Saturday, August 07, 2010

Silva Situation is Scary

The poor Cubs just can't seem to have any good news this season. After dealing with on-field problems and off-field problems, the Cubs have now lost Carlos Silva. But this isn't just a case of an injury. This isn't another head case. This is a heart case. And ball players aren't supposed to have heart cases.

It seems like a long time ago when the Cubs swapped their problem child, Milton Bradley, to the Mariners for Silva. Both had big contracts. Both had worn out their welcome with their former teams. The trade figured to be a waste of time for the Cubs. Silva has been awful for a long time. But the trade ended up being a triumph as Silva kept winning. He and Tyler Colvin and a somewhat resurrected Alfonso Soriano were the few good stories of the season.

And then Silva started slipping. The drop in performance was sudden and then he went from pitching to the hospital to the Mayo Clinic and thus far, his heart has not been able to maintain a rhythm. Like the Fan said, it's difficult to imagine a ball player, the epitome of youth and physical ability, having a heart problem. There are the few odd cases in our lifetime of players who had an undetected time bomb in their chests and died suddenly. But it still happens so irregularly that it is jarring. Thank goodness, Silva's problem was caught before something really bad happened.

From what the Fan has been reading, Silva will need to undergo a medical procedure to get his heart going again. One option is somewhat unobtrusive going with a tube from his man parts to his heart. The other option is open-heart surgery. But neither are a given. We are talking about the heart here.

Carlos Silva has given us some smiles this season with his improbable run of success. Now all we can hope for is a return to health. If we get a return of the ball player, that will be icing on top of the cake in this situation. We just want Silva to be well.

Game Picks - Saturday: August 7, 2010

After working so hard to get back from a dismal start to this week...after finally getting to .500 when the earlier picks put me so far under...after all of that, last night's terrible results was a real head kicker. The weird thing was that there were some pretty good picks. Picking Arizona over the Padres and the Blue Jays over the Bay Rays were particularly good picks. But other obvious picks went totally awry. Wandy did have a great game and build a big lead. But then the bullpen gave up a gazillion runs including four in the ninth to lose it. Clayton Kershaw had great stuff but gave up two identical three run homers to Adam Dunn. The Yankees seemed to be doing fine until Cervelli, the catcher, dropped an innocent little pop up and then the Red Sox were rolling. A lot went wrong. The Fan correctly picked Niese to make a nice comeback start for the Mets and he did. But then Parnell and company gave the Phillies six runs in the eight inning. Ugh!

Well, the great thing about baseball is there is always a tomorrow. The Fan his hoping for a big day to put the week's picks over the top and out of mind:

  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Brad Mills is a really scary pick, but the Blue Jays seem up to beating the Bay Rays again.
  • The Pirates over the Rockies: Ohlendorf has to be the best 1-9 pitcher in baseball.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Getting Harden was like making a great trade. Gonzalez has been real good lately for the A's but the Rangers will win.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: Going with Santana over Hamels.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: The Yankees looked flat yesterday. But give Sabathia the "W" over Lackey.
  • The Braves over the Giants: Hudson over Cain and the Braves are really  good at home. Yeah, the Fan said that yesterday too.
  • The White Sox over the Orioles: Okay, this giddiness has to stop sooner or later.
  • The Marlins over the Cardinals: Josh Johnson should be better than Westbrook.
  • The Twins over the Indians: Pavano versus Carmona. Hope not to get Pavanoed again.
  • The Astros over the Brewers: Myers has been really good and Randy Wolf hasn't been.
  • The Tigers over the Angels: Not liking the Bonderman pick but are the Angels really sending Kazmir out there?
  • The Padres over the Diamondbacks: Richard should take care of Rodrigo Lopez and the D-Backs.
  • The Mariners over the Royals: Don't think Greinke's comments are sitting well with his teammates, especially after his awful pitching yesterday. Not a good situation here.
  • The Dodgers over the Nationals: Would like to go with Livan, but think that Kuroda and the Dodgers will come out on top.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Reds over the Cubs: The Reds are really good and it still is very hard to believe. Volquez over Wells.

Yesterday: 6-9
Week: 39-42
Month: 39-42
Season: 930-692
Games of the Day: 58-49

Friday, August 06, 2010

Suddenly, It's Fun to Be an Orioles' Fan

What was it that Yogi Berra was supposed to have once said? It was something like, "Baseball is 90% mental--the other half is physical." While it sounds comical, like most of the true Yogi-quotes, they all seem to make sense. That's how you can tell if Yogi really said it. Baseball is really a game inside the head. The pitcher is trying to mess with the mind of the batter and the batter is trying to understand the patterns. Teams that get on a roll simply believe that the other team can't beat them no matter what the scoreboard says. Teams that are playing badly are waiting for something bad to happen and it usually does. Somehow, the Baltimore Orioles have had a mind transplant since Buck Showalter took over and in less than a week, the manager has changed how the Orioles think. They won their fourth straight on Friday night and still haven't lost under Showalter.

Like the Fan has said before, too much is made of the manager when a team wins. It's the players that figure into the final score. It wasn't Girardi's fault that Cervelli dropped a stupid pop up for the Yankees to let the flood games open. At the same time, something is different about the way the Orioles are playing. Take Brad Bergesen. The young pitcher had given up 48 runs in his last 46.2 innings which is brutal. His ERA was up near seven. Under Showalter, he goes up against one of the hottest teams in baseball (the White Sox) and shuts them down for seven innings, giving up only one run on five hits, a walk and five strikeouts.

The Orioles have come from behind. They have held tough on low scoring games. They've gotten the big hit when they needed it. Koji Uehara has come out of nowhere and is throwing darts. Alfredo Simons has finished off games. These have all been typical games where the Orioles would lose and they are winning them.

