Saturday, July 28, 2012

Joe Mauer - The very good and not so good

The Minnesota Twins had such a bad April that the team has become nearly invisible except for those die-hard fans that love and follow their team. And this invisibility is sort of a shame because they really have not played poorly since the middle of May. Few people would guess, for example, that the Twins played above .500 for the month of June. The lack of attention has also hidden some nice seasons for guys like Scott Diamond, Josh Willingham and Joe Mauer. This post features the latter who has bounced back nicely from pretty much a lost 2011 to again offer the baseball world more than shampoo commercials.

Currently, Jue Mauer is second in the American League in batting with a BA of .332. There is a slight chance that Mauer can claim his fourth batting title. A certain Angels' phenom must cool off a bit for that to happen, but there is plenty of time for Mauer to win another title. Mauer is also first in the American League in on-base percentage of .422. That is an excellent figure and his highest since 2009. There is no way for him to match his slugging of 2009, though, as he has only hit six homers to go with 21 doubles and a triple.

All that said, Mauer has again taken his place among the best hitters in the league. Even so, this observer would dispute some of what Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweeted this afternoon: "...Joe Mauer deserves some MVP votes. He has been superb." Mauer is currently tied for ninth in the American League in fWAR and Fangraphs is much higher (3.4) on him than which has him at 2.5 rWAR. And he is only eleventh in the league in wOBA. Mauer is back to being an offensive weapon, but MVP votes? No.

Let's start for a moment with his fielding. Mauer is not a full-time catcher anymore. He has caught 49 of the Twins' 99 games. Mauer has DHed (isn't it great how we turned that into a verb?) 25 times and has played first base 19 times. Behind the plate, he has been less than ordinary. Both Fangraphs and B-R have him in negative territory with his fielding. Plus, Mauer has only thrown out a paltry 15% of runners attempting to steal. That is Varitek-like. And while you have to give the pitchers some of the credit for not being able to hold the runners on, you also have to give the Twins' catching some of the responsibility for the Twins being dead last in most pitching categories.

There are also some strange things going on with Mauer's batted balls. His BABIP is a very high .375. That is higher than his .345 career BABIP. But what doesn't make sense is that Mauer is at a higher BABIP while hitting more ground balls than he's ever hit in his career. His current ground ball to fly ball ratio of 2.68 is easily the highest of his career. And yet, he is batting .282 when he hits ground balls. That is high. He doesn't hit many fly balls, but when he does, they are effective. He has a .946 OPS on fly balls which is also kind of unbelievable against the league norm. And his homer to fly ball ratio is pretty good too at just over ten percent.

Mauer is absolutely raking when he hits a line drive. His OPS on line drives is 1.860. Of the 53 line drives he has hit, 45 have found a safe place to land or hit or dent. It should be mentioned that his line drive percentage of 24.9 percent is the highest of his career if he were to maintain it.

So there is some really good stuff here and some not so good stuff. He has only swung and missed 4.2 percent of the time this season. That is astounding. And yet, he leads the league in grounding into double plays with an amazing 19, well on pace to beat his career high of 22.

The great news is that Joe Mauer is back as an offensive player. He is one the best pure hitters of this generation. The not so good news is that not only is he not an every day catcher anymore, he is no longer a very good one when he does.

The good news is that Head and Shoulders doesn't have to be embarrassed about its spokesperson anymore (except at how dumb the commercials are). The bad news is that the Twins are paying him at $23 million a season and he only has an outside shot of reaching that value according to Fangraphs and no shot according to This writer would still pay to see him hit though.

Game Picks - Saturday: July 28, 2012

After one of the best picking days ever on Wednesday, the last two days have turned completely ugly and have given back all of Wednesday's gains. And yes, this picker is pretty darned ticked off about the entire thing. The Game of the Day was typical of how the entire day went. The Giants started Matt Cain, one of the best pitchers in the majors against an emergency minor league pitcher for the Dodgers. And the Dodgers won. Kip Wells won another game. Talk about your improbable. And the usually reliable Orioles' bullpen totally pooched another pick. It was just that kind of day.

Saturday has to be better. It is going to be better. The picks:

  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Jeff Samardzija just threw a gem against the Pirates and the Cardinals never score for Joe Kelly. But, the pick is the Cards. They have the better team and the lineup is deeper with Berkman in there.
  • The Tigers over the Blue Jays: This is another pick that went south yesterday. Everything depends on how Anibal Sanchez does in his first start for the Tigers. And much will depend on if the Tigers can get to Henderson Alvarez in the first inning when he is the most vulnerable.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Okay, so this pick was wrong yesterday. What about today? Chad Billingsley is the hardest pitcher in baseball to predict. Barry Zito has been uncommonly and unexpectedly good. Which one will pitch worse?
  • The Mariners over the Royals: Can the Royals fall any harder? Gosh, this has been a bad season for this franchise. Bruce Chen goes for the Royals against Kevin Millwood. Yeah, not a fun match up to figure.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: This picker has to ride the A's as long as they are out of their minds. The big reservation is going with Bartolo Colon. But Tommy Hunter is about the same and thus the hotter team should win.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: So Wandy Rodriguez makes his first start as a Pirate against his former team. Nice symmetry there. The Astros will go with the seventh life of Armando Galarraga. Yes, you heard that right.
  • The Twins over the Indians: Right now, the Twins are a better team than the Indians. Their offense is much better. Whether Sam Deduno is better than Justin Masterson, well, that seems doubtful. It just feels like a Twins win. Now isn't that scientific?
  • The Braves over the Phillies: Another loss pretty much seals the Phillies' fate this season. And they turn to Joe Blanton, who should not be able to hold back the Braves' offense. Mike Minor needs to be good for the Braves though and that is counting on him a lot more than this picker probably should.
  • The Padres over the Marlins: Ross Ohlendorf is the unlikeliest of pitchers to pick here. But the Marlins are dead in the water and a start by the newly acquired Nathan Eovaldi won't help.
  • The Nationals over the Brewers: Jordan Zimmermann should shine in this one. Few people know that the young Nats pitcher is near the top of the leaderboard in WAR this season. He's been that good. The Brewers counter with Randy Wolf, who can be pretty good in his home ballpark.
  • The Rangers over the White Sox: It was Phil Humber that threw the perfect game right? Doesn't that seem like an eternity ago? Has the thrown a good game since? Nope. Matt Harrison, on the other hand, is one of the most underrated pitchers in the majors.
  • The Reds over the Rockies: Johnny Cueto would be a Cy Young Award candidate if the vote were to happen this week. He's had that good a season. Whether that translates to Coors will remain to be seen. Christian Friedrich has shown flashes of okay at times this season.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Mets: Chris Young does not inspire a whole lot of confidence. The D-backs have several hot hitters in Goldschmidt, Kubel and their second baseman. Ian Kennedy must pitch well though for this pick to work out.
  • The Angels over the Bay Rays: The Rays just can't hit. And they are running out of time until Evan Longoria comes back. Matt Moore has shown signs of his promise but too often does not live up to the hype. C.J. Wilson should win the game.

