Saturday, June 25, 2011

Davey Johnson - Another Blast From the Past

From all accounts, the heading of this post is a misnomer. Davey Johnson isn't a blast off kind of manager. He's not a fiery guy who will kick dirt all over the umpire. But, he is one of the most successful managers still alive. Now, according to reports, Johnson will leave his consultant post for the Washington Nationals and head to the dugout to man the position left vacant by Jim Riggleman's resignation. First we have the return of Jack McKeon and now here comes Davey Johnson. For us older guys, this is fun.

This writer has long wondered why a guy such as Davey Johnson has not been in a dugout all these years. He had so much success before that it didn't make sense. Did he simply not want such a position or did time pass him by? As a manager, he'd won a World Series and had four first place finishes in his fourteen seasons as a manager. His teams have won 58.8 percent of their games. How many managers can say that? He was the genius in the 1986 World Series while John McNamara blew it for the Red Sox. Why hasn't he been in the dugout since 2000 when he last managed two middling seasons for the Dodgers?

Johnson is one of those major leaguers that this writer has seen throughout his entire career. This writer watched him play from his rookie season in 1966 until he retired after the 1978 season. His Orioles won three World Series during Johnson's fine run as their second baseman. Those three plus his ring as a manager for the Mets gives him almost as much jewelry as Derek Jeter. This writer remembers when he was traded to the Braves along with Pat Dobson, Roric Harrison and Johnny Oates for Earl Williams and Taylor Duncan. It was one of the worst trades in Orioles' history.

And this Fan can remember the year Johnson had in his first year for the Braves when he unexpectedly hit 43 homers after hitting five the year before. You could call that an outliers, yeah. But it was a season that helped the Braves get into the playoffs that season, something Johnson has a knack for doing. It was also the last full year of his career as injuries sapped his skills. He hung around for a few more years as a part-time player.

This writer remembers when Johnson took over the Mets as manager in 1984. His timing was good as the Mets developed several stars during that period and in his seven years as their manager, the Mets never finished below second place. 1986 was the pinnacle of course with the World Series win. But what is forgotten about that title was that the Mets won 108 games that season, one of the best major league seasons ever.

After his stint with the Mets, he went on to manage the Reds a third of the way into their 1993 season. The Reds he inherited weren't very good and their fifth place finish that season was the lowest any Johnson team ever placed. But they finished in first place in the strike shortened 1994 and again in the 1995 season. He then moved to his dream job with the Orioles as their skipper and in his first season there, the team finished in second place  If young Jeffrey Maier hasn't scooped the Derek Jeter homer against Johnson's Orioles in 1996, history might have been quite different. As it was, Johnson's efforts won the Orioles the division in 1997, which for one year, interrupted the Yankees title runs.

Johnson then moved to the Dodgers for two years. In those two years, the Dodgers finished three games over .500 and had third place and second place finishes respectively. And that was it. Johnson hasn't been in the dugout since. Yeah, he did manager the U.S.A. team and the Dutch team in the World Baseball Classic, but that's it.

The Washington Nationals are flying high despite all the controversy surrounding the team. Believe it or not, they are only three games off the wild card pace. And now they have a manager whose teams have finished with an average placing of 1.9 in his 14 years as a manager. If any manager can make a Cinderella story sing, it's Davey Johnson. He already knows the organization and its players. From interviews in the linked story, the players are excited about Johnson's arrival. And another generation besides the Fan's gets to see one of the best managers of the last thirty years.

If that doesn't bring a smile to an old guy's face, then nothing will.

Game Picks - Saturday: June 25, 2011

Yesterday was yet another day under. 500 as interleague play continues to bamboozle this picker. The Red Sox lost their third straight, this time to the Pirates and Paul Maholm. The Yankees lost to Ubaldo Jiminez and the Rockies. The Diamondbacks were way down after a predictably poor performance by Zach Duke but came roaring back to beat the Tigers. Wandy Rodriguez (and the Astros) was a dumb pick. The Royals proved more inept than the Cubs as Chris Getz made a costly error in the ninth. The Padres crushed Derek Lowe and the Braves. If the Mariners score five runs, they are going to win. King Felix was great and Olivo was the hitting star. Carlos Carrasco was again brilliant but an error by Carlos Santana at first cost him the ballgame. And so it went. Each one of the games above describes how a pick went awry.

Even the games that were picked correctly weren't easy. Jose Bautista clubbed a homer off of the Cardinals' closer in the ninth. Drew Storen ruined Jordan Zimmermann's brilliant start only to see the Nats pull the game out in extras. The Phillies and their opponent managed only six combined hits in nine innings and no runs until Ben Francisco had the walk off hit. The Orioles had to go twelve innings to get that pick right. Picking these games between teams that rarely play each other is difficult. At least that's the excuse this picker is sticking with.

The Fan needs a big Saturday or this week will be in the red. Come on Saturday picks!

