Saturday, August 11, 2012

Game Picks - Saturday: August 11, 2012

Friday was a successful picking exercise as ten of the fifteen picks were correct and so was the Game of the Day pick. There is special pride in correctly predicting the win by the Houston Astros. That was pretty sweet. probably wasn't sweet for fans of the Brewers. But anyway, the successful day did much to prop up the week's and month's numbers so they do not look as mediocre as before. Of course, it always helps if all the aces counted on won. A hat tip to Strasburg, Halladay and Kershaw.
Saturday brings another big day of games to pick. So, William, don't mess up the gains you gained today. Here are Saturday's picks:

  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are decimated. There are no other words to describe it. They are trying to win battles with BB-guns. Aaron Laffey is the type of pitcher the Yankees feed on. The only hedge on this pick is Ivan Nova, who has been stunningly awful of late.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: This game could be high scoring depending on the winds at Wrigley. Bronson Arroyo can give up homers at a frightening pace and Travis Wood isn't the kind of pitcher to shut down the Reds' offense.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: This pick did not work out so well on Friday. And Matt Cain hasn't been lights out for the last few starts. But the Giants should win this one even if Drew Pomeranz is as good as he was against the Dodgers.
  • The Red Sox over the Indians: On paper, the Red Sox should never lose to the Indians. But they did on Thursday. Franklin Morales has been jerked around a bit from the rotation to the bullpen and back again. But he has been very effective when starting. Zach McAllister started well but has faded of late.
  • The Orioles over the Royals: How about that Manny Machado, eh? Wow! Chris Tillman has been very effective for the Orioles while Luis Mendoza has been hit or miss for the Royals.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: With all due apologies to Dallas Keuchel, the guy is not a big league pitcher. His number of base runners allowed is downright scary. Not that Marco Estrada inspires confidence, but perhaps he gets his first win of the season in this one if he can last five innings.
  • The Cardinals over the Phillies: The Phillies lineup right now will make Jake Westbrook look like Mike Mussina. That doesn't bode well for Cliff Lee, who is not the shut down pitcher he once was.
  • The Braves over the Mets: This picker hardly ever picks a pitcher like Johan Santana coming off of the disabled list. Kris Medlen is kind of a sketchy pick as well though.
  • The Dodgers over the Marlins: Joe Blanton is not Kershaw, but he is solid, which is more than you can say about Ricky Nolasco.
  • The White Sox over the Athletics: Those White Sox have spunk, you have to give them that. Losing Konerko for a week won't help, but it's not like the A's offense is that strong either. Travis Blackley goes for the A's and Francisco Liriano goes for the White Sox. That is one hard pitching match-up to figure out. Two pitchers named, "Travis," starting on the same night?
  • The Bay Rays over the Twins: David Price is on fire. Look for another bomb of a performance from him to shut down the Twins. He will be faced by Nick Blackburn. Enough said.
  • The Tigers over the Rangers: Two words: Justin Verlander. He is better than any pitcher the Rangers have, including this current version of Derek Holland. Big comeback win for Tigers on Friday.
  • The Nationals over the Diamondbacks: Not a big fan of Edwin Jackson and Wade Miley has been terrific. Just can't pull the trigger on picking the D-backs though.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: Mike Trout destroyed Felix Hernandez. Wow.The guy is Superman. That was the Mariners' one game to win in this series too. Hisashi Iwakuma won't hold back the Angels. And  Dan Haren will shut down the M's.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Pirates over the Padres: No, not making the mistake of picking against A.J. Burnett again. The amazing story continues for him in this one against Jason Marquis.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 46-36
Month: 78-60
Season: 920-746
Games of the Day: 69-53

So the Fan did a podcast...

One of this Fan's favorite people, Daniel Shoptaw, better known on Twitter as @C70, asked about joining him on a podcast. It was a pleasure to accept. Anything for Daniel! The event was only the third such event for this old writer and it was fun. Listening back to it, Daniel does a much better job of adding inflection to his voice and in contrast, his guest sounded a bit boring and said, "Um," about a thousand too many times. But it was probably better and less awkward than your standard Jay Jaffe appearance on MLB Tonight (that probably wasn't nice, was it?). If you want to listen to it, you can find the podcast here. Much thanks to Daniel for asking and probably treating his guest with more respect than deserved.

Friday, August 10, 2012

BBA Linkfest - generally Thursday

Welcome to our weekly adventure around the General Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. Normally, this post comes out every Thursday. So it is a day late. But it is not a dollar short as our chapter features great writers from around the world. Steep a little tea, have some toast and enjoy some great baseball writing.

Let's start by stopping by The Platoon Advantage. The site has long been one of this compiler's favorites. Amidst the curmudgeons is the wonderful Cee Angi who writes a completely unbiased (not) post about two left-handed pitchers. By the way, spellchecker is saying that, "Amidst," is not a word. Do tell. 

Replacement Level Baseball Blog had two terrific posts this week, so it was hard to choose between them. The decision was to go with the one on why the Orioles keep winning. Nice analysis. 

