Saturday, June 26, 2010

Game Picks - Saturday: June 26, 2010

After a bumpy start in Florida, this picker has settled into a Palm Beach County rhythm and the correct picks are coming in bunches. Ten more last night compared to five incorrect. This picker took Greinke to beat St. Louis, the Red Sox to lose to Colorado and the Yankees to beat the Dodgers. All came out just as expected. There were a couple of clunkers. This Fan didn't expect Jackson to throw a no-hitter, thus preventing the worst bullpen in history to enter the game. Nor was the Astros victory over the Rangers expected. Seattle was simply a bad pick and the Orioles have suddenly shown some late inning life. But all in all, it was a good day.

Saturday continues the interleague fun:

  • The Twins over the Mets: Right away we get a conundrum. We have Santana, who hasn't been Santana this year. We have Pavano, who continues to befuddle this picker. We have a hot Mets team and a cold Twins team. What to do? Go with the unexpected it seems.
  • The Cardinals over the Royals: Another dangerous pick because the Cards are starting their fifth starter and the Royals' Davies is capable of pitching well once in a while.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: The Astros are starting an unknown Banks making his first start. Wilson should win.
  • The Nationals over the Orioles: Livan. The name itself sends the Fan into convulsions.
  • The Phillies over the Blue Jays: Giving the Phillies the DH helps them like no other NL team. Low scoring game with Hamels versus Marcum, but Phillies have the edge being the home team that isn't.
  • The Bay Rays over the Diamondbacks: As much as the Fan likes Ian Kennedy, Price will win this game.
  • The Mariners over the Brewers: Think Fister will shut the Brewers down.
  • The Tigers over the Braves: The Tigers' bats will come alive against Kawakami, the hard luck Braves' pitcher.
  • The Marlins over the Padres: The moribund-looking Marlins should get a win with Josh Johnson pitching against Jon Garland, who has looked bad lately.
  • The Cubs over the White Sox: The Fan must be crazy, but how can you pick against Silva? Plus, the Cubs will have at least enough emotion to pump to a win over Garcia.
  • The Dodgers over the Yankees: Can't pick that #$#%#$ Burnett to win.
  • The Red Sox over the Giants: Buchholz easily slides by the kid, Martinez.
  • The Indians over the Reds: Masterson has a good day and LeCure for the Reds does not.
  • The Rockies over the Angels: Cook is simply a better pitcher than Saunders.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Athletics over the Pirates: McCutchen gets the start for the Pirates. That's good news for Cahill and the A's.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 45-30
Month: 189-126
Season: 626-458
Games of the Day: 35-33

Eating Crow With the White Sox

When you write about baseball long enough, sooner or later, the writer is going to look like an idiot. Unfortunately, it happens a lot but that goes with the territory. Earlier in this season, the Fan counted David Ortiz among the dead. Big Papi has only hit a million homers since then. Today, the story lost in the Carlos Zambrano meltdown is that the Chicago White Sox won their tenth game in a row. Uhh...the Fan guesses his earlier statements that the White Sox were dead were a bit premature.

Think back ten games. Manager Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams were feuding. The team was six games under .500 and eight games out of first place. Now the White Sox are four games over .500 and with a Twins' loss (and the Tigers are losing), the White Sox are a game away from first place. Way to call it, Fan.

The White Sox are still not a great offensive team. Too many of their batters are below the .250 level. But every time you look up these days, the Sox score four, five and six runs. Carlos Quentin has been on a tear and has raised his OPS 70 points in those last ten games. Konerko has maintained a good start and is having a great year. Alex Rios has been the best centerfielder in the game, both at bat and in the field. So the offense is still weak, but a core of four players is carrying them.

But this streak is really about the pitching. Blog buddy, Josh Borenstein of Jews in Baseball defended the White Sox pitching when this old blogger didn't believe in them. And Josh was right. Peavy has 21 consecutive scoreless innings. Floyd and Danks have been better. Buehrle has come back from a bad start and out pitched Tim Hudson the other night. So the starting pitchers have been fantastic. The bullpen has also been better as Putz and Jenks have started to take care of the eighth and ninth the way Kenny Williams designed it.

So, yes, if you are going to write about baseball, there are times when you have to eat crow. And the White Sox just gave the Fan another cruddy black wing to nibble on. But [gulp] the Fan still thinks the Twins are going to win that division.

The Cubs are So Messed Up

What came first, the chicken or the egg? What came first, player problems or hiring manager, Lou Piniella? The latest in a long line of zany Cubs' events occurred today when Carlos Zambrano seemed to go off his John Rocker after giving up some first inning runs. To see his tantrum close up, click here.

First of all, Piniella did the right thing in getting Zambrano out of there. The manager immediately removed the big pitcher from the dugout and sent him home. The pitcher was later suspended. For this particular situation, the manager handled the situation perfectly. But why do these things keep happening to the Cubs?

