Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Case Against CarGo for MVP

Carlos Gonzalez is having a wonderful season. He is a true triple crown threat (he won't make it in RBIs unless he goes on a bender) and will probably win the batting title. His play of late as the Rockies make another September run has propelled him to MVP conversations. While his numbers warrant attention, the argument for MVP doesn't add up. Here are a few reasons why:

1. CarGo isn't the most valuable person on his own team. That would be Ubaldo Jiminez, who has CarGo in WAR by at least two points. Tulowitzki has almost as high a WAR with far fewer at bats and games played.

2. You just can't ignore the splits. CarGo has a 1.205 OPS at home versus .760 on the road. He has 25 homers at home and 7 on the road. He has 74 ribbies at home and 34 on the road. He has 19 doubles at home and 14 on the road. It may seem unfair, but you have to take offensive production in Colorado with some kind of grain of salt.

3. He's not great in the field. Both B-R and Fangraphs have Carlos Gonzalez in the negative numbers for fielding proficiency. And as a right fielder, he only has two assists all season.

This is no knock on Gonzalez. He's had a great season and is a bit part of the Rockies successful run at the playoffs. He's just not the most valuable player on his team never mind the league.

Game Picks - Saturday: September 18, 2010

Yesterday was a breakthrough day. This picker finally started adjusting to the September rhythms and figured out some of the right patterns. There were five incorrect picks and they were pretty dumb picks all around. The Padres didn't have a chance against the Cardinals, who have finally found a team they can beat. Kyle Davies fooled the Fan by winning two in a row, but then the real Kyle Davies showed up just as the Fan fell for it. Oof. But heck, it was a good day and that is a happy thing.

Saturday's games:

  • The Braves over the Mets: Gee has been Gee Willikers for the Mets, but reality has to set in some time. Why not against Tim Hudson?
  • The Twins over the Athletics: Okay, the Twins had their day off (which the Fan predicted with aplomb) and will come back with a win over Braden. Slowey gets a hand. Get it?
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Excuse the Fan for being so...umm...arrogant, but when you are fighting for a playoff spot, do you put a guy out there for a start who hasn't started all season due to injury? Young was a good pitcher in the past, but this is a little dumb to this observer. Of course, Suppon isn't any picnic for the Cardinals either.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: The White Sox have already ralphed this whole series. And now they get Verlander. Nighty night.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: Take care, Mr. Torre. Good idea by the way.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Guthrie has been lights out lately. But Sabathia rules the day.
  • The Phillies over the Nationals: This Zimmermann kids looks like a really nice kid, but he's not yet ready for prime time. Phillies win with or despite Kendrick.
  • The Indians over the Royals: Masterson is making great progress. O'Sullivan isn't.
  • The Reds over the Astros: Figueroa has been good for the Astros, but he's hittable. Arroyo wins.
  • The Bay Rays over the Angels: Piniero is back, but it won't be enough against David Price who neutralizes Matsui, Abreu and others.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Pirates: Got this one wrong yesterday, but going with Enright over McDonald.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: The loss yesterday will take the starch out of the Red Sox sails. Romero over Beckett.
  • The Marlins over the Cubs: Sanchez has been consistently good for the Marlins. Coleman is a camper.
  • The Giants over the Brewers: Lincecum seems to be back to his dominant self. The Brewers (with the exception of Braun) packed it in a long time ago.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Cliff Lee is back on track. The Mariners won't have a prayer.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 46-31
Month: 121-106
Season: 1238-927
Games of the Day: 79-69

Joe Torre Walks Away from the Dodgers

For those of us who have had a long man-crush on Joe Torre, it is a relief that he is walking away from the Dodgers at the end of this season. It is a relief because the Dodgers are in such disarray because of the McCourt divorce battle. The nasty splitting of the McCourts means that the Dodgers did not have the means to support upgrades to positions that needed them. That's why the Dodgers could not extend Wolf or go after other pitchers they desperately needed. Plus, it seems from this observation deck, that Torre had lost the team and that they were not responding to him. His continued battles (which is probably too strong a word) with Matt Kemp come to mind as part of the symptoms. Torre is probably not to far from the same place Lou Piniella came to in Chicago.

Torre's decision opens the door for Don Mattingly, the heir apparent, who was announced as the successor. Writers are already stating skepticism at hiring Mattingly who has no managerial experience. The Fan doesn't know if experience is more important than presence and the fact that Mattingley was a successful player will hold more sway in his clubhouse than his experiences will. Some of the writers dredged up the incident where Broxton had to come out of the game because Mattingly started walking away from the mound and then went back. The Fan doesn't see that as a valid argument because the incident was a fluke one and the umpires really made a judgement call that was overly technical to a rule that is more than ambiguous.

Mattingly has been in Torre's dugout for half a dozen years now and there should be few decisions that should surprise him. Managing isn't THAT hard a science after all. Sure, there will be the task of setting up the parameters of Spring Training, but Mattingly can get help with that from a bench coach who has been around longer. The key with Mattingly will be how the players respond to him and only time will tells us that. The succession does smack a bit of McCourt having Yankee envy. He tried to buy an East Coast team and when he couldn't do that, he took New York people to California

The interesting question here is if Torre is simply done with the Dodgers or done with managing. Frankly, this Fan hopes he is retiring. He's earned it and he's done enough in the dugout to get his plaque in Cooperstown. But Torre lives for the competition. He loves managing and it wouldn't be a shock if he turned up in the Mets' dugout or someplace else. The Fan can't picture him going to a non-competitive team. That's not his shtick. There wouldn't be a Brewers in his future.

Maybe Torre will write another book. The first one sure made news, eh? But it's a good thing that Torre quit the Dodgers. That situation was poison and it wasn't working for him anyway. Much luck to Donny Ballgame. He's going to need it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Little Engine That Almost Could

Ah. We kept expecting the Padres to fall and they never did. They had the best record in the National League and we couldn't believe it. And that little engine got all the way to September and then the wheels fell off. They lost ten in a row just as the Giants and the Rockies started to gel. And now, for the first time in a really long time, the Padres are no longer in first place. They still own the wild card spot, but just barely. The Braves have been equally as disappointing down the home stretch. It's sad. Everybody loves an underdog, but the Padres aren't going to make it. Maybe we'll be wrong again, but the Fan doesn't think so.

The Padres climbed into first place on April 20th. They briefly fell out of first from June 8 - June 10 after they lost two of three to the Mets. They regained first on June 11th but fell into second for one game on June 16th. They regained first place the next day. On June 27th, the Padres were up by four and a half games after a sweep of the Marlins (which might have been the nail on Fredi Gonzalez's managerial stint there).

After several losses to the Rockies, the lead was cut to one game on July 10th. But the Padres started to build the lead back up again and by August 18th, they were up six games. Their high point was six and a half games on August 25th. Then they lost ten games in a row. Woof. That's a long losing streak. Their lead went from 6.5 at the start of the slide to one game by the end of it.

The Padres record since the losing streak is 6-5. That's not bad, but Marlins-like baseball isn't enough against the high flying Giants, who have made tremendous late season roster moves to give themselves some offense and the late run by the Rockies who have used their home field advantage and their schedule to become a factor.

