Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bronson Arroyo Joins Not So Elite Company

Bronson Arroyo gave up four more home runs last night against the Brewers on Friday. Since he started the evening with 40 dingers allowed, he's now given up 44 homers this season. Wow. Just wow. With the four homers, Bronson Arroyo has joined some not so elite company.

In the year 2000, Jose Lima was pitching for the Houston Astros. That season, Lima gave up 48 homers in 33 starts and yielded a home run to nine innings pitched ratio of 2.20. Arroyo has made thirty starts and has given up 44 homers for a ratio of 2.18 in HR/9. Why is that significant? Because they are the only two pitchers in major league history who have ever made thirty or more starts and finished with a HR/9 over two. Ever.

If you bring that down to 25 starts or more instead of thirty, six pitchers have finished with a HR/9 over two. They are (in order of HR/9 rate):
  1. Jose Lima - 2.20
  2. Bronson Arroyo - 2.18
  3. Scott Bankhead (1987 - Mariners) - 2.11
  4. Jim Deshaies (1994 - Twins) - 2.07
  5. Rob Bell (2000 - Reds) - 2.05
  6. Jeff Fassaro (1999 for two teams) - 2.01
You've probably noticed that all of those have happened in the near history. As near as this writer can tell, Scott Elarton holds the record for the highest HR/9 rate with more than twenty starts in a season when that pitcher toiled in 2001 for two different teams. That season, Elarton made 24 starts and gave up a whopping 2.30 HR/9. Can you say, "Meat"?

But you also have to look at how the league was doing in those seasons with HR/9 as it's never been static. Take Lima for example. In the year 2000, the league HR/9 rate was 1.2. So he finished that season +1. This year's HR/9 rate is 0.9, so Arroyo is +1.28!

Arroyo has probably two more starts? He has an outside chance at even more history. Twenty-three pitchers in MLB history have given up more than 40 homers in a season. The record is the 50 that Burt Blyleven gave up in 1986. Of those twenty-three pitchers, Arroyo has thrown the least amount of innings (thus far but that could change). Six more homers allowed in two more starts would tie Blyleven's record. No shame in that right? Burt Blyleven is in the Hall of Fame. But Blyleven's ERA+ that season was 101. Arroyo's is sitting at 73.

And it gets worse. Fausto Carmona and Bronson Arroyo this season have become two of only 53 pitchers in major league history to record an ERA+ less than 75 with thirty or more starts. According to Fangraphs, Arroyo is the only starting pitcher who has enough innings to qualify for the Cy Young Award this season with a negative fWAR. He has the third highest ERA of all starting pitchers behind only John Lackey and Brian Duensing. He has the highest FIP in the majors at 5.65.

All in all, this has not been a fun season for Bronson Arroyo. He is certainly a symptom on a team that was heralded before the season to contend in 2011. But the Reds were never a factor. Arroyo is a gamer. He takes the ball and gives you everything he's got. But the guess here is that he hasn't been healthy and his plug should have been pulled long ago.

Game Picks - Saturday: September 17, 2011

We like to think that we humans have evolved into much more sophisticated beings since those Tigris and Euphrates days. After all, those people saw comets and signs in the sky and developed rituals for planting crops based on their fear of natural events they saw all around them. But friends, we are no different. A friend baseball blogger, and one of the best out there, Bob Netherton, actually believes that this picker has the power to change the course of St. Louis Cardinals season. How? It seems that whenever this picker picks against the Cardinals they win. And since the Cardinals have an outside chance for a wild card spot, Bob wants this feature to pick against the Cardinals everyday. There is superstition. We have not evolved. This picker isn't any better. It is actually believed in this household that the picker's favorite team loses whenever the game is watched on television.  And so the wife watches and this Fan sits in the basement agonizing with her cheers or curses. We are silly people.

Oh yeah, the picks. Well, they are late this morning. Yesterday was a decent day, but there were a lot of surprises. The aforementioned Cardinals beating the Phillies was definitely unexpected. The Mariners shutting out the Rangers was unexpected. The Orioles over the Angels big time was unexpected. Tim Stauffer showed how good he is against the Diamondbacks. That was unexpected. But nine out of fifteen isn't that bad. The picks for Saturday look like this:
  • The Astros over the Cubs: How do you pick a game pitched by Henry Sosa and Rodrigo Lopez? Throwing hands up in the air.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The Yankees struggle against pitchers they haven't seen before and they haven't seen Henderson Alvarez who is pretty good. And the Blue Jays were responsible for one of Bartolo Colon's worst starts of 2011. So why pick the Yankees? Because they are a better team, that's why.
  • The Indians over the Twins: Doesn't it seem like the Twins' players should be actors in that Contagion movie? Anthony Swarzak is a pretty good pitcher. But he has nothing to work with. Jeanmar Gomez has won three in a row.
  • The Athletics over the Tigers: Just a hunch here that this will be a relaxed and carefree Tigers' bunch after clinching the division yesterday. This picker did predict the Tigers to win the division before the season started by the way. Gio Gonzalez should have a good outing and Rick Porcello will work on his secondary pitches and pitch five innings or so.
  • The Mets over the Braves: The Braves are playing tighter than a grandfather that lived through the Great Depression. Tim Hudson has lousy numbers against the Mets and R.A. Dickey continues to pitch well.
  • The Angels over the Orioles: Ervin Santana will pitch a good game and Zach Britton will continue to struggle with walks and pitch counts.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: It's become standard operating procedure here to pick the Nationals in every game that Stephen Strasburg pitches. There is no logic to it. Just blind awe at his talent. But the Marlins very well could win after Strasburg's day is done. Who knows. Who cares? Chris Volstad pitches for the Marlins if that makes any difference to you.
  • The Phillies over the Cardinals: There you go, Bob. The Phillies should score off of Jake Westbrook and Roy Oswalt doesn't want anyone to take his playoff rotation spot.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: The White Sox need to be dismantled. Their run at .500 hides so many flaws. The Royals, on the other hand are building into a good-looking future. As for today's game, who knows as it features two pitchers that started their year in the minors. Zach Stewart goes for the White Sox while Everett Teaford goes for the Royals.
  • The Brewers over the Reds: Has there been a more mysterious season than that of Edinson Volquez? Puzzling to say the least. Brewers should beat him behind Yovani Gallardo.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Can we end the Anthony Vazquez comparisons to Tom Glavine please? Glavine at least had some semblance of a fastball. Colby Lewis will need to keep the ball in the yard.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: This game has tremendous nerd factor as Drew Pomeranz goes for the Rockies while Eric Surkamp goes for the Giants. Phenom alert!
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Simply don't think that Wade LeBlanc can beat the D-backs for two straight outings. Josh Collmenter wins or his teammates do.
  • The Dodgers over the Pirates: Considering they weren't allowed to make any moves before or during the season, the Dodgers have been a decent team. Ted Lilly will win at home and James McDonald will struggle in the fifth inning.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: Turn out the lights, the party is over. The Red Sox will beat Jeff Niemann today behind Jon Lestor.
Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 48-30
Month: 132-79
Season: 1264-989
Games of the Day: 104-61

