Saturday, September 22, 2012

Game Picks - Saturday: September 22, 2012

Oof. After four really good days in a row, the picks took a market correction yesterday and went, 6-8. And this was despite correctly picking the Astros to beat the Pirates and correctly picking the entire AL East game outcomes. The Cardinals blew a save with two outs and two strikes on the batter. Ouch. The Nationals blew a save. The Mets won a ballgame. Whuh? The Reds lost in extra innings. And this picker should have known that Hisashi Iwakuma would be really tough at home. At least the Game of the Day was correct again. That feature is absolutely flying.

The Twins and Tigers were postponed due to the weather and will be made up as a double-header on Sunday.

There are lots of day games for a Saturday. Not that there is a complaint here about that. Day games are the best. Here are Saturday's picks:

  • The Nationals over the Brewers: This is a terrific game to consider. First there is Wily Peralta, who has been nothing short of terrific for the Brewers. How will he fare against a tough team like the Nats? And Gio Gonzalez can go a long way toward making his case for the CYA with a win over the high-flying Brewers. This one aught to be fun.
  • The Yankees over the Athletics: The Yankees exacted some revenge with their walk-off victory yesterday. Today it will be Ivan Nova, who looked really good last time out after some rest on the DL. Travis Blackley pitched well against the Yankees in Oakland but hasn't started in a while. 
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Those Cardinals. Boy. Sticking with them, though, as Adam Wainwright is still a good pitcher. The only concern with him is if he is tiring down the stretch which seems to happen for pitchers who have had TJ surgery. The Cardinals should hit Travis Wood early and often.
  • The Orioles over the Red Sox: A battle of castoff pitchers as the Orioles pitch Randy Wolf and the Red Sox pitch Aaron Cook. That has ugly written all over it. And the Red Sox seem to lose the ugliest. 
  • The Mets over the Marlins: You might as well throw the radar gun away today as R.A. Dickey pitches against Mark Buehrle. That is a good match up and it is a toss up as to who will win. If Dickey is going to win 20, he has to win this one.
  • The Phillies over the Braves: The Phillies aren't going down without a fight. And they have Roy Halladay on the mound and he has to be the pick even though Mike Minor has been awfully good lately.
  • The Reds over the Dodgers: Those Dodgers always seem dead and then win at opportune times. It seems they won't be dead until they are dead. Stephen Fife has been good, but Mat Latos is better. This will be a close game.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: The rained out game allowed the Tigers to skip Porcello's turn in the rotation and will pitch Doug Fister. That changes things, though it is still felt here that Sam Deduno will pitch well for the Twins against the Tigers.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: Once cast off and out of the rotation, Kevin Correia has been the Pirates best pitcher down the stretch. He should hold down the Astros and allow the Pirates to score a few off of Dallas Keuchel.
  • The Indians over the Royals: Who knows, Ubaldo Jimenez might actually pitch a good game today. Will Smith's left arm fits the Indians' and that lowly club should score a couple at least. Ah, who knows in this one to be honest.
  • The Bay Rays over the Blue Jays: This is the Blue Jays' best chance to win a game this series as Brandon Morrow can shut down any team, certainly the Rays. But the Blue Jays won't score any against Matt Moore. Not without any of their good players, they won't.
  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: Patrick Corbin will not pitch well at Coors despite the fact that he was really good in his start before this. Coors is just different. Jhoulys Chacin on the other hand, knows how to pitch in his goofy home atmosphere.
  • The Angels over the White Sox: A team like the Angels is murder on a guy like Jose Quintana because he is a lefty and the Angels' regulars are mostly right-handed batters. The Angels will score big in this one. And Dan Haren will only allow a couple of runs today. Whiffs are catching up with the White Sox.
  • The Giants over the Padres: Andrew Werner did not fare well at Coors as predicted. But he is a good pitcher. The Giants want to clinch the division though and Madison Bumgarner is just the guy to do it. The Giants win a close game.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Yeah, the M's beat the Rangers yesterday. But that was yesterday. Blake Beavan won't be better than Matt Harrison although the M's lineup is better against left-handed pitching. But this game should be a Rangers' win.

Yesterday: 6-8
Week: 47-31
Month: 150-132
Season: 1,236-990
Games of the Day: 98-64

Friday, September 21, 2012

BBA Linkfest - around the horn in general

Hey! Got a few minutes? Hope so because what follows is a group of links to some of the best baseball writing on the planet. This is a tour of the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and we think we have a lot to offer you. So click some links, read some great writing and enjoy. You're welcome.

As always, we go alphabetically and start somewhere in the middle of the pack and work our way around again.

Let's start with Call to the Pen since they always have lots of great content every week. This week's link there is from Lew Freedman, a colleague from the e-magazine, Big Leagues Monthly. Lew wrote this week how Tim Lincecum is looking a lot like his old self lately.

One thing to love about Mario Salvini's blog, Che Palle! is that it reminds us that baseball is a global sport. Here is an example from that site.

Matt Whitener of Cheap.Seats.Please. celebrates the return of Chris Carpenter to the St. Louis Cardinals.

TheNaturalMevs celebrates that his favorite team is the first to clinch a playoff spot. Congrats, Mevs. Enjoy. Celebrate with him at Diamond Hoggers.

