Saturday, September 11, 2010

Game Picks - Saturday: September 11, 2010

When the Fan went to bed last night, the picks stood at 1-7. It was fully expected that upon awakening this morning, the Fan would find one of the bloodiest picking days in his history. But, a funny thing happened and quite the opposite of what normally happens. The Fan got every single West Coast game correctly and finished the day over .500. Whuh? That was a weird day.

Saturday looks like this:

  • The Nationals over the Marlins: Marquis is on a roll now of good starts. He'll beat Sanchez.
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Romero out pitches Wade Davis and the Blue Jays win at home.
  • The Padres over the Giants: Tough game to call. The Padres are certainly reeling. The Giants face a tough Tim Stauffer though and counter with Bumgarner.
  • The Orioles over the Tigers: Guthrie has been one of the best pitchers in the second half. Scherzer has been good too. Going with the Fighting Showalters.
  • The Phillies over the Mets. How pathetic are the Mets these days? Their manager used seven pitchers in a nine inning game yesterday mixing and matching like it was a playoff game. The sad thing was, they were already down five runs. That's like putting your finger in the dyke when the water behind the dam is already gone.
  • The Twins over the Indians: The Twins got shut down by Carmona. But Carrasco is not Carmona. Blackburn has been better since his minors stint.
  • The Braves over the Cardinals: Okay, maybe the Braves aren't dead. They beat up on Carpenter with a six run inning last night. Hanson over Westbrook.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Classic mismatch of Jackson versus Davies.
  • The Astros over the Dodgers: Wandy! over Ely.
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: This is the kind of game that fools you. Hunter should beat Burnett. But on any given day, Burnett is capable of greatness. The trick is whether he can pull it off.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Volquez has not been great. But Morton has to be taken with a grain of salt. Get it?
  • The Athletics over the Red Sox: Do you get the feeling that the Red Sox have given up the ghost? Anderson over Lackey.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Dempster follows up Zambrano's gem with one of his own. Wolf gets the loss.
  • The Mariners over the Angels: King Felix needs all wins to stay in the Cy Young conversation. Santana can be tough though for the weak-hitting M's.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: Ubaldo Jiminez FINALLY wins his 18th. He's been outstanding but the Rockies refuse to score for him. That will change today.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 44-38
Month: 67-67  certainly a struggle
Season: 1184-889
Games of the Day: 76-65  Thank you, Carlos

The Nicest Story You'll Hear All Year

Unless you are a die hard Los Angeles Dodger fan, you've probably never heard of John Lindsey. And that wouldn't be because you weren't a savvy baseball fan. You've never heard of John Lindsey because he has played in the minor leagues for sixteen seasons. Sixteen. Lindsey is 33 years old and after all those years, all those bus rides, all those small crowds all over the country, John Lindsey got a taste of the major leagues. To see a wonderful story, right click this link and open the video in a new window. And then come back and read the rest of the story.

Ned Colletti just became one of the Fan's favorite people. What a nice gesture, eh? His gesture showed the kind of respect for Lindsey that he deserves. And don't think the players are too cynical not to care either. When and if Lindsey gets his first major league hit, every player in the Dodgers' dugout will be shouting and hollering in happiness. They get where Lindsey has been and what he has endured to finally get called up to the big leagues.

John Lindsey made his minor league debut in 1995. Think about how long ago that was. Bill Clinton was president. Derek Jeter was just getting his feet wet as a Yankee. Indiana Jones' Temple of Doom was the big movie that year. Windows 95 just came out. That, friends, was a long time ago.

Since then, Lindsey has played two seasons of Rookie ball, one season at Single A-, two seasons at Single A, five seasons of Single A+, three seasons of Double A, four seasons of Triple A and throw in two seasons of Independent League ball for good measure. He's been released once and granted his free agency six times. Lindsey has made eight different organization changes, two of them repeats.

It's not like John Lindsey was a top prospect that couldn't make it work. He wasn't even drafted until the 13th round back in 1995. He's just worked and worked and hung in there and plugged away. After his long minor league career, he's got over 1500 professional hits. Lindsey has hit 219 minor league homers. He's driven in over a thousand runs. He has 600 minor league extra base hits. His career slash line in the minors is: .284/.361/.478. Yeah. This is a guy who has paid his dues.

Colletti seems to be in the reclamation business lately. His other feel-good story this year was bringing Jay Gibbons back to the majors after a couple of years away from the big leagues. Gibbons is making the most of his opportunity and is batting .333.

And what of John Lindsey? He got his second plate appearance on Friday night and struck out.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Giants Winning on the Shewd and Cheap

The Giants have been long known for throwing away money. The Barry Zito deal alone will go down in history as one of the most overpaid contracts. They threw $9 million at Edgar Rentoria (or Rentashortstop if you will). They way overpaid Aaron Rowand. And all that spending got them was a great pitching staff and a feeble offense that couldn't get the job done. In a striking contrast to their history, the Giants may well have bought another pennant, but this time on the cheap.

If the Giants beat the Padres again, they will have closed the gap that seemed impossible to close just a couple of weeks ago. And if they do, it will be on the backs of cheap players like Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff, Jose Guillen, Andres Torres and Buster Posey. The latter has simply killed the ball since he was called up. His success allowed the Giants to finally end the Bengi Molina years in San Francisco. Posey, of course, as a high draft pick, made a good bit of money to sign, but he's still a better value than Molina. Posey has already racked up a WAR (wins above replacement) of 2.1 in just 85 games. Molina's BEST FULL season in WAR was 2.3 and Molina made over $6 million that year.

Pat Burrell has been outstanding. Left on the scrap heap by the Tampa Bay Rays, the Giants scooped him up on the cheap since Burrell is still making $9 million off the Bay Rays, All Burrell has done for the Giants is hit 15 homers in 244 at bats and has driven in 40 runs in 76 games. His On Base Percentage is .377 and his OPS+ is sitting at 137. That was a pretty snazzy pick up. In hindsight, if the Bay Rays had simply stuck Burrell in the line up every day and left him there, he would have been better than anything they've used as DH since. The thing is, according to, Burrell is playing his best outfield in years as well. So that's another 2.1 WAR on the cheap.

