Saturday, April 07, 2012

Game Picks - Saturday: April 7, 2012

Tough day for the old picker yesterday. With only four correct picks in nine attempts, a couple of upset picks did not pan out and Mariano Rivera blew a save. Is this going to be a long season in San Diego? Only four players have had any hits for that team in the first two games. They may never score a run. Brandon McCarthy wasn't as good yesterday as expected and the Mariners scored seven runs in their game against Oakland. At least Yoenis Cespedes hit another homer to give the A's fans something to talk about. The Game of the Day feature is 2-0 so far. The Angels did indeed dispatch the Royals, but it wasn't Bruce Chen's fault. He blanked the Angels for six innings. It was the KC bullpen that gave up the game. Jered Weaver was fabulous.

Today is baseball's official Opening Day. Well...that should be rephrased. Baseball doesn't consider today Opening Day but this picker does because it will be the first time all 30 teams will be in action. Now that is Major League Baseball! For the first time this season, fifteen picks can be pondered. How much fun is that!? Here goes:

  • The Blue Jays over the Indians: Brandon Morrow is better on the road than he is at home and the game is in Cleveland. Ubaldo Jimenez gives no confidence these days and can't be trusted.
  • The Cubs over the Nationals: Gio Gonzalez will be fine for the Nationals, but Matt Garza will be too much for the Nationals to handle. Garza is going to have a big year for the Cubs. The only question is if the Cubs' bullpen can bounce back from a horrid opening day.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Jair Jurrjens is a bit of a concern, but look for Dan Uggla or Freeman to go deep on Dickey.
  • The Tigers over the Red Sox: Is Doug Fister the second coming of Greg Maddux? He sure seemed like it last year for the Tigers. Meanwhile, Josh Beckett has a bad thumb on his pitching hand and is a bit dubious to take here.
  • The Angels over the Royals: The feeling here is that Luke Hochevar is going to have a good season. But even so, Dan Haren should be better and shuts down the Royals' offense.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Madison Bumgarner is now the Giants' best pitcher. But he faces the tough Daniel Hudson who also pitched well against the Giants last year. But those Giants did not include Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera. Still can't believe the Melkman is this good!
  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: Haven't picked the Cardinals yet this season and they are 2-0. This picker should learn from mistakes, right? But Zack Greinke is going to be a Cy Young Award candidate this season, just watch. Adam Wainwright makes his debut for the Cardinals after missing all of last season.
  • The Rockies over the Astros: It would go against every rooting Fan grain to pick against Jamie Moyer. It just would. And he has an excellent chance to win against an Astros team that can't hit and made four errors in their debut game yesterday. Lucas Harrell goes for the Astros.
  • The Twins over the Orioles: The Orioles are the better team, but Francisco Liriano looked great in the preseason and Tommy Hunter never inspires much confidence.
  • The Reds over the Marlins: Mat Latos is really good. And he makes his season debut for the Reds. Ricky Nolasco looked better this spring than he did last year, but the Reds' offense should get to him in that bandbox of a stadium. Look for Votto to do some damage. This picker's early view of the Marlins as contenders is starting to dry up.
  • The Bay Rays over the Yankees. Hiroki Kuroda makes his debut for the Yankees and should do well enough. David Price goes for the Bay Rays. Price hasn't seemed as dominant, but Joe Girardi is trying to prove he is as good a manager as Joe Maddon and it is not working. His cute line up today is a case in point.
  • The Rangers over the White Sox: Derek Holland is really good. Much better than people think. Jake Peavy was once really good. Now he's just a guy throwing junk and trying to prolong his career. Adam Dunn seems like he is back though.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: The Padres may never score a run this season. The Dodgers are starting to look like a team that can have a surprisingly good season. Chris Capuano is going to like pitching in the west. Dustin Moseley goes for the Padres and gets yet another hard luck loss.
  • The Mariners over the Athletics: Bartolo Colon really shut down the Mariners his first time out. What are the odds of a repeat? Long. Felix Hernandez goes for the Mariners. He should get the win.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Pirates: Cliff Lee. Hate the guy. Just hate him. But he is very, very good. So the respect is there. He will beat Jeff Karstens and the Pirates. The prediction here is that the Pirates get four hits, tops.

Yesterday: 4-5

Week: 9-8
Season: 10-9
Games of the Day: 2-0

Friday, April 06, 2012

Pitching dominates Thursday

Following MLB's third Opening Day was fantastic with a combination of televised games and talk on Twitter. What was truly fascinating about the day was that it took the New York Mets to score a run to end all the talk about the scoreless innings that began the day. In those early games, the score was 0-0 through three or four innings in all of them. It was a day of pitching magnificence.