Showalter's main task if he is to succeed is to turn around the regression occurring to all the young players who have been a part of this awful season. Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Bergensen, Matusz and others all have shown talent in the past. All have whithered under the constant losing. Showalter has some leeway in that the Orioles aren't expected to contend right away. But if he can restore confidence to these young players where losing has beaten them down, then that's like getting a bunch of producted trade acquisitions.

Who knows how much credit Buck Showalter should get for this miraculous four game winning streak. The credit could just as easily go to Brian Roberts, whose return from the disabled list coincides with the win streak. But suddenly it's fun to root for the Orioles. Showalter, if nothing else, will restore the joy of playing for the Orioles. They will be more fundamentally sound and more disciplined in their approach. Showalter knows what he is doing. All of those things are exactly what the kids need to get to the next level in their careers. It's fun again in Baltimore

Site Cleaned Up a Bit

You've probably noticed that the Fan has tidied up the place a bit. It was time for a change and it was fun designing a new look. The Fan tried to keep it clean and easy to read. The Verdana font is easier on the eye than most fonts. The background was kept white again for easy reading.

There has already been a couple of nice comments (thanks Josh and Alan) on the new look, but if there is anything you don't like, let the Fan know. The site has picked up steam of late and perhaps that is a bad time to be messing with it. But again, it was time. You have to look your best because you never know when the right person will come along and make the FanDome the next big thing. [smile]

Game Picks - Friday: August 6, 2010

Six correct. Four incorrect. Not great. Not bad. The two games over .500 did square the week and the month which is nice considering how badly things started. Even so, this picker is still surprised Correia threw a shutout and that the Pirates would win so easily over the Rockies. The Fan also should have stuck with Buck Showalter for Win #3 and picking the Red Sox to lose was just bad picking. Oh! By the way: It seems that is no longer doing their games feature. They had a complete site overhaul and though it looks good, it appears that the games section was a casualty of the changes. Oh well.

Lots of interesting games on Friday. Let's take a look:

  • The Reds over the Cubs: The Fan has gotten burnt by picking against Gorzelanny. But he's also been burnt by picking against Arroyo. The solution is to go with the better team.
  • The Twins over the Indians: A tough game to gauge as Liriano has been terrific but so has this new kid, Gomez. Again, when the pitching seems to cancel itself out, go with the better team.
  • The Rockies over the Pirates: The Rockies can't lose two of these games in a row can they? Hope not.
  • The Tigers over the Angels: Verlander versus Weaver in a good match up. Like the match ups better in the Tigers' favor.
  • The Cardinals over the Marlins: Nolasco is good but Wainwright is really good.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: After a rough start, Vazquez has been solid for the Yankees.
  • The Braves over the Giants: The Braves don't lose at home and Barry Zito won't change that as he gets MMMBopped by Hanson.
  • The White Sox over the Orioles: Danks should beat Bergesen and Showalter is not THIS good.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: Niese was banged around his last start, but the Fan still likes him over Blanton.
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Cecil really tied the Bay Rays in knots last time and the Fan figures he can do it again.
  • The Astros over the Brewers: Wandy is back in all his glory! Watch him shine.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Was going to pick Braden and the A's until seeing that Lee was pitching for Texas. Jack Cust has struck out nine of his last eleven at bats.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: This Hudson kid was great his last time out. Garland is unpredictable.
  • The Dodgers over the Nationals: Kershaw should be miles ahead of Lannon and the Dodgers are at home.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Royals over the Mariners: Greinke should roll easily in this one.

Yesterday: 6-4
Week: 33-33
Month: 33-33
Season: 924-683
Games of the Day: 58-48

Angels Run Appears to Be Over

For the first time since 2006, the AL post season will probably not include the Angels. It seems fitting that the rebirth of the Orioles under Buck Showalter also doubled as a requiem for Mike Scioscia's Angels. Showalter began his reclamation project with a series sweep of the proud old team and for once, even Scioscia's magic can't save this season.

Scioscia, who has had one of the greatest managerial runs in history the last five years (his Pythagorean win/loss record is amazing) continued that run this year as the team is two wins better than they should be. And they hung in there for half of the year as they refused to die gracefully. But the weight of their lack of talent and the aging of a few key players brought the team down at last. Now 9.5 games out of first place and even behind the Athletics in the standings, only a miracle the likes of which we have never seen, could revive any hopes for the Angels this year. And frankly, they just don't have the talent to pull off that miracle.

Two key regulars the Angels counted on were Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui. Both former Yankees and winners. Both could be counted on in the clutch. Both could be counted on for a high OBP and smart at bats. But age has caught them from behind and both will end up the year in the league average category. You have to hand it to Brian Cashman to avoid a sentimental signing of Matsui after he won the World Series with his heroics. That's what good GMs do. The Angels took the bait and unfortunately, it didn't work out.

Abreu was kept one year too long too but it is more understandable. In the past couple of years, it seemed that Abreu defied his age. He still stole bases, he still put up .400 OBPs. But Abreu gave everyone a sneak peak at his decline in last year's post season. He could not catch up to good pitching and he was invisible. The Angels have to see this as the last year Abreu will be even marginally effective.

Torii Hunter has been a great fit for the Angels since the very beginning. He's had two of his very best years for the Angels and his heroics this year are magnified because he had so little help around him. His 131 OPS+ follows last years 129. He's been terrific. But he is 34 years old too and his age caught up with him in the field. After having one of his best seasons in the field last year, he fell off to severe negative numbers this year. This week, the Angels announced that Hunter was moving to right to let young Bourios take over center.

The previous move pushes Abreu to left (he's been a lousy right-fielder for a very long time) which is okay for the rest of this year. That knocks Juan Rivera out of the line up, but Rivera, though a nice player, isn't really anything more than a role player who is solidly league average at the plate. He did have one good year in 2006 but got hurt the following year and has been just okay since.

