Saturday, May 12, 2012

A little fun with numbers

Baseball is a game of numbers and statistics. And with the season still being on a bit of the short sample size variety, some strange things happen. Here is a short list of some oddities this season has so far shown us:

  • Josh Hamilton has hit 17 homers. The Padres have hit 12 as a team. The Cubs have only hit 18 combined and the Twins have hit 19 as a team.
  • The Padres have as many triples as homers. Each at 12.
  • The Orioles have only nine stolen bases all season and have been thrown out nine times in other attempts. They are the only team not above a .500 percent success rate.
  • Derek Jeter has played 32 games and has 51 hits. Clint Barmes, Sean Rodriguez and Brendan Ryan have played a combined 90 games and have a combined 50 hits.
  • Carlos Beltran has hit as many homers as Matt Kemp and has driven in more runs.
  • Not only has Clint Barmes only had 15 hits and is batting only .158, he also has the lowest walk rate among qualified batters at 1.0 percent. He has walked once all season and has more homers than walks with two. His on-base percentage is .192.
  • Adam Dunn's current OPS+ is 106 points higher than last season.
  • The Oakland Athletics are batting .216 collectively.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates have a team on-base percentage of only .279. They are scoring less than three runs a game this season.
  • Albert Pujols' OPS after 32 games is lower than Adam Dunn's was last year after 32 games. .521 to .583.
  • Mark Reynolds of the Orioles has 36 strikeouts this season and 35 combined hits and walks. If he stays on this pace for all three, it will be his third straight season with more strikeouts than combined hits and walks.
  • Orlando Hudson has already hit five triples but has no doubles. Last year, he hit three triples all season.
  • Seventeen of Joey Votto's 31 hits have been for extra bases.
  • Freddie Freeman leads the majors with a 37.8 line drive percentage but is only batting .283.
  • Kurt Suzuki is third in baseball with a 52.9 percent fly ball rate. None of them have gone over the fence.
  • Almost 45 percent of Josh Hamilton's fly balls have gone over the fence.
  • Gaby Sanchez only has a line drive percentage of 7.6 percent, easily the lowest in the majors.
  • Emilio Bonifacio leads the league with seven bunt base hits. He also has seven infield hits.
  • Derek Jeter has only hit 17 fly balls all season. Five of them have been homers.
  • Carlos Ruiz, who is having a fantastic season for the Phillies, has made contact with 99.1 percent of all pitches he has swung at in the strike zone.
  • Jed Lowrie has only swung at 13.8 percent of pitches out of the strike zone. Now that is patience.
  • Danny Valencia swung at 40.1 percent of pitches out of the strike zone but only 50.5 percent of pitches in the strike zone. He was sent to the minors this week.
  • The three lowest percentages of swings in the strike zone are all Twins: Valencia, Carroll and Mauer.
  • 30 of Emilio Bonifacio's 31 hits have been singles. He has an ISO of .008 and a slugging percentage of .254.
  • But Bonifacio doesn't have the league's lowest slugging percentage. That belongs to Marlon Byrd at .206. Theo really stuck it to his old team.
  • And last but not least, the player with the lowest fWAR is Brennan Boesch at -1.1. Albert Pujols and Chone Figgins are tied for second worse at -0.9.

Game Picks - Saturday: May 12, 2012

After a perfect day on Thursday, there was no expectation that Friday would go as well. But there was certainly no idea it would go as badly as it did. There was a blown save by Frank Francisco. There was a blown save by Rafael Dolis. As predicted, Bud Norris and James McDonald were terrific. But the wrong one was picked to win. Tough loss for McDonald. He was brilliant. The Athletics kicked the Tigers' butt. What!? The Red Sox and Twins both won. Hmm... Gavin Floyd totally shut down the Royals. And Madison Bumgarner had a rare bad start. That about wraps up a dismal night of picking.

But there is always another day in Major League Baseball. Saturday's picks:

  • The Rangers over the Angels: Umm. C.J. Wilson started yesterday. He threw 22 pitches and then the rains came and he missed the rest of the game. And he is going to start again today? There is no way that can end well. Matt Harrison wins.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: The Cubs had their chance to win last night. Blew it. Shaun Marcum over Chis Vostad.
  • The Marlins over the Mets: Ricky Nolasco is pitching really well. But so is R.A. Dickey. Tough one to call here. Going with Nolasco to become the all time Marlins' pitcher in wins and improve his record to 5-0.
  • The Yankees over the Mariners: Hector Noesi gets the start for the M's and faces his old team. That should be interesting. Phil Hughes is fighting for his rotation spot and has had two decent starts in a row.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: Another tough call. The Pirates offense is really poor. And Charlie Morton is giving up the long ball. But J.A. Happ got beat up pretty good by the Cardinals last time out. Going with the Pirates at home, but not without reservations.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Both Matt Moore and Brian Matusz are coming off the worst starts of their years. Moore hasn't been the mortal lock everyone expected. Tough one. Both teams are playing well.
  • The Red Sox over the Indians: Really like Felix Doubront. Like him a lot. He will hold down the Indians enough to get the win. Josh Tomlin was good his last time out. But the Red Sox are a better offense than the White Sox.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Chris Sale gets the start after getting a clean bill of health. But that elbow worries this picker quite a bit. But Luke Hochevar was so bad his last time out that it's hard to pick him.
  • The Blue Jays over the Twins: Jose Bautista hit two homers in a losing cause last night. Is he finally over his long funk? P.J. Walter takes Liriano's place in the rotation for the Twins. Why doesn't that fill this picker with inspiration? But then again, Drew Hutchinson doesn't inspire confidence either.
  • The Reds over the Nationals: Mat Latos seems ready to bust out in a big way after his last dominant outing. And the Nationals never score any runs for Jordan Zimmermann. It's pathetic.
  • The Braves over the Cardinals: Adam Wainwright is getting better and better as the season goes along. But he will bend a little bit if not break. Brandon Beachy isn't bending at all this season.
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: Brandon McCarthy is good. Very good. But the Tigers should score a few. Doug Fister is simply amazing. He wins unless Brandon Inge gets more revenge on his old team.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Two pitchers that seldom get run support in Matt Cain and Trevor Cahill. One of them has to win. Going with the home team.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: Aaron Harang always has a better chance to win at Dodger Stadium. Juan Nicasio has been decent. But the Dodgers win this one.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Padres: John Mayberry is heating up. Roy Halladay is starting. Sounds like a win from here. Edinson Volquez will be Edinson Volquez.

