Saturday, September 15, 2012

Game Picks - Saturday: September 15, 2012

Friday's game picks started out the day 0-5. That was a bummer as the Yankees, Blue Jays, Pirates and Reds all lost. And so a final tally of 8-7 with a correct Game of the Day pick doesn't seem as awful as it usually does. If you want to look at it another way, the last ten picks went 8-2. And of course, one of those two was the Cardinals. Naturally. Let's just chuck the whole day out to the difficult column and move on.

September has been an extremely difficult month for the picks. Like yesterday, the entire month has been like that as teams are stumbling toward the home stretch. When you think about it, the only "hot" teams are the teams behind in the wild card race like the Phillies and the Brewers. Well, that's not entirely true. The A's and O's have been hot. And what an epic series that is going to turn out to be. The Orioles finally lost a one-run game. Will they lose another? We'll find out together as we peruse Friday's picks:

  • The Pirates over the Cubs: These are the picks that give you nightmares. The Cubs will start Jason Berken. Berken has a career 1.661 WHIP in the majors, all in the American League with the Orioles. The Orioles put him on waivers and the Cubs picked him up. How will he fare in the NL with a new club? Who knows. The Pirates start Wandy Rodriguez, who is somewhat of a known entity.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Went with the Blue Jays yesterday and that did not work out so well. Clay Buchholz is the Red Sox most consistent pitcher and should pitch well. Carlos Villanueva can be good at times too. Another tough game to call.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: This is an upset pick. Francisco Liriano goes against his former team and that went well the first time, but little has gone well for Liriano since. Meanwhile, Samuel Deduno has been very good for the Twins and should keep them in the game.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: These are the kinds of games the Tigers have lost all season. They have no more margin for error and need to win. Anibal Sanchez has been up and down since acquired by the Tigers. Justin Masterson has been more down than up this season.
  • The Rays over the Yankees: Ivan Nova has been on the shelf. Before he went on the shelf, he had been awful. James Shields has been terrific for the Rays. The Yankees sure look vulnerable coming down the stretch.
  • The Nationals over the Braves: Two untrustworthy pitchers in Edwin Jackson and Tommy Hanson. So then, what do you do? You go with the better team. The Nationals are the better team.
  • The Angels over the Royals: The temptation to be cute and pick the Royals is strong because Jeremy Guthrie is so good lately. And the Royals would love to beat up on Zack Greinke as he left on unfavorable terms. But the Angels should win this one no matter how cute the pick looks.
  • The Marlins over the Reds: Is Johnny Cueto alright? He has not looked good for his last several outings. And that is not good news with the Reds heading into the playoffs. Mark Beuhrle will do his usual seven innings with three runs allowed. Everything else depends on how well Cueto does.
  • The Brewers over the Mets: What a mess this pick is. Shaun Marcum has been uninspiring at best and terrible at worst. The Mets go with a guy, Jenrry Mejia, who has never won a big league game and has pitched two big league innings over the last two seasons.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Yu Darvish has been horrible against the Mariners all season and broke that bugaboo yesterday. Scott Feldman has been horrible against the Mariners and will break that today. Jason Vargas is a good pitcher, but the Rangers are too good at home to lose this one.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Wade Miley gets the win in this one over Barry Zito. With the win, Miley all but seals up the Rookie of the Year vote.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: In a battle of young guns, Casey Kelly pitches better than Drew Pomeranz in San Diego. Both pitchers will probably pitch well. Another toss up game.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: Fascinating series this one. The A's got first blood. Zach Britton goes for the Orioles and he was pretty shaky his last start. Jarrod Parker is capable of really shutting down any team, especially in his home park.
  • The Dodgers over the Cardinals: Jaime Garcia on the road? Uh, no thanks. Joe Blanton against the Cardinal lineup? Oy. Not much better. It doesn't matter, no Cardinal pick is ever correct here anyway. It is a given.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Astros: The schedule is so important in these stretch situations. The Phillies have a soft one and the Astros provide little resistance. Dallas Keuchel is not going to slow the Phillies down. Kyle Kendrick has been solid for the Phillies.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 45-34
Month: 96-93
Season: 1182-951
Games of the Day: 92-63

Friday, September 14, 2012

BBA Linkfest - general frenzied finish

Welcome to another edition of the BBA Linkfest where we celebrate the writing of the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. The General Chapter means that our writers are not fettered to one team or one area of baseball writing but cover it all for their readers. These writers span the globe in our sport and churn out amazing stuff week after week. Give a click will you? You will be glad you did.

We'll start in the middle of the list alphabetically and work our way around the list. Enjoy.

And we start with The Hall of Very Good as that site wins the links' post of the week award for that site's interview of The Baseball Riliquary's founder and also with the creator of a documentary film about the place called Not Exactly Cooperstown. Fantastic stuff and kudos.

Theo of Hot Corner Harbor has more excellent thoughts on the Stephen Strasburg shutdown.

Much congrats go to one of this compiler's favorite people on earth. The author of Left Field has joined a fantastic site called High Heat Stats as a feature writer. Here is a link to a link to his first work over there. writes about the last month of the season, where it is all or nothing for two teams in the AL Central.

Andrew Martin of MLB Dirt is not impressed with all this talk of Roger Clemens pitching again.

Jonathan Hacohen of MLB Reports writes that the Nationals should shut down Jordan Zimmermann too. Well...not really. Great read.

Nik of Niktig's Baseball Blog lists a ranking of pitching staffs of playoff contenders. For his next post, it would be cool if he wrote his rationale for this ranks.

