Saturday, April 14, 2012

Game Picks - Saturday: April 14, 2012

After a wild ride in baseball yesterday, the picks just barely came out ahead, which is about the best you could hope for on Friday the 13th. Matt Cain was great as expected, but Daniel Hudson was not. Matt Harrison was great as expected, but Cliff Lee was not. Jeff Samardzija continued to shine while Adam Wainwright gave cause for alarm. Kuroda and Beckett were great but Luke Hochevar got hit hard on the ankle and was carried away in the first inning. It was a quite the day in baseball. Oh, and this picker can't forget that Bartolo Colon out-pitched Felix Hernandez. Did not see that one coming.

After having barely survived that strong tidal pool, it is with some timidity that the toe is again stuck in the water.  But Saturday provides fifteen more games that need attention. Here is how they should go:

  • The Yankees over the Angels: The Yankees have won 66 percent of their games at home over the past three seasons. Picking against them there is defying logic. Phil Hughes needs to be more economical. But if he can do that, he can beat C.J. Wilson.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: This picker is still smarting over picking against Lance Lynn in his first start. Won't stick a finger in that socket again. He beats Chris Volstad who didn't look much better as a Cub than he did as a Marlin.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: The thinking here is that Yu Darvish will be better than his first outing and Nick Blackburn throwing ground balls to a questionable infield doesn't always work.
  • The Nationals over the Reds: What is to make of this mess? Edwin Jackson versus Homer Bailey is not a match made in heaven. Going with the home team.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Jon Niese was fantastic his first time out, but it's hard to forget that Citizens Bank Park was a nightmare for him last year. Vance Worley with the win.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: Clay Buchholz needs to have a good outing and should at home. Jeremy Hellickson got hit in the head during batting practice, but is still slated to start. Losing Ellsbury is a concern for the Red Sox.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Jose Bautista hits at least one bomb off of Jason Hammel and Henderson Alvarez gets his eight quality start in twelve attempts.
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: Gavin Floyd was bombed in Texas, but he should be better at home. The Tigers will start the unknown Adam Wilk, who is making his major league debut.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Jonathan Sanchez is one fine mess, but the Royals should score more runs as they face Jeanmar Gomez.
  • The Braves over the Brewers: Shaun Marcum is allowing home runs at an alarming pace and the Braves are heating up at the plate. Mike Minor will have to be a lot better than his last start for this pick to come off though.
  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: This appears to be another high scoring game as Josh Collmenter and Jhoulys Chacin didn't impress anyone in their first starts of the season. Going with Tulowitzki having a big game for the win.
  • The Pirates over the Giants: Barry Zito already beat the odds with his first outing. Can't buy those odds of it happening a second time. Charlie Morton will have the Giants beating the ball into the ground, but will need good relief help to win.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Tommy Milone is impressive and should do just fine. Hector Noesi got beat up his first start and doesn't appear that he will last long in the Mariners' rotation.
  • The Padres over the Dodgers: Ted Lilly comes back to the Dodgers' rotation after a spring full of neck problems. We'll see how that works out. In the meantime, Joe Wieland makes his first start for the Padres.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Marlins over the Astros: Carlos Zambrano will enjoy pitching in his spacious home park. Bud Norris is a tough customer, but the Astros have little offense to back him up. The Marlins still haven't made that home run machine light up. Will today be the day?

Yesterday: 8-7

Week: 44-32
Season: 62-50
Games of the Day: 6-3

Friday, April 13, 2012

Let's not get too excited about the Dodgers...yet

The Los Angeles Dodgers, fresh off their big announcement of the pending $2.15 billion sale, have started the season 6-1. Comments on Twitter have ranged from, "I think this team is for real." to other statements of similar enthusiasm. While it is good for baseball for the Dodgers to be playing so well and while we could put some stock into the "team playing with new outlook after sale" story lines, the season is way too young to be getting so excited. Yes, they have played extremely well over their first seven games. But the Dodgers haven't exactly had challenging competition to this point and it is a very long season.

Four of their first seven games have come against the Padres. The Padres do not have a good offense and are in rebuilding mode. The Pirates are better than they were a couple of seasons ago, but as a team, they aren't there yet. So the Dodgers should have beaten those teams. And the Dodgers soft schedule continues for quite some time. They have three more games against the Padres. Then they get a struggling Brewers for three and then the Astros for three and it isn't until April 23rd until they get some tough competition in the Braves and then the Nationals. The Dodgers do not play the Diamondbacks until mid-May.

The more their schedule for the season is perused, the more there is reason to start building a little Dodger enthusiasm. By some scheduling fate, their schedule just seems soft throughout most of the season. Hmm...maybe this success can continue. Even their inter-league contests look a little soft outside of two series against the Angels.

If you look at the Dodgers as a whole, there are problems. The lineup has holes and will not be an on-base machine. Dee Gordon is an exciting young player. But he is a young player and will struggle at times, especially at the plate. The catching position seems weak with A.J. Ellis and Matt Treanor. James Loney is still not the answer at first base. The outfield defense is not good over the long haul with Juan Rivera in left, Matt Kemp in center and Andre Ethier in right.

