Saturday, June 06, 2009

Being Human in the YouTube Age

It's difficult for this writer to get too worked up about Alex Rios and his YouTube exploits. Seven straight strikeouts is enough to get anyone a little angry. Cito Gaston had a great quote concerning the strikeouts: "They'll call him on his cell, that's how much they had his number." It was only human for Rios to be a bit steamed at that point. The problem is that public figures have no escape from the technology that is out there today.

The Fan can understand losing one's temper. If you were on the golf course the other day when the Fan chunked an iron after a good drive, you would have been shocked at the language that came streaming forth from this normally pristine mouth. Hey, it happens. It's stupid and it shouldn't happen, but Rios is a competitor. Frankly, it would have been more disrespectful to the game if he took that stunning lack of success of hitting the ball in stride and had a big old smile on his face. At least Rios apologized for his YouTube notoriety.

Bashing Rios for not quite reaching his potential is understandable. Bashing him for being human is not quite the same thing. Give the guy a break already, okay?

Game Picks - Saturday: June 6, 2009

The futility continues. Perhaps this sounds a little like a whine, but how the heck can anyone predict games this badly for this long? For weeks, this feature picked against Guthrie of the Orioles. For weeks, those picks were correct. Then Guthrie started picking it up and those picks were wrong. So the picks started picking him to win. Who could predict that when that decision was made that Guthrie would then go out and throw such a stink bomb that he couldn't get out of the first inning?

Hey, at least this picker has finally gotten on the Pavano bandwagon, though that bandwagon looks more like an old Volkswagon bus with all the peace signs on it. At least this picker has finally gotten on the Millwood bandwagon. But, dang it, the Fan still can't figure out how to get passed the blown saves that keep messing things up like they did in the Detroit game where Verlander was again amazing, throwing eight scoreless innings before Rodney blew the game in the ninth.

Ah well. At least it's a beautiful day and the golf course is calling. The Fan will be there in an hour.

Today's picks:

  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Sabathia over Price. Experience over youth. This matchup was rained out yesterday.
  • The Blue Jays over the Royals: Hochever still hasn't shown the promise everyone hoped he would show.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: Like Sowers over Floyd.
  • The Phillies over the Dodgers: Like Blanton in this one. Though it's hard to pick against the Dodgers at home.
  • The Twins over the Mariners: The Twins win the battle of the burns as Blackburn is too hard to clean by Washburn.
  • The Marlins over the Giants: Miller has been impossible to predict. Going with reverse theory here. Don't expect him to do well, so he will.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: Why does the Fan keep expecting the Nats to win? It's a mystery that must be rooted in some deep childhood trauma.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: Good matchup of Maholm versus Oswalt. Going with the younger pitcher.
  • The Tigers over the Angels: Escobar is back from the DL. That's Rule #2.
  • The Cubs over the Reds: Dempster has made this picker look stupid lately. The Reds are pitching somebody named Maloney. Who the heck is that?
  • The Braves over the Brewers: Still don't have the stomach to predict a Suppon win.
  • The Red Sox over the Rangers: Lester is starting for the Sox. Holland for the Rangers. Holland shouldn't win, should he?
  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: The Fan might have this figured out now. Wellemeyer is the good one and Wainwright is the bad one. Got it.
  • The Orioles over the A's: A battle of young pitchers. Who knows which one will be better. Crapshoot city.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: For no other reason other than it was correct yesterday.

Yesterday: 6-8
Week: 32-47
Month: 29-34

Friday, June 05, 2009

Game Picks - Friday: June 5, 2009

Just a shade over .500 yesterday for the third mediocre day in a row. Perhaps it is better than being outright terrible like the previous week. All it means is that the picker has gone from being the Washington Nationals to being the Chicago Cubs. That isn't a whole lot to be thrilled about. But at lease Josh Johnson won. Take that, Bob!

Here are today's picks:

  • The Nationals over the Mets: Oh boy, this is a matchup of Tim Redding against the worst team in baseball. It's a question of which will perform worst. Martis is pitching for the Nationals and has had a bit of success. But with a low strikeout total, it was probably dumb luck.
  • The Tigers over the Angels: This is the opposite of the last pick. This is a great matchup between Santana and Verlander. Going with Verlander.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Interesting matchup of Price versus Sabathia. Should be low scoring. Should be fun.
  • The Royals over Blue Jays: Greinke.
  • The Cubs over the Reds: Zambrano will pitch well and then everyone will forget what an oaf he's been. Except they shouldn't. By the way, the Zambrano/Owings matchup means two of the best hitting pitchers in the sport.
  • The Marlins over the Giants: Zito has been respectable, but the Marlins are starting to pick it up a little bit. The Giants may be tired after two games yesterday and then travel.
  • The Rangers over the Red Sox: Like Millwood over Penny.
  • The Braves over the Brewers: Good matchup of Jurrjens versus Gallardo. But Rule #5 says don't pick against Jurrjens.
  • Houston over Pittsburgh: Go Hampton. Go!
  • Cleveland over the White Sox: Okay. The Fan can no longer fight this Pavano thing. Might as well jump on his shoulders.
  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: If De La Rosa pitches like last time, it will be Off De Rosta.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Because Arizona has to win once in a while.
  • The Orioles over the A's: Guthrie has been pretty good lately. But the A's have been kind of warm lately. hmmm....
  • The Dodgers over the Phillies: If Milton wins his third in a row, are we starting one of the neatest stories of the year?
  • The Mariners over the Twins: Whoever through three years later that Felix Hernandez versus Liriano would be a mismatch?

