Saturday, July 21, 2012

Missing Yovani Gallardo's bat

This site has long gone on record as hating to watch pitchers hit. It is a fruitless part of the game that usually results in either a strikeout or a lame sacrifice bunt attempt. Yes, call this observer an American League lemming, but the DH is the way to go, especially now with interleague games next year being the norm rather than the exception. But as long as we have pitcher's hitting, then it has always been fun to watch the few that can do it rather well. Zambrano comes to mind as does Strasburg and a few others. One of them has always been Yovani Gallardo. Until this year, that is. What happened to Gallardo's bat?

After Zambrano, Yovani Gallardo was the most likely pitcher in baseball to hit a homer. Heck, he hit four of them in 2010 and had an OPS of .837. In three of his first four full season (not counting 2008 when he only pitched four times), Gallardo has hit over .200 and his lifetime batting average was over .200 entering this season. And then this season happened.

Gallardo is getting paid to pitch. And he is rather good at it. He has a .600+ winning percentage for his career and has always maintained a K/9 rate over nine. So who cares if he can hit? Well, it was a market inequity. In a league where the average pitcher has a pathetic .373 OPS (yes, that is OPS), a pitcher with anything over a .500 OPS is a good thing. Gallardo has walked fifteen times in his career and has twelve doubles and thirty runs batted in to go with those homers.

But those good times are completely gone this season. He has not walked once. He has no homers. He has only two runs batted in. He has one double. In fact, he only has three hits all season in 38 at bats. His OPS for his career was over .600. But this year, it is an embarrassing .184 with the lovely triple slash line of, .079/.079/.105. His bat has turned into my, my, my, my, my Kuroda.

It is an edge the Milwaukee Brewers had as a team and that too is gone. In 2010, Brewers' pitchers batted .210 and had an OPS of .536. In 2011, those figures were .175/.458. Both years were far above the norm for pitchers hitting in the National League. This year? Blech. This year's Brewers' pitchers are batting a combined .108 with an OPS of .283. Pathetic.

The loss of Gallardo's hitting and the Brewers' prowess at the plate is not the reason for the team being a disappointment this season and being eight and a half games behind the Reds. But the loss has taken some of the fun out of what is a bleak landscape of hurlers trying to hit. Chicks aren't the only ones who dig the long ball.

So for comfort, here is a Gallardo highlight reel in better days:

Game Picks - Saturday: July 21, 2012

Woke up this morning to a gorgeous day in Maine. Perfectly blue skies and fresh, clean air. These are the days you live for in this part of the country. Golf is delayed until this afternoon. This morning, your humble picker has to go get fingerprinted. No, there were no arrests involved. But in order to substitute teach, you actually need to pay the state to fingerprint you. It is understandable that the schools would want a thorough check. But having to pay for it? Now that's weird.

Checking the picks from yesterday, a mediocre day was yesterday's result. The picks did finish above .500 (barely) and the Game of the Day (Cardinals) was right. But there were a lot of surprises. The A's beat the Yankees again as yet another late rally for the Yankees fell short. The Twins beat the Royals again and got a good outing  from Nick Blackburn. Who knew? Tim Lincecum was very, very good against the Phillies yesterday. Or, conversely, the Phillies just can't hit. Either way, the pick was wrong. And so it went.

There are sixteen big games on the schedule as the Nats and Braves will play two. That is a lot of games to pick, so let's get to them:

  • The Braves over the Nationals: A lot of this game depends on which Edwin Jackson shows up. The guy is as predictable as the weather. The pick might also be swayed by Ben Sheets, whose story and comeback are just so compelling. It's hard to imagine him being as good as his first outing.
  • The Dodgers over the Mets: Chris Capuano faces his old team. He will need to avoid the bat of David Wright and if he can do that, should win because the ancient Miguel Bautista gets a rare start out of the bullpen.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: You can feel this one coming. The Tigers have been slowly marching back to respectability and if this pick is correct, could take over first place. Chris Sale has been terrific for the White Sox, but has to crack sooner or later. Rick Porcello has had two of his best games this season against the White Sox.
  • The Giants over the Phillies: The Phillies are trying to get a Cole Hamels deal done. Those things will not be affected if Hamels cracks a little against the hot-hitting Giants who have their ace, Matt Cain, on the mound.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: Sooner or later, Josh Hamilton is going to hit again. Sooner or later, Yu Darvish is going to look good against somebody. Sooner or later, the Rangers' lineup is going to get cohesive again. Today could be that day. Ervin Santana will try to delay the inevitable
  • The Nationals over the Braves: Long-banished John Lannon will pitch for the Nationals after grumpily going to Triple-A in the spring. Here is his chance to thumb his nose at the decision. Randall Delgado having a good game goes beyond the imagination. But strange things do happen.
  • The Indians over the Orioles: How do you predict Chris Tillman? One game he was terrific and the next he was pounded mercilessly. Let's go with Zach McAllister, who has been very good for the Indians.
  • The Pirates over the Marlins: A.J. Burnett has sunk his season some since the All Star Break. But he should be able to beat the Marlins who are now without Hanley Ramirez for a few days after he punched a fan. No, not a paying customer, the whirling around kind. That was smart, Hanley. Carlos Zambrano could be brilliant and ruin the pick, but that is doubtful.
  • The Brewers over the Reds: Yovani Gallardo was brilliant in his last outing against the Cardinals. Tease? Real? He should be better than Bronson Arroyo.
  • The Twins over the Royals: Those darn Royals are always fouling this picker up. They should lose today with Luis Mendoza on the mound facing Scott Diamond. But this team wins when it should lose and loses when it should win. Imagine how frustrating this team has to be for its fans!?
  • The Rays over the Mariners: The Mariners should not have lost a game in this series, but they have found creative ways to do so. Both teams are going to be gassed after going fourteen innings last night. Will this be another Alex Cobb taking one for the team event? Jason Vargas goes for the Mariners.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: Carlos Villanueva has been good for the Blue Jays. AaRon Cook has been good for Boston. Which one will continue that trend? Darned if this picker knows.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Matt Garza will have lots of scouts watching this one. He is not as good on the road as he is at home, so that is a problem. Plus, the Cardinals have a great lineup. Jake Westbrook needs to hold the Cubs down though.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: The only thing the Rockies have done right this season was pick up Jeff Francis. He is solid if not spectacular and pitching in San Diego will help him. And for the Padres, this picker still can't believe that Kip Wells found a major league job.
  • The Yankees over the Athletics: Who knows. Jarrod Parker can be outstanding. But he hasn't looked it his last two starts. Phil Hughes has been good more often than bad this season. Can the Yankees get Coco Crisp out? Sheesh already.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Astros: How did Stephen Drew's return get past this picker? When did he get back? Wade Miley should have no trouble with the Astros and the D-Backs should hit Dallas Keuchel.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 51-32
Month: 128-99
Season: 760-615
Games of the Day: 59-42

