Saturday, April 13, 2013

Justin Masterson - gold or pyrite?

Every year in the Major Leagues, some players jump out in the early part of the season and astound us in small sample size wonder. This year, John Buck and Chris Davis have been pretty astounding. And yet, when a position player jumps way out ahead of his normal stats, we expect regression. Pitchers sometimes get more of a pass. But what about the case of Justin Masterson, the pitcher for the Cleveland Indians who has started the young season at 3-0 with an 0.41 ERA. Is Masterson setting a new gold standard for his career or his this pyrite or fools gold?

Where a score of 50 is average, Masterson has already garnered Game Scores of 63, 78 and 83. He gave up a run in the third inning of his first start of the season and has now thrown nineteen straight scoreless innings. He seems to be getting stronger as those Game Scores indicate. So what is going on here? Is not this the same pitcher that went 11-15 with an ERA of 4.93?

Let's look at some numbers to see if this is basically a short sample size fluke or if it shows Masterson doing something different or more effectively.

On the gold side:

Masterson has always been a ground ball pitcher. His career ground ball percentage is 56.1% and his ground ball to fly ball ratio is at 2.11 for his career. He has upped the ante on the ground balls this season and currently sits at a ground ball percentage of 60% and a ground ball to fly ball ratio of 2.31. As such, his sinker is getting the job done on batted balls.

At the same time, Justin Masterson is adding (to this point) more sliders to his game plan. In the last three seasons, Masterson has thrown his slider 19.9%, 14.3% and 19.5% respectively. This year, he has thrown it 26% of the time and the pitch has been great for him. His game charts show that he has always had good movement on the pitch, but that movement is even wider horizontally than in the past. After PITCHf/x rated his slider at only 1.7 runs above average for the entire season last year, that services has already attached five runs above average for a score on the slider already. And just for historical perspective, that pitch was rated at 6.5 in 2011 and 4.4 runs above average the year before that.

One aspect that may be related to the slider is that not only is Masterson inducing a lot of ground balls, but his popup to the infield rate is way up so far this season.

A better defense around him. Last season, the Indians finished 24th in team fielding efficiency for the season. This season (which is young yet), the team is rated fifth. All his fielders except for Cabrera at short are having in the positive fielding seasons. Again, it is early yet. Let's see if the Indians can maintain that.

Some other things on the positive side include no homers allowed, which really is not a fluke since Masterson has always been stingy in the home run department. Also, his strikeout rate is up slightly despite not increasing the amount of swing and miss percentage or swinging outside the strike zone percentage.

He is also pitching at a faster pace this season. After averaging in the 18+ range in seconds per pitch (which is great), he is in the 16+ range this season. I am personally a big fan of a fast pace for a pitcher.

What the numbers seem to show is that Masterson has his highest first pitch strike percentage of his career, has a slider that has been killer and is inducing even more ground balls than usual. Ground balls and infield fly balls do wonders for balls in play finding an out somewhere.

On the pyrite side:

No matter how good Masterson's pitches, first pitch strikes, etc., have been, there is no way he is going to go through the season with a .196 BABIP that he has right now. Somewhere around .260 is doable in a great season, but .196 is just screaming for regression.

Also screaming for regression is Masterson's strand rate. Granted, Masterson's WHIP is outstanding at 0.818 so there are less runners to strand. But a strand rate of 94.7% is not going to hold up no matter how good he pitches.

Competition. Of the three teams Masterson has beaten, two of them (Blue Jays, Rays) are in the bottom five in runs per game. The White Sox were in the top ten, so he did beat a good offensive team (thus far) in this last outing. Let's see what happens when he faces some tougher offensive teams.

Basic conclusions:

One thing that has to be remembered here is that Justin Masterson's FIP was -.78 compared to his ERA in 2012, a very big difference. He pitched in front of a weaker defense and had a bit of an off year with his slider. His batted balls already lend itself to low BABIPs but expect his to rise as the year progresses. Justin Masterson will not be this great all season. But there is no reason why he cannot be of All Star caliber and build on this start for a terrific season.

MLB Game Picks - Saturday: April 13, 2013

The West Coast was not kind yesterday. The picks started out 8-1 with the Cubs win over the Giants (blown save) being the only blemish. But only one more pick would turn out correct for the rest of the night as the West Coast games went 1-4 including wins by the Astros over the Angels and the Mariners over the Rangers.

The pitching performances of the night were by Shelby Miller of the Cardinals who one-hit the Brewers over seven innings and Justin Masterson of the Indians, who blanked the White Sox. Thank goodness I picked Miller this time. The Masterson story has been pretty amazing thus far. He is already 3-0 with a microscopic ERA.

And there were three walk-off hits. Donaldson for the A's, Swisher for the Indians and Castro for the Cubs. And the Yankees pulled off a triple play. How fun is that? Gosh, I love baseball.

