Saturday, May 19, 2012

Plugging a friend

Twitter is a fascinating place and you meet all kinds of cool people (and some not so cool ones). One of the coolest meetings at that site has been Jay Ferraro ( @JayFerraro ). Not only is he a baseball nut and writer of some distinction, he is also an actor that has been in stuff you've actually seen! Anyway, Jay and his friend, Ben Nisman do a weekly baseball broadcast on Blog Talk Radio hosted by Full Spectrum Baseball.  The show is on every Saturday and Sunday mornings at nine o'clock Eastern Time.  For more details and a link to the show, go here. And thank you.

Game Picks - Saturday: May 19, 2012

You can't predict baseball. After a terrible week that featured four days of sub-.500 picks, interleague starts and suddenly the picks pull off a 13-2 day. In one fell swoop, all of the losses of the week were made up to bring the week back to .500. Nearly everything went right and that's as close as you can get to the ultimate picking nirvana of 15-0 (which has never happened here in three years of doing this). The only two incorrect picks were the Cubs, who did indeed get a well-pitched game from Jeff Samardzija, and the Royals. 

In a development that is totally unexpected, a positive day today would end the week in the black. Wouldn't that be something? Here are Saturday's picks:
  • The Yankees over the Reds: A little reserved about this pick because a lot will depend on if Ivan Nova can throw a good game after getting his ankle dinged up. But the Yankees should help Homer Bailey earn his name.
  • The Blue Jays over the Mets: The Blue Jays are on a roll right now. And Saturday features Brandon Morrow, who should bounce back after a bad outing. Miguel Bautista gets the start for the Mets and was great his last time out. He is also returning to a city where he has a lot of memories.
  • The Marlins over the Indians: Anibal Sanchez continues to be one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball. Going with him over Jeanmar Gomez. Was the Indians signing Johnny Damon a mistake?
  • The Athletics over the Giants: The Giants don't like to give Ryan Vogelsong any runs to play with, so despite all quality starts, he is 1-2. Tyler Ross is pitching much better and keeps Vogelsong's bad luck going.
  • The Tigers over the Pirates: A.J. Burnett back pitching in the American League is worth a shudder. The Emoticon, Drew Smyly goes for the Tigers.   :)  <--- a smyly
  • The Bay Rays over the Braves: Tough game to pick with Randall Delgado being so unpredictable and the Rays going with Alex Cobb. Cobb pitched pretty well in the bigs last year. Going with that.
  • The Brewers over the Twins: And the Twins winning streak will end at three. Carl Pavano has injury concerns, so can't be trusted (but then again, can't be when healthy either). Yovani Gallardo needs to have a good game though.
  • The Rockies over the Mariners: Love this Christian Friedrich kid. Love the fact that he is causing prospect analysts to scratch their heads. They never saw this coming. Jason Vargas goes for the Mariners.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Royals: Ian Kennedy is still the man-crush here. But he hasn't been nearly as good as last year so far. Perhaps he puts it together today. He will face Bruce Chen, the bamboozler.
  • The Nationals over the Orioles: Worried about Jason Hammel's knee. Also worried a bit about Ross Detwiler after his last outing. So it's a toss up.
  • The Red Sox over the Phillies: That was some drama last night with Papelbon going against his former team. But he won't factor in this one. The Phillies won't hit Jon Lester, so all the Red Sox need to do is score a few off of Joe Blanton.
  • The Cubs over the White Sox: Ryan Dempster finally gets a win he has earned all season with great pitching. Poor lug should be like 6-1 instead of 0-1. Whatever happened to the career of John Danks?
  • The Rangers over the Astros: Derek Holland needs to be solid here. He wins if he is as the Rangers should score off of young Lucas Harrell.
  • The Angels over the Padres: Why would the White Sox let Eric Stults slip away? San Diego will take him. But the Angels still win behind Dan Haren, who should have few problems against the Padres' lineup.

And the Game of the Day!
  • The Dodgers over the Cardinals: First, Clayton Kershaw is the bomb. Second, a lefty turns Berkman to his weaker side. Third, the Cardinals are banged up.

Yesterday: 13-2
Week: 45-45
Month: 135-117
Season: 324-266
Games of the Day: 25-18 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Carlos Ruiz is seeing the ball really well

The Philadelphia Phillies have struggled out of the gate this season and it was a big story when the team finally went a game over .500 last night. For a team accustomed to the post season, it has been a bit of an inglorious start. Lost in that story of age and injuries is the superb season that Carlos Ruiz is putting up both behind the plate and beside it. With a quarter of the season nearly in the books, Ruiz is having a career year. Phillies fans call him, "Chooch," and they have been shouting "Choooooch!" often this season. 

The standardized numbers tell part of his amazing season. His triple slash line of: .363/.405/.619 lead to an impressive 1.024 OPS. With seven homers, he has already surpassed his last season totals and again, with the season only a quarter over, he already has nearly half as many total bases as last year. Last year, Ruiz drove in 40 runs all season. This season, he already has 27 RBI. His batting average is fifth best in the majors right now.

