Saturday, October 02, 2010

Game Picks - Saturday: October 2, 2010

There was a deep groan this morning as this picker caught up with the late scores and saw that they sealed a dreadful day of picking. The previous two days had done a lot to take the bad taste out of the mouth from a seven day wretched stretch that shook this picker to his core. But after two good days comes a clunker where little went right. The Astros were a bad pick. The Padres are not dead yet. The Braves did their best to make sure the Padres aren't dead yet. The Mets finally won a game that Misch started. The Tigers lost yet another double-header (thought they would split). The Angels beat Texas in extras. The Pirates won. Brutal.

Let's hope Saturday goes better:

  • The Mets over the Nationals: Two pitchers with ERAs of 5.23 and 6.43 don't make this pick any kind of joy. Going with the home team.
  • The Blue Jays over the Twins: The Twins have lost a bunch lately haven't they? Marcum over Duensing.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: The Reds will get to Capuano and Homer Bailey won't be among the Reds post season rotation so he has nothing to hold back.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Pettitte over Wakefield. The Yankees may be the worst knuckleball hitting team on the planet. But they find a way.
  • The Rockies over the Cardinals: Ubaldo has one last chance at 20 wins. Lohse isn't much to get in his way.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Burnett. Ugh. Dice-K. Ugh. Geez.
  • The Padres over the Giants: Got to like Stauffer over Zito. The Padres still have hope.
  • The Orioles over the Tigers: The Tigers lost their claws when Cabrera got hurt. Matusz over Galarraga.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: The Phillies are starting a kid named Vorley. The Braves start Hanson.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: Carrasco over Buehrle but not a safe pick here at all.
  • The Cubs over the Astros: Zambrano over Happ. Maybe this guy should be the Cubs' manager.
  • The Royals over the Bay Rays: Sonnanstine gets the start? Doesn't look like the Bay Rays care where they finish.
  • The Marlins over the Pirates: Senabia over Morton. Another terrible game to pick.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: Santana wins. Why are the Rangers starting Wilson? It's not like they need the win.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Not another terrible game to pick! Billingsley and Saunders give this Fan a headache. Is it a coincidence that Kemp is playing better since Torre announced he won't be back?

And the Game of the Day

  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Don't worry Seattle fans. Just two more days...

Yesterday: 6-9
Week: 39-45   will take one heck of a day to rescue this one...
Month: 6-9
Season: 1335-1024
Games of the Day: 86-76

Comeback Players of the Year

One of the best awards in the post season is the Comeback Player of the Year Award. The award is one of the best because it celebrates the underdog, a player that overcame obstacles to have a season nobody expected. It's one of the bluest collar awards of them all and Fans dig that. We love those stories where a player overcomes and is again successful. Each league has two obvious choices this year. The National League has Pat Burrell and the American League has Bruce Chen. Let's start with Chen.

Bruce Chen capped off his year on Friday night with a 7-0, complete game shutout against the Tampa Bay Rays on a night when the Rays are fighting for the best record in baseball and the AL East title. Chen gave up two hits and two walks and struck out seven. The win finishes his season with a 12-7 record with a 4.17 ERA. It was only the second time in Chen's career that he won more than ten games. Chen's season wasn't ace-like in any shape or form. His WHIP is a hefty 1.4+. His BABIP (.289) suggests that he was a bit lucky. In eleven of Chen's starts, the Royals scored six or more runs for him and obviously, his record during those games was 8-0.

But that's not really the point. The point is that Chen has pitched for ten different major league teams. He pitched in five games in 2007. He was out of the major leagues the entire 2008 season. He pitched (badly) in just 17 games for the Royals last year and here he is making 22 starts and 32 overall appearances covering 140 innings and he won twelve of his nineteen decisions. After all these years, he gave the Royals a league average pitcher and there is a lot to be said for that. If the Royals had two or three more guys like him, they would have been a much better team. This is a guy who played for parts of 13 seasons in the minors and parts of 12 seasons in the majors and he never quit and he came from nowhere this year and gave the Royals their best pitching performance this side of Zack Greinke. That's your basic definition of a comeback player of the year.

Pat Burrell was famous once. He was the golden boy of the Philadelphia Phillies. His good looks combined with average seasons of 28 homers a year with 91 RBIs, a penchant for getting on base helped him become an idol in the city of brotherly love. His average numbers there would be even better if you threw out 2003 which was so bad it had to be an outlier. He hit .205 that year for gosh sakes. But he had a big contract with the Phillies. He never was much of a left fielder. There is no DH in the National League and the Phillies decided not to prolong their relationship after the 2008 title season.

Burrell signed with the Tampa Bay Rays who desperately needed a DH. Burrell seemed perfect. Everyone thought it was perfect. But Burrell just didn't perform. He had a horrid 2009 there and his OPS+ was 81, easily the lowest of his career (including that horrid 2003). He came back in 2010 with the Bay Rays and it was even worse. After 24 games, his OPS+ was down to 73 and the Bay Rays couldn't take anymore and they released him.

That was one of the best things to ever happen to the San Francisco Giants. Burrell's slash line with the Giants: .264/.364/.507. He's had a 130 OPS+ with the Giants. And he along with Buster Posey have completely changed the Giants' line up and it has carried the Giants on the brink of a NL West title. He has a 1.018 OPS when there are runners are in scoring position with two outs. Burrell has an .892 OPS in high leverage situations. His WAR is the highest he's had since is 2005 season.

Who knows why Burrell didn't hit in Tampa. Perhaps he never could get the handle on the DH thing. Perhaps he's a better player in the National League (sort of like Javier Vazquez). Whatever it is, he's been reborn in San Francisco and he's probably (almost certainly) going to the post season and may get to face his old team. Now won't that be fun? He is the NL Comeback Player of the Year.

Re-thinking Cabrera and MVP

As most baseball fans know, Miguel Cabrera was having a monster season when it was cut short on September 27. Most baseball fans also know that his name has fallen out of favor when it comes to MVP voting because, first, he plays first base and is below average at doing so and secondly, his Tigers fell out of contention a month an a half ago. Heck, even this writer didn't pick him with his BBA vote. But this last week has given at least this writer a bit of a pause.

When Cabrera got hurt, the Tigers were on a roll. They had won eight of their last ten. Cabrera was right in the middle of all that with four homers and a lot of ribbies. The Tigers were climbing back to respectability. They had beaten the Twins, the Royals and the White Sox quite handily. Since Cabrera got hurt, the Tigers have lost five straight including two double-headers to the Indians and the Orioles. During their 8-2 run, the Tigers were scoring 6.7 runs a game. Since Cabrera got hurt, they've scored 2.6 runs a game. Granted, we're looking at a small sample size, but it seems like more that a coincidence.

