Saturday, April 21, 2012

Game Picks - Saturday: April 21, 2012

The Game Picks went much better yesterday than they did the day before. It wasn't a blockbuster day by any means but it was decent at least. It was sort of a strange day. Carlos Zambrano didn't walk anyone, which is a surprise. But he still lost. There were two inside the park homers around the league and Adam Lind for the Blue Jays caught a line drive and started a triple play. How's that for things you don't see every day?

There will be sixteen games on the schedule today as the Tigers' home game against the Rangers was rained out. Should be a fun day around the majors. Here are Saturday's picks:

  • The Tigers sweep the Rangers: The Rangers face the two best Tigers' pitchers in Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander. Those two should both win over Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Mike Leake should shut down the Cubs anemic offense and Paul Maholm has not been good so far this year for the Cubs, which really is no surprise.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: If Stephen Strasburg is tipping pitches, that will be corrected. But even if you know what's coming, most of the time, you can't hit it. Anibal Sanchez is highly underrated, but he won't be enough.
  • The Giants over the Mets: Don't know what to do in this game. Ryan Vogelsong and Mike Pelfrey have not been impressive. The offenses for both teams aren't great. But somebody has to win the game.
  • The White Sox over the Mariners: Is it safe to say that Adam Dunn isn't as bad as last year? Blake Beavan has been good in his two starts, but still not a believer. Phil Humber makes his second start and should have more command than his last outing.
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: Not feeling good about a Freddy Garcia start. Felix Doubront has been the Red Sox' best pitcher (Not), but he should give up less runs than Freddy.
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: There is a lot to like about this year's Cardinals. They look very solid in all aspects of the game. Jake Westbrook over Kevin Correia.
  • The Rockies over the Brewers: Marco Estrada getting the start weakens the bullpen that will be asked to pitch more innings today because Estrada is starting. Not good. Drew Pomeranz has to be better than his first start, though.
  • The Bay Rays over the Twins: Carl Pavano knocked off the Yankees, but the Yankees didn't feature a starter in that game the caliber of James Shields.
  • The Royals over the Blue Jays: Generally never take a pitcher making his major league debut. Works out less often than it works. Drew Hutchinson is that guy for the Blue Jays. Luis Mendoza starts for the Royals. This could get messy.
  • The Braves over the Diamondbacks: The Braves are on fire. Joe Saunders has been better than expected for the Diamondbacks. But still going with the Braves and Tommy Hanson.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: Love Cory Luebke. But Roy Halladay is Roy Halladay.
  • The Orioles over the Angels: Jake Arrieta upsets the Angels and Jered Weaver. Feeling this one.
  • The Athletics over the Indians: Not feeling Jeanmar Gomez. Plus, Brandon McCarthy is too good not to win one of these times. He just needs a few runs of support.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Dodgers over the Astros: Clayton Kershaw is not going to lose to the Astros. Certainly not to Kyle Weiland.

Yesterday: 8-6

Week: 50-30
Season: 118-88
Games of the Day: 10-6

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chase Headley - for real?

There is not a more remote location in the continental United States from this Maine location than San Diego. From the top of Maine to the bottom of California is about as long a diagonal line as you can draw. And suffice it to say that most of the games that are played by the San Diego Padres occur beyond this East Coaster's bedtime. So you can imagine the surprise when the Fangraphs' leaderboard was perused and there sitting third from the top was Chase Headley. Chase Headley!? Didn't he start his season by going without a hit in eleven at bats with six strikeouts? That Chase Headley?

But there he sits, third from the top. Ahead of him are Kemp, naturally and Young, who unfortunately ruined his shoulder recently. Behind Headley is the Rangers' Hamilton, who is tearing the cover off the baseball on a nightly basis. And Chase Headley is third in all of baseball with his 21 percent walk rate. Where did that come from? The biggest surprise is that Headley has already hit four homers, which matches the output of his entire season last year. Naturally, the first question that came to mind upon this discovery is whether this is just a small sample size blip or if there is any reason to believe in what is currently going on.

Some of the conclusions are mixed. It is hard to fake patience at the plate. Headley has always had some modicum of that gift. His career walk rate is only 9.8 but last season saw his highest rate of his career at 11.8 percent. That seems more like a maturation of an ability he displayed in the minors than a fluke. For his career, Headley has swung at 25.5 percent of pitches outside the strike zone. That's pretty good discipline. This year shows 21 percent. That is great discipline. But it is not so much better than his career norm that it seems fluky. While it may not be feasible to continue the season with such a walk rate, something between where it is now and last year's 11.8 percent seems very possible.

