Saturday, October 06, 2012

Game Picks - Saturday: October 6, 2012

Holy cow! Got completely caught unawares today thinking the games did not start until tomorrow. Well, duh! It's a good thing, for once, that Major League Baseball wants so much to discourage our youth from falling in love with baseball to chase a few more dollars putting the games on at night. Their and the network's greed at least allowed the publishing of these picks before it was too late. Well, look at that! Not only did this paragraph explain why this post is so late, it also gave a political commentary on the current state of post season baseball. Bonus.

Yesterday was embarrassing. Not a single wild card pick was correct. Those plucky Orioles continued in their pluckiness and dethroned the 2010 and 2011 American League Champions. The Cardinals have started an entire new chapter of using the wild card and underdog status to make another run toward a second consecutive championship. To say this picker is on a really bad run is to put it mildly: Zero for two yesterday after finishing the last two days of the regular season at 11-19 and done much to ruin a perfectly good (if unknown) reputation.

Anyway, those picks better get made before it is too late to even bother. Here they are:

  • The Tigers over the Athletics: No matter how charmed and impressive the A's run has been, how can you pick against Justin Verlander on any given game? The guy is simply the best pitcher in baseball right now. He has power, location and smarts. And one other thing that Jarrod Parker does not have--experience. Verlander has been here before. Plus, the game is in Detroit, so that won't hurt the Tigers' chances either.
  • The Giants over the Reds: Every time the Reds are considered in this post season, the memory goes back to their last appearance against the Phillies when they were run over and pancaked. Yes, that was then and this is now but much of the Reds' team is the same as back then. Plus, their starting pitching is worrisome. But the Giants' pitching isn't as strong as its World Series run either. Oh, Matt Cain is still Matt Cain and that is why this pick is for the Giants. Him starting a series at home seems like a sure thing. Johnny Cueto seemed to lose steam at the end of the season. After tonight's game, the series is a crap shoot, but Cain was born to pitch playoff games.

Yesterday: 0-2
Post Season: 0-2
Season: 1333-1068

Friday, October 05, 2012

Chipper Jones' last game a fiasco

In a game that will be remembered for a very long time, a terrible call by an umpire and the fans' unruly reaction will overshadow Chipper Jones' last game and of the awful Braves' defense that threw the game away. Jones, who will end up in Cooperstown in a half a dozen years, was part of his team's problem in this Wild Card game with the Cardinals.The Braves, perhaps the second or best team in the National League, is now gone from the post season after one game and the Cardinals will move on to the NLDS. What should have been a moment of glory for the new MLB post season ended up as a fiasco.

The crazy bottom of the eighth inning will be what is remembered about this game. The Braves were down by three runs with one out. They had two runners on, one on first and one on second. Andrelton Simmons lifted a lazy pop fly toward left field. The Cardinals' Pete Kozma drifted back. Matt Holliday drifted in. Kozma raised his hands as if he had the call. Once he did so, the umpire on the left field line called the infield fly rule. But Kozma was ten to fifteen feet from the ball and gave up on it. The ball fell in front of Holliday. The Braves and the home crowd thought the Braves had a gift and a bases loaded situation with pinch hitter, Brian McCann, waiting to hit. But it wasn't bases loaded with one out. The umpires decision made it two outs with runners on first and second.

The problem with the decision by the umpire was twofold. First, he assumed that Kozma had an easy play. He did not. Kozma was not under the ball. The second mistake was the lateness of the call. An infield fly has to be called immediately to give the base runners the opportunity to tag up and decide whether they can go or not on the play. The base runners were not allowed that opportunity. It was the worst kind of bad call because it cannot be reviewed and it cannot be overturned because it was a judgement call.

The call infuriated Braves fans and sadly, they decided to throw things on the field in Disco Demolition Day-type numbers. The game was delayed for at least twenty minutes to clear the field and ensure everyone's safety.

The call and the fans' reaction will overshadow the fact that the Braves played a terrible game. The Braves took a two-run lead on a David Ross homer in the second. Kris Medlen was cruising and everyone in the Braves dugout had to feel good about their chances at that point. Then, in his last game ever, future Hall of Fame player, Chipper Jones, cost his team three runs and the ballgame.

Carlos Beltran singled to start the top of the fourth. But Matt Holliday hit a sharp grounder that Jones backhanded nicely. It was an easy double-play ball. Instead, Jones threw the ball into right field and everyone was safe.

The error did two things. First, it stripped away the aura created around Medlen and opened a door for the Cardinals. Their best RBI guy, Allan Craig did what he usually does and hit a double to score both base runners. Craig's double would have been a harmless two-out job and the following David Freese fly ball would have ended the inning. Instead, it scored the third run and put the Braves down, 3-2.

