter with a guy who has been (successfully) relieving all year, which means the bullpen will be taxed early.

Yesterday: 4-11 Woe unto the lonely picker

Week: 32-44 more woe

Month: 136-139 the indignities of it all

Season: 336-264 [sigh]

Games of the Day: 16-18

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Plight of Mike Lowell

Mike Lowell is still on the bench and he isn't playing. He occasionally pinch hits and he occasionally fills in for David Ortiz. But that's it. Mike Lowell isn't a spring chicken and has overcome a serious hip injury and seems healthy enough. Obviously Lowell wants to play more, but class act that he is, he doesn't feel that he is better than Youkilis or Beltre so he understands not playing. He doesn't have any other positions he can play so there he sits.

So what are the Red Sox options with Lowell? Not much. It would only make sense to trade him to a contender. It would be cruel to a warrior that was a big part of so many great teams to trade him to a team with no hope of contending, and why would they want him if they weren't going anywhere. What contender needs a third baseman?

Tampa? Nope. Longoria. Yankees? Nope. A-Rod. Nationals? Nope. Zimmerman. Rangers? Nope. Young. Phillies? Nope. Polanco. Cardinals? Nope. Freese. Padres? Nope. Headley is doing just fine. Reds? Nope. Rolen. Giants? Nope. Sandoval. Marlins? Nope. Cantu is getting the job done. Dodgers? Maybe. Casey Blake isn't that great. Athletics? Are they contenders? If so, Kouz isn't that great. Tigers? Hmm...He's better than Inge. That would work. Tigers it is. They could do better with Lowell than Inge. But don't hold your breath.

It looks like Lowell is stuck where he is.

Game Picks - Thursday: May 20, 2010

Yesterday was a little better. At least this picker didn't have to skulk around feeling stupid and lost. The Game of the Day tanked again. And that's just silly. Again, the Game of the Day is the one game this picker feels is a lock...a no-brainer. Instead, it's been a kerfuffle. But still, nine wins is a whole lot better than five and the Fan will take it.

Here are Thursday's picks:

  • The Royals over the Indians: Hochever versus Talbot in the battle of young pitchers. The Indians are reeling and the Royals are on their honeymoon with Ned.
  • The Reds over the Braves: Hanson can be dominant and blow this pick all to pieces, but Leake has been so good, that the Fan can't pick against him.
  • The Cubs over the Phillies: In the upset of the day, Dempster out pitches Blanton.
  • The Marlins over the Cardinals: All is well in Hanley's world again, so the Marlins win.
  • The Oakland A's over the Tigers: Tyson Ross looks like a good pitcher. He throws strikes and his ERA is misleading, though still above league average. Not liking Bonderman for the Tigers.
  • The Pirates over the Brewers: Malholm versus Narveson. Malholm is a big league pitcher. Not sure Narveson is yet.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: How bad has it gotten for the Mets when they have a guy (Angel Pagan) who hits an inside-the-park homer AND starts a triple play in the same game and they still lose?
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Andy Pettitte rights the ship.
  • The Twins over the Red Sox: In the pitching match up of the day, Liriano out pitches Lester.
  • The Rockies over the Astros: Ubaldo!
  • The Rangers over the Orioles: Feldman hasn't been great. Matusz hasn't been as good as his stuff. This game could go either way.
  • The White Sox over the Angels: Peavy out duels Santana.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Lincecum! Uh oh. Picking all these aces to win is what happened the other day, right?
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: Kershaw has been really good of late. Think he will over power the Padres' line up.


  • The Blue Jays over the Mariners: Milton Bradley is back for Seattle. Oh goody! Romero shuts down the easily shut down Mariner offense.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 28-33
Month: 132-128
Season: 332-253
Games of the Day: 16-17

Tale of Two Darrens in Texas

There are a hundred stories to tell that could be a heck of a lot more exciting than a blog post about two relief pitchers. The Fan knows this and chides himself for focusing on such sideshow-like stories. But this site isn't called the Flagrant Journalist. It's about being a Fan with possibly a little journalism thrown in. Well, at least, hopefully a little bit of decent writing anyway. The Fan also knows that a big splashy story on the Yankees, Red Sox or Cardinals will garner lots of hits to the site. But those guys get plenty of stories already. The Fan wants to talk about two relief pitchers. Oddly enough, they both have the name, Darren.

