Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Amazing Arthur Rhodes

If you hadn't seen this headline and were asked who is the all time leader in a pitching stat called, "Holds," would you have guessed that the answer is Arther Lee Rhodes, Jr.? Probably not. The man has been around forever. It seems like a hundred years ago that he almost blew up the Orioles chances in the 1996 playoffs against Cleveland. It seems like fifty years ago that he did blow up the Mariners' chances against the Yankees in a dramatic 2000 playoff series that was busted wide open by his meltdown. Today, as an old guy, he has finished three straight years with an ERA+ over 170 and is as reliable as they come.

What a long trip it has been. Rhodes was 20 years old when he began his career as a starter for the Baltimore Orioles in 1991. As a starter he was inconsistent and he spent his first four years back and forth to the minors. But he did manage to get 51 starts in. By his fifth year, he was spending more time coming out of the bullpen and that's what he has been doing ever since.

He wasn't always great. He had some clunker years (four of them), but he has finished above league average in 14 different years. Several of them way, way over league average. In 1996 and 1997 for the Orioles, he went 19-4 in relief with 164 strikeouts in 158+ innings.

After nine years with the Orioles, Rhodes signed as a free agent with the Mariners and played there for four seasons. Two of them were spectacular and the best two seasons of his career. In 2001 and 2002, he went 18-4 all in relief with 164 strikeouts in 137+ innings. His ERA those two years were 1.72 and 2.33.

Rhodes then went on to Oakland in 2004 and they tried to make him a closer. That didn't work out too well. He did record nine saves, but his ERA ballooned to over 5.00. That experiment soon soured and they went to someone else and he went somewhere else. He had a great year in Cleveland in 2005 and posted a 2.08 ERA.

He pitched in 55 games in Philadelphia in 2006, but he wasn't right. His elbow started hurting and again, his ERA ballooned to over 5.00 that season. Finally, he was shut down and had Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2007. He has come out of that period of time really well.

In 2008, he split the season with Seattle and Florida. He pitched in 61 games that season and had a combined ERA of 2.04. He was particularly unbelievable with the Marlins. In 25 games with them that season, his ERA was 0.68. He didn't give up any homers in 2008. Not bad for an old guy with a rebuilt arm.

Rhodes has found a home in Cincinnati and pitched really well in 66 games for them last year. He finished with a 173 ERA+ and he has started off well again in 2010. He doesn't look like he will be done pitching any time soon.

Rhodes is rare in that most would consider him a LOOGY. He is left-handed and he is featured in match ups against left-handed hitters. But he is still a power pitcher just like he always has been. This year, the Reds are using him more for whole innings in the setup role instead of spotting him just against a lefty or two here and there. In five appearances, he has pitched five full innings and has a WHIP of 0.75 and an ERA of 2.25.

The incredible Arthur Rhodes has been around forever and keeps throwing beebees and big sweeping sliders. And he could just go on for a number of more years to come.

Game Picks - Saturday: April 17, 2010

This game picker is feeling pretty good about the picks yesterday except for the pick of the day, which turned more into the pickle of the day. The Fan has this terrible guilty feeling that if someone put actual money down on that pick they would have lost big time. But again, this isn't a gambling site. If it was, there would be odds listed and that over/under stuff. This is just a long time Fan stating daily opinions based on decades of watching the games. The Red Sox and Bay Rays game was suspended yesterday in the ninth inning so that game will be decided today and that pick will be included today.

So what does Saturday look like?

  • The Brewers over the Nationals: Randy Wolf pitches like the professional he is and this Fan can't believe that Livan will keep his pretty 0.00 ERA going all season.
  • The Astros over the Cubs: Keep in mind that the Astros are truly pathetic. But they still have Roy Oswalt, who will throw his man junk on the line in every game. Plus, the Cubs are starting Gorzelanny, who was supposed to pitch yesterday and didn't.
  • The Rangers over the Yankees: Hard to pick against New York at home, especially against the Rangers. But Feldman is just a better pitcher at this point than Burnett.
  • The Blue Jays over the Angels: Saunders has started the season badly. Tallot isn't exactly a great pick either. But the Blue Jays are home and the Lind/Wells combo is really clicking.
  • The Twins over the Royals: If the Royals can't win with Greinke, they're not going to win with Meche. The Twins may win 95 games this year.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: Guthrie versus Duchscherer. Duchscherer looked great last time out. Guthrie is Guthrie.
  • The Mets over the Cardinals: Santana versus Garcia. Santana looked like a guy coming back from surgery last time out and Garcia has been super so far this season. But Santana has been so good for so long, that it's hard to pick against him.
  • The Giants over the Dodgers: Going with Lincecum over Haeger, which hurts because the Fan really roots for the young knuckleballer.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: Westbrook versus Peavy. Good match up of veteran pitchers. Think the Indians will prevail at home.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Cueto is unpredictable, but Burres has been predictably bad for the Pirates.
  • The Rockies over the Braves: Got to go with Ubaldo over Kawakami.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: Completion of suspended game. Boston has a better bullpen than the Rays do.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: In the real game, like Shields over Buchholz.
  • The Padres over the Diamondbacks: Correa has been serviceable this year. Kris Benson?? Uhh...he's pitched like three times in the last four years, right?
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: Verlander should power his way to a win over Rowland-Smith.