In the sixth inning, Medlen allowed Holliday to hit a solo homer. That should have made the score, 2-1 Braves. Instead, it was 4-2 Cardinals. The embarrassing play of the Braves continued in the seventh.

A Dan Uggla throwing error allowed a base runner to reach second. The base runner was bunted over to third and the Braves brought the infield in. Pete Kozma hit a grounder to short and was tailor-made for Simmons to get the runner out at the plate. Instead, the youngster bobbled the ball and in his panic, threw the ball away at home. Kozma ended up on second and scored on a single. Two more free runs.

That set the stage for the eighth inning and the terrible happenings there. But seriously, bad call or not, this was a fiasco for the Braves. Chipper Jones went out with the most costly gaffe of his career and then the Braves fans took away any kind of dignity that should have afforded the end of a great career.

Not lost in all of this is the charmed existence of the St. Louis Cardinals, the same team that feasted on a plethora of good fortune to go from wild card to World Series champs last season. That monster is still alive and that is not good news for the rest of the National League playoff teams.

Despite it all, thank you, Chipper Jones, for the memories. There were a million more good things you did in your career that overwhelm the way this stinker ended.

The 1962 World Series

Check out a piece written for It's About the Money, Stupid on the 1962 World Series. And no, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle did not play much of a part in that fantastic series dominated by pitching.

Game Picks - Friday: October 5, 2012

Bud Selig's dream comes true today as the two wild card games are set to be played. The "one and done" format means do or die for each of the four teams as the losers will go home and the winners will go on to play the best teams in each league for the division series.

And whether or not you are a fan of the new proceedings, the games should be filled with drama and exciting to watch. Of course, they could end up being blowouts but let's hope that does not happen.

The picks:

  • The Braves over the Cardinals: The Cardinals have certainly been in this position before and used the wild card finish last year to go all the way to the World Series title. But their task is difficult here as the Braves get the home field and the hottest pitcher on the planet in Kris Medlen. If the Braves can get the early lead, their bulllpen can lock it down like no other team in baseball. But the Cardinals do have their good luck charm on the mound. Kyle Lohse had a wonderful run this season and finished with a 16-3 record. And his record was no fluke as he had an excellent earned run average and just a 1.09 WHIP. The two starting pitchers had a combined win-loss record of 26-4! Holy cow! But somebody has to win the game.
  • The Rangers over the Orioles: The Rangers get home field, but they have to be coming into this game shell-shocked by how the season ended. That said, they have their best pitcher on the mound in Yu Darvish. If Darvish is on, he will mow the Orioles down. But Darvish will have a clunker of a start now and then and that's what the Orioles have to hope for. The Orioles will start Joe Saunders. At first glance, that choice would make the average fan snicker. But heck, the Orioles have not chosen unwisely all season and somehow it always seems to work. One thing is certain, Ron Washington will not out-manage Buck Showalter. The pick comes down to the simple thought that Darvish should do better than Saunders.

Wednesday: 5-10  Not a good end to the season!
Week: 31-30
Month: 21-24
Season: 1333-1066

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Slugging ugly

The 2012 regular season is in the books. And it has been an amazing season. We had someone hit for the Triple Crown. We had a rookie who hit 30 homers and steal more than 40 bases. We've seen more than a half a dozen no-hitters including some perfect games. Stars like Braun and Cano had massive seasons with high batting averages. Three starting catchers batted over .310. Yes, there were superstar performances all over the place. But there were also some oddities. This particular post focuses on one of them: Slugging ugly.

There were three players this season that hit over 30 homers and batted under .240. Does that seem not so odd to you? Perhaps that is telling about this age of baseball that few would think that fact is very odd. But consider that of all the seasons had by all the players through the years, such a combination has only happened 39 times. And only two times in baseball history has it happened with three players in the same season. Those occurred in the 1985 (three) and 1986 (four) seasons when Kingman, Canseco and Deer roamed the earth.

Of the 39 times such a combination has happened, fourteen have come in the last ten seasons, or thirty-six percent of the entire total. So you could say this is a product of our times. 30 of the 39 occurrences have happened since 1985. The first time that it ever happened was in 1966 when Rocky Colavito did it. So what we have is a fairly modern phenomenon.

Oh! You are probably wondering who the three players were that did it this year: Curtis Granderson, Adam Dunn and Ike Davis. More about their seasons in a bit. Before we talk more about those three, a little more context needs to be painted.

The common denominator of all these seasons has been strikeouts. The average batted ball finds a hole somewhere and lands safely for a base hit somewhere about 30 percent of the time. We call that BABIP or batting average for balls in play. The less balls you put in play, the lower your batting average is going to be. If you strikeout a lot, you are not putting the ball in play. Those are outs that add nothing to the player or their team. These 39 seasons averaged 143 strikeouts per player. Eight of the 39 seasons were players who led their league in strikeouts that season.

