Saturday, July 23, 2011

Escobar and Peralta

The 2011 MLB season has been full of surprises. Now nearly a hundred games into the season, players that were derided heavily such as Melky Cabrera, Emelio Bonifacio and others are making a lot of people look silly--including this writer. So it should be no surprise that the leader board for shortstops this season is full of surprises. Jose Reyes is at the top, which is no surprise considering the season he is having (though that season is a surprise). Troy Tulowitzki is second, which is no surprise as he is the best shortstop in baseball. It's the three and five positions in the list that are startling. Sitting at third is Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers. What!? Sitting fourth is Asdrubal Cabrera which isn't really a surprise. But fifth? That would be Yunel Escobar of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Let's start with Yunel Escobar, a player that was traded from the Atlanta Braves last year in a deal that was considered addition by subtraction. There seemed to be almost a player revolt concerning Escobar last season in Atlanta and the team seemed relieved to be rid of him. And perhaps they were right. Escobar has all kinds of talent, but last year combined with both the Braves and the Blue Jays, managed just a .653 OPS. And his fielding just seemed to tank. It's as if he didn't have it any more.

But maybe last season should have been the surprise because Escobar was very good the two seasons prior to 2010. And perhaps "very good" is an understatement. According to Fangraphs, his play was worth $16.4 million in 2008 and $20 million in 2009. To fall to a season worth $8.5 million last season was shocking. But Escobar seems to be in a better place this season and his season is already worth $15.5 million with sixty games to go.

While it would be easy to editorialize and talk about his personality, effort and the like, that would be foolishness without a deeper knowledge about the man and his life. This writer has no such knowledge and like Dragnet, we'll stick to the facts. And the facts are that Yunel Escobar has been one of the best shortstops in baseball this season.  His fielding has rebounded and he is having a terrific season at the plate.

Escobar is much more disciplined at the plate. He only swings at 20 percent of pitches outside the strike zone. That's in the Lance Berkman category and he is on pace to earn the highest number of walks in his career. His .377 OBP is a testament to that patience. Plus, his 28 extra base hits already tops his 23 of last season, a season where he finished with a puny .317 slugging percentage. This season's slugging is a much more respectable .437. And Escobar's batting average is much more in line with his career norm compared to last year.

Yes, the Blue Jays got a steal when they acquired Yunel Escobar. The Braves may have lost a headache, but Toronto's risk has been rewarded.

Jhonny Peralta has been amazing. This writer wasn't the only one across this land that thought the Tigers were crazy for trading for Peralta and installing him as their every day shortstop. Yeah, crazy like a fox. Peralta is just one more example that we writers often don't know what we are talking about. Peralta's fielding hasn't even been the liability that we all chipped him for.

But Peralta at the plate has been the greatest surprise. His slugging percentage is the highest of his career and only his 2005 season comes close. Naturally, his ISO is the highest it has been for Peralta since 2005 and again, his wOBA is his best ever. Last season, Peralta finished with a .703 OPS. His numbers across the board were poor. How poor? He scored a -5.8 batting runs above average (or in his case, below) last year. That number is a positive 20.4 this season. Last season, he finished with a score of -5.7 base running runs above average (or again, below). This year, he's still in negative territory, but it's better. And to round out the stats, last year, he finished with a -3.8 runs above average for his fielding. This season he is in the positive numbers at 0.4.

Peralta's play was worth only $3.3 million in 2010 and that was coming off a 2009 season where he was worth only $4.7 million. All the more astounding that his play is already worth north of $16 million this year. The only knock on his game is that he's still not the most patient of hitters. His walk percentage is the lowest of his career at 6.9 percent. But this writer thinks the Tigers won't complain when his OPS is at .915!

Yes, this season has been a season of surprises. Jhonny Peralta has been one of the chief surprises of them all. As for Yunel Escobar, perhaps the only surprise is that he was so bad last year when this year is much more indicative of the kind of player he has been in the majors since he first arrived from Cuba.

Game Picks - Saturday: July 23, 2011

What a wild ride yesterday was! And this picker isn't just talking about the games in Major League Baseball.  A tornado touched down in our little town in northern Maine last night. No, it wasn't the kind of tornado that is a mile wide like they get in the Midwest. but it was a tornado just the same. Trees were down. Power was out. It was wild. We lost a tree and our grill got beat up, but everything else seems to be okay.

While everyone is okay, the twister did seem to change the fortunes of the picking day. At one point, this picker was 8-2 with the only bad picks being the Indians and the Mariners. It's still hard to believe that King Felix couldn't do a better job against the Red Sox last night. But still, 8-2 is cooking, right? There wasn't another correct pick the rest of the night. Not one. This Fan whiffed on everything west of the Mississippi.

This Fan is still kind of shaken by yesterday's events. So let's call this Surreal Saturday and see what the games look like:

  • The Cubs over the Astros: This picker loves Wandy Rodriguez, but not much else is going on for the Astros. Meanwhile, the Cubs are pitching Randy Wells, Aramis Ramirez is hot and Alfonso Soriano hit his first homer in a month yesterday.
  • The Yankees over the Athletics:  If ever a team seemed to be in the heads of a team's pitchers, the Yankees seem to be in the nightmares of the young A's pitching staff. But Rick Harden isn't one of their young pitchers. He's been around and will be tougher. Plus, the Yankees pitch A. J. Burnett. But again, the Yankees are the much better team.
  • The Reds over the Braves: This picker is torn over this game. Derek Lowe is just so-so this year. Homer Bailey was great his last start. Tempted to flip-flop the results. Oh well, it is what it is.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: It galls a bit to pick Brad Penny to win any game, especially against a division rival. But the Tigers are going with Scott Baker, just back from a strained arm.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: The Phillies will win this one despite facing Matt Latos. Kyle Kendrick has been surprisingly good in the rotation. 
  • The Angels over the Orioles: Brad Bergesen at 1-6 with an ERA of 5.76 has been as bad as that record sounds. It truly is amazing what has happened to the Orioles pitching this season. The Angels, meanwhile, feature their own wreck of Joel Pineiro, who only got one out in his last start. Anything could happen in this game.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: Edwin Jackson has been impressive but this Fan doesn't trust him. Then again, the Fan didn't trust David (Hassel) Huff in his first start of the year and he threw seven shutout innings. Why does the Fan do this to himself every day? Sheesh.
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: The Pirates can beat the Reds. The Reds can beat the Brewers, the Brewers can beat anyone at home. The Cardinals can beat the Pirates. What a division. Jaime Garcia over Kevin Correia.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: Chris Capuano has been decent this season. Clay Hensley was great for five innings in his first start of the season .But can he repeat it? The Fan is confused though. Wasn't he Cla Hensley, without the "Y" or is this picker confusing him with another pitcher?
  • The Bay Rays over the Royals: Not only has Jeff Niemann been great lately, but he is 3-0 lifetime against the Royals with an ERA under two. Jeff Francis pitches for the Royals. Evan Longoria is on a homer streak.
  • The Blue Jays over the Rangers: Matt Harrison has been good. But the Blue Jays destroyed him the last time they faced him. Plus, Carlos Villanueva is a tough pitcher for the Blue Jays.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Apparently, this Fan didn't learn his lesson last night and is picking the Diamondbacks again. But it's Josh Collmenter! He faces Jason Hammels.
  • The Giants over the Brewers: Despite yesterday's win, the Brewers are a bad road club. Randy Wolf likes pitching in San Francisco because he throws a lot of fly balls. But Ryan Vogelsong has been singing a good tune this season. Got to stick with him.
  • The Dodgers over the Nationals: Another game to throw up all the cards and see where they land. Tom Gorzelanny hurt his ankle in his last start and can't seem to win. Ted Lilly has had elbow problems and gives up homers like crazy. Who knows.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Red Sox over the Mariners: This is certainly a soft spot on the Red Sox' calendar. No way they lose with Josh Beckett on the mound and facing the young Blake Beavan.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 48-31
Month: 148-115
Season: 812-676
Games of the Day: 70-41

