Saturday, June 18, 2011

Game Picks - Saturday: June 18, 2011

These picks were written very early and then scheduled to post later in the morning. Since the wake up call for the flight is at 4:45 (ugh!), there won't be time in the morning to get this done. That also means that there won't be any results at the end of the post from today. It already looks bad, so perhaps that is merciful. Until then, the Fan will talk to you from Florida on Sunday morning.

Saturday's picks:

  • The Nationals over the Orioles: Buck Showalter said that Brian Matusz may never get his velocity back. Geez, Vegas must have loved to hear that. Anyway, this pick is for Jordan Zimmermann, who has been terrific.
  • The Yankees over the Cubs: It's not like this pick worked great for Friday. But when A. J. Burnett and Ryan Dempster seem like a wash, go with the better team.
  • The Rangers over the Braves: It's hard to pick Matt Harrison after what he's shown lately, but the thought here is that his left arm neutralizes several Braves hitters. Derek Lowe could get hit by the Rangers' line up.
  • The Indians over the Pirates: The Fan got kicked in the groin the last time he picked against Carlos Carrasco. It still hurts. Paul Maholm with the loss.
  • The Mets over the Angels: Dan Haren has been as solid as they come. Mike Pelfrey has been very good too. Going with the Mets' offense.
  • The Rays over the Marlins: Alex Cobb over Ricky Nolasco. Is this streak by the Marlins a "sit in" to protest the firing of their hitting coach and the censorship of Logan Morrison? It sure seems like they are lifeless.
  • The Red Sox over the Brewers: Okay. Lessen learned. Never pick against the Red Sox the rest of the season. Jon Lester over Randy Wolf.
  • The Twins over the Padres: Scott Baker keeps winning every time the Fan picks against him. Okay, you win, Mr. Baker. Tim Stauffer with the loss.
  • The Blue Jays over the Reds: Brandon Morrow overpowers the Reds IF he throws strikes. Edinson Volquez got shelled by the Red Sox his last start.
  • The Cardinals over the Royals: Vin Mazzaro made the Fan look foolish last time out. Will he do it again? Nah. Jake Westbrook keeps the Cards close so they can win in the end.
  • The White Sox over the Diamondbacks: John Danks has won two in a row and the D-backs counter with Zach Duke. Nope, not going there.
  • The Rockies over the Tigers: The Fan picked one of the Tigers' young pitchers on Friday. How did that turn out? Yeesh. Ubaldo Jiminez over Phil Coke.
  • The Giants over the Athletics: Jonathan Sanchez should be better than Guillermo Moscoso.
  • The Astros over the Dodgers: Against the heart, the Fan picked against Wandy Rodriguez last time out and paid the price for the lack of loyalty. Not going to do that again. Ruddy de la Rosa starts for the Dodgers.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Mariners over the Phillies: King Felix Hernandez takes care of the Phillies and Seattle scores enough off of Vince Worley to win.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Todd Helton Conundrum

Last year made it easy for those who are uncomfortable with Todd Helton's place in MLB history. The long-time first baseman for the Colorado Rockies seemed to hit a wall. At the age of 36, Helton batted only .256 and finished with an OPS+ of 85. Those who were uncomfortable with Helton as one of the great first basemen of all time felt relief that for the second year out of three, Helton dealt with health issues and finished under league average in batting statistics. The bad finish mercifully left Helton short of some of those magic Hall of Fame numbers. He wouldn't be a factor for the Rockies anymore after a year like that, would he?

So here it is a year later and at 37, the new debate with Todd Helton is whether or not he should go to the All Star Game. Surprise! His resurgent 2011 coupled with a terrific 2009 now puts the whole Helton problem back to square one. Helton's place in the game is again a problem. Why is Helton's career a problem? It's not because of PEDs. It's not because he was only occasionally brilliant. He was brilliant more than he wasn't.. Helton sparks such heated debates because of where he plays his home games. Todd Helton has played half of his major league games at Coors Field, a ballpark where a special machine had to be put in place to deaden the ball a little bit to keep it from flying all through the thin air.

In some ways, the Coors aspect of Helton's career casts a larger shadow than what Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire have to deal with. At least in their cases, it can be said that they were more talented than all the other...umm....creative body changers. Neither of those players were considered to play at "easy" ballparks to hit. For years, the Colorado Rockies have been known for extreme home and away splits. Fairly or not, Todd Helton is lumped into the same category. He is the successor to Larry Walker, who finished his own questioned career short of those magic vote-worthy numbers.

Jump back now to 2011. Todd Helton has a slash line of .315/.389/.523 while playing impressively in the field. In this second year of the new era of the pitcher, those numbers add up to a 133 OPS+. Ah, but what about that troublesome Coors home and away split? Uh oh. Problem. Helton's road OPS this season is .953. His home OPS is .880.

And what of his home and away splits for his career? Okay, maybe you have a smoking gun there. His career road OPS is .875. That's still pretty darn good. But his home OPS for his career is 1.076. That's a 200 point difference. Helton has hit 76 more homers at home than on the road. That is consistent with his slugging percentage at home being 140 points higher.

But Helton is certainly not the first player to have extreme splits at home and on the road. Wade Boggs finished with a home OPS 147 points higher than on the road. Ernie Banks had a home split 110 points higher than on the road. Sandy Koufax had a home ERA that was 56 points lower than on the road. Players don't often choose where they get to play their home games. Sometimes those home games work for you and sometimes they don't.

But Helton has performed in the age of knowledge. More Hall of Fame voters are conscious of advanced analyses. And as such, his historical context will be more hotly debated than perhaps Ernie Banks was in his time on the ballot. It is because of this new reality that Helton's sub-par 2010 made those bracing for such a debate to sigh in huge relief. 2011 adds another dimension to the future debate. Helton's Hall of Fame Gray Ink is already over standard. His Hall of Fame Monitor and Standards are already in black ink. The debate will happen. It would have happened if 2010 ended his career. The season he's putting together in 2011 will not make the debate any easier.