  • The Marlins over the Phillies: Nolasco shuts down the red hot Phillies with Moyer giving up around six runs.

Yesterday: 9-5
Week: 40-25
Month: 91-44
Games of the Day: 0-1

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Duncan Effect

Sometimes you just have to give a guy credit where credit is deserved. For many years now, Dave Duncan has been Tony LaRussa's pitching coach. And though LaRussa is considered the genius ("Mad Lawyer") behind many seasons of success, his greatest asset might be surrounding himself with good people. Duncan, who almost walked away from the Cardinals this year because of how the Cardinals handled his son last year, is definitely a big reason for LaRussa's success. His success at bringing pitchers with marginal prior results in the past and making them better is amazing. We'll call it the "Duncan Effect" and it's striking...literally.

Let's start with Joel Pineiro. Pineiro was moderately successful for two years with Seattle and then he had three really poor years before bouncing mediocre time with Boston and Oakland. Pineiro then goes to the Cardinals where his career is resurrected and landed him a good contract from the Angels. Should Pineiro give a percentage of his good fortune to Duncan? Well yeah. With Seattle, Pineiro averaged 3.0 walks per nine innings with a strikeout to walk ratio of 2.01. With Dave Duncan, his walks per nine innings shrunk to 1.6 and his strikeout to walk ratio jumped to 3.05.

Chris Carpenter was a decent pitcher for the Blue Jays. He had some ups and downs though and was inconsistent. As such, his record in Toronto was 49-50. With St. Louis, he is 69-24. With Toronto, Carpenter averaged 3.4 walks per nine innings with a K/BB ratio of 1.85. In St. Louis, Carpenter has averaged 1.8 walks per nine innings with a K/BB ratio of 4.01.

Kyle Lohse has a similar improvement where he has gone from averaging 2.7 walks per nine in his career to 2.4 for the Cardinals. But the improvement isn't as dramatic because he started with the Twins who also have an organizational emphasis on throwing strikes.

Braden Looper averaged 3.6 walks per nine innings with the Marlins and then came to St. Louis who converted him to a starter (he was a closer before) and his walks per nine innings with the Cardinals went down to 2.3.

Jason Marquis has always issued more free passes than he should, mostly because he is a finesse pitcher and doesn't try to give in to the middle of the plate. But even so, his walks per nine innings went from 4.0 with Atlanta to 3.2 with the Cardinals. He's made a few stops since his years in St. Louis and his walks per nine was never lower than it was with the Cardinals.

Brad Penny has had some success over the years and has had some off years too. But one consistent was his walks per nine innings which for his career has been 2.9. Despite a killer fastball, Penny has a K/BB ratio over his career of 2.18. While he's only made two starts for the Cardinals so far this year, it's still indicative of this argument. His walks per nine innings so far is 1.3 and his K/BB ratio is 4.00.

Looking at all these pitchers who have improved under Duncan and the key is easy to see: Pound the strike zone and don't give away free passes. That would seem to be a no-brainer for any club. The Twins have used this strategy for years. And with the new emphasis on On Base Percentage around baseball, you would think that every club would be stressing limits on free passes. But Duncan gets it done. He somehow has the knack for getting his pitchers to change their ways and to lower their walks while raising their K/BB ratio.

In 2009, the average National League pitching staff averaged 3.5 walks per nine innings. In St. Louis, it was 2.9, the best in the league. In 2008, Carpenter was hurt and the Cardinals had an off year because they didn't have the right horses (Anthony Reyes anyone?). But the two years prior, the Cardinals were better than league average in the category.

Dave Duncan is a big part of LaRussa's success over the years and it is hard to imagine the two separately. They seem to be able to take marginal to marginally successful pitchers, get them on the program and spit them out as strike throwing machines. You have to give them credit because it certainly works.

