Saturday, July 03, 2010

Game Picks - Saturday: July 3, 2010

Friday wasn't a banner day for picking but after four straight losing days, at least it was over .500. Wow! This is a tough stretch. The Blue Jays showed some spunk and spanked the Yankees' secondary relievers in extra innings. Picking the Cubs was really stupid. Both Florida team picks were wrong. The White Sox got a big win against the Rangers. The Angels lost (another Game of the Day pick down the drain) and the Indians' pick was stupid. On the the other hand, the Rockies and Diamondback picks were sweet.

Saturday should be fun with a full slate of games. Let's see if the Fan can navigate this one more successfully:

  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Romero is good, but Pettitte rises to the occassion.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Hanson has struggled, but the Braves should get to Sanchez.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: Have to go with Strasburg over Dickey.
  • The Twins over the Bay Rays: Liriano should be better than Wade Davis. The Twins are at home.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: How can you not pick Carpenter over Parra?
  • The Pirates over the Phillies: Yeah, the Fan knows. But the Pirates shut the weakened Phillies out yesterday.
  • The Indians over the Athletics: Okay. Here's the deal. The A's are a lousy road team. The Indians are at home. Westbrook isn't that bad a pitcher and the A's are starting Mortensen making his debut.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: The Tigers need to start winning when Verlander pitches if they want a chance.
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: Still winning despite the injuries shows how good the Boston organization really is.
  • The White Sox over the Rangers: Danks has been much better of late. Hunter hasn't lost since he came of the DL. He's due.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: Ubaldo! over Zito.
  • The Padres over the Astros: Both are pitching their worst pitchers (Correia and Norris). But the Padres' worst pitcher is better than the Astros' worst pitcher.
  • The Angels over the Royals: Can you believe Chen has the exact same ERA as Santana? Not after this game.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Kershaw stems Kirk Gibson fever.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Reds over the Cubs: Not making this mistake again. Cueto should take care of the moribund Cubs. Piniella and Hendry should have been gone before the Arizona duo.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 25-31 only a big day today can salvage this
Month: 12-14
Season: 671-511
Games of the Day: 39-36 three wrong in a row!

Florida Baseball

One of the benefits of being in south Florida is being able to watch Comcast and both teams from Florida. The Tampa Bay Rays are on Channel 35 and the Marlins are on Channel 37. Both teams are bursting with young talent and the promise of the future. The Rays have had a fine season but fell behind both the Red Sox and the Yankees. The Marlins changed managers and despite so many fine players, can't seem to get anything to go right. Friday night was tough to watch.

The Marlins started one of the best pitchers in baseball in Josh Johnson. The guy has it all. He throws a 96 to 98 MPH fastball, a change up and a nasty breaking pitch. He had it all going against the Braves. At one point, the Fan counted six broken bats in the first three innings. But despite how good he pitched, he had a man on third in three of his first five innings. The first two times, his superior pitching got him out of it. The last time cost him his only run, but it shouldn't have.

The last time, he faced Prado and battled. Prado is a terrific hitter and back and forth it went. Then Johnson threw his best pitch of the night with two strikes. It was a 97 MPH heater on the inside corner at the knees. The pitch tracker showed the entire ball in the strike zone, but the ump never raised his right arm. Prado got another chance and hit a hanging slider into left to score the run. It was the only run the Braves would get.

But that blown call did one more thing. The Braves are good at making the pitcher work and Johnson had thrown a lot of pitches. The blown strike call caused him to face two extra batters and throw ten extra pitches. That let the game get deeper into the Marlins' bullpen.

The Braves scratched another run and had Billy Wagner in the ninth and the great closer gave a one out homer to Gaby Sanchez, who has taken his opening season by storm. It then became a game of relievers and the game pushed into the eleventh. In the top of that inning, the Marlins started a rally off of phenom reliever, Venters. With a man on third, the Marlins attempted a squeeze play but the batter missed the pitch. Wes Helms, the speed challenged third baseman, was a dead duck between third and home. The catcher thew it toward third. Helms headed toward home. Chipper Jones threw it to Venters who had Helms dead. But Venters totally whiffed the throw. He looked like a little leaguer. Helms scored.

The bottom of the 11th was in the hands of the closer, Nunez. Once again, this game showed how critical a closer can be. Nunez walked the first batter (McCann) on four pitches. Troy Glaus hit a double. Omar Infante hit a single. Ball game.

The game really showed what ails the Marlins. They don't handle close games well. They are 8-16 in one run games. When their starter does well, they don't hit. When they hit, the starter doesn't do well. When the game is on the line, they can't put it away. They have a nice team and are fun to watch. They just can't get over the hump.

Early this season, the Bay Rays were the scoring machine of the majors. But they have scored two runs or fewer in 12 of their last 18 games. Watching them regularly the last two weeks, they always seem to get two quick outs and then get some base runners and can't get the big hit to score the run. David Price was amazing again tonight. He gave up two runs in a complete game, eight-inning gem. he had one bad inning. But ten men left on base over the course of the game led to a 2-1 loss.

The Rays are obviously going through a tough stretch, but you can't help but like this team. The Fan especially likes when Brignac plays short and Sean Rodriguez plays second. Brignac is an amazing fielder and plays with a lot of fire. Bartlett was fantastic at the plate last year, but isn't anywhere near that performance this year. The question is if Brignac can hit consistently. Unfortunately, his minor league record doesn't figure him better than a replacement level batter.

