Saturday, June 04, 2011

More on the 4000 On Base Club

Last week, the Fan's esteemed colleague and good friend, Jonathan Mitchell, had a fantastic post on concerning the 4,000 on base club. A well written piece is one that makes you think of something you never thought about before. 3,000 hits has always been such a lofty standard that it far eclipses thinking about anything else. And once you do think about Mitchell's stat, the 4,000 on base club seems more important than the 3,000 hit club. And don't worry, Derek Jeter is already there. Since 1901, there have been 24 players reach 3,000 hits (27 if you go back further). But 41 have reached the 4,000 on base club, which, for this Fan's purposes includes hits plus walks plus HBP. The total does not include reaching on an error or on a fielder's choice. Here is the list (from

  Player H BB HBP Times on base
  Pete Rose 4256 1566 107 5929               Barry Bonds 2935 2558 106 5599
  Ty Cobb 4189 1249 94 5532                   Rickey Henderson 3055 2190 98 5343
  Carl Yastrzemski 3419 1845 40 5304      Stan Musial 3630 1599 53 5282
  Hank Aaron 3771 1402 32 5205             Tris Speaker 3514 1381 103 4998
  Babe Ruth 2873 2062 43 4978                Eddie Collins 3315 1499 77 4891
  Willie Mays 3283 1464 44 4791              Ted Williams 2654 2021 39 4714
  Mel Ott 2876 1708 64 4648                    Eddie Murray 3255 1333 18 4606
  Frank Robinson 2943 1420 198 4561      Craig Biggio 3060 1160 285 4505
  Rafael Palmeiro 3020 1353 87 4460         Paul Molitor 3319 1094 47 4460
  Wade Boggs 3010 1412 23 4445             Joe Morgan 2517 1865 40 4422
  Cal Ripken 3184 1129 66 4379                Dave Winfield 3110 1216 25 4351
  Al Kaline 3007 1277 55 4339                  Gary Sheffield 2689 1475 135 4299
  George Brett 3154 1096 33 4283            Paul Waner 3152 1091 38 4281
  Lou Gehrig 2721 1508 45 4274               Frank Thomas 2468 1667 87 4222
  Ken Griffey 2781 1312 81 4174               Mickey Mantle 2415 1733 13 4161
  Robin Yount 3142 966 48 4156               Jimmie Foxx 2646 1452 13 4111
  Derek Jeter 2984 968 155 4107               Rod Carew 3053 1018 25 4096
  Charlie Gehringer 2839 1186 50 4075      Luke Appling 2749 1302 11 4062
  Reggie Jackson 2584 1375 96 4055         Rusty Staub 2716 1255 79 4050
  Alex Rodriguez 2728 1139 154 4021       Rogers Hornsby 2930 1038 48 4016
  Manny Ramirez 2574 1329 109 4012

As you can see, there are twenty players on the list who haven't reached 3,000 hits. Derek Jeter is one of them, but he'll get there. Once you see this list, you appreciate the numbers that Pete Rose piled up even more. Gosh, he should be in the Hall of Fame. The name that seemed to jump out the most among non-Hall of Fame players was Rusty Staub. He's not in the Hall of Fame simply because he stopped compiling numbers at the age of 34.

There are three notable exceptions to this list. Three players reached 3,000 hits without reaching 4,000 times on base. They were, Tony Gwynn (3,955), Lou Brock (3,833) and Roberto Clemente (3,656). All of the other members of the 3,000 hit club are on the 4,000 on base club. If you went back to 1876 instead of 1901, Cap Anson and Nap Lajoie also had over 3,000 hits without reaching 4,000 times on base.

Mickey Mantle had the fewest amount a hits to still make it on the list with 2,415. Robin Yount had the fewest number of walks to still make the list. Surprisingly, Mickey Mantle and Jimmy Foxx were only hit by a pitch thirteen times in their careers. Luke Appling was only hit by a pitch eleven times. Amazingly, Craig Biggio was hit by a pitch 285 times!

Alex Rodriguez has already joined the 4,000 on base club as Mitchell mentioned in his piece. He'll most likely reach 3,000 hits too if he stays healthy.

You could make this list even more exclusive if you were to call it the 5,000 on base club. There were only seven of those: Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Henry Aaron, Carl Yastrzemski, Stan Musuel and Rickey Henderson. You can add Honus Wagner if you go back before 1901. These were truly the all time on base kings.

Why is this important? It's not the end all and be all in ranking players' all time worth or Hall of Fame worthiness. But getting on base is certainly one of the most important aspects of playing the game of baseball and these 41 (42 when adding Honus Wagner) guys did it better than anyone in baseball history.

Game Picks - Saturday: June 4, 2011

Yesterday's picks called for some long odds to cash in. In some cases, those odds worked in this picker's favor such as the Brewers overcoming the hot hitting Marlins and Ricky Nolasco. But most of the time those long odds won. Ivan Nova and the Yankees hung in there against Jared Weaver, but couldn't put anything together against the bullpen. The Mets were actually winning until Francisco Rodriguez stepped on the mound. Juan Nicasio looked very good but the Rockies are simply stone cold dead right now. The Pirates won a game when the Phillies starter only gave up one hit. Probably the toughest wrong pick to take was getting Pavano'd for the first time since last year.