Friday, July 20, 2012

Still in the midst of a pitching era

Home runs have recovered a bit this season as they are averaging over one a game for the first time in three seasons. But the bottom line is that the year of the pitcher has now become a trio of seasons. Scoring is up slightly over last season, but MLB's WHIP rate is its lowest since 1988 and the walks per nine are also the lowest since that season. But what is much more striking is that MLB batters are striking out at unprecedented levels. 

The fact is that the current rate of 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings has never been seen in the history of baseball. If the pace were to continue all season, then a new mark would be set after the 7.1 rate of the last two seasons held the previous mark. The strikeouts per walk ratio for the majors is also the highest in history.

Strikeouts are up in every segment of a game. Starting pitchers are striking out 7.4 batters per nine innings in the first three innings of the game. Compare that to 6.99 per nine last year and 6.67 in 2008. In the innings four through six, that number dips to 6.89 in 2012, but that is still up from 6.62 a year ago and 6.38 in 2008.

But it is the last three innings that have seen the largest jump. In 2008, innings seven through nine featured a strikeout rate of 7.44. That figure was 7.81 in 2011 and is all the way up to 8.21 in 2012. It seems every team has two or three relievers that can hit the high nineties on the radar gun.

There are currently 36 relief pitchers that are averaging over ten strikeouts per nine innings. Last season there were 21. In 2008, there were 18. In 2005, there were 14. 

It appears that the specialization of relief pitchers may get old men and David Wells unhappy, but it is working for managers. In 2008, the save percentage was 64 percent and the inherited runners scoring rate was 32 percent. In 2011, the save percentage was 68 percent and the inherited runner scoring rate was 30 percent. This year, those figures are 69 percent and 29 percent.

What we see here is an emphasis on the the last three innings of a game and starting pitching that is asked to go out there and throw gas for the first six innings and then turn the ball over. This is a formula that leads to lower scoring and unprecedented strikeout and strikeout to walk rates. Bullpens are stocked with arms that can throw gas. The new market inefficiency might be batters that can maintain a high on-base percentage while striking out less. Because as of now, the pitchers have taken over and they aren't backing down.

Game Picks - Friday: July 20, 2012

Thursday was a successful day. A walk-off by Cody Ross brought that pick home. And when you pick the Yankees to lose and they do, that is pretty good picking. The only three that were incorrect came from the Game of Attrition between the Astros and the Padres where one run scored would win the game. The wrong team did. And Gio Gonzalez seriously let this picker down with a big crooked number yesterday. But at least R.A. Dickey improved his record to 13-1 doing so. The other incorrect pick was the Cubs beating the Marlins. That is the kind of season the Marlins are having.

Back to a full schedule today. Alas, there are no day games today after lots of them the last two days. And far too many of the games are on the Left Coast. That is great for those folks that live out there, but hell on East Coast writers. Today's picks:

  • The Nationals over the Braves: Good match up of Stephen Strasburg versus Tommy Hanson. The Braves are the kind of team that can give Strasburg problems. But Hanson, despite his record is simply a pitcher that can't be trusted from game to game.
  • The Indians over the Orioles: Derek Lowe has been better of late and could throw a lot of ground balls at the Orioles. Miguel Gonzalez has had two good starts coming out of the bullpen. Can't see him making it three here.
  • The Tigers over the White Sox: Justin Verlander is great. Jake Peavy is very good. Great should beat very good. This is the Tigers' chance to capture some ground.
  • The Pirates over the Marlins: Last outing for Ricky Nolasco was typical for him for his entire career. Four no-hit innings followed by allowing four runs in the sixth. Typical. Kevin Correia has made a monkey out of this picker for four straight starts. Perhaps it's time to read the tea leaves.
  • The Phillies over the Giants: Isn't it sad that Tim Lincecum isn't a pick of choice like hardly ever? Vance Worley should win this one.
  • The Dodgers over the Mets: Aaron Harang always seems to get his starts in big ballparks. Beast mode should appear in this one as Johan Santana is starting to get hit pretty regularly.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: It is hard to get used to Homer Bailey being a good pitcher. For so long, he was the butt of jokes because of his first name being apt. But he has been terrific. Marco Estrada on the other hand hasn't been bad, but can't seem to get a win in his win column.
  • The Rays over the Mariners: James Shields has not been very good but he should be better in a big ballpark. The way the Mariners scored against the Royals won't happen in this series. That is not good news for Hisashi Iwakuma.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays losses in the rotation are starting to catch up with them. Aaron Laffey is simply not a big league starter. He is barely a big league pitcher. The Red Sox will do some damage with this one and Josh Beckett does not have to deal with Jose Bautista.
  • The Royals over the Twins: Let's see. Nick Blackburn has an ERA over eight. Luke Hochevar has an ERA over five. Five is lower than eight. Trusting the math.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Astros: It should be easy to pick the Diamondbacks in this game, but nothing about the Diamondbacks' season has been easy. Trevor Cahill over Bud Norris.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: Drew Pomeranz had one of his best outings against the Padres. So this pick should work out. Jason Marquis hasn't been easy to beat lately though.
  • The Yankees over the Athletics: Tommy Milone has an obscenely good ERA at home. But the Yankees seem to not care about such statistics. Ivan Nova should have a better time in the Coliseum than he does at Yankee Stadium.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: There is a personal bias in this one. And the Rangers are liked better here than the Angels. But Jered Weaver will get the Angels closer and make this a closer race for the division. Derek Holland will have to be spectacular to beat Weaver.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: The Cubs should have traded Ryan Dempster this week because the Cards are going to hit him hard today in St. Louis. Kyle Lohse will hold the Cubs down enough to get the Cards a win.