After two weeks of daily viewing, the Fan has really come to appreciate Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, David Price, Jeff Niemann, Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez, Andy Sonnanstine and John Jaso. B. J. Upton and Carlos Pena are a problem. But this team is stacked with talent from end to end. Some times Joe Maddon, who is one of the smartest men in baseball, over thinks things and ends up making weird mistakes. But this is a team that will fight right down to the wire. All they have to do is find a way to end up in at least second place in the AL East

Friday, July 02, 2010

Diamondbacks Clean House

In what was a total shock, the Arizona Diamondbacks fired general manager, Josh Byrnes, and manager, A. J. Hinch, were fired yesterday. The pair paid the price of an awful half a season where many picked the team to be in contention. Instead the team is locked in last place for the second straight season in the NL West.

Byrnes has been considered a bit of a wunderkind and was signed to a big extension a few years ago. His personnel decisions were once touted as he brought in young players like Stephen Drew and Upton. But those young players have stalled in becoming the big stars their talent predicted them to be and both, along with Mark Reynolds, are in the top 25 in the league in strikeouts. Reynolds and Upton are one and two on that list.

Byrnes has to take responsibility for a bullpen that has failed in epic proportions and as the Fan mentioned in his post last night, the D-Backs are near the bottom of the 30 team list in OPS+, ERA+ and fielding efficiency. The Fan had mentioned earlier in the season that general managers weren't facing the same kinds of scrutiny for failure that managers were. This is one case were the GM was seen as part of the problem.

But you know, things happen and Byrnes will find another job. He seems to be a bright guy and his personnel decisions just didn't work out...yet. A. J. Hinch on the other hand admitted just a short while ago that, "This group hasn't responded that well to me." Gosh, why don't you just run the white flag up there?

Hinch's record with the D-Backs of 89-123 over parts of two seasons indicate that he was correct. The Diamondbacks have some talent but that talent hasn't been able to burst through. It seemed obvious that Hinch wasn't capable of pulling that kind of performance out of his players.

So now Kirk Gibson is in charge, at least for now. And now the Bobby Valentines of the world have another team to consider. It's too bad. Hinch seemed like a nice guy and the Fan was appreciative that he gave Edwin Jackson that opportunity for the no-hitter last week despite the pitch count. Unfortunately, the bottom line isn't pretty and somebody had to pay the price.

Game Picks - Friday: July 2, 2010

Holy cow! This picker is certainly in a bad stretch with a fourth sub-.500 day. The week is far below the break even point and the month of July is off to a negative start. The Game of the Day feature lost for the second straight day. Ugh! With the axe falling all over baseball (more on that in the next post), the Fan could be next!

[[shiver]] With much trepidation, here are Friday's picks:

  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays have fallen all the way back to .500. It's sad that for the second season in a row, they gave fans hope and then fell on hard times.
  • The Cubs over the Reds: Simply like Dempster over Arroyo at this point in the season.
  • The Pirates over the Phillies: Ohlendorf has pitched well of late. Giving him the nod over Moyer and the depleted Phils.
  • The Mets over the Nationals: Hard to remember that the Nats once vied for first place. Now they again have a slight chance for the top draft pick for the third straight year.
  • The Indians over the Athletics: The Indians have won five in a row and have more offense than the A's.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: The Tigers are almost unbeatable at home and the Mariners are terrible on the road. That overcomes a Fister match up with Scherzer.
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: This pick isn't the Fan's first instinct. The O's could get to Wakefield and Bergesen could have a big game against the depleted Red Sox. But sanity won.
  • The Marlins over the Braves: Pick based solely on the arm of Josh Johnson.
  • The Rangers over the White Sox: Like Lewis over Garcia and the Rangers' offense over the White Sox.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: Lincecum hasn't been a lock this season. Chacin is a good-looking young pitcher. The Rockies are home and the hotter team.
  • The Bay Rays over the Twins: Last night's thrilling win might propel the young Bay Rays back in the race. Plus Price is pitching.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Narveson was great last time out, but golly, the Cards need to start winning some time.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Dodgers: Kirk Gibson wins his first game as manager.
  • The Padres over the Astros: Latos versus Oswalt in a good one. Latos is like a young Oswalt.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Angels over the Royals: Similar and inconsistent starters but the Angels are at home.

Yesterday: 4-7
Week: 29-38 man oh man
Month: 4-7
Season: 663-504
Games of the Day: 39-35

Suddenly a Contest for the Worst Record in Baseball

With the Baltimore Orioles winning six out of their last ten games, the clear cut favorite for finishing 2010 with baseball's worst record has gotten a lot more interesting. With the top draft pick at stake in the next draft, it's time to guage the favorites...or least favorites if you will.

Current candidates:

  • Baltimore Orioles - 24 wins
  • Cleveland Indians - 31 wins
  • Pittsburgh Pirates - 27 wins
  • Houston Astros - 31 wins
  • Arizona Diamondbacks - 31 wins

The Orioles: As mentioned, the Orioles were on a mini-roll before getting buzz sawed by the A's on Wednesday night. The Orioles are currently 26th out of 30 in OPS+ and 27th in runs scored. They are 26th in the league in ERA+. They are 24th in the league in defensive efficiency. But they are 13th in fielding percentage. Roster considerations. Luke Scott, the regular DH and the Orioles' most productive hitter went on the DL with a bad leg. Josh Bell was brought up from the minors to play third moving Tejada (a defensive liability) to DH. Bell has some pop but is iffy when it comes to major league productivity. A big question is whether the team will trade some of their veterans like Millwood and Wiggington. Millwood seems more likely but Wiggington would be more sought after. The team will certainly think twice about trade either as they have a young team with few established players to show them the way. Garrett Atkins was recently let go.

The Pirates: The Pirates have 27 losses and have lost seven of their last ten. But they have won their last two. The team is 23rd in fielding percentage and 27th in defensive efficiency. They are 29th in OPS+ and last in the league in runs scored. The Pirates are also in last place among all 30 teams in ERA+. Roster considerations: The Pirates traded away anyone of value last year and have little left in the way of veterans other teams would want. They have recently called up Pedro Alvarez who is off to a slow start with lots of strikeouts. Another prospect, Jose Tabata, has also started slowly though he has shown patience at the plate. Pitching prospect, Brad Lincoln hasn't been impressive.