Relief pitchers are in Mr. Rob Neyer's words, fungible. In other words, they are the dime a dozen variety of pitchers and according to theory, can be replaced at any time. Well a lot of that is probably true except if you are a fan of a team that can't get anybody out after the starter gets yanked. Speaking of Yanked, the Yankees bullpen (proving the point) has been horrible this week. See? The Fan got the Yankees in the post. That should bring in a few more readers.

Relief pitching is also remarkably unpredictable. A guy that is good one year can be terrible the next. Just ask fans of the Phillies. Guys in the relief role can be like vagabonds. They have a great year, get signed for another, stink up the joint and them move on to the next town where the cycle begins again. This lack of reliability is probably the most remarkable thing about guys like Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera and the Amazing Arthur Rhodes.

Darren Oliver is nearly as amazing as Arthur Rhodes. He is pitching in his 18th season and is 40 years old. Ask any long time fan of the Texas Rangers if he or she thought Oliver would still be pitching and they would be scratching their heads trying to figure it out. The reason for that is that Darren Oliver spent most of his career as a truly lousy starting pitcher. Lousy is probably too strong a word. Some of his stats were decent enough and he had a winning record for Texas in those early years despite his penchant for walking guys and putting a lot of people on base. But that was how Texas rolled back then. They thought of hitting first and pitching second. Funny how time changes things.

Let's look back a little on the baseball life of this long-time player that few people ever think about. He was drafted by the Rangers in the third round way back in 1988. Heck, he was drafted before Starlin Castro was born! Five years later, he had a cup of coffee with the big club and pitched two games in relief and they were successful. He made the club for good in 1994. His first full year was in relief and just like now, he was very good at it. He pitched in 43 games and went 4-0 with two saves and had a 3.42 ERA and a 143 ERA+.

Then the Rangers turned him into a starter and it went pretty well for a couple of years. He went a combined 18-8 spanning 1995 and 1996 and his ERA+ was over 110 both years. But that's a bit misleading. Oliver's problem was that he walked too many guys. Plus he gave up a lot of hits. In his ten years as a starter, Oliver never had a K/BB ratio higher than 1.61. And in those years, he had a WHIP of 1.50 or higher eight times and some times it was significantly higher. He was sort of a little-more-reliable Perez on the Mets without the strikeouts.

Predictably, the Rangers got rid of him in 1998 and he actually had a couple of decent years in St. Louis. They were his two lowest years in WHIP as a starter. Then he went back to Texas for two terrible years. He went a combined 13-20 in those two years and his WHIPs were 1.787 and 1.649. His ERA+ in those years? 68 and 78. Yowza.

Oliver then spent a forgettable year in Boston. He then had a decent year (league average anyway) for the Rockies in 2003. He then spent part of 2004 in Houston and the other part with the Marlins. And then he missed all of 2005. The Mets resurrected his career and made him a full time reliever in 2006. And unlike most old lefties, Oliver is not a LOOGY. Oliver pitched in 45 games in relief for the Mets that year and pitched 81 innings. He's been a reliever ever since and a very good one. He spent three productive years with the Angels and now fittingly, he is back with Texas, the place where he began his career as a reliever all those years ago.

Oliver's specialty as a reliever is pitching multiple innings when the starter struggles and has to be pulled early. In that sense, you could call Oliver a long relief guy, but he's so much better than that. In his five years of relief pitching, he's a vulturistic 19-5. So if you add in his year of relief for Texas in his first full year, he is now 24-5 as a reliever. Pretty spiffy that. Oliver's ERA+ over the last five years reads as follows: 127, 120, 155, 167 and this year a remarkable 254. So he is getting better the older he gets. This year, he's pitched 20+ innings in 19 appearances and has given up one earned run. It doesn't get much better than that.

Darren O'Day pitches in the same bullpen as Darren Oliver, but he got there by a totally different route. O'Day, 28 years old, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and pitched for the University of Florida. Following his college career, he went undrafted. That's right, nobody wanted him enough to draft him. The Angels signed him as a free agent in 2006.