To say that the Angels' infield has been disappointing would be a gross understatement. Chone Figgins may be showing the world that he played with mirrors when with the Angels, but he was a darn sure sight better than anything the Angels have now. Losing Kendry Morales at first was a huge blow and the Angels haven't been able to come close to replacing his production. Howie Kendrick was thought to be a budding star, but he's somewhat weak in the field and he's less than league average with the bat. He also has only 18 walks in over 450 plate appearances. His double-play mate, Erick Aybar is slick with the glove, but carries an 89 OPS+. But it's third base that has been frightful.

You have to give credit for the Angels giving Brandon Wood every opportunity to prove he belonged in the big leagues. But the 25 year old now has 420 plate appearances over four years and his lifetime batting average is .181. He never walked and he struck out a lot. His 10 OPS+ this season is sad. It's hard to understand. Wood was a first round draft pick (2003) and has a career .536 slugging mark in the minors. But he couldn't put it together and who knows where he goes from here.

His replacements have all been terrible. It hasn't mattered if it's been Maicer Izturis or Kevin Frandsen or now, Alberto Callaspo. They've all been less than league average. The Angels will have to see how Callaspo does down the stretch, but look for them to be scouring high and low for a third baseman next year.

But despite all of the above, the real difference for Scioscia's team this year compared to years past is pitching. The Angels made a calculated gamble that Scott Kazmir could be fixed and could again be a good pitcher in the AL. Their gamble folded badly as Kazmir was terrible. Saunders had better years (thought he's always going to be league average) but now he's gone off to Arizona. Weaver has been great. Santana has only been average and Pineiro was good most of the time until he got hurt.

But as disappointing as the rotation has been--especially the bottom of it--the bullpen has been a real letdown. Brian Fuentes isn't K-Rod. Not even close. And he leads the bullpen regulars in OPS+ at 118. For a closer, that's not impressive at all. The rest of the bullpen? Well, if Scott Shields got into 35 games, that's about 25 too many.

This year, the Angels are 12th out of 14 AL teams in earned runs allowed. Last year, it was ninth, which doesn't seem like much of a difference. But it's enough of a difference to make all the difference.

The big question is what the Angels should do from here. It's not like they can keep Abreu and Matsui in their diminished capacity. Morales will be back, but there isn't a whole lot of help available in the high minors. The Angels will have to get their checkbook out and make some real savvy signings because otherwise, it is hard to see this team competing next year either. But with Mike Scioscia at the helm, you can never take the Angels at face value. They are always better than on paper.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Game Picks - Thursday: August 5, 2010

MUCH better! In fact it was almost enough to even up the week. The only bad picks were Tampa Bay (the Twins finally stole one), the Diamondbacks (what was the Fan thinking?) and two others. The correct picks included the Orioles' second straight under Showalter and Felix Pie of all people mashing the ball. If the Fan can have a decent Thursday, then the week will look a whole lot better and life can get back to normal.

Thursday's games:

  • The Twins over the Bay Rays: How soon the Fan forgets. Slowey has ten wins and Wade Davis has been pitching better. Good luck on this one.
  • The Braves over the Giants: Yeah, it's Lincecum all right, but the Braves don't lose at home. Jurrjens has to come up big though.
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: Freddie Garcia? Eek. But you can't pick against the White Sox these days.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Oswalt has to win a game for the Phillies. Thinking he does it tonight.
  • The Angels over the Orioles: Buck Showalter has to lose some time. Haran and the Angels make it so.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Nationals: The Fan is a slow learner, ain't he? But Detwiler? Come on. Enright is pretty good for the D-Backs.
  • The Indians over the Red Sox: This Tomlin kid has had two great starts. Dice-K goes for the Sox.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water, the Padres are starting to buckle a little. Billingsley beats Correia.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Hunter over King Felix who won't get any run support.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Rockies over the Pirates: Francis has been a bit shaky, but he should have no trouble here.

Yesterday: 11-4
Week: 27-29
Month: 27-29
Season: 918-679
Games of the Day: 58-47

What Does A-Rod Mean?

[[switching to first person]] We have been told by so many people on how we should feel about Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez that I simply cannot figure out how I feel about his 600th home run. It seems fitting that I've watched every game of the "chase" to 600 until today (because I forgot it was a day game). His entire career has been elusive and political. The fact that becomes so hard to grasp is that this may be the finest ballplayer this side of Barry Bonds that we'll ever see. Why can't we enjoy it?

I want to like A-Rod. I really do. But how can you even relate to a man like him? He isn't a ball player, he is a businessman. He is a Texas Rangers' creditor. He is Tiger Woods with half the charisma. This year, that seems like more an apt comparison than ever before. But again, I really want to root for him. It was neat that he and Jeter hugged after the milestone. But isn't it weird that even while the milestone was happening...even as I was watching the replay, I was wondering how the media was going to cover this. That's what A-Rod does to anything he touches. He makes it surreal. This isn't just home run number 600. It's another debate about steroids. This isn't another Yankee team moment, it's an A-Rod moment. This isn't an accomplishment that is amazed at or celebrated, it is ho-hummed by most of the baseball world. Why?

Put your fingers around a guy who is only 35 years old already having 600 homers. Before you go thinking that doesn't mean much, imagine getting two homers a game every day for most of two season. Think about hitting a home run a day for almost four years. Think of mulitplying Jose Bautista twenty times where he is now. That's a lot of homers. Alex Rodriguez now has 1100 extra base hits. That's more doubles, triples and homers than Robinson Cano has hits in his career. If he gets just 100 more extra base hits in his career, he'll finish sixth all time. Alex Rodriguez now has 4960 total bases. That's 19th on the all time list. A-Rod has averaged 354 Total Bases for every 162 games he's played. If he averages a paltry 200 a year for the next six years (he already has 176 this season and it's an off year), then there will be only three men ahead of him: Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Willie Mays.