When the Padres fell out of first place yesterday, it was the first time they did not hold the top spot for eighty games. That's a long run and it has to be disappointing to go that long in first and now have to simply hope for miracles. Unfortunately, it seems that the tide is against them and after a long, long season of hope, the Padres will be swept under by a tide they can't hold back.

It's too bad. That little engine almost could, but couldn't after all.

Game Picks - Friday: September 17, 2010

September continues to mystify this picker as Thursday provided a break even performance. The Rockies and Giants have completely melted a once formidable lead by the Padres. It doesn't seem likely the Padres will be able to hold on. Having Young make his first start of the year at this time doesn't sound helpful, does it? The Cardinals were a good pick. The Twins came through as did the Mets. But the Angels booted the ball in the 11th that gave the Indians a win. The Reds were smoked by Rodrigo Lopez who shut the Fan up big time with his performance. And of course, the Dodgers were a wasted pick for like the 70th time this year. Sooner or later, this picker will get September figured out.

It might as well start tonight, right?

  • The Diamondbacks over the Pirates: Ian Kennedy versus Burres. How good would Kennedy still look if he were still with the Yankees?
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Speaking of the Yankees, the Orioles are the last team this struggling group of All Stars want to face right now. But they get Millwood. Burnett? What do you have? Anything?
  • The Phillies over the Nationals: Oswalt over Marquis. The Phillies may not lose the rest of the year.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: A pick fraught with danger, but the Fan likes Cecil over Lackey in this match up.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Hanson needs to come up big and the Braves need to win or Bobby Cox is going to retire without a playoff appearance.
  • The Bay Rays over the Angels: The Angels burned out their bullpen yesterday. Haren will have to be magnificent. Lots of odds against them there.
  • The Cubs over the Marlins: Dempster pitched a great game last time out and has been solid all year. Senabia is a puzzle.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Lock your doors everybody, but Kyle Davies is about to win his third game in a row!
  • The Astros over the Reds: The Reds are going to coast into the playoffs because they aren't playing well. Wandy Rodriguez over Cueto.
  • The Athletics over the Twins: The Twins just killed the White Sox and are bound to take a day off here sooner or later. Anderson is just the pitcher to do that. Blackburn has been great since his stint in the minors but seems due for a mashing.
  • The Padres over the Cardinals: Latos is the Padres' last hope and fortunately, they get Lohse.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: The Chisox are done. Toast. Have fun looking at Manny the rest of the year. Scherzer out pitches Jackson.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: Not picking the Dodgers the rest of the year. Come on, Rockies! Score some runs for Ubaldo, will ya!
  • The Mariners over the Rangers: King Felix ends the Rangers' winning streak with a killer game.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Giants over the Brewers: Bumgarner gets the job done and the Giants get to Wolf. First place? Wow.

Yesterday: 3-3
Week: 36-26
Month: 111-101
Season 1228-922
Games of the Day: 79-68

How Long Do You Wait?

Baseball is a tough business. Everything is measured. There are hitting stats and pitching stats and wins and losses and big money at stake for everyone involved. And it's only gotten tougher now that Big Brother is really watching and all of us can look at a player like we look at the Eiffel Tower on Google Earth. There is no place to hide when the performance isn't happening. Because of this new environment, we have determined that a short leash is put on prospects once they get to the majors. If they don't perform, they get their plug pulled and get, in the immortal words of Daffy Duck, "More briefing."

The tricky question that the Fan is glad he doesn't have to answer is: How long do you wait?  The Rangers and then the Mariners gave Justin Smoak a good long look to see if he could get it going. He never did and went back to the minors. That was a look that lasted months. The younger LaRoche that's still with the Pirates was given two years to see if he could get it going. He never did. But that same team (the Pirates) is still sending Charlie Morton out to the mound every fifth day despite horrid stats (he did pitch well on Thursday night) Lucas Duda has started his career with the Mets with a 1 for 32 thud. How long do you wait?

The examples are all over the place. The Mets gave Ike Davis enough room to grow this summer when he was really struggling. Matt Wieters looks like he's starting to figure it out after a year and a half. Joba Chamberlain was given three quarters of a year to see if he could be a starter. Elvis Andrus has batted at the lead off spot all year despite a .276 batting average.

The one obvious factor is how high the draft pick was and how expensive the prospect was to acquire or how high the stakes are because the prospect was the key poker chip in a big blockbuster trade. Those guys will get a longer shot (like Wieters). Though there are exceptions. Homer Bailey has never been given a leash long enough to last half a year. But, with a guy like Bailey, they keep trying, right?

Whenever the Fan contemplates these kinds of things, the thoughts always drift back to Mike Schmidt and Willie Mays. The Fan supposes you've heard of those guys? Mike Schmidt came up as a rookie in 1973 and was given 443 plate appearances despite batting .196 that year with a .373 slugging percentage and 138 strikeouts in 367 official at bats. It helped that the Phillies were going nowhere that year. If they were contending, who knows if Schmidt would be in the Hall of Fame. All Schmidt did after that year was hit 530 more homers.

Willie Mays was a rookie in 1951 and the Giants WERE contenders and Mays hit .048 in May. But the Giants waited him out and of course, he's one of the best players ever to wear a major league uniform. So again, the question is, How long do you wait? Lucas Duda can relate to Mays' first month, can't he? So the question once again becomes: How long do you wait? The Fan doesn't know the answer. The Marlins would have waited a looooong time for Delmon Young. But would it have been worth it? Don't know.

All the Fan does know is that for every Mike Schmidt, there are a hundred Lasting Milledges. The trick is always going to be when to cut your losses or when to hang in there with a guy you believe in. The jury is still out on Justin Smoak. But it does look like Ike Davis is going to make it. Certainly, if you were picked in the first round and have a big contract and a big agent, that patience will be longer. But even then, a team has to make tough decisions. Sometimes it's good to be a blogger and not a manager or general manager.

The Jeter Incident - Revisited

[[switching to first person]] I have spent most of the day reading all the reactions to the play-acting Derek Jeter did on Wednesday night to get the umpire to state that Jeter was hit by the pitch. Jeter admitted after the game that he was acting. His excuse was that he had a job to do and that was to get on base. I've read Crasnick and Neyer and scores of others. Mr. Neyer represented the moralist take. Crasnick the "that-smart-son-of-a-gun" stance. I have to admit that this is a tough one.

Long after Gaylord Perry's career ended, many people smile and chuckle and what Perry did to the baseball. Most do the same when watching that old film of Joe Niekro getting caught with a file in his pocket (he tried to throw it away like a kid chucking a joint out the window when the cops roll up). Cheating has been a part of the game for as long as it has been a game. Harold Reynolds talked on the MLB Network about stealing signs. It's understood that it happens. Sometimes those who cheat get caught. Everyone saw Bobby Valentine with his Halloween mask in the dugout after he was thrown out of the game by the umpire.

