Saturday, June 09, 2012

Game Picks - Saturday: June 9, 2012

After the Nationals had dispatched the Red Sox, the Tigers had lost yet another, the Phillies had smacked Jake Arrieta around and the Bay Rays had easily bullied the Marlins, the picks stood at 2-4 and it appeared another bad night of picking was at hand. But the rest of the night went on an 8-1 run to finish the day in great shape. To be sure, huge comebacks by the Diamondbacks and the Twins helped but there were some smart picks in there as well. The picks said that the Yankees would get to Johan Santana and they did. The picks said that Josh Tomlin would have the Cardinals hitting the ball into the dirt, and he did. The picks weren't sure about Kevin Millwood pitching, but the pick was the Mariners over the Dodgers and the M's won in sparkling fashion. So, yes, it was a good night for the picks.

All these same teams are back in action today with a large number of games at a weird late afternoon start time (only a couple of them are West Coast games). Must be an MLB Network thing perhaps. Fox has the Yankees - Mets for their Saturday evening telecast. Here is how the games should go:

  • The Twins over the Cubs: Love Jeff Samardzija, but the Cubs simply find a way to lose. Besides, Scott Diamond has been terrific for the Twins.
  • The Phillies over the Orioles: The Orioles had sent Tommy Hunter to the minors but have brought him back to face the Phillies. Vance Worley should get the win if he pitches decently.
  • The Giants over the Rangers: Scott Feldman? No. Not going there again. Ryan Vogelsong is the better pick. The Rangers are struggling. Melky Cabrera will probably sit though and that hurts the Giants.
  • The Blue Jays over the Braves: This might be the wrong pick, but this picker is an excited member of the Drew Hutchison fan club. Tommy Hanson goes for the Braves.
  • The Nationals over the Red Sox: The Red Sox know Gio Gonzalez, so that advantage for the Nats is not there, but the Red Sox are giving the start to Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is making his first start since having his elbow rebuilt. Never pick those situations.
  • The Tigers over the Reds: Picking the Tigers has become as serio-tragic as the Tigers season has become. Yet this picker keeps doing it. But it is Justin Verlander. Come on. He has to win sooner or later, doesn't he? How else will that All Star commercial pay off for MLB? Bronson Arroyo was supposed to pitch yesterday but was pushed back until today.
  • The White Sox over the Astros: This picker keeps cringing when Chris Sale pitches, hoping his arm doesn't fall off. But it hasn't yet, so going with him. Jordan Lyles became more than a punchline with a good outing against the Reds, so this pick is not as clear cut as it seems.
  • The Brewers over the Padres: Hate these kinds of picks. Andrew Cashner makes his first start of the year and will probably go three innings. Then what? This picker does not even know who Michael Fiers is never mind picking him to win.
  • The Cardinals over the Indians: Don't know what ails Justin Masterson. Really thought he was going to have a big season. He hasn't. Kyle Lohse is not a picnic either. The Cards are really struggling despite a killer lineup.
  • The Pirates over the Royals: Vin Mazzaro is 2-0 since coming up from the minors, but the bad memories of him linger. Besides, the picks have gone with James McDonald all season and that has worked out just fine. Hosmer playing right field. Whuh?
  • The Dodgers over the Mariners: It sounds cruel, but the Mariners should bunt often against Clayton Kershaw and make him run around a bit. But other than that, the Dodgers should win. Jason Vargas has had a decent season though.
  • The Yankees over the Mets: This pick all depends on Phil Hughes. Can he win again throwing 97 fastballs?  Will the Yankees hit Dillon Gee
  • The Marlins over the Bay Rays: More wishful thinking. Matt Moore hasn't yet looked like the breakout rookie. Carlos Zambrano has been very good and can hit with the best of them. Ozzie is starting to bake his players in the press again though. Not good.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Athletics: Jarrod Parker has been terrific. But going with Trevor Cahill to beat his old team.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Angels over the Rockies: Jeff Francis makes his return to the majors with a start for the Rockies. Does that excite anyone? Didn't think so. Dan Haren with the win.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 42-38
Month: 59-51
Season: 461-392
Games of the Day: 36-27

Friday, June 08, 2012

Wheeee! The Andrelton Simmons era has begun

Did you see that play yesterday! Wow! Or maybe you saw this one? Or this one? Young Andrelton Simmons is already making quite an impression. While no one player is going to be responsible for any team's success, the Braves are now 4-1 with their new shortstop. And the Braves' pitchers have given up a total of seven runs since he was installed at the position for the team. Of course this next stat could be quite meaningless, but Fangraphs already gives Simmons a +1.2 runs for his defense after just five games. Despite the extremely small sample size, Simmons has already become must-see baseball.

The beautiful symmetry of the Braves employing Simmons is that he was born in Curacao. It seems the Braves had another player from there who made a big splash for the team back in 1996. Both changed the scene with their defense and the former became quite the offensive force in his career. The Braves do not need Simmons to hit, just man his position like he is so far. But don't count him out offensively either.