Now the Fan has had two negative days in a row. Granted, yesterday was just barely negative, but still. Saturday needs a rebound. Here are today's picks:

  • The Red Sox over the Athletics: Trevor Cahill doesn't have good career numbers against Boston. Josh Beckett should bounce back after walking five in his last outing. The Red Sox offense is clicking...which is an understatement.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: The Cubs are moribund. Kyle Lohse has had a great season thus far. Randy Wells is making his second start. The first one did not go well.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: When you look at this game at face value, the Rockies have the better offense. But it's been cold. The Giants should win this game with Madison Bumgarner beating Jhoulys Chacin.
  • The Dodgers over the Reds: Great match up of Clayton Kershaw against Johnny Cueto. Kershaw looks dominant these days. Dodgers win.
  • The Rays over the Mariners: Jeremy Hellickson makes the difference here. Though the Bay Rays aren't hitting, they have a better chance at scoring off of Doug Fister than the other way around.
  • The Pirates over the Phillies: This Fan wasn't in favor of sending Vince Worley to the minors and letting Kyle Kendrick make this start. Going with Charlie Morton instead.
  • The Rangers over the Indians: Derek Holland needs to be good, but the Rangers' offense has hit its stride and Fausto Carmona has been brutal of late.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Okay, the Fan finally gets it. The Orioles never beat the Blue Jays. The tough Ricky Romero proves that out tonight against Jake Arrieta.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Two immovable objects collide. The Mets never lose behind Dillon Gee and the Braves never lose behind Jair Jurrjens. One of those immovables has to crumble.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: Justin Verlander makes the difference in this game as he faces Edwin Jackson. The White Sox are hot right now though.
  • The Twins over the Royals: The Royals have found different ways to beat themselves against the struggling Twins thus far. Nick Blackburn wins and Luke Hochevar loses.
  • The Nationals over the Diamondbacks: Tough, tough game to pick with a match up of Livan Hernandez against Joe Saunders (who has won two straight). Livan hasn't won since forever, but is used to pitching in Arizona. Going with Livan.
  • The Padres over the Astros: Aaron Harang makes the difference in this game as he should hold down the Astros while the Padres get to Eneury Rodriguez.
  • The Yankees over the Angels: C. C. Sabathia is the man for the Yankees, who need to rebound with a win tonight. Ervin Santana can be had early in the game, which is the Yankees M.O. this season.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Brewers over the Marlins: Yovani Gallardo has been very good over several outings. Chris Volstad has been worse than ever this season.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 46-37
Month: 19-18
Season: 462-385
Games of the Day: 37-28

Friday, June 03, 2011

Maddon's Line Up Madness

No one can argue with Joe Maddon's success over the last three years. Two American League East titles, a World Series appearance and Maddon is considered one of the brightest managers in the game. This writer gets all that. After looking at the box score for last night's loss against the Mariners, it was noticed that the world's hottest hitters, Matt Joyce, was batting second. "Second?" wondered the Fan. Why second? And sure enough, Joyce hit another homer in last night's game but there was nobody to drive in ahead of him. This was just a week after Maddon tried to kick start Evan Longoria by placing him in the lead off position for a couple of games.

This observer has seen so many different Bay Rays' line ups that it just seemed bizarre. So the Fan went on Twitter and asked the open-ended question: Why is Maddon excessively tinkering with the line up? The response was somewhat unsatisfying: "He's always done that." Okay, that explains it. The underlying message in those responses was, "Joe Maddon has been successful. Joe Maddon is a genius and he's always tinkered with the line up." Got it. But does that mean that Maddon gets a pass here?

Doesn't it get to the point where you are trying to be so smart and use match ups to such an nth degree that you end up screwing up the whole thing? Most people like continuity. Most people enjoy consistency and a comfort zone. Wouldn't ballplayers be like most people? Wouldn't it be better for long term viability if hitters knew their roles from game to game instead of so much uncertainty and change? Haven't we heard that pitchers like to know what their roles are? Wouldn't batters be the same as pitchers?

This writer thinks so. Hitting is a lot like golf in that rhythm and flow are important. You have to feel comfortable. A line up is an important part of rhythm. Perhaps the Fan is overstating this. But it makes sense in this corner. Right now, the Bay Rays aren't hitting and they aren't scoring runs. This Fan says set a line up and play it thirty times and see what happens (barring injuries of course).  After careful consideration, this is how Joe Maddon should set his line up and keep it there with some justifications:

  • Lead off: Johnny Damon. Nobody on the team has more lead off experience than Damon. He did it for three quarters of his career. He's stolen six bases in seven attempts, so there is something left in his wheels. His OBP is down, but he can work on getting on base if that's his role.
  • Second: Ben Zobrist. With Zobrist having some pop in his bat, you'd like to bat him in the middle of the order. But those spaces (as we shall see) are filled. Zobrist knows what he is doing at the plate and can handle this position.
  • Third: Evan Longoria: Your best hitter should always bat third. Longoria's numbers are down, but by season's end, he'll be where he belongs.
  • Fourth: Matt Joyce: He's your power guy and is hitting the ball like crazy. It looks like he has arrived as a star in this league. Weak against left-handers though.
  • Fifth: B. J. Upton: Has some power. Strikes out a lot. If runners are on base, he has opportunities. If the pitcher navigates through the first inning with little trouble, Upton is like a lead off hitter for the second inning.
  • Sixth: Casey Kotchman. He's hurt right now but was hot before he was injured. We have a nice left right thing going here. While Kotchman is hurt, slide Sean Rodriguez in here to play second while Zobrist plays first.
  • Seventh: Catcher position. John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach are struggling. Shoppach has always been sort of useless. Get someone else if you can. Hitting the catcher seventh should allow for not clogging the bases when you get back to the top of the order. And there would be continuity no matter who catches.
  • Eighth: Reid Brignac. This Fan still feels like Brignac is going to be a very good shortstop. He has to work it out at the plate and you can only do that in the line up and not on the bench. He's going to be great in the field.
  • Ninth: Left field platoon of Sam Fuld versus right-handers and somebody for left-handed pitching. Not sure Justin Ruggiano is the answer. Fuld and Damon work well back to back as speed on the bases.

There you have it. A defensible line up that seems balanced and can work over the long haul. Mr. Maddon, give it a try and stick with it. After all, you allowed some local officials to pick a line up for you, right?

Game Picks - Friday: June 3, 2011

Thursday's short schedule wasn't kind and the another-year-older game picker got his nose wiped. But the other side of the coin is that with so few games, there couldn't be too much damage done. Writing yesterday's piece, the Fan mentioned that every game was fraught with danger, and so it turned out. Jose Reyes was back with the Mets and they responded with a rousing comeback to bury the Pirates. Lance Lynn was good for the Cardinals and looked like he belonged but shoddy defense and two homers did him in. Carlos Carrasco was awful for the Indians who took it on the chin from the Rangers. Bud Norris was better than Tim Stauffer and the Padres committed three errors to practically hand the Astros a win.

