Saturday, June 16, 2012

Where did Alejandro De Aza come from?

The White Sox' 2012 season has to be considered a surprise. Comebacks by Dunn and Rios (from the dead), a big season by Konerko and Pierzynski and the emergence of Viciendo have been big factors as has the pitching of Peavy and Sale. But perhaps the biggest surprise has been from the guy setting the table at the top of the lineup, Alejandro De Aza. If you are anything like this writer, the first response to hearing De Aza's name is, "Who the heck is this guy?" Who indeed.

De Aza is currently tied for seventh in the league in runs scored. He is among the leaders in hits. And he is a rare breed of guys from the Dominican Republic who has some patience at the plate. He played in the minor leagues for nine seasons. Nine! In that time, he averaged .289 for a batting average and .365 for an on-base percentage. He was picked off the waiver wire by the White Sox from the Marlins in 2009. That was after the Marlins picked him in the Rule 5 draft way back in 2004. He was signed by the Dodgers as an amateur free agent eleven years ago (!). He's never been on anyone's top prospect list. And yet here he is leading off for the White Sox, playing a fine center field and is a major reason for the team's success.

During De Aza's travels, he has managed to play parts of five seasons. His total plate appearances add up to about a full season's worth. His major league batting average over that time is .292 and his on-base percentage is .350. That's not bad. The White Sox called him up at the end of July last season and he played regularly until the end of the season. He did beautifully with a .329 average and a .400 on-base percentage. And he even slugged .520 in his 54 games. So perhaps what he is doing this season is not a fluke.

This season, in 62 games, he is batting .307 with a .382 on-base percentage and is still slugging .426, which is not bad for a lead off guy. He has maintained his average and on-base skills over 116 games now and there is a good chance that this is who this guy really is. What else can we see?

As mentioned before, players from the Dominican Republic are not known for their patience. But De Aza swings at only 24 percent of pitches out of the strike zone. That is excellent and when he does swing, he does not miss very often with a swinging strike rate of only 7.6 percent. He has always hit more ground balls than fly balls and that is to be expected for a guy who is supposed to get on base. But this year, his line drive rate is pretty amazing. His 30.4 percent line drive rate is second only to Joey Votto and Freddie Freeman in the majors.

The line drives lead to a high BABIP of .370. Can that line drive rate be maintained over the course of a season. That is doubtful. So perhaps a regression to the .280 range is likely for the season. But even so, his walk rate and his patience should keep his on-base percentage up there for the season and that has become a rare commodity for lead off batters these days. The average lead off batter in the majors now has an on-base percentage of .323. That's pretty pathetic since getting on base is the goal of having a guy lead off.

And De Aza is not punchless. He has added four homers, eleven doubles and three triples to his totals, identical with what he did in his short time last season. So those do not seem fluky at all. What De Aza seems to be is a solid on-base guy who plays good center field and is an excellent base runner. This guy is a pretty darn good player. Too bad it took eleven years for him to get the chance to show it.

Game Picks - Saturday: June 16, 2012

Friday was a tough one as the picks crawled just above .500 for the day. For every good pick like the Braves or the Indians, there were bad picks like the Mets or the Red Sox. Worst of all, perhaps, was the Tigers pick. That team, which has confounded all season, was actually tied and went into extra innings. But then they lost in the most comical and farcical way possible. There you have it folks, your Detroit Tigers. No doubt this picker will continue to pick them maniacally.

The interleague machine keeps chugging along on Saturday with another full slate of games. The picks:

  • The Yankees over the Nationals: Andy Pettitte faces Bryce Harper and will be twice his age. Wonder how many times that has happened. Jordan Zimmermann can be really tough and could keep the Yankees in check. The Nats, with all their right-handed bats would seem to have the advantage. But how can you pick against the Yankees these days?
  • The Blue Jays over the Phillies: Ricky Romero hasn't pitched well, but he keeps on winning. Cliff Lee keeps pitching well and keeps on losing. Will those streaks end? If so, then this pick is doomed.
  • The Brewers over the Twins: Another impossible game to pick. You have Liam Hendriks going for the Twins against Michael Fiers. Yeah, your guess is as good as this one.
  • The Cardinals over the Royals: Bruce Chen has ugly career numbers against the Cardinals and you have to root for Joe Kelly to get his first career win, don't you?
  • The Tigers over the Rockies: There is no more stubborn statement than to keep picking this team. It has become an obsession. Doug Fister will return yet again from the disabled list. Christian Friedrich goes for the Rockies.
  • The Indians over the Pirates: Yes, A.J. Burnett has pitched well for the Pirates. But he is back against the American League in this one. So good luck with that. Ubaldo Jimenez seems to be coming around. Fantasy? We'll find out.
  • The Padres over the Athletics: Gosh, these games today are ridiculous. In this one, we have a return from the dead in Ross Ohlendorf and a return from Tyson Ross. Ugh.
  • The Braves over the Orioles: Can Brandon Beachy return from early season form? His ERA is still under two. Was the early season of Jason Hammel a fluke? Or was his last start a blip? Mother.
  • The Red Sox over the Cubs: Just a feeling that the Red Sox are going to explode in this one off of Jeff Samardzija. Call it a hunch. Of course, Jon Lester has to pitch well. But that shouldn't be too hard against the Cubs.
  • The Mets over the Reds: Jonathan Niese has pitched really well in June and will have his home park to help him. But Homer Bailey is a better road pitcher than a home pitcher. Hmm.. The Reds' offense will have to be kept off the board for this one to be right.
  • The Bay Rays over the Marlins: You don't even have to look at the pitching match ups in this one. The Marlins can't beat the Bay Rays. They just can't. But in case you are interested, it's Anibal Sanchez versus James Shields.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Angels: What the heck is up with Ervin Santana? Joe Saunders faces his old team for the first time. He just has to get Trout, Trumbo, Morales and Pujols out. No problem. Oy.
  • The Dodgers over the White Sox: Chad Billingsley should be good at home. Philip Humber has been finding the missing "L" in his first name in his results.
  • The Giants over the Mariners: Not feeling good about this pick. When was the last time Tim Lincecum did not give up a big inning? But Kevin Millwood pulled a groin or something in his last start and that will sway the pick.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rangers over the Astros: The Rangers keep finding these great arms and Justin Grimm is no exception. He is making his major league debut. So why pick him? Because Lucas Harrell throws 73 percent of his pitches as fastballs. Think that will work against the Rangers. Nope.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 45-30
Month: 115-85
Season: 517-426
Games of the Day: 42-28

