Saturday, June 12, 2010

Game Picks - Saturday: June 12, 2010

Friday was moderately successful, which is about as good as you could ask for when it comes to interleague play. There were a couple of surprises such as the Royals beating the Reds and the Marlins beating the Bay Rays. And it was a major surprise when the Angels really spanked the Dodgers.

Saturday's games look like this:

  • The Yankees over the Astros: Vazquez should beat the Astros.
  • The Cubs over the White Sox: How can you pick against Silva until he loses?
  • The Red Sox over the Phillies: Dice-K has been really good of late. Blanton hasn't been.
  • The Nationals over the Indians: Just not feeling Indian's love today.
  • The Mets over the Orioles: Takahashi should beat Matusz.
  • The Tigers over the Pirates: Bonderson should win though it will be a high scoring game.
  • The Twins over the Braves: Derek Lowe has not been good recently.
  • The Bay Rays over the Marlins: Lightning shouldn't strike twice. Garza over Nolasco.
  • The Reds over the Royals: Cueto has control problems, but the Royals swing at too many balls.
  • The Rangers over the Brewers: Going with Feldman over Parra.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Cardinals: Giving the nod to Haren over Ottavino.
  • The Blue Jays over the Rockies: Morrow has been fun to watch over his last four starts.
  • The Mariners over the Padres: The flying fathers should not be able to do much with Cliff Lee.
  • The Athletics over the Giants: Choosing Ben Sheets over Barry Zito.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Dodgers over the Angels: Kazmir is always an iffy choice and Ely has been great.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 48-34
Month: 92-58
Season: 509-389
Games of the Day: 28-28 back to .500

Phillies Repeating History

There is a lot of angst in baseball reporting concerning the Phillies. They lost their hold on first place in the NL East and have struggled offensively and with their fourth and fifth starters. Jimmy Rollins and J. A. Happ have been among the missing and many are wondering what is wrong with the Phillies. This Fan believes that history repeats itself and the Phillies have the NL East right where they want them.

Right now, the Phillies are sitting with a .524 winning percentage after the Red Sox spanked them on Friday night. Moyer was bombed in the first inning. They are 3-7 in the month of June. Time to panic? Let's look at some history:

2007: First half: .500 winning percentage. June's record: 15-13. They went .608 in the second half and won the division.
2008: First half: .542 winning percentage. June's record: 12-14. They went .606 in the second half and won the division and the World Series.
2009: .558 winning percentage in the first half. June's record: 11-15. .592 in the second half and got to the World Series.

The Phillies will figure out what to do in the bottom of the rotation. Moyer, Blanton and/or Kendrick will get going or they will bring somebody in that can get the job done. It will have to come from outside the organization though as they have no starters looming in the high minors. Brad Lidge looks like the stopper of old since coming off the disabled list. Rollins will get back. Utley and Victorino aren't going to remain in the .260s with their batting averages. Ryan Howard isn't going to keep slugging in the high .400s.

The Phillies do have to figure out what is going to happen with Raul Ibanez. Many are calling for his head since he really hasn't played well since the first half last year. Ibanez is sitting with a 91 OPS+ right now (100 is league average) and his slugging percentage is under .400. He is 38 years old too. Ibanez is also in the negative numbers in fielding metrics and according to has a WAR of -1.3 which is terrible.

The Phillies have a couple of options in the high minors. Domonic Brown is their best prospect and considered by Baseball Prospectus to be a five star prospect. His current line at AA: .309/.376/.569. Why not call him up and let the kid play? The other option is Tyson Gillies, their second best prospect. He is more of a speedster and a centerfielder and is considered a four star prospect. But he's not playing well right now at AA and would seem to need more time. Actually, an outfield of Brown, Victorino and Werth is enough to salivate and the Phillies should give that a go.

The bottom line, though, is that the Phillies are right in their past track record and there is no reason to believe that they will not fare any worse than in the previous three years.

But there is one reservation about that statement. Last year, the Phillies absolutely feasted on the Nationals (15-3) and the Mets (12-6). Both teams are stronger this year and the Phillies have a losing record so far against the Mets. The Phillies never have matched up well head to head with the Braves, their leading current rival, and this year has been no exception.

We'll just have to see how it plays out. But certainly, don't count the Phillies out.

Tripping Through the Transactions

Many sites give in depth analysis of items on the MLB transaction wire and what they mean for the team making the transactions. That's not exactly what this post is about. In the FanDome, we trip through the transactions lightly, though my blog buddy, Josh, says that a few of the puns get heavy on occasion. Did the Fan say, "Puns"? Hey, you rolling your eyes can be felt over here you know. So, anyway, here is what the Fan found on's transaction list. Note: The Fan has skipped over all the draft pick signings.