Without Cabrera, Raburn bats clean up. Raburn is a good player, but his OPS is 200 points lower than Cabrera. Cabrera's replacement at first is Don Kelly, a journeyman minor league player with 300+ at bats in the majors with a .619 OPS. That's 400 points less than Cabrera. Yeah, Kelly hit a homer on Friday night, but shoot, the pitchers on the other team are going to pitch this line up completely different than they would if Cabrera was stuck right in the middle of it. Cabrera struck fear into pitchers like Jim Rice did (that was a joke by the way). Pitchers can be more careful to Damon and the rest because they don't have to worry about Cabrera.

Miguel Cabrera has been walked intentionally 32 times in 2010. Nobody else on the team has more than five. That's one of the reasons that Cabrera scored 111 runs this season. All those walks mean more men on base. More men on base means greater odds at scoring. It's all pretty simple.

The bottom line is that the Tigers suck without Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers are pretty good with Miguel Cabrera. That's a big difference and the essence of a most valuable player, is it not? Sometimes we make these educated assumptions such as first basemen aren't that important so their defense that figures into WAR are devalued compared to shortstops, third basemen and center fielders. In essence, the Fan gets that. But what it doesn't tell you is the value a player adds to the line up and what happens to that line up when the player isn't there. Cabrera isn't there and the Tigers have lost five straight. That's no coincidence.

Friday, October 01, 2010

And Ode to the Blue Jays

No team in baseball has been more fun to watch this year than the Toronto Blue Jays. Which makes it even more of a mystery as to why they didn't draw better crowds at home. The team drew just under 1.5 million fans which is 12th in the AL in attendance. Those fans that didn't attend sure did miss a great show. The team led the majors in home runs and in slugging. They also came in third in doubles. Plus, they had a young rotation that really started coming into it's own including Brandon Morrow, who just might be the most exciting young pitcher in the league right now. Here is some offensive highlights of just what those fans missed by staying home:

  • Jose Bautista!  54 homers, 34 doubles, 3 triples, 99 walks, 124 RBI with 109 runs scored. His batting average wasn't much to sneeze over, but his OBP was .381. What an awe inspiring year.
  • Vernon Wells: Quieted some of the talk about his contract this year. 31 homers, 42 doubles, 3 triples, 87 RBI. He would have driven in more runs but Bautista didn't let him have any.
  • John Buck: 20 homers and 22 doubles with 65 RBI in just 110 games. He has a slugging percentage of .498.
  • Aaron Hill: Had about as bad a start at the plate of anyone in baseball, but still slugged 26 homers.
  • Edwin Encarcion: Will never be touted as a good hitter, but he hit 18 homers.
  • Lyle Overbay: Despite the Fan calling him Lyle Overpaid, the slugger hit 20 homers and hit 36 doubles.
  • Adam Lind: Another player with a horrendous start after a big season last season. But he has contributed 22 homers and 31 doubles.
  • Travis Snider: This young slugger should have played more. Hopefully a new manager will tap him for full time duty. He hit 14 homers and slugged .471 in just 81 games.

Heck, even one of their pitchers (Shawn Marcum) hit a homer in the interleague games!

In the rotation, here were the highlights:

  • Shawn Marcum: 13-9 with a 3.63 ERA. He had nearly a 4 to 1 K/BB ratio. .244 batting average against.
  • Ricky Romero: 13-9 with a 3.79 ERA. .244 batting average against.  Only gave up 14 homers in 202 innings.
  • Brett Cecil: 15-7. Not the power pitcher like the first two, but he keeps you in the game and wins.
  • Brandon Morrow: 10-7 with 178 strikeouts in 146 and a third innings! Included was a 17 strikeout, one hitter. He has "ace" written all over him. .248 batting average against.

On top of these starters, Kyle Drabek shows promised, Rzepcynski beat the Yankees and Shawn Hill even threw a few good games. The bullpen of Gregg, Camp, Downs, Frasor, Janssen and Purcey were just fine and pitched a lot of quality innings.

Yes, it was a super fun season to watch these Blue Jays. Their biggest weakness is that they didn't hit for average. Wells led the team at .274. And their pitching staff walks too many batters. But still, this team was the fourth best team in the American League this year and it was a fun ride the whole season.

Game Picks - Friday: October 1, 2010

And so it's October. The foliage is at its peak in northern Maine with spectacular reds, oranges and yellows. It's nature's last gasp before everything turns first to gray and then to gray and white. The geese are practicing before the ponds freeze for their trip south and with the ducks, make the skies in front of the Fan's house like a super highway. It would be all quite beautiful if the inner spirit didn't acknowledge that the long winter is approaching. For the Fan that means the double depressing duo of cold and no baseball. There are three more days of the regular season. Three more days with lots of games to pick. Then there will only be a handful of games that will diminish like the leaves here until only two teams are playing. And then the last leaves will fall to the ground and the long wait will begin. It's all a bit sad.

But, the Fan will finish his mission. Not a single day has gone by this season without the Fan plugging away on the picks. So far 2344 games have been picked and the Fan has a 314 game cushion with games correct versus games picked incorrectly. And the last two days have been positive after a seven day stretch of horror. September still finished in the black despite that week of terror. And with a few more good days, the Fan can rescue this week as well. So here we go! With three days remaining, here are Friday's picks:

  • The Reds over the Brewers: The Brewers are starting Mark Rogers, a young kid from Brunswick, Maine. He's made one start so far of five innings without giving up a run. But the Reds should prevail with Wood, their own youngster.
  • The Tigers and Orioles split a double header: The Tigers have already lost one double header this week and have to play without Cabrera. But they should split here with the Orioles winning the game that Guthrie pitches.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: Misch has lost all four of his decisions. He is countered by Zimmermann, who has had his own troubles. Somebody has to win the game.
  • The Marlins over the Pirates: It's Mendez versus McCutchen in another game that is impossible to determine.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Pettitte versus Dice-K. Both teams will want to win but only the Yankees HAVE to win.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: This is the game the Braves have to win because they get Kendrick. The Braves pitch Beachy. Uh oh.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: Hamilton is going to play, so cue up the music from The Natural.
  • The Astros over the Cubs: Yet another impossible game to pick as it is Norris versus Coleman. Yeesh.
  • The Blue Jays over the Twins: The Blue Jays pounded out six more homers last night. That's 260 and counting.
  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: Westbrook over De La Rosa as the Rockies are avalanching.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: The Indians are hitting well these days. Carmona over Pena.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Ely versus Zach Kroenke and his 21.60 ERA. Hide your eyes.
  • The Royals over the Bay Rays: Chen can beat Shields in a fair fight. Shields has not been good.
  • The Giants over the Padres: Cain beats Richard and the drama will be over. And it's all a bit sad for the Padres.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Cahill wins his 18th over French.

