Saturday, September 10, 2011

Braves' Bullpen Wearing Down?

Last night in a Twitter conversation with Mark L. Smith of The Platoon Advantage, the state of the Atlanta Braves' bullpen was discussed. Jonny Venters gave up a bunch of base runners and then Craig Kimbrel blew the save and gave up two runs after a long, long perfect stretch of spectacular appearances. Sure, it could be the law of averages catching up on them. Or it could be a bunch of "BABIP" hits. But there is a definite possibility that the Braves' bullpen is tired and with young pitchers, that's not what you want heading into the post season (if the Braves hang on to the wild card, that is).

The Braves currently rank third in all of baseball in reliever appearances behind only the Marlins and the Pirates. Kimbrel, in his rookie season, has pitched seventy-two times. Darn near all of those appearances were in high leverage situations. He is ninth in the majors among relievers in WPA. Number one on that list is Jonny Venters, himself only in his second season. Being that high on the WPA list means that Venters has been in even more high leverage situations than Kimbrel. Venters has made seventy-seven appearances good for 80.2 innings of work. Don't get this writer wrong, they have both been brilliant this season. But when you have such a good thing going in a bullpen, the danger is over using it.

Eric O'Flaherty has made seventy appearances with slightly less innings pitched than appearances. But still, each appearance means warming up and throwing a lot of baseballs. Scott Linebrink has "only" fifty-eight appearances, but consider that he had forty-one appearances in the first half alone and he is a pitcher ripe for breaking down. George Sherrill has fifty-one appearances.

To see if we can show any evidence of wear and tear on this fabulous bunch of relievers, this writer consulted Fangraphs' wonderful Velocity Charts on four of the key relievers. This writer believes you can see a drop in velocity over the last few appearances for each of the four. First up is Kimbrel's:
Next Venters which shows a significant drop:
And finally Linebrink whose velocity has really gone down of late:
From the looks of things, these guys need a rest. As Mark mentioned in his final tweet on the subject last night, the Braves better clinch the wild card soon and then rest these guys. Venters in particular seems to be the one in most need of some shutdown time. The last thing you want is a bunch of dead arms going into the playoffs. Beachy, Minor, Hudson and the rest of the rotation could help by going deeper into games.

Game Picks - Saturday: September 10, 2011

Yesterday's picks started like Blake Bleaven. Bleaven gave up a homer and a triple to start his outing and was down in the score 0-2 to start his night. But he settled down just like the picks did and had himself a good day and got the win. This picker had plenty of wins in the end too. The Cardinals had to beat Kimbrel in the ninth to bring that pick around. What were the odds of that? But it happened. The Angels beat the Yankees despite a good outing for Shrek...umm...Bartolo Colon. The Bay Rays beat the Red Sox as predicted. Clayton Kershaw did indeed out duel Tim Lincecum in a game that featured only ten combined hits and not a single extra base hit. The Diamondbacks won again. The Phillies beat the Brewers again. So yes, it was a good night of picks.

Let's see what Saturday brings us:

  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Wow. A tough one right out of the gate. Henderson Alvarez has looked good for the Blue Jays in his young career. Rick VandenHurk makes his first start of the year for the Orioles. hmm...
  • The Mets over the Cubs:  Randy Wells has pitched nicely in the second half and has turned his season around. But Chris Capuano has a very good career record against the Cubs and the Mets have their offense going a bit.
  • The Reds over the Rockies: Alex White is giving up at least four runs in every start. That should counter whatever Bronson Arroyo does. The Reds win this one even if it is high scoring.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Fausto Carmona isn't fooling anyone these days. Phil Humber was very good in his last start, albeit against the Twins.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: The biggest question is whether the Tigers will lose again this year. Max Scherzer over Anthony Swarzak. 
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Alexi Ogando has been questionable lately and the Rangers need a big game from him with the Angels breathing down their necks. Trevor Cahill has pitched well against the Rangers this year but is only 2-2 to show for it.
  • The Marlins over the Pirates: Jeff Locke makes his major league debut for the Pirates. Never take that pick. It's just a rule of the place. Anibal Sanchez pitches for the Fish.
  • The Astros over the Nationals: Going with Wandy Rodriguez and the Astros over John Lannon. Imagine.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: This start by Kyle Weiland is one of the reasons for the angst going on in New England right now. Jeremy Hellickson is quietly having a very good second half.
  • The Cardinals over the Braves: Oh yeah, NOW the Cardinals make their run. The Braves' bullpen is gassed. Jaime Garcia over Derek Lowe.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Rollin' rollin' rollin' the D-backs keep on rolling. Wade Miley has another good game over Tim Stauffer.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Dana Eveland pitched so well last time out that the Dodgers are going to let him pitch again. The Giants simply can't hit and even Ryan Vogelsong can't keep this team in tune.
  • The Yankees over the Angels: C.C. Sabathia wins his 20th and Dan Haren is the hard luck loser. Low scoring game again.
  • The Mariners over the Royals: Felipe Paulino can't seem to win a game despite having really good stuff. Michael Pineda has had plenty of rest and should look good.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Brewers: Cliff Lee versus Randy Wolf? Please. No chance for the Brewers.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 50-34
Month: 71-44
Season: 1203-954
Games of the Day: 101-57

Friday, September 09, 2011

Why Doesn't This Happen More Often?

In a wonderful post over It's Always Sunny In Detroit that was tipped off by another post over at Big League Stew, we got to hear about and see the replay of Jeff Francoeur throwing out a runner at first base on what appeared to be a single to right field. According to the post, it's only the fifth time this has happened in the American League since 1974. Why?

