Saturday, August 15, 2009

Game Picks - Saturday: August 15, 2009

This picker fell back to earth last night as several things went wrong with the picks. The Orioles exploded against the Angels. Greinke again didn't allow a run and once again, his team didn't score any. And then, in his infinite wisdom, Hillman brings in Colon to seal the loss. And once again, those confounded Twins did it again. They are, without pause, the most frustrating team on earth. Baker, who got pounded twice in a row (both picks were for him), threw a gem (when the pick was against him). Truly amazing.

The Fan also fell to second place on BallHype. No surprise there. Oh well, we need to get these picks going as the first tee is calling the Fan's name.

  • The Pirates over the Cubs: This pick looks good unless the Cubs score a dozen runs since Gorzelanny is starting for the Cubs.
  • The Athletics over the White Sox: Gio Gonzalez has been good his last two starts and he is the type of pitcher that can get geezers out.
  • The Phillies over the Braves: Hamels versus Kawakami. Not feeling the Braves in that match up.
  • The Mets over the Giants: Great match up of Cain versus Santana. Santana was dealing it last time out. Thinking he does it again here.
  • The Indians over the Twins: Okay. The Fan is so messed up on the Twins, he thinks they should win, so they will lose. Right?
  • The Marlins over the Rockies: The program lists Vanden Hurk versus Cook. But wasn't Cook hurt and didn't the story say he could miss a start? Therefore, Marlins.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: The Brewers have come alive and scored like fifty runs their last two games. Moehler has to look mighty sweet to those swatters.
  • The Angels over the Orioles: Lackey versus a kids. These are the kinds of games that just drive you crazy.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: Yeah, if the Royals couldn't score against a mediocre pitcher, how are they going to score against Jackson?
  • The Bay Rays over the Blue Jays: Tallet versus Kazmir. Kazmir has been okay lately. Where has Tallet been?
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Pineiro has been looking like he is tired, but the Padres are dead in the water.
  • The Rangers over the Red Sox: Penny should get hit by the Rangers' lineup. The wild card here is Holland, who has sucked most of the year but was unhittable last time out. Oy.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: The Dodgers simply are the better team when the pitching match up is about even.
  • The Mariners over the Yankees: The Yankees throw Mitre out there again. Ugh.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 46-33
Month: 97-91

Boner Medicine

Normally in the FanDome, we try to keep things PG rated (nodding to eyeb), but a recent and very entertaining post by the great Joe Posnanski brought up (hint pun) one of this writer's most enduring irritants. It's only somewhat baseball related because these guys spend millions of dollars advertising on baseball telecasts. But then again, they spend millions advertising on all sports events, local news, national news and just about everywhere else. Yes, we're talking about boner medicine.

The Fan is somewhat sensitive to this topic because late in life, the Fan became the dad of an angel of a girl who is now thirteen years old. Fortunately (confused if that is fortunate or not), she thinks the commercials are gross. But the point is, why should she have to endure them? Why do any of us have to?

As Mr. Posnanski points out, there is no getting around the warnings to call a doctor immediately if your erection lasts more than four hours. There is no getting around the whole point of these commercials that erections are the issue at hand (that was an unfortunate pun). Okay, it's understood that some men have a problem in this area. And it's a good thing that our grandfathers have a new shot at some fun, that is, as long as we don't have to picture it or think about that concept very much. But really, why do we have to endure these blooming commercials day in and day out?

And who writes these things? The Fan's wife thinks men do and the Fan thinks that women do. Either way, they are pretty ridiculous. The first thing that comes to mind is those dang Cialis bath tubs. Who on G-d's green earth actually thinks that sitting in separate tubs (on the beach, in a garden, in a field, in a mountain) would be romantic? How do they get the water in there? Wouldn't it be more romantic and useful to what the medicine does to have both people in the same tub? If "the moment becomes right" wouldn't hopping into the other person's small bath tub be inconvenient?

And what about the other ones where the guy throw away the remotes and she throws away the magazines? Do they make use of what the medicine does? Nope, they dance instead. That reminds the Fan of the geckos down in Florida that go through an hour long ritual of showing off for each other before they actually get to business. Just do it, man!

It's bad enough that the commercials are on constantly, now these drugs are sponsoring events. In golf, we have/had "The Cialis Open." That gives new meaning to the golf expression, "hitting it stiff." During baseball games, we have the Cialis Pitching Change or other such inglorious uses of the name. Imagine the poor announcers (obviously an oxymoron) who have to read that crap and see it all over their program notes.

All this is Bill Clinton's fault. It was his dalliances with interns that became such big news that boners and other sexual acts started getting mentioned in news stories. Hey, if it's in news stories, then we sure as heck have a right to advertise about this great medicine that allows men everywhere to get erections with a magic pill. There is even a choice now between a daily pill and a spur of the moment pill. Good to know.

