Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why Wade Miley should be Rookie of the Year

Picking a favorite for the Rookie of the Year Award is always complicated when the two best candidates are a pitcher and a position player. The two candidates that rise above all other National League rookies are Wade Miley of the Diamondbacks and that Harper kid from the Nationals that you may have heard about. Harper, of course, has gotten all the attention and his every move is documented. And rightly so. He just turned nineteen and has all the tools and desire to be a star in the league for years to come. Plus, his team has made the playoffs after a 31 year absence. All of those things make Harper attractive and he has to be the favorite with sports writers due to familiarity and...well...hubris. But there is a stronger candidate from this observation post who has not been the toast of the town and his team is not in the playoffs--Wade Miley.

Again, it's a bit difficult to pick between apples and oranges. WAR tries to bridge that argument. But though it is a good starting point, WAR is not the total answer. Here is how the sites rate the two players in WAR:

  •  Miley - 3.5, Harper - 4.5
  • Miley - 4.5 , Harper - 4.6
  • Baseball Prospectus: Miley - 2.6 ,Harper - 3.9

If you go simply by WAR, it would appear to be Harper as he averages over the three sites at 4.33 compared to Miley's 3.2 average. But again. WAR is just a starting point.  All the sites build a position player's fielding into their equation and nobody can agree on the best system for measuring fielding and nobody is real happy with what we currently have. A full 1.2 wins for fielding are part of Fangraphs' valuation, for example.

WPA is another item we can look at. Win Probability Added measures how much a player's efforts added to or took away from a team's effort to win ballgames during the course of the season. Harper has the edge here again as his WPA on B-R is 1.6 and at Fangraphs is 2.12. Miley's WPA are 1.22 on B-R and 1.20 on Fangraphs.

Yeah, it looks like a case is being built for Harper. But there is more. Let's compare Harper's OPS+ to Miley's ERA+. Harper's OPS+ is 115 compared to Miley's 128. In other words, compared to league average (use 100 as a round number), Harper is 15 points above all league average batters whereas Miley is 28 points above league average pitchers.

There is also their relative rank to the leaderboard. Harper (according to Fangraphs) is the 29th best position player in baseball this season. Miley is the 13th best pitcher. Miley is also eighth among all starters in home runs per nine innings allowed despite pitching half his games in Arizona where the ball flies. Miley is also eighth in walks allowed per nine innings, which for a rookie, is amazing. On the other hand, Harper is not among the top ten in any of the major offensive categories.

Miley pitches in one of the worst parks for pitchers in baseball. Even so, his OPS against is better at home than it is on the road. He led the Diamondbacks' starters in ERA, WHIP, BB/9 and SO/BB ratio. Harper led his team in runs scored. That's it.

Don't get the post wrong. Harper is an exciting young player who is going to provide his team value for years to come. But to choose one rookie that stood out in terms of team performance, home ballparks, and overall comparison with the league's players, Wade Miley has had a more impressive rookie season.

Game Picks - Saturday: September 29, 2012

The early picks were a mess. The Phillies, Braves, Royals and Pirates all were picked and lost. In fact, the Pirates lost in the worst way possible as Homer Bailey threw a no-hitter. Way to go, Homer. And the picks stood at 2-4 at that point and it looked like it would be a bad day. The turning point was when the Angels and Twins both won in upset fashion to even the record. The picks would go 8-1 the rest of the day including a clean sweep of all the late games out west. Nice.

The only AL wild card contender to lose was the Rays, so that team put a dent in their playoff hopes. They now have to jump over two other teams to get a spot in the playoffs. The Cardinals demolished the Nationals to really put a stranglehold on that last NL wild card spot with five games to go. Clayton Kershaw was heroic in trying to keep the Dodgers' hopes alive, but their chances are slim and none at this point.

There is a tinge of sadness in all of this. This is the last Saturday of the regular season. And only five more days remain to what is always the end of a daily ritual that has been going on for four months. So here are the last Saturday of the regular season's picks. [sniffle]

