Saturday, April 28, 2012

What the heck, Joe Saunders?

Joe Saunders of the Arizona Diamondbacks has made four starts. His ERA in those four starts is 0.90. What the heck is wrong with this picture? His performance thus far has earned him a 0.7 fWAR in thirty innings when he only earned 1.0 fWAR in 212 innings last season. Again, what is going on here? He has given up only nineteen hits in his thirty innings of work and has a WHIP of 0.87. Are you serious!? Joe Saunders!?

There are some indications that Joe Saunders has remade himself as a pitcher. When he pitched for the Angels, Saunders featured a four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw sixty percent of the time. He now throws the two-seam fastball--a pitch he never had with the Angels--47 percent of the time and is only throwing his four-seamer 21 percent of the time. As a result, his ground balls have risen sharply.

For most of his career, batters against Saunders have hit about 45 percent ground balls and about 35 percent fly balls. Some years were just over or under those basic figures, but he was pretty consistently in those ranges. This year, his ground ball rate has risen to 54.9 percent and his fly ball rate is down to 28 percent. This is really important because Joe Saunders always gave up a lot of homers. His career homer rate of 1.1 per nine innings was not good. This year it sits at 0.30.

So, yes, Joe Saunders is a different kind of pitcher than he was for the Angels. But there are some red flags here. First, his strand rate of 89.8 is not sustainable. That will fall to the norm of in the mid to high 70's in percentage. Secondly, his BABIP against is only .214. His career BABIP is .287 or just below league average. The ground balls will help his BABIP but it hardly seems likely for him to continue that low all season.

Saunders' FIP of 2.96 is excellent, but is a full two runs higher than his actual ERA. His SIERA is even higher at 3.74. So, no, Joe Saunders will not be THIS good all season. But perhaps his four starts do indicate a different Joe Saunders than the one we've seen in the past. No longer are his starts a cringe-worthy occasion. Now, when Saunders' rotation spot comes up, this Arizona Diamondbacks have a good chance to win the game.

Baseball never ceases to surprise us.

Game Picks - Saturday: April 28, 2012

Make that two negative picking days in a row. A once promising week has turned to mock this picker just like the snow that fell last night. The week is saying: "Heh, you thought you were good at this, didn't you? You thought you might play golf soon, didn't you?" Come on, Week, now you are piling on. Did this picker mention the flat tire yesterday or that we ran out of oil? Golly, it's good to be alive! Well, it IS baseball season, and that makes up for a lot.

Okay, enough whining. Today is going to be a big day in baseball. Not only are there fifteen games of fun on tap, but Bryce Harper will make his debut and the Angels have called up Mike Trout and say that, you know, they are actually going to play him. This picking thing is just for fun anyway. It's not like any money is at risk. It isn't that kind of feature. So let's have fun. That's it. Fun. Let's pick some games!
  • The Angels over the Indians: That's right. The Trout game is first in line. Cool, eh? Dan Haren shuts down the Indians and Jeanmar Gomez will hopefully not throw a ball at Trout.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Let's hope the Cardinals are not exhausted from circling the bases all those times. Kyle Lohse has been terrific. Marco (Polo) Estrada goes for the Brewers.
  • The Royals over the Twins: Sure, let's make it four in a row for the boys in the powder blue. Bruce Chen will throw slow, slower and slowest to the Twins and win. The Royals will hit Jason Marquis.
  • The Yankees over the Tigers: Yeah, it's Freddy Garcia. But what the heck. Miracles do happen. He is faced by "The Emoticon," Drew Smyly.   :)  <--a smyly
  • The Blue Jays over the Mariners: If the Blue Jays can't get a win against Kevin Millwood with Brandon Morrow on the mound, then this picker is washing his hands of that team forever.
  • The Reds over the Astros: Hey Reds, here's an idea: Fire your manager. Instead, they will get a win from Johnny Cueto over Lucas Harrell and the team will think that everything is okay. It isn't.
  • The Phillies over the Cubs: Gosh, the Phillies stink, don't they? But they should score at least a few off of Randy Wells and Joe Blanton pitches well enough to win.
  • The Athletics over the Orioles: This is a real tough pick. Two pitchers pitching well in Tyler Ross and Wei-Lin Chen. The nod goes to Ross as he can strikeout his share of Orioles. The A's have to score four to win though.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Marlins: Warning, this pick is only because this picker wants Ian Kennedy to go 4-0. Any claim toward rationality goes out the window on this one. Anibal Sanchez is really good though. Tough game.
  • The White Sox over the Red Sox: Can Jake Peavy tame the wild Red Sox? Can Jon Lester pitch a good game? Putting the pick on Peavy.
  • The Braves over the Pirates: Poor Erik Bedard. He's been decent, but he is 0-4. Make that 0-5. Randall Delgado won't be great, but his bullpen will bail him out as usual.
  • The Rangers over the Bay Rays: Let's see, several picks against the Bay Rays have blown up in this picker's face. Several picks against Colby Lewis have blown up too. So what to do? Thinking that Jeff Niemann isn't good enough to stop the Rangers' lineup.
  • The Mets over the Rockies: Dillon Gee? Well, who knows. But the Rockies are forced to start Guillermo Moscoso because Jeremy Guthrie had a bicycle accident. Wonder if Guthrie was singing: "Good morning, pavement, how are ya. Don't you know me, I'm your native son..."
  • The Giants over the Padres: Tim Lincecum has no velocity. But he can still pitch. Especially in spacious Petco Park. Anthony Bass goes for the Padres.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Nationals over the Dodgers: Bryce Harper playing! Stephen Strasburg pitching! Say hello to your Washington Nationals! Of course, Chad Billingsley might have a word to say about it all.
Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 36-25
Season: 167-131
Games of the Day: 14-8

Friday, April 27, 2012

Saves are a stupid statistic...except...

