Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ichiro and Mariners Shock Rivera and Yankees

The Yankees had their winning formula going. Get a lead going into the eighth inning, bring in Hughes and then close it out with Rivera. Hughes did his part in the eighth and Rivera had two outs in the ninth. That's usually a done deal. Didn't turn out that way. In case you missed it, here is the video.

Rivera has 40 saves this season and had only blown one of them before last night. He's been nearly automatic all season. But you get the feeling watching Ichiro that he can hit a homer any time he wants to. Much like Wade Boggs with the Red Sox, Ichiro would rather get his hits then try for homers. But it seems that if he wanted to, he could hit thirty without much effort. But the hit his batting average would take is something Ichiro can't stomach, so it doesn't happen.

But he is just the kind of hitter that would take Rivera deep. Rivera lives on the inside part of the plate. Ichiro does not have one kind of approach like most hitters. He varies his approach to a pitch depending on where it is. Against slow stuff, he is just as likely to run up the batter's box to hit it as he is to stay deep and on his back foot to explode into the ball. If you watch the video, Ichiro stepped a little into the bucket and got his hips out of the way quickly to turn on Rivera's inside cutter.

In hindsight, that ability that Ichiro has to alter his approach should have led Rivera to work around him. First base was open. Rivera should have at least stayed outside. It was a poor choice and the cutter got too much of the inside part of the plate and Rivera paid for it.

It's shocking and it's not. Not with Ichiro and the kind of hitter that he is.

Game Picks - Saturday: September 19, 2009

Yesterday's picks swung into the red last night on a blown save by Mariano Rivera. Don't think there could have been a sadder way for that to happen. Man. And so, after a really great start to the week last Sunday, the rest of the week has been one big snark with only Saturday left to rescue some lost magic and some bad taste in this picker's mouth.

At least the races are getting more fun. The Red Sox actually have an outside shot to catch the Yankees. The Giants are making the Rockies sweat and the Twins are doing their best to erase a woeful season with a run at the end while the Tigers get a goat-sized lump in their throats. We didn't think we had any drama, but drama has a way of appearing when you least expect it.

Let's see what drama can occur on Saturday:

  • The Pirates over the Padres: Have to go with main man, Ohlendorf, for one more start.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: The Nats beat the Mets with one of their lesser known pitchers last night. Tonight, the Nats have one of their best pitchers (Lannon) pitching.
  • The Indians over the Athletics: Have little faith in Sowers. But have even less in Gonzalez.
  • The Giants over the Dodgers: Penny is one of those slobs that needs motivation to do well. Pitching against his old team (that called him out for being a slob) is just the ticket.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Carpenter gets back on the winning ways.
  • The Twins over the Tigers: This game has disaster written all over it for the Tigers. Pavano versus Verlander? Should be a win for the Tigers, right? Nothing has been that easy for the kitties lately.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: Just can't pick Moehler to win. Just can't do it.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: Feldman at home? Doesn't add up. But hey, the Fan has to root for his guy.
  • The Royals over the White Sox: Normally would shy away from this kind of pick, but Peavy is making his Chicago debut after being out all year. That never seems to end well.
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: Lester rolls in a laugher.
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Can't remember the last time a pick for Garza came out positively.
  • The Marlins over the Reds: Arroyo is due for a clunker. The hot-hitting Marlins should provide it.
  • The Phillies over the Braves: Heck, let's ride Pedro's magical mystery tour.
  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: The Rockies desperately need a win here.
  • The Yankees over the Mariners: Sabathia is in the midst of another stretch run.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 37-31
Month: 126-108

The Fan is So Lost and Confused

We have officially entered the dead zone. With the races pretty much decided (the Twins and Giants might have something to say about that in the next two weeks), much of the discussion on the Web has begun to revolve around the post-season awards like MVP and Cy Young. Since there is no pitcher who is going to win 25 or 30 games, it seems unlikely that any pitcher, Cy Young winner or not, is going to factor in the MVP voting. Not so fast! Today's Rob Neyer post blew this Fan away by pointing out that places like FanGraphs value the best pitchers as highly as the best hitters. Whuh?

So, not wanting to ever look stupid, the Fan followed Mr. Neyer's link to FanGraphs and sure enough, Albert Pujols is currently valued at $37.2 million and Zack Greinke is valued at $38.5 million. Can that be? The Fan reached for his normal plethora of baseball lore. Starting pitchers only pitch every fifth day. Positional players play every day. At least, that's how we've always heard it should be, right? But again, the Fan does not want to look stupid. So some time was spent trying to sort out what FanGraphs is measuring. This Fan has to admit he is totally in over his head and totally lost.