All that was bookended by the only two correct picks as Anthony Swarzak pitched another good game and the Twins won a game and King Felix did what he does and the Mariners scored often against James Shields, who is back to his homer inducing ways again. At least that was the Game of the Day, so that helped. Oh well, bad days happen.

On to Friday:

  • The Rangers over the Indians: Alexi Ogando has the winning tough as the Rangers never lose when he is pitching. The offense of the Rangers is whole and on fire. That's not good news for Justin Masterson, who has struggled lately.
  • The Orioles over the Blue Jays: If Zach Britton can hold on for five or six innings until Carlos Villanueva tires, the Orioles' bullpen will win this over the Blue Jays' bullpen.
  • The Mets over the Braves: Jonathan Niese beat the Phillies his last time out and Atlanta is really struggling to score runs of late. The Mets should hit and run a lot against Derek Lowe.
  • The Reds over the Dodgers: We have two pitchers struggling in this one. Hiroki Kuroda has been crunched in his last two starts and Bronson Arroyo has been murdered in his last two. They cancel themselves out and the Reds win as the home team.
  • The Brewers over the Marlins: Alas, the Marlins never have home field advantage. Ricky Nolasco's career ERA against the Brewers is 8.66. Since Randy Wolf started pitching to catcher Will Nieves, he's become unbeatable. Strange that.
  • The Red Sox over the Athletics: Josh Outman has been good, but he faces Clay Buchholz and the Red Sox will be fierce after their disastrous series against the White Sox.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: The White Sox had quite a series against the Red Sox. But Andrew Oliver should shut down their offense while the Tigers score enough against Mark Buehrle to win.
  • The Royals over the Twins: This is a tough call. Danny Duffy has been iffy in his three starts but hangs in there. Carl Pavano is not having a good season and has a history of struggling against the Royals with an ERA over six. The Royals slug their way to victory in this one.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Ryan Dempster has been good lately, but most of that good pitching has been at home. The Cardinals should score off him. Jaime Garcia had a really bad first inning last time out and never recovered. That start was a blip on what has been a steady two-year career.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Nationals: Yunesky Maya still hasn't won a major league start. Josh Collmenter has already reached legendary status. The legend continues.
  • The Astros over the Padres: These are two bad teams. J. A. Happ has a 3.32 ERA in his last seven starts. Dustin Moseley is showing cracks in his low strikeout performances. Which defense will kick the most balls around?
  • The Yankees over the Angels: Everything about this game screams an Angel win. Jared Weaver versus Ivan Nova? But somehow, the Yankees win this game.
  • The Mariners over the Bay Rays: Jason Vargas is not the real reason the Mariners win this game. The Rays should score a few off of him. The real reason the Mariners win is because Andy Sonnanstine gets the start for the Rays. Not good.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: Juan Nicasio looks like he has no-hit stuff. Matt Cain has been very hittable. Going with the Rockies in this one.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Phillies over the Pirates: Cole Hamels has nine quality starts in ten tries and the Phillies have won all nine of those games. That's as close to a lock as you can get. Jeff Karstens goes for the Pirates who have hit a tough patch.

Yesterday: 2-5
Week: 39-29
Month: 12-10
Season: 455-377
Games of the Day: 37-27

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Another Year Another Birthday

You want to know what turning 55 feels like? How about this. This birthday boy is celebrating pooping for the first time in three days and being pain free for the first time in a week from a kidney stone. Let's whoop it up! Yes, all those Facebook greetings were nice. At least a dozen people seem fond enough of this guy to send nice notes. That felt good. But it's not exactly any comparison to that year the birthday came with a new bike or baseball mitt.

Birthdays are for kids. It's a time to make them feel good about themselves at another milestone reached. No doubt the mortality rates for youngsters back in our history made this kind of celebrating what it is today. But whenever it started, who doesn't want to see a kid with birthday cake a big smile.

For grown ups, the event marks another tick closer to the grim reaper. When you get to 55, you rarely want to think about how many years that is. Born in the 50s, this life has seen a part of seven different decades. Ugh! When you are 55, you remember black and white television that was small. You remember the days before calculators, computers, digital cameras, cell phones, key chains that automatically locked the car and soft drinks in cans and flimsy plastic bottles. When this writer was a kid, candy bars were a nickel and gas was 27 cents a gallon. When this writer was young, births to unmarried people were frowned upon. People in America made things in this country when this writer was a boy. Churches were always full. Things tasted better. Converse All Stars were necessary and not chic.

When your birthday happens at this age, you know that you can't hop over fences any more. Nobody in baseball is your age. Managers are generally younger. Heck, even Presidents are younger. People you are competing against for jobs are younger and more savvy. They have more energy and less doubt. They eat twice as much without putting on weight.

When you get to this age, you tend to look at more bad things that happen on this date than good things. It was on this date a year ago that Armando Galarraga was robbed of a perfect game. It was on this date in history that Babe Ruth retired. Race car driver, Bruce McLaren died in a crash on June 2nd. Thirteen years ago on this date, the divorce was finalized. What a treat it was to get that letter from the court in the mail to find out what date that event was going to fall upon!

When you reach 55, the drives on the golf course don't go as far. Putting leads to yips. You feel the cold more. And yes, time does seem to fly by faster. Someone may counter that you are only as old as you feel. Thanks a lot. That means that this is the 85th birthday then.

But, the conclusion here is that such a day gives those that love you a chance to honor your presence in their lives. It's a time to be thankful for rich memories and wonderful experiences. It's a time to be glad of the children that grace life and bring promise for tomorrow. It's a time to marvel at how wonderful it is to be a Fan of baseball in this age of instant information. It's a time to be glad that survival has been more positive than negative. Birthdays are really for kids, but it's nice to be thought of when your day comes, even when the candles on the cake would set off the fire alarm. And, it's always a bonus to reach this age with a full, thick head of hair.