Yesterday: 8-3
Week: 43-25
Month: 120-96
Season: 752-612
Games of the Day: 58-42

Thursday, July 19, 2012

BBA LinkFest - General forget-me-nots

After a two week absence, it is again time to travel the world in a link-o-rama of the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. Besides, we have a new president now and the Fan has to impress him. Hehe. Seriously, things have been busy here. The house is up for sale and that is so stressful trying to make an old pig look like a rose for people to look at. Naw, it's not really a pig. Or old. In between all of that, there is writing for other sites and getting ready to migrate from here to a new WordPress site: Lookitthat! The Fan's own URL!

Anyway, the links below represent the best of who we are as an organization of writers. Please give a click and enjoy some really great writing filled with humor and insight. Since it has been a couple of weeks, we'll go alphabetically from the beginning:

Eugene Tierney has a great post over at 85% Sports on how much teams spent on their draft picks and what it means with the new rules covering the draft.

Our friend over at The Ball Caps Blog has had an eventful summer moving from the West Coast to the East Coast. But that move culminated in this post that shows in symbolism that the transition is nearly complete.

Stevo-sama, the great writer of The Baseball Enthusiast recently visited Coors Field. Fortunately for us, we were taken along for the ride. What great fun!

Baseball Unrated puts a bow on the first half. How many of the half season award picks do you agree with?

Glad somebody covered this! Call to the Pen's Kyle Davis gives us a sneak peak at Pete Rose's new reality show.

Over at Mario Salvini's Che Palle! Salvini gives us the results of a photo contest won covering a baseball game and its fans. While some of the beauty of Salvini's piece gets lost in the Italian translation, the post is moving because it shows how universal baseball is around the world.

Matt Whitener of Cheap.Seats.Please. catches up on the summer with some great insights. And he has some links of his own.

Crack of the Bat loves the Futures Game. Good call. Thanks for the coverage!

Good buddy, TheNaturalMevs, reports on a big game win for the Washington Nationals and is beginning to believe. Over at Diamond Hoggers.

Dugout 24 has the story of one of the most amazing baseball card collections ever found. Very cool.

The OCP took a survey on "clutch" and reports his answers over at For Baseball Junkies. Interesting!

T.J. McDonald of Full Spectrum Baseball takes a fresh look at what has happened to Tim Lincecum. Excellent article!

You probably did not know that Giancarlo Stanton had a highlight reel of his High School football highlights. Mike Rosenbaum of The Golden Sombrero found it. The kid had game! But it does sort of explain the knee thing.

This link compiler loves it when Grubby Glove does historic player perspectives. This one is on Wally Moon. Superb piece.

The Hall of Very Good continues its countdown in its HOVG Heroes series. This one is on Willie McGee and is well written by Gordon Holmes. And make sure you stop by there on Friday for a very special event!

Theo of Hot Corner Harbor continues his excellent series on retired numbers. This time he arrives at the home of the Angels. Theo, you should put these together when you are done and make an e-book!

Left Field thinks there is no better baseball excitement than no-hitters and near no-hitters. Agree completely. Here is his great piece on the subject. And can you guess the lyrics without looking at the comments?

Love this piece! has coverage of when a few former...uh...personalities come home to Chicago. And what an appropriate heading.

While this Fan's piece over at MLB Dirt stirred up a little dust, there was much more fondness for this Jonathan Mitchell piece on a very overlooked reliever.

Over at the prolific MLB Reports site, Chuck Booth has an excellent post on parity in Major League Baseball.

Nik over at Niktig's Baseball Blog is going through a series on mid-season grades for each team. This one covers the Marlins.

What a cool idea! MTD of Off Base Percentage gives us a rundown on the All Star Game's payroll. Awesome!

Old Time Family Baseball (and we) has some fun with some of Jay Buhner's body problems.

Geoff Ratliff of Pop Fly Boys gives us eight reasons the Dodgers should go all in at the trade deadline. Good stuff.

The Platoon Advantage always has great stuff. This compiler's favorite was a guest post(?) by David G. Temple. Loved it.

Replacement Level Baseball Blog has a very interesting point about how the wild card teams are selected. Never would have thought of this without this post!

The Sports Banter presents an imagined conversation between Jon Heyman and Scott Boras.

Sully, of Sully Baseball fame, thinks that Matt Kemp could still win the MVP Award. If the Dodgers win the west, Sully could be correct.

Chad Jones of Through the Fence Baseball wonders if Andrew McCutchen is having the best season ever for a Pirate player.

Over at X-Log, Jonathan Dyer has an excellent post that details how the Padres stole a game from the Dodgers.

And there you have it! Hope you enjoyed those articles and we'll see you next Thursday for another edition of the BBA Linkfest. Have a great week, everybody!

Game Picks - Thursday: July 19, 2012

For a second straight day, the picks just barely climbed over the .500 level. And it took a couple of walk offs to do it. Matt Kemp has a flair for the dramatic and he saved that pick. But walk offs give and they take as well. The walk off in Oakland on the first major league homer by Brandon Hicks sunk that pick and Billy Butler's blast for the Royals sunk that pick. And how about this: This picker finally gave up on man-crush, Ian Kennedy, and he throws a gem. Ugh. The Game of the Day was also wrong. That is never good.