It happens more often in the National League because pitchers are often thrown out on such plays since the right fielder will often play so shallow against pitchers. It just seems to this observer that such a play should happen more often. This Fan watches a LOT of baseball on the television. And a batter busting down the line on a base hit doesn't happen very often. Robinson Cano hits a single and jogs to first. He's not alone. In this particular case, the runner was busting it down the line and still got thrown out, but this batter was not the norm.

So again, why doesn't it happen more often? Perhaps it is because outfielders often don't hustle any more than batters do. Perhaps the fielder doesn't want to show up an established player (would Francoeur have done that if Big Papi had hit the single?).

But it does seem like it should happen a lot more than it does. Not only do base runners not hustle, but many, like catchers and the Adam Dunns of the world, simply cannot run that fast. Hats off to Francoeur. It was a fun play and you don't see it happen very often.

Why Can't Ian Kennedy Win the Cy Young Award?

Uh oh. In a week that has seen writers all over the country converging on this post over at It's About the Money Stupid, it is with fear and trembling that this writer (with far less sabermetric chops than that person) writes this post. But this post is basically in response to a post by David Brown over at Big League Stew that states emphatically that Ian Kennedy has no business being on anyone's list of candidates for the Cy Young Award. Is Brown right?

He makes a good case. Kennedy is not in the top five of pitchers in the National League in fWAR, FIP or xFIP. Brown makes all those cases. Kennedy is not in the top five in ERA. It's only his 19-4 record that sparkles and we all know that wins don't mean anything (only a small tongue in that cheek). And certainly, recent Cy Young Awards have been given to pitchers who scored the highest in WAR in a trend for the last few years. Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke won in the American League despite the huge numbers of wins found in that award in the past. This writer has supported those award picks for the reasons stated. But there is an uneasiness.

Oh please, this isn't an attach on WAR nor a desire to cash in on the publicity that surrounds that statistic in recent days. Though in retrospect and in frankness, the heading of this post could be a clarion call for readers. Who knows. But in all honesty, this is more about this writer's man-crush on Ian Kennedy. Are there any flaws in David Brown's argument? Is there any case for Ian Kennedy at all? Maybe.

One of the old school arguments in last year's Cy Young Award discussion was that not only did C.C. Sabathia have more wins last year than Felix Hernadez, he pitched in a tougher division with tougher offenses than King Felix did. Wins probability added or WPA lends a little credence to that old school thinking. Sabathia finished last season with a WPA of 3.88 to Felix Hernandez's 3.80 and Sabathia had a clutch index of 1.41 compared to Hernandez's -0.27 (all numbers from Of course there are some flaws to this argument because the Yankees were the much better team. But in the long run, a case can be made by these numbers that Sabathia's total body of work was more meaningful to the Yankees than Hernandez's were to the Mariners.

So to bring this around to Ian Kennedy, we can also look at WPA and clutch numbers and see where he stacks up. While Kennedy's WAR of 4.2 lags far behind those of Halladay, Kershaw and Lee and also trails Cain, Bumgarner, Hamels, Garza and his own teammate, Daniel Hudson, Kennedy does lead all pitchers in baseball in WPA. His stands at 4.81 compared to Cole Hamels at 4.65, Cliff Lee at 3.90 and Roy Halladay at 3.70. And Kennedy's clutch number stands at 1.11 compared to Hamels' at 0.59, Lee at 0.51 and Halladay at -0.30.

To be fair, Kennedy has made 30 starts compared to Hamels, Lee and Halladay with 28 a piece. But is that a detraction to Kennedy that he has succeeded in more starts? Debatable.

This writer isn't smart enough to know if this means anything. It could be simply a futile attempt to at least get Ian Kennedy into the Cy Young Award discussion. Kennedy will not win the Cy Young Award. This writer is smart enough to know that. And perhaps WAR, FIP and xFIP are the proper tools to measure a pitcher's season. But what the heck, right? Can't hurt to throw something out there with a smile.

Hoping Ichiro Doesn't Make it to 200

Robbie Knopf over at isportsweb made an excellent argument that Ichiro Suzuki's off season is not due to age but due to luck. And while Knopf does an excellent job at using BABIP on ground balls and line drives to show that Ichiro is simply unlucky this season, this writer isn't quite convinced. What we need here to prove Knopf's case is a statistic that measures the MPH a ball comes off a batter's bat to see a little more what kind of contact a batter is making. Line drives are not created equal. Even if Knopf is correct, the Fan still hopes Ichiro does not make it to 200 hits.

That seems mean-spirited, doesn't it? The chase is compelling because Suzuki has done it for ten straight seasons. And he has an outside chance at doing it for the eleventh. With twenty games left on the Mariners' schedule, Ichiro needs 37 hits. Why would any writer want to deny a player from making that kind of mark for the eleventh straight season? Why indeed. It's certainly not because this writer hates Ichiro Suzuki. On the contrary, it's been a joy to watch him play for all these years. No, the real reason is for Ichiro's sake.

Say he does make it to 200 hits with a flurry at the end. The flurry would lift his final batting average to around .280 and his OPS to perhaps .650. And that's the problem. If Ichiro does indeed make it with said flurry, his numbers will still be lackluster. Wouldn't that cheapen his accomplishments to date? Here's what the Fan means by that. The run of seasons that Ichiro has reached the 200 milestone has been amazing. It's one of the coolest runs by a player in history. But it comes with its share of detractors. Critics have said that he should have taken more walks and hit less singles and he would have been a more valuable player. But you could always counter those arguments by pointing to the 200 hits for ten straight seasons and the .331 lifetime batting average (not to mention the 52 fWAR compiled in those ten years).