And it sure felt good to finally poop.

The Comeback "Kids"

Who doesn't love a good comeback story? Granted, they never usually end up well. But for brief, shining moments, they make us smile with the improbability. Erik Bedard, Bartolo Colon, Jason Marquis and Jake Peavy have all provided those smile-making moments this season. Bedard and Colon did not pitch in the majors at all last year. Marquis was abysmal last year in an injury-plagued season and Peavy is pitching after a shoulder surgery that was as radical as the Tommy John surgery was for that pitcher all those years ago. Peavy is 2-0 after beating the mighty Boston Red Sox the other day. Bedard and Colon are only a combined 6-7 in their records, but both a pitching far more effectively than anyone could have imagined. Marquis is 6-2 for the lowly Nationals and he's pitching way better than his 4.13 ERA.

The thing about these four pitchers is that they were once very successful. Colon and Peavy have Cy Young Award hardware and Bedard went 28-16 for the Orioles back in 2006 and 2007. Jason Marquis has won fifteen games twice in his career. And it just goes to show you that as long as a good pitcher has his health, he's going to get batters out. All have had their share of success in that category this year.

Let's start with Colon. The guy is 38 years old. He was finished. His last couple of years were filled with injuries and fat jokes. He's still not the slimmest of dudes, but wowed people all during Spring Training. This writer yelled loudly when he wasn't named as a member of the starting rotation for the Yankees at the start of the season. He had earned the right. But Phil Hughes had nothing to start the season and was pulled from the rotation after a few starts and ultimately ended on the disabled list. Colon cut his teeth on the season relieving Hughes on his short outings.

Since then Colon has made eight starts. Only one of them has been bad. He's striking out 8.41 batters per nine innings with a strikeout to walk ratio of over 4 to 1. His ERA is 3.26 and he has a WPA in the positive numbers for the first time since 2005. Throwing almost all fastballs, he still has plus gas with plenty of movement and he's a strike throwing machine. He only needed 103 pitches to pitch a complete game shutout of the Oakland A's, his first since 2006. Amazing. As for the flak about his surgery. this Fan thinks such people should shut up. This is where medicine is going. Go back to your track phones and get a life.

Erik Bedard was the Nick Johnson of pitchers. He was always hurt. The Mariners paid him a lot of money and traded away Adam Jones to get him. They got nothing for either investment. Now that Bedard is making little money, he has become healthy enough to pitch. But we are talking about a guy who has always been a good pitcher. His career ERA+ is 120 and that includes years he pitched when he wasn't right. Armed with perhaps the best curveball in baseball, he started slowly this season. In fact, his first four starts were pretty bad. The Mariners lost them all. But five of his last six starts have been quality starts and the Mariners have won five of them. He is on a three game winning streak. He is striking out 8.1 batters per nine innings this season. And just the fact that he's made all of his ten starts is a total victory for him.

Jake Peavy was a brilliant pitcher. Blessed with a heavy sinker, his Cy Young Award was no fluke. After all kinds of shoulder trouble, Peavy finally seems back and healthy. He's made four starts and is averaging 6.25 innings per start. He's 2-0 with an ERA of 3.24. His strikeouts are down. Part of that is pitching in the American League without the pitcher batting and part of it is living in the strike zone. He's amazingly only walked one batter in 25 innings of work. The only concern here is that Ozzie Guillen is letting him throw a lot of pitches. He's had two games now with more than 115 pitches. That's scary for a guy who has been hurt so often lately.
And finally, there is Jason Marquis. Marquis isn't the kind of talent that the other three are. There are no Cy Young Awards on his resume. But he is a good pitcher who has had three really good seasons in his career. He signed a big contract with the Nationals and people scoffed. And after last year, they may have had every right to scoff. But Marquis was never right with his health last year and after a while, shut it down completely. Who knows how long he pitched hurt. Marquis is a ground ball pitcher who will never strike out a lot of batters. But in his eleven starts, he's induced seven double-plays. Seven of his eleven starts have been quality starts. He keeps the ball inside the park and though he's posted a 4.13, his FIP and xFIP are both better than that.

So there you have it. Four pitchers that aren't exactly young. All have been counted out before this season. All have faced serious health issues. And yet, all four are major comeback stories this season. They have been a lot of fun to watch. Nobody knows how long their success will last. Like missionaries, we look for demons behind every tree. Let's hope they can all hold up because stories like theirs are always worth writing.

Game Picks - Thursday: June 2, 2011

The nine correct barrier finally got broken yesterday. There were only five incorrect picks. But they still rankle. How the heck could John Lannon beat the Phillies? Looks like the eleventh time was the charm there. David Price was spectacular as usual. But Colby Lewis was even better. He must have thought it was a playoff game or something. Or perhaps, the real key is that the Bay Rays can't hit. Michael Pineda and Brian Matusz were both great, but the Orioles' bullpen was better than the Mariners' and Adam Jones won the game with his glove and with a homer. And there is a little item of eating crow. Felipe Paulino pitched well for five innings. And then Billy Butler took Scott Downs downstown. The Royals bullpen was very good. Or, alternately, the Angels' offense stinks. And finally, the Brewers should have kept Shaun Marcum in the game for one more innings with only 100 pitches. Taking him out led to the Reds' win. Stupid.

There must be something psychological about focusing on the negative. There were ten correct picks. The Giants did beat the Cardinals, though Tim Lincecum had nothing to do with it. The Diamondbacks won, but Daniel Hudson had nothing to do with that either. The Yankees won because: A) Burnett was good enough and, B) Joba Chamberlain got really lucky. Kevin Correia won his eighth game for the Pirates. The Twins and Cubs continued to be terrible. No surprises there. The Indians built a big lead on the Blue Jays and then hung on for dear life in a wild one. And finally, yes, f-i-n-a-l-l-y, Ubaldo Jiminez won a game.