There are eleven games on the schedule today. Some series continue like the Nats/Mets series and others are new ones that start after a travel day. Looks like some interesting games in there. Here are Thursday's picks:

  • The Bay Rays over the Indians: David Price is on a Cy Young course if he keeps up his present pace. He looks unstoppable at this point. Ubaldo Jimenez is capable of a big game, but geez, you never know with him.
  • The Braves over the Giants: Madison Bumgarner is much better at home than on the road, and he is on the road. Granted, he is near the area he grew up, so that might make a difference. Tim Hudson had a bad outing his last time out, but should bounce back to shut down the Giants.
  • The Reds over the Diamondbacks: No Joey Votto makes all these Reds picks scary. But Mike Leake has been very good and the rest of the Reds should get to Joe Saunders.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: R.A. Dickey has fallen back to earth of late. That may not be a good analogy for a mountain climber. Anyway, he faces the tough Gio Gonzalez who is a strong Cy Young Award candidate in the National League. If this becomes a battle of the bullpens again, the Nats have the big edge.
  • The Tigers over the Angels: Max Scherzer seems like a good pick in this one. He did have a bad start last time, but had been really good the four starts before that. Meanwhile, the Tigers should score four or five off of Jerome Williams, who has not won his last four starts.
  • The Orioles over the Twins: The O's could win two in a row for the first time in like forever. Wei-Yin Chen has been their best starter all season (when Hammel has been hurt). And the O's can hit Cole De Vries to the tune of five runs at least.
  • The Marlins over the Cubs: Mark Buehrle is back home in Chicago and his old haunt will inspire him. Not that he needs it as he is on a nice little roll in his past few outings. Paul Maholm is always capable of a good game. It's just hard to predict which game it will be. The perils of BABIP.
  • The Red Sox over the White Sox: The human rain delay, Clay Buchholz will try to  stupefy the White Sox to sleep with his wait times between pitches. Once again, the umpires will stand by with their hands in their pockets. Jose Quintana is a fluke folks. Objects in the side view mirror look bigger than they are.
  • The Astros over the Padres: Lucas Harrell has already shut the Astros out once this season. Edinson Volquez gives us yet another game of confusion and head scratching.
  • The Athletics over the Yankees: Okay, here's the thing. The A's are hot right now and just beat the Rangers two out of three. The Yankees flew all night to get to Oakland so they could be flat and tired. Plus, Freddy Garcia is due to get his stuff beaten up. 

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Mariners over the Royals: Felix Hernandez is the difference maker in this game. He has been really, really good after a rough start to the season. Will Smith is just acting like a big league pitcher.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week:  35-22
Month: 112-93
Season: 744-609
Games of the Day: 57-42

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Red Sox pitchers and pace

During the telecast of the Yankees - Blue Jays game yesterday, broadcaster, Michael Kay, mentioned that John Farrell, the manager of the Blue Jays and former pitching coach of the Boston Red Sox, has encouraged his pitchers to slow their pace while pitching, much like the Red Sox do. The first thought that occurred in this brain upon hearing those words were, "He should be shot then." The hangover effect that Farrell did with the Red Sox exists to this day. has a great feature called the Leaderboard. And the lovely thing about this feature is that you can manipulate it when needed to give you pretty much any data you want. The Leaderboard starts with WAR but again, you can change it. Well, to get to look at the pace for pitchers, it takes a little maneuvering. First, you have to change the Leaderboard to pitchers. Then you need to click on the PitchF/X tab. And then you can click on the Plate Discipline tab to get to the Pace data. It's quite a cool thing, but it takes some work to figure it all out.

Once you have the data set you want on the Leaderboard, you have to determine if you want to use the data for players qualifying for the ERA title or see a larger selection based on innings pitched. For this article, a pitch limit of 50 innings was used. You can then click on the heading for Pace to have a descending order from slowest to fastest of all pitchers who have pitched fifty innings or more. Click the Pace heading again to get the fastest paced pitchers in ascending order.

So once the correct data was obtained and the Pace heading was clicked, there was no surprise to see a Red Sox pitcher at the top of the list. There he was, Clay Buchholz, sitting there on top with a pace of 26. Talk about your human rain delay. Second on the list was Villanueva of the Blue Jays. See? Shoot that John Farrell. Then comes Bedard of the Pirates. He pitched for the Red Sox, right? Then comes two more Red Sox pitchers, Franklin Morales and Josh Beckett.

All in all, six of the top 21 slowest pitchers in baseball are from the Red Sox: Buchholz, Morales, Beckett, Lester, Bard and Doubront. That is not a coincidence. That is a strategy, first founded by Farrell, that continues today. Is it an effective strategy? Umm...don't know. But based on the Red Sox rotation this season, it isn't helping.

So which pitchers have the fastest pace in baseball? Buehrle is always on top in that category. If he had his way, the third baseman would make the pitch when the ball was going around the horn after an out. Following Buehrle is Halladay and Harrison, followed by Dickey and Niese. That is a pretty effective group of pitchers. Continuing down the list of some of the fastest paced pitchers are guys like Sale, Pettitte, Miley, Masterson.

Color analysts always seem fond of telling us that fast paced pitchers keep the defense on its toes better and that it is hard to be a fielder behind a slow pitcher. That would take a lot of data crunching to figure out. But it would be a worthwhile study if it hasn't been done already. But say the analysts are correct, why would a team strategize to pitch at a slower pace? The prevailing wisdom is that it keeps the batters uncomfortable at the plate. Well, no, that doesn't work because batters will just step out and the process will start all over again.

But again, the Red Sox have been doing this for years. Papelbon, now with the Phillies is the fourth slowest paced reliever in baseball. Frasor, of the Blue Jays is also among the slowest. Farrell seems to be the architect of the strategy in Boston and is making new disciples in Toronto. The strategy works against the stated goal of Major League Baseball to speed up games. There is still a rule on the books about how many seconds a pitcher has to throw the ball. Why isn't it ever enforced?