Now should he make the All Star Team?

Game Picks - Friday: June 17, 2011

Today starts our trip to Florida, so the picks are early and they have to be on the quick side as we have to hit the road. Yesterday was a sub-par day. Zach Stewart pitched brilliantly for the Blue Jays, but his team didn't score enough runs in the loss. The Mets had the Braves beat until K-Rod blew the save. The Cardinals came back to tie the Nationals only to get beat in extra innings. Both pitchers pitched brilliantly in the Twins/White Sox game, but the team the Fan picked (White Sox) came up on the short end of a 1-0 decision. The light hitting Oakland A's erupted against Jeff Francis and the Royals. And David Price came up short against the Red Sox. The Red Sox will do that to you.

Today starts another round of interleague play. That's not fun for a game picker. Here goes:

  • The Yankees over the Cubs: Picking either Freddie Garcia or Doug Davis contains no joy. But the Yankees should win in a trip to Wrigley.
  • The Orioles over the Nationals: Zach Britton has to be on his A game to win. But if he is, the Orioles should get to Jason Marquis. They've done it once before this season.
  • The Pirates over the Indians: Riding the Pirate wave here with Kevin Correia over Josh Tomlin.
  • The Mets over the Angels: The Mets bounce back behind Chris Capuano, who was terrific in his last outing. Joel Pineiro goes for the Angels.
  • The Brewers over the Red Sox: The thought here is that the Brewers will get to John Lackey while Shaun Marcum has experience pitching against the Red Sox and has a decent history against them.
  • The Reds over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays lose the DH on the road in the National League. Jo-Jo Reyes will pitch for them and he's been pretty good lately. But Mike Leake is the Reds' secret weapon. They don't lose when he pitches.
  • The Braves over the Rangers: Don't like that the Braves are starting Randall Delgado in place of injured Tommy Hanson. But Colby Lewis has been brutal lately.
  • The Twins over the Padres: The Padres weak line up is just what Brian Duensing needs to get better than he has been lately. Clayton Richard has been the worst of the Padres' pitchers. Joe Mauer will be back.
  • The Cardinals over the Royals: The Cardinals have lost six in a row. Chris Carpenter to the rescue (if his team can catch a few baseballs). The Royals feature Felipe Paulino, who hasn't won a game.
  • The Tigers over the Rockies: No DH for the Tigers and that gives them a problem. But Rick Porcello should be better than Jason Hammel.
  • The Diamondbacks over the White Sox: No DH for the White Sox means that Dunn sits. Which might be a good thing these days. Daniel Hudson with the win over Edwin Jackson (facing yet another of his former teams).
  • The Giants over the Athletics: Tim Lincecum has been a puzzle (just ask any fantasy baseball player). But he should fare well against the A's. The A's counter with Graham Godfrey, who did not fare well in his MLB debut.
  • The Dodgers over the Astros: These are the two teams that miss out on the interleague fun. Ted Lilly should pitch well at home and give Brett Myers another tough loss.
  • The Mariners over the Phillies: The Phillies have never seen Michael Pineda before and that will make a difference. They need to score a few times off of Roy Oswalt though to win. Dustin Ackley makes his debut.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Bay Rays over the Marlins: The Marlins should get to Wade Davis, but Brian Hand is throwing way too many pitches early in the game.

Yesterday: 5-7
Week: 32-34
Month: 117-100
Season: 560-465
Games of the Day: 48-30

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Zero Strikeouts in a Game

The Kansas City Royals have become famous for all the wrong reasons. Since the George Brett Era, the team has been a losing team for a very long time. As mentioned many times here this year, there is hope for the Royals with an infusion of young players, the  tip of the iceberg we have already seen this year with Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. But until the Royals get all their pieces in place, they will still make headlines occasionally for all the wrong reasons. Take this fact from last night's game: The Royals have pitched three nine inning games this season without recording a strikeout. That's right, no strikeouts...three games.

Last night it was Luke Hochevar for seven innings and then Tim Collins in relief. Zero strikeouts. Tim Collins was part of another such game for the Royals back on May 6 against the same Oakland A's. In that game, Sean O'Sullivan pitched eight innings without striking out anyone and Collins did the same in his one inning of relief. The third game also featured Sean O'Sullivan against the Yankees on May 12 when O'Sullivan combined with Blake Wood to pitch the entire game without a strikeout. The Royals even won that game.

And so the Royals are pacing the league in a strange category. The feat has only been done six times this season and the Royals have done half of those. No other team has more than one. In the last ten years, only the 2005 Giants performed the same feat more often. Those Giants did it six times. The Giants of 2005 had noted fireballers such as Kevin Correia, Brett Tomko (who was a part of two of those games), Kirk Rueter and Jarrod Washburn. Yeah, that was sarcasm. The Giants also had zero strikeouts in three games in 2003. The Twins did it three times in 2003 as well and the Tigers performed the feat three times in 2002.

And so in the last ten years, the Royals find themselves in rare company. By the way, if you happened to be asking the question, the last time both teams in a game threw zero strikeouts was on June 29, 1985 when the Blue Jays played the Tigers and there wasn't a single strikeout in the entire game. In that game, the Tigers beat the Blue Jays 8-0. Walt Terrell threw a complete game shutout on two hits with no strikeouts. Louis Leal, Dennis Lamp and Ron Musselman all pitched for the Blue Jays and didn't strike out anyone either.

The Royals have done something no team has done in six years and with more than half the season to go, they could still catch those 2005 Giants.

Game Picks - Thursday: June 16, 2011

Wow! That was a good day. In one fell swoop, the week's deficit was erased and all is right with the world. Only four picks out of sixteen went south. There was a rousing comeback by the Cleveland Indians to show the world that they aren't quite dead yet. The Reds easily beat Clay Billingsley and the Dodgers. Livan Hernandez threw a shutout and the Nationals scored ten runs off the Cardinals. Weird. And Luke Hochevar pitched well but was out pitched by Josh Outman, who has the perfect name for a pitcher. But that's it. Everything else went according to prediction. Amazing.