Stories have surfaced that there are lines drawn behind the scenes among Cubs' personnel. Apparently the divide seems to lie with Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano versus the rest of the team. Carlos Lee seems squarely apposed to the pitcher. Whose fault is all this? Is it possible to say not being privvy to the inner workings of the players' world.

Something has to give for the Cubs. Either the new owners clean house of Hendry, Piniella and the staff or Hendry takes a package...any get Zambrano out of town.

What a mess.

Edwin Jackson Exposes Bay Rays' Weakness

Congratulations to Edwin Jackson on his no-hitter. It was one of the more unusual no-hitters in history. He walked eight batters and hit a batter and the D-Backs made an error behind him. But with the Rays getting ten base runners including the bases loaded with no outs in the third inning, the game really provided a glaring view of the weakness of the Bay Rays.

Let's start with the most glaring weakness. Hank Blalock offers the Bay Rays nothing. He came up several times with men on base including that earlier stated bases loaded situation. He grounded out weakly on the first pitch he saw (after Jackson walked the bases loaded!). He later popped out to shallow left on the first pitch with more men on base. The Designated Hitter has been a gigantic problem and Blalock is not the answer.

The other weakness is that using cheap, young players is a double-edged sword. Their talent is unbelievable, but in tight situations, their youth and inexperience keep them from being patient and getting the job done in high leverage situations. Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce repeatedly chased bad sliders in the dirt when the Rays had men on base and killed rallies. Well, they were walk rallies anyway.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Game Picks - Friday: June 25, 2010

Seven correct and five incorrect. The day didn't start well and most of the day games were wrong. But then the night games came through, especially with comebacks which saved the day in Boston, Texas and others. This picker completely fouled up Florida as both Florida teams did the opposite of expected. Amazing night for Pedroia: five hits, three homers. Wow!

Friday has a big slate of games and the Fan can't wait to see what happens:

  • The Cubs over the Whtie Sox: Just a hunch that Zambrano will come up big against Peavy.
  • The Nationals over the Orioles: Arietta is 2-1 and Martin is 0-3. Quick, which is the better pitcher? Martin's ERA is almost two points lower.
  • The Phillies over the Blue Jays: Halladay faces his old team and is due for a win. Litsch was great his last time out. Will it carry over?
  • The Padres over the Marlins: Richard is better than Volstad. Been watching the Marlins. They don't hustle. They have no urgency.
  • The Bay Rays over the Diamdondbacks: Who made the poor D-Back's interleague schedule. Ouch.
  • The Mets over the Twins: Pelfrey takes care of the Twins and Slowey.
  • The Reds over the Indians: The battle for Ohio is a mismatch.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: The Rangers look unbeatable at this point. Moehler for the Astros won't help.
  • The Mariners over the Brewers: Rowland-Smith has been a two-named mess all season, but threw a gem last time. The Mariners are hot. The Brewers sure can hit. What to do?
  • The Royals over the Cardinals: Still riding the Greinke band wagon even though it has a flat and the support boards are all rotted out.
  • The Rockies over the Angels: The Rockies gave the Red Sox all they could want. What will they do to the Angels?
  • The Athletics over the Pirates: Mr. Lincoln has not yet been good enough. Ben Sheets at least has a chance to have a good game.
  • The Yankees over the Dodgers: Sabathia should look fine in this one. He's coming on now.
  • The Giants over the Red Sox: Wakefield is due for a clunker. Scary pick though.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Braves over the Tigers: Got to go with Medlan over an unknown Oliver making his first start for the Tigers.

Yesterday: 7-5
Week: 35-25
Month: 179-121
Season: 616-453
Games of the Day: 34-33 Over .500!

Think the Yankees Are Scary Now?

The Yankees have a two game lead in the American League East despite down production from Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and to some degree, C. C. Sabathia. Many stories have been written concerning Jeter and A-Rod and most include stories about their age. The other two have always been slow starters, but this year, the start has gone deeper into the season.

Derek Jeter had such a good season last season that this year looks terrible in comparison. But Jeter really turned it on in the second half last season. In fact, going back to this same June 24th of that season, he was sitting at his low point for the season in Average and On Base Percentage. From June 25 of last year until the end of the season, he raised his batting average 33 points and his OBP 37 points. In 2008, he had a similar phenomenon. From June 25th to the end of the season in 2008, Jeter raised his BA 22 points and his OBP 18 points. Jeter is a year older, but the fielding stats show him to be having one of his best fielding years in a long time. Jeter will come around. This Fan would bet on it.

Teixeira has already started to hit much better, but his early season sluggishness has gone on much longer than usual. Last year, his BA was much higher than it is now. But he did raise his OPS by 12 points from June 25 to the end of the season. It does not seem possible for Teixeira to reach his career norms by the end of this season. But if he simply hits his norms for the rest of the season, he'll be a big contributor to the Yankees from here on out.