The Indians: The Indians are 27th in the league in ERA+ and 19th in OPS+ and 25th in the league in defensive efficiency. The Indians have won five in a row but had lost five in a row before that. Roster considerations: The Indians traded away Russell Branyon with the intention of giving Matt LaPorta a full shot to see what he can do. He hit a three run homer on Thursday night. Carlos Santana seems to be the real deal and is a star catcher in the making. Chances are that Kerry Wood will be traded.

Houston Astros: The Astros have played .500 ball of late but still only have 31 wins for the season. The Astros are last in all of baseball in defensive efficiency. They are also dead last in OPS+. And to complete the trifecta, they are 25th in ERA+. Roster considerations: Unlike all the other teams mentioned so far, there is not much help available in the minors. Chris Johnson is playing now and might be effective. Oswalt and Berkman are solid bets to be traded. If they are, then what will this team have left besides Wandy Rodriguez?

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D-backs are the surprise member of this list. Not much has gone right for this team. They have four regulars in their line up who are in the top 25 in the majors in strikeouts. They are 27th in the league in ERA+. Despite much expectation, they are 20th in the league in OPS+. They are also 26th in the league in defensive efficiency. Roster considerations: Connor Jackson was traded away. Rusty Ryal is not much of a better option. Enright gave the team a good start the other night but walked four in five innings of work. Dontrelle Willis has been a drag on the team and will be released soon it seems.

Conclusion: The Pirates are completely torn down and the team is totally in the hands of youngsters. There is some talent there. They play in a weak division. The Orioles play in the toughest division in baseball but are playing better. The Diamondbacks can hope that the core of Reynolds, Upton and Drew do much better in the second half. The Indians have a legitimate star in Choo and a starting rotation that can keep them in the game. The Astros' fortunes seem to fall on whether Oswalt and Berkman get traded or not. They have the worst counting stats in baseball. Favorites: The Orioles because of their division, the Astros because of their talent.

Others to watch: Royals and Mariners.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Still Not Buying the Reds

It is now July 1, 2010 and miracle of all miracles, the Reds are in first place in the NL Central and the Padres are in first in the NL West. While the Padres may have enough pitching to overcome flawed hitting and have a legitimate shot at the flawed NL West, the Reds just don't seem to have the horses to win the NL Central.

The Cardinals have been stumbling along. Pujols has struck out more this year and doesn't always look QUITE as dominant as ever. Holliday has awakened from his slumber. The Cards are having trouble with their fourth and fifth starters and the bullpen is shaky. But it's hard to believe that Tony LaRussa won't figure out enough magic buttons to get the job done when it is all said and done.

The Reds have out played their run differential by a couple of games. Joey Votto is a legitimate superstar having an outstanding season. Scott Rolen has shaken off some cobwebs and is a stud again and is a leader of much renown. Both of their catchers are hitting the cover off the ball. Brandon Phillips is a great second baseman. Jay Bruce is finally living up to his potential and Jonny Gomes is hitting well. They only have two holes in their line up. Orlando Cabrera is having a brutal year at the plate with a 66 OPS+ and Drew Stubbs strikes out too much and has an 86 OPS+. So, overall, the line up is probably going to be okay.

This Fan just doesn't believe in the Reds' starting rotation or their bullpen. Basically stated, the Reds just don't have enough pitching to maintain their position in the standings. The Reds ERA and homers allowed are 12th in a league of 16 teams. Only three teams in the NL have struck out less batters than the Reds. Only five teams have given up more walks and hits.

Let's look at the starting rotation. Cueto should be the ace. He has the best stuff and sure enough, he has the lowest WHIP in the rotation and the highest amount of strikeouts. But with his stuff, he really should be more consistent and his K/BB ratio should be higher than 2.55/1. But he has improved of late and is 8-2 despite a 3.74 ERA. He keeps the ball in the ballpark, which is always good. After Cueto though, it gets iffy.

Aaron Harang has looked better of late. But he gives up a lot of homers and his ERA is over 5. His WHIP of 1.455 is not great. He is a battler and a fiery competitor, but he's a question mark whenever he pitches. The one good thing is that he leads all Reds' starters in K/BB ratio. Arroyo is a lot like Harang. He hangs in there because he is a warrior but he performs better than his stuff and every game produces the possibility that he is going to get crushed. He has a 1.33 K/BB ratio and he only strikes out 4.4 batters per nine innings. His WHIP is much lower now than it will be by the end of the season.

Mike Leake has been a great story. He jumped right from college to the majors without any minor league experience. He won his first five decisions. But he hasn't won in a couple of weeks and there are a couple of problems here. First, his BABIP indicates that he's been a bit lucky and those hits should drop in a bit more. Second, his pitch count for the season and for each start must be limited and that means that a shaky bullpen has to be relied upon early in each of his starts. The Fan doesn't think Leake will regress much, but he will some and the Reds have to be careful of his innings.

The fifth starter has been a problem for the Reds much like it has been for a lot of teams. Homer Bailey has been out. LeCure hasn't worked out and now they will try another prospect (Wood). Fortunately for the Reds, the Cardinals have just as big a problem with the fifth starter.

The next big problem for the Reds is their bullpen. Other than the amazing Arthur Rhodes (who finally had a bad night the other night), there is not a whole lot to write home about. Masset has a big arm but he walks 4.3 batters per nine innings and has given up more hits than innings pitched. His ERA is near 6. The closer, Francisco Cordero, also walks too many and has a WHIP right near 1.5, which is way too high. Danny Herrera is replacement level at best. Logan Ondrusek has been brutal. Micah Owings (alas) is much more effective as a pinch hitter than he is as a long reliever.

