Saturday, August 06, 2011

Game Picks - Saturday: August 6, 2011

The picks for Saturday had to be made early since this picker has a really early tee time in the morning. See what this picker goes through just for you? Yes, your sarcasm is noted. Since games are still being played on this Friday, there won't be any tally at the bottom of the post as usual. They will get caught up on Sunday. From the looks of things, Friday should end slightly ahead, but we'll see.

Saturday's picks:

  • The Reds over the Cubs: Let's see, if the Reds are picked enough days in a row to win and the Cubs are picked enough days in a row to lose, those things will happen some time. See how that works? Carlos Zambrano versus Johnny Cueto. Going with Cueto.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Friday's game was clearly frustrating for the Red Sox. They had Colon on the ropes and Girardi made a brilliant move by bringing in his LOOGY. That was the game as the Yankees found a way to touch the Boston ace for three runs. Now on Saturday, it's Sabathia versus John Lackey. Lackey won't get any Fenway love if he struggles. C.C. has struggled at times against the Red Sox.
  • The Phillies over the Giants: The Phillies aim to make a statement this series and it's coming in loud and clear. Cole Hamels over Matt Cain. Worley pitched on Friday. Was Halladay skipped? Is it okay that this Fan loves John Mayberry Jr.?
  • The Brewers over the Astros: How can we find anything nice to say about the Astros these days. Brett Myers with yet another loss. Chris Narveson goes for the Brew Crew.
  • The Padres over the Pirates: The Pirates have fallen and can't get up. Corey Luebke over Paul Maholm, who never gets any runs of support.
  • The Braves over the Mets: The Mets sure are scuffling now. Jonathan Niese can be nice and stop the bleeding. But it might not be enough against Tommy Hanson.
  • The White Sox over the Twins: Jake Peavy is getting stronger and pitching deeper into games. Carl Pavano has had little in his tank this season.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: Justin Verlander might have a little trouble against some of the young Royals hitters, but the Tigers should score on Danny Duffy and win.
  • The Rays over the Athletics: Remember how everyone thought the A's would contend this year. This Fan never bought it. It's nice to see old friend, Hideki Matsui, hitting well. Alex Cobb over Brandon McCarthy.
  • The Rangers over the Indians: Tough to see Chris Perez blow the save for Ubaldo on Friday night. C.J. Wilson hasn't been sharp lately. Some home cooking should fix that. Fausto Carmona really hasn't had a good season.
  • The Cardinals over the Marlins: How big has Lance Berkman been for the Cardinals this season? Getting Rafael Furcal was brilliant. Chris Carpenter has a shortstop behind him! Give that man a W. Ricky Nolasco with a tough loss.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Dodgers: The Dodgers have trouble against lefties. Joe Saunders isn't a very good one, but even so. The Dodgers have not announced a starter yet for Saturday which is another reason for this pick.
  • The Rockies over the Nationals: You have to give props to Livan Hernandez for staying competitive. But his stuff will look like beach balls at Coors. Jhoulys Chacin hasn't pitched well against the Nats, but we'll see.
  • The Mariners over the Angels: In a battle of young pitchers, Blake Beavan should be better than Tyler Chatwood.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Chris Tillman has been rocked often. He won't have it any easier against the Blue Jays. Brandon Morrow pitches for the Jays.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Surprise Value of Ian Kinsler

Can a ballplayer batting .239 be valuable? That's a question of perception that an old dog has had to learn in a brave new world. It turns out a ballplayer batting .239 can be surprisingly valuable if his name is Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers. The batting average turns out to be misleading because of all the other things that Ian Kinsler does very well.

For one, he's a very good fielder. Kinsler's fielding is currently ranked third for second basemen in all of the majors behind Dustin Pedroia and Howie Kendrick. Aided by a strong first step, Kinsler has excellent range and has made only seven errors while making 32 plays outside of his range this season. He's also improved making double plays, an area that was weaker for him in past seasons. His play combined with Elvis Andrus at short gives the Rangers terrific fielding up the middle, just where you want your fielding to be strong.

Kinsler is also one of those rare players that walks more than he strikes out. He's only swung at 19.7 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone, giving him an eye similar to the likes of Lance Berkman and Nick Swisher. Kinsler has walked 62 times while only striking out 52 times. So although his batting average is low, his on base percentage is above league average.

And once Kinsler gets on base, he is an excellent base runner. The Rangers are known for their daring on the basepaths and if at times, it backfires and causes them extra outs, that daring succeeds more often than not. Kinsler has stolen 19 bases in 21 attempts, a superb ratio. Plus, he makes the most of his running when on base and legs out his share of doubles and triples. He is currently fourteenth in the majors with his base running score of 3.0. Again, his teammate, Elvis Andrus, is rated the highest in the league in base running and the pair provide an exciting combination for fans of the Rangers.

But Kinsler also has some pop in his bat. He's not quite hitting as many homers as the 31 he hit in 2009 and his homer to fly ball rate is below what he did that year. But he has hit sixteen dingers and is projected to hit 22 overall. He has also hit 25 doubles and three triples to give him a very good slugging percentage for a lead off batter. If he stays on projection, he'll end up with around 34 doubles to go with his 22 homers.

Add it all up and he becomes the third most valuable second baseman in baseball behind Pedroia and Ben Zobrist. Kinsler has already compiled an fWAR of 4.4 which translates to $20 million of value provided for the Rangers. Certainly, if more of his batted balls find open space, it will only enhance his value. He currently tarries with a .239 BABIP which is extremely low to the point of being considered unlucky. If that luck evens out, Kinsler will only build and even more valuable year than he has now.

Kinsler hits the fastball well and absolutely rocks change ups. He is vulnerable to the curve and cutter. But that is hardly unique in baseball.

It's easy to look at Ian Kinsler and dismiss him for his batting average. His overall play with the glove, with his legs and with his patience adds up to value that gets missed more often than not. Ian Kinsler's value is surprising and he's a big part of any hopes the Rangers have of repeating as American League West champions.

Game Picks - Friday: August 5, 2011

Yesterday's picks found winning ground, but it wasn't a very high hill. It was more a Maine mountain than a Rocky Mountain. The Justin Masterson pick over the Red Sox was a good one. The Ivan Nova pick was a good one. Perhaps the Yankees will smarten up and let Nova take Burnett's rotation spot. Doubt it. Seriously, everyone kicks the Yankees for not going out and getting an Erik Bedard or someone. But who would you rather have right now, Ivan Nova or Erik Bedard? Exactly.

This picker thought he had the pick right for the Blue Jays - Bay Rays game. But in a sadly familiar fashion, the Toronto bullpen blew the game. During the picks yesterday, it was admitted that the Nationals - Rockies game was impossible to pick. After tossing the coin, it came down against the Fan. And to round out the incorrect picks, Mr. Liriano showed up when it was hoped it would be Dr. Jekyll.

But the Rangers behind Alexi Ogando was a good pick and the Game of the Day continued it's winning ways with Cliff Lee's performance over the weak-hitting Giants.