As you may or may not know, our friend, Sully of Sully Baseball is now a featured writer for The Bleacher Report. Fortunately, he links some of those posts to his site. This one was particularly liked.

Jake Mastroianni of Through the Fence Baseball introduces us to Mike Fiers. Super.

The X-Log's fine writer, Jonathan Dyer, ponders whether the Angels cost themselves a championship with their April.

Eugene Tierney of 85% Sports is at it again with another wonderful idea. This time he has a DFA Tracker. Awesome.

Daniel of The Ball Caps Blog riffs on a fun idea from the magazine of riffs. Enjoyed this one.

Love these kinds of posts. Baseball Unrated writes about the biggest surprises of 2012.

Christopher Carelli has a great piece this week on the Tampa Bay Rays being poised for another late season run. Check out the post at his The Baseball Stance site.

Brian Vaughan has an interesting look at the American League MVP vote this season over at Call to the Pen.

You may or may not know that a former big league pitcher has a daughter in the Olympics. Mario Salvini of Che Palle! has the story.

TheNaturalMevs of Diamond Hoggers has a tribute to the MLB Network. Perfect.

Dugout 24 has an interesting post because it talks about the bad reputation baseball bats have in other countries. And it includes Barack Obama.

Might as well toot the compiler's own horn. This post set a weekly hit record for this site.

The post of the week goes to Blake Murphy of Full Spectrum Baseball that is a full-court press on the topic of BABIP. Read it.

Mike Rosenbaum, who is always the most encouraging guy to this compiler, has a video of Mike Trout in high school. Yeah, he was pretty good. On The Golden Sombrero.

David Ross is a big league catcher. Catchers aren't known for their speed. David Ross stole his first career base. The Hall of Very Good has the story.

Theo of Hot Corner Harbor has the second part of his terrific discussion on how big the Hall of Fame should be. Great stuff.

Yay! Left Field gets back to its All Time Team series. This one is the All Time Tigers Team. Awesomeness.

Peter Verniere of has a great post on the horse race that it is going to be between the Tigers and the White Sox down the stretch. Except one team might win by trotting.

Michael Holloway has a terrific post on keeping score with lazy radio announcers. Wonderful post on his Michael Holloway's Baseball Blog.

Michael Schwartze has some thoughts on Manny Machado's recent call up by the Baltimore Orioles. Exclusively on MLB Dirt.

John Burns, who is a high school junior, by the way, has a great article for MLB Reports on the painful rebuild of the Houston Astros. Well done, son.

Nik of Niktig's Baseball Blog has some thoughts on the direction of the Miami Marlins.

Have a great weekend and a great week everyone!

Game Picks - Friday: August 10, 2012

The Thursday afternoon games went 4-0 yesterday as the Yankees, Rays, Cardinals and Mets all won as expected. R.A. Dickey might make that Strasburg post moot if he keeps pitching like that! And Matt Moore would be a Rookie of the Year candidate if it weren't for a certain Angels outfielder. But after a wonderful start to the day, the night games limped in at 1-4 to leave the day just over .500. And the Royals made sure the Game of the Day pick was off as Will Smith had his best career start.

The Reds lost their fifth straight game. The Pirates couldn't take advantage and lost too. And the Red Sox? Well, the Red Sox game went pretty much like their season has gone.

Friday brings us back to a full schedule as new series start and it promises to be an exciting day of baseball as aces are starting all over the place. King Felix, Halladay, Kershaw and Strasburg are just a few of the pitchers getting the ball tonight. It should be fun. Here are Friday's picks:

  • The Red Sox over the Indians: Yeah, this pick did not work out too well yesterday. But Clay Buchholz is the Red Sox' most reliable pitcher. The wild card of the game is Chris Seddon because he is a lefty and that can take some of the Red Sox offense away. But then again, Seddon wasn't very good in his first start.
  • The Orioles over the Royals: The Royals won the first game of the series. The enigma, Luke Hochevar gets the start tonight. He can either be good or terrible as you never know from game to game. That being said, the pick goes to the Orioles behind Miguel Gonzalez who has been pretty solid so far. Machado looks good, no?
  • The Pirates over the Padres: Edinson Volquez is in the same category as Hochevar. What are you going to get? James McDonald has been...well...lousy since the All Star Break. Perhaps he will enjoy pitching to the Padres. He needs a big game.
  • The Phillies over the Cardinals: Does anyone outside of St. Louis know that Kyle Lohse is 12-2? Well, make that 12-3 since he runs into Roy Halladay tonight. After his last start, Roy Halladay is going to be wicked good tonight.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays have had more MRI visits than there have been campaign ads so far this season. To say they are depleted is an understatement. Freddy Garcia isn't fun to pick to win, but neither has Ricky Romero. This might be a high scoring game.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Matt Harvey has looked great at times and like a young rookie at others. Paul Maholm will need to have a good sinker to beat David Wright and the Mets.
  • The Dodgers over the Marlins: Yes, Giancarlo Stanton is back and has already hit two bombs since returning. And Mark Buehrle is always solid. Clayton Kershaw is the difference-maker in the game and pushes the pick to the Dodgers.
  • The Rangers over the Tigers: Scott Feldman has been the Rangers' best pitcher this last few weeks. Who thought that would happen? Max Scherzer can be really good at times, but the Rangers at home is a pretty tough row to hoe.
  • The Astros over the Brewers: The Brewers swept the Reds. And the Astros are really bad. But Bud Norris is due for a dominating game and a win. He has a chance with Mark Rogers starting for the Brewers.
  • The Athletics over the White Sox: Funny. MLB's game preview says that in his last game, Gavin Floyd "struck out six and walked three, all in the first inning." Hmm...must have been a lot of wild pitches or passed balls on those strikeouts. That would be a record, right? Anyway, he's going to lose tonight as Brandon McCarthy is going to reclaim some Twitter relevance tonight with a good performance coming back from rehab.
  • The Rays over the Twins: Jeremy Hellickson had quite the hiccup in his last start against the Orioles. He will bounce back here. Cole De Vries always reminds this picker of spam e-mail from DeVry University.
  • The Nationals over the Diamondbacks: Yes, there is a dry heat in Arizona and that favors the hitters. But Stephen Strasburg is not your normal pitcher. Perhaps it will effect Trevor Cahill more and it is HIS home ballpark.
  • The Mariners over the Angels: How can you pick against Felix Hernandez the way he has been pitching lately? He has been lights out. Plus, he faces Ervin Santana who has an unn-Ervin season. That was bad, wasn't it?
  • The Giants over the Rockies: Tim Lincecum has pitched better more often than not in his last ten starts. The Giants are at home and should take care of Tyler Chatwood. With a name like Chatwood, Tyler sounds more like a race car driver.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Reds over the Cubs: The Reds have lost five straight. The Cubs want to keep that losing streak going. Justin Germano pitched well in his first start. But the Reds are too good to keep losing. Homer Bailey gets his tenth win.

Yesterday: 5-4
Week: 36-31
Month: 68-55
Season: 910-741
Games of the Day: 68-53

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Angel Hernandez and Bryce Harper

Buster Olney took umpire, Angel Hernandez, to task in Olney's ESPN column (subscription) today. The incident occurred in the game between the Washington Nationals and Astros. Olney quotes from an Adam Kilgore story that Bryce Harper was called out on strikes against Armando Galarraga and was not happy about it. Harper then was, according to Olney, schooled by Hernandez who called questionable strikes against him in his next at bat. According to Kilgore's story, Adam LaRoche asked Hernandez about the calls and if he had it in for Harper and Hernandez denied the claim.

What do the PitchF/X charts show? Well, first they show that Hernandez is a lousy umpire. Look at this chart for what he called for Galarraga (from Brooks Baseball):

Next we will look at Harper's first strikeout in his third at bat against Galarraga:

It certainly looks like Harper had a beef on that one strike. It was one of two strikes Hernandez called in that zone all day.

Next, we will look at the strikeout against Xavier Cedeno: 

While Harper again had a beef, those pitchers were close enough to the zone to not seem like a Hernandez retribution as stated by Olney. They could have been since they were both balls and not calls he had made most of the game. But still, there is enough doubt to cloud the issue.

The funny part about all this is that after LaRoche talked to Hernandez, it appeared that Hernandez became a little cool to the trigger the next time Harper came up. Look at that at bat:

Here there was a clear strike called a ball. Coincidence? Perhaps. Umpires are human. Emotions have to get involved some times. But the question here is not if Hernandez did such a thing to Harper. The question is, why is he so bad at calling balls and strikes?

Game Picks - Thursday: August 9, 2012

Wednesday was a seesaw day for the picks that looked like a prize fight all day until the last bell sounded to just barely put the picks over .500. In fact, it looked a lot like the Rangers - Red Sox game where the picks kept getting ahead but couldn't stay ahead until the very end.

Some observations: Is this picker the only one surprised that the Reds would have two of their best pitchers going and still got swept by the Brewers? Doesn't Kevin Millwood sucker us all in to thinking he is a major league pitcher only to go back to sucking? Should a pick be wrong if a different pitcher starts at the last minute like Jeremy Guthrie did for Bruce Chen? Both of Giancarlo Stanton's homers at Citi Field would not have been homers there last year. Is Ryan Vogelsong good or what? And Joe Kelly's base runners finally caught up to him, just as predicted here.