Yesterday: 7-6
Week: 28-39
Month: 23-26

Randy Johson Reaches 300 Wins

Professional baseball writers and fans who would like to be writers both have one commonality that is hard to define or sometimes comprehend: 0ur fascination with numbers, and in particular, numbers that are designated as magical which comes from a lifetime of breathing in the shared experience we call Major League Baseball. Randy Johnson reached one of those magical numbers today.

Any baseball fan can rattle off those numbers. 300 wins. 500 homers. .300 lifetime batting average. 3000 hits. New ones are emerging. .400 On Base Percentage. 1.000 OPS. And yes, deep inside, we all know they are arbitrary. Well, the emerging ones aren't as much as the original ones. But you know. We all know.

It was Mother's Day a long, long time ago. Our family was celebrating and treating our mom to dinner out at our favorite restaurant. It was called the Emerson and they had the best open faced steak sandwiches. Mom always gave the little Fan half her plate. Well, that little Fan had to go to the bathroom and to get to the bathroom, you had to go through the bar. The bar had a television set (as they all do) and it was turned to the Yankee game. The little Fan stopped and watched for just a minute, forgetting for a moment that nature was calling. Mickey Mantle came up and that little Fan watched as the Mick hit his 500th homer.

But it's just a number. Just like 300 is just a number. Where did it get started that the number 300 would be the dividing line between immortality and almost? And don't say it doesn't mean anything. Try telling that to Bert Blyleven and Tommy John who both just missed that magical number. Try convincing them that despite their 118 and 110 ERA+ (respectively) they are not in the Hall of Fame when Phil Neikro (115), Don Sutton (108) and Gaylord Perry (117) are in because they reached 300 wins.

And now Randy Johnson has done it and is a lock on the Hall (unless some PED thing comes along - Don't get the Fan started on THAT subject). But in Johnson's case, there is no doubt. He was already heading to Cooperstown. Johnson has it all. A 138 ERA+, 4500+ strikeouts in a little over 4000 innings pitched, a .646 winning percentage and 100 career complete games all scream Hall of Fame to anyone who would listen. He didn't need to reach 300, but he did. And for some arbitrary, arcane reason, that's very cool.

There aren't a whole lot of people cheering though, not nearly as many as when the Mick hit his 500th or Tom Seaver won his 300th. The perspective is that Johnson is an aloof jerk. He has the reputation for getting mad at his fielders when they don't make plays. He certainly got a bad reaction for his time in New York and a comment or two from Joe Torre in his book. But big deal. Mantle was an alcoholic. Wade Boggs cheated on his wife and got caught. Ty Cobb was the meanest SOB on the planet. They all got their due and it certainly doesn't seem fitting that Johnson doesn't get his.

All this Fan knows is that there was no way that the Diamondbacks won that 2001 World Series without him. He was amazing and dominant and heart rending for any Yankee fan. He made 595 starts in his 20 full seasons in the majors, or 29.5 starts per season. He was ugly in appearance and in demeanor. But his pitching was thrilling for a very long time.

Yeah, it's an odd thing, our worship for this magical number. But it's our odd thing. And a very special pitcher of our era has reached that number. Good for him! And good for us.

The Great. The Sad. And the Ugly

Thursday night in the majors showed how great and how awful major league baseball can be. There was greatness. There was sadness. And there was a whole lot of really, really ugly. Many of you can probably guess who fits in what category.

The Great

Randy Johnson won his 300th game in style. He gave up only two hits and one run. Granted, it was the Nationals, but, heck, it counts. If anything, that's impressive because the Nationals can hit.

Chris Carpenter is now 4-0. He pitched a complete game masterpiece against the Reds. One run, three hits and no walks. What he is doing is mind blowing. Remember, he missed almost all of 2007 and 2008. He pitched a total of 21 innings for two years. And then he comes back like this? Who does that? Nobody does that. Nobody misses that much time and comes back like this. His WHIP is under 1. His ERA is under 1. His batting average against is under .200. His strikeout to walk ration is 5.6/1. He's given up only one homer. It's all very overwhelming.

The Sad

Dontrelle Willis had the following pitching line against the Red Sox: 2.1 0 5 5 5 3. No hits, five walks, five runs. All of us were hoping and it's just sad that he has come to this.

The Kansas City Royals were such a good story at the start of the season. They started at 18-11 and would have been even better if not for a guy named Farnsworth. Since then, they have gone 5-17 and are falling faster than a piano thrown off of the Empire State Building. Tonight was the epitome of it all. Gil (ga) Meche pitched a good game. His walks were alarming, but he left with a 2 to 1 lead. Jamey Wright came in and gave up a two-run home to B. J. Upton and it turned into another loss. How sad.