  • The Dodgers over the Angels: The teams play at 1:00 ET or 10:00 PT. Yikes! Hiroki Kuroda should be slightly better than Tyler Chatwood.
  • The Giants over the Indians: The Indians had their chance last night and didn't get it done. Justin Masterson is good, but Matt Cain should be better.
  • The Rangers over the Mets: Jonathan Niese sure is difficult to predict. Going with Alexi Ugando and the Rangers' offense.
  • The White Sox over the Nationals: The Nats are on a roll, but shouldn't win with Tom Gorzelanny on the mound. John Danks gets the job done for the win.
  • The Tigers over the Diamondbacks: Yes, it's hard to pick against Josh Collmenter, who is now a legend. But Justin Verlander is the bomb.
  • The Pirates over the Red Sox: Okay, let's get giddy here and give this pick to Jeff Karstens, who has given up one earned run in his last three outings. Tim Wakefield gets the start for Boston.
  • The Reds over the Orioles: Bronson Arroyo is one tough son of a gun. He usually has nothing, but battles all the way. He beats Brian Matusz.
  • The Phillies over the Athletics: Trevor Cahill seems to be back to his masterful self. But he's up against Cole Hamels, who isn't a slouch himself. Phillies squeak out the win at home.
  • The Rays over the Astros: The Rays simply hit better on the road. Wade Davis has looked better. Bud Norris with the hard luck loss.
  • The Cubs over the Royals: This picker simply can't waste any more picks on the Royals until they start winning some games. Carlos Zambrano over Danny Duffy.
  • The Brewers over the Twins: The Twins are suddenly going in the wrong direction again. Yovani Gallardo needs a good game at home though. Francisco Liriano is capable of anything.
  • The Cardinals over the Blue Jays: Jaime Garcia is a power lefty. No chance for the Blue Jays' offense. Carlos Villanueva with the hard luck loss.
  • The Braves over the Padres: Jair Jurrjens better be more effective than Lowe was. Dustin Moseley goes for the Padres.
  • The Mariners over the Marlins: Yeah, Jack McKeon is fun, but the Marlins still have to score. They won't against Jason Vargas. Chris Volstad loses.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Yankees over the Rockies: C. C. Sabathia at home against Aaron Cook seems like a no-doubter.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 36-39
Month: 175-151
Season: 611-518
Games of the Day: 54-32

Friday, June 24, 2011

Verlander and Sabathia

Perusing the leader board over at, it's easy to see the elite pitchers in baseball. Roy Halladay is on top followed by Jared Weaver, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Dan Haren and Daniel Hudson. Few of us would argue with such a list. Daniel Hudson is only a surprise to those of us that haven't been paying much attention this season. But just under Hudson is C. C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander. Both the Yankees' and Tigers' aces are tied with exactly 3.0 WAR and a valuation of $12.1 million.

Please understand that we are talking about the smallest of margins between these pitchers and those above them. For example, Kershaw and Haren are currently valued at $12.3 million and Hudson at $12.2 million. That's a difference that is all but imperceptible. The bottom line is that these are all elite pitchers who are at the top of their game. But, still, their relative ranking left this writer puzzled. Thinking of the season Verlander and Sabathia are having, which would you choose if you could only choose one?

Okay, in fairness, that question is complicated by the fact that one is left-handed and the other not and you'd have to consider the match ups you were choosing them for. But again, wouldn't anyone who was watching ESPN's Baseball Tonight or MLB Network's programming all season think that Verlander is having the more dominant season?

Let's put them head to head. Both have made 16 starts. Verlander has more innings at 120.7 to Sabathia's 114. Verlander has 8.2 strikeouts per nine to Sabathia's 6.63. Verlander's walks per nine are under 2 at 1.94. Sabathia is at 2.29. Sabathia has a lower home run per nine inning rate at 0.39 compared to Verlander's 0.89.  Verlander has given up 77 hits to Sabathia's 112 and as you can imagine, Valander's BABIP is much, much lower than Sabathia's. Verlander's WPA (win probability added) sits at 2.08 while Sabathia's sits at 0.98. There isn't a pitch type that Verlander and Sabathia share (which is most of them) and Verlander's pitch values are all higher than Sabathia's. Sabathia has a slightly lower FIP and xFIP than Verlander.

As you look at the two pitchers head to head, you'd have to say that Justin Verlander is having the better season. Please understand that this writer is no expert on such things. This writer has no more understanding of why Sabathia's FIP and xFIP are lower than Verlander than a Tibetan monk would have. More homework is needed on this side of the typewriter to understand such things. Obviously, it's needed. It's also obvious that Verlander pitches half his games in a pitcher's park and Sabathia in a hitter's park. But even so, it seems really odd that both pitchers are rated exactly as equals this season.

Again, please understand that both pitchers are among the best in the game. If you could have either in your dugout, wouldn't you? This isn't a knock on C. C. Sabathia. The Fan loves the guy. It's simply puzzling, that's all.

Mariners Fight Only Themselves for History

The Seattle Mariners are on pace to do something extremely rare. It is so rare (at least in the American League) that only they (themselves) have done it before. What is this extremely rare feat? In 2011, the Mariners have scored the fewest amount of runs in the American League while also leading that same league in the least amount of earned runs allowed. They fight only themselves as they pulled off the trick back in 2009.

What this author did was go through every American League year since 1968. By the time the writer went that far back, the eyes were crossing. Thus the National League wasn't even considered. But just for kicks and giggles, the San Francisco Giants of a year ago won the World Series as a fabulous pitching, lousy hitting ball club. But they weren't close to being the least effective offense in the National League last year. As those years were culled, some teams came close to matching this feat. The 1987 and 1996 Kansas City Royals came close. The 1997 Toronto Blue Jays came close as well with a last place finish in runs scored and a next to last earned runs allowed season. But that's it. Since 1968, the Mariners stand alone.

