Saturday, August 25, 2012

Michael Young has cratered

Michael Young has long been the poster boy of the analytic crowd when it comes to poking holes in empty superstars. His fielding--or lack thereof--has greatly reduced the value of his offensive benefits over the years to put him on that poster. But all fielding aside, the guy has always been a good offensive player for the Rangers. In his eleven seasons, has him at 35 oWAR (wins above replacement from just an offensive standpoint). His average season equals 199 hits, 90 runs scored and driven in with a .791 OPS. That has to be adjusted for his home ballpark and it still gives him a 104 OPS+ for his career. And he had one of his best seasons offensively a year ago. But this year? Crater city.

Michael Young currently has the tenth lowest wOBA of all qualifying batters in baseball. Add that to the times he plays in the field and you come up with the second LEAST valuable player in Major League Baseball behind only Francoeur of the Royals. And for once, Fangraphs is more kind than B-R. Fangraphs gives Young a -1.5 fWAR whereas B-R gives him a -2.2. Ugh and ouch, that is a lousy season. So what happened?

For one, his power has disappeared. And he has been trending that way for the last couple of years. He hit only eleven homers last season despite the very good offensive season he had. And that came after two 20+ homer seasons the previous two years and an average of 16 dingers a season. This year, Young has hit four homers. Four. But at least Young hit 41 doubles last season and six triples. This season, with a little more than a month to go, he has hit 20 doubles and three triples. His slugging percentage is 124 points below last season and his OPS is down a whopping 200 points. His homer to fly ball rate is the lowest of his career at 3.9 percent.

Perhaps Michael Young just had a bad start and hasn't had a full chance to recover. Nope. His OPS in the first half was .656. His OPS in the second half is .650. His OPS for August is a bit better at .703. He is not taking advantage of his home park like he did in the past. For his career, Young has an .849 OPS at home. That is 114 points higher than his road OPS. But this year, he actually has a higher OPS on the road than at home and neither one of them are any good.

The two biggest things his stats show are first, he is hitting a lot more ground balls. And, secondly, his BABIP is way off on his career mark. The ground balls have to be hurting him. His ground ball percentage for his career is 46.3 percent. This season, that mark is 53.4 percent. His career ground ball to fly ball ratio is 1.57. This season, it is 2.25. He is still hitting line drives at a good clip at 23 percent. But the high ground ball rate and much lower BABIP is killing his production.

Another big thing to notice is that he is struggling against the fastball. Michael Young has always been a good fastball hitter. Just last year, his ability to hit a fastball was worth in the positive at 29.4 and he has been over ten on that pitch for five straight seasons. This year, his score on fastballs is -9.7. He is hitting off-speed stuff at a decent clip, but the fastball? No. 

This leads to the question of whether at the age of 35 if Young's bat has slowed down the point where pitchers can overpower him. The only other possibilities are that his mechanics are off or he is fighting injuries we haven't heard about.

Whatever the case, Michael Young is having a very bad season and has another year left on his contract to the tune of $16 million. That cost is a sunk one for the Rangers this year. As such, what will they do with Young next season? Are his intangibles and leadership worth that kind of money if his days as an offensive producer are over? Those are tough questions the Rangers are going to have to figure out over then next five to six months.

Game Picks - Saturday: August 25, 2012

Anytime a day of picks has the Astros and Cubs for wins AND those picks come in correctly...well, that is a good day. And it was a good day with ten out of the fifteen picks coming in correctly. The Game of the Day is on a roll, which after a long dry spell, is gratifying. The Cardinals continue to confound this picker though as they were picked to lose and sure enough were losing. But then they scored six runs off of Mat Latos in one inning and put the game away. Go figure.

Saturday ends the picking week and since the picks are 53-28 this week, it would be lovely to put a little bow on that bonnet.  Saturday's picks:

  • The Rockies over the Cubs: This game is impossible to pick. Alex White has looked better but can't last more than four innings. Brooks Raley has a 7.63 ERA. Umm...
  • The Bay Rays over the Athletics: The A's won last night, which was a surprise and a bad pick. But Brandon McCarthy worries this picker too much to pick him. Going with Jeremy Hellickson instead.
  • The Giants over the Braves: The Braves sure picked a bad time to wander over to San Francisco. The Giants are white hot. Today won't get any better for the Braves as Madison Bumgarner at home is pretty much a done deal. Mike Minor goes for the Braves.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: This one could turn into a slugfest. Ryan Dempster goes for the Rangers and the thought of him pitching in Texas is still scary. But Brian Duensing is the kind of pitcher the Rangers chew up and spit out.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Let's see all the twists and turns in this one. Jaime Garcia was brilliant in his first start after the disabled list. He struck out ten and walked none. That means he will be awful today, right? And Mike Leake seems like a safer pick. So the pick should be the Reds. But since the Cardinals' pick is never right, we'll reverse it and pick them instead.
  • The Tigers over the Angels: This is a tough one. Dan Haren has not pitched well and the thought here is that he is not healthy but is still going out there anyway. The Emoticon, Drew Smyly, is back from Toledo to start for Doug Fister. Smyly really started the season well and could shut down the Angels.
  • The Pirates over the Brewers: Shaun Marcum is a scary pick since he is just coming back from the DL and was never lights out anyway. Jeff Karstens is denigrated by most pundits, but all he ever does is go out there and pitch well. Yay for the everyman.
  • The Yankees over the Indians: Justin Masterson has no in-between. He is either very, very good or very, very bad. He was bad last time out so that is scary for the Yankees as a pick. But Hiroki Kuroda has been amazing for the Yankees for the last two months. He has to be the pick until he isn't.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: What do you do with this game? The Blue Jays have Brandon Morrow back and pitching in this one. But he is limited to 85 pitches like he is with the Rockies or something. So that would normally swing the pick to the Orioles. But the Orioles are starting Steve Johnson, a career relief pitcher who won't be able to go more than a few innings.
  • The Nationals over the Phillies: Gio Gonzalez throttles the Phillies attack and Roy Halladay gives up two runs and that should be enough for the Nationals to win.
  • The Royals over the Red Sox: Josh Beckett is scheduled to make this start. Will he still be with the Red Sox? Picking the Royals because Jeremy Guthrie is definitely going to be there.
  • The White Sox over the Mariners: What a kick in the pants that game was last night for the Mariners. They came all the way back in the ninth to take the lead. It was a brilliant and spunky rally. Only to blow the save. Ugh. That was brutal. The M's won't recover. Blake Beavan gets hit and Jose Quintana shuts the M's down.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Geez, are the D-backs hard to figure out or what? Going with Ian Kennedy over Clayton Richard who is never as good on the road as he is at home.
  • The Dodgers over the Marlins: This one features a doozy of a pitching match-up as Clayton Kershaw pitches for the Dodgers against Josh Johnson of the Marlins. That's big time stuff going on there. The Marlins seem to have trouble winning games when Johnson is on the mound, so that won't change today.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Mets over the Astros: Fernando Abad makes the first start of his big league career after being strictly a relief pitcher. He is starting because Armando Galarraga was cut loose by the Astros. It probably doesn't matter who starts because R.A. Dickey is pitching for the Mets and that should equal a win.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 53-28
Month: 198-134
Season: 1040-814
Games of the Day: 78-58

Friday, August 24, 2012

BBA Linkfest - General stretching

Hello! And welcome to another links post from around the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. We are called the, "General," chapter because we write about anything our little hearts desire instead of focusing on one team, one division, one league or stuff like fantasy baseball. But our generalists are top rate and as you will see from these links, worth every visit time will allow you to make. So click a few links and leave us some comments. We general folks like that.

Here we go:

We'll start over at 85% Sports, whose baseball writer, Eugene Tierney, is excellent. For example, read his take on the Stephen Strasburg situation.

The Ball Caps Blog got a great idea from Rolling Stone Magazine (of all places). Which game would you go to?

The Baseball Enthusiast has probably the weirdest take on the recent PED shockers. But weird is a good thing. At least this compiler thinks so.

Baseball Unrated glories in Felix Hernandez's perfect game.

Christopher Carelli is a terrific baseball writer. His last two posts over at his The Baseball Stance are excellent. The last one ponders the Nationals without Strasburg.

The PED suspensions seem to take a lot of Latino players and Baseballism has some excellent thoughts on that matter.

Justin Jabs is back! Most excellent. He was doing important work this summer and is returned after that successful venture. Welcome him back on his sweet new post on Baseblog.

Spencer Hendricks of Call to the Pen takes an in depth look at the surprising Oakland A's.

An Italian pitcher made his debut in Japan. This is a world sport, folks. Check it out on Che Palle!

Matt Whitener of Cheap.Seats.Please. writes about how baseball has been saved in Pittsburgh. So glad about that!

In this compiler's favorite post of the week, TheNaturalMevs of Diamond Hoggers gives nicknames to every member of the Cincinnati Reds. Loved it!

Dugout 24 is quite taken by Roger Clemens pitching a game at the age of 50. This compiler hopes he throws a no-hitter. Take that, HOF voters!

Your Flagrant Fan had one of his posts quoted by Deadspin this week. That's pretty cool, no?

The OCP of For Baseball Junkies writes that teams should take some responsibility for players who violate the drug policy. Agree.

This compiler had an absolute blast with Chris Caylor's list of 25 Random Thoughts about Baseball, over at Full Spectrum Baseball. A must read.

Nate Jones throws with some serious gas as Mike Rosenbaum shows us over at The Golden Sombrero.

The Hall of Very Good, one of this compiler's favorite destinations, has six sick stats for Aroldis Chapman.

Hot Corner Harbor has a great series of reports on the Cape Cod League. The latest is about the league champions.

The Houston Astros may be way down on their luck now with a team that nobody would recognize. But as Left Field shows us in his latest segment of his wonderful all time team series, they have had some great players over the years.

Peter Verniere of really enjoyed two sweeps this past week.

Want to know what Michael Holloway sounds like? Here is your chance. Check it out at Michael Holloway's Baseball Blog. This compiler might check out that app too.

The post of the week goes to Andrew Martin of MLB Dirt, who discusses and gives us a link to an interview given by Lou Gehrig shortly before he died. Fascinating!

Jake Dal Porto is just a high school kid. But he writes like a veteran baseball writer for MLB Reports. Check out his analyse on a Cubs extension for Starlin Castro.

Nik of Niktig's Baseball Blog presents his picks for the ten best pitchers in baseball. Agree? Disagree?

The always entertaining Old Time Family Baseball has a new look at Tommy Lasorda and fashion. Huh? Well...go look.