Juan Rivera is off to a great start. Blue Jays fans must be scratching their heads. But reality will settle in sooner or later. He is not a .320 hitter and he is not going to look as good when his poor on-base abilities show up as his batting average goes down. Ditto for Juan Uribe at third, who over the long haul will not provide the kind of offense you want from a third baseman. Mark Ellis is a nice addition at second, but he's not a great offensive player. He is decent. Over the course of a long season, this should be an offensive infield that could suck some life out of the team.

It's not that the Dodgers are not without some star power. Matt Kemp has become one of the best offensive players in the game. And Clayton Kershaw is one of the best young pitchers in baseball and as long as he stays healthy, should be in the Cy Young Award mix for years to come. Chad Billingsley is off to a great start and has always been a solid rotation guy. But after that, it gets a little dicier with Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang. Sooner or later, the team will need a fifth starter. Who will that be?

The Dodgers' bullpen is strong at the top with Javy Guerra and Kenly Jansen. Those two are terrific. Matt Guerrier is solid. But things get questionable after that.

This Dodgers team has its flaws. They have a weak early schedule that has allowed them to get off to a great start. That soft schedule continues most of the month of April and beyond. If they continue to feed off of that schedule, it is quite possible that they could be the surprise team of the season with wild card aspirations at least. The Diamondbacks still seem the class of the division. The real question is what impact new ownership will have once the deal is consummated. Will they go out at the trade deadline and do some things?

Yes, the Dodgers are off to a flying start. But hold on to that optimism card for just a bit longer. Some real flaws have yet to be exposed and unless they are filled in later deals, the Dodgers will not be without some tough times ahead.

Game Picks - Friday: April 13, 2012

Ugh. Friday the 13th. Did not realize that until typing out the heading for the post. This picker is not superstitious. But the fear is there for other people who are. And it is always the other guy you have to look out for. All this picker is looking for today is a day as decent as yesterday. When the correct picks double the incorrect ones, that's just fine and dandy. The Cubs winning an 8-0 shutout was a surprise. It is not a surprise that Matt Garza pitched well, but that the Cubs scored runs when he pitched. And it was against Zack Greinke. The Angels built a good lead and then couldn't hold back the Twins, who have suddenly found an offense. That pick was wrong. The other one was because in hindsight, picking the Marlins to beat the Phillies was just plain stupid.

All thirty teams are in action today, so that is fun. Plus, we have the added bonus of a lot of home openers today. Game times have a nine hour range starting at one o'clock all the way to a ten o'clock starts (eastern times) on the left coast. If you so choose, you can really gorge on baseball today. Here are Friday's picks:

  • The Yankees over the Angels: The Yankees have their home opener today and Jorge Posada will throw out the first pitch. Ervin Santana will pitch for the Angels and he's always a mixed bag. You never know what you will get from him. Hiroki Kuroda gets his second start for the Yankees. It better be different than his last one for this pick to come home.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: The Red Sox break in Fenway today. The fans in the stands will be pensive considering the team's 1-5 start with Josh Beckett on the mound after he threw home run derby to the Tigers last time out. The prediction here is that Beckett will be back on his good game and the Red Sox will squeak out some runs against David Price.
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: The White Sox are swinging the bats well and Jake Peavy looked pretty good his last time out. Max Scherzer looked awful in his first start. Thus, this pick.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Lance Berkman will not be available. But there will be much love in the air as the Cardinals have their home opener fresh off their World Series win. That will carry the day as Adam Wainwright beats Jeff Samardzija.
  • The Royals over the Indians: It was predicted in this space that Luke Hochevar will put it together this season and his first start showed promise of doing that. Derek Lowe was great his first time out however. The Royals will need to score a few runs and their offense hasn't been great so far.
  • The Giants over the Pirates: Matt Cain will be better than his first start. And as much as this picker is impressed with John McDonald, he just never seems to put two good starts together in succession.  The Giants look better offensively this season.
  • The Nationals over the Reds: Jordan Zimmermann is a better pitcher at this point in his career than Bronson Arroyo is in his. And that carries this pick. There is some concern about the Nationals' offense though.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Cliff Lee should win. R.A. Dickey should not. Those are the shoulds, but we'll have to see how the game goes.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: There has not been a pick against the home team this entire post and it is making this picker very nervous. But Brandon Morrow has to be a better pick than Tommy Hunter, right? Argh.
  • The Astros over the Marlins: Just for the sake of picking against a home team. The Marlins go home for the first time after the Ozzie mess. That home run machine still hasn't gone off. Will it today? Lucas Harrell was awesome his first time out for the Astros. The Marlins' offense is struggling. Ricky Nolasco will have to be great to ruin this pick.
  • The Braves over the Brewers: Are our worst fears of the post-Prince Brewers coming true? It sure seems that way. Jair Jurrjens isn't an automatic pick, but he should win at home over Randy Wolf.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: Matt Harrison is a man-crush here at the FanDome. He faces Anthony Swarzak. The Twins have been bedeviling so far. We'll see.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Juan Nicasio had a nice start his last time out and that was a nice story after he broke his neck last season. But this picker never picks against Daniel Hudson.
  • The Mariners over the Athletics: These two teams again? What the heck, scheduler!? For crying out loud. Felix Hernandez over Bartolo Colon. The Mariners' offense has been humming along and Montero and Smoak haven't gotten going yet.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Dodgers over the Padres: Clayton Richard faced twice in the same week should prove disastrous for the Padres. Aaron Harang should bounce back from a bad first start. The Dodgers keep winning.

