Saturday, July 07, 2012

Game Picks - Saturday: July 7, 2012

July is turning into a struggle for your humble game picker. Three straight negative days have now gone by and the Game of the Day feature is on a five game losing streak. Here is an idea. How about shutting Stephen Strasburg down now until the hot season has passed and then use him later in the season when it is cooler outside? Here is another idea for an inner note: Don't pick the Astros! Duh! That was probably the dumbest pick. But there were a lot on the bad side of the register. The Angels did not win. The Cardinals did not win. The Rangers did not win. The Dodgers did not win. Barry Zito won. Geezum Pete!

This picker is up way too early to do this today, but it is a special day. The biggest local golf tournament begins today and let's hope that goes as good as the picks today. And the Fan's mom turns 86 today. She was born in 1926. Imagine all the things she has seen in her lifetime! Happy Birthday, Mom! Wish this picker was there to celebrate with you.

Saturday's picks:

  • The Yankees and Red Sox split a double- header: Yeah, this is sorta cheating. The Red Sox are going to light up one of the Yankee pitchers today with Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes to choose from. The Yankees like lefty pitching and get two of them today with Franklin Morales and Felix Doubront.
  • The Nationals over the Rockies: Jeff Francis has been very good for the Rockies and that is a nice story. But Gio Gonzalez has been even better for the Nationals. That is where this pick ends up.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: Which of these pitchers will have the better outing, Bruce Chen or Doug Fister? That is tough to call. Fister has a record like his Seattle days and has been getting banged around. Haven't heard a Maddux comparison in a long time with him. Chen's slop has to be pinpoint perfect. It only is about a third of the time.
  • The Pirates over the Giants: James McDonald has been this picker's guy all season and he is 8-3. That is a pretty sure bet. Except, he faces Ryan Vogelsong who has been terrific himself. Somebody remind this picker why he tortures himself this way every day...
  • The Cubs over the Mets: If Jeff Samardzija can keep throwing split-fingered pitches like he did against the Braves, he is hard to hit. Dillon Gee is not half bad as a starter but his fielders always seem to have a bad game behind him. Going with the Cubbies.
  • The Cardinals over the Marlins: Let's try this one again after it did not work out yesterday. Carlos Zambrano just cannot throw enough strikes for some reason. Kyle Lohse is quietly having a very good season. The Cards are due for an offensive explosion.
  • The White Sox over the Blue Jays: Ricky Romero may be 8-3, but he has been getting lit up like a fireworks barge on the fourth of July. Gavin Floyd is no gimme pick though. Gracious.
  • The Indians over the Bay Rays: Ubaldo Jimenez has seen his velocity increase in his recent outings and he is pitching much better. He still walks too many people. If he is on, he can shut down the weak-hitting Rays. Matt Moore has been underwhelming to this picker. His fastball is straight and looks hittable no matter if it is 95 MPH. Johnny Damon will be saying, "I'll show you Luke Scott."
  • The Braves over the Phillies: Tommy Hanson has been homer prone. But he'll keep the Braves in the game long enough for them to square up Joe Blanton. It was fun to see Ryan Howard get two hits in his season debut.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: Derek Holland will make his first start off the disabled list. Hope his elbow will be okay. The Twins are starting Samuel Deduno, whose six career relief appearances have totally slipped by this picker's notice. He is making his first MLB start against the Rangers. Not fun for him.
  • The Angels over the Orioles: Nice pitching match-up here with Jered Weaver versus Jason Hammel. Weaver is clearly the better pitcher.
  • The Reds over the Padres: Homer Bailey was hitting 97 MPH on the radar gun in his last outing. Homer Bailey!? Who knew? Clayton Richard is tough at Petco though as he proved against the Diamondbacks his last start.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: Chad Billingsley. Just saying that name makes the skin on this picker's neck crawl. He is impossible to predict. Trevor Cahill hasn't been as good as the D-backs have hoped.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Hate this series. Gah! Jarrod Parker has been terrific. REALLY terrific. Jason Vargas can be good too. Sounds like a 1-0 game. But which team will get that one run?

And the Game of the Day! (c'mon now!)

  • The Brewers over the Astros: Learning from yesterday's stupid mistake. Do NOT pick the Astros. But Wandy Rodriguez is pitching! Argh! Zack Greinke is the pick.

Yesterday: 6-9
Week: 44-41
Month: 44-41
Season: 676-557
Games of the Day: 53-38

Friday, July 06, 2012

Feeling you David Ortiz

David Ortiz feels disrespected. The feeling is understandable. For those of you trying to understand how a guy making $14.58 million a season can feel disrespected, let us put things in real world perspective. Say you are an employee working your tail off every day. Your work has added to your company's bottom line for years. But then your company goes out and hires someone who has not put in the work you have historically, nor, has been that anchor to success like you have and yet, still gets a sweeter deal than you. How would you feel?