While the Pittsburgh Pirates will not be anyone's idea of a high-scoring machine, Roy Halladay threw a gem. During Spring Training, there was all this concern about his velocity being down. And in all reality, Brooks Baseball showed his fastball below last year's average in the first game. But when you can pitch with the precision that Halladay does, what does velocity mean? He still managed twelve swinging strikes en route to five strikeouts with no walks and only two hits allowed in eight innings of work.

Erik Bedard was nearly as good for the Pirates. Or, the Phillies' offense is exposed for what it is, which could be a problem. Bedard didn't have much of a fastball (88.14 average) and didn't miss many bats (seven), but only gave up one run in his seven innings of work, giving up the only run of the game on a sacrifice fly. Jonathan Papelbon got his first save in a Phillies uniform.

Last year's Cy Young Award winner, Justin Verlander, was brilliant against the Red Sox. He topped out at 98 MPH and seemed to be able to ratchet up the heater when in tough situations or ahead in the count. The Red Sox are a great hitting team and thus Verlander only missed six bats in his eight innings. But he kept the Red Sox off balance with his terrific curve and change up and only yielded two hits and a walk in eight innings. Unfortunately for him, after going a perfect 49 for 49 in save opportunities in 2011, Jose Valverde blew his first opportunity of 2012. So give Verlander 23 wins this season instead of 24.

Jon Lester was good for the Red Sox, but not terrific. He only gave up one run in his seven innings, but had far too many three-ball counts and was helped by three double plays. Lester always seems preoccupied with the strike zone he is getting from the umpire. He needs to forget all of that and just pitch his game.

Stephen Strasburg did not disappoint in his first outing against the Cubs. Strasburg went seven innings and allowed one run on five hits and a walk. He averaged almost 96 MPH on his four-seam fastballs and almost 95 on his two-seamers. And he threw his curve for strikes 79 percent of the time. Strasburg struck out five and walked one. The strikeouts came in bunches late in his outing. 

Strasburg was matched by Ryan Dempster. Dempster only averaged around 89 MPH with his fastball but fought out of two jams by getting batters to miss his slider or tap it weakly. He left with two outs in the eighth and a runner on base after allowing only two hits and three walks. Unfortunately, Kerry Wood walked three batters to force Dempster's runner to score and tie the game. A Twitter bud said that Wood was getting squeezed by the home plate umpire but the Pitch/FX data does not support that theory. Only two of his thirteen non-strikes were borderline, one at the top of the strike zone and one at the bottom. Carlos Marmol then gave up the winning run in the ninth.

It was nice to see Brad Lidge get the save for the Nationals in his return after a lost season last year with the Phillies. Lidge struck out two in the ninth. He has lost his fastball which is now in the 89 MPH range but his slider is his go-to pitch now and--at least for yesterday--got the job done.

Johnny Cueto blanked the Miami Marlins to give the Cincinnati Reds their first win of the season. Cueto didn't miss many bats with only seven swinging strikes in his seven innings, but he did strike out four, allowing three hits and two walks. It did not help the Marlins' cause when Jose Reyes was thrown out stealing and Emilio Bonifacio was picked off. Perhaps it was a bit of a BABIP game for Cueto and aided by bad base-running, but the bottom line is that no runs scored.

Perhaps the most impressive pitching display was the eleven scoreless innings thrown by the Toronto Blue Jays' bullpen. Last year's bullpen was such a mess for the Blue Jays that this performance has to give the team hope that a weakness has been turned into a strength.

The same couldn't be said for the Indians as Chris Perez blew the save and ruined a fantastic outing from Justin Masterson. The latter pitched eight innings of two-hit, one-walk ball and struck out ten Blue Jays. His only blemish was a bomb by Jose Bautista. But he is hardly the first pitcher to have that happen these past few seasons. Of Masterson's 27 batters faced, ten of them struck out and ten of them hit ground balls. It was a wasted brilliant performance.

Offense has been down the last two seasons and if Thursday was any indication, this season won't be any different. Pitching had the upper hand all day.