Friday, July 22, 2011

Beat the Shift!

Early in the game yesterday between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Pete, Derek Jeter had just walked in the first inning. The next batter facing James Shields was Mark Teixeira batting left-handed. As David Cone correctly pointed out in Thursday's telecast on YES, Teixeira is much more of a pull hitter as a left-hand batter as he is from the right side. Joe Maddon knows this, of course, and employed the shift against Teixeira. Obliviously or stubbornly, Teixeira hit right into the shift and the inning went nowhere. Why? Why don't hitters challenge the shift?

Is it a manly thing? Is it a pride thing where the batter says he isn't going to change his approach simply because of the way the defense is lined up? Later in the game, a man was again on base for the Yankees with Nick Swisher at the plate. A modified shift was employed this time with the shortstop playing just barely on his side of the diamond. The Rays were going to cut off anything right up the middle. Swisher hit it right at the shortstop who made the play. Swisher looked shocked and dismayed at the shortstop's placement. Didn't he see it before he swung at anything?

Defense has become an adjustment to the batter in just the same way a pitcher adjusts to the batter based on scouting reports and batted ball data. The object of the hitter is to adjust to the fielding alignment just as much as to the pitcher. Many experts have made the case that sophisticated fielding alignments have more to do with the decreased runs scored in the past two seasons than any other factor. But at some point, doesn't the batter have to adjust just like the batter has to adjust to the pitcher?

If you ask Joe Maddon, he would probably smile and say that he would be more than happy to have Teixeira hit a little ground ball to third instead of hitting a homer. And that is probably why Teixeira doesn't hit it that way. But that is disingenuous on both parts. Maddon knows that Teixeira would rather hit a homer than dink it down the third base line so there is no risk to the move at all. If there was risk, Maddon wouldn't take it!

But let's look at this logically. There is only a one in fourteen chance that Teixeira will hit a homer but there is a two in five chance he'll hit a ground ball. So what is going to happen more often?  And what of the game situation and win probability? In a game where James Shields and C.C. Sabathia are going to be putting up a lot of zeroes, doesn't it make more sense to push a little grounder to the open space to add base runners? Win probability would increase because of the extra base runner in a game where base runners are at a premium. Plus, Jeter would be at third in scoring position or more if the ball rolled all the way down the line.

Whatever happened to "hit 'em where they ain't"? Batters take batting practice every day. Don't they practice hitting the ball the other way? Isn't it part of the hitter's job to adjust? This isn't to just pick on Teixeira and Swisher. Shifts are employed on a lot of batters. They do it to Adam Dunn and David Ortiz and Ryan Howard and a lot of batters. They do it because it works more often than it doesn't.

If this writer was honest, an admission is necessary here that shifts are hated about as much as multiple pitching changes in an inning and intentional walks. All three would be outlawed if this Fan was in charge of the game. But that's pie in the sky thinking because it isn't going to happen. And since it isn't, then batters and their coaches and managers have to make it stop. They have to beat the shift.

If you were to ask Joe Girardi and managers of those other sluggers, they would probably tell you that they don't want to take their hitters out of their game. That's a bunch of baloney. Because ultimately it becomes why Teixeira and Howard have become .240 batters with OBP in the .350s instead of closer to .400 like they used to have. Pitchers and defenses have adjusted and the batters haven't.

Beat the shift, for crying out loud. Beat it enough times and teams will stop using it. Get those extra base runners and you will score more runs than hoping for that one in fourteen chance a homer will be hit. And the funny thing is, when you are looking to put the ball in play where the fielders aren't, just as many homers will be hit because pitchers still make mistakes. Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols do it every day. They use all fields and their success shows that it is the right way to play.

Stubbornly hitting into the shift is stupid. Not only is it stupid, it detracts from a team's chances of scoring and winning. Make the adjustments and put the defense and the pitching on the defensive. That's the ticket.

Game Picks - Friday: July 22, 2011

Thursday's games were pretty much a wash for this game picker. Eight games were played and this picker made four correct picks including the Game of the Day. As for the other four, well, James Shields out dueled C.C. Sabathia. Jake Westbrook made a fool of this picker by pitching a very good game and the Cardinals beat the Mets. Ian Kennedy is probably this picker's favorite NL pitcher and he pitched a shut out. So why, then, did this picker pick against him? And finally, San Diego jumped on Javier Vazquez before and after the rain delay. What was the Fan thinking?

The correct picks included Justin Verlander's gem, Jared Weaver out dueling C.J. Wilson, the Blue Jays giving the Mariners their twelfth straight loss and the Braves beating the Rockies despite a less than stellar effort from Tommy Hanson.