How about another example? Say you are a Time Warner Cable customer who has no other competition to go to if you want cable television and high speed Internet access. You have TWC's bundle because you are locked in and you have no other choices. You are paying the outrageous sum of $187 a month because TWC is going to take advantage of your lack of choices and they are heartless SOBs. Then you see offers in their commercials to new customers for drastically less than what you have been paying for years. Sucks, does it not?

David Ortiz has added value to the Red Sox for a number of years. He helped bring a long championship drought to an end, not just once, but twice. His big bat busted up the Yankees on several occasions. He has anchored a cranked up offense for years and helped put fans in the seats at Fenway. Despite his age and a couple of down years, he has roared back to again become one of the top five hitters in baseball the last two season. And yet, the team goes out and signs other players for big money for guaranteed years and all Ortiz can get is one year deals.

His feelings are natural and if we put ourselves in more realistically similar situations and forget the astronomical money involved, we can understand. The problem is that life does not work this way. There is inherent unfairness built into the system. Employees who are not yet with the firm or the baseball team are always more attractive than the workers / players you already employ. The known is always taken for granted. The solid, long-paying customer is always less coveted than new customers. Is it right? No. Is it reality? Yes.

Plus, teams have to stick within valuation guidelines. The Red Sox were one of the first to hire analysts to figure out the cost/reward relationship. They also have to weigh future performance against the past and figure in age and regression models. Baseball players are assets now that have to be assigned a value not just for the current season but in the seasons to come.

It is obvious that in the Red Sox' minds, there is no telling how a 36 year old slugger will fare a year from now. David Ortiz's entire value is based on what he does with the bat. He has no value as a fielder and a negative value as a base runner. The bat is how he makes his money. The bat is how his present and future values are established.

The assumption here is that Ortiz will again be worth about $18.8 million this season, matching last season. Add in the $10.4 million he was worth in 2010 and you have a three year average of $16 million. So the Red Sox are underpaying Ortiz by a million and a half this season. But before the season, his last two seasons of $10.4 million plus $18.8 million add up to $29.2 and when divided by two, comes up with $14.6 million. So the deal the Red Sox gave Ortiz was a square deal based on his last two years.

The human element is that Ortiz is worth something more for the intangible element he has brought to the Red Sox over the years. From that aspect, the way David Ortiz feels is perfectly understandable. But the reality is that the world does not work like that. The world is cold and harsh and bases value on what it can measure. The Red Sox hedged their bet and paid Ortiz exactly his worth in pure baseball performance based on a two year average. You could even say that they took a chance that a 36 year old player would continue to perform at that rate.

You can put David Ortiz down if you want. You can turn it into any kind of "whining" comment that appeals to you. But the truth is that Ortiz is feeling exactly the same way we would feel if we were in his situation. All of us buck the reality of the way the world works. Life is not fair and it never will be. What someone has meant to an organization will always be more important to the giver and not the taker.

Game Picks - Friday: July 6, 2012

Thursday was an exciting and strange day in baseball. Bullpen meltdowns helped picks like the Mets, but hurt picks like the Twins and Scott Diamond (who was great again). All in all, the day ended up just slightly in negative territory, the second straight negative day in a row. To his credit, Jose Quintana out-dueled the great Matt Harrison and that went against the pick.  The Blue Jays continue to fluster any kind of predictions.  And the Padres beating the Reds is just too weird to talk about.

The last two days of the week need to rally to bring the luster back to the week. It all starts with Friday:

  • The Braves over the Phillies: For two months people have been looking for the Phillies to get their horses back. Chase Utley came back last week and now Ryan Howard comes back today. But the Phillies problems go way beyond those two hitters in the lineup. The fact is, both are past their prime and while they both might add a win or two to the final total, it is not the answer to all the problems. Tim Hudson over Kyle Kendrick (one of the problems).
  • The Tigers over the Royals: This picker can't in any good conscience pick Jonathan Sanchez to win a game. Going with The Emoticon instead, Drew Smyly.
  • The Pirates over the Giants: The Giants are a surprisingly good offensive team. But they are starting Barry Zito and it won't be enough. Erik Bedard will hold the runs down below Zito's level.
  • The Indians over the Bay Rays: Alex Cobb has been losing quite often and Justin Masterson seems to be peaking into top form. So that is the pick.
  • The Mets over the Cubs: Two hot teams and two hot starting pitchers in Travis Wood and Johan Santana. With those two canceling each other out, the home team Mets are the pick.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: With Josh Beckett going for the Red Sox, this will be a four hour game. Hiroki Kuroda has been terrific. But can he keep it going? The Red Sox will be without Dustin Pedroia, who went on the disabled list.
  • The Astros over the Brewers: This is just a hunch that J.A. Happ will be very good at his home park and Yovani Gallardo will struggle on the road.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: Francisco Liriano is such a scary guy to pick for or against. You just never know. The Rangers have been in an offensive funk and they should break out of it soon. Martin Perez does not instill a lot of confidence though.
  • The White Sox over the Blue Jays: The Red Sox will miss Kevin Youkilis. The White Sox keep getting big hits from him. Jake Peavy should out-pitch Aaron Laffey.
  • The Cardinals over the Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton is a big bat that's missing from the Marlins' attack. Jake Westbrook will be solid. Ricky Nolasco is the wild card. He was great his last time out, but you just never know with him.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: The D- backs are in trouble and Josh Collmenter is not going to help. Clayton Kershaw should dominate.
  • The Angels over the Orioles: The Angels comeback win last night had to be a gut punch for any hope the Orioles can stay in the AL East rate. And a reality check. C.J. Wilson should be good and Miguel Gonzalez gets his first start for the Orioles. Who?
  • The Reds over the Padres: Kip Wells won his last start with seven scoreless innings. Is that not the most improbable statement ever declared in this space? To think it can be repeated just stretches reality. Bronson Arroyo should enjoy Petco.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: These teams have played each other like fifty-five times already, right? Tommy Milone over the "to groin or not to groin" Kevin Millwood.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Nationals over the Rockies: If anyone is left wondering if the National are for real, well, you then are a pessimistic sort aren't you? Stephen Strasburg needs to beat the heat at his home ballpark. If he does, he will easily beat the Rockies. Drew Pomeranz goes for the Rockies.

Yesterday: 6-7
Week: 38-32
Month: 38-32
Season: 670-548
Games of the Day: 53-37

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Summer of Kevin Maas

Written by yours truly for It's About the Money Stupid

Game Picks - Thursday: July 5, 2012

The Independence Day picks did not sour like a rocket into the sky. Rather, they fared about as well as an alien from space did in the movie starring Will Smith. So many things went wrong. The Yankees won a game that David Price started against David Phelps. Not that this picker is complaining about that. But what a shock. The Red Sox were swept by Oakland! Who saw that coming? Cliff Lee finally won a ballgame. Did not predict that. The Blue Jays got great pitching. Did not see that either. And the Angels were mutilated by the Indians putting a huge dent in their new-found status as an elite club. So, yes, the picks on July 4 were the firecracking equivalent of a dud.

Thirteen games are on the schedule today. Four teams have the day off. Three of the games are day games, which is always fun. Thursday's picks:

  • The Twins over the Tigers: The picks begin with a real puzzler. Scott Diamond has been very good all season and is 7-3 with an ERA under three. But Rick Porcello has been coming on strong himself these days after a rough start to the season. Overall, the Twins are playing better than the Tigers these days.
  • The Brewers over the Marlins: Mike Fiers has been outstanding and with him on the mound, the Brewers have to be given the nod at home. Mark Buehrle will give up two or three runs. The question will be if that is low enough for Fiers.
  • The Rangers over the White Sox: The White Sox are hugely susceptible to left-handed pitching and Matt Harrison is one of the best. Jose Quintana continues to win, but his fastball looks straight and he can roll his slider at times. Quintana should neutralize Josh Hamilton, but not the big right-handed bats in the Rangers' lineup.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: This picker is beginning to get excited about the Pirates. This is fun! Jeff Karstens surprised in his last outing. Bud Norris seems to be the ace that never becomes the ace. Maybe someday he'll put it together.
  • The Nationals over the Giants: The Nats have been impressive in this series as they took care of Bumgarner yesterday. Matt Cain struggled against Cincinnati last time out. Is he tired? Is he okay? Or was it just a BABIP game? Hmm... Ross Detwiler should be good for six innings. Davey better take him out after that.
  • The Indians over the Bay Rays: The Rays are coming off a successful series against the Yankees that did not end well. The Indians destroyed the Angels in their series and have Travis Hafner back. Jeremy Hellickson still seems overrated to this picker. Josh Tomlin needs to be fine though.
  • The Blue Jays over the Royals: This picker is through trying to figure out Luke Hochevar. He is maddening! Going with Henderson Alvarez and the Blue Jays' bats at home.
  • The Cubs over the Braves: The Braves are as maddening as Hochevar. They are supposed to be a good team, right? But the Cubs have looked far better. Matt Garza over Mike Minor.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: Great match-up of Cole Hamels and R.A. Dickey. In these super match-ups, it seems impossible to pick which one will have the stellar day. This pick is a 50/50 deal.
  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: This picker is officially worried about Lance Lynn. It would have been better for him not to have been picked for the All Star Team. He hasn't been as sharp. Is he fatigued? On talent alone, he should beat the Rockies once a decent Christian Friedrich eats up his 75 pitches.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Dodgers: Two teams that need to get going and can't seem to. Nathan Eovaldi deserves to win a game. But will today be the day? That is the dilemma here. On the other hand, Wade Miley has been SO good but was bad his last time out. Ugh.
  • The Angels over the Orioles: Both pitchers, Garrett Richards and Jake Arrieta (Arrieta gentille Arrieta) had really rough starts their last time out. Richards seems the better pick to snap out of it.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Reds over the Padres: Mat Latos faces his old team. And with the way he's been pitching lately, it will be painful for Padres' fans to watch. Edinson Volquez goes for the Padres.