Game Picks - Friday: April 16, 2010

Well, okay...April Fools came late for this game picker yesterday (see related earlier post). But...umm...we'll do our best to forget that ever happened. Instead, we'll concentrate on Friday's picks and hope this embarrassment soon blows over. At any rate, it should be less concerning to this writer than say if he was a certain Steelers quarterback. And remember, we also start a new feature today called the Pick of the Day, which the Fan will confidently state [gulp] is a lock and a sure bet. Here goes:

  • The Cubs over the Astros: The Astros finally won their first game. That's the good news. The bad news is that Paulino is pitching Friday. The good news is that Gorzelanny is pitching for the Cubs. The bad news is that the Cubs should slug in more runs.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Jumping feet first on the Mike Leake bandwagon. Hope it doesn't hurt as much as the time the Fan jumped on that little red wagon.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Forget the injuries nagging the Phillies. Halladay is pitching.
  • The Brewers over the Nationals: The Nationals mashed the Phillies on Thursday. But the Brewers will mash Lannon. Gallardo has to earn his money some time.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Buehrle will have this game over so fast that the Indians will be be sitting in the clubhouse wondering just what the heck happened.
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: Cano is mashing. Jeter is gashing. Sabathia is thrashing and it's just another night in the Bronx.
  • The Blue Jays over the Angels: Marcum down, friends. The Jays are rolling.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: Beckett should be better than Wade Davis, who hasn't quite figured things out yet.
  • The Braves over the Rockies: Funny stat of the day. Jason Giambi is 0 for 8 for the season in spot duty for the Rockies. But he has six walks. So his line currently sits at: .000/.428/.000. Weird eh?
  • The Cardinals over the Mets: Carpenter verses Perez. Egads! Why do the Mets keep throwing Perez out there? Heard that Carpenter's velosity is way down though. Bears watching.
  • The Padres over the Diamondbacks: Garland gets his first win as a Padre.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: Millwood versus Braden. Really like Braden.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Padilla versus Wellemeyer. Yeesh. Toss a coin and give the win to the Dodgers at home.
  • The Mariners over the Tigers: King Felix neutralizes Damon and Jackson.

And...are you ready? The GAME OF THE DAY!

  • The Royals over the Twins: Book it, Dano. Greinke does his thing and Baker does his early-season "Home Run" Baker impression.

Yesterday: uh. Missed it.
Week: 31-20
Month: 82-39

Thursday, April 15, 2010


The Fan hasn't felt this way since forty years ago when our Jersey school went on a field trip to the middle of the woods to identify plant life and diarrhea occurred. See, this is what happened. Every day the Fan goes to to pick the games for the day and then share those picks with this space's readers. So...that's what the Fan did this morning and that site said there were only three games scheduled. After clicking on the link, the only three games that appeared were three hockey games. No baseball games were listed. The Fan didn't perform "due diligence" and just accepted that there were no games scheduled...thus no picks.

So imagine this writer's surprise when flipping over to and seeing a bunch of games in progress. The look on this writer's face must have been the same when Rob realized that Coach didn't vote for Russell like he was supposed to. Oops, not only does the Fan have egg on his face, but now has admitted his Survivor obsession. Ouch.

Anyway, tremendous apologies and..umm...from now on, the Fan will make double sure of his ducks in the pond. [sigh].

The Fan might also take a moment to respond to Kryss (like that name by the way) who was disappointed that the Fan wouldn't pick one game he was really sure about each day. The lame response here is that the picks themselves give a good indication of which game picks feel pretty sure and which games appear to be a crap shoot. But since the Fan is already wearing an egg bouquet so-to-speak, he might as well continue in that vain. Each day's picks will now also feature one pick of the day that will be the featured pick. Along with the rest of each day's results, the Fan will keep track of these special bonus picks. God help this poor soul...

Game Picks - Thursday: April 15, 2010

It wasn't a bad day for this game picker. It wasn't a grand day either. It was a serviceable day. Any baseball day that features more correct picks than incorrect picks can't be all that bad. But still, the Fan's pride doesn't like being incorrect that often. It's like having fifteen arguments with your wife and being wrong six times. Ugh! And you have to admit it.

But life goes on and today is another day. But what? Wait! There are no games to pick! Oh crap. Who made this schedule anyway? Not one team in action? Not one? What is this, hockey?

What a bummer.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 31-20
Month: 82-39

Two Box Scores that Caught the Eye

It was a wild and woolly night in Philadelphia. Kyle Kendrick, a young pitcher the Phillies have high hopes for started against Washington's Craig Stammen. Since the Phillies were home, Kendrick started things off by plunking Nyger Morgan. But he got off that hook when Willie Harris banged into a double play. Two outs. No problem. Christian Guzman got an infield single. He's a very fast guy. Dunn walked. Willingham walked and Adam Kennedy (of all people) then hit a double to deep right and plated all three runs. Washington was up 3-0.

The Phillies get up and Victorino (who had four hits on the night) starts things off with an infield single. Polanco, who has looked like Superman thus far, hits a single. Uh oh! This isn't starting well. Utley walks. Howard hits a bleeder that falls in for a run. Dobbs (one of the best names in baseball) doubles. Ibanez hits a sac fly. Now it's 4-3.

Then Washington gets up again in the second. Alex Gonzalez doubled. Stammen strikes out trying to bunt (nice). Morgan singles and then steals second. Harris walks. Guzman singles to score Gonzalez. Dunn pops up. But then Willingham doubles to score two more and that's it for Kendrick.