The talented Jeremy Sickel of the Pop Fly Boys tries to look into the future and see the 2013 starting rotation for the Kansas City Royals.

In a terrific post, Cee Angi, the great writer for the great site, The Platoon Advantage, is sick of shaming fan bases for attendance.

Love this one! Replacement Level Baseball Blog shares a piece he wrote for another site about the last bad Red Sox team (before this one).

Sully of Sully Baseball does most of his writing for The Bleacher Report now. But he does link his articles there to his site. Here is one example.

Jed Rigney has a great piece on Through the Fence Baseball on closers. Great read.

Jonathan Dyer of the X-Log takes the leap and compares Mike Trout to Willie and Mickey. All that is well and good, but then you'd have start calling Trout, "Mikey."

Have a great week everybody.

Game Picks - Friday: August 24, 2012

Five of the eight games were picked correctly yesterday which doesn't sound that impressive. It probably beats the seasonal rate. The sample size is all relational. Picking against the Giants has become quite stupid these days...even when Barry Zito pitches. The Mets received a terrific major league debut from Collin McHugh but could not score any runs and the kid did not get the win. Neither did the team. The Reds' normally reliable bullpen could not hold the lead for Johnny Cueto and the Phillies won in extras.

Those were the three bad picks. The week has been really good though and has had positive days all week. The week is twenty games over .500 and the month is almost sixty. Not bad.

Friday's picks:

  • The Cubs over the Rockies: This pick is a little outside the box. It's a day game at Wrigley. Jeff Samardzija should pitch well and perhaps the Cubs can score a few runs to support him. Drew Pomeranz gets the start for the Rockies.
  • The Angels over the Tigers: These have been the games the Tigers should have won all season and haven't. Miguel Cabrera has some health issues. Zack Greinke is not lighting it up for the Angels. Perhaps he will have a good game today. Rick Porcello has been good of late making this pick tenuous. 
  • The Pirates over the Brewers: The Pirates have had a tough go of it lately but are still in the wild card hunt. They need to get it going though. Today should help as the newly acquired, Wandy Rodriguez, should pitch well enough to keep the Bucs in the game. Mike Fiers has had a good rookie campaign though for the Brewers.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Zach Britton has been brutal at home giving up a ton of runs at Camden Yards. Meanwhile, Carlos Villanueva has been solid for the Blue Jays.
  • The Phillies over the Nationals; The Phillies have been rolling of late and Kyle Kendrick has been very good in his last ten starts. That should be enough to beat the enigmatic Edwin Jackson. Unless of course, Jackson has one of those great games that make you scratch your head as to why he doesn't do that all the time.
  • The Astros over the Mets: It's time for the Astros to win a game for their new skipper even though this picker is still mad at the team for making Brad Mills a scapegoat. That was horrible. But the Mets are scuffling so badly that the Astros have a chance in this one. Jon Niese is as enigmatic as Edwin Jackson of the previous pick. Jordan Lyles deserves a win after gamely going out there every fifth day.
  • The Red Sox over the Royals: Yeah, Bruce Chen can drive the Red Sox lineup crazy with his assortment of slop. But Jon Lester has been much better of late and that should allow the Red Sox to win a game.
  • The Bay Rays over the Athletics: You simply cannot pick against the Rays these days. Jarrod Parker has the kind of stuff to shut down the Rays' offense. But Matt Moore has been a big part of this run by the team from St. Pete.
  • The Reds over the Cardinals: It still seems like the Cardinals are the better team on paper than the Reds. But the Cards...are frustrating. Take this game, for example. Lance Lynn started the season with a bang. But he has sort have been whirling around mediocre- like for the last month in a half. Meanwhile, Mat Latos is this big dominating pitcher.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: The last time this picker picked Samuel Deduno, it splattered all over the screen. Matt Harrison is the Rangers' most reliable pitcher. Adrian Beltre is on fire and Josh Hamilton has 107 ribbies already.
  • The White Sox over the Mariners: The M's have won eight in a row and have been playing really well. Jason Vargas hasn't lost in a while either. Both of those streaks come to an end though in Chicago as the White Sox beat them behind Jake Peavy.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: The Padres have not been easy to beat of late. They sure gave the Pirates fits. And Eric Stults has pitched well for them. But Patrick Corbin is the pick for the Diamondbacks who still have an outside shot at this playoff thing.
  • The Dodgers over the Marlins: The Dodgers have to win a string of games to get back in this thing in the NL West. Chad Billingsley has to be the guy who helps get that started. They face old friend, Nathan Eovaldi, who might have a few chips on his shoulders in this game.
  • The Giants over the Braves: Ryan Vogelsong at home is a virtual lock. And Ben Sheets has been mortal since that exciting opening run for his season. Interesting game this one will be to watch.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Yankees over the Indians: This series should help the flagging Yankee ship and they have their ace back on the mound, C.C. Sabathia, after a stint on the disabled list. And the Yankees should get to Corey Kluber, who has yet to show he belongs in the majors.

Yesterday: 5-3
Week: 43-23
Month: 188-129
Season: 1030-809
Games of the Day: 77-58

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Game Picks - Thursday: August 23, 2012

The Game Picks were awesome on Wednesday. With sixteen big games on the schedule, thirteen of those picks came in correct. Woot! Among the three that were wrong, only the Red Sox pick was stupid. The Mets were a good pick until the Mets took Matt Harvey out. Then it all went haywire as the bullpen imploded. The Pirates pick was done in by really a freak first inning where a big miscommunication at first base led to a three run rally that probably wouldn't have happened otherwise. This picker does have to eat some words about Andrew Werner, who pitched well. But still! 13-3!