Saturday's picks:

  • The Nationals over the Braves: The day starts off with three one-o'clock games and all three feature big-time pitching match-ups. This one features Stephen Strasburg against Tim Hudson. I'm giving the nod to Strasburg at home but the feeling here is that neither starter will figure in the decision.
  • The Cubs over the Giants: My gut is fighting my head on this one. Jeff Samardzija has struck out 22 batters in just 13.2 innings and allowed only four hits per nine innings pitched. Madison Bumgarner is 2-0 and has given up just 4.6 hits per nine. Wow. How do you choose, especially with two so-so offenses?
  • The Red Sox over the Bay Rays: I just wrote about Jon Lester in the upcoming Big Leagues Magazine coming out on April 15. So how, then can I pick against him? The Rays' offense is not great and Lester should have a good day. But on the other side, the Rays send out David Price. He only won the Cy Young Award last year. Geez.  These first three picks could either be all wrong or anything in between.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: The Yanks have won four straight and are now getting good pitching. The offense seems to have just enough to limp along. Phil Hughes goes today and Jason Hammel pitches for the Orioles. Hammel has turned his style of pitching around completely with his 2-seam fastball.
  • The White Sox over the Indians: As much fun as the Indians' walk-off was last night, the team is still not hitting well and the only reliable starter is Masterson. Zach McAllister is the only other starter that has a chance to be decent from start to start. But he faces Chris Sale today. The pick has to be Sale.
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: I hate winning streaks and losing streaks, because you never know how long they will go on. The A's have won nine in a row. It has to end some time. It might as well be against Justin Verlander, right? Brett Anderson goes for the A's and he has been tough so far as well. Tough day this is.
  • The Mets over the Twins: The Mets are actually having fun so far this season. Of course, the sad commentary here is that the Twins are pretty fun for any team to play right now. You cannot pitch much better than what Matt Harvey has done so far this season. Expect him to dominate the Twins' lineup while the Mets score a couple at least off of Scott Diamond.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: The Cardinals are catching a very flat and tepid Brewers team right now and that is good news for them. Adam Wainwright pitches at home in front of his adoring fans. Yovani Gallardo is not pushover for the Brewers, however, so the Cards better bring some lumber.
  • The Marlins over the Phillies: Jose Fernandez. He is the kid that made the jump from A-ball to the majors. His appearance already in the majors has been another kicked around reason to hate the Marlins front office. But, gosh, the kid was good his last time out. Cole Hamels is 0-2. He is not working toward that Cy Young Award I predicted for him for the 2013 season.
  • The Royals over the Blue Jays: What's to make of R.A. Dickey thus far this season? He is getting rocked. Is it the cold weather? Who knows. What is the record of going without a win to start a season after winning a Cy Young Award? Today, even if he pitches well, the Royals should still win behind James Fields.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: As always, I want to go with my man-crush, Ian Kennedy. But I cannot in this one as I think Hyun-Jin Ryu out-pitches him.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: You know, Edinson Volquez will win a couple of games this season. But picking him to win will probably never happen here. Ever. The safer pick here is Jhoulys Chacin, who starts for the Rockies and has had a pretty good start to his season.
  • The Angels over the Astros: The Angels have to win some time. They cannot really be this bad. Garrett Richards goes for the Angels and he might be the Angels' best starting option right now. The Astros go with Lucas Harrell, who can be decent at times. The thinking here is that the Angels' bats are going to wake up today.
  • The Rangers over the Mariners: The M's have already beaten one ace this weekend. What's one more? But it is not going to happen. Alexi Ogando has been outstanding. Then again, never count out Joe Saunders who has made a career of throwing his BABIP balls for ages now. I don't know how Saunders does it.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Reds over the Pirates: I actually picked the Pirates to beat the Reds yesterday and they did. Making the same pick two days in a row is probably not a good idea. Johnny Cueto goes for the Reds and Jeff Locke goes for the Pirates.

Yesterday: 9-5
Week: 48-26
Month: 95-56
Games of the Day: 9-3

Friday, April 12, 2013

MLB Game Picks - Friday: April 12, 2013

The final results of yesterday's short list of picks ended at 5-2 with yet another postponement of the Indians and Yankees. Joe Girardi hit the problem right on the nose by stating that scheduling a series in early April against a team that you only visit once a season is stupid. But then again, when did sanity ever rule MLB scheduling? The scheduling problem probably cost the Yankees more than the Indians as the latter team will most likely sort out its pitching problems later in the season. As it stood, the Yankees were facing a rotation in deep trouble and available for easy pickings.

But regardless of that little bit of a snafu, the only incorrect picks were the Blue Jays (who got crushed by the Tigers) and the Mariners who lost despite a Felix Hernandez start. All that hype here about Josh Johnson is looking a bit foolish now that he has had two really bad starts in a row. To put a little more of a positive spin on his results thus far, his velocity is where it should be and his BABIP against is .484 while his strand rate is only 56.1%. Those numbers will certainly get better.

Oh, and did you see that incident with the Dodgers and Padres? Carlos Quentin charged the mound and now the Dodgers have lost Zack Greinke to a collarbone fracture. Nice. Quentin should be suspended for a week for that bit of thug thinking. Trot to first like a man, for pete's sake.

