Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Few Surprising Facts From This Season

You have to love baseball because, as much as we now have sophisticated predictions and projections, things happen that continually surprise us. Each day features fifteen games where anything can happen. Each play promises the chance that you'll see something you've never seen before. Heck, Jayson Stark over at has made a career of such goings on. That's why we love the game. It never becomes tiring. Perusing the stats this fine Saturday morning, this writer thought he would share just a few surprises this season has brought us. Some may not have lasting significance or importance. They are just fun to see.

  • Matt Capps of the Twins has a HR/BB rate of 2.5. In 28 innings, he's given up five homers, but only two walks.
  • Speaking of relievers, Sergio Romo of the Giants has a 10.47 strikeout to walk ratio. Good golly, that's impressive.
  • An astounding 25 relievers have pitched more than 20 innings without giving up a home run. Of course, Mariano Rivera is the oldest of that group.
  • Cliff Lee leads all major league starters in strikeouts per nine innings with a rate of 10.34. 
  • You have to go all the way to the ninth position in the rankings to find an American League starting pitcher in the top strikeouts per nine inning category. That's Felix Hernandez. His teammate, Michael Pineda is tenth putting those two as tops in the American League.
  • Starters, Charlie Morton and Madison Bumgarner have only yielded two homers this season and lead the majors in homers per nine innings at 0.23 (starters).
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, Colby Lewis has already coughed up 17 gopher balls in 12 starts. Ouch.
  • Jeff Francis of the Royals leads the majors in hits allowed with 104. Mark Buehrle is second with 99. Tied for third are Chris Carpenter and Carl Pavano with 98. Only Carpenter is a surprise.
  • Kyle Drabek leads the majors with 48 walks allowed.
  • It's no surprise then that Drabek leads the majors in wild pitches. Well, he's tied with A. J. Burnett. But that's no surprise.
  • Omar Infante has only made one error all season.
  • Shin-Soo Choo and Ryan Ludwick lead the majors with eight outfield assists. Ryan Ludwick?
  • Only two qualifying players have a walk percentage less than three percent. They are Vlad Guerrero and Orlando Cabrera.
  • The Cubs have the least patient middle infield in baseball. Stalin Castro has walked only 3.3 percent of the time and Darwin Barney, 3.2 percent.
  • A. J. Pierzynski is the hardest guy to strike out in baseball. He's only done so 6.7 percent of the time. Who would have guessed that?
  • The Royals have the wimpiest middle infield in baseball. Alcides Escobar has the lowest ISO of all qualifying players at a miniscule .035 (he is slugging .252) while Chris Getz is fourth with an ISO of .052.
  • Chone Figgins has the lowest wOBA in baseball at .216. He is followed by Alcides Escobar and Dan Uggla. The latter is a huge surprise. Uggla also has the lowest on base percentage of all qualifying players.
  • Only ten qualifying batters have an on base percentage over .400. The Dodgers have two of them in Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Jose Bautista continues to lead the category. But Joey Votto is gaining on him.
  • Brad Hawpe leads the National League in strikeout percentage at 33.5 percent. 
  • Justin Smoak has the lowest speed rating in the majors for qualifying players with a speed rating of 0.3.
  • Joey Votto has a BABIP of .394. In other words, of every ten balls he puts in play, almost four of them will find a safe haven.
  • Michael Bourn is the fastest guy in baseball with a speed rating of 8.7.
  • Albert Pujols and Torii Hunter lead the majors with 17 GIDPs. That's a lot of outs.
  • Juan Pierre already has ten sacrifice bunts. Well, at least he's good for something.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury leads the majors with 21 doubles.

The Tony LaRussa Milestone

We humans are funny creatures. We attach magical associations with numbers. Seven is the perfect number. Get three straight sixes on your golf score card and you are not only ruing your golf game but you are fearing the devil. Shooting a 99 isn't much better on the golf links than 100, but it sure feels better. Roberto Clemente's 3,000 hits seem more impressive than Frank Robinson's 2,947. Eddie Murray's 504 homers seems more grand than Fred McGriff's 493. Derek Jeter's career won't be measured because of achieving 3,000 hits. That's already assured with his 2,991. And being who we are, Tony LaRussa's 5,000th game in the dugout just seems to bring out the hoopla in us all.

Perhaps such milestones are important though because, like anniversaries and birthdays, it gives us a chance to put a person in perspective. It gives us pause to celebrate someone who has been a part of our lives seemingly forever. And we need to celebrate Tony LaRussa. This Fan has gone on record in stating that the man isn't liked here. He's the Don Shula of baseball. He whines when things don't go his way. He expects the umpires to favor his players. He's arrogant. He thinks he's smarter than the rest of us. He's a lawyer for gosh sakes. But his career speaks for itself. Four Manager of the Year awards, five pennants, a World Series win in each league. And in this day and age of revolving doors and manager roulette, LaRussa has been there, day in and day out for 35 years.

To put some perspective on LaRussa's career, here are some facts for you:

  • When he started managing, Jimmy Carter was president and Iran still held our prisoners.
  • His 5,000 games in the dugout are more combined than the total games played of Carlton Fisk and Billy Williams combined.
  • Only Nolan Ryan has more career strikeouts than Tony LaRussa has managed games.
  • When Tony LaRussa started managing, the DH rule was only seven years old.
  • ESPN said last night that 74 percent of all current major league players were born after LaRussa started managing.
  • Eleven of the managers in the major leagues from 1979--the year LaRussa started--are now dead.
  • When LaRussa started managing, Earl Weaver, Tommy Lasorda, Billy Martin and Gene Mauch were all still managing.
  • You have to go to LaRussa's 19th season (1995) to find a player (Jason Giambi) who is still playing baseball today.

And the thing about Tony LaRussa is that he's never lost his fire. He's never not been intense. Each game is a battle even after all these years. He's always thinking and planning. He's always trying to find a way. His teams never have anything but the utmost respect for him and for the game. In other words, he's still got it even after 5,000 games.

Someday, Tony LaRussa's career will be celebrated in the Hall of Fame. Because someday, probably a long time from now, Tony LaRussa's career will finally end. It's been quite a run. And yes, that number, 5,000 is arbitrary. But it puts things in perspective for an amazing career.

Game Picks - Saturday: June 11, 2011

Friday was the second great day of picking in a row and the two days have totally washed the bad taste out of the mouth from the week's earlier losing streak. With only four incorrect picks out of fifteen, along with a bright blue sky, has this Fan singing like Louis Armstrong: "Blue sky, shining on me. Nothing but blue sky is all I see."

There were four clunkers to keep this picker honest. The Orioles totally took care of the Bay Rays as Tampa's offense is non-existent these days. Plus, you have to top your cap to Jake Arrieta who had a great game. The same can be said of Jason Marquis, who improved his record to 7-2 with a win over Matt Latos and the Padres. Chris Narveson was magnificent against the Cardinal offense and the Cardinals' lack of pitching spoiled Tony LaRussa's milestone game. In the other incorrect pick, Brad Penny was pretty good. But Erik Bedard survived long enough to give the ball to Chris Ray, who has been really good after a horrid April. Those were the four incorrect picks.

But on Friday, a lot went right. The Yankees responded by kicking the Indians all over the ballpark. Roy Halladay did what he does. The Rangers' line up is clicking and C. J. Wilson was good enough. The Red Sox may never lose another game this season. The Mets can't lose a game that Dillon Gee pitches as Jose Reyes stays hot. Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison carried the Marlins (almost predicted a Stanton homer and didn't). The Braves pounded the Astros. The thin air did indeed mess up Clay Billingsley as predicted. Mike Moustakas got his first major league hit and Royals' fans are going to really enjoy this team now. And the Giants just find a way with yet another walk off victory.