Aubrey Huff has had a very underrated career. He's been a really good offensive player for a very long time. Last year was his worst year since 2005 and he still managed a combined 15 homers and 85 RBIs between the Orioles and Tigers. Unfortunately, he didn't do anything for the Tigers in their stretch drive last year and he found himself as a free agent. He ended up signing with the Giants for an unbelievably cheap $3 million. What a bargain! Fangraphs has rated Huff's performance in both the field and at the plate at $20.4 million this year. That's quite a return on the investment. Huff is closing in on 300 career homers and his career should be a lot more appreciated than it is.

And you can't forget the impact Andres Torres has made on this club. His defense is amazing and his offense is cooking along at a 117 OPS+. He is making $426,000 this year. That's near minimum and according to Fangraphs, he's been worth $21.8 million with his defense and his hitting. Incredible.

There is one more shrewd move that helped propel the Giants to the brink of winning the division. The front four starters of the rotation will all make 30 or more starts this season. That's a remarkable run of health. Their fifth starter was Todd Wellemeyer, a pitcher who has had some decent success, but really isn't a great pitcher. Wellemeyer made 13 unsuccessful starts and then the Giants turned to Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner was not an unknown for the Giants as he was their first round pick in 2007. He made his debut last year and was effective in his ten innings of look-see. This year, since his call up, he's made 14 starts and he's been delightful. He has a 124 ERA+, a 2.65 K/BB ratio and he has won five games for the Giants. His control is excellent for his age and he gives you quality starts.

The Giants' pitching has been the story for years. Not only is their rotation good, but they may have the best closer in the National League this side of Billy Wagner (Brian Wilson). But they couldn't win at pitching alone. Earlier in the year, the Padres beat them regularly by beating the Giants at their own game. Since those early days, the additions of Posey and Burrell as well as the steady beat of an Aubrey Huff having a great season along with Andres Torres' great defense and good offense have changed the dynamics of the rivalry. No longer is it a battle of pitching staffs. Now the Giants can get some offense. And for once in the Giants' history, they got that offense cheaply.

Game Picks - Friday: September 10, 2010

Beware of short schedule days. If you make a few bad picks, there aren't enough games to overcome the deficit. And so it was on Thursday as the Fan only made 33% of his picks on the correct side of the ledger. Ouch. The Giants beat the Padres (see more in the next post). The Astros beat the Dodgers (should have seen that coming). The Reds lost in a weird way to the Rockies (see previous post). It was one of those days to forget. And that dang Game of the Day feature can't buy a win lately. It's been wrong seven out of eight times now.

Come on, Friday, rescue the Fan's butt:

  • The Nationals over the Marlins: Lannan has been good lately. Sanabia is all over the charts. Not a fun game to start out with.
  • The Tigers over the Orioles: The Tigers are on a roll. Galarraga (with Joyce behind the plate) over Millwood.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Thank goodness the Reds are away from Coors. Bailey over Maholm.
  • The Twins over the Indians: The Twins have won a bunch in a row and have put a strangle hold on what was a close race. It now appears over. Pavano over Carmona.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Chalk up another win for Halladay as Mejia gets the loss.
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: The Blue Jays can get to Shields (they did so just last week) and Cecil gets the win.
  • The Cardinals over the Braves: The Braves are fading fast. Carpenter gets the win over Minor.
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: These two teams are about even on offense until you take away Hamilton. Advantage Yankees. Vazquez over Wilson.
  • The Astros over the Dodgers: Happ has another quality start and the Dodgers look dead in the water. Step away from this mess, Mr. Torre.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Buehrle over Chen. Manny has a big night, but it's a few games too late.
  • The Athletics over the Red Sox: Cahill wins the battle of the young pitchers over Buchholz as the Red Sox pound the ball to the infielders all night.
  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: The Rockies will keep winning as long as they are home. De La Rosa over Saunders.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: Weaver should win this game over Pauley (don't you think of the Sopranos every time you hear that name?)
  • The Giants over the Padres: Okay, the Fan is all in on the Giants. The Padres would have been a nice story too.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Zambrano is back to the good side after a really bad season in every way. He beats Bush.

Yesterday: 2-4
Week: 36-31
Month: 59-60
Season: 1176-882
Games of the Day: 75-65

Rockies Employ a Full Nelson on the Reds

The Reds haven't won in Coors Field for two years. It looked like Thursday would be different when they jumped out to an early five-run lead off of Colorado's starter, Jason Hammel. But it was not to be as the Rockies crept back into the game as Hammel settled down and put some quality zeroes on the board. But the Rockies last at-bats had to be the most bizarre of the season.

That's a bit hyperbolic. Actually, only the last run scored was bizarre. The Rockies had tied the game off of Nick Masset in the eighth on a Tulowitzki homer. Then the Rockies had first and third with Olivo at the plate. The runner at third was little known Chris Nelson who came in to pinch run for the Rockies. Olivo said later that he was prepared to bunt on a suicide squeeze. The only problem was, Nelson didn't wait for the pitch or the bunt.

Masset was staring at his feet and was thinking about his next move which was to be one of those stupid fake to third, fake to first moves that probably works about once a century. While Masset was contemplating that move, Nelson took off. The infielders started shouting and in a strange moment of ennui, Masset turned all around and was too late to realize the play was at home. By then Nelson was already sliding head first behind the catcher and the Rockies had the lead and the ball game. What a thrilling play. To see the video, click here.

The steal proved to be the undoing for the Reds who ended up being swept in the series. Fortunately for them, the Cardinals (who did win on Thursday) have been stumbling around and have gained only a game on the Reds during the botched series.