Friday, September 16, 2011

The National League and the DH

There isn't a more passionate topic for fans of National League baseball than the fact that in the National League, the pitchers hit when the American League has the DH. For those fans of National League baseball, it's akin to a right of passage. It's a mark of heroism. This writer has to admit to growing up watching American League baseball. As such, the entire notion seems quaint and antiquated. But there is fear and trembling in writing this post because of the passion National League fans have of their purity. Purity is good in a world that is diluted with preservatives. But is it entertaining?

That's the point this writer comes back to over and over. Pitchers hitting is an exercise in failure. National League pitchers have a combined hitting line of: .142/.177/.182. And it's worse than even that sounds. Not including last night's games, pitchers have had a combined 4,406 at bats and have struck out 1,679 times. That's a whopping 38 percent strikeout rate. That makes Mark Reynolds and Adam Dunn look like contact hitters. Pitchers have sacrificed bunted 10.8 percent of their 5,159 plate appearances. If you add the strikeouts to the sacrifice bunts, that means that 2,238 plate appearances out of the 5,159 total result in either a strikeout or a bunt. No matter how hard you argue, you can't convince this writer this is entertaining. We all enjoy watching Matt Garza, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay pitch. But all three have struck out more than 30 times in less than 70 at bats. That's no fun.

The last time a starting pitcher walked more than fifteen times in a season was Vida Blue for the Giants way back in 1978. He hit .076 that season. The last starting pitcher to walk more than twenty times in a  season was Mickey Lolich in 1972. He batted .067. Walks aren't part of the pitching equation. Only 3.4 percent of the 5,159 plate appearances by pitchers have resulted in a walk. Only Vladimir Guerrero and Yuniesky Betancourt have a lower walk rate among batters who qualify for the batting title. Heck, even Darwin Barney walks more often than pitchers do. Instead, the walks go to the eighth place in the batting order (the position in front of the pitcher). Eighth place batters have been intentionally walked 166 times this season, the most of any batting order position. What fun is that?

And what happens if pitchers do get on base? They don't score. Batters who aren't pitchers by position score on average in a range from 42 percent (catchers) to 56 percent (center fielders) of their total hits. The pitcher only scores 38 percent of the time they get hits. Pitchers have by far the lowest BABIP of all positions. That means that only 22.2 percent of the balls pitchers put in play will fall in for a hit.

Pitchers hitting has other ramifications. To start a game, the manager puts his eight best position players on the field or at least the eight the manager feels gives him the most chance to win the game. If the manager makes a pitching change, we get the double switch, which means that one of those players will be replaced. Why? To hide the pitcher's batting spot to a batting order position that recently made out the inning before. How is losing one of your best eight players a good thing?

Then we have pinch hitters. If a team needs a run or has a rally going and the pitcher is due up to hit, the manager has to decide if he wants to lose his starting pitcher for the sake of a better chance to score. If the manager does decide to remove the starting pitcher (or any pitcher in the game for that matter) he really doesn't get that much of a bump in production. All pinch hitters this season in the NL have a combined slash hitting line of: .215/.292/.314 with a combined strikeout percentage of 24.9 percent.  Thrilling isn't it? 

Not using a DH gives the National League teams a disadvantage in interleague games and in the post season. American League designated hitters have a combined OPS of .773. When the NL has used the DH in interleague games this season, they had a combined OPS of .657. That's a huge difference. The DHs in the World Series last October went one for twelve in the post season though Aubrey Huff did have that one hit with a dramatic homer.

This writer loves low-scoring, crisply played games. They are exciting and dramatic. But having a pitcher hit is about as anti-climatic as it gets in baseball. Sure a Ross Ohlendorf will hit a homer in odd games like he did last night. Sure some teams will have a slight advantage because their pitchers can hit better than the other team's (the Brewers come to mind). Sure it's interesting that Livan Hernandez struck out only twice all season. But generally speaking, pitchers batting is a drag on the entertainment value of Major League Baseball. It would be the equivalent to having the placekicker play quarterback for a few plays a game. Perhaps that placekicker may complete a pass in ten attempts, but wouldn't you rather have a real quarterback back there?

A pitcher will succeed at the plate 177 times in 1,000 plate appearances. He will bunt in another 108 of those 1,000 plate appearances. Most now know that bunts lower the probability of scoring and not the opposite. It's a no win proposition. And while knowing that you NL fans will crucify this post, this is just one guy's opinion. The National League should adopt the DH. It's time.