  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Every game for the Yankees from here on out is like a playoff game. And who do you want to pitch in a Yankee playoff game? Why, that would be Andy Pettitte. He hasn't given up a run since his return and you can't expect that. But he will limit the damage and allow the Yankees to gang up on Ricky Romero.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: The Angels are still gunning for that last wild card spot and Ervin Santana has really turned around his season. Meanwhile, the Angels have done nothing but bash around the Rangers' Derek Holland every time they have seen him.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: The A's need to keep winning to stay a game ahead of the charging Angels. They draw a tough pitcher in Jason Vargas and Dan Straily will have to be really good to win. It has to be tough for the A's to rely on these young kids to pitch them into the playoffs.
  • The White Sox over the Bay Rays: Another win by the White Sox would just about bury the Rays so far back that even their three-game series against the Orioles to end the season won't matter. And the match up favors the White Sox with their ace, Chris Sale on the hill going against Matt Moore. Moore has had trouble in recent outings staying in the game. for very long.
  • The Orioles over the Red Sox: Steve Johnson has come out of nowhere to go 4-0 for the Orioles. That is the kind of season the Orioles are having. Felix Doubront has been better of late, but the Red Sox are dead in the water.
  • The Reds over the Pirates: The Reds will continue to rest their big guys but Mike Leake should build on Bailey's masterpiece against a dead Pirates' offense. Kyle McPherson still hasn't won a major league game and won't today either.
  • The Royals over the Indians: This picker better get used to spelling Jake Odorizzi's name as he appears to be the real deal. He goes against Jeanmar Gomez, who still doesn't look like a big league starter from this lens angle.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: A battle of two inconsistent starters as Marco Estrada would seem to have a better shot at pitching a good game against the Astros than Dallas Keuchel would have of doing the same to the Brewers in their home park.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Chris Young has made all of his starts since returning from a long injury rehab and that is impressive and promising for him to rebuild his career. But Mike Minor will out-pitch him in this one as the Braves win a meaningless game.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: Roy Halladay just doesn't seem right and he was having spasms by his shoulder the other day. That isn't good. Meanwhile, Ricky Nolasco has been solid and effective the entire second half of the season. Giancarlo Stanton has 35 homers in just 118 games played.
  • The Cardinals over the Nationals: You can't blame the Nationals to play at a less than stellar pace down the stretch when they have won the division. Don't expect Jordan Zimmermann to remain in the game very long. The Cardinals still have some work to do before clinching their wild card spot and Kyle Lohse has been their good luck charm.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Cubs: Here is an interesting fact for you: The Cubs have not won a game on the road against a NL West club this season. Not one.They won't win today either as Trevor Cahill will finish his up and down season with a win. Justin Germano hasn't had much success in the majors.
  • The Padres over the Giants: Eric Stults has been terrific for the Padres this season and has experience pitching well against the Giants. This could be a 1-0 or 2-1 win over Madison Bumgarner, who is just getting some work in before the playoffs.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: The Dodgers will keep playing like they have a chance even if they don't. Joe Blanton will give them a good outing and Tyler Chatwood will yield enough for the Dodgers to win.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Tigers over the Twins: This sure looks like a mismatch on paper. Not only will Justin Verlander try in one more start to get enough cred to overcome Jered Weaver's 20 wins for the Cy Young Award, he will try to greatly improve the Tigers' chances of winning their division. P.J. Walters would not appear to be able to keep up with him.

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 47-36
Month: 207-173
Season: 1293-1031
Games of the Day: 103-66

Friday, September 28, 2012

Game Picks - Friday: September 28, 2012

The American League East Division got infinitely more interesting last night as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Yankees behind Brandon Morrow. If you read the picks yesterday, you know that the "official" pick was for the Yankees to win, but the same pick also said it was wishful thinking and probably wouldn't happen. And it did not. That game was one of five bad picks on the day out of twelve. Other clunkers included one that looked like it was going to be correct right until the end and that was the Brewers' pick over the Reds. Wily Peralta was indeed brilliant and so was Mat Latos. The Brewers got a 1-0 lead and turned the ball over the John Axford. Axford had been much better in the second half. But he coughed up this one and the Brewers' season is all but over.

Six more days. Holy cow. Six more days for all the marbles. This is going to be amazingly difficult to predict. As always, we will go one day at a time. Friday's picks:

  • The Orioles over the Red Sox: The Red Sox do not appear to be in the position to spoil anyone's party. And Aaron Cook still in the rotation is a case in point. Chris Tillman should be better and the Red Sox get one day closer to their new manager's search.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: Well, yeah, picking against the Reds did not exactly work out yesterday. But again, they have nothing to play for and are just running out the string. Besides, A.J. Burnett has had a very positive season and it would be nice for him to go out with a win. Homer Bailey goes for the Reds and admitted he was a little hung over his last time out. Heh.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Both pitchers have pitched well this season against the opposite club. Will Smith has pitched well, especially against the Indians. David Huff's last start was a win over the Royals. But Will Smith can go deeper in the game than David Hassle-Huff can and who knows how the Indians will react to their manager getting fired.
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Every game for the Yankees is like a playoff game. Teams are trying to knock them off and they have to win to get in. Hiroki Kuroda will need to come up big and keep the ball in the park. Chad Jenkins is a total wild card for the Yankees to face.
  • The Phillies over the Marlins: The Phillies are now officially dead but still a proud team and the Marlins are just playing out the string waiting for Ozzie Guillen to get fired. Cliff Lee over Mark Buehrle.
  • The Braves over the Mets: Tim Hudson will make his last start of the regular season and it will most likely just be a tuneup. Jon Niese has had a good finish to his season and wants to finish strong. Still think the Braves win at the end.
  • The Angels over the Rangers: Neither Jered Weaver or Ryan Dempster have pitched well against the team they are facing today. The Rangers need to put this season away. The Angels still have an outside shot at the playoffs and are two back of the wild card lead. Weaver is more likely to come up big.
  • The Twins over the Tigers: The Tigers aren't going to win this easy, are they? They never do anything easy, do they? The Emoticon, Drew Smyly makes another emergency start for Max Scherzer and Scott Diamond is a pretty good pitcher.
  • The Brewers over the Astros: Edgar Gonzalez is a nice story for the Astros, but he hurt his hamstring his last time out. Cannot believe he is all better already. Yovani Gallardo has been unbeatable at home and has really had a good season.
  • The White Sox over the Rays: Both teams are desperate for wins. Both teams have been going in opposite directions. Both are two back from where they want to be but those don't feel the same, do they? But Gavin Floyd is going to shut down the Rays and Jeremy Hellickson is the most vulnerable of the Rays' starters.
  • The Cardinals over the Nationals: Boy is this a big series for the Cardinals and a tough draw since they are trying to lock down the wild card. Adam Wainwright needs an ace-like outing and Edwin Jackson will try to prevent his old team from getting back to the post season.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Boy was Blake Beavan good in his last time out! Can he do it again against the A's? The A's desperately need wins to hold off both the Angels and the Rays. That's a lot to ask of A.J. Griffin. But then, they have been depending on these young kids all season.
  • The Giants over the Padres: Is Ryan Vogelsong over the hurdle now? He will have to be to get a start in the post season. A good outing against the Padres will help his cause. Andrew Werner started really well in his career this season, but has thrown two clunkers in a row.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: The Dodgers are three back and realistically, their chances are slim. That is why playing Russian Roulette with Clayton Kershaw is NOT a good idea. Yeah, he'll be Jeff Francis and the Rockies, but at what cost?