Dugout 24 is excited about the World Baseball Classic. We obnoxious Americans are about the only people not excited about it.

For Baseball Junkies continues its fine series on comparing a team's all-time team with their current team. This week featured the Mets. That aught to be interesting, no?

Full Spectrum Baseball has gathered themselves quite a few really good writers. A post that was particularly enjoyed this week was Will Emerson's collection of baseball facts, intriguing or useless or other wise. Which player is the only player this season with double-digit steals while also grounding into at least 20 double-plays. Click and find out.

The Hall of Very Good, a site whose name should change to The Site that's Very Good, has a great piece on five ballplayers that should have their own reality shows. And yes, Roger Clemens is one of them.

Theo of Hot Corner Harbor celebrates his 200th post. Congrats, buddy! Of course, he had to ruin it by writing about Ben Zobrist. [grumble] Hate that guy. But you probably like him, so go read it.

Left Field is a very cultured site with great writing. Our favorite writer writes about baseball, beer and music. Cool, eh? In this post, he writes about music tracks he has been spinning lately. Hope you don't mind the non-baseball post. It's worth it.

Michael Holloway is fascinated by Randall Munro's "What If" series. After this, you will be too. Michael Holloway's Baseball Blog.

Andrew Martin not only disagrees with the Fan's NL MVP choice, he doesn't even think Buster Posey is the best catcher in the National League. Read it all at MLB Dirt.

The terrific Chuck Booth of MLB Reports writes a thesis on the Coors Effect and baseball as played in Denver, Colorado. Fascinating. It is the third part in a series, so you might as well read parts one and two also.

Nik wonders if the Brewers can actually make it as the last wild card team in this post over at Niktig's Baseball Blog.

Old Time Family Baseball was kind enough to provide us with the trailer for the new movie about Jackie Robinson. Looks like a must see.

Jeremy Sickel of the Pop Fly Boys great anticipates the debut of a Royals a really well-written piece.

In a week filled with firestorms about baseball's role in American life, Cee Angi of The Platoon Advantage wrote this very thought provoking piece you should all read and think about.

Like most of us, Replacement Level Baseball Blog cannot wrap its mind around the season Mike Trout is having. And TPA and TTF are right, Trout is still the MVP. Sorry Miguel Cabrera fans.

Jackie Micucci of Through The Fence Baseball is amazed the Yankees are still where they are in the standings. The closing line of the piece is killer. One of the best ever. has an interesting article on pitch limits for youngsters. 

Eugene Tierney, as usual, has another great piece for 85% Sports this week. This one is on whether the Cardinals promoting Oscar Tavaras is a good thing or not.

Nobody...N-O-B-O-D-Y...writes better game recaps than Stevo-Sama like this one over at his The Baseball Enthusiast site.

Baseball Unrated has their fantasy baseball wrap-up for the season. 

Have a great week everyone and enjoy the final rush of the season!

Adrian Beltre is the Rangers' best player

Not only has Adrian Beltre been the best player for the Texas Rangers this season, he is one of the best players in baseball when it has really mattered--the last two months. His defense is always first rate and ranks him at the head of his position class, but Beltre had a 1.006 OPS in August with a .417 wOBA and has topped that this month with a 1.161 OPS and a .470 wOBA. Holy cow! He now leads his team in WAR. Beltre has been sensational.

Let's face it, the Rangers play in a park that aids a strong offensive team. And sure enough, Beltre has a season OPS of .965 at home with a .406 wOBA. But his season on the road is not shabby at all. He has an .861 OPS on the road with a terrific .360 wOBA. He has done it all. He leads the team in go-ahead hits with 23 (Hamilton has 18).

The Rangers signed Beltre before the 2011 season and what a bargain he has turned out to be. In his two years with the team, he has hit 66 homers and has driven in 200 runs. His OPS in his two year run with the team is .904. All the while, he has brought his usual stellar play to the bag at third base. How could the Red Sox not resign this guy after the 2010 season? Crazy.

There is not much more profound things to say about Adrian Beltre. He now has the eleventh highest WAR total ever for a third baseman and should finish around seven or eight by the time he is done. He is only 33 years old. He already has the ninth highest career total zone runs as a third baseman and is closing fast on the number eight guy. At a time when the Rangers were fading a bit and losing some of their big lead in the division, Adrian Beltre has been there to make sure they did not fall too far. His season has been remarkable and its finish, outstanding.

Since there is not more more profound things to say, let's leave you with a brief highlight reel of his memorable fielding plays of 2012.

And that is just a taste of this year.

Game Picks - Friday: September 21, 2012

September had been a tough month for picking baseball games until the last four days. The last two days have been particularly good with the picks going 22-8 in that time span. But despite how good that makes a picker feel about himself, there is always the fact that the Mets were picked to win yesterday. Bwahahaha! How stupid was that!? They only lost by fifteen runs.The A's - Tigers game pick was also wildly incorrect. Lord have mercy, though, as two Cardinal picks in a row have been correct. Well, they did play the Astros, so it's not like that was a genius pick. And hey, how about a random note: We all know by now that bating average is not a stat with status like it used to be. But Mike Trout is batting .324 and Derek Jeter is batting .323. There is eighteen years difference in their ages.