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Baseball Show

Your favorite Fan had the privilege of spending some time with two of his favorite bloggers yesterday talking baseball. The broadcast was like three friends talking baseball instead of some formal thing. It was totally enjoyable. Here is the broadcast.

Game Picks - Friday: June 15, 2012

The game picks had another pretty good night. The Padres - Mariners game was the swing game as the last one to finish. And for a while it seemed that neither team was going to score. The Padres eventually won the game, 7-1, and that pushed the day into the pretty good category. Of the incorrect picks, two were improbable sweeps as the Reds finished off the Indians and the Royals finished off the Brewers. The two other incorrect picks were the Pirates as Erik Bedard had nothing to stop that rolling Orioles team, and the Twins as Scott Diamond couldn't stop Jim Thome and company.

Interleague play continues this weekend and this picker cannot complain this year. During this current interleague run of games, the picks are 58-32, which is pretty sweet. That is 64.4 percent success rate. Last year, interleague play killed the picks. Ah, it's all probably luck either way.  Friday's picks:

  • The Red Sox over the Cubs: The Red Sox lose the DH and have to face Ryan Dempster who has been terrific at Wrigley. And Dempster can use this game as a showcase for trade possibilities with Boston. But the feeling here is that Daisuke Matsuzaka gets his first win of the season.
  • The Tigers over the Rockies: First, the Rockies are a horrible road team. Second, they are starting Jeff Francis. Third, Casey Crosby as a lefty should neutralize several Rockies' bats.
  • The Yankees over the Nationals: Two of the hottest teams in baseball. Gio Gonzalez has been a real ace for the Nats. But he is 1-4 lifetime against the Yankees with an ERA over 7.00. The Yankees love lefties. The one caveat of this pick is Phil Hughes. You can't keep throwing 90 percent fastballs and continue to win.
  • The Indians over the Pirates: Tough game to call. The Indians just got swept by the Reds and James McDonald may be the best Pirates' pitcher. But Justin Masterson should be the difference in this game. McDonald will give up at least two or three runs. Masterson could hold the Pirates to a run if he is on his game.
  • The Blue Jays over the Phillies: The Blue Jays continue to be one of the most baffling of teams. Drew Hutchison has been decent and may hold the Phillies down. Though Jim Thome is hot and interleague allows him to DH. Vance Worley goes for the Phillies in his second game back from an elbow scare.
  • The Mets over the Reds: Believe it or not, this should be a pitcher's duel. Dillon Gee is great at Citi Field and Bronson Arroyo's proclivity to give up homers will be mitigated there. Both teams are coming off series sweeps of their opponents. 
  • The Braves over the Orioles: The Braves were just swept by the Yankees. The Orioles series will seem like a playoff series to them. Tommy Hanson has been much better but will need to keep the Orioles inside the park. Brian Matusz can be either very good or not so good depending on the outing.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: Get used to this series as next year, it will happen a lot. The Rangers have been in a bit of a funk lately. Look for them to break out against Jordan Lyles. Yu Darvish has to be considered a disappointment so far this season, doesn't he?
  • The Twins over the Brewers: The Brewers are reeling of late and Yovani Gallardo has been decent. A lot will depend on Francisco Liriano, whose streak of good pitching ended in the sixth inning of his last outing against the Cubs.
  • The Cardinals over the Royals: The I-70 series is usually a fun one for their fans of these two teams. The Royals are having fun lately. This prognosticator can't see Kyle Lohse losing to Vin Mazzaro though.
  • The Angels over the Diamondbacks: The Los Angeles Trouts should win behind Dan Haren and over Trevor Cahill.
  • The Padres over the Athletics: In the battle of California lineup black holes, Anthony Bass just seems like a more solid pick than Travis Blackley.
  • The Dodgers over the White Sox: What a pitching match up! Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale! This should be fun to watch. Have to go with Kershaw at home though.
  • The Giants over the Mariners: Ryan Vogelsong shouldn't have too much trouble with the Mariners' lineup. And the Giants should score three or four off of Jason Vargas.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Bay Rays over the Marlins: The Marlins never seem to win anything in this cross- Florida series. Carlos Zambrano had a lame back in his last outing. Matt Moore found his footing in his last start and may be poised to start a streak of great starts.