Yesterday: 6-9
Week: 32-25
Month: 32-25
Season: 664-541
Games of the Day: 53-36 (three day losing streak)

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Game Picks - Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 236th birthday, America!

When this picker went to bed last night, the picks sat at 8-3 and a good day seemed to be on its way. The Yankees' loss was frustrating. The Miami pick was right until Heath Bell stepped on the mound. And the Tigers continued their personal crusade to give this picker constipation. But otherwise, things were going well. Not a single pick went right the rest of the evening as the Red Sox, Reds, Cardinals (the pick of the day) and Mariners all lost. Instead of a good day, it became simply another mediocre one.

Ah well. Today is a great day. Today celebrates a brave group of leaders who hammered out a declaration of freedom. That is infinitely more important that who won what baseball game. And yet baseball goes on and as it does, so does the picks:

  • The Giants over the Nationals: This game starts before noon! Madison Bumgarner should be better than Edwin Jackson. But you never know with Jackson who can be brilliant just as much as he can be awful.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: The Cliff Lee story has become fascinating. Can he turn it around? Is he the symbol of a lost Phillies campaign? And what of Chris Young? You keep waiting for his arm to fall off and he keeps throwing gems. Going with Young and knocking on wood.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: Dallas Keuchel continues to confound and Kevin Correia continues to be a fringe major league pitcher. And even so, the Pirates will win.
  • The Angels over the Indians: Which pitcher will be worse? That is the story in this one as the struggling Ervin Santana meets the struggling Derek Lowe. Whichever team wins, this picker hopes Shelley Duncan hits another homer. You never should have lost playing time to Johnny Damon, son.
  • The Red Sox over the Athletics: Which surprising pitcher will win? AaRon Cook missed no bats in his last start and managed to pitch a gem. Talk about your BABIP starts! Meanwhile, A.J. Griffin has been baffling teams since he first came up this season.
  • The Orioles over the Mariners: The Orioles will bring back Chris Tillman to start this one. It's been a long time, man! Giving him the nod over poor Hector Noesi who just loses and loses.
  • The Marlins over the Brewers: Okay, here's the thing. Josh Johnson will be terrific for six innings but will not go any further because he cannot find a way to cut down his pitch count. The Marlins have to build enough of a lead on Randy Wolf to make this game bullpen proof.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: The Twins are red hot and no longer the laughingstock of baseball. Good on them. But Justin Verlander is still the best pitcher on the planet and single-handedly keeps the fading Tigers division hopes alive. Brian Duensing will keep it close.
  • The Royals over the Blue Jays: Luis Mendoza is so hard to predict. He is a BABIP pitcher which means that things all depend on where his batted balls go during the game. Carlos Villanueva is a decent all around kind of pitcher and much like Mendoza in difficulty to predict.
  • The Braves over the Cubs: Paul Maholm (read Luis Mendoza up above - same thing) versus Randall Delgado. There has to be a reason why the Braves keep running Delgado out there. Haven't figured that one out yet.
  • The White Sox over the Rangers: Going with Dylan Axelrod in this one over Scott Feldman. It was like weighing them on a scale and Axelrod just felt heavier. The White Sox are a tough team right now anyway.
  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: The Rockies four man rotation sure seems to have more than four guys in it. Today features Jeremy Guthrie who had been banished to the bullpen. He will probably throw a surprising outing today because that is the way baseball goes. But Adam Wainwright should be better.
  • The Reds over the Dodgers: Mike Leake has been very good in his last three starts. Aaron Harang is good at home though. Tough one.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: The Padres have been killing the Diamondbacks. But man-crush, Ian Kennedy, is back on the hill for the D-backs. The Padres go with Jason Marquis.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rays over the Yankees: The Yankees have Tropiphobia and cannot beat the Bay Rays. No matter how flawed this team is and loses to other teams, they will always beat the Yankees at home. David Price over David Phelps.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 26-16
Month: 26-16
Season: 658-532