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Cubs: If Ian Kennedy wins this game, it will be his fifteenth win of the season. Not a bad follow up to his twenty-win season. He should hold down the Cubs and the D-Backs should score on Travis Wood.

Yesterday: 7-5
Week: 37-31
Month: 197-168
Season: 1283-1026
Games of the Day: 102-66

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Aaron Hill has had a great season

What a shame it is when a player has a fantastic season for a team that has never been in serious contention in a season. Aaron Hill has had such a season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He did not make the All Star Team. His team is never considered for national television because they simply have not been a factor this season after winning their division last season. If you hear about the Diamondbacks at all, it is about whether or not the team will trade away its young superstar right fielder. And that is too bad because Aaron Hill has easily had the best season of his career.

Hill has played alongside five different shortstops. But he has manned his position steadily all season. His fielding metrics are good. His offense has been terrific. As of right now, with a week left in the season, Aaron Hill has been the second best second baseman in all of baseball. Only Cano is rated higher. Aaron Hill has had a better season than Pedroia. He has been way better than Espinosa, Phillips, Kendrick, Murphy, Weeks, Kinsler and any other second baseman you want to talk about.

But you might say that Hill plays in Arizona, a nice place to hit with its dry, hot air that helps a ball carry. Yes, he has a .910 OPS in Arizona. But he also has an .844 OPS on the road and that is not shabby by any means. As a right-handed batter, he has an .888 OPS against right-handed pitching and an .860 OPS against left-handed pitching. Throw anything you want at him and he's been good.

And this is a former Number One draft pick the Blue Jays ran out of town. And who is to blame them, really? Yeah, he had a fantastic 2009 season. That season, he had 195 hits with 36 homers, 37 doubles, 103 runs scored and 108 runs batted in. It looked like he had come into his own as a star player in baseball. Heck, he came in 12th in MVP voting. And then 2010 happened.

Aaron Hill lost the ability to hit in 2010. His final triple slash line that season was .205/.271/.394. Ugh! It was awful. He still hit 26 homers, but everything else was a disaster. He did not bounce back for the Blue Jays in 2011 either. After 108 games with that team in 2011, his OPS was actually ten points lower than his paltry .665 for 2009. And his power had gone away as he hit only eight homers.

Fortunately for Hill, the Diamondbacks had that Cinderella season a year ago and weren't overly happy with Johnson at second. They wanted a little more zip at the position and traded Johnson to the Blue Jays in a trade deadline deal for Hill and McDonald. Hill responded with a good run down the stretch for the Diamondbacks as his .878 OPS in those 33 games did much to help the Diamondbacks. He then put an .879 OPS together in the series loss to the Brewers in the playoffs.

So basically, Aaron Hill has played a season and a third for the Diamondbacks and his OPS has remained as steady as anything. .878 down the stretch last season, .879 in the playoffs and now .876 this season. That gives every indication of not being a fluke.

This season, Hill has the most walks of his career and his highest walk percentage. He has hit 40 doubles to go with six triples and 24 homers. His OPS+ is the highest of his career. His wOBA is the highest of his career. Even his ISO is higher this year than his big season of 2009. His swinging strike percentage is the lowest of his career. Everything has come together for Aaron Hill this season.

Hill is only 30 years old. What if 2009 and this season are the real Hill and 2010 and 2011 were just a funk or a lack of adjustments to what pitchers were doing, or an undetected flaw in his mechanics or an undisclosed injury? Hill could not repeat what he did in 2009. He will need to show that he can repeat his 2012. But for this season at least, he has been a terrific player, the second best second baseman in baseball, all without a lot of fanfare or team success. A tip of the coke glass to you, Mr. Hill.

Game Picks -Thursday: September 27, 2012

The Game Picks were 7-7 headed into the Game of the Day. It was the make or break game. The Game of the Day was the Cardinals over the Astros. Oh no! Not the old Bud Norris curse again! You've got to be kidding! It's back? Yes. It is. And for about the one-hundredth time this season, the Cardinals messed up a pick and a day. Not that there weren't a bunch of other gaffes. One of the contenders in the AL Central was going to lose a ballgame. The wrong one was picked. That's two more bad picks right there. Drew Pomeranz won a game!? How did that happen? The Braves weren't hung over at all. And there was symmetry to the ending. Craig Kimbrel recorded his 40th save of the season by striking out four in one inning. A wild pitch allowed him to tie an old record shared by many others.

September continues to be a difficult month. Some teams are pouring it on hoping to get a final spot in the playoffs. Others are dying off. It is hard to predict. Teams that have nothing to play for are unpredictable and are playing many players on their roster to see what they have. All a picker can do is to hang on and try to read the tea leaves. It's not easy.