Again, you cannot base much of an argument on five games, But Simmons has already hit a double and a triple in his twenty plate appearances and has also walked twice. Heck, Pastornicky walked only six times in nine times as many games. Simmons has only struck out twice, so it is not like he looks over-matched. Projections do not peg him much above a four percent walk rate, but he was averaging ten percent in the minors and his short minor league career shows a guy who is not prone to strikeouts. Those projections have him batting .275 without much pop (.358) and a .313 on-base percentage. The Braves will take that.

And the slugging projection might be low. Simmons had already hit three homers in the minors this season and yet, is only projected to hit one with the Braves. With pitchers more around the plate in the majors than in the minors, he could hit five to ten homers before his season is over. We will have to see.

How did this guy make it to the second round in the 2010 draft? Shortstops are one of the true market inequity in baseball. You can count on the fingers of one hand the good ones in the majors. A guy with his fielding upside had to be a steal for the Braves in the second round.

It is a long season and how Simmons holds up to the major league spotlight will be noted in time. But the shortstop has made a splash thus far. His team is hot and his pitchers are pitching like they got a shot in the arm since he arrived. Again, Andrelton Simmons has already become must-see baseball. This old observer can't wait to see more of what he can do.

Game Picks - Friday: June 8, 2012

The good news is that after a long slump, the Game of the Day pick finally came up a winner (thank you, Giants). The bad news is that everything else was bad news. The day started with zip for seven picks. Dickey was great again. Hamels lost. Sabathia lost. Darvish lost and Buehrle lost. And the kicker of the entire thing? After finally giving up on the Tigers after picking them game after game...they won. Those buggers. Now they have things totally confused. A late rally was not enough and the day ended with the picks, 5-7.

And now that the week is back in the red and the month is just barely over .500, interleague starts in again. Oh goody! Here are Friday's picks:

  • The Pirates over the Royals: The Pirates are at home, so the Royals lose the DH. Luke Hochevar has been a mess of late and Erik Bedard could shut the Royals down.
  • The Yankees over the Mets: Johan Santana is fresh off his no-hitter. But he will be on a pitch count. The Yankees will make sure he reaches it early. Plus, they love lefties. Hiroki Kuroda has to pitch well though.
  • The Orioles over the Phillies: The DH might help the Phillies offense. But it's still a bad offense. This will allow Jake Arrieta to save his rotation spot for now. Joe Blanton will be victimized by the Orioles' offense, which will bounce back after getting blanked by Buchholz.
  • The Tigers over the Reds: Oh, here we go again. Dang these Tigers! They will lose the DH, but since the DH is a nonentity for them anyway, who cares. The Tigers should hit Bronson Arroyo and hope that Rick Porcello can keep the ball inside the park.
  • The Marlins over the Bay Rays: Ricky Nolasco has to be the good one this time and not the bad Ricky. The Rays lose the DH, offense they can ill afford to lose these days. Jeremy Hellickson can shut the Marlins down though, so this pick is no gimme.
  • The Red Sox over the Nationals: Just a hunch the Red Sox can make Stephen Strasburg work too hard in this one. Felix Doubront is doing great too. The DH might hurt the Nats as Strasburg might be one of the Nats best hitters.
  • The Twins over the Cubs: In a battle of bad teams, the pick is for the pajama man, P.J. Walters, who should be better than Travis Wood.
  • The White Sox over the Astros: Does the DH help the Astros? Who will it be? Gavin Floyd has been horrible. But the Astros should help. Wandy Rodriguez has faltered a bit after a great start.
  • The Brewers over the Padres: The token all NL game. Won't have that problem next season. Shaun Marcum at home should be the pick over Edinson Volquez, though Volquez has been better of late.
  • The Indians over the Cardinals: The Indians lose the DH, but they get Jake Westbrook, who has given up more runs lately than he's gotten outs. Josh Tomlin, if he is on, will have the Cardinals driving the ball into the ground.
  • The Angels over the Rockies: Trout, Trumbo and Pujols should have fun in Coors, especially against Alex White, though he was good his last time out. The Angels lose the DH, but C.J. Wilson should win the game.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Athletics: The A's have lost Yoenis Cespedes again. Sheesh. Daniel Hudson is nice for the D-backs to have back. He should win though Tommy Milone can be tough. Hudson is more used to the dry air of Arizona than Milone.
  • The Mariners over the Dodgers: Didn't know what to do with this one. Kevin Millwood is Kevin Millwood. The Dodgers haven't scored for Nathan Eovaldi. Anything could happen in this one. The Mariners are at home.
  • The Rangers over the Giants: Don't like this game either. Matt Harrison is inconsistent. Barry Zito can be really good or really bad. The Rangers have been struggling. The Rangers lose the DH.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Braves over the Blue Jays: The Braves are on a serious roll. Brandon Beachy has been terrific. The Blue Jays lose the DH and Kyle Drabek has been struggling.

Yesterday: 5-7
Week: 32-33
Month: 49-46
Season: 451-387
Games of the Day: 35-27

Thursday, June 07, 2012

BBA Linkfest - General Lee speaking

Well, what do you know? It is Thursday again. And that means it is time for another wild ride around the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. And since we are taking a wild ride, it should only be in the General Lee, that wildest car in the history of television. Some athlete has one now, but for the life of this link compiler, the name can't be grasped. That happens with age. Pour yourself a beverage and make yourself comfortable and click some of these extraordinary links. You'll be glad you did. And so will we.