Yesterday: 7-4
Week: 37-23
Month: 107-78
Season: 509-419
Games of the Day: 41-28

Thursday, June 14, 2012

BBA Linkfest - No general June swoon

The baseball season is in the middle of its third month but there is no swoon among the writers that make up the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. As we like to do here in the FanDome every Thursday, here is a list of links to some of the best work done by these terrific writers over the last week. Give a click and post some comments. We would all appreciate you doing that. Here we go:

We have to start with Eugene Tierney of 85% Sports because he easily has the post of the week. This week Tierney created a draft signing tracking post, which is a brilliant idea. Check it out!

You might be sick of this compiler saying this, but Stevo-sama writes the best game recaps ever. And this one includes the Durham Bulls! How cool is that? Check it out at his The Baseball Enthusiast site.

Alex Rodriguez tied Lou Gehrig's major league record for grand slams in a career. Baseball Unrated was not impressed

FH celebrates Matt Cain's perfect game in style over at his Baseballism site. What an amazing event it was too.

Love this next post. Justin Jabs of Baseblog tabulated Cardinal players on their bobblehead days. What a fun idea!

Call to the Pen has lots of great content this week. But what's new there, right? This compiler particularly liked Lew Freedman's post on a budding new rivalry.

Mario Salvini of Che Palle! reports on a cool thing the Brewers are doing for Italian Heritage Night. Love it. Don't get the heading though. Must have gotten lost in the translation.

Matt Whitener of Cheap.Seats.Please. thinks the Pastime needs to get into the present. Could not agree more.

TheNaturalMevs had several great posts to choose from this week. The favorite was this post on R.A. Dickey. At Diamond Hoggers. And this compiler will be a guest on the Mevs' podcast tonight at 8:00. Check it out.

Dugout 24 gives us six tips on how to hit with two strikes against you. There's also a great picture of Ron Hunt. Loved that guy as a kid, so bonus points.

The OCP of For Baseball Junkies fame had a blast last night with baseball games around the majors. We can exult with him with this post.

Over at Full Spectrum Baseball, Dennis Lawson, or the guy this compiler used to call, "Grrr" or "Naz," has a great post on which team can claim the best fan base. Cool post, but let the arguments now begin.

The Baseball Index responds to some comments made by Bobby Valentine, who, by the way, finished second to Ozzie Guillen in a recent player poll of the least respected manager in baseball.

The one, the original Hall of Very Good has tons of his usual off-beat stuff this week. It was hard to decide a favorite as they were all entertaining. Went with this one on why Vlad Guerrero needs to find a job.

Theo of Hot Corner Harbor has a really cool summer gig lined up this year. He is deeply envied!

Has this compiler said audibly that the Left Field writing is loved? It just is. Want an example why? Check out his Part 2 of his West Coast adventure. Awesome.

There is a wonderful post over at Major League A**holes by pverniere on changes that should happen in baseball. Perfectly stated.

Over at Michael Holloway's Baseball Blogs, the author does a great job of showing how the team's defense sparkled in the Mariners' recent combined no-hitter.

Jonathan Mitchell of MLB Dirt writes eloquently about an exclusive statistical club that very few players will ever join. Great stuff!

Trying to pick a favorite post over at MLB Reports is sort of like trying to pick the best treat at a bakery. Going this week with a John Burns piece on what the Padres should do with Carlos Quentin.

Nik of Niktig's Baseball Blog posted his current MLB Power Rankings.

In the laugh out funniest post of the week, the great MTD pokes fun of Vlad Guerrero and his agent. Off Base Percentage. Still chuckling...

Old Time Family Baseball has one of the most perfect quotes about a baseball player ever. Too bad it's one of this compiler's favorite players. But then again, a fan favorite isn't always a peer favorite.

Matthew Mahaffey of The Pop Fly Boys came up with the perfect description for this year's Baltimore Orioles.

Bill of The Platoon Advantage had a simply wonderful post over there this week. Can't describe it. Just go.

Replacement Level Baseball Blog talks about the same old Bryce Harper in a great post.

Sully wonders if the Phillies are done. Always interesting ponderings happen at Sully Baseball.

Jesse McGrath of Through the Fence Baseball thinks that Matt Cain should have been in the spotlight long before his perfect game. Heartily agree!

Jonathan Dyer of the X-Log has some really cogent thoughts on the new Andre Ethier contract. Great stuff.

What a great week by our writers! Thanks to all of them for much entertainment provided for this humble compiler.  Have a great week, everyone!

Matt Harrison is vastly underrated

Unlike a former Texas Rangers pitcher who was voted by players to be the most overrated pitcher in baseball, Matt Harrison might be the most underrated. And that includes his own team. Before the season started, he was not even a lock for the rotation after posting a 4.2 fWAR season at 14-9 a season ago. Why doesn't Harrison inspire respect for his pitching? Frankly, it is baffling. No, he does not strike out a gaggle of hitters. He is not going to overpower you. He is just going to get you out and keep his team in the game. He is now tied for the American League lead in wins. Do folks outside of Texas even know that?