Yesterday: 7-4  (one rain out)
Week: 33-36
Last Month: 211-194
Season: 1329-1015
Games of the Day: 85-76

An Ode to the Angels

Thanks to the inspiration of one of the Fan's favorite regular readers (whose comments are always a hoot too), the Fan thought it would be appropriate at this point in the season to write an ode to the Angels...or as bobook calls them, the Los Angeles de El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula de Anaheim de los Estados Unidos. The Fan has to admit that the comment caused a wicked case of the snickers. Anyone who has spent some time here knows that this writer cannot stand the Angels' full name as listed by Major League Baseball. It's stupid, frankly. The name is hated so harshly here that this writer has never typed it. It's akin to calling the SkyDome the Rogers Center. But this post is getting off on the wrong foot. The full intention of this post is to write something nice about the reigning AL West champions before they smilingly hand the crown to the Texas Rangers. It's been quite a run.

As much as the Angels run as the cream of the AL West crop (there are only four teams, so someone has to be) has been impressive, it's also been improbable. The Angels somehow found a way to win every year despite the team they put on the field and not because of it. Last year's version won 97 games. According to their run differential, they should have won 92. They had the best batting average in baseball and at one point, a picture was taken of their line up as shown on the scoreboard because every person in the line up was batting .300 or better. Even Mike Napoli and Howie Kendrick had good years. Every position starter on that team finished with an OPS+ over 100. But their pitching was far from special. Joe Saunders made 31 starts for them and won 16 games despite a 4.60 ERA and a WHIP over 1.4 (plus 29 gopher balls). Santana was awful and had an ERA over 5. But he still broke even on his record. The bullpen was adequate at best.

The 2009 Angels then steamrolled the Red Sox in the division series before falling to the Yankees. The 2008 Angels won even more games. They won 100 games that season despite the incredible fact that their run differential suggested that they should have only won 88 games! The 2008 team featured only three regular position players with an OPS+ over 100. All the rest were under. They were 11th (out of 14) in On Base Percentage and 10th in OPS. Mark Teixeira gave them a mighty boost at the end. They had a solid (if not spectacular) rotation and four of their five starters made over 30 starts. Lackey made 24. The rest of his starts went to Dustin Moseley, now toiling for the Yankees (and that is the right word).  That team had an excellent bullpen led by K-Rod and Arredondo. But they had five pitchers in the bullpen that had good years. K-Rod went to the Mets. Darren O'Day and Darren Oliver went to the Rangers where they helped dethrone their old team.

The 2008 team lost to the Red Sox in the divisional series. The 2007 version of the Angels won 94 games and should have won only 90. If you are keeping score, they won 21 games more than their Pythagorean won-loss record said they should have won over that three year span.  This version of the Angels hit well for average but lacked power. They didn't strike out much. Garrett Anderson was still decent. Their entire infield except for first base, hit over .300. Figgins and and Kendrick were way over .300 but even Orlando Cabrera hit .304. That team had a strong rotation with the exception of Santana, who did not have a good year. The bullpen was again solid if not super.

The 2007 team got swept in the division series by the Red Sox. The 2006 version of the Angels came in second place and didn't make the playoffs, but both the 2005 and 2004 versions came in first. The 2005 team got tot he League Championship Series and lost. The 2004 team lost the divisional series.The 2003 version of the team was the worst in this present era besides the present one. They lost 85 games and finished third in the division. This was  the year after they won the World Series in 2002 despite winnin 99 games and coming in second in the division. Those were the Erstad years when he was crashing into walls and playing dynamite baseball.

So the Angels have had a good run. They made the playoffs six times in eight years and won the championship in one of them. If there is anything that can give Angel fans hope is that year after the World Series win. They had a down year much like this one and they bounced right back and won 94 games. Any team led by Mike Scioscia is going to have a great chance to be competitive. They didn't get the pitching they needed, the bullpen was ugly and their infield was a mess.

But don't count the Angels out next year. They will have a full year of Dan Haren along with Weaver and Santana and that is a pretty darn good start to any rotation. They will get someone to play the infield. They will be back. So give a hand to those Angels as they have represented their division well. It just didn't go well this year. As refreshing as it is to have the Rangers in the post season, that freshness is a direct result of years of classy baseball by the men wearing the halo uniforms.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Game Picks - Thursday: September 30, 2010

Finally! Finally a day over .500. With 17 picks, the Fan managed to get 11 of them correct. Of course the Game of the Day pick came in wrong. And the Tigers made up a full third of the picks that were wrong seeing that they played a vomitous double-header. Throw in the Mets losing both halves of their double dip and you have a full half of all the picks that were incorrect. But this picker was dead on with Millwood pitching brilliantly and Vazquez pitching terribly. It doesn't matter who the Phillies play. They win. And the Twins and Rangers won their first games of the week. Lincecum got the job done and the Giants control their own destiny. The Braves and Padres both won, but the Padres are running out of games. The Yankees and Bay Rays both lost so there is still a half game between them. The Twins are one game back for best record.

A lot of those half game situations will go away today as there are 24 teams out of 30 playing games today. For some of those teams, the season is nearly over. Here are Thursday's picks:

  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Both Bumgarner and Enright are 6-6 and have pitched reasonably well for being young pitchers. Here's the thing though. The Giants doen't want to be toasted heading into the playoffs. This would be the game to rest some guys before the Padres series.
  • The Orioles over the Tigers: Bonderman makes his last start ever for the Tigers. Guthrie beats him.
  • The Padres over the Cubs: Garland beats Gorzelanny in a game the Padres have to win or the weekend is irrelevant.
  • The Brewers over the Mets: The Brewers will figure Gee out and Narveson has himself a good game.
  • The Red Sox over the White Sox: Lester is the man.
  • The Marlins over the Pirates: Volstad over Duke in a battle of totally unpredictable pitchers.
  • The Royals over the Rays: Perhaps wishful thinking. But Greinke finishes strong and Garza gets some work in against a tough line up.
  • The Reds over the Astros: Arroyo is scheduled to pitch. Can't see him going more than five innings. But then that bullpen can take over. Myers goes for the Astros.
  • The Twins over the Blue Jays: The stingiest pitcher for giving up homers against the biggest hitting homer team in the majors. That's quite a battle. Liriano over Hill.
  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: The Rockies are 31-46 on the road. You want one reason why they couldn't win the NL West, there it is.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Gio Gonzalez has had a nice year. Fister started strong, but he's been struggling.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Rangers over the Angels: Two lefty pitchers. One's name is Lee, the other Kazmir. Who do you think will win?

Yesterday: 11-6
Week: 26-32
Month: 204-190
Season: 1322-1011
Games of the Day: 84-76

What Will Gaston's Legacy Be?