Usually, blog authors tell you stuff you should read. Not Old Time Family Baseball. Instead, a comic book you should definitely NOT read is covered. Too bad it was about Rickey Henderson.

Geoffrey Ratliff read this compiler's mind and wrote about how all the Dodgers have bought is a spectator's seat to watch the playoffs. Pop Fly Boys.

Cee Angi is on fire this week over at The Platoon Advantage. Love this piece about how Alfredo Aceves needs an attitude adjustment.

Left Field is not the only great writer that has joined High Heat Stats. Replacement Level Baseball Blog's writer is also joining that great site. Well done! He has a personal post that is a good read here.

Bernadette Pasley of Lady at the Bat fame is a terrific Yankees blogger. Our own Sully of Sully Baseball was recently a guest on Bernadette's podcast. Great stuff.

Those poor Boston Red Sox cannot get a break in the press. And our own Kevin Coughlin of Through the Fence Baseball now goes after that team's fans.

Trish Vignola has a great piece over at Full Spectrum Baseball on Chipper Jones' last series in New York.

The Payoff Pitch has a feature on the science of Stephen Strasburg's shutdown.

Will Skinner, a minor league baseball player, wrote a feature for Hit More Line Drives. Super.

Russ Blatt of 85% Sports toots his own horn, as well he should.

The Ball Caps Blog, now relocated on the East Coast, has noticed some spiffy licence plates.

Stevo-sama has another fantastic minor league baseball game recap. Man, this guy is good. The Baseball Enthusiast

Baseball Unrated gives you a chance to vote on who will win the AL East.

FH over at Baseballism admits that he is a baseball snob.

Brian Vaughan writes over at Call to the Pen that with Giancarlo Stanton, we get the slugger we deserve. Nice.

Che Palle! creator, Mario Salvini, reports on some funny goings on with the Texas Rangers.

A strange sound emanated from The Great American Ballpark. Can it catch on? Diamond Hoggers has the questions if not the answers.

Dugout 24 is fascinated by the wild card races.

For Baseball Junkies continues its great series on comparing a team's all time team to its present team. This time it is the Marlins.

And we end on a fantastic note as Grubby Glove has a great feature on a Mets fan that is doing so much for the Tug McGraw Foundation.

Have a great week, everyone.

Why relievers such as Rodney and Kimbrel are not CYA candidates

One of the really nice things that has happened to your favorite Fan in the last year has been a new association with a new e-magazine called Big Leagues Monthly. It is such an honor to be named a senior writer for this new project alongside so many fabulous writers and contributors. The magazine, the brainchild of Jim Pratt, is such a powerhouse of content that you will devour it.

There are two contributions in there this month from yours truly. One is an essay and historical perspective on why relievers like Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel and Fernando Rodney should never win the Cy Young Award (yeah, boo and hiss all you want, heh). The other is how a team like the San Diego Padres will respond to the Dodgers new fountain of wealth.

Check out those two pieces and the entire magazine out. Click here for baseball reading heaven.

Game Picks - Friday: September 14, 2012

Wednesday was a fantastic picking day. Thursday was as bad as Wednesday was good. That's baseball for you. Joe Nathan blew a save for the Rangers. The Astros beat the Phillies late. The Orioles should never be picked against these days, even against the Rays. King Felix had nothing against the Blue Jays who deposed him. The Royals blew a save. And the Angels ended the A's winning streak as Jered Weaver came back to pitch a gem. It was an awful picking day. And for the second time in a week, the Game of the Day pick was rained out. How odd is that?

Isn't it amazing that the baseball season has less than twenty games to go? And it is going to be a fascinating finish in both leagues. The wild card races are simply crazy. It all begins tonight with a full slate of games with some rather interesting series. Here is a look at those games and the Friday picks:

  • The Pirates over the Cubs: The Pirates aren't totally dead but they are on life support. They need to win most of their games from here on out. The Cubs should help though the team from Wrigley has played the Pirates tough this season. James McDonald over Chris Rusin.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: What a match up! At least on paper. David Price versus C.C. Sabathia! Price is missed a start due to shoulder inflammation but says he is ready to go. Sabathia has lost velocity and it is hurting his effectiveness. Which one blinks? Which one will come up big? After the Rays were swept by the Orioles, this is a chance to bury the Rays or let them back into the race. It is up to them.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: The Red Sox had to fly overnight to Toronto after losing two of three to the Yankees. Aaron Laffey has been the target of jokes around here, but he has been decent for the Blue Jays. Daisuke Matsuzaka was brutal in his last start. Edwin Encarnacion reached the 40 homer mark and the 100 RBI mark in his last game. Quite a season for him.
  • The Reds over the Marlins: Bronson Arroyo should benefit from the big ballpark in Miami and the Reds' only problem these days is how to get everyone enough at bats in the lineup. Jacob Turner is making baby steps for the Marlins but has a tough task facing the Reds.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: This is a huge series for the Braves, if not so much for the Nats, who have all but wrapped up the division. But this could be a playoff preview so the Nats will want to show up well. Kris Medlen has been amazing for the Braves and that should continue tonight. Ross Detwiler has pitched well, but he is not overpowering like Medlen.
  • The Phillies over the Astros: This game will not be a cakewalk for the Phillies. Edgar Gonzalez has come out of the Mexican Leagues and proven he can pitch in the majors. It's a great story. But unfortunately, his Astros will not hit Cole Hamels.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: An all Japanese match up is interesting as Hisashi Iwakuma squares up against Yu Darvish. The Rangers at home are a tough task for anyone. Iwakuma looked really great until his last start. Darvish has been much more impressive over the last month.
  • The Angels over the Royals: A lot depends in this game how good C.J. Wilson is pitching in Kansas City. He should be fine, but that really bad stretch of his mid-season was scary. Bruce Chen at home is decent, but the Angels' lineup should get to him.
  • The White Sox over the Twins: Like the Indians, the Twins will pay for the rained out game yesterday as now they get Chris Sale. Ouch. Sales should...well...sail through the Twins' and the White Sox should have a happy offensive game against Esmerling Vasquez.
  • The Brewers over the Mets: Mike Fiers wants to prove he belongs. The Brewers want to prove they can still make it to the wild card spot. The Mets want to prove...uh...that Lucas Duda can play first base? Jonathan Niese goes for the Mets and will get no run support as usual.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: The Giants are going to win this division handily and Matt Cain is going back to the playoffs. Meanwhile, they have to play out the rest of the season like traveling to Arizona to take on Tyler Skaggs and the Diamondbacks. Should be no problem.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: Whoo boy. The two hottest teams in baseball square up. This picker keeps picking against the Orioles like some mad scientist thinking he is going to be a genius, only to have his latest experiment blow up in his face. But geez, Joe Saunders? He is not this good. He just isn't. Tommy Milone will have to be on his best game though. Plus, the Orioles had to travel across country overnight after a fourteen inning game.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: Andrew Cashner is back and that is so cool. Love to watch that kid pitch. The Padres are playing good ball and should win this game at home. Tyler Chatwood goes for the Rockies.
  • The Cardinals over the Dodgers: The Dodgers, despite their money tree, are not going to make it to the playoffs. They just don't have enough pitching to get there. Chris Capuano is a fringy fifth guy for most teams and he has to be a number two for the Dodgers. It doesn't work. Joe Kelly isn't thrilling for the Cardinals, but he should keep them in the game long enough for the Cardinal offense to take over this one.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Tigers over the Indians: Aren't the Indians lucky? Justin Verlander was supposed to pitch yesterday against the White Sox but the game was rained out. Instead, the Indians will get him on an extra day of rest. Corey Kluber will be no match.

Yesterday: 2-6
Week: 37-27
Month: 88-86
Season: 1174-943
Games of the Day: 91-63

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Maddon versus Showalter

How do you rank managers? That problem has perplexed this site for years now. And answering the question seems no closer now than it ever has. You cannot go by a team's winning percentage. That is a product of so many different things: front office, injuries, player performance, competition, etc. The Pythagorean win/loss record has been attempted here with mixed results. And yet, despite our total lack of ability to get a handle on this simple question, we make subjective choices all the time. The ultimate subjective choice is the Manager of the Year Award. This year will go to either Oakland's manager or Baltimore's in the American League. But how do we know those team's success rate is because of their managers? We don't, really.

Pondering this question for the umpteenth time led to the comparison of Buck Showalter to Joe Maddon. Maddon has won two Manager of the Year Awards in the past three seasons. Showalter has also won two in his career. Both manage in the American League East. And both have gone head to head often this season with the late results going mostly to the Orioles.

If you were to ask baseball fans, and probably even experts to rank the managers in the AL East, the subjective rank would probably go something like: 1) Maddon, 2) Showalter 3) and 4) Girardi and Farrell interchangeably and 5) Valentine. To be sure, that subjective ranking might not be fair to any of those managers. Again, so much of their team's success or failure is out of their hands on a day to day basis.

But Joe Maddon is the wunderkind in most people's minds. He is constantly in the news for his funky decisions, cool team happenings, popcorn in the dugout and allowing himself to be pied during a national interview. His Elton John-like glasses and cool hair styles cement the image. He is hip, man. Totally. And, of course, there is his known embrace of analytic data and how he runs his team during games. He and his organization are always put on top of that snap analytic ranking. And sometimes, from this biased perspective (aren't all perspectives on baseball biased?), Maddon embraces the genius role and relishes it.

In contrast, Buck Showalter has always seemed like the stodgier, more conservative and older acting manager. He seems old school. He doesn't seem to care about numbers. He doesn't seem to care about how he is perceived. Showalter is not on Twitter. He's a part of the past, man.

And yet, here they are, both competing for the pennant and the wild card with the Orioles currently holding the edge and tied with the Yankees for the division lead. Does that make Showalter a better manager? Who knows!

Here is one thing that will shock the crap out of you. Buck Showalter is two years younger than Joe Maddon. Do you believe that!? It seems like Showalter is ten years older at least. That means that Maddon is at least winning the cool factor race. Showalter and your favorite Fan are the same age. Much more hipness is happening here, man.

Maddon seems to be like Napoleon when walking into Waterloo when it comes to Showalter. And the same thing seemed to happen when Maddon faced Davey Johnson earlier in the season. By appearances, these two old-school cats are more than a match for Maddon. But does that count? Should it? Again, a lot depends on the players, the luck, everything.

Maddon's team has a far better run differential. Is that good or bad? Showalter has an amazing record in one-run games and extra inning games. Does that make him better? Despite having the best closer in the AL this season, the Rays are below .500 in both one-run games and extra-inning games. Is that a knock on Maddon?