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Brett Lawrie's value is a cluster you know what

Brett Lawrie is the perfect example for what is wrong with relying on WAR to settle arguments on how well a player is playing. We want something like WAR because it is simple: One number to symbolize how many wins a player is worth to his team. The problem is that we do not know who to believe. According to, Brett Lawrie is currently the most valuable player in baseball with 4.8 bWAR. Yet, according to the leaderboard, Lawrie is not even on the first page of leaders and has a 2.8 fWAR.  Just to round out the roster, Baseball Prospectus has Lawrie at 2.9 WARP. So how can we know how to choose?

Do not misunderstand. Brett Lawrie is having a nice sophomore season. It is slightly disappointing compared to the flying start he had last year. Offensively, he currently has a 106 OPS+. Not spectacular, but solid. His wOBA at .332 is a full 80 points behind last year's figure. His wRC+ is down 58 points from last year at 108. His triple slash line of .291/.337/.435 is pretty good, but still a bit of a letdown from last season. There is a lot of season to go, but as of now, we expected more from Lawrie.

The on-base percentage is troubling and presents a bit of a reality check when looking at Lawrie as an offensive player. Last season, Lawrie was much more patient at the plate. His walk rate was 9.4 percent and his on-base percentage finished at .372. But perhaps that was a fluke because his minor league walk rate was around 7.7 percent. But even that would be preferable to the 5.2 percent this season. Last year, Lawrie walked 16 times in 171 plate appearances. This season, he has 329 plate appearances and has 17 walks. That is just one more than last year. Last year, he only swung at 22.3 percent of pitches out of the strike zone. This season, that rate has jumped to over 30 percent.

Lawrie's slugging percentage is off by a full 144 points. Lawrie had an ISO of .287 last season and this year, it sits at .144. His home runs per fly ball rate is down and that combined with the fact that he his hitting far less fly balls than a year ago have contributed to the power decline. This year, 50.2 percent of his batted balls are grounders compared to a year ago when that rate was at 38.4 percent.

And one thing Lawrie should stop doing is trying to steal bases. He does have eleven stolen bases, but he has been thrown out eight times! Stop running!

Okay, so Lawrie is a bit of a disappointment over a year ago. Still, his numbers show him to be a solid offensive player. 

All that said, thinks he is the most valuable player in baseball right now. Baffling. Fangraphs and BP disagree dramatically. So where is the difference. Fielding of course. B-R gives Lawrie three batting runs. Fangraphs hikes that to 4.3. B-R gives Lawrie a minus 0.1 for base running. Fangraphs gives him 1.2. B-R must factor in the stolen base percentage. Anyway, both of those categories are pretty much in the same ballpark. But the fielding isn't even close.

Fangraphs gives Lawrie 9.1 fielding runs above replacement. gives him 30! B-R breaks their WAR into oWAR (offensive categories only) and dWAR (defensive). They give Lawrie an oWAR of 1.7 but a dWAR of 3.4. If you convert Fangraphs' defensive runs into WAR, you don't even get a full win of WAR from Lawrie's defense.

This disparity really shows the struggles of lay people like yours truly to figure out rankings of players. The rankings are so far off on a player like Brett Lawrie, that they become nonsensical and not reliable. And it will remain this way until the sites and services can come up with some sort of fielding standards that everyone can agree upon.

Brett Lawrie is a breath of fresh air in baseball. His intensity and flair really add excitement to the game and have quickly given the fans of the Blue Jays something special to root for. Just don't ask anyone how good he really is. Because at this point, nobody can agree with that valuation.

Game Picks - Tuesday: July 3, 2012

In the immortal words of the Mamas and the Papas, "Monday, Monday. Can't trust that day." The picks only broke even yesterday in about as blah a day as you could get. The Rays were correctly picked, but the Orioles were not. Those Tigers fooled this picker yet again. The Dodgers seem to be the stupidest pick lately as they keep losing. The Cubs are the hottest team in baseball. What? And the Blue Jays are unfathomable. Ah well. Tuesday is another day.