Saturday provides us with another full slate of games to ponder. Here are the picks:

  • The Yankees over the Indians: Mitch Talbot has been very good on the road. The Indians are a fastball hitting club and that's all Bartolo Colon pitches. But the Yankees win. Colon better go deep into the game though.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: The Fan just said the Red Sox might never lose another game. But the match up of Brandon Morrow against John Lackey is just too attractive. Bautista is due.
  • The Phillies over the Cubs: Matt Garza should be pretty good. But there is no way the Cubs figure out Cliff Lee. Nope. Won't happen.
  • The Reds over the Giants: Mike Leake has been on a roll and will keep the Giants' offense to a minimum. Tim Lincecum gets another hard luck loss.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: Colby Lewis sure needs to have a bounce back game after his last start. The Twins don't pose much of a problem there. The Rangers will turn Scott Baker back into Home Run Baker.
  • The Braves over the Astros: Two young pitchers in Jordan Lyles and Mike Minor. Lyles has had one bad start and one good one. Minor has an ERA over five. But Houston is still Houston. Braves win.
  • The Mets over the Pirates: R. A. Dickey pitches well against the Pirates and had a good outing against the Braves. He'll go deep into the game. James McDonald got totally lost in his last outing and was finally yanked after three straight, four-pitch walks.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: The Tigers will look to get even over Michael Pineda after an early season loss to him. Max Scherzer certainly hasn't been great, but always seems to get the W.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: The Orioles are on a nice little roll, but face David Price today. Price is 4-1 lifetime against the Orioles and has a 2.33 ERA against them at Camden Yards. Meanwhile, Jeremy Guthrie has not been pitching well. Will the Bay Rays' bats wake up?
  • The Athletics over the White Sox: Last night's win for the A's is what they needed to get going. Melvin gives them a new vibe and vitality. Gio Gonzalez with the win and John Danks with the loss.
  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: The Cardinals have never seen Zack Greinke. After today, they will wish to never see him again. This game is why the Brewers got him. The defense lets Chris Carpenter down again.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: Ted Lilly relies on movement in his pitches and will get less movement in Colorado. Jason Hammel hasn't been good of late, but will get the run support with the Rockies at home.
  • The Nationals over the Padres: John Lannon is going to have a good game and Clayton Richard will bend enough to give this one to the Nats.
  • The Royals over the Angels: The Angels are going through another bad stretch. Joel Pineiro faces the rookies and won't survive. Felipe Paulino finally gets a a win.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Braves: Have to go with the Fan's man-crush in Ian Kennedy over the Marlins and Javier Vazquez.

Yesterday: 11-4
Week: 46-38
Month: 76-60
Season: 519-427
Games of the Day: 43-29

Friday, June 10, 2011

When Is a Bust a Bust?

Several teams made big moves during the off season and signed talent they hoped would lead them to greater glory. Some, like Lance Berkman, have paid off. Others have mostly paid off, like Cliff Lee. But some have been downright scary in how poorly they turned out. We are now seventy-one days into the major league season. When is a bust a bust? Is it still too early to tell? Is the sample size still too small? If so, then perhaps this post can be about potential busts instead of outright busts. No matter how you call it, the following players have been drags to their new teams.

Dan Uggla. The Braves were soooo happy to get Dan Uggla in the off season. Here was a guy with noted and consistent pop playing a position that doesn't have many sluggers. The Braves were so happy that they rewarded Uggla with a fat five year contract. But Uggla has been disappointing on many levels, and yes, that is an understatement. His current slash line is from your worst nightmare: .170/.235/.304. Fangraphs has him pegged at -0.9 WAR. That's ugly. Uggla's walk rate is way down. After three years of 12.4, 13.8 and 11.6 percent respectively, Uggla's walk rate is down to 7.6 percent.

Again, is this officially a bust or is it too early yet? Well, there is the matter of Uggla's BABIP, which is an ungodly low of .184. You would have to think that would even out over the long haul. But BABIP is such a tricky issue. Uggla's infield fly ball rate is double his career norms. That's not bad luck. His ground ball percentage is up from a career average of 38.1 percent to 45.9 percent this year. His line drive percentage is the lowest of his career. So it's hard to point to BABIP for this horrid start for Uggla. If Uggla were to hit a solid .300 from today until the end of the season, he would only raise his batting average to .241. Yes, we are getting pretty close to bust time and it's not like Uggla has a history of getting hot in the second half.

Adam Dunn. Dunn is another one without a history of slow starts and big finishes. His monthly average for hits, homers and the like are consistent over the months of his career seasons. That makes his recent start with the White Sox that much closer to bust status. His slash line is better than Uggla's but not by much: .178/.318/.325. His 15.5 percent walk rate helps, but he is such a bad base runner, that his walks lose some value with him on the bases. As a DH, his only job is to hit. He isn't hitting and he is only on pace to hit 18 homers. Since the guy has averaged 38 homers since forever, that's mighty troubling. Dunn's strikeout rate is the highest of his career, his ISO the lowest. His infield fly out rate is two and a half times what it was a year ago. The White Sox are simply snake bit in the DH position.

Dunn did hit a homer yesterday, so that's at least good news.

Aubrey Huff and Miguel Tejada: Re-signing Huff and signing Tejada were a couple of the few off-season moves by the Giants. Huff proves the Fan's old adage: When you find lightning in a bottle with a cheap off season signing, don't ever make the mistake of giving that cheap hurrah a good contract the following year. Of all regular players, that is players who currently qualify for the batting title, Huff is the second least valuable player in baseball and Tejada is fourth. That's not good. The pair have identical .223 batting averages and Tejada has a .246 on base percentage while Huff sits at .286. Huff at least has an OPS of .957 so far in June. So perhaps he can contribute the rest of the way. But he has a long way to go to come close to earning his $11 million in salary. Signing Tejada was simply dumb. He hasn't been a valuable player for years now.

Mark Reynolds: The Orioles hoped they could fix Mark Reynolds when they got him from the Diamondbacks. And indeed, his strikeout rate is markedly down. It's safe to say he won't break his own record this season. And he adds value with his patience at the plate and power. His ISO, wOBA and wRC+ are at acceptable levels despite his continuing batting average south of .200. What makes this acquisition close to being in the bust column is that his fielding has simply vanished. Miguel Tejada wasn't any great shakes as a third baseman for the Orioles, but Reynolds' glove thus far makes Tejada look like Brooks Robinson. Reynolds has a negative WAR of -0.2.

Other batting busts or heading in bust territory: Yuniesky Betancourt. But it's not like much was expected there. Vernon Wells. Good golly. What were the Angels thinking? Lyle Overbay. The Fan really thought Overbay was going to have a big season. Not yet anyway. And, of course, Chone Figgins is the bust that keeps on giving for two seasons now.

Game Picks - Friday: June 10, 2011

The losing streak is over! After three bad days in a row, yesterday proved to be a winner. There were only four bad picks. There was the Mets, who are totally confusing to this picker now. Are they good? Are they bad? Who knows. Also, the Royals finally won a game and beat the Blue Jays. Didn't see that coming. And it's been heard that Mike Moustakas is on his way? Trevor Cahill is still being counted on and he's not the same pitcher lately. Hope he isn't hurt or something. And the other incorrect pick was an extra inning win by the Twins over the Rangers. The Twins have come alive lately.

The Cubs pick over the Phillies took a long time to come out right. But it did. The Red Sox were too much for the Yankees, who must now regroup somehow. Lance Lynn got his first MLB win and Lance Berkman hit another homer. Colorado had to come from way behind to beat the Dodgers and secure that pick. Anthony Rizzo had a successful debut for the Padres with a triple and two walks. Welcome to the big leagues, kid. Johnny Cueto was really good, or the Giants are really bad. Poor Madison Bumgarner. No run support...ever. Josh Collmenter pitched five shutout innings for the D-Backs, but they won late as Micah Owings started a rally with his bat and then got the win with his arm. Super cool! Jair Jurrjens and Justin Verlander did their things and carried their teams to wins. It was all just as this picker planned it. Sort of.