Unless the weather fouls things up, a full schedule of baseball rules the day. Here are Friday's picks:

  • The Giants over the Cubs: Matt Cain is a bit of a concern as he has not looked very ace-like thus far. But the Cubs offer him an ability to get right a bit. The Cubs start Carlos Villanueva, who can be decent enough at times.
  • The Nationals over the Braves: I really like that the Upton brothers really balance out the lineup of the Braves when in past seasons they were a bit vulnerable to left-handed pitching. However, Julio Teheran is going to have to prove to me that he really has turned around after last season. Ross Detwiler is a pretty good fifth starter. Bryce Harper remains hot.
  • The Yankees over the Orioles: The Yankees are back home and have C.C. Sabathia on the mound. That should be enough for a win despite the fact that as a team, they have struggled in the past against Baltimore's Miguel Gonzalez.
  • The Indians over the White Sox: Justin Masterson has won both of his starts and they remain the Indians' only victories. So why not stick with that trend. The White Sox just got drubbed by the Nationals but get the DH back. I cannot wait to see Adam Dunn's defensive metrics for his week in left field. Ugh. Jose Quintana goes for the White Sox and was roughed up a bit in his first start.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: A.J. Burnett has pitched two very good starts and is 0-2. So he is due a bit of offense by the Pirates are close to the bottom in all offensive categories right now. Mike Leake is this weekend's best chance for the Pirates to score some runs.
  • The Nationals over the Marlins: I would feel better about picking the Nats if John Lannon was not starting for the Nationals against probably the Marlins' best pitcher in Ricky Nolasco. As bad as the Marlins are, they are going to win fifty games this season. It is simply a matter of picking them judiciously.
  • The Bay Rays over the Red Sox: The Red Sox have not won in the Stephen Drew era. And of course that is just a coincidence. Felix Doubront is decent enough for the Red Sox but can be had at times. But this pick is really all about Alex Cobb, the ground ball machine that wins and wins for the Rays.
  • The Mets over the Twins: I like here that the Mets get an extra bat in the lineup against the Twins. Jonathon Niese is the one guy that's linking tool never picks up. If I say, "Jon," or "Jonathon," it never matters. It is little things like that in life that drive one crazy.  I would bet you that his name will not be bold here and there will not be a link to his B-R page. Vance Worley is not having fun as a member of the Twins thus far.
  • The Blue Jays over the Royals: J.A. Happ looked amazing in his first start. Is it not weird that the Blue Jays hire all these guns for the rotation and it is Happ who gets one of their two wins? Luis Mendoza will never scare anyone. Sometimes, he gets people to hit the ball at people.
  • The Cardinals over the Brewers: I picked against Shelby Miller in his first start and it made me look pretty stupid. Making his first start at home is a bit scary though against a lineup that can hit a little bit. The Cardinals will get to face their old friend, Kyle Lohse, who should feel right at home in St. Louis. I still think the Cardinals should have signed him.
  • The Dodgers over the Diamondbacks: At this point, can you pick against Clayton Kershaw? I think not. Patrick Corbin should make it a close game. But the Dodgers should win with Kershaw.
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: There is still something about the Tigers that bothers me as they keep getting called the best team in the American League. They are stodgy as hell with a bunch of big guys who cannot run or field very well. But they keep winning, so what do I know? Max Scherzer should get his share of strikeouts here and Bartolo Colon gets punked by the Tigers' Venezuelan collection.
  • The Angels over the Astros: Don't look now but the Astros have as many wins as the Angels. Who saw that coming? However, let's not get carried away. Bud Norris continues to flirt with greatness without ever reaching it consistently. Tommy Hanson was one of the few starters for the Angels that has walked away with a win.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: Picking Jon Garland to win is like going to sleep and waking up back in 2005. Well...maybe I did. But I have to pick Garland or the alternative is picking Tyson Ross who has proven for most of his career that he knows how to lose ballgames.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Rangers over the Mariners: Interesting match up of Japanese pitchers here with Yu Darvish versus Hisashi Iwakuma. Iwakuma is a very good and smart pitcher. The trouble is that the Mariners are not going to hit Darvish or anyone else with any kind of consistency.

Yesterday: 5-2
Week: 39-21
Month: 86-51
Games of the Day: 9-2

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Drew over Iglesias the wrong move for the Red Sox

There was a time when I supported Stephen Drew as one of the most underrated shortstops in baseball. If you search my site, you will probably find a post or two on the subject. But that was before he broke his ankle and fell out of favor in Arizona. Since that injury, Stephen Drew has not yet been able to recapture his elite shortstop status. I waited for years for Drew to have that one big season and it never came. Now people are expecting Drew to be at least as good as he was despite not ever having the breakout season. I suspect they will be disappointed too.

The Red Sox broke out of the gate this season in impressive fashion. A combination of good pitching, great fielding and timely hitting won them five of their first seven games. Jose Iglesias was right in the middle of all that. And to be sure, the batting numbers Iglesias put up in those first seven games were misleading. Five of his hits were infield swinging bunts. His ground ball rate rivaled Jeter's. And there is no way that Iglesias was going to have a BABIP over .500 for the season.