The 2009 Mariners had a surprising season if you'll remember and that gave hope in the off season for 2010. It was an ill-placed hope as the 2010 Mariners had a horrible season. Again, this 2011 version of the Mariners is a surprise in the standings and are only a couple of games back from the Rangers in the standings. But the way they are currently performing, there seems no chance that this year will be any better than their standing in 2009. They simply cannot score enough runs to help what has become an amazing pitching staff.

Erik Bedard gave up no earned runs on Wednesday night and lost. Michael Pineda pitched seven scoreless innings on Thursday night and lost. That's the story for these Mariners. It all comes down to quite a statistical trick. They are dead last in the American League in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage. The team boasts an 83 accumulated OPS+.

Meanwhile, the pitching leads the league in preventing runs, in walks allowed and in complete games. According to, the pitchers as a whole have accumulated a 13.0 WAR while the batters have only mustered up a 2.7 WAR (combined). Twenty-eight of the teams 75 games have been one-run games (in which they have a .500 record). Twenty-four of their 75 games have featured an offense that scored two runs or less. That's 32 percent! The team is 3-21 in those games. When the Mariners score three or more runs, they are 23-6 including a record of 14-6 when the offense scores three to five runs in a game.

The numbers seem incredible the more you look. When the Mariners pitch, opponents have a slash line of .238/.298/.355. That's fantastic. Unfortunately, when the Mariners hit, their slash line is .229/.297/.340. For every good number the pitching staff has, the offense has a worse one to top it. Nobody on the team is on pace to drive in or score 100 runs. Neither happened in 2009 either. Here's another good one for you. Justin Smoak has hit 12 homers and 18 doubles and has been on base 104 times. He's scored only 22 runs.

And it's not like the Mariners can manufacture runs. Thirty percent of their base steal attempts have been unsuccessful. And the Mariners have a negative rating for overall base running. The team only has two batters over 100 in OPS+ (Smoak naturally and Adam Kennedy. Adam Kennedy?) but have eight pitchers over 100 in ERA+. The Mariners' worst starting pitcher has a 99 ERA+.

The Seattle Mariners are the Baltimore Ravens of baseball. But unlike the Ravens, their pitching is not enough to get them into the playoffs. They have to be able to score once in a while. Dustin Ackley has arrived and perhaps that will help. It certainly can't hurt.

It's a strange team. Historically strange.

Game Picks - Friday: June 24, 2011

There isn't much room for error when you only have five games to pick. So to break just barely over .500 for the day is good enough in a short schedule. The two bad picks were the Mariners, who wasted a wonderful performance from Michael Pineda. The Mariners pathetically mounted only four hits (only one of them a non-single) and one of those hits was by Pineda. The other bad pick was the Mets beating the Athletics. In the piece yesterday, this picker fought against the heart since Chris Capuano is a comeback story. It turns out that the heart was right all along.

But the other three picks were right. Chris Carpenter indeed was due to win and did for the Cardinals. Roy Oswalt again proved himself as the crack in the fearsome foursome. Daniel Hudson won his ninth game for the Diamondbacks. What a great pitcher he's turned out to be. And Tim Lincecum was as great as expected as he dispatched the Twins in a squeaky 2-1 win for the champion Giants.

Friday is a return to a full schedule. And yes, interleague play continues. Geez. Here are the picks:

  • The Tigers over the Diamondbacks: What a clunker to start off with. First you have Zach Duke pitching for the Diamondbacks. Seriously? Then there is Phil Coke pitching for the Tigers. Ugh. Going with the home team: Tigers.
  • The Red Sox over the Pirates: The Pirates sure don't have easy interleague rivals, do they? Jon Lester wins his tenth and Paul Maholm gets some serious shellacking.
  • The Orioles over the Reds: A pick for Chris Jakubauskas? Really? Well, he hasn't been too bad lately and Edinson Vazquez still looks lost.
  • The Yankees over the Rockies: The Fan just noticed that all the picks are AL teams thus far. Hmm... A. J. Burnett versus Ubaldo Jiminez. Interesting. Yankees at home.
  • The Phillies over the Athletics: The two starting pitchers, Vince Worley and Guillermo Moscoso may not last long in this one. That's a better thing for the A's than the Phillies. But the Phillies will win somehow. 
  • The Rangers over the Mets: Matt Harrison doesn't inspire a great amount of confidence, but the Rangers at home should connect on Mike Pelfrey often enough to get a win.
  • The Astros over the Bay Rays: Whoa! Truly? Ah. Yes. Wandy Rodriguez over James Shields in a tight one.
  • The Royals over the Cubs: The Royals have been in a serious funk. This game features an awakening in their offense off of Ryan Dempster and a win by Bruce Chen, back from the disabled list.
  • The Brewers over the Twins: Scott Baker has been terrific of late, but going here with the even hotter Randy Wolf and with the Brewers at home.
  • The Nationals over the White Sox: This picker hasn't gone wrong by picking Jordan Zimmermann lately. The Nats win with or without Riggleman. The White Sox start Edwin Jackson.
  • The Blue Jays over the Cardinals: The combination of Brandon Morrow throwing first pitch strikes and a soft target in Jake Westbrook should improve the Blue Jays chances to break their losing streak.
  • The Braves over the Padres: This picker is torn on this one. Tim Stauffer and Derek Lowe isn't a match up of legends. Going with the Braves because they are hitting better lately.
  • The Angels over the Dodgers: The Angels will wait out Rubby de la Rosa and Dan Haren will hold the Dodgers down enough for the Angels to win.
  • The Marlins over the Mariners: Two teams struggling on offense. Something has to give. Felix Hernandez hasn't been super of late. Ricky Nolasco could finally have a good game against the Mariners. How about we call this a win for the Jack McKeon factor?