Game Picks - Friday: April 5, 2012

Thursday was fun, wasn't it? There were pitcher's duels and diving stops, walk off hits, blown saves, and even a sixteen inning game. Welcome to MLB baseball where there are no grapefruits nor cactus. The season has arrived and today was terrific. Let's all sigh together in relief and happiness! And the picks didn't go so bad either. The only two incorrect picks were the Reds beating the Marlins--a game when picked was said could go either way--and a win by the Nationals over the Cubs. The pick was correct that Stephen Strasburg would get no run support, but Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol of the Cubs ralphed the game away for the Cubbies.

There are nine games on the schedule today including all of the teams that didn't play yesterday plus the Padres and Dodgers not getting a day off like all of the other Thursday teams. Here is how they should go:

  • The White Sox over the Rangers: The Chisox ruin the Rangers' home opener as John Danks pitches better than Colby Lewis. Some of the Rangers are a little dinged up and they won't be yet firing on all cylinders. Robin Ventura wins his debut as manager.
  • The Orioles over the Twins: A battle of two teams that will probably have difficult seasons. The match up of Jake Arrieta versus Carl Pavano is pretty much a wash. The Orioles' bullpen should pull the win out in this one.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Both CC Sabathia and James Shields pitched well against the teams they are facing last season, but both had losing records too. They should cancel each other out. If it becomes a battle of bullpens, the Yankees win that battle. John Maddon will have Keppinger batting cleanup. Say what?
  • The Brewers over the Cardinals: The Brewers match up well against Jaime Garcia. The outcome will depend on how well Yovani Gallardo pitches for the Brewers.
  • The Rockies over the Astros. The temptation is not to bed against Wandy Rodriguez who starts for the Astros. But the 'Stros have little offense to offer against Jeremy Guthrie who should thrive in a new league against a team that knows him not.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Ian Kennedy is this picker's man-crush. Plus, he beat a bunch of tough match ups last year. Going with the Diamondbacks over Tim Lincecum.
  • The Padres over the Dodgers: Hey, this picker has been boosting Cory Luebke all spring. So he has to come through. Clay Billingsley can be had at times. Both these teams look like .500 teams in the NL West. Might as well have that record after two games.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: The M's will beat a hundred ground balls to the infielders against Brandon McCarthy and Jason Vargas does little to inspire confidence.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Angels over the Royals: Shouldn't Jered Weaver beat Bruce Chen nine out of ten times? That seems like it would be the case. Besides, Albert Pujols makes his first start for his new team at home. He has to do something dramatic, right?

Just a reminder, the Game of the Day isn't about the most exciting game, but the pick most likely to be correct.

Yesterday: 5-2
Week: 5-3
Season: 6-4
Games of the Day: 1-0

Thursday, April 05, 2012

BBA Linkfest - Opening Day Edition

Hey! It's Opening Day. Sort of. Well, it is for some teams. But anyway, at least there is more than one real baseball game on the schedule. Let's put this on a more positive spin. It is Opening Week! Okay, that is better. And it seems fitting for our weekly links post from the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance to occur today. After all, these great folks have been churning out great content all off season in anticipation of this week right here. If these writers have been this good without baseball being played, how good are they going to be now that the season is underway!? Here are this week's links:

Eugene Tierney of 85% Sports has been doing an awesome job with his team previews for 2012. His latest is on the Colorado Rockies.

Ryan Sendek has been doing amazing work helping folks get ready for the fantasy baseball season all off season on his Analysis Around the Horn site. He wraps it all up with one final update. He's done the work, now it's up to you.

Babes Love Baseball had a preview for the Marlins opening night against the Cardinals that included a Twitter quote from LoMo. Plus, if you haven't already, go back and read all of Sooze's Haiku team previews. Wonderful.

The Ball Caps Blog re-blogged a mutual friend of ours post on why baseball is better than football. It's worth the click and the re-click for sure.

Stevo-sama recaps a college baseball game like only he can over at his The Baseball Enthusiast site.

Baseball Unrated offers you the chance to pick the outcome of the American League Central division.

Baseballism recaps and comments on the big Matt Cain and Joey Votto deals.

Justin Jabs takes some stabs (just wanted to type that) at predicting the NL Central. Take a look over at BaseBlog.

Aaron Somers writes his excellent Blogging from the Bleachers site between his regular assignment of covering the Washington Nationals. Check out his AL East preview.

There is always so much great content over at Call to the Pen that it is a daily baseball buffet. The post selected this week is Blaine Blontz's reaction to John Lannon's trade request.

Mario Salvini of Che Palle! celebrates opening day and whether your Italian or any other heritage, he is right: "This is our game."

Matt Whitener of Cheap.Seats.Please. previews the newly interesting NL East. 