For the first time in quite a while, there is a soft schedule today. There are only seven games on the schedule and looking at the games, there isn't an easy pick to be had:

  • The Pirates over the Mets: Terry Collins must be a lot of fun to be around these days. Paul Maholm over Mike Pelfrey. Both pitchers have pitched well in recent outings.
  • The Indians over the Rangers: Carlos Carrasco? Yeah, why not. Especially since Dave Bush starts for the Rangers because Matt Harrison has a blister. Plus, the Indians are at home.
  • The Twins over the Royals: Yes, the Twins will win a game. Anthony Swarzak was brilliant in his last start and he faces Sean O'Sullivan. Enough said.
  • The Cardinals over the Giants: This pick is totally emotional as this picker is really rooting for Lance Lynn making his major league debut. He faces the tough Jonathan Sanchez.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Nationals: Jordan Zimmermann is snakebit. He pitches well, but they never score for him. This Fan got bit the last time he picked against Zach Duke. Golly.
  • The Padres over the Astros: Bud Norris struggled his last time out. Tim Stauffer pitched pretty well. Both teams have trouble scoring. The Padres are at home.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Mariners over the Rays: Two weak offenses. Two good pitchers. But James Shields is not a Cy Young Award pitcher. Felix Hernandez is.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 37-24
Month: 10-5
Season: 453-372
Games of the Day: 36-27  Thanks, Phillies. Bah!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Game Picks - Wednesday: June 1, 2011

The game picks seem to be stuck on nine correct this week. That's not a complaint. If nine are correct every night, then the record is going to be positive. It should have been ten. Yes, Carlos Marmol, this picker is looking at you. The A's beating the Yankees was a stupid pick in hindsight. For some reason, The A's good, young starting pitchers turn into goo when facing the Yankees, that overrated bunch. Jason Marquis shut down the Phillies. Didn't see that coming. The Marlins ended the Diamondbacks winning streak. The pick had to be with Arizona until they lost. Understandable. The Bay Rays found a way to win against the Rangers' bullpen. That pick was wrong. The Indians rebounded with a nice win over the Blue Jays. That made six wrong. But correct picks for the Royals, Brewers, Dodgers, Mariners, White Sox, Pirates, Cardinals, Pirates and Tigers finished the month of May on a positive note.

It's amazing that June is already here. But isn't that what all old people say? Anyway, a new month is here and perhaps it will be as fascinating as May was. Here are the picks for Wednesday:

  • The Bay Rays over the Rangers: David Price won't lose at home. Not against Colby Lewis, he won't. Evan Longoria is back.
  • The White Sox over the Red Sox: Sure, Tim Wakefield has made a sucker out of this picker twice in a row. Gavin Floyd will help this pick not following the same fate.
  • The Astros over the Cubs: Brett Myers and Doug Davis are a combined 1-7. One of them has to win, right? Might as well go with the team that seems to fight until the end. That wouldn't be the Cubs. Somewhere, Sandberg is smiling.
  • The Yankees over the Athletics: Gio Gonzalez is yet another Oakland pitcher with a 6.60 career ERA against the Yankees. Burnett has a 6-3 record against the A's with a career 3.88 ERA.
  • The Mariners over the Orioles: Brian Matusz is back and he's good. But he's not as good as Michael Pineda.
  • The Angels over the Royals: Yikes! The Royals start Felipe Paulino. Uh oh. Going with Tyler Chatwood and the Angels.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: The Twins are hopeless. Scott Baker didn't give up a run in seven innings his last time out and then the bullpen gave up five runs in two innings. Rick Porcello better be better than he was against the Red Sox though.
  • The Indians over the Blue Jays: How lucky are the Blue Jays? They were about to call up prospect, Brett Lawrie, and then he gets drilled on the hand in his last minor league game. Sheesh. Kyle Drabek hasn't been terrific and somehow, Josh Tomlin has been.
  • The Brewers over the Reds: Shaun Marcum should baffle the Reds long enough for the Brew Crew to get to Mike Leake and/or the bullpen.
  • The Pirates over the Mets: Kevin Correia leading the majors in wins!? Well, how about another win then? Chris Capuano and the bullpen give up enough to the Pirates to make it happen.
  • The Braves over the Padres: Watched Tommy Hanson pitch for the first time last week. He throws weird. But it's more effective than Clayton Richard.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Marlins: In Daniel Hudson, this site trusts. In Javier Vazquez, it doesn't.
  • The Giants over the Cardinals: Was going to pick against Tim Lincecum, but can't. Jake Westbrook gives the Giants' offense a chance to score a couple of runs anyway.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: This is one of those picks where the Fan has picked Ubaldo Jiminez to win every time he has started. It has to be right some time. Jon Garland goes for the Dodgers.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Nationals: John Lannon is 0-10 lifetime against the Phillies. Can you believe that? Roy Oswalt with the win.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 27-19
May Final: 228-191  .554 percentage
Season: 443-367    .547 percentage
Games of the Day: 36-26    .581 percentage

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Game Picks - Tuesday: May 31, 2011

The sun finally came out in northern Maine and despite the fact that this game picker couldn't do very much due to a little piece of calcium that stubbornly refuses to come out of the urinary system (Day Five of said event), the sun was welcomed. Of course, this problem the Fan is having meant there was nothing to do but watch baseball all day, which is not a bad purgatory if you one must be endured. Watching the games, it was fun to see fat old Bartolo Colon pick up a complete game shutout. It wasn't fun watching poor Joakim Soria endure another meltdown. Yesterday's bad pick included losses by the Red Sox, Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Royals. and Twins. Jake Peavy cost the Red Sox pick combined by a rare bad outing from Jon Lester. But it's hard to be upset by such a nice comeback story. Speaking of nice stories, the Diamondbacks won again getting a second straight win from Joe Saunders. What's this world coming to?