Once again the scheduling gods have given us plenty of games on a Thursday. We really haven't had a really light Monday or Thursday yet. Strange. But there are twelve games today, and best of all, eight of them are day games. This Fan loves day games. The picks:

  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Kyle Drabek's spot in the rotation is taken by Zach Stewart, most recently a pitcher for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in Double A. Stewart is the fourth rated prospect for the Blue Jays according to and was part of that Scott Rolen deal a couple of years ago. It's a strange choice for the Blue Jays, but since they always beat the Orioles and Jeremy Guthrie, it will still lead to a win.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: Max Scherzer has already won eight games and was good his last time out. Mitch Talbot is essentially a five or six inning pitcher.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: It doesn't get better for the Marlins, who are now 1-14 in June as they face Cliff Lee. All they can offer in return is Javier Vazquez. Uh oh.
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: In one of the more interesting games of the month, the Yankees signed a 32 year old journeyman from the minors who was pitching brilliantly for the Phillies in Triple A. But Gordon had an opt out clause in his contract and took it because the Phillies don't need starting pitchers. Gordon has three games to his credit in the big leagues way back in 2008. It's a Ryan Vogelsong kind of story. The Yankees hope it has the same kind of ending. The Rangers counter with their ace, C. J. Wilson, but the Rangers are really flat right now.
  • The White Sox over the Twins: This picker bounced this pick around for quite a while before settling on the White Sox and Mark Buehrle. Nick Blackburn goes for the Twins.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: Not to get giddy or anything, but the Pirates are just three back in the wild card standings and four back in their division. James McDonald has a nice game and the Pirates beat Jordan Lyles, whose name sounds like a leading character from a soap opera.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: Zack Greinke makes the difference here as he faces the Cubs and the sometimes tough, Matt Garza.
  • The Royals over the Athletics: Gio Gonzalez has just lost it. He walked seven his last time out, hit a batter and threw several wild pitches. The young Royals need to stay patient to win this one behind Jeff Francis, who has pitched well lately.
  • The Cardinals over the Nationals: John Lannon has been very good. But the Nats can't keep beating the Cardinals, can they? Kyle Lohse goes for the suddenly struggling Cardinals.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: Tough game to call. Clay Buchholz is getting better all the time. But David Price doesn't lose too often at home.
  • The Mets over the Braves: R. A. Dickey pitched a complete game his last time out and goes against Mike Minor. hmm...

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Ian Kennedy is one tough customer and he is used to pitching in Arizona where the ball flies. Ryan Vogelsong has been great all season, but is slightly less great on the road.

Yesterday: 12-4  yesssss
Week: 27-27
Month: 112-93
Season: 555-458
Games of the Day: 47-30

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Messy Marlins

Your faithful writer will head to Florida in a couple of days for the annual summer trip to Mom's place in North Palm Beach. The trip is always highly anticipated as Mom is now 85 and needs the company and the help. But it also means weeks by the pool catching up with baseball books from the library and sitting by the pool soaking up the hot Florida sun. It also means a chance to see the son that moved to Florida last year. Can't wait for that! But it also means weeks of watching Florida baseball. Tommy Hutton, here we come. Oh goody.

The Marlins showed early promise this season with a run that kept them tucked just behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East. But since that early run, the Marlins have sunk faster than one of those sink or swim items on David Letterman. The team seems totally lost. When they hit, they don't pitch. When they pitch, they don't hit and just as often, they don't hit or pitch. The Florida Marlins are everything the Tampa Bay Rays are not. Those little poor kids that can on the other side of the state simply find a way to chug along despite no payroll and no attendance. The Marlins have a low payroll, terrible attendance and simply can't find a way to get it done. The odds are that Jonah Keri won't be writing a book about the Marlins any time soon.

And it's too bad as the Marlins have some nice players. Logan Morrison has come into his own and Mike Stanton is a young stud who hits towering home runs. Their manager, Edwin Rodriguez seems like a nice guy that is liked by his players. But nice doesn't cut it. They are 1-12 in June. On May 28, they were ten games over .500. Now they are two games under. In most of their games, the score hasn't even been close.

Nothing about the Marlins seems smart. Logan Morrison has brought a lot of attention to the team with his rising popularity on Twitter. Morrison has become a social media star in this golden age of such things all the while backing up his popularity with good play on the field. What do the Marlins do? They tell him to shut up. That's just plain dumb. Ride that wave, Marlins! Sure, ask Morrison to tone down the anti-family material. That's understandable. But to tell him to shut up completely?

So what's up with this team? Well, we begin with Hanley Ramirez. Just two years ago, Ramirez was compared to Albert Pujols as a competitor to the great Albert for the prize of best player of the game. There were indications that Ramirez needed to grow up a bit. His effort seemed to come and go. And that was okay as long as he was producing. But last year, he fell off the table and this year, he can't get off the floor. Last year, his OPS feel 101 points. This year, the Marlins would gladly get THAT Hanley Ramirez back. 211 plate appearances into the season and Ramirez has a 66 OPS+. And yes, this is the same Hanley Ramirez whose OPS+ was over 140 for three years in a row. The shortstop's WAR has gone from 7.6 to 7.2 to 3.7 to this year's -0.2. Ugh.

Absorbing the loss of performance from Hanley Ramirez would be one thing, but trading Dan Uggla and his offense has hurt too. Omar Infante is a better fielder. But Infante is proving this year, that he's best suited to the utility role and not an everyday player (last year notwithstanding). Signing John Buck to a large contract based on an inflated year in Toronto a year ago, was a mistake. He is the same defensively and offensively challenged catcher he was before last year's outlier. The Marlins' bench has been non-existent with the exception of Brett Hayes, who is having a nice season. The Chris Coghlan experiment in center field has gone better than expected in the field, but he can't seem to get his Rookie of the Year batting stroke back.