Now here is the best part of the story. The Phillies bring in Nelson Figueroa, a pitcher the Phillies took off the trash pile after the Mets released him. Figueroa ends the inning without further damage. More on him later. But now the score is 6-4 Nationals and we've only played three half innings.

The Phillies come up again and Stammen obviously has nothing on this night. The first guy up is Figueroa (guess it was too early for a double switch). Figueroa singles. After a Victorino fly out (he just missed it), Polanco doubles and then Utley homers. Good night Stammen. The Phillies get a couple more singles, but do no more damage. Now the Phillies were up 7-6.

Figueroa gets into a big jam in the third, but only one run scores on a ground out and the game is tied. Figueroa ended up pitching three and a third innings with just that one run. The Phillies go on to beat up on Washington's bullpen and Figueroa and the Phillies get the "W" with the final score of 14-7. There were ten total pitching changes, eleven walks, twenty-four hits and 332 combined pitches. Oh yeah, and Joe West was an umpire at this game. Instant Karma's gonna get you.

Figueroa looks like a decent enough pitcher. Looking at his stats from last year, he wasn't great, but he was useful and was far from terrible. If you look at the Mets' starting pitching, Maine is getting creamed. Perez is hopeless, Niese isn't an answer and it seems the Mets could have gotten by just fine with Figueroa on board. But this is why the Mets are such a mess. And this is why the Phillies have won two years in a row.

The other box score that caught the eye was the Seattle - Oakland game. As of this writing, it's still in the fifth inning with the score tied 2-2. But when the Fan first looked at it, the A's were winning 2-0. How can an incomplete game catch the eye? It was the batting averages of half of the Mariners' regulars. After going hitless in his first two at bats, Ichiro Suzuki was batting .211. Ichiro...batting .211. Have you ever seen that before? Even after his single, his average went up to .238, but his OPS was still .542. [[shiver]] That's ugly. But he's not alone. Milton Bradley, even after a single, was batting .138. Eric Byrnes was batting .111. And Jack Wilson was batting .194. No wonder they aren't scoring runs. Oh, and over on Oakland's side, Jake Fox hit a homer, but his average with the homer only went up to .077. Let that sink in a while. And Jack Cust couldn't have done better than that!?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Game Picks - Wednesday: April 14, 2010

Matusz was brilliant for the Orioles for seven innings. But his manager decided to try and get another inning out of him. Big mistake. And then the Orioles' bullpen did the rest of the damage in a game that featured two LOOGY implosions. So that pick went south. Anderson and Fister were both fantastic in the Oakland - Mariners game. Both threw power blanks all night. But Oakland's bullpen handed the game to the Mariners. Thus that pick went south. And then the Pirates unexpectedly beat the Giants. So those are the three picks that only made it a decent picking day on Tuesday. There were only nine games which is odd for a Tuesday.

The last couple of years, it seems increasingly necessary when picking games to predict when a team's bullpen will be the balance of a losing or winning game. This year, it seems that blown saves and blown leads are the norm. It's a given that the Royals' bullpen will blow the game. It just is. Poor Bannister pitched his heart out and left with another KC lead. But it disappeared quickly once he left.

Wednesday has a full slate of games (Yay!) so let's take a look:

  • The Tigers over the Royals: The Tigers are winning often and Damon hasn't hit yet and neither has Ordonez. The Royals actually have an offense, but their bullpen has been offensive.
  • The Yankees over the Angels: Yankee fans had to have deja vu all over again when Vazquez was lit up in his first start for the Yankees. If it happens won't be pretty.
  • The Red Sox over the Twins: Lackey starts for the Red Sox against Slowey. Like Lackey's chances.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Not solid on Price, but even less solid on Bergesen.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Rule #1 for 2010: Do not pick against Randy Wells.
  • The Pirates over the Giants: Like this kid, Morton. He's still inconsistent, but he's got a lot of talent. Hey! Molina has two walks already! Maybe he'll get more than 19 this year.
  • The Phillies over the Nationals: Saw the match up of Stammen versus Kendrick and the first gut reaction was that the Nationals were going to win. But it didn't sit well eventually.
  • The Rangers over the Indians: Good match up of Masterson versus Wilson. Wilson has a better chance of throwing strikes.
  • The White Sox over the Blue Jays: Morrow has a great arm and hit 99 MPH in his first start where he struck out five. But he also walked five, which is the rub for him.
  • The Reds over the Marlins: Homer Bailey will have a good game and Volstad won't. That will be the difference. The Fan's guy, Micah Owings is pitching great in relief!
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: Yes, the Astros will lose 162 games this year.
  • The Rockies over the Mets: The Mets have had an awful start and don't be surprised if heads start to roll over there. They can't pitch and they can't hit. Bad combination.
  • The Braves over the Padres: Like Hanson's prospects over Richard.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: The D-backs are struggling on offense and the Dodgers are at home.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Every night, the A's throw a good young arm at you. Tonight it's Gonzalez. Vargas is pitching for the Mariners. Ugh!