Baseball, more than most sports is a passed-down-through-the-generation type thing. Parents take the kids out to the games, watch games on TV and slog the kids to Little League. How many awkward conversations get generated for these poor parents when little John-EE or Amberlyn (got to get all these new-fangled names in there to be relevant) ask what an erection is?

And have you noticed that all of the actors in these commercials look fit as fiddles? Not an overweight or wrinkly face anywhere in sight. And worst of all, one of Elvis Presley's best songs is totally ruined forever by Viagra. That is truly the crime of the decade.

While we are on the subject, why must we also endure so many commercials about guys who can't pee? Or dentures that ooze? Or women who can't hold it? Or jock itch? Or feminine itch? Or women that can't naturally lubricate (ewww)? An evening at the old ballgame has become this creepy litany of oozing, itching, peeing and dancing-until-you-do-it bonanza. It's awful.

In an effort to be journalistically justified, this author must confess to trying Viagra once even though (thank G-d) there is no problem for this big and late-middle-aged fellow. It made the family jewels ache for an hour or so. It felt like someone had permanently kicked the Fan in the nuts. Not exactly romantic.

Look, the Fan gets it. These drugs make their companies a lot of money. Does all that advertising really make a difference though? Just about everyone in America now knows that if you can't pee, or can't stop peeing, can't get it up, can't stop itching, can't lubricate or whatever, there is medicine that can help you. Now that we are all informed until we are either numb or nauseous, can't we get these dang things away from our ball games, golf matches and rounds of Jeopardy? This dad would be eternally grateful if we could.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A New Wonderkind

Remember a couple of years ago when Joba Chamberlain was first called up to the Yankees and the buzz that was created by his heroics? That same kind of buzz is surrounding a new pitcher by the name of Neftali Feliz, who has provided the Rangers with a huge lift in relief.

According to the scouts, he has two A-plus pitches, a hundred mile an hour fastball and a curve that is thrown so hard and has such a biting break that the batters don't seem to have a chance. He's now pitched in four games for a total of 6.2 innings. He's given up one hit, a homer, no walks and has struck out 13. Wow!

It's early in his young career, but he sure has made an early impression. To see what he's all about, click this link and see for yourself. It's quite amazing.

Game Picks - Friday: August 14, 2009

Whoa! This picker is way behind schedule. Been up since six working on a rush book order due today because the dang paper company was late shipping the special paper needed for the job. Oh well. At least the picks were again in the very positive zone. This picker is still atop the leader board at But the game picker has not yet finished a week on top of that silly site as you get more points sometimes being wrong half the time than when you are correct 75% of the time.

Another full Friday and since we're already late, let's get right to it.

  • The Cubs over the Pirates: Morton has been pretty good for the Pirates, but Wells is the only Cubs' pitcher to keep on winning.
  • The Angels over the Orioles: Weaver has been outstanding lately.
  • The Royals over the Tigers: Yeah, the Tigers should win, but Washburn is no lock for them and Greinke is pitching for the Royals.
  • The Marlins over the Rockies: Josh Johnson should be better than Hammel.
  • The Giants over the Mets: Zito? He's been pretty good, but it sure is scary picking him to win. Parnell though hasn't been good as a starter.
  • The Nationals over the Reds: Might as well make a Mock-ery of this pick.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: Like Jurrjens better than Blanton.
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Another battle of the "Ays" features Halladay for the Blue Jays.
  • The Astros over the Brewers: Berkman is back and the Fan was foolish to give up on Wandy last time.
  • The Red Sox over the Rangers: Hate to make this pick, but the trust is more in Lester than in Millwood.
  • The Indians over the Twins: Still one for sixty with Twins' picks. It's amazing how this team baffles.
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Latos is good but not as good as Wainwright.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Hate picking against Haran, but Kershaw will shut down the other offense.
  • The Athletics over the White Sox: Anderson has been really good for the A's and Contreras is problematic.
  • The Yankees over the Mariners: Pettitte has looked ten years younger lately and the Yankees are pounding the ball.

There you have it. Have a great weekend.

Yesterday: 6-3
Week: 39-25
Month: 90-83

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Some Quick Observations

Many of these items have stories in them that perhaps can be expanded later. But for the moment, there are too many thoughts swirling around for any of them to gel completely. They are, nonetheless, interesting and worth noting for your digestion.

Pedro pitched decently and got the win. It was amazing to see Pedro Martinez back in the majors and in a game. He gave up three runs in five innings (not much better than Moyer) while allowing eight base runners. He did strike out five while only walking one, so that is a good sign.

The Brewers are a mess. They looked like contenders early in the year but have fallen on really hard times. Yesterday, they cut Bill Hall (not a problem there) and optioned J. J. Hardy to the minors. Hardy still has some pop and it doesn't seem to make sense to dump him like that. If they were trying to send a message, the Hall thing would have been enough. If they are giving up on Hardy, a lot of teams would love to have him. The Brewers also fired long-time pitching coach, Bill Castro, as if it was his fault they lost half of their rotation and the others didn't perform. What a mess.