- Boston's Jeremy was Hermidiacally sealed when he went on the disabled list.
- Oye Como Va? Carlos Santana just got called up by the Indians. His band mates are thrilled.
- To be pacific, the Indians also released Mark Grudzatlantic.
- Hey Blue Jays' fans, was it Wise to sign Dewayne?
- The Cubs put Ramirez on the disabled list, but at least Aramis smells good.
- There was no Clementcy for Jeff as the Pirates optioned him to the minors.
- Here's one to chew on: The Rangers signed Jake Skole. Oops. That was a draft pick. Will have to spit that one back out.
- Brad Lincoln was emancipated when the Pirates called him up from the minors.
- A player in the Blue Jays' farm system will have a new Rommie to bunk with as Lewis was sent down. The Jays replaced him with Jesse Litsch, who could use a vowel or two.
- The Diamondbacks said Saul long to Rivera as he was sent to the minors.
- Wasn't a pretty picture on the Ezell when Glenn resigned from the post of director of player development for the Tigers.
- A Lamb was led to slaughter when golden child, Mike Stanton, was promoted to the Marlins. Mike bleated, but was designated anyway.
- Guess J. J. wasn't that hale and Hardy after all as he went back on the disabled list. The Twins got more bad infield news when Hudson also went up the river to the DL.
- It was a minor Norman conquest when Anthony was promoted from the FSL to the EL.
- Andy went to the food Marte to celebrate coming off the DL. But that wasn't good news for Matt when he got the demotion and a new LaPorta call.
- Mike Carp is swimming up stream as he was promoted from to the majors by the Mariners. Shouldn't a Carp be playing with the Marlins?
- When the Mariners called up a pitcher named Luke, a meeting was called with the catchers as they had to learn French.
- Apparently, the Tigers think Danny is Worth more than Adam Everett, who was designated.
- Winn almost got to Dixie as the outfielder was signed by the Cardinals after the Yankees let him go.
- The Rangers optioned Strop to sharpen his skills in the minors. The move had to be made because they needed a big game Hunter...with a Tommy gun for an arm.

And that's the week in transactions. Have a barbecue tomorrow and enjoy yourself.

Friday, June 11, 2010

More Evidence in the Piniella Case

This writer has said it before in this space that Lou Piniella isn't the right fit for the Cubs and the team would be better off with a change. Evidence to support this belief comes from Al Yellon over and BleedCubbieBlue ( If Yellon is correct, or better put, if his source is correct, that's a real mess.

The clubhouse distemper seems to center around Aramis Ramirez and his perceived lack of effort and preparation. The source seems to indicate that lines have been drawn and center around Latin players versus non-Latin. That can't be a good thing when teammates are pulling against each other instead of for each other. And Yellon points the finger right at Piniella stating that a real leader wouldn't allow that in his clubhouse. The Fan agrees.

Of course, the Cubs' problems go beyond Piniella and the clubhouse. General Manager Hendry has simply constructed a poor club that is misshapen and too weak in too many areas. Yet, when you look at the team, it should be better than it is. Even the Pythagorean Won-Loss statistic (which is based in large part on the run differential) shows that the Cubs should have at least four more wins then they have.

The Fan has observed for quite some time that the Cubs play tighter than a new Miley Cyrus concert outfit. Piniella just breeds tension, plain and simple. And now, according to Bleed Cubbie Blue, Piniella's caustic personality doesn't carry over to his clubhouse and that clubhouse is a disaster.

It really is time to let Piniella go. The wildcard isn't out of reach and it isn't like the Reds and Cardinals are running away with things. Perhaps a fresh start would be just what the team needs. And it should be a guy who has proven he can run his own clubhouse.

Game Picks - Friday: June 11, 2010

That's odd. It's 11:08 PM in Maine and all of the games are done already. That means that this picker can make Friday's picks before going to bed instead of bleary-eyed and trying to wake up with a coffee. But maybe that fuzzy state of mind is the reason for the success this year. Hmm...good point. Oh well, the Fan will risk it since things are going so well. The Fan is quite pleased with himself on the Johnson over Halladay pick and the Latos over Santana pick. Yes, those were sweet. So was the Astros over the Rockies pick, the Blue Jays over the Bay Rays pick and the Indians over the Red Sox pick.

Not so sweet was getting burned by on Mr. Niese for the second game in a row plus a sleepy Yankees' attack minus the groin impaired A-Rod. That's funny, A-Rod never had problems with his groin before. Oops, did the Fan just type that out loud? Plus, the Royals beat the Twins and the Tigers lost AGAIN! So did the Cubs. Geez. Look for a post about the Cubs upcoming.

So let's get to Friday (interleague play starts again):

- The White Sox over the Cubs: Jake Peavy was less than thrilled when told that Kenny Williams was talking fire sale. Let's see him take it out on the Cubs.
- The Indians over the Nationals: Westbrook over Atliano. Poor Kerry Wood isn't faring too well as closer.
- The Orioles over the Mets: The Mets are supposed to win these kinds of games. But Guthrie will pitch well and Dickey gives the Orioles something they can catch up to.
- The Tigers over the Pirates: Maybe the Tigers can beat the Pirates. Verlander gets the start.
- The Bay Rays over the Marlins: Shields should be better than Sanchez.
- The Phillies over the Red Sox: Will Ortiz sit against Moyer?
- The Reds over the Royals: Hochever has been good lately. But Arroyo should beat him.
- The Rangers over the Brewers: Will Vlad play the outfield with no DH? Bet he does.
- The Twins over the Braves: Liriano will out pitch Hudson and shut down the Braves.
- The Rockies over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays have never seen anyone like Ubaldo before.
- The Cardinals over the Diamondbacks: The leftover National League's leftover teams battle it out. Garcia should be better than Lopez.
- The Padres over the Mariners: The Mariners are an absolute mess inside and out.
- The Dodgers over the Angels: The Fan has to write this stuff down. Pineiro is having that crazy good/bad season where every other start he's either good or bad. Last start was his good one right? That means a bad one this time.
- The Giants over the Athletics: Lincecum isn't the lock he used to be, but he should get the job done in this game.