The Nationals lost two games of a double-header to the Giants. In the two games, they scored two total runs on nine hits. They have now won only 26% of their games. At their current pace, they will end up with a 43-119 record.

The Ugly

Mike Pelfrey pitched 3.2 innings. He gave up nine hits, four walks and eight earned runs. Against Pittsburgh no less.

Wandy Rodriguez, who was having a good year up until his last start, pitched five innings, gave up ten hits, two walks, seven runs and four homes. Ugh!

Carmona pitched two innings, gave up five hits, three walks, two homers and seven runs.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Mixed Feelings About The Braves and Glavine

A baseball team has a responsibility to its fans to put the best team it can on the field. The recent news that the Braves have released Tom Glavine seems, at least on the surface, to be such a move. The Braves management stressed repeatedly (according to this article) that this was a performance issue and not a business issue. Let's hope that is the truth.

Glavine pitching for the Braves again would have been a nice story. His history and his part of the glory years of the team are well chronicled. The future Hall of Fame pitcher won most of his games there and with Maddux and Smoltz made for one of the best starting rotations in history.

But nobody wanted the nice story tainted with Glavine getting blasted in games and departing early after getting roughed up. The Braves didn't feel that he would be good enough with the current stuff he was throwing. Fair enough. If they really feel that way, they made the right decision.

But many true fans of the game, even those not fans of the Braves, would have been interested and would have smiled if Glavine came back and got a few wins for his former team. But it was not to be.

Life is hard and decisions are hard to make when you are in charge. The decisions can be personal and can hurt. The Fan has shed a few tears when having to tell a long time employee that the end had come and that there were better people to do the job. It hurts, there is no question about it. But if you are a good manager, that is what you have to do.

Glavine will probably get a job somewhere. But the Fan doesn't know if he should. He's an old pitcher now. And even mild success would be a shade of what he formerly could do. His last days as a Met were painful to watch. We don't want to let go of players like Glavine and Maddux, but maybe, it's for the best when it happens.

Yes, there are a lot of mixed feelings here. And since the story is not yet over, it is difficult to know which feeling is the correct one. = The Worst Webmasters

There is no more frustrating web site in all of sports than Which is really too bad as they have some really nice content. With great writers like TMQ, Simmons, Gammons, Neyer, Olney, Stark and more, they should really tear down the entire site and start over. If you haven't guessed it, this post is a rant.

It has become popular in recent culture to bash ESPN. They face the same brunt of scrutiny that happens to any great success story. It's the American way to build something up, root for it, and then tear it down once it is successful. The Fan can't jump on that bandwagon. There is too much debt owned to a network that ushered in the golden age of sports reporting. SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight are hallmarks that helped make this the best age ever to be a fan.

Along the way, they leveraged their name and their roster of talent to take that content on-line and that was a good thing. The one problem is that their site simply doesn't work. Navigating the site is painful. Sometimes you can easily get back to where you started and other times there are no links at the top of the page to get back and you have to resort to browser tricks. But that is by far not the most egregious problem.

The problem is if you want to participate on the site. Most of the fun of sports sites is the ability to interact with other fans and with the writers who post. makes both totally a waste of time. Regularly, their writers host chats, which are never long enough and do not automatically refresh. So if you want to follow along, you have to constantly refresh the screen. Isn't that stupid?

Registering on the site isn't free. To be an "Insider," you have to pay. The Fan has no problem with that. But once you do register, the site never remembers you. It has the worst cookie system on the planet. You have to login in each and every day, 365 days a year. This is a typical day trying to comment on a post:

- Read post.
- Type comment
- Click Submit (mind you, your name appears on the top of the screen giving the appearance you are logged in).
- The screen takes you to a sign in page (grumble, curse). So for the umpteenth time, you enter your password.
- Click submit to enter the password. The screen goes blank and just leaves you in limbo land.
- Use browser tools to get back to the original post and comment page.
- Your original comment is now gone, vanished into thin air. The Fan has taken to copying the text to the clipboard before the steps above.
- Paste text back into comment box. Click Submit. It will work about 33% of the time. Today, it told the Fan that there was a problem with the login system, so the Fan never could comment.

It is the most frustrating process ever seen on any website. The latest new wrinkle is that apparently, whatever credit or debit card the Fan used to be an "Insider" is going to expire soon. So each and every post the Fan goes to read pops up with a screen that must be dealt with stating as such. Each and every post must deal with this screen and you can't ignore it. You have to either click the link to update your card (which the Fan is not yet ready to do) or click, "No Thanks." There is no option to not see that screen again. There is only the option to see that stupid, pain-in-the-ass screen on every post read. Amazing.

The Fan has a message for whoever is in charge of the website: You suck. Your site sucks. If the Fan was a general manager in charge of the website, the first thing to be done would be to fire the entire web team and rebuild it with people who actually know what they are doing and understand a user's methodology and perspective.