Yesterday: 6-3
Week: 22-14
Month: 73-33

Team Hitting Personalities

One of the fantastic things about being a baseball Fan today is the amazing amount of data we have available to us. Would you like to know who saw the most pitches per plate appearance last year in the American League? Sure. It was Kevin Youkilis (Nick Swisher was second). Organizations like Retrosheet and data collectors like and other sites like FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus give us just about everything you ever wanted to know about what happened at a game. Considering all of this, the Fan wanted to know if you could gauge a team's hitting personality by looking at the statistics. Sure, some teams hit more homers, some have higher On Base Percentages. But does it go beyond that and can the data even show us a team's hitting philosophy?

The Fan was pondering this question and came across a database with the unwieldy name of, "2009 American League Pitches Batting." This database collects information about teams and individuals and what they do with the pitches thrown their way. It's quite fascinating. Click here if you want to see it for yourself. The Fan started with the American League and a couple of things jumped out of the database that seemed to provoke some hypotheses.

First, the Fan wanted to see if the numbers showed any difference of approach between the Red Sox and the Yankees. And there seems to be a difference. Both strive for high On Base Percentage and wearing the starting pitcher down. But the subtle difference seems to be found in two stats. First, the Red Sox (along with the Angels) had by far the lowest percentage of swinging at the first strike in 2009. Those two teams along with this year's Mariners, again are way below the average when it comes to swinging at the first strike. This smacks the Fan into thinking those numbers indicate a team philosophy and emphasis.

The Yankees swing at more first pitch strikes, but they also had the highest percentage in 2009 in striking out looking. And this year is the same thing, except it's incredibly higher than everybody's percentage. The hypothesis here is that the Yankees emphasize waiting for the right pitch to swing at. In other words, they try to work the count with the philosophy of getting a good pitch to hit. For further indications of this philosophy, the Yankees had the lowest swinging strike percentage last year and the same is true this year. In other words, when they finally do swing, they don't miss what they are swinging at.

The Rangers, on the other hand, are aggressive in their approach. In 2009, the Rangers had the highest percentage of swinging at the first strike and also the highest swinging strike percentage. This year, those numbers are about the same and are only topped by the Blue Jays who have either changed their personality from last year, or more likely, have different players at several positions that have different approaches from the more patient 2009 Blue Jays.

What about the National League? One team that jumped out was the Giants. They struggled on offense last year and part of the reason seems to be that like Texas, the Giants are more aggressive than the rest of the teams. They had the fewest 3-0 counts (by quite a margin). They had the highest percentage of pitches swung at at 50%. The rest of the league averaged 45%. And they tied the Cubs for the highest percentage in the National League of swinging at the first strike. The Giants are doing better this year in all those categories but this year (so far) they have the lowest pitches per plate appearance in the National League.

The Mets apparently liked putting the ball in play. They had the fewest (by a lot) swinging strike percentage and the highest contact percentage. That this was an organizational philosophy was confirmed by the stories that came out concerning their deposed front office guy (whose name is beyond the Fan's grasp). Not surprisingly, after the man's ouster, the Mets don't have the lowest percentage in either category this year.

The Rockies easily led the league in pitches per plate appearance at 3.99. The closest were the Marlins and Dodgers at 3.88 pitches per plate appearance. That number is way down so far this year (3.66).

It's all interesting. It may bore you to tears. And that's fine. But for a stat rat like the Fan, it's Nirvana.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Is Orlando Hudson Right?

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported on statements made by Orlando Hudson that hinted strongly that Jermaine Dye does not have a job because he is an African American. This writer's first sentiment is to dismiss the statement out of hand. But that's just not a good idea. Hudson went on to say that he had a lot of things to say about the issue but can't while he is still playing. He indicated that he will have a lot to say after he retires.

Dye's predicament seems more based on performance than race. He's been one of the worst fielding outfielders for a couple of years now. He did have an offer from the Nationals for $3.5 million but turned it down. But that is about what he is worth. He didn't hit at all last year after the All Star break. So his homer and RBI production are misleading. If he can't play the outfield anymore, that limits him to first base and/or DH. But those positions are stacked all over baseball. There are simply too many of those types of players and too few places where they are needed.

The difficulty in this new age of financial discretion isn't about collusion as some (including the players' union) have indicated. It stems from teams now employee valuation strategies based on numbers that have become prevalent in the game. Dye ran headlong into those strategies and refused to understand the new marketplace.

Hudson goes on to try to prove his point by stating that Sheffield and Lofton don't have jobs either. But isn't it more likely that those guys have reached their expiration points on value? Plus, these are all former starters that excelled at their primes. It's very difficult for those in that situation to accept limited roles for less money. Garret Anderson seems to understand the market and has taken two straight market contracts.