But if you discount all of that, there was still his defense. Defense rarely goes in slumps. Iglesias has had a chance to rival Hardy and Ryan as the best fielding shortstop in the American League. Drew fell off to negative territory last season for the A's and sure, the ankle not being right is a big part of that. The 25.8 runs above average Drew put up for the Diamondbacks at shortstop between 2008 and 2011 were impressive. After a year of being below average in 2012, is it only fair to assume that Drew can improve to league average this season?

Let us assume that Drew does field up to league average. The common theory is that his bat is much more reliable than Jose Iglesias'. But is that really the case? Fenway Park is not the hitter-friendly park that people think it is. To be sure, Drew will hit a few homers that Iglesias would never hit. Drew will probably receive a few more walks than Iglesias would have. But all that being said, Drew has not been much of a hitter in the 86 games before he broke his ankle nor in the 79 games since he has returned.

Here is what ZiPS assumes: Stephen Drew will improve his fielding to league average, will be a slightly below league average base runner and will finish the season with 1.4 WAR. Now let's go over to the Iglesias side. ZiPS assumes that his defense would be worth at least eight runs above average. I think it would have been higher. ZiPS assumes that Iglesias would be a slightly above average base runner and that he would be a lousy hitter and accumulate 1.5 WAR.

If you look at those two projections--and granted, what happens on the field can be far different--you come out to basically the same value. If you were looking at two different players and they both looked the same in value, would not you go with the better fielder?

Pitching and defense is a lethal combination. It won the Giants a World Series title last season. It won a title for the Red Sox back in 2007. And it was precisely how the Red Sox were winning early this season. A middle defense of Pedroia and Iglesias is drool-worthy. It is only a coincidence that the Red Sox lost the first game Drew started since coming back from his concussion. But that is what some people will think. "Why mess with a good thing?" they will ask.

I will grant you that Jose Iglesias is a terrible hitter. At best, he can hit an empty .250 and could be quite a deal worse. But I do not believe that Drew will be all that much better at the plate. Time could prove me wrong. But if I had a choice between two players of seemingly equal value, I would always go with the guy with the glove--especially a shortstop.

MLB Game Picks - Thursday: April 11, 2013

Despite two postponed games, two bullpen disasters and a two-game winning streak by the Houston Astros, Wednesday turned out to be a pretty good day. Wade Miley did just what I predicted he would do. So did Mike Minor and Barry Zito. Both of the bullpen meltdowns helped this time instead of the other way around. And so the season continues on its merry way. Like John Buck and Jose Iglesias, the picks will slide down to the mean in time. Wait. Iglesias will not get the chance to slide back to the mean. That is another story that will be told later in the morning.

There are only eight games on the schedule today. The Yankees and Indians chose not to make up their game today and the Cubs and Brewers could not because the Cubs had to move on to a new opponent  But, at least two of them are day games. Here are Thursday's picks:

  • The Blue Jays over the Tigers: I wrote all winter about Josh Johnson, so it is about time he started rewarding me for all the coverage. Come on now, son. The come from behind victory yesterday could propel the Blue Jays past their early season struggles. But Doug Fister will do his best to keep that from happening. Fister better go deep in the game though as the Tigers' bullpen is not doing well.
  • The Giants over the Cubs: This Cubs team is not going to be a roll over team this season. And this is a tough pitching match up to sort out. Ryan Vogelsong did not have a good start to his season and Scott Feldman has not been effective for a very long time. If the bullpens get involved early, the Giants win.
  • The Nationals over the White Sox: How fun was it to see Adam Dunn play left field yesterday? Okay, it was not fun. But those kinds of things happen when interleague happens every day and every week. Dan Haren was awful in his debut for the Nats. So that is a big worry here. But then again, despite a great first start, Dylan Axelrod is not confidence inspiring either. If this is a slugfest, then the Nats win. If this is a pitcher's duel, the Nats win.
  • The Yankees over the Indians: Zach McAllister might turn out to be the second best Indians starter this season. He has some game. And he gives the Indians their best chance to win in this series. But I still think the Yankees win. Phil Hughes makes his second start of the season and wasn't half bad in his first outing.
  • The Orioles over the Red Sox: What a treat for Red Sox fans today as Alfredo Aceves gets a fill-in start for the Red Sox today. Why does that seem like a disaster in the making? Chris Tillman was not good at all for the Orioles in his first start. So this game could be a wild one.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: Who know the Angels' pitching would be this bad. The Athletics are not exactly the team you think about for offense (though they have nice pieces). But the Angels cannot get them out. Jason Vargas tries to right the ship today for the Angels. But I do not see A.J. Griffin allowing that to happen.
  • The Mariners over the Rangers: Justin Grimm makes his Major League debut today for the Rangers. Those are always scary for this picker. Of course, making that debut against the struggling Mariners in a nice pitcher's park like the one in Seattle is comforting. There is only one thing standing in the way of him winning: Felix Hernandez.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Dodgers over the Padres: Zack Greinke looked like he was worth all that money in his first start of the season and he gets to pitch in the big ballpark in San Diego. Greinke is going to like that. Jason Marquis is still capable of fooling batters in three-quarters of his at bats against. It is that other quarter that you have to worry about.

