Saturday, October 03, 2009

Game Picks - Saturday: October 3, 2009

This last week of the season is just as hard to predict as this picker thought it would be. With several playoff teams just playing out the string and several others using the opportunity to try young players, the games have been all over the charts. The Dodgers continue to mystify as they lose game after game. At least in the games that mattered, the game picker was on target. The Tigers and Twins continue to make things interesting.

Two more days left in the regular season. So there are only two more days to have this much fun picking games:

  • The Cubs over the Diamondbacks: Randy Wells goes for the Cubs. He could finish with a great game and make the Rookie of the Year voting interesting.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: The Dodgers have given the Cards and Phillies a chance to finish with the best record in the NL. Something worth playing for? It would seem so. Lohse should beat Villanueva anyway.
  • The Mets over the Astros: Misch versus Bazardo. Who knows!?
  • The Angels over the A's: Kazmir's five inning tune up for the playoffs will be enough to win.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: Sanchez versus Hamels. Will the Phillies rest their team or go for best record?
  • The Braves over the Nationals: You have to give the Nats credit for never giving up. But Jurrjens should best Detwiler.
  • The Royals over the Twins: Could the entire Twins' season be messed up by one Mr. Greinke?
  • The Orioles over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are a mess and Matt Wieters is crushing the ball.
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: Freddie Garcia pitches the game of his life and the Tigers counter with Figaro? Uh...
  • The Bay Rays over the Yankees: The Yankees are in coast mode. They played their entire roster yesterday.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: Good match up of Cueto versus Duke. Going with Duke as Cueto could be brilliant or could walk everybody in the park.
  • The Red Sox over the Indians: The Red Sox subs are better than the Indians' regulars.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Hunter wins the battle of young pitchers over Rowland-Smith.
  • The Giants over the Padres: Matt Cain tries to finish off what has been a good season for himself.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: The law of averages says the Dodgers have to win eventually. Kershaw beats De La Rosa.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 45-34
Month: 11-14

Trouble in Toronto

A story surfaced on Friday that in an unusual and highly public way, several players on the Toronto Blue Jays stated their concern over the way Cito Gaston manages the team. There isn't any need to recount the details here. Click here if you want to read the whole story. Without knowing the insides of the clubhouse there, all a blogger can do is comment on the extraordinary story to see if any of it makes sense.

First of all, the main culprits, instigators, defenders of sacred freedom (searching for the right word, because we can't know if they are right or wrong) are core players of the team: Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill and Rod Barajas. In other words, it's not just one or two disgruntled hotheads. That fact tends to lend some credence to what they are saying. But then again, the Mutiny on the Bounty was led by the first officer. If we discount the mutiny theory, what do we have then?

Gaston seems soft. In other words, he seems to be a "just let them play" sort of manager. Apparently, that seemed to work well during the championship years of the eighties, but isn't playing too well right now. A "let them play" manager needs a strong core of veterans who handle team discipline to fill the vacuum. Perhaps the championship Blue Jays had that. Perhaps they do not have that now.

The linked article mentions three problems. One is a lack of communication. Second is a passive managerial style (which we already talked about) and the third is a perceived negative attitude. Lack of communication is certainly not an uncommon problem with managers of any business. Communication is a skill that is either innate or has to be worked on. Gaston is an old school kind of guy. Perhaps the hear and obey dictum was what he grew up with and experienced in his own playing days. But communication skills can be improved with effort and training. The question is whether Gaston is open to that in this point of his life.

Gaston, for his part is either in denial or is totally baffled by what is going on around him. In his mind, he doesn't know how he could have been more fair. He believes he treated people the way he'd like to be treated. The last accusation is the hardest one to deal with. When a leader is accused of having a negative attitude, that's a bad, bad thing.

The Fan has been in leadership positions for a long time. And one thing most people forget is that managers are people too. We have good days and bad days. It takes a lot of will to consistently concentrate to not allow our charges to see us worry or fear or even believe that we are heading in the wrong direction. In other words, we are glorified parents that need to constantly remind our kids that everything is okay. But even parents get depressed or react badly to bad situations. How many times have you heard an adult say in front of a child, "So what else is new," when something goes wrong. Or perhaps, "If I didn't have bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all."

Most of the time, parents or leaders aren't aware that they are being watched all the time. Fortunately, the Fan understood this from an early age. But even so, there were times the Fan had to self-agonize when forgetting to mind the mouth after letting something negative slip. It can be a absentminded comment about a co-worker. It could be a negative comment about those higher on the food chain than the manager. Managers often do that in the mistaken idea that it builds rapport to have something in common to loathe.

No doubt that it's been a difficult year for the Blue Jays. It is terribly likely that a manager wouldn't handle that very well, especially after having some success in his job before. If Gaston took a walk on the negative side, he's made a huge error and will likely pay the price. This writer hopes that isn't the case because Gaston has always been respected in this corner. But if the problem is the manager or the players, it seems Gaston is history because the situation seems unworkable and untenable. If this is a case of spoiled players, good luck to the next manager. If this was Cito's fault, good luck to the players.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Rockies Inspired Ride to the Playoffs

The Colorado Rockies won a game last night and put an end to the wild card race. Their ride through the summer has been one of the truly great stories of the season. What makes the Rockies' story such an interesting one is how the team started the season and what happened after they fired Clint Hurdle.