Another commonality these seasons share is walks. The average season of those 39 totals 69 walks. So these players basically had three major outcomes to their seasons. They either struck out (a lot!), walked or homered.

Despite the high walks and the more than 30 homers in these seasons, the average slugging percentage of these 39 seasons was only .470. You would expect someone who hit 30 homers to slug, 500 right? It only happened in six of these seasons.

Okay, back to our trio this season. Between them, Granderson, Davis and Dunn totals a whopping 558 strikeouts. Davis had 141 while Granderson struck out 195 times and Adam Dunn finished with 222, one shy of the major league record.

Again, if we apply our BABIP logic to their strikeouts, if Davis would have put a ball in play instead of those 141 strikeouts, he would have had 42 more hits. Granderson would have had 58 more hits and Dunn would have hit 67 more hits just putting the ball in play. That certainly would have helped their batting averages. Instead, Granderson hit .232, Davis .227 and Adam Dunn hit all of .204.

There are questions that come out of such results. First, where is the dividing line as to the value of these players? With so much emphases on on-base percentage now, batting average is a bit passe. such thinking keeps guys like Pena and Uggla employed. But are such players really that valuable offensively?

For a plate appearance, there seems to be only one event that contributes less to a team's success than a strikeout and that his hitting into a double-play. So the win probability added on a strikeout is in the negative side of the equation. And yet, there always seems to be a place in baseball for lefty relievers and guys who can crush the ball and walk a lot whether or not they can hit otherwise.

And it is hard to fathom a season like Adam Dunn's from a pitcher's point of view. Why would you ever walk the guy? Adam Dunn walked 105 times! The guy is large. Very large. As such, he has one of the largest strike zones in baseball. Yes, he is selective at the plate and that is to his credit. But why would you walk him?

If you turn those 105 plate appearances into 105 at bats instead, Dunn is only going to have a two in ten chance of getting a hit and of those two hits, there is less than a one in ten chance of him hitting a homer. There is a three and a half out of ten possibility he is going to strike out and an eight of ten chance he is going to make an out. If you were a pitcher, wouldn't you like those odds? So the walks are something that is hard to understand.

Three players batted under .240 and hit more than thirty homers this season. Again, let it sink in that this has only happened 39 total times in baseball history. Leave it to others to figure out the value added by such seasons. There is not enough smarts in this chair to figure something like that out. But the feat is still astounding. More astounding still? Two of those players did it with more than 40 homers. THAT has only been done five times in MLB history and two of them came this season. And one player, Adam Dunn, has three of those five seasons.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

So, who gets fired today?

The last day of the baseball season always leads to the grim reality that a few baseball people will be unemployed by the time the day is over. Whether deserved or not, managers and coaches usually pay for a disappointing season. The teams have to show their fans that a team disappointment will not be tolerated. Such axes rarely fall on the heads of team presidents and general managers and it should. After all, those people are responsible for the team put on the field. The manager and coaches do the best they can with what they have.

Some decisions have already been made. Manny Acta already got fired in Cleveland, though Mark Shapiro and company put a dreadful product on the field this season. How long do they get a pass? The Astros made their change weeks ago. 

So who is next on the chopping block (cliche alert!)? The following is a list based on probability. The highest probability will go first and the less probable will come later in the list. Here are the candidates to lose their jobs today:

1. Bobby Valentine. No change has seemed more imminent than this one. Is the vitriol Valentine received this season deserved? Not entirely. But there will be a clean sweep here as the manager and the entire coaching staff get wiped clean. Tuck, the catching coach, might be the only survivor.

2. Ozzie Guillen. The Marlins went all in this season and the table went craps on them. Larry Beinfest and Michael Hill will soon follow in a rare front office cleansing.

3. Derek Shelton. The batting coach of the Tampa Bay Rays has come under intensive fan scrutiny as the Rays continued to struggle offensively. In a place where the manager and pitching coach are gods, some head has to roll for not making the playoffs despite how well they pitched.

4. Jim Tracy. Tracy, who led the improbable run to the wild card just a few years ago presided over a team that finished the season in last place in the NL West and enter the last day with 98 losses. Dan O'Dowd should take a hit too, but probably won't. Tracy's "good guys in the clubhouse" dogma doesn't always mean the best players are on the field.

Managers who should be fired but probably won't be:

1. Ron Washington. Two straight World Series collapses followed by this season's collapse in the standings as fans and experts are confounded daily by the moves Washington makes during games. Great guy, but with that team, he should have plundered and had nothing but glory.

2. Ron Gardenhire. Sure, his team was wrecked by front office mistakes for years, but the guy sure looks toasted on most evenings.

3. Mike Scioscia. He had a great run, but it's time for a change. He and his GM have their difficulties and he is way too hard on his catchers.