We are going in backwards alphabetical order today.

Mike Damergis of the X-Log has a great and touching interview with Jim Duquette. And we're off to a fantastic start!

Because someone has to monitor the madness, Kristopher Neld chronicles this week in Jose Canseco tweets. Only on Through the Fence Baseball.

Sully is smiling down at the Mets, who are smiling because they are winning. On Sully Baseball.

Replacement Level Baseball Blog continues to give updates on its wonderful True Season Score statistic. Love this.

Bless his heart, Bill of The Platoon Advantage is finally starting to appreciate Derek Jeter. At least a little bit.

Jeremy Sickel of the Pop Fly Boys thinks that Will Myers is forcing the Royals to at least consider him for the Big Show. Agree completely.

Old Time Family Baseball must have seen MIB 3 recently as the writer is absolutely sure that Aroldis Chapman is not a real person.

MTD went to the Bronx! Read all about it on Off Base Percentage. It is really funny that his new girlfriend is a Yankees fan.

The cool thing about draft projections is that we get to see how the writer did in retrospect. Check out how Nik did over at Niktig's Baseball Blog.

This is the cutest thing ever. The young and adorable Haley Smilow interviewed Barry Enright. And her interview is better than many professional ones I've read. The post of the week. Over at MLB Reports.

This compiler was going to be a prig and link his own article at MLB Dirt. But don't have the required chutzpah. Instead, you should read the very good review and interview by Andrew Martin of a new book about Ted Williams.

Major League A**holes has some early White Sox trade speculation that seems dead on to this reader.

Lots of traveling these days. MTD came east. And Left Field went west. Read about his excellent adventures here.

Congrats! Theo and Hot Corner Harbor celebrate an anniversary. Very good blog for being so young.

The always entertaining The Hall of Very Good reports that Dave Henderson is bitter about the steroid days.

Grubby Glove has an excellent retrospective of Jack Clark, which is funny because that article linked right above in HOVG mentioned Jack Clark too. Funny how that happens. And Grubby is going to guest post over at C70 at the Bat soon. That will be cool too.

Griffin Phelps has a very funny and fun post over at The Golden Sombrero. This compiler does not know how to describe it, so just go read it.

The Baseball Index comments on reports that baseball's unbalanced schedule will become even more unbalanced.

Full Spectrum Baseball's Dennis Lawson thinks that the MLB has its own name brands.

For Baseball Junkies has some notes from draft day.

The always entertaining Diamond Hoggers has a hitter's tombstone and a very funny text chat.

Curley Bender of the Crum-Bum Beat says goodbye to Pedro Borbon.

Matt Whitener of Cheap.Seats.Please. has his own thoughts on MLB's draft day.

In a terrific piece in any language, Che Palle! and Mario Salvini discusses Pete Rose and his prison without bars.

Kyle Davis of Call to the Pen reports that Cardinals' manager, Mike Matheny, is in some hot water over his son. Verrry interesting!

Baseball Unrated looks at the All Star Ballot. Appreciate the reminder. Have to do that soon.

Babes Love Baseball celebrates the Mets' very first no-hitter. Way cool, Johan Santana!

Ryan Sendek talks about a role reversal on his Analysis Around the Horn site. Nice to have you back, sir.

We end our circuit with a bang as Eugene Tierney of 85% Sports did a wonderful research project on draft trends since 1990. Excellent way to wrap things up!  While you're there, read his excellent piece on a possible draft rules loophole.

Have a great week, everyone! Oh! And that General Lee owner? That would be golf's Bubba Watson.

Game Picks - Thursday: June 7, 2012

While not overly unhappy that the Mariners beat the Angels again, the victory did demolish the Game of the Day pick for the sixth straight day. Remember, the Game of the Day is the pick that seems the most assured to be correct. Isn't that sad? Or is it good news that there is such parity around baseball that you can't count on anything? Whatever the case, please make it stop. Otherwise, Wednesday wasn't a bad day. The Orioles continue to surprise with their resourcefulness. The Braves are having a great series against the Marlins. Alternate reality: The Marlins stopped hitting for some reason. There were a few more bad picks, but overall, a good day. But that Game of the Day thing...

