Saturday, June 13, 2009

Game Picks - Saturday: June 13, 2009

Interleague baseball is in full swing. American League teams won nine of the fourteen contests so that has to color any pick during this jog in the schedule. This picker fared fairly well during interleague's first day and will try to build on that over the weekend. Of the incorrect picks from yesterday, the Blue Jays losing to the Marlins and the Dodgers losing to Texas were probably the two biggest surprises.

Let's see what surprises we have in store for us today:

  • The Cubs over the Twins: Harden should beat Swarzak.
  • The Marlins over the Blue Jays: West could be the best of the Marlins' young arms.
  • The Indians over the Cardinals: This game could feature a double-digit score as Ohka squares up with Thompson. Not exactly the pitching matchup of the ages.
  • The White Sox over the Brewers: Contreras was great his last time out. Was it a mirage? We'll see.
  • The Yankees over the Mets: Like Pettitte over Nieve. But like the Mets bullpen much more than the Yankees. Poor K-Rod got his first blown save last night without giving up an earned run.
  • The Bay Rays over the Nationals: Is Zimmermann good for the Nats? Thought he was, but he hasn't been lately. Sonnanstine has been no picnic for the Bay Rays either.
  • The Phillies over the Red Sox: Like Bastardo over Dice-K. Don't like Ortiz playing first to get his bat in the lineup. Seems stupid to this viewer.
  • The Pirates over the Tigers: Like Duke over Galarraga.
  • The Orioles over the Braves: Because the Fan needs an underdog win for points.
  • The Reds over the Royals: Arroyo over Davies. This one is iffy though.
  • The Rangers over the Dodgers: The surprising Feldman beats the crafty veteran, Wolf.
  • The Astros over the Diamondbacks: Oswalt should have enough in his old tank to beat Garland.
  • The Rockies over the Mariners: Marquis is pitching for the Rockies. That's Rule #1.
  • The Padres over the Angels: Like this kid, Geer, and think he will beat Saunders.
  • The A's over the Giants: Let's face it. Randy Johnson is very hittable at this point in his career.

There you have it, sports fans. May your favorite team fare well and hope you have a great weekend.

Yesterday: 8-6
Week: 40-41
Month: 67-73

The Best Race in Major League Baseball

What is currently the best race in Major League Baseball? You might say the American League East, where four teams are within six games of first place Boston. You might say the National League East where the Phillies have a full four game lead over the Mets with the Braves hanging around too. You might say the National League Central where the Brewers, Cardinals, Reds and Cubs are all in it. Or you might say the American League West where the Rangers have the Angels to contend with. But the Fan doesn't think any of those is the best race right now. The best race currently is the race for the National League Wildcard.

The Dodgers seem to have the National League West well in hand and the American League Wildcard will most likely come from whoever finishes second in the AL East. But the NL Wildcard has gotten very interesting. With roughly a hundred games left to go, there are four teams within two games of the lead and a staggering eleven teams within four and a half games of the lead.

The Cardinals and the Giants (surprise!) are the co-leaders. The Mets are a half a game back. The Reds are a game back. The Cubs and the Braves are two games back. The Marlins and the Rockies (with their stunning turnaround) are three and a half back. The Padres are four back. And the Astros and the Pirates are four and a half back. So if you are keeping score, all of the teams in the NL Central are in the hunt, three teams in the NL West and three teams in the NL East.

This has to be exciting for the executives of Major League Baseball as it means that all of these franchises have good reason to keep striving. Which gives all of those teams full reasons for their fans to be active and interested. Perfect. But it also may mean a franchise or two that is looking to slim down and jettison an expensive player or two can't really do it or the fans will have a cow. Heck, even the Diamondbacks are only six games off the Wildcard pace.

The race also seems to show that the National League is really about parity right now. Only the Nationals have no shot at all and only the Dodgers seem to be a lock. Beside probably the Dodgers, none of the teams are all that great. The Cubs seem dysfunctional and continue to bat Soriano in the leadoff spot (inexplicably!). The Mets don't have enough starting pitching. The same goes for the Cardinals. All of the teams have holes and that means that this could stay interesting for a very long time.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What is it with Cleveland?

There have been a lot of jokes over the years about Cleveland. The city gets no respect and gets lots of bad publicity for things that just can't be true. Because of all the low-brow comics who use the city as a comic device and because the city hasn't been quite successful in the public relations realm of dispelling such notions, if the average person was asked to name one city they would not want to live in, it would probably be Cleveland.