The great play by Nelson (or the bad play by the Reds, you choose) brought to mind how little risk is often involved in Major League Baseball. When a risk is taken like Nelson's, it stands out. But there are many times when a risk could reap big rewards. The Fan was watching a game earlier in the year and noticed that the catcher had a yip when throwing the ball back to the pitcher. The Fan can't remember who the catcher was. But that happens sometimes in sports. A routine thing that players have been doing all their lives suddenly becomes a mystery. Chuck Knobloch suddenly couldn't throw to first for the Yankees. Steve Stone suddenly couldn't throw a strike. It's a mental thing that takes over. Catchers have had yips before when throwing back to the pitcher. Someone this year in the Rangers' organization had one. Was it Saltalamacchia? Could be. Sounds right.

Well, anyway, the thing is, the catcher the Fan was watching had developed a yip and took several awkward pumps before throwing it back to the pitcher. Often, the throw ended up being a lollipop throw. The Fan remembers thinking at the time: "Why doesn't the base runner see that and take off when the catcher starts doing all those double clutches?" That's the kind of risk the Fan is talking about.

Scouts and players watch video of other teams all the time. Wouldn't they notice that a certain outfielder has a penchant for throwing a rainbow lazily into second on a base hit? If so, why wouldn't a runner take a risk and take advantage of such a scenario? The Fan has often seen a pitcher decide he doesn't like a baseball he's been offered and shakes his hand to indicate a new one. If time isn't called, why wouldn't a runner take off as soon as the pitcher flips the ball?

When was the last time you've seen a first baseman make a fake throw back to the pitcher after a pick off attempt? There are a lot of different types of risks that happen in every game. But hardly any of them ever get anything but ignored. There is one player who excels at such risk and Buster Olney has a nice story on him in his lasted blog over at ESPN. He is the Tampa Bay Rays' catcher, John Jaso.

The Fan has watched Jaso in action several times and what this guy does is take off as soon as he sees the catcher hasn't caught the ball cleanly. The pitcher tries to throw a curve, a splitter or a slider and it hits the dirt. If Jaso sees that the catcher hasn't caught it cleanly, he's gone. It doesn't have to go far either. The Fan has never seen Jaso get thrown out on such a play either. Why don't more players do that? How many times do you see a catcher block a ball in the dirt with runners on base, bounce up and pounce on it and look like he's ready for a shootout at the O. K. Corral. If that was Jaso on base, the catcher would have to throw it because he'd be on his way to the next base and that catcher's throw would be late.

Far too often in baseball, the safe route is taken. Chis Nelson probably gave Jim Tracy a heart attack. But it was a calculated risk and it sure paid off in spades. The only thing safe about his move was the umpire's signal as the result of the play.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Game Picks - Thursday: September 9, 2010

The picks got off to a fast start and were 2-0 after the day games. That tally quickly got to nine correct picks by 10:30 ET. But once again, the late games left the Fan wanting. Still, nine correct finally pushes the month into the black. The Game of the Day feature failed again for the sixth time in the last seventh attempts. The most laughable pick of the day was Zach Duke and the Pirates. That worked out well, eh? hehehe. Dummy.

Only six games on Thursday's schedule:

  • The Reds over the Rockies: Mr. Wood needs to answer the bell and shut the Rockies down. He faces a tough (lately) Hammel.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: Mr. Porcello nails another nail in the White Sox coffin. Floyd goes for the ChiSox.
  • The Braves over the Cardinals: Jurrjens shuts down the Cardinals' moribund offense and beats Wainwright.
  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: Another Shawn Hill resurrection in Toronto. It's still Shawn Hill. Colby Lewis gets the win.
  • The Padres over the Giants: Garland needs to come up big against Cain and the Padres need this to stay in front.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Dodgers over the Astros: Ted Lilly should easily beat Norris.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 34-27
Month: 57-55
Season: 1174-878
Games of the Day: 75-64    grrrrr

Where Do the Red Sox Go From Here?

Terry Francona said volumes about where he things this year's version of the Boston Red Sox stand in 2010. Clay Buchholz was supposed to start on Wednesday night, but after the Blue Jays beat the Red Sox (badly) on Tuesday night, Francona flipped the ball to Tim Wakefield. It's over. Francona threw in the towel. And that is the realistic answer for Francona and the gang. They put up a valiant fight. Francona has probably had his best year as a manager for keeping the Red Sox competitive and in the hunt for as long as they were this year. But the anchor of injuries, bad fielding and bad pitching just got too heavy and the Red Sox finally sank. Now the question becomes: Where do the Red Sox go from here? How will next year be a response to this year?

Let's start with David Ortiz. Please don't faint at these words, but if Ortiz is reasonable in his contract demands, bring him back. He has a 133 OPS+ this season. The Bay Rays would kill for their DH to do that. His penchant for getting on base is reason enough to bring him back and whether it's still reality or a feared reaction to the past, Ortiz still lends presence to the line up that would be hard to replace. Okay, that said, what else?

You have to have Adrian Beltre back no matter the price. The guy has been an absolute stud. However, the Red Sox should beware of a long-term deal with Beltre's history of ups and downs. An easy to rearch incentive deal would be the way to go. But Beltre's great season has given him leverage and he will use it to get an above market contract whether it is from the Red Sox or somebody else.

Shortstop is another issue. Marco Scutaro will be 35 next year and according to Fangraphs, he's only the fifteenth most valuable shortstop in baseball this season. His 86 OPS+ and his range at shortstop are replaceable and should be. This has been a huge position problem for the Red Sox since 2004. The Fan has proposed this before and will pose it again. The Red Sox should trade Scutaro, and a good pitching prospect (Doubront?) to the Diamondbacks for Stephen Drew. You could unite the Drew brothers under one roof (which would be cool) and get a superior and younger shortstop. Drew has stagnated a bit in Arizona and it seems that the desert-based team doesn't believe in him the way they once did. Give him a new environment and see what happens. It worked for Beltre. He will hit better than Scutaro and he's a big time fielder at short.

The Red Sox are all set at second and first base with Pedroia and Youkilis, both of which should return to their usual form next season.