Each game closer to the end of the season gets a little more suspenseful. And Friday will be no different. As all the teams get into action, there are still wild card and division races to be decided. The only teams that can cruise a bit are the Giants, Nats and Reds. Here are Friday's picks:

  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: How big a surprise is it that Chris Carpenter is going to pitch a ballgame this season? Once you get over that surprise, how good can he do? Does the Cardinals' ragged bullpen going to be able to eat up twelve outs? Chris Volstad is not an automatic loss anymore.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: This series should suck a little wind out of the Phillies' sails. The Braves are the better team. Although the Phillies are at home and that is a huge advantage. Tommy Hanson needs to step it up and the Braves need to get to Kyle Kendrick early.
  • The Nationals over the Brewers: The Nats clinched a playoff spot, but that doesn't mean they are going to dry up. Of course, a victory is determined greatly by which Edwin Jackson shows up tonight. One never knows from start to start. The Brewers are in a bad spot when they are forced to keep their slim playoff hopes alive with a start from Shaun Marcum.
  • The Twins over the Tigers: Rick Porcello hasn't fared well when faced with having to get four outs every inning due to the Tigers' defense. He doesn't have put away stuff. Sam Deduno has been wild of late, but if he puts a good game together, he can beat these Tigers.
  • The Yankees over the Athletics: Jarrod Parker made the Yankees look silly in Oakland, but he is not the same on the road. He has a 1.117 WHIP at home and a 1.441 WHIP on the road with double the homers allowed. Ichiro Suzuki is out of his mind hot right now. C.C. Sabathia faces a lineup that will either hit a homer, walk or strikeout. Sabathia needs the latter to happen the most.
  • The Orioles over the Red Sox: Here is the Red Sox chance to avenge the Orioles for knocking them out of the playoffs last year. Nah. The Red Sox can't muster up anything right now. Miguel Gonzalez over Jon Lester.
  • The Reds over the Dodgers: It just doesn't seem that the Dodgers are going to make it. Joe Blanton has not been much help. The offense sputters. The bullpen collapses. Just can't see them mustering a run. The Reds are on autopilot. Bronson Arroyo pitches for them today.
  • The Marlins over the Mets: Which team is more dysfunctional right now between these two? Surprisingly it is not the Marlins. The Mets always find a way to lose a Jonathan Niese start. And Jacob Turner has looked pretty good for the Fish.
  • The Astros over the Pirates: Yes, you read that right. Edgar Gonzalez is going to bamboozle the Pirates' weak lineup and Jeff Locke is not very good as a pitcher for the Pirates. This is a sad end for what has been a promising season for the Pirates and their fans. Would love to be wrong, but don't think so.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Wade Miley can do a lot for his ROY big with his sixteenth win tonight. But he will have to do it at Coors Field, which is not fun for a pitcher from away. Drew Pomeranz will get his 75 pitches, but how many innings will that cover?
  • The Royals over the Indians: The Royals won a big game yesterday and that could propel them in this series. Luis Mendoza at least has a chance to win against the Indians. Justin Masterson has had a lost season and a loss tonight won't make it better.
  • The White Sox over the Angels: Jake Peavy has to have heard stories that his option will not be picked up after the season. That is sure to put a bee in his bonnet. He'll have a good game and the White Sox will hit a couple of dingers off of Ervin Santana.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Hisashi Iwakuma is very tough in his home ballpark. But will the Mariners score any runs? That depends on Martin Perez and how effective he is and for how long. Perez can be dominating, but won't go long in the game.
  • The Padres over the Giants: The Panda is back and mashing, but Ryan Vogelsong has suddenly lost his ability to get people out. That opens the door for Casey Kelly to have a dominant outing and to give his Padres a win.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rays over the Blue Jays: The Jays hurt the Rays in Toronto, but it seems doubtful they can do it again. They just got swept by the Yankees. Though Carlos Villanueva is the team's best pitcher. James Shields faces a terrible lineup due to the Jays' injuries.

Yesterday: 9-4
Week: 41-23
Month: 144-124
Season: 1,230-982
Games of the Day: 97-64

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Game Picks - Thursday: September 20, 2012

Finally! A September breakthrough and a great day of picks. With seventeen picks to choose from, only four ended up being incorrect. The second game of the Nationals and Dodgers was incorrect. The Nats almost came back in the game, but the Dodgers held on to the thread of their playoff hopes. The Orioles kept the game tied during Felix Hernandez's innings and won again in extra innings. Amazing. Bruce Chen out-dueled Chris Sale and the White Sox lost. How improbable was that sentence? And the last of the four was picking the Angels to beat the Rangers. That particular game was a pick that was originally typed correct and changed after mulling it over. Always go with your first instinct!