And the Game of the Day!

  •  The Yankees over the Red Sox: After watching this series start yesterday, the Red Sox sure are a lifeless, joyless bunch. It is sad to watch. Jon Lester has not been good. C.C. Sabathia has a lot of holes in the Red Sox lineup to exploit.

Yesterday: 6-9
Week: 42-39
Month: 181-143
Season: 813-659
Games of the Day: 62-46

Friday, July 27, 2012

This stupendous baseball season

After sitting here for a little while wondering what to write about this morning, there were so many stories rolling around the brain that it was quite overwhelming. This has been one stupendous baseball season with stories everywhere to amaze and thrill us. What a joy ride this has been thus far. Unless your favorite team is abominable--and if so, we truly feel for you--being a baseball fan has never been more fun than this season. Last year's amazing finish and the best final day of the baseball season ever seemed to be the pinnacle of the sport. But that was just a precursor to all the fun we are having this season.

So this post was going to be some sort of countdown of the best stories of the season. But how can you rank them? There are so many that are so cool, that ranking would be mind boggling. So here is just a list of some of the stories that have thrilled this particular baseball Fan. Feel free to add more in the comments for those that were missed:

Mike Trout has to be the story of the season. When was the last time a player burst on the scene so dramatically, so artfully, so joyfully and so completely? The admission here is that the Angels have always been this observer's most hated team, but they are must watch baseball now. Mark Trumbo is not far behind as his maturing game has been remarkable.

Ben Sheets is 2-0 with no runs allowed in his first two starts. Even if he crashes and burns the rest of the season and the hope is he does not, his resurrection story is remarkable. We all love comeback stories and his is so improbable that it can't help but make you smile.

Derek Jeter's assault on the all time hit list. Jeter is no longer an elite player, but he is still good enough and lucky enough to be healthy and producing hit after hit. He has passed a remarkable list of Hall of Fame players this year alone and he is going to pass a lot more. And little mention has been made of how many HOF players he is passing on the all time runs scored list too.

The Washington Nationals. Davey Johnson is the best manager in baseball. Of that, there is no doubt. He made Joe Maddon look like a high school coach. We all love when traditional powers get turned on their ear and a new team bursts into greatness. We are witnessing that with the struggle of the Phillies and the dominance of the Nats.

Along with that goes two other stories. Stephen Strasburg has been everything we hoped he would be. His offense just adds to the joy of watching him pitch every fifth day. And the big decision comes soon. That will be fascinating to watch.

Bryce Harper is the other story for the Nats. He has not played as large as his hype, but he has played pretty darn well for a nineteen year old. And the fact that he busts his butt on every play has been a true pleasure.

The Pittsburgh Pirates. The stories abound there. A.J. Burnett resurrecting his career after bottoming out with the Yankees. Andrew McCutchen becoming the best player in the game. That bullpen! It is so good to see a winner in Pittsburgh. And to see the crowds there and the excitement is so much fun to watch.

R.A. Dickey. He climbed the mountain and wrote his book. But no fictional story would have been able to top what has been a magical season for a knuckleball pitcher. Very cool.

David Price. One of the most enjoyable personalities on Twitter was somewhat of a mystery on the mound until this year. Oh he was good. He was very good. But he never seemed to be over-the-top good. Well, he is now. A new pitch, a new focus, and he has become the most dominant pitcher in the American League.

Crash and burn stories are fascinating too. The Red Sox' first season with Bobby Valentine has been fascinating. Who is to blame, Valentine or his players? This observer goes with the players as they seem to refuse to support their manager.

The Rockies have seemingly done everything wrong a team can do. If a guy could write a book on the series of blunders this organization has made, he would get kind of rich. What a fascinating train wreck.

The Mariners trade Ichiro Suzuki. The player and the team have been so synonymous that the trade was a shock is putting it mildly. The Mariners were going to have a PR nightmare facing them in the off season on whether to re-sign him and they have effectively avoided that. Genius.

Josh Reddick. Did anyone see Reddick's season coming? The Red Sox traded what appeared to be a fourth or fifth outfielder. And instead, they traded a star. His homer total considering his home park is astounding. His defense has been sparkling and his arm has been magnificent. Very cool.

Alex Rios. Rios has been on a even year / odd year thing for a while now and this even year has been remarkable at how much better it has been than last year.

Catchers hitting. Joe Mauer is back and fighting again for the batting title. He doesn't catch as often, but that is still cool. Carlos Ruiz has had an amazing season for the Phillies. Yadier Molina has gone from a great defensive catcher to an all around force. And Miguel Montero has been awesome again this season. And Buster Posey is back after last year's calamitous injury.