The Rockies played 46 games under Hurdle and were ten games under .500. Ten games under! They were 18-28 and everyone (including this writer) was writing them off as a bad team and a major disappointment. Then the Rockies fired Hurdle and made Jim Tracy their manager. Under Tracy, the team has gone 73-40. And the change happened immediately after the manager move too. Well, check that. They won their first two under Tracy, but then lost four in a row. Different manager, same old Rockies, right? Hardly. Then then won eleven in a row and an astounding seventeen out of eighteen.

The astounding run with Tracy is not without precedent. In 1988, the Boston Red Sox were floundering around under John McNamara who was then fired. His replacement, a little known career minor league coach and manager, Joe Morgan, led the team to a 46-31 finish and the AL Championship Series. Ten years earlier, in 1978, the Yankees were in the midst of one of those tumultuous Billy Martin years when Martin was fired. Bob Lemon took over and the Yankees went 48-20 the rest of the way and won the World Series.

Is it the manager? Did just making a new environment make the difference for those clubs and this year's Rockies? Who can say. Ultimately, the players play the games and for one reason or another, the Rockies have played brilliantly since Tracy was installed as manager. The Rockies are first in the league in OPS and second in OBP. All five of their starting pitchers, while not superstars, have ERA+ figures over 100. The bullpen which couldn't buy a save early in the year with blown save after blown save ended up leading the league in saves.

The biggest difference really is that this has become Troy Tulowitzki's team. The shortstop had a terrible year last year and started slowly this year. But the young shortstop has blossomed and his 134 OPS+ matches the fire and intensity that he plays with. Add in a seasoned Todd Helton, the comeback of Huston Street and you have a magical season.

So now it's time for the playoffs and the Rockies certainly have some holes. Like most Rockies' teams of the past, they have an .845 OPS at home and only .723 on the road. Clint Barmes, Ianetta and Fowler have struggled coming down the stretch. They aren't a perfect team, but nobody else is either. No matter what happens in the post season, nobody can take away a Rockies' ride that has been a lot of fun to watch.

Game Picks - Friday: October 2, 2009

It was bound to happen. The picks always come back to earth after a while. After several days of flying the high life, the picks settled in with a thud last night. Call it a market correction in stock terms. This picker was amused that he guessed correctly that Carpenter would only pitch five innings. But who could ever imagine that he would hit a grand slam and drive in six runs in those five innings while not giving up a run? Amazing.

The Fan can feel himself getting sadder and sadder as the season only has three days left. Ah well, let's buck up and see what Friday's games look like:

  • The Cubs over the Diamondbacks: This is another one of those games that don't make any sense to pick. Gorzelanny versus Buckner? Going with the home team.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: Blanton will not pitch for very long with the playoffs ahead. And the Phillies bullpen leaves much to be desired.
  • The Orioles over the Blue Jays: Like Berken over Purcey, though it's another game where anything could happen.
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: A Tigers loss is the only way we go into the final days with any kind of drama, so there it is.
  • The Astros over the Mets: Going with Wandy for one last time this season.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Like Lehr over McCutchen with the Reds at home.
  • The Red Sox over the Indians: Dice-K makes his pitch to be on the post season roster.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: Neither team has anything to play for anymore. But Lowe should beat Livan.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: This is a terrible game to predict. How hard will the Yankees let Sabathia go for the 20th win with the playoffs right around the corner?
  • The Twins over the Royals: Manship versus DiNardo? Yeesh. The Twins have to win to have any hope.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Wainwright will pitch five innings, but learned lessons from the Carpenter pick.
  • The Padres over the Giants: The Padres are at home and have Zito to contend with. Not that hard a task really.
  • The Angels over the A's: Weaver needs to show something for the playoffs in what will be a short outing.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: The Dodgers will finally win a game after limping into the playoffs.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: In a battle of reclamation projects, McCarthy faces Snell.

Yesterday: 4-6
Week: 38-26
Month: 4-6

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Will Any More Managers Lose Their Jobs?

Eric Wedge bit the bullet yesterday as the Indians' manager. It's hard to conceive of what Wedge could have done differently on a team that couldn't pitch and lost Sizemore to a series of injuries. But that's the way it is in baseball. A manager who leads a club for three seasons with big expectations in each one of them and fails to get the job done usually finds himself unemployed. The question this post asks is if Wedge will have company once the season ends on Sunday.

A casual glance at each team and its manager does host a couple of possibilities for leadership changes in the dugout. The Cubs seem like an obvious one. Everyone picked the Cubs to win the division this year. They were evaluated to have the best talent, the best pitching, etc. Yet they had the Bradley situation and the Zambrano situation and though most of their problems sit at Hendry's feet, Piniella just doesn't seem the right guy for this team. With ownership changing, there might be a sweep out anyway. Hendry might be gone and his manager might be out with him.

Fredi Gonzalez with the Marlins is another possibility. The Marlins have great talent and yet just couldn't seem to get any long-term traction. They had a decent season, but Gonzalez consistently seems to make questionable bullpen decisions and he allowed some clubhouse problems to seep out into the public. He should have chastened Dan Uggla after that incident a couple of weeks ago and didn't stand up and support his star shortstop.

The Mets are in need of a shake up. The Fan can foresee a radical cleaning of that house over there. The GM should go after a series of fiascoes and Jerry Manual will probably be replaced as well. Don't be surprised to see Bobby Valentine in that dugout next season. Valentine will be in somebody's dugout, you can bet on that.

