Saturday, June 02, 2012

Where you been, A.J. Ellis?

Baseball is a game that is about talent rising to the top. Players start (usually) in the minors and work their way to the majors. If they are talented enough and produce consistently, they stay in the big leagues and have enjoyable and profitable careers. But sometimes luck is a factor and a lot of really talented players just never get the shot they deserve. Case in point is A.J. Ellis, who at the age of 31 is finally getting a full time shot as a major league catcher. And boy is he doing well. So what took Ellis so long to make it?

You would think that A.J. Ellis was a saber-centric front office dream. He wasn't highly drafted and wasn't picked until the 16th Round of the 2003 draft by the Dodgers. He played nine years in the minors including 59 games last year. His minor league career on-base percentage is a mighty impressive .406. As impressive as that is, even more so is that in 251 career games at the Triple-A level, Ellis had the following triple slash line: .310/.441/.413. .441! That is impressive. And yet, here he is at the age of 31 just now getting his shot.

Perhaps it was his defensive capabilities. He does have five passed balls this season, which leads all major league catchers. That is a possibility. Ellis never made any prospect list as one of the best prospects in the game. They don't usually hand out those kind of vibes to a guy past 25. And perhaps his lack of power was part of the deal too. The highest home run total he ever notched was eight in 2007 and his 22 doubles that season were also a minor league high. But the guy could always get on base.

The Dodgers gave him looks for four seasons in the big leagues before this season. And in those four seasons, he only accumulated 244 plate appearances. His on-base skills carried over from the minors. 2010 saw his first real exposure with 128 plate appearances and his on-base percentage was .363. Last year, in 103 plate appearances, that went up to .392. He didn't hit for any power, but there is value in that kind of on-base ability. 

But this year, he is getting his first real shot at being the full-time catcher. And his triple slash line to this point is impressive: .316/.429/.493. The average could see some regression as his BABIP is at .384, hardly sustainable. But the .429 should not regress too much based on the history that has been given you to this point. 

His slugging percentage is the real surprise. He has already hit five homers and three more will tie his professional high. Part of that slugging percentage is tied in with the amount of hits he has as even a single creates a total base. But still. He could end up with ten to twelve homers and that would be much more than expected.

And the defensive metrics this season (outside of the passed balls) are giving him positive marks. Some further research into his framing and blocking skills would be needed to get a full picture, but so far, so good for A.J. Ellis. 

The bottom line here is that on a surprise club like the Dodgers, A.J. Ellis might be the most pleasant surprise of all. But looking at his professional career to this point, it shouldn't be a surprise at all. Sometimes it just takes longer to break that barrier. Welcome to success in the big leagues, A.J. Ellis. Hope you can earn all you've worked for.

Game Picks - Saturday: June 2, 2012

June got off to a rousing start with a 10-4 picking start. That Mets pick sort of worked out didn't it? Nice going, Johan Santana. Good for you and for the Mets. The Angels over the Rangers was another particularly good pick. Mike Trout again stole the show. The guy is the most exciting player in the game right now. On the flip side, the Pirates won easily and the picks did not see that coming. Nor was the Padres victory foreseen. Coors Field killed Capuano and that should have been predicted but wasn't. And Kyle Kendrick continues to pitch well and the picks just can't seem to believe it. But that was it. It was a good day. The only sadness was the rain out of the Nationals game against the Braves.

Can the good times continue to roll? Let's take a look at Saturday:

  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Felix Doubront is one of this picker's favorite young pitchers. He is really poised and he knows what he is doing. Kyle Drabek on the other hand cannot seem to harness his great ability and the Red Sox will wait him out and do him in.
  • The Royals over the Athletics: Pitchers coming off the disabled list like Brandon McCarthy scare this picker. Plus, the A's can't hit. Going with the Royals and Luke Hochevar.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: The picks yesterday had Stephen Strasburg over Mike Minor. But fortunately for the Braves, the game was rained out and now Brandon Beachy can match up with Strasburg. And Beachy will win it.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Cole Hamels has been a lock all season. Ricky Nolasco is capable of a shut down game, but the Phillies are doing well right now.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: Coors Field is really rearing its ugly head this season. Did they get rid of the Humidor? The Dodgers lose their sixth in a row as Aaron Harang gets hit and Juan Nicasio does better.
  • The Mariners over the White Sox: The Mariners are going to steal this game behind the surprisingly effective Hector Noesi. Noesi has pitched well with little to show for it. He needs to get rewarded. Gavin Floyd can be had by the Mariners' offense. This is the upset pick of the day.
  • The Cardinals over the Mets: R.A. Dickey is having a superb season. But so is Lance Lynn. Look for the Cardinals to get all the hits they didn't get on Friday.
  • The Brewers over the Pirates: This game all depends on Shaun Marcum. If he pitches well, the Brewers win. If he doesn't, they lose. It's as simple as that as Erik Bedard will keep the Pirates in the game.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: The Diamondbacks sure have been disappointing this season. But now that Daniel Hudson is back, maybe they can start stringing wins together. Edinson Volquez is the unknown in this one.
  • The Giants over the Cubs: The Cubs are not going to be trading Matt Garza if he doesn't start pitching better. Perhaps this will be the day. But it won't matter as Matt Cain will shut down the Cubs' offense.
  • The Astros over the Reds: The 'Sros steal one against the Reds behind Wandy Rodriguez. The lefty should neutralize Bruce and Votto. Mat Latos has been decent, but not great for the Reds.
  • The Twins over the Indians: Man, is this pushing the envelope with too many upset picks? Just think that P.J. Walters can get a win with Josh Tomlin pitching showing a lot of rust after an extended absence.
  • The Yankees over the Tigers: The Yankees will wait out Rick Porcello and get to him eventually. The key will be how well Hiroki Kuroda does against Fielder and Cabrera. The bigger park should help Kuroda.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: Yu Darvish needs to come up big because you know that C.J. Wilson will pitch well. But Darvish can rise to the occasion.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: The Orioles are falling. The Bay Rays will win behind Jeremy Hellickson. Brian Matusz should keep the Orioles in the game, but it won't be enough.