The Crum-Bum Beat staff put all their creatively-named heads together to come up with their bold predictions for the 2012 season.

Diamond Hoggers celebrates Opening Day as only TheNaturalMevs can do it. Cool elephant too.

Dugout 24 puts their own unique and comical spin on why baseball is better than any other sport.

The Cole Hamels situation with the Phillies will be one of the most interesting stories in 2012. For Baseball Junkies speculates on the outcomes.

The Baseball Index has had great fun predicting the major award winners in baseball this season. The latest is on the MVP Award.

Probably this Fan's favorite regular blog feature is The Golden Sombrero's look-alikes feature. This week's is a stunner.

Grubby Glove participated in a podcast! The story behind the event is just as entertaining as the podcast itself!

The Hall of Very Good has a brilliant re-post of Sully's this week on numbers that are long overdue to be retired by the player's teams. The post is dead on. And for the record, this Fan screamed for the Red Sox to retire Wade Boggs number a long time ago. Maybe the HOVG and Sully can finally help get it done.

Hot Corner Harbor used the occasion to make the site's thorough 2012 predictions. Can't disagree with any of them.

How do you describe Left Field's posts? They are impossible to buttonhole other than to state that no finer writing occurs on the Internet. Here is his latest.

Peter Verniere of Major League A**holes has questions concerning his favorite team, the Chicago White Sox. He is cautiously optimistic though.

Andrew Martin easily wins the post of the week award on one of the most fascinating stories this Fan has read in a while. The Fan should have a post show up  over at MLB Dirt today too. So check that out.

Love, love, LOVE little Haley Smilow's interview of Eric Young, Jr. over at MLB Reports

Nik of Niktig's Baseball Blog has a big and important question about the Miami Marlins.

Erik and Jana have started up their Off the Bat podcasts on BlogTalk Radio. Check out Number One Baseball for the link.

Somebody has to keep track of such things. Leave it to Old Time Family Baseball to notice the first stirrup sighting of the season. 

Matthew Melton of Pop Fly Boys has a fascinating post on how each team can win the World Series.

The Sports Banter is back! Check out the sites 2012 MLB predictions.

Sully of Sully Baseball has a really interesting take on the Miami Marlins.

Chol Souders celebrates Opening Day over at Through the Fence Baseball. Right there with you, buddy!

Muhammed Ali made Joey Smith of the X-Log very sad. Yes. Agreed.

One programming note: One of this Fan's favorite sites, The Platoon Advantage, is moving to the Bloguin Network. Congrats on the new home, folks. You can still find them by going to the same web address. You'll have to do the Blogger redirection thingy, but once that is accomplished, you will be welcomed into the arms of the same fine writers you've always known.

Happy baseball season, everyone!

Game Picks - Thursday: April 5, 2012

Well played, Kyle Lohse. Well played indeed. And doesn't this picker look like a dope. To pull up the old saw by the hemp rope, "That's why they play the game." If you count the two preseason games against the Yankees, the Marlins are now 0-3 in their new ballpark. That's not good. And what a drag that they didn't get to shoot off that home run contraption.

It's been decided here that Saturday will be the official Opening Day. After all, that will be the first time there will be fifteen games on the schedule. Today is just another preview. But the games count and they have to be picked. So let's get to it, shall we?
  • The Tigers over the Red Sox: Justin Verlander versus Jon Lester is a terrific opening day match up. Two terrific pitchers. One of them has to win. Verlander at home is just too tough to pick against. Have to go that way.
  • The Mets over the Braves: Tommy Hanson just doesn't strike fear in the heart like he used to. Besides, Johan Santana is the heart pick for this one as he makes his first start back after a long, long road. Ike Davis has been mashing the ball. The Mets open with their new dimensions. Santana throws enough change ups to fool enough Braves batters and the Mets get to Hanson.
  • The Phillies over the Pirates: People keep predicting Roy Halladay will not be as dominating this year as the past two. That will be believed when and if it actually happens. In the meantime, he is the best pitcher of this generation. Don't bet against him. Erik Bedard goes for the Pirates who are at home.
  • The Cubs over the Nationals: Stephen Strasburg is the bomb. But doesn't it seem like his team plays tight whenever he pitches? It seems the offense is never there. Ryan Dempster is not a peach to pick, but he is better at home. The Cubs win their first game of the Theo era.
  • The Blue Jays over the Indians: Ricky Romero over Justin Masterson. The Blue Jays are going to make this picker look like a genius this season. Can you feel it? Masterson hasn't quite put things together yet. He will. But not yet. Romero is a tough hombre and tough to beat.
  • The Marlins over the Reds: Mark Buehrle is going to drive the Reds crazy with his slow and slower stuff thrown every five seconds before they can get comfortable. He'll have to keep the ball inside that cozy park in Cincinnati though. Johnny Cueto can be untouchable at times. So this game can go either way.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: Clayton Kershaw begins his defense of his Cy Young Award and does so against a poor offense. The Dodgers will score at least three on Edinson Volquez and that will be enough.
Yesterday: 0-1
Season: 1-2