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Indians over the Giants: There hasn't been a hotter pitcher in baseball than Carlos Carrasco and Jonathan Sanchez is always an up and down pitcher. The Indians win a squeaker.

Yesterday: 3-2
Week: 29-31
Month: 169-145
Season: 604-509
Games of the Day: 54-31

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cueto Curries Correction

Occasionally, a man has to spit into the wind several times before he gets really tired of being covered in his own saliva. Johnny Cueto, stud pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, has been beaten up in this space at least a hundred times. Between he and his mound mate, Edinson Volquez, there have been a whole lot of negative adjectives that have been hurled from the FanDome. But it's high time they stopped. Cueto shut down the A-team of the Yankees last night after the Yankees' B-team had won the first game of a double-header. A double-dip loss for the Reds would have been damaging. But Cueto again saved the day and kept the Reds' hopes alive. As that sentence indicated, it wasn't the first time.

There was the game on May 29 against the Braves. The Reds had played a nineteen inning game and a twelve inning game among the previous four games. The bullpen was gassed and Dusty Baker really needed his starter to go deep into the game. Cueto did just that pitching a complete game and lost 2-1. It was a big time performance that his team desperately needed and he was up to it. His performance in that game set up the Reds to win two of three in their next series against their division rival, Milwaukee Brewers.

After beginning the season on the disabled list, Cueto has made nine starts. Eight have been quality starts. He has beaten the Dodgers, the Giants, the Yankees and the Cardinals among his five wins (in seven decisions). Find a slouch in that bunch. In  another game, his team beat the Phillies despite Cueto getting a no-decision. In Cueto's last five starts, he's pitched seven innings or more for a total of 36 innings and has only allowed five runs. Yeah, it is time to give the guy his due.

While perusing Johnny Cueto's numbers, no real alarm bells went off. Yes, the 1.68 ERA before last night's game was half of his FIP of 3.30 and his xFIP 3.52. A lot of that is based on his BABIP which is amazingly low at .220 so far this year. While it has to be admitted that this writer is a novice at looking at such numbers, the observation is beginning to register that BABIP isn't all about luck. Sometimes, a pitcher changes his approach and his contact style changes. Cueto is a case in point. In fact, he has seemed to reinvent himself.

Cueto is striking out and walking people at pretty much the same rate as always. His K/9 sits at 6.2 or just below last year's 6.5. His walk rate is identical to last year's at 2.7. What's really different is what kind of contact he is getting. His line drive percentage is way down from last year's 19.4 percent to this year's 14.5 percent. But what's really interesting is his ground ball rate. The past two years, that figure has been remarkably similar at 41.6 and 41.7 percent. This year, that figure is up to 55.9 percent. That's good for a 1.88 ground ball to fly ball ratio. What's remarkable about that is Cueto's career ratio is one to one on the nose. So he's a different pitcher. And with an infield with Scott Rolen, Paul Janish, Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto, inducing ground balls is a very good idea.

When Johnny Cueto first came to the big leagues, most of his fastballs were of the four seam variety. Now he only throws his four seam fastball 20.5 percent of the time and he throws a two-seam fastball 45.5 percent of the time. Two years ago, he hardly ever threw that pitch. Thus, it seems that Cueto has reinvented himself and the results are spectacular.

Another thing that struck home while looking at Johnny Cueto's page is his age. It seems that Cueto and Volquez have been around a long time. And indeed, Cueto is in his fourth season and Volquez is already in his  seventh! Both began their careers very young and that is the point that seems to be missed by guys like the Fan. Volquez was pitching in the big leagues at 21 and is only 27. Cueto is only 25 years old. They are really young by pitching standards. As such, we've only begun to see what they can do.

The bottom line here is that it's high time the Fan and others start showing a little patience with young pitchers and their ups and downs with the understanding that promise isn't just a one year thing. Sometimes it takes several years. Johnny Cueto is starting to live up to his talent. For a 25 year old pitcher to reinvent himself and his strategy at such a young age shows a guy who wants to get better at what he does. Johnny Cueto has been fantastic and while there may be a bit of regression over the course of the season, Cueto is a large part of any Reds' hope of competing to win their second straight division title.

Game Picks - Thursday: June 23, 2011

Interleague play needs to end...soon. This picker can't make heads or tails out of these games, which has to be obvious to anyone following along. The Yankees and Reds split a double-header, just like this picker thought. But each team won the game the Fan thought they would lose. So they were both wrong. The Mets blew a save in the ninth seemingly saving that pick. But they went on to win in extras. The Red Sox have lost two in a row to the Padres. The Padres? Boston? The Rangers have lost two of three to the Astros. The Astros? Erik Bedard was brilliant. But his team's defense and offense stunk and he lost after giving up only two unearned runs. The Blue Jays finally got a homer from Jose Bautista. But that's all they got off of Brian Beachey, who was superb. What the heck? At least the Game of the Day feature continues to sing its happy little tune while the rest of Rome burns to the ground.