The Astros activated Lance Berkman and they will be happy to have their big bopper back at first. Doesn't this scenario seem familiar? It seems like every year, Berkman shambles along, then goes on the DL for a while and then comes back and has monster Augusts and Septembers. At least it feels like we have been through this before.

And last but not least, believe it or not, Adam Eaton is back in the major leagues again. Can you believe it! The Rockies are his latest team and they just promoted him from AAA. Man. Go figure.

Game Picks - Thursday: August 13, 2009

Last week {{shiver}} is a thing of the past and this week has been a good one. Heck, even the month is now in the black. Well, alright! Only those crazy Twins messed up again along with the Cubs and the Marlins (can you say, "Thump"), Diamondbacks and Bay Rays. Other than that, everything worked out really well.

Tonight is a short schedule with only nine games, but let's see if we can keep this ball rolling:

  • The Rangers over the Indians: Feldman! Go Feldman!
  • The Twins over the Royals: Here we go again with the Twins. The Fan is even picking Pavano to win. Geez.
  • The Tigers over the Red Sox: The Tigers need to get moving and they have the closest thing to an ace on the mound. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are pitching Buckholz.
  • The Padres over the Brewers: Latos has been surprisingly good. Parra has not. The Brewers are in disarray.
  • The Phillies over the Cubs: Lee has been unbelievable for the Phillies.
  • The Rockies over the Pirates: Would like to go with Maholm and the Pirates, but Maholm has been beatable lately and this picker can't pick against Marquis.
  • The Reds over the Nationals: Arroyo is due for a good game.
  • The Astros over the Marlins: Not real swift on Mike Hampton who has been getting pounded. But Sean West gives this picker no confidence.
  • The Yankees over the Mariners: Sabathia has his second good start in a row and the New Yorkers jump all over Ian Snell despite the jet lag.

Beautiful summer day in Maine. Hope it's nice wherever you are!

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 33-22
Month: 84-80

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jack Cust's Perfect Symmatry

Before last night's game, Cust had reached a Nirvana of sorts. Cust entered Wednesday night's game with 1704 plate appearances. In those 1704 plate appearances, he has walked 305 times and struck out 547 times. Add those two together and you get 852 or exactly 50% of his plate appearances. The number is freaky.

What that means is that in Cust's entire career, 50% of his trudges up to the plate result in a ball not put in play. If you add in his homers at 80, then that brings the total to 55% of his plate appearances where the fielders can sit it out and take a rest. Has there ever been anyone like Cust? Ever?

The sad thing is that Cust is regressing instead of getting better. His strikeout rate is better at 33% this year compared to 40% last year (39% for his career). But his last three years show a decline in his OPS. In 2007 it was .912. Last year it was .851 and this year he's down to .777. He is also playing a lot in the field which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It might have done so when Giambi was there, but not now. He's a DH if there ever was one.

But, he is Jack Cust and there is no one else like him. What did he do Wednesday night? He had four plate appearances. He struck out twice and he walked twice. It was a typical Jack Cust night. But it did mess up the symmetry. Now the total of his walks and strikeouts compared to his plate appearances is at 50.12%

Heltoning it on the Head

A player has now, at the age of 34, amassed 2086 career hits, 321 homers, 504 doubles, 1181 RBI, a lifetime .328 batting average and has a lifetime OPS of .997. Future member of the Hall of Fame? The player is Todd Helton and his problem is his home field. Helton has played his entire career for the Colorado Rockies and unfortunately, his career is hard to take seriously because of it. Is that fair?

Well, one thing is certain: If he had a few more years like last year, it would have been a moot conversation. He had a .777 OPS last year and only hit .264. He became a forgotten man after that. But he is at the center of the Rockies resurgence this year and is batting .329 with an OPS of .919. So it is safe to assume that last year was an anomaly based on injuries or something.

But since he is back, the debate again comes up because, as this year proves, if Helton can put a few more decent seasons together, he's going to have a lot of good career numbers. The debate will rage around where he plays his home games and proof will be sought after by his career home/away splits. So let's look at them.

Home: .362/.469/.647
Away: .304/.394/.492

That's a pretty big difference. The BA is still very good as is the OBP. But the slugging certainly suffers. Is this a knock only on Todd Helton. Is his home playing field a singular event for just him? Are there others in history that are similar? Certainly Hank Aaron is a prime example of a true superstar. His stats at home and away are so similar over his storied career that they are within percentage points. Mickey Mantle suffered some in the home/away splits but still slugged .548 on the road during his career.

Here are a couple of Hall of Fame splits. The Fan will reveal the players after:

Player 1:

Home: .290/.349/.538
Away: .258/.311/.461

Quite a difference there.