There are twelve games on Thursday's schedule before we head into interleague play this weekend. Six are played during the day. Here's how the games should go:

  • The Indians over the Tigers: Okay, Tigers, you win. You stink and picking you has been fun. Now have a nice life. Derek Lowe over Casey Crosby.
  • The Phillies over the Dodgers: Cole Hamels is the Phillies only sure thing. Aaron Harang will allow even the Phillies to score two or three runs for the win.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: R.A. Dickey is simply due for a bad game. It has to happen some time. Perhaps Bryce Harper will like knuckleballs. Meanwhile, if last year was any indication, Chien-Ming Wang struggled in his first start back and then just kept getting better.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Let's see...the poor Cubs' offense has a better chance of hitting Randy Wolf than the decent Brewers' offense has of hitting Matt Garza.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Brandon McCarthy can be tough, but is 1-4 lifetime against his former team. Yu Darvish will someday stop walking people and will be amazing.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: The Bay Rays' offense is in a deep funk and have no answers for C.C. Sabathia in their lineup. And this is a different Sabathia they beat in the first series of the season. David Price will keep the Rays in the game. Great match up.
  • The Marlins over the Braves: A match up of Mark Buehrle versus Mike Minor should favor the Marlins, but we'll have to see what happens. Buehrle had won four straight before a rain delay wrecked his last outing.
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: These Orioles keep defying the odds. The Red Sox should be able to wait out Brian Matusz and Clay Buchholz should win. But things never seem to go the way they should when it comes to the Orioles.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: This one is just a hunch that Kevin Correia will have a good day and Mike Leake will not. The Pirates are playing tough.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: Lance Lynn stopped throwing strikes in his last start. That will get fixed in this one and he should beat the Astros. But again, the Astros are hanging tough with everyone and J.A. Happ is much better than last year.
  • The White Sox over the Blue Jays: Henderson Alvarez has had a BABIP market correction his last few starts. That might reverse itself tonight. You never know with ground ball guys. But Jake Peavy is the difference in this one.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Giants over the Padres: The Padres are any unwanted pitcher's last resort. There was Jeff Suppan and now it is Jason Marquis. At least Marquis has found a warmer home than Minnesota. Matt Cain wins.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 27-26
Month: 44-39
Season: 446-380
Games of the Day: 34-27

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

James Shields is not as good as last season

After watching James Shields pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays last night against the Yankees, something seemed wrong with the pitcher. At no point last year did Shields seem to be so vulnerable. But then again, last year was such an improvement over what Shields did in 2009 and 2010, is this just Shields reverting to form after a career season or just a bad stretch? He is 6-4, which is nothing to sneeze at. And his FIP is 3.82, some forty points below his ERA of 4.27. But he does not look like the same guy. And so some time was spent pondering Shields this morning. The more his numbers were looked at, the more confusing they seemed.

First, Shields has not lost any velocity. So we can rule out health problems. In fact, his velocity is up across the board to the highest levels of his career. He still induces a lot of batters to swing at pitches out of the strike zone. His ability to do that this year is at 34.2 percent, again the highest of his career. His batted balls have changed. He is getting batters to hit the ball on the ground at levels we've never seen from him before. After averaging a 1.22 ground ball to fly ball ratio for his career, that number is up to 2.57 this season, quite remarkable. So what is it then?

For one, the homers are back. Of all the things Shields did well last season, limiting homers was one of them. After allowing homers per nine innings of 1.19 and 1.50 respectively in 2009 and 2010, that rate plunged to 0.94 last season. But the homers are back and his current rate is 1.15 per nine. His BABIP is also much higher than last year. Last season, his BABIP was .258, the lowest of his career. This year, it is more normalized at .317, a little unlucky perhaps, but not overly so.

After watching him last night, there were a few conclusions that might be valid. For one, his defense was terrible last night. His infield really let him down. Without Evan Longoria, the Rays are moving people around and it is not working. Certainly if Elliot Johnson does not make those two errors in the first inning, the night might have been different. But Shields did load the bases to get into that situation in the first place.

Something strange was noticed. Shields has a totally different windup routine when there is a runner on first and when there are runners on second or third. When a runner is on first, he bends way low much like what Mariano Rivera does. But he doesn't do that when men are on second and third. Has this always been the case? Would two different windup routines be hard to maintain as far as mechanics are concerned? Good question.

Shields' walks are up slightly this season. So mechanics might be part of the problem. The analysts on the broadcast kept mentioning him falling off the mound more than usual. So that might be the reason Shields is struggling. But this observer has one more possibility. His catcher.

If you watched the broadcast last night, Shields seemed to be at odds with Jose Molina all night. The two had several conferences and Shields looked frustrated at times with his catcher. Last season, Shields threw to Kelly Shoppach 22 times and to John Jaso nine times. He threw to two other catchers a total of three times. Shields strikeout to walk ratio for Shoppach and Jaso were a exactly the same at 3.43, which is very good. His same rate those other three times was 2.0.

Flash forward to this season. Both of those guys are gone and now he throws to Jose Molina, Chris Gimenez (now in the minors) and Jose Lobaton. In three games with Gimenez, his strikeout to walk ratio was 7.67. In two games with Lobaton, his rate is 6.50. But in seven games with Molina, that rate plunges all the way down to 1.90.

To be fair, Shields has a lower ERA with Molina behind the plate. He also has a better OPS against than with Gimenez. But that 1.90 rate seems to speak of a pitcher who is not comfortable with a certain catcher and certainly, the dynamics of last night's game seemed to bear that out.

Whatever the case, James Shields is not the same pitcher he was a year ago. Last year, he completed eleven games and threw four shutouts. This year, he has not been able to do either event. The question remains if last year was a career year and if this is more the real James Shields. We have two-thirds of a season to figure it out.