It's a real shame and a real crime that the best and foremost sports site in the world is a complete dog.

Game Picks - Thursday: June 4, 2009

Mediocrity. That was yesterday. But mediocrity is miles above outright futility which has been more the rule here. So that can be taken as a baby step. Or a justification. How far this feature has fallen when the once noble game picker is grasping at straws and furiously grabbing at the greased pole with his entire being?

Things have to turn around some time right? The sun has to come out after several cloudy days. There has to be a silver lining. There has to be a cliche we haven't used yet!

Oh, for gosh sakes, enough of this drivel, just pick some games already!

  • The Mets over the Pirates: Now that the Pirates have traded away what little offense they have...
  • The Blue Jays over the Angels: Tallet, that English hotel steward, will win again. How, who knows.
  • The Tigers over the Red Sox: Wakefield versus Willis. The butterfly versus the minefield. Egads! No wonder this season is going so badly.
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: The Yankees had their day of rest last night.
  • The Twins over the Indians: Carmona has been terrible.
  • The White Sox over the A's. Like the Buerhle matchup against the A's lineup.
  • The Bay Rays over the Royals: The Royals are sinking like the Titanic. The Bay Rays seem to be waking from their slumber.
  • The Giants over the Nationals: Rained out last night, Randy Johnson gets win number 300.
  • The Braves over the Cubs: Rule #5: Never pick against Jurrjens.
  • The Marlins over the Brewers: Like Johnson over Bush.
  • The Astros over the Rockies: Wandy Rodriguez bounces back from his worst start of the year.
  • The Giants over the Nationals: Cain should win this game.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: The magician, Chris Carpenter, is pitching for St. Louis.
  • The Dodgers over the Phillies: Kershaw outpitches Cole Hamels.

Yesterday: 6-7
Week: 19-32
Month: 16-20

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Game Picks - Wednesday: June 3, 2009

If this game picker was a swearing man, the air would start to get mighty blue right about now. Two more blown saves (read about one of them in the Piniella post), a Johan Santana loss, an unexpected Dice-K gem have deepened the picker's depression to the point of despair. As of this moment, the Fan couldn't pick an egg from a rock. Let's say this loud and clear: "The Fan Hates Blown Saves!!" That is, unless the blown save helps the pick...

With a heavy heart and wounded pride, here comes another day of scintillating picks:

  • The Mets over the Pirates: The Mets, as usual, wouldn't give any runs to Santana, so they'll give them all to Pelfrey instead.
  • The Giants over the Nationals: Randy Johnson wins game #300 and nobody seems to care. The Fan cares and will write about this when it finally happens.
  • The Red Sox over the Tigers: Beckett is hitting his stride.
  • The Rangers over the Yankees: Feldman has been very good for the Rangers.
  • The Blue Jays over the Angels: Halladay inspires the team to another win over the Angels.
  • The Royals over the Bay Rays: Because the Fan always enjoys Joe Posnanski's joy over a Bannister win.
  • The Marlins over the Brewers: West is a lefty and the Brewers best hitters bat left-handed.
  • The Braves over the Cubs: Derek Lowe over Ted Lilly and also because the Cubs deserve to lose after last night.
  • The Rockies over the Astros: Rule #1: Never pick against Marquis. Wonder what contender he will end up on?
  • The Indians over the Twins: The Indians are due for their one win this week.
  • The A's over the White Sox: Holliday has just realized that this is a contract year.
  • The Reds over the Cardinals: No confidence in Lohse. There has to be something physically wrong with the guy.
  • The Padres over the Phillies: Because this pick has to be right sooner or later, right?
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Billingsley over Garland. Dodgers at home.
  • The Orioles over the Mariners: Bergesen has been really good for the Orioles.

Yesterday: 5-10 [[mumble]]
Week: 13-25 [[moan]]
Month: 10-13

Lou Piniella: The Anti-Gaston

As written in a previous post, Cito Gaston gave his ace, Roy Halladay, more leeway than most modern day managers would. At nearly the same time, Lou Piniella showed no patience at all in a hot young pitcher and cost the Cubbies a game. And the way the Cubs are going, they cannot afford to be kicking away games.

Randy Wells has thrown four straight quality starts. Last night was his best yet as he gave up only two hits and carried a no-hitter late into the game. While Wells was throwing a masterpiece, his team had built up a five to nothing lead. Wells had thrown 89 pitches and Piniella came out to get him and gave the ball to Marmol. In the topsy-turvy world of major league relievers, Marmol has been throwing with mirrors this year. His ERA isn't that high, but as Rob Neyer pointed out in his blog, his strikeout rate is down and his walk rate is up.

Marmol gave up Wells' run (inherited base runner) and one of his own and now it's a 5-2 game. Gregg came in and finished off the Cubs with another blown save, allowing the Braves to tie the game and Heilman did to Cubs fans what he did to Mets' fans all last year.