Yesterday: 10-4
Week: 47-30
Month: 10-4
Season: 412-345
Games of the Day: 34-22

Friday, June 01, 2012

Hasn't Mark Melancon been punished long enough?

Several posts have been written in this space in the past two weeks about ex-Boston Red Sox players like Reddick and Lowrie really playing well for their new teams. What makes those trades look so bad for the Red Sox is that those players were traded to get a bullpen to replace Papelbon and Bard. And while there isn't much the Red Sox could have done to prevent Andrew Bailey going down to injury, it is a bit mystifying that Mark Melancon was banished to the minors after a few bad appearances and is rotting there.

Yes, Melancon threw some of the ugliest appearances ever in that first disastrous couple of weeks of Bobby Valentine's Red Sox career. How ugly was it? Butt-ugly. In two innings of total work, Melancon gave up ten hits and two walks and eleven of those twelve base runners scored. He gave up five homers. So it is understandable that he was sort of run out of town.

But couldn't that be considered a bit of a fluke? After all, Melancon was really good last year. He was a bit overworked by the Astros as he made 71 appearances good for a total of 74.1 innings. And he finished with a 2.78 ERA. He saved twenty games for the Astros and had decent peripherals good enough for a 3.25 FIP and a 1.45 WPA. That doesn't sound like a reliever worth giving up on completely.

And it is not like Melancon went down to the minors and sulked. He is lighting up Triple-A so much that his time down there seems wasted. Melancon has pitched 18.2 innings for the Pawsox and has an ERA of 0.96 with a strikeout rate of 12.5 per nine innings and a walk rate of only 1.4 per nine. So how long is going to be punished for a bad week?

It seems logical to this observer that before Alfredo Aceves, Scott Atchison and Vincente Padilla's arms fall off, a little help from Melancon could be helpful. They obviously believed in the guy to send a quality depth guy like Lowrie to the Astros to get him. So why keep him languishing in the minors. Perhaps there is more to the story and we have not heard it. Whatever the case may be, Melancon has been banished long enough. It is time for the Red Sox to start getting some value for him.

Game Picks - Friday: June 1, 2012

The really good news is that the picks yesterday were successful 67 percent of the time. The bad news was that there were only three games played. That one bad pick? The Tigers won. The Tigers won? The Tigers WON! But they weren't picked. That was an impressive sweep of the Dodgers by the Brewers, wasn't it? Four games. That is tough to do in Chavez Ravine. What a joy it was to listen to Vin Scully last night on the MLB Network. He is a treasure. And Carlos Gonzalez homered in four straight at bats (over two games). That does not happen every day.

And we turn the page to June. The month of May ended as a morass of mediocrity here for the picks. The final tally for the month was 218-193. That means that for the entire month, the picks were successful only 53 percent of the time. This picker is pretty sure that a computer program picking the winners of each game randomly with no data could have easily done just as well. Perhaps June will be better. Let's get it started with Friday's picks:

  • The Nationals over the Braves: On paper, this is a mismatch with Stephen Strasburg facing Mike Minor. Minor won't be much around much longer in the rotation unless he gets better in a quick hurry. And perhaps that will be today to sink this pick. It has been that kind of year. But on paper? Strasburg.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: Kyle Kendrick has done a decent job in the rotation. Which is a surprise. Is it a mirage that will burst today? That is what this picker is thinking. Mark Buehrle goes for the Marlins at Philadelphia.
  • The Indians over the Twins: Derek Lowe will try to get back on track against the Twins and Carl Pavano will try to stay alive.
  • The Yankees over the Tigers: The Yankees' best pitcher, C.C. Sabathia versus Casey Crosby, making his major league debut. Now that should be interesting to say the least.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Clay Buchholz has showed signs of putting it together and getting back to where he was in 2010. Henderson Alvarez is a pretty good pitcher against a very good lineup of Boston.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: These two teams have been tied for a week now. Both have been struggling. David Price should get the win over Wei-Yin Chen.
  • The Mets over the Cardinals: A match up of former great pitchers trying to comeback from major injuries. Johan Santana pitched a shutout his last game. But it was the Padres. The Cardinals are a whole different kettle of fish. But he should keep them off balance enough to prevent more runs than the four or so that Wainwright will allow.
  • The Reds over the Astros: The Astros are starting to sink a bit as their talent level shows up the more it is exposed. They are a feisty bunch though. Mike Leake will have to be really good to win. J.A. Happ goes for the Astros.
  • The Brewers over the Pirates: The good times will continue to roll for the Brewers as they get Kevin Correia to munch on. Randy Wolf just needs to be decent to win this one.
  • The White Sox over the Mariners: The M's aren't likely to score 21 runs against Jake Peavy. In fact, they will be lucky to score one or two. Felix Hernandez is coming on strong though. Tough game.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: The Rockies are flushed from a sweep of the Astros. And CarGo is on fire. But losing Troy Tulowitzki has to start hurting at some point. Chris Capuano goes for the Dodgers and all he has done is win. Josh Outman gets the spot start for the Rockies and will need a whole lot of bullpen help...thus the pick.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Clayton Richard pitches well in Petco. But so will Wade Miley, who has won three in a row.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: The Angels will win the first game of this series as Jerome Williams will prevent more runs than Colby Lewis does. Trout and Trumbo have been terrific.
  • The Giants over the Cubs: Madison Bumgarner should have no trouble with the Cubs at home. Paul Maholm can have a good game for him and still lose this one.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Royals over the Athletics: The Royals young hitters love them some fastballs. That is all that Bartolo Colon throws. Feasting time? Felipe Paulino is a good pitcher and should shut the A's down.

Yesterday: 2-1
Week: 37-26
May: 218-193
Season: 407-341
Games of the Day: 33-22

Thursday, May 31, 2012

BBA Linkfest - General May Flowers

Welcome to the last May edition of the BBA Linkfest where the best of the week's posts from the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance are linked for your reading pleasure. The flowers part of the heading do not refer to those beautiful plants that have even arrived this far north in Maine by this time of year. Instead, it speaks to the flowering of the writing of this group of baseball writers at this time of the year when baseball is in full swing with action packed games every night. Do yourself a favor and click a link or eight and enjoy some really good walks around the diamond.

Let's start our journey through the chapter at Call to the Pen, one of the most reliably good sites around. There is great content every day to enjoy there with excellent writing. Case in point, check out Spencer Hendrick's piece on how Roy Oswalt's patience paid off.

This compiler always has to check out Justin Jabs' weekly Emma Awards and it is not because of the picture. Nope. Not at all. This week's winner is bitttersweet because the guy who won it this week got hurt and will be out a while. Check it out over at Baseblog. Nice job from Sam Valenti who is filling in for the vacationing Justin.

FHPromos over at Baseballism wrote a really great piece on baseball and parents. Excellent.

Baseball Unrated has a good look at starting pitchers if fantasy baseball is your thing. 

This compiler's good buddy over at The Ball Caps Blog really touched a nerve and one of this Fan's biggest pet peeves. Sing the dang National Anthem the way it was written and get it right. Right on, brother.

Eugene Tierney's power rankings are a day late, but never a dollar short over at 85% Sports.

The X-Log always features excellent writing. One of this compiler's favorites is Jonathan Dyer, who this week has a review of the 3,000 Hit Club.

Danny Zyskind of Through the Fence Baseball makes a great argument for trading Cole Hamels. But the Phillies might not be out of this thing yet and Halladay is hurt, thus the rub.

Sully of Sully Baseball fame applauds the climb of the Boston Red Sox to over .500. That team is far from dead too.

Speaking of the Phillies, Replacement Level Baseball Blog has an excellent comparison between the Phillies and the Angels.

The Common Man has triumphed again with a rousing piece that talks about the real tragedy of Curt Schilling's company. It's much better than the piece written here. Only on the one, the only The Platoon Advantage.

Pop Fly Boys speculates about five players who will likely be traded by the trade deadline. By Mark Zell.

It is only one sentence and a picture. But Old Time Family Baseball perfectly sums up the news that Jamie Moyer was DFA'd this week.

Giancarlo Stanton for MVP? Nik of Niktig's Baseball Blog thinks he has a chance.

Ah! Don Mattingly. One of this compiler's all time heroes is the feature of a Chuck Booth piece on MLB Reports on how Mattingly has led the Dodgers to the best record in baseball. Made this compiler's week.

Johan Santana is one of the best stories of the 2012 season and Jonathan Mitchell of MLB Dirt has an excellent post on how Santana is as good as he's ever been.

Major League A**holes has a very good piece about how the Giants are moving up but have a problem with their ace. Good stuff.

Left Field is a blog with great writing. Whether it is about baseball or beer or music. This week's post is about music. But definitely worth the read.

Day in and day out, Theo of Hot Corner Harbor writes great baseball posts. He is a machine! He has a great take on the Adam Jones extension.

In easily this compiler's favorite post of the week, The Hall of Very Good shares a very special anniversary with us and includes terrific pictures. Loved this!

The post of the week, though, goes to Grubby Glove. No previews here. Too emotional after reading it. Just go read it. Please. Read it.

Loved this gif presented to us by Mike Rosenbaum at The Golden Sombrero.