Thursday features a light schedule as only eight games will be played. Three of them are day games which is a bonus. Here are Thursday's picks:

  • The Tigers over the Blue Jays: J.A. Happ is pitching very well for the Blue Jays. Unfortunately for him, Justin Verlander will bring his Bayer Aspirin to the mound and should dominate a depleted Blue Jays' lineup. This will probably be a low scoring game though.
  • The Mets over the Rockies. This picker doesn't know what to do with this one. Collin McHugh will be called up from the minors to pitch for the Mets in place of the disabled Johan Santana. McHugh has nice numbers in his minor league season. Will that translate to the majors? Who knows. Tyler Chatwood was beat up in his last outing. Will he bounce back against the struggling Mets? Who knows.
  • The Reds over the Phillies: A battle of aces as Johnny Cueto matches up with Cole Hamels. Both pitchers are equal in this picker's mind. The difference for the pick then comes down to which offense is better and the answer is duh. With aces, the game could really go either way.
  • The Angels over the Red Sox: Franklin Morales is a gamer and not that bad of a pitcher. He is deceptive enough to keep batters off guard. But the thing is, Morales is a lefty and the Angels' entire line up with the exception of Kendrys Morales, is right-handed. C.J. Wilson has not been good though. He has to pitch decently for the Angels to win.
  • The Bay Rays over the Athletics: Everything is breaking right for the Rays. The A's are chock full of great pitchers. But who do the Rays get to start this series? Tyson Ross. The only chance the A's have in this one is if Alex Cobb has a bad start. Good luck with that.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: Scott Diamond is the Twins' best pitcher. Roy Oswalt is the Rangers' worst decision this season. But somehow, it will all go against the Twins and the Rangers will win.
  • The Braves over the Giants: The dispatched the Dodgers in three sets and set themselves up nicely. Unfortunately, Barry Zito still collects his checks and gets the start against the tough Braves. Tommy Hanson will be better and should win.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Cardinals over the Astros: Jake Westbrook got himself an extension and is guaranteed the chance to scare Cards fans for another season or two. There should be no scare in this one as the Astros are so, so bad and haven't won since Brad Mills got unfairly fired. Dallas Keuchel just isn't really good enough to pitch in the majors and that sums up the Astros right now.

Yesterday: 13-3
Week: 38-20
Month: 183-126
Season: 1025-806
Games of the Day: 76-58

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Jersey kid gunning for Rookie of the Year

You thought this post was going to be about Trout. Right? We all know now where Vineland, New Jersey is because of that Angels' outfielder. But this post is not about him. He already has the Rookie of the Year Award wrapped up in the American League. Even Darvish is miles behind in the rear-view mirror. No, this post is about a kid from Point Pleasant, New Jersey. His name is Todd Frazier. And Mr. Frazier has quietly been a big part of the new Big Red Machine in Cincinnati. Of course, this writer was born and raised in New Jersey so all of this is quite exciting.

Unlike Mr. Trout, Todd Frazier is not a babe on the baseball diamond. He is not nineteen or twenty. He is twenty-six. He was a first round draft pick back in 2007. Unlike Trout and Harper, the other big news-maker this season, Frazier did not have an immediate rise through the Reds' system. It took Frazier five years to get his cup of coffee in the 2011 season. Part of the problem was that Frazier was drafted as a shortstop. Like most kids drafted as shortstops, he was not very good at it.

So Frazier was bounced around the field. In the minors, he played short, third, second, first and left field. Third base seems to be his best position. And Frazier's bat did not mistake him for that other kid from New Jersey. His first year in 2007, he lit up Rookie ball pretty well, but with no power. The power came on in 2008 in A and A+ ball. Frazier started in Double-A in 2009 and he was promoted to Triple-A. Between the two of them, he put up an .832 OPS. That's good, but not spectacular.

He had a little bit of a dip in 2010, all in Triple-A as his OPS dipped to .781. It was his batting average that dipped the most. The average did not return in 2011 and his OPS rose only to .806. He did get a call up from the Reds and got his feet wet in the majors in 2011. The results were somewhat disappointing. In 41 games, he put up a .727 OPS for the Reds.

After making the Baseball America's Top 100 prospects before the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Frazier fell off the list before the 2011 season. It is hard to call a 26 year old without a set position a prospect, especially when his numbers were not setting the world on fire.

That makes what Todd Frazier is doing this season a pleasant surprise. He got some playing time with the health issues of Scott Rolen and because the other back up infielder was Miguel Cairo. With all due respect to Miguel Cairo...he IS Miguel Cairo. Frazier played a lot in Rolen's absences and now he is playing a lot with Joey Votto out with knee problems. While Frazier is no Joey Votto (who is?), he has performed well no matter whose place he is taking.

To date, Frazier has compiled a .913 OPS is good for an OPS+ of 137. has him at 2.3 rWAR while has him at 2.8. The Fangraphs' evaluation ranks him second among rookie offensive players behind only that other kid from New Jersey. Frazier's 18 homers exceeds expectations and is higher than any year total he had in the minors. He has added twenty doubles and five triples. Frazier's .383 wOBA places him only behind Trout among rookie position players.