Yesterday: 6-9
Week: 45-38
Month: 83-64
Season: 272-213
Games of the Day: 21-15

Friday, May 11, 2012

Some thoughts on Josh Beckett

This is not a good time for Boston Red Sox fans. While this writer refuses to write that team off, they are on pace to lose 99 games this season if things don't turn around fairly quickly. And if you add this season's start to the last month of last season, the Red Sox haven't played good baseball in quite some time. So maybe this is who they are. Maybe not. But what has become most interesting is that the Red Sox have been like bloody meat thrown into a shark tank. Of course, every other Red Sox story dredges up the silly beer and chicken stories of last season. But the link to those stories is now in deep water again with the Boston fans and media over a round of golf.

To read the angry tweets on Twitter from Red Sox fans and to hear the boos in the stands at the game last night, it wasn't just a game of golf. It was about a pitcher who skipped his last start due to a lat strain, but still was well enough to play a round of golf. This was taken as a sign that Beckett stiffed the team and was either reckless with his expensive health, or a faker who should have pitched his last turn. The reactions seem baffling from here in Maine.

Look, golf can be hard on the back, but it is not like playing a full on game of basketball or something. You use a golf cart to get around and you can favor sore muscles to swing more easily if need be. Been there, done that. And Beckett is absolutely correct. These guys get eighteen days off a season. If they love playing golf (as many players do), then why shouldn't they?

This entire flap really seems absurd from this seat as did the chicken and beer thing. The picture being painted here is that Beckett is a core of players that simply don't care about their profession. Not buying that belief. While not around the team to witness it personally, it seems hard to believe that Beckett doesn't care about his team or his performance. 

Maybe he is a spoiled and rich athlete that no longer cares. But this hardly seems like a smoking gun of proof. Yeah, slam the guy's performance, but unless you absolutely know better, leave his motivation out of it.

Is Pinch Hitting worth it?

As a baseball writer and a baseball Fan, box scores are a major source of entertainment. And a lot of baseball games and highlights are watched with avid interest. Like many writers who slowly are indoctrinated with the new truths about baseball such as sacrifice bunting stinks and there are no such things as productive outs, these truths call in to question a lot of what is culled over each day. So a thought occurred the other day after watching Brandon Allen pinch hit for the Tampa Bay Rays. He struck out on three pitches. Yes, he hit a walk-off, pinch hit homer a few games before, but isn't that more of a fluke than the norm? To answer that question, six hours were spent compiling pinch hitting statistics yesterday. The trouble with that is the abject fear that there isn't enough talent or smarts sitting in this chair to interpret them correctly. But here are some conclusions about pinch hitting the work seems to indicate.

First, pinch hitting makes sense in the National League. Of course in the senior circuit, they cutely hold on to the notion that pitchers should hit. While watching every pitcher bunt with a man on base or else strikeout may be the cup of tea to some, it is imminently boring on this end of the observation deck. Pitchers this season have the amazingly low OPS of .300 while batting. This follows last season when those same humans batted to an OPS of .357. So yes, in the National League, pinch hitting a pony league player would be an improvement on a pitcher hitting. Last year, National League pinch hitters had an OPS of .603. While that is still in the dungeon range of production, it is certainly better than pitchers.

But what of the American League that has had the DH since 1973? Does pinch hitting seem worth it when there are no pitchers to hit for? The conclusions here are no, it does not seem worth it. For just one example, a pinch hitter is usually sent to the plate to pinch hit for a lefty batter facing a lefty pitcher. Such a lefty to lefty split last season added up to a .656 OPS. Yes, that's not very good. But pinch hitters in the American League last season had an OPS of .618. That is worse, isn't it? Of course, the missing piece of the puzzle here is what happens in subsequent at bats and this writer doesn't have that data, so that is a hole in the logic for sure. But at least in the initial at bat, pinch hitting doesn't work.

By nature, a guy is a bench player or a role player and thus, a pinch hitter, because he's not good enough to play every day. Wouldn't that be a fair statement? And yet managers "play the percentages" and pinch hit for match ups that seem to backfire. A spreadsheet was created that compared pinch hitting in the majors, NL and AL since 1961 and compared those numbers to each of those entities' OPS average. In every one of those seasons, pinch hitting has an OPS below the league average OPS. Some years it came close, but it hasn't for years.

And there might be a reason for that. Teams are keeping more pitchers on their 25-man rosters now. The specialization of relief pitching has made it so managers need plenty of options. Since only four or so bench players are now the norm and a catcher has to be one of them, there are only a pool of three or so bench players to form the pool of pinch hitters. Most of those bench players are filled by versatility these days rather than offensive ability. And pinch hitting has lagged way behind league OPS averages. Hopefully it was done right since Google Docs are new here. But here is a link to the spreadsheet created.

Look at Column K. American League pinch hitting is over a hundred points lower in OPS than that league's average for seven of the last eight seasons. That looks like an epic fail to these eyes. Corrections are certainly welcomed.