Game Picks - Friday: September 16, 2011

Thursday was not a good day of picking here. Despite a brilliant pick of the Athletics over the Tigers (to halt that win streak), the picks were incorrect six times in ten attempts. The sad display put a small damper on what has been a great week. Just to show you how bad a night it was, Ross Ohlendorf won a game. Not only did he win a game, but instead of giving up the home runs, he hit one himself. It was just one of those days.

The season is winding down. It's getting cold here in northern Maine. Darkness is coming earlier. This Fan doesn't want it to end. But soon it will. Friday's picks:
  • The Cubs over the Astros: The Cubs are at home with Matt Garza on the mound. That should overcome good pitching from Wandy Rodriguez.
  • The Angels over the Orioles: The Angels need to keep winning to stay in the Rangers' zip code. Dan Haren should help them do that tonight. Tommy Hunter isn't bad though and it seems the Orioles are enjoying the spoiler role.
  • The Marlins over the Nationals: Javier Vazquez has been really good of late and should hold the Nats down. John Lannon has been going in the wrong direction.
  • The Phillies over the Cardinals: The Phillies are the best team in the National League. Vance Worley has been solid all season. And they are at home where they want to clinch. Jaime Garcia has had an up and down season.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: C.C. Sabathia again goes for win Number 20 and faces Brett Cecil in Toronto.
  • The Brewers over the Reds: Bronson Arroyo has given up 40 homers. Can you believe that? It will be at least 42 after tonight. Randy Wolf goes for the Brew Crew.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: James Shields has been great, but Fenway is not a fun place for him. Josh Beckett is back for the Red Sox and how good he is will be the determining factor in this game.
  • The Braves over the Mets: The Mets are caving pretty hard right now which is a good thing for the Braves who need to win. Derek Lowe must give up less than four runs to win. Chris Capuano goes for the Mets.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: Phil Humber has been good this season but it appears the White Sox have quit. The Royals meanwhile are rockin' and rollin' with their young bats. Felipe Paulino had a great outing last time out.
  • The Indians over the Twins: This season can't get over fast enough for the Twins. Ubaldo Jimenez gets a win and Kevin Slowey does not.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Tim Stauffer has not been the same pitcher in his last three outings. Worried about him. Wade Miley should have a good game in the Padres' pitcher's park.
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: It would almost seem appropriate if Doug Fister won the clincher. He has been great since coming over from the Mariners. Trevor Cahill has been a mystery this season.
  • The Dodgers over the Pirates: Hiroki Kuroda is almost a lock at home. Speaking of locks, Jeff Locke makes his second start of the season. It should be better than his first one but it won't be enough.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: C.J. Wilson is the man for the Rangers. He should beat Blake Bleavan though Bleavan will have a chip on his shoulder since he was originally drafted by the Rangers.
And the Game of the Day!

Yesterday: 4-6
Week: 42-24
Month: 123-73
Season: 1255-983
Games of the Day: 103-61

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Winning Without A-Rod

Alex Rodriguez has missed 58 games for the New York Yankees this season. That's a significant loss of playing time. And yet, with the exception of deep inside the bowels of the Yankee blog universe, the story has been nearly invisible. And even in that Yankee blog universe, the usual story about A-Rod's missed time is that the team has a .577 winning percentage when A-Rod plays and a .655 winning percentage when A-Rod doesn't play. But if anyone thinks that the Yankees are a better team without Alex Rodriguez, they have been visiting the medical marijuana facility far too often.

Perhaps this has been such a non-story because the Yankees have the best record in the American League. Who cares if A-Rod has been missing? The Yankees haven't missed a beat. You could even make a case that the offense hasn't suffered at all with his absence. The Yankees have scored 5.41 runs a game in games A-Rod played and 5.36 runs a game when he hasn't. That is such a small statistical difference that it would seem it matters little if at all whether he plays or not.

But it does matter and it will matter heading into the post season. Perhaps we shouldn't be looking at how the team has performed without or with A-Rod. That could be the biggest point that is missing in looking at such grand statistical claims. A Yankee win or loss depends on a lot of factors including pitching, hitting and defense of not only every Yankee who participates in the game but also the opposing team's pitching, hitting and defense. In other words, one player a winning percentage doesn't make. Instead, you have to look at who plays third, either A-Rod or others and how they have performed at that position when they play.

Let's start with fielding. Uh oh. We're in trouble already because everyone knows that fielding metrics aren't an exact science (yet) and we shouldn't look at one year's UZR to gauge a player's fielding. But we'll push all that aside and look at one year anyway. A-Rod has played 703 innings at third base. In those 703 innings, he's posted a UZR of 10.8. All other Yankees have played 625 innings at third base (A-Rod has DHed quite a bit due to his ailments) and have compiled a combined -4.8 UZR. That's a 15.6 run difference. And since ten runs generally lead to a win, A-Rod's play at third is a 1.5 win difference over other third basemen just in fielding alone.

Then there is batting. Alex Rodriguez has added 15.5 batting runs to the Yankees' line up. Again, that's the equivalent of a win and a half. All others that have played third base for the Yankees have a total of -11.8 batting runs. That's almost a three win difference between A-Rod's batting and anybody else the Yankees have employed at third.

Then there are the stats you can get your hands on easily. A-Rod has an .842 OPS. Eduardo Nunez is sitting at .667 and Eric Chavez at .694. A-Rod's on base percentage is .367. Nunez sits at .301 and Chavez at .331. A-Rod has thirteen go-ahead hits (hits that put his team in the lead). Nunez and Chavez have had eight combined.  A-Rod has a wOBA of .369 while Nunez and Chavez are at .299 and .301 respectively.