If Alex Rodriguez were to quit tomorrow, he'd already be a Hall of Fame caliber player. He's already built the stats in EVERY category to do that. His next stolen base will be his 300th. He's rewritten batting prerequisites for shortstops and third basemen. And unfortunately, there will be lots of debate about whether he belongs in the Hall or not because of his PED admission. And that's a shame.

You can't compare A-Rod with Mark McGwire. You can't compare A-Rod with Sammy Sosa. Not only did he play a more highly skilled position than either of them, but he was always a better player than them. He has 1100+ more Total Bases than McGwire and his career OPS+ is 21 points higher than Sosa's. And I believe both of those gentlemen should be in the Hall of Fame. But I can also see the resistance. I can't see that resistance for A-Rod as he was a complete package who could do it all and do it regularly.

All that I have written in the last three paragraphs is the truth. All of it contains accolades that A-Rod has exceeded in deeds and accomplishments. But there has never been a more polarizing player ever. Sure, Bonds was hated everywhere and loved feverishly in San Francisco, but A-Rod has never even been feverishly loved anywhere he's played. I marvel at his accomplishments. I respect his mad skills that are superior to all but one of his generation. I acknowledge that he is a complex and inscrutable person and human being. I attempt sincerely to like him. I applaud his milestone. I recognize that he is a superhero of sorts with his boy-wonder conqueror first name and messianic middle name.

At the end of the day, the sad reality at the bottom core of it all is that I only like him when he hits and hits often. And even if it's the best of times, that's only going to be a third of the time.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Lyle Overbay or Overpaid?

There is this cruel streak in all human beings. It's part of our dark side. For the Fan it manifests itself by tweaking other blog buddies and some of their favorite players. On one such friend's site, the Fan has consistently baited about Lyle Overbay and has called him Lyle Overpaid. Such a comment yesterday finally led the blog buddy to exasperation and that buddy said he will now have to write a post concerning Overbay. Well, the Fan doesn't like to be shown up in any way, so this is an expedient post to deflect the ire coming this way. So what about Overbay?

Surprise number one: Lyle Overbay is a good fielding first baseman. His range and his zone ratings are much higher than expected. This means that Overbay is not a statue over there. He's not a Dunn first baseman. He's good over at that bag and the Fan would never have guessed that. He excels in all three areas of fielding: percentage, zone ratings and range.

Surprise number two: Lyle Overbay has earned his salary for the two years preceding this one. Due to his good fielding and some decent (if not spectacular) offensive numbers, Overbay was worth $9.2 million in 2008 and $10.8 million in 2009. His salary for 2008 was $6.75 million (making him plus $2.45 million) and he made $7.95 million in 2009 making him a plus $2.85 million last year. The somewhat bad news is that it is going to be tough for Overbay to make it to even value this year because the team has apparently given up on him.

Surprise number three: Lyle Overbay can hit lefties just fine, thank you very much. Overbay's lifetime batting average is .276. His lifetime batting average against lefties is .267. That's hardly in Grandeson territory. His OPS when facing lefties is much worse than against right-handers, but for the amount of time he actually faces lefties, this seems like a moot statistic.

Surprise Finale: Lyle Overbay has been every bit worth the contract that he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He's a good fielder with good range who makes all the plays and he's a steady hitter with good doubles power. His probable downfall is that although he has been well worth his salary, there are so many power first basemen in baseball that what he does isn't quite good enough in the grand scheme of what first basemen should do.

The Blue Jays now seem quite serious about making Adam Lind a first baseman and letting Overbay walk at the end of the year. Lind, if he hit like he did last year, had typical first baseman type numbers. But this year, he's fallen off a cliff and while in theory he has more pop than Overbay, the reality is that he might have been a flash in the pan and might not be any good. Do you let a quality first baseman walk while tossing the dice that Lind can play first AND start to hit again? That's a big IF.

The Fan needs to get off the Overpaid thing and admits that Overbay was a good signing. He's has been worth what he has been paid and then some. There are at least a dozen other first basemen in baseball that are worth more than him and that is part of his problem. But if nuts get to bolts, this Fan would rather see Overbay over there than Lind.

Game Picks - Wednesday: August 4, 2010

Hello? Is this police? Yes. Okay. There's been a murder. A murder!? Yes, this game picker guy made sixteen picks yesterday and eleven of them were wrong. It was a bloodbath. Yes. Cause of death? Uhh...Well, all the good teams except for the Rays lost. The Red Sox lose their best player and won. The Pirates won. The Royals won. The Astros won. It was a bloodbath. It was an annihilation. It was gruesome. But most of was depressing.

But just like life, the Fan will have to stubbornly keep going even if nothing makes sense. Wednesday:

  • The Reds over the Pirates: Cueto should beat Karstens. The Reds should beat the Pirates. But you know...
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Either Hughes will finally pitch a good game throwing to Posada (fat chance) or the Yankees will finally hit like they are supposed to (uh huh) or the Blue Jays and their fabulous young pitching will just go ahead and sweep them.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Dempster is 13-3 in his career against the Brewers. Has Parra won 13 games in his entire career?
  • The Rockies over the Giants: Ubaldo isn't a lock like the first half, and Bumgarner is darn good. But geez, the Rockies should win this one.
  • The Athletics over the Royals: Got to go with Anderson over O'Sullivan.
  • The Orioles over the Angels: Go Buck Go!
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: Galarraga pitches a gem and Jackson doesn't.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Pelfrey has been a mystery lately and he doesn't pitch well against the Braves historically.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: Kendrick gets beat and Sanchez hangs on for the win.
  • The Indians over the Red Sox: Masterson shut the Red Sox out last time and you know his revenge isn't yet sated.
  • The Bay Rays over the Twins: Waving the white flag. All hail the Bay Rays. Oh yeah, and Price wins.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: Happ versus Carpenter. It's time to end this silly Astros winning streak. Right?
  • The Diamondbacks over the Nationals: Ian Kennedy with a light edge over Stammen. But this one could go either way.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: The Dodgers are backed in a corner and have to win. The Padres' start LeBlanc who has a great ERA but always finds a way to lose.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Rangers over the Mariners: It didn't work yesterday, but it will today. Wilson over's a no resister.