While watching the Blue Jays pummel Vazquez, thoughts began to wander since it was such a lopsided game anyway. In between thoughts of why the Yankees would make the same mistake in acquiring Vazquez for the second time, thoughts of Cito Gaston popped up again and again. For those of you unaware, Gaston is retiring as manager after this season and will become a consultant. Of course, Gaston being a paid consultant is similar to U.S. presidents sending Jimmy Carter to Uruguay to talk about crop rotation. It's a cushy landing for a guy who has held the reins and won't be holding them anymore. Part of those thoughts on Gaston centered on what his legacy would be.

Gaston's managerial career certainly started with a bang. His Blue Jay teams of 1989 to 1993 came in first place four of those five years. His teams won two World Series. Much like Joe Torre's Yankees, do you give Gaston full credit for that run or was the groundwork paved by Bobby Cox and Jimmy Williams? Certainly 1996 was as much Buck Showalter's Yankees as they were Torre's. But then again, only 21 managers in history have won two World Series. Thirteen of those are in the Hall of Fame and three others are still managing (Torre, Francona and LaRussa).

For those who ponder such things, Torre's record was tarnished by the fact that he had no success before he came to the Yankees. After his previous stint, nobody would hire him and he was a broadcaster. It was only after coming to the Yankees did Torre's career burn brightly. For his first two years in Los Angeles, that success held up. Gaston is just the opposite. His success was immediate and his problem is what came after it. Since 1992, Gaston's second World Series victory, his teams have a record of 464-521. He is going out nicely this year with a team that was expected to be terrible that ended up being the fourth best team in the American League.. But truly, his record since his Series victories is a problem.

Another problem for Gaston is his tenure. He hasn't managed much more than 1700 (1726 to be exact) games. There are a lot of managers that have more wins than Gaston has games managed. Gaston is 65th all time in managerial wins. That's a healthy number until you note the 64th place guy. His name is Jimmy Williams, who won 20 more games than Gaston and has a better lifetime winning percentage. How's that for a kick in the pants? Gaston's winning percentage is .516, which is 101st all time. He's tied with Buck Showalter and Bob Lemon. That's pretty good company.

One of the things the Fan likes to do to judge managers is to look at the team's Pythagorean won-loss figures.The Pythagorean won-loss record looks at the run differential for the team (the amount of runs given up versus the amount of runs scored). Smarter heads than this one look at the run differential and determine in a perfect world how many games a team should have won.

One of the things that was right about Joe Torre's book was that the Yankees out performed their run differential (and their talent by a wide margin from 2001 through 2007. Their last really great team was 2000. In reality, the Fan doesn't know whether this figure is a fair way to rate managers. But we don't have much else to go by besides actual wins and losses. Gaston's Pythagorean numbers are troubling too and mirror his actual won-loss record. Throwing out the partial years Gaston managed (because it's impossible to assign the statistic when two different guys manage a team, Gaston's teams finished this way:  -6, +3, +5, +4, -1, -4, -3, -1, -9 and +2. If you add all those up, you'd find that for his career, Gaston has a -10 total in the Pythagorean ratio. His early teams outplayed their differential and most of his later teams underplayed their differential.

Some have mentioned that Gaston should get into the Hall of Fame because he was the first African-American to win a World Series as manager. And on the surface of things, that makes sense. It was a big milestone at the time. The difficulty though is assigning how much that is worth. Is it a Hall of Fame argument or a trivia question? The Fan thinks it lies somewhere in between. It was important. But not enough to simply buy a pass to the Hall of Fame.

In the end, in this writer's judgement, Gaston falls short of HOF credentials. He should be fondly remembered as a classy and solid manager that took the Blue Jays to nirvana twice. That should be a wonderful memory. In his last year, he should be remembered as the guy who allowed his young pitchers to grow up on the major league mound, which is a legacy that should last quite a few years. The Fan can't quite give him a pass at batting Snider at lead off though. That one was just plain strange. But he's also the guy that penciled Jose Bautista's name in the line up every day when that had never happened before in Bautista's career. That is a wonderful legacy too.

In the end, Cito Gaston was not a Hall of Fame manager. But he was a very good one.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Game Picks - Wednesday: September 29, 2010

This picker simply can't get out of the mire. After last night's 6-8 performance (with one rain out), the Fan's record in the last seven days is 35-57. How bad is that? Let's recap what has gone wrong. First, the Fan can't fathom how much the Cardinals have rolled over and died this month. Second, the Astros went on a tear after the All Star break but have had a lousy September. Predicting if the Yankees will win when Sabathia doesn't pitch is treacherous. Most of the contenders have wobbled their way home. The Rockies teased us with all that drama and then tanked the last week. The Rangers and Reds, who had big leads in their divisions, have played like also-rans for a week. The Twins keep getting pounded by the Royals. At one point this month, the Fan was 28 games over .500. Now the month is just 9 games over. The Fan is the Rangers right now and there are no broken ribs to help with an excuse.

But we are almost to the finish line, so if the Fan has to crawl to get there, so be it. Wednesday looks like this:

  • The Pirates over the Cardinals: Can't imagine any scenario that LaRussa comes back to this team that quit on him.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Harden over Vargas. Didn't Harden used to be good? What happened?
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: Kershaw over Chacin. Two disappointing teams just finishing the season.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: Pineiro over Cramer. Good match up if Cramer pitches like his first two starts.
  • The Brewers over the Mets: The two teams are playing twice on Wednesday. Gallardo over Dickey. And in the second game...
  • The Mets over the Brewers: Niese beats Bush.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: Scherzer over Talbot. And in the second game...
  • The Tigers over the Indians: Verlander over Timlin.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: The Braves can smell the playoffs now. They lost Prado for the season though. But they should tee off on Miller. Derek Lowe has never been a great pitcher, but he's always been a great money pitcher.
  • The Blue Jays over the Yankees: Poor Vazquez will get pummeled and Cecil gets the win.
  • The Phillies over the Nationals: Blanton's five innings will be enough to beat Detwiler and the Nats.
  • The Orioles over the Bay Rays: Millwood has a good game and Niemann hasn't pitched well in September.
  • The White Sox over the Red Sox: Impossible game to predict as Beckett faces Garcia. Going with the home team.
  • The Cubs over the Padres: A sad end to one of the year's best stories. Wells beats Young.
  • The Twins over the Royals: Bake beats Hochever and the Royals have to be tired from all that running around the bases.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Lincecum puts his mates on his back and takes them to the post season.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Reds over the Astros: The Reds will take it easy on Cueto but their line up should hit Figueroa.

Yesterday: 6-8
Week: 15-26
Month: 193-184
Season: 1311-1005
Games of the Day: 84-75   At least this feature has won two in a row.