...when you cannot convert them. Most thinking baseball writers abhor the save statistic. It is akin to touting batting average as the best way to tell who the good hitters are. And this post is not going to say those writers are wrong. Taken on a whole, the save statistic is not the best statistic. Probably WPA is a better way to evaluate relief pitchers. But the thing is, games are being lost in the last inning or two at a frantic pace this season. Take the Miami Marlins for example. They have five blown saves in seven opportunities. If you give the Marlins those five wins back, they are 12-6 and among the leaders of the NL East. Instead, they are 7-11 and in last place.

Here is the thing: Scoring has become at a premium in baseball. Runs are down again this season for the third season in a row. Teams are giving up an average of 3.78 runs per game. That is down from 3.91 runs per game a year ago which is down from 4.04 runs per game the year before that and 4.28 the year before that. The games are tighter. More games are coming down to the last couple of innings and what happens in those last couple of innings is determining who wins.

For all the grief he is getting, Bobby Valentine is correct. Many games are won and lost in the last couple of innings. As someone who picks games every day, the blown save is a killer and they are very noticeable. Saves are being converted at a rate of 65 percent this season. The converse of that is that there is a 35 percent fail rate. Last year, saves were converted at a 68 percent rate. In 2010, that rate was 69 percent. So, yes, teams are failing to convert the saves more often than in the past.

Among their many problems so far this season for the Angels, a glaring one is their bullpen, especially in tight games. They have converted only one of five save opportunities. That is killer. Other teams struggling at the back end of games are the Marlins, Giants, Cardinals, Dodgers, Royals and Astros. As good as the starts have been for the Cardinals and Dodgers, some of that momentum is slowed by converting close games at the end.

Some of the surprise teams this season are the Orioles, Nationals and Mariners. All three are closing the deal at the end of the game. The Tampa Bay Rays were thought to have a huge question mark at the back end of their bullpen. But Fernando Rodney has been amazing and they have an 86 percent success rate in closing the deal. That is a huge reason for why they are one of the top two teams in the AL East. The Orioles have ten saves already! The Mariners have only blown two saves thus far.

Another statistic to look at is inherited runners. When a manager goes to the bullpen with runners on base, those relievers have to somehow shut down the opposing team. Most of the time, it works. League-wide, only 28 percent of inherited runners are scoring this season. The Angels and Red Sox, two teams that have struggled out of the gate, lead the majors by allowing 45 percent and 43 percent of those runners to score respectively.

Saves is a statistic that is lightly regarded among analysts of the game and this post is not going to dispute that. What is glaring, however, is that teams that fail to convert them have a lot of wind taken out of their sails. With runs at a premium, when you have a small lead at the end of a game, you have to hold it. When you cannot, the results are devastating. Just ask Ozzie Guillen.

Game Picks - Friday: April 27, 2012

What a crappy day of game picking yesterday was! Everything went wrong. Bullpens blew it (more on that later). Perfect game pitchers got bombed. You know it's a bad day when you pick the Royals to win and  that is one of the few picks to be correct for a day. Ugh! Let's not even talk about it anymore.

In fact, this picker is simply going to launch into Friday's picks and try to forget all about it:
  • The Angels over the Indians: What's to say about the Angels that hasn't already been said? Money can't buy good starts as the Angels are already nine games behind the Rangers. But the one thing that has been constant is that Jered Weaver goes out and wins every start. Today will be no different. Justin Masterson gets in the way only slightly.
  • The Phillies over the Cubs: It is still hard getting used to the fact that the Phillies simply aren't a good team. But Roy Halladay is still great. Going with him over Paul Maholm of the Cubs.
  • The Yankees over the Tigers: Yes, it is Justin Verlander. But Ivan Nova just wins and wins. There is a sneaking feeling that this pick is just wishful thinking.
  • The Orioles over the Athletics: Somebody please let this picker know when these Orioles stop being as good as they have been. Jake Arrieta beats the snake bit Brandon McCarthy.
  • The Marlins over the Diamondbacks: Despite a bullpen that keeps biting them in the butt, the Marlins should beat Joe Saunders if Carlos Zambrano pitches as well as he has been. Plus, the Marlins are at home.
  • The Astros over the Reds: Wandy Rodriguez has been otherworldly. Mike Leake has been leaking. But Wandy could have trouble in that bandbox in Cincinnati. We'll see.
  • The Braves over the Pirates: A.J. Burnett will keep the game close, but the Pirates won't score enough against Tommy Hanson to allow Burnett to win his second start.
  • The Rangers over the Bay Rays: Two pitchers with 3-0 records. One of them has to lose. Matt Harrison versus James Shields. The Rangers are at home.
  • The White Sox over the Red Sox: John Danks quiets the hot Red Sox' lineup which is bad news for Daniel Bard as he hasn't gotten much run support this season.
  • The Twins over the Royals: Instead of bringing up a starting pitcher to replace Danny Duffy in the rotation, the Royals will play the reliever game. Dumb. Carl Pavano is the beneficiary of that decision.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: Yovani Gallardo has been brutal against the Cards who seem to have his number. Jake Westbrook bends but doesn't often break. Cards win at home.
  • The Rockies over the Mets: What's to make of this mess? Drew Pomeranz has yet to show his potential at the big league level. And the Mets will call up minor league pitcher, Chris Schwinden, to start the game. At Coors. Not a fun place for a debut.
  • The Dodgers over the Nationals: As much as this picker loves Ross Detwiler, you can't pick him against Clayton Kershaw. Not at home in L.A. anyway.
  • The Padres over the Giants: Cory Luebke is this picker's man-crush. The Giants have yet to announce a starter. Uh. What?
And the Game of the Day:
  • The Blue Jays over the Mariners: What happened to this Blue Jays' team? They are better than this. Ricky Romero improves to 4-0 over Blake Beavan.
Yesterday: 2-6
Week: 36-25
Season: 160-123
Games of the Day: 14-7

Thursday, April 26, 2012

BBA Linkfest - General celebrations

Baseball season is in full swing and the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is as well. There they are, around the world, cranking out content to their heart's content. As this site does each Thursday (well, almost since last week was on overslept day), links of the best of their work is presented to you for your linkage pleasure. And it is a pleasure to read these authors. Give a click, won't you? And continue to enjoy the best season of the year.

