Saturday, October 09, 2010

Key Decision Helped Defeat the Giants

Sometimes decisions that seem like no-brainers come back to haunt you. The Giants don't have much of an offense. Everybody knows this. And so far in this series against the Braves, the offense has come down to Pat Burrell. While everyone else was futile in the Giants' line up, Burrell had gone two for three with a three-run homer and a double. His batting heroics had helped give Matt Cain his 4-0 lead.

But then Burrell was removed for a pinch runner after his double in the sixth. As it turned out, that was only the half way point in the game. The Giants never scored another run and the Braves came back, tied the game to push it into extra innings and eventually won on an Ankiel homer in the eleventh.

Burrell is not God's gift as a fielder. He's pretty slow on the base paths. Giants' manager, Bruce Bochy had made this move all season as his starters usually carry the day and his bullpen closes the door. But that didn't happen on this night and Burrell's replacement, Nick Schierholtz, got two at bats and was just another cog in what became the Giants' anemic offense. Schierholtz struck out and flied out in his at bats. Of course, there is no guarantee that Burrell would have fared any different than Schierholtz did, but wouldn't you rather have your team's most dynamic threat up in those at bats instead?

The Giants' pitching is fabulous, but they need all the offense they can get. It might be in Bochy's best interest to let Burrell stay in the game because this is the playoffs and one big hit can make all the difference.

Game Picks - Saturday: October 9, 2010

This picker is now a perfect 8-0 for the playoffs. Up until yesterday's games, that was somewhat skillful as all the pitchers and teams that were supposed to win did. Yesterday's two successful picks were all luck. The Reds had built a 4-0 lead but kicked it away in surprising fashion giving the Phillies the win. In the second game, the Giants jumped out to a 4-0 lead on a three-run homer by the amazing Pat Burrell. They had Matt Cain on the mound pitching well and have one of the best bullpens in baseball. But the Braves found a way to tie the game in regulation and win it in the eleventh. How they won is as improbable as it gets with contributions from Farnsworth, Glaus and Ankiel. See Rob Neyer's piece on the details over at But like the Braves, this Fan will take the win.

Two more games on tap today:

- The Yankees over the Twins: Hughes has a big game, the Yankees offense gets to Duensing and the series will be over.

- The Rangers over the Bay Rays: Matt Garza has been a mystery since his no-hitter. Colby Lewis has been one of the feel-good stories of the year and Josh Hamilton and crew will be too much to handle.

Yesterday: 2-0
Week: 16-7
Month: 31-23
Season: 1357-1038

Torn Between Two Throwers...Feeling Like a Fool

Hoo boy, that's an old song now. This post is about the conflict that comes to pass for this writer after reading so many posts about how (statistically), Tim Lincecum's two-hit, fourteen strikeout performance against the Braves was better than Roy Halladay's no-hitter. While this writer is on the path of righteousness concerning sabermetrics and Win Scores and all the rest, on some level within the soul, there is a little boy screaming, "But who won?"

Well, they both did. Both pitchers won the game. Neither gave up a run. The Reds are a better hitting team than the Braves. Let's just say that both performances were magnificent. But heck, no-hitters may be statistically lucky, but let's just say they count more.

Some times, these arguments remind the Fan of golf statistics. Two guys are vying for a tournament. Most of the stats favor one golfer. He averaged 1.3 putts per hole. He was on the green in regulation 95 percent of the time. According to nine out of ten statistics for the tournament, this one golfer was a better golfer that week. But he didn't win. The other guy won. The guy with the lesser stats is going home with $1.3 million and the guy with all the stats is getting less than half that. That's the problem with stats being the be all and end all of conversations. The year the Cardinals won the World Series, every stat in the book says they shouldn't have won anything that year. But they did.

So the bottom line for this old Fan is that statistics are a guide. They provide useful information. They aid in planning match ups and in constructing your team. Those that ignore them get Juan Pierre to lead off for them. But in the end, a World Series win trumps the stats and a no-hitter trumps a masterpiece that Lincecum threw. That's how the Fan sees it anyway.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Game Picks - Friday: October 8, 2010

The playoffs couldn't be going better for the Yankees and the Rangers. Nor could they be going any better for this picker who is a perfect 6-0 for the playoffs. But this isn't a chest puffing experience. The games have been easy to pick thus far. Friday features one more slam dunk and one that could go either way.

Let's look at the two games:

  • The Phillies over the Reds: This one should be easy. Oswalt should have no trouble beating Arroyo who doesn't have anything in his arsenal that should stop the Phillies offense. Can't see any other outcome.
  • The Braves over the Giants: Matt Cain has been really good, but this pick is based on the fact that the Giants have a .616 OPS against power pitchers with only 137 runs scored in 113 games. Hanson is a power pitcher. But...he will need to come up big, throw strikes and dominate like he is capable of doing.