Don't let the win-loss records and runs scored per game fool you when it comes to if Alex Rodriguez plays or doesn't play. Despite only playing 90 games, Fangraphs rates A-Rod as the fourth most valuable third baseman in baseball this season. The Yankees are a much better team with A-Rod in the line up and fielding his position at third base. If A-Rod can be healthy and in the line up during the post season, the Yankees will have a greater chance of winning than if he isn't.

BBA Link Fest - Generally Terrific

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance features some great writers around the country and in fact, around the world. It is a pleasure each week to allow them to select their favorite posts from the week here on Thursday's weekly link post. One note, please. This writer hasn't figured out how to make the links open up in new tabs or windows, so please right-click the link and choose new tab so you don't lose this original post.

Our friends overseas at Dugout 24 offer this post questioning the heritage of Ichiro Suzuki. Please note that you'll need to translate this one and that there is language that might be considered R-rated.

Bryan over that the Replacement Level Baseball Blog really appreciates catchers and how they can influence a game.

Daniel over that the Ball Caps Blog has an interesting take on the MVP. Buster Posey is this year's winner. You'll have to read it to see what he means.

MLB Dirt features a post by Jonathan Mitchell on Javier Vazquez's new approach to pitching. Whatever it is, it's working.

Theo doesn't think that Ian Kennedy is the ace of the Arizona Diamondbacks' pitching staff now or in the future. Find out why here at Hot Corner Harbor.

Eric over at The Baseball Hall of Shame makes us queasy by letting us know that the Cubs' play this season isn't the only thing that might make you sick at Wrigley Field.

We follow the Hall of Shame with the Hall of Very Good where we are informed that Howard Johnson sees this season's Mets as the antithesis of the '86 Mets. He's got that right.

In probably this reader's favorite post of the week from a week of great posts, Through the Fence Baseball gives us a post by Dan Taylor, minor league pitcher.

In perhaps this week's most amusing post, Old Time Family Baseball gives us a whimsical look at what could be Justin Verlander's daily planner.

Kenn Olson of Going Yard (over at MLB BlogBuzz) fame thinks it's time that T-Plush zips the lip.

Miguel Montero's hitting streak couldn't go on forever. How long did it go? Ronnie over at The Baseblawg fills us in.

Blaine Blontz over at Call to the Pen caps off Mariano Rivera's ridiculous career.

Diamond Hoggers, fresh from marital bliss tries to get back into the swing of things. Don't worry, married blogging is just as easy as single blogging.

MLB Reports has a fantastic interview with Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. A must read.

In a post at Left Field, Charles Simone ponders the Yankees' post season rotation. It's enough to give one a headache.

Each week, this link fest feature will try to feature one BBA site in rotation until we cover them all. It's a great line up of sites.

Featured BBA General Blog of the Week: The Golden Sombrero has some of the most clever ideas in baseball sites. A golden sombrero is the term used when a batter strikes out four times in the same game. The Golden Sombrero features each and every one of those events. Another clever feature there is the MLB Look-Alikes that gives us pictorial evidence of how our favorite players look like other famous people. Much fun! The site also features great writing on general baseball topics. Stop by the Golden Sombrero every day, particularly for this week's featured link on a rare platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a game). Find out who is wearing the funny hat.

Game Picks - Thursday: September 15, 2011

Last night was like sitting in front of a slot machine. The first two slots settle in with sevens and now the heart is racing and anticipation builds. The third slot is still spinning and the eyes dilate and squint. The slot slows's a three. Perhaps to continue the analogy, the whole experience is still okay because you are heading up to the room after a day on the casino floor with more money in the wallet than when the session started.

It's been a good week. A very good week. But yesterday was shaping up to be especially good. And then the Bay Rays lost and the Yankees lost and the Brewers lost. Three contenders that bit the dust against second division teams. The Yankees were the Game of the Day, so that one rankles a bit on top of that Ivan Nova, another Fan man-crush, pitched great but didn't get a win. Of course, through this entire post to this point, no mention has been made of how bad a pick the Twins was. That must have been an extreme moment of insanity.

Ten games are on the schedule for Thursday. Two of them are a double-header between the Phillies and the Marlins. Here are the picks:

  • The Mets over the Nationals: Two untested pitchers make for an impossible pick. Tom Milone goes for the Nats while Chris Schwinden goes for the Mets. Two household names, eh? The Mets are due for a win and are at home.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: Game one of the double dip features Kyle Kendrick versus Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez is the better pitcher. If this is the game the Phillies rest some guys, the Marlins might squeak out a win.
  • The Cubs over the Reds: Randy Wells is on a roll and is the biggest factor in this one between two somewhat even teams. Homer Bailey goes for the Reds.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: Unnecessary panic in Boston continues as the Red Sox can counter Jeremy Hellickson with only Kyle Weiland.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: In the back end of the double-header, Cliff Lee seems like a lock over Alex Sanabia making his first start of the season.
  • The Rangers over the Indians: The Indians have provided the Rangers with no resistance thus far in the series. That will continue tonight. Alexi Ogando versus Fausto Carmona.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: The Royals are playing well but this picker likes Mark Buehrle over Jeff Francis. Sitting here wondering about both of their managers after the season.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: Jhoulys Chacin must be the good version to win this one. But he doesn't have to be that good as the Giants (aside from Beltran) still can't hit. Ryan Vogelsong can't get any run support and will struggle at Coors.
  • The Athletics over the Tigers: The smart pick would seem to be with Max Scherzer and a team that has won thirteen straight. The Tigers have to lose some time and Brandon McCarthy has been a heck of a pitcher in the second half.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Dodgers over the Pirates: Ross Ohlendorf has been helpless thus far. Terrible. Meanwhile, Dana Eveland has been brilliant for the Dodgers.