It's especially tough for me because Jeter is probably my favorite player ever. And I've had a lot of favorite players over the years. One of the things that makes him my favorite is what he has stood for. He stands for playing the game right and being a pro and playing hard and playing to win. All of those intangibles that people talk about. Sure, any Fan has to be careful because as we learned with Tiger Woods and others, we can't put the person on the pedestal, just the performance. But heck, we still do it despite all the life lessens we've learned. But Jeter means respect. Now let me ask you something. Would the umpires have believed Jeter and disregarded their own ears if it was not for the reputation that Jeter has built over the years? Hardly. Therefore, Jeter used that reputation to put a need for a base runner for his team over that reputation.

Baseball has always had its shortcuts. There are "around the bag" plays at second and first basemen taking their foot of the bag before actually catching the ball  There are catchers trying to "frame" an obvious ball to make it look like a strike. Outfielders pretend that they caught a ball they really trapped. I get it. I really do. It's all part of the culture of having to win at all costs. But Mr. Neyer is right in that cheating is cheating. Lying is lying. Faking is faking. I don't care what Charles Barkley said, kids ARE watching and players ARE their role models.

Life is seldom as easy as black and white despite what extreme liberals or extreme conservatives try to tell you. No player will ever tell the umpire or referee, "Excuse me, but he did tag me before I got to the base." It will never happen. Because sometimes umpires blow it and when they do, it gives a team an advantage they can exploit. But there are gray areas. Not telling the umpire he was wrong falls in there somewhere. But not telling the umpire he was wrong and then ACTING the part to keep it wrong pushes the gray area way too far out there.

Look, I love Derek Jeter. I can't help myself. But this was not cool. It was brilliant and it falls in line with a long history in baseball. But it wasn't cool and that stings a bit. The umpires should be angry. The Bay Rays should be angry. They will be amused some day like we are at ole' Gaylord. But they have a right to feel that a line was crossed. But, you know what? This is another story that wouldn't be a story if we had replay. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Replay ends a lot of these kinds of shenanigans. And while we're at it, I am so fed up with the calling of balls and strikes, that I'd just as soon have PitchF/X call the balls and strikes.

Sorry, Mr. Jeter. The Fan...I...have to tell you that I didn't like this one

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Game Picks - Thursday: September 16, 2010

Speed bump! Why is it that you never notice a speed bump or a pot hole until after you've banged your head on the ceiling of your vehicle? The Fan had a bad start in September but things had come around lately and the record for the month was getting back to normal. But yesterday, this picker had eight incorrect picks out of fifteen. Not a disaster, but not a good night either. Carpenter lost. The Yankees lost. The Royals won (whuh?). The Dodgers lost a heart breaker. The Padres lost big. The Braves lost (they are in deep doo doo). It was sort of brutal. The only games that went right were the games that were truly no-brainers. Oh well, on to Thursday.

There are only six games scheduled today. Here's the picks:

  • The Reds over the Diamondbacks: Will not pick Rodrigo Lopez until he proves the Fan wrong. Not holding any breath over here. Volquez needs a good game though to be part of the post season rotation.
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: It seems the Padres and Cardinals are both heading in the wrong direction at the wrong time. Don't like the match up of Stauffer versus Westbrook. The Cardinals will score more runs than the Padres and that's what wins games.
  • The Angels over the Indians: Good match up here with Santana versus Carmona, who was very good last time out. Going with Santana who has a better record and the Angels, who have a better record.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Lilly over Sanchez. Should be another low scoring affair.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: Expect the Twins to rest some people as they have already done their damage in this series. But Pavano will carry the day over Buehrle.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Mets over the Pirates: Morton is 1-11 with a 9.05 ERA. Can it be any more obvious? Pelfrey wins.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 33-23
Month: 108-98
Season: 1225-919
Games of the Day: 78-68

The Jeter Play

Wednesday night's game between the Yankees and the Bay Rays featured an incident in the top of the seventh that almost gave the Yankees a victory. For those of you who follow the MLB Network, they were all over this one, but if you didn't see it, this is what happened:

The Yankees had fallen behind 2-1 on yet another Hughes - Posada home run allowed. I list both players because this Fan will go to his grave thinking that Hughes gives up gophers because of the pitches that Posada calls. But anyway, back to the seventh inning. As stated, the Yankees were behind a run and the Bay Rays have just as good a bullpen now as the Yankees do. It's the biggest improvement for these Rays over the 2008 version. The Yankees needed base runners and the Bay Rays' bullpen doesn't give up many of them. That's the scenario that led up to the Jeter Incident.

Chad Qualls was on the mound. Where Qualls has suddenly come up with a 95 MPH fastball is a subject for another blog post, but Qualls now throws extremely hard. Derek Jeter has been scuffling as just about all the world knows, but he needed to get on base. Knowing that, Jeter found an opportunity to...umm...cheat a little bit. Qualls' pitch darted inside and the replay showed that the ball hit the knob of the bat. Jeter acted like his arm got blown off. The umpire, seeing Jeter in obvious supposed pain, gave Jeter first base. The Rays protested and the umps got together to talk about it. Apparently none of them were quite sure, so Jeter took his base. Joe Maddon went ballistic and got himself thrown out of the game.

Again, the MLB Network was all over the development. They showed the replay over and over again and were having so much fun laughing at Jeter's acting ability. The network even froze the replay to show Jeter's eyes looking at the umpire to see if the umpire was buying his pain routine. He did. The Network also played a feed of the Tampa broadcast and the Fan takes everything back he ever said about Kevin Kennedy as a color man. Kennedy totally lost his composure and was extremely vile in his condemnation of the umpires. It was ugly. But anyway, one of Kennedy's points was that the ball went in fair territory and should have been an out. But he was wrong.

The replays that they showed over and over again did show that the ball hit the knob of the bat. Jeter  had indeed pulled a fast one. But the replays also showed that the ball glanced off of Jeter after it hit the bat's knob. Thus, it wouldn't have been an out, but it should have been a strike. Kennedy missed that since he was so upset and the MLB Network guys missed it because they were too busy laughing at Jeter's checkered play.

Granderson was up next and hit the ball out of the park that put the Yankees ahead. But the lead didn't last long as for some reason, Girardi left Hughes out there in the bottom of the seventh to face the same guy who hit the first homer. Sure enough, that guy, Dan Johnson, hit another two run homer off of Hughes - Posada. Both homers were on fastballs, the first was a two-seamer that went right to the sweet spot for a power-hitting left-handed batter (down and in). The second was on a cutter in roughly the same spot. Great call, Jorge...again. No way you throw Johnson fastballs. Ever. And why would you leave him in there, Girardi?

Anyway, the Bay Rays won the game, which goes to show the kids that once again, cheaters never prosper.

Duensing's Heroics Are Familiar

The Minnesota Twins put the final nail in the Chicago White Sox's coffin on Wednesday night thanks in large part to Brian Duensing. Duensing has saved this staff and his brilliant pitching down the stretch is a large part of the Twins' success. And if feels familiar. One of the things about being an older Fan of this game is that these eyes have seen a lot of baseball and when that's the case, patterns of today remind of days gone past. Duensing's heroics felt familiar and the Fan finally put a finger on it: Mel Stottlemyre.