The outfield is a mess for the Red Sox. And what should be done there? The mess begins with Jacoby Ellsbury. The team is certainly not happy with him, that's for sure and many of his teammates have soured on him as well. But when you look at his 2008 and 2009, the guy is one of the scariest players in baseball. Valuation of players should account more for speed and base running than they currently do and Ellsbury is a test case for such an increase in valuation. He was killer the last two seasons on the bases and every stat other than Slugging was very good. Bring him back for one more try to attempt to get the player who played in 2009.

Bring J. D. Drew back for one last season. Let him go after the contract is over though. He still gets on base and hits for occasional power. You could use Cameron to back him up against tough lefties. That's all Cameron should be used for. The guy is 38 years old and his signing was a huge mistake that has another year of life left to it. To give Cameron a starting position just because of the contract would be a huge mistake. And if he puts up a fuss, dump him.

The Fan would open a competition for left field in Spring Training between Neddick and Kalish. Kalish has performed better in the majors but Reddick has been awesome in the minors. One of them should provide the Red Sox with what they need to complete the outfield.

The catching position is a huge mess. You want Victor Martinez because he can hit. But he's a terrible catcher. He can't play first and besides, Youkilis is there. He can't DH because Ortiz is there. So you are stuck with him behind the plate. Varitek wants to play another year. He had a decent bounce back this year before getting hurt, but he's ancient. It will be very interesting to see what happens here in the coming months. Saltalamacchia doesn't seem to ever be poised to be a good big league catcher.

The Red Sox seem to be all set in the rotation next year. Lester, Beckett (who needs to bounce back), Buchholz. Lackey and Dice-K seems to be a solid rotation. Doubront can be the swing man. Tim Wakefield, sadly, should be put to pasture or kicked to the front office. He should be done.

The Red Sox are all set at closer next year...if you are talking about Daniel Bard. Yeah, Papelbon will be allowed to walk, no question. Okijama is a big question mark for next year. He's been brilliant for years, but has been awful this year. He will be 35 next year. Do you bring him back? If not, the team will need a lefty. With lack of room in the rotation, Doubront can become a late inning guy to feed Bard. The back end of the Red Sox bullpen could use some rebuilding.

The Fan sees no reason to panic in Boston. This was a tough year where injuries and peculiar circumstances short-circuited their plans. They have had to give several marginal players a lot of playing time and that experience could serve them well as bench strength. The Red Sox rotation should be solid and with Bard at the front end of the bullpen, you just need some good arms to fill out the rest. The Red Sox will continue to be viable contenders next year.

Off season possibilieis: Carl Crawford if they can out bid other teams

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Game Picks - Wednesday: September 8, 2010

September has been a tough month so far. The Braves have gone cold. The AL East teams are milling around. The Cardinals can't seem to win consistently. The Reds aren't winning consistently. The Padres lose ten in a row and then win two in a row. It's been tough to grasp. It's no wonder why yesterday was just one game over .500 and the weekly and monthly totals are right around the .500 mark. The Game of the Day feature really requires clear cut winners and lately there haven't been any. The Orioles beat the Yankees the Pirates beat the Braves. Things are upside down.

Here are Wednesday's picks:

  • The Mets over the Nationals: Dickey over a fading Livan. Ike has been hot for the Mets.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Still can't the mind around the Orioles sweeping the Yankees. Nova over Bergesen.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: The Phillies will win the NL East [*sigh*]   Hamels over Miller.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Danks should win easily over Bonderman.
  • The Pirates over the Braves: Lowe has a sore something or other and has been terrible lately. Zach Duke gets the win.
  • The Indians over the Angels: Yesterday it was Masterson. Today it will be Tomlin. Sleep tight, Angels.
  • The Astros over the Cubs: Brett Myers gets the win over Wells. Houston is playing really well.
  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: Even without Hamilton, the Rangers should have enough fire power to get to Rzepcyinski. Holland goes for the Rangers.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: Garza needs to be sharp for the pick to be correct, but he should beat Wakefield.
  • The Rockies over the Reds: Here come those Rockies again. They are like a rash, you think you've got them taken care of and here they come. Cook over Arroyo.
  • The Twins over the Royals: Giving up on Greinke getting wins. Going with Duensing.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Zito has had a real rough second half, which is sad. Young Hudson should win.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: French flirted with a no-hitter last time out but he won't beat Gio Gonzalez.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: The Padres have to go with Luebke. The Dodgers win with Billingsley.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Again, apologies to Mr. Capuano, but his manager shouldn't be starting him. Easy win for the Cardinals with Garcia.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 25-21
Month: 48-49
Season: 1165-872
Games of the Day: 75-63

Trevor Hoffman Saves Number 600

Milestones! We love them in baseball, don't we? Our passion for them is unlike any other sport. A quarterback reaches 100 touchdown passes. So? But young pitcher like Felix Hernandez who notches his 100th win? Now that's big news. We had ourselves another milestone on Tuesday night as Trevor Hoffman picked up his 600th save. People say that anyone can save a ball game. It's just three outs in the grand scheme of things. But the Fan is looking around and nobody else has ever done what Hoffman just did. That, friends is a milestone.

Kudos to the Brewers for giving Hoffman the chance to get the milestone. For a while there, there seemed to be doubt that the Brewers were let Hoffman give it a go. Hoffman's season has been well chronicled. He's had a bad season by his standards. But really, he had two bad months. He's been decent since the end of May. He's been pretty darn decent since the end of May for a guy who is going to turn 43 in October. Hoffman

Trevor Hoffman was drafted 21 years ago. The Fan was a hardy young man back then. He was drafted by the Reds in the eleventh round. Hoffman was a shortstop back then like his older brother, Glenn Hoffman. The hitting thing wasn't happening for Trevor and his minor league manager suggested he try pitching. Without that suggestion, it's likely Hoffman wouldn't have had a major league career at all, never mind a seventeen year one.

The Fan never knew until researching this post that Trevor Hoffman made his MLB debut in 1993 for the Florida Marlins. That was the Marlins' first season and they picked up Hoffman in the expansion draft. He's the only player still playing from the Marlins' first season. Halfway through that season, the San Diego Padres were stripping themselves of all of their expensive (for them) players. The sell off was famous for a long time. Hoffman was part of the deal where he was sent to San Diego for Gary Sheffield. That's a pretty good guy to be traded for.