Jay Bruce Is Important to the Reds

After completing his third season for the Cincinnati Reds, it is hard to fathom just how young Jay Bruce is. Jay Bruce didn't play college ball. He was drafted out of high school just five years ago (in the first round). He was only twenty years old when he came in fifth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2008. And now Bruce is only 23 years old. And yet, after Votto and Rolen, Bruce may be the third most important position player for the Reds.

Jay Bruce sealed the division title for the Reds on Tuesday night with a walk off homer. It was his second walk off homer of the season and the tenth time this season he has had a go ahead hit. Scott Rolen has 15 of those and Joey Votto has 33, which is an amazing stat and just one more reason why he is the MVP. But the point is that Bruce is starting to show the kind of player he can still be.

There were a lot of doubters last year for Jay Bruce. He was so bad for a while that the Reds sent him down to the minors for a brief refresher course. But he has rebounded nicely this year and with the exception of his strikeout total (which is too high), Bruce has posted the highest Batting Average, On Base Percentage, doubles, total bases and OPS of his short career. His 118 OPS+ is third on the team behind Votto and Rolen.

Bruce has also become an excellent right fielder and gives him a dWAR of 1.4 for the season. Bruce has 18 assists in the outfield in the last two seasons. He has above average range too.

Bruce has looked much more comfortable this year and is going to the playoffs for the first time. As his .818 OPS indicates, he is on his way to being a very good player in the majors and at the age of 23, we haven't seen but the tip of the iceberg on what Bruce is going to accomplish in his major league career.

East Coast Bias

You hear a lot from fans who comment on big media outlets about the media's east coast bias. And since most of those media megaliths are on the east coast, the point is often a valid one. ESPN is based in Connecticut. Many of us "generalists" or those of us that write about baseball generally instead of focusing on one team are also on the east coast. When we attempt to write about what we see, the time zone problem does affect what we report.

The Fan, based in Maine, writes posts generally from 8:00 P.M. to 11:00 P.M. Eastern Time. Logically, most of the west coast teams don't even get under way until two thirds of that time frame are over. And typically, those games don't get over until 12:30 or 1:00 in the morning. Logistics dictate that it is much easier for a west coast writer to have the entire day's spectrum in front of their computer screens during their peak writing times. That's not possible on the east coast.

The only thing we can do as east coast writers is report what we saw yesterday, and often that news is already stale by the present day. Even so, this site has picked Felix Hernandez for the Cy Young and Bud Black for Manager of the Year, so there is recognition of the exciting baseball being played. The Giants and Padres battle is riveting and the best story down the stretch. But often, it will be morning before we can find out what transpired during what is--for us--late games. Which is a bit of a shame. The largest draw this site has ever received was a post about three weeks ago that featured Felix Hernandez. Seattle fans sure do love their team and they poured into this site in droves. But again, it's hard to write about yesterday's news.

The big media does deserve a bit of blame for their bias. Most of them, like ESPN (mentioned earlier) and TBS and the like are based in the east. But there is also a monetary reason for what they do. The Yankees and Red Sox simply draw more interest and garner larger ratings than other teams. These outlets want to get the biggest bang for their advertising buck and that means featuring games that will garner the most interest. That makes fiscal sense even when it doesn't make socially responsible sense. It's not too unsimilar to the problem golf ratings are going through with Tiger Woods a no show during most of the tour season. The draw is the draw and that's where the toast is buttered.

The bias is something that has to be battled. The west coast has some of the liveliest and most intense action in the league. It's a different sort of baseball too. The east teams try to bash your brains in while the west features pitching. True baseball fans love both kinds of games but casual fans love the long ball. But we on the east understand the sentiment and battle ourselves. We really do. We don't always succeed, but at least we are aware of the danger.

Stud Pitchers On Parade

On a night when the Reds, Yankees and Bay Rays needed a win to seal their playoff spots and the Braves needed a win to keep them in charge of the wild card spot, stud pitchers stepped up and carried the day. But they weren't alone. Seattle got another ace performance from their Cy Young candidate, the Phillies got an excellent tune up outing from their trade deadline stud in a game the Phillies eventually lost because a veteran pitcher for the Nationals had a sensational start after a disappointing season and two young relievers were lights out after his night was done. Let's recap.

The Reds have been dancing around that clinching game for several days now. They simply needed to get the job done so they can start figuring out their playoff match ups. But until they slammed the door on the Cardinals, they had to keep throwing their A-game out there. Edinson Voquez is peaking at just the right time. The erstwhile ace has had a tough year returning from a long-term injury. He still had the power stuff of the past, but his command was all over the place. But he's had four good games in a row now and his efforts on Tuesday night helped his team to its clinching win.

Volquez matched the tough Wandy Rodriguez for six innings. Both pitchers only gave up two runs before departing for pinch hitters. Volquez struck out eight and more importantly, only walked one. The game became a bullpen battle after that and the Reds' bullpen was one run better than Houston's. First, the Amazing Arthur Rhodes did his thing and pitched a scoreless inning. Then Rhodes' young student, Nick Masset threw a perfect eight and then the Reds turned to their secret weapon. Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth and struck out two to give the Reds' offense a chance to win the game.

Jay Bruce won the game in walk off fashion with a homer in the ninth (more on him in the next post). It was a game the Reds needed to set their house in order and Voquez, Rhodes, Masset and Chapman made it happen. Congratulations Reds on your first division title in many years.

The Yankees seemed to be playing rope-a-dope for the previous three weeks and things got a bit surreal after A. J. Burnett again went up in flames on Monday night. In stepped Sabathia like the ace he is supposed to be and pitched eight and a third innings of three-hit, one-run ball against the mighty offense of the Toronto Blue Jays in their home ballpark. Sabathia's performance allowed the Yankee hitters to relax, take control of the game and win it easily. It also allowed Mariano Rivera to get some work in during the ninth as he came in to get the final two outs in a non-save situation. The Yankees can't relax because they are still in a dogfight for the division title and the best record in the AL is at stake. But Sabathia at least put the playoff berth to bed in a performance that the Yankees really needed to have.

David Price did the same thing for the Bay Rays. Price pitched eight scoreless innings on six hits and no walks. Price struck out eight and then Soria came in and pitched a perfect ninth, striking out two more. If it wasn't for King Felix, Price would have an excellent argument for Cy Young and won his 19th game. The win clinched a playoff spot for the Bay Rays and kept them ahead of the Yankees in the AL East. The Bay Rays only had nine base runners the entire game but scored five of them in a clutch offensive performance.

The two wins by the Bay Rays and Yankees means that the Red Sox hopes are finally dashed. You have to have much respect for the Red Sox as they battled everything under the sun and still stayed relevant right up until the last week of the season. All due credit must go to Terry Francona and David Ortiz for keeping that team from hanging their heads. They kept plugging along and came up short.