4. John Farrell. Farrell has not changed the culture in Toronto and his on-field body language simply sucks. If AA was smart, he would get a more dynamic leader up there, and someone who can get the players to buy in to OBP and Farrell's old boss.

Those are the predictions. There might be a surprise or two that were overlooked here. And those first four might not happen. But that's the gut feeling here. We'll see how right the predictions are in about fifteen hours.

Game Picks - Wednesday: September 3, 2012

Tuesday was a long and exhausting day of baseball. The Cardinals backed into the wild card spot (a bad pick) as the Dodgers lost (a bad pick). Adam Greenberg got his one at bat and struck out against R.A. Dickey, but the Mets lost (a bad pick). The Athletics had their fifth best starter on the mound and beat the Rangers' best starter, Matt Harrison, to tie for the division lead (a bad pick). The Yankees won a game they did everything to lose thanks to the timely hitting of Raul Ibanez (finally, a good pick). The Orioles beat the eliminated Bay Rays on yet another homer by Chris Davis to stay one back (another bad pick). It was Major League Baseball at its best. But the picks were terrible.

This should be the last day of the season, unless the Yankees lose and the Orioles win. If the Yankees win and the Rangers win, then the Yankees will have home field advantage. If the A's win and the Yankees lose, then the A's would have home field advantage. If the Yankees lose and the Orioles win, then there will be a playoff game (number 163) between the two to decide the division champ. As you can see, the AL is coming down to the last day in two of the three divisions.

All the dust is settled in the National League except the best record. Both the Nationals and Reds are tied for that and that should be decided today too. It will be interesting if the teams go all out to get that record with nothing else at stake. And that does play into the picks, of course.

Speaking of those picks, we better get to them. Perhaps the delay is the sadness in knowing that today, for the last time this season, there are fifteen games to pick. That won't happen again until the spring of 2013. [sigh] The picks will keep going throughout the post season even though on many days, there will be only one or two games to pick per day.  Wednesday's picks:

  • The Pirates over the Braves: Ben Sheets will start for the Braves, but will only pitch two innings. Then Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran will get two innings each. A.J. Burnett will make his last start of the season and since he will pitch longer, the pick goes his way.
  • The Nationals over the Phillies: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Edwin Jackson will be on the mound for the Nats as they attempt to get the best record in the NL. His worst side came out in his last start and it's been that kind of season and career. If he pitches well for the Nats, they should win despite facing Cliff Lee since Lee rarely gets any run support.
  • The Astros over the Cubs: The Astros have won the first two games of this series by the exact same score of, 3-0. So let's make it a clean sweep as the fascinating story of Edgar Gonzalez continues for one last game. Travis Wood will be glad when the season ends.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Everything points to an A's win. That's what is too scary here. It seems too much like a Hollywood script. Ryan Dempster is not going to go down without giving his best. He simply has more experience for stuff like this than A.J. Griffin. All that said, Griffin is dynamic in his home ballpark. This will be fun to watch.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: Who knows what to make of this game. Tom Koehler gets his first big league start for the Marlins while Jeremy Hefner goes for the Mets. Hefner was awful two starts ago and wonderful his last start. So who knows.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: Jered Weaver is going to win his 21st game and make the CYA mighty interesting. Blake Beavan goes for the Mariners, who have had a decent second half because of the pitching by guys like Beavan.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: The White Sox collapse will be complete with one more loss. David Huff or David Hassle-Huff as he is called here, has not been beaten as a starter and his lefty tosses should take care of half of the White Sox' lineup. Gavin Floyd has somewhat rescued his season.
  • The Blue Jays over the Twins: It is being called right here, right now: Next season, Brandon Morrow is going to win the Cy Young Award in 2013. Book it. He will shut down the Twins and beat Scott Diamond in a low scoring game.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Jeremy Hellickson will shut down the Orioles. Chris Davis will not hit a homer. Fernando Rodney will cap his amazing season and the Rays will score four runs off of Chris Tillman. That's the call.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Ian Kennedy's season will look a lot better with sixteen wins than it did with fifteen. This is a root for a man-crush kind of pick. So readers take notice. Jeff Francis will go for the Rockies.
  • The Giants over the Dodgers: It is hard to believe that the Dodgers will start Clayton Kershaw (who is scheduled to start) now that they are eliminated. If they allowed that to happen, some heads should roll. Ryan Vogelsong can make one more strong case for post season consideration.
  • The Royals over the Tigers: Will Miguel Cabrera play? If he doesn't, this offense will stink. Luis Mendoza can even up his record and gets the start against Luis Marte, making his first major league start.
  • The Brewers over the Padres: Ryan Braun will try to pad his stats. Josh Stinson will throw four good innings. Andrew Werner has gone downhill after a good start to his big league career.
  • The Reds over the Cardinals: The Cards have clinched the wild card and have nothing to play for. But it will be interesting to see how their best prospect, Shelby Miller, does in his first big league start. Homer Bailey will try to get the Reds the best record in the NL.