Game Picks - Wednesday: June 6, 2012

What the bloody heck!? Yesterday's picks could not have gone much worse. What is up with those Cardinals? Told you that Jaime Garcia was overrated. What is up with those Tigers? They can't win a game to save themselves. Cliff Lee can't win a game. Tim Lincecum can't win a game. Jon Lester cannot win a game. Francisco Liriano throws another brilliant game, his second in a row. And loses, 1-0. Picked the wrong ace in the Braves- Marlins games. Got smoked on that one. Feeling like an Iliat for picking Homer. The only pick that doesn't hurt real badly is the Cubs pick. If anyone deserved that win, it was Ryan Dempster. Good for him.

And so now, this week has to be rescued because of that bloody Tuesday. Come on, William, (channeling that Scott Turf Builder guy) pick it. Pick it. Wednesday:

  • The Giants over the Padres: Let's try this again, but with Madison Bumgarner instead of Lincicum. But Clayton Richard is usually tough at home.
  • The Tigers over the Indians: Picking the Tigers has become like a stupid badge of honor these days. But Max Scherzer has been winning games lately. Jeanmar Gomez is just so- so. But all so-so pitchers look great against the Tigers.
  • The Dodgers over the Phillies: The Phillies are back under .500. Chris Capuano had a bad start for the Dodgers his last time out, but it was at Coors and doesn't count. Kyle Kendrick has been surprisingly good in the Phillies rotation.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: Man, that was an ugly game the Mets just played. Their bullpen is gassed and hasn't been very good. Their fielding has fallen apart too. Going with Edwin Jackson over Jeremy Hefner.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Ivan Nova has to be very good for this pick to come in. But he can be. Alex Cobb should be a guy the Yankees can get to.
  • The Marlins over the Braves: Josh Johnson has a better chance of being lights out than Randall Delgado does.
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: Josh Beckett. Hate that guy. Hate picking that guy. But he should win as Wei-Yin Chen has been showing some chinks in his armor.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Brad Lincoln gets a spot start, and he's been very good for the Pirates. But Johnny Cueto should dominate this game.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: The Astros really should shut Bud Norris down for a couple of starts with his hip flexor problem. So why aren't they? Adam Wainwright with the win. Picking the Cards and Tigers again. This picker must be out of his mind.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: You have to pick Zack Greinke at home, don't you? The Brewers are a completely confusing team though. Paul Maholm goes for them.
  • The Royals over the Twins: This is as much a pick against Nick Blackburn as it is a pick for Felipe Paulino. Joe Mauer is still out.
  • The Blue Jays over the White Sox: Brandon Morrow should quiet down the White Sox lineup and Jose Quintana won't be able to last that long. Colby Rasmus is on fire.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Losing Troy Tulowitski is starting to hurt. Wade Miley should win this one as Josh Outman is not a starting pitcher.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Colby Lewis and his homer tendency should be helped by the Coliseum and Bartolo Colon will keep it interesting.

And the Game of the Day! (which is on a major losing streak)

  • The Angels over the Mariners: Pitching Hector Noesi on three days rest seems a desperation move by the Mariners. It shouldn't matter as Jerome Williams just wins and wins.

Yesterday: 6-10
Week: 18-20
Month: 35-33
Season: 437-374
Games of the Day: 34-26

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Patience remains Blue Jays' bugaboo

Some of the players have changed over the last three years, but one constant remains for the Toronto Blue Jays. They hate taking walks. Of course, they are not hitting all that well either this season and perhaps the two facts go hand in hand. They are eleventh of fourteen AL teams in batting average and on-base percentage. The on-base thing has been a problem for three straight years now. How much better could this team be if they could grind out more plate appearances?

When John Farrell was brought in as manager last season, it was thought that the culture would change a bit in the approach at the plate. After all, he was the pitching coach for the Red Sox and saw first hand what breaking down starting pitchers could do for his team. But the numbers are the same under Farrell as they were under the "see the ball, hit the ball" approach of Cito Gaston. In 2010, the team's on-base percentage was .312. Last year it was .317. This year, it is .311. Those figures have been a big drag on any consistency for this offense.

Who are the biggest offenders on this team? J.P Arencibia is one of the main culprits. You have to like his power and he seems to be improving as a catcher, but he isn't learning the strike zone. Arencibia has walked six times all season. That is a 3.5 percent walk rate. Ugh! He swings at 37.9 percent of a all pitches outside the strike zone. It is not surprising, then, that his OBP is .265.

Brett Lawrie's walk rate is kind of strange. He seems to have a better sense of the strike zone than his catcher. He swings at 30.6 percent of pitches outside the strike zone. And yet, he has only walked eight times this season, a 3.8 percent walk rate. Because of that, despite batting, .281, his on-base percentage is only .317. Sites give him the highest WAR on the team because of his defense and overall play, but how much better could he be if he could add walks to his arsenal? It's all the more puzzling since he walked at a 9.4 percent rate last season.

Rajai Davis swings at nearly everything. He has swung at over 40 percent of all non-strikes. Despite his "aggressiveness," he has at least walked seven times in his few at bats and has a walk rate of 8.5 percent. But if he keeps swinging, that will only go down. Yan Gomes in his brief visit was the only Blue Jays' batter that swung more. His O-swing rate was over 44 percent.