If Ichiro finishes with 200 hits or more, then defenders of Ichiro would lose the one bullet in their guns as the 200 hits would look cheap in light of his OPS and overall season. "See?" the critics would say, "Anyone could make it to 200 hits if they played every game and slapped the ball around enough." The truth of the streak isn't the 200 hits each season. The real truth is that he's averaged 225 hits a season. That should be the compelling part of the story. But since we western civilization humans enjoy our round numbers, it's the 200 that stands in our minds. If you took away that proclivity we humans have for those round numbers, the 225 hit average is the thing to celebrate. 

If Ichiro Suzuki gets to 200 hits with a .650 OPS, then you lose some luster on what has been one of the most amazing batting feats in the history of baseball. It would cheapen it. It would be much better to leave the streak behind at ten so that those ten years could stand the adoration test. This writer, for one, hopes he doesn't make it--not because this writer wants to deny a player a milestone, but because those first ten seasons need to be appreciated for years to come.

Game Picks - Friday: September 9, 2011

This picker was giddier than a school girl last night after watching Ian Kennedy mow down the Padres. What a season! There are just players in this game you root for and for this picker, one of them is Ian Kennedy. The man-crush knows no bounds. And it was perfect that his win for the Diamondbacks last night pushed the Game of the Day feature here to the one-hundred correct mark. Way to go, Mr. Kennedy. And while some may attempt to cheapen Kennedy's outing by saying it was against the Padres, well, the Padres have beaten Tim Lincecum this season and Matt Cain twice. But they didn't beat Ian Kennedy.

In other games, both of the leaders in the AL East lost. The Yankees had Ivan Nova on the mound and he left with the lead. But Rafael Soriano blew it and then Scott Proctor lost it. Scott Proctor? Why would anyone think that picking him up was a good idea? The Red Sox were simply out-played for a game by the Blue Jays. This picker had the Yankees and the Blue Jays, so that's a wash.

Two other incorrect picks included the Royals, who couldn't score off of Jason Vargas last night. The other is a bit controversial in this picker's mind. The Dodgers and Nats were supposed to play two games. This picker picked each separately. But since it was apparent that only one game would get in the books, the pitching lines were crossed. So the pitcher this picker thought would lose the second game pitched in the first game. Kind of unfair. But the only honest solution was to take it as an incorrect pick. No biggie.

And off we go to Friday and back to a full slate of games:

  • The Marlin over the Pirates: The Marlins struggle offensively, so it's hard to make this pick. And Ricky Nolasco is inconsistent. But Ross Ohlendorf has gone 1-11 for the Pirates since the start of 2010. He hasn't fared well in his four games back from his lengthy DL stint this year.
  • The Astros over the Nationals: Another tough game to pick. Bud Norris has had a solid season but the Astros don't score. Tom Milone hit a home run with his bat but didn't pitch all that well in his first big league start.
  • The Twins over the Tigers: Kevin Slowey has actually pitched well in his last two starts and though he is 0-4, he's a decent hedge over Brad Penny who hasn't won at home since the middle of July.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: The Orioles have to be gassed after this week. But Jeremy Guthrie is so unpredictable. He can look brilliant in any given start. Brett Cecil is homer prone but not a bad pitcher for the Blue Jays. Blue Jays at home.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: Don't like the Wade Davis match up against the Red Sox line up. But like the John Lackey match up even less.
  • The Mets over the Cubs: Yuck. This game features Mike Pelfrey who has had bats in his Pelfrey most of the season, against Casey Coleman and his above six ERA. Coleman was good in his last outing though so we'll go with the Mets. Whuh?
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: There sure is a lot to consider in this one. Brandon McCarthy has been terrific of late but has struggled historically against the Rangers. Colby Lewis has been really brutal lately and has a terrible home/road split with home being awful (and he's at home today). But Lewis has a perfect record against the A's. The head is spinning.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Just when this picker starts to fete Mark Buehrle's season, it starts to go downhill. Nice. And Jeanmar Gomez has won his last two starts. But just can't imagine the White Sox losing this game.
  • The Phillies over the Brewers: Conflicted over this game. Shaun Marcum was great in his last outing and Roy Halladay has looked...well...almost human lately. Halladay's fastball and two-seam fastball have been down just a tick in velocity. Is that making a difference? But again, just can't imagine the Phillies losing this game.
  • The Cardinals over the Braves: Edwin Jackson is enough to make anyone need some Excedrin when he pitches. But he's good more often than he's not. Randall Delgado  is the puzzle in this pick. He needs to get ahead in the count to use his excellent change up.
  • The Rockies over the Reds: This could be a high scoring game as Jhoulys Chacin might be weakened by his recent fever and tonsil inflammation. Homer Bailey, meanwhile, can't put batters away and has to pitch in Coors.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Good match up of Matt Latos against Daniel Hudson. The Diamondbacks should keep rolling though.
  • The Mariners over the Royals: Jeff Francis might be a tough match up for the Mariners, but Blake Beavan has been pretty tight for them and will keep the M's in the game long enough for the Mariners to take this one.
  • The Dodgers over the Giants: Clayton Kershaw versus Tim Lincecum in a big time match up. The Dodgers have the better offense, so going that way.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Angels over the Yankees: The Yankees have played extra innings for two games in a row and lost them both. Then they had to fly to the West Coast and face the Angels' best pitcher in Jared Weaver. Bartolo Colon pitches for the Yankees. If Colon doesn't last six innings, this could get ugly.

