Saturday, August 18, 2012

Replay, Bud. Replay

Buck Showalter had every reason to be red in the face at the the call reversal that occurred in the sixth inning of the Baltimore Orioles game against the Tigers. And Major League Baseball should be red in the face too...with embarrassment. The original call by the first base umpire was correct. Mark Reynolds kept his foot on the bag on the throw from Manny Machado to get Peralta on a very nice play. The first base umpire, Jeff Kellogg got the call correctly. But after the Tigers' manager argued, Kellogg asked for help and got the wrong kind of help. Too bad Kellogg couldn't have asked for a replay. But we do not have replay in Major League Baseball.

This is an important series between two contending teams. The Orioles held a 3-1 lead in the game. The outcome of such an important game should not be determined by a bad call. And then the Orioles lose Mark Reynolds for the rest of the game because he knew he kept his foot on the bag and was justifiably upset the call was reversed. Reynolds and Showalter will be fined, of which the proceeds should go to a replay fund to end this madness.

Fielder would go on to hit a game-tying homer because of the outcome of this play. He might have hit the homer anyway, but that would have made the score only, 3-2 instead of a tie game. And the Tigers might have won the game anyway, but that is not the point. The point is that a play on the field should be called correctly and we have the technology to do that. So why not stop talking about it, Mr. Selig, and make it so?

Mark Reynolds might have been able to hit his own homer later in the game. We'll never know. What is known is that the replay clearly showed that Reynolds made a terrific play to keep his foot on the bag while stretching out to short hop the throw into his glove in time to beat the runner. Such a beautiful play should be rewarded. Reynolds' only reward was to get thrown out of the game.

These things simply should not happen. Say you like the human element if you are an old school poopface. But the only human element that should happen in a game of baseball should be what the players do on the field and whether they succeed or fail. Their successes shouldn't be taken away by the fallibility of umpires--not when we have the technology to fix it.

Even if you are glad the Tigers won, you can't feel good about a win coming on such an egregious situation. Fix this, Bud Selig, because it is getting really, really old.

Game Picks - Saturday: August 18, 2012

This Game of the Day thing is starting to really hit raw nerves here. The Game of the Day is not the most exciting or interesting game being played on a particular day. It is a pick that seems a virtual lock. After each game is picked, the one that seems the most comfortable is selected as the Game of the Day. Perhaps it should be called the sure pick of the day or something. But anyway, it is meant to be an easy one...a no-brainer. Last year, it worked out that way. More than twice as many of those particular picks were correct during the season than incorrect. This season? Not so much. Only ten of those picks have been correct in the last twenty-four days. Argh!

As for the rest of the picks, the day started with a 7-1 run only to finish at 9-6. The positive day was sort of good. But the results were disappointing in the end. And why is it that Jered Weaver only stinks against the Tampa Bay Rays? Holy crap does that team annoy this picker. And don't even mention the Cardinals around here. They never do what is expected. Oh well. It is what it is. Did you see how far Prince Fielder's first homer flew!?

Here are Saturday's picks:

  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: This is all reverse logic. Ryan Dempster was supposed to start, but he has personal issues and left the team. So Roy Oswalt will start and he has been awful. Meanwhile, Carlos Villanueva has only allowed more than three runs in a game once all season. So the Blue Jays should win. But they won't. The Rangers will because baseball makes no sense.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: These two teams have two games today. The first game features Jeff Samardzija (on what appears to be short rest) against Johnny Cueto. Cueto is awesome this season. Have to go with him.
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: Jon Lester has been better of late, though he struggles against the Yankees. But the Red Sox are too good an offense to lose to David Phelps. At least that is the feeling from this cheap seat.
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: Lance Lynn has been as unpredictable as his team in the last couple of months. But his overall season is much better than Erik Bedard. The Cards' offense should shine in this one.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Astros: This is the Astros' best chance to win a game in this series. Patrick Corbin is inexperienced for the D-backs but has been fairly effective. Jordan Lyles just goes out there every fifth day and competes no matter how bad his team is. But Lyles will still lose his tenth decision.
  • The Tigers over the Orioles: Neither Zach Britton or Rick Porcello is worth feeling great enough to pick on their own merit. Both are disasters waiting to happen. Perhaps more disasters will befall Britton and hence the pick. Plus, the Tigers are at home and feeling good about themselves.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: The Nats are towering right now. They just look awesome. The Mets? Not so much. Edwin Jackson is the weakest of the Nats' starters. And Jonathan Niese is a good pitcher. Tough game to call, but you have to pick the Nationals.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Paul Konerko is back. Jake Peavy is on the mound. All things look good for a White Sox win. But, that is on paper. Bruce Chen goes for the Royals who beat the White Sox yesterday.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Todd Redmond pitches for the Reds and Brooks Raley goes for the Cubs. Don't you just love double-headers? Ugh. Who knows with those two unknowns.
  • The Phillies over the Brewers: The Phillies really are a bad team right now. But Cole Hamels is not one of the reasons. He should have a good day. The only question is if the Phillies can score any runs off of Mike Fiers. If you go with just the pitching match-up, Hamels is better.
  • The Marlins over the Rockies: You know that Giancarlo Stanton will hit another homer. He loves him some good Coors Field. Nathan Eovaldi has some experience at Coors from his time with the Dodgers. The only question is how good Tyler Chatwood will be today. He is inscrutable. 
  • The Padres over the Giants: This is the upset pick of the day. Barry Zito simply hasn't been very good. Eric Stults has looked very good. So this will be a Padres' win providing they hit Zito, which they should.
  • The Athletics over the Indians: Bartolo Colon is always tricky to pick. You know he will have good outings but there is always a clunker in there once in a while. The trick is predicting when it will be. This picker doesn't think it will be today. The Indians' offense is sort of not very good right now. And Cory Kluber is simply to risky to pick as the Indians' starting pitcher.
  • The Angels over the Rays: This pick is almost the same as the Rangers' pick. C.J. Wilson has not been good for the last month and a half. Alex Cobb has been very good for the last month and a half. So that should make the pick easy. But it doesn't feel right. So the Angels are the pick. Heaven help this poor picker.
  • The Mariners over the Twins: Tough game to call. Jason Vargas has been terrific, but so has Scott Diamond. The Twins have a slightly better offense. Going with Vargas.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Braves over the Dodgers: Aaron Harang will get harangued in Atlanta. Ben Sheets continues his improbable comeback and keeps the Dodgers' bats quiet.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 50-31
Month: 136-99
Season: 978-779
Games of the Day: 72-57   grrr