Meanwhile, Bobby Cox, manager of the Atlanta Braves, bit the bullet and all of his best starters are pitching on three days rest this week. He has no choice if his team is to get into the promised land. Tim Hudson, who is the Braves ace in heart (if not in stuff, that goes to Hanson) took the ball and gave Cox six gutty innings. They weren't spectacular innings as he allowed eleven base runners, but somehow managed to allow only one of them to score. Gaby Sanchez stranded six Marlins all by himself, Corbin Maybin got himself picked off by Hudson and Bonifacio, who shouldn't be playing, hit into a crucial double play.

The Braves' bullpen again got the job done. The amazing Billy Wagner closed the door with 36th save by striking out the side in the ninth. Wagner now has a 1.34 ERA. This may be the finest season of his stellar career and maybe he'll reconsider his retirement announcement.

The Phillies are living the high life these days as they are assured the top spot in the NL playoff pole. But they have to play out the rest of the season. Roy Oswalt got a tune up for the playoffs and pitched his obligatory five innings. He only gave up one run and was as sharp as he's been since his second start for the Phillies. On the other side, Jason Marquis, who has had nothing short of a disastrous first season with the Nationals due to injury and ineffectiveness, was juat as good for the Nationals and kept the mighty Phillies (who played most of their regulars) to just one run. He handed the ball off to young Tyler Clippard, who pitched two scoreless innings, striking out two. Drew Storen, the other Nationals phenom, pitched a perfect inning to get the win when Donkey Dunn hit his 38th homer of the season in walk off fashion off of the ancient LOOGY, Tim Byrdak.

Down in Texas, Felix Hernandez might just have sealed his Cy Young Award with another dominating performance. He pitched eight innings, allowing only seven base runners while striking out five. He only gave up one run and lowered his ERA to 2.27. With Price hitting all cylinders and Sabathia pitching the Yankees into the post season, it was a performance that Hernandez really needed to put him over the top. And over the top he should be. King Felix has to be the league's Cy Young. Forget his 13-12 record. He's just been a head above anybody else in the American League.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Rob Deer Awards

Rob Deer played for eleven seasons between 1984 and 1996. His claim to fame was the strikeout record with 186 in 1987. A record that would be shattered three times by Mark Reynolds of the Arizona Diamondbacks. But this post isn't about strikeouts. Deer had another claim to fame. In the last forty years, nobody has hit 25 or more homers with a lower batting average. The Fan stopped at forty years because the old eyes were bugging out going year by year through In 1991, Rob Deer hit 25 homers and batted .179. He struck out 175 times that year or seven times the amount of homers he hit. He was joined in that dubious club by Mark McGwire in 2001, McGwire's last season. McGwire hit 29 homers that season and batted .187. The difference was that McGwire only had 364 plate appearances that year.

With the exception of those two seasons, no players in the last 40 seasons have batted lower than .200 and still hit 25 homers. But this year, two players may join that exclusive club. Mark Reynolds and Carlos Pena are in serious contention for that honor. Pena is now batting .198 in 561 plate appearances and he's hit 27 homers. Mark Reynolds has hit 32 homers and is batting .199 in 587 plate appearances. Both players have been high strikeout/high walk, all or nothing type of players for most of their careers. But this year is more all or nothing than ever. Just to show you how hard it is to do what they are doing, here is a list of the players who have hit 25 or more homers with the worst batting averages in the last forty years:

  1. Rob Deer (1991) - .179 with 25 homers
  2. Mark McGwire (2001) - .187 with 29 homers. Again, McGwire did not play the whole season and retired.
  3. Carlos Pena (2010) - .198 with 27 homers.
  4. Mark Reynolds (2010) - .199 with 32 homers
  5. Dave Kingman (1984) - .204 with 37 homers. Kingman finished that season with a .432 slugging percentage. He only hit 9 doubles and had one triple to go along with his 37 round trips. Plus he had many years where he hit in the .220s with over 25 homers.
  6. George Thomas (1985) - .210 with 32 homers
  7. Rob Deer (1989) - .210 with 26 homers
  8. Gene Tenace (1974) -.211 with 26 homers
  9. Adam Dunn (2003) - .215 with 27 homers
  10. Jose Valentin (2004) - .216 with 30 homers
  11. Tony Armas (1983) - .218 with 36 homers. One of the most futile offensive players on this list. His On Base Percentage that year was .254.

That's the list. And so, baseball friends, we are witnessing history. Two players in 2010 are going to finish number three and four in a category that goes back 40 years in their unique ability to mash the long ball and hit little else that lands safely on the playing field. Steve Balboni almost made this list. In one of his years in Kansas City, he hit 24 homers and batted .205.

Game Picks - Tuesday: September 28, 2010

Holy crap is the Fan angry. It's a good thing that the Fan is too polite to type all the obscenities that have been flying around this basement. It's like the Fan is playing Microsoft Hearts where all the odds are stacked against you and you have to play twenty games with the best strategy in the world to win half of the games. Slowey got smoked. A. J. Burnett is useless and the worst money the Yankees ever spent. At least Pavano didn't pitch for most of his time there so he couldn't do any damage. The Braves pulled a fast one and pitched Hanson on short rest (who can blame them?). C. J. Wilson pitched like Mr. Wilson on Denis the Menace. The Rockies can't score any stinking runs for Ubaldo. Ever. The Tigers got rolled over. For Pete's sake. At least the Fan did get Matusz over the Bay Rays right.

Yeah, that's vitriol spitting out of this mouth. Apologies (not really). Here are Tuesday's angry picks:

  • The Phillies over the Nationals: Oswalt finally gets his record over .500. Marquis loses.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: Scherzer over Talbot.
  • The Brewers over the Mets: The Fan wrote a nice piece on Gallardo. The least he could do would be to beat Niese.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Sabathia needs to win, but the way this has been going, Drabek will toss the first gem of his fledgling career.
  • The Reds over the Astros: Wandy has been good, but the Reds need to get this over with.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Price should be better than Bergesen.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Hudson is probably gassed, but the old vet needs to win over Sanchez.
  • The Mariners over the Rangers: Feldman gets the start against King Felix who should get over .500 and pitch a good game.
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: Suppon faced Burres last week and the Cardinals prevailed. History repeats itself.
  • The Twins over the Royals: Blackburn over O'Sullivan. The way Blackburn has been pitching, he might be their best bet for the fourth slot in the playoffs.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: The Rockies will score all the runs for Francis that they refuse to score for Ubaldo. Kuroda with the loss.
  • The Red Sox over the White Sox: Lackey beats Jackson who after a good start with the White Sox has been bombed.
  • The Padres over the Cubs: Latos may be beyond his pitch count but he needs to beat Dempster and the Cubs.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: Tough game to call with Braden facing Haran.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Rodrigo got mad at the Fan putting him down and has pitched better of late, but Sanchez is better.