Matt Harvey's first start for the Mets has to be one of the coolest moments this season. That's one way to burst on the scene, eh?

Austin Jackson has become a star. For two seasons, he has been a disappointment and a head-scratcher that his manager would continue to bat him lead-off with all those strikeouts and lack of on-base skills. Nobody is talking like that now. The kid is flying and sure seems to be enjoying himself. His success is infectious to watch.

Jake Peavy. We all hoped he wouldn't crash but admit it, we all expected it. Not only has he stayed healthy, he has pitched very well.

Robinson Cano. He is still too undisciplined at the plate, but he is finally having an MVP- caliber season we all expected. And you can see him gradually taking over as the team leader on and off the field.

The return-to-form of Jason Heyward. Last year was so disappointing and such a let down. People were so low on him after it that the joy of his first season was gone. But he is back and producing and though still not as good as he can be, he is again one of the most promising stars in the game.

The fall of the Marlins. They had a new everything and before the season looked to be able to take over the NL East. But they have...uhh...forgive the pun...floundered and the Ozzie Guillen show has already worn very thin. And now we get to have a reality show chronicling the entire mess.

Josh Hamilton. His season is playing out like the movie, The Natural.  At first, he is hitting everything and everyone adores him. Then he stops hitting in July and the world turns against him. Will it all end on a happy note? It will be fascinating to find out.

Chris Sale. The guy looks like a strong gust of wind could blow him right back into the dugout. A reliever turned starter? Uh oh, that can't work, can it? Uh, like yeah, it can.

David Wright's season with the Mets. The dude has been amazing. Absolutely freakin' amazing. What a season he is having.

Edwin Encarnacion. Wow! Does his burst to stardom look familiar? Yeah, just like his teammate. The guy has become a beast with one of the most violent swings in America. And when he hits them...holy cow...

Brendan Ryan's defense. The guy is a wizard. How else can you explain him batting under the Mendoza line and still having a rWAR of 2.9? The guy is the best shortstop in the game with the glove.

Fernando Rodney. While not fond of that arrow-shooting, self-aggrandizement stuff, his season for the Rays has been remarkable in its unexpected success. Everyone joked when the Rays picked him up except the Rays.

Melky Cabrera. Holy Giants, Batman. Cabrera was the worst player in baseball when he played for the Braves. But he has remade himself and worked hard and had a great season last year for the Royals and is remarkable this season. Wow. Just wow.

Aroldis Chapman. Need more be said? 90 strikeouts in 47+ innings. A 17 K/9 rate. A WHIP of 0.713. What an amazing array of talent. Amazing. Breathtaking.

There are others. Lance Lynn, Jordan Zimmermann. Ryan Zimmerman and many, many more. This writer has been a Fan of Major League Baseball for over fifty years and can never remember having so much fun watching a baseball season. Hope you are having just as much fun.

Game Picks - Friday: July 27, 2012

How can the picks go 13-2 one night and the very next night go 2-6? It's called, "baseball," where anything can happen and usually does. Think this is easy doing this every day? Try it for a week. Matt Harvey made the Diamondbacks look like little league batters in his debut. Pitching debuts can go either way and Harvey was spectacular. Justin Verlander lost and sunk the Game of the Day pick. Ouch. Those Cardinals are playing great ball and Jake Westbrook has been a big part of it. His imminent demise did not happen as predicted. The Orioles got another good start from Chris Tillman and James Shields had a rough fifth inning and sunk that pick. It just wasn't a good day.

Oh well, Friday is a new day with some new series and a whole new set of possibilities for figure out. And figure out we go. Here are Friday's picks:

  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: The Cubs have had three chances facing Lance Lynn and they must be darn sick of it as he is 3-0 with an ERA under one against them. Can they reverse that trend today? Doubtful. Their only hope is for Travis Wood to come up big filling in for Matt Garza. Speaking of Garza, have you noticed that he always seems to have a problem at the trade deadline? The thought here is that he doesn't want to be traded.  **UPDATE** Apparently he is really hurt and this writer is a fool and apologizes.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: The Red Sox have some of their pieces back but are still scuffling. The Yankees get a break and miss their nemesis, David Ortiz who is on the DL. He kills them. Phil Hughes will need to be good. AaRon Cook has only faced the Yankees once in his career and was creamed.
  • The Orioles over the Athletics: Zach Britton is not a lock by any means, but neither is Jarrod Parker on the road. The thought here is that the O's have a better offense than the A's if the pitching cancels each other out.
  • The Tigers over the Blue Jays: This is a really tough game to predict. Carlos Villanueva has been very good but seems due for a loss. Rick Porcello has been very good of late, but is always unpredictable. It's nice to see Cory Snider back in the big leagues.
  • The Marlins over the Padres: As difficult as it is to count on Carlos Zambrano and his wildness, he faces Kip Wells who still amazes that he is back in the big leagues. Both teams struggle on offense but the Padres have stepped it up some lately in that department. Crap. Who knows.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: The Phillies won't be able to rally late against THIS bullpen. The Braves aren't the Brewers. Still a very interesting match up as the newly rich, Cole Hamels, goes against the surprise of the year in Ben Sheets. Come on, Red Sox, call up Mark Prior to make this one of the most fascinating seasons ever!
  • The Rangers over the White Sox: Chris Sale has to get a tired arm around here sometime, doesn't he? The guy has never pitched this many innings and he showed a few cracks against the Tigers. Yu Darvish has been  somewhat of a disappointment thus far but is still scary enough to pick him.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: It truly is sort of inspiring how the Astros fight so hard even though they lose every game. That lack of quit really makes one respect the manager there. Jordan Lyles has hung in there despite the losses. So Jeff Karstens will have to be good.
  • The Indians over the Twins: Every time this picker thinks the Indians are dead, they come back and defeat a pick. Josh Tomlin does his ground ball thing and Scott Diamond continues to turn into zirconium.
  • The Nationals over the Brewers: Mike Fiers has been impossibly good and still can't get a winning record. He either gets no run support or the bullpen blows up his games. One of those two are guaranteed to happen again today. Ross Detwiler is taking advantage of his opportunity. Good for him.
  • The Reds over the Rockies: Drew Pomeranz gets to pitch on the road and away from Coors. But it is at the Great American Ballpark, which is indeed great, but not in size. Totally screwed this up. Rockies are at home. Pick still stays the same though. The Reds are the better team. Bronson Arroyo with the win.
  • The Mets over the Diamondbacks: This picker really believes in Jon Niese as a pitcher. He's got everything he needs to be successful. He just needs to do it every inning and every start. The Mets win two in a row after a horrid streak. Josh Collmenter has been good of late.
  • The Angels over the Bay Rays: Alex Cobb will not have fun against Trout, Trumbo and Pujols. The Angels have a healthy Dan Haren back and that should help them win this one with relative ease.
  • The Royals over the Mariners: This pick counts on Jeremy Guthrie going down on his knees and thanking above for a big ballpark to pitch in. It also counts on Blake Beavan being the weakest link in the Mariners' rotation.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Giants over the Dodgers: Okay, the big showdown. The Giants go with an ace in Matt Cain and the Dodgers counter with...with..a TBO. Gosh, how can you go into the biggest series of July and not know who is going to pitch?