Even worse is pinch hitting for designated hitters. Again, the hole here is what happens in subsequent at bats. But at least in the initial pinch hitting experience, is it not amazing that pinch hitters batting for the designated hitter last season had an OPS of .411 last season? The numbers go up and down, but they have been historically bad on average since 2005. For those of you who like charts to show such things, here it is:

2012 may be a record year according to the data collected for the National League. Not counting yesterday's games, National League pinch hitters had a collective OPS of .711. The National League's overall OPS is .702. If this were to continue for the entire season, it would be the first time in the 51 years studied that pinch hitting OPS in a league outperformed that league's OPS. That would be amazing. We'll see where it ends up after the season.

So in conclusion, pinch hitting for pitchers makes sense. Pitchers cannot hit in general and even lowly pinch hitting OPS is far better even though pretty paltry (except for this season). But pinch hitting in the American League makes little sense and pinch hitting for designated hitters makes even less sense. Here is one more chart to show the American League OPS plus or minus for pinch hitters to MLB OPS over the years. Your comments are most welcome.

Game Picks - Friday: May 11, 2012

Yesterday was perfect. For a game picker anyway. Seven games. Seven correct picks. In the three year and a half year history of this feature, it's only the second perfect day. They both occurred on short schedule days. To go perfect on a full schedule day would be like sinking a hole in one in golf, or bowling a 300 game. That would be the ultimate. But still, perfect for seven games is pretty darn sweet. Two of the picks were the double-header between Texas and Baltimore. Double-headers are murder to pick. Nailed both of them right down to the Colby Lewis homers allowed. Kind of feel like this guy.

Knowing how hard games are to predict, there won't be too much of an afterglow from yesterday. Today's full schedule will be sure to bring some reality back around. Here are Friday's picks:
  • The Pirates over the Astros: You have to hand it to the Astros' manager. He doesn't have a lot to work with, but he's kept the Astros competitive. Bud Norris is a good pitcher. But James McDonald is too and the Pirates are home.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: Don't like Clayton Richard's chances outside of Petco. Vance Worley needs to be careful with Yonder Alonso, who is having a fine season. And the Phillies need to hit a little bit. 
  • The Yankees over the Mariners: On the surface of things, this is a stupid pick. Felix Hernandez is 3-0 in the new Yankee Stadium with like an 0.39 ERA. But while Hernandez's numbers look good against the Twins of the world this season, His velocity is down a full two MPH and that could be enough for the Yankees to catch him. Saying that, Hiroki Kuroda needs to have a good start.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Dana Eveland goes for the O's and he's been pitching well in the minors. But the pick has to be the Rays behind Jeremy Hellickson.
  • The Indians over the Red Sox: Clay Buchholz's record may look all shiny and nice, but his ERA over nine is not. He has given up five runs or more in each of his starts. And the homers are piling up. Ubaldo Jimenez doesn't inspire confidence either. But one of them has to win. The Red Sox are on pace to lose 99 games. No wonder the press there is having a field day.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: The Marlins had a great road trip but are heading back home today and they have really struggled in their new park. Johan Santana struck eleven Marlins out in his last outing against them. A lot will depend on how the Mets handle Mark Buehrle, who is no slouch.
  • The Nationals over the Reds: The Reds should get rid of Dusty Baker. Sorry. They should. Anyway, Gio Gonzalez is the kind of pitcher that can give the Reds' lineup fits and Mike Leake has been a homer machine thus far.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: Wow! What an event this should be! C.J. Wilson makes his first trip back to Texas to face his old team in his old ballpark and faces Yu Darvish, the guy who replaced him. Do you think Mike Napoli will be stoked? Napoli might write his phone number on the baseball and try to ram it down Wilson's throat. The struggling Angels got another blow by losing Chris Iannetta for six weeks.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Matt Garza returns to the rotation after having the flu. The Brewers' bats might get the flu as a result. Randy Wolf has a lot of history against the Cubs and has a losing record thus far against them.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: If Felipe Paulino throws the ball like he did against the Yankees, the White Sox won't have a fun day. The young Royals' hitters should hit Gavin Floyd.
  • The Blue Jays over the Twins: Here is a fact for you. The Twins are on pace to finish with a 42-120 record. Oof. Nick Blackburn has had nothing so far this season. Kyle Drabeck is way too wild at times, but should win this one.
  • The Braves over the Cardinals: A lot will depend in this one on how well Mike Minor bounces back from two terrible starts in a row. If he is as bad as in those two, the Cardinals' offense will pound him. But Jaime Garcia simply instills no confidence at all in this picker. The guy is a big inning waiting to happen.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Madison Bumgarner has become a true ace. The guy is a stud. Patrick Corbin is not an ace or a stud. 
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: Rick Porcello is getting it together of late and Tommy Milone cracked a bit last time out after a good start to the season. And don't give this picker any crap about the Tigers should have saved some runs last night. It doesn't work that way.

And the Game of the Day!
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: This picker was digging the whole Jamie Moyer thing until his stupid incident with Chipper Jones last week. Lost a lot of respect for him during that escapade. The Dodgers will knock him out behind the rejuvenated Chris Capuano.

Yesterday: 7-0
Week: 39-29
Month: 77-55
Season: 266-204
Games of the Day: 20-15

Thursday, May 10, 2012

BBA Linkfest - Rainy day generals

Welcome to another Thursday edition of the BBA Linkfest where this site features baseball writing from around the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. The fun part about doing this every week is that several of the fine writers of these sites have become friends and that is humbling and appreciated. Humbling because these are terrific writers. You too will come to appreciate these folks if you vote with your mouse clicks and take this tour of very fine links from writers around the world. Enjoy.