Yesterday: 6-3
Week: 40-29
Month; 61-49
Season: 1193-949
Games of the Day: 100-57

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Steve Slowinski Blows Fan Out of the Water

Steve Slowinski sucks. And that's said in the nicest way possible. Not only does he front the great DRaysBay which makes it nearly impossible to hate a team this Fan is determined to hate, but now he writes a piece over on Fangraphs that wobbles the already shaky footing this writer has in the new world of sabermetric thinking. The topic is the Most Valuable Player and Mr. Slowinski (who truth be told, is one of the nicest smart guys in the world) writes a definitive piece on why the MVP should not go to a player on a losing team. Darned if the thing didn't make a lot of sense.

After years of slowly mucking his way out of the ooze of old world thinking, this writer came to the conclusion that players with the highest value of performance should win the MVP Award. It shouldn't matter that the players team loses more games than they win. Valuable means valuable so therefore, the MVP should go to the most valuable player. This year, that player in the American League has been Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays. But the Blue Jays this season have collected more draft picks and prospects than they have wins. The crux of Slowinski's cannonade:
The win curve essentially states that all wins aren’t created equal. It makes little difference to the Orioles this season if they finish with 74 wins or 76 wins*, while a two-game difference can have much more importance for a team on the cusp of making the playoffs. Teams keep this concept in mind when making personnel decisions, paying more for the players that will help put them over the top and into the playoffs. There’s lots of money to be made in the playoffs, so if you’re close, it makes sense to give up more for a chance at those elusive wins. 
*This reminds of the old anecdote about Ralph Kiner. After having an All-Star year with the Pirates, he went to GM Branch Rickey and asked for a raise on his salary. Rickey’s response was short and unequivocal: “We finished last with you, we can finish last without you. 
But can’t this same concept be applied toward the MVP Award? If a team fails to sniff the playoffs — or, similarly, makes the playoffs by a mile – doesn’t that make standout performances on their club “less valuable”, as little would have changed if that player hadn’t been on the club? And if a team is clawing tooth and nail for a playoff spot, wouldn’t performances by their stars take on an even greater significance?

Thanks, Steve. Now that makes sense but then how come the Cy Young Award can go to a guy who pitches on a bad team? Just when this writer thinks that he's on more solid intellectual footing, these guys throw marbles all over the floor. The problem, as Slowinski defines it is that the MVP does not define what the "Valuable" part is supposed to be. The Cy Young Award is easy because it's supposed to go for the best pitcher. And defining the best pitcher is easier since you can simply look at valuation statistics. But valuation statistics, in Slowinski's view does not a MVP candidate make. The great use of the Branch Rickey line makes a lot of sense here. 
But let's look at it another way. Let's say Justin Upton finishes with a WAR of 7.2 or something. And say the Diamondbacks finish ten games ahead of the Giants. Wouldn't they have won with or without Justin Upton? Isn't that the same argument? So now this writer is confused again. Without Upton's 7.2 wins above replacement, the Diamondbacks (in theory) would have still won the division by two and a half games? Does this thinking disallow Ryan Braun from any consideration if the Brewers finish ten or eleven games above the others?
The MVP's name is the quandary. If it was simply called, "The Player of the Year." then it would be simple. Well, the Sporting News does have a Player of the Year, but does anyone pay attention to that anymore? The MVP is the award sanctioned by Major League Baseball and thus it is the big deal. 
So after batting this around awhile, the Fan is going to come full circle and state that the MVP should go to the most valuable player with value being the defining emphasis. Sorry, Steve, going to disagree with you in the end because to make sense of your brilliant argument, only players on teams that just barely contend or barely win their divisions can qualify.

BBA Link Fest - Eclectic is Good

The general chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance has a ton of terrific writers. This is a weekly post featured every Thursday of some of their favorite work in the past week:

Charles Simone's Teach Your Children at his Left Field site gives us the top five rules of fandom. You mean that fake to third, fake to first pick off move isn't deception? Heh.

Over at Dugout 24, Jim Thome's 600 homers are celebrated in high style. Isn't it cool in this new world that with a click of a button, a web browser can translate any language into English? How cool indeed.

In a recent Call to the Pen piece, Blake Blontz covers the sad story of a greedy employee of the San Francisco Giants. What a world we live in.

Bryan over at the Replacement Level Baseball Blog explains why Ian Kennedy is having a great season but is not a Cy Young Award candidate. The line about Tim McCarver getting too many Bob Gibson fastballs off his mask is a killer line.

Theo over at Hot Corner Harbor offers us a rerun. But in case you missed it before, it's a terrific piece and unlike another NCIS rerun, this one is worth catching on some thoughts about the Hall of Fame.

Jed Rigney has a rollicking piece over on Through the Fence Baseball that ranges from Hollywood parties, kids' birthday parties and why the Yankees and Braves could collapse. Real fun read.

This week, The Baseblawg celebrates a milestone for broadcaster, Suzyn Waldmen. Didn't know she acted on Broadway too!

Old Time Family Baseball has a fun thought on the Astros' scouting bias. You'll be intrigued initially.

Over at the must follow MLB Reports, James Lamb has a terrific guest piece on being a baseball parent. If you have children, don't miss this one.

The under-appreciated Jonathan Mitchell writes about the under appreciated Ryan Braun over at MLB Dirt.

The Baseball Index shows how A.J. Burnett is closing in on a dubious record. Indeed.

Over at Michael Holloway's Baseball Blog, he writes a great piece on the Moneyball movie and the revolution that spawned it.

The Hall of Very Good provides us with a great post on Dale Murphy talking about Chipper Jones.

And if you missed a link from @diamondhoggers this week, it's because the writer is on honeymoon this week! Congrats.