You would think that some of those numbers have been because he plays his home games in that little bandbox of a Great American Park. But that is actually not the case. He has better numbers on the road than he does at home. He also had very similar splits against right-handed or left-handed pitchers. He walks more against right-handed pitchers but also strikes out more.

Frazier's line drive percentage has been fantastic but he needs better plate discipline and he needs to swing and miss a bit less often. But overall, his season has been dynamic and has filled two huge holes for the Reds this season with equal aplomb and has helped keep the Reds' offense rolling.

So who is Frazier's competition in the National League? For position players, both his teammate, Zach Cozart, and Harper are in the conversation. Neither is as good as Frazier with a bat but have better fielding scores. Among pitchers, Miley of Arizona has a good size lead on Frazier in the WAR department. Miley would have to be considered the front runner. Fiers of the Brewers, Lynn of the Cardinals and Harrell of the Astros are contenders.

But Todd Frazier has a chance and if he gets enough playing time and if Miley falters at all, both leagues could have an all-New Jersey podium for the Rookie of the Year Award. And that would be kind of cool for  this former Jersey kid.

Game Picks - Wednesday: August 22, 2012

The Yankees, Dodgers and Rays all lost. And a few other picks went wrong like the Pirates (sad sigh). But overall, not a bad picking day. Heck, for the first time ever, the Mariners were picked as the Game of the Day and they won! Score one for the northwest. Tim Lincecum picked a fine time to show up and Ivan Nova can stop showing up anytime now. David Price shutout the Royals. But the Royals won anyway. Whuh? Not that this picker is complaining about that though. The Orioles beat the Rangers which was totally unexpected here. Give the O's credit, they are hanging tough.

So what lessons were learned on Tuesday? The Royals are better than the Yankees? Perhaps right now they are. There are sixteen games today as the Marlins and D-backs play two. Whatever lessons were learned, let's hope they are put to good use for Wednesday's picks:

  • The Rays over the Royals: James Shields has been dominant lately and the Rays should get to Luis Mendoza. But at least the Royals had a great game on Tuesday night.
  • The Athletics over the Twins: Tommy Milone has been awful his last three starts and is now 9-9 after a really good start to his season. But he should win today as the Twins have given the starting ball back to Liam Hendriks and that has not been fun for Twins fans all season.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Marlins: This is one tough pick to make. It will be a battle of pitching prospects. The Marlins will start Jacob Turner, the pitcher they got from the Tigers in the Anibal Sanchez trade. The D-Backs will give Tyler Skaggs his major league debut. Skaggs was one of the big pieces in the Dan Haren deal. Who kows which prospect will respond better to the pressure.
  • The Mariners over the Indians: This picker likes Zach McAllister and it is tough to pick against him. But these Mariners are on a roll and Hisashi Iwakuma is showing why he was such a star in Japan.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: The Braves will salvage one game of this series, but it will be too little too late as the Nats have just about buried them for the division. Ross Detwiler has been very good but Kris Medlin has been really good.
  • The Reds over the Phillies: The Phillies are going nowhere. So why then are they pitching Vance Worley with a bone chip in his elbow? Geez, Louise, have the kid get that thing out of there and come back strong in Spring Training. Bronson Arroyo starts for the Reds.
  • The Tigers over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are, of course, in Canada. So it is only fitting that whenever this picker considers Aaron Laffey, an old song by the Canadian group, the Guess Who comes to mind. "Laffey, he he heh heh ha ha. Laffey, ha Ha ha hahaha." Apologies to Laffey's family. Anibal Sanchez goes for the Tigers and it is time to start earning his keep.
  • The Red Sox over the Angels: In a battle of aces, Clay Buchholz will out-duel Jered Weaver. That is all.
  • The Mets over the Rockies: Matt Harvey only has thirty innings left on his 2012 allotment. He will look to make them count and should be able to shut down the Rockies' offense. Jeff Francis will cough up three or four runs. That will be enough for the Mets.
  • The Rangers over the Orioles: Tommy Hunter will pitch against his old team and it won't go well. Derek Holland needs to put it together heading into the post season. This will be a good outing to start that going.
  • The White Sox over the Yankees: Picked the Yankees the first two games of the series and got burned. Phil Hughes is inconsistent and Chris Sale has been consistently awesome for the White Sox. The Yankees aren't beating up on lefties as much as they were earlier in the season.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: You do know of course, that this picker could cheat and put the Astros in the Game of the Day every day, right? But that would be cheap and not in the spirit of this series. Then again, this picker is still steaming about the Brad Mills thing. Anyway, Kyle Lohse beats Bud Norris who used to have a hex on the Cards. But that was back when the Astros had a few players.
  • The Pirates over the Padres: Skipped over this pick earlier for some reason. James McDonald needs a big game to boost up the sagging Pirates. The Pirates do have the advantage in this game as the Padres are starting a kid named Andrew Werner, whose minor league numbers are not impressive.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Marlins: Wade Miley has been very, very good this season. Whoever thought he would be the D-backs' ace this season? He will beat Wade LeBlanc, one of those pitchers that hangs on in the majors because of experience more than talent.
  • The Giants over the Dodgers: This series has been a disaster for the Dodgers. And can we stop the "whatever will the Giants do without Melky" meme now? Sheesh, give it a rest already. The Dodgers have already lost the first two games and get to face Matt Cain in the finale. Fun, fun, fun. Chris Capuano will try to make a game of it.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Brewers over the Cubs: Yovani Gallardo is starting to hit as well as pitch well. And he should be a lock at home. Travis Wood will try to give the Cubs a fighting chance. 