But there's always Mike Stanton. Stanton week after week hits highlight homers into upper decks all over the continent. But he's only 21 and is still learning. And as such, you have games where he strikes out a lot and pitchers take advantage of his weaknesses. Stanton's on base percentage is good and of course, his slugging percentage is terrific. But he can be had still.

Gabby Sanchez has made a few critics go away (this one included). He seemed the second coming of James Loney. But he's put up great numbers this season including some power that all add up to a 141 OPS+. Sanchez is better than we thought he was. His season, along with Morrison's have been the success stories of the Marlins but it hasn't been enough.

Doesn't it seem like every year, the writers say that if the Marlins' young pitching gels, this team could be trouble for the NL East? Every year we hear that and you know what? It still hasn't happened. Josh Johnson has some of the best stuff in the majors. But he can't stay on the field. Ricky Nolasco started strong along with Johnson, but has gone deep into the toilet since. Chris Volstad has been an absolute disaster. The Javier Vazquez signing ranks right up there with the John Buck signing in the mistake category. Only Anibal Sanchez gives the team a chance to win whenever he pitches. And Sanchez always seems to go against the other team's hottest pitcher. Today, he gets Roy Halladay. Good luck with that one.

A big problem for the Marlins is that there is no starting pitching help in the high minors. One quick look at their Triple A team in New Orleans reveals a bunch of starters that couldn't help the Marlins at all. Perhaps Jay Buente could help, but he's been more of a spot starter and is a bit long in the tooth to be a prospect. It does seem that Jose Ceda could be useful in the bullpen, another problem area for the Marlins of late.

The Fan asks for forgiveness in what has turned out to be a very negative post. Perhaps the Fan is just dreading listening to Tommy Hutton drone one for nine innings. That's enough to turn any good feelings for the team into mush. These yearly three-week sabbaticals to Florida usually make this writer a fan of Florida baseball, but perhaps not this year.

And let's get back to Edwin Rodriguez. This writer has always felt that Rodriguez has the job simply as a cheap placeholder until the Marlins get into their new stadium. But perhaps that isn't fair to the manager. He has to have the tools to work with and he simply doesn't have them. Of course, his insistence on writing Emilio Bonifacio's name into the line up every single day is a huge knock on him from this corner. But the manager seems like a class act. But unless he can get Hanley Ramirez turned around and his pitching staff heading in the right direction, the prediction that he won't be the Marlins' manager in the new stadium will come true. Fair or not, the manager pays for what happens on the field. And right now, the Marlins are 1-12 in June.

Game Picks - Wednesday: June 15, 2011

After the East Coast games were over yesterday, the picks stood at 5-1. And then this picker found out why it's called the Continental Divide. Only one more correct pick would occur for the rest of the evening. Thus, the picks for the last two nights have been an utter car wreck. The week is now eight games under .500. Ugh! Where is the Fan's favorite comment guy, Bobob, to tell this picker that the picks will always go to the mean. "No, they won't!" screams the Fan in defiance.

Nothing went right for any game that started after 7:10 ET. Jeff Karstens was superb as this picker thought he'd be and he beat the Fan's pick, Bud Norris, who was also great. Pirates back to .500. Josh Collmenter's legend took a hit last night as he lost. The Bay Rays beat the Red Sox. That was a surprise. The Cubs beat the Brewers in a comeback while the Nationals came back to beat the Cardinals. Both of those things shouldn't have happened. The Rockies beat the Padres and Wade LeBlanc. Probably a bad pick there. Clayton Kershaw couldn't beat the Reds as Johnny Cueto was better. Understandable. But unfortunate for this picker.

The Fan has his work cut out for him now. It's Wednesday and the Fan has to pull this week out of the pit of shame. Here are the picks:

  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Probably Kyle Kendrick will pitch the first game of this double-header. Normally that would tilt things to the Marlins. But the Marlins counter with a guy named Elih Villanueva, a Triple A pitcher with an ERA over 5. Not good.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Things don't get better in the nightcap as the Marlins get Roy Halladay. Anibal Sanchez goes for the Marlins.
  • The Dodgers over the Reds: Clay Billingsley is good at home and should beat Travis Wood there.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: Matt Latos has been on a roll, but Jhoulys Chacin has also been hot. The Rockies at Coors.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: Alas, the magic of the Indians has evaporated. It was fun while it lasted. Brad Penny over Fausto Carmona.
  • The Cardinals over the Nationals: Defense is killing the Cardinals. Kyle McClellan is supposed to pitch. Livan Hernandez goes for the Nationals. The Cardinals will have to score ten to win.
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: The Yankees own Derek Holland. Own him. Ivan Nova though? We'll see.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Jake Arrieta has been very good. But the Orioles never beat the Blue Jays. Ricky Romero goes for the home Blue Jays.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: Josh Beckett will benefit after Tim Wakefield got the Bay Rays all off-kilter. Seriously though, the Bay Rays' offense has been off-kilter already. Jeremy Hellickson with the loss.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: Carlos Zambrano threw like a thousand pitches in his last outing. Chris Narveson with the win. Also a battle of two really good hitting pitchers.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: Charlie Morton throws salt into the Astros' wounds. Did you get it? Anyway, he beats J. A. Happ.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: When are the Twins going to make up all those rained out games? Same match up as yesterday. Carl Pavano over Gavin Floyd.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Madison Bumgarner and Joe Saunders are a combined 5-14. One of them has to win. The Panda is back, which helps the Giants.
  • The Royals over the Athletics: Trying to figure out when the Royals are going to win is like playing, "Pin the tail on the donkey." Luke Hochevar seems like the right pick over Josh Outman.
  • The Mariners over the Angels: This game is an unabashed emotional pick for Erik Bedard. Sorry. Ervin Santana with the loss. Ichiro is hitting again.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Mets over the Braves: This Fan is going to ride Dillon Gee until he has saddle sores. Tim Hudson with the loss.