The Padres made Hoffman their closer in 1994 but the strike ended the season early and Hoffman finished his first season as the full time closer with 20 saves. He's been off an running ever since. Hoffman's best statistical seasons were from 1996 to 1999. He was nearly unhittable during that period and it was 1997 when he set the NL record for most saves in a season with 53.

There aren't too many people that would call Hoffman a power pitcher. He is more known for his change up. But in his younger days, he threw heat. Shoulder problems took away his velocity. Even so, in ten of Hoffman's seventeen seasons, he averaged over nine strikeouts per nine innings. In fact, his career K/9 is 9.4. That is very impressive over that long a time span.

Some of Hoffman's statistics:

  • 1032 games
  • 853 games finished - a major league record.
  • A career K/BB  ratio of 3.69
  • Over 40 saves nine times.
  • A career WHIP of 1.060
  • A career average of 7.0 hits per nine innings.
  • A career average of 0.8 homers per nine innings

Many like to compare Trevor Hoffman to Mariano Rivera, who most consider the best closer to ever live. But you can't short shrift Hoffman. It doesn't appear likely that Rivera will catch Hoffman's record total. In this Fan's opinion, Hoffman is a Hall of Fame career type of player. Congratulations to Trevor for save # 600 and to the Brewers for making it happen.

Going Blogging

[[switching to first person]] Every night my wife hears the familiar refrain, "I'm going blogging." She never protests or makes a pouty face (thank goodness) as I trudge down the stairs to the laptop in the basement. I write in the basement because it is away from the television and other distractions. Usually, ideas come easily. After all, thirty teams play nearly every night, fielding an average of twelve players each. There are myriads of stories to tell. But sometimes, there just doesn't seem to be anything there. Tonight is one of them. The inside of my head is like a volleyball with half the air missing.

And so I stall. I read the great TaoofStieb. I read Neyer. I noticed that Olney missed a day today, which is unusual. I didn't check out Posnanski as I didn't have enough energy. Read a nice football forecast blog by one of my followers. It was well done but doesn't help a writer looking for ideas for a baseball blog. So if nothing is coming out, why not just take a day off.  GACK! Can't do it.

I'm not sure why I have felt this need to hack away day after day in this spot. I've made some headway on readership and don't want it to slip. That may be part of it. But a lot of it is the doggedness that has marked my life and career. I stick to it. I keep at it. I'm that steady Eddie kind of guy. I haven't missed a day this season and that includes days when I traveled to and from Florida. That includes busy days getting book orders out. That includes lazy days. I'm still driven to the basement to write posts. I've written 480 so far this year and 415 since the baseball season began. I'd hate to think about how many words are involved there.

Writers aren't too different than artists. Some are more prolific than others. And some are more gifted than others. Mr. Posnanski is prolific like Monet and is that caliber an artist too. Other bloggers are more like Grant Wood, who produce a great piece once every so often. The big fear this blogger has is that by producing so often, the quantity will outshine the quality. I don't want to be some Jackson Pollock who can look like a prolific artist by spilling a bunch of paint on the floor. Some see value in that. I don't get it. I don't want this blog to be a bunch of splatter that doesn't seem to look like anything besides a colorful Rorschach Test.

Probably another reason I write every day is to prove a point. I could never understand writers who are getting paid to write about baseball that take days off. Mr. Olney takes a day off here and there, but not many. Others of his peers take all holidays and weekends. Why exactly? If I had a career as a baseball writer, I can't imagine not wanting to write every day, especially if a paycheck was involved. This Labor Day weekend was no exception. I won't name names, but I read a lot of blogs, both professional and amateur. The number of pros who worked over the weekend was minimal. Labor Day weekend?? That would be like mall workers taking days off during Christmas shopping season. Holy cow! This is when things are really cooking! How can you take a three day weekend?

Oh, I hear you. Everyone needs a day off here and there. But the thing is, the average post takes about 30 minutes to write. Some are a little longer if there is a lot of research involved. But that's it. It's not like this is a nine to five proposition. So it's not like three, hour-long sessions on the three days of the Labor Day weekend is a reason for a union to get it's knickers all twisted. I want to prove that a lot of work can happen in a little bit of time and the fans of the Fan can have something to read every day. Let's just hope it's not a colorful Pollock-like Rorschach Test.

See, I just wrote another post. Wasn't that easy?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Game Picks - Tuesday: September 7, 2010

Thank goodness two losing streaks came to an end yesterday. The Padres won and the Fan won. Whew! That was a rough stretch. But yesterday was much better. The Fan correctly picked both games of the Philly - Florida double-header. Got the Yankees loss correct. Had the Rockies over the Reds. Had Boston over Tampa Bay. Good. Now to build on that success.


  • The Nationals over the Mets: We have two untested pitchers (Don't you love September call up season?) It will be Dillon Gee for the Mets over Cuban, Yunesky Maya, for the Nats. Flip!
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: In a perfect world, Verlander should beat Garcia ten out of ten times they face each other.
  • The Braves over the Pirates: The Braves better win one of these games for Pete's sake. They have their ace, Hudson, on the mound. But the Pirates counter with McDonald, who has a big arm and has been unlucky.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: Volstad has a 3.99 ERA against the Phillies lifetime. Blanton should give up five runs, so that makes this a Marlins win.
  • The Blue Jays over the Rangers: Feldman makes an emergency start. It won't be pretty. Marcum goes for the Canadian slashers.
  • The Astros over the Cubs: Silva was a nice story earlier, but he's been hurt. Figueroa has been a nice story for the Astros.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: David Price proves how vulnerable the Red Sox are to a big left-handed arm. Dice-K goes for the Red Sox and has had a good season.
  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: Narveson can hit and lately, he can pitch too. Lohse goes for the Cardinals, which doesn't inspire confidence.
  • The Twins over the Royals: Another chance for Liriano to stay up with Felix Hernandez for Cy Young consideration. Bannister goes for the Royals.
  • The Reds over the Rockies: Cueto needs to come up big (you never know with him) for this pick to be correct. But the Reds should get to Chacin.
  • The Indians over the Angels: The Angels have fallen and can't get up. Masterson should overpower those aging hitters unless he doesn't throw strikes.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Lincecum gave hope that he is back from his problems, but Enright out pitches him.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Dallas Braden should shut down the M's while the A's scratch out enough runs over Fister.
  • The Padres over the Dodgers: A winning streak follows a losing streak.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Sabathia at home has been golden. He wins #20 while the Yankees get to Arrieta.