Yesterday: 5-11 OMG!
Week: 16-25 WOE!
Month: 16-25 *grumble*
Season: 907-675
Games of the Week: 57-47

What's Going On in Florida?

It's been three weeks now since the Fan and his lovely wife returned from the annual trip to Florida. The Marlins were still stuck as a .500 club, but good feelings abounded with the hiring of Edwin Rodriguez. And the team has gone 19-16 under Rodriguez. But things have gotten weird down there. The vibe is weird. Or maybe the Fan just doesn't get what Rodriguez is doing. Here are some of those things the Fan is talking about.

First, why did they put Hanley Ramirez back in the lead off spot? What do the Marlins think he is, Soriano or something? Ramirez has slugged over .540 for the past three years. He is off of that pace this year in what has been a down year for him so far, but he is still fourth on the team in slugging, second in OPS+ and has a track record far and away better than anyone else on his team. So why regress him back to first in the order? He has now played in eight games from the lead off spot and he is 4 for 37. Can we all agree that this wasn't a good idea?

Why is Emilio Bonifacio back? Egads! It was thought that we had been rid of Bonifacio when he was nowhere to be seen in the beginning of the season. Whew! We didn't have the least successful major leaguer of them all to kick around anymore. We couldn't shake our heads and wonder how a guy with a 61 OPS+ could get over 500 plate appearances and play terribly in the field to boot (literally). Fredi Martinez got fired, Rodriguez got hired and what's one of the first moves the Marlins make? Emile Freakin' Bonifacio. He's gotten 43 plate appearances and his OPS+ has improved all the way to 71, but it's early yet. At least he is playing the outfield where he's serviceable. Some things just defy explanation. We should just call them the Nick Punto awards.

You would think that if a team trades away a guy like Jorge Cantu, some plan would be in place for how to replace him. Not with the Marlins. The plan went something like this:

1. See if Wes Helms wants the job.
2. Say Number 1 in public and then start Hector Luna there. Hector Luna? THAT Hector Luna? Apparently.
3. Say Donnie Murphy will get some starts there, but he doesn't.
4. If all else fails, that's where Bonifacio played last year. ARRRGGHH!!

Ronny Paulino is good, but he never, ever gets a day off. He caught 25 times in June. He came darn close to that in July but the All Star break saved him. Granted, John Baker isn't very good, but Paulino is going to fall apart at this pace.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Game Picks - Tuesday: August 3, 2010

Singing Sinatra: Regrets...I have a few...but too few to mention. This picker does regret picking Burnett to win when having Berkman on the team means Posada has to catch. This picker regrets picking Boston to win which just goes to show that the Indians just barely have a better bullpen than the Tigers. This picker regrets picking the Cardinals. What the heck happened there? Westbrook did his job, he left with the lead and then suddenly the bullpen did their best Tigers imitation. And finally, Carl Freakin Pavano let the Fan down. Like Livan, Pavano had pulled the Fan over from the dark side and into the light. Livan did his thing last night, but Pavano gave up four runs to the Rays and Hellickson lived up to the hype and pitched great. Just wish the pick was for him and not against him.

Tuesday's games:

  • The White Sox over the Tigers: If the Tigers lose, they go under .500. Sad. Buehrle should get the win.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: This pick is bothersome. Maholm shut out the Reds for seven innings last time out. But the clincher then is that he still didn't get the win because his team can't score.
  • The Orioles over the Angels: Guthrie is better than Bell. Not too many times the Fan has typed that all year.
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: Isn't it sad that the Fan would rather pick Torres, a complete unknown making his debut than Bonderman?
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: It's a crazy pick with Moseley, but he's looked good even if it doesn't make any sense.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Halladay should have no problems. The Marlins are featuring young West making his debut.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Dickey and Lowe seem to cancel each other out. But the Braves are nearly unbeatable at home.
  • The Twins over the Bay Rays: Seriously, this must be wishful thinking. But Duensing has been great so far.
  • The Red Sox over the Indians: Even without Youkilis, the Red Sox should win.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Thomas Diamond makes his debut for the Cubs. He's a big power pitcher who should do well if he doesn't walk too many. He only has to beat Narveson.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: Norris has been pitching better, but Garcia is 9-4 with a ridiculously good ERA.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: The Rockies are good at home. Cook is due for a good game. Sanchez is inconsistent.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Nationals: The Fan made fun of Scott Olsen last time and he won. The Fan has made fun of Saunders forever. So karma has to be for Saunders.
  • The Athletics over the Royals: Mazzaro should have no problem beating Davies. The A's could finish in second place.
  • The Padres over the Dodgers: The Dodgers start Lilly but it's too late. Latos will still win.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Rangers over the Mariners. Will take Lewis over Vargas simply because the Rangers can hit and the Mariners cannot.

Yesterday: 6-4
Week: 11-14
Month: 11-14
Season: 902-664
Games of the Day: 57-46

Can Wainwright Get Some Love Please?

Who is the ace of the Cardinals? Carpenter. Who are the best pitchers in the National League? Well...let's see...There Lincecum and Halladay...ummm...Santana...that kid in Miami...umm...Latos. Those are the typical answers. How about a pitcher who is 45-17 in his last three years? How about a guy who led the National League in innings pitched and still had a 2.64 ERA? How about a guy who already has 15 wins this year and a 2.16 ERA? Yeah, that's a pretty good pitcher.

