Saturday, August 14, 2010

Game Picks - Saturday: August 14, 2010

Another losing day! grrrrrr. Didn't see the Bay Rays losing to Baltimore. Didn't see Dickey throwing a one hitter against the Phillies. Didn't anticipate Josh Johnson throwing a stinker. Didn't predict the Astros killing the Diamondback's bullpen to get a win. Couldn't anticipate the Royals' bullpen keeping up with the Yankees after the rains came. In short, the Fan was way nearsighted on eight different games. Ugh.  At least the Game of the Day came in with a gem by the Blue Jays' pitcher whose name the Fan can't spell. The Fan will just call him "Rep" from now on.

Here are Saturday's picks:

  • The Padres over the Giants: Two good young pitchers in Latos and Bumgarner. Latos is more experienced and should carry the day.
  • The Orioles over the Bay Rays: Going with Matusz over Sonnnanstine in a giddy pick that can't believe how competitive the Orioles are now.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Zambrano didn't look too bad last time out, but Carpenter is Carpenter.
  • The Mariners over the Indians: Besides Choo, who do the Indians still have now? Vargas over Talbot, who has really struggled since his early successes.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Nationals: Marquis has an ERA over 15. 15! Going with Ian Kennedy.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: Going with the gut that Porcello will have a good game and that Jackson will not.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: Simply hate this series. Both teams are in the crapper. Both have lousy pitching and little hitting. Going with Maholm over Norris.
  • The Yankees over the Royals: Phil Hughes wins his 14th. O'Sullivan gets the loss. Will the Yankees really shut Hughes down the way he's pitched?
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Halladay in a laugher over the Mets who are starting a rookie making his debut.
  • The Athletics over the Twins: Cahill has been seriously good for the A's. Duensing has also for the Twins, but he isn't as good as Cahill.
  • The Rangers over the Red Sox: Lester has been a mystery of late, especially after the second time against a lineup. Lewis has the ability to baffle the Sox.
  • The Dodgers over the Braves: Like Lilly as he is a lefty against a lefty-leaning line up. Lowe gets the loss.
  • The Blue Jays over the Angels: Cecil over Santana. If Benji Molina catches Cecil, it will be Benny and Cecil, which almost makes sense.
  • The Rockies over the Brewers: If the Brewers don't give Hoffman a chance at 600, then this Fan hopes they lose every game from here on out.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Reds over the Marlins: Leake wins and West loses and the Marlins continue to bat Hanley Ramirez at lead off. Crazy.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 47-30
Month: 86-67
Season: 987-722
Games of the Day: 64-50

It's Getting Exciting for Mike Stanton

This Fan got to see a lot of Mike Stanton when he first came up for the Florida Marlins. He looked so stiff at the time that he was like a big flamingo with a bat. He struck out so often that it was almost a given. He struck out 34 times in his first 21 games. On July 3, his line sat at: .207/.258/.316. Woof, those were ugly numbers. A lot of teams would have sent him back to the minors. But the Marlins kept putting him out there. And even though the Marlins aren't playing any better recently, you can't blame it on Mike Stanton any more. He's now showing why he was such a highly touted prospect.

Stanton has eleven hits in his last four games. He's hit four homers in his last three games including two solo shots on Friday night that accounted for all of the Marlins' runs in a losing cause. Compare his current line to the one listed in the previous paragraph: .270/.351/.557! This is the guy they hoped would be this good.

Stanton was drafted in the second round in 2007. It's hard to believe now that 73 players were drafted ahead of him. But then again, if you look at some of the names ahead of him in that draft, it was a talented group. There were guys like David Price, Matt Wieters, Tommy Hunter, Brett Cecil, Jason Heyward and Matt LaPorta just to name a few. But there were also guys like Clayton Mortenson and Ross Detwiler in there. Stanton seems to be overlooked over a lot of the guys ahead of him in that draft.

Stanton managed to get into 17 games the year he was drafted, but did little to talk about. However, in 2008, he destroyed the South Atlantic League where he hit 39 homers and finished with an OPS of .993. He moved up twice in 2009 and finished with a combined 28 homers and an .842 OPS. He struggled when he was moved up to the Double A team. And so he returned to Double A in 2010 and playing for the same team in the same league (Jacksonville in the Southern League) he just killed the ball. He had 21 homers in 53 games and had an OPS of 1.171 when he was called up to the Marlins.

Stanton is only 21 years old. He's built like a linebacker at 6'5" and 235 pounds. And if you include the 14 homers he's hit for the Marlins thus far, he has hit 35 homers already this year. And he's not just a good bat. He's settled into the right field position for the Marlins and his fielding numbers are excellent. He has a plus arm and has already thrown out four runners.

Looking at Stanton's splits, his platoon splits are just fine meaning he hits equally well against lefties and right-handers. He has excellent clutch ratings as he has a 1.342 OPS when there are runners in scoring position with two outs. His high leverage OPS is .863 which is excellent. He struggles against power pitchers and crunches finesse pitchers. He's a bit of a puzzle with his hit trajectory. When he hits the ball, 69% of the time are either straight away or to the opposite field. But when he pulls the ball, his OPS is a whopping 1.868. And he is a much better hitter on the road (so far) than he is at home.