If you dig deeper, you start to see a little further into how well Ruiz is actually hitting. His current wOBA of .432 is ninety-nine points higher than his career average of .333 and is ninth best in the majors. His wRC+ of 175 easily beats his 100 career average and is tenth in the majors this season. 

But what the numbers really show is that he is seeing the ball really, really well. The first piece of evidence pointing in that direction is that his strikeout rate is down. Ruiz has never been a big strikeout guy, but his career average is 10.8 percent and he has never had a season below ten percent. This season, he is striking out an only a 9.5 percent clip.

The second bit of evidence that he is seeing the ball really well is his contact rate. Ruiz isn't the most discriminating of swingers as he is not greatly selective at the plate. But his contact rate on strikes has been phenomenal. When Carlos Ruiz swings at a pitch in the strike zone, he makes contact 96.9 percent of the time. He was as high as 99.1 percent as late as early this week. That contact rate in the strike zone is fourth best in the majors. Yes, it would not be a stretch to say he is seeing the ball really well. One last bit of evidence: His swinging strike percentage is only 6.2 percent. That is excellent.

And what about his defense? In that area, he is also having his best season. For his career, Ruiz has been exactly league average in throwing out base steal attempts at 27 percent. This season, he is at 38 percent, much higher than the league average. And most impressively, he has only allowed one passed ball and only two wild pitches have gotten by him. Ruiz has yet to make an error. 

Clearly, to this point, Carlos Ruiz is having a career year. But can it last? Predicting he will do so is always troubling because of his position. We never hear the full story of the dings and dents catchers get during the season and now it relates to their batting. Catchers never tell those things. It's almost like a rite of passage for the position. And yet, it has to affect a catcher's offense to have hands, fingers and other extremities consistently bombarded with foul tips and other things that happen.

Taking the position out of the equation, are there other signs that he could regress? His BABIP is a bit high at .353. But if he is seeing the ball as well as he is, of course he is hitting the ball hard. Ruiz has always been higher than the norm at hitting line drives and this season is no exception. But yes, the BABIP should mellow out a bit to his .335 and .308 numbers he's had in that area in the last two seasons.

You have to take Ruiz's power numbers as a bit of a fluke. Ruiz has never hit more than nine in a season. He should fly by that this season with seven already. But he can't sustain his home run to fly ball rate, which is sitting at 22.6 percent. With a career average in that category of 7.1 percent, it would be a huge surprise if Ruiz hits more than fifteen homers by season's end.

To this observation deck, Ruiz is a terrific catcher and in many ways the soul of the Phillies. While that sounds like MSM rhetoric, Ruiz has always seemed to be one of the cores of the Phillies' success. As such, it is rewarding to see him having such a great year at the plate. Yes, he is due to regress a bit and as a catcher, anything can happen. But as of right now, Carlos Ruiz is raking and having the best season of his career.

Game Picks - Friday: May 18, 2012

When a week has gone as badly as this one has with every day in negative territory, one game over .500 on a full Thursday seems like a miracle. But it isn't really. It's just another day of mediocre game-picking. It doesn't help when supposedly good teams like the Tigers and Yankees keep losing and the Rangers decide a game doesn't matter and sits their best player. Give credit to J.A. Happ. He pitched fantastic. But that ruined a pick. And it looks like the Angels little revival sputtered out after two days. Picking the Cardinals was, in hindsight, not a smart pick. Adam Wainwright is not the same pitcher.

Now comes the fun part. As if picking games hasn't been hard enough, now we have to deal with interleague games. How will some AL teams do without the DH? How do pitching match ups differ? It is a nightmare. But, no one ever said this job would be easy.

Friday's picks:

  • The Cubs over the White Sox: The battle for Chicago starts of interleague play in a Friday matinee. Jeff Samardzija should be better than Phil Humber, who has been awful ever since his perfect game. The Cubs will be without their DH for the game and series.
  • The Orioles over the Nationals: Jake Arrieta will be unfamiliar to the Nationals and the Nationals are still struggling at the plate. The Orioles will not have the DH. The enigmatic Edwin Jackson goes for the Nats.
  • The Phillies over the Red Sox: Cole Hamels is a free agent at the end of the season (unless the Phillies lock him up first). The Red Sox could be potential suitors. Here is a chance to show them what he's got. Daniel Bard is not striking people out as a starter and runs into trouble in the late middle innings. No DH for the Red Sox.
  • The Marlins over the Indians: The Marlins get an extra hitter in the game at Cleveland. Justin Masterson can't command his sinker and Carlos Zambrano is enjoying a nice comeback season.
  • The Tigers over the Pirates: Only the Pirates could start interleague play by having to face Justin Verlander. They have no luck at all. Charlie Morton could be a ground ball machine. Might be low scoring. Verlander needs to go deep in the game. But that's his usual anyway.
  • The Blue Jays over the Mets: Good pitching match up in this one with Jon Niese and Ricky Romero. Romero should bounce back from his off start against the Twins. Jose Bautista is heating up and Edwin Encarnacion is having a great season. Does anyone realize that David Wright is still batting over .400? Wow!
  • The Braves over the Bay Rays: Tough game to call. The Braves get an extra hitter and they have them. Tommy Hanson needs to be very good because you know James Shields will be.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: Not liking picking against Wandy Rodriguez. But the Rangers are simply better than the Astros and Neftali Feliz has been good in his last two outings.
  • The Royals over the Diamondbacks: Luis Mendoza has been great in long relief. Now he gets the start against a good D-backs team. The difference in this one is that Joe Saunders has been brutal so far in May.
  • The Twins over the Brewers: Can the Twins win three in a row? Can Scott Diamond keep throwing zeroes? Or will Marco Estrada spoil the party? Going with Diamond and the Twins.
  • The Mariners over the Rockies: Was Kevin Millwood that good against the Yankees or did he just catch up with a flat team? How will he fare in Coors? And what of Alex White? Good one outing and horrible the next. Does Coors doom his as well? Ugh. Tough call here.
  • The Angels over the Padres: Two pitchers pitching well in Jered Weaver and Jeff Suppan (still can't get over it). Two struggling offenses. Going with Weaver who should plow through the Padres' lineup.
  • The Dodgers over the Cardinals: Beltran is hurting and that hurts the Cards. Lance Lynn started the season great. Does his last start indicate a tired arm? Ted Lilly has been terrific and will be the difference.
  • The Giants over the Athletics: Jarrod Parker is a good young pitcher. Barry Zito has been surprisingly effective this season. Both teams are challenged offensively.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Yankees over the Reds: Eventually, the Yankees bats should come alive. Perhaps Bronson Arroyo at Yankee Stadium would do the trick. Andy Pettitte makes his second start. He needs to get Joey Votto out.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 32-43
Month; 122-115
Season: 311-264
Games of the Day: 24-18

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The coolest thing ever

A big hat tip to Justin Jabs for this one. How fun is this site? Type anything you want (if short enough) and make your own marquee on the Wrigley Field sign. Huzzah! Love it.

BBA Linkfest - The patter of General beat

Another week, another links post. And there sure is a lot of good stuff to bring you this week from the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. If this links compiler sounds more like a cheerleader than the president of this body, it is only natural because it is an honor to present these links to you every week. Pour yourself a hot beverage, have another Pop Tart and enjoy all this great stuff coming your way.

Let's start out in Left Field where our good friend has been doing a bang up job coming up with all-time teams for each franchise. Today, he features his all-time team born on this very day of May 17. Ozzie makes an appearance. No, not that one.

For Ryan Smith of Major League A**holes, this week was rivalry week in Chicago. It was a split decision.

Michael Holloway has a great piece on John Farrell's radical defensive shifts over at his Michael Holloway's Baseball Blog. Definitely worth checking out!

How many of us deluded fans think we affect the outcomes of games by what we do while watching the games from our couches? Now there is a book about it. Andrew Martin of MLB Dirt has the review.

Bernie Olshanksy of MLB Reports has a story of the Miracle Mets. No, not 1969. This year. This year!? Yup, you'll have to read this.

Nik of Niktig's Baseball Blog put together his all-time Boston Red Sox team.

Over at Old Time Family Baseball, that author called Derek Lowe, "Merlin." Since this compiler is a sucker for anything referring to King Arthur, that scores deeply in this book. Anyway, Lowe had a performance the contact-happy Twins would just drool over. And he did it against them.

Jeremy Sickel of the Pop Fly Boys tells us that the Kansas City Royals' second wave of talent is on the way. Let's hope this wave includes pitching.

In a post singed with irony over at The Platoon Advantage, Bill wishes Jack Morris a happy birthday. The irony comes from that site skewering his Hall of Fame credentials for years now. That is entertainment, folks.

The Replacement Level Baseball Blog takes a mulligan on one of its earlier top 100 picks of the best players in baseball. Corrects an oops but it's a great read.

The proprietor of The Sports Banter shows us where he has been lately.

The Indians are good this season? Sully over at Sully Baseball is surprised. Agreed.

This compiler is a sucker for posts about baseball history. So this post on Through the Fence Baseball about the weirdest game in history is the post of the week. Terrific.

Jonathan Dyer of the X-Log wonders when Carlos Gonzalez became a singles hitter. Probably when he said on's commercial that he would do it all.

Why isn't baseball's amateur draft as exciting as the NFL's? Never could figure that out. Perhaps 85% Sports' Eugene Tierney can rectify that with his mock draft. Excellent.

Baseball Unrated was wrong about Bryan LaHair, but at least admitted to it.

The Baseblog and Justin Jabs are celebrating their 100th post. Way to go, Justin! And what a cool way to celebrate!

Bet you have forgotten all about Manny Ramirez since he started the season on a 50-day suspension. Blaine Blontz hasn't. Call to the Pen has the details.