Remarkably, two years later, the undrafted O'Day was pitching for the Angels in the major leagues. He got into 30 games as reliever for the Angels in 2008 and was pretty decent for a new guy. He ended up with a 98 ERA+ and a WHIP of 1.454 to go along with a 2.07 K/BB ratio.

But the Angels weren't impressed enough with him to protect him on their roster and the Mets drafted him in the Rule V draft in 2009. As a Rule V player, if the Mets brought him to the majors to start the season, they either had to keep him on the roster or risk losing him. He did get into three games for the Mets and gave up six base runners in three innings of work. But that was in part due to bad defense and his two runs given up were unearned. Regardless, the Mets needed roster space and sent him to the minors. The Rangers then swooped in and claimed him and he spent the remainder of the year with them.

And he was great for the Rangers in 2009! He finished with 64 appearances for them and had a 1.94 ERA and a WHIP of 0.942. He saved two games and won two but contributed for a whole lot of other very successful outings. O'Day has started 2010 even better. After his 1.2 innings of scoreless relief on Wednesday night, his ERA is sitting pretty at 0.54. He's pitched 16 and a third innings and given up one earned run. So if you are keeping score, that's 36 and a third innings combined for the two Darrens in Texas with only two earned runs. That's pretty darn effective. Wouldn't the Angels and the Mets both kill for those kinds of relief results this year?

One of the cool things about O'Day's tenure with Texas is that he has become a fan favorite. When he pitches, the crowd goes crazy and shouts, "O'Day, O'Day, O'Day," instead of "Ole, Ole, Ole." It's tremendous fun.

Relief pitchers may be "fungible," but when they do well, they are remarkably helpful to a team. There is no way the Rangers would even be in the AL West conversation without their contributions. It may not be glamorous, but it sure helps win ball games.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Game Picks - Wednesday: May 19, 2010

Agony. After the day games were over yesterday, this picker was sitting at 4-1 and thinking to himself: "Cool, looks like a good day." Only one correct pick came out of the night games which featured picks for aces Sabathia, Santana, Halladay and Weaver. Surely three of those four would win, right? Wrong and please don't call the Fan, Shirley. All four lost, three of them through no fault of their own. And thus it was another terrible day. You would think that Mr. Girardi would see after a few batters that Joba Chamberlain had squat and wouldn't let keep pitching until he gave up four runs. You would think the same Mr. Girardi would put Winn in left and Swisher in right for defensive purposes in the ninth. You would think wrong. You would think the Phillies would score two runs for Mr. Halladay against a so-so pitcher. Not a chance.

Heck, the Fan doesn't want to talk about it anymore. Yeah, the Fan is fighting mad. So these next picks are typed with fingers pounding the keyboard savagely:

  • The Brewers over the Pirates: Run like the Wolf. The Fan is certainly snarling all right.
  • The Phillies over the Cubs: Gorzelanny? No. Moyer? Yeah, despite giving up at least four runs in six innings.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: Livan? Yes. R. A. Dickey? The Mets catchers have never caught a knuckleball.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Meche seemed to have new life last time after losing Hillman. The Fan is giving up on picking Masterson.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: If the Yankees don't want to be looking up at the Bay Rays' fannies the rest of the season, they better take this series.
  • The Braves over the Reds: Sure, Fan, pick against the Reds after featuring them in a blog post. Makes sense.
  • The Red Sox over the Twins: The Red Sox don't die just because you want them to.
  • The Rangers over the Orioles: The puzzling Harden over the supposed staff ace, Guthrie.
  • The White Sox over the Angels: Torn on this one. Danks should beat Saunders, but really, that match up is a wash.
  • The Cardinals over the Marlins: Was going to write about the Hanley Ramirez thing but everybody else has and the Fan just doesn't want to think about it.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Going with Ian Kennedy while thinking the D-backs will crush Wellemeyer.
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: Verlander is heating up and Braden is pitching, so there is sure to be good theater.
  • The Padres over the Dodgers: Garland has to be better than Ortiz right? Grrrr....
  • The Blue Jays over the Mariners: Really think that Fister is better than Cecil, but look where picking against the Blue Jays has gotten him so far.