And the Game of the Day (last one of the season for this feature)!

  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: In a battle of Japanese pitchers, Hiroki Kuroda gets the start for the Yankees against Daisuke Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka is probably making his last ever start for the Red Sox and Boston fans won't have him to kick around any more. It is kind of fitting that he is ending this abysmal season for the Sox. Meanwhile, this game means everything for the Yankees. Win and they're in.

Yesterday: 6-9   Boooo
Week: 26-20
Month: 16-14
Season: 1328-1056
Games of the Day: 105-68

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Will Josh Beckett be remembered as the villain in Boston?

For Red Sox fans, this season cannot end soon enough. Decimated by injuries, plagued by constant turmoil and negative news stories, declines by formerly good pitchers and a manager controversy that never ended all mark a season that started off on the wrong foot and ended without any legs at all. Every bad situation needs a scapegoat. There has to be a villain in a story like this, right? So who will it be? There are plenty of candidates. Let's list them to see who ends up with the prize. The heading of the post may or may not give away the ending.

The owners:
The owners of the team have certainly come under increasing scrutiny. From assertions that John Henry cares more about his English soccer team to Larry Lucchino's meddling on free agent acquisitions and who was ultimately hired as the manager, the guys at the top have not escaped criticism. Since so much of this is speculation and narrative driven, how can one prove any of these points? Someday a book will be written about this season and then perhaps we will have more insight. But all we hear are speculations. And seriously, don't most owners interfere to some degree with decisions made on a team? That is, after all, their right with their money on the line.

The former GM:
Theo Epstein bailed ship on the Red Sox after the collapse of 2011. Perhaps he knew where 2012 was going. Perhaps he helped it get that way. Or perhaps, it is as he said in that he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish in Boston and needed a new challenge. Certainly, some of the last moves he made did not pan out. Carl Crawford never worked. Adrian Gonzalez never felt at home in Boston and played like it. It happens. Bad moves looked like great moves when they were made. That's life in the fast lane.

The Manager:
Oh gosh. So much has been written about Bobby Valentine that what can be added here? Has he been that bad of a manager? Perhaps his handling of the players and the coaching staff did not go that well. He opened his mouth a few times too many. But you have to give Valentine a pass because of the overwhelming injuries suffered by the Red Sox during the season. If Valentine's talent had been in place all season and the team still tanked? Yes, then you could point a deviled finger at Bobby Valentine. But without any horses in the stalls, you can't blame Valentine for this nightmare. And despite all that transpired this season, he hung in there until the end without bailing says a lot too.

The recent interview of Bobby Valentine and the follow up comments by Al Leiter sealed Beckett's fate as the player villain in this season. Leiter called him difficult. Valentine hinted that not listening to Leiter and getting Beckett on his side was one of his worst mistakes of the season. Should any player have that much clout in the clubhouse? Was Beckett some sort of smoking gun of a cancer in the clubhouse? He certainly seems to be pegged that way. Combine that with last year's collapse and the beer and chicken thing and Beckett has all the villain spotlights worked on his obstinate head. And his lousy performance that was worth negative WAR for the Red Sox this year did not help either.

But seriously, if Beckett's role in a bad clubhouse was that strong, then part of that blame goes to Epstein and Francona for allowing it to get that way. And from a pure performance standpoint, Beckett's performance was worth $93.6 million over the years when he made about $70 million in salary. The Red Sox got their money's worth. His bad season notwithstanding, he is not the reason for how bad the Red Sox tanked this season.

The real villain:
Injuries. Plain and simple. You can't lose David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, John Lackey and all the others for significant chunks of the season and not take a huge hit on performance. The lineup the Red Sox were forced to use against the Yankees last night was the pinnacle of how much those injuries have decimated this team.

You can choose any villain you want. You can make a narrative about Valentine or about Lucchino or about Beckett and Lester or any other person or persons you want. But the real enemy to the Red Sox season was injuries. They simply lost too many hours from too many players and it hurt them and hurt them and hurt them over and over again.

Game Picks - Tuesday: October 2, 2012

Today is the penultimate day of the season. The Nationals and Tigers clinched last night. Congrats to both teams and their fan bases. The Cardinals clinched at least a tie for the wild card. And the Yankees are within one win and one more Orioles' loss to clinching their division. Meanwhile, the Oakland Athletics are now within a single game of the Texas Rangers. Holy smokes!

Through all that celebratory happenings and nail-biting times for other teams, the picks were navigated with a 10-5 record. But alas, the Game of the Day feature should not have been bragged upon yesterday as the Giants lost to the Dodgers, who are still mathematically alive for one more day. Lucas Harrell of the Astros finished his season with a .500 record, quite an accomplishment for the rookie. Wade Miley had a great last start with ten strikeouts but he team could not pick up the win for him. And it was not predicted that Jeff Locke would win his first major league ballgame. Good on him, though.