Yesterday: 3-0
Week: 14-7
Month: 29-23
Season: 1355-1038

Rays Unraveling

The Texas Rangers are making the most of their first post season in quite a while. The Rays, who just missed last year's post season party after making it to the World Series the year before have unraveled so far in their first two games and now stand one game away from going home to an uncertain future. The Rays knew going into this post season that this was their shot. Next year they will lose Carl Crawford and Joaquin Soria which are big losses. They will also lose Carlos Pena, who might not be that big a loss. But certainly they will be cutting payroll after the season and this was their one shot with this current team to do something special. Instead they are unraveling.

The Rays were already down 2-0 and C. J. Wilson was doing his best Cliff Lee imitation. The Rays knew they needed to keep the game close but everything came undone in the fifth inning. James Shields got the start and that alone will be a source of questions if the Rays do indeed lose this series. Shields has a gaudy ERA, gives up a lot of homers and a lot of hits. There were a lot of apologists before the game stating things like Shields is a better pitcher than his record. Just look at his K/BB ratio. So what? Before this year, A. J. Burnett always had a good K/BB ratio and you wouldn't want him to pitch the second game would you? Whoops! He did last year. But anyway. Shields lost his way in the fifth. It was building way before that though.

Shields just never looked comfortable with his own home pitching mound or his mechanics. His pitches were all over the place. He hit Treanor in the back with one pitch. He slipped and threw one behind Michael Young. But still, he was, as they say, uncomfortably wild. Two runs in the first four innings isn't horrible and one was a long homer which Shields is prone to give up anyway. But in the fifth, he led off the inning by hitting Treanor in the back for the second time. Borbon tried to bunt (stupid play) but bunted it too hard and Longoria got Treanor at second. Elvis Andrus followed with a seeing eye single. And to the surprise of everyone, Maddon came out to get Shields and bring in Qualls. None were more surprised than Shields.

Shields was obviously agitated and was griping on the bench. It sure looked like he was griping about being pulled. You could tell by the body language of his teammates who were doing their best to ignore the diatribe and keep their expressions bland. But Shields wasn't happy. Then Michael Young came up for the Rangers.

Qualls battled and got two strikes on the Rangers' veteran. Qualls threw a slider and Young tried to check his swing. He didn't succeed, but the Rays didn't get the call. Shields went ballistic in the dugout. He was already hot about getting pulled so early and the umpire became the focus of his wrath. And it certainly was a childish reaction. The reaction showed that Shields wasn't emotionally prepared for this start and thus the wildness and the end results. Qualls then threw a belt high fastball and Young deposited the pitch over the centerfield wall. More theatrics from Shields.

Before we get to the call, let's go back to Maddon pulling Shields. The manager made a statement to his team that he was going to stick with the players that got him there. That's why Shields started in his regular rotation spot. But then Maddon didn't seem to trust his own decision and pulled Shields at the very first opportunity. It was like Maddon didn't believe in his own choice to start the game. To this observer, it was a bit of a desperate flip-flop.

Okay, now back to the call. Listen, the Fan is the only one in the world it seems that wants to replace the home plate umpire on balls and strike with PitchF/X or another system. But until that happens, you have what you have and that's a bunch of humans doing the best they can to arbitrate a game. Sometimes they miss a ball or a strike and that's a part of the game as we know it. Once Qualls didn't get the call, he has to come back with a quality pitch. Bad calls happen. You can't throw a meatball every time you think you get jobbed. For Young's part, he got a gift and he made the most of it. That's baseball.

After a Hamilton hit, Maddon went on the field for a huddle with the infield. But you knew he was itching for a rumble with the umpire. And he got his wish. Much to his discredit, the umpire rung Maddon up in about 3.2 second. Gardenhire got tossed during the Twins playoff game too. Shouldn't the umpires have more tolerance in the playoffs? Should managers really get tossed that easily in what is the team's biggest games of the season? The Fan totally disagrees with heaving Maddon in that situation. Yeah, the rulebook does say you can't argue balls and strikes, but this is the playoffs!

But when it all comes down to the nitty, that entire inning wouldn't have changed the outcome. The two runs were all that the Rangers needed. The Rays couldn't muster any offense against Wilson and his merry band of relievers. The Rangers have exposed the Rays as a weak offensive club, particularly against left-handed pitching. Other than a couple of guys in the line up, they don't make enough contact. They have no DH to speak of. Against good pitching, they are toast. The only chance they had was to pitch Niemann or Hellickson, both of which have better stuff than Shields and shut the Rangers down. That way they could possible scratch out a run or two to have a chance. But they couldn't overcome two runs, never mind six.

And now they have a good chance of catching the same flight out of town as Dioner Navarro. Speaking of which, he's certainly getting the villain stroke for quitting on the team and he probably deserves it. Though it does seem that the Bay Rays had abandoned their 2008 hero. He fell off a cliff after that post season and the Rays didn't seem to think he was worth trying to fix. Who knows the entire story. It's just one more side note to what has become a nightmare for the Bay Rays. They may win the next game, but when it comes back around to Cliff Lee, they will be going home.