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

No Pujols. No La Russa. No problem

The St. Louis Cardinals begin their defense of their world championship today in Miami against the new-look Marlins. The team comes into the season minus Albert Pujols who could not resist the carrot dangled by Arte Moreno. Tony La Russa has retired as manager after being an institution in St. Louis and the author of two championships. Those two losses would seem grim for just about anyone but the Cardinals. This seems to be a resilient and upbeat bunch and their new manager, Mike Matheny is home grown and could have the easiest ride of any new manager in quite some time.

Not that the Cardinals 2012 season will be easy. The Brewers are still a potent team and the Reds have lots of talent as well. But the Cardinals should be fine. They still have the best catcher in baseball. Adam Wainwright is back. And the team has a battle-tested bullpen that wowed the world last October. What's not to love about where this team is going into the new season?

Yes, they lost Albert Pujols. It's hard to think about the Cardinals without him. For ten years, he has been the best player on the planet. But he was not without a certain amount of baggage. Pujols had an enigmatic persona and was treated differently than other players. At times, it seemed as if his teammates had to tip-toe around him. His leadership skills were questionable for a player of his stature. He failed to hustle on ground balls and we can never forget how he skipped out on reporters in the playoffs leaving his teammates to hold the bag without him. It is possible that a Cardinal team without Pujols could be more cohesive and have a whole lot more fun, especially with Lance Berkman around to lead the comedy troupe.

Speaking of Berkman, his 2011 season was one of the biggest stories of last season. His performance was breathtaking despite being misplaced in right field. He has always been a better than average first baseman and the Cardinals will not lose anything defensively from having him at first base. If he hits like last season, then Pujols' numbers from last season are covered.

Carlos Beltran was a perfect signing. Yes, we will have to see how it all turns out, but on paper, it is perfect. He will be a win better as a right fielder than Berkman was and his offensive production combined with a bounce-back season from Matt Holliday would offset any lingering wins lost by losing Pujols. This space is not a big fan of John Jay in center. But he has his moments at the plate and gives the team more consistency than what they had in the past. Look for this position to be in transition during the season though.

Despite his struggles this spring and his track record the past two seasons, Rafael Furcal is a huge upgrade starting the season than where the Cardinals were a season ago. If he mans his position effectively, the Cardinals should continue to cover any lack he provides on offense. Second base is also a transition as Daniel Descalso has been handed the starting position. There are many who feel that Tyler Greene can be a top notch infielder and made the team as a backup if Descalso falters. Descalso displayed terrific patience at the plate this spring and that could be a big factor during the season.

David Freese has had a tough spring and Cardinal fans will always hold their breath concerning his health. But the thought here is that the post season and his heroics therein should fill him to the brim with confidence and allow him to become one of the best third basemen in the National League. If he does not make the All Star team this season, it would be a huge surprise.

The Allen Craig injury is a problem and is unfortunate. He really does have the makings of a star and if he returns mid-season, it could be like making a huge trade deadline deal.

Chris Carpenter starts the season on the disabled list and that's a problem. His bulging neck leaves his season in uncertain status. To see he and Wainwright again anchoring the rotation would make the team's prospects that much brighter. But this could be an opportunity for the Cardinals. Carpenter is getting up there in years and won't be around that much longer anyway. This could give guys like Lance Lynn an opportunity to become the next great starting pitcher in the league.

Jaime Garcia does not bring a level of comfort. Watching him perform has never induced a wow factor here. And Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook are just serviceable pitchers who eat innings and keep the team in most of the games they pitch. As long as the rotation can keep the game close, the offense and deep and talented bullpen should win their share of games.

It seems hard to imagine that a team can lose a Hall of Fame manager and the best player of his generation and still be the team to beat in their division. Yet, they are. They have an intelligent and capable coaching staff, a general manager now out of La Russa's shadow and contention and a still potent and talented team. They are the world champions until they are not. And the NL Central will have to prove the St. Louis Cardinals are not every bit as scary as they were a season ago.