Yesterday: 10-6
Week: 17-14
Month: 40-42
Season: 1157- 865
Games of the Day: 75-66

The Houston Astros' Amazing Season

If the Fan had a vote, the Houston Astros' manager, Brad Mills, would get this writer's vote for Manager of the Year in the National League (Francona should win it in the AL). The Astros were so bad earlier in the year that its two best players, Oswalt and Berkman, both came out publicly and said they wouldn't mind being traded. They got their wishes and both have a good chance to make the playoffs. But the Astros haven't exactly rolled over and died since those two players departed. The opposite has happened--they are thriving.

Consider that the Astros were 17-34 after play was completed on May 31. June saw an improvement and they finished that month 14-14. But they were still only 31-48. Since the end of June, the Astros have gone 33-25. They swept the Cardinals twice. They swept the Phillies. They took three out of four from the Mets...well...okay, that's not a good example. But you get the idea. The Astros are playing so well that they are currently seven games ahead of where the Pythagorean run-differential says they should be. They have out played their run differential by seven games (thought that bore repeating).

The Astros are still near the bottom of the pile in a lot of statistical categories. So how are they winning? Well, they are getting good pitching. Thirty-six year old Nelson Figueroa has pitched well in four starts and a dozen relief appearances and has a 2.36 ERA. J. A. Happ was the trade bait for Oswalt and he's gone 5-2 in eight starts with a 3.21 ERA. In the first half, Wandy Rodriguez went 6-11 with a 4.97 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 1.93. In the second half he is 5-1 with an ERA of 1.61 with a K/BB ratio of 5.08! Brett Myers took a $9 million pay cut from his last aborted year in Philadelphia and is having the best season of his career. His 10-7 record is totally deceiving for how well he's pitched all season. To sum up the starting rotation, four out of their five starters are having outstanding success since the All Star break.

The bullpen has come around too. The cement has been Brandon Lyon, who improbably and out of no where has saved 13 games, 12 of which have come in the second half. He has an ERA of 2.28 in the second half and granted, a lot of that is a bit lucky since his BABIP in the second half is .259, but he's getting the job done and that's something the Astros desperately needed.

To be truthful, losing Lance Berkman wasn't that much of a loss this year. His production was way down while with the Astros this year and his defense had really fallen off. Trading him was great for Berkman because he's had a great career and it's nice that he is going to play in the post season for the first time in quite a while. But the offense doesn't miss him. While the Astros still won't terrorize anyone with their line up, their slash lines have improved greatly in the second half. In the first half, the line was: 238/.296/.347. That's pretty pathetic, eh? In the second half, their slash line is: .264/.316/.385. That's a marked improvement. They scored 3.45 runs a game in the first half and have improved to 4.36 runs a game in the second half.

Hunter Pence is having a very good season and he's really come on in the last month. He almost single-handedly beat the Cardinals and his 112 OPS+ for the season is good. He's been helped greatly by Chris Johnson who was called up earlier in the season and has now played 71 games. His .321 batting average has been excellent. The problem with both Pence and Johnson is that they don't walk enough. Pence at 112 and Johnson at 118 would both have much higher OPS+ statistics if they took a few more walks.

Jeff Keppinger has had a real good second half too. After a terrible start, he has his OPS+ up to 100. The thing that is amazing about Keppinger is his strikeout total. He might be the hardest guy in the National League to strike out. In 478 plate appearances, Keppinger has walked 42 times and has struck out only 29 times. That's impressive!

The Astros need a shortstop who can hit. They need a catcher that can hit. They need a lead-off batter that Michael Bourn is not giving them. The one thing they will miss about Berkman is his OBP. The Astros are terribly impatient. They are dead last in the National League in walks taken and next to last in On Base Percentage. They really need to find more patience at the plate in their entire organization.

But despite those problems, the Astros have played great ball in the second half and Brad Mills has done an excellent job with what he has to work with. If you would have told anyone on May 31 that the Astros would be in third place in the NL Central on September 7, they would have thought you were smoking something funny.

Orioles Give Hope

The Fan has watched several games this year between the Yankees and the Orioles. Monday's Labor Day matinee was just the latest this year. It was like watching a completely different team than earlier contests between these two teams. The Orioles are no longer an easy roll over for good teams. They have beat the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Bay Rays among others since Buck Showalter took over the team. It's been an amazing turnaround.

Earlier in the year, if the Orioles jumped out to a quick lead and the Yankees came back late in the game to tie things up, the game was over. The Orioles simply folded like kids who know they can't climb the rope in gym class. (Do they still do that?) On Monday, the same thing happened except the Orioles didn't quit. They came right back and scored a go ahead run and then held the Yankees from scoring further. This isn't the same Orioles team of April through July.

The easy thing is to give Buck Showalter credit and he deserves a lot of it. But credit also goes to Brian Roberts, who finally has a reason to play each day. Monday was a perfect example. The Orioles were terrible in driving in runs with runners in scoring position except for the two times Roberts delivered two singles with two outs to get runs home. To say that Roberts increased his leverage score would be an understatement. But credit also has to go to the entire team that is playing hard and is starting to believe they have every chance to win each day.