Duensing is now 9-2 with an ERA of 2.07. Back in 1964, the Yankees were in a similar place with the present day Twins. Those Yankees had problems after the first three starters. Ralph Terry was struggling and Rollie Sheldon gave up 18 homers in just a little over 100 innings. In desperation, the 1964 Yankees turned to a young Mel Stottlemyre who went 9-3 down the stretch and finished that season with a 2.06 ERA. Yeah, the similarities are glaring.

Stottlemyer pitched 96 innings. Duensing has pitched 113 (he started the season in relief). Stottlemyre wasn't a strikeout pitcher and neither is Duensing. Both kept the ball in the park. Duensing has only given up seven homers and Stottlemyre only gave up three. Stottlemyre walked more than Duensing does, and that is probably Duensing's biggest strength. Duensing is 27 years old and Stottlemyre was 22 in 1964. And Stottlemyre only pitched one game in relief whereas Duensing started the season in relief and was put in the rotation late in the season.

But both pitchers gave their teams exactly what the teams needed and propelled them to the pennant. It's hard to figure the Yankees winning in 1964 without a young Stottlemyre and it's hard to imagine the Twins being this much in the driver's seat without Duensing. It's a nice comparison.

One other item of interest about Duensing. He was a teammate of Joba Chamberlain on the Nebraska team that battled for the College World Series. Both had similar numbers for that team. But Duensing has shown he's a starter and can thrive int he rotation. Chamberlain never did make it that way, though he is having a very good season in relief.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Game Picks - Wednesday: September 15, 2010

Tuesday brought us some thrilling baseball all over the majors and this picker had a decent enough day. It wasn't a great day by any means but nine correct out of fifteen isn't too bad. The sour picks were Seattle, who actually scored often but gave up more than they scored; the Cardinals as Wainwright was again all wrong; the Blue Jays, who couldn't get anybody out after the fourth inning; the Braves, who got shut down by that wonder called Livan (who even hit a homer); the Tigers, who got slaughtered by the Rangers and the Brewers, who can't beat anyone these days. You couldn't have asked for anything more though from the Yankees- Bay Rays game and the Padres - Rockies game or the Dodgers - Giants game. All very thrilling. Clayton Kershaw had the gem of the night with a complete game shutout to dampen the Giants' pennant hopes.

Wednesday features three day games in the NL and an early start in Seattle among its full slate of offerings. The picks:

  • The Braves over the Nationals: Lannon has been good lately, but the Fan can't see the Braves losing another game to the Nats. Minor goes for the Braves, who need a win in the worst way.
  • The Red Sox over the Mariners: Buchholz should easily win this game. Pauley goes for Seattle.
  • The Astros over the Brewers: Happ wins another pitching against Bush.
  • The Angels over the Indians: Shelley Duncan won't hit two more homers and Weaver should notch the win over Gomez.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: Somehow, the Padres finish off the sweep as Richard faces De La Rosa. The relief pitchers will be gassed on both sides.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: One we've been waiting for as Kyle Drabek makes his major league debut for the Blue Jays. Whoo! That should be fun. Drabek faces Bergesen, who has been much better for the Orioles of late.
  • The Reds over the Diamondbacks: Homer Bailey needs to come up big against a long-ball team. But the Reds should score on Saunders.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Hughes needs to have a good game but Shields can't seem to get out of the second time around the line up.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Halladay gets win #19 as the Marlins offers young Sosa up for sacrifice.
  • The Rangers over the Tigers: The Rangers' bats are booming and nothing seems to be able to stop them right now. Certainly Galarraga won't stop them. Lewis with the win.
  • The Mets over the Pirates: Mijia gets his first win while Maholm in the middle gets touched up for a few runs by the Mets.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Really want to pick Zambrano and the Cubs, but just can't pick against Carpenter in this one.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: The Twins put a nail in the White Sox coffin yesterday and tack it shut today as Duensing gets the win over Gavin Floyd.
  • The Dodgers win another thriller over the Giants: Billingsley follows Kershaw's lead and the Dodgers get to Cain just enough.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Athletics over the Royals: Trevor Cahill continues his great season at the expense of Chen.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 26-15
Month: 101-89
Season: 1218-911
Games of the Day: 78-67

Battle of the Heavyweights - Round Two

The Rays and Yankees played the second game of their series in Florida on Tuesday night. The Bay Rays won the first one on a brilliant pitching duel between the two starters and each team's relievers until the Yankees had to cry, "Oh Sergio," in the bottom of the eleventh when Mitre gave up a quick gopher to Reid Brignac. Tuesday's game had much the same script except for the starting pitching. Garza was bad for the Bay Rays and Nova flamed out in the fifth like the Chevy his name brings to mind.

The Yankees took a quick 5-0 lead on Matt Garza who had little command in his brief outing. Garza was relieved by Jake McGee making his major league debut and it showed. He walked the first two batters he faced to allow the sixth run. McGee did record a strikeout to end his inning and Garza's final line.

Then the Bay Rays came up in the bottom of the fifth. Nova had been flirting with disaster all night and somehow kept squeaking out of it. There was no squeaking out of the fifth as the Bay Rays put on a light show and before Nova knew what hit him, his lead was gone, his day was done and his win was history. Boone Logan didn't help any with a three run blast given up to Aybar when he came in to rescue Nova. Nova would have probably preferred a St. Bernard.

Strangely, Joe Maddon left McGee in there to start the top of the sixth and after a first batter walk, Maddon thought better of his decision and brought Hellickson in. This rookie thing with great young starters finishing out the year as relievers isn't working with Hellickson. It worked for David Price two years ago, but Hellickson is lost in relief. He gave up a couple of hits, including a game-tying double to Cano to knot the game at 7 each. The threat ended though because the Yankees were futile in their attempts to hide Kearns and Curtis who stunk up the bottom of the order and left several men on base.

From there it was a bullpen masterpiece. Qualls, Benoit and Soriano shut down the Yankees and Logan (after the homer), Chamberlain, Wood and Robertson blew away the Bay Rays. The game again went into extra innings but only because Curtis Granderson made an unbelievable diving catch in center to save the game. Granderson sped after the ball and extended fully and it was a fantastic play.

Maddon had no choice but to shut down Soriano after an inning and had to turn to Wheeler. The first batter he faced was Jorge Posada pinch hitting for Cervelli. And the old veteran, who can still hit, crushed a Wheeler offering up and over the restaurant in dead center--a mammoth shot. Wheeler escaped further damage. That left the game in the hands of Mariano Rivera.

The first batter Rivera faced was Carl Crawford, the last person any Yankee fan wanted to see start an inning like that. And sure enough, Crawford got on first with no outs. Uh oh. Rivera blew his last save opportunity and this one didn't feel anywhere close to being a lock. Everyone in the building and those of us watching on television expected Crawford to steal. But Longoria swung at the first pitch before Crawford could go and made a quick out. Crawford didn't wait around after that and was soon on second base.

That brought up Matt Joyce, a great-looking young hitter. Joyce battled Rivera and got the count in his favor, but the old and still buck reliever induced Joyce to lift a medium distance fly to right. The catch was made by Greg Golson, a September call up and defensive replacement. Crawford, who didn't steal third like the Fan expected, tagged up on the fly to go to third. But Golson threw a rocket that roped on a line to third and short hopped Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod made a great adjustment on the ball and scooped and tagged in the same moment and Crawford was out. Just like that, the game was over. Crawford looked stunned. Those of us that were watching were stunned. The Yankees were jubilant and fists were pumped all over the infield.