Tuesday's picks:

  • The Marlins over the Brewers: Very tough game to pick. Anibal Sanchez might be the best pitcher in the NL who never wins. Marco Estrada hasn't really done anything for the Brewers. 
  • The Nationals over the Giants: Jordan Zimmermann is terrific even if his record doesn't show it. That other Zimmerman over at third base is hot. Tim Lincecum has looked much better, but a big inning by the Nats will sink him.
  • The Indians over the Angels: Dan Haren has not been pitching well. Zach McAllister always seems to pitch well when he gets the chance. Tough pick because the Angels' offense is much better than the Indians.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: Another pick for A.J. Burnett. Heaven help us all. But he should beat the Astros though Lucas Harrell has looked really good lately.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: Another crappy game to pick. Duane Below gets the start for the Tigers after being in the bullpen all season. That's never encouraging. But Nick Blackburn has had nothing all season. Ugh.
  • The Blue Jays over the Royals: Another crappy game to pick. What is going on here? Vin Mazzaro versus Brett Cecil? What do you do with that?
  • The Braves over the Cubs: So after going 0-6, Chris Volstad was sent to the minors. His ERA there has been 4.52. That doesn't offer any encouragement at all to pick the Cubs. Jair Jurrjens is almost the exact same story as Volstad. So...what is going on today? Is this somebody's idea of a picking joke?
  • The Yankees over the Rays: The Yankees have gone zero for Tampa for the last two years now. Today is their only realistic chance to win a game this series as tomorrow's Price versus Phelps match up strongly favors the Rays. With Ivan Nova on the mound for the Yanks, he has to be better than James Shields.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: A tough game to call but at least for better reasons. Jon Niese and Vance Worley are both good pitchers. The Mets' offense is simply better than the Phillies' right now.
  • The White Sox over the Rangers: Roy Oswalt has two wins. But he really hasn't been all that impressive. Chris Sale goes for the White Sox and that has been an event lately.
  • The Padres over the Diamondbacks: What a fun game this will be! Andrew Cashner versus Trevor Bauer? It doesn't get much more fun than that. Cashner is the more overpowering of the two, so leaning that way.
  • The Red Sox over the Athletics: Bartolo Colon is back. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Depends on the Red Sox whose offense has shriveled up the last week or so. Jon Lester gets the start for Boston and that seals the pick.
  • The Mariners over the Orioles: Felix Hernandez is back to lights out and seems impossible to hit lately. Wei-Yin Chen is no slouch, but he can't keep up with King Felix if he is right.
  • The Reds over the Dodgers: Two pitchers having good years this season: Chris Capuano and Johnny Cueto. Cueto will have something to prove as he was snubbed from the All Star Game. And the Dodgers can't hit right now.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: Joe Kelly will hold the Rockies down just enough for the Cardinal offense to do its thing against Jeff Francis, who has been tough lately.

Yesterday: 6-6
Week: 18-9
Month: 18-9
Season: 650-525
Games of the Day: 53-34

Monday, July 02, 2012

The White Sox will (should?) win the AL Central

Yes, that heading hedges the bet a little. But the White Sox are the best team in the American League Central Division. The team's current lead in the division shrunk to one and a half games after a Sunday loss to the New York Yankees. And the Tigers, last year's division winner are only three back despite a poor start to the season. The Indians are the second place team. But the real reason for the optimism for the White Sox is the run differential. The White Sox are the only team in that division with a run differential in the positive.

Last season, the team with the highest run differential won all six divisions. This season, the only exceptions to the rule are the Reds in the NL Central and the Giants in the NL West. While the differentials are so close in the NL West that anything can happen, the Cardinals are still favored to win the NL Central because their differential is so much better than the Reds. It makes that much of a difference.

And that is logical. The team that scores the most and prevents the most runs should win the most games. The White Sox fit that mold perfectly. Could the Tigers make a run? Certainly. The Tigers' run differential is just below even at -7. And while that is a 56 run differential difference than the White Sox, the Tigers could get hot and catch up in that category. If they cannot, they will not win the division.

The White Sox are in the driver's seat because they can score runs and they can prevent them. The Indians will not be able to keep up. Their run differential is so much under zero (-37), that they will eventually sink from contention. They cannot score like the White Sox and they have allowed far more runs.

The White Sox have the double whammy over the division because they have scored the most runs of any team there and have prevented the fewest. And looking at the team, there is no reason to believe that they cannot keep doing so. Let's take a quick look.

The offense:

The White Sox offense is solid. A.J. Pierzynski's success and career year would be more of a concern if say his BABIP was unreasonable. But his BABIP is a very low .277. So the success does not seem like a fluke. Alejandro De Aza is terrific and has become the perfect table setter for the team. His season does not appear to be a fluke at this point. Alex Rios seems to be on the every other year plan. Two years ago, he was very good. Last year, he was awful. This year, he is very good again. It just seems to be part of his package.