When the Fan was young, math was easy. If you gave how many times a batter had been up to bat and how many hits he had in those at bats, the Fan could get real close (if not dead on), to what the batter had for a batting average. The same for ERA. The Fan had a near perfect score on the math side of the SATs. But now? Call the Fan a dope. From what the Fan can see from the FanGraphs valuations, you figure in the position the player plays, how well they field that position, what they do at the plate or how they pitch and you come up with a RAR or Runs Above Replacement. You also get a WAR or a Wins Above Replacement. The dollar valuation is some mathematical equation from WAR that gives the player a value if the player was on the free market. Right now, according to FanGraphs, Greinke is more valuable than Pujols. And the argument then can be made that Greinke is the MVP.

The way it works out is that Pujols is worth 8.3 wins above the average replacement player. Greinke is worth 8.6 wins above the average replacement player. Okay, the Fan can get how what a starting pitcher does directly affects the outcome of games. So does that mean that the average replacement pitcher would be 6-16 if he pitched on the Royals instead of the 14-8 that Greinke is? The Fan doesn't know if that's what it means or not. That actually sounds plausible though.

But hasn't Pujols won more games with the runs that he's driven in? Before Holliday entered the picture, Pujols was about the only offense the Cardinals had. The Fan doesn't know. Clueless.

According to FanGraphs, the following is your top fifteen valued players (in millions):

1. Greinke - $38.5
2. Pujols - $37.2
3. Lincecum - $36
4. Hanley Ramirez - $34.7
5. Chase Utley - $34.5
6. Joe Mauer - $33.7
7. Ben Zobrist - $32.8
8. Verlander - $31
9. Roy Halladay - $30
10. Cliff Lee - $29.2
11. Longoria - $29.1
12. Jeter - $28.6
13. Zimmerman - $28.3
14. Jon Lester - $27.6
15. Javier Vazquez - $27.6

All those guys seem like they are worth that kind of money, though the Rays would go broke if they had to pay Longoria and Zobrist that kind of money. Something just doesn't feel right though and unfortunately, the Fan isn't smart enough to be able to pinpoint what that is. For example, the valuation for relief pitchers (which seems to clearly show why no reliever should ever get a Cy Young award) shows that Phil Hughes is slightly more valuable to the Yankees than Mariano Rivera. Hmm...

Perhaps what the Fan needs is a "Sabermetrics for Dummies" book. Is there such a book? If not, there should be. Because the Fan feels like a dummy if there ever was one. Perhaps a pitcher should win an MVP based on this stuff. Perhaps a catcher should get a positional adjustment of +15.2 and shortstops +7.5. But based on what? How is that figured? Oy. very lost.

Perhaps the Fan can end the misery of this post by looking for the anti-MVP. For your reading pleasure, what follows is the worst players in baseball based on WAR and Dollars (again in millions):

1. Gary Matthews, Jr. - ($ 8.8)
2. Jose Guillen - ($ 8.5)
3. Delmon Young - ($7.5)
3. Yuniesky Betancourt - ($7.5)
4. Brian Giles - ($7.4)

At least that makes a lot of sense.

Friday, September 18, 2009

It's a Free Country For Crying Out Loud

Perhaps you heard about the Wednesday night game between the Angels and the Red Sox at Fenway Park? If not, you can catch up here. It seems that the umpires for that game are talking to the league about verbal abuse they received from the Angels' coaches after the game concerning the Nick Green at bat. Looking at the replay (and according to K-zone), it does appear that the Angels' closer, Fuentes, struck Nick Green out twice but the umps saw it differently and allowed Green to walk, forcing the tying run home. The Red Sox soon after won the game.

As sure as shooting, you can expect Mike Scioscia (the hardest name in the majors to spell) and his coaches to get some kind of fine for giving the umpires a bit of lip after the game. Fenway Park is one of those old stadiums where the umpires have to go through the dugout to get to their dressing room. In this case, it's the visitor's dugout and the umps had to go through a hopping mad bunch of Angels. According to the linked story, the umpires have complained to the league about the incident.

Excuse the Fan for his ignorance, but if you don't do your job correctly, that's the way it goes. The Fan doesn't understand this "sanctity of the umpire" crap where the umpires are supposed to be treated like some sanguine figures of virtue. Heck, a lot rides on some of these games and if the umpires become part of the game's story instead of the players, then they should expect to get some grief. The Fan watches a lot of games and despite more observation than ever, the strike zone is still a joke. The inside corner is rarely called and yet anything within six inches of the outside corner is always a strike. High strikes are inconsistently called and home plate umpires routinely call a batter out for a checked swing without getting help from the first or third base umpires. The home plate umpire has the worst vantage point for checked swings.