Yesterday: 9-4
Week: 34-19
Month: 81-49
Games of the Day: 8-2

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

MLB Game Picks: Wednesday: April 10, 2013

Tuesday's picks went well enough yesterday. The day was not as clean as Monday was, but it could have been if both Los Angeles teams had not had bullpen implosions. For the Angels, Kevin Jepsen pitched like Carly Rae Jepson. Another game was incorrectly picked because Nick Tepesch pitched a good game for the Rangers. Who knew? The Cardinals pick was finally correct. So that is a moral victory in itself. Hey, and I even picked the Astros to win a game and lived to tell about it.

There is a little something for everybody today. All teams are in action and five of the games are day games. Nice. Here are Wednesday's picks:

  • The Blue Jays over the Tigers: My confidence in the Blue Jays is lagging a bit as their pitching has simply not come to the party yet. Morrow really let me down yesterday. Perhaps a junk guy like Mark Buehrle can lead them out of the wilderness. Rick Porcello goes for the Tigers.
  • The Reds over the Cardinals: These teams are both really good and will be fighting each other all season. The Reds take the rubber match of this series as Homer Bailey has really come into his own. Jake Westbrook is Jake Westbrook and sometimes his balls in play get caught and sometimes they don't.
  • The Bay Rays over the Rangers: This same pick went bad yesterday, but the feeling here is that Matt Moore will give the Rays their first really good outing of the season. Derek Holland did not start the season well and perhaps even the weak-hitting Rays can score a few runs off of him.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: Barry Zito is making me giddy. He was a star of the post season and then threw a gem in his first game this season. Wooey! The best thing you can say about Rockies' starter, Jeff Francis, is that he is crafty.
  • The Yankees over the Indians: This game could get ugly. Ivan Nova starts for the Yankees and who knows what he will do out there on the mound. He could get pounded. But today's scheduled starter for the Indians mopped up yesterday's Yankees' batting practice. So who is going to start for them?
  • The Nationals over the White Sox: Jordan Zimmermann is very good. Gavin Floyd can be good at times. The Nats are simply the better team.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: Jeremy Hefner deserved better in his first start of the season. He only gave up a run and still took the loss. Kyle Kendrick got bombed in his first outing. The Phillies might have gone to the well with him once too often this season.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Alex Sanabia has the only win for the Marlins but there is no way he will keep throwing scoreless innings when he walks more batters than he strikes out and has a 100% strand rate. But who knows, stranger things have happened. Going with Mike Minor and the Braves seems a safer pick.
  • The Orioles over the Red Sox: Both starters in this game throw occasional gems. And just as occasionally throw stinkers. So which will do which tonight between Ryan Dempster for the Red Sox and Jake Arrieta for the Orioles. Going with the Orioles because they always play the Red Sox tough.
  • The Brewers over the Cubs: Remember when I used to stump for Scott Feldman and he was a man crush? Yeah, not so much any more. The safer pick here is the Brewers behind Kyle Lohse. The Brewers' bullpen is a worry though.
  • The Royals over the Twins: I'm feeling a little lightheaded picking the Royals for the third day in a row. But they are playing the Twins after all. And it seems that Wade Davis has a better chance of winning than Liam Hendriks does.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: So who do the Angels blame their poor start on this year if it is not because they kept Mike Trout in the minors? Perhaps eyes can rightly look at the pitching. Joe Blanton should not beat Tommy Milone. He may anyway, but hey, no pick is secure.
  • The Mariners over the Astros: The Astros should have saved some of those runs because that was like a week's worth of production yesterday. The pitching match up today is uncomfortable to say the least. Blake Beavan should be okay at home and that is the pick over Brad Peacock.
  • The Padres over the Dodgers: This pick's sole reason to exist is that I made fun of Eric Stultz in his last start and he made me look silly. Call it the finger in the electric socket syndrome. Chad Billingsley goes for the Dodgers and he has always given me heartburn.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Diamondbacks over the Pirates: I should have picked the Pirates yesterday and did not. But I can't pick them today. Wade Miley made no signs in his first outing that his rookie campaign was a fluke. And I know Jonathan Sanchez won his first outing, but let's see him string three or four of those outings together before I can buy it.

Yesterday: 9-5
Week: 25-15
Month: 72-45
Games of the Day: 7-2

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

MLB Game Picks - Tuesday: April 9, 2013

Monday was a very good day here for the Game Picks. The only two incorrect picks were (of course) the Cardinals, a team that blew a save in just about the most spectacular fashion you could imagine. Between Mitchell Boggs and Scrabble, the Cardinals allowed nine runs in the ninth inning. Nine. Amazing. The other incorrect pick was picking the Cubs to beat the Brewers. This game saddened me because it made me realize that I am no smarter than your average general manager because I keep thinking Edwin Jackson is better than he actually is. Plus, in some small defense, I did not expect Ryan Braun to play and he did.