The Fan's question is this: With Wells throwing so well and only throwing 89 pitches, why not let him go a little deeper into the eighth before yanking him? If he gets through the eighth, and the Fan has no reason to doubt that he would have, then the questionable closer gives up his three runs, and the Cubs win 5-3. Instead, Piniella felt better going with a shaky Marmol and predictable results happened. The closer finished the job and the Cubs lost. Too bad Kerry Wood is rotting away on an awful Indians team.

If the Cubs don't win the Central Division, they will look back on this game and a dozen others like it and see a ton of "what ifs" and a ton of lost opportunities.

Derek Jeter on a Roll

Watching the last forty Yankee games, there was a point when you had to start questioning whether Derek Jeter was finished as an elite player. Johnny Damon was carrying the team and Teixeira was scuffling a bit. The Yankees were floundering a bit and started winning just as A-Rod got back in the lineup. But more than A-Rod just coming back, he allowed Teixeira to get hot and it was his turn to carry the team. Derek Jeter? Well, he was batting in the .270s with an On Base Percentage in the .340s and just didn't seem to be contributing very much. But then you get the last eleven games and Derek Jeter has become a force again.

During the last eleven games, Jeter has gone 13 for 27 and has raised his average to just above his career level and sits at .319. He has walked six or seven times and his On Base Percentage is up in the .390s, exactly what you want from your leadoff batter. He's stealing more bases than last year (when he apparently had a bum wheel) and is scoring runs in bunches.

One thing has stood out watching all those games: Jeter seems to have found a little more range at shortstop. Let's face it, anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that Jeter is the Fan's favorite player. This writer is a baseball fan more than anything else and it's been a lifelong passion, just like the heading of the FanDome states. Derek Jeter has been everything this lifelong Fan has wanted in a player.

Truth to tell, Jeter is the kind of player that the Fan dreamed of being growing up. And as such, it has always hurt to hear Jeter's defense blasted right and left. It hurt because truth hurts. Jeter was always decent at balls hit in the hole between short and third. He had that patented leap throw that was always money. But he never got to anything up the middle (or to his left). The Fan has seen Jeter make several plays in the last week where he ranged far to the left and made an awkward, yet accurate throw to get the runner at first. It has been gratifying to watch.

Good major league players spend an entire career making adjustments. Jeter has made an adjustment to drive the ball with more authority this year and his homer rate and his Slugging Percentage are up. He has also worked on his agility which is showing up in his range. Those are the kinds of adjustments that Hall of Fame players make. And with milestones such as 2600 hits and 1500 runs in the books in the last week, Jeter is such a good major league player.

The Great Roy Halladay

Writing a post about how good Roy Halladay is as a pitcher is a lot like stating that bears live in the woods. Well, duh! Of course the guy is good. But last night, on a night he gave up four earned runs, showed a different level of good. It showed throwback good. While we'll have to see how he bounces back next start after throwing 133 pitches, last night's performance was breathtaking.

Halladay was cruising along after six innings with a six run (6-0) lead. Knowing Halladay, the Fan thought: "Game over." But then came the seventh inning. He loaded the bases with no outs and then a couple of runs scored. The Fan kept expecting Cito Gaston to pop out of the dugout, but nope. And nobody was even warming up. "Gulp," thought the Fan. And that's because the Fan has watched a million games of modern day baseball, when starting pitchers die routinely after six or seven innings (sometimes five). And managers of modern baseball never let a starting pitcher go very far when the other team seems to catch up to their pitchers.

But Halladay is a different cat. He's not the average modern pitcher and he hung in there and despite giving up a four-spot and allowing the game to get close, he found another gear and struck out five out of six outs in the eighth and ninth to finish off the game. No blown saves, no disappointing loss for his team. Just a gutty throwback, spectacularly impressive game.

Having a guy like that on your team goes a long way in preventing slides. It keeps hope alive in his teammates and for their fans. To get an idea, read this piece from a really good writer and a self-proclaimed homer. Even though the writer is a die-hard Blue Jays fan, his blog always tells it like it is, good, bad or ugly. His take of Halladay's performance shows what the pitcher means to his team and his fans.

Rob Neyer wrote in his blog of his concern for the pitch count, and that is a valid concern (99.9% of Neyer's concerns are valid). But it doesn't appear to be a case of a manager abusing a pitcher. Rather, it appears more to be a manager who knows when to let a warrior do his thing. Again, we'll see how he bounces back from this performance.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Game Picks - Tuesday: June 2, 2009

Things turned out better than expected for a change, although picking five out of eight isn't anything to write home about. But at least it wasn't a carnage like the last few days. The day would have been even better if this picker wasn't such a Putz by picking the Mets. Yeah, that was cheap, you're right.