Yesterday: 6-8
Week: 15-23  ugh
Month: 100-89
Season: 543-454
Games of the Day: 46-30

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sticking to a Formula in the Face of Reality

This writer was having a great internal debate. The problem with such a debate is that both sides are biased. Such is the problem of writing about baseball from the wastelands of Maine. The debate was about having relief pitchers know their roles versus sticking to those roles even when it isn't working. The Yankees had a formula earlier in the year with Joba in the seventh, Soriano in the eighth and Rivera in the ninth. It worked once. Two thirds of that formula are out for the year. Last night, the Brewers played the Cubs and essentially lost a 1-0 game because manager, Ron Roenicke, stuck to his formula.

Jaymes Langrehr is one of this writer's favorite team-centric writers. He covers the Milwaukee Brewers and had the correct take on Ron Roenicke's explanation that Kameron Loe is his eighth inning guy, so it wasn't the wrong call. In fact, Roenicke took exception to the question. Langrehr doesn't go into specifics on why Roenicke was wrong, probably because he writes to a fan base that already knows what is going on. But for those of you who do not follow the Brewers regularly, let this writer explain.

Kameron Loe sucks in those situations. Okay. Post over. You can go on with your lives now. Okay, that's not enough information. When is Loe the least effective? In tie games. What is his OPS against in tie games? .956. When is his strikeout to walk ratio at its worst? Tie games. He's pitched now in ten tie games and has lost five of them. His other loss was a blown save. And this isn't a one year fluke either. Loe had a good year last year. But when was he at his worst? Tie games.

Roenicke's defense that Loe is his eighth inning guy is the height of stubbornness. On the one hand, it's good that guys know their roles. And as a general rule, Loe has pitched well in most other situations. When his team is ahead or behind, he's been okay. But how many games will Roenicke lose before he understands that tie games are not games you should bring in Kameron Loe? The Brewers do have a guy who excels in those situations. His name is Mike McClendon. The guy is a vulture and is 5-0 in his career when entering tie games. Some guys simply smell a win in those situations and McClendon seems to be one of those guys. He is the anti-Loe in that department. His best stats across the board are in tie games. But McClendon is in the minors despite three such wins this year. In the age of specialization, maybe each team should have a tie score guy.

This writer understands that all of this is based on small sample sizes. Feel free to bash this post over this writer's head. It's happened before. No hard feelings. But the view here is that if Roenicke puts Loe in another one of those situations, it's on him and not Kameron Loe. Because managing is more than just keeping guys in their assigned roles. It's also about giving his players and his team the best opportunity to succeed.

Game Picks - Tuesday: June 14, 2011s

Well...that was fun. Not. This picker got schmucked. The only correct pick of the day was a rookie (Anthony Bass) who gave up nine base runners in five innings in Coors Field and lived to tell about it. That's it. The rest was a complete washout. The tone was set early when the Yankees had five base runners on in the first two innings with nobody out and couldn't score. A. J. Burnett know...looked good. He got three outs on four pitches in the first. Burnett? Nick Swisher probably had his worst game as a Yankee. He struck out in a big moment. Then he hit into a double play in another big moment and then a ball he should have gotten to in right went for a triple that would go on to be the only runner to score in the game.

And it went downhill from there. The Astros' Hunter Pence and Brett Wallace beat up on Derek Lowe and the Braves. The Fan picked against Wandy Rodriguez, one of the Fan's favorite players. The Bay Rays can't hit and lost to the Tigers in extras. The Mets' Mike Pelfrey was good, but gave up a big hit to Neil Walker and the Mets couldn't figure out Paul Maholm. Ricky Nolasco totally blew chunks in Arizona. Zach Duke was bad too, but not as bad as Nolasco. Fan favorite, Micah Owings, saved the D-Backs with two innings of scoreless relief to get his third vulture win. Jason Vargas was left in the game one inning too long for the Mariners and gave up the lead in the seventh. Kameron Loe was allowed to lose his sixth game in relief as he coughed up an eighth inning run after seven scoreless innings by both starters. The Cubs won. And finally, Don Mattingley took a page out of Joe Torre's book and went one time too many to the Matt Guerrier well and came up dry.

It was a brutal day. Just brutal. But the show must go on. Here are Tuesday's picks:

  • The Tigers over the Indians: After this game, the two teams won't be tied for first anymore. Justin Masterson is a very good pitcher. But Justin Verlander is lights out right now.
  • The Cardinals over the Nationals: These are the kinds of series that the Cardinals have to dominate to keep up with the Brewers. They have their guy on the mound in Jaime Garcia. Yunesky Maya still hasn't won a major league game in forever. But he was better his last time out.
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: C. C. Sabathia has to come up big for the Yankees to put a loss in Alexi Ogando's win-loss record. This will be like a playoff game.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: The Blue Jays have the perfect opportunity to wash the bad taste of their last series out of their mouths. They always play the Orioles well. Carlos Villanueva over Chris Jakubauskas in what has to be the battle of the longest pitcher names.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: Yeah, Tim Wakefield is pitching. So? The Red Sox can pound any pitcher whether it be James Shields are anyone else.
  • The Mets over the Braves: Every time this picker has picked against Jonathan Niese, the pick was wrong. Picking him to beat Jair Jurrjens.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: Yovani Gallardo gives this picker heartburn too. Oh well, rolling the dice and picking him over Randy Wells and the Cubs.
  • The Astros over the Pirates: Hate, hate, hate picking games like this. Bud Norris is on a roll. Jeff Karstens has pitched well. Hunter Pence is on fire. The Pirates have a better team on paper. Ugh.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: Another game filled with angst. Gavin Floyd versus Carl Pavano? Coin flip time.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: Anthony Rizzo comes up big against Juan Nicasio and Wade LeBlanc comes up from the minors to get the win.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Josh Collmenter must go deeper in this game than he has been. If he does, the D-backs beat Matt Cain.
  • The Athletics over the Royals: Trevor Cahill has not been good lately. But he should be better than Danny Duffy.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: Jared Weaver should be better than Doug Fister. Vernon Wells had two homers yesterday. Vernon Wells?
  • The Dodgers over the Reds: Clayton Kershaw has to be on his best for the Dodgers to beat Johnny Cueto and the Reds.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Cole Hamels is fantastic and he's the fourth pitcher in the Phillies' rotation. Yikes! The Marlins counter with Chris Volstad, which really isn't a counter at all.