Yesterday: 11-4
Week: 38-18
Month: 119-67
Season: 1251-977
Games of the Day: 103-60

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Michael Young - the Next Paul Molitor?

One of the fun pastimes of watching Major League Baseball for a long time is making comparisons of players of this current generation to players that played in the past. While we all know that such comparisons are difficult because the game changes subtly over the years, we still do it. Everyone is always looking for the next Mickey Mantle or the next Pedro Martinez. This writer has found one compelling comparison that actually may be relevant. Michael Young of the Texas Rangers is Paul Molitor. Sort of.

Young received plenty of criticism (especially in this space) for his reaction to the Rangers moving him to the Designated Hitter with the acquisition of Adrian Beltre. Young makes a ton of money and the criticism was fair as far as this writer is concerned. To his credit, Young has quieted down and is having a very good year at the plate. He's batting .335 and closing in on 200 hits and 100 RBIs. His .855 OPS is solid. He's been the steady provider in a Rangers' season that has seen its share of injuries to top performers.

The move of Young out of the field was the right one. Despite his laughable Gold Gove in 2008, Michael Young simply wasn't very good in the field. Elvis Andrus was the right choice at short over him and Adrian Beltre is the right choice at third over him. But the move is a great thing for Michael Young if he would embrace it. It was such a move that ended up making Paul Molitor a Hall of Fame player.

The careers of Young and Molitor are remarkably similar. Molitor's career slash line was: .306/.369/.448. Young's: .303/.349/.451. Molitor started two years younger than Young in the majors so when you compare their WARgraphs over at, Molitor had an edge on the the accumulated WAR by age. But Young's WAR was hampered by his fielding. Compare the two in this WARgraph:
But now that Young is a DH, and if he continues to get considerable at bats in the coming years, his chart should continue to build like Molitor's.

Let's compare the two players at Young's current age of 34. At 34, Molitor had accumulated 2086 hits on his way to over 3300. Michael Young has 2041 hits. Molitor had 369 doubles. Young has 385. Molitor had 3,057 total bases. Michael Young has 3,037.

In all fairness, these stats have been somewhat cherry picked. Molitor was much more patient at the plate and had almost two hundred more walks at 34 than what Young has. Young has slightly more homers but almost two-hundred less runs scored at the same age as Molitor at 34. But Young has almost 200 more RBI. Molitor with an earlier start and a better OBP also had a much higher oWAR at 34 than Young. 

But the overall point is valid (this writer thinks). Molitor went on to compile enough counting stats to buy his ticket to Cooperstown. If Michael Young can maintain his current pace for the next few years like Molitor did at a position that asks him only to hit, perhaps the same may happen for him.

Game Picks - Wednesday: September 14, 2011

Tim Wakefield wins Number 200 and Mariano Rivera saved Number 600. Now that is a fun night of baseball! And as far as this picker is concerned, those two milestones were the cherry on top of what was an excellent day of picks. To be sure, there were a few lucky picks. The Brewers and Diamondbacks won in extra innings, but that's what good teams do.

The only three picks that went south were the Phillies who lost again to the Astros. What the heck is up with that? Cory Luebke pitched brilliantly for the Padres, but his team couldn't score and the Giants won in extra innings. And the Orioles beat the Bay Rays. Didn't see that one coming. The Bay Rays loss coupled with a win by the Red Sox leaves the Bay Rays' hopes faint and quaint.

Wednesday's picks:

  • The Braves over the Marlins: Ricky Nolasco is always a surprise. He's like a Cracker Jack box as you never know what's inside. Randall Delgado is also unpredictable as he is so inexperienced. The Braves need the win, so let's just give them the pick.
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: Edwin Jackson should be better than Charlie Morton and Tony LaRussa will make twenty more moves over the final three innings in a futile attempt to stay close to Atlanta.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: John Lackey. Enough said? Perhaps. But it all depends on how well Ricky Romero pitches. If he is on his game, he'll win. If not, this pick will be a pile of goo.
  • The Phillies over the Astros: The Phillies are just playing with us, right? Two losses in a row to the Astros? Roy Halladay will fix that with win Number 18. Bud Norris will put up a spirited defense in a losing effort.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: Dylan Axelrod makes his first major league start. He has good minor league numbers. But this is the Tigers we are talking about. Brad Penny goes for the Tigers.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: Rich Harden has more wins against the Angels than any other team in his career. But he faces Jared Weaver. Not this time.
  • The Giants over the Padres: Nice match up on paper between Tim Lincecum and Matt Latos. Neither team can hit. Should be a game of chicken.
  • The Twins over the Royals: This picker likes this Liam Hendriks kid. He throws strikes. The Twins have to score four runs off of Luke Hochevar to win though and that ain't easy for them.
  • The Rangers over the Indians: Derek Holland is like a light switch. He's either off or on, night or day. There is no dusk with Holland. The Rangers are still fighting for the division, however, so let's give them the win over David (Hassle) Huff.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Hesitant about this pick as Jeremy Guthrie can be lights out at times. Wade Davis isn't ever a lock. But the Bay Rays find a way.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Bad luck seems to find Casey Coleman, even when he is on his game. Johnny Cueto with the win.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: First, a kid with the unlikely name of Brad Peacock is making his first start in the majors. He has impressive numbers in the minors considering he was drafted in the 41st Round (2006). As you know, this picker never picks these kinds of situations. But that's how little faith this picker has in Mike Pelfrey.
  • The Brewers over the Rockies: Oh, look, Kevin Millwood is pitching. Isn't that cute. Taking Shaun Marcum and the Brewers at home.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Daniel Hudson on a good day can keep up with Clayton Kershaw. Going with Kershaw though, the smarter pick here.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Yankees over the Mariners: Ivan Nova against Jason Vargas. Shouldn't be a need for a save from Mo in this one.