But that's not fair. The Fan never deals in such paradigms of perpetuated myths. Besides, the Fan used to be a faithful reader of National Geographic (before the magazine turned into Greenpeace's mouthpiece), and remembers the stories about how Cleveland has been transformed into a modern city with beautiful landscapes and architectural design. By the way, the Fan is all for protecting our environment. But when a magazine used to fill young readers with faraway dreams of adventure and wonder and now slants every story to some environmental bent, then the subscription lapses and its former reader looks for wonder and adventure elsewhere.

As much as the Fan tries to internally give Cleveland a break and unjaundiced and unbiased opinion, that point of view is challenged by what always seems to take place at Cleveland baseball games. First, there was the Mistake by the Lake. Cleveland's old ballpark was creaky and freaky before it was even a year old. It was like Disney built a Haunted Mansion for baseball. Remember the Boston/Cleveland game that became so foggy that you couldn't see the players in the outfield?

Well, they fixed all that by building a new ballpark, which, by all accounts, is a much better facility than the old one. Except that strange things happen there still. Two years ago, the Yankees had a lead in a playoff series against the Indians. Everything was going according to script. The Yankees had a slight lead and turned the ball over to then phenom, Joba Chamberlain, who was unhittable with amazing command of a blazing fastball. The script was familiar that year: Get a lead and make it a seven inning ballgame by getting it to Joba and then Mo in the ninth.

Well, there was only one problem. Millions of midges or gadflies, or whatever you want to call them, swarmed the field like some kind of biblical plague. They covered Joba so that he looked like he was tarred and feathered. He was sprayed. He swatted and he sweated and he fanned his glove. But no matter what he tried, he couldn't escape the darn things. His composure went out the window and it cost the Yankees the win and the series.

Recently, the bugs have been replaced by seagulls. Not just a few here and there, but a whole gaggle of them that is usually seen at some garbage landfill. There have been dozens of them flocking the stadium, landing in the outfield, flying around unconcerned that people were trying to play and watch baseball. It's been like some kind of Hitchcock film. Thursday night, the unthinkable happened in an extra inning tie game. Choo was at the plate and when there was a runner in scoring position. He hit a line drive that Coco Crisp was charging and seemed to have a shot at the runner. But the ball hit a seagull, glanced sideways and away from Crisp and the ballgame was over.

Cleveland, the Fan wants to believe in you. He doesn't want to buy into the bad connotations the city has always had. But get an exterminator for crying out loud or find some humane way to keep the freak show out of your stadium. Hire some genius to study the problem. Do something! Because if you don't, your city's reputation will never change.

Game Picks - Friday: June 12, 2009

Do you know the sound you make when you purse your lips and move your index finger up and down between them? It sort of sounds like, "bebebebebebebebe?" Yeah, that's the sound. It is the sound and the action this picker is making this morning. Which, overall, is better than the sounds the picker made last night when relief pitchers kept blowing leads all over baseball yards across America. Heck, this picker even lost a pick because of a seagull. How pathetic is that?

And in a special category all by itself was the Texas/Toronto game. The pitching matchup last night was supposed to be the matchup on Wednesday night. On Wednesday, the Fan KNEW that Millwood was going to beat the Blue Jays. KNEW it and predicted it. But the Fan was swayed by a faithful reader. You know who you are [[smile]]. That faithful reader was so strong in conviction that when the matchup was delayed a day, the Fan switched the pick in the reader's favor. Like the buzzer at the Laker's game: "EHHHHHHHTTTT."

Ah well, it's all fun and games. There are no gigantic consequences involved. Life goes on and the Fan is still an amazing guy after all. Good father, good husband. Faith-filled, law-abiding citizen. With that attitude in mind, here comes another day of PATHETIC picks! Egads! And it's more interleague play too.