And the Game of the Day:

- The Yankees over the Astros: The Yankees' line up without A-Rod is less dangerous, but they still have more firepower than the Astros.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 39-28
Month: 83-52
Season: 500-383 500 correct picks! Woohaa
Games of the Day: 27-28

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Time for the DH in the National League

Rob Neyer over at had an interesting post yesterday (actually a comment on another post, which is all Mr. Neyer seems to do these days) concerning Stephen Strasburg jogging to first on what should have been an infield single. The post came to the conclusion that the NL should keep the pitchers hitting to keep it different but that the pitchers should care about their hitting and at least try. It's hard to argue about the point from a purest perspective. But it sure is easy to argue from a Fan's perspective. First, let's look at some dirty offensive numbers for pitchers:

- Diamondbacks: .197 BA, 44K in 147 at bats, Haran skews the numbers with his 100+ OPS+
- Braves: .167 BA, 33K in 114 at bats, Medlan is a decent hitter.
- Cubs: .147 BA, 35K in 108 at bats, Lost a good bat with Zambrano in the bullpen.
- Reds: .225 BA, 49K in 133 at bats, Batting average totally due to Leake batting over .400 with an OPS+ of 140. Easily the best hitting pitcher in the game.
- Rockies: .146 BA, 35K in 123 at bats, Cook is their best hitting pitcher.
- Marlins: .152 BA, 31K in 105 at bats, Sanchez has been their best hitting pitcher.
- Astros: .183 BA, 44K in 109 at bats, Wandy and Paulino can hit some. Astros pitchers are out hitting Lee.
- Dodgers: .074 BA, 41K in 107 at bats, they all stink. Worst hitting pitchers in baseball.
- Brewers: .190 BA, 45K in 121 at bats, Narveson is the best but Wolf and Gallardo hold their own.
- Mets: .177 BA, 35K in 113 at bats, Dickey is hitting well.
- Phillies: .140 BA, 53K in 128 at bats, Blanton can hit a little.
- Pirates: .095 BA, 51K in 105 at bats, Close to the Dodgers in futility. Maholm is the worst hitting pitcher in baseball going zip for 25 with 16 strikeouts.
- Padres: .196 BA, 40K in 102 at bats, LeBlanc has a 125 OPS+
- Giants: .135 BA, 61K in 111 at bats (far and away the highest whiff rate), Zito at least is in positive numbers in OPS+.
- Cardinals: .140 BA, 43K in 128 at bats, Lohse and Garcia are/were the best hitters.
- Nationals: .146 BA, 43K in 123 at bats, Stammen is a decent hitter.

Collectively, NL pitchers have batted 1880 times and have struck out 673 times or 36% of the time. NL pitchers are batting .156 collectively.

The Fan doesn't see how any of this is any fun for the fans or for the pitchers. How boring is it to see a pitcher hit and have say a 4 in 25 chance of getting a hit? How boring is it to see a pitcher whiff 36% of the time? How boring is it that 99 times out of a hundred, a pitcher will bunt with a runner on no matter if there is one out?

Here are the top ten reasons why the NL should get the DH:

1. Pitchers risk millions by hitting and getting injured so they don't really try.
2. Counting stats between the leagues is skewed by adding two to three strikeouts per game for the NL starting pitcher.
3. Adds to boredom at games. It kills rallies, forces intentional walks of eighth place batters. All those bunts.
4. It risks the investments NL teams place in pitching.
5. Ends awkwardness during interleague and World Series games.
6. Would keep teams like the Nationals from having to put a guy like Dunn in the field.
7. Would keep a few sluggers in the game longer.
8. Would simplify box scores and eliminate all those silly double switches.
9. Would keep great starters in the game longer.
10. More offense and thus more excitement for fans of NL clubs.

It's time to end the arcane split of the DH rule between the leagues. Minor league pitchers don't usually hit. It's no fun watching a pitcher hit, unless he is a Zambrano or a Leake. It's just time.

Game Picks - Thursday: June 10, 2010

Yesterday was the first day this picker has finished in the red in the last ten days, so it was probably due. The Fan can blame it on the two rain outs that postponed two of the games. Those games could have made the difference. Or they could have made it worse. And dang it all, the stupid Game of the Day feature blew up again. The pick was the Tigers and if you follow along, you know how well that pick worked out. In retrospect, the Fan now realizes that Kenny Williams just pulled a motivational ploy. By saying these guys stink and it's time to trade a bunch of them, Williams motivated them to hit like they hadn't hit all year. Hmm. Good strategy. The Fan also didn't see the Red Sox getting shut out by Masterson while Buchholz got whacked around. Actually, Buchholz wasn't bad. It was the two pitchers after him: Oof...err...Boof Bonser and Mr. Nelson gave up eight runs between them. Ouch.