Tuesday brings yet another full slate of games. The players must be getting tired at this point. And with all the early rain outs, it's not going to get much better for them. Tuesday's picks:

  • The Rangers over the Bay Rays: Alex Cobb goes for the Bay Rays. Uhh...C. J. Wilson seems a safer pick.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: Even the umpires are against the Twins these days. Max Scherzer needs a good outing after two stinkers in a row. The Tigers should win though as they inch closer to the Indians.
  • The Phillies over the Nationals: So Jayson Werth is upset about the constant losing. What did he think when he was signing that contract? Did he think he was signing with the Red Sox? Geez already. Cliff Lee over Jason Marquis.
  • The Blue Jays over the Indians: Mitch Talbot becomes the latest pitcher to pitch batting practice for the Blue Jays at home. Wasn't that fun watching Jo-Jo Reyes get that win yesterday? Good for him. The news story said one fan was brandishing a sign that said, "I believe in Jo-Jo Reyes." Wonder if that was Navin? Brandon Morrow should enjoy the run support.
  • The Cardinals over the Giants: Despite the loss yesterday, Albert Pujols is getting hot. Chris Carpenter is due for a win and Ryan Vogelsong is still a nice story for the Giants.
  • The White Sox over the Red Sox: The Pale Hose seem to have Boston's number this season. Phil Humber continues his surprising season and Afredo Aceves gets rocked.
  • The Brewers over the Reds: This pick didn't exactly work out yesterday, but Zack Greinke should fix that. The Reds throw out Chad Reineke, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2009. Did the Reds do that on purpose to have some sort of rhyming scheme? Greinke versus Reineke. Like it!
  • The Pirates over the Mets: R. A. Dickey is listed, but he has a floppy foot. Don't know if he'll make the start. James McDonald pitches for the Pirates and he's been fairly good. No Jose Reyes for the Mets, who are already missing Ike Davis and David Wright.
  • The Padres over the Braves: Every time you think the Braves are going to make a run, they have a game like yesterday. Today they face Matt Latos. Not fun. Mike Minor will try to match the zeros. Won't happen.
  • The Cubs over the Astros: Carlos Zambrano is due for a meltdown. He's been awfully quiet this year. But maybe it won't be today and he'll continue to be the only Cubs' pitcher to keep winning. He faces Jordan Lyles, a 20 year old making his major league debut. Uh oh.
  • The Royals over the Angels: Jeff Francis finally won a game for the Royals in his last outing, so perhaps he'll go on a roll. Hosmer and company should hit Joel Pineiro.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Marlins: Going to keep riding this wave until it crashes in to shore. Ian Kennedy over Anibal Sanchez in a thriller.
  • The Athletics over the Yankees: The A's hardly ever beat the Yankees, but Brett Anderson is tough and the Yankees counter with Freddie Garcia.
  • The Mariners over the Orioles: Loving this Erik Bedard comeback. Jeremy Guthrie with the loss.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: Ted Lilly at home is a lock. Ethier is hot again. Clayton Mortensen pitches for the Rockies.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 18-13
Month: 219-185
Season: 434-361
Games of the Day: 35-26

Monday, May 30, 2011

Jair Jurrjens - AutoMaddux

Way back in February, this space featured an article that indicated that Jair Jurrjens was a big key to the 2011 success of the Atlanta Braves. And while the Braves have sputtered offensively and had a difficult time winning consistently, Jurrjens is certainly making that article stand up. Where would the Braves be without him? After an eight inning gem against the Reds on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, Jurrjens is now 7-1 with an ERA of 1.51. Those are Greg Maddux-like numbers and in some ways, Jurrjens is a successor to the light-tossing success of Maddux and Glavine all those years ago. The telecast alluded to that fact when it was mentioned that Jurrjens had a lot of conversations with Maddux before the season.

In a lot of ways, Jair Jurrjens is flying in the face of his own numbers. His .262 BABIP and 87.8 percent strand rate of base runners seem to be unsustainable. And true to that fact, his FIP stands at 2.90 or +1.39 and his xFIP at 3.45 or +1.96. Those numbers seem weighty when combined with the fact that he's lost two miles per hour on his four-seam fastball and a mile per hour on his two-seamer. On the face of things, regression seems likely.

But consider that during the best years of Greg Maddux, that Hall of Fame pitcher's BABIP hovered in the .250s and .260s and Jurrjens is modeling his Maddux-like season with a combination of pinpoint control and extremely low walk and home run rates. Only Roy Halladay has a lower walks per nine inning rate in the majors than Jair Jurrjens this season.

So what is Jair Jurrjens doing that is leading to this kind of success? The Fan has already mentioned the walk rate, which sits at 1.51 and his homer rate of 0.41 per nine innings. Before his season, there was a lot of concern about his ground ball rate in 2010. That concern was noted in this Fangraph's piece by Dave Golebiewski back in March. But Jurrjens' ground ball rate has rebounded nicely from last year's 39.9 percent to this year's 47.0 percent. That gives him his second best ground ball to fly ball rate of his career.

Pitch/FX data also shows that he is pitching differently this year than last. While it again has to be noted that Pitch/FX was tweaked this year and some of the results may vary from previous years, if there is any accuracy to the data, Jurrjens has changed his style of pitching.  When Jurrjens first started pitching in the big leagues, he relied heavily on his four-seam fastball. He threw that pitch anywhere from 58 to 61 percent of the time his first three seasons. This year, that pitch is much less relied upon and he's only throwing it 27 percent of the time. In contrast, his two-seam fastball (the one that put Maddux in the Hall of Fame) was non-existent early in his career is now being thrown 28.4 percent of the time. That's double the rate he used that pitch last year.

Both his two-seam fastball and change up have much more vertical movement than in previous years. Movement is the key because his change up only differs in speed from his fastball by about six miles per hour.  The movement also means that it allows him to fool more batters who are swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone against Jurrjens this year than ever before.

The numbers for Jair Jurrjens seem to indicate that he's taken a page out of the Greg Maddux book of pitching. If this analysis isn't all wet, that's a great formula for success. His emergence from a lost 2010 season has really saved the Braves' season and if he can continue to pitch this way all season, the Braves have a great chance to stay competitive. They are only three and a half games back of the Phillies and right in the thick of things for the wild card. As the Fan's article suggested way back in February, Jurrjen's fortunes are heavily tied to that of the Braves for the rest of the season.