You hear his name every now and then. An announcer talking about the Westbrook deal (an excellent deal by the way) might mention the Cardinals' two aces, Carpenter and Wainwright. But it's a quiet thing. He doesn't overwhelm you. And he's still pretty young. Wainwright won't be 29 until the end of August. So he has a lot of good baseball ahead of him.

The thing that is so impressive about Wainwright is that his numbers have improved every year he's been in the big leagues. His first full year was 2007 and his ERAs since every year starting with that one: 3.70, 3.20, 2.64 and 2.19. Just in case those figures were flukey, the ERA+ confirms the improvement: 119, 133, 157 and 184. His K/9 has improved every year. You wouldn't think of Wainwright as a power pitcher, but 8.3 strikouts per nine innings is pretty darn effective. Let's break Wainwright down a little bit further.

First, Wainwright is uncanny in his consistency. His highest ERA for any month this season is 2.45. He is not streaky. He's just a constant machine of precision. The second thing you notice is that he doesn't particularly care whether the batter is lefty or right-handed. He is equally good against both. Wainwright is unbeatable at home at 10-0 and somewhat beatable on the road. He is clutch. When the game is close and it's late in the game, Wainwright has a .465 OPS against him. When there are two outs and runners in scoring position, he has a .481 OPS against. Those are tremendous numbers.

Here is an interesting statistic: Wainwright's ERA in the first three innings is 2.35. In innings 4-6, his ERA is 2.18. And in innings 7-9, his ERA is 1.78. That's a guy who doesn't waver. He doesn't crack. He keeps you in the game. He gives you a chance to win.

Adam Wainwright is overshadowed by other pitchers in baseball. Those other pitchers can be brilliant and flare brightly and then have other nights where they look brutal. But day in and day out, if the Fan was going to be able to pick one starting pitcher to create a rotation around, it would be Adam Wainwright because he is that good and that consistent.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Game Picks - Monday: August 2, 2010

THUD! This picker got jacked yesterday and it wasn't pretty. That makes two losing days in a row. Joe Girardi decided to rest his best players against his biggest rivals. The Dodgers can't win to save themselves. Ditto for the Tigers. Niese was nice...until yesterday. It was just brutal. In fact, the Fan was so dejected yesterday that he turned off his computer and television at 3:30 in the afternoon and gave up baseball for the rest of the day. That NEVER happens. The worst part of the terrible day was that it was the first day of the week and month so when the results are listed below, yesterday's record will have to be typed three times. Nice.

Ten games on the schedule today:

  • The Reds over the Pirates: Ohlendorf is back after the line drive hit his head. But Wood is pitching and he's been very good.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Burnett over Morrow. What stinks about this pick (other than it could be wrong) is that it totally depends on who is catching.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Classic duel between Santana and Hudson. Hudson is good at getting stoked for these kinds of match ups.
  • The Red Sox over the Indians: Lackey wins and the Indians' bullpen lose the game.
  • The Twins over the Bay Rays: Hellickson is making his long-awaited debut and the Fan is stoked to see him. But would you bet against Pavano? Nope.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: Wasn't there a Wells-Gallardo match up just last week? Well, here it is again.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: Like Myers lately, but can't go against the Cardinals in this one. Westbrook makes his debut for his new team.
  • The Nationals over the Diamondbacks: Livan should be the man over Rodrigo Lopez.
  • The Padres over the Dodgers: Say goodnight, Mr. Torre.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Athletics over the Royals: Cahill is the A's best pitcher. Bannister is the Royals' smartest.

Yesterday: 5-10
Week: 5-10
Month: 5-10
Season: 896-660
Games of the Day: 56-46

Francisco Liriano - Cy Young Candidate

When Zack Greinke won the Cy Young Award last year, it was a shattering of a tradition. Since its inception, the award usually goes to the guy with the most wins and who pitches on a winning team. Other pitchers like Sabathia had more wins than Greinke. But the award rightly went to the best pitcher in the American League last year. If the Fan were to tell you that Cliff Lee is in the top two in the American League in pitching value, you would not your head and say, "Heck yeah." But if the Fan were to tell you that Francisco Liriano is ahead of Lee in pitching value (as calculated by, you would look at this old Fan funny. But it's true.

Cliff Lee has the most amazing statistic on the board right now. His 16.49 K/BB ratio is unprecedented...unheard of (he did walk two batters Sunday so that will go down just a bit). His 0.5 walks per nine innings has never been seen before. But Liriano has his own freak statistic that has been less ballyhooed. Liriano has a 0.1 homers per nine this year. He's given up just two homers in 136 innings of work. Lee has given up nine in 147 innings.

Liriano also has Lee on K/9. Lee has struck out 118 batters in 147 innings of work. Liriano has struck out 150 batters in 136 innings of work or a 9.8 K/9 ratio. Lee has had the benefit of a lucky BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) with a figure of .266. Liriano has been unlucky that way and his BABIP this year is .346. The expected or average BABIP is .300. That means if Liriano had a bit more luck, his WHIP would be a darn sight better than the excellent 1.19 it is now. Though it isn't in the freak nature of Lee's walks per nine innings, Liriano is also limiting the walks to the tune of 2.5 per nine, which is the best since his break out year all those years ago. His K/BB ratio is a top notch 3.86.

Neither pitcher is racking up wins. Lee has nine wins and Liriano now has 10. But if Liriano's BABIP comes back to the mean, it should be a great horse race to the finish line for the Cy Young Award. Right now, the Fan's money is on Liriano.