Lincecum Throws the Second Best Gem of the Playoffs

First Cliff Lee, then Doctober and now Tim Lincecum. The skinny, long-haired kid pitcher for the Giants threw an amazing game against the Braves. Lincecum only gave up two hits, one of which led off the game. He walked only one and struck out fourteen batters. How good is that?

Derek Lowe did his best to keep pace. He pitched a gritty 5+ innings and only gave up one run, the only run of the game on a Cody Ross single that scored Posey. This single by Ross is a bit of pie in the sky and one of those stories that only happen in the post season. Cody Ross wasn't supposed to play his post season. Jose Guillen was supposed to be the series right fielder. But he has a bad neck and was scratched at the last minute and pulled off the series roster. Ross, who would have been little more than a late defensive replacement otherwise gets his chance, starts the game and drove in the only run of the game. Don't you just love baseball?

But the story of the game was Lincecum. Forget all about that tough patch he had earlier in the season. He's back to fight for his claim as the best pitcher in the National League. His two Cy Young Awards back up his claim. He was magnificent and the Giants won a game just like they won so many others in September. They got great pitching and scratched out the only run they needed.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Game Picks - Thursday: October 7, 2010

Going 3-0 on playoff picks is not that difficult when you consider the starters of Lee, Halladay and Sabathia. Two of the three performed as expected and the latter pitched well enough to keep his team in the game long enough for them to score what they needed. Bottom line is that the Reds are pretty much toast, the Rays' weakness on offense is exposed and the Twins have to find a way to beat the Yankees.

Thursday's picks:

  • The Giants over the Braves: Lowe has been fabulous down the stretch. Lincecum has been fabulous for two months.
  • The Rangers over the Bay Rays: Simply don't see the Rays getting enough post season offense to compete with the Rangers who are back to full strength.
  • The Yankees over the Twins: Pavano has had some good starts against the Yankees in the past, but he really scuffled coming down the stretch. Pettitte is lefty which is troubling for the Twins and he knows how to win these games.

Yesterday: 3-0
Week: 11-7
Month: 26-23
Season: 1355-1038

You're Kidding Me, Right?

[[switching to first person mode]]  I didn't get to watch the Phillies/Reds game which is a shame because I missed something really special. I missed something amazingly special. When I first heard about it, my first reaction was, "You're kidding me, right?" I mean, come on. Sure, I expected Halladay to be very good like he always is. I figured he would be tough for the Reds. But a no-hitter? Against the best offense in the National League? No, I never would have expected that. Not in a million years.

From what this news story said, there wasn't even close to a hit during the game. According to the linked story, Rollins had to be a  bit rangy a couple of times but other than that, it was easy pickings for Halladay. As usual during games like that one, little credit is given to the catcher. But Ruiz is outstanding and Halladay mentioned how he got in a rhythm early and mentioned his catcher as a big reason for that. But again, a good rhythm is something I would believe. But a no-hitter?

The unfortunate fact for the Reds and the National League is that Halladay's performance during the season and now the post season--the 21 wins--the two no-hitters--the WAR Halladay racked up, all point out one very essential thing. The National League is not in the same class as the American League. Halladay was always the best pitcher in the American League. But he was never this good. And believe me, you can't get any gooder than this. (yeah, the bad English was on purpose). The Phillies are the only team in the National League that can play heads up with the American League. And the poor Reds are finding that out first hand. LaRussa couldn't beat them. Torre couldn't beat them. Bobby Cox couldn't beat them. If the Phillies are not in the World Series, it would be one of the biggest shocks since Lou Piniella's Seattle Mariners bowed out in the first round after winning 111 games. Or was it 114? Well, you get the point.

Which brings up a very important point. Well, it's important to me anyway. When teams are talking about unfair competitition and lack of competitive balance and teams being able to buy the best players, how come nobody ever talks about the Phillies? How come they get a pass? The Phillies play in one of the best markets, they can wildly overpay their first baseman, they can afford to go out and get Lee last year and Halladay and Oswalt this year and nobody cries foul. Why is that?

You have to understand that I don't give a rat's posterior on how the Phillies get to where they are going. I'm definitely a social Darwinist when it comes to baseball. Hey, if a team plays their cards right and is successful and can buy an advantage, then good for them. While Loria is pocketing the Yankees' and Red Sox's money, that's his problem if he can't field more than a .500 team. So, personally, I have nothing but admiration for how the Phillies have operated. I'm just wondering why they are never in those same gun scopes that other teams are when they do the same thing. You've never seen a headline that read, "The Phillies: The Best Team Money Can Buy."

Wow, how did I get this off track? Must be because I went to first person. This was about Halladay right? Holy Hanna! As a friend of mine uses as an expletive, Halladay threw a no-hitter! You're kidding me, right?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Game Picks - Wednesday: October 6, 2010

Wow! This picker was totally off his head and forgot all about making these picks today. It's only the first day of the playoffs, nothing special. Ahem...