The Fan also doesn't believe in Dusty Baker. If you were to compare him heads up to LaRussa, who would you choose? The Cards have the experience, the manager, two great starters and one good one and the best player in the world. The Reds simply don't have enough pitching to stay where they are.

Fan's Appearance on Baseball Digest Live

The Fan thoroughly enjoyed his visit to Baseball Digest Live yesterday. The host could not have been more gracious and the Fan thinks he held his own. It appears that the Fan gave you a dead link yesterday (should have tested it). But the recording of the show can be found here. The Fan appears about half way through the show.

Game Picks - Thursday: July 1, 2010

The month of June ended ugly as this picker had a third straight day in the red. Even the Game of the Day, which had been on a great roll, fell to earth yesterday. This week has not been a good one. It was a surprise that the Reds beat the Phillies again while the Cardinals lost again. The Orioles and Indians both won. Whuh? The Royals won. The Yankees lost. The Dodgers won. And the Fan blew it on all of them.

Ah well. That's the life of a baseball Fan. You honestly never know what is going to happen. Thursday is the first game of July (happy Birthday to the wonderful lady that was the Fan's first wife) and it's time to start the month off on a good foot:

  • The Blue Jays over the Indians: The Jays' bats have gone silent. But Marcum has been so good, it's hard not to go with him.
  • The Yankees over the Mariners: The Yankees have been smoked by Lee and King Felix. Now it's time for them to have a big game and for Sabathia to get the easy victory.
  • The Cubs over the Reds: Really? Yeah, really. Silva steals a victory over Wood, making his debut fresh from the minors.
  • The Phillies over the Pirates: McCutchen pitches for the Pirates fresh off the DL. He won't be as bad as early in the year, but the Pirates won't score against Hamels.
  • The Mets over the Nationals: Interesting match up of Santana versus Livan. Going with Santana.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: Cahill has been the A's best pitcher.
  • The Bay Rays over the Twins: The Bay Rays had a big win over the Red Sox and Niemann has been really good lately.
  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: Hawksworth hasn't been effective for the Cardinals. Wolf has a better chance to win.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: Cook hasn't been good and the game will mark the return of Bumgarner.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: Wilson over Weaver. The Rangers have played the Angels really well this season.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Padres over the Astros: Garland should be solid as the Padres get to Brian Moehler.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 25-31
Last Month: 222-164
Season: 659-497
Games of the Day: 39-34

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

David Ortiz Clobbering Mistakes

The Fan has watched several games involving David Ortiz over the course of the season and the pattern always seems the same. The pitcher gets two quick strikes on Ortiz and the big man doesn't even come close to hitting the pitches. But then the pitcher can't put him away. Do the pitchers' knees suddenly get weak? Do they believe that the first two strikes were flukes? It's hard to understand.

Last night was typical. Shields is pitching for the Bay Rays. The sequence went like this:

First pitch: Fastball in - Swing and miss.
Second pitch: Curve ball in - Swing and miss.
Third pitch: Fastball outside - Ball one
Fourth Pitch: Curve ball inside - Almost hits Ortiz. Ball two.
Fifth pitch: Fastball outside - Ball three.
Sixth pitch: Curve on inner half - Ortiz just missed a homer and flied out to deep right.

Later on, the pattern repeated itself except this time Ortiz hit a three run homer and the game was for all intent and purposes, over. It seems to this Fan that the pattern has been consistent ever since Ortiz got hot. But how do you prove it?

Well, the Fan went to one of the most wonderful places on earth and looked at Big Papi's splits for this season and sure enough, Ortiz has put more balls in play on a 3-2 count than on any other count. And it isn't even close. 62 plate appearances have come from a 3-2 count for Ortiz. The second highest is 36 with a 2-2 count. Ortiz has a .968 OPS on those 62 plate appearances.

Ortiz, like most hitters, does the most of his damage when he is ahead in the count. And also like most batters, he does little damage when his plate appearance results from an 0-2 count but that precisely is where pitchers are failing. Only 9 of Papi's plate appearances have occurred on an 0-2 count with only one feeble little single. Compare that to the 62 with a full count.

The numbers seem to match the observations. Ortiz is very willing to let the pitcher try to get cute on an 0-2 count and wait for a mistake. The pitchers usually comply. If the Fan was a pitching coach, the thing the Fan would tell his pitchers would be to put the guy away when you get two strikes on him and never mind futzing around.

Game Picks - Wednesday: June 30, 2010

Uh oh! This picker is suddenly on a losing streak with negative results for two days in a row. The week is under too. Fortunately, the month is almost over, so the Fan can't screw that up, but still, this is a bit distressing. Remarkably, the Game of the Day was correct again for the eighth straight day. That feature is as far over .500 as it has ever been. So which would the Fan rather have: a good day of picking and a bad Game of the Day or vice versa? Probably the former.