But why focus on the negative when it was such a good day? Well, because I am a perfectionist striving for perfection. I never bowled a perfect game but I got to 279 on five occasions. So I kept trying. I still have not recorded a hole in one. But I will keep trying. I have never had a perfect picking day. But I will keep trying.

This is a weird Tuesday as there are fourteen games on the schedule. The Orioles and Red Sox have the day off. I have never seen a Tuesday without a full slate of scheduled games. Weird. Tuesday's picks:

  • The Blue Jays over the Tigers: Brandon Morrow is going to have a big game and the Blue Jays, with Jose Bautista back in the lineup, will get a few runs off of Anibal Sanchez.
  • The Dodgers over the Padres: The Padres have gotten off to a terrible start and employing pitchers like Clayton Richard does not help. He will at least be competitive at home in his big ballpark. But that big ballpark benefits Josh Beckett too. I am no longer high on Beckett, but he should be better than Richard.
  • The Nationals over the White Sox: The White Sox will lose the DH, so Dunn will either sit or play the field. Neither is a fun prospect for them. Jake Peavy is a great pitcher, but the Nats will get at least three off of him and that will be enough for Gio Gonzalez.
  • The Yankees over the Indians: The Indians had a great off season, but they did not acquire the pitching they needed. And that pitching will hurt them all season. Carlos Carrasco will not be an answer in the rotation. Going with Andy Pettitte and the Yankees winning their third in a row.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Some comment last week blasted me for having the temerity to state that Kris Medlen would not be as good as last year. Seriously? How could anyone be that good? His first start was already a sign that I was right. But Medlen should be fine against the punchless Marlins. Wade LeBlanc is today's victim.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: I have a feeling the Cubs are going to be a team I pick way too often this season. But I like Travis Wood's chances at home against Wily Peralta.
  • The Bay Rays over the Rangers: I do not feel good about either team in this one. The Rays will start Roberto Hernandez and yeah, the Rays have a history of turning around non-productive pitchers, but still. And I am tepid about Nick Tepesch. This could be a high scoring game.
  • The Royals over the Twins: The Royals are a better team than the Twins. It is as simple as that. Add in that Jeremy Guthrie is better than Mike Pelfrey and this should be an easy pick. But saying that always bites me in the butt.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: It amazes me that year after year, the Cardinals so totally mess me up that I cannot think straight when picking their games. I have been wrong on the last three. Or is that four? Lance Lynn was terrible in his first outing. But he is better than that. Bronson Arroyo should yield some runs to the high-powered Cardinal offense. Should. Could. We'll see. Hopefully, the Cardinals' bullpen recovers from last night's fiasco.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Pirates: The Pirates' offense has been terrible and that is too bad because I would dearly love to see the Pirates have fun in Pittsburgh again. James McDonald is of the great arm, no command ilk and his effectiveness varies from game to game. Brandon McCarthy should be solid for the D-Backs.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: C.J. Wilson puzzles me. I never know whether to pick him or not. He has a better chance of winning at home and I think he is at least as good as Jarrod Parker of the A's.
  • The Astros over the Mariners: Erik Bedard makes his first start of the season for Houston and the home town team, Mariners, send out Brandon Maurer, a pitcher the Mariners believe in more highly than I do.
  • The Giants over the Rockies: This is another game where I do not like the chances of either pitcher. Juan Nicasio had a good first outing. But it was a BABIP game with only two strikeouts. Tim Lincecum, meanwhile, one his first outing despite walking seven guys. Yuck.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Phillies over the Mets: While Roy Halladay continues to struggle, Cliff Lee was a monster in his last outing. He should have no trouble with the Mets and the Phillies should muster two or three runs off of Dillon Gee.

Yesterday: 9-2
Week: 16-10
Month: 63-40
Games of the Day: 6-2

Monday, April 08, 2013

MLB Game Picks - Monday: April 8, 2013

When the scores started rolling in yesterday, it appeared yesterday's picks were going to go down in historic flames. One ace after another were getting whacked. First David Price, then R.A. Dickey, then Matt Cain and then Cole Hamels. Other than C.C. Sabathia, every ace picked yesterday got poked. But the picks rallied a bit to finish just south of .500. If the Marlins had not blown their save and their game in the ninth to the Mets, the day would have finished just north of .500. Even so, with the way the day started, finishing where it did was acceptable.