Today's picks:

  • The Rangers over the Bay Rays: Mr. Lee out pitches Mr. Price. When the pitching match up is this even, go with the better line up.
  • The Phillies over the Reds: Mr. Halladay over Mr. Volquez. This is why the Phillies went out and got Halladay.
  • The Yankees over the Twins: Sabathia should give the Twins' line up fits and the Yankees will get to Liriano.

Month: 23-23
Season: 1352-1038

Impressed With Burnett and Girardi

Joe Girardi and the Yankees' brain trust surprised this observer when they announced the starting rotation for the division series with the Twins. The surprise was that Burnett is in the bullpen and Hughes has been named one of the three starters. This speaks well of the decision making by the Yankees. They are ignoring payroll and history by going with the three guys they think give them the best chance to win (Sabathia, Pettitte and Hughes). What was even more pleasantly surprising was A. J. Burnett's reaction to the decision.

Burnett fully understood the situation and said that Hughes should start. He also reiterated that Joe Girardi is the best manager he's ever played for. Look, this writer has taken his fair share of pot shots at Burnett for his performance, but this reaction is impressive and the perfect attitude for handling this situation. He could have sulked. He could have jobbed his manager. He could have done things most spoiled and pampered athletes do when benched by the man in charge of the team. But Burnett showed class and understanding and went out of his way to praise his manager. Well done, Mr. Burnett. Well done indeed.

And who knows, Burnett could provide the kind of dominant relief outings that Hughes provided in last year's post season. With Burnett's repertoire, he could very well dominate for an inning here or there. The only troubling aspect for the Fan about this decision is worry for Hughes. The young pitcher is in uncharted waters for innings pitched and stressful innings. Now the Yankees are going to add post season work loads on the young man. If Hughes gets hurt either in the playoffs or early next season, there will be a lot of questions asked about what happened to limiting Hughes and his innings. They did limit his innings somewhat, but Hughes throws so many pitches that he was often in 85 to 95 pitches deep by the fifth and sixth innings. We'll just have to see how it all shakes out.

The other impressive thing about this story is Joe Girardi. Burnett is the second high priced player that has come out publicly to state that Girardi was the best manager they ever played for. Teixeira stated the same thing last year. From what these players are saying, Girardi has a gigantic heart for his players and makes it clear that he cares about them. That's impressive and shows a true leader. Remember that Teixeira played for Bobby Cox, Mike Scioscia and Buck Showalter. Those three guys are top of the line managers are they not? Girardi apparently has the guts to make the roster moves he has to make, the rotation decisions he has to make while not losing his players' hearts. That is a rare trick. Contrast that to published stories from the fired Macha who said that Ryan Braun does his own thing and doesn't listen to his manager or his coaches and that Braun and Fielder wouldn't communicate with him.

The bottom line here is that the Fan is super impressed with both Burnett and Girardi who seem to be men full of grace and maturity in a game that rarely exhibits either trait.

Some Questions About Fielding Metrics

This is going to be one of those posts that frustrate you by posing questions without giving the answers. The Fan fully recognizes his in advance. And the reason this post will work out that way is because the Fan doesn't know the answers. These are simply questions that baffle the poster. And the reason for the questions in the first place is because the two most respected sources for WAR (Wins Above Replacement), Fangraphs and completely disagree far too often and the disagreement comes down to fielding. Both organizations use different fielding metric sources to equate the fielding part of the WAR equation. has heard about these disparities so often that it has taken the drastic step of listing WAR, bWAR (batting WAR) and fWAR (fielding WAR) for those who want to rate players without the distraction of the fielding metrics.

Take for example, the case of Robinson Cano. The Yankees' second baseman was four in the majors in assists and made three errors all year. But according to Fangraphs, he's only the ninth best fielding second baseman in the majors. They place his fielding as a negative value at -0.6. How can his fielding be a negative value!? doesn't really help Cano's case either. They flat lined him at 0.0. In other words, he didn't provide any value for his defense. How is that possible? And Cano's case isn't the only one. His infield-mate, Teixeira, also gets no love from fielding metrics despite scouts raving about him. Yeah, the Fan knows the observation versus stat argument and agrees that the stats usually come out ahead. But clearly something is deficient here.

So what are the questions then? Okay. Here they are. But remember, they don't have answers and thus frustrate not only the readers of the post, but the one who writes it:

  • If a good third baseman routinely ranges deep to this left (as he is encouraged to do) and continuously snares the ball in front of the shortstop, does that count against the shortstop since he didn't field the ball in his zone?
  • The same thing applies for first baseman ranging far to the right to field a ball in the second baseman's zone (remember the Cabrera play in the infamous Galarraga one-hitter?). Does the second baseman get a minus for not fielding that ball in his zone?
  • The centerfielder is told to run down balls no matter where they are hit. So he routinely races to right or left to make a catch. Is that a minus for the left fielder or right fielder for not making the play in their zones?
  • Big Papi is at the plate and a shift is put on and the shortstop is playing on the right side of the second base bag. Papi hits the ball right to him. Does that count against the second baseman since the shortstop fielded the ball in his zone?
  • Say a shortstop ranges far up the middle and dives and stops the ball but can't get the runner out at second. In the meantime, his efforts kept the runner on second from scoring as he would have if the ball had gone into the outfield. Does that count against the shortstop? He didn't get an out, right?
  • A ball is slammed up the middle but the pitcher gets a good piece of it with his glove. Unfortunately, the ball trickles over to third and the third baseman tries to bare hand it because that is his only shot at getting the runner, but he misses it. Does that dink against the third baseman in the fielding stats?