Lets start it off with Replacement Level Baseball Blog. There is always good content at this site. The author in this piece introduces a very interesting way at looking at pitching called the True Season Score. Fascinating stuff.

The author of The Sports Banter went to a Mets game and includes that event in observations for the week.

Sully of Sully Baseball introduces us to Robbie Ross. Don't know who that is? Find out from the always entertaining Sully.

Martin Marrufo of Through the Fence Baseball sifts through the poor start by the Angels. Good stuff.

Jonathan Dyer of the X-Log provides the most entertaining post of the week with a translation of common baseball cliche. Love this kind of stuff.

85% Sports had a big week previewing the NFL draft, but among that large project was this offering by Eugene Tierney on this year's power rankings, 85% Sports style.

Ryan Sendek takes some time out from his always terrific analysis at Analysis Around the Horn, to review a baseball video game he really enjoys. Whet the appetite, it did.

Sooze of Babes Love Baseball takes a look at a recent Chris Perez fine, a first in this social media age. Oh, and click the site's banner to take you back to the home page to view a picture of our Sooze wearing her favorite baseball shirt.

The author of The Ball Caps Blog spent a night with the Modesto Nuts. If that sentence doesn't provoke a click, who knows what it will take.

Has this feature not told you that Stevo-sama of The Baseball Enthusiast writes the best baseball recaps ever? Here is another example.

Baseball Unrated celebrates a perfect game. Yes, indeed.

FHPromos of Baseballism gets to say, "I told you so." Excellent. Hint: it is about a Rangers' pitcher.

Carlos Beltran wins Justin Jabs' third Emma Award. Check it out on Baseblog.

Aubrey Huff always seemed like a fun guy. But Blaine Blontz of Call to the Pen details the player's recent struggles.

Mario Salvini of Che Palle! celebrates his country's Alex Liddi as he should.

Ivan Rodriguez retired this week. And that's a sad thing. But Matt Whitener of Cheap.Seats.Please. properly celebrates his career.

Robert Andino has lost his smile. Crum-Bum Beat shows the progression. Love the heading too.

TheNaturalMevs of Diamond Hoggers has the honor of the post of the week. It's all about the seat of one of the most imfamous baseball fans in history. Superb stuff.

Dugout 24 celebrates the oldest winning pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball. Yes.

The OCP gives us tasty headlines of April baseball over at For Baseball Junkies.

The Baseball Index gives us a great breakdown of Jarrod Parker's first start for the A's.

The Golden Sombrero declared the other day as Phil Humber Day at that site. Check out the other gifs concerning the event as well.

In a post that went viral, The Hall of Very Good shows us a singer that shouldn't be exposing those pipes to baseball.

Theo calls his thoughts on David Wright, "meandering." But they are quite cogent in his Hot Corner Harbor piece.

Left Field has the ultimate and best analysis of that controversial triple play last week. A must read from a guy who knows what he is talking about.

Major League ***holes has an All Star Ballot Fail post.

Jonathan Mitchell of MLB Dirt gives us great information on some lesser known prospects having hot starts.

In a very thought out post, Bryan Sheehan of MLB Reports presents the five best center fielders in baseball and ranks them.

Nik of Niktig's Baseball Blog has some thoughts on the Seattle Mariners.

Chris Papas of NumberOneBaseball compares Wilt Chamberlain and Babe Ruth. Interesting.

Old Time Family Baseball celebrates the oldest living baseball player. Rightfully so!

Mark Zell has a great article in which he compares the Cardinals to the Royals over at Pop Fly Boys.

And last, but certainly never the least, The Platoon Advantage has lots of great stuff including a scathing post by TCM on Pedro Gomez (also featured by this writer over at It's About the Money, Stupid). But this post by Chris St. John tickled the interest the most this week.

Have a great week everyone.

Game Picks - Thursday: April 26, 2012

Another late surge of correct picks saved earlier miscues and ended yesterday's tally at ten correct picks in sixteen attempts. Jason Hammel continues to baffle the American League and future picks will have to look at his match ups more closely. Lance Lynn continues to sparkle for the Cardinals. Phil Hughes continues to struggle for the Yankees. Picking for and against those two pitchers helped the day. Sticking with the Braves and their hot streak paid off again. As did sticking with the amazing Washington Nationals. And after picking the Royals for three straight days, they finally won a game. Way to go, Kansas City.