There are only nine games on the schedule today. But that is more than made up by the fact that five of them will be played during the day. Yes! Love day baseball. Here are Thursday's picks:

  • The Mets over the Marlins: This game all depends on if R.A. Dickey is on or not. He is 6- 1 at home and was on for his first five innings of his last outing before getting touched up a bit late. This picker's problem with Dickey was just figured out. Whenever this picker thinks, "Dickey," the word association turns that into, "Wakefield." And that's wrong because the two aren't even close. Anyway. Josh Johnson could have a big game and make this pick all wrong anyway.
  • The Yankees over the Tigers: Doug Fister has been really good of late and more resembles what he did down the stretch last season. But, and this is a big but, Hiroki Kuroda has been just as good and is particularly effective in day games.
  • The Bay Rays over the Blue Jays: Matt Moore is on a tear and would start to get some Rookie of the Year consideration except for some guy out in California. Henderson Alvarez is so meh.
  • The Cardinals over the Giants: Adam Wainwright has become an ace again and is among the league's leaders in SIERA. Madison Bumgarner is a great pitcher as well. This one should be fun to watch.
  • The Pirates over the Diamondbacks: Going with Wandy Rodriguez at PNC since it is a pitcher's park. The Pirates should score a few off of Joe Saunders.
  • The Red Sox over the Indians: Both teams are struggling but the Red Sox are the better team. As usual, the pick depends on which Ubaldo Jimenez shows up today. Either way, Felix Doubront should have a good game.
  • The Reds over the Cubs: Mike Leake should have an easy time with the Cubs' lineup while poor Chris Volstad holds on to his memories of when he was a decent big league pitcher. That was not intended to be cruel. But it's true.
  • The Nationals over the Astros: Lucas Harrell will again keep the Astros in the game. They always seem to be in the game, which is a credit to them. But Jordan Zimmermann will prevail.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Orioles over the Royals: Will Smith has not proven he can win at the major league level and has a 6.00 ERA. Wei-Yin Chen has had a terrific season and should add on to that fact tonight.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 31-27
Month: 63-51
Season: 905-737
Games of the Day: 68-52

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Can Stephen Strasburg win the Cy Young Award?

Stephen Strasburg has now pitched 127+ innings. If he has a 160 inning pitched limit and goes six innings per start, he should have five to six starts left. If his limit is extended to 180 innings, he has eight starts left. With a record of 12-5, he could win anywhere from three to five more games to give him a total between 15 and 17 wins. But we all know that wins and losses are old school and most CY voters have broadened their horizens. Thank goodness. But what stat will the voters hang their hat on?

No pitcher in the National League is running away from the field. There is no Halladay compiling big numbers or Kershaw that is blowing away the field. If you go by WAR, you have a muddled mess. Dickey of the Mets and Cueto of the Reds lead the National League in fWAR with 3.9. They are followed closely by Kershaw, Greinke and Gio Gonzalez with 3.8. Strasburg is right behind them at 3.7. Greinke is gone to the American League, so you can forget about him.

With WAR being of little help, will the voters go to other numbers? How about FIP, for example? Greinke leads that category, but again, he's gone. So it won't be him. Here are the FIP leaders:

  • Greinke - 2.51
  • Strasburg - 2.68
  • Gonzalez - 2.69
  • Dickey - 2.88
  • Kershaw - 2.90

Strasburg and his teammate have the edge so far if that stat is the edge maker. Then there is xFIP. Here are the leaders in that category:

  • Strasburg - 2.70
  • Greinke - 2.79
  • Wainwright - 3.00 (surprise!)
  • Dickey - 3.08
  • Gonzalez - 3.16

That seems to give Strasburg the edge in two important stats. He is also the leader in SIERA and is second to Kershaw in tERA. What else can we look at? Well, if you like strikeouts per nine innings, Strasburg leads the world in that category at 11.31. His teammate is closest at 10.02. How about strikeout to walk ratio? Strasburg is third behind the Phillies' Blanton and Lee. Well it was the Phillies' Blanton, but he is on the Dodgers and has given up too many homers to merit consideration. Lee might finish with seven wins, so forget that.

A lot will be determined by the home stretch. Cueto and Kershaw's teams are fighting for division leads. If both win several times down the stretch, they could overtake Strasburg if he is indeed shut down. Dickey is the emotional favorite and his record is pretty spectacular. But he has faded some since the All Star Break and must finish really big to have a chance. Gonzalez will not be shut down, of course, and needs to come up big for the Nats down the stretch. If he does that, he'll have an excellent shot.

But if Stephen Strasburg finishes out with his current statistics and finishes say, 16-6, and Kershaw, Gonzales and Cueto are not dominant down the stretch, Strasburg has an excellent chance to win the award despite having to be shut down before the season is over.

Game Picks - Wednesday: August 8, 2012

If Wednesday is Hump Day, then Tuesday was lump day as the picks took a beating yesterday. The Athletics showed this picker up and made him choke on his own words. The Marlins won again. Whuh? Lance Lynn lost. The Yankees lost. The Red Sox lost. The Mariners had the Orioles and then bad umpiring and lousy relief pitching blew that pick. The Pirates lost. The Reds lost. The White Sox lost. Ugh! It was awful.