With June starting on a semi-positive note, here are Tuesdays picks:

  • The Mets over the Pirates: Great pitching matchup here with Santana versus Duke. There is a little voice whispering that Santana will lose tonight, but it's being ignored.
  • The Giants over the Nationals: One word: Lincecum.
  • The Tigers over the Red Sox: Like Porcello over Dice-K.
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: Like Burnett over Padilla.
  • The Blue Jays over the Angels: Halladay should be better than Saunders.
  • The Royals over the Bay Rays: How long are the Bay Rays going to stay with Sonnanstine?
  • The Brewers over the Marlins: Anibal Sanchez is pitching for the Marlins in his first game back from the D.L. That's rule #2.
  • The Cubs over the Braves: It really stinks picking Braves' games because one never knows when Chipper Jones is playing. If he plays, they win. If he doesn't, they don't.
  • The Rockies over the Astros: Battle of the mediocre. One team has to win.
  • The Twins over the Indians: Slowey has been pretty good. Huff? Don't know.
  • The White Sox over the A's: Don't think Eveland is ready for the big show. We'll see.
  • The Reds over the Cardinals: Have picked against Arroyo seven straight times and he's won seven games. Time to switch gears.
  • The Padres over the Phillies. The Fan can see it now. The Phillies' pitcher plunks a Padre and the Padre player looks to the mound and says, "That Bastardo!"
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Keep picking against Haren. Have no clue why...
  • The Mariners over the Orioles: Thinking that Bedard is better than any Oriole pitcher.

Yesterday: 5-3
Week: 8-15
Month: 5-3

Second Guessing Some Pitching Changes

The Milwaukee Brewers had a lead going into the sixth inning. They got about as decent a start as you can get from Jeff Suppon, who struggled through five innings and 100 pitches. He allowed ten base runners but only gave up two runs. With a lead and a game on the line, why would you bring in Jorge Julio?

Before Monday night's appearance, Julio had given up 27 base runners in 17.1 innings including 14 walks. In fact, covering the last three years, Julio has walked 44 batters in 56.2 innings. Would that be someone you would bring into a tight game? But the Brewers brought him in. Julio never got an out. Five runs later, ball game.

It was the seventh inning of the Yankee/Indians game. The score was tied 1-1. The previous inning, the Yankees had loaded the bases on three walks against starter, Sowers. Aquino came in and shut the door to get the Indians out of a jam. The Indians sent Aquino back out there in the seventh. That made sense seeing what he did in the sixth. Aquino gets the first out but then walks Matsui. Then he walks Gardner. Uh...hello? He stays in there and walks Jeter. Bases loaded. Hello? Swisher then breaks open the game with a double. Ball game. To make matters worse, the Indians then brought in Vizcaino. Vizcaino? Man. After an intentional walk, A-Rod hits a single to make it 5-1.

Conversely, the Yankees stayed with a hot Joba Chamberlain deep into the game when many managers would have pulled him after six or seven. That requires a lot of pitchers who are less able than Chamberlain to win the game. Chamberlain pitched eight strong innings and then turned the ball over to Rivera. Mo was throwing gas tonight and hit 97/96/95/95/96 and 97 on the radar gun. Game over.

The Mets were leading the Pirates 5-3 going into the eighth inning. Livan survived his outing again (must be good mirrors he is using) and the bullpen held the lead before giving the ball to Putz to start the eighth. Let's face it, this is why they got Putz right? Except they didn't do it. Putz didn't start the inning. Feliciano did. That doesn't make sense does it? LaRoche doubled. Hinske grounded out and LaRoche goes to third. THEN they bring Putz in the game. The other LaRoche singles in a run. Jaramillo singles. Young singles and the game is tied. Putz must not have it tonight. They let Putz intentionally walk a batter and then pull him from the game. An error and a sacrifice fly and it's ball game time.

While we're discussing this, does it seem fair for a manager to ask a struggling reliever to intentionally walk a guy knowing he's going to get pulled right after he does so? Why not have the next guy walk the batter so that runner is his responsibility and not the original guy. Seems cheap.

Let's flip over to Oakland's game with the White Sox. The game was tied 2-2 going into the eighth inning. Craig Breslow had taken over for Cahill and had pitched well for an inning and a third, striking out two. Breslow has done well since the A's picked him up on waivers. He had pitched five and a third innings, walking none and striking out five. Breslow is given the ball to go out and start the eighth and walked Podsednik and is promptly yanked in favor of Santiago Casilla. Casilla hasn't exactly set the world on fire to this point and had walked eleven in nineteen innings of work. Casilla got Ramirez to pop up but gave up a single to Dye. Thome then came up. It would have been nice for Breslow (a lefty) to be facing Thome at this point. But it was Casilla who promptly gave Thome a meatball. Ball game.

Four ball games, Four questionable series of pitching decisions. The Fan has been talking a lot about blown saves this season, but how much of the current plethora of the things should be blamed on managers who seem to over think situations and under think others?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Game Picks - Monday: June 1, 2009

Unbelievable. This picker is doing about as well as David Ortiz lately. Just a week ago, this daily feature was 22 games over .500 for the month of May. As the month just ended, the final result was one game over .500. Two weeks ago, the Fan had 48 total points at in the "Games" section overall for a season's worth of picks. That tally is down to 16 points. Nemesis, Oriofan8, had more points than that just this week. It's deflating. It's abominable. It's sickening. Frangrant Fan indeed.