The Pirates are starting to collect some decent players but the Fan isn't sure that John Russell will be around to develop them. Russell doesn't appear to be the right guy there. This is unlike Jim Riggelman's situation in Washington where the Nationals seemed to at least be entertaining at times. The Pirates are on the right track with their pitching and yet they didn't improve their overall performance despite much better pitching.

The one super obvious choice here is Trey Hillman. Anyone who has been a casual reader here knows how the Fan feels about Hillman. While it feels mean to keep picking on the guy, he never makes the right move and he has single-handedly lost several games for his team. A manager shouldn't really make more than a one game difference either way for a team. But Hillman has lost several. He has got to go. If he keeps his job, then the Royals are just plain stubbornly stupid.

Game Picks - Thursday: October 1, 2009

September did indeed go out with a bang. It was kind of sad to see the Braves and the Twins' hopes of playoff spots go up in flames, but that's the way it goes. You need to play good baseball all year and not just the final month of the season. The Tigers aren't a great team, but they put a better season together than the Twins. And the Rockies won when it mattered and the Braves did not. Too bad the Braves closed against the Marlins, who just might be the best team that can't seem to get the job done all season. As for the Dodgers and the Red Sox, way to back into the playoffs fellas. Both teams sure stunk up the joint in the last week of the season.

Four more days of games in the regular season. For those who have already reached the playoffs, look for more B team games. For those not in contention, there is always stat padding to be done.

Here's what Thursday looks like:

  • The Reds over the Cardinals: Carpenter goes for the Cardinals, but the Fan can't seem him going beyond five innings or so in what will probably be just a tune up for the playoffs. The Reds were 18-9 in September.
  • The Twins over the Tigers: In a classic game of "it's too late, darling, it's too late," the Twins have Baker going against Nate Robertson. They should win.
  • The Rockies over the Brewers: The Rockies will whack around Parra and finish the job for the season.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: In a game worth paying to watch, Lincecum squares up against Haran. These two studs are about even, so you go with the better offense.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: Millwood should win against the Angels' B team.
  • The Phillies over the Astros: Paulino has been terrible and Cliff Lee needs a good start before the big show.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Garza should have no problem here.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: Hanson should beat Mock as the Braves try to act like it's not too late.
  • The Red Sox over the Indians: Lester's five inning tune up against Carrasco should be enough to finally win the Sox a game.
  • The Pirates over the Cubs: Maholm should have no trouble over the folding Cubs, especially with Samardzija starting for the Cubs.
  • Oakland over Seattle: This Anderson kid is nasty. Two A-plus pitches. Just nasty.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 34-20
Month: 230-168 Final for September. 58%

Weird Vibe in Baseball Today

Perhaps it's the writer and perhaps it's just another night in baseball. But there sure seems to be a weird vibe going on in baseball tonight. The day started with another MLB manager getting fired. Eric Wedge got wedged out of Cleveland after three very disappointing years. His team, the Indians responded with Carmona throwing his best game since 2007. Even Travis Hafner hit a homer. Was that a sigh of relief?

Then the Toronto Blue Jays finished off a three game penalization of the Red Sox, who have now lost a bunch of games in a row and are heading into the playoffs looking like one of the worst teams in baseball. There were many times where posts here in the FanDome extolled the virtues of the Red Sox pitching. The Blue Jays totally wiped that pitching from here to tomorrow scoring thirty runs in the three game series. The Great Roy Halladay finished them off with another gem, striking out Big Papi three times in three at bats. It got so bad today that the Red Sox called upon a career minor leaguer getting a cup of coffee to pitch the last inning. This career minor league player? Dusty Brown. Ever heard of him? Dusty Brown is a catcher with one at bat in his entire major league career. He has now thrown to more batters than he has ever batted. If the poor blighter never plays another major league game (a definite possibility), he will end up with a .000 batting average and a 9.00 ERA.

Another thing about the Blue Jays' game. The scored 11 runs despite clogging the middle of their lineup with Kevin Millar. Millar stopped being a viable major league player about three years ago. Why is he batting third for the Blue Jays? Second thing. The Blue Jays got two homers from another lifetime minor leaguer named Rusty Ruiz. So we could have called this the Rusty and Dusty show. Ruiz has been up 98 times and has hit 9 homers now. His OPS is over .900. Why isn't this guy playing more?

Elsewhere, the Mets got swept by the Nationals. Nothing has gone right for the Mets this year. Last year, their bullpen basically KOed them from the playoffs and so they went out and got the best closer on the market in K-Rod. Unfortunately, after a great start this season, K-Rod can't get the deal done. The Mets had the game well in hand until the ninth inning and K-Rod came in and gave up five runs and the ballgame. Tim Redding, improbably, had his third straight quality start ruined in the flames. Ron Villone, who is at least sixty years old at thie point, got the win. Oh yes, the big blow in the ninth was a grand slam by Justin Maxwell with his silver hammer. The homer was only the fifth in his major league career. Maxwell pinch hit for Josh Willingham, who has an OPS that is .185 points higher than Maxwell's. Told you it's been a weird night.