In the case of Wednesday's game, the checked swing call was made by the first base umpire and it was borderline. If Green had connected with the ball, it would have gone a ways. But it didn't look like he broke his wrists. The bat stayed parallel to the pitcher. Who knows. But that last ball was a strike at the knees and the Angels have a legitimate beef there.

The MLB, like the NFL, routinely delivers fines to its players and coaches who question the umps and referees (respectively). This irks the Fan to no end. The Fan's father fought for this country's first amendment rights to free speech and how dare these leagues outlaw it! That's un-American for Pete's sake. If these guys don't get the calls correctly, they shouldn't be called out on it? When they are, they go crying to the league? Pity the poor helpless schlep that makes great money to call the games if someone dares to question his accuracy in doing so.

The bottom line here is that the Angels won the game and the umpires took it away from them. The Angels have a right to be upset about it. They didn't physically attack the umpires. They didn't block their path. They just gave them a piece of their minds about the calls. Get over it.

Fuentes, for his part, will certainly be fined because he later stated that umpires have trouble throwing up their right hands in Fenway and "other places." Yankee Stadium can be inferred in there. Fuentes further stated that other pitchers have told him the same thing. Should he be fined for stating his opinion? Not in this writer's mind. He could very well be right. Boston and New York have voracious fans and their voracity might make it subconsciously harder for an umpire to pull a trigger on a called last strike. Fuentes has a right to make this point. Any fine would subjugate this right and the Fan has a problem with that. Instead of fining a player in such a case, the league should thank him and start an investigation. But we wouldn't want to have that happen because it would be admitting that umpires are fallible. Well, they are, folks. That's just the way it is.

Game Picks - Friday: September 18, 2009

One needs to be careful of those semi-off days like Monday and Thursday when only a few games are on tap. Those days always seem to be extra dangerous. For example, Josh Beckett is usually a lock at home, but the Angels found a way to ding him for three runs and won off of Billy Wagner in the ninth inning. Didn't see that coming. Masterson shows flashes of brilliance, but walks too many batters and Oakland wins with another rookie pitcher. Bobby Jenks blows his sixth save of the season which also blows that pick out of the water. And finally, Jay Bruce (remember him?) gets a big hit for the suddenly high-flying Reds to beat the Marlins despite a 4-4 night by Coughlin. Yup, those short schedules can be dangerous. At least Greinke won his game.

Friday means we are back to a full schedule of games. Not that it's any easier, mind you. But at least there are more chances. Here's how the Fan sees what's coming up today:

  • The Padres over the Pirates: Okay, so the first pick isn't easy. Perhaps this pick will be right and the Fan will get an early stocking Stauffer.
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: Another game that isn't easy to pick. Guthrie has actually started to look like the best Orioles' pitcher lately and the Red Sox are starting Buckholz.
  • The Mets over the Nationals: Well, that's three iffy games in a row, eh?
  • The Marlins over the Reds: Homer Bailey has looked better of late, but the Fan likes this Vanden Hurk kid.
  • The Phillies over the Braves: Two teams struggling on offense. Hudson hasn't thrown a real good game since he's come back. That may be the difference.
  • The Bay Rays over the Blue Jays: Shields has pitched better than his record.
  • The Astros over the Brewers: Ugh! Two more rookie pitchers going at it. Come on!
  • The Angels over the Rangers: Kazmir for the Angels and the Rangers don't like lefties much. The party is over.
  • The Twins over the Tigers: Here come the Twins. The Tigers stumbling around have given this wacky team new life.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Buehrle should beat Hochever, right?
  • The Cubs over the Cardinals: Ted Lilly has had a fantastic year and nobody knows about it.
  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: Sticking with Marquis even though he has struggled of late.
  • The Athletics over the Indians: The Indians look as bad at the end of the season as they did at the beginning. Not good.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: The honeymoon still isn't over for Padilla as the Dodgers put another nail in the Giants' coffin.
  • The Yankees over the Mariners: Jorge Posada is serving his suspension, so A. J. Burnett has no excuse not to win.

Yesterday: 4-5
Week: 30-23
Month: 119-100

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Game Picks - Thursday: September 17, 2009

Another day, another day just barely over the .500 mark in game picks. That's 15-15 the last two days. Yippee. Yeah. Two blown saves did the day in nicely. Fuentes blew one up in Boston. Thought he lost his closer's role? Guess not. The White Sox tanked against the Mariners as did the Cubbies against the Brewers. The Royals were a stupid pick. Again. And lastly, this picker knew he was in trouble when the Rockies scored two quick runs against Cain. The Giants simply don't have the offense to come from behind. Since that is the only drama left in the standings, the Rockies rescued a game and stopped some bleeding.