Mr. Stanton appears to be the real deal. His major league numbers mirror what he has done in the minors and at 21, he may have a better future than Jason Heyward. He strikes out way too much with a 34% strikeout rate to plate appearances. But other than that, this kid is going toe be really good.

Josh Hamilton is Simply Amazing

Josh Hamilton continues to pour it on. It seems like every game, he has multiple hits. He went three for five on Thursday and four for five (so far) on Friday. On Friday night, he hit a homer (25) and a double (37) and had four hits. Be has now scored 79 runs and has driven in 79. His average is all the way up to .362. His OPS was 1.027 BEFORE he had that big game on Friday. And he's done all that in only 109 games. He is even seven for eight in stolen base attempts.

The man is--stated simply--a heck of a lot of fun to watch.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Game Picks - Friday: August 13, 2010

Six correct, four incorrect. That's okay but it could have been great if Broxton and Papelbon hadn't blown saves so spectacularly. The Fan can take a game like Baltimore losing. The Fan rode that bubble one game too long. That's acceptable. But blown saves drive a prognosticator crazy.

Are you scared on Friday the 13th? No, the Fan isn't either. Without fear, here are Friday's picks:

  • The Diamondbacks over the Nationals: Saunders over Lannon isn't a hard guess to make. AL pitchers always have more fun in the NL
  • The Indians over the Mariners: Pauley is 0-3 despite an ERA of 3.38. Shows you how bad that offense is.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Hamels will pitch better than Dickey and the Mets bullpen is beat up.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Hello reality for Buck. Shields over Guthrie. It will be low scoring.
  • The Marlins over the Reds: Volquez is walking too many batters and Josh Johnson is the bomb.
  • The Rangers over the Red Sox: Hunter should hold down the Red Sox until the Rangers get to Beckett.
  • The Braves over the Dodgers: Hudson is having a wonderful season. The Dodgers only post season news now will be what Torre will do.
  • The Twins over the Athletics: This could be a tough series for the Twins. They struggle with tough pitching and Oakland has plenty of that. But going with Pavano in this one.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Young Desomond hasn't shown anything in his two starts. Westbrook wins.
  • The Yankees over the Royals: Mosely is fun to watch. Like that kid. Davies is Davies.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: Going with Ohlendorf again as long as he doesn't get hit in the head or any where else with line drives.
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: Buehrle should have little trouble here. Bonderman goes for the Tigers.
  • The Brewers over the Rockies: Gallardo has been great all season and De La Rosa hasn't found his form yet after coming off the DL.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Blue Jays over the Angels: Two things here. First Kazmir is starting. Second, the Angels are old. Third, this kid pitching for the Blue Jays better win to justify having to have all those letters on the back of his uniform. Oh...that's three things.

Yesterday: 6-4
Week: 40-22
Month: 79-59
Season: 980-714
Games of the Day: 63-50

Oh What a Relief It Is

The Red Sox and Dodgers both lost brutal games on Thursday. The Red Sox were up 5-1 going into the ninth and Papelbon came in to close. He gave up four runs. Ballgame. The Dodgers were up 9-2 going into the bottom of the eighth inning against the Phillies. Belisario gave up four runs in the bottom of the eighth and Broxton gave up four runs in the bottom of the ninth. Ballgame. Belisario and Broxton give new meaning to the term, "The Killer B's." Neither team can afford many more losses to keep their faint hopes alive and these two games were ball-busters. That being the case, it seemed fitting to run down some stats of relievers that are excelling this year. The figures do not take Thursday into account.

Value (determined by Wins Over Replacement or WAR):

NL - Carlos Marmol 2.1; Matt Belisle 2.1; Brian Wilson 2.1; Leo Nunez 1.9; Sean Marshall 1.8

AL - Matt Thornton 1.8; Mariano Rivera and Darren Oliver 1.4; J. J. Putz, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour and Neftali Feliz 1.2.

Comments: Matt Belisle?? Marmol has had an unbelievable season in a losing cause.

WHIP (Walks plus Hits per innings pitched)

NL - Luke Gregerson 0.74; Hong-Chi Kuo 0.83; Arthur Rhodes 0.88; Billy Wagner 0.89; Mike Adams 0.92.

AL - Joaquin Benoit 0.62; Mariano Rivera 0.71; J. J. Putz 0.85; Daniel Bard, Darren O'Day and Rafael Soriano 0.87

Comments: Benoit has had a fabulous season as we will continue to see. The Mets should have kept Putz.


NL - Brian Wilson 1.90; Carlos Marmol 1.92; Mike Adams 1.96

AL - Matt Thornton 1.83; Joaquin Benoit 2.17; Grant Balfour 2.08

Comments: Forget the All Star Game, Thornton has been super. Where would the Giants be without Wilson?

LOB Percentage (the percentage of runners left on base, only including those over 90%)

NL - Hong-Chi Kuo 92%

AL - Joaquin Benoit 98% Wow!; Andrew Bailey 92.2%.