Eric Thames has a walk rate of only 5.8 percent. He has walked nine times this season. And thus, his on-base percentage is .288. Obviously, that is not good enough. Yunel Escobar only has a 6.9 percent walk rate and his OBP is .308.

Of the regulars, only Jose Bautista and Kelly Johnson have walk rates over ten percent. Both are over twelve percent and it shows in their OBP. Johnson's on-base average is .344 despite batting .250 and Bautista's OBP is at .332 despite his .226 batting average. Edwin Encarnacion has a decent on-base percentage of .348, which leads the team despite the fact that he walks 8.7 percent of the time.

There is optimism in where the Toronto Blue Jays are heading. They have stockpiled talent and have been really smart with roster moves. They seem to be going in the right direction. But this on-base percentage thing has to become a new emphasis in their culture. The teams ahead of them in the AL East are very good at wearing down pitchers which is one of the reasons that the Blue Jays' pitching staff has given up the most walks in the American League. The Blue Jays need to see this reality and modify their approach. If their batters cannot do so, then future roster moves need to keep this in mind.

Game Picks - Tuesday: June 5, 2012

Well, Scott Feldman, that did not go very well. Feldman has long been a favorite here thanks in part to buddy, Josh Borenstein. But it looks like that relationship is over. Feldman has had his shot as a starter after lost years following his 17-win season. His shot should be over because he has been terrible. As good as the Rangers are, they can't survive when they are looking at an 8-0 deficit after just two innings. And to give up that bad a game against a team batting .215 is unbelievable. That game also shows why picking games is so difficult when it comes to baseball. Even the worst teams can trounce the best team on any given day. The Game of the Day feature, a feature that usually picks what seems to be the most lopsided match-up, has been wrong four days in a row! There is no such thing as lopsided in baseball anymore.

Tuesday brings us some interesting games and series before heading into another round of interleague on Friday (blech!). Let's take a look:

  • The Tigers over the Indians: How does The Emoticon (<-- a smyly) have ten starts and only three decisions? Well, for one, he only pitches 5.4 innings a start. That means a lot can happen with those last eleven outs in a game. But this pick is for him because his chances to win seem better somehow than Ubaldo Jimenez, the mystery.
  • The Phillies over the Dodgers: How about this game? Chad Billingsley has not won in his last nine starts and Cliff Lee hasn't won a game in all of 2012! Something has to give. Going with Lee at home.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: Chris Young will get his first start after having a similar operation as Johan Santana. That means the awful Mets' bullpen will come in play. Jordan Zimmermann deserves a win.
  • The Yankees over the Bay Rays: Andy Pettitte is comforting in this game. He neutralizes Pena, Matsui, Scott and Joyce. The Yankees have a history of getting to James Shields who is not quite as dominant this season as last.
  • The Marlins over the Braves: Tough match-up here as it will be Tim Hudson versus Anibal Sanchez. Both should pitch well in the spacious Miami park. Going with the home team.
  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: Two pitchers that are not exactly giving confidence lately in Jason Hammel and Jon Lester. Simply like the Red Sox more at home here.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: Homer Bailey's season turned around in his start against the Yankees. He's been great every since. A.J. Burnett has been pitching well for the Pirates, but that little bandbox called Great American Ball Park will cost him.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: The Cardinals have typically struggled in series they should win. And they should win this one. This picker is not a big fan of Jaime Garcia. But he should get the win over Lucas Harrell.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: The Cubs have lost twelve straight on the road. They are awful right now. Poor Ryan Dempster really needs to get himself traded. He has nothing to show for pitching great all season. Yovani Gallardo with the win.
  • The Twins over the Royals: The Twins are hot!  Yes, the Twins! And Francisco Liriano was actually good his last time out. Bruce Chen is fooling people less and less this year.
  • The White Sox over the Blue Jays: Tough game to predict. The White Sox have won the last three Philip Humber starts. Ricky Romero is usually reliable but has not been as much lately. Going with the home team.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Gotta stick with man-crush, Ian Kennedy. Simply don't have the heart to do anything else. Jeremy Guthrie goes for the Rockies.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: Garrett Richards gets his first start. This picker usually steers clear of such events. But the Angels are going really well with Mike Trout leading the way. Blake Beavan goes for the Mariners.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: The A's seem to have an endless supply of young pitchers to throw at you. Travis Blackley is the latest. Still sticking with Derek Holland, though he isn't having a great season.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Giants over the Padres: The Giants should never lose any of these games. Tim Lincecum is not the lock he used to be. But the Padres will help him. It doesn't much matter what Anthony Bass does in this game.

Yesterday: 3-4
Week: 12-10
Month: 29-23
Season: 431-364
Games of the Day: 34-25

Monday, June 04, 2012

Magglio Ordonez and Moises Alou

Magglio Ordonez officially retired on Sunday and the Detroit Tigers threw a little party for him before the game. The celebration was later credited by Jim Leyland as part of Justin Verlander's problems against the Yankees in the game that was played after the ceremonies were over. Those two facts were probably fitting as they tied the career of Ordonez in a bow. Magglio Ordonez could flat out rake when he was healthy, which wasn't often during his last few years. And he became far known for being a bit of a contract albatross than for the terrific player he was in his career.