  • The Rockies over the Astros: Can't ever pick Paulino to win. Just can't.

Yesterday: 5-10
Week: 19-27 glug glug glug
Month: 123-122
Season: 323-247
Games of the Day: 16-16

Why Are the Reds So Good?

One of the biggest surprises in the standings after roughly 20% of the season is in the books is the Cincinnati Reds. This past week after winning the series against the Cardinals, the Reds found themselves in first place. Considering the team hasn't had a winning record since 2000, this is quite a surprise. So the Fan's objective with this post is to figure out what makes them so good and pinpoint why they have been so successful to date. After fussing around the numbers, it's no easy task.

Let's start with the offense. The Reds hit their fair share of homers. They are fourth in the National League in homers (out of 16 teams). And because of the homers, the Reds are sixth in the league in slugging percentage. That is good, but not jumping off the page. But there is nothing dreamy about the rest of the offensive stats. They are eighth in batting average (middle of the pack), tenth in On Base Percentage (below middle of the pack), tenth in hits and eleventh in doubles. They have a centerfielder with a 70 OPS+ and a shortstop with an 80 OPS+. Despite all this, they are fifth in the league in runs scored, which means they somehow capitalize on their base runners. But really, the offense isn't anything special.

What about pitching? Only two of their starters are above 100 in ERA+ (Leake and Cueto). But in fairness, Arroyo and Bailey have stepped it up of late. The staff as a whole is 13th out of 16 in earned runs allowed. They are eighth in strikeouts and 11th in walks. The Reds are also 13th in homers allowed. Their closer, Francisco Cordero, has a 1.50 WHIP despite a high save total. So he makes it exciting. Massett has been blazing with 30 K's in 19+ innings, but he's also walked 10 and has given up 21 hits. Mike Lincoln and Danny Herrera have been effective as has Micah Owings in long relief (except for one outing which colors his stats). Then, of course, there is the amazing Arthur Rhodes who has been extraordinary. But again, over all, the pitching staff has been just ordinary.

How about fielding? Votto is very good at first and is third in the majors in UZR at first. Phillips is also very good at second and is fifth in the majors. Orlando Cabrera has been in the middle of the major league pack for shortstops (which combined with his 80 OPS+ makes him a weakness) as has an aging Scott Rolen. Bruce has been very good in right and is seventh in the majors in UZR for that position. Stubbs has been an awful fielder in center to go along with his horrid bat and Johnny Gomes is dead last among all left fielders in UZR. Despite all this, the Reds lead the majors in fielding percentage. So they don't get to as much as they should, but they convert the outs on the balls they get to. But again, this isn't much to sneeze at.

What about Run Differential? They have scored 183 and allowed 181, which is spinning the wheels sort of stuff. Before Tuesday's game, they had a 22-16 record despite a Pythagorean expectation of 19-19, so they are beating the odds (much like the Angels have done for years). So what is it? What's going on here?

The Fan was determined to find that smoking gun, and maybe this is it: The Reds have put together a 9-5 record in one-run games and they are 4-0 in extra innings. And they are 16-10 within their division. Plus, they have an .965 OPS with two outs with runners in scoring position and an .860 OPS in high leverage situations. Perhaps we have finally stumbled on the answer. They are beating the teams they need to beat, they catch the ball and don't beat themselves and they win every extra inning game they play. They get the big hit when they need it. Got it!

What the Fan also gets is that it's a whole lot of fun to see the Cincinnati Reds on top of the division. How refreshing! Cincinnati has always been a great baseball town that supports its team no matter what. They have to be loving this, no?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Game Picks - Tuesday: May 18, 2010

That was a little better. It was nice to finish fairly well in the win column after a disastrous Sunday. But to get there, Papelban had to Papelbomb, which is about as rare as the two political parties agreeing on anything. The Cubs won again, which bodes well. The Royals won which at least bodes differently. The Cardinals hit, which hasn't happened in a while. The Rangers won against a division rival. It was an interesting day in baseball.