Some other notes of interest:

- Both Joaquin Benoit and Matt Thornton have struck out more than 12 batters per nine innings.
- Carlos Marmol has struck out an amazing 16.51 batters per nine innings.
- Wilton Lopez of the Astros has only walked 0.96 batters per nine innings. No one else is even close. Rivera leads the AL with 1.49.
- Joaquin Benoit has struck out eight batters for every one walk he has given up. Rafael Betancourt leads the majors with 11.45 K/BB. Wow!
- The only two relievers with enough innings to qualify have not allowed a single homer this season, Drew Storen and Sergio Santos of the White Sox.

Final notes: Broxton has now blown five saves this season. A few at least have been spectacular blown saves. Jonathan Papelbon now has six blown saves. People say that closers and relievers in general are not as important as starters. Statistics prove that as has been shared here in the past (that's why a reliever should never win the Cy Young Award), but when relievers fail, it sure points out how important they are.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Game Picks - Thursday: August 12, 2010

Ouch. A day under .500, but not by much. Just a game under. But still. That's unacceptable. It was one of those nights when every other pick was brilliant and bogus. The Fan has to be smart more than half the time. Thursday is the time to rebound!


  • The Mets over the Rockies: Santana has been very good lately. He should beat Hammel.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: And so ends any hope the Jays had of finishing third. The Sweep is complete.
  • The Brewers over the Diamondbacks: Will take Wolf over Rodrigo Lopez pretty much every time.
  • The Orioles over the Indians: Get on board, join now, join love train. Love train.
  • The Twins over the Whtie Sox: Each team has taken a game in this series. The Twins and Liriano need the rubber match.
  • The Padres over the Pirates: The schedule has been nice to the Padres. Garland over Duke.
  • The Yankees over the Royals: Sabathia should win this one over Chen.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: The trouble with the Marlins is that they can look brilliant and then lose to Livan the next night.
  • The Dodgers over the Phillies: Kershaw had his worst outing of the year last time out. He should bounce back and beat Blanton.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Giants over the Cubs: Cain should win unless Wells is very good and he hasn't been lately.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 34-18
Month: 73-55
Season: 974-715
Game of the Day: 62-50

Joe Mauer Is Very Special

Joe Mauer had such a good year last year that this year has seemed like a down year for the 2009 MVP winner. And yes, last year seems like an outlier for the Twins' catcher. Yes, he's hit only seven homers. Yes, his average is down 38 points from last year and his OBP is down 47 points. But my goodness, he sure is fantastic and last year was so good that his 2010 campaign has been lost a bit in the shuffle.

But Mauer is batting .327 with a .397 OBP. He has a 140 OPS+, the third highest of his career. He has hit 38 doubles. And what is truly fantastic is that Mauer has turned it on in the second half at a time when the Twins lost Justin Morneau to concussion syndrome that left a huge hole in the lineup behind him. He has played 21 games so far in the second half and his second half line: .435/.495/.694. Wow!

And by many accounts, Mauer has struggled physically this year. A recent story indicated that he had a cortisone shot in his knee. It is easy to forget that Mauer is putting up these numbers as a catcher. He is the best offensive catcher since Mike Piazza and though Piazza was far ahead of Mauer in offensive stats at the same point in his career, Mauer can know...catch. Piazza had more of a power game than Mauer which accounts for Piazza leading the league in OPS+ twice. Mauer has only done that once. Piazza had 1038 hits in his first seven seasons. Like Mauer, his first season was only a partial one. Mauer has not yet completed his seventh season and has 997 hits. He should come pretty close to matching Piazza in that category in a lot fewer at bats.

Another amazing thing about Mauer is that he has 415 walks so far in his career compared to only 335 strikeouts. That doesn't happen very often any more--if it ever did happen often. He puts the ball in play consistently. If you look at his BABIP this year, for most other batters, you would say they were lucky because it sits at .344. The average is said to be around .300. But the key to hitting, as told by the old Hall of Famer, Willie Keeler, was to "hit 'em where they ain't." Mauer does that on a consistent basis. The great ones do.

The only thing that is of mild concern about Mauer is that his success at throwing out base stealers is down quite a bit the past two years. Last year, it was 26% and this year it sits at 28% after a career that has averaged 37%. But it's so hard to judge that. Is it the catcher or the pitcher's ability to hold the runner that matters? How do you measure that? Oh, it can probably be done if you could figure out how fast the pitchers deliver the ball to the plate or how good their moves to first have been. But, the point is that it's not an easy thing to measure. You can tell when a catcher is struggling in that area. Varitek comes to mind last year and the year before. Posada is having a miserable year at it this year. But the Fan gets to watch them a lot more so the Fan has no idea if Mauer's technique is off or if his arm isn't where it should be.

The other thing that is easy to miss about Mauer is his age. For gosh sakes, the guy is only 27 years old. He was signed in 2001 right out of high school and three years later was in the big leagues and four years later, he was the regular catcher for the Twins at the age of 21. Mauer, barring health problems, has a lot of baseball left and we've just seen the tip of what he can do.