Game Picks - Monday: May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day! The Fan's dad was a World War II hero, so this day means a lot here in the FanDome. Take a moment to honor and thank those who have served us so well and so often.

Yesterday's marathon of baseball was served with a huge heaping of mixed results. This picker certainly didn't expect Ricky Nolasco to get bombed. The Tigers weren't expected to avoid a sweep. But with Justin Verlander pitching, that possibility should have been noted. The Padres proved to be better than the Nationals. Noted. Zach Britton had a rare bad outing. And who would have figured a guy the Fan wrote about yesterday (Jose Reyes) would ruin a Phillies pick and a Worley-gig. Picking against Jeremy Hellickson was just plain dumb. And picking the Twins to win was even dumber.

But more things when right than wrong. The Rangers' bullpen failed, but the Royals' bullpen failed worse.  C. C. Sabathia did what he's paid to do. Boston did win the first game. The amazing Diamondbacks are in first place. Yovani Gallardo and the Brewers were as good at home as expected. Ryan Dempster won for the third straight time at home. Jair Jurrjens was as good as advertised for the Braves. The Cardinals got a good performance from Kyle Lohse and held on to win. And the Blue Jays whacked John Danks as expected who then acted like an idiot with Jose Bautista. So there was more good than bad.

Memorial Day gets a whole lot better because instead of the usual Monday short schedule, every team is in action with almost half of the games being played during the day. Beautiful!

  • The Twins over the Tigers: Yeah, picking the Twins again. Probably stupid, but Nick Blackburn seems like a better pick than Brad Penny.
  • The Phillies over the Nationals: It's stupefying that Livan Hernandez is still pitching effectively. But his bullpen is gassed and Roy Halladay won't be denied.
  • The Braves over the Padres: Tim Hudson is back from the DL which is good news for the Braves but bad news for the Padres and Aaron Harang.
  • The Cubs over the Astros: Everytime a formerly bad pitcher seems to pop up out of nowhere (Zach Duke, Dustin Moseley, etc), the Fan picks against them and gets his head handed to him. Every fiber in this writer's being wants to pick against Rodrigo Lopez. But not touching that hot burner again. Eneury Rodriguez with the loss.
  • The Yankees over the Athletics: The A's can't score that well which helps Bartolo Colon. Trevor Cahill is darn good though.
  • The Angels over the Royals: Two enigmas on the mound in Luke Hochevar and Ervin Santana. The Royals just can't close out games lately.
  • The Mariners over the Orioles: The Mariners continue to surprise this season. They need to give Doug Fister some runs for a change. Jake Arrieta is a way overrated 6-2.
  • The Cardinals over the Giants: Madison Bumgarner and Kyle McClellan cancel each other out leaving us with a better offense getting the pick.
  • The Bay Rays over the Rangers: The Fan still thinks Wade Davis isn't right. But even so, he should beat Derek Holland who never pitches well against the Rays.
  • The Red Sox over the White Sox: Jake Peavy will keep the game close as he won't feed into the Red Sox patience game. But Jon Lester is as good as it gets.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: The Brewers have a really tough schedule coming up and Chris Narveson is not pitching well. Travis Wood has been really good of late. Not a good start for the Brewers on a huge road trip.
  • The Mets over the Pirates: The Mets just never lose with Dillan Gee pitches. It's weirdness. Not much Charlie Morton can do to overcome it.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: The Rockies started the season so well and it's all unraveled. Clay Billingsley continues the trend with a big performance at home over Jason Hammel.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Marlins: What the heck, right? So Joe Saunders is pitching. The D-backs are on fire.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Blue Jays over the Indians: The Blue Jays are just too tough at home and that allows Jo-Jo Reyes to avoid history. Fausto Carmona with the loss.

Yesterday: 9-7
Week: 9-7
Month: 210-179
Season: 425-356
Games of the Day: 34-26  on a roll!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Major League's Most Valuable Shorstop

Fred Wilpon got a lot of ink this past week for some statements he made in the New Yorker magazine concerning some of his players. One of the players that Wilpon mentioned was Jose Reyes. Wilpon was quoted as saying something to the effect that Reyes will want Carl Crawford kind of money after he becomes a free agent and he won't get it. The way Jose Reyes is playing right now, maybe he should get it. Because as it stands now, Jose Reyes is the most valuable shortstop in the major leagues this season according to Fangraphs' leader board.

Jose Reyes lost most of his season in 2009 and 2010 started with real concerns about his health. But after those early concerns, Reyes got back on the field in 2010 and stayed there. His 2010 season ended up with less production than he showed in the years prior to 2009 and that combined with a bad season for the Mets led to speculation about how good a player Reyes was. The .321 on base percentage last year as a lead off batter didn't do much for his reputation either. Plus, his fielding metrics took a dive.

But this year, Reyes is better than ever. His current numbers are showing career highs in several categories. His fielding is back (according to the fickle fielding metrics we have at our disposal). His batting average of .324 and on base percentage of .378 lead all major league shortstops. His home run power is behind where he's been in the past, but he is hitting doubles and triples at a prodigious pace. Plus, he's stolen 19 bases already in 23 attempts. It certainly appears that he is back as an elite shortstop.

The big question though is where he'll finish out his year. The Mets have indicated that they have to slash payroll and after Wilpon's statements, there probably isn't any hope the Mets could ever sign Reyes to a free agent contract. And as such, it makes sense for the team to trade him now while he has the most amount of value. Several contenders could use a shortstop rental in a guy like Reyes. The Cardinals and Tampa come to mind. The Giants are another team that could benefit from Jose Reyes.

This Fan understands the economy behind such a trade for the Mets. But it's a real goat screw for Mets fans. Jose Reyes can be one of the most exciting and personable players in baseball. His smile and playing style simply light up otherwise gloomy nights at Citi Field. And now that light could be extinguished in New York for the simple reason that the Mets' economy can no longer afford him.