This article by Mario Salvini of Che Palle! does not translate well from Italian into English. But the sentiment and excitement for Alex Liddi is legit.

Matt Whitener of Cheap.Seats.Please. thinks it is a step in the right direction for the Cardinals to retire Tony La Russa's uniform number. But thinks the Cards have more work to do in that department.

TheNaturalMevs was thrilled about a phenom's first two MLB homers. Check it out on Diamond Hoggers.

The Baseball Index presents us with a surprise candidate for the starting NL All Star catcher. And yes, before the season, this compiler called the position a weakness for this player's team.

Ryan Bohlen of Full Spectrum Baseball has this compiler's favorite post of the week on the most exciting team in the NL Central. And it's not the team that you think.

This week's version of The Golden Sombrero "MLB Look-Alikes" is probably the best ever. Loved it.

The owner of The Grubby Glove is one terrific writer. One of our very best. Check out his latest.

In the time of the season category, The Hall of Very Good thinks Sammy Sosa is a zombie. Why is money wasted on the rich?

And last but not least, Theo of Hot Corner Harbor has an excellent read looking back at the Ryan Braun case.

Have a great week, everyone.

Game Picks - Thursday: May 17, 2012

What in the name of Jimmy the Greek is going on here!? This is the worst stretch of picking days in this history of this feature. And that goes back a long time. The last four days have gone 24-36. And if something could be thrown at Jon Rauch and at the Tigers, there would be. And what kind of effort was that, Yankees? This has got to turn around somehow. Otherwise, this picker is going to crawl into a fetal ball and talk gibberish for a while.

So come on, Thursday. Turn this thing around, won't you please?
  • The Indians over the Mariners: Did we not see this Indians' script last year? They were good early last year. Will they fade this season? Can the Tigers get it together? Zach McAllister over Hector Noesi.
  • The Tigers over the Royals Oops Twins: Doug Fister is really, really good. He better go all the way though as this bullpen is sucking big time. P.J. Walters sounds too much like a pajama to be taken seriously.
  • The Mets over the Reds: Please. Someone feed Jon Rauch a bad hotdog or something to get him out of there for a few days. How can someone so big and so mean looking throw such soft garbage? Mat Latos is hard to predict. R.A. Dickey is pitching really well as he sells a lot of books.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: But this is no ringing endorsement. Brandon McCarthy is good enough to shut the Rangers down and Matt Harrison hasn't looked good since early in the season.
  • The Orioles over the Royals: Brian Matusz and Luke Hochevar. Gosh. Two enigmas if there ever were. All the Orioles do these days is win.
  • The Rockies over the Diamondbacks: The D-backs have been really disappointing this season. Such a shame too. Trevor Cahill is okay, but Coors Field won't be fun for him. Juan Nicasio was mighty good his last time out.
  • The Cardinals over the Giants: Adam Wainwright is starting to look like a good pitcher again. Matt Cain never gets any run support.
  • The Pirates over the Nationals: Two great young pitchers in this one. James McDonald beats Jordan Zimmermann something like 1-0 or 2-1.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The sky is falling in New York if you listen to their fans and writers. So they have hit a rough patch. They haven't had a hot streak yet. And they will. Phil Hughes over Drew Hutchinson.
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: Felix Doubront is really good. Matt Moore has not pitched as advertised. That seems to be the story line for this one.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Brandon Beachy is quietly having himself one heck of a season. For this picker, Ricky Nolasco simply is a trust issue.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: If the season were to end today, Brad Mills should get Manager of the Year. However, he still has J.A. Happ in his rotation and that sounds like five runs for the Brewers, which should be enough with Shaun Marcum on the mound.
  • The Phillies over the Cubs: Roy Halladay can't lose three in a row, can he? Chris Volstad can't avoid a bad and big inning, can he?
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: Aaron Harang and Edinson Volquez? Who the heck knows. Your guess is as good as this one.
And the Game of the Day!
  • The Angels over the White Sox: The Angels are waking up a bit. Which of course, will prompt more teams to uselessly fire hitting coaches when that is such a stupid thing to blame. C.J. Wilson gets the win and Chris Sale seems to be an injury waiting to happen.

Yesterday: 5-10
Week: 24-36
Month; 114-108
Season: 303-257
Games of the Day: 24-17

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Adam Jones reaching stardom

Adam Jones has always been a nice player for the Baltimore Orioles. In his first four full seasons with the Orioles, you could count on Jones batting somewhere in the upper .270s and have an OPS in the high 700s. He played solid defense that hinted that he could be better in center. He stole a few bases. He was a good solid player. He has never been a star. In his fifth season with the Orioles, he has become a star.

The progression to this point for Jones feels right. He was a former first round draft pick by the Seattle Mariners. He was a shortstop drafted right out of high school. While he hit right out of the gate in the Mariners' system, his fielding was atrocious. During one two-year stretch, he made 66 errors in 244 games. By 2006, the Mariners had converted him to a center fielder. And that season and the next, Jones made brief appearances on the Mariners' major league team and saw action in 73 combined games in those two seasons. He was just 20 and 21 years old at the time.