Yesterday: 12-3
Week: 27-14
Month: 108-63
Season: 1240-973
Games of the Day: 103-59  

Remember, the game of the day isn't the most exciting or meaningful. It's the pick this picker feels the most confident will be correct.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Disappointing Season David Price is Not Having

David Price is 12-12. He must be as bad as John Lackey who has the same record, right? Hey, didn't he go 19-6 last year? What a bust this season. Totally. Not. Add David Price to the weekly parade in the never ending debate on the meaning (or meaninglessness) stat of wins and losses as a starting pitcher. We might as well add Tim Lincecum to the same discussion as that Giants' hurler has the same record. While Price's record is a far cry from last year's .760 win percentage, his 2011 season is remarkably similar to last year and perhaps a little better. Let's take a look.

  • 2010  -   2011
  • 8.11 - 8.84   K/9
  • 3.41 - 2.30   BB/9
  • 2.72 - 3.40   ERA
  • 3.42 - 3.17   FIP
  • 0.65 - 0.84   HR/9
  • 4.3 - 4.7       fWAR
  • 208+ - 202+  IP

Except for a few more homers this season (four to be exact), you would expect the 2011 version of David Price to be just as good or better than the 2010 version. It's only the wins and losses that are the big difference. So why then is David Price only 12-12? Perhaps his team's offense has something to do with that. Last year, when David Price pitched, his team scored zero to two runs a total of nine times. This year, that has happened ten times. Last year, the Bay Rays scored three to five runs in eight of David Price's starts. This year, that has happened thirteen times. His record when the Bay Rays score zero to five runs this season is 7-12. Last year it was 6-6 in such games. Last year, Price had thirteen wins in which his team scored more than five runs. This year, five. That will have an effect on your win-loss record.

Add to those numbers the fact that this year's Bay Rays have a completely different bullpen than a year ago. Last year, Soriano and Benoit were lights out at the end of games. Once Price had a lead, he kept a lead. This year's bullpen is not the same animal. In fact, it's not even close. Last year, 27 percent of inherited runners scored when a relief pitcher came in to pitch. This year, that figure is 32 percent. Last year, the save percentage by the bullpen was 72 percent. This year it's 68 percent. That makes a difference too.

PitchF/X data shows that Price has pretty much the same velocity as last year (some pitches a hair less, some a hair more) but the data also shows more horizontal movement on all his pitches (except for the cutter) this year over last. His swinging strikes are slightly down but again, that hasn't affected his strikeout percentage. Everything you look at in his minute stats suggest that David Price is just as good this year as he was last year.

One thing that is noticeable about David Price is that he tends to break down in the later innings which seems natural as a pitcher tires. Last year, his ERA in the seventh inning was 6.48. This year, that figure is 3.68. But Price has pitched more into the eighth inning this year than last (nine times last year, thirteen this year). And his ERA is 5.49 in the eighth inning this year. That might be yet another indication that his bullpen leads his manager to stick with his starters longer and perhaps an inning beyond their effectiveness (James Shields the apparent exception). 

David Price is still an elite pitcher. Don't let his record fool you. He's just as good or better than last year and if the Rays can somehow squeak into the playoffs, he will be darn scary to face. All he needs to succeed with the same regularity as last year is a better offense behind him and a better bullpen to back him up. Of course, that's not easy on the Bay Rays budget on a consistent basis.

Game Picks - Tuesday: September 13, 2011

A late rally had to patch up early mistakes in yesterday's picks. Those dang Cardinals! They hoodwinked this picker into thinking they finally got themselves together and thus they became the Game of the Day. And then they totally ralph in their game. Why wouldn't LaRussa let McClellan finish the game instead of just pitching an inning? The Phillies also lost, which is almost shocking. They never lose. Atlanta lost to the Marlins in extras. That's not helping their cause. The Mets kicked the ball around on starter R.A. Dickey, which blew his well pitched game and the pick. But the Yankees, the A's, the Tigers, the Diamondbacks, the Giants and the Bay Rays were all good picks. Speaking of the Yankees, they caught King Felix on an off night.

Back to a full schedule on Tuesday: Here are the picks:

  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: Let's try this again. Chris Carpenter, who is on the verge of signing a two year extension to keep pitching for the Cardinals, gets the win over Jeff Karstens.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: David Price makes quick work of the Orioles as the Bay Rays win their sixth in a row over Alfredo Simon and the Orioles.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: This one should be lower scoring than last night's game. Ryan Dempster isn't as successful on the road as he is at home. Mike Leake should be decent at home.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: The Braves have to win sooner or later. Might as well be tonight with Mike Minor on the mound against Brad Hand. Hand has been pretty good but is 1-6 to show for it.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Tim Wakefield ends the 200 win saga on his eighth try at home for his appreciative home crowd. Brandon Morrow will again throw too many pitches by the fifth inning.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: Chien-Ming Wang needs to get through the first inning. If he can do that, he'll shut down the Mets and beat Dillon Gee.
  • The Rangers over the Indians: Justin Masterson is leaking a little bit. Perhaps he is tired as he's never pitched this much in a season. Matt Harrison has to be good at home to win this game.
  • The Phillies over the Astros: As Cuzco said in The Emporer's New Groove, "Don't read anything into it. It was a one time thing," when discussing last night's loss. Cole Hamels over J.A. Happ.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: Justin Verlander hasn't been quite as lights out lately, but he'll beat the White Sox and Gavin Floyd.
  • The Royals over the Twins: Two pitchers in Bruce Chen and Carl Pavano that are stubborn beyond their stuff. The Royals have the better offense.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: Guillermo Moscoso has been very good, but Jerome Williams has been quite the story for the Angels.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Dodgers: The Fan's man-crush, Ian Kennedy, goes for win number twenty against Chad Billingsley (who should be decent at home).
  • The Yankees over the Mariners: The Yankees have trouble with pitchers they haven't seen before like tonight against Charlie Furbush. But dare this picker pick A.J. Burnett twice in a row? Gracious.
  • The Padres over the Giants: Just a hunch here that Cory Luebke will hold down the Giants and the Padres will dink a couple of runs off of Matt Cain.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Brewers over the Rockies: The Brewers can get on with clinching the division with another step closer behind Zack Greinke at home. Esmil Rogers goes for the Rockies.