Yesterday: 5-7 with one rain out
Week: 9-18  Brutal
Month: 187-176
Season: 1305-997
Games of the Day: 83-75

Monday, September 27, 2010

Game Picks - Monday: September 27, 2010

Sunday was the worst picking day in the Fan's life. Fifteen games and all the Fan could muster was four correct picks. Man, that was ugly. Top shelf closers blew saves all over the place. Contenders played like chumps. Hamels' line looked like he pitched a softball slow-pitch game. The Pirates got big nights from their phenoms. It's just brutal. It's a good thing the season is almost over because the Fan is not finishing well. If this picking season wasn't already ahead over 300 picks, the Fan would be a total idiot.

But we might as well keep going. This Fan never quits:

  • The Phillies over the Nationals: How do you pick games like this? The Phillies have clinched. They will rest a lot of guys. Yet Halladay is starting. But he'll probably only pitch five innings or so. Geez. No wonder the Fan is struggling.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: Two teams just finishing out the season.
  • The Mets over the Brewers: The Mets are better at home than the Brewers are on the road. Pelfrey over Bush.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Rzepcynski might be the only Blue Jays pitcher that is vulnerable. And Burnett has to be sharp. Another pick that's a booby trap.
  • The Marlins over the Braves: Poor Bobby isn't going to get there. Minor is his only pitching option and the season rests on a rookie.
  • The Orioles over the Bay Rays: The Orioles held out Matusz a day for this start. Let's see if it works. Davis starts for the Bay Rays.
  • The Pirates over the Cardinals: Why not? And what does the Fan have to lose. Morton (good gravy!) wins over Lohse.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Wilson in a final tune up before the post season.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: The Rockies are at home and Ubaldo needs to win to get to 20.
  • The Twins over the Royals: Ibid the Phillies. But Slowey doesn't want to be overlooked for the playoffs. Davies goes for the Royals
  • The Cubs over the Padres: Zambrano is the perfect pitcher to be the spoiler. Stauffer has been good, but Zambrano beats him.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: Santana has finished strong. He beats Anderson.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Red Sox over the White Sox: Buchholz beats Buehrle in the balled of guys who spell their name funny.

Yesterday: Does the Fan have to type this?  [sigh] 4-11
Week: 4-11    It's not fair to have to type that twice.
Month: 183-169
Season: 1300-990
Games of the Day: 82-75

This Season's Finish Full of Drama

The ending of this season has more twists and turns than a San Francisco street. There. Wasn't that a cute analogy? It actually kind of makes you want to ralph. But anyway, the home stretch has been crazy. The Padres are dead. Wait. The Braves can't beat the Nationals as they walk the farm. The Red Sox are dead. Wait! If they beat the Yankees on Sunday night, they are only four games back! The Colorado Rockies are dead. Wait!. Yeah, they are pretty much dead. The Rays are going to come in first. Wait! The lead is back down to a half a game.

The Red Sox almost made it interesting in the wild card race. Dice-K had the Yankees looking foolish all night and held a 1-0 lead off of a gutty Phil Hughes, an unexpected starter who took Moseley's place in the rotation. But then A-Rod hit a bomb to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. The great Mariano Rivera came in to face the bottom of the Red Sox order which seemed like a lock. But Rivera wasn't invincible (and rarely is against Boston) and he gave up two runs to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead. Then Jonathan Papelbon, pitching what may be his last meaningful game in a Red Sox uniform, came in to shut down the Yankees. Jeter flew out and it looked like the Yankees' September not to remember would continue. But Swisher got a hit. Teixeira got a hit. Both were pinch run for. A-Rod got a walk. Robinson Cano, who never delivered in moments like this last year, hit a single to tie the score and the Yankees still had the bases loaded with one out. Just a sacrifice fly would end it. But Posada struck out and Berkman flew out and it was on to extra innings.

Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan tag-teamed the Red Sox in the top of the tenth and the Red Sox brought in Okijama who couldn't do anything right and the Yankees won a game that was as thrilling as any these two teams have ever played. But the loss most likely put the Red Sox in their okijamas for the off season as the Yankees only have to win one more game to clinch the wild card. While that is questionable in itself these days, they should at least win one of them some time this week.

Another twisty and turny area of contention is the home field advantage in the AL playoffs. The Yankees and then the Rays held the best record, but the Twins roared into that parade and it's pretty much a dead heat right now. And believe the Fan, nobody wants to give the Twins more games at home than on the road. The Twins won their 52 game at home on Sunday, which is as remarkable as Bautista's 52. If the Twins get home field advantage, the Fan is going to give them an edge in the playoffs.

You have to give credit to the Giants. They went into the lion's den in Colorado and took three out of four to close out the Rockies and put themselves in excellent position to take the NL West. Matt Cain pitched his heart out on Sunday to give the team that big edge. He was fantastic and pitched a complete game when Brian Wilson was gassed beyond fumes.

This coming week is going to be bittersweet. The end of a baseball season is like getting to the end of a great book. You are tearing through the final pages as the climax looms and yet at the same time, you start to dread it because you don't want such a good book to end. There is still a lot at stake out there this week and those pages will be devoured with interest.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Baseball is a Funny Game

The Texas Rangers claimed the American League West title today with a win over the Oakland Athletics. The game had been tied going into the eighth inning when Jorge Cantu hit a two-run homer to give the Rangers the deciding runs. The irony is delicious. It was Cantu's first RBIs in a Rangers' uniform.

Cantu was one of those trade deadline deals. Cantu had played most of his seven years prior to his joining the Rangers as a member of Florida teams. He was drafted by the then Devil Rays as a sixteen year old out of Mexico in 1998. Cantu broke into the majors in 2004 with those Devil Rays (back when they were bad) and got into 50 games and finished with a 111 OPS+. He had a big year in 2005 when he hit 28 homers to go along with 40 doubles and drove in 117. He finished that season with a 112 OPS+ (primarily because he hardly ever walked).

But Cantu struggled in 2006 and 2007 and the Devil Rays traded him to the Cincinnati Reds for the immortal Calvin Medlock and Brian Shackelford. He did okay for the Reds (121 OPS+ in 27 games). But the Reds released him after the season. The Marlins signed him as a free agent.and that first year was a steal. For his $500,000 salary, Cantu hit 29 homers and drove in 95 runs.and played 155 games and he finished with a 108 OPS+ in 2008.