Enjoy it folks. A catcher like Mauer doesn't come along very often and he is a real joy to watch.

One Game Is the Epitome of the Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks are winning a bit more regularly these days. They are getting better pitching and they are playing some weaker teams with series against the Cubs and Brewers among the latest. Wednesday night's game against the Brewers just seemed like the perfect microcosm of the Diamondbacks.

First, they gave up back to back homers to Fielder and McGehee in the bottom of the second. But on this night, young Hudson was on the mound and that would be all he would give up the rest of the game. The game stayed 2-0 until the fourth inning. Then it got surreal.

Adam LaRoche came up and LaRoche is quietly having one of his best seasons. He deposited a long ball in the stands in deep right-center. Then Miguel Montero came up and he hit a homer to deep right. They had matched the Brewers back to back effort. But they weren't done. Mark Reynolds came up and hit a long one to deep left-center. That made it three in a row. But they weren't done yet. Stephen Drew came up and hit one to deep right. Four homers in a row! The Fan hadn't seen that since Boston did it to the Yankees a few years ago.

The D-Backs hit parade didn't stop there. They scored four more in the sixth when winning pitcher, Daniel Hudson (who is now 3-0 with Arizona), hit a big double that plated three runs. Hudson now has five RBIs in his three games with Arizona.

The game seemed to show the best and the worst of the Diamondbacks. They struck out eight times, but they walked five times. They hit four homers and hit into two double plays. They truly are a young team that is capable of amazing highs and really sour lows. Wednesday night the highs happened much more often than the lows.

As for the Brewers, this was just another loss in a season of too many of them. They struck out 12 times. They had a runner thrown out by an outfield assist. They had yet another bad start by their rotation (this one by Bush) and they simply look awful.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Game Picks - Wednesday: August 11, 2010

Nine correct and six incorrect yesterday. Meh. Some picks were real good: Baltimore, Texas, Arizona. But some didn't work out: Toronto, Oakland, Colorada. Ubaldo Jiminez gave up one run on four hits...and lost to Mike Pelfrey who hadn't pitched well since the All Star break. That's the way it goes.

Wednesday's Picks:

  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Wainwright finishes the sweep and ties Ubaldo for wins this season.
  • The Bay Rays over the Tigers: Man, the poor Tigers sunk like a rock, didn't they?
  • The Astros over the Braves: Wandy! Chipper turned an ankle.
  • The Angels over the Royals: Would pick Greinke but he was terrible last time out. Plus, he faces Weaver.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: Scott Olsen fries his former team. Volstad goes for the Marlins.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Braden has put it back together. French is just okay.
  • The Dodgers over the Phillies: Suddenly, the Dodgers are playing well again. Oswalt hasn't been great since coming to the Phillies.
  • The Orioles over the Indians: Bergesen over Tomlin. Weeeee...It's the Orioles!
  • The Mets over the Rockies: Niese was nice his last time out. Francis hasn't been nice for  a while.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: Buchholz is good but Marcum is better.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Brewers: Hudson has been great since coming to the D-Backs. Bush is never a happy pick.
  • The Padres over the Pirates: The Padres happy roll continues. Correia was even good his last time out.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: Glen Perkins is back. Really? Let's give him a win then over Danks.
  • The Giants over the Cubs: The Cubs go with Gorzelanny. The Giants, Zito. Going with the Giants at home.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Rangers over the Yankees: Cliff Lee owns the Yankees. He simply owns them.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 27-10
Month: 66-47
Season: 967-707
Games of the Day: 62-49

Super Sub and Submarines

The Braves looked like they were in trouble playing Houston on Tuesday night. Their NL East lead had shrunk to a game and a half to the surging Phillies and they were down 2-1 going into the ninth inning. Jair Jurrjens pitched a great game but three Atlanta errors led to two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and they looked like they were going to miss out on a chance to gain on the Phillies, who got whacked by the Dodgers. Fortunately, Jonny Venters did what he's done all year and put out the fire in the eighth to keep the game at one run.

And then Brooks Conrad came up in the ninth inning. Conrad had come in to spell Chipper Jones at third late in the game. Brooked Conrad has not shown himself to be much of a major league hitter. In 186 plate appearances, he's hit all of .214. He's a utility guy at best and at 30 years of age, doesn't figure to get much better or ever figure to be more than what he is. But if it's late in the game with the game on the line, you don't want to be facing Brooks Conrad. The .214 lifetime hitter has a 1.060 OPS in high leverage situations. He had won another game earlier in the year with a walk off grand slam. And with this game on the line against Matt Lindstrom, he followed an Alex Gonzalez single with a two runner homer to put his team ahead. Troy Glaus added a solo homer to give the Braves a two run cushion, but Conrad was the difference.