The Fan just looked up Jermaine Dye's valuation on Baseball Prospectus and they have him valued for 2010 at $6.8 million, so according to them, he is worth more than the $3.3 million he was offered. Point taken. But how many teams really want to throw that kind of money in this economy to a player that doesn't have a good position to play? Garret Anderson, according to Baseball Prospectus is valued at about $6.1 million or just under Dye. But Anderson played for $2.5 million last year.

The Fan could also point out that for every Dye that doesn't have a job, there is a Gary Matthews, Jr. who does. It just happens that way sometimes. There is one weakness in this analysis and that is this writer isn't African-American. So the Fan doesn't understand the world in which Orlando Hudson and Jermaine Dye live. There is no way to know what they have had to put up with during their careers. So really, it seems pointless to dispute what Hudson is saying because there is no context that this writer can understand.

The only thing that seems obvious is that teams in this day and age seem more savvy on valuation and according to their data, Jermaine Dye isn't worth what he was asking for. Teams want value and that doesn't seem on the surface to have a color context.

Game Picks - Tuesday: April 13, 2010

It was bound to happen. Sooner or later there would be a "market correction" and the mighty streak would end. And boy, it was quite a correction. After a week of high flying, this picker was wrong twice as many times as right. And you know what? The Astros may lose 162 games after all. No more picks for them. No more lock solid picks for Jon Lester, who looks anything but rock solid. No more sentimental picks. Wishing isn't a good strategy.

Let's see if we can make Monday a one day blip. Here are today's picks. Oh! before the Fan forgets: A nice person commented yesterday and asked the Fan to make a double down pick. While it's understandable a daily post like this may be used for those who wager on such things, the Fan doesn't understand that world and makes these picks purely for the fun of it. That said, he has no idea what a double down pick is. It seems logical that it's a pick of pure brilliance that the picker feels strongly about? Unfortunately, this is baseball. There is never a game or a pick that the Fan feels that strongly about. So anyway, here are the picks:

  • The Tigers over the Royals: Not rock solid on picking a team that is starting Dontrelle Willis. But not rock solid over picking against them either.
  • The Yankees over the Angels: Pettitte should have no trouble in the Yankees' home opener.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Kershaw is a better pick than Ian Kennedy. That is, if he lasts more than four innings.
  • The Orioles over the Bay Rays: The upset pick of the day. Really like this Matusz kid.
  • The Blue Jays over the White Sox: The Blue Jays really let one slip away last night. Romero should right the ship.
  • The Reds over the Marlins: This game is dangerous no matter how you pick it. Nate Robertson and Bronson Arroyo were both very good their first time out of the gate. But both could bomb very easily. Yeesh.
  • The Rockies over the Mets: Remember the Maine. Can't pick his team anytime he starts.
  • The A's over the Mariners: Seattle has really started terribly at the plate. Ichiro is batting .250. Figgins is under the Mendoza line. Anderson starts for Oakland, which won't help them.
  • The Giants over the Pirates: In the immortal words of Roger Daltrey: "We won't get fooled again!"

Yesterday: 4-8 [oof]
Week: 16-11
Month: 67-30

Monday, April 12, 2010

They Need to Throw Strikes!

Several pitchers who are being watched very closely opened the season with worst case scenario occurring: They threw way too many pitches way early in the game and walked too many batters. All of these pitchers we are going to talk about have had control problems in the past or are young, inexperienced pitchers. All have great stuff but can't get it over the plate. All were impressive in the spring for NOT throwing walks. The pitchers in question? Check out below:

Clayton Kershaw: Kershaw made 31 starts last year and only got a decision in 16 of them. He just throws too many pitches early in the game. Last year, the great news was that he struck out 9.7 batters per nine innings. The bad news was that he walked 4.8. This spring, the talk was that he had to pound the strike zone. He said it himself over and over. So what did he do his first time out this year? He walked 6 in 4.2 innings. He goes again on Monday. He's got to throw strikes.

Fausto Carmona: Despite the fact that the Fan has been calling him Francisco all spring, he was still amazing. After losing his control the last two years to the tune of more than 5 walks per nine innings, he only walked one or two batters all spring. So what did he do his first time out this year? He walked 6 in 6 innings. Despite that, he only gave up one hit and won the game. But that isn't going to happen often. He's got to throw strikes.

Francisco Liriano: Now HIS name IS Francisco! In 2006, Liriano struck out 10.7 batters per nine while only walking 2.4. Those numbers have been getting closer to each other ever since. Last year, it was 8.0/4.3. This spring, there was talk of him becoming the closer. But he pitched so well and his command was so good, he made the rotation. But his first time out this year, he walked 5 in 6 innings. Oh no! Not again! He's got to throw strikes.