NL Wild-card an Interesting Race

There are several really good races going on in baseball. There is the triumvirate of Boston/New York/Tampa Bay. There is a four team race in the NL West. There is a two team race in the NL Central and a two team race in the AL Central. But one of the most interesting races right now is the NL wild-card race.

In the American League, there are three teams within 6.5 games of the wild-card. The Bay Rays are in front of the Red Sox by five and a half and the Twins by six and a half. It seems a given to most that the second place finisher in the AL East will be the wild-card. But the way the Twins and White Sox are playing, the Fan wouldn't put money on that right now. But in the National League, there are seven teams vying for the wild-card in the following current order: Giants, Reds, Phillies, Rockies, Dodgers, Mets and the Marlins.

Here is how it might break down. Right now the Giants, Rockies and Dodgers are all viable candidates with the Dodgers looking less so every day. But that is four good teams (counting the Padres) within the division. It stands to reason that they will all take turns beating each other.

Similarly, there are four good teams in the NL East: Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins. All of them have talent and problems. They too should take turns bruising each other as the season rolls along.

But in the NL Central, there are only two good teams: The Cardinals and the Reds. It stands to reason then that the Cards and Reds will face a lot of mediocre talent when they aren't facing each other. With less teams to beat within their own division, the odds seem to favor whichever team that doesn't finish first.

The same logic could apply in the American League but it is different. The Yankees and the Bay Rays (as it stands now), are clearly superior to any team in the AL with the possible exception of the Rangers. The Rangers are going to win the division, so that won't matter. The Angels are not going to be a factor in the wild-card. The Twins and the White Sox are the only two good teams in their division. You could once include the Tigers, but they are probably dead at this point (the Boston series was the latest disaster). But when looking at the White Sox and the Twins, it doesn't seem to make sense that one of them is going to finish with a better record than the Bay Rays or the Yankees. The Red Sox--that resilient bunch--seems to be the only real threat. A lot of the Red Sox fate will result in how they do in their upcoming long road trip.

So yeah, the NL wild-card is a terrifically exciting race to add to all three division races. The NL is going to be an exciting place coming down the stretch.

Give Hoffman the Save Opportunities

The Milwaukee Brewers are not going to contend this year. There is no miracle coming. There is no hope. They are a second division team looking up at two stud teams who aren't going to falter. It's over for the Brewers. The only thing left to wonder about is how many losses they will end up with. With all that being said, why can't they put Trevor Hoffman back as the closer so he can get four more saves to reach 600?

Yeah, the Fan knows how the season started. It was all too painful to watch. The great Trevor Hoffman was getting smacked around. He gave up six early homers. His ERA was 13.00 at the end of April. Those facts are what they are. There is no getting around them. But he's been good of late. He's had six straight scoreless outings covering six innings of work. He has struck out seven batters in those six innings, given up no walks and has only given up three hits. Should the greatest Save machine in the history of baseball be limited to one measly Hold in those six appearances?

Look, we all understand that John Axford is the closer right now and of the future. But what does it matter at this point in the Brewers' season? They can't give Hoffman (who is making $7.5 million by the way) enough save opportunities to get to 600? The Fan is sure that Axford would understand.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Game Picks - Sunday: August 1, 2010

The month of July ended in disappointment. While there was some lousy picking involved (Pittsburgh !?), there were also blown saves by the Phillies, Tigers and the Dodgers. The Tigers meltdown was particularly prodigious as they had a 4-0 lead with six outs to go. The loss to the never-say-die Red Sox pretty much kills the Tigers. It also helped kill this picker's day. If those saves aren't blown, it would have been a ten win day. But that's baseball and why this picker isn't a betting man.

Sunday begins a fresh new month. Lots of names have switched teams and picking games will have to account for them. Berkman had a really bad first night with the Yankees. Haran is 0-2 with the Angels (though he did pitch a great game). So let's plunge straight in and see how the month will begin:

- The Indians over the Blue Jays: Litsch has been better of late. But Jeanmar Gomez was really good his first start of the year last time out.
- The Mets over the Diamondbacks: Niese has been consistently good. Hudson has looked not quite ready for the majors.
- The Braves over the Reds: Volquez has had two bad starts in a row. Hanson got whacked last time he faced the Reds. Interesting match up and impossible to predict.
- The Phillies over the Nationals: Hamels should be better than Lannan as long as the Phillies don't need a save, they'll be okay.
- The Tigers over the Red Sox: Two things make this pick logical. First, Verlander is a stud. Secondly, the Red Sox still have to many new guys in the starting lineup.
- The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Sabathia versus Shields. Neither has been dominant of late. The Yankees historically hit Shields. Sabathia has had success against them.
- The Brewers over the Astros: Taking Wolf over Wright simply because of experience. Other than that one factor, they are a wash.
- The White Sox over the Athletics: Gonzalez has had a fine season for the A's, but the White Sox have feasted on him in the past.
- The Twins over the Mariners: Mauer is sitting, but the Twins and Liriano should beat French and the Mariners.
- The Orioles over the Royals: Taking Millwood over Chen for no other reason than either one can be terrible.
- The Cardinals over the Pirates: Wainwright gets win number 15. Why doesn't this guy get more praise?
- The Cubs over the Rockies: Another game that's a toss up with Silva starting against De La Rosa. Sheesh.
- The Rangers over the Angels: The Rangers finish off the Angels with Cliff Lee out pitching Weaver.
- The Marlins over the Padres: Josh Johnson does what he does and that is punish weak-hitting teams like the Padres.

And the Game of the Day

- The Dodgers over the Giants: Kershaw is getting stronger and Matt Cain is 0-8 lifetime against the Dodgers.