We'll start at the top (alphabetically) this time with one exception:

The exception is one of our newest members, Full Spectrum Baseball. The site is new to the generals but its founders have been friends for a long time. Feel terrible here because they have been forgotten in previous weeks because the roster or list on the BBA site has not been updated since they joined. The site features several writers and it really is a full spectrum of fantasy and other general articles of interest. Check out this weekly feature that gives fantasy players a weekly planner for starting pitchers. Terrific.

One of the best stories this season have been the early contention of the Washington Nationals. In an excellent post, Russ Blatt of 85% Sports tells us how the team was built.

Babes Love Baseball speculated on baseball without Mariano Rivera. Hard to even think about. 

As its writer prepares for his four-day drive east for his new job (congrats!) The Ball Caps Blog relives the glory of Josh Hamilton's four-homer game and reminds us of another time when a player did that in Baltimore.

Has this compiler mentioned yest that Stevo-sama writes the best baseball recaps ever? Check out his latest at The Baseball Enthusiast.

Baseball Unrated contrasts catchers with husbands. If you think that sounds as nuts as it is, check it out!

Justin Jabs of Baseblog gives us a romping recap of the best game he has ever witnessed live. Terrific read.

The always reliable Call to the Pen features an always reliable Blaine Blontz who tells us that the Angels are scouring the earth for relief pitchers.

Che Palle! and its writer, Mario Salvini has a nice article this week on Adam Jones.

Matt Whitener of the excellent Cheap.Seats.Please. compares Matt Kemp and Josh Hamilton. Which would you take?

Dizzy Valance of the Crum-Bum Beat has a truly terrific post on the growing legend of Billy Hamilton. The guy has the perfect name for a ballplayer and this post is a treat.

Diamond Hoggers has a fine recap of a recent Reds game. The only thing that slightly ruined the post was that picture of Dusty Baker. Well, if printed, at least it would make a good dartboard. heh.

Dugout 24 has a post on Josh Hamilton's four-homer game from a European perspective.

For Baseball Junkies has a well-written post as a rebuttal of the Cole Hamels incident told from the perspective of a Phillies fan.

The Baseball Index has a very fine post about Daniel Murphy and compares him to other "singles machines" across time. Great stuff and well documented.

Mike Rosenbaum of The Golden Sombrero has living proof that Ian Desmond can go vertical. Amazing!

How could you not love Ozzie Smith, the Cardinals' Hall of Fame shortstop. Grubby Glove pulls out his favorite Ozzie Smith baseball card. Agree completely.

The always fascinating The Hall of Very Good has the post of the week as the Mets and MCA sort of go hand in hand.

Hot Corner Harbor speculates on the 500-homer club and thinks it will become a rarity again. Super post.

Left Field is given two links this week because you shouldn't miss either one. They are the all-time teams for both Chicago teams. The White Sox here and the Cubs here.

Speaking of the White Sox, Major League A**holes thinks this year's team is a major tease.

Andrew Martin of MLB Dirt interviews Kevin Munson, an up and coming reliever in the Diamondbacks system that may see some action on the big club soon.

Ryan Ritchey has a fine post over at MLB Reports this week and says that the Red Sox are falling apart. Though this compiler is not sure the right verb tense of "falling" was used. Heh.

Nik of Niktig's Baseball Blog gives us his list of AL and NL all-stars through the first thirty games.

Old Time Family Baseball has some of the most fun stuff in all of baseball. In this entry, the speed of Andrew McCutchen is celebrated.

Geoff Ratliff of the Pop Fly Boys has a great post on why the Dodgers rotation is better than the Giants rotation.

Absolutely loved this post by Bill of The Platoon Advantage on six things he didn't know before. Superb. Would of included TCM's fun post on the crimes of Jon Heyman, but he left this compiler out since he always ignores this compiler. Heh.

When this season started, it was said that there were six great American League teams. Replacement Level Baseball Blog says that is down to two. And proves it.

Sully of Sully Baseball fame can't figure out the Mets and says neither can you. He is right. Try picking their games every day.

Eric Aron has this compiler's personal favorite post this week over at Through the Fence Baseball using Jered Weaver's no-hitter to talk about Bo Belinsky. Bo Belinsky!! 

Okay, that lasted about five minutes as Mike Demerges has a fantastic interview of Ron Guidry, one of this compiler's favorite players of all time. Thank you, X-Log!!!

Larry again lets @LadyWezen write a terrific post over at Wezen-ball on what the Beastie Boys teach us about baseball. Great read.

That's the round up this week. Have a great week, folks.

Game Picks - Thursday: May 10, 2012

Wednesday's picks were much better than Tuesday's fiasco. But they were still like eating a Whopper when what you really wanted was a Filet Mignon. The Yankees, Red Sox and Philies were all predicted to win. They did no. Again. The starting-to-be-surprising Pirates won again despite their starting pitcher going down in the first inning. The Pirates' bullpen is the bomb. Should have picked them. The Mariners beat the Tigers. Certainly did not expect that as Miguel Cabrera went zero for the series. And the pitchers' duel of the day between Johnny Cueto and Zack Grienke went off just as predicted. But once they both left at zero, zero, it became a bullpen game and the pick was sunk.