Yesterday: 6-5
Week: 15-11
Month: 96-60
Season: 1228-970
Games of the Day: 102-59

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why the Red Sox Will Be in the Playoffs

The Boston Red Sox seem to be ending their season the way they started. And perhaps there is a bit of panic in New England as the team seems to be dragging after a series win by the Tampa Bay Rays that tightened up the wild card race (the Angels are also in the hunt) and sent the Red Sox three and a half games behind the New York Yankees. Due to their starting pitching and improved plate performance by their offense, the Bay Rays have become the darlings of the race and many are virtually giving them the wild card. Not so fast, brothers and sisters. The Red Sox will be in the playoffs.

Each of the "big three" in the American League East have sixteen or seventeen games left. They spend many of those battling each other. The Yankees have no days off and a bunch of older players. The Yanks play seven games against the Bay Rays and should realistically win three of them. The Yankees also play the Twins in a make up game. That should be a win. They play three in Seattle and should win two of three there. Then they have three against the Blue Jays and should win two of three there. And they have three more against the Red Sox. If they only win one of those games, they should finish the season with a 9-8 finish which would be enough to seal the division title as we shall see. Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees projected to win 10 of their final 17 contests.

The Bay Rays meanwhile play the Yankees those seven times. Let's give it the best case scenario and give them four wins there. They play three against the Orioles. Let's give them all three of those. They play the Red Sox four more times. Two wins would be realistic. And they play the Blue Jays three times and should win two of those games. That gives them an 11-6 record down the stretch. It won't be enough. Baseball Prospectus predicts the Bay Rays will go 9-8 down the stretch. That certainly won't do it.

The Red Sox play the Blue Jays twice. Toronto has played them tough, so let's split that series. The Red Sox play the Bay Rays four more times. Let's give them two of those. They play the Yankees three times and we've already given them two there. And here's where the deal gets done: The Red Sox have seven more games with the Baltimore Orioles. They should win at least five of those. That should give the Red Sox a record of 10-6 down the stretch. Baseball Prospectus has them going 9-7 the rest of the way.

Let's say this writer has those records correctly pegged. The final standings would then look like this:

  • Yankees: 97-65
  • Red Sox: 95-67
  • Bay Rays: 92-70

The Bay Rays certainly have the strongest rotation going down the stretch. Jeff Niemann seems to be the only weakness with the way the others are pitching. And he's pretty darn good. But the Bay Rays still have plenty of outs in their line up despite the addition of Desmond Jennings. They also have weakness in the back end of their bullpen. The rotation has also piled up a bunch of innings by David Price and James Shields.

The Red Sox despite the loss of Kevin Youkilis to various injuries, still have the most potent line up of the three. Daniel Bard has cracked a bit of late, but his stuff combined with Jonathan Papelbon gives the Red Sox a dynamic back end that is much better than the Bay Rays'. 

The Yankees have shown a resilience despite some struggles with injuries. They have done a good job of resting their veterans. Jesus Montero gives them some late season pop and they have some young guns that can really throw called up in September. If Alex Rodriguez can get his health together down the stretch, that will simply add to their considerable fire power.

Let's face it, both the Red Sox and Yankees have some rotation questions right now. The patches the Yankees have used successfully all season are starting to become threadbare. The Red Sox rotation is banged up. There are some losses built into those rotations, no doubt. But the bottom line here is that the Bay Rays would have to run the table on their remaining games against those two teams ahead of them and that just doesn't seem possible. It might happen, but this writer doesn't see it.

The Angels have certainly made things interesting in the AL West, but their wild card chances are more remote that the Bay Rays. Sitting at 80 wins, the Angels would have to win 15 of their remaining 16 games to join the projected standings of the AL East listed above. That seems to be too tough a row to hoe. Baseball Prospectus lists them at 7-9 down the stretch. But the Angels should be better than that. The AL West title is their only chance here.

So hang on, Red Sox fans. You're going to the party.

Game Picks - Monday: September 12, 2011

Sunday was a day of heart-felt tributes and stirring remembrances as MLB (and the NFL for that matter) honored the anniversary of the most painful day in our recent history. It was a day of tragedy that shook our country to its core and yet showed us that when our people faced the biggest test, goodness can prevail as people risked everything to respond to those in need. The day also led us to a tumultuous history of inexplicable wars, some questionable strains on our constitutional rights and a manhunt that took more than nine years to end.

Through it all, sports has been the Novocaine of aches and baseball was front and center of that ten years ago and again yesterday. The results ten years ago didn't seem to matter as much all that time ago and yesterday was little different. It was a day for reflection. Like any day of mourning, it was a mixture of celebration and loss. We have healed a bit since that tough day ten years ago. But our souls carry around the burden and will for a long time. The New York Mets and ESPN did a fabulous job last night with their ceremony and it's hard to remember a more stirring rendition of our National Anthem than what was sung by Marc Anthony.

Several of our BBA sites participated in a blackout of activity as a way to honor the day and this writer finds no fault with that. We all choose to remember the day differently. But here, the show went on because the game picks are a daily thing and secondly, one of the goals those men wanted to accomplish with their acts of terror was to disrupt our lives and by refusing to do so, we defeat their purpose.