The new found power is another story. His fly ball percentage this year of 38.9 percent is just slightly higher than his career average of 36.2 percent. But his percentage of fly balls going over the fence has risen astronomically. For his career, 7.6 percent of his fly balls have gone for homers. This year's rate of 28.6 percent nearly quadruples his career rate. Perhaps more patience at the plate allows him to select better pitches to drive. But it seems safe to say that he will not sustain this power rate. Even so, he could very easily beat his career high of 12 homers and hit 18 to 24 of them.

Headley's .292 batting average seems sustainable. His current BABIP of .313 is actually lower than his career average. He has been better than average at managing to stay ahead of such things. So what do we have here? We have a player, at the age of 28 who seems to be finding himself a bit this season. He seems sure to beat his career numbers in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Looking at his production thus far and how he is doing it, reason seems to dictate that he can put together a season with an OPS of between .850 to .870.

Headley has a had a good start in the field as well. And his ability to steal a base here and there helps too. Headley has stolen 30 bases in 39 attempts over the past three seasons and is already two for two in that category this year. Put this all together and, if he stays healthy, you have a solid All Star candidate at third base for the Padres and he could be one of the best all around third basemen in the National League this season.

Game Picks - Friday: April 20, 2012

If picking games were the stock market, yesterday would be called a market correction. Seven of the twelve picks went south. There was a chance to finish the day at .500 but then Brandon League stepped on the mound to save a brilliantly pitched game by Felix Hernandez. Perhaps that is the difference between King Felix and Justin Verlander and why Verlander has eclipsed Hernandez as the best pitcher in the American League. Verlander finishes what he starts. 

But League's blown save wasn't the only problem on Friday. There was also a market correction for the Cardinals, who finally lost a game to the Reds. There are the Houston Astros, who supposedly feature a Triple-A lineup, but banged out seventeen hits to shoot down the Nationals. There was C.J. Wilson getting no run support from the rebuilt, but moribund Angels. There was Jason Hammel, who is turning out to be better than Jeremy Guthrie after all.

What are you going to do? Market corrections happen. Today is a new day. There are fifteen more games to choose from on this season of the relentless schedule. Here are Friday's picks:

  • The Cubs over the Reds: This is a tough one. Chris Volstad and Homer Bailey square off. And neither provides much comfort. Which way is the wind blowing at Wrigley? If it is blowing in, Bailey could be better. If blowing out, Bailey could get bombed.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Today marks the 100 year birthday at Fenway Park. Ivan Nova goes against Clay Buchholz. Nova needs a big start to win this one. After all, he has a fourteen-game winning streak on the line.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: The Marlins are starting to play well. But the Nationals seem like the better team. Ross Detwiler is looking pretty good while Carlos Zambrano is walking a tightrope with all those walks.
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: Lance Lynn has been sensational and the Cardinals are hitting well. Charlie Morton makes his second start of the season and should keep the game close with a million ground balls.
  • The Tigers over the Rangers: The Tigers have always hit Matt Harrison well and though this feature hardly ever picks against this Rangers' pitcher, Rick Porcello looks terrific this season.
  • The Bay Rays over the Twins: Matt Moore did not have a phenom like start against the Red Sox. He should bounce back against the Twins, who played the Yankees tough this week. Liam Hendriks pitched well his first time out though.
  • The Mets over the Giants: This game is tough to pick. Barry Zito should neutralize Duda and Ike Davis. A lot will depend on his control. Jonathan Niese has started his season impressively so that is the pick.
  • The Dodgers over the Astros: Those plucky Astros aren't rolling over and playing dead like they are supposed to. And J.A. Happ is much better this year than last. But Ted Lilly and the Dodgers should prevail.
  • The Brewers over the Rockies: Shaun Marcum has pitched well in his last two outings and Jhoulys Chacin should be fine too outside of Coors. But the Rockies historically don't hit well away from home. That makes picking them here difficult.
  • The Blue Jays over the Royals: Kyle Drabek has been very good, which is a huge surprise thus far. Luke Hochevar is making his first start since a line drive ricocheted off his ankle. Neither team is hitting like they should thus far.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Braves: Another tough game to pick. Brandon Beachy can be great if he is efficient and the same can be said of Trevor Cahill. Since the Diamondbacks are at home, that's the call.
  • The Angels over the Orioles: The Angels' offense has been pathetic. Could this be the game they break out against a struggling Brian Matusz? And if it does, can Jerome Williams hold back the Orioles? Tough day of games to pick today!
  • The Indians over the Athletics: Graham Godfrey hasn't been that bad but has lost both his decisions. Sometimes it just goes that way. Ubaldo Jimenez should have little trouble with the A's lineup.
  • The Mariners over the White Sox: Chris Sale and Hector Noesi have both had one great start and one lousy start. So this is a toss up. Going with the Mariners at home.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Padres: The poor Padres. They just look terrible. Edinson Volquez takes his high wire act against the Phillies, who despite poor hitting, do have the patience to wait Volquez out. Cole Hamels should have a big game.