Tuesday's picks:

  • The Braves over the Pirates: Kevin Correia likely throws his last pitch in a Pirates uniform. Tommy Hanson trying to get consideration for a post season berth. Both pitchers have something to prove in this meaningless game. That is the only means of interesting in this one.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Sure, Jacoby Ellsbury will play tonight though Dustin Pedroia is done for the season. The rest of the Red Sox lineup is from Triple A. Jon Lester will try to maintain some pride but the Yankees need this win badly despite David Phelps getting the start. The entire Yankees' bullpen is on alert tonight.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: It was a nice run for the White Sox, but they could not hold on. That renders tonight's game against the Indians as meaningless. They should, however, still jump on Justin Masterson and Jake Peavy will have one more start to try to even his record.
  • The Nationals over the Phillies: All but (hopefully) Bryce Harper will be hung over for the Nationals. Will Gio Gonzalez actually start this game? And if so, why? The Nats should skip him. And they just might. The Phillies will give the start to B.J. Rosenberg, a fact that does not look promising.  ***UPDATE***  Tom Gorzelanny is starting in place of Gio Gonzalez.
  • The Blue Jays over the Twins: Anthony Swarzak gets the start for the Twins. He is not a bad reliever, but his ERA as a starter career-wise is over eight. Not good. Chad Jenkins tries again to get his first win.
  • The Rays over the Orioles: Those Rays know better than anyone else how to spoil a party. They don't care that they have been eliminated. They will play hard and try to win this thing. James Shields needs to keep the Orioles in the yard. Miguel Gonzalez has been terrific for the Orioles though.
  • The Cubs over the Astros: This is the first time in fifty years that two teams with 100 or more losses have played each other. The Cubs lost their 100th to the Astros last night, which is sort of fitting. Bud Norris goes for the Astros and pitched really well against the Cardinals last time out. Chris Volstad has been better of late for the Cubbies.
  • The Royals over the Tigers: A game that no longer matters. The Tigers may sit some people and it is still a wonder they are starting Doug Fister. But that's what the line says. Anyway, they should be a big hungover and not care very much and Jeremy Guthrie has been very good for the Royals.
  • The Brewers over the Padres: Yeesh. This game is awful to pick. Tyler Thornburg, who has pitched twice in all of September goes for the Brewers against Anthony Bass. Guess the home team is the way to go here for lack of any better reason.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: The Cards clinch tonight and how fitting is it that they will do so behind Chris Carpenter? The Reds won't care very much and Mat Latos, if he does start, will just get a five inning tuneup or something.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Another meaningless game, which are the hardest darn things to pick. Patrick Corbin has been awful of late and makes his last start of the season. Jhoulys Chacin has had some nice moments and some that were not so nice since returning from the DL. Regardless, he'll only get 75 pitches.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: This is the game that wins the Rangers the division. Their best pitcher, Matt Harrison (though Darvish has been better of late), goes against the A's weakest link, Travis Blackley. Harrison will have to be at his best though but he has big game experience in spades.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: Very, very tempted to pick Hisashi Iwakuma in this one. He has had the Angels' number all season. But the Angels are still grinding to the end and Dan Haren has been great in the last month.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Chris Capuano and Barry Zito are very evenly matched. The Dodgers have something to play for, even though it won't matter in the end. The Dodgers are also at home, so there is that.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Mets over the Marlins: R.A. Dickey wins his 21st game and forces more Cy Young Award consideration. Jacob Turner is still trying to prove he is a major league pitcher. It has not been easy for him to do so.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 20-11
Month: 10-5
Season: 1322-1047
Games of the Day: 105-67

Monday, October 01, 2012

Game Picks - Monday: October 1, 2012

October baseball! Is this going to be a fascinating week or what? Nobody has captured what this week will be better than Jeff Passan in his weekly "Ten Degrees" post. If you haven't seen it, by all means, read it. You can skip all the stuff about the MVP and awards if you want (for now) and just head to the section on all the scenarios that can play out this week. It is brilliant writing and amazing what the possibilities are. If your favorite team is involved this week, good luck!

As for yesterday, ten of the sixteen picks were correct, which, when considering that both ends of the Texas - Angels double-header were picked incorrectly, was pretty good picking. Can we talk a moment about the Game of the Day feature? That feature picks what this picker considers to be the most obvious and easy game to be correctly picked. It could be called the, "no-brainer," of the day. Except, it wasn't for most of the season. At one point, the feature was scuffling and its record stood at 72-56. Since that point, the feature has gone on a 33-10 run. Not too shabby.