Today is our first short list of scheduled games this season. There are only eight games on the schedule and five of them are day games. Here is how they should go:

  • The Royals over the Indians: Now that the Royals have won a game for the first time in two weeks, let's get our giddy out and pick them to win two in a row. Luis Mendoza gets his sinker straightened out and beats another sinker-ball pitcher in Josh Tomlin.
  • The Reds over the Giants: Two struggling pitchers in Ryan Vogelsong and Homer Bailey. Bailey was pretty darned good in his last outing against the Cubs. Neither pitcher has done well facing the opposing team. So going with the Reds at home and based on Bailey's last outing.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: It is unknown what to expect from Hector Noesi. He was good once sandwiched around two awful starts. Rick Porcello seems focused and improved this season. Going that way.
  • The Angels over the Bay Rays: Color this picker stupid, but the Angels have to bust out some time. Matt Moore hasn't been as dominant as expected. And Jerome Williams was very good his last time out. If he can get the Rays to beat the ball on the ground, he could win.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: Things might get messy in Miami if the team keeps losing. Ricky Nolasco has looked pretty good. But Jonathan Niese has looked even better.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: What has happened to the Blue Jays' offense? It has been nonexistent. Perhaps Brian Matusz can help. The poor kid has lost like his last ten decisions in a row and is already 0-3 this season. Why are the Orioles setting this kid up to fail? Perhaps they know something we don't. Drew Hutchinson goes for the Blue Jays. He wasn't great his first outing in the big leagues, but he hung in there and got a win. Maybe he'll be better this time.
  • The White Sox over the Red Sox: This picker wonders how pitchers fare after perfect games over the course of history. Humber will have to be really good to beat the Red Sox. Felix Doubront is doing well too. Interesting pick.
And the Game of the Day!

  • The Nationals over the Padres: Edwin Jackson seems to be on the every other game plan. This is the good turn. And against the Padres, it should be. Edinson Volquez goes for the Padres and he's yet to win a start this season.
Yesterday: 10-6
Week: 34-19
Season: 158-117
Games of the Day: 14-6

See the Funny Little Clown

I write about baseball. I write about it a lot. I also tweet a lot on Twitter...mostly about baseball. The writing is meant to be entertaining and insightful. I think I carry that off most of the time. In fact, I will go so far to say that I am pretty decent at it. But while my writing tries to be upbeat and entertaining, lately it is a bit like an old Bobby Goldsboro song, "See the Funny Little Clown." One of the lyrics of that song seems poignant to me right now, "No one knows he's dying on the inside, cause he's laughing on the outside." I can't laugh tonight even on the outside.

I get very sensitive when people like Josh Hamilton and that Bush kid fall down. I take it personal. I have been around addiction all my life. My father wrapped himself around a tree with his car when I was ten years old. My mom then married a blowhard alcoholic who was alternately the life of the party and then a mean drunk. It was just the opposite of The Brady Bunch. My former mother-in-law was in rehab for alcohol three times in her life before she almost died and saw the light. My son almost got hooked on the bottle until he saw the light as well. But then I remarried.

We were both just fresh from divorces. Hers included abuse. She had two children, a boy and a girl. The boy chose to stay with his father, unfortunately not the wisest of choices for him. The girl came with us. When I first met the girl, she was just nine years old. She had the cutest little waif way about her. She took to me right away. We had fun together. We laughed a lot. After the marriage, the little girl had some things to work through emotionally. Her old life was ripped away and she had to start a new one with us. She took it out on me.

I understood perfectly. I had been where she was. So I waited. I was patient. I was kind. I was consistent. She came around. She became my daughter and I became her father. Around the age of twelve or thirteen, she met a boy. He lived a few blocks away. They became inseparable. He was at our house more than he wasn't. They were so cute together. They had snowball fights and built snowmen. They laughed and goofed around. They were always giggling together. They were friends first and then they became more than that.

The boy had trouble at home and started staying at our house. He ate meals with us. He became a part of the family. He was a part of our Christmases and Thanksgivings. But something happened after a while and it must have happened gradually, because both my wife and I missed it.

It did not really become clear until they both came to work for me at the software company where I served as the customer service manager. I hired them for the busy season and put them on the phones and on chat. They both made lots of money.

One day, another member of my team came to my office and wanted to talk to me. He sat down and told me that he saw my step-daughter at a party and she was grinding pills and ingesting them through her nose. I did the first thing that most parents do. I went in denial.  I thanked this fellow and sort of asked her about it. She denied it. I believed her.

But by the end of the busy season when I had to lay them off, they didn't have a dime between them. I confronted them in her bedroom and they both admitted that it all went to drugs. Things spiraled downward from there. She kept getting arrested. She stole. She lied. She embezzled. And who knows what else to get what she needed. The boy went off to college.

Things in the house started disappearing. She stole from us. Undesirables kept coming to the house. The police came several times looking for her and asking us questions. Our losses went into the thousands. We both tried to help her. We both tried getting angry and pleading with her. We lost. She lost. She started shooting heroin. After conning another man out of thousands of dollars and robbing another one of several hundreds, I finally did what I had to do. I kicked her out of the house and told her she couldn't come back. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

That was four years ago. At the same time, I lost my job. The company got bought out and moved to Georgia. I was asked to go but had a daughter from my previous marriage and it meant leaving her and missing a good part of the rest of her childhood. Growing up without a dad made me decide to stay.

I started my own publishing business. I also tried to get other jobs. The publishing business produced fine work, but it crashed and burned a month ago and is on a do not resuscitate order. Nobody would hire me. I've gone bankrupt and will soon put the house up for sale. But that's not the worst part.

The worst part is that this girl I loved...this girl whose addiction caused her to cheat and steal from her own family, whose addiction took away her soul and all sense of right and wrong, kept doing drugs. She went to another state and hasn't stopped. She hasn't worked since I laid her off all those years ago. Her mother and I shudder to think what she has had to do to get what she needs. She is still lost and all we can hope for is a miracle someday before we get a phone call we both dread.

Her boyfriend...did go off to college. But his addiction continued. You should have met these two when they were thirteen. They had bright eyes and were smart and fun and creative. He played guitar. He was polite and respectful. He was a nice boy. Until he wasn't. Until she wasn't.