We head into the weekend with a fresh set of match ups. Should be interesting:

  • The Yankees over the Indians: The Yankees have to regroup and win this game and this series or they could be in trouble. Ivan Nova versus Fausto Carmona. Taking the Yankees at home.
  • The Mets over the Pirates: Can you pick against the Mets when Dillon Gee pitches? Charlie Morton is pretty good too though.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: Erik Bedard and Brad Penny kind of even each other out. The Tigers have an offense.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Jeremy Hellickson is hot. Jake Arrieta can be good or bad. Which will it be tonight?
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Jo-Jo Reyes has won two straight. But this is the Red Sox. Clay Buchholz always does well against the Blue Jays.
  • The Marlins over the Diamondbacks: The match up of Anibal Sanchez versus Joe Saunders favors the Marlins. Saunders has pitched well of late though.
  • The Braves over the Astros: Tim Hudson isn't a lock. But Aneury Rodriguez is less of a lock. The Astros are struggling.
  • The Athletics over the White Sox: Graham Godfrey makes his major league debut and has been super in the minors. Bob Melvin wins his first game as manager. Edwin Jackson goes for the White Sox.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Kyle Lohse must be good and the Cardinals have to be patient against Chris Narveson.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: C. J. Wilson should provide the difference in this one over Brian Duensing. The Rangers proved that you can hit it out in that big ballpark.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: Chad Billingsley will not be sharp in Colorado and Jhoulys Chacin knows how to pitch there. Advantage Rockies.
  • The Royals over the Angels: Simply like Jeff Francis against the Angels. Erwin Santana has been consistent but the Angels can't score.
  • The Padres over the Nationals: Matt Latos is back and has won four in a row. Jason Marquis has been good but won't be able to hang with Latos. Anthony Rizzo gives a new vibe.
  • The Giants over the Reds: Ryan Vogelsong writes a new chapter in his legend and Travis Wood was lit up in his last start.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Cubs: Carlos Zambrano has been good. But he's up against Roy Halladay. Not this time, Z.

Yesterday: 9-4
Week: 35-34
Month: 65-56
Season: 508-423
Games of the Day: 42-29

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Carlos Quentin's Quiet Quality Season

The Chicago White Sox aren't having a banner season. Ozzie Guillen has already had two or three fun media events as only he can provide them. Two amazing things have been lost in the shuffle of all that losing. One is that Paul Konerko is following his monster season of a year ago with another really good one. The second is that Carlos Quentin is having his best season since 2008. And thanks to a team that is markedly malformed, he has one of the most interesting statistical anomalies that make us all smile. First to the good part.

Quentin has played 61 games and has compiled 59 hits in 218 at bats. Of those 59 hits, 37 of them have been for extra bases. He has 17 homers and 20 doubles. Somehow, he's done all that with only a 12+ percent line drive percentage. Apparently, when Quentin hits the ball hard, he's got an arc to it. The extra base hits make up 63 percent of his hit total. While that is pretty rare in and of itself, it's not the fun stat that we will get to in a minute. Quentin has driven in 45 runs in his 61 games. He has a slash line of .271/.373/.596. Naturally, the slugging percentage is magnificent as long as you don't compare it to a guy like Jose Bautista.

His stats further show that he is performing well against every pitch type. That means that there isn't a weakness in his arsenal this season for pitchers to exploit. His walk percentage isn't great at nine percent and Quentin still chases a few too many pitches outside the strike zone. His BABIP is very low at .255, which probably ties in to his low line drive percentage. But when he hits the ball hard, it goes a long way.

All of this is good news for White Sox fans as Quentin has been kind of lost the last couple of years. Sure, injuries had something to do with the loss of production. He's only averaged 116 games a season the last two prior to this one. But even as his numbers were down along with his slugging percentage, he did manage to hit 47 homers during those two seasons. But across the board, his numbers were down. His wOBA, wRC+ and, yes, batting average all took hits. His lack of production overall gave him negative numbers in WPA in each of the last two seasons. After his monster 2008 season, he was missed, especially since he was a big part of the White Sox' plans for those seasons.

Perhaps Quentin is healthier this season. He has good fielding numbers for the first time after disastrous ones the past two seasons. That could indicate better health. Whatever the reason, Carlos Quentin is back to where he was in 2008 and in many cases better. His current wOBA is higher than his 2008 season. And, as you can probably imagine, his ISO is the highest of his career.

That fun fact? Okay. Here it is. And the Fan can't claim any kudos for discovering it. The fact is actually found in a post over at While Carlos Quentin has driven in 45 runs with his extra base hit power, he has scored only thirty runs. If you are keeping score, Quentin has scored less runs than his extra base hits. That's only been done five times over a full season in major league history. At this pace, he'll play in about 141 games and is on pace to hit 39 homers and 49 doubles. But his pace of scoring runs comes to 69. To look at it another way, he's guaranteed to score on his homers (well, duh). He's hit 17. So of all the other times he's been on base, he's scored all of 13 runs. Jiminy Crickets!

Part of the low total may be that Quentin is not a good base runner. But even so, there must be a vast wasteland behind him in the line up. And yes, Adam Dunn, this Fan is looking at you. But not you alone.

The bottom line here is that Quentin is having a very good season, which happily led to the alliteration in the heading of this post. His stats point him out as one of the few brights spots in a struggling White Sox season. But his stats also show, with his runs scored, the deep problems the White Sox have in a line up that can only feature Quentin and Konerko as any kind of success story.

Game Picks - Thursday: June 9, 2011

Life can be merciful. Last night, some good sized thunder storms rumbled through here and we lost power and the Internet. Cable may talk about a satellite dish's problems during a storm, but cable's record is no better. We were like the old Roger Miller song: No phone, no food, no pets. Except there is a pet. Anyway, the merciful part comes from being spared the opportunity to shout and swear at A. J. Burnett, who never does anything useful and is the most useless when needed most. Further mercy was granted in that this picker did not have to endure the agony of another losing day of picks, the third in a row. But dawn proved that the cable company still wants to get paid and thus this daily feature can go on as scheduled. Before getting to the picks, let's discuss what went wrong yesterday.

First, we have the aforementioned Burnett meltdown. The Yankees' offense did its part by getting to Wakefield, but by then the cows had come home and the barn door was shut. Derek Jeter needs just eleven more hits. Then we move to Houston where Lance Berkman did indeed hit another homer. But the rest of his teammates went to sleep against their nemesis, Bud Norris. So much for that Game of the Day pick. A blown save by J. J. Putz (sick of initials in baseball!) blew that pick and allowed the Pirates to get back to .500. That's a good news/bad news scenario. Aaron Cook did his part and gave up ten base runners in 5.2 innings of work, but the Padres stranded most of them and then Heath Bell coughed up two runs for the loss. Ryan Dempster and three sparkling relief efforts for the Cubs baffled the Reds as the Cubs won their second in a row. Guess they aren't quite dead yet. The Indians wasted another very good effort from Justin Masterson and lost in the tenth inning. The Tampa Bay Rays also won their game in ten innings after James Shields matched Jared Weaver for seven innings. Ozzie Guillen had Sergio Santos pitch the ninth inning of a scoreless game. He had no problem in the ninth, but Guillen sent the pitcher back out there for the tenth and he couldn't get anyone out to give he Mariners a win. Add all of this up together and you get eight bad picks out of fifteen.