Maybe June will usher in a better month. Maybe the league's bullpens will settle down and make things a bit more predictable. And maybe the Republicans will again some day have more seats in Congress. Yeah. One more day like Sunday and the Fan is going to have an opposite day where all the picks are picked the opposite of what the Fan thinks will happen.

Here are Monday's picks. Laugh if you want.

  • The Mets over the Pirates: What the heck. Livan will win again. Sheffield will again play well and this whole topsy turvy life will go on its merry way.
  • The Yankees over the Indians: Joe Girardi will hypnotize Joba Chamberlain and have him believe the first inning is the second inning so he'll come out smoking instead of throwing Wakefield-like fastballs in the first inning.
  • The Marlins over the Brewers: Suppon has to happen good some time.
  • The Astros over the Rockies: Oswalt has to win a game some time. Might as well be Monday.
  • Oakland over the White Sox: The A's have won one in a row. Let's celebrate!
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Volquez is pitching his first start back from the DL. That's rule #2.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: Blanton was brilliant last time out.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: The Dodgers are back home and they seldom lose at home.
  • The Orioles over the Mariners. The Mariners had their guts ripped out by the Angels, which will backwash into this game.

Yesterday: 3-12
Week: 3-12
Month: 204-203 [[whimper]]

Rubbernecking Car Wrecks

You have all experienced it at least once in your life. You are on vacation and driving to your destination, or you are trying to get out of the city on a Friday afternoon during rush hour, or you are on an usually quick flying road when all of the sudden you come upon a traffic jam. Cars are backed up for three lanes as far as the eye can see. After an hour or two creeping and creeping along you finally see blue flashing lights up in the distance. After more creeping, you can finally see the cause of all the trouble: A car wreck. All that stupid traffic was caused by thousands of motorists slowing down to gawk at the accident despite themselves. And as much as you criticize all those fellow drivers, you too do the same thing. It's also what happens at the race track. Cars start skidding and before you can say, "Crash!" race car parts start flying in all directions. Despite the danger so present for those drivers, the spectators can't look away. There are several of those car wrecks in Major League Baseball right now.

Some players, big names and others, are playing so spectacularly awful that it becomes fascinating. And though we want to be human and feel sympathy for those struggling so horribly, we ogle the new box scores just to see if their misery continued. We are strange creatures, we humans. We are inspired by success stories, but we are downright, bug-eyeingly fascinated with failure. It's why in golf, for example, that Greg Norman's collapses in majors are just as remembered as Tiger Woods' triumphs. And we'll all remember when that French guy totally blew the British Open, right?

And so it is in Major League Baseball. As much as we awe and gush about Greinke, Santana, Gonzalez and Teixeira, we also rubberneck at the likes of David Ortiz, Brian Giles and Jimmy Rollins as they crash into the wall like a Jeff Gordan racer. Heaven knows, the Fan has been fascinated to the point of the blood quickening at the thought of checking their box scores to see if their misery continued. And amazingly or sickeningly, the misery has continued. Let's look at a few.

David Ortiz has been the most publicized car crash. The fall from grace and the rarefied air that surrounded him has been stunning. He was the biggest fish outside of Miami. Everyone KNEW he was going to come through when the game was on the line. It was destined. It was expected. And it always seemed to happen. Now, he can't hit his way out of the old paper bag. Ortiz has six hits in his last forty-five at bats. That's a .133 clip. He has struck out sixteen times during that run. His average has shrunk to a paltry .185 for the year. Ortiz has a lifetime Slugging Percentage of .545. He currently sits at .283. He has a lifetime OPS of .923. He sits at .569. But it goes even beyond that. He was a clutch player. His lifetime .301 Batting Average with runners in scoring position show that. His .934 OPS in that situation is higher than his career totals. Those numbers went off the charts from 2003 through 2007. This year, he is batting .193 in those situations. For his career, Ortiz has struck out in roughly 18% of his plate appearances. This year the number is 23%. It's been fascinating, captivating and nobody knows what is going to happen from here.

Brian Giles is a two time All Star. His career numbers are: .292/.401/.505. Even last year, at the age of 37, Giles put up these numbers: .306/.398/.456. But this year, he's been a car wreck. His current line sits at: .193/.284/.287. At .571, his OPS is just two points higher than that of Ortiz. What is even more scary is that just ten days ago, his average was sitting at .168! Like the Red Sox, who stuck with Ortiz in the #3 spot in the lineup for the longest time, Giles was the Padres' leadoff batter all year. That has to be excruciating. A typical leadoff batter scores in about 62% of his games. Giles was respectable last year, scoring in 55% of his games. This year, he's scored in 25% of his games. That's really harmful for the Padres. The other day, the Fan suggested that the Padres try Tony Gwynn Jr. in the leadoff spot for a while. Looking like a genius, the Padres did just that today and Gwynn went two for four with a run scored. That had to be a relief to the Padres. But the rubbernecking did continue. Giles came up as a pinch hitter and grounded out to the shortstop.