I had run into his father on occasion and kept up on the boy. The father would talk about his continued addiction and the trouble he got into. Then the father seemed to have a breakthrough. The boy agreed to go through sobriety. The father went through it with him. I was hopeful for him. I would never trust this boy again, nor allow him in our home, but I was hopeful he would pull his life together. It looked like he was doing so.

I hadn't spoken to the father in quite some time. And today my wife went to the store and saw the newspaper. The boy's picture was in the paper. He was missing. He had gone to this party/concert site, an amateur affair where bands would play for each other and whoever else showed up. He was supposed to play at eleven o'clock in the evening. He didn't show up. The rangers searched. His parents searched. Helicopters searched. His friends searched.

They found him this morning. Dead at 24. There were no answers thus far. There was no foul play. But we can put all the information together to know that whatever happened did because he had fallen off again. My wife cried. I felt loss. My wife called her daughter. She screamed. Who knows what this will do to her. Will she go further off the deep end? Will it shake her out of her senses? Will we be next? It is probably the most scared for her I've ever been. And I am scared for her mother who has had enough pain over this child to last five lifetimes.

I am sensitive to people who are so harsh with addicts. People have no idea how evil these addictions are. They have no idea of how evil the people are who feed these addictions and prey off them. They have no clue of the pain addiction causes. The anger. The frustration. The sense of loss. The guilt. I understand Josh Hamilton. I have met him in our daughter and in her first boyfriend...her first love.

So I am not laughing on the outside tonight. It has been so long since I have had good news that hope is a distant thing. I am depressed. I know it is clinical. Life is a hole I can't seem to climb out of. But I still have life. I still have a wife I adore and who loves me. I still have a beautiful daughter who, as of now, still sparkles with life. Her stepsister used to look like that. I wish she still did. I may be down. But I am not a quitter. But this boy who was a part of my family for years won't have a chance to keep fighting. He lost his battle. Dead at 24. Rest in peace, son. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Game Picks - Wednesday: April 25, 2012

Yesterday's picks had the feel of a professional wrestling bout. After the Marlins, Tigers, Yankees, Blue Jays, Royals and Giants lost, the bout stood at 2-6 and things looked grim indeed. But just like the blonde crowd favorite in the gleaming tights, the picks got off the mat at ran off seven straight correct picks to finish the night, 9-6. How's that for a metaphor? The several takeaways from last night are: Wow, Yu Darvish is good. Wow, Tommy Milone is good. And lastly: Wow, Cardinal fans get really mad on Twitter when their team loses. Whooboy.

One site note: These picks will now link the players to their Brooks Baseball cards. How cool is that?

There are sixteen big games on the schedule today including one double-header between the Rockies and Pirates. That's a lot of baseball. And no, this picker is not complaining. Here are Wednesday's picks: 

  • The Pirates over the Rockies: Double-headers are so hard to predict. Both games feature pitchers that could have great nights or just as easily get their butts kicked. In the first game, James McDonald seems the more solid pick over Juan Nicasio
  • The Pirates over the Rockies: Yeah, a Pirates sweep. That's a scary thought, eh? But Charlie Morton could come up big at home and Jhoulys Chacin is unpredictable. 
  • The Brewers over the Astros: The Brewers are at home. Shaun Marcum has been pitching much better. The team is hitting much betters. It all spells trouble for J.A. Happ and the Astros. 
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Lance Lynn has been terrific and should handcuff the Cubbies for six or seven innings. And besides, this picker is giving up on Chris Volstad. 
  • The White Sox over the Athletics: Chris Sale should have little trouble with the A's lineup. lists Tommy Milone as the A's starter. Um, unless he can pitch two nights in a row, that isn't possible. Seems like it is supposed to be Jarrod Parker making his season debut. 
  • The Phillies over the Diamondbacks: In their last ten innings of play, the Phillies matched their season total for extra base hits. That's good news for Cole Hamels, who will only need a couple of runs to win. Trevor Cahill goes for the D-backs. 
  • The Royals over the Indians: The stubbornness of a picker who insists on picking the Royals to end their losing streak, knows no bounds. Luke Hochevar over Ubaldo Jimenez
  • The Mariners over the Tigers: Losing Doug Fister was a big blow for the Tigers. Adam Wilk simply gives up too many hits so that even the Mariners should benefit. Plus, Felix Hernandez goes for the M's. 
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Keep waiting for the Orioles to crash and they won't. Jason Hammel has been great. But this picker keeps expecting a big game from Jose Bautista. Perhaps tonight is the night. Kyle Drabek needs to limit the walks though. 
  • The Angels over the Bay Rays: The only time the Angels seem to win is when C.J. Wilson pitches and it's his turn tonight. Jeremy Hellickson is no slouch though. Tough game to pick. 
  • The Marlins over the Mets: The Miami Marlins are officially the toughest team to pick in the majors. They fluster the heck out of this picker. Going with them on this night because Mark Buehrle was great last time out and R.A. Dickey was not. Looking for a bomb or two from the Marlins' lineup. 
  • The Reds over the Giants: Two homer-prone pitchers in Bronson Arroyo and Barry Zito. Since the pitching seems equal, going with the better offense of the Reds. 
  • The Rangers over the Yankees: Unfortunately, there is no confidence here in Phil Hughes. Secondly, Scott Feldman gets a start and he's a guy this picker has always believed in. 
  • The Red Sox over the Twins: Boy, did Bobby Valentine need this series against the Twins or what? Clay Buchholz over young Liam Hedricks. David Ortiz is on fire. 
  • The Braves over the Dodgers: Kept going back and forth on this one. Brandon Beachy is terrific. But Ted Lilly is good too and the Dodgers are at home. Going with Beachy. 

And the Game of the Day! 

  • The Nationals over the Padres: Don't worry, Jordan Zimmermann, you keep pitching great and sooner or later, you'll win. Like tonight, for example. Joe Wieland goes for the Padres. 