The Internet went out again in the middle of writing this post. Thanks again, Time Warner. Okay, before it goes out again, here are Thursday's picks:

  • The Blue Jays over the Royals: The Royals offense is starting to gel, but they can't get anybody out. Ricky Romero over Luke Hochevar.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Pirates: Riding the Josh Collmenter legend for all it is worth. But Jeff Karstens has been good too and the Pirates are not an easy team to beat anymore.
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: Josh Beckett shut the Yankees down earlier in the year. C. C. Sabathia should fare better than Burnett and Garcia, but it won't be enough.
  • The Cubs over the Phillies: Seeing that it's the Cubs, this pick looks foolish, but this Fan likes Randy Wells over Kyle Kendrick.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Jair Jurrjens had a bad outing last time out. But he should bounce back. The Marlins counter with Chris Volstad, who has been a homer-giving machine thus far.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: lists Jaime Garcia as today's Cardinal pitcher. Umm...he pitched last night. The start goes to Lance Lynn making his second career start. J. A. Happ goes for Houston. This Fan always roots for rookies.
  • The Brewers over the Mets: Thinking here is that Yovani Gallardo continues to roll against a sometimes tough, Jonathan Niese. Tough call here, really.
  • The Oakland Athletics over the Chicago White Sox: Why did the Fan get so formal in naming those two teams? Anyway, the A's are due for a win and what better pitcher to do it with than Trevor Cahill. Mark Buehrle is tough though.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: Derek Holland is starting to get really good. Nick Blackburn had back troubles in his last start. That's never good.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw goes for the Dodgers and he can be very good. But the Dodgers have to score, and against Juan Nicasio, that might not be easy.
  • The Padres over the Nationals: Going with Aaron Harang at home again. That's worked in the past. Livan Hernandez still has some tricks up his sleeve though.
  • The Reds over the Giants: Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner seem to cancel each other out. Thus, going with the better offense.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Tigers over the Mariners: Doug Fister shouldn't be able to keep up with Justin Verlander.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 26-30
Month: 56-52
Season: 499-419
Games of the Day: 41-29

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Here Come the Detroit Tigers!

Before the season started, this site featured the prediction that the Detroit Tigers would win the American League Central division. Up until the first of June, that prediction looked pretty darned stupid. Suddenly, the Tigers have won eight of their last nine, including two wins in a row against the powerhouse Texas Rangers and find themselves only a game and a half behind the Cleveland Indians. Just as suddenly, that pick doesn't look nearly half as stupid as it did just a week and a half ago. But is this just a hot streak? Can the Tigers be good enough to win this thing? Let's take a closer look.

The Offense

Since Victor Martinez returned to the line up, this team has been hitting. But it's more than just Victor Martinez. Brennan Boesch has gotten really hot and the call up of Andy Dirks has been a nice spark to the offense. Dirks has settled in left field and is playing good defense out there. Dirks, only 25, has fairly mundane numbers overall in the minors, but has been terrific ever since he hit Triple A. He is carrying that bat to the major league level and is slugging .500 in his early small sample size. Ryan Raburn is still scuffling at the plate, but you'd have to think that he will turn it around. And no matter what he hits, now that he is playing second (face it, it isn't his best position), he's got to be better than any of the Tigers' other options there offensively. Martinez is hitting like he always has from the DH spot and perhaps his return sets the line up better and it all falls into place.

Miguel Cabrera has very good numbers, but he really hasn't gone on a tear yet. Look out world when he does. Even so, his OPS is over one and he continues to be the finest right handed batter in the league. Meanwhile, Alex Avila has been a terrific surprise as the Tigers' catcher. He's shown good power and currently sports an awesome 148 OPS+. The only fear for him is that all this catching will slow him down as the season wears on. He's catching nearly every game. But Omar Santos offers little and Victor Martinez should catch as little as possible.

Another huge surprise is Jhonny Peralta. Where is this season coming from? His OPS+ is at 150. He's batting over .300 and is slugging over .500. Amazing. Are we witnessing one of those outlier career years? Perhaps. Peralta is a lot like Jeter in that he has no range but makes all the plays he's supposed to make. And there is a lot to be said for that. But you'd really like to have him at third instead of short. Brandon Inge is toast at this stage of his career. Even his defense has slipped. But the Tigers have nothing in the minors for shortstops. Cale Iorg doesn't field well and isn't hitting in Triple A and Ciraco is little better in Double A. So barring a trade, this is what the Tigers have. Is it ideal? No, but at least Peralta is hitting even if Inge is an automatic out.

And what of Austin Jackson? He looked totally awful at the plate early this season. But like the Tigers, he has rebounded lately. He is 13 for 32 in his last eight games (a .406 clip) with three walks. He will always strike out too much and he's simply not a lead off batter. But if he can hit better than league average for the rest of the way along with his great defense in center, he should be okay. The Tigers simply shouldn't have him at the top of the order.

The Pitching

The starting rotation has three good options and two prayers. Justin Verlander is one of the elite pitchers in baseball. No questions there. Max Scherzer is 7-2 but really hasn't pitched great. For one, he's a homer machine with a rate at 1.4 per nine innings. Plus, he is giving up over ten hits per nine innings pitched. But his other peripherals are good with 8.4 K's per nine and a 2.57 K/BB ratio. He should be okay in the long run. Rick Porcello was excellent last night against the Rangers. He's now 6-3 with an ERA+ of 108. He should be good over the long haul, though he doesn't blow people away.

Brad Penny is 5-4 and that's just the way he's pitched. When he's good, he's pretty good. When he's bad, he's awful. Fortunately, he's been good five times thus far. Phil Coke doesn't have really bad numbers for a guy who is 1-5. It's just hard to know what to expect out of a guy who has been mostly a reliever in the majors. At least he's a lefty and that's a bonus.

The first thing you notice about the bullpen for the Tigers is the walks. Ugh! The walk rate in the bullpen is frightening. The closer, Jose Valverde, walks over four per nine innings. Al Alburquerque and Daniel Schlereth are both over five walks per nine. It's simply frightening. But Alburquerque has been a nice surprise otherwise and has taken up the mantle of the injured Joel Zumaya and is blowing away batters to the amazing tune of 16 strikeouts per nine innings. Wow! Joaquin Benoit was the much scoffed at free agent signing earlier in the season when he was lit up. But he's been much better lately. His peripherals are good with 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings and only 2.4 walks per nine. He should continue to be a quality set up guy down the road.

The Tigers aren't perfect, but the good news is that none of the teams in the AL Central, or in all of baseball for that matter, are perfect. Now that they have pulled themselves back into the race, there is no reason to believe that they can't win this thing. They have the offense. They have three-fifths of a rotation and they have a bullpen that can blow people away (when they aren't walking people). They have good outfield defense and good defense behind the plate. Their infield defense is a bit of a problem. But overall, the Tigers have a shot. They really do.

Some Observations From the Yankee - Red Sox Game

The MLB Network telecast of the game last night between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox was blacked out in New England and while having to watch NESN is usually a pleasant experience with the fair and very capable pair of Boston broadcasters, last night was horrible as there was this strange noise in the background the entire game. It sounded like a pool filter or something. Awful. The game was fairly interesting though. The Red Sox won as was predicted in this site's game picks. Without the tediousness of a game recap, which you can read on any major site, what follows are some observations from watching the game:

  • Alex Rodriguez is off. In one at bat, Jon Lester threw three straight pitches right in the heart of the plate. The normal A-Rod would have crushed any one of them. This A-Rod whiffed.
  • Speaking of Jon Lester, he really did not have his A game with him last night. You can call it a gritty performance without his best stuff. Or you can call it what it was. Lucky.
  • The David Ortiz bat flip was innocuous as far as this Fan was concerned. He knew he hit it out and flipped the bat. Big deal. It's not like he hot dogged it around the bases or stood at the plate admiring his work. He flipped the bat and started running. Get over it.
  • You better put a quality starter on the mound against the Red Sox. If you send meatloaf out there like Freddie Garcia, you will pay a steep price.
  • Jorge Posada was pressed into action when Lester hit Mark Teixeira in the knee. Posada had three hits including his first hits of the year from the right side of the plate. Good for him. So what Girardi should do the rest of the year is not tell Posada he is playing until game time.
  • Derek Jeter is only twelve hits away. It's getting exciting! Say what you will about Jeter's defense, but when he's not at short, every ground ball to Eduardo Nunez is cringe-worthy.
  • There's a lot to like about Hector Noesi. Besides the Ortiz homer, he was terrific for six innings, throwing only 62 pitches. (pitching data courtesy of
  • Jonathan Papelbon is still a jerk. Contrast his reaction to a save (after he had given up a run) to the way Mariano Rivera reacts. The latter is pure class. The former is all crass.
  • The Red Sox defense looks terrific. They made all the plays as the Yankees hit several rockets that turned into outs.
  • Andruw Jones should be released. Bring up anyone from the minors and they will be just as good. Can Vazquez play the outfield?
  • Robinson Cano looks like he is having a wrist problem. He got one meatball curve from Lester that normally he would have killed but his hand left the bat and he missed it. After the fly ball, he could be seen flexing his wrist.
  • Kevin Youkilis has an .854 OPS despite a .255 batting average. The guy is just a horse in the middle of that line up.
  • Adrian Gonzalez is simply superior to anything this Fan ever expected him to be in a Red Sox uniform. Unbelievable hitter. Just south of Jose Bautista for MVP honors right now.
  • Walking any Red Sox catcher (Saltalamacchia had two of them last night) is simply stupid. Throw strikes and take your chances and eight times out of ten, you'll get them out.
  • Dustin Pedroia is batting .243, J. D. Drew is at .227 and Carl Crawford sits at .245. How effective will the Red Sox be if those guys return to their career norms?
  • Bobby Jenks...Ozzie Guillen is looking smarter all the time.
  • Relief pitching is so fickle. Who would have ever thought Matt Albers would be an effective relief pitcher?
  • Daniel Bard threw six fastballs and they averaged 98.8 MPH. He also threw three sliders and they were all strikes. Not fair.

And so the Red Sox strike first and have beaten the Yankees in most of their encounters this season. The two teams are in a virtual tie for first place. This series isn't half as fun as it used to be. The teams respect each other too much.

Game Picks - Wednesday: June 8, 2011

Well, that was ugly. Yesterday was a bad, bad day for this picker. Only the Game of the Day brightens things a little bit. But, yeah, it was ugly. Chris Capuano pitched great, but Shaun Marcum out pitched him. Brewers' reliever, Marco Estrada, then gave up a two-run triple to that man again: Jose Reyes. Ballgame. Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals pitched great again...and won! Wow! Felix Hernandez gave up two homers and then a triple to the ancient Omar Vizquel as Phil Humber continues to be the White Sox best pitcher. Carlos Carrasco gave up six runs in his previous outing but none last night as the Indians beat the Twins, 1-0. The Orioles did win with Chris Jakubauskas pitching. Son of a gun! Rick Porcello was excellent and Matt Harrison had nothing for Texas. Alex Cobb beat Dan Haren and the Angels. And the bad pick that hurt the worst? Ubaldo Jiminez was brilliant again, but the Rockies were blanked by Tim Stauffer. Oy.

Perhaps Wednesday will be a little better. Here goes:

  • The Indians over the Twins: Going with Justin Masterson at home over Carl Pavano. The Tribe ended their losing streak, perhaps Masterson will too.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: If this Fan picked against the Cubs every time for the rest of the year, the pick would be correct 70 percent of the time, right? Bronson Arroyo over Ryan Dempster.
  • The Giants over the Nationals: Matt Cain should have no problem beating Yunesky Maya as long as the Giants can score a run or two.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: As many of you know who follow this feature, a pitcher who is coming back from the disabled list is rarely ever picked to win. For one thing, their outings are never long and for another, it's asking too much for a win. That leaves us with a rare pick for Dustin Moseley over Aaron Cook.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Pirates: Zach Duke and Paul Maholm face each other. Is it cruel and inhumane for Pirate fans to have to watch both pitchers at the same time?
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: A. J. Burnett has to be better against the Red Sox than he was last year. The Yankees should bunt 30 times against Wakefield. That would work.
  • The Phillies over the Dodgers: Cole Hamels beats Hiroki Kuroda as the Phillies continue to win Giants' style.
  • The Orioles over the Athletics: The A's can't seem to win lately. Zach Britton wasn't very good his last time out, but should have no trouble with this line up. Josh Outman with the hard luck loss.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: The Marlins are in a serious slide. Derek Lowe has not been good but gets a quality start. Ricky Nolasco was hit hard by the Braves last time he faced them.
  • The Rangers over the Tigers: Sooner or later Alexi Ogando is going to lose. But it won't be against Phil Coke and the Tigers.
  • The Brewers over the Mets: Flip-flopped on this pick several times and finally figured the Brewers could hit Mike Pelfrey hard. Randy Wolf needs to keep Reyes off the bases.
  • The White Sox over the Mariners: Gavin Floyd is looking better lately and Jason Vargas should give up a few with no offense to support him.
  • The Blue Jays over the Royals: Did the Royals draft any starting pitching? Let's hope so. Carlos Villanueva wins his fourth in a row over Danny Duffy. The Royals have one too many Irish pitchers. That's the call from here.
  • The Angels over the Bay Rays: The Bay Rays look better since they put Johnny Damon at lead off. Yes, this Fan is taking credit for that idea. But they face Jared Weaver tonight, who should beat James Shields provided the Angels can score a few runs.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Cardinals over the Astros: Welcome home again, Lance Berkman. Kaboom. Albert Pujols: Kaboom. Jaime Garcia with the big night over Bud Norris.

Yesterday: 5-10  ouch!
Week: 19-22   uh oh
Month: 49-44
Season: 492-411
Games of the Day: 41-28

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Michael Pineda, Danny Espinosa - Early Rookie Leaders

Despite a tough luck loss last night, Michael Pineda is still the WAR leader among all rookies at 1.9 (according to Fangraphs). Pineda isn't just doing well against the rookie class. He ranks as the 20th best starting pitcher in the majors right now among all starters. But as we shall see, he's not a lock for the award in the American League. Contenders abound. Danny Espinosa is the surprise leader in the National League. Let's take a quick look around the majors and in both leagues and see how the favorites are doing.

American League by rank:

  1. Michael Pineda (SP): 6-3, 2.33 ERA, 2.91 FIP, 8.84 K/9, 2.56 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9. 1.9 WAR
  2. Alexi Ogando (SP): 6-0, 2.20 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 6.48 K/9, 1.98 BB/9, 0.86 HR/9, 1.4 WAR
  3. Mark Trumbo (1B): .263/.312/.485. .341 wOBA, 22 extra base hits, 11 HRs, Positive fielding numbers, 1.2 WAR
  4. Jeremy Hellickson (SP): 7-3, 2.64 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 8.17 K/9, 1.98 BB/9, 1.24 HR/9, 1.1 WAR
  5. Zach Britton (SP): 5-4, 3.33 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 4.88 K/9, 3.21 BB/9, 0.83 HR/9, 0.9 WAR
  6. Jordan Walden (RP), 13 Saves, 3.08 ERA, 2.29 FIP, 9.57 K/9, 4.40 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9, 0.9 WAR
  7. J. P. Arencibia: (C) .249/.309/.479, .341 wOBA, 19 extra base hits, 9 HRs, 25 percent throwing out base steal attempts, 0.8 WAR
  8. Elliot Johnson (SS): .258/.306/.409, .308 wOBA, 5 extra base hits, 2 HRs, slick fielder, good base runner, 0.8 WAR
  9. Eric Hosmer: (1B): .304/.338/.496, .361 wOBA, 13 extra base hits, 5 HRs, -0.9 fielding, 0.6 WAR
  10. Hank Conger: (C): .239/.303/.376, 304 wOBA, 9 extra base hits, 3 HRs, 23.5 percent throwing out base steal attempts, only one passed ball, 0.5 WAR

Others of note: Kyle Drabek, Ivan Nova, Tyler Ross, Al Alburquerque and Aaron Crow.

Analysis: Pineda, Britton and Hellickson will all face inning limitations that could cut into their WAR potential. All three have extremely low BABIP rates. Walden has been a nice surprise and closers have won before (though they shouldn't). Arencibia and Conger are nice catchers with some pop, but both lack patience at the plate. Elliot Johnson is hurt and not likely to get playing time. Eric Hosmer is in a good position to put up continuous positive numbers to steal this thing.