This observer is dubious that the strategy works. So perhaps if Lester, Buchholz and Beckett want to get out of their pitching doldrums, here is an idea: Speed it up a bit.

Game Picks - Wednesday: July 18, 2012

Yesterday was a struggle as every other pick the entire evening was incorrect. Jon Lester was terrible...again. The Orioles were terrible...again. The Cardinals had a man on first and third with no outs in the ninth and could not get a run home to lose by a run. Barry Zito won again. But the most fun incorrect pick was the Mets. First that pick looked flat out wrong as the Nationals had a 2-0 lead going into the ninth. But Tyler Clippard had a bad night and the Mets took the lead with a three-run homer. Then the Mets blew the save in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game and go into extras. The Mets then scored a run in the top of the tenth to take the lead again. But then blew yet another save in the bottom of the tenth to lose the game. It must have been thrilling for Nats fans and horrid for Mets fans. For this Fan, it was the hardest a pick has ever had to work to be wrong.

At least in the end, the picks did end up north of the .500 mark and the Game of the Day was correct (Phillies). Six of the fifteen games today are day games as it is getaway day in the majors. Life can't get much better than six day games. Here is a look at the picks:

  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The Yankees will complete the sweep as Hiroki Kuroda has a good day and bests Ricky Romero. It's not that Romero is a bad pitcher, he isn't. The Yankees are simply rolling along and will head out west after the game.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: If the Cards don't win this one, pack the bags and call the dog. Adam Wainwright gets the start against rookie, Tyler Thornburg and his seven plus ERA and no Ryan Braun in the Brewers' lineup.
  • The Dodgers over the Phillies: This is a terrible choice to pick. Cliff Lee still has the name if not the stats. Clayton Kershaw is one of the best there is. The Dodgers are on a dreadful run and look more like a last place team than a contender. Ugh.
  • The Pirates over the Rockies: James McDonald has rarely let this picker down. Even when he was picked against in his last outing, he obliged by having his worst outing of the year. Coors Field is a tough place for the young pitcher to pitch. But, Jeremy Guthrie is as allergic to his home ballpark as any pitcher in history.
  • The Padres over the Astros: Can't wait for this series to be over. The two teams are so evenly matched. Take today for example. Wandy Rodriguez should be able to shut down a fairly putrid Padres' offense. But then again, at home, Clayton Richard should be able to shut down the Astros' putrid offense. So who wins? Toss a coin.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Not thrilled with this pick either. Travis Blackley hasn't pitched since July 1 because he had a stiff back. But the last time he pitched, he held the Rangers down. Colby Lewis starts for the Rangers for the first time coming back from the DL with a forearm problem. Oy. The Rangers get some revenge on Blackley and Lewis is rescued after five or six innings.
  • The Angels over the Tigers: This might be a real low scoring game. The so-called overrated C.J. Wilson has not allowed more than two earned runs in a game in like forever. And Doug Fister looked like last year's version in his last appearance.
  • The Nationals over the Mets: The Nats put the dagger into the Mets' heart for another game. Jordan Zimmermann is the bomb as far as this picker goes and Chris Young is a nice comeback story, but he can't pitch well enough consistently enough to pick him.
  • The Red Sox over the White Sox: So far, this series has been the Kevin Youkilis victory dance. But Felix Doubront is a better choice than Pedro Hernandez, yet another rookie the White Sox are counting on in the rotation. 
  • The Indians over the Bay Rays: The thought here is that Justin Masterson has the kind of stuff to stuff the Rays anemic offense. Plus, Jeremy Hellickson has lost four straight as his straight fastball and lack of strikeouts is catching up with him.
  • The Giants over the Braves: All Ryan Vogelsong does start after start is give you quality starts. The guy has simply been as consistent as it gets. Mike Minor is improving, but is still Mike Minor.
  • The Marlins over the Cubs: Josh Johnson has been a total enigma this season. The line before the season was if he could ever stay healthy, look out. Well, he has stayed healthy and nothing spectacular has happened. Jeff Samardzija bounced back a little lately after his great start and then fade before the All Star Break. He's tough. But he comes up short in this one.
  • The Twins over the Orioles: Man, the Orioles' pitching has fallen apart and can't get up. Tommy Hunter won't help the cause. He's been up and down to Triple-A all season for a reason. And there is the biggest enigma of them all: Francisco Liriano, the only guy who could lose a game when he strikes out fifteen guys.
  • The Mariners over the Royals: Geez, why can't the Royals ever hire themselves a good manager? Ned Yost is just not good. If the Royals get swept by the Mariners, then he should lose his job. Period. Kevin Millwood over Bruce Chen.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Reds over the Diamondbacks: Heck, the Diamondbacks are so flat that this picker can't even pick Ian Kennedy anymore. Mat Latos keeps the D-backs on their uh...backs and the Reds get another win.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 27-15
Month: 104-86
Season: 736-602
Games of the Day: 57-41

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The toughest and easiest offenses to dominate

From the Fan's work over at IIATMS:

Game Picks - Tuesday: July 17, 2012

Monday was another good day for this game picker. Eight out of twelve games were picked correctly. The four incorrect picks were the Pirates, the Reds, the Nationals and the Angels. The Reds pick was somewhat understandable since it was unknown at the time that Joey Votto was shut down. The Angels' vaunted bullpen has been in disarray since the end of the All Star Break and showed itself again yesterday against the Tigers. The Pirates got behind early and just came up short on their comeback attempt. The Nationals just had an off day against the Marlins.