Kevin Youkilis is off to a slow start with his new team. But even at his worst, he should be a huge upgrade from Brent Morel or Orlando Hudson. Paul Konerko, of course, is one of the best hitters in baseball. Adam Dunn is better than last year, but you have to take a lot of bad to go with some of the good. Dayan Viciendo is young and has a lack of patience. But he has pop and can be a game changer at times.

The biggest weakness for the White Sox is up the middle in the infield. Both Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez are having terrible seasons. But there seems to be few upgrades available out there.

Are their holes in this lineup? Certainly. Will there be games where they have trouble scoring? Oh yes. But they have enough offense to keep them where they are. The offense is at least on par with the Tigers and way better than the Indians.

The pitching:

The starting rotation gives the team a fighting chance to win four out of the five rotation rungs. Jake Peavy and Chris Sale have been fantastic. The only worries for both will be as the innings pile up. Sale is in uncharted waters every start now. And Peavy's shoulder falling apart is a major concern. But if they hold up, they are as good as it gets. Jose Quintana is settling is as a really good third starter. He limits walks and other than his start against the Yankees, he has been terrific. Gavin Floyd is basically a fifth starter but he is a solid rotation guy. He will have his bad starts and his good starts in equal measure. And that is all you can ask of a fifth starter.

The problem, of course, is that Floyd is the fourth starter. Phil Humber had the perfect game and then nothing. And now he is on the disabled list. John Danks pitched poorly and is also on the disabled list. The White Sox could make a bold move to obtain a starter, but are somewhat limited from a sparse talent pool in the minors. Ken Williams loves to deal, so something will happen.

The White Sox' bullpen has some big arms. They are prone to walks, but all except Will Ohman have big strikeout rates. Leyson Septimo has been a real shot in the arm since coming up from the minors. He looks terrific too. Addison Reed has settled into the closer role with some success. The White Sox' bullpen is not that big of a concern.

The only concern to have with the White Sox is depth. If Konerko, Pierzynski, Sale or Peavy were to go down, the team would be in deep trouble. But if they all stay healthy and continue to dominate the league in the run differential department, this is the White Sox' division to lose.

Game Picks - Monday: July 2, 2012

After a terrible picking day on Saturday, the first day of the week and month turned the page nicely as only three picks were incorrect all day. Of the three incorrect picks, the most frustrating was the Rangers loss to the A's. The Rangers basically gave the game away by starting Michael Young at third base. The big "hit" of the game went through him and most assuredly would have been handled by Adrian Beltre, who was given a DH night. Another was a BABIP game by Kip Wells who won most unexpectedly. The third incorrect pick was the Tigers again beating a scuffling Tampa Bay club.

The most satisfying correct pick was the Game of the Day where the Indians were selected to beat the Orioles. Matusz struggled as predicted and was shipped to the minors after the game. Shelley Duncan was predicted to have a big game. He did. And Justin Masterson was predicted to have a good game and he did.

There are twelve games on the Monday schedule. The picks:

  • The Angels over the Indians: The Indians had a nice series in Baltimore. But the Angels are flying high these days and Jered Weaver is on the mound. The Indians counter with Ubaldo Jimenez, which this picker still can't figure out if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: The picks have ridden James McDonald all season. That will not stop here as he faces the Astros and Jordan Lyles.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: Are the Tigers beginning a roll? It seems like it. This series will give us an answer as the Twins are playing pretty well these days. Doug Fister will have to be better than he has been. And the Tigers will have to get to Liam Hendriks.
  • The Blue Jays over the Royals: Great. The two most unpredictable teams in baseball square off. This should be lovely. Ricky Romero is an ace that gives up a lot of runs. The Royals can score but find creative ways to lose and blew the entire weekend against the Twins. Everett Teaford is the unknown quantity here.
  • The Braves over the Cubs: The Cubs should shut down Jeff Samardzija for a few starts as he looks worn down. Tommy Hanson should win this one.
  • The Bay Rays over the Yankees: The Rays have looked awful. But the Yankees always seem to revive them, especially in St. Pete. Freddy Garcia gets the start and that is worrisome. Matt Moore will have to be very good to win.
  • The Brewers over the Marlins: Zack Greinke at home? Oh yeah. That should be a lock. Carlos Zambrano can't find the strike zone on a regular basis to pick him to win.
  • The Cardinals over the Rockies: The Rockies continue their bizarre rotation strategy. Josh Outman gets his 75 pitches but may not last that long with the Cardinals' lineup. Kyle Lohse just has to be decent to win.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Padres: The D- backs can get back in the NL West race if they can put a winning streak together. They are capable to do that. The Padres would be the place to start. Trevor Cahill over Clayton Richard.
  • The Athletics over the Red Sox: Jarrod Parker has been terrific of late and the Red Sox are slumping at the plate. That is a good combination. Toss in Daisuke Matsuzaka for good measure.
  • The Dodgers over the Reds: The Dodgers' problems are not going away quickly. But the feeling here is that Joey Votto is aching and Chad Billingsley can pitch a good game and steal a win against Homer Bailey.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Orioles over the Mariners: The O's are sinking. But Jason Hammel should be an All Star. He has pitched that well this season. The Mariners are starting Hisashi Iwakuma. That doesn't sound like a good plan.