Yesterday: 2-6
Week: 36-30
Month: 175-134
Season: 807-650
Games of the Day: 62-45

Thursday, July 26, 2012

BBA Linkfest - General Olympics

Welcome to another round of links from around the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. The heading honors the Olympics starting in London, but really has nothing much to do with a great bunch of baseball writers. The Olympics do not feel the same since growing up with them. For one, they are not on ABC where they belong. Secondly, there is no Jim McCay and frankly, if you've seen one floor routine in gymnastics, you've seen them all. But this compiler realizes that he might be spitting into the wind on this one. Anyway, sit right back, lift a hot beverage and click some links to terrific fare from our writers around the world.

We will go alphabetically again with the links, but start at the bottom of the alphabet and work backwards:

- There is always good stuff over at the X-Log. The Dan Plesac eyebrow piece was hysterical. But for more analytic stuff, the Bay Area's need for first basemen is covered by Jonathan Dyer.

- Jon Sumple of Through the Fence Baseball writes that Marlins fans should be rejoicing.

- Sully of Sully Baseball is a Red Sox fan. He writes their 2012 eulogy here.

- Remarkably, Bryan of Replacement Level Baseball Blog might have been watching the same game as Sully. Here is his take. Love the comment from Dan on the piece too.

- Over at The Platoon Advantage, The Common Man has some really strong words for fans of the Miami Marlins. Oh, and he thinks this compiler is a communist because of not liking pepperoni. Get over yourself. :)

- The recent wave of prospects for the Kansas City Royals brought some optimism this year only to see it go up in flames. Jeremy Sickel of the Pop Fly Boys writes that the next wave will be different. Hope he's right.

- Pablo Sandoval's injury reminded this compiler so much of the one Harmon Killebrew suffered in the All Star Game all those years ago. Anyway, Old Time Family Baseball wrote a one-act play about the event. By the way. OTFB is one of this compiler's favorite sites. But wouldn't it have been much cooler if the author had named it with "Tyme" instead of, "Time?"

- Matt Altemose writes about perfection in baseball over at Number One Baseball.

- Nik of Niktig's Baseball Blog has revised his predictions for the final outcome of the standings.

- The easy pick for the post of the week comes form Chuck Booth over at MLB Reports. His awesome piece researches the crap out of a real pioneer of baseball that not many people know about. You have to read this piece if you love the game of baseball.

- There is a reason why Octavio Dotel set a record for the most franchises ever played for: He's a very good relief pitcher. Jonathan Mitchell of MLB Dirt has the details.

- The San Francisco Giants are playing great baseball.'s pverniere breaks it down for us.

- This compiler looks forward every year to Left Field during that writer's annual trek to Cooperstown. His first-hand account of the day's events is fantastic.

- Somebody had to write Jason Kendall's baseball eulogy. Theo of Hot Corner Harbor took it upon himself and does a terrific job with it.

- Absolutely love this post and this is why The Hall of Very Good is a must stop on your baseball journey. Nevermind the details. Just go there.

- Mike Rosenbaum of The Golden Sombrero has a video of Albert Almora's first professional homer. What a shot!

- Patrick Hayes of Full Spectrum Baseball puts his bright spotlight on the season of Melky Cabrera. This site always has great content.

- The OCP of For Baseball Junkies fame writes a great piece on the recent Cole Hamels extension.

- Dugout 24 wants baseball and softball back in the Olympics. Yes!

- Diamond Hoggers' TheNaturalMevs sure is enjoying the recent run by the Reds, as well he should. But never mind about the brassiere.

- Matt Whitener calls the events that led to the signing of Cole Hamels a perfect storm. Check out why over at his Cheap.Seats.Please.

- Mario Salvini of Che Palle! has some inspirational stories from the Olympics. There is a baseball player in there too!

- Okay, the line, "Big boy pants," just slays this compiler. Can't stop laughing now. Go read more from Kyle Davis over at Call to the Pen.

- Chris Carelli takes a fascinating look at whether the new MLB wild card format is accomplishing its goals. Great piece over at The Baseball Stance.

- Baseball Unrated takes a look at the Hall of Fame case of Andruw Jones.

- Stevo-sama has a different kind of post this week over at his The Baseball Enthusiast site. Knowing him, you never want to miss one of his pieces.

- And last but not least, Russ Blatt of 85% Sports has a terrific piece on some Double-A affiliates that are in flux right now. Great ending to the links round up, Russ!