Tuesday means we are back to a full schedule. Here are the picks:

  • The Tigers over the Angels: This pick has to figure out which of two young pitchers will out-perform the other. Jacob Turner was impressive in an early spot start for the Tigers and threw a shutout in his last Triple-A outing. Garrett Richards has been hit hard in his last two starts. So that is the way the pick goes.
  • The Mets over the Nationals: The pick is for Jon Niese in this one over Ross Detwiler. Detwiler gave up a whole lot of hits last time out and Niese is a very good pitcher. The Nationals are the better team, but the Mets should grab this one.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: If Jose Bautista misses any time with the Blue Jays, that really hurts them. Brett Cecil has been hit or miss in his five starts back from the minors. And there have been more misses than hits. Or more hits to make misses, if you know what this picker means. Plus, C.C. Sabathia is back.
  • The Reds over the Diamondbacks: There is a real hole in the Reds' lineup without Votto. But Johnny Cueto has been so good that the pick has to go that way...providing his blister allows him his full arsenal of pitches. Trevor Bauer was much more impressive his last outing than the first two.
  • The Red Sox over the Whtie Sox: Jon Lester has been far from scintillating, but he should be better than Phil Humber who has been rehabbing in the minors and was less than successful before he went on the DL.
  • The Bay Rays over the Indians: The last time Matt Moore pitched was against these Indians and he was all over the place. Josh Tomlin pitched last against these same Bay Rays and was brilliant. Can history repeat itself? Not thinking so. Matt Moore is going to have a good game.
  • The Braves over the Giants: The Braves are red hot right now and Jair Jurrjens is 3-0 since coming back from the minors. He doesn't look great, but you can't argue the results. Barry Zito does not inspire confidence that this game will go any other way.
  • The Marlins over the Cubs: This picker has a funny feeling that something is going to happen on the Ryan Dempster front today. That should be a little air out of the Cubs' balloon. Anibal Sanchez is going to pitch a good game and Travis Wood will be good too, but not quite good enough.
  • The Orioles over the Twins: This game is a mess to pick. Zach Britton is back and will make his first start of the year for the Orioles. Who knows how that will go. Samuel Deduno was just okay in his first major league start but allowed two homers. Impossible to guess what will happen here.
  • The Mariners over the Royals: The Royals have not announced a starter yet and there is a big TBO where a name should be. That always inspires confidence, no? On the other hand, Blake Beavan is back from the minors and based on his record before he was sent down, that is no great shakes either. Ugh.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: The Cards' comeback win in the ninth had to boost a flagging team after being swept by the Reds. At the same time, it has to deflate the Brewers a bit. Randy Wolf should get hit around a bit by the Cards lineup and Joe Kelly will be good enough to either win or keep his team in the game long enough to get the win.
  • The Pirates over the Rockies: Christian Friedrich is the best of the Rockies' 75-pitch wonders. But he is not as good at home, and who could blame him at Coors. Erik Bedard, on the other hand, has had five bad outings in a row and is due for a good one.
  • The Astros over the Padres: Ross Ohlendorf has allowed a million base runners and has a 7.04 ERA. But he is 2-0. Umm...that can't last, can it? Jordan Lyles was good his last time out, but he is no great pick either. There are three games like this today. Sheesh.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: This is no ringing endorsement for Roy Oswalt. And it is no knock on Bartolo Colon. The Rangers are simply the better team and should win the game. The A's sure have been surprising though.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Dodgers: Thinking of the Dodgers, that Sting line comes haunting in: "There's a little black spot on the sun today..." Roy Halladay is part of the reason why. He should continue the Dodgers' struggles as he is now healthier than when he left. Plus, the Dodgers don't know who to pitch as there is a TBO in that spot today.

Yesterday: 8-4
Week: 19-8
Month: 96-79
Season: 728-595
Games of the Day: 56-41

Monday, July 16, 2012

Clay Buchholz and Toradol

The Gordon Edes story on has stuck in this observer's craw for a day now. Edes' report mentions that Clay Buchholz has foregone the use of pain relievers since his bout of esophagitis that landed Buchholz in the hospital for internal bleeding. Esophagitis is caused when one's own stomach acid eats at the lining of the digestive track. Edes goes on to state that Buchholz had been injected with Toradol for two or three of his starts and that reportedly, two other pitchers on the Red Sox regularly use the injections. This, folks, is frightening.

It is fair to state that most prescription medicines have side effects. When watching drug commercials on television, it is a wonder that we take any at all with all the warnings we are given. But in a description of Toradol, one website gives this description on its usage:

"Toradol is used short-term (5 days or less) to treat moderate to severe pain, usually after surgery. It is used alone or in combination with other medicines."

This writer's wife is a Registered Nurse. And she agreed that Toradol is never used long term and is most frequently used by hospitals after operations. The website linked above also goes on to list one the side effects of the drug as follows:

"Toradol can also increase your risk of serious effects on the stomach or intestines, including bleeding or perforation (forming of a hole). These conditions can be fatal and gastrointestinal effects can occur without warning at any time while you are taking Toradol. Older adults may have an even greater risk of these serious gastrointestinal side effects."

Sounds like what Buchholz was dealing with, no? A little research was done on if this injection was common in sports. And what was found was a large expose on Toradol in the New York Times back in April of this year. The Times article indicated that Toradol use exploded in baseball a few years ago and at one time two to three starting pitchers on each team were getting the injections before their starts. The article goes on to say that usage has waned and it is down to one or two starters per staff.

Again, such information is quite disturbing on several levels. First, there is no information on the long-term effects of taking such injections over time. Second, the injections are administered by doctors, so doctors have to sign off on prescribing injections that are outside the realms of what Toradol is recommended. And lastly, it goes to show that with so much money on the line, ballplayers will do anything to keep doing what they are doing.

How are such injections different from HGH, which is also medically prescribed? What makes such regular injections not a performing enhancing drug? Why has such usage gone without notice by Major League Baseball and the players union?

The story arc in Boston is that Clay Buchholz was badly influenced by Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. Buchholz, the younger of the trio was said to be a follower of those other two, more experienced starters.  This meme was hugely stated in the beer and chicken flap after the Red Sox' September collapse. Can we guess by association that we know who the other two users of Toradol are in the Boston rotation?

How is this scenario any different than players being persuaded to take other performing enhancing drugs by their peers? The Times article mentioned that a group of NFL players tried to sue the NFL because Toradol injections were administered in "cattle call" type fashion without informing the players the risks involved.