National League by rank:

  1. Danny Espinosa (2B): .218/.321/.446, .342 wOBA, 22 extra base hits, 10 HRs, great fielding and base running metrics, 2.1 WAR, leads all rookies in fWAR.
  2. Allen Craig (OF): .340/.408/.528, .419 wOBA, 12 extra base hits, 2 HRs, sub-par fielder, good base runner, .395 BABIP, 1.5 WAR
  3. Wilson Ramos (C): .246/.325/.413, .313 wOBa, 14 extra base hits, 4 HRs, great fielding metrics including 42.8 percent success throwing out steal attempts, 1.2 WAR
  4. Craig Kimbrel (RP): 17 saves, 2.79 ERA, 1.77 FIP, 13.34 K/9, 4.03 BB/9, 0.31 HR/9, 1.1 WAR
  5. Fernando Salas: 10 saves plus 3 wins, 1.69 ERA, 1.81 FIP, 9.11 K/9, 2.36 BB/9, no HRs allowed, 1.1 WAR
  6. Justin Turner (2B): .308/.344/.436, .342 wOBA, 11 extra base hits, 2 HRs, above average fielder and base runner, 0.9 WAR
  7. Darwin Barney (2B): .301/.325/.374, 3.08 wOBA, 20 extra base hits, 1 HR, good fielder and base runner, 0.8 WAR
  8. Josh Collmenter (SP): 4-1, 1.25 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 5.40 K/9, 1.04 BB/9 (!), 0.83 HR/9, 0.7 WAR

Others to watch: Juan Miranda, Josh Freeman, Dillon Gee, Mark Melancon

Analysis:. This writer likes Espinosa's chances in that his BABIP is extremely low and should pick up as he goes along. Craig's BABIP is high and should mellow out. Ramos has been a nice surprise. Darwin Barney is killed by his three percent walk rate. Josh Collmenter's legend is growing and he could steal this thing. Voters like closers, however, so Kimbrel is certainly worth watching.

Game Picks - Tuesday: June 7, 2011

Yesterday's picks were sort of like everyone's mock draft after the Seattle Mariners selected Virginia's Danny Hultzen with the second pick in the draft. There was a lot of head scratching going on. First, let's get the obvious out of the way in that the Cubs were a very bad pick. Duh! But then the Indians lost at home again. The Tigers teed off on Colby Lewis, who gave up nine earned runs. Oof. The Blue Jays allowed the Royals to stay in the game with one bad relief outing and lack of timely hitting and Eric Hosmer hit the walk off single. John Danks finally won a game. The Fan knew he should have backed those odds. And finally, in the battle of the Claytons, Mortensen was slightly better than Richard but both were terrific. Unfortunately, Padres' reliever, Ernesto Frieri wasn't a Ferrari.

And so Monday was a sub-par day despite rousing picks like David Price and the Bay Rays, the Orioles over the A's and Cliff Lee over Ted Lilly. Today is another day and this picker is ready! Here goes:

  • The Diamondbacks over the Pirates: Kevin Correia has the most wins in baseball, but Daniel Hudson is no slouch either.
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: Jon Lester is a better bet to be on his game than Freddie Garcia. The Red Sox take Game One.
  • The Phillies over the Dodgers: Roy Oswalt seems the better pick here as the Dodgers counter with rookie, Rubby de la Rosa. In other words, to anglicize that name, the Phillies rub the bloom off that rose.
  • The Twins over the Indians: Francisco Liriano is back though Anthony Swarzak had been doing a fine job. Carlos Carrasco hasn't been good lately for the Indians.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: The Orioles are starting Chris Jakubauskas. Seriously? The A's are starting Guillermo Moscoso, which isn't much more comforting.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Tommy Hanson is a good pitcher. The Marlins, who are sliding a bit, give the ball to Brad Hand, making his major league debut. Hand, a lefty, doesn't strike out a lot of batters and walks his share. He is 7-1 in the minors, but has been homer prone.
  • The Rangers over the Tigers: Rick Porcello was cuffed around good by the Red Sox, but he's not alone there. Matt Harrison missed a start due to a blister. He's supposed to go tonight.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: Albert Pujols is himself again and Jake Westbrook will look like Cy Young against the Astros. Brett Myers with the loss.
  • The Brewers over the Mets: Shaun Marcum spoils Chris Capuano's trip back home.
  • The Mariners over the White Sox: The Sox have already beaten Michael Pineda and have Phil Humber on the mound tonight. The Fan is still going with Felix Hernandez for the win.
  • The Blue Jays over the Royals: Kyle Drabek hasn't been great as a rookie this year, but faces Vin Mazzaro, the guy who broke a record for runs allowed in an inning and a third the last time he pitched.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: Now that Ubaldo Jiminez has his first win, he'll string up a bunch. Tim Stauffer will only mildly be in the way.
  • The Angels over the Bay Rays: Alex Cobb will try again for his first win but faces the tough Dan Haren.
  • The Giants over the Nationals: The Giants always seem to find a way. It's quite amazing. Jordan Zimmermann never gets any run support from the Nationals and Jonathan Sanchez will keep it that way.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Reds over the Cubs: It's still hard to believe that Doug Davis is making major league starts. But there he is. Edinson Volquez gets the start for the Reds after his banishment to the minors.

Yesterday: 5-6
Week: 14-12
Month: 44-34
Season: 487-401
Games of the Day: 40-28

Monday, June 06, 2011

Annual David Ortiz Apologetic

A writer is supposed to be neutral right? But perhaps when a site is called, "The Flagrant Fan," that's a little silly. As such, there has to be the admission that David Ortiz is this writer's least favorite player in the game of baseball. The Fan hates everything about the guy. The way he spits into his batting glove [ewww], the way he looks so self-assured and cocky, the way he's called, "Big Papi," all grate on the nerves to the nth degree. Of coarse his heroics leading to the obnoxious Red Sox Nation back in 2004 is reason enough to hate the guy. And then there was his calling out of players who were confirmed PED users only to find out that he, himself, was on that list of shame. Never has a player been so rooted against from this corner of the planet.

With such a grand and noble hatred, this writer rejoiced when David Ortiz struggled in 2009. His demise was gleefully predicted...until he had a much better second half and the Fan had to apologize. Then there was more happiness when Ortiz started 2010 so poorly that his manager was getting serious flak for sticking with Ortiz. His manager was right and again, this Fan had to eat crow on those feelings that David Ortiz was done as an effective player. 2010 ended up as a very successful season for the king of designated hitters. Crap. The apologetics were so bad the Fan thought the Red Sox had no choice but to pick up Ortiz's option for 2011.

This season, there were no slow starts. Ortiz hit even when the Red Sox started poorly. He was their only constant. He never gave anyone any reason to question his presence in the Red Sox line up. All he has done all year is hit and hit and hit and hit. So what's the reason for this year's version of the now-annual David Ortiz apologetic? Well, the guy has simply showed that the hatred has no reason for existing.

Ortiz was unbelievable in that 2003, 2004 stretch as he came up big over and over again. Whether his performance was enhanced at the time is irrelevant. He wasn't the only one. He came up so big so often that it was just crazy. His legend was earned. When he was just so-so in 2008 and 2009, his walk rate was unjustified. Pitchers were still fearing Ortiz and simply refused to go right after him when he had two strikes on him. Some of that fear factor had worn off. But that fear became more justified in 2010 and is back in full bloom in 2011 as Ortiz has been outstanding. Alastair Ingram over at Fenway Faithful Report has an eloquent take on the fear being back in pitchers. David Ortiz is as good as ever.