Yesterday: 9-6 
Week; 24-13 
Season: 148-111 
Games of the Day: 13-6

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jake Peavy - The best story of 2012 so far

Jake Peavy has always been a favorite here. For one, his name has Maine roots. A peavy is a logging tool used to separate logs in the river or millponds. It was invented and named after a Peavy that lived right up here in northern Maine. Who knows if the pitcher from the Chicago White Sox has any ancestral connection to the inventor, but it is fun to speculate. Anyway, our man, Peavy, is the story of the young 2012 thus far. Of course, his story is rivaled by the starts of Jeter and Furcal, who currently lead the shortstop leaderboard. But Peavy, like Berkman last year, is a revival so unexpected, that it becomes its own category.

In some ways, Peavy's success shouldn't be that much of a surprise. He was one of the game's best pitchers in 2007 when he won a Cy Young Award while playing for the Padres. He led the National League in strikeouts twice and in ERA just as many times. But after all the injuries, the radical surgery, the lack of meaningful innings over the past couple of seasons make what he is doing now sort of breathtaking.

Peavy has made four starts. He has won three of them and is 3-0. His WHIP is a sick 0.733. He is walking people at a rate of 1.3 walks per nine innings while only allowing 5.3 hits in those same nine innings. His 6.5 strikeout to walk ratio is the best of his career and hearkens back to 2004 except his control is better now. His ERA is impressive at 1.88 but so is his FIP at 2.09.

It would be easy to say that, well, yes, he was brilliant last night in his complete game shutout because it was the Oakland Athletics, a team that can't hit. But he has also pitched well against the Rangers, Tigers and Orioles before this. All three of those teams have very good offensive lineups. This does not have any feel of competition bias or a fluke. This feels much more like a great pitcher who is finally healthy enough to compete again every fifth day.

But of course, that is the fear too. Some Twitter savant said last night that after the game, the White Sox wrapped Peavy in bubble wrap and carried him back to the clubhouse. It was a comical statement, but does have a kernel of truth to it. His health is the biggest concern here. Can he keep going? Will his shoulder weaken and cause the need to shut him down?

But those fears lessen with every start. He made 19 starts last year. 25 to 30 seem reachable. He has gained a MPH on his fastball over a year ago. He has thrown over 100 pitches in his last two outings. This doesn't seem like a guy the White Sox are babying.

Are there any red flags to his season start? Well, his BABIP is insanely low at .219. His home run to fly ball rate is insanely low, especially to his career norms. Batters are hitting an inordinate number of infield pop ups against him. Some of those things do not seem to be sustainable. His swing percentage is low (48 percent) considering how many strikes he is throwing. Expect batters to get more aggressive against him, especially early in the count. But that could work in his favor too to keep his pitch count down.

The bottom line is that Jake Peavy is 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA and a 0.733 WHIP after four starts. Time will tell if he can keep pitching this well and stay healthy. But as of right now, it is one heck of a nice story.

Game Picks - Tuesday: April 24, 2012

When the San Francisco Giants won the first game of the double-header against the Mets, this picker knew it was going to be a good day. When the Yankees surged into a good-sized lead against the Rangers, it was confirmed. And about the only damper on a good day of picking was Jason Motte (the Hoopla) blowing a save to give the Cubs a win, spoiling a great effort by Jaime Garcia. The Royals pick was also wrong, but their losing streak is at the point where you have to pick them every day until they win a game because of the law of averages. But if you read Rany's rant, perhaps even that strategy is misguided. 

But, yes, it was a very good day. Too bad this foolish weather spoiled a Jamie Moyer start in Pittsburgh. But, the Rockies won't skip him and that match up from yesterday is among today's fifteen games to be picked. Here they are:
  • The Pirates over the Rockies: Same two pitchers as scheduled for yesterday. Still think Correia out-pitches Moyer.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Aw, heck, Rany, got to keep picking the Royals until they win. After all, Jonathan Sanchez, the modern day Oliver Perez, is the last Royal pitcher to win a game. Derek Lowe goes for the Indians.
  • The Tigers over the Mariners: Was leaning on taking Jason Vargas over Max Scherzer. But another sip of coffee cleared out the insanity.
  • The Blue Jays over the Orioles: Henderson Alvarez is pretty good. Tommy Hunter is good about once in every fifth start. This one could go either way.
  • The Bay Rays over the Angels: Don't understand the Hideki Matsui deal unless they have already tired of Luke Scott's act. But anyway, David Price should beat Ervin Santana.
  • The Marlins over the Mets: The other Santana, Johan hasn't won a game yet. He goes against Josh Johnson, who hasn't been the stud that we thought he would be. Will today be different with some extra rest? Still thinking about Jason Bay's goofy dive and that ball shooting out of his glove. Not a pleasant memory.
  • The Giants over the Reds: Mat Latos, see Matt Cain? That is what an ace looks like. 
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: Hiroki Kuroda schools Yu Darvish on how Japanese pitchers are supposed to pitch. The patient Yankees wait Darvish out and send him home early.
  • The Cubs over the Cardinals: Anyone else worried about Adam Wainwright? He simply isn't the same. The only way the Cards win this game is if they score very often on Jeff Samardzija, which is possible.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: Nothing like home brewing for the Brewers. Though they almost blew yesterdays' game against these plucky Astros. Bud Norris is a pretty good pitcher. But Randy Wolf showed encouraging signs his last time out.
  • The Phillies over the Diamondbacks: The D-backs will soon tire of Josh Collmenter. He has one or two starts left. If Vance Worly ever pitched against Yu Darvish, would it be a Worling Darvish?
  • The Athletics over the White Sox: Really like this Tommy Milone kid and think he'll out-pitch Gavin Floyd. Then again, can the A's offense score a run?
  • The Nationals over the Padres: Gio Gonzalez enjoys that big ballpark in San Diego and the Nats squeak out some runs against Clayton Richard, who obviously pitches better at home than on the road.
  • The Braves over the Dodgers: The Braves aren't taking any crap from their pitchers. See what happened to Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor? That could be you next. Nah. Minor is good. He wins over Aaron Harang who should get harangued by the Braves' hitters.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Red Sox over the Twins: Could the Twins have come at a better time for the Red Sox? Josh Beckett over Nick Blackburn.