Probably the two biggest stories of the night were the death tolls taken by the Twins and the Braves in their bigs for the playoffs. The Twins got Pavanoed by Bonine and the Tigers and can kiss their season goodbye. The Tigers got an early lead off a helpless Pavano and the Twins couldn't make a comeback against Bonine, Minor, Lyon and Rodney. Goodnight Twins. It was a good run. The Braves, after being the best team in September, lost two big games in a row to the Marlins and thus can bury their season in a hail of "what ifs." Javier Vazquez, one of the most talented pitchers of his generation, continued his long history of folding in pressure games. The guy is an amazing pitcher, but every time a game really matters, he folds like a lawn chair. Ricky Nolasco struck out 16 Braves, proving that Vazquez wasn't the only goat in this one. Nunez almost blew the save again for the Marlins, but good old Brendon Donnelly came in and saved it with the last out.

The Phillies game with the Astros was another weird one. Pedro Martinez started for the Phillies and was trying to make his bid for postseason time. He did okay except for one batter who hit two homers off of him. The batter? J. R. Towles. Pedro, one of the best pitchers of his era (if not the best), could not get a guy out who was going into the game batting .150. Towles, before this game, had a lifetime OPS of .574. Oh yeah, the Phillies destroyed Moehler (predictably) and won the game anyway.

Over in Ohio, the Cincinnati Reds ran their September record to 18-9 with their second straight win over the Cardinals. Bronson Arroyo is doing everything he can to get a good contract next year and ran his record to 15-13. John Smoltz got rocked again and is now a combined 3-8 this season. The Cardinals are going to have some tough decisions going into the playoffs. Pineiro finished the season on a bad note with several bad starts in a row and Smoltz doesn't seem to have what it takes anymore to get the job done. The big blow of the game came on a grand slam by journeyman, Laynce Nix. Nix now has 15 homers to set a new career high.

The Cubs are headed to a double-header sweep by the Pirates. In the first game, Charlie Morton, who had an ERA over six in his first dozen or so starts, pitched a complete game shutout. Ted Lilly gave up four runs in the first inning and then nothing the rest of the way in the hard luck loss. In the second game, Zambrano got lit up with ten base runners in six innings of work that led to four runs. The Cubs were stymied by Karstens and the bullpen. The Pirates' big stars for the two games were their catchers. Jamarillo drove in two with a double in the first game and Doumit is having a great game in the second with three ribbies.

The Royals finally managed not to blow a lead to the Yankees to take the third game of the series. Jeter went 2 for 2 with a walk and a homer to lift his average to .335 for the season. Amazing. Thankfully, Soria was available for the ninth and he closed out the win. It was another Joba Rules start for the Yankees and Chamberlain was terrible again. If the guy could just throw strikes consistently, it would be comforting for the Yankees.

Yes, it was a weird night. Too bad the Fan is too sleepy to see what else can happen in the late games on the west coast.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

American League Rookie of the Year

Choosing a top rookie from the American League looks to be tougher than the National League because the position players have far fewer at bats and the pitchers don't have as much sparkling statistics. As in the last post for the National League rookies, we'll look at the top positional rookies and then the pitchers. We'll then try to tie it up in a nice little bow of a conclusion.

The postional candidates include: Elvis Andrus, Gordan Beckham, Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters. Not a lengthy list, but these guys are the only ones with at least 300 at bats and stats worth looking at. For the pitchers, we have: Brett Anderson, Andrew Bailey, Jeff Niemann and Rick Porcello. Toronto had two good rookies in Cecil and Romero, but their stats don't measure up to those listed above.

Again, we'll start with the positional players. The Fan will list each player followed by some stats. The stats will be OBP, OPS, OPS+, Stolen Bases, UZR (a fielding stat), WAR (worth over replacement) and FanGraph's dollar value:

Elvis Andrus: .331 .705 85 32 (in 38 attempts) 10.1 2.8 $12.8 million
Gordan Beckham: .349 .816 108 7 (in 11 attempts) -2.0 2.0 $9 million
Nolan Reimold: .365 .831 114 8 (in 10 attempts) -10.2 1.0 $4.5 million
Matt Wieters: .345 .762 97 0 (no attempts) NA 1.9 $8.6 million

Comments: Clearly, Reimold was the best hitter of the group, but his defense was poor in a relatively easy position. Wieters suffers from having no value added to his WAR based on fielding other than the positional adjustment. Andrus is the lightest hitting of the bunch but runs the bases well and is a spectacular fielder at an important position.

For the pitchers, the stats will be ERA+, WHIP, FIP, Batting Average Against, K/BB ratio, K9, H9 (homers per nine innings), Wins, WAR and value.

Brett Anderson: 101 1.268 3.67 .264 3.30 7.7 1.0 11 3.8 $17.0 million
Andrew Bailey: 221 .0898 2.59 .176 3.71 9.8 0.6 6 (plus 26 saves) 2.3 $10.4 million
Jeff Neimann: 116 1.349 4.09 .265 2.03 6.1 0.9 12 3.0 $13.4 million
Rick Porcello: 110 1.349 4.81 .270 1.63 4.5 1.2 14 1.7 $7.8 million

Comments: Porcello has the most wins and has spent his year battling in the pennant race. He had perhaps his best game this week against the Twins when it really mattered. Bailey has lights out numbers but his value as a closer will never be as high as a good starter. Both Anderson and Neimann have been great, but Anderson has been better overall.

Conclusions: If Elvis Andrus had a better year at the plate, even a league average year, he would have been the runaway favorite with his superior fielding and base running skills. But his lack of batting stats seem to give the value award to a pitcher.