The O's have a better record against the Red Sox and Yankees than the Rays. Edge Showalter? Both have almost the exact same career win-loss records (right around the .513 mark). Showalter has shown himself to have a higher degree of humor with his players than originally perceived. His efforts with his clubhouse aren't as loud as the Rays, but seem just as effective. His players do nothing but rave about him. So no real edge can be given there.

Maddon is given universal credit for turning around a moribund Tampa franchise. But Showalter has turned around the Diamondbacks and Yankees in 2000 and 1995 respectively before turning this Baltimore franchise around. And you really can't assign all the credit to either manager for those situations. The realities are much more complex than the perceptions.

Okay, we are about a thousand words into this thing and we aren't getting anywhere. And that perhaps is the entire point. The perception here is that these two managers are the best in the AL East if not in the entire AL. The slight edge here goes to Showalter. But that doesn't mean a dang thing because it is just one man's view and there is nothing concrete to pin the matter down. And it means just as little for this personal perspective to state that either one would be preferable to Girardi.

Game Picks - Thursday: September 13, 2012

Picture a middle aged guy with a ponytail dancing and singing the schmaltzy, "What a difference a day makes," song. Yes, that is what a 12-3 day will do. A day like that goes a long way in fixing everything. The month is no longer an embarrassment and in the red.

So what kept the day from being perfect? Why, of course, that would be the Cardinals. Surprise! And, once again, a pick against the Orioles ended up being stupid. Buck Showalter is Joe Maddon's Waterloo. Maddon has met his match and then some. The other bad pick was picking against the Giants, who now have the NL West pretty much wrapped up in a bow.

There are nine games on the Thursday schedule. The entire AL East is in action as they all had a day off on Monday. And that big series out in the AL West continues for one last day. The picks:

  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Yes, yes, what did the second paragraph just say? But hear the pick out. Jeremy Hellickson has come on strong. He has a 3.91 ERA in five starts at Camden Yards, which is hardly breathtaking. But still. Wei-Yin Chen is faltering a bit and has lost two straight. These two teams are so evenly matched, the Rays have to take one of the games.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: It doesn't get any easier for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on the West Coast of America in the Northern Hemisphere on Planet Earth. Brett Anderson has been awesome since coming back. And yes, Jered Weaver is coming back to pitch this one for the Angels. But how healthy is he? And can he keep the A's in the yard?
  • The Mariners over the Blue Jays: Felix Hernandez. Need there be anything else said? Well, okay...he faces Henderson Alvarez. That seals it, no?
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Joe Girardi is managing tighter than the waistband of Rush Limbaugh's undies, but the Yankees, even depleted by injuries are much better than the Red Sox. Felix Doubront has not pitched a good game in forever. Phil Hughes is the wild card. If he blows out early, this pick is left in tatters.
  • The Rangers over the Indians: The same logic applies as yesterday. The Indians are no threat to the Texas Rangers. Zach McAllister will be lucky to come out of this one alive and Derek Holland will have an easy time of it.
  • The Phillies over the Astros: lists Fernando Abad as the starter for the Astros, but that's silly because he started Wednesday night. Yahoo lists Lucas Harrell, and that is another kettle of fish (cliche). This feature really loves Lucas Harrell. But there is no stopping these Phillies right now. Tyler Cloyd goes for them.
  • The Royals over the Twins: Poor Liam Hendriks. The guy can't buy a win. Well, the Twins have to put him out there as there is nobody else. Luis Mendoza is somewhat more likely to win than Hendriks.
  • The Cardinals over the Dodgers: Gulp! The Cardinals. [[cough]]. Lance Lynn is starting. He has been in the bullpen lately. That isn't good. But the Dodgers send out Josh Beckett. That is enough to counter the ennui of the Cardinals.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Tigers over the White Sox: This pick comes down to who to trust more, Justin Verlander or Chris Sale. That is a tough choice, no? But the Verlander angle is a much more trustworthy one. If this pick comes true, the AL Central will be tied.

Yesterday: 12-3
Week: 35-21
Month: 86-80
Season: 1172-937
Games of the Day: 91-63

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Game Picks - Wednesday: September 12, 2012

Those stupid Cardinals. Despite great picks like the Astros and Ian Kennedy over Clayton Kershaw, the picks foundered around the .500 mark all day. The Red Sox won as predicted, but the Bay Rays did not. That's how the day went. The stupid St. Louis Cardinals was the swing game between over .500 and below it. They had Adam Wainwright on the mound, their ace. They had the early lead. And! Argggghhhh! They have easily--along with the Tigers--been the most frustrating pick all season. And unfortunately, picking the Pirates has been an exercise in futility. It looks like they are falling off and hard.

And so we move to Wednesday, which is usually getaway day in baseball. But apparently, no one is getting away because there is only one day game and that doesn't start until late afternoon (on the East Coast anyway). Wednesday's picks:

  • The Phillies over the Marlins: The Phillies actually have a shot at this wildcard thing. They got rid of so many people...dumped them really...and they are right there as the Pirates and Cardinals stumble. Cliff Lee can at least earn some of that contract tonight with a good performance. Josh Johnson would be a consideration before the season started, but what a disappointment he has been.
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Okay, this is a double reverse pick. Kyle Lohse is pitching and the Cardinals usually win with him pitching. But Clayton Richard is pitching at home where he always pitches well for the Padres. So the Padres should win. But that would be too easy a pick when it comes to the Cardinals, so the pick goes in a double reverse to the Cardinals. Geez. The things this picker has to do...
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Alex Cobb wins whenever he pitches. Don't ask this picker how. But he does. Miguel Gonzalez has really good control, which takes away the Rays' patience game. This will be low scoring with the Rays somehow finding a way to win.
  • The Mariners over the Blue Jays: What ailment has befallen Ricky Romero? He has to be pitching hurt, right? Something is not right with him as he has not won all summer and has been mostly flat out awful. The only way the Blue Jays win tonight is if Kevin Millwood falters badly.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: This picker knew the Red Sox would win yesterday. They are the worst team in the American League, but when it comes to the Yankees, they will play like they have to save their lives. And what's with the Yankees allowing the only two batters (Pedroia and Ellsbury) to do all that damage. The Yankees might want to work around those two? Eh? The only reason for this pick is Aaron Cook, who is awful. But David Phelps doesn't exactly thrill the senses either. Oy.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: The Pirates are done. Toast. A.J. Burnett is reverting to form as a regression was inevitable. Homer Bailey strikes out ten and wins.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: Matt Harvey has great stuff. And next year will benefit from his experiences this season. The Nats are simply too tough a team, especially with Bryce Harper hot. John Lannon will make us sing, "Imagine if this were isn't hard to do..."
  • The Cubs over the Astros: Two of the worst teams continue a series. Ho hum. Fernando Abad goes for the Astros. Pitching Fernando is Abad idea. Tyler Wood is not much better for the Cubs. But it is their turn to win.
  • The Brewers over the Braves: Never in a million years expected the Brewers to beat the Braves yesterday. But this is another team, like the Phillies, that is making a late charge. Yovani Gallardo has been awesome at home as always and Paul Maholm is very vulnerable for the Braves.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: As confusing a team as the Tigers are, this game has to go to them based on solid logic. Gavin Floyd has always pitched well against the Tigers, but he has had elbow problems and is just coming off the DL. That does not scream success. Max Scherzer might have better stuff at times than Verlander. If Scherzer throws strikes, the White Sox have no chance.
  • The Royals over the Twins: Luke Hochevar is totally a picker's nightmare. He is capable of being very good and then being just as awful. But it won't really matter because P.J. Walters starts for the Twins and the Royals should score often in this one. If Hochevar is on, this won't be close. If not, the Royals still win.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: This pick feels on the stupid side, but it also feels right. Don't ask what that means. Jeff Francis knows what it is like to pitch in Coors. He does it all the time. And he sometimes does well if he can hit the edges. Tim Lincecum walks a tightrope with his fastball command and his slider won't slide as much at Coors.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Dodgers: There is so much more faith in this corner for Trevor Cahill than there is for Aaron Harang. And that is the sole basis for this pick.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: A.J. Griffin hasn't lost a ballgame. And it's not like he's getting lucky. The kid has been great. Ervin Santana has been much better than his terrible first half. But he gives up homers and that's what the A's like to hit.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rangers over the Indians: If the Indians played the Rangers a hundred times, they might win ten games. Ryan Dempster deserves this pennant race. Happy for the guy. Jeanmar Gomez pitches for the Indians. Adrian Beltre is amazingly hot right now.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 23-18
Month: 74-77
Season: 1160-934
Games of the Day: 90-63

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why can't Jaime Garcia pitch on the road?

Jaime Garcia's home/road splits have gotten to the point of ridiculous. And after three years of such happenings, it is not a fluke. Garcia has pitched at home 42 times in his career and in those games is 18-11 with an ERA of 2.42 with a WHIP of 1.178. Garcia has pitched 44 times on the road in his career and is 13-12 in those games with an ERA of 4.69 and a WHIP of 1.540. If Garcia's home games were in Dodgers Stadium or at Petco Park in San Diego, that might be more understandable. But his home games are in Busch Stadium which is really a pitching neutral site. So what gives here? It is bizarre, isn't it?

In Jaime Garcia's last two home starts, he has allowed no earned runs in fifteen and a third innings. In his last three road starts, he has given up fourteen runs in a combined fourteen an a third innings. Freaky. And yesterday, he pitched at said PetCo Park, a known pitcher's ballpark and ralphed in his three innings of work. His home/road problem is getting worse with each passing season.

In his first full season of 2010, Garcia had an ERA of 1.74 at home in fourteen starts with a WHIP of 1.148. On the road in 2010, his ERA was 3.82--still somewhat respectable--with a high WHIP of 1.516. In 2011, he had an ERA of 2.55 at home with a WHIP of 1.111. On the road in 2011, his ERA was 4.61 with a WHIP of 1.537. This season, his ERA at home is 2.63 with a WHIP of 1.271. On the road this year, his ERA is 6.19 with a WHIP of 1.661. Garcia has given up no homers at home and six on the road this season.

This is definitely a thing. 

And this thing is definitely a problem since the Cardinals have to pitch him on the road at least half the time. It's not like they can just save him for home games. And with the Cardinals fighting for a wild card spot, they need to win on the road just as much as they win at home. They need to at least have a chance in those road games. Garcia has not given them a chance to win.

So what is the problem? Garcia is not a hard thrower. He is a pitcher who has to hit his spots and keep batters off balance. His best showing on the road was 2010 and that is not a surprise as his fastball back then had two miles per hours more gittyup back then than he does now. With less velocity, it is even more important for Garcia to pitch on the margins. He is simply better at doing so at home than he is on the road.