  • The Twins over the Cubs: Hard to decide which team is worse to its potential. Both should have won many more games this year than they have.
  • The Orioles over the Braves: In a battle of prospects, here's thinking that the O's Berken will beat the Braves' Hanson.
  • The Tigers over the Pirates: Predicting that Porcello will stifle the weak-hitting Pirates who are countering with Snell. So far, all picks have been American League. Trend?
  • The Indians over the Cardinals: The Indians have climbed out of the basement and even have seagulls on their side. How can you pick against them?
  • The Phillies over the Red Sox: Blanton has been good. And maybe the Red Sox will have a let down after wiping the deck with the Yankees.
  • The Yankees over the Mets: The Yankees will take all of the frustrations out on the Mets, score a million runs and cut Livan into eight little pieces. Chamberlain will probably hit somebody and we'll have the second coming of Clemens/Piazza minus the 'roid rage.
  • The Blue Jays over the Marlins: Halladay is not mortal. He is an immortal riding the seas with reins around the Marlins' torso, riding them like some Sea World show person.
  • The Bay Rays over the Nationals: The scheduling gods must like the Bay Rays to throw them this interleague series.
  • The Dodgers over the Rangers: Padilla saved his job with his last outing, so he can go back to being slothful in this start.
  • The Brewers over the White Sox: Suppon has made this picker feel like an idiot several times. So now the idiot will pick Suppon to win which will probably turn out like the Pavano pick earlier in the week.
  • The Reds over the Royals: Trey Hillman will find another interesting way to lose a game for his team.
  • The Rockies over the Mariners: Ubaldo has been coming on strong lately. Washburn has been good too, but will go with power over finesse.
  • The Astros over the Diamondbacks: The non-interleague series of the week. Hampton will pitch a strong game and go two for four at the plate.
  • The Padres over the Angels: Why do the Angels' struggles feel good? Is the Fan some kind of sadist or something?
  • The Giants over the A's: Interesting matchup of Lincecum versus Mazzaro. Will go with the experienced one.

Yesterday: 3-11
Week: 32-35
Month: 59-67

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Wonder

Sometimes an idea has to be given a chance even if it means breaking other ideas. For this post, we will dispense with the third person crap...err...device usually employed here to feature a list the FanDome will call: "I Wonder." Who knows, the idea might be bigger crap than the device it replaced (at least for one post).

I wonder if the Yankees will beat the Red Sox this year. This has been a long and storied rivalry and since 2004, the Red Sox have had the best of it. But never to this degree.

I wonder if we will ever have another player who has a surprisingly big year and not hear whispers about steroids. Ibanez and Mauer have raised some really unfair questions with their play.

I wonder if David Ortiz is really done or if this is just a long, long slump.

I wonder if the Nationals really got the best prospect ever or if he will pan out at all. And I wonder if they will be able to sign him.

I wonder if the Rockies hot streak means anything. Were they really this good and just hated their old manager? Can that really happen? Or is this all a big coincidence?

I wonder if Morneau will ever get his due in the Youkilis, Teixeira debate as the best first basemen in the American League.

I wonder if Milton Bradley will end up batting over .250 this year.

I wonder if Joe Torre will now get his due as a manager now that he is succeeding away from the Yankees.

I wonder if any dramatic news will come about from that big steroid bust two weeks ago. The story has gone cold.

I wonder why I have eight followers since starting with Twitter last week. Eyebleaf I can understand because of our shared blogging. But who are these other people and why are they following me?

I wonder when the White Sox will start dismantling. That team is due for an overhaul.

I wonder if the Tigers are really good this year. Their pitching seems so much better than thought at the beginning of the season. And Rodney isn't any picnic as a closer. We'll see.

I wonder if the Orioles' great collection of prospects will start translating into winning. Or do you have to get rid of a few of the old guard to get the ill winds to disperse.

I wonder if the Blue Jays will continue to be a factor in the AL East. It's been an added element to the usual and it's good for their fans. I just wonder about their pitching.

I wonder how long Eric Wedge will have a job in Cleveland. What a disappointing season.

I wonder how long Trey Hillman will have a job in Kansas City. The team can't hit, but they shouldn't be this bad with that pitching. Hillman has been uncanny in his penchant for making the wrong moves with his bullpen.

I wonder if the Yankees will stick with Wang or go with Hughes or neither.

I wonder if John Smoltz will ever pitch for Boston.

I wonder how long the Rangers can stay in contention with Josh Hamilton on the shelf. They have won all year without him, but he's a pretty big hole in their lineup.

I wonder if the Angels will make a run or if this is meant to be an off year and will stay where they are.

I wonder how long the Marlins will stick with Uggla. His batting average now stands at .210.

I wonder how Jay Bruce can be batting .212. Why isn't that talent jelling? Why can't he seem to get going?

I wonder if Mike Hampton or Nick Johnson will win Comeback Player of the Year.

I wonder if Dmitri Young is done as a player. Washington is carrying him on the roster, but he is nowhere in sight.

I wonder how long Tony LaRussa will stay with the Cardinals. Nobody seems to be having fun over there.

I wonder when Alex Rodriguez will get hot or get back in the headlines. He's been quiet and so have the headlines been.

I wonder if the Phillies or the Mets will end up on top. The Mets seem to have a different feel to them this year.

I wonder if we'll see a no-hitter this year. None so far and we seem due.