After the 2007 season, the Mariners traded Jones, their former first round pick, along with other minor league bodies for Erik Bedard. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that deal went in favor of the Orioles--even with Jones as simply a solid if unspectacular player. It is fairly easy to see that a couple of things kept Adam Jones in the unspectacular category. One, he played on a terrible Orioles team that was simply awful for the first four years he has played there. Secondly, his rise to the big leagues was a bit rushed and it has taken a while for him to kick it into another level. 

But what if his current performance is a bit of a fluke? After all, he's already hit eleven homers and his previous high was 25. But that previous high was last season. So the gain seems more like a natural progression than a fluke. The same goes for his batting average of .304. You would think he would sink back to his previous .280s except that his BABIP is only .298, lower than his career average making his batting average seem logical and not a small sample size anomaly. 

Adam Jones is one of those players who needs a high batting average to hold up his on-base average. One of the weaknesses of Jones' game is his lack of patience at the plate. His career walk percentage is only 4.8 percent and this year isn't much better at five percent. But he has cut down just a bit on swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. The last two seasons, he has swung at over 40 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone. This year, he sits at 38.8 percent. It's not a great number, but at least it is a small improvement. 

Jones is also playing the best center field of his career this season. Being a former shortstop, he has always had a strong arm. But playing for a team that always loses seemed to cause him to lose focus in 2010 and 2011 and his errors were high at six and five respectively. He hasn't made an error this season so far and is getting to everything out in center.

At the age of 26, Jones seems ripe for stardom. Even at his previous performance, he was a decent player, easily worth more than a certain other high school kid who was drafted first overall in that 2003 draft. Even as a solid player, Jones has a higher career OPS than that Delmon kid and much more wins above replacement. But unlike that other former shortstop in that draft, Jones seems ready to be an elite player and his early great start does not have the look or feel of a fluke.

Game Picks - Wednesday: May 16, 2012

The losing streak continues with another night of MLB game picks falling below the .500 mark. Let's recap. C.C. Sabathia lost. Stephen Strasburg lost. Jake Peavy had a six run lead and his team lost. Johnny Cueto lost. That's three heretofore undefeated pitchers all taking a loss. The Royals beat the Rangers again. And picking against Wade Miley was pretty stupid.

Oh, and to top everything off. All this household's favorite television shows are ending with cliffhangers, proving once again that network television hates for its characters to ever be happy and all these writers and producers can suck a rock. It is always good television to kill off characters we have invested emotional energy in. Not.

With this slump now eight days old, this week is pretty much beyond redemption. And gains made in the month and the season are rapidly eroding. It is time for a big day. It is time to stop this nonsense. Come on, William, you can do this!

Wednesday's picks:
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: The first game out of the chute today is a puzzler. As we saw yesterday, it is not a good week for undefeated pitchers. And Chris Capuano is 5-0. Clayton Richard pretty well stinks outside of Petco Park. But he is pretty good there. So what to do? Pick the undefeated pitcher and hope for the best.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: Two sinkerball pitchers in Nick Blackburn and Rick Porcello. Both have been leaving those pitches up in the zone. One of them has to get it down. The Tigers are giving this picker fits. But they are the choice.
  • The Nationals over the Pirates: Gio Gonzalez is having fun in the National League and is 4-1. Erik Bedard had back spasms the last time he tried to pitch and lasted an inning. Not going there.
  • The Mariners over the Indians: Really have no idea with this one. Felix Hernandez will be solid. You know that. But what of Ubaldo Jimenez? The Mariners are offensively sagging. But Ubaldo could be the ticket. Or not. Who knows.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The Yankees cannot put a streak together. The offense is still sputtering when not hitting a homer (0-8). The Blue Jays are a complete mystery to this picker. Cannot figure them out for anything. Kyle Drabek could be sensational. Or he could have a meltdown. Hiroki Kuroda could keep the Blue Jays in check. Or he could give up homers to Encarnation and/or Bautista.
  •  The Rays over the Red Sox: Another game up in the air. Clay Buchholz was much better his last time out. Jeremy Hellickson is undefeated but has struggled in the past against the Red Sox. The Bay Rays are at home and they have been good there this season. Going with that.
  • The Mets over the Reds: Now this game feels easy. Johan Santana should be better than Mike Leake. Easy pick. Watch this be the only pick that goes wrong.
  • The Marlins over the Braves: It is games like this where Mark Buehrle earns his paycheck. Mike Minor has really struggled and if he struggles in this one, the Braves will have some decisions to make.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: This game is a setup. Can feel it. The setup is to pick the red hot Bud Norris and the Astros at home. They the Brewers knock him out early and make the pick look stupid. This picker is on to it though amd will go with Randy Wolf.
  • The Cubs over the Phillies: This game also feels like a setup. Whenever the Phillies go with Kyle Kendrick, they make it appear that they don't care if they win or not. But Matt Garza will foil the obvious plot.
  • The Orioles over the Royals: This game features two pitchers that simply won't be given definitive jobs. It always seems their spots are on the bubble. Tommy Hunter and Felipe Paulino will say, "the heck with you," to their teams and this will be a brilliant pitcher's duel won by the Orioles bullpen.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Coors Field is always the wild card in these games. And it has been unkind to Jamie Moyer, which seems natural since he relies on movement. The difference in this game will be Patrick Corbin, who is pretty sharp to this point.
  • The White Sox over the Angels: The firing of Mickey Hatcher was so bogus that the Angels need to lose on principle alone. Of course, Gavin Floyd can help the cause. Jerome Williams goes for the Angels.
  • The Giants over the Cardinals: Madison Bumgarner wasn't his usual self his last time out. He should get back on track in this one at home. Jaime Garcia is a bad inning waiting to happen.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Yu Darvish should win this one, especially if the Rangers can get to Tommy Milone. The Rangers at home is always a good pick.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 19-26
Month: 109-98
Season: 298-247
Games of the Day: 23-17