Full Spectrum Baseball is an all-encompassing baseball site. But their fantasy baseball stuff is fantastic. Check out this post called Panic in Pitchertown. Terrific.

The Baseball Index shows us that help is on the way for the Washington Nationals. That's a good thing as the team is flagging just a little bit.

Love baseball trivia like this compiler does? Then try out this question for size over at For Baseball Junkies.

Like the rest of us, Dugout 24 tries to sort out this topsy-turvy baseball season.

Diamond Hoggers has had a great week! There was the great podcast with the great Craig Calccaterra (quite the accomplishment!) and a great knock on ESPN. But this compiler really liked this piece on Carlos Zambrano.

The Crum-Bum Beat has a beautiful black and white picture of The Great American Ballpark. Special!

Matt Whitener re-posts some thoughts on Barry Bonds re-entering baseball at his Cheap.Seats.Please. site.

And last but certainly not least, Che Palle! and Mario Salvini celebrate a thirty year anniversary for Cal Ripken, Jr.

Have a great week, everyone!

Game Picks - Thursday: May 31, 2012

May just flew by and this picker won't be sad to see it end. All month long, the picks have struggled to just barely remain over the .500 level. That said, unpredictable games mean interesting baseball and this season has proven to be one of the most interesting yet. It doesn't make it easy to pick games, but that trade off will be taken every time. Last night did little to change the outcome of the month as the picks finished a game under the break even point. Clayton Kershaw lost again. And that was just one of the many surprises. Of course, the admission has to be made here that yesterday, the gut was saying to take A.J. Burnett and the head overruled it. Always listen to the first instinct, people always say. The other admission was picking with the heart for Chien-Ming Wang. That did not work out well at all. So, the night's record was well deserved.

The month ends out on a whimper as there are only three games on the schedule today. Here is how they should go:

  • The Red Sox over the Tigers: The Red Sox are surging and the Tigers are struggling. The Red Sox lineup will wait out Max Scherzer and drive up his pitch count. Josh Beckett will have a good game and the Red Sox will win again.
  • The Rockies over the Astros: Bud Norris easily had his worst outing of the year his last time out and heading to Coors Field won't be any picnic. It looks like the Rockies will be without Troy Tulowitzki for a while though. Jeremy Guthrie has to be better than he has been for the pick to come in.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Brewers over the Dodgers: Zack Greinke can try out Dodgers Stadium heading into his free agent season. He will like it there. Chad Billingsley is so unpredictable. Who knows if he will be good or not. But Greinke should be the difference.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lars Anderson breaks scoreboard in MiLB game

Lars Anderson is one of those legendary minor league sluggers that will probably never get a job as a full-time major league player. But even so, occasionally such legendary power does something that just makes your jaw drop. Take for example, this prodigious blast that hit his own picture on the scoreboard and broke it. If the embedded video doesn't work, click here:

That will cost a pretty penny to fix.

Anibal Sanchez is better than you think

Anibal Sanchez has been on the edge of this writer's mind since his blazing debut in 2006 when he went 10-3 and pitched a no-hitter against the Azizona Diamondbacks. Since that rookie season, Sanchez has a record of 32-38. But he is better than that. He was better than his 13-12 record for the Marlins in 2010 and better than his 8-9 record for the Marlins last season. Much of that lack of success has been due to the Marlins' proclivity in the past to pull starting pitchers early and having a weak bullpen. In his last two seasons, he has averaged only 6.09 and 6.06 innings per start respectively. But how good is he?

Since the start of the 2010 season, Sanchez has been the fourteenth best pitcher in baseball. Considering each team has five starters and there are thirty teams, that is a base of 150 pitchers. Yeah, fourteenth is pretty good. He is just behind Hamels, Lester and Cain. Despite Lester's struggles since late last season, that is pretty good company, don't you think? And if you look at FIP, then Sanchez has been the twelfth best pitcher since 2010 with a better FIP than Cain, Sabathia, Hamels and Haren. Yes, he is very, very good. And yet very few people recognize him in that kind of company.

Again, this year, his record is nothing to get excited about. He is 3-3. Ho-hum. But he is even better this year than he has been in the past two seasons. He is averaging 6.6 innings per start. In ten starts, he is averaging a 61 game score when 49 is average. He has a 2.57 ERA and a 2.63 FIP and a 2.96 SIERA. His ground ball rate is up and over 50 percent. He is striking out a batter per inning and has a 3.94 strikeout to walk ratio. He is having a great season. And yet, he is 3-3 and that is what people will notice.

And despite the fact that he is in his seventh major league season, Sanchez is only 28 years old. In a week where it seems that the Red Sox are being picked on because of their trades (Lowrie and Reddick), Sanchez was a product of Boston's Latin scouting arm. He was signed as just a kid out of Venezuela and became a part of that big trade after the 2005 season when the Marlins dumped everyone to save money. The Marlins shipped Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell (among others) and got back Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. A year ago, a look was taken at that trade in this space and the Marlins were the clear winners. To be sure, the Red Sox would not trade their 2007 championship to undo that deal and rightly so.