Friday's schedule is packed full and this Fan can't wait to dive in:

  • The Reds over the Cubs: Mike Leake's season has been kind of lost in the shuffle. He's been solid all year in the Reds' rotation. He should be a tick better than Ryan Dempster and the hot Cubs.
  • The Pirates over the Padres: Aaron Harang is decent. Jeff Karstens is a ground ball machine. The division race seems over for the Pirates, but let's hope they don't collapse completely.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: A tale of two pitchers getting a second chance. Brad Mills was solid but got no run support for the Blue Jays in his last start. Tommy Hunter is too good a pitcher to languish without a role like he did in Texas. Tough call, but with Hardy hurt, going with the Blue Jays.
  • The Braves over the Mets: The Mets are sinking a bit. R.A. Dickey can be had and Tim Hudson needs to win or the Braves' wild card lead will be shrunken further.
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: This Fan just can't see Bartolo Colon out foxing the Red Sox line up. Jon Lester should win the first game of this big series.
  • The Bay Rays over the Athletics: Guillermo Moscoco is the wild card in this game. He could be bad. He could be great. Either way, Jeff Niemann should be good enough to win.
  • The Cardinals over the Marlins: Anibal Sanchez's good start has faded into the mist. Jake Westbrook keeps the ball on the ground. Should be a Cardinal win.
  • The Rangers over the Indians: A dream match up of Derek Holland versus Ubaldo Jiminez. Holland is at home and he has been a shutout machine lately. Those two factors disappoint Ubaldo's first outing.
  • The White Sox over the Twins: Blackburn singing in the dead of night. Take these broken wins and learn to fly. Sorry, Nick, Mark Buehrle will be better.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: Felipe Paulino has been much better than expected. But Rick Porcello hasn't lost since June.
  • The Rockies over the Nationals: Two young pitchers that can't seem to get run support in Jordan Zimmermann and Juan Nicasio. Nicasio is used to pitching in Coors Field. Zimmermann is not.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Dodgers: Going with Josh Collmenter at home over Clay Billingsley. Not a comfortable pick. But there it is.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: Jared Weaver is listed as the starter. Did he appeal his suspension? If he pitches, the Angels win over Jason Vargas.
  • The Phillies over the Giants: This isn't last year and the Phillies have the upper hand. They are the best team in the National League and maybe in baseball. Vance Worley helped make that happen. Meanwhile, Jonathan Sanchez simply isn't the stud he appeared to be.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Brewers over the Astros: The Brewers are not as good on the road but Yovani Gallardo has beaten the Astros six straight times. J.A. Happ is having a horrible season.

Yesterday: 6-4
Week: 34-31
Month; 27-23
Season: 801-764
Games of the Day: 79-45

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Please Answer These Sabermetric Questions

Jay Jaffe over at the Pinstriped Bible wrote a piece today that raised questions about some sabermetric values that exist today. Jaffe was talking about Curtis Granderson and his defense and mentioned in passing that Brett Gardner has so much range that many times Gardner catches balls in Granderson's "zone." Granderson seems quite rangy himself, so how much does Gardner's range hurt Granderson's fielding statistics? The trouble with this writer asking the questions is that this writer often doesn't know what he is talking about. But still. It's too bad an average Joe like this writer can't lock a Dave Cameron or somebody in a room and let them explain this stuff.

So here are this layman's uneducated (isn't that redundant?) questions:

1. Should a fielder have a "chance" that counts on his fielding stats if someone else catches the ball and makes the out? There is a statistic called out of zone percentage. Say Gardner has a 4 percent percentage out of his zone, shouldn't at least some of that be given back to Granderson somehow? If a fielder makes plays out of his zone and those stats are counted, shouldn't we know where out of the zone those catches were made? Can you see a scenario some day (especially since these numbers start to factor into arbitration hearings, etc.) where fielders start getting in arguments over where the fielder catches the ball? It would be like a volleyball game. "Hey, that was my ball!"

2. Say the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have 28 blowout games apiece. In theory, once a team is so far ahead, they stop taking the extra base on a hit from first or second. They settle for a single instead of a double or a double instead of a triple. Should those times be counted against a base runner when say, a player from the San Francisco Giants always plays in close games and would always take the extra base when needed? Dustin Pedroia's base running score looks awfully low for a guy that really plays with reckless abandon.

That's it for now. Just two things this Fan wishes someone would answer. They may be idiotic questions. But that's what happens when they let any old idiot write a post.

Messing Around on Fangraphs' Leader Board

Where would sites like this one be without the great statistic sites on the Internet? Nowhere, man. Nowhere. There is so much information at our fingertips. While such information automatically leads to terrific analysis performed all over the blog-sphere, these stats can also lead to silly little posts like this one. A Tangotiger this writer is definitely not. One of the places the Fan likes to mess around on is's Leader Board. Speaking of the term, spell check should really allow that to be one word. But back to the point: By clicking headings on the tab, you can quickly find leaders in losers in all the categories. Here are some of the Fan's favorite clicks:

Lowest walk percentage by qualifying batters: 1. Yuniesky Betancourt - 3.1 percent, Darwin Barney - 3.1 percent, 3. Vladimir Guerrero - 3.3 percent.

Barney and Guerrero at least hit enough to have on base percentages at league average (.320). But imagine how valuable they could be if they took a walk once in a while. Betancourt's .276 on base percentage is just another facet in a really bad year for the Brewers' shortstop. Plus, if you take away intentional walks, these players would be even worse. Barney has twelve walks all season and one was intentional. Guerrero has two intentional walks out of his twelve and Betancourt has three intentional walks out of his twelve. Who cares if the pitcher is due up next, why would you intentionally walk Betancourt?

Lowest on base percentage by qualifying batters: 1. Alex Rios - .252, 2. Miguel Olivo - .253, Alex Gonzalez - .254.

Lowest ISO (Isolated Power) by qualifying batters: 1. Chris Getz - .029, 2. Ichiro Suzuki - .048, 3. Juan Pierre - .050

Chris Getz has eight extra base hits in 94 games. Eight! 85 percent of Ichiro's hits have been singles.

Lowest strikeout rate by qualifying batters: 1. A.J. Pierzynski - 6.2 percent, 2. Jose Reyes - 6.6 percent, 3. Juan Pierre - 6.8 percent.

Highest walk percentage by qualifying batters: 1. Jose Bautista - 19.7 percent, 2. Miguel Cabrera - 16.1 percent, 3. Carlos Santana - 15.4 percent.

Yeah, that third one is surprising. Bautista has been intentionally walked 17 times, Cabrera 14 times and Santana, only five times.

Top three fielding scores for players who qualify: 1. Brett Gardner - +16.2, 2. Dustin Pedroia - +14.6, 3. Howie Kendrick - +12.4.

Kendrick is having a wonderful and overlooked season.

Top three base runners for players who qualify: 1. Elvis Andrus - +6.0, 2. Michael Bourn - +5.4, Drew Stubbs - +5.1

Lowest BABIP for players who qualify: 1. Alex Rios - .220, 2. Dan Uggla - .225, 3. Evan Longoria - .233

It's hard to believe that Evan Longoria is batting .226 on the season.

Highest BABIP for players who qualify: 1. Adrian Gonzalez - .398, 2. Michael Bourn - .380, 3. Emilio Bonifacio - .373.

Fewest runs scored for players who qualify: 1. James Loney - 26, 2. Chris Johnson - 28, 2. Adam Dunn - 28

Adam Dunn has only scored 18 times when he hasn't hit a homer!

Most runs scored: 1. Curtis Granderson - 98, 2. Jacoby Ellsbury - 87, 3. Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes - 79.

Fewest RBIs for players who qualify: 1. Jimmy Carroll - 10, 2. Kosuke Fukudome - 15, 3. Emilio Bonifacio - 18.