The Fan really needs Wednesday to turn things around or this week will go to hell in a hand basket:

  • The Phillies over the Reds: The day starts off with what should be a sure pick with Halladay getting the start against Harang.
  • The Twins over the Tigers: Slowey needs to keep the ball in the park to win, but the Twins should score against Oliver.
  • The Astros over the Brewers: Wandy Rodriguez seemed to figure some things out his last outing. That should be enough to tilt this one.
  • The Cardinals over the Diamondbacks: Horrible game to pick as Suppon goes against some kid making his debut (Enright).
  • The Cubs over the Pirates: Gorzelanny versus Lincoln. Gorzelanny hasn't started in a while and Lincoln hasn't impressed since he was called up. Ugh.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: Look out NL West. Here come the Rockies.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: The Marlins have taken the first two, but Pelfrey has been so good this year.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: Giving the nod to Ben Sheets over Kevin Millwood. Millwood has won two straight though...
  • The Mariners over the Yankees: King Felix over Vazquez. It's a good thing the Mariners won't make the playoffs because they could give a team like the Yankees fits.
  • The Blue Jays over the Indians: Litsch over Laffey although neither seems like a smart pick.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: Hate to pick a guy just coming off the DL like Jurrjens, but the option is to pick Martin who has pitched well but the Nats don't score for him.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: Think Garza will come up big and Dice-K will not.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Peavy is on a serious roll with 21 scoreless innings. Greinke is a factor though.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: Kazmir versus some kid named Beltre making his debut. Normally the debut would never be picked, but Kazmir has given up nearly six runs a game this year.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Giants over the Dodgers: Manny is hurt again. Plus, will take Sanchez over Padilla.

Yesterday: 6-9 oof
Week: 18-23 ouch
Month: 215-156
Season: 652-488
Games of the Day: 39-33

The Marlins Find Their Manager - For Now

In a surprise move, the Florida Marlins' owner, Jeffrey Loria, announced that Edwin Rodriguez, who made history as the first manager from Puerto Rico, would manage the team through the end of the season. The Marlins had been actively pursuing Bobby Valentine since Fredi Gonzalez was fired last week. Indications are that negotiations with Valentine bogged down and then dissolved.

Loria, who indicated that he wanted to quickly turn the season around last week when Gonzalez was fired, apparently learned that a quick fix with a big name wasn't going to be as easy as it sounded. One can only speculate that either Valentine wanted more money, more control or more autonomy than Loria was going to give him. Valentine, known as a disciplinarian and strategist, would have been a nice choice to lead a young and sometimes undisciplined team. But that's not going to happen. So where does this leave the Marlins?

Guys like Valentine and Buck Showalter, both now working as analysts on ESPN's Baseball Tonight, will only take a managerial position if they get to run the show. They are both immensely experienced with big reputations who also happen to have good and cushy jobs. It would take a heck of a sweet deal to pry them into the right situation. The Fan can imagine that with a new stadium in their near future, Loria would have loved to go into that era of the team's history with a big name manager. But Loria either doesn't have the money to spend right now or doesn't like to spend it.

Which works out perfectly with a guy like Edwin Rodriguez. The Fan doesn't know, but can imagine that Rodriguez is still making whatever his salary was as a minor league manager. That would certainly work with Loria's MO. It looks like Loria has a cheap option for the rest of the 2010 season. But who is Edwin Rodriguez?

We know he was born in Puerto Rico as his history making position has been clear news and rightly so. He is 50 years old and he was once a prospect in the Yankees' organization. He did get cups of coffee in three separate seasons, the first one (1982) for the Yankees and the final two with the Padres (1983. 1985). He played in the minors until 1987 and then he retired.

After his retirement, Rodriguez scouted for the Twins for seven years. He started managing in the low minors in 2005 and rose through the ranks in the Marlins' system. He was given the reins of the Marlins' Triple A affiliate in December of 2008. Without doubt, he must have been part of some of the minor league careers of several of the young players on the Marlins.

During the Marlins game on local Florida television, they showed the scene in the dugout when Loria told his team about his decision to keep Rodriguez in the dugout for the rest of the season. It was quite touching to see the players' reactions as there was cheering and hugs all around. That's a good thing. The Marlins' broadcasters mentioned that several players told them that Martinez has already shown them that he is a great communicator and wants to learn from them as much as he wants his players to learn from him. That's also a good thing.

And the Marlins have beat the Mets two straight. Remarkably and fittingly, the series was scheduled long before to take place in Puerto Rico. How's that for a fairy tale story? Who knows, perhaps the Marlins have found a diamond in the rough in their new manager. The big question is on how the players will react when, young as they are, they screw up or act badly and Rodriguez has to make a stand. Will he hold the respect of his players? Time will tell.

But no matter how good Rodriguez might be, the facts still remain that the Marlins are a starter and a reliever short and play lousy defense. They will make dumb, young mistakes no matter who is managing. They have a lot of young talent but besides Helms, have little veteran stability. Rodriguez may add a win or three if he does a really good job. But it seems highly unlikely that he will take the Marlins as they are currently constructed much higher in the standings than Fredi Gonzalez would have. It would be a cool story if he did though.

Appearing on Baseball Digest Live

A quick programming note to let you all know that the Fan will be "appearing" on Baseball Digest Live co-hosted by Jay Ferraro. If you'd like to listen in, click this link.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Twins Need Lee...or Somebody

The Twins are a good team. They have the kind of experience and smarts to again win their division...but if they do so as they stand now, it will be by the skin of their teeth. And that's the way the Twins have won the division so many times in the past decade. But one of these years, they will not be so lucky and just being good enough will not be...well...good enough. The Tigers have some strength and the White Sox are always a wild card. But even if the Twins get it done and win the division, as they sit now as a team, they will still lose in the playoffs and will not get to the World Series.

Their problem really is their starting rotation. They have two good starters, Pavano and Liriano. Pavano has been great and has a 3.53/1 strikeout to walk ratio despite only striking out five batters per nine innings. In other words, he doesn't allow cheap base runners. That can be said of the entire Twins rotation except for Nick Blackburn. They don't walk anybody. But only Liriano has the stuff to make use of that special talent. His 9.7 K/9 ratio is fantastic as is his 4 to 1 ratio of strikeouts to walks. Despite his loss to the Tigers when most of the runs scored in the first inning last night, he's probably their best pitcher. Slowey has his moments and keeps you in the game. The same can be said for Baker. But Slowey and Baker both have trouble keeping the ball in the ballpark and both have 1.4 homers for every nine innings they pitch. They are good, but not great. Blackburn has simply been awful and that is the rub.