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chris Volstad is 0-9

When a pitcher makes twelve starts and has an 0-9 record, is there really a point to try and figure out if the guy is just unlucky or just plain not pitching well? Probably not. Is there a need to break it all down when reaching back to last season, Chris Volstad has lost fourteen straight decisions? Perhaps not there either. Volstad is not threatening (yet) Anthony Young's losing streak, but it sure is becoming a, "thing." But perhaps the discussion would still be interesting since Volstad was a former first round draft pick (2005) and is still only 25 years old.

His season is staggering in its consequences. The Chicago Cubs have won only one of the games Volstad has started this season. Going back two seasons, Volstad is now 5-22 in his combined 2011 and 2012. If the Cubs were to shut him down right now, or if inexplicably, Volstad went the rest of the season without a win, he would become only the sixth pitcher ever to pitch twelve or more starts and not win a game. The list:

  • Russ Miller (1928) - twelve starts, twelve losses.
  • Steve Gerkin (1945) - twelve starts, twelve losses. He put his team in a pickle?
  • Vida Blue (1983) - fourteen starts, 0-5
  • Vladimir Nunez (2000) - twelve starts, 0-6
  • Bruce Chen (2006) - twelve starts, 0-7

The good news from that list is that no one has ever pitched more than fourteen starts and gone without a win. So if he keeps pitching, a win is bound to happen. Oh, and Marco Estrada of the Brewers is in the running to join this list and is 0-5 in twelve starts.

So is Chris Volstad that bad a pitcher? He is not great according to his peripherals. But he is better than his results if you are to believe the statistics. First, he is a contact pitcher who only gets 5.4 percent of his pitches swung and missed. He is more of a ground ball pitcher with healthy ground ball to fly ball rates. And yet his BABIP is .317 this season and .310 last season. You can't really say he has pitched in front of terrible defenses. The Cubs are in the upper end of the middle of the pack this season and the Marlins the same last season.

Volstad has also limited walks better in the last two seasons than before in his career. That means that his strikeout to walk ratio is the highest of his career the last two seasons. So what then? His ERA is a whopping 6.96. But his FIP of 4.57, while not great, is still in line with the rest of his career. 

On the other hand, Fangraphs does not give any of his pitches a positive score. So Volstad does not have a single pitch that can be dominant. Perhaps that is part of the reason his homer rates have been so high the last two seasons. Whatever the case, his high homer rate and 11.8 hits allowed per nine innings haven't helped. His WHIP is an extremely high 1.55.

Another thing way off for Volstad this season is his strand rate. He has only been able to strand 57 percent of the batters he has put on base. That will hurt you. Batters have an OPS against him of .830.

Too many base runners. Too many homers. Not enough strikeouts. Six games where his team has supported him with two runs or less. Those will all add up to a record that has nary a win. There is certainly some bad luck thrown in there too for good measure. Whatever the case, Chris Volstad is not winning and his .000 winning percentage cannot be any fun for Volstad or his team. He is still in the Cubs' rotation and we'll have to see how this ends.

Game Picks - Friday: August 17, 2012

Thursday was disappointing. Bullpen meltdowns cost three picks, the Yankees, the Phillies and the Cardinals. The latter was the Game of the Day too (sorry Kryss). And so the day ended just a game over the .500 mark and left a pretty sour taste in the mouth.

And because the morning started with a bit of the grumpies, yesterday is no longer going to be discussed. Some things are just better left behind and discarded. Instead, we'll focus on Friday which starts some new and interesting series around baseball. Here are Friday's picks:

  • The Tigers over the Orioles: This pick has to go to Justin Verlander at home. It seems totally unlikely that Tommy Hunter can pitch well enough to keep up with Verlander. There is some urgency building with the Tigers and Miguel Cabrera is on his usual end of the season tear.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Sure, the Red Sox could elevate their game because it is the Yankees. But that works both ways. Franklin Morales goes for the Yankees and they should get to him. The big thing is how Phil Hughes will do at home. Hughes has not been consistent and must pound the strike zone early against the Red Sox.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: The Mets had a nice win yesterday over the Reds. And they might be attractive to pick if it were not that Johan Santana has been hit so hard in his last half dozen starts. Santana will be better next year when he can build his shoulder up more. Ross Detwiler will pitch well for the Nats.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Travis Wood is decent and he'll make the game slightly interesting as will Bronson Arroyo if he is not on. Either it will be low-scoring with the Reds bullpen being dominant, or it will be a slugfest. Either way, the Reds win.
  • The Braves over the Dodgers: This picker can't see Chris Capuano's game translating well to Fulton County Stadium or Turner Field or whatever they call that place in Atlanta. It is definitely easier on Chipper Jones' knees when he can trot around the bases. Tommy Hanson is the key to this game though.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Astros: Wade Miley has been quite the story this season. Have you seen his walks per nine rate? How does 1.77 grab you? That is awesome. Miley should beat Dallas Keuchel.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Chris Sale. How good has he been this season? Haven't you been expecting him to fall off a cliff or something statistically? Same here. Except it hasn't happened. Luis Mendoza starts for the Royals and can be decent.
  • The Brewers over the Phillies: Yovani Gallardo has been on a roll lately, and no, he is not a sandwich. He is starting to hit too, so this Fan's article about his hitting must have spurred him on. Heh. Vance Worley has been decent, but not great this season. If the Brewers get the lead, can they hold it late?  50/50.
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: Like the Cardinals at home in this one even though they lost a heart-breaker yesterday. Jake Westbrook will need to pitch well and he should against Pittsburgh. James McDonald looks like he should be skipped a start or two as he has been faring poorly for the last month or so after starting the season well.
  • The Rockies over the Marlins: Who knows, really. This game could go either way and this picker has no clue what to do here. Jeff Francis is capable of a good game at Coors. He is just as capable of a clunker. The same goes for Wade LeBlanc. Going with the home team.
  • The Indians over the Athletics: The A's have fallen off a bit though they had a nice win yesterday. The feeling here is that Zach McAllister will pitch better than Tommy Milone. Milone has had a series of sub-par starts of late.
  • The Giants over the Padres: It really isn't nice that Ross Ohlendorf's name leads to so many jokes. Ending his name in, "dork," or, "doof," just isn't fair. It's funny, but not nice. He will lose of course, as the Giants have Matt Cain on the mound.
  • The Angels over the Rays: The Rays used their ace to beat the Angels last night. The Angels will counter with their ace tonight in Jered Weaver. The only problem is that James Shields has stepped it up of late and become pretty dominant himself.
  • The Mariners over the Twins: Another game that seems awfully muddy to predict. Nick Blackburn has to get lucky with contact to win. That is not a good formula. Hisashi Iwakuma seems to have a better chance to pitch well. But who knows.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: Yu Darvish goes to Canada. And he was better his last time out. The Blue Jays are still scuffling with major injuries. J.A. Happ won't hold the Rangers down.

Yesterday: 6-5
Week: 41-25
Month; 127-93
Season: 969-773
Games of the Day: 72-56

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Game Picks - Thursday: August 16, 2012

Wednesday was a superlative day for the Game Picks with one slight problem. One of the only three incorrect picks of the entire day was the Game of the Day! That takes all the fun out of it. But there were some really good picks in there. It was hinted in the picks that Felix Hernandez would only need a run to beat the Rays. A perfect game later and that prediction looks aces. What a game he pitched! The Royals over the A's behind Will Smith was a really good pick. And the picks were definitely right on the Reds beating R.A. Dickey. On the down side, there are no excuses for picking the Blue Jays and the Astros. Those were just dumb picks.

Thursday features eleven games, which isn't bad for a usual travel day. The MLB scheduler really has the teams hopping this year. There hasn't been one Monday or a Thursday that had less than seven games on the schedule (that this brain can remember, anyway). This is very unusual after following this game for decades. Here are today's picks:

  • The Yankees over the Rangers: A four game sweep of the Rangers seems highly improbable. Derek Holland usually pitches better on the road and in his last outing went toe-to-toe with Justin Verlander. There are two problems though. First, in nineteen outings, Holland has given up 22 homers. That translates to a 1.7 homers per nine rate. That's not a good thing in Yankee Stadium. Secondly, for his career, the Yankees have a 1.055 OPS against Holland and he is 0-5 lifetime against the Yankees with a 9.24 ERA. Oof. Ivan Nova should get Chris Stewart behind the plate again and that gives hope that he can have another good outing.
  • The Pirates over the Dodgers: Went back and forth on this pick a hundred times. A.J. Burnett has had only one bad start at home but it was the last one too. Neil Walker dislocated his finger on Wednesday and is day to day. Joe Blanton can be decent and he can be hit depending on the day. The Pirates need this win.
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: Clay Buchholz is about as sure a thing as the Red Sox have. He has been really good for months now. Chris Tillman is confusing at worst and sometimes is really good. Have to go with Buchholz.
  • The White Sox over the Blue Jays: Aaron Laffey can get through a lineup once. But by the second or third time, he gets knocked around a bit. Francisco Liriano will need to be good for the White Sox though and should triumph over a makeshift Blue Jays' lineup.
  • The Reds over the Mets: Homer Bailey has given up a pile of runs in his last three games. But he should fare better against the Mets who are having trouble scoring runs. Matt Harvey looks like he is really going to be good, but he is kind of learning on the job in the big leagues.
  • The Braves over the Padres: Jason Marquis has been terrific in his last half dozen starts. He is due for a rough up game and the Braves have the lineup to do that (sometimes). Kris Medlen has been sort of a good luck charm for the Braves. When he starts over his career, they win.
  • The Athletics over the Royals: The A's are struggling suddenly and the Royals have won two straight against them. Luke Hochevar, the Royals starter is so hard to predict. He can be perfectly acceptable and then perfectly awful. The A's are due to break out the bats and this might be the game they do so. Dan Straily has good stuff but the Angels hit four homers off of him. He should do better against the Royals.
  • The Phillies over the Brewers: Cliff Lee, under normal circumstances, is better than Marco Estrada, whose first name requires a response of, "Polo," and whose last name calls to mind, CHiPS. That poor bullpen of the Brewers. Wow.
  • The Marlins over the Rockies: Giancarlo Stanton in Coors Field? That should be entertaining. Ricky Nolasco has the kind of stuff to succeed in that park while Alex White has less of a chance to pitch well there consistently.
  • The Rays over the Angels: Dan Haren is not healthy. He doesn't pitch this badly when he is healthy. Something is going on with him. Meanwhile, David Price has the stuff to shut down Trout and the boys. The perfect game against the Rays will get them pretty steamed...enough to predict a rebound in this one.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Cardinals over the Diamondbacks: Baseball people still think the D-Backs are in the NL West race. That is not what this picker is seeing. And this series against the Cardinals has done nothing to change the mind any. Kyle Lohse over Trevor Cahill.