Yesterday: 7-8
Last Week: 56-40
Last Month: 232-155
Season: 891-650
Games of the Day: 56-45

K's Continue to Pile Up for Reynolds and D-Backs

Mark Reynolds is the king of the strikeout. He has struck out 20 times in his last 11 games. On Saturday night, he struck out his first four plate appearances against the Mets. He has already shattered the single season strikeout record with his 223 last year and it's hard to believe, but he's on an even more torrid pace this year.

In 2008, Reynolds struck out 1.38 times a game. That figure jumped to 1.44 last year. This year, his game rate is 1.48 K's per game. To look at it another way, in 2007, Reynolds struck out 37.8% of the time he got an at bat. Last year, that figure jumped to 38.5%. This year, he is outdoing himself and is striking out an astounding 42.5% of the time. At his current pace, he will end up with a mind-boggling 242 strikeouts.

To look at these strikeouts yet another way, Reynolds has made 1372 outs in his career. Of those outs, 703 of them have been strikeouts or 51.2%. This year, Reynolds has made outs 271 times and 147 of them have been strikeouts. That's 52.2% of his outs this year from strikeouts.

And he's not alone on his team. For some reason, Justin Upton has caught the fever. Last year, Upton struck out 26% of his at bats. This year, he's at 32%. Last year, 37.2% of Upton's outs were strikeouts. This year, he's at 43.6% of his outs being strikeouts. He is on pace to reach 180 to 190 strikeouts this season after striking out 137 times last year.

Chris Snyder, Adam LaRoche and Kelly Johnson are also prodigious strikeout guys. And Chris Young is going to be well over 100. Is it any wonder that the Diamondbacks have a 130 strikeout lead as a team over the second most strikeout-prone team? Amazing.

The Royals Extend Their Manager

The Royals are doing everything they can to put the Trey Hillman era behind them. Hillman, who was fired with a 12-23 record was supposed to be some wunderkind but that didn't work out very well. In fact, it was a disaster. The Royals brought in Edgar Frederick Yost III and the team has responded, at least as much as their current talent can respond. Under Ned Yost, the Royals are 31-37 which is a .456 winning percentage compared to the .342 winning percentage he inherited. And according to the Pythagorean method of judging wins and losses (based on run differential), the Royals have won two more games under Yost than they should have. That part's good. But things have begun leaking again.

After Yost finished his playing career as a lousy backup catcher, he spent many years with Bobby Cox in Atlanta. Every year Yost was in Atlanta, the team made it to the post season except the strike year in 1994. The Fan isn't sure what that means other than it's interesting. Then he began his six years as the manager of the Brewers...well, almost six years.

It's hard to remember now, but when Ned Yost took over the Brewers, they were one of the laughingstocks of the majors. They were the Orioles and the Royals. In the post-Yount, post-World Series team of the early 90s, they stunk frankly and there wasn't much difference in that stinkage the first two years Yost was there. They came in last both years (2003, 2004). They lost 188 games. But lo and behold, they finished at 81-81 in 2005. That was a fourteen win improvement. They regressed a bit in 2006 and finished under .500. Then came 2007.

2007 was the year that the Brewers were the division leaders for most of the season. They had an eight and a half game lead on June 23. But they tanked going down the stretch and the Cubs won the division which ultimately led to that Mark Prior heartbreak game and that poor guy named Bartman. A website was founded called It still exists but is inactive and the site says the URL is for sale. Perhaps a disgruntled Royals' fan will pick it up some day.

There was much speculation that Yost would be let go after the disappointment of the 2007 season but he was brought back in 2008. That was the year that the Brewers were 20-7 in August and looked like they would cruise into the wildcard at least. But they hit a wall in September and even the great Sabathia, who was miraculous that season, couldn't stop enough of the bleeding. They were 3-11 in September after being swept by the Phillies and were in a tie for the wildcard. And then an unprecedented thing happened. Yost was fired. Doug Melvin wanted to make sure that there wouldn't be another tanking like 2007. The players were shocked. Other teams were shocked. Things like that never happened before.

Yost, for his part, handled his end with class and wished his team well with Dale Sveum as its temporary head. They went 7-5 the rest of the way and due in much part to the pitching of Sabathia, got into the playoffs where they lost to those same Phillies in the first round of the playoffs. Ken Macha has been the Brewers' manager ever since and he certainly hasn't been better than Yost. Yost was +5 on the Pythagorean scale over his six years. Macha is currently -1 as the Brewers haven't been a factor in the NL Central for the past two seasons.

But, to be completely fair, there really is no way to measure a manager's effectiveness or his lack of it. The Brewers' problem the last couple of years is the same that Yost dealt with, they had too little pitching. Even in their 2008 playoff season, it was Sabathia and Sheets and then hold onto your seats. The bullpen was terrible and four out of their eight fielders finished the season with a less than league average OPS+. With those kinds of odds stacked against them, a 20-7 run simply was going to come back to the mean and it did.

So it seems impossible to blame Yost for 2007 or 2008. He didn't have enough horses. The fans were against him. The media was against him and of course, there was

A year and a half after all that drama, Yost went to Kansas City mired in the same mess as the Brewers were in his first two years there. As the Fan mentioned earlier, the Royals had a nice little bump after he was hired. But again, there aren't enough horses. They finished July with a 10-15 record which isn't any better than their 9-14 April was. And now they have traded an effective reliever (can't believe this writer wrote that about Farnsworth) It's pretty safe to say that the Royals are going to struggle next year too. But Yost, unlike Hillman, offers hope. His track record in Milwaukee showed promise and it looks like he will now be around long enough to see if he can do it again in Kansas City. It would be a nice story if that happens as we all root for the underdogs.

But like somebody once said, managers get too much credit for winning and too much blame for losing. It's the nature of the beast. Ryan Braun was quoted in 2008 as saying that the losing streak in September wasn't Yost's fault, it was the players' fault. At least Yost won't have to worry about those sorts of problems for at least a year or two.