Rookie of the Year (AL): Brett Anderson. (but the writers will pick Porcello)

Game Picks - Wednesday: September 30, 2009

It wasn't a bad day for picks yesterday. It wasn't a great day either. Picked both games of the big double-header between Detroit and Minnesota correctly. Picked the Blue Jays over the Red Sox. But this picker can't seem to see the Dodgers win nor the Cardinals. And those dang Nationals keep beating the Mets.

The Fan still has a good week and a good month going so no matter what happens tonight, September is going to be the best picking month all season here. Even so, let's go out with a bang tonight. Here's how it looks:

  • The Cubs over the Pirates: The Cubs keep piling up the victories after the horses have left the barn. Lilly is their best pitcher.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: Don't like picking Carmona, but the White Sox are starting Torres.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: Okay, go with the flow. Lannon is a very good pitcher on a very bad team and Redding can't keep throwing quality starts.
  • The Phillies over the Astros: Pedro gives reason to give him post-season starts while Moehler gives up some bombs to Rollins, Utley and Howard.
  • The Twins over the Tigers: The good news for the Tigers is that Verlander gave them a win last night. The bad news is that the Tigers have nothing after Verlander. Bonine? Oy.
  • The Yankees over the Royals: Even the Yankees at rest can't seem to lose. Chamberlain gears it up for the playoffs.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: A ho hum battle of the also-rans in the AL East.
  • The Reds over the Cardinals: Like Arroyo over Smoltz, especially if some of the Cardinals get rested.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: The Braves lost a heartbreaker last night and the Rockies won, leaving their wild card hopes very faint. Vazquez tries to keep the pulse.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: Halladay continues to help the Red Sox back into the wild card.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Can't see Masterson beating Buehrle.
  • The Cubs over the Pirates: Lots of make up games tonight! Zambrano should beat Karstons.
  • The Rockies over the Brewers: The Rockies win last night was huge.
  • The Padres over the Dodgers: The sleeping giant continues to sleep as the Padres will hit Garland and Richard will continue to make the White Sox look stupid.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: Turn out the lights if you're the last one out. Weaver over Holland.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: The A's could be scary next year the way they have pitched in the second half.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: It sure leaves a bad taste in the mouth to pick Penny to win. But Mulvey won't get the job done.

Yesterday: 9-5
Week: 24-15
Month: 220-163

National League Rookie of the Year

With the end in sight for the regular season, it's usually common to start speculating about the award season. The MVPs for each league seem pretty much set with Mauer and Pujols. The AL Cy Young should go to Greinke. The NL Cy Young still seems a bit hazy. For Rookie of the Year, there are no runaway performers and the debate will rage between pitchers and position players. For this post, let's see if we can get a hard statistical eye on the rookies this year.

For position players, the field seems to narrow down to Chris Coghlan, Andrew McCutchen, Dexter Fowler and Casey McGehee. For pitchers, the only three worth boiling down to are J. A. Happ, Randy Wells and Tommy Hanson.

Let's start with the position players. The Fan will list each player followed by some stats. The stats will be OBP, OPS, OPS+, Stolen Bases, UZR (a fielding stat), WAR (worth over replacement) and FanGraph's dollar value:

Chris Coghlan: .389 .835 121 7 (in 11 attempts) -12.8 1.8 $8.2 million
Andrew McCutchen: .358 .831 122 17 (in 21 attempts) -0.4 3.1 $13.8 million
Dexter Fowler: .366 .773 99 27 (in 37 attempts) -12.6 0.8 $3.4 million
Casey McGehee: .364 .867 126 0 (in 2 attempts) -5 2.1 $9.4 million

Comments: The numbers seem to exclude Fowler. Coghlan and McCutchen both lead off for their teams. As such, Coghlan has the superior On Base Percentage, which is what you want from the lead off guy. McCutchen does more once he is on the bases. Coghlan had never played outfield before this season and his terrible UZR is explained that way. McGehee out slugs his competition and as such is a valuable middle of the line up kind of guy.

For the pitchers, the stats will be ERA+, WHIP, FIP, Batting Average Against, K/BB ratio, K9, H9 (homers per nine innings), Wins, WAR and value.

J. A. Happ: 154 1.200 4.22 .236 2.07 6.4 1.0 12 1.8 $8.1
Randy Wells: 138 1.307 4.02 .266 2.09 5.34 0.8 11 2.6 $11.9
Tommy Hanson: 140 1.193 3.57 .229 2.43 8.0 0.7 11 2.3 $10.5

Comments: Happ and Wells have significantly more innings pitched than Hanson which is a factor in Hanson's value.

Final verdict: Of all the players we evaluated in the National League, McCutchen has the highest value according to FanGraphs. The problem for the Fan in selecting him is the OBP for a lead off guy. All three pitchers have been outstanding. Happ's ERA+ is so much higher than the other two. But in the end, Hanson has better overall stats across the board. More strike outs per nine, less homers per nine, lower FIP, lower batting average against, lower homer per nine, higher K/9 and K/BB and the lowest WHIP. Plus, Hanson has been a stud down the stretch for the Braves.

The Fan's choice: Tommy Hanson

We'll look at the American League in the next post.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Game Picks - Tuesday: September 29, 2009

It would really be nice if a top of the line pitcher would get scratched from a start BEFORE picks are made concerning the game. Josh Beckett was supposed to pitch for the Red Sox. But his back was stiff. So instead of a game the Red Sox could have competed in, they get a young substitute to pitch and get absolutely clobbered. Not fair! Heh. On top of that, who saw both the Dodgers and Phillies getting hammered by the likes of Pittsburgh and Houston. In the Dodgers game, the talk of the Web is Russell taking Zach Duke out with two outs in the ninth and nobody on base. Doh! How stupid is that? But even after all of that plus the Nats beating the Mets, this picker still ended up on the plus side of .500.