There are thirteen games on the Thursday schedule and seven of them are day games. How cool is that? Here are today's picks:

  • The Twins over the Indians: Esmerling Vasquez versus Corey Kluber. Uhh...what the heck do you make of that?
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: The Tigers are suddenly rolling. Anibal Sanchez is a good match up against the A's. He has the kind of stuff to miss bats. Tommy Milone has been terrific for the A's but not as terrific on the road.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: Of course Jaime Garcia is going to pitch well at home. And then the media will talk about how talented a pitcher he is. But then he'll pitch again on the road and be terrible. So, whatever. Bud Norris used to be considered a Cardinal killer. But those days are gone.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Tyler Skaggs was bounced around by the Padres the last time he faced them. Let's see if the second time against them will be different. The D-backs have gotten the better of this series so far. Clayton Richard pitching in Arizona does not provide confidence for the Padres.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: It will be nice to see Jorge De La Rosa again after a long absence with Tommy John surgery. It is hard to pick him when this is his first start since May of 2011. Barry Zito has burned this picker when picked against. Okay, he wins.
  • The Brewers over the Pirates: Wandy Rodriguez has pitched well for the Pirates, but it seems the Pirates' offense has shut down for the season. That should help Mike Fiers win his tenth game and keep him in the ROY mix with a couple weeks to go.
  • The Nationals over the Dodgers: Here is how this game is viewed: Ross Detwiler just has to keep on doing what he has been doing to win. Chris Capuano has to do much, much better than he has been doing to win. Advantage, Washington.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Phil Hughes has been very good lately and will need to be against a somewhat decimated Blue Jays' lineup. He needs to come up big with his bullpen a bit gassed from the double-header. It does not seem possible that Aaron Laffey could hold the Yankees down for more than a few innings.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: David Price is so good right now. He is the scariest pitcher in the American League to face this season. Clay Buchholz is very good too and will have to match Price for the Red Sox to have any chance in this one.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: Go with the first instinct, right? The first instinct said that Jeremy Hefner will have a good day against the Phillies. It also said facing Tyler Cloyd gives the Mets' offense a fighting chance.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: Going with Jeremy Guthrie in this one. He's found a new home in KC and is pitching really well. Francisco Liriano is always an adventure. He has the stuff to win every game. But will he harness it? Who knows.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: This is a great match up of Zack Greinke against Yu Darvish. The pick here is that Darvish will be the better pitcher today.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Reds over the Cubs: There is a lot of concern in this seat about Johnny Cueto. He hasn't pitched well in quite a while. Is he hiding an injury? Did he hit a wall? Does he have a tired arm? If he does not pitch well today, more concern will be added. But the Reds should win against Jason Berken either way.

Yesterday: 13-4
Week: 32-19
Month: 135-120
Season: 1221-978
Games of the Day: 96-64

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Game Picks - Wednesday: September 19, 2012

The one sure prediction from yesterday's Game Picks was the weather on the East Coast. Said it would wreck havoc on games and it did to the tune of three postponements. Of the games that were played, seven of twelve were correct. The Red Sox beating the Rays in a four-hour, nine-inning marathon was unexpected and the Rays look pretty well dead at this moment in time. The man-crush of Ian Kennedy should not have abandoned him as he won again. The Twins beat the Indians in a meaningless affair that could have gone either way. The Rangers game against the Angels was going the way it was expected to go...until the fourth inning when the wheels fell off. And finally, the Marlins predictably blew a save in the ninth inning to the Braves, but unpredictably won the game in the bottom of the tenth. Then after the game, Ozzie Guillen whined on Twitter over and over about his power being out in Miami. Poor guy.

With the postponements yesterday, there are seventeen games incredibly on the schedule today. The Mets and Phillies are not making theirs up. What's up with that? Does that mean that the Phillies have given up on their wild card chase? Who knows. Anyway, there is a lot to pick today, so let's get to it:

  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Andy Pettitte's odds were better facing Ricky Romero than Henderson Alvarez who has been good his last two starts. But with the double-header, the Blue Jays have swapped their pitching to optimize their chances. The Yankees need to win and that's the pick.
  • The Nationals over the Dodgers: Same pick as yesterday. Jordan Zimmermann over Aaron Harang.
  • The Nationals over the Dodgers: Is this the game that buries the Dodgers? Could be. The Nationals have the far superior team and the deeper bullpen. John Lannon is a nice insurance policy to have after shutting down Strasburg. Josh Beckett will give up four or five runs.
  • The Brewers over the Pirates: The Pirates pitch one of their top prospects, Kyle McPherson, and while that is interesting, he won't last more than five innings or so. Marco Estrada has been a hot pitcher of late.
  • The Twins over the Indians: Every pick of this mediocre series will probably be wrong because who knows what will happen. The Indians throw Zach McAllister, who seems to be decent at times. And the Twins pitch Liam Hendriks, who has the nice distinction of starting seventeen major league games and never winning any of them. Heck, he has to win some time.
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: Justin Verlander might strike out fifteen A's today as he is a strikeout pitcher pitching to a team prone to strikeouts. Unless he gets tagged by one ore more of those A's power hitters, he should win. Brett Anderson looked brilliant in his early starts but is coming a bit down to earth. Even so, he is a shutout waiting to happen. Interesting game.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: David Phelps pitches with a lot of confidence for a guy who hasn't started a lot of big league games. He could fare better if Chris Stewart catches him in the second game. Ricky Romero has had a tough year and the Yankees hope to add to his woes.
  • The Rays over the Red Sox: Yeah, this pick has been wrong every day. So what the heck. The Rays are too good not to win eventually. But Chris Archer is pitching to push David Price back a day, which is interesting. But it makes sense as Price will counteract Clay Buchholz, the Sox' best pitcher. Daisuke Matsuzaka goes for the Red Sox.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Matt Harvey was predicted to win yesterday. But the rain out gives the Phillies a chance to skip over a weaker starter in favor of Cole Hamels. Pick changes big time with that.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Mike Leake should even his record to 9-9 with a win today over the Cubs. The Cubs go with young, Chris Rusin who will be limited to 80 pitches. He could reach that by the fourth inning.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Chris Sale goes for win number 18 and should get it with a strong performance over the Royals. The Royals are making games of the battles in this series, but can't win any of them. Bruce Chen with the loss.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: This game is the Astros' best chance to win a game this series. Lucas Harrell is a good pitcher. It all depends on Lance Lynn, a pitcher this picker does not trust at all. But, it would be stupid to make any pick here other than the Cardinals.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Two pitchers that have had better success lately in Edinson Volquez and Trevor Cahill. The pick is for Cahill to come out on tops as Volquez battles with his control.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: The Rangers don't have as much need to win this game as the Angels do. The Angels' lineup is eight right-handed batters with one lefty batter. That should work well against Derek Holland. The one reservation is C.J. Wilson who has been better lately, but hasn't fared well against his old club.
  • The Mariners over the Orioles: The thinking is that Felix Hernandez can go the distance and will need to after that eighteen inning thing yesterday. That game burned this picker's butt yesterday. What was the Mariners thinking to send Esmerling out there again in the ninth. Stupid. Anyway, King Felix can go the distance while it is doubtful that Joe Saunders can.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: This one should be an easy win for the Giants as Matt Cain is far better than Tyler Chatwood.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Braves over the Marlins: When Ozzie was talking about his power being out, he could be also talking about his team as they are missing Giancarlo Stanton. He is a big part of their offense. Without him, Kris Medlen should cruise. Josh Johnson continues his disappointing season.