Those are this Fan's questions. They may very well be very stupid questions and this post may well be chewed up on some baseball think-tank site (and yes, that's happened before. Just do a search on the Flagrant Fan and you'll find them). The fielding metrics may already take that stuff into account. But the Fan doesn't know that and what if it doesn't? Either way, the fielding metrics are not trusted by a large percentage of writers these days and it seems for good reason. Signs point to even better ways of measuring fielders with FieldF/X. That would be welcomed. Any improvement would sure go a long way to properly value a player.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Comeback Players of the Year Announced

And the winners are? Tim Hudson of the Braves for the NL and Francisco Liriano of the Twins for the AL. This Fan can't quibble with the AL choice although it's a bit odd for a 26 year old guy finally reaching his promise as a starter as a comeback choice. But if you go by him being horrible in 2009 and great in 2010, the Fan can at least get that.

But Tim Hudson has always been very good and he was very good this year after losing a year to injury. To this writer, that isn't a comeback player. That's a return player. A comeback player is a guy who stunk for a while and then came back strong and unexpectedly. A number of players fit that bill much better than Hudson.

Oh well, there will be all kinds of awards announced and most of them will be argued. This is just the first one.

'Tis the Season

Since we have to wait three FRICKING days for the playoffs to start (rant completed) and there isn't much to talk about except playoff match ups (which has been written about at least seventy times around the country) we might as well talk about something else that happens at this time every year: Managers getting guillotined. Yup, it's that time of year.

There really isn't much joy in being right about this type of story. The Fan wrote Sunday that Macha would be released by the Brewers. Well, technically, the Fan said, "fired," but the truth is that Macha's contract wasn't renewed. That's the same thing though, isn't it? About three hours after that post was written, Macha told the media himself that his contract wasn't being renewed. In other words, he spilled his own beans and trumped the GM and ownership of their own story. Bet they were happy about that! But good golly, this is a change that had to be made. The Brewers never had any spark at all this year. They were dead men walking. Sure they had bad pitching. But there were four teams that had worse pitching. But again, there is no joy in being right here. A man lost his job. His family is impacted, his self-esteem is impacted. He's out of a job. The thin-souled could say that he made a lot of money and had two years of being the big cheese. But take it from a guy who knows. Being suddenly without a cushy job is no fun. No fun at all.

It will be interesting to see who the Brewers hire. Will it be Willie Randolph or Dale Sveum? Both have managed before. If it's Randolph, will he have more fun than he did last time around with the Mets? He seemed utterly miserable during that gig. Sveum seems like the ambitious type. You know the type the Fan is talking about? The type that is just wetting his lips waiting for the sucker over his head to fall on his own sword so he can swoop in and take the job. That could be a complete and utter falsehood. He could be a saint for all we know. But that's the perception from this odd angle. What this team really seems to need is a Bud Black type. A guy who loves pitching and has pitchers loving him. The team is going to hit (though a couple of positions need adjusting). So get a pitching guy, right?

Again, the Fan has been calling for Minaya and Manuel's head for weeks now. It finally happened on Monday (though it was leaked as early as Saturday). And again, there is no joy in reporting that this fruit has been ripe for picking for a long time now. Manuel just wasn't in the right job and Minaya has simply had too many fiascoes dragging down his tenure. No situation in baseball seemed more messed up than this one (the last game and the way it was lost seemed to be the summation of all the problems) and now, hopefully, the Mets can get on with life and find some peace and quiet. The Fan really likes Bobby Valentine for this job. He knows the media. He knows the city. This would be perfect for him. Let's all hope it isn't Joe Torre. God forbid it! This isn't his kind of gig. This is a rebuilding effort and one that requires a major and not a general.

The Fan has to be honest and admit that John Russell had been all but forgotten. So his firing was a surprise, but not in hindsight. The Pirates were the worst team this side of the Mariners and somebody had to hold the bag for every single pitcher on the team regressing to the point of oblivion. Zach Duke used to be a highly thought of pitcher. Same with Maholm. Now they are Melba toast who will be lucky to get a job anywhere. Morton's results were just salt in the wound (waiting...). Somebody dropped the ball here and it didn't work. Russell fired his own pitching coach, a move justly made. But since that pitching coach was originally his own guy, well, what can you say? The Pirates' young players look exciting but it won't be Russell to bring them along. Who it will be is not remotely clear or predictable.