There are twelve games on the schedule and seven games will be played during the day. This should be the last off day for some teams before the end of the season. Thursday's picks:

  • The Brewers over the Reds: This game is worrisome. The Reds have nothing to play for. All they are interested in is giving a guy like Mat Latos some regular reps to stay sharp. To think he will pitch deep in to the game seems a stretch. A pitcher like Wily Peralta can have a great day and beat a sleepy team like the Reds right now. But Latos is so good at times, that this pick is dangerous. Ugh.
  • The Mets over the Pirates: This pick is purely sentimental and is made with the hopes that R.A. Dickey can win his 20th game. The head knows that "20" is just a number and means little in the grand scheme of things. But we Americans so love our multiples of ten. Come on, Dickey! Win the thing! Kevin Correia can get in the way, of course.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: A Rangers' win will split the series and leave the Rangers exactly where they were before the series started. Matt Harrison is the Rangers' ace and Travis Blackley is probably the weakest link in Oakland's tough rotation.
  • The Rockies over the Cubs: For no other reason than somebody has to win this game of also-rans. Jhoulys Chacin is now a part of that 75 pitch crap so it won't matter how good he is or isn't. Chris Volstad can't seem to get out of the fifth inning himself these days (or all of September) and should not fare well at Coors.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: This is by no means an easy match up for the Angels. Hisashi Iwakuma has been the real deal and has pitched extremely well as a starter. He shut down the Rangers in his last start. But Dan Haren is also pitching very well and the Angels simply have more talent.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Not too many people are making fun of Barry Zito this season. The eyes still have to be rubbed to see that he is 13-8 with a 4.14 ERA. Heh. Who would have guessed it. Patrick Corbin hasn't had much fun starting for the Diamondbacks lately.
  • The Nationals over the Phillies: Gio Gonzalez needs one more really good start to really cement his front-running Cy Young Award status. Tyler Cloyd is pretty good though for the Phillies. Pretty boy Cloyd? Ha!
  • The Yankees over the Blue Jays: Yeah, probably a stupid pick. Ivan Nova got rocked his last start. But maybe it was a fluke. And just because Brandon Morrow is an outstanding talent and the Blue Jays' best pitcher doesn't mean his team will win. Though the probably will.
  • The Marlins over the Braves: The Marlins might as well win a game or two before Ozzie gets fired. Is Stanton playing? If so, he should hit one or two off of Tommy Hanson, who has become a homer-giving machine. Jacob Turner gets a good game.
  • The Bay Rays over the White Sox: It's no fun fading at the end of the season. The White Sox are in an abyss and playing the Rays does not help. James Shields should out duel Jake Peavy.
  • The Padres over the Dodgers: The Dodgers simply don't trust Chris Capuano as they pull him usually before he goes a third time through a batting order. That puts a lot of outs into their bullpen. Casey Kelly walked too many batters his last time out. He should be better tonight. Tough young pitcher.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Tigers over the Twins: The Tigers, on the other hand, have to keep winning. And Doug Fister is facing a team he just shut out a week ago. So you have to figure he will pitch well. Luis Mendoza is just too unreliable and too much of a BABIP pitcher to pick.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 30-26
Month: 190-163
Season: 1276-1021
Games of the Day: 101-66

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Game Picks - Wednesday: September 26, 2012

On a day where five of the six division leaders lost games, a 9-6 picking day doesn't seem so bad. Almost all of those losses by the leaders were losses in the picks too. So the rest of the games went really well. The only other bad pick was a wild card leader, the Orioles. It was not a good day to be a front-runner. The Braves pick was correct, but it took a dramatic walk-off homer by Freeman to seal the game and the Braves wild card spot. The Cardinals were also correctly picked despite Jaime Garcia pitching on the road. The Cardinals have all but sealed their wild card berth. The wild card in the AL is still a bit of a scrum. The Orioles, still in the division race, look pretty safe, but the A's now lead the Angels by two and the Rays by three. It does not appear that as much drama will come down to the final game like it did last year. But you never know.

Counting down to that day means a full schedule on Wednesday. Only one of the games is a "getaway" day game. The picks:

  • The Yankees over the Twins: Yeah, this pick did not work out yesterday. C.C. Sabathia goes for the Yankees and will need to be as good as he was in his last outing. The Twins have a good offense now. Samuel Deduno goes for the Twins and was rocked by the Tigers in his last outing. But as the Yankees showed yesterday, they can sometimes make marginal pitchers look like Cy Youngs.
  • The Padres over the Dodgers: The Dodgers are all but done in the wild card race and are now four games back of the Cardinals. Kiss it goodbye. Aaron Harang should pitch well in his old home ballpark at Petco. But Clayton Richard is the new Harang in San Diego and pitches well there too.
  • The Royals over the Tigers: This just makes sense. Every time the Tigers have fought back to tie the division lead, they've lost. Plus, Rick Porcello is their weakest starter. Plus, Jeremy Guthrie has been terrific for the Royals. It just make sense. It may end up being wrong. But that's the pick.
  • The Orioles over the Blue Jays: Despite the Blue Jays winning the last two games of this series, the expectation has to be that the Orioles win behind Miguel Gonzalez. Though it must be said that two of his uglier outings this season have come against the Blue Jays. A lot will depend on Carlos Villanueva, who was good for most of the season but has hit a wall in his last four outings.
  • The Nationals over the Phillies: Kyle Kendrick has had a solid season for the Phillies and he was good his last time out against the Braves. This pick assumes that the Nats will catch up with him though. Of course, John Lannon has to be a lot better than his last outing, which was terrible.
  • The Marlins over the Braves: Will the Braves be hungover? Perhaps. Will they rest Chipper Jones? Probably. Is Paul Maholm reliable? Not usually. Will Josh Johnson pitch well? Ah, that is the million dollar question.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: The Reds just keep rolling along and Bronson Arroyo is on a hot streak of great pitching. Another win will put a death spike in the Brewers all but lost hopes for the wild card position. Shaun Marcum will probably not last long.
  • The Pirates over the Mets: Let's see: We have one pitcher, Jeff Locke, who has allowed five homers in his last fifteen innings and has never won a big league game. Then we have Jeremy Hefner, who in his last start, gave up six straight singles and a walk and was removed without getting anyone out. Yeah, that's a fun one to pick. Oh, heck. Locke has to win one of these days.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: The never-say-die Rays will just keep winning in hopes to sneak into a wild card spot on the last day or something. Alex Cobb usually pitches well. Jon Lester is having a tough season. The Red Sox are moribund.
  • The Athletics over the Rangers: The Rangers are fairly secure in the standings and Martin Perez is not a lock on any given night. The A's, on the other hand, have to win. Jarrod Parker is a good pitcher and will have to be at his best to win.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: The White Sox have really squandered the last two weeks, haven't they? They need to start winning and win the rest of the way now. Unfortunately, they must depend on Hector Santiago to lead them. Justin Masterson goes for the Indians and has a bloody awful season. But is capable of shutting down a team.
  • The Cubs over the Rockies: Drew Pomeranz is 1-9. The Rockies have brought low this once top prospect. Jason Berken looked good in his last outing, but is know...Jason Berken. Toss up in this one.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: C.J. Wilson was not good in his last start. And he faces Felix Hernandez. That's not good for him. But as we've learned over the years, just because King Felix is pitching, that doesn't always translate to wins for the Mariners. The Angels must win to stay within two.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: The Giants are just playing out the season. Matt Cain is making it look easy this season. Wade Miley is gunning for Rookie of the Year though. So it won't be an easy win. But it will be a win.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Cardinals over the Astros: It's hard to believe that Chris Carpenter is back. And he looked pretty much like Chris Carpenter in his first outing. He gets the Astros and faces the Cards' old nemesis, Bud Norris. But the Cards have handled him fairly easily in the last few head to head match ups.