Oh well. Thursday is another day. The Fan can't quite figure out the schedule this year. For the past couple of years it seemed like Mondays and Thursdays featured about five games each. This year, there are always lots of games. Are the teams getting less days off? There are fifteen games today. Weird. Here's the predictions:

- The Reds over the Giants: Leake still hasn't leaked and the Reds shouldn't have to worry about Wellemeyer.
- The Padres over the Mets: Still think Latos will beat Santana in this make up game.
- The Tigers over the White Sox: The Tigers better start winning or they will become irrelevant.
- The Cubs over the Brewers: Speaking of irrelevant, these two teams aren't going anywhere fast.
- The Astros over the Rockies: The Rockies can't seem to beat the Astros for some reason. Oswalt will give them another one.
- The Athletics over the Angels: The Fan is beginning to understand that all these picks against the Angels are wishful thinking.
- The Braves over the Diamondbacks: Hanson should beat Willis who still walks too many guys.
- The Marlins over the Phillies: Still have this as an upset with Johnson and the Fish over Halladay and the Phillies.
- The Nationals over the Pirates: Quick quiz: Which team has a larger negative run differential: The Orioles or the Pirates? The Pirates.
- The Yankees over the Orioles: Burnett over some guy named Arrieta. Dor me vue. Dor me vue.
- The Indians over the Red Sox: Oh, what the heck. Talbot out pitches Lester.
- The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Cecil has been great lately. Wade Davis has not been.
- The Padres over the Mets: In a day/night double header sweep, Garland beats Niese.
- The Twins over the Royals: Baker versus Chen. Yeah, Chen was decent his last time out, but...

And the Game of the Day:

- The Rangers over the Mariners: Hunter should easily beat Rowland-Smith.

Yesterday: 6-7
Week: 29-23
Month: 73-47
Season: 490-378
Games of the Freakin Day: 26-28

Robinson Cruise-Cano

Robinson Cano is on an amazing tear. He went three for four against the Orioles for the third straight game and is now batting .376. He is slugging over .600. His OPS is over 1.020. He has driven in 46 runs. He is on pace to record 241 hits. He is on pace to drive in 124 runs and score just about the same amount. He has more hits than Ichiro Suzuki. If Cano were to hit only .250 in the rest of this year's at bats, he would end up with a .297 average. He leads the league in hits and in total bases. He's been that unbelievable. If the season were to end tomorrow, he'd be the odds on favorite for MVP.

Okay, all that being said, let's look for holes. His BABIP is an amazing .381. Most stat guys figure that the norm is around .300. So Cano should settle down some. But the problem with that argument is that his BABIP over the last 365 days or in his last 161 games is .357. So to use the old expression, the guy hits them were they ain't.

Okay, maybe Cano is benefitting from playing at the new Yankee Stadium. Well in 2010, he is batting .371 at home and .368 on the road (the road figure will go up after Wednesday's 3 for 4). Of his 12 homers, he's hit six on the road and six at home. His OPS (before Wednesday's game) is 1.040 at home and 1.008 on the road. Doesn't look like there are any holes there.

Maybe he is hitting right-handed pitching really well and lefties not so much. Before Wednesday's game, he was batting .380 against right-handers compared to .350 against left-handers. Oh wait, his OPS against right-handers is .996 and against lefties, it's sitting at 1.075. Can't find a hole there.

What about his fielding? No problem there, everything is in positive numbers.

Well, Cano is lousy in the clutch right? Last year, he batted something like .220 with runners in scoring position. He is batting .355 with runners in scoring position this year with an OPS of 1.040. Uh oh, we might have found a smoking gun. In high leverage situations (stuff like at bats in tie games late in the game with the game on the line), Cano is only batting .217. There. it took the Fan awhile, but at least something negative was found.

Cano pounded out over 200 hits last year. There is no reason to believe that how he is batting is a fluke or an outlier. Robinson Cano has this much ability and right now, that ability is on absolute overdrive.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Manny Ramirez - The Forgotten Dodger

Manny Ramirez has been so quiet this year that it would almost appear as if he wasn't playing at all. His counting stats are also quiet with only four homers to this point and he is batting .268 with an .814 OPS. He's only played in 41 of the Dodgers' 58 games and many of those were single pinch hit opportunities. So what's the deal with Manny?

His lack of playing time and productivity have lead some to conclude that his decline is due to not using steroids anymore. Certainly, they would appear to be correct. But it seems to this writer that (perhaps) injuries and lack of consistent game in and game out playing time has kept him from gelling. Ramirez is 38 now and his production was off his lofty levels last year. Perhaps this is just the general decline of an aging player.

But consider this, Ramirez has a .438 batting average with runners in scoring position this year. He drove in the only run of a 1-0 game last night and is probably the only player this side of Pujols that the Fan would want to have up in that situation. Despite his lack of playing time, he has still driven in 26 runs. The man can still deliver.

The Fan expects one of two things to happen the rest of the season: Either Manny will get more playing time and will explode into the kind of hitter we are used to, or he will get traded to an AL contender with a need for a DH (Detroit? New York?) and his interest will pick up and he'll start mashing the ball.

Many probably feel that we've seen the last of Manny Ramirez as an elite player. But this Fan has a sneaking suspicion that this story isn't finished yet.

Albert Pujols Seems...Human

Albert Pujols has created such expectations that merely being great seems to be a bit of a let down. Last night against the Dodgers, Pujols struck out three times in four at bats. How many times has that happened in his career? Yes, he has 14 home runs and has driven in 44. Yes, he leads the league in walks. But he appears more human his year...less automatic.

His current OPS, if it were to hold up, would be the second lowest of his career. Of course, the flip side is that the OPS is sitting at .980, which is still incredible. He is on pace to score 93 runs. He's never scored less than 99. To be sure, all this is really stupid to be talking about because Albert Pujols has been about as good as a player can possible be. It's not like you have to worry about this guy.

But still, the strikeouts are a bit troubling. Historically, Pujols has struck out only 9% of his plate appearances. This year, the rate is at almost 12%. It's almost as if pitchers around the league have discovered the smallest of Achilles Heel in the great slugger. But just like that Greek legend, they better hit that small target with precision or Pujols will kill you.