Yes, it happens every year and next year will be the same thing. At least Kirk Gibson is keeping his job. Don't know if that's a good thing or not. He certainly didn't win a higher percentage that Hinch. But anyway, that's one that will be reviewed next year. It seems a record number of teams are looking for a manager. This will be fun to see how it all sorts out.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Some 2010 Odds and Ends

2010 was the year of the pitcher...supposedly. The league's 4.08 ERA was down quite a bit from previous years. The strikeouts per game finished over 7 per nine for the first time in history. So those two perspectives do seem to support the idea of a more pitching-dominant season than others of the past. Most other pitching stats were pretty much static. The walks per nine, homers per nine and hits per nine were generally in line with most other years. But there were some interesting statistical feats this year.

  • Mark Reynolds and Carlos Pena finished their quests to become only the third and fourth players in the last forty years with more than 25 homers and a batting average under .200. They joined Mark McGwire and Rob Deer in that exclusive club.
  • Mark Reynolds also did something else that's never been done before. His season was the first time in history that someone who qualified for the batting title (in terms of plate appearances) that a batter had more strikeouts than batting average.
  • Three teams finished with a team ERA over 5: The Pirates (5.35), the Diamondbacks (5.16) and the Royals (5.22). There is little doubt as to why these three teams finished with more than 95 losses.
  • Five teams finished with a team ERA under 4: San Diego, St. Louis, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Oakland. As you can see, Oakland was the only AL team to do it.
  • LOOGY of the Year Award: Pedro Feliciano led the majors in appearances this year with an amazing 92. But he only pitched 62.2 innings. Now that's a LOOGY! Randy Choate led the AL in appearances with 85 but pitched only 44.2 innings. Wow.
  • Tim Llincecum led all starting pitchers with 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings. That's not a surprise. But Yovani Gallardo and Jon Lester tying for second at 9.7 is a huge surprise.
  • Rodrigo Lopez gave up 37 homers easily pacing the league in that category and with his 1.7 homers per nine innings. James Shields of the Bay Rays gave up 34 homers, leading the AL.
  • Cliff Lee (in perhaps the coolest stat of the year) walked only 18 batters in 212+ innings or 0.8 walks per nine innings pitched. He was matched by only two relief pitchers. Wilton Lopez of the Diamondbacks only walked five batters and had a walks per nine of 0.7 and Edward Mujica of the Padres who walked only six batters and finised at 0.8.
  • Edward Mujica led the majors with a 12-1 strikeout to walk ratio.
  • Mark Buehrle and James Shields tied for the most hits allowed by pitchers with 246. Dan Haran was a surpising second at 245.
  • Jonathan Sanchez of the Giants led the majors with 96 walks allowed.
  • The Seattle Mariners finished with a team OPS+ of 79. The Pirates and the Astros tied for second at 83. At least the Pirates and Astros had pitchers hitting. Seattle had the "benefit" of the DH.
  • The Blue Jays finished with 257 homers. Amazing.
  • Four players finished with 100 or more walks: Prince Fielder (114), Daric Barton (110), Albert Pujols (103) and Jose Bautista (100). Bartin led the majors in unintentional walks with 108.
  • Dexter Fowler led the majors in triples with 14. He only had 114 hits (.260 BA) which means that an amazing 12.3% of his hits were triples.
  • Adrian Beltre led the majors with 49 doubles. Jayson Werth, Delmon Young and Evan Longoria all hit 46.
  • Juan Pierre was caught stealing 18 times to lead the majors. The number matched how many doubles he hit. He finished with a 78 OPS+. Nyjer Morgan was caught stealing 17 times (he had many less successful steals than Pierre) and he too matched his doubles total of 17. He had a 73 OPS+.
  • Rickie Weeks led the league with 25 Hit By Pitches.
  • Billy Butler easily led the majors by hitting into 32 double plays. Yeesh.
  • The Nationals and Pirates led the league with 127 errors. The Yankees led the majors with only 69.
  • Ian Desmond led the majors with 34 errors.
  • Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox led the majors with 499 assists. Geez, he couldn't have gotten one more?
  • Robinso Cano was fourth in the league in assists, had 766 chances and only made three errors. Yet he gets no love in fielding metrics. Don't get it.

Game Picks - Regular Season Finale

The regular season ended on Sunday and the Fan finished the day at 8-7. Meh. It could have been worse. While this Fan will keep picking during the playoffs, the final tally for the regular season is below. Thanks to everyone who followed along. Hopefully, you didn't bet based on these picks. That wouldn't have been very profitable. But it was a fun exercise and it was a treat to watch the scores every day. Thanks again. This Fan really appreciates it when you stop by.

Sunday: 8-7
Week: 8-7
October: 23-23
Season: 1352-1038 - 56.6%
Games of the Day: 88-76   53.7%

Sad Day for Fans of the Padres

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants for winning the National League West Division and the Atlanta Braves for winning the wild card spot. The Giants certainly earned their spot with dominant pitching down the stretch and timely hitting from their reconstructed line up. The Braves had to win a game against the Phillies and they were finally better than the Phillies' scrubs to get into the playoffs. Of course, winning one of three against the Phillies when the Phillies weren't really trying doesn't bode well for their post season. But for fans of the San Diego Padres and for those of us that took a fancy to the latest underdog story, the ending was sad.