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 23-18
Month: 183-155
Season: 1269-1013
Games of the Day: 101-65

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The transformation of Prince Fielder

Whether or not the Detroit Tigers make it to the playoffs when the season ends a week from now, Prince Fielder has not been a disappointment for his new team. The homer total is down from the prodigious days when he hit 50 and 46 homers for the Brewers. And it is not because of his home park. In fact, Fielder has hit eight more homers at home in Comerica than he has on the road this season. But all in all, Fielder has had a fine all around season for the Tigers. And one of the most interesting things about his season is that it completes a two-year transformation. Fielder is a different hitter than he used to be.

How so? Fielder used to be a power hitter. He crushed the 50 homers and the 46 homers. But he also struck out a lot. For most of Fielder's career, you could count on him striking out around nineteen percent of the time. No, that is not in the Dunn and Uggla category, but it was good for about an average of 135 whiffs a season. Fielder started a trend last season and continued it this season. He is now a contact hitter.

In Fielder's first three full seasons, he swung and missed: 10.9 percent, 10.9 percent and eleven percent. That is pretty consistent. Then, in his next two seasons, that swing and miss percentage went to 9.8 percent in both seasons. Again, that was consistent. But last year, his swing and miss rate went down to 8.0 percent and this year, it is at 8.3 percent. That, folks, is a contact hitter.

And it shows in his contact rate. For most of his career, you could count on Prince Fielder making contact about 76 percent of the time. The last two seasons, that contact rate has been above 80 percent. That contact is across the board too. The last two seasons, his contact percentage is the highest of his career on both pitches in the strike zone and those not in the strike zone.

The weird thing about this is that his plate discipline really has not changed any.'s data shows him to be swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone than at any time in his career. But PitchF/X data gives him nearly the same rate for what he has done his entire career. So, for all intents and purposes, Fielder has become more of a contact hitter without being any more patient at the plate than usual. And just for the record, Fielder has never been a reckless swinger of pitches out of the strike zone. He's always had a respectable discipline.

The question is: Is this a good thing? Well, that is hard to gauge. His line drive percentage this year is the highest of his career. But his fly ball percentage is the lowest of his career. Less fly balls mean less homers. Less homers mean that his slugging percentage is about sixteen points below his career average. But then again, his OPS is exactly at his career average. His wOBA and wRC+ are also slightly above his career average. If you like the long ball, then you might not like the new Prince Fielder. But otherwise, on a whole, he is just as good a player and perhaps can be more consistent this way. His career has shown lots of ups and downs.

Prince Fielder has a lot of interesting numbers this season. First, he has less strikeouts than walks. He has 80 strikeouts and 81 walks. At his current pace, this should be his first full season ever with less than 100 strikeouts. Secondly, Fielder's hit total is going to be in the top three for his career. He has had 177 hits once and 170 hits another season. This season, he has 170 so far with a week to play. But what is more interesting is that Fielder has never hit more than 96 singles in a season. He has hit 110 of them this season.

The final conclusion here is that Fielder has been far from a disappointment in his first season with the Tigers. According to the fielding data, he is playing a better first base than Miguel Cabrera ever did. His wOBA is right in line with his career numbers and he has hit 28 homers and driven in over a hundred runs. His play has been worth 4.7 fWAR or around $21 million in value. The Tigers have overpaid him, yes. But Fielder has not been a disappointment in any sense of the word. But, what is surprising is that despite swinging harder than any man alive, Fielder is now a contact hitter. Who knew?

Game Picks - Tuesday: September 25, 2012

Monday was much kinder than Sunday as seven of the ten picks were correct. The three that were surprising (and wrong) were the Blue Jays winning the second game against the Orioles and the Rockies getting a good performance from Tyler home to beat the Diamondbacks. The last incorrect pick of the Mets beating the Pirates was from a game that could have gone either way with two inexperienced pitchers. The biggest win of the night was the White Sox coming from behind on an Adam Dunn homer to snap their losing streak and stay a game ahead of the Tigers. That was a huge win for them.