There are only nine games on tap for Thursday baseball. Here's how they look:

  • The Royals (yeah, yeah) over the Tigers: Match up of the week as Greinke goes up against Jackson. If the Royals can scratch out three runs, Greinke will win.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Randy Wells versus Bush. That seems too good not to take.
  • The White Sox over the Mariners: Danks versus Morrow. Morrow can be just about anything so this is a flier.
  • The Phillies over the Nationals: Who would you rather have, Washington's Detwiler or Philadelphia's Cole Hamels? Yeah, same here.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Sure, Davis is a rookie going for the Bay Rays, but Hendrickson is starting for the Orioles. He's a relief pitcher for heaven's sake.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Jurrjens over Figueroa in what should be another easy pick.
  • The Marlins over the Reds: The Reds have been hot, but don't like the match up of Sanchez versus Maloney.
  • The Red Sox over the Angels: The Red Sox might not lose again in the regular season.
  • The Indians over the Athletics: This one is just a hunch.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 34-25
Month: 123-102

Just One of Those Days

Ever have one of those days where the entire day seemed uphill? Where everything you picked up or tried to pick up ended on the floor and every job you attempted had to be done twice or three times to get correct? Yeah. It's been one of those days. Not sure what this post will do to correct things. Surely moods aren't the best moods to write posts from. Heck, that was a lousy sentence with poor construction. See?

As long as things seem more of the dark cloud variety today rather than the silver lining, this post might as well focus on some negative things. Some of them this space predicted long ago and some were just so surprising that it would have been impossible to predict. Either way, there is no joy in reporting on them. They just are what they are.

Let's start with the Cubs. Harden pitched another game on Wednesday and bears no resemblance to the pitcher he has always been before. He lasted all of three innings, walked three and gave up five hits. Granted, the Cubs played shoddy defense behind him and maybe that is the most telling thing about the Harden this year and last. But that can't completely explain how last year he was a combined 10-2 in 25 starts with a WHIP around 1 and 96 hits in 148 innings. This year, he has the same 25 starts and his WHIP is around 1.3 and he's given up 117 hits in 138 innings. That's still pretty impressive except that he only gave up eleven homers last year and has given up 23 this year. Plus, he's only averaged about five and a half innings a start.

For a while, it seemed that by the time Milton Bradley finished the season, his stats would be fairly respectable. But he has gone into another tailspin and is now likely to finish the season below .400 in slugging percentage and below .800 in OPS. Hardly what the Cubs were hoping for. He did manage to play his 123rd game Wednesday night, so that, at least, exceeded expectations.

What about Geovany Soto? He was one of the best catchers in the game last year. This year, he's just a shell of that and his stats in almost every category (except errors) are down this year.

When it is all said and done, it just seems like Lou Piniella is not the right guy for that team. Sure, he has a right to be upset and disgusted with the likes of Bradley and Zambrano. But that's the nature of today's players. Pineilla is a throw back to another era, and people aren't the same as they were then.

There are three teams that fielded starting line ups Wednesday night that did not include a .300 hitter. Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Is there something wrong with the water in that middle section of the country?

The Fan was feeling a little sorry for Mike Hampton today after it was learned that he had surgery to repair a completely torn rotator cuff and will miss all of next year. After all, the guy has tried really hard to compete and just can't stay healthy enough to do so. Then the Fan remembered all the money Hampton has made in the game of baseball and the sympathy went out the window. Hey, that's just the way the mood is today.

Speaking of health, Josh Hamilton will probably miss the rest of the year now. If you could have put Hamilton's numbers of a year ago on this year's Rangers team, how many more wins would the Rangers have? Would they still be in the race? As it is, the Rangers have died and Hamilton's season was stillborn from the start. It's hard to root against Hamilton who overcame so much to have a career again in baseball. His fragile health and his embarrassing bar fiasco have put an end to what was a pretty baseball story. Maybe next year.

Jimmy Rollins had an OBP of .287 the first half and .292 the second half. His second half has been more productive as his slugging percentage went from .355 the first half to .490 the second half. But even so, he has only walked ten times in the second half. Ten times. Can the Phillies really get away with a lead off batter in the playoffs who gets on base that seldom?

Earlier in the season, the Fan said that Jason Varitek was done. Comments were to the contrary as he started the year hitting some homers and stuff. But come on. His average is down to .213 and has particularly tanked since Victor Martinez came over from the Indians. He has had a brutal year with base runners stealing all over the place. Varitek's OPS and OPS+ are up slightly from a year ago, but slightly better than awful is still pretty bad.