Yesterday: 5-7

Week: 42-24
Season: 110-82
Games of the Day: 9-6

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Game Picks - Thursday: April 19, 2012

Is there anything worse in life than oversleeping? You wake up and your immediate thought it, "What the..." It's awful. Your entire day is messed up. Everything seems rushed. Crap. Hate this feeling. And then once you do come out the clouds, you have to deal with seriously stupid picks like the Mets beating the Braves and the Blue Jays beating the Bay Rays. Hindsight. Whooboy. Still can't believe the Yankees didn't knock Jason Marquis out of the game in that first inning. Okay...getting some perspective. Nine of the picks were correct. The Pirates pick behind James McDonald, was brilliant, as was the pick for the Athletics behind Shrek. The pick for the Reds? Not so much. But still, it wasn't a bad day. This picker is simply all messed up this morning. Where is that coffee!

There is no time to spare on further niceties. It's late. The picker is late. There are twelve games on the schedule today. Not too many teams are getting breathers early this season. Here are the late picks:

  • The Marlins over the Cubs: Yes, Ricky Nolasco is going to want to beat his old team. No, Jeff Samardzija is not going to win every one of his starts. And yes, Hanley Ramirez is back.
  • The Brewers over the Dodgers: No, Aaron Harang is not going to strike out nine straight Brewers. Harang won't even get nine straight Brewers out. Randy Wolf needs to be less in the suctitude department to win though.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Seriously, is there a death watch in Cincinnati concerning their manager? The Reds seem to have the talent to win a lot of games. They never seem to do so and the Cardinals have their number. Adam Wainwright with the win over Bronson Arroyo.
  • The White Sox over the Orioles: This White Sox team are confusing. Weren't they supposed to be awful? But they aren't, right? Gavin Floyd over Jason Hammel.
  • The Nationals over the Astros: This is what should happen but there is no confidence that it will happen. First of all, Bud Norris is pretty darn good. Second of all, Edwin Jackson is as predictable as a cornered squirrel.
  • The Yankees over the Twins: Phil Hughes better throw a good game soon or he's never going to get another chance. Anthony Swarzak simply isn't a big league starter in this dumb picker's opinion.
  • The Rangers over the Tigers: Yu Darvish hasn't set the world on fire so far. But he doesn't have to with that Rangers' offense who should have a good night against young Adam Wilk.
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Henderson Alvarez might be the best young pitcher nobody has heard of before. He beats Jeremy Hellickson that everyone has heard about.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: Tommy Milone shows promise. But C.J. Wilson has been great so far. The Angels need to score a few runs to win though.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: Even the Phillies should be able to score a few runs off of Joe Wieland. Which is all Vance Worley will need to pick up the win.
  • The Mariners over the Indians: Felix Hernandez hasn't exactly come out of the gate with fire. But he is too good not to win sooner or later, especially facing Josh Tomlin.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Braves over the Diamondbacks: Mike Minor is simply a better pitcher than Josh Collmenter. That is all.

Yesterday: 9-6

Week: 37-17
Season: 106-75
Games of the Day: 8-6

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Early attendance figures for MLB are healthy

Major League Baseball is in a really good place right now. With more and more teams benefiting from local television deals, small and mid-market teams are doing better at tying up young players long-term and the health of the game is showing in early attendance figures around baseball. Thus far, the league's attendance is up by nearly 198,000 from a season ago and on average, 1,200 more fans are in the seats than a year ago at this time. Twenty of baseball's thirty teams are above last year.

The ten teams that are down in attendance are: Colorado Rockies, Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Angels, Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners and the San Franciso Giants. Of these ten teams, the Giants' falloff has been negligible with only 383 less fans in the stands than last year. The Twins, Angels and Dodgers have seen the most significant erosion of fans in the seats. The Twins are easy to understand as that team has fallen on hard times. But the Dodgers opened with bang this season and the announcement of new ownership should reap a bounce-back as the season goes along. The Angels' losses has been hard to understand with the off season they had. 

Some nice gains have been made by the Pirates, Royals and the Nationals. All reflect a new buoyancy in how the fans feel about those franchises. Let's hope the Royals' tough start doesn't diminish some of that new interest. The Tampa Bay Rays have only played three home games and all were against the Yankees, the biggest draw in the game. So their increase has to be discounted and time will tell if their attendance struggles continue.