I wonder if Pedro Martinez will make an appearance this year. It seems more and more unlikely.

I wonder what will happen with Billy Wagner comes back from his elbow surgery. Will the Mets trade him? Use him as a setup man, what?

I wonder when the next big trade will happen. We need one to make things interesting.

Game Picks - Thursday: June 11, 2009

Seven more days until this picker can head to Florida to sit by Mom's pool and read a few good books. Never before has that pending trip been so needed. These old bones need some Florida heat to recoup and recover. As for these baseball picks, recovery was short lived. But as in life, where this wrecked and beat up old guy must carry on for a week until some much needed rest, these picks must carry on. They have a life of their own now.

  • The Marlins over the Cardinals: The Cards have been falling like a deck of...well...Cards.
  • The Pirates over the Braves: Maholm over Vasquez is a tough call. But, it's the one felt in the gut.
  • The Brewers over the Rockies: The Rockies have been scorching since they fired their manager. But Gallardo should cool them down a bit.
  • The Cubs over the Astros: The Fan picked against Pavano but he kept winning. So the Fan picked for him, and he got clobbered. Will the same thing happen with Dempster?
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: Jackson should continue what has been a good run of pitching for the Tigers.
  • The A's over the Twins: Pretty scary when the Fan has more faith in a rookie, Cahill, than in a veteran, Blackburn.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Another battle of young pitchers. Going with the home team.
  • The Reds over the Nationals: Warning! Emotional pick with Micah Owings pitching.
  • The Orioles over the Mariners: Would normally pick the Mariners, but Garrett Olson is pitching.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Greinke has looked more human lately, but sticking with him.
  • The Angels over the Bay Rays: Have more faith in Santana than in Price at this point in Price's career.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: Let's see, you have an old pitcher in Moyer and a bad pitcher in Redding. Umm...coin toss comes up heads, it's the Mets.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: The Yankees can't lose every game to Boston this year can they? And Sabathia is pitching against Penny.
  • The Blue Jays over the Rangers: Still think Millwood will outpitch Romero, but JaysFan45 was so adamant about this, that the Fan will go with JaysFan's passion.

Yesterday: 6-8
Week: 29-24
Month: 56-56

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Game Picks - Wednesday: June 10, 2009

It was an interesting day in Major League Baseball. The Tigers won a game in which Dontrelle Willis started. That's the good news. The bad news is that he gave up five walks in five innings of work. Kansas City's Bannister was sailing along with a good lead and he hadn't given up any runs. Then suddenly, his fielders blow up and the game goes in the tubes. Ted Lilly threw a great game in Houston. Billingsley threw way too many pitches but still won thanks to Ethier and Kemp. Tallet was great in Texas. Beckett and the bullpen throttled the Yankees. The Padres Young only gave up five hits in his outing. Unfortunately, four of them were homers. Speaking of homers, Johan Santana gave up four of them too, but still won. Morneau was too much for the A's to handle. The Rockies had a stunning come from behind win. And the Braves beat the Pirates despite Chipper Jones' ninth error of the young season. Derek Lowe was a lifesaver for the Braves.

So with all that in the database, here are today's picks:

  • The Reds over the Nationals: Harang should have no trouble here. Martis was good early in the season, but as Rob Neyer pointed out, Martis' K/9 was troubling and Neyer was right.
  • The Mariners over the Orioles: King Felix should beat Guthrie. Wieters and Rheimold had a great game yesterday. The Fan feels an Orioles post coming.
  • The Indians over the Royals: Can the Fan actually be picking Pavano to win? The Royals are stumbling badly. Trey Hillman has not been impressive as a manager.
  • The Bay Rays over the Angels: Which team has a worse bullpen. It's a toss up, isn't it?
  • The Braves over the Pirates: Rule #5: Jurrjens is pitching for the Braves.
  • The Marlins over the Cardinals: The Cardinals are floundering and the Marlins catch them at a good time.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Cole Hamels should beat Pelfrey.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: The law of averages shout that the Yankees have to win one game against the Red Sox this year.
  • The Brewers over the Rockies: It feels weird that the Brewers are in first place. They have seemed so nondescript.
  • The Cubs over the Astros: Hate to pick against Wandy Rodriguez, but he's been shaky his last two times out and Zambrano is in his image-building phase after being a real jerk for a month.
  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: Have more faith in Millwood than Romero.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: Verlander is pitching. Ozzie is going to have a heart attack at this pace.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Zito over the hapless crew from Arizona.
  • Oakland over Minnesota: Have little faith in Liriano at this point.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: Kershaw versus LeBlanc should be a whitewash. Get it? Whitewash, LeBlanc? Oh never mind.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 23-16
Month: 50-48

Lost In a New York Minute

Lost among the daily clatter of what's happened to Putz and Reyes and the good years by Beltran and Santana is one Francisco Rodriguez. Wright gets headlines. Beltran gets headlines. We have heard how good young Parnell is doing. Livan has been resurrected. But you haven't heard much about the year K-Rod is having. So far, it's better than last year when he set the major league record for saves.