Take a look at his pitching chart against right-handed batters in his last two starts. The first is from his home game and the second from his Padres' start:

As you can see, his pitches at home against right-handed batters were much more on the edges with few left out over the middle of the plate. You don't see the same kind of sharpness in the San Diego start. Let's do two more. The first is his home start against the Pirates and the other is away against the Nationals:

Pictures courtesy of

See how against the Nationals, he left many more pitches over the heart of the plate? The other thing to notice is that in the two home starts, there is a much greater use of the two-seam fastball than there is on the road. In fact, in the two road game charts shown above, his two-seam fastball is nonexistent. Why is that? Why would he throw that pitch at home but not on the road?

Whatever the case, this thing that is a thing is not working for Jaime Garcia and the Cardinals. The team locked up Garcia for a pretty good contract, so they are going to have to live with a guy who is only effective in half his games unless they can get the road thing figured out. Until then, Garcia's home/road splits will continue to vex.

Game Picks - Tuesday: September 11, 2012

This date still brings anxiety and bad memories. We will never forget.

But there is still a job to do here and that is pick baseball games. Yesterday went well. Seven out of ten picks were correct. The three that went wrong were the Giants, the Tigers and the Angels, all contending teams that took a hit. The Giants are still pretty comfortable though, so it did not hurt them as badly. The Tigers and Angels losses were blows to those teams against playoff contending rivals. There were some seriously good picks in there. The Cardinals' loss was predicted here. And the Braves' loss was correctly predicted too. Nice. The Game of the Day feature continues a very long roll of success. Nice as well.

Back to a full schedule on Tuesday. The picks:

  • The Rays over the Orioles: This is going to be an amazing series. If either team sweeps it, that would be a major surprise. The Rays should take the first one as Matt Moore should be able to shut down the Orioles. But the Rays will have to score a couple over a remade Jason Hammel.
  • The Blue Jays over the Mariners: Brandon Morrow should be able to shut down the Mariners sleepy offense and the Blue Jays get Erasmo Ramirez, who hasn't pitched since June.
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: This is the best chance the Red Sox have to take a game in this series. Despite how bad they are, for old time sake, they will pull it together against the Yankees. Ciriaco and Pedroia and Ross all kill the Yankees. And the Yankees' lineup against lefties has been weak lately. Of course, Hiroki Kuroda would pitch a gem and make all this moot.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: This one is really tough. The Pirates need it more and Kevin Correia has somehow found a way to win quite often in the past couple of months. Mike Leake has not been good, so the Pirates seem to be the right pick.
  • The Mets over the Nationals: Going all in for R.A. Dickey. Really want him to win twenty games this season. Jordan Zimmermann is a favorite here, but the Nats never score when he is pitching. This game will be 1-0 or 2-1 or something.
  • The Astros over the Cubs: This was a coin tossed up in the air. Both Justin Germano and Jordan Lyles have high ERAs and have been roughed up more often than not lately. Have no idea who will win this one.
  • The Rangers over the Indians: The Rangers at home are tough to beat on any day. But Matt Harrison makes it tougher for the Indians. Ubaldo Jimenez might pitch a good game. But then again, he might not. You never know.
  • The Braves over the Brewers: Okay, the Braves had their breather game yesterday and get back to rampaging today with their ace, Tim Hudson, on the mound. Marco Estrada said he was ineffective in his last start because he got the game start time wrong and didn't warm up properly. Whuh?
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: The Tigers aren't going to make it, are they? All year long, we waited for the big push. It has never come. And now time is running out. That loss last night said it all. Just too many holes in the lineup. Too leaky a defense. Jake Peavy over Doug Fister.
  • The Twins over the Royals: Scott Diamond did not have a good time against the White Sox and still got the win in the game. He's had that kind of season. He's been a nice surprise all year. Will Smith has pitched well twice all season that can be remembered in this old head.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: The Giants gave up a big early lead yesterday and almost came back in the game. Madison Bumgarner has been a huge concern over his last four starts. Is he okay? Why has he suddenly gone flat? Will he pull out of it? Jhoulys Chacin certainly has the ability to foul up this pick.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Dodgers: The Dodgers seem like the NL version of the Tigers. You think they are going to get hot and they don't. Clayton Kershaw was supposed to pitch over the weekend but his hip hurt. Will it be any better after just a few days? Ian Kennedy has a history of defeating aces. Odds are he will do so again here.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: Okay, A's, you have convinced this picker. Going with you hard then. Fireballer, Dan Straily goes for the A's against Jerome Williams, filling in for Jered Weaver.
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Sheesh, are these Cardinals ever hot and cold from day to day. What gives with this team? Adam Wainwright should win. He is the ace. He should win. The Padres have been playing very well though and Edinson Volquez has been pitching rather well.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Marlins: You have to give the Phillies credit. They took their hit early, dumped some players and have played good baseball in the second half. Roy Halladay will keep that going today and get the win over Nathan Eovaldi.

Yesterday: 7-3
Week: 16-10
Month: 67-69
Season: 1153-926
Games of the Day: 89-63

Monday, September 10, 2012

Whiff rate might sink Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics have truly been one of the most remarkable stories of this 2012 season. They were never expected to compete for a playoff spot. After they traded away two-fifths of their starting rotation and some of the remaining rotation members came up lame, there was no way of predicting that at this stage of the season, the A's have the wild card race in their own destiny and are still within hailing distance of the Rangers for the division lead. The young rotation and solid bullpen have led them, no doubt. But a resurgent offense has also been a big part of the equation. But can that offense keep them in the races through the final weeks? The concern here is that the team's strikeout and swing and miss rate will eventually sink them.