Naturally, the bad day tightened up the week's tally. So we have to work on that today. Come on, Wednesday! Here are the picks:

  • The Indians over the Twins: Yes, the Indians have lost ten in a row. Yes, that streak has to end some time. Yes, Brian Duensing is the guy that is going to bust the streak. Yes, Justin Masterson is going to have a good game for a change. Yes, this sure is a pie-in-the-sky pick.
  • The Rangers over the Red Sox: Matt Harrison is a very good pitcher. Matt Harrison is going to get ground balls. Josh Beckett is a back waiting to cramp. Josh Hamilton has some swag back. He even walked yesterday.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: Johnny Cueto seemed like a sure pick yesterday. Mat Latos sure seems like a good pick today. Is that scary? Yes. Randy Wolf can be tough at times. But the Reds are certainly the better team.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: Yeah, how did this pick work out yesterday? Granted. But these games are why the Angels got Zack Greinke. Dan Straily looks like he is going to be a stud. But in this game, Trout and Trumbo do him in.
  • The Padres over the Cubs: Alfonso Soriano is having a hand issue. He is most of the Cubs offense behind Rizzo. So it matters little what Jeff Samardzija does. The Padres will outhit the Cubs and win behind Clayton Richard.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Pirates: Ian Kennedy is back in form and that is what this pick is based on. Kevin Correia is usually tolerable at home but Kennedy is the pick here.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: Yes, this pick was wrong yesterday. But Kyle Kendrick is no Cole Hamels and the Braves should score at least five. Meanwhile, Tim Hudson has been terrific and should get the job done.
  • The Yankees over the Tigers: C.C. Sabathia finally looked like an ace his last time out. He'll need to keep that going and be the stopper here in this one as the Yankees have dropped the first two and their lead in the AL East is shrinking. The Tigers got Anibal Sanchez to win these kinds of games. So we'll see what happens.
  • The Mariners over the Orioles: The Orioles had to use today's starter, Tommy Hunter, in the bullpen in last night's marathon. So they called up some guy named Steve Johnson. That gives the Mariners the edge with Kevin Millwood.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: What is to believe in this game? Nathan Eovaldi was great in his first game for the Fish, but terrible last time. Chris Young has been terrible most of the year but looked terrific his last time out against the Giants. So...which is reality? Who knows.
  • The Blue Jays over the Rays: This pick would feel a lot better if Jose Bautista was not still out. But Alex Cobb struggles at home for some reason and is the Rays fifth starter. He's had some good games. But, still. Carlos Villanueva will need to bounce back from his first loss of the season last time out.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: The Royals are like Ground Hog Day (the movie). It seems like every day, Bruce Chen is pitching. The White Sox win this one behind the well- rested, Jose Quintana.
  • The Giants over the Cardinals: Ryan Vogelsong is quite the story and the Giants have won thirteen of his last sixteen starts. Meanwhile, Joe Kelly has been closing the window with all kinds of gaseous fumes building up and the room has yet to blow up. Sooner or later, all those base runners will catch up to the young man.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: The Rockies have won two straight. Imagine that. Jeff Francis will try to keep it going and is capable of a good game. This pick is counting on the Chad Billingsley good version and not the bad one.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Nationals over the Astros: Those Astros are still spunky which is a credit to them. If Bernadina hadn't made that catch yesterday... Anyway, Gio Gonzalez gets back on track for the Nats and Armando Galarraga continues his fringe career with a fringy performance.

Yesterday: 5-10
Week: 23-20
Month: 55-44
Season: 897-730
Games of the Day: 67-52

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Game Picks - Tuesday: August 7, 2012

Yesterday was one of the better Mondays this summer for the Game Picks. There were only four incorrect picks out of thirteen. One was the Yankees as Ivan Nova again could not give that team a decent showing. Justin Verlander gave up two unearned runs and if Nova could have done his job, the outcome would have been different. The same could be said for Yu Darvish. Wasn't he supposed to be this wunderkind? Heck, give this picker Scott Feldman any day over Darvish. The Rockies pitched a combined shutout on the Dodgers. Now how odd is that? Drew Pomeranz pitched well in his 75 pitches and wasn't allowed to get the victory. That has to suck. The last incorrect pick was a superb outing by Erik Bedard. Frankly, this picker didn't think he had it in him. Big win for him and the Pirates as the brilliant pick of the Brewers over the Reds came in aces.

Back to a full schedule on Tuesday. Too bad there isn't a day game in the bunch. Here are Tuesday's picks:

  • The Pirates over the Diamondbacks: Patrick Corbin pitched six shutout innings against the Dodgers his last time out. Can he repeat that effort? Doubts abound here. Jeff Karstens has had a nice little run for himself winning five in a row. The last time he pitched against the D-backs, he hurt his shoulder. Let's hope he gets through this start okay.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: Mike Minor has been outstanding since the start of July. Cole Hamels has been good too, but the Phillies can't score lately. Well, they gave away 22% of their offense, so that explains a lot and Ruiz is hurt. So give the Braves the nod here.
  • The Twins over the Indians: Sam Deduno has done nothing but win since he joined the Twins' rotation. The Twins are killing the ball right now. Corey Kluber does not look ready for prime time. At least he didn't in his first start.
  • The Yankees over the Tigers: Yeah, you're right. This is a wishful thinking pick. Phil Hughes has beaten the Tigers this season and Rick Porcello limited the Yankees to one run on June 2. Frankly, this is one of those up in the air picks that either team could win depending on which pitcher is hot.
  • The Mariners over the Orioles: The Yankees really messed Zach Britton up his last outing. Will he recover? Will he go back permanently into Buck Showalter's doghouse? Meanwhile, Blake Beavan has won four in a row and every one of those picks were wrong here. This picker learns eventually.
  • The Mets over the Marlins: Jon Niese owns the Marlins. Wade LeBlanc always finds a home in a big ballpark. That is one smart kid. Think about it. Comerica to Petco and now to the new Marlins Stadium.
  • The Red Sox over the Rangers: Welcome to the AL, Mr. Ryan Dempster. Meet Mr. Oswalt. Yeah, he found out too. Jon Lester looks better of late. Of course, if the Rangers' bats ever reappear, they could change the outcome of this one.
  • The Bay Rays over the Blue Jays: In another chapter of the Ays series, James Shields should be strong after a great last start. J.A. Happ wasted away in the bullpen for a couple of weeks for the Blue Jays. Dumb. Evan Longoria is back for this one. The Rays' offense can use him.
  • The Nationals over the Astros: Ross Detwiler is making the most of his opportunity and should have little trouble with the Astros. Jordan Lyles is going out there every fifth day and doing his best. What more can you ask of the poor kid in a bad situation?
  • The Reds over the Brewers: Johnny Cueto is the difference in this game. Mike Fiers has been outstanding. But Cueto is a Cy Young Award candidate.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Said it once and will say it one more time: The Royals chose really poorly when they chose this manager. The team has no spark. No life. No hope. Jake Peavy over Bruce Chen.
  • The Cardinals over the Giants: Lance Lynn has had a second wind lately and is back to being sharp for the Cardinals. All he has to be is adequate tonight as his offense should tee off on Barry Zito.
  • The Padres over the Cubs: The Padres are starting Ross Ohlendorf. Well, okay. He can be serviceable at times. The Cubs are getting a major league debut from Brook Raley. Who knows what to expect there. These are the kinds of picks that cause insomnia.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: The Rockies win two in a row? Could happen if Alex White throws like he did in his last outing. And let's fall face facts: Aaron Harang simply isn't very good--a fact he has hidden by choosing wisely for his home parks.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Angels over the Athletics: It was fun, A's. And it was a nice run. The Angels are taking over and C.J. Wilson will beat Bartolo Colon.

Yesterday: 9-4
Week: 18-10
Month: 50-34
Season: 892-720
Games of the Day: 67-51

Monday, August 06, 2012

A.J. Burnett's amazing success

For most of A.J. Burnett's tenure with the Yankees, fans of that team usually called him some variation of A.J. "Freakin." Burnett. That team's fan base were so so frustrated so often that many ringing cheers rang out upon the trade of Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates on February 19 of this year. Those fans did not care that the Yankees agreed to pay a lot of Burnett's salary to pitch for another team. All that mattered was that he did not have to aggravate them anymore. Now a spattering of those same fans wonder in social media if the Yankees should have kept him. Such is the season A.J. Burnett is having for the Pirates in 2012.

As a writer who writes for a Yankees site in his other life, Burnett was a good source of fodder. In fact, one of the first pieces ever written for that site was an article titled, "How A.J. Burnett drives us crazy." So imagine the amazement from this desk that A.J. Burnett in 2012 is now 14-3 with an ERA of 3.19, a WHIP of 1.153 and most importantly, a FIP of 3.59. Not that there is unhappiness at the development. By most accounts, Burnett is a great guy and a great teammate and Burnett's success is a win for the good guys. It's just so unexpected that he is pitching so well.

How much of a factor is it that Burnett has moved to the National League? A lot of experts believe such a move is a big deal. But pitching for the Pirates means a lot of exposure to the Reds and the Cardinals who are not exactly snoozes in the offensive department. He has beaten the Reds three times this season. He has beaten the Cardinals. He beat the Tigers twice in interleague play. Sure, denigrate the improvement seen this year from Burnett by moving to the NL if you'd like. From this angle, such denigration seems unfair and inappropriate.

Yes, the pitcher bats in the National League. So you can have that point. Burnett has faced the pitcher for 36 plate appearances, which is not all that much and predictably, they have a .313 OPS against Burnett. But Burnett is getting the rest of the lineups out too. His OPS against for non-pitchers is .660. That is not a number to sneeze at.

A few remarkable statistics jump out at you when looking at Burnett's numbers. First are the walks. For his career, Burnett has walked 3.7 batters per nine innings. During his years with the Yankees, that figure rose to 4.0 per nine. His rate this season? 2.71. You have to go all the way back to his 2006 season to find a number like that in his career. Despite a slightly lower strikeout rate than his career stats, his strikeout per walk rate of 2.73 is his highest since that 2006 season.