And also, a big and hearty congratulations to our new BBA president, Bill Ivie (@poisonwilliam), on his marriage to @cardschic , one of the sweetest baseball writers out there. Long life and much happiness to them both.

Game Picks - Thursday: July 26, 2012

Oh my! 13-2! Now that is a good day. Some of the mirth was removed when one of the incorrect picks was the Game of the Day pick as the Rockies actually won a game. Jeff Francis was very good for the Rockies in that one. The only other incorrect pick was the Giants as Tim Lincecum fell victim to two long balls that accounted for four of the Padres' six runs. But wow, that was a good day.

For the first time in what seems like all season, Thursday brings us a real abbreviated schedule. There are only eight games to be played today. Three of them are days games, so at least that is cool. Every day should include at least one or two day games. Here are Thursday's picks:

  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: What is to make of this one? James Shields is nowhere as good as he was last season. The Orioles could take him deep a couple of times. Chris Tillman has had three excellent starts and one really, really bad one. Plus, he's never beaten the Rays. Ah, heck. Let's go with the Rays.
  • The Athletics over the Blue Jays: Thought about picking the Blue Jays here. Since he stopped throwing breaking balls, Aaron Laffey has been surprisingly good. Who knew? And Tommy Milone is like two different pitchers on the road and at home. He is not nearly as good on the road. But the A's are on such a serious roll and with Bautista sidelined, the pick has to go with the A's.
  • The Dodgers over the Cardinals: Went back and forth on this game a few times. Jake Westbrook is on a bit of a roll. But that means he is due for a clunker. Chris Capuano's last start against the Cards came last year and it did not go well. But he is better this season (somewhat). Going with Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp coming up big.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: Welcome again, A.J. Burnett, to the National League. The Astros should not give him much of a problem and Dallas Keuchel was hit hard his last start.
  • The Brewers over the Nationals: The bullpen has been so sad for the Brewers that predicting a good outing form Yovani Gallardo is problematic. Because who will finish it? Axeford should finish it, but what does this picker know? Anyway, Edwin Jackson has been good of late, but still can't seem to win consistently.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Mets: Matt Harvey is making his major league debut and that is a much anticipated event. However, that start comes in Arizona, a very tough place to pitch and some of the D-back's hitters are on fire like Jason Kubel, Miguel Montero and even Lyle Overbay. Plus, Wade Miley has had a terrific season.
  • The Mariners over the Royals: The Mariners have been getting good pitching and they have a good bullpen. Jason Vargas has been good and he gets the start. The only question is whether the Mariners will score. Luis Mendoza relies so much on contact, that any start really depends on how the ball bounces...literally.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Tigers over the Indians: The Indians are one of the few teams to beat Justin Verlander this season. But he only gave up two runs in that game. The Indians' offense is nearly non-existent. Zach McAllister has been terrific this season, but he can't keep up with Verlander.

Yesterday: 13-2
Week: 34-24
Month: 173-128
Season: 805- 644
Games of the Day: 62-44

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Game Picks - Wednesday: July 25, 2012

Tough sledding continues to be the theme this week when it comes to the Game Picks. For the second straight day, the picks just barely squeaked over .500 and the week is still a game in the red. When making the picks, the heat should have been part of the thought process in Clayton Kershaw's start. He tried to hold on, but the weather and the Cardinals overwhelmed him. The Red Sox beat the Rangers and that was not predicted. The Cubs beat the Pirates as Paul Maholm is on some kind of run. The Blue Jays' pick was probably stupid in retrospect. And the Bay Rays scored more runs than the Orioles. Those were just a few of the games that added to the struggles.

With players changing sides faster than a high school gym class, the picking of games becomes that much more difficult. Will the Marlins be hurt by losing Hanley Ramirez or will they be thrilled enough to play better? Will Wandy Rodriguez help the Pirates? Will Omar Infante hit enough for the Tigers? Nobody said this would be easy. So on we go. Wednesday's picks:

  • The Nationals over the Mets: Stephen Strasburg should pitch his usual acceptable to brilliant six innings and the Nats should score often against Hugh Jeremy Hefner.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs: Ryan Dempster is still a Cub as he refuses to go to Atlanta. Hey folks, that's part of the right he as earned under the current players agreement. But will all the distractions mess up his pitching? The Cubs hope not because they want to deal him still. Perhaps he won't even make this start. Kevin Correia has been decent of late.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: What the Marlins really should trade is their broadcast team. Gosh those guys are awful. Anyway, Tommy Hanson is the pick over Ricky Nolasco.
  • The Phillies over the Brewers: The Brewers' bullpen is single-handedly keeping the Phillies' mindset on still being able to salvage this season. We'll see. Vance Worley over Marco Estrada.
  • The White Sox over the Twins: Nick Blackburn has been better since coming back from the minors. But not that much better enough to beat the White Sox. Jake Peavy is the better pitcher anyway.
  • The Angels over the Royals: See? Are not the Royals the most frustrating team on the planet? How did they beat the Angels yesterday? What!? Well, if they beat Jered Weaver, this picker might have to just start skipping their games every day. Luke Hochevar goes for KC.
  • The Yankees over the Mariners: Ivan Nova needs to stop the home run ball and the mistakes in the middle of the plate. He has given up more extra base hits than anyone in baseball. Fortunately, he faces a lineup that he should be able to handle. Hisashi Iwakuma goes for the Mariners and he is a bit of a wild card to this pick.
  • The Giants over the Padres: Did you see that play made by Angel Pagan yesterday? Holy Cow! That is the kind of magic this Giants' team seems to have. Tim Lincecum seems to have recovered some of his mojo and picking against him has hurt lately. Tired of hurting! He is the pick over Jason Marquis. These first eight games were all days games. Coo, huh?
  • The Tigers over the Indians: The Indians stole a game yesterday. That was surprising. Will they surprise again today? Derek Lowe is capable of being good or really crappy. It all depends on the location of his sinker and the realities of his balls in play. Max Scherzer on the other hand, will just blow people away if he is on his game.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: You think this picker is going to pick against David Price the way he has been going? Not a chance. Miguel Gonzalez has been decent, but he is no David Price. Of course, the Rays will need to string a few hits together, no guarantee with that lineup.
  • The Athletics over the Blue Jays: Ricky Romero pitching at home be darned, this picker is tired of picking against the A's and getting burned. A.J. Griffin has been awesome.
  • The Rangers over the Red Sox: Which Josh Beckett will show up this time? Which one will have a huge difference on this game. Derek Holland has not been great since coming off the DL. But he can dominate if he is on.
  • The Reds over the Astros: This picker should come up with a new game where without using B-R or Fangraphs or any other site, fans have to name as many of the Astros' players on their 25-man roster as possible. The bet here is that the winner might pick twelve at most. Homer Bailey over Bud Norris.
  • The Cardinals over the Dodgers: Not feeling Aaron Harang outside of his big home ballpark. Kyle Lohse seems a much safer pick.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: The D- backs have put it together lately and are winning games in bunches. Trevor Cahill will keep it going over a deflated and devalued Rockies team. Jeff Francis will try his best with his 75 pitches.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 21-22
Month: 160-126
Season: 792-642
Games of the Day: 62-43