There are eleven games on the schedule today and seven teams play their home openers--which is not anything like can openers. Here are Monday's picks:

  • The Red Sox over the Orioles: Don't look now, but the Red Sox look like the best team in the AL East coming out of the gate. They are hitting and pitching and look pretty tough to beat. And while I like Wei-Yin Chen as a pitcher, Clay Buchholz looks awesome so far and will be pretty tough to beat.
  • The Cubs over the Brewers: Ryan Braun is hurting and could not even pinch hit in a big situations yesterday. It seems doubtful he will play today. Edwin Jackson goes for the Cubs in their home opener and faces Marco Estrada. I would put my CHiPS on Jackson.
  • The Yankees over the Indians: The Yankees ruin the Indians home opener as Joe Girardi and Terry Francona renew their love and respect for each other. Hiroki Kuroda--providing his middle finger does not hurt too much--will get the start for the Yankees and Ubaldo Jimenez goes for the Indians. Jimenez was only throwing 90 MPH in his first start. Not good.
  • The Royals over the Twins: Ervin Santana should be able to get away with some of his gopher balls in the bigger confines of Kaufman Stadium. At least that is the theory I am going with today. The Twins start Kevin Correia, or "Chick" as I like to call him. The Royals have started hitting.
  • The Cardinals over the Reds: I keep picking against the Cardinals and their fans are making fun of me because those picks, much like last year, are exploding in my face. Today is not a big vote of confidence because I am not real fond or confident in Jaime Garcia. But he is at home where he does better and despite enormous talent, Mat Latos rarely shuts down teams completely.
  • The Mets over the Phillies: Matt Harvey has now started eleven Major League games and has averaged 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Woof. The Phillies look old and Roy Halladay is a big concern until he starts pitching like his old self consistently.
  • The Braves over the Marlins: Is it no delicious that David Samson is the lead executive for the Marlins? That is like the biblical hero leading the Italian army. I can say that since I am half Italian. Paul Maholm will continue to make his whiz-balls work somehow and Kevin Slowey will continue to be thankful that he has a job in the Majors.
  • The Rangers over the Rays: The Rays have not done well traditionally in Texas. Alexi Ogando looked terrific in his first start. And I continue not to be a fan of Jeremy Hellickson whose BABIP and high FIP have to bite him sooner or later.
  • The Pirates over the Diamondbacks: This is my upset pick of the day. Wandy Rodriguez had a very good first start and should be a run or two better than Trevor Cahill. Plus, I like the left-handed starter against this D-backs' lineup.
  • The Mariners over the Astros: The Mariners really have a weird batting record right now. Some guys are batting out of their minds and just as many are not even hitting their weight. Weird. Joe Saunders continues to baffle me, so it's best to pick with him then against him leaving myself scratching my head. Besides, Phil Humber is pitching for the Astros and he completely baffles me about what happened to him since his perfect game.

And the Game of the Day!

  • The Giants over the Rockies: The Rockies have started well and the Giants not so much. But the Rockies are away from their home park, Madison Bumgarner is the Giants' best pitcher and Jorge De La Rosa has to prove to me that he can pitch consistently.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 7-8
Month: 54-38
Games of the Day: 5-2

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Baseball excitement back in Toronto

The tired old line from The Field of Dreams of, "Build it and they will come." does not really apply to the Toronto Blue Jays and their fan base. Instead, it has been more of, "Show them you care and are trying to win and they will come." After a wild off-season, the front office of the Blue Jays has apparently done just that in Toronto and the fans there are back in full force.

Say what you want about "fair weather fans" or, "bandwagon fans." I have never understood what the problem is there. The bottom line is that more fannies are in the seats or on their feet hollering and screaming for the Blue Jays. More people in the stands, means more excitement and more dollars in the team's bottom line so that they can try to maintain a competitive team.

And definitely more people are showing up at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Through the first five games of season, the Blue Jays have drawn 184,116 fan in attendance. That is an average of 36,823 per game. They did not reach that amount of fans until the seventh home game last season. Through the nine games of the Blue Jays' first home stand last year, the Blue Jays drew 220,097 fans in attendance, an average of 24,538. The Blue Jays have easily topped the 40,000 mark in each of the last two games against the Red Sox and should have at least that many again today.

Today should mark the fourth time in just six games that the Blue Jays have topped 40,000 in attendance. Last season, the Blue Jays did not reach their fourth 40,000+ crowd until June 2, 2012. If the attendance increase continues on a per game basis, the Blue Jays have a good chance of drawing three million fans to the dome for the first time since their World Series teams of two decades ago.

To add a little voice of sanity to this conversation, this three game series is against the Red Sox and the Blue Jays have traditionally done well in attendance against the Red Sox. But still, there is an air of raucousness at the dome that has not been felt for a very long time. Some say it is too raucous and at times downright impolite. And there has been added incentive with John Farrell making his return to Toronto as the manager of the Red Sox after dumping the Blue Jays for his "dream job" in Boston. And besides, the crowd has been way too tame in Toronto for a long time.

But I do not think the added excitement is due only to the return of John Farrell. I think that the addition of players like Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes has built momentum and interest since that trade occurred.

Jose Reyes is going to be huge in Toronto. His style of play, his flair, his ever present energy and his speed are going to thrill Blue Jays fans for much of his tenure there. And yeah, the team has started a much ballyhooed season at 2-3 but it is early yet and the pitching has not yet gotten its feet under it. Once Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow and Dickey start throwing zeroes, this team is going to be tough to beat.

Whether the Blue Jays will win the American League East  remains to be seen. The division seems like a scrum with only the Yankees reeling out of the gate. But whether they do or do not will not make that much of a difference to Toronto fans. What matters there is that for the first time in a long time, the fans in that "north-of-the-border" city truly believe their front office and ownership really went all out to bring them a winner.