Yesterday: 1-8
Week: 9-15
Month: 94-81
Season: 537-448
Games of the Day: 45-30

Monday, June 13, 2011

Zack Greinke Is Getting His Wish

There wasn't a whole lot the Kansas City Royals fans could do once Zack Greinke forced the Royals' hand and asked them to trade him. And it's really too bad as the Royals are beginning to get fun to watch with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas now on the big club. The Future is happening now for the Royals and they just need some of their starting pitching prospects to materialize. But Greinke couldn't wait and whether you agree with his decision or not, it's a moot point. He's gone. And things are working out just the way Greinke wanted them with the Milwaukee Brewers taking over first place in the National League West, thanks in large part to Greinke's pitching.

Zack Greinke won a Cy Young Award. And then, by most accounts, he got bored and his boredom bore out in his performance last season when he was more Chris Young than Cy Young. That seems like an overly-simplistic view of his season last year. You could blame his season on shoddy defense as the Royals were dead last in the American League in defensive efficiency. But they were dead last and were worse in his Cy Young Award season. His velocity was down by a MPH according to Pitch/FX. That could explain some of the difference. But the fact that he was discontent and bored seems like a plausible explanation. Whatever it was, he didn't give the Royals much choice in the matter and they did the right thing in unloading him.

After an injury in Spring Training (apparently from a pick up basketball game), Greinke began the season on the disabled list. The Brewers--who traded away most of their farm system to get Greinke and Shaun Marcum--started slowly, and since they had gone all out to win this year while they still had Prince Fielder, things weren't looking very good when they began the season 13-19. But as Rob Neyer pointed out today over at SB Nation, the Brewers have won 25 of their last 34 games. What Neyer didn't mention was that it seems like no coincidence that the run began with Greinke's first win of the season.

Not surprisingly, Greinke started a bit slowly. After his first four starts, his ERA was a balloon-like 6.43. Starting with his fifth start, the first of four in a row where his pitch count has gone over a hundred, he is back in full swing. Each of his last four starts have been quality starts and he has struck out 32 batters in his last 27 innings pitched over those four games. He won all four of them. And his ERA has come down nearly two full runs since that fourth start.

Greinke's peripherals are fantastic. His strikeouts per nine for the season stands at 11.3. His walk rate is the lowest of his career at 1.3, giving him a K/BB ratio of 8.57. Only Jair Jurrjens has a lower walk per nine rate. His ERA may stand at 4.69, but his FIP is at 2.52 and his xFIP is 2.02.

Plus, he is getting a chance to hit and with his one homer, he has an 86 OPS+. Not bad for a pitcher. And so, Zack Greinke is getting everything he could have wanted when he wanted out of Kansas City. He's pitching great, he's getting a chance to hit. He's pitching for a team now in first place and he is back to being an elite pitcher in baseball.

Somehow it still leaves somewhat of a bad taste in the mouth. But that depends on whether you think he was right about wanting out of his former situation. The Royals stuck with him and helped him with his disorder. It's hard to imagine him becoming the kind of pitcher he's become without that organization helping him the way it did. And yet, he emotionally abandoned that organization. It doesn't sit well. But if you forget all that, he's an athlete and athletes want to compete at the top level and have a chance to win. Looked at from that angle, his actions are more understandable. But again, it's too bad because if his heart had stayed in Kansas City, he's be one more cog in what is becoming a more comely wheel. His absence has hurt the Royals more than it has helped the Brewers.

But again, all that is moot. The current dynamic is that he's pitching beautifully for a team that has the look and feel of a contender. He's playing in front of packed houses at home and he is a large reason for that team's success. His presence, along with Shaun Marcum, slots Yovani Gallardo and Chris Narveson in the rotation where they belong. The Brewers made the right call (other than having Betancourt included in the deal) and their strategy is certainly paying off. Much like they hoped, Greinke is starting to become one of the elite pitchers in the National League.

The Fan's All Star Ballot

The All Star Game is getting closer. And thus it's getting closer to the time to make All Star picks. June 13 is still too early. But the Fan is a member of the BBA and as such, the votes need to be counted by a certain deadline. At least picking the All Star ballot now is better than making those picks a month ago when first introduced the ballot. Picking All Stars in May is flat out silly.

This Fan is still not comfortable with the fans picking the All Stars. It's too much like an American Idol vote with block voting and it becomes a popularity and PR event instead of a well-thought-out adventure. The Fan isn't saying that most fans are irresponsible with the picks. But there is a block of them that simply vote over and over again for the home team and that's just wrong. Too many bad picks happen. This Fan love Derek Jeter. That has been obvious since this site started way back in 2003. But there's no way he should start the All Star Game. But that's what is going to happen. There is even a Twitter account dedicated to getting Jose Bautista selected to the All Star Game. He already deserves the nod, but still. It's unseemly. This isn't a presidential election.

Okay. The BBA deadline looms. Time to make the picks.