If you could bring in Lee for the stretch or another big time starter, that would give the Twins the depth in the rotation they need and also give them three good options for every playoff game. If they don't make such a move, it's hard to see this year being much different than any other year IF they can squeak by and win the division.

Strasburg Struggles?

Yeah, that was one of the headlines on Tuesday morning: "Strasburg Struggles." Except "Struggles" wasn't capitalized because nobody capitalizes headings anymore. But anyway, it's got to be tough to be a world class talent. You can't possibly live up to everyone's expectations and you can't escape even the slightest pimple. Did Strasburg struggle? Heck no. He did lose though thanks to terrible defense, poor relief pitching and no run support.

Strasburg's final line reads, 6.1 innings, six hits, three earned runs, two walks and seven strikeouts. Sounds like a solid outing to this Fan. But it was an even better outing than that sounds. Riggelman made a big mistake by not pinch hitting for Strasburg in the top of the seventh. He had a runner on third and he sent Strasburg up to hit. Strasburg had not given up a run to that point and the Nats hadn't scored either. How different would the news agencies read if Riggelman had done the right thing? Perhaps a pinch hitter could have gotten the run in and Strasburg would have been in line for the win. Or he would have had a no decision with no runs allowed.

But Srasburg hit or didn't and the inning was over. The big kid then promptly gave up two base hits to start the bottom of the seventh. He then walked a batter. But then he induced a perfect double-play ball to short and one run would have scored, but he could have gotten out of the inning without a lot of damage. But the shortstop booted it. It was a perfect double play ball! Geez.

That indubitably rattled the young pitcher and he gave up a sac fly (the bases were still loaded) and the defense let him down again. Nyger Morgan, doing his best B. J. Upton impression, threw to third instead of second and missed the cut off man on the deep fly to center. Instead of first and third with the double play still available, it was second and third. Strasburg was taken out and Burnett was brought it. Burnett hasn't been a good name for pitchers this week. This one gave up two straight hits. Everyone that Strasburg had on base scored and that was that.

And of course, the headlines read that Strasburg struggled. He didn't. He was let down by his manager, his shortstop, his offense and his centerfielder. The guy isn't perfect. But it looks like he sure has to be to get a win and to please everybody.

Game Picks - Tuesday: June 29, 2010

"Monday Monday...can't trust that day. Monday Monday...sometimes it just turns out that way..." It wasn't a good day for this picker. Not too many things went according to plan. Poor Strasburg can't get any defense or run support. It just didn't turn out the way this Fan expected it. But that's okay. Days like that keep you humble.

And there is always Tuesday to get back into the swing of things. Here's how the Fan sees it:

  • The Marlins over the Mets: Puerto Rico is hot this time of year. Really hot. The Marlins can take it. The Mets, along with their Japanese starter, Takahashi, cannot.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: Matusz just looks all beaten down. Poor kid. Braden will win.
  • The Yankees over the Mariners: Lee and Hughes will cancel each other out. The Yankees have the better offense and know Lee very well.
  • The Blue Jays over the Indians: Morrow needs to come up big, but he's capable. Carmona has not looked good of late.
  • The Reds over the Phillies: Can lightning strike twice? Leake's sinker versus Blanton's meatballs.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: The Nats simply can't score these days.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: The Bay Rays are reeling, but they should jump on Lackey while Shields holds down the depleted Red Sox.
  • The Cubs over the Pirates: The Pirates keep beating the Cubs. Why? Who knows. Lilly should win though.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: Gallardo should be better than Myers.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: Galarraga should beat Blackburn. Too bad about Zumaya. Too many long outings.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: Yeah, well, the Fan didn't think the Royals would win last night either.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: Here come the Rockies. They are only five games back now. Hammel over LeBlanc.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: Good match up of Feldman versus Pineiro. Think the Rangers will out score the Angels.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Ely comes up big and the Dodgers get to Cain.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Cardinals over the Diamondbacks: Wainwright over Willis. If Willis has another start like last time, he could be done.

Yesterday: 4-7
Week: 12-14
Month: 209-147
Season: 646-479
Games of the Day: 38-33

Strikeouts Revisited

Everyone seems to be saying that this is the year of the pitcher. It is true that the major hitting stats like homers per game, league batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage are all down. Strikeouts are the highest in history. Many point to steroids or the lack of them as one of the answers. Maybe. Many are saying that it's because young pitchers are given less time in the minors and are coming to the big leagues faster and thus putting better arms up in the league. Maybe. But young arms also throw more walks and have less experience under pressure. Here is one more theory and it revisits a complaint this Fan has had about modern baseball. Perhaps the blind eye to allowing high strikeout rates is catching up to baseball.

Of course, Mark Reynolds is the lightning rod of the argument. Last year, Reynolds had a 123 OPS+, so it was deemed acceptable that he had 223 strikeouts, the most in history. His line for the year was: .260/.349/.543. The arguments state that if he cut down on his aggressiveness, his slugging would go down and thus his value. Frankly, the Fan finds that argument to be full of beans. And this isn't the first time the Fan has made this argument. Very few of Reynolds homers have come with two strikes or with him behind in the count, so how do you hurt his slugging percentage if he shortens up on two strike counts? But if you can cut 100 of his strikeouts and put the ball in play, with a .300 BABIP probability, you add thirty hits to his tally. Even if those are all singles, his average would jump to .311 and his on base percentage jumps to .399.

The argument has been presented many times that an out is an out. But put the ball in play and errors happen, hits happen and that's the side of the equation that seems to be missing. What we seem to be seeing this year is that the league is striking out more thus making the batters around the league less effective.