Game Picks - Wednesday: June 9, 2010

Tuesday was a positive day but it still didn't leave that great a taste in the mouth. It was like hankering for a hamburger and getting one to appease the craving, but the hamburger was well done. The Game of the Day was Kuroda out pitched Carpenter for a 1-0 win. The West Coast was what kind of killed the day. This picker has been going to bed fairly early for once and seven wins were in the bag at that time. Only two of the remaining left coast games proved correct. Oh well, it was still thrilling to see Strasburg.

Wednesday has another full slate of games to pick and really, the Fan shouldn't sneeze at nine win days. Here are today's challenges:

- The Marlins over the Phillies: The Marlins are the most frustrating team in baseball. Last night they jumped all over Kendrick, but they couldn't hold a big lead, played lousy defense and just simply blew the game. The next night they look like the best team in baseball. But which one will appear on any given night? In a marquee match up of Halladay versus Johnson, two of the better pitchers go head to head. The Marlins should lose. But hence the frustration.
- The Pirates versus the Nationals: After Strasburg, Lannon will look like a softball pitcher to the Pirates who counter with their own phenom tonight as Lincoln makes his major league debut.
- The Yankees over the Orioles: Sabathia should be much better than Tillman.
- The Red Sox over the Indians: Buchholz has been terrific. Masterson, not so much, though he was good the last time out.
- The Padres over the Mets: Latos is the pitcher of the future. Santana, the past.
- The Giants over the Reds: Burrell and Posey are killing the ball. Sanchez should be better than Harang.
- The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Marcum has been terrific and should counter David Price very well.
- The Rangers over the Mariners: Will take Wilson over Snell, who doesn't even believe in himself these days.
- The Brewers over the Cubs: Now that the Cubs have messed up Zambrano, we'll give the nod to Wolf.
- The Twins over the Royals: The Twins have an unbelievable record at home (19-9).
- The Astros over the Rockies: Can't believe the Fan is typing this, but Paulino has had two really good starts in a row.
- The Diamondbacks over the Braves: Kawakami can't seem to buy a win. Ian Kennedy has been solid.
- The Athletics over the Angels: Braden should be better than Saunders.
- The Dodgers over the Cardinals: The Dodgers already beat Carpenter, they might as well beat Wainwright at home too. Kershaw needs to come up big though.

And the Game of the Day:

- The Tigers over the White Sox: Let the fire sale in Chicago begin.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 23-16
Month: 67-40
Season: 484-371
Games of the Day: 26-27 [grumble]


Thanks to the wonders of MLB.TV, the laptop was able to give this old Fan a real treat as Stephen Strasburg did not disappoint anyone in his debut. His stuff was amazing. Yeah, it was the Pirates, but even so, he was amazing. He featured a fastball that ranged from 95 to 100 all night and it is not some straight fastball. It is very reminiscent of Ubaldo Jiminez's fastball that darts to the right. Then he throws an 82 MPH curve that just buckles the batter's knees.

What was amazing to watch was how much the fans in the stadium got into the game from the very beginning. Obviously, the place was packed (this kid is going to sell tickets!). And from his very first strike and very first out (a liner to short by McCutchen) and then every strikeout after that, the fans went crazy. Nobody in the crowd was sitting down the entire time the kid pitched.

Strasburg featured good control and even though he struck out 14 batters (only!?) in seven innings, he still threw only 94 pitches. He threw 69% of his pitches for strikes. Pittsburgh or no Pittsburgh, it was a very impressive outing. His only blemish was getting cute with Delwyn Young and throwing him a change up that Young deposited in the right field seats. He learned from giving a little guy a break and Young got nothing but fastballs the rest of the night and didn't come close to hitting any of them.

So to recap a very fun night, Strasburg got 21 outs and 14 of them were strikeouts. He didn't walk any and only gave up four hits (including Young's homer). Despite all the hype and all the stress placed on the guy, he delivered more than we ever expected. It was a big day for baseball, a big day for the Nationals and the Fan is sure glad of today's technology that allowed this old guy to be a part of it all.

Oh! And Mike Stanton went three for five in his debut in a Marlins' loss.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Angels Back in First Place

For those of you hoping this would be the year that the Angels faltered and that somebody else would win the AL West, yesterday was a sad day. The Angels climbed back into their familiar perch after a terrible start and have done it while winning nine of their last ten while the Rangers and Athletics have been scrounging around, both losing six of their last ten.

After watching the Angels do this year after year, you can't help but give props to their manager, Mike Scioscia. If he isn't the best manager in baseball, who is? Every year they clearly break the sabermetric models getting outscored, out pitched, out hit and yet year after year, they end up in first place.

Let's take this year for example. They are tenth out of fourteen AL teams on On Base Percentage. They only have two starting pitchers they can count on. Their bullpen is a complete mess. And here they are in first place. They have been outscored at home and still have a 16-13 record there.

The big key for the Angels is that they hang in there and they do well within their own division. They are 12-6 against AL opponents and that certainly makes up the difference. The only good teams they have beat are the Blue Jays, but they beat up on bad teams.

Simply put, they are amazing. They are 12th in the league in fielding percentage, they have a team negative number for fielding efficiency, they can't throw out base stealers, their infield has featured three guys with OPS+ figures of 80, 81 and 2 (!), and here they are in first place.