Tonight Rodriguez picked up his sixteenth save in sixteen attempts. He hasn't blown any. If you take blown saves into account, others like Broxton (who has been unbelievable) and Ryan Franklin (who knew?) may have a couple of better stats, but only the venerable Trevor Hoffman is having a better year than Rodriguez.

K-Rod has given up only fourteen hits in 27.2 innings. He has struck out 31 in those innings. His WHIP is 0.98 (his walks are kind of high). His ERA+ is an unthinkable 631. He hasn't given up a run in his last nineteen appearances. In fact, he's only given up two runs all year and they were all in one appearance. So in 26 of his 27 appearances, he's been perfect.

The Mets hoped he would be the answer as their closer and relatively speaking, he came pretty cheaply. In the four seasons prior to this one, he recorded 204 saves. Even if his season ended tomorrow (heaven forbid!), then his 220 saves would give him a five year average of 44 saves. He is on pace to hit 47 this year. If he comes close to that mark, his five year average will be over fifty a year. To use an old Mets' phrase, he's been "Amazin'."

Billy Wagner has been one of the best closers in the game for a long time, but at this point, the Mets can't do better than with Francisco Rodriguez.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Game Picks - Tuesday: June 9, 2009

The short schedule yesterday worked in this picker's favor. Adam Lind had two homers to sink the Texas pick. The Pirates and the Braves played a hundred innings and the Braves won, sinking that pick. And Jose Contreras came back from the dead to throw a two-hitter. What!? But overall, this picker will take a 6-3 day after recent history.

Here are today's picks which offer up some pretty interesting matchups:

  • The Reds over the Nationals: Interesting pitching matchup of Cueto versus Zimmermann. Got to give the edge to Cueto.
  • The Mariners over the Orioles: The Orioles just stopped hitting all of the sudden.
  • The Indians over the Royals: Lee should be better than Bannister. Sorry Mr. Posnanski.
  • The Bay Rays over the Angels: Longoria needs to get back into the groove for this to come true.
  • The Braves over the Pirates: Both teams have bullpens that are a wreck after last night's gazillion inning game. Derek Lowe is better able to spell the Braves' bullpen than Ohlendorf is for the Pirates.
  • The Cardinals over the Marlins: Great matchup of Josh Johnson versus Chris Carpenter. Carpenter is the magic man.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: Don't you have to go with Johan Santana over Happ?
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: Beckett should beat Burnett.
  • The Rockies over the Brewers: It sure looks like the Rockies' players were just trying to get rid of Hurdle.
  • The Cubs over the Astros: This is a tough call because Lilly is a lefty pitching in Houston. Uh oh!
  • The Blue Jays over the Rangers: The Rangers are not faring well against the AL East.
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: Alas, this could be the last we ever see of Dontrelle Willis.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Cain should be a better bet over Buckner.
  • The A's over the Twins: Suddenly, the A's are good? Strange how fast that happened.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: Chad Billingsley should beat anyone the Padres have.

Yesterday: 6-3
Week: 13-11
Month: 40-43

Homers in the New Yankee Stadium

Much has been made of the rate of homers that are flying out of the new Yankee Stadium. By the way, as an aside, how long do we have to call it "new" Yankee Stadium? It's not like New Coke. The old one isn't coming back. Anyway, there has been a homer hit in every game played at the new ball park. Scientists have weighed in on the issue. There have been 3.59 homers hit per game since the season began, more than any other park. Nearly every telecast has featured at least one version of, "The balls are flying out of here."

To be sure, there must be something to the speculation as even the National Weather Service has featured the reason why balls fly so far out to right field. But wait just a second. The Fan has watched nearly 75% of the games played at the Stadium. The only cheap homer the Fan has seen was Johnny Damon's in Monday night's game. The Fan can testify that most of those homers have been bombs; true and outright bombs. There has been nothing cheap about Teixeira's homers, nor Damon's, nor Swisher's, nor Posada's. They have been bombs that would have been out anywhere.