Before we move on to the picks, it is hard to believe that folks on Twitter were criticizing John Jay for this catch yesterday. A line drive hit right at an outfielder is the hardest ball to judge. Did he get fooled? Yes. Did he show tremendous athleticism to catch the ball? You betcha. If you think that was an easy play, perhaps you should try it some time.

Okay, now that the chest is unloaded, Tuesday's picks:

  • The White Sox over the Indians: That win had to be a big relief for the White Sox yesterday. That will build into today for a team that will play with a lot more confidence. As for the Indians, yesterday might have been their best shot to win a game this series and it went by the wayside. Francisco Liriano over Corey Kluber.
  • The Tigers over the Royals: Bruce Chen could always throw seven shutout innings like he did against the White Sox...nah...that won't happen. Anibal Sanchez has to improve over his last outing though for the Tigers to win this game.
  • The Orioles over the Blue Jays: While this pick is not a ringing endorsement of Joe Saunders, it would seem to be the correct call since the Blue Jays are pitching Aaron Laffey. The Orioles will fight tooth and nail for every game the rest of the season. The Blue Jays are waiting for the season to end.
  • The Phillies over the Nationals: Ross Detwiler is pitching really well and is much better than people think. But that said, he is facing Cole Hamels, who all in all, is a much better pitcher. The Nats do have a better offense than the Phillies and that may factor in here, but the pick is still Hamels.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: The odds are getting too long for the Brewers and they are buckling a bit. Every time they put a few games together, their pitching undercuts them again. The prediction here is that Mike Fiers does not have a good start and Johnny Cueto pitches five or six innings and lets his bullpen take over.
  • The Pirates over the Mets: Yes, this pick was wrong yesterday. And yes, Collin McHugh could catch fire and dominate the Pirates if he has a good night. But that's a big "if" and Wandy Rodriguez is an established big league lefty starter that should hold the Mets down enough for a Pirate win.
  • The Rays over the Red Sox: On paper, this is a terrific pitching duel between David Price and Clay Buchholz. On paper, those pitchers appear to be a wash in innings that end with zero runs. But the Rays will find a way to win while the Red Sox find a way to lose.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: Boy, those poor A's have had it tough in this last week. They get to Texas and Hamilton and Beltre get back in the lineup? Good timing there. And tonight they face Yu Darvish, who had pitched wonderfully in the last month and a half. Tommy Milone doesn't stand a chance of winning this game.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: The Cards can smell the finish line at this point. And this pick goes to them despite knowing that Jaime Garcia is pitching on the road and that Lucas Harrell is the Astros' best pitcher. The Cards will score more runs than the Astros eventually and that means a win.
  • The Yankees over the Twins: The Yankees are having things come together and what seems to be the right time. Phil Hughes will have to be very good to beat what is a good lineup for the Twins. But the Yankees should score against Esmerling Vasquez early and often.
  • The Rockies over the Cubs: This is a difficult call because of the pitching match up. Jorge De La Rosa is still feeling his way after missing a year with TJ surgery on his elbow. Chris Rusin is inexperienced and has been ineffective and has to pitch at Coors. Not a good combination.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: Josh Beckett is good for five quality innings as the Dodgers are learning. To keep him much longer than that is asking for trouble. The Padres have had a quality second half and part of their resurgence has been better outings by Edinson Volquez. But the Dodgers win this one.
  • The Angels over the Mariners: The Angels can take advantage of the A's schedule and slip in past the A's for the last wild card. But they have to win almost all of their games. Zack Greinke should be good at home and the Angels have to find a way to score against Erasmo Ramirez who has a big time arm and is finally figuring out how to use it.
  • The Giants over the Diamondbacks: Tim Lincecum has returned to form in the second half and is a big reason for the Giants to hope to go far in the post season. Josh Collmenter just doesn't seem like a good pick in this one.

And the Game of the Day:

  • The Braves over the Marlins: Kris Medlen has been amazing. And why should that stop today? The Marlins meanwhile are simply waiting for the season to end so they can make Ozzie Guillen go away. Oh, and Nathan Eovaldi is not exactly an out machine either.

Yesterday: 7-3
Week: 14-12
Month: 174-149
Season: 1260-1007
Games of the Day: 100-65.  !

Monday, September 24, 2012

It's raining cats and dogmas

Or a dogma and pony show. Couldn't decide on which was the best pun...

The American and National League Most Valuable Player Award for 2012 is going to be debated for a long time. Which does not make this year any different than last year. Everybody chooses a side and a dogma to hang onto and the problem for just us average joes is wondering who the heck is right when it comes to these arguments. Just this week, posts have been read on how winning the Triple Crown means nothing and just as many posts say it means everything. Others have been read that defense and base running stats are inexact sciences and shouldn't come in to play (thus voiding WAR arguments) and just as many have been read that they should mean a lot. It's soooo confusing!

The trouble with dogmas are that people cling to them as strongly as people in a political argument argue the left and the right. Basically, you are stupid if you don't agree with their point of view. Perhaps to illustrate the point, the dogmas should be listed here and discussed a bit. Let's take a crack at doing that:

1. An MVP should come from a contending team. This one will always be a problem because the award itself is ambivalent. It's not the Player of the Year Award. It's about the most VALUABLE player. If a team comes in next to last place like the Mets and David Wright has a terrific season, what difference did his efforts make? Perhaps this question has more angles than you would think. What if Wright's efforts meant an extra loss in the schedule for say the Dodgers or Cardinals? Did Wright not have an impact on the race? Yes, the Mets would still be terrible with or without Wright. But they will win 70 games and some of them were because of Wright and some of them were against contenders. Wright's efforts do matter and he should be an award contender with or without his team being in the race. And if a team wins its division by ten games and its best player has nine wins of WAR, wouldn't his team have finished in first by a game without that player? Maybe yes. Maybe no.