The New York Mets and Miami Marlins have been nice surprises. The Mets are drawing much better than a year ago and thus far, the new ballpark in Miami has given the Marlins a nice bump.

As can be predicted, the recent successes of the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers have paid off handsomely in attendance figures. The Rangers are up slightly, but the Cardinals have more than 5,000 spectators more per game this season than at this time last year.

Our game is in a good place. Attendance is up. Interest is high. Ownership-Labor is at peace and attendance figures thus far show a robust interest in the game.

For a complete look at attendance figures, click here.

Game Picks - Wednesday: April 18, 2012

Like a Jed Lowrie hitting streak, the early success in picking games this week could not be sustained and they did indeed fall to earth last night. The Angels' bullpen didn't help. But then again, the Angels are hurting themselves with that pen more than they are hurting these picks. Sad. There were a lot of good picks too. The Nationals pick was a good one as was the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Marlins. But picking the Red Sox? That couldn't have gone more wrong, could it? Even man-crush, Ian Kennedy, lost. And the Dodgers lost. But whatever happened, it was all eclipsed by Jamie Moyer. That was awesome, wasn't it?

Tonight is another full night of baseball. So let's get to it. Here are Wednesday's picks:

  • The Mets over the Braves: What is doing better right now, R.A. Dickey's pitching or his book sales? Jair Jurrjens has not been the same pitcher since the All Star Break last season.
  • The Pirates over the Diamondbacks: This is a seriously tough pick. James McDonald has looked awfully good so far. Daniel Hudson got hit around his last outing. Going with McDonald.
  • The Nationals over the Asros: Who besides this picker is hoping a team like the Nationals can win the NL East? Wouldn't that be cool? Anyway, Jordan Zimmermann is really good. Lucas Harrell can be really good too. But the Nationals can hit. The Astros? Not so much.
  • The Yankees over the Twins: Hiroki Kuroda just needs to be decent to win this game. Jason Marquis makes his first appearance for the Twins. Never pick those kinds of situations. 
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: David Price always seems to be the Blue Jays. But he doesn't seem quite right so far this season. Brandon Morrow is just as good an arm as Price. Blue Jays win at home.
  • The Cubs over the Marlins: Matt Garza returns to Florida. Not too many pitchers have been better than Garza since the start of 2011 to today. Mark Buehrle is without a win so far.
  • The Rangers over the Red Sox: This game will be a lot closer than last night. Josh Beckett looked good his last time out and Derek Holland is capable of a shutdown on every appearance. Should be a great game.
  • The White Sox over the Orioles: Jake Peavy was so good his last time out that he made a believer here. Going with him over Tommy Hunter, who usually self-destructs about the fifth inning or so.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: The Royals sure are struggling right now and it's all a bit sad. But it won't get better tonight as Jonathan Sanchez seems incapable of pitching an efficient game. Max Scherzer hasn't looked great either. Tough call, this.
  • The Brewers over the Dodgers: Despite a horrible outing last time out, Zack Greinke has to be the pick here. He should be better than Chris Capuano.
  • The Reds over the Cardinals: Jaime Garcia simply doesn't do it for this picker. His stuff has looked awfully flat for a long time now. Mat Latos hasn't impressed either. But he is capable of a bit outing and this will be it.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: Juan Nicasio sure didn't have fun returning to Coors Field his last time out. Perhaps this one will be better. This picker can never muster the courage to pick Clayton Richard.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: You never know what to expect from Bartolo Colon (or Shrek as the wife calls him). He can be brilliant and he can be hit around in equal measures. Who knows. Ervin Santana has been less than inspiring to pick, and that bullpen!
  • The Giants over the Phillies: Matt Cain over Cliff Lee. That is all.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Indians over the Mariners: Derek Lowe is enjoying himself these days. Jason Vargas is rarely enjoyable.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 28-11
Season: 97-69
Games of the Day: 8-5

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Matt Wieters has arrived

Before there was this kid named Bryce, there was Matt Wieters. The past is always a bit murky, but it seemed in 2009 that Matt Wieters was the most highly anticipated rookie of his era. There is a remembrance of outrage when the Orioles gave homage to the almighty dollars clock and sent him to Triple-A to start the 2009 season after he has mashed his way through Double and Triple-A ball in 2008. And sure enough, the Orioles brought Wieters up after the clock allowed the Orioles another season of Wieters control. 

And Matt Wieters did not disappoint in his first 96 games for the Orioles in 2009. He wasn't gangbusters, but his more than half a season seemed to hold promise that he was the real deal. By 2010, Wieters had established himself as the number one catcher for the Orioles and sure enough, he played 130 games for his first full season. But the season was a disappointment.