Game Picks - Thursday: September 8, 2011

A late inning rally by the Angels gave Jerome Williams a spotless 3-0 record and at least helped this picker reach the .500 mark for the day. It wasn't easy. The Yankees, Red Sox and Giants all lost. The Twins surprised with a win. The Braves couldn't take any of their games with the Phillies. And just when you think it is safe to get back in Royals enthusiasm, they tank again. 

The Yankees game with the Orioles was particularly frustrating. If you are going to rest your regulars, rest your regulars. Instead, Girardi decides he wants to win the game so he puts the regulars back in there in the middle innings just to see the game go into extra innings. Now what rest did they get? Right. None. They have almost no off days in September and rest was the right call. Task blown.

There are ten games on Thursday's schedule including four of them coming in double-headers. Here are the picks:

  • The Dodgers over the Nationals: The washed out match up of yesterday should still see a Dodgers win behind  young Dana Eveland. Would love to pick Chien-Ming Wang, but logic rules over the heart.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Keep chanting that wins mean nothing as Ivan Nova wins another. Alfredo Simon gets on the wrong side of that equation. This is a make up game in Baltimore from the days of the tropical storm.
  • The Nationals over the Dodgers: In the second game, the prediction here is that Ross Detwiler bounces back from his disastrous last start and the Nationals score enough off of Chad Billingsley to win.
  • The Braves over the Mets: The first game of this double-header features Mike Minor versus Chris Schwinden making his major league debut. Have learned the hard way over the years not to pick pitchers doing that.
  • The Mets over the Braves: Dillon Gee is a safer pick than Julio Teheran. Teheran gets a lot of juice as a young phenom, but hasn't shown much so far in his major league appearances.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: The combination of Ricky Romero's good pitching and the lack of confidence in Andrew Miller leads to this pick for the Blue Jays.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: Have no clue on this game. David (Hassle) Huff is up and down, good and bad on any given day for Cleveland. Gavin Floyd the same thing. Good luck on this one.
  • The Phillies over the Brewers: Cole Hamels is the difference in this one as the Phillies should score often on Chris Narveson. Picking against the Brewers at home is a risk though.
  • The Royals over the Mariners: Is Luke Hochevar starting to put it together? Or is that asking too much? The Mariners were one-hit yesterday. Jason Vargas has gotten hammered the entire second half of the season.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Man-crush, Ian Kennedy goes for win number nineteen but faces a tough customer in Cory Luebke. The difference in the offense of the two teams sways the pick easily.

Yesterday: 7-7
Week: 34-26
Month: 55-46
Season: 1187-946
Games of the Day: 99-57

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Game Picks - Wednesday: September 7, 2011

Today's picks post has to begin with a tip of the cap and an apology to Danny Duffy. He won his last start of the year (they are shutting him down due to innings pitched). This picker picked against him yesterday and wasn't very kind in the process. Good on you, Mr. Duffy. There were a few other bad picks. It was sad to see the Diamondbacks' bullpen implode in their game yesterday. The Nationals did not allow any runs while Stephen Strasburg was in the game. Once he left after five innings, the floodgates opened and they lost easily to the Dodgers. The Twins got a great outing from Liam Hendriks but Jake Peavy and the White Sox bullpen were better. And in hindsight, the Braves over the Phillies was probably a bad pick from the start.

But other than those games, it was a good day of picking. This picker still can't believe they started that Yankee - Orioles game at eleven o' the rain. How stupid was that? Best Twitter line of the night was someone who said that the delay was disrespectful to the memory of Mike Flanagan. Speaking of Twitter, it was an interesting day there as many authors from big sites were arguing about a post over on It's About the Money Stupid. Seemed like much ado over nothing. But it's always fun to see famous people argue publicly. 

Anyway, it's about the picks stupid, so get to them! Wednesday:

  • The Tigers over the Indians: Love Justin Masterson, but he faces another Justin named Verlander who is having a monster season. If that Justin does his thing, it's all but over in the AL Central.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: There's going to be some tired players in this one. Expect the Yankees to rest some people. Even so, they seem to enjoy hitting Zach Britton. And A.J. Burnett will have another decent outing to ensure his place on the post season roster so he can get kicked around in the playoffs.
  • The Bay Rays over the Rangers: Two great lefties in Derek Holland and David Price. Going with Price at home.
  • The Royals over the Athletics: The Royals seem to be winning a lot lately. Eric Hosmer is hot at the plate. Bruce Chen somehow manages to fool most hitters for six innings and Guillermo Moscoso is inconsistent. 
  • The Mets over the Marlins: In a rather funny tweet last night, someone said that he hopes the Marlins win this game so the headline can read, "Hand beats Dickey." But R.A. Dickey will win the game and Brad Hand will be handed the loss.
  • The Giants over the Padres: Carlos Beltran is hitting like crazy which changes things for the Giants. Matt Cain over Aaron Harang.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: This is the Braves' best chance for a win this series as Brandon Beachy could out pitch Roy Oswalt.
  • The Astros over the Pirates: Yes. Again. Made fun J.A. Happ last time and it blew up in this picker's face. He has been pitching well since returning from the minors. Brian Burres goes for the Pirates.
  • The Dodgers over the Nationals: Dana Eveland has been impressive. Would love to pick Chien-Ming Wang, but can't logically.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Tim Wakefield again goes for 200 wins. Brandon Morrow won't throw enough strikes to stay in the game long enough to win.
  • The Cubs over the Reds: Ryan Dempster is a different pitcher at home. A little worried about his high pitch count in his last start though. Johnny Cueto was roughed up in his last outing. Running out of gas?
  • The White Sox over the Twins: This picker can't seriously keep picking the Twins the way they are playing. It's stupid. John Danks over Carl Pavano.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Chris Carpenter will be better in this outing at home. The Cards will score enough off Zack Greinke to win.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: This one could be a high scoring affair with Joe Saunders facing Kevin Millwood at Coors Field.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Angels over the Mariners: Charlie Furbush isn't as good on the road as he is at home. Jerome Williams is one of the feel good stories of the year.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 27-19
Month: 48-39
Season: 1180-939
Games of the Day: 98-57