Player 2:

Home: .354/.443/.491
Away: .302/.387/.395

Big difference there too.

Player 3:

Home: .320/.383/.506
Away: .290/.356/.469

All three of the above are in the Hall of Fame and all three have fairly significant number differences home and away. There could be more examples, but home and away splits are unavailable (at least on before 1973. The players? Ernie Banks, Wade Boggs and George Brett.

So, there you have it. Three players have all gotten into the Hall of Fame despite significant differences in their home and away splits. But where the Rockies play their home games (whatever they call it now!) seems to have an even more biased history than other former hitters' parks. That is so much the case that Helton's unbelievable numbers in 2000 and 2001 are always blamed on his home field without a hint of steroids. Name any other player where that would be the case?

Steps have been taken in Denver to change some of the advantage the hitters have. The Humidor (whatever that is) is one example. One doesn't hear as much about pitchers not being able to succeed there now as there was in the past. Perhaps that will work in Helton's favor if he stays with the Rockies over his career.

Matt Holliday certainly heard the same whispers and his time in Oakland seemed to cement them as the truth. But now that Holliday is with the Cardinals and again whopping the ball, perhaps that will die down too.

What is a shame, perhaps, is that nobody really knows how good Todd Helton really was or is. As long as his past and present is tied up with the Rockies, his Hall of Fame resume will be debated for a long, long time.

Game Picks - Wednesday: August 12, 2009

The good vibe is back and this picker is 18-7 in his last two days. That somewhat erases the horrid taste left on the palette from last week. As bobook pointed out (thank you), it's a pretty good day when picking the Pirates, Reds, Padres and Royals to win and three out of the four do win. Heck, the picker is even on top of the list this week on (too bad that site's screwy scoring system won't allow this picker to stay there). For those of you keeping score, the picker is now 1312-1155 in picks for the season. That's 157 games over .500. Do you know what the Fan's cumulative score is for that record? -6. Yes, minus 6. Something is screwy there huh?

Anyway, the morning is frittering away, so we better get to the picks:

  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are playing tough, but the Yankees are too much.
  • The A's over the Orioles: Mazzero versus Berken. Flip a coin on which young pitcher will perform. Who knows.
  • The Bay Rays over the Angels: Neimann should beat Bell. But again, this pick is fraught with danger as the Angels are playing well and the Bay Rays are playing like there is still the whole season to get into wild card contention. In other words, there is little urgency there.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Mets: The good Oliver Perez or the bad one? Who can ever tell.
  • The Giants over the Dodgers: Torre must have a Jeff Weaver fixation. Only that can explain why the great manager has this weak spot for this awful pitcher.
  • The Rangers over the Indians: Again: The Rangers need to win just about every game.
  • The Marlins over the Astros: The Marlins should teach the Bay Rays a thing or two about how to act in a wild card race.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: The Nats' winning streak is history and so is their nice little buzz.
  • The Red Sox over the Tigers: The Red Sox will eat Galarraga for lunch while Beckett cleans up.
  • The Padres over the Brewers: The Brew Crew might as well wave the white flag as they keep trotting Villanueva out there.
  • The Cubs over the Phillies: Pedro's first start of the year for the Phillies? Not feeling it.
  • The Royals over the Twins: Those dang Twins screwed the Fan up again yesterday.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Carpenter. Homer Bailey. Yeah. That's what the Fan thought too.
  • The Rockies over the Pirates: Thought about taking Hart and the Pirates. But then thought against it.
  • The Mariners over the White Sox: Buehrle threw 14 straight perfect innings and hasn't gotten anyone out since. Whuh?

Yesterday: 11-4
Week: 23-17
Month: 74-75

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Game Picks - Tuesday: August 11, 2009

Well, that's better. With the exception of the American League East, with other than Toronto beating the Yankees, confused this picker quite a bit. Didn't expect the Red Sox to beat the Tigers. Really thought that Garza would fare better against the Angels. And this picker really should have known better than to pick Guthrie. Guthrie!? Duh.

But over all, seven out of ten is a lot better than things have been lately. It is Tuesday and we are back to a full fifteen games, which, based on things last week, fill this picker with dread. But facing things is what this picker does. So on we go:

  • The Orioles over the A's: Hernandez versus Cahill. Can't remember the last time Cahill had a good outing.
  • The Rangers over the Indians: Very scary game. The Rangers need the wins. The Indians have been getting them in bunches.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Now that we have Mitre out of the way, it's back to our regularly scheduled programming.
  • The Marlins over the Astros: Not only is Volstad doing well, but Oswalt is back for his first game after injuring his back. Not liking that scenario.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: Hanson versus Lannon. The Braves stop the Nats' winning streak even though the Nationals are using their best pitcher.
  • The Tigers over the Red Sox: Porcello is a scary pick, but the Red Sox are starting Tazawa, the same young kid who gave up A-Rod's bomb in the 15th inning Friday night.
  • The Padres over the Brewers: Richard was a lot for the White Sox to give up for Peavy.
  • The Phillies over the Cubs: Happ versus Harden. Going with Happ.
  • The Twins over the Royals: Did you notice that the Fan got a Twins' game pick correct yesterday? It's a miracle!
  • The Reds over the Cardinals: Lehr hasn't lacked courage since he came up from the minors. Did you get that joke?
  • The Pirates over the Rockies: Ohlendorf! Ha ha! He is pitching against the latest reincarnation of Chacin.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Mets: Man, how the Fan hates picking against Livan.
  • The Bay Rays over the Angels: David Price needs to have a big game.
  • The White Sox over the Mariners: Isn't Fister one of the most unfortunate names?
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Randy Wolf needs to win this game to put the Dodgers back on easy street.

Well, there it is. It doesn't feel like another 5-10 line up.

Yesterday: 7-3
Week: 12-13
Month: 63-71

Padilla, Guillen and the DH

There certainly has been a lot of discussion about hit batsmen lately. Vincent Padilla, apparently a leper to his teammates, likes to hit guys after someone hits a homer off of him. It happened earlier in the year against the Yankees and happened again just last week. In the most recent incarnation, Michael Young got drilled in retaliation. Texas players were fed up with having targets on their backs and when Texas drop kicked one of its semi-reliable starters from its roster, there was nothing but praise for their GM by the Rangers' players.

In another news wire story today, White Sox manager, Ozzie Guillen, no stranger to the verbal highlight reels, said he was tired of his guys getting hit and would start hitting players on the other team if it continued. He was quoted as saying that he doesn't care if he gets suspended if it happens.

There are two problems here that have caused the present situation. The American League has the DH. Those who visit the FanDome on a regular basis know the Fan is a conditional lover of the DH. But one of the fall outs of the AL rule is that if the other team feels that its players are targeted, the DH takes the pitcher out of the lineup, so the other team has no other option than to hit another player. Take Padilla for example (which in all likelihood, somebody will). Padilla has his manhood offended by a homer. He decides to get some of his manhood back by plunking a subsequent batter. Padilla doesn't bat. So the opposing team can't go after him. The only option they have is to hit someone like Michael Young.

If the Fan had been the Texas manager, here's how that could have been handled. Obviously, Ranger players have been warned by other teams. Michael Young said so himself after the Yankee incident. Several of his "friends" on the Yankees (read Teixeira, A-Rod and Jeter) told him that Padilla was going to get his fellow Ranger players killed. So, since this is a known problem, the next time it happened, the Fan as manager would insert Padilla in the batting order where the DH is supposed to be. Can you see how that would play out?

Fan as Manager: "Padilla, grab a bat, you're hitting for Blalock."
Padilla: "Que?"
Fan as Manager: "Oh for goodness sake, will somebody bilingual please tell the guy he is going to hit for Blalock."
Bilingual Teammate: [[spanish translation]]
Padilla: "Porque? He Loco?"

Padilla glances at his manager who does a head shake towards the bat rack. Padilla grabs a bat and furiously begs fellow teammates for whatever body armor they wear up to the plate. Finally the umpire walks over and says, "You have a guy to hit or what?"

Padilla walks nervously to the batter's box. He looks out at the pitcher who just smiles at him. Padilla takes the first pitch which is at his feet. Padilla displays a good dance move to get out of the way. He's even more nervous now. The next pitch is a rocket heading right for Padilla's back. No way Padilla has time to get out the way. The sound is something like a hammer hitting a watermelon. Padilla winces and immediately grabs his back. The pitcher on the mound snickers all the way to the dugout after being tossed from the game. Padilla's teammates snicker too as the trainer tries to keep from laughing as he tries to assess the damage. Padilla vows he is never going to "man up" again and hit an opposing batter.

That would fix it. But it will never happen because a manager would be foolish to lose a DH for a game. Now that the Rangers have punted the pitcher, if he signs with a National League club, he better wise up.

The second problem (you have probably lost the reference here as the Fan had a slight diversion of fancy) is that one of the new Nirvanas for pitching is to pitch inside. As Ozzie rightly points out, if you don't know how to do it, don't do it. In other words, pitching inside is a great idea IF you have the control to pull it off. But if you are slightly unaware of where your mechanics are going to take your pitches, pitching inside is probably not a good idea. People can get killed that way. And it might be your own players who get thrown at in retaliation.

Speaking of hit batsmen, did you watch the Sunday night ESPN game with the Red Sox and Yankees? After Damon and Teixeira wrecked Daniel Bard with back-to-back homers, Bard then walked A-Rod. After Okijama came in, Posada doubled to put men on second and third. That brought up Nick Swisher. On the first pitch to Swisher, the pitch came inside and appeared to graze Swisher's uniform. Swisher, an apparent student of the game and the metrics of OBP, looked at the ump and told him he had been hit. The ump didn't see it that way.