Yesterday: 12-3
Week: 36-20
Month: 121-88
Season: 963-768
Games of the Day: 72-55

Mark Rogers might win...some day

Mark Rogers of the Milwaukee Brewers is not a very lucky fellow. And that is unfortunate because he is from this great state of Maine and Maine is not exactly brimming with baseball success stories. And so it was pretty darned exciting when a kid who went to Mount Ararat High School in Topsham, Maine was the fifth overall selection in the first round of the 2004 draft. He had big strikeout numbers early in his years in the minors and made Baseball America's Top 100 prospects in 2005 and 2006. But he also walked a lot of people and did not progress quickly. And then he hurt his shoulder.

The injury was in 2006 and he had surgery to repair a torn labrum. A year later, he had to have another surgery to remove scar tissue from the first surgery. He finally got back in action in 2009 and seemed headed in the right direction as he had a good first year back. He also did well enough in 2010 that the Brewers called him up for his major league debut.

Rogers made four appearances in 2010 for a total of ten innings including one start that lasted five innings. Rogers pitched well. He struck out eleven batters and walked only two and allowed only two hits. He was on his way, right? Not exactly.

2011 was not a good year for Mark Rogers. His pitching was brutal and he went 0-5 in several levels. He pitched several levels because he had a drug suspension for stimulants thrown in the mix. For once, the 0-5 record was not mere bad luck. He earned that record. But that doesn't hold true for the rest of his minor league career. Rogers has pitched to the tune of a 4.70 ERA in the minors. No, that's not great. But it's not bad enough to compile the 16-36 record (.306 winning percentage). A record that bad requires some bad luck.

Rogers was pitching fairly well in Triple-A in 2012. For once, his record wasn't that bad at 6-6. He no longer struck out a lot of people and the high walk rate was still there. But he was 6-6. Then the Brewers traded Zack Greinke and Rogers got the call to the majors.

Rogers has now made four starts in the big leagues this season. He should have won three of them. He has not won any of them. On his first start on July 29, he had to face the Nationals. Have fun with that one, kid. And he did. He pitched five and two-thirds innings and gave up only two runs and struck out seven against only one walk. He left the game with a 3-2 lead. The Brewers would stretch that lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth. But then it happened.

The Brewers' bullpen gave up eight runs and lost 11-10. 

In Rogers' second start, he faced the Cardinals. The poor kid was thrown into the mixing bowl in those first two starts, no? The Cards got to Rogers for five runs in five innings of work and though he struck out five and walked only one, Rogers gave up three extra base hits and earned the loss.

In Rogers' third start, he pitched brilliantly, albeit against the Astros. But still. He pitched seven innings and only gave up one run on three hits and two walks. He struck out eight. The Brewers were leading, 3-1 when Rogers left the game. Francisco Rodriguez gave up a run in the eighth to make it 3-2. And then a gaffe by Carlos Gomez in the field and another blown save by John Axford plated two Astros runs to lose the game for the Brewers in walk-off fashion. Rogers was again denied his first big league win.

Then he pitched just last night against the Rockies. Considering the game was in Coors Field and scoring is relative, Rogers pitched well. He pitched six innings and allowed five runs on seven hits. That is not a bad outing in Coors. Again, he left the game with his team in the lead, 6-5.

Jim Henderson is the new Brewers' closer. Henderson is another interesting story. Unlike Rogers, Henderson was selected in the 26th the Expos. He is a thirty year old rookie. He had recorded two saves recently and had looked like he could right the Brewers sinking ship and along the way, help Mark Rogers get his first win for his career. It did not happen.

Henderson gave up three hits and two runs in the ninth and the Rockies had a walk-off win. Three times Mark Rogers had been in line for his first major league win and all three times the Brewers blew the save.

But Rogers is not alone in that category for Brewers' starters. The Brewers' bullpen is one of the most intriguing stories of 2012 and has totally derailed this team's chances for a playoff spot. The Brewers have now blown 23 saves in 48 saves opportunities.

After a long and winding road to get himself back to the big leagues, Mark Rogers has not embarrassed himself. The kid from Maine is holding his own. And maybe someday, Robers will get a win to show for it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tim Hudson - The unsung ace

Listing off the pitching aces in baseball is easy. There is Halladay, Kershaw, Verlander, Weaver, Sabathia, Strasburg and a few more. Few would think to put the Atlanta Braves' Tim Hudson on the list. But Tim Hudson is an ace. He wins the big games. He stops losing streaks. His rotation around him fluctuates in effectiveness. But nine times out of ten, he is going to throw a good game at you. And the Braves' success is so wrapped around Tim Hudson's fortunes that when he lost steam last September, the Braves could not overcome his mortality and fell out of a playoff spot on the last day of the season. Tim Hudson is a...dare it be said?...winner.

Hudson will never be among the leaders in WAR. He does not blow people away with a fastball. His strikeout rate is mundane. He makes his living getting batters to pound the ball weakly into the ground. And he has been doing it for years. Here are a few facts about Tim Hudson you might not know:

  • After last night's win, his career record improved to 193-101, a .656 winning percentage.
  • Hudson's winning percentage is the 22nd best of all time and behind only Weaver and Halladay among active pitchers (Minimum of 1,000 innings pitched).
  • He is pitching in his fourteenth season and has never had a losing record. He's never even had a .500 record.
  • Tim Hudson has only had one season in his career where his winning percentage was less than .600.
  • Since 1999, only five other pitchers have compiled more WAR.
  • Only eight pitchers since 1999 have a lower career BABIP than Tim Hudson (his stands at .279 for his career).
  • Only ten pitchers since 1999 have been better at stranding base runners.
  • Since 1999, only two pitchers have pitched more innings than Hudson and they are out of baseball.
  • He is tied with Halladay for the most wins since 1999.
  • Hudson's 2.54 ground ball to fly ball ratio is the third highest among active starters behind only Lowe and Westbrook.
  • Since 1999, Tim Hudson is fifth in WPA.
  • For his career, Hudson has a 0.7 home run per nine inning rate and he is currently in his sixth straight season with a rate under one.
  • His career ERA+ is higher than Sabathia, Cain, Lincecum, Lester, Peavy, Lee, Haren, Carpenter and Greinke.