Wieters only batted .249 that year with an on-base percentage of only .319. Wieters only slugged .377. He seemed like kind of a dud. Another young catcher named Posey came along in 2010 and Wieters lost his title of most promising young catcher in the game. There was little buzz about Wieters coming into the 2011 season. His team, the Orioles were perennial losers and Wieters seemed like a symbol of all that had gone wrong in that organizations front office.

But a funny thing happened in 2011. Matt Wieters became a star. He made the All Star team. He won a Gold Glove. His OPS+ was 113 as he hit 22 homers. Being that he played for the Orioles, a team that finished a faraway last place in the AL East, his season was pretty much overlooked. And since he is a switch hitter and because he did not do much against right-handed pitching (as a left-handed batter), he still finished with only a .262 batting average with an on-base percentage of .328. Those overall numbers made him look sort of average.

And batting left-handed was a problem. Against left-handed pitching, Wieters had an OPS of 1.124 against southpaws. But since there are more right-handed pitchers in baseball, he had many more plate appearances as a left-handed batter and his OPS against them of only .662 dragged his overall numbers down.

New research into what catchers do behind the plate besides throwing out base runners and fielding bunts showed that Wieters had really developed into a fine catcher. He is rated excellent and among the best in the game at blocking pitches in the dirt, and his framing pitching skills rated above average. When you put all the numbers together, Wieters was worth 5.2 wins last season, good enough to make him the third most valuable catcher in the game behind Alex Avila and Yadier Molina.

Wieters has started 2012 with a bang. His current triple slash line sits at .344/.462/.750. And what is so impressive with his start is that he is mashing right-handed pitching. He is still hitting left-handers as a right-handed batter (.889 OPS against them). But he is now killing right-handed pitching (1.279). In past season, you were not really afraid of Matt Wieters with runners on base. This season is a whole new ballgame. You do not want him at the plate with runners on base. Not only is Matt Wieters a great catcher, he is now an offensive threat.

It is very impressive to follow Wieters' numbers over his career and to see the progression. Wieters' strikeout rate has improved every season. The progression: 22.3 percent, 18.5 percent, 15.2 percent and this year, 10.6 percent. The numbers also show a progression on his ability to handle the curve and change up. He hit two homers last night. One was on a sharp curve and the other on a change up.

His fast start may not be a fluke either. His BABIP is only .292. That leads one to believe that he can continue to hit at a high caliber and has arrived at a new level of production and potency. And while his defensive skills had already risen Wieters to the third most valuable catcher in baseball in 2011, if he has as good an offensive season as he is displaying thus far, he may leap to the top of the heap as the best catcher in the game today. And the best news is that he has arrived at this level at the age of 26. His best baseball is ahead of him.

Game Picks - Tuesday: April 17, 2012

Monday was the second straight day of really good success in the picks department. Of the last 24 picks, 20 of them have been correct. Nice. The best call of yesterday was a shout out to Cory Luebke of the Padres who totally shut down the Rockies en route to his first victory of the season. Of the two incorrect picks yesterday, one was a loss by the Yankees (Carl "Freakin" Pavano) and the other, a loss by the Braves. Those Mets are winning New York right now.

Tuesday brings us back to a full schedule and a quick glance gives the impression that today will be a difficult picking day. There are lots of questionable pitching match-ups. Lord knows, the picking is due for a regression to the mean, but perhaps they can again beat the odds for another day. The picks:

  • The Nationals over the Astros: Gio Gonzalez has pitched well for the Nats and though he faces a tough pitcher in Wandy Rodriguez, the Nationals should win.
  • The Yankees over the Twins: If Liriano puts his stuff together, he could be tough to beat. And C.C. Sabathia has had trouble commanding his fastball in the early going. But you still have to pick the Yankees in this one.
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Really like Ricky Romero in this one, especially against Jeff Niemann. The Rays are still a struggling offensive team. 
  • The Marlins over the Cubs: Ryan Dempster is not as effective on the road as he is at home. And it is time for Josh Johnson to put together a good outing. Ozzie should be back for this one, right?
  • The Mets over the Braves: Johan Santana has been a great story so far. Now he just needs to show that he can go deeper in games. If he does in this one, he should beat Randall Delgado.
  • The Red Sox over the Rangers: The thought here is that Jon Lester has a very good game and Colby Lewis gets pounded by the Red Sox' offense. But it is hard to pick against the Rangers the way they are playing.
  • The White Sox over the Orioles: Still skeptical about Wei-Yin Chen, though he was effective against the Yankees. John Danks will have to throw a good game against the Orioles' revived offense.
  • The Royals over the Tigers: Yes, Bruce Chen is pitching. And yes, it's hard to imagine how he gets hitters out with that slow-ball stuff. But he just pitches well time after time. The Tigers counter with their fifth starter and emoticon, Drew Smyly. :)  <---a smyly.
  • The Dodgers over the Brewers: The two MVP candidates from a year ago get to play against each other. Chad Billingsley has looked superb. Yovani Gallardo has not.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Kyle Lohse has been terrific for the Cardinals but you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Until it does, it's hard to pick against him. Johnny Cueto is the opposition and he can be quite good. Do you need a reminder that these two teams hate each other?
  • The Rockies over the Padres: Jamie Moyer has to win one! This picker is scrunching his eyes and wishing it into existence. Anthony Bass can't go deep enough in the game to matter much.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Pirates: No, this picker never picks against Ian Kennedy. It is against the house rules. Jeff Karstens isn't bad a pitcher himself though.
  • The Indians over the Mariners: Call this picker crazy, but Kevin Millwood? Uh. No thanks. Let's go with Justin Masterson instead.
  • The Giants over the Phillies: If the Giants are going to win a game in this series, this would be the one with Joe Blanton pitching for the Phillies and their own Madison Bumgarner facing him.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Angels over the Athletics: Dan Haren is due for a good game and faces Tyler Ross, who shouldn't impress tonight.

Yesterday: 8-2
Week: 20-4
Season: 89-62
Games of the Day: 8-4

Monday, April 16, 2012

Outrageous numbers and funny slash lines

The beginning of a season is always a time for hyperactive statistics that become mind-boggling if not for the SSS (small sample size) screaming at us. But just because some number are unsustainable over the course of a long season, that doesn't mean that they are not fun to look at. Here is a list of some early statistics that are tickling this funny bone so far this early season:

  • Austin Jackson has a BABIP of .565! Jackson has made a career of defeating BABIP logic where the average batter should have a .300 average for all balls put in play. Jackson already had a .375 BABIP for his career. But .565!? That is the epitome of "hitting 'em where they ain't."
  • Matt Kemp has a slugging percentage over one. And at 1.026, that isn't even his most stupendous numbers. His ISO currently sits at an amazing .538 with a wOBA of .615. And he is batting .487. Yeah, that's a pretty good ten game stretch.
  • Slash line fun #1: Josh Hamilton is having so much fun hitting that he hasn't bothered taking a walk. His slash line: .390/.381/.756. Yeah, when you are raking that good, who wants to walk anyway.
  • Josh Willingham is second in the majors to Kemp with a .514 on-base percentage. Yes, that deal is working out pretty well so far.
  • Derek Jeter is leading the Yankees with a 1.005 OPS. Whuh?
  • Marco Scutaro has put every ball in play during every at bat this season. He has yet to strike out. Unfortunately for him, everything he hits has been hit at somebody. His BABIP is .167 and that is what he is batting.
  • Slash line fun #2: Russell Martin leads the majors in walk percentage at 27.3 percent. Which is a good thing because he isn't hitting. Those walks give him the screwy slash line of: .182/.455/.182.
  • Nick Hundley is not having any fun this season. In 31 plate appearances, he has one hit. One. His batting average is currently, .043. But with his one hit, he has scored one run and driven in one. All he needs is 99 more to drive in 100.
  • Marlon Byrd of the Cubs isn't having much more fun than Hundley. He has two hits in nine games.
  • Emilio Bonifacio is hitting well again this season. He is batting .316 with a .409 on base percentage. But he has the most hits in baseball without the benefit of an extra base hit. All twelve of his hits have been singles. His ISO is .000.
  • Four batters have an OPS under .300: Byrd (.212), Ryan Raburn (.241), Miguel Olivo (.274) and Jose Tabata (.295). Those look more like batting averages than OPS figures. Ouch.
  • J.P. Arencibia has a 3.2 percent walk rate and a 38.7 percent strikeout rate. Ugh. And his BABIP is .067. That's the trifecta of a bat start.
  • Alejandro De Aza is making his hits count. He is only batting .250, but has a slugging percentage of .594. Five of his eight hits have been for extra bases.
  • Aaron Harang has a 16.03 strikeout per nine inning rate and still has an ERA of 5.91.
  • Aroldis Chapman has pitched eight innings. In those eight innings, he has struck out fifteen batters without allowing a walk. He hasn't given up a run either.
  • Yunel Escobar, the Blue Jays' shortstop, has already had 37 assists in just nine games. He hasn't made an error.
  • J.D. Martinez of the Astros and Joe Mauer of the Twins have already hit into four double plays. They are both on pace to hit 66 of them for the season.
  • Kevin Youkilis has the lowest WPA score of all major league batters at -0.68. His clutch score is -0.25. Ouch.
  • Clint Barmes of the Pirates has swung at 52.3 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone. Not surprisingly, Barmes also leads the majors with a 22.2 percent swinging strike percentage. Yeesh, that's higher than Mark Reynolds who is second at 20.3 percent. Russell Martin leads the majors by only swinging at 10.1 percent of pitches out of the zone.