Monday's picks:

  • The Braves over the Pirates: Poor Jeff Locke has made nine major league starts in his career and hasn't won any of them. Tonight will be the tenth. Paul Maholm will try to make a bid for a playoff start if the Braves were to win the wild card play-in or whatever it is called.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox - The Red Sox have reserved all of their remaining energy to knock off the Yankees this series. It is obvious. They saved their best pitchers just to knock the Yankees off. Though it is unseemly, that's the way it is. C.C. Sabathia needs to be dominant to overcome the good game Clay Buchholz will pitch.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: The White Sox must think they have nothing to lose because they are starting Hector Santiago. And really, they don't. All the Tigers have to do is win one of three. As for the Indians, if you say Corey Kluber out loud and make it sort of sing-songy, it sounds like something that chef in the Muppets would say. Try it. You'll see.
  • The Nationals over the Phillies: Did this picker read that Ryan Howard broke his toe? Is that right or was it some sort of dream from last night? Anyway, John Lannon has already beat the Phillies once and will do it again. Kyle Kendrick has had a decent season for himself.
  • The Twins over the Blue Jays: Aaron Laffey is in uncharted waters with his inning count. Esmerling Vasquez looked great against the Yankees. And somebody has to win the battle of these also-rans.
  • The Rays over the Orioles: Wei-Yin Chen has looked like he is tired his last few starts. His stuff hasn't been nearly as sharp. And you know the Rays live for these kinds of moments to somehow miraculously get into the post season with a late run. Alex Cobb gets the start for the Rays.
  • The Marlins over the Mets: Who the heck is Jeurys Familia? Whoever he is, he is starting for the Mets tonight. Sheesh. Never heard of the guy. Josh Johnson goes for the Marlins.
  • The Astros over the Cubs: There is no real reason for this pick. Two bad teams just playing one last series to end the season. But this picker would love to see Lucas Harrell's season end with a .500 record just because he has become a fond pick this long season. Jason Berken goes for the Cubs.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: The Tigers just need one win to clinch. That should happen tonight despite Rick Porcello getting the start. Bruce Chen tries to get in the way for the Royals.
  • The Brewers over the Padres: Ryan Braun will try to add to his MVP case in one last burst of play and Shaun Marcum will try to pitch his third good game in a row to boost his free agent case when he hits the open market this off season. Clayton Richard is never a good pick when not in a big ballpark.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Dusty Baker will be back in the dugout. Will that be an emotional boost for the Reds? Can Bronson Arroyo slow down the Cardinals' bats? Unlikely. Will Jaime Garcia throw a great fourth game in a row? He will need to.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Drew Pomeranz did finally win a game his last time out. But Wade Miley needs to put an exclamation point on his Rookie of the Year Award case. A bad outing by Miley would kill his chances.
  • The Athletics over the Rangers: Gosh, the Rangers have hit a buzz saw to end this season. The AL West is as good as the AL East now. And the Rangers have to end their season in that death trap in Oakland called "The Coliseum" Jarrod Parker is very good at home and the Rangers have to start Martin Perez!? Ugh. That's not good.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: There are two big problems with this pick. And they make this pick seriously challenging. First, Felix Hernandez starts for the Mariners. Secondly, C.J. Wilson starts for the Angels and the Mariners hit left-handed pitching better than right-handed ones. But the Angels have to win to have any shot.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Giants over the Dodgers: Matt Cain and the Giants will take great pleasure in ending the Dodgers' season and making sure they take their high priced talent home for the playoffs. Aaron Harang will be entrusted to give the Dodgers hope. And that last sentence is one of the big reasons the boys in blue will not make it this year.

Yesterday; 10-6
Week: 10-6
September: 226-184    .551
Season; 1312-1042
Games of the Day: 105-66

Playoffs!? You're asking about the playoffs!?

Ah! That Coach Mora line will never get old, will it? But it does introduce the topic of this post, and that is: If a team is one of the two wild card teams, does that mean the teams made it to the playoffs? Oh, the realization is that the one game play-in or game-in, or whatever they are calling it, will be considered the post season. The stats sites will include those two games in a player's post season stats and not the regular season stats. But is it really making the playoffs?

Yes, this is all semantics, no doubt. We can call anything by whatever name we want to call it. But here is the problem: The one game is fought for the right to go to the division series. In other words, the two wild card teams are playing for the right to compete as one of the four playoff teams. So that makes the event not quite a playoff and yet the post season. 

And it is easy to see why MLB set it up this way. Calling it the 163rd game of the season gets messy. Should a guy who finishes by a few percentage points for the batting title after the 162nd game be penalized if he goes without a hit in that 163rd game? But there is already precedent for that. The 1978 season gave us a one game play-in, or whatever, between the Red Sox and the Yankees--the famous Bucky Dent game. But that was not a post season game. That was the 163rd game for each team.

And that precedent might happen again this season if say, the Rays and the A's finished the season in a tie for the final wild card spot. That would be each team's 163rd game, not a playoff game...not a post season game.