It could have been worse. At least the day was over .500. The Rangers and Orioles were rained out and will play a double-header today. That bulks up a weak Thursday schedule to seven games. Thursdays' picks:

  • The Orioles over the Rangers: The first game is the make up and features the same starters as scheduled yesterday. The extra rest should help Wei-Lin Chen and he should be sharp. Colby Lewis might keep it close if he keeps the ball in the park, something he is not especially good at.
  • The Rangers over the Orioles: Derek Holland is the better bet than Tommy Hunter, although Hunter has been pitching well this season. 
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: This game could go either way, so the pick is the home team. This is a battle of aces as C.C. Sabathia goes against David Price. Price is featuring more off-speed stuff this year and it's made him better. The Yankees seem susceptible to off speed stuff as they always try to pull it. Who knows in this one. If C.C. goes to 5-0 in this one, he will have earned it.
  • The Indians over the Red Sox: The Red Sox are so down right now. Wow. They could use a day off in the worst way. Derek Lowe comes back to haunt them as does Johnny Damon. Josh Beckett is iffy because of a tingy lat muscle. If he doesn't go deep, the Red Sox are in trouble.
  • The Blue Jays over the Twins: Was tempted to take the Twins in this one as Jason Marquis has the ability to throw a lot of ground balls. But Henderson Alvarez has been too good of late to think the Twins will score any runs.
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: This game depends on how "on" Bartolo Colon is. If he is on, it will stay close late and the A's will have a chance. If he is not "on" then no shot for the A's. Max Scherzer was much better his last time out.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Nationals over the Pirates: You can't pick against Stephen Strasburg. The one problem doing so is that the Nats aren't scoring right now. Kevin Correia is really having trouble winning games at home. That could be the difference.

Yesterday: 8-6
Week: 32-25
Month: 70-55
Season: 259-204
Games of the Day: 19-15

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Not to take anything away from Josh Hamilton...

Josh Hamilton had a historic night. He not only hit four homers in a game, something that had only happened fifteen other times in baseball history, but he also hit a double which combined to break the all-time American League total bases record for a game. That is very cool. We saw history. You cannot say that every day. And of course, your happiness level for Hamilton depends on how you view him and his story. Some love his overcoming addiction story and others think he's a jerk who has had too many chances. But again, his game was one for the record books. But to take nothing away from Hamilton's game heroics, there is another side of the story: The pitchers who threw the pitches. Frankly, they deserved what they got.

To show that side of the story, here are five pictorial views of what Hamilton hit. Yes, credit the guy with hitting them. He didn't miss these pitches or foul them off. But it's not like they were well thrown. Here they are in sequence:

The first homer off of Jake Arrieta:

Middle of the strike zone where Hamilton could get his arms extended. Meat.

The second homer off of Jake Arrieta:

Better. But still belt high where Hamilton could extend his arms. Hamilton hit it to the opposite field.

The double off of Jake Arrieta:

Again, out where Hamilton could extend his arms. You would think after the first two, Arrieta would have gone somewhere else.

The homer (number 3) off of Zach Phillips:

As the host of Baseball Tonight would say: "You don't want to go...there." Notice the pattern here? Every single hit on the outside part of the plate up where Hamilton can get his arms extended and crush it.

And finally, homer number four against Darren O'Day:

Once again. Stupid pitch. Once again, creamed.

Josh Hamilton's night was historic and you have to give him all the props in the world. He went opposite field once and to straight away center twice. But still, the five at bats showed an inappropriate amount of stupidity on the part of the pitchers involved. Or perhaps for Wieters for the pitches he called. Or perhaps for Buck Showalter to allow his pitchers to pitch to the guy. In any case. It was a serious case of Duh times five.

Game Picks - Wednesday: May 9, 2012

Holy Hannah, the game picks took a beating yesterday. And it was merciless. Almost all of the gains for the week were given back in one fell swoop. Four out of fifteen. Four and eleven. Oof! Ouch! That is bad. It is so much easier today to point to what went right: Nova, Verlander, Feliz and Gallardo. Everything else was wrong. Way wrong. Bite me wrong. Shoot me wrong. Okay, that is enough. There is no sense talking about it any more. Let's just get to Wednesday's picks:
  • The Brewers over the Reds: We start right off the bat with a really tough game to call. Johnny Cueto hasn't lost this season and Zack Greinke never loses at home. Intense match up. Going with Greinke at home.
  • The Cubs over the Braves: Paul Maholm? Uhh...Tim Hudson in his second start of the season...Uhh. This isn't getting any easier.
  • The Rockies over the Padres. Hate picking a rookie making his major league debut. Christian Friedrich is the guy and he's a number one pick in 2008. He was also tutored by Cliff Lee and is doing well in the minors. That's good enough to give him the pick over Anthony Bass.
  • The Blue Jays over the Athletics: Picking the Blue Jays is like trying to hit those pop up vermin in the arcade game. But Brandon Morrow seems a safe enough pick as well as he is pitching. Tyler Ross, on the other hand is not pitching well.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Gosh, these picks are horrible today! Jake Peavy is pitching great. Jeanmar Gomez is pitching great. The Indians are struggling at the plate. Going with Peavy.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Can Cliff Lee be the good Lee after a strained oblique? The Phillies hit Dillon Gee well last year. But aren't hitting anyone well this year. Good golly, this is tough today.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Everything screams Bay Rays in this one. The Yankees have never beaten Jeff Niemann. David Phelps has not established himself as a major league pitcher. So why pick the Yankees? It's an opposite pick, that's why.
  • The Orioles over the Rangers: Yes, Mr. Hamilton can hit a little bit. But Wei-Lin Chen is no Arrieta. And Colby Lewis can be had by the Orioles, especially in the Orioles' home ballpark.
  • The Nationals over the Pirates: Have to go with one of this picker's favorite pitcher in Ross Detwiler. But Erik Bedard has been really good too. Isn't there an easy game to pick here. Anywhere?
  • The Marlins over the Astros: Completely baffled by Josh Johnson. The line has always been: "If he can stay healthy." But he is. And nothing is happening. Going with him one more time against the Astros and Lucas Harrell.
  • The Angels over the Twins: The Angels, man. The Angels. What the heck is going on over there. The thinking is that they can get to Carl Pavano. But can they get to anyone at this point? Ervin Santana gets his first win.
  • The Cardinals over the Diamondbacks: The Cardinals certainly seem to have the D-backs' number and the D-backs aren't the team we thought they would be. Kyle Lohse over Wade Miley.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: The M's are playing tough these days. But the pick here is going with The Emoticon, Drew Smiley. Glad to see the Tigers were smart enough to keep him in the rotation even with the return of Fister. Jason Vargas goes for the M's.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Taking Chad Billingsley at home over Tim Lincecum, who hasn't been the Timmy of old. Of course, Dodger Stadium will help him. All these games have been low scoring. That should continue.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Red Sox over the Royals: Jon Lester better go deep into this game to win. But find it hard to believe the Red Sox can't pound Bruce Chen.