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Game Picks - Tuesday: May 15, 2012

Three straight losing days now as this game picking thing has gone from bad to worse. Yesterday was terrible from a picking standpoint and one point, the picks were 2-10. A late rally made it 5-10, which doesn't really sound much better. So what is the problem? For one, the Detroit Tigers have become impossible to pick. The Cardinals have lost four straight. The Rangers' bats took a day off against Bruce Chen. The Athletics are now 19-17. Yes, that's confusing. And Brad Lincoln is 3-0, with an ERA of 1.33 and a WHIP of 0.98. How can you predict those kinds of things?

Okay, this week has started in a serious deficit. Need to pull out some good days here. Tuesday's picks:

  • The Nationals over the Padres: Stephen Strasburg is doing his part. 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA. The Nationals just need to get their offense going more consistently. Anthony Bass is not pitching badly this season at all and is still 1-4.
  • The Indians over the Twins: Derek Lowe is enjoying his second romp through the AL. He should beat Jason Marquis and the Twins.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Everything points to a Cubs win. Paul Maholm is on a serious roll. Kyle Lohse was limited to five innings his last time out due to leg problem. The Cardinals have lost four straight. So why pick the Cards? It is just too good a set up.
  • The White Sox over the Tigers: The same feelings that pervade the pick above for the Cardinals fit here too. Jake Peavy is really, really good this season. Max Scherzer has been better of late. But the pick is for Peavy.
  • The Red Sox over the Mariners: The temptation again is to pick the underdog here. Especially since Josh Beckett struggled his last time out and is under the gun in Boston. But he'll beat Blake Beavan.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Have been picking Wei-Lin Chen in all his picks and it has worked. The guy has been somewhat of a revelation. But he goes against C.C. Sabathia in this one. 
  • The Athletics over the Angels: Bartolo Colon has a bounce-back start against the Angels and Ervin Santana continues his streak of giving up a homer in every start.
  • The Bay Rays over the Blue Jays: The Jays simply confuse this picker. Are they good? Are they not? They don't look like it lately. Henderson Alvarez has been terrific. But David Price is the better pitcher.
  • The Reds over the Braves: Johnny Cueto has been shut down good all season long. Tim Hudson is looking terrific in his latest starts and his back seems fine. Toss up.
  • The Mets over the Brewers: This game is really tough and the outcome has been changed by this picker twice already. The overriding factor here is that Zack Greinke struggles on the road and Dillon Gee is a bit of a good luck charm for the Mets.
  • The Marlins over the Pirates: Typical Marlins yesterday. They wasted another good start by Anibal Sanchez. Josh Johnson has had a really confusing season. Will this game be the one he break out? Kevin Correia has never been a pleasure to pick for or against.
  • The Rangers over the Royals: Not a big fan of Colby Lewis, but how many times is Vin Mazzaro been bombed out in his lifetime? Too many for this picker to ever pick him again.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Chad Billingsley is the weirdest major league pitcher of them all. His body of work seems good. But from start to start, you just never know. He's good at home though. And Wade Miley was not as sharp his last time out.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: It seems easy to pick against Tim Lincecum these days. That isn't a good thing. Jeremy Guthrie is pitching for the first time in a long time and the pick is for him in this one.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Astros: Any time your pitching match up is Cliff Lee against TBD, then that's not a good sign for the opposing team.

Yesterday: 5-10
Week: 12-18
Month: 102-90
Season: 291-234
Games of the Day: 22-17

Monday, May 14, 2012

Does Brendan Ryan need to hit?

Brendan Ryan is batting .149. His manager, Eric Wedge, said some unhappy things about Ryan recently and benched him against the Yankees. with the clinching line being: "He's not 25 years old, he's 30 years old,'' Wedge added. "It's time for him to figure out what he needs to do to be successful. I can't be any more honest than that.'' We hear you, loud and clear, Mr. Wedge. But are you right? Does Brendan Ryan need to hit to help his team?