MLB Game Picks - Sunday: April 7, 2013

The first week of Major League Baseball for 2013 is in the books. Yeah, I am a traditional Sunday to Saturday type guy. The Game Picks had a good first week. After a 10-10 first few days, the picks went 37-19 over the last four days with a 10-5 day again yesterday. Now if I can just get over my obsession with picking the Astros, I will be okay. The best pick of yesterday was choosing the Twins to beat the Orioles. Besides the Astros, the worst pick of the day was picking the Rangers to beat the Angels. Matt Harrison has definitely not had a good start to his season. He better hope his cousin is right and that All Things Must Pass.

Sunday is the best baseball day of the week and today is this season's first full blitz of games. They all occur during the day except a sparkling match up on Sunday Night Baseball between Jered Weaver and Yu Darvish.  Here are Sunday's picks:

  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: I am really torn on this one. Everything will depend on how good R.A. Dickey is and if he can match Jon Lester. Lester appears to have his mojo back and is poised to have a very good season. If Dickey is on, then the Blue Jays can score a couple and win. If not, this pick is going to unravel quickly.
  • The Yankees over the Tigers: Yeah, dumb, but what the hey. This is the only chance the Yankees have to win a game this series with C.C. Sabathia on the mound even though facing Justin Verlander. If the Yankees can squeak a few off of Verlander and the bullpen, Sabathia can have a good day and be the ace the Yanks hope him to be this year.
  • The Marlins over the Mets: Gosh, what a horrible three games to pick so far. And this one is the worst. First, you have Aaron Laffey pitching for the Mets. For most of his career, Laffey has been that pitcher that comes in to mop up blowouts. And then there is the Marlins starting Jose Fernandez, the young pitcher who has never pitched professionally over the A level. This has David Clyde written all over it.
  • The Nationals over the Reds: Another tough game to pick. Stephen Strasburg pitches against Johnny Cueto. If Strasburg is on, forget it. But he has his occasional mortal games here and there. Will today be one of them? Cueto is--on paper--the Reds' ace. It could be a low scoring game or it could end up in places no one expects. Gosh, so far this picking day could go badly really quickly.
  • The Braves over the Cubs: Jeff Samardzija was very good in his first outing, but the Cubs bullpen and Carlos Marmol in particular, has been brutal. Tim Hudson did not have a good start in his opener, but has been a very good pitcher for a very long time.
  • The Royals over the Phillies: And yet another tough game to pick. James Shields was brilliant in his first start and lost. Cole Hamels was pummeled in his first start but is normally a great pitcher. The best way to get to Shields is via the homer and the Phillies can do that. The Royals lose the DH. Oh, heck. I don't know.
  • The Rays over the Indians: David Price was hardly Cy Young in his first outing. The thought here is that he bounces back. Justin Masterson won his first outing. And if he gets his ground balls hit at people, could be tough. Evan Longoria wins this with a big fly.
  • The Brewers over the Diamondbacks: Okay, this is one of those double-reverse, psyche-out specials. Ian Kennedy is one of my favorite players. So I pick him without fail. But then he loses and I feel bad. I always pick Yovani Gallardo at home and there, at home, he is. Ugh.
  • The Athletics over the Astros: Yes, I have learned my lesson, and yes, that means the Astros will probably win this game. Brett Anderson over Lucas Harrell.
  • The White Sox over the Mariners: I hate picking against Hisashi Iwakuma. But in this case, Chris Sale seems to trump him. I do like the right-handed bats the Mariners can mount against Sale. But he is at times impossible to hit no matter which side you hit from. The Mariners have to hope Iwakuma can match zeroes and make it a bullpen game.
  • The Giants over the Cardinals: This picking day from hell continues with another tough one as Matt Cain squares up at home against Adam Wainwright. Both are great pitchers. I have to go with Cain and the Giants at home.
  • The Pirates over the Dodgers: Again, not an easy pick. Jeff Locke's left arm could neutralize many of the Dodgers' hitters and he had a great spring. Hyun-Jin Ryu is such a wildcard that I have no idea what to do with him. Ryu gave up a lot of hits in his last outing but only one run and no walks. Who knows.
  • The Rockies over the Padres: The Rockies have started the season very well and Jhoulys Chacin had a great first outing. Edinson Volquez can never, ever, ever be counted on and so the pick goes to the Rockies.
  • The Rangers over the Angels: Yu Darvish was so dominant the other night that he is hard to pick against. I am a little worried about the blister on his middle finger he developed late though. Jered Weaver is terrific even though I dislike him tremendously. The Rangers simply are not the same offense they once were. Going with Darvish.

And the Game of the Day!  (remember, this is the most sure pick, not the most exciting)

  • The Orioles over the Twins: The Twins are starting Pedro Hernandez. Who!? Where did he come from? He did not start at all this spring. The Orioles go with Jason Hammel, who has killed me whenever I have ever picked against him. I surrender.

Yesterday: 10-5
Last week: 47-29
Month: 47-29
Games of the Day: 5-1