A once great week is evaporating like a Blue Jays' lead in the late innings. Perhaps like the Blue Jays, the Fan can finish strong. Friday's picks:

  • The Cubs over the Astros: This one can be ugly. The Cubs are festering like an untreated wound. Carlos Zambrano is due for a good start. Bud Norris is starting to give up a few more runs.
  • The Angels over the Orioles: The Angels have hope now that they tightened the gap with their series against the Rangers. Ervin Santana has been pitching well with no run support. He should beat Alfredo Simon, who had a good outing last time out though.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: The Indians are at home and have a chance to prove they are where they belong to be against the White Sox. Carlos Carrasco has to be good though. He faces Gavin Floyd.
  • The Yankees over the Athletics: The Yankees have limped home after a two losses to the Bay Rays and they face their favorite whipping team, the Athletics, who will pitch Trevor Cahill. Phil Hughes has to pitch like last time though.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: The Padres have been hot of late and Corey Luebke has been good for them. But Cole Hamels gets the win.
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: Chris Carpenter goes for the Cardinals in Pittsburgh and faces Paul Maholm, the unluckiest of the Pirates' hurlers.
  • The Braves over the Reds: Not real confident in this pick since Jair Jurrjens didn't pitch well in his last start. But if he is on his game, he should beat Bronson Arroyo. Freddie Freeman is on fire and Jason Heyward is back and homered his last game.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: Who knows what to make of these two teams. They never win when expected or lose when expected. Both teams are in this picker's head. Mike Pelfrey versus Chris Volstad.
  • The Mariners over the Red Sox: The odds are all over this one. The Mariners have to win a game some time and pitch Felix Hernandez, who is long past due for a dominant outing. The Red Sox offer up John Lackey, he of the wonderful body language on the mound.
  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: The Rangers need to regroup after losing two to the Angels. Nelson Cruz was mad about not playing the other day, so things aren't peachy in Arlington. Colby Lewis goes for the Rangers against Jo-Jo Reyes.
  • The Twins over the Tigers: Taking the Twins at home. They jumped all over Max Scherzer last time they faced him and counter with the gutsy Brian Duensing.
  • The Rays over the Royals: Wade Davis is back from the disabled list and that is scary, but the Bay Rays always hit better on the road and face the inconsistent, Luke Hochevar.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: The D-backs are at home with Daniel Hudson on the mound--a good combination. The Rockies are on the road and pitch Aaron Cook--a bad combination.
  • The Giants over the Brewers: Shaun Marcum is a tough customer, but so is Matt Cain at home.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Dodgers over the Nationals: John Lannon keeps his team in the game, but the Dodgers do well at home and Hiroki Kuroda is a good pitcher.

Yesterday: 4-4
Week: 40-25
Month: 140-108
Season: 804-669
Games of the Day: 70-40

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Unsung Relief Pitchers

There are worse things in life than being a relief pitcher. But perhaps no position is less respected in baseball. They are perceived to be less talented than starters. They are called, "fungible." They get paid well, but will never make the top contracts in baseball. The stats they accumulate like saves and holds are ridiculed. And when they make the All Star team, people get angry. Add to all this disrespect the fact that they either come in to a game and have to perform or their team will lose. Or, they come in to a game where the score is so lopsided, there is no meaning to the appearance at all. But relief pitchers can make or break a team. Especially with today's game strategy, a successful reliever is is the bomb.

The nexus of this post isn't to feature those relievers we all know are good. Everyone knows the great season David Robertson is having because he is on television five days a week it seems. Everyone knows about Rivera, Papelbon, Bard and Wilson. The Braves pair of Jonny Venters and Greg Kimbrel have become well known. The Padres are the rarity as a team that is only known by its relievers. Isn't that strange? But all of baseball covets Heath Bell, Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson. Frankie Rodriguez gets a lot of press both good and bad as does Joe Nathan.

But who is quietly going about his business putting up incredible numbers that have flown under the radar? The problem for relief pitchers is that this list changes every year. But still, what a year they are having! Here are some relief pitchers blowing up the joint that you may not have heard about.

Sergio Romo (Giants) - Everyone knows Brian Wilson and the beard. His commercials on the MLB Network make this viewer want to tackle him with a set of sheep shears. But Wilson isn't the best reliever on his team. That would be Sergio Romo. Romo has struck out 13.09 batters per nine innings while only walking 1.09. That's a 12 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio. Wow!  His ERA/FIP/xFIP are 1.91/1.21/1.52. He is tied for fourth with the great Mariano Rivera for relievers in fWAR with 1.5.

Glen Perkins (Twins) - Glen Perkins? Seriously? Perkins had tried for several years to crack the Twins' starting rotation and hadn't been able to do so. But this year, his relief outings have been a part of the Twins' recent surge back to relevance. Perkins has appeared in 38 games and has an ERA/FIP/xFIP of 1.72/1.79/2.62. He's struck out 10.02 batters per nine innings while walking 2.95. His numbers would be even better, but he has been a bit unlucky with a .312 BABIP. His fWAR is 1.4.

Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara (Orioles) - Over use sometimes gets in the way of Jim Johnson's statistics. He isn't your typical one-inning reliever. He's thrown 58 innings in 43 appearances. Some times that use catches up to him. But he's still put up the following pitching line: 2.64/2.89/3.09. He's not a big strikeout guy but walks only 1.71 per nine innings and induces ground balls at a rate of 61.5 percent. Uehara, unlike Johnson, rarely pitches unless the Orioles are winning. He's the set up guy and he's good at it. He has a terrific strikeout to walk ratio with 11.86 strikeouts per nine innings while only walking 1.64 per nine. His line is: 1.84/2.64/2.31. There has been a lot go wrong with the Orioles this year, but these two guys have been terrific.

Greg Holland (Royals) - Holland has only pitched in twenty games, good for 27 innings but is being used much more by the Royals these days and he's responded with seven holds to his credit. On top of his holds are three vulture wins good for a 3-1 record. His ERA/FIP/xFIP line is 1.00(!)/2.26/2.34. Holland has struck out 11 batters per nine innings while only walking 2.33. His strand rate is an ungodly 94 percent.

Vinnie Pestano (Indians) - Manny Acta is fond of match-up pitching and he has waved the magic wand with Pestano. Chris Perez gets all the ink, but Pestano has 13 holds, a win and two saves in his 42 appearances. He has struck out 12.89 batters per nine innings and his three home runs allowed has dinged his line a bit, but it's still good at: 2.68/2.29/2.24. The FIP and xFIP are terrific.

Matt Albers (Red Sox) - The Red Sox have been so good that few people pay them any attention any more. But Albers has been almost as good as Bard and Papelbon. Albers has eight holds and three wins to go along with his 9.33 strikeouts per nine innings. He walks too many batters at 3.66 per nine, but they rarely score. Albers has a 2.20 ERA to go along with a FIP of 2.48.

Scott Downs (Angels) - Downs has been a reliable relief pitcher for a long time and labored in relative obscurity for the Blue Jays. This is simply another very good year for him with five wins and sixteen holds to go along with an ERA of 1.35. Downs doesn't strike batters out, but he doesn't walk any either. He just gets guys to beat the ball weakly into the ground.

Honorable Mentions: Crain...Jesse Crain (White Sox), Sean Marshall (though he is closing now and is more in the spotlight for the Cubs), Sergio Santos (White Sox) and Eric O'Flaherty (Braves, 0.99 ERA!).

A Pirate Resurgence - Guest Post!

Steve Michaels, contributor to Sox and Dawgs, a popular New England-based blog, sent along this piece to the Flagrant Fan since the topic is off topic for that site's team specific content. We are happy to have it!