Mike Leake: Leake made the Reds' rotation despite never having thrown a minor league pitch because he showed great command and threw strikes and let his stuff dominate. Well, his first time out, he walked 7 and threw only 57 strikes out of 107 pitches. By the way, is Dusty Baker going to ruin this kid too? 107 pitches in his first game out? Geez. But, Mr. Leake? You've got to throw strikes!

Carlos Marmol: Marmol walked almost as many batters in relief last year as most average starting pitchers throw in three times as many innings. He averaged an amazing 7.9 walks per nine innings last year. So far this year, he's only walked one in two outings, both converted saves. That's a promising start. He's got to throw strikes!

A. J. Burnett: Last year, Burnett led the league in walks AND wild pitches. His typical pattern was to get two quick strikes and then try to get cute with sliders outside. But he wound up walking over four batters per nine and thus became way too inconsistent as a starter. So far in two starts this year, his walks are down. We'll see. He's got to throw strikes.

Dontrelle Willis: We all know the story here. Willis couldn't throw a strike the last two years if the place was on fire. Well, he's made his first start this year and he only walked 2 in six innings, so that's hopeful. But he got to three balls on six hitters. He's got to throw strikes.

The Fan will be watching these pitchers very closely along with other guys in the minors like Aroldis Chapman and Stephen Strasburg, both of whom had their pro debuts on Sunday. Both looked dominant, but both walked too many guys. They have to throw strikes!

Game Picks - Monday: April 12, 2010

Oh come on now! This is getting scary. Another dazzling day for the game picker and it's freaky. The Fan is going to start running in zigzag patterns to avoid the sky when it starts falling. Trevor Hoffman blew another save and the pick still turned out right. Gorzelanny pitched nearly perfectly and his team still lost notching another win on the Fan's column. Shields was pitching very well and then his manager inexplicably went with a LOOGY to turn Posada around to his best side. Homer. Ball game. Win on the Fan's column. There is definitely a desire to quit now because the Fan will never again be this far over .5oo.

And, because many teams are getting their home openers, there is nearly a full slate of games on a Monday. Here's how the sizzling Fan sees them:

  • The Tigers over the Royals: Scherzer versus Hochever in an interesting match up. The Tigers line up versus the Royals' line up. No match up at all. Although both teams bullpens have been horrible to date.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Dempster should have no problem giving up less runs than Davis. The Cubs are in trouble though.
  • The Phillies over the Nationals: This one looks like a lock despite Marquis starting for the Nats.
  • The Indians over the Rangers: Going with Carmona over Harden. Though Carmona's last start was effective, his wildness was back. Uh oh.
  • The Red Sox over the Twins: How could Lester lose to Pavano? But then again, how did Livan throw seven scoreless innings? You just never know.
  • The Astros over the Cardinals: Wandy brings home the first Astros win of the year. Hey, they are not going to lose 162 games, right?
  • The Braves over the Padres: Going with Jurrjens over Correia though Jurrjens was shaky last time out.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Not happy picking Duchscherer, but would be even unhappier picking Rowland-Smith.
  • The Orioles over the Bay Rays: Predicting a Garza thwacking. But that could be real stupid. We'll see.
  • The Marlins over the Reds: Nolasco looks unhittable. Cueto can be unhittable...or he could walk the building. Again. You just never know.
  • The White Sox over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are hot, but Peavy should cool them down a bit.
  • The Pirates over the Giants: Ohlendorf. It's a personal thing.

Yesterday: 12-3
Week: 12-3
Month: 63-22 Amazing...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Baseball's First Week - Anything Learned?

It's a long season and one week doesn't tell too much concerning the long range outcomes of things. But some trends developed this week that are worth observing. The trick is to determine which of those trends is a mirage and which show the promise of things to come. Let's take a look around the majors and see if we can tell the difference:

National League East

The Phillies already have a +24 run differential after one week. They could very easily run away with this division. The Marlins are in second place, but have a minus run differential, which if that keeps up means they are a mirage, especially with their relief pitching. The Mets and Braves both have positive run differentials (the Braves are higher) so their positive spin for the season looks excellent. Still think the division finishes with the Phillies on top with the Braves in second and contending for a wildcard. Heyward will have great days and bad days but will finish with a .900 OPS or higher.

National League Central

Does it tell us anything that after the first week of the season, the Cardinals are the only team in this division with a positive run differential (+14). Yes. They are the only team in this division that can pitch enough and hit enough consistently to win. The Pirates are much improved, but their 3-2 start is a mirage. The Cardinals' one weakness is relief pitching and though that may not help them in this division, it may hurt them in the long run of things. Braun and Fielder are doing what they do for the Brewers, but the Brewers aren't doing much else well. Hoffman picked up two saves, blew another, but doesn't look solid at the end of the game. Gallardo is 0-2 despite his new contract.

National League West

None of these teams look great so far. The Giants have started 4-1 but are only +8 in run differential. The Rockies relief corp looks shaky. The Dodgers' starters look messy. This pack is going to be tightly bunched all year from the looks of things. The only team that looks capable of a big run is the Rockies with their offense, but we'll see. The Padres are better, but still don't hit enough.