Since the beginning of 2011, Matt Harrison has gone 22-12. While we all know that wins is not the strongest of statistics, that is still pretty impressive. And in that time, Fangraphs ranks him tied for the seventeenth best pitcher in the majors. That is more impressive still. Only that overrated guy, the former Rangers' guy, is rated better of all pitchers who have worn the Rangers' uniform. And this is a guy who was not a lock for the rotation at the start of the season? Whuh?

Matt Harrison pitches half of his starts in Texas, where the ball carries like it wears sails. And yet, Harrison has only allowed twenty homers in his last forty-four starts. His home runs per nine innings last year was an impressive 0.63 and this year is at 0.73. Part of the reason is that he is a ground ball pitcher. His ground ball to fly ball ratio is 1.7 and 51 percent of his batted balls are hit on the ground. But that does not tell the entire story either. Of the balls he does allow in the air, only 8.4 percent of them end up as homers. So, despite his home ballpark, he does not wreck his outings with the long ball.

And Harrison's control is getting better too. Last year's walk rate of 2.8 walks per nine was the best of his short career. But this year he is even stingier with a rate of 2.1. This has allowed him to have a higher strikeout to walk ratio even though his strikeouts are down a bit from a year ago.

Most people who think of Matt Harrison think of last year's post season when he went 0-2 and did not pitch well. The suspicion here is that Harrison had just finished throwing the most innings of his career and was gassed by the playoffs. Look for things to be much different this year if the Rangers again make it to the playoffs.

PitchF/X data shows that Harrison is relying more and more each season on the two-seam (or sinking) fastball. His reliance on that pitch have increased every season including this one. His percentage rates of using that pitch have risen from 18.8 percent in 2009 to 33 percent last year. This year, he is using the pitch 41.4 percent of the time. Of all his pitches, his least effective seems to be a cutter that he throws about seven percent of the time. He should probably just ditch that pitch. 

Harrison is not the kind of pitcher who gets batters to chase his pitches. His O-swing rate of 28 percent shows that batters wait for him to throw strikes. That he has lowered his walk rate despite that batter patience is even more impressive. The data shows that his first-pitch strikes have risen dramatically this season from 56 percent last year to 60.1 percent this year. Getting ahead of the batters can only help him in his contests.

Harrison is also getting deeper into games this season. Last year, he averaged 6.17 innings per start. This year, that statistic is over 6.6 innings. 

Harrison is only 26 years old and has a bright future. He will be arbitration eligible next season and should be locked up before that day comes. His team does not believe in him as much as perhaps this writer does. And that's a pity. He is a really good pitcher and the Rangers would be a seriously weaker team without him. Harrison is truly one of the most underrated starting pitchers in baseball.

Game Picks - Thursday: June 14, 2012

Yesterday's picks did not pitch a perfect game. That was left for Matt Cain to do. Wow! What a game, eh? But the picks were sort of like Lance Lynn and came in at 11-4 yesterday. In hindsight, two of the incorrect picks were for picking against two pitchers who have won ten games each.  Was that not stupid in retrospect or not? The other is laughable because the picks predicted it. The line was, "Jason Marquis has nothing this year. After saying that, watch him  go out and throw a gem." So, can this picker count that as a correct pick? Nah. The other incorrect pick was the Brewers who were victimized by shoddy relief pitching, namely Kameron LoeL.

The good day did much to spruce up the numbers for the week and the month. Let's see if they can continue.  Thursday's schedule includes eleven games. Not bad. And five of them are day games. Excellent. The picks:

  • The Indians over the Reds: The Reds have won the series, but perhaps the Indians sneak one here. Josh Tomlin has looked excellent but with his pitch to contact vibe, it's all about BABIP. Mike Leake has been better of late. Tough game to call.
  • The Mets over the Bay Rays: This is a giddy pick. The Mets have been terrific in this series. Perhaps Johan Santana can finish the Rays off. Jeremy Hellickson only lasted four- plus innings his last time out due to control problems.
  • The Athletics over the Rockies: This game comes down to which pitcher has a better chance to succeed at Coors. Jarrod Parker seems more able to do that than Alex White. Though, who knows.
  • The Astros over the Giants: Will the Giants be all tuckered out after last night's emotional game? Can Wandy Rodriguez bounce back after a couple of so-so starts? Can Barry Zito hold down the Astros? Tune in and find out because this picker has no clue.
  • The Pirates over the Orioles: The Orioles have had their way in this series. Facing Tommy Hunter gives the Pirates their best chance to win and Erik Bedard always pitches well against the team that originally drafted him.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rangers: What is it with these games today!? Daniel Hudson versus the winless Scott Feldman. Go ahead. Pick that!
  • The Brewers over the Royals: Isn't it kind of sad that the Brewers are basically invisible this season? Shaun Marcum gets the win and the Brewers get to Luke Hochevar.
  • The Twins over the Phillies: At least interleague play has given Jim Thome a last hurrah. But the huzzahs go to Scott Diamond who does nothing but win. Joe Blanton will be the victim.
  • The Cardinals over the White Sox: After writing a guest column over at C70 at the Bat telling Cardinal fans not to panic, the pick has to go their way even if it means picking Jake Westbrook to win. Gavin Floyd goes for the White Sox and he will get hit.
  • The Padres over the Mariners: This game as all the games in this series will be about which team can score a run or two. Edinson Volquez should be able to hold down the Mariners and Erasmo Ramirez should be able to hold down the Padres. Can already hear Mariners' fans calling the young pitcher, "Erasschmo," if he doesn't pitch well.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Tigers over the Cubs: You know those commercials where Verlander and others say they have earned their right to the All Star Game? Well, Verlander hasn't earned his right yet. He needs to string a couple of wins. The Cubs are a good place to start. And Travis Wood is a good match up.