The Fan has been studying body language for a lifetime and a perfect example of the difference in the Orioles is Matt Wieters. Every time the Fan saw Wieters, he seemed like he was playing small. That's pretty difficult to do when you are six foot, five. Now he looks like a ballplayer. He stands more erect. He doesn't have a deer-in-the-headlights look to him. Michael Kay, the Yankees' excellent play-by-play guy talked about how Showalter saw that Wieters was still getting hazed like a rookie. Showalter made it stop and told the team that Wieters was the leader of the pitching staff and should be treated like one. How cool is that? All that is great, but the team has to allow itself to respond and they are.

Remember that the Orioles were 32-73 before Showalter and the fighting Showalters are now 20-13. Matusz is better. Wieters is better. Bergesen is better. Guthrie is better. All of these guys obviously have talent or they wouldn't have been prized prospects to begin with. Showalter has found a way to tap into the talent and make it believe that, on any given day, it can shine.

What is going on in Baltimore and really, in Houston too, is that it shows that a team can be turned around. No situation is so bad that any team that takes it a day at a time and works together toward the goal of winning each day can be successful. Obviously, the Orioles have lost 13 games since Showalter too over. But the difference is that they are competitive. That's all a team's fans can ask for. All a fan needs is to know that on this given day, my team can win the game. They may not, but at least the odds are 50/50 and not much lower than that.

Teams like the Pirates and the Brewers and the Royals should take note that only top notch leadership is acceptable. Any of those teams could have had Showalter, right? The Orioles are still a few players short of being successful long term, but any team that finds them on their schedule better take those games seriously now because they won't be easy wins. And if they aren't careful, they may be losses.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Game Picks - Monday: September 6, 2010

This picker is pressed for time this morning and thus the carnage of a fourth straight bad day of picking will not be picked apart or disseminated. Forgive the Fan, but we'll just have to get right to the picks for Labor Day:

  • The Padres over the Dodgers: Padilla is scheduled to pitch for the Dodgers. Latos for the Padres. The skid has to end.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Oswalt continues to be worth the trade though there is no question whether Happ would have been just as good. Sanchez goes for the Fish.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Going with Ian Kenneday over Bumgarner in this one with the D-backs at home.
  • The Angels over the Indians: Haren should best Carrasco.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: Lester comes up big in big games and the Red Sox want to still think they have a shot. Niemann has been awful of late.
  • The Rockies over the Reds: The Rockies are at home and get Harang from the Reds. Maybe they can score some runs for Jiminez who has been great but gets no run support.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Good young pitchers here in Anderson versus Vargas. Picking the A's to scrore at least one more run.
  • The Astros over the Cubs: Wandy!
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Gallardo has never beaten the Cardinals and it hasn't ever been close. Westbrook wins.
  • The Twins over the Royals: Slowey over O'Sullivan. Shouldn't be close.
  • The Braves over the Pirates: Hanson was great last time out and gets Burres who hasn't been good since his call up.
  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: With Hamilton out, this is a weakened Rangers. But Hunter has been so good, the Fan has to go with him over Romero.
  • The Mets over the Nationals: The Mets finally put their hitting shoes on last night. They will need them against Zimmermann. Pelfrey starts for the Mets.
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: Scherzer has been great for the Tigers, but Jackson has been even better for the White Sox.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: Two rookie pitchers with no record. Flip a coin.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Orioles over the Yankees: Burnett? Nah. Matusz? Yeah.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 7-8
Month: 30-36
Season: 1147-859
Games of the Day: 74-62      Happy Labor Day Everybody!

Is Politics a Problem With Cardinals?

It seems that Colby Rasmus is the last of a long line of players who do not get along with Tony LaRussa. There was Rolen. There was Adam Kennedy and there were probably others. Now it's Colby Rasmus. This is absolutely a problem because though Rolen was a great player, Rasmus has the talent to be a key piece of this team for a long time. On several occasions, Albert Pujols was quoted with harsh words for Rasmus basically stating that Rasmus is a young kid who doesn't know how good he has it but if he doesn't want to be a Cardinal, he needs to get out of there.

The big question is how did it get this bad in the first place? Rasmus was a kid with "great makeup" and a kid with "his head squarely on his shoulders and his feet on the ground" in one review by scouts published in 2008. So how did we get from a kid with great makeup to a kid who apparently is so young he doesn't appreciate where he is or who he plays for. Sounds simple right? Must be the kids fault. His head got big. He's become a primadonna. But is that accurate? Do any of us really know? There seems to be a disconnect between 2008 and now. So what happened?

And what of the Pujols quotes? At the risk of saying anything bad against the sainted Albert, is he simply the blind defender of all things LaRussa? Yeah, those comments will help heal the wounds, eh? Sounds to this Fan like comments that should have been made in the clubhouse and not in the media. Seems a bit cowardly to this observer. Things are bad though, so bad that Rasmus has twice asked to be traded. Suffice it to say that Mr. Rasmus is not enjoying his experience.

Here we are in a desperate time for the Cardinals who have dug themselves a huge hole, still seven games back of the Reds and five games back of the wild card. And as much as this Fan loves Jon Jay, should Jay have taken any at bats away from Rasmus? Not in this Fan's opinion. But that is what happened. So the question is how much has LaRussa let this internal conflict or this internal politic if you will, affect his decision making? How much has it distracted the team? Colby Rasmus is 23 years old. He has a 124 OPS+. He needs to be playing every day. Period.

Does the recent participation by Tony LaRussa and Albert Pujols at Glenn Beck's recent rally provide any clues into this mess or is that just a different subplot? Who knows. Perhaps Rolen, Kennedy and Rasmus are all left of center in political and moral thought. Who knows. But it was a bit weird that LaRussa and Pujols would go to an event that was sure to be polarizing (whatever you think of Mr. Beck, you can admit he is polarizing, can't you?). And what about Tony LaRussa gushing about Walt Jocketty, his former GM and now the GM in Cincinnati? That seems to be a slap at his own GM, especially since he doesn't mention him.