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

14 Phun Phacts of Cliff Lee's 2011 Season

Ranger and Yankee fans have to be gnashing their teeth at the way that Cliff Lee is pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies. Lee pitched his sixth shutout of the season in shutting down the Atlanta Braves on Labor Day. Ironically, in this game, he never labored at all. Contrast his outing to the normal Josh Beckett outing and Cliff Lee doesn't have to stand on the mound and hold the ball for a minute between pitches. The game was over in two hours and twenty-four minutes. In honor of Lee's game and for his season, here are some phun phacts about Lee's season. Apologies in advance to Phillies' fans for stealing their "PH."
  1. In Cliff Lee's sixteen wins, he's given up fourteen runs with a WHIP of 0.790.
  2. Cliff Lee went 5-0 in June with an ERA of 0.21 and then went 5-0 in August with an ERA of 0.45. He made ten starts in those two months and won them all while giving up only three total runs.
  3. Lee's six shutouts this season is the most since Randy Johnson had six shutouts in 1998. 
  4. Lee's six shutouts this season is more than the career totals of Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander (two no-hitters) and Tim Lincecum. 
  5. The third position in the batting order is usually a team's best hitter. But this year, Cliff Lee has held that batting order position to an OPS of .616 and has a strikeout to walk ratio of 13.00.
  6. Cliff Lee has faced 783 batters this season and has reached a 3-0 count on only 22 of them (2.8 percent). Twelve of those batters walked but only one of them scored and none of them got a hit.
  7. All non-pitchers that have had plate appearances against Cliff Lee have a combined OPS of .640. In other words, the entire non-pitchers he has faced have been Adam Dunn.
  8. Cliff Lee's average fastball speed of 91.6 MPH is the highest average of his career.
  9. His swinging strike percentage is his highest since 2003.
  10. Lee doesn't have one pitch type in negative values. In other words, every pitch he throws is effective.
  11. Lee has reached 200 strikeouts this year for the first time in his career.
  12. Cliff Lee hasn't needed to intentionally walk anybody this season.
  13. Lee hasn't thrown a single wild pitch all season.
  14. And here is the personal favorite: Cliff Lee has a positive WAR this season as a batter and his .339 slugging percentage as a batter is higher than the slugging percentage of all the batters he's faced this season: .337.

Game Picks - Tuesday: September 6, 2011

Well, that's better! Labor Day was certainly an improvement over the previous two days. The week and the month are back in the black and despite the constant rain, things are much rosier this morning. Some of the picks did have problems. Boston's loss to the Blue Jays was unexpected. It was predicted that the White Sox and Twins would split their double-header, but the White Sox swept it. The Nationals beat up on Kuroda and that wasn't foreseen. And dang those wacky Cardinals. They mess this picker up every day. The slug-fest was predicted at Yankee Stadium, but at least that pick lucked out.

With a clear head and a rosier outlook on life, here are Tuesday's picks:

  • The Braves over the Phillies: The law of averages says that Vance Worley has to lose some time. It might as well be Tim Hudson who has already beaten the Phillies once this year. Hudson will have to be mighty good though.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Tommy Hunter was a nice pick up by the Orioles but the Yankees are tough at home. Phil Hughes will have to pitch better than his last two outings.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: The Tigers can smell it. You can tell. Rick Porcello has been creamed by the Indians this year. So it's time for some payback. Fausto Carmona goes for the Indians.
  • The Astros over the Pirates: Brett Myers finally gets a win at the expense of Brad Lincoln and the Pirates.
  • The Nationals over the Dodgers: Ted Lilly faces a meat of a line up that is all right-handed. And Morse, Werth and Zimmerman are hammering the ball. That bodes well for the debut of Stephen Strasburg. Heard rain was in their forecast though.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: At least the Sox can count on Jon Lester. He should beat the Blue Jays who start Luis Perez, who is pitching pretty well.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: The Mets pitch the 40 year old, Miguel Bautista. What the heck, he won last time. Chris Volstad hasn't won many this year.
  • The Rangers over the Bay Rays: C.J. Wilson was cruising in his last start against these same Bay Rays last week when he hurt his index finger. Meanwhile, the Rangers got to Jeff Niemann. Will history repeat itself? The Rangers need the win.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: This picker will take Mike Leake over Rodrigo Lopez pretty much every time.
  • The Twins over the White Sox: Liam Hendriks is the perfect Twins-type pitcher. He never walks anyone and he'll strikeout a few guys along the way. If he carries that into the majors, he'll have a chance to succeed. He's avoided the long ball in the minors too. Jake Peavy starts for the White Sox.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Oh heck, why not. The Cards always seem to pound Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse has had a solid season.
  • The Athletics over the Royals: Let's see...Danny Duffy is on a 150 inning limit this season. He's pitched 141 total innings. So he can make three more starts if he stinks in all of them, right? Gio Gonzalez is a good pitcher...sometimes.
  • The Mariners over the Angels: Felix Hernandez will need to throw another great game at the Angels to win like he did last time. Ervin Santana won't give up much either.
  • The Giants over the Padres: Eric Surkamp has been impressive both in the majors and in the minors. Wade LeBlanc will hold the Giants down (everybody does that), but will take the tough loss.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Josh Collmenter seems back on track. Jason Hammel has never even seen the track this season.