Yesterday: 6-3
Week: 36-25
Season: 54-43
Games of the Day: 5-3

Thursday, April 12, 2012

BBA Linkfest - Generally in the swing

The General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is feeling so good right now. Baseball season is here and there are games every night. There is lots to talk about and lots of dramatic story lines. There is no season like baseball season. Finish that American Idol recap, pour another coffee and enjoy these links from around our chapter.

The Wolf's Den is watching the Diamondbacks from week to week.

Yu Darvish kicked X-Log's Peter Kosta in the groin. Sounds like an episode of America's Funniest Home Videos.

Dustin Salyer is wondering what is up with Tim Lincecum over at Through the Fence Baseball.

You have to check out Sully of Sully Baseball's comparison of Stephen Strasburg to Gollum. But for a great read, Sully introduces us to Andrew Carignan.

The Replacement Level Baseball Blog tries to talk a fan of the Boston Red Sox off the ledge.

TCM takes a look at two keystone contracts over at The Platoon Advantage

Mark Zell of the Pop Fly Boys is coming around on the designated hitter. Good man. 

Old Time Family Baseball doesn't think that Jon Lester is a fan of the Boston Red Sox.

Number One Baseball has a few comments about Ozzie Guillen's comments.

Nik over at Niktig's Baseball Blog has some predictions concerning the Detroit Tigers.

Absolutely loved Jonathan Hacohen's interview of Gregg Olson over at MLB Reports this week. The post of the week IMHO.

Jonathan Mitchell had an insightful look at the Phillies future and doesn't like what he sees over at his MLB Dirt site.

Over at Michael Holloway's Baseball Blog, Michael likes how the Blue Jays can use their speed to win games. Agreed.

Major League A**holes really likes the new Chicago versus Chicago commercial. The commercial is perfect in every way.

Left Field takes a look at the Braves all-time team in a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Theo of Hot Corner Harbor made his prediction last week. And he is still analyzing them. And that's a good thing for us.

The Hall of Very Good caught Cody Ross LoMo-ing. What does that mean? You'll have to check it out to find out.

Grubby Glove has a fascinating new story about Willie Mays. Terrific.

Of the many prediction posts read over the past few weeks, some of the most enjoyable have been from The Golden Sombrero. Justin Abramson's picks are a good example of why.

The Baseball Index reports on Drew Storen's elbow surgery. And no it is not one of those season-ending ones.

For Baseball Junkies rates MLB teams based on offenses only. 

Dugout 24 is not impressed with Ozzie Guillen's comments. Not impressed at all.

TheNaturalMevs of Diamond Hoggers fame took a trip to Cleveland to see Joey Bats and took us along on the enjoyable ride.

Taylor of Crack of the Bat made Yoenis Cespedes the major of bomb city.

Mario Salvini laments the lack of Europeans in the major leagues as we are down to only Alex Liddi. Che Palle!

Call to the Pen's Joe Soriano expertly analyses the Johnny Damon to the Indians deal.

Aaron Somers of Blogging From the Bleachers is getting married! All the best to him and his bride. Hope your marriage will be as wonderful as this Fan and his wife's as been.

Justin Jabs has a new award over at his Baseblog site. It's the Emma Award and this week's winner is David Freese. Looking forward to this award each week and not for just the picture of Emma!

Baseballism is dead on on what baseball does to the soul.

Terry Francona still has hard feelings toward the Boston Red Sox and Baseball Unrated doesn't blame him. Agreed.

Nobody does a game recap like Stevo-sama. Nobody. Check this out over at The Baseball Enthusiast.

The Ball Caps Blog has a fun piece about forgotten heroes of Opening Days.

Sooze over at Babes Love Baseball has another great commercial for our consideration.

85% Sports has all the skinny on the first return home for the reigning World Champions.

Have a great week, everyone. 

Game Picks - Thursday: April 12, 2012

Why doesn't a second straight positive day feel better than it does? On a day when the Athletics and Padres were picked and won, there should be some positive feelings about that, right? Perhaps it was knowing the day it could have been if for some reason Justin Verlander pitched one-hit ball for eight innings on 81 pitches but suddenly looked like putty in the ninth. Perhaps again it was the knowledge of how good it could have been if Joe Nathan hadn't blown another save and George Kottaras hadn't hit that two-run homer in the seventh inning. And it would have been better if it was known that Tim Lincecum would turn into Kyle Davies.

But those are all reasons why picking baseball games is about as slippery an operation as any in sports. So picking nine out of fifteen winners has to supply only a small amount of comfort. Yes, the Blue Jays and Reds were great calls. This picker will take comfort wherever it can be found.

Nine games are on the schedule for Thursday and six of them are daytime starts. That should be fun to watch. 