Old school Joe Morgan (and the Fan couldn't quite disagree with him) laughed and said something to the effect of, "Why would he want to go to first like that when he has two possible RBIs sitting out there." Such is the vast cavern of thought currently in baseball. Morgan played in the "RBI is king" days of statistical evaluation. Swisher plays in the "OBP is king" days.

It all worked out for Swisher as he hit a single. He got his two ribbies AND a notch on his OBP.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Yankees Sweep the Red Sox

It wasn't your typical whooping, but it was a masterful series the Yankees just played against the Red Sox, a team that had swept them for the season before this series. The Yankees out pitched the Red Sox and they out hit them. The Yankees made a mess of the best bullpen in baseball while their own bullpen (with the exception of Phil Coke on Sunday night) was fantastic. In every way, this series was all Yankees as the team from New York started the series with a two and a half game lead in the division and left it leading by six and a half.

It started on Thursday night. The Red Sox, needing to continue beating the Yankees, made a tactical blunder by starting the once-great John Smoltz. Smoltz had done nothing to that point in showing that he could get the job done and after the first couple of innings, the game was over. The Red Sox, in effect, took the pressure off the Yankees, who had been under the eight ball all year by the Boston team. There is no denying that Smoltz has had a great career, but when you are already trailing by two and a half, you work your rotation so your best guys are up there to beat the team you have to beat. If Beckett had started the series and blanked them early on, there is no telling if the Yankees would have stayed tight looking down the barrel of a ninth straight defeat against the Red Sox. So that was a mistake.

The Friday night game will be remembered for a long, long time. Fourteen and a half innings of scoreless baseball. Beckett and Burnett were fabulous as the starters. Both bullpens hung in there with the Red Sox escaping several close calls in the 11th, 13th and 14th innings. But then A-Rod won it against a young Japanese kid making his major league debut. A pitcher only in there because every other Red Sox relief pitcher was already used up.

Saturday was Sabathia's game. His first big moment in a Yankee uniform. After a so-so season, he no-hit the Red Sox for five and pitched a shutout. Buckholz did well, but not well enough and the Yankees then torched the worn out Red Sox bullpen to ice the game.

Sunday night was a great game. Both starters were excellent. Andy Pettitte had a scary couple of innings early, but pitched seven shutout innings and got stronger as the night went on. In the bottom of the seventh, A-Rod murdered a pitch from Lester and the Yankees went ahead 1-0. The way the Yankee bullpen has been pitching, that figured to be enough. But Phil Coke was not sharp and the newly acquired Victor Martinez launched a two-run homer to make it a 2-1 Red Sox lead. The homer snapped a 32 inning scoreless streak for the Red Sox in the series.

It seemed as if the Red Sox were going to salvage at least one game of the series, especially with their bullpen. But young Daniel Bard was called in to pitch to the Yankees in the eighth as the bridge to Papelbon. The Yankees burned down the bridge. After two weak outs on a strikeout to Matsui and an excuse-me swing by Jeter, Johnny Damon hit a laser into the bullpen to tie the game. Mark Teixeira then came up and put the Yankees ahead with a moon shot to the upper deck. After a walk to A-Rod, the Red Sox then brought in the usually reliable Okijama, but he was ineffective and the inning ended with the Yankees up 5-2. Rivera made it a little scary in the ninth, but he got the save and the Red Sox now need to regroup as they head for another tough series against Detroit.

The Fan watched most of this series and has long believed this year that the Red Sox were the best team in baseball. They seemed to have it all. But after watching the four games, something is not clicking. Certainly David Ortiz is not the fearsome force he has been in the past, and though the Red Sox have lived with that all year, it seems to have weakened the entire lineup and has forced other guys to step up and they haven't. It almost seems that the Red Sox have lost some confidence because they don't have that force in the middle of the lineup in big situations like before.

The Red Sox are missing something else: Manny Ramirez. Sure, they got into the ALCS last year without him. But over the long haul, he was a menace and a terror, especially combined with Ortiz. It is hard to say if Ortiz would have put up the numbers he did for so long without Manny behind him. Take Ortiz and his diminished capacity and remove Ramirez completely and the Red Sox are ordinary at the plate. And good pitching, like the Yankees showed this series, will exploit ordinary in ways the Red Sox have not been exploited in years.

It will be interesting to see where Boston goes from here. They are now only tied for the wildcard with the Rangers and the Bay Rays are right behind. The Red Sox still have some of the best pitching in the majors. After this series, it will be fascinating to see if it is enough.