Aren't small sample sizes fun!

Game Picks - Monday: April 15, 2012

Sunday was the bomb here and the old picker shack. The only blips in the entire day were the losses by the Athletics and the Nationals. That means the overall record was 12-2! "But William," you make ask, "That only adds up to fourteen games." Correct, you observant ones. While considering the games yesterday, this picker totally missed the Red Sox - Bay Rays contest. What the heck, eh? Oh well, one senior moment is not going to detract from such a fine day of picking.

There are ten games on the schedule today and there is no way to forget the Red Sox and Bay Rays because they play less than two hours from now. Monday's picks:

  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: James Shields should be better than Daniel Bard in this game. Though the Red Sox are playing well right now and David Ortiz is absolutely raking. Bard is simply too big a risk.
  • The Nationals over the Astros: Stephen Strasburg! Every one of his outings is an event. Heidi Ho, bring it on! Kyle Weiland of the Astros will try to keep up.
  • The Yankees over the Twins: Carl Pavano has pitched well against the Yankees but it seems unclear at this stage of his career if the pitcher has much left. Freddy Garcia isn't a lock for the Yankees either. But if he can hold the Twins down to three or four runs, the Yankees win.
  • The Braves over the Mets: The Braves have had a great home stand and it should continue against Dillon Gee and the Mets. Tommy Hanson goes for the Braves.
  • The Orioles over the White Sox: Jake Arrieta has looked impressive and looks to be coming into his own as a top pitcher in the league. Phil Humber is the White Sox's fifth starter and was skipped by a rain-out in his first start. The White Sox are tough at home though.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: Daniel Duffy was impressive his first time out with the Royals, but he is unlucky enough to go up against Justin Verlander who will have the extra chip on his shoulder of his last outing when the Bay Rays ambushed him in the ninth inning.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: Jeremy Guthrie makes his second start at Coors. The first one wasn't pretty. Cory Luebke needs to get past the first inning and if he does, will shut the Rockies down.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Pirates: Joe Saunders was lambasted in this space and proceeded to make this picker pay with seven shutout innings his first time out. Okay. Point taken. Picking him over hard-luck Erik Bedard, who is 0-2 despite pitching really well in both games.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: The Angels had to fly across the country overnight to be able to play this game at home. But Jered Weaver flew home earlier and should be rested enough to win over Brandon McCarthy and the A's. Weaver will need to keep Cespedes in the yard and if he does, will win easy.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Giants: We will see if Tim Lincecum lets a little home cooking helps his sagging 2012 get any better. But it might not matter as he faces Roy Halladay. You can't pick against Roy Halladay.

Yesterday: 12-2  Weee!
Week: 12-2
Season: 81-60
Games of the Day: 7-4

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Debating Jackie Robinson Day

Writing this post is dangerous as Jackie Robinson is an icon of righting a long-held wrong. And there is full acknowledgement here of Robinson's place in history. Martin Luther King himself spoke of Robinson's historical place in the Civil Rights Movement. There is no doubt that Robinson's courage and the way he handled himself as the first African American in modern baseball. Every tribute that has been thrown towards the man and his actions are earned. The only question asked here is when is enough, enough?

If Major League Baseball does this every season and every player wears Number 42 one day every year, will we get immune to the meaning behind the event? Will it become passe? And just like Martin Luther King became the American symbol for the tragedy millions of American blacks who fought and suffered, doesn't focusing on just one man take our vision away from everyone else? King did not march alone. There were many, many other brave Americans that marched right along with him. They were beaten too. They were jailed too. Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier. But he wasn't alone.

Shouldn't we have a Larry Doby Day? Doby was the pioneer in the American League. The year was also 1947. Doby did not have it any easier. His role was no less painful. Would not it be fitting for all of baseball to wear Number 14 for a day? Should not umpires have an Emmett Ashford Day? Or is this like Columbus Day where we will always remember one adventurer and not Henry Hudson and Juan Ponce De Leon?

Making this annual tribute does not feel right to this observer. It almost feels like MLB is making itself some sort of continual penance for righting an old wrong. Robinson's number is already retired around baseball by edict. He is in the Hall of Fame. There is no way his place in history will be forgotten. What he did should be taught for generations to our school children. But we do not do this for any other American. Do we? Baseball players are not asked to wear stove hat baseball caps on Lincoln's birthday. Baseball does not acknowledge other important members of history in this way.

