Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Red Sox On Schedule

The Red Sox finally reached their pre-season-appointed place at the top of the American League East. And taking a quick look at their upcoming schedule, they may stay there for a while. They are still not a perfect team. Despite some recent timely hits from Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek, the position remains a weakness. And despite good performances from Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves, those two-fifths of their current starting rotation remain questionable. But again, their schedule for the next month and a half should hide their flaws and keep their considerable strengths humming right along.

After finishing up the Tigers this weekend, the Red Sox host the White Sox. The White Sox have been floundering around and have as many holes in their line up as Swiss cheese. After that three-game series, the team from Boston hosts the Oakland Athletics. While the A's have good pitching and could bottle up the terrific Boston offense, the A's have little or no offense and have scored the fewest runs in the American League.

That series leads to a day off on Thursday and then a tough road trip against the Yankees, Blue Jays and Bay Rays. There is no reason they can't win half of those games. Following that swing, they go back into interleague play and play six games at home against the Brewers and Pirates. Since those games are at home, they can use David Ortiz as their DH, giving them a decided edge over both of those teams.

They then take their interleague show on the road with a tough series against the Phillies which means Ortiz will be on the bench. But they follow that series with a road series against the Astros, a team they should handle easily. And then, after that, they will again return home for seven games against the Orioles and Blue Jays, two teams they should handle rather easily.

That schedule seems pretty soft except for the three series against the Bay Rays, Yankees and Phillies. With Carl Crawford now contributing, the unexpected return to form by Josh Beckett and the two killer young pitchers at the top of the rotation, the Red Sox are in good shape. Their bullpen can be dominant at times and vulnerable at times, but even so, they should win 65 to 70 percent of their games in the next month and a half.

The Red Sox already boast the third best run differential in the American League (behind the Indians and Yankees) but considering where they were earlier in the season, they easily have the best differential in May. Their line up is now set, they are getting good contributions from every position, have the depth they need in the infield and the outfield and it would be a major surprise if they ever lose hold of first place again.

This writer was never concerned with their early start. They simply had too much talent not to finally get where they wanted to go. That doesn't mean this Fan is real happy with that conclusion. It just is what it is. The Red Sox are going to win the American League East.

Game Picks - Saturday: May 28, 2011

A couple of stupid picks early were erased by a solid swing through the West Coast. The late success helped lead to a very successful day of picking. Let's face it, picking the Tigers over the Red Sox was just plain stupid. Tim Wakefield got another victory and pitched well. Rick Porcello did not. Ballgame. The Mets pick didn't look stupid until K-Rod imploded in the ninth to allow the Phillies to win with five straight hits. Nice. Kyle Drabek kept the Blue Jays in the game despite five more walks. The bullpen for Toronto on this night was very good and the Blue Jays proved they can score without big Bautista homers. Picking against David Price sure seems stupid in retrospect. And the Milwaukee pick looked good until Shaun Marcum coughed up a grand slam to Brandon Crawford, who hit the big bomb in his first major league game. Wow! But other than that, it was all aces for this picker.

A good week is ensured, but why not have one last big day this week? Here are Saturday's picks:

  • The Pirates over the Cubs: First off, Paul Maholm has pitched much better than his 1-7 record. The Pirates have only scored 13 runs for him all season. Second, the Pirates should score because Randy Wells is making his first start after a long stint on the DL and will probably only go four or five innings.
  • The Nationals over the Padres: Jordan Zimmermann has been pitching really well. Tim Stauffer has not. Plus, Morse has been on fire for the Nats with homers in four straight games including last night's walk off job.
  • The Blue Jays over the White Sox: Carlos Villanueva nuffed the Yankees in his last outing and the White Sox aren't better than the Yankees. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, will get to Edwin Jackson.
  • The Bay Rays over the Indians: Did this Fan really pick against the Bay Rays yesterday? Must have been sleeping at the wheel. James Shields has been terrific. Carlos Carrasco has not been terrific. Sam Fuld is back?
  • The Brewers over the Giants: Jonathan Sanchez has been homer-prone in May. Randy Wolf has to come up big again for the Brewers.
  • The Astros over the Diamondbacks: Zach Duke? Seriously? No, can't do it. Going with Bud Norris and the Astros.
  • The Angels over the Twins: Liriano was scratched leaving the Twins in the hands of Anthony Swarzack ack ack. Should be an easy win for Jared Weaver.
  • The Red Sox over the Tigers: Clay Buchholz goes for the Red Sox. If that isn't bad enough for the Tigers, the Red Sox get to feast on a young pitcher, Andrew Oliver, making his first start of the year. Oh boy.
  • The Reds over the Braves: The Braves have nothing going on offense. That helps Bronson Arroyo and not Derek Lowe.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: The Mets had their shot yesterday and blew it. Cole Hamels shuts them down to win over Mike (ollie ollie in) Pelfrey.
  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: Juan Nicasio makes his major league debut and looks tough with a 99 MPH fastball. But Jaime Garcia is a proven entity. Cardinals win.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: Okay, so Josh Outman might be pretty good. Brad Bergesen is certainly not good.
  • The Dodgers over the Marlins: The Marlins are going to have relief day with Brian Sanchez starting and hoping to go three or four innings. Hiroki Kuroda will bounce back from his last start.
  • The Mariners over the Yankees: The Yankees don't hit Felix Hernandez well and must hope for a good game from Ivan Nova. Doesn't seem like a winning combination.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rangers over the Royals: Order is restored as Matt Harrison takes care of the Royals while Sean O'Sullivan gets pounded by his former team.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 49-29
Month: 194-165
Season: 409-342
Games of the Day: 32-26

That many sure things make for a scary day, no?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Game Picks - Friday: May 27, 2011

The record stood at 5-1 after the day games yesterday and that was a pretty good feeling. Yes, the Scherzer/Tigers pick was pretty embarrassing. But still, 5-1. But then they played the two night games. For the Game of the Day feature, this picker rued the fact that Micah Owings is one of this site's favorite player players but didn't have a shot at winning. Well, he only gave up one run and indeed won. So that's good news/bad news. Then Phillip Humber and Brandon Morrow were equally brilliant for seven innings but after that, it became a bullpen game and most of the Blue Jays relief pitchers are pitching for other teams now. 5-3. Oh well.

5-3 is still a positive outcome and it's been a positive week. Two more days to go. Let's start with Friday:

  • The Pirates over the Cubs: The Cubs had a real tough time with Pittsburgh last year and this year, they start the series with Doug Davis. That being the case, the pick is Kevin Correia.
  • The Tigers over the Red Sox: Obviously, the Fan didn't learn his lesson yesterday and the Red Sox have scored 28 runs in the last two days. Rick Porcello has been so good though and faces the aged Tim Wakefield. The Tigers should win, right?
  • The Nationals over the Padres: Geez. Who do you pick between John Lannon and Clayton Richard. Yuck. Going with the home team.
  • The White Sox over the Blue Jays: The two teams are going in the opposite direction. Kyle Drabek doesn't have his control yet and Mark Buehrle has a good career record against the Blue Jays.
  • The Bay Rays over the Indians: Are the Indians facing the market correction everyone expected? Can they hold on? Not tonight against David Price, they can't. Josh Tomlin has been remarkably effective. Still waiting for the other shoe to drop on that one too.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: The Phillies have to be gassed, don't they? Roy Oswalt could make this pick look stupid, but the thought here is that Chris Capuano will keep the ball in the yard better at home.
  • The Braves over the Reds: Both teams have been struggling to score or win lately. But this Fan likes Tommy Hanson over Mike Leake in this one.
  • The Royals over the Rangers: Today's upset special. Nathan Adcock must be an unknown to the Rangers and the Royals could get to Colby Lewis.
  • The Angels over the Twins: Did you see that Tim Brown over at Yahoo Sports ranked the Twins dead last in his major league rankings? Ouch. Scott Baker loses to Tyler Chatwood.
  • The Brewers over the Giants: The pitching duel of the night involves Tim Lincecum versus Shaun Marcum. Marcum has been great and Lincecum's only chance is to throw a shutout.
  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: All season long, the Fan has been waiting for Ubaldo Jiminez to turn it around. Not wasting another pick in that direction for now. Jake Westbrook better be on his game though.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: Yes, the Orioles have won five in a row and yes, the A's can't hit. But Gio Gonzalez should be better than Chris Tillman.
  • The Dodgers over the Marlins: Not a nice match up to pick between Javier Vazquez and Jon Garland. Going with the home team.
  • The Mariners over the Yankees: Michael Pineda neutralizes the Yankee offense and Burnett gives up his usual three to four runs.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Astros: The Diamondbacks are in second place! Can you believe it? Part of the reason is that Daniel Hudson is again pitching like last year. Brett Myers will get no help as usual.

Yesterday: 5-3
Week: 39-24
Month: 189-160
Season: 399-337
Games of the Day: 31-26

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Stanley Steamer

There was a post over at that featured the pitchers with the most appearances for one team. The list of course, was shown on the occasion of Mariano Rivera's 1,000 appearance for the Yankees. No pitcher has ever done that before. There's no one even close. Walter Johnson pitched 802 times for the Washington Senators and he's in second place. The great thing about baseball is the emotions that are evocative just by seeing a name on a list. The fourth name on the list belongs to Bob Stanley, known, of course, by his nickname, "The Stanley Steamer." Stanley was one of a kind. He looked like a truck driver and despite the total lack of ability to strike anyone out, pitched 637 times for the Red Sox between 1977 and 1989.

Stanley's heydey was between 1977 and 1985. He was a part of two heartbreaking Red Sox teams in 1978 and 1986. 1978 was the famous year that Don Zimmer's Red Sox won 99 games and had to have a one-game playoff with the Yankees that resulted in the now famous Bucky Dent home run off of Mike Torrez. Stanley was on the mound in that 1986 World Series game when Mookie Wilson's ground ball went through Bill Buckners legs. So you can see that Bob Stanley was involved in a lot of drama during his career.

1986 was Stanley's first ineffective season. He went on to have a disastrous 1987, a very good season in 1988 and then a bad final year in 1989. But before 1986, Bob Stanley was a rock for the Red Sox. He wasn't today's kind of reliever though. And it started in his very first season in 1977. Stanley, then only 22 years old, pitched for the Red Sox in 41 games. He started 13 of them and had three complete games and one shutout. But he also pitched in relief 28 times and totaled 151 innings. He was credited with three saves.

The next season, 1978, he was spectacular. He pitched 52 times, with all but three of those appearances in relief. And yet he still compiled 141.2 innings. His record was 15-2 with a 2.60 ERA and was credited with ten saves. It was amazing for one other reason. In those 141.2 innings, he only struck out 2.4 batters per nine innings! According to and its Play Index, only one other pitcher since 1971 pitched more than 140 innings with less than three strikeouts per nine innings and had a better ERA than 2.60. The answer to that trivia question is Steve Kline in 1972 for the New York Yankees. Kline's ERA that year was 2.40. Amazing.

It's funny looking back to the 1970s. We look at today's analysts and they are all fascinated and insistent on strikeouts. The theory is that strikeouts are one of the few things the pitcher can control. And thus WAR and other modern measurements apply the strikeout heavily in those calculations. There were a lot of effective pitchers in the 1970s that didn't strike out anyone.  In fact in that Play Index search mentioned earlier, the top thirteen ERAs with that many innings and that few strikeouts were all recorded in the 1970s. Hmm...

Anyway, Stanley finished seventh in the league in Cy Young Award voting in 1978. And his team fell one game short of the playoffs thanks to Bucky Dent. In Stanley's first two seasons, the Red Sox won 196 games. And his versatile work was a big part of their success.

In 1979, the Red Sox fell to third place, though they still won 91 games. Bob Stanley found himself mostly in the starting rotation. He made thirty starts, but he still relieved in ten other games and even recorded a save to go with his nine complete games and four shutouts. It was his highest career total in innings pitched with 216.2 innings of work. He went 16-12 with an ERA+ of 113. He also recorded only 2.3 strikeouts per nine innings, the tenth lowest strikeouts per nine with that many innings since 1951.

1980 saw a decline for the Red Sox. They won only 83 games and finished fifth. Manager, Don Zimmer, got fired in mid-season. Bob Stanley had a good year though. He pitched another 175 innings in 51 appearances. He again showed his versatility as he started 17 games and pitched 34 times in relief. He saved 14 games, had five complete games and threw another shutout. His strikeout rate rose all the way to 3.7 per nine!

The next six seasons saw Stanley almost strictly as a relief pitcher. He managed two starts in those six years. In the first four years of that string, he made 203 relief appearances and pitched a total of 509 innings. As you can tell, the era of the one inning relief pitcher had not yet arrived.

Stanley's best year in those years was 1983 when he pitched 145.1 innings, all in relief and finished with a 2.89 ERA with 33 saves. It was his second and last All Star appearance and he also finished in the top 25 in MVP voting for the second time. Stanley had another very good year in 1985. In every year from 1977 to 1985, Stanley finished with an ERA+ over 100. All but one year (an injury plagued 1981) was 113 or higher. Several times, his ERA+ was much, much higher.

Ironically, the Red Sox World Series year of 1986 saw the decline of Bob Stanley as an effective pitcher. He had a brutal year and his WHIP finished that season at 1.591. 1987 was even worse. For some inexplicable reason, the Red Sox decided that after eight seasons mostly in relief, they were going to put Stanley back in the starting rotation. He made 20 starts and went 4-15 with a 5.01 ERA. It was a bad decision. Stanley did have a few good moments that season and completed four games and even pitched a shutout.

1988 was a swan song for Stanley. Back in the bullpen where he belonged, Stanley had his last good season. That season, he made 57 relief appearances good for 101.2 innings and finished with a 3.19 ERA. He also had the lowest WHIP of his career that season.

Stanley couldn't follow it up though and pitched rather mediocre and retired following that 1989 season. He finished his career with a 115-97 record with a final ERA of 3.64. His career ERA+ was 119. He made 637 appearances all with the Red Sox. 85 of those appearances were starts. Stanley finished with 21 complete games, seven shutouts and 132 saves. He finished a remarkable 376 games during his career.

Bob Stanley's claim to fame was his sinker. Ground ball ratio's were not kept until late in his career. Once they were, he threw roughly two ground balls for every fly ball. But to get an idea of just how good a pitch his sinker was, Stanley recorded 255 double plays in his career, or roughly nineteen and a half GIDP per season. That must have been one heck of a sinker.

The sad thing is that most people will remember Bob Stanley as a part of that infamous Game 6 of the 1986 World Series against the Mets when it all came apart for a very good Red Sox team. Stanley was a very good pitcher for a long time in a era before the hard and fast relief rules of today. This Fan can still close his eyes and see Bob Stanley's large frame on the mound throwing that hard sinker. And another bonus for this writer? Bob Stanley was born in Portland, Maine and was drafted after his high school career in New Jersey--two states near and dear to the Fan's heart.

Game Picks - Thursday: May 26, 2011

The Game Picks feature of this site has gone on a long time. It was begun in the middle of May in 2009 at the request of a loyal reader (Kryss). During that time, every game has been mulled over each and every day. Only two days were missed in 2009 due to Internet outages following a storm. It is believed the commenter that requested such a feature bets on baseball. But that's not really what the feature is about. If it was, it would be a lot more scientific. All it is is a rundown of each days games and how this observer thinks those games will go down. Call them educated guesses.

The thing that is amazing after all this time and after all these games is how much luck has a part of the outcome. Take the Phillies pick yesterday. The pick went for the Phillies because Roy Halladay was pitching and he sort of pitched pretty good against the Reds the last time he faced them (you might remember that no-hitter in the playoffs). The pick ended up being correct, but only after an infielder pitched an inning of relief in the nineteenth inning and got the win. Just in case you think the luck always falls on the positive side, two of the incorrect picks yesterday (Pirates, Giants) were losses by those two teams in extra innings. That's the way the ball bounces. One would think that sheer luck would making picking these games result in a final tally that comes close to the mean. That the Fan is pretty far over .500 since the feature started must mean that on the whole, the educated guesses went to college.

There are eight games on the shortened Thursday schedule. Like yesterday, many of them are day games.

  • The Orioles over the Royals: Jeff Francis has thrown 14.2 consecutive scoreless innings coming into this game. The streak included his first win (over the Cardinals). Remembering that last week, Hiroki Kuroda had a similar streak and was bombed his next time out, this Fan will opt on the side of Jeremy Guthrie.
  • The Tigers over the Red Sox: The Red Sox are on fire, but get cooled off today against Max Scherzer, especially with Alfredo Aceves starting on their side.
  • The Phillies over the Reds: These poor two teams have a day game following a 19 inning marathon yesterday. Talk about a lack of recovery time. There will be a bunch of zombies on the field and the starters better go deep into the game. Cliff Lee can do that. Homer Bailey can too, but there is less of a chance that he will than Lee.
  • The Cubs over the Mets: The Cubs have the kind of slow bats that should be well suited to R. A. Dickey's knuckleball. In fact, they did hit Dickey hard last year. Carlos Zambrano gets the win. Seems like he just pitched the other day. Oh well. That's the pick.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: Picking these two teams against each other is no fun. Two bad offenses with good pitching staffs. How do you predict who will score? Going with the ever-tough Brett Anderson over the could-be-tough Joel Pineiro.
  • The Marlins over the Giants: Two very good pitchers in Anibal Sanchez versus Ryan Vogelsong. But the Giants might be punchless without Posey, who hurt his ankle. The combination of Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison have been terrific for the Marlins.
  • The Blue Jays over the White Sox: Brandon Morrow has to take the lessen shown by Matt Latos yesterday that if you throw strikes, good things can happen when you have that much stuff. Phillip Humber will be solid in the loss.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: Oh, how this Fan would love to see Micah Owings pitch well. Love that guy. But he won't and rookie, Clayton Mortensen, will pitch well.

Yesterday: 9-5 (the Tigers and Bay Rays were rained out)
Week: 34-21
Month: 179-157
Season: 394-334
Games of the Day: 31-25

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Three Homer Games Spike In Pitching Era

Carlos Quentin hit three homers for the White Sox yesterday and almost single-handedly beat the Texas Rangers. His feat has not been a rarity the last two seasons. Heck, it was not a rarity even this week as Corey Hart of the Brewers hit three on Monday. Quentin is the fifth person to hit three homers in a game this season. All five have come in May. The others were: Carlos Beltran on May 12, Jose Bautista on May 15, Jason Giambi on May 19 and Hart and Quentin in the last two days.

The spike in three-homer games continues from last year when the feat occurred thirteen times. The eighteen occurrences in less than a year and a half already matches the combined total of the three years of 2007 (5), 2008 (5) and 2009 (8).

There is no magic bullet in this post. Analysis is not needed to simply state this as a statistical fluke. These events have nothing in common with the last two years showing an increase in the pitching advantage and lower runs per game over the last two seasons. There were only four such games in the "Year of the Pitcher" in 1968. It's just a neat little anomaly that is fun to talk about.

And it's really only a two year spike. The total of 47 such games in the last five years is far out-shadowed by the 67 times it occurred from 2001 to 2005. There were 61 such games in the five years prior to 2001. Those totals in the juiced up era far out-shine what's been going on the last five seasons.

For the record, the batters with the most such games in the last five years are Mark Teixeira, Alfonso Soriano and Albert Pujols, all with three apiece. No other batter in the last five years has done it more than once. The all time leaders (since 1919 anyway) have done it six times. The two guys with that many are Sammy Sosa and Johnny Mize. Sosa's of course, has to be viewed with rose-colored eyes. Five guys have done it five times: Mark McGwire, Dave Kingman, Carlos Delgado and Joe Carter. It's been done 498 times since 1919.  Thirteen of those were four-homer games, one of the most exclusive clubs in baseball statistics.

Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Aramis Ramirez are the active leaders with four games each.

Update** How appropriate this tweet on the outing of this post:  Jeff Quagliata 

Game Picks - Wednesday: May 25, 2011

Yesterday's picks turned into a whole lot of nothing. Sixteen games all led to an even 8-8 record. But it could have been a lot worse. Come from behind victories by the Yankees, Tigers and Orioles prevented the day's picks from being really ugly. The day also featured a nasty situation in Arlington as a strong storm caused hail and the evacuation of 30,000+ fans. On the grand scale of humanity, these picks are meaningless when so many of our American family are dealing with natural disasters from tornadoes and flooding. Please think about people who have lost loved ones and their property and help where you can.

Eight of the fifteen games played on Wednesday will be day games. That always makes for a fun day as a Fan. The picks for today are as follows:

  • The Red Sox over the Indians: Don't tell the Red Sox about the Indians' home record. Jon Lester is on the mound today against Mitch Talbot, who is just coming off the disabled list. Should be an easy win in a game that starts at 12:05 ET.
  • The Pirates over the Braves: Everyone keeps saying that Mike Minor is a good prospect, but he's never shown anything in the bigs. He gets the start tonight against James McDonald, who has been throwing well. The Braves offense is bleak.
  • The Tigers over the Bay Rays: How can one pick a game started by Andy Sonnanstine and Brad Penny? Yeesh. Going with the Tigers at home.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Another head scratcher. Jo-Jo Reyes is winless in his last 27 starts but is pitching better. Freddie Garcia has a lifetime ERA of 6.06 against the Blue Jays. Again going with the home team.
  • The Mariners over the Twins: The Twins are showing some life but Brian Duensing has been struggling. Erik Bedard has been great his last two starts, but one of them was against the Padres in a big ballpark. Another tough call.
  • The Brewers over the Nationals: Jason Marquis has been very good for the Nationals but faces a tough line up in their home ballpark. Plus, he is matched up with Zack Greinke who is looking to go to 3-1 today.
  • The Rangers over the White Sox: C. J. Wilson needs a big game against a suddenly potent White Sox offense. Sometimes you have to dig a little bit when making these picks. Gavin Floyd starts for the White Sox and is having a good year. But, he is 4-0 in night games and 1-3 in day games. Today is a day game.
  • The Dodgers over the Astros: Ted Lilly is a serviceable pitcher, which is more than you can say about Aneury Rodriguez, a starter that taxes the bullpen every time out.
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Chris Carpenter and Matt Latos are a combined 2-10. Would you have guessed that before the season started? It seems these two starters cancel each other out. The prediction here is that Albert Pujols has a big game.
  • The Orioles over the Royals: Another game that's dicey. Jake Arrieta was bombed his last time out but is still 5-2. Luke Hochevar was great his last time out, but hasn't been good overall. Flip a coin.
  • The Mets over the Cubs: The Mets sure looked lifeless yesterday. But Dillon Gee never seems to lose. Meanwhile, Casey Coleman has a 9.69 ERA at home this year. The Cubs are at home.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: This Fan loves him some Ian Kennedy. Riding him for the win today. Jason Hammel has been good this year though.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: Trevor Cahill is very good. And he's even better against the Angels. Ervin Santana was brilliant his last time out. This might be another 1-0 game.
  • The Giants over the Marlins: Chris Volstad is a weak link in the Marlins' rotation. But he did have a shutout once in San Francisco. On the other hand, Madison Bumgarner was brilliant in his last start and finally won a game.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Reds: Remember the last time Roy Halladay faced Reds? Yeah. Book the win over Travis Wood and the Reds.

Yesterday: 8-8
Week: 25-16
Month: 170-152
Season: 385-329
Games of the Day: 30-25

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Wilpon Criticism Seems Unfair

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the article in the New Yorker called Madoff's Curveball. Besides all the Twitter chatter and the talk on the sports television shows, Buster Olney has the latest riff on the fallout from the article. Olney's slant on things is that Fred Wilpon undercut his general manager, Sandy Alderson. Olney also links to several articles criticizing Wilpon, including a couple that call for Wilpon to sell the team. The criticism seems a bit viscous from this side of the table.

Let's push aside for a minute the Madoff angle and talk about the things that Wilpon was quoted as saying in the article. Wilpon is quoted as saying that Jose Reyes will want Carl Crawford money and he won't get it. He goes on to say that David Wright is not a superstar and that Carlos Beltran is only worth 60 to 70 percent of what he's getting paid. The short answer is that yes, those players were thrown under the bus a bit. But Olney and others take that as an indication that Wilpon undercut his GM by announcing to the world that the Mets would try to get rid of those three players. Is that what Wilpon did? Maybe. But wasn't that a foregone conclusion anyway? Hasn't this Fan already read a dozen articles about what team Reyes will be traded to before the article ever came out?

And since when is it a crucifying event for an owner to criticize his employees? George Steinbrenner did it his entire career. Those three players have been paid a lot of Wilpon's money. As an owner of the Mets, what does he have to show for those paychecks? Of course Reyes is going to want big money. Which player doesn't? Crawford was paid an obscene amount of money. Wouldn't every free agent ask for similar money with similar skills? Their career paths aren't that dissimilar until last year. See the Wargraph (from below.

And what of David Wright? Is Wilpon's assessment accurate. Is David Wright a superstar? Is Carl Crawford? That's debatable. Again, Wright and Crawford have similar War Graphs. Wright is just a tick higher for career WAR than Crawford. But Wright's defense is awful. This Fan thinks both players are just a bit under superstar players. They are very, very good players but not elite. 

Wilpon is wrong about Beltran. Well, not totally. Beltran isn't worth the money he's getting paid currently. But he will earn enough WAR this year to cover his entire contract with the Mets. In other words, if you add up Beltran's WAR in his time with the Mets and translate that to dollar values, the Mets have gotten their money's worth. 

So Wilpon's assessments, while critical of his players, are not totally without merit. And again, as the one footing the bill, isn't he allowed to say what he wants about his players? How come Steinbrenner got a pass but Wilpon doesn't? Steinbrenner was viewed as trying to motivate his players. Wilpon is viewed as trying to tear them down.

As for the Madoff mess, the courts will decide the culpability of Fred Wilpon toward his buddy, Bernie Madoff. The article mentions several times that Madoff is on record that Wilpon didn't know about the Ponzi scheme. And if Madoff knew, would he have lost $500 million when Madoff crashed and burned? Again, the courts will decide. The view here is that Wilpon was a victim and lacked due diligence in what Madoff was doing.

This Fan finds the criticism of Fred Wilpon to be unfair. And this is coming from a long-time non-Fan of the Mets. Wilpon has been good for the team, has increased the team's value and if guilty of anything, it was in hiring bad management before Alderson came on board. The bad press Wilpon is getting seems mean-spirited.

The One-Dimensional San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants are amazing. Last year, they won the most improbable World Series title and this year, they are at it again. You can't help looking at that team on paper and in statistics without wondering what the heck is going on. A writer trying to describe this team ends up like Bugs Bunny trying to figure out how the turtle kept beating him to the finish line in that famous cartoon race. Can't you hear the "What can't beeee!" Consider that the Giants are four wins above their Pythagorean win/loss total based on their runs scored and runs allowed. They are firmly in first place in the National League despite a run differential of only +3.

Yes, we all know the answer is pitching. But even great pitching has to get some run support, right? Apparently not. The Giants are dead last in the National League in scoring. Here's how the offensive stacks up against the other sixteen National League teams in offensive production:

  • Runs - 16th
  • Homers - 12th
  • Stolen Bases - 11th
  • Walks - 14th
  • Batting average - 11th
  • On base percentage - 14th
  • Slugging - 12th
  • OPS - 12th
  • Total Bases - 13th

That's a pretty ugly offense is it not? They made two huge judgement errors in the off season. One, they opted to go with Miguel Tejada as their shortstop. The guy has a 47 OPS+. The other was signing Aubrey Huff to an overvalued, multi-year contract. They made the same mistake the Twins made by re-signing Carl Pavano. The golden rule for general managers is that it's okay to buy cheap and hope to strike gold. But once you do, never re-sign that cheap buy for good money. Another mistake was to bring back Pat Burrell, although that was a cheap mistake. And yet, there they first place.

Since Pablo Sandoval went down with a broken bone (and he was their best hitter at the time) after 24 games, their best hitter has been Nate Schierholtz. Who would have predicted that before the season started? Buster Posey is coming on a bit, but thus far, his numbers are no where near what they were last year. If Nate Schierholtz is your best hitter, what does that say about your offense?

It might be unfair to call the Giants, "one-dimensional." Their fielding hasn't been a weakness...sort of. They are fourth in the National League in fielding efficiency but thirteenth in the league in fielding percentage. Now that Aubrey Huff is out of right field, the fielding in the outfield is good. But that takes into consideration that Pat Burrell is given positive fielding numbers in left. That can't be right, can it? The infield? Well...Mike Fontenot has been good.

The Giants, of course, live and die with their pitching. They are third in the NL in ERA, first in hits allowed, second in runs allowed, first in homers allowed and fourth in strikeouts. Every starter, including Madison Bumgarner are above league average in ERA+. The bullpen is again fantastic. The Giants win because they rarely, if ever, beat themselves on the pitching mound. Ryan Vogelsong has been one of the best stories of 2011. His three wins and sparkling ERA have been a huge boost since taking over for Barry Zito. Yes, this team wins because of its pitching. Dave Righetti has a proven track record as a pitching coach for having his pitchers keep the ball in the park. He and his charges have been terrific.

As long as the pitching staff gives the team a chance to win every night, the smoke and mirrors routine will continue to work for the Giants. Who could bet against them? The team leaves you scratching your head. In the meantime, they are laughing all the way to the bank.

Game Picks - Tuesday: May 24, 2011

The losses by the Yankees, Bay Rays and Dodgers were the only blemishes on an otherwise successful day of picking yesterday. The Indians had yet another remarkable comeback win. Amazing. Just about every win on the schedule yesterday besides the Blue Jays, Phillies and Tigers were decided in the bullpen. The Cardinals roughed up Heath Bell. The Indians got to Daniel Bard. The Angels won their game off of Fuentes and Wuertz. The Astros' rally beat Jansen in the bottom of the ninth. And Capps blew another save for the Twins as the Mariners won in extras. It must have been an exciting night of baseball. Unfortunately, this picker slept through most of it.

Tuesday brings us back to a full slate of games to consider. There's even a day/night double-header to give us sixteen games! Here's how they will go down:

  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: Hard to pick against a team the Fan just wrote about, but de la Rosa versus Joe Saunders seems like a mismatch.
  • The Pirates over the Braves: The Braves are banged up and Charlie Morton is the ground ball king. He wins the battle of the 5-1 pitchers over Jair Jurrjens.
  • The Indians over the Red Sox: Again, how can you pick against Cleveland at home at this point? Even if Beckett versus Carmona seems like a no-brainer? Got to go with the hot hand, right?
  • The Phillies over the Reds: The Reds are sinking and have lost several in a row. How bad is it when they send Edinson Volquez to the minors? Shocking. Vince Worley has been a great spot starter for the Phillies. Johnny Cueto was good his first two starts but got rocked in his last outing.
  • The Orioles over the Royals: Zach Britton wins the battle of the young pitchers as Danny Duffy goes for the Royals.
  • The Tigers over the Bay Rays: Justin Verlander is just a great pitcher. Wade Davis is throwing a straight fastball and has been fortunate thus far. Bound to catch up with him with the likes of Cabrera and Martinez.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: C. C. Sabathia comes up big at home and the Yankees get to Ricky Romero.
  • The Rangers over the White Sox: Jake Peavy was great in his first start back, but the Rangers have all their horses back but need another good outing from Derek Holland.
  • The Dodgers over the Astros: Can the Dodgers be this bad? Maybe. This game is picked on virtue of the match up between Clay Billingsley and J. A. Happ.
  • The Mets over the Cubs: Jonathan Niese was great in his last outing and should hold the Cubs to fewer runs than what Ryan Dempster gives up for the Cubs.
  • The Mariners over the Twins: If the Twins can't win with a two-homer night from Jim Thome, there is no hope for them. The Mariners, meanwhile, are on a nice roll. Doug Fister over Nick Blackburn.
  • The Brewers over the Nationals: Chris Narveson comes up big with his arm and his bat as the Brewers roll over Livan Hernandez.
  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: The Rockies ruin Josh Collmenter's perfect record at home behind Jhoulys Chacin.
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Albert Pujols is swinging better and he'll need to as Aaron Harang is good at home. The Cardinals need yet another big outing from Kyle McClellan who is pitching as good as Wainwright would have.
  • The Marlins over the Giants: Ricky Nolasco always pitches really well in San Francisco and has never lost there. The Marlins get just enough runs off of Matt Cain to win.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Angels over the Athletics: It's unfair to use the Angels twice in a row for the Game of the Day. But, Dan Haren simply shouldn't lose against Guillermo Morosco making his first major league start.

Yesterday: 7-3
Week: 17-8
Month: 162-143
Season: 377-321
Games of the Day: 30-24   This feature is 13-3 in the last 16 days!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Yankees Should Wave Their Magic Wandy

The New York Yankees went into this season with major question marks concerning their pitching rotation. With four spots filled with the question marks of A. J. Burnett, Ivan Nova and the two old men, Bartolo Colon and Freddie Garcia, it seemed a reasonable concern. Thus far, the rotation has not been a problem as all of those pitchers have had their nice moments. But does anyone think that the Yankees will play that hand all season long? Hardly. It's still too big of a risk. Plus, the rotation lacks one huge item since Andy Pettitte retired: a lefty starter to compliment Sabathia. The answer? Wandy Rodriguez.

The Houston Astros need to rebuild and they are not going anywhere for a while. Their two biggest current needs are at the catching and closer positions. Plus, they need prospects who could fill those needs for years to come. At the major league level, the Astros' two catchers, J. R. Towles and Humberto Quintero are journeymen at best. And we all know of their problems closing out games this season. Add to the mix that Wandy Rodriguez makes $7 million this season and that number jumps to $10 million next year and $13 million the year after that and you have the perfect situation and chip to trade for longer term stability.

Here's the deal the Yankees should offer the Astros: Wandy Rodriguez for Austin Romine, David Phelps and Kevin Whelan. The Astros kick in a few million to help with Wandy's contract. Here is some reasoning behind the deal.

First, Phelps has several pitchers ahead of him on the prospect side for the Yankees. There's Brackman, Betances and Banuelos. While the Yankees could be tempted to put Banuelos into that lefty rotation spot, he is on an innings count and thus can't be counted on for a stretch run. David Phelps is a solid prospect, who at 24, is close to being major league ready. He'll never get that chance with the Yankees. That's the view here. Phelps throws strikes, has a pretty good strikeout rate and could help a team like the Astros.

Kevin Whelan has been the closer at the Yankees' Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team. And he's been effective in that role. With 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings and only 2.7 walks per nine, he could step into the Astros closing role. Whelan's way is totally blocked in the Yankees' bullpen as that bullpen is stacked with closer prospects should anything ever happen to Mariano Rivera, God forbid.

The Astros would probably want to pry Jesus Montero away from the Yankees, but the Yankees wouldn't make that trade unless it was for a younger pitcher that could help them longer than the 32 year old Wandy Rodriguez. Plus, with Romine, the Astros would get the better defensive catcher who still has an upside with the bat. Romine is the odd man out for the Yankees and with Russell Martin establishing himself more and more each day, he could be blocking the way for any catching prospect for the Yankees. The Yankees also have another stud catching prospect in the lower minors. Romine could step right into the starting catcher position for the Astros today.

The Yankees would get a proven left-handed pitcher who has only missed six starts in the last six years. He has a few more years in his arm at 32 and as a lefty in the rotation, would match up well against the Red Sox against Crawford, Gonzalez, Ortiz and Drew. He would also match up well against the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that struggles against left-handed pitching. He has post-season and World Series experience. Wandy's velocity is down a tick this season and thus is his strikeout rate. But he's as solid as they come and he's still effective at inducing batters to chase out of the strike zone regularly.

This would be a deal that would strengthen both teams as the Yankees have some spare prospect parts that could help Houston, which is a bit barren in the prospect category. The Yankees would get a proven starting pitcher that can help them get where they want to go. It's a deal that makes sense to this observer.

Game Picks - Monday: May 23, 2011

Sunday was a good day. Not only was it the first sunny day in these parts for a long time, the game picks went 10-5. Sure, there were a few clunkers. Ubaldo, Kuroda and Lowe all lost. The two other blemishes were a real hard luck loss by Jordan Zimmermann and a win by Wandy Rodriguez, this site's favorite pitcher, who amazingly, didn't get let down by his bullpen. But 10-5 is 10-5. Thus, a good day.

Interleague play is done for now and we get back to our regularly scheduled programming. Ten games are on the schedule; not bad for a Monday:

  • The Indians over the Red Sox: The Indians are still home. Justin Masterson faces his old team. Clay Buchholz will not go down easy. Should be a fascinating game.
  • The Phillies over the Reds: Cole Hamels has been great this season and it's hard to forget his performance against these same Reds in the playoffs last year. Bronson Arroyo will be good, but three runs allowed should do it here. Plus, Chase Utley returns today.
  • The Bay Rays over the Tigers: There is a lot to think about in this game. Phil Coke gets the start for the Tigers. He was great his last time out with seven shut out innings. Plus, the Bay Rays are the third worst team in the majors against lefty pitchers. But Jeremy Hellickson is stingy in his own right and the Bay Rays find a way.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The Yankees are still at home and Carlos Villanueva makes his first start since 2009 after pitching only in relief thus far. There's no way he pitches five innings. Bartolo Colon's fastball against Jose Bautista should be a fascinating watch.
  • The Rangers over the White Sox: Alexi Ogando hasn't lost and John Danks hasn't won. That will continue for one more day as the Rangers get Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz back today.
  • The Dodgers over the Astros: Clayton Kershaw should have a good day against the Astros' offense. Bud Norris has been good but hasn't been able to win since May 1 due to low run support.
  • The Mariners over the Twins: Yesterday, Hiroki Kuroda went into his start with 14+ shutout innings in a row and lost. Thus, there is fear over picking Jason Vargas to continue his scoreless streak. But, that's going to be the pick. Carl Pavano gets Smoaked.
  • The Brewers over the Nationals: Yovani Gallardo is 5-2 despite not pitching like himself thus far this year. How good will his record get when he puts it all together? Tom Gorzelanny with the loss.
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Kyle Lohse should have no problem with the Padres and Dustin Moseley continues to lose games.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Angels over the Athletics: Jared Weaver rounds back into form while the ironically named, Josh Outman, is making his first start since 2009. His major league career has shown a lack ability to get outs, man. Plus, he's walked 26 batters in 37 minor league innings this season.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 10-5
Month: 157-140
Season: 370-308
Games of the Day: 29-24

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Apologies to Kirk Gibson

Biases are a fact of life for a writer. People who attempt to type thoughts to a page can say they are unbiased. They would be lying. Writers are no different than any others who try for enlightenment only to fall short time and time again. Lack of prejudice is only a wish or a hope and never truly a reality. Oh, there are some saints that walk in this world. Not very many though. This baseball writer has a bias against Kirk Gibson. Oh, he was a favorite when he played for the Tigers and that great team managed by Sparky Anderson. Then he went to the Dodgers, then led by the insufferable Tommy Lasorda. See? Biases. And when Gibson hit that famous homer in the World Series, it was shown over and over again to the point of nausea. That fist pump around the bases seemed so cornball at the time. So yes, there is a bias against Kirk Gibson. Truth be told, he wasn't liked here at all.

When last year he was handed the interim term as the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, there was skepticism. When that team did not improve under his watch, there seemed to be confirmation. When the D-backs lost on May 13, 2011 and their record fell to 15-22, there seemed to be more confirmation. There had to be to back up the bias-laden prediction here that this would be the only year Kirk Gibson started as the team's manager. Nine days later, that same team is a game over .500 after sweeping the Braves and the Twins. It looks like this Fan owes Kirk Gibson an apology.

Yes, yes, it's early  It's quite possible that the team could again go into the tank and finish in dead last like last year. But like the Pirates, this isn't the same team as last year. This is a better team. Kevin Tower has made the moves as the new GM, but Gibson has used the puzzle pieces. Pieces that didn't fit were discarded. Barry Enright was demoted. Russell Branyon was released. But others are falling into place. The bullpen, which was the laughingstock of baseball last year is one of the best in baseball this year. Sure, Kevin Tower put them in place, but Gibson has done a fine job of making it work.

Let's look at some of the pieces. Some (if not most) of them have been improbable. The Diamondbacks haven't had any problem looking for that...excuse the writer for the pun and the cliche...diamond in the rough. Can these pieces continue to succeed? Time will tell.

One has to start with Joshua Collmenter. Collmenter was a fifteenth round draft choice back in 2007. He's had a solid minor league career, but nothing spectacular. He didn't rank among Baseball Prospectus' top 15 prospects in the Arizona system. He was selected to take Enright's spot in the rotation. He's been spectacular with that funky delivery of his. He's made two starts and has won them both after a few relief appearances. He's walked one batter in 26 innings while only giving up twelve hits. His WHIP is 0.500. He's given up just two runs this season.

Nothing would lead anyone to believe that Collmenter was this good. There is nothing in his minor league past that would indicate having this good a control. That history makes it hard to believe that his success will continue or that he will continue not walking anyone. He could fall hard. But what if he doesn't? Wouldn't that be fun?

The next surprise is Ryan Roberts. The guy is thirty years old and played eight seasons in the minors for the Blue Jays, Rangers and Diamondbacks. He was stuck in Triple A for five seasons. He was an eighteenth round draft choice back in 2003. His minor league track record was solid, but again, not spectacular. But one thing you notice about Roberts is the on base percentage. All through his minor league career, it's been good. Finally getting a chance to start, he's doing the same thing in the majors. His slash line before Sunday's game was .282/.400/.496. The slugging percentage is somewhat of a surprise, but not his on base average. He's got a 1.3 bWAR and a 142 OPS+. Pretty good stuff. Plus, he is playing a decent third base, though second is his best position.

Then there is Juan Miranda. The Cuban-born Miranda was signed by the Yankees as a free agent in 2006. He was going to be the next Yankees first baseman. But the Yankees rarely have the patience to develop players and they went ahead and signed Mark Teixeira to a gazillion year contract. Miranda languished as a polished minor league player with no where to go and nothing to expect more than a few token at bats for the Yankees when they need an extra bat here or there.

The Yankees traded Miranda to the Diamondbacks for minor league pitcher, Scott Allen. The Diamondbacks quickly called him their first baseman for 2011. But he was horrible in Spring Training and the Diamondbacks picked up Russell Branyon. That didn't work out so Miranda was given another shot. He was batting .238 with a .732 OPS at the end of April. But he has been terrific lately. The kind of terrific that a player can have when finally given a solid shot at playing day after day. His two booming doubles won the game on Saturday. Both missed being homers by inches. One was pulled and the other hit to the opposite field. He then blasted a homer off of Francisco Liriano in the first inning of Sunday's game. His slash line now? .272/.392/.492.

Miranda could get even better as the season progresses. He's no great first baseman by any means. But he's a darn sight better than Branyon. And one other thing is for sure, the Diamondbacks are no longer the strikeout kings of baseball. With Reynolds gone along with others, the D-backs are fifth in the National League in the fewest strikeouts. Mission accomplished there.

The Diamondbacks have a fairly strong core to their rotation with Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. Both have shown themselves to be determined pitchers and are having good seasons. Collmenter makes three if he can continue to pitch well. Micah Owings is going to get a shot with the ouster of Armando Galarraga. Owings had a decent first start but has to prove that he can at least be league average, not something he's ever proven before. Joe Saunders was awful this spring and that carried over into the early part of the season. But, he had a good outing Saturday and could perhaps be useful.

J. J. Putz, David Hernandez, Juan Gutierrez, Sam Demel, Joe Paterson and Esmerling Vazquez have been brilliant in the bullpen. Kevin Towers knows how to build a bullpen. His track record is amazing.

For all we know, this Diamondbacks team could fall back again into their recent history. The losses could pile up again as the season goes along. But this team looks far more competitive than it did a year ago. They are in third place and it being May 23, that's a bit of an accomplishment already. In the middle of all of it is Kirk Gibson, who by all accounts, has brought accountability into that locker room. Some of his rules seem over the top, but who can doubt the improvement and the results. This is his team and contrary to this writer's bias, could be in that dugout for quite a long time.

Let's hope the fans come back to the ballpark. This version of the Arizona Diamondbacks has become fun to watch.

Game Picks - Sunday: May 22, 2011

Bullpen meltdowns are not only hard on their teams and the team's fans, but also on game pickers. It's not like it was a bad night. It wasn't. But how much better could it have been if the Red Sox bullpen hadn't imploded and the Red Sox fielders started playing with Benny Hill's theme in the background? What could have been wasn't because the Twins' bullpen couldn't get any of the Diamondbacks out with a rally Capped by a grand slam off the Twins' closer? And the Fan has to admit here that the Pirates completely own this picker. Hats off to them as they are playing well. Speaking of closers, did you see the way that Hanrahan came in and poured water all over that Tigers' rally? Nails.

So here comes Sunday and the last of this spate of interleague games:

  • The Indians over the Reds: Can you really pick against the Indians at home these days? Oh, you could make a case that the law of averages dictates that a good team like the Reds would win one game in this series. But would you put your money down about it? Carlos Carrasco and Edinson Volquez are the starters.
  • The Yankees over the Mets: Ivan Nova puzzles this picker. But Mike Pelfrey doesn't. The Yankees will hit him.
  • The Blue Jays over the Astros: Wandy Rodriguez is one of the favorites here in the FanDome. But he doesn't pitch complete games. And the Astros' bullpen is a disaster. Kyle Drabek will keep the Blue Jays close.
  • The Bay Rays over the Marlins: The Marlins called up Jay Buente to replace Josh Johnson in the rotation. The guy has trouble finding the strike zone. You don't want the Rays on the bases. James Shields with the win.
  • The Tigers over the Pirates: Sigh. The Fan knows the Pirates are much better this season. He also knows the Tigers have lost the first two games of this series. But sooner or later, one of the Tigers' good pitchers has to have a good game and the Pirates never score for Paul Maholm. Rick Porcello with the win.
  • The Rangers over the Phillies: Matt Harrison stymies the lefty-laden line up of the Phillies and the Rangers score just enough off of Roy Oswalt to win.
  • The Nationals over the Orioles: Jordan Zimmermann has been very good and Chris Tillman has been very bad.
  • The Rockies over the Brewers: Sooner or later Ubaldo Jiminez is going to win. Randy Wolf is a good opponent to make that happen.
  • The Dodgers over the White Sox: Hiroki Kuroda has quietly been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season. The guy doesn't get enough ink. He beats Edwin Jackson.
  • The Cardinals over the Royals: Jaime Garcia just has to do his usual thing for this pick to be right. Sean O'Sullivan should be reached by the Cardinal offense. Holliday loves him some DH time, doesn't he?
  • The Braves over the Angels: Derek Lowe keeps his team in the game. That's all we have to understand here. He just needs to hang in there long enough for the Braves to get to Tyler Chatwood and then let that bullpen take over.
  • The Giants over the Athletics: The Fan truly wants to pick Gio Gonzalez to win this game. But the Giants counter with Jonathan Sanchez and they are the better team right now.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Twins: Francisco Liriano showed how good he is the last time out. But Daniel Hudson is coming on and will limit the Twins' run production.
  • The Red Sox over the Cubs: The Red Sox will make James Russell or whomever the Cubs put out there in place of Matt Garza pay because that's what they do. But old man, Tim Wakefield, has to pitch effectively.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Mariners over the Padres: The Padres are reeling from all the great pitching they've been facing. Today they get Felix Hernandez. Not fun. Tim Stauffer will hang in there, but gets the loss.

Yesterday: 9-6
Last week: 52-45
Month: 147-135
Season: 360-313
Games of the Day: 28-24