How about some pitching stats:

Walks per nine innings for starters who qualify: 1. Josh Tomlin - 1.02, 2. Roy Halladay - 1.04, 3. Dan Haren - 1.34.

Lowest strikeouts per nine for starters who qualify: 1. Carl Pavano - 3.72, 2. Brad Penny - 3.76, 3. Wade Davis - 4.38.

Lowest home runs per nine innings for starters who qualify: 1. Justin Masterson - 0.24, 2. Madison Bumgarner - 0.35, C.C. Sabathia - 0.36

Highest home runs per nine innings for starters who qualify: 1. Bronson Arroyo - 2.0, 2. Colby Lewis - 1.75, 3. Ted Lilly - 1.67.

Lowest ground ball percentage for starters who qualify: 1. J.A. Happ - 32.4 percent, 2. Jeremy Hellickson - 32. 6 percent, 3. Ted Lilly - 32.8 percent.

Highest ground ball percentage for starters who qualify: 1. Jake Westbrook - 61.3 percent, 2. Charlie Morton - 59.6 percent, 3. Derek Lowe - 59 percent.

Lowest FIP for starters that qualify: 1. Roy Halladay - 2.20, 2. Madison Bumgarner - 2.49, 3. Clayton Kershaw - 2.51.

Lowest left on base percentage for starters that qualify (with ERAs to prove it): 1. J.A. Happ - 62.6 percent, 2. Fausto Carmona - 63.5 percent, 3. Carl Pavano - 63.8 percent.

Highest left on base percentage for starters that qualify: 1. Ryan Vogelson - 84.7 percent, 2. Jeff Karstens - 84.5 percent, 3. Josh Beckett - 83.6 percent.

Game Picks - Thursday: August 4, 2011

What before these blundering eyes appear? Was that a good day? Did more picks come out correct than incorrect? Blinking the sleep out of eyes that still wish they were in bed, it does appear that Wednesday was a positive day. Whattayaknow. But even as the realization hits that the week's losing streak is over, dissatisfaction at those five incorrect picks takes over.

First of all, what business did this picker have picking the Diamondbacks? Jason Marquis buckled in his first contending game faster than shoes during an Easter egg hunt. That was a stupid pick. The Blue Jays? Seriously? Villanueva hasn't pitched a good game in a month and this picker thought he would pitch a good one against Tampa Bay? Seriously stupid pick. As was the Cardinal pick. Last night's game is why Edwin Jackson has pitched for six different teams by the age of 27. He tantalizes like A.J. Burnett with his stuff. But over the long haul? Nah. And there must be apologies to Luke Hochevar fans. The guy has pitched two good games in a row and this picker picked against him both times. Duh.

But the game and the pick that hurt the most was the Reds loss. It hurt because Dontrelle Willis should have gotten that win. He pitched six-plus innings of good baseball and even hit a homer. But Nick Masset-who isn't an asset, blew the lead all to you know where and the Reds lost to the Astros...again.

Looking over this post so far, there is a lot of whining going on considering it was a good day of picking. That must be the perfectionist speaking again. The dream of course, is to have a day of 15-0. That would be like shooting a hole in one in golf. It won't happen Thursday because there are only ten games on Thursday's schedule:

  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Wade Davis is still a healthy Phil Hughes. Going with Brett Cecil instead. Perhaps Bautista will park one today.
  • The Rangers over the Tigers: This picker thought that the purpose of getting Doug Fister was to get Brad Penny out of the rotation. Apparently not, because he is pitching today. Alexi Ogando with the win. It is a day game though, so that counts Josh Hamilton out of doing anything good.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs: The Pirates finally win a game in this series as James McDonald doesn't have to sweat much to beat Rodrigo Lopez.
  • The Indians over the Red Sox: Two things here. First, Erik Bedard is a long shot for the Red Sox. Secondly, Justin Masterson is a great pitcher that the Red Sox let get away.
  • The Cardinals over the Marlins: Kyle Lohse better figure it out soon as he had a bad July. The Cardinals need a quality start. But it might not matter if they jump all over Clay Hensley.
  • The Royals over the Orioles: How can you pick this game? Jeff Francis has given up ten runs in two starts against the Orioles and Zach Britton can't get out of the first inning lately. Baffling.
  • The Yankees over the White Sox: Troublesome pick as well. Ivan Nova could be great or the White Sox could erupt against him. Phil Humber threw his best start of the year against the Yankees but has not been great lately.
  • The Nationals over the Rockies: This gets uglier and uglier. Esmil Rogers and his seven-plus ERA versus Ross Detwiler. Oh goody.
  • The Twins over the Angels: This pick should be right if we don't get Dr. Jekyll and get Mr. Liriano. Dan Haren is darn good too.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Giants: In this playoff preview, Cliff Lee out duels Madison Bumgarner.

Yesterday: 9-5
Week: 28-27
Month: 21-19
Season: 895-760
Games of the Day: 78-45

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Debating Mitch Williams

Debating Mitch Williams is sort of like debating the local loudmouth at the bar. It's a no win kind of thing. But the "analyst" for The MLB Network yesterday made a point during the highlight package of the Dodgers - Padres game--a game in which Hiroki Kuroda pitched brilliantly for the Dodgers--of blurting out that he had no respect for guys like Kuroda. Williams' point was that Kuroda settled for staying on a losing team over being traded to a contender. Over the weekend, the news stories indicated that Kuroda had told his agent to inform the Dodgers that he wouldn't accept a trade and would invoke the no-trade clause in his contract.

This writer has to admit that he much the same thought over the weekend as what Mitch Williams blurted out last night. And since that is disturbing, this writer had to take some more time to work it out. In the immortal words of E.M. Forster, "How do I know what I think till I see what I say." The internal debate starts now and you can come along for the ride.

Supporting Mitch Williams:

The goal of any athlete is to compete at the highest level of competition. To get to the top is the aim of every great athlete. By refusing to be traded to a contender, Hiroki Kuroda is settling for less than those highest goals of sports. He has settled for mediocrity when he could have had the ultimate challenges competing in Major League Baseball. Kuroda would rather be a loser than a winner because it is more comfortable.

By refusing to aid the Dodgers in disposing of himself, Kuroda has refused to help the Dodgers retool. Of course, we don't know the kind of packages that were offered for Kuroda, so this could be a moot point. But obviously, the Dodgers were thinking it would be of benefit to the Dodgers to trade Kuroda to a contender. That benefit could just have been cash relief as Kuroda is making $12 million for a team going nowhere.

Hiroki Kuroda had a chance to strengthen his legacy by going to a winning team. Despite some good pitching over the years, Kuroda has a losing record in the majors. He could have at least fought back to .500 for his career and have a legacy that is better than a legacy as a losing pitcher. He could also have bettered his legacy in the post season. Although he is 2-1 in post season starts, his last appearance in the post season was a disastrous appearance against the Phillies in 2009 when he was blown away for six runs while recording only four outs.

The Dodgers made Hiroki Kuroda $35.3 million richer over the years. Doesn't that kind of money give the Kuroda some responsibility to do what is best for the team? Didn't refusing to be traded hurt his employers?

The Argument against Mitch Williams

The Dodgers put that no-trade clause in his contract. It's not Kuroda's fault that the Dodgers gave him control over his own destiny. Kuroda simply chose the option that the Dodgers gave him. That's the American Way, isn't it? A man has a right to choose his own course in life? How different this is than in the old days when Curt Flood had to go to court because he was "owned" by his team and had no choices in his destiny.