Who are these guys and why are they at or near the top of National League Central?  Yes I’m talking about the mighty Pittsburgh Pirates, who entered play on July 20, in sole possession of first place in the division.  The Pirates have not finished in first place in 18 seasons; in fact they haven’t had a winning record in any of those years.  They last made the National League Playoffs in 1992 when they were managed by Jim Leyland and their star players were Barry Bonds, Andy Van Slyke, Doug Drabek and Bobby Bonilla.

But in recent years hard times have fallen on the baseball team from the Steel City.  Poor, disinterested ownership only wanting to line their pockets did not help.  Neither did a front office whom over time only wanted to move the fledgling stars out and cut the payroll. Plus several poor managerial hires did nothing to help any of it.

Some of the talent they sent packing over the last few years include Jason Bay, Aramis Ramirez, Freddy Sanchez, Nate McLouth, Ronny Paulino, Xavier Nady, Matt Stairs, Victor Zambrano, Mike Gonzalez, Arthur Rhodes, Jose Bautista, Sean Casey, Jeff Suppan, Brandon Lyon, Brian Giles and Jason Schmidt. All let go for nothing or near nothing,

Among the manager’s paraded into Pittsburgh since Leyland left after the 1996 season include Gene LaMont, Lloyd McClendon, Jim Tracy, Torey Lovullo, John Russell and now Clint Hurdle.

Hurdle, though to his credit, has taken a team of virtual nobody’s and turned them into the 2011 MLB Cinderella Story, they are currently 51-45 and playing well.  Led on the mound by Jeff Karstens (8-5; 2.28 ERA), closer Joel Hanrahan (28 saves and a 1.24 ERA), Paul Maholm (6-9; 3.06 ERA), Kevin Correia (11-7; 4.04 ERA) and Charlie Morton (8-5; 3.62 ERA). And at the plate by Garrett Jones (9 HR – 34 RBI), Andrew McCutheon (.277 – 14 HR – 59 RBI – 15 SB), Lyle Overbay (7 HR – 35 RBI) and Neil Walker (.275 – 9 HR – 62 RBI).  You need to ask exactly who are these guys and what are they doing in a dog fight with the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds?  What ever Hurdle is doing he is pushing the right buttons. 

Pirates fans, which are some of the greatest in the game, are turning out at their beautiful ballpark in droves and the team even has 10 sellouts this season.  The excitement for Pirates baseball has returned. 

Back in February I ran into three Pirates fans at a Red Sox-Astros spring training game.  They were true baseball fans, even if it meant being a fan for a bad team they said would still watch and show up to Pirates games.  They were lamenting the fact that the team was bad and there appeared to be no hope.  They hated the front office for bad deals and the ownership for worse decisions.  They told me all they wanted right now was a team that was competitive and fought.  They wanted a team they could look at on August 1st and say they might have a playoff shot.  They wanted a team that was buyers on July 31st and not sellers.

Well to those three guys whose names I can’t recall, you and Bucs fans everywhere apparently are getting your wish.  Who would have thought it would be a former baseball phenom in Hurdle to bring it to you?

Steve Michaels is a contributor to Sox & Dawgs, a blog that concentrates on the Boston Red Sox, UConn Huskies and New England Patriots.  You can contact Steve through his Twitter account @djstevem.

Game Picks - Thursday: July 21, 2011

Over on Twitter yesterday, a follower asked how these games were picked. The follower said that this picker was good and wanted to know. Perhaps he will change his mind after last night's 7-8 stumble.

It was simply a weird night. Take the Rangers pick. They had an 8-3 lead going into the sixth inning. Pretty safe, right? The winning streak is alive, right? Wrong. The Angels exploded for six runs in the sixth and Ron Washington was too slow to react. Bam. Loss. Take the Cardinals pick. They had three different leads against the Mets and couldn't hold a single one of them. Take the Giants pick. The Clayton Kershaw - Tim Lincecum duel was everything you wanted it to be. The only run came on a homer to McCovey Cove by Dodgers' catcher, Dioner Navarro, a batter with a slugging percentage of .295 at the time.

There were a couple of bad picks including the Game of the Day. It's only natural for this picker to get carried away with the Pirates, who lost to the brilliant Johnny Cueto. Jeff Karstens was good, but Cueto was better as was the Reds defense. Picking the Bay Rays looks bad in retrospect but geez, Freddie Garcia was better than David Price? And picking the Tigers to win with a rookie on the mound was pretty dumb.

But it wasn't a total disaster which means the week is still way ahead. Eight games are on the shortened Thursday schedule. Thursday's picks:

  • The Marlins over the Padres: Dustin Moseley has pitched pretty well all year, but he's 2-9. That happens some times. Meanwhile, Javier Vazquez has found a few more yards on his fastball and should win.
  • The Mets over the Cardinals: Jake Westbrook is the weakest Cardinal pitcher and the Mets are simply a different team with Jose Reyes in the line up. Jonathan Niese goes for the Mets.
  • The Blue Jays over the Mariners: Doug Fister is the AL version of Dustin Moseley. Good ERA, no run support. Ricky Romero with the win.
  • The Braves over the Rockies: You have to go with Tommy Hanson over Jhoulys Chacin in this one, don't you?
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Is any pitcher hotter than C.C. Sabathia? James Shields will have his trade possibilities upgraded if he loses this one. Perhaps that will be incentive?
  • The Angels over the Rangers: A must win for the Angels with their ace, Jared Weaver on the mound. C.J. Wilson is the Rangers' ace too, but gets the loss here.
  • The Brewers over the Diamondbacks: The Fan really hates to pick against Ian Kennedy, but the D-backs received a really bad blow when Stephen Drew broke his ankle last night. Zack Greinke with the win.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Tigers over the Twins: Justin Verlander gets his 13th win over Carl Pavano, who will probably be somewhat stingy in a big game.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 36-21
Month: 136-104
Season: 800-665
Games of the Day: 69-40

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Projecting Alexi Ogando

Alexi Ogando of the Texas Rangers has been one of the nicest stories of the season. Just a couple of years removed from his involvement in a human smuggling operation, Ogando has followed C. J. Wilson's example of moving from the bullpen to the rotation. Like Wilson's conversion last year, you can't ask much more than what Ogando has done this season. He has erased all lingering concern about the loss of Cliff Lee before the season started. All that said, what can we expect from Ogando the rest of the season? If the Rangers make the playoffs (which seems to be good odds at the moment), will he have anything left? Let's take a look.

First, one of the smartest things to do is to look at what other experts are saying. After all, they are experts, right? Baseball Prospectus projects Ogando to go 5-4 in 63 more innings with an ERA in that span of 2.66, a WHIP of 1.09 and a WAR of 2.1. Hey, any Rangers' fan and fantasy player would be more than happy with that. ZIPS(U) figures he'll go 3-1 the rest of the way with an ERA similar to the 2.72 he has now. Again, that's a pretty happy projection.