The other statistic to look at is also about control. A.J. Burnett has led the league in wild pitches three times including last season. He has averaged thirteen wild pitches for his career. But that rate skyrocketed with the Yankees where he threw 58 of the stinkers in three seasons or an average of 19 a season. This season, Burnett has thrown three wild pitches. Three! The same goes for hitting batters. Burnett has averaged hitting batters about ten times a season. He led his league in that category in 2010. But he has only hit three batters this season.

One of the easiest ways to see the improvement in Burnett's control is his pitches per inning. Here is a breakdown of the last four seasons in that statistic. You will see that Burnett has dramatically increased his efficiency and is throwing far less pitches per inning:
  • 2009 - 16.15 pitches per inning.
  • 2010 - 16.49
  • 2011 - 17.11
  • 2012 - 14.69
One last control note: Burnett's first pitch strike rate of 61.2 is his highest since 2004. He isn't fooling around.

Burnett's hits allowed per nine innings is also down dramatically. Burnett is allowing 7.7 hits per nine innings compared to the 8.2 rate of his career and the 9.0 he recorded in his years with the Yankees. His ground balls are up dramatically as well. His 55.6 percent rate of ground balls on contact and his 2.20 ground ball to fly ball ratio are easily the best he has recorded since 2005.

One of the biggest knocks on A.J. Burnett is that he could not take pressure. It is an ill-deserved reputation. His win against the Reds yesterday was absolutely critical for the Pirates. They had to have that win. Plus, his clutch stats are off the charts. In high leverage situations, his 4.50 strikeout to walk ratio is at its highest. He has allowed a .601 OPS against in those situations. In late and close games, his OPS against is .466! 

In short, A.J. Burnett has been absolutely terrific for the Pirates. He has come through when the team needed him. He has lowered his bad events and increased his efficiency. If you have runners in scoring position and two outs, your chance of scoring is slight and you will bat with an OPS of .488 in those situations. Does his success have to be pooh poohed away because he has switched leagues and gotten out of New York? Not from the seat. He has been fabulous this season for the Pirates and is a big reason they are one of the surprise teams of 2012.

Game Picks - Monday: August 6, 2012

Sunday was not a bad day at 9-6. The big surprise of the day was Miguel Gonzalez keeping up David Price holding the Rays scoreless in his outing and allowed the Orioles the opportunity to win the game in extra innings. The unfortunate thing there was picking David Price as the Game of the Day. Bummer. The huge mistake of the picking day was picking against A.J. Burnett. How could the picks not pick A.J. Burnett? Probably all those times watching him in a Yankee uniform. But man, you have to give it up for the season he is having.

Only four teams are off today so there are thirteen games on the schedule. Not bad. Here is how they should go:

  • The Diamondbacks over the Pirates: Two reasons for this pick. First, Wade Miley has been outstanding and he should be even better pitching in Pittsburgh. Secondly, Erik Bedard has lost twelve games this season. That is a lot of losses. And in his last ten starts, he has failed to pitch past the fifth inning in half of them.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: Every time Ben Sheets gets a start, you have to hold your breath that it won't be his last one. But as long as he can hold his health together, he has a chance to win. He is that good. Vance Worley is good too, but his Phillies can't hit like the Braves can.
  • The Twins over the Indians: The Indians just came off a devastating weekend against the Tigers and Sunday's loss was the worst one of them all. Zach McAllister has been terrific. But Scott Diamond has been good too and the Twins are hitting better than the Indians right now.
  • The Yankees over the Tigers: Justin Verlander hasn't been a lock against the Yankees. The only reservation here is that the Yankees are missing some offensive pieces. But the feeling here is that Ivan Nova will have a good game in a big ballpark. He is certainly due for one after several disappointing starts.
  • The Orioles over the Mariners: The Mariners are playing pretty well except against the Yankees. But the offense is still suspect. Jason Vargas has been very good. But Chris Tillman will out-pitch him for the win.
  • The Rangers over the Red Sox: As noted before, Yu Darvish has long not been an automatic pick in this feature. Frankly, he has been all over the place. But in this game, AaRon Cook gets the start for the Red Sox and the Rangers should nail him hard and often.
  • The Nationals over the Astros: It's hard not to feel badly for the Astros and their fans. They were rediculed in Atlanta yesterday and that should never happen. But the sad fact is they will keep losing. Dallas Keuchel has not been good since June and Edwin Jackson should have little trouble getting the win.
  • The Brewers over the Reds: This pick might be a surprise to you, especially after the Brewers were dismantled by the Cardinals over the weekend. But the Brewers go home for this one and Yovani Gallardo is usually good there. Plus, Bronson Arroyo has been surprisingly effective. A real bad start seems due for him.
  • The White Sox over the Royals: Chris Sale has had some rest and as long as he isn't really rusty and wild, he should win this one. His only obstacle is the BABIP of Luis Mendoza who had his pitches hit at people in his last effective start.
  • The Cardinals over the Giants: Matt Cain has been a little flat since his no-hitter, but he is still an awesome pitcher. The Cardinals, though, have the best offense in the NL, especially at home. Jake Westbrook has to have a decent outing though.
  • The Padres over the Cubs: The Padres ruined two picks over the weekend, so they might as well be picked against the Cubs. Eric Stults gets the start after the current reincarnation of Kip Wells feel by the wayside. Travis Wood could be very good in Petco though. Hmm...
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: When was the last time Chris Capuano won for the Dodgers. It seems like a long time. So either he is due, or he is regressing to his season a year ago with the Mets.Counting on the former for this pick. Drew Pomeranz should be better in Chavez Ravine than at Coors though.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Angels over the Athletics: In the immortal words of Marlin on Finding Nemo when that big ugly fish lighted up, "Good feeling, gone." The A's are starting to crack a bit after such a fantastic run and their young pitchers are not holding up. Jarrod Parker should get hit by the Angels and Jered Weaver should make that lineup look silly. But again, "should," is the operative word.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 9-6
Month: 41-30
Season: 883-716
Games of the Day: 66-51