So, yeah, Tim Hudson has had a fantastic career. And he seems to be just as good now as he was when his fastball had five more miles per hour on it. Hudson doesn't need a lot of run support to win. In games where the Braves have scored three to five runs a game, his record is 6-2 this season. Hudson beat both the Yankees and the Rays in interleague play this season.

Hudson has not had a losing month this season. His 2-2 record in May was the closest. Since then, Hudson has gone 10-2. In eight road starts, Hudson is 5-1 with a 3.06 ERA. His ERA is 3.96 at home, but he is 7-3 at Turner Field.

Tim Hudson is an ace. He is an unsung ace. But he is one. All he does is win. And he has been doing that for a long, long time.

Game Picks - Wednesday: August 15, 2012

Talk about your roller-coaster week! Sunday was great. Monday was horrible and then yesterday was terrific with only four incorrect picks. Of the four incorrect picks, the Rays were an understandable one. Who expects that team to blow a save? But it happened. The Red Sox pick was stupid in hindsight. The Diamondbacks pick was blinded by man- love for Ian Kennedy. And for the Marlins, Josh Johnson did pitch a heck of a game, but either Kyle Kendrick was fabulous or the Marlins' offense was terrible (or a combination of both). The rest of the picks were spot on. The Jeremy Guthrie pick is probably the one this picker is most proud of, with the Rockies' pick a close second.

Thomas Slocum, loyal reader, had a good day picking in his comments yesterday, though he did not pick all the games. He called the results of Josh Beckett and Ian Kennedy spot on.

Six of today's fifteen games are day games as Wednesday is getaway day in Major League Baseball. As far as this picker is concerned, that makes Wednesday second only to Sunday as the best day of the week. Here are Wednesday's picks:

  • The Tigers over the Twins: A lot depends on the kind of outing Max Scherzer has. The kid has fabulous stuff but an inconsistent delivery. If he is on, this is an easy win for the Tigers. If he is not, then it could be a high scoring affair with Cole De Vries not able to hold down the Tigers. This picker had a dream last night where Leyland pinch hit for Prince Fielder against a lefty. Weird, eh?
  • The Astros against the Cubs: Can the Astros really win two in a row? Against the Cubs they can. Bud Norris will have to be as good as his last start and Justin Germano only going five innings for the Cubs makes it hard for his team.
  • The Rockies over the Brewers: John Axford has blown two of Mark Rogers' attempts for his first major league win. But Rogers will have trouble in Coors and it might not get to that this time. Guillermo Moscoso has pitched in Coors before and has something to prove as he is called up to take Pomeranz's place.
  • The Mariners over the Bay Rays: Yeah, it looks like this picker has gone giddy with the Rays' loss yesterday. But it is Felix Hernandez tonight. They don't call him King Felix for nothing. Jeremy Hellickson is the Rays' weakest starter currently (which says something about how good that pitching staff is) and should give up a run or two. That might be all Hernandez needs.
  • The Nationals over the Giants: Does this series feature some pitching or what? Last night's match-up was superb with Zimmermann and Bumgarner and tonight features Stephen Strasburg and Tim Lincecum. Going with Strasburg.
  • The Orioles over the Red Sox: Okay. This picker has to admit that picking the Red Sox like they are a good team is not working very well. Perhaps it is time to face reality. AaRon Cook is always capable of a good BABIP game with his slow slop if the Orioles hit his pitches to fielders. But that is a hard way for a pitcher to make a living. Cook does not strike anyone out. He is the perfect Twins pitcher. Miguel Gonzalez is the kind of pitcher the Red Sox can hurt. But again...this is the Red Sox. Face reality, Tasker.
  • Dodgers over the Pirates: Clayton Kershaw. Enough said. Wandy Rodriguez won't be able to keep up.
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: This pick is not a ringing endorsement for the Yankees and never can be when Freddy Garcia starts. But the righty, Scott Feldman, puts the best lineup on the field for the Yankees and they should rake him at the Stadium. If Garcia can limit the damage to three runs in five innings, the Yankees should win.
  • The Blue Jays over the White Sox: This is a sneaking suspicion that Ricky Romero is starting to get straightened out and if so, he is very good at home. Of course, the Blue Jays' current Triple-A lineup has to score some runs off of Gavin Floyd. If they don't get Floyd early, they won't late.
  • The Reds over the Mets: Yes, R.A. Dickey starts this one for the Mets and yes, that should give his team a chance to win. But the Mets' offense has been invisible of late and Mike Leake gets the win. Wins like this is what winning teams do.
  • The Braves over the Padres: It is very hard for this picker to trust Paul Maholm. But he has been solid all season, so it is getting harder to justify that mistrust. Edinson Volquez, on the other hand, has earned his mistrust.
  • The Royals over the Athletics: The last time Will Smith pitched for the Royals, this picker scoffed and was made to look petty and stupid by the young hurler. So, naturally, this pick is the knee-jerk reaction going the other way. It's sort of like hitting the first putt too long and then hitting it short in compensation the next one. Brandon McCarthy goes for the A's.
  • The Cardinals over the Diamondbacks: The Cardinals continue to seem like a playoff team. Adam Wainwright is a stud. Joe Saunders is occasionally decent. The Cardinals are at home. Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • The Angels over the Indians: Who knows what to expect from Roberto Hernandez. Who is he, you ask? You remember him. He used to be Fausto Carmona. Oh! Yeah, him. His numbers look good in his rehab starts. But what does that mean? Ervin Santana has been bloody awful this season. But going with the Angels at home.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Marlins: The Fish are floating belly up in the tank. Roy Halladay has reeled off two classic Halladay starts in a row and should limit the Marlins to a run or two (if that). Mark Buehrle gives up three or four runs a game like clockwork. The math tells you the pick.