Those projections make this writer nervous. It's not that there is cynicism about the pitcher's abilities. The nervousness comes from Ogando being in totally uncharted waters. He has no track record. He's never pitched this many innings. All of that makes this writer want to dig much deeper.

The first thing that comes to mind is the kind of opponents Ogando has faced so far this year. He did beat the Tigers twice and very convincingly. He beat the Indians convincingly and he beat the White Sox. And he pitched brilliantly against the Angels last night. But his team lost both games to the Yankees he pitched, he lost to the Mets when they were hot and he lost to the Braves in a game he pitched well. All of his other outings have been against weak opponents.

Looking at the schedule ahead, if we go every fifth game, it looks like he'll have two more starts against the Angels, two against the Blue Jays (a team he has a no-decision against so far this season), two against the Tampa Bay Rays, one against the Mariners and one against the Indians. If things get juggled around a bit, he could end up facing the Red Sox once or twice or miss them both times. That's not an easy schedule and to win half of those games would seem the best of possible outcomes.

Alexi Ogando's batted ball statistics are kind of freaky. He gives up a somewhat high number of line drives at 21 percent, and, of course, when batters hit line drives off of him, they get on base 73 percent of the time. But his BABIP against on ground balls and fly balls is miniscule. On ground balls, that figure is .160 with an OPS of .364! On fly balls, the BABIP is .107 with an OPS of .556. His home run to fly ball ratio is very good at 7.2 percent and he seems to induce an amazingly high percentage of pop ups to the infield at 15.9 percent.

Just for the sake of comparison, C. C. Sabathia's BABIP on ground balls is .254 and Sabathia's infield pop up rate is just 5.9 percent. Overall, Ogando's overall BABIP is a good forty points lower than Sabathia's and because of that, his FIP is +75 in comparison to his ERA and his xFIP is +102. Of course, it must be stated that the Rangers have excellent infield defense and that certainly contributes to Ogando's numbers.

Just from looking this deep into his numbers, this writer's projections on Ogando would be that it would be a successful rest of the season if he won half of his games and had an ERA under four in those remaining contests.

Alexi Ogando has been a worthy replacement for Cliff Lee. The Rangers found lightening in a bottle and have pretty much replaced what Cliff Lee would have given them to this point. The difference is that Cliff Lee has a track record at the end of the season and in the post season. Ogando is a complete wild card in both situations. It's probably fortunate for the Rangers that Derek Holland and Matt Harrison are coming on so strong because relying on the continued success of Alexi Ogando makes this writer very nervous.

Game Picks - Wednesday: July 20, 2011

Tuesday wasn't as successful as Sunday and Monday, but this picker still has a nice little week going. There were a couple of surprises that tripped up a few of the picks. Chris Perez blew a save and torched an amazing effort by Justin Masterson. The observation here is that blown saves seem to work both ways. The Indians loss via the blown save was offset by the Phillies winning off of a Cubs blown save. At least you can't blame Carlos Marmol for this one. The Blue Jays had to play fourteen innings to get that pick right. But no amount of innings could save the Marlins pick or the Red Sox pick. Joe Girardi never should have let Bartolo Colon start the seventh, but he did and that worked in the pick's favor but hurt this heart a little bit.

In other games, the Rangers hit several homers and Alexi Ogando pitched eight scoreless innings to secure that pick. Madison Bumgarner didn't walk anyone which allowed him to go deep into the game and beat the Dodgers to make the Game of the Day a winner. The Pirates didn't score four runs because Mike Leake was very good. But James McDonald was even better and the pick for the first place Pirates came in nicely. This picker should have seen the Mets winning as Jose Reyes simply provides a spark for that team. His return should have been noted and accounted for. It wasn't. Jordan Zimmermann's peripherals for the game were great, but the final results weren't. The Nats almost came all the way back but fell short. And finally, the Brewers and Tigers busted out their bats to bring those picks in.

A positive day. Not great, but positive. A few more days with picks at least that good would make this a banner week. Wednesday's picks:

  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: Yes, Jake Arrieta has nine wins. And yes, Andrew Miller is pitching for Boston. At least the Orioles can say they took one of the games. This games starts at 12:35!
  • The Twins over the Indians: Mauer is heating up and Nick Blackburn was pretty darn good his last time out. Josh Tomlin won his last start and had eleven wins, but he gave up five runs to the Orioles.
  • The Nationals over the Astros: The Jose Altuve era starts in Houston but Livan Hernandez should limit the Astros to four runs while the Nationals score five or more. Brett Myers gets the start for Houston.
  • The Phillies over the Cubs: Ryan Dempster has been consistently decent for the Cubs. Vance Worley has been consistently decent for the Phillies. The Phillies are simply the better team.
  • The Giants over the Dodgers: What a match up! Clayton Kershaw versus Tim Lincecum! Since the Giants are home and have the Panda hitting well and Belt contributing right off the bat and newcomer, Jeff Keppinger, let's go that way.
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: By all accounts, this pick should go to the A's. Brandon McCarthy is a known entity, but he's become a five inning pitcher. The Tigers start a kid making his major league debut with the unlikely name of Duane Below. Below has a 9-4 record in Triple A, but his peripherals don't blow you away.
  • The Blue Jays over the Mariners: Brandon Morrow is really good. Jason Vargas can be really good too. Toronto has the firepower at home to win.
  • The Bay Rays over the Yankees: David Price is terrific at home but he has had mixed results over the years against the Yankees. But you have to pick him when matched up with Freddie Garcia.
  • The Marlins over the Padres: This one is all gut feeling. Aaron Harang is due for a clunker after two scoreless starts off the DL. Ricky Nolasco has to feel good to know his team has no desire to trade him.
  • The Cardinals over the Mets: R. A. Dickey was a nice story for the Mets last year. This year has been a mess though. Kyle McClellan really needs to have a good game as his good start this year is petering out quite a bit in the last month or so.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: There's something about Bruce Chen that tantalizes hitters and yet he still wins. John Danks is making his first start since straining an oblique muscle. That's too dicey to pick.
  • The Rockies over the Braves: Coors Field is not a good place for the Braves nor Tim Hudson. Juan Nicasio with the win.
  • The Brewers over the Diamondbacks: Neither Chris Narveson or Joe Saunders instills a lot of confidence. But Braun is back in the line up. That seals this pick.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: Dan Haren is a worthy opponent, but going with Derek Holland, who has been smoking lately for the win.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Pirates over the Reds: Okay, this Fan is officially on the bandwagon. Yeah, Johnny Cueto is pitching. But who cares. Weee! This is fun. Let's scratch our heads at Jeff Karstens again.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 29-13
Month: 129-96
Season: 793-657
Games of the Day: 69-39

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Will Defense Win the NL Central?