Yesterday: 11-4
Week: 30-19
Month: 100-74
Season: 502-415
Games of the Day: 40-28

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Cardinals will be fine

Spent the morning writing a guest post for the vacationing C70 at the Bat writer, Daniel Shoptaw. You can read that piece here. Thanks!

Game Picks - Wednesday: June 13, 2012

The picks for yesterday started out with four straight correct ones. Then there were five straight incorrect ones. By the time the day was over, they staggered just a game under .500. Greinke was great. The bullpen was not. The Mets shellacked the Bay Rays. The Rangers won  and Nicholi was glad that one was wrong. Those dang Tigers. They can't even beat the Cubs. Sheesh. The Cardinals had eleven hits, ten in the first five innings but hit into three double plays, only scored one run and lost. The Padres won. The Athletics won. It just wasn't a fun day of picking.

That's two straight losing days and interleague is not as much fun as when it started. Let's see if Wednesday can do better: The picks:

  • The Nationals over the Blue Jays: The pick has to go with Stephen Strasburg. He was not picked in his last outing and the face palm marks are still visible. Kyle Drabek will try to undermine the pick for sure.
  • The Orioles over the Pirates: Kevin Correia will not be able to contain the Orioles who are still flying. They get Brian Roberts back after a year and he promptly gets three hits. Who does that? Brian Matusz with the win.
  • The Red Sox over the Marlins: Felix Doubront had the rare unsuccessful start last time out. He will rebound in this one and the Red Sox hit Ricky Nolasco. If this pick is wrong, the Red Sox just are not very good.
  • The Reds over the Indians. Joey Votto is unstoppable right now. Mat Latos has been better and Derek Lowe has lost some of his early luster. 
  • The Yankees over the Braves: Tim Hudson will give the Yankees some trouble and the Yanks bullpen has been overtaxed. But the boys from the Bronx have been pretty much unstoppable lately. Hiroki Kuroda will have to be good though.
  • The Bay Rays over the Mets: Picking against R.A. Dickey has been really stupid this year and this picker has  been that stupid often. But this game is David Price. This one should not be stupid.
  • The Rangers over the Diamondbacks: Wade Miley has been great and is 7-2. But a lot of really good pitchers go to die in the Rangers' home park. Going with Matt Harrison in this one.
  • The Tigers over the Cubs: Might as well continue this lunacy. Have all year. Why stop now? Rick Porcello over Matt Garza. Heaven help us all.
  • The Brewers over the Royals: This one is impossible to predict. Jonathan Sanchez versus Randy Wolf? Yeah. Your guess is as good as this one.
  • The Phillies over the Twins: Cole Hamels has hit a little rough patch in the road his last three starts. But his left arm should hold back the Twins enough for the Phillies to take the game. P.J. Walters had his worst start in an otherwise good season last time out.
  • The White Sox over the Cardinals: The White Sox are catching the Cardinals during a bad stretch. Jake Peavy will keep the Cards' woes going a little longer. Lance Lynn is 9-2 but hasn't been quite as sharp lately. His left arm does take Adam Dunn out of the picture though.
  • The Athletics over the Rockies: Another crapola pick to make. Tommy Milone is homer prone on the road and it doesn't get any worse than Coors Field. But the Rockies are starting Josh Outman, whose name is an oxymoron.
  • The Angels over the Dodgers: Do you think C.J. Wilson is overrated? This picker doesn't. He will hold the Dodgers down and the Angels will get a few runs off of Nathan Eovaldi.
  • The Mariners over the Padres: This pick was wrong yesterday. We'll see what today holds. Hector Noesi has been a bit of a hit and miss starter. Sometimes he looks great. Other times, not so much. Jason Marquis goes for the Padres and he has had nothing all season. Of course, saying that, he'll throw a gem tonight.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Giants over the Astros: It is a pretty sure bet that Matt Cain will pitch a good game. The only question is if the Giants score on J.A. Happ.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 19-15
Month: 89-70
Season: 491-411
Games of the Day: 39-28

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Not feeling Dee Gordon

Baseball has become a young player's game as teams are leveraging young talent that is cheaper and a better value proposition. And names like Trout and Harper have added to the excitement of the game as a whole. But the eternal question still remains: How much rope do young players get? For every story about prospects that do not make the grade, the mind wanders back to the first year of A-Rod and Schmidt. Those guys were brutal their fist years in the majors. And those thoughts lead to Dee Gordon. For all the flash and for all the talk, Dee Gordon is not playing very well. In fact, he is one of the worst players in the majors.