As a microcosm of what the Fan is talking about, let's just look at the top 25 strikeout guys in the league last year and this year. Last year, the top 25 strikeout guys struck out 24% of the time. But they had a .480 slugging percentage (collectively) and a .356 OBP. Thus, their collective OPS was .836. With those kinds of numbers, it sure seems worth it to let those 25 guys swing from their heels every time up. But that mentality has caught up to us. This year, those 25 guys have struck out 25% of the time (closer to 26% actually) and their collective OPS is down to .796. The top 25 strikeout guys have lost 14 points on their OBP and more importantly, 26 points on the slugging percentage. Consider if you will that these 25 guys have struck out 1933 times so far in 2010. If you could cut that down by a third, that would (with BABIP in play) add 191 hits. That's a lot of hits being thrown to the third baseman after the third strike.

Baseball mind trusts have been willing to swallow strikeouts because of the mistaken belief that an out is an out is an out. And since many of the high strikeout guys also get on base regularly and hit a lot of homers. the strikeouts are overlooked. But this year, those guys are getting on base less and hitting homers less. How many less? Last year, those top 25 strikeout guys hit a homer 4.3% of the time. This year, those top 25 strikeout guys have hit homers 3.8% of the time. The weight of those strikeouts are getting heavy.

Many of us have played organized ball of some sort, whether it be little league or pony league or something. All of us heard after we got two strikes on us to "choke up a little." Yeah, the strikeout is an out just like any other out. But when you put the ball in play, things can happen. Hits will fall in 30% of the time. Errors will occur. But hardly anybody ever talks about that side of the equation. It's time they did.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Whither the DH?

It's been this writer's observation that the Designated Hitter in the American League isn't what it used to be. It seemed like in the early days, sluggers like Orlando Cepeda, older guys with bad wheels would man the position. Vladamir Guerrero reminds the observer of Cepeda in those old days, but it seems the DH is less of a threat as in the old days. But do the numbers match the observation? What the Fan will attempt to do is to look at the numbers for this year, last year, five years ago and ten years ago. First let's look at teams:

Baltimore Orioles:
2010 - .859 OPS; 2009 - .777; 2005 - .640; 2000 - .729
Notes: 2010's OPS by DHs is higher than any of their other positions.

Boston Red Sox:
2010 - .856 OPS; 2009 - .777: 2005 - .980; 2000 - .904
Notes: Amazing how similar Luke Scott and company for Baltimore have been to David Ortiz and company the last two years.

Chicago White Sox:
2010 - .663 OPS; 2009 - .809; 2005 - .769; 2000 - .938
Notes: Frank Thomas was one of the best ever.

Cleveland Indians:
2010 - .764 OPS; 2009 - .772; 2005 - .946; 2000 - .907
Notes: Travis Hafner was such a force. Not now.

Detroit Tigers:
2010 - .761 OPS; 2009 - .704; 2005 - .805; 2000 - .811
Notes: 1990 was Dave Bergman. Ouch.

Kansas City Royals:
2010 - .855 OPS; 2009 - .655; 2005 - .790; 2000 - .784
Notes: Mike Sweeney was very good for a long time.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in California in the Western Part of the United States:
2010 - .639 OPS; 2009 - .817; 2005 - .694; 2000 - .830
Notes: Remember Brain Downing?

Minnesota Twins:
2010 - .774 OPS; 2009 - .829; 2005 - .710; 2000 - .728
Notes: David Ortiz in 2000!

New York Yankees:
2010 - .758 OPS; 2009 - .858; 2005 - .818; 2000 - .810
Notes: A month of Nick Johnson didn't help these year's numbers.

Oakland Athletics:
2010 - .651 OPS; 2009 - .770; 2005 - .665; 2000 - .745
Notes: DH is a money position and the A's haven't been able to spend the money.

Seattle Mariners:
2010 - .513 OPS; 2009 - .747; 2005 - .723; 2000 - 1.002
Notes: This year is soooo bad for the Mariners.

Tampa Bay Rays:
2010 - .656 OPS; 2009 - .741; 2005 - .809; 2000 - .821
Notes: 2000 = Jose Canseco. Imagine that.

Texas Rangers:
2010 - .868 OPS; 2009 - .802; 2005 - .753; 2000 - .803
Notes: Vlad is having a great season.

Toronto Blue Jays:
2010 - .610 OPS; 2009 - .849; 2005 - .778; 2000 - .867
Notes: Hard to figure out Lind this season. Remember Brad Fullmer?

Okay, we have our figures. Next, we'll list the four years surveyed and compare them to the league OPS (in parentheses)

2010 - .730 (.740)
2009 - .779 (.764)
2005 - .777 (.755)
2000 - .834 (.792)

The year 2000 was still in the offensive (read PED) era. That meant that older stars stayed in the game longer giving a larger pool of DHs. But even 2005 and 2009, the DH out-performed the league OPS. This season, the overall league OPS is down, but the DH is down further and is below the league OPS. Without going year by year in the history of the DH, the Fan would go out on a limb and state that hasn't happened often. It did happen in 1990 where the DH accumulated an OPS of .666 or something close to that and the league OPS was .715.

So what should be made of this? It is early in the season and there is a lot of season to go and things could change. But here are a couple of theories:

1. Older players aren't staying around or are not being signed by teams as free agents.
2. Teams are more cash strapped and are not spending for DH talent.
3. More teams are using young, home grown players as DHs
4. More teams are using the DH as a rest stop for regulars.

Whatever the cause, the DH isn't what it used to be and teams like Boston and Texas that have excellent DHs have a huge advantage. Where is Edgar Martinez when you need him?