Again, this is all very frightening. We have a drug being injected regularly to at least starting pitchers. A doctor has to administer and prescribe the injection. The regular injections fall outside the recommended usage of the drug. This is scary. And it just goes to show us once again that players will always look for ways to be better or keep their edge no matter the risks. The mindset explains to the rampant use of steroids in the previous era and of greenies in the era before that. This observer has watched a lot of Yankee games. Before each game, the head trainer walks around and passes something to each player which is then taken orally with water. Even Jeter. What is it? How can we know? Is it safe? Do the players know what they are doing? It could just be a salt pill or an Advil. But what if it isn't?

Writers of the BBWAA have taken a holy stand against the previous generation of stars when it comes to Hall of Fame votes. This site will never agree with such a stance. In light of the Toradol usage and other things we do not hear about, medicine is abused in every generation of ball players to get an edge or keep their edge. For this writer, that gives the steroid users a pass. What is more important here is that the league and the union need to be vigilant that baseball players do not ingest or get injected with stuff that can be bad for them or which have not been tested properly on what happens if usage falls outside the intended drug's parameters.

Game Picks - Monday: July 16, 2012

As terrible as Saturday's picks were, that is how good they were on Sunday. Only four picks were incorrect.. A.J. Burnett was out-pitched by Yovani Gallardo. The Red Sox look far better than the Rays these days. Ben Sheets was brilliant and thus making that Mets' pick stupid. And the Padres again beat the Dodgers. But that was it. Everything else was correct. Funny game, baseball is.

There are twelve games on the schedule today. That is a pretty good Monday. A quick glance at the games give the initial impression that it will not be an easy day for the picks. Here goes:

  • The Angels over the Tigers: The Angels one through five hitters are just crushing the ball. Rick Porcello is a BABIP pitcher who could be fine or he could be hit. Heck, he gave up twelve hits in less than four innings in his last start. But the Angels' starter is no picnic either as Ervin Santana has been all over the place this season. His proneness to the long ball might be helped at Comerica.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Hector Alvarez goes for the Blue Jays. He pitches to contact and has a very low strikeout rate. So it all depends on the Yankees contact. And being in Yankee Stadium should hear that contact be ringing. Phil Hughes must be really on his game though as the Blue Jays have some big boppers in Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus.
  • The Reds over the Diamondbacks: The Reds might be a bit flat after that big Cardinals series. But the crowd at home should rouse them up. The Diamondbacks are coming in to Cincinnati as flat as coins left on the railroad tracks. Still don't get the whole Justin Upton thing. There are things nobody is telling us. Wade Miley is the team's only nice story this season. And he won't be enough. Bronson Arroyo needs to keep the ball in the park though.
  • The Indians over the Rays: Alex Cobb has been a workhorse for the Rays. He has had his good days and bad days. Who knows which today will be. But the Rays are scuffling badly. The Indians are too. But this picker likes this Zach McAllister kid.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: The series wrapped into Monday, eh? That is good for the Nationals. It gives Ozzie Guillen another chance to yell at Bryce Harper. Edwin Jackson goes for the Nats and that is always an adventure. Carlos Zambrano goes for the Fish. Ditto.
  • The Twins over the Orioles: Chris Tillman gets the start for the Orioles. He was good against the Mariners. But every pitcher looks good against the Mariners. Scott Diamond has had a nice season for the Twins and should win this game.
  • The Mariners over the Royals: Speaking of the Mariners, here they are. Once again, this picker cannot in good conscience pick any team for which Jonathan Sanchez starts. Jason Vargas is a good pitcher sometimes. Will today be one of those off days?
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: The Cardinals go from the frying pan in the Fiers. Ha! Lance Lynn should win providing he is sharp in Milwaukee against Ryan Braun and the Brewers. No small task there. Mike Fiers goes for the Brewers, hence the stupid joke.
  • The Pirates over the Rockies: Anything can happen at Coors, so this pick is far from a lock. Jeff Karstens seems like a better pick than Jeff Francis. But who knows. Francis does have the advantage of knowing what to expect in his home ballpark.But he'll get just 75 pitches.
  • The Astros over the Padres: Uh. J.A. Happ over Kip Wells in a blind throw-up-the- hands kind of pick.
  • The Phillies over the Dodgers: The Dodgers simply do not score for Nathan Eovaldi. So it doesn't matter if he pitches well or not. Joe Blanton should enjoy the extra dimensions at Dodgers Stadium.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Red Sox over the White Sox: What are the White Sox doing starting young Dylan Axelrod on only two days rest? What the hay, Ventura? The Red Sox will jump on that. Aaron Cook goes for the Red Sox. That will be interesting in and of itself.

Yesterday: 11-4
Week: 11-4
Month: 88-75
Season: 720-591
Games of the Day: 55-41

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Celebrating Edwin Encarnacion

Last night on Twitter, the statement was made that Edwin Encarnacion has been as productive as David Ortiz for a third of the price tag. The statement was immediately challenged. "Are you sure about that?" The answer is yes. As the saying goes, "Look it up." Encarnacion currently has 3.0 fWAR and David Ortiz has 2.9. The WAR figures are remarkably similar on as well. The only thing incorrect about the original statement was that Encarnacion makes one-fifth of what Ortiz makes. The fact that Dunn was selected to the All Star Game over Encarnacion was one of the most egregious All Star crimes this century.

The formula looks rather familiar, doesn't it? A player from the Dominican Republic is under-appreciated and bounces around a little bit. He is never considered an everyday player until his late twenties when as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, he decides to seek out coaching and change his approach at the plate. This willingness to listen and improve yields high power results and an overall massive uptick in performance. Sounds just like Bautista, right? The stories are remarkably similar except that Bautista will always be a better fielder.

Whatever it is that goes into coaching in the Toronto organization and in the willingness of its players to evolve, Encarnacion is a success story in spades. His current triple slash line of, .295/.384/.578 is plutonic. His ISO, wOBA and wRC+ are easily the best of his career. His wOBA of .409 is tenth in the majors and his ISO of .283 and wRC+ of 161 are both eighth in the majors. That is all around awesomeness, is it not?