The Dodgers are still playing major league games. In other words, Hiroki Kuroda is still competing against the best players in the world. That still fits the sporting idea that the true athletic ideal is to compete at the highest level and try to win.  He is still going to pitch against the Giants and the Diamondbacks and can still have an impact on those teams' efforts to get into the playoffs. It's not like Kuroda is pitching in the minors or something.

This is the old "ambition versus pursuit of happiness" debate. Which is better in life, to have blind ambition at the expense of personal happiness or to instead choose to be comfortable and happy? Isn't this the inner debate of George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life? Doesn't Henry Potter represent the ugliness of blind ambition? Hiroki Kuroda likes pitching for the Dodgers. He's comfortable there. He's happy there. His team is like his family and he chose family over ambition.

We call out players like Kuroda and yet call players who bounce from team to team mercenaries. Cliff Lee was a mercenary. Manny Ramirez became a mercenary. That word has a negative connotation that means the opposite of loyalty. Kuroda felt loyalty to his teammates and wanted to continue to pitch with them.

Kuroda has earned every penny that the Dodgers have paid him. His performance to date has been worth $51.6 million to the Dodgers since he joined them in 2008 (according to FanGraphs). During that time, Kuroda has earned $35.3 from the Dodgers. This writer would say that the Dodgers got what they paid for and much more.


Hiroki Kuroda was within his rights to choose to stay with the Dodgers. The Dodgers gave him that clause in his contract and Kuroda had every right to invoke that clause when push came to shove. While history will not favor Kuroda for his win-loss record playing for a sub-par team for the last couple of years, those who love to dig deep into the game will know that he pitched well for the Dodgers and was worth every penny they paid him.

While it would have been nice to see the Dodgers aided by a trade and for fans to see what Kuroda could do for a contender, the bottom line is that Hiroki Kuroda was afforded a choice and chose the course that was best for his life. Who can argue that? Ballplayers have a macho code and perhaps Kuroda didn't live up that macho code. But that same code makes pitchers go to the mound when they are clearly injured, so it's not always a reliable way of life. This writer believes that Mitch Williams was out of line. Williams is entitled to his opinion, but should take care in tarnishing a guy unfairly.

Game Picks - Wednesday: August 3, 2011

Rheumy eyes blinked at the screen this morning to once again discover that this picker is living his own Groundhog Day. This picker could swear to you that this is the exact same week as last week: in the red every day...not by much...but enough to make a picker scream. So what went wrong yesterday?

This picker really thought the White Sox - Yankees game would go differently. The White Sox couldn't put anything together on Phil Hughes, whose stuff was still ordinary. John Danks couldn't keep the ball in the ballpark. The Nationals are on fire and the once insurmountable wild card lead by the Atlanta Braves is evaporating. The Dodgers won behind Hiroki Kuroda. The Fan had San Diego. The Twins have this picker totally baffled now. They lost again. Tim Lincecum could not keep up with Daniel Hudson. Thought it would be the other way around.  Picking the Astros was just plain stupid. And finally, Jason Isringhausen is no K-Rod and blew another save for the Mets.

Okay. Enough is enough. The Fan is hunkering down. It's time to make some good picks for Wednesday:

  • The Braves over the Nationals: After Chien-Ming Wang got out of the first inning, he wasn't half bad. But there's no way to count on him. Brandon Beachy with the win.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: The Cards have become a classless mess of late. But Edwin Jackson was a good pick up and this is the kind of game he has to win. Randy Wolf goes for the Brewers. Jason Hammel will not get in the way.
  • The Mariners over the Athletics: Charlie Furbush isn't the greatest pitcher in the world, but he's left handed, making it that much tougher for the A's to score. Gio Gonzalez has confused this picker all season.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: The D-backs' train keeps rolling right into first place. Jason Marquis has had great success at AT&T Park which makes him a smart pickup for the Arizona gang. Ryan Vogelsong with a tough loss.
  • The Cubs over the Pirates: Charlie Morton's success has dried up over his last six starts and he's been awful. Matt Garza is due for a win.
  • The Tigers over the Rangers: Everything would lead this picker to pick Texas except that Matt Harrison always gets roughed up in Detroit. Doug Fister is not as bad as his record, but not as good as his current ERA. It will be interesting.
  • The Red Sox over the Indians: It was fun while it lasted for the Indians who continue to sink. Carlos Carrasco hasn't pitched a good game in forever. Tim Wakefield is the wild card in this game.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: The Mets and Marlins both frustrate this picker to no end. The Fan can't even see straight to make this pick. Clay Hensley has only started against the Mets this year and has been good. Dillon Gee is 10-3. You have to go with the latter right? Oy.
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: The Rays should have traded James Shields when they had the chance. His value is going down with each start. Carlos Villanueva can't seem to last more than five innings lately. But he will tonight.
  • The Reds over the Astros: Jordan Lyles and Dontrelle Willis are both without a win this season. Something has to give this game. The Astros have nothing left in their line up, so going that way.
  • The Orioles over the Royals: The thinking here is that Jeremy Guthrie has more of a chance to repeat his last great outing than Luke Hochevar has of repeating his.
  • The Yankees over the White Sox: All logic points to a White Sox win in this one as Gavin Floyd has beaten three straight contenders and the Yankees go with A.J. Burnett. But Burnett will have a good game and the Yankees will win.
  • The Padres over the Dodgers: Tim Stauffer is great but gets no run support. Ted Lilly is a home run allowing machine. But the Padres have no one to hit them. Great.
  • The Twins over the Angels: Scott Baker is pitching pretty well despite not getting wins. Joel Pineiro has been cuffed around on a regular basis.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Rockies: The Phillies are unstoppable. And now Roy Halladay pitches. Forgetaboutit. 

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 19-22
Month: 12-14
Season: 886-755
Games of the Day: 77-45

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Celebrating Ivan Rodriguez

Earlier in the day, this writer posted an article asking why catchers can't hit (as a general rule). Once the post was listed on Twitter, a fellow writer (@RangersExpress) asked why the post didn't mention Ivan Rodriguez. It was a legitimate question. In a baseball age where we celebrate the careers of Derek Jeter, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones and call them, "sure-fire Hall of Fame players," why isn't Ivan Rodriguez ever mentioned that way? "Pudge" has been around so long and has been past his prime for so long that he is often forgotten. But Ivan Rodriguez has had a Hall of Fame career and should be celebrated like other grand players of the game. This one's for you, Nicholi.

Ivan Rodriguez is sixth on the active list in rWAR behind only A-Rod, Pujols, Chipper, Thome and Jeter. Pudge has more career WAR than Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Vlad Guerrero, Todd Helton, Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran. He is second in career WAR for catchers behind only the great Johnny Bench and there are a lot of great names below him on that list. If we went just by this category, could it be said that Pudge is the second greatest catcher in baseball history? Would you guess that Ivan Rodriguez's career OPS is a point higher than Carlton Fisk's? Probably not.

So why is Ivan Rodriguez such a quiet topic among the active great players of the game? He won an MVP Award and was in the top ten three other times. His career 106 OPS+ is quite nice for a catcher always noted for his defense. Perhaps Rodriguez has been passed over because he hasn't posted a great offensive season since 2004. He's become ridiculed for his lack of patience at the plate. His 2005 season where he walked only 11 times in 525 plate appearances set the standard for the "never takes a walk" crowd. Because he still loves to play the game, he has become somewhat of a vagabond as he's wandered to five different teams since 2008.