Early in the year, the Yankee pitchers were struggling and they were giving up as many homers as the Yankee opponents. But again, they were bombs. People will point to Teixeira's broken bat homer and say, "See!?" But that was to left field. The wind tunnel is supposed to be to right.

Can the Fan suggest that at least a part of the equation has been lousy pitching--early in the year by the Yankees and lately by their visitors? The numbers do support a wind tunnel theory if you see that the Yankee pitchers have given up 48 homers in 28 games at home compared to 29 homers in 28 games on the road. But they have only given up six in their last six home games.

But then again, the Yankees have hit 35 homers on the road and 57 at home, so there you go. The Fan has witnessed a lot of them though, and it just doesn't seem like a lot of them were cheap pop ups that turned into homers.

Night of the Living Dead

Many years ago...more years than imaginable really...two movies came out that were packaged as a double feature. One was the Night of the Living Dead and the other was Last House on the Left. That experience unnerved the senses so much that this writer has never seen another horror movie. The latter movie was perversely titillating and not as scary. But the first one [[shiver]] was chilling. The thought that someone was dead and buried but came back as a zombie to eat humans spawned many a nightmare. Baseball has a few of those living dead and like the movie, it seems implausible, but they are out there.

Livan Hernandez is one of them. The Fan has to take his lumps here. Left for dead, buried and even eulogized with a ditty right here in this FanDome, Livan has risen from the dead and is somehow feasting. Look, the guy was dead. You saw it too, right? He made four stops in 2007. His ERA+ in those four stops? How about 95, 64, 74 and 57. His WHIP in those four stops? How about 1.595, 1.667, 1.632 and 1.785. He was dead. Buried. And then the Mets signed him. The Fan scoffed. The world scoffed. He was dead!

Uhh...The Fan kept picking against him. He kept winning. The Fan blinked and rubbed his eyes. What? He's supposed to be dead! Now he's 5-1. His ERA+ is 110. His strikeouts per nine innings is nearly double that of last year. Holy horsefeathers! It's time to lock the doors. It's the undead!

Then there is Andruw Jones, the spell checker's best friend. He was fat. He threw away his career. That's the way it was told right here in the FanDome. The once great Jones batted .222 in 2007 with an OPS of .724 despite 26 homers. Then he went to the Dodgers in 2008 and Holy Hannah (as a dear old friend is apt to say), was he bad there. A .158 batting average. He's dead. He's buried. Gone. Eulogized. Will he still make the Hall of Fame?

Then the Rangers signed him to a Spring Training contract. Hahaha! Are they serious!? He's dead! He had tried winter ball and struck out almost 75% of the time there. He started Spring Training the same way. Then toward the end of the preseason, there was talk he could make the team. What?? You're kidding right? He's dead!

Except that he's got a .933 OPS in Texas with a .400 OBP. For the first time since 2006, he has as many hits as strikeouts. He's the undead. Hide your eyes! Shield the children!

Carl Pavano became a New York running gag. He was belittled on the Letterman show. He became a new name for the DL. "He's on the Pavano." When he did pitch, he was ineffective. He was dead, man. You saw it, didn't you? The Yankees sighed in huge relief when his contract was up. Somehow, they didn't see fit to pick up his option. The Indians signed him. Hahahahahaha! That's rich. Didn't they know the guy is dead? In his first game of the year for the Indians, he lasted an inning and gave up nine runs. See! Stupid! He's dead! He had an 81.00 ERA. That made Wang's look good by comparison. He lost his first three decisions. Like the Fan told you, he's dead!

Umm...then he won six of his next seven decisions. He beat Boston. He beat the Yankees. He beat Detroit. He beat the White Sox twice. His only loss during that time was a respectable 4-2. His ERA is all the way down to 4.62. His last outing was a three hit shutout and a complete game to boot. It's another walking undead! Egads! It's not safe to leave the house. Keep the flame thrower handy.

The Fan doesn't know about you, but these three guys are bringing back some pretty scary memories. Whatever you do, don't send your children up to them for an autograph. They just might not return. And if they do return, they just might have you for lunch.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Demise of Mariano Rivera?

Buster Olney mentioned in his blog yesterday that the great Mariano Rivera has lost some velocity on his cutter and it is not moving as much. According to Olney, that makes Rivera more vulnerable this year than in the past. Olney also points out that the pitcher is now 39 and this is to be expected. Is Rivera simply not that great anymore? Is this the beginning of the end for the great closer?