Of all qualifying players, Dee Gordon has the ninth lowest wOBA in the majors at .260. His OPS currently sits at .569. Of all qualifying shortstops, only the Angels' Aybar is rated lower by Fangraphs. And shortstop is not exactly a talent-filled position these days. No doubt the guy is fast and plays with a certain flair. But you have to get on base to take advantage of that ability. His .288 on-base percentage has been killing the Dodgers, especially since man-crush, Donny Baseball, insists on batting him in the lead off position. How far do the Dodgers let this go?

History tells us they let it go for a long time. Look how long the team has stuck with Loney. It is not like Gordon has shown improvement. His OPS was .489 in April, .600 in May and .588 so far in June. He has walked one time in his last 44 plate appearances. Gordon has 240 plate appearances thus far this season and only has nine extra base hits to show for it. And that is just his offense.

Dee Gordon is not playing good defense either. If you look at the old standby of fielding percentage, Gordon has now played 110 games for the Dodgers as a shortstop and has made twenty errors. That is good for a .957 fielding percentage. But for as fast as he is, his fielding efficiency doesn't make up for his fielding percentage. Currently in all of baseball for qualifying shortstops, Dee Gordon is rated better than only Derek Jeter. When your offensive game is not going well, you don't want your defensive named in that kind of company.

So what do the Dodgers do? Keep running him out there? A quick check at Triple-A shows that they have Luis Cruz there. He is hitting really well at Triple-A. But his fielding is not any better than Gordon's. And there is little available on the trade market. Justin Sellers is not much of an upgrade.

The Dodgers have a nice little cushion in the NL West and so they can afford to keep running Dee Gordon out there in the hopes that he will suddenly blossom into the player they hope him to be. But players with little plate discipline rarely improve in that category and it continues to amaze this observer how little patience some of the fastest guys in baseball have. What a waste of speed! Anyway, look forward to many more games of Dee Gordon playing shortstop. They may win the NL West with him out there, but the playoffs are a whole other ballgame.

Game Picks - Tuesday: June 12, 2012

Beware of short schedule days. Only one correct pick out of four yesterday. It turns out that the Red Sox are more of a struggling team than the Marlins. And the California game between the Dodgers and the Angels went into extra innings and ended up with the Angels winning. Had it the other way. Mike Trout's name was all over that box score. Phenomenal. The other loss was the most painful...for Brandon Morrow. The pick was based on him winning. But he threw just nine pitches before a side strain shelved him and probably sinks the Blue Jays in the process. How can one predict that?

But the good news is that the number of picks limited the damage on the week. Tuesday is back to a full schedule and perhaps the week can get back to its highly successful self. Tuesday's picks:

  • The Orioles over the Pirates: The battle of two surprisingly good teams. The Orioles get a bit of the benefit of doubt here as Wei-Yin Chen can pitch effectively longer than Brad Lincoln, who is not stretched out to start.
  • The Nationals over the Blue Jays: The Nationals are clearly the class in the NL East right now and Bryce Harper is just sensational. Mike Morse is also back. Chien-Ming Wang makes it Korean national day as he and Chen get wins. Henderson Alvarez gets a hard-luck loss.
  • The Red Sox over the Marlins: The Red Sox know Mark Buehrle unlike their unfamiliarity with Johnson yesterday. They should score four or more runs in this game, which will be more than Clay Buchholz will need as he seems to be back to 2010 form.
  • The Reds over the Indians: Johnny Cueto should be the difference-maker in this one as he is clearly better than Jeanmar Gomez. The Battle of Ohio.
  • The Bay Rays over the Mets: The Rays just don't lose these days. Alex Cobb will continue this struggling streak of the Mets and Chris Young won't be around long enough to prevent the Bay Rays from getting to the Mets' bullpen.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rangers: The Rangers have been scuffling and this picker cannot pick against man-crush, Ian Kennedy. Plus, Colby Lewis is not always great. He should serve up at least two long balls.
  • The Tigers over the Cubs: This picker's first thought on seeing this game was, "How can the Tigers screw this up?" They shouldn't. Max Scherzer has been all over the place though. Paul Maholm has not won a start in his last half-dozen attempts.
  • The Brewers over the Royals: This will be Zack Greinke's first return back to Kansas City since he was traded. Royals fans will be all over him and he should be stoked to beat them. Luis Mendoza will just be incidental to this show.
  • The Twins over the Phillies: Cannot make sense of this game. There is no faith in Kyle Kendrick just like there is no faith in Nick Blackburn. The Twins are the hotter hitting team and are at home. So let's go that way.
  • The Cardinals over the White Sox: Adam Wainwright is still getting hit around pretty good. But he is at home and the White Sox will lose the DH. Jose Quintana has looked okay but should get hit by this Cardinal lineup whose righty bats should neutralize his left arm.
  • The Rockies over the Athletics: Have to go with the home team Rockies in this one. Neither Jeremy Guthrie or Bartolo Colon will be able to contain the scoring, but the Rockies will score more.
  • The Angels over the Dodgers: The Angels are simply the hotter team right now. The Dodgers are missing pieces and trying to hold on. Jerome Williams had a bad start last time, but he's been solid all season. The Angels should hit Aaron Harang.
  • The Mariners over the Padres: Seriously tough pick to make. Felix Hernandez is back for this one, but we haven't seen the old King Felix this season as his velocity is down. Has his back been the problem the whole time? Or is it something else? Clayton Richard is a good pitcher in San Diego and just meh anywhere else.
  • The Giants over the Astros: If this was the Bud Norris of earlier in the season, then this would be a tougher pick. But he hasn't been right for a few starts now and Madison Bumgarner is the best Giants pitcher.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Yankees over the Braves: Uh oh. Saw this match-up of C.C. Sabathia versus Mike Minor and immediately thought, "Mismatch." Every single time that thought has occurred this season, the pick has turned out wrong. Perhaps this one will break the mold.