And yeah, David Ortiz has hit 24 homers and his OPS the second half is .841 but he is still only batting .251 the second half. He is going to finish the season 30 points below last year in average, 40 points below last year's OBP, 50 points below last year's slugging percentage, 100 points behind last year's OPS and at least 25 points below last year's OPS+. And last year was a down year. Just to put things in perspective, Nick Swisher has a better OPS this season than Ortiz.

Incentive clauses are in the news these days. Magglio Ordonez reached enough at bats to automatically pick up his $18 million in salary next year. That's a lot of tamales for what is now a singles hitter. Kevin Millwood's next start will guarantee him $12 million next year. There is a lot of call for the Rangers to shut him down for the rest of the year. They can't. If they did, they would lose to the union and it will cost them that much anyway. And yeah, $12 million is a lot of money for a league average pitcher this year (his best in quite a while too).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Went to the Fights and a Yankee Game Broke Out

As much as the MLB would hate to admit it, every baseball Fan loves a good fight once in a while on the baseball field. There is the unexpected thrill of it when the normally placid game of baseball is interrupted by a good old melee. Heck, that's why so many hockey fans go to games in the NHL. It's the same reason NASCAR fans love to see crashes. We're all sick, but that's for the anthropologists to figure out. The Yankees played the Blue Jays last night. Halladay wasn't great, but he was a darn sight better than Mitre (which is not hard to do). Then in the eighth inning of a game all but over, all hell broke loose.

The Fan has to admit being oblivious to the whole thing until he read Sports and the City's blog this morning. The Fan went to bed early. Blog buddy, eyebleaf, naturally had a Toronto slant to the proceedings, which is understandable. So the Fan had to check out all the highlights and watch the condensed game to see what it was all about. Here is hoping that a balanced view of the happenings proceeds from the rest of this post.

First of all, the Yankees have to get rid of Mitre. The guy just flat out stinks. Even though the Yankees have a playoff position pretty much wrapped up, wouldn't you want to go into the post season on a roll rather than a whimper? Why have a guaranteed loss every fifth game? To top it off, after Mitre gives up four homers, he decides to plunk Encarcion, who hit one of them.

Encarcion did not pose after his homer. He ran the bases at an acceptable speed and he smiled after crossing home plate and went into the dugout. He didn't kiss the heavens (which is getting real old in baseball) or anything. But Mitre decides to pull a Padilla and plunks the guy. Terrible. Release the guy. Release him right now!

Later in the game, the Yankees' young pitcher, Melancon, plunks Aaron Hill. This one looks more like an accident. Melancon was all over the place and it looked like one got away. This writer doesn't blame the Blue Jays for being sensitive to the deal though after Mitre's actions. It was one of the inevitable reactions after what Mitre did. That brought up the scenario of Jesse Carlson versus Jorge Posada.

Carlson, no doubt acting on orders, backed up his teammates by throwing at Posada. Don't blame him a bit. That's the way baseball is and that's the way you take care of your players. Posada reacted (even though Carlson failed to hit him) but did not charge the mound. The veteran had more brains than that, which is a good thing. And the game went on after the typical bunch of players mulling around on the field and the absurdity of the bullpens pouring onto the field.

There is nothing that irks this writer more than the bullpen thing. Those guys aren't even in the freaking game. What are they, the cavalry or something? Once nothing happens, all those guys have to go back to where they came from. Stupid. It should be outlawed or something. But things didn't end there.

Carlson wasn't sharp and the Yankees got some more base runners and after another hit, Posada starts chugging for home. This was the critical juncture of the event that next took place. Carlson, who should have been backing up the plate, instead decides to lallygag around the plate. That was the one thing that led up to what Posada did next. After he crossed the plate, Posada brushed Carlson slightly and no doubt said something as he did so. Carlson took a second to realize what happened and then turned around and started jawing at Posada. Posada charged him and the donnybrook was on.

This Fan's take? Carlson shouldn't have been standing where he was. He was out of position. Posada should have run by him without the (albeit harmless) brush when running past Carlson. So both are to blame. Don't blame Carlson for protecting his teammates. Don't blame Posada for taking exception to that fact. But Carlson should have been in position and Posada should have run past him without incident. So there is enough blame to go around.

For what it's worth, Posada got the better of the fight. Carlson had a gash on his forehead and Posada was pulled off after being on top of Blue Jay's catcher, Barajas. The Fan wouldn't want to tick Posada off in a back alley as the guy can obviously take care of himself. The bottom line is that Posada will get a few days off for his stupidity and Carlson will for taking one for the team. Heck, if Posada gets a few days off, A. J. Burnett might actually win a game.

It was a fun fracas, as these things go. It shouldn't have happened. But oh well. It was fun, wasn't it?