If you look at a couple of statistics, it certainly looks like Rivera isn't the same pitcher as last year. He has given up 26 hits in 23 innings of work, which is certainly higher than in the past. Plus, he has already given up more homers this year than all of last year. But you have to go beyond just those two stats to get the total picture.

The Fan already showed in a recent post that Rivera isn't the same pitcher and never has been in non-save situations as he is in save situations. For whatever reason, he has never been as successful when a save wasn't in the equation. For his career, opposing batters have a 88 OPS+ against him in save situations and 106 in non-save situations. In other words, they are far less than average when facing Rivera in save situations and better than average hitters when he is not in a save situation.

Last year, that statistic was even more exaggerated. Batters had a staggeringly light OPS+ against Rivera in save situations, coming in at 58. But they had stunning success in non-save situations with an OPS+ of 162. This year is the similar with a 75 OPS+ in save situations and 137 in non-save situations. One of the major differences was that last year those non-save situations made up 38% of his appearances. This year, 43% of his appearances have been in non-save situations.

BABIP or Batting Average for Balls in Play can also be instructive. First, it takes away the home run as part of the equation. For his career, Rivera has a BABIP of .259 in save situations and .272 in non-save situations. Last year, Rivera was just incredible and had a BABIP of .191 in save situations. That could indicate that he pitched better or it could indicate he was luckier than in the past. This year, his BABIP in save situations is .261, which is pretty close to his career average. But his BABIP in non-save situations is .337, which could indicate either a problem with his pitching location or a bit of bad luck.

Last year, Rivera had his best strikeout to walk ratio of his career at an incredible 12.53 to 1. He only walked six batters all year. This year's ratio is even better at 14 to 1. Last year, he struck out 9.8 batters per nine innings. This year, it's 10.8. And he has walked only one unintentional batter, and reports indicate he was unhappy about intentionally walking Longoria the other night when he lost the game in a non-save situation.

Lastly, let's discuss Olney's contention that Rivera has lost a step on his cutter. Perhaps the other night when he lost that game, his cutter was clocked at 89 to 91 MPH. But the Fan has watched quite a few of Rivera's performances. Last night, he was hitting 94 and in a game last week, he topped out at 97 and was throwing regularly in the 93 to 94 range.

Rivera can't top last year in what was one of the best years in closer history. He led all relievers in Win Shares last year, so you can't go by save total alone. Sure K-Rod set the record last year, but all stats indicate Rivera had a much better year. And Rivera did have shoulder surgery in the off season, so that could be a factor this year. But except for his hit total and the homer total, all of Rivera's stats are impressive and if he pitches in less non-save situations the rest of the year, his demise could be highly over-stated. In other words, the Fan predicts he will be just fine.

Game Picks - Monday: June 8, 2009

Thanks to some encouragement from a really nice comment on yesterday's game picks post, this picker will no longer whine at the vagaries of this nutty season in Major League Baseball. Instead, this picker will enjoy the ride and the summer no matter what happens. And like the comment suggested, these picks will come back to the mean eventually. After all, there is no money riding on these things. It's just for fun. It's baseball! Heck, why stress out over that!

So with that new attitude, here are today's picks for a light schedule day:

  • The Tigers over the White Sox: The Fan keeps waiting for the White Sox to start trading people. You know it's going to happen, right?
  • The Rockies over the Cardinals: The Rockies have certainly beat up the Cards this weekend. And they have their #2 starter going today in Marquis. That's Rule #1.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Sonnanstine pitched much better last time. But the Yankees are trying to make a statement this week with the Bay Rays and Boston coming up. Pettitte loves these types of situations.
  • The Pirates over the Braves: Long live Zack Duke!
  • The Marlins over the Giants: Randy Johnson on three days rest? Doesn't seem like a good idea.
  • The Rangers over the Blue Jays: Feldman has been on a roll for Texas.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: What do you do when you are faced with not just one Rule #2, but two? Rule #2 states that you never pick a guy making his first start of the year after injury or the first start back from rehab. This game features Contreras versus Bonderman, both in that situation. Since they seem to cancel each other out, take the best team.
  • The Padres over the Diamondbacks: Like Peavy over Garland. Is Peavy overrated?
  • The A's over the Twins: Two young pitchers going against each other in Outman and Swarzak. The A's have been the hotter team.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 7-8
Month: 41-52

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Game Picks - Sunday: June 7, 2009

Mercy. That's all this picker can do at this point is beg for mercy. Picking games this past month has been like playing Hearts on Microsoft Windows and always having one spade of either the King, the Queen or the Ace. The picker has a mental image of some local bookie setting odds by this blog feature, only changing it to be the opposite to be favored from whatever is picked here. It's not like this picker is uninformed. A person just randomly throwing darts at team names could pick more winners at this point. Flummoxed. Totally Flummoxed.