Billy Wagner threw a perfect ninth for the save and the Braves ended up picking up a game on the Phillies after all. The Braves' bullpen has been amazing. Wagner, who has said he will retire at the end of this season, is throwing as well as he has in his entire career. He is proving that behind Mariano Rivera, he's probably the second best closer who ever played that position. But Venters has been an amazing story. His submarine style is just killer and his season ERA now sits at 1.09 to go along with a 1.01 WHIP. It's hard to imagine where the Braves would be this season without him. His season reminds this old Fan of 1996 when Rivera pitched the eighth for the Yankees in setting up Wetteland. Venters doesn't throw as many innings as Rivera did that season, but he is certainly as effective.

And so, a super sub and a submariner led the way for the Braves and gave them a little bigger cushion in the NL East race.

Cardinals Show Reds Who's Boss

The Cardinals have been a somewhat sleepy team this year. They win their share of games, but they haven't played great baseball by any stretch of the imagination. They have only played .531 baseball since April. They have been shut out ten times. They have lost seven of twelve to Houston. They have been dogged all year by the Cincinnati Reds who have been on top of the division for most of the year. Albert Pujols has legitimate MVP competition from Joey Votto. They have three solid starters followed by a lot of hope and prayers.

If you are facing a club like the Cardinals with their history and their manager, is it a good idea to come out with strong statements to the press about the Cardinals if you are Brandon Phillips of the Reds right before the series? No, that's probably not a good idea. It's a better idea not to give your competition too much to chew on in the club house. And so the two top teams in the NL Central met head to head and in the second game, Phillips came up to hit and all hell broke loose. There was a lot of pushing and shoving. Both managers got tossed. And, oh yeah, the Cardinals won easily for the second night in a row. And tomorrow Wainwright takes the mound for the Cardinals. Uh oh.

The Reds came in to the series up by two games in the division. That lead is now vanished. By the end of the day on Wednesday, they could be in second place. The Cardinals have been the sleeping gorilla in the division and the Reds decided to wake them up. And that, in retrospect, wasn't a good idea.

The Cardinals simply look like the better team. They have firepower on offense. They have two mega-studs in the rotation and an up and comer at number three. Their bullpen has sorted itself out. The Reds will now have to play their best for the rest of the year to keep up with them. The odds don't look great because in this series at least, the Cardinals showed the Reds a thing or two about what it takes to win a division.

Bay Rays Don't Miss a Beat With Hellickson

There was a lot of talk about how the Bay Rays were in trouble after losing five in a row and losing two of their starters to shoulder trouble. Buster Olney, the much respected analyst said as much the other day on ESPN. But the Bay Rays are so deep in talent that the well never seems to go dry. Need another pitcher? How about Jeremy Hellickson?

All Hellickson has done is throw two straight gems to start his big league career at 2-0. He has now pitched fourteen innings and has only given up two runs. His 1.29 ERA goes nicely with his 0.57 WHIP. He has struck out 13 and walked only 2. He has given up only seven hits. Not a bad "fill in" starter, eh?

Hellickson is simply continuing what he has done ever since he turned professional after being drafted in 2005. He was 18-4 combined last year in three different minor league assignments. This year he was 12-3. He has a combined minor league record of 49-16. Add his 2-0 start in the big leagues and Hellickson has a .767 winning percentage since turning pro. Yeah, that's pretty good.

And Hellickson wasn't a first round draft pick either. He was drafted in the fourth round in 2005. There were 115 players drafted before him. How does that happen? How good are the Bay Rays in evaluating talent when they can get a guy like him in the fourth round?

Don't cry for the Bay Rays. They have more ammo where that came from.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Game Picks - Tuesday: August 10, 2010

Two things were really strange yesterday. First of all, this picker totally missed a game. The Brewers and Diamondbacks played and the Fan missed it entirely. The second thing was what cost the Fan a perfect day yesterday. The only incorrect pick was the Braves who were totally done in by their newest relief  edition, Kyle Farnsworth. It's amazing. Farnsworth had been having a decent season after several downers. He was always the object of scorn here in the FanDome but there had been no fodder this year to do that...until now. In a stunning display of bad pitching, Farnsworth threw 20 pitches, eight of them were strikes. He only got one out and gave up four runs. He added a wild pitch and a throwing error to his wonderful outing. Of course, Moylan came in and let all of Farnsworth's runners in as well as two of his own, so he wasn't any better.

But other than that game? Perfection. The Orioles continue to amaze. The Yankees did indeed take the day off against the Red Sox. The Bay Rays romped as expected. Everything went just right. Except Farnsworth.