Here is a fun fact for you, when Sanchez threw that no-hitter back in 2006, he was one of six rookies in the Marlins' lineup in that game. Isn't that amazing? Okay, back to business.

So what makes Sanchez so good? For one, he has six pitches the throws regularly and he can throw them at any time in any count. Of all six, the only one that Pitch/FX gives a negative ranking to is his curve. All of his other pitches have positive value. That is pretty special. He has learned to limit his walks and his current 2.3 walks per nine this season is a career best. A big part of his success and evolution as a pitcher is that each year for the last five, he has increased the number of pitches outside the strike zone a batter will swing at. Naturally, the 33.9 percent this year is a career best. In other words, he makes you think you are swinging at strikes and you are not.

Sanchez is also getting ahead of batters. His 66 percent first pitch strike rate is currently fifteenth in baseball and of the top fifteen, only one other of those starters has a swing and miss rate higher than Sanchez's ten percent miss rate. Sanchez will get ahead of you and then get you to miss his pitches. That's an effective combination. 

One of these years, the Marlins will win a string of Anibal Sanchez's starts and perhaps then people will know how good he really is. Sanchez is as reliable as he is effective. Johnson has gotten more hype and has perhaps more pure "stuff.". But Anibal Sanchez is the best of the Marlins' pitchers.

Game Picks - Wednesday: May 30, 2012

A blazing start to this weeks pick melted into a goo of blah last night as only six of the fourteen picks came in correctly. Verlander lost. Pettitte lost. Shields lost. Fuentes blew a save. It was not pretty. A look on the bright side says the week is still up eleven picks. But just like the rain outside, it does not make the sun shine. Perhaps Wednesday will be better.

Wednesday's picks:

  • The Indians over the Royals: We start with a tough call. Bruce Chen could have his soft stuff working and mess up the Indians. Or Jeanmar Gomez could pitch a good game. Which is more likely? Who knows. The Indians are home so we'll go with that.
  • The White Sox over the Bay Rays: Okay, today is not going to be fun. Alex Cobb versus Jose Quintana? Umm... The White Sox are hot offensively and the Rays are not. So that's the call.
  • The Twins over the Athletics: Yeah, Francisco Liriano. He of the 0-5 record and all those walks. Man. He faces Tyson Ross and an offense that besides Josh Reddick, is nonexistent.
  • The Cubs over the Padres: Isn't it great when two really bad teams play and you get a true pecking order or the worst teams in baseball? The Cubs will win their third in a row and Ryan Dempster will finally win a game he deserves. Anthony Bass will not get in the way.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Toyed with the idea of going with A.J. Burnett for the Pirates. But he gives up homers and the Reds hit homers. Johnny Cueto is the better pick here.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Another incredibly tough pick. Was Brandon Morrow's last start just a blip? Will he again be dominant? Can Jason Hammel continue to be the unexpected ace for the Orioles. Your guess is as good as this one.
  • The Tigers over the Red Sox: Putting all the eggs in The Emoticon's basket as Drew Smyly has to throw a great game for this pick to come in. Jon Lester has been gopher prone and Prince Fielder is hot. Gosh, this is a tough day.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: In the rhyming match-up of the day, it is Cliff Lee versus Dillon Gee. Lee can't stay winless forever.
  • The Cardinals over the Braves: Tim Hudson has struggled career-wise against the Cardinals. But Kyle Lohse has to be pretty darned good for this pick to come in. Another tough call.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: This is admittedly an emotional pick as this picker dearly wants Chien-Ming Wang to win. Josh Johnson might have something to say about it though.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Okay, so the Mariners scored ten runs yesterday. But the Rangers are still the best team in the AL. Derek Holland wins and Blake Beavan loses.
  • The Astros over the Rockies: Two questions: First, will Lucas Harrell's sinker work in Coors? Secondly, can Christian Friedrich pitch well at home and at Coors? The first question is more likely to be yes.
  • The Yankees over the Angels: This picker will blithely go on picking the Yankees in the face of the knowledge that they just can't seem to get it together as a team and always seem to bring out the best in the other team. Ivan Nova has a passing chance to beat Ervin Santana.
  • The Dodgers over the Brewers: Hard to think that Clayton Kershaw will be as bad as he was last time out. He should get back on track at home and prevent more runs than Yovani Gallardo.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Ian Kennedy has beaten Tim Lincecum on every head to head outing. But neither is pitching effectively this season. 

Yesterday: 6-8
Week: 28-17
Month: 209-184
Season: 398-332
Games of the Day: 31-22

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

By Josh! Reddick was a steal!

A quick perusal at the Fangraphs' leaderboard led to a click of MLB right fielders. The leaders seemed right. Ethier is having a great season and is at the top. Beltran has been a great fit for the Cards and is belting the ball. Then listed after those two were Josh Reddick of the Oakland Athletics and Stanton and Joyce from the two Florida teams. After nodding inwardly at the results, the reality struck. Wait. Josh Reddick!? After that initial reaction sunk in, the memory of the recent series against the Yanks sunk in. Yes, Josh Reddick, is an island of productivity in a sea of offensive woes in Oakland.