But none of that should matter. He should be remembered for his integral part of the Tigers' renaissance in 2006 when they went to the World Series. He should be remembered for all those great years in Texas. He should be remembered for being part of that Florida Marlin team that beat the Yankees in the 2003 World Series. Has any catcher caught more games with all that gear in hotter weather?

From 1995 to 2002, Ivan Rodriguez hit over .300 for eight years in a row. And if you bring that to 2006, he did it ten times in fourteen seasons. He played nine seasons where he played more than 130 games in a season...remarkable for a catcher. He's hit 934 extra base hits including 572 doubles in his career. And he has 2842 career hits. For the first half of Ivan Rodriguez's career, he was a terrific offensive catcher.

And we haven't even gotten to the good part yet. Catching defense has been debated hotly over recent years. But attempts have been made to rate catchers and their defense. One such attempt is called Total Zone Runs and Ivan Rodriguez leads all catchers in Total Zone Runs and it isn't even close. Plus, his total of 167 Total Zone Runs is the twelfth highest all time for any position player.

What many will remember about Ivan Rodriguez is his arm. Have some fun and just watch this video to see some highlights. Turn the sound down as the sound is terrible:

The reputation is well earned. In a day and age when 30 percent success at throwing out base runners in considered adequate, Ivan Rodriguez has averaged 46 percent for his career. Even at the age of 39, he is averaging 48 percent this season. As good as he is now as an older player, he was unbelievable as a younger one. He has led the league in stolen base percentage ten times! He had a streak between 1996 and 2002 where his caught stealing percentage was unbelievable:
  • 1996 - 51 percent
  • 1997 - 57 percent
  • 1998 - 56 percent
  • 1999 - 55 percent
  • 2000 - 49 percent
  • 2001 - 60 percent!!
Ivan Rodriguez should be celebrated. His record of endurance should be celebrated. He's caught in 200 more games than anyone else in history. He was a great defensive catcher who could also hit. He helped two teams get to the World Series and three Texas teams get to the playoffs. He's been an MVP, a multiple All Star and Gold Glove catcher. Yeah, he's probably hung on too long. But if you were still getting paid good money to do what you love, wouldn't you? Ivan Rodriguez has had an amazing career and it should not be forgotten.

Why Can't Most Catchers Hit?

Why are so many catchers in baseball so useless with the bat? A staggering 314 catching seasons of 100 plate appearances or more have occurred in the last ten years with a catcher having an OPS+ of 80 or less. That's an average of one per team for every season in the last ten years (30 teams times ten seasons). For comparison, 174 such seasons have occurred for shortstops, a position with a lot of other bad hitters. In that same time span, only 155 seasons of 100 plate appearances or more have occurred with a catcher having an OPS+ of 100 or more. That's an average of one for every two teams for a decade. To put it another way, for every one catcher that had an OPS+ of 100 or better, two had an OPS+ of 80 or worse. Why?

To see how much futility is out there makes it understandable when good hitting catchers are paid enormous sums of money. Joe Mauer was given a huge contract not because he was a good hitter but because he was a good hitting catcher. Jorge Posada was paid handsomely because he leads the last ten years in WAR for a catcher despite -20.4 runs above average as a fielder and -41.9 base running runs above average. Brian McCann is a superstar because he's a catcher than can hit. Victor Martinez has been another. Jason Varitek in his prime was another. Good hitting catchers are as rare as blue lobsters.

Perhaps some can make the argument that defensive skills are more important for a catcher than offensive skills. Throwing out runners trying to steal and being a good receiver for a pitcher might be more important than hitting your weight if you are a major league catcher. But aren't all defensive positions important? Is there any more important position for fielding than the shortstop? Jorge Posada was a bad receiver and a bad fielder. Yet he wears five championship rings on his fingers.

Another argument might be the amount of punishment a catcher takes behind the plate with foul balls and balky knees and all those balls into the chest blocking pitches in the dirt. Perhaps. But for every one of those arguments, this writer can throw a Yogi Berra and a Johnny Bench at you. Those guys got hit with foul tips and had to crouch every day for years too.

Perhaps it's the nature of the position with catching. Think back to your Little League days. The least athletic kid was given a mask. It was usually the pudgy kid who could throw. But even that doesn't work, because this writer remembers a lot of those pudgy kids hitting the snot out of the ball. But the thought does resonate that not many good athletes want to play that position. It's hot with all that gear on. There's no glamour to it.

But none of those possible excuses seem to make up for poor quality of catcher hitting. Nor can it explain to this observer why such poor hitting is rewarded with extraordinarily long careers. Old catchers seem to be like Snuggies for major league managers.

Here are some of the most persistently bad hitting catchers of the last ten years:

  • Paul Bako - Bako played for eleven different teams in his twelve year career. In the past ten years, he had eight seasons that fit our category. He would have had a ninth had he received more plate appearances in 2005. Bako never had a season with a higher OPS+ of 78 and finished his career in 2009 with a lifetime OPS+ of 62. Bako finished with a career rWAR of -2.3.
  • Jose Molina - The middle third of the famous three Molina brothers, Jose has seven seasons in the past decade that fit our category. Molina is having a surprisingly good offensive season backing up Toronto's starting catcher. Despite his good season, his career OPS+ is still only 66. Jose Molina has accumulated 3.5 rWAR in his career due to good defensive metrics.
  • Gary Bennett - Bennett compiles his seven seasons that match our ten year study, all in the beginning of the decade. Bennett played thirteen years, six for the Pirates, and compiled an OPS+ of 64 in his career. He wasn't very good defensively either and finished with an rWAR of -3.7 for his career. Oof.
  • Brad Ausmus - Ausmus played eighteen years in the major leagues. He had some successful years as a hitting catcher and had a 75 career OPS+. Not bad for our group. But he had a horrid stretch from 2001 to 2008 that was just brutal and puts him in Bennett's company with seven seasons in the last ten years matching our criteria. Ausmus did compile 17.2 rWAR in his career. So it's a little unfair to lump him in here.
  • Jason Kendall - Kendall has played fifteen seasons in the big leagues. He should have quit when he was ahead several years ago. Kendall had a really good start to his offensive career. He had some power. He got on base. He had some speed. Then it dried up...really dried up. He's compiled six seasons in our ten year period with our matching criteria. He might be the only catcher with that many bad batting seasons that has compiled more than 37 wins above replacement for his career.
  • Henry Blanco - Blanco is currently playing on his ninth team of his fourteen-year career. His OPS+ this season is 92 which isn't bad for him. Blanco also has six seasons in the last ten years that match our criteria. And he sports a career OPS+ of 67. His 3.5 career rWAR is due mostly to his defense.
  • Rod Barajas - Rod the Bod has played for six teams and is in his thirteenth season. Barajas has had some decent seasons but six times in the last ten, he has met our criteria. The biggest problem for Barajas is that he has a lifetime .289 on base percentage. That's bloody unacceptable. But he plays good defense and has compiled 7.4 rWAR in his career.