Since the Twins got rained out in their death match with the Tigers, there are sixteen big games on tap for today:

  • The Twins over the Tigers: Make up game of last night's rain out features the same match up of Blackburn and Porcello. The Twins get it down to one game.
  • The Phillies over the Astros: Happ should beat the young Lopez.
  • The Mets over the Nationals: Somebody has to win this game, no? The Mets have Pelfrey out there versus yet another rookie for the Nationals.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: Masterson versus Torres. Yeah, good luck with either pick.
  • The Yankees over the Royals: The Royals couldn't beat the Yankees B unit yesterday. They won't beat the A unit today.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: We get to see what kind of pitcher Verlander can be for the post season today.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Wade Davis continues to make Bay Ray fans think about next year. Guthrie starts for the Orioles.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: The last time Homer Bailey faced the Cardinals wasn't pretty at all.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: It's hard to pick the Braves in this one because Hudson hasn't shown too much since coming back and Josh Johnson is the Marlins' best pitcher. But the Braves are so smokin' it's hard to resist.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: Buckholz doesn't inspire confidence and Romero is going to have a good night.
  • The Cubs over the Pirates: The Cubs continue to win after it's too late.
  • The Brewers over the Rockies: The Rockies are struggling to the finish line and so is Marquis.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: The Dodgers finally clinch with Billingsley on the mound.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: The Rangers appear to have simply given up after last night's 11-0 drubbing. But the Fan has to go one last time to the Feldman well. Go, Feldman, go!
  • The Mariners over the Athletics: Felix Hernandez has a great game and continues to make it tough for Greinke in the Cy Young race.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Sanchez should win at home against Davis.

Yesterday: 5-4
Week: 15-9
Month: 211-157

Still Can't Get What Hillman's Thinking

A meaningless game was played in the Bronx Monday night, a day after the Yankees clinched the AL East. The Royals, going nowhere and playing with nothing to lose, faced a Yankee lineup with three regulars and a bunch of coffee cuppers. Chad Gaudin, who has done quite well for the Yankees since coming over from San Diego, would still not be considered one of the Yankees' core of starters. Young Luke Hochever started for the Royals against Gaudin.

Both pitchers kept their teams in the game for six innings. Guadin had given up two runs while Hochever had surrendered three. It was barely a quality start, but it was one nonetheless. And for Hochever, that could have been a good thing. Hochever has lost seven of his last eight decisions and really only pitched well in one of them. A decent start like this one could have bolstered his confidence a bit. But after giving up lone runs in three straight innings, why not let him get out of the game with some good feelings?


Royals' manager, Trey Hillman, sent Hochever back out there to start the seventh. Cervelli, who really looks like he should be the Yankees catcher of the future, doubles off the wall to lead off the inning. Take Hochever out now? Nope. Pena singled to right and Cervelli scored. Take Hochever out now? Nope. Brent Gardner singled the left. Pena made it first and third with no outs. Surely you take Hochever out now, right? Nope. Hochever then walked Melky Cabrera. If the Fan was a KC Royals' fan, he would be screaming at the television right about then, "TAKE HIM OUT OF THERE BEFORE HE GETS KILLED!"

Hillman stayed in the dugout. Predictably, Robinson Cano hit a grand slam and before you can say, "A Trey full of salami," the game is over, Hochever has an 8 in his run column and his psychie. What did Hillman want from Hochever? Did he want him to "man up" and get through the mess? Did he want to do the old saw that says a young pitcher learns by trial by fire?

Hillman had a chance to have Hochever bail out of there after six innings with a decent start. Instead Hillman sends him back out there. Hochever gives up two quick hits and another run and Hillman leaves him out there withering. After Cano, what could Hochever have been thinking? If it was the Fan, the natural reaction would be, "I suck." Right? Good job, Hillman.

Peter Gammons on Baseball Tonight said on Monday that the Royals have some very good young pieces to work with. While the Fan can see two or three, Gammons could be right. But as long as Hillman is there, the team will take the shortest distance to a defeat of any team in the majors. It seems totally uncanny how good Hillman is at making the wrong moves.

He may be a good guy and the Fan could feel bad for writing this. But man, it's hard enough when you don't have the horses. If the guy can't steer the carriage, it's just hopeless.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Game Picks - Monday: September 28, 2009

Another successful day. Not at the trade show, mind you, which was a downer for the most part. Though the company did make one great contact that could possibly make us a lot of money. But a successful day at picking games. It's always great when the picks are correct twice as many times as they are incorrect. And so the last full week of the season begins on a high note.