  • The Nationals over the Reds: A tough one right off the bat. Both Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos did not impress in their debuts for their new teams and this picker still can't get off of the Reds' 2011 season on not being able to win back to back games.
  • The Tigers over the Bay Rays: Never know what to make of Jeff Niemann, but that said, the smart pick would be to pick him over a young kid like Drew Smyly. Seriously, how can you take a guy with a emoticon for a last name seriously? But picks like this always kick this picker in the butt. So going against the grain.
  • The Angels over the Twins: How can Dan Haren be as bad as his last start? He can't. How can Francisco Liriano be as bad as his last start? He can.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: So Jason Vargas gets like all upset when someone poses after hitting a big home run. The answer? Don't give them up. But he will. And Derek Holland will be good. Let's just hope the Rangers don't need a save.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: Matt Garza can give Zack Greinke a run for his money. That's for sure. But the Cubs always play like crap when Garza pitches. It is uncanny.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: As much as we all want Jamie Moyer to win a game, what chance does he have facing a Madison Bumgarner? Besides, the Rockies will be gassed from all that running around the bases last night.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: Roy Halladay had his way with the Marlins last night. But Joe Blanton is not Roy Halladay. You have to like Mark Buehrle's chances in this one.
  • The Dodgers over the Pirates: Jeff Karstens is a decent pitcher but should be matched at least by Chis Capuano. The Dodgers have the better offense and that carries the day.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Never pick against Ian Kennedy. Never. Anthony Bass goes for the Padres.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 30-22
Season: 48-40
Games of the Day: 4-3 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Game Picks - Wednesday: April 11, 2012

Finally! A breakthrough day! If it was a warm, sunny day here, it would be a miracle. Only three incorrect picks. The Red Sox lost. The Bay Rays lost and the Cubs lost. But everything else was correct and that's a relief. And the Braves won a game and Chipper Jones was a part of it. What's not to love about baseball?

For only the second time this season, all thirty teams are in action today. Being "getaway day," several of them will occur during the daytime. Sweet. Here are Wednesday's picks:
  • The Indians over the White Sox: There are a lot of reservations about Cleveland's offense so far. But Justin Masterson should prevail over John Danks in a good pitching match up. Masterson looked impossible to hit his first time out.
  • The Reds over the Cardinals: Lance Berkman has a sore calf and will probably sit. Johnny Cueto was great his first outing and he should be the difference in this one facing Jaime Garcia.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: Maybe this picker is really starting to believe in these Blue Jays. Ricky Romero beats Jon Lester.
  • The Tigers over the Rays: Come on. Justin Verlander. Please! No-hitter! Perfect game! Hi! The Tigers will hit at least one rocket off of James Shields.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: It's great to see Johan Santana back. But going with Stephen Strasburg even though the Nationals never score any runs for him.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Perhaps this picker is giving the Cubs too much credit. But Dempster is good at home and Yovani Gallardo was less than inspiring his first time out. Gallardo usually is good against the Cubs though.
  • The Athletics over the Royals: Still believe in Brandon McCarthy despite his rough first outing. Bruce Chen, though, is a magician. Could be a stupid pick, but staying with it.
  • The Padres over the Diamondbacks: Upset pick of the day. Cory Luebke pitches well at home and the Diamondbacks pitch Joe Saunders for the first time this year. They could regret that.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: The Phillies are struggling offensively and face Josh Johnson. No easy feat there. But you can never pick against Roy Halladay, can you?
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: C.C. Sabathia versus Jake Arrieta. It's time for Sabathia to put it into overdrive. The Yankees will need him to go deep as the bullpen is gassed and missing Soriano. Arrieta has looked great so far though.
  • The Braves over the Astros: Randall Delgado makes his debut for the Braves and will be countered by Wandy Rodriguez. Wandy is a favorite here, but his team. Oh, his team...
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Have this sneaking suspicion that Kevin Millwood will pitch well tonight in his old haunts in Texas. But Colby Lewis is supposedly the Rangers #1 starter. Though this picker still doesn't believe he should be in the rotation. The Rangers have too much firepower on offense.
  • The Giants over the Rockies. Hesitant to trust in Tim Lincecum. There are concerns again about his velocity. But at least he has pitched in Coors Field before and knows what to expect. Jeremy Guthrie has not. Good luck there, Jeremy.
  • The Dodgers over the Pirates: There is something different about this Dodgers team this season. They could be a factor. Chad Billingsley was extremely effective his first time out. Erik Bedard goes for the Pirates and he could be effective as well.

And the Game of the Day!
  • The Angels over the Twins: Albert Pujols has been too quiet. It is time to bust out. Jered Weaver will do his thing and Carl Pavano won't be able to keep up.

Yesterday: 8-3 
Week: 21-16
Season: 39-34
Games of the Day: 4-2

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

43 Things expected before Zito's shutout

Gosh, baseball is a screwy game. You can watch it for more than fifty years, pour over box scores in all that time, read experts until the cows come home, pour over projections and even seek out roto-experts for what players should perform and STILL be amazed by what happens. This writer has accumulated over 2,700 posts on baseball on this site and others. Never in a million years would a thought be considered that at this point in his career, Barry Zito would throw a complete game shutout at Coors Field no less. That was the Giants' fourth game. The great Tim Lincecum pitched the first game and lost. Matt Cain pitched the second, was ineffective and the team lost. The great phenom, Madison Bumgarner, pitched the third, was not good and lost. Who would win the Giants' first game of the season? Barry Zito. Huh!?