Game Picks - Monday: June 28, 2010

A second straight day where the Yankees - Dodgers game turned the tide between a negative or a positive day of picking. And this picker never figured the Yankees would pull that game out of a hat. It was unbelievable the breaks they received and created as Mariano Rivera once again showed why he is so far above guys like Jonathan Broxton. And in more unbelievable news, the Game of the Day pick of the Red Sox over Lincecum and the Giants turned out brilliantly and that feature is the furthest over .500 as it has ever been.

Interleague is over (it was time) and Monday's schedule is quite robust with 22 of the 30 MLB teams in action. Monday's picks:

  • The Marlins over the Mets: This series is in Puerto Rico right? The Marlins get to Dickey and their Puerto Rican interim manager gets a win.
  • The Blue Jays over the Indians: The Indians traded Branyon. There isn't much left there to trouble Romero very much.
  • The Nationals over the Braves: Strasburg! But will the Nats score any runs. What happened to their offense?
  • The Reds over the Phillies: Cueto shuts down the big bats while the Reds get to Kendrick.
  • The Cubs over the Pirates: The Pirates have beat up on the Cubs all year, but not this time as Wells gets the win.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: Norris versus Parra. When you have no faith in either starter, go with the home team.
  • The Twins over the Tigers: The Twins and Liriano start widening the gap again in the AL Central.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Buehrle can stay off the plate with the Royals and their swinging sluggers.
  • The Cardinals over the Diamondbacks: Haran versus Carpenter in a very good match up. Fun to watch this one. Have no idea who will win.
  • The Giants over the Dodgers: The Dodgers are in bad shape as Billingsley comes back from the DL and Broxton won't be available.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Rockies over the Padres: Ubaldo!

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 8-7
Month: 205-140
Season: 642-472
Game of the Day: 37-33

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Branyon On The Move Again

A new chapter was written in the amusing vagabond career of Russell Branyon as his current and original team, the Indians, traded him back to his last team, the Mariners, for a couple of semi-prospects. If you count repeats, this is Branyon's eleventh team switch and in that remarkable stretch, he's hit at least one homer in every single stop.

Branyon started this season the way he finished last season--on the disabled list for a bulging disc in his back. Yet he came back for the Indians this season and hit ten homers in 171 at bats. He'll give the Mariners a little more thunder in what is one of the weakest line ups in the league. But the question lingers as to why this move was necessary. It's obvious that the Mariners aren't going anywhere this season. The big speculation is to where they will trade Cliff Lee. So why give up two prospects (granted, they aren't great prospects) for a player they didn't want to resign after last season? It doesn't make sense.

And what did the Indians accomplish losing one of their only big bats when Branyon was only making $2 million this season? They must have liked one of the prospects to have this deal make any sense. Branyon is a first baseman in name only, but that is where he was playing. The Indians want to give LaPorta another chance to play every day now that their season has tanked. But LaPorta hasn't shown any inkling that he can consistently hit big league pitching.

But at least the move is amusing. Branyon has played for eight teams in his 13 seasons. Several of those teams have been multiples in the same season. He has a 114 lifetime OPS+ and has been over 120 in that category the last three years. He has no real glove but he's always swung the big stick. He strikes out a lot, but that's part of the deal. Branyon also has a .236 lifetime batting average, but has hit over .250 the last three years, so he's a consistent and known commodity.

But again, the big question is why now? Why at all? Oh well, at least it is news and provokes a smile of recognition.

Flagrant Fan Partners With Venuing

This Fan couldn't be more excited about a new venture and partnership with Venuing, a mobile app for all of you phone geeks out there. The New York City-based company has come up with a really neat application that allows fans following the game on the app to interact with other fans (and a moderator which is where the Fan comes in).

The app is currently available in beta version in the iTunes store and a newer, full-featured and faster version will be ready to go in mid-July.

This Fan is looking forward to working with Venuing and in interacting with other fans around the country.

Game Picks - Sunday: June 27, 2010

Thank goodness that A. J. Burnett was as bad as expected. That Dodgers pick put this picker over the top on what would have been a negative day. Of course, the Yankees may pay for giving the game away trying to get him straightened out. And they truly gave that game away. The best pick of the day was the Twins over Santana and the Mets. This picker was the only one on BallHype that correctly picked that one. Also the Game of the Day is on a five day roll. Call the Fan giddy.

Sunday is the beginning a new week and this Fan's favorite baseball day of the week. Here's how it looks:

  • The Padres over the Marlins: Latos sweeps Florida and the Marlins continue to sleep walk.
  • The Mets over the Twins: Baker has been just okay. Niese has been really good. Taking the Mets at home.
  • The Reds over the Indians: The league is catching up to Talbot and Arroyo has been good.
  • The Orioles over the Nationals: Thinking Guthrie has a good chance to give the Orioles a series win. How unusual would THAT be?
  • The Tigers over the Braves: Is it just the Fan or is Verlander the older version of Hanson?
  • The Blue Jays over the Phillies: Moyer is due for one of his patented belly flops. Cecil has been pretty good.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Bay Rays: Isn't it time the Bay Rays replaced Wade Davis with Hellickson?
  • The White Sox over the Cubs: Danks will win over Dempster. When will Piniella be fired? Nothing has been more due in ages.
  • The Mariners over the Brewers: Vargas versus Narveson. Ick.
  • The Cardinals over the Royals: Garcia needs to throw more strikes, but the Royals aren't exactly patient at the plate.
  • The Rockies over the Angels: Chacin is a stud when he's on. Santana has been inconsistent.
  • The Pirates over the Athletics: Need an upset on the card. Ohlendorf is much better than anyone thinks.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: Hunter shoots an arrow into Oswalt.
  • The Yankees over the Dodgers: Pettitte on television over Kershaw.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Red Sox over the Giants: The Red Sox will wait Lincecum out and make him throw strikes.

Yesterday: 8-7
Last Week: 53-37
Month: 197-133
Season: 634-465
Games of the Day: 36-33