Encarnation has increased his percentage of fly balls and since his homer to fly ball rate are the highest of his career, that is a good combination. The updated ZiPS projections think he will finish with 37 homers. That number is very realistic and could be conservative. He has 25 right now.

PitchF/X data indicates that Encarnacion has become a very patient hitter at the plate. His 22.7 percent of swings at pitches out of the strike zone are the lowest of his career. His overall swing percentage is also the lowest of his career. That seems to indicate that Encarnacion is waiting for his pitch and then crushing it when he gets it. And for a power hitter, his 7.7 percent swing and miss rate is very low for such a basher. His 15.9 percent strikeout rate is not the norm for such high power numbers. And just for kicks and giggles, the Blue Jays' slugger has stolen nine bases in eleven attempts this season and in the past two seasons is 17 for 21.

The problem for Encarnacion has been where to put him. He was not a good third baseman. He has played there once this season. He has played 39 games at first this season and is holding his own there. He'll never be a Teixeira over that bag, but he can improve and can become a decent first baseman. He started the season as the designated hitter, but it is hard to see him in that role. First base seems to be his future.

And his future looks suddenly bright. There were some trade speculations about Encarnacion a few weeks ago when he started to bust out with his season. But those talks have settled down as the Blue Jays just tied him up with an extension that makes him a Blue Jay through the 2016 season. The top dollars of the deal top out at $10 million and so the deal seems very reasonable for the Blue Jays and gives Encarnacion a guaranteed home and paycheck for a while.

It has been fun to see Encarnacion grow in the eyes of the Blue Jays' fan base. He was affectionately known as, "E-5," for most of his Blue Jays experience. That was a play on the initial of his last name and the double-meaning that E-5 is the designation for making an error at third base. Now Blue Jays fans just call him, "EE," and everyone knows what that means. If that was a shoe size, it would be very large. And that is fitting because Edwin Encarnacion is living large and playing large up in Toronto. He has been a terrific story this season and one of the top five story arcs thus far.

Game Picks - Sunday: July 15, 2012

Just a brutal day on Saturday. There were only four correct picks. Frankly, if you were a betting person and picked all underdogs yesterday, you would have cleaned up. Bullpens imploded. Last place teams beat first place teams. All Star pitchers lost. It was just a joke and this picker no longer wants to talk about it.

So with an edge in the mood and dark thoughts looming, let's go right to Sunday's picks:

  • The Angels over the Yankees: The Yankees have been as sure a pick as there is lately. But they face Jered Weaver today and he has been dealing. Ivan Nova has a habit of winning, but the pick here has to be Weaver.
  • The Blue Jays over the Indians: See? This picker can't guess the outcome of a Blue Jays game if his life depended on it. The team totally confuses all the time. Let's go with Carlos Villanueva over Derek Lowe for no other reason than the instinct is to pick the Indians and instincts don't work with the Blue Jays.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: Stephen Strasburg should be a lock on every start, but he is not. The Marlins beat Gio Gonzalez yesterday (grumble) and could make it two aces in two days. But this is the Marlins after all. Ricky Nolasco goes for the Fish.
  • The Tigers over the Orioles: Miguel Gonzalez won his first start in convincing fashion. What the heck, eh? If he beats Justin Verlander today, this picker should just find another way to spend time in the mornings.
  • The Mets over the Braves: Really crappy game to pick. First, Ben Sheets is starting a game for the first time since 2010. How do you predict that? Second, Johan Santana is either terrific or terrible with no in between..
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: Another difficult game to pick. Will Josh Beckett be on or off? Will James Shields be on or off? Will the Bay Rays hit? Will the Red Sox bullpen implode again? What a mess. Gosh, this picker is in a foul mood this morning.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Okay, this one looks easy to pick. Why is that unsettling? Because it is never that easy. Chris Sale has been dominant. Luis Mendoza is a BABIP pitcher that depends on batted balls finding gloves. It gets ugly when they don't. The mood isn't improving.
  • The Athletics over the Twins: What an unpredictable and frustrating series. This one has been wrong all weekend. Going with Jarrod Parker over Brian Duensing. Have no good reasons why.
  • The Pirates over the Brewers: It's a tough picking day when A.J. Burnett seems like your ace in the hole. Lord help the gentle picker. Yovani Gallardo is good at home though, so this pick is no lock by any means.
  • The Cubs over the Diamondbacks: The D-backs should be better. What happened? Why is Justin Upton a problem? What went wrong? Matt Garza hasn't been pitching well for the Cubs. Is he trying to thwart a trade? He pitches well at home usually. Trevor Cahill is hit or miss in his starts.
  • The Phillies over the Rockies: Cole Hamels feels like a better pick than Drew Pomeranz. But then again, in Coors Field, anything can happen and usually does.Only one pick today seemed easy. GAaaah!!
  • The Dodgers over the Padres:  How did the Padres steal that win yesterday? Today is another match up of misfit pitchers. Chad Billingsley is a total mystery. You look at his numbers over the years and he appears to be under-appreciated. But then you look at this year and go, "Whuh?" Jason Marquis is capable of a good game. Whether that will happen or not is the question.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Matt Harrison should be able to win a game against the Mariners that is started by Hisashi Iwakuma. But strange things are in the air. Very strange indeed.
  • The Reds over the Cardinals: Okay, Cardinals, you win. You stink, okay? Been building you up all season just to be let down over and over. Last year was last year. This year is different. Maybe Tony was that good a manager after all. Who knows. Homer Bailey over Jake Westbrook.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Giants over the Astros: Okay, this one seems fairly straight forward. Matt Cain is that starting pitcher of the All Star Game. If you can't pick him, who can you pick? Bud Norris never seems to be as good as he should be. But the stuff is there.

Yesterday: 4-11
Last week: 21-26
Month: 77-71
Season: 709-587
Games of the Day: 54-41