Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tripping Through The Transactions

It's been another busy week on the transaction wire with all sorts of injuries and scrambling for players that will actually be effective on team's 25-man rosters. We could do in depth analysis on those transactions, but what fun would that be? Instead, we report these transaction in our unique and ludicrous way. Here we go...

  • Boston's Jacoby should be renamed Illsbury instead of Ellsbury with all the time he's spent on the DL.
  • Carlos Guillen came off the disabled list and the Tigers think he is more valuable at second base (of all places) than Danny's Worth. Frankly, the Fan thinks they are crazy.
  • The Astros pruned a Bud from their roster as Norris went on the DL. To replace him, the Astros will go for the Gustavo as they recalled Chacin. In another Astros move, Oswaldo was Warren Commissioned to Round Rock, Navarro to return as they recalled another pitcher, Wesley, who they felt had the Wright stuff to help them right now.
  • In Dodgers' news, there won't be any Tavern on the Green as Nick was sent down.
  • For the Yankees, Granderson coming off the DL wasn't a Winn/Winn situation for everybody as Randy lost his job in the process.
  • For the Pirates, the news keeps getting worse as a DL stint for Charlie Morton was salt in the wound. Does the Fan have to explain these things to you?
  • If it was Everth a good time for the Padres to lose Cabrera at shortstop to the DL, it's now as he was only hitting .212 anyway. Perhaps Zawadzski can Lance that festering wound on the infield in his place.
  • In other Padres news, Gallagher came back from vacaSean and is now off the DL.
  • The Fan takes no poetic license to report that Josh Bard went on the DL. Let's hope his replacement, Alfonzo has an Eliazer-like arm to gun down base stealers.
  • Matt won the Daley double as he was recalled from the PCL by the Rockies.
  • Finally! After two months of watching Ortiz pitch for the Dodgers, the L.A. club finally decided that Ramon's arm was noodles.
  • The Giants' GM asked his assistant: "Where's Waldis? I can't find him on my paper." The assistant GM pointed to him on the paper as he was in Fresno. So the GM called and Joacquin was called up. To make room for him, Matt was Downs and out when he got sent back to Fresno.
  • The Cardinals got bad news as they might have Lohsed Kyle for the season with a weird forearm injury. To replace him, the Memphis manager informed Fernando that Salas will be dressing in St. Louis for a while.
  • The Yankees signed Chad Gaudin again meaning Logan was sent to the Boonees and Shane Lindsay rode off to the sunset.
  • Coco's uniform is still Crisp as he's barely gotten to wear it this season and is again back on the DL. There must be something about centerfield in Fenway...first Coco and now Jacoby...
  • Honestly, Ianetta understnad why catcher Chris was sent down in the first place by the Rockies. Well he was called up again.
  • The majors will again be filming with their Cameron as Mike was recalled by Boston from an injury rehab assignment.
  • Can never understand how Wilson always finds a job. He can't hit and he doesn't have a Betemit in the field than anyone else.
  • Raphael is again painting with the Dodgers and he was un-Furcaled from the DL.
  • The Twins pronounced J. J. Hardy as hale and he was taken off the DL. Nothing better than a shortstop that is hale and Hardy.
  • The Mets Beltransferred Carlos to the 60 day DL. That can't be good.
  • Luis Durango felt jeeped being in the minors, but he was just called up by the Padres.
  • The Phillies changed catchers as Schneider was taken off the DL and Hoover was vacuumed from the roster.
  • And finally, the Indians played musical chairs when pitcher Dana was told Late in the Eveland that he was being sent down and then told another pitcher, David, "Oh Purcy Purcy me. things ain't what they used to be..." and asked him to help change things around.

Thanks it folks. Have a great Memorial Weekend. The Fan's late father fought in World War II and he will be remembered and honored tomorrow

Game Picks - Saturday: May 29, 2010

This Fan was tired last night and went to bed early, which hardly ever happens. Upon retiring, only eight games had been completed and this picker had five of those games right. Imagine the private expletives that exploded this morning when this picker discovered that only one more pick went right the rest of the night. Frankly, this is sickening. Five of the last eight days have been in the red. This week is in mortal danger of being the first entire week in the red. The month of May is now only one game over .500. The Games of the Day feature has become some sort of sick joke with four losses in a row and five out of the last six. And that feature is what the Fan considers a mortal lock to be right. It's stupid and the Fan is dang tired of the failure. The Red Sox can't beat the Royals? The Bay Rays can't beat the White Sox? What's going on here?

Surely, Saturday has to be better (and please don't call the Fan Shirley):

- The Yankees over the Indians: Read a story that the Yankees pitching coach found a flaw in Sabathia's delivery and they worked on it in the bullpen. Expect him to come up big.
- The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Feeling really bad for the Orioles. They really are pathetic.
- The Angels over the Mariners: King Felix hasn't been right. Weaver is the Angels' best pitcher.
- The Cardinals over the Cubs: It appears that the Cardinals finally got sick of losing.
- The Rangers over the Twins: Sooner or later, the Rangers are going to have to beat a good team if they want to win the division.
- The Phillies over the Marlins: One of the best match ups of the year with Halladay versus Johnson. Could go either way.
- The Reds over the Astros: Harang versus Moehler who is making his first start of the year. Hearing reports out of Houston that the Astros' veteran players are dogging it.
- The Braves over the Pirates: Not thrilled with Medlan starting for the Braves. Seems a loaded pick...
- The Brewers over the Mets: Nieve isn't Niese, which sure is confusing.
- The Royals over the Red Sox: Oh what the heck. Might as well waste another pick on Greinke.
- The Athletics over the Tigers: Anderson out pitches Porcello.
- The White Sox over the Bay Rays: Wade Davis hasn't been impressive lately.
- The Dodgers over the Rockies: Kuroda versus Cook in a rematch of last week won by the Rockies.
- The Padres over the Nationals: Latos!