We finish our list with two special mentions:

  • Jeff Mathis - Mathis has become a favorite whipping boy for writers across the land. The Angels traded away a good hitting catcher to keep him. Currently, Mathis is having his fifth straight season matching our criteria. His career OPS+ is a stunning 55, which isn't a surprise when his career slash line is: .197/.259/.304.  His batting is so ugly that whatever defense he adds is dried up like a grape to a raisin and his career rWAR is in the negative numbers.
  • Koyie Hill - Hill is in this eighth season and is currently on a three year streak of making our category requirements. And he's done it four of the last five years. The only reason he's not five for five is that he didn't get enough plate appearances in 2008. Hill's career slash line? How about: .214/.277/.305, good for a career OPS+ of 55. Ugh. And Hill's defense doesn't make up for the deficit as his career rWAR is -2.3.

A good hitting catcher is gold in this market. Perhaps as more analysts are in positions in front offices to make a difference, weak hitting catchers will not last as long as they currently do. To be totally fair, catchers as a whole have a higher OPS than shortstops and third basemen this year. But it's only a slight edge. What this writer would love to see is some sort of study that builds a case for the value of a good defensive catcher over that of an offensive one. What is the tipping point?

Game Picks - Tuesday: August 2, 2011

Here we go again! For the second straight week, the first two days of the week have started in the red. What the heck is going on here? Livan Hernandez beats Jair Jurrjens? What? Seattle scores eight runs? Huh? What seriously hurt was picking against fave pitcher, Ian Kennedy, only to see him win anyway. Well, that's good news and bad news there. The Pirates lost again!? Man! The Game of the Day pick was wrong, which almost never happens. All the incorrect picks completely smothers out any satisfaction of picking the Indians over the Red Sox.

This picker has got to break this stretch of ineptitude. It's got to stop. Come on Tuesday's picks! Save the day:

  • The Cubs over the Pirates: It appears that the magic is fizzling. Randy Wells has been getting better with each start for the Cubs. Kevin Correia is a big inning waiting to happen.
  • The Tigers over the Rangers: Colby Lewis is either very good or very homer prone. There is no in between. The Tigers can mash, so it should be the latter in this game. Max Scherzer has been very good of late.
  • The Red Sox over the Indians: Josh Beckett needs to be good in this game and go deep into the game as his bullpen was a bit flamed yesterday. David (Hassle) Huff goes for the Indians.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: Still can't get a Met game correct. But this one should be. Brad (talk to the) Hand can't find the strike zone often enough and will be done early. Chris Capuano with the win.
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: In the battle of the "Ays" the pick is for Ricky Romero who really is a good pitcher. The Rays don't hit well at home. And what's to make of David Price this season?
  • The Astros over the Reds: Can the Astros win two in a row against the Reds? They can if Wandy Rodriguez pitches a really good game. Homer Bailey goes for the Reds.
  • The Royals over the Orioles: Two teams that are treading water. One of them has to win. Bruce Chen pitches against Alfredo Simon. The young Royals hitters should provide the difference here.
  • The White Sox over the Yankees: John Danks should shut down the Yankees while Phil Hughes is a loss waiting to happen.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: It's hard to beat the Brewers at home, especially with Shaun Marcum on the mound. But Jaime Garcia pitched really well against the Brewers.
  • The Phillies over the Rockies: While not a ringing endorsement for Kyle Kendrick, he should be better than Aaron Cook.
  • The Padres over the Dodgers: The Dodgers never score for Hiroki Kuroda and Matt Latos should keep that fact going.
  • The Twins over the Angels: Brian Duensing has great career numbers against the Angels. Ervin Santana is fresh off his no-hitter. Did it tax him too much to get there?
  • The Mariners over the Athletics: Felix Hernandez showed he was back in his last start. The Red Sox were scared off of Rick Harden. What did they see?
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Daniel Hudson scuffled his last time out. He has no margin for error facing Tim Lincecum.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Braves over the Nationals: Derek Lowe has a good career record against the Nationals. John Lannon is good but it's time for Michael Bourn to shine.

Yesterday: 5-6
Week: 12-14
Month: 5-6
Season: 879-747
Games of the Day: 77-44

Monday, August 01, 2011

Seeking Rationality on Raul Ibanez

Last week, Bill over at The Platoon Advantage had a fun article on players whose fan base cannot remain rational. And it was so true. Many players are lightening rods of either blind love or blind hate and rational thinking does not apply. Raul Ibanez isn't the player Bill picked for the Philadelphia Phillies. Ryan Howard was. And it's hard to argue with that pick. Howard is a player that draws either rave reviews or antipathy depending on who you ask. Ibanez, though, is just as prone to cause affection or antipathy, but not only from Phillies' fans. He's also a moth to the flame for analysts on television and from keyboards. What's to make of all the debate?

Ibanez is saddled with the affliction of being called a clutch player by many broadcasters. That misnomer causes a lot of the angst among those with keyboards and rightly so. His clutch stats as listed by FanGraphs are no better than the average Joe in baseball. The angst is also directed to the cold hard facts that at the age of 39, Ibanez isn't a very good baseball player anymore. His strikeout rate is the second highest of his career. His walk rate is the lowest of his career. His on base percentage is under .300 and his defense isn't...well...defensible. Ibanez has a .671 OPS against lefties and the facts remain that gives Ibanez a big fat zero for WAR this season while FanGraphs has him with a negative value.

And yet, there he is in every Phillies' game. When the Phillies received Hunter Pence in a trade from the Astros, it was widely assumed that Pence would be installed in left to take Ibanez's place and that Mayberry or Dominic Brown would play right. But manager, Charlie Manuel, seems to see Ibanez as his security blanket and leans on him heavily in spite of evidence that he shouldn't. Dominic Brown will never get a full shot as long as the Phillies are contenders. That's just the way it is with successful teams. They simply do not let young players work things out on a major league level. Either they pay off big and get to stay, or they are discarded faster than a kid's writing assignment full of red marks from the teacher.

And yet, Manuel's decision-making seems to be rewarded. Ibanez almost by himself saved the Phillies' game against the Pirates in the last game of their series on Sunday. Ibanez hit a two-run homer to tie the game and a double to win it. The double was the tenth time an Ibanez hit put the Phillies ahead this season. The double was also against a left-handed pitcher.

Ibanez and his season reminds this writer a lot of Paul O'Neill's last season with the Yankees in 2001. O'Neill was certainly at an age that season where he couldn't produce like he had in the past. Again, the cold, hard facts were that O'Neill that season was a player that did not add value to the Yankees according to his rWAR and fWAR. And yet O'Neill had sixteen hits that put the Yankees ahead that season and his team came within a well-placed hit by Luis Gonzalez from winning the 2001 World Series.

The Phillies are assured a post season spot in 2011. In a vastly successful season by the team, it must be left to others to decide if Raul Ibanez was a help or a hindrance in that success. For this writer, trying to figure that out leads to a headache.

Choosing Sides in the Jared Weaver Meltdown

Yesterday featured the dream match up of Jared Weaver of the Angels versus Justin Verlander of the Tigers. Both pitchers are pitching for division contending teams and both have large personal stakes in a very tight Cy Young Award race between themselves and C.C. Sabathia of the Yankees. The game will go down as one of the most talked about for weeks. This writer's wife saw the replays so often yesterday that she was tired of them by the evening. The Baseball Tonight folks on ESPN gave their opinions of what happened. But were they right?

Perhaps you didn't see what happened, so perhaps this post should start with a recap of the events. The two great pitchers matched zeroes for the first two innings. In the bottom of the third, Magglio Ordonez of the Tigers hit a mammoth shot to left. There was no doubt about the distance of the shot, but there was doubt about whether it would stay fair or not. Ordonez stood and watched for a few seconds to see if it would stay fair. Weaver, who is an emotional competitor, thought that Ordonez was showing him up by "admiring" his homer and wasn't happy about it. He could be seen boiling mad in the dugout after the inning.