Yesterday: 4-11
Week: 24-19
Month: 62-49
Season: 251-198
Games of the Day: 19-14

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Legend of Lance Lynn growing

Yesterday's game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks did little to dampen the charmed season of Cardinal hurler, Lance Lynn. Lynn--who was supposed to be in the bullpen this season but ended up in the rotation when Chris Carpenter went down--has now made six starts and has won them all. Last night's might have been his most fortuitous. But at the same time, it had its momentary facets that help build legends.

It all started in the first inning. After his team staked Lynn to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, the Cardinal pitcher gave up a triple to right by Parra. The ball was somewhat misplayed by Beltran, but no matter, it was a lead off triple and Lynn was in danger of giving at least one of those runs back. Instead, he struck out the side (wrapped around one walk). You can't score a run with a runner on third if the ball isn't put in play. Lynn made sure there wasn't a ball put in play.

In his next inning, Lynn gave up two line drives. But they went right at people for two atem balls and two outs. He finished off the frame by getting a weak grounder to short. His team would belt two homers in the top of the next frame and Lynn had a 5-0 lead.

In the bottom of the third, Lynn started the inning off badly by walking the pitcher. You never want to do that. But he wrapped two more strikeouts around a long fly ball to center by Upton to again get out of the inning. His fourth inning was to become a bit of an adventure.

His team scored two more runs in the top of the fourth to build the lead further to, 7-0. Lynn committed that Cardinal sin (pun intended) by walking the first batter. Lynn then struck out Ransom (who is red hot) but walked another batter to make it first and second with one out. Lynn got the next guy to foul out to first to make it two outs and looked to be able to escape another jam. But Bloomquist hit a single to left. Montero, a catcher, decided to try to score from second on the hit. It was not a good decision. He was out at the plate and again Lynn escaped unscathed.

Lynn would only pitch five innings on this night. So the bottom of the fifth was his last inning. And for the fourth time in five innings of work, Lynn put on the lead off batter on as Pollack singled. Parra then hit a screamer to second. Greene speared it, dropped it, but got the force at second for the first out. Lynn then struck out Upton and the inning ended on a long fly ball to left by Kubel.

The five inning stint that pushed Lance Lynn to 6-0 encapsulated Lynn's season perfectly. There was dominant pitching mixed in equal measures with some well placed luck. Lynn walked too many batters and threw too many pitches. But it was good enough for the win. The Cardinal bullpen almost coughed up the lead, but never relinquished it and Lynn got another "W."

The four walks and three hits adding up to seven base runners might qualify this start as Lynn's worst of the season. But it lowered his already impressive ERA to 1.40. Lynn has not given up more than two runs in any of his starts. And he only did that once. His WHIP is an amazing 0.853. He is striking out almost a batter an inning with 8.6 per nine for the season. His hits per nine innings is only 5.1, which is also amazing. Despite last night's four walks, his walk rate for the season at 2.6 is respectable. And he's given up three homers for an 0.7 homers per nine rate, also very good.

Obviously, Lance Lynn is not going to end the season with that low an ERA. His FIP is 2.90 thanks to an extremely low BABIP of .209 and an impossible to continue 93.8 percent strand rate. But even at 2.90, as a truer identifier of his pitching, is good enough to continue winning with the kind of lineup the Cardinals possess.

His fastballs are a dominant pitch. He is not throwing a lot of two-seam fastballs, but when he does, they move a lot and are devastating. He threw only a handful of them last night and they averaged ten inches of horizontal movement! His change is another pitch he doesn't throw often, but when he does, it's been very effective. In other words, he has plenty of options to get batters out.

Lance Lynn started to build his legend in the post season last year as he made ten relief appearances in that magical run the Cardinals made to capture the title. A late inclusion to the starting rotation this season continues to build the legend and the season he is having so far is simply magical. It is equal parts serendipitous and overpowering. Lynn just keeps on winning and to this point, it sure has been fun to watch.

Game Picks - Tuesday: May 8, 2012

Monday was another solid day of baseball game picking. The Indians won both games of a double-header so those picks were split. Double-headers are impossible to pick. The Tigers blew another game in the ninth inning, which once again proves that the saves statistic isn't a good one unless you can't convert one. That ruined another pick as well as Doug Fister's great return start. The Astros were shut out in a Wandy Rodriguez start. Should have picked Miami. And Edinson Volquez won his first game as a member of the Padres. Did not see that coming. Unfortunately, that was the Game of the Day.

Other than those four clunkers, the rest were all correct. The picks are 20 for 28 this week and after a rough start this month, the picks are twenty over for the month and sixty over for the season.