Yesterday: 1-3
Week: 12-7
Month: 82-62
Season: 484-403
Games of the Day: 38-28

Monday, June 11, 2012

Trumbo! You're flying!

There is a lot of baseball watched in this household. Fortunately, the lady of the house does not mind and cheers just as hard for a specific team as this writer does. And certain in-family jokes occur all the time. For example, when the Mets' Duda comes to the plate or is mentioned in highlight packages, Foghorn Leghorn's rendition of Camptown Races is sung with gusto (and in character - DOODAH!). Another popular event is a mention of Mark Trumbo. Whenever his name is mentioned, you would hear: "Trumbo! Look at dose ears!" Mark Trumbo does not have big ears, but like the Disney character, he sure is flying.

Mike Trout is getting all the accolades and that is understandable. The Angels finally allowed the young player to get in the lineup every day and has become the most exciting young player in baseball today. Trout has more "tools" that Mark Trumbo. Heck, Trout has more tools than most human beings. But Trumbo is a big part of the resurgence of the Angels along with a more normal Pujols and the return this year of Morales. And the funny thing is, Trumbo does not have a regular spot in that lineup. What's up with that?

The trouble for the Angels is that they have a lot of money invested in Wells and Hunter. Callaspo is considered their third baseman. Pujols took over first base. Morales is the DH. So Trumbo does not have a permanent home. Even lists him as a utility player. Standing at 6'4" Trumbo is probably the largest utility player ever. Trumbo has played a few games at first, eight games at third, nine games as DH, twenty games in right field and ten games in left. He has played in 51 of the Angels' 61 games. In this humble observer's estimation, that is not enough.

Mark Trumbo leads the Angels in hits, homers, runs batted in, slugging percentage and OPS. He is third on the team in runs scored and is second to Trout on the team in on-base percentage and batting average. That seems to be the kind of guy you need in the lineup every day.

In the month of May, which just so happened to coincide with the Angels' return to prominence, Trumbo had a triple slash line of: .367/.407/.670 with seven homers, ten doubles, a triple and eighteen runs driven in. He has had a tougher time of it in June as the month has bit him for a BABIP of .211. But he hit two homers in the game last night and has seven runs batted in for the month in the month's eleven days. So even an unlucky and struggling Mark Trumbo is someone worth having in the lineup.

There are some weaknesses in Trumbo's game. Although he is swinging at less pitches out of the strike zone this season, his O-swing rate is still up there in the 36 percent range and of his swings, he still swings and misses some 13 percent of the time. For a classic power hitter, Trumbo is not an on-base machine. His walk rate is 7.7 percent, which is not enough. But it is better than his 4.4 percent of last season. So there is improvement. And there are other signs that regression is possible. For example, his home run per fly ball rate has risen higher than last year when he hit 28 homers. That can either be interpreted that he is improving as a power hitter or has been a bit lucky thus far. Take it how you will.

There is also a huge split between his OPS at home and on the road. He is some 400 points higher at home. The comforting thing there is that he has hit just as many homers on the road as he has at home. And his defense is a liability. But some of that is not being allowed to settle into one position. His fielding was fine last year when he played mostly first base. Wells, Hunter and Callaspo are probably all stronger defenders.

And while all three just mentioned are better defenders, they are not more valuable players than Mark Trumbo has been for the Angels this season. If this guy ran the Angels, Trumbo would be placed in left field and left there for every game for the rest of the season.

Game Picks - Monday: June 11, 2012

This interleague thing is a snap. Three days of the stuff and the picks are 32-13. Sunday was the second straight 11-4 day and this picker is whistling a happy tune. The four bad picks for Sunday all make sense in retrospect. A.J. Burnett was picked against. He pitched another good game. The Twins were picked for one game too many. Just because they won a few games in a row doesn't mean they are any good. And darned if those Orioles rallied against Cliff Lee and won the game in extras. And the plucky Astros continue to take on people bigger than they are. This time it was the White Sox. Those were the only four sour notes in a full slate of game picks.