For the first time in quite a while, we have a real short schedule on a Thursday. Only five games are scheduled. They should go like this:

  • The Mariners over the Nationals: The Nationals are hot and have their pitcher, Jason Marquis, with the most amount of wins on the mound. But the Mariners counter with Michael Pineda. Pineda is as good as it gets.
  • The Athletics over the Mets: This Fan always roots for Chris Capuano because of the comeback story. But Graham Godrey shut down his last opponent.
  • The Giants over the Twins: If this picker had to pick between Tim Lincecum and Brian Duensing a hundred times, they would all go to Lincecum. Watch it be wrong then.
  • The Cardinals over the Phillies: There is no doubt that the Cardinals are struggling. But Chris Carpenter is so due for a win that it's not funny. Roy Oswalt is the weakest link in the big four for the Phillies.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Royals: Daniel Hudson is really good. Felipe Paulino is really unlucky.

Yesterday: 7-9
Week: 26-29
Month: 166-143
Season: 601-508
Games of the Day: 53-31

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

J. J. Hardy Har Har

J. J. Hardy puzzles this writer. And perhaps this writer isn't alone. The shortstop has been jettisoned by the Brewers and the Twins in the past couple of seasons and the feeling seems to be that he wore out his welcome in both places. But this writer wasn't alone in questioning the Twins' decision to get rid of Hardy after the 2010 season. His injury history is puzzling. Is he soft? His batting history is puzzling. Two very good seasons in 2007 and 2008 were followed by a stinker in 2009 and a sub-par season at the plate for the Twins last season. Heck, even his stats in the field are puzzling. But the bottom line in all this is that when he plays, his team has a better chance to win.

Take this season for example. When Hardy has played (44 of the Orioles" 71 games), the team is 23-21. When he hasn't played, the Orioles are 10-17. Last year, when he played for the Twins, the Twins were 63-38 in games Hardy played and 31-30 in games he didn't. Is that a fluke? Could be. But what if it isn't? Fangraphs currently rates Hardy as the eleventh most valuable shortstop in baseball. But consider that he has only played two-thirds of the games that all those in front of him have played. In other words, if he had played as much as all the other shortstops, he'd be in the top five. But then again, he hasn't played as often and that's the rub.

And then there are his defensive numbers. Hardy lacks speed. His range is just barely adequate for a shortstop. Despite his lack of speed, he has always rated in the positive numbers in his fielding until this year, where his numbers are showing a negative number of runs saved. This is despite only making one error all season. One. This Fan certainly knows that fielding metrics are about more than fielding percentages, so there's no need to start preaching. Hardy just seems to be better than the metrics show.

James Jerry Hardy certainly seems to be back with the bat. He has already hit more homers than last year. His OPS+ is sitting at 142. That's a great number. He leads the Orioles with six go-ahead hits this season. His walk percentage--while not great--is much better than last year. The Orioles have been batting him second of late and he's doing really well in that spot.

The puzzle of J. J. Hardy is that he seems to make his team better when he plays. But he never seems to play enough. His former teams were not impressed and there has to be something to those conclusions. We don't always know the full story. Perhaps Hardy is responding to Buck Showalter. And just as easily, in the end, he could find himself in the same doghouse for Showalter that he found himself in for Ron Gardenhire. Hardy is an enigma. But as of right now, the Orioles are lucky to have him.

Game Picks - Wednesday: June 22, 2011

Yesterday was not a good day for this game picker even after correctly picking the Padres to beat the Red Sox. It didn't help when Brandon League got hurt while closing the game for the Mariners which allowed David Pauley to cough up a big lead to the Nationals. It didn't help that Madison Bumgarner had the worst inning of his life against the Twins or that Clay Billingsley totally shut down the Tigers. The Indians had no magic bullets at the end of the game. The Royals slunk into the end of their game. The Marlins finally got a win. Should have played that percentage! And in hindsight, picking Jeremy Hellickson over Zack Greinke was a bad idea. Oh well, at least the Game of the Day keeps winning day after day.

The Yankees were rained out against the Reds, so they will play two today. That make-up game puts sixteen games on the schedule today (with six day games!). Here are the picks:

  • The Orioles over the Pirates: Zach Britton has better stuff than Kevin Correia. The result is that the Orioles will score more runs than the Pirates.
  • The Reds over the Yankees: The Reds should jump all over Freddie Garcia and Mike Leake seems to be their good luck charm.
  • The Blue Jays over the Braves: Brian Beachey is making his first start back from the DL and pitches in place of Tommy Hanson. Jo-Jo Reyes has been terrific for the Blue Jays. Where have the Blue Jays' bats gone?
  • The Red Sox over the Padres: Okay, the Padres got their one win of the series. Clayton Richard will get a sore neck from swiveling around so fast and so often. John Lackey will be good enough to win.
  • The Bay Rays over the Brewers: Shaun Marcum is listed for the Brewers, but he has a hip problem and could be scratched. Even if he does start...well...he has a hop problem. David Price should get the win.
  • The Tigers over the Dodgers: Rick Porcello was bad his last time out. But Ted Lilly is on Don Mattingly's short leash as Lilly can't get through a line up more than twice.
  • The Indians over the Rockies: The Indians should have more success with Jason Hammel than the Rockies should have with Josh Tomlin. That's the theory here.
  • The Mariners over the Nationals: John Lannon's lack of strikeouts just bugs this Fan when it comes to his success. So many balls in play just has to catch up with him. Erik Bedard with the win.
  • The Marlins over the Angels: Brian Sanchez will be just the first of a game of relievers for the Marlins today. Sanchez has been terrific. Joel Pineiro will be the unfortunate victim of the Marlins coming alive under the ancient one.
  • The Yankees over the Reds: This make up game is a sentimental pick for Brian Gordon to win and also a pick against Johnny Cueto for his bogus neck injury that cost his team a win two days ago.
  • The Athletics over the Mets: The A's are playing better with Bob Melvin. Gio Gonzalez shuts down the Mets while the A's get to R. A. Dickey.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: The Astros had their chance yesterday and blew it. Colby Lewis is a question for the Rangers. He was good last time out after being real bad before that. Brett Myers is a battler, but it won't be enough for the Astros.
  • The White Sox over the Cubs: Jake Peavy over Doug Davis. This should be an easy win for the White Sox. Neither Chicago team seems headed anywhere.
  • The Phillies over the Cardinals: What can you say after the Cardinals' meltdown yesterday? That was ugly. They get Cliff Lee today and counter with Kyle Lohse.
  • The Giants over the Twins: Yes, the Twins and Nick Blackburn are on a roll. But Ryan Vogelsong is a tough customer and the Giants don't roll over that easily.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Royals: The Fan's main squeeze, Ian Kennedy goes for his eighth win and should get it over Jeff Francis.