This writer understands that baseball has a problem. Not enough of our African Americans are drawn to baseball as a primary sport. Basketball and Football are much more glamorous to our young people. There are not enough African American baseball players in the sport, in the dugouts and in the front offices. Having this celebration every season does give such young people a day to think about. But it seems that young people are like most young people. They need current heroes to emulate, not someone who died a long time ago. Why not broaden the spectrum and make the annual celebration an African American celebration. Change it up a bit.

There is a fear in this corner that doing this the same way every year becomes mundane and at the same time  gives the appearance of forcing the event down every baseball fan's throat. If any good meal is overcooked, it becomes inedible. Are we going to be doing this the same way for the next fifty years? It seems time to broaden the scope of our vision. Nobody is going to forget Jackie Robinson. Nobody is going to lessen his place in history if we do so. The Number 42 hangs in every ballpark. We don't need a day every season where every player wears it.

Game Picks - Sunday: April 15, 2012

You know a picking day has gone bad when Heath Bell blows another save for the Marlins and you need a Todd Helton dramatic late homer just to finish the day a game under .500. So many things went wrong that a post would be needed just to list them all. But this picker overslept this morning and if today's picks don't hurry up and write themselves, then some of today's games will start before they even get out there. 

Perhaps that is a blessing. With no time to mull over yesterday's blunders, here are Sunday's picks:

  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: This pick has been wrong all weekend. So why keep making it? The Blue Jays are the better team but home cooking has soured an early good start. Today we have to pick between two starters that can't throw strikes in Brian Matusz and Kyle Drabek. At least in their first starts, Drabek lasted more than five innings compared to Matusz's three plus. So the pick goes that way.
  • The Marlins over the Astros: Again, this pick has been wrong all weekend. Perhaps Sunday will be the day. The Marlins still have not hit a homer at home. Pretty soon, the owner of the team can sell that home run feature on eBay and call it, "Unused" and "Like new." Anibal Sanchez over J.A. Happ.
  • The Nationals over the Reds: Reds fans are already putting a bounty on Dusty Baker's head and it is hard to disagree with his team's underwhelming performance since the playoff appearances in 2010. If the Reds keep signing their players long term and the team keeps losing, Baker is going to be in trouble. Ross Detwiler continues to make the most of his opportunity. Mike Leake pitches well, but it won't be enough.
  • The Braves over the Brewers: Some of the story lines in this one read that Chris Narveson pitches well against the Braves. Uh, excuse us, folks, we are talking about a grand total of twelve innings. Brandon Beachy will be too much for the Brewers and the Braves score at least four to win.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: The Mets are playing way better than expected. But Mike Pelfrey shouldn't be as good as Cole Hamels. So the pick goes that way.
  • The Indians over the Royals: This series has confused this picker all weekend. Why should today be any different. Luis Mendoza is the best pitcher nobody respects because he doesn't strike anyone out. But the guy can pitch. Ubaldo Jimenez is back from his suspension. Which Jimenez version do we believe? The one from his first start of the year or what he did all of last season?
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: Another tough call. Chis Sale was wonderful in his first start. So was Rick Porcello. The White Sox are hitting really well. But the Tigers are big offensively too. Ah well, going with the Tigers.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: If Liam Hendriks thought food poisoning was bad, wait until he faces the Rangers' lineup. The Rangers win despite reservations about Neftali Feliz in the rotation.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Drew Pomeranz makes his first start of the season for the Rockies and that is exciting. But the Rockies won't let him pitch long enough to win the game. Trevor Cahill walked the farm his last time out but still gave up only one run. Another tough pick.
  • The Pirates over the Giants: Kevin Correia still has that funky road warrior mystique going. So let's go with that. Ryan Vogelsong makes his first start of the season and those always make this picker queasy. 
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Man is this picker sick of picking this match-up. Blake Beavan pitched great his first time out. Fluke? Maybe. Graham Godrey is such an unknown quantity for this picker that he has to be picked for the sake of ignorance.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: Different team, same old Edinson Volquez. Clayton Kershaw is the easy pick here.
  • The Yankees over the Angels: Ivan "Super" Nova ties Whitey Ford for the most consecutive Yankee victories. The Yankees should hit Jerome Williams.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: This should be a solid pick. Paul Maholm has never scared anyone. Neither has Jake Westbrook. But Westbrook has a better track record. Lance Berkman is still out but the Cards have plenty of offense.

Yesterday: 7-8

Last week: 51-40
Season: 69-58
Games of the Day: 6-4