- The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Sanchez puts together a great game with lower walks.

Yesterday: 6-9
Week: 35-41 how embarrassing
Month: 191-190 trying to hold on
Season: 390-315
Games of the Day: 19-23 Amazing

Three Value-Added Surprises

Glancing at the the first page of leaders on in value, many familiar and expected faces appeared. Pujols, yup. Longoria, yup. Votto, yup. Vernon Wells, yup. Beltre, yup. Zimmerman, yup. Zobrist, yup. But while looking at the list (to clarify, this is based on dollar value calculated from WAR for batters with their fielding figured in), three names popped out that simply weren't expected. They are Angel Pagan, David Eckstein and Alex Rios. Are you kidding!? Angel Pagan and David Eckstein?? Rios is a little less surprising in that he certainly had the talent to be where he is, but simply hasn't shown it for a fairly long while. This page that the Fan was looking at was the first page of six. In other words, it lists the players in the top 84th percentile currently in value in the majors. And it includes Eckstein and Pagan. Amazing. Let's look at all three and see why they are valued where they are. We'll start with Rios.

Alex Rios isn't just on the first page, he is listed tied for third with Carl Crawford just ahead of Kevin Youkilis and just behind Justin Morneau and Chase Utley. That's pretty heady company he's keeping there. And he's been doing this well quietly on a team that has been loudly disappointing so far this year.

Rios is a player that many suspected didn't care that much about how good he could be or was. The perception was intensified with some damaging statements he made during the latter stages of his tenure in Toronto. And last year certainly didn't help the image any. In combined time with the Blue Jays and the White Sox in 2009, Rios put up the terrible line of: .247/.296/.395. That's an ugly line. And it wasn't just his hitting. His fielding tanked too. He went from a 21.7 UZR in 2008 to a -0.5 in 2009. Blue Jay fans who had come to loathe him were particularly glad the Jays got rid of him.

But there he is at third in the league in value for 2010. Rios had some very good years at the plate for the Blue Jays. His wOBA from 2006 through 2008 was .365, .368 and .350. Those are good numbers. He averaged 18 homers a year during that time and a .296 batting average and threw in 64 steals for good measure. But then came last year and many thought the White Sox were idiots for taking him on. Rios also has a pretty fat contract which made it seem all the stupider. But so far this year, Rios has the following line: .309/.362/.568 and his wOBA is a nice fat .410. He's already hit nine homers and has stolen fifteen bases. And the hitting isn't fluky either as his BABIP is right where it should be.

Alex Rios isn't just doing it with the bat. He is also rated as the sixth best outfielder in baseball so far this year. That's great fielding! Kenny Williams gets a lot of criticism for his personnel decisions, but Rios has proven out to be a shrewd move.

David Eckstein has been around so long that it was hard to remember that he was still in the big leagues. He started with the Angels and in his first couple of years with the Cardinals but his playing time started to diminish in 2007. When the Cardinals let him go, it surprisingly wasn't his hitting they jettisoned (he hit .302 that year) but his fielding. Eckstein was always weak-armed for an infielder, but his UZR fell to -9.8 in 2007 and the Cardinals felt they had no choice but to improve themselves. In 2008, Eckstein signed on with the Blue Jays organization, but they ultimately didn't want him so he went to the Padres. There he had another bad year in the field (-8 UZR) and batted only .265.

But apparently, the Padres like the "intangibles" that Eckstein brings to the table. He hit only .260 in nearly full time duty last year for the Padres and had a .323 OBP. Nothing to write home about. But his defense improved some and finished out last year at -2.3. But this year, playing second base exclusively, Eckstein has turned around his fielding completely and has a 6.8 UZR. Remarkable. He is also batting .297 with a .358 OBP, so everything is roses for the Padres and Eckstein. He just came off a stint on the DL, but it sure was surprising to see him so high in the value ratings. The Fan isn't sure if Eckstein would even come to mind if the task was to put a 25 man roster together.

The third member of the shocking trio of top value-added players is Angel Pagan. For all this Fan knew, Pagan was just a place holder until Beltran came back. But Pagan hit a surprising .306 last year in 88 games for the Mets with a .350 OBP with a surprising Slugging Percentage of .487. Hit hit 11 triples and 22 doubles in just 88 games. This year, Pagan is showing the numbers weren't a fluke as he is batting .296 with a .361 OBP. His Slugging Percentage is a bit lower, but he's not a patsy at the plate by any means.

The value added by Pagan is his defense. Last year, Pagan finished with a +7 for his UZR and this year is even better at 7.6. He is in the top five for outfielders in fielding plus he already has four outfield assists this season.

So there you have it. There are three guys you would never expect to see ranked that high on the value charts this far into the season. Did it shock you too?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Working the Count

In an excellent article, Thomas Boswell brings to our attention the importance of a two-strike count. He seems to prove that before there are two strikes, major league batters are Babe Ruth but after two strikes are more like Mario Mendoza. It's fascinating stuff and well worth the read. So this Fan won't be offended if you go here to read it.