Tuesday's games:

  • The Dodgers over the Phillies: Padilla versus Kendrick isn't any fun to predict. Padilla was very good last time out so we'll go with that.
  • The Bay Rays over the Tigers: Hellickson gets his chance due to Bay Rays' injuries. He'll make the most of it.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: Strasburg is back!
  • The Orioles over the Indians: Arrieta gentille Arrieta versus Masterson. The latter is unpredictable as all get out. The former is a crap shoot as well. Going with the hot team.
  • The Reds over the Cardinals: This might be the only game of the series the Reds have any chance of winning. Garcia can be had and Cueto must pitch very well for the Reds to win.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: The Blue Jays are the better team right now. Romero over Matsuzaka.
  • The Rockies over the Mets: Pelfrey has gone south and Ubaldo continues his success.
  • The Rangers over the Yankees: Why couldn't Burnett just skip a start? Oh well.
  • The Braves over the Astros: Jurrjens over Happ. Happ was clobbered his last time. Jurrjens always seems to have one bad inning each game.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: Got to go with Baker over Garcia. Must wins for the Twins.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Brewers: Like this kid, Enright. Taking him over Parra
  • The Padres over the Pirates: LeBlanc wins easily over Karstens and the Pirates.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Going with Anderson over King Felix. The Mariners won't score.
  • The Giants over the Cubs: Lincecum should have no problems with Dempster and the Cubbies.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Angels over the Royals: Bullington? Nope. Not going there. Haren gets the win.

Yesterday: 7-1
Week: 18-4
Month: 57-41
Season: 958-701
Games of the Day: 61-49

Mariners and Pirates Have Leadership Issues

Don Wakamatsu, last year's superstar manager, is now the Mariners' ex-manager. It can hardly be a surprise to anyone who has been watching. The sour exit of Griffey, the public battles with Chone Figgins along with the lingering Milton Bradley issues all brought about a hopeless situation for Wakamatsu. The term, "lost his players," has been tossed around a lot by big media writers. There are two ways that can happen which we'll discuss in a moment. But there was another team that cleaned some leadership house today and that was the Pirates which fired its pitching coach and its bench coach, generally considered two of the most important coaches on any staff. The manager in Pittsburgh, John Russell, said he made the call. Interesting!

First, let's deal with Seattle. Wakamatsu had several basic problems. First, the team had 85 wins last year after losing over 100 the year before. For a first season guy to have that much improvement meant that he only had one chance, to go up. Going down was not an option. The second problem Wakamatsu faced was an awful collection of misfit players given to him by his general manager. He was given two aged DH types in Griffey and Sweeney. His brain-trust told him to move two infielders from their previous positions in something akin go wife-swapping. He was saddled forever with the "will-he-or-won't-he" career of Erik Bedard. He was given a team that needed every single move to turn out right to work. Everything worked out wrong.

The Fan's guess is that the way the Griffey thing went down was the beginning of the end for Wakamatsu. He was given this albatross and he had no choice but to bench Griffey when Griffey couldn't produce. Not only did Griffey have a problem with Wakamatsu because the manager had to do his job, but Griffey was an icon the front office brought in for another year. Wakamatsu couldn't win that one if he wanted to. He had no chance in that situation.

The Figgins deal is harder to figure out. This Fan has never heard one ounce of negativity concerning Figgins the entire time he played with the Angels. Suddenly, with Wakamatsu and with the Mariners, he became this negative force. It is obvious that the two personalities did not work together well. But what the heck, eh? Either Mike Scioscia was a stronger man who was able to keep Figgins in check or Wakamatsu might have singled Figgins out for what happened with the Griffey "leak" during the "sleep" episode. Who knows. Clearly Figgins was a major disappointment this year and clearly Wakamatsu and he never saw eye to eye.

According to some reports the Fan read, Ichiro Suzuki was not happy about the move. First, Ichiro is widely blamed as the player who put Riggleman and McLaren on the hot seat when that pair managed the Mariners in 2008. Ichiro seemed much happier with Wakamatsu. It will be interesting to see what Ichiro does after this season.

The Fan has said it before and will trot it out one more time. The players win and lose games and the general manager is the one who chooses who those players will be. A manager can go astray if he doesn't communicate well or doesn't deal with disciplinary issues well. Perhaps there is a little of both in what happened on Monday. From this perspective, it doesn't seem much of Wakamatsu, or his coaches fault that the team performed so horribly on the field. But they are all out of a job and the guy who assembled this goulash of a team is still working.

And now a word about "losing your players." The Fan is qualified to talk about leadership as that was his bag for a long time. You can "lose your employees" in several ways. First, discipline problems can undermine what you hope to accomplish. Come down too harsh and people think you're a jerk. Don't come down hard enough and you are perceived as a patsy. You can also lose your employees when you are not honest with them. There is no indication of that being a problem here. You can lose employees with confusion over roles and responsibilities. If they are not clear or always changing, people lose faith in you, in your system and in themselves. Those are just some examples. It is unclear how Wakamatsu lost his players, but if he did, it would be something similar to one of the above.

One other note worth mentioning. Wakamatsu is another minority manager who is being replaced by a white guy (at least temporarily). So far, only the Marlins replaced a minority manager with another one and even that is temporary.

The Pittsburgh thing has a degree of intrigue to it. Pitching coach, Joe Kerrigan, and bench coach, Gary Varsho, were fired by the manager, John Russell. It's rare that a manager is the one to make these kinds of personnel decisions. But apparently he had the backing of the upper management team. There are rumors that Varsho and Kerrigan were less than supportive of their manager and were undermining him and his authority. That's a pretty heavy charge. The Yahoo Sports article about the incident as well as Pittsburgh's Post Gazette writer, Dejan Kovacevic, claim that Kerrigan and Varsho were having player meetings without the manager's approval or knowledge.