Game Picks - Monday: August 10, 2009

Holy Cow, as Phil Rizzuto used to say. A third straight 5-10 day. How sweet it isn't. After a swinging July, August has been downright scorched for this picker and there seems to be no end to the massacre. Wow!

The laughing continued with the Twins. If you caught this feature yesterday, the Fan was making fun of himself for his continued bedevilment at the hand of this team. It goes on and on each and every night and after the Fan got Pavanoed on Saturday, he got Home Run Bakered on Sunday. Add the Twins fits with the Brew Crew and a Nationals' eight game winning streak, and the Fan is slobbering all over his keyboard like some member of Red Sox Nation after this lost weekend.

Thankfully, there are only ten games on the schedule for Monday, so it is statistically impossible to go 5-10 again. Let's see what mischief is waiting for us on Monday:

  • The Orioles over the A's: Guthrie is supposed to be the ace of this staff. It would be nice if he had a game like one. Many of the Orioles' young hitters might have seen Gio Gonzalez in the minors, so maybe that will help too.
  • The Blue Jays over the Yankees: Will this be a Yankee let down after their big series, or will they be undone by Mitre. Either way, it feels like a loss.
  • The Marlins over the Astros: Nick Johnson makes Florida better, but they still run Bonafacio out there too much. Golly, he is awful.
  • The Tigers over the Red Sox: Three problems for the Red Sox here: 1) They are demoralized. 2) They have Penny starting. 3) Jackson starts for Detroit.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Lohse should be better than Cueto, who the Fan has given up on.
  • The Rockies over the Cubs: Somehow the Cubs won last time with Gorzelanny starting. It won't happen again.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Mets: The D-backs are at home and since the teams and their starters are basically even, we'll go with that.
  • The Bay Rays over the Angels: Garza has been good. But the Bay Rays have their chance and they are frittering it away. They need to get going.
  • The Mariners over the White Sox: The Mariners are getting to be like the Twins for the Fan...a mine field.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Going with Kuroda over Sanchez. The Dodgers better stop coasting.

That's it. Please let better days prevail!

Yesterday: 5-10
Week: 5-10
Month: 56-68 Ugh!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Still Rooting for Josh Hamilton

Speaking of Jeff Passan, he wrote a fair piece on Josh Hamilton, who as everyone now knows, fell off the wagon recently and was caught publicly in a bar in some compromising situations. Passan, as well as all of us that root for humanity, were disappointed that Hamilton fell off the wagon. It's difficult to state the hope that Hamilton represented. The one thing to remember is that Hamilton had an episode. He did not have a complete bender.

The Fan is familiar with addiction. Having first hand knowledge of the subject in family matters, there is no greater and more stressful horror than a loved one who cannot seem to lick such a situation. For those like us who are familiar with such horrors, Hamilton represented hope, but also worry because we know what can happen.

Who knows why good young people (and good old people) fall into such a trap. Lives are ruined, families are wrecked and it is never pretty. Some day, the Fan may be able to get everything out on the page of what he has experienced on the topic. But for now, let's just say that the heart goes out to Hamilton and prayers are being said for him and his family.

It's far too easy to judge Hamilton. Those that judge have not experienced the horror that is addiction. From one who has seen it first hand, there is no judgement here. There is only immense hope that Hamilton can be surrounded by his support system and find new resolve in this situation.

Tower of Babel Lego House

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports has never been a favorite writer. For one thing, he is much too young to be such a self-righteous writer. That is usually reserved for older writers like Buster Olney. But the Fan wandered over to his column yesterday and read an entertaining piece called, 25 things you didn't know about baseball. First of all, what is it with titles not being capitalized? But getting past that, the article was about Passan discovering FanGraphs, the amazing statistical enterprise that is one of the best things about being a baseball fan in our era. As the title suggests, Passan lists 25 statistical facts that surprised him from his experience at FanGraphs. The Fan was grooving with him until the very end when the one weakness of relying solely on stats revealed itself. Passan was at least smart enough to hit upon it too.

The stat was about the six hitters in baseball that do not have a vulnerability on any pitch. Mauer, Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter, Adam Jones were listed. Fair enough. But then the last one listed was Skip Schumaker. Skip Schumaker? Now be honest, if it was bases loaded, two outs, in the bottom of the ninth with the Cardinals trailing by a run with Trevor Hoffman on the mound, would Skip Schumaker be the one guy you hoped would come up to bat to get the big hit for the Cardinals? Maybe. But maybe not.

Passan is awfully young to just be starting to be turned on by statistics. No offense, but young folks should be all over that new aspect of the game. Us old fogies are understandable if we are a bit late in getting on the ball. The Fan is one of the latter and is having fun getting a new education on what these new metrics tell us. But...and this is a big old fogies are still not convinced that these metrics tell the full story. Maybe a story will be illustrative here.