Yesterday: 7-5
Week: 19-15
Month: 122-116
Season: 1208-974
Games of the Day: 95-64

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Upon further review, Posey is NL MVP

Two years ago, Buster Posey was a little bit of a milder version of what Trout is doing this season. Though not quite as young as Trout, Posey took baseball by storm, won the Rookie of the Year Award and came in eleventh in MVP voting despite only playing in 108 games. Posey went on to lead that pitching staff into the playoffs and the team brought home a World Series trophy. Not a bad first season. Then Posey had that horrific injury on a collision at the plate and was gone for the season after only 45 games. No one knew what to expect from Posey this season. And wow, could anyone have predicted how well he would come back!?

This post comes from a terrific comment by SharksRog on a post written two days ago listing the crowded eight-player logjam at the top of the National League MVP Award race. The comment made a lot of sense in just about every aspect. It may or may not be a coincidence, but in 2010 with Posey performing really well, the Giants won it all. Last year with Posey out, the Giants did not make the playoffs. This year, with him back, the Giants are running away from the field in the NL West and are poised to make another playoff run. It certainly doesn't feel like a coincidence.

One benefit Posey has is that there are not other players on the Giants having an outstanding season. Sure, Scutaro has been great since coming over. And Pagan is having a fine season. But Posey drives that offense and has all season, particularly in the second half.

As the comment mentioned, Posey also plays a premium position. And everyone could have a great debate on who the best catcher in baseball is right now between Posey and Molina of the Cardinals. Molina might have the edge defensively and is having a terrific offensive season as well. But Molina has the problem of other stars on his team having big seasons such as Craig and Holliday.

And Posey has played his position extremely well. He has caught 108 games and the rest were played at first or as the DH during interleague games. But he has caught a lot of games. He only achieved his second passed ball the other day. So he only has two all season. With that staff of pitchers that do not throw anything straight, that is amazing. And his total of wild pitches allowed is also excellent considering his staff. He is not quite the force with base runners that Molina is, but he fares better than league average on throwing runners out. From coming back from an injury to his leg, and the leg being so important in catching, his season behind the plate is remarkable.

But more remarkable has been his offense. Posey has a 170 OPS+. His triple slash line currently sits at: .334/.408/.544. His 22 homers represent 24.7% of his team's homer output. The Giants are dead last in the NL in hitting homers. Posey has also added 36 doubles and has driven in 93 runs. He is one of only three players in the National League with a wOBA over .400 and a wRC+ over 160. Consider a guy slugging like that who only swings and misses pitches six percent of the time. That's a wonderful combination.

Also impressive is how much Posey has improved his patience and pitch recognition at the plate. His on-base percentage is amazing considering his career average. His walk percentage was only 6.8% in 2010. That went up to 9.7% in his brief 2011. This season, that figure is all the way up to 11.4% and his 64 walks are easily a career high and more than he had in 2010 and 2011 combined. And just in case you were wondering, only four of those were intentional.

Posey is one of those rare breeds that was a first round draft pick (2008) that has exceeded expectations. His play sometimes gets overlooked because of the lateness of his games in relation to the rest of the country. But Buster Posey is one of the best players in baseball and his 2012 season looks like an MVP season from this angle.

Game Picks - Tuesday: September 18, 2012

Short schedule days like yesterday are usually troublesome because there is not enough games to make up for bad picks. But yesterday turned out okay as only two picks were incorrect. The first was the Tigers, who have really dug themselves a hole now and are three games back of the White Sox. They had a nice lead and  to the White Sox's credit, could not hold on and win. The other bad pick was the Rays, who have really hit hard times and could not beat the Red Sox yesterday. They could not beat Aaron Cook even. The pick for the Orioles was completely correct. Way to put your best foot forward and start Hector Noesi, Mariners. Nice job. Not.