Yesterday: 11-4
Week: 24-17
Month: 109-85
Season; 951-765
Games of the Day: 72-54

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Game Picks - Tuesday: August 14, 2012

Yesterday was a train wreck of a day for the picks. All of the gains made on Sunday for the week were erased by the results on Monday. Nothing went right. Well, the Game of the Day was right. But pretty much everything else was a disaster.

This picker is not going to dwell on it or over-analyse what went wrong. Instead, the Fan will dust himself off and try again on Tuesday. Here are the picks:

  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: It might be stupid to pick the struggling Red Sox, but they are good enough to dust off any team at any time, even the Orioles. A lot will depend on if Josh Beckett can do anything on the mound and if a very good offense can do something with Wei-Yin Chen.
  • The Dodgers over the Pirates: Chad Billingsley has pitched four good games in a row, so perhaps his strange season is turning around at just the right moment for the Dodgers: Kevin Correia is a battler, but the Dodgers will get to him for enough runs to win.
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: Hiroki Kuroda has been terrific for like nine games now. He has trouble getting run support and if Matt Harrison is on, that could again be a problem. But it has been a while since Matt Harrison has been on. He has been as bad as Kuroda has been good. But, that's why they play the game.
  • The White Sox over the Blue Jays: If the Rays can score six runs against Henderson Alvarez, what can the White Sox do? But Jose Quintana is pitching and that means the White Sox do not score at all. Perhaps that will change tonight. Paul Konerko out of the lineup hurts the White Sox.
  • The Reds over the Mets: Mat Latos should shut the Mets down and the Red should score some on Chris Young. Again, should is the operative word.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: First, depending on Josh Johnson has never seemed to work out for this picker. Picking the Marlins has been a problem all season. But, gosh, Johnson should be better than Kyle Kendrick in this one, shouldn't he be?
  • The Braves over the Padres: The Padres are playing good baseball and have beaten some good teams of late including the Braves last night. But Tim Hudson is the ace and he should shut down the Padres. Clayton Richard is not nearly as good on the road as he is at home.
  • The Astros over the Cubs: Chris Volstad is 0-8. If he loses his ninth decision to go 0-9 and have it be by the Astros, will that be the nadir of his career? Probably so. But that's what this picker thinks will happen. Lucas Harrell will out-pitch him.
  • The Royals over the Athletics: There is just a feeling here that Jeremy Guthrie will have a very good night against the A's and that the Royals will score a few off of Jarrod Parker. Call the Fan stupid, but this is what the gut says.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Cardinals: Why is Joe Kelly still starting for the Cardinals? As predicted last time, all his base runners will catch up to him and it did big time. You can't put up a WHIP of over 1.6 like he has in his last four starts and survive. But the Cardinals are throwing him up there again. The Cards better hope they brought their bats and that Ian Kennedy doesn't have a good night.
  • The Rockies over the Brewers: Randy Wolf in Coors Field doesn't sound like a winning proposition. And then that Brewers' bullpen in Coors Field sounds worse. The Rockies win if Tyler Chatwood has a decent outing.
  • The Angels over the Indians: The Angels are really struggling and a lot this game will depend on which Ubaldo Jimenez comes out to play. But if Zack Greinke does what he is supposed to do (and what he is capable of doing, the Indians will not score more than a run.
  • The Bay Rays over the Mariners: The M's don't stand a chance in this one. Matt Moore is on a roll. Kevin Millwood is melba toast. And some day, the Rays will play a good team.
  • The Giants over the Nationals: The Nats already destroyed one good pitcher in Ryan Vogelsong. But Vogelsong is a BABIP guy who needs to be fine. Madison Bumgarner can win in a variety of ways, including power. Jordan Zimmermann is no easy task for the Giants either. Going with the home team.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Tigers over the Twins: The Twins stuck it to the Tigers last night. But the Tigers should rebound with a start by Doug Fister. Brian Duensing goes for the Twins and he is having a terrible season.

Yesterday: 3-8
Week: 13-13
Month: 98-81
Season: 940-767
Games of the Day: 71-54

Big Leagues Monthly - Issue 2

The second issue (August) of Big Leagues Monthly, a new e-magazine, is out and as a senior writer for the new work, your favorite Fan was asked to write a piece on Derek Jeter. That might be one reason to go read. But the truth is that the magazine is chock full of great baseball writing from the likes of Stevo-sama, Lew Freedman, Lincoln Hamilton, Jared Thatcher, Nathaniel Stoltz, Blaine Blontz, Mike Rosenbaum and many others. There are 64 pages chock full of great baseball writing all in one spot for you to read. Big Leagues Monthly! Check it out. And here is a teaser from the Jeter story. Read more starting on Page 27:

"Somewhere between the run of four championships in the first five full seasons of Derek Jeter’s career, the player became a demigod. His play, as recorded by the main stream media, became larger than life. The hyperbole of his heroics elevated him above simply being a terrific player who will someday be enshrined in Cooperstown. Instead, he became “Captain Clutch” and “Mr. November”. All of the hype unfortunately set Jeter up for potshots of the analytic world and took the focus off of what has genuinely been a remarkable career. The real truth of the kind of player Jeter has been lies between the hype and the history."

Monday, August 13, 2012

Johan Santana the next Mike Hampton?

Comparing Johan Santana to Mike Hampton sounds rather stupid at first glance. First of all, Mike Hampton at his best was never as good as Johan Santana was at his best. But Hampton was pretty darn good in his hay days. Both were rather slight, left-handed pitchers. Hampton was 5'10, 185. Santana is 6'0, 200. Both received huge contracts after their great years and both ran into serious health problems in their early 30's which made their contracts onerous. Hampton would have a few cameos after his age 32 season. Johan Santana, at the age of 33, looks very much in doubt as being an effective pitcher moving forward.