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 25-17
Month: 170-123
Season: 1012-803
Games of the Day: 75-58

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Game Picks - Tuesday: August 21, 2012

The good news is that this Monday was not terrible like last Monday. The bad news is that it was not great either. In fact, it was a wash as the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Orioles, Diamondbacks and A's all lost. The Dodgers loss is understandable as two great aces battled it out and either one of them could have come out on top.

Back to a full schedule on Tuesday:

  • The National over the Braves: The Braves lost a tough one yesterday. Why is Dan Uggla still a second baseman? It won't get any easier for them tonight. Stephen Strasburg against Paul Maholm. Maholm has been a revelation this season. But he'll never be a Strasburg.
  • The Phillies over the Reds: The Phillies throw an ace at the Reds for the second straight night and Cliff Lee should be a winner in this one. Homer Bailey is at a career high in innings pitched and is showing it. The Phillies are showing a little mojo here late in the season.
  • The Tigers over the Blue Jays: Max Scherzer has shut down stuff. It all depends on if he can throw enough strikes. Ricky Romero has had a tough season, though he was better in his last outing. The Tigers should win.
  • The Angels over the Red Sox: Two struggling teams go in this one with their fifth starters. Ervin Santana has been a little bit better of late but is still untrustworthy. Aaron Cook is always a rally waiting to happen. Going with the Angels.
  • The Rockies over the Mets: Not only was this pick wrong yesterday, but this picker got the location of the game wrong too. Sheesh. Citi Field is not Coors, that's for sure. Jhoulys Chacin is back for the Rockies after a long absence. That is not usually a good pick. But the Mets are struggling on offense and Chris Young inspires no confidence.
  • The Bay Rays over the Royals: The Bay Rays may never lose again. At least that is how they are looking at the moment. David Price certainly won't lose to Luke Hochevar.
  • The Rangers over the Orioles: Scott Feldman has not been good his last two outings. But he has a good history at home and against the Orioles. Chris Tillman has been good and so-so. His last outing was so-so and he only lasted four plus innings.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: What a horrible pick this one is to make. The Cubs have a kid named Chris Rusin making his major league debut while the Brewers start Marco Estrada who is zero for the season. Oy.
  • The Yankees over the White Sox: Another horrible pick. Ivan Nova has been stinky for the last quarter of the season. He gives up extra base hits like lollipops. Meanwhile, the White Sox go with Francisco Liriano who is totally unpredictable with a bad history against the Yankees. If Liriano is sharp, he could shut the Yankees down. But Liriano sharp is often an oxymoron.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: Lucas Harrell is the closest thing the Astros have to a chance in any game they play. Unfortunately, Harrell squares up against Adam Wainwright, who has resumed his ace status after a slow start to his season.
  • The Marlins over the Diamondbacks: Trevor Cahill is a bit homer-prone and Mr. Stanton has been pretty warm hitting home runs lately for the Marlins. The outcome will depend on which Ricky Nolasco shows up to this party. If it is the good one, the Marlins win.
  • The Athletics over the Twins: Brett Anderson is making his first start in way over a year after TJ surgery. Those picks are ones not usually made here. But the Twins start Cole De Vries and that hardly inspires a Twins pick. Is it a good thing that the A's are getting these injured pitchers back in the middle of a wild card race?
  • The Pirates over the Padres: The Pirates are sinking a bit but A.J. Burnett will like pitching at Petco Park and should win his seventeenth. Jason Marquis can offer some resistance to that idea depending on how sharp his slop is tonight.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Joe Blanton hasn't won a game since going to the Dodgers. It is time for him to fix that tonight. He has a chance depending on what the Dodgers do with Tim Lincecum who can turn in any kind of performance at any given time it seems.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Mariners over the Indians: Now that old(er) Fausto is going by his real name, we have two pitchers named, "Hernadez," going in this one. Felix Hernandez is the good one, of course. Roberto Hernandez is the one who gave up eight runs in his first outing back. This might be the first time the Mariners have been the pick of the day.

Yesterday: 6-6
Week: 16-11
Month: 161-117
Season: 1003-797
Games of the Day: 74-58

Monday, August 20, 2012

Michele Smith's historic telecast

In case you missed it on Sunday, a bit of history was made when TBS invited Michele Smith into their baseball broadcast as an analyst as she joined Jon Smoltz and Ernie Johnson. In what requires a full and honest introspection, the move was inspired and about time. And yet, that same honest look inside needs to figure out why it has taken this long for something like this to happen.

After some fifty years of listening to sports broadcasts of baseball, football and (in the deep past) basketball, there was a comfort level at having the action described by males. The play by play guy was someone with a silvery voice who earned his ticket to the big time with years of work. The analysts were always former jocks who were supposed to tell you what happened and why.

Somewhere along the line--probably with Monday Night Football--the sometime cheesy practice of bringing in comely women as field reporters during events became a norm. Of course, it was not always cheesy. Some of those women were darned good and hard-working reporters. Even so, they might have been given a total of ten minutes of air time during a game. That tradition has continued until Sunday with Michele Smith. This was groundbreaking.