Two years ago, Jimmy Rollins won the MVP. As the Phillies' leadoff batter, he batted .296 with an .875 OPS. He had 38 doubles, 20 triples and 30 homers. He scored an amazing 137 runs that season. Last year, his OPS slipped to .786 but he still finished strong and stole an amazing 47 bases in 50 attempts. He won his second Gold Glove along the way. This year, Rollins has been a car wreck. His Batting Average is .226, his On Base Percentage is .276 and his OPS is sitting at .621. Again, the leadoff batter does a lot to set up the team's offense. Plus, Rollins has already been caught stealing more times this year than he was all of last year. To add to the misery, his range factor this year is off significantly from years past. The rubbernecking continued as Rollins went 0-4 on Sunday.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Adrian Gonzalez - The Star You Never Heard Of

Most media outlets are based on the east coast and as such, little focus is paid on teams like the Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants or the San Diego Padres. Sure, once in a while some high profile players such as Junior Griffey, Barry Bonds or Trevor Hoffman will bring one of those organizations to light. But answer this: When is the last time the San Diego Padres were on national television? Yeah, the Fan can't remember either. So it is no surprise that one of the league's best players excels outside the spotlight. He is a slugger named, Adrian Gonzalez.

Gonzalez is now 27 and in the prime of his baseball career. Drafted in the first round by the Florida Marlins in the 2000 draft, he somehow found his way to the Texas Ranger organization where he saw limited activity in 2004 and 2005. It seems they had a first baseman there by the name of Mark Teixeira. So the Rangers traded him to the Padres.

The Padres play in one of the more famously pitcher oriented parks. And yet the past three seasons have seen Adrian Gonzalez increase his slugging percentage and his home run total. He hit 24 in 2006, 30 in 2007 and 36 last year. The Fan was perusing the league leaders a couple of days ago and saw that Gonzalez was leading the majors in homers. The Fan's response was probably typical of most fans: "Really!?" Yup. He's hit 19 thus far and is on pace to eclipse last year's total.

The last three seasons have also seen increases in his walk total, his OPS+, his RBI total and his Runs Scored total. Again, his early season starts this year all indicate that he will rise for the fourth straight year in all of those categories. On top of all that, he won a Gold Glove for his work at first base and it was no fluke. His Range Factor, RTOT and Fielding Percentage are all above league average.

And the guy just seems to love playing baseball. He played in the Caribbean League for Mexico and starred for Mexico in the WBC. In what has become a really nice story, he also has the added bonus of playing with his older brother, Edgar, who plays second (among other positions) for the Padres. Edgar isn't the player Adrian is, but he is useful and after playing with Edgar for years on Mexico's squad, Adrian suggested to the Padres that Edgar could help them and they picked him up. Edgar batted .274 in 325 at bats last year. He is struggling this year though.

Adrian Gonzalez is probably the second best first baseman in the league behind Pujols and has eclipsed Berkman who held that title for many years. He is a force at the plate and in the field and is only getting better. Maybe someday soon, more fans will know about this great player in San Diego. Hey, if the Fan finally noticed, others will too.

Game Picks - Sunday: May 31, 2009

Just to show you how fickle picking games is this year, yesterday's picks included the Padres over the Rockies. It was late and the Fan decided to go upstairs after the Padres scored a run in the top of the ninth to break a six all tie. "Nice," said the Fan.

Once upstairs, the Fan got interested in what the Fan's wife was watching on television and spent a mindless hour seeing who committed this week's murder. After seeing the answer, the Fan wandered downstairs once more to wrap up the day's box scores. The Padres closer, Bell, has been fantastic this year and sported an ERA around 0.30 or something. You guessed it. He blew the save.

It's crazy this year. No game is safe. No lead is save. We've seen teams come from behind when they are down ten runs. It seems like every day there are teams scoring six, seven, eight runs in an inning. It's a nutty year. But at least the Fan squeaked out a decent day after several really bad days.

Here are Sunday's picks:

  • The Yankees over the Indians: The Yankees can't let Pavano beat them, can they?
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: Ortiz went hitless in four at bats again with two strikeouts. Man oh man. This is a real tough call for the Sox, no?
  • The Marlins over the Mets: Like Volstad over Maine.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: The heart likes Hampton. The head likes Maholm.
  • The Nationals over the Phillies: The Fan must have a Nationals fetish. Can't help himself and keeps picking those perennial losers. But Lannon seems like a better pick over Moyer.
  • Detroit over Baltimore: Wieters got his first two major league hits in a losing cause: A double and a triple.
  • The Bay Rays over the Twins: Garza. Sounds like a good bet.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: Caution! Emotional pick for Owings.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: Greinke!
  • The Rangers over the A's: The A's should be called the F's at this point.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: Let's try this again, shall we?
  • The Angels over the Mariners: The Angels' closer blew his third save Saturday night. K-Rod is missed.
  • The Cardinals over the Giants: Wainwright has been good lately.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Braves: Oh no! Two greenies pitching. Scherzer is less green than Medlen.
  • The Cubs over the Dodgers: Eric Milton can't win two in a row, can he? It would be a heck of a story if he did.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 44-56
Month: 201-191