This new knowledge comes a few days after writing about Lowrie down in Houston. Could it be the Red Sox have made two of the worst trades of the year in Lowrie and Reddick? It is hard to fault the Red Sox here. They needed to address the bullpen after losing Papelbon and deciding to put Bard in the rotation. The trades for Melancon and Bailey make sense, if not in hindsight. Neither have worked out thus far in Boston, but that is the way it goes sometimes in baseball.

Lowrie and Reddick were both considered fungible players. They were depth players with the Red Sox. And the Boston team has made good use of Aviles and the combination of Ross,Sweeney and Nava. But none of those combinations have been as valuable as Lowrie and Reddick have been for their new teams. And Reddick is only 25 years old. So perhaps his success will ping the Boston team longer.

Josh Reddick has burst on the scene this year with his fourteen homers and .906 OPS. Those figures are all the more remarkable for where Reddick has to play home games and for the fact that the lineup around him has been a ghost town. With Yoenis Cespedes on the shelf with an injury, Reddick is just about the only threat in that lineup. His 2.1 rWAR is so far ahead of any of his teammates, that they are like distant specks in the rear view mirror.

Reddick was never really touted as a prospect. Yes, he did place 75th in Baseball America's list of top prospects in 2010, but that was his one and only appearance on that list. He was, after all, only a 16th round draft choice by the Red Sox back in 2006 out of a small school like Middle Georgia College. Yes, he had a .500 slugging percentage in his minor league career, but his overall OPS in the minors of .832 did not jump up and grab anyone. 

But let's put this one in the plus column for Billy Beane as the A's saw something they liked and were, to this point, obviously correct. And Reddick is a complete package. His patience at the plate could use some improvement. His 8.3 percent walk rate is augmented a bit by some intentional passes and he is swinging at 31.5 percent of pitches outside the strike zone. But he runs well and has stolen five bases without getting thrown out once. Fangraphs gives him 1.3 runs for his base running. And Reddick has had nothing but positive fielding numbers in his brief MLB career. And he already has five outfield assists this season.

Reddick is *only* batting .276 right now, but considering that his BABIP is also low at .276, there should not be any regression as the season goes along. For a guy hitting a lot of homers, his strikeout rate is decent at only 18.5 percent. So it is not like strikeouts will sink his season either. Reddick's numbers look totally legit and only a concerted effort by opposing pitchers to stop pitching to him can derail his season power numbers. Getting Cespedes back will help too.

Sometimes, a change to a new organization can bring the flower out of a budding young player. That seems to be the case with Reddick moving to Oakland. Josh Reddick has become a very fine player in the American League and if you are into fantasy baseball, you might want to consider keeping him. The Athletics got a steal in Josh Reddick. He has been terrific.

Game Picks - Tuesday: May 29, 2012

Memorial Day was memorable for this old game-picker as the picks went 13-3 for the day. The only blemishes all day were a Royals loss, an Astros loss and Barry Zito bamboozling this picker and the Diamondbacks. But other than that, it all came up roses.

Without over-thinking things too much, it is probably best to launch right into the picks for Tuesday as like Cory Wade, tomorrow (now today) is another day:

  • The Cubs over the Padres: Two in a row for the Cubbies! Jeff Samardzija over Eric Stults in the day's only day game.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: James McDonald came up big for the Pirates against the Reds, but Charlie Morton is another kettle of fish. Homer Bailey has been pitching pretty well for the Reds lately.
  • The Indians over the Royals: Justin Masterson is getting nasty again after a rough start to his season. Will Smith gets another start and it won't go any better than his first one.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Ricky Romero should be a lock at home and the Orioles are scuffling a bit now. Jake Arrieta will give up at least one long ball.
  • The Bay Rays over the White Sox: James Shields is still terrific and Phlip Humber just hasn't been the same since his perfect game. Hideki Matsui will make his debut for the Rays. That will be interesting.
  • The Tigers over the Red Sox: Man, those Tigers were robbed on Monday. What a bad day by the umpires. Replay, replay, replay! Justin Verlander will beat the Red Sox and Daniel Bard.
  • The Cardinals over the Braves: The Cards have got their swagger back and the Braves have hit a real rough patch. Jake Westbrook over Randall Delgado.
  • The Marlins over the Nationals: Anibal Sanchez is still the best pitcher nobody knows about. He should be better than Edwin Jackson.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: The M's simply can't keep up with the Rangers offense. Scott Feldman gets another start and is getting more and more stretched out. Jason Vargas will be the Rangers' latest victim.
  • The Athletics over the Twins: Tough game to call. Going with Jarrod Parker over Cole De Vries.
  • The Yankees over the Angels: Another really tough game to figure. Andy Pettitte gets a real test with a hot Angels' offense and Dan Haren was really at his best his last time out. This game won't end with seventeen runs scored.
  • The Brewers over the Dodgers: Uhh....What do you do with a pitching match-up of Michael Fiers and Nathan Eovaldi? Pick a team and hope, that's what.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Ryan Vogelsong is having a nice month of May. Joe Saunders is not. End of story.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Mets: Joe Blanton has become indispensable. Who saw that coming? He beats the Mets and young Jeremy Hefner.