The Angels do hit homers. They are fourth in the league in homers and fourth in the league in doubles. Both of their catchers are hitting really well and Torii Hunter is having another really good year. And let's not forget, they have won nine of ten AFTER losing Kendry Morales.

Gnash your teeth if you must, but until the AL West can muster up a team that can win consistently, these Angels just won't go away.


There is never any way of knowing how it will go for the "Can't Miss" players when they start their careers. Starlin Castro is holding up just fine. Ike Davis has had a slump after a fast start, so the jury is still out. Cameron Maybin, Mike Wieters and others have disappointed. So it's hard to predict how Stephen Strasburg and Mike Stanton will do. But it sure will be fun to find out.

On Monday night, the Fan was confused on what day it was. That happens when you work for yourself sometimes. At 7:00 PM ET, the Fan fired up the laptop and got on MLB.TV to watch Strasburg and then laughed at himself for the premature enthusiasm. But that's what this debut is doing to fans all over the country. The Fan can't remember any one player who has created this much of a buzz before ever throwing a pitch.

How will Strasburg do? It's hard to know. A lot will depend on if he throws strikes or not and how many high counts he gets himself into. The Nationals will be protecting his pitch counts so don't expect more than five innings, six tops. But if he has control issues early, he won't even be around that long.

The Nationals were smart to start him against a team like the Pirates. No knock on the team from Pittsburgh, but they do have less of a line up than some of the other teams around the NL. If you're going to learn how to swim, it's always best to do it in the shallow end of the pool.

What can be predicted is that there will be a huge audience as interest is amazingly high. And yeah, this Fan will be one of the ones watching.

Game Picks - Tuesday: June 8, 2010

It was a kiss-your-sister kind of picking day yesterday with five correct and four incorrect. But it was still over .500 though it wasn't enough for the Fan to hold on to the picking lead against the underdog scroungers on BallHype. Oh well. At least the Dodgers had a big night to get a win for the beleaguered Game of the Day feature.

Tonight is the night everyone is looking forward to. Strasburg, Stanton and a full slate of other games. It will be fascinating:

- The Marlins over the Phillies: Volstad is better than Kendrick and Stanton will get two hits.
- The Nationals over the Pirates: You've got to give the big kid a win his first time out, right? Plus, the Pirates have given him a gift with Karstens starting.
- The Yankees over the Orioles: Phil Hughes has been the biggest Yankee story of the year this side of Cano.
- The Indians over the Red Sox: Wakefield is finally looking really old. Ortiz has stopped hitting.
- The Mets over the Padres: Mike Pelfrey continues his amazing season.
- The Giants over the Reds: Burrell is hitting! So is Posey. Cain is pitching. Done.
- The Bay Rays over the Blue Jays: Just don't believe in Talbot as a starting pitcher.
- Seattle over the Rangers: King Felix will shut down the Rangers' attack.
- The Brewers over the Cubs: Good match up of Gallardo versus Lilly. The Brewers are waking up a bit. Getting rid of Suppon was a move in the right direction.
- The Twins over the Royals: Alas, this isn't last year and Greinke is snake bit.
- The Tigers over the White Sox: Learned a lesson picking against Galarraga last time out. How did that go, Fan? Uhh..
- The Rockies over the Astros: Francis over Moehler in a mismatch.
- The Braves over the Diamondbacks: This is far from a safe pick. All depends on how good Medlan pitches.
- The Angels over the Athletics: Weaver should have no trouble here.

And the Game of the Day

- The Cardinals over the Dodgers: Carpenter versus Kuroda. Mismatch city.

Yesterday: 5-4
Week: 14-10
Month: 58-34
Season: 475-365
Games of the Day: 26-26

Monday, June 07, 2010

Who Will Sit When Mike Stanton Arrives?

The Marlins will call up Mike Stanton on Tuesday making him the second most anticipated young player to start his career on Tuesday night. The other is some pitcher from the Nationals. Stanton, all of 20 years of age, has a 1.167 OPS in AAA and is regarded as a can't miss prospect. But when he gets the call, which outfielder will sit?

Cameron Maybin has been playing a great centerfield despite not hitting much and is a former first round draft pick. Do you give up on him? Cody Ross has been one of the Marlins's best hitters this season (.819 OPS and batting .300) and plays good defense in right field. Chris Coghlan had a slow start this year, but last year's rookie of the year is batting .520 in June and has raised his average to over .260. Last year's great success for him came mostly in the last two thirds of the season. Do you sit him?

The move will already cost super defender, Brett Carroll his roster spot. Too bad the guy can't hit because there may not be a better outfielder in the majors. But be that as it may, none of the others seem to warrant being benched in favor of Stanton. Stanton has played mostly right field in the minors, so that seems to mean that Ross is the guy who will have to move? Will Ross move to centerfield, which would weaken the defense?

It will be interesting. Perhaps the Marlins will have a four-man outfield with Stanton playing every day and the other three playing three out of every four days. It doesn't seem right to give up on Maybin. Coghlan is a potential superstar and Cody Ross is a solid player that gives the team chances to win. We'll just have to see how all this plays out.

Cito Gaston - Come On Now

Many viewed the Blue Jays current stretch of games as a test of how good they were as a team. With six games against the Bay Rays and three against the Yankees, it was thought that the surprise team of the AL East would either wilt or prove their mettle. Six games into that nine game run, the results are mixed. They have won three of the six, which isn't bad considering the caliber of the teams they are playing. But the thing is, they could have won all three of the games they lost. To say that the managing of those three losses was questionable would be an understatement.