Yesterday: 11-5
Week: 17-14
Month: 38-34
Season: 1170-934
Games of the Day: 98-56

Monday, September 05, 2011

Does 2,500 Strikeouts Mean Anything?

Javier Vazquez could be a lightening rod case for the wins versus the analyst crowd. The well-traveled pitcher has--after fourteen seasons--a perfect .500 record at 160-160. His ERA+ for his career stands at 104, just barely over average. He's only cracked the Cy Young Award voting once in his career. He's only made one All Star team. And yet Fangraphs rates his career with an impressive 53.6 WAR. Even the stat sites can't agree on his value as his WAR for sits at a substantially lower 37.6. Now Vazquez has become only the thirtieth pitcher in major league history to fan 2,500 batters. What does it all mean? Or does it mean anything?

Vazquez now has more career strikeouts than Don Drysdale, Jack Morris, Jim Kaat, Sudden Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Kevin Brown and Sandy Koufax. There are some pretty good pitchers in that list. But don't we have to put Vazquez in some kind of historical perspective? When Javier Vazquez began his major league career, the average strikeouts per nine innings was 6.41. The strikeout per nine rate has grown to over seven strikeouts per nine innings in the last two years. That may not be that much of a jump since Vazquez started, but it is significant. Not only that, but just five years earlier than when Vazquez started his career, the league's strikeouts per nine had never been over six strikeouts per nine innings. In other words, we are witnessing an unprecedented era of strikeouts in major league baseball. That leads to the overall question of whether strikeouts are over valued in today's analysis? Has this number become akin to 500 homers in a career?

Please know that his writer isn't making a judgement here. The Fan prefers to ask questions and let others answer them. Those people that stick to the old-fashioned notion that a starting pitcher should be valued by his wins could point to the fact that Javier Vazquez has had only seven "winning" seasons out of his fourteen. Mike Mussina (a pretty darn good pitcher in his time) said that a starting pitcher should win half of the games he starts. Mussina did that. Vazquez has won 160 games in 438 starts.

Analysts will argue that a pitcher can't be held accountable for things out of his control and wins are not in the pitcher's control. It's a compelling argument. And the pendulum seems to be swinging in that direction judging by Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke's Cy Young Awards in recent years. Vazquez did pitch for some pretty bad teams in some of those Expos years and certainly this year with the Marlins.

Javier Vazquez's career is much more than his strikeouts or his wins and losses. His strikeout to walk ratio has been terrific in his career. He's shown excellent control over the years. But he's also given up 372 homers or an average of 29 per full season. His 1.2 home runs per nine innings is a very high number. But so are his infield pop ups with a career average of 11.4 percent. 

This writer will let the "wins" versus "value" people duke out what kind of career Javier Vazquez has had.  According to, his career "comps" are Brad Radke, Andy Benes and Livan Hernandez. Those seem about right. If you had to put this writer in a corner and forced him to make a value judgment, the answer would probably be that Vazquez has been a serviceable big league pitcher for a rather long time. He's shown durability and resilience and there isn't too much more you can ask of a pitcher in the long haul. He's only had a couple of sub-par seasons. His strikeouts may be overvalued given the historical data that we have. And his value as a pitcher is probably somewhere in the middle of Fangraphs' lofty WAR total and B-R's somewhat lower number. 

Game Picks - Monday: September 5, 2011

It was a Sunday massacre yesterday as the picks took a beating. The day started 0-4 and only improved slightly along the way. Three aces pitched yesterday and only one of them won (Sabathia). The White Sox pick was the most lopsidedly wrong pick in this picker's history of picking. The confounded Cardinals lost again. The unpredictable Mets won again. The Red Sox effort was Lackeying. The Royals and Twins picks were awful in hindsight. Jeanmar Gomez again made a pick look stupid. Aaron Cook decided to end his dominance of the Padres. Thanks, Aaron. Brutal.

Today's Labor Day picks have to be better because the day, the week and the month are all in the red. Come oooonnn Labor Day. Apparently, baseball players aren't laborers as there are sixteen games on today's schedule!

  • The Yankees over the Orioles: The only chance the Orioles have in this game is to out-slug the New Yorkers as Brian Matusz is 1-7 with an ERA higher than this picker's foot size. Freddie Garcia goes for the Yankees at home.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: The Tigers hath no mercy on contenders. Ubaldo Jimenez is pitching for Cleveland but Doug Fister and his team will prevail. This race is over.
  • The Dodgers over the Nationals: Hiroki Kuroda has won four straight. John Lannon is giving up homers.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: If Josh Beckett keeps the ball in the park, he'll beat Henderson Alvarez, who has looked pretty good so far. But the Red Sox line up eats young pitchers for breakfast.
  • The White Sox and Twins split their double-header. Thank goodness for September call ups or the White Sox wouldn't have anyone to pitch these games. This double dip suddenly seems meaningless.
  • The Cubs over the Reds: Something has to give in this game as the Reds refuse to score for the winless Dontrelle Willis and Matt Garza has yet to beat the Reds in his short NL career.
  • The Bay Rays over the Rangers: James Shields has to be picked in this game. He's just been so good this season. Scott Feldman is the emotional pick for this Fan, but the picker is resisting.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Wade Miley won't be as good in Coors Field as he was in his last outing against the Rockies, but Esmil Rogers should get hit a bit as the D-backs continue to roll.
  • The Athletics over the Royals: The A's have been a hot team and Hideki Matsui is right in the middle of it. Rich Harden should pitch a quality game and the hard-luck Felipe Paulino loses again.
  • The Giants over the Padres: Madison Bumgarner has been terrific lately and Tim Stauffer has suddenly lost the ability to throw strikes. 
  • The Pirates over the Astros: James McDonald lost a heart-breaker to the Astros in his last outing and Henry Sosa has pitched well for the Astros. But the Pirates should win this one.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: This is a reverse pick as the Brewers should win. But since the Cardinals keep doing the opposite of every pick, this picker is trying this strategy in desperation. Randy Wolf versus Jake Westbrook. Cardinals are the home team.
  • The Phillies over the Braves: Derek Lowe will pitch this game like a playoff game. But Cliff Lee won't give up any runs so it won't matter.
  • The Marlins over the Mets: This picker has no feel for this game. Javier Vazquez isn't the pushover he was earlier in the season. And Chris Capuano has had a decent season. So who knows.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Angels over the Mariners: Anthony Vazquez of the Mariners is a "crafty lefty." Translated: He has no real stuff. Dan Haren, on the other hand, has great stuff.