Tuesday, of course, brings us back to a full schedule. After a dry summer, Mother Nature is starting to rear her ugly side. Games on the schedule are going to be tough and go for a while with the weather pattern we are now in, particularly on the East Coast. Hopefully, all the games will be played. And the picks:

  • The Nationals over the Dodgers: The Dodgers are in a precarious situation and losing Clayton Kershaw certainly does not help. Aaron Harang is decent enough at times in his home ballpark, but put him on the road and anything can happen. Jordan Zimmermann needs to have a good start as people are starting to be concerned about him.
  • The Brewers over the Pirates: This is a tough pick. Both teams have an outside shot at the last wild card spot. Both are sending out good pitchers in A.J. Burnett and Yovani Gallardo. The pick ultimately comes down to the offensive squads of each team. And the Brewers simply have a better offense.
  • The Indians over the Twins: Both teams are sending out converted relievers to starters in P.J. Walters and David Huff. Been a long time since the latter appeared in these picks. This picker used to call him David Hassle-Huff.
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: Two teams that need wins. Both are putting out great, great pitchers. This game could go either way and about a thousand strikeouts will be recorded in this one as Max Scherzer duels A.J. Griffin. The thought here is that the only hit of the day might be a Miguel Cabrera homer.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Ricky Romero is still trying to figure out how this season went so badly. Once considered the ace of this staff, Romero has fallen on tough, tough times. Andy Pettitte makes his first start back for the Yankees. Four or five innings might be the max. But the Yankees have lots of long options behind him with the expanded roster.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: There have lots of great pitching match ups in the picks thus far today. This is not one of them. Paul Maholm has not been good for the Braves since coming over and Nathan Eovaldi has not been good for the Marlins since his arrival there. A game of attrition and bullpens here. The Braves win that battle.
  • The Rays over the Red Sox: Felix Doubront needs to grow up a little. After watching his last couple of games, the same thing happens over and over. He gets ticked off at a couple of calls by the home plate ump and then loses his cool and gives up runs. Then he blames the ump. Not cool. Jeremy Hellickson should model better behavior and in the end, better pitching.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: This is a long shot. But this is also Matt Harvey's last start of the season. He should take advantage and throw everything he's got in this one. And what he's got is very good. The Phillies start Tyler Cloyd. Color this picker less than impressed.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Homer Bailey has had a good September so far and should be able to navigate the Cubs' lineup somewhat effectively. Justin Germano is not having a good time in the majors so far. Isn't it amazing that Alfonso Soriano has driven in over 100 runs? He could have helped someone down the stretch.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: While the fact that Gavin Floyd is the White Sox' starter is not a thrilling prospect, the White Sox should be feeling mighty good about themselves right now and should go on a roll. Luke Hochevar stands in the way...whatever that means...
  • The Padres over the Diamondbacks: Eric Stults has been amazing, hasn't he? He is a big part of the Padres' great second half and a good hope for next season. Ian Kennedy has been confusing this year. His follow up season to last year's twenty-win season has had some positives, but it's been bumpy.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: It seems rather foolish for this picker to always pick against Jered Weaver. All he is, is 17-4. So the picks have been wrong at least a dozen times. Perhaps it is because this picker simply hates the guy. So take that into account, you faithful readers. Going with Ryan Dempster instead. [shrug]
  • The Orioles over the Mariners: Once again, the Mariners throw their best pitchers at the O's. Last night it was Noesi, tonight, it is Erasmo Ramirez. (eyeroll).  Wei-Yin Chen has fallen off a little bit and the Mariners hit lefties better than the other side. But the Orioles win this one.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: It seems safe to jump in the Tim Lincecum pool again. He should be decent enough at home to win. Jeff Francis really shouldn't be much of an obstacle.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Cardinals over the Astros: Doggone it, Cardinals, you can't screw this one up, can you? Kyle Lohse should always be better than Fernando Abad. Always.

Yesterday: 5-2
Week: 12-10
Month: 115-111
Season: 1201-969
Games of the Day: 94-64   thirty games over!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Crowded field for National League MVP

The Most Valuable Player Award is one of the most confusing awards in baseball. The Cy Young Award is easy: Who was the best pitcher in the league? But the MVP is difficult because nobody can agree on who should be considered. The problem comes from the word, "Valuable," stuck in the middle of the award's name. Value based on what? Based on WAR? Based on runs batted in or homers? Does the value have to be to a contending team for it to count? After all, to paraphrase an old general manager, a team finished in last place with a valuable player, it can finish in last place without him. If the award was called the Player of the Year, it would be easier. But it isn't. 2012 gives us a crowded field of MVP contenders, so these questions all come into play.

So who are the contenders? Well, there is Buster Posey, David Wright, Yadier Molina, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Chase Headley, Michael Bourn and perhaps Jason Heyward. That is a lot of contenders for the award. And on both stats sites, and, several of them are bunched up in those site's WAR valuations. Last year was a little easier as the two contenders were Braun and Matt Kemp. McCutchen was in the conversation too.

How did that race break down since the play of the two players were similar. One led one site in WAR and the other led the competing stat site in WAR. It appears that Braun won because his team was a contender and the Dodgers were not. And personally, that seems fair. The Dodgers were never a factor in any race, whether it be the wild card or the division race. That would have been the case with or without Kemp.