While we all catch our breath with the exciting news that, as of this late day in the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates maintain sole possession of first place in the National League Central, the reality is this is still a four team race with the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and those Pirates all in the thick of the battle. The bunch certainly qualifies the division as a horse race. What will be the factor that pushes a team to the top when all is said and done? All the teams have similar bullpens now that the Brewers have K-Rod. All boast decent rotations, but not dominant. All have a few holes in their respective line ups. So what will win this thing? Might it be defense?

The Pirates have prevented the most amount of runs, but have also scored the least of the four contenders. The Reds, Cardinals and Brewers all have mashers in the line up surrounded by question marks. The Reds, Cardinals and Brewers all have decent rotations that seem to even themselves out. The only real separator for these teams is defense. The Brewers and the Cardinals are near the bottom in the majors in unearned runs allowed and defensive efficiency. The Pirates give up a lot of unearned runs due to their relative youth and inexperience. But they can go get the ball too with a high defensive efficiency. The one team that seems to have an strong edge in defense is the Reds.

The Reds may seem to be treading water and if Twitter buddy @diamondhoggers is to believed, the team seems to lack character and leadership. This writer has to smile at the tweets as the tweeter is about as passionate about his team as anyone around. But despite being under .500 and despite too many games where they do seem to sleepwalk, this team is only four games out of first place. And defense might be their ticket to the prize.

The Reds have given up only 22 unearned runs all season. Compare that to Pittsburgh's 39, Milwaukee's 44 and the Cardinals' 42 and that is a huge difference. Only the Phillies and the Braves have given up less unearned runs. Cincinnati is third in the majors in defensive efficiency and only trails the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox in that category. The Pirates are eleventh in defensive efficiency while the Cardinals are 23rd and the Brewers 27th. The Pirates are third in the majors in Baseball Prospectus' Total Zone Runs Above Average while the Reds are fourth. The Brewers fare better in this category and are 17th while the Cardinals are 27th.

Baseball Info Solutions has another stat called Defensive Runs Saved Above Average and in that statistic, the Reds are third, the Pirates are seventh, the Brewers are 17th and the Cardinals are 24th. And if you like the good old fashioned fielding percentage stat, the Reds are third, the Pirates are 20th, the Cardinals are 23rd and the Brewers are 25th.

Cutting across the entire fielding spectrum, the Reds clearly outshine over the rest of the division in fielding. The Reds did not score lower than fourth on any given category. The Pirates score well in several defensive metrics but do not measure up to the Reds with the gloves (and the feet and arms).

This division will be very interesting and exciting to watch. The Reds out pace the other three in offensive WAR but lag behind the other three in pitching WAR. The Pirates are right in the middle of the road on offense and pitching. The Cardinals are better on offense than all but the Reds but are below the Pirates and Brewers in pitching. The Brewers are right behind the Pirates in pitching WAR but just ahead of them on offense. With all that stuff seeming to even all these teams out, perhaps it will be the defense that sways the final outcome.

The heart is with the Pirates, but the head is still with the Reds.

Game Picks - Tuesday: July 19, 2011

Monday was not a bad day. Sure, the Indians swept the Twins when they were predicted to split. And Clay Hensley was fantastic for the Marlins, making that a bad pick. Picking the Rockies as bad as they have been playing was kind of dumb. But the wrong pick that hurt the worst was Roy Halladay melting in the heat of Chicago. Who would have thought that Superman's kryptonite would be heat?

Other than those picks, everything sailed along smoothly. The Yankees took advantage of the Bay Rays' gassed team. The same gassed Red Sox feasted on Buck Showalter's awful pitching staff and won despite giving up ten runs. The Pirates beat the Reds behind Charlie Morton and find themselves in sole possession of first place since the Brewers lost to Arizona as predicted. Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse hit homers in support of Jason Marquis as the Nationals won again. Ryan Vogelsong continued his lovely melody for the Giants and Mark Buehrle shut down the Royals as predicted.

Great start to the week so far. Got to keep it going:

  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: The Red Sox start Kyle Weiland, which didn't go well last time. But it's still against the Orioles and Jeremy Guthrie, so it won't matter.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: James McDonald almost always gives up three runs. So the Pirates have to score four. Can they do that against Mike Leake? Why not?
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: Guillermo Moscoso was great against the Mariners. The Tigers aren't the Mariners. Rick Porcello has to pitch well though. The Tigers should win at home.
  • The Blue Jays over the Mariners: The Blue Jays have to get to Michael Pineda at home to win. And Brett Cecil has to pitch well. The latter part is more likely.
  • The Bay Rays over the Yankees: This Fan is not feeling good about Bartolo Colon these days. It was fun while it lasted, but his legs are gone. Jeremy Hellickson with the win.
  • The Marlins over the Padres: Tim Stauffer is good. But so is Anibal Sanchez. Neither pitcher has gotten any runs to support their starts.
  • The Cardinals over the Mets: Dillon Gee used to be a lock pick. But lock has gone to rocked in recent outings. It's not that Kyle Lohse is a solid pick either. He had a cruddy July after a nice start to his season. Toss up game. Who knows.
  • The Phillies over the Cubs: Matt Garza has been fantastic at home. Cliff Lee has been fantastic period.
  • The Nationals over the Astros: Jordan Zimmermann has seven more starts left this season before he is shut down. Enjoy them people, enjoy them. J. A. Happ goes for the Astros.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Jake Peavy has had plenty of time to work out the kinks that led to two bad outings before the All Star break. He should have a good game. Dan Duffy has been better than this writer has given him credit for. But he'll continue to lose with this game.
  • The Indians over the Twins: The Cleveland crew is trying to put a dagger in the Twins' season. If Francisco Liriano is on his game, this could be a bad pick. But Justin Masterson is very good too.
  • The Rockies over the Braves: This picker loves Brandon Beachy. But the logic is that Ubaldo Jiminez will be so angry at the trade talks that he buries the Braves only making him more attractive to buyers.
  • The Brewers over the Diamondbacks: Yovani Gallardo has ten wins, but hasn't pitched well. But Barry Enright makes his first start back from the minors for the D-backs. That's scary.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: If Tyler Chatwood gets ahead in the count, he's dangerous. And Alexi Ogando has to be good to get this pick in the clear.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Giants over the Dodgers: Madison Bumgarner throws a gem and out duels another youngster, Rubby de la Rosa.