Kerrigan has never lived up to the reputation he gained in Boston as the pitching coach of Pedro and the gang from those glory years. For such a high profile coach, the pitching in Pittsburgh has grown worse instead of better. The general manager even hinted out loud that Kerrigan messed up Brad Lincoln's delivery that cost the phenom some MPH off his fastball. Whenever a pitching staff performs this badly, no doubt the coach has to go. But this seems more of a behind the scenes thing than a results thing. Kerrigan has tasted the managerial cup and it isn't far-fetched that his aspirations would in a weak moment cause him to undermine his own manager.

The Fan isn't that familiar with Varsho. The stories today seem to describe Varsho as Russell's enforcer. The stories also seemed to indicate that Russell has been dealing with these problems for a while, so that means there has been stress there for quite some time. If that's the case, why did it take so long for it to get resolved and what does that say about Russell's leadership? And how long does Russell get a pass here as the team continues to pile up losses? A better question is how long his GM gets a pass for giving him so few quality players to work with?

All in all, it's been an exciting day in a rubbernecking, train wreck sort of a way. But train wrecks happen all the time when the train has long been on the wrong set of tracks.

Jay Gibbons??

One of the constants of baseball over the years is that when it comes to crunch time and pennant races, teams take greater comfort in fringe veteran players than young players from their farm systems. That's why contending teams retread players like Garret Anderson, Miguel Cairo, Carlos Delgado and Jim Edmonds. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't. In the latest of a long line of retread roster moves, comes word that the Dodgers have mercifully dumped Anderson and called up Jay Gibbons. Jay Gibbons??

Yeah, it is that same one that used to play for the Orioles. Gibbons was a Rule V steal by the Orioles who hit 121 homers for them in parts of seven seasons. But then he got hurt, got suspended and admitted he used PEDs and he has not played MLB since the end of the 2007 season. Allegedly, he wrote to every team asking for a second chance and nobody wanted him. He played independent ball last year. But somehow, he got a shot by the Dodgers who signed him to a minor league deal. He responded to his Triple A assignment by batting for an .879 OPS to go along with a bunch of homers and runs driven in.

Now, in what is probably the most improbable story of the season, Gibbons is back in the majors. Unbelievable. Of course, he got a hit his first time up and drove in a run. So what do fans do when faced with an improbable story like Gibbons? Well, if they are anything like this Fan, you root like heck for them. Heaven knows why, it's just what we do.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Who Do the Blue Jays Remind You Of?

The Toronto Blue Jays are closer to the Red Sox than the Red Sox are to the Bay Rays in the American League East. The Blue Jays took two games from the Yankees and then went ahead and swept the Bay Rays in a series where the Jays sandwiched good pitching around an explosive offense. In some ways, the Jays remind this Fan of another team from last year that's doing pretty well this year: The San Diego Padres.

The similarities start with pitching. The Padres traded away an ace (Jake Peavy) and landed some good young pitching. The Blue Jays traded away their ace (Roy Halladay) and are benefiting from pitchers culled from other organizations blended with young arms from their own who are coming into their own much like the young Padres' pitchers did last year. Both teams have excellent bullpens with arms coveted by other teams.

The 2009 Padres and 2010 Blue Jays finished horrible months of June with the same record (9-17) only to be impressive after. Both play in tough divisions where they aren't expected to compete. Both have offenses with more unknown guys than known guys. And in some ways, the Blue Jays are more prepared to compete next year than the Padres were this year because of the offense.

The Padres and the Reds are really fun stories this year because their years are so unexpected. Their team years give hope to teams like the Blue Jays who have been really smart in building their arms for competition. The Blue Jays have more offensive talent than either the Reds or the Padres so there is even more reason to hope. The Blue Jays, if they pick the right manager for next year, could be scary good.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Game Picks - Monday: August 9, 2010

Sunday was a very successful day. Only three picks were incorrect (there was one rain out). The one pick wasn't really fair because Burnett was supposed to start for the Yankees but he was scratched on game day with a back spasm. Moseley took his place and pitched far better than Burnett would have. The other two incorrect picks were Kansas City, which lost a squeaker to Seattle, and the Pirates, which was your basic stupid pick.

The Fan had to laugh at an anonymous comment from yesterday. In justifying that stupid pick for the Pirates, the Fan figured that Maholm at least had some experience where his opponent did not. The comment found that pick less than impressive after Maholm had given up six runs in the first two innings. Oh well.

Monday features only nine games as twelve teams get the day off:

- The Cardinals over the Reds: Just can't see the Reds with Leake beating Carpenter.
- The Red Sox over the Yankees: The Yankees will probably rest some of their regulars after taking two of the first three games in this series. Lester out pitches Hughes.
- The Braves over the Astros: Mike Minor, the Braves first round pick in the 2009 draft from Vanderbilt makes his major league debut against Houston. It should be fun.
- The Orioles over the White Sox: Matusz over Jackson. Why the heck not?
- The Angels over the Royals: Santana should have no problem with the Royals and O'Sullivan.
- The Giants over the Cubs: Bumgarner should get the win as Zambrano probably doesn't have the arm strength to last long.
- The Mariners over the Athletics: Fister out lasts Mazzaro in a low scoring game.