The one problem with this way of thinking is putting so much value upon a player for a team's contending success. A contending team needs so many things to happen in order to contend. It sounds simple to simply say they have to score more runs than they allow on a regular basis. But so much is involved in that equation. The schedule, injuries, the pitching, the defense, "clutch" hitting and to a small degree, the manager and coaching. Even if a player has a monster year, giving him too much credit for that contending team is questionable. If a great player cannot elevate a terrible team, how much does a great player then elevate a good team? Do you see how that is not a correlation and there is a logic conundrum there?

In the course of writing these thoughts out, the feeling that the award has to go to a contending team's player is not in personal jeopardy. The award is not called, the "Most Valuable Player to his Contending Team" Award. In fact, the thinking is now almost reversed itself. Should the award go to a player that brings the most value to his team? That would simply bring the award to the guy with the highest WAR. The trouble with doing that is that the two sites listed rarely agree. Verlander was much more highly rated last year on one site over the other. Gosh this is confusing, especially in light of so many contenders for the award. Fortunately, there are no pitchers close in the NL to the position player's WAR totals, so we can save the debate on whether pitchers should win for another day.

There is another problem to which player is the most valuable to his team concept. When great players dominate bad teams, those bad teams are not going to have much for total team WAR. For example, Mets' batters have accounted for the grand total of 11.5 rWAR. With David Wright's total of 6.4 rWAR, he accounts for 57.1% of his team's WAR. A couple of years ago, the Pirates finished with a negative WAR for the team and McCutchen was at like six by himself. The math on that boggles the mind. This season, the Pirates are a contending team and McCutchen accounts for 46.8% of his team's total batting WAR.

Oh man, we are not getting anywhere are we? This much can be said, rightly or no, public opinion believes that Ryan Braun got away with a technicality on this PED thing. In other words, most people think he was guilty but got off on a forensic snafu. No matter how he fares this season and how much he elevates the Brewers in their last ditch effort to sneak into the wild card mix, he will probably not get the vote this season after winning it last year under what many feel was false pretenses. That is not the personal opinion here. It just states the obvious.

With all the messiness already involved here, the only thing left to do is to assign the award to the player of the year. Who was the best player? One equation this writer would take out would be the part that fielding plays in current WAR evaluations. Fielding metrics are not universally loved and trusted. At least they are not yet. And again, the way the fielding metrics are measured varies from stat site to stat site. So that has to be factored in to some of the valuation methods.

For example, a lot of Michael Bourn's worth is tied up in his fielding. Of his 6.1 fWAR, perhaps as high as two of those wins come as a result of his fielding metrics. Until we can pin this fielding thing more closely to where most people agree they are the bomb, they should not be included in the MVP discussion.

After boiling all this down, the top contenders for this observer are Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Braun and Buster Posey. Not only are all three at the top of the WAR leaderboards, but all three are the only NL players above .400 in wOBA and above 160 in wRC+. If the season ended today, the pick would be Ryan Braun.

Game Picks - Monday: September 17, 2012

September continues to thwart the Game Picks. A second straight 7-8 day in a row now leaves September's combined record of 110-109. That is not a ringing endorsement of this picker's skills as a prognosticator. But there are two things that take the edge off that record a little bit. First the Game of the Pick was correct as the Brewers easily shut out the Mets behind Wily Peralta. Isn't that a great name for a pitcher? The second celebratory event was actually getting a Cardinals pick correctly. It took the Cardinals twelve innings, but it actually happened. Amazing.

Hey, that was a spectacular blown save by Jose Valverde, was it not? It killed a pick, but it was a spectacularly bad outing.

There are seven games on the schedule today which is kind of a slow day. But some of those games have big implications. The picks:

  • The Tigers over the White Sox: The Tigers are back to two behind the White Sox and once again face a series against their rivals. If the Tigers ever do win this division, it will because of their head to head match ups against the White Sox as obviously, they haven't played well against too many other teams. Doug Fister will have to be really good and Jose Quintana will have to be vulnerable for the Tigers to win. No problem, right?
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Wasn't it this time last year that Tim Hudson started to wear down a bit? Seems like with a big lead in the wild card race that the Braves should skip one of his starts. But perhaps he will return to ace-like form today and shut down the Marlins. He will keep the ball on the ground at least. Wade LeBlanc is the biggest reason for this pick swinging to the Braves.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: The Rays have put themselves into a bad position as they are five back of the Yankees and four back of the wild card. They pretty much have to win out. Enter the Red Sox. Good start. Alex Cobb should be better than Aaron Cook, right?
  • The Phillies over the Mets: As much as it would be great if R.A. Dickey would get the win in this one and inch one step closer to twenty wins, the feeling here is that the Mets won't be able to do anything with Cliff Lee. It is a little bit late, but Lee is looking like an ace again.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs: The Pirates have certainly struggled this season against this division rival. It is one of the big reasons why they are looking up at the wild card leaders instead of down. Kevin Correia should be better than Travis Wood and the Pirates should win this one.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: The late struggles of Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong have to be a concern for the Giants and their fans. Instead of finishing the season with a flourish, the two have stumbled badly. Bumgarner is too good a pitcher to predict against, so that pick will still go his way, especially at home. He faces Jhoulys Chacin for the second time in a week.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Orioles over the Mariners: The Marines are starting Hector Noesi, which won't be that big an obstacle in slowing the O's quest for the playoffs. Noesi was not any better in Tacoma once the Mariners sent him down. So there is no expectation for an M's win here. Chris Tillman goes for the Orioles.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 7-8
Month: 110-109
Season: 1196-967
Games of the Day: 93-64