The Fan has always thought Gaston was a good manager. Heck, he has those world championships next to his dossier, right? But that thought was eroded somewhat last year when the players revolted and went to the team's executive management to complain about him. How many times has that happened that you can remember? So, that certainly started giving the Fan pause about Gaston as a manager. Then the Fan started to read some of the Blue Jays' finest bloggers and their complaints were similar about the man. So the Fan has been paying closer attention.

The first loss against the Bay Rays was achingly horrid as they had a decent lead going into the ninth and then put in "closer" Gregg. Gregg didn't have it that night and walked five batters. The Fan wrote a dead-on post on how Gaston had three opportunities to bring in lefty, Rommie Lewis, to end that threat and win the game and Gaston never did it. The next night...the very next night...probably stung by his bullpen the previous night, Gaston got a terrific start from one of his great, young starting pitchers. Again, they had a decent lead going into the ninth inning. That starter was sent out to pitch the ninth. The fatigue was evident and things started going poorly. Now the rule of thumb for such things is that you allow the starter to put base runners on base up to the point that if the runners scored, the starter wouldn't be saddled for the loss. The rule is a good one, because if the starter pitched his heart out, then you don't give him an opportunity to lose the game after such a good outing. But Gaston left him out there and for too long and that starter indeed got saddled with the loss after eight brilliant innings of work.

That brings us to Sunday's game against the Yankees. The Blue Jays had a chance to sweep the series and that certainly would have been a feather in their cap. They had a 2-0 lead going into the top of the eighth inning. The two runs scored on the comeback player of the year, Vernon Wells' two run homer, the only hit recorded against Yankee starter, Javier Vazquez, who was otherwise brilliant. Jeter hit a double to make the score 2-1 and it was second and third with no outs. The Jays got a break when Swisher was called out on strikes on a questionable check swing call made by the home plate ump without checking with the third base ump. Teixeira was up next.

The rote move here would be to walk Teixeira with one out to create a double play situation. But rote shouldn't always be what a manager does. For one thing, Teixeira has been bloody awful. The night before he went 0 for 6 with five strikeouts. On Sunday, he was 0-4. With Fraser out there, there was a great chance that he could have struck out Teixeira making it two outs. But Gaston took the rote move and walked Teixeira to bring up A-Rod. Five other managers have pulled that same move this year and A-Rod had five hits to show how stupid that move is, including two grand slams. But Fraser threw a wild pitch to allow a free run to tie the game. Okay, that happens. But at least it's still tied. A-Rod struck out, which, if you had pitched to Teixeira, could have been the third out. Instead, it was the second out allowing the hottest hitter in baseball to come up in Robinson Cano, who promptly lashed a double that allowed the free base runner (Teixeira) and Jeter to score. That made the score 4-2, Yankees.

The Blue Jays would come back in the bottom of the eighth with a run that would have made it a 3-3 game if the free base runner hadn't scored. So, in this Fan's mind, the decision cost the Jays the game. So that's three games out of six that Gaston has eked out a loss on the heels of a victory. If the Blue Jays had won two of those games, they would be right up there with the Yankees and only a couple of games back to the Bay Rays.

The Fan doesn't believe that any series this early in the year is overly critical. At the same time, in a division that is going to take 98 to 100 wins to take it and with the likely wild card coming from the AL East in a four team race, three questionable losses can haunt you for a long, long time.

Lately, whenever the Fan thinks about Cito Gaston, that song from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" comes into the brain:

"Gosh it disturbs me to see you, Gaston
Looking so down in the dumps
Every guy here'd love to be you, Gaston
Even when taking your lumps
There's no man in town as admired as you
You're ev'ryone's favorite guy
Ev'ryone's awed and inspired by you
And it's not very hard to see why

No one's slick as Gaston
No one's quick as Gaston
No one's neck's as incredibly thick as Gaston
For there's no man in town half as manly
Perfect, a pure paragon
You can ask any Tom, Dick or Stanley
And they'll tell you whose team they prefer to be on

No one's been like Gaston
A king pin like Gaston
No one's got a swell cleft in his chin like Gaston
As a specimen, yes, I'm intimidating
My what a guy, that Gaston"

The line that sticks out the most is the one about the incredibly thick neck. For a Toronto legend, it's too thick to cut off the head and his neck is too thick and stubborn when it comes to making cookie cutter baseball moves that blow up in his face.

Game Picks - Monday: June 7, 2010

Sunday was another positive day but the Cardinals losing the Game of the Day sort of spoiled things. So it wasn't a great day. For parts of the day, this picker even held the top spot over those upset, bottom-feeding reprobates over at BallHype. But alas, good picking can't hold sway over the two guys who simply go in and pick every underdog every day just to rack up points. What a stupid scoring system. There the Fan goes again railing against the system.