Wednesday will feature yet another chapter in the Red Sox - Yankees saga along with a full slate of games. Here we go:

  • The Reds over the Brewers: The Reds are a team worth studying. Stay tuned because it is time. The Brewers are floundering. Parra is starting tonight which isn't helpful and thus part of the problem.
  • The Twins over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are better than most teams. They aren't better than Minnesota. Pavano over Marcum.
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: This is one of those games where your mind plays tricks on you. Garcia has been picked against a half dozen times and won most of them. Porcello seems to be struggling. Flip it. Flip it good.
  • The Marlins over the Diamondbacks: The outcome seems obvious in this one. Josh Johnson against Billy Buckner, making his first start of 2010. So then why is the obvious so scary?
  • The Bay Rays over the Indians: Price versus Huff? Forgettaboutit.
  • The Phillies over the Pirates: Halladay. Yes. So many obvious picks so far. Frightening.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Beckett will put it together some time. But it might not matter up against Sabathia.
  • The Mets over the Braves: Giving the pick to Johan Santana, which hasn't been as easy to do as in the past.
  • The Rockies over the Cubs: Oh dear...what to do. Chacin was brilliant for two starts and rather unbrilliant last time. Carlos Silva has been a huge surprise, but each game seems to get less and less effective.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: Weaver has been really good. He'll be the difference.
  • The Cardinals over the Nationals: The Nationals are coming to earth a bit. Facing Carpenter won't help.
  • The Padres over the Giants: Good match up with Latos versus Sanchez. Going with Latos who throws more strikes.
  • The Mariners over the Athletics: Can't figure out what's wrong with King Feliz, but he should beat Sheets.
  • The Astros over the Dodgers: Still saying this winning streak has to end some time.


  • The Royals over the Orioles: Greinke versus Millwood. In a vacuum-sealed, perfect world, the Royals should win.

Yesterday: 9-5 (a game was rained out)
Week: 14-17
Month: 118-112
Season: 218-237
Games of the Day: 16-15

General Managers Are Too Safe

As several teams have started the season in deep holes and have miserably failed expectations, a recent spate of "manager watches" have hit the Internet sports writing world. The teams usually mentioned are the Mets, the Cubs, the Marlins, the Brewers, the White Sox and the Orioles. There are more to be sure, but these teams seem to come up the most. While a couple of the teams above may be in need of a managerial change, why are the general managers of those teams never held responsible? How many times do you see a general manager fired?

First, a general manager is a member of the "front office." It's always more difficult to fire a suit than it is a guy in uniform. There is a downhill effect where the owner or president gets on the general manager and the general manager is forced to make changes. This no doubt occurred in Kansas City where Trey Hillman was fired a day after a major league vote of confidence. While Dayton Moore seems safe enough and Hillman probably needed to go, why isn't the general manager less safe after terrible personnel changes on the field?

The two teams listed above that probably could use new managers are the Cubs and the Brewers. Both teams seem listless. Both teams have more talent that they are displaying. Both teams have fairly high payrolls and super high expectations. Piniella just doesn't seem right for this gig. The Fan has said it before and will say it again: Piniella is part of the problem. But just as much of a problem is Jim Hendry. His handling of the Milton Bradley thing before, during and after was simply a major misfire. Aramis Ramirez was probably counted on far too highly when he basically had a dead shoulder last year. Not everything Hendry has done has been bad. The Carlos Silva thing is pretty darn remarkable, for example. But the Cubs are simply an odd team like a puzzle that can't be solved.

The Brewers have core talent that is pretty darn strong. Braun and Fielder are exceptional as a duo and they have some other fine players. But it shouldn't be as hard as it is to figure out how to score runs consistently and get some decent pitching. This was a team expected to contend and it isn't happening. The Brewers seem lost and Macha just may not be the guy needed there to get the job done. The Fan likes the idea of Willie Randolph there. He will have learned a ton of lessons in his New York experience and he's a solid guy. Plus, MLB needs another minority leader on the field. But again, this isn't Macha's fault entirely. Like the Rangers of old, the Brewers simply do not know how to build a pitching staff (other than buying Sabathia for half a year). And yet we only hear Macha's name and never the general manager's.