Yesterday: 6-9  ouch
Week: 6-9   unfair that had to be typed twice.
Month: 27-29   hardly impressive in September
Season: 1159-929   at least there's this
Games of the Day: 97-46  and this

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Game Picks - Sunday: September 4, 2011

Yesterday was an eye-opening and deciding day in Major League Baseball. The Diamondbacks made a statement behind young ace, Ian Kennedy. The Tigers staked a larger claim on the AL Central title. Of course, this daily little post doesn't care about any of that. It's more about whether the picks were correct than what team is going to compete for the title or not. The two games listed above are a case in point. Both were important to those two teams and to their fan bases, but for this picker one was correct and the other was incorrect. Which is a darn good reason why this daily exercise isn't about money or betting. This writer understands that some of you who drop by here every day are among those who bet on baseball. This isn't a judgement against you. What you do with your money (legally) is up to you. It's just that the author of these picks doesn't ever want being correct to be more important than the beauty that is daily baseball.

Was there any point in that paragraph? Sheesh. Perhaps this picker got up too early this morning. The nine correct picks capped off a very good week of picking and even got this young month back into the black. The only bad taste of the whole thing was the Game of the Day pick going down in flames from an impressive uprising of the Florida Marlins over David Herndon and the Phillies. The Marlins hit three homers in the bottom of the eighth off of Herndon to win the game. 

Oh yes, and speaking of the Game of the Day, a comment yesterday indicated that this picker is a giant rube for picking the Phillies - Marlins game as the Game of the Day. The person who left the comment doesn't understand the concept, so obviously it needs clarification. The Game of the Day isn't about the most meaningful game or the most exciting. The Game of the Day is the pick this picker feels the most confident about in its selection.

Okay, enough rambling. Time for Sunday's picks:

  • The Phillies over the Marlins: Roy Halladay was tight-fisted in the hitter's park in Cincinnati. How, then, will he do in the pitcher's park in Florida? Yes, exactly. Anibal Sanchez is the poor soul who has to keep up with him.
  • The Dodgers over the Braves: Hmm...three picks, three aces. Clayton Kershaw goes for his eighteenth win and has been on a tear. He is faced by Randall Delgado. Randall Delgado!?
  • The Nationals over the Mets: A lot going on in this game. First, Ryan Zimmerman is on fire. Second, the Mets are really struggling on the road (3-9 recently). Next, Mike Pelfrey has an awful career record against the Nationals and in the month of September. Lastly, two sites are listing Livan Hernandez as the starter for the Nationals but that's probably not correct as reports indicated that Hernandez has been shut down for the rest of the season.
  • The Red Sox over the Rangers: Neither John Lackey or Matt Harrison have had success against the teams they are facing, so expect a high scoring game with the Red Sox finishing on top.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Jeremy Hellickson and Jeremy Guthrie are difficult to pick. Guthrie has been very good lately and Hellickson is good until he gets to the third time through the batting order.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: Shaun Marcum and Wandy Rodriguez is a good match up. But if this game gets to the bullpens, the Brewers are much better in that area. Which is the understatement of the year.
  • The Royals over the Indians: The Royals are nailing the Indians' coffin in the AL Central. Jeff Francis has been great lately and Jeanmar Gomez was great last time out, but vulnerable.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: Edwin Jackson is on one of his good surges and must be picked until he goes the other way again. Bronson Arroyo should yield a few runs at least.
  • The Cubs over the Pirates: Charlie Morton is struggling and Randy Wells has been going in the other direction. Lee hurt his old team yesterday, but the Cubs should prevail today.
  • The Twins over the Angels: Kevin Slowey has been slowly improving with each start. Joel Pineiro should give up enough runs for the Twins to win.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: The Diamondbacks have a chance to really deflate their rivals. Ryan Vogelsong is singing a little out of tune lately while Daniel Hudson has been getting stronger.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: Aaron Cook isn't a lock by any means except for when he pitches in San Diego where he is 7-1 lifetime with a minuscule ERA (SSS). Matt Latos has been a bit of a disappointment this year, but could have a big game at any time. So buyer beware.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Blake Beavan has been impressive for the Mariners. Trevor Cahill has been confusing. But the A's are on a roll and this pick is for that fact.
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: Mark Buehrle is having one of the quietest best seasons of his career. Max Scherzer has been inconsistent. Scherzer will probably pitch well this time out, but it won't be enough.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: C.C. Sabathia at home is a pretty potent combination. The Yankees need to get to Brett Cecil and they should be able to do that.

Yesterday: 9-6
Last week: 62-36
Month: 21-20
Season: 1145-920
Games of the Day: 96-56