And the Game of the Day

- The Bay Rays over the Tigers: Price shuts down the Tigers youngsters while the Rays jump on Galarraga.

Yesterday: 11-3
Week: 11-3
Month: 60-50
Season: 951-700
Games of the Day: 60-49

Greinke's Comments Not Sitting Well

Thoughts about Zack Greinke have been percolating ever since Bob Dutton's article broke on August 5. The great young pitcher (who hasn't been as great this year) sounded off on his scepticism over the chances of the Royals being any good by the time his contract expires in 2012. His big problem is probably the same as most Royals' fans in that the Royals are again rebuilding.

The fans have a right to feel the way they do about the Royals. Yeah, this is the third consecutive rebuild and retool after all. But it does seem the Royals are finally moving in the right direction as their minor league teams are stocked with talent. But Greinke's big point is that it takes time for that talent to get to where it helps the team. He uses Alex Gordan as an example of a guy taking a while to make an impact. He also pointed to Delmon Young. And it isn't as if the pitcher is wrong in his assessment. The guy is pretty sharp after all and his pessimism has some foundation.

The Fan's big problem with Greinke is what the comments do for his standing with the team. When Greinke signed his contract, he did so with gratitude that the Royals stuck with him through his tough early years. He gave the home town team a discount on the multi-year contract when he probably could have gotten more elsewhere. But those good feelings are gone now and instead of gratitude, Greinke has pessimism and impatiences. Greinke had to know his team was terrible when he signed that contract, right? So if he was going to feel like this, why did he sign it?

And how must his teammates feel? How would Alex Gordan feel? It seems to this Fan that they would feel thrown under the bus. His teammates would feel that they weren't good enough for Greinke and if this writer was in their shoes, the insult would seem odious. One of the golden rules in baseball is that you support your teammates and never throw them under the bus. Greinke has broken that rule here.

The question is again begged as to why Greinke couldn't have kept these comments to himself or taken them directly to his GM? He could have privately asked to be traded. He could have done a lot of things. But instead he chose to become an outspoken critic of his own team. Any good feelings the team and him have shared over the years have now soured and unless someone can make Greinke happy, it might be in everyone's best interest to just trade him.

Game Picks - Sunday: August 8, 2010

Pretty good day yesterday with ten correct and five incorrect. It was enough to put the Fan over .500 for the week but it was a rough one. It seems every month starts with a struggle and then reaches its stride. Some of the picks yesterday were very good. The Toronto and Pittsburgh picks were great. But then some picks were really stupid (Detroit!?). If you are smart twice as much as you are stupid, then it's not a bad day.

And so we start week two in August with these Sunday selections:

  • The Cardinals over the Marlins: The Cardinals are still the better team which should pull out a Suppon versus West match up from hell.
  • The Twins over the Indians: Duensing is 4-1 and Huff is 2-10. That should be enough reasoning right there.
  • The Pirates over the Rockies: Rogers versus Maholm. At least Maholm is an established big league pitcher. Mr. Rogers is still learning how to tie his shoelaces.
  • The Tigers over the Angels: Yeah, the Fan knows. Stupid is as stupid does. But come on, both of those pitchers (Porcello and Bell) have 5.90 ERAs. Anything can happen and Hunter is suspended.
  • The Philllies over the Mets: Halladay versus Dickey. Not knuckling under the pressure here. Halladay is too good.
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Sweep! Morrow versus Sonnanstine, who has been in the bullpen most of the season.
  • The Braves over the Giants: Sanchez is very good but the Braves rarely lose at home. One reason? Lowe is 7-3 at home and 3-6 on the road. Plus, Lowe has a 3.00 ERA in his career against the Giants in sixteen starts.
  • The Orioles over the White Sox: A guy like Guthrie is the type of guy that will benefit from a new manager like Buck. Look for a great performance at home.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: Just as an aside, have you ever tried to type the Brewers' team name quickly? Can't be done. It always comes out, "Brewres." Anyway, Gallardo gets the win here and hits another homer.
  • The Athletics over the Rangers: Cahill gets another win. He's starting to get in the Cy Young discussion.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: The Cubs are going with a Diamond that is in the rough. The Reds go with Wood. Sweep.
  • The Royals over the Mariners: The Fan keeps making the mistake of looking at pitchers with the Mariners but that doesn't matter because they can't hit.
  • The Padres over the Diamondbacks: Saunders was great in his D-Backs debut, but he faces Latos and that is that.
  • The Red Sox over the Yankees: Yeah, no faith in Burnett. None at all. Zilch. Nada. Nope.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Dodgers over the Nationals: Is this the second day in the row picking this match up for this feature? Marquis is back from the DL and pitches for the Nats. Lilly goes for the Dodgers.

Yesterday: 10-5
Last week: 49-47
Month: 49-47
Season: 940-697
Games of the Day: 59-49