There is no secret here that the Fan isn't in love with Ozzie Guillen. He is abrasive and at times, vile. His method of putting his players down in the media is not good managing. But all things considered, he's a strong presence and seem to get his teams to fight for him (when they aren't fighting each other). The Fan's problem has to do with Kenny Williams, the GM. Williams' track record is hard to argue. He's won a World Series. He's built a couple of division winners. But he seems to have this willy nilly approach to personnel decisions. He dumped a legend in Jim Thome and a still effective hitter in Jermaine Dye with no real options for this year's DH. Sure, Andruw Jones has been a surprise, but he's had to play center more than he has been at DH. Why? Because Williams gambled on Jaun Pierre and Pierre is wallowing around with a 53 OPS+ (zoiks!). So Jones went to center moving Rios somewhere else.

Granted, Rios and Jones were working out very well. But Pierre, Teahan, Vizguel (is he about 65 now?) and Mark Kotsay were terrible gambles. Plus, Williams has constructed an infield that outside of Konerko at first, is a disaster. Between Teahan, Ramirez and Beckham, the trio is averaging a 62 OPS+. Ramirez is fielding just fine, but the other two are in negative replacement territory adding up to a real problem.

So yeah, the White Sox are underwhelming. But Williams is more to blame than the manager. Sure, it was nice to get Peavy, but ask the Padres if they minded getting those great pitching prospects in return...

The Orioles, despite their shattering and staggering number of losses should be left alone. For the first time in more than a decade, McPhail at least has a plan and a direction. Angelos has finally found a GM he'll listen to and leave alone. Do you want to mess with that? The jury is still out on Dave Trembley, but geez, the guy doesn't have a bullpen and he has two starters that are learning on the job and a trio of journeymen. What else could the guy do when they play 18 games a year against each of the Red Sox, Yankees, Bay Rays and Blue Jays? You are talking about four of the better teams in the American League. The Fan would give these guys a pass.

The Marlins are a tough case to call. With their young pitching, they could still make a run and finish in second again and considering their payroll, that isn't half bad. But it seems they should be better. One of the problems here is their defense. The Fan has long screamed in the wilderness about the efficacy of Uggla at second base. And the Fan is right. Uggla hurts them on defense and if your team counts on young pitching, shouldn't you put defense first? The Fan has said it before and will say it again, the Marlins wouldn't be insane to flip Uggla and Coghlan since second base is Coghlan's natural position. But since Coghlan isn't hitting, perhaps some help in the minors could be plugged in. Uggla is still valuable with the bat and should be athletic enough for left field.

Fredi Gonzalez seems solid enough. And it's hard to fault a GM who has no money to spend. But man, when you look at the Marlins' talent, it's hard to figure out why they can't consistently win.

That leaves us with the Mets and the Fan has saved a special place for them for good reason. You can't pin their problems on Jerry Manuel. Not in the least. The team stood pat in the off season on pitching when Maine and Oliver Perez were completely unreliable. Manuel has two solid starters in Pelfrey and Santana. After that, nothing. Zip. Add to Mr. Minaya's list of mistakes the acquisition of Gary Matthews Jr., Alex Cora and Mike Jacobs and the continued reliance on faded players like Castillo and Tatis. The Mets' general manager has been given a complete pass despite fiascoes on the field and off and it's hard to fathom.

Every year managers get fired. Wouldn't it be different if for one year, more general managers would get fired than managers? They shouldn't be as untouchable as they seem to be. Baseball is a high-powered and lucrative business. If your leadership is not getting the job done, then the results should be like what happens in other businesses.

Programming Note: The Game Picks on Tuesday will be a tad late and should arrive around 10:30.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Game Picks - Monday: May 17, 2010

Sunday sucked. There is no nicer way to say it. It started going downhill as soon as Joba Chamberlain stepped on the mound and started fidgeting. When he is fidgeting, it's over. It's almost like he's fighting imaginary flies in Cleveland. Speaking of that, the fly thing and Joba was just a few years ago. Whatever happened to those Indians? Anyway. It was awful. It was brutal. Lee pitched his guts out but lost. All day long the Fan thought he had picked the Royals. Didn't. Should have. The Blue Jays keep proving that third best in the AL East is still better than every other team in any other division. The Fan keeps not buying that the Cardinals can't buy a win these days. Boston isn't as good as the Tigers but the Fan was taunted by a resurgence of Big Papi. And who knew? The Cubs could finally beat the Pirates. Rule #1 is now crap since Francis pitched for the first time in over a year and was terrific. Should have seen Pineiro having a good outing. Didn't. Didn't know that Cust was back either. When did that happen? It was brutal. It was a massacre.