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Game Picks - Sunday: August 5, 2012

You would think on a day that a game picker picked the Astros to beat the Braves would be a good day. But no. Despite that brilliant pick, far too many others were subverted by bad bullpen work or simple lack of logic on the picker's part to make it anything more than an 8-7 day. Blah! On the one hand, the return of the superstar, Roy Halladay, was brilliantly picked while the total humbling of the Yankees by Felix Hernandez was not. That's the kind of day it was. Oh, and, just because Joe Mauer absolutely ruined the Boston pick, doesn't mean that he "crushed" that three-run homer. It was a pop fly just over the Green Monster. It was much more Bucky Dent than a bomb.

Oh well. It is a new week and a fresh weekly slate again. Here are Sunday's picks:

  • The Tigers over the Indians: The Indians have become terrible. Really terrible. Max Scherzer should look good against this bunch. And it doesn't matter much how well Chris Seddon's return to the majors looks.
  • The Yankees over the Mariners: There is always a pit in the stomach when seeing that it is Freddy Garcia's turn in the rotation. Ugh. But still going with the Yankees at home with Hisashi Iwakuma being lefty and all.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: The Reds are the better team. That is the sad reality we've learned from this weekend and no amount of rooting for the little guys is going to change that fact. It is a big game for the Pirates to salvage one and they have A.J. Burnett on the mound with this 13-3 record. But Burnett and pressure games are historically evil. Going with Homer Bailey instead.
  • The Phillies over the Diamondbacks: It is possible for Trevor Cahill to have a terrific day and shut down the Phillies. But it is much more likely that Cliff Lee will have a terrific day and shut down the D-backs.
  • The Braves over the Astros: The miracle pick of the Astros yesterday was a one time thing. Predicting that it would happen again today would be silly despite the fact that Bud Norris is capable of a big game and Kris Medlan is still a bit of a wild card in the rotation.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: To think Stephen Strasburg would have two bad starts in a row would be a huge stretch. Especially not with the Marlins' lineup. Ricky Nolasco will be the hard luck loser.
  • The Twins over the Red Sox: Is this picker really picking Nick Blackburn? No. This picker is picking against a Franklin Morales start when the Red Sox bullpen is toast. It's just not the Red Sox' year.
  • The White Sox over the Angels: Dan Haren scares this picker with all his injuries of late. They already skipped his turn once. What will happen today? Francisco Liriano gets a fresh start on life with the White Sox. He was one of the few deadline deal pitchers that pitched well his first time out with his new team.
  • The Rangers over the Royals: Sooner or later, Derek Holland is going to look studly again. Today might as well be that day. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Luke Hochevar starts for the Royals.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: The Rockies have no idea who is going to start the game today. There is a TBO where the pitcher is supposed to be. What a mess. Tim Lincecum has been better of late. Not sure how that translates to Coors, but there it is.
  • The Mets over the Padres: Can't believe that Matt Harvey's turn in the rotation is back up again. Is that right? He has been very impressive and should have no problem with the Padres if indeed he is pitching. Jason Marquis can BABIP you to death depending on the day.
  • The Athletics over the Blue Jays: This series has been confusing and this picker has failed to pick the first two games correctly. Tommy Milone at home seems like the safer pick than Aaron Laffey and the Blue Jays' bullpen.
  • The Dodgers over the Cubs: Justin Germano has a nice ERA this season. But his history in Dodgers Stadium is not good. Meanwhile, Joe Blanton gets his first start as a Dodger. First starts by traded pitchers have been conspicuously unsuccessful this season. Perhaps Blanton will buck the trend.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: It's never a good thing when the Brewers have not won a game this series and have the win-less Marco Estrada on the mound to finish the series. Kyle Lohse is fairly reliable.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Bay Rays over the Orioles: A Yankees' split in their series along with the split in this one means that no movement has happened in the standings since both series began. That might tip today if the Yankees cannot beat the Mariners as David Price is going to stifle the Orioles and there won't be much Miguel Gonzalez will be able to do about it.

Yesterday: 8-7
Last Week: 56-45
Month: 32-24
Season: 874-710
Games of the Day: 66-50