There have been thousands upon thousands of words written about Barry Zito's contract with the Giants. It is the contract that eclipses all others in criticism (Soriano's is a close second). He was so bad last year that the Giants invented injuries to place him on the DL. He might have been one of the last pitchers selected in any fantasy baseball league. And before you can say boom-lacka-lacka, he pitched nine innings at Coors Field and gave up only four hits (three singles and a double), didn't walk anyone and pitched a complete game shutout. Who saw that coming? If you did, please stand up because you, sir or madam, are a genius.

Before Zito did what he just did, here are some things that this long-time observer would have predicted before ever considering predicting Zito would so such a thing:

  1. Mark Reynolds would win a Gold Glove at third.
  2. Ozzie Guillen would consider his words before he spoke.
  3. Derek Jeter would be considered a rangy shortstop.
  4. The Tampa Bay Rays would be a rich ball club.
  5. The Oakland A's would lead the league in attendance.
  6. C.C. Sabathia would be skinny.
  7. Jose Canseco would be back in the major leagues.
  8. Mark McGwire would be elected to the Hall of Fame.
  9. Cardinal fans would stop supporting the team after Pujols left.
  10. Phillies fans would be considered gracious.
  11. Carlos Zambrano would be considered mild and thoughtful.
  12. Juan Pierre would be a power hitter.
  13. Vlad Guerrero would lead the league in walks.
  14. Ron Washington would go an entire season without calling for a sacrifice bunt.
  15. Jeffrey Loria would be considered a good baseball owner.
  16. The Houston Astros would be considered to have great prospects.
  17. Joe Torre would be given credit for all those Yankee wins.
  18. Rick Ankiel would throw the ball like Johnny Damon.
  19. Saltalamacchia would be spelled correctly the first time by most sportswriters.
  20. Jose Valverde would show no emotion after a successful save.
  21. Brian Wilson would be known for not having a beard.
  22. Jon Rauch would have laser surgery to remove all his tattoos.
  23. Sergio Mitre would be embraced by Yankee fans.
  24. Alfonso Soriano would be considered to have soft hands in the field.
  25. Dave Cameron would be considered stupid in the statistical world.
  26. Joe Maddon would use the same exact lineup for ten straight games.
  27. Big Papi would not spit into his hands during an at bat the entire season.
  28. Robinson Cano would not walk around the catcher and umpire once all season after a swing and miss.
  29. Kevin Youkilis would not consider any inside pitch a personal affront.
  30. Petco Park would be considered a good place for a home run hitter.
  31. Albert Pujols would run hard on every ground ball.
  32. Dustin Pedroia would have the cleanest uniform in baseball.
  33. Miguel Cabrera would get fooled by a pitch twice in a row.
  34. Joey Votto would stop hitting line drives.
  35. Tommy Hutton would be voted baseball's best color man.
  36. Hawk Harrelson would never root for the White Sox.
  37. James Loney would be considered the Dodgers' best long-term bet at first base.
  38. Jonny Venters would be considered a fly ball pitcher.
  39. Kyle Davies would be welcomed with open arms as a Royals' starting pitcher.
  40. Grady Sizemore would stay healthy.
  41. People would consider the Jayson Werth signing by the Nationals a good idea.
  42. Robert Andino would be loved by Boston Red Sox fans.
  43. Twins' fans would clamor to get Bill Smith back as general manager.
Those are just a few of the things that would have been predicted before ever considering that Barry Zito would pitch a complete game shutout at Coors Field. Ain't baseball great?

Kinsler deal a steal for the Rangers

Three baseball fans are sitting in a sports bar talking baseball. One proclaims, "Cano and Pedroia are the two best second basemen in baseball." The second fan lets out a whoop and raises a beverage. The third, who is sitting with head down on folded arms pondering fantasy baseball picks, adds, "and Kinsler." The first two look at the third like seeing an alien. The first raises a bottle and says, "To Cano and Pedroia!" The second clinks bottles with the first and says, "Yeeeah!" The third raises a head and says more firmly, "And Kinsler!"

Ian Kinsler should always be in the same breath as Cano and Pedroia. He simply is not. Despite the Texas Rangers playing in the past two World Series, Kinsler is considered the third or fourth best player on his own team. Cano is considered the best player on his team. And Pedroia is the little engine that could. According to Tim McCarver, Pedroia is the "soul of the Boston Red Sox." But if you look at the leaderboard over the last two seasons, Cano has accumulated 12.1 fWAR despite no love for his defense. Pedroia has accumulated 11.5. Ian Kinsler has accumulated 11.4. In other words, Kinsler is right there with those other two.

Of all second basemen since 2010, Ian Kinsler has the second highest walk rate. The only one higher is Ben Zobrist, who is more a right-fielder these days than second baseman. No second baseman has a lower strikeout rate than Ian Kinsler. Kinsler has stolen more bases than any second basemen. His overall base running skills put him above all others at his position. Kinsler has been the fourth best fielding second baseman. He has scored the second most runs and hit the fourth most homers. He has an all-around game that has few weaknesses.

And that is why, five years at $75 million is a steal for the Rangers. Heck, Ian Kinsler's Fangraphs valuation over the past two seasons has been just shy of $50 million. Only injuries and/or a calamitous falloff in skills can ruin this deal. Ian Kinsler is one of the three best second basemen in all of baseball.