And so now May is a collective two games over .500. A struggling month suddenly became an American League West type month. Frankly, it's embarrassing. But just like in life, the Fan is no quitter. Nosiree Bob. What a stupid expression that is. Nosiree Bob. Has bloggage sunk to that level? But no, the Fan isn't a quitter. So even though "Quitter" rhymes with where this month has gone so far, another day of picks is beckoning. And so, like a Bob Segar (Nosiree Bob) song, let's turn the page:

  • The Phillies over the Pirates: If the Phillies can't beat Pittsburgh, the Fan quits. What's the use?
  • The Orioles over the Royals: Bergesen has had three really good starts in a row.
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: The more the Fan makes fun of Freddie Garcia, the more he wins. Crying Uncle.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Hughes has been seriously good. He faces Dice-K.
  • The Twins over the Blue Jays: The Fan keeps picking against the Blue Jays. Maybe it's a subliminal thing trying to get them to keep winning to stay ahead of Boston?
  • The Marlins over the Diamondbacks: The Marlins. How confusing. No team in baseball is as confusing.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: Cueto? Can he have two games that are great in a row? Is it really possible?
  • The Mets over the Braves: But only because of Pelfrey.
  • The Bay Rays over Cleveland: Have the Rays played any good teams at all this year?
  • The Cubs over the Rockies: One last desperate gasp for Randy Wells. Come on guy!
  • The Rangers over the Angels: The Rangers sure are picking a funny way to try to win a division. Holland is pitching.
  • The Nationals over the Cardinals: Oh what the heck. Stammen might beat Lohse. It could happen.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Just can't pick Rowland-Smith to win a game. He may be a nice guy and all...but...
  • The Astros over the Dodgers: The law of averages say a winning streak has to end some time. Wandy might be the guy to do it.


  • The Giants over the Padres: The Padres' bats have gone to sleep again.

Yesterday: Does the Fan really have to post it? Oh. Okay. 5-10
Week: 5-10: Sucks that the Fan has to type that twice.
Month: 109-107
Season: 309-232
Games of the Day: 15-15

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nice Story of the Year...So Far

Here is a quick quiz: What Austin is currently leading all Austins in OPS? If you would have said Austin Jackson, the buzzer would have bleated against you as surely it did Lebron James. One of the nicest surprises of the year so far has been Austin Kearns for the Cleveland Indians. The erstwhile, former first round pick of the Reds seemed like road kill in Washington. But the Indians felt a pulse and nursed him back to life.

Looking at Austin Kearns' major league record on, it seems kind of surprising that he hasn't been as bad a player as the perception of him has been. He was drafted #1 by the Reds in the 1998 draft (number 7 over all in that draft). He made his debut in 2002 and came in third in Rookie of the Year voting. He had a 134 OPS+ that year and was outstanding. The next two years seem to be where the perception headed south. He was hurt a lot and missed at least half the season the next two. After batting .315 his rookie campaign, he hit .260 and .234 the next two seasons. But they weren't as bad as that sounds. If you combine those two lost years, the stats make up nearly a season's worth of stats and combined, he hit 25 homers and drove in 90 and walked 69 times. That's not bad and still left him better than league average in OPS+.

Kearns then played nearly a full season with the Reds in 2005 and only hit .240. But he still had a 105 OPS+ which is still above league average. In 2006, he played part of the year for the Reds and then they shipped him to Washington. It was his first full season since his rookie campaign and over all, he ended up with a 114 OPS+ and hit 24 homers and added 76 walks. That's not bad at all.