Jumping down from the soapbox, there are picks to be made, sudden wild card races and match ups to consider. Monday:

  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Zach Britton has been good lately (except for that Yankee game) and has already beaten the Rays this month. But the right-handed bats of the Bay Rays have come alive. Jeff Niemann should have a good game after some rough outings.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Calling Dontrelle Willis to get his first win in this game. It's all set up with a favorable match up against Rodrigo Lopez. 
  • The Braves over the Marlins: The Marlins have been on a roll and the Braves have been sputtering. The match up of Brandon Beachy against Chris Volstad seems favorable to this observer.
  • The Mets over the Nationals: R.A. Dickey has been very good lately and should get the win here against Ross Detwiler. Detwiler has been struggling after a nice start to his stint in the rotation.
  • The Phillies over the Astros: Roy Oswalt beats his former team, though there won't be many in the opposing dugout he recognizes. He will face old teammate, Brett Myers, who finally got a win in his last start.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: The division race is over. It's only a matter of playing the schedule. Rick Porcello over John Danks.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: Gio Gonzalez has been all over the place this season. But one constant has been to totally shut down the Angels in three starts against them. Make it four after tonight. Joel Pineiro goes for the Angels and has been better of late.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Dodgers: Joe Saunders versus Ted Lilly in a battle of so-so lefties. The Dodgers are tough at home, but the D-backs are the best team in the division.
  • The Yankees over the Mariners: The Mariners' offense has picked up a bit and Phil Hughes needs to be on his game as the Yankees face Felix Hernandez, a really tough pitcher. The Yankees have faced some of the best starters in the league of late.
  • The Giants over the Padres: This game has become somewhat meaningless but the Giants will press on behind Eric Surkamp who has already beaten the Padres this month. Aaron Harang isn't as good on the road as he is at home.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: The Cardinals get to kick a dog when its down with a series in Pittsburgh. Kyle Lohse should continue his successful season with a fairly easy win over Brad Lincoln.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 9-6
Month: 90-55
Season: 1222-965
Games of the Day: 102-58

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Game Picks - Sunday: September 11, 2011

Things are getting a bit exciting in Major League Baseball. Suddenly, the wild card spots don't seem locked up. The AL West race is tighter than most people imagined. And the Arizona Diamondbacks have become the best show on earth. On the mundane side, the picks are rolling along and finished off a very good week. Two straight 10-5 days helped end the week in style.

Oh, there were a couple of stinkers in the picks. Didn't see the Yankees losing a third of their line up and Sabathia pitching like a rookie. Didn't see the Royals winning so easily. The Rangers loss was baffling. Alex White gave up five homers and still won his game (a good argument for the wins are meaningless debate). And Randy Wells should have been given more credit. Though a blown save by Bobby Parnell certainly sunk that pick more than anything else.

But all in all, it was a very good picking day. Today starts a new week and the picks feel a certain weight of a certain date that we all know about. More on that later perhaps. For now, here are the picks:

  • The Tigers over the Twins: Wouldn't be surprised if the Tigers rested a few guys. But even so, the Tigers should win the game. Doug Fister will give the Tigers a quality outing and beat Scott Diamond, who really isn't that bad a pitcher. How good do you feel for Inge who accepted his demotion to the minors and came back to contribute for the Tigers?
  • The Orioles over the Blue Jays: Dustin McGowen is one of the more inspiring stories in baseball on how he battled back after three lost years. But inspiring doesn't win games. Tommy Hunter will do that.
  • The Marlins over the Pirates: James McDonald is very good. But the Pirates have fallen and can't get up. Javier Vazquez is pitching very well for the Marlins.
  • The Nationals over the Astros: Stephen Strasburg makes his second start and perhaps will go a bit longer in this one. Henry Sosa has been good of late for the Astros but they can't score.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: The Red Sox have their ace on the mound in Jon Lester but James Shields has been incredible this season. The wild card gets tighter.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: Ubaldo Jimenez comes up big today and shuts down the White Sox. Zach Stewart can be brilliant too, so we'll just have to see who is going to have the big game today.
  • The Phillies over the Brewers: Sweep. Vance Worley just never loses and the Phillies have won the last fourteen games he has started. That's pretty much as good of a lock as you can get. Yovani Gallardo will be game but it won't be enough.
  • The Braves over the Cardinals: Tim Hudson comes up big and stops the bleeding. Jake Westbrook allows the sleepy Braves' line up to come a live a little.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Josh Outman will not help the Angels' cause as he will not be able to keep up with C.J. Wilson.
  • The Rockies over the Reds: Drew Pomeranz! Is this the most anticipated opening act since Strasburg? We'll see. Edinson Volquez is back but will he be any better?
  • The Yankees over the Angels: The Yankees have to find a way to win this game. The key to it all will be Freddie Garcia. He was terrible last time and must be good in this one because you know Ervin Santana will be good.
  • The Giants over the Dodgers: Madison Bumgarner has been the only Giants' pitcher to win lately. He'll just down the Dodgers attack and will win despite another good performance from Hiroki Kuroda.
  • The Mariners over the Royals: Let's see...Anthony Vazquez goes for the Mariners and is a lefty with guile but no stuff. He goes against Everett Teaford, a lefty with guile but no stuff. Should be interesting.
  • The Mets over the Cubs: How did ESPN get this clunker for it's Sunday Night Baseball telecast? Must be the 9/11 - New York thing. Somehow, Miguel Bautista wins. Don't know how exactly, but he does. Matt Garza will be good though.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: This should be an easy win with Josh Collmenter riding a bunch of runs off of Wade LeBlanc.

Yesterday: 10-5
Last Week: 60-39
Month: 81-49
Season: 1213-959
Games of the Day: 102-57