The Oakland A's lead the American League in offensive strikeouts. And while the offense has ticked up in the second half, that strikeout rate has remained remarkably consistent throughout the season. In the first half, the A's struck out 21.2 percent of the time. So far in the second half, the A's have struck out 23 percent of the time to give them a 22.1 percent strikeout rate for the season. In the last seven days, the A's have struck out 23 percent. In the last fourteen days, the team has struck out 23 percent of the time. In the last 28 days, the team has struck out 22.1 percent of the time.That is remarkably consistent and should not deviate the rest of the season.

All the strikeouts lead to less balls in play. Less balls in play mean less hits that can fall in. The A's are second from the bottom in team batting average and second from the bottom in team on-base percentage. Only the Mariners are worse in both categories.

The team's walk rate has not been as consistent as its strikeout rate. Surprisingly, the A's are tied for third in the American League with 465 team walks. But that rate has gone down in the second half. In the first half of the season, the team walked 9.2 percent of their plate appearances. That rate is down to 8.2 percent in the second half. So even though the A's have improved their team batting average in the second half from .225 to .254, the on-base percentage has remained fairly static. Despite a 29 percentage point rise in batting average, the on-base percentage has only risen 18 percentage points in the second half.

The slugging percentage, of course, has gone through the roof for the A's as they have had several sluggers get hot. But it is those streaking sluggers that bring on most of this concern about the Athletics' offense. Let's look at some of the key players that have been fueling the A's surge:

  • Chris Carter has had a fabulous run and has slugged .571 for the A's with most of that damage occurring in the second half. Carter strikes out 29.8 percent of the time. A correction could come at any time.
  • Brandon Moss has really hit some bombs and is slugging .549. But he strikes out 31.9 percent of the time and unlike Carter, does not walk much. His .319 on-base percentage is a correction waiting to happen too.
  • Jonny Gomes has really come on for the A's and has hit several key homers in recent weeks. But Gomes is a known entity and has always been streaky due mostly to his strikeout rate. His strikeout rate with the A's is  30.7 percent and 27 percent for his career.
  • George Kottaras has slugged .578 since coming over from the Brewers, but he strikes out 27 percent of the time.

Add to that mix the fact that Josh Reddick strikes out 23 percent of the time and Yoenis Cespedes strikes out 20 percent of the time. To be fair, Cespedes' rate is much less than anyone expected.

When all is said and done, the A's remain a hit or miss offense. Good pitching has been a constant for the A's but their winning ways in the last two months are just as much due to a collective surge by the players listed above. Their strikeout rates are all large and just as fast as they all got hot together and started hitting bombs all over the field, they could get cold as strikeout after strikeout piles up.

Hey, this isn't saying that the A's can't continue this amazing run of theirs and continue to write a pretty amazing story. Just call this a little dark cloud around the silver lining and one that could ultimately trip up the A's in the end.

Game Picks - Monday: September 10, 2012

Yesterday's picks did little to pull the month up to water level. Nine of the sixteen picks were correct. But when you consider that both ends of the Phillies - Rockies double header were picked correctly, the rest of the picks were basically a dead heat. The AL East is really messing up the picks. Every single game of the Yankees - Orioles series was picked incorrectly. Four in a row! The same went for the Red Sox - Blue Jays series. The picks were, however, dead on for the entire Rangers - Rays series. Not to whine or anything, but having to pick the Dodgers with Clayton Kershaw on the line was unfair since he was later scratched. The Dodgers would not have been picked if Joe Blanton was the scheduled pitcher.

The Game of the Day feature is on a major roll. That pick has been correct eight days in a row.

There are ten games on Monday's schedule with a full one-third of teams getting a day off. Thankfully, five of those ten teams are the AL East teams. Phew! At least those games can't get today's picks all fouled up. Monday's picks:

  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Kyle Kendrick has really been a nice surprise so far this season. Part of his success comes from walking only four batters in his last five starts. Limiting free passes gains a pick in this picker's book. Wade LeBlanc isn't pitching terribly himself. But the pick goes to Kendrick.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Wandy Rodriguez has been good for the Pirates and has given them a few rare quality starts lately as the pitching of the Pirates has fallen off lately. But he faces Mat Latos, who has been getting stronger and stronger as the season goes along. He has been the once constant since Johnny Cueto has fallen off some.
  • The Cubs over the Astros: Chris Volstad finally won two games and was looking sort of good again. And then in his last outing, got absolutely bombed. Perhaps he will win his third game against the Astros. Dallas Keuchel goes for the 'Stros.
  • The Brewers over the Braves: The Braves might be a bit flat after traveling overnight from New York to Milwaukee. Mike Minor has been a hot pitcher but perhaps will have Ryan Braun run into one of his fastballs in this one. Wily Peralta was still throwing 96 MPH gas into the seventh inning in his first start. The guy has a big time arm, but does he have enough secondary stuff to survive?
  • The Twins over the Indians: Somehow, it doesn't seem that Justin Masterson will survive an outing against the Twins with 80 percent fastballs. Meanwhile, Sam Deduno should hold the Indians down to three runs or so.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: The Tigers can't seem to beat anyone except the White Sox, which is strange. Rick Porcello will be decent and Jose Quintana has seemingly run out of gas. This picker would have skipped his turn in this one.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: Ryan Vogelsong has fallen on hard times and has really tanked his last four starts. His job won't get easier at Coors Field. Meanwhile, Alex White struggles along for his weekly 75 pitches but the Rockies' bullpen has really done the job after those pitch limits have been reached. The heart wants to suck this pick over to the Rockies, but the head is screaming, "Giants!"
  • The Angels over the Athletics: The Angels seemed to step it into another gear when Dan Haren started pitching better again. This is a big match up for both teams as they fight for a wild card spot. The Angels are the chasers and the hottest team in baseball right now. The A's have been good too and Jarrod Parker needs to have a big game. But the Angels seem to be the right pick here.
  • The Padres over the Cardinals: Jaime Garcia may snarl at reporters who ask him about his road splits, but they are a huge problem and though the Padres play in a big park, it is still an away outing for Garcia. Meanwhile, the best lineup in the NL faces a very good pitcher in Eric Stults, who is 5-2 with a terrific ERA.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Nationals over the Mets: The Mets have fallen on really hard times and the Braves really wiped them out over the weekend. Now the Nats come to Citi Field and things won't get any easier. Gio Gonzalez will go for the Nationals and Collin McHugh pitches for the Mets. McHugh was great his first outing and then got torched by the Cards in his second outing.