Drat. So again, for the third straight year, this Fan has to humble himself in the sight of the world and state for the record that David Ortiz very often hits the ball very well. He is hitting lefties again, as Ingram pointed out so well. For several years, he couldn't do that. His strikeout rate has tumbled dramatically. That rate was at 24.8 percent in 2009 and 28 percent in 2010. It's only 11.8 percent this year. Perhaps this version of David Ortiz doesn't have to be the man anymore in the Red Sox line up. Adrian Gonzalez has ably assumed that mantle to become the one guy in that line up you have to get out. Ortiz is just a cog now in a great revolving wheel of a great line up. Despite being one of the most lumbering and worst base runners in the majors, he's scored 34 runs already.

David Ortiz is batting .325. His on base average is .392. He is slugging at a .594 clip. His wOBA of .427 is easily his highest since 2007. This Fan doesn't buy the crap about players playing much better in their contract year. But Ortiz and Jose Reyes are making that stance a little tenuous. Both are playing the snot out of the ball and having huge seasons. Ortiz has bucked recent history and has not started the season in a deep hole. Since he traditionally murders the ball in the second half, what will this year bring? That's scary to even think about.

Once again, David Ortiz is a force. Once again, this Fan stands open-mouthed and has to come to grips with reality. Sometimes life really is that "B" word.

Game Picks - Monday: June 6, 2011

Russell Wight over on Twitter correctly took today's media to task because no major outlet has a single reference to today being D-Day. On this date back in 1944, the Normandy invasion began, an invasion so important that the world as we know it today would be a totally different place otherwise. Always remember those brave soldiers.

As for yesterday's picks, they were okay. The day was over .500 by three games. However, picking the Athletics to beat the Red Sox is sticking in the throat as a really stupid pick. The Florida bullpen again lost a game which pushes the Phillies further into the NL East lead. Jake Peavy got hurt [sigh] which didn't help the White Sox pick. The Fan already wrote about the Nationals win. R. A. Dickey beating Tim Hudson was totally unexpected. Jose Reyes was again in the thick of that win. The Royals pick is downright laughable in retrospect. It's okay to do well, but when the incorrect picks seem so stupid, it's hard to feel good about them.

Monday's abbreviated schedule still features eleven games, which is pretty cool. Here are the picks:

  • The Phillies over the Dodgers: The Dodgers have won and lost on every other of Ted Lilly's starts. What a fun statistical blip. If the pattern holds true, they are due for a loss. Cliff Lee has been puzzling. He's already walked more batters than he did all of last year.
  • The Indians over the Twins: The Twins are heating up of late. But the Indians seem to find a way to win when Josh Tomlin pitches. The Indians are at home and really need a win. Scott Baker goes for the Twins.
  • The Orioles over the Athletics: The A's aren't having fun facing the AL East and get to face Brian Matusz today. They counter with Gio Gonzalez. This game could go either way.
  • The Cubs over the Reds: Matt Garza comes off the disabled list in this one and should be the difference against Mike Leake. It's hard to pick the Cubs to win, but this is the day.
  • The Brewers over the Marlins: In a rare wrap-around-the-weekend series, the Brewers should get a win behind Zack Greinke. The Marlins offer Javier Vazquez up for sacrifice.
  • The Rangers over the Tigers: Tough call here. The Tigers are charging up the standings in the AL Central and Max Scherzer was so good up until his last two starts. The Rangers feature Colby Lewis, who is pitching really well.
  • The Mariners over the White Sox: Michael Pineda is really good. John Danks is 0-8. Enough said. Though there is this little voice that keeps saying that Danks has to win some time.
  • The Blue Jays over the Royals: Brandon Morrow has not hit his stride yet for the Blue Jays. He needs to pound the strike zone more. But the Royals go with Felipe Paulino and as a team, have been stinking up the joint lately.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: Another tough game to pick. The Rockies are ice cold. Clayton Mortensen has been good and bad. Clayton Richard seems to have a better chance to win at home. Is this the first battle of Claytons ever?
  • The Bay Rays over the Angels: The Bay Rays can't hit. But David Price faces Tyler Chatwood. Both pitched really well their last time out. Going with Price.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Giants over the Nationals: The Nationals' bullpen has to be seriously gassed and need John Lannon to go deep. Since that rarely occurs, Tim Lincecum should win easily.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 9-6
Month: 39-28
Season: 482-395
Games of the Day: 39-28

Sunday, June 05, 2011

When a Series Gets Absurd

Perhaps WWE and TNA now stand for Washington's Whirling Emoters and the Throwing at Nationals Arizonians. What a ridiculous series. Jayson Werth was hit with three pitches in the series between the Nationals and the Diamondbacks and Justin Upton was hit four times. Tell this writer that isn't ridiculous (suddenly craving a Dairy Queen). And they weren't the only ones hit. Was this a tit for tat kind of affair or were the pitchers simply incapable of pitching where they were supposed to pitch?

The series obviously has been contentious. You can only speculate about intention. Would Jason Marquis, currently pitching a shutout, intend to hit Justin Upton with a pitch in the sixth inning after warnings had already been given? That seems unlikely. But who knows. The pitch looked pretty purposeful. If he did it on purpose with a runner already on and the score currently sitting at 1-0, it was a stupid decision. In the meantime, Ian Kennedy was allowed to hit two guys even though one of them was after the warning. The ump in that case thought Kennedy's pitch was an accident. How does he know? You don't throw beanballs on two-seam fastballs? Is that the rule? Who knows.

Oh yes, there was a game to be decided along the way. The Nationals won it in extra innings on a Rick Ankiel walk and a Mike Morse grand slam in the eleventh inning (Morse had been hit earlier too). The Nationals' win split the four-game series and slowed the Diamondbacks locomotive down a bit. Perhaps this is the new Nationals. Perhaps they will win by intimidation. They have little else besides a talented but overworked bullpen. But you can't just blame the Nationals for this series. The Diamondbacks wouldn't back down either and the umpires seemed bewildered throughout on how to handle the tragic comedy that was swirling around them.

And then there was the Wilson Ramos home run trot. It could barely be called a trot at all. It took him 28 seconds to round the bases, clearly an in-your-face move directed back at the Diamondbacks. The homer broke open the game at the time to push the score to 4-0. What the announcers didn't catch was that it wasn't just Ramos doing the dead stroll. Danny Espinosa, who had been hit twice himself, ran just as slowly in front of Ramos. Diamondback's coach, Matt Williams, could be seen screaming in the D-backs' dugout in response to the obvious in-your-face quality of the home run stroll.

By the way, how did Matt Williams get a pass on coaching without the confession like Mark McGwire had to endure? Just asking.

Anyway, there was one other bit of childishness in this game. In the bottom of the ninth, the Nats were leading 4-1 and had their closer, Drew Storen, in the game. Storen was awful. And after Storen gave up two hits and two walks while not recording an out, acting manager, John McLaren (Riggleman had been tossed from the game), came to take Storen out in favor of Todd Coffey for an out and then Sean Burnett. Storen was in disbelief. He pointed to himself and seemed to be saying, "You're taking ME out of this game?" McLaren was not kidding, however, and did just that. Coffey might have allowed a runner to score to tie the game and send the game into extras, but at least he threw strikes, got an out and eventually gave his team a chance to win. Sean Burnett did the same thing. He allowed a runner to score (which tied the game), but kept the Nationals in the game.

This Fan loves what McLaren did. Perhaps he should get a manager's gig somewhere. Why is there this unwritten rule in baseball that the team's ship will either sink or swim with the closer? You see this all the time. The closer doesn't have anything, the base runners are piling up and the manager just stands in the dugout wringing his hands. Obviously, Storen has come to believe this right of passage that only he is allowed to determine the outcome of a save situation. Kudos to McLaren for bucking the system and giving his team a win.

The result of Storen's meltdown in the ninth leads to one last discussion here. As long as we are talking about the silliness of all the retaliations and all the posturing and shouting that went on in this series, why not also talk about the silliness of the rules when it comes to holds and blown saves. This blown save was totally on the thick neck of Drew Storen. And yet, since he left with the bases loaded and his team still ahead, he is given a Hold. Whuh? Coffey, who allowed the third run to score on a sacrifice fly (on a ball that was drilled too) and he too got a hold. Sean Burnett gave up a run on a fielder's choice and then got the final out of the inning. But he got the blown save. Isn't that stupid? Eventually, Burnett got the win because he pitched the tenth. But getting a win and a blown save is the salary negotiation equivalent of kissing your sister.

