Saturday, June 05, 2010

Game Picks - Saturday: June 5, 2010

Friday was about as good as it gets when picking baseball games. Nearly everything went right with the exception of the Tigers, Cubs, White Sox and Reds. Even the Game of the Day was correct for a change. Sweet. Best picks of the day included Arizona breaking their losing streak and Brett Cecil taking care of the Yankees.

So far this week, the Fan has twice as many wins as losses and June is shaping up the same way. Can it continue? We'll see as the Fan furiously flies into Saturday:

- The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Like Romero, but like Pettitte better.
- The Brewers over the Cardinals: This one smells like an upset as the Cardinals start some kid named Ottavino.
- The Marlins over the Mets: Nate Robertson should beat Niese, who isn't Nieve, though that is confusing, eh?
- The Angels over the Mariners: The Angels should have no problem with Rowland-Smith.
- The Bay Rays over the Rangers: Josh Hamilton is on fire, but Shields is very good an Hunter is making his first start of the year.
- The Giants over the Pirates: Pat Burrell? Really?
- The Padres over the Phillies: Garland should beat Moyer, though this is a scary pick.
- The Reds over the Nationals: Leake still hasn't leaked and Atliano's 5-1 mark is somewhat of a mirage.
- The Astros over the Cubs: Dempster has been good, but the Cubs don't score for him. Oswalt won't let that change any, especially with his umpire-induced rest last time out.
- The Red Sox over the Orioles: Jon Lester makes Juan Samuel 0-2 as a manager.
- The Indians over the White Sox: The Indians seem to have the White Sox's number. Talbot has been better than Peavy this year.
- The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Like Chacin, but a Dontrelle Willis win seems Cinderella-like.
- The Twins over the Athletics: Cahill has been good for the A's, but Liriano will strike out ten A's in a big win.
- The Dodgers over the Braves: Great match up of Billingsley versus Hanson. Giving the nod to the Dodgers at home.

And the Game of the Day:

- The Tigers over the Royals: Hochever has been good lately, but he gets Verlander today.

Yesterday: 11-4
Week: 55-26
Month: 37-16
Season: 454-347
Games of the Day: 24-25

Jose Bautista is Rocking

Jose Bautista extended his major league lead in homers on Friday night with a pair off of A. J. Burnett. Bautista now has 18 homers and has driven in 45 runs. His slugging percentage before the game was sitting at .584, so he has to be over .600 now. Bautista has hit homers fairly regularly in his career, but nothing ever like this. The Fan was watching the game and the second homer he hit was on a high and inside 94 MPH heater. Bautista was lightning quick as he turn on it and sent it high into the third deck in left field at the SkyDome (nope, sorry...not going to call it the Rogers Centre). The thing about all of this is that it doesn't feel like a fluke and the stats don't look like a fluke. He's within his career norms in every other way (except his OBP is up). Some guys are late bloomers and at 30 years of age, Bautista just might be one of them.

Bautista was drafted by the Pirates ten years ago in the 20th round. So he's beaten a lot of odds in his life. First, his talent got him out of Santo Domingo. Then he was a low draft pick who rose quickly through the minors. Then he played for four different teams in 2004 (Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Kansas City - the four worst teams in the majors that year). It was one of those Rule V situations where the Orioles claimed him, didn't keep him on the roster, the Bay Rays (then the Devil Rays [shiver]) picked him up, sold him to the Royals who traded him to the Mets who traded him to the Pirates, his original team. Whew! That must have been a lot of fun for a 24 year old guy.

His first real playing time was 2006 for the Pirates when he got 400 at bats and hit 16 homers. He only hit .235 though. The one thing weird about 2006 was that he was hit by 16 pitches. Ouch! In 2007, he hit 15 homers in 532 at bats but his average went up to .254. He hit 15 more homers in 2008 combined for the Pirates and the Blue Jays to which he was traded in August of that year. But his averaged dipped again to .238. He only got into 117 games with the Blue Jays last year and managed only a .235 batting average. But his 13 homers and 40 walks in that short amount of time gave him an OBP of .349, easily the best of his career. It also pushed him over 100 in OPS+ for the first time ever too.

Then this year, he has exploded. He still doesn't hit for average (.254 entering Friday), but his OBP is a solid .370. Before this year, Bautista averaged a homer every 29 at bats. This year, he homers once every 10.7 at bats. Obviously that is Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth territory and he isn't going to keep that up. But it wouldn't be surprising for him to hit 35. The Fan seems to remember a story about him where his hitting coach simplified his approach and took a lot of the movement out of his set up and swing. It's very possible that a long time flaw was detected and this is the real Bautista.

What is obvious is that Jose Bautista has become a lot of fun to watch and it will be very interesting to see how he does the rest of the year. This Fan hopes he keeps raking.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Game Picks - Friday: June 4, 2010

Thursday's short schedule provided another winning day and June is off to a groovy 26-12 start. Can we just forget the month of May please? June is beginning like April when life was grand. And this picker went 100 games over .500 for the season. Got to like that. The one pie in the face? That @#$#%#$#%@ Game of the Day feature lost again. For crying out loud.

Friday's games:

- The Giants over the Pirates: Sanchez versus Duke. The Giants are the kind of hitting team that Zach Duke could mess with. But Sanchez will take care of the Pirate's offense.
- The Phillies over the Padres: The Fan has seen this a hundred times: The phenom (Latos) faces the legend (Halladay) and melts.
- The Reds over the Nationals: Livan is still pitching well, but his run support has dried up.
- The Blue Jays over the Yankees: Brett Cecil has put together three good starts in a row and has lowered his ERA by a run and a half. Plus he has fared really well against good teams. Burnett has been burned by the Blue Jays before.
- The Mets over the Marlins: R. A. Dickey floats the Mets by the fish in this one.
- The Cubs over the Astros: Not a ringing endorsement of Zambrano pitching, but one against Paulino on the other side.
- The Rangers over the Bay Rays: In the upset of the day, Wilson out pitches Wade Davis.
- The Tigers over the Royals: Can't ever pick the Royals when Chen is pitching.
- The White Sox over the Indians: Danks hasn't been good, but he should be better than Masterson.
- The Cardinals over the Brewers: Wainwright over Wolf in a good match up.
- The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Going with Ian Kennedy over Cook. Probably stooopid but...
- The Twins over the Athletics: Braden is going downhill...
- The Dodgers over the Braves: Kershaw should beat Kawakami.
- The Angels over the Mariners: Can't pick Ian Snell to beat the Angels despite the Angels' snoozy offense.

And the Game of the Day (can't even capitalize this anymore)

- The Red Sox over the Orioles: Those poor Orioles. It's so sad...

Yesterday: 6-3
Week: 44-22
Month: 26-12
Season: 443-343
Games of the Day: 23-25

For Orioles and D-backs: Manager Change?

The Baltimore Orioles have lost eight in a row. The Arizona Diamondbacks have lost ten in a row. When teams are performing that badly, how much blame falls on each team's manager? Will a change in leadership help at this point or are bad teams just going to be bad teams? Are the players still playing hard for them? Is the manager still upbeat and fighting every game for a win? Those are the kinds of questions these two teams will have to decide in the next couple of days or weeks. Let's look at them individually.

Baltimore Orioles - Manager: David Trembley

Analysis: Trembley is in his third year at the helm of those Baltimore Orioles. Though it is somewhat understandable that the team is committed to building from within, the young players like Wieters, Reimold, Adam Jones, Matusz and Bergesen are not growing and are regressing. That doesn't speak well to Trembley or his staff of coaches. Of course it can't be blamed on the manager if veterans brought in like Lugo, Izturis and Atkins all bomb. The bottom line here is that the youth are not being served and the Orioles' record has regressed for the third year in a row under Trembley. There have been some stories out there that the executive branch of the Orioles is considering a change as a mercy killing. In other words, let Trembley go before he has to suffer too much. That, friends, is a smoke screen. A clean sweep of the entire on-field staff needs to occur before these kids get too messed up. After watching most of the last three Orioles - Yankees games, Trembley's body language is terrible. He just stands there stoically in the dugout. Not good. Would Bobby Valentine take this club?

Arizona Diamondbacks - Manager: A. J. Hinch

Analysis: A. J. Hinch is only 36 years old and only six years removed from his rather mediocre playing career. Does he command enough respect to lead this group of young players? And make no mistake about it, the D-Backs are young. When the Diamondbacks won their World Series title in 2001, they were an average age of 31.9. They now average 26.7 years of age. The offense is okay and can improve a lot if Justin Upton gets going and Connor Jackson can get back. Mark Reynolds is off to a slow start as is Chris Young. But their offense (though it leads the lead in strikeouts) is third in the NL in slugging and sixth in OPS. Four of the five starters seem fairly solid. Ian Kennedy has been a nice surprise. Dan Haren has been extremely unlucky as indicated by his 9.1 K/9 and his 5.5 K/BB ratio. He'll be fine. Jackson has been disappointing but has shown signs of the pitcher he should be. Rodrigo Lopez is league average and always has been. But for a fourth starter, that's okay. Everyone they've tried as a fifth starter has bombed. They need a break there. What is really plaguing this team is the relief pitching. How bad is it when Aaron Heilman has been their best reliever? Juan Gutierrez has been historically bad. At his current pace, he'll blow the doors off the record for most homers per nine innings for a relief pitcher as he how has given up ten dingers in 18 innings of work. Wow! The bullpen is the easiest part of a team to fix and if the D-backs can make progress there, they will be a better team in the second half. Hinch should probably finish out the year. But if this losing streak gets any longer, all bets are off.

If the All Star Game was This Week

We are about a month away from considering who should start in the All Star game. The fact that opens the voting to fans in the month of May is (frankly) ridiculous. Players get off to fast starts or slow starts and there isn't a valid reason to vote with any kind of accuracy before the tail end of June. Voting ceases July 1, so the last two weeks of June is the only time MLB should begin voting.

Voting usually goes one of three traditional ways: 1. What's happening this year; 2. What's happened in a player's career and 3. Reputation. The first option is, at least for this Fan, the only option. We should be voting for the best players this year and not the best players last year or in the last decade. Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira, Chipper Jones, Jimmy Rollins, and players like them shouldn't get voted in unless they deserve to get in based on this year's numbers. Hey, that's the way the Fan sees it. If you want to fill the roster with fading stars, the Fan has no problem with that, but they shouldn't start.

The Fan bases his All Star vote strictly on WAR (wins over replacement). For batters, that strips out RBIs and other counting stats that are dependent on what others are doing in the line up. WAR is based on batting metrics and fielding metrics (for batter) and seems the best tool we currently have to value players and the kind of year they are having. The Fan also votes on outfielders by position instead of the great big blob they are on MLB's ticket.

Again, it's very early and for sure, parts of this mock ballot will change in three weeks. But if the game was played this week, this is who the Fan would vote for:


Catcher - Joe Mauer: He isn't quite as dominant this year as last, but he's ahead of everyone else.

First Base - Justin Morneau: Morneau has almost double the WAR of Kevin Youkilis. It's not even close right now.

Second Base - Robinson Cano: Duh, right?

Third Base - Evan Longoria: WAR sits at 2.5. Beltre is at 2.0.

Shortstop - Derek Jeter: The numbers are what the numbers are. Jeter is at 1.7. Elvis Andrus is the closest to him at 1.5.

Left Field - Carl Crawford: Nobody is even close to him.

Center Field - Alex Rios: His WAR is at 2.6. Gutierrez and Vernon Wells sit at 2.2 and 2.1 respectively.

Right Field - Nick Swisher: He is in a virtual tie on WAR with Magglio Ordonez at 2.1. The nod goes to Swisher as his value is slightly higher at $8.4 million compared to Ordonez at $8.2.

Starting Pitcher - Cliff Lee: His WAR is at 2.5. Ricky Romero sits right behind him at 2.4.


Catcher - Brian McCann: Yadier Molina has him on fielding, but McCann's bat gives him a higher value.

First Base - Joey Votto: Votto's current WAR is 9.7. Pujols is right on his tail with 9.4. This very well could change in a few weeks.

Second Base - Chase Utley: Utley is sitting at 2.5. The closest to him is Dan Uggla at 1.9.

Third Base - Ryan Zimmerman: Has a .8 lead on David Freese who is the closest to him.

Shortstop - Troy Tulowitki: This one is close. Tulo's WAR is 1.8. Hanley Ramirez is at 1.6.

Left Field - Josh Willingham: This one is VERY close. Willingham is at 2.1 and trailing just behind are Matt Holiday and Andres Torres of the Giants at 2.0. Willingham and Holliday are piling up the offensive numbers while Torres has been solid at the plate, but is having a fantastic year in the field.

Center Field - Angel Pagan and Marlon Byrd are in a dead heat at 2.0. Pretty weak year for NL center fielders so far.

Right Field - Jason Heyward: Heyward sits on top with a WAR of 2.1.

Starting Pitcher - Roy Halladay: This one was a slight surprise. Halladay has a WAR of 3.2. Ubaldo Jiminez sits at 2.8.

Just for the record, the two most valuable relief pitchers currently are Jonathan Broxton, who is having another brilliant year, and Joel Zumaya, who despite not closing, leads all AL relief pitchers in WAR.

The Fan will revisit these picks and make an official ballot in the third week of June. Vote your conscious, but vote educated!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Swisher's Season Lost in the Shuffle

Robinson Cano just overtook Justin Morneau for the batting lead and has more hits than even Ichiro. Brett Gardner gets deserved kudos for his contact hitting, his OBP and his speed and defense. Francisco Cervelli has gotten a lot of ink concerning his handling of pitchers and his clutch hitting. Jeter and Teixeira are getting ink for their struggles. A-Rod hits grand slams and stuff. But quietly (it seems), Nick Swisher is having a monster season.

Swisher is second among all major league right fielders in OPS trailing only Jason Heyward. His wOBA sits at .418, just one point behind Heyward. He has been solid in the field (on the plus side at least in most advanced stats) and his WAR is tied for tops in the majors for right fielders with Heyward. But forget right fielders for a moment, Swisher is tied for fourteenth among ALL players right now in value (WAR) this season.

Swisher has had a career of ups and downs and can be a very streaky player who alternates from good to horrible in a matter of weeks. But he really hasn't had an extended stink out period this season and of course, his patience at the plate is fairly streak proof. Plus, his sense of fun and good-natured demeanor on the field and off just adds to his value as a very good fit for the New York Yankees.

Things are going very well for Swisher and he just got engaged to a gorgeous television star. Life is good right now for the Bronx right fielder.

Game Picks - Thursday: June 3, 2010

Another solid night adding to a solid week and a good start to the month. Among the few losses were: a blown save by the Mets, an unexpected performance by Galaragga, another ninth inning meltdown for the Blue Jays, and two games that could have gone either way and went the wrong way. But it's all good. Too bad about Galaragga. He was robbed. The Cubs and Pirates were rained out.

Thursday shapes up like the following:

- The Tigers over the Indians: Porcello picks up a victory in this one.
- The Yankees over the Orioles: Sabathia gets a bit untracked.
- The Oakland Athletics over the Red Sox: Anderson shuts down the Sox while Mr. Wakefield really looked old his last time out.
- The Nationals over the Astros: Martin versus Moehler. There will be some runs scored in this one!
- The Royals over the Angels: Greinke totally shuts down the Angels.
- The Marlins over the Brewers: Would love to see Capuano pitch well, but it's unlikely and besides, Josh Johnson goes for the Marlins.
- The Braves over the Dodgers: Two of the NL's hottest teams. One of them has to win.
- The Mariners over the Twins: King Felix over Pavano. Pavano just kills this picker though.

And the Game of the Day:

- The Rangers over the White Sox: This won't even be a contest with Lewis over Garcia.

Yesterday: 9-5
Week: 38-19
Month: 20-9
Season: 437-340
Games of the Day: 23-24

Thank You, Mr. Griffey

Baseball fans collectively sighed in a mixture of relief and resignation today as it was announced that Ken Griffey, Jr. had retired. His statements, which can be read here, were all class and he stated that as a part-time player, he didn't want to be a distraction to his teammates.

The decision was good for us who loved this player. It was tough to see him play sporadically and ineffectively. It was painful to read those who called for Seattle to release him, though those calls were certainly justified. He had become a distraction and the focal point for the team's inability to hit this season. His presence created debate for all the wrong reasons.

At the same time, it was a sad day. Many of us have watched him play for all of his 22 years. His smile and his enjoyment playing the game were infectious and made us as fans enjoy his heroics and his strikeouts. The advent of ESPN led to highlight reel after highlight reel of his circus catches in centerfield. We all knew his classic swing. There wasn't another one like it. It was a beautiful thing, that swing. And we reveled in that swing many times on SportsCenter.

He finished with 630 homers and over 1800 RBIs. Many will point to Griffey and say he was the pure player in the midst of the PED era. But you can't make that claim. Nobody knows. If that's how he is remembered, that's a shame. He should remembered for his grace, his pizazz and for a natural talent that doesn't come along every day. He should be remembered for a guy who was one of the best players of his generation. And he should be remembered for making us smile back at him.

Yes, there is relief and resignation for this writer today. Griffey is gone and we won't have to worry about what was happening with him out there in Seattle. That's a relief. But this Fan will miss the player. The Fan will miss him a lot.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Game Picks - Wednesday: June 2, 2010

Starting off the month of June with eleven victories in fifteen attempts is rosy. The only blemish on that rose were losses by the Cubs, Twins, Giants and Nationals. The Nationals fell victim to a blown save. And comically, the Twins were the Game of the Day. That feature has been a thorn in this picker's side. But, no complaints on a day that was really good. We even got some much needed rain here in northern Maine.

Unfortunately, this Fan has to hurry through these picks as he has a stupid 7:30 meeting. Why the heck would anyone schedule a meeting at 7:30!


- The Braves over the Phillies: Can you say, "Sweep, baby!" Lowe over Kendrick.
- The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Neither team is hitting all that well, but the Dodgers have better pitching.
- The Mets over the Padres: Could the Mets be the start of the Padres' fall to earth? Santana over Richard.
- The Pirates over the Cubs: The Cubs can't seem to beat the Pirates and Zambrano makes his first start after stupidly going to the bullpen for a month.
- The Indians over the Tigers: The Tigers continue to stumble with Cleveland's Carmona defeating Galarraga.
- The Yankees over the Orioles: Mr. Hughes has some more fun.
- The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Forget the stupid game last night, Marcum will come up big today.
- The Marlins over the Brewers: Who will leave first, Trevor Hoffman or Ken Macha?
- The Red Sox over the Athletics: As long as Varitek catches, Dice-K will be okay.
- The AStros over the Nationals: Wandy has to win sooner or later.
- The Angels over the Royals: Should be a high scoring game.
- The Rangers over the White Sox: Feldman is slowly starting to get his act together.
- The Mariners over the Twins: Mr. Lee takes care of the lefty-heavy Twins.
- The Rockies over the Giants: A great duel between Francis and Cain. Beware of the Rockies in the second half. Francis makes a huge difference.


- The Cardinals over the Reds: Carpenter over somebody named LaCure. Who?

Yesterday: 11-4
Week: 29-14
Month: 11-4
Season: 428-335
Games of the Day: 22-24 *grumble*

Closer Poser

Okay, this Fan is a little peeved. Well, make that a lot peeved. The target of this ill humor? Managers. There seems to be this golden rule that a manager will sink or swim with his closer no matter what is happening in the ninth inning. This rule was no better exemplified then in Tuesday night's game between the Blue Jays and the Bay Rays. The Blue Jays are scratching and clawing, raking and dishing to keep themselves relevant in the AL East. It's been tremendously fun watching this team of underdogs crush the ball and pitch like crazy. In a stretch of games where they face the Bay Rays six times and the Yankees three times, they took the Bay Rays in the first game of the series. On Tuesday night, they were in control and took a 5-3 lead into the ninth. Enter Kevin Gregg.

Gregg has done a decent job for the Blue Jays after a difficult experience in Chicago. But there are times when a closer just doesn't have what it takes to finish a game. That happens even to Mariano Rivera once or twice a year. It happens. A couple of weeks ago, Rivera didn't have it and Girardi invoked the golden rule and left Rivera out there to get pounded until the Yankees lost. Tonight was Gregg's turn and again, the manager fell prey to this stupid rule. Here's what happened.

Gregg came into the game and started things off with a strikeout. One down. Upton walked. No problem. His run was meaningless. Upton stole second and then Gregg inexplicably threw a ball away which allowed Upton to third. No problem. Again, that run is meaningless. Carl Crawford walked. That's a cardinal crime, walking the tying run on base. Now there is a problem. Gregg then struck out Longoria. Two outs. The next sequence is where Cito Gaston lost the game by sticking with the golden rule. Carlos Pena was up next. Pena, of course, is a left-handed batter. It was the perfect situation to bring in Rommie Lewis. Lewis throws from the left-hand side. He has a 4/1 K/BB ratio. He has a WHIP of 1.00. It was perfect. But Gaston stuck with Gregg.

Gregg walked Pena. The bases were then loaded, Gregg had already walked three guys to that point. The Bay Rays sent up John Jaso to pinch hit. Jaso also bats left-handed. Okay, Cito, you could have used Lewis to get Pena out but didn't. After three walks, at least bring in Lewis to pitch to Jaso? No. That violates the golden rule. Gregg walked Jaso to make the score 5-4. Gregg had reached four walks in the inning. The next batter was Zobrist, a switch hitter who has a .915 OPS against right-handed pitching and a .606 OPS against left-handed pitching. Yes, his splits are that dramatic (and a little known secret). C'mon Cito, get the guy out of there! Lewis had a better chance against Zobrist than Gregg who was obviously laboring. NO!? Oh yeah, golden rule: Live by the closer, die by the closer. Screw that stupid rule already.

Zobrist, of course hit a double that cleared the bases. Ball game. Gaston STILL didn't go get his closer. Gregg then walked his fifth batter and only then did Gaston go get him. Finally, Rommie Lewis came in to pitch...three batters too late. Of course, Lewis struck out his guy to end the inning.

Now, Gaston isn't alone in this stupidity. It happens every week in baseball. What fries the Fan is that it isn't rocket science to think out of the box here and understand that closers are fallible and as such, there is no reason why the only outcomes possible are a save or a loss. This Fan can't imagine Tony LaRussa being that tied to such a stupid rule of thinking. The match ups were right there in front of Gaston. You can't even give Gaston a break because it was a Papelbon or a Rivera. It was Kevin freakin Gregg, AKA: Average closer that can be fallible on occasion.

Rob Neyer has often said that managers don't often manage to win, but often manage to not lose. There is a big difference. Tony LaRussa manages to win every game he's in the dugout. Gaston, like too many other managers, just paints by the numbers.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Cynicism Concerning Special Uniforms

Several times a year now, Major League Baseball dictates that special uniforms appear in either some baseball games or in all of them for a certain day. For example, some are for good causes such as Jackie Robinson day when everybody wears 42 (still think there should be a Larry Doby Day) and yesterday, all teams wore special hats commemorating Memorial Day. At other times of the year, teams will play games with "throw back" uniforms. All of this sounds like a product of good ideas. But perhaps the cynic here just thinks that it sounds more like a good product.

The selling of MLB game wear has become a huge money making business for baseball and its teams. With baseball's unique and seemingly untouchable antitrust waiver, all of this business is controlled by the MLB. The players get a chunk of the money and the rest is split evenly among major league teams (even though some teams' wear is more valuable than others).

So the question is: Are these special uniform days truly for good causes or does it simply provide MLB with new product for its vast apparel wear business? Several teams now have alternate uniforms and hats that are purely a commercial way to sell stuff besides the standard version. The Red Sox red home uniforms seem like a perfect example. There are already special version hats and uniforms such as All Star version and even batting practice versions. You can also buy special "authentic" uniforms like a Yogi Berra version.

The Fan checked out the MLB shop site and perhaps the cynicism is misplaced. Although a replica of Jackie Robinson's uniform is for sale, the Jackie Robinson uniforms don't seem to be found for sale. But you can buy the special patch that went on the uniforms and the baseballs stamped especially for that day.

But, the special caps worn for Memorial Day are for sale with this description: "Special-edition cap to be worn by players for games played on Memorial Day, July 4th and September 11, 2010, to raise awareness for the Welcome Back Veterans Fund." It doesn't say that the proceeds will go to the fund, but that the caps simply "raise awareness."

So maybe the cynicism is warranted. Maybe it isn't. But the prices aren't cheap and they sell like crazy.

Game Picks - Tuesday: June 1, 2010

Phew! May ended on a great note and saved what was a battle of a month from start to finish. With nine wins out of thirteen picks, the final month's tally ended up looking much better. And if the two late, West Coast games hadn't been losses, it could have been even better. Takahashi had nothing for the Mets who were bombed and young Mr. Fister for Seattle was knocked around a bit too. But that Pirate pick sure was brilliant, eh? Even the Game of the Day feature ended the month on a two game winning streak. So now we go into the month of June and questions abound. Will the Red Sox make a push? Will the Bay Rays fade? Can the Dodgers and Rockies overtake the Padres? Can the Braves stay ahead of the Phillies? It's going to be great fun.

So let's kick the month off will a full slate of games for Tuesday:

- The Cubs over the Pirates: Lilly will easily be better than Karstens.
- The Indians over the Tigers: In an upset, Westbrook out pitches Bonderman and the Indians beat the reeling Tigers.
- The Yankees over the Orioles: This pick could be problematic. Jeter will probably sit as his hamstring tightened up yesterday. Vazquez is pitching at home which hasn't gone well so far this year. But it is the Orioles after all.
- The Bay Rays over the Blue Jays: Don't think Tallet will have answers against the Bay Rays' line up.
- The Braves over the Phillies: The Braves are seriously kicking butt. Hudson over Hamels.
- The Marlins over the Brewers: Nolasco versus Bush shouldn't be close.
- The Red Sox over the Athletics: The A's handled the Tigers really well, but the Red Sox are not the Tigers.
- The Nationals over the Astros: Stammen versus Myers, who has been decent. The Nationals just have a much better offense.
- The Royals over the Angels: In a weird season, Joel Pineiro has been alternately good and evil. Last time out was good, so this one will be evil.
- The Rangers over the White Sox: Buehrle was pretty good last time out but the Rangers should squeak by in this one.
- The Reds over the Cardinals: Cueto has been very good over his last four starts. He'll have to be great for the Reds to win this one. The Cardinals counter with Walters who has been a nice story thus far.
- The Mets over the Padres: The Padres will be exhausted after scoring 18 runs yesterday. Pelfrey will shut them down.
- The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Despite Haran, the Dodgers win with Ely.
- The Giants over the Rockies: Zito bamboozles the Rockies' free swingers.


- The Twins over the Mariners: The Twins jump all over Vargas.

Yesterday: 9-4
Week: 18-10
Mays' final tally: 218-206
Season: 417-331
Games of the Day: 22-23

The Mets Made This Bed

In a Sunday article in a major New York newspaper, it was reported that Oliver Perez refuses to go to the minor leagues and has that right to do so because that's the way his contract is written. His own teammates (not named of course) are demanding that the team jettison the wayward lefty despite his contract. When you have players who don't want another player on their team anymore, there is a big, big problem. But the Mets deserve this mess because they created it in the first place.

On February 2, 2009, the Mets signed Oliver Perez as a free agent for roughly $12 million a year. This was after a season where he finished with a league average 100 ERA+ ONLY because he pitched in the National League and only because he mixed in a few brilliant games in between a bunch of rotten ones. Not only did a lowly blogger like this one insist at the time that the signing was unbelievably stupid but a whole bunch of noted and big time writers like Mr. Neyer and many others said the same thing.

Perez had just completed two season where he made just about all of his starts, had a very good K/9 performance and won 25 out of 42 decisions. But despite the fact that he posted a 121 and 100 ERA+ in those two seasons, there were danger signs written everywhere you looked. He averaged a meager 5.88 innings per outing over those two years because of the many times he had to come out early due to pitch counts or poor performances. He led the league in walks in 2008. He had stretches were he was just abysmal only to save his job by pitching the occasional gem. Plus, many accounts hinted that he was not one to be coached.

But the Mets were desperate for pitching and they knew the guy so they signed him. And man has it ever blown up in their faces. He's averaged eight walks per nine innings since the contract. He's averaged a 1.95 WHIP after the contract. He averaged 4.7 innings per start in his 14 starts last season. He had some early stinkers in the rotation this year, so they pulled him and put him the bullpen where he has been just as bad. The above linked article quotes his manager as stating that he doesn't know of a situation in a game where he would be willing to use Perez and then added maybe an extra inning game. A player (again not named) when told of his manager's comments laughed and said something to the effect of, "yeah when it's a 20 inning game and we have nobody else." That's bad.

So what should the Mets do? They guy is only 29 years old so he may still have a future, but it's clear that it shouldn't be with the Mets. The Cubs hit the jackpot with Carlos Silva who had a similar situation in Seattle. Maybe they could turn him around too. Who knows. But it is crystal clear that he needs to be cut from the roster. If his own teammates are turning on him, then he becomes not only a liability in the game when he plays but in the clubhouse. The Mets have to either trade him right now or cut him loose. There isn't a question about the money. They are going to eat that either way it goes. That horse is out of the barn (Egads! a cliche!)

The above linked article basically states that Perez has the Mets by the...umm...male reproductive system because he won't go to the minors. He is painted as a bad guy because of that. He may be a bad guy, but this blogger just doesn't know. But Perez has this leverage because the Mets GAVE it to him. The Fan once had a boss who put a letter of resignation in front of the Fan and told the Fan to sign it. The Fan refused. If the guy wanted the Fan gone, the Fan wasn't going to make it easy for him. Why should Perez? Apparently he likes it in the big leagues despite not competing there very well. So sue him.

The Mets have to make a move. It's going to be painful. But that's life.

Ubaldo Jiminez is Unbelievable

Watched most of the Giants - Rockies game and it pitted Cy Young award winner Lincecum against the league's best pitcher this season, Ubaldo Jiminez. It was really the first time the Fan had watched the guy pitch and he is amazing. Even the couple of times he got in trouble, the ultimate result never seemed to be in doubt. He pitched a complete game shutout to lower is ERA to 0.78.

The game was watched on MLB.TV (via the computer) and featured the regular Giants' television announcers. Remember, these guys have watched Lincecum for a few years now and the announcers said over and over, "This guy has the best stuff in the league by far." That was their constant theme throughout. What does that tell you about how good this guy is?

What is amazing is that he has this 96 to 99 MPH fastball that he throws for the entire game. But it isn't just a fast pitch like Farnsworth, who used to throw that hard but it was always perfectly straight. Ubaldo throws his and it darts from left to right, not a few inches but a foot or more. It's and incredible fastball. He also throws a split at 90 MPH and a curve that just buckles the batter. And he throws them all for strikes.

The only improvement he could make is when he gets two quick strikes on a guy. He tends to get a little cute and tries to make a perfect pitch. This just adds up his pitch count and it's unnecessary because the batter can't hit whatever the throws up there and he should just blow them away. But that's hardly a bad thing if it's his only problem.

The scary part is that he's just 26. He isn't flamboyant. He's not demonstrative. He pitches like he's been there forever. This is his third year in the big leagues and each year, his splits have improved. He's just learning still and at 10-1, he could even be better than this.

Watching him pitch was a wonderful treat on Memorial Day and this Fan just might have to watch him every time he pitches the rest of the year.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Game Picks - Monday: May 31, 2010

Two decent days in a row. This picker is swooning. Barring a major meltdown today, the two days pretty much ensured a May in the black. But boy it was a heck of a struggle. The thing that all this picking shows the Fan is that parity is working in MLB. Teams like the Padres, Reds, Blue Jays and Nationals show that teams can build talent and compete with the money teams. Some "money" teams like the Cubs, Mariners and White Sox can misjudge talent and squander that money. Other money teams like the Yankees and Phillies can have injury problems and struggle more than expected. So far it's a very interesting season and you can't ask for anything more than that.

Monday's picks:

- The Braves over the Phillies: Hanson helps the Phillies' hitting woes continue. Blanton gives up too many runs to win.
- The Athletics over the Tigers: Verlander might strike out fifteen but Cahill has been the A's most consistent pitcher.
- The Yankees over the Indians: Talbot has been pretty good for Cleveland, but Pettitte should have no problem with the Indians' line up.
- The Pirates over the Cubs: In the upset pick of the day, Ohlendorf stymies the Cubs and Randy Wells tries to figure out what is going wrong.
- The Astros over the Nationals: Roy Oswalt continues to pitch for the scouts.
- The Angels over the Royals: Hate to pick against Hochever. He's been great. But Santana will strike out ten guys.
- The Rockies over the Giants: Ubaldo out pitched Lincecum every time last year. It will happen again today.
- The Cardinals over the Reds: Would like this pick to be wrong, but it won't be.
- The Bay Rays over the Blue Jays: Morrow is the Jays' weak link.
- The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: The D-backs are a mess, especially in the bullpen. The Dodgers win behind Billingsley.
- The Mets over the Padres: Takahashi has been amazing.
- The Mariners over the Twins: Quick quiz: Who leads the AL in ERA? Why that would be Mr. Fister.


- The Marlins over the Brewers: Nate Roberston wins this one. Fire Mr. Macha please.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 9-6
Month: 209-202
Season: 408-327

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Game Picks - Sunday: May 30, 2010

At least the week ended with a decent day. Nine wins is better than nine losses. Though it could have been ten wins if *grumblejobagrumblegirardi* the Yankees hadn't blown their game.

Sunday starts a new week and in a couple of days, a new month. Thank goodness.

- The Yankees over the Indians: Giving the nod to Burnett over Masterson, though it is scary how similar the two pitchers are.
- Oakland over Detroit: The A's are in first place right now and Braden keeps them there over Scherzer.
- The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Romero versus Guthrie. Don't you feel bad for the Orioles?
- The Marlins over the Phillies: The Marlins are ticked off they got a perfect game thrown against them yesterday.
- The Reds over the Astros: Leake finishes off the sweep.
- The Braves over the Pirates: Kawakami gets his first win.
- The Red Sox over the Royals: Bruce Chen is starting for the Royals. That's all you need to know.
- The Bay Rays over the White Sox: Shields is way better than Peavy at this point.
- The Brewers over the Mets: R. A. Dickey looked great against the Phillies. But Wolf and company will win this one.
- The Cubs over the Cardinals: Something is seriously wrong with the Cardinals. It's freaky.
- The Dodgers over the Rockies: Thinking that Kershaw is more of a sure thing than Chacin.
- The Padres over the Nationals: Picking Garland over Livan in a match up of two of the unlikeliest success stories of the year.
- The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Like Kennedy over Wellemeyer in this one. It's nice to see Posey up for the Giants though.
- The Twins over the Rangers: Fed up with the Rangers. They simply cannot beat a good team.


- The Angels over the Mariners: Thinking that Snell isn't going to last four innings against the Angels.

Yesterday: 9-6
Last week: 44-47
Month: 200-196 hanging on by a fingernail
Season: 399-321
Games of the Day: 20-23

A Joba Well Done - Cooked That Is

The Yankee bullpen is officially a mess. Where is Phil Coke when you need him? Oh, yes, he's in Detroit along with Rookie of the Year candidate, Austin Jackson for whom the Yankees got Curtis Granderson. How is that working out so far for Brian Cashman? No, not so good. There is no saying that Phil Coke would have made Saturday's bullpen meltdown any different, but it is easy to say that it couldn't have been worse.

The Yankees' line up totally destroyed every pitcher the Indians sent up there to pitch until the sixth inning. They beat up Huff right up until Alex Rodriguez drilled a line drive off of Huff's head which was an unmerciful way to end what was a bad night all around for the pitcher. Fortunately, Huff is okay it appears and his CAT scan proved negative. Huff was followed by Laffey who quickly turned the game into a laugher, right? Or at least so we thought.

But once again, C. C. Sabathia was less than ace-like and gave up five runs in six innings of work. He too took a shot to his body and that seemed to cause him to lose his composure and his grip on reality. Last year, when the Yankees rolled to 100+ wins, a lead going into the seventh inning was pretty much a lock. Coke and others would get the ball to Hughes, who is now in the rotation, and Hughes would then get the ball to Rivera. It worked like a charm. Later in the year, when Joba stopped starting, he got the seventh and that too went well.

Now, it's all a crap shoot. Marte, Mitre and Robertson have been as reliable as satellite television during a hurricane. If just one of those guys could get through the seventh, then perhaps the Yankees could get a predictable Joba in the eighth and Rivera in the ninth. But that's not what's happening and Girardi seems to be pushing every wrong button. That the Yankees could blow a 10-5 lead to the Cleveland Indians is alarming.

This post isn't absolving Joba Chamberlain of his share of Saturday's responsibility. He allowed four hits and a walk before he could get an out. But the problem started before him. Robertson, who was so good last year, has been awful. And once a pitcher, especially a relief pitcher struggles, the manager loses faith in him and gets itchy. It's hard to blame him. Robertson hit the first guy he faced, T. Crowe "Price." Then Choo just missed a homer. Crowe then stole second and Kearns promptly singled him in. Remember what the Fan said about Girardi and his itchy, lack of faith, trigger finger? Robertson got yanked. Girardi brought Sergio Mitre in for the second straight game. All of Yankee Stadium groaned.

Mitre walked the first guy he faced. Russell "I never met a team I didn't like" Branyon was sent up to hit for Shelley Duncan. Girardi popped out of the dugout and pulled Mitre (thanks for playing) and brought in Marte. Marte performed the LOOGY thing and got Branyon to fly out. Two outs and only one run has scored. Girardi then brought in Joba. Before you could blink, the game was over: Single, Walk, Double, Double, over.

The more the Fan thinks about it, the more the Fan blames Girardi for this mess. Joba was probably sitting in the bullpen when the seventh started and he's chewing on his fingernails thinking that the eighth was his. Suddenly, Girardi is playing Russian Roulette with three relievers and Joba is rushed into action. Sure, he's supposed to be a professional and be ready for anything. But Joba is just a big lug who is probably better served in finite and refined roles. There were two outs, why couldn't Marte face one more batter? Grudzielanek, the next batter, doesn't have overactive splits when it comes to facing lefties. He's a .265 batter against lefties and a .260 hitter against righties. And his OPS is much better against righties. The chances were good that Marte could have gotten him out. And then Joba would have pitched the eighth like he was expecting and the results might have been way different.

Sometimes, it must be difficult for a manager not to over think everything. You have a four run lead with two outs, why are you panicking and thinking that everything has to be a match up thing? It rushes Joba into the game, increases his workload unnecessarily and Grudzielanek would have probably not been that much of a problem.

But Joba doesn't get off the hook. With all of his tools and all of his ability, to let five straight base runners get on board before you get one stupid out is pretty pathetic. But the feeling here is that Joe Girardi needs to settle down and thus figure out how he is going to use his bullpen. His twitching and overreacting is not helping. And if Joba hadn't gotten the final out with a strike out, how long was Girardi going to let him stand out there getting his brains beat out? It would seem that after the first two or three guys in a row got on, he should have made a move. But he didn't.

Bottom line: Robertson, Joba and Girardi all contributed to the Yankees losing a game they dearly should have won. They were inching up on the Bay Rays and the snafu was a two game turnaround in the standings...pretty much akin of bogeying a hole when your competitor is in the process of getting a birdie. Not a good thing. Joba will be okay. His splits are all good. His K/9 and K/bb ratios are all good. He's had three rough outings. But keep him in a defined role and not try to get more than three outs out of him and he'll be fine.

What a Weird Day of Baseball!

Saturday was one of the screwiest days of baseball ever. It is a tired old expression, but one of the things that makes baseball great is that you see things every day you've never seen before. Here are some of the high and low lights:

- The Yankees blow a 10-5 lead as Joba Chamberlain capped a seven run Indians' explosion in the seventh. In the game, Cleveland's starting pitcher got hit in the head with a line drive (he's okay), Sabathia also got hit.
- Kendry Morales hit a walk off grand slam for the Angels in the bottom of the tenth inning. As he approached his teammates at home plate to celebrate, he jumped in the air to stomp on home plate and severely screwed up his ankle. He had to be carted off the field.
- The Twins blew open a close game with the Rangers by scoring eight runs between the sixth and seventh innings
- Seventy year old, Brian Moehler, made his first start of the year for the Astros and it was memorable. He gave up eleven base runners in two and a third innings including three homers, two to Jay Bruce and another to eighty year old, Miguel Cairo, who also hit a damaging double off of Moehler. It was Cairo's second homer of the year which is the first time he's hit two in a season since 2005.
- The Royals stranded six runners, hit into two double plays and committed three errors to make sure that Greinke didn't get a win. They sure work hard at that.
- Carlos Silva struck out 11 and gave up no walks and only two hits in seven full innings of work against the St. Louis Cardinals. It's mind boggling.
- Buster Posey drove in a run with a single in his first at bat of the year after being called up by the Giants.

And last but not least, Roy Halladay threw the second perfect game of the season as he struck out eleven Marlins. Let's hope he didn't wrench his back in the celebration.