Yesterday: 5-9
Week: 19-20
Month: 160-134
Season: 595-499
Games of the Day: 52-31

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wile E. Maddon - Super Genius

The heading, of course, is an ode to the old Bugs Bunny cartoons with Wile E. Coyote in those "super genius" cartoons. The heading is misleading because this post really isn't making fun of Joe Maddon, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays. It's just that the guy is always clever and always pulling out all the stops in a game to win. He's like Tony LaRussa on steroids.

Take last night's game against the Milwaukee Brewers (please). The game was early a nail biter until the Bay Rays broke it open in the top of the seventh inning. Since it was an interleague game in the National League park, National League rules applied. During the top of the seventh, Sam Fuld pinch hit for J. P. Howell, who was (as the pitcher) in the lead off spot after a double switch with Johnny Damon. Fuld walked and scored a run. But until a new pitcher came into the game, the spot belonged to Sam Fuld.

Apparently, Wile E. Maddon, Super Genius, didn't feel that Cesar Ramos, the lefty reliever, had been given enough time to warm up in the Bay Rays' bullpen. So Maddon pulled another trick from up his sleeve. He sent Sam Fuld to the mound to warm up. And so Sam Fuld looked like he was going to pitch in a game the Bay Rays were winning. Now that would have increased the #legendofSamFuld. But it was all a ploy to give Ramos more time to warm up.

Once Fuld received his allotment of warm up pitches and it looked like he was going to pitch, Wile E. Maddon came out of the dugout and called for Ramos using his left hand. Thus Maddon looked like the trickiest S.O.B. of them all.

The side note to the story was that his whole charade didn't work, much like whatever trick the Coyote tried. Ramos never got anyone out. Fortunately, the Bay Rays were far enough ahead that it didn't matter. The Rays won the game and Maddon again earned his reputation.

While the entire episode is amusing, don't be surprised if it leads to a rule change someday. The other thing to note of the entire episode: If Joe Maddon managed in the National League for his entire career, his brain would probably screw right into the ground from all the things he could do over there. Let's all be glad for the sake of his overall health that Maddon normally manages by AL rules.

P. S. - Thanks for buddy, Josh Borenstein, for cluing the Fan on this amusing story.

Game Picks - Tuesday: June 21, 2011

If it wasn't for the State of Florida, it might have been a good day of picking yesterday. Instead it was a fair day as both the Marlins (who lost) and the Bay Rays (who won) came in as wrong picks. The Blue Jays also lost a game it was thought they would win and the Rockies outlasted the selected Indians to round out the four incorrect picks. On the positive side, this picker predicted successfully the Clayton Kershaw gem, the Orioles win over Pittsburgh behind Jake Arrieta, the Boston blow out, the Rangers win behind Derek Holland and the Carlos Zambrano win over the White Sox. So it wasn't a bad day. Oh yeah, the Yankees won too behind a great outing from Ivan Nova.

A full slate of games on tap for Tuesday for your consideration as interleague play rolls on:

  • The Pirates over the Orioles: Simple logic here is the belief in James McDonald and his stuff over Jeremy Guthrie and his results of late. The Pirates are due.
  • The Rockies over the Indians: There is no faith here in Mitch Talbot. There is, however, much faith in Jhoulys Chacin.
  • The Mariners over the Nationals: Not exactly enamored with Doug Fister, but if he can get past the first inning, he has a chance against Livan Hernandez, who was real good his last time out.
  • The Angels over the Marlins: The Marlins have to win a game sooner or later. The odds just say they have to win some time. But how can one pick them when Javier Vazquez is pitching? Ervin Santana with the win.
  • The Yankees over the Reds: Johnny Cueto should have pitched last night, but his neck hurt. [eyeroll]. The Yankees should make him pay for his weiner behavior. Besides, you have to root for Brian Gordon and that underdog story.
  • The Mets over the Athletics: Again, can you pick against the Mets when Dillon Gee pitches? No, not even with Josh Outman pitching.
  • The Padres over the Red Sox: This game is the only shot the Padres have in the series. Matt Latos has the kind of stuff to shut down the Red Sox and they face Afredo Aceves, who gets the start for the Red Sox.
  • The Blue Jays over the Braves: This Zach Stewart cat was really impressive his last time out. He faces Mike Minor. Didn't there used to be a Zach Minor?
  • The Royals over the Diamondbacks: Somehow, Luke Hochevar should beat Joe Saunders in a pitching match up not made in heaven.
  • The Cubs over the White Sox: Matt Garza is familiar with the White Sox (and vice versa). The Cubs will get their share of hits versus Mark Buehrle.
  • The Bay Rays over the Brewers: Ryan Braun will probably be out. Zack Greinke wasn't good his last time out. Going with Jeremy Hellickson and the Bay Rays.
  • The Phillies over the Cardinals: No Albert Pujols and Roy Halladay goes for the Phillies against Kyle McClellan.
  • The Tigers over the Dodgers: Clay Billingsley should be decent at home. But Max Scherzer should have a good outing in that spacious park.
  • The Giants over the Twins: The pick here has to be Madison Bumgarner over Carl Pavano with two teams struggling to score runs.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rangers over the Astros: This series is why interleague can be unfair sometimes. It creates mismatches like this series. C. J. Wilson should have no trouble beating Jordan Lyles.