Tuesday's picks:
  • The Indians over the White Sox: The Indians are on a mini-roll and Justin Masterson can be a shut down pitcher at times. The White Sox counter with John Danks, who is always unpredictable.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Joe Blanton has been the best Phillies' pitcher of late. Picking him has worked the last three times. Let's make it four as he faces the ancient Miguel Bautista, making a spot start for the Mets.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: The Yankees have motivation for the series for two reasons. One, to get some payback for the first series of the season when they were swept. The second, to bring the Bay Rays back to the pack and better their chances for the division. Ivan Nova over James Shields.
  • The Rangers over the Orioles: Still unsure about the Neftali Felix experiment. His starts are uneven. Giving him the benefit of the doubt here and thinking the Rangers can do a better job of getting to Jake Arrieta than the Yankees did.
  • The Nationals over the Pirates: An awful game to pick. There is little faith in either Edwin Jackson or A.J. Burnett. Going with the Nationals' offense to win the game.
  • The Cubs over the Braves: Ryan Dempster has been terrific with nothing to show for it. He will finally capture a win in this one as the Braves go with Randall Delgado, who inspires little confidence.
  • The Marlins over the Astros: The Marlins win their eighth in a row on the road trip as Anibal Sanchez holds down the Astros while his mates pummel Aneury Rodriguez. Giancarlo Stanton is hitting bombs nightly at this point.
  • The Angels over the Twins: The Twins have helped three cold teams in a row to get their footings back. They are just terrible. Scott Diamond is making his season debut for the Twins as they could no longer live with Liam Hedriks. Diamond is pretty good, but it won't be enough. Dan Haren with the easy win.
  • The Red Sox over the Royals: Daniel Bard needs a good start to keep him from going back to the bullpen. He might do that against the Royals. Daniel Duffy struggles against a tough Red Sox lineup.
  • The Brewers over the Reds: The Reds don't have winning streaks and their current one will stop at two. Homer Bailey lives up to his name again and Yovani Gallardo does okay at home.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Cardinals: The Cardinals are killing the ball. But this picker can't pick against man-crush, Ian Kennedy. Jake Westbrook has to be great with his location to win. When Chris Carpenter comes back to this rotation, who leaves it?
  • The Rockies over the Padres: Okay, Jeff Suppan laughed all over this picker last time out. But it was a BABIP win and nothing more. Alex White gets the start for the Rockies. That is scary too. At least it isn't at Coors.
  • The Blue Jays over the Athletics: Hate to pick against Brandon McCarthy but it is equally hard to pick against Ricky Romero. This game is a toss up.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: This is the kind of game that Justin Verlander needs to dominate. His team is struggling and he, himself is coming off of two sub-par outings. But he should win over Kevin Millwood.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Clayton Kershaw at home is almost a lock every time. And Ryan Vogelsong just isn't right. Something is wrong with that dude.
Yesterday: 9-4
Week: 20-8
Month: 58-38
Season: 247-187
Games of the Day: 19-13

Monday, May 07, 2012

Position players pitching is cute...but...

Yes, we can all smile when a baseball game devolves into a seventeen inning contest and the managers have no choice but to pitch position players. Isn't it cute that Chris Davis and Darnell McDonald pitched? One did well and got the win. The other did not do well at all and earned a crash and burn loss. Yes, we all want to see the video highlights of this little side show. But the assumption here is that the managers had no choice. Is that accurate?

There is some concession here when a team is getting blown out and does not want to tax its pitching staff. The game is already out of hand and what the heck, right? But even making that concession, there is some concern that putting position players on the mound are toying with those players' health. You are asking a guy who doesn't normally pitch to do so and arm injuries could result. Isn't that what happened to Jose Canseco? And usually such an event means that the guy tasked with pitching is usually one of the last people on the 25-man roster. Darnell McDonald certainly fits that category. Aaron Miles is that kind of player. So that concession is made with some reservation. You are not going to risk injury to one of your "good" players.

But with a game on the line? Seasons can be won or lost based on one win. The Boston Red Sox finished only a game out of the playoffs last year. Is that a proper time to pitch a position player? Hardly. Again, the assumption is that the managers, Buck Showalter and Bobby Valentine, had no choice but to go with position players when they did. That is an argument that does not sit well here. Couldn't you go with the starting pitchers slated for the next day and then make a roster move for a day to cover the next day's starts? Felix Doubront could have been called upon and Showalter could have gone with Brian Matusz. The object is to win a game and worry about tomorrow...tomorrow.

It is hard to argue with Showalter because Chris Davis got the job done. He pitched two scoreless innings and won the game. Showalter comes across as a genius here. Chris Davis is not one of the last players on the Orioles' roster. He is a central figure in the Orioles' offense. That is a huge risk to take with one of your important bats. Bobby Valentine was not so fortunate. Darnell McDonald was crushed and took the loss. It was a loss the Red Sox could ill-afford to add to their already sorry win-loss record. And yet Valentine threw in the towel and felt that hoping against hope that McDonald could get major league hitters out was his best option at the time.

It wasn't. The game was on the line. A season is in the balance. Every game is important and when you have a chance to win, you have to go for it--tomorrow be damned. Valentine chose not to go for the win. He threw in the towel. That is unconscionable.

Position players pitching is cute. But not with the game on the line. Not in a seventeen inning tie game. Not when a victory was still possible. 

Game Picks - Monday: May 7, 2012

Apparently, all this game picker needed was for golf season to begin here in Maine. After two days on the links feeling extra old and creaky and proving that a young game picker is ancient history, the picks are 22-8. Two straight 11-4 days are awesome. The only blemishes yesterday included yet another loss by the Red Sox, a second straight win by the Athletics over the Bay Rays, a Yu Darvish loss and a Mets victory behind Dickey. But, hey, that is fine and hard to complain over. It was a wonderful weekend.