American League:

  • First base: Adrian Gonzalez (Red Sox). This one is easy. Gonzalez has been everything the Red Sox hoped and more. The guy is a hitting machine. Reserve: Miguel Cabrera.
  • Second base: Ben Zobrist (Bay Rays). Let's face it, Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia are the class in the league, but they aren't performing up to their usual standards. Zobrist leads all second basemen in WAR. Reserve: Howie Kendrick. Kendrick has been one of the few bright spots for the Angels.
  • Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez (White Sox). Ramirez is currently the best fielding shortstop in the AL and leads all shortstops in WAR. Reserves: Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera is second in WAR. Derek Jeter. You have to have Jeter at the game for history's sake.
  • Third base: Alex Rodriguez (Yankees). Hey, this isn't popular, but A-Rod leads all others at the position in WAR. Deal with it. Reserve: Adrian Beltre, who is giving the Rangers their money's worth.
  • Left Field: Alex Gordon (Royals). This Fan doesn't believe in treating the outfield like one big blob. Each position is different and is voted that way. Gordon leads the AL in WAR for left fielders. Reserve: Brent Gardner. Thanks largely to his defense, Gardner is second in the AL in WAR.
  • Center Field: Curtis Granderson (Yankees). This is tighter than you think. Granderson just overtook Denard Span for the WAR lead in the AL with his big weekend. Reserves: Span and Jacoby Ellsbury, who is having a great season and is third in WAR.
  • Right Field: Jose Bautista (Blue Jays). This one is easy. Bautista leads all of baseball in WAR, wOBA, wRC+ and many other categories. Reserve: Matt Joyce, who is having a breakout season for the Bay Rays.
  • Catcher: Alex Avila (Tigers). Not great on defense, but Avila has been potent and leads all AL catchers in WAR. Reserve: Matt Wieters, who is second to Avila in the AL.

AL Pitchers: Jared Weaver and Dan Haren (Angels), C. C. Sabathia (Yankees), Felix Hernandez (Mariners), David Price (Bay Rays), Justin Verlander (Tigers), Josh Beckett (Red Sox), Justin Masterson (Indians) and C. J. Wilson (Rangers). Those are your AL leaders for starting pitchers in WAR. Relief pitchers: Jordan Walden (Angels), Mariano Rivera (Yankees), Jonathan Papelban (Red Sox), Kyle Farnsworth (Bay Rays), Daniel Bard (Red Sox), Sergio Santos (White Sox), Brandon League (Mariners). Those are your AL WAR leaders.

National League:

  • First base: Joey Votto (Reds). Second in the majors in WAR to Bautista. The guy is simply as good as his MVP season last year suggested. Reserve: Prince Fielder. Fielder is coming on strong and has come close to Votto in WAR. He actually leads Votto in wOBA and wRC+.
  • Second base: Richie Weeks (Brewers). Weeks has a full win more in WAR than his nearest competitor. Reserves: Danny Espinosa and Brandon Phillips. Those two are two and three in WAR in the NL.
  • Shortstop: Jose Reyes (Mets). This one isn't even close. He's the best shortstop in baseball this year by far. Reserves: Troy Tulowitzki and Stephen Drew. It's time for Drew to make the team.
  • Third base: Ryan Roberts (Diamondbacks). Third base is a wasteland in the National League. Roberts leads them all in WAR in a less than spectacular season. Reserves: Placido Polanco and Chipper Jones (for sentimental reasons like Jeter).
  • Left Field: Ryan Braun (Brewers). This one is easy. Braun is so far ahead of the others that it's easy. Reserve: Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick is third behind Martin Prado, but will overtake him soon the way it has been going.
  • Center Field: Matt Kemp (Dodgers). What a season he is having. Wow! Reserve: Andrew McCutchen, who is having another great season that is lost in the shuffle sometimes.
  • Right Field: Lance Berkman (Cardinals). Forget the defense. Berkman is having a monster season for the Cardinals at the plate. Reserves: Tough one here. Going with Andre Ethier but it just as easily could be Justin Upton, Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence, who are all lumped up in WAR. Pence will have to be picked to give the Astros a player.
  • Catcher: Brian McCann (Braves). McCann has a slight lead in WAR. Reserves: Miguel Montero and Yadier Molina.

NL Pitchers: Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee (yes, all three), Daniel Hudson, Jordan Zimmermann, Clayton Kershaw, Jaime Garcia, Jair Jurrjens and Zack Greinke. Relievers: Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel, Fernando Salas, Sean Marshall, John Axford, Mike Adams and Joel Hanrahan.

There you go. As of right now, those are your All Stars and this is the Fan's official BBA ballot.

Game Picks - Monday: June 13, 2011

"So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth." Whenever this picker has a lackluster effort when picking games, that verse always comes to mind. It wasn't a bad day. It wasn't a good day. It was just a barely over .500 day. The day was defined by two pitching performances. One was by Vin Mazzaro for the Royals. This picker wasn't kind to him yesterday. His gem was a crow-eating event here. And Francisco Liriano flirted with another no-hitter. His performance against the Rangers blew that pick out of the water. Ubaldo was terrible. Another bad pick. The Reds couldn't hold down Aubrey Huff, who was just panned in this space two days ago, and ruined another pick. Brian Matusz didn't even make it through the second inning. Bye bye that pick. The Diamondbacks bit the Hand that fed them. Brad Hand that is. And the Mariners scored like nine runs against the Tigers. What!?

Ah well. So the Fan kissed his sister. It's time to move on. Monday features nine games. Not bad for a Monday:

  • The Yankees over the Indians: Picking A. J. Burnett to win is like trying to hit a golf ball through a thicket of trees. One time out of ten, you won't hit a tree. This might be the one. Carlos Carrasco goes for the Indians.
  • The Mets over the Pirates: Jose Reyes is simply on fire and Mike Pelfrey tries to erase his terrible former start against the Pirates. Paul Maholm hasn't been that bad this year most of the time. But he gets little run support.
  • The Bay Rays over the Tigers: Young Alex Cobb needs to keep getting his curveball over the plate like he did against the Angels. If he does, he should be better than Phil Coke for the Tigers, who blow yet another chance to overtake the Indians.
  • The Marlins over the Diamondbacks: Ricky Nolasco needs to come up big to help the struggling Marlins. He is helped by another start by Zach Duke for the D-backs.
  • The Braves over the Astros: Derek Lowe was good last time out after a couple of stinky outings. He faces Wandy Rodriguez, just off the DL. Never like to pick pitchers just coming off the DL.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: The Brewers are in first place? Yup, they are. Randy Wolf has pitched well lately with nothing to show for it. Ryan Dempster was very good his last time out. But this is the Cubs we are talking about.
  • The Padres over the Rockies: Can a Triple A pitcher be better in Coors Field than Aaron Cook? Sure. Why not? Anthony Bass gets the low timbre win.
  • The Mariners over the Angels: It's hard to pick against Dan Haran. But the Angels have so little going on lately and the Mariners have a spunky team despite their lack of offense. Jason Vargas has to pitch well though.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Dodgers over the Reds: Hiroki Kuroda will come up big against the Reds at home. Bronson Arroyo has to face the red hot Matt Kemp.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 8-7
Month: 93-73
Season: 536-440
Games of the Day: 45-29