He played a full season (injury free) for the Nationals in 2007 and his power went down some. He only hit 16 homers and batted .266. But his OBP was still .355 with his 71 walks and he still finished slightly above league average in OPS+. But then in 2008 and 2009, the bottom fell out on his career. He had injuries. When he did play, he didn't produce. He hit .217 and .195 and he was the epitome of why the Nationals were such a bad team. It didn't help the perception that he made $13 million combined those two seasons.

But after two lost years with OPS+ totals of 67 and 72, Kearns was left on the trash heap. He was done. He was the phenom who never developed. He was a bust. He was road kill. Nobody wanted him, so it was a complete surprise when the Indians invited him to camp this spring. What? Are they nuts? The guy stinks. But you know what? Some times, second chances do pay off. Some times there are happy endings. Kearns has responded and is having a great season for a team that isn't much better than those Nationals teams.

His current line in 25 games of play is: .333/.408/.533. His current OPS+ is a massive 164. He's driven in 20 runs in those 25 games and he's scored 16. He has even stolen two bases without being thrown out. It's just a nice, nice story so far.

Another aspect of his rejuvenation has been his fielding. Kearns' fielding has mirrored his batting career. He was always a good fielder. His stats were always well into the positive numbers until the last two years...those two lost years where not only couldn't he hit, but his fielding went into the tank and suddenly, his numbers in the field all went into the negative column. But this year, he is solidly in the black again playing left field regularly and all of that seems to show that he has his health and he has his confidence back.

Who knows if this will last for Kearns. Who knows if he will stay healthy. But for now, you can't help but root for the guy and for the Indians who put his career on life support and are getting maximum benefits of giving him that chance. The Fan will certainly be rooting for him because this is a fun story that begs for a happy ending.

Game Picks - Sunday: May 16, 2010

What a difference two games make. This picker was sleepy last night and went to bed early. The last check upon the games seemed to show a positive day, which was much needed after a week of sucktitude. Ten wins seemed to be in the bag. So imagine the surprise this morning to see that the normally reliable Okijama blew a save for Boston and in one of the massive all time blown saves ever, the Orioles--after riding a brilliant performance from Matusz (as predicted) to a 2-0 lead--gave up eight runs in the top of the ninth to completely annihilate that pick. So instead of 10-6 and decency, the day ended 8-8 and added to the woe that is May. Can you say, ARGH! Well, if you can't, the Fan can.

Come on Sunday. Come ON! Help the Fan out here:

  • The Red Sox over the Tigers: Apparently the Fan doesn't learn his lessons very well. Lackey versus Galerraga. Should be a hit festival with the Red Sox coming out ahead. Austin Jackson has hit the inevitable speed bump lately.
  • The Yankees over the Twins: Why is Mitre starting? But in either case, the Twins seem completely stymied at Yankee Stadium.
  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: The Fan keeps picking against the Blue Jays and they keep winning. The law of averages says...
  • The Marlins over the Mets: Niese has been nice but with Nolasco, the Mets will say, "uncle."
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Arroyo was brilliant against the Pirates last time out. The Cardinals are not the Pirates.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Braves: The Braves are confusing. Can't figure them out. Perhaps Mr. Haran will.
  • The Indians over the Orioles: Okay, Orioles. Stop playing with the Fan. His mind is getting fried.
  • The Mariners over the Bay Rays: Classic pitcher's duel with Lee versus Garza. Both are ace-calibre pitchers. One of them has to win.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Ned Yost is no better than Hillman. Hochever was great for six innings. But Yost let him pitch seven innings. Ball game.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs: The Cubs can't beat the Pirates. They just can't.
  • The Nationals over the Rockies: Rule #1 states that you never pick a pitcher making his first start off the disabled list. Francis makes his first start of the year for the Rockies.
  • The A's over the Angels: Mr. Cahill has been superb lately.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: The Dodgers are starting to come on. Billingsley will build on what has started to become a good season for him.
  • The Giants over the Astros: The Astros hit Zito pretty good. But don't think it will be enough.

And in the GAME OF THE DAY

  • The Phillies over the Brewers: Can't in a million years see the Brewers winning this game.

Yesterday: 8-8 [sigh]
Week: 47-43 [another sigh]
Month: 104-97 [groan]
Season: 304-222 [thank goodness for April]
Games of the Day: 14-15 finally got a win here yesterday