Game Picks - Wednesday: September 16, 2009

A little fight. A lot of bad baseball. Some major surprises (the Royals beating the Tigers again!) and it all added up to a sub-par day of picking. More on the fight in the next post. In fact, this picker is so anxious to get to the fight that we'll dispense with any further meanderings and get right to the picks for Wednesday:

  • The Twins over the Indians: The question here is whether the Indians will get more runs than Grady Sizemore will have off-season surgeries.
  • The Marlins over the Cardinals: Looking for Josh Johnson to come up big against Pineiro.
  • The Dodgers over the Pirates: The Dodgers got yet another walks off win last night. Like the Fan said, poor Zach Duke can't catch a break. That was the Pirates best chance to win a game this series.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Going with an experienced pitcher (Davis) over and inexperienced one (Mujica).
  • The Phillies over the Nationals: Really want to pick Livan to win, but that wouldn't be responsible.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: The Rays might as well win a few after losing their season.
  • The Royals over the Tigers: The Tigers suddenly seem like the Royals and the Royals seem like the Tigers.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The Yankees kill left-handers and Tallet is pitching.
  • The Reds over the Astros: Another of those frustrating picks with two unheralded youngsters. Lehr has looked better than the funny-named Bazardo.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Derek Lowe should be much better than Parnell.
  • The Angels over the Red Sox: Saunders has been better lately, but is still no picnic to pick. But Byrd starts for the Red Sox. Ouch.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Another battle of the former contenders. Not much to care about here.
  • The Athletics over the Rangers: The Rangers look wasted. Out of gas. Done.
  • The White Sox over the Mariners: Gavin Floyd versus Rowland-Smith. The-White-Sox-get-the-win.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: Cain should beat De La Rosa. Had the Rockies pegged to win the wild card. Not so fast, eh?

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 26-18
Month: 115-95

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Shin-Soo Choo - Obscure Baseball Player

After the Cleveland Indians got off to such a horrible start this season, the bad start itself became the story and the Indians were all but forgotten by the media. And that makes sense. After all, those of us that write about baseball tend to talk more about what is going right than what is going wrong. The trouble with such reality is that good young players having great seasons get overlooked. Shin-Soo Choo (秋信守) is a perfect example.

Choo (obviously from Korea) is having a very good season as a full time player after having a great season last year as a part time player. His current line after 138 games is: .301/.393/.479. The On Base Percentage is particularly impressive. His power is down some from a year ago when he posted a .549 Slugging Percentage, but that is expected over a lot more games played. He strikes out a lot (133 so far) but that is more than made up by his walks and his production.

Choo is only 27 years old and was drafted by Seattle in 2000 as a teenager after he was named the Most Valuable Player in the 2000 World Junior Baseball Championship. He was a pitcher then. The Mariners immediately converted him to an outfielder and he had a very good minor league career. His stats in the minors show a guy who has always had a lot of walks and a good OBP. He got brief looks in the majors in 2005 and 2006 and hit his first major league homer in the latter year.

In 2007, Choo had Tommy John surgery and missed most of the year. The Mariners, by then had one of the worst deals this decade when they traded Choo for Ben Broussard. Yeah, that worked out really well. Choo got into 94 games with Cleveland last year and responded with a .949 OPS. He became a full time player this year, playing mostly right field.

Last year, Choo would sit against most lefties (he bats left-handed), but this year he has faced most of them. And though he naturally has better stats against righties, he is holding his own against lefties with an .816 OPS against them. That's better than league average.

Choo has some adventures in the outfield. He has decent range but he has made seven errors, which is high for an outfielder. But his strong arm has made its presence felt and he has eleven assists, good for a tie for fourth in the league.

Where Choo has really surprised is on the bases. He has stolen 19 bases in only 21 attempts. If he can hit four more homers in the last few weeks, he has a chance to be a 20/20 guy. Looking at his stats in the minors, stolen bases are part of his arsenal. He just hadn't had the chance in the majors to show it until now.

Shin-Soo Choo is one of the brightest young players in the majors and is coming upon his peak seasons as a professional. The Indians made a steal over the Mariners in getting this really good young player.

Game Picks - Tuesday: September 15, 2009

Lessen learned: Don't pick against the Yankees. Not these days. But the day finished in the black, at least barely. Should have seen the Rangers' loss coming. Main man, Wandy Rodriguez, was good, but his bullpen let in all his inherited runners and Arroyo was better. The Marlins scored the runs they needed to score against the Cardinals, but forgot to stop St. Louis with their own pitching. And the Diamondbacks versus the Padres was a push either way, so can't feel bad about that one. But all the other picks were fine.