To continue the honesty, that comfort of listening to males during a broadcast can be seen in the same light as  the comfort of sitting in a restaurant with only white people or being able to walk down the streets with no Jews or east or west Asians. A comfort level becomes a crutch to discrimination of all sorts. Some of that is a little more innocent in that comfort comes from only knowing things to happen in the a certain way. Neither reality is pretty.

Plus, for most of the history of televised sports, the broadcasts were pandered to a male audience. Hence we had the beer commercials and other male-centric advertising. But the new reality is that just as many fans of sports are female. The tone of commercials has changed accordingly. While we still have that ridiculously sexist Klondike commercial where the guy has to listen to his wife for five seconds, there are also dozens of commercials that cut men down to size as ignoramuses.

This new reality that women are fans too has led to the proliferation of females into sports hosting shows on sports channels and regular broadcast television. Oh, Fox still has that cheesy weather girl on the NFL pregame shows, but women have made great strides in sports programming. The one elephant in the room was in the broadcast booth. Until Sunday, that was a male-exclusive club.

There were several thoughts during the telecast on Sunday. First, Smith had a wonderfully soothing voice with good diction. She also knew what she was talking about. Her insights were usually spot on. The one awkwardness of the entire broadcast was the incessant pandering of the two men on the broadcast team to talk about or bring up Smith's softball exploits. Such pandering was probably meant to make Smith as comfortable as possible, but it also gave the impression that such comments were needed to justify Smith's existence on the broadcast. From a personal standpoint, during a broadcast, the less said about the broadcaster the better. Concentrate on what is going on in the field.

And perhaps this is a personal preference, but it was also enjoyed that she wasn't a spring chicken. Her forty-three year old presence added some gravitas to her delivery and her depth of experience. That may not be a good thought and perhaps it borders on sexism. But again, this was a heady experience and this is honest grappling with what was experienced.

TBS should consider expanding Smith's role to full time. Make her a weekly partner to Smoltz and Johnson. It is time to break another barrier here and TBS should be lauded for its part in making this happen. It should not be a one-time thing just to make history. But a full time thing to break ground for the next century.

Game Picks - Monday: August 20, 2012

Sunday was a good day with ten out of fifteen on the correct side. Hey! Even the Game of the Day was correct for a change. That IS a good day. Picking the Red Sox was on the Steve Martin side (wild and crazy). The Giants seemed like a good pick. But the picks did mention that Clayton Richard was usually good at home. Should have listened to that inner dialogue. Picking against the Mariners is a bad idea these days. And it was really thought that the Marlins would easily win their game. But it did not turn out that way. Those were the five bum picks. Oh...and one pick took nineteen innings to turn out correct. Geez.

Last Sunday started out with the exact same picking record and then Monday turned into a horrible day. This picker shall try to avoid such a fate this week. Monday's picks:

  • The Nationals over the Braves: The Nats at home are a tough team to beat. The offense is clicking and the pitching has been excellent. lists Gio Gonzalez as the starter. That can't be right as he pitched (and won) on Sunday. It will probably be Jordan Zimmermann. Tim Hudson has been money for the Braves. But the Nats win this one.
  • The Phillies over the Reds: The Reds are a juggernaut right now. But if anyone can slow them down, it is Roy Halladay. Halladay was not sharp his last time out, but that was last time. Mike Leake goes for the Reds and he was very good his last time out.
  • The Mets over the Rockies: Will R.A. Dickey's pitch flutter at Coors in that high altitude? If it does, he should win over Alex White. If it doesn't, all bets are off. Ike Davis hits a homer.
  • The Bay Rays over the Royals: Toyed with the idea of picking the Royals and Will Smith, who has been very good lately. But, nah. The Rays have been unbeatable of late and until that ends, you can't pick against them. Jeremy Hellickson gets the start.
  • The Orioles over the Rangers: Miguel Gonzalez has to be on his game to beat the Rangers. But there is no faith here in Ryan Dempster in the Rangers' ballpark and in the American League. Those Orioles are hanging in there.
  • The Yankees over the White Sox: The White Sox are on their heels a bit and had a bad weekend. The Yankees had a good weekend and seem back on track after a so- so stretch of a couple of weeks. Here is how this game will go. Freddy Garcia will struggle early. But so will Gavin Floyd. Garcia hangs tough for five innings and then Derek Lowe goes four to seal the game.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Marlins: Tough one here. Mark Buehrle and Joe Saunders could be decent and cancel each other out. If that happens, the D-Backs' bullpen is better than the Marlins'. Plus, the Diamondbacks have a better offense.
  • The Athletics over the Twins: Brian Duensing simply isn't having a good season. His stuff is marginal at best and he is a BABIP pitcher. Brandon McCarthy looked very good in his last start and if he gets the Twins to pound the ball weakly into the dirt, he should win.
  • The Padres over the Pirates: The Pirates have to be gassed after that 19-inning win and then having to travel all the way to San Diego. Today's scheduled pitcher, Wandy Rodriguez, had to pitch in that marathon. So some one will have to be called up. Edinson Volquez goes for the Padres.
  • The Mariners over the Indians: Ubaldo Jimenez could have a good day against the Mariners' offense. Kevin Millwood will not allow many runs with that Indians' offense that has had a real problem scoring. Another tough call.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: What a great match-up this is! Madison Bumgarner goes for the Giants against Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw has pitched terrific against the Giants and is at home. Bumgarner is not as good on the road as at home. That combination leads to this pick:

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Brewers over the Cubs: Mark Rogers has lost three wins to his bullpen this season and still has not recorded his first MLB win. That will come tonight against the Cubs. Justin Germano is pretty good though for the Cubbies.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 10-5
Month: 155-111
Season: 997-791
Games of the Day: 73-58

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Brad Mills rant

Brad Mills is one of the good guys. He inherited a team in the Houston Astros with the lowest rated farm system in baseball for the last several seasons. All of his veteran players were traded away leaving him no choice but to field a team of castoffs and players from that bereft farm system. Despite it all, he handled it all with integrity and grace. His players never quit on him. They played hard despite being outgunned in every game. But in baseball, a new general manager will always want his own guy and staggering losses not caused by his own doing will always get a manager fired. That is always the way it has been and it stinks.

Brad Mills deserved better. And it is hoped he will get another shot where he at least has a fighting chance to win. 

So yeah, Astros. Have your little news conference at ten o'clock. Justify your actions. This observer will not buy a word of it. And it doesn't matter who you will hire. Whoever it is will never have the character of Brad Mills nor be as good a manager. 

Game Picks - Sunday: August 19, 2012

The night ended early for this picker as an early tee time beckoned and when that nightlight was turned on, the Angels held a 7-0 lead and the Padres held a 4-1 lead. The former sounded like a done deal while the latter at least seemed plausible. Except both teams lost. That turned a 5-0 start to a good day into just a so-so day with the picks going 4-7 the rest of the way out. Mr. Scioscia, you left C.J. Wilson in there a tad too long, don't you think? And...of course...the Game of the Day was incorrect. AGAIN! Blast it all!

Speaking of blasts, can you imagine what it would be like if Giancarlo Stanton played all his games at Coors? Snikey! The shortest of the six homers Stanton has hit there is 434 feet. That was the shortest! That is mind boggling.

Sunday's picks:

  • The Tigers over the Orioles: We start the picks with a real tough one. Doug Fister has been terrific in the second half. Wei-Yin Chen has been very good all season. Each team has taken a game of the series. Both are contenders that really want this game. Have no idea who will win.
  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: So...Matt Harrison's shortest outing of the season was back in May against these same Blue Jays. But that was a different bunch of Blue Jays' batters. Harrison should do better this time around. Henderson Alvarez did not walk anyone his last start against the White Sox. That bodes well. Are all the games going to be this difficult today?
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Chris Volstad's season has become a train wreck and he is 0-9. This picker wrote about him this week. He has lost fourteen straight decisions going back to last year. In Volstad's first twelve starts this season, the Cubs have won only one of those games. That should make Mat Latos the favorite here, right?
  • The Dodgers over the Braves: Both Chad Billingsley and Mike Minor have been great in the last month. So who to pick? Billingsley's hot streak has been more impressive, so let's go that way.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Astros: This picker hopes the Astros lose every game the rest of the season. Brad Mills was a good guy doing a thankless job and he gets fired for his troubles. His team always played hard and never gave up even though they were outgunned every day. Pathetic. Ian Kennedy over Armando Galarraga.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: Jeremy Guthrie is one very hot pitcher right now. The Royals are playing pretty well. Jose Quintana has looked good as a starter though.
  • The Phillies over the Brewers: This picker has picked against Kyle Kendrick about six straight times and the pick has been wrong most of them. This picker is a slow learner. Randy Wolf, meanwhile, has been worth picking against.
  • The Pirates over the Cardinals: Never like to pick a pitcher in his first outing back from a long DL stint. Jaime Garcia is such a pitcher making his first start back today. Jeff Karstens seems like a bad fit against the Cardinals, but sticking with the overall strategy employed along the way.
  • The Marlins over the Rockies: Giancarlo Stanton better be in that lineup. He has to hit another one just for the fun of it. Drew Pomeranz has had some of the luster wear off his prospect card. Josh Johnson is very good, but will he be in Coors?
  • The Rays over the Angels: The heck with picking the Angels in this series. See how far that strategy has worked out so far. [[sigh]]. Matt Moore has been amazingly good of late and who cares if Zack Greinke is starting for the Angels. The darned Rays never lose.
  • The Athletics over the Indians: Jarrod Parker needs a bounce back start to make this pick work out. But he is capable of that and the Indians' offense is capable of it too. Justin Masterson has been the second most unpredictable pitcher on the Indians.
  • The Giants over the Padres: Clayton Richard at home is tough to pick against. But the Padres' pick yesterday still burns in the brain. Besides, Ryan Vogelsong is a great pitcher.
  • The Twins over the Mariners: Sam Deduno has walked the planet but always seems to get out of trouble. His 4-0 record is hard to pick against, especially as bad as Blake Beavan can be at times.
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: The Red Sox' infielders have already made 117 diving stops in the infield in the first two games of the series. Struggling players get hot against the Yankees and that will include Josh Beckett. Hiroki Kuroda has been the Yankees' best pitcher. But we'll see.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Nationals over the Mets: Jeremy Hefner is not half bad as a starter. But Gio Gonzalez is a fifteen game winner thus far. The odds are good that the Nats' hurler gets his sixteenth win.

Yesterday: 9-7
Last week: 59-38
Month: 145-106
Season: 987-786
Games of the Day: 72-58