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mariners decide to go Smoakless

Perhaps the Justin Smoak ship will never arrive into port. The former #1 draft pick from South Carolina and the key ingredient of the Lee deal with the Rangers has never found a groove in the majors. And now at the age of 25, perhaps he never will. The Mariners just sent him down yesterday, their second most interesting transaction of the day.

Eric Wedge is saying all the right things. He still believes in Smoak. But should he? And it was the right move. Smoak's triple slash line is woeful at: .189/.253/.320. And after much talk about his smoothness around the bag at first, his defensive metrics are not much better. The first thought when thinking of Smoak was that his home ballpark had to be a factor. That place has to be depressing for a batter. And yeah, Smoak has hit ten of his thirteen homers this season on the road. But the overall OPS really is not that much different on the road than at home. He simply wasn't producing.

And let's also face facts: First base is a position that requires offensive production. Defense is helpful, but teams need their first basemen to be sluggers. Thinking that Smoak could have developed into that kind of batter was perhaps misplaced. His minor league slugging percentage for his career was .458. That is not exactly hitting moonshots on a regular basis. 

Smoak is also a switch hitter that has been totally useless this season as a left-handed batter. His slash line batting lefty: .168/.219/.261. He has a career .620 OPS as a left-handed batter. That is not going to cut it. Should he consider switching to being only a right-handed batter? Maybe. Thirty of his 41 career homers have come while batting from the right side. But his career OPS from that side is only .689. So it is not like he is going to fare that much better.

As this observer was thinking of these things, the Fan's poor brother kept coming to mind. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina, and he and his family are about the biggest Gamecock fans in the world. And Justin Smoak was god-like when he played there. But the facts are the facts. To think that Justin Smoak is suddenly going to find himself after 313 games and 1,261 plate appearances just doesn't seem feasible. 

The facts seem to indicate that Justin Smoak is going to go down in history (for those that may remember) as a #1 Pick that never lived up to the hype and expectation. He won't be the first. History is littered with them. And he won't be the last. If he were a shortstop, you could live with the lack of production. But he is a first baseman and he is toast.

Game Picks - Tuesday: July 24, 2012

The Game Picks pulled a rabbit out of the hat last night. At one point, the picks stood at two correct against six incorrect. Every pick was correct after that to pull the final tally just slightly over .500. Whew! So what went wrong early? Plenty. The Pirates could not hit Jeff Samardzija. Justin Masterson finally pitched a good game. Francisco Liriano threw another big stinker. The Red Sox were picked. Where was the head on that one? The Braves couldn't hit Josh Johnson. Yes, those picks will put you in a hole all right. Thank goodness for the flurry at the finish.

Ichiro a Yankee. Wow. That was big news. And you can tell it gave the Yankees a little sprite in their step last night. What a great move. He is like an older, less on-base Brett Gardner. That will work. The Tigers made a good move too. But it cost them more talent than what Ichiro cost the Yankees. Still, Anibal Sanchez is a very good pitcher. Those moves must be kept in mind when making tonight's picks. Here they are:

  • The Pirates over the Cubs: Paul Maholm has been very good for the Cubs. He is a BABIP pitcher, of course, and all depends on where the grounders are hit and when. James McDonald has been this picker's horse all season and though he has had a couple of rough outings, he gets the pick.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: Perhaps Omar Infante will play for the Tigers? He will help that team's defense. Great double play guy. Doug Fister will need to pitch a good game and he should against the Indians who have a struggling offense. Of course, one never knows what to expect from Ubaldo Jimenez.
  • The Phillies over the Brewers: Great pitching match-up in this one with Cliff Lee versus Zack Greinke. The Brewers' bullpen is such a mess right now that the pick has to go with the Phillies. 
  • The Orioles over the Bay Rays: Interesting match-up. Jeremy Hellickson does not strike people out and Oriole hitters like to strikeout. Which truth will be evident? The pick goes with Wei-Yin Chen, who has had a very fine season for the Orioles.
  • The Blue Jays over the Athletics: Brett Cecil will put Coco Crisp on the bench and Crisp has been one of the A's best hitters in this run of theirs. Travis Blackley is decent, but the Blue Jays should get him in their home ballpark.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: How big has Tim Hudson been for the Braves!? He's been carrying them for a while now. Mark Buehrle bends a lot but rarely breaks. Going with the Braves. The Marlins are in sell mode, which is sad.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: In a rematch of Gio Gonzalez versus R.A. Dickey, Gonzalez will show up this time and keep the game tight enough for the Nats to again destroy the Mets' bullpen.
  • The Rangers over the Red Sox: It is hard not to pick the Red Sox with Clay Buchholz on the mound against the inexperienced Martin Perez. But gosh, the Red Sox have sunk so low and have so little life right now that the Rangers have to be the pick.
  • The Reds over the Astros: Lucas Harrell is a pretty good pitcher. But how can you pick the Astros when they have lost 20 of their last 22 games? You can't. Mike Leake had a bad start his last time out, but should rebound in this one.
  • The White Sox over the Twins: Jose Quintana is a tough little cookie who was robbed of a win when the White Sox blew a 1-0 lead in the ninth on him his last time out. Cole De Vries has held his own for the Twins but the White Sox should win the game.
  • The Dodgers over the Cardinals: This is the way the Cards' season is going. The don't catch the Dodgers of a week ago that were colder than the North Pole on a winter's day. They get the hot version with Ethier and Kemp back and Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Good luck with that. Adam Wainwright will try to negate everything that was just said.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: You know...everyone involved with the Rockies leadership should be fired. What a mess they have created this season. What an absolute mess. And tonight, there is a big TBO next to whoever is supposed to start. It's pretty bad when you can't even come up with a starter. Joe Saunders should be mediocre, but mediocre will be enough to win.
  • The Angels over the Royals: Garrett Richards needs to have a good game, but it might not matter because the Angels should destroy Will Smith who is not the fresh prince.
  • The Mariners over the Yankees: This is the Mariners' best shot to win a game this series with Felix Hernandez on the mound. He has been terrific. On the Yankees' side is Freddy Garcia. Ugh. The Yankees should have switched this to the young kid whose name cannot be recalled at the moment.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Giants over the Padres: Madison Bumgarner at home? Check. The Padres cannot hit? Check. The Giants on a roll? Check. It shouldn't matter how good Edinson Volquez is or isn't.

Yesterday: 7-6
Week: 13-15
Month: 152-119
Season: 784-635
Games of the Day: 61-43

Monday, July 23, 2012

Game Picks - Monday: July 23, 2012

Sunday was a brutal day for the Game Picks. The picks battled to break even all day and then collapsed at the end like the Yankees. Ugh. The Yankees. The A's had a great series. A hat tip to them. But it sure was costly on the picks. The Mariners again beating the Rays despite making twenty straight outs did not help. The Angels taking a game from the Rangers thanks to a terrible relief outing by Alexi Ogando did not help. Predicting a Mets win did not help. And on and on it went. A bad, bad day.

This picker is not sure if it's just the imagination or does it seem there are far less off days for the teams this year? Usually, either Monday is a really slow day or Thursday is. But this year, there are always a pretty good selection of games on both traditional off days. Today is no exception as there are thirteen games scheduled. As the Tigers and other teams are proving. The baseball season is a marathon. Here are Monday's picks:

  • The Orioles over the Indians: Strange for this series to wrap through the weekend and into Monday. But the Orioles can't be complaining as they have had their way with the Indians and picked up four games on the Yankees. Tommy Hunter was good in his last outing and Justin Masterson was brutally bad against the Rays.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs: Jeff Samardzija has ambushed his season with pitch counts and can't seem to get past the fifth inning these days. Erik Bedard is no great shakes either but if he wins, it will be his sixth win of the season, tying the most he's had since 2007. What a weird stat.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Mike Minor is starting to look like a decent pitcher and is rewarding the Braves' patience with him. Josh Johnson simply hasn't been the dominating pitcher we all expected. But then nothing about the Marlins has gone as expected.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: The Mets have fallen and can't get up. Chris Young won't help as he should not be able to keep up with Jordan Zimmermann, one of this season's most consistent pitchers.
  • The Red Sox over the Rangers: This game is fortunate for the Red Sox. They have their best pitcher this season, Felix Doubront, going against a tough Rangers' team with an ice cold Josh Hamilton and emergency starter, Scott Feldman.
  • The Reds over the Astros: Wandy Rodriguez might be the next Astros player to get dealt. He will have plenty of scouts to be sure watching this start. But the Reds' Mat Latos should have a good day against a diminished Astros' lineup.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: Francisco Liriano is always a wild card. And sometimes, he is just plain wild. Gavin Floyd is coming off the DL with a sore elbow. That never sounds good.
  • The Cardinals over the Dodgers: Chad Billingsley has not had a good season. He's been a huge disappointment for the Dodgers. Joe Kelly has held his own as a rookie starter for the Cards.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Jonathan Sanchez? What are those crazy Rockies doing? Ian Kennedy put together a good start last time out.
  • The Angels over the Royals: The Angels only have one left-handed back in their lineup. Bruce Chen is left-handed. Not a good thing for the Royals. C.J. Wilson will get the win.
  • The Yankees over the Mariners: Kevin Millwood beat the Yankees earlier in the season. So there is a score to settle. The Yankees need a win to get back on track. Hiroki Kuroda needs a good game as the Yankees' bullpen is gassed.
  • The Giants over the Padres: Clayton Richard is always good at home. But Ryan Vogelsong just keeps singing along. The Giants should win handily.

And the Game of the Day!

Yesterday: 6-9
Week: 6-9
Month: 145-113
Season: 777-629
Games of the Day: 60-43

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Confused on the Justin Upton situation

The Arizona Diamondbacks' Justin Upton is not having as good a season as last season. That fact is obvious. But how and why does that translate to wanting to trade a former 1st Round draft pick who is only twenty-four and already has 99 homers to his credit? And how bad is his current season? His fWAR is the exact same as Nick Swisher. And even with his diminished season, Upton has already performed to a value of $7.8 million. He is currently making $6.5 million. What the heck is up with this trade talk? Is not Justin Upton a piece you build a franchise around?

By the time this season is over, Justin Upton will have hit as many or more homers before his 25th birthday than Mark Teixeira, Frank Thomas and Gary Sheffield. In five full seasons, he has compiled 16.6 WAR or an average of more than five a season. That's a pretty good career start. He is an above average fielder in right and a far above average base runner. So can somebody give this observer a clue as to why the Diamondbacks sounds so hot to do this?