Let's be clear up front. Magglio Ordonez was not a Hall of Fame caliber player. He was a less than stellar outfielder who had magic in his bat. That bat had one last great moment against the Yankees in the 2011 ALDS. That series, Ordonez's last gasp as a player, showed that he played four games and came to the plate twelve times. He delivered five hits and a walk for a .455 series average. It was a fitting cap for Ordonez's career.

But that was just the fitting cap on a career that had some terrific memories. If not for the amazing season A-Rod had for the Yankees in 2007, Ordonez would have been the MVP. He had 216 hits that season and won the batting title with a .363 batting average. He hit 28 homers that season and an incredible 54 doubles. He drove in 139 runs. It was by far his best seasons. But he had other great ones too.

Ordonez batted over .300 in ten of his fifteen seasons. He drove in over 100 runs, seven times. He was an All Star six times and won three Silver Slugger Awards as the best hitter at his position (right field). Magglio Ordonez had a terrific career. 

Whenever a player of his caliber retires, the kid inside this baseball writer wants to pour over the numbers like the backs of baseball cards. And one of the cool features at is at the bottom of each player's page that lists other players that have played the game that are comparable to the player that you are looking at. This helps give a frame of reference to what kind of player we are looking at.

When it came to looking at Magglio Ordonez for this piece, looking at the "comps" was particularly intriguing because Ordonez's closest comp was Moises Alou. After staring at those two player pages over and over, the comparisons are amazing. This was basically the same player. One played his career as a National League player and the other in the American League. One was a left-fielder and the other a right-fielder. Both were similarly drubbed for their defense. B-R gives Alou a -10.8 dWAR for his career and Ordonez a -11.8. But they were the same offensive players.

Here is a comparison of their final statistics.

Career slash line:  Ordonez: .309/.369/.502.  Alou: .303/.369/.516
OPS+:  Ordonez: 125.  Alou: 128
Homers:  Ordonez: 294.  Alou: 332
Doubles:  Ordonez: 426.  Alou: 421
Total Bases:  Ordonez: 3506.  Alou: 3629
Hits: Ordonez: 2156.  Alou 2124 does another thing that is interesting. For each player, the site breaks down their average season, based on 162 games played. The numbers get really close when looking at those breakdowns:

Ordonez: 679 plate appearances, 612 at bats, 94 runs, 189 hits, 37 doubles, 26 homers, 108 RBI, 8 stolen bases 57 walks, 76 strikeouts.
Alou:  680 plate appearances, 587 at bats, 93 runs, 178 hits, 35 doubles, 28 homers, 107 RBI, 9 stolen bases, 61 walks, 75 strikeouts.

They were virtually the same player. Both great, both lost time due to injuries. Both were not great enough for a long enough period of time to accumulate the counting stats needed for the Hall of Fame. 

Magglio Ordonez was a terrific player for the White Sox and the Tigers over the years. He should be celebrated by both organizations and their fans. He was a terrific batsman and it was a pleasure to watch him during his career.

Game Picks - Monday: June 4, 2012

Sunday was a pretty good day for the picks. It was hard to believe that the star pitcher in the Tigers - Yankees game was Phil Hughes and not Justin Verlander. The observation was made earlier on Twitter that every time the picks have used the word, "mismatch," this season, the pick has been wrong. So the new rule should be that whenever the brain thinks that word, pick the other team? That game happened to be the Game of the Day, so that was a bummer, except that the Yankees won. The Braves win was a surprise. The Mets finally gave up a run to the Cardinals. But it was only one and that pick was right. The Twins pick was right too. How about that?

Monday is a bit of a slow day around baseball as only seven games on the schedule. But the draft starts tonight and that is kind of exciting.  Here are the picks:

  • The Cardinals over the Mets: The Cardinals have to explode at some point, don't they? Kyle Lohse will need to hold the Mets down and the Cards need to jump on Dillon Gee early for this pick to come correct.
  • The Cubs over the Giants:  Jeff Samardzija has been terrific. The only question is if the Cubs can score on Ryan Vogelsong, who is usually good at his home park. Just feeling the Cubs.
  • The Dodgers over the Phillies: That right elbow inflammation that put VanceWorley on the disabled list is a bit of a concern. Clayton Kershaw has suddenly gone a bit too cute with his breaking balls. But he should figure it out and dispatch of the Phillies.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Not feeling great about this pick. For one, it depends on Joe Saunders. For another, the Rockies' offense is pretty hot right now. But going with Saunders over Christian Friedrich.
  • The Royals over the Twins: The Twins start Cole De Vries while the Royals start Will Smith. Yeah, right? How do you pick a game like that? Going with the home team despite the fact that the Royals have stunk at home.
  • The Mariners over the Angels: Jason Vargas has always pitched the Angels tough. But he'll have to deal with Trout and Trumbo and Pujols. That may change the story. But Ervin Santana has been hard to decipher this season.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Jarrod Parker is pretty good. But the A's don't have much of a lineup. But they face Scott Feldman, who has not exactly lit things up since moving into the rotation. The Rangers are the better team, so that is the pick.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 9-6
Month: 26-19
Season: 428-360
Games of the Day: 34-24