Yesterday: 8-2
Week: 15-7
Season: 139-105
Games of the Day: 12-6

Monday, April 23, 2012

How good is Ricky Romero?

How good was the first round of the 2005 draft? Upton went first to the Diamondbacks. Gordon went to the Royals with the second pick. Jeff Clement was chosen by the Mariners. Okay, that one did not work out. Zimmerman went to the Nationals. Braun went to the Brewers. Ricky Romero went to the Blue Jays and Tulowitzki went to the Rockies. Not a bad top six, eh? Later picks in the round included Bruce, McCutchen, Maybin and Ellsbury. That is a lot of talent. You might have noticed that Ricky Romero was the first pitcher selected in that draft. Probably few outside of Canada know that. But then again, few outside of Canada know how good a pitcher Ricky Romero is and is becoming. At the age of 27, Romero has already won 45 games and he just keeps getting better.

Romero's 45 wins come against just 29 losses. That is a winning percentage over .600 despite the fact that his team, the Toronto Blue Jays, have been stuck at a .500 pace since Romero arrived in the majors. There are a few other things you notice about Romero. First, he hasn't missed a start since being called up for the first time in 2009. That's pretty darn dependable. Every fifth day, he is going to be there. The second thing you notice is that he hasn't exactly been a "shut down" kind of pitcher. His 3.58 career ERA and 4.03 career FIP don't remind you of a Strasburg. But he's not that kind of pitcher.

Romero doesn't blaze away with his fastball. He throws consistently in the 90 to 91 MPH range. He throws a four-seam and two-seam fastball, a curve, a change up and a slider/cutter. The latter pitch is debated between Fangraphs (which calls it a cutter) and PitchF/X (which calls it a slider). When his curve is on, it's a terrific pitch. And between the two-seam fastball and the change up, Romero gets a lot of ground balls. 

Romero's ground ball rate is terrific at 54.7 percent for his career. It is even higher this year at 56.2 percent. His ground ball to fly ball ratio is at 1.95 for his career but is a career best, 2.41 this season. This is also important for him because if batters hit the balls in the air, a somewhat large percentage of them go over the wall. Playing his home games in Toronto (a homer-prone park) does not help there. But when Romero is on, batters are pounding the ball into the ground.

The one real weakness Romero has in his game is his walk rate. It sits at 3.53 percent for his career. The good news there is that it was lower every season since 2009. But it has bounced a little higher this year, but it is early yet. Imagine how good he could be if he got that walk rate down around 2 percent! 

The lowered walk rate each season combined with an improved hits per nine rate every season of his career mean that his WHIP improves every season. Here is the progression:
  • 2009 - 1.522
  • 2010 - 1.290
  • 2011 - 1.138
  • 2012 - 1.061

That is a pitcher who is only getting better and better. A natural byproduct of that lowered hits per nine rate is that his BABIP has gone lower every season he has been in the big leagues. BABIP is often associated with luck. But that doesn't seem to be the case with Romero. He simply has induced weaker contact as he career progresses. And base runners who do get on are often erased via the double play. Romero induced 28 double plays last season and is averaging one per game this season.

Ricky Romero may not win Cy Young Awards. He is not a high strikeout pitcher and plays in a homer-prone park. That means his FIPs are never going to look as pretty as say a Verlander. But this is one heck of a pitcher. He is going to win sixty percent of his games. He is going to take the ball every fifth day and that is the kind of pitcher that just about every team in the majors would love to have. And the good news for the Blue Jays? They already have him tied up with a contract that keeps him a Blue Jay through 2016.

Game Picks - Monday: April 23, 2012

Twenty percent of games in Major League Baseball were rained out yesterday as a bloody miserable storm rolls up the east coast. For us, unfortunately, it doesn't mean a warm rain, but rather a wintry mix. How this picker longs for warm sun and a few rounds on the golf course. Will it ever come? Watching baseball on television is about the only sunshine we sometimes see. 

At least of the games that did play, the picks finished in the black. That's a darn sight better than the disaster that was Saturday. The Astros really fouled up that pick. Well, the Dodgers didn't help themselves with three errors and a real stinker thrown up by Chad Billingsley. The Angels' bullpen cost another pick as well as that team another game. Jeremy Guthrie is enjoying the National League and cost another pick. Noted that in the memory bank. And at this point, it simply hasn't sunk in that the Phillies aren't very good. At least they are not at this point in the season.