2. It's about WAR now at least, or, it should be. Not all WAR is created equal. During the season, this spaced has given examples aplenty of players that are given vastly different WAR by different stat sites. Jimmy Rollins is a great example. Go look at his WAR on both and They are not close. Jacoby Ellsbury led all players last year in fWAR while Justin Verlander finished higher than Ellsbury in rWAR last year. So which is to be believed? Dogmatists are on both sides. And other dogmatists use this as the argument use this as their tenet of why WAR should not be the criteria for the MVP.

3. Position matters. Yadier Molina and Buster Posey are catchers. Catchers are one of the most important players on a team. So if they have great years and have less WAR because they take a day off now and then, they should get more consideration. Great center fielders are more important than great left or right fielders (back to Ellsbury versus Bautista last season). If catchers have great offensive numbers, that should be bonus points because catchers get beat up behind the plate and have to overcome physical limitations. Is that true? That's one of the dogmas floating around out there.

4. It's not the body of a season's work but how a player finishes the season. This is a big one that you hear from time to time. For example, Jose Bautista had a higher wOBA last season than Ellsbury. But Bautista was somewhat ordinary in the second half last year while Ellsbury was phenomenal down the stretch and almost single-handedly gave the Red Sox a chance for the post season. So does Ellsbury get the not there? This season, Ryan Braun has been steadily great all season. But Buster Posey--so the dogmas say--came on strong just as Melky Cabrera was suspended and propelled the Giants to their division win. Is that the difference maker?

5. A player's value is somewhat determined to his supporting cast. There is Andrew McCutchen, for example, who is the only great player on his team. So as such, he was the guy who carried the Pirates by himself for as long as they stayed in the race. Indeed, McCutchen accounts for 46% of his team's offensive WAR. On the other hand, Braun had supporting cast-mates like Aramis Ramirez, who is having a terrific season, which lessens Braun's value as in comparison to McCutchen. Can you buy that if McCutchen's team finally fell by the wayside because of the lack of support players? Mike Trout has Pujols and Trumbo. Who does Miguel Cabrera have besides Fielder?

6. And finally, pitchers have their own award and should not get MVPs. Well, how did this go last season when Justin Verlander won the award? Obviously, the WAR configurations have shown that a starting pitcher's value can be as high or higher than a position player. But the argument goes that pitchers only play every fifth day. Verlander also got consideration because of dogma number 5. Where would the Tigers have been last year without him?

As you can see, this is a very confusing set of dogmas and pony show. The award cannot be granted solely on the basis of value stats like WAR because such stats are imperfect. And so, in the end, the award becomes solely a subjective vote and the winner will depend on how many writers will support a specific set of dogmas. Your Fan wrote a piece over at IIATMS on who the Yankees' MVP was this season and many were up in arms over the choice not being Derek Jeter. We cannot forget those intangible dogmas, can we?

This site's own picks will happen next week as part of the BBA voting requirements subjected to that organization's members. Those picks here will be just as subjective and based on this writer's own set of dogmas. They may or may not be correct and you readers will certainly react one way or another based on yours. Depending on your point of view, it's either a great part of the baseball charm, or it is a pain in the butt because no one way of voting seems to please everyone.

Game Picks - Monday: September 24, 2012

Sunday was not a good day from any perspective. As a Fan, the favorite baseball team lost. Tiger did not win and the favorite football team lost. To top that day off with a big bow was to have a bad day in picking baseball games. The Twins swept a double-header from the Tigers!? What!? They were predicted to sweep that thing know...that's what contending teams are supposed to do. The Yankees and Orioles both lost and were predicted to keep their winning streaks going. So that's a eight pick swing in the day right there. It was correctly figured that the Giants would be snoozy after clinching their division. But the Red did the same thing and that was not expected. Aw, heck, there is no need to rehash it all. Let's just say it was a bad day.

There are ten games on Monday's schedule. Two of them are a double-header between the Blue Jays and the Orioles. The day's picks:

  • The Nationals over the Brewers: The Nats are still up by five games in the loss column on the Braves. So there is no urgency here. Still, it would be nice to get the division clinched so they can go ahead and get themselves ready for the post season. The Brewers are still desperately hoping for a playoff chance, so will fight hard. Jordan Zimmermann should be tough for the Nats and Marco Estrada should be tough for the Brewers. The home field is why this pick goes to the Nationals.
  • The Orioles over the Blue Jays: Steve Johnson starts for the Orioles. His stats sure look impressive. Is he that good? His minor league career did not predict this. So who knows. He has been part of the charm of the Orioles' season of charms. Henderson Alvarez will keep the Blue Jays in the game. Will he win it? He has a chance. But no pick can go against the Orioles these days.
  • The Orioles over the Blue Jays: This pick is for Wei-Yin Chen, who has been solid all season. The Orioles should be able to do some damage against Ricky Romero, who was better against the Yankees but still walked five batters.
  • The Pirates over the Mets: Hard game to figure here. Prospect, Kyle McPherson makes his second major league start against a struggling Mets' lineup. Meanwhile, the Mets start Jenrry Mejia who has been awful so far this season. Ugh.
  • The Rangers over the Athletics: This is tough. This picker really wants the A's to make the playoffs but, gosh, they have a tough schedule. Derek Holland should be good for the Rangers and the A's are putting an awful lot of their season's hopes on an unproven, Dan Straily
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: How fortuitous for the Cardinals to get the Astros on their stretch schedule. And realistically, there is no way they should lose this game. Lance Lynn should be decent and Fernando Abad's last name is a good moniker for that pitcher's performances so far.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: The White Sox are not exactly staking their claim to the AL Central title. The division race seems more of a race fo which team will lose less games instead of the other way around. Chris Sale should prevail, and yes, that rhymes. The White Sox should defeat Zach McAllister.
  • The Yankees over the Twins: This is another game that should be easy to pick. Liam Hendriks should not be able to contain the Yankees and Andy Pettitte has a history of shutting down the Twins. It is always these seemingly easy picks that worry a game picker.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Trevor Cahill has had a very good September, but must deal with Coors Field today. Tyler Chatwood gets his 75 pitches for the Rockies.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Tigers over the Royals: Gosh, if the Tigers don't win this one, what can you say then? Justin Verlander should beat Luke Hochevar 999 times out of a thousand. But yeah, that's why they play the game.