We are back to a full slate of games on Tuesday and with all of the races pretty much over except for the NL West, the only fun is in seeing who will win from night to night. So let's get started:

  • The Phillies over the Nationals: Cliff Lee should have no trouble here.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Niemann is quietly having a very good year.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: Don't think the Royals will sweep the Tigers again.
  • The Blue Jays over the Yankees: There. Picked against the Yankees again. Stupid? Well it's Halladay versus Mitre. What do you think?
  • The Astros over the Reds: Oswalt versus Kip Wells should be a no-brainer.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Hanson versus Misch in the battle of the prospects. Hanson should be better.
  • The Angels over the Red Sox: Dice-K makes his debut after months on the DL. Never like those situations.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: Good match up of Gallardo versus Zambrano except Zambrano hasn't shown anything lately.
  • Oakland over Texas: It appears that the Rangers' fortunes are done. It's a sad thing.
  • The Twins over the Indians: Have been correct with the Twins for three games in a row. This Fan is giddy.
  • The Cardinals over the Marlins: Wainwright adds to his Cy Young argument.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Haran has had another great year. But will his team score enough runs?
  • The Dodgers over the Pirates: Poor Zach Duke. One of the best pitchers in the league with nothing to show for it.
  • The Mariners over the White Sox: Ian Snell versus Freddie Garcia in one of the worst pitching match ups of the year.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: Ubaldo Jiminez should out duel Barry Zito.

Yesterday: 6-5
Week: 19-10
Month: 108-87

Monday, September 14, 2009

Game Picks - Monday: September 14, 2009

Three double-headers in one day! It was a giddy day in baseball as there were eighteen games played yesterday. There was also football on the telly and Tiger Woods winning another golf tournament. The morning also saw maybe one of the last fun days of golf on the links before it gets too cold. It was a nearly perfect day. And when the pick results started rolling in, it was like the Fourth of July again. What a good day! Heck, even the Twins' pick was correct. Wow!

So the new week started with a bang. Perhaps it can keep going in this positive atmosphere:

  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: What can you say about the Bay Rays? They have tanked and sunk and just the wrong time of the season. It's even hard to make this pick.
  • The Tigers over the Blue Jays: Verlander takes the Tigers one step closer to the pennant.
  • The Angels over the Yankees: Another day, another Joba three inning start. {{yawn}}
  • The Astros over the Reds: Two of the FanDome's favorite pitchers: Arroyo and Wandy. Got to go with Wandy.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: The battle of the disappointing teams. One of them has to win.
  • The Rangers over the A's: Feldman is at home, which isn't as much a lock as on the road, but go Feldman!
  • The Twins over the Indians: Pavano versus Sowers. Oh joy!
  • The Marlins over the Cardinals: Wellemeyer hasn't started for the Cardinals for a long time. Never good to pick a team in that situation.
  • The Padres over the Diamondbacks: It seems the Padres are playing pretty good these days.
  • The Dodgers over the Pirates: The Dodgers found a way to make these last few weeks meaningful.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: The best thing for the Dodgers would be for these two teams to split their series.

Yesterday: 13-5
Week: 13-5
Month: 102-82

Phillies Coming Up Roses

Everything the Phillies seem to touch comes up roses this year. Got any manure? The Phillies will turn it into compost that will make the roses grow even more fragrant. The World Champions were deemed at the beginning of the year to be weaker than they were the year before. And though they are World Champions, there was the general feeling that they got where they were because the Mets couldn't close the deal for the last two years. The Mets haven't been a team to overcome this year. But the Phillies have showed they have built a team that can win year after year.

The Phillies won the division in 2007 with 89 wins. Last year, they won 90. They started this year with Kyle Kendrick, a seventh-round draft pick who won 21 games over the previous two seasons on the shelf. Jamie Moyer was throwing meatballs and Cole Hamels was a worry as he had arm problems during Spring Training. They let Pat Burrell--inconsistent, but an OBP machine--walk and replaced him with Raul Ibanez. Chan Ho Park was in their rotation. And sure enough, they started the season 6-8. Jimmy Rollins got off to a horrible start.

Raul Ibanez? They were already left-handed heavy in their lineup. Ibanez was as bad in the field as Burrell. The move was decried by Rob Neyer and other analysts on This space published a scathing indictment of the move. But Ibanez has 32 homers and the best OPS of his career. We were all wrong (at least for this year).

Carlos Ruiz was a concern as the every day catcher. He had a 63 OPS+ last year (100 is league average). But this year, his OPS+ is 108. And he's doing slightly better throwing out runners.