The Fan's neighborhood is rather nice and on a hill overlooking rolling farmlands. All of the lots of an acre and a half and it's a nice spot. There was only one lot left in the development and it was a corner lot right next to the Fan's. It sat as an empty lot for a few years and the Fan hoped it would stay that way. But the developer finally sold it to a young whippersnapper the Fan knew. This young guy, a computer programmer, was one of those guys who was too young to know that you never really know more than ten percent of what you should know.

After he bought the lot, the Fan saw him walking around his property and went over to say hello. The Fan mentioned that the lot would be difficult to get a foundation in the ground. The Fan's favorite subject in college was geology. You had to take one science for the English degree and chemistry is too much math and biology was too...uhh...gross. So geology it was. And it was fun! Well, the Fan could just observe the landscape of this lot and it was a funny shaped mound and the Fan knew it was a classic moraine. A moraine is where a glacier just dumps a bunch of rock and leaves it there. The young programmer insisted that he had done some tests and had all the data and it would be fine.

Well, the basement contractor showed up and started digging with his equipment. But sure enough, after only a couple of inches, they hit solid rock and couldn't dig any further. And so, the entire foundation was built above ground, all ten feet of it. Then the two story, prefab house showed up in two pieces and they put that together in one day on top of this foundation. The Fan came home from work to suddenly discover that next door to his once lovely neighborhood now had this towering monstrosity next door which incidentally blocked out a once beautiful view of each night's sunset. The Fan and his wife now affectionately call the thing the Tower of Babel Lego House.

The young programmer had all the data, but the Fan had observation. The Fan isn't discounting the data or the stats and metrics we now have. They are very useful and powerful and the Fan enjoys them. But they don't tell the entire story. There are intangibles that can't be measured, at least not yet. And observation is still a powerful thing. The Fan wrote a piece recently about the MVP type year Chone Figgins is having with the Angels. Figgins is having the type of year that the metric folks love. But Figgins has been "observed" for a long time and in the right playoff situation, a power pitcher is going to have a fairly easy time getting him out. He isn't as scary as he sometimes looks.

Don't know if this posts makes any sense. But there is room in baseball for metrics and for observation and if anyone discounts one or the other, then they aren't seeing the whole story.

Game Picks - Sunday: August 9, 2009

Sometimes you just have to laugh. Those Twins...those amazing and beguiling Twins. This picker hasn't picked a Twins game correctly since Spring Training it seems. Every time they are expected to win, they lose. This picker gives up and predicts them to lose, and they win. And then the whole cycle continues again. Their latest accomplishment was to lift Carl Pavano from the Indians. Yeah, Carl Pavano. The Fan laughed. The Fan made fun of the deal. The Twins put him into the rotation immediately and started him last night. The Fan was finally going to get a Twins pick right. Except Pavano threw a shutout. Yeah. Carl Pavano. Sometimes you just have to laugh.

As yesterday unfolded, the Fan did a lot of laughing. Yes, the Yankees pick was correct. Yes, the Padres, Cardinals and a couple others was correct. But Marquis lost. The Cubs won a game with the equally beguiling Dempster. Danny Haran lost to the Nationals, who have somehow managed two put together a rather long winning streak. Ian Snell made a start for the Mariners. The Fan was rooting for him. He walked six batters in the first inning. Yup. Lots of laughing. It sure beats crying.

Let's try this again. Oh boy:

  • The Twins over the Tigers: The cycle begins again. But Baker really should be better than Jarrod Washburn. He just should be. Really.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Roy Halladay is pitching. PLEASE be a lock!
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: Pineiro should beat Zack Duke.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: Not only has Josh Johnson been a very good pitcher, but he's hit three homers. Of course he only has six or seven hits total, but when he connects...
  • The Diamondbacks over the Nationals: Come on, this Nats' winning streak has to end some time.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: Hate to pick against Wandy, but he was hurt last time out. Which is worrisome.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Not feeling too up about this pick. But it didn't feel any better the other way either.
  • The Royals over the A's: Two young pitchers: Hochever versus Anderson. Anderson has some great stuff, but Hochever is maturing at last.
  • The Cubs over the Rockies: Wells has been consistent and seems to be the Cubs' good luck charm.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: As much as the Fan would want it not to happen, there is no way that Holland beats Lackey.
  • The Mets over the Padres: Santana versus Stauffer. Stauffer makes great frozen dinners, but Santana should win.
  • The Giants over the Reds: When is the last time Harang pitched well?
  • The Braves over the Dodgers: Vazquez over Stults. If the Braves snuck into the wildcard, they would be dangerous.
  • The Bay Rays over the Mariners: Kazmir has looked like his old self lately and Rowland-Smith doesn't have an old self.
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: The Red Sox take out their frustrations on Andy Pettitte and Lester shuts the Yanks down to salvage one game out of this disaster.

Yesterday: 5-10 (still laughing)
Week: 42-52 (still laughing)
Month: 51-58 (starting to cry)