Yesterday: 8-4
Week: 20-7
Month: 120-90
Season: 784-651
Games of the Day: 68-39

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wild Cards Could Be Blowouts

Three of the six divisions in Major League Baseball have tight races for the top spot. Those three races involve ten or eleven teams (depends on how you define close) in contention. The Texas Rangers appear ready to run away with the American League West (as expected here). The Phillies will be hard pressed to be caught as will the Giants (somehow). The trouble for all those contenders is that it might become all or nothing for their chances to make the playoffs. The wild card spot in both leagues appears at the moment to be a runaway.

The Yankees have a five game cushion in the wild card race in the American League. The Atlanta Braves have a five game cushion for the wild card race in the National League. Both can allow all those other contenders to bash each other around while they sit at the top spot and get ready for the playoffs. This fact alone could change some team thinking on the trade season and deadline. The Yankees don't really have a great need to bankrupt their farm for a stud pitcher. The Braves don't really need to go out and get a hitter.

It was different last year, at least in the National League. Last year, ten or twelve teams were all clustered up for the wild card race right up until the last couple of month of the season and the Braves didn't win the final playoff spot until the last day of the season. Five games isn't an insurmountable lead by any means. But it's getting there.

For the Yankees, they don't have to worry about the AL West. The Angels and the Athletics simply have too many holes to mount any serious threat. The AL Central has four teams still in the race for first place with the Twins, White Sox, Indians and Tigers all slugging each other out to get to the top spot. Two teams would have to nearly run the table for one to win the division and the other to challenge for the wild card. All four of those teams are flawed and separation within the division will be tough enough without two teams mounting that kind of charge. The only true threat to the Yankees is the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays can find a way, but it just doesn't seem to be their year with a makeshift bullpen and a lack of a consistent offense. They can't take on money to better themselves and would need to be incredibly creative to mount a charge.

In the National League, the NL Central is much like the AL Central. The Pirates, Brewers, Cardinals and Reds all have serious flaws and will be battling each other for the top spot. It seems to be asking a lot for two of those teams to go on a serious roll when they will be knocking each other off all season. One of those teams might run away with the division. But it won't be two of them that play .650 ball the rest of the way.

The NL West has the Diamondbacks. The D-backs are within striking distance to the Giants and if the Giants ever trip and start losing those one-run games, the D-Backs could stay in striking distance. But they don't seem to have quite enough pitching to play .650 ball the rest of the way to catch the Braves. Plus, you'd have to think the Rockies will play better baseball the rest of the way.

The Braves are in a nice spot because they simply have to win a six or seven inning game with their bullpen. And with Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens and Beachy, they have a good chance to win their fair share of seven inning games the rest of the season.

Perhaps this is why a second wild card team could add to the excitement next year. Because this year, if many of these teams falter in their reach for their division titles, there might not be any brass ring left on the Merry-Go-Round to grab.

Game Picks - Monday: July 18, 2011

Nearly everything fell into place yesterday and good picks were aplenty. Only three games were incorrect picks. The Tigers scored late and with a little luck to take one game from the White Sox. The Reds were aided by a questionable call at second and beat the picked Cardinals. And picking the Mets to beat the Phillies for a second straight game meant this picker must have had bats in his Pelfrey. With the Yankees winning early and these three picks being early games, the day started 1-3 before this picker ran the table on the rest of the day.

And there were some good picks. Daniel Hudson was a great pick as he single-handedly beat the Dodgers with his arm and his bat. The Orioles were picked to win their second game in a row and did. The Rangers swept the Mariners as predicted. Was Matt Harrison that good or was the Mariner offense that bad? And it took sixteen innings but the Red Sox beat the Bay Rays to open up an even bigger lead against the Rays in the AL East and push the Rays closer to making that Upton trade. Yes, it was a good day.

Monday offers a pretty good slate of games with twelve games on tap including a double dip in Minnesota against the Indians. The picks for Monday are:

  • The Indans and Twins split their double-header: The Twins will probably win their first game with Anthony Swarzak facing David Huff, recalled from Triple A to pitch this game. The Indians will probably win the second game. Fausto Carmona comes off the disabled list and isn't great this season, but the Twins recall Scott Diamond from the minors to make his major league debut. Diamond's stats in the minors weren't great.
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: A very tired Red Sox behind Tim Wakefield should still be better than the Orioles behind Brad Bergesen, who is having an awful season.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: Until Dontrelle Willis can string successful starts in a row, he can't be trusted. James McDonald has been pretty darned good of late.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: Chris Capuano is a solid pitcher this season. But the Marlins are starting Clay Hensley. What!? Seriously? He is a relief pitcher and hasn't started since 2008 and he's been hurt.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Yes, A. J. Burnett is about as predictable as a squirrel in the road in the path of an oncoming car. But the Bay Rays have to be gassed and their entire bullpen has to be worn out. Plus, they start young Alex Cobb.
  • The Nationals over the Astros: The Nationals have quietly gone about having a quality season and are nearly as good a story as the Pirates, except the Nats play in the wrong division. Jason Marquis should win over the winless Jordan Lyles.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Mark Buehrle will bamboozle the Royals who start Kyle Davies, the worst starting pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball.
  • The Rockies over the Braves: Derek Lowe relies on movement and movement is always diminished in Coors Field. Jason Hammel isn't a Field of Dreams either, but, the Rockies should win.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Brewers: The D-backs jumped all over Randy Wolf in their last meeting. They should do so again and get a solid outing from Josh Collmenter.
  • The Giants over the Dodgers: Is any team as confounding as the Giants? How do they do it? Ryan Vogelsong is having a storybook season. Clay Billingsley could be very good, or...

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Cubs: Is Roy Halladay versus Rodrigo Lopez one of the worst mismatches on paper that you've ever seen? Yeah, that's what this picker thinks too.

Yesterday: 12-3
Week: 12-3
Month: 112-86
Season: 766-647
Games of the Day: 68-38

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Everywhere There's a Brandon

After watching dozens of games and looking at hundreds of box scores, it seemed that players with the name, Brandon, were everywhere. Darned if this author could find the game, but there was one game this year where both starting pitchers had that name. But, as we all know, observations don't often make things so. And so this author went off to search things a bit to see if the majors were indeed being overrun with Brandons.

Don't get this author wrong. There's nothing wrong with that name. One of the Fan's favorite Twitter follows is a cat named @brandonwarne. You have to remember that this writer is pretty old school. The common names this writer saw in school growing up have nothing in common with the names being given children today. Don't believe that? When is the last time you met a little girl named, Joyce? Or Linda? Martha? Betty? Nope. Not many of those anymore.

This writer is a baby boomer. William (most often turned to Bill or Billy) was a very common name. We had Joe and Jimmy and Mike and Sam and those Apostle names: Mark, Matthew, Peter, Thomas, James, John and Paul. Other bible characters such as David, Ruth, Mary and Daniel were common. But there were lots of Chucks, Kevins, Georges, Stevens and Larrys were around too. But times have changed.