Yesterday: 9-7
Week: 9-7
Month: 60-66
Season: 1146-923
Games of the Day: 88-63

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Game Picks - Sunday: September 9, 2012

Another bad day finished off a bad week in what has so far been a bad month. Yes, that is a whole lot of bad thrown in there. The Game of the Day feature was rained out. That has never happened before. Aces like Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia were not sharp. And that Teixeira out call at first? Terrible. The Cardinals keep losing. And, yeah, that Astros pick was stupid. Sorry. Then again, so was the Red Sox pick. Golly, they are awful. September has not been kind and it is time to turn it all around.

There are sixteen games today with a double header to make up the rained out game in Philadelphia yesterday. That is a lot that can go right...or wrong. It should be a fun day either way. Seriously, this is just a daily feature that doesn't ruin the fact that baseball is the bomb and the greatest sport on earth. Here are Sunday's picks:

  • The Phillies over the Rockies: The pick is the same as yesterday since the match up is the same: Cole Hamels should always be a winner over Tyler Chatwood.
  • The Reds over the Astros: Edgar Gonzalez is one of those nice stories of persistence. The guy had been toiling away in the Mexican Leagues and here he is pitching in the majors. The only problem is that he is facing a tough lineup that should scratch out three runs or so and that should be enough for Johnny Cueto to win the game.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs: Jeff Locke? Chris Rusin? Whuh? Who are these guys? And how is a picker supposed to pick between them? Who knows.
  • The Marlins over the Nationals: Twelve days ago, Ricky Nolasco shut out the Nats. Can he do it again? Maybe not, but he is the Marlins best chance to win today. Edwin Jackson has been his typical inconsistent self. You never know from start to start what you will get.
  • The Orioles over the Yankees: Back to wanting rather to be pleasantly surprised than a crushed expectation. Zach Britton over Freddy Garcia.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Yeah, you're right. The Red Sox are picked day after day like they are still good and they never win. Understood. But geez, Clay Buchholz is still a good pitcher, right? The suckiness of his team doesn't change that, right? Carlos Villanueva is pretty good, but he shouldn't be as good as Buchholz. Not in a normal world. But what about the Red Sox has been normal this season?
  • The Bay Rays over the Rangers: James Shields is a first-rate pitcher who knows how to get outs and is consistently good from outing to outing. He is very similar to how Roy Oswalt used to be. The trouble for the Rangers is in that used to be status.
  • /The Indians over the Twins: The Twins have been playing much better ball than the Indians. But Esmerling Vazquez just does not provoke any confidence at all. Not that Corey Kluber does, but on the scale of one to ten, Kluber is at least a three while Vazquez is a two or a one.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: Jeremy Guthrie! Who would have ever thought after the first month of the season that a Guthrie start would be a glimmer of hope for the team he was pitching for? Guthrie was a brilliant pickup for the Royals. He should beat Hector Santiago, who really isn't a starter and is asked to be one now.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Come on, Cardinals, it is UCB Weekend! You have to win at least one of the games! Send those people home happy. Even if Joe Kelly is starting. The good news is that Shaun Marcum isn't that great this season either.
  • The Angels over the Tigers: Angels' fans are singing: "Our deadline pitcher is better than yours is." Theirs is Zack Greinke. The Tigers' is Anibal Sanchez. Good, but not as good as Greinke.
  • The Padres over the Diamondbacks: Andrew Werner will go six innings and give up two runs. That is exactly what he has done in each of his three starts so far this season. That's pretty darn consistent. Or a fluke and if so, this pick is dead. Patrick Corbin goes for the D-backs and he has been decent.
  • The Mariners over the Athletics: Jason Vargas has been an A's killer all season and Vargas has had his best season in the majors. The A's Tommy Milone has been hit or miss lately. He is therefore, tough to rely upon and just as tough to count out.
  • The Phillies over the Rockies: Drew Pomeranz will probably be good for his four innings. No guarantees after that. Tyler Cloyd has been a nice surprise for the Phillies since he was called up to join the rotation.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: It seems like whenever this feature picks Clayton Kershaw, he doesn't win. Why is that? But he really should win over Barry Zito on national television, shouldn't he? It would be stupid to expect the pick to be anything else.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Braves over the Mets: The Braves have destroyed the Mets in this series. Granted, both teams will put out their least effective starters out there today in Tommy Hanson and Chris Young. But Hanson is at least supposed to be good even if he hasn't been. 

Yesterday: 6-8
Last week: 45-49
Month: 51-59
Season: 1139-916
Games of the Day: 87-63