Yesterday: 13-3
Week: 22-9
Month: 203-175
Season: 392-324
Games of the Day: 31-21

Monday, May 28, 2012

Joey Votto is a line drive machine

Joey Votto is the best hitter in the game today. You can have some good arguments about that judgment call. You might go for Josh Hamilton. You might think it Adrian Gonzalez or perhaps Matt Kemp. You might even want to consider Paul Konerko. But the choice here is Joey Votto. Not only has he batted over .300 for three straight years, but he has also had an on-base percentage of over .410 the past three years and his lowest slugging percentage in those years has been .531 (last year).

This season, Votto is doing the same thing. His triple slash line so far: .325/.466/.606. If he wasn't a first baseman, he would easily be leading the league in fWAR. Instead, he is third behind Josh Hamilton and David Wright, both having great seasons. He is just ahead of the amazingly hot Konerko. The thing that makes Votto stand out is the line drives. He is a line drive machine.

Votto led all of baseball last season with a line drive percentage of 27.5. Twenty percent is considered excellent in that category. But this year, he has topped even himself. So far this season, Joey Votto has put 123 balls in play. Of those 123 balls in play, 43 of them have been line drives. That is a line drive percentage of 35 percent. 35 percent! He has more line drives than ground balls. That's unthinkable. He has more line drives than strikeouts. He walks a lot. And yet, he has more line drives than walks.

Since batted balls have been tracked, of all regularly playing hitters, Only Todd Helton and Mark Loretta have a higher career line drive percentage than Joey Votto. Yeah, Loretta is a surprise. But he had some very good years for the Padres when no one was looking. But Votto could surpass both of them at the rate he has been going the last couple of seasons. 

This statistic is important because line drives lead to the highest BABIP of all hit trajectories. And Votto is no different. His OPS on his line drives is 1.651. And honestly, that is a bit unlucky. For most batters, a line drive will lead to a hit around 70 percent of the time. Votto is only hitting .651 on line drives. The league stats would be given to you, but seems to be having a bit of an issue this morning. But let's put it this way: Votto hits line drives 35 percent of the time, and when he does, he is going to be on base, 65 percent of the time. Yes, that is going to do some damage.

You can have a decent argument on who the best hitter in the game is right now. But for this observer, if this was a sandlot and we had to pick teams, Joey Votto would always be picked first. He is a line drive machine.

Game Picks - Monday: May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day! The flag has been put out on the porch and it is time to make some baseball picks accompanied by a hot cup of coffee. It is a nice morning in Maine and yesterday was a decent day of picking. There were some near misses yesterday. The Twins were picked to beat the Tigers yesterday and they did...until Matt Capps blew the save. The Diamondbacks squeaked by the Brewers and sank that pick. The Cubs are well...just in a really bad stretch that has to end sometime. And the White Sox finished their weekend spanking of the Indians as Gavin Floyd was bad, but not quite as bad as Ubaldo Jimenez. But all in all, it was a good day.

There are sixteen games on the schedule today including a double-header between the Astros and Rockies. Shame on the MLB for scheduling four of the games for the nighttime. You can understand the second game of a make-up double-header being played at night, but the four other games just shouldn't happen. A holiday like Memorial Day should be a time to take the kids to the ballpark and with school tomorrow, those night games make that difficult.

Anyway, enough with the complaints, here are your Memorial Day picks:

  • The Phillies over the Mets: Great match up between Jon Neise and Cole Hamels. The Mets are at home and are playing well there. But the Phillies rarely lose when Hamels starts. He is their only sure thing these days.
  • The Cardinals over the Braves: The Braves just got swept by the Nats and have to be reeling a bit. Chipper Jones is still out and the Cardinals' lineup can get to Tommy Hanson. Lance Lynn wins his eighth.
  • The Marlins over the Nationals: The Marlins need this one and it is up to Carlos Zambrano. Uh oh. But they are home and have been hitting fairly well. They get to face Jordan Zimmermann, a pitcher who never gets run support.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: With Pittsburgh hosting and with that stadium being more hitter neutral, perhaps that will slow the Reds offense down, especially facing James McDonald. Bronson Arroyo has been pretty good lately.
  • The Red Sox over the Tigers: Doug Fister has been terrific but has been given like eight runs in five starts. He must think he is back in Seattle. Felix Doubront is the kind of pitcher that can mess the Tigers up a little. Losing Austin Jackson was a big blow for the Tigers.
  • The Twins over the Athletics. The A's are starting Travis Blackley, a pitcher they claimed on waivers from the Giants two weeks ago. Does that fill you with confidence? No, not here either. Scott Diamond with the win.
  • The Cubs over the Padres: Okay. Today is the day the losing streak ends. The Padres are the only team in the NL that are as bad as the Cubs and the Padres can't hit. The Cubs get Jeff Suppan. The stars are a lined up. Now Travis Wood has to pitch well. That's all.
  • The White Sox over the Bay Rays: Chris Sale has been awfully good and Matt Moore has been a bit of a disappointment. And Moore has to face a red hot offense.
  • The Astros over the Rockies: Wandy Rodriguez is the Astros best pitcher. Juan Nicasio had a tired arm his last time out. The wild card is Coors Field.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Going for the upset pick here. The Indians just got spanked by the White Sox. They could be a little down in the mouth. The Royals had a good weekend against the Orioles. Nate Adcock over Josh Tomlin.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Picking against Barry Zito seems to be the correct play here. But Trevor Cahill hasn't exactly been great either.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: The Blue Jays sure had a bad series against the Rangers. But they get Tommy Hunter, the weak link in the Orioles' rotation. Drew Hutchison has to have a good game though.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: The Rangers at home are just too good to pick against. Matt Harrison hasn't been as good as predicted this season. Kevin Millwood has strung several good starts in a row for the Mariners. That will end today.
  • The Rockies over the Astros: Jordan Lyles is 2-9 in his big league career with a 1.43 WHIP. And he has to pitch in Coors. That has disaster written all over it. Now all the Rockies need is for Alex White to pitch fairly well. Uh..oh boy.
  • The Brewers over the Dodgers: Why do batters of Matt Kemp's caliber have to have rehab starts in the minors? The Dodgers could win today if they had him. But he won't be back until tomorrow. In light of that, Shaun Marcum will get the win and the Brewers will hit Aaron Harang.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Angels over the Yankees: Jered Weaver always holds the Yankees down and the Angels should score enough off of Phil Hughes to get Weaver the win.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 9-6
Month: 190-173
Season: 379-321
Games of the Day: 30-21