What about Monday? Let's take a look:

  • The Dodgers over the Pirates: The Dodgers would have clinched on Sunday, but sloppy fielding led to a blown save and thus the Dodgers will have to play hard for another day.
  • The Phillies over the Astros: Hamels over Bazardo, whose name this picker never gets tired of saying. The Phillies magic number is three and then they can rest.
  • The Mets over the Nationals: Let's guess that Figueroa will be better than Detwiler.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Ozzie Guillen's tirade after Saturday's loss was a thing of ugly beauty.
  • The Twins over the Tigers: The Twins have to win this game to give the rest of the series any kind of drama.
  • The Yankees over the Royals: The Yankees will rest half the team, have hangovers, start Gaudin and will still win the game.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: This pick is only because Hendrickson is starting for the Orioles. Otherwise, the Bay Rays should be embarrassed the way they mailed in the last two months of the season.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: The Marlins have the better offense, but Jurrjens is better than Sanchez nine times out of ten.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: The Red Sox still have some business to attend to and Beckett is starting at home.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: The Angels want to get the clinch over with and a win takes two of the magic numbers off the board in one snap.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 10-5
Month: 206-152

Some Facts About 100-win Teams

The Yankees clinched the American League East title Sunday with a win over the Red Sox. The win also gave them 100 for the season. The 100-win plateau has always been intriguing and is one of those magical statistical numbers that makes baseball such a cool sport. But it's not one of those magical numbers that gets much ink. To remedy that fact, here are some tidbits about 100-win seasons:

  • The Yankees are the 87th team since 1901 to win 100 games.
  • There have been 44 seasons since 1901 when no team reached 100 wins that season. Two of them were strike shortened seasons and two seasons (1918, 1919) were shortened by war.
  • There have been 23 seasons that had at least two 100-win teams.
  • There were five seasons that featured three 100-win teams: 2003, 2002, 1998, 1977 and 1942. 1942 was the only one when there were only 154 games in a season.
  • The longest stretch of years without a 100-win team was nine seasons: 1918-1926.
  • The longest stretch of years without a 100-win team since the 162 game schedule is three seasons: 1981-1983 (1981 was strike shortened).
  • The longest stretch of seasons in a row with at least one team with 100 wins was seven seasons: 1974-1980.
  • The lowest season (full seasons only) below 100 wins during the 154 game schedule was the 1926 Yankees that led the majors with 91.
  • The lowest season (full seasons only) below 100 wins during the 162 game schedule was in 1982 when the Brewers led the majors with 95 wins.
  • The Yankees have the most 100-win seasons with 18. Twice they finished in second place with 100 or more wins.
  • The Athletics (Philadelphia, Kansas City, Oakland) and the Cardinals have the second most 100-win seasons with 8 each.
  • 51 of the 87 teams that compiled 100 wins in a season have not won the World Series that year. That's 59%.
  • Only five teams have won 100 games three seasons in a row: Athletics (1929-1931), Cardinals (1942-1944), Orioles (1969-1971), Braves (1997-1999) and the Yankees (2002-2004).

ESPN Forgets What Made Them

As mentioned in the Game Picks post, the Fan spent the weekend at a trade show. As such, there was no opportunity to watch the games either in baseball or football. After missing the games, the Fan was hoping to catch up on the action during Baseball Tonight and then the football pregame show that used to be so good every Sunday night. What a terrible disappointment.

Pure and simple, the Fan has had a very hectic, chaotic and busy summer. So there hasn't been much time to watch ESPN and their highlight shows. So it was an awful surprise to see how terrible these shows have become. They used to be so good too. They were the best and they radicalized sports news. The Baseball Tonight formula was to have a snappy announcer in Ravy and a couple of succinct and occasionally humorous color guys and tons of highlights and late breaking highlights of games still in progress. They still have the guys in place, but the show has become about them and not about the highlights. You may actually get a highlight once every ten minutes. The rest of the time they, "tawked, tawked, tawked."

Do the producers and the leaders of this network really think we tuned in all those years to hear those guys talking? Not at all. We tuned in to WATCH THE HIGHLIGHTS! The more the better. In the good old days, the highlights took up 80 percent of the show and the talking and special features took up 20%. Us business guys like the 80/20 rule. Now it's 35/65 with the 65 percent being talking and special features. It's terrible and frustrating and sad. We still have Ravy and Gammons and Kruk and Winfield is pretty good too. But they were our guides through what we were seeing, not the mess we have now.

The Football "highlight" show was even worse. Chris Berman was the host. Some love him. Some hate him. Count the Fan in the former column. And the show started out with the end of a game whose last play was a desperation lateral-happy fiasco. Berman did some of his patented sound affects and the Fan was smiling in recognition and good humor. Then the show went into the worst pits of hell possible. For the next 25 minutes (before the Fan just got disgusted and turned it off), three games were covered from the whole day. An average of two highlights of each of those games were shown. The rest of the time was four guys talking and talking and talking. Much of them saying the same thing the other guy said. When they hadn't said enough, they switched it to some other talking head in the studio who is all by himself and he talks some more, basically repeating what the other guys just said. Who is he? Why is he there? Never seen him before and he added NOTHING. Just more talk. And he had a really bad tie.

What happened? Where did they get lost? If we want analysis, we'll go to the blogs and to the major sports sites. THIS FAN WANTS H-I-G-H-L-I-G-H-T-S!!. The Fan wants video. The Fan wants to see the exciting plays. How did the game play out? Who made great plays? Why was the pitcher effective? Instead, we get endless blather about what happened, which is about as exciting as watching a United Nations session.

Bloody awful. How can something as successful as ESPN totally lose their way? How can they not understand what got them to be so successful in the first place? They made their money with their commentators commenting on the highlights. It was fast, it was hip, it was cool. Now it is monotonous to the max. When did they get the idea that watching evasive professionals during contrived press conferences is fun to watch? It's a shame because it was once the wonder of the television world.