Game Picks - Tuesday: April 10, 2012

The picks are stuck in a Groundhog Day of mediocrity. Another day, another .500 picking record. This is getting somewhat maddening. If a man screams in a basement and nobody hears, did he really scream? Whoa. Did this picker just write that? Where is that coffee? Okay. Well, sure. It is okay. .500 is nothing to sneeze at in this crazy early season where the Braves still have not won a game and an unknown pitcher in Oakland has done something only 25 other guys have done (pitch more than seven innings of shutout ball without striking out anyone) in recent history. But it is not good enough. At least not personally.

Today will be a better day. Are you listening, Norman Vincent Peale? There are twelve games on Tuesday's schedule, which is a strange number for a Tuesday. Here are the picks:

  • The Bay Rays over the Tigers: This is a good match up between Matt Moore, the wunderkind of the Rays' pitching staff, and Rick Porcello, who is in the best shape of his life. Can you believe Porcello is only 23 years old? How is that possible? This is his fourth season. Wow. Anyway, both pitchers will be tough, but Moore will be better.
  • The Dodgers over the Pirates: Clayton Kershaw looked just as good as always in his first start, but only lasted three innings because of a flu. He should have no trouble with a still suspect Pirates' offense. Kevin Correia of the Pirates still remains a fungible pitcher.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Phil Humber against Jeanmar Gomez. Gomez had a great spring, but seriously? Humber has at least a track record of respectability in the majors.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Freddy Garcia will break but not bend for his six innings of work. The Orioles will start Wei-Yin Chen, the Korean who will make his major league debut. Chen is left-handed and Jeter and the Yankees love them some of that lefty stuff.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Frankly, this game is confusing. How will Daniel Bard do as a starter? Kyle Drabek's big problem is finding the strike zone and faces a team that is notoriously patient. That has to swing the vote.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: This picker loves Mike Leake. But Kyle Lohse looked awfully good his first time out.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: The Mets are not going to win 162 games. So the law of averages is against them. Dillon Gee had a great spring, but this is Ross Detwiler's big chance and he is going to run with it.
  • The Braves over the Astros: Conversely, the Braves are not going to lose 162 games this season. Tommy Hanson outguns Kyle Weiland.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Paul Maholm is a sketchy pick, but he does pitch well in Wrigley. The pick is for him because Chris Narveson is just as sketchy or sketchier.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Blake Beavan? No...cannot go there. But he does face Neftali Feliz, who is an unknown as a starter. How will this little experiment go? Personally, it won't go well. But the Rangers will score too many runs at home for it to matter.
  • The Royals over the Athletics: Daniel Duffy needs to step up to the hype that has fallen flat thus far in his career. Death Valley in the Oakland Coliseum should help him do that. He is faced by Graham Godfrey. Who the heck is that!? This picker really needs to sit down and figure out who these Athletic players are.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Trevor Cahill is a bit over-hyped, but he should win over Edinson Volquez, who seems to be his own worst enemy since the beginning of last season.

Yesterday: 6-6
Week: 13-13
Season: 31-31
Games of the Day: 3-2

Monday, April 09, 2012

Ho hum - Aroldis Chapman

The game on Sunday between the Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins was exciting. The seesaw game went back and forth as the lead changed hands a couple of times. Jay Bruce hit two homers including the game tying shot off of Heath Bell to tie the game in the ninth. The 37 year old Scott Rolen gave the Reds the victory with a well-placed smash down the third base line that Hanley Ramirez had to eat while the winning run scored. The hometown fans in Cincinnati went wild. A trip to to view the highlights saw the winning hit, both of Bruce's homers, Brandon Phillips' 1,000th hit, a few of the Marlins' offensive highlights and that was it. There were no Aroldis Chapman highlights. Ho hum. All he did was pitch two innings to luck into the win. Nothing to see there.

From there it was to Yahoo sports for the game recap. Aroldis Chapman got one line. One line. The line: "Left-hander Aroldis Chapman (1-0) pitched two shutout innings of relief." Nothing special there. Move along. We have other things to talk about. But was there anything more important to this victory than the two innings Chapman pitched? Not in this mind, there wasn't. Chapman shut the door spectacularly and allowed the Reds the chance to come back in the game. His innings were pivotal. 

Chapman has come a long way since his struggles of a year ago. 2011 was a year of emotional upheaval for the Cuban pitcher we've been told. Apparently that upheaval cost him his ability to pitch in the strike zone. Chapman walked 41 batters in 50 innings of work in 2011. That is a rate of 7.4 walks per nine innings. Mixed in those wild results were records of throwing the ball 105 MPH. Nobody had recorded a pitch going that fast before. But Chapman's 2011 season, much like the Reds' 2011 season was a lost one. He did a short stint in the minors and came back more effective though.

There was talk this spring of moving Chapman into the starting rotation. In fact, four of his five spring appearances during Spring Training were starts. The results were encouraging: 17 innings, a 2.12 ERA with 18 strikeouts and just two walks and a WHIP of 1.12. But those plans were scrapped because the Reds, in their infinite wisdom felt that Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey were better fits in the rotation. Well, alrighty then.