The following season, he caught up to his first arbitration case and his salary ballooned up to three and a half million dollars  His power numbers fell, but he still drove in 100 runs. But his OPS+ sunk slightly to 105. He wasn't as much of a bargain then. But his salary went up again in 2010 to six million which was definitely too much for the Florida Marlins. To make matters worse, his numbers fell off again this year but he still managed to drive in 54 runs in 97 games with the Marlins.

Meanwhile, the Rangers were desperate for a first baseman that could add something to their offense. They had tried Chris Davis. He didn't hit and had a 67 OPS+. They tried Justin Smoak and he didn't hit, though Smoak did hit a few dingers and showed some patience at the plate. But Smoak hit .209. But the Rangers wanted Cliff Lee from Seattle and the Mariners demanded Smoak. So although he was the Rangers' best prospect, he hadn't showed much at the plate and they pulled the trigger. That led them to ask the Marlins for Cantu. They were more than willing to part with him.

So Cantu went to the Rangers. He was a proven RBI guy right? He had three seasons with 117, 95 and 100 RBIs. But then Cantu...did nothing. Literally. Nothing. His line in August was .212./.268/.269. He was even worse in September. His line this month had been, .176/.263/.294. The Rangers barely played him after a while. He has played all of six games in September.

But the real kicker was that despite four extra base hits (three doubles and a triple), Cantu had not driven in a single run. That's right, Nada. Zilch. In 81 plate appearances, he had failed to drive in a single run. And it's not like there are any other value added aspects to Cantu's game. He's not a good fielder and never has been whether it's been second base, third base, shortstop or first base. He's just not a good fielder. So the Rangers had this guy they hoped to give them some production at first base and in the line up and he gave them nothing. Absolutely nothing. In fact, he gave them less than nothing. His WAR for Texas going into Saturday night was -0.2.

So after all season with all its ups and downs and hard fought battles. After trying several guys at first base and coming up empty, the winning runs for the game that clinched the season were driven in by Jorge Cantu. He hit his first homer as a Ranger and drove in his first two runs in a Texas uniform. Yes, baseball is a funny game.

The Tulowitski Legend Grows

They just finished a ten inning thriller in Colorado as the Rockies beat the Giants with a walk off double by Troy Tulowitski who may have, in September of 2010, become the best player in baseball. It was a game the Rockies desperately needed to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. At the very least, it would knock the Giants out of first place (again). But the double that drove in Carlos Gonzalez with the winning run (off of Brain Wilson no less) wasn't the only heroics on Tulo's part. It was just the final act.

Tulowitzki walked in the first after Carlos Gonzalez had singled and both scored on a Melvin Mora double to get two quick runs off of Barry Zito (whose pitching broke the Giants' streak of 18 straight games with three runs or less given up by their starters). Those runs erased a first inning homer by Freddie Sanchez.

The Giants scored two runs in the top of the third on homers by Torres and Aubrey Huff to make it a 3-2 game. The bats were silent for an inning after that. The Giants scored another run in the fifth on an RBI single by Pat Burrell and the Giants took a 4-2 lead. But the Rockies broke up the Giants streak and ended Zito's night in the bottom half of the same inning.

Carlos Ganzalez hit an RBI triple to chase Zito. Ray was the new pitcher and the first batter he faced was Troy Tulowitzki. Have fun with that. Tulo crushed a two-run homer and the Rockies had a 6-4 lead after they were done (Iannetta drove in another run with a single). But the Rockies couldn't hold the lead.

The Giants roared right back in the top of the six and scored five runs. The big blow was a three-run homer by Cody Ross. That chased Hammel and the Giants had a 9-6 lead. But Tulo wasn't done. Not by a long shot. The Rockies scored another run in their half of the sixth on a double-play ball hit be CarGo with runners on first and third with no out. Tulowitzki followed that run with a single but was stranded. The Rockies had cut the lead to 9-7.

The score remained the same until the bottom of the eighth inning when with two outs, Tulowitzki his a game-tying double off of Brian Wilson. That gave him four RBIs for the evening. The first two gave the Rockies the lead and the second two tied the score. And you know the rest. CarGo got a single off of Wilson in the tenth and then Troy Tulowitzki hit his double to score him with the winning run. The final tally in a game the Rockies simply had to have? Four hits, two doubles, a homer and five RBI.

Tulowitzki's game is the stuff of legend and that's the kind of thrills that make baseball the amazing game that it is.

Game Picks - Sunday: September 26, 2010

What a relief! Nine correct picks out of fifteen is nothing to write home to mother about, but it was sure good to get back on the plus side of things after three horrendous days. This picker also snapped a four game losing streak on Game of the Day picks. Still, the week ended up at 47-48, which the Fan believes is only the second week all season that this picker was under .500 for a week. One more win would have erased that. But the Fan will take what he can get. If the Fan does say so himself, the Mets and Padres picks were brilliant.

And so we start the last week of the regular season. How sad is that? After day after day of picking and watching and stalking the stats, the season will soon be reduced to just eight teams playing for all the marbles. But first, let's just look at Sunday's picks:

  • The Astros over the Pirates: The Fan doesn't know what to do with this series anymore. The picks for the entire series have been wrong. But Happ should beat Maholm. What the heck.
  • The Indians over the Royals: Another series the Fan can't buy a win in. And it's a Chen versus Carmona rematch won by Chen last time. But the Indians are home this time, so we'll go with them.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Hamels will probably be given a short leash as the Phillies ready for the playoffs, but his six innings should get the job done over Misch.
  • The Twins over the Tigers: Just what the Twins needed on Saturday was to have to go thirteen innings to eventually lose to the Tigers. That's a great way to get ready for the post season. Pavano was pounded too. Going with Duensing who wants to start in the playoffs over Porcello.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: The Braves are forced to pitch Beachy again and pitching Beachy isn't peachy. Just had to say that. Livan has hit a wall though for the Nats.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: The Blue Jays are not a good match up for Matusz as they have so much right-handed hitting power to throw at him. Marcum wins.
  • The Marlins over the Brewers: Mendez has looked great in his two starts for the Marlins. Capuano is still a nice story, but the Marlins will get to him.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Westbrook should be better than Samardzja (had to look that name up four times to get it right).
  • The Angels over the White Sox: Weaver cements his great season with a win over a young guy.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: Cain should out pitch De La Rosa, but after Saturday night, who knows what else Tulo has up his sleeve.
  • The Athletics over the Rangers: The Rangers will have a hangover and Cahill wins his 18th.
  • The Padres over the Reds: Homer Bailey versus Richard. Richard was the man his last time out. The Reds are just playing out the string.
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: Even Dice-K can beat Moseley.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Billingsley with a nervous nod over Saunders.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Bay Rays over the Mariners: If this series went 100 games, the Rays would go 100-0.

Yesterday: 9-6
Last Week: 47-48
Month: 179-158
Season: 1296-979
Games of the Day: 82-74