Since this writer is not the only one to be baffled by the trade rumors, the inevitable has happened and people are looking for dark secrets and painting Justin Upton as a malcontent. His agent and his general manager have both said those rumors are stupid.  Now what isn't known is Upton's relationship with his manager and his teammates. But unless there is something concrete to talk about, any talk about those relationships being the reason for Upton's rumors would be unfair. You could read into those dumb statements made earlier in the season by Ken Kendrick that singled out Upton and Drew, but that statement was made silly by the fact that Drew was recovering from a broken leg for crying out loud.

Even if they were true, big deal. Babe Ruth had trouble with his managers. Reggie Jackson was not universally loved by his teammates. Gary Sheffield did not have a mild personality. So what? And can much be made of Upton's below-par season? Not really. If he puts a string of sub-par seasons together like Hanley Ramirez has, then the talk would be appropriate. But that is not the case here.

So again, why would the Diamondbacks be so anxious to trade him? Upton has a favorable contract for the next few years if you go by Upton's body of work. Just a season ago, at the age of 23, he had a near MVP season. Something doesn't make sense here. Justin Upton is the kind of young talent that every team is looking for. He has had major league success. He has nothing but a positive future ahead of him. Color this observer clueless because the whole thing seems ridiculous.

Game Picks - Sunday: July 22, 2012

Is it ever a really good day when your favorite team loses? Well, the picks had a great day anyway with eleven correct picks in sixteen attempts. Both ends of the Nats - Braves double-header were dead on which always helps.  A.J. Burnett won his eleventh. There were a few clunkers. Yes, this picker is looking at you, Cleveland. The Royals. The Stupid Royals. The hardest team to pick in baseball. What the heck, eh? But on the whole, it was a successful day and week.

A new week starts with Sunday. Some might wonder why this prognosticator doesn't start the week on Monday. Look at your calendar, folks. Sunday is the first day of the week. Anyway, another big day of games. Let's get to them:

  • The White Sox over the Tigers: The Tigers took over first place by a half a game yesterday and can make it a game and a half today and put their stamp on the division. And...and...have Jacob Turner scheduled to start. :::deflation sound:::  Phil Humber better be decent though for the White Sox to win.
  • The Mets over the Dodgers: What do you do when you have two starting pitchers that are never supported with runs? Why, go with the home team, of course. Nathan Eovaldi never gets any runs. Never. Jon Niese at least gets one once in a while.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: Mike Fiers has been very, very good. But Johnny Cueto is an ace. The ace limits the Brewers and the Reds win by a couple of runs.
  • The Nationals over the Braves: The Nationals are going with Ross Detwiler who has a chance once in a while of pitching a decent game. The Braves are going with Jair Jurrjens who has thrown one good game all year. Nationals.
  • The Marlins over the Pirates: The wayward Marlins steal a win here behind Anibal Sanchez. The Pirates only shot is to for Jeff Karstens to continue to be amazing and/or get to Sanchez early.
  • The Giants over the Phillies: The Giants are making sure the Phillies are sellers in this market instead of buyers. Barry Zito has not been a laughingstock this season. Joe Blanton is pitching decently, but can be had.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: This game wants to trip this picker up. You just know it. Jon Lester has been bloody awful. So picking against him seems the way to go. Henderson Alvarez was good against the Yankees, so that seems the way to go. The Blue Jays pick yesterday was correct, so that seems the way to go. You're not fooling this old picker, Red Sox.
  • The Royals over the Twins: Okay, Royals. Make a mockery of this pick again. Sam Deduno goes for the Twins. He throws too many walks. But the Royals don't walk. Hmm... Jeremy Guthrie is one of those good stuff - bad results kind of guys like A.J. Burnett before this year. The thinking here is that Guthrie will be so happy to be away from Coors that he will be doing a jig on the mound.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: The bloom came off the Travis Wood rose his last time out as he was treated rather rudely. It is tough to pick Lance Lynn, not because he isn't terrific, he is. But it seems he brings out the worst in the Cardinal bullpen.
  • The Indians over the Orioles: The Orioles' pitching has suddenly righted itself. Or the Indians simply can't hit. Whichever the case, the latest Oriole pitcher offered up is Zach Britton, another of the young pitchers that has never put it together. What him pull another Chris Tillman and make this picker pull his hair out. If Josh Tomlin is right, there will be fifteen Oriole ground balls hit in this one.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: Ross Ohlendorf is 3-0. You may now commence laughing. But really, he was decent against the Astros. But pitching well against the Astros is like eating beautifully with chocolate. It is sort of expected. But here is the thing. There are not too many days in a lifetime when two pitchers named, "Ross," pitch on the same day. For them to both win on the same day would be, like, momentous. So it has to happen! Christian Friedrich will be the happy spectator for his 75 pitches.
  • The Yankees over the Athletics: Well, this pick has been wrong all weekend. But this is why C.C. Sabathia gets paid the big bucks, to stop these little slides. The A's mistake in this one is not sticking with one of the young kids. Bartolo Colon will be treated rudely by his former mates.
  • The Diamondbacks over the the Astros: The Astros are in the home stretch for the Number One pick in the draft and they are working it hard. They will make Josh Collmenter look good. Jordan Lyles doesn't stand a chance.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: Not as confident in this pick as would be nice. Matt Harrison is vastly underrated. Dan Haren wasn't pitching well when he went on the DL. But will he be great again coming off of it? Tough pick.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Bay Rays over the Mariners: Two pathetic offensive teams. Seriously pathetic. That said, Matt Moore has a better chance to blank the other team than Blake Beavan does.

Yesterday: 11-5
Last week: 62-37
Month: 139-104
Season; 771-620
Games of the Day: 60-42