And thus, the Reds put Chapman in the bullpen. Sunday marked his first appearance. It was spectacular whether or not anyone noticed. He threw 27 pitches and 21 of them were strikes. His average fastball was 98 MPH with a vertical break of 10.66. 10.66! His fastest pitch was 100.3 MPH. The slacker. Only two of his pitches were more than 100 MPH. Perhaps that doesn't excite anyone. Chapman threw two innings and his line was one hit, no walks and three strikeouts. Would the Reds have had a chance in this game without that? Doubtful.

Just to give you a pictorial idea of how effective Chapman was, here is his game's strikezone plot via Brooks Baseball. Talk about pounding the strike zone! Chapman was a beast on Sunday for the Reds. Too bad nobody noticed.

Game Picks - Monday: April 9, 2012

Another day at .500 with a 7-7 picking record. And the game of the day feature clanked meaning that everything across the board sits at a .500 record. How bland! How boring. Of course, it's better that a blog feature is boring and not the baseball season. That has been spectacular so far. The Red Sox, Yankees, Braves and Giants are all 0-3. Wow. The Phillies are 1-2. Blown saves are everywhere. Pitchers are taking no-hitters deep into games and others can't get anyone out. Unless your team has been on the wrong side of the games scores, this week has been loads of fun.

And for a Monday, there is a pretty good schedule of games going with twelve games to be played. You have to like that for what is usually an off day. Let's see if this picker can get with the program here and have a good picking day. Lord knows, this mediocrity is starting to get inside the head a little bit. Here goes:

  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Things are starting to get a little dicey for the Marlins. Ozzie got his mouth in trouble again. Their high-priced closer lost a big game and the team is now 1-3 to start the season. Things won't get much easier as they face Cole Hamels. The Marlins do have a chance in this one as the Phillies aren't scoring runs and Anibal Sanchez can be terrific. But the feeling here is that Hamels will be too tough to handle and the Phillies' offense will break out a bit.
  • The Angels over the Twins: The Angels had kind of a tough weekend, but should get righted on facing the Twins, who truth be told, are a pretty bad team. Nick Blackburn had a great spring. But that was spring. C.J. Wilson gets his first start in an Angels' uniform and should win this one.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: The Giants haven't won a game yet and go into game four of the season with Barry Zito pitching in Coors Field. Not ideal. Jhoulys Chacin isn't exactly a lock either. But Chacin should give up less runs than Zito.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Chris Sale gets his first major league start. He was impressive in the spring with 22 strikeouts against only two walks. But again, that was spring. We'll see how he does in the real games. Josh Tomlin starts for the Indians. He is a BABIP pitcher so it all depends on where the ball bounces.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Chris Volstad is one of this picker's picks for a comeback season. He should thrive in Chicago. The Brewers go with Shaun Marcum who had some shoulder problems during the spring. The Brewers did not have a good weekend against the Cardinals.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: The Yankees have to win some time and the Orioles have to lose some time. That convergence could happen here. Brian Matusz had a nice spring, but it is hard to forget how much damage the Yankees did to him last year. Ivan Nova really needs a big stop for the Yankees to get them going.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Really want to pick the Blue Jays in this one but they are due for a win after a tough series in Detroit. All will depend on Felix Doubront for the Red Sox and Henderson Alvarez for the Blue Jays. The feeling here is that Boston's killer lineup will be too much for Alvarez to handle and they will wear him down by the fifth inning or before.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Another series for two teams that hate each other. So it should be fun. Both have sported good offenses thus far. The difference in this one is that Jake Westbrook has a better chance to pitch a decent game than Homer Bailey who got murdered all spring.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: The Mets' early success has been good for an organization that has had difficulty in the past two years. The only problem is Mike Pelfrey. He simply has looked awful since the middle of last season and it carried over into the spring. The Nats got Edwin Jackson for this very reason, to deepen their rotation and that should be the difference in this game.
  • The Braves over the Astros: The Braves need to get off the pavement here and Brandon Beachy could be just the guy to do it. The Astros counter with J.A. Happ, who simply doesn't scare anyone.
  • The Royals over the Athletics: Luis Mendoza is much maligned by some KC bloggers and they have a point. He's been pretty lucky to this point and it has to catch up with him sooner or later. Unfortunately for the A's, the only batter Mendoza has to fear is Yeonis Cespedes. Tom Milone has looked terrific for the A's and is a bright prospect. But he faces a KC lineup with great prospects of their own.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rangers over the Mariners: The Mariners are going to hit a lot better this season if early indications are correct. But this is the grand opening of the phenomenon called, Yu Darvish. Everyone will be watching this game. Hector Noesi is solid if unspectacular and gets the start for the Mariners.

Yesterday: 7-7
Week: 7-7
Season: 24-24
Games of the Day: 2-2

Sunday, April 08, 2012

It's early, but dang, Chone Figgins!

The Seattle Mariners have only played four games. All of them have come against the Oakland Athletics. As such, it seems rather absurd to get too excited over anything that has happened thus far. But, gosh, isn't it kind of exciting to see Chone Figgins play the way he is? Figgins has been the colossal bust in Seattle since signing that four year, $36 million dollar contract after his 6.9 fWAR season for the Angels in 2009. He fell hard in 2010 but still had a semblance of value. But last year he really bottomed out becoming one of the least valuable players in all of baseball. And then his manager, Eric Wedge, proclaimed before the start of Spring Training that Figgins would lead off and Ichiro Suzuki would bat third. We all scoffed. This space said that Wedge had lost his mind. Again, it is very early, but don't we all look pretty stupid right now?