It is a real slow day around the majors for Monday. Only four games will be played today. The most confusing series will be the Red Sox and Marlins, two teams that have really hit the skids lately.Let's look at all four games:

  • The Red Sox over the Marlins: The Marlins struggle so badly at their new home ballpark, it is just truly strange. Josh Johnson should shut the Red Sox down. But they can work up his pitch count quickly and get him out early. Dr. Josh Beckett will have to show up instead of Mr. Hyde.
  • The Yankees over the Braves: The Yankees can get to the improving Randall Delgado. The question is if the Braves can get to Ivan Nova. And the latter will depend on if Nova can keep the ball in the park, something he has struggled with all season.
  • The Dodgers over the Angels: The Angels are one hot team right now. But Chris Capuano at home in Dodgers Stadium seems like a better pick than the impressive Garrett Richards.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Blue Jays over the Nationals: Edwin Jackson is the weakest link in the Nationals' rotation. The Blue Jays are at home and have their best pitcher on the mound in Brandon Morrow. Sounds like a Blue Jays win from here.

Yesterday: 11-4
Week: 11-4
Month: 81-59
Season: 483-400
Games of the Day: 38-27

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Game Picks - Sunday: June 10, 2012

Maybe this interleague stuff is not so bad after all. Picking the dang things was just so difficult last season. But after two days of picking the interleague packages, the picks are 21-9 including 11-4 yesterday. Sweet. Of the few bad picks yesterday was a San Diego win. But how could a picker know that the Padres would win and the pitcher responsible would be Ross Ohlendorf? Sometimes baseball is simply serendipitous. The Marlins were simply a stupid pick as was the Blue Jays. And this picker thinks the reason is obvious. There is an emotional empathy for those teams. The Blue Jays have earned the soft spot due to this writer's admiration for the team's bloggers like Tao of Stieb and Navin Vaswani. The Marlins play in south Florida and that area is particularly loved by this Maine writer. These soft spots cloud reason. Call it a flaw. But it is what it is.

Today will be a good day. It is our wedding anniversary, the sun is shining and the golf round should be enjoyable. And then an afternoon of baseball will bring it all home. Thank goodness for a wife that loves the sport too!  Here are Sunday's picks:

  • The Yankees over the Mets: Andy Pettitte will finish the sweep but it should be a close game as Jonathan Niese is pretty darned good. But he is a lefty and the Yankees love lefties.
  • The Royals over the Pirates: The Pirates have had their way in this series but it turns around today. Bruce Chen has been the ultimate bamboozle for five of his last six games now and A.J. Burnett will bend enough for the loss.
  • The Phillies over the Orioles: This picker must admit a bit of a wry smile that Cliff Lee has not won a game yet. But all personal biases aside, the man has to win a game sooner or later. Today should be that day. The Phillies' offense will need to get him a few runs off of Jason Hammel though.
  • The Blue Jays over the Braves: Yeah, this picker knows what the first paragraph said. But it is logic and not the heart that dictates that Ricky Romero should be better than Julio Teheran. Teheran must not be picked until he can show that he can get big league hitters out. He has not shown that ability thus far.
  • The Nationals over the Red Sox: The Nats have enough right-handed bats to neutralize Jon Lester who has not pitched well of late. Jordan Zimmermann is the kind of power arm that can cause the Red Sox trouble.
  • The Twins over the Cubs: The Cubs' lineup is not patient enough to wait out Francisco Liriano and the big left-hander has turned his season around of late. Ryan Dempster will continue to showcase his talent for contenders down the stretch.
  • The White Sox over the Astros: Philip Humber will have to get through the first inning unscathed. If he can do that, the White Sox should win and get a few runs off of Lucas Harrell, who has the added incentive of being waived by the White Sox last season.
  • The Brewers over the Padres: Yovani Gallardo will bounce back from his bad start against the Cardinals and Anthony Bass has had a tough time of things since the start of May.
  • The Indians over the Cardinals: This is an extremely tough game to call. Ubaldo Jimenez has not been lights out but better in his last couple of starts. Joe Kelly is making his major league debut after pitching superbly in Triple A. Tough call.
  • The Angels over the Rockies: This is a sucker punch of a game. The draw in is the recent struggles of Ervin Santana and Christian Friedrich has shown flashes of brilliance. Despite those enticements, the Angels have been on too good of a roll and the Rockies have looked terrible.
  • The Rangers over the Giants: Another tough call to make. Alexi Ogando is forced to make the start after pitching out of the bullpen all season. But he is good enough to go five without much trouble. Tim Lincecum beat the Rangers in that classic World Series outing, but that was a different Tim Lincecum that the one that is pitching now.
  • The Dodgers over the Mariners: Don't like this pick much better. Chad Billingsley is always confusing for this picker and Blake Beavan has not been very good. The latter fact trumps the former.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Athletics: The D-backs seem to have rallied around each other since the team's brass decided to throw Justin Upton and Stephen Drew under the bus. Joe Saunders is always a concern when he pitches. But Travis Blackley seems the weaker of the choices.
  • The Tigers over the Reds: Still can't believe that the Tigers were picked yesterday and they actually won. Perhaps the long struggle picking this team is over. The Emoticon, Drew Smyly, should shut down the Reds enough for the Tigers to get to Homer Bailey.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rays over the Marlins: Okay, William. Forget your love for South Beach and pick with your head. The Bay Rays simply outclass the Marlins on just about every level. And it has shown in spades all weekend. James Shields will finish it off and Anibal Sanchez will keep it close for a while.

Yesterday: 11-4
Last Week: 53-42
Month: 70-55
Season: 472-396
Games of the Day: 37-27