Meanwhile, Verlander was cruising and on track for yet another no-hitter. While all this was simmering, no Angels could touch Verlander's stuff yesterday. Verlander kept his no-hitter intact through the top of the seventh. The inning before, Weaver had gotten Ordonez to fly harmlessly to center. Ordonez was running back to his home dugout and passed in front of the pitchers' mound since the Tigers' dugout is on the third base side. Weaver had words for him and Ordonez responded in kind. The bottom of the seventh was when things got interesting.

Weaver got the first two outs rather easily with a strikeout of Victor Martinez and a fly out by Jhonny Peralta. Carlos Guillen came up and he hit a bomb to right and flicked his bat away and strolled and hopped toward first while facing Weaver. It was an "in your face" move by Guillen. The two faced each other briefly and then Guillen circled the bases. As you can see in the video, the Angels' catcher had something to say to Guillen after Guillen touched home plate. Guillen could be seen pointing in the dugout, probably at Ordonez.

Even while Guillen was circling the bases, the home plate umpire could tell that a problem was developing and took the unusual move of going toward the pitching mound to talk to Weaver. First, the umpire could never tell if Guillen touched home plate since he wasn't there. Secondly, the umpire's action seemed to draw more anger out of Weaver than do anything to settle him down. Once the umpire saw and heard what Weaver had to say, the umpire warned both benches about retaliation and that he wasn't going to allow anything to happen. But it did anyway.

The next batter was poor Alex Avila, the Tigers' catcher. Weaver's first pitch to Avila sailed high and in the general vicinity of Avila's head. Weaver was immediately ejected and then started screaming at the umpire and at the Tigers' dugout, something he didn't stop doing until his coaches pushed him into the tunnel. Since the highlights fuzzied out his mouth, the language must have been something, which was great for all those kids in the stands behind the Angels' dugout.

The Angels retaliated in a different way than another beanball the very next half inning. With Verlander still nursing a no-hitter, Erick Aybar tried to bunt for a base hit. Verlander threw it away for an error and Aybar was on second. Verlander got the next guy out via a ground out, but then Peter Bourjos hit a grounder to third and Aybar was hung up between third and home and a rundown ensued. The rundown was totally botched by the Tigers and ended with Verlander dropping the throw at home and Aybar scored. Bourjos ended up at second. Verlander struck out the next batter but then Maicer Izturis singled to left to score Bourjos and the game stood at 3-2. Izturis' hit was the only one Verlander would allow and it shouldn't have even happened because there should have been three outs by then. Verlander would strike out Torii Hunder on a 101 MPH fastball and the game would end at 3-2.

So now you have the facts and it's a matter of determining the moral maze of the events. First, was Magglio Ordonez trying to show up Jared Weaver? No. Ordonez was simply trying to determine if the ball would stay fair. It happens many times a week when a player knows he killed the ball and the only thing to find out is the status of fair or foul. Weaver blew a gasket for nothing. Weaver's subsequent words for Ordonez in the sixth inning shouldn't have happened because Ordonez hadn't done anything demonstrative in hitting his homer.

Carlos Guillen's actions after he hit his homer are understandable to a degree. A team is like a family and that family is strengthened further by the fact that the Tigers have several Venezuelan players (Guillen, Ordonez, Martinez and Cabrera). In a family, if someone threatens one member of a family, then that person threatens the entire family. All of that aside, Guillen's actions weren't professional. Any member of the Yankees or the Red Sox would have known that the homer itself was retribution enough and would have just put the head down and circled the bases. Guillen certainly stirred the pot and put Avila's life in danger with his actions.

Weaver must accept blame here. First, he overreacted to the homer Ordonez hit and should have kept his mouth shut in the sixth inning. Secondly, if you want to strike back at Avila, you don't aim for the head, you aim for the backside. Throwing that pitch toward Avila's head is akin to assault with a deadly weapon and something serious could have happened to Avila had Weaver been on target. There is no way that Weaver should avoid a suspension for his actions. Plus, he's got to remember the family aspect of the fans in the stands. All players should and should clean up their language. There is no excuse for that kind of display and cussing.

As for the bunt in the eighth, Verlander was right. It was a bush-league play. Say all you want about the score being 3-0 and needing to get base runners. John Kruk and Barry Larkin were fine with the play, but this writer is not. Turn the shoe around and see how Weaver would react if he had a no-hitter going and a team did that against him and the Angels. The Angels would have been just as piqued. If Kruk and Larkin were still playing and someone did that to their pitcher, they would be angry, plain and simple. This writer doesn't believe that bunt would have occurred if the Carlos Guillen homer had gone differently. Guillen's antics most certainly led to the bunt attempt.

So that's this writer's take on the events that happened Sunday in Detroit. What's your take? Is this writer wrong? The comments are always open.

Game Picks - Monday: August 1, 2011

Can you believe August is here already? July just flew by. The trade deadline marked the end of the month and it really wasn't a good month for this picker. Only nineteen games over .500 for the entire month is pretty pathetic. The only consolation is that the season record is still good and the Game of the Day feature is simply flying. True to form, July went out with a whimper as this picker could only muster a 7-8 record on Sunday. It was the exact same record as the Sunday before.

August starts with eleven games on the schedule which is pretty good for a Monday. Is it this picker's imagination or do teams seem to have a lot less off days this season? Some of these teams must be getting gassed by now. Maybe this picker is as well? At any rate, here are Monday's picks:

  • The Braves over the Nationals: The Braves better get off their low gear or their nice little wild card cushion is going to disappear altogether. Jair Jurrjens is the right guy on the mound for them. At 12-3, he should beat Livan Hernandez.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs: The Pirates made a couple of small but nice acquisitions yesterday. Their offense should be better. Lord knows, after getting thumped by the Phillies, they certainly need to get back on a roll.  Paul Maholm over Carlos Zambrano is this one.
  • The Indians over the Red Sox: This one is a stretch. But seeing here a weak outing by John Lackey combined with a gutty one by Josh Tomlin being the difference in this one.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: There is a lot going on in his game. First, Mike Pelfrey hasn't beaten the Fish in fourteen straight starts dating all the way back to 2006. The law of averages says he has to win one of these days against them. Secondly, this picker hasn't gotten a Mets pick correct in more than a week. And the gut says the Marlins should win. So it's an opposite pick. Javier Vazquez goes for the Fish.
  • The Reds over the Astros: Bud Norris is a good pitcher. But who is going to score for Houston? All of their offensive players are gone. Bronson Arroyo just has to be decent to win this game.
  • The Yankees over the White Sox: The White Sox didn't have a good time against the Red Sox. Now they face the Yankees and C.C Sabathia, who has been amazing. Jake Peavy gets the start for the ChiSox.
  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: So the Cardinals have Rafael Furcal in the dugout but don't play him? Why? These Cards are in a bit of trouble and now face the Brewers in Milwaukee. Not a good thing, especially with Zack Greinke on the mound. Chris Carpenter is a worthy mound opponent though.
  • The Phillies over the Rockies: Going with Cole Hamels over Jhoulys Chacin in this one. That thin air will help both offenses though.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: The Dodgers are pretty much dead in the water. But Clayton Kershaw has been remarkable. Corey Luebke will be the hard luck loser.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: The Fan really, really wants to pick Ian Kennedy to win. But he faces Matt Cain in San Francisco. Not going to happen.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Athletics over the Mariners: The Fan likes this Blake Beavan kid pitching for the Mariners. But Trevor Cahill will have no trouble holding down the Mariners.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 7-8
July final: 210-191
Season: 874-741
Games of the Day: 77-43

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Yankees - Trade Deadline Losers?