This way--and this is why MLB is smarter than us--more teams are fighting for a playoff spot. Yes, a playoff spot. That's what they call it. They did not say that on September 15, sixteen teams were still in the hunt to play an extra game at the end of the season. They said that sixteen teams were in the playoff hunt. And yet, it is not. It is a game to determine which team gets into the playoffs.

Again, this is semantics, sure. Despite its little semantics chicanery, even MLB could not quite go as far as it wanted to. Even they did not call the one game a playoff game. They called it a game-in, or whatever that term is they have been using.

For this observer, if the Yankees or the Orioles or the Rays or the Angels or the A's have to play each other as the two wild card teams, the loser of that game did not make it to the playoffs. Statistically speaking, the team will have made it to the post season. But the team did not. Not really. The team that wins that one game? Yes, then they will be a playoff team.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Game Picks - Sunday: September 30, 2012

The last day of September. Can you believe it? There are just four days left to the season. The AL East is dead even and is really the only race left in doubt. The Tigers are up two with just four to play. All they have to do is win. The wild card is still a little in doubt in the AL but set in the NL, or at least it should be. It must be a ESPN/MLB Network/TBS dream to have all eyes on the AL East. There goes that bias again!

All the while, those games have to be sorted out and predicted. There are sixteen games on the schedule just today as the game in Texas was rained out yesterday. So let's get right to it and see this thing to the end:

  • The Rangers over the Angels: This double-header is not what the doctor ordered for the Angels. Sweeping such a thing is difficult. Doing so is doubly difficult in the home park of the AL West leader. Yu Darvish has been amazing in September. Zack Greinke has been amazing for five innings at a time.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Luke Hochevar versus Zach McAllister. One of them has to win.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: This pick is still going by what should happen and not by what is going to happen. Yesterday's Yankee loss was so totally unbelievable and so costly and so stupid, it is tempting to just write them off the rest of the season. And that can still happen. Henderson Alvarez should pose no problem for the Yankees lineup. And as always, everything depends on how sharp Phil Hughes is.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: It is not how you finish, it is how the whole season went. Cole Hamels should beat Nathan Eovaldi eighteen of twenty times they ever faced each other. So that's the pick.
  • The Orioles over the Red Sox: Did you see how the Red Sox changed their rotation around to save Buchholz and Lester for the Yankees and pitched all their worst guys against the Orioles? There aught to be a law against that kind of gamesmanship and bitter payback. Joe Saunders is slightly more able to bring a win home than Zach Stewart. That's the third Zach/Zack starting tonight.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: Baseball history is littered with guys on nineteen wins who get stuck there with one last chance to win twenty. This year, that guy will be Johnny Cueto. Wandy Rodriguez is going to beat him.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: The Tigers seized the moment (for the most part) and put the division away when they had to. That is no ringing endorsement for a team that does not field well and has two or three holes in its lineup. But they got it done. Yes, there are four games left and the lead is only two. But it is over. Anibal Sanchez versus Liam Hendriks.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: Two teams just playing out the season. But, there are some personal accomplishments yet to be written, so it is still interesting. Jordan Lyles cannot get through the fifth inning. Mike Fiers should not have any major difficulty here.
  • The Bay Rays over the White Sox: David Price seals off his best season yet and a worthy candidacy for CYA talk. Jose Quintana has been a nice surprise for the White Sox, but the Rays will take this one behind Price.
  • The Cardinals over the Nationals: The Cardinals are going to haunt this picker until the end, aren't they? Lance Lynn has been better since rejoining the rotation. Ross Detwiler is a decent pitcher, but won't be able to hold down the Cardinals offense.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: This is a tough one. Erasmo Ramirez has an exciting arm and could have a big strikeout day. But the pick goes to Tommy Milone, who is pretty darned tough at home.
  • The Giants over the Padres: Tim Lincecum has a tuneup before the playoffs and pitches decent for six innings. The Giants have a little uprising against Edinson Volquez and win the game.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Cubs: The Cubs are still working on history here going for a season of zero wins against the NL West on the road. Can they do it? Most likely. Chris Rusin is okay but Josh Collmenter will pitch five or six innings band be better.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: The Rockies have been featuring some kind of Triple A lineup lately. That doesn't help Jorge De La Rosa any. Josh Beckett hasn't gotten a lot of run support since joining the Dodgers. Maybe they will get him a couple today.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: Ervin Santana has had a good finish to what was an ugly start of a season. He should be better than a struggling Derek Holland, whose season has been a disappointment.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Braves over the Mets: Kris Medlen. Is there more detail than that needed? Jenrry Mejia won't be able to keep up.

Yesterday: 9-5
Last week: 56-41
Month: 216-178
Season: 1302-1036
Games of the Day: 104-66