Of course we can debate the old saw about never making the last out at third base. But the Bay Rays live and die by playing aggressive. If you were to bet odds on how many times Crawford would make it to third in that situation, the odds would be in Crawford's favor most of the time. It just wasn't meant to be. The other side of the argument is that it was a meaningless 90 feet. Crawford would have easily scored on a single from second. But those points are all moot.

These heavyweights have played two extraordinary games and split them. What thrilling games! The Yankees regained a half game lead back into first and the two teams will go back at it tomorrow afternoon. What thrilling baseball! And this was just one game. The Padres won a thriller. The Phillies increased their division lead because Livan Hernandez proved us all wrong one more time. September baseball is like nothing else on earth.

Rating Team Names

A while back, the Fan did an analysis on how teams market themselves and who was good at it and who isn't. That was a thoughtful and well researched piece. This is the opposite. This is simply a Fan reacting to the various team names. Some are terrific and bold. Others are fitting for their area. And yet others just don't seem to give the team any sort of identity at all. And finally, there are some that are weak and border on pathetic. But when was the last time anybody changed a team name without a move to a new city? Forever, that's when. Some teams should think about changing their identity. Think of all the new revenue from the new caps! So here is the Fan's take on team names in no particular order.

The Cincinnati Reds - How did this name survive the Senator McCarthy era? Reds is the shortening of Red Stockings and Redlegs of the past. The Fan understands that this is an ancient name and would be hard to displace. But it really doesn't do anything for the team except the Big Red Machine was pretty cool. Three stars only because of history.

Boston Red Sox: Another name steeped in history. But seriously! A name based on a uniform feature? At least Curt Schilling took the red sock to a new level. The team should change its name to the Green Monsters. That would be more fitting. But history will give us the Red Sox forever. Three stars because of history.

St. Louis Cardinals: If you are going to name a team after a bird, why use such a wimpy one like a Cardinal. Sure, the birds are beautiful, one of the prettiest birds you'll ever see. But nobody is afraid of them, right? But this is another name steeped in history. The Fan likes the St. Louis Arch Rivals better. Three stars for history and for the cool logo.

Atlanta Braves: The name gives the team a fighting feel, but it's a political nightmare. It limits the marketing pizazz you can pull off because the team always has to be careful about offending people. Two stars for fierceness.

New York Mets: Probably one of the weakest names in baseball. Come on! The Mets? Short for Metropolitans? It is a meaningless and insipid name which happens to describe the team right now. Zero stars. The Mets should change their name to the New York Towers to honor NY's recent history.

Chicago White Sox: Another uniform feature name. At least red socks are more powerful than white sox. But seriously, what a stupid name for a team. Yeah, there is a long history here. But does that make it acceptable? Nope. Chicago has a serious dearth of good baseball team names. Two stars for history.

Chicago Cubs: Aww...aren't they cute? Cute little Cubs. Is that the image you want to portray? Now, the Chicago Bears. Grrrrowl. Now that's a team name. The Bulls? That's a team name. But the Cubs? Isn't that sweet. Two stars for history's sake.

Cleveland Indians: Even the word, Indians, isn't politically correct. It's like naming a team the Cleveland Honkies. Yeah, there is history there. But history doesn't sway the day here. History is only an impediment toward doing the right thing. One star.

Minnesota Twins: This name makes sense for the Twin Cities the team represents. But it's a pretty weak image. Wrigley had twins. But at least it rolls off the tongue nicely. But the Fan gets that it fits the area Three stars.

Milwaukee Brewers: Heck yeah. Now that's a team name! The Brew Crew! It fits the city and its rough and tumble history. Great team name. Five stars.

San Francisco Giants: The name was brought over from NYC when the team moved west. Giants are big and usually scary. But giants have a history of coming off stupid, right? But Giants is at least a bold name with a bold history. Four stars.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Another name brought over from Brooklyn. But what is a dodger? It's a squirrel trying its darnedest not to get hit. That's about as passive as it gets, right? Uh oh, trouble is coming. Better be a dodger. Plus you add draft dodgers to the mix. Not a good name. One star only for history.

New York Yankees: It fits the persona of the team you love to hate. It guarantees that the South will hate them forever. But it is steeped in Northeast history and it's bold and full of Americana. Four stars.

Florida Marlins: At least it's a fish that is known for fighting hard. But it lacks any umph. And it leads people to call you the Fish. Who wants to be called a Fish? Who wants to smell like a fish? Nobody. One star for fitting the area.

Tampa Bay Rays: Another sea creature. Is a ray a fish? Don't know. Sting Rays would have been better. At least that would have been more scary. Two stars for rhyming.

Baltimore Orioles: This name goes back a hundred years, so it's hard to fight with that. But like the Cardinals, the Orioles are a pretty unscary bird. They do make for a cool logo though. Personally, the Baltimore Crabs would be a lot more fun. The Fan loves eating crabs more than any other food on earth. Two stars for history.

Philadelphia Phillies. Phillies is too close to Filly, or a female horse. What kind of name is Phillies? It's like simply repeating the city name over twice. The Philly Phillies. It's stupid, no? It's like naming a team the St. Louis St Looeys or the Detroit D-Towns or the San Antonio San Antones. But it's only saving grace was giving us the Philly Phanatic. One star at best for history.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Arrrrrrggg. That's a tough name. Yeah. Tough name. It's a strong image even if it doesn't represent the area very well. The Steelers name is perfect. But the Pirates name is very good for effect. Four stars.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Good name. Strong image. Snakes are scary, are they not? And it fits the area very well. Well done. Five stars. The Fan doesn't get the state name though instead of a city.

Colorado Rockies: The name rolls off the tongue great and it perfectly fits the area and a strong image we all have of that area. Again, the state in the name instead of a city is weird. But other than that, it's a great name. Five stars.

San Diego Padres. Oh please. Guys in frocks? Pretty scary huh? It only fits one religion which is a handicap. Should Methodists support the Padres? This is just about the worst name in baseball. Zero stars.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on the West Coast of America. How stupid is this name? The Los An Ans. And Angels is kind of hard to live up to. Billy Martin managed there. Gaylord Perry pitched there. Those weren't angels. More like Angels with dirty faces like the movie. Zero stars until they get rid of the duality in the location.

Okay, who has the Fan forgotten? Oh!

The Seattle Mariners: The Fan likes this name. It fits the area and has a strong emotional feel. Mariners, those salty old dogs with toughness plying the seas. Yeah. Good name. Five stars.

The Houston Astros: Wow, is the Fan ever glad this team didn't stay the Colt 45s. Astros represents an exciting part of our not too distant history. The space race was exciting and bold. We all grew up loving astronauts. It's a shame it costs so much money because we need more space adventure. Good name. Four stars.

The Kansas City Royals: Another stupid name. Didn't we fight the Revolutionary War to get rid of royals? There is a royal pain in the ass. Plus, it doesn't fit the blue collar image of Kansas City. It's just the opposite of the persona of the place. Bad bad name. It also doesn't help that it is passive. Zero stars.