Well, sure, it would be helpful if Ryan could hit a bit. But he hasn't. Ryan is a guy you leave in the eighth or ninth hole in your lineup and kind of hope he does something once in a while. Certainly, when you bat him second in the order, Mr. Wedge, you are going to be setting yourself up for some anger management. But that's on you because Brendan Ryan should never hit there. 

It's pretty safe to say that Brendan Ryan is never going to hit. His wOBA the last three seasons are, .256, .291 and this season, .225. But does he need to? Well again, yeah, it would be nice if he could. But he can't. So take that part of the question out of there. The question then is: Is he still a valuable player whether he hits or not and the answer is yes. When a guy can play shortstop like he can, hitting would be nice, but it should be optional.

If this basement seat observer was Eric Wedge, an arm would be put over Ryan's shoulder. He would be told not to worry about his offense but to keep working on it. He would be told to just keep playing great shortstop. But there are two problems with this point of view.

First, nobody seems to be able to agree about the accuracy and viability of our fielding statistics. And those that do buy into them caution that a third of a season or a half of a season is too short a sample size to make anything of what we are looking at. The problem, of course, is that's all we we have to look at right now. In other words, when Fangraphs ranks shortstops, those fielding metrics are part of the valuation process. That leaderboard does not come with a warning label that such value rankings might seem closer than they appear.

But we are covered either way with Brendan Ryan because his high rankings defensively have been consistent. They do not fly up and down. And the eye-test (observations) just marvels at how good he is at his position.  Ryan's run prevention ability does not appear to be a fluke or overrated. The guy is simply a great shortstop.

Because of that ability, and despite batting .149, Ryan is in the upper end of the middle of the pack for shortstops in baseball with 0.6 fWAR. This, if you believe the Fangraphs' valuation, means that Ryan is more valuable so far this season than Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins. 

And his fielding should not be under-emphasized. Much of the Mariners' pitching staff consists of ground ball pitchers. Even Felix Hernandez is more of a ground ball guy this season than in the past. Wouldn't you want a large part of your strategy to get a shortstop as good as Ryan to back them up?

Perhaps depending on Fangraphs for the valuation or the worth of a player is not useful. Perhaps it is. gives Ryan even more value than Fangraphs does. Are they both wrong? If they are, why would they be posting stuff to mislead us?

From this perspective, Brendan Ryan is one of the best defensive shortstops to come a long in a long time. Mark Belanger was not "worth" playing because he couldn't hit in all those Baltimore Orioles season. But Earl Weaver knew better. Mark Belanger saved more runs with his defense than scored with his offense. Ryan is a successor of that way of thinking. 

This writer has said it before and will say it again: It doesn't matter if Brendan Ryan can't hit. Just pencil his name into the lineup (at the bottom) and sit back and watch all the runs he saves with his glove.

Game Picks - Monday: May 14, 2012

Three blown saves were the difference between a good 10-5 day and a losing 7-8 day. Two of the picks came crashing down on walk off grand slams by Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Votto. It is pretty good when your picks can be disrupted by something that has not happened in fourteen years. Not that there weren't other picks that were just dumb by this picker. But still--can't anyone hold a lead anymore? When you think about it, the pick was correct. The correct starting pitcher was selected in the match up. The problem comes in when the bullpen can't back up that correct match up pick.

For the first time in recent memory, all thirty teams are in action on a Monday. It's usually a travel day for somebody. But not today. Everybody is playing. Not complaining. Just saying. Here are the picks for this massive Monday:
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: The temptation here is to pick Ryan Dempster, who has been really good. But the Cubs haven't given him a win on his last fourteen starts no matter how good he has pitched. His polar opposite is Jake Westbrook who is receiving the best run support in the majors.
  • The Phillies over the Astros: Lucas Harrell has been okay. And it seems these days that okay is all you need to beat the Phillies. But Joe Blanton has really pitched too well of late to pick against him.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: Jason Hammel has been terrific. But Ivan Nova can be terrific too. This game is too close to call and will depend on which of the starters puts up more zeroes.
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: This feature has given the Blue Jays way too much credit this season. They are picked and they are picked and they lose two of three to the Twins, the lowliest team in baseball. This team has no consistency and nothing to hang your hat on. Well, there is one hat post, Brandon Morrow. The guy is a stud. Jeff Niemann pitched well against the Yankees, but is not that impressive otherwise.
  • The Braves over the Reds: No idea what to do with this one. First, the Reds rarely win back to back. Second, Randall Delgado for the Braves still scares this picker. But scarier still is Homer Bailey and that fear trumps the pick.
  • The Brewers over the Mets. Simply do not believe that Miguel Bautista can beat the Brewers. That's what this pick is about. Yovani Gallardo just has to be decent to win.
  • The Marlins over the Pirates: This isn't really a pick against the Pirates so much as it is a pick for the Marlins who are flying a bit right now. Anibal Sanchez is really good and really underrated. Brad Lincoln gets the start for the Pirates and he's been great in relief, but how will he do starting?
  • The Mariners over the Red Sox: Alright. This picker has been denigrating Jason Vargas all season and all he has done is pitched really well. You win, Vargas. Jon Lester goes for the Red Sox.
  • The Rangers over the Royals: The way the Rangers are hitting at home? You can't pick against that. Not when Bruce Chen is pitching his (albeit effective) lollipops out there. The only mild concern is that Scott Feldman gets the start.
  • The Twins over the Indians: The Indians have been the most confusing team of the season. They looked good until they went to Boston. Johnny Damon is not working out and is hitting a buck, fifty. Jeanmar Gomez had looked okay but was really hit his last time out. Who knows. Picking Carl Pavano to win is probably stupid though.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: The Emoticon, Drew Smyly leads the AL in ERA. Bet you didn't expect that. But it's true. John Danks is unpredictable.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: Can't see Tyler Ross getting a win here over Dan Haren. Can't see it no matter how bad the Angels are looking.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Clayton Kershaw over this picker's beloved Ian Kennedy. Wish it weren't so, but it will be.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: Would really like to pick this Christian Friedrick kid. But the Rockies away from Coors are fairly toothless and Ryan Vogelsong is a good pitcher. 