The Padres finally fell victim to their offense. Unlike the Giants who have some legitimate studs in their rotation, the Padres were doing amazing things with some league average starters (Latos notwithstanding) and a rugged bullpen with great defense to thrill us for most of the summer with their amazing run. But that offense just couldn't get the team to the finish line. There are sixteen teams in the National League. This is where the Padres finished in some of those relevant offensive statistics:

Runs - 11th
Hits - 15th
Doubles - 16th
Homers - 11th
Batting Average  - 14th
On Base Percentage - 13th
Slugging Percentage - 15th

Some other numbers: -34.9 in Batting Runs. Only 29% of their hits went for extra bases. Their OPS for September/October was .650. In the 72 games they lost, they averaged 2.42 runs per game. They had a .691 OPS when leading off an inning. The combined lead off batters had a batting average of .234 and an OPS of .611. The Padres had a .644 OPS with the bases loaded. They had a .600 OPS in the eighth inning and a .688 OPS in the ninth inning (they weren't going to rally from behind).

In short, it was an offense that the Padres almost overcame until the very last day of the season. But they fell one game short. But still, nobody in the world thought this team would amount to anything and they nearly pulled it off. It was an amazing story. Unfortunately, the story didn't have a happy ending.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Game Picks - Sunday: October 3, 2010

The final day of the regular season! Though this picker was over .500 yesterday, it wasn't enough to save last week. And with little other fanfare, here are the picks for the last day of the regular season:

  • The Marlins over the Pirates: It's only fitting that the Pirates finish the season with a loss. Sanchez over Burres.
  • The Orioles over the Tigers: Phil Coke is starting? Say what? Bergesen wins.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: Harang over Wolf. After the game, it is announced that the Brewers have fired their manager.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: It probably won't happen as the Yankees are taking no chances with the post season by starting Moseley. But well...
  • The Mets over the Nationals: Pelfrey over Livan. Both teams will be happy this season is over.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Toss up. Who knows.
  • The Phillies over the Braves: Hamels over Hudson. Strange that the Braves couldn't put up a better fight in this last series.
  • The Blue Jays over the Twins: Rzepcynski over Blackburn.
  • The Cubs over the Astros: Quade continues to make a case. Dempster over Figueroa.
  • The Royals over the Bay Rays: O'Sullivan over Wade Davis. Wishful thinking, just so you know.
  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: The Cardinals finally found a team that tanked more than they did.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: Got to go with Haran over Colby Lewis.
  • The Padres over the Giants: How exciting is this! Latos over Sanchez.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Poor Rowland-Smith is going to end up 1-11.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Ted Lilly pitches a gem on the last day of the season. Lopez with the loss.

Yesterday: 9-7
Last week: 48-52
Month: 15-16
Season: 1344-1031
Games of the Day: 87-76

Open Letter to the Next Marlins Manager

You might be wondering why this writer is focusing on the Florida Marlins when everyone else in the world is focusing on the Padres, Giants, Twins, Yankees and Bay Rays. Well, the simple answer is that everyone else in the world is focusing on those teams right now. You can read a hundred articles on just those teams and the important baseball they are playing right now. So why add another 2000 words to the cacophony? The Fan would rather focus tonight on something nobody else is focusing on. Take the Marlins for example. "Please," Rodney Dangerfield shouts from somewhere. This is an open letter to the next manager of the Marlins, this Fan's second home team (for the three weeks spent in Florida every summer).

Dear Mr. Manager,

I don't know if you will be Edwin Rodriguez or somebody else. It could go either way depending on Mr. Loria. If that owner wants to go on the cheap for another season until your stadium is built, he might save a few bucks and bring Edwin Rodriguez back. Frankly, Mr. Rodriguez is a nice man and paid his dues. But this Fan isn't impressed. First, Hanley Ramirez, the best player on the team spent a month batting lead off. What a waste! Then, Ramirez was moved down to his rightful spot (before he got hurt) and Bonifacio became the full-time lead off batter. That's a sin that cannot be atoned for. Bonifacio is the least valuable player in baseball this side of Jason Kendall. But only Mr. Loria knows what he is going to do. The odds seem 50/50 that he'll go on the cheap or get himself a proven manager. Whichever it is, these words still apply.

First, Chris Coghlan is not your lead off batter next year. He had a nice 2009, but he didn't quite do the same job in 2010. He'd make a decent number 2 hitter or he may just be better off at seventh or eighth. Logan Morrison is your lead off batter. This guy has a .398 OBP so far this season and if you look at his minor league career, that is no fluke. The guy is an on base machine. You follow him in the line up with Gaby Sanchez (unless you put Morrison at first, which is his natural position). Sanchez doesn't have enough pop to bat clean up or fifth. Second in the order is a nice spot for him.