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Fan's Realignment Plan

Buster Olney over at reported yesterday that MLB and the players union are discussing moving a National League team over to the American League to even out the two leagues to 15 teams each. This Fan has maintained for quite a while that realignment is overdue. Two other proposals talked about in Olney's report were that Houston might be that NL team and that there is consideration for the abandonment of the division format. Boy, that gives us a lot to talk about.

Let's get the easy one out of the way. No divisions would be a huge mistake. While baseball did play with two ten team leagues for many years, fifteen teams in one big blob just seems unseemly. Plus, this Fan (and probably other fans) likes having three division races to cover all the time. It's more exciting than just having one big blob of a league and taking the top five teams for the playoffs. While that would ensure the best five teams in each league getting to the playoffs (based on record, not division), what you would lose outweighs what you would gain. Though this issue seems the easiest to dismiss, the Fan wouldn't be surprised he gets plenty of counter-arguments on this one alone. Perhaps a more balanced schedule would be created by this idea and that would be one of the arguments to be sure. But an extra wild card round already takes care of a lot of those concerns about good teams getting screwed by the current system.

The other sticking point for this Fan is the idea of the Astros joining the American League. The problem here is that one of the current inequities of the current divisions as they stand now is having the Texas Rangers in the American League West. While the AL West needs to have four teams, the travel this gives the Rangers is difficult. Plus, it would make more sense to choose a team like the Diamondbacks, who are one of the newest teams in baseball to make the switch than a team with a tradition that goes back to the early 1960s.

And so, the Fan's plan is very simple. Only two teams get moved. The Texas Rangers join the AL Central and the Arizona Diamondbacks move to the AL West. Sure, that gives the AL West a lot of teams, but that's already the case with the NL West. Why would the Astros need to have more competition with the Rangers as Olney suggests? The Yankees don't need to compete with the Mets do they? This "excitement" is already covered in the interleague games.

Perhaps this Fan is among the few who enjoys the current division format. You have the potential for six division races that still mean something. With the Fan's plan, you have the smallest amount of disruption to the current system, fix an inequity for the Rangers and still keep a western team where it belongs. Makes sense here. Arguments are welcome though.

**Update: One further thought: Except for two days a week, every team plays games. If you have two odd numbered divisions, wouldn't that create an interleague situation for every one of those other five days a week?

Game Picks - Sunday: June 12, 2011

Saturday wasn't as great a day as Friday, but it was good enough to finish out the week on a positive note. Considering the week's early losing streak, this picker will take eleven picks over .500 for the week. And there were bright spots like continuing to stick with Dillon Gee and picking the Tigers over Michael Pineda and the Mariners. But there was also the matter of picking against the Red Sox. How did that turn out? heh. Picking John Lannon and the Nationals was good. Picking Zack Greinke, Ian Kennedy and Cliff Lee all worked out while picking the Athletics, Rockies and Rangers wasn't very good. Wherefore art thou, Colby Lewis?

Sunday starts a new week and a clean slate and all of those fresh start cliches. Sunday's picks:

  • The Yankees over the Indians: Freddie Garcia was terrible against the Red Sox. But the Indians aren't the Red Sox. And the Yankees should get to Josh Tomlin.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: Let's put it this way: Say Felix Hernandez has a 3.18 ERA at Comerica. Those three runs is still more than the Mariners will score against Rick Porcello. Right?
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Not making the mistake of picking against the Red Sox again. Jon Lester over Kyle Drabek. The Red Sox will wait out Drabek, who isn't throwing enough strikes.
  • The Marlins over the Diamondbacks: If Brad Hand can be as good as his first start AND the Marlins can score some runs for him this time (off Daniel Hudson, a tough pitcher), the Marlins will win.
  • The Phillies over the Cubs: Roy Oswalt hasn't been great, but he'll be better than Doug Davis.
  • The Mets over the Pirates: Chris Capuano has been the best Mets' pitcher this side of Dillon Gee. The Mets score enough off of Kevin Correia, despite the good season he's having.
  • The Orioles over the Bay Rays: Been saying all along that Wade Davis isn't right. The Orioles will get to him while Brian Matusz holds down the Bay Rays weak offense.
  • The White Sox over the Athletics: With all due respect to Guillermo Moscoso, Philip Humber should have an easier time holding the score down enough for his team to win.
  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: Shaun Marcum has been talking about his lack of feel but he's still pitching very well. The Brewers will get to Jake Westbrook who they are more familiar with than the Cardinals are with Marcum.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: The Twins aren't rolling over any more, but the Rangers have the advantage with Matt Harrison's left arm over Francisco Liriano.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: Rubby de la Rosa can't keep walking people and getting away with it. Ubaldo Jiminez with the win at home.
  • The Angels over the Royals: This picker simply can't pick a team that starts Vin Mazzaro. Tyler Chatwood with the win.
  • The Nationals over the Padres: What a nice story Jordan Zimmermann is turning into. The story continues against Tim Stauffer, who has been pretty good himself. Anthony Rizzo is off to a nice career start, eh?
  • The Reds over the Giants: Counting on Edinson Volquez can give you gray hair. But that the Fan has already. The Reds score enough off of Jonathan Sanchez to get the win.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Braves over the Astros: This is scary. All these picks feel really good. That's very scary. Tommy Hanson should have no trouble beating Brett Myers and the Astros.

Yesterday: 9-6
Last Week: 55-44
Month: 85-66
Season: 528-433
Games of the Day: 44-29