Like everyone else, this Fan is stoked for Tuesday when Strasburg and Mike Stanton make their debuts. Until then, we have nine games on Monday to consider:

- The Cubs over the Pirates: A lot going on in this game. First, the out-of-his-mind Carlos Silva is pitching. Secondly, Eveland, fresh off of the Blue Jays' scrap heap starts for Pirates and lastly, the Pirates have beat up on the Cubs for most of the year. Going with Silva.
- The Phillies over the Padres: Cole Hamels versus LeBlanc makes this a scary pick.
- The Red Sox over the Indians: Dice-K versus Carmona. It will be close but the Red Sox have too many weapons.
- The Reds over the Giants: Going with the Reds at home with Cueto over Zito.
- The Mariners over the Rangers: Losing Cruz was a blow. Now Hamilton is out with sore knees. That will help Cliff Lee.
- The Astros over the Rockies: Wandy finally got it together in his last outing. Betting he can carry it over.
- The Diamondbacks over the Braves: Think the D-backs will hit Lowe and that Haran will be very good for them today.
- The Athletics over the Angels: Like Ben Sheets better here than Scott Kazmir.

And the Game of the Day:

- The Dodgers over the Cardinals: Two young and inexperienced pitchers going but will take the Dodgers at home who have been red hot.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 9-6
Month: 53-30
Season: 470-361
Games of the Day: 25-26

Thinking About Jerry Koosman

Been thinking a lot lately about Jerry Koosman. And there are a lot of reasons. The main reason he's been on the brain a lot is because of his 2009 conviction of tax evasion which netted him six months in jail. From the looks of things, his malfeasance was more to due with ignorance than it was with trying to swindle the government. He must be out of jail by now since he was sentenced on September 9 of 2009, but there hasn't been any stories about his release. Getting convicted seems more newsworthy than doing your time apparently.

The Fan grew up with Jerry Koosman. He was on the other New York team when the Fan grew up in New Jersey. He was the forgotten half of a baseball card that was among the most valuable for many years. Most people know that card as Topps #177 in 1968 with a certain fellow named Nolan Ryan sharing the double billing. That card goes for hundreds of dollars and certainly has sold for more at times. That card probably features more wins than any other rookie card in history. The Fan also remembers that card because he had several copies of it in a collection that was thrown out by the Fan's mom when the Fan went off to college. Ouch. People remember Ryan, but only long-time Mets' fans remember Koosman.

It's funny how history remembers players. Koosman and Tom Seaver anchored the rotation for those Miracle Mets when they won their World Series against all odds. Seaver is the Hall of Famer and was more of a power pitcher. He would top out with two years at 280+ strikeouts. Koosman topped out in the high 100s. But there can certainly be an argument that Koosman was as good or maybe better than Seaver in 1968 and 1969. Well, maybe not in 1969 but certainly in 1968. The big difference between the two pitchers is that when the Mets bottomed out again after their championship, Seaver kept on winning for those bad teams while Koosman lost a lot. Take 1977 for example: Seaver ended up with a FIP ERA of 2.94 (FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching which takes some of the luck out of the numbers) while Koosman finished with a FIP ERA of 3.14. Not much different right? But Seaver went 21-6 that year while Koosman went 8-20.

Jerry Koosman ended up with 220 wins against 209 losses. His career ERA was 3.79 with a FIP ERA of 3.54. He had seven losing seasons out of the eighteen years he pitched. In those seven seasons, his FIP ERA for those seasons went like this: 3.18, 2.78, 3.18, 3.14, 3.34, 3.43 and 2.85. In all of those seasons except one, his FIP ERA was lower than his actual ERA meaning that he pitched much better than his results indicated. His record during those seven years was 60-101. If you can assume that the FIP ERAs indicate that he should have been AT LEAST a .500 pitcher during those years, You could say he should have been 240-189 in his career, which looks a lot more impressive than his final record.

He won 20 games twice, once with the Mets and once for the Twins. He won 19 games in first full season in the majors. To sum up his career, he was a really good pitcher for a really long time.

So yeah, the Fan has been thinking a lot about Jerry Koosman. He was a great left-handed compliment to Tom Seaver all those years. He won 220 games. He was the forgotten half of one of the most famous baseball cards of all time. And he went to jail. That's quite a variety of reasons to remember somebody. Fortunately, unlike most ex-cons who have to find a way to make a living after their jail time, Koosman still gets his $130,000 a year in pension money from MLB. So he's not going to starve after his time was paid to society.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Game Picks - Sunday: June 6, 2010

There had to be a little bump in the road after so many successful days in a row. After the early games, it looked like it was going to be more than a bump as all the early games came in wrong. But the Fan rallied and almost made it to .500 for the day. Oh well. Sunday will be better.

Sunday's games:

  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays wouldn't sweep the Yankees, would they?
  • The Mets over the Marlins: Takahashi looked awful last time out but the Mets are hot.
  • The Giants over the Pirates: Lincecum is pitching, but he hasn't been great lately. Don't know how solid this pick is.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: The flying fathers can't seem to beat Philly.
  • The Reds over the Nationals: The Reds are picking it up again after a stumble.
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: Juan Samuel goes 0-4 as a manager.
  • The Astros over the Cubs: Went back and forth on this one. Finally decided that Myers sounded better than Wells.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: Why not? They've already beaten them twice.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: Bonderman over Bannister in a tight game.
  • The Bay Rays over the Rangers: Order is restored in the Bay Rays' universe.
  • The Twins over the Athletics: Blackburn squeaks by Gonzalez.
  • The Dodgers over the Braves: Going with Ely's hot hand.
  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: Ubaldo!
  • The Angels over the Mariners: Pineiro is good one game and bad the next. Last game was bad, so this one will be good. Hey, a scientist has to track these things!

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Garcia over Parra. And what of Macha after this sweep?

Yesterday: 7-8
Last Week: 62-34
Month: 44-24
Season: 461-355
Games of the Day: 25-25