Monday's schedule is fairly full for a usual off day. The Mets and Giants continue their series with a pair of games in soggy New York. The Yankees and Rangers play a big series this week that begins today. So let's take a look at Monday's games. The picks:
  • The Giants over the Mets (first game): Will take Tim Lincecum and hope that he comes back to form in this start. The 80 year old Miguel Bautista gets a spot start for the Mets. He should be good for four or five innings, but then what?
  • The Giants over the Mets (second game): Madison Bumgarner, when he is on, is truly terrific. Dillon Gee can be tough at home. Should be a close game.
  • The Pirates over the Rockies: Kevin Corriea holds back the Rockies in Pittsburgh while the Pirates score three or more off of Jamie Moyer. Since Moyer has gotten his win, the picks have to be less sentimental and more reality based.
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: C.C. Sabathia in hot Texas? Yes, he'll like that. Derek Holland has never beaten the Yankees, but that doesn't mean anything. Will be a tight game. Russell Martin's defense behind the plate (or Chris Stewart if he plays) come up big with the Rangers' willy nilly base running.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Have picked against Jaime Garcia every time this season and it has burned. Hate for picks to be reactionary, but there it is. If Matt Garza is on, this game will be low scoring.
  • The Red Sox over the Twins: The rained out game yesterday against the Yankees was probably a break for this beleaguered Red Sox team. They can regroup and get a good performance from Jon Lester to get a win over Jason Marquis.
  • The Royals over the Blue Jays: This is a tough one. Brandon Morrow has given up a lot of homers so far, but he's always better on the road. Bruce Chen is amazing with his powder puff stuff. The Royals have lost so many games in a row, the odds say they have to win one here sometime.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Phillies: How about a pitching match up between Kyle Kendrick and Wade Miley? That isn't exactly how these two teams would have drawn it up this time of year, eh? Tired of picking the Phillies day after day only to have the pick go south. Taking the D-backs at home.
  • The White Sox over the Athletics: Another tough pick. Bartolo Colon has had three impressive starts. But he is neutralized by Jake Peavy who has had a revival in his start to this season. The White Sox should score a run or two more.
  • The Dodgers over the Braves: The Dodgers are back at home. Chris Capuano has been surprisingly good there. Jair Jurrjens is too much of a question mark to pick.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Brewers over the Astros: The Astros are playing spirited ball. But the Brewers have never lost a game at home that Zack Greinke has started. The streak is nineteen games long now. Make it twenty.The impressive Lucas Harrell goes for the Astros.

Yesterday: 7-5
Week: 7-5
Season: 131-103
Games of the Day: 11-6

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Game Picks - Sunday: April 22, 2012

Boy, was yesterday a depressing day for a game picker. Sixteen big games were played. That was the good part. The bad part were that ten of those picks went south. Roy Halladay lost!? Say what!? Well, yes, this space has been promoting Cory Luebke all spring, but still. Marco Estrada was fantastic in his first start. Did not see that coming. Plus, the Rockies bullpen imploded. This picker correctly predicted that Freddy Garcia would stink and that Felix Doubront would be great. And that happened exactly. But what happened after never could have been predicted. A pick was nine runs ahead and ended up being wrong!? The Reds couldn't do anything with Paul Maholm!? Ugh, it was awful yesterday. And it ended what was a really good week on a really sour note.

The schedule marches on though and not too much time can be spent licking fresh wounds. Fifteen more big games have to be considered. Here are Sunday's picks:

  • The Mets over the Giants: These Mets are a resilient bunch. Dillon Gee was pretty good his last time out. The bullpens on both teams have to be gassed and what happens if Tim Lincecum struggles again?
  • The Rangers over the Tigers: This picker has been waiting for Colby Lewis to throw a clunker and he has been brilliant. So how can he be picked against when doing so has led to two wrong picks already? He goes against The Emoticon, Drew Smyly, who has been very good himself. But it would take a Verlander to beat this Rangers' offense.
  • The Marlins over the Nationals: Gio Gonzalez makes every fiber want to pick the Nats. But Gio is due for one of his once-in-a-while clunkers and Josh Johnson is 7-0 lifetime against the Nats.
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: The Pirates had a nice win yesterday. But poor Erik Bedard has been pitching well and has three losses to show for it. Kyle Lohse has been brilliant. When will the other shoe drop? Not in this game.
  • The Bay Rays over the Twins: B.J. Upton makes the Rays' offense deeper. Francisco Liriano has been miserable. Jeff Niemann hasn't been much better, but...
  • The Dodgers over the Astros: Can you pick against the Dodgers these days? No. Can you pick against Chad Billingsley these days? No. Can Wandy Rodriguez win a well-pitched game? No.
  • The Brewers over the Rockies: Yovani Gallardo has been encouraging his last two starts. Jeremy Guthrie should be decent. But as long as Gallardo pitches well, the Brewers should win at home.
  • The Blue Jays over the Royals: 2012 has been a nightmare for the Royals. Danny Duffy has been great, but the Blue Jays put up their best pitcher too. Ah well, it was thought the Royals would show some progress this year.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Johnny Cueto pitches for the Reds. Randy Wells makes his first start of the year for the Cubs. If the Reds don't win this one, they should just get rid of Dusty Baker and start over. Maybe they should anyway.
  • The Angels over the Orioles: Wei-Lin Chen has been pretty good for the Orioles, but it is way past time for Dan Haren to have a dominant outing and pick up a win.
  • The Indians over the Athletics: Justin Masterson will bounce back after a terrible start and limit the A's to two runs or less. Tyler Ross looks good but all the Indians will need is three runs to win.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: Anthony Bass has been decent for the Padres. But he can't yet go deep in games because of the young pitcher's command. That is something the Phillies can use. Joe Blanton goes for the Phillies.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Braves: The Braves are as hot a team as there is right now. And Randall Delgado has been good. But Ian Kennedy is still someone this picker never picks against. So that's the pick.
  • The White Sox over the Mariners: Kevin Millwood. Kevin MilLOLwood. That's all John Danks needs for the win. The Mariners will get a hit this game.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: Gee, this game is on national television. How novel. C.C. Sabathia struggles against the Red Sox. But this isn't the same Red Sox lineup as in the past. The Yankees will wait out Daniel Bard and push his pitch count up and force Valentine to replace him by the sixth inning. Then the Yankees can have more fun against that bullpen.

Yesterday: 6-10
Last Week: 56-40
Season: 124-98
Games of the Day: 11-6