They quickly figured out that Chan Ho Park wasn't the answer in the rotation and brought up J. A. Happ, a third-round draft pick in 2004 with an rather ordinary record in the minors of 28-28. He went 10-4 before coming up lame. He was the best pitcher on the staff for a while. He was 10-2 before losing his last two starts.

Brett Myers went down at the end of May. They had to give starts to guys like Rodrigo Lopez, Antonio Bastardo and Andrew Carpenter. Those guys weren't very good, but still went 6-4 collectively.

Then, when their pitching was struggling, they got into a bidding war for the services of Roy Halladay. They were the favorite to get him until Boston joined that party. Frustrated, they turned to Cleveland and got Cliff Lee at the trade deadline. He's gone 6-2 with an ERA+ of 138 and a WHIP of 1.073.

Then we heard rumors that they were in talks with Pedro Martinez. Pedro? Nobody wanted him. He wasn't throwing hard anymore and he was asking for too much money. He'd only be a five or six inning pitcher. Surprise! They signed him and he is 5-0 and he has been spectacular, with two shutouts and games where he's pitched into the eighth inning. Truly amazing.

The Phillies depth is horrible. They don't have one back up player with an OPS+ over 91. But they haven't needed depth. Their only starter that missed any time at all has been Ibanez and he only missed 20 games or so.

Jayson Werth is a guy the Dodgers pretty much gave up on. But he has improved every year as a Philly and this year has hit 33 homers and is a force in their line up (and an All Star). Victorino has taken a step forward and made up somewhat for Rollins offensive deficiency. And of course, Utley and Howard are two of the best players in the league.

The Phillies have made all the right moves. Everything they have done has paid off in big dividends. Are they a lock for the NL Division title and another shot at the World Series? That will depend on Hamels and Blanton, both of whom have been decent but not invincible. Speaking of invincible, Brad Lidge was a year ago. What a difference a year makes. He is having a terrible season and the Phillies have had to turn to Ryan Madson with spotty results.

But don't count them out. They find a way to win and they find it with the unlikeliest players. They just have a way of making it work and turn everything they touch into gold.

Answers to Manager Nickname Quiz

The other day, this space featured a quiz on manager nicknames. The answers and our manager's real names are:

Oswaldo - Ozzie Guillen
Johnny B. - Dusty Baker
Thomas Brad - Trey Hillman
Harry Ralston - Bud Black
Wilbur (Wilbur??) - Don Wakamatsu
Clarence Edwin - Cito Gaston

Oh, and by the way, Connie Mack's real name was Cornelius McGillickuty.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Game Picks - Sunday: September 13, 2009

The game picks are were all screwed up this previous week and the results from Saturday's picks, which were made inadvertently on Thursday got crushed. The results are warranted for being so unobservant. But heck, it would have been nice to have at least been mediocre. But Burnett continues to struggle, the Twins continue to collapse, the Rangers continue to sink, the Phillies' bullpen continues to implode and the Rockies seem to be lallygagging.

Ah well. It's another fine day here in northern Maine and a tee time awaits. Time is winding down on that season, and the snow will soon be flying. So that's more important at the moment. Without further blather, here are Sunday's picks:

  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: The Bay Rays have thrown in the white flag, but could steal a win as Garza is a better bet than Buckholz.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Maine is making his first start back from the DL. Those kinds of games never turn out well.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Carrasco is supposed to be the next big thing for the Indians, but he hasn't shown anything. Davies was really good his last time out.
  • The Tigers over the Blue Jays: Now Vernon Wells gets hot. It's a little late isn't it?
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Sabathia rights the ship. Again.
  • The Marlins over the Nationals: The Marlins aren't dead yet.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Like this Hunter kid. Plus, the Rangers better win or they are dead.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: Maholm pitches well and the Pirates win 4-2.
  • The Twins over the Athletics: The Athletics are hot so they should win. But with the Twins, they always foul that up. So they should win. Man, those guys mess with the Fan's head.
  • The Braves over the Cardinals: The match up of the day with Vazquez versus Carpenter. Carpenter is due to lose and Ryan Franklin is suddenly blowing games at an alarming rate.
  • The Cubs over the Reds: Lost in the Cubs meltdown this season is a really great year for Ted Lilly.
  • The Angels over the White Sox: Kazmir starts to pay dividends for the Angels.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: Marquis is the MAN!
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Brad Penny is a mirage, right? Come on!
  • The Diamondbacks over the Brewers: Scherzer versus some kid named Narveson. Going with the more experienced rookie.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: Second game of a day/night double-header. Lester should win.
  • The Mariners over the Rangers: King Felix tries to hang with Zeirnke for Cy Young consideration.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Another make up game as Pedro takes care of Tim Redding.

Yesterday: 5-10 Ouch
Week: 49-46
Month: 89-77