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Game Picks - Sunday: May 27, 2012

At long last, a very good day for the Game Picks. The day games went almost exactly as predicted. Well...Jake Peavy won, but it wasn't pretty. Anyway, all the day games were correct. Even picking the Royals worked out. Some of the later games did not work out so well. The Brewers were supposed to win and did not. The Astros were supposed to win and ralphed. That's what a picker gets for jumping on their bandwagon. But all in all, it was a good day and the week ended up somehow in the black. Speaking of the week. Somehow during the week, the count got all messed up. It will be corrected at the end of the post.

Don't you love Sundays? It is, by far, the best baseball day of the week. All day games except one. And even Sunday Night Baseball is much more enjoyable now that Terry Francona is there. Jon Miller is still missed, but those days are gone. Here are Sunday's picks:

  • The Reds over the Rockies: Two teams going in different directions. The Rockies have great team chemistry. But not a very good team, especially pitching. The Reds are rolling and have managed to find the top of the division. Mat Latos over Jamie Moyer.
  • The Marlins over the Giants: The Marlins are playing Russian Roulette in the ninth inning. But they keep winning. Poor Heath Bell has zero confidence (or stuff) at the moment. Ricky Nolasco over Matt Cain.
  • The Cubs over the Pirates: Okay, here's the thing. The Cubs have been picked all weekend. The Pirates keep winning. The Cubs have lost like 345 games in a row. So picking their games has become this death watch. But you know that the losing streak will end sometime. So the picking becomes one of waiting for the law of averages to right itself. Will it be today? Tomorrow? What? Matt Garza versus Erik Bedard.
  • The Orioles over the Royals: Two enigmatic pitchers in Luke Hochevar and Brian Matisz. Your guess is as good as this one.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: This series has turned into a grudge match. And today's outcome is seriously difficult to predict. Jeremy Hellickson can be good. But he can be had. Clay Buchholz the same. Which team will get the hot pitcher? Going with Hellickson.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: The Indians have looked awful in this series. The White Sox have hit the ball often against them. Ubaldo Jimenez slows the White Sox down enough for the Indians to steal one here against Gavin Floyd.
  • The Twins over the Tigers: This pick feels stupid. But the Pajama Man, PJ Walters has kicked this picker in the shin one too many times to want to get kicked again. Plus, Rick Porcello simply hasn't been very good.
  • The Cardinals over the Phillies: Roy Halladay and Adam Wainwright cancel each other out, making this a bullpen game the home team takes late.
  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: Yu Darvish has had trouble throwing strikes. But he faces a team not known for their patience. The Rangers will wait out Kyle Drabek and get the win.
  • The Yankees over the Athletics: Hiroki Kuroda is back on the West Coast and he will flourish there, especially against the A's offense. Tommy Milone has been good this year, but he is a lefty and the Yankees love that.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: Hector Noesi has had more good games than bad, but he won't get any support as the Mariners get CJ Wilson today.
  • The Dodgers over the Astros: All Chris Capuano has done this season is win. Today will be no different. The Dodgers scratch out enough runs on JA Happ to take this one.
  • The Brewers over the Diamondbacks: Daniel Hudson is making his first start since being on the DL. Never like to pick those scenarios. Going with Randy Wolf and the Brew Crew.
  • The Nationals over the Braves: Gio Gonzalez will be the difference in this one and will just slightly out-pitch Brandon Beachy. Any other pitcher, the pick would be the Braves, but the lefty will give them trouble.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Mets over the Padres: Somehow, the Mets have managed to put themselves in the thick of the NL East race. Other than the Orioles and Astros, is that not the most surprising thing to happen so far this season? RA Dickey over Edinson Volquez.

Yesterday: 10-5
Last week (corrected): 50-45
Month: 181-167
Season: 370-315
Games of the Day: 29-21