The Fan guesses that these things are more noticeable when a team is going badly. The Fan also guesses that Scott Rolen would be a lot better playing third for the Cardinals than Pedro Feliz. It would be nice if this thing could get all ironed out for the Cardinals because LaRussa is one of the top three managers in baseball, Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball and Colby Rasmus is a special talent. The Cardinals would be better off making all three of those people happy and working together than any of them working someplace else.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Game Picks - Sunday: September 5, 2010

This picker should be happy after Friday's debacle to finish at 8-8 on Saturday. Once again, the West Coast flubbed the Fan all up as the record stood at 8-5 before the late games and they all tanked. For those keeping score, that's the third unsuccessful day in a row here in the FanDome. September is still a mess. The Game of the Day feature has lost four of it's last five. Like the Padres, the Fan has to get out of this pit and start climbing back to respectability.

Sunday's picks:

  • The Braves over the Marlins: The Fish couldn't score for their ace, Josh Johnson (AGAIN!) so they will probably score 20 runs for Senabia. But counting on a good outing for Minor and a Braves win.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Have to keep picking the Yankees until they lose, right? Hughes over Cecil.
  • The Nationals over the Pirates: Marquis versus Morton. This has to be one of the highest ERA match ups in history. Morton is at 10.03 and Marquis is at 8.13. Wow. Morton could give up six runs in six innings and his ERA would go down!
  • The Red Sox over the White Sox: Beckett has been good of late and is 4-1 lifetime versus the White Sox. Buehrle has traditionally given up close to five runs a game versus the Red Sox. If that holds true, this pick will be true.
  • The Phillies over the Brewers: The Fan told you not to count the Phillies out. Kendrick over Wolf in not a dream match up.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Still have to believe the Cards have a better chance with Carpenter than the Reds have with Bailey.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: Austin Jackson is hot and is starting to cement his Rookie of the Year status. Galarraga over Davies.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: The Padres need a win more than the Fan needs a good picking day. Richard over De La Rosa.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: Santana and Mazzaro have the same exact ERAs at 4.05. The difference is that Santana has 14 wins and Mazzaro has 6.
  • The Astros over the Diamondbacks: The Astros keep winning post Oswalt and Berkman. How could the Phillies get rid of Happ?
  • The Mariners over the Indians: Felix Hernandez keeps pushing his Cy Young hopes. Gomez goes for Cleveland.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Kuroda needs to keep pitching well for this pick to be correct. Hopefully he has something left after going for his no-hitter last time out.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Wade Davis should beat Chris Tillman, right?

Yesterday: 8-8
Last Week: 49-45
Month: 23-28   ugly
Season: 1140-851
Games of the Day: 74-61

Uh Oh: The Dream is Unraveling in San Diego

A week an a half ago the San Diego Padres had a six and a half game lead in the NL West after a three game winning streak. They had won thirteen of sixteen games and all of us who follow baseball finally accepted that we were wrong and that the Padres weren't going to fold. At that point the Cardinals were closer to the Reds than any team in the NL West was to the Padres. All the Padres had to do was finish the rest of the year at a .500 clip and they were in. Imagine that! The Padres were going to win! Except now that conviction is a whole lot shakier. The long awaited collapse is happening right before our eyes.

Since that day (August 25), the Padres have lost nine straight. Nine straight. That's a lot. That's Pittsburgh-like. Their pitching, which amazed all of us has given up 51 runs in those nine games or 5.6 runs per game. That's not a lot in the grand scheme of today's Major League Baseball, but for the Padres' offense, that is probably three runs per game too much. The Padres have scored 21 runs during those nine losses, or 2.3 runs a game. Yup, they have given up three runs a game too much.

Bad hitting teams can survive if the pitching is outstanding. And for most of the year, the Padres' pitching has been outstanding. But in the last nine games, it's only been ordinary and with that offense, ordinary isn't good enough. The starting pitchers have lost seven of those nine games. Garland has lost twice. Correia has lost twice. Richard lost one. LeBlanc lost one and Luebke lost one. Relief pitchers have lost two of the other games. Gregorson lost one and Frieri lost the other.

But again, you really can't blame the pitching. Will Venable is 1 for his last 23. Ryan Ludwick is 7 for his last 35 with one extra base hit (a double). Adrian Gonzalez has only hit one extra base hit (a double) in his last eight games. Chase Headley is 1 for his last 12 and has only one extra base hit in eight games. Chris Denorfia is 5 for 25 during the losing streak. Everth Cabrera has had to play too many games at short lately and with his .210 batting average and 63 OPS+, that's not a good thing.

And so, the point is beaten to death that the Padres are in a heap of trouble when their pitchers give up more than two runs. Now the Giants are only two and a half game back from the Padres in the standings and have gained four games since the losing streak began. The Padres are fortunate that the Giants haven't exactly been wowing people lately.

The trouble with a losing streak like this is that it starts eating its young. The media picks up on it and that is the only questions the players will hear. The Padres have to find a way to suck it up and win a few games to rebuild a little of their lead or we could be watching something pretty historic. And it's not really the kind of history we wanted to see.

White Sox Put Big Hurt on the Red Sox

The Chicago White Sox won both games of a double header today over the Red Sox with matching 3-1 victories. The two wins gives the White Sox four in a row and places them four games behind the Twins for the AL Central race. The two losses are a serious blow for the Red Sox who basically have to win every series the rest of the season to even stay relevant. The Red Sox are now seven full games behind the Bay Rays (who also lost on Saturday) for the wild card and are nine and a half games behind the Yankees for the division lead. The latter seems completely out of reach. The former is still a remote possibility if the Red Sox can basically run the year while the Bay Rays falter completely. Since neither seems possible, the Red Sox look more and more like they will be sitting home during October.

The White Sox at least have some hope. Four games out isn't invincible. They now have an extra bat in the line up and they are still pitching really well. Floyd and Danks were very good during the double header and Chicago's bullpen was flawless in both games. They held David Ortiz to a 1 for 8 day and when Ortiz doesn't hit, the Red Sox, still playing a bunch of kids, have trouble scoring.

All in all, it was a great day for the White Sox and their fans and it was a body blow for Red Sox Nation.