There are a few hours left to the trade deadline and a lot of big trades have already been made. The big prizes like Ubaldo Jimenez have gone other places. Contenders like the Giants, Phillies, Indians, Cardinals, Pirates, Rangers and Diamondbacks all made moves. Even the Red Sox got an infielder. But so far, it's been quiet on the Yankee front. In a baseball world where everyone expects the Yankees to make a major splash, there is hardly a ripple in the pool. An analyst on The MLB Network said flat out yesterday that the Yankees won't go far in the playoffs with their current pitching staff. Was he right? Does that make the Yankees the biggest losers in this trade deadline?

The answer to that question goes just beyond this year. A team like the Indians emptied themselves of four prospects (perhaps including their number one pick of 2010) to get a proven pitcher like Ubaldo Jimenez. The Yankees probably could have gotten Jimenez if they were willing to part with Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances. But that's a pretty steep cost in prospects for a pitcher, even if it is a stud pitcher. Part of the equation is that the Yankees currently have an older rotation with the likes of A.J. Burnett (34), Freddie Garcia (34) and Bartolo Colon (38). Trade away your future and what's going to happen when those guys are gone?

And what about that analyst's claim that the Yankees won't get far in the playoffs without deeper pitching? The current Yankee pitchers are seventh in the majors in fewest runs allowed out of thirty teams. The only teams ahead of them are the Phillies, Giants, Braves, Padres, Pirates and Mariners. None of those teams with the exception of the Phillies, has an offense to match the Yankees. Only the Red Sox rival the Yankees in run differential. Let's face it, the playoffs are a crap shoot. A lot depends on who gets hot and when. If C.C. Sabathia wins the first game of a five game playoff, only two other starters have to come up big. So the goal of trades is to get to the post season and then anything can happen.

It's pretty safe to say at this point that the Yankees are going to make it to the post season. They probably won't catch the Red Sox, but they won't need to. They are way ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays for the wild card race and the Bay Rays simply don't have the horses this year to keep up. So should the Yankees have traded away their best prospects for someone who won't have much impact on getting the Yankees to the post season? You could make the argument that Jimenez would have given the Yankees a better chance in the playoffs. But what if you give away the farm and still lose the playoffs with that big stud pitcher?

Frankly, despite the article posted here yesterday concerning Ubaldo Jimenez, that pitcher is currently too much of a risk. Getting him out of the thin air of Colorado will help, but there is still that loss of velocity. Now a guy like Roy Halladay, that's a no risk acquisition. And you have to give the Phillies credit for building their team via those trades. But even they didn't get to the World Series last year, right? Again, the playoffs are a crap shoot. The goal of any trade is to get a team there.

Many will point to the Giants last year to prove you need hot and strong pitching to win a World Series. But the Yankees won the series in 2009 with much the same cast as they have now. They didn't have great pitching in 2009. They just won.

Personally, the Yankees appear to be in good shape. The bullpen has been terrific and now has Soriano back. The offense isn't perfect, but whose is? And they just got Chavez back, which is a huge help and A-Rod will be back in a week or two. Ivan Nova is having a fine season. The garbage heap pick ups of Garcia and Colon have combined for 17 wins. The only real question mark is Burnett, especially if Nova gets Hughes' starts (which he should). And for all the snarking that Burnett receives (including from this writer), his peripherals really aren't that bad. He gave up four runs in eight innings the other day and everyone was all over him. If the Yankees would have scored in that game, people would have viewed the outing much differently.

The bottom line for this writer is that the Yankees did not sacrifice their young talent for a talent that wouldn't make that much difference in their playoff chances. The Fan doesn't call that losing. That seems more like a win. The Yankees have a pretty solid chance of being in the post season. It's hard to blame them for letting the chips fall where they will once they get there.

Game Picks - Sunday: July 31, 2011

Finally! A good day. The first one of the week after a week of being in the red. The successful day wasn't enough to save the week, but at least this picker feels a little better about things this morning. Part of the fun was watching all the correct picks come up. But the other part was the flurry of deals that were made during the evening. Cleveland celebrated winning the Ubaldo Jimenez sweepstakes by sacking Joaquim Soria in the ninth. The Yankees clubbed the Orioles twice as predicted while the Orioles depleted their roster by their own moves. The day was almost surreal. The Red Sox scored more than ten runs for the 16th time in 60 games.

Can this picker build on this good day? The only way we'll find out is to jump in feet first:

  • The Tigers over the Angels: What a pitching match up! Justin Verlander versus Jared Weaver. If you consider those two as equals, then go with the home team. But this pick is no lock by any means.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: That is if the Yankees can lift their bats after scoring 24 runs in two games yesterday. The story really isn't about Freddie Garcia and Jake Arrieta. It's more about the bullpen being fresh for the Yankees and not for the Orioles, especially after losing Uehara.
  • The Indians over the Royals: Yeah, Kyle Davies pitched a good game his last time out, the tease. But the Indians should be reinvigorated after those deals. Fausto Carmona with the win.
  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: Tempted to go with Brandon Morrow, but not with C.J. Wilson on the bump. Can't do it.
  • The Reds over the Giants: Why is Barry Zito in the rotation still? Going with Johnny Cueto.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Yeah, Ricky Nolasco was better his last start, but he still threw 111 pitches to get 16 outs. Not very efficient, eh? Going with Tommy Hanson, weird delivery or not.
  • The Mets over the Nationals: How cruel it was yesterday to finally pick the Mets only to see them tank. But they will win today behind Jonathan Niese. Jordan Zimmermann should be shut down for the season or he will lose all the positives for his early season success.
  • The Phillies over the Pirates: Sorry again for all of us rooting for the Pirates. But Vance Worley is simply better than Jeff Karstens.
  • The Red Sox over the White Sox: Mark Buehrle can beat a lot of bad teams. But the Red Sox are not a bad team. Well, they are a bad team...if you use the slang vernacular. Andrew Miller somehow wins despite himself.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: This picker doesn't get Juan Nicasio. He pitches like Ubaldo at home and like Waldo on the road. That just doesn't make sense. He gets his first road win today over Wade LeBlanc.
  • The Twins over the Athletics: Have no idea who is going to win this game. Heck, the Fan is being honest with you. Carl Pavano seems to be a better pick than Brandon McCarthy.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: This pick doesn't make sense unless Rubby de La Rosa comes up big today. But if he does, the Dodgers can score a few runs off of Joe Saunders.
  • The Bay Rays over the Mariners: Dustin Ackley must feel like an island in that line up. Jeremy Hellickson should win this one over Jason Vargas. It's been a surprise that no deals have come from the Bay Rays.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Jake Westbrook will have to continue to hang in there to win this game, but Ryan Dempster will give up more runs. 

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Brewers over the Astros: Brett Myers has to wonder how life got to be so bad with only Wandy for company. Chris Narveson isn't challenged in this one.

Yesterday: 11-5
Last Week: 47-52
Month: 203-183
Season: 867-733
Games of the Day: 76-43