Yesterday: 6-4
Week: 14-11
Month: 155-125
Season: 590-490
Games of the Day: 51-31  This feature has been on a serious roll.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Is Edwin Rodriguez a Quitter?

The news that Florida Marlins' manager, Edwin Rodriguez, stepped down...quit...yesterday was stunning. Yes, the team is 1-18 in June. Yes, the team has seemed moribund and lifeless. Sure, Josh Johnson is out again and Hanley Ramirez is MIA. But quitting? Seriously? There is no way to know what really happened, and so all of this is simply speculation. In talking with folks on Twitter yesterday, many said that Rodriguez was going to be fired anyway and this just made it easier for everyone concerned. But if that is true, did it? For one thing, if you are fired, you still get paid. If you quit, you don't. So quitting doesn't make sense.

The standard line we are seeing is that Edwin Rodriguez didn't feel like he could get the team going. His comments the day before his decision were telling as seen in this piece here. Rodriguez seemed to be saying that guys like Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez should be leading the team and weren't. By stating that the team needs a veteran presence, Rodriguez is basically saying that the young players simply won't listen to the manager and have no respect for him. Isn't that what he is saying? Rodriguez is basically saying that if Hanley Ramirez doesn't get the hit, the manager gets it instead.

Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez both came out in support of Edwin Rodriguez. Is it telling that Hanley Ramirez had no comment? Does it say something that the erstwhile shortstop didn't want to talk about his manager? Is Hanley the fall guy here? Doesn't he always seem to be? It's one thing to be considered an "attitude problem." It's another to be that and not produce at the same time. Could Rodriguez simply have had enough of that kind of problem day in and day out? It certainly seems like a possibility.

But quitting? There was a point about twenty years ago when the Fan's employer had a problem. After giving the Fan a letter of resignation to sign, the Fan pushed it back to him. There was no way the Fan was going to make it easy for him to push the Fan aside. In other words, if you wanted to get rid of this employee, than go for it, but there is no way the Fan is going to help you do it. Falling on the sword may be a Japanese tradition, but it seems like the easy way out.

By all accounts, Edwin Rodriguez worked his entire adult life to reach the position he was in as a big league manager. Whether he had the job as a cheap stop gap until the Marlins had their new stadium or not, he reached the pinnacle of his profession. After working so long to get there, why would you quit when things got tough? Sure, you can get fired still, but there is no injury in that. It happens all the time. Getting fired in baseball does not look bad on a manager's resume. But quitting? Yeah, that looks bad. There wasn't respect for Lou Piniella's decision last year and there isn't this year for Edwin Rodriguez.

The bottom line for this Fan is that Edwin Rodriguez quit. He quit on his team when things weren't going well. Whether he thought he was the problem or even if he quit because he was going to get fired anyway, he still quit. The word is what the word is. This Fan would have respected Rodriguez if he got fired and we found out later that his team was not responding to him. But there is no respect for quitting. This Fan just can't get through that no matter how it went down.

Game Picks - Monday: June 20, 2011

Interleague play has not been kind to this old picker. The .500 level seems to be the norm and yesterday proved to be just barely over that mark. It is true that this picker could have simply picked all American League teams and been correct about 60 percent of the time. But where is the fun in that? The really dumb pick of the day was picking against the Boston Red Sox. But this picker really thought Gallardo would be better than he was. He had nothing to offer against that powerhouse of a team. The Mariners beat the Phillies two out of three and actually sit in first place. Now there's a remarkable development. And while picking the Nationals' winning streak to end was correct, picking Jonathan Niese to continue his remarkable run was not. That's the way the day went.