Oakland Athletics: This name has been dragged all over the country from Philadelphia to Kansas City and now to Oakland. It's a terrible name. Always shortened to the A's. The Fan could understand the team being called the Athletes. At least that makes sense. If the team moves to San Jose, they could have a fresh start. Please do. Zero stars.

The Texas Rangers: Perfect. Nothing ties up Texas history more than the rangers, those famous lawmen on their horses. Don't get the state name, but other than that, pretty great. Four stars with a star taken away for the state name instead of a city.

The Detroit Tigers: Strong name. Fierce. Deadly. Great name. Four stars because it doesn't fit the area..

The Toronto Blue Jays: Another weak bird name. At least blue jays are meaner than cardinals or orioles. A blue jay once stole an omelet right off the Fan's plate on the back patio. That's pretty daring. But overall, a pretty weak name for a great city. Three stars.

The Washington Nationals: Not fond of this name at all. It's passive but somewhat patriotic. It's better than the moribund Senators who can't get anything done constructively. Shouldn't Washington basketball team be called the Supreme Courts? But back to baseball. This name has got to go. How about the Washington AC/DCs? That would be cool. One star because it at least makes sense.

And that wraps up our look at team names. The Fan understands branding and all of that, but some teams should seriously consider a name change to change a culture and give MLB some new revenue streams for merchandise.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Game Picks - Tuesday: September 14, 2010

Finally! A good day. Whew! It's been a while. The only blemishes were the Royals (why does the Fan pick them?), the Yankees (a great game) and the Cardinals (who are nearly dead). But of course, the Cardinals were the Game of the Day pick thus putting a little sour note in an otherwise groovy day of picking.

Tuesday shapes up thusly:

  • The Diamondbacks over the Reds: All young Hudson has done for the D-backs is win. Wood hasn't looked good lately for the Reds.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: This game is awful to pick. There is Arrieta versus Shawn Hill. Ugh! Perhaps Bautista will have a big night.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: The Nats don't seem to have any fight left in them. Jurrjens versus Livan is a battle of pitchers not pitching very well.
  • The Indians over the Angels: Can't pick Kazmir over Tomlin. Just doesn't sound right.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: The Phillies get another crack at Mendez, who held them to one hit last time they faced him. Hamels has been a stud this year and even more so lately.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: The Bay Rays haven't seen Nova before. The Yankees have seen Garza many times.
  • The Mets over the Pirates: Dickey wins another one and Duke loses another.
  • The Tigers over the Rangers: Bonderman has seriously kicked the Fan's butt lately with several great starts in a row. He should beat Holland.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: Capuano surprised with a good outing last time out. Norris? Umm...
  • The Royals over the Athletics: Yeah, yeah. The Fan knows. But Greinke will shut down the weak hitting A's.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Wainwright wins his 19th. Wells gets the hard luck loss.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: Liriano has had a nice long rest and will be unleashed against the White Sox who counter with Danks.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: The Padres have the Rockies' number this year. Garland over Hammel.
  • The Mariners over the Red Sox: French shuts down the Boston kids while Ichiro shows Dice-K why he is the better import.

And hte Game of the Day

  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Kershaw is what Zito used to be. Zito has been really lit up lately.

Yesterday: 8-3
Week: 17-9
Month: 92-83
Season: 1209-905
Games of the Day: 77-67

It's Time to Celebrate the Reds

It's been so long since the Cincinnati Reds were relevant in the National League Central. They haven't made the playoffs since 1995 when Reggie Sanders was their best player and Davey Johnson was their manager. They haven't won a World Championship since 1990 when Jose Rijo was their best player and Lou Piniella was their manager. They haven't been above .500 since 2000 when Ken Griffey was their best player. Since 2001, their place in the standings have been: fifth, third, fifth, fourth, fifth, third, fifth, fifth and fourth. But this year? Yes, the odds are overwhelming that the Cincinnati Reds are going to win the division.

The Fan is ecstatic for the great fans of Cincinnati. These are probably the best baseball fans on earth. And they should be because they have had a lot of practice. The Cincinnati Reds (originally the Redlegs) are one of the oldest teams in baseball with a continence since 1882. And this certainly isn't among the best teams the Reds have ever fielded. This team hardly compares with the Big Red Machine.

This is a team that hardly seems dominant in any facet of the game. Their rotation isn't dominant and when Arroyo is your ace, that's not terrific. Their bullpen isn't dominant. They are good, but not the nasty boys that Lou Piniella fought with. The line up has a superstar in Joey Votto, a future Hall of Fame third baseman, Scott Rolen, who is past his prime, a slick fielding, decent hitting second baseman, a sometimes superstar in the making in Mr. Bruce and good hitting catchers. But the line up isn't without holes. In fairness, they lead the NL in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. It just doesn't feel like it.

This doesn't seem like a great team. And the Fan has to admit that all year long, this writer kept expecting the Cardinals to roar back to claim the division. But it didn't happen. The Cardinals sputtered on offense and with its bullpen and fell out of it. A win by the Reds over the D-Backs combined with a lost of the Cards to the Cubs pretty much puts the Reds on easy street.

Dusty Baker has been on the receiving end of a lot of abuse over the years. He was the guy that overused Prior and Kerry Wood. He's terrible on pitchers. He doesn't play the young guys. Well, he's gotten the job done this year and should win the Manager of the Year award. The team doesn't look like it's this good. But it is. It's so good that it is going to win the NL Central in a landslide.

Congratulations to all Reds' fans everywhere. Be happy and enjoy this. You deserve it.

A Tremendous Game in Tampa

You could not be a baseball fan and not like the duel waged in Florida between the two best teams in the American League. The Yankees and the Bay Rays are battling for the AL East pennant and in a sense, it doesn't really matter because whatever team doesn't win the division will still be the wild card. But it's a pride thing and both teams want first place. And both teams had their aces on the mound in a match up of two pitchers among the top five in the American League. And both David Price and C. C. Sabathia were fantastic.

Watching the entire game, it was evident that neither Price nor Sabathia were willing to give in and both were determined to keep the other team from scoring. Both pitched eight full innings. Both gave up five hits combined. Both never looked to be in the slightest bit of trouble. Both threw nearly 120 pitches of dominating baseball. Price relied almost completely on his fastball and the Yankees knew it was coming but couldn't square it up. Sabathia had a good fastball too but mixed in plenty of change ups and breaking pitches to keep the Bay Rays off balance. Carl Crawford came into the game as one of the hottest hitters in baseball and he looked silly against Sabathia.

Price doesn't throw many breaking pitches. He relies on constantly changing the eye level of the hitter with his fastball, which averaged from 95 to 96 all night. He alternated up and down, in and out and the Yankees had no answer. Sabathia was masterful and was again denied his 20th win and remains stuck on 19.

The defense was excellent. Golson made a great play for the Yankees, Teixeira made another amazing play at first base (what are those zone rating people looking at!?) and the Bay Rays outfielders don't let anything hit the ground. Jeter also made a great play on a bad hope against Crawford.

But the score remained scoreless and the starting pitchers were pulled. The Fan predicted earlier in the Game Picks that this would turn into a battle of the bullpens and it really wasn't a fair fight. Kerry Wood was great (again) and pitched a scoreless ninth and the Bay Rays, having the luxury of being the home team, used their closer in the bottom of the ninth. No problems there. Benoit had no problem in the tenth. Then it got curious.

Boone Logan started the tenth. No problem there. He's been great. Logan struck out his only batter (Pena). But then Joe Girardi brought in Chad Gaudin. Yankee fans collectively gasped in horror. Gaudin loaded the bases, but somehow struck out two guys to get out of the tenth.

The Yankees got a lead off hit in the eleventh and Girardi asked Granderson to bunt against Grant Balfour. You know how the Fan feels about bunts. They are a total waste of an out. Granderson got to face a right-hander for the first time all night and he is a threat to hit it out of the park. Why take the bat out of his hands? Why waste an out against Grant Balfour, who has been struggling like crazy lately. That was like giving a drunk training wheels during a sobriety test.. Balfour then got Curtis to fly out and Jeter hit the ball on the nose, but his deep liner to right was caught. The inning was over.

Then the Yankees brought in Sergio Mitre. Another groan from the Yankee fans. Why Mitre? Why indeed. Read Brignac, a kid the Fan really likes, immediately hit the game winning homer.

It was a fantastic game and it was a game that makes baseball the best sport on earth. But those who follow the Yankees will be left scratching their heads at the choices made by the Yankee manager. The Fan understand not using your closer in a tie game when the team is on the road. Got that. But what about Chamberlain? What about Jonathan Albaladejo who was the Triple A closer of the year? He's pitched six times for the Yankees and has only given up one run. Why does Girardi trust Mitre and Gaudin more than him? Who knows. It certainly doesn't make sense on this end of the keyboard and combined with the waste of an out with Granderson, it was hardly Girardi's finest hour.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Game Picks - Monday: September 13, 2010

The Fan was going through yesterday's picks because the Fan has no short term memory. So, going through the picks, the Fan starts to get pretty excited, especially when it got to 7-1 with the only loss being the Reds. Then it gets to 8-1 and the Fan is giddy. And then the Fan gets to Colorado and the Fan had picked Ian Kennedy to win. He pitched great but the bullpen was torched. So it's 8-2. Still giddy. Then it's 9-2 and euphoria is setting in. And  then the rest of the scores became reality. 9-3. 9-4. 9-5. 9-6. [[sigh]] After all that, it was just another mediocre day.

Eight teams have Monday off so there are eleven games on the schedule. Here are Monday's picks:

  • The Mets over the Pirates. Gee is pitching for the Mets. That sure is weird to say. McDonald is pitching for the Pirates.
  • The Royals over the Athletics: Hochever over Cramer who is making his debut.
  • The Reds over the Diamdondbacks: Enright has been great but Arroyo and the Reds win at home.
  • The Orioles over the Blue Jays: Matusz has been a totally different pitcher in the second half. Rzepcynski has been pretty consistently ineffective.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Blanton should have no trouble beating Mr. Miller.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: A playoff match up here with Sabathia versus Price. Both need to come up big. Only one of them will. If they both do, the Yankees bullpen wins it.
  • The Braves over the Nationals: Derek Lowe should be Maya, whose era is higher than the translation of his name.
  • The Red Sox over the Mariners: Lester has been puzzling at times. But he should beat Fister and the weak Mariners.
  • The Astros over the Brewers: Tough game to call here. Both pitchers have been red hot (Narveson and Myers). Going with the Astros at home and against the Brewers who aren't hitting.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: Francis is the Rockies weak link. The Padres are at home.

And the Game of the Day

  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Garcia goes for his 14th win and the Cubs are throwing out a not-ready-for-prime-time pitcher whose name the Fan cannot spell. Jeff S., we'll call him for now.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 9-6
Month: 84-80
Season: 1201-902
Games of the Day: 77-66

Giambino Still Kicking at 39

Jim Thome isn't the only old first baseman/DH type contributing to a pennant winner. Thome, of course, hit a game winning homer to center to further cement his Hall of Fame credentials and won a thirteen inning game for the Twins the other night. Sunday was Jason Giambi, now 39 and just short of Hall of Fame credentials (not to mention his PED problems). He too hit a bomb to center to seal a walk off win for the Rockies over the Diamondbacks. The homer gave the Rockies their tenth win in a row and moved them to 2.5 games of the division lead.

It seemed rather odd when the Rockies continued their relationship with Jason Giambi when this season started. He was a late addition for them last year during another playoff push. Perhaps they remembered and appreciated the 19 games he played for them down the stretch and contributed with a whopping 1.062 OPS in 31 at bats. But still, when the season started, him making their roster was a head-scratcher. He can only play first base and it's been years since he had any kind of agility there and the NL doesn't have the DH. So what were the Rockies thinking? They were thinking that, again, a lot like Jim Thome, Jason Giambi will give you a professional at bat whenever a game is on the line and it means something.

Then add to the head scratching that after the way Giambi started the season, the Rockies kept him throughout the season. After six games, Giambi had one of the strangest slash lines in history: .000/.400/.000.
After 14 games, his slash line improved to: .091/.364/.136. And still the Rockies kept him. As late as July 3, Giambi's slash line read: .214/.369/.381. And still the Rockies kept him. The Fan noted it during the course of the season, but didn't pay much attention, especially since the Rockies were treading water and didn't appear to have the kick in them that they had last year.

Then Todd Helton got hurt and Giambi got more playing time. And he started hitting. Now, after September 12, Giambi's slash line is a very healthy: .259/.395/.426. He has driven in 32 runs in 158 at bats. Prorate that over the course of a normal full-time season and he would be on a 112 RBI pace. His On Base Percentage is no surprise. Giambi could always get on base. his career OBP is .405. In his salad days with the Athletics, he had two years where his OBP was .476 and .475, easily the tops in the league those years. You can't PED a walk, can you?

Perhaps the Rockies were a lot smarter than the Fan. Yeah, that would be an easy call to make. They probably figured that in high leverage situations, Giambi would have a .941 OPS. That's a pretty good guy to have around when you're in a pennant race.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Very Cool Development

The MLB Network has made a surprise appearance on the Fan's cable listings. It simply popped up one day. How cool is that? Now the Fan has one more outlet to watch baseball on the big screen instead of on the laptop.

The MLB Network's news and highlight guys are boring as all get out (with the exception of Harold Reynolds who has found a new home - still miss him on Baseball Tonight). But the games are great. It's a little awkward since the games are broadcast by the local announcers for the game in progress and occasionally they will cut to some local feed while we just sit there with dead air. But that's a very small price to pay to have another way to watch baseball!

Game Picks - Sunday: September 12, 2010

Man! This has been a tough month so far. Only eight correct picks yesterday out of fifteen. Mo let the Fan down. The Blue Jays suddenly can't get a quality start. King Felix let the Fan down. The Mets won a game? That's novel. The Fan got the Padres right but the Dodgers wrong. It's tough out there. On the positive side, it's almost time to celebrate the Reds and have a funeral for the Cardnials. Both of those were correct. Ubaldo didn't get any run support again, but the Rockies eventually won the game. And Jim Thome is simply astounding. How many ways can you say, "Clutch?"

Sunday starts a new week. Baseball competes with the beginning of the NFL. Here's the Fan's take:

  • The Twins over the Indians: Slowey will beat Talbot. It's a little disturbing how few runs the Twins are scoring lately though.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Niese has been nice but Oswalt is the vice that will push this win in the Phillies column.
  • The Tigers over the Orioles: Tillman has shown signs of being a major league pitcher, but Verlander will be too tough for the Orioles.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: Just when you think the Marlins have figured it out, they bite you in the butt. Volstad gets hit and young Zimmermann pitches well.
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Niemann has been scary ugly lately, ever since he came off the DL, he's been lit up like a Christmas tree. The Blue Jays are due for a quality start. Marcum gets it done.
  • The Astros over the Dodgers: Again. Figueroa has pitched well. Monesterios is a late fill in.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: The White Sox will come up short this year, but Ozzie won't let them quit.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: Gallardo should finally give the Brewers a win. Coleman hasn't been the answer for the Cubs.
  • The Rangers over the Yankees: The Yankees' bullpen is gassed. Why Girardi didn't utilize Abladadejo or whatever his name is more yesterday is a mystery. Sometimes you have to trust those Triple A numbers. Lee shuts down the offense while Moseley is the sacrificial lamb.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: The D-backs steal one here with Ian Kennedy beating Chacin.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: Haran pitches another quality game and the Angels offense outscores the Mariners. Vargas with the loss.
  • The Padres over the Giants: The Padres have risen to the occasion and today Latos shuts the Giants down. Lincecum will be tough though.
  • The Athletics over the Red Sox: Braden over Beckett. Sad in a way that the Red Sox are an after thought.
  • The Braves over the Cardinals: Hudson buries the Cardinals. Goodnight sweetheart, it's time to go...

And the Game of the Day

  • The Reds over the Pirates: The Reds smell blood. Cueto wins easily.

Yesterday: 8-7
Last Week: 52-45
Month: 75-74
Season: 1192-896
Games of the Day: 77-65

Ubaldo Denied Again - Plus An Unexpected Sight

Ubaldo Jiminez seemed a lock to win twenty games this season. He had fifteen wins by July 5. He was a sensation. Then Jiminez had a little rough patch and got cuffed around for a few games. But in August and September, he's been back to brilliant. Except he isn't winning.

The Rockies scored a pile of runs during Ubaldo's early run but it has dried up. We are talking about a team that has averaged 4.68 runs per game since the first of August. In August and September, Jiminez has lost four games where the Rockies scored a total of four runs. On August 15, he pitched eight innings and gave up three runs and struck out ten. But he left with the score tied and didn't get a decision though the Rockies won the game. And then there was Saturday.

Jiminez again was terrific against Arizona. He pitched six innings and struck out eight while giving up only one run. He left with the score tied 1-1 for a pinch hitter. He could have pitched longer but the National League is the quaint league and the pitchers have to hit. So that's another no decision. The tally then is four losses receiving only four runs of offensive support and two no-decisions where he gave up four runs in 14 innings with a team that has been scoring runs in bunches Bummer.

Anyway, while the Fan was looking at this box score to see how Jiminez fared, a name caught the Fan's eye in Arizona's pitching line. The name said, "Hampton." Hampton? The Fan clicked on the link for Hampton's name and sure enough, it was Mike Hampton, the once great pitcher for the Astros who got the big contract and then got injured endlessly. When did he start pitching for Arizona? Why hasn't that been a story?

It appears that Hampton has become a LOOGY. He's made two appearances covering 1.2 innings and he hasn't given up a run. Neat. Who knew!? Apparently Hampton signed as a free agent with the Diamonbacks on August 21. That's a pretty cool piece of news that completely slipped the Fan's notice.

Behind Jeter's Numbers

It's tough when your favorite player has fallen on hard times. It's especially tough when it's known that 98% of the world is rejoicing in your fallen hero. When the numbers fall of so sharply and so suddenly, the natural tendency is to look for answers. What's different? What's happening? And so the numbers were consulted and they are striking in what they say. Here are some pretty definitive reasons why Derek Jeter has fallen and can't seem to get up. The reasons listed aren't in any kind of order of importance. It seems when you add them all up, they paint the picture pretty completely.

Reason #1: Derek Jeter isn't hitting line drives as often as in the past and when he does, they are getting caught more often. Jeter has hit a line drive roughly 22% of the time he puts the ball in play in his career. His batting average on those line drives is .766 for his career. This year, Jeter has only hit line drives in 18% of his balls in play and his batting average on those line drives is at .603. That will knock the batting average down a few pegs.

Reason #2: Jeter is really struggling against Finesse pitchers. Jeter has batted .297 over his career against finesse pitchers. This year, he his batting only .236 against them. It appears the best way to get Jeter out this year is to throw him something off speed.

Reason #3: His success when hitting the ball up the middle is down. Over his career, Jeter has hit 57% of his balls in play up the middle and he has a .317 lifetime batting average on those balls in play. This year, Jeter is hitting the ball up the middle on 62% of his balls in play and his batting average is only .263 in those events and his BABIP on balls up the middle is only .247. That means one of two things. Either the infielders are bunching the middle more on Jeter than in the past or he is not hitting the ball up the middle with the same kind of authority as he has done in the past. The Fan thinks it's a combination of the two.

Reason #4: Jeter has taken the opportunity to turn on a ball and pull it with authority less this year than in his career. For his career, Jeter has pulled the ball 23% of the time. His batting average in those events is a staggering .448. This year, he's only pulled  the ball 15% of the time. When he does so, his batting average is still a hefty .387. This seems to indicate to the Fan that Jeter is more defensive and is not confidently looking for opportunities to turn on a pitch.

Reason #5: This one seems to back up #4. Jeter has hit the ball to the opposite field 20% of the time in his career. To the casual observer, you would think that figure would be higher. But this year, that figure is up to 23%. If you combine this number with his up the middle percentage, Jeter is pushing the ball away from him 85% of the time compared to 77% for his career. Again, Jeter appears to be more defensive in his approach than in the past.

Reason #6: Jeter has fared well over his career with pitchers that are considered ground ball pitchers. He has a .297 lifetime mark against them. This year, that figure is a woeful .216. This makes sense with #7.

Reason #7: Jeter is hitting way more ground balls than usual. Over the course of Jeter's career, he's hit a ground ball 55% of the time. This year, that number has jumped to 66%. Ground balls lead to more outs. More outs contribute to a lower batting average.

There you have it. Those seven reasons sum up Jeter's season and why he has fallen off so far from what he's done over his career. The three remaining questions all this data tells are: 1. Does he have anything to contribute for the rest of this season? 2. Is this just an outlier of a season for Jeter or is this a sure sign that he is on a big decline and is nearly done as a player. And finally, how will the Yankees and Jeter respond to this season in contract talks after this season. The Fan doesn't know the answer to any of those three questions and frankly, is too scared to consider what the real answers might be.