Game Picks - Wednesday: April 4, 2012

The 2012 MLB season is starting like a dwarf-gathering at Bilbo Baggins' door. A couple of dwarfs show up in Japan and then another one in Miami, a few more on Thursday and a few more on Friday before all dwarfs are in the sitting room by Saturday. It's a heck of a tease and frankly, it is an unwelcome way to start a season. In this mind, Opening Day should be this nationwide party celebrated all over baseball on the same day and in the same way. And Opening Day should never include night games. And why would there be twelve teams playing on Thursday that do not play again until Saturday? Opening Day should be a grand event and we should all celebrate it together. 

Okay, rant over. There is a game to pick. The St. Louis Cardinals play a one game series with the Miami Marlins who officially start their home season in their new ballpark. Why the Cardinals? And why one game? Who knows. It's not because the Cardinals are the World Series champs. This schedule was dreamed (spell check is saying that "dreamt" is not a word. Pshaw.) up long before the outcome of the Fall Classic (which is really the winter classic if you live in Maine).

Well, it was thought the rant was over. Perhaps now it is as there is still a game to pick. So come on then, pick it, William. 

  • The Marlins over the Cardinals: Opening Day is when each team puts out its Number One starter. The Marlins are going with Josh Johnson. Okay. That sounds fine. The Cardinals are going with Kyle Lohse. Kyle Lohse!? Well, yeah, Carpenter is a pain in the neck. What? Oh. He has a pain in the neck. Wainwright missed all of last season. So what he did before doesn't count. ?? Soooo...The Marlins open the Fish Tank with a win. Logan Morrison deposits a drive into the seats to set the Home Run Machine spinning and the world champs start 0-1.

Bob Netherton will be happy. He has the psychotic notion that picking against the Cardinals in this space is like some reverse luck thing. Actually, it's just another pick. Interpret as you see fit.

Season: 1-1

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Curt Schilling undercuts Valentine

Curt Schilling has become one of the most bombastic former players ever. The former pitcher seems intent on flapping his gums and being as controversial as possible. He has become the Rush Limbaugh of ex-players. And that is just fine. It is a free country and people can say what they want. But what he recently said about his former team and the Red Sox' new manager went over the line. After all, he is only five years removed from that team and some of his former teammates still play there. Schilling just made himself the bad shoulder angel in the heads of some of his former teammates. He has thrown Bobby Valentine under the bus before the bus can even leave the parking lot.

Let's pick apart some of Schilling's statements. First, he said that baseball has changed and the manager has little to do with what happens on the field during a game. He calls them babysitters who manage personnel. Oh really? So it matters not whether a manager lets a pitcher continue when struggling? It matters not if a manager pinch hits for somebody based on match ups? This is the ultimate deconstructionism. This is a former player stating that only players matter during the outcomes of games. This is ego talking. While it is true that players will make a manager successful or unsuccessful, it does matter what decisions a manager makes during a game.

And it goes further than that. Schilling is basically stating that a manager has no effect on the team's psychology. In Schilling's world, the manager cannot "fire up" his team or make the players feel better about themselves. The manager cannot encourage his players or keep them going through hard times. All the manager does in Schilling's world is babysit players. How disrespectful can you be? In Schilling's world, player accountability is only the responsibility of the players.

Schilling goes on to state that the small details do not matter anymore and that Valentine lives in the small details. Again: Oh really? There might be just a game or two difference between four teams in the American League East. Wouldn't doing something fundamentally correct at just the right moment account for a win here or there? Couldn't that one win mean the world of difference? The Red Sox lost out on the playoffs last year by a single game. Little things do matter. 

Schilling's remarks conclude that he believes the Red Sox have created an oil and water situation between the manager and his players. How can you say that before Valentine's tenure even begins? And how did the oil and oil situation work out for the Red Sox last season? What Schilling's statements have created is the opportunity for doubt in the minds of the Red Sox players. This is a guy they used to play beside. His words resonate to those teammates. If just one of these players develops a little doubt in the back of any of the players minds, Schilling has done a great disservice here to his former team.

Schilling is trying to keep himself relevant since his career ended. The former pitcher likes to be the story. As such, he enjoys making large statements that get a lot of coverage and attention. Bobby Valentine's tenure as the manager of the Red Sox will only be evaluated after the fact. That tenure does not even begin until later this week. Undercutting Bobby Valentine before the season even begins in unfair and uncalled for. Can we at least see how the season unfolds before we start criticizing Bobby Valentine?