No golf today though it is a beautiful day here. That's a good thing as muscles are aching in every part of the body. But how will that affect today's baseball picks? Goodness, we are a superstitious people. There are thirteen games on the schedule today including a double-header between the Indians and White Sox. So let's get to Monday's picks:
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Phil Humber goes in the first game against Zach McAllister who is being brought up just to pitch this game. He will go back to the minors right after the game. You've got to go with Humber in this one.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: Again, going with the big league pitcher over the minor league one as Josh Tomlin goes for the Indians against Eric Stults, who is doing the same thing McAllister is doing in the first game.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: What is up with Roy Halladay? He got historically bombed his last time out, then left the team for a personal matter. Doesn't that throw up some red flags? Plus, Jon Niese is a good pitcher facing him. Of course, this concern could be all about nothing. We'll see.
  • The Rangers over the Orioles: Matt Harrison hasn't been very good lately. But the Orioles just played seventeen innings and then traveled home in the wee hours of the morning. That means that Brian Matusz better go deep into the game. Do not see that happening against the Rangers.
  • The Astros over the Marlins: Have to go with Wandy Rodriguez's hot hand to end the Marlins' six game winning streak. Carlos Zambrano goes for the Marlins.
  • The Cubs over the Braves: Love the way Jeff Samardzija is pitching, especially at home where he's only given up one run in two games. Tommy Hanson is not right. His velocity is down and he just isn't the same.
  • The Angels over the Twins: Jered Weaver is coming off his no-hitter. Hope he does better than Phil Humber did after his. The Twins won't provide much of a contest though, especially with Francisco Liriano on the mound.
  • The Red Sox over the Royals: Tough, tough game to call. Felix Doubront doesn't go deep in games and the Red Sox bullpen is beyond gassed. But Jonathan Sanchez will not go deep either as the Red Sox will wait him out to throw strikes. Toss up.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: Yeah, this would mean that the Reds would win two in a row. That doesn't happen often. This might be a high scoring game as it is Yovani Gallardo against Bronson Arroyo. Neither one has been a shut down pitcher this season.
  • The Cardinals over the Diamondbacks: Torn on this one too. Lance Lynn has been unbelievable. But he has to lose eventually. Joe Saunders has been much better than expected this season. The Diamondbacks are home. Hmm...still going with the Cardinals.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: How good will it be for the Tigers to get Doug Fister back? He beats his old team and Blake Beavan.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Two older lefties in Ted Lilly and Barry Zito. Have to go with Lilly in this one.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Rockies over the Padres: Drew Pomeranz wins his first game of the season against the hapless Padres and score a few runs off of the erratic Edinson Volquez.
Yesterday: 11-4
Week: 11-4
Month: 49-34
Season: 238-183
Games of the Day: 19-12

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Game Picks - Sunday: May 6, 2012

Now that is the kind of day a game picker was looking for. Eleven correct out of fifteen picks ended the week with style points. It was truly an underdog night as teams like the Royals, Pirates, Astros, Athletics and Angels all won. The Royals and Athletics wins were two of the few incorrect picks however. And to think the day could have been a twelve-correct-day if not for a certain meltdown by closer, Jose Valverde

This picker is going to chalk up such a good day to finally being able to get on the golf course for the first time this spring. Amazing how that will change the mindset. The golf didn't go too badly either. The first nine holes was predictably brutal, but two pars and a birdie on the back nine whet the appetite for more!

Tee time is set for an hour and a half from now, so forgive this picker from getting right into Sunday's picks:
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: Rick Porcello was back to his ground ball ways in his last start and the White Sox have moved Chris Sale from the rotation back to closer. That's a shame because Sale was pitching well. Dylan Axelrod will start instead.
  • The Rangers over the Indians: Yu Darvish will go to 5-0 here as Ubaldo Jimenez simply isn't the same pitcher he used to be.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Mets: Trevor Cahill will give the Mets' lineup some problems. R.A. Dickey will bend enough to give the D-backs another win on the road.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Tough game to call. If Charlie Morton is on his game, he is a ground ball machine. But when he's not, it gets ugly. Mat Latos historically has bad Aprils and good Mays. It's now May.
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: The Red Sox' offense will come alive against Tommy Hunter and Clay Buchholz has shown better results of late if he can avoid that late inning meltdown. These bullpens will be gassed though.
  • The Rays over the Athletics: Two good young pitchers in Tommy Milone and Matt Moore. The Rays have the better offense and are at home, thus the pick.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: The Cards are having problems down in Houston. And J.A. Happ is pitching well. But the Cards' bats will wake up and pull a win out behind Adam Wainwright, who won his last outing for his first win of the season.
  • The Yankees over the Royals: The Royals look much more balanced in their last ten games then the did in the previous ten. Luke Hochevar can be good. And Phil Hughes has not been good for the Yankees. So why pick the Yankees then? As a parent would say, "Because I said so."
  • The Cubs over the Dodgers: Aaron Harang has given up sixteen homers in Wrigley Field in just 78 innings. Ouch. Travis Wood gets the start for the Cubs since Matt Garza is sick. He is not a bad option in this one.
  • The Braves over the Rockies: This one won't be the offensive-minded game of yesterday. Juan Nicasio has been the Rockies best pitcher and Brandon Beachy is filthy at times. Going with the Braves who were riled up yesterday.
  • The Angels over the Blue Jays: You simply have to root for Jerome Williams every time he pitches. But it goes deeper than just wishes. He can be really good too. Drew Hutchinson has struggled with his control.
  • The Giants over the Brewers: Matt Cain keeps losing these 2-1 games. Perhaps he will win one of them today. Shaun Marcum has been pitching well though. It will be a low scoring game.
  • The Mariners over the Twins: Hector Noesi rhymes with messy and Nick Blackburn rhymes with heartburn. But one of these teams have to win. Do not think it will be the Twins.
  • The Phillies over the Nationals: The Nats refuse to score when Jordan Zimmermann pitches and with Cole Hamels going for the Phillies, that won't change today.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Marlins over the Padres: The Marlins complete their second straight West Coast sweep as Ricky Nolasco has little problems with the Padres' lineup and the Marlins get to Joe Wieland, who has yet to win this season. The home run bats of the Marlins are heating up.

Yesterday: 11-4
Last week: 52-42
Month: 38-30
Season: 227-179
Games of the Day: 18-12