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Game Picks - Sunday: September 16, 2012

The week ended on a sour note at the picks finished at one game under .500. Of course the Cardinals were part of the reason. The Yankees beating the Rays was part of the reason except it's hard to complain there. The thing that hurt the most was losing the Game of the Day. That feature was on a fifteen day run of successive correctness. So to have the Phillies lose to the Astros and get blanked by Dallas Keuchel, of all people, not only was the dagger in the day being over or under .500, but it ruined a great streak.

September is still proving to be a very difficult month to pick baseball games. After 204 picks this month, September stands at 103-101. That is not exactly high flying, especially after the rest of the months were a total of 230 picks over .500. This month is starting to turn out like the last two minutes of a basketball game where everything changes. And yeah, that blown save by the Angels was particularly shocking.

Oh yeah, and it sure was embarrassing for yesterday's picks post going more than half the day with the wrong day of the week in the heading. Duh.

The only thing to do is to continue to pluck along one day at a time. Sunday's picks:

  • The Yankees over the Rays: This game is huge for both teams. If the Yankees win, it puts a huge dent in the Rays' hopes. If the Rays win, the Yankees are vulnerable from the Orioles again. Big, big game. And the Yankees have the right guy on the mound. Hiroki Kuroda has been the team's most consistent pitcher. But not only that, he is 9-5 at home with a 2.38 ERA with an OPS against under .600 AND has an unbelievable 0.84 ERA in days games. The obstacle, of course, is Matt Moore, a pitcher much capable of shutting down the Yankees' offense.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Are the Red Sox really going to win three in a row? Perhaps. Brandon Morrow is the Blue Jays' best pitcher. But Jon Lester seems back in gear and is supposed to be the Red Sox ace. The battle for last place in the division continues.
  • The Marlins over the Reds: Ricky Nolasco is the hottest pitcher in baseball right now. He has been superb for the Marlins for the last month and a half. Mat Latos is terrific too, but he'll give up a run or two. Who knows if Nolasco will give up any.
  • The Phillies over the Astros: The Phillies should win, but after their shocking loss yesterday, the feelings are not as strong today. Roy Halladay has been just above ordinary since coming off the disabled list. But he is the best pitcher of his generation, so you got to pick him. Jordan Lyles has been better of late, but some of it against weak competition.
  • The Angels over the Royals: Despite the Angels horrific loss yesterday, the pick goes back to them. Dan Haren has been himself again in his last three starts. Will Smith's scoreless outing last time out was a bit of a Houdini act.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: This game was debated internally for about ten minutes before deciding to go with the first instinct. Scott Diamond is perhaps the Twins' best starter. Joe Mauer is killing the ball in September. Jake Peavy is having some command issues. The pick feels right even if it seems outlandish.
  • The Cubs over the Pirates: The Pirates are starting Jeff Locke again while fighting for the last playoff spot? He has started seven big league games and has not won any of them. Then again, Chris Volstad became the standard for losing there for a while. But he seems back since returning to the minors.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: Okay, the Tigers are starting to play really strong again. Fielder and Ramirez are diving all of the place and hitting the ball. Rick Porcello has been solid. Ubaldo Jimenez is, as always, a wild card.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: The M's got a surprise win yesterday as they jumped on Feldman and held on as the Rangers rallied and rallied. They won't score like that against Matt Harrison and the Rangers will continue to rally and rally against Blake Beavan and anyone that follows him.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: The Orioles are caught with a weak starter in a series they are in danger of getting swept in. Randy Wolf is an experienced pitcher, but gosh, he hasn't had much in the tank this season. The A's pitch Dan Straily, who is young and scary who can be scary.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: Love this Andrew Werner story. A tryout pitcher makes good? Let's make a movie on this one. He should pitch well again and get a W over Alex White and the Rockies.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Buster Posey is amazing. Ryan Vogelsong has been perplexing. But gosh, if Zito wins, Vogelsong should. Patrick Corbin does not impress the picker enough to garner a consideration for a pick.
  • The Cardinals over the Dodgers: Oh please, this picker can't help himself. But it's Adam Wainwright, man! But he might be fatiguing with his rebuilt elbow. But the Dodgers are starting Stephen Fife, who was terrific before being replaced by Joe Blanton. Fife got no run support. And none of us are excused if we can't help calling Fife, "Barney."
  • The Nationals over the Braves: The Braves have had their way this series and unlike last year are in a great position not to blow the wild card lead. They have a huge lead. Mike Minor has been much better but Gio Gonzalez is going for his 20th win. Have to root for that.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Brewers over the Mets: Wily Peralta has looked...well...wily in his first two starts and only a low strikeout rate is cause for concern. Chris Young is always a concern for the Mets.

Yesterday: 7-8
Last week: 52-42
Month: 103-101
Season: 1189-959
Games of the Day: 92-64