The story got the Fan to thinking about how the game has changed so much that working the count and getting the pitcher to throw a lot of pitches seems to be the latest and greatest thing to do these days. It seems that in order to facilitate that new mantra, major league hitters are encouraged to take that first pitch. Heck, most little league players are told to take the first pitch, so that goes back a long way. But if the first pitch is a strike, then doesn't the hitter lose one of his best opportunities to get a hit? Isn't he giving away an opportunity?

Of course the subtle difference here is that batter who aggressively swings at the first pitch if it is a strike and the guy who "chases" the first pitch that isn't in the strike zone. But the Fan isn't talking about the latter, but the former.

The Fan was thinking about this article and about Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner of the Yankees. Jeter loves to look for a first pitch fastball and drive it somewhere. It truly is surprising that pitchers still throw him fastballs on the first pitch. Jeter has put the ball in play on the first pitch 36 times this season, the most for any count. His average on those balls in play is .417 with a .957 OPS. Predictably, as Boswell so aptly points out, once Jeter gets two strikes on him, he's much less effective. So Jeter likes to take advantage of one of his best opportunities to hit.

Brett Gardner always takes the first pitch. Always. And quite often, it's a strike. Gardner has only put six first pitch pitches in play all season or one sixth of the time that Jeter does. But on those six times, Gardner has a .500 batting average. So if Boswell is right, and this Fan knows he is, Gardner is losing precious opportunities. With two strikes, Gardner is a .250 hitter, so why make it easy for the pitcher to get there? Gardner is great when he is ahead in the count and his ability to get on base and make the pitcher throw a lot of pitches are all admirable things. But Gardner shouldn't let so many grooved fastballs go by on the first pitch, at least according to Boswell it seems.

Game Picks - Friday: May 28, 2010

Here we go again. Another down day follows a good day. What is this, Wall Street? The commodities market? The Red Sox sweep the high-flying Bay Rays and then lose to the Royals. Dice-K nearly throws a perfect game last time out. This time, he walks eight. Whuh?

Okay, so May is seriously pooched. It's almost over. If only the tally could remain slightly over .500 for the month, it would be on to newer and better things. And so it's a big weekend for this here picker. Let's start with Friday:

- The Cardinals over the Cubs: Hate to pick against Wells. That seems like blasphemy but two things here: First, he is facing Carpenter and secondly, Pujols finally hit a homer yesterday. Look out now.
- The Athletics over the Tigers: Ah well, Dontrelle is still trying but...
- The Yankees over the Indians: The Yankees get a losing team for the first time in a month. They better take advantage of it. Plus, Hughes is pitching.
- The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Marcum plus a weak team equals success.
- The Marlins over the Phillies: Just a hunch that the Marlins will jump all over Kendrick.
- The Astros over the Reds: Another hunch that Wandy is going to pitch a super game.
- The Red Sox over the Royals: Wakefield baffles the free-swinging Royals.
- The Braves over the Pirates: Duke is the Pirates' best pitcher, but...
- The Mets over the Brewers: Still waiting for heads to roll in Milwaukee. Santana wins.
- The Rangers over the Twins: Lewis beats Slowey in this possible playoff preview.
- The Rockies over the Dodgers: First, the Rockies need this game more. Secondly, they are pitching Francis. Lastly, the Dodgers are pitching Monesterios.
- The Padres over the Nationals: The Padres have been unbelievable. The Nationals are falling to earth.
- The Mariners over the Angels: Cliff Lee out pitches Kazmir.
- The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Jackson out pitches Cain and is Abel to get the win.


- The Bay Rays over the White Sox: Mr. Price wins in a mark down.

Yesterday: 5-7
Week: 29-32
Month: 185-181
Season: 384-306
Games of the Day: 19-22 For Pete's Sake!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Game Picks - Thursday: May 27, 2010

Wednesday was a decent day. It wasn't great. But it was decent. This picker totally didn't see Lincecum getting hammered or the Cardinals losing AGAIN. Should have picked Boston for the sweep. Should have gone with Hochever over Feldman ("You've lost that lovin' feeling") but at least the tally picked up two wins from the Yankees after they finished their suspended game. The Mets' pick was a good one thanks to a brilliant game by Takahashi. Ubaldo won again (nine wins!) and Oswalt pitched great in his scouting game. And so, after Tuesdays debacle, ten wins are ten wins and this Fan will take them.

Thursday's picks:

- The Astros over the Brewers: The Brewers have to find somebody besides Bush to start these games.
- The Dodgers over the Cubs: The Dodgers' pitcher is the best Ely since the guy who played Tarzan on television all those years ago.
- The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: The D-backs salvage one game of the series with Haran.
- The Giants over the Nationals: The Nationals beat up on Lincecum. Maybe the slower stuff of Zito will screw them all up.
- The Cardinals over the Padres: This Fan keeps picking the Cardinals and they keep losing. The law of averages has to work here sooner or later.
- The Orioles over the Athletics: Bergesen pitches a good game.
- The Braves over the Marlins: Prefer Hudson over Nolasco in a very good match up.
- The Mets over the Phillies: The Mets sweep with Pelfrey again brilliant.
- The Reds over the Pirates: Cueto has pitched great three times in a row. That is uncharted territory for him.
- The White Sox over the Bay Rays: The Bay Rays go into a Boston induced funk.
- The Yankees over the Twins: The Yankees jump on Blackburn and Vazquez is a good bet on the road.


- The Red Sox over the Royals: Fresh off a Bay Rays spanking, the Red Sox get a new dog to kick around.

Yesterday: 10-6
Week: 24-25
Month: 180-174
Season: 379-299
Games of the Day: 19-21 Dang those Cardinals

Was Right About Beltre

Life isn't fair. Just ask Crystal Bowersox. When your passion is about baseball and it's what you write about, there are simply times when you are going to look like an idiot or worse. You may have noticed that this space features game picks for each and every day of the season. Talk about unfair! There is no way to come out smelling like a rose on that one. Baseball is simply too unpredictable. So far, this writer has been wrong about David Ortiz, Livan Hernandez, Carlos Silva (still can't believe that story), and a host of others on players who produced when this writer said they were done or didn't produce when this writer said they would (ahem, Mr. Feldman). So occasionally, when an observation was particularly poignant, the only sane thing to do is to take credit for it. For this writer, that dose of sanity is Adrian Beltre.

Beltre, of course was never going to be as good as he was for the Dodgers in 2004. That was an outlier if there ever was one. Some will probably wonder if it wasn't an artificially enhanced outlier. But no matter, the year garnered Beltre a second place in the MVP vote and a huge contract for the Seattle Mariners.

Many will choose to believe that Beltre was a bust for the Mariners. He didn't reach 100 in his first year there in 2005 in OPS+. But he was over league average for the next three years while playing superb defense at third base. Ask the Angels right now if that kind of third baseman was worth the money the Mariners were paying him.

But the perception that Beltre was a bust in Seattle comes from two different places. One, the reality that he was never going to duplicate what he did in 2004. Anything less than what he did that year would be perceived to be a failure. But it was an outlier and that's what outliers are in a nutshell. An outlier is a year that just doesn't match a player's history. It's a year when some kinds of stars align and magic things happen. The second perception comes from the very real fact that 2009 was a disaster for Beltre. For the first time in three years, he didn't hit 25 homers. For the first time since his rookie season in 1998, he didn't even hit ten homers. He finished with a 79 OPS+.

So yeah, if that is what you look at, you paint Mr. Beltre with a gigantic BUST sign hanging around his neck. But Beltre's shoulder was mush last year. He tried to play through it and finally had to have it taken care of.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, saw the writing on the wall concerning Mike Lowell. Lowell had been plagued by hip injuries and other maladies and was no longer able to be counted on physically to play third base regularly. Kevin Youkilis could play over there, but when he did, his body tended to break down too. Plus, he's one of the best fielding first basemen in the league, so why mess with that?

And so the Red Sox signed Beltre. Back when it happened, the Fan hailed it in this space as a brilliant move. Beltre was the perfect gamble who, if he could regain his 100+ OPS+ that he has maintained for most of his career, and if he could be close to the kind of wizard at third that he's always been, would be exactly what the Red Sox needed.

The funny thing was, the gamble took a while to start paying off. Beltre had terrible troubles in the field early and started slowly at the plate. As of April 21, he had a line of: .259/.268/.315. Yuck! He also had a pile of errors. Starting on April 22, though, he had 24 hits in his next 16 games and has steadily produced ever since.

On Wednesday night, in a huge series against the Bay Rays and against one of the toughest pitchers in the American League, Matt Garza, Beltre had a triple and two homers and drove in six of the Red Sox' eleven runs. He now has 33 ribbies to go along with his .341 batting average. His defense is starting to pay dividends too. After a slow start as mentioned above, he is now eighth in the majors in UZR at third base, and there is no reason to believe that he won't start to climb higher as the year progresses.

To recap, Beltre leads all third basemen in batting average and is eighth out of thirty teams on defense at third. That, friends, is a brilliant pick up by the Red Sox and well worth the $9 million they spent on the guy. And it sure feels good for this old writer to get at least one good call to crow about.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Game Picks - Wednesday: May 26, 2010

"When sorrows come, they come not single spies, But in battalions." Oh, Mr. Shakespeare, you are so right. The little 4-0 of a short schedule Monday gave this picker some hope that he had regained his mind. But to quote another passage from the witches in Macbeth, "Fair is foul and foul is fair." In other words, nothing makes sense. Or yet in another quote from the great man in his King Lear: "Reason is madness!" Yeah. Yesterday was awful. The Fan brilliantly figured the Phillies would struggle with another knuckleballer and that the Red Sox would again halt the Rays, but other than that, it was pure disaster. Hey, if Garland can shut out the Cardinals, what can you do?

Simply keep picking, that's what. Wednesday:

  • The Indians beat the White Sox: Westbrook stinks up the place less than Buehrle.
  • The Rangers over the Royals: There isn't a scarier foursome right now than Kinsler, Hamilton, Guererro and Cruz.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: Pick didn't work out last night, but it's still the right pick and Vargas isn't Fister.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: Cahill has been a much better young pitcher than Matusz, who seems lost lately.
  • The Angels over the Blue Jays: Pineiro has been alternately awful and brilliant. He was awful last time, so he should be brilliant this time. Morrow has been awful every time lately.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Hanson has to be better than Nate Robertson, right? Come on now.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: Maybe losing Maine was a good thing. The Japanese fellow is quite the pitcher.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Okay, the Pirates got their one win for the week. Today we get back to normal.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: So far the series has been all Red Sox, but Garza matches up real well against Lackey.
  • The Yankees over the Twins: Poor Yankees got a great performance from Burnett only to have the game suspended due to weather. Geez, you would think the Twins would have a dome or something. :)
  • The Dodgers over the Cubs: If the Fan had a match up of Billingsley versus Gorzelanny ten times, the Dodgers would be picked in nine of them.
  • The Astros over the Brewers: Oswalt pitches for the scouts.
  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: Ubaldo!
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Come on, man. The Cardinals can't be this bad, can they?


  • The Giants over the Nationals: Lincecum. If this pick comes out wrong, the Fan might just give up.

Yesterday: 4-10
Week: 14-19
Month: 170-168
Season: 369-293
Games of the Day: 19-20

The Mariners Sure Are a Mess

Remember the famous scene in the Mutiny on the Bounty, where Fletcher Christian (played by Marlon Brando, not Mel Gibson) puts Captain Bligh on the little dinghy? That's how Seattle manager, Don Wakamatsu, has to feel right now. The poor guy has not had a fun year. Since this writer is just a blogger...ahem...and not an insider, the Fan doesn't know how much input Wakamatsu had in the personnel decisions of his team. If he had a lot of input, then he deserves to be the old Captain in that scene. If he had no input, then he still stuck in the dinghy trying to hold onto his dignity as he will still attempt to captain his little ship and get it home.

In the latest story, there has been a lot of conversation about moving Ichiro Suzuki to a more productive spot in the line up. The captain...err...manager said that isn't going to happen since it might mess Ichiro up if he moves from his comfort position. While that is a bunch of bull, friends, it's still the right call. Ichiro isn't the problem. He's getting on base at least reasonably well. If they can't drive him in with the guys that are behind him, that's not his fault.

Let's look at it another way. If Ichiro isn't leading off the game and bats say, third or fourth, who is he going to drive in? He's the only guy on that team right now who can hit. So it doesn't matter if he leads off or bats second or third or fourth or fifth. He's still going to be the only guy who can hit. So what would you accomplish? Let's face it, the lead off guy is going to get the most at bats over the course of the season. Why not at least let your best guy...your only good guy...get those at bats?

The other side of the argument is that Ichiro has batted .338 over his career with runners in scoring position with a .441 OBP. He has batted .333 over his career in high leverage situations. Yes, that makes sense. When guys are on base, he gets a lot of free passes and hits. That is certainly helpful. But again, what good does it do if nobody is on base? Who is going to lead off? Figgins? He's batting .195. Jose Lopez? He has a .240 OBP. Jack Wilson? He's hurt and before he was hurt, he had a .275 OBP. Gutierrez? Well, maybe that makes sense. At least he has a .366 OBP, but he's also one of the guys you want in the three/four hole.

No, the problem is that Milton Bradley, Junior Griffey and/or Mike Sweeney, et al, can't or aren't getting the job done. To put it in a more dramatic way, Gutierrez and Ichiro have been on base a total of 144 times going into Tuesday's game. That number means that the two guys out of a nine batter line up have accounted for 28% of the number of times the entire team has been on base. Ichiro alone has accounted for 15%. The Mariners are dead last in the American League in batting average and slugging percentage and are next to last in On Base Percentage. That isn't going to change by moving Ichiro in the line up.

Here's what the Mariners should do: Keep Ichiro at lead off. Bat Langerhans second (he has nine walks is 31 plate appearances. Sit Griffey, release Sweeney and Bradley. Put Michael Saunders back in there every day. Bat Figgins last until he figures it out. And for gosh sakes, get a catcher, any catcher. Oh, and one more thing: Tell Ichiro to stop trying to steal bases. He's 37 for gosh sakes and is getting thrown out way too often.

Poor old Don Wakamatsu can't win...literally and figuratively. It doesn't help any when he has to answer stupid question every night after having to write out such a stupid line up.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Game Picks - Tuesday: May 25, 2010

Well what do you know, four and oh. That was a nice surprise after a week of futility. Mind you, it's not 15-0, which is what nirvana looks like. Going 15-0 would be like hitting a hole in one or bowling a 300 game. It would be awesome. That's the dream. But still, this picker will take the four wins without a blemish. Watched a little of the Red Sox game hence the previous post. Anyone who thinks the Red Sox started too slowly to be relevant are dealing in some serious wishful thinking. They look really awesome so far. And the Blue Jays look great too. The AL East is an amazing place...except for the Orioles.

Here are Tuesday's projections:

  • Oakland over the Orioles: Braden versus Guthrie. The Athletics win but Braden gets upset at Tejada for getting a hit after peeking back at the catcher.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Going with Peavy over Talbot. It's too bad about Grady Sizemore not being able to stay on the field. He and Ian Kinsler were two of the most exciting players in the AL.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: This is an incredibly hard game to pick. Kawakami has pitched decently for the Braves most of the time but can't get a win. Sanchez for the Marlins is a mystery each time he pitches.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: The Phillies couldn't hit Wakefield the other day so maybe they won't be able to hit Dickey either. The Mets should score four or five on Moyer.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Leake hasn't leaked yet. Hoping he never does, though, of course, that is impossible.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: The Red Sox can't play their waiting game with Shields because he doesn't walk people, so they will have to be aggressive. That will be a moot point if Lester is on his game.
  • The Dodgers over the Cubs: Kershaw has only one bad start in nine outings. He'll fare well against the Cubbies.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: Randy Wolf should out pitch Paulino. Prince Fielder is starting to stir too.
  • The Yankees over the Twins: When was the last time the Yankees played a bad team? Sheesh. Blindly picking Burnett over Baker.
  • The Rangers over the Royals: Harden should beat Meche, though Meche looked good last time out.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: The Fan really likes Ian Kennedy. And Chacin has not fared well his last two starts.
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Thinking the Cardinals will jump on Garland and Wainwright will pitch his usual good game.
  • The Blue Jays over the Angels: The Angels look sick and the Blue Jays' young pitching has been great.
  • The Nationals over the Giants: Long Live Livan and his assortment of bamboozle.


  • The Tigers over the Mariners: Hate picking against Fister, but Verlander is dominant again and the Tigers get enough offense to win.

Yesterday: 4-0
Week: 10-9
Month: 166-158
Season: 365-283
Games of the Day: 19-19

Here Come the Red Sox

Imagine if you will a long distance race in the Olympics. You are one of the best long-distance runners in the world and you are running your race. Your supposed rival is somewhere in the middle of the pack. You can't see him. You figure he's just doesn't have it in him this race. This is your race. But your rival likes being where he is. He thrives on the challenge and on testing himself. He has an ability to turn it into overdrive and summon something deep inside and slowly, with a few laps left, he starts to churn. He slowly gains ground, relentlessly. You still don't see him because he is still too far behind. But you can hear the crowd and you know something is happening. You don't quite perceive it yet. But your rival is coming after you. That has to be exactly the race the Bay Rays, the Yankees and even the Blue Jays must be running. But the Red Sox are coming. Slowly and steadily, they are gaining momentum and pretty soon, this rival is going to push you for all you're worth Tampa, New York and Toronto.

This should have been a tough part of the schedule for the Red Sox. They drew the Phillies for their interleague rival. Ouch. But they won that series after beating up on the Twins. Now they have taken the first game against the front-running Bay Rays. They are only a game behind the Blue Jays and two back of the Yankees. They are not out of it for the division race and certainly not out of the race for the wildcard. Here they come.

The thing about the Red Sox is their relentlessness. They just keep coming after you. Youkilis and Pedroia really exemplify this and they never take a game or an at bat lightly. Every one is a war and they are determined to win it. Youkilis has simply been unstoppable. When he doesn't walk, he doubles. When he doesn't double, he homers. He's been a machine on a mission and you can tell by his demeanor that he wants to waste you. Pedroia is the same way. He has a small man's complex with a bat in his hand. That's a pretty potent thing. His stats aren't yet what they should be, but he's coming. Just like the Red Sox.

David Ortiz, love him or hate him, is on a tear too. He's raised his average 70 points and he's hitting every mistake he gets thrown, and there have been a lot of them. J. D. Drew is coming on too after a slow start. Ellsbury is back, which means they have their speed back if he can get on base enough. That's always been the question. But when he does get on base, he creates havoc. Hermida has been clutch if not consistent. He has a ton of RBIs and always seems to get the big hit. This Fan thinks he's better than Cameron and should stay in the line up even if Cameron comes back.

An interesting thing has happened at catcher. Varitek, who couldn't hit anymore was replaced by Victor Martinez. Except Martinez hasn't hit and Varitek is hitting out of his mind. Plus, the pitchers have had a mutiny of sorts and don't want to throw to Martinez. This is a very interesting situation. But as much as it pains to write this, the Fan thinks you have to sacrifice the long-term offense and give the pitchers what they want. They are the ones who are going to get you where you want to go.

And everyone knows that the Red Sox haven't pitched particularly well. Their rotation, one of their key strengths, had been rotten. Beckett was awful and now is on the DL. Lester started slowly. Lackey started slowly. But the thing about the Red Sox is they have so much depth that they can keep throwing spaghetti at the wall until it sticks. They have done that all season and now the rotation of Lester, Lackey (who still isn't doing well), Dice-K, Buchholz and Wakefield are clicking. Dice-K and Wakefield destroyed the vaunted Phillies. They wasted them like they were the Mariners or something. Buchholz has been their best pitcher and he pitched great again on Monday night against the Bay Rays.

Don't look now, AL East, but the Red Sox are starting their kick and you better not look back or falter, because they like their chances and they like the challenge and they have plenty of time to win this race.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Will the Bay Rays Stay This Good?

Through the first quarter of the season, the Tampa Bay Rays have been easily the best team in baseball. They currently sit five games up on the Yankees who they thrashed earlier in the week. Are they overachieving or are they this good? Can they sustain this pace or will they settle down as the season progresses? Let's break it down position by position.

First base: Carlos Pena is having a tough season. He started poorly, then got hot for a while and is now back under .200 for the season. He is having a good year in the field, much better than last year. His WAR (wins over replacement) sits this year at -.02. He should get back to at least last year's statistics over time which means a WAR of around 1.8, thus adding two wins going on in the season.

Second base: Reid Brignac is a surprise getting most of the starts at second while Zobrist is playing more outfield. Brignac is playing above his head a bit as his OPS is slightly higher than his minor league totals. His defense shows tremendous range but that is not currently translating to league average fielding. It seems as the season goes along, his hitting will slump a bit and it is questionable if he'll stay in the line up for good. -1 win.

Shortstop: Jason Barlett is way below last year's incredible stats. Looking over Bartlett's career, last year seems like an outlier and not a sign of a budding star. This year is still below his norms though and he should pick it up a bit. His fielding is average at best. He is sitting at 0.4 WAR and should finish around 3. +3 wins

Third base: Evan Longoria is the bomb! His season is above projections and his batting average is the highest in his career, but that seems to be the natural progression of a building star. His fielding is great and his 154 OPS+ does not seem like a fluke at all. Expect Longoria to continue raking. He might start getting pitched around more if Pena doesn't pick it up. +4 wins.

Left Field: Carl Crawford is having a good year in every respect. His OPS+ and his batting average are the highest of his career. That seems to mean that he should come back just a bit to his norms. He continues to be a good fielder and his stolen base total is right around where it should be. Based on his history, he should add another 2 wins on as the season goes along (in WAR that is).

Center Field: B. J. Upton seems lost at the plate and is doing worse than even last year which was pretty ugly considering his talent. He is an average fielder at best. Perhaps he could use a change of scenery, who knows. He could get hot, but his OBP of .296 is not promising. The Fan has a funny feeling he'll stay lost as long as he is in Tampa. 0 wins added or maybe 1 at the most.

Right Field: Ben Zobrist is not having the same kind of year as he did last year. His batting average is higher. His OBP is good, but his slugging is way off last year's pace. It's puzzling to figure out why he is playing in the outfield so much. He's a good fielder wherever he plays, but he is an outstanding second baseman and it still seems his best position. It seems in the Bay Rays' best interest to stick him back on second and bring up a young stud to play the outfield. Their minors are stacked. Zobrist will probably add some power as the season goes along, but he won't match last year's numbers. +3 wins.

Catcher: The Bay Rays have a dilemma behind the plate. John Jaso is hitting really well, but he's a liability throwing out runners. Dioner Navarro is a better defender but he can't seem to hit anymore and his performance batting this year seems to prove that last year's poor performance wasn't a fluke. The Fan doesn't think this duo adds any win value over the course of the season and might even cost the team a win. So we'll go with -1.

Designated Hitter: This has been a mess for the Bay Rays. Burrell didn't get the job done and was released. Aybar is batting .232, mostly as a DH and now they are using Hank Blalock, which won't get the job done either. -2

Starting pitching: The Bay Rays' starting pitching has been brilliant, no question about it. One through five are solid all the way through. When your number five guy is currently posting a 127 ERA+, you're in pretty good shape. Let's look at them individually.

Matt Garza: Garza is way ahead of his career norms. For three years he's been in the 115 to 117 ERA+ area code. This year, he's sitting at 180. He has all kinds of talent, so this might be the building of an ace. His walk rate is excellent thus giving him his best k/bb ratio of his career. The one troubling stat is that his BABIP is sitting for the year at .257, which means he's been pretty darn lucky so far that way. His hits per nine innings will come up, but he leads the league in innings pitched so he's a bull. He'll add 3 wins to the ledger. Keep in mind that the Fan isn't talking about wins and losses as a pitcher, but wins over replacement.

Jamie Shields: Shields is hard to figure. He leads the league in strikeouts, strikeouts to walk ratio but also in hits allowed. He's also given up 9 homers already. He hardly ever walks anyone and is by far the best on his team in that category. But it seems hard to imagine he'll continue to strikeout more than nine per nine innings since he's never done that before. Still, he throws strikes, works deep into games and keeps his team in each game he pitches. +3

Jeff Niemann: The Fan never realized how big this guy really is. 6'9" and 260 pounds. That's huge. Also huge has been his success as a starter for the Rays. He is now 19-8 over all as a Rays starter. This year, his strikeout rate, walk rate and homer rate are all in line with what he did last year. The only difference this year has been the amount of hits he has allowed. But again, like Garza (and even more so), Niemann has been extremely lucky with a .241 BABIP rate. His ERA is 2.54 but his FIP is 4.06. So expect his ERA and his WHIP to rise during the season. But even so, he's pretty darn good. +2.

David Price: Price is off to a great start. Looking at his numbers, his strikeout rate is exactly the same as last year. His walks are slightly less, which is good. His BABIP is also incredibly low at .243. His ERA and his WHIP will rise. There is not a great history to guess how less success will affect him and his perseverance. The Fan will give him a +2.

Wade Davis: Davis again has too little history to know what he's going to do. It's a pretty good guess that he'll do about the same as he's doing now. His walk rate is up over last year and his strikeout rate is down. Plus, he doesn't pitch deep into games because he is young and doesn't throw enough strikes. Don't think his ERA will stay as low as it is. His ERA is 3.35 and his FIP is 4.92. With a BABIP of .258, those hits will start falling in more. +1.

Andy Sonnanstine is around for pinch starting duties if one of the above gets injured.

Relief pitching: Rafael Soriano really has stabilized the bullpen. They always lacked a good closer and now they have one. It settles down every one else into established roles. His strikeout rate is down quite a bit from his history, so he can get even better. +1.5. Grant Balfour is having a good season. Having Soriano on top of him probably helps him a good deal. But it's hard for relief pitchers to gain in WAR so he'll probably add zero wins as he is currently at 0.5 and he finished last year at 0.9. Wheeler is also doing well and is ahead of most of his career norms. So he'll probably not add any in the WAR column, but he won't cost them either. Randy Choate is a liability so we'll give him a -1. Lance Cormier will not add or lose value.

So if the Fan is anywhere in the ball park, the Rays should pick up 21 wins over replacement over the rest of the season. That should be more than enough to win the division and get them close to 100 wins. They have to stay healthy and their pitching has to stay strong. But based on the numbers, the Bay Rays are on their way.

No More Comebacks for Jose Lima

The news about Jose Lima's sudden heart attack were stunning for a man only 37 years old. There is no way that you could have been a fan of baseball over the last fifteen years and not had a mental image in your head about who Jose Lima was or what he looked like on the ball field. He was so charismatic that it overshadowed his great successes and his stunning futility. It was always Lima Time no matter what the results ended up on the scoreboard.

Jose Lima came up with the Tigers in 1994 and pitched mostly as a relief pitcher for them for them with varying success. He then went to the Astros where he exploded on the national scene. He had two very good years for the Astros in 1998 and 1999. It is well known that he won 21 games for the Astros in 1999 in a playoff year for that team. Lima lost his only playoff start that year.

But his success ended after that season and in 2000, he lost 16 games against 7 wins and led the league in earned runs and home runs. The really noticeable stat for Lima during those early years and 2000 was that he struck out far less batters. To this casual observer, he was wrecked by Larry Dierker. He had never pitched more than 75 innings of work in a season and suddenly, he had two years of 230 plus innings of work. He pitched 246 innings in 1999 and he was then in the playoffs where he had to pitch some more. He never built up slowly to that work load and was thrust in there. He was never the same pitcher again.

There were some really awful years starting in 2001 and he bounced from team to team and most of the time, he just didn't have anything to offer his new team. He got rocked.

But then Lima had a wonderful renaissance with the Dodgers in 2004 and he went 13-5 in 24 starts and 36 over all appearances. The Fan remembers smiling at how happy he seemed to be back and pitching well. The joy that was always a part of his game just beamed in from everywhere. It was one last burst of Lima Time on the successful side. Alas, he was dreadful for the Royals the year after that and his career was over.

Sure, Lima was a bit of a showboat. Sure, he liked to create excitement. Sure, he pitched in the era of PEDs and being from the Dominican Republic, there is a good chance he was a part of that experience. But none of that will be remembered. What will be remembered was his infectious joy of playing baseball and how that never diminished during the extreme highs in his career and the extreme lows. He had more downs than ups, but he was always Jose Lima. And if there was Lima, it was Lima Time and success or not, it was always a fun ride.

Game Picks - Monday: May 24, 2010

Sundays have not been kind the last two weeks. And this Sunday was not kind at all. Greinke got pounded (sorry Kryss). Halladay and Sabathia got cuffed around. The Orioles blew another save. Pavano did it to the Fan again. Pick for him, he loses. Pick against him, he wins. Maddening. Just not a whole lot went right. And after a two game winning streak, the Game of the Day feature is again in the red. Sheesh.

There are only four games scheduled for Monday. So the Fan can't pick up much ground, but here they are:

  • The Reds over the Pirates: Not real pyched about picking Harang to win, but this picker has had no luck picking Burress.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: The Sox need the game more and Buchholz has been pitching better than Wade Davis.
  • The Blue Jays over the Angels: Like Cecil over Saunders. The Blue Jays are raking on offense right now too.


  • The White Sox over the Indians: Danks should be much better than Masterson, who has not shown any sign of being able to harness his great abilities.

Yesterday: 6-9
Week: 6-9
Month: 162-158
Season: 361-283
Games of the Day: 18-19

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Game Picks - Sunday: May 23, 2010

Nine wins and six losses yesterday. This picker will take it and is seriously glad that week is over. There were a few stupid picks yesterday and a couple of brilliant ones. For one, this picker should not have picked against Pelfrey. He's been so good this year. Totally ralphed on the Boston pick too. Dice-K was magnificent and the Fan didn't see it coming. But the Cubs pick was great and a few others turned out just as expected. The hole was too deep though and despite 20 wins in the last two days, the Fan just missed getting back to .500 for the week. With a week to go in the month, the goal this week is to finish on a positive note, keep May over .500 and hope June goes much better.

So let's begin the battle:
  • The Reds over the Indians: The Reds finish the sweep as Homer Bailey continues his improved pitching.
  • The Pirates over the Braves: In the upset of the day, the Pirates win their one game this week as Zach Duke throws a good game.
  • The Phillies over the Red Sox: Halladay should be better than Wakefield, right?
  • The Orioles over the Nationals: The bullpen lost the game for the Orioles yesterday. Perhaps Millwood can go deeper into the game today.
  • The Marlins over the White Sox: Josh Johnson should handcuff the weak-hitting (for the most part) White Sox.
  • The Bay Rays over the Astros: Price pitches a gem (not hard to do against the Astros) while Norris gives up enough runs to make the win fairly easy.
  • The Rangers over the Cubs: This is one of those give-you-fits games. Wilson has been great, but so has Silva. Silva is showing a few more cracks these days and the four runs he gives up will be enough for the Rangers.
  • The Twins over the Brewers: Pavano has been scary lately (or back to his usual self?). But the Brewers are starting some guy named Estrada. That doesn't seem promising.
  • The Royals over the Rockies: The Fan hardly ever picks against Greinke despite the poor run support and the terrible relief pitching usually associated with his starts. But the guy has so much talent.
  • The Cardinals over the Angels: Great match up here of Weaver versus Carpenter. Think Carpenter will be better.
  • The Giants over the Athletics: Sanchez needs to throw strikes, but if he can stay in the game long enough, he should beat Sheets.
  • The Padres over the Mariners: Latos has been a revelation while King Felix has lost some of his mojo.
  • The Blue Jays over the Diamondbacks: Marcum should be better than Billy Buckner.
  • The Yankees over the Mets: Marquee match up of Sabathia and Santana. The Yankees hit lefties well and Santana seems to be pitching more on guts than glory. In other words, his health doesn't seem all there.


  • The Dodgers over the Tigers: Kuroda was good his last time out. Porcello seems to be having a tough year so far. Plus, the Dodgers are red hot.

Yesterday: 9-6
Last week: 52-54
Month: 156-149
Season: 356-274
Games of the Day: 18-18