After four games, Chone Figgins is batting .412 after starting the season seven for seventeen. In yesterday's win, Figgins went three for five with a double and a triple. He is the Mariners' early leader in RBIs despite his lead off spot. This looks like the 2009 Chone Figgins, doesn't it? And if it is, how much difference does that make this Seattle Mariners team? A big difference.

Why? Because as predicted in this space, Ichiro Suzuki is going to bounce back from last season despite his advanced age, Dustin Ackley is going to hit a ton and Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero really haven't gotten going yet. When they do, this could be a vastly improved offense than we have seen in Seattle for the past couple of seasons and Figgins is the key to it all. Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders are off to good starts as is Brendan Ryan at short. This offense could be on to something.

And it all starts with Chone Figgins. If the Mariners can get something close to the 2009 version of Figgins instead of the 2010 and 2011 versions, then this could be a lot more fun a season for Mariners' fans than previously thought. To continue our Easter theme, thus far Chone Figgins is like Lazarus--back from the dead.

Game Picks - Sunday: April 8, 2012

We are now 34 games into the 2012 MLB season and the picks sit squarely at .500. This comes after the first full day of picking that ended up with a 7-8 tally. The words of the Book of Revelation come to mind on this Easter Sunday morning: "You are neither hot nor cold..." So yes, the picking has been, "lukewarm." 

The final score of yesterday's picks is somewhat surprising in light of correctly picking the Yankees and Red Sox to start their seasons 0-2 (let the panics begin!) and successful predicting a dominating day by Zack Greinke. But enough other bad picks ultimately had the day in the negative column including a surprising win by the Pirates on a day that Cliff Lee was starting for the Phillies. The Phillies' offense is officially a concern, though it is awful early to get too excited about it.

There are fourteen games on today's schedule instead of fifteen, which is odd for a Sunday. The Mariners and Athletics' weird schedule continues as those two teams have today off. Here are the picks:

  • The Tigers over the Red Sox: This is a confusing game to pick. The Red Sox are not nearly as bad as they have played. Clay Buchholz wins over 70 percent of his road games historically but has not fared well against the Tigers in three starts at Comerica. Max Scherzer says that this is the best he's ever felt in the spring. So that will be the pick.
  • The Indians over the Blue Jays: Derek Lowe should keep the ball on the ground for the Indians so only BABIP will come in to play in whether he wins or loses. This is the dicier part of the Blue Jays' rotation as young Joel Carreno gets the start.
  • The Mets over the Braves: Can the Mets really start 3-0? They have arguably their best pitcher on the mound in Jon Niese. Mike Minor could be tough for the Braves though. David Wright is killing the ball in early going for the Mets as is Luke Duda.
  • The Marlins over the Reds: As Ozzie backpedals from his Castro episode, which is quite comical considering the Marlins' new stadium is in the heart of Little Havana, his team will get a win as Carlos Zambrano squares up with Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo is fresh off a season where he had the third highest homers allowed in history.
  • The Orioles over the Twins: Anthony Swarzak has to make an emergency start after Liam Hendriks came down with food poisoning. Swarzak can twirl a good game here or there. Jason Hammel goes for the Orioles and should have an early benefit of being unknown to the AL his first time around.
  • The Pirates over the Phillies: John McDonald needs to pound the strike zone. If he does, he wins. Vance Worley goes for the Phillies. Why is he third and not Hamels?
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Jeremy Hellickson versus Phil Hughes. Hughes had a great spring and everyone is counting on him to have a good season. Today will be quite the test to pull at least one win out of this series.
  • The Rockies over the Astros: Bud Norris can be really good, but you have to root for Juan Nicasio in this one coming back from a broken neck.
  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: The last time the Cardinals saw Randy Wolf, he pitched effectively against them in the playoffs. He seems a better bet in Milwaukee than Lance Lynn who has yet to prove himself as a starter.
  • The Cubs over the Nationals: Perhaps the Cubs will try somebody different in the bullpen today after Jeff Samardzija builds a lead. Jordan Zimmermann can be a stud but has struggled against the Cubs.
  • The Angels over the Royals: More trust is given in this one to Ervin Santana than to the Royals' starter, Jonathan Sanchez. That's just the feeling here. Early results show Kendrys Morales to be doing just fine on those wheels of his.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: Aaron Harang should be comfortable pitching at Petco after pitching his home games there last season. Clayton Richard just doesn't seem like a big league starter. The Dodgers should jump on him.
  • The Rangers over the White Sox: Gavin Floyd is a mystery to this picker. Never know what to do with him. Matt Harrison, on the other hand, is a very underrated starting pitcher. He gets the win. Adrian Beltre is due to do something with the bat.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Will take Matt Cain over Josh Collmenter pretty much every time out. 

Yesterday: 7-8
Last week: 16-16
Season: 17-17
Games of the Day: 2-1

Enjoy the day in however you celebrate it.