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Stephen Strasburg is pretty good

Yes, that heading is a bit of Twitter humor. Stephen Strasburg is pretty good like Lennon-McCartney were pretty good at writing songs. His latest Top Forty hit was a nine-strikeout, zero-walk dominance of the Atlanta Braves in a game where thirteen of his ninety pitches topped 98 MPH including two over 99 in his seventh inning of work. His change-up averaged 91 MPH. His change-up! His curve averaged 83 MPH, or a typical fastball night for Bruce Chen. The only knock on him all game was that he went without a hit in two at bats to lower his average to .350. The bum.

Looking at his Brooks Baseball charts for the game is just an amazing site to see. As you can see below, he has the repeatable mechanics of a Mariano Rivera but can do it for seven innings. He could probably do it for nine innings, but you know, we have to protect these young kids.

So let's recap Strasburg's season to this point. He has made eleven starts and is 6-1 on the season. He has struck out 10.94 batters per nine innings while only walking 2.35. The strikeouts will continue and that walk rate will come down as the season continues. He has a FIP of 2.32 and a SIERA of 2.44. His WHIP is high for him at 1.05. That's low for most people, but high for him. Batters are batting .215 against him for the season. 

And if that doesn't float your boat, he also has a 1.031 OPS as a batter with a wOBA of .438. Well, hello there. Yeah, the kid is pretty good just like the government is pretty good at spending money. And just to be sure that you can have visual evidence of how wicked his stuff is, this post will leave you with his nine strikeouts courtesy of All this observer can say is...Wow!

Game Picks - Sunday: June 3, 2012

Saturday was unkind to this baseball prognosticator and most of the gains of Friday were given back with a pretty crummy day. Another Angel win and the Yankees failure to score with runners on base hurt badly. Man-crush, Wandy Rodriguez, had nothing on a night when nobody could pitch in that game. The Mets came up big again, which wasn't expected. The Marlins, thanks to Hanley Ramirez, came back on Cole Hamels. And not picking Stephen Strasburg? Well, that was just stupid. It just wasn't good.

Sunday's picks:

  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: Perhaps this pick is shortchanging Daniel Bard. Or perhaps it is a shoulder tap to Drew Hutchison.
  • The Nationals over the Braves: The Nationals couldn't have asked for a better season from Gio Gonzalez from the one he is currently giving them. Tommy Hanson will have to throw a lot of zeroes to match him.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: Any pick that includes Carlos Zambrano is questionable. But so is picking Joe Blanton. The Marlins are red hot.
  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: The Orioles unexpectedly won a game yesterday. The picks weren't happy about it. But Brian Matusz was very good. Jake Arrieta won't be as good and Matt Moore will put the Orioles away.
  • The Reds over the Astros: It could be another wild one as Bronson Arroyo and Jordan Lyles aren't exactly shut-down pitchers. Keep your hats on for this one.
  • The Athletics over the Royals: Vin Mazzaro is facing his old team. Will that help him? Perhaps. Tommy Milone will win though. It's nice to see Cespedes back.
  • The Pirates over the Brewers: Michael Fiers shut down the Dodgers in his first start. So logic will dictate that he should shut down the weaker-hitting Pirates. That logic backfires though since he is up against James McDonald who has been terrific this season.
  • The White Sox over the Mariners: The Mariners stole a win to end the White Sox losing streak and that was one of the few good picks yesterday. But Kevin Millwood should have some trouble against the hot White Sox bats and Chris Sale was spectacular his last time out.
  • The Twins over the Indians: That's right. That's two picks in a row for the Twins. Pajamas Walters won his start as predicted and now Scott Diamond will win his. Justin Masterson goes for the Indians.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: Have no clue for this game. First, it is at Coors Field. Second, it features Alex White versus Nathan Eovaldi. What do you do with that?
  • The Angels over the Rangers: Dan Haren was great his last two starts. He looks fairly unhittable at this point. Matt Harrison hasn't exactly had a shut down season for the Rangers. Down to two and a half games after this one.
  • The Giants over the Cubs: Barry Zito. Ugh. But the Cubs will find a way to lose and Travis Wood doesn't exactly look like someone to pick either. Could be a wild one.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: Too bad the Diamondbacks got Trevor Cahill instead of Gio Gonzalez from Oakland. But he should have a good game against the Padres. It doesn't matter much what Eric Stults does in his start, the outcome will be the same.
  • The Mets over the Cardinals: Imagine if the Mets can shut out the Cardinals for the third straight game? Jon Niese has the stuff to do it. Jake Westbrook is not having fun lately.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Tigers over the Yankees: Justin Verlander versus Phil Hughes sounds like a mismatch. And that will be the biggest understatement of this post today.

Yesterday: 6-9
Last week: 54-39
Month: 17-13
Season: 419-354
Games of the Day: 34-23