American League East

The Yankees and Bay Rays have showed resilience against tough competition. But the Bay Rays are already on the minus side in run differential and could struggle, especially with their pitching. The Red Sox are only at +2 in run differential and had a rough week out of the bullpen. But that should be a mirage. The bigger question is the offense and how long they stick with Ortiz. He sat yesterday and the team won. We'll see. The Blue Jays have shown they will be better and will feast against weaker competition. But they are still fourth best in this division.

American League Central

This is going to be a two team race with the Twins and Tigers. The Twins look awesome and their bullpen hasn't missed a beat without Nathan. They have four saves already without him. Gardenshire's one weakness is his continued man-crush on Punto, who has been playing regularly at third. Why? The Tigers have a good line up and Damon hasn't started hitting yet. He will. Jackson looks like the real deal which sets them up nicely. The White Sox are as bad as the Fan thought they would be. It's no real comfort being right, but they just don't seem to have the horses they need to win consistently. Cleveland shows promise, but ultimately, their pitching will do them in. The Royals? Sigh.

American League West

Are the Athletics a mirage? Their pitching seems to say no. They have great young pitching, that's for sure. The bullpen looks okay. They are hitting better than expected. Barton has been a real pleasant surprise. It's hard to predict they will continue to hit this well though. So, they are good enough to contend, but not as good as the first week promises. The Rangers are pitching very well, but aren't hitting. Now that's a switch, no? They will hit more and should be contenders. The Mariners aren't hitting and have questions in their rotation behind King Felix. Lee is out until May now. Not good. Unlike the Rangers, the Mariners offense won't get much better. The Angels look bad right now. Matsui is doing really well, but they have the worst pitching in the American League so far. That shouldn't stay the same, but their offense looks really weak. The Fan really doesn't think they will be in the picture.

Some individual player thoughts:

  • Greinke doesn't look as sharp as last year. He'll be good, but not as good as last year.
  • A 40 year old Mo still looks like the best closer in the game. Unbelievable.
  • Chipper Jones has to stay healthy. The Braves are a different team with him in the line up. He's already missed games with dings.
  • Denard Span is a really good and unappreciated player.
  • Vernon Wells cooled off the last two days, but this will be a comeback year from him.
  • The Red Sox really should move Mike Lowell. It's a festering situation if you ask this Fan.
  • Vlad Guerrero is awesome so far. He's looked better than at any time last year. If Hamilton starts hitting, the 1-2-3 punch of Hamilton, Cruz and Guerrero should be a wonder to behold.
  • Is this the year that Evan Longoria becomes the best player in the American League? Yes.

Game Picks - Sunday: April 11, 2010

The week ended with another bang up night. How does a 51-19 opening week grab you? It grabs this picker pretty darn good. Of course, loyal reader, bobob, will tell you that it usually comes back to the mean. But wouldn't it be nice if every week could be that successful?

Let's look at Sunday's games and see if the ball will keep rolling:

  • The Tigers over the Indians: The Fan likes Westbrook and all comeback stories. But Verlander is just too good to not pick.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Wouldn't it be a feel-good story if Leake, who's never thrown a minor league pitch, wins his first major league start? He throws strikes and he's darn good. Plus, who wants to pick the Cubs with Gorzelanny?
  • The Dodgers over the Marlins: Warning! This is a sentimental pick. The Fan really wants Haeger to stick in the majors as we need another knuckleball guy.
  • The Mets over the Nationals: Santana verses Livan seems like a huge mismatch. But those usually fry an egg on the Fan's face.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: The Jays are on a serious roll to start the season and Marcum might be their best pitcher. They face Millwood.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Burnett versus Shields. The Bay Rays are favored, so going with an upset here.
  • The Phillies over the Astros: Halladay versus Oswalt. Could be a draw. But the Phillies offense versus the Astros? A serious mismatch.
  • The White Sox over the Twins: Beuhrle was seriously good in his first start and his lefty arm should neutralize the Twins over-lefty lineup.
  • The Red Sox over the Royals: Holdover rule from last year: Never pick a pitcher pitching his first start back from disabled list. This game's version? Gil (ga) Meche.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: The Fan believes in Feldman and doesn't believe in Snell. Thus the pick.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: Like Ubaldo over Garland.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: Braden was awesome last time out. Saunders, not so much.
  • The Giants over the Braves: Can't pick against Lincecum.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Pirates: How unfair was it that yesterday, the Fan didn't pick the Pirates because McCutchen was supposed to pitch and then Duke did and won the game? Well, McCutchen is SUPPOSED to pitch today.
  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: This is the upset pick of the day with Wolf out pitching Carpenter.

Yesterday: 11-4
Last Week: 51-19
Month: 51-19