Today's picks because the Fan doesn't want to talk about it any more.

  • The Angels over the Tigers: Saunders over Porcello.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Chamberlain over Garza in a good matchup.
  • The Blue Jays over the Royals: Halladay over Davies. It will be interesting to see what Halladay has after 133 pitches his last outing.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Because the Fan is tired of picking against Arroyo and losing.
  • The Mets over the Nationals: The Nationals won their game of the week yesterday.
  • The Braves over the Brewers: Just because the Fan wants to get on the Hanson bandwagon. Weeee!
  • The Red Sox over the Rangers: Padilla hits J. D. Drew, which makes the right-fielder actually care about something.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: Two so-so pitchers, so toss the coin.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: Same as the game above this one.
  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: The redbirds have been blown out two games in a row. The Rockies must be exhausted.
  • The Padres over the Diamondbacks: Because Haren won't get any run support.
  • The A's over the Orioles: Because the A's are suddenly hitting.
  • The Twins over the Mariners: Because the Twins hit better than the Mariners.
  • The Giants over the Marlins: Because Lincecum discovered a new pitch when he threw his hat at the dugout wall last week.
  • The Dodgers over the Phillies: Because the Phillies are pitching a swear word.

Yesterday: 5-10
Week: 37-47
Month: 34-44

Closer Brought in for Games that are Tied

There is this "book" that everyone seems to talk about. This "book" has nuggets such as bunting for a sacrifice when at home but not on the road (or maybe it's the opposite). One of the newest items in the "book" is that you bring in a closer if it's the ninth inning and the score is tied and you are the home team. The same "book" says that you don't bring the closer in a ninth inning tie score situation if you are on the road. Like all items in the "book," these baseball "rules" are based on logic passed down from one manager to the next. But are they always logical and based on accumulated data? Probably not. Let's take a look at the closer pitching the ninth in a tie game entry.

The Fan has watched Mariano Rivera pitch for a long time. One thing this casual observer has always noticed is that he doesn't seem to be the same pitcher in non-save situations. Doing some research, the data proves that casual observation. In save situations, batters facing Rivera have an 88 OPS+ against him. Advantage Mo. But in non-save situations, he becomes rather ordinary and batters have a 106 OPS+. Advantage batter. To take it further. in save situations, Rivera has a 4.58 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio. In non-save situations, that figure is 3.44 to 1. Of course, this observation was exacerbated by Rivera's loss today in a tie game.

If you take Rivera by himself, then the "book" looks like it's messed up. Bringing Rivera in a tie game doesn't seem as effective. But before making that major pronouncement, we better look at more closers than just Rivera. The following lists the batters' OPS+ for several closers in save situations (the first number) and non-save situations (the second number).

Trever Hoffman: 92 - 115
Billy Wagner: 104 - 94
Francisco Rodriguez: 99 - 101
Joe Nathan: 72 - 88
Brad Lidge: 94 - 107
Bobby Jenks: 88 - 115
Troy Percival: 94 - 110
Jonathan Papelbon: 93 - 97
Lee Smith: 98 - 102

The Fan already knows some of this data is corrupt. For example, Rivera, Jenks and Papelbon each had a year of starting before they became relievers. Lidge, Percival and Wagner have always pitched in relief. But considering that most of these pitchers' statistics come from relieving, then that flushes out most of the offending data (at least in this small mind's opinion).

As easily seen from the numbers in the list, at times it pays to listen to that "book" and at times it does not. Papelbon, Nathan and Billy Wagner are good bets in non-save situations. These three come in under 100 in non-save situations meaning they still have the advantage over the hitters. Lee Smith seems like a wash either way as does K-Rod. But all the rest are iffy at best when brought into non-save situations like a tie game in the ninth inning, no matter if their teams are home or on the road. Hoffman, Jenks, Lidge and Percival all give the hitters an advantage in non-save situations.

So what should a manager do then? The manager should study the data and should save pitchers like Rivera, Jenks, Lidge, Hoffman and Percival for save situations. They may prepare differently or have different mental processes for save situations than non-save situations. It may be harder for them to be pumped up. The batters might be in different states of minds facing these closers when save situation occurs and when it doesn't.

The manager should also know that Papelbon, Nathan and Wagner are good bets in such situations. Since all these figures are readily available, then who pitches in tie games can be based on splits for such occasions and not on some ephemeral "book" passed down for generations.