Yesterday: 7-9
Week: 7-9
Month: 167-146
Season: 1,253-1,004
Games of the Day: 99-65

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Game Picks - Sunday: September 23, 2012

Saturday was a good game picking day, but that fact was somewhat ruined by the unexpected shutout thrown by Blake Beavan against the Texas Rangers. That was the Game of the Day and that feature took a hit for the first time in many a day. It was a crazy day in the AL East, but all the games finished up with their expected results, just not in the ways they were expected...if that makes sense. The Cardinals come from behind victory put them in the driver's seat for the second wild card as all their closest competitors lost yesterday.

Sixteen games are on the schedule today as the Tigers and the Twins make up their rain out from Friday. Here are Sunday's picks:

  • The Tigers over the Twins: A lot here depends on how healthy Max Scherzer is. He left his last start early but says he is fine. We'll see. If he is not, then this pick is in trouble as are the Tigers. Scott Diamond is a pretty good pitcher for the Twins.
  • The Yankees over the Athletics: The Yankees have won nine of their last ten and even had a rare comeback win yesterday. They have accepted the Orioles' challenge and continue to win. Hiroki Kuroda will need to keep away from the fat part of the bat from guys like Moss, Reddick and Cespedes. If he can do that, he should pitch well. A.J. Griffin looked unbeatable until his last start and the Yankees will look to avenge his defeat of them in Oakland.
  • The Marlins over the Mets: Both teams are a mess and that has showed in various ways this series. The pick today is based on the pitching match ups as Ricky Nolasco is seriously better than Chris Young at this stage in Young's career.
  • The Phillies over the Braves: This is a great pitching match up of Tim Hudson against Cliff Lee. The Phillies are still mathematically in the wild card race but are an improbably four games back of the Cardinals with two other teams to jump over. But they will keep trying. The Braves have pretty much clinched their spot.
  • The Orioles over the Red Sox: The Red Sox cannot muster anything to even play the spoiler role. Alfredo Aceves seems to be on a one-man mission to undercut Valentine and why Valentine would pitch him at this point is strange, especially in any leveraged position. Chris Tillman will pitch a good game and the Orioles will get to Felix Doubront.
  • The Brewers over the Nationals: Chien-Ming Wang is one of this picker's favorite players and would love to see him win. But it is not going to happen. Yovani Gallardo has been amazing in the second half and should be the pick as the Brewers still hope to overtake the Cardinals.
  • The Pirates over the Astros: The Pirates' offense has dried up completely. But perhaps they can score a couple to support A.J. Burnett who has lost four straight despite pitching well. Jordan Lyles continues to plug along for the Astros and you have to admire the kid's pluck.
  • The Royals over the Indians: This is an exciting day in Kansas City as one of their top pitching prospects, Jake Odorizzi makes his major league debut. He is used to facing AAAA players like the lineup the Indians have. Ouch, that was a bit harsh. But somewhat true just the same. David Huff (hassle-Huff) gets the start for the Indians.
  • The Cardinals over the Cubs: Kyle Lohse has a really sick winning percentage. It should get even better today as Justin Germano has as bad a winning percentage as Lohse' is good. 
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rockies: Ian Kennedy really hasn't had that bad a follow up season to his 20-game one of a year ago. He could get his fifteenth win if he can limit the damage at Coors Field. Jeff Francis could always pitch a good game though.
  • The Angels over the White Sox: The White Sox have run into a buzz saw this weekend as the Angels still hope they can sneak into the wild card slot. But they have the same long odds as the Rays. In either case, you have to pick Jered Weaver over Gavin Floyd.
  • The Padres over the Giants: The Giants are probably going to be hung over today after celebrating clinching yesterday. And they are starting Yusmeiro Petit. Who? The Padres start a more known entity in Eric Stultz who has had a fine debut season.
  • The Mariners over the Rangers: The Rangers don't like it up in the Northwest, do they? Ryan Dempster might enjoy pitching in a big park but Jason Vargas has had a good season too.
  • The Tigers over the Twins: The Emoticon is back! Drew Smyly (emoticon;-a smyly face) goes for the Tigers and normally, that would seem to give the Twins an edge. But P.J. Walters goes for the Twins. Edge gone.
  • The Reds over the Dodgers: Aaron Harang is pitching on short rest. That has disaster written all over it even if the Reds rest everybody. Homer Bailey ties up the Dodgers and out-pitches the guy anyway.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Bay Rays over the Blue Jays: The Rays are trying to stay relevant and have won a string of games in a row. But the hole they dug last week is impossible to get out of and the Orioles are not going to fold and once the A's get out of New York, they should be okay. It's still possible for the Rays to get back in it, but it will be a miracle. Jeremy Hellickson over Chad Jenkins. Chad Jenkins?

Yesterday: 10-5
Last week: 57-36
Month: 160-137
Season: 1,246-995
Games of the Day: 98-65