Sure, Johan Santana threw a no-hitter this season...sort of. The record books show he threw one. We can at least say that. But since that game, Santana has a 7.98 ERA and looks terrible. And yet everyone insists Santana is healthy. As the linked article from the great Aaron Gleeman points out, does it make any difference if he is hurt or not? The fact is, Santana is not close to being an effective pitcher right now. Watching a few of the highlights from his outing yesterday, his pitches looked like beach balls floating up to the plate.

You would not expect Santana's velocity to be as strong as it was during his great years. But how far it has fallen is striking. Look at these three charts from The first is his fastball, the second, the change up and the third, his slider:

Sadly, Johan Santana's stuff is no longer good enough to consistently get major league hitters out. And it did not really start this season. According to Santana's Fangraphs page, the lefty maintained some fastball value up through the 2010 season when it was worth 21.9 runs above average. This year, his fastball has a negative value. But Santana is known for his change up. And it is a myth that the change up was still one of the best in the majors after 2008.

In 2008, his first season with the Mets, Santana's change up was his best pitch with a value of 22.9 runs. But that value disappeared starting starting in 2009 when it was worth only 1.8 runs. It was worth 4.8 runs in 2010. It is clear that the change up was gone as one of the best weapons in baseball by 2009. And his slider has not been an effective pitch since 2006.

It would be great to be proven wrong, but the prognosis for Johan Santana moving forward is not promising. He is making $25 million this year and will make $25 million again next year. It will cost the Mets $5.5 million to buy him out in 2014. Essentially, the Mets are on the hook for $55 million for a fallen Johan Santana. That fact makes his contract with the Mets look a lot like Mike Hampton's did for the Braves and Barry Zito's for the Giants. Such a boondoggle for the Mets has gone under-reported.

And while the money is an issue, there is also sadness that one of the brightest stars of the mid-2000s has gone dim. It may be his health. Or it may simply be that his stuff is gone. Whatever the case, Johan Santana looks very easy to hit and those stunning days of his past seem gone for good.

Game Picks - Monday: August 13, 2012

Sunday was a good picking day and got the new week started off on the right foot. Out of fifteen games, only five were incorrect. They all concerned contenders. Bob Nethorton jinxed the Cardinals pick by pointing out on Twitter that the first two games of that series were picked correctly. Bad, Bob. Bad. The Yankees lost. The Nationals lost and the Braves lost. And seriously, picking the Twins to beat the Rays was pretty stupid. Sometimes going for the upset pick can come back to bite you. The Yankees might have won their game if Joe Girardi hadn't brought in Igarashi. There is a reason he is a minor league pitcher. Those three quick runs he coughed up were the ballgame. And why the heck would the Yankees pitch to Edwin Encarnacion. Dumb.

There are eleven games on the schedule as eight teams get the day off. Here are Monday's picks:

  • The Pirates over the Dodgers: Aaron Harang and Jeff Karstens both seem to equal themselves out. The two team's offenses are about the same. The Pirates have a slightly better bullpen and they are home, thus the pick.
  • The Rangers over the Yankees: This is an extremely difficult pick to make. Not because of this picker's fan affiliation but because there are so many variables here. The Yankees are home. The Yankees could probably hit Ryan Dempster. But Josh Hamilton is hot again and he loves hitting in Yankee Stadium. Plus, the Yankees have an emergency start by David Phelps. Phelps has shown flashes of being really good and has a future as a big league pitcher. But to throw him into the fire against the Rangers? Not a good idea.
  • The White Sox over the Blue Jays: The odds are that Carlos Villanueva will give up only three runs. That has been what he has done most of his starts. The question then is will the Blue Jays score three runs against Jake Peavy? No. They won't.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: This picker has a soft spot for Nathan Eovaldi for some reason. Maybe because his name sounds Italian. But anyway, picking him against Cole Hamels would probably be pretty stupid.
  • The Braves over the Padres: Eric Stults looks like a pretty good pitcher. But Mike Minor has a better chance of shutting down the Padres than the other way around.
  • The Cubs over the Astros: Jeff Samardzija has not won regularly since the start of the season. But he is still pitching well. He should shut down the Astros. This picker would not ever pick Armando Galarraga in any game for any team.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: If the Tigers are going to make a late run, they have to win games against teams like the Twins. Anibal Sanchez hasn't seemed to get his footing in a Tigers' uniform, but perhaps this game he will be better. Sam Deduno has a nice record, but his walks are piling up and he wasn't so good his last time out.
  • The Brewers over the Rockies: There is a lot of debate going on about whether Mike Fiers is real or due for a crash here soon. This picker tends toward the former, at least until he actually pitches toward the latter. No matter how good he is or isn't, Coors Field isn't a fun place to pitch. Jeff Francis is used to pitching there, but the Brewers will out-slug the Rockies in this one.
  • The Angels over the Indians: It is real tough to pick C.J. Wilson in this one. He has simply not been good lately. But he is facing the Indians and that gives him more of a chance. Bat Justin Masterson is very unpredictable. The Angels started playing Vernon Wells again. Stupid. Trout and Trumbo need to be in EVERY game.
  • The Giants over the Nationals: Excellent match-up between Ryan Vogelsong versus Gio Gonzalez. This will be a nail-biter. Giving the edge to Vogelsong as he is pitching at home. But Gonzalez goes home in a way as he used to pitch for the A's. Ugh! Tough pick.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rays over the Mariners: Holy cow! When is the last time the Rays have played a good team? No wonder they keep winning. Sheesh. Alex Cobb over Blake Beavan.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 10-5
Month: 95-73
Season: 937-759
Games of the Day: 70-54

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Buster Posey - MVP candidate

The race for the Most Valuable Player is a lot like a singing contest. It doesn't really matter much how the song starts, but how it finishes. And while most agree that if the season were to end right now, a certain Mr. McCutchen of the Pirates would probably get the nod. The season is not over yet. With a little more than a month and a half to go, Buster Posey has more than enough time to give that center fielder a run for his money. And judging what Posey is doing since the second half started, it is going to be close.