Yesterday: 12-3
Week: 12-3
Month: 12-3
Season: 644-519
Games of the Day: 53-33

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Game Picks - Sunday: July 1, 2012

The month of June ended with a dud of a day as the picks crashed and burned yesterday. Very little went right and put a sour taste in what was a good week and a good month. Of the five teams in the AL East, four of them lost and the only team that won (the Yankees) was predicted to lose. Oy. Stephen Strasburg wilted in the sun. Young pitchers counted on to win such as Tommy Milone and Wade Miley came up bad as both were bombed. The Pirates beat the Cardinals again. It simply was a bad day.

We turn the page to July and the last week before the All Star Break. Summer heat has gripped the country and that seems to have an effect on who wins and who loses. Trying to figure that out will take some doing. Here are Sunday's picks:

  • The Marlins over the Phillies: Just when you think the Marlins are dead in the water, they face a team that is even deader in the water. The Fish jump on Joe Blanton and Ricky Nolasco is good enough to win.
  • The Nationals over the Braves: Gio Gonzalez out duels Tim Hudson in this one. The Braves are susceptible to pitchers from the left side.
  • The Bay Rays over the Tigers: Alex Cobb is due for a karma reward for taking one for the team his last outing. He is better at home anyway and faces The Emoticon, Drew Smyly  <---a smyly face.
  • The Yankees over the White Sox: This pick is with some hesitation. Phil Hughes will either be very good or will get bombed. There is no middle ground for him. Which one will today bring? Gavin Floyd brings a string of scoreless innings into the game and the Yankees have had fun ending those lately (Dickey, etc).
  • The Brewers over the Diamondbacks: Yovani Gallardo is a good bet at home and Josh Collmenter is getting a spot start. Collmenter is better off in the bullpen and was bashed around earlier in the season as a starter.
  • The Twins over the Royals: The Twins swept a big double-header yesterday and have Francisco Liriano on the hill today. Not good for the Royals. The Royals counter with Bruce Chen, who is capable of a good game at times.
  • The Cardinals over the Pirates: This pick sure hasn't gone well all weekend. But Andrew McCutchen might have to sit today due to a sore wrist. That would help Jake Westbrook hold the Buccos down. Erik Bedard is a decent pitcher.
  • The Cubs over the Astros: Travis Wood had a great June. Surprisingly. Wandy Rodriguez toils away for the Astros. Will they finally trade him?
  • The Angels over the Blue Jays: Forgive this picker, but a pick for Aaron Laffey just can't seem to come from these fingers. Sure, he had a great outing against the Red Sox. But c'mon! Going with C.J. Wilson for the win. Overrated? No chance.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: Yes, Yasmani Grandal was pretty impressive yesterday. But Kip Wells starting for the Padres? Yeesh. Drew Pomeranz is getting another shot in the bigs. Perhaps he will stick this time.
  • The Giants over the Reds: The Reds' pitching has slowed the Giants down in the first two games. But Bronson Arroyo can be had a bit and Ryan Vogelsong has been terrific.
  • The Red Sox over the Mariners: Despite his last start, this picker still likes Felix Doubront as a pitcher. He should have his way with the Mariners while the Red Sox climb on board a few Jason Vargas offerings.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: This picker agrees with Yu Darvish that he hasn't been good enough for the All Star Game. But if he wins today, he will get in. And he should win against Travis Blackley.
  • The Dodgers over the Mets: The Dodgers desperately need a win. Clayton Kershaw hasn't been dominating for quite a while. Perhaps this will be the day he gets back to his ace kind of pitching. Dillon Gee is a resourceful and decent starter.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Indians over the Orioles: Brian Matusz has been sliding back into his old horror show after a good start to the season. And with a left- hander on the mound, Shelley Duncan can shine. Justin Masterson needs to have a good day though.

Yesterday: 5-11  Ugh!
Last week: 56-46
June: 231-175
Season: 632-516
Games of the Day; 52-33