Monday, April 02, 2012

Is Michael Young the next Paul Molitor?

Michael Young was a fashionable pinata after the 2010 season. The Texas Rangers had just signed Adrian Beltre to play third and Mike Napoli to split time between catching and first base. Michael Young was going to be the designated hitter. Michael Young was not happy and requested a trade. He was skewered by this space and by others around the Web. After his 2011 season, nobody is laughing now. Sure, Young still makes a lot of money from an ill-advised contract. Sure, you really should not give him a glove. But boy, the guy handled the transition after his initial pout and quietly put up a monster offensive season. It was a season that rivaled the 34 year old season of a Hall of Fame designated hitter, Paul Molitor.

Molitor, like Young, had a difficult season at age 33. But both came back with a vengeance at age 34. Compare the numbers:

  • Molitor (1991 - Twins): .325/.399/.489 .888 OPS. 752 plate appearances. 216 hits
  • Young (2011 - Rangers): .338/.380/.474  .854 OPS. 689 plate appearances. 213 hits

Pretty similar seasons, eh? Molitor continued on a tear for several more seasons. He played seven more seasons after his age 34 season and collected 1,233 more hits to cement his Hall of Fame ticket. While not predicting Michael Young as an eventual Hall of Fame candidate, the two players were at a similar crossroad before their age 34 season. Molitor was a designated hitter long before Young in his career. But Molitor had never had quite a season like his age 34 season before. He famously shortened his swing and well, he just went crazy. 

Are we seeing a similar life change for Michael Young? It's possible. Young cut his strikeout rate from 16 percent in 2010 to 11.3 percent in 2011. Paul Molitor struck out less than Young and walked more. Molitor had a slightly higher career wOBA and wRC+. And Molitor played in an era that was less of an offensive era. Thus, his OPS+ was higher than Young's. But their age 34 seasons seem otherwise to be so strikingly familiar. And Young is creaming the ball again this spring training. So again, is Michael Young the next Paul Molitor?

One last comparison for you. After Molitor's age 34 season, he had compiled 2,086 hits. Michael Young after his age 34 season now has 2,061 hits. Who is to say that Young can duplicate Molitor's amazing 1,233 hits after his age 34 season. But who is to say he can't? 

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Crystal Ball tells all for 2012

For several years now, this site has featured a prediction post. Heck, everyone does that. But unlike most sites that base theirs on baseball smarts, spreadsheets, simulations and math skills, this one relies on the mysterious crystal ball that has long been a family heirloom. Legend has it that the dome came with this author's grandfather from Sicily and that he almost didn't get it by customs and only did so by stating through and interpreter that it was a paperweight. This post almost could not be written. The artifact had to be retrieved from the pawn shop. It's been that kind of year. Luckily, nobody wanted such a gaudy paperweight and it was available for repurchase.

Last year's post was long forgotten. And so a quick search for it this morning was successful and some of the findings were sort of amazing. Sure, there was some things that did not come to pass, but credit that to the gazer into that sphere and not the crystal ball itself. Human eyes can misinterpret, but that doesn't mean the thing is fallible. Some of the amazing readings:

  • Pablo Sandoval's resurgence was predicted correctly.
  • Predicted Ichiro Suzuki would not reach 200 hits and the team would still score more runs. He didn't. They did.
  • Albert Pujols would leave the Cardinals after the season. He did.
  • That Jose Bautista's 2010 season wasn't a fluke. It wasn't.
  • Jim Hendry would be fired. He was.
  • The Padres would sink back to last place. They did.
  • Scott Rolen wouldn't be a factor for the Reds. He wasn't.
  • Eric Hosmer would be the first big time rookie to get the call. He was.
  • Jose Reyes would outhit David Wright. He did. It seems a given now, but not before the 2011 season.
  • Jordan Zimmerman would have a breakout season. He did.
  • Elvis Andrus would hit a homer after going homer-less in 2010. He did.
  • John Mayberry Jr. would get more playing time than Ben Francisco. He did.
  • Roy Oswalt would get hurt. He did.
  • J.J. Hardy would be one of the best shortstops in the AL. He was.
  • Bartolo Colon would be the Yankees' fifth starter. He was. 
  • Defense would betray the Twins. Uh, yeah. Among other things.
  • Russell Martin would return to being one of the best catchers in baseball. He did.