What just occurred to this writer is that ESPN has gone the way of MTV. MTV was cool when it was all videos with just a few special events. It was about the music. Now it's one piece of schlock after another. Totally ruined. And ESPN has followed MTV right down the same rabbit hole.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ichiro Suzuki Ejected

For the first time in his professional career (Japan or USA), Ichiro Suzuki was ejected from a game after arguing a called strike three. Apparently, after Ichiro drew a line in the sand, the umpire thought the Japanese hitting sensation stepped over it. The Fan's only question was whether Ichiro used an interpreter in the argument that ensued after the ejection.

Matt Wieters Settling In

Since this space featured a post concerning OLD catchers yesterday, it seemed like a good time to check in on Matt Wieters, the rookie catcher for the Baltimore Orioles. Remember him? During the spring, there wasn't a more highly anticipated rookie than Wieters. There was outrage (this blog was no exception) when he didn't make the club out of Spring Training and even more so when the Orioles started the season moribund. But then Wieters was called up as expected at the end of May. His start was rather sleep-inducing as he began slowly and the spotlight passed him by. How has the rest of the year gone?

The answer, happily, is that Wieters is starting to get comfortable in his new digs. Let's look at his season:

He started 2-11 in May. June wasn't a whole lot better. He started 21 games that month and batted .257. He was regularly in the bottom portion of the lineup and only had seven RBI for the whole month. His OPS was an unimpressive .691.

He hit a lot better in July and batted .323 for the month with a .364 OBP, but again, his production was limited as he had just three extra base hits the entire month and only drove in six.

Wieters regressed a bit in August as his playing time increased. In 24 games, he hit only .250 and had an OPS for the month of only .654. But he did double his previous month's extra base hit total and drove in thirteen runs, so that was a big improvement.

The Orioles have put Wieters in the third hole in the batting order and that's where they are hoping he will spend his career. September has shown signs that the move was warranted. His line for September is: .347/.412/.520. So after all is said and done, his season will end up right around league average in batting, and after the way he started, that's promising. It does appear that he was tentative and a little lost when he first arrived but is more aggressive and more comfortable.

Wieters also started slowly in the field. Base runners were stealing with ease against him early. But he has tightened it up and now stands at 26% for the season, which is just below the league average of 28%. The good news is that his caught stealing in high leverage situations is higher than the steals allowed in those same situations. Will he ever be great in this area? It seems too soon to tell.

Some times it is hard to live up to the great expectations that arise when a supposed "can't miss" prospect comes on the scene. The pressure of that situation must affect different players different ways. Most were disappointed by what Wieters showed early and moved their interest on to other things. But Wieters has marched on and is slowly getting his groove on. Time will tell if he will develop into an elite catcher in the major leagues. But after seeing what he's done over time, the prospects still seem like that will be a distinct probability.

Game Picks - Sunday: September 27, 2009

Happy Sunday to you and welcome to another edition of Game Picks. Had a decent enough day yesterday to end a really good week of picking. Sadly, we enter the last full week of games as the season will end a week from today. But then the playoff start and that's always exciting. The last week seems like it will be a difficult one to pick games as teams that have clinched will rest starters and then anything can happen. The Cardinals have clinched. The Yankees are a win or a Boston loss away from clinching. The Dodgers will clinch early this week. The AL Central has turned into a nail-biter coming down the stretch. Miguel Cabrera put the team on his back yesterday to strengthen the Tigers' chances. The Rockies lost so the Braves are now only two and a half back in the NL wild card race. It will be interesting.

So let's get started with today's games:

  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: The Yankees will put together one last push to get to 100 wins and clinch the division in the same swoop. Pettitte gets the honors (which seems fitting) while the Red Sox counter feebly with Byrd.
  • The Indians over the Orioles: Huff leads the Indians with ten wins (despite an ERA near 6) and has been good of late (3-1 2.88) and his opponent, Tillman, has had a rough September.
  • The Blue Jays over the Mariners: Tallet hasn't had a good game since forever, but the Blue Jays are at home and face Rowland-Smith. This one is a toss up.
  • The Marlins over the Mets: Like Josh Johnson over Misch. The Marlins aren't dead, so they will keep playing hard.
  • The Dodgers over the Pirates: The Dodgers could clinch with a win and then Manny can take the rest of the season off. Kershaw over McCutchen.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: The Braves couldn't have asked for a better final push schedule as they get the Nats while the Rockies get the Cards. Lowe will win today.
  • The Phillies over the Brewers: Blanton is a better bet than Bush.
  • The Reds over the Astros: Cueto versus Wandy. The Fan has been going with Wandy all year, but the Astros seem to have quit on the season and the Reds have been playing really well.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: Jackson versus Hudson is a fortunate match up for the Tigers as they attempt to stumble into the playoffs.
  • The Royals over the Twins: Ah, the Twins are coming down to the wire but have to put Liriano out there to face Greinke. Not good.
  • The Bay Rays over the Rangers: Have no faith in McCarthy for Texas while Price has looked really good lately.
  • The Rockies over the Cardinals: Don't like Lohse in this match up against De La Rosa. Plus the Cards have clinched and the Rockies are still fighting for the wild card.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: The A's have been fantastic of late, but Saunders should win this game.
  • The Cubs over the Giants: The Cubs have been hot (too bad it's too late) and the Giants have been cold.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Horrible game to have to pick with Mujica versus Buckner. Going with the home team because that's all there is.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 62-33
Month: 196-148