Of course, Posey is not the only MVP candidate on his own team. The Melkman has had a great season too and practically carried the Giants on his back the first half. Posey has overtaken Melky and now and leads him in wOBA, .402 to .389. Posey's current wOBA is sixth in the NL behind Votto, McCutchen, Braun, Ruis and Holliday. Votto will lose some steam because of his extended absence down the stretch, Ruis is also out and Holliday and Braun will lose out to Posey because of the positions they play.

And make no mistake about it, a team's place in the standings does have consideration in the voting and always have. Braun will suffer from the Brewers down season. Buster Posey is in good shape there too as the Dodgers and Posey's Giants look to battle for the division the remainder of the season. And again, a catcher always seems to bear extra weight. Whether it is true or not, catching is considered one of the most important positions on the field.

Buster Posey has a triple slash line in the second half of: .433/.509/.794. Holy smokes! And that encompasses 26 games. In those 26 games, Posey has hit nine homers and has driven in 32 runs. That is about as hot as a player can play. In his ten games so far in August, Posey has an OPS of 1.490. Again, with his team struggling to take home the division, such a strong finish to his season can only strengthen his MVP case.

The Pirates, though a great story, are not a lock to hold on to make the playoffs. If they fade in the next month, it can only hurt McCutchen's case. If McCutchen comes back to the pack a little in his statistics and he and Posey end up in a similar place offensively, then Posey has an excellent chance to win the award.

Whether he does or not, after last season's horrific injury, what Buster Posey is doing this season is a real treat. If he can carry this unbelievable hot streak another week or two, he is going to be hard to pick against when that post season hardware rolls around.

Game Picks - Sunday: August 12, 2012

Saturday's picks were a struggle and the tally for the day fell a game under .500 and the Game of the Day was wrong as A.J. Burnett did not win as expected. Derek Holland matched Justin Verlander goose egg for goose egg and the Rangers' bullpen was better than the Tigers and derailed that pick. The three day games were all correct which means the nights have been the problem this week. The biggest surprise for this picker was the Royals jumping all over the Orioles. The Orioles can blame the weather and the late start, but they just got thumped.

As always, Sunday starts a new week and will set the tone for the rest of the week. Here is how the day should go:

  • The Red Sox over the Indians: Darned if the Indians haven't taken the first two games of this series. Good on the Indians, but seriously, Red Sox? The third time is the charm for Boston as Jon Lester picks up a much needed win for him with Corey Kluber not being able to hold the Red Sox down.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays throw their third consecutive left- hander against the Yankees after the first two did not work out so well. J.A. Happ is not that bad a pitcher, but the Blue Jays' lineup is sad right now. Phil Hughes with the win.
  • The Dodgers over the Marlins: Chris Capuano and Wade LeBlanc are so similar in that they rely on big ballparks to make them look like better pitchers than they are. This pick becomes difficult then. After tossing a coin, the Dodgers are the pick.
  • The Orioles over the Royals: The Orioles and Royals missed the boat here as their could have been a Chen versus Chen match-up in this one. Bruce Chen will make the start, but it will be Tommy Hunter for the Orioles. This might be a high scoring game.
  • The Pirates over the Padres: Ross Ohlendorf makes this picker smile. The former Yankee prospect always tries no matter his situation or health. Got to love his dedication to the game. But he won't win this one as Erik Bedard is getting hot at the right time.
  • The Cardinals over the Phillies: There are several reasons for this pick. For one,nn  Lance Lynn is a lefty (duh, no he isn't) and the only two real hitters the Phillies have (okay, you can include Bourn too) bat left-handed. The second reason is that Lynn seems to balance out with Vance Worley thus going to the second trump of which offense is better. And that answer is obvious.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: For a while yesterday, it appeared that the Astros would win their second game in a row. It didn't happen. Yovani Gallardo cruises in this one as once again, Jordan Lyles does his best to no avail.
  • The White Sox over the Athletics: Bartolo Colon has been picked against for the last several games and every one of those picks has been incorrect. But gosh, Chris Sale should be better, no? Tough match-up to call.
  • The Twins over the Rays: This is the upset pick of the day. Or perhaps it is just wishful thinking. Scott Diamond has been the Twins' best pitcher and the Rays are susceptible to any kind of decent pitching. And James Shields can be hit by the Twins' good hitters.
  • The Rangers over the Tigers: Yu Darvish met with Ron Washington. Bet that wasn't fun for Darvish. Look for him to be sharper this time out. The Rangers have fared pretty well against Rick Porcello historically, albeit in a short sample size.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: It will be hard to pick against Jered Weaver for Cy Young if he doesn't lose more than one game. He won't lose this one. Jason Vargas has pitched very well for the Mariners. But it won't be enough.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: Picking Barry Zito is one of the most hard to swallow things to do here. But despite Alex White's recent success for the Rockies, he is only going to pitch four or five innings. What happens after? That is where the game will be won.
  • The Nationals over the Diamondbacks: Ross Detwiler is pitching well, the Nats are hitting well and Patrick Corbin is inexperienced. None of those things bode well for the D-backs.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Let's ride this Ben Sheets wave as long as we can. What a fun story to follow. Jonathan Niese could spoil the party though if he is on his game.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Reds over the Cubs: Johnny Cueto versus the untested and rudely treated, Brooks Raley, looks pretty easy to pick. Why is that always a scary thing to say? Because it is baseball.

Yesterday: 7-8
Last week: 53-44
Month: 85-68
Season: 927-754
Games of the Day: 69-54