You are more likely to meet a hundred Brittanys before you meet a Ruth. And Brandon is one of the new breed of popular names. The name is from a class of names that came to be from a last name. There were a lot of people with the last name of Brandon. But converting that name to a first name is strictly a modern phenomenon. Apparently, the name is Old English and means, "Broom," or something like that. So if a pitcher named Brandon finishes a series sweep, saying so might be redundant.

As mentioned, the Fan set about to determine if the observation about all those Brandons was accurate and it turns out it was. There are nineteen major league players named Brandon. Two others have the variation of Brendan and add one more with the other variation, Brennan. And Brandon Webb has been on the disabled list all season. The list of Brandons/Brendan and Brennans that have played in the majors in 2011 goes like this:

  • Pitchers: Brandon Morrow, Brandon Lyon, Brandon Gomes, Brandon League (one of this Fan's favorite ball names), Brandon McCarthy, Brandon Dickson, Brandon Beachy and Brandon Kintzler.
  • Catcher: Brandon Inge (who is more of a third baseman).
  • First base: Brandon Snyder and Brandon Belt.
  • Second base: Brandon Phillips
  • Shortstop: Brandon Crawford and Brendan Ryan
  • Third base: Brandon Hicks and Brandon Wood
  • Outfield: Brandon Guyer, Brandon Boggs, Brennan Boesch and Brandon Allen

So we have ourselves enough players in positions to make a team. And to show you that this is a recent phenomenon, All 39 Brendans that have ever played in the major leagues began their career in 2000 or later. And there will be more where that came from. there are currently 123 more Brandons playing in the minor leagues.

So how does the current 21 Brandon/Brendan/Brennans compare with some of the other common names in baseball? That took a lot of searching. Of course, this author didn't bother searching for how many players were named Asdrubal or Ubaldo. But let's talk about common names, including the Hispanic varieties. If we start with the biblical or apostle names, they all fall short:

  • Mike/Michael/Miguel - 17
  • John/Johnny/Jonny/Jhonny - 14
  • Joe/Joseph/Joey - 9
  • Mark - 13
  • William/Willie/Bill/Billy/Will/Guillermo - 9
  • Aaron - 9
  • Josh/Joshua - 18  (close!)
  • Andrew/Andy/Andruw - 11
  • Juan - 13
  • Zack/Zach/Zachery - 9
  • Erik/Eric - 15
  • Ian -5
  • Anthony/Tony/Antonio - 15
  • James/Jim/Jimmy - 8
  • Scott - 15
  • Alex/Alexei - 14
  • Jose - 16
  • Paul - 4
  • Peter/Pete - 4
  • Bob/Robert/Bobby/Robby/Robbie - 6
  • Brett/Brent - 9
  • Dan/Daniel - 11
  • Frank/Franklin/Frankie - 4
  • Justin - 10
  • Jeff/Geoff - 14
  • Jason - 17
  • Rich/Richie/Richard - 6  There are no Dicks in baseball. hmm..

There were only three names that seemed to beat Brandon. There may be more, but the searching got pretty tiring. Those three names that were found with more than Brandon were: Matt/Matthew (22), Ryan (22) and the leader, Chris/Christopher (28).

While this post does nothing to enlighten anyone about the important ins and outs of Major League Baseball, at least this writer's curiosity is satisfied. The league is being overrun with Brandons, and more are on the way.

Game Picks - Sunday: July 17, 2011

After correctly picking the Mets to beat Cole Hamels and the Phillies, one would think that kind of brilliant pick would lead to a good day. Well, it didn't. Oh, the Yankees behind C. C. Sabathia and the Rangers behind C. J. Wilson did what they were supposed to do. But the Braves lost to the Nationals which led to a rare Game of the Day failure. Both ends of the double-header between the Angels and Athletics were wrong. The teams did indeed split, but not in the manner the Fan picked, making both picks wrong. The Bay Rays had John Lackey on the ropes in the first couple of innings and couldn't put him away and then couldn't hold the Red Sox down. So yes, the Astros and San Diego picks were awesome as were the Cardinal and Brewers picks. But the Orioles won and Twins won and the White Sox won and they were all bad picks. And we won't even get into the Cubs pick. That was just plain silly.

One week ends on a mediocre note and another week starts. Sunday's picks:

  • The White Sox over the Tigers: The White Sox have had their way in this series, so why keep fighting it? Philip Humber over Brad Penny.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Everything in this game points to a Blue Jay win. Phil Hughes has been awful. Carlos Villanueva has been terrific. So why pick the Yankees then? Just a feeling...
  • The Mets over the Phillies: Again? Yes, again. Mike Pelfrey over Kyle Kendrick.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Jaime Garcia has had three strong outings in a row. But there is still something that doesn't feel right about his season. But Albert Pujols is back to being Albert Pujols and David Freese is back, all of which isn't good news for Homer Bailey.
  • The Orioles over the Indians: The bad news for the Orioles is that they are starting Mitch Atkins. The good news for the Orioles is that the Indians are starting Jeanmar Gomez. Yeesh. What a match up.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: Tom Gorzelanny always keeps his team in the game. But Jair Jurrjens doesn't lose very often. So that's the pick.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: The Pirates are surprisingly balanced when it comes to whatever arm they face. So the offerings of Wandy Rodriguez shouldn't be that damaging. Kevin Correia finds a way to hold on for the win.
  • The Twins over the Royals: Felipe Paulino's record is misleading. He's a power arm that has really pitched quite well for the Royals. But he pitches for the Royals. Brian Duensing for the win.
  • The Marlins over the Cubs: The Cubs are simply a bad baseball team. Randy Wells has had a season to forget. Chris Volstad has been better of late for the Marlins.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: Gio Gonzalez will take care of the Angels, but the A's have to scrape up a few runs off of Joel Pineiro.
  • The Giants over the Padres: This Fan just loves Matt Latos, but he gets no run support. Matt Cain loves pitching in the daytime and has a 2.54 ERA during the day.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Dodgers: Daniel Hudson has had two bad outings in a row, but that should change today against the Dodgers. Ted Lilly has not looked good at all for the Dodgers.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: The Fan wanted to go with Blake Beavans to beat his former team. But he won't get any runs behind him as Matt Harrison has been great as long as he is with Mike Napoli, his favorite catcher.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: Jeff Niemann pitches great against the Yankees but can't beat the Red Sox. The Red Sox have a long history of tattooing him. The wild card in this game is Josh Beckett. Will he go? Will he not go? Will he last? Stay tuned.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Brewers over the Rockies: The thin air at Coors might mess a bit with Shaun Marcum's movement, but the Brewers face Aaron Cook who has been meat thus far this year.

Yesterday: 8-8
Last Week: 31-22
Month: 100-83
Season: 754-644
Games of the Day: 67-38