So, yeah, there were some goodies in there. And so it is time to once again gaze into the crystal ball and see what it tells us. Breakfast was avoided so perhaps the gazer will interpret the signs a little more clearly. Here we go:

In 2012:

  • Matt Holliday will hit 30 homers and drive in over a hundred runs and make people forget all about the moth in his ear.
  • Carlos Zambrano will in 16 games for the Miami Marlins and will be nothing but happy.
  • The season will start and some time in May, Michael Pineda will make his first start and get the win and go on to win 12 games.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers will win the NL Central and ask, "Prince who?" But they will still get beat in the playoffs by the Cardinals who again get in as the wildcard.
  • Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy will again win more than 16 games each.
  • Joe Mauer has a nice comeback along with Buster Posey and both will be on the All Star squads.
  • Josh Johnson will pitch all season and contend for the Cy Young Award.
  • But the NL Cy Young again goes to Clayton Kershaw.
  • The AL Cy Young Award will be won by Yu Darvish who also wins the AL Rookie of the Year Award.
  • Despite Albert Pujols, the Texas Rangers win the AL West over the Angels.
  • Hanley Ramirez will win the NL MVP Award and the Marlins win the NL East.
  • Both Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Youkilis will play more than 130 games and put up good numbers.
  • Pitching will keep the Red Sox out of the playoffs again and the press will skewer Bobby Valentine.
  • The Astros and the Athletics will lose 100 games. The White Sox and Twins lose 90+.
  • Bryce Harper will be in the majors by the All Star Game.
  • Ichiro Suzuki will bat over .300 again after batting in the .270s last year.
  • Miguel Cabrera will be the AL starter at third base in the All Star game. Both he and Prince Fielder hit 30+ homers.
  • Brian Matusz will have a very good season. But the Orioles will still lose 90 games.
  • Troy Tulowitzki will win the NL MVP.
  • Albert Pujols will hit 40 homers and have a great season. But is beaten out for MVP by Miguel Cabrera.
  • Jered Weaver will have a disappointing season.
  • At least one umpire will ask Josh Beckett to pick up the pace of his pitching prompting Bobby Valentine to be tossed from the game.
  • A.J. Burnett has a nice season for the Pirates.
  • Tampa Bay's offense will keep them from the playoffs and finish behind the Toronto Blue Jays who gain a wild card berth.
  • Juan Pierre will get 400 at bats for the Phillies.
  • Jim Thome or Jason Giambi will be traded to the Yankees at the trade deadline.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka will pitch for the Red Sox after the All Star break, will pitch well and still the Red Sox fans will hate him.
  • Mariano Rivera will have one last sparkling season and then retire.
  • Terry Francona will draw raves for his work on Sunday Night Baseball and Orel Hershiser won't be happy.
  • Jonathan Papelbon will save 40 games for the Phillies.
  • Chase Utley will run off to Europe to see A-Rod's doctor.
  • Brett Gardner will fail to hit above .255.
  • Alex Gordon will confirm that he is the next superstar and put up tasty numbers along with Eric Hosmer. The Royals don't have enough pitching though and it won't be enough.
  • Dee Gordon wins the NL Rookie of the Year and the Dodgers will be surprisingly good this season.
  • Zack Greinke finishes second in NL Cy Young Award voting.
  • C.J. Wilson will be the best pitcher for the Angels and have a better year than Weaver and Haren.
  • Madison Bumgarner will be the only Giants' pitcher on the All Star team and will be that team's best pitcher.
  • Francisco Liriano will have a good year. Rod Gardenhire will not.
  • Cory Luebke and Tim Stauffer have excellent seasons and push the Padres over .500.
  • The Diamondbacks repeat as NL West champions and will represent the NL in the World Series.
  • Kyle Weiland will be the next Astro after Jeff Bagwell for the Red Sox fans to say a good one got away.
  • This will be the year that Luke Hochevar puts it together.
  • Scott Feldman is in the Rangers' rotation by mid-season. Or perhaps in someone else's rotation by the trade deadline.
  • Johan Santana wins thirteen games and wins Comeback Player of the Year.
  • Russell Branyan will hit at least one homer as a Yankee.
  • Brandon Morrow wins at least seventeen games for the Blue Jays.
  • Justin Verlander will win eighteen games.
  • Yoenis Cespedes will finish with 20 homers, a .260 batting average and over a hundred strikeouts.
  • Curtis Granderson will hit 35 more homers for the Yankees.
  • And finally...yes...the Yankees will win the World Series.