Then...and this is bat Ramirez third and you keep him there. He is the prototypical third hitter with speed, power and a good on base average. He is your best player and third is where he belongs. The Fan would like to think that this season was a blip on this young superstar's bright future. He is still really young after all. After Ramirez, you plus in Stanton at clean up and you leave him there. He's your right fielder from now until 2020 and he will be a star.

Next would be Dan Uggla, if he is still on the team. The Fan's guess is that he won't be. But he had a great offensive season and after Mr. Loria and the entire Marlins organization was embarrassed by the union and Bud Selig for not spending the Yankees' money, pay the guy and save face. Bat him fifth and let him be. He'll produce for you enough to be worth the paycheck. Before we go on, though, let's talk about Uggla's position. Tell him that if he is going to get the money, he has to move away from second base. He's terrible there. He has a -0.9 dWar according to And that was a better year than last year. Play him at third and move Coghlan back to second. You have Morrison in left and Stanton in right. You just need a center fielder. More on that later. The Fan knows that you have to deal with Uggla's pride. But remind him that he has a nice fat paycheck, so get over there and shush.

Let's recap, your line up so far 1-5 is: Morrison (lf), Sanchez (1b), Ramirez (ss), Stanton (rf), Uggla (3b). Looks really good so far. After that, we have a problem. Paulino is probably your best option behind the plate. He's good with the pitchers, he blocks the ball well and throws guys out. And he at least looks like a hitter when you don't play him 75 days in a row. You can bat him sixth. Bat Coghlan seventh as your second baseman. We still need a center fielder. Let's face it, you have nobody right now that can play that position. You are going to have to go get somebody. And let's be honest, anyone would be better than Maybin or whoever else you have. Why not try Scott Cousins? At least invite him to camp and see what he can do. He has to be better than anyone else on your roster. There, now your line up is set.

And the good news is that your starting rotation is all set too. Volstad, Sanchez, Johnson, Senabia and Nolasco are all under your control for next year. Sanchez and Nolasco are arbitration eligible, but you have to pay the piper some time. Johnson needs to trust his stuff and throw strikes. His pitch count gets out of control and he has to get the hook in the sixth inning far too often. Get him to throw strikes and you are golden. Same thing with Sanchez. Nolasco was simply unlucky this season. His 8.4 K/BB ration is outstanding...superb! Stick with him. It will pay off. Senabia looks like he can hold his own. Volstad needs to throw strikes too. His 60 walks are unacceptable. Trust your stuff. Pitch to outs. Make it happen. You are good enough to win.

With your line up and rotation all set, all you need to do is cobble together a bullpen. You have plenty of arms. You can figure something out.

So what do you need to figure out in Spring Training? How about the basics? Turn a page in the Buck Showalter book and stress responsibility and accountability. Make sure everyone knows where they are supposed to be an when. Tell Gaby Sanchez to stop trying to sacrifice bunt. It's a drag and he's got to stop it. Work their tails off until they have the basics down and can field a professional team. This team has the talent. It just needs the right encouragement, the correct line up and a tighter ship.

Again, if this letter finds its way to Edwin Rodriguez, then tighten it up, man. Fire them up and teach them to play the right way. Get Miguel Cabrera to talk to Hanley Ramirez about growing up and playing hard every day. Cabrera could teach him a lot so he can avoid some of Cabrera's pitfalls. You got a good team there, Mr. Manager, and it's time they play to their talent. In fact, it's well past time.

Really Bummed About Ubaldo Jiminez

You Rockies had one last chance to get Ubaldo Jiminez his 20th victory. All you had to do was score a run. That's it. Just a run. But you couldn't even do that. Why wasn't CarGo in the line up? Yeah, he is banged up, but his is Ubaldo. He's pitched his heart out all season. Yeah, he has nineteen wins. He finished with an impressive record. But we are a fandom of milestones. We love 20-win pitchers. Jiminez had fifteen wins by the All Star break. He was the only thing keeping your faint hopes alive when you got off to your typical crappy start this season. But when he needed you, you let him down.

Geez, Louise, Rockies. You left eleven men on base. You had your chances. The Cardinals even made two errors to help you. You couldn't score a single run off a pitcher with an ERA over 6. Ubaldo was magnificent. He pitched eight innings, giving up only three hits and two walks. He struck out ten. What more could you ask for? His performance couldn't get you inspired enough to go get him a run or two? How disappointing. But what else is new, right?

This is what you scored for him in his last eight losses and no decisions: 2, 0, 1, 2, 1, 1, 4, 1, 0. That's twelve runs in those eight games. 1.33 runs per game. Nice. Jiminez could have won 24 or 25 games with just four or five of those starts having some run support. It's a crying shame and Jiminez deserved better.

Look, you made a good run in September. You almost got back to the top. But you fell apart and along with falling apart, you let one of the great pitching performances of the season look like less than it was. It's disappointing and this Fan is really bummed.