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Nationals over the Padres: The Nats have to pretty bummed about that walk off loss yesterday. Ross Detwiler to the rescue. The former first round pick has been superb. Meanwhile, Tim Stauffer gets his first start of the season after starting the season on the DL with a sore elbow.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 7-8
Month: 97-80
Season: 286-229
Games of the Day: 21-17

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Game Picks - Sunday: May 13, 2012

Boy, is this game picker one grouchy hombre this morning. Waking up artificially early to pick these games before the usual eight o'clock Sunday tee time. And once again clouds predominate and the temps are in the 40s. Day after day of the same crap up here, the dark clouds a symbol of this life. The radar shows threatening weather. The radar also shows that this particular part of New England is the only part that has clouds. Machester, New Hampshire hit 80 degrees yesterday. We hit 52. And to top is all off, the picks sucked for the second straight day and after the week started 20-8, it finished 52-46. Oh. and Happy Mothers Day.

Sunday's picks:

  • The Mets over the Marlins: Jon Niese and Carlos Zambrano both get people out. But they both are not efficient in doing so. Which one blinks more today? Nobody this side of Josh Hamilton is hotter than David Wright right now.
  • The Nationals over the Reds: The Nats' offense is really a concern. But Bronson Arroyo should help that cause. Edwin Jackson is about as predictable as a frisky kitten. Your guess is as good as this picker's.
  • The Red Sox over the Indians: Daniel Bard is always left in by Bobby Valentine for one inning too long. Perhaps if that reverses today, this pick will be right. The Red Sox offense will wait out Justin Masterson.
  • The Astros over the Pirates: Wandy Rodriguez should hold the Pirates' offense in check. But will this be the good A.J or the bad A.J. The Yankees could never figure it out either. The pick is that it will be the bad A.J. Burnett.
  • The Phillies over the Padres: Again. When will this picker ever learn that the Phillies can't hit? But Cole Hamels should like no-hit the Padres, right? And what the heck with Jeff Suppan? 2-0? Seriously? This game gives a picker heartburn.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: Still have blinders on about the Orioles. They can't be this good. They just can't be. James Shields over Jake Arrieta gentille arrieta.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: What is more likely: a bad outing by Jeff Samardzija or a good one by Marco Estrada? Exactly.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Giving up picking the Royals. Should just leave out this pick every day. Can't figure them out. One day Luke Hochevar is the worst pitcher in baseball. The next time out, he is the best. Who the heck knows from day to day. And Phil Humber? How can a guy throw a perfect game and then get nobody else out for two games? Danny Duffy gets the start for the Royals.
  • The Blue Jays over the Twins: Scott Diamond had a very good start in his season debut last time out. But Ricky Romero is a very good pitcher for the Blue Jays.
  • The Cardinals over the Braves: Lance Lynn is 6-0. And it isn't a fluke either. He is pitching that well. Tommy Hanson is erratic but can be very tough. Going with Lynn.
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: Screw you, Tigers. What the heck is up with you guys? You can't win a series with the A's when they have a .216 batting average as a team and Cespedes is out? Your season is worse than the Red Sox. How do you like that? Justin Verlander over Jarrod Parker.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: Ted Lilly should win at home. Alex White was good his last time out. But that doesn't mean he will be in this one.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: In the battle of the loony lefties, it's Barry Zito and Joe Saunders. May the best screwball win.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: Should not pick against Jered Weaver. But the Rangers have so many weapons. A lot will depend on how good Neftali Feliz is today.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Yankees over the Mariners: Who knows what to expect of Andy Pettitte. A year is a long time. Forty years old is nothing compared to Moyer. He is a little grayer. But he still looks the same. But if the Yankees can't score a pile of runs off of Kevin Millwood, they won't deserve to win anyway.

Yesterday: 7-8
Last week: 52-46
Month: 90-72
Season: 279-221
Games of the Day: 21-16