The bad news for this picker is that interleague continues. Ten games are on Monday's schedule. Here's how they should go:

  • The Orioles over the Pirates: Jake Arrieta is starting to make a believer out of this Fan and he leads his club in strikeouts. Meanwhile, Charlie Morton really got lucky with the Astros as he pitched 109 pitches in five innings against them and still got the win.
  • The Indians over the Rockies: Fausto Carmona hasn't been pitching well. But he was a little better his last time out. Juan Nicasio was terrific his last time out but it was against the Padres. The Indians, especially at home, are not the Padres.
  • The Marlins over the Angels: The Marlins have to win some time. Seriously, it's been one of the worst streaks this Fan has ever witnessed in Major League Baseball. Anibal Sanchez gives the team it's best chance to win, even though he is facing Jared Weaver.
  • The Yankees over the Reds: Yeah, yeah, Ivan Nova versus Johnny Cueto seems like a mismatch. But the Yankees will wear down the Reds' ace and will win this thing...once again on National television.
  • The Red Sox over the Padres: The Red Sox start reclamation project, Andrew Miller. The Padres start Wade LeBlanc. Doesn't matter. The Red Sox can hit. The Padres can't.
  • The Blue Jays over the Braves: Ricky Romero neutralizes Heyward and is the kind of pitcher who can shut the Braves down. Tim Hudson never breaks, but he does bend.
  • The Cubs over the White Sox: Carlos Zambrano won't get to hit but he's a better pitcher (most of the time) than Gavin Floyd. Tough game to call.
  • The Brewers over the Bay Rays: Chris Narveson makes the Rays feature their righty line up, which isn't as strong as their lefty one. Jeff Niemann makes his first start off the DL. Always nervous about those starts.
  • The Dodgers over the Tigers: There is only one reason for this pick: Clayton Kershaw at home. For every other day of the season, the pick would be the Dodgers. Brad Penny goes for Detroit.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rangers over the Astros: Derek Holland is facing the Astros instead of the Yankees. That should make all the difference in the world. The Astros counter with J. A. Happ. A lopsided affair ensues.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 8-7
Month: 141-121
Season: 584-486
Games of the Day: 50-31

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Game Picks - Sunday: June 19, 2011

After two days of traveling, this picker is finally in Florida and life is good. A huge chuckle had to escape this morning after catching up with the picks from the last two days. They were almost mirror images. Friday was absolutely awful but the Game of the Day was correct. Yesterday was one of the most successful days ever here for this feature but the Game of the Day was one of the few incorrect picks. Silly.

Yesterday's travels weren't silly. We were woken by a 4:45 wake up call and got to the Portland airport by six. Once we got there, we found out that our flight had been canceled. The next available flight was for Sunday. Not really having the funds for another hotel stay, we were booked on a flight out of Boston at noon. So we had to take a taxi to the bus station and then a bus down to Logan Airport. What fun! And the airline, JetBlue would not help us with those costs because the flight was originally cancelled due to weather: "An act of God," they called it. We later found out it was a computer glitch. But that doesn't help us now. But at least the bus ride and the Boston fllight went off without a hitch and we are safely deposited in Florida. Mom looks another year older, which is sad. But we're here.

Sunday's games at least can be picked in real time as we are back on track. Last week ended up at .500 on the nose. This week must be better. Here goes:

  • The Indians over the Pirates: The Indians have stopped their slide at the expense of the Pirates who came into Cleveland as a hot team. That happens sometimes. The Indians complete the sweep with a Justin Masterson win over hard luck, Jeff Karstens.
  • The Mets over the Angels: The Mets are one of the hottest teams in baseball right now. And Jonathan Niese is one of the hottest pitchers too. He gets the win over Tyler Chatwood.
  • The Blue Jays over the Reds: Interleague play shows how good a team the Blue Jays are though they remain stuck in the AL East. Carlos Villanueva hasn't lost yet. He beats Bronson Arroyo.
  • The Orioles over the Nationals: Normally, the pick here would be the Nationals as they've won a bunch in a row and face weak-link, Chris Jakubauskas. But they counter with Tom Gorzelanny, who has been on the DL with a bum elbow. Not good.
  • The Brewers over the Red Sox: This game could go either way. It all depends on Tim Wakefield and how good he can be. Yovani Gallardo goes for the Brewers.
  • The Rangers over the Braves: Alexi Ogando is not facing the Yankees, so he should be fine. Jair Jurrjens lost his last time out and doesn't look as lights out lately.
  • The Twins over the Padres: The Twins were fortunate to get the Padres for their interleague pairing. Francisco Liriano takes care of the Friars while the Twins score a few off of Dustin Moseley.
  • The Cardinals over the Royals: The Cards finally got off their losing streak yesterday and have Jaime Garcia on the mound today. Should be an easy win over Danny Duffy.
  • The Tigers over the Rockies: Justin Verlander doesn't need to worry about thin air with that arm. Aaron Cook should be no match.
  • The Giants over the Athletics: Matt Cain should be solid and who knows what the heck ails Trevor Cahill. Something is wrong for the A's ace as he's been awful of late.
  • The White Sox over the Diamondbacks: Two of the best stories of the year in Josh Collmenter and Philip Humber. Giving the nod to Humber here but there is doubt.
  • The Astros over the Dodgers: The 'Stros sweep the Dodgers? Whoda thunk it. Wandy Rodriguez finishes off the series against Hiroki Kuroda, who has been susceptible lately.
  • The Phillies over the Mariners: Really thought King Felix would win yesterday. Oh well. If he didn't win, there is no way that Jason Vargas is going to win. Especially not against Cole Hamels.
  • The Yankees over the Cubs: C. C. Sabathia beats Randy Wells in this one. How did the Cubs lose that game yesterday? The Yankees did everything they could to lose that game and didn't.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Bay Rays over the Marlins: The Marlins may never win again, especially if they keep trotting Chris Volstad out there. James Shields has been very good of late.

Yesterday: 12-3
Friday: 4-11
Last Week: 48-48
Month: 133-114
Season: 576-479
Games of the Day: 49-31