The funniest bit about this whole series was Diamondbacks' color man, Mark Grace. Grace has been panned a lot for he color work, but he seems pretty good to this writer. His calling out of Wilson Ramos setting up with his target outside the strike zone on a 3-0 count was brilliant. Anyway, his funny moments were twice mentioning that stuff like what happened in this series happened because it was a four-game series. Come again, Mark? So every four-game series leads to beanballs and slower-than-death home run strolls? That seems a bit of a stretch.

But those comments were fittingly absurd for a very absurd series.

David Wright - The Forgotten Star

The only time you hear about David Wright, the third baseman of the New York Mets, is either a trade rumor or an update about his injury (stress fracture in his back). And that's just this year. Even last year, was there ever a quieter .503 slugging percentage ever in the history of baseball? Perhaps a little bit of hyperbole, but the point is a given. Wright has virtually disappeared from the game when the top players around the league are talked about.

And perhaps you might think that his performance has slipped. You would be right for 2009, his first year in Citi Field, a place where baseballs go to die. But last year, he bounced back to post 29 homers, 36 doubles and a 131 OPS+. That's still star material. Even his 2009 campaign wasn't that bad. His status as a player has been largely forgotten since the Mets became irrelevant. This year he was off to a mundane start when it was learned of his injury. Even if he comes back in a month or so, most of this season will be a wash for the guy and that will further dampen how he is viewed around the league.

Sure, Wright has never been a very good third baseman. But neither was Chipper Jones. And the Fan mentions Jones because Wright's career is sort of the second coming of Chipper Jones. Don't believe that? Well look at the following War Chart from (click on the image to make it larger and then click Return to get back here):

As you can see, up until this season, Wright has had a similar WAR path to Chipper's career. And most people wouldn't argue that Jones has had a Hall of Fame career. In fact, Wright's path was higher than Jones until the last couple of seasons when he has leveled off.  Wright has a career slash line of .302/.382/.512. That's pretty darn good. A few years back, when the Mets were contending for NL East titles (still think Willie Randolph stunk as a manager?), Wright was in the thick of it all, producing big numbers that helped propel the Mets. Now that the Mets have been terrible and Wright's numbers are slightly below where he was before Citi Field, Wright has become irrelevant too. And remember, Shea Stadium wasn't exactly a hitter's paradise either.

So now, when all you ever hear about David Wright is about whether or not he'll be traded, most would assume that would be the best thing for the Mets. This author thinks that would be the best thing for David Wright. Unfortunately, one of those rumors has him going to Detroit, another team that plays in a cavern. Wouldn't it be nice for Wright if he could be like Adrian Gonzalez and go to a park that is either neutral for hitters or better? Wouldn't it be good for Wright to get away from a Mets situation that has been more about off field drama rather than on field heroics? Yeah, it would.

Time will tell if David Wright can be the kind of player he was before 2009. A back injury is a bit frightening. And it's pretty safe to assume that the Mets will trade him. They have little use for highly paid stars when they can't field a competitive team and having fiscal problems. The difficulty with saying so is that Wright is relatively cheap and under team control until 2013 (2012 if he is traded).  Wright was paid $10 million last season and produced a season that was worth (according to Fangraphs) $15.9 million. Up until this season, he's been a steal for the Mets. But cutting all payroll is a goal for the Mets and a trade make sense under such dynamics. For Wright's sake, that would be a good thing.

David Wright has been a star with a career path similar to Chipper Jones. It's a shame that he has become so lost among talk of the top players in the league. Once a part of the debate of who was the best third baseman in New York, Wright isn't even mentioned compared to anyone. He is forgotten. Let's hope that he becomes found again, even if that means for another team.

Update***  While any arguments concerning a post are good because thought is never a bad thing. There are some quotes out there that David Wright was called a "superstar" in this post. He was not. He was called a star. Semantics. One other thing to note. Though there is much concern about where Wright goes from here with the regression we've seen, according to Fangraphs, he's the second leading third baseman since 2007 according to WAR. Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria  have played 85 and 198 less games respectively over the period though.

Game Picks - Sunday: June 5, 2011

Saturday was a very good end to a a decent week. There were only four bad picks yesterday. It appears that the Mets can't lose when Dillon Gee pitches is more true than that the Braves can't lose when Jair Jurrjens is pitching. The Orioles can indeed beat the Blue Jays. Joe Saunders is pitching very well for the Diamondbacks and/or Livan Hernandez will never get any run support this season. And finally, Jhoulys Chacin and Madison Bumgarner were both brilliant as expected making this a true toss up game. That coin came down on the wrong side for this picker.

On the plus side, the Pirates with Charlie Morton was a brilliant pick over the Phillies. A Rangers' pitcher again shut out the Indians and Josh Hamilton hit a homer. Sabathia was the man for the Yankees. The Red Sox won a wild one. The Twins again beat the Royals. Clayton Kershaw wasn't invincible but the Dodgers won anyway. Yovani Gallardo was as good as expected for the Brewers. Aaron Harang indeed beat the Astros. And the Cardinals beating the Cubs was hardly a stroke a genius to pick. It was a good day.

Sunday's action will look like the following:

  • The Dodgers over the Reds: Clay Billingsley will not have to deal with the light air of Colorado in this one. His breaking balls will have more bite. Travis Wood is having problems getting through the line up multiple times.
  • The Marlins over the Brewers: The Marlins should match up well against Chris Narveson and Anibal Sanchez is really good this year.
  • The Athletics over the Red Sox: Brett Anderson is always terrible against the Yankees but always terrific against the Red Sox. John Lackey is back from the disabled list. Don't know if that is good news for the Red Sox or not.
  • The Phillies over the Pirates: You have to give the Pirates props this year for hanging tough. But they face Roy Halladay, who hasn't been lights out so far this year, but still wins seventy percent of the time. James McDonald is on the wrong end of this one.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Jo-Jo Reyes is now a winner. Two in a row? Jeremy Guthrie runs into too many Toronto bats.
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: Jake Peavy keeps going strong? Perhaps. Brad Penny running into trouble against the White Sox? Probable.
  • The Royals over the Twins: The Royals have to break out some time. Brian Duensing has lost his invincibility and Jeff Francis has been the only starter to win in the last two weeks.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Chris Carpenter has gotten no love from his fielders. But he should beat the sleep-walking Cubs. Carlos Zambrano is the wild card in this game though as he has pitched well.
  • The Yankees over the Angels: Bartolo Colon continues his amazing saga against a weak hitting team and the Yankees get to Joel Pineiro.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: Ryan Vogelsong and Josh Collmenter have been two amazing stories this season for pitchers to come out of nowhere. Vogelsong continues his hot pitching and the Giants jump on Jason Hammel.
  • The Mariners over the Bay Rays: This Fan is telling you, there is something wrong with Wade Davis. His velocity is down and his pitches have less movement. It finally caught up to him in his last outing. Meanwhile, Erik Bedard has been getting better and better.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Nationals: Jason Marquis has been very good for the Nationals. But so has Ian Kennedy been for the Diamondbacks. The Nationals have no offense.
  • The Padres over the Astros: Everyone is talking about Jordan Lyles, the 20 year old phenom for the Astros. But Matt Latos has been there, done that and wears the t-shirt.
  • The Braves over the Mets: The Mets have been a different team with Jose Reyes in the line up. But Tim Hudson should find a way to win. J. A. Dickey was a better story last year than he has been this year.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rangers over the Indians: C. J. Wilson finishes off the Indians as Mitch Talbot gets the loss. The Rangers look really good right now and could run and hide in the West.

Yesterday: 11-4
Last Week: 57-41
Month: 30-22
Season: 473-389
Games of the Day: 38-28