But it sure seems that wherever Reyes ends up this season, he is back to being a pure force at the shortstop position in an era with a dearth of such players. With the downside of Jeter's career, there are few shortstops that can add as much value as Reyes. Somebody is going to pay him good money when this season is over. You can count on that.

And in one last side note, the fan leaves you with a War Chart courtesy of comparing the early careers of Derek Jeter and Jose Reyes. Enjoy him Mets' fans, while it lasts.

Ryan Braun is Walking Tall

Ryan Braun is quietly piling up a great season. According to the Fangraphs' leaderboard, he is currently seventh in the majors in WAR but he would certainly be higher if his defense wasn't rated so poorly. His wOBA and wRC+ is second in the National League to Lance Berkman and ahead of Joey Votto on both counts. Braun is fifth in the National League in runs batted in and first in the league in runs scored. Plus, Braun is second only to Lance Berkman in the National League in slugging percentage. Yes, all of those things qualify to having a great year. But there is more to Braun's season than his power, which has always been there.

The most striking number in Braun's statistics is his walk percentage. Braun began his career with very little patience at the plate. But his walk percentage has risen incrementally over his first four years. But they weren't significant gains. His first two years were at 5.9 and then 6.3 percent. He made a nice jump in his third year to 8.1 percent but only rose last year to 8.2 percent. This year, Braun is walking 13.8 percent of the time. That's a really nice jump. His swing percentage of pitches outside the zone is at the best level of his career and at the same time, his swinging strike percentage is the lowest of his career.

Last year, Braun walked 56 times and struck out 105 times. This year, he's walked 31 times and struck out 36 times in less than one-third the amount of plate appearances. That walk rate has given him his best ever walk to strikeout percentage of 0.86 and his highest on base percentage, which currently sits at .411. That's the fourth best on base percentage in the National League and it raises Braun's game to a new level. He's always been a very good offensive player. Now he's elite.

The extra times on base haven't been wasted. Ryan Braun has always had a knack for stealing bases. He's stolen 75 in his career and has only been thrown out 19 times (79.8 percent success rate). The highest total he's accumulated in a career was 20 steals back in 2009. But he's already stolen 12 this season with only one caught stealing. The 12 steals matches his home run production. Braun has a legitimate chance for a 30/30 season at his current pace. And as mentioned earlier, he leads the National League in runs scored. So all those extra times on base are really helping him and his team.

As stated above, the extra patience at the plate brings Ryan Braun's game to a new level and puts his game at the elite level among National League players. He was always very good, but now he's great. All he needs to do now is become at least an adequate fielder to put him in contention as the most valuable player in the National League

Game Picks - Sunday: May 29, 2011

Saturday continued the weirdness that is the 2011 baseball season. There were four more extra inning games. Three of them went against the picks. There was another rained out game. Jaime Garcia had been one of the best pitchers in the game...until last night. The Indians made another pick look silly. Hiroki Kuroda must have something wrong with him because he had another bad game sending that pick down in flames. The Nationals continue to provide no run support for Jordan Zimmermann, who deserves a better fate. And picking against the Diamondbacks was probably not a good idea, even with Zach Duke pitching. Oh, and Zach Duke decided to rub salt in the wound for picking against him by hitting a three-run homer. Yes, the Fan deserved that.

The Red Sox and the Tigers will play two games today to make up for yesterday's wash out. That means sixteen big games on the schedule today. Here's the rundown on Sunday:

  • The Red Sox sweep the Tigers: Clay Buchholz will beat Andrew Oliver as predicted yesterday. And then Josh Beckett, who loves Comerica, will beat Justin Verlander in the nightcap.
  • The Blue Jays over the White Sox: Ricky Romero shuts down the White Sox again and the Blue Jays hammer John Danks to send him to 0-8.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Vance Worley has done a nice job for the Phillies replacing Joe Blanton. Jonathan Niese can be a good pitcher, but the Phillies just have too much to handle.
  • The Nationals over the Padres: These teams are so evenly matched, and that's not meant in a good way. Cuban, Yunesky Maya, was called up from the minors to pitch this game for the Nationals. He's 29 years old and has made five major league starts without a win. He faces Dustin Moseley, who never gets any run support.
  • The Indians over the Bay Rays: Great match up here with Justin Masterson versus Jeremy Hellickson. Both pitchers have been terrific. The thinking here is that the Indians have a better chance to score on Hellickson than the other way around.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Astros: Josh Collmenter adds to his legend and the D-backs chase J. A. Happ early.
  • The Twins over the Angels: Carl Pavano gets his 100th career win over Dan Haren, who has struggled of late.
  • The Brewers over the Giants: The Brewers have the best home record in the National League. Yovani Gallardo has been super in his last four starts. That all adds up to a loss for Matt Cain and the Giants.
  • The Cubs over the Pirates: Ryan Dempster has won his last two starts at home, where the Cubs are today. Jeff Karstens has done a nice job, but will take the loss.
  • The Rangers over the Royals: Alexi Ogando has been amazing. And he threw a shutout in his last outing. Danny Duffy simply walks too many batters to be effective.
  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: The Cards got smoked yesterday, which probably didn't sit well with TLR. The Cardinals get to Jhoulys Chacin and win a slugfest. Kyle Lohse will have to get more outs than Jaime Garcia did.
  • The Orioles over the Athletics: This Fan simply likes the Orioles' chances whenever Zach Britton is on the mound. Guillermo Moscoso was really terrific in his first start of the season though.
  • The Marlins over the Dodgers: Ricky Nolasco is from California and is pitching in front of his family. That inspiration gives him the win over Clayton Kershaw.
  • The Braves over the Reds: The Braves don't lose when Jair Jurrjens pitches. He's been quite the story this season. Johnny Cueto has been good too but it won't be enough today.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Yankees over the Mariners: C. C. Sabathia needs to go deep and be effective. Jason Vargas had been pitching great until his last outing when it all got away from him. This game is why the Yankees paid so much for Sabathia. They need him today.

Yesterday: 7-7
Last Week: 56-36
Month: 201-172
Season: 416-349
Games of the Day: 33-26