At this point last year, C. C. Sabathia was 6-4 with a 3.71 ERA. The big lefty went 13-4 the rest of the way and lowered his ERA by 27 points. The year before that, Sabathia started 6-6 with Cleveland with an ERA of 3.83. He then went 11-2 with the Brewers and lowered his ERA to 2.70 for the season. Sabathia is already 8-3 this year with a better ERA at this point in the season than last season. His K/9 is exactly the same as last year. After looking at the numbers, this Fan might conclude that he hasn't started badly at all! He'll be fine.

The only one that isn't a good bet is Alex Rodriguez simply because his health hasn't seemed right for a while now. His range of motion is way down and he isn't getting to pitches he used to cream. But Alex Rodriguez was the best player in the game for so many years, it's hard to count him out. If he can at least match his last year's numbers for the rest of the season, it will be enough.

The Yankees have the best record in the majors to date, but they haven't even hit their stride yet. That's a pretty scary thought for the rest of the division.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Game Picks - Thursday: June 24, 2010

Eleven correct. Four incorrect. Now that's better! This picker finally broke through his Florida funk and came up with a good night of picking. Of course it took some luck too. The Yankees didn't slug their way back to the lead, they walked there as Arizona pitching blew a good sized lead by pitching 13 walks. Boston also let a lead slip away against Ubaldo Jiminez after they had rallied to take that lead. Of the few incorrect picks, the Bay Rays continue to combine weak hitting with starting pitching that is off their blistering pace and lost again. Figured they would win.

There are 12 games on tap for Thursday, which isn't bad for the usual "get-away" day. Many of them are day games which is always fun. So here's how it should shape up:

  • The Padres over the Bay Rays: The Padres have made a believer out of this old Fan. Plus, Garza had his worst outing ever last time out.
  • The Phillies over the Indians: Carmona hasn't been bad, but Cleveland shouldn't score more than the Phillies do and that will be the difference.
  • The Giants over the Astros: Cain has been fantastic but gets no run support. Wandy has been awful and should provide those runs.
  • The White Sox over the Braves: Derek Lowe always scares the Fan. Gavin Floyd should out pitch him.
  • The Brewers over the Twins: Blackburn gave the Fan heartburn last time out. Not going there.
  • The Mariners over the Cubs: The Mariners have out pitched the Cubs all series. King Felix will make it unanimous.
  • The Marlins over the Orioles: Both teams have interim managers. But the Marlins have more talent.
  • The Cardinals over the Blue Jays: If Morrow is on, this pick could blow up. But Wainwright is pitching and the Cardinals should win.
  • The Tigers over the Mets: The Mets are really playing well, but if Galarraga comes up big, the Tigers could steal a win.
  • The Red Sox over the Rockies: Dice-K will baffle the Rockies and Hammel's streak will come to an end.
  • The Dodgers over the Angels: The Fan has given up on the Dodgers, but after Dickey's performance for the Mets, how can you not root for Haeger to keep the knuckle flowing?

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Rangers over the Pirates: The Rangers have Cruz back in a line up that is piling it on. Feldman gets an easy win.

Yesterday: 11-4
Week: 28-20
Month: 172-116
Season: 609-448
Games of the Day: 33-33

Mets Playing A Joy

It was pure joy watching the Mets beat the Tigers on Wednesday night. It wasn't because the Mets are a favorite team. The opposite is probably more true. It wasn't a joy because the Tigers lost. Leyland is the type of manager you root for and Cabrera is always a pleasure to watch. No, it was a joy watching R. A. Dickey pitch so well and because Jose Reyes plays with such exuberance that it's impossible not to smile with him when he plays.

Let's start with R. A. Dickey. His eight innings of shut-out ball improved his record this year to 6-0 in seven starts. His first start was a no decision. Dickey is 36 years old. He was a first round draft pick by the Texas Rangers way back in 1996 after he was one of the best college pitchers ever at Tennessee. Dickey bounced around in the minors a while and got a brief look by the Rangers in 2001. It didn't go well. Dickey then made the roster in 2003 and made 13 starts among 38 total appearances. His stats were a mixed bag. His K/BB ratio was decent but he gave up too many homers and too many hits and ended the season with 5.09 ERA despite his 9-8 record.

He steadily got worse after that and fell back to the minors and was up and down for several years. According to interviews, it was during that time that he simply realized that he wasn't going to be good enough to make it with his stuff. So he turned to the knuckleball. While committing to that pitch he left the Texas organization and went to Seattle after not pitching at all in the majors in 2007. His 2008 year in Seattle wasn't very good either and he finished with an ERA over 5.00 and still gave up a lot of homers.

He then pitched for the Twins in 2009 and except for one game, pitched all of his 35 appearances in relief. For the first time in his career, he finished with an ERA below 5. Granted, 4.62 wasn't a great ERA nor was a 1.62 WHIP very good. But it was progress. This year, the Mets gave him a chance and he opened the season in the minors. But with the mess that was the Mets' rotation (Perez, Maine to name two), Dickey got his chance and has really come through. His years devoted to becoming a knuckleball pitcher have paid off and Wednesday night's performance brought his ERA down to 2.33 and his WHIP down to 1.29. Yeah, he still gives up quite a few base runners. But he's been around long enough that he doesn't panic and it all seems to work out.

Dickey pitches like a man who is glad to finally have a chance to shine after all those years of futility. His story is a remarkable one and an inspiring one.

Jose Reyes is one of those tantalizing talents. He's either very good or his play is problematic. It's hard to forget the terrible slump he had in September of 2007 and 2008 that allowed the Phillies to catch and pass the Mets for the division titles. His career 101 OPS+ does not speak to sustained brilliance. "Consistent" isn't a moniker you would hang on Reyes. He is a lead off man who has a career OBP of .336. But he's already hit 78 triples in his career and has stolen 319 bases. When he is on his game, he's one of the most exciting players in baseball. When he's struggling, he really struggles.

But Wednesday night was a good night. he had three hits including a triple, a single and a homer. He also made a far ranging play behind second base that few shortstops could make. You could tell that Reyes was having a ball. His smile was huge, his actions emphatic and that is what makes Jose Reyes such a transcendent player despite his inconsistency. When he has fun, David Wright has fun too. To see Wright smile as he interacted with Reyes is a stark contrast to the grim reaper-look Wright carried all of last year. That's what Reyes brings to the Mets and to baseball.

And that's why our sport is such a joy to follow. This hasn't been a good week. It's been a week of bad news and stressful situations. But baseball can entertain us in such a way that for a few hours each day, those things can melt away. All the Fan can say is a great big thank you to guys like R. A. Dickey and to Jose Reyes.

Mulling Over Miami

The Florida Marlins fired their manager, Fredi Gonzalez, on Wednesday along with two of his coaches. It was quite a shock. And whenever shocking news happens, it takes a bit of contemplation to figure out what happened and why. Quotes from the principles who made the decision seem to make sense on the surface. In this story from Yahoo sports, Larry Beinfest, the Marlins' president of baseball operations said that the Marlins seemed stuck in neutral. That certainly seems true as the Marlins area .500 team (slightly under actually). But while that makes sense on the surface, it doesn't feel right.

For one thing, the Marlins have operated on a shoestring budget for years now. They had to be embarrassed by the union and MLB about their lack of spending on players before the season started. What can Beinfest and owner, Jeffrey Loria, expect when they fail to spend any money? Isn't that like buying hamburger and expecting it to be steak? They have one superstar on the field in Hanley Ramirez. They have one superstar in the starting rotation with Josh Johnson. But that talent is somewhat limited around them. In order for this team to win, everything has to go right. And sometimes it doesn't.

Loria's comments were almost comical: "Everyone knows how I feel about winning. That’s the reason we’re making this change.” Everyone knows how he feels about winning? Isn't that statement contradictory to the amount of money the team spends on talent? The Bay Rays do what the Marlins do but they are a bit smarter about it. The Marlins have remained competitive despite their payroll thanks in part to wise personnel management and...well...pretty good management on the field.

There weren't any bells going off about the managing ability of Fredi Gonzalez other than deep confusion about his first name. There have been reports about a feud between the manager and his mercurial shortstop. But that isn't unusual in baseball history. Though that in itself could have caused enough tension internally to end Gonzalez's job security. But besides the feud with his best player, Gonzalez seemed like a good game manager and made the right moves most of the time. And from some of the quotes of the players in the aftermath, they seemed to like and respect the man. So a lot of this doesn't make sense.

So there is a need to break down why this really occurred. And the reasons seem to fall under two possible scenarios, neither of which seem very savory:

1. Hanley wanted him gone.
2. Loria is delusional that his team can carry the day when he shorthands them in every way he can.

Another team president immediately mentioned Bobby Valentine as a person of interest. But the Marlins will have to interview a few minority candidates especially since the departed manager was in that category (which is one of the shames of this story). It would be hard to imagine Valentine desiring this situation in light of the Marlins' budget constraints and with Loria's recent treatment of Joe Girardi and now Fredi Gonzalez. But stranger things have happened. Valentine is known as a disciplinarian. Would that work with Hanley Ramirez? Good luck with that.

No, this move doesn't feel right and it seemed pointless. The Marlins are still going to come in third either way.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Cardinals Will Win the Central

The Cardinals and the Reds have been flip-flopping between first and second place all season. The Reds have hung in there tough as they played surprisingly well and the Cardinals seemed to be stuck in traction. But even though the Cardinals have gone up in the division by a game and a game only, this race seems to be over.

The Cardinals simply have more horses than the Reds do. Let's compare:

Carpenter is better than Cueto.
Wainwright is better than Leake.
Garcia is better than Arroyo.
Penny is better than Harang.
The fifth starter is weak for both teams.

Take away Joey Votto, Scott Rolen and Brandon Phillips from the Reds line up and there isn't much else happening there. They get shut down by good pitching. The Cardinals in contrast have too many weapons. There is Ludwick and Holliday (who is on fire), Pujols, Freese and Colby Rasmus. The Cardinals are more apt to score consistently and more apt to get a quality start.

The bullpen is really the Reds' only edge over the Cardinals. When you throw in Tony LaRussa over Dusty Baker, the edge is complete. The Reds were a nice story and a nice surprise. But the Cards are in the driver's seat and soon won't be looking back.

Game Picks - Wednesday: June 23, 2010

Not a good night for this old picker. The Game of the Day was correct but less than half of the rest of the picks ended up being correct. That means that this Fan is around .500 for the five days here in Florida. It seems this same thing occurred last year during this same trip. Maybe it's all this Florida sun or maybe it's that interleague falls on the same time frame. Whatever the case, there hasn't been a good picking day for quite a while.

But, Florida and interleague games be darned, the Fan still has a job to do. On to Wednesday:

  • The Reds over the Athletics: Cueto should be better than Mazzaro. The Reds' offense is just barely better than the A's.
  • The Nationals over the Royals: Strasburg! Don't ever remember this much excitement. Ever.
  • The Marlins over the Orioles: Picked the Orioles yesterday. Dumb. Nolasco should win.
  • The Phillies over the Indians: Kendrick pitched well his last time out against the Yankees.
  • The Cardinals over the Blue Jays: Went with the Blue Jays yesterday, but their young pitching doesn't seem to hold up against good teams like the Cardinals. Plus, Carpenter is pitching.
  • Tampa Bay over the Padres: Correia is no Latos and Shields is no Wade Davis.
  • The Mets over the Tigers. Picked the Tigers yesterday and they were whacked with Verlander. The Tigers pitch Bonderson today. Nope. Mets are rolling.
  • The Astros over the Giants: Just a hunch here that Myers will out pitch Zito.
  • The Rangers over the Pirates: Nippert is a dumb starter for the Rangers, but they will still score more than the Pirates will.
  • The Twins over the Brewres: Liriano will shut the Brew Crew down.
  • The Braves over the White Sox: Got to believe Hudson should beat Buehrle.
  • The Rockies over the Red Sox: Ubaldo! Win number 14? Should be as the Red Sox get no DH.
  • The Yankees over the Diamondbacks: Vazquez should be better than Willis. Should be? Will be.
  • The Angels over the Dodgers: The Fan is giving up on the Dodgers. Can't seem to win lately with them at all.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Mariners over the Cubs: The Cubs' offense is already terrible. Pitch Mr. Lee and it will be invisible.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 17-16
Month: 161-112
Season: 598-444
Games of the Day: 32-33

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Game Picks - Tuesday: June 22, 2010

This picker had twice as many correct picks yesterday compared to incorrect ones. Too bad there were only three games to pick from. And of course, thanks to A. J. Freakin' Burnett, the one incorrect pick was the Game of the Day pick. Grrr. At least the Reds and the Nationals got off their long slides, so predicting that accurately was nice.

Tuesday features another full day of interleague picks:

  • The Orioles over the Marlins: Just a hunch on this one. Guthrie has been pitching really well with nothing to show for it. Sanchez isn't the best of the Marlins' pitchers.
  • The Royals over the Nationals: Leruw was good his first time out though the Royals lost the game. Atilano hasn't been that good.
  • The Blue Jays over the Cardinals: Have to go with Cecil on this one over Garcia.
  • The Padres over the Bay Rays: Wade Davis has pitched poorly and Latos has been the Padres' best pitcher.
  • The Tigers over the Mets: Think Verlander will blow the Mets away.
  • The Giants over the Astros: Lincecum should out duel Oswalt. Low scoring game.
  • The Rangers over the Pirates: Got to go with Hunter over Ohlendorf.
  • The Braves over the White Sox: Danks has been good but Hanson should prevail.
  • The Twins over the Brewers: Baker has been consistent. Narveson hasn't been.
  • The Rockies over the Red Sox: The Red Sox lose the DH. Chacin throws well.
  • The Yankees over the Diamondbacks: Pettitte out pitches Haran.
  • The Dodgers over the Angels: Manny can DH. Kershaw shuts the Angels down.
  • The Athletics over the Reds: Braden hasn't gotten a win in a while. Tonight's the night.
  • The Cubs over the Mariners: Dempster should be better than Vargas.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Phillies over the Indians: The Phillies will pound Talbot. But Moyer is pitching. hmmm....

Yesterday: 2-1
Week: 10-8
Month: 154-104
Season: 591-436
Games of the Day: 31-33

A. J. Burnett Is Killing the Yankees

The arguments on whether A. J. Burnett is just flat out bad, or only bad when he pitches to Jorge Posada is a moot point. Jorge Posada is the Yankee's number one catcher. And if Burnett can't pitch to him, he is of little use to the Yankees. Watching the game on Monday night in Arizona, Burnett and Posada looked like a couple of middle high students dancing together for the first time. But why would that mean that Burnett couldn't hit a target if he had a hundred chances to do so? It's hard to fathom.

Burnett has pitched 39.2 innings to Francisco Cervelli. his ERA is 3.63 and his OPS against is .705. He's pitched to Posada for 28.2 (not including Monday night's fiasco) and his ERA with Jorge is 4.71 and his OPS against is .866. This is certainly not an isolated statistic. Overall, for the Yankee pitchers in 2010, they have an ERA of 3.54 with an OPS against of .680 when pitching to Cervelli and a 4.26 ERA with a .725 OPS against with Posada. That makes this year no different than last year when the same phenomenon occurred.

It would be interesting to get a catcher's perspective to break that down and figure out why. Does Posada call a bad game? Does he set up too late? Does he receive the ball badly and not get strike calls? The Fan hasn't seen enough games to detect a difference. But something is different when Posada catches. And that difference affects Burnett more than any other Yankee pitcher.

Whether you blame Burnett or blame Posada, the situation is untenable. The Yankees don't have enough wiggle room in a three team horse race for two spots in the playoffs to give away games when the tandem are together. Monday night's game was the fourth straight bad outing for Burnett. The last two have been with Posada and the previous two with Chad Moeller. Without throwing any of those games to Cervelli, you can't rule out if Cervelli would have made a difference.

The problem with Burnett has always seemed to revolve around two problems. Burnett can't seem to finish an inning when he gets two quick outs. And he can't seem to finish off a batter when he gets two quick strikes. Burnett's first seven runs given up against the Diamondbacks all came with two outs and all with nobody on base after those two outs.

So what do you do about this situation? Do you have to catch Cervelli every time Burnett pitches? Posada makes a lot of money and is one of the cornerstones on the Yankees. Burnett makes a lot of money and would be impossible to trade and is too expensive to put in the bullpen. In a perfect world, Posada would DH every game for the rest of the year, but you know that won't happen. It's a problem. It's a very big problem

Monday, June 21, 2010

Game Picks - Monday: June 21, 2010

Another blah picking day here in Florida. Yesterday was just one game over .500 which makes this picker just one game over .500 for the three days he's been in Florida.

It's another short day and the last one went well, so let's see if it can happen again.

Monday's picks:

  • The Nationals over the Royals: Going with Livan Hernandez over Bruce Chen. Now there's a match up made in heaven...
  • The Reds over the Athletics: Leake needs to rebound after his last outing.

And th Game of the Day

  • The Yankees over the Diamondbacks: The Yankees will get to old friend Lopez often enough to bail out Burnett.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 8-7
Month: 152-103
Season: 589-433
Games of the Day: 32-32

Dodgers Incomplete

The Dodgers have a good team. They play in a division where nobody is going to run away with things. But watching the Dodgers play on Sunday night, they are missing a few ingredients to put them over the top. Kemp, Manny and Ethier are top notch players. Furcal is good from the lead off position and needs to get back from his injury. But it just seems like the Dodgers are two players short.

From one through five, they are equal to anyone in their league. Furcal (when he isn't injured), Kemp, Ethier, Manny and Loney put pressure on any pitcher in the league. But what happens all too often is that two or three of those players get on base and the guys behind them like Blake, Russell and DeWitt allow the rally to wither. And so with the core five being all good offensive players, the Dodgers should score a lot more runs than they do. They are in the middle of the pack in team OPS.

Likewise, the Dodgers are short in the starting rotation. They have Kuroda and Kershaw they can count on but no other starter, including Billingsley (who is out hurt) is over 100 in ERA+. Ely looks promising as his K/9 and K/BB ratios all show him to be better than his results so far indicate. But any team that depends on Billingsley and Padilla for a pennant run is difficult at best.

Because they are short in the line up and short in the rotation, the Dodgers can't put together any kind of long string of victories and will not be able to put away the NL West with any kind of ease. Such weaknesses will allow the Padres, the Giants and the Rockies an ability to stay with the Dodgers and overcome them at the end.

Manny's Lawyer Should Have Been Present

Don't know about you, but watching the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN irked this writer with its public skewering of Manny Ramirez. Manny, as many of you know, returned to Boston with the Dodgers for an interleague series. No matter what you think happened during Manny Ramirez's last season with the Red Sox, was it necessary to bring in Curt Schilling whose opinion on the subject has already been so public?

There are two things that disturb this writer about allowing Schilling to come into the booth and pull no punches on what happened with Manny during his last year with the Red Sox. First, isn't Schilling the first one to talk about the sanctity of the clubhouse if someone violates it? And here he is airing things all out there in public without allowing Manny to defend himself. It was a public execution. As far as the Fan knows, Manny has never aired his opinions on what happened in Boston. Schilling took great pride and enthusiasm in publicly skewering Ramirez and that doesn't seem right.

The second thing that bothered the Fan about the whole thing was ESPN allowing and probably encouraging the public flogging to take place. It would have been natural to bring Schilling into the booth at the scene of his heroics. Sure, bring the old workhorse in and talk about those heroics. But Jon Miller allowed the questioning to go right to Manny and allowed Schilling the opportunity that Schilling handled with relish. If the Fan was in charge of the telecast, the directive would have been not to publicly hang Ramirez during a telecast that the man couldn't defend himself against. It was ugly, that's what it was. And it was mean spirited.

The Fan isn't sure that Manny doesn't deserve the negative take on his last year in Boston. That's a question for history and reflection. If you want to debate the issue, put Manny in an interview room with Schilling and let them go at it. But geez, to allow a former teammate to come on a telecast and bury the guy which then allowed Orel Hershiser to continue the character assassination was just wrong. You could tell that Joe Morgan was uncomfortable in the situation. But Jon Miller seemed to enjoy what he had created.

It was uncalled for and in this Fan's opinion, unprofessional. And in another final aside, was Orel Herschiser really irritating during the telecast or what? From his baiting of Joe Morgan to his multiple references of "studying," he came across as the little kid who tries harder than everyone else and has to make sure everyone knows it. Worse than anything Steve Phillips used to do...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Holiday Ambivalence

[[switching to first person]] I have always had an ambivalence to many holidays. The only two that seem to mean much to me are Memorial Day and July 4th. Probably July 4th is the most important to me because I love this country, warts and all, and can appreciate what significance the day means in history and for me as a citizen. If you are of the religious persuasion to celebrate Easter and Christmas and even Thanksgiving, which has its roots in Christianity, the thing or reasons those holidays are celebrated should be celebrated every day. President's Day is sort of a non-entity. I can appreciate the sentiment of Martin Luther King Day. Labor Day doesn't mean anything when so many people still have to labor on that day. Then we get to the pseudo-holidays: Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day and others like it. The cynic in me simply believes these days were invented for Hallmark and other card-making companies. So today is Father's Day. What does it mean to me?

First, my own father has been gone now longer than he was alive. He died as the result of a car accident 44 years ago. I was ten at the time. He was a complex man who was a hero in World War II but pretty much failed at life after that. His death was probably a mercy killing. Growing up without a dad left Father's Day kind of empty. His hole in my life has been deep but I have long since worked that out with poems, family genealogy and his war medals that I keep and are my most prized possessions. But on Father's Day, there was nothing to celebrate.

Then I became a father myself. I have two wonderful children. They weren't planned well as one is 31 and the other is 14. Oops. But a father couldn't ask for better children. My 31 year old son was my buddy and there are a lifetime of memories that we share. During his early years, I worked the graveyard shift which left us a lot of leeway to enjoy each other during the day. And we did. We share this passion for baseball that is one of those bonds that lasts a lifetime. We share the same favorite team with the same kind of passion. He has a good heart and avoided most serious troubles that sons can get into. He's a good man and you can't ask for much more than that.

My daughter, as with most dads, is the twinkle in my eye. She has the ability to make me melt into a puddle of goo whenever she is around. She's fourteen now and at an age when most parents would start to worry about life choices and the road ahead. But she has such a good attitude about life that much trouble seems unlikely. Her favorite shirt seems to say it all: "Today is going to be incredible." As long as she keeps that life outlook, she'll be okay.

But I don't need Father's Day to celebrate and be celebrated. If you were raised right, being a father has no other option but to love and be loved as the most natural thing in the world. It's a year long and year by year wonder of closeness and celebration. I have not spared my children any of the love I have in my heart and it has been received and returned in a variety of ways with consistency. So why would I need a Father's Day? I don't.

Most fathers, I assume, are like me. We want to reach out and give to our children. We are uncomfortable when that role is reversed. I would be quite content to never get a card or a gift from either of my two. It seems unnatural. Although I do love how my daughter scribbles and doodles all over the envelopes that seem to be even more special than the card itself. I don't need gifts from my children. It's not that I don't appreciate the thoughts behind them, I do. But both my children should understand that their lives alone are the greatest two gifts I have ever received. Nothing could top that and nothing else is required. When I close my eyes every day and picture them each and every day, it becomes Father's Day. Every day they grace this world is all the gift I need.

Game Picks - Sunday: June 20, 2010

Seven correct. Eight incorrect. It wasn't a good day, was it? Nope, not a good day at all. That's two days of picking in Florida with a combined record of 30-30. Perhaps it's too hot for the picks to stand up. It's definitely too hot for relief pitchers. They are wilting all over the place. Three blown saves made a huge difference in the day's picks. Get those three blown saves back and you have a 10-5 record. But that's the way it goes.

Sunday is always a Fan favorite because all but one game is played during the day. The Fan loves day games. It's the way baseball should be played. Here are Sunday's picks:

  • The Diamondbacks over the Tigers: Going with Ian Kennedy over Scherzer.
  • The Yankees over the Mets: Sabathia will out pitch Santana.
  • The Bllue Jays over the Giants: When good young pitchers on the same team see their peers pitching well, it feeds on itself because of the inbred competition. Marcum will feed off of the great effort of Litsch yesterday.
  • The Marlins over the Bay Rays: Price is great for the Bay Rays but Johnson is even better for the Marlins who have given the Bay Rays a great series.
  • The Indians over the Pirates: The Pirates got a win yesterday. They won't win two in a row.
  • The Braves over the Royals: Kawakami can't buy a win. But Millwood won yesterday, so perhaps the tide will turn for Kawakami too.
  • The Phillies over the Twins: Halladay should rebound with a nice game against the Twins. He faces Pavano, the bane of this picker for ages.
  • The White Sox over the Nationals: The White Sox start of Garcia is offeset by the Nationals' starter, Lannon.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: The Rangers are rolling. Good pitching, great hitting.
  • The Cardinals over the Athletics: Suppon again builds the case for Duncan in the HOF. The A's are one of the worst road teams in baseball.
  • The Cubs over the Angels: Zambrano was pretty good his last start. Saunders is always an adventure, though he pitched very well his last time out.
  • The Brewers over the Rockies: Think Wolf will beat Cook, but if last night was any indication, the Brewers' bullpen can't hold a lead. Hoffman isn't even pitching. Pssst...Ken Macha...Villanueva isn't the answer.
  • The Orioles over the Padres: What?? The Orioles win two in a row? Arietta has been great so far and is 2-0. Garland has been banged around a bit lately. Seems to add up.
  • The Reds over the Mariners: Will take Harang over Rowland-Smith in a battle of two evils.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Red Sox over the Dodgers: The Red Sox are now only a game out of first place. The Dodgers have no shot in this game. Sweep.

Yesterday: 7-8
Last Week: 52-38
Month: 144-96
Season: 581-426
Games of the Day: 30-32 [[slapping forehead]]

Troy Glaus...Whuh?

If many of us were given a word association game concerning Troy Glaus and the shrink asked us the first words that popped into our head when mentioning Glaus, our answers would probably be something like: "Mitchell Report," "Washed up," "Is he still playing?" His first month of the season with the Braves, as unlikely as it seemed that they had signed him, did little to change all those first reactions. He hit below the Mendoza Line for the month of April. Since then? Now our reactions to that word association game would be, "What the heck is going on there?"

Indeed. What is going on there? The Braves signed him this year for $1.75 million. He can make another $500,000 in incentive clauses. Even if the season ended tomorrow, the Braves got the steal of the year. This is just one year after missing almost all of 2009 with a shoulder injury that seemed in light of his Mitchell Report standing, to figure his career was over. It was even a surprise that Glaus would take that kind of money after making over $10 million a year over his past four years. But, you see, that's the trouble with making blanket judgements based on cynicism. Apparently, Troy Glaus still has a strong desire to play baseball and to play it well. And is he ever playing well!

Glaus leads the National League in RBIs with 55. He hit his 14th homer of the season on Saturday night to help beat Zack Greinke and the Royals. Going into that game, he had a 131 OPS+. If the season ended tomorrow for Glaus, the Braves would still be way ahead on the deal. His play to date has already been valued by at $4.5 million for the season. If it wasn't for his defense, it would be even higher. But what is pretty much unappreciated concerning the year he is having is that his numbers are really nothing new for any year that Glaus has played in his career when he has been healthy.

Most people wouldn't guess that Troy Glaus has a 121 lifetime OPS+. Take away his two injury-plagued seasons (2007, 2009) and it would be higher. Glaus has been an All Star four times. He was the 2002 World Series MVP. He hit 38 homers for the Blue Jays in 2006 well after drug testing was implemented. Just two years ago, he hit 27 homers and drove in 99 while compiling